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The Hives – Club Vera Live (February 13th, 2001 in Holland)

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Digital Underground Inc, 2001

I am not that much of a fan of live recordings.  I find that no matter how much energy is apparent on the album, what songs are involved or whatever the banter is, it’s just a let down.  It gives you a good idea as to how the band sounds in person, of course, but it completely doesn’t work for me because it’s not in person.  Can’t see anything, can’t smell anything, can’t feel anything … I know KISS pulled it off well on “Alive” but ever since then most live accounts are unimpressive for my ears.  However, I can’t resist any album by a band I really like, especially one that I actually have seen live.  Even if I wasn’t in Holland for this recording, I might be able to relive the great time I had here in Boston with some common songs.  Plus, one never knows when old habits (or perceptions in this case) die, so maybe this would be a live album I could stand.

For those who have heard live bootlegs before, I suppose this review might be predictable.  Therefore, I’ll split it into two predictable parts:  the good and the bad.  The good is mainly the Hives themselves.  Aside from a few singles from their “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” period, the Hives are shamefully ignored for the most part in America.  When one hears songs like “Knock, Knock”, “Main Offender” and “A Get Together to Tear It Apart” on this live record one can feel the hasty energy that the Hives emit on the crowd.  Maybe they’re not as fast as the early Ramones, but they surely can inspire some rapid head bobbin’ and arm jerkin’ in most humans with a pulse.  Since it’s a 2001 concert, the Hives rip through most of the “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” record without a lot of sounds of recognition from the Dutch audience.  Ahhh, those early and best days of the Hives.

Many of the songs get extended a bit due to vocalist Howlin Pelle Almqvist’s chatter between songs.  These were the times that reminded me of when I saw the group, for Almqvist’s discussion is mostly directed towards saying how great his band is and how the Hives were now everyone’s favorite band.  The cheeky confidence, as well as some of the made up stories that Almqvist tells (like the one where he personally surveyed the people of Holland by phone to determine their favorite Hives song), doesn’t come across as dull or irritating.  I suppose when humor is involved anyone is easier to listen to.

Now for a bit of the bad.  At some point during the fourth song some guy decides to speak loudly to the person recording the show.  Apparently the dude with the big mouth missed the recording device that had to be held in the air at the time, but I suppose those interruptions happen often for bootlegs.  For a recording that isn’t straight out of the sound board, the recorder did a great job staying away from a majority of the loud crowd members so that the songs are easily heard.  The songs all still sound a bit muddled due to distance, but that’s forgivable.  That one dude probably still lives with the shame of besmirching this bootleg, though.

Another item that is annoying is that this album doesn’t have a track listing!  To all you bootleggers out there, just throw a track list on there somewhere will ya?  Hives fans know their songs I’m sure but they don’t want to have to guess where certain ones are if they want to skip to them.  Perhaps the bootlegger did intend to put a track listing somewhere in the album art, but while they were printing out the mind numbing day-glo cover the Dutch authorities busted down their door in a Hives bootleg crackdown mission.  The bootlegger had to escape by the window, likely in tears, since his or her product was unfinished.  Yes, that must be why there isn’t a track list.  Couldn’t have been due to indifference, I’m sure of it now.

Listen and see all things Hives at their website, but perhaps it’s just best to see them at Pinkpop in Holland in 2001.  Hey, pretty good visual aim considering the bootleg, eh?

I admit that I am surprised that I didn’t find this a grating listening experience.  The Hives’ songs all sounded as quick as their album versions while the recording never got choppy or distracting.  I don’t know if I”ll ever really enjoy live albums, but this one turned out to be a pretty good one overall.  The Hives continue to release official albums as well as tour around the world, so it’s certain that if you end up seeing them live sometime there will be a person up front with some kind of recording device.  Just don’t go up to them and say something like “Hey!  Are you recording the show?!”.

