RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 9 comments
Categories: Table of Contents

REVIEW: Mollo / Martin – The Cage 2 (2002)

February 12, 2016 1 comment

Scan_20160208DARIO MOLLO / TONY MARTINThe Cage 2 (2002 Frontiers)

Three years out from their debut album The Cage, Tony Martin and Dario Mollo re-teamed up for a sequel, creatively titled The Cage 2!  On their second effort, Mollo and Martin broke out of a cage of sorts and made heavy metal music with a little more identity.  Keyboardist Don Airey did not return for this album, but in his stead is the legendary Tony Franklin on bass.

Heavy modern nu-metal touches highlight “Terra Toria”, a detuned beast with a bit of grunting on the choruses.  Thankfully the verses are piled high with Tony’s melodies, the same kind that he used to contribute to his Black Sabbath albums.  Mollo meanwhile lays down the shred with a Neal Schon vibe and plenty of power chords.  The heavy stuff takes a bit of a back seat on “Overload” which could have worked well as a Dio power ballad.  Underrated as a vocalist, Tony Martin has no issues delivering the hooks and high notes.  One thing I have loved about Tony Martin is that he also plays violin, and sometimes throws that into his songs, as he did on his solo album Scream.  “Overload” has a fast flying violin solo, and it’s a killer.

Distorted lead vocals on “Life Love and Everything” lend it a modern touch on the verses, but the layered vocals of the chorus make it clear that this is not nu-metal.  The guitar riff is a tricky shuffle, but with a groove.  It’s soul metal with the emphasis on the metal rather than the soul!  “Balance of Power” is just speed metal, along the lines of some of the things Sabbath had done on Tyr such as “The Lawmaker” and “Heaven in Black”.  If you miss that era of Sabbath, or the kind of fast metal that Dio was apt to do, then check out “Balance of Power”.  If you’re in  tune with 80’s Sabbath, check out “Amore Silenzioso”.  It is the closest thing to Black Sabbath’s “The Seventh Star” that I have heard, though not quite on that level.  A short keyboard based instrumental (“II”) closes that, and goes into “Wind of Change”, not the Scorpions song, but a ballad nonetheless.  If the songs on Cage 2 have a common weakness, it is that many are on the long side.  “Wind of Change” is too much ballad, though it does house an absolutely stunning guitar solo.

“Theater of Dreams” carries over with the 80’s Sabbath sound, and more intricate and cool guitars.  The slow groove combined with the might of Martin and the metal of Mollo make it a winner in these books.   Then they take a drive down Van Halen alley, with “What a Strange Thing Love Is”, not a bad tune at all, but definitely in the summer song style of Sammy Hagar.  It’s pop metal with soulful backing vocals, and it’s cool.

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The only serious mis-step is an ill-advised cover of “Dazed and Confused”.  It’s nearly impossible to do this song without sounding like a jackass.  As great as Martin sings most of it, he ruins it by adding in his own adlibs that just remind you, oh yeah,  it’s a cover of a better version by Led Zeppelin. Thankfully Mollo makes the guitar solo the centerpiece and it does the job without copying Jimmy Page.  Without this cover clogging up the works, the CD is actually more enjoyable.

Moving into the last lap, “Guardian Angel” pounds the ground with double bass and heavy riffing.  It has Iron Maiden elements but kicks ass all around.  Still they saved the best track for last, which is “Poison Roses”.  This melancholy closer is the most memorable in a batch of pretty strong heavy metal songs.

You have to give Tony Martin credit.  He’s a great singer, a good songwriter, but no matter what kind of albums he makes, he remains in the shadows.  Too bad.  Fans would do well to seek his his collaborations with Dario Mollo.  They compete in quality with the albums Tony made in his better known band.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Mollo / Martin – The Cage (1999)

February 11, 2016 13 comments

Part one of a two-parter!

