Monday, December 28, 2009

My 10 Favorite Singles of 2009 (...This Week)

I'll be the first to admit it, I'm milking the whole end-of-year list thing. But the Village Voice's Rob Harvilla asked me to vote in their annual Pazz & Jop poll, and with that came the opportunity to pare down my Top 10 favorite singles of the year—which then evolved into a more personal list. (Here's a hint, it has something to do with the above-pictured Yeah Yeah Yeahs.)

Quite frankly, even I was surprised by this compilation. So much pop candy, so few hip-hop bangers. I'm sorry to say that no club-ready rap track made me want to pop, drop, hit or shake anything that my mama gave me. (Where are you, Lil Jon?) And there was so little metal. If I'm citing artists I listened to before Taylor Swift was born, there's definitely a problem.

With that rant aside, here are my 10 favorite singles of 2009 (...this week), with a few videos below.

1. "Heads Will Roll" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2. "The Royal We" - Silversun Pickups*
3. "Run This Town" - Jay-Z featuring Rihanna
4. "Remember December" – Demi Lovato**
5. "Head Crusher" - Megadeth
6. "When Doves Cry" - Twilight Singers featuring Appolonia
7. "You Belong With Me" – Taylor Swift
8. "Gives You Hell" – All-American Rejects
9. "Freedom" - Clipse
10. "Americon" - Slayer

*No, I can't explain it either. This is worse than the time in 2005 when I couldn't stop listening to Midtown's "Help Me Sleep."

**Just close your eyes and think of it as a lost Femme Fatale cassingle.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of 2009

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Though it may not seem like the most obvious choice for album of the year, It’s Blitz! delivered on so many levels that it simply couldn’t be denied. Progressive, dance inspiring and hopelessly chic, the YYY’s third showing is just as explosive and artfully askew as ever.

2. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
Sure, it’s arguable that Cursive will never recapture the symphonic glory of 2003’s The Ugly Organ. Yet I suspect most fans keep coming back to eagerly ingest Tim Kasher’s latest batch of tortured, autobiographical lyrics—and one listen to Mama, I’m Swollen would satisfy even the most rabid acolyte.

3. Converge – Axe To Fall
For all its endearing attributes, the best part of Axe To Fall is its endless barrage of riffs—and the overall sense of controlled chaos it breeds throughout. It’s almost easy to forget that Converge has been scaring the mainstream since 1991.

4. Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Blah blah Mastodon blah blah, epic wonderment blah blah blah blah blah metal saviors blah blah blah blah prog-inspired blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah awesome.

5. Pissed Jeans – King Of Jeans
Within the first 35 seconds of “False Jesii Part 2,” King of Jeans’ opening salvo, I knew I'd love the PA-based noise rockers' belligerent sound. Sure enough, this Alex Newport-produced masterpiece turned out to be a study in brash, hearty and angry post-punk music.

6. The Gossip – Music For Men
The Gossip’s transition from soulful rockers to dance darlings has been a relatively smooth one—almost as if Beth Ditto & co. decided to create an homage to KISS’s Dynasty. If this disco-era analogy seems absurd, just check out Music For Men’s “2012” and its obvious nod to “I Was Made For Loving You.”

7. [tie] v/a New Tales To Tell: A Love & Rockets Tribute and Spin magazine’s Purplish Rain mixtape download
I've always had a thing for finding good, obscure cover songs performed by unlikely admirers, and these two tribute records supplied a bounty of treasures, including contributions from Flaming Lips, Mariachi El Bronx, Of Montreal and Blaqk Audio, plus worthwhile gems like A Place To Bury Strangers’ version of L&R’s “Light,” and The Twilight Singers’ take on “When Doves Cry,” featuring Apollonia.

8. Coalesce OX
Far more complex and multidimensional than your average “extreme” release, this comeback album from the Kansas City metalcore stalwarts soars with its smart interplay of vocal styles, wild tempo changes and textured harmonies.

9. Ace Frehley – Anomaly
Everyone knows that Ace Frehley’s was the best of the four solo KISS records—and Frehley’s Comet wasn’t so bad, either. Yet when word came down that Frehley would release his first solo album in over a decade, most critics instantly wrote him off. Such a shame as Anomaly captures the essence of what we’ve always loved about The Spaceman: chunky guitar riffs, ultra-melodic hooks and an otherworldly point of view.

10. Red Fang – s/t
Simply put, Red Fang put out the album that I’d hoped Big Business would this past year. But while the latter faltered, Red Fang were there to remind folks of what happens when heshers grow up listening to both Black Flag and Black Sabbath: pounding, stoner goodness.

11. Kowloon Walled City – Gambling On The Richter Scale
Somehow, Gambling on the Richter Scale seamlessly melds the influences of Jesus Lizard and a doomy Young Widows into an austere, note-bending noise rock epic. Big-ups to Brooklyn Vegan’s Fred P. for turning me on to this record.

12. Baroness – Blue Record
Generally more harmonious than Baroness’ previous Red Album, this blue endeavor begins with the galloping “The Sweetest Curse” and continues on to unveil track after track of stomping Southern-fried goodness.

13. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
Though not nearly as noisy, there’s something about Exploding Head that reminds of My Bloody Valentine and all the anglophilic fetishism that comes with it. Fuzzy, atmospheric and bordering on psychedelic, it’s hard to believe these guys hail from Brooklyn.

14. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II
This sequel to the Chef’s legendary album could have been a huge let-down—overwrought by C-level appearances, trendy gimmicks and (smh) auto-tune—but we all knew Rae would never go down like that. As expected, this record is a cinematic, soul-sample fueled affair worthy of its predecessor’s lofty moniker.