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Spider Cunts – Stuck Up -N- Mean

May 23, 2012 4 comments

Beer City Records, 2000

I couldn’t resist.  Sifting through yet another dollar bin I came across a band name that consisted of two words I thought I would never see together.  Spider Cunts.  Did the group members sit around one day and think about how spiders had sex, and then thought well, what about spider reproductive organs?  Let’s name ourselves after one of those?  No idea.  Since the four ladies of the band looked content (not angry, not vengeful) on the back cover photo I figured they were either holding something back or just wanted to get my attention with their band name (er, success!).  What amazed me after buying the disc was that when I looked the group up, they didn’t have a single review on allmusic.com or rateyourmusic.com.  I deemed that a travesty, so these next few paragraphs needed to be written.

Spider Cunts don’t get cute with the type of music they play, for a Beer City band should sound like they’re in-your-face rock and roll and, indeed, they are.  With songs like “Punch You in the Neck!” and “60 Stitches in 6 Weeks”, it’s immediately apparent this ain’t no pop band.  The first track of “Rage” is pretty much what the rest of the album sounds like with its chugging bass and simply chorded guitar.  As the song picks up into a sort of punk/hardcore hybrid, vocalist Amyl Nitrate shouts out about how angry she is.  Not she needed to explain herself, for the following songs of “Hey!” and “Scream 4” pretty much sound the same way both musically and lyrically.  You get the message about Spider Cunts immediately.

Unfortunately, even the songs that have more engaging (re: amusing) lyrics don’t separate themselves from the angrier songs.  “7 A.M. Love Affair”, a tune about two drunk people skipping the whole dating phase, is just more shouting.  “Brooklyn Lager” is the band’s tribute to their favorite brew, which is probably a better choice to screech about than Corona with lime or Stella Artois.  Of course, besides the lyrics the song sounds just like “Closed Deli Breakup”, “Boys With Morals 2000” and “Liquor, Heavy N Hard”.  In fact, if one stripped the vocals from every track I bet at least half of the songs are composed the exact same way.  Unfortunately there’s just nothing to distinguish each song from each other as they all mostly conclude in less than two minutes and the entire thing shoves you out the door in less than thirty minutes.  For a debut record I suppose such urgency to just get it all recorded without a nod towards variety is somewhat understandable given a new band’s excitement.  But given that one song is enough of an idea of how the whole record sounds, there’s really not much of a need to spin the whole thing through that often.

Spider Cunts can be heard on Last.fm, sure, but the live video is what you should see.

As excited as I was to see an all girl band named Spider Cunts, I just can’t say that this album lived up to my hopes of rock ‘n roll brilliance.  I guess I wished too hard for hooks and repeat spins, when all it really sounds like to me is a clumsily organized hardcore effort.  Perhaps if I had seen them live I’d appreciate their choice of music more, because I imagine the animated set would have made the band more impressive than the sound off of this disc.  As it stands, it comes across as boring regardless of some of the slick song titles.

Regardless of what I think of their music these days,Spider Cunts certainly could have been bigger during the early nineties when Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill and other grrrlish bands were popular.  But they came out in 2000, so nearly a decade after the movement was in its prime Spider Cunts had a go of it to see if anything was left.  As it turns out, they only put out one record … so I guess that answers that about the grrl movement of 2000.  By the way, looking further into the liner notes apparently Amyl Nitrate got knifed in the face by some guy named Thomas “Ducky” French and he was on the run.  It may be twelve years on, but I hope they got that Ducky guy.  He probably turned himself in eventually, for having a group named Spider Cunts after you likely isn’t good for your health now or later.

Various Artists – Secret Recipe From the Far East

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Nice and Neat Records, 2005

I’ll be honest that when I picked this album up for cheap I was under the impression that a band named Secret Recipe created an EP with songs like “Prambath” and “The Nailclippers”.  Hey man, when you don’t put the song titles next to the band names, you’ll believe anything.  So, it was with a bit of surprise that when I got home and flipped through the booklet there were six Japanese rock bands looking at me from their well-crafted band photos.  Well hey, even better!  I’ve always been a fan of Japanese rock as they all seem to have modeled themselves after the Ramones, and any country that does that has got it right in my book.

