Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews! Poking the bear since 2010.

#955: Music Enjoyed Alone

RECORD STORE TALES #955: Music Enjoyed Alone

I’ve always had a solitary side.  Music is a fascinating hobby because it unites introverts and extroverts alike.  Everyone has their own preferred environments to enjoy music.  Whether you like to go out and rock it at a show with your buds, or whether you like to listen to a record alone with the headphones on, music unites us.

There is a certain amount of joy in both ways of life.  Ultimately, most people experience music in a mixture of both settings.

Some of my happiest memories were spent with music, by myself, with nothing but my thoughts and feelings.  When I’d get a new album, typically the first thing I’d do was go up to my room, close the door, and rip off the cellophane.  Hit “play”!  I’d read the lyrics, the liner notes, and study the artwork.  Then, after a heavy dose of rocking, I’d emerge to tell anyone who’d listen how awesome the album was.  That would often be my sister (usually uninterested).  Or, if it was a special occasion like Christmas, and the album was a gift, I would go downstairs to tell my gift-giver how much I loved it.  That’s how many first listens went down in my house.

I liked to keep my brain occupied while listening to music.  If I wasn’t studying the lyrics or artwork, perhaps I was reading a book.  Or doing homework.  Or drawing.  Or going through my growing stack of Hit Parader magazines, looking for pictures and info.

I’d allow myself a few minutes of air guitar when a favourite song came on.  Just drop what I was doing, and hit those air-strings.  Give it my all; burn off some energy.  Or perhaps I’d pretend I was Bruce Dickinson, fronting Iron Maiden at Long Beach Arena.

I was generally left alone.  Sometimes my sister would have a comment about the music blasting from behind my closed door.  “There was one really good song,” she might say if I was playing Poison or Warrant.  If it were Priest or Maiden she’d complain, “All I could hear is screaming”.

In 1988 I got my first guitar.  Periodically I would attempt to pick along to songs, but that was a futile endeavour.  I may as well have been playing air guitar.  A few years later, my sister got a pair of drum sticks with her VHS copy of Wayne’s World.  I would steal them and attempt to drum along to albums.  Poorly.

The kind of experiences that I had with music in solitude in my room were rarely equalled in a group setting.  My best friend Bob and I would play music and discuss it, while drawing pictures or writing stories.  That was the kind of thing I enjoyed most.  “Listen to this cool part, I wonder how he does that,” one of us would say mid-song.  “What did he say there?” was one common remark.  “I have no idea,” was usually the answer.

Treasured memories.  But a lot of that time with Bob was actually enhanced by our separate listening times alone.  When we met up on weekends, we were ready to show each other something cool we had heard, or had drawn.  Perhaps I had some new theories about Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son concept that I had to share with him.  The times we spent alone in our bedrooms listening to albums prepared us for the times listening together.  We had specific things we liked and wanted to share.  It was always nice when one of us got the other into a band.  He got me into so many, the last of which was probably Extreme.

When the CD began supplanting the cassette in my life, I added another activity to my solo listening sessions.  I still liked to have a cassette copy for portability once I started buying CDs.  So I made cassette copies of all my CDs, so I could listen to them in the car or on a Walkman.  (I did not get a Discman for quite a few years, as I did not trust them to keep my discs unscratched.)  Many happy hours were spent making cassette covers for my CD dubs.  I got better and better at it over the years, but sometimes making the cover was as simple as sketching a logo and neatly writing all the song titles down.

While I have had some amazing times singing at the top of my lungs gathered with best friends and associated buddies, some of the best times were spent listening alone!



GUEST REVIEW: Anthem – Ultimate Best Of Nexus Years (2012) by Thunder Blackmore

By Thunder Blackmore

ANTHEM – Ultimate Best Of Nexus Years (2012 King Record Co.)

In the world of metal, there is no short list of underrated bands from every corner and country of the world. Specially with long-standing bands that are still going strong to this day. Would it be bands like E-Z-O from Japan, Pretty Maids from Denmark, Thor from Canada, or Helloween from Germany, everyone regardless of nationality has a favorite band, who did well for themselves, but could’ve, would’ve and should’ve gone big. And while my choice for most underrated metal band ever would go to my fellow countrymen Pretty Maids (national bias has its moments), Japanese metal legends Anthem earns the runner-up spot, easily.

