alternative rock

VHS Archives #105: The Sandbox Wake (1999)

MuchMusic ran this Sandbox special shortly after the band announced their sad demise at the end of the 1990s.  Since every cloud has its silver lining, we can be glad that guitarist Mike Smith found greater success as Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys.  This collection of interviews and live clips was run on the MuchEast program as “The Sandbox Wake”.

This memorial covers the band’s early days, writing terrible songs, improving, eventually getting signed and then onwards to the second LP.  The clips cover 1995-1997.  Graceland, The Junos, the East Coast Music Awards, concert footage…it’s here in this motherlode of Sandbox on MuchEast.

 

Sandbox:  Jason Archibald, Mike Smith, Paul Murray, Scott MacFarlane, Troy Shanks.

#923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

RECORD STORE TALES #923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

I think it was around 1995 that I really gave up into the ’90s.

What do I mean by this?  It’s simple.  In late 1991, there was a sea change in rock music.  The old guard was suddenly unhip, while a new unkept kind of rock was surfacing in Seattle.  Within three years, classic rock bands such as Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Poison, Ratt, Whitesnake, and even the once-bulletproof Guns N’ Roses were in some sort of decline, losing key band members or just breaking up completely.  They were replaced on the charts with a swath of new bands, from Nirvana, to Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Rock had been on such a high in mid-91 with #1 albums by Skid Row, Metallica, Van Halen and more.  It only took months for the landscape to darken.  But really, the warnings were in place well back in ’89.

It was a disorienting change and it got to a point in the middle of the decade where my favourite bands were dropped, broken up, or transformed.  Bon Jovi survived this period unscathed, losing only the inconsequential Alec John Such.  They were one of the few exceptions.  Motley Crue put out a killer record with their new singer that was criminally panned at the time by its critics and many longtime fans.  Winger couldn’t catch a break.  Some of the bands that did put out records in the 90s released sub-par trash.  Quiet Riot:  guilty with Down to the Bone.  Judas Priest:  Jugulator.  Dokken:  Shadowlife.  Unless your name ended with Jovi, it seems like every old guard rock band put out albums that were crap, sold like shit, or both.  Then, half of ’em broke up.

What was a metal head to do?  Still buy the old bands’ records and hope for the best, yes, but when you’re buying so much shit on a wing and a prayer, you start looking for something else.  I had to open my heart to some newer bands that, I felt, had something in common with the old.

Here is a list of 11 bands that made their way in.


1. OASIS.  I still love those first three records, and all the B-sides that came along with the tide.  My mom got me into the Beatles, and while I never bought into that “the new Beatles” crap, I did like that Oasis brought back some of what I liked about the fab four.  They were the only Brit Pop band I could put my heart behind.  Not metal at all, but Lars liked ’em.  They had guitar solos at least.


2. GOO GOO DOLLS.  Right around the time of “Slide” and “Broadway”, I let the Goo Goo Dolls into my life.  They reminded me of Bon Jovi without the bombast (and the solos).  They would have to do during the time when I needed a surrogate Jovi, which happened in the late part of the 90s when Jon released the stinker Destination Anywhere.  Goo Goo Dolls nailed the lovestruck acoustic/electric vibe that was once a Bon Jovi strength.


3. THE BARSTOOL PROPHETS.  Amazing Canadian band that could have been the next Tragically Hip.  The Prophets might have been a little more hard edged, and I identified with their lyrics more than the labyrinthic words of Saint Downie.  T-Trev was a fan and he recommended I give ’em a try, and I have loved them since.


4. sandbox.  A band that did not win me through a friend or a music video, but through the live experience.  Opening for the Barenaked Ladies, sandbox (all lower case) were a bit gloomier and heavier.  But there was also something magical about their songs “Curious” and “Lustre”.  They soothed my soul when I was lonely.  Later on, I found out that guitarist Mike Smith was on a television show called Trailer Park Boys


5. THE PRODIGY.  Who didn’t buy Fat of the Land in ’97?  It was a good album and Crispian Miller from Kula Shaker had lead vocals on one track.  This new heavy brand of electronica had hooks and a rock-like vibe.  It was like dance-y industrial rock.  I could dig it.  They even had a guitar player named — no word of a lie — Gizz Butt.


6. THE TEA PARTY.  I couldn’t get into Splendor Solis; I foolishly dismissed the band as a Zep clone.  I came to my senses on their third album The Edges of Twilight.  The Zeppelin comparisons were obvious (and I didn’t care about the Doors), but who else was making music like this anymore?  Nobody.  The Tea Party would do!


