366 in 2012

The Locust - Safety Second, Body Last (2005)

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Sit back.  Relax.  It’s The Locust time.

A couple days ago I wrote about The Locust and their S/T debut LP.  

ACRONYMS!

Safety Second, Body Last is a 2005 EP by the band.  Differing from their other recorded offerings, the EP consists of two songs – approximately six and four minutes each –  EPIC by Locust standards.

The songs are divided into sections, with names such as “Invented Organs”, “One Decent Leg” and “Immune System Overdrive” being titles of subsections of songs.  Confusing?  You bet.  It’s The Locust.

Listening to this EP as an introduction to the band would be a huge mistake, as it presents the band in a more “epic” style.  That is, if “epic” could describe 6 minute songs by a band that normal plays 45 second bursts.

Hard to digest and only for fans.  But I’m one of them.

“Safety Second, Body Last” - The Locust (via Youtube)

25. THE HIDDEN (1987)

An alien wreaking havoc in 80s Los Angeles? I’m all over it.

There’s an alien that’s inhabiting different people across the city. It takes what it wants and kills anything that gets in it’s way? Who’s gonna stop it?!

KYLE. MacLACHLAN.

He’s got a badge… and a strange demeanor. These L.A. cops don’t know what to think of him, but The MacLachlan knows what he’s doing.

A lot of action with some decent character development. Cult written all over it. I want to find a VHS copy. I think I’ll do that.

Be right back.

*** out of ****

The Locust - The Locust (1998)

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Man it was hard to find out about music when I lived in South America in the mid to late 90’s.  The internet really hadn’t “arrived”, so to speak, and my friends and I would generally get music-related publications like Spin or Rolling Stone three or four weeks later.  Once the latest issue of Anything arrived, it would be devoured word for word, being the only English around.

It’s from one of these Spin magazines that I first became aware of The Locust.  Or more to the point, was smacked in the face by The Locust.  I hadn’t heard one note of their music, but they were visually very striking.  A group of men (I can only assume) dressed in these unitard costumes (they referred to them as “uniforms”) and bug-eyed hooded mask type-things.

Striking.

It wasn’t until years later that I actually heard The Locust’s music.  It didn’t exactly set me on fire.  A crushing wall of noise with seemingly random bursts of More Noise punctuated by driving blast beats which were Even Noisier.  And Screaming.  Lots of screaming.  About what, I have no clue.  But it was there, alright.  I dismissed them.

A few years later The Locust played an hour up the road at a small club in West Palm Beach.  With 20 bucks in my pocket and not much to do, I ventured up to check them out of curiosity.  Totally different story.

I don’t know what it was about seeing them – the visual aspect (uniforms, all lined  - including drums - up front), the impact on the crowd, or the sounds around me, but I gained an entirely new appreciation for The Locust.  I still couldn’t tell you what they were singing about, or write out a setlist of their “greatest hits”, but it wasn’t just noise anymore.

So today, I listened to The Locust, the band’s 1998 debut LP (but fourth release overall).  20 songs in 16 minutes.  Fury and noise and beauty all rolled up in a fiery digital ball.  With some of the greatest song titles ever.

Hard to describe, but impossible to forget.  

The Locust - “Moth Eaten Deerhead”

Atmosphere - Sad Clown Bad Fall 10 (2007)

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Another day, another Atmosphere EP. 

Sad Clown Bad Fall 10 is the second in the Sad Clown series.  Meant to hold over fans until the next full-length, it’s 14 minutes of Slug talking about girls (“Peyote”), the anxiety of parties (“Party Over Here”), as well as the simple problems of his everyday life (“Makes The Sun Come Out”).

It’s the same Atmosphere formula, in a quick-hit dose.  Like a hit of espresso.

Atmosphere - “Peyote” (via youtube)

Atmosphere - Sad Clown Bad Summer 9 (2007)

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I remember the first time I saw Atmosphere.

