Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews!

Mockumentary radio, tonight!

Turn it up to 11!  I will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).  Check out what Rob has planned this time:

This Week On Visions In Sound – The Mockumentary

This week we look at some mock documentary soundtracks. Featured music is from The Rutles, A Mighty Wind, FUBAR, Series 7 (Girls Against Boys) and This Is Spinal Tap. Join us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET) Friday 9:30-11:30 (PT) on FM 98.5 CKWR. www.ckwr.com

We will also be live on Facebook to chat and talk about the music and films off air.
Be sure to listen in!  Don’t be like Tron, not show up, and funkin’ blow.
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REVIEW: Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 42:  Eric Carr solo #2.

EC_Unfinished_Business_2011ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)

Even though 2000’s Rockology compilation released a treasure trove of unheard goodies for the fans, there is always more to sell.  For the 20th anniversary of Eric’s passing, another batch of tracks were unearthed.  Some are mere filler, some are pretty decent.  Fans of the beloved  drummer will have to sift through the bad to get to the good.

There are a couple Kiss songs here for the diehard fans.  “No One’s Messin’ With You” is yet another demo of what would become “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.  A third called “Ain’t That Peculiar” was released on the 2001 Kiss Box Set.  This is an almost completely different set of lyrics, although it does have the “Hey Little Caesar” chorus.  In chronological terms, this version probably falls between the other two, with lyrics still a work in progress and a different verse melody.  Then there’s “Shandi”, from Eric’s Kiss audition tape, with brand new acoustic backing music.  Unfortunately, Eric’s shaky voice (or a warbly tape) makes this totally unlistenable.

One of Rockology‘s highlights was “Just Can’t Wait” which was crying out for a lead vocal to finish it off.  This was completed by Ted Poley of Danger Danger.  Though the backing track lacks the fidelity of a proper Kiss recording, the song has taken shape as the shoulda-coulda-been hit that it is.  Eric would have been proud and very happy to hear it as a finished song.

The unfinished “Troubles Inside You” is a demo with regular Kiss collaborator and Beatlemania member Mitch Weissman.  It was recorded at Gene Simmons’ house, but the old cassette must have deteriorated pretty badly.  The music is barely audible, though hints of a good song shine through.  Two more Kiss outtakes include the legendary “Dial L For Love” and “Elephant Man”.  These were written for Crazy Nights and Revenge, respectively.  Neither were finished by Carr.  “Dial L For Love” has the bones of a good song with a unique riff.  Eric only managed to finish the lyrics for “Elephant Man”, but here it is given music and life by a group of musicians including the late A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, and ex-Europe guitarist Kee Marcello.  Singer Bob Gilmartin did a great job of it, turning “Elephant Man” into a cross between ballad and rocker, and something Kiss totally could have done on Revenge.  “Midnight Stranger” is another unfinished riff.  Ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was slated to overdub brand new solos for this instrumental, but he too passed before he could finish.  This is the original cassette demo.  The riff sounds like a brother to “Carr Jam”.  They are definitely related.

“Carr Jam 1981” is, unfortunately, not the original unaltered Elder demo.  It is a cover by drummer Joey Cassata, and a very authentic one at that.  Same with “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Just a cover, not a demo, by Cassata’s band Z02. Pretty good stuff, at least.  New backing music was recorded for “Eyes of Love”, a song previously released on Rockology.  The Rockology version with Bruce Kulick on guitar is superior.

Finally, some real serious archival treasures:  an Eric Carr drum solo basement tape (same as his live Kiss solo), and a 1967 recording by Eric’s first band The Cellarmen!  That’s Eric on lead vocals too.  It definitely sounds of its time. Added filler include a few interview bits and clips, including one with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin about Eric.

If the first Eric Carr CD release was best left to hardcore fans, it’s doubly true of the second one.  This is a fans-only release, period.  It is highly unlikely anyone else would get much enjoyment from this low-fi set.

2/5 stars

Although Carr’s loss was devastating to both fans and the band, there was no question Kiss would carry on with imminent Revenge….

 

RE-REVIEW: Eric Carr – Rockology (2000)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 41Eric Carr solo #1.

It’s back and picking up right where we left off:  the death of Eric Carr.  The previous chapter of this series was posted November 8 2017, with the intention to talk about Eric Carr’s demos next, before moving on to his replacement.  When Eric died of cancer in 1991, he left behind several tapes of unreleased material that have since been issued on CD.  Likewise, the Kiss Re-Review Series was derailed by Mrs. LeBrain’s cancer diagnosis, but will carry on now that she is well.  Thank you for your patience!

ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)

The late  drummer Eric Carr was frustrated towards the end.  He was writing good material, but it was always being rejected by Paul and Gene.  In the press, Eric would tow the company line and explain that everybody else had such good songs, that there was no room for his.  In his heart, he was hurt and felt shunned.

Eric Carr wasn’t just a drummer.  He could sing lead, and he could write.  Kiss’ single “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” was an Eric idea.  He co-wrote “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” with Bryan Adams.  Although his writing credits on Kiss albums were sparse, he had plenty of material in the can.  2000’s Rockology is a series of those demos, some in a near-finished state and some left incomplete.  Much of this material was intended for a cartoon Eric was working on called The Rockheads.  10 years later, Bruce Kulick finished recording some guitar parts and mixed it for release.  He also wrote liner notes explaining the origins and Eric’s intentions for each track.

Eric didn’t have a particularly commercial voice, falling somewhere south of a Gene Simmons growl.  There’s no reason why Gene couldn’t have sung “Eyes of Love” from 1989, which has more balls than a lot of Hot in the Shade.  This demo has Eric on drums and bass, and Bruce Kulick on guitar with a solo overdubbed in 1999.  It doesn’t sound like a finished Kiss song, but it could have been tightened up to become one.  Same with the ballad “Everybody’s Waiting”.  It sounds custom written for Paul Stanley.  But it was 1989, and nothing was going to displace “Forever” from the album, nor should it have.

Many of the demos have no words.  “Heavy Metal Baby” features Eric scatting out a loose melody.  This heavy and chunky riff would have been perfect for the later Revenge album, had Eric lived.  In a strange twist, several of the best songs are instrumentals.  The hidden gem on this CD is the unfinished “Just Can’t Wait”.  It could have given Journey and Bon Jovi a run for their money.   Eric, Bruce and Adam Mitchell wrote it for Crazy Nights, and you can almost hear a killer chorus just waiting to leap out at you.  This potential hit could have been the best song on Crazy Nights, had it been finished.

“Mad Dog” has nothing to do with the Anvil song of the same name.  The chorus is there but the verses are a work in progress.  This hard rocker from 1987 was probably too heavy for what Kiss were doing, though it would have added some much needed groove.  “You Make Me Crazy” is in a similar state of completion and boasts a tap-tastic solo by Bruce.  Apparently this demo was originally called “Van Halen” and you can hear why.  Two versions of a song called “Nightmare” exist, including a really rough one without drums.  This incomplete song could have really been something special.  It has a dramatic feel and different moods, and was probably too sophisticated for Kiss, though any number of 80s rock bands would have been lucky to have such good material.

The last batch of tracks show off the Rockheads material.  Whether Eric’s cartoon idea ever would have happened or not, the advent of bobble-heads and Pops would have made marketing easy.   The songs are virtually complete though the drums are programmed.  “Too Cool For School” is a little cartoony, which is the point, right?  For keyboard ballads, “Tiara” showed promise.  It’s not the equal of “Reason to Live” but it demonstrates a side to Eric unheard before.  Next, Bruce says that they always wanted Bryan Adams to cover “Do You Feel It”.  It would have fit Adams like a nice jean jacket.  Not that Adams really needed the help, it would have been awesome on Waking Up the Neighbors.  The set closes with “Nasty Boys”, nothing exceptional.  It sounds like a song called “Nasty Boys” would sound…or anything by 80s Kiss really.

Before you spend your hard-earned dollars, remember that these songs are definitely unfinished. They are as polished as possible given some of their rough (cassette) origins. Eric’s talent still shines, but you have to be a fan.  Especially a fan of 80s Kiss.  They will find it to be a crucial companion piece to their collections.

Long live the Fox!

Today’s rating:

3/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2014/04/24

#688: The Mom Con

Happy birthday mom!

GETTING MORE TALE #688: The Mom Con

Was chatting it up with Superdekes over at Arena Rock the other day.  He mentioned putting his two daughters through university.  What a great dad.  My parents were similarly good to me.  They paid my way.  My mom paid for my textbooks.  Some of them could get really expensive.  You’d be looking at over $100 each for some.  I kept many of them.  My Astronomy texts are still beautiful though outdated.  I am fairly sure I still have my English translation of Herodotus’ The Histories (c. 440 BC) somewhere.

