Not Start With Links?
Queequeg gave you this link last ish but that was months ago
so here it is again in case you didn't click on it. Mark Prindle
rules. He and Andrew Earles are the best. Even I, Dolman the
Great, am merely in third place. The interview archive is
almost as good as the review archive -- somehow Prindle actually
got King Buzzo to give three or four straight answers in his
interview, instead of the usual zero -- and the non-straight
answers are some of Buzz's most hilarious yet.
and Andrew Earles can be found at failedpilot.com.
Buy some of those back issues of Cimarron Weekend while they
last. No, you have to. I stress the word "have."
It is, how you say, imperative? Please. Here's the link again:
(Waitaminnit, this just in, props MUST also be given to Earles's
Cimarron Weekend cohort Dave Dunlap! This is guy is just as
good! Maybe even better! But as far as I know he has no wordage
on the web. Yet another reason to get those back issues.)
links: There's J.
Niimi, who's like the new Greil Marcus, in a way that
you actually want to read. And of course Blastitude contributing
Sienko. Oh, and Jay
Hinman has got a blog now. I've actually been reading
Reynolds's blog lately, and actually getting a lot of
info out of it, and although his Wire-y style still grates
it's at least more casual when he's blogging. Another Wire
guy with a blog is Ian
Penman -- in the stodgy Wire his style is pretty refreshing,
but as a blog makes almost no sense to me at all. Oh, and
on Hinman's blog, try and find a link he has to a some Australian
guy's blog, where he talks about the Royal Trux albums one-by-one.
Makes you wanna spin some Trux . . . then there's Aaron
Burgess, music journalist, family man. He's a little tougher
nut to crack than all these other class clowns, more the clean-cut
wiseacre from the FBLA, but he does write reviews of Arab
on Radar, and his son is cute.
Hip Hop Lyric Archive: ohhla.com.
Alice Cooper biography! At :
writes in: "My nomination for the best site on the web.
Just try to beat it. http://www.michaelkelly.fsnet.co.uk/karl.htm
see, I grew up in an Iowa farm community, where my tastes
were considered "adventurous" just because I bothered
to read the Artist Top Tens in the Rolling Stone Year-End
Special Issues. I first heard of Naked City and Godflesh when
Mike Patton listed their albums in those pages, so I went
out and bought both of 'em, which sent me and apparently two
or three thousand other nerds off to a collegiate lifestyle
that consists of reading about tons of records, and then buying
tons of records, and then, while maybe listening to a tiny
fraction of the records you just bought, reading about tons
more records, and then buying those, and then, while maybe
listening to 'em . . . you get the idea.
A lot of artists put
lists of records they think you should buy right on the liner
notes of their album, like John Zorn did with Naked City's
Radio album. Let me just say I was once grateful
that Mike Patton introduced me to John Zorn, but now I really
regret it. Like, "Damn, I wish I hadn't met that crack
dealer when I was 15." Cuz when the drug in question
is 'academic composition and improvisation" disguised
as "a way for the consumer to consider himself different
than/ahead of the herd while still being a total consumer,"
you just get led down a multi-colored primrose listen-but-don't-touch
path of pre-arranged non-conformity straight to getting stuck
in a really quiet bog where nothing ever happens. Except listening
to weird saxophone playing while reading 'faves' lists by
other 'non-conforming' artists.
is why I mention that, "Every Friday, Dusted
Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined
by our favorite artists." This project has already yielded
voluminous results, which revise Warhol's Maxim to read, "In
the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes and/or
have a 'faves' list published in some sort of magazine, most
likely on the internet." Now that everyone's doing it,
a lot of them aren't gonna be that interesting, or just tell
you things you already knew, but Dusted has gotten enough
interesting underground-lurking characters to do it that you're
bound to spend some time there. And, you will get LOTS of
ideas for records to buy. (I mean borrow, burn, or steal.)
Don't miss the outright pretentiously
ecstatic list by Comets on Fire mainman Ethan Miller, the
intellectually terrifying one by the leader of Men's Recovery
Project, and the "fuckin' killer" one by Aaron Dilloway
from Wolf Eyes/Hanson Records, one of the most 'rock' pieces
of 'rock writing' I've ever read that wasn't by Bangs, Meltzer,
or in Cimarron Weekend. Oh, and just 'cause I gave Headdress
by Sunburned Hand of the Man a lukewarm review elsewhere in
this ish doesn't mean I didn't get a huge kick out of John
Moloney's list, which is big-hearted, funny, and inspiring.