15. These Arms Are Snakes – Tail Swallower & Dove
Already unparalleled on stage, TAAS desperately tried to recreate their maniacal live magic in the studio for this album. And while Tail Swallower doesn’t quite succeed in capturing the glory, it still contains some rhapsodic standout tracks like “Red Line Season” and “Ethric Double,” which sound incredible in concert.

16. The Clipse – ’Til The Casket Drops
If I hadn’t looked at the credits, I would have thought The Neptunes fell back on their production duties, giving in to Pusha T and Malice’s rebellious growing pains. But sure enough, Pharrell & Chad are credited with eight out of the 13 tracks therein. Still, there’s a somber, subdued tone to Casket that resonates well in today's social climate.

17. Band of Skulls – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
This British trio has a Zeppelin-meets-Verve thing about them that I really dig, and their switch-offs between male and female vocals on several bluesy numbers are always cleverly handled. Finally, a buzz band worthy of their hype.

18. Clutch – Strange Cousins From the West
"Can't stop, won't stop" might as well be Clutch's motto, as these electric lumberjacks can't seem to keep away from the stage nor recording studio. But why stop when you're still creating sinuous, jam-worthy harmonies like "50,000 Unstoppable Watts" and "Minotaur"?

19. Slayer – World Painted Blood
Perhaps it was because World Painted Blood made me nostalgic for ’90s-era Slayer, or it could be that the song "Americon" had me reeling for a week. Whatever the case, the world's preeminent metal mongers are back and scarier than ever.

20. Katatonia – Night is the New Day
Ever wonder what a talented but melancholy Swedish metal band would sound like if they listened to a steady stream of mopey shoegazer rock? Just listen to the atmospheric Night is the New Day and find out.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): 
Black Anvil - Time Insults The Mind
The Dead Weather - Horehound
16 - Bridges to Burn
La Roux - s/t
Behemoth - Evangelion
Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
Black Dahlia Murder - Deflorate
Goatwhore - Carving Out The Eyes of God
Cable - The Failed Convict
Beanie Sigel - The Broad Street Bully
Bang Camaro - II
Demon Hunter - Live In Nashville
The Fall of Troy - In The Unlikely Event
Gallows - Grey Britain
Hull - Sole Lord
Light This City - The Hero Cycle
Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
Revocation - Existence Is Futile
Silversun Pickups - Swoon

WTF Happened?
Big Business - Mind The Drift
Them Crooked Vultures - s/t
Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe 
AFI - Crash Love

Stop The Madness:
White Wizzard - High Speed GTO 
Chris Cornell - Scream 
Muse - The Resistance
Julian Plenti -Julian Plenti is Skyscraper
Dredg - The Pirate, The Parrot, The Delusion

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah, Y'all

 I'm still in Texas, which means that deep fried pickles will be part of my high holy holiday meal this evening, as will a screening of Nic Cage's crazy-licious Bad Lieutenant remake at the Alamo Drafthouse. Yee haw and shalom, y'all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shut Up And Listen To... Karma To Burn

Back in the day when instrumental-only bands were as rare as Republicans with a sense of humor, Morgantown, WV's Karma to Burn were tearing up stages and blowing through towns like a gang of rock n roll outlaws. And like all good (or bad) volatile creations, the band eventually went out in a blaze of glory, becoming the stuff of legend.

Then earlier this year, the trio made peace and decided to give it another go—headlining festivals all across Europe (where they're HUGE) mere months after the reunion. So in honor of their recent signing with Napalm Records and brand-new DVD, I implore you to shut up and listen to Karma to Burn.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dear Dave Grohl

Dear Dave Grohl,

I'm writing because as I sit here organizing a list of 2010 album releases, I realize that Probot II isn't among them. So I'm thinking maybe you should get going on that now that you got Them Crooked Vultures out of the way.

Congratulations on its success, by the way. In particular, I enjoyed the way you sassed the media and your label by withholding music, plus you got to play with John Paul Jones! And sure, people are pretending to like it, but we both know Them Crooked Vultures is kind of trite. On the contrary, everyone loved Probot—and it's been almost six years since the first album came out.

I know you're busy. You've got your tour, the holidays are coming up fast and the Top Chef finale is a week away (will it be Kevin? The Voltaggio bros?), so I've decided to make it easy for you. Below you'll find a list of vocalists I think you should work with. Hell, I'll even project manage the thing if you promise to throw Ville Valo into the mix for a bonus track.

Anyway, give it some thought. You know how to reach me.

  1. Chuck Billy
  2. Rob Halford
  3. Bruce Dickinson*
  4. Down**
  5. Dave Mustaine
  6. Tomas Lindberg
  7. Hank Von Helvete
  8. Sean Harris (Diamond Head)
  9. Kyle Thomas (Exhorder)
  10. Glenn Danzig
  11. Mark "Barney" Greenway
  12. Dwid Hellion (Integrity)
  13. Robert Plant***
*If you can’t get him, you can always try for Eric Adams.
**Imagine all that Bower power on guitar with Anselmo and Pepper fighting for vocal duties.
***Just to keep John Paul Jones on his toes.

Photo lifted from MyChemicalToilet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Top 15 Concerts Of 2009

Ultimately, 2009 will go down as the year I got to see a myriad of acts who've helped shape my psyche and meant so much during various stages of my life. A few performances (the Jesus Lizard, St. Vitus) were damn-near transcendent; others—like Nine Inch Nails' and Ratt's—reaffirmed my love for the artists. And some, like Rancid and Mehtallica, were pleasant enough but didn't arouse any particular emotions.