7. SLOAN.  It was not until their fourth album Navy Blues that Sloan scratched the itch.  Yes, I was a late comer.  Yes, I got into them during their commercial peak.  But the truth is it was really their double live 4 Nights at the Palais Royale that really nailed it.  One of the best live albums since the mighty Kiss Alive.  The comparisons don’t end there, as both bands feature four lead singers — a configuration I always enjoy.  (Hello, Goodbye, Beatles!)


8. RANCID.  Incredible band, two lead singers, and one great album that just slayed me.  Many of the rock bands I liked, such as Guns and Motley, extolled the merits of their punk rock backgrounds.  Just as Zeppelin and ZZ Top encouraged me to check out Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nikki Sixx pushed the Pistols on me.  Rancid were much better than the Pistols, but they had the same snot in their noses.  Rancid brought with them the ska and reggae side, which appealed to me immediately.


9. OUR LADY PEACE.  For one album, anyway.  Maybe it was Arnold Lanni that made this band buzz for me, but they were really a single album group.  Naveed is a monster.  Jeremy Taggart was a good enough drummer for Geddy Lee!  It had some things in common with hard rock, like loud guitars.  I could build them a bridge into my heart.


10. LIVE.  I maintain that everybody bought Throwing Copper in 1995.  This band just had tremendously broad appeal.  Unusually, every song was up to the same lofty level of quality; no duds, all keepers.  A number of strong singles led to massive radio and video play, but no followup album of the same stature ever emerged.


11. NINE INCH NAILS.  I was just starting to get into Nine Inch Nails.  The Downward Spiral is my album when it comes to this band.  They took such a long break after it that I lost interest.  What I liked were the riffs built from noise, the layered approach, the angst, the self-loathing, and the anger.  The album is still is trip to play, but I have never liked “Piggy” or “Closer” and think them a bit contrived.  Admirable though that the video for “March of the Pigs” is 100% live, music included.


Although there were many good albums made by metal bands in the 1990s that I have not mentioned, it was not enough for a music addict.  I needed to expand my horizons or remain stuck in the past.  There were more — Ben Folds Five, Steve Earle, Robbie Williams, Mel C. (yes that Mel C.) and Tonic to name a few.  Anything that had some kind of integrity of connection to the rock music I loved.  Ben Folds didn’t even have a guitar player, but his music rocked nonetheless.  These were all great picks to sample some of the best of the 90s.  Have a listen.

REVIEW: Here Comes Jim – Where Evil is Afraid (1999)

HERE COMES JIM – Where Evil is Afraid – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1999 Dark Star)

Full disclosure:  I used to know this quartet from Cambridge, Ontario Canada.  They were great.  When I first encountered Matt Greenhough and company, Faith No More had broken up and I was looking for something to replace them in my life.  Something heavy, non-mainstream and with bonkers lead vocals.  Here Comes Jim both terrified and delivered!  I wore their T-shirt, I played the CD in store, I flew the flag.  I loved this band.

That was 21 years ago.  I’m no longer the angry young man.  I wonder how this album sounds today?

It’s still sounds fucking great!  It’s noisy — lots of guitars fucking around.  “Unbridled Rock” meanders around but comes in to focus on the chorus.  The cowbell is a nice touch.  As remembered, the vocals really range from quiet sombering to full-on rage.  “Ran” combines a melodic sensibility with a noisy guitar drowning.  It’s a brilliant and unafraid mix of ingredients.

All the songs come flooding back even though I haven’t played this album in almost 20 years.  “Try to Keep it Clean” was always a favourite.  Melodic guitars and vocals against a cloudy backdrop.  Matty G (that’s what we called him) did the clean and shouty vocals equally well but he’s especially good when he’s singing clean.  He has a good handle on melody, but then at other times he just doesn’t give a shit about melody.  Sometimes it’s about volume, sometimes about atmosphere.  Many of the songs…float.  “Angel Has to Breathe” is one such song, hanging uncomfortably over you.  That is until the powerful chorus of “Who will save my soul?  Who will take my shit and go?”

One of my biggest favourites 20 years ago was the slamming “She Is”, perfect for thrashing out on air guitar.  The verses turn quiet and melodic, before the crash of distorted guitars return for an amazing chorus.  Then the next track negates all that with “Negator”, an absolutely insane thrash-o-matic scream-fest…with a drum solo!