Best part is when his loft/band-mate puts on some Vibracathedral
Orchestra, unannounced, and he exclaims, "When did we
do this? This is the fuckin' nut!"
of lists! Since Dusted Magazine hasn't asked me yet, I will
now act as if you give a <hoot> and toss online this
"now listening to" list I jotted down about 5 months
Fahey: Everything (and his book is
killer too, reminds me of Philip K. Dick -- they seem to have
a physical resemblance too).
"Last Days Boogie": Maybe
not as good as certain Mudhoney singles, but by far the best
Mudhoney album ever. (No members of Mudhoney were involved
in the making of this record.)
Lightning Bolt "Wonderful Rainbow":
Best nu-metal band of all time.
The Antiseen: All. Considering
the reports of violence, this is a dead-sounding band, southern
doom-punk played on a really loud tin can. Special props for
when they backed up G.G. Allin, except Jeff Clayton stayed
in the band, so it was like violent punk with twin lead singers.
The song went "VIOLENCE NOW!!! VIOLENCE NOW!!!
Assassinate the president of the United States!"
Wolf Eyes "Dead Hills":
Their most perfect album. Too perfect? Nope.
V/A "Bulb Singles #1": History,
The Moglass "Kogda Vse Zveri Shili Kak Dobzye
Sosedi": An entire CD (not CDR)
of transmitted mandible chatter from Jupiter (but the mailing
is in the Ukraine). Like the Conet Project only it's a band.
Carly Ptak "Prepare Yourself":
A masterpiece of the genre. (Which is rock,
or broken electronic spazz rock, to be specific.)
Mammal "We Are Real" CS,
"Fog Walkers" LP: Talk about broken
electro spazz rock masterpieces. Actually, Mammal is more
of a D.J. -- he works solo and
makes you dance.
Funkadelic "America Eats Its Young":
Like the Band, only black. Bernie
Worrell = Garth Hudson.
Band "Music From Big Pink": Like
Funkadelic, only white. A little more subdued, a little more
polite (a lot more white), but even more heartbreaking.
Royal Trux "Singles Live Unreleased":
Actually, maybe this is the white Funkadelic.
Or at least it's the 1990s America Eats Its Young,
with a special third record added to account for urge overkill
like that I'm not supposed to like:
Smog "Dongs of Sevotion"
Unrest "Cath Carroll"
Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"
The Shins "Oh, Inverted World"
this one only TWO months old:
Get Hustle "Dream Eagle" (see
USAISAMONSTER "Masonic Chronic EP" (see
All the Hyped2Death
stuff (it never ends)
Faun Fables "Early Song" (it's
got the spook)
Gays in the Military "The Ancient Art of Meat-Smoking":
The best rockwriter rock since . . . Vom???
Black Dice: Entire output
(CMS put almost everything they've ever released on two CDRs,
one for Beaches and Canyons and one for everything
else, and the verdict is in: they are and always were a great
Sun City Girls: A bunch of
their cassettes -- Exotica on $5 A Day, To Cover Up Your Right
To Live, Bleach Has Feelings Too, Famous Asthma, The Fresh
Kill of a Cape Hunting Dog, those might be the right titles,
to name just a few. Some are 60 minutes, some are 90 minutes.
I've got 'em all on this stack of CDRs, no information, just
the title scrawled, with one track for each cassette side.
Each one of them is AMAZING. I wouldn't change a note.
Songs CD in the mail today and I've
already listened to it FOUR times. Usually, if I listen to
something TWICE total that means I really like it.
Most I've Ever Written About Neo No Wave
A guy wrote Blastitude and said that we offered the best coverage
of "noise, no wave, etc." music. Why thank you,
I agree. Other magazines mention it, like Pitchfork and Magnet
will review releases on labels like Load/Skin Graft/Bulb,
but I think the reason it doesn't seem like they're saying
too much about it is because there's no name for it, other
than mostly "No Wave" and "Neo No Wave."
Calling it "No Wave"
was the doing of Weasel Walter. Thanks, Hanks (Weasel is like
the Tom Hanks of the scene, I mean that as a compliment),
for giving all this a direction over the last 10 (!) years,
but I don't think people are too comfortable with just calling
it No Wave. That makes the charges of stylistic appropriation
pretty hard to refute. A lot of people amended it to Neo No
Wave, but that's even more apologetic. No one wants to be
categorized, but at the same time, there is a drive for any
movement to categorize itself, so that the people who share
the movement can be on a first-name basis, as it were. But
doesn't naming lead to conformity? The apparently inevitable
slide from soul mentality to club mentality to herd mentality?
