Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some quickie music reviews
 for you to suck on

"I don't care much about music. What I like is sounds."
                                                                      Dizzy Gillespie

 In continuing with the fine TOP tradition of hardly ever reviewing anything current, I want to kick off with this fine slab of wax. 'Those Who Fear Tomorrow' was the first full length by the legendary Cleveland Hardcore band Integrity. The band had previously released a shitty demo (Harder They Fall) in '89, their 'In Contrast of Sin' 7" EP on Victory Records in '90, and a slew of compilation appearances. But when these cats finally churned out an official full length in '92, lots of kids from the hardcore scene just did not know what to make of these motherfuckers. The scene wasn't ready for hardcore's version of the crossover. Arguably, this was the first official (cringe) Metal-Core album. Fuck, man, I hate that term, but it's true, this was it. It all came from this. This is the grand-daddy of the second wave of crossover. The categorization for their style in the 90's, before the irritating term Metal-Core became the official moniker for another ponderous sub-genre that would be done into the ground, was Holy Terror style (?). My guess is that the term probably alludes to the darker metallic tones and often heretical subject matter. Call it nothing else but one of the single most redeeming records that 90's Hardcore produced. To call this joint grimy is an understatement, this thing sounds like it was recorded in a fucking furnace. Granted, the not-great vocals can be hard to listen past, but if you can acquire a taste, the payoff is- Great lyrics! Darker than a motherfucker! You won't get no self-righteous anti-drug rants here. This is all heresy and apocalypse! It can still stomp with the big boys on any given occasion. I'm sure that this record can come out of retirement and crucify all of it's bastard off-shoots upside down. Integrity's front-man Dwid was an interesting chap to say the least. He was (or still is) into some kooky religious sect called Church of the Process (and possibly even other forms of Gnosticism) and was known to have engaged in unorthodox scene behavior. Some might even say he was a bit of a douche. But in dealing with hardcore kids, I have come to find that anybody who causes them discomfort is doing something right, and that makes him A-OK in my book. I give this bad boy a rating of 10 inverted crosses.  

Speaking of Gnosticism and things of that nature, I scooped up Tombs last release titled 'Paths Of Totality'. To me it seemed a pretty random purchase being that I don't usually patronize Relapse Records (not for any particular motive, just not into most of their roster), but I was attracted to the imagery alluding to Thelema which abound within the album. I was pleasantly satisfied with the head-pummeling that would ensue after sliding it in to the CD player (and the disc too.) Another suitable name for this record would have been 'Songs from the gray, barren wastelands'. This is like Neurosis-meets-Black Metal, at least that's how they sound to me. This is brutal super-sludge born from utter desolation, yet nicely textured with quasi-melody deep down beneath a frozen wall of sound. One of the bleakest sounding records I've ever heard, I obviously mean that in a good way. Without a doubt, I'll be bumping this joint on December 22, 2012, or the Day After, it will probably make that much more sense to my inner ear when the Earth is reduced to nothing more than a gray void. Ha, look at me, so sure that I'll survive the cosmic shit hitting the universal fan. Well, if I do survive, it will probably be mad trippy to watch asteroids rain upon earth during one of Tombs' sick blast beats. That should give me some post-apocalyptic entertainment while waiting for Sun Ra and his 'Arkestra' to orbit by and scoop any remaining survivors on the planet formerly known as Earth.

 So, if you've been following my stupid blog, I've been on an almost relentless quest to amass as much Sun Ra material as I can before we reach our expiration date. Why? Because I have a theory that Sun Ra hid some Sacred Solfeggio frequencies into his music, and if played on the day of the final cosmic alignment, it just might mean saving my little Guava pastry eating ass from becoming a fossil. Anyways, this is my most recent acquisition from the Sun Ra repertoire. Sun Ra Meets Salah Ragab In Egypt has set a high benchmark for all other Sun Ra joints that I pick up from here on out. Break out the hookahs and your finest Lebanese blonde hash, and prepare for a cosmic quest into your rusty Pineal gland. Absolutely fantastic. A must have for 'Bringing home a broad that you really want to bang' night. With the intergalactic vibrations of this magnificent piece of jazz, the panties will go into zero gravity in no time.. Okay, okay, that astronaut reference was very cheese-flavored. All pseudo-intellectuals will argue that (x) jazz musician was a genius, but Sun Ra is the real deal. This cat came from beyond to spread a message of enlightenment, but we were too caught up in our un-groovy earthling ways, and so his Ark moved on to the next Solar System to spread his joyful noise. Thanks a lot earthlings, now we're really fucked!