“Negator” sample

Fun fact:  the feedback-laden instrumental track “5/5/2000” refers to an old book from the 1980s that claimed the world would end on that date, due to an alignment of the planets.  All I could think was, “Shit…we have to survive Y2k and then yet another doomsday scenario in May?  Come on!  Who comes up with this?”  The song is far more entertaining than the book from which it took its name.

I may not be an angry young man anymore but I get what I liked about Here Comes Jim beyond the friendship.  They wrote good, stabbingly aggressive, intelligent rock far off the beaten path.  I remember putting tracks like “She Is” and “Negator” on mix tapes and (later) CDs.  There are no songs that suck.  Only songs that rock.  Listening to Here Comes Jim is like going into the ring for 10 rounds and coming out with a concussion.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Faith No More – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 UK 3 track 7″ single)

FAITH NO MORE – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 Slash records 3 track 7″ single)

When I was beginning to seriously collect Faith No More in 1991 onwards, I had no idea what was out there.  I found the UK 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” at a record show in Guelph.  There are different versions of this single out there with “Cowboy Song” on the B-side, but that track can also be found on Live at the Brixton Academy.  The UK single on Slash/London has two live tracks you can’t find anywhere else, recorded by the BBC on March 2 1990.  Shortly after “Epic” was released as a single, but before it went mega.

The problem is, with 10 minutes of music squeezed onto the B-side, this single sounds horribly thin and is ridiculously quiet.  Tons of surface noise too.  The A-side, which spins at 45 rpm, is better.  Have a look at the unaltered waveform in Audacity for comparison.

Faith No More didn’t truly make it big until the end of the (first) vinyl age.  The album version of “From Out of Nowhere” was always an excellent song; one of their most “mainstream” if you can call it that.  The keyboard hook is the main angle, and Patton’s notable for using that clean nasal voice he discontinued not long after.  An excellent song, and a cornerstone of any nutritious Faith No More collection.

The B-side, the exclusive live recordings, rotates at 33 1/3 rpm.  Captured in Norwich, “Woodpecker From Mars” is Faith No More’s instrumental classic led by a keyboard violin voice by Roddy Bottum.  There is a different performance on a home video called You Fat Bastards (which is the complete Brixton set) but nothing else on audio.  “Epic” is disappointingly edited by the BBC.  They obscure the line where Mike Patton naughtily sings “get down on it and fuck it some more.”  The band sound fresh and almost green with enthusiasm for the song, playing it a bit more straight than they would later on.

On the plus side, this single comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a rarity for 7″ release.  Inside Mike Patton is givin’ ‘er live on stage.  Some kids probably taped this to the wall as-is.

In short, the music is great.  The vinyl is not.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Faith No More – We Care a Lot (Deluxe Band Edition)

FAITH NO MORE – We Care a Lot (Originally 1985, 2016 Deluxe Band Edition)

In 1985, roughly when a young band called Mr. Bungle was forming elsewhere in California, the legendary Faith No More released their debut album.  Original pressings and reissues have the band name written as “Faith. No More.”  It was a version of their name that they’d soon drop.  The lineup of Chuck Mosely, Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum, Billy Gould and Mike Bordin put together a low-budget debut that garnered them enough attention for their next album to be distruibuted by Warner.  A viable career as a rock band followed.  As a result of this fruitful career, in 2016 We Care a Lot was officially reissued with a load of bonus tracks and full participation from producer Matt Wallace.  As the liner notes say, “We’re putting this out because we can.”

This reissue includes four demos, and interestingly they reveal that there was an instrumental “Intro” for this album that was apparently dropped.  This sci-fi, keyboard-led intro would have been an interesting way to kick off the album with some atmosphere and foreboding.  (For a custom listening experience, try playing the album with the instrumental first.)  The disc instead commences directly with “We Care A Lot”, the first version mind you, not the hit single you know.  The sound is a tad more primitive and the lyrics were different in several places.  The “NASA Shuttle” hadn’t fallen into the sea yet in 1985, so it is Los Angeles that Chuck cares a lot about it.  Instead of the Transformers, he gives a shout-out to Mr. T.

“Jungle” is a disorienteing series of head-punches with reverse-echo.  A jagged Jim Martin riff and staggering Mike Bordin drum pattern makes it a relentless slam.  Chuck Mosely sounds frantic, unstable and urgent.  The same relentless approach pounds your head on “Mark Bowen”, slower but no less imposing.  Though Chuck is all over the map with his scattershot vocals, the band is solidly ominous behind him.

