by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Anyway, I don’t believe in it. I think it’s all a bunch of bullshit. Me, I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shit-house goes up in flames, alright! ”
— Jim Morrison
SONG OF THE WEEK: “We’re Truck Drivers”
And now, the news ...
A FORMER RHCP GUITARIST BEATS HEROIN; BREAKS JIMMY PAGE’S OUTRIDER CURSE WITH TWO GREAT SOLO ALBUMS!!
The Will To Death
Inside Of Emptiness
Thelonious Monster/on-off-on-again Red Hot Chili Peppers axeman John Frusciante
isn’t kidding with the title of his fourth solo effort since 1995, The
Will To Death. Though he’s still in his thirties, the talented six-string-slinger
has spent much of the past decade battling a ferocious heroin addiction, a habit
that eventually led to his simply walking off a Peppers’ tour and disappearing
for months. Thankfully, he’s come out on the other side clean and at his
most musically creative since his ground-breaking debut with Anthony and Flea
on 1989’s Mother’s Milk.
The Will To Death and Inside Of Emptiness are two of a four-part
series of solo work John’s releasing this year—and a smart move
it is, too. These songs are thick, haunting, aural vignettes forged at an anvil
of pain and self-loathing, so don’t expect much of the old RHCP frivolity.
Frusciante wisely decided to parcel the piece out in perfectly timed batches,
making the albums not only a more comfortable listening experience, but leaving
the listener waiting for—and wanting—more. An old showman’s
trick, to be sure, but hey, why fuck with a formula that works?
The most interesting thing about these albums is the way they really high-light
the man’s superb guitar playing—no ass-thumpin’ Flea bass
or Anthony Kiedis histrionics to deal with here—and allow him to spew
verbally (his voice ranges from a likeable mid-range to a shocking, high-octave
holler that recalls the vocal antics of ‘70s Dutch prog-rockers Focus’
front man, Thijs van Leer) about his addictions, his depression, and his eventual
Phoenix-like rise from the ashes. All subject matters his pals in the Peppers—who
have been continually plagued by junkie guitar players throughout their career,
starting with the OD death of co-founder Hillel Slovak shortly before JF joined
the outfit—have surely long tired of.
That freedom that may go a long way towards giving him some much-needed closure
on the issues that drove him to the rig in the first place, and the very fact
that he’s suddenly become so prolific can only bode well for his future
as a clean, worldly-wise, killer guitarist/songwriter—solo or with his
mates. A pair of (admittedly) fan-centric releases that manage to both shine
a well-deserved spotlight on one of the greatest guitar geniuses of the alt-rock
movement as well as serve as a dire warning on the dangers and consequences
inherent in the genre’s very lifestyle. Fascinating and soul-soothing—and
definitely miles above that terrible Jimmy Page cut-out-bin insta-classic
LOCAL ROOTS-POP HILLBILLIES RELEASE ALT-COUNTRY ALBUM THAT DOESN’T
I love this band’s name. Maybe because it reminds me of the Cheech &
Chong classic, "Basketball Jones," which I inexplicably loved despite
the fact that I never got into sports and the only dribbling I ever did (that
I’ll admit to in public) was when I over-drank offa can of beer and some
ran down my chin. Come to think of it, that’s probably the best way to
listen to this album of rootsy, from-the-gut pop nuggets by this local quartet.