Scan_20160109DARIO MOLLO / TONY MARTIN – The Cage (1999 Dreamcatcher)

When Ozzy Osbourne returned to Black Sabbath in 1997, that was undeniably a very exciting moment in heavy metal, and rock in general.  By ’98, original drummer Bill Ward even returned to the band, completing the original lineup.  We were rewarded for our patience with two new Black Sabbath songs called “Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul” by the original lineup, but otherwise it was the beginning of a long drought.  Though Sabbath toured and played festivals, it was the sparsity of new material that pissed off a few fans, this one included.

Thankfully during this Sabbath ice age, some former members kept the flame alive with new heavy metal music.  Former vocalist Tony Martin, who was ousted for Ozzy’s return, recorded three albums with Italian guitarist Dario Mollo.  1999’s The Cage, featuring Don Airey (Deep Purple) on keyboards, is their first collaboration.  This helped scratch the Sabbath itch during the drought.

A jagged Dio-ish guitar riff commences “Cry Myself to Death”.  The doomy edge is present.  Martin sounds as if in peak voice.  The thirst is quenched.  It’s easy to imagine a song like this could have been on a followup to 1995’s Forbidden.  Dario Mollo is nothing like Iommi, being capable of heavy modern shreddery at maximum velocity.  This is proven on “Time to Kill”.  This time the vibe is like “Lawmaker” from 1990’s Tyr album.  The pace is breakneck, but Don Airey is more than capable of keeping up on the keys.  This is a stunning metal track mixing the spirit of old with the talent of new.  It verges on regal Priest-isms by the solo break, blazing on to the end in a frenzy.

Don Airey plagiarizes his own keyboard part from Judas Priest’s “A Touch of Evil”, for an instrumental intro called “The Cage”.  This serves as the start for a moody Dokken-esque ballad called “If You Believe”.  Don Dokken only wishes he could still write a song this good, a quality dark ballad, perhaps akin to Sabbath’s “Feels Good to Me”.  Then “Relax” also operates on a dark Dokken / Whitesnake vibe.  Mollo’s shredding on this would would make Eddie Van Halen nod in approval.  And speaking of Whitesnake and Cov the Gov, guess what they cover later on in the album?  “Stormbringer”!  Don makes the keyboards a bit too spacey on that one, but it is an otherwise pretty authentic cover, and the guitar solo is virtually note for note.

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“Smoke and Mirrors” is pretty lame.  “Some girls, they look really pretty but they tell you lies,” sings Martin.  Well maybe, but some singers sing real good but struggle on the lyrics.  The weakest track so far, “Smoke and Mirrors” has a sleezy rock vibe, like a latter-day Europe track.  Mollo’s playing is the highlight but the song is pretty skippable.  “Infinity” is more Sabbathy, reminding me of “Headless Cross”.  Onto “Dead Man Dancing”, I think of Gary Cherone and Extreme.  The song boasts a soaring Martin chorus and plenty string mangling by Mollo.  Then it’s onto “This Kind of Love”, a dead ringer for Van Hagar.

The album closes on “Soul Searching”, (kind of similar to Sabbath’s “Nightwing”) which is something I wish Dario and Martin had done more of during the writing of this album.  It would be nice to hear more of the sounds of their own personalities rather than songs that remind us of other bands.  That’s rock and roll; the great struggle.  It is not easy to carve out your identity among the thousands of bands who already have.  The Cage is loaded with great music, and the playing is above reproach.  What it lacks is originality.  Even in the guitar playing, I would say that Dario Mollo owes John Sykes a debt of gratitude, though he is certainly no slouch.  I just crave more originality in the tunes.  Yes, part of the appeal of following ex-Sabbath members like Tony Martin into a solo career is to hear a bit more of that sound you loved.  There are just too many moments on The Cage that sound like songs you already know.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Sons of Freedom – Sons of Freedom (1988)

February 9, 2016 25 comments

 

SONS OF FREEDOM – Sons of Freedom (1988 Slash records)

 

“Never retract, never retreat, never apologise…get the thing done and let them howl.”Nellie McClung 1873-1951

 

Once considered the saviours of Canadian rock, Vancouver’s Sons of Freedom powered their way onto the national scene in 1988 with “The Criminal”, one of the straight-up rockingest tracks to ever emerge from the tundra.  They maintained momentum long enough to beat Nirvana in the college radio charts in 1991 (#1 debut vs a #2 for Nirvana), but Sons of Freedom didn’t fit into a nice “grunge” pigeonhole.  They were too different, too weird, too Canadian.  By 1995 and a mere three albums, they called it a day, but were not forgotten.

