Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last Thursday I went to the Brickyard with Smash to see The Atomic Bitchwax, headlining a four-band heavy rock bill. We missed The Belushis, but made it in time to see Hezzakaya. They’ve got a good live act together, with lots of high-volume stoner sludge and cool collages of images projected onto them and the back of the stage. Their singer faced 90 degrees away from the crowd and hollered into the wings. I find it frustrating when a band has two guitarists that constantly play the exact same thing, which was the case here. Maybe they’ll work out some dual-axe arrangements in the future and let the music breathe a little more. Right now they seem intent on pummeling as a unit, and they pummel well. Mendozza, a trio in the Electric Wizard/Sleep vein, went on next. You’ve really got to be able sell it to make that basic kinda riff rock work, and they did a good job of convincing me that they meant every damn power chord. It helped that they had some good songs that allowed each player to back off or drop out and lend a smidgeon of dynamics to the din. The Atomic Bitchwax were stupendous, in an elite class they surely share with Clutch and maybe a couple other bands that operate within, often above, the stoner rock realm. They began by playing the main theme to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (for maximum Mule appeal) before racing into “Stork Theme” from their first album. Drummer Keith Ackerman must have been warming up backstage because he laced into this “Moby Dick” doppelganger in well-limbered form. I was surprised by how many songs from their debut were in the set—“Birth to the Earth,” “Hey Alright,” “Kiss the Sun,” “Shit Kicker” and so on. The new album got its share of stage time as well, including their effortless and reverent cover of “Maybe I’m a Leo.” As someone who’s tried and failed to cover Deep Purple with various bands over the years (mass graves of mangled Smoke on the Waters and Space Truckings haunt my past), I can appreciate the talent it takes to pull that off. The Atomic Bitchwax can swing. They can also venture way out there, where it sounds like all three of them are soloing at once, before they reel the song back in for the big finish. New guitarist Finn Ryan is the perfect replacement for Ed Mundell (who left to focus on Monster Magnet), with a mellow, self-assured presence and an ability to rip shit up with a Telecaster and wah pedal. Just like their new album (38 minutes of relentless excellence) the set was action-packed, well paced, and more than enough evidence that The Atomic Bitchwax are the class of their field in 2005.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Fancylady assigned me the task of picking six of my favourite songs these days, so I now present a short playlist:

Porcupine Tree — "Mellotron Scratch"
A beautiful little song off of Deadwing. In between the space metal epics, Steve Wilson likes to redirect the flow with simple yet devastating interludes like this.

Blue Oyster Cult — "Hot Rails to Hell"
I found a copy of Tyranny and Mutation at Apollo Music a few weeks ago—best $1 I've spent in ages. I'm pretty sure that Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner spun this song repeatedly as pasty schoolboys. "Warsaw" here we come.

Napalm Death — "Silence is Deafening"
"Their silence is deafening/from the havens of thieves and kings." I'm still coming to terms with how good the new Napalm album is.

The Atomic Bitchwax — "The Destroyer"
Another leadoff track, this one from the new TAB album. Love the verse, love the chorus, love the two-note vamp that propels the whole thing.

High Tide — "Futilist's Lament"
The filthiest guitar sound to ever saturate a tape. Tony Hill showing fellow Tonys Iommi and Bourge the way in 1969.

Bjork — "Submarines"
A choir of Bjorks duets with a choir of Robert Wyatts in some uncharted deep sea trench. It's a whole other world down there.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I listened to Max Webster's Mutiny Up My Sleeve tonight and thought about my friend A in Toronto. Fancy's going to be in Toronto next week, where she'll no doubt get to hang out with him and the lovely R for a bit. A once claimed I could get Fancy into Max Webster by getting her really high and putting Mutiny... on for her. It is one of the more chilled-out Max albums, what with "Hawaii" and "Astonish Me" and "Water Me Down" all being pretty languid affairs. I prefer the Zappa-ish stuff, like "The Party," which has one of the coolest song endings in history. I'll never take A's advice, though, because he and I are of a certain age that remembers quality FM radio broadcasting, while Fancy is of a certain other age for which Max Webster = Kim Mitchell = "Patio Lanterns" on Video Hits = projectile vomiting. And that's OK.