‘Jones boys (Adam Bilsing, Ben Foote, Tim Greenwood and Mike Murray) obviously
attended the Twin Cities School Of Garage Rock, graduated with full honors and
a bottle of whiskey, and are excelling in their post-grad studies in local haunts
and dives. A groovy mix of jazzy rhythms, funky axe riffs (the band’s
covers of choice speak volumes about their musical influences—on any given
night you might hear ’em knock off live renditions of tunes by such disparate
artists as The Temptations, Bob Dylan, Britney Spears or The Smiths), heartbreak
themes, and down-home spirit, Winded is a satisfying, punchy first
Opener "So Many Ways" is a rollicking, keys-and-guitar-driven stomper
punctuated by strangled-with-emotion vocals and kick-ass, exasperated lyrical
lines like: "If I was a car, would you drive me off a cliff?/If I was a
flower, would you pull my petals off me?/If I was a song, would you change the
goddamn station?" "Winded Soul" is a dreamy, melancholy rumination
on love and loss, "A Civil Case" rides atop a bed of moaning slide
guitar and a loping cow-poke beat, and "Bastard Son Of Jesus" showcases
the band at the top of their game—A tailor-made, road story/song about
a lonely, rail-ridin’ honky-tonk outcast who leaves a man bloody and sorry
in a train’s dining car. Very cool stuff from a relatively new local outfit.
Here’s to another year of pain and heartbreak, boys—but only if
it’ll bring us another album like this ’un.
ALIENS DISGUISED AS PRISSY BRIT-POP
OUTFIT CLONE JANE’S ADDICTION STAR’S VOCAL CORDS; PROCLAIM, “WE’LL
MAKE GREAT PETS!!”
Welcome To The North
I don’t mean to pick on the four English lads who make up modern-rock
outfit The Music, I really don’t. I’m sure that once the hype cools
down and the novelty wears off, they’ll go back to making—er—music
that’s not quite so derivative (or has Perry Farrell actually undergone
some kind of freakish alien body switch with the singer of this band?!) of so
much other music. I mean, they did get off to a pretty good start with their
2001 EP You Might As Well Try To Fuck Me, but of course that one wouldn’t
have gone over too well here on this side of the pond, where our little FCC/Clear
Channel buddies are doing their damndest to make sure our virginal ear canals
aren’t exposed to such immoral hoo-ha. Excuse me while I genuflect: (THANK
YOU, MICHAEL POWELL. I BOW TO YOUR MOST EXCELLENT TASTE IN MUSIC AND FASHION!!
WE LIVE ONLY TO SERVE YOU, OH OVERLORD OF THE CHURCH OF HOLY COMMUNICATIONS!!)
But I digress. The Music know how to play music, that much is evident. And it’s
actually pretty good, here and there. Musically speaking, of course. Not the
title track, though. It’s droning, over-produced and hypnotically evil
in its dogged pursuit to suck you into The Music’s Farrell-obsessed world.
Snaky, Middle-Eastern keyboards are layered over comfortably numb bass lines,
and if you close your eyes and turn up the headphones, you just might think
you’re listening to a Bizzaro World Porno For Pyros outtake.
"Freedom Fighters" packs a bit more punch, but only drives home the
singer’s terminal Perry-itis all the more, and by the time the Jane’s
Addiction clone single, "Breakin’" busts loose, you’ve
got to make a critical decision: Are you going to sit around and wait for Farrell
to release another kick-ass album or are you going to give in and let The Music
serve as your near-beer replacement? What’s that? You can’t hear
me because THE MUSIC’S too loud? Oh well, fuck it. Let’s crank it
up: "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yes
I know I’m gonna bray-yay-ayk...." AHHHGGGHHH!!!
DECEASED FORMER RAMONES BASSIST LIVES ON IN PERSONAL HELL, DISCUSSING
JOHNNY THUNDERS’ CAREER FOR ETERNITY!!
Is Dee Dee Home?
Now that Johnny—the brains/guitar/financial genius behind the legendary
Ramones—is gone, it seems you can’t turn around without running
into a video, commercial (that’s right, watch your network TV ads—the
pioneering punk outfit’s catalog is being pillaged as you read this—come
on, Tommy, didn’t you make enough ching as a producer to keep just one
ethic alive?) tribute CD, indie film, or book about the band. That’s par
for the course, being that society in general has become filled with so many
pop-culture vultures, feeding off of the carcasses of actually-talented individuals
and groups who’ve come and gone, but it still sucks.
