Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch has lived by the “quantity over quality” mantra the last 5 or so years – seems like every other month there is an announcement of a new project. Some are good, some are okay, many are forgettable. The tracklisting of a recently-released covers album, Heavy Hitters, with Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson didn’t inspire confidence – “One of Us” (Joan Osbourne), “Music” (Madonna), and “KISS” (Prince) were among the songs that I wasn’t sure I wanted (or needed) to hear. But, much to my surprise, outside of the nearly note-for-note covers of “Ordinary World” (Duran Duran) and “Apologize” (OneRepublic) (thumbs up for the D2 cover, love the original, love the cover; thumbs down for the sappy pop radio hit “Apologize”), the hard rock spin on these tracks make them sort of fun to listen to.
The album kicks off with “One of Us” and had it been true to the original, I don’t know that I would have even explored the rest of the tracks but Lynch & Pilson put a dark twist on song.
And, come on, I didn’t expect Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” to rip the way this version does.
This won’t be in heavy rotation but it earned a few spins this past weekend.
Mastodon’s Troy Sanders is the shared band member between Killer or Be Killed and Gone is Gone, both hard rock super groups in their own rights. My 2020 tastes seem to have been leaning heavily towards Americana so as the year comes to an end, I knew I needed something heavier to balance it out. I started with the new solo album by ex-Dillinger Escape Plan Greg Puciato (Child Soldier: Creator of God), which brings to mind everybody from Nine Inch Nails to Faith No More to the Deftones.
It was a pretty consistent listen the first half of October and though I certainly am not done with Puciato’s solo album, I gravitated to the Killer Be Killed album, Reluctant Hero, which came out at the end of November. Killer Be Killed features Puciato, Sanders, Sepultura/Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and Converge’s Ben Koller. Good, old-fashioned, aggressive hard rock that, were we not in the midst of a pandemic, would be fun to see in a packed club with a bunch of other sweaty, middle-aged dudes in black t-shirts.
BUT, wait, there’s more. Sanders also is part of Gone is Gone which features Queens of the Stone Age/Failure’s Troy Van Leeuwen, At the Drive-In/Sparta’s Tony Hajjar and Mike Zarin. Their new album, If Everything Happens for a Reason… Then Nothing Really Matters at All, came out in early December and Van Leeuwen’s influence can’t be understated – there’s some industrial/space rock vibes though it’s got this subdued heaviness that sneaks up on you. Three killer hard rock albums that – if I get around to a “Favorites of 2020” list – will likely earn a few spots.
Matador announced a 25th anniversary vinyl reissue of Bailterspace’s Wammo and it popped up in one of my social feeds. The name was familiar – back in the early-to-mid 90s when I writing for MOO Magazine, I’m fairly certain that Jerry (Moviola) wrote about Bailterspace, reviewed an album or even did an interview (I’ll dig through the box of MOOs I have in the basement and see if I can confirm this). Jerry and the rest of the MOO crew (who mostly also were in Moviola) represented the indie label side of the house while I gravitated more towards the major label stuff. There was some common ground (Pavement, Chavez, Guided By Voices, Ass Ponys) but this was pre-internet so unless the guys threw something in the CD player at MOO headquarters, I remained blissfully unaware of what these bands sounded like.
Looking back, wish I would have known about Bailterspace in the ’90s as the shoegazing style of music is something I liked back then (Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine) and like now (Teenage Wrist, bdrmm). Bailterspace is a little noiser, a little more Sonic Youth than the previous mentioned bands, but I’m shocked that this last week was the first time I listened to them – the algorithms have failed in this case!
It’s always nice to discover that a long-lost band is still active and putting out new music. Much to my surprise, Bailterspace released an 8-song album in July which I discovered is available digitally on Bandcamp – I don’t believe there is a physical release at the time of this post.
I’ll only just skimmed the surface on my Bailterspace discovery but as we head into the end of 2020 and the hard break on new releases, I’ll be using the down time to keep going on this exploration.
