Monday, August 26, 2019

Archive Review: Dead Kennedys' Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death (1987/2001)

Although often overshadowed by legendary outfits like Black Flag, X or the Misfits, the Dead Kennedys were arguably one of the most important and influential punk bands in the history of the genre. They were the most political of the new breed, mixing a radical worldview with a tongue-in-cheek lyrical style and uncompromising hardcore punk chops to create a thought provoking and unique, hilariously satirical sound.

A late ’80s PMRC-inspired obscenity trial didn’t shut the band up but rather managed to censor Amerikka’s most infamous punk rock troublemakers by breaking the band apart. A decade later, the band members have gone through another (very public) break-up, with East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro wresting control of much of the Dead Kennedy’s catalog away from vocalist and songwriter Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label.

Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death is one of those former AT titles, reissued by Manifesto Records with the dissenting band member’s blessing; Biafra has disavowed the reissue series entirely. A sort of “greatest hits” compilation, Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death is a great place for the uninitiated to sample the Dead Kennedys’ experience firsthand. Some of the band’s best material is collected here, including early songs like “Police Truck,” “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday In Cambodia.” A killer cover of “I Fought The Law” shows the band’s retro chops while a Biafra rant, “Night Of The Living Rednecks” foreshadows Jello’s spoken word career.

Old hardcore DK fans probably already have this title on vinyl or CD, but the reissue does offer cleaner sound via digital remastering and a 32-page reproduction of the album’s accompanying booklet, including song lyrics and Winston Smith artwork. I’d recommend Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death for new fans, and would suggest that if you like this stuff, you should check out Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, the band’s best album and the lone title still available on Alternative Tentacles. (Manifesto Records, 2001)

Review originally published by Jersey Beat zine, 2001

Buy the CD from Amazon: Dead Kennedys' Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death

Monday, August 19, 2019

Archive Review: The Buzzcocks' Flat-Pack Philosophy (2006)

The Buzzcocks' Flat-Pack Philosophy
Never as nihilist as the Sex Pistols, nor social realists like the Clash, the Buzzcocks’ immense reputation was built on the band’s appropriation of the three-minute pop song for the punk milieu. Frontman Pete Shelley’s acute observations on the teenage condition, coupled with an undeniable sense of melody and a biting instrumental tact – courtesy of guitarist Steve Diggle – made the Buzzcocks one of the most influential bands to emerge from the class of ’77. If, after all this time, they’re not exactly a household name in the US, well, dammit, they should be! After breaking up in 1981, the Buzzcocks reformed a decade later around Shelley, Diggle, bassist Tony Barber and drummer Philip Barker.

This line-up has now been around longer than the original band, and they have released music every bit as memorable as those now-legendary early albums. Flat-Pack Philosophy is a perfect example of Buzzcockian rock; Shelley’s matured songwriting underlined by a fast-and-loud delivery and bold, bright instrumental hooks. Although Shelley no longer shares a teenage perspective, his romantic inclinations are no less clumsy, and songs like “Sell You Everything,” “Credit,” and “Between Heaven and Hell” showcase a wider, intellectual worldview. Altogether, Flat-Pack Philosophy blows across the current musical horizon like a gale-force wind, proving that punk rock can grow old without losing amperage, fury or attitude. One of the year’s best rock ’n’ roll albums, Flat-Pack Philosophy stands proud alongside works like Love Bites and A Different Kind of Tension. (Cooking Vinyl, 2006)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2006

Buy the CD from Amazon: The Buzzcocks' Flat-Pack Philosophy

Monday, August 12, 2019

Archive Review: The Distillers' Sing Sing Death House (2002)

The Distillers' Sing Sing Death House
Contrary to what many people believe, punk is as much a philosophy as it is an attitude. Fashion doesn’t really have shit to do with it, ‘cause it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, ya know? You can spike your hair higher than Pamela Anderson’s silly-putty funbags, pierce your face with every safety pin in your mom’s sewing kit and wear all the ripped band t-shirts that you want and it doesn’t mean dick. Meanwhile, you can go to work every day of your life wearing khaki chinos and a button-down oxford shirt and still have a head full o’ evil punk rock thoughts.

Brody Armstrong of the Distillers is an authentic punk rock poster child, and don’t you forget it pal! Possessing a voice that sounds like Joan Jett tossing down steroids with a strychnine-laced whiskey chaser, Armstrong walks the walk and talks the talk like few rockers have been able to. And don’t believe for a minute, buttercup, that Ms. Brody got her recording gig courtesy of husband and fellow punk-for-life Tim Armstrong of Rancid. The Distillers kick out the jams with every bit as much muscle, ferocity, spit and vinegar as any hardcore posse out there today. If you don’t believe me, throw Sing Sing Death House on yer measly little boombox and get ready to dodge the chunks of plaster falling from your ceiling for the next thirty minutes.