It was close to 10 years ago on Warped tour.  Atmosphere was playing one of the side stages scattered around the festival, and I made it a point to drag my (then) girlfriend to see them.  She had no interest in being at the show, and the prospect of a hip-hop act being there was one of the only things making her put up with my punk rock bullshit.

I’m not the biggest Hip-Hop fan.  When I was younger, the genre had bands like Public Enemy, KRS-One and Ice-T – people that had something to say.  It was more than bitches and hoes and making money.  As Chris Rock once said, you could argue it as being art.  Unlike today, where the genre can be hard to defend.

It’s easy to get behind Atmosphere.  Perhaps it’s the introspection of the lyrics.  Or that we’re about the same age.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  Slug and Co., put on a great live show (a rarity for Hip-Hop), and their albums have yet to disappoint me.  What’s more, like most MCs, there’s no shortage of new material.  

Sad Clown Bad Summer 9 was recorded as a holdover to their 2008 release, When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold.  The Five-Song EP stays true to what endeared me to Atmosphere so many years before: Sparse beats and samples backing up personal lyrics.  There are many times I’ve driven at night (particularly during one holiday season a few years ago) or sat at home listening to Slug’s lyrics, thinking they could very well be my own.

That’s the trick of an artist, isn’t it?

Of particular note are the opening and closing tracks (“Sunshine” and “Don’t Forget”, respectively).  The latter track particularly bringing back memories of my own teenage years waiting to hear songs that I had requested on the radio:

“I was addicted to the radio/Make my request and wait for it holding my finger on the pause button/Like ‘Now, Go’/I guess that was the original download”.

Yeah, that was me.  And every other kid my age.  Much like Slug, I Won’t Forget, either.

Atmosphere - “Sunshine” (via youtube)

Roy - Tacomatose EP (2003)

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Let’s get it out of the way now.  This disappointed me.

A gazillion years ago when Less Than Jake played at a local radio festival (on my birthday no less), kids that were volunteering for Fueled By Ramen (LTJ drummer Vinnie’s co-founded label) were tossing out free sampler CDs.  A few that I still love and listen to today were on that comp.  Roy is not one of them.

That’s not to say I didn’t like what I heard on there.  The song “They Cut The Cord” struck a particular jangly nerve with me, and it was because of that song that I downloaded Tacomatose from emusic so many years ago.  And then I forgot about it.  Forgot about it like, transferred the files from three different computers and never once listened to it, forgot about it.

The five-song EP clocks in at just over 18 minutes, and while it isn’t bad, it’s somewhat boring.  Lyrics about drug addiction and Northwestern lives populate the album (“The Bolivian Army Lays Siege To Seattle” - Get it?!), but the music and production just fall on their side.  

I never heard of this band again.  Doesn’t seem like they ever had much of a chance. 

Roy - “The Bolivian Army Lays Siege To Seattle (Live 2010)” (via youtube)

Rockabye Baby! - Lullaby Renditions of Tool (2006)

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This seriously exists.

I’ve seen plenty of instrumental tributes to Tool in record stores in the past.  I’ve never listened to them before, as I’ve always felt the original was Just Fine.  But when I came across this on Spotify, I had to check it out.

It’s not quite music-box renditions of Tool’s music, but as close as it can probably come.  Imagine keyboards and strings and xylophones playing “Sober” and “Opiate” and “Schism” and you’ll get the idea.  It works surprisingly well at times, but let’s get real.  This is a novelty at best.

Or perhaps a way for cool parents to sneak some Metal into their infant’s early musical vocabulary?  Stealthy.

Rockabye Baby Lullaby Renditions of Tool - “Sober” (via youtube)

Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Shadow Man (1988)

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Oh man, do I love to read.  That is to say, I read A Lot.  Before anyone gets some high-falutin’ idea about things like “books” and “literature” – Back Off.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them.  But I read everything.  Everything.

Like, I read the World Book Encyclopedia when I was seven years-old.  All of it.  I didn’t understand the concept of “reference” books.  Printed words (and Bound no less!) were made to be Read as far as I knew.  Even today, when I think of particular subjects, my mind races back to the mental images of the encylopedia.

