Monthly Archives: November 2019

GOSPELBEACH – Let It Burn

Album: Let It Burn

Artist: GospelbeacH

Label: Alive Naturalsound

Release Date: October 04, 2019

https://www.alive-records.com/

That would be case-sensitive GospelbeacH, and they’re an American Band. They might not be quite ready to come to your town simply to party it down until there’s nothing left but groupie debris, but as the album title suggests, they’re not above proposing multiple strategies, either, of coping with this cultural shithole we call 2019. Plus, it kicks out da jams, period.

BY FRED MILLS

We’ve sung the praises of Brent Rademaker (late of Beachwood Sparks) and his band GospelbeacH plenty of times to date: just do a search on the site. The band has always seemed simpatico with both my personal musical tastes – it’s never been a stretch to propose some, uh, stray Neil Young and Tom Petty influences being traced in the sand of this particular SoCal beacH – as well as those among the core BLURT braintrust.

But this time around, with Let It Burn, I’m so gobsmacked, and have been for several months (I received the CD in the mail and subsequently ponied up for the limited edition, eye-candy colored vinyl edition), I risk being accused of blatant hype with anything I might scribble down here.

Screw it. Let It Burn – ya had me with your title. Hype mode on.

Per that name, one cannot escape what I’ll call the proverbial “album title echo” function at play (think about it). But there’s far more going on here than just an obvious record collector who happens to have a band and is playing some sort of clever insider game. This album is the product of a rock ’n’ roll lifer.

See, some artists simply get it. The “it” being how to take a stash of newly-recorded songs and assemble them into a coherent whole, something with a compelling narrative and sonic consistency, which of course involves having at least a tentative grasp of sequencing and flow. You might think, well, how hard can that be; you just set the album in motion – or get your producer in motion – and make sure it has plenty of variety while avoiding jarring stylistic juxtapositions and silly, off-putting segues, and lay the tunes on the table, because if you have faith in your own music, you will prevail, regardless of commercial and critical vicissitudes, right?

Uh-uh. Rademaker and his compatriots have both the savvy and the experience to understand the difference between aspiration and inspiration.

Let It Burn kicks off with a kind of reverie, the gently confessional piano-powered ballad “Bad Habits,” a deliberate stylistic choice aimed at setting the listener up for the sucker punch of second track “Dark Angel,” a riff-descending slice of TP & the Heartbreakers (if you can’t hear echoes of keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell in there, you’ve clearly sat out the past 40 years of rock history) boasting both a chordal and a lyrical hook (“Say goodbye Dark Angel/ Sorry that it had to end”) that you will be hearing in your head during those early morning, 4AM random wake-ups we all get. Good luck tuning it out.

And then the hits just pour forth, from the chugging, insistent power pop of “I’m So High” (do I hear a subtle Peter Perrett/Only Ones influence coming through here?) and the dreamy Young/Springfield-esque orchestral pop of “Get It Back,” to the cynical-yet-buoyant raveup “Nothing Ever Changes” (a meta-meditation which has so many cool/classic R&R references in it you can practically hear the GospelbeacH lawyers hollering in the background, “But Brent, we’re gonna get sued over this…”) and the devastating closing track, “Let It Burn,” a sweeping Crazy Horse-meets-Ryan Adams-meets-Bob-Welch-era-Fleetwood Mac number destined to be remembered as one of THE great indie rock anthems. For me, the tune just may wind up defining the decade we are about to leave behind – and, hopefully, may help play a part in finally saying goodbye to the current sorry era we find ourselves mired in.

Indeed, per the comment above about sequencing, there’s a subtle, thematic through-line to the album as well, one of endings and farewells, of being mindful of certain doors closing and feeling frustratingly uncertain as to which new ones might open in the future. The aforementioned “Dark Angel” is clearly of this sentiment, what with lyrics like, “I don’t know what I could’ve done different/ I don’t know what I could’ve said/ I keep my ideas on my phone/ I should’ve kept them in my head… So, say goodbye, Dark Angel/ I hope you finally found a friend/ Say goodbye, Dark Angel/ I’m sorry that it had to end.”

There’s so much to speculatively unpack in those lines – was there a death? a breakup? a betrayal? worse? Is this a self-soliloquy delivered by the singer to himself? – that, given the knowledge of a series of personal losses on the part of Rademacher’s over the past few years, I probably shouldn’t venture a guess as to specifics, although my hunch is that there’s something deeply existential going on here that the songwriter’s working through. And I do view the song as possibly intended to offer the listener the proverbial shoulder to lean; as true artists know that’s their mandate as regards their friends and fans. We depend on our artists, after all, to alert us to how they’ve been through some shit, and how we might take courage when it comes to going through our own shit.