That being said, I’ll freely admit that I’m a complete Ramones fanatic
myself, which is why I requested this Lech Kowalski-directed 2003 documentary
(shot and recorded back in 1992) for review. Did I get to see the definitive
Dee Dee interview? Learn all the secret Ramones trivia we were all so sure lurked
just below the surface all those years? Nawww. What I did learn was that Dee
Dee was a sad, lonely, scared, ultimately sweet man with an absolutely vicious
bent for self-destructive behavior—particularly mainlining heroin. Thing
is, if you’re going into this film hoping to hear some Dee Dee solo jams,
or even shaky renditions of Ramones songs, you’re going to be sadly disappointed,
as I was.
This here feature is a classic example of "All Talk, No Rock," if
I’ve ever seen one—the one time Dee Dee does pick up a guitar, he’s
almost immediately discouraged from playing. Not that he was displaying Hendrix-like
abilities on the axe, but I for one woulda loved to just hear him sing three
or four tunes, man. Another buzz-kill here is that virtually every time Dee
Dee starts to reminisce or sidetrack into some fascinating, Ramones-related
story, the interviewer steers him back to the same, already-exhausted subject.
documentary dwells almost exclusively (well, there is that one spot where he
goes over every single tattoo on his body and why he got them and how his old
lady disapproved of ‘em, but mostly she disapproved of his dope habit)
on Dee Dee’s relationship with deceased New York Dolls/Heartbreakers guitarist
Johnny Thunders, and the writing of the junkie anthem "Chinese Rocks,"
which Dee Dee and the Ramones apparently wrote (mostly Dee Dee) and then gave
to The Heartbreakers (who added a few licks and lines to it) to record because
Johnny Ramone didn’t want to record any more "drug songs." Of
course, once the song became an underground "hit," Johnny R. reamed
Dee Dee out for giving it away—always the businessman, that Johnny.
Dee Dee is probably at his most animated here (although he looks like holy hell,
with concentration-camp-like features, a shaved head, and bones protruding through
his sallow skin), as he insists that he was given permission by Johnny R. to
pass the tune along to Thunders ("... he told me, ‘We’re not
doing any more dope songs.’ So I said, ‘but that’s what we
do! What about "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue?"’ And he says,
‘We don’t sniff glue anymore!’”). The package does include
a few worthy bonus items—a live performance by Johnny Thunders (again,
why not a live performance from Dee Dee? Urgh!), an out-take from the film “Born
To Lose” (yes, again, about Johnny Thunders—boy, Dee Dee must be
PISSED!), a poster of a junked-out, Lou Reed-lookin’ Dee Dee, and temporary
tattoos so you, too, can look just like him for a few hours. (Track marks not
Maybe I wouldn’t feel so let down if they’d called this film “HEY,
IS JOHNNY THUNDERS HOME?,” but I guess a little Dee Dee is better than
none at all. Bottom line: A curiosity for Ramones and punk fans in general,
an absolute must-have for Johnny Thunders acolytes. The general public still
doesn’t know the first thing about Dee Dee or any of the other Ramones—living
or dead—let alone Johnny Thunders and the history of a tune singing the
praises of China White, so this won’t matter one way or another for them.
All I really wanted to do after watching this was HEAR some music! So I threw
on my vinyl copy of "Chinese Rocks." It really is the perfect junkie/musician
anthem, too: "I’m livin’ on a Chinese rock/All my best things
are in hock..." Nope, Dee Dee’s not home. For good.
That’s all she wrote for this week, my furry little friends. Tune in again,
same Dial-time, same Dial-place, for more rock-a-rolla wamma-jamma. Until then,
MAKE YER OWN DAMN NEWS!! ||
If you have local music news, gigs, CDs you’d like to see
mentioned in this column, or you’d just like to argue that Dee Dee did
more black tar than China White, send replies to: (temporary e-mail) email@example.com.