Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fuck You, 2008

It's true, I am quite the passionate cynic. But it's not just me this time. Most people I know had a shit existence during these past 364 days and can't wait for 2008 to be over with either.

What was not to love? Recession and a crap job market. Check. A seemingly never-ending presidential election season that got dumber by the month. Check plus! Bush kept making us look retarded, and our idols wouldn't stop dying. Seriously, if I thought it would have helped, I would have created an "End Death In '08" group on Facebook long ago.

The old saying goes that the four most traumatic experiences someone can go through are job loss, divorce, death and moving. Well, I did three out of four in '08... and considering that no one got an email heads-up about my starter marriage, you can figure out which one I was spared. If it weren't for my close friends and family, I don't think I would've gotten through the second half of this year. Thank you, all.

So for all of the above reasons: Fuck you and fuck off, 2008. My best wishes to everyone for a happy, prosperous and safe 2009. Oh, and holler if you know of a good New Year's Eve party in NYC. Or know anyone that's hiring.

Lastly, I wanted to give one final shout-out to some of the people we lost this year. Their inspiration and contributions to our foolish world are already missed.


Erlene Zierke




Paul Newman





Heath Ledger





George Carlin




Bettie Page




Eartha Kitt




Brad Renfro




Plus: Jerry Finn, Michael Turner, Bernie Mac, Tim Russert, Sydney Pollack, Roy Scheider, Charlton Heston, David Foster Wallace, Isaac Hayes, Harvey Korman, Estelle Getty, Jeff Healey, Don LaFontaine, Jerry Reed, Yves Saint Laurent, Jerry Wexler, Stan Winston, Richard Wright, Bo Diddley, Mark Felt and countless others.

Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Day Weekend, Pt. I

Here's a quick by-the-numbers breakdown of what I've been up to this week.

My Block

Words Written: 2,500 (not including the 500 words I still owe Decibel)

Projects I'm Working On: 4

All-Nighters Pulled: 1

Parties/Events I Hit This Week: 3

Parties I RSVP'd to: 7

Jack & Gingers I Drank: 8-10 + at least 2 beers.

Guys From Kentucky I Met: 2

Episodes of Lost: Season 4 Viewed: 9, but the night's still young.

Visits To The Gym: 2

Hats I Lost: 1

Snowstorms: 1

Friends Venting About Travel-Related Issues & Airport Delays: 6

Albums I Can't Stop Listening To: 2. Tie between Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals and the Gods and Queens record.

Awesome Christmas Presents Received: 2. Thank you, Kevin for the yummy chocolates and Angel for the year full of movies.

Present That I'm Not Holding My Breathe Waiting For: A Wii via a strange man from Mississippi.

Favorite Memory Recounted: The beer salesman at Philips Arena who reminded us that it was the "last call for alco-hole" during third period of Thrasher games.

Line Of The Week: "Six Degrees of My Vagina."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dating Don'ts: Don't Be Awesome

A few years back, I dated a model/entrepreneur named Danny. Though I'd known Danny for a while through friends (and realized he was obviously cute because tons of girls swooned every time we were at a show together), he just wasn't my type. He had long hair, personified surfer cool, and was most definitely a thigh bruiser. Then one night out I caught him giving me the eye, so out of a mix of boredom and curiosity, I let him kiss me. And it was pretty damn good.

On our one attempted formal date, we actually missed an entire Lucero show because we were too busy making out—at points, horizontally—at the bar next door. Needless to say, we didn't really have a lot in common except music, but we had a whole lot of fun, and continued seeing each other for a couple of months—completely bonding over the few Operation Ivy songs Rancid treated us to during their 2006 BB King's show. I certainly had no plans to declare him my boyfriend (he personified model ditz pretty well, too), there were no plans of taking him home to Mom's. He was gorgeous, sweet, easy to be around. Like a puppy. A very sexy puppy.

Then one day, Danny started getting weird, distant, twitchy. A few days later, he broke it down: I was awesome. I was "the one." He had to break up with me. It just wasn't the right time.

"OK. That's cool if that's how you feel," I said, secretly thinking, "Yeah, I'm the one—the one that dodged the bullet."

Danny was pretty surprised by my cavalier attitude (really, did he expect crying?), but ultimately relieved to let me know. Right after that, we held hands all the way to the bar and pretty much carried on the same way we had before our "talk"—until he moved 1,000 miles from NYC soon before I left for Atlanta.

The cool part? Danny and I are still pretty friendly, communicating electronically and whatnot with some degree of frequency. He still maintains I rule. So when an echoing experience coincided with one of our online chats, I felt comfortable enough to ask him why he felt the need to break up with me when he did. His answer wasn't surprising: "I thought you were so awesome, but it scared me to think that I met you when I did. I just wasn't ready to commit."

This information overlapped well with a girlfriend's long-standing theory about confirmed bachelors and players: It's never really about the woman. For them, it's a matter of feeling their own biological need to settle down—and it's likely that whoever happens to be on his arm at that point will become wifey. They'll only be ready when—or if—they grow up.

So I guess this is turning out to be a cautionary tale for the ladies. Don't be awesome (or at least TOO awesome) because it scares boys away. Instead, focus your energies on other things—work (if you still have a job), art, learn a new language... then travel to that foreign country and fuck a native. Just don't be awesome.

Is this why a book called Why Men Marry Bitches exists to haunt me every time I pass by the bookstore at Newark airport?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2008's Finest: Music Edition

It’s that time of year again: Everyone is putting together their best-of lists. So here’s my two cents. As usual, the list is based on my personal opinion, and not which artists managed to outdo themselves with “face-melting” riffs (can we please retire this colloquialism already?) or who hired the most expensive producer—this is all about the music that made my ears happy.

I’ll admit that my usually rabid need for aural consumption waned in the wake of 2008’s time-consuming traumas, so I’ve included a list of albums I probably would’ve enjoyed had I taken the time to seek them out. What else? Oh! Coldplay are still a bunch of soggy British pussies, so don’t expect to see them, Vampire Weekend or goddamn Radiohead anywhere on here. And don’t even get me started on Dragonforce. For the record, they still make my ears shit.

