The Gathering of Beards

Last week I was at Fitzgerald’s to catch the Torche show. I have a been a huge fan theirs ever since I hear their album Meanderthal, decease which carried so much melodic heft it was able to transcend not just the obvious audience but was also able to draw listeners from other, order less, uh, metal circles. With good reason, too, because while the album is pretty damn dense, it is also somewhat open and inviting. Steve Brooks, the frontman, who bears more than a slight resemblance to Jack Black (sorry, dude), manages to coax a really fun vibe from the murk, and ultimately create an album that is not only satisfying from a muscular standpoint, but is just plain fun as hell.

Torche is a band that pretty much constantly tours, and yet, due to my rarely going to shows anymore, this was my first time seeing them.

As it turned out, it was the opening night of their tour. It was also the debut of their new, second guitarist. And they were noticeably a little rusty. Not that it mattered because they were amazing. Even with the shitty sound, the billion degree no AC, and hard-to-hear vocals, they rocked.

I missed the opener, Helms Alee, so, no comment there, though I would have liked to see a heavy band with two women in it.

Next up was Big Business, which for a long time was a bass/drums duo. They now have a guitarist, and while I never got into them, and so, can’t vouch for how they were without guitar, I will say that he added some nice texture and midrange tones that had to have been missing before. The original two guys also play for the Melvins, and listening to Big Business, it was no surprise. They sound a hell of a lot like the Melvins. Overall, they were a bit boring, to be perfectly honest. A little too samey for that sort of stuff, but they had their moments.

Easily the highlight of the night came during the Torche set. Near the end, Brooks hopped off the stage during one of their more driving songs, and started playing from the audience. As cliched as it sounds it was a really light and fun moment. Everyone was smiling, more or less. After a minute or two, Brooks went to climb back up on stage. He quickly realized that he was too short to get up there. He handed his guitar to the bassist, and then turned to make the walk of shame. As he passed me, I laughingly asked him if he had to go around. He looked at me, giggled, and said, “I underestimated it.”

Good stuff. 



Bowel Churning. Coil, Barker, and Hollywood.

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the 1987 movie Hellraiser? It was based on Brit horror writer Cliver Barker’s book the Hellbound heart. Barker directed the film, health and while it isn’t exactly a cinematic masterpiece, recipe it certainly makes up for its lack of sophistication with its overt and outward display of over-the-top goopy gore, pill and utterly absurd acting and special effects.

 

When I finally broke down and rented the video somewhere around 1990 I pretty much hated it. Having said that, over the years there are moments from the movie that have stuck with me. Two lines in particular stand out. The first is the now infamous “Come to daddy” line uttered by the skinless ghoul, Frank, reanimated uncle of the main character, Kirsty. The way he says it is so unnatural and goofy that it was immediately branded on my brain like some sort of long-term time-release capsule of genius. The second line from the movie that I also recite mentally on a damn near regular basis is also from Frank. It’s from when his character is literally torn to pieces by the torture device of the demonic Cenobites, the monsters who take those who solve the puzzle box in the story directly to hell. The moment before his distorted, grimacing face is demolished he looks at Kirsty and says, “Jesus wept.”

 

Totally brilliant. I love that line. It’s so stupid and irreverent at the same time, two things that go so well together, especially in 80s camp horror films.

 

As for the music, I was surprised when I geekishly started looking up info about the film the other day and discovered that the orchestral, and also very cheesy and somewhat appropriately over-the-top soundtrack music by the composer Christopher Young was actually used to replace the original music supplied by the British band Coil.

 

Naturally I had to hunt down the Coil stuff. Also naturally it is light years beyond the music the studio dicks decided to use in its place.

 

In fact, the Coil stuff is revelatory in comparison to its counterpart, and hell, is virtually revelatory in relation to the entire project. Gone is the sheer 80s camp acting, gelatinous, pinkish blood, and rubbery flesh prosthetics. Gone is the laughably terrible lighting effects, smokey atmospherics, and sound work that apparently was created by deaf people. Gone is the waist high mom jeans the poor beautiful heroine is wearing in the movie. In their place is Coil’s moody, creepy, and really pretty awesome music.

 

I like thinking that it was okay to the studio dicks to include a near rape scene between a fleshless reanimated partially disembodied corpse and a teenaged girl, but it was too much to use intense, carefully crafted, and still listenable music for the soundtrack.

 

Maybe they had a vision of a movie that would be a product of its time in every single way, making zero efforts whatsoever to recognize that film is preserved, and that one day the 80s would be over, and that maybe people might look back on that era and laugh at the excesses, the hollowness, and the sheer vanity of those that made things happen back then.