In total, I managed to see Young Widows and Earthless the most at four shows each. I also caught Brutal Truth and Bang Camaro three times apiece. Not sure what that say about me, exactly. But without further ado, here are my favorite shows of 2009, plus two newer artists I was really impressed by.

In Order Of Awesomeness:

The Jesus Lizard @ Irving Plaza - By far, the most impressive show of the year. I found myself wondering what life would have been like if I started listening to Goat instead of Metallica's Black Album as a teenager. [Set list above.]

Devo @ Austin Music Hall - Watching Devo perform in the last year of the ought decade, all I kept thinking about was how avant-garde they seemed here and now, much less during their early '80s heyday. Astounding visual show.

Nine Inch Nails @ Terminal 5 - I'd almost forgotten the love I had for NIN for over half my life until I saw Trent & co. destroy this warehouse of a venue; the Peter Murphy cameo was just gravy. Thank you for waving goodbye in high style.

Ratt @ Nokia Theatre - It was almost worth the 25-year wait to see my beloved childhood icons perform their debut album, Out Of The Cellar, in its entirety.

St. Vitus @ Europa - Truly, this was a bucket list moment for any true stoner rock fan. America's most revered (yet underrated) doom icons put on a better show at Europa than they did at this year's Roadburn festival. Guitarist Dave Chandler and Wino have never sounded better.

Gallows @ Latitude 30 - Led by lithe angry ginger Frank Carter, the Gallows is the most volatile, dynamic hardcore band around today. They're probably the only group I'm willing to see knowing I risk getting kicked in the head by one of its members.

Mastodon @ Irving Plaza - With a perch near the sound board, I had the perfect vantage point to see my Atl buddies perform their latest opus, Crack The Skye, in all its symphonic glory. The visual show, combining CGI and early Russian art films, further enhanced the experience.

Tom Jones @ Ruth Eckerd Hall - Half of what made this show so amazing was the fact that I saw it amongst nearly every geriatric and post-menopausal woman in Tampa Bay, FL. And those bitches went crazy each of the many times Tom girated his pelvis! Panties of all sizes went flying during "What's New, Pussycat?"

Cursive @ Bowery Ballroom - On the eve of Mama, I'm Swollen's release, I caught this intimate show from Tim Kasher and co. and left feeling a cathartic release. With healthy helpings of tracks from the last three albums, the performance was utterly sublime.

Pat Benatar @ Asser Levy Park - This free show at the Coney Island beach-adjacent park was a hilarious summer experience. Sitting on blankets and sipping booze out of Snapple bottles amongst south Brooklyn locals, hipsters and oldsters while listening to Benatar belt out hits like "Invinsible" and "Promises in the Dark" was incredible.

Hank III @ Music Hall of Williamsburg - Folks get their money's worth when they attend a Hank III show. Not only does the country scion put on a honky tonk set, he also includes a hellbilly review and closes things off with a metal set not recommended for the faint of heart (or at the very least, those who are squeamish about seeing vocalist Gary Lindsay bleed from the head). A birthday shout-out at the stroke of midnight before III launched into "Life of Sin" was an amazing gift.

The Sword/Year Long Disaster @ Bowery Ballroom - The Sword have come to be synonomous with my late friend, Erlene Zierke. We were all set to see them play at Lenny's in Atlanta the night we found out she was gone, and in her spirit all tearily attended the show. Then their turn in NYC this past January coincided with her birthday. Seeing them, and my old friends in Year Long Disaster was nostalgic, but in the the warmest way.

Young Widows @ Emo's - The combination of a good venue, fantastic lineup (it was a Brooklyn Vegan/SxSW event) and an energetic crowd—not to mention the Widows' tight, cogent sound—made this my favorite set of theirs of the many I'd witnessed in 2009.

Earthless + J Mascis @ Habana Calle 6 Annex - Earthless are pretty goddamn dope on their own. Add Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis into the equation, and you've got a psychedelic, head-nodding experience made even better with a belly full of Iron Works BBQ. Bonus: watching Mario Rubalcaba play drums.

These Arms Are Snakes @ Shea Stadium - Arty, loud, noisy, visual, layered. These words barely begin to describe the evocative, glorious noise that came out of this half-assed art gallery's sound system during TAAS' tumultuous set.

Two More To Grow On:

Krallice @ The Studio at Webster Hall
- They absolutely blew headliners Wolves in the Throne Room off the stage with their Voivod-inspired metal sound.

Orphan @ Union Pool - This duo remind me more of a garage-rock Black Cobra than they do De Stijl-era White Stripes. The shit was gully.

For visual records of these shows plus a ton more, check out my Live Shows Flickr set. Jesus Lizard set list photo stolen from Brooklyn Vegan.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Barbara Walters, I'm Not

I've never had any ambition for fame—power and money, yes—but I'd happily take those two if it meant never having to be recognized in sweatpants at CVS in the middle of the night. Perhaps this is the reason I've been so hesitant to capitalize my journalistic skills on camera, as opposed to the happy anonymity I enjoy with a simple byline.

Still, when a special band like Municipal Waste comes along, you just have to make an exception. So this past summer, I took a ride out to the Earache office in Queens so I could conduct a rare video interview for HIGH TIMES.