The band, led by bassist Naoto Shibata, who are perhaps more famous for his work with Loudness and Crush 40 in the 90’s, had a tough time in the 80’s with success in their homeland and even a small US tour in ’87, but also with internal struggles which prevented the band to go beyond like their fellow and more successful countrymen, Loudness. Ultimately the band would be disbanded in 1992 until they reunited in 2001 and have been going strong since then. A band considered by many to be part of the big four of Japanese Metal (with X Japan, Loudness and Flatbacker/E-Z-O) with mostly consistent excellent releases throughout the years, who just now are getting released to the west on streaming services and (hopefully) physically by Nuclear Blast. So far, there’s two options for getting into Anthem’s discography, which just so happen to be compilations. For their new era, there is Nucleus, released by the aforementioned Nuclear Blast. But as for their classic period, the import to buy is this one. Ultimate Best Of Nexus Years.

Japanese releases has a reputation of not being a very cheap options, so getting this compilation is definitely a good starter point. It collects songs from the band’s initial 80’s era, starting with the self-titled debut and ending with their final album before their hiatus, Domestic Booty (you’ll be the judge for the supposed meaning of “booty”). Given that the compilation is split into two cd’s, it also reflects the times with the singers Eizo Sakamoto and Yukio Morikawa representing disc 1 and 2, respectively. This decision, coupled with the track list being in chronological order, can be difficult at first listen. Not necessarily with the tracks themselves but more with the unevenness with the production, as the first Anthem albums sound pretty rough. Granted, that’s not a problem exclusive to the band, but that also means that you’ll have to skip to track 13, “Bound to Break”, if you are somewhat put off by the roughness.

If you can hang with it, you are in for 2 hours of kickass catchy melodic metal majesty from glorious Nippon with no noteworthy duds. Even with my nitpicky desire to swap out some tracks for others, I’m still absolutely happy with this purchase. Standouts have to be “Venom Strike”, “Shadow Walk”, “Bound to Break”, “Hunting Time”, “Night After Night” and “Show Must Go On”. The latter being their first original song with English lyrics (courtesy of the late Chris Tsangarides) and being their first to be featured in the Anime OVA, Devilman.

Until Anthem can finally release their back-catalog on physical media for a much more affordable price (CD, vinyl or otherwise), this one will do wonders in the meantime.

4.95/5 stars

Thanks to Thunder Blackmore for this awesome review.



REVIEW: Suicide Star – “The Day that Christmas Comes” (2021)

SUICIDE STAR “The Day that Christmas Comes” (2021)

Suicide Star recorded a Christmas song?  Then you know it’s going to rock heavy!  To make it even more interesting, this is not some overplayed Christmas pop hit from years past.  It’s a brand new original song, and the first new single since their excellent debut album Isolation.  Let’s celebrate!

As soon as singer Rob Barton opens his mouth, you know it’s Suicide Star.  He makes the band easy to identify even on shuffle.  Anchored by a melodic guitar line from Les Serran, “The Day that Christmas Comes” relays the bright hopeful feeling of the Christmas season.

There will be presents underneath the tree…
But the only thing I need, is you and me.

Lyrically the song captures the spirit and magic of Christmas.  Most importantly, the melodic tune (complete with jingle bells) makes it a delight to rock out to.  Production is stellar – up there with the album or even exceeding it.  There is even a fun and hilarious music video that really nails the Christmas vibe.  Well done, Suicide Star, and may your trees be overloaded with joy this Christmas!

Get in on yer iTunes or Spotify!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Vandenberg (1982)

VANDENBERG – Vandenberg (Originally 1982, 2011 Rock Candy remaster)

I must the only person in the world who doesn’t care about the first Vandenberg album.

There’s nothing wrong with it. I can’t say anything too critical about it. A track or two aside, it just fails to click.