I love that the lyric sheet for this album is in both official languages. Just like the cereal boxes, eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I blame the BraveBoard for the dropoff in posts in recent months. I'm wasting way too much time and too many music-related thoughts there. They're a great bunch of kids, though, and I've picked up many a fine record based on their recommendations lately.

Of course, I never linger anywhere unless there's comedy to be had. A recent thread that polled Braveboarders on when they first had sex resulted in one indignant celibate claiming that "Metal is all about living with your parents, being single, having a shitty job, and masturbating constantly!" The voice of the otherwise-silent majority.
The old codgers in Van der Graaf Generator got back together in 2004 and released their first album in nearly three decades earlier this year. I've finally heard it now. I moderated my expectations and avoided taking the orgasmic praise of both the album (Present) and their live shows to heart. So why haven't I immediately fallen in love with it?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Female Trouble

We watched Female Trouble last night. Although it's easily one of my top ten movies ever, it does wear me down after the first hour. Still, there's Divine's trampoline act to look forward to in the last third of the flick.

I think my favourite throwaway moment in the movie is in the scene where Dawn invites The Dashers, her new patrons, over for dinner. When she asks the Dashers if they would like their spaghetti "with or without cheese," Donna Dasher replies, "I'll have two chicken breasts, please," as though she's ordering in a restaurant. I've always wanted to try that line at a dinner party, but no one would get it, and I'd feel awkward and ashamed.

Female Trouble is over 30 years old now, and though a lot of its political and criminal references have been obscured by subsequent decades of headlines and horrors, the whole idea of "crime is beauty" is still completely relevant. Why do you think The Province puts that horrid little scag Kelly Ellard on its cover whenever it gets the chance? The Province looooves Kelly Ellard and her ratlike face...almost as much as it loves her crime.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Grant Hart at the Lamplighter

I went to see Grant Hart a few weeks ago at the Lamplighter.

We arrived too late to see The Cape May—too bad, because I enjoyed their set at Mesa Luna a while back. The Doers, second on the bill, were a spirited mob, acoustic based but more akin to the Minutemen than anything overtly folky. The bassist was nimble of finger, the drummer flailed and the guitarist sweated. They played lots of short, busy songs. Members of Black Rice joined them on stage—one took pictures and another sang a number.

Everyone had a different hearsay-based preduction about Grant Hart’s set. My old buddy Kick (last seen at the Motorhead show) thought he might just play a couple token Husker Du songs. Brock Pytel thought Grant might have a full band to back him up. After the Doers set, the drums stayed set up on stage, and a couple amps were left behind. Then Grant, long haired and portly, got up and rearranged the stage, moving the drums aside and repositioning his amp. The amp was at full volume and the movement shook the internal reverb—crash! Everyone in the club shuddered at the noise. This did not bode well. Neither did his shaky rendition of opening number "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill." Though it's one of my favourite songs of all time, Hart muffed a couple chord changes and stopped the song dead in the middle to tell a club tech not to turn on the stage lighting. It was a shame that he had to sacrifice the song for the purpose of ironing out the kinks. The rest of the set went much more smoothly. He did play a ton of Husker Du material, surprisingly enough, as well as solo stuff like "2541" and "Last Days of Pompeii." He took requests (Brock asked for "Flexible Flyer" and one of the Black Rice kids got him back up on stage for an encore of "No Promises Have I Made") and was strangely obliging throughout. With his catalog of crushing songs, I was expecting him to really take command of the set, but he never did. Near the end, when he looked like he was contemplating ending the set, he said, “Well, I hope you got to hear the songs you wanted to hear.” He seemed almost resigned to the duty of being a one-man Husker Jukebox.