I'm fairly certain Barbara Walters never read her interview questions off an iPhone. Either way, enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ratt Attack On "That Metal Show"

The first time I ever heard Ratt’s “Round and Round,” I was 9 years old and spending my summer vacation in a TV-free dacha in upstate New York with my grandmother. It was the summer of '84, and the local Top 40 radio station supplied my only entertainment. I went on to discover a ton of amazing singles that year: Prince's "Let Go Crazy," Depeche Mode's "People are People," and, of course, "Round and Round." After hearing the latter, though, nothing would ever be the same again. Something about Warren DeMartini’s wailing guitar affected me in a way I didn't understand yet. It was a pleasing noise that complemented Stephen Pearcy's acrid vocals and mesmerized my still-developing psyche.

In many ways, hearing "Round and Round" set me on my heavy metal path, doomed forever to chase the feedback/power chord dragon. It was perhaps the salient moment that affirmed my interest in music—at least that's how I tried to explain it to DeMartini after watching him and Pearcy film this past Saturday's episode of VH1 Classic's That Metal Show. I say tried, because what really came out of my mouth was probably far less eloquent. But standing before my childhood idol, words failed me.

Seeing the founders of Ratt on That Metal Show was the latest event to renew my interest in the '80s LA glam metal phenoms. This past July, I FINALLY got to see them play live—and perform Out of the Cellar in its entirety—as if they never skipped a beat. After more than 10 years spent as adversaries, Pearcy had only recently rejoined the remaining band members to tour, sign with Roadrunner and begin working on new material.

Then came the advent of Ratturday. True, the weekend tradition's origin might be a bit dubious, but surely even the Blotz would approve of disciples blasting Ratt's greatest hits every Saturday afternoon in his honor. Think of Ratturday as the cock rock equivalent of Peter Griffin's Church of the Fonz and come up with your own sacraments. Go with G-d and lay it down.

Finally, there was my meet & greet moment with the toxic twins after the That Metal Show taping. Forgetting that there was an eager queue of folks behind me waiting to give their regards, I sandwiched myself between DeMartini and Pearcy demanding a photo-op, then opened up a flurry of verbal run-off the guys were surely not expecting. While the guitarist listened patiently as I tried to unsuccessfully express my reverence, the tattered frontman acted his usual aloof rock star self, the elder statesman of thigh bruisers—and an object of my lust even at the age of 50.

Everything went so much better than I'd imagined. Guess it goes to show that you're never too old—or too jaded—to get starstruck. With love we'll find a way, just give it time. And "Way Cool Jr." still kind of sucks. Amen.

Here's a sampler of their appearance on That Metal Show.

To see more Ratt on That Metal Show, click here.

That Metal Show, starring Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, airs every Ratturday at 11pm EST on Vh1 Classic. Special thanks to Nyle Washington.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creative Eclipses

What a week I've had: five shows in six days, a third-round job interview (wish me luck, this gig would rule), produced a shoot for the mighty Red Fang with the lovely Justina V., and my cat fell in love with a Juggalo. Oh, and I booked an early December trip to Texas!

More details to come, but in the meantime, here are a few iPhone pics from the marathon week.

Metallica @ MSG

Red Fang @ Santo's Party House

Jesus Lizard @ Irving Plaza

Cave In @ Knitting Factory

Earthless' Mario @ Bowery Ballroom

Baroness @ Bowery Ballroom

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Five Band Dudes I'd Totally Make Out With

Revolver Magazine’s annual Hottest Chicks In Metal issue never fails to rile up my fellow vagina-Americans. Whether it's something fun and reactionary like Reign In Blonde's Bracket competition, or Grim Kim's quest to shine a light on the most esoteric black/doom/gore metal bands to include females in their line-ups, it's nice to know that my metal sisters are taking it all in stride and turning things around on the boys. So naturally, I decided to join in on the fun.

For my own foray into exploitation, I've created a short list of band guys I'd like to get to first base with—plus my inner 15-year-old self's daydream setting for the event. I'm fully aware that my taste in dudes comes off as a study in contradictions, but there's one clear deal breaker: I fucking hate beards. If I wanted to exfoliate my face, I'd do it with a fine Kiehl's product. That tangent aside, I proudly present:


The Sword's Kyle Shutt
Kyle has a really sweet, aw-shucks quality about him that I can't get enough of. It's almost as if the baby-faced Texas boy didn't realize how adorable he was growing up, but once those glasses came off (so dorky-cute, btw!) and he strapped on a guitar, the swagger just started flowing. Holler at me, blondie.
Fantasy Makeout Scenario: Over Shiners, tubing down the Comal River.

Earthless' Mario Rubalcaba
In addition to being a mesmerizing drummer who's played with a succession of eclectic bands like Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt, Mario gives off a laid-back Cali vibe that really gets me going. His ex-pro skateboarder status adds 10 sexy points for the scars alone.
Fantasy Makeout Scenario: On the sand, Venice Beach, 3 am.

H.I.M.'s Ville Valo
This hot Finnish tart is the world’s only true living rock star and this generation's sexiest frontman. Not only does Ville exude star quality effortlessly, he also somehow gets sexier the more dirty and unkept he becomes. The sooner we share our lovemetalheartagramblack kiss, the better.
Fantasy Makeout Scenario: Sitting on Ville's lap, oversized couch, W Los Angeles.

Madball's Freddy Cricien
I've always been a sucker for Latino dudes, and Freddy just fulfills my burly hardcore stud quota with that barrel chest and gruff voice. Plus those giant hands would be so good for holding, feeling, spanking. Yum.
Fantasy Makeout Scenario: Sitting on stoop, Avenue C, springtime.

Goatwhore's Ben Falgoust
First brought to my attention through Revolvher’s Hottest Men In Metal list, Falgoust has quickly become the George Clooney of the extreme metal set. Maybe it’s all that glorious hair or those warrior-inspired armbands, but Ben's smoldering sexuality definitely comes from a gallant place. Thank you, Rebecca.
Fantasy Makeout Scenario: By a bonfire, New Orleans suburbs.