 

You know, kinda like now.

 

http://youtu.be/3zDsnb3kLcs

The Salt Flat

If I don’t post this week, salve that will be three weeks for me during which I have contributed nothing but some blithe comments to this blog. I love the NAP. And yet, buy my ability to pontificate on music has waned deeply into the arena of uselessness.

For all the reasons that I contribute to the NAP, having a passion for writing about music isn’t one of them. Not even close, to be perfectly honest.

Having said that, I do love to write. I love recording words in a readable format. Unfortunately, I am also exceedingly capable of being spooked. I am the deer in the headlights of creative pursuits. It takes but a little flash of the brights and I am running manically for the cover of the forest. Can’t help it, it’s in my blood.

So this week, I give you some random things that have damn near plagued me these last few weeks. Here goes nothing . . .

1. The Swedish post-metal band Cult of Luna makes music that is a fair approximation of how I feel. You know, to me. I don’t expect anyone else to even get what the fuck that mans. I just think their music is emotional and compelling, but mostly on a personal level.

If you were hanging out with me and asked to have me sell them to you, I would gladly do so. Since you have wisely done no such thing, suffice to day that I love them. Okay?

2. Listening to r&b, funk, and hip-hop in a club setting is far more satisfying for me right now than rock. Or, at least I though so until the place I was in that swayed me shut the place down by playing a Fugazi track. It was magical.

3. My buddy is on the cusp of breaking out of our mundane job environment and making a name for himself in a world that has intrigued him for many years. I hope like hell he pulls it off. Love that dude.

4. I need to pick up that motherfucking guitar and do something with it. I just do.

5. I love music. There is no music. The same goes for love.

6. Carry on.

7. Take a bit of a moment, sit in silence, understand, and smile. I am joining you.

8. Yeah.

 

The Tools of Terror

I’m currently watching the French miniseries about the Chilean terrorist, patient Carlos the Jackal. Generally speaking, this was the guy who ushered in the modern era of international terrorist activity on a grand scale.

The show is fantastic, I highly recommend it. But the thing I want to write about is a bit disturbing to me. Call me bourgeois and shove a pipe bomb up my nether portal, but this is what sticks with me as far as how the series relates to music.

The producers of the series have gone to great lengths to insure a sense of 70s realism in the set design, costumes, lighting, feel, and music. I lived in France for five years, was, in fact, living there during the time covered during the series, which I find a bit odd, considering that not only have my parents never mentioned that we lived in a city being terrorized by a guy named Carlos the Jackal, but that my best friend was actually the son of the Saudi Ambassador to Paris. No lie. I have to imagine that the Uzi-laden guards that patrolled his apartment building (his family literally lived on an entire floor of the large building) were somewhat vigilant, considering the climate.

Anyway, there are a couple scenes in the movie during which the music really stands out. The director uses several Wire songs prominently in the film, and so far, almost through the first 100 minute episode, the stand out moments are when the Wire song (not sure which) kicks in, and you are bathed in pure post punk glory. Thing is, both times this happens, you are also treated to a full-frontal shot of Carlos and his terrorist member.

Now I have two new things to deal with in my future life.

1) I will forever associate the band Wire with Carlos the Jackal’s penis.

And,

2) I can’t remember what number two is because all I can think of is how cool that song is but how uneasy I feel whenever I think about it because it conjures up the terror weiner.

Have a great week.

 

 

Hell

Not too long ago I wrote a post about karaoke. I’m sure you all remember it because it was the balls.

Basically, my point was that in the course of my life l have spent very little time even considering the potential merits of karaoke.

In the end, I sort-of revised my all-encompassing view of karaoke as the aesthetic equivalent of puppy fucking to reach a somewhat uneasy truce with it.

Then came last Friday night.

Friday night I accompanied a friend to a little spot called PJ’s Sports Bar. One of her coworkers was on the tens-deep list of upcoming singers, and according to my friend, this guy’s performances were too ridiculous to miss.

For a little background, it might help to note that this was the same building in which my old band the Mike Gunn performed an insane show easily fifteen years previous. The place was packed, and those present were jumping up and down so much you could see the floor starting to buckle. Good times. And now, all these years later, the place isn’t looking well. It clearly has had little more done to improve it than a few-dozen poorly-applied coats of cheap paint.

Then there’s the crowd. Man, I had no idea people got such boners just to sing over a crap backing track of Am I the Only One by Melissa Etheridge. Who knew her stuff was so universally adored?

It was on this night that I learned the terrible truth of karaoke, that which I had so deeply feared: when it’s bad, it’s so very bad.

