Friday, May 31, 2019

Archive Review: Pere Ubu's The Tenement Year (1988)

Pere Ubu's The Tenement Year
Once upon a time, oh, say a decade ago, in the land of the expanded consciousness, there roamed a merry band of surrealistic music-makers led by a strange, tormented soul known as David. These troubadours, dubbed Pere Ubu by their followers, created a unique hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, classical, and avant-garde electronic experimentation which enthralled any listener and served to fire off more than a few lazy nerve synapses. Before they disappeared into total obscurity, they left behind a handful of recordings, modern musical masterworks which illustrated their combined talents and created an artistic legacy of near-mythical proportion.

After several years of meditation, inner reflection, and personal projects Pere Ubu has re-formed to record and release The Tenement Year, an artistic tour de force of major proportions. The band, led by vocalist, songwriter, and poet David Thomas and included the multi-talented Chris Cutler (ex-Art Bears), soars and glides through eleven new, original songs like Icarus triumphant. Aiming for the sun and hotter than a solar flare, Ubu takes conventional musical tradition and turns it on its pointy lil’ head, moshing up a cacophonic blend of strange instrumentation, white noise, and industrial rhythms fronted by the tortured, howling vocals of the frantic Mr. Thomas.

The end result is aural excitement, an album unlike anything you’ve ever heard, sheer mind-expanding vinyl poetry that takes rock ‘n’ roll to a netherland that it’s never before witnessed. Find out for yourself why Pere Ubu’s early works influenced the creations of Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Devo, among others. The Tenement Year is certain to be every bit as influential. (Enigma Records, 1988)

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1988

Buy the CD from Pere Ubu’s The Tenement Year

Friday, May 24, 2019

Archive Review: Iggy Pop's Instinct (1988)

Iggy Pop's Instinct
Jimmy Osterberg was one of our childhood idols, you know. The levels of gratuitous, hormone-induced violence performed by even the meekest of adolescent males suffering through puberty during 1969 and ’70 were reflected in and, in some instances, given form by Osterberg a/k/a Iggy Pop. Through his chosen medium, rock ‘n’ roll, and his awesome vehicle, the Stooges, Pop preached the gospel of angst and alienation, singing with a madman’s fervor that appealed to the budding anarchist in all of us.

Iggy lived and breathed the auto-erotic ether of self-inflicted nihilism, nightly plunging through that white light/white heat wall-of-sound to swan dive, headfirst, into the gaping, toothy maw of Death. Painfully flagellating himself with the mike stand in a rite of passionate (un)holy penance; unflinchingly rolling, nearly-naked, across an onstage blanket of blood, feces, and jagged shards of glass; always pulling back at that final moment, never quite breaking through, collapsing in a pulpy heap of battered flesh to be carried offstage for another night’s attempt at destiny.

Unlike Jim Morrison, or even Janis Joplin – both peers of Iggy’s – Pop survived his frequent sojourns into the abyss, fading into late ‘70s obscurity until resurrected by the Thin White Duke to act as an elderly icon for a generation of young, would-be punks hell-bent on self-destruction. Nearly 20 years after the Stooges’ influential vinyl triptych of sonic style and three-chord artistry; after almost a dozen solo elpees which run the gamut from brilliant to brain-dead, Iggy is back with a new label and a new album, Instinct. Working for the first time with producer Bill Laswell (Material, Mick Jagger, Afrika Bambaata)…an odd couple matching if ever there was one…Iggy has put together a tougher-than-steel band led by the blitzkrieg six-string mastery of ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones that comes mighty close to the aural purge-and-stomp abilities of the heyday Stooges.

Walking the thin line between punk power and metal overkill that he created, Iggy has returned with a saber-rattling fury, knocking down ten new numbers as only Pop could. Jones’ chainsaw guitar riffs compliment Iggy’s guttural vocals, which range from stark primal screams to smoky, lounge-lizard-styled dirges. The angst is still there, and the alienation is tempered by age and an often-cynical romanticism. Iggy may have grown older, but he’s gotten no softer…there’s life in the ol’ boy yet…and with albums like Instinct, Pop can and will influence an entirely new generation of youth looking for a little of that old search and destroy action while he still remains a rock ‘n’ roll idol for us jaded anachronisms. (A&M Records, released 1988)

Buy the CD from Iggy Pop’s Instinct

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1988

Friday, May 17, 2019

Archive Review: NoFX & Rancid's BYO Split Series, Volume 3 (2002)