Photo Credits - Shutt: Jay West Photography; Cricien: Helena Kusters; Falgoust: Angela Boatwright.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oldsmar Flea Market: White Trash Paradise

As a young émigré who moved to the United States from the former Soviet Union during Reagan's first term, rest assured that I caught shit for just about every ethnic stereotype the Rocky trilogy and that prick Yakov Smirnoff threw at you lazy Americans. I'll never forget what my classmate Nick Vourlias wrote in my elementary school scrapbook: "When I write this, don't go running to your mommy: you big fat-headed commie." Jerk.

Because of such formative events, I soon began longing to assimilate and subsequently developed a deep fascination with true Americana, especially anything Southeastern—particularly our nation's third craziest state, Texas—in all of its deep-fried, subtly racist, War of Northern Aggression-acknowledging glory.

So when I got to central Florida (the west coast, yo) for a mini vacation this past weekend, I knew I wanted to get in on some cheap redneck thrills. And at the suggestion of my gracious hosts, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, I was promptly sent to the Oldsmar Flea Market to peruse my way through a mix of artifacts, antique treasures and fashions that seemed to universally date back to the early '90s.

The semi-outdoor market was easily the length of a football field and its many friendly, leathery vendors hawked an incredible variety of wares, from 25-lb. bags of peanuts to Coby cassette Walkmen, hats worn by Marilyn Monroe and live birds; porn sold by a geriatric redhead and what seemed like thousands of used VHS cassettes. It was like finding white trash nirvana strolling down those long aisles, all the while taking an anthropological survey of this sleepy town's interests and hobbies: shooting things, kayaking, golfing, reclining in spa tubs and handcrafted Adirondack chairs.

Below are some of the finds I came across at Oldsmar, make of them what you will. As for my purchases, I walked away with a backup Gonzo* Pez dispenser, the rare and elusive Wheelchair Guy Homie figurine and a $2.50 copy of The Fountainhead.

What a country!

Angel Toilet Paper Dispenser
Angel Toilet Paper Dispenser


Anti-Northern Sentiment Sticker
Happiness Is...

Festive & Unique Visors

Confederate Stickers
Wow. Just Wow.

Ed Hardy Coozys
Ed Hardy Coozys

Equine Salt & Pepper Shakers
Horse Shakers

More photos can be found here.

*Gonzo was so misunderstood.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Heavy Name, Wussy Band

For a while now, I've been convinced that every good band name has already been taken—how else can one account for all the dumbass poly-lexeme monikers going around these days? I'm looking at you, All Shall Perish, All That Remains, and As I Lay Dying (even if I refuse to tell y'all apart).

What makes matters even worse is that some of the last few tough, metal-sounding names have apparently been taken by undeserving hipsters, scenesters and goddamn Canadians. Need examples? Check out this array of loathsome offenders.

Exhibit A: Warpaint
When I think of warpaint, my mind evokes images of sweaty battlers, somewhere between Braveheart and Joey DeMaio's loincloth, bellowing a wretched cacophony that makes Skeletonwitch sound like Brokencyde. Instead, LA's Warpaint is comprised of three little girls singing breathy, shoegazer indie rock. Which begs the question: why would they even want that name?
Name: B+
Band: C

Exhibit B: Band of Skulls
Full disclosure—I actually dug their record (and not because NME told me to), but the fact remains that these Brits have more in common with the Verve than they do with the Wino-led side project this name was meant for. At least they actually wear skulls.
Name: C+
Band: B-

Exhibit C: Valley of the Shadow of Death
Surely I thought these Canadians were in league with Satan, but instead VotSoD aren't even hard enough to serve as muzak in hell's waiting room—they make friggin' Sigur Ros seem fast paced. To make things even worse, they refer to themselves as "electroacoustic." Hang on, my eyes are still rolling... yes, ELECTROACOUSTIC. I guess poutine really is an elixer for oxymoronic categorization.
Name: B-
Band: D+

At this very moment, there are surely dozens of unattractive baby bands jamming in their basements, desperately seeking ways to add the suffix "-ition" to a thesaurus full of surgical terms; this plea is for them. I propose a band-name exchange program that finally allows fans to judge emerging artists in the way they were meant to—by superficialities and really obnoxious, allover-print merch.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween


Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, and nothing makes me happier than spending it in New York City, where there's always so much to do and everyone gets really into the costumed revelry. This year's plans include a stop by the Village Halloween Parade (an annual tradition), a party ominously titled Abaddon that's set to feature live blood wrestling, and an attempt to cramp into Vice's blowout anniversary party in Williamsburg.

The party actually started last night at the co-headlined Mastodon/Dethklok show, which also featured Converge and High on Fire. We got there early enough to catch the support acts, and found dead-center, second-row balcony seats from which we could best admire the visuals and enjoy all the fumes in the room. A full review is forthcoming, but in the meantime—and in honor of all things skull-emblazed, pagan, metal and Halloween—here are some shots of Dethklok. The full collection can be seen here.

PS: Shout-out to the very much alive Chuck Biscuits.



St. Pickles

Thursday, October 29, 2009

R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits (NOT!)

[UPDATE: Bullshit has been called. Apparently this story—which spread around the Internet like wildfire yesterday—is FALSE. Chuck Biscuits is alive. Not sure to what end this hoax was created, I'm just glad one more bit of my childhood hasn't been marred by a deathly footnote. Read more about the confusion here.]