On that note, please to enjoy:

1. The Duke Spirit - Neptune
Though tales of love gone wrong hardly make for an uplifting album, Neptune did just that for me. The female-fronted British quintet—think Dusty Springfield jamming with the Stones—created an impeccable rock record with nary a filler track. More importantly, Neptune found me a time when I needed the most distracting—packing up my Atlanta apartment alone soon after Erlene’s passing. Somehow, thinking about shitty old relationships instead of life’s cruel injustices was oddly comforting, and for that Neptune is my album of the year.
Essential Tracks: “Neptune’s Call,” “Wooden Heart”
thedukespirit.com

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave is the master of cinematic, bluesy narratives, so it's no wonder that his fourteenth album with the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, still manages to reach biblical proportions.
Essential Tracks: “Hold On To Yourself,” “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”
nickcaveandthebadseeds.com

3. Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Pt 1
It would be enough to commend the Chicago-based powerhouse on their refined vocal delivery or for infusing melody into their black metal framework. But it was really their Pink Floyd-influenced three-part track, “Seasick,” that killed it. Without question, this is the best metal album of 2008.
Essential Tracks: “Ghosts of Grace,” “Seasick (Part 2: Oceanborne)”
myspace.com/nachtmystium

4. Torche - Meanderthal
A third of the way in, Torche switch gears from Melvins-worshipping fuzz mongers to heavy-ass shoegazers that owe as much to My Bloody Valentine as they do to Buzz & company.
Essential Tracks: “Healer,” “Across The Shields”
torchemusic.com

5. Dungen - 4
The Swedish band’s ability to create laconic psychedelia with lounge sensibilities remains as impeccable as ever on 4.
Essential Track: “Det Tar Tid,” "Satt Att Se"
dungen-music.com

6. Melvins - Nude With Boots
While it sometimes felt like a diluted version of 2006’s brilliant A Senile Animal, the Melvins’ continued collaboration with Big Business birthed the solid (but not always standout) Nude With Boots. As long as drummer crush Coady Willis is involved, I'm a happy camper.
Essential Tracks: “Dog Island,” “The Smiling Cobra”
melvins.com

7. Black Mountain - In The Future
In The Future's Sabbath-cum-Starship earthy sound is only enhanced by the rhapsodic vocal interplay between singers Amber Webber and Stephen McBean.
Essential Tracks: “Tyrants,” “Wucan”
blackmountainarmy.com

8. Young Widows - Old Wounds
Recorded partly live, Young Widows’ confident sophomore release, Old Wounds, finds the band striking a fine balance between concise post-hardcore and straight-up AmRep swagger-jacking.
Essential Tracks: “Took A Turn,” “The Guitar”
myspace.com/youngwidows

9. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
Though I tend to favor the tracks where Greg Dulli takes lead, this collaboration between the Afghan Whigs frontman and Mark Lanegan elevates tortured, mid-tempo white soul to an art form.
Essential Tracks: “Circle The Fringes,” “Seven Stories Underground”
theguttertwins.com

10. The Sword - Gods Of The Earth
This sophomore release from the Austin-based hipsters of doom is even more impressive than their Sabbath-heavy debut. Even Metallica took notice.
Essential Tracks: “How Heavy This Axe,” “Maiden, Mother & Crone”
thesword.com

11. Madonna - Hard Candy
Fuck all you haters, Madonna still matters. Though I generally skip first single “Four Minutes,” there are enough sticky-sweet dance tracks on Hard Candy to keep me coming back for cheap sugar highs.
Essential Tracks: “Incredible,” “She's Not Me”
madonna.com

12. Genghis Tron - Board Up The House
Steadily paced yet violently schizophrenic, Board Up The House is a refined math-rock masterpiece, borrowing as much from NIN’s extended moody instrumentals as it does from Agoraphobic Nosebleeds’ spastic blast beats.
Essential Tracks: “City On A Hill,” “The Feast”
genghistron.com

13. Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals
I have no idea what you’d call Yeaysayer’s style. Whatever it is, All Hour Cymbals is both folksy and harmoniously lavish, with a healthy helping of worldly spirit. And they're from Brooklyn.
Essential Tracks: “Wait For The Summer,” “Forgiveness”
yeasayer.net

14. Play!Radio!Play! - Texas
This is my ’mo pick of the year and I swear it has nothing to do with the title. The one-man show known as Daniel Hunter—who's already a tortured genius at age 19—specializes in dreamy electronic-based love songs that thump with youthful innocence and anxiety.
Essential Tracks: "I'm A Pirate, You're A Princess," "Some Crap About The Furniture"
myspace.com/playradioplay

15. Wetnurse - Invisible City
Noisy, eclectic and utterly satisfying, Invisible City is a promising album in the vein of old-school Candiria mixed with all the math-grind bands—like Cattlepress and The Red Chord—that I miss seeing at CBGB.
Essential Tracks: “Missing Lion Returns,” “Life At Stake”
myspace.com/wetnursenyc

16-17. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip & Ghosts I-IV
A large block of my teens and 20s were spent obsessing on Trent Reznor’s body of work, then suddenly, somewhere around The Fragile, I fell out of love. Yet with this year’s pair of releases, he squirmed his way back into my heart.
Essential Tracks: “Discipline,” “Corona Radiata"
nin.com

18. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
Somewhere between a Broadway score and a gospel revival, Wilson’s charming ode to the California sun is loaded with saccharine-sweet lyrics and plenty of lush melodies. Far less out there than Smile, That Lucky Old Sun serves as a cure for seasonal affective disorder.
Essential Tracks: “Oxygen To The Brain,” “That Lucky Old Sun”
brianwilson.com

19. Opeth - Watershed
Though Watershed won’t go down in the annals as Opeth’s greatest work, it may go down as their most refined.
Essential Tracks: “The Lotus Eater,” “Burden”
opeth.com

20. Hank III - Damn Right Rebel Proud
It’s always an event around these parts when Hank III drops an album, but Damn Right Rebel Proud is an especially intimate affair, often pinning Williams’ real self against his Hellbilly persona.
Essential Tracks: “Stoned and Alone,” “Three Shades of Black”
hank3.com

Nice Tries:
Santogold - s/t*
Rick Ross - Trilla
Grails - Doomsayer’s Holiday
The Knux - Remind Me In 3 Days
Murder By Death - Red of Tooth And Claw
Testament - The Formation Of Damnation
Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
Evile - Enter The Grave

Song Selections:
1. “Knifeman” - The Bronx
“This isn’t music, it’s a pyramid scheme” pretty much sums it up.

2. "A Milli” - Lil Wayne
Far more bombastic than “Lollipop,” this might be Tha Carter’s hardest single to date. Just please, Weezy, keep away from those guitars.

3. “Bad Things” - Jace Everett
The rockabilly theme song from HBO’s True Blood is as seductive as a vampire's kiss.

4. “Crying” - TV On The Radio
Dear Science’s only bona fide booty shaker. No songs in French next time, k? Thanks.

5. “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” - Madonna
Dark, brooding and sexy, Madonna wins again.

Albums I’ll Probably Like (If I Ever Get To Hear Them):
Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
Trap Them - Seizures In Barren Praise
Akimbo - Jersey Shores
CSS - Donkey
Don Caballero - Punkgasm
Russian Circles - Station
At least one of those bands with “Crystal” in their name
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
The Mars Volta - The Bedlam In Goliath

Meh… Not So Much:
Metallica - Death Magnetic
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Portishead - Third
Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy
The Faint - Fasciinatiion

Most Unlikely Reissue I’m A Little Too Into:
Foreigner - No End In Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner

Best Video:
The Sword's "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians"



Best DVD Reissue:
Iron Maiden - Live After Death

Best Live Show Experience of 2008:
At The Gates at Irving Plaza

Close Second: Catching Clipse immediately after seeing Motorhead play at SxSW—all before 5 pm.