NoFX & Rancid's BYO Split Series, Volume 3
The idea of the “split” disc certainly isn’t a new one – I remember seeing “battle of the bands” styled albums that pitted the Beatles against some lightweight pretenders like the Four Seasons in the bins some thirty years ago. Punk has picked up the tradition with mixed results, tho’ I wouldn’t trade my Rudiments/Jack Kevorkian’s Suicide Machines split CD for anything less than a C-note. BYO Records has made an art form out of what is essentially a commercial marketing ploy, matching dissimilar bands together on a single disc to great effect. This NoFX/Rancid pairing is the third in the series, with each band delivering covers of five of the other band’s tunes, and let me say that it kicks ass in more ways than I can recount here…
Although both NoFX and Rancid are part of a California punk rock tradition, the resemblance ends with their geographic proximity. Influenced by bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, NoFX have always followed a sort of tongue-in-cheek, smutty juvenile hardcore aesthetic, which in turn has been watered down and exploited by such bubblegum punk poseurs as Blink-182. From their ska-punk roots in Operation Ivy to their current status as indie-rock royalty, Rancid has always been a group of died-in-the-wool Clash acolytes.

The dissimilarity in the styles of the two bands is what makes this split disc work, however. NoFX nail Rancid’s Clash fixation with manic readings of tunes like “Olympia WA” and “Tenderloin,” Fat Mike, El Jefe and the boys waxing Rasta with a reggae-tinged take on “Radio.” For their part, Rancid mix things up a bit and crank up the volume, sounding like nothing so much as a bunch of drunken frat boys. “Moron Brothers” is a frenetic musical leap-of-faith while covers of “Stickin’ In My Eye” and “Bob” roar from 0 to 100 mph with high-octane sound and seemingly endless energy. The disc closes with “Vanilla Sex,” a brilliant anti-censorship screed that Rancid infuses with new spirit and perspective. Altogether, the ten tracks offered here will have you bouncing off the walls like some sort of gleeful punk rock dervish. (BYO Records, released March 5, 2002)

Review originally published by Big O magazine (Singapore), 2003

Buy the CD from NoFX & Rancid’s BYO Split Series, Volume 3

Monday, May 13, 2019

Archive Review: Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols' Marauders (1988)

Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols' Marauders
If I’ve said it to you once, I’ve said it to you a million times – the best rock ‘n’ roll music isn’t necessarily found on the major labels. Case in point: Timothy Truman and his merry band of houserockin’ fools, the Dixie Pistols; Truman is best known as the writer, artist, and creator of the Eclipse Comics publication Scout, an intelligent and original graphic portrayal of the United States of the next century, a visionary work that is at once both terrifying and intriguing. A flexi-disc included as a bonus “soundtrack” is an issue of Scout illustrated Truman’s skills as a bona fide rocker and led to the release by Eclipse of Truman’s and their first vinyl project, Marauders.

Truman and the Dixie Pistols practice the working man’s blues, worshipping at the altar of Robert Johnson and kicking out a righteous blend of soul-tinged, blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll madness, creating a mutant hybrid that started 50 years ago in the Mississippi Delta and has roared as an angry golem aboard a hell-bound, lightning-powered locomotive in the soul and spirit of every sad-singing, passionate axeman and artist from Johnson through B.B. King, Albert King, Elmore James, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, and legions of others attending the selfsame shrine.

Timothy Truman's Scout
Marauders holds within its grooves the aural essence of the smoke-filled bar, the straight bourbon shot with a beer chaser, and the alluring stare of that woman at the next table. Serving up a healthy dose of house-party, bring-down-the-roof madness, Truman and the Dixie Pistols romp and frolic through ten numbers that are hotter than the dog days of summer and more soulful than a roomful o’ blues!

Marauders is the real thing, folks – sincere, inspired, joyful music unencumbered by music industry expectations, commercial concessions, or corporate image-mongering. Musically, Truman and the Pistols are a skilled bunch of musicians with frequent flashes of brilliance. Although the tunes are derivative in the genre’s style, the material is original and respectful, showing a love for the tradition without being revivalist or patronizing. All in all, Timothy Truman and the Dixie Pistols’ Marauders is an entertaining, enjoyable album and a hell of a love of fun. The best music isn’t necessarily found on those big boy labels, a fact proven by this sleeper of a disc, a solid debut from a group that nobody’s heard of, released by a comic book company. (Eclipse Records, released 1988)

Review originally published by The Metro (Nashville), 1988

Friday, May 10, 2019

Archive Review: The Mooney Suzuki's Electric Sweat (2003)

The Mooney Suzuki's Electric Sweat
There have been many artists and bands that have genuflected before the altar of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll, but among the many acolytes infected with the “Motor City Madness,” few have delivered the goods with the intensity and integrity of the Mooney Suzuki. While the critical establishment wets its collective short pants over the Strokes (this humble scribe included), across town the Mooney Suzuki is breathing fire and shooting thunderbolts from their instruments with the best impersonation of a sixties-era garage band that you’re likely to hear circa 2002.