What a track “The Criminal” was, certainly sounding very little like 1988.  The bleak music video didn’t look much like the competition.  Crammed into a tiny rehearsal space, the three clean-shaven, short-haired musicians (all named Don for real!) and one long-hair with a British accent (named Jim Newton at first, but he changed his name on every single album!) didn’t look like other bands on the rock scene.  They hooked up with Slash Records, and Faith No More’s producer Matt Wallace, and made a starkly heavy record.  They may have appealed to the same audience as The Cult, a superficial comparison, but Ian Astbury was considered an “honorary Canadian” by many rock fans (he lived in the Great White North for six years in the 1970’s and Cult bassist Jamie Stewart later made his home on the Toronto scene).  But in 1988, the Cult had never recorded anything as relentless as “The Criminal”.

We got love, we got love, we got justice from above.

If any band in Canadian rock history defined the phrase “ahead of their time”, it had to be Sons of Freedom.  “The Criminal”, with its emphasis on that singular groove and strangely hypnotic vocals, could have lead the charge in the 1990’s.  There are solos, but they are clang-and-bang, not shred.  They even had a quote by a Canadian female rights activist on the cover!  Why didn’t they catch?  Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t stand still and repeat themselves.  Maybe it was the singer changing his name to James Jerome Kingston.  Whatever it was, Sons of Freedom didn’t make the impact they rightfully could have.  They even had a song called “Fuck the System”!

The three Dons (Binns, Short and Harrison) lay down massive and strange bass-heavy grooves all over this debut album.  They sound more like industrial machinery than musicians on some tracks.   “Super Cool Wagon” has the concrete foundation needed to flatten all comers, but also boasted a weird “Ah-ooh-ah-ooh-ah-ay” vocal with no words!  That’s the album opener — nearly four solid minutes of heavy rock with nothing but ah’s and ooh’s for lyrics!  Amazing tracks like “Mona Lisa”, “This is Tao” and “Shoot Shoot” are based on the same template.  Smashing monolithic grooves, expertly recorded by Wallace, are topped by the unusual and melodic vocals of James Newton.  The vocals allow you to grasp onto the song, while the undercurrent of the groove carries you away.  I blame Don Binns for the sheer inertia of the grooves, since his bass work sounds to be the driving force of them.

Other tracks explore different directions.  “Dead Dog on the Highway” slows it down but adds a strangely funky Don Harrison guitar lick on top.  “The Holy Rollers” drones on slower than slow, the Smiths on Quaaludes, but again you are dragged along with it.  Pay attention to what is going on beneath the groove, as dischord rules with a balanced fist.  “Judy Come Home” is almost radio-friendly, but “Is It Love” has a stuttery groove that could have been hit material in the right climate.  “Fuck the System” is hard-hitting good-time punk and one of the only songs to have a rocky riff.  The final track “Alice Henderson” is the Sons’ version of an epic as it chugs without rest, leaving nothing but wreckage and waste behind.

Ultimately, I suppose nothing bonds bandmates like a good first name.  The three Dons emerged a few years after Sons of Freedom split, backing Lee Aaron (then simply “Karen”) in a new band called 2preciious and a later industrial project called Jakalope!

3.5/5 stars

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#466: Clap for the Wolfman

February 8, 2016 17 comments

WOLFMAN

“Another lovely day begins, for ghosts and ghouls with greenish skin. So close your eyes and you will find that you’ve arrived in Frightenstein. Perhaps the Count will find a way to make his monster work today. For if he solves this monster-mania, he can return to Transylvania! So welcome where the sun won’t shine, to the castle of Count Frightenstein!”Vincent Price

GETTING MORE TALE #466:  Clap for the Wolfman

I surely cannot be the only person in the world who heard of rock and roll because of the legendary radio DJ Wolfman Jack…although mine was in a roundabout way!