Best Discovery:
Stumbling into Emo's two weeks ago and discovering the glory that is Bang Camaro playing. It was like Dokken met Il Divo for 10 rounds of Rock Band. My life will never be the same.



*Best Music-Related Facebook Status:
"I liked Santogold better when they were called Missing Persons."—Gerard Babitts

Metal Chick I Miss The Most:
Petrika J

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terminator: Salvation = Iron Maiden's Eddie?

Check out this amazing animated poster for the next Terminator flick. Looks a bit like Somewhere In Time-era Eddie, no?

TERMINATOR: SALVATION POSTER



PS: I know a real blog entry is overdue... Texas is the reason. More on that shortly.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Which Is Gayer? Strikes Again

Thinking about this whole Proposition 8 fiasco, I decided to ask the big pink oracle. Somehow, I'm not surprised that the Mormons took this one.

Mormons vs. Prop 8

Wanda Sykes Is Gay?

This one flew right under my Gaydar. She's funny as hell, but I swear I remember Wanda Sykes doing jokes about divorcing her younger husband.

Here's some footage of her speaking out about California's Proposition 8.



Also, this Prop 8 thing is bullshit. If I had Ellen DeGeneres money, I would seriously withhold paying taxes. No taxation without representation, y'all.

Here's some old shit:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Get Thrashed" Back To A Simpler Time

The past has been coming back to haunt me as of late.

It started when my mom found a batch of old photos, awards and report cards that captured my youth—plus some pretty wack hairstyles—and made me think about a simpler time when I was one of only maybe three metal kids at Seth Low Junior High, located in the bucolic cultural mecca known as Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Soon after, some of my middle school classmates started finding me on Facebook and reminding me of just how notorious I had been for choosing to rock skin-tight acid-washed jeans instead of rolled-up parachute pants with two pairs of pastel socks back in 7th Grade. To this day, I feel vindicated whenever I see four different shades of black nail polish at the Chanel counter—even teachers gave me shit for making this my consistent choice at the time.

Sure, it sucked sometimes being stuck in that guido hell, but it almost didn't matter. I knew the truth: Metallica were the unequivocal kings of all music, heavy metal was the Alpha and Omega of my existence, and it was obvious that Death Angel were by far better than Dark Angel ever could be (sorry, Gene!).



Maybe it's appropriate, then, that I recently took in the documentary, Get Thrashed, which pretty much summed up my musical soundtrack from the ages of 13 to 17 perfectly. Not only did the film touch upon local haunt L'Amour, the Bay Area scene (Ron Quintana still rules!), crossover (Go Sick Of It All, D.R.I. and Leeway!), it also served up super-size helpings of the so-called Big Four and a segment devoted to Suicidal Tendencies—all before wrapping things up nicely by introducing thrash's forbearers: Pantera, Shadows Fall and In Flames.



Better still, since the documentarians are also based in New York City, I attended many of the shows they highlighted in the film—albeit in an underage Kamikaze haze. They even displayed a ticket stub from the Madison Square Garden date of The Clash of the Titans tour that I went to on June 28, 1991. I'd postponed my Sweet Sixteen until the following night, opting instead to see Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, plus openers Alice In Chains (and a brief appearance by Public Enemy).



The movie even helped me remember why I worshipped Metallica so much as a 'tween, instead of blurting, "I want my money back," when I saw a photo of my room from back then—covered floor to ceiling in their posters. What's even crazier is that a lot of the people interviewed in Get Thrashed are my Facebook and Myspace friends now, too.

Get Thrashed far and away surpasses Sam Dunn's Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, which struggled to ensure each sub-genre was included and over-explained, yet offered no conclusion to the metal phenomenon's resilient vitality. So, wholeheartedly, I recommend Netflixing this bitch instead.

And since I'm a nitpicking asshole, below are some wise-ass observations:
* I really enjoyed the extended band coverage in the international, region-based Bonus featurette, which focused on lesser-known acts like Testament, S.O.D., Death Angel, Overkill, Sacred Reich and Carnivore. But Forbidden? Heathen? Atrophy? Razor? Really?
* Gary Holt is the Norm MacDonald of metal.
* I think I heard Brian Fair call the band "Nuke-lee-er" Assault.
* Cliff Burton still fucking rules.
* Dear Lord Satan, please help me un-see those spandex enormity pix of Billy Milano's balls.
* Why wasn't any footage of Dave Ellefson used during the Megadeth segment?
* Municipal Waste must be interviewed for any metal-related documentary in current or pre-production. Period.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thank You, America...

...For not fucking this one up, too!



Outside my window right now are people exhibiting behavior I've only witnessed after the Yankees win a World Series. Literally, all I hear is hooting, hollering and neighbors screaming out their windows over CNN predictions that Barack Obama has surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to overtake John McCain in order to become the next President of the United States.

But now the real battle begins. For all his rock-star status, Obama must now facilitate the change he's been so earnestly speaking of. And it won't be easy. Our country, simply put, is fucked. Hell, when German magazines start criticizing us for our divisiveness and marginalization, you know we've dug ourselves into a deep, black hole.

Good luck, President Elect Obama.

Now Sarah Palin can go back to rearing her children and grandchild, Tina Fey can focus on the brilliant 30 Rock and maybe I can have a full-time job. Oh, and thank you, Texas, for doing my tattoo proud... NOT!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Hallows Weekend

Halloween weekend has come and gone, and while my mood was less merry going into this year's holiday than the past few (not to mention how disjointed it was! I didn't even get to meet up with Jimmy, Amanda, Nelson, Heidi nor Bunche), I still put on my black DVF dress, a red power jacket and the finest evil clown makeup CVS had to offer in order to become a mash-up of this year's most cliched costumes: Sarah Palin and Heath Ledger's Joker. Sarah Palin is a bigger joke than 911 could ever be, after all.

Sarah Palin Is A Joke

For what I missed in quality I made up for in quantity, burning up plenty of cardio points by criss-crossing the Lower East Side on foot with Tessa. After meeting up on Houston St., where my friend Dannielle graciously coifed my hair into a Palin-esque up-do, we hoofed over to Sixth Avenue to catch a brief glimpse of the Halloween Village Parade that started over a half hour prior. Tessa, who is visiting from Atlanta, borrowed some props from me for her costume, and though she originally planned to be the Twitter mascot, we soon determined her long blonde wig and aqua-blue sequined Betsey Johnson bolero worked best as "Typical Halloween Slut," which did shockingly well in inspiring guys everywhere to high-five her over her choice.

