Friday, September 1, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: The Cells, Rose Tattoo, Disarray, 'Streetwise' DVD (2002)

The Cells' We Can Replace You

The Cells’ web site describes the band’s music as “high decibel post-pop and loud, loud guitars,” about as apt a label as this critic could ever create for the Chicago rockers. We Can Replace You (Orange Recordings), the band’s enormous debut album, features frontman Cory Hance’s distinctive nasal vocal style and guitarist Pat McIntyre’s snarling axework. Drummer Randy Payne and former Figdish bassist Rick Ness add massive, crashing rhythms to the songs, every tune on We Can Replace You a perfectly manufactured three-to-four minute slice of pure rock ‘n’ roll. “Silver Cloud” explores the perils of fame, fictional and otherwise while “Vinyl” offers the suggestion of automotive therapy for the angry and heartbroken. Hance’s bratty vocals rise above McIntyre’s tireless fretwork, spitting out the lyrics of “Say Hello” as the song spirals into a cacophony of feedback before evolving into “What You Did.” A radio-friendly pop song with a memorable riff and relentless wall-of-sound instrumentation, “What You Did” is a fine example of the Cells’ craft. Every song on We Can Replace You is an unpolished gem, the Cells a band with so much life and energy that they sound loud even when they’re being quiet.

Australia’s Rose Tattoo are a rowdy bunch o’ fellows, old school beat messiahs that only know two ways to rock ‘n’ roll: hard and loud. The band has been plying its trade for better than two decades now, instruments turned up past ten and lead singer “Angry” Anderson assaulting his audience with gravel-voiced, full-throttle vocals. Virtual deities both “Down Under” and “Over There” in Europe, Rose Tattoo have never caught on stateside beyond a dedicated gang o’ headbangers. The band’s latest album, Pain (Steamhammer Records), offers everything that any hard rock fan could want. With precise guitar licks sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel, courtesy of Pete Wells and Rockin’ Rob Riley, and driving rhythms built, brick by brick, by bassist Steve King and drummer Paul DeMarco, Pain rocks like a house afire.

Rose Tattoo's Pain
The band’s “Union Man” is a raucous rave-up about the merits of organized labor while “I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky” is an old-fashioned, sappy love song paired with high-voltage instrumentation. “One More Drink With the Boys” is exactly what you’d expect from the title, a barroom ballad delivered with plenty o’ blood, sweat and tears while “Illustrated Man” stands as the band’s theme song. A biker anthem with hard-as-nails vocals and screaming guitar riffs, “Illustrated Men” is a perfect example of “100% rock ‘n’ roll,” Rose Tattoo’s statement of purpose and the band’s guiding light through all these years. Somewhere along the way, hard rock went astray, but Rose Tattoo, with Pain, still play with the fire in the belly and unabashed passion of lifers.

So-called “nu metal” bands are a dime a dozen these days. The phrase itself sounds like a hip marketing ploy, an artificial label used as an epitaph by some critics and as a creative pigeonhole by others. Some bands, such as Mushroomhead or System of A Down, manage to break through the barriers of lame marketing and poor writing on the strength of their talent. Disarray, on the other hand, use their latest album In the Face of the Enemy (Eclipse Records) to literally annihilate the “nu metal” barrier. This three-piece leviathan crushes industry mannequins and mindless critics beneath a ferocious aural onslaught, driving their artistic enemies to either madness or oblivion much like their musical forbears, metal mavens Gwar, did a decade ago.

Disarray's In The Face of the Enemy
In the Face of the Enemy
is a high-speed car wreck of a heavy metal album, produced with a wonderful lack of subtlety by Gwar’s Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie). With their instruments set on dismember, Disarray proceeds to slice and dice forty-five minutes of soundwaves with brute force and extreme insensitivity. Tunes like “To This Day” and “Path of No Regret” display a certain alienation and “might is right” Darwinian philosophy, the angry young men of Disarray reflecting the hopes and fears of the band’s growing teen audience. Frontman Chuck Bonnett’s rough-hewn vocals sound like he blistered his pipes with battery acid at an early age. His guitar talks even louder, tho’, firing off staccato riffs and mixing classic crash-n-bash metal with thrash and hardcore punk, a heady sonic brew supported with devilish glee by bassist Vance Wright and drummer Dave Peridore. Forget about all those “nu metal” poseurs tiptoeing through Linkin Park – Disarray are the “nu” face of metal, LOUD, hard, and as unforgiving as a fist.

Now that he is a TV sitcom dad, the new millennium’s Ozzie Nelson, Mr. & Mrs. Osbourne’s annual Ozzfest summer tour is, without a doubt, poised on the brink of primetime success. For a look back at previous Ozzfest shows, check out the first issue of Streetwise DVD music magazine, available at FYE Music stores nationwide or online at This cheap-o priced, value-packed videozine is divided into sections, the first offering feature stories like “Ozzfest Takes On the World” and “Marilyn Manson Sounds Off.” The “Main Stage” features music videos from rockers like Drowning Pool, Weezer and an ultra-cool, Clockwork Orange-inspired vid by Rob Zombie. The “Side Stage” showcases videos by up-and-comers like 3rd Strike, Otep, and the super-foxy Lennon. A “Back Stage” section provides video stories and interview segments with folks like Bad Religion and Glassjaw. The production is top-notch and the graphics are pretty nifty, although you do have to sit through a certain amount of advertising to see the content. With plans to publish quarterly, the maniacs at Go Street have created a winner in their Streetwise DVD magazine. Did I mention that it’s only $5.00 retail? (View From The Hill, August 2002)

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