Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meth Quarry – Irreverence


Pittsburgh has a penchant for producing some of the most miserable sounding music around (Vulture, Heartless), the newest to come to my attention is the hardcore band Meth Quarry. While I had seen the band’s name bandied around on a number of local show fliers, I had not actually heard any of their music until seeing them open for Primitive Man a few weeks ago (also one of the most wretched sounding bands you will ever hear). Now, I have seen a lot of hardcore bands in the last few years, many of which verge of sounding the same (undecipherable vocals, messy guitarwork, etc..), such that I did not go into the show expecting anything out of the ordinary. It only took halfway through the first song before Meth Quarry had my undivided attention. The songs were fast and ugly, but they also featured discernible melodies, and were dare I say, catchy. Vocalist Adam Bailey did not so much sing/scream as spit out his lyrics with a vitriolic rage, providing one of the most memorable hardcore vocal performances I have heard in a while.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Warren Zevon - The Barricades of Heaven


When I look back onto the musicians and bands that made the biggest impressions on me in my childhood, Warren Zevon undoubtedly takes the top spot. I remember sitting in my father’s pickup truck playing “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” over and over on the cassette player (if he got tired of hearing it, he never told me). The story of a Thompson submachine gun-wielding Norwegian soldier carrying on his crusade even after being beheaded really captured my imagination. When I got a little older, I began to appreciate Zevon’s caustic wit and lyrical prowess, well beyond his interesting subject matter. His songs were ones that told stories, confined to 3-4 minutes but never lacking in breadth. If there is anyone to attribute my longstanding appreciation and preoccupation with the lyrical content of songs, it was Warren Zevon. By the time I learned of his diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer in 2003, I was listening to him virtually to the exclusion of anything else. And while his eventual passing that year was a terrible thing to bear, I am grateful for the vast musical legacy he left, one that acted as the catalyst for my fascination and love of music as a whole.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Song of the Week: Slayer – South of Heaven



The rigors of graduate school have kept me from posting much here as of late, and unfortunately it seems that when I get the chance, it is to comment on the death of a great musician. As most of you reading this blog probably know, Jeff Hanneman, one of the founding members of Slayer, died last week from liver failure. Hanneman had not been playing with Slayer for the past 2 years after being bitten by a spider and contracting necrotizing fasciitis on his right arm. There was some speculation that the liver failure was a complication of the spider bite, however the coroner’s report confirmed that it was due to alcohol-related cirrhosis. So just like with Jason Molina 2 months ago, alcohol has taken the life of another luminary.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Song of the Week: Magnolia Electric Co. - Whip-poor-will


This week saw the passing of Jason Molina, one of the unsung heroes of the alternative country movement.

Jason was a incredibly prolific song writer, releasing music under the banner of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. Since his Songs: Ohia debut in 1996, he had released at least one album every year until 2008. After releasing Josephine in 2009, Jason fell away from the music scene to battle with alcoholism. And it was his addiction to alcohol that ended up doing him in, as he died from organ failure due to alcohol consumption.

One of the things that always drew me to alternative country was its prevalence of sorrowful songs, and Jason was a master of this. And unfortunately, this was undoubtedly a consequence of his personal struggles with depression and alcoholism.

It was hard to pick an individual song of Jason’s to highlight in this Song of the Week post. But in the end, I decided on a song from Joesphine. I can’t help but think that Jason was talking about himself when he sang the line: "So all of you folks in heaven not too busy ringing the bell, some of us down here ain't doing very well."

We will miss you Jason. Thanks for leaving us with so much wonderful music.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Help Support Two Cow Garage! The Death of the Self Preservation Society


I had just graduated from college and I was going to start graduate school come the fall, but not without a great deal of trepidation. My college friends and I were all going our own separate ways. A girl that I was interested in was going to be pursuing further education overseas, such that I probably wouldn’t be seeing her again. I was too timid to say anything. There were a few months of summer left before I was moving to Pittsburgh for graduate school, and I was occupying my time working at a tree farm, pruning and watering fields of pine trees for 9 hours a day. It was in that state of mind that I first heard the song “Brand New July” by Two Cow Garage (on the 1st day of July, if you believe it).