Of course the standout is “Burning Heart”, the song that Whitesnake rehearsed but never released on Slip of the Tongue as they should have. This hot ballad would have been a hit for the ‘Snake, had Adrian Vandenberg not got hurt and replaced on album by Steve Vai. It’s a truly remarkable song that, honestly, deserved the Coverdale treatment. (Fortunately, you can get a rough version of the song by Whitesnake.) It was good enough to use as an effective side one closer.

On another highlight, Adrian plays some stunning classical acoustic stuff on “Wait”. It transforms into a slow, cool dark rocker but has the unfortunate chorus of “Wait, wait, wait, ’til the shit hits the fan.”

“Your Love Is In Vain” is fine, B-level hard rock, akin to Helix, or Talas, or any band of that nature. Bert Heerink is a somewhat generic singer who doesn’t help elevate the track higher. Kind of a Derek St. Holmes style singer. “Back On My Feet” sounds like a Quiet Riot B-side, right down to the high notes that the bass occasionally hits. “Ready For You” could have been a Van Halen-like speed rocker but lacks the teeth that superior production can bring. “Too Late” has a cool riff and boogie, also recalling Van Halen. Wicked neoclassical, finger-tappin’ solo work too. “Nothing to Lose” is a decent song, with a good chorus that sounds like Talas. “Lost in a City” and “Out in the Streets” are not memorable at all and the production does them no favours.

Let’s say three keepers:

  • “Burning Heart”
  • “Wait”
  • “Nothing to Lose”

Whitesnake should have re-recorded “Burning Heart” properly on the road, when Adrian returned to the band after his injury. They blew a huge opportunity for a timeless hit by not doing so.

The best thing about this album is the guitar work. The songs are secondary.

2.5/5 stars

#954/REVIEW: A Day at the Matinee – Eternals (2021) [SPOILER-Y]

The last time I went to see a movie, it was a V.I.P. experience and I had never heard the word “coronavirus” in my life.  This time was starkly different but enjoyable in its own way.

I’ve been wanting to see a movie in this pandemic ever since Tenet hit theaters in 2020, but that was before vaccines and many people were not ready to be back in cinemas yet.  2021 is different, and I’ve been enjoying stores and dinners out once again.  Time to go see a movie!  Eternals it is!  Now I’m completely caught up in the MCU, just in time for Spiderman:  No Way Home!

Eternals hasn’t been doing well, and for a Sunday matinee all that was available was the standard 2D showing.  (I could identify scenes that looked like important bits were cropped out from the Imax aspect ratio.)  My original intent was to see the movie with our friend Vu, but he’s a busy pharmacist and at the last minute, could not get away.  I was already at the theater, so I went ahead and bought my ticket.  Morning show:  less than eight bucks!  Occupany:  I was one of five people total!

I got comfortable in my seat; with the nearest person many rows away, I felt more comfortable than I’ve ever felt in a movie theater.  Not a sound from the others (not even a laugh at the funny scenes) and absolutely no distractions.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience in the cinemas before.  As per cinema rules, I was also masked for two and a half hours with no difficulty whatsoever.  In fact my usually cold nose was very happy to be masked.

I usually look forward to the trailers, but all I saw was shit.  Morbius looks awful and the fan-service trailer feels like a promotional clip for more than one movie.   I grew impatient.  Bring on the Eternals.

ETERNALS (2021 Marvel)
Directed By Chloé Zhao

I really wanted to like the Eternals.  Just days ago I acquired the last Eternals action figure of the ten:  Ajak, Salma Hayek’s character, healer and leader of the team.  She was a Walmart exclusive.  More like Walmart “elusive”!   The designs of the costumes, with unique colours for each character, were intriguing.  With all ten characters in hand, I was familiar with all their names and powers.

There’s Thena, Angelina Jolie’s goddess of war who can manifest blades and shields.  Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the powerhouse with a mighty punch.  Sprite (Lia McHugh), the master of illusions and storytelling, trapped in a child’s body.  Druig (Barry Keoghan), the brooding controller of minds.  Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), a star of the silver screen who can fire bursts of energy from his hands.  The master of technology, Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry), can create devices of great power and ingenuity with his mind.  Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) is the speedster and seemingly much faster than Quicksilver himself.  She’s also deaf and signs with her teammates.  Ikaris (Richard Madden), upon whom the legend of Icarus is based, is perhaps the most powerful, with strength, flight, and cosmic energy eyebeams.  Finally there is Sersi (Gemma Chan), the actual central hero of the film, who can convert any non-sentient matter into anything else.  Air to water, earth to wood, her choice.  They have been here for 7000 years, shaping our history and becoming our heroes of ancient legend.