Listening to Sing Sing Death House, one gets the distinct impression that for Armstrong, punk is more than a way of life, it’s also an escape from this mundane mortal vale. When Armstrong asks “are you ready to be liberated” at the beginning of the “The Young Crazed Peeling,” you know that homegirl isn’t whistling Dixie (which would be hard for her to do anyway since she’s from Australia...) Much like Rancid, Brody’s Distillers bring a decidedly populist bent to their material – Armstrong isn't a particularly poetic songwriter, but she is an effective one, and certainly not beyond throwing out a tortured growl if needed to express her feelings.

The Distillers
The Distillers
Much of the material on Sing Sing Death House is autobiographical in nature, drawn from Armstrong’s life and experiences, which is partially what makes it so accessible. “Sick of It All” tackles the question of violence that punk rock is often accused of while “City of Angels” takes aim at LA urban decay. “Seneca Falls” picks up the torch of women’s liberation while the aforementioned “The Young Crazed Peeling” is a personal tale of rage and retribution.

All of the songs are delivered with an energetic, high-voltage hardcore hum, the Distillers cutting through all the bullshit to deliver raw, unadorned, honest-to-god punk rock thrills. At the end of the album, either you got it or you didn’t. Personally, I couldn’t give a shit either way; I’m going to listen to Sing Sing Death House again... (Hellcat Records, released February 12th, 2002)

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

Buy the CD from Amazon: The Distillers' Sing Sing Death House

Archive Review: Shane MacGowan and the Popes’ The Snake (2000)

Shane MacGowan and the Popes’ The Snake
When friends and fellow critics argue U2s dubious status as the greatest band to come out of Ireland, I not so politely disagree. The Pogues and the Undertones both are genuine Irish working class artists, and at their worst either band could nonetheless easily teach Bono and crew a thing or two about the true spirit of rock ’n’ roll. If my money was on the line, I’d lay it all down on the Pogues above U2 every time (with the ’tones being my second choice over the self-obsessed, pretentious wankers that U2 sadly became).

Shane MacGowan and the Popes’ The Snake

Shane MacGowan was the undeniable heart and soul of the Pogues, a hard-drinking rock anti-hero who consistently flirted with self-destruction even while the band tottered on the edge of stardom. MacGowan’s departure leveled the band, and even if the Pogues’ swan song, Waiting For Herb, was a vastly underrated jewel of an album, MacGowan’s presence – or lack thereof – was sorely missed. MacGowan brought to the band a sort of reckless abandon and joyful lustiness far too often missing from rock these days.

Gladly, MacGowan has gotten his shit together enough to toss a band into the studio and crank out The Snake, the best album that the Pogues never made. Although there are some slight stylistic differences between the fifteen songs found on The Snake and those of MacGowan’s former mates, his charismatic musical presence creates an uncanny similarity. Lyrically, The Snake shows MacGowan at his very best, with autobiographical songs like “The Church of the Holy Spook” and “Nancy Whiskey” taking a good, hard look at the lifestyle that almost killed him. Others, like “A Mexican Funeral In Paris” or “I’ll Be Your Handbag” are well-written vignettes, story-songs with a personal edge that are almost poetic in their retelling, reminiscent of artists like William Burroughs or Jack Kerouac.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Musically, The Snake is pretty much what one might expect, a brawling, muscular blend of punk rock, classic blue-eyed soul and traditional Celtic roots, with MacGowan’s guttural, coarse, heavily-accented vocals a primal force that many find to be an acquired taste. The Snake is a marvelous comeback album from MacGowan, a lively and uncompromising effort from one of rock’s unheralded geniuses. (ZTT/Warner Bros, released May 9, 2000)

Review originally published by R.A.D! Review & Discussion of Rock ’n’ Roll, 1995

Buy the CD from Amazon: Shane MacGowan and the Popes’ The Snake

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Rock 'n' Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World

The Rock 'n' Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World
Excitable Press and That Devil Music’s Rev. Gordon are happy to announce the publication of the fifth and final volume in the Rev’s ongoing collections of artist interviews. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World is a budget-priced collection of vintage interviews with seventeen musicians from around the world, including Little Steven, Sisters of Mercy, R.E.M., John Wesley Harding, Wayne Kramer, and Midnight Oil, among others. The book also includes album reviews for many of the featured artists.