You have no idea how good I am at Jeopardy!

This translates to other media, as well.  When I would read magazines like Spin or Rolling Stone, it was the same.  I didn’t read, I Devoured.  Anything that had even the slightest interest to me would be read and re-read.  Etc, etc, etc.

Even today, I do this.  Late-night internet browsing for WHATEVER?!  Yep.  I’m That Guy.

When I was younger I remember reading an article in Rolling Stone about Johnny Clegg (It was titled “Johnny Clegg’s War on Apartheid” in a 1990 issue if you can track it down).  I didn’t care about his music, because I didn’t care about anything not loud or distorted.  In fact, his music was completely unknown to me at the time.  There was no fancy-schmancy interwebs or spotify or illegal torrents.

But Man, did his story stay in my mind!  A young white kid growing up in South Africa at the apex of Apartheid, befriending and spending all his time with Zulu tribesmen?  Pure Balls.  On both sides.  Punk Rock.

To understand Johnny Clegg’s music is to know his history.  To the uninitiated, Clegg is co-opting African music to his own commercial advantage.  A white dude in South Africa taking indiginous music and rhythms and trying to make a buck off it.  Considering the political and cultural climate in South Africa at the time, it’s surprising Clegg and his friends (let’s call them “Co-Conspirators” for Rebellion’s Sake) weren’t beaten, jailed for years, or worse.

A few weeks ago, I started a new job.  One of the people helping us out is a wonderful South African lady named Nicoletta.  When I asked her for music suggestions, Johnny Clegg was an immediate response.  Talking with her about it (I can get Excitable about Such Things), I relayed much of what I remembered, and was corrected and filled-in at the appropriate points.

I love how something so common and so natural (yet so different) can bring strangers together.  Art (in its various forms) is like that.  I maintain that music is the only true magic that exists in this world, and Shadow Man is a good example of that.

The album was released while Apartheid was still in force, and its lyrics are reflective of this.  Clegg and his band not only rail against the oppressive policies of the then-government (“Talk to the People”, “The Waiting”), but also passionately remind us all that we are but the same flesh and blood (“Human Rainbow”).

If there’s anything I can criticize, it’s the oh-so-80’s synthesizers and echoey vocals in the melodies and choruses.  20-25 years ago it sounded great …  but it sounds horribly dated now.  Then again, what is an album if not a Time Capsule?

This won’t be my last time exploring Clegg and his story.  I imagine much as time has marched on, his music and message has done so as well.

Johnny Clegg & Savuka “African Shadow Man” (via youtube)

Johnny Clegg & Savuka “I Call Your Name (Live in Italy)” (via youtube)

Hot Water Music - Live @ Valentines 11-07-01 (Bootleg)

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I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; I love live bootlegs.

Bruce “They Call Me The Boss, Punk” Springsteen once said that he told long stories and talked with the crowd during his shows was because people “want to hear what you sound like”.  There’s a lot to that.  Going to a live show is often much more than just hearing a bunch of songs and applauding.  You want the band to interact with you.  You want them to be human.

Except KISS.  Totally doesn’t count.  They have Superpowers.

“Official” live records can be hit or miss, as they are frequently overdubbed to death and are really various shows strung together to sound like one concert.  Crowd noise is embellished, bum notes are fixed, and fans are given what is essentially a tour memory while the band can check one record off their insane-o record contract that their First Shithead Manager (not the Current Scumbag) scored them. This has changed a bit in the digital age with many bands now offering USB Memory Sticks with the first half of that evening’s show on it, and a download code for the second half within 24 hours (KISS, Pixies), or simply offering the show for download the next day (Metallica).

This is not one of those recordings.

This is one of those “Someone recorded the show last night” types of recordings. Kind of like when Rerun had a giant freaking tape recorder in his tent-like overcoat at that Doobie Brothers show back in the day.  Except no one is making money off this.  Clearly recorded by fans for fans, it captures Hot Water Music back in 2001 while on tour for A Flight and a Crash (a personal fave) with Hot Rod Circuit and Rival Schools.