Though I was tempted to stop applying makeup after I'd given myself "black metal" dark blue-shadowed eyes, I found an obscene little joy in applying red lipstick so far outside the intended lines. I also soon learned that guys want to hate-fuck clowns as much as they do Sarah Palin. Even as early as 9 pm, I started getting hit on by guys who wanted me to "earn" their votes.

We soon got word that friends were hanging out on Avenue C, but by the time we got to Second Ave and St. Mark's, it was decided that a stop at San Loco was in order; both to line my stomach with a catfish taco loco in preparation of absorbing copious amounts of whiskey, but also to use their bathroom to adjust makeup and take creepy photos. On our way in, I witnessed my favorite moment of the night: a 40-something-year-old man sitting in a parked Mercedes doing a Whippit out his open window.

"Was he just doing what I think he was?" I ask Tessa.

"Yes! I didn't think people even did Whippits anymore," she answered, somewhat mystified.

When we left the restaurant more than 20 minutes later, he was still sitting in his Benz, laughing his ass off at the Super Marios, sexy Wizard of Oz Dorothys, and even sluttier pirates walking by. He even gave my outfit a thumbs up! But no hit off the canister. Oh well. He could've been sugar-daddy material.

Soon our craving for whiskey got the best of us and we settled for Jack and Gingers at Doc Holliday's where the adorable bartenders were decked out as different incarnations of Dolly Parton. By the time we finally made it to Ave C, we'd seen some elaborate Tetris get-ups, more sexy pirates and some very played-out Amy Winehouses before meeting up with some Star Wars characters, a faux American and some other guy with a beard at 40C. In retrospect, we should have stayed with the pub crawlers instead of heading to Williamsburg for a party, but even that journey turned into a fun ride.

Despite the fact that we were on a train full of costumed hipsters (including a pretty awesome Beavis & Butthead couple), for some reason I was the one targeted for a quick one-on-one interview with a Katie Couric acolyte. At this point, however, I'd been consulting with my media advisor, Jack Daniel, so I was able to make it through the interview in character and even announced my next children's names were going to be "Pre-Cal" for a boy, and "Dander" if it's a girl. Dander Palin, it totally sounds right.

Though the Williamsburg party was definitely happening, it was maybe too happening, so we didnt stick around long. We decided to rejoin the pub crawl, which had now moved its way up to Avenue A. On our way back to the L, I saw my favorite costume of the night from afar.

"Hey! Are you an asshole?" I shout at the stranger. Tessa, shocked, had no idea I was asking if the guy was dressed as Kurt Vonnegut's famous anal sketch. And he was! With that happy coincidence, it was time to head back to Manhattan. It was on the way back that I got the most Palin rage. "Where's your retarded baby?" asked the drunk jerk at the Bedford stop. "Don't you hunt wolves?"

"Umm, that's moose! You betcha!" I yelled back, trying not to get too confrontational over someone I'm clearly, well, clowning.

Four more drinks, two bars and a risque photo op with a Bill Clinton later, my feet let me know it was time to call it a night. Only 363 more days to perfect next year's costume! I'm thinking either Ville Valo or "sexy" air traffic controller.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

I fucking love Halloween. It's a holiday that celebrates debauchery, mischief, and—most importantly—50% off clearance sales on November 1 for anything with a skull on it. Over the years, I've worked through my "sexy" phase with odes to my beloved trannie idol, Christina Aguilera and bondage-era Bettie Page.



Last year, I paid my respects to Suicidal Tendencies frontman, "Cyco" Mike Muir. Everyone at my big, gay Atlanta party thought my costume was "Mexican."



This year, I'm going political. No, I'm not going as the President. Fuck that job.




I'm going as the two most cliche costumes of 2008: The Joker and Sarah Palin. At the same time. Of course, you can read more into it... sorta like putting Revlon "Certainly Red" lipstick on a villian. Hmm, what else could the VP candidate and the chaos monger have in common? Lack of common sense? The same absurd smile? All I know is nothing scared me more than the below image of Presidential Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, found on eBay's splash page, no less. Seriously? So many of us are out of work and people are trying to pawn off this garbage? Next Tuesday cannot come soon enough.



See You Next Tuesday...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Slayer!!

Just in time for Halloween, here's a streaming version of Slayer's "Psychopathy Red." Opinions? Holler.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CMJ: Days 4 & 5

Holy crap, my ears are still ringing.

Instead of launching on a Wednesday as it usually does, CMJ started on a Tuesday this year (thereby shifting the annual Conflict of Interest party to Monday) and the total amount of party nights topped off at six. Oy! Seriously, unless it's shopping with someone else's money, I don't think I want to do anything for six days straight. That said, here are the highlights from the last two days of CMJ Music Marathon 2008.

On Friday, I decided to start the night off with some decidedly non-CMJ activities. Specifically, I attended The Happy Corp's Oval Office Happy Hour at Niagra, which offered $1 Dewars specials and a chance to pose for a "presidential portrait." I was strapped into a straightjacket-like contraption that suddenly dressed me in a blazer, dress shirt and tie, and I did my best "Metal President" pose. Look forward to seeing that up here soon.

After that, I walked over to the Heavy Hitter showcase to see Arsonists Get All The Girls and their big draw, I Wrestled A Bear Once. The former provided some stellar math rock and gave my ATL indie-rock homeboy, Aaron "B-Man" Byrd, his first mosh pit encounter. For someone who almost got kicked in the face with a kung-fu roundhouse, he seemed pretty into it. Which is more than either of us could say for ...Bear. In fact, I think the name may have actually referred to the group's singer. She looked pretty tough.

From there, it was off to see Dungen, the Swedish psychedelic lounge band—who perform entirely in Swedish—at the Music Hall of Williamburg. For some, hearing non-English singing may seem distracting, but to my humble, worn-out ears, the mellow vocals served as just another instrument keeping time with the electric piano, guitars, tambourine and occasional flute (yes, really). For all I know, they could have been singing "Kill the Jews" (I doubt they were), but I'd still be into it. And I wasn't alone, the packed house did their best Deadhead dance-offs in response to melodic tracks from Ta Det Lugnt and Tio Bitar, but went completely apeshit when Dungen started playing "Panda." Though I thought about staying for Cheeseburger, the show ran late and I wanted to get back to money-makin' Manhattan (can we still call it that now that the economy is fucked?).

Dungen

As much as I wanted to sleep in on rainy Saturday, I had to will myself into putting on makeup in time for The Syndicate's metal happy hour at Fontana's, which started at 3 pm. It's a good thing the V2 vodka sponsoring the event contained taurine and caffeine (not to mention sweet, sweet alcohol), otherwise I wouldn't have been able to last the day. The musical entertainment started off with ex-Life of Agony drummer Sal Abruscato's new band, My Mortality. Pretty decent hard rock that could easily be the opening act for Daughtry—and I don't mean that as a diss. I regrettably missed Warship and all the subsequent acts to catch Made Out of Babies and Wetnurse at Crash Mansion.

