brant bjork

Iron Tom’s New Sh!t That Ain’t Bad 2019

Whether you know it or not, the only list you should care about every year is Iron Tom Sharpe‘s.  If you only listen to 20 albums this year…make them these 20.

  • Brant Bjork – Jacoozzi
  • Steve Earle – Guy
  • Opeth- In Cauda Venenum
  • Death Angel – Humanicide
  • John Garcia – John Garcia & The Band Of Gold
  • Elder – Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Queensryche – The Verdict
  • Black Mountain – Destroyer
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Colorado
  • Redscale – Feed Them To The Lions
  • Frozen Planet….1969 – Meltdown On The Horizon
  • Green Lung – Woodland Rites
  • Tool – Fear Inoculum
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest
  • Ian Blurton – Signals Through the Flame
  • Valley Of The Sun – Old Gods
  • Jimi Hendrix – Songs For Groovy Children
  • Villagers of Ioannina City – Age of Aquarius (Thanks Johnny Cheddar)
  • Church Of The Cosmic Skull – Everybody’s Going To Die
  • I concur with Meat…The Talking Heads are still the shit!
  • Add Dream Theater (Distance Over Time)…just listening to it now again.  It needs to be included.

Not a great year overall…nothing truly blew me away…these are merely ones that people should check out. – Iron Tom


#729.7: The Mighty Tom’s Top 16 of 2018

Before we get going on our final list (which is a good one I assure you), I’d like to say a few words about irony.

Every year before we went to a new on-site voting system, Tom would rant and rave about getting our Sausagefest lists in.  “PAY YOUR ROCK AND ROLL TAXES”, went the mantra.  He’d make posts and memes about it.  Hell, I’ve posted some of his memes!


So the irony is, Tom the Taxman was last with his 2018 list for me this year.  That’s all.  Tom, the guy always wanting the lists in early…was last with his list.  

In his defence he said, “Whoa…there was no timeline or due date…as far as I’m concerned I have until the 31st at 11:59.”  He then goes on to throw Uncle Meat under the bus!  “Meat stole most of mine, he didn’t even have a list two weeks ago…”  

That almost sounds like “the dog ate my homework!”  More irony?  Tom’s a teacher!

Onto the mighty list!


TOP 16 OF 2018

16. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Late comer…just got it yesterday…might be higher on the list after a few more spins…Nothing like this…Devo on coke…and other shenanigans.

15. Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto
Let down? Yes….But if I can hear J.B. belt out , “I’m the Daddy Ding Dong” I’m in!

14. Mos Generator – Shadowlands
Doomy, stonery, riffy, heavy…revolutionary? Nah…just rawk!

13. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe
A return to form…Wished I liked the Alex Lifeson track more, but it’s a meandering mess…

12. Yes – Fly From Here (Return Flight)
Originally recorded in 2011, this version has Trevor Horn on lead vocals and a couple more bells and whistles. With Horn at the helm it features the lineup that produced 1980’s grossly under-rated Drama album. Any fan of that masterpiece will find much to like here. (But probably not Steve Howe’s vocal debut “Don’t Take No For An Answer” which would work much better as a B-side, or better yet a No-side.)

11. Brant Bjork – Mankind Woman
Is there a cooler dude alive? Probably not. He was a driving force in both Fu Manchu and the mighty Kyuss for fuck sake…This slice of classic heavy rock is direct yet it does have flavours of blues, jazz and even bit of funk that spices it up. Solid rawk!

10. Ghost – Prequelle
Love the sax…hate their homage to Asia, “Dance Macabre”…Overall, Satanic ear honey…which they’ve done better before.

9. Magpie Salute – High Water I
Is it the Black Crowes? Not really…But it comes from the same rock’n’roll, Americana and southern blues spring…And it has Marc fucking Ford on it…looking forward to High Water II this year.

8. Adam’s House Cat – Town Burned Down
One of the odder releases this year…since it was recorded over 20 years ago. The little rock ‘n’ roll acorn that would grow into the mighty oak that is the Drive-By Truckers. Not just a curio however, but great, gritty American rock (with smatterings of early R.E.M.).