A third of the show is understandably dedicated to that same album, with the titular track blasting out and the crowd singing along - but only after you hear the band take the stage and greet the crowd with Chuck Ragan annoucing “We’re Hot Water Music from Gainesville, FL” and the sounds of instruments being tuned and readied.  Halfway through the set, during “Sunday Suit”, some kind of scuffle clearly takes place in the crowd, and the band stops the show.  After a couple minutes of back and forth and crowd noise, they roar back with “Rooftops” and the crowd is heard loudly, “Hey World are you listening?”

The connection HWM has with their fans is loud and clear.  The sound quality is Good, and will make any Hot Water fan pump their fist and start to sing.  Whether they realize it or not.

And damn straight they played “Free Radio Gainesville”.  Not such a Bad Scene, after all.

Hot Water Music - “Rooftops (Live at Reading Festival 2011)” (via Youtube)

Hot Water Music - “A Flight and A Crash (Live at Bizarre Festival 2002)” (via Youtube)

Lucero - Lucero (2001)

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Day 2 and I’m still listening to me some Lucero.  This time, I go Even Farther Back (Time Machines FTW) and blow the dust of Lucero, the band’s self-titled debut.

As I said previously, I came pretty late to the Lucero party.  Moving backwards in a band’s discography can be disappointing.  While I wasn’t disappointed in the album, it hasn’t grabbed me as immediately as their more recent releases have.  A simpler record for what was most likely a simpler time in the history of the band.

Lucero - “All Sewn Up”

Ghost - Opus Eponymous (2010)

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Let’s just get this out of the way.  This band’s name is freaking stupid.

If I’m to believe them on looks alone, then Ghost is made up of five “Nameless Ghouls” (as the musicians are credited) led by some satanic priest in a red Cardinal’s outfit (covered in inverted crosses …  SPOOKY!) and skull makeup.  His name is Papa Emeritus, and he sings his “litanies” to a melodic metal backdrop.

Naturally, they are European.  Swedish to be exact.  This could only come from Europe.  And, much like many Euro Metal bands, they are way over-hyped to death.

If I were a teenager, I would be all over this:  Over-the-top image, and melodic heavy metal.  Ol’ Papa Emeritus (rumor has it that his parents know him as Tobias Forge, and he plays in some band called “Repugnant”.  Seriously.) likes to throw his voice into “Satanic” lyrics that pepper the album’s nine tracks.  "Satan Prayer" is rather obviously titled, while “Stand By Him” proclaims in its opening lines that “The Devil’s Power is the Greatest One”.

The music is so inoffensive (very prominent keyboards), this could easily be on any rock radio station in America (or anywhere else).  "Ritual" practically begs to be all over the airwaves, as well as yet-another-Metal-song about Elizabeth Bathory titled simply, “Elizabeth”.

Think 70’s bands like Blue Oyster Cult.  Or early 80’s pioneers Mercyful Fate (without King Diamond, there would be no “Papa Emeritus”, believe it).  That’s what you’re getting with Ghost.  Musically competent, visually stimulating, but ultimately safe and kind of boring.  Without their visual gimmick, this band would fall flatter than, well, something flat.

Go ahead and buy into the Ghost hype.  It’s a big world and you can listen to crappy music if you prefer.

Ghost - “Ritual” (Live at Hammer of Doom Festival) (via youtube)

SHARKS - Arcane Effigies (Single) (2012)

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I took some cold medicine and am completely out of it.  I know I’m totally cheating on this, but it technically IS a complete release, so there’s that.

SHARKS is a young band from England specializing in three-and-four-chord rock with big choruses and loud guitars.  Their newest full-length is scheduled for release in March, with “Arcane Effigies” being released as a two-month teaser track.

An anthemic song directed at everyone who feels an outcast, it’s exactly what I’d expect from the band.  Their compilation, The Joys of Living was stuck in my head for much of last year, and even with the haze of NyQuil, I know this is another Big Chorus that will be swirling in my head for awhile.

SHARKS - “Arcane Effigies” (via youtube)