I don't know, but people are trying to call it something new,
a name that hasn't referred to any past genres.
Speaking of the past,
how about a little history: the term "No Wave" was
first applied in 1978 to a scene of about 40 people in New
York City. They made one record, a compilation produced by
world rock superstar Brian Eno, that became legendary. This
was the ultimate weird punk rock, gnashing and hissing, punk's
obnoxious bar band riffing taken out of the bar and into the
street, played as sheer clatter. These bands were actually
quite scary and laid down quite a gauntlet, one that no one
else fully picked up for another decade at least. A thousand
bands, Black Flag and all their children, were totally punk
rock, but they weren't exactly weird; and another thousand
bands, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, whoever, were weird but
they totally weren't punk rock, thus making them really annoying.
Some bands, like The Pixies and The Cure, tried really hard
to be both punk and weird but didn't quite convince as either.
Bands that actually were both decisively weird and decisively
punk rock, and therefore No Wave, were few and far between:
The Birthday Party and the Butthole Surfers are the only two
I can think of right now, but maybe I'm totally clueless.
(I'd actually include the Minutemen and even the Meat Puppets
as No Wave, but I don't think a lot of people would agree.
I'd also include the Sun City Girls. Oh, how about Whitehouse!
And Flipper! Oh, and of course Red Transistor and VON LMO,
but I've actually never heard either. I did just listen to
Scott Foust's amazing retrospective cassette The Fighting
Sensualist today, and he was totally doing No Wave stuff
throughout the 80s. It made me laugh because also today I
bought the new Wire with its "New Weird America"
story on the whole free folk movement, Sunburned Hand on the
cover, NNCK, Charalambides/Scorces, Matthew Valentine, Jack
Rose/Pelt, you know, and in the introduction to the article
author David Keenan writes that free folk is "an alternative
to the no wave revivalism of the nation's urban centres."
So it's free folk vs. no wave, but Chris Corsano, who is pictured
in the "New Weird America" article, plays on the
Scott Foust cassette. So Foust has one foot in both camps,
or doesn't care to align himself with either. I think Blastitude
is like that too. Of course most people are all too eager
to choose sides. For example, I think the no wave camp thinks
the free folk camp is a little . . . soft. It's like punks
vs. hippies all over again. I think Sunburned Hand of the
Man is a little worried about being seen as hippies too, because
their spokesman John Moloney comes off as a tough guy, with
this statement getting a drop quote: "Pretentious assholes,
arm folders, negative hipcats, they're everywhere and we're
out to get them." That could've just as easily been said
by a no waver. Hell, it could've been said by anybody in a
band, because all bands ever talk about now is how lame their
audiences are. Of course I see what they're talking about
-- after all, I live in Chicago -- but I think these kinds
of chidings make rock audiences even more self-conscious and
either make them withdraw totally into some "attitude"
shell or try too hard to act extroverted, pumping their fist
in the air every now and then for a few seconds just to prove
that they're not an "arm folder." Fuck it, you just
have to let audiences do what they're gonna do. It's ALWAYS
the responsibility of the band to move the crowd, never the
other way around. If the audience is lame, well, band, that
means you're just not quite good enough. Seriously.)
Anyway, so you had
a few No Wave bands scattered around in the 80s going into
the 90s, but I can't think of any time the gauntlet was picked
up OFFICIALLY until the early-to-mid 90s, when Weasel Walter,
who lived in Chicago, Illinois, started describing his bands
and the bands they played with as "Chicago No Wave."