That’s a lot of characters, and doesn’t include the underused Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), Sersi’s boyfriend and spinoff setup device.  Kingo’s valet Karun (Harish Patel) has more screentime than the future Black Knight.  Dane’s lineage is briefly hinted at, and the Ebony Blade mentioned, before being revealed in a post-credit scene that we’ll discuss later.  The point is, Whitman is not important to the story.  He begins as the “regular person” perspective character that we can relate to, as the strangeness unfolds.  But then he disappears and only at the end do we cynically realize his true purpose:  MCU world building.

It wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without some deus ex machina to boot — or maybe characters just like to wait until the last possible minute before revealing their presence?  That said, Ikaris does know how to make an entrance.

Many of the characters are quite delightful.  One feels for the relationship between Thena and Gilgamesh; one the sick and one the caretaker.  Poor Sprite feels cursed as a 7000 year old child who can never age, never to know love or even what it feels like to be treated as an equal.  Phastos, the master of technology, is haunted by his past.  He thought aiding humans to develop new sources of energy would help their society advance.  As he stood in the ashes of Hiroshima, he realized how wrong he was.  He has retreated to an anonymous family life with a husband and a son.  Thena, wonderfully portrayed by Jolie, has the equivalent of Space Alzheimers, lashing out in violence in fitful rages of memory loss.

Other characters go undeveloped.  I loved watching the speedy heroics of Makkari (Mercury), the girl with attitude, but never get a feel for her character otherwise.  Kingo is the entertainer, loving the spotlight and admiration of humans.  He displays wisdom, insight and his own unique perspective on events, but we never really get a feeling for what makes him tick.

Then there is Druig, the intriguing Eternal who can control minds.  With a thought, he could end all war on Earth, but he is forbidden from interfering.  Forbidden by who?

The complex story of love, deception, legend, history and family takes two and a half hours to unfold.  It is told in the form of flashbacks and exposition, lots of exposition.  The initial cover story is that the Eternals were sent to Earth to protect intelligent life from predators called Deviants.  That turned out to be a lie, but they are forbidden from interfering in human affairs unless Deviants are involved.  This comes right down from those that created both Eternals and Deviants:  the Celestials.  The Deviants were their mistake, and the Eternals are the correction.

Again, a lot to sort out in under one movie.  So in sum:  11 new characters (including Whitman), and three new factions.  Sort of new.

We’ve seen Celestials before in the Marvel universe:  giant beings of immense power.  Peter Quill’s dad Ego the Living Planet said he was a Celestial.  The space colony of Knowhere was built in the severed head of a giant Celestial.  The ultimate villain of Eternals is Arishem, a planet-sized Celestial who helps creation continue in the universe.  Celestials create new suns and life in the universe.  meanwhile, new Celestials are born in the heart of planets and feed on the life energy of intelligent beings like humans.  And it just so happens that a new Celestial named Tiamut is about to be born right in the middle of our Earth.  We die so that the Celestials can continue to create new life.  It’s a cycle.

And it also turns out that the Eternals are not the protectors of humans that we assumed.  They were only to protect them until such time as the new Celestial growing inside Earth had absorbed enough life energy.  This happened after the “Blip”, the moment in Avengers: Endgame when half of life in the universe was restored with the Infinity Stones.  Now some of the Eternals have grown so attached to humanity that they don’t want to fulfill their purpose.  They want to stop the destruction of the Earth.  Others cannot imagine disobeying their Celestial masters.  As you can imagine, this boils down to an Eternal vs. Eternal showdown at the end.

Any battle scene with the Eternals in this film has merit.  Since each character has their own power, they find creative ways to use them in concert together.  Unfortunately, the Deviants (who are being sold as the main villains but are really a just side threat) are not very interesting foes.  They look like Bayformers from one of the really bad Transformers films; all sinewy with tentacles that seem to defy physics.  Generic and uninteresting to look at.  One of the Deviants learns how to steal powers from Eternals and becomes a new threat.  We’re never really told why he can do this, but he does, and he evolves.

