Summertime Blues, News, and Views: Mockery, It Does A Body Good

EXUBERANCE!

I feel the need to shout a word like that after spending an extended holiday weekend in the Twin Cities. And I feel the need to shout it doubly after an excellent show like the one I experienced at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on Saturday, September 3rd: the Electropunks Showcase.

Opening the evening was Mach Fox. “Mach” rhymes with “mock,” and that’s definitely what we did. Oh, the music isn’t really all that awful or anything, but there’s a grand scoop of cheesiness to accompany the silly “man and machine” concept of the artist. It’s even more difficult to take seriously when two “dancers” (and I’m using that term quite liberally as one of the girls appeared to have never danced a day in her life) appeared and the lyrics are squelching about feeling your liquid rhythm. Yeah.

Between acts was OBCT, a completely fun DJ/vocals duo who served up some deliciously odd mixes and some comedy to boot. It also helped that the theater was piping all of this outside for the smokers to enjoy.

Next on the bill was Stellar Vector, who I had seen before and had been impressed with at that time. Once again, these guys remain impressive. It’s not very danceable electronic music, but more in the vein of progressive emo with heavy, heavy synth. It was a fantastic set with lots of smashing, from an old Casio to an ancient laptop.

Avenpitch took the stage next and redefined the term “high-energy.” I had not yet seen them live and was absolutely blown away by the great stage show they put on. Their synth man was running through the audience, thrashing and flailing, having more fun than what should be legal; the vocalist was adding his fair share of energy as well. The songs were tight electropunk and all-over there was a nice quality level attained that transformed the night from just a few bands playing their sets into a real show.

I look forward to reviewing their next disc… hint, hint.

And finally, headliners Uber Cool Kung Fu were up. It wasn’t the greatest of nights for the band as the vocalist was losing his voice and their bass player was replaced with a cardboard standup noting, “Bass missing due to Katrina” (although he did appear mid-set). Despite these difficulties, they put on a rather nice show, ending with a wonderful cover of “Daydream Believer” (which is available on their MySpace page).

If Dubuque had a quarter of this sort of music scene, I think the town would implode not knowing what to do with itself.

Alice In Musicland

Last week was Kanye. I totally had the perfect day for a column about it, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, look at all the thrilling excitement going on in the world of music this week!

From Blabbermouth:

LACUNA COIL frontwoman Cristina Scabbia will be joining the Revolver magazine staff this fall with her own monthly advice column. Fans are encouraged to send their questions to the following e-mail address: askcristina@revolvermag.com.

LACUNA COIL are continuing to work on the follow-up to 2002’s “Comalies”, which recently surpassed the 200,000 U.S. SoundScan plateau. The new effort is being produced once again by Waldemar Sorychta (SENTENCED, MOONSPELL) and is tentatively set for an early 2006 release.

Who cares? Nobody, except that I wanted to give some face time to Lacuna because I love them to bits. Hurry up with the album already, dammit.

More from Blabbermouth:

THE PROJECT HATE, the Swedish band featuring Jörgen Sandström of ENTOMBED/GRAVE fame on lead vocals, have announced the addition of EVERGREY bassist Michael HÃ¥kansson as a full-fledged member of the group. “We have actually hinted at it for quite some time with him and he always answered, ‘I’d be honoured,'” the band write on their web site. “It was very easy to come up with this seing how much he enjoyed playing our shit and it’s not exactly going to take any time away from EVERGREY, you know, since we won’t be playing live or tour or anything like that. We are very happy to have him in the band considering the work he did on the coming album, and we welcome him to the HATE.”

The follow-up to 2003’s “Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate”, THE PROJECT HATE’s new album, “Armageddon March Eternal (Symphonies of Slit Wrists)” is scheduled for release on October 5 via Threeman Recordings. The CD was produced by Dan Swanö and features a guest appearance by HÃ¥kansson, who completed his tracks at his studio in Gothenburg before the entire recording was shipped off to Swanö to be mixed and mastered.