My first year of university, she came with me to the book store to help me find everything.  Good thing she did, as it was an intimidating prospect for a first timer.  One of my history courses had four novels assigned.  I got all four, but only after class started did I learn that you didn’t need all four, you only had to choose one of the four.  Rookie mistake.  In the years that followed, we all learned to wait until class actually began before you bought every single book.  Some might be optional.  It was Russian history, and I chose Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1880).  Not what you’d call a page turner but I worked my way through it.  It introduced me to the concept of nihilism (which I still don’t really fathom) and that helped me at least understand The Big Lebowski later on.  So I chalk that as a “win”.

The parents took good care of me through school, loaning me the car most of the time.  On Thursday nights I only had an hour and a half between classes so I would go to my grandma’s house in Waterloo for dinner.  Porkchops with mushroom soup.

I worked my way through my history degree, but in my final year I tried to pull one over on my mom.

My buddy Peter introduced me to Beavis and Butt-head a year prior.  In Frankemuth, Michigan he rented a VCR just to tape some MTV broadcasts of the show.  We didn’t get it in Canada (unless you had satellite).  So when I saw the Beavis and Butt-head Ensucklopedia (1994) just sitting there in the actual school bookstore, I had to buy it.  The mere sighting of Beavis and Butt-head sitting there in a school text book store was too hilarious for me to ignore.

Mom used to tell me, “Just put your books on your credit card, give me the receipt, and I will reimburse you with a cheque.”  It was a sweet deal so why not throw Beavis and Butt-head there in the pile?

Well there was no pulling the wool over mom’s eyes.  Of course she looked at the itemised receipt and questioned me.

“I’m not paying for Beavis and Butt-head!” she said, and true to her word, gave me a cheque for the total minus that book.

I tried!

Sunday Chuckle: Euchre

Ever play Euchre?  Though there are many variations, it’s a four player card game with teams of two.  It’s a fairly quick game and we usually finish one or two during our lunch break at work.

Now, our plant foreman, who is a real character, loves to stop by and watch us play.  Offer tips.  Or try to, anyway.  He plays so fast that we can barely follow his strategy.

The other day he offered us a piece of Euchre strategy that had us all in stitches.  It was a quote worthy of Yogi Berra.  It was as follows:

“Now remember, it’s not about winning or losing.  It’s about playing the game.  You play to win!”

 

 

SURVEY: SHOULD LEBRAIN SHAVE HIS BEARD?

WATCH AND COMMENT BELOW…

#687: Chronic Complainers

GETTING MORE TALE #687: Chronic Complainers

There will always be people who relish complaining.  Maybe they feel that life wronged them somewhere.  Perhaps they got up on the wrong side of the bed.  Some people are just miserable and like to spread the misery.  Others are just cheapskates.  Whatever the category, we saw ‘em all at the Record Store.

If you don’t like a store, why do you shop there?  Chronic complainers had many grievances, but were still coming on a regular basis.  It’s not like we were the only game in town.  We weren’t the cheapest either.  So why did the chronic complainers like to make our lives misery?  Every retail job has “horror stories”, but those are amplified in a buy-and-sell environment.

I think a lot of people used to have the wrong about idea about what a “used CD store” was all about.  One of the old managers, Joe, used to say we were nothing but a “glorified garage sale” disguised as a store.  A lot of complainers seemed to see it that way too.  They wanted to haggle.  They wanted a better deal than what was on the sticker.

Me personally, when I walk into a store, I don’t assume every price is negotiable.  Some people do.  I still know people who love to haggle.  At the store, we all hated when customers tried.  Only the owner had any real authority to haggle, and he didn’t work at a cash register.

We carried a small selection of new CDs in addition to our used stock.  Some folks loved to whine about pricing.  Chronic complainers would tell you that “Walmart has the new Metallica for cheaper than you.”  Great, super, thanks for the help.  You know that an indy shop can’t compete with Walmart’s buying power, right?  Their costs were much less than ours, and there was no way to beat them.  Why didn’t you just buy Metallica at Walmart when you were there if the prices are so great?

Selection was another subject for complaint.  We might have had 10,000 used CDs in stock but complainers loved to point out what we didn’t have.  “This is the only Zeppelin you have?” they’d ask as they held up a copy of Encomium – A Tribute to Led Zeppelin.  “You never have any good Zeppelin.  When are you getting more?”  I’d explain that you can never predict when a specific used CD would be traded in, but I could put them on a waiting list.  “Nah, I’ll just check back.”  Well, then don’t complain when someone else snags the next Zeppelin before you.