The irresistibly gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack was born in 1938 as Robert Smith.  A love of classic horror led to the creation of the Wolfman character.  He played rock and roll records from a high-powered transmitter on the Mexico border.  So powerful was the signal that Jack claimed “Birds dropped dead when they flew too close to the tower.”  On a clear night, listeners in the Soviet Union could hear the Wolfman half a world away.

Killing birds and eating records, the Wolfman really came to fame when tapes of his broadcasts were used for radio syndication.  By selling his tapes world-wide, Jack could be heard on over 2000 stations at his peak.    The Wolfman character became synonymous with rock and roll no matter where you lived.

American Graffiti: Richard Dreyfuss and Wolfman Jack

I was too young to know of Wolfman Jack directly.  I was even too young for American Graffiti, the 1973 George Lucas classic about the cruising scene in Modesto California circa the summer of ’62.  Wolfman Jack made a memorable appearance as himself, and did radio DJ intros for most of the tunes through the movie.  This however was preceded by a 1971 Canadian kid’s comedy show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Similarly to of the syndication that made the Wolfman a smash success, Frightenstein was on TV well into the 70’s and 80’s, even though all the episodes were made in 1971.  Via Frightenstein, I learned who the Wolfman was.

Because of the endless re-runs, there was no way for young Canadian kids to miss it.  Before we had cable, it was one of the few shows we could reliably get, both at home and at the cottage, as it was broadcast from Hamilton Ontario.  Billy Van played almost every character himself: Grizelda the Witch, the Librarian, Dr. Pet Vet, Bwana Clyde Batty (a British explorer who ran the “Zany Zoo”), and many more.  Van’s most memorable character however had to be The Wolfman – an actual wolfman radio DJ inspired by Jack, down to the gravelly voice and wolf howls!  The Wolfman would spin classic rock and roll records each show, accompanied by psychedelic images of him dancing and playing air guitar with the character of Igor, played by Fishka Rais.  (The huge Rais was one of very few additional actors on the show.  Vincent Price and Professor Julius Sumner Miller recorded all their parts over the course of the summer of 1971.  And let’s not forget Guy Big, as the Midget Count!)

When the Wolfman’s segments would begin, you would know it immediately.  His theme song was “I Wanna Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.  “I am the Wolfman!  Ah-oooooooo!” he would howl at the start of his show.  He would play “golden oldies” by the Stones and other classic rock and roll artists, on his radio station “EECH”. He would tell callers that he was “fangtastic”.  (The “golden oldies” concept was brilliant.  Even if he was playing a fairly recent Stones single, he’d call it a “golden oldie”, thus ensuring that the show seemed current even when being broadcast in, say, 1986.  Planning and syndication!)

One of the few Youtube clips featuring original audio and music.

So there I was, a young kid sitting on the basement floor during Canadian winter, playing with Lego and watching  this pretty low-budget kid’s show, when suddenly this wolfman appeared!  “I am the Wolfman!  Ahooooooo!”  I didn’t know the music.  I’d never heard Sly and the Family Stone.  They were great!  I was hooked.  I even made my own tapes of the Wolfman.  I played the Wolfman…and all the other characters.  I had him battling Star Wars composer John Williams for chart superiority!  Fortunately, these tapes no longer exist!

I had no idea yet that Billy Van’s Wolfman was based on a real person.   That came later, probably through my parents, as I learned more about rock and roll.  All I knew was that he was a fun character who played good songs.  “I Wanna Take You Higher” was an early favourite.  The Stones made a strong impression.  He also played Mungo Jerry.  I didn’t like the slow songs.  Unfortunately due to the legal rights involved, “I Wanna Take You Higher” had to be replaced on the DVD versions.  Rights could only be obtained to release a few episodes on disc. (Most of the Youtube clips you will find are overdubbed versions with different music, and a new voice, since Billy Van had passed away before the DVDs were released.)