Fast forward to the end: Ditto with “Let It Burn,” – which also could have been titled “Let It Go,” in fact, given the palpable sense of resignation and remorse infusing lines such as, “Heavy is the head/ That wears the crown/ You can build it up/ But they’re gonna knock it down/ I ain’t some king/ No, I’ve never been/ I’m on the outside, honey/ I’m looking in.”

Yet, earlier in the song, Rademaker subtly suggested that there’s the eternal optimism of a sunshine-drenched heart/mind behind those sober sentiments when he sings, “I’ve waited so long/ For something to change/ I’ve waited on a feeling/ I can’t explain,” and taken in the broader context, you get the sense that this guy’s not going to quit. Not on us, not on himself. After all, you don’t write a song about giving up – you might write a song about a negative, but then you’re gonna flip it around because, yeah, things have sucked lately, so fuck you, I’m moving on, come along with me for the ride, too, if you dare.

The fact that this album also represents some of the final recordings of one of indiedom’s most beloved artists, collaborators (to Ryan Adams and Chris Robinson, among others), utility players, and just plain inspirational forces – the late Neal Casal, who took his own life in August – puts a sad but relevant coda to things as well. That’s Casal’s gorgeous fretboard peals swirling throughout the title track, and Rademaker and the other band members have openly mourned their losing of Casal in interviews. Rademaker has even suggested that the album title comes from an offhand comment that Casal made during the sessions about bearing down and not overthinking the music.

While I’ve never lived the proverbial “band experience” myself, anyone who can’t identify with that type of loss clearly lacks a heart… maybe a soul as well. So, again, you come away from Let It Burn with a definitive sense of celebration, as in, we got through this, and the rest of you can, too.

This album, then, is also about all us folks who might have a chance to recover some things we thought we’d lost. Man, is this ever drenched in heart and soul. The first time I heard it, several months ago, I muttered to myself, “Think this gonna be in my top 10 of 2019.”

‘deed it is, folks.

Oh, did I mention that GospelbeacH is a band that gets it?

‘deed they do, folks.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Let it Burn,” “Dark Angel,” “Get It Back”

2019 Goner Fest 9/26-29/19, Memphis

Dates: September 26 - September 29, 2019

Location: Memphis, TN

BY TIM HINELY

Why did it take me so long to get my ass down to Memphis and attend Goner Fest – the 16th annual event?!? I have no idea. The last few years my pal and I went out to Cropped Out in Louisville, KY and since that wasn’t happening this year we decided to do Goner Fest and that, my friends, turned out to be a great decision.

We got lucky with a cool Airbnb in midtown spot right n the middle of all the action (walking distance to one of the venues).

We missed The Limes at the opening ceremony at the gazebo (spittin’ distance from Goner Records who, of course,  are the final folks who put this festival together……we made two trips to Goner to record shop, most excellent shop! Killer selection and friendly, helpful staff).

Thursday night at the Hi-Tone started with between band DJs Anthony Bedard and Mitch Cardwell revving the crowd up. Minneapolis’ Green/Blue, a band made up of folks from top-notch bands like The Soviettes and The Blind Shake, got the party started and their energy jolted me out of my sickness (my scratchy throat had just started…it was to get worse over the weekend).

Madison, WI’s, The Hussy, who have a new record out on Dirtnap, blazed through a set of hi-nrg tunes and were certainly having fun doing it. I met head Hussy Bobby later in the night and he was a righteous chap.

Sweet Knives were up next and this band features Memphis legend Alicija Trout who’s got lots of charisma. Not my favorite band of the festival or anything but did enjoy most of it.

Louisiana’s Trampoline Team very well may have been my favorite band of the festival. A chant/ jitter punk growl that sounded like the same song over and over. A totally d\freaking GREAT song so even if it was the same song I sure didn’t mind. Don’t miss these folks if they blow through your town.

Canada’s early ’70s psych band Simply Saucer (featuring Cleveland legend Craig Bell) bored me… well at least for the first half of the set then really turned it on and the 2nd half of the set and burned.

At 1:00 AM I was still standing upright an thank god ‘cos the King Brothers took the stage and proceeded to ….well, dump a garbage can full of all kinds of muck all over the unsuspecting show goers (or maybe they were suspecting). They growled and grunted their way through set wroth the singer mostly in the crowd standing on hands and shoulders. These guys were insane.

Friday 9/27/19

Of the afternoon bands at Memphis Made Brewery the ones I really enjoyed were New Zealand’s Vincent HL (Crazy Horse meets VU said I), Tucson’s Lenguas Largas (above; a few folks from Resonars) dripped and oozed rock and roll blood. Kelley Sanderson, who used to be in Those Darlin’s (a DAGGER fave) played a nice folksy solo set.