Again: why is this news? Because I like the band. And I like accent marks.

This is what happens when there is nothing going on in the world: I play favorites.

Which means this just might be an all-Blabbermouth edition:

Iowa-based metal/hard rock act INDEX CASE, the first signing to Tim King (SOIL) and Rob Such’s (TWELFTH GATE) Mortal Music/Platform Records (via Fontana/Universal distribution), will be supporting BOBAFLEX.

INDEX CASE have made their video for the track “Deserver” available for download at the Mortal Music web site. The clip was shot on August 6, 2005, in the band’s hometown of Indianola, Iowa with director Chad Calek, who has previously worked with BLEEDING THROUGH, TAKING BACK SUNDAY and Curt Smith of TEARS FOR FEARS, among others. “Deserver” is the first single off INDEX CASE’s self-titled debut, due on September 27.

‘Tis another Des Moines-area band, if anyone out there is lacking geography skills for my lovely state. I would complain a bit about how apparently that’s the only area anyone is searching Iowa for metal, but I’ve heard our local metal bands and they’re not pretty. No love lost here, not even for the band whose guitarist I used to babysit.

I know nothing about Index Case, but I like to pimp my homeland.

Although with quotes like these, I don’t know why I continue to do it. Blabbermouth again:

SLIPKNOT percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan recently spoke to DesMoinesRegister.com about the importance of teamwork in the decision-making process.

“When you do decision-making, I’ve always preached this: The word ‘I’ always comes out first,” Crahan said. “The word ‘I’ is pretty much the most satanic word ever. I hate it, and it’s so selfish and it’s so self-centered. You need to make it ‘we.’

“This whole life is comprised of people coming together to get through life.

“There is no greater job than being a rock star,” he said. “I get to travel the entire world to make decisions.”

Re-read that last statement.

Here’s my version: there is no greater job than being a retard. You get to eat cake.

You know, if I was going to yammer on about how cool it is to be a rock star, I think I could come up with something slightly more rad than “I get to travel and decide.” You’ve also described the lives of upper management in companies across the world. Whoo f*cking hoo, you can sit in an airplane and decide whether you want to watch the in-flight movie or take a nap.

I just can’t get over that this dude is so impressed with the idea of getting to make decisions. I make decisions every day. Yum, I’m drinking water! I chose it from my refrigerator ALL BY MYSELF! Am I a rock star yet?

This is just too easy. I could write twelve pages of this shit.

That’s why I have got to stop. Look, I made a decision! Where’s my mask, I’m in Slipknot now.

Band vs. Band

Hooray, everyone’s favorite section that causes bitchy emails returns! With suggestion help from Eric S this week, it’s ’70s Illinois Madness as we witness the battle of Cheap Trick vs. Styx.

Most people who either grew up in the era or who enjoy classic rock radio are familiar with the hits of Cheap Trick: “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” among others. However, many folks aren’t aware that these “hits” didn’t receive the airplay and circulation that they do now on nostalgia radio stations. Cheap Trick did not achieve a number one single until the late ’80s with “The Flame.” Still, Live At Budokan was a huge album for the band and remains noted as one of the high points of the late ’70s live album explosion.

In general, Cheap Trick was one of those bands that had quite the following; whether this was more due to their quirky pop-rock or the sex-x-xy looks of frontman Robin Zander is anyone’s guess, although clearly the music has stood the test of time. They were dropped from their label in the ’90s due to an absolute creative abyss and their inability to produce anything resembling a hit, but they continue trudging on with live shows and independent releases.

Styx might nowadays be best known for their hilariously sad “Behind the Music” on VH1, where vocalist Dennis DeYoung was ridiculed for being a melodramatic whiner and guitarist Tommy Shaw went into depth about his drug stupor which he blamed on DeYoung’s idea of rock music (aka the horrible rock opera concept for Kilroy Was Here). Anyway, I’m ahead of myself. Styx started out as a grandiose, dramatic rock band whose production went from big to bigger and biggest; occasional lapses in bombast were filled with tight rock hits like “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man.” Still, it was the over-the-top power ballads like “Lady” and “Babe” for which they were best known. Much like Cheap Trick, they weren’t so much chart toppers as they merely filled vacant spots here and there on the top 40.