We had a pretty good system for a waiting list.  It was all computerized so if something particular came in, it would automatically get flagged.  We could also have stock sent from other stores to pick up locally.  There was one woman that only came in during our first summer open…a chronic complainer that eventually fucked off.  She always had a complaint, every visit.  You don’t have this, you don’t have that, why is this taking so long?  She ordered in a CD from another store, didn’t pick it up on time, and by the time she came in (a month later), it was gone.  I remember telling the staff, “Keep this one on hold.  She’s really mean.  Give her extra time.”  Eventually though I had to put the album out and sell it.  I know that we called and left a message that she only had a week left to pick it up.  She still came in too late, and that’s when she ripped me a new one.

“I had to drive an hour to get here!” she complained.

“Would our Waterloo location be more convenient for you?” I asked, trying to be helpful but also hoping to dump this annoying customer on another store.

“NO!” she exclaimed.

Maybe you should have called in to see if the CD was still here before you made the trip.  I would have.  I think that was her last visit, and it was one customer I was happy to lose.  The owner probably wouldn’t like to hear me say that, but he didn’t have to deal with her.

When I was running our website in the early 2000s, I received a complaint about one of our locations that would not refund some used CDs.  I called the manager up to get her side of the story before I responded.  She said that the guy was yelling and screaming and wouldn’t let her finish a sentence, as she was trying to explain the return policy.  Some customers treated our female employees like dirt, preferring to deal with males.  I got the sense that this complainer was one of them.  He threatened to go to the Chamber of Commerce, but he didn’t get his refund.

There were also chronic complainers who primarily just sold CDs to us.  They wanted a lot more for their CDs than you can offer, and sometimes even act insulted about it.  When you wouldn’t give in to them (because you’re not allowed), they’d be grumpy about it, to put it mildly.  There was one construction worker that came in regularly who was my first surly nemesis.  (And no, he never sold me any Village People albums.)  Then there was the prick that worked at CD Plus down the street.  He kept coming in over and over again to sell, even though he complained each time.  He had tiger-striped hair.  What an annoying fuck he was.  I sure was glad when CD Plus shut down operations and I never saw him again.  (The former CD Plus owner, David Cubitt, still has his mullet but now sells beer for a living.)  Whatever that fucking tiger-stripe guy’s name was, I couldn’t stand dealing with his arrogance.

Tiger-stripe loved to argue.  He quizzed me about what kind of CDs we would pay the most for.  At the time, the Beatles’ original albums were expensive and in demand on CD, so that was one.  “We’ll pay top dollar for the Beatles, they’re still very popular.”

“Why the Beatles?  Neil Diamond has sold more albums than the Beatles.”

Yeah, not the point man.  You could buy a Neil Diamond CD brand new for half the price of a Beatles CD at that time, and he knew that.  His store made their coin selling “super saver” titles.

Any time he brought in a bunch of discs, he would only sell a handful of them and keep all the best ones.  If he could get more for them elsewhere, why was he coming to us at all?

The constant negativity of the chronic complainers could become a real drag on your day.

If you catch yourself complaining regularly at a favourite establishment, maybe it’s not a favourite after all, and maybe the problem is you.

REVIEW: Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (2018 expanded edition)

SULTANS OF PING F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (Originally 1993, 2018 Cherry Red expanded edition)

What an odd situation, when an extremely obscure album you spent years and years hunting for is reissued in a 2 CD deluxe expanded edition, and is sitting there in stock on the Canadian Amazon store.  17 bonus tracks (16 of which I’ve never heard before in my life) now sit alongside the core 12 album classics in my collection.  The world is a better place for it.

We reviewed Casual Sex in the Cineplex by the Sultans of Ping F.C. back in 2013, but it deserves another look now that it’s been expanded.

Casual Sex boasts a fun but snearing punky side, accompanied by hilarious shrieky lead vocals and lyrics to match.  Top this confection with an Irish accent and loud guitars!  Opener “Back in the Tracksuit” is a perfect example of this recipe: a blast of punk guitars & drums with the bizarrely catchy lead vocals of  Niall O’Flaherty.  Half the time, we couldn’t figure out what he was singing.  “Indeed You Are” sounds like he’s singing “Konichiwa!”  So that’s the way we sing it.

