November 27, 2009

Lay Down and Die, Goodbye

Alice Cooper
Easy Action

Tomorrow marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog, so I since my first post was Alice Cooper's first album, Pretties For You, I thought I'd take this moment to post the band's second release, Easy Action. They were still in the weirdo-psychedellic phase in 1970, though some of the more garagey aspects had dropped away. The next album would be Love it to Death, where they toned down the psychedelia even more (though there's still plenty of weird to be found throughout the band's entire catalog), and reach classic-rock superstardom with "I'm Eighteen". This album has some great Beatles-esque stuff mixed in, too, though, and the production is a little more refined than on Pretties. They never really did the sweeter sounding harmony-laden thing after this album. The lyrical content is still bizarre, though. Oh, and Michael Bruce sings two tracks here, marking the last time anyone besides Alice himself sang lead.

The title is from a line in West Side Story, a musical and film the band liked so much they borrowed heavily from it on 1972's School's Out.

But yeah, just like I said when I posted their debut, let me just stress that if all you know of Alice Cooper is the stuff they play on the radio, give this album a chance. They were a really odd band, especially on the first two albums.

Easy Action

November 16, 2009

Test the Steel

Absolute Power

Here's another prime piece of forgotten thrash for you. These guys are pretty talented, I gotta say. Great rhythms and top-notch wanking on the gitter. Joel Dubay's vocals aren't too far off from Flotsam and Jetsam's Eric A.K., though he tends to alternate the higher-pitched, clearer style vocals with a more traditional 80s gruff thrash vocal style. Powermad is from Minneapolis. Off hand I can't think of another metal band from Minneapolis. I first heard these guys around the time this album came out because they used to advertise in Metal Edge and Circus and those type of magazines, and my old friend Ryan ordered their cassette based on one of those ads. We thought they sounded a lot like Metallica, though I don't necessarily hear that any more.

Hey, you know, listening to this record for some reason reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with my buddy Eric about the difference between thrash metal and speed metal. At the time I maintained that it was a difference in vocals: gruff vocals meant it was thrash, clear or high-pitched vocals meant speed metal. I don't really feel that way any more, and so I ask you: is there any difference between speed and thrash, or are they just two names for the same thing (with speed metal falling out of favor over the years)?

Absolute Power

November 8, 2009

R.I.P. Jerry Fuchs

An incredibly nice guy and an incredible talent. You will be missed.

November 7, 2009

Under the Rose

Music from the Elder

I'll try to keep this brief, but understand my love for this record is almost unparalleled. Let's look at the facts:
1. I love KISS. I mean, they are seriously my absolute favorite band ever. No one else is even close.
2. I love Bob Ezrin, particularly his work in the 70s, when he was pushing bands up and up and producing these huge, ambitious projects (some of which were total failures, *cough*maybe like this one*cough*)
3. I love it when bands do weirdo records that are totally out of sync with the rest of their catalog, as this blog is a testament to.

So maybe you can understand why this album is so dear to me. I love it. I mean, it's like a desert island album for me. Not like a "so bad it's good" thing, either. I genuinely love it.

Some background for the uninitiated: Kiss was at an all-time low in the late 70s. Peter Criss had left, and they'd just released the two worst-selling records of their career, the wrongly maligned Dynasty and the rightly maligned Unmasked. Peter hadn't played much on either of those, but they'd finally officially replaced him with the phenomenal Eric Carr (The Fox) and had promised fans a return to the straight-up rock'n'roll of their earlier records. Eric Carr was just the kick in the pants they needed, too. He was a much heavier drummer than his predecessor (and probably the most talented guy to ever play in Kiss), and they were in the perfect position to reclaim their glory. They called in Bob Ezrin, who'd produced the wildly successful Destroyer to helm the board, and Ezrin inexplicably convinced them to do a concept record. He was hot off of doing Pink Floyd's The Wall. That's the only explanation. The record bombed so hard it's a wonder the band persevered. They didn't even tour for it. Given the way future members were treated, it's a wonder Eric Carr wasn't fired on the spot. Ace Frehly had had enough at this point and bolted for a solo career.

At any rate, this album was downright legendary when I was a kid. It was out of print (or, barring that, very, very hard to find) and was widely considered a joke. My brother tracked it down through a mail-order company, and was so disgusted by it that he purposely scratched it and sent it back. They knew the deal, though, and promptly sent it right back, and that very album is sitting in my record bin a foot or so away from me as I type.

So why the beef? It doesn't sound like Kiss. It's not particularly rock'n'roll, really. Gene Simmons once said that it sounded like a bad Genesis record. Paul Stanley, clearly exhibiting the better taste of the two, once said that it was a good record, just not a good Kiss record. But it was the perfect soundtrack to my young-life of being obsessed with The Legend of Zelda and The Hobbit and crap like that. That's definitely the vibe I get. Does it sound like Kiss? Not really. Is it a failure? Probably. But I still love these songs, and I truly wish the band would treat this album with a tad more respect. Some of these songs are just incredible. "The Oath" is one of the heaviest songs in the band's catalog, certainly the heaviest up to that point. "Just A Boy" is good for reasons I can't quite explain. And "Escape from the Island" is the first Kiss instrumental since their debut record 8 years (and 8 albums, not including live and solo records [which brings up a crazy point about how prolific this band was in the 70s. From 1972 to 1980 they released 8 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 4 solo albums for a total of 14 records in 8 years]) earlier.

Oh, by the way, maybe you're familiar with the 33 1/3 book series (books dedicated to specific albums, written by music journalists, musicians, etc). There are like 70 of them at this point, but back in 2005 they were gearing up to do the second or third run and sent out a call for idea submissions, and I promptly threw my hat in the ring for this record. For the intitial screening (which preceded the official pitch), the editor, David Barker, responded with something along the lines of, "Yeah, huh, not many people like that album." Needless to say, my book isn't on the shelves.

But I demand this record be given a second chance. And I guess I didn't keep this brief after all. But trust me, there's a lot of stuff in my head that I didn't type.

Music from the Elder

November 2, 2009

Let's Get Hurt

Get Action!

Last weekend I went to see AC/DC with a friend of mine, and beforehand we were talking about punk rock. The conversation wound its way to the New Bomb Turks, which led me to ask my friend if he'd heard Teengenerate. He had not. It occurred to me that though these guys were pretty well known back in the 90s, their abrupt breakup (a friend asked one of them why they were breaking up when they played their final show in Atlanta, and the response was hilariously excited "I DON'T KNOW!") and the fact that they were from Japan means they've sort of dropped off the radar. Guitar Wolf perseveres, but the far superior Teengenerate drifts of in the sands of punk rock time.

So anyway, this is the punkest record released by any band in between The Dwarves' Blood Guts and Pussy and Turbonegro's Ass Cobra (or the 2003 re-issue of Ass Cobra for that matter). Maybe it's punker than Ass Cobra, actually. At any rate, if you don't have this, get it. Oh, they were originally called American Soul Spiders, and The New Bomb Turks wrote a song about them that appeared on their Drunk on Cock ep, which also included a cover of The Queers' "This Place Sucks". Get Action! has a cover of The Queers' "Kicked Out of the Webelos". So see, it sort of all comes full circle. Or something.

Final note: Some day I'll post 5 4 Baby 3 2 1, the unreleased album by an old garage punk band I was in called The Drummonds, and you'll see just how far Teengenerate worship can get you (the answer, of course, is not very far, which is why the album never got released).

Get Action!