Wolfman Jack himself appeared on many television shows and records over the years.  After American Graffiti, he appeared in the ill-advised sequel, which flopped.  TV loved him; he even guested on Battlestar Galactica’s spinoff series Galactica 1980.  Notably, in 1974 he appeared as himself on The Guess Who’s classic single “Clap for the Wolfman”, a memorable tribute featuring plenty of the Wolfman’s trademark growl.  His influence trickled down, creating waves far exceeding the radio broadcasts that once reached Russia.  Via these tributes to his accomplishments, the Wolfman served to introduce rock and roll music to new generations, either via TV and movies or Billy Van’s character inspired by him.  Clap for the Wolfman indeed!

Guest WTF Search Terms: Fenway Park Dicks edition with Derek Kortepeter

February 6, 2016 57 comments

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXX:  Fenway Park Dicks edition with Derek Kortepeter

Holy cow!  It’s the 30th edition of WTF Search Terms!  Please welcome back the talented multi-instrumentalist, the scourge of gamers, the nemesis of Donald Trump’s Youtube supporters…Derek Kortepeter!   Derek always enjoys the WTF Search Terms — those whacky things that people type into search engines and somehow wind up here.  No Joey Tempest search terms made the list this time.  Sorry folks, but that’s not Derek’s fault!  Without further adieu, here are Derek’s 10 favourite recent search terms from the mikeladano.com hit parade, with his commentary!

XXX


 

1. ladano love girl

Clearly the name of Mike’s unreleased debut album that was leaked in 2003.

2. buddies compare dicks urinal

Tell me wherever these urinals are and I will make sure to avoid them. No it has nothing to do with insecurities about my penis size…

3. cocksuckers chicken jacked me

Sounds like the crime spree of stealing chickens is now an epidemic. I can see it now turning into a video game: “CTA: Chicken Theft Auto.” Will it offend politicians, Jack Thompson, and Anita Sarkeesian as much as Grand Theft Auto? Time will tell.

4. fenway park trough urinal where all the dicks hang out

OK now I have one more reason to not be a fucking Red Sox fan. Jesus Christ.

5. deer foot gun rack

A gun rack made entirely of deer feet seems a little useless. I mean, will it actually hold your rifle?

[LeBrain interjects:  Yes Derek, it does hold a rifle.  See?  Here’s mine.]

GUN RACK

6. summersausage.com

My summer sausage is always free. No need to shop online.

7. video porno de ladano

Something you want to tell us Mike?

8. girl gets interestet with wanker on train porno

Just a PSA, huffing paint thinner and using Google is not recommended.

9. sarah e. dunsworth tits

“Tits” sure is an awkward last name, but this is what appears on her birth certificate.

10. gene simmons is a wanker

Gene can’t possibly be a wanker. I doubt his dick has worked in years. That’s the tradeoff for having that tongue. You have to make a trade with the dick fairy to get a tongue that big. What? I thought this was common knowledge?

GENE

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – DaDa (1983)

February 5, 2016 20 comments

ALICE COOPER – DaDa (1983 Warner)

DaDa is one of the most fascinating albums in the Alice Cooper catalogue.  So interesting in fact that this is the second time I’ve tackled a review of it.  The first, posted on Amazon years ago shortly after buying the album, was not flattering.  The entire thing is below:

 

This is what happens when you drink too much and can’t remember years of your life anymore.

This is what happens when your producer is nursing his own drug problems.

This is what happened to Alice Cooper in the early 80’s. Guitars, drums and bass have been jettisoned in favour of samples, keyboards, and programs. Songs? Non-existant. This album is worthless, filled with dreck that Cooper wouldn’t have even considered a decade earlier, or later. I defy anyone to explain the concept of the story to me. No songs ever played live, no tour.