The idea of bands playing "No Wave" 15 years after
the original movement made sense nationally, as it had already
been going on in places other than Chicago, with two particular
nexuses in the San Francisco Bay Area of California (not a
surprise at all) and Providence, Rhode Island (really not
a surprise either because it's an art school haven and it's
a short jaunt from there to New York, Boston, the entire freaky
in fact been called "the new Cleveland," because
Cleveland was, in retrospect, the left-field location of the
roots of No Wave (Pere Ubu and The Electric Eels), but I think
Ann Arbor is/was the new Cleveland. For one thing, it's only
a couple hundred miles away, and for another, it's the town
from which the debut single by the band Couch came. This record
came out in 1993, and as far as I can tell it's the ur-statement
of the 2nd Wave of No Wave. Then again, the first Flying Luttenbachers
releases were in 1992 . . . ah hell, Chicago No Wave is Ann
Arbor No Wave and vice versa, because they're close together
and there was cross-pollination between the cities. Ann Arbor
may be the New Cleveland, but Chicago had the larger population,
the loudest spokesman for the scene in Rev. Walter, and a
lot of relatively professional record labels like Skin Graft
and Atavistic. Plus, the Ann Arbor claim kind of faded when
the original Couch duo broke up; Velocity Hopkins moved to
Providence because he knew things were jumping there, while
Marlon Magas joined forces with Chicago, moving there and
starting a damn good band called Lake of Dracula, with the
Weaz himself on guitar. (The third member of Couch, Aaron
Dilloway, holds down the Ann Arbor fort with the even-more-underground-than-Bulb
label Hanson.) There were more than enough other NO-table
bands in Chi-Town, such as The Scissor Girls, Bobby Conn,
U.S. Maple, Cheer-Accident, the short-lived Monitor Radio,
and Quintron the Spellcaster, who furthered the Chicago/Ann
Arbor conneciton by putting out records on Bulb. In 1997,
Greg Chapman wrote in Ugly American #12, "As of right
now, Providence is Rock City USA with Chicago closing in fast
(or is it vice versa?)." I guess I think it's vice versa,
anyone else have an opinion?
What was going on in
The Bay Area should really be a whole different essay. It
seems somewhat removed from the Chicago/Providence axis, but
in SF the Ralph Records tradition is HUGE, and there's all
the sundry freaks giving it spice, from LaVey to Turkington
to fucking Caroliner, with key labels like Nuf Sed, Blackjack,
Amarillo, and these days SF has so much No Wave going on that
it literally hurts. Weasel lives there now, the Caroliner
family is still doing all kinds of stuff, there's Deerhoof,
the great Erase Errata, and then all the bands like Numbers
and the Dwyer bands who are making No Wave into some kind
of s(l)ick joke.
But what to call
it? Another leading Bay Area No Wave band is Total Shutdown.
I haven't actually heard them, but it was an article about
them that inspired this little thinkpiece. It's in the new
issue of Perfect Sound Forever, and in it author Jose Marmeleira
calls this Neo No Wave thing "Hardcore's 2nd Wave."
It's funny, because I've been thinking that too, that maybe
this is just what hardcore sounds like now, under a new name,
now that the music that's called hardcore all just
sounds like Emo. Thing is, I could never say a term like "Hardcore's
2nd Wave" at a party, just like I never said the phrase
"Electroclash" at a party, unless it was in a joke.
One phrase I actually did use at a party to describe this
music -- once -- was "Progressive Hardcore," because
I was thinking how it was also sort of the new Prog Rock,
a new strain of Art Rock. But that phrase didn't get that
great of a reaction, and really, I could immediately see why.
Sir Reggie Queequeg wanted to call it "New Crazy Rock
Music," which really doesn't leave anything out, in that
disarming Queequeg fashion. Another guy on the Spockmorgue
list broke it down to simply "Rock Music." It is
definitely that, but that DOES leave quite a bit out, most
notably the "weird" aspect from the original Weasel
definition. That's why Queequeg uses the word "crazy"
in his genre name, and Mike Connelly of the Hair Police uses
the word "insane" in his name for the genre, which
actually kind of sticks for me: "INSANE music."
Anyway, to go over some of the common names:
No Wave Coined (reclaimed/recycled/borrowed)
by Weasel Walter.
No Wave What it often got amended
it to, which as I said before, is a little too apologetic.
Note that Walter has never called it Neo No Wave.
Wave of Hardcore More specifically,
the 2nd Wave of No Wave. Coined by Jose Marmeleira. Like I
said, probably won't be used at parties. Actually, the problem
is that the "weird" aspect isn't really referred
(New Wave of American Hardcore) Just
Liz Armstrong coined Avant-Tarde, which I've
amended to Tardcore, which is just another way to say "weird
punk rock." She also coined Garbagetronica, but that's
like a sub-genre of Tardcore.
Music Coined by a guy on Spockmorgue.
Crazy Rock Music Coined by Sir Reggie
Music Coined by Mike Connelly.
Rock Pronounced like "Dada,"
not "D-A-D-A." Coined by me, but I don't plan to
ever say it out loud. Today I was out for a walk in the Northwest
Chicago side street wilderness and discovered a remote block
of sidewalk where someone had once made a drying-concrete
publication of the word "DADA." I'm like, why not?