The ’80s pretty much did in the band, where a song like “Mr. Roboto” tells the story all on its own; they fell out of times and the band imploded. DeYoung went solo and joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar for a while; Shaw enjoyed hits with Damn Yankees. Styx reformed with vocalist Glen Burtnik filling Shaw’s place and had a hit with “Show Me The Way,” but that didn’t last. The drummer died, the band reunited for another album, they blew up once again. Lawsuits came and went while other incarnations of the band attempted to tour and record. All in all, Styx became more a soap opera than a band. Although rumors fly that Shaw and DeYoung may be pairing up again for one last run…

And honestly, that last paragraph is such a summary of how this battle is lost and won. Styx was a train wreck. Cheap Trick has none of this ridiculous garbage marring their legacy. Both bands had their heydays and completely died out creatively. But as critics look back on the music they left behind, Cheap Trick is far more well-respected. Styx certainly has their place in the world of prog rock including a crossover into mainstream rock, but the majority of their work sounds kitchy and quite dated in modern times. Cheap Trick? Just as relevant as ever.

It’s a clear win of Rockford over Chicago. That doesn’t discount Styx’ place in music history, but for all of the mockery made of them, it’s all their own doing. And for crying out loud, how could any band of the era compete with Bun E. Carlos anyway? Cheap Trick was just a class act all around, even if their talents were sporadic and short-lived.

Your Band Here

MySpace.com is currently out of commission; my guess is that it’s trying to recover from the Los Angeles blackout, just like my webspace server. With that, it’s rather difficult to preview the links I’ve got, ya dig?

I’ll make up for it next time. I promise I’ll cover, like, 8533 bands or something.

My Opinion Matters

This is a little tribute to my favorite ’80s compilation CD ever, Alternative Eighties.

You won’t find Spandau Ballet, Animotion, or any of the other hundreds of artists who end up on every single ’80s new wave comp in existence. Rather, this two-disc set was UK produced and full of singles that didn’t necessarily chart very well but were beloved by a strong synth-pop underground. For certain, upon first listen, many US folks may cringe at the eclecticism and lack of “typical” ’80s sound found within the set. However, the oddities peppered throughout are an absolute goldmine, many of which are so obscure that Google searches for lyrics turn up empty.

Sure, you have your Clash, Cure, Cult, Dream Academy, New Order, Erasure, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Elvis Costello. And you have your smaller, niche names like Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus, Sugarcubes, Prefab Sprout, Big Audio Dynamite and Psychedelic Furs. But beyond that? Honey, it’s all Passions, Only Ones, Assembly, Bluebells, Fiction Factory, Icicle Works, and many others. It’s enough obscurity to make you wonder if you slept through the entire decade instead of actually living it.

I have listened to this two-disc set so many times that I’m shocked I haven’t burned laser holes through it. I have included tracks from it on many, many mix CDs I have burned for friends. Are they the greatest songs of the decade? Far from it. But they are still good songs that are completely overshadowed by bigger hits of the day. Hell, I’ve had “Brilliant Mind” stuck in my head all morning long, spawning the desire to write this blurb. So if you’re any sort of ’80s fan, give this baby a whirl. It may take some time to grow on you, but when it does, you won’t even miss your Bananarama or Stacy Q.

The Rad Ones

Mike Eagle doesn’t care about black people.

Chris Lamb doesn’t care about black people.

Kyle David Paul doesn’t care about black people.

Michaelangelo McCullar doesn’t care about black people.

Alex Lucard doesn’t care about black people.

Sara Reller doesn’t care about black people.

Aaron Cameron doesn’t care about black people.

Reverend Sick doesn’t care about black people. Or Samoans.