The “Reverend of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Rev. Keith A. Gordon has been writing about music for almost 50 years. A former contributor to the All Music Guide books and website, and the former Blues Expert for, Rev. Gordon has also written for Blurt magazine, Creem, High Times, and The Blues (U.K.), among many other publications, and has written two-dozen previous music-related books, including Blues Deluxe: The Joe Bonamassa Buying Guide, The Other Side of Nashville, and Scorched Earth: A Jason & the Scorchers Scrapbook.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World is a 108pp 5.5” x 8.5” paperback with B&W photos, priced at $8.99 for the print edition and $2.99 for the eBook. Get your copy through the handy links below:

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World print edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Five: Rockin' 'round the World eBook edition

Also available:

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Four: Cult Rockers print edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Four: Cult Rockers eBook

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Three: Heavy Metal print edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Three: Heavy Metal eBook

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Two: Punk Rock print edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Two: Punk Rock eBook edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume One: Southern Rockers print edition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume One: Southern Rockers eBook edition

Monday, August 5, 2019

Archive Review: Sex Pistols' Filthy Lucre Live (1996)

Sex Pistols' Filthy Lucre Live
For members of bands like the Clash or the Sex Pistols – arguably the two most important punk bands of the 1970s –  it hasn't been easy living down the legend that’s been built up around them these past 20 years like a bloody albatross around the neck. While the Clash finally melted away into mediocrity with sub-par versions of the band, the Sex Pistols instead self-destructed in the white heat of scandal, hype, death, drugs and violence.

Although Johnny Rotten (née Lydon) built a solid rep as the frontman of Public Image, Ltd., there was always that “unfinished” Sex Pistols business lurking around the corner. For quite a while, throughout the ’80s, it seemed as if everybody but the band were making money, as their illustrious former manager, various record labels and numerous t-shirt and sticker companies marketed Sex Pistols products. It must be particularly vexing to be a legend when you’re not getting your share of the pie.

Sex Pistols’ Filthy Lucre Live

Thus this year’s dubious Sex Pistols reunion tour, celebrating their twentieth anniversary, and the resulting live CD. Making no bones about their intentions, the newly reformed Sex Pistols polished up their axes and polished off musical chestnuts like “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” for a whirlwind “Filthy Lucre” tour of Europe and the United States, a performance trail expressly designed to financially soften their descent into retirement. Although I find it all perfectly hilarious – young punks these days bitch far too often about which bands have “sold out” and what’s real punk and what’s not – here are the godfathers of the entire damn scene making an unabashed grab for the cash.

I held reservations about Filthy Lucre Live, however, until I slapped this mean little puppy onto the box and cranked up the sound. Somewhere along the line during the past two decades, the Sex Pistols have actually learned how to play, and their old punk standards take on new potency when stripped of their amateurish original performances. Cuts on Filthy Lucre Live like “New York,” “EMI,” “Holidays In the Sun” and “Anarchy In The U.K.,” as well as the aforementioned pair of Pistols’ classics, sound every bit as vibrant and exciting in this live setting as they ever have. Johnny Rotten’s wailing vocals sound as off-kilter as they always have, his snarling humour at his own expense (and the audience’s) merely part of his longstanding public identity. The band – guitarist – sound like they’ve been playing together for the past 20 years rather than apart, their timing, energy, and power unmatched by bands half (or even a third) their age.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Filthy Lucre Live sounds damn good, and although I doubt that the fearless foursome could create new material with the strength of that on which their legend rests, it’s good to hear these songs, and the band, once again. Score one for the old timers... (Virgin Records, released July 27, 1996)

Buy the CD from Amazon: Sex PistolsFilthy Lucre Live

Thursday, August 1, 2019

New Music Monthly: August 2019 Releases

August is shaping up nicely for music, with rockin' new albums by Ty Segall, the Hold Steady, Redd Kross, Oh Sees, the Hangmen, the Futureheads, and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (their second this year!). It's also a great month for blues fans with new tunes from Bobby Rush, Coco Montoya, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, and the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Grueling. If that's not your cuppa, how about reissues of great albums by Gregg Allman, John Lee Hooker, Linda McCartney, Steve Goodman, and the talented, effervescent Cindy Lee Berryhill?

Finally, the vaults were opened to sneak out vintage (and previously-unreleased) live sets from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Richard Thompson as well as Jefferson Airplane's complete Woodstock performance on three LPs. 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!

Cindy Lee Berryhill's Straight Outta Marysville

Berlin - Transcendance   BUY!
Cindy Lee Berryhill - Garage Orchestra [CD reissue]   BUY!
Cindy Lee Berryhill - Straight Outta Marysville [CD reissue]   BUY!
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Live at Woodstock [CD & vinyl]   BUY!
Cherie Currie & Brie Darling - The Motivator   BUY!
John Lee Hooker - The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Linda McCartney - Wide Prairie [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Ty Segall - First Taste   BUY!
Richard Thompson - Across A Crowded Room: Live At Barrymore’s 1985   BUY!

The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling's Lucky Guy!

