Author: mikeladano

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

Morning Dashcam

Nothing major, but watch where you’re going bud.

Music: “Pygmy Blowdart” by Max the Axe from the new Oktoberfest Cheer EP.

Sunday Screening: The Darkness – “Nobody Can See Me Cry”

The Darkness have a new album coming out called Motorheart.  This week the band released a rather unique lyric video for a new song called “Nobody Can See Me Cry”.  Most lyric videos you see today are still pictures or slight animations.  This one isn’t.  It’s just a continuous moving single camera shot of the four Darkness members crying.  You gotta give guitarist Dan Hawkins credit in this one for going all out with the blubbering.  A smoke machine is added for effect and bassist Frankie Poullain fights to keep the tears at bay.

Sounds like a pretty heavy album is coming our way.  Get ready Darkness fans!

 

Cinco De-Listo

Something old; something new.

Coming soon?

#938: Tears of a Clown

RECORD STORE TALES #938: Tears of a Clown

Yesterday, September 10, was Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.  I was reminded of a good story, about a special young man that I met only once.  It was years ago, but for background, I’m going to tell you some things about myself that I’ve never shared publicly before.

The stigma on people who suffer from mental health issues is real.  We get called “crazy” or “weak”.  In reality we are some of the strongest people you will ever meet because we wrestle daily with things just because the chemistry of our brains is a little bit out of whack.  Every day that we finish is a day that we won.  Support is hard to find.  Everybody here should know by now that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  This is compounded daily by the stresses of supporting a wife sick with untreatable epilepsy.  Nobody can accuse me of having it easy.  I went to the doctor and got some “happy pills” but they didn’t agree with me.  One day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I went back to the doctor and she immediately put me on a sick leave.  I begged her not to.  I didn’t want my work to have to deal with it.  The doctor talked some sense into me.  I went on sick leave, and I made damn sure I did not waste my time.  As far as I was concerned, I might not have been “at” work, but I had to work, and that meant working on myself.

I enrolled in a class called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  It’s called “CBT” for short, which means something else too. I’ll get into that in a bit.

The people I met at CBT group were just like anyone else I ever met.  There was en executive.  There was a goth.  There were people who worked in finance.  Parents and grandparents.  People who cared for sick family members.  All walks of life.  Some I’m still friends with today.  We worked through things together and it was heavy.  We had some laughs too, as you should, but we dealt with a lot of things in that group.

One of the ladies I met there, “Katy”, became a friend immediately.  She was an office professional in the world of finance.  I think when she was younger, she worked as stage crew for touring bands.  We knew a lot of the same groups.  She was a fan of the Genitorturers, who I believe she worked for in the past.  One day in CBT class she leaned over and with a sly grin and whispered to me, “Do you know what else CBT stands for?”

I had an idea.  Thanks to some friends in the UK tattoo and piercing community, I knew that CBT also stands for “Cock and Ball Torture”.

She laughed that I knew it, and our bond was cemented.  It was an intense class and I needed a friend.  We got sad and anxious as the weeks wound up, and we were set to go back to our lives.  A bunch of us exchanged phone numbers and made plans to stay in touch.  I was really in a state of worry about heading back to work, as was “Katy”.  I wanted to get some new shoes for the job, and she agreed to help me pick out a pair.

“Is it OK if my son comes along?” she asked.  “You’ll like him.”

I did.  I liked him a lot.

I met up with “Katy” and her son “Kenny” at a central Tim Hortons location.  He reminded me of a young Jeremy Taggart from Our Lady Peace.  We drank coffee for an hour or two, while “Kenny” kept me in stitches with his natural sense of humour.  He reminded me of a stand-up comedian.  He just had the natural ability to make people laugh and entertain.  It was one of the best coffee visits I’ve ever had with anyone.  I asked him if he’d ever be interested in working together.  I didn’t have any clear ideas, I just knew that I wanted to do some kind of video with him.  A commentary, a discussion, a stunt…I knew he’d be hilarious.