One novelty track: “I Love America”, which is actually hilarious. It is also available on the Cooper boxed set. Pick that up, not this.

0/5 stars. The absolute nadir of the man’s storied career.

 

That’s what I said then, and I have to own it now.  I could delete it and pretend I never said it, but that would be dishonest.

Rich at Kamertunesblog did a fantastic Alice Cooper series a few years back.  When he got to DaDa, I said that “I still have not really penetrated [it]. I don’t know if I so much as appreciate it, rather than like it.”  When Rich said he found that surprising, I realized I must be missing something with DaDa.  So how does DaDa sit now, after a few years to let it absorb?

It’s different.  It’s creepy.  It’s funny.  It’s worth the time spent with it.

The story of DaDa itself is almost as interesting as the story of how one man can go from hating it to loving it.

Alice re-teamed with Bob Ezrin on this album, for the first time in years.  Dick Wagner came back for guitar, bass and songwriting duties.  Wagner claimed in his autobiography that Alice wasn’t that enthused about making this album, and confessed that contracts stipulated he had to.  Backing up Wagner’s claim is the fact that this was Alice’s last album for Warner, followed by a three year hiatus to finally get clean and sober for good.  There was no tour, in fact no band.

In lieu of a drummer, all beats are programmed.  This lends a stark early 80’s synthpop sound to DaDa.  It works exceptionally well on the title track, an Ezrin instrumental creation.  The echoey electronics sound as if from a frightening science fiction horror movie from the period.  Punctuating this is the mechanical repeating sample of a child saying “da da”…and heavenly new age keyboard melodies.  Talk about chills!  If that doesn’t get you, perhaps the spoken word conversation between a therapist and a patient will give you the shivers.  “I have a daughter too,” says the elderly patient.  “You don’t have a daughter,” responds the doctor.  “Yeah, I have a daughter,” insists the sick man.  “Sir, you have a son,” insists the doctor as the conversation gets creepier.  Alice Cooper is not even on this piece.  Perhaps that is one reason it failed to make an impression on me all those years ago.

Alice emerges on “Enough’s Enough”, changing to the perspective of the son.  “I just want to tell you, you’re a lousy dad, to hell with you!”  Dark but strangely upbeat, “Enough’s Enough” has some of those Bob Ezrin touches that you love, such as the perfectly arranged backing vocals.  The Dick Wagner guitars are the only real touch of rock and roll; the song otherwise lives in a punky new wave land.  The best song is much creepier:  “Former Lee Warmer”.  Alice alludes to the character of “Former Lee” on the previous song: “Why’d you hide your brother?”  “Former Lee Warmer” reveals that the body of the brother was locked in a chest in the attic.  “All the mops and brooms keep him company, misconceived of the family.”  Musically and thematically, this is just as good as Welcome to My Nightmare!  This is all done in Alice’s brilliant speak-sing style.

The concept becomes harder to follow on “No Man’s Land”, a good rock and roll song only weakened by the clanky electronic percussion.  Wagner is outstanding.  Similarly disconnected is “Dyslexia”, which sounds like Devo snuck into the studio.  Harmless fun; I wonder how many songs have been written about dyslexia in popular music?  It’s not clear who is on bass (probably Prakash John rather than Wagner), but the bass pulse is brilliantly subtle and perfect.  “Scarlet and Sheba” is an album highlight, electronically exotic and heavy too.  It’s perfectly dressed a with killer chorus and kinky lyrics, topped with a brilliant Ezrin arrangement.

“I Love America” is admittedly a novelty track, but I still like it today.  Taking on the persona of a redneck, Alice lampoons every cliche about his homeland.  “I love Velveeta slapped on Wonder Bread!  I love a Commie…if’un he’s good ‘n dead!”  The reason it works is because it’s Alice Cooper.  I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off.  Ezrin provides suitably pompous backing music, turning it into a rock national anthem.  (My favourite lyric is the last one:  “I love my bar, and I love my truck.  I’d do most anything to make a buck!  I love a waitress who loves to ffff…flirt.  They’re the best kind!”)