The name still emanates such influence and inspiration. In
this case it's an acronym: the D's stand for Distorted and
Dayglo, and the A's stand for (take your pick of 2) Atonal,
Awful, and Attention Deficit Disorder. (Thanks to Load Records
honcho Ben McOsker, in the interview by Andrew S. Earles on
Pitchfork, for the words "Distorted, Dayglo, and Atonal.")
I've got it! Since we're talking about a 2nd Wave of No Wave,
coming after the Noise genre hit, call it, not No Wave, but
Wave!!!! Noi being short for "Noise."
Rhymes with "Boy Wave," but that's doesn't mean
anything because Noi Wave is one of the most co-ed genres
of music EVER, even more co-ed than Punk was. Hell, just call
it Noise Wave. No, just go back to not calling it anything.
We all know it when we see it. (No, never mind, just call
it No Wave. And be proud, i.e. don't put it in "quotation
marks" all the frickin' time.)
of Michael Jackson
Yeah, the guy's a first-class eccentric, but if our national
network programmers want to get huge ratings by ridiculing
a public figure for living in a bubble, being out of touch
with reality, and for being defensive about his decisions,
I wish they'd do it to George W. Bush. [Note: this was written
a couple days after Fox first showed that 2-hour Michael Jackson
thing and all the press was talking about how weird he was.
Weapons of (M)Ass Distraction, indeed.]
today, without planning to in any way, I've heard two different
songs called "What's the Frequency Kenneth?," and
neither of them were by R.E.M.
The first was by Game
Theory, the opening song on their 1987 double LP Lolita
Nation. I was curious to hear Lolita Nation after Harrington
made it his #4-ranked rock album of All Time, but I thought
their "Kenneth," along with most of the album, except
for one killer pre-Loveless wall-of-guitar ballad,
actually sounded quite a bit like some sort of freakish college
lite-meets-hair metal lite hybrid. Big Star
(of course) meets Warrant (??) meets . . . Let's Active (Mitch
Easter produced) meets . . . Bourgeoius Tagg(!!!!).
The second "What's the Frequency Kenneth" I've heard
today without planning to is by Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink,
and it's actually just called "Kenneth" although
the lyrics go "Oh Kenneth, what's the frequency? What's
the frequency, Kenneth?" over and over again. It sounds
absolutely nothing like R.E.M, possibly to the chagrin of
most people who would hear it, except for Jesus Lizards fans,
and even they might be a little put off, because that old
Bulb aesthetic is just so nasty. Of course Blastitude Freaks
won't be put off, as C.M. Bligablum puts it: "A better
use of the infamous Dan Rather-whompin’ anthem than
R.E.M. or Game Theory combined." You do have to give
Game Theory credit for doing it in 1987, a full six years
before Stipe's phrase-drop, while Prehensile Monkeytailed
Skink were even later than that.
of Lolita Nation, both the CD and the double vinyl
edition are out of print, but, contrary to what you might
expect, the CD goes for $60 on e-bay while the original double
vinyl can be had for a mere 10 bucks. The reason is that,
as #1 Game Theory fan Joe S. Harrington pointed out last issue,
it SUCKS to have to flip sides that often.
So I still
don't know about Game Theory, but Harrington definitely sold
me on The Dictators, who I'd actually never heard, so I picked
up Go Girl Crazy! when I saw this nice Australian
pressing for 6 bucks used. Shit, it's good! Opening song "The
Next Big Thing" is actually the best song I've ever heard
in the 'teenage hot-shit glory-rock' category. I mean the
hot-shit part is still one of the most bad-ass poses ever
waxed ("Well I knocked 'em dead in Dallas . . ."
See complete lyrics below), but before they get into the hot-shit
part, they open the song with some of the most glorious descending-melody
cathedral rock ever waxed. The lyrics have jokes in every
stanza, some of them self-deprecating but still hot-shit about
it. Other songs: "Two Tub Man" has some great hooks,
and raunchy too: "What I want to do I do/Who I want to
screw I screw." "Cars and Girls" is a blast,
especially when Adny Shernoff goes "G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-goodbye."
Ross "The Boss" Funicello, pre-Manowar, launches
like seven glorious little metal blitzkrieg solos on each
and every song. Anyway, here's the complete lyrics to "The
Next Big Thing."
