Author: mikeladano

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

REVIEW: The Darkness – Easter is Cancelled (2019 Japanese import)

THE DARKNESS – Easter is Cancelled (2019 Canary Dwarf, Japanese release)

I’m baffled.  I’m truly baffled this time, and I’ve followed The Darkness through thick and thin!  From brightest days to darkest nights.  From Stone Gods to Hot Leg.  And for the first time, The Darkness have thrown me for a loop.

Easter is Cancelled sounds like their rock opera, their big concept album, with gentle acoustics turning into loud bombast.  It looks brilliant on paper, but in practice it sounds more like Tenacious D.  That’s it — this isn’t a Darkness album.  This is what the D should have released instead of whatever Post-Apocalypto was.

Where I used to shout with glee as one gleaming riff gave way to another and then another, now I hear only fragments.  Only portions of great tunes, not completely brilliant tracks front to back.  The top track is actually one of the bonus songs, called “Different Eyes”.  The guitar work on Easter Is Cancelled is consistently stunning, at least.

This review has been painfully hard to write.  I take no pleasure in this.  It took months of agonising to get here.  I don’t want to hate The Darkness.  I want to embrace them — all four of them! — with open arms and heart.  Perhaps one day, I will again.  With all due apologies to Justin, Dan, Frankie and Rufus, this one wasn’t for me.

2/5 stars

I would be neglecting my rock and roll duty if I didn’t report on the Japanese bonus track, “Dancing House”.  It’s only a minute long and it’s…umm…about people dropping in for a party.  It sounds like bad B-52’s.  Really bad B-52’s.  I cannot discern its purpose or reason to exist.

 

Hated this review?  Then click here for a much better one by 2loud2oldmusic!

#817: Breaking Up With a Radio Station Girl

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 15: Dating a Radio Station Girl

GETTING MORE TALE #817:  Breaking Up With a Radio Station Girl

What followed this was actually one of the top five worst weeks of my life.  I was house and dog sitting for my parents, when I suddenly got a throat infection.  So I got dumped by this girl, I can’t swallow anymore, I’m taking care of two houses and a stubborn dog, that’s enough to handle already.  Schnauzers, you know how they are.  Well this one particular bad schnauzer is named Ani.  Ani pooped herself and got all the poop matted in her butt fur.  It was stuck in there so bad that I had to cut it out with a scissors, and then bathe her, all just minutes before I had to leave for work.  And then, just when I thought that the week was over and things would get back to normal soon, I busted my glasses.  I was scraping the ice off my windshield, and I slipped.  I somehow got caught onto the antenna which sprung loose and thwacked me right in the face.  My glasses, minus one lens, were down in the snow.  A fucking brilliant week.

 

Many of the old Record Store Tales today seem unfinished.  So I dated a Radio Station Girl — what happened next?

It was close to the end of winter 2003.  It was a week much like this one.  Elli was coming down to spend the weekend.  She worked two jobs.  Due to her shifts at the radio station and the Blockbuster Video, we usually only got a few hours together before she had to head to another job.  She surprised me earlier in the week with a visit at the Record Store.  Since she was living in Stratford without a car, that surprise visit made my day.  In an email she even called me the “best boyfriend ever” for the first time.  Yes, this weekend was going to be awesome!  Everything was coming up Mikey.

I drove down to Stratford to pick her up on the Saturday night.  Something was immediately off.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I asked her if she was hungry.  She answered, in a strange child-like voice, “Chick-en”.

“Yeah you want some chicken?  Do you want me to stop for some McNuggets?”

“Chick-en!”

That was all I could get out of her.  It was a bad sign.  The entire weekend was…cold.  She was unaffectionate and distant.  I couldn’t figure it out.  She didn’t seem interested in anything and even though she was supposed to stay Monday night too, she bailed early.

Everything felt wrong.  When the week resumed and everybody was back to work, she stopped responding to my emails.  I thought I was the “best boyfriend ever”.  Now I couldn’t even get the time of day.

And I was starting to feel sick again.  My throat was sore.  I toiled through the week and I was supposed to see Elli again on the weekend.  I hoped to resolve whatever was going on between us, but I already knew it was over.  Before I left the house on Sunday night to see her, I told a friend that I was “going out to get dumped by a girl.”

I was disappointed at best, and very angry at worst, that I had to drive to Stratford for her to dump me.  The third and final breakup.  At least she did it in person.  She said she was applying for jobs at radio stations coast to coast.  I offered to help, adding “but I don’t think you really want my help.”  I was right.  She didn’t want anyone tying her to home, and it was over for good this time.  I put on my coat and boots and headed back to Kitchener.