After coffee we went to a store looking for my new shoes.  When we got there, “Kenny” asked if he could try on some skin-tight spandex workout suits.  He had no reason to try one on…he was not getting into cycling all of a sudden.  I think he just wanted to make us laugh.  He came out of the change room in this ridiculous outfit that was far too tight.  I’m sure his circulation was cut off and he couldn’t feel his feet.  Seeing him pose around the store in this skin-tight wrapping was both awkward and hilarious.  I recall he had a devil of a time trying to get it off.

I really enjoyed my day with them.  I wore my new shoes on my first day back in the office and it felt good to be in the driver’s seat again.  “Katy” and I kept in touch a little bit.  I knew “Kenny” had his own issues, but I was always a big supporter and fan of his.

Then one day in 2015, “Katy” sent me a message on Facebook.  Her son was gone.  I froze in the shock of it.  One day, I guess he just couldn’t take it anymore.  A feeling that I thought I knew, but had never taken further.  I simply could not believe what I was reading.  It seemed impossibly wrong.  This young man, destined to be someone truly special, who made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe, was gone.

“It’s always the funniest ones,” I thought to myself.  The year before, Robin Williams took his own life.  Iron Maiden wrote a song about it called “Tears of a Clown”.

“All alone in a crowded room, he tries to force a smile.”  Could I ever relate to that.  “Wonder why he’s feeling down, tears of a clown.”

When I think of all those comedians who struggle or have struggled with their own problems, I think of my friend and her son.  Without exaggeration, one of the funniest people I ever met, if only for a few hours.  It was a long time ago but I still talk about that day.  He was a special kid and I’m sorry that you’ll never get to see the two of us in a video together like I hoped.  It would have been hilarious.

 

#937: Bop Was Right: The Best Cassette I Ever Heard

“I agree that most cassettes and decks were crap, but the high end ones such as Nakamichi, Tandberg, Revox, Luxman etc. sound awesome and make great recordings.  The other thing is you can get decent audiophile quality cassette players for a good price, and the cassettes are cheap.” Boppin, August 13 2015

 

I recently purchased a couple cassettes from Drew Masters of M.E.A.T Magazine, from a band he was involved with at the time.  A band I like a lot called Russian Blue.  It’s a demo they recorded at Cherry Beach Sound studio in Toronto in November of 1991.

Even on my Technics RS-TR272 tape deck that badly needs a servicing, I can hear that it’s the best cassette I’ve ever played.

It’s loud.  Much louder than any other cassettes.  And it’s clear.  Barely any hiss even on this machine.  The dead spots between songs are quiet.  I’ve never heard a tape like it.

The reasons for this are two-fold.  One is that the cassette is a Sony Metal-SR 100, Type IV.  Not top of the line but not a bad tape at all.

Second is that this tape comes direct from the desk of Cherry Beach Sound, a professional recording studio.  Noise reduction set to “B”.  Their recorders are far better than anything I’ve had access to in my life, and certainly superior to the stuff they make mass-produced commercial tapes with.

What can I say?  Bop was right all along.  Cassettes don’t have to sound like shit.  I’ve been schooled.

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

MAX THE AXE – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

Pandemics suck, but last year Max the Axe began working on a remedy.  Three new songs — one cover, two originals — and a new EP called Oktoberfest Cheer!  With this year’s Bavarian festival just around the corner, Max is ready to rock your beerhallen.  It’s the second release with the same lineup:  Mike Koutis (Max the Axe) – lead guitar, Eric Litwiller (Uncle Meat) – lead vocals, Mike Mitchell – lead bass and Dr. Dave Haslam — lead drums.  It’s a much more punk rock affair than the last album Status Electric.  Perhaps it’s even a concept record about intoxication!

Opening with the original “Pygmy Blow Dart”, Max sounds like Queens of the Stone Age jonesing for a smoke.  Litwiller is in full Homme mode with the groove of the Axe behind him.  “I think I’m going downtown, looking for some dope.”  Ah, the quaint pre-legalization setting!  By the end, the band is in a singalong, looking for some smoke.  “Round and round, and round and round…”  Hey guys…check the local dispensary!  There’s one on every corner now.  Great bass solo in the middle, right before Max rips on the six string.  Fans of the last album will love it.