With the battle lines drawn, two groups of Eternals fight.  Needless to say the do-gooders trying to save the Earth, led by Sersi, are triumphant.  However the planet’s surface itself is scarred by the near-emergence of Tiamut the Celestial, and this will undoubtedly be referenced in Marvel movies and shows in Phase 4.  Our heroes and villains split up and go their separate ways.  A defeated Ikaris flies into the sun, almost like his mythical counterpart.  A small group take their triangular spaceship the Domo to go look for more Eternals.  And they find one almost immediately, in the mid-credit scene!  Patton Oswalt fans will like this, and what it could mean for the future.

In a clunky but hype-worthy post credit scene, Kit Harrington reveals his family’s cursed blade, but before touching it, is asked by an offscreen voice if he’s really ready for it.  Of course we know he will be, in whatever spinoff he appears.  But what really matters is who the offscreen voice is.  Thanks to director Chloé Zhao, we know it was a guy who’s kind of an expert on blades.  Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade (Mahershala Ali)!

Zhao’s knack for an outdoor scene made this Marvel movie seem bigger than any before it.  The cosmic themes with a grounded Earth setting helped the movie stay accessible.  At all times, our characters feel like humans.  Her direction provides a visual feast, as well as human characters.

But it’s congested.  While not fast paced, it feels like characters and concepts are rushed.  Who is Phastos, who is Kingo?  Let’s find out more about them.  What has Sprite been doing all these centuries?  Are Druig and Makkari ever going to hook up, and if so, why has it taken them 7000 years?  Seriously, you could do an entire film on Druig and what he could have been up to, building strange utopias in the jungle.  Makkari looks like she’s been on a hell of a lot of adventures, plus she can read a book in seconds.  Let’s find out more about her, please.

Nitpick:  in the film, Dane Whitman asks why the Eternals didn’t try to stop Thanos or anything else that’s happened in the MCU.  I would also ask where the other Marvel heroes are when a giant head and hand start to emerge from the ocean.  Where’s that beeper to Captain Marvel at a time like this?  (Granted, she had to go somewhere pretty urgently at the end of the last Marvel movie, perhaps excusing herself from helping out in this film.)

Following so closely behind the truly Marvel-ous Shang-Chi, Eternals feels like an unfortunate misfire.  The proof will be how it goes in rewatches.  Two or three years down the road, it might be better appreciated.  Or, it might be seen as an unfortunate corporate launchpad for new characters and concepts in the MCU.  Those who enjoy the cosmic side of the universe, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy and Loki, will delight in the massive Celestials, very well executed on screen.  Could this all be priming our senses up for the eventual arrival of Galactus in Phase Five?  Just speculation of course, but it seems more than possible.

See Eternals, but maybe do some research on the characters first before you go in completely dry.

3/5 stars

On my way out, I said “screw it, I’m getting some popcorn”.  I didn’t have any during the film having just had an early lunch.  I buttered it extra heavy and brought it home with me.

That was what I’ll call a positive experience.

Take the LeBrain Train Time Machine back to 1981!

Won’t you take me back to school?
I need to learn the golden rule.
Won’t you lay it on the line?
I need to hear it just one more time.  — Justin Hayward

Truly awesome show tonight as we took our musical time machine back to 1981.  Thanks to the awesome panel:  Harrison the Australia Guy, Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller, and Dr. Dave Haslam.  Together we went deep on the following 12 albums from the year 1981 A.D.:

  • Oingo Boingo – Only a Lad
  • AC/DC – For Those About to Rock
  • The Who – Face Dances
  • Thin Lizzy – Renegade
  • Iron Maiden – Killers
  • Blue Oyster Cult – Fire of Unknown Origin
  • Genesis – Abacab
  • John Williams – Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack
  • The Moody Blues – Long Distance Voyager
  • Styx – Paradise Theater
  • ELO – Time
  • Rush – Moving Pictures

In addition, if you indulge yourself to watch the whole 3+ hour show you will also get:

  • an unboxing of the new Kiss Destroyer 45th Anniversary box set
  • history of the year 1981
  • a clip of Eric’s cinematic debut Raiders of the Lost Fart
  • lots of laughs
  • a list of virtually every noteworthy album of the year 1981

This show was a sequel to last year’s retrospective on the year 1980 with Deke and a spinoff of Deke’s excellent followup on albums from 1981.