Some of my favorite teenage concert experiences involve a multitude of Danzig shows. The original lineup—guitarist John Christ, bassist Eerie Von, and drummer Chuck Biscuits—was a concise, loud and driven band; almost as if possessed by the very dark gods Glenn crooned about.

Yet even with all that combined talent, it was Biscuits' moppy blond hair, whipping wildly about as he played (his barbaric style resembled a real-life version of Animal from The Muppet Show), that remained most memorable. He pounded the skins hard and mercilessly, just as he had during his stints with D.O.A., Black Flag, Samhain, and subsequently, Social Distortion. Most fans will be surprised to know that he also played drums on several tracks for Run DMC, including the classic "Mary, Mary."

Sadly, news just broke that Biscuits, whose legal name was Charles Montgomery, lost his battle with throat cancer this past Saturday. He was only 44 years old. More info can be found here.

Rest in peace, Chuck. I'll forever cherish my memories of watching you play.

And here's a classic moment - Chuck showing off his Cerealogy degree.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CMJ 2009: The Final Dispatch


Though CMJ officially ended this past Saturday night, nothing could have been better* than marking its unofficial close than the metal- and rain-soaked festivities of Friday evening. First off, I attended a Slayer siesta hosted by Metal Insider and scored some fine Simon & Schuster swag courtesy of my favorite quipper, Bram T. And though I'd already been privy to hearing World Painted Blood, Slayer's forthcoming masterpiece, there was something really comforting about listening to it played loudly over a club's PA whilst sipping on free PBRs. Also previewed were "Playing With Dolls," a creepy cluster of vignettes inspired by WPB songs that'll be featured on the deluxe edition, and Gallows' short film, Grey Britain.

From there, the heavy hitters migrated into Chinatown to witness the showstopping Relapse Records/Brooklyn Vegan extravaganza. Headlined by Misery Index and featuring no less than seven of the label's finest, it was nonetheless difficult for the remaining acts to overshadow the opening salvo from PA's Gloominous Doom. "I can't even describe them, just go watch them," advised Relapse's Dave Ehlrich. And he was right.

Unable to pigeonhole Gloominous Doom into any genre, the best I can do is "bipolar-core." Punctuating their plentiful grinding riffs and bellowing growls were rhythms that evoked surf rock, ska, reggae and death metal. Quite unique, to be sure. What else, besides their erratic sound made them so memorable, you ask? Maybe it was their embrace and liberal usage of the Claw, ie: the Invisible Orange. Or perhaps it was the fact that vocalist Jeff Kruppenbach closed their set by playing a cowbell ON HIS PROSTHETIC LEG. I can't make this stuff up; bravo to you, Jefe.

The Gloominous Doom

That finale was hard to top, but the rest of the bands did their best. Salome, Howl and Black Anvil all put on intense performances for the packed-in crowd, but for many, it was Revocation's blistering death metal set that stood out the most. Though I'd already witnessed them perform at a Tones of Death event a few months prior, the positive reaction to their label debut, Existence is Futile—plus the audience's crackling energy—really pushed the Boston trio over the top to triumph. Check 'em out immediately.

With all due respect to Misery Index, the free-flowing booze had taken its toll and I found myself upstair in Fontana's main room—in an impromptu therapy session with Ben from Metal Sucks (Ben Sucks?) and Earache Anthony—for the majority of their set. I mean, c'mon, how could they have possibly topped the cowbell moment?

And though CMJ's lineup this year wasn't its finest, there's still something to be said galavanting around NYC under the influence of free tequila, opening your mind to new music, seeing bands from all across the world, and meeting lots of new people to make out with. See you next year, fuckers!

Shout-outs to all of the above mentioned, plus: Grim Kim, Relapse Bob, Dan Rodriguez, Justina V., Munsey, Fred BvBBG and the Cycle Sluts From Hell. If my brain were bleeding, you'd be my tourniquets.

More CMJ photos can be found on my Flickr stream, and you can always follow my real-time delusions on Twitter.

*OK, maybe being on the Eyehategod boat show would have been a better ending. Que sera sera.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Open Letter To Nathan Fillion

Dear Nathan,

We get it. You were once on a cult TV show called Firefly that some say was unjustly cancelled after only one season. But guess what? You bounced back. You’re on a fantastic new program called Castle that’s just been picked up for a full second season (and hopefully a third season is forthcoming, as well).

So it boggles my mind when you constantly hearken back to those days of yesteryear. Last night’s episode, "Vampire Weekend," with its gratuitous opening scene where you DRESSED LIKE YOUR OLD CHARACTER, was absolutely grating. Perhaps it’s because I was never a Firefly fan that I feel this way; but more importantly, by doing this you’re selling yourself short. The habitual shout-outs, Easter eggs and homages to Firefly are like the mass media equivalent of talking about some long-lost ex-girlfriend when you have a brand-new hottie on your arm.

Real talk: you are a handsome, charismatic slab of Canadian ham. Castle lets you explore your comedic timing, your depth of character by casting you as a family man, and a team player surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast (just ask Entertainment Weekly, who said as much in a recent issue). And let’s not underscore the sizzling chemistry you have with co-star, Stana Katic. Do you really think your demographic is limited to Firefly fanboys (or “Browncoats,” as it were)? You don’t see Susan Sullivan going on about her days on Falcon Crest, do you?

So please, Nathan, enough already. Do like your daughter on the show suggested and move on… However, should you ever decide to come over dressed like the sexy evil priest, Caleb, you played on that last season of Buffy, I’d keep it just between us.

Thanks, babe. Happy Halloween.



Friday, October 23, 2009

CMJ Day Three: Quickie Recap


The weather's taking a turn for the worse, my head is still all sorts of groggy... and I'm about to go do it all again.