In a nutshell, glad to have Alice In Chains back in my life again
When my friend Kim and I were seeking out alternative metal in 1990, we discovered Alice In Chains. I don’t remember if we saw the “We Die Young” video first or if we bought the Facelift cassette (released in August) but by the time Alice In Chains opened for Extreme (“More Than Words”) at the Akron Agora on September 27, 1990 we were fans.
Side note: I bought the Facelift cassette at Singing Dog Records in Columbus and remember that it sounded really bad. I was thinking to myself, “I know this is supposed to be alternative, but you can barely hear the vocals, the music sounds swampy, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get into this” only to discover that I had gotten a defective cassette.
The show at the Akron Agora was great, pretty sure Alice In Chains scared a lot of the Extreme fans in attendance but Kim and I loved it. I have pictures of Extreme from that show but, for some reason, didn’t take any of Alice In Chains. After the show, as I did back in the day (and, well, as I often still do), I hung around by the backstage doors waiting for the bands to emerge. While waiting for Extreme, the guys in Alice In Chains did come out but, even though I was a fan of the music, they gave off a certain vibe so I didn’t approach and ask for an autograph or photo (yes, to this day I regret that).
Like most grunge fans in the ’90s, I became a big Alice In Chains fans and followed their career, buying every CD on release day and then spending hours and hours consuming the music. We all know what happened with Layne Staley and Mike Starr, and most fans should be aware that Alice In Chains reformed in 2006 with William DuVall on lead vocals and have released three great albums.
MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle) recently honored Alice In Chains with a prestigious Founders Award which recognizes artists whose “noteworthy contributions continue to nurture the next generation of risk-takers.” In this time we’re living, there couldn’t be an in-person celebration so a number of artists submitted recorded covers of Alice In Chains songs as a way to pay homage to the influential band. My favorite take was Fishbone’s horn-filled “Them Bones” cover.
The other two that I’ve gone back to many times to watch are Mark Lanegan’s gold-teeth cover of “Nutshell” and Mastodon’s dirty take on “Again”.
Irish artist Rosie Carney found a creative outlet while quarantining – covering Radiohead’s The Bends in full. And while none of the songs have been radically reinterpreted, it’s nice to hear a female voice presenting a different take on the songs, many of which have been burned into my subconscious over the years. Not sure if there is a universally-agreed upon favorite album by Radiohead fans (maybe Kid A?), but I’ve always been fond of The Bends, spent a lot of time with it when it came out and even interviewed drummer Phil Selway. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to it in full (probably over a decade) so listening to Carney’s version was welcomed and something I plan on doing many times in the future. Currently available on streaming services like Spotify, hope it comes out on vinyl some day.
Saw a recommended Paul McCartney video pop up on YouTube but didn’t check it out, moved on. Got to wondering if it was a video from his upcoming album which I’m anxiously awaiting and, I think, it’s more likely that his remastered “Waterfalls” is what YouTube was saying I needed to watch. So I did. Simple enough little song and it got me to wondering if any contemporary artists had covered it. Found out the husband-and-wife duo Lowland Hum put out a covers EP this summer on Bandcamp which included their take on “Waterfalls”. Led me down a rabbit hole, first was this video:
There are times when quiet, acoustic guitar-driven music is what I crave but it’s been a while since that has been a focus for me. When the song started, I thought, “Yeah, I’ll give it 30 seconds and move on” and yet, almost 5 minutes later, I was looking for more Lowland Hum videos, wanting to hear more.
Next up was the selfie-stick video for their cover of The Beatles “I Will” and, just like “Palm Lines”, I stuck around for the whole magical thing. I mean, no budget, just the duo walking through small, but quaint, studio singing and playing and then working their way into the yard. Pure. Wonderful.
Honestly not sure if I’ll dig any deeper, depends on how I’m feeling and if I think I need quiet music in my life (maybe night time listening?) but this was a pleasant surprise.