Electric Sweat, the New York City foursome’s dynamic sophomore effort, continues the high-voltage overkill established by their year 2000 debut People Get Ready. With axes set on stun, Sammy James Jr., John Paul Ribas, Graham Tyler and Will Rockwell channel the ghosts of the MC5, the Yardbirds, Iggy, and countless other grunge masters in songs like the anthemic “In A Young Man’s Mind” or the Farfisa-drenched R&B rave-up “It’s Showtime, Pt II.” James’ vocals evoke memories of Rob Tyner while Tyler’s careless dedication to craft makes his six-string weapon of destruction roar and wail like metal clashing against metal. Feedback seeps into every corner of these songs, rock ‘n’ roll lightning dancing across every track on Electric Sweat.

Even the CD booklet brings back memories of smoke-filled nights in Ann Arbor, the photo of the four mopes in the Mooney Suzuki resembling a younger, contemporary Sonic Rendezvous Band. Forget about the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives and any other pretender to the throne – the Mooney Suzuki are the real thing, as true to the promise of rock ‘n’ roll  as a stack o’ tattered old copies of Creem magazine. Roll over Beethoven; tell Lester Bangs the news – the Mooney Suzuki are here to rock your world! (Gammon Records, released April 9, 2002)

Review originally published by Big O Magazine (Singapore), 2003

Buy the CD from The Mooney Suzuki’s Electric Sweat

Friday, May 3, 2019

Archive Review: Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare (1975/2002)

Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare
When Alice Cooper, the band, broke up in the mid-‘70s due to the rigors of stardom (insert imagination here), many thought that Alice Cooper, the man, was history. Alice was, after all, an honest-to-god freakshow, the controversial artist behind such future classics as “School’s Out,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “I’m Eighteen.” Without the backing of strong musicians such as Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, cried the critics and other observers, Cooper was on his way to becoming nothing more than an interesting footnote in the checkered history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The 1975 release of Alice’s solo debut, Welcome To My Nightmare, proved the critics wrong and provided Cooper with some degree of vindication. With the benefit of hindsight, we critical types now consider Cooper to be one of the legends of rock ‘n’ roll, a heavy metal godfather who has influenced artists such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, among many others. Back in ’75, though, teenage whiz kids such as myself couldn’t have cared less about the ruminations of a bunch of erudite college grads slumming in the ghetto of rock criticism. Alice Freakin’ Cooper had a new album out and for hundreds of thousands of high school stoners, rockers, and underachievers, that was good enough for us!

Conceived by Cooper as a concept album (which tied in with the effects-laden stage show and wildly successful tour that accompanied Welcome To My Nightmare), the album both blazed new trails and also revisited classic Cooper-styled songs. It introduced Cooper the ‘crooner’, yielding a monster hit in the ballad “Only Woman Bleed” that won the artist a new distaff audience and opened the door for power ballads by contemporaries like Ozzie and a slew of ‘80s hair bands. Welcome To My Nightmare also further defined horror rock with monster cuts like the title track, “The Black Widow” (complete with children’s choir) and “Cold Ethyl,” with narration provided by the crown price of terror, Vincent Price. “Department of Youth” was a stylistic throwback to Cooper’s previous band sound, with Detroit rocker Johnny “Bee” Badanjek delivering a solid drumbeat behind Cooper’s vocals. To replace the muscular sound of his long-standing band, Cooper recruited Lou Reed’s rock ‘n’ roll animals, guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, who stacked up fiery riffs like so much sawmill fodder throughout the songs on Welcome To My Nightmare

The remastered Rhino reissue of Welcome To My Nightmare brings new brilliance to the sound of this classic album and adds previously unreleased live versions of “Devil’s Food,” “Cold Ethyl,” and “The Awakening” culled from an ABC television special. Manic liner notes from Cooper biographer Jeffrey Morgan and a handful of rare photos round out an exceptional package. Although I personally would like to have seen Rhino begin their restoration of the Alice Cooper catalog with early albums like Love It To Death or Killer, the work that they’ve done with Welcome To My Nightmare and, previously, Billion Dollar Babies, is nevertheless impressive. If your knowledge of Alice Cooper is limited to his early band work or more recent metal horror albums, you owe it to yourself to check out Welcome To My Nightmare. (Rhino Records)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2002