An absolutely beautiful acoustic interlude called “Jim” reveals a previously unknown part of Martin’s talents.  Though less articulate, this kind of composition sounds like the ones Randy Rhodes would include on an Ozzy record.  And just like with Ozzy, next it’s something heavy to slam.  That something is “Why Do You Bother”, the original side one closer.  Tense and rhythmic, it’s a tornado of fun.

Side two boasts several standout tracks.  Certainly “As the Worm Turns” has earned its place in Faith No More history, since Mike Patton re-recorded it in the studio and performed it live numerous times.  Its cascading keyboard melody contrasts with the heavy riff.  This version is rougher, but no less perfect.  “Greed”, which opens the side, is also notable.  It reads like a rejection letter from record labels.  “They say that when I’m supposed to be singin’, all I’m really doin’ is yelling!”  Though one doesn’t think Chuck would have been sensitive to such criticism, he does seem stung that “they say that I can’t sing, that I don’t say a thing, that I make everything up.”  But he defiantly strikes back with a heartfelt melody delivered at maximum intensity.

For thunder, check out “Pills for Breakfast”, another instrumental anchored by a Jim Martin riff that could move mountains.  Martin’s guitar gives “Arabian Disco” a solid spine, and Mosely shoves in as much melody as he’s got to give.  Only here at the tail end of the album does the quality of the songs dip at all.  “New Beginnings” is too laid back compared to the rest of the disc, bordering on dull.

Faith No More have been blessed with a number of (arguably) 5/5 star albums in a row:  Introduce Yourself (1987), The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1991) and King For a Day (1995).  We Care A Lot isn’t quite at that lofty point yet, but it wouldn’t take long.  Chuck Mosely’s unique approach of “yelling when he’s supposed to be singing” isn’t for everything and wasn’t fully harnessed in the studio until the next album.  But all the ingredients are here, on the first record, ready to explode in every direction.  Fortunately for you, this CD edition goes on for another nine bonus tracks!

Some 2016 remixes by Matt Wallace add more punch to the originals:  “We Care A Lot”, “Pills For Breakfast”, and “As The Worm Turns” are given the remix treatment.  Less echo; louder and punchier guitars.  No structural changes.  Three of the best tracks were selected, and sound great if played on a shuffle with later Faith No More classics.  The next batch of bonus tracks are four demos (including the aforementioned “Intro”).  Dig into early version of “Greed”, “Mark Bowen” and “Arabian Disco”.  The arrangements are all more or less intact, and the recording is so good that they could have been released long before.

Finally there are two live tracks from San Francisco in 1986.  “Jungle” (with a segue into “Shout” by Tears For Fears) and “New Beginnings” are bootleg quality, but look what they have done in terms of track selection.  There are no songs repeated among the bonus tracks.  Between the demos, remixes and live versions, eight of the album’s ten are present in alternate versions.  That’s value for the consumer.

Snag We Care A Lot if you see one in the wild, but absolutely aim for the 2016 Deluxe Band Edition.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl (1998)

GOO GOO DOLLS – Dizzy Up the Girl (1998 Warner)

The Goo Goo Dolls were made for the 90s.  When the big bands dropped off the charts, where were we to get our fix of melodic rock with acoustic ballads?  From Buffalo, NY.  Their sixth Goos album, Dizzy Up the Girl, was the latest in a stream of albums that got progressively less punk and more acoustic.  It was also their first album with critically acclaimed new drummer Mike Malinin, and the first since they had a huge single in “Name”.  It’s no surprise they went further in that direction.

Commercial intents aside, Dizzy Up the Girl is a remarkable album.  Every song helmed by singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik boasts an explosive chorus.  The four tracks with bassist Robby Takac singing are the ones that maintain a punk aesthetic, but with a refined sense of composition.

Lead track “Dizzy” is the first of many great single-worthy choruses.  In fact it was a single, though not the biggest of the bunch.  That would of course be Iris, previously issued on the soundtrack to City of Angels.  The 90s were not that much different from the 80s when it came down to it, and a power ballad is what made the Goos a household name.  Better than Iris though is the single “Slide”.  It charted just as high as “Iris” (#1) in the US and Canada.  Unlike “Iris”, “Slide” has a driving acoustic vibe.  It’s the kind of tune Extreme made their bread and butter with, like “Hole Hearted”.

