Categories
Event Reviews

Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish

with Goldfinger, Zebrahead, Homegrown, and RxBandits

Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL • July 20, 2001

Tonight’s forecast called for steadily increasing stage diving and pass the dude, with a chance of light moshing and some sneaker flurries. We had all that, along with an increasingly talented string of punk/ska bands, culminating with Reel Big Fish’s heart-stopping non-stop pogo performance.

Things got rolling pretty much on time with RxBandits, a brash and noisy fivesome that opened with three guys beating up on a pair of drum kits. That’s a lot of people on drums, but after a few minutes, two of the stand-up drummers morphed into trombone players, giving the band the punchy, brassy sound they needed to pull people onto their feet. I can’t reliably report any of their song titles, since they neglected to announce them and I forgot to pick up their CD, Progress, at the souvenir desk up front. I’d love to talk about who plays what, but the band is new to me and their Web site requires a Flash 5 plug in, and like so many Flash powered sites, doesn’t ever seem to work. Loud and furious, they’ve got the sound down and need to focus on their self-promotion skills.

With Rx Bandits’ set complete, we waited patiently through the first of four interminable band changes until Homegrown appeared and went though a slightly disappointing set. This La Costa, CA based act relies on drummer Bob Herco to keep the beat roiling, with Johnee Trash and Justin Poyser on guitars. Trash and Adam Lohrbach (lead vocals) seemed to fall into rambling dialogues between songs (“Get A Job,” “Here We Are Again,” “Barbie World”), and made up a few tunes on the spot, like “This Song is Five Seconds Long.” It was, thank god. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, with occasional moshing and a light hail of tennis shoes popping up on stage. Sneaker chucking seems to be the ovation of choice for today’s hip teens, and you know they like the band, ‘cuz the footwear ain’t cheap.

Another half-hour passed in calm anticipation before Zebrahead took the stage. Brash and crude, this is a crowd-pleasing band on its way to its own headlining tour. With charismatic Justin Mauriello on lead vocals and stage diving, the bands were getting better as the songs became more distinct. Between “All I Need” and a quickie cover of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Zebrahead engaged in a little audience humiliation and some frank trash talk. It’s amazing what people will do for a T-shirt that doesn’t even fit right.

Another break, another band. Goldfinger is a bigger name, so unlike the previous bands, the proscenium curtain dropped to allow them to set up their drum kits in privacy. As the curtain rose, the boys from Southern California strode out to the strains of the theme from The Odd Couple, then launched into the rocking “You Don’t Know What Pain Is,” “Some Kind of a Day,” and “I Still Feel the Same.” More sneakers flew at leader John Feldman, more people jumped past security to whiz by guitarist Charlie Paulson, only to fling themselves back into the arms of their fellow pit mates, until the band played the frenzied “Miles Away.” The rain of sneakers continues and a few lighters popped out, and Goldfinger returned to play a quick encore of “Mabel” and a snappy bilingual “99 Red Balloons.” Awesome. Plus they’ve got the self-promo thing down; they hung a banner with their names over the stage. It’s these little things that mean so much to the audience.

And then more down time. Curtain down time, get your shoes back down time, new drum kit down time, and at long last, headliners Reel Big Fish strode on stage in silk kimono dressing gowns. This stylish attire was quickly shed as they launched into a frenzy of fast songs played with the energy of a coked up Red Bull addict. Starting from a bouncy “Bootylicious,” they zipped thorough faster and faster version of their hits: “Somebody Hates Me,” “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend,” “She Has a Girlfriend Now.” When not singing or bouncing up and down, lead man Aaron Barrett floated through a stretch of jumping jacks — good ones, not the lame stuff we did in high school. How does he do it? I got tired just watching. Trombonist Dan Regan played a staccato line that went faster and faster, peaking in the better than original cover of a-ha’s “Take On Me.” No time for an encore, no matter how many shoes we offered up on the altar of 21st century ska; we had to settle for “Sell Out” as the final number. You’ve heard the show biz chestnut — always leave ’em begging for more. Come on guys, just one more for the Gipper.