“And I’ll never forget the sweet summer sweat and the feel of a brand new July. To hell with regrets and words never said. I’m leaving them there to die.”

The song, and those lines in particular, struck a chord with me during that confused time in my life, as I sweated outside in the hot sun at the tree farm each day. “Brand New July,” and the whole album it was from (their sophomore release, The Wall Against Our Back), really helped give me confidence to make my way through that uncertain time of my life. Vocalist/guitarist Micah Schnabel was right, to hell with regrets. There was no sense it getting caught up in my own drama and bringing myself down.

“Brand New July” was not my first exposure to Two Cow Garage. I had been listening to the Columbus, Ohio-based rock band during my last 2 years or so of college, rocking to their aptly titled 3rd album, Three, and the subsequent Speaking in Cursive. I loved the lyrical depth of their songs, all of which are rife with authenticity. Their songs speak of the trials and tribulations of life, all rooted in struggles each of the band members actually faced. And since they are the product of real hardships, not unlike the ones we all have been through, it is not hard to become invested in the songs. Even if the situations are different from what you have been through, when you hear the pain and frustration in Micah’s or Shane’s voice you know it is genuine (Shane Sweeney is their bassist, and 2nd songwriter). At the time, I was pretty convinced that there was not a better old fashioned rock and roll band playing in America, and having seen them play live numerous times since, I can safely confirm that is the case. On stage they tear into each song with reckless abandon, all tied together with the thunderous drum performance of David Murphy (giving any heavy metal drummer a run for their money).

This has been a long winded approach to say that the world needs more music from Two Cow Garage, and now we all have a chance to help the band release their next record. It has been awhile since Two Cow Garage’s last proper studio album, 2010’s Sweet Saint Me (though both Micah and Shane released excellent solo albums in 2011). Two Cow Garage has just finished recording their next album, The Death of the Self Preservation Society, and are ready to master the album and press it to cd. However, doing that costs a lot of money, and unfortunately they do not have the support of a record label to help with those expenses. How it has come to pass that no record label is willing to sign them, I don’t know, particularly after releasing 5 stellar albums and touring relentlessly. They have set up an Indiegogo campaign to help raise money to release the album, which can be found here.

At the time of writing this, they have already surpassed their $12,000 goal, but any additional money will be used to help reissue their old albums (most of which have been out of print for awhile). That way, great records like The Wall Against Our Back will be available for purchase again, where hopefully they can mean as much to others as they have to me (the band recently repressed the album to vinyl, and should still have some copies available. So, if you have a record player, you really should consider buying it).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Song of the Week: Clutch – Texan Book of the Dead


Clutch is a band that has been on my radar for quite a while. They have been playing blues-inspired hard rock since 1990, and impressively have maintained the same line-up since their inception. Admittedly, the impetus to finally get me to listen to them was hearing that they would be headlining a tour with Orange Goblin (a UK-based metal band).

I bought their self-titled 2nd album, as I had heard it was amongst their best (out of soon to be 10 studio albums). “Texan Book of the Dead” is the 4th track from that album. Almost immediately, I was reminded of the groove-laden stoner rock of Kyuss. Vocalist Neil Fallon has a bluesy sort of bark that is instantly recognizable. Lyrically, Fallon can be pretty witty and a lot of the songs are fairly comical (even if some of the lyrics can come across as a little childish at times). It is pretty apparent that Clutch does not take themselves overly seriously, and that is a good thing (it is hard not to get behind a song titled: “The House That Peterbilt”). They are a band interested in having a good time and keeping the “rock” in rock and roll.

Clutch just started their US tour with Orange Goblin last Friday. Get out there and see them! The tour dates can be found here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pig Destroyer – Mass & Volume (2013)


Of all the genres of extreme music, grindcore is one the hardest to get into if you are not of the metal persuasion (though, harsh noise and drone certainly stack up there). With its combination of furiously short songs played extremely fast (ranging from a few seconds to around 2 minutes, usually), machine gun drumming (properly called Blast beats), and indecipherable screamed vocals, it is the sort of music that has outsiders shaking their heads in disgust. And while many of the aforementioned characteristics are common to metal in general, it is the shortness of the songs that really defines grindcore (packing all the intensity into as concise a package as possible).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Song of the Week: The Gates of Slumber – Ice Worm