Yesterday's keyword was "proximity," as in the spacial closeness that connected the Brooklyn Vegan day show at Piano's with the Tee Pee Records event at Cake Shop. Though Hull disappointingly cancelled their set at the latter, I was able to check out FL's Surfer Blood instead. Sounding like the little cousins of Happy Hollow-era Cursive with a hint of Vampire Weekend, the baby band did well with their catchy indie rock cocktail.

After that, I bounced over to Tee Pee and caught Naam, whose intense stoner brown sound threatened to split my hungover skull in half, but luckily both day parties had plenty of Vitamin Water to give away and soon all was right (and loud!) with the world.

Shortly after, I found myself back at Pianos to see—actually, since it was so packed and I'm so short, it was more like hear—the much-hyped Duchess Says, who completely blew me away with their heavy, almost gabba-electronic sound and whirling, multifarious vocals. Go check 'em out, as Nebula, who were busy trying to turn back the clock to the '70s next door, had nothing on them.

Finally, it was time for Priestess before heading out to Skateboard Marketing's showcase for Texas Hippie Coalition. Not sure how these guys got their name, as they looked like a biker gang (replete with matching black leather vests), but the imposing group did their best Pantera tribute, complete with shout-outs to the late, great Dimebag Darrell.

That's it for now... heading out to the Relapse showcase later. Not sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow, but it's altogether possible that CMJ will be ignored in favor of this intriguing Dumpling Festival on the LES.

For more quickie updates, why not follow me on Twitter? And the Flickr set just keeps growing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saul Williams @ CMJ

Saul Williams

Sometimes it's better to forgo the unknown and stick with a sure bet; and last night's programming at CMJ inspired just that. Though there were a few bands I was curious to see (like Bang Bang Eche and Atlas Sound), I decided instead to go see Saul Williams headline the Afropunk showcase at Gramercy Theatre.

For those of you not in the know, Saul Williams is a brilliantly prolific singer, musician and poet who embraces electronica, hip-hop, spoken word and rock—then douses it with a glittery aesthetic that David Bowie would be proud of.

Last night's performance did not dissapoint. Though there was some confusion about the start time, Williams wound up performing for more than two hours as the audience literally would not let him stop. The result? We were treated to a broad range of his discography, including heavy helpings of his acclaimed collaboration with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! As demand for more grew, Williams even premiered a new, never-before-heard track that remained in the vain of his bass-heavy, electro-industrial rap style.

When the show actually did end—after what seemed like two encores—Williams jumped into the audience and proceeded to hug the remaining faithful, as if we were in a receiving line.

Look up Saul Williams, you won't regret it.

As for me, I'm off for a full day of shows today. If you're in NYC, stop by Cake Shop for Tee Pee Records' free day show, featuring stoner favorites Hull, Naam, Nebula and Priestess. You may even get some free Colt 45 for your efforts. It starts at noon and goes until 6 pm.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CMJ 2009 - Day One

Happy Hollows

New York's CMJ Music Marathon has been an institution for nearly 30 years, originally conceived to help introduce new artists to both the industry and the college radio world. At its height, it was a prestigious event that featured top indie acts like PJ Harvey, Mars Volta, and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. But then a few years back, the industry's focus really began shifting to Austin's SxSW megafest, forcing CMJ to go back to its roots of presenting raw talent rather than showpiece big names.

And that's not neccessarily a bad thing. Sure, it might be fun to have bragging rights to some exclusive over-the-top event (A Night of Nothing featuring NIN at Irving Plaza, anyone?), but the lack of big names has really forced CMJ attendees to sift through and actually discover new music. My first finds? White Denim and the Happy Hollows.

I'd heard lots of good buzz about White Denim before I found out they were on the bill for The Syndicate's annual Conflict of Interest party. And while I expected them to be some indie rock flavor of the month, I was instead blown away by their Led Zeppelin-influenced white man's blues which was levereged by an obvious love of indie punk, a la Jay Reatard. Simply amazing.

Then last night, after already being elated from meeting Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and Warren DiMartini at a filming of Vh1 Classic's That Metal Show (more on that later), I went to Lit to catch the Happy Hollows. The CA-based trio, led by coffeehouse crush Sarah Negahdari, put on a frenetic performance of poppy indie rock—dare I say, power pop—and brought a smile to the face of every emaciated hipster in the house. Negahdari's demeanor, not to mention her near-fall into the door adjacent to Lit's stage was adorably endearing, and for some reason, reminded me of the late Gilda Radner. And, of course, their name seems to be a Cursive reference, so I'm sold.

Below are videos from both bands, and I've started a Flickr set of my CMJ exploits. Look for more posts as the festival continues!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overflow: These Arms Are Snakes, Young Widows & More

TAAS @ Mercury Lounge

It's been some time since I blogged for myself on any kind of regular basis—but that doesn't mean there haven't been exploits worth posting.

The increase in social events on my calendar exploded during late September and continues until the end of October. There's so much to look forward to, too: the Big Apple Comic Con, the CMJ Music Marathon, Eyehategod* and St. Vitus (not together) at Europa, a visit to a taping of That Metal Show featuring Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and Warren DiMartini, the Dethklok/Mastodon/Converge/High on Fire extravaganza, and my favorite holiday ever, HALLOWWWWEEEEEEN!

With so much to plan for—not to mention my recent adventures in pantyhose trying to land a day job—it's been hard keeping up with the documentation part of the fun times. That said, I had an excellent time further losing my hearing at the Down/Melvins show at Nokia, followed by Naked Raygun at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Young Widows and The Fall of Troy at Bowery Ballroom, then an electric two-night stint with These Arms Are Snakes.