Psychotic Reaction begins the compilation with a fantastic tune “You’re Around”, which begins with a blitzing guitar and rapid fire dual vocals from a couple of singers.  Though their second song, “Crossing Gate”, doesn’t consist of the same amount of fire, the first track would have been enough for me to pick up something else from them.  The next group, Prambath, have a very squeaky sounding lead singer.  That can certainly irritate, yet she’s fantastic on “Play Loud! Play Loud!” as she keeps/squeaks up with her band’s aggressive pop punk sound.  Unfortunately, on the second song (“Silly Talk”) her coy quirkiness comes across a little too thickly and works against her.  The band still sounds excellent, though.

Unlike Prambath, Nylon has a female singer who sounds like she has been drinking razorblades with her sake.  Definitely a rock chick voice with a band that has a fantastic sixties rockabilly sound to it.  Both of their songs sound similar, which can be great news who like their rockin’ rambunctious and dirty.  Neither song, however, really stands out as a ‘must listen’ even if Nylon surely must be quite an experience to see live in a Japanese club.  Don Flames are probably the fastest band on the compilation, as their guitars are louder and their drums are heavier.  The vocals, therefore, are utterly incomprehensible and drowned out, but that doesn’t matter if a song like “Groovin’ ” is so fantastic with its chorus.  I can’t hear much in terms of lyrics on the freight train-speed song, but there’s a lot of “groovin’ groovin’ groovin’ ” all over the place.

The Nailclippers sound like a traditional pop rock group that easily fits in today but could have existed in the sixties during that psychedelic era.  “Mess You Are” cools one off a little bit from Don Flames’ assault, but it’s a good cool off as it has plenty of hooks, solos, and tempo changes one needs for a good rock song.  The curious title of “Hello!  Mr. Drain” unfortunately doesn’t match up with full scale song enjoyment, but I did like the high-pitched chorus (which may or may not contain the title because I think it’s in Japanese).  Finally, the possibly best group of the bunch is the last one, where Teenage Confidential pull off two excellent songs to finish the compilation.  The first, “Anyway You Want It” (originally done by the Dave Clark Five, NOT Journey … awww), is an immediate room crasher.  I can just picture tons of spiky-haired Japanese bopping around to this one, for it sounds like a sped up surf pop song a la the Ramones.  “Sick On You”, by band member Mickey Romance, is a little slower and contains some simple chord changes, but ends the compilation well as a fine mid-tempo tune.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a whole lot on these groups for you readers to listen to, but there was some success.  You can hear Prambath on their MySpace page while Mickey Romance (of Teenage Confidential) has his own Youtube channel.

It has been six years since this compilation has come out and, as we all know, six years is a long time for a band to stick together.  Who knows how many of these groups still put out the wonderful rock ‘n roll?  As you read above, I couldn’t find a whole lot on these groups aside from Prambath, who at least still have some music available that might even be current.  Regardless, this compilation showed me that while some of us were toiling with what passed for rock ‘n roll on this side of the globe, the Japanese were clearly having a lot more fun.  I imagine that if one dropped by a Tokyo club on a whim some Saturday night they’d get to hear bands just like these guys.

Red Aunts – #1 Chicken

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Epitaph Records, 1995

Ahh, nothing like picking up a record and seeing that one of the members on the cover is giving you the ‘Loser’ sign.  Does the music store owner see a patron shudder whenever he or she picks up this record?  Psychological effects aside, the scratched out band and album name, as well as the bleached blonde smokin’ with shades in the passenger seat, gives off the air of something edgy.  The fact that it’s an Epitaph Records release seals it, as this was going to be some kind of punk or hard rock.  I was definitely intrigued with the thought of hearing what “Rollerderby Queen” sounded like, never mind that plushy song title of “Satan” (hmm).  And hey, I had to review this album or that girl was going to drive by and flash me the ‘Loser’ sign again.  NOBODY ‘Loser’ signs ME and gets away with it, MAAAANNN!