My Mortality

I have no idea what was up with MOOB's singer, Julie Christmas... maybe she was cycling, or pissed off that she had to play the douche mecca—or even that her openers, Patent Pending, sounded like a shitty version of old Murder 1 (or Mucky Pup, holler!), but punctuating their intense, short set were rants like "I was really hoping you'd all leave by now," and the set closer "Go fuck yourselves... no really!" Damn, girl.

Made Out Of Babies

I only stayed a little while longer to see Wetnurse before heading uptown to what I thought would be the perfect climax to CMJ: my beloved Duke Spirit at Irving Plaza. Unfortunately, because headliners Scars on Broadway managed to break up already, the show was cancelled and we were left uninformed. Imagine my dismay when arriving at the venue only to see the place shuttered: EPIC FAIL! Sure, I had enough time to cab it back to Fontana's to see God Forbid and Darkest Hour, but hunger and exhaustion took over and eventually led me on autopilot to my apartment.

Somehow, I managed to get though the entire week without seeing any bands with the word "Crystal" in their moniker, nor did I attend any gifting suites. Oh well... there's always next year. Thank you, and goodnight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

CMJ: Days 2 & 3

Considering how late I'm posting this, I think you can tell I'm getting tired. For a hermit motherfucker like myself, being out every night since Monday is quite an anomaly, and I find myself losing track of time. Remember that Bon Jovi line where he can tell the day by the bottle that he drinks? I know Wednesday has come and gone because a new Village Voice has appeared, and it still must be a weekday since all my Facebook friends' statuses complain of working through their hangovers. TGIF, people!

On Wednesday, despite a deficit of hot shows, I made it out to see Deerhoof at Irving Plaza. Though I can't say I'd ever sit down and listen to the San Francisco indie-pop darlings on record, it was a joy to watch drummer Greg Saunier bash away at his minimal kit. Seriously, this guy went off like Animal with a hummingbird's speed.

Drummer Rules

Thursday was truly a marathon. Upon lots of buzz that Metal Blade's Bison B.C. were "the Canadian Mastodon," I made a point of seeing them at Knitting Factory. They were pretty good, but definitely not anywhere in the same league at my Atlanta neighbors. Soon after, metalcore stalwarts Left To Vanish hit the stage. The fat dude-friendly group (seriously, are they sponsored by KFC? Their fans are HUGE) put on an intense show anchored by their very own drum prodigy. This kid looked like he was 100 lbs. soaking wet and got carded every day of his life, but he knocked out blast beats as good as Nick Barker's.

Left To Vanish

I only caught bits and pieces of Envy On The Coast, Tombs and Psyopus before tagging along with some new friends to the Bowery Poetry Club, which was hosting a night of Irish bands; and where I caught the fledgling power-pop/emo act, Fighting With Wire. Better live than on record, the band rocked out through a fun set highlighted by the single, "Everyone Needs A Nemesis" while their fans proved once again that white people can't dance (or jump, unless they're being hoisted arrhythmically by bigger Irish people).

Fighting With Wire

From there it was off to the Photo Finish after-party at Beauty Bar to watch more white people dance to Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop" and Rihanna's "Umbrella." Will I ever get sick of her song? Nah.

That's it for now. It's almost time for Happy Corp's presidential happy hour. Two more nights of this; pray for Mojo.



PS: That's me with the beer @ COIX. Hi, Dawn!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMJ: Day One + TMI

I'll admit it: I refuse to get on Twitter because I'm a habitual, unabashed drunk texter and the last thing in the world I need to do is put it on blast. Also, who gives a fuck what you're having for lunch? Because of this, those precious moments and serendipitous events I experience daily running around NYC go unpublished. Imagine that, fellow narcissists!

Since yesterday was one of those fun, active ones, I figure I'd let y'all in on a day of my dumb life:

8:00 am: Wake up groggy, post-Conflict of Interest to the sound of jackhammers and my kitten, Ava, meowing for a playmate.

9:30 am - 11 am: Email folks in Milan about the Cut&Paste/55DSL project I'm working on. Wonder what the time difference is with Hong Kong so I can avoid panic attack.

11:30: Reviewing Young Widows questions for Decibel interview later. Listening to catalog helps.

2:30 pm: Print out CMJ itinerary, interview questions, grab recorder and head to a friend's office. Since I don't have a land line and haven't figured out how to record calls on Skype, I rely on some Shady friends.

2:50: Walk out of Canal St. station to spot Chris March, the heavy-set drag-queen friendly designer from Project Runway, Season 4. Try to make eye contact so I can give acknowledging nod. Refuse to say hello, I am a real New Yorker.

2:55: Arrive at Shady Records; Good thing I've been here before so I know the drill. Knock on metal door and await the giant bodyguard inside to slide open the built-in eye-level slit to see who's there. Speakeasy style, all the way.

3:00: Thank my accommodating pal for letting me use space; set up residence in their vast conference room, surrounded by tons of multi-platinum awards from Eminem, 50 Cent, Dido and G-Unit. It's almost like Lloyd Banks' eyes are following me from his giant framed plaque.

3:00 - 3:25: Interview Evan from Young Widows. Seems more mellow than I expected. I threaten to see Yngwie Malmsteen on Sunday instead of them if they don't play my favorite song of theirs, "Bruised Knees" from their debut, Settle Down City. He remains undeterred.

3:45: Head out, free Vitamin Water in hand, to pick up CMJ badge at a church adjacent to Washington Square Park. Text with Tessa about parties and shows to hit.

4:10: Pass by a homeless woman on 14th Street holding a sign that says "Live Politely." Wish I had a camera; more so, wish people would follow her suggestion.

4:15: See a ton of star trailers and a Panavision truck parked on 3rd Ave. Thank you for helping NY's economy!

5:00-7:30: Pore over invites, materials, emails and determine I'm only going to go the 1000 Knives showcase at Fontana's.

10 pm: Arrive at Fontana's and debate drinking. Start with water before heading to Whiskey town. Soon after, the show "sells out" almost immediately while we queue up to get bracelets. Luckily, my CMJ badge gets me in moments before Seattle's Akimbo take the stage. Not surprisingly, their sound and stage show is reminiscent of their former tour mates, Young Widows. Wonder who did it first? Either way, they play a tight set of rumbling post-hardcore and impress the packed crowd.

Akimbo

12:45 am (?): How do I know Trash Talk are on? I literally feel them rumbling beneath my feet as I stand upstairs getting some air. Head downstairs to find a giant mosh pit has pushed the crowd back. Considering this is their third show of the night, they pack a ton of energy into their short but sweet hardcore set.