Somehow I'd never managed to catch These Arms Are Snakes live before last month. Still, I always really dug their work, especially their last album, Easter. But it was after I heard their third record, Tailswallower and Dove, that I knew I needed to have the live experience.

Doing this was no easy task as I set out for Shea Stadium, a gallery space off Bushwick Ave. that was hosting the show—sketch, yo. Shortly after arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see my old friend Derek Evers from the newly relaunched Impose Mag, whose own in-house artists, DD/MM/YY were opening the show. The guys were amazing art-rock multi-instrumentalists that switched up instruments and vocal duties every few songs to keep things exciting. Definitely check them out.

Soon enough, Seattle's These Arms Are Snakes came out and blew the roof off the place with their laser-focused post-hardcore sound. Trying to describe their tight, driven, forceful, eclectic, moody performance—words simply fail me. Add to that singer Steve Snere's lithe, expressive dance moves (which, at one point, bordered on autoerotic asphyxiation) and you've got a can't-miss show. How transcendent was it? So fucking good that I decided to go see it again the following night at Mercury Lounge.

Check out the crappy pics of some shows below, and if I bump into you at St. Vitus, EHG or any of the CMJ festivities, buy me a drank! For more amateur live photos, check out my Flickr set.

These Arms Are Snakes @ Mercury Lounge
These Arms Are Snakes

These Arms Are Snakes

Wino @ Irving Plaza
Wino's Band

Young Widows @ Bowery Ballroom
Young Widows @ Bowery Ballroom

The Fall of Troy @ Bowery Ballroom
The Fall of Troy

Naked Raygun @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Naked Raygun @ MHoW

The Melvins @ Nokia Theatre
Melvins in Red

*The jury is still out on the Eyehateboat cruise show situation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Want Your Skull

The folks at Vosges Haut Chocolat had my heart when they introduced Mo's Bacon Bar, a high-quality smooth dark chocolate bar permeated with smoky salty bits of applewood bacon. But now, they've assured my lifelong devotion with their skull-shaped Halloween special.

Inspired by Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, these three-inch tall solid chocolate skulls include a trio of varieties made with Venezuelan white chocolate (Bianca); milk chocolate and hickory-smoked almonds (Barcelona); but it's the tempting Red Fire variant—a wild concoction of dark chocolate with ancho & chipotle chilies, plus Ceylon cinnamon—that puts them over the top. Their eyes? Fragrant black sea salt. Each skull costs $8 a la carte, or you can buy a set of all three for $21 at any of Vosges' six national boutiques, or online.

Trick or treat, indeed!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fog Rising

West Coast stoner rock fans, rejoice: the Fog Rising Festival is coming to San Francisco on Saturday, November 7. The brainchild of Tee Pee Records and Secret Serpents, the Fog Rising event promises to be "a celebration of the twisted offspring of the fragmentation [that is the rock music scene]."

Among the bands performing are the above-pictured Witch (featuring Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis and my boyfriend, Mario Rubalcaba of Earthless on drums*), and will mark Witch's only West Coast performance of 2009. Other stoner-friendly bands to watch for are Saviours, the incredible Red Fang, and sludgy doomsters Ancestors.

*He's not really my boyfriend, but he could be...

Bands include:
Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound
Night Horse
Red Fang
Black Math Horseman
Imaad Wasif with Two Part Beast
Lecharis Gaze (members of Annihilation Time)

Artwork will be displayed by famed poster artists Alan Forbes, David DAndrea, Alan Hynes and Marq Spusta.

For more info, check out the official site: Secret Serpents.

And here's a bonus video of Red Fang's stellar "Prehistoric Dog."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Passports and Pussy

It's been an odd few days. I've been so under the weather that simply sitting in front of the computer for more than a half hour has been fatiguing, and I've been napping even more than my kitty. No, it's not H1N1 (I Googled that shit). Thankfully, I'm on the mend, and while scanning through my overpopulated Inbox, two press releases piqued my interest. Both are for my music people.

First and foremost, I know I'm spoiled. I'm lucky enough to be a working journalist and can easily email publicists to get on guest lists for shows. My friends are not always this fortunate. BUT, Live Nation is hoping to change that by announcing their Club Passport program.

According to them:
"For a limited time only, concert fans can buy The Live Nation Club Passport for $49.99, All-In and No Fees, and see every show at Live Nation clubs in their city for the rest of the year, subject to availability. If you're a Live Nation Club Passport holder, and the show's not sold-out, you're in! The Live Nation Club Passport is available only at

Here's how it works. Beginning today concert fans go to and purchase a Club Passport. A list of participating shows will be immediately available. Every Monday thereafter, Passport holders log on to or follow LiveNation on Facebook or Twitter to see the list of participating club shows in their city and to reserve their ticket. From here, Club Passport holders just bring their Live Nation Club Passport number and photo I.D. to the club's box office and get right in, no extra charges, no hassles.

Some of these venues include LA's Avalon, NYC's Irving Plaza (eff you, I refuse to call it The Fillmore), all of the national House of Blues clubs and Atlanta's Tabernacle Theatre. Not bad, eh?

And now, it's pussy time!! No, not my aforementioned sweet semi-racist Ava, the pussy in question here is Rammstein's first video and single of the same name. I've got to admit, based on their live show, I initially thought they were referring to, ahem, "back" pussy (a la Borat). But this video is some pretty sexy hetero stuff. Naturally, the video is being hosted on a German porn site. Link to see it here... just make sure your boss isn't in the room.