I used to shiver in the wings
But then I was young
I used to shiver in the wings
Till I found my own tongue
sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing
knocked 'em dead in Dallas
And I didn't pay my dues
Yeah, I knocked 'em dead in Dallas
They didn't know we were Jews
sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing
a fuel injected legend
I don't wanna be a bore
I just wanna live a rich life
And I wanna die poor
I won't be happy
I'm known far and wide
With my face on the cover
of the TV Guide
sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing
by Adny Shernoff, 1974)
changer mishaps: I just thought Gary Numan was Burzum.
(Synthstrumental on The Pleasure Principle.) Cluster
One Hour was also in the changer and I thought it
could be that too but my guess was Burzum. Wrong!!! . . .
. . Help! Three CDs in my changer are starting to blend together:
Bulb Singles Vol. 1, The EPs of RP by Rudimentary
Peni, and the Neat Singles Collection Vol. 3 --
a NWOBHM comp. Seriously you can draw a line of similarity
from one to the next, in chronological order, no less . .
. . . Now I'm mistaking the first Bathory album for the first
Bad Brains album. Mind you, this is because I've got it at
fairly low volume. If my stereo was louder, the Bad Brains'
fusion chops would be easy to differentiate from Bathory's
Venom-worshipping one-man-band thuggery, but at this volume
all I hear is super-fast buzzing guitars and Quorthon sounds
music," he suggests, in his most persuasively metaphorical
way, "is a sort of research music. You're glad someone's
done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it. It's
similar to the way I'm very happy people have gone to the
North Pole. It extends my concept of the planet to know it
exists, but I don't want to live there, or even go there actually.
But it's a boundary condition." -- Brian Eno, as quoted
[on some website somewhere]
LISTEN IN TWO YEARS DEPT.:
Gate "The Dew Line" CD (Table of the Elements).
It's all comin' back to me....total 1997.....rainy
days....laying in bed at 3PM singing into your pillow.....somehow
the exact midpoint between Emo and Black Metal (and Valium).
"Soul Kiss (Glide Divine)". It's
all comin' back to me....total 1996.....putting this album
on for Angelina when we wake up at 11AM so we can just lay
in our underwear and spend the next hour listening and staring
at how the light in the house slowly changes. Taking drugs
to make music for people to feel like they took drugs to.
Even better than the RH Band, thanks to "Waves Wash Over
Dylan "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" (1965).
The first signs of the rock'n'roll kitsch that
was gonna come with Self Portrait and Nashville
Skyline, the cowboy boogie rock, the floral bardsmanship
replaced by a macho simplicity of the line. Every writer goes
through a Hemingway phase.
band names are just kick-ass, like Megadeth or Slayer, but
then you have names like Jag Panzer or Laaz Rockit, where
you first hear it and you're like "total kick-ass,"
but then you think for a second and you're like "actually
there's somethin' kinda gay about that name."
OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD
by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman
Most no wavers will tell you that Pretties For You
(1969) is great, but I think it's annoying as hell. Like so
many second-tier no wavers, it's more just weird for weird
sake, weirdness without any soul behind it. Of course, the
boys were barely out of high school -- still in their Mr.
Bungle phase, if you will. There are some good psychedelic
nonsense titles, like "No Longer Umpire" and "Swing
Low, Sweet Cheerio." Put any one track on a mix tape
and you'll get a bunch of "Who's this? Who's this?"
But I have yet to listen to the whole thing, and I couldn't
hum you a single riff or melody except that one song (don't
know which) that goes "Enjoy the view, oy the view, oy
the view, oy the view."
(1970). Now we're getting somewhere. One of the best rock
album titles ever. Still not quite a great album, with only
a few memorable songs, but throughout, including on the forgettable
jams, the band is getting some grit and soul into the sound.
You can probably thank David Briggs, one of the great record
producers in white soul history. I always loved "Shoe
Salesman," even though you might think it's wuss rock.
I don't specifically remember any other song, but it seems
like side two has some sort of epic space opera song that
is total No Wave (and when it came out it was already Garage
Love It To Death
(1971). On which they take all the promise of Easy Action
and, I don't know, quintuple it. You can say what you want
about Bob Ezrin as a producer, but he was a perfect fit for
the Alice Cooper band. Of course this is the one that Dave
Marsh or somebody told me was the classic and it's
true, every song is great. "I'm Eighteen" is the
overplayed hit (it even has the same chords as the "and
as we wind on down the road" part of "Stairway to
Heaven") but I still like it just because of Vincent's
singing, and because each guitar break is a soul-howl mindblower.