Outro

Derek, aka Krunchy, wrote one hell of a novel in response to my All Hail Mediocrity article a few weeks back. Here’s a bit of response.

I agree with what you had said in the mediocrity sense of releasing the same old same old, but I don’t really think people WANT to listen to different things. When bands in general try to overreach and evolve, fans tend to revolt, unless it’s a quirky or experimental band to begin with (ie Mike Patton fans, Primus, Dream Theater, Savatage et al.)

In many cases, yes, this is true. People make faces when the artists they love change things up too much. But for the most part, I would say those are popular music fans vs. fans of an artist. It’s moreso the casual radio listener who will turn up their nose at a change than a diehard. Unless, of course, the band is labeled a “sell-out” or seems to have given up their artistic integrity. See: Metallica. But all in all, people don’t want to hear the same band make the same songs. A sound burns out, no matter how much someone loves it. In the end, there is an unconscious desire to hear something new and different. It certainly doesn’t show in the pop world, but as far as individuals go, it’s the reason why new and varied styles can take off.

Back in the day, no matter what Nugent put out from 1973-1981, it always went gold. He still sells out 1200-2000 seat arenas. REO & Styx still sell out arenas of about the same size, as do Kansas, Foreigner, 38 Special, and Grand Funk (it’s no wonder that most of them play Sturgis, a notorious biker crowd that still supports the hell out of them.) ZZ Top were actually pretty good in the old days, it’s when they discovered the fairlight synth that they went downhill (80’s) I think you could throw Steve Miller in there as well as someone that still plays to decent sized crowds and does well, especially without new records or radio airplay of new songs.

All true. And they all completely burned out the arena-rock sound, too. It sort of reminds me of generic faux grunge that went on and on and on and on long after nobody wanted to hear generic faux grunge anymore, yet labels kept signing the bands and radio kept playing them.

I think that the 80’s you still have some of the “hall and oates” thing going one with bands like Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, and Def Leppard. Def Lep and Adams are outselling Gigantour by almost 2 to 1 in ticket sales. Bon Jovi jumped onto the Goo Goo Dolls kind of vibe in order to survive and their songwriting is what seperates them from most of the other bands from the mid 80’s that try to keep in the spotlight. The only other band that had a decent new album in the last few years was Tesla. All those bands still put out CDs, mostly on Sanctuary Records, and unless you see them live, you probably can’t find them in a store. Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Trixter, Britny Fox all continue to release new product.

I think this is agreeable; Bon Jovi sort of bounced the trend a bit with their hit “It’s My Life,” which rightfully shouldn’t have happened just on sheer principle. As for the “hair bands” that just won’t die, there’s a whole other level of amusement; most of them aren’t trying to grow and change with the times at all, and are sticking themselves into a niche of nostalgia. Tesla, however, got a ton of radio airplay in my town with their last album. And “Modern Day Cowboy” ruled.

“Are there any mainstream bands these days that
release more than three albums without being dropped
from their label or breaking up?”

I can name a few that have come from the last few years although what makes them mainstream could be up for debate. Coldplay for one, and they COULD be today’s equivilent of Hall & Oates. Others I would list include Dashboard Confessional, White Stripes, Barenaked Ladies, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Rob Thomas/That dude from Sugar Ray, No Doubt, Kelly Clarkson, Velvet Revolver and Audioslave (although the last 2 are certainly skating on their previous work).

Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty fits this category 100%. If Weezer could get their shit together, they rightfully should be the next U2 in terms of staying power and ability to stay fresh. Same with Foo Fighters. No Doubt has already morphed a couple of times, which is promising; they might be able to stay viable for quite some time due to innovation. As for the rest? There’s still a flash-in-the-pan element for most; Barenaked Ladies will always have Canada even if they don’t have the US, Coldplay will eventually turn into the band that everyone will pretend they never liked, and the last two on the list simply need to have their frontmen devoured by radioactive anthropomorphic cabbage.

And that’s that.

Once again we bring armageddon,

–gloomchen

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