Back at the Hi-Tone on Friday night the DJs were Siltbreeze’s Tom Lax and Feeding Tube Records’ Byron Coley a few guys who know a thing or two about music. Good music.

We missed Mall Walker but caught Richard Papiercuts et Les Inspecteurs and I think I like the recordings a bit more than seeing them on stage. His Scott Walker meets Joy Division sound is certainly unique but again, gimme the records.

Paul Caporino has been doing the M.O.T.O. (Masters of the Obvious) machine for many years with a hundred hit songs and they played my fave “Dick About It.” Lots a energy and hooks and rapid fire tunes.

Good natured Aussie folks Thigh Master delighted the crowd with their wiry n’ wired pop sounds and they were among my faves.

The last time I saw Nots, was when they blew through Denver about 4 or 5 years ago as a quartet but think they’ve been a trio for quite some time and certainly delivered don this night with 30 minutes of pure RAWK.

Headliners on this night was Oblivians (the band featuring Eric from Goner) and hey, having Quintron on keyboards was like getting extra whipped cream on your ice cream. Another one of my favorite sets at Goner as these gents barley had 4 walls and a ceiling left by sets end.

Saturday 9/28/19

Of the afternoon bands on Saturday the ones that converted me were the high energy of Opossums and New Zealand’s two-piece Na Noise (above; featuring one of the gals from Vincent HL) who plunked out a clutch of excellent songs. What can I say, I’m a convert.

Canadian punk band Priors (above) seemed like they came to do two thinks, drink beer and play some great punk rock and succeeded in both (singer was a total character) while the Dixie Dicks gay take on country was hee-larious and loads of fun.

Tucson’s Resonars (above) have been a fave of mine for a long while and they did not disappoint at all. Leader Matt Rendon has too many good songs to count and played many of them on this night while closing out the afternoon gig was Oblivions/Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright (below) & the Tip Tops doing a lovely set of gravelly/soulful tunes. Still love his vocals.

Back to the Hi-Tone for Saturday night and the DJs were The Mummies’ Russell Quan and Bazooka Joe (Slovenly Records) and these cats had a bonafide dance party going on!

We only caught the last tune or two by Teardrop City (featuring Laurie Stirrat) but got front and center for Australia’s Parsnip (below) and while I like their new record (out now on Trouble in Mind) the live set was even better. Lots o’ energy, charisma and fun, catchy songs.

Not sure why I expected to not like Giorgio Murderer but really liked their set. Two guys on synths and a drum machine (at least from where I could see in the back of the club).

Memphis faves Hash Redactor drilled holes with guitars all night (the band also featured 2 Nots and one Ex Cult) and it was another one of my fave sets. Do not miss if they fall into your town.

Tommy and the Commies hail from the great white north and brought their mod fun down for a quick but catchy set while the kings of budget rock, The Mummies (below) hit the stage at 1:00am (with a short film beforehand) and played all the hits (including their cover of Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge”). What a night.

Sunday 9/29/19

Closing ceremonies in the sun was a nice way to end the festival with the Sharde Thomas & the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band who had the crowd raising their hands and shaking their feet.

***

Gonerfest is a top-notch, Grade-A, must-attend annual event. Eric, Zac, and their team put on an excellent festival and the folks who attend really love and appreciate it (translation: no dicks at all, everyone was cool).

I got my ass out there this year, so next year it’s your turn – and I plan on being there as well.

THE ELECTRAJETS – Transatlantic Tales

Album: Transatlantic Tales

Artist: ElectraJets

Label: Tarbeach Music

Release Date: September 27, 2019

www.tarbeachmusic.com

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Since one of my guitar heroes, Ray “Sonic” Hanson (Thee Hypnotics, etc.) is featured on four of its tracks, I was immediately fascinated by The ElectraJets‘ new album. With a sinister, lo-fi haze, the record is the perfect soundtrack for the dirty boulevard especially now that it’s cold and sooty outside, and the streets are filled with cunts with long faces!

“4 a.m. Strangeways” is a gritty opener that will have you stomping your feet and wondering if its 1979 all over again. “Darkness,” the only track on the album written solely by bassist Cynthia Ross (sounding like Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde), is a poetic gem and could have easily fit in the carny scene from the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire. “Suicide Spaceship” will satisfy ardent Thee Hypnotics fans, with Ray’s crazed wah-howl splattered all over the proceedings. On “Happy Smack” Jeff Ward’s guitar playing reaches new levels of greatness; this, melded together with his drug-addled vocals, made the song an unsettling affair.