Trash Talk

1:30-ish: The much-anticipated Bronx are about to take the stage and the place is packed. I always wondered if this LA-based band named themselves after New York's second-worst borough or the eponymous gay sex shop in Amsterdam. Either way, I've always been a fan of their records, but found them boring live both times I've seen them play. Hate to say it, but this raucous gig is changing my mind. Starting out with "White Tar" before launching into "Knifeman" from their forthcoming third album, singer Matt Caughthran acts like the white drugs enthusiast he claims to be, jumping into the audience, falling to the floor and delivering the goods to the rabid audience with his intense performance. Finally, a gritty trash rock band is here to reclaim the throne for LA.

The Bronx

2:30: Find a cab and head home. Note that this truck is probably bigger than my kitchen and I can almost stand up straight in here. Damn, I'm short.

3:15 am: Pass out and wonders what tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CMJ: Day 0

CMJ, the war-horse of music conventions, has definitely lost some luster over the years to other conferences like South by Southwest. Still, there's a wonderful tradition of CMJ hosting indie and hard rock bands—and I intend to see as many as I can this year. Hopefully, my brain and body will hold up.

And, per tradition, The Syndicate hosted their 10th annual Conflict of Interest pre-party last night to kick things off. Packed beyond belief, the three-story party held at Rebel (the space formerly known as Goth haven, the Bat Cave) was an excellent first stop to catch up with friends who just arrived in town (Tessa!!), figure out this week's hot shows (yes, I will be at The Bronx tonight) and run into a bunch of unexpected old pals.

I have a theory that most people remember me because I have a weird name (and I've been in the scene forever). So it's especially anxiety-inducing when someone shouts out: "Hey Zena, do you remember me?" and I don't. My usual response if I have no clue is to tell them I probably smoked that memory away, and ask for something to jog my memory. In the case of the man-panions below, Patrick (L) responded: "Yeah, we met at Philly Con. I had a black eye." And that's all it took! [Note the black eye below from that fateful meeting.]



In addition to all the booze, old friends, bathroom lines and free shoes, some artists also played. Anyone remember Rival Schools? Walter Schreifels' post-Quicksand band played, as did ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, who put in a tight performance. And their old manager (and dare I say, my old protege), Josh, being there only made the show that much more special.

But along with the good, comes the bad. In this case, "bad" consists of ongoing early morning construction work outside my apt/home office. Nothing like going to bed drunk at 3:00 am only to wake up to the sound of jackhammers at 8.

This is going to be a long week...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Into The Rabbit Hole

First off, a shout-out to all the friends, acquaintances and random folk who commented (formally or otherwise) on my last post. I received phone calls, suggestions, links for the male Real Dolls—even an invitation to visit our boys serving in Iraq by someone currently stationed there. I'm glad to know that I can write about music and pop culture 'til my fingers fall off, but I'll only elicit a response by admitting that I can't get laid.

Now, to something cool and very important (like Trick Daddy and ODB, this one's for the kids). Friday night is the opening reception of The Grind 2.0 at Atlanta's Rabbit Hole Gallery, and if you're anywhere in the vicinity, I highly suggest you check it out. The Grind 2.0 is an exhibit and live auction of custom, one-of-a-kind, hand-painted and/or laser-etched skateboards by artists ranging from local legends like Charlie Owens to international superstars like Tara McPherson, and a ton of others in between. And all of it goes to benefit the completion of the Swift-Cantrell Skate Park in Kennesaw, GA—the only free park of its kind in the area.

If you don't live in the A (people, please stop asking me how I enjoyed "Hotlanta," no one calls it that down there), you can still join in on the action by bidding online before the reception starts. Last year, I absorbed plenty of free PBRs while admiring work from Bethany Marchman (an amazing Atlanta artist everyone should know), Todd McFarlane and Tim Biskup, and eventually picked up this exquisite Scott Campbell etched board.

Scott Campbell laser-etched skateboard

This year's showing looks even better. I will definitely not be mad if someone decided to buy one for me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Hunger


Like PJ Harvey sang on "Maniac," I need a man. It's getting bad, too. I think I realized things were getting desperate when I dubbed the now-familiar Hare Krishna guy I constantly see at the Union Sq. station, "the cute one." I might've actually blown him a kiss the other day. There he was, passively trying to sell books on karma and vegetarian living, all the while getting sadly shown up by those damn Scientologists and their bullshit free stress tests.

Then there are those times I catch myself browsing at craigslist's "Casual Encounters" section. Though I don't think I could ever go through with meeting a total stranger for the express purpose of extracting orgasm, it's nice to catalog shop through the various peen photos. Incidentally, I think all social-networking sites should adapt this policy of showing dudes' cocks because there are few things more frustrating than groping some guy's package on a third date only to realize the situation down below is shrimpy at best.

How did it get to this point? Good question. Besides the fact that grieving, unemployment and moving probably aren't aphrodisiacs, I am one picky motherfucker. And I scare boys easily. I guess I can't do shit about the latter. Hell, even Candace Bushnell wound up marrying a goddamn ballet dancer. Seriously, I can't hide my ability to out-curse, out-reference obscure metal bands and outnumber the amount of vintage Voltron sets the average Joe Six-Pack owns (and for the record, I own three complete Voltrons, including one that came with mini action figures of all five pilots). All at my own detriment.

So what's a girl to do? Fuck, if I knew, I'd probably be getting some sexy time right now instead of staring at html on a laptop screen. Got suggestions? Holler... Or send pics.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Which Is Gayer? Resolves It All

Republicans or Democrats?

Coke or Pepsi?

Boxers or Briefs?

These are the debates that have kept proletariats busy infighting while The Man snuck off and fucked up our financial institutions (only to walk away with a million-dollar bonus). Luckily, I've discovered a Web site that seems to handle all of these trivial arguments for us, so we can all quickly get past our differences and go back to watching Dancing With The Stars.

Behold: Which Is Gayer? This little pink engine that could quickly evaluates two opposing items, and based on some kind of Google-fueled algorithm, let's you know, well... which is gayer. That said, let's put this little baby to use:

Death Angel or Dark Angel?

Hmm... well, that was kind of a gimme... let's see how this works with...

Dragonforce or Liberace?

Well, duh! We might need one more tricky warm-up before I bust out the important questions.

How about... Metallica's Load vs. their Death Magnetic?


OK, enough foreplay: Christianity vs. Judaism?

I guess I did suspect that...

Now, the big question: The Left Wing or the Right?


Cool. Now that that's all settled, how about we work on this damn economy? Will Work For Food.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blower :: San Marcos, TX :: Tonight

I don't care who you are or where you live exactly, but if you are in the sovereign republic of Texas—or any of its neighboring states—you best get your ass to Lucy's in San Marcos to see a band that can only be described as the second coming of KISS—after they've been sodomized by Turbonegro. Who am I speaking of? The one and fucking only, BLOWER!!!



One more reason to love them... Their motto is: "Hot Wheels, Cold Beer and Big Titties!"