Steve Goodman - Santa Ana Winds [CD reissue]   BUY!
Steve Goodman - Unfinished Business [demos & outtakes]   BUY!
Jefferson Airplane - Woodstock: Sunday August 17,1969 [3-LP vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Rocky Kramer - Firestorm   BUY!
The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling - Lucky Guy!   BUY!
Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind    BUY!

Bobby Rush's Sitting On Top of the Blues

The Hold Steady - Thrashing Thru the Passion   BUY!
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Infest the Rats' Nest   BUY!
Peter, Paul & Mary - At Newport 1963-65   BUY!
Oh Sees - Face Stabber   BUY!
Ride - This Is Not A Safe Space   BUY!
Bobby Rush - Sitting On Top of the Blues   BUY!
Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold   BUY!
Frank Turner - No Man's Land   BUY!
Versus - Ex Voto   BUY!

Redd Kross's Beyond the Door

Crobot - Motherbrain   BUY!
Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant OST [CD & vinyl]   BUY!
The Hangmen - Cactusville   BUY!
Coco Montoya - Coming In Hot   BUY!
Redd Kross - Beyond the Door   BUY!
The Rembrandts - Me and Fate   BUY!
The Rubinoos - From Home   BUY!

Gregg Allman's The Gregg Allman Tour

Gregg Allman - Laid Back [deluxe CD & vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Gregg Allman - The Gregg Allman Tour [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters - Beyond the Blue Door   BUY!
The Futureheads - Powers   BUY!
Jesse Malin - Sunset Kids   BUY!
Nirvana - Live and Loud [vinyl reissue]   BUY!

Creedence Clearwater Revival's Live at Woodstock

Album of the Month: Creedence Clearwater Revival's Live at Woodstock is the first release of the legendary band's hour-long set from the August 1969 festival. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the eleven tracks here include some of the most revered classic rock songs of all time. John Fogerty and crew rip through gems like "Born On the Bayou," "Bad Moon Rising," "Proud Mary," "I Put A Spell On You," and "Suzie Q" from CCR's first three LPs. My only question is why did it take so damn long to release this performance? Available on CD or groovy black vinyl...

Archive Review: Manic Street Preachers' Know Your Enemy (2001)

Manic Street Preachers' Know Your Enemy
In the ever-changing Britpop genre, where longevity isn’t a well-known character trait, the Manic Street Preachers have nevertheless managed to forge a decade-long career. From their early ’90s punk guise as “generation terrorists” to a millennial role as popular arena rockers, the Manic Street Preachers have become the respected graybeards of the British pop/rock scene.

Along the way, they have struggled through controversy, sorrow and fleeting trends to emerge as one of the most successful British bands in recent memory. The one thing that has eluded them, however – stateside success – won’t be won with Know Your Enemy, a mixed bag of style and performance.

Manic Street Preachers’ Know Your Enemy

Know Your Enemy opens with a “Suffragette City” inspired roar that propels “Found That Soul” dangerously close to the “raucous and roll” turf inhabited by harder rocking bands like Dogs d’Amour or Hanoi Rocks. James Dean Bradfield’s guitar stings and buzzes like a six-string hornet’s nest while the background rhythm crashes and tumbles behind his vocals. Unfortunately, “Found That Soul” bleeds into “Ocean Spray,” an aggravating piece of shite with wimpy vocals and nonsensical lyrics.

The remainder of Know Your Enemy is a similar roller-coaster ride, mixing breathless rockers like “Intravenous Agnostic” and “Dead Martyrs” with bland pop tripe that wouldn’t pass muster with the most fervent Anglophile. It seems as if the band is trying to reconcile the success of its present with the street credibility of its past, leading to this choppy, frequently ill-conceived collection of songs. When the band rocks, they raise the roof like few others bands can. When they fall down, however – such as with “Miss Europa Disco Dancer” – they are truly embarrassing.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The 1995 disappearance of original lyricist and guitarist Richey James has certainly affected the band, although not as much as some critics claim. The Preachers quartet that included Richey James and the post-James trio that carried on after his mysterious disappearance are two quite different outfits. James’ growing mental illness, penchant for self-mutilation and politically charged lyrics made for a flamboyant and electric style of music, and early Preachers’ albums and bootlegs are prized by their fans.

The post-James band has created their own sound in his absence, incorporating their early random madness with a slicker, more professional pop structure. This direction has led to a certain degree of success that they might never have enjoyed with James running the show. These days, however, the Manic Street Preachers seem to be a band in the midst of an identity crisis, too seldom sounding truly manic and, with Know Your Enemy, preaching only to the faithful. (Virgin Records, released April 24, 2001)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2001

Buy the CD from Amazon: Manic Street PreachersKnow Your Enemy