If you are looking for a modern representation of the classic doom metal of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus, you need to look no further than Indianapolis’s Gates of Slumber. Many of their earlier albums were inspired by the fantasy writings of Robert E. Howard, with particular emphasis on Conan the Barbarian. The song of the week comes from their 3rd album, Conqueror, and is based off of the short story "The Lair of the Ice Worm" where Conan battles an ice worm named Yakhamar. And while it can often be difficult to craft a song about fantasy topics that does not come off as being forced, The Gates of Slumber do not fall prey to this. Karl Simon’s impassioned vocals add real weight to the topics and help to recognize Robert E. Howard’s creations and their important place in fantasy literature.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Son Volt – Hearts and Minds


Son Volt was one of two bands that helped me realize that country music had a lot worth liking (the other being Armchair Martian). It was singer Jay Farrar’s voice that first grabbed me and helped me come to terms with the mellow country sound, until I finally acquired a taste for it.

It has been 4 years since Son Volt released their last album, American Central Dust, which was a venture more into traditional acoustic folk/country than the rock & roll of some of their previous albums. On March 5th, Son Volt is releasing Honky Tonk, and from all I have read, it will be a continuation of the sound from American Central Dust.

Rolling Stone is streaming the song “Hearts and Minds” from the album, which you can listen to here. The song does not have the sorrowful and depressing tone that I particularly love about a lot of Farrar’s other music, but anything new from Son Volt is worth getting excited about.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Song of the Week: Enabler – Live Low



I have to admit that I know very little about Enabler. They are a crust punk/metal band from Milwaukee that recently signed to the venerable Southern Lord Records. They have been on my mental list of bands to check out after seeing a lot of praise for their 2012 release, All Hail The Void.

The metal news blog Metal Sucks recently previewed a song from their upcoming EP, Shift of Redemption. The song is called “Live Low,” and is it one hell of an angry ride. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Lohrber describes the song as his attempt to write the ultimate “fuck you” song. An admirable goal, and one that he very well may have obtained. The opening lines of “Fuck you. Fuck you forever!” certainly set the right tone. Head on over to Metal Sucks and see if you agree.

Shift of Redemption is being released on Think Fast! Records on April 9th on a 7”. Only 1,000 copies are being pressed, so don’t hesitate! Preorder it here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Song of the Week: Pallbearer – Foreigner



My favorite song from Pallbear’s debut album, Sorrow and Extinction, one of the most celebrated metal releases of this past year. If you are a fan of old school Black Sabbathian doom metal, then this will be right up your alley. Foreigner is a 12 minute expedition into the depths of despair, rising to majestic, soul-piercing heights by the third vocal refrain.

They are on tour right now with Norway’s preeminent black metal band, Enslaved. Get out there and see them if you want to see one of doom metal’s most promising acts.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Song of the Week: Hot Water Music - Position



Another song by Hot Water Music, I can hear you say! Didn't you have one of their songs as Song of the Week earlier in the month? I certainly did, and since then I have been hard pressed to want to listen to anything else. If you have a penchant for emotive punk rock, you really need to stop what you are doing and familiarize yourself with Hot Water Music. While their catalog of recorded work might seem a little daunting at first (8 full lengths and a plethora of EPs), I can assure you that no matter which you decide to spin first, you won’t be disappointed. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cheap Girls – My Roaring 20’s (Acoustic)

To anyone who has been following this blog, it is no secret that I am extremely fond of Lansing, Michigan’s Cheap Girls. Thanks to their tireless touring schedule, I think I was able to see them 3 times last year!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lotus Fucker - Forever My Fighting Spirit LP (2012)


Before I came across the band Lotus Fucker, my only real exposure to hardcore punk was from the classics of the genre (Black Flag, Minor Threat, etc.). And while those seminal bands were known for their raw intensity and aggression, I remember being thoroughly surprised by ugliness of Lotus Fucker’s music (complimented by an equally ugly band name), something that I was not accustomed to from my brief foray into the genre. Never before had I heard something so noisy and scathing. I eventually came to learn that they were influenced by Japanese hardcore bands (like Confuse), and that the underground hardcore punk community was thriving with similarly visceral and unpleasant sounding bands (I say this only in the most positive sense).