Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Your Mother Is A Ballpoint Pen Thief

It's hard to believe that six years have passed since I first heard Mclusky Do Dallas, an album that I was sure would bring about a skuzzy revolution in indie rock. Mclusky were an explosive band, one that hated just about everyone and everything they came in contact with. A perfect match for producer Steve Albini. Mclusky even take jabs at Albini, throwing in lyrics from the Bush album that Albini produced in "Collagen Rock". No one was safe from singer Andy Falkous' sneer (on their next and last album, he takes aim at old band mates "our old singer was a sex criminal" is the chorus of one song.)

The album opens with the most ferocious song I've ever heard, ever, period. "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues" ticks like a bomb with some fast high-hat action that Falkous rants hysterically, puncuated by moments of Jesus Lizard style thrash. The song builds and builds layer upon layer until Falkous screams "are you coming" over and over again. (Check out this pre-YouTube fan made video for "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues")

Towards the middle of the album, they slow down with the semi-ballad, "Fuck This Band". Dismissing every type of musician they can think of, even themselves ("fuck this band, because they curse too much, it's an obvious ploy"). All this over a backdrop that wouldn't be out of place on a Helium record. It's a jarring experience in an album otherwise so badass. But it's one of their most effective songs, Falkous sings softly and maintains his disdain for the world.

When I listen to Mclusky, I'm reminded of the idea of John Lydon. On paper, Lydon or Rotten, whatever surname he chooses, is supposed to be the ultimate rock badass, right? Yet I can't stand his ass, he's an overrated hack, who's been coasting on his overrated band with their one overrated record. I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I can't stand the Sex Pistols. Nowhere near as good as even The Damned or The Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols should have been an also-ran footnote in punk history. The Clash were a better band, The Ramones wrote better songs (and more of them), The Raincoats, The Slits, The X-Ray Spex, The Dead Boys, fucking Captain and Tenille, all better than The Sex Pistols.

At the time Mclusky Do Dallas was hailed in some circles (all small circles, no doubt) as a second coming of the Pixies. A claim that I never really bought, Mclusky were just too mean to ever be the Pixies, too ferocious, too concerned with destruction. The Pixies were a better band because of the sweetness they could attain, something Mclusky aren't concerned with. But for what they do, misanthropy, Mclusky are perfect. Mclusky Do Dallas is perfection, every song blasts by in under 3 minutes a piece and levels it's subjects. Jumping from dissing zombies, snakes in cumberbunds, and that old standby, your mother, Mclusky don't spare anyone.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday from L.A.!


Fishbone

Truth and Soul

1988

Half a lifetime ago, during my freshman year in high school, I was given this CD (in one of those horrible looooong CD boxes) by my friend Gabe for my 15th birthday on May 11, 1992. What I knew at the time was that Fishbone was one of my favorite bands in the universe and that I would soon be going to see them perform live for the first time (with NOFX opening!). What I didn’t know at the time was that Gabe was handing me their magnum opus.

Truth and Soul
starts out with an energetic take on Curtis Mayfield’s Freddie’s Dead. It’s the perfect opener; an announcement that Fishbone will be picking up where Mayfield left off musically and lyrically. Truth and Soul, then, are the message and the messenger. Their take on Mayfield’s classic emphasizes the nature of the band itself; all of the members take turns with the lyrics and with solos. It’s a musical declaration of who the group is where they will taking your over the next hour.

From there they dive right into "Ma and Pa", a take on chaotic family upbringings and their effects on society. It forms the latter half of a perfect one-two with the opener. When they’re done, you’re not sure what decade you’re in but damn does it sound good! "Question of Life" follows with what can only be described as a modern ska version of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Truth and Soul indeed.

The album continues like this, never slowing down to let you catch your breath with filler. Every track on here showcases the frantic bass playing of Norwood Fisher and guitar work of Kendall Jones. Their trademark energy blasts out of the speakers on every track. The band tackles subjects such as the class divide (“Deep Inside”), race relations (“One Day”, “Slow Bus Movin’”), friendship (“Mighty Long Way”), death (“Pouring Rain”), total absurdity (“Bonin’ in the boneyard) and everything in between.

20 years after its release, it still sounds as fresh as they day it was pressed. The themes are familiar to anyone living in this time, and the instrumentation’s perfection is a stark reminder of just how much talent this group packed in their earliest incarnation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Happy Birthday from Sweden!



Millencolin

Kingwood

2005



Today is my friend Jenny’s birthday. It got me thinking about different albums I’ve gotten for birthdays over the years. Whenever I listen to these albums, they’re always a little bit special to me. In my mind, I always remember who gave them to me and it flavors the way I listen to them. I know things have been a little slow over here lately, but I’m going to try to do a few posts on albums I’ve gotten for my birthday.

Kingwood is Millencolin’s sixth studio album. Jenny gave me this album for my 30th birthday. It is packed full with the sound we’ve come to expect from Millencolin: A delightfully Scandanavian take on American west-coast skate punk. As has been the case since 1999’s For Monkeys, the ska upstroke is absent from this incarnation of the Millencolin experience. Expect driving 4/4 beats with moderate distortion and poppy guitar hooks. The whole thing is driven by Nikola’s vocals lightly accented vocals.

The Swedish group has sped up their attack since Pennybridge Pioneers and Home From Home, to the delight of their fans. Familiar themes of positivity (“Ray”) the band’s musical heroes (“Mooseman’s Jukebox”), and the true nature of friendship (“Hard Times”) are found throughout.

Happy Birthday, Jenny! And thank you for this nice album!