More information can be found at these sites: http://www.homegrownonline.com, http://www.rxbandits.com, http://www.zebrahead.com, http://www.goldfingermusic.com, http://www.reel-big-fish.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Professional Murder Music

Professional Murder Music

Professional Murder Music

Geffen

Professional? Sure. Music? That it is. But murder(ing)? Not quite. Such are the problematics of Professional Murder Music’s eponymous debut album. From their futuristic goth-glam image to their gloom-infested cyberpunk-on-methadone riffs to the various post-digital synth gurgles to even the Josh Abraham production (he delivers nicely here, despite the wanting material), the quartet feebly attempt to one-up Orgy, which, if you’ve heard their stellar, Abraham-produced Vapor Transmission from last year, is damn near impossible. That’s not to say I didn’t want to like this, and aside from the (inadvertent) nods to Amorphis’ current brand of equally gloomy atmospheric metal, Professional Murder Music nonetheless fails to rise to the insurmountable challenge. I mean, they’ve got the hooks and they’ve got the look, but they just don’t cut it in this respect (i.e., besting Orgy). Still, they do a cool cover of The Cure’s “A Night Like This,” but it’s not too difficult to fuck up The Cure, that horrid One Hundred Tears tribute notwithstanding. So, forget the Orgy pretensions, and you’ve got a pretty substantial debut. Next one, maybe.

Geffen Redords, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.murdermusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Ultrasound

Ultrasound

Hamesh

Another Autonomy

Ultrasound reminds me of all of the mistakes I’ve made. It’s not their fault; I’m just sensitive when it comes to things like this. Their music may strike some as overtly melancholy, but that violin makes me think of calms after storms, bad situations later laughed at, and calamities near missed.

While emotionally delicate and achingly personal, Ultrasound fit among bands like The Pilot Ships, Windsor for the Derby, and The Dirty Three in their less syrupy moments. Ultrasound (in this incarnation) really benefits from guitarist Kirk Laktas of Stars of the Lid. He brings the pacing to a near standstill, with the instrumental tracks far outnumbering those with vocals. The band will occasionally incorporate field recordings, but the album always maintains this sad, nostalgic tone. While they certainly cast a certain spell, I’m going to wait for the temperature to drop before I slip this CD in. One can only spend so much time remembering things that may have been “good for you” but, honestly speaking, you’d have rather not gone through with.

http://www.ultrasoundsite.homestead.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Crazy/Beautiful

Crazy/Beautiful

Original Soundtrack

Hollywood

Fitting with the movie’s racial issues, the soundtrack to the curious Crazy/Beautiful is equally as culturally divided. Featuring an even balance of Spanish and English hits , it’s a most rare and yet not totally bad soundtrack. Mellow Man Ace lends “Ten La Fe,” which is best described as Latin hip hop, Emilianna Torrini’s “To Be Free” is Dido-ish and haunting if you repeat it a few times. Including big names such as Seven Mary Three (whose well played “Wait” appears on this album), Fastball, The Getaway People, La Ley, and The Dandy Warhols, the soundtrack is good, but its reputation overshoots its substance a little, much like the movie.

Hollywood Records, 500 South Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521; http://www.hollywoodrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Sarah Brightman

Sarah Brightman

A Whiter Shade of Pale/A Question of Honour

Angel

Given the recent trend of wispy female vocalists being remixed by dance DJs (such as Deep Dish getting their hands into Dido’s “Thank You” and Sarah McLachlan’s new remix album featuring Rabbit in the Moon, Hybrid and many more), we should have known that Sarah Brightman wasn’t going to be far behind. Known best for her new age-y sound and Andrew Lloyd Weber numbers, the doll-faced songstress has a host of records and more live shows than you can shake a stick at. Her newest record is a two-song (“A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “A Question of Honour”), ten-track wonder of repetition. The jacket promises “Exclusive dance remixes by ATB and Delerium,” which holds true, but doesn’t leave much else substance-wise. Don’t get me wrong, the dance mixes in and of themselves are great — inventive, and they actually improve both songs — but the rest of the album isn’t much to brag about. If you’re into Sarah Brightman, and/or clubby dance remixes (only two of which on the CD are actually of quality) then it’s a pretty safe buy. Otherwise, save your money for the much cooler other Sarah.

Angel Records, 304 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010; http://www.angelrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine

A Transparent Mask

Asphodel

There are always a few really great speaking voices in any age — Billy Graham, Paul Harvey, James Earl Jones — all they need do is speak, and they have your undivided attention, whatever the message. The king of the speakers today is Ken Nordine, announcer and poet, a man with the tobacco-infused voice of you favorite uncle telling a hunting story on a cold winter’s night. Nordine’s friendly and husky tones have sold countless products, from Fuller Paint to Slugeta Snail Bait, over the past 50 years. On the side, he’s put together over a dozen Word Jazz disks — free-form poems and stream of consciousness thoughts accompanied by a jazzy and disassociated back up sounds. The words aren’t really all that important; it’s the tone and modulating that grab your ear. Whether there you sit down with a beaker of scotch to take notes or slide this into the background for an intimate evening, just the sound of his voice comforts, and the musical filling glosses over the irregular rhyming.