As a California grrl punk band in a decade of grrls, the Red Aunts are abrasive, raw and a little rude.  However, they know that in two minutes or under they can make your adrenaline rush.  “Freakathon” has no slow introduction and immediately begins its jilted assault of heavy riffs and Terri Wahl’s screamy vocals.  No sooner has it gotten started than “Tin Foil Fish Bowl” and “Hate” barrel in with similar quick tempo.  Along with Kerry Davis, Wahl sings in various tones depending on the situation.  Both ladies often sing/scream high pitched, but on songs like “Detroit Valentine” they sometimes opt to sing at a lower, sultry level.  This at least gives the impression of variety and skirts the worrisome ‘monotonous’ label.

The Red Aunts rarely ever take a breath on the record.  “Krush”, after a slow guitar intro (aka breath), the song turns into an exciting noise and scream fest.  “Rollerderby Queen” consists of some clever tempo changes, as the beginning has Wahl wailing while the backup girls sort of sneer.  Then the song quickly changes into a slower swing, before accelerating all the way to the end.  “When Sugar Turns to Shit” is another great punk tune that actually has some slide guitar and harmonica in it, though damned if I know what the heck Wahl is squealing throughout.

Cowbell actually shows up in “Poker Party”, but unfortunately that’s about the last of the interesting items of the record.  The rest of the songs until the end of the record don’t have any unique “Freakathon” or “Krush” moments, so though the band does power through a solid instrumental of “Mota”, it is apparent that their best songs are contained earlier on.  For a record that easily finishes under thirty minutes, it is doubtful that many will notice or care that the band had to squeeze out a few so-so tracks to make it past twenty minutes.  They’re listening for the rush of it all.

Though you can listen to them on MySpace, I prefer this amusing video of the ladies on skates in “Rollerderby Queen”:

I like the Red Aunts for what they stand for and how they delivered it.  With so many grrl bands of the day, the Red Aunts not only sounded rough for four women but also managed to construct a few catchy tunes as well.  I found that a lot of grrl stuff tended to be one-and-done to listen to, as they were understandably heavy on the message but less so on the return value for the casual fan.  I thought this record succeeded in its spinability.

The Red Aunts put out a few more records after this one before disbanding in 1998.  The popularity of the grrl movement was about done at that time, but I would like to think that the band motivated a few other girls in the California area to start up their own rock bands.  Though one doesn’t hear this kind of sound these days, I recommend giving a listen to this record if you want to hear something that positively represents the grrl era.

Various Artists – Let’s Get Rid of L.A.: 15 Bands From Underneath the Ruins of Southern California

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Revenge Records, 2003

Ah, what the hell is with that cover?  It is uuuuugggly.  In fact, when I dug this out from my stack of stuff to review I could barely read the title on the spine it was so dark.  Black and green indeed.  But hey, check it out:  wolves.  They seem to be eating something, likely some band that had stars in their eyes and forgot that L.A. is a tough racket.  Well, given that there are fifteen bands on this compilation that I had never heard of, I figured I’d give them all a whirl for a few cents.  Who knows, maybe one of them might get a call from a dude in Massachusetts saying they’re about to make it big, Big, BIG because they are now featured on humble music blog!

As one might expect, this is one of those compilations that is all at once loud but contains its share of greatness and crumminess.  My usual ratio of tune enjoyment is something along the likes of 1: 2: 4, where ‘1’ is a great song, ‘2’ is a decent song that one can take or leave, and ‘4’ is forgettable pap.   Therefore, let’s see how “Let’s Get Rid of L.A.” fares against the usual expectations.