Two years after “Iris”, the album was still producing singles.  “Broadway” is just as good as “Slide” with more emphasis on the electric guitar.  It has an earthy, down home quality.  “Black Balloon”, another single, takes it back to acoustic with harmonics, and strings added by Canadian David Campbell (father of Beck).  Even without the accompaniment it’s one of their biggest and best choruses.

Takac’s four tunes (“January Friend”, “Amigone”, “Full Forever”, and “Extra Pale”) are great breaks between Rzeznik’s more mainstream crooning.  Robby’s rasp isn’t commercial but it’s the only real link back to their punk rock days.  His songs don’t suck.  “Amigone” (pronounced “Am I Gone”) sticks to the brain like chunky peanut butter.

Four of the five singles are top-loaded onto the front of the album, normally a death knell for a solid listen.  Not in this case.  The Goos boasted album tracks as good as their singles.  “Acoustic #3” is good enough to be yet another single.   “Bullet Proof”, with its driving guitar, could have been the album opener.  The chorus lifts off to the atmosphere.  It’s the kind of chorus you expected from the 1980s, not the 1990s.  A dramatic “All Eyes On Me” could also have been a solid album opener.  All they need is a closer!  Nope, they got that too:  “Hate This Place” winds things up nicely the way it began.  “Hold on, dream away, you’re my sweet charade.”

Dizzy Up the Girl might not be up your alley, but in the 90s, choice was more limited.  It was hard to find mainstream rock that didn’t suck.  This one stands the test of time, with a collection of excellent guitar-based tunes that fit the mold.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – No One (1993 promo cassette)

“No one leaves the caravan.” – IME

I MOTHER EARTH – No One (1993 EMI promo cassette)

M.E.A.T Magazine was such an awesome resource for Canadians.  Their exclusive metal content really was second to none.  M.E.A.T was on top of virtually every new Canadian band on the scene.  Thanks to them, we knew all about I Mother Earth well before they were signed to EMI.

Then one day in early ’93, M.E.A.T arrived in the mailbox slightly thicker than usual.  Inside the envelope was a free cassette tape, a promo provided by EMI.  Time to see what this I Mother Earth band sounded like.  Would they live up to the hype that M.E.A.T was creating?

The full length album Dig was not released until later that summer.  Even the music video for “Rain Will Fall” hadn’t come out yet.  This EP, titled No One, was all brand new to me.  It received a lot of play.  Out walking with the Walkman, in the car, at home or at the lake:  I Mother Earth swiftly consumed me.  I felt pretty cool hearing all this music before the masses did.  They were gonna love I Mother Earth.

The cassette (repeated both sides) wisely opened with the chiming guitars of “The Mothers”.  Softer and more psychedelic than I expected.

“Listen…to the Mothers…” sings Edwin.  The track meanders on a little bit, not quite a full song but also more than just an intro.  “A surreal sound of eight-legged groove, a serving of today’s psycadellicasy.”  The clever words were written by drummer Christian Tanna, although I certainly couldn’t make them out on my own.

After a long 10 second gap, the uberfunk of “Basketball” crushes the speakers.  It’s almost too fast, but surely demonstrated that these Torontonians could play.  It’s more than just rock music.  The exotic percussion coupled with the tribal-sounding drums really took it all to another level, whether they were playing funky or psychedelic.  There’s always room for exotic percussion.

I called “No One” the centrepiece of the album, and so it is also the highlight of this tape.  Rather than hyperspeed funk, this one is built around guitar riffs.  There are two riffs in particular on this song that just steamroll.  When joined with the full-on groove of I Mother Earth, the riffs dominate your brain.  Then it gets quiet as Edwin chants “No one leaves the caravan…”, and this serves as a reset before the song comes back full strength for the kill.  Listening today, it seems almost impossible for a band to have a song this advanced on their first album.  It’s seven minutes of riff, percussion and melody yet there’s no fat to trim out.  You’d expect something like this on a third album, not a debut.

Interestingly, none of the songs on this EP were singles.  Dig ended up producing four singles.  Consider the strength of this promo tape, and you can extrapolate that Dig is probably a really strong album.  You would be correct.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (2018)

ALICE IN CHAINS – Rainier Fog (2018 BMG)

It’s always disappointing when you give a new album a fair shot, but it refuses to stay in your skull. Such is the case with the latest Alice In Chains, Rainier Fog.