I was seething with anger, but the sore throat was lingering, making everything worse.

My parents bought me some Chloroseptic throat spray, which temporarily helped.  But I didn’t realize (because I hadn’t seen a doctor in 14 years) was that I had a full-on throat infection.  Before too long the pain was unmanageable.

The parents were going on a trip and I was housesitting and dogsitting for them.  This was the beginning of one of the legendary Top Five worst weeks of my life.  The parents bought groceries for the week.  I was really looking forward to the jalapeño potato chips that I picked out, but I couldn’t get even one down.  My throat was ablaze with hot, stinging pain.  It was like I had a molten hot steel ball bearing in my throat.  Every swallow hurt, even when lubricated with ice water.  The infection had also screwed up my taste buds and everything was sour.  I was a sad sack of shit on top of it all.  Even the dog couldn’t cheer me up.

It was a harsh winter.  Scraping the ice off my car, I caught myself on the antenna.  It came back and hit me right in the face, knocking a lens out of my glasses.  That was it – rock bottom.  I had enough.  Or so I thought.

I remember lying in bed in pain, unable to swallow.  I prayed to God.  I said, “I can handle being dumped, and I can handle this sore throat, but I can’t handle both at the same time.”  I couldn’t get any time off work.  There was nobody available to fill in, except for half a day on the Friday.  I realized I didn’t have a choice and would have to see a doctor.

On the Thursday, just as I was leaving for work, the dog took a shit, got it all matted in her butt fur, and proceeded to wipe herself on the carpet.  I chased her around in frustration, dunked her fighting into the wash bin, got a pair of scissors, and painstakingly cut all the shit out.  I cleaned the carpet and headed to work in sad frustration.

Like a miracle, my throat cleared up on the Friday.  I didn’t need to go to the doctor.

My heart took a little longer to heal.  But heal it did.  VoiVod released a new album on March 3 and that was the start of it.  It was their first album with Snake on lead vocals in a decade, and their first ever with “Jasonic” (Jason Newsted) on bass. The lead single was an old fashioned speed rocker called “We Carry On”. The title spoke to me as much as the riffs.

Music heals all…except throat infections.

 

So we are ready for more adventures?
No crystal ball to see the future.
Driven by a need to create,
On every mile we ride our fate.
In my heart,
In my soul,
In my blood,
In my bones.
It really does make you feel strong,
Like you would be forever young.
Day after day sharing and giving,
Reinventing the ways of thinking.
In my heart,
In my soul,
In my blood,
In my bones,
In my hands,
On my face,
In my eyes,
Here’s my rage.
This is our time,
This is our song,
This is our lives,
We carry on.
No need to say, it’s far from pure,
Once you’ve touched it, there is no cure.
We ride our way throughout the sun,
We just got here, and now we’re gone.
In my dreams,
In my hope,
In my fear,
In my goals,
In the sky,
All around,
In the light,
Underground.
This is our time,
This is our song,
This is our lives,
We carry on.

REVIEW: Loudness – Disillusion (1984 Japanese version)

LOUDNESS – Disillusion (1984 Nippon Columbia)

For a few albums starting with their fourth record Disillusion, Loudness began recording English lyrics for outside Japan.  For the Japanese versions, the lyrics are a mixture of both languages with the choruses usually sung in English.  Whichever version you hear, Disillusion will satisfy your craving for memorable heavy riffs, brilliant vocals, and incredible guitar shredding.

Guitarist Akira Takasaki was considered the Japanese Eddie Van Halen and you can hear why on Disillusion.  Though Loudness are heavier than Van Halen, Takasaki employs techniques similar to King Edward.  Disillusion opens with the thunderous “Crazy Doctor”, on which you can hear the Van Halen chords loud and clear, though the track sounds more like heavier vintage Dokken.  As outstanding as Akira is, also unmistakable is singer Minoru Niihara.  The original Loudness frontman could really sing with all the necessary panache and metal inflection.

The opening guitar shreddery on the speed metal “Esper” recalls St. Edward once again, but Loudness could have given Metallica a run for their money on this one.  Completely over the top!  A number of fans think that Loudness softened their sound when they released their American major label debut Thunder in the East in ’85.  You can understand why they think that when you hear “Esper”.  However this is a balanced album, and the more melodic “Butterfly” slows things down so you can catch your breath.  Unfortunately “Butterfly” is the closest thing to a mistep on this otherwise brilliant disc.