Since I’m a pop punk enthusiast, I really did appreciate the Orphans’ “Miss Easy Rider”, the Pinkz’s “Right or Wrong” and the Checkers’ “Is He In?”.  Quick guitar riffs, urgent vocals and a two minute track time are all that I require for a sonically good time.  It helps that the two groups have female lead vocalists, with the Checkers sounding like they have two.

One of the best tracks on the comp is the Flash Express’ “Beat That Kills” due its classic rock n roll brutality.  The pounding drums and cymbals do it for me as well as the vocalist’s fuzzy, deep voice.  No fancy vocal effects, just singing it like it is.  Then there’s the epic bridge that reminds you that not every rock song has to stick to the verse chorus verse predictability.

Amidst the punk and more punk on the album is the Alleged Gunmen’s “New Bo Diddley” which is like a blues rockin’ oasis.  Considering that the next few tracks barely take a breath, the track’s inclusion is a good varietal choice by Revenge Records.  It’s a pity the label didn’t bother with anything else like it on the rest of album.

And of course, as it usually goes with compilations, not every song is engaging.  “An Ave Maria” by the Fuse! is a loud, thrashing mess, but it at least breaks up the prevalent garage punk on the collection.  Other tracks that don’t quite work for me are “Hangar” by Squab Teen, “Clifton” by Miracle Chosuke and “T-T-T-T-Tet” by Fast Forwards, mainly due to the groups sounding like they’re making noise for noise’s sake.  Despite some of the more stumbling, incoherent tracks, the compilation is a strong package of hard rock from the west coast.

Here you go, found the Flash Express song on Youtube!

Going back to my ratios, I would say that this 15-track compilation scored a 3: 6: 6 (or 1: 2: 2) which is better than usual.  Therefore, even with just the three great tracks I’ve gotta call this a Bargain.  Even if I never spin the whole thing in complete succession again, at least I’ve got three or so new songs that I can throw in a mix somewhere.  I could also fly out to Los Angeles and start flaunting my recently acquired indie cred by name dropping some of these older underground bands.  Ahhh never mind … I imagine I’ll just get run over by rollerbladers.

Bonus Compilation Speech:  Compilations are not for everyone.  Sometimes the idea that you are forced to listen to a group of bands that you’ve never heard of is a major turn off.  On the flipside, since not every song is the listener’s preference one doesn’t have to wait long for a different song and band to come along.  And hey, why are albums by a single band so great?  What if you hate the first three songs?  Usually that means the rest of the album is deemed as crap, whereas on a compilation that just means there are ten or so more tracks to go before a final evaluation is reached.  This is why paying very little for compilations, especially rock ‘n roll ones, are just my thing.  Go find a cheap compilation somewhere and discover some obscure bands under a rock, will ya?  You’ll be surprised.

The Coke Dares – Feelin’ Up

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Reibenbach Records, 2008

If the front cover didn’t contain three guys in jeans and black t-shirts I would’ve most certainly passed on this record.  What exactly IS that they are walking on?  It ain’t no yellow brick road.  Without the three guys I would’ve gone with from the hip judgment of a self-released solo artist vehicle with fay vocals and tepid songs.  Nope, I figure that with one of them pointing high towards a palm tree and the general unkempt vibe from their, ah, hairstyles I thought the Coke Dares had a chance to go loud.  I was right.

The Coke Dares sound as if they broke into a studio, banged out 33 songs, and were in a hurry to get their gear out of there before the studio owner caught them.  Yeah, you read that right:  33 songs.  Most of them are starts of an idea that end quickly mainly due to the idea running out of steam.  To put it another way, the song would lose its abrasive impact if it carried on for anything longer than a few minutes.  Sometimes you can tell when a band is just hanging on to something that was never there, so the Coke Dares cut the cord themselves before anyone gets too bored.  It makes for a fervent listen, but if that purpose of brevity was the basis behind the quick song exits then I applaud them.  Too bad they can’t hear me through the raucous.