7. Necromancers – Blood & Wine
Sophomore slump? Only if you compare it to their phenomenal debut (my #1 last year). A heavy dose of guitar riffage from Satan’s apothecary.

6. John Prine – Tree of Forgiveness
My favourite songwriter. Darkly comic with a heart of pure gold. Writes about the essence of a situation, and sings them in a way that you know it’s the truth. I love this man.

5. The Sword – Used Future
Played the shit outta this…Love how they’re stretching out with their sound and finding ways out of the metal box…but still retaining the noodly rock greatness that keeps them heavy.

4. Voivod – The Wake
I just knew this sucker was going to be good…their last few have been great (Target Earth a gem)…but I didn’t think it was going to be this good. Thrash, punk, prog, jazz…King Crimson at there most pissed off and ragged…You know you’re listening to a Voivod album and that these francophone fucks are still giving a shit! I love the variance of the tempos and textures of the songs that allow the riffs to burrow deep.

3. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions
God damn! These guys cannot make a shitty album. Heavy groove merchants with wickedly fun and fucked-up lyrics that always put a smile on my face as I belt them out. This album would make this list for the strutting horn-driven “In Walks Barbarella” alone… Making heavy metal fun and in-the-pocket funky…

2. Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back
These guys should be huge. Their diverse influences are expanding their heavy metal pallet, and it is all so fucking cool. Orange Fucking Goblin baby!

1. Crazy Bull – The Past Is Today
Thanks to Classic Rock’s July free CD I was turned on to this album of southern fried heavy riff rock at it’s groovy gritty best. Skynyrd, Hatchet and more than a few nods to Brits Wishbone Ash. Sumptuous riffs, and leads and solos that put a smile on your face….





Thanks to Tom for his awesome list.  I’m placing an Amazon order for Tenacious D and Voivod right now!

#729.2: Uncle Meat Destroys 2018!

Man of few words, but many lists:  Uncle Meat presents his top movies, albums, and disappointments of 2018!



1. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. Mandy
4. A Futile and Stupid Gesture
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. BlacKKKlansman
7. A Star is Born
8. Solo
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp
10. Black Panther

* LeBrain’s comment:  I’m pleased to see the MCU and Coens make strong showings here, but Solo surprises me.


1. The Wake – Voivod
2. Used Future – The Sword
3. The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
4. The Sciences – Sleep
5. Town Burned Down – Adam’s House Cat
6. The Wolf Bites Back – Orange Goblin
7. Mankind Woman – Brant Bjork
8. Our Raw Heart – YOB
9. Spaceman – Ace Frehley
10. Triumphant Hearts – Jason Becker



1. Tenacious D – Post Apocalyptico (Both the animated show and album)
2. Kiss completely playing to tracks live
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. LeBrain’s Porn Debut

* You can’t please everybody!

#586: Adventures with Aaron (Three Different Ones)

GETTING MORE TALE #586: Adventures with Aaron (Three Different Ones)


When my buddy Aaron started his own site telling his own life story, it brought back a flood of memories for me too. We met in 1994 and had quite a few adventures of our own. Many of these tales are lost to the sands of time…but a few have come back.

I’ll start by saying that it was the beginning of a weird time. Both of us had started exploring the online world of computer BBSing (bulletin board systems). We made some lasting friends, but there were a few unsavory characters too. Remember Silent Knight? He (and his wall ‘o porn) was just one of the misfits I encountered.

There was Doug, the home-schooled Jehova’s Witness who planned to get rich from BBS subscriptions in 1994. Judging by his appearance, Aaron and I theorized that his white legs had never seen direct sunlight.

I’m not likely to forget Gray, an older guy who thought he was psychic. When I briefly dated and broke up with Aaron’s sister, Gray predicted using his “psychic powers” that the split was only temporary. That messed me up for months.

Fast Freddy was another, a guy I befriended when I was single and we both had something to moan about. When I got a new girlfriend I no longer had something to bitch about and had an acrimonious parting of ways with Freddy.

Aaron and I had a lot in common, such as music, action figures and movies. This led to a genuine friendship which in turn provided some adventuring. The first time we hung out as friends and not just with his sister was a “taping session”. We taped CDs off each other. Then we walked up to the library to photocopy covers. I showed Aaron how to make a tape cover with a photocopy. That’s how I got my first copy of Soundgarden’s Superunknown – taped it off Aaron. Another one was Duff McKagan’s Believe in Me album.