Obsession of the Weekend (Part 2) – Greta Van Fleet’s “Age of Machine”
Like many kids, my introduction to music was more through singles than albums. My mom would, on occasion, buy me cassettes but the reality is that I’d listen to the song I knew over and over (and over and over) and sometimes not even flip the cassette and listen to the other side until years later. The first album that I owned that I listened to front to back was Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz, I was probably 11 or 12, which would have made it 1982 or 1983. Up to that point, I liked songs by REO Speedwagon, Van Halen, Air Supply, Alan Parsons Project, Blondie, Hall & Oates, and other artists I’d heard on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 on the weekend but hadn’t moved onto full length albums. I don’t know when I became aware of Led Zeppelin, though I think I bought my first Zeppelin cassette after we moved to Ohio and I started middle school. Though I wouldn’t swear to it, I imagine I either heard “Stairway to Heaven” on the classic rock radio station (98.5) or my friends played it when I was at their houses.
Led Zeppelin put out their final album, Coda, in 1982 – before I was remotely music literate so while I did get to experience their entire collection for the first time many years after release and it was fresh, I never got to walk into a store and buy a Zeppelin album on release day and experience it in real time along with my friends who had also just purchased it. While the many soundalikes who followed toward the later ’80s were (perhaps justifiably) slaughtered in the press, I absolutely loved bands like Kingdom Come and Whitesnake who were, essentially, releasing new Zeppelin albums under different names. There’s a fine line between rip-off and homage and I like to think these bands were influenced by Zeppelin rather than trying to cash in by appealing directly to Zeppelin’s base.
A few years ago, I started receiving press releases about a new band called Greta Van Fleet but the name didn’t inspire me to click a link to hear what they sounded like – I would eventually become a full-fledged fan shortly after the release of the EP, but I can’t say I was an early trendsetter. Likely, I read somebody write “These guys are nothing more than a Zeppelin rip-off” which, to me, made my antennae go up. And, lo and behold, those Zeppelin references were right on the mark and I loved everything I heard. Because of the relationship I had with the publicist who sent the press release, I was able to interview Greta Van Fleet’s bassist Sam Kiszka in August 2017 and then see the band play a sold-out show at the tiny Basement shortly thereafter. Maybe that show won’t go down the same way as saying that I saw Nirvana play at Stache’s shortly after Nevermind came out, but Greta Van Fleet will never play a 300-person venue again so I can add that to my “saw a huge band in a small venue” list.
Greta Van Fleet just released a new song – “Age of Machine” – from an album due out in April. It’s the second single and while the first one – “My Way Soon” – has a groovy Black Crowes feel, “Age of Machine” is EPIC. Spotify told me Ruston Kelly’s “Anchors” was my most-listened-to song in 2020 with 15 plays and I can say that I’ve already listened to “Age of Machine” 8 times in the last 2 days. There may be other songs that I listen to more in 2021, but I’m sure this one will be in the top 10 when my 2021 Spotify Wrapped info drops a year from now. I posted about the song on a message board and somebody said they hated it, that it was essentially Greta Van Fleet’s version of “No Quarter” which makes total sense why I love it so much as “No Quarter” is a top 3 Zeppelin song as far as I’m concerned. I suspect an official video will be released at some point but, for now, here’s the audio version (added 2 more listens while writing this).
Interview Alert: Thelonious Monster
Just before Election night, I had the chance to do a Zoom interview with Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster. I’ve been interviewing bands since 1991 – on the phone, in person, sending questions by email – but this was the first time I had done a video chat and, truth be told, I was really nervous about the technology even though, as I told Bob at the start of the call, since March, doing video chats is a big part of my daily job. Fortunately, I crossed my fingers, hit “Record” on Zoom, and then spent 90 minutes talking with Bob. It’s not the first time I’ve spoken with him but it’s been, oh, 27 YEARS since we last spoke. I don’t remember that one being 90 minutes long! Honestly, I could have probably talked with him for another hour or two but knowing I’d have to transcribe the whole thing, I wrapped up when I thought we had hit a natural stopping point.
I played around with YouTube captioning and Google Docs (voice to text) but neither provided the transcription the way I was hoping for. I was trying to do as little work as possible but, in the end, I wound up transcribing the whole thing myself – it only took me about a month to build up the motivation. Because it was a lengthy interview, I’m splitting it into two parts, the first of which was posted on the Big Takeover website today. I’ll wait a week to post the second part.