1981: In Depth with LeBrain and Friends

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and Friends

Episode 88 – 1981 in Depth

For those about to rock, we salute you!

Last year, Deke and I went in-depth on key releases from the year 1980.  This year, Deke did an excellent followup with his friend Muc, on albums from 1981.  When Deke and I tackled 1980, we were still using Facebook Live, with all its limitations and frustrations!  We still did an incredible show, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to do it again.  This time I am able to beef up the panel to four.

These shows have a different format from the usual.  Each of us picks three albums from the year 1981, and we discuss them in depth.  From the facts & figures, to the historical context, and personal impact, we will cover it.  I won’t reveal the 12 albums total we will be discussing, but you won’t be disappointed.  Expect variety.  We will also tackle world history and pop culture of the year, and might even have early video footage of a very young Uncle Meat in his first acting role!

Your panel are as follows:

  • Myself (LeBrain)
  • Australia Guy (Harrison — who was not even born in 1981)
  • Dr Dave (Dave Haslam)
  • Uncle Meat (Eric Litwiller)

Slik Toxik bucket list interview with Nick Walsh – Scotch on the Rocks

Thank you to Nicholas Walsh and Superdekes for an awesome interview last night.  The Slik Toxik / Famous Underground singer opened up on a ton of topics from his entire career:

  • Virgin Angel, Portrait and Slik Toxik
  • Meeting Sebastian Bach
  • Sending audition tapes to Ratt and Jimmy Page
  • Calling hotel security on his own band
  • Kicking Deke and Mike off the show and taking over Scotch on the Rocks on his own!
  • Future Famous Underground
  • Classic Albums Live
  • Detroit Rock City
  • Drew Masters and M.E.A.T Magazine
  • Geri Miller of Metal Edge Magazine
  • Sean Kelly and Metal On Ice

…and much much more.  A true bucket list interview for me.  Thank you guys!  Can’t wait for Part 2.

REVIEW: Harem Scarem – Rubber (Domestic and Japanese versions)

HAREM SCAREM – Rubber (1999 Warner Japan)
RUBBER – Rubber (2000 Warner Canada)

Time hasn’t been too unkind to Rubber, the experimental Harem Scarem album where they actually changed the band’s name to match.  Except in Japan where Harem Scarem were huge, a strange album by a band called Rubber emerged in the summer of 2000.  A generic, low budget rubber duckie adorned its cover.  No picture of the band on the back, but the mixing credits of Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance revealed the connection.  In Japan, the album was released in 1999 as a full-on Harem Scarem album, with all four band members depicted on the back, including Barry Donaghy and Darren Smith.  (Notably, Smith is not pictured nor listed as a band member on the domestic CD, as by the time it was released, he had left the band.)

What’s the fuss, then?  Harem Scarem had released a series of excellent albums with rarely a dud, but little impact in Canada or the United States.  Their albums had been skewing progressively more pop as the 1990s wore on.  By Rubber, it could almost have been considered a complete re-invention to a pop rock sound, heavily influenced by the simplicity of 90s pop-punk bands.  So the band was relaunched in hopes that some people thought they were a new hot group on the scene with a sizzling debut.

The Japanese and domestic CDs had different running orders, but since it was released in Japan first that’s the track list we’ll be following, including exclusive bonus song “Enemy”.  To its merit, the domestic CD includes an exclusive remix of “Sunshine” by noted producer Arnold Lanni.

“It’s Gotta Be” opens the album with a very 90s-sounding simple descending guitar riff.  It stands upon a catchy chorus, which Harry Hess delivers with the usual melodic expertise.  There are stronger tunes on the album, but “It’s Gotta Be” sounds very much like what was on the radio and video at the time.  Bands like Marvelous 3.