Aside from the usual stuff, like looking for CDs and movies, I’d like to share three stories involving Aaron:

1. The Monkey Boy Incident

One evening in September of 1994, Aaron his sister and I decided to get some fries at McDonalds. They have the best fries, don’t they? His sister decided it would be fun to throw pennies out the car window at street signs…and other cars.

One guy didn’t like that very much and gave chase. I didn’t know where I was going and got cornered. As Aaron and I cowered in the car waiting for an ass whoopin’, his sister got out of the car and confronted the other driver, who she dubbed “Monkey Boy” for the purpose of storytelling.

“Why the fuck are you following us?”

“You threw shit at my car!”

I’m not sure how but she managed to defuse the situation as the two of us sat in the car being scared! What brave guys we were.

2. The Mud Bath

The following spring, Aaron and I were out again, with a couple friends named Nick and Denise. I had the hots for Denise. Unfortunately what I did not have was any clue how to flirt or even ask a girl out properly. It was raining like mad outside, and we stopped in Waterloo Park during the storm. Aaron and Nick dared me $2 to run around in the torrential downpour for a minute. I thought to myself, “Hey, what a great way to impress Denise! She’ll think I’m fun and cool!” Because I’m smart like that.

I leapt out of the car into the storm, ran around in front for a bit, and then promptly slipped right in the mud. They wouldn’t let me back into the car until my time was up and I earned my $2.

I’m not saying that running around in the mud had anything to do with it, but I did succeed in dating Denise for a little while. I think it totally had to do with me falling in the mud.

3. The Ronald McDonald Invasion

Aaron had a fear of clowns. At the same time, he had very curly hair which, for a while, was dyed red. What attracts clowns more than curly red hair? A guy with curly red hair who also had a fear of clowns!

As if Aaron wasn’t having it rough enough, this time he was the one doing $2 bets. A night out again with Nick ended at a McDonalds where Aaron had an ice cream. We then dumped salt, pepper, ketchup and vinegar into the melted remains of his ice cream, and paid him $2 to finish it. Which he did! But that is where his triumph ended.

Wouldn’t you know it? A Ronald McDonald was there that night. You don’t see it very often, but sometimes McDonalds would have a Ronald clown there to entertain kids. Aaron’s red curly head attracted Ronald like bees to honey. And of course Aaron was terrified as Nick and I giggled. Aaron earned his $2 that night, and then some!

As Aaron continues forward with his story I am sure it will trigger many more on my part. Stay tuned.


CODA:  Integrity Mix 1995

A few years ago, I compiled an “integrity mix” CD of a lot of the tunes I was listening to during that period.  I distinctly remember getting most of these songs in 1994 and 1995.  Varga was a Christmas 1994 gift.  Kiss came from an LP that I had special ordered in at the Record Store.   Yes, vinyl in 1995.  Two copies — one to play, one to keep sealed.  Slash’s Snakepit came out that year and Aaron was really into Slash and Guns.  That Soundgarden track came from a CD single that Aaron had and I taped.  Rush came from my very first Rush studio album.  2112 was a birthday gift, and I’m quite proud of putting all of side one on this CD!

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Punk Rock Guilt (2008)

Purchased for $7.99 at Vertigo Records in Ottawa.

Scan_20160415BRANT BJORK – Punk Rock Guilt (2008 Dine Alone Records)

Brant Bjork is one prolific mo-fo.  Whether it’s solo or with bands such as the Bros, the Operators, or Ché, Bjork always maintains a high level of quality. Punk Rock Guilt is undoubtedly a solo album. All music was written and performed entirely by Bjork. He’s a talented multi-instrumentalist with a wide variety of influences from all over the music spectrum. When they collide in the grooves of the wax, it’s audio ecstasy.