It’s especially disappointing since their last platter, 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, was so crushingly perfect.  It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why Rainier Fog lacks the same impact.  It’s not singer William Duvall — this is his third album with Alice In Chains, and he’s done an admirable job every time out.  It’s also not the fault of the lead track, “The One You Know” which is a terrific starter.  “Rainier Fog” is also slammingly good.  From there on, the songs are less memorable, with the exception of “Never Fade” which has a chorus that goes on for miles.

What’s the issue?  Is it that we’ve heard all this before?  Ever since the passing of Layne Staley, Alice In Chains lost that certain “fucked up” quality to their music.  Staley seemed to bring an unschooled approach, completely unafraid to make unconventional music.  Rainier Fog is terribly conventional by comparison with Dirt.  There are verses, choruses, melodies and all the accoutrements.  And they are all good ones.  Little guitar hooks snake in and out of verses, cool as hell.  Riffs are constructed from the strongest mortar.  These foundations support a collection of well written songs.  But most of them refuse to stick.  It’s baffling.

Perhaps Rainer Fog is one of those albums that doesn’t click until the 100th listen.  They exist and when they do, they often become favourites.  If that happens here, we will line up Rainier Fog for a re-review.

3/5 stars

CONCERT REVIEW: Claypool Lennon Delirium – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019

CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019 

By Uncle Meat

 

Sometimes you go to Rock shows and are blown away by the venue, or the sound of the band, or the band itself, or something extra special happens.  Usually you are lucky to be subjected to one or two of these wonderful things.  It’s rare when all these things happen at once to make truly iconic memories you could never possibly forget.  This happened for me last night.  Music is the gift that keeps on giving.

Found out yesterday morning that I was going to see Claypool Lennon Delerium at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.  Special thanks to friend and fellow Sausagefester Aaron Stepaniuk for inviting me.  I had never been to the venue, nor had I ever seen Les Claypool perform.  I found it interesting as well that it was the very first show of their tour, showcasing their new album South of Reality.

Walking into the venue during the opening band, instantly I loved the Danforth Music Hall.  Very cool place to see a show.  Warming up the proceedings was someone by the name of Jim James.  All I knew was that he used to be the singer for a band I know nothing about called My Morning Jacket.  I was informed on the way to Toronto by Aaron’s girlfriend Rachel that there is an American Dad episode basically dedicated to “the angelic voice of” Jim James.  Gonna have to check out some American Dad.  The few songs we caught I deemed as “whispy”.  It wasn’t bad but didn’t resonate with me.  Jim James’ look reminded me of Daryl Hall dressed as the Joker and I was kinda glad when it ended so we could go out and smoke a huge joint.

As I am hauling off of this Buck-constructed, Buck-approved monster of a spliff, a door opens beside me, (I was too concerned with smoking this massive joint to even realise we were standing right beside an equally massive tour bus) and while I’m taking a healthy drag out walks Geddy Lee.  Yes…THAT Geddy Lee.   I almost exhaled the drag right into his nose, he was that close to me.  Instantly I started wondering if he could be getting on stage, but that stuff never actually happens for real…Right?

The show starts off with Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”.  I knew they might do some covers since they released an EP of covers in 2017 called Lime and Limpid Green.  On that note, the covers played that night were epic songs that most bands wouldn’t dare even try.  “Astronomy Domine”, “Boris the Spider” and “The Court of the Crimson King” are songs that you MUST play well live to even consider such an idea.  Interspersed throughout the covers were songs from their 2016 debut album Monolith of Phobos and their newest album South of Reality.  I enjoyed everything I heard that night.  First of all, Claypool and Sean Lennon can both sing very well and both comfortable in a high vocal range. The keyboard player also sang backup vocals.  No matter if it was Lennon or Claypool taking lead vocals, the background vocals were top-shelf fucking glorious.  This aspect was a definite highlight of the show.  I was there to see Claypool and he didn’t disappoint whatsoever.  However Sean Lennon was a bit of a revelation to me.  He is an amazing singer and a much better guitar player than I would have imagined.