Nestled between track 11 and 13 is a number called “Sarah’s Truth” that’s credited to Sarah Amina, which stuns with its throbbing sonics and haunting lyrics. So, what makes this record so compelling? Would we want a closer look even if Ray Hanson wasn’t involved? I’d say the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ While I can understand why they wanted Ray to play on the album, Jeff Ward is really the one who makes this record tick. The album has a specific swagger that would’ve been well-received, even if the songs weren’t half as interesting. Sadly, I hear this may be the final ElectraJets album, and if that’s the case, then they go out with their heads hanging high.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “4 a.m. Strangeways,” “Suicide Spaceship,” “Darkness,” “Happy Smack,” “Sarah’s Truth”

ROCKETSHIP – Thanks To You

Album: Thanks To You

Artist: Rocketship

Label: Nonstop Co-op/Darla

Release Date: October 11, 2019

www.darla.com

BY TIM HINELY

Wow, I’ve been hearing rumblings of a new Rocketship record for like, well, years but nothing has ever materialized until now. Yes, this is the same Rocketship led by Dusty Reske that released some classic indie pop records back in the 90’s (that record on Slumberland, A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness is an all-time fave). He later took some forays into ambient/electronic stuff that I didn’t like as much but Rocketship is back and this record sounds excellent. The thing is here that Reske, working with dreamy vocalist Ellen Osborn, didn’t try and recapture that 90’s sound of the band. I mean, there’s still elements of that sound all over the record but on Thanks To You Reske is definitely following his own musical mind and it shows.

At times you might think it’s a lost, baroque 60’s record that Curt Boettcher or The Left Banke did with some real weird organs/keyboard sounds. Kept in Reske’s talented hands he reigned in the songwriting (he basically kept the songs from floating off to never never land) and really made a unique record. First cut ‘Under Streetlights Shadows” is a perfect distillation of all that Reske has done (bits of space pop, shoe gaze, etc.) while the soaring “I Just Can’t Get Enough of You” might be there best song on here in all its otherworldly glory. “Outer Otherness” might be as close as he’s gonna get to straight synthpop (and it’s a blast when Osborn’s vocals come popping in) and “What’s the Use of Books” reminded me a bit of old NYC French pop band Ivy (again, another killer vocal performance by Osborn) and don’t miss the impossibly lovely “City Fair.”

For Reske to make another classic record, 20 years after the fact, isn’t just surprising, it’s downright thrilling! Again, he wasn’t trying recreate his past, but just doing what he does best and on Thanks To You he really put his best foot forward (again).

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “I Just Can’t Get Enough of You,” “Outer Otherness,” “City Fair”

 

 

 

THE MAVERICKS – Play The Hits

Album: Play the Hits

Artist: Mavericks

Label: Thirty Tigers/Mono Mundo Recordings

Release Date: November 01, 2019

https://www.themavericksband.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Ah, the covers album. Once seen as little more than a stop gap until the band could pull together enough new material for a new album, lately, thanks to folks like Corb Lund and Ben Lee’s soon-to-be released record, cover albums seem to be moving towards a much more satisfying experimental phase (Americana Lund covering AC/DC, Indie stalwart Lee covering Fugazi, for example).  And while The Mavericks don’t venture too far beyond their influences on Play The Hits, the record is still crammed with a mix of good-to-great cover songs.

Among the best is their take on Waylon Jennings’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and the fantastically inventive spin on Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” complete with their trademark Tex Mex horns and accordion. Even on some of the more ho hum tracks here, like John Anderson’s “Swingin’” (the early ‘80s country song was never that great to begin with), the band manages to elevate the original thanks to Raul Malo’s remarkably smooth croon (his voice on Hank Cochran’s “Why Can’t She Be You” is simply stunning). The band’s stated goal was to tackle songs that they started playing early on in their three decades together as a group. That explains why Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” was in the mix, despite that song having nearly been covered to death at this point.

Though not as great as their last few albums of all original songs, Play The Hits is still a fun holdover until the band comes back with another record.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN:  “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Before The Last Teardrop Fall” and “Why Can’t She be You”

BARK – Terminal Everything LP

Album: Terminal Everything

Artist: Bark

Label: Cool Dog Sound

Release Date: June 28, 2019

https://bark-bark-loud.bandcamp.com/album/terminal-everything

Knoxville’s finest are still that city’s big dogs, and no amount of physical and psychic loss they’ve experienced will ever diminish that fact.