The Black Flag cover “Thirsty and Miserable” is outstanding, full-on punkfied Max.  Definitely some influence from Lemmy’s version of “Thirsty and Miserable” too.  This track kicks and Litwiller sounds legit.  They could play it two or three times in a row and you wouldn’t get bored.

Finally the punk-inflected EP ends with the title track “Oktoberfest Cheer!”, a song destined to be a seasonal hit.  Feather in cap, beer on tap…October is here so raise up that beer!  You can picture the festhallen going mad for this October anthem.  This is the clear hit, frantic and haggard as it may be.  Adorned with festive accordion, it’s punk rock unlike any other.  You can play it year after year…or in August.  Don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer!

The great thing about this EP is that it’s under 10 minutes in true punk fashion and perfect for repeat plays.

Kitchener knows.

5/5 stars

 

 

#936: Captain Crash

RECORD STORE TALES #936: Captain Crash

The summer of ’85 was going swimmingly.  We were on summer holidays at the lake and I was still really into Quiet Riot.  With their two albums (the only two I knew of!) on my Sanyo, and with boxes full of Transformers to play with, I was having a great summer.

Earlier that year, my dad bought for me a minibike from a school kid.  It had a lawnmower engine but could get moving at a pretty good clip.  The cottage was the best place for it, since it was all dirt roads and trails.  I had a hockey helmet and that had to be good enough for head protection.  I loved that bike, but it did not love me back.  The chain had a habit of coming loose, and it was always hit or miss whether it would start or not.

Sometimes I’d ride the bike all the way down to Dead Man’s River, others I’d stick to the roads where it was easier going.  I enjoyed the numb feeling in my hands from the vibrating frame after an afternoon riding.  I also liked cleaning and painting details on it.  But mostly I liked the feeling of getting it up to speed.

I was riding up and down our little road one afternoon the summer when I tried to accelerate, but the chain came off again.  Usually it just fell fell off and the bike went dead, but this time it locked up and I went right over the handlebars.  Worse, the chain had taken a chunk of flesh out of my left leg on the inner knee.  The soft spot where the meat is.  There was an inch-long gash packed with grease from the chain.  My knees, elbows and wrists were all banged up and bleeding from the landing.

I needed stitches so the next obvious thing to do would have been to go to the hospital.  This is not what happened.

A neighbour helped me hobble home where my family frantically began fussing over me.  The next minutes or hours are a blur.  A lot of telling me I had to go to the hospital, a lot of screaming and refusing, my dad promising he would buy me a toy if I let him look at my leg.  I would not let anyone near it.

Eventually, however, I conceded to remove my hands from my bleeding wound, though not to go to any damn hospital.  I let my mom and dad mop up the blood and grease, and bandage my leg.  I demanded my new toy, and knocked out hard to sleep.

The rest of the summer consisted of regular checking and cleaning of the wound, which didn’t fully heal for months.  I was not allowed to swim for fear of infection, and I couldn’t run.  I was regularly reminded that this wouldn’t have been the case of I had gone to the hospital.  But I got my toy.  My dad made sure, and my sister made sure I got the right one.

She returned with the Autobot named Swoop, a Dinobot that turned into a pterodactyl.  He was one of the coolest toys of the entire G1 line, with plenty of accessories, die-cast parts and chromed plastic.  He even had landing gear if you wanted to land him like an airplane.  And he made me forget about the pain in my knee.

I can’t believe how stupidly stubborn I was.  And you have to believe I was impossible if my parents couldn’t force me to go to a hospital.  And that was pretty much it for me and the bike.  The irony here is that I named the bike “Christine” after the car from the Stephen King novel that ultimately gets its owner killed.  I regret that decision too!

 

REVIEW: Slash’s Snakepit – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995)

SLASH’S SNAKEPIT – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995 Geffen)

Somewhere in the multiverse is an alternate reality where Axl Rose did not reject Slash’s songs for the next Guns album.  In that version of history, the new Guns N’ Roses was not titled Chinese Democracy; perhaps it was called Back and Forth Again.  And it would have sounded a lot like It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, the debut album by Slash’s Snakepit that we received in our reality’s year 1995.