Monday, September 22, 2008

At Least This One Is Taking Pre-Orders...

According to Blabbermouth (my favorite source for minor power-metal band info), seminal New York rehashers Warrior Soul are calling their forthcoming album Chinese Democracy. Yeah, like the Guns N Roses record that'll allegedly come out sometime in the near future.

And, much like the GNR version, rerecording was apparently a must. "We came to the conclusion that our new album didn't sound 100% like we wanted it to," said vocalist Kory Clarke of the process. "It sounded too much like an ass-licking whore... It was too polished, too 'produced.'" Luckily, this process hasn't stopped the group from making Chinese Democracy available for pre-order. Just hit their MySpace page, yo.

From what I understand, this current incarnation of Warrior Soul is basically "legendary" singer Clarke plus a bunch of dudes from Belgium who were once a WS cover band. (Also of note: Clarke is also singing for Trouble—yes, the same Trouble we all promptly forgot about sometime around 1993).

While you have to give it up for Kory and co. for the Gene Simmons-like shrewdness, you gotta admit he's pretty lucky he'll probably *only* catch the wrath of a lawyered-up Axl Rose rather than volatile rock star we came to know early '90s. Just ask Vince Neil.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where Are All The Protest Songs?



Here we are in the homestretch of one of the most important presidential elections in American history and one thing I find very odd is the lack of any meaningful protest songs. I remember seeing an interview with Lamb of God's Randy Blythe in which he predicted this year would be akin to the late Reagan era—a time when punk rock bands flourished with displeasure at the direction the country was going in. Remember Black Flag? The Dead Kennedys?

And what have we had the last couple of years? Green Day? The much-maligned Dixie Chicks? Old standbys like Steve Earle and Neil Young? Good thing they're still willing to express themselves, but I must say I'm very disappointed in the majority of this nation's troubadours and rabble-rousers. Sure there are other exceptions, like Against Me! and Anti-Flag, but why aren't this nation's more well-known artists getting in on the act? Yes, there are plenty of celebs running around in Obama T-shirts, but does that seep into our consciousness in the same way? You definitely can't dance to it.

Ironically enough, I blame blogging for all this. Maybe in this day and age, it's simply easier to sign into one's Blogger account and type away, or record an "Obama Girl" response video for YouTube. And then there's my Rock Band theory: no one is learning to play real music anymore because they're too busy figuring out how to play Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" on those dumb-ass color-coded Fisher-Price-looking Les Pauls.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same. Our country is in crisis, and no one wants to sing about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Undercover Brothers?

[Spoiler Alert]

Last night, Blayne and Terri both got bounced off of Project Runway. I will forever love Blayne for teaching Tim Gunn the expression "Holla Atcha Boy," about three years after everyone stopped using it (and therefore not violating Kanye West's terms of service when it comes to white people using urban terminology).

However, there has always been something oddly familiar about Blayne that I just couldn't put my finger on. That's when I realized it, he IS the living incarnation of Cracked mascot Sylvester E. Smythe!


Impressive Photoshopping, eh? At least we know Blayne can always find a job pushing a broom.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The VMAs: DOA

Fuck live blogging. The only real way to get through things like MTV's Video Music Awards is with the assistance of a DVR, when one has the ability to fast-forward through anything The Hills or dance-off related. Such was the case with this year's anemic VMA telecast from Paramount Studios in Los Angeles—I made it through in just about 48 minutes! Below are some "highlights" and random musings.

Tonight's recommended drinking game: Take a shot every time Taylor Swift says "amazing."

The VMA Opening Act:
How is it that John Norris is still gainfully employed at MTV, tonight working the limo arrivals? Don't they fade you out when you get to a certain age, Menudo-style? And did he just say that all of the artists' rides were being tracked with GPS? Creepy!! It seems they've also equipped stars with cameras to broadcast their limo rides to the festivities. Too much content! Make it stop! Sway is still looking dapper while reporting it all from a helicopter above the scene. But do we need this much information? It's like when Paris had to go back to jail.

Tokio Hotel's monster truck = Very butch.

"The Ringmaster" T- Pain arrives on a bejeweled elephant, flanked by midget clowns, stilt walkers and corpse-painted krump dancers to tie in with his forthcoming Thr33 Ringz record. Impressive. We always did have a soft spot for his butternut reduction.



Did Miley Cyrus just call out Taylor Swift? Meow! What is in those Jonas Jew-fros that makes chicks go nuts?

"Pow!" says Miley, as she lazily throws a loose fist at Taylor, after some banter about how the two, plus Katy Perry are up for Best New Artist. "We're gonna fight afterwards, don't worry," she sneers.

Taylor insists that the three girls "still love each other."

"I'm still gonna fight you no matter what."

Was Miley a little drunk? And no, I cannot believe I've just spent 79 words on that, either.

Holy crap, is that Christina Aguilera?? Seriously, Xtina, you know I love you long time, but the boobs + the severe bangs + the new-mom weight = '80s porn star Savannah, after she died. I'm still giving my drrty girl a free pass tonight.


The Show:
Britney gets a standing O, Lord Satan bless America! And she almost got through the two-minute intro ok!

Thankfully, Rihanna takes the stage and quickly shows B how it's really done with a zombified Mad Max version of "Disturbia." Looking like a live-action version of one of Jem's Misfits, RiRi finishes with a closing musical homage to White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Mmm, and those juicy thighs.



Russell Brand is a decent host and nailed it with the "Use a condom or become Republican" bit. It is the greatest safe-sex message of all time. As for the whole promise ring non-controversy: when even a recovering sex addict tells you there's nothing wrong with a little bit of sex—listen to him.

Has anyone noted that the art direction this year—supposedly the big 25th Anniversary—looks like outtakes from the Urban Outfitters catalog? C-. Nice wood paneling and hipsters in wigs.

What's up with MTV giving is the exact minute the artist will appear? Is that to give us ample time to vote/blog/visit all the sponsoring Web sites for exclusive content?

How the hell did Pink waste that opportunity to recreate Pat Benatar's famous "Love Is A Battlefield" girl gang booby jiggle? It was prime! She really should stop singing and impersonating a safer Wendy O. Williams and just become a stunt woman. She kicked ass all over that lot.



On Lil' Wayne:
I seriously cannot believe Lil' Wayne is as good as hip-hop can get in 2008. No wonder the early '80s revival is in effect. Having said that, I also cannot believe this wheezing fuck delivered the best performance of the entire lackluster, star-deficient VMAs. Kicking off the three-part performance with Leona Lewis and a live orchestra (the W hotel chain is gonna sue!), it was on "A Milli" where he really kicked into overdrive. Too bad I'm 99% sure that was either lip-synched or at least heavily treated with an effect. Ooh, look at Dr. Drew feeling it in the audience. Closing with T-Pain was actually anticlimactic. Still, this is as electric as it gets tonight.