BY FRED MILLS

Tim and Susan Bauer Lee are now on their third outing as Bark, the Knoxville, Tenn., husband-and-wife team which, for a short while, overlapped with their previous trio, the Tim Lee 3. For those of us who have been charting their evolution over the years up to their current incarnation as a kind of self-enclosed small/mobile/intelligent musical duo, Terminal Everything represents a bit of a culmination of promise… it is one motherfucker of an album, and I use that term on more than just a colloquial level. It kicks ass, sure, featuring the kinds of indelible rock ’n’ roll hooks that Tim has been serving up since the early ‘80s in the Windbreakers (reference: yours truly’s dissection of 1985’s Terminal as part of my “The College Rock Chronicles” series), not to mention the muscular rhythmic nuances that Susan brought to the fore throughout the TL3’s tenure (for your consideration: a review of the band’s 2016 swansong Tin, Man).

Not to mention that this album further refines the pair’s steady incursions into bluesier, and at times heavier, territory, areas that were certainly signposted over the years and which bubbled decisively to the surface on 2017’s scabrous-yet-elegant Year of the Dog, spotlighted by such dusky jewels as the baritone guitar-fueled “How You Gonna Miss Me” and the minimalist trudge of “World of Regret.” There was also a Link Wray-centric sonic depth charge submerged deep in the middle of the album, but you’ll have to work for that one, gentle listeners. I’m not here to hold your hand.

I’m not here to hold Tim or Susan’s hand either, other than to tell them that… I get it. And this album, put simply, destroys me. It’s more than just the fact that I already know about their losing Tim’s mom and Susan’s pop, plus their beloved pooches, which of course anyone with half an aorta could understand might inform songs subsequently written in the aftermath of an emotional trauma. “This world just wants to break my heart,” the Lees intone together, somberly, against the low-key, garage-twang arrangement of “This World,” and it comes across as far, far more profoundly than if uttered as a throwaway line by an 18-year old pop tart singer wholly unaware of what the word “break” fully implies. Here, the song ends up as gospel reverie, and anyone who has even the slightest knowledge about gospel music will understand that when people write and sing songs in this manner, they’re not making an observation—they’re asking, in some manner, for deliverance.

 

Many of the other songs similarly trace the lines of existential darkness. For deeply personal reasons, I’m drawn over and over to opening track “Walk Small” which is clearly dedicated to their aforementioned doggos, with its metaphorical depiction of how it feels to one day hear four paws gently padding the house, only to realize on the next day how that subtle sound is abruptly absent; the music hearkens to some of Tim’s classic Windbreakers power pop compositions, thanks to his instinctive riff sense, and the gentle chorus harmonies that Tim excelled at with bandmate Bobby Sutliff back in the day and has subsequently found a second co-voice in Susan. Each time I hear the lines, “You graced us with your presence/ We didn’t know how good we had / You never let go of your essence / Even when it all went bad,” I think about my own hairy children, in particular Sammy The Dawg, who is now about 14, knowing that when I inevitably, finally have to say goodbye to him, I will say to myself, “I didn’t know how good it was.” But hearing those lines at this moment in time simply makes me want to sing along, and celebrate another creature’s noble existence.

And the churning surf/garage/blooze workout “Apocalypse Shimmy,” though dark as Kentucky coal (it’s written by Cody Cox), demonstrates how a musician can peer deep into the darkness and then find his or her way back from the edge simply by, as the saying goes, kicking out the fucking jams. A little reverb and a lotta tremolo can do wonders when someone’s needing some relief, ya know?

A decade or so ago, in a long conversation I had with Patti Smith, she made the observation that part of the artist’s job is to provide a shoulder for the rest of us to lean on when we need that kind of solace and reassurance: You are not alone. I have gone through this myself. I’ve believed that ever since. And Terminal Everything, despite its death-centric title and myriad bleak moments, is not an album about despairing or giving up. It’s about voicing, acknowledging, and accepting the stuff all of us have to go through, and then offering an outstretched hand.

Accept that offer with your own hand, just like the two hands are doing on the cover of this remarkably moving record, easily the best independent release—hell, just make that the best album—I have heard in 2019 thus far.

Postscript: This also gets my vote for best record sleeve of the year, hands down. A limited-to-300-copies, hand-numbered vinyl edition, it offers a 3-color, hand-printed, letterpress sleeve courtesy Knoxville’s Striped Light Letterpress company, and it is as tactile-compelling as it is visually arresting. You can also score it on regular CD or download, of course—and I would be remiss by not mentioning that if you drop into the BandCamp link for the album, above, you might want to check out a digital-only album they have up on the site called Quake Orphans, which hearkens back to a long-out-of-print limited edition from 2013 that is now newly available. Just sayin’….