Buy the CD from Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New Music Monthly: May 2019 Releases

April showers are history, and May is gonna break the bank with more hot new music than you can shake your debit card at! Rockers can rejoice with albums by Bad Religion, Dream Syndicate, Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Sammy Hagar, Sebadoh, and a whole lot more. Fans of blues, soul, and R&B music will find a lot to like with new music by talents like Mavis Staples, Southern Avenue, the Cash Box Kings, Jimmie Vaughan, Duke Robillard, and Albert Castiglia as well as a red-hot live set by Joe Louis Walker and an archive release by Johnny Shines...and don't forget to check out the debut album from blues newcomer Christone "Kingfish" Ingram!

Like reggae/dub? Then check out the Adrian Sherwood-produced LP by the legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry and a new set from Steel Pulse. Throw in archival releases like a deluxe multi-disc version of British rock legends Be-Bop Deluxe's Futurama album, a multi-platter Traffic vinyl box set, and more affordable releases by Lee Moses and D.O.A. and May is going to be a great month for music lovers! 

If you’re interesting in buying an album, just hit the ‘Buy!’ link to get it from’s just that damn easy! Your purchase puts valuable ‘store credit’ in the Reverend’s pocket that he’ll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock ‘n’ roll ecstasy!

Be-Bop Deluxe's Futurama

Bad Religion - Age of Unreason   BUY!
Be-Bop Deluxe - Futurama [deluxe box set]   BUY!
Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes - End of Suffering   BUY!
D.O.A. - 1978 [singles & unreleased tracks]   BUY!
Dream Syndicate - These Times   BUY!
Editors - The Blanck Mass Sessions   BUY!
L7 - Scatter the Rats   BUY!
Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul - Summer of Sorcery   BUY!
Carla Olson & Todd Wolfe - The Hidden Hills Sessions   BUY!
Johnny Shines - The Blues Came Falling Down, Live 1973   BUY!
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride   BUY!

Joe Louis Walker's Viva Las Vegas Live

MAY 10
A.A. Bondy - Enderness   BUY!
Clinic - Wheeltappers and Shunters   BUY!
Daddy Long Legs - Lowdown Ways   BUY!
Sammy Hagar & the Circle - Space Between   BUY!
Meat Beat Manifesto - Opaque Couché    BUY!
Southern Avenue - Keep On   BUY!
Mavis Staples - We Get By   BUY!
Joe Louis Walker - Viva Las Vegas Live [CD & DVD]   BUY!

Christone Kingfish Ingram's Kingfish

MAY 17
Cash Box Kings - Hail To the Kings!   BUY!
Paul Gilbert - Behold Electric Guitar   BUY!
Imperial Wax - Gatswerk Saboteurs   BUY!
Interpol - A Fine Mess EP   BUY!
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - Kingfish   BUY!
The National - I Am Easy To Find   BUY!
Duke Robillard - Ear Worms   BUY!
Steel Pulse - Mass Manipulation   BUY!
Traffic - The Studio Albums 1967-1974 [vinyl box set]   BUY!
Jimmie Vaughan - Baby, Please Come Home    BUY!

Black Mountain's Destroyer

MAY 24
Black Mountain - Destroyer   BUY!
Albert Castiglia - Masterpiece
Adam Holt - Kind of Blues
Morrissey - California Son   BUY!
Lee Moses - How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965-1972   BUY!
Sebadoh - Act Surprised   BUY!

Lee Scratch Perry's Rainford

MAY 31
Duff McKagan - Tenderness [w/Shooter Jennings]   BUY!
Lee "Scratch" Perry - Rainford [produced by Adrian Sherwood]   BUY!
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets - And Now For the Whatchamacalit   BUY!
Soundwalk Collective & Patti Smith - The Peyote Dance   BUY!

Little Steven's Summer of Sorcery

Album of the Month: There can only be one "album of the month," and while May offers up lots of choices for this honor, the Rev has to go with Little Steven's Summer of Sorcery. It's the E Street legend's first collection of new music in two decades. Summer of Sorcery features a dozen Van Zandt originals, including one song revisited from his Revolution album, an outtake from the Lilyhammer score, and ten new songs written during Little Steven's Soulfire tour. Van Zandt was joined in the studio by his road-tested touring band and you can get a taste of Summer of Sorcery via the videos below...