But what’s embedded in those dulcet words? Observations and ruminations of the product development cycle that brought us the feather (“For The Birds”), the sounds of a distant friend calling at 3 AM, stone cold sober, to philosophize about the universe (“Truth Mute”), or a nonsense political discussion of a mythical rulers of a not soon to be formed state (“Akond Of Swat”). There’s a love poem (“You Don’t Love Me Blues”), a career plan (“The Bullfighter”) and a better way to find sleep than enumerating sheep (“Cliché Heaven”). But none of the words are really that critical — Nordine could read the yellow pages backwards and sound good. His clever lyricism just adds to the luster to the voice.

The music? Well, Howard Levy plays keys and most any other random musical instrument at hand, Kristan Vaughan strums the guitar and synth, Eric Hochberg toots a trumpet, and both Paul Wertico and Jim Hines take turns on drums. Stripped of the vocals, the sound has a “late night ain’t gotta be home ’til Tuesday” groove. I’m not a big Jazzbo, but it’s the sort of stuff you can drink to indefinitely if the sounds are at the right level. Nordine is a gem, the sort of person you might emulate if you’re thinking of doing an open mic night and you inner angst still isn’t ready for past prime time.

http://www.asphodel.com, nordine@wordjazz.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Scared Of Chaka

Scared Of Chaka

Crossing With Switchblades

Hopeless

The liner notes state: “recorded in Seattle during an earthquake, a riot, and a car heist.” The music kinda makes you feel like all three things are still going on. Straight up, straightforward, solid time punk rock that makes you feel good about punk rock. They play hard and fast and they don’t say sorry. Energetic songs with quick hooks and distorted attacks that crash through the time barrier and keep on going. It’s not new sounding, but it doesn’t sound like what you’ve heard before either. Grab a beer, turn the stereo up, throw your sunglasses on, and let the music hit you like a rock n’ roll heatwave.

Hopeless, PO Box 7495, Van Nuys, CA 91409; http://www.hoplessrecords.com

Categories
Features

High School Differential

High School Differential

Yeah, I went to high school. It’s a law or something. And just like all high schools since Plato’s Academy, it was full of cliques. Instead of epicures and stoics, we had jocks and greasers and stoners. Negroes hadn’t been invented yet, and Hispanics were just a glimmer in the eyes of wild-eyed visionaries in those frozen days in the mid-’70s in the Midwest in the middle of puberty. And what was I? I was in the Fourth Estate: a lowly geek. Of course, you wouldn’t claim it at the time, not if you valued your nuggies, but today, in the new millennia, it’s cool, even if your stock options are underwater.

How do you achieve geekdom? Well, either you’re born to it or your not. While others struggled to understand the intricacies of Columbus or the quadratic equation, my miserable socially unacceptable cohorts knocked off four years of homework in the first week, then went off to hide as best we could. If you believe the movies, everyone in high school is getting laid, but that was basically a myth in 1970. Oh, sure, a few quick studies in the Book of Lust disappeared mysteriously in senior year, only to show up clerking at the Red Owl a few years later with a bunch of bratty kids you hope never moved in your neighborhood. But most kids, cool or not, didn’t get any until prom night — if then. Meanwhile, the jocks had pep rallies and the Big Game (one a week, all year long. Amazing). The greasers souped-up cars and wrapped them around telephone poles, and the stoners had Pink Floyd. Everyone picked on the geeks. But what did the geeks do for entertainment?

Well, most of us taught ourselves slide rule (very handy) and a few brave souls knocked off calculus in their junior year, on their own. Nowadays, it’s de rigueur to tote a 15-pound calc book around in your AP class, but that book is about useless and the instructors slightly worse, and really, calculus isn’t THAT difficult. If you’re a real geek. But the real fun required becoming a chemistry assistant. Today, chemistry is taught without actual chemicals for fear someone will make a flame and burn themselves and sue. Back then, not only were there really dangerous materials, but the older chem books were more like cookbooks, and they were quite explicit. Nitroglycerine? That’s for amateurs and wannabes. Try picric acid, nitrogen tri-iodide, or thermite. Just go look ’em up, and keep the quantities small. If you’re smart enough to make this crud, you ought to be smart enough to use it carefully or take the consequences like the wimp you are. Hell, I’ve got sulfuric acid burns on my wrist I never told anyone about because sometimes you have to just be tough – not tough enough to go out for sports, but tough enough to not admit you screwed up and damaged yourself. Back in the ’70s, chem assistants had a key to the stockroom. Bottles of aluminum dust, thorium oxide, chloral hydrate, you name it. If this sounds like Greek to you, you don’t know what you missed.