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Walk Small,” “This World,” “Apocalypse Shimmy,” “Chimneyville”

MUTTS – Stuck Together

Album: Stuck Together

Artist: Mutts

Label: self-released

Release Date: October 25, 2019

www.download.muttsmusic.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Combine ample amounts of swagger, a hint of soul and an ample dash of swing, and the result manifests as Mutts, a band that defies any categorization other than to tag them as both bold and brash. Their new album, Stuck Together, makes no attempt at gradual engagement but instead comes across with full steam from the get-go.

Indeed, it’s an uncompromising set of songs, especially given its in-your-face attitude and furious, frenetic rhythms. Still, there’s something to be said for a band that possesses such emphatic energy and uncompromising intents. Some may feel a bit overwhelmed by the bombastic approach that accompanies inherent their brazen delivery, but given the complex arrangements, as well as the dedication and determination, there’s plenty to ponder even in the midst of an approach that often veers towards a decidedly psychotic sound.

Even though it appears to be fuelled by more frenzy than finesse much of the time, Stuck Together does allow for some sense of creative cacophony regardless.

TOP TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “I’ll Be Around,” “Better Believe It”

THE SCRAPPERS – The Scrappers

Album: The Scrappers

Artist: The Scrappers

Label: New Fortune

Release Date: June 14, 2019

www.thescrappersband.com /

Detroit band brings it, and then some, on their long-playing debut. More, please.

BY FRED MILLS

Eddie Baranek is no slacker; as frontman for much-revered Motor City outfit The Sights, he spearheaded a singular garage/pop/punk vision that still resonates to this day via five blistering long-players issued between 1999 and 2012. One of yours truly’s high points during my 1 1/2 decades of attending SXSW in Austin each March was getting to hang with Eddie and his gang at the 2013 BLURT day party, held at the Ginger Man venue. Sadly, as things happen, the band called it quits the following year, but all former members can still rest assured that their efforts definitely did not go unappreciated.

Baranek, however, remains a scrapper—or, more accurate, a Scrapper, heading up his latest band The Scrappers. Not totally unlike another well-known Detroiter, Jack White—currently a Nashville denizen, of course—Baranek has never really settled into a singular “style,” preferring instead to let his muse roam at will and then let circumstances and settings dictate what ultimately gets picked up by the mic.

Ergo, The Scrappers—featuring Baranek on vocals, guitar, and piano; plus Dave Lawson on vocals/bass, Ben Luckett on drums, and Pete Ballard on pedal steel (both Lawson and Ballard previously played with Baranek in The Sights)—has an offhand, let’s-just-do-this vibe that ropes in certain garage-y elements while maintaining a distinctive country-meets-pubrock-meets-Southern-pop sound. Baranek himself told me that these days he’s thinking along lines of “sorta rooftop Beatles, kinda Big Star, sometimes Nick Lowe/Brinsleys,” and that’s a pretty solid estimation. It comes through loud ‘n’ clear regardless of your choice of sonic format, digital, CD (via Barn Party), or vinyl (on New Fortune)… you can probably guess my choice, and knowing that the wax comes with a download card, well… whattaya waitin’ for?.

The dozen-song album, cut with both Adam Cox (at Hamtramck Sound Studios) and Jim Diamond (at Detroit’s Ghetto Rec0orders), kicks off with “Feel Love,” a slice of Southern country soul highlighted by Baranek’s impossibly sweet falsetto—something that would come through on certain power pop moments the Sights used to serve up, but never quite this prominently—and Ballard’s mirrored steel lines, both underscored by a subtly muscular, wonderfully agile rhythm section and intermittent, chunky riffs from Baranek. From there the band goes all in, from the Wings/McCartneyesque “Everything’s in Style” and the way-more-than-kinda Big Star vibe of “Seem to Act Surprised” (which, I must state, is not so much in what might be, for some, a presumed Alex Chilton vein; rather, it’s pure Chris Bell); to a blazingly glammy slice of ‘70s power pop, “Wonder Where I Even Start” (think: that era’s Sunset Strip outfits) and shuffley, countryish ballad “Since I Met You,” which conjures at times Roy Orbison’s vintage weepers (here, that Baranek voice, along with Ballard’s supple steel, positively seduces).

The Scrappers go out the way they came in—scrappin’—with defiant thumper “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” essentially a hi-nrg, full-rawk summation of everything that’s gone down during the 11 prior numbers. At precisely the point where the listener’s twitching wrists start hoisting the air maracas, the band brings in the fuckin’ maracas. Which I’d call, right on the fuckin’ mark. As is the entire record. It’s just what I needed, that’s for sure.

TRACK DOWN THESE TRACKS: “Wonder Where I Even Start,” “Seem to Act Surprised,” “Feel Love”

 

 

 

Slayer 11/9/19, Madison Square Garden NYC

Dates: November 9, 2019

Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City

TEXT & PHOTOS BY GREG KELLY

The crowd quickly filled in the 20,789 seated MSG and the night began to take shape.