Great sequencing too: both sides start with shorter little
freak-rock pop gems like "Caught in a Dream," "Is
It My Body?", "Long Way To Go," and "Hallowed
Be My Name" (incredible song, written entirely by drummer
Neal A. Smith), and end with horror show epics, "Black
Juju" on side one, and "Second Coming"/"The
Ballad of Dwight Frye"/"Sun Arise" on side
two. "Black Juju" all-time favorite Alice Cooper
song. Back at mom and dad's I used to turn all the lights
out for that one and bundle up and freak. Also, back cover
is my favorite band photo of all time. Recorded in Chicago!
Okay, this is my current favorite, although after that last
paragraph I kinda wanna give Love it to Death another
chance. I don't know, Killer just seems like the
snappy/gaudy comic book distillation of everything eerie/foggy
about Love it to Death. One of the greatest rock
albums of all time, specifically one of the greatest evil
shock joke glam pop heavy rock albums of all time. Right down
to the sick-glo color scheme of the front cover. I always
LOVED the way side two opened with the double shot of "You
Drive Me Nervous" and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." Even
slightly more stunning than the (also great but more familiar)
side one opening double shot, "Under My Wheels"
and "Be My Lover." The phased drum breaks on "Nervous,"
sheez. And always, the bass of Dennis Dunaway, especially
candy-poppin' on "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." Of course "Be
My Lover" is a stone classic song, with hilarious lyrics.
I mean, "We had a drink or two....well, maybe three"
is somehow my favorite drinking line in a rock song ever.
That line "with a magnifying GLANCE, I just sort of look
her over" is a good one too, it's like poetry for 12
year olds who read Mad Magazine. And it hit me not too long
ago that the reason Alice sings "She asked me why the
singer's name was Alice" is because the lyrics were written
by Michael Bruce, from his point of view. Also recorded in
(1972). This is where things were starting to slip. Everyone
talks about the classic quintet, when Alice Cooper was the
name of the whole band and not just the lead singer, but session
dudes were already start to 'ghost' parts well before Welcome
To My Nightmare, especially for the increasingly smacked-out
and dissolute Glen Buxton. (Lead guitarist on "Under
My Wheels"? Rick Derringer.) Of course the title track
is one of the greatest rock songs ever; speaking of Mad Magazine
poetry, it doesn't get any better than "Well we got no
class/And we got no principles(als)/And we got no innocence/We
can't even think of a word that rhymes!" Other than
that, though, I don't know....that West Side Story thing was
kind of fun but also a serious warning sign that Mr. Furnier
was replacing his homegrown Phoenix/Detroit lunatic showbiz
with some pre-fabricated Vegas lunatic showbiz. I do really
remember the song "My Stars," even though that was
basically a Bob Ezrin composition, almost entirely played
by session dudes. Still great prog metal. Other than that
the only one I really remember is the kitschy but cool ballad
about school when Alice sings, "No I don't think Miss
Axelrod was much impressed," and of course, at the end,
says "Remember the Coop, huh?" to his imaginary
Billion Dollar Babies
(1973). Not quite on the same level as Love it to
Death and Killer, but this one did prove that
the dissolving quintet could still make a great album (as
long as the right anonymous session musicians were ghosting
half of the parts). "I Love the Dead" is actually
quite a bit sicker than I even though it was when I was a
kid. The bass on the title track is INSANE. "Raped and
Freezin" rules -- the little screech Alice hits right
before the start of the second verse is one of my all-time
favorite rock yelps. Sure he copped it from Iggy but I heard
Alice first, which is just the point: he was the only guy
who could make Iggyness sell in small town Nebraska without
completely whitewashing the ferality. "No More Mr. Nice
Guy" is on here, as are a bunch of prog classics like
"Hello, Hooray," "No More Mr. Nice Guy,"
"Elected," "Generation Landslide," and
"Unfinished Sweet," which I always thought was stupid
when I was a kid -- c'mon, Alice, a song about the horrors
of cavities??? -- but now I love it. Still you can
hear that the band has already been pretty much Ezrined out
of the picture.
Muscle of Love
(1973). Alright, so Babies wasn't a return to form,
it was a last gasp. This follow-up is hands down the weakest
album by the classic quintet -- I even prefer Pretties
For You. That said, the opener "Big Apple Dreamin'
(Hippo)" has a fine hypnotic heaviness and subtitle,
the title track is pretty heavil (heavy + evil), and "Teenage
Lament '74" is seriously the best heavy rock teenage
angst ballad that happened in between Phil Spector and Nirvana.