Thrasher Skateboarding magazine put me on to lots of music in the late 80's/wee 90's. Shit, it made me a better music fan than it did a skater. Truth be told, I fucking sucked on a board. But I'm sure I'm not the first person to credit Pushead's old column in said rag with exposing them to all types of off-the-beaten-path records. Beowulf's debut LP being one of them. You can check out the self titled debut and an album called 'Lost My Head' on one disc, as a repress by the Belgian label I SCREAM records. Beowulf first appeared in the classic 1985 compilation 'Welcome To Venice' on Mike Muir's imprint, Suicidal Records. The LP came the following year. In describing this record, the words 'criminally neglected' immediately come to mind. Sadly, Suicidal' took all the props for their town, and even in the underground, I feel that Beowulf kind of fell to the wayside. As for stylistics, just think a more aggro Motorhead, if they grew up in the cult Punk scene of Venice Beach in the 80's. Don't let the 'Punk' categorization fool you, there's some way interesting song writing here. There's real composing talent here, bordering on melodic, but not too melodic to break up the rowdy punk vibe. By the way, CLASSIC ALBUM ART! Undead skeletal punks intermingling with big-haired Latina punk sluts! You gotta love it. I rank this in my top 5 of West Coast Punk. A masterpiece fueled by Vato gangster chic, the combination of Amphetamines with Budweiser, and the lust for big-haired Latina punk sluts in barely-there skirts and garters revealing half an ass cheek...  

A sweet and tender hooligan’s take on
 The Smiths

It was a perfect synergy that would take place when the hyper self-conscious, self-loathing, affection-starved 15 year old mess of an adolescent that was I would come across the music of The Smiths.
I’ve taken a lot of shit from my uber-masculine friends (particularly those of the knuckle dragging variety) for being a rabid Smiths fan. And still ill to this day, and until the day that I rot in a grave (dug open by a pretty girl),  I will stake my claim and fight to the last breath if anyone dares touch a hair on the head of the musical legacy of Steven Patrick Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and the other guy (ha).
It’s my contention that non-worshippers of this genius Manchester crew are put off less by the music and more by Morrissey’s sexually dubious overtones. Most heterosexual males aren’t so secure in their manhood that they will allow themselves to identify with his lyricism, being that most of the songs were very possibly written from a ‘man-on-man’ perspective. Asides from that, the snobbish over-intellectualism and deep literary references are not exactly designed to draw fans who are more typically found kicking in faces with Doc Martens, nor anyone with the entire DARKTHRONE catalog at the apex of their CD rack, even though the latter of those two demographics appeal immensely to Morrissey. (He has been known to keep the company of an authentic boots and braces wearing Skinhead bodyguard.) He likes them butch, honey!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Smiths musically, but their sound pales in comparison to the lyrics. It’s all in the lyrics. Morrissey’s self-deprecation, lack of masculine confidence, and his overbearing sense of social and emotional inadequacy were qualities that I knew all too well within myself. That signified a sure home-run whenever I finally came around to discovering the Smiths. My intro to the Smiths took place during 8th grade while doing time at Christian school. One of the little ‘alt-rock’ cuties that hung out in our derelict caravan put me on to them. Within the same week that I heard them for the first time I went out and copped my first Smiths album which was ‘The Queen Is Dead’. Now I won't say it is their greatest crowning achievement, but this record has sentimental value to me because a) it was my intro to The Smiths, and b) because of the time-set which it personally represents. 
What a fucking introduction… Mike Joyce’s rolling tom drums set a hard ‘call to arms’ type of tone before the ethereal guitars of Johnny Marr blare in, in his trademark riffing style, paving the way for Morrissey’s vocals to reach the listener’s consciousness… And then the first words I heard him sing…
Farewell to this land’s cheerless marshes, Hemmed in like a bore between arches, her very lowness with her head in a sling, I’m truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing…”
That motherfucker just called the Queen of England “her very lowness” and then wished to see her head in a sling! He’s got some fucking balls on him!!! I was immediately hooked. You see, up until that point I assumed that all forms of musical protest came in the form of head imploding distorted guitars and frenzied screaming. But with the Smiths you get not just the self-doubtful, emotional turmoil themes, but also these serious anti-social, anti-establishment sentiments, set over some beautifully delicate melody.
OK, arguably, it is music for Egg-Heads, would-be pseudointellectuals and closeted post-modern types who find sexual catharsis by living vicariously through Oscar Wilde novels. But Fuck It! Fruity-pants or not, Morrissey is a Goddamned genius… bottom line.
I automatically appropriated about 75% of their collective body of works as my own personal soundtrack. Yea… I’ve had a somewhat unfortunate existence.
In dealing with the Smiths, I have found that there are over a million "greatest hits/best of" and they don't come close to truly encompassing the crew, so here is the ideal playlist of Smiths joints that I think really captures the finer points of this band:

-Pretty Girls Make Graves
-Still Ill
-Hand in Glove
-Handsome Devil ( a personal favorite!)
-The Headmaster Ritual
-How soon is now (this was a big club hit)
-Nowhere Fast
-Sweet and Tender Hooligan
-Girl Afraid
-This Night Has Opened My Eyes
-The Queen is Dead
-I Know It's Over
-Bigmouth Strikes Again
-There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (a huge hit for them)  

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
Aldous Huxley

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