Opening the show was Phil Anselmo and nd The Illegals. Going through a short set of Pantera songs it was clear that the bands songs are still relevant 30 plus years later. Next was Ministry, a band I saw in  1988(The land of Rape and Honey) and I have never stopped going when they came through town. Al Jourgensen , a great musician , great frontman led the band on a brutal assault on this N.Y.C. crowd. Two highlights of the set was “Supernaut” by Black Sabbath and “ Jesus Built my Hotrod”  Ah, next came Primus An interesting band to put in between all the others. I have seen Les Claypool over 50 times and never get tired of absorbing the psychedelic funk metal. Opening with “Those dam Blue Collar Tweakers” Primus showed they could not only hang with the Slayer crowd they might have picked up a couple new fans! A highpoint of the set was a great cover of the Rush song “ Cygnus X-1” . Then came the main event, SLAYER!! Another band I have seen many times over the years. Touring for “ The Final Campaign” this was sure to be a special one. Before the band started the stage was covered with a curtain with upside down crosses on it. Clearly these guys don’t frequent Sunday mass!

When the curtain dropped the band came out with “Repentless” from the self titled  album. What can I say about these guys except they have never strayed away from where they started musically! A nonstop assault of your senses. The mosh pit never stopped! The Slayer fans are one of a kind and tonight the energy was felt by all. Going through a long set list of songs I was always drawn to “Seasons of The Abyss” ,” South of Heaven” ,”Rain in Blood” and of course there encore “ Angel of Death”. Slayers spot as one of the best heavy metal bands will not go away any time soon!

 

 

Doors – The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) 3CD/1LP

Album: The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Artist: The Doors

Label: Rhino/Elektra

Release Date: November 01, 2019

www.rhino.com

By Fred Mills

“I swear to God, I don’t wanna hear no talk about no Constitution” (alt title: “When I Was Back There in Seminary School”):

Forget that namby-pamby “the day the music died…” AOR radio crap… on Feb. 25, 1969, The Doors recorded an hour-plus song called “Rock Is Dead” during the tail end of sessions for their epochal/flawed/controversial/misunderstood/chart-topping album “The Soft Parade” (which, full disclosure, blew my 14-year old mind, as I had no reference points… this was not the “Hello I Love You” that had guided my pubescent teen trying-to-connect-with-a-chick bumblings of the previous lovin’ summer, that’s for sure).

True believers such as moi were certainly not privy to RID back in the day, as it only started surfacing in bootleg form, and in various fractured iterations, until (if memory serves) the mid ’80s, and even then, probably only on cassette among my fellow underground of tape traders. At that point, only Echo & the Bunnymen were probably willing to go on record as being Jim Morrison & Co. fans, such was the tarnished, classic rock legacy of the band.

And then Oliver Stone arrived, stage left.

His March ’91 Morrison biopic “The Doors” needs no introduction, and I will not lay out any arguments fo’ or agin’ it here, other than to note that it heralded the proverbial Third Coming of St. Jim – the Second Coming being, of course, when “Rolling Stone” magazine put out their classic revivalist issue proclaiming, “He’s Hot, He’s Sexy, and He’s Dead!” on the cover in the ’80s. (I have a tangential story about Matthew Sweet relating directly to that RS issue I’ll share with anyone privately, btw.) So as these journo things go, in the fall of 1990, I was the music editor of a Charlotte alt-weekly, Creative Loafing (RIP), and my editors agreed that it would be awesome if I could do some deep research on the Stone film for a subsequent high-profile piece to hit when the movie arrived in the spring – and maybe, just maybe, we could scoop the clueless clowns at the local daily.

Oh boy, did we ever. And oh boy, did I get more than I was looking – bargaining – for.

I was already plugged into a certain u-ground scene due to the fact that for close to about a decade I had been scribbling for shitty rock rags left and right; the free recs were the draw, of course, and then somehow I realized I actually enjoyed running my mouth to a captive (i.e., print fanzine) audience. Plus, when I was back there in my seminary school classes, I learned I could petition my audience with, not necessarily prayer, but at least provocative propositions. So here we are in late 1990, and I’m making a few casual inquiries among my indie rock contacts – at the time, I have no clue whatsoever as to how to reach out to an actual Hollywood film production – and, meanwhile, I’ve begun haunting the Charlotte library and commanding their microfiche machines in order to locate and then print out vintage Doors stories and reviews. (Yes, I still have those and all my Doors research files in a box in the attic. Probably severely faded by now. I’ll keep you posted.)