What’s surprising is that an album called Punk Rock Guilt is loaded with both short songs and long bombers.  Maybe that’s the guilt part?  Sitar commences the album on an Indian note with “Lion One”, the first of the lengthy tracks.  At over 10 minutes, the challenge is to keep things interesting, and Bjork does.  When the song settles into a slow bass-heavy groove, I’m immediately reminded of his first excellent solo album Jalamanta.  The vocals don’t even kick in until the 3:00 mark, and then with a semi-spoken Lou Reed direction.  As a long song of this nature should, it picks up speed come solo time.  “Lion One” is outstanding rock as it rises and falls in waves.

The next is the shortest song, “Dr. Special”, and already much rock ground has been covered.  “Dr. Special” has a funky 70’s porn soundtrack vibe but heavy and sparse.  (This sounds like it’s a lot of fun to play.)  Over to “Punk Rock Guilt”, which is surprisingly classic rock.  The melodic riffs and catchy vocals give it something in common with Boston, but without leaving the Bjork sound behind.

“This Place (Just Ain’t Our Place)” returns to the Bjork groove, laid back, heavy and probably stoned.  There is no lyric sheet included but I’m pretty sure Bjork has returned to one of my favourite lyrical subjects:  UFOs!  The guitar solo has a spacey sound.  On vinyl (a double record set for its total 46 minute length), this closes LP 1.  The second record commences with a riff and “Shocked by the Static”.  Even though the copy here is a CD, you can hear this is a natural spot for a side break.  Lacking any major hooks, the way to enjoy “Shocked by the Static” is to focus on the groove and just air drum along.

The surprise of the album is “Born to Rock”, starting light and airy like some U2 outtake.  Clean guitars and Lynott-like vocals do the trick:  this is a killer.  Contrasting this is “Plant Your Seed” which has Sabbathy guitar tones and a singular groove.  Finally it’s another 10 minute tune, “Locked and Loaded”, to finish the album.  “It’s a hijack groove, electric boogaloo, and bloodshot eyes are watching you.”  Not sure what that means, but the groove is ZZ Top’s from “I Thank You”.  Cool vibe on which to end a cool album.

4/5 stars

#474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Last weekend, Aaron went record shopping in Toronto while I did the same in Ottawa. Check out his post too, and see what we scored!

GETTING MORE TALE #474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Something very special happened on March 24, 1956.  On that day, Clifford Michael Woodhouse married young Jean, the light of his life, and they began a large and loving family.  Clifford, known as Mike, was a radar operator in the CF (Canadian Forces).  As such he and his family lived in many parts of the world at many times.  According to his son Richard, who also served in the CF:  “During the height of the Cold War he was a Radar operator, working on what was known as the Pine Line, where he monitored and collected information on the movement and position of threats to the Canadian Forces and to Canadian sovereignty.”  He was also involved in classified projects, but I can’t talk about that, or he’ll have to shoot me.

Sgt. Woodhouse ultimately settled in Ottawa after stops in France and Gander, Newfoundland.  He retired in Ottawa where he and Jean still live today.  I am lucky to have married his beautiful grand-daughter Jennifer.

A 60th wedding anniversary is a big deal.  Did you know that couples who are citizens of the British empire (including Canadians) can receive a letter from Queen Elizabeth II for their 60th anniversary?  The diamond Woodhouse anniversary celebration (held on Sunday the 20th) was not an event we were likely to miss, so Jen and I climbed aboard a train and headed east to our nation’s capital.

We stayed in the Novotel (good experience; recommended) which was a block or two away from a store called Vertigo Records.  Brilliant.  First excursion solved!  We’ll get there eventually (I promise), but lemme tell you, I’ve never been in a Hummer limo before.  Jen’s cousin Missy arranged this beast of a vehicle, 18 feet in length, and just a pleasure to ride in.  (So screw the environment I guess; I rode in a Hummer limo and enjoyed it!)  There were 14 of us inside that Hummer, including Mike and Jean, two of their kids, three of their grand-kids, and FIVE of their SIX great-grandchildren!  How incredible is that?  Even more met us at the Keg Manor; a large and incredible group of people.

During the celebration, the lucky couple were presented a number of precious documents in honour of their achievement.  The letter from the Queen was perhaps even overshadowed by a personal letter from the Right Honourable Steven Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada.  Family member Chris acquired this by writing to the office of Mr. Harper, who was kind enough to send a signed letter in response.  There was also a letter from David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and direct representative of the Queen in this country.