(By which I mean it's even better than "Eighteen.")
But I already had the latter two on the Greatest Hits
album, so Muscle loses, cardboard-box packaging notwithstanding.
Welcome To My Nightmare
(1975). Right, so this is the beginning of the end, and most
Coop band loyalists scoff at this one. They've got the right
idea, but I still love it, even now that I'm not 12 years
old. Definitely better than School's Out and Muscle
of Love and Pretties For You, and possibly better
than even Easy Action. In fact, even Billion
Dollar Babies only barely edges it out. It certainly
has some wack moments -- in fact one of the wackest is also
the best known, the title track opener with its lame horn
chart. After that it's just tons of fun, or at least the bombastic
session-hack-slathered production perfectly supports Cooper's
comic-book phantasies, bringing them to teeming life like
some theoretical 'Hieronymous Bosch does EC Comics' painting
that you found at a thrift-store. I mean, track two, "Devil's
Food" is just heavy-rock insanity, with the phased-out
outro chorus blowing my mind right now just thinking about
it, and segueing into an awesome monologue by Vincent Price
himself, and then another heavy (and corny, but in a great
horror-comic way) jam called "The Black Widow,"
and then there's "Cold Ethyl," which is what I had
dreamed Alice might sound like before I actually heard him
(i.e. super-heavy cock-rock about dead chicks), and jeez,
"Only Women Bleed" is a ballad that is just huge,
even bigger than "Please Don't Judas Me" by Nazareth.
Side two we've got the "Steven" song cycle, which
I think heavily influenced Eminem -- at least his song "Kim"
from The Marshall Mathers LP really reminds me of
it. Oh, that was just me? You didn't hear that too?
Alice Cooper Goes
To Hell. Okay, with the exception of Nightmare,
I agree with the smart Coop freaks: Alice did not make a single
essential album after the original quintet broke up. This
album looked great for the kids, with Alice colored GREEN
on the cover and the provocative (for kiddies) title, and
I heard the title track on a jukebox once and it blew my mind,
but then I tried it again a few years later and it just sounded
wack, like Gene-Simmons-solo-album wack, and I realized that
the only reason the song had shocked me before was because
I had heard it in a Dairy Sweet in Malvern, Iowa.
After this, I can't
name a single essential Alice album, except you might want
to get a Kane Roberts-era LP just to laugh at his picture
on the back . . . . . . . . . . now
that I think about, I wanna get a Kane Roberts-era LP, just
so I can laugh at his picture on the back. But, anyway, other
than that, there was From The Inside, which had the
classic gatefold cover of Alice's eyes opening like the doors
to a sanitarium. It promised to be another Nightmare
style concept with amazing hype (Bernie fucking Taupin co-wrote
the lyrics and Marvel released a comic book version of it
that I read about 200 times), but musically it was a gooey
mess. Ezrin was losing it. Lace and Whiskey is slightly
memorable, but mainly because on one rare boyhood night when
I was allowed to stay up past 9PM, I saw Alice on Johnny Carson
promoting that album, and he performed the title track wearing
some FBI get up, fake-gunning down various costumed villians
(I think they were giant birds, but please don't quote me
on that). After hearing about him for years, this was the
first time I had ever seen him perform, and it was at least
kooky, but after all the legends I'd heard I wanted GORE,
both visually and musically. Now I realize that Lace and
Whiskey was recorded during Alice's "Hollywood
Squares and golf" period. The album pretty much
sucks accordingly, although "It's Hot Tonight" is
alright. (The Beastie Boys sampled it on their song "What
Comes Around.") . . . . . . . . . . Let's see, let's
see....of course I liked the cover of Zipper Catches Skin
-- on which every single lyric on the album was printed, in
tiny print so it could all fit, and when the title phrase
goes by, which is only once, it's highlighted.....in BLOOD.
I once listened to the album while using the cover to follow
along....and this was on CASSETTE. (No joke, I used a magnifying
glance, I mean glass.) Unfortunately the music was terrible
. . . . . . . . . . . . Flush the Fashion was always
a running joke because it was the one album that even us Alice
simps who had bought Lace and Whiskey and Zipper
Catches Skin still wouldn't touch . . . . . . . . and
I guess that's it! That's my guide to Alice Cooper off the
top of my head!