Sure, we had to help freshmen not burn themselves, but we found a project that got us off that skank assignment and on to better experiments. Like most chemistry departments, there was a huge jar of waste Silver Chloride and other residue chock full of precious metal, in the days when the Hunt brothers nearly cornered the silver market. We were asked to turn it back into Silver Nitrate without using cyanide. A tough job, since not many things actually dissolve Silver Chloride, but we found one that involved ammonia, copper, and nitric acid that generated very impressive smoke, required very impressive arrays of glassware, smelled bad, and worked very, very well. I’m still proud of it, write if you want the details. Net result – $450.00 worth of AgNO3, and no more questions asked.

Having gotten the keys to the kingdom, my friends and I had the run of the place plus permission to get out of study hall (closed campus, you know). My buddy Scott decided to teach himself glass blowing, which the chem teacher was quite good at. Not wanting to attract attention, he decided to work in the back corner of the lab at lunchtime when nobody was around. I happened to be in the library at the time, half way around campus. The “boom” got everyone’s attention. I ran down to the lab to find him wandering around in a daze. Since the gas torch was in the front of the lab, he filled a plastic bottle with acetylene and oxygen, with the idea of lighting it and squeezing it out of the bottle to make a portable torch. This is a singularly bad idea, because the flame propagates back into the bottle and everything goes at once. It’s actually how they do a lot of movie explosions. He survived. We all became smarter.

I could go on, of course – flooding history class with toxic waste by mistake, getting out of class early by changing the clocks EXACTLY the right way, accidentally setting fire to the toughest guy on campus’s locker, staining the side of the building waaaayy up high, you know the drill. But eventually the torture ended, both for the geeks and for the jailers. I’ve evaded the rah rah reunion people – I had a female friend write them a letter saying I had been killed in the Gulf War, so no more annoying junk mail. In retrospect, I still think high school sucked. But then, what do I know? I was the smart kid.

Categories
Music Reviews

The Ted Bundys

The Ted Bundys

Look What We Dug Up, Some More Porn Rock!

Swill Product

Dedicated to “Wendy Orleans Williams,” this potentially offensive collection of The Ted Bundys’ presumably-lost-until-now work is certainly worth having in one’s collection of metallica obscura. Um, make that the “gee, this is interesting” shelf. My reasoning behind this is simply that the album’s title misinterprets the music that’s been recorded. Yes, there is some “porn rock,” but for the most part this betrays the band as a serious metal collective dedicated to great, classic metal musicianship rather than concentrating on crude behavior. Frankly, the first track, “Ozzy Made Me Do It,” deserves several thousand plays on the metal shows, and I, for one, would splice the main chorus into my show introduction/between-song segues. It’s tight and full of speed metal power and vocal majesty — really! “Ozzy Made Me Do It” is not porn rock, it’s straight-ahead metal with a message (and some humor).

Then things get really confusing. They cover The Psychedelic Furs’ “Sister Europe,” a song I’ve always associated with hard drugs, since the original sounds like the band was strung out during the recording session. I mean, this is mainstream• maybe they were polishing their chops as they’re as true as possible to the original. The rest of the album is, I reckon, “porn rock,” although emphasis seems to be on power dynamics rather than being disgusting. They do cover Spit’s “Tu Culo Ed Mi Culo,” though, and that certainly is “porn rock.” Eleven songs in all, others worthy of mention are “Let’s Pretend We’re From Seattle,” “Psycho Bitch,” and “Penal Perpetrator.” Worth it just for the Ozzy song, if you ask me.

Swill Product, PO Box 1408, Lincoln Park, 48146; http://www.swillproduct.com, http://www.tedbundys.iuma.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Alto Heceta/Speed Of Sauce

Alto Heceta/Speed Of Sauce

Split EP

Synaptic Tactic

This is a split CD EP between Alto Heceta and Speed Of Sauce. Alto Heceta reminds me a bit of early Sunny Day Real Estate. Their songs on this disc are good, but are lacking a certain quality to make them really memorable. I am not sure if it•s the melody or the mix or what. On the other hand, Speed Of Sauce has a fresh sound that, combined with their lead singer sounding a bit like Bono or Thom Yorke, makes for interesting listening. Especially on the second track they contribute, •Your Voice,• these guys sound a bit like Radiohead circa The Bends. Beyond that, the band•s sound is much tighter and focused, while the playing has a certain strength and power to it. At only three tracks each, it•s difficult to get a complete picture of the strengths of these bands, but I would definitely be interested in hearing more from Speed Of Sauce.

http://www.synaptictacticrecords.com, http://www.altoheceta.com, http://www.speedofsauce.com