Turn after turn, singer after singer, a litany of untalented, atonal, seemingly deaf drunks got up and butchered yet another overly long pop nugget. Without fail, and to the one, they were absolutely horrible. And to top it off, the guy that was hosting the event, the guy that ran the machine, signed people up, and announced whomever was next, also sang. Yep, that’s right. He took the liberty to sing “harmony” over the person on stage. And while he was hands-down the best singer in the bunch, he was still unbearable.

Just to drive this home, he took the mic for one tune and completely raped Alice in Chains’ song Would so badly that I felt bad for the band.

I would like to make a quick note with regards to the bar. I had to have drinks. It was the only way I was going to survive. So I order a Dos Equis. Not exactly a premium beer. But at PJ’s, a Dos Equis will set you back $4.75. Yeah, five bucks for a cheap, watered down Mexican beer. Fuck that. It’s not like I’m in some exclusive, line out the door, red carpet, might meet Shaq sort of place. This is a dilapidated, ramshackle piece of crap old building, held together by latex paint and vomit. If you don’t duck your head going up the stairs, you could get decapitated. If you sat on the couch, you would need a tetanus shot. and if you went to the bar, you would pay five fucking dollars for the cheapest beer in the place.

Fuck that.

And then came the guy we were there to see.

When I was in high school, there were the folks that were in drama class. They put on plays, and they found an outlet for their already overbearing theatrical personalities. The guy we went to see was one of those guys. He was so excited about his song selection that he was practically shaking.

Once he took the stage, he announced that this would be his death metal version of the song about to play. Which apparently was much to the delight of the audience. And then the song started. Britney Spears’ Oops, I Did it Again.

And this guy busts out a histrionic, absurd, and utterly tortuous rendition of the song. The audience was rapt, completely taken by this guy’s irrepressibly caucasian gyrations, and endlessly amused by his grotesque dismemberment of the song itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with camp, or satire, or humor, but to watch this guy was measurably less pleasurable than, say, watching a mass dolphin slaughter.

It was pure hell. And it was not death fucking metal. At all.

And so I would like take this opportunity to say that I formally denounce karaoke. It is pure bad. Nothing good can come of it. People practice singing for a reason: so that they can get better. That’s why standing in front of a room full of people, paying too much for drinks in a social setting, with absolutely no ability to sing, or entertain an audience, is an intrinsically terrible idea.

Out.

 

Face Down in the Dirt

(I got this image from the Ticketweb site, lemme know if it’s yours and I’ll take it down.)

Back in the glorious 80s, when I was going to a crap-ton of hardcore shows over at Houston’s seminal Cabaret Voltaire, in a sea of awesome, inspiring bands, there were a few that were a head and shoulders above. Austin’s the Offenders were definitely way, way up there on my list.

It seems so hard to imagine now, but during the early and mid 80s, showing up at a hardcore show having anything close to long hair was a surefire invitation for a fight. When the Offenders took the stage, there on the right was the guitar player: long hair, playing a Les Paul, and wearing a leather motorcycle jacket. Not only was this guy a long hair (as everyone called them back then), he was also looking suspiciously metal. It helps to understand that back then that if a guy showed up at a hardcore show resembling anything even vaguely metal it was pretty much an open invitation to get his ass kicked. I’m not defended this cliquish partisanship, I might add, merely shining a little light on the way things were in those days.

As for Tony Offender, no one batted an eye. Or, if they did, they did so at their own peril, because this was a room that loved this guy and would surely defend any sketchy behavior. And anyways, one show later, and anyone who was unfamiliar would most-likely be won-over.

The Offenders owned the stage. They owned the place. They took any doubt anyone in the room had and crushed it under a well-played, super high-energy, muscular set of well-written songs. Even the biggest group of morons in the room, the skinheads, were on-board for the night. The Offenders were one of those bands that defined an era, a sound, and a region. Every place had some. I’d like to think that Texas was home to some of the most unique and creative hardcore acts to come out of the entire world. As an example, the Offenders not only covered the 1966 Supremes classic You Keep Me Hanging On, they blew it out of the water, turning it into a hardcore anthem. Also, their song Face Down in the Dirt is simply a classic. In fact, their album Endless Struggle is just simply the shit. Hands down. A fantastic record from start to finish. They have organ on the damn thing! And it totally fits. I think seeing Tony play was like an inroad for me as to how a guitarist could play technically well and still outdo all the chord bashers in the scene. You didn’t have to pretend you couldn’t play anything more than power chords and still be considered hardcore. Not only that, but Tony showed that playing with texture and intelligence, and yes be metal, wasn’t a bad thing.