There’s a Maiden-y vibe to “Revelation” circa Piece of Mind, but not just because of the name.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Loudness were influenced by Maiden.  We do know that both Loudness and Maiden were influenced by Deep Purple so there might be some convergent evolution going on.

The parallels to Sir Edward continue on side two with an instrumental called “Erupt…” err, sorry, it’s called “Exploder”.  Whatever the similarities, Takasaki is an enticing guitar player and he came to public attention exactly when this kind of playing was most popular.  “Exploder” blows away most of the competition.  Only a handful of players could do stuff like this and they usually had names like “Rhoads” and “Halen”.

Vocals return on “Dream Fantasy”, another blazing hot metal extravaganza, with solid chorus intact.  It’s worth noting that Takasaki was not alone in musical excellence.  Drummer Munetaka Higuchi (R.I.P.) was a heavy-hitter who could thrash it up and come up with interesting fills.  Masayoshi Yamashita has a knack for a busy, melodic bassline, though mostly holds down the fort so Akira can fly.

“Milky Way” boasts a cool, smoother style of riff and another exemplary Minoru Niihara chorus.  It’s a challenging arrangement with different rhythms and textures.  Loudness were not simply banging out metal riffs for your rock and roll crazy nights.  They were stretching the boundaries of their abilities, playing intelligent metal like the Scorpions and Priest did in the 70s.  But they also weren’t afraid of getting down n’ dirty, as they do on “Satisfaction Guaranteed”.  Though you can’t tell without the lyric sheet, it’s the only song that is completely sung in English.  It’s not the lyrics, but the riff that will hook you.  Note the passing Maiden-esque gallop.

This version of Disillusion concludes with an epic “Ares’ Lament”.  It’s a cross between early Maiden and Scorpions with a touch of darkness, with a long shadowy outro reminiscent of “Child in Time”.  It’s a brilliant end to a pretty stunning album.

Disillusion is not immediate, except for “Crazy Doctor” which will hook you at first listen.   It’s a busy record, so you need to give it a couple proper listens to let the riffs and hooks come to the fore.  Once they do, you will uncover many elements of pleasure in the grooves within.  It sounds uncompromised and is more unique than the albums that followed.  It’s a fine example of metal forged in integrity.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

VHS Archives #91: It’s 1998. Are you ready for DVD? (MuchMusic FAX)

Ah, 1998, a simpler age for simpler folks.  We had just finished upgrading all our cassettes to CDs.  Those old LPs that were gathering dust in the garage finally hit the curb and the landfill where they belonged.  The digital age had arrived!  Time for another new format to sweep away the old.

Are you ready for Digital Versatile Disc?

This segment was from the MuchMusic news program FAX, during a period when they used “videographers” carrying cameras on their shoulders at all times, to catch those always-breaking stories. Oh, the late 1990s.

Sunday Chuckle: Snoop-a-loop!

 

VHS Archives #90: Aldo Nova – “Modern World” unplugged live performance and interview! (1991)

By request of the mighty JOHN T. SNOW of 2loud2oldmusic.com 

Canadian rock sensation Aldo Nova made his very first visit to the MuchMusic studios in July of 1991, on the Pepsi Power Hour hosted by Michael Williams.  Getting down to business, Aldo plays an unplugged “Modern World” from his brand new album Blood on the Bricks!

This nearly 20 minute segment is Williams and MuchMusic at their finest.  Aldo is engaging and frequently demonstrates songs on acoustic.  Subjects covered:

  • Signing a deal / starting out with “Fantasy”
  • Producing early Celine Dion recordings
  • “Runaway”
  • “Blaze of Glory”
  • His band and working with a singer instead of singing himself

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Bounce (2002, 2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Bounce (2002 Universal, 2010 special edition)

Wrote off Bon Jovi after Keep the Faith?  Not so fast!

It was a post-911 world, which in strange hindsight was a more optimistic time than today.  Bon Jovi, always patriotic, had to respond.  While only a few songs relate to the tragedy, Bounce is easily the strongest Bon Jovi platter from the last 20 years.

That was my brother lost in the rubble,
That was my sister lost in the crush,
That was our mothers, those were our children,
That was our fathers, that was each one of us.

“Undivided” makes no bones about its subject.  It’s also one of the heaviest songs the band have ever laid down.  Much of this, according to the band, came down to a new guitar that Richie Sambora was using.  His tone is certainly aggressive and modern.

“Where we once were divided, now we stand united.”