Going into “Fresh Blood” you’ll notice the synth horns, not really a substitute for the real thing.  It’s actually a pretty good funky rock tune.  Alice sings melodically with layered vocals, and once again the bass sounds awesome if you pay attention to it.  The final track is another drama-laden burner called “Pass the Gun Around”.  The character (referred to as “Sonny”; perhaps the son from earlier in the album) wakes up in a hotel room after another blackout night.  It’s not a pretty scene but it ends the album on a suitably serious and musically complex note.  It’s actually one of the better Cooper tracks from any era, thanks in no small part to Bob Ezrin and Dick Wagner.

Interesting trivia:  Probably because Ezrin recorded the album in his native land (Canada), Lisa DalBello is credited on backing vocals.  Queensryche would later cover one of her singles, “Gonna Get Close to You”.  She was also a part of Alex Lifeson’s Victor project.

Today’s rating:  4/5 stars, but only after a long journey.  And the concept still seems to derail halfway through the album.

TV REVIEW: American Dad (featuring James Hetfield of Metallica) – “The Life Aquatic with Steve Smith”

February 4, 2016 21 comments

HETAMERICAN DAD! – “The Life Aquatic with Steve Smith” (Episode 2, season 12)

American Dad is back!  The 12th (or 13th) season (depending on how you count) commenced last week.  While last week’s instalment was ho-hum, this week’s was a brilliant return to form, thanks in no small part to the mighty metal music of Metallica.

It is spring time.  14 year old Steve Smith has vowed that this year, he will finally get to touch his first real boobs.  His latest scheme is simple.  Varsity athletes seem to touch boobs all the time.  Therefore, Steve needs a varsity jacket.  The water polo team is looking for members, and hardly anyone has signed up.  At tryouts, we meet the coach:  “I’m the new coach, James Hetfield.  I know what you’re thinking.  ‘Woah! The James Hetfield from Metallica?’  The answer is no way.  Even though I look and sound like him, and have all his guitars.  The point is, if I had to deal with the kind of pressure that guy is under, I’d probably crack and end up as a high school water polo coach.  So it’s a good thing that I’m just this very different James Hetfield.”

Unfortunately Steve cannot swim and is cut from the team.  Only when he colludes with the family goldfish Klaus (an East German ski jumper whose brain was transferred into the body of a fish) does he have a chance.   They realize that Steve can become the greatest water polo player in the world, with a little extra help from Klaus.  Klaus operates Steve’s legs by using his short n’ curlies as puppet strings, and Steve is unstoppable!  With his legs being controlled by Klaus, Steve can concentrate on the ball.  Cue:  “Master of Puppets”.  Steve is back on the team!  In fact, he’s the star.

The next musical number is the more recent “All Nightmare Long” (one of the best tunes from Death Magnetic), accompanying a montage scene.  Steve and Klaus’ plan seems to be working, as Steve attracts the attention of Amy (Ashley Tisdale), the school sports editor.  She wants to know what makes Steve so skilled at water polo, and the pressure is on.  James Hetfield orders the team to take the rival highschool “off to neva-neva-land-ah!”

The side plot involves Stan Smith and Roger the alien buying a sailboat at a CIA auction.  Roger’s antics are always hilarious, but the side plot can’t help but remain in the shadow of the main Metallica feature.  Still, Roger’s voice is always hilarious to me, and I crack up when I get to hear Roger calling people “assholes”.  I am easily amused.  The show does benefit from the ability to use mild swearing now.  Roger and Stan realize that owning a boat is kind of useless since they have nowhere to go and no idea how to sail.  They must get rid of it…somehow!

If American Dad can maintain this level of quality, it is bound to be a great season.  It’s also good to know that American Dad is maintaining its strong musical connections, even though showrunner Mike Barker left in 2013.  Barker was responsible for many of the show’s best such moments, such as the My Morning Jacket episode.  Although last season was a little bumpy, this episode might be the best one since Barker left.

5/5 stars

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