And there was so many more influential Texas hardcore bands other than the Offenders; we also had the Dicks, the Big Boys, Really Red, DRI, MDC, the Rhythm Pigs, and on top of countless others, the Party Owls. And yes, there were countless others, but this is about Tony Offender.

Tony has apparently been diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer; and to add insult to injury, he was laid off recently from his job. So while he is very sick, he also is not working; and best of all, he no longer has health insurance, and is trying to make payments to Cobra to sustain his benefits.

This is a terrible blow to an absolutely essential Texas musician, and a guy who had a massive influence on my own personal musical development.

Emo’s in Austin is putting on a show in Tony’s benefit, as is the Parlor on North Loop, also in Austin, and anyone who can ought to attend. Also, anyone who has anything extra to give ought to donate to his cause. As musicians in Texas, the guy deserves our thanks.

 

Diddy’s Dirty Money

A guy I work with is a big Diddy’s Dirty Money fan (which is P. Diddy’s latest project, sovaldi sale for those who aren’t in the know, shop much like myself until he brought it to my attention).  The album itself is like a sort of trip-hop, buy cialis eclectic rap odyssey, run-through with Diddy’s ultra-lazy delivery. I wish I could say I hated it, but the two ladies that he has wisely employed to do all of the actual singing on the record are actually somewhat entertaining.

Anywho, I’m not gonna review a record none of you care about, in this post. I just wanted to make a little point about money.

I saw that Diddy was bring his show here to Houston over at Warehouse Live, and so I went online out of curiosity just to see what a ticket to this might go for, thinking my coworker might want to buy himself one.

In order to be awarded the privilege of watching Diddy’s latest world conquest, at a standing only club, you will have to fork over $58.40 just to get in the door. Drinks, and whatever else you might intend to purchase, would set you back mountains more. As for the ticket itself, the actual ticket price is $49.50, and then you tack on the $8.90 surcharge, and you find yourself basically looking at spending sixty fucking dollars to watch this show.

My question is this. Who the fuck can afford to see shows at this price? It’s like movie tickets. I took my two kids to go see the tragically terrible Gnomeo and Juliet, because, well, because you take them to see what they want to see. otherwise they would have begged to leave about two minutes into Biutiful. Bad call. So, when I took them to see Gnomeo, it cost me $30. Thirty dollars, to take two kids to the movies? What the fuck is wrong with this picture? It’s a bloody miracle anyone pays to see movies anymore. Wait a little while and just watch it on Netflix. It’s no wonder so many people just pirate the shit nowadays.

Yes, it’s fair to say that scant few of the people that read this would ever even consider a show like this, but still, the point is valid. What the fuck is wrong with this picture if in order to go see a band play a club, a mid-scale venue at best, you have to shell out sixty dollars for one ticket?

Am I just out of my skull here? What do you guys pay for concert tickets? I’m trying real hard to think of anyone I would shell that much out for, and all I can come up with is festival shows at which are billed 10 to 15 bands, many of which I might be really glad to see. And even then, I hate festival shows. I think they’re grueling, it’s usually too hot, or raining, or both. You can’t hear shit. And you have to sit through someone like Billy Corgan, or Tila Tequila because someone thought it would be cute to put them on the bill.

Fuck that.

Let’s stick to $20, max, and that’s reserved for a superband reunion, or a benefit for an actually worthy cause, or something like that. Music is for everyone. Everyone like the largely black, and largely not filthy rich target audience for a pop-minded guy like Diddy. And that is something that has always bothered me about the hip-hop scene. This obsessive clinging to commodifying your trade at the expense of so much else.

$60. It boggles my brain.

So much so, that I turned my post in five days late. Again.

Have a nice two days.

 

Tea Leaves For The Unglued

Shit. I damn near skipped a week. Music, look to talk about it. I want to post a video and just move on. For some vain reason, viagra sale I simply am not there yet. And there are so many reasons that speak for themselves. Vanity, find meet the NAP, and let’s roll.

So, yeah. So, okay, where the fuck am I in music? What can I tell you this week, five days late, something I swore I would never do, and now am doing as we speak, that is worth a shit?

Oopsy, almost forgot, none of this is worth a shit. None of my stuff, anyway. I spew. Feel better. Move on. And the next day comes.

This may be the week during which I literally have nothing to say.

This may well be it.

Music is a seasoning on my life. I sprinkle it on, often too heavily, and it makes the meds go down.

So, I’ll use that skewed logic and tell you what inspired me this week.

Nope.

I don’t even have that in me right now.

Maybe next week.

Here’s the for now.

The Rothko Chapel is easily one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited in my life. It would behoove you to know that there are many places that have iconically tattooed themselves onto my brain thus far, and that to follow suit, the Chapel is right up there. It resonates with me on many levels.