Haha, Paramore has been banished to the Whiskey for their performance, and Pete Wentz was relegated to nagging us into voting for Viewer's Choice all night. A subtle hint as to how MTV's feeling about emo/indie these days? And how pathetic is it that the category they lost in (Best Rock) was a mishmash that also featured Slipknot, Linkin Park, The Foo Fighters and Fallout Boy covering Michael Jackson?

Oh, Pete Wentz: "That's my wife. That's my baby." Did you see the look on his face? His whole life just passed before him.

Ooh, Xtina as Black Cat. Rather Xtina as Black Cat, played by an '80s porn star. I bet Britney is talking a ton of shit right about now. The black catsuit is not a good look in HD. But on the bright side, at least she doesn't have to find a new costume for Halloween.



Tokio Hotel seem really stoked about winning an award that basically assures we will never hear from them again. I guess Miley will have to kick their asses after school.

About Kid Rock's performance: How is it that no one's brought up that "All Summer Long" is less homage and more plaguerism of "Sweet Home Alabama." Ha! Lil' Wayne is guest-rapping. Wonder what the Nascar masses will think of Weezy dropping a verse (while dressed like a ska kid) over the Van Zandts. Also, a belt buckle with a track suit, Kid? Hmm...

It's funny, this week I finished reading Lonn Friend's Life On Planet Rock, whose reoccurring theme is his love of real music and how it pulled him through his best and worst times. Juxtapose that passion against this year's choices for Video of the Year and it's easy to see why the music industry is in the sad state it's in. Who is more to blame: MTV or the labels? It's like debating which came first: the chicken or the egg.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Metallica's Death Magnetic: A Somewhat Unbiased Review

"Only remember Metallica as they once were..."
—Angel Juarbe


"Listen without prejudice."
—George Michael




There's no doubt about it, along with any new Metallica recording, there will always be the baggage they bring. Like so many '70s and '80s babies, I too fondly remember the glory of Metallica's first three records and their vital importance in turning me into the giant metal nerd I became. But it's a double-edged sword. Sure, they fucked up their own legacy with a streak of crap records (not to mention the vile hypocrisy of suing Napster after spending years publicly crediting their early success to tape trading—which, of course, was the Napster of its time), but its also become an albatross around their neck—albeit a multi-platinum, million-dollar making one.

As a music scribe, I'd like to think I can get past all that and listen to their latest, Death Magnetic, with an open mind (if not extremely lowered expectations), so having put that disclaimer down, here is my song-by-song gut-reaction review of their latest 10-track opus. If you care to play along at home, the boys have also posted more than half of it here.

That Was Just Your Life: Good hook/riff, and it sounds catchy with a vocal inflection that's reminiscent of Justice's "Blackened" days. The drums still sound like crap; at this point in my life, I've come to believe that Lars Ulrich is the Rob Leifeld of drummers. There's also something about James Hetfield's voice that's a little off. Is it the mix? Is it the singing? "I open up just in time to say goodbye" is probably not the best bridge for an opening track.

The End Of The Line: OK, here we go, this song actually evokes the Metallica I grew up listening to. James voice sounds gritty, and there aren't a million intro parts before he kicks in. Still, it's crazy to me that the definition of "heavy" has evolved so much that this track, which could even be a Master outtake (yes, I typed that) has more in common these days with the likes of Disturbed than it does with the elite four thrash acts they were clearly the kings of back in the day. Wait, a slow "singing" part just came in at 6:10, scratch that Master of Puppets comparison, we're back to The Black Album.

Broken, Beat & Scarred: This song is by far my favorite on Death Magnetic. Heavy, with a killer guitar riff that builds up like a tidal wave. Overall, this bitch is a driving force of guitars, half-murky drums and aggressive vocals. Classic Metallica... almost. "We die hard," barks Jaymz. Yeah, no shit. The guitar solo is pretty damn awesome, bass is still absent and pushed totally into the background, but this is definitely the most aggro track.

The Day That Never Comes: This one should've been called "The Hook That Never Comes." I can't believe this is their lead single and video. And chances are, if you're still reading this, then you've probably heard the song already. Next.

All Nightmare Long: Of all the songs, this is the one that's been stuck in my head the most. A pretty good rawk song, with an almost "Enter Sandman"-like intro before it gets heavy—or as heavy as Metallica gets these days—and uses more riffs than needed. Great chorus, "'Cause we'll hunt you down without mercy..." Too bad Hetfield's voice doesn't have the bite to sell it anymore.

Cyanide: Starts off really heavy with Kirk Hammett's signature guitar sound, and shockingly, you can hear bass on it. (Ironically, in my eyes, their newest member, bassist Robert Trujillo is undoubtedly the coolest guy in the band these days and the only one I would love to see play live.) Overall, this one chugs along, but doesn't kill it. At about 4:56, I swear the solo work turns into "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," but not in a bad way.

The Unforgiven III: Hold up, there was a "The Unforgiven II"? Guess that's what I get for protesting everything after The Black Album. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. This iteration starts off with some strings and piano, very somber for a token ballad but quickly goes downhill. Hetfield's vocals are fucking painful to listen to. Rick Rubin, did you convince him to sing that way? (I'm sorry, Rick. I didn't mean it. You've done more good for my ears than I could ever thank you for properly. Please let me interview you—or even clean your house—one day.) I am tempted to skip ahead to the next track (which I did).

The Judas Kiss: From the opening chords, this has the classic Metallica sound we all fell in love with at one point in our lives, but that love fades fast. I absolutely hate the ill-fitting chorus, and at eight minutes plus, this is also one of the longest songs on here, so it takes its time delving into mediocrity. Oh shit, a hot solo breakdown at the 4:28 mark that continues for over a minute. When it ends, James reminds us, "Judas lives, recite this vow/I've become your new god now." Meh, maybe 20 years ago.

Suicide & Redemption: This is a pretty decent instrumental that doesn't sound all too contrived, but also doesn't showcase a lot of Kirk's signature "wah-wah" sound; in fact I could only identify this as Metallica about six minutes in (it comes in at 9:57). Very meat and potatoes and chunky, but nothing that blows my mind nor makes me want to learn to play guitar just so I can rock out to it properly. I bet that gay-ass ballet troupe would use this in one of their recitals (sorry folks, but ballet is just NOT—nor will it ever be—metal).

My Apocalypse: What starts off kind of average quickly turns into a driving, speedy track where Hetfield delivers one of his better rapid-fire performances. And the drums don't sound like shit... good to close on that note, at least. This song really should've been further up in the sequence. But at least it leaves a pleasant, blood-metallic taste in your mouth.

Closing thoughts: What started out as a fun listen slowly turned into a monotonous exercise, considering more than half of Death Magnetic's songs are longer than seven minutes. At the end of the day, it doesn't restore my faith in the Metal Militia, but it will not go down in history as a St. Anger-type misfire.