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Witches With Dicks – Manual

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Kiss of Death Records, 2006

So let me get this straight.  These guys named themselves after transvestite dabblers in black magic?  How many of those are there?  Well, needless to say they didn’t have to worry about the old question of “Wait, what if someone already named their band ‘Witches With Dicks?”  No chance guys, so congratulations.  Given the typeface on the album art and a song called “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, I had a feeling this record was going to be punk all over the place.  Ahem, I mean that it will more specifically be a punk rock record by transvestite dabblers in black magic.

Boston’s Witches With Dicks play loud, urgent punk that sticks with traditional speed and grittiness.  The four guys in the band all sing/shout at various times during the record, and even though there is nothing pretty about it, at least they sound honest.  On “How to Cook 40 Humans”, the band gets hopeful with the realization that despite a difficult time in one’s early days one can still come out on top if they just stick out the troubling times.  At least, that’s what I could get out of the lyrics, which for punk rock came across as surprisingly thoughtful.  The band’s unabashed dislike of certain types of men in blue on “One Whopper For the Copper”, a song that paints some of the more power-hungry policemen in a bad light.

I am still a fan of the title of “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, which of course is a quick denouncement of getting stuck in a cruddy job.  I am making a note of that phrase to get my point across succinctly if a weary friend needs it told to him/her straight.  Another example of Witches With Dicks trying to help out in two minutes or less, the band promotes cutting off deadbeat buddies in “Die Painfully”.  Why hang onto a relationship if there is no reciprocation?  Thanks Witches With Dicks.  My favorite line is “So take a walk outside tonight cause it’s nice/There’s fireflies.”  This is a sensitive punk rock band that wants to hold your hand and give you those knowing eyes!

And hey, any band that makes a reference to 8-bit Nintendo wins some review points automatically from me.  The tune “Skate or Die Two is Going to Be Awesome When It Comes Out” is so true.  Granted, the song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with “Skate or Die”, but it got me thinking that I should have another go at punching out that mohawked punk again in the 1-on-1 skateboard race.  That guy always seemed to sideswipe me near the back alley finish line.  And uh, let’s not get into my lack of virtual halfpipe skills, okay?

Give Witches With Dicks a few listens to a couple of punk tunes at their MySpace page.

This is not a bad record, nor is it a great record.  It’s a punk record.  Straightforward tunes by guys who knew how to turn up the volume and not drag it on too long.  If one likes that nineties-to-now punk sound then this is a fine enough grab for a dollar to hear a few solid, quick ones.  As for the band, according to a clip on PunkNews.org Witches With Dick are no longer together.  So, aside from a few singles and this “Manual” album, Witches With Dick made a short, somewhat minimal stay in the Boston punk scene.  Some may say that it’s no big deal since these guys sound like a lot of other bands, but for Boston fans, it’s a pity to lose a crew that were capable of blasting out some high energy.

Melissa Auf der Maur – Auf der Maur

October 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Capitol Records, 2004

I am going to admit something that may or may not be a piece of information you hear from too many people:  I am a Hole fan.  I used to spin “Pretty On the Inside” and “Live Through This” quite often back in the day and was thrilled to see the band on their “Celebrity Skin” tour.  Even though I got mostly raised eyebrows from my friends, I thought Hole had a lot of good power despite some band member antics (ahem, Courtney) and a sudden shift to softiness after “Live Through This”.   I wasn’t surprised when the band broke up after too much middling pop, but I was surprised when Melissa Auf der Maur put out a solo album.  How often do bassists not named Paul McCartney put out solo albums these days?  Though I’m late on the pick up, hearing Auf der Maur ‘s debut record was an automatic must for a dollar.

Unfortunately, it is quickly apparent that Auf der Maur isn’t much of a singer. On songs for “Celebrity Skin”, Auf der Maur blends in fine because she doesn’t have to be front and center and can keep a pretty enough tune to help back up the vocals.  Unfortunately, Auf der Maur’s acceptable vocals are on display throughout this record, where she sounds like anyone who might be passable on a karaoke mic.

Songs like “Lightning Is My Girl” is a straightforward rocker that could use a powerful vocalist to carry it to a higher plane, but Auf der Maur mostly speaks her vocals and doesn’t do a whole lot to improve them during the droning chorus.  The same goes for the obviously sexual “Taste You”, even though Auf der Maur’s voice does nothing to add to the content.  On tunes like “I’ll Be Anything You Want”, Auf der Maur’s voice sounds limp during the blazing, high volume chorus.  As much as she likes to bring the rock ‘n roll, Auf der Maur has trouble carrying it vocally.

The music itself is decent enough, but nothing one wouldn’t expect from a usual rock band.  There are some catchy moments here and there, like the fast-paced chorus of “Real a Lie” (which does well to layer Auf der Maur’s vocals) and the snappy opening riff to “My Foggy Notion”.  The “Barracuda”-like riff to “Skin Receiver” sets up the seat-gripping chorus quite well, though by this point in the album (the second to last track) the adrenaline comes quite late.  Honestly, this tune should have been placed earlier in the album to spark some momentum, for most of the strong energy coming out of “Skin Receiver” gets wasted in the utterly dull and droning “I Need I Want I Will” conclusion tune.  As for the rest of the tracks in between, many of them give off a drudgy, mid-to-late nineties vibe.  One gets the impression that one will experience plenty of noisy energy at a live gig featuring all of these songs, but on a record their bombast has trouble translating.  Again, Auf der Maur’s vocals don’t help much.

There are plenty of guest stars on this record, which look great on paper but ultimately might explain some of the sound issues.  Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) writes and takes on the guitar for some tunes.  James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) and Eric Erlandson (Hole) also show up for guitar work, while Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) even shows up for some backing vocals.  Do those four names have something in common?  Yeah, that late nineties rock sound.  Like I said, they look good on paper.

See and hear what Melissa Auf der Maur is up to at her website, or you can simply go to MySpace as well.

Well, I really wanted to like this.  I figured there would be quite a few tracks, especially with the hired help, that would be strong enough for a repeat listen.  However, aside from perhaps “Real a Lie” and some aspects of “Skin Receiver”, the record is mostly forgettable.  Auf der Maur continues to be involved in music, film, and photography and already released a follow up record in 2010.  I know that six years is a lengthy amount of time to reinvent, revise, or whatever, so maybe that’s worth a spin since Auf der Maur is still a cool, redheaded rock ‘n roller from Canada.  Unlike this record, I will likely spend time instead of money hearing a few online tracks to find out what Auf der Maur has evolved to.