This weekend, in typical Cramer fashion, I discovered after the fact that the chapel was putting on a concert in honor of the 40th anniversary of its opening. The Morton Feldman piece for the chapel was played, as well as an Eric Satie piece, and some Cage, and finally a big chunk of music from a composer called Mansurian.

41 years ago on the 25th of February, Mark Rothko gave up in the ultimate way — he intentionally overdosed and then slit his wrists. I think I know pain. I guess I have no idea. As for his work. The depth of emotional intensity has gripped me for many years. And as I get older, I get it more and more. I am nourished, inspired, and intimidated by the oceans of humanity in his work.

Merely imagining how much I would have gained from this performance is uplifting for me. Imagine how I would have felt had I actually attended the show? I have to glean meaning from the detritus you throw to the curb. Tea leaves for the unglued. Welcome. It gets worse.

Story of my fucking life.

Out.

 

Sing

In retrospect, the canopy may have been more of a memory than an actual experience. It was so dark, I couldn’t really see the oak limbs netting over the street as I got out of my car. However, having been there so many times before, I knew the layout with my eyes closed. Not only that, I had replayed, and still replay, the day, that day, so many times that I can go there, and yet still not be there, anytime I like.

That’s an agony — wanting, and coming so close, and ultimately not getting anything out of it. And I live it, wear it like a glove. I serve it breakfast on an old country table, coffee from a bowl, hand-churned butter on its toast. And then I kick it out without ceremony, because that’s the way I do things. And the next day, I make it an omelette.

I took myself in all my glory around the way, as I have done so many times before. But this time, there was a great weight around me, I was carrying all the flight’s bags, and they packed heavy. It was cold. I felt it, but I was prepared. I stopped, used my inner eye and saw it all, all over again, and it was as bittersweet as ever. It was laden with promise, but now a promise laced with arsenic, should one be so bold as to test the waters once more. I test the waters daily.

You wouldn’t believe the guests I’ve welcomed to the table. Ugly, inconsiderate brutes who shit on their plates and wipe their asses with the linen. And every night, I welcome them back, hopeful that things might improve.

It’s time to tell you the truth. And it won’t set you free at all.

There is no music. Only waves. And eventually even the biggest waves will fade away. Back from wherever it was they came. Nothing good is served by this reasoning, but you know what they say about the messenger.

Alright, just go ahead and sing a song. Sing your favorite song. Sing it for me. I want you to mean it. Somehow I will hear it. And walk away with a handful of grass. I like that image. I’ll meditate on that to pass the time. Sing.

I Wentz Had a Dream

Back in 2008, during that long, hot summer (like all long, hot Houston summers), the pits of hell cracked open, and with the sulfuric, vaporous tendrils that wrapped their wicked way around our souls came the announcement of a deed so nefarious, so delicously deviant, it defied description. As your dutiful reporter of the underworld, I reported on this cataclysm right here in the ol’ NAP.

That’s right, Pete Wentz, the miniature, oily bassist of Fall Out Boy, married Ashlee Simpson, the chin-dimpled, no-talent chanteuse, and sister of chin-dimpled man-woman, Jessica Simpson (sexual napalm, according to John Mayer).

That’s the stuff of dreams, my friends. On the for-real tip.

Celebunuptuals have always held a soft spot in my withered heart because if there’s one thing you can count on in Celebuland, it’s failed celebunuptuals.

I have made great leaps in my efforts to curtail, or at least subdue, my scorn for total strangers. Yet when it comes to certain things, like say, murder, or celebrity weddings, something in me dies and I am filled with shame at having to share genetic material with creatures such as these. Therefore, it follows that whenever these little unions, soaked throughout in the blood of the innocent, unravel (and they always do), an angel gets its wings. Or, I smile, and a tiny piece of scar tissue on my soul is replace with something fresh and vital.

It happened. They are calling it off. I am beside myself. I am awash, basking in the half-life of the shards of the empty vessels of their broken hearts.

I am a sick man. But it gets worse.

Last night, another restless one like so many before, I had a dream. I was in Emo’s Houston. I was by the pinball machine by the left entrance, and guess who I was talking to? Yup. Pete Wentz. He had three huge bodyguards. I remember he smelled like soil and wet leather. I have no idea what we were talking about. No doubt it was something like which hair removal technique works best, or how many times you can wear the same pair of pants before you have to hire a surgeon to remove them, or what it’s like to to be endorsed not by Fender basses but Squire ones.

Whatever it was, I know it was choice.

May you find many more vapid, meaningless partners in your lives, both of you. You have my word that I’ll be here when it falls apart.