The relaxed poppier songs are just as good.  “Veronica” is a cute serenade with strings and harmonica.  Perhaps it’s inspired by early period Beatles, filtered through the Sultans’ own bedraggled lenses.  “2 Pints of Rasa” is in a similar spirit: a stroll through the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon “drinking with the guys”…and with strings!  In the lyrics, O’Flaherty proclaims to his girl of interest, “but I still like you, you are my ice cream.”  Write that one down for the next time you’re with your significant others.

A broadside shot of breakneck guitars kick off “Stupid Kid”.  The infectious chorus goes on for days.  “You’re stupid, S-T-U-P-I-D kid!”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more entertaining combination of snark and melody.  “Stupid Kid” is among the best tunes on the album.  “You Talk Too Much” is its twin brother, shrieks and surf-rock drums notwithstanding.

A rollicky bass intro kicks off “Give Him a Ball (And a Yard of Grass)”, and the body surfing begins!  You can’t hear what O’Flaherty is singing for most of it, but it hardly matters.  You can sing along as if you do, and nobody will notice.  The party has only one lull:  “Karaoke Queen” is OK, a little slack, but it is quickly followed by “Let’s Go Shopping”.   It’s another one of those sentimental Sultans numbers about, well, going shopping.  We always found the jubilant lyrics quite mirthful:

Put on your flip-flops and we’ll go shopping, dear
Put on your flip-flops, we’ll go flip-flopping, dear
You can buy crisps and I can buy jam,
You push the trolley, I’ll push the pram.

The sentiment stops there, since the next song is entitled “Kick Me With Your Leather Boots”!  That means you can count on brisk, boisterous shenanigans.  As a bonus, the lyrics planted the seed for me to seek out Schaffner’s bizarre conspiracy movie The Boys From Brazil.  “Clitus Clarke” approaches being skip-worthy, but who cares since the final song is our favourite, “Where’s Me Jumper?”

My brother knows Karl Marx
He met him eating mushrooms in the public park
He said ‘What do you think of my manifesto?’
I like your manifesto, put it to the testo.

This album would be worth buying just for the one song.  “Dancing at the Disco, bumper to bumper,” but then disaster!  “Wait a minute — where’s me jumper?!”  Niall goes on to complain that “It’s alright to say things can only get better.  You haven’t lost your brand new sweater.”  True, true.  “My mother will be so, so angry.”  But it’s impossible not to grin ear to ear like a gleeful hooligan by the end of it.

For years the original 12 tracks were all we had.  Later Sultans albums could be found in the wild, but T-Rev always said the fun wasn’t there.  He even found the single for “You Talk Too Much” which had “Japanese Girls” on the B-side.  Nothing to him was as essential as the first album, which is easy to listen to end-to-end and then do all over again.  Which is usually the way we listened to it.

How does adding 17 rarities change the listening experience?

Not badly, as it turns out.  The bonus CD is only a punky 42 minutes long so it never becomes an exercise in testing patience.  Seeing that information about this band is scarce already, it’s impossible to know how “complete” the bonus CD is with rarities.  It seems to compile Sultans EP and single B-sides from 1991 to 1993.  Other Sultans deluxe editions are out there comprising the later albums.

None of the bonus tracks are as indispensable as disc one, but that’s not the point.  A blast of a time will still be had, with more of the same sound that endeared us to the band in the first place.  There’s an early version of “Stupid Kid” from a 1991 EP, and a live recording of “Indeed You Are” from a 1993 EP called Teenage Punks.  “Miracles” (from 1991) adds a hint of the Ramones to the stew.  B-side “I Said I Am I Said” is fun like the album and makes a fine addition.  Check out “Robo Cop”, and the live track “Football Hooligan” for a couple more songs that are hard to resist.  Some, like “Turnip Fish” are just weird and more like early Alice Cooper.

Great to have more early Sultans, all in one place.  Get yours.

 

4.8/5 stars

 

 

 

 

#686: Puke!

GETTING MORE TALE #686: Puke!

 

Almost everybody hates puking.  It’s one of the most unpleasant bodily functions, and everyone does it.  Especially rock stars!  I remember reading an interview with the rock band Kix in Hit Parader magazine.  On the subject of tour stories, one of the guitarists was sick during one show.  He had a puke bucket at side stage, but he missed and the puke ended up hitting an electric fan, which splattered the vomit all over the drummer.  “But he felt better for about half a song!”