The stage banter between Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (or “Shiner” as Les kept referring to him as) was comfortable and cool.   After some more of their anecdotes, the drummer breaks into a very familiar drum pattern.  I turned to my buddy Bucky and said “They aren’t really gonna play this are they?” The rest of the band started to join in and yeppers , they are playing Tomorrow Never Knows, written by the guitar player’s father.  You may have heard of him.  I can see off stage as a stage hand is standing there with a bass in his hand.  He hands it to an emerging shadow and out walks Mr. Geddy Fucking Lee, possibly still on a contact high from the joint smoking he walked through earlier.  Now I am watching Sean Lennon sing his late father’s song with two of the greatest bass players of all time on stage.  You cant make this shit up.  This kinda stuff never really happens and now it is happening.  As they are jamming out the song hard, Les Claypool does one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  He takes off his bass and starts kinda bowing to Geddy Lee with a huge smile on his face, gives a little “see ya” nod to the audience and walks off stage, leaving now only Geddy finishing “Tomorrow Never Knows” with the band.  For a couple minutes it was actually The Lennon Geddy LEErium.  The respect and tribute that Claypool shone upon Geddy by the nod and walking off stage will be a top 5 (Or higher) concert moment for me.  I had the utmost respect for Claypool before this night.  With one little wave to the crowd and the walk-off, he made my Rock & Roll heart melt.  I so wish Tom Morwood was there.  He would have cried like a big bearded baby.

The band walked off and came back for an encore.  Claypool says something like, “Gotta love when guys like Geddy Van Halen just walk on stage.  That’s what still gets my dick erect”.  The Delerium then went into their lone encore song, Primus’s “Southbound Pachyderm”.  It totally kicked ass with a sensational bass groove.  What a show.

What more could you ask for?  Did that really just happen?  Mind…Blown.

 

REVIEW: The Gandharvas – Sold for a Smile (1997/1998 US and Canadian versions)

THE GANDHARVAS – Sold for a Smile (1997/1998 Universal US and Canadian versions)

What a band were the Gandharvas.  Lead howler Paul Jago could hit those Perry Farrell highs, and they wrote some pretty fucking great songs including their major hit “The First Day of Spring”.  An unappreciated gem would be their third and final album, 1997’s Sold for a Smile.  Led by the anthemic single “Downtime”, this is a hard album to resist no matter which version you get. It even made our list: “88 Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 90s“.

Versions?  Yes, two:  the Canadian and US have different track listings.  In 1997, Canada got the basic 10 track CD.  When it was released Stateside, a number of tracks including “Downtime” were remixed.  The US and Canadian versions of “Downtime” have vastly different guitar solo and outro mixes, for example.  The States also got two bonus tracks:  a new recording of “The First Day of Spring” and a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”.  (The original album was a shorty at just under 40 minutes.)

The Gandharvas turned it up a notch for this album without losing sight of their more delicate tendencies.  “Gonna Be So Loose” is a slamdance of squealing vocals and chords.  (This song is available remixed on the US version.)  But then “Shells” is a low, strummy song perfect for the headphones.  It shows of the layered vocals that are a Gandharvas trademark.  “Waiting for Something to Happen” then goes somewhere between Guns N’ Roses and screamy, psychedelic punk rock — an astounding song, which then defies all logic by going acoustic.  And then all over the place.

Time for a little more pop in the rock, with “Hammer in a Shell”.  Snarly pop, with a sour candy coating.  “Watching the Girl” was another fine single, a more streamlined song for this album.  It too was remixed on the US edition, putting the guitars way louder.  Then strap in for “Sarsasparilla”, a boulder-heavy rocketship blast into space. “Into the Mainstream”, then, is a bit more complex, and perhaps a little bit epic.

“Milk Ocean” leads you to the end, with a healthy dose of acidy psychedelia.  It’s the closer, “Diabaloney” that’s a real head scratcher.  Is it a joke?  I can’t tell.  “I fuck it up, I got the fuck, I got the luck,” goes one set of lines.  Heavy and screamy goodness, but a real headscratcher nonetheless.  What the hell did I just listen to?

On the US version, the new recording of “The First Day of Spring” is placed third in the running order, after the remixes of “Downtime” and “Gonna Be So Loose”.  It’s quite a bit heavier than the original, though a brilliant song it remains.  Could it be actually a polished up live version?  Why does Paul Jago yell out “Colorado!” in the middle?  For fun?  This band is from London, Ontario not Colorado!  And “Time After Time”?  They twist it up, give it bite, and for better or for worse make it their own.  Unless you have a serious attachment to the song, the Gandharvas’ interpretation is quite cool.

As if you can’t tell, this is an album you should own.  Get one or the other, or both!

5/5 stars