If only temporarily.  It was certainly more inspiring in its time.  At least nothing can be taken away from the music, and Sambora’s always sublime soloing.

Lead single “Everyday” is less successful, leaning on modern production values instead of rock and roll.  At least it rocks hard and chunky for the most part.  The samples and effects could have been ejected without hurting the song.  But Bon Jovi’s biggest weakness after Keep the Faith was a dependence on ballads.  At least most of the Bounce ballads stand strong.  The first of these is one of the strongest, “The Distance”.  It utilizes Sambora’s crushing guitar effectively to create a rock/ballad hybrid.  You can headbang to the riff while crooning to the verses.  It’s topped with strings courtesy of David Campbell, making the whole thing so overblown…and so Bon Jovi.  That’s their style.  You either like it or you don’t.

“Joey” is less successful as a ballad.  It’s one of those “growing up in New Jersey” songs that Jon is good at writing.  “Blood on Blood” is the best example of that kind of song.  “Joey”, not so much.  The arrangement is generic and the words, well:  “I never cared that Joey Keys was slow, he couldn’t read or write too well but we’d talk all night long.”  I’m sure there are more lyrical ways of telling this story.

Midtempo “Misunderstood” is an album highlight (and second single).  The chorus is the selling point.  Vintage Bon Jovi melody and charisma.  Unfortunately single #3, “All About Loving You” is profoundly putrid, with drum machines and tinkling acoustic guitars aplenty.  A heavy rocker called “Hook Me Up” is also less than inspiring, although you can at least rock heavy to it in dumb fashion.

A pleasant ballad, “Right Side of Wrong” is similar to “Joey” but without the awkward lyrics.  What does it sound like?  Bon Jovi, with all the references he loves:  James Cagney, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Next, Sambora’s wah-wah guitar on “Love Me Back to Life” brings some heavy to another ballad, which is good, because there are three in a row.  It’s all about Sambora and the strings by David Campbell, which add some needed punch.

Most of the ballads to this point have featured piano with strings, but “You Had My From Hello” is a sweet acoustic number.  Pleasant is the word.  But the second last track “Bounce” is an ass-kicker and best track on the album.  “Call it karma, call it luck, me I just don’t give a f…f…f…”  OK, that sounds pretty cheesey.  Jon refusing to drop the F-bomb is funny when you think about it, but “Bounce” was a single, so it’s not like he’s going to swear all over it.  Richie’s solo is 2000s-era perfect, as good as mainstream music got back then.  “Bounce” rocks.  Unfortunately the album concludes on another cookie-cutter ballad, “Open All Night”.  It was written about an Ally McBeal episode that Jon guested in.  Hard pass.

The 2010 special edition includes a cool backstage pass and four live bonus tracks:  “The Distance”, “Joey”, “Hook Me Up” and “Bounce”.  The added value makes the upgrade worthwhile.

This album “bounces” back between rockers and ballads a bit much, but when the songs are solid, it fires on all cylinders.  Let’s say you trimmed two songs from the album to make it an even 10, like Slippery When Wet.  Then Bounce would be a more consistent listen, and perhaps considered a bit of a latter day classic.  It’s still probably the last “good” album they’ve released.

3.5/5 stars

VHS Archives #89: Doug! Ty! Jerry! It’s King’s X with some Faith Hope Love! (1991)

The late, amicable Dan Gallagher was always enthusiastic about every band he interviewed.  He drew a good interview out of King’s X, and asked some deeper questions that got the band thinking.  You’ll also see some live footage from the Faith Hope Love tour.

Subjects covered:

  • What is King’s X?
  • What does Faith Hope Love mean?
  • How much does Ty hate making music videos?
  • Spirituality in music — does it belong?

I really love Jerry’s answer on that question.

 

 

 

Thanks for hanging this week for a whole lot of old VHS clips.  Winter is the perfect time to work on projects like this!

VHS Archives #88: Motley Crue’s Vince Neil – Back in Vancouver again with TDM (1990)

It’s a clean, sober and healthy looking Vince Neil!  Once again, MuchMusic had Terry David Mulligan with all the hot questions.  This chat includes a surprise announcement of Motley’s next album Decade of Decadence.

TDM raises the following subjects:

  • What does Bob Rock bring to the Crue?
  • How will the Crue celebrate its 10th anniversary?
  • Thoughts on the next 10 years
  • Music of the 80s
  • “In 18 months there won’t be 20 teenagers left in America that would be caught dead listening to Motley Crue.” – Creem magazine
  • French women

Check it out!