On the less funny side, too many rock stars died after choking on their own vomit.  Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham come to mind.  It’s a tragic way to go, when the rock and roll lifestyle eats its own young.  Unfortunately the lessons are not always learned and rock and roll continues to be littered with tragedy.

But let’s keep it light this time.

I have always been a power-puker.  I wake up the neighborhood.  I’ve never puked on stage like the guy from Kix, but I do have a couple rock and roll stories.

At Sausagefest several years ago, I pushed it one step too far.  Not with alcohol, but with food.  That last sausage was a little undercooked and it didn’t feel right in my stomach. I was OK though the Saturday night countdown, and I went to bed after the music ended.  I slept in my car that year, and I started feeling sick after a very brief sleep.

I woke up and I knew I was going to puke.  I got out the car and walked towards the middle of the field.  I didn’t want to puke near anybody’s tent.  I could hear that some of the guys were still up and partying, but I couldn’t see anything.  And then, I released the hounds:

BRAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGHHHHHHAAAAHHHHH!

BORRRUGHHHHHEEEEERRRRRRRHHHHHEEEH!

PLAGHHHOUUGGGGGHHHHHEAAAAAAR!

“You OK there buddy?” I could hear Tom asking from somewhere in the dark.

“Yeah I just ate too much,” I responded as I recovered.  “Can you get me a bottle of water from my car?”

Tom made sure I was OK, and I slept great after that.  I have no idea how late those guys stayed up, but I know that some years I have woken up in the morning only to find Uncle Meat and Bucky still hadn’t gone to sleep!  There I was going for my morning shit, and these guys were still hanging by the fire.

It happened again a few years later, after Thanksgiving dinner at the cottage.  I blame my mom for this one.  She laid out way too much food, including tables full of chocolate and candy.  As I did at Sausagefest, I ate too much.  I woke up in the middle of the night again, knowing I was going to puke.  I didn’t want to wake anyone in that small cottage so I went outside to the back yard.  Then, once again, I released the evil from my stomach.

BRAAHHHHGGGGGHHHHRRRRRRRRTTT!

BLUUUGGGGGGPPPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFF.

HUUUAAAAAAHHHHHHHGGGGG!

I walked back into the cottage to find that I did in fact wake everyone, despite my best efforts not to.

Here’s the funny thing.  In both cases, the puddle of puke was gone in the morning.  Eaten by wild animals?  Hope they enjoyed the meal!

 

GUEST REVIEW: Kix – Cool Kids (1983)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin – part 2 in his KIX series

KIX – Cool Kids (1983 Atlantic)

Coming off the heels of their unsuccessful debut album, Kix returned to the studio with new producer Peter Solley to shell out what would be their most polarizing and least rocking album. Cool Kids is the most commercial album that Kix every recorded, pressured by Atlantic to deliver a hit after the failure of the debut to find an audience. This was 1983, just before Pyromania broke through the stratosphere to make melodic hard rock/heavy metal a viable commercial direction. Atlantic still had no idea how to market Kix, and also didn’t know what direction to push them in order to find an audience. For this album, they decided to push them towards the new wave aspects of their sound, forcing them to work with outside writers for the first time.

The production of Cool Kids is much more slick and pop-orientated than the rough and ready production of the debut. It’s obvious that the band was pressured into this direction, as a lot of the time they don’t sound comfortable in their own skin. Signer Steve Whiteman’s voice lacks its usual power and grit on this recording, likely being asked to hold back for the songs by producer Peter Solley. Another notable change to the band’s sound is the presence of new guitar player Brad Divens, temporarily replacing Ronnie “10/10” Younkins. This is the only Kix album to feature Divens, as Younkins rejoined them by their next album Midnight DynamiteCool Kids lacks the fiery and spontaneous edge of Younkins’ playing, and contributes even more to the album feeling sterile.

Despite these flaws, this is still a Kix album. There are still enjoyable moments throughout the record, quite a few actually. They are however, overwhelmed by the material that doesn’t work on this album. Opener “Burning Love” doesn’t introduce the set of tunes with a lot of power. Kix always has energy, but it seems to be counteracted with the sterile production and addition of keyboards. That being said, it’s a perfectly serviceable melodic rock tune, but there’s nothing genuinely exceptional about it. With it’s bouncy keyboards and lazy riff, it doesn’t sound much like Kix. This is one of the tunes that wasn’t written by the band. The title track follows it in a similarly sleek fashion, but is ultimately more enjoyable because it is more guitar-driven, and the band’s natural energy pushes through much more. It was also written by outside writers, but it is a very catchy tune. I’d say it’s a great melodic rock song for the early ‘80s. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound much like Kix either.