And then – the proverbial key turned in the lock. At the time I was also a longtime contributor to indie bible Option Magazine, and upon seeing my query, my editor there told me, “Oh yeah, I know the guy who worked with Stone as his screenwriter on the film. Here’s his number, tell him I said for you to call him.” With that, I was on the horn with J. Randall Johnson (looking him up at IMDB, I don’t have time to put in links on this)

Long story short: Randy provided me with a coupla hours’ worth of details, anecdotes, and (presumably still) off-the-record stuff about putting together the film, working with Stone, and of course navigating the cultural and financial minefield that is all things Doors. More important, though, is how he opened up multiple doors (see what I just did?) that gave me access well beyond what we at the paper had ever considered might be possible. In short order, I was talking to Doors manager Bill Siddons, who in turn connected me with the publicists for both Robby Krieger and John Densmore (the latter was working on a book to come out next spring as well, so he was motivated; the former was working with Eric Burdon at the time so probably less motivated, but he indicated he had some solo irons in the fire, so….). Multiple interviews with principals went down, with plenty of off-record shit uttered along the way – for some reason, I had passed the smell test and was in the circle of trust, and when they said, “Please don’t quote me on this part…” I promised I would respect the request. And I still do. I’ll leave it to my kid as to what he wants to do with all my interview cassettes once I’m gone, of course, but those tapes are sitting in my garage right now.

One thing that you might assume would have stayed off-record, however, was never designated as such. Somehow I was also put in touch with the Lizard King’s old drinking buddy, veteran filmmaker Frank Lisciandro, who was also preparing a Doors-related photo book, so he was probably inclined to talk to the press. That was a memorable evening over the NC-to-LA phone line, with plenty of terrific Morrison and Doors anecdotes, plus a particular nugget: Due to drugs and alcohol, Morrison was impotent for the final couple of years of his life. No one had ever gone on the record at that point regarding the sex god’s issues, aside from veiled comments over the years about Jim’s “issues” related to booze. I duly printed the quote, although naturally there was no way to independently verify such details; by that point, in 1990, Pamela Morrison was long gone, too, so I really could only take Frank’s word. But if anyone knew the truth, he probably did, so I stand behind my reporting, such as it was.

As an aside:I tried my best to nail down Ray Manzarek (RIP) for an interview, but around that time he had already had his falling out with Oliver Stone and was not interesting in pimping the film in the least. If memory serves, Danny Sugarman (RIP) was repping Ray at the time, and he was definitely no help – in fact, he was a total dick, blowing me off twice for interviews I’d arranged separately with him, but I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, dick or no dead dick.

Somewhere along the way, in the middle of all this, Doors cover band The Back Doors came to Charlotte and played the 13-13 Club. Yeah, of course I went.

At any rate: the movie arrived in the multiplexes, Val Kilmer got his props and his drubbings, Creative Loafing had its cover story that circulated through our multiple cities, and my story even got picked up by other cities’ alt-weeklies. Thanks to my many fanzine contacts out in the hinterlands, I also published extended versions (“director’s cut”) of my story in a national music magazine and overseas mags in Spain, Germany, and Australia.

Yeah, in one form or another, I got paid about 6 or 7 times – I sure didn’t go out and buy a Ferrari in the aftermath, but I did pick up a few Doors bootleg discs.

I busted my ass for at least 3 or 4 month working on a band that was massively important to me. In the research process, I started having Jimbo dreams, and if I could have found a pair of leather jeans someplace, I probably would’ve put ’em on. Somehow my wife and my friends put up with me throughout it all, although I have a vague memory of rooms clearing every time I would cue up “The End.”

What I did NOT subject them too, though, is the sonic and poetic anarchy of Morrison’s “Rock Is Dead,” a 64-minute disjointed – yet fascinating – traipse through the history of rock ‘n’ roll, though the eyes and ears of JM. As I made many, many contacts within the Doors collector community during this period, I was able to acquire a relative high-generation of the entire, unbootlegged tape. It reportedly was provided to me following one of my higher-profile Doors camp contacts giving me the thumbs-up as someone who could be trusted not to circulate it. And I never have.

It’s on the just-released 50th anniversary, 3-CD / 1-LP deluxe edition of “The Soft Parade” (on RHINO ) in all its bizarrely beautiful, derangedly riveting glory, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants an unvarnished, never-officially-released glimpse into the vaunted Morrison id. Casual fans, well… not so much. But then, if you’ve read this far, and if you love “The Soft Parade” as much as I do, or even almost as much as I do, you’ll dig it. Petition your local indie record store with prayer to make sure they stock it.

Check it out at the Spotify link below. Break on through.

https://open.spotify.com/track/09IGIoxYilGSnU0b0OambC…