The oddly titled “Who-Buddy” is more like it!  Fast-paced (again, think pop-punk), with twang and candy-coated melody.  The build-up to the chorus can’t be resisted.  So very different from Harem Scarem of old, but the same four guys do it well.  Hess and Lesperance have always had a foot in pop, as demonstrated on the very mainstream Harem Scarem debut.  Pop changed quite a bit from 1990 to 2000, and “Who-Buddy” is a reflection of that evolution.

“Coming Down” is a different kind of pop, more lush with Spanish-influenced guitar twang.  Slower paced, but just as focused on melody, “Coming Down” is a lovely song that reminds of the melancholy music of the time.  “Didn’t know the grass is always greener, and then those blades cut my own hands.”

Thing really go pop-punk on the outstanding single “Stuck With You”.  As Hess sings, “There couldn’t be anymore anarchy if we tried,” you believe he’s 22 years old.  Smith’s busy drumming is on the mark, and the chorus just soaks into you until it’s just…stuck with you!  On the cover for the CD single, the three remaining guys are depicted with contemporary short spiky hair.  If not for the lack of neck tattoos they could have been Blink 192.  There’s even a reference to the current events of the time.  “The killer bees, casualties, everybody’s paying a price.”  Remember the killer bee scare of the late 90s?  The bees never came.

Unfortunately the hit never came either.  Though a brilliant song, it was impaired by a truly terrible music video about a kid who eats a variety of objects including a rubber duckie (seemingly containing the band), a doll and his little sister.  Somebody should have deep-sixed that idea.

“Sunshine” opens with typically late-90s skippy sound effects and adornments.  The Japanese version is 4:56 in length; Arnold Lanni trimmed his mix down to 3:54.  A slow pop song with distorted watery vocals on the Japanese mix, it’s a unique sounding track that fit into the alterna-flavours of the era.  Motley Crue made a whole album mixed like this, except it was shit and called Generation Swine.  The Lanni mix on the domestic CD retains the sound effects but ditches the vocal distortion, in favour of a clean mix that is easier on the ears, including additional backing harmonies.  Both versions have their merits, with the Japanese as a more spacey, experimental track and the Lanni version more aimed at radio.

Next up is the rockabilly “Face It”, continuing the twang of previous songs.  Unfortunate album filler compared to the others.  Smith’s drumming up a storm though!  “Trip” is more fun with a bendy 90s riff, and lead vocals by Pete Lesperance.   The chorus is suitably snotty.  Another odd title, “Pool Party” conceals an interesting if not quite memorable enough song.  The music is a little off-kilter, hinting at the band’s truly excellent schooled musicianship that was largely simplified for this album.

Back to the upbeat, “Headache” is pure bangin’ fun, with influences from rock to punk to ska.  Then an understated ballad called “Everybody Else” sits in the penultimate slot, building tension with a stealthy backdrop of strings.  Similar to past dark Harem Scarem ballads though wildly different in production.  Then we close on the Japanese exclusive “Enemy”, an upbeat track with a big chorus.

Harem Scarem continued with the dual identity for a few more albums before reverting back to their original sound and name.  As Rubber, they next released Ultra Feel, Weight of the World and Live at the GodsWeight of the World was a return to their classic, slightly progressive hard rock sound and so the name change back to Harem Scarem was sure to follow.  By 2003 the Rubber experiment was fully exhausted and the album Higher was the first to have no connection to that name.  From the Rubber era, only Weight of the World was included in the expansive Harem Scarem box set.

Rubber the album isn’t bad though.  It’s better than the followup Ultra Feel, and though dated, still contains a number of good songs that are fully enjoyable today.  The best track is clearly “Stuck With You”, despite the atrocious music video.

3.5/5 stars

Nicholas Walsh on Scotch on the Rocks, tonight!

I’ll be happy to tag along with Deke tonight as we have a Helluva Time with Nicholas Walsh on Scotch on the Rocks!  The Slik Toxik / Famous Underground frontman will be with us at 7 PM sharp.  Don’t miss it on the Scotch on the Rocks Youtube channel!  We’ll be quizzing him on his whole career from the start to the present.  Gonna be a great show.  Crank it up!