'Round the Dial: There be dragons
Wednesday 21 February @ 17:06:06
by TOM HALLETT
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are; precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from." --Al Franken
SONG OF THE WEEK: "Before The Revolution" --Tim Easton
Like, there's absolutely no level I wouldn't stoop to in order to receive a free cell phone ring tone--it doesn't matter what song it is (long as its new-school, know what I'm sayin'?), or who it's by. I just like to be the guy standing in line at the bank--I could be there cashing a paycheck, but more than likely I'm there to withdraw my last ten bucks to keep the electricity from going off--and dammit, LOOK important. SOUND important. FEEL important, when that thing jangles obnoxiously and everybody LOOKS at me. ME! ME! ME! Dammit, it's just mom reminding me not to forget to check for jobs today--that whole ordeal with the Moped and the three-day crank binge set her back a few duckets and she's kinda anxious for me to start working again. THAT'S important!
Actually, the real important thing is, I don't actually feel important at all, and I really don't care about being important, I just want people to THINK I'm important, then the illusion is all set and I can get back to my video games and Girls Gone Wild collection. Oh hell, maybe I'll throw somethin' on the iPod an' kick it, let the dulcet strains of Hinder or that great new thumper from NYC (man, I'm no good with song titles or artist's names) wash over me … I know it's on here somewhere, but I'm too damn busy texting, wanking, dreaming and ...oh, wait, this IS a bad dream! Thank the stars!
Cramped inside four insulated walls with nothing to do but read or cringe at bad TV commercials four or five days a week has been causing me to re-think that doc's advice about the Prozac (big ups to Cave Man--I used to be anti-drug, but now I'm Pro-zac!), so a recent rather large shipment of CDs from the Twin Cities and beyond has considerably lightened the atmosphere (plus it's only dark 17 or so hours a day now here in Alaska!) around the ol' 'Dial office. The nightmares are coming less prolifically, and despite the arrival of new neighbors (can you say "Noise Ordinance Violation?" Sure, I knew ya could!) I've been kickin' out a variety of recent and brand-new tuneage.
Bouncing the sounds off of the far-away mountains, their ice retreating rapidly as a brutal combination of global warming, seasonal influences and, more than likely, my stereo, sends a constant barrage of mostly man-made auras in their general direction. But before the glaciers melt and my office is underwater, here's a few discs ya might enjoy.
Dragons Power Up
This Way To Gunshire
Though their schtick (WE ARE ACTUALLY DRAGONS!!) may initially cause some folks for whom the Renaissance Festival ISN'T a normal part of life, this Twin Town noise-rock quartet actually only let a small amount of their fixation on events involving men wearing red tights and eating half-pound turkey legs infract upon their sound.
Album opener "Gunshire" is an oddball, spoken word piece that leaves the listener entirely unprepared for the absolutely delightful guitar-based assault they're about to undergo. Two seconds into "Instant Hipster Clu," the band (Chris Tures on vocals, guitars and toy piano; Mike Ries on percussion and keys; Mike Coyne on bass and vocals; and Dan Ries on guitar and noise) prove their indie rock chops with undeniable ferocity. The track rings out like a molten ball of the best of The Pixies, The Flaming Lips (I know, I know, the bassist's name and all, but 'tis true--shit, now they've got me talking in Medieval English), Sunny Day Real Estate and Fugazi, and things only get more tempestuous from there.
"Let's Make It Fine" drizzles in on fiery droplets of axe, as a bobbing, weaving, chunky bass line and frazzled cymbal crashes put to rest any thoughts of dancing 'round the Maypole here. "The Last Romantic Age" is a lonesome, slightly off-kilter ballad that finds the singer worrying his way around almost paranoid backing sounds. "Driving out to the edge of town," he sings. "Take this bottle of rye ... we'll make it now in the back seat." It perfectly describes today's anti-romantic vibe that's souring relationships from here to, well, Gunshire, I guess.
"Ark Applicants" is a pounding, guttural slice of rock and roll tribalism with Tures howling, "Here comes the flame" over and over, drummer Reis viciously attacking his kit with Coyne's bass and guitarist Dan Reis chunking things up nicely as the song swirls into such a visceral maelstrom you can almost imagine the panic of those poor sinners who didn't make the real ark list. This is balls-to-the-wall, no-bullshit, real rock and roll, and if this band can play anything like this live, you're in for a real treat on stage.
My fave off this batch, though, has to be the mathematically-correct "Long Division," wherein Tures pronounces Canada as "Ca-nay-da," and the band crunches, yelps, thrashes and finally implodes like an actual scaly fire-breather who made the mistake of munching on a guy packed with plastique. Yes, even St. George would be proud of this white-hot, thrashing beast of a band. Great stuff. Check it out at myspace.com/dragonspowerup .
Black Top Badge
This five-piece blues-rock outfit (Dave Schermerhorn, Aaron Biggar, Cory Jesock, Aaron McMenamy and Adam Whisher) hails from the Twin Towns and punches out a sound that's half Black Crowes-styled bar-room boogie and half rural outlaw thump. Such a combination could be dangerous (aurally-speaking) in the hands of stardom-seeking, guru-led young bucks who can play a guitar like ringin' a bell but couldn't write a decent song to save their lives.
Thankfully, BTB maintain a steadfast, original vibe in their music, and it's obvious from the moaning slide-intro on album opener/working man's booze/blues shuffle "The Grind" that these cats aren't here to end once and for all the Hendrix vs. Stevie Ray Vaughn debate (not that either would care, being long buried at this point and probably sittin' around a game of poker plotting Clapton's downfall), but to bury you alive in the driving, spit-n-fire style they've forged all on their own.
"Gone" finds them clattering along a dusty rural dirt road, making a joyful noise and switching from hitchhike thumb to middle finger in a keen heart-beat: "And you were gone!!" The politically-charged wammer-jammer "Star Spangled Man" is a heavy, fleshed out Black Keys-style garage riffer, Aaron McMenamy growling and spitting like the Chris Cornell of old, the band cruising low and dangerous in a sharp black hearse. "Sun Inside" suddenly, and inexplicably, shifts gears and the listener finds him or herself on a lonesome fall porch, leaves falling as hot tear-drops spill onto the page of a final good-bye note, the band reining in their inherent ferocity long enough for Big A. to pour his heart out over a steaming, boiling pot of deep blues sauce.
"Broke Down Engine" careens out of the gate like a steroid-pumped stallion, not quite out of control yet but hauling ass ("Get outta my way," sneers McMenamy ) towards the finish line, devil may care in its aural barrage and slick-as-oil lyrics. Album closer "Cannery" catches the boys at their most carefree, and returning to that working man's blues they channel so well, skritchy slide guitars ringing out comfortably next to country-fied pickin' and down-to-earth lyrics. Seriously--a band to watch out for. Check 'em out at myspace.com/blacktopbadge.
That wraps 'er up for this time out, gang. Tune in again next week for more local and national reviews--Van Morrison's latest and new Southern Culture On The Skids among them--rants, raves, and revolutionary redundancy. 'Til then--make yer own damn news.
If you have local CDs, gigs, or events you'd like to see mentioned in this column, or you've just always wondered if I'm this good-natured and laid-back in person, send replies to: Tmygunn77764@yahoo.com. ||