There’s some really fun tunes on here, even if you can’t confirm much of what the guys are trying to say.  “There’s a Meth Lab On My Street” is less than thirty seconds of quick punk and unfortunate neighborhood situations.  A great rush that could have extended beyond its 28 seconds is “Radiator Hose” given its group-sung chorus, but the Coke Dares were done with it while I was getting into it.  On one of the few tracks one can actually hear with some clarity, the observation of “Some say I look like Ronald McDonald … with a beard” on “Ronald McDonald” adds a bit of levity amidst the blitzkrieg of rock.

The longest song, “Sleeping With Someone Else’s Girlfriend”, makes it past the two minute mark.  This song was deemed important enough to stick around for a whole 129 seconds, which is either due to the subject matter (eep) or because these guys enjoyed the slower, jangling rock pace of it.  Actually, perhaps it’s because it took the lead singer a long time to count to 6 during the song.  Hey, you don’t have to know how to count quickly to be in a rock band, folks.

I think this video sums up the fun these guys could be when seen live:

I like “Feelin’ Up” for what it is, but it’s not necessarily something I’d pop in often.  It’s great for multiple bursts of quick and jagged songs with fluctuating tempos, so perhaps when one is in a busy mood one might find the record handy.  Given its penchant for thirty second tracks, one could also use it as a musical timer for those activities or games with the kids.  For instance, instead of counting to 21 during Hide and Seek have the seeker wait until “Everybody’s Got Some Time to Die Unless You’re a Zombie” is finished playing.  Thanks, Coke Dares!

Cheap Time – Self-titled

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In the Red Records, 2008

These guys look like they had some time off from their runway jobs and thought to start a boy band.  The one in the middle seems to have forgotten to turn off the eternally bored look that models tend to sport.  With the visuals screaming at me to beware the second coming of 98 Degrees, I caught the indicator of grand possibilities in the top right corner.  Looking at the 80s-themed logo with a resemblance of neon pink coloring, I thought there was a slight chance that Cheap Time was a either an 80s punk revivalist band or even the re-issued real thing.  Since listening to them would literally be a cheap time, I figured they were worth a grab.

Not long into their debut record, it is apparent that Cheap Time aren’t in the market for long players or deep lyrical conversations with their listeners.  The trio actually zip through most of their songs under two minutes with lo-fi production and catchy punk riffs.  They’re also not the angry type of punk, (the album cover kind of kills that idea anyway) but I can imagine they can light up a stage with the requisite noise and energy level.

The evidence that this hypothesis may be true can quickly be found in their music.   Though the opener of “Too Late” sounds a bit disjointed, the record really powers on when the chorus of “Glitter and Gold” crashes through some descending riffs.  The high speed chorus of “People Talk” definitely reminds me of U2’s “I Will Follow”, but it is a killer track.  It probably has to do with the repeated aspect of the title over a piercing, high guitar note that accompanies it.  Amidst all of the great adrenaline-inducing tracks on this record, “People Talk” stands out the most.

Since most songs are quick, it is rare for Cheap Time to let one get tired of any particular direction they’ve followed.  The one instance where they gamble with longevity is in “Trip to School”, which clocks in at just over three long minutes.  As the last track of the record, it begins quietly enough with slow guitar build that could go either way.  You know how it is; bands tend to make the last track of their record something personal, slow, and usually boring.  Just as one is about to give up on half of a song of build up, Cheap Time eradicates the notion of a cool off with another fantastically catchy pop punker.  That was the right way to go out on a record that just slips under thirty minutes with fourteen tracks.

Cheap Time do have a MySpace page, but the good man at Power Pop Overdose gives you a chance to check out this whole record for yourself!  You should think about doing this.

I think that Cheap Time’s debut record really appeals to me because they have quite a few similarities to a few of my favorite bands, such as the Exploding Hearts and the Marked Men.  I’m personally just thrilled that these guys are even still around!  Now with two records in the books, perhaps Cheap Time will be able to cull together a full hour live show if they end up touring away from their native Tennessee.  Either way, the exciting punch of their music deserves a Golden Dollar from me all the way.