After two tracks that fail to encompass the Kix sound, the first band-written track is up with “Love Pollution”. One of the only straight-up rockers on the disc, it’s also one of the best songs on the album. Written by Whiteman and Forsythe, the song burns along with a killer guitar riff and a lot of attitude, and accompanied by piano in the chorus that actually helps the song. A truly killer tune, one that I think represents the direction that this whole album should have gone in. It has a sound similar to that of the genre defying debut, but in a harder rocking vein. You can tell already that Kix wanted to toughen up their sound, though the shiny production doesn’t help that point across.

Next up is the outside penned “Body Talk” which used talk box three years before Bon Jovi, and also has one of the absolute worst music videos of all time. What the hell was the director thinking? Kix playing at what looks like a high school gym with only girls working out doing weird-ass synchronized exercise dances? Yeah, they really dropped the ball with this one. I find it strange that with this promotion Atlantic was confused about why the band weren’t doing well commercially. Luckily for them, Kix were still obscure enough that hardly anyone has ever seen that video. As for the song, it’s an uncharacteristic new wave workout, and a co-lead vocal between Steve Whiteman and drummer Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfont. It’s a catchy pop tune, but it couldn’t be further from the Kix sound. Atlantic definitely missed the mark by making them record this one.

And if you didn’t think they could fall further into Flock of Seagulls territory, we get “Loco-Emotion”, penned by bass player Donnie Purnell. Steve Whiteman gets to play saxophone on this song, and for the verses it’s easily the weirdest Kix song ever. While the chorus contains a get up and go kick in the pants, the verses are just off-putting. Their first album used Devo primarily for what little new wave influence they had, but now they were courting the sound of several shittier new wave bands. Fortunately, from here on out everything was penned by the band, and there is nothing as jarring as this song.

However, a lot of these songs penned by Purnell are strange, and not up to his usual standards. “Mighty Mouth” is a powerful rock tune that gets bogged down by a very awkward and annoying chorus with Whiteman screaming the title. It seems a bit too cheeky for its own good, but is nothing compared to the campy “Nice on Ice” and the absolutely awful “Get Your Monkeys Out”. These songs lean hard on the bubblegum pop equation that was blended so successfully on albums before and after this with hard rock. Here, thanks to the shiny production, they sound cheesy and downright embarrassing. Thankfully, the album is redeemed with the two closing tunes.

Kix break the general rock standard of having the penultimate song be the worst on the album, by having the penultimate song be the best on the album. “For Shame” is an acoustic ballad years before “When the Children Cry”, or “Patience”, or “More than Words”. Beginning to see a trailblazing pattern? Yes, this is a heartfelt ballad that relies more on a nostalgic feeling than a sappy one. It uses the emotion of regret as the basis of the tune, which is an effective emotional connector. Whereas other love ballads seem derivative, this one seems genuine. The lyrics are very simple, but powerful. They detail summertime love that is lost with the passing of the seasons, with the two lovers unable to find each other afterwards Grease style. Thankfully, this song is stripped of the excess production that plagues most of the rest of the album, which keeps it sounding real, unlike other synthetic love tunes of the era. “For Shame” is a fantastic ballad, one that Kix would only surpass with a #11 hit on the Billboard charts (more on that when we get there).

They round the album out with the spiritual brother of “Love Pollution”. The other hard rocking song on the album, it features a writing credit from everyone in the band. It’s a speedy number the glides by ending the album on a high note. “Restless Blood” is an energetic kick in the pants to conclude the record with grace. Cool Kids is arguably the least essential Kixrecord, as it’s sound is the result of the label pressure. For the most part, it doesn’t represent the Kix sound, and a lot of the songs that do represent that sound, don’t get the equation as balanced as on the debut or any of their later albums. Thankfully, Kix would not let us down again. Atlantic finally realized that they had their hands on a hard rock band after this record tanked as bad as the first one. Our heroes would resurface again stronger than ever in 1985 with possibly the greatest album of their career. If this was the stepping stone that made Midnight Dynamite possible, so be it.

2.5/5 stars