As it went down, Axl said “no” to the songs Slash had finished, so Slash put them out as his first solo album.  And then Axl wanted them back.  In 1994, on the VHS The Making of Estranged: Part 4 of Trilogy, you can hear Guns working on one of these songs.  In the background, the music that would eventually become Slash’s “Back and Forth Again” is playing with Axl whistling overtop.  In the alternate reality, somebody’s listening to it right now as a Guns N’ Roses song.  In ours, it will only be Slash’s Snakepit.

Although Slash was enthused about his new music, and was eager to make a raw bluesy rock n’ roll album, Axl had other plans.  Who was right in the end?  It’s hard not to see Axl’s point of view.  Slash’s 14 songs had just one hit and 13 fillers.  Most of the best GN’R tracks were not written by Slash; they were written by Izzy Stradlin.  Left to his own devices, Slash’s batch of songs here lack memorable hooks.

Let’s start on a positive note at least — the lead single “Beggars & Hangers-On”.  Written by Slash n’ Duff with lead singer Eric Dover, this is a song that any band from Skynyrd to the Crowes to Zeppelin to Guns N’ Roses would have been proud to play.  Check out that riff — it’s as regal as the blues gets.   Powerful and soulful aching vocals from Dover.  The chorus roars, bright and bold, and you could only imagine what Axl could have done with it.  Matt Sorum’s drums splash at all the right moments, in his trademark fashion.  It’s a damn perfect song.  And it made people really excited for the album that was to come, Guns or no Guns.

Well, there were some Guns.  Slash had been working with Matt Sorum and the recently fired Gilby Clarke.  On bass was Mike Inez from Alice in Chains.  Though not in the Snakepit lineup, Slash also imported Dizzy Reed and Ted “Zig Zag” Andreadis from GN’R.  With those players, it sure sounded like Guns.  Only Dover really differentiates them.  Dover…and the songs.

There are fragments of brilliance through the whole record.  The acoustic intro to “Neither Can I” for example.  The circular snaky riff to the manic “Be the Ball” (not to mention Slash’s lyrics, which seem to be his personal life philosophy).  The boogie-woogie of instrumental “Jizz Da Pit”.  The wicked Inez bass on on Gilby Clarke’s “Monkey Chow”.  The Aerosmith vibe to “I Hate Everybody (But You)”.

And it’s a long album.  70 minutes of solid rock without a lot of variation.  Which is one reason why Slash’s 14 songs wouldn’t have cut it for Guns in 1995.  Appetite for Destruction had a variety of different songs on it, even if all shared a go-for-the-throat ferocity.  Slash did get the straightforward live sounding rock album he desired.  The guitars sound absolutely thick and offer a hint of what Slash and Gilby would have sounded like together on an original Guns studio album (like naturals).

It’s just a damn shame Slash’s solo debut is so disappointing.  It bears witness that Axl might not have been wrong.  You could make a hell of a GN’R album* out of the best tracks its members came up with.  But this isn’t it.

2/5 stars

* Alternate 1995 Chinese Democracy:

  1. Chinese Democracy (GN’R)
  2. Beggars and Hangers-On (Slash)
  3. Better (GN’R)
  4. Dead Flowers (Gilby/Axl – Stones cover)
  5. I.R.S. (GN’R)
  6. Street of Dreams (GN’R)
  7. Tijuana Jail (Gilby/Slash/Matt)
  8. Madagascar (GN’R)
  9. Absurd (GN’R)
  10. Six Feet Under (Duff/Matt – Neurotic Outsiders)
  11. This I Love (GN’R)
  12. Back and Forth Again (Slash)

REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

Sunday Screening: The Hudson Valley Squares – Black Sabbath ‘Born Again’ vs Rainbow ‘Down to Earth’

I was down in the dumps on Friday night because of the crash-and-burn that was my attempt to play LeBrain Train re-runs.  (Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.)  Uncle Meat saw my mood and recommended we watch this Sea of Tranquillity episode together virtually.

Everybody knows Born Again is my favourite album of all time.  I also like Down to Earth quite a bit.  What do the Hudson Valley Squares featuring special guest Martin Popoff think?  It’s a riveting hour of love and critique.  You have the Meat Man to thank for bringing this to our attention.