Jennifer has a great family in Ottawa and I can’t wait to return to the city, in warmer weather.  It was bitter cold that weekend, windy and unpleasant to walk in for a long period of time.  As such we didn’t go far in distance from our hotel.  I did find this interesting place that I might have to check out next time.*  It was situated beside a couple tattoo shops.  Hey, it says it’s FREE, right?


Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St, (613)-241-1011) is an inviting and cool store selling new and used CDs, vinyl and even cassettes.  They had a copy of Metallica’s tape-only No Life ‘Til Leather, sealed for $25.  Even cooler, they had a signed Motorhead drum head (not for sale).   We arrived shortly after they opened and there were already customers browsing.  They had a lot of stock and they were putting out plenty of new stuff as I was there.  There were a number that struck my eye.

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?


One of the first discs I noticed was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Live in Leningrad, which I have wanted for a long time but never had.  Vertigo had a good variety of tunes in rotation over the speakers, including some Motley Crue.  Maybe that’s what inspired me to pick up the double Live – Entertainment or Death.  I’ve seen a lot of copies of it in the past in just wrecked condition, so not remembering if I owned it or not, I picked this one up.  I did own it already.  So this one goes into the Aaron pile.**  In the new arrivals bin, I saw Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard’s Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.  I wasn’t certain if he owned it or not, so for only $6.99 it was better safe than sorry.   He does have it, so I’ll keep it.  He tells me I won’t be disappointed with it anyway, because Gillard is a guitar hero of his and I should be in for a treat.

Speaking of Aaron, he has some Deep Purple castaways coming his way.  When I saw these lovely Japanese reissues in mint, complete condition for only $14.99 each, it was all but a no-brainer to pick them up.  There are Russian forgeries on the market, but these are the genuine article from Japan.  I’m very pleased to add these to my collection and pass down my old copies to the next generation of Purple fanatics.*** And lo! More Japanese treasures were to be found! Complete with obi strip was some rare Rage Against the Machine.  I have a brief story about this CD, that was too short to make it into Record Store Tales*^ but fine for an anecdote here.

One of the few guys that actually worked at the old Record Store before me was this guy Dave.  There was the owner, his brother, two guys named Craig and Dave, and then me.  A bit later on, Dave went to Japan but kept in touch via snail mail (back then, we just called it “mail”).  I will never forget that he sent us a letter to the store, almost taunting us with rare CDs that he found in Japan.  He mailed us the obi strips for Nirvana’s Hormoaning and a Rage Against Machine CD called Live & Rare.  “Ever seen these before?” read part of the letter.  Hormoaning yes, Rage no.   I never saw it again either, until Vertigo Records.  $12.99, obi strip intact.  Dave doesn’t even have his own obi strip anymore!


Moving on, some classic rock finds were hard to turn down.  Cream Gold ($8.99 for 2 CDs!) and Jethro Tull’s Living With the Past ($6.99) came home with me to Kitchener.  I have the Tull DVD of the same name, and it’s excellent.  And Cream?  This is my first Cream purchase.  This is something I’m glad to have fixed in my collection.



I love me some Fu Manchu, but I missed We Must Obey the first time out.  Brant Bjork’s Punk Rock Guilt also slipped past me.  Not this time!  $7.99 each.


Finally, I could not safely bring home a lot of vinyl on the train, so I didn’t go nuts on it.  I saw some cool stuff, believe me, and I was considering getting some Kiss solo album reissues.  I bought one 45, which was “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” by the Hellacopters, taken from their Kiss-like LP Grande Rock.  The single contains two non-album B-sides:  “Holiday Cramps” and “Be Not Content”.  The devil-dragster cover art probably made Rob Zombie cry tears of jealousy.

The guy behind the counter gave me the 45 for free.  “Because you’re buying so much,” he said.  What a pleasant surprise.  That was awesome.  I guess he didn’t know who I was*^^ and that I like to do this whenever I can!  We had a brief chat while he carefully put the discs and inserts in the cases.  We marveled at the folks out there who actually throw away CD packaging.  Why would anybody do such a thing?  I will truly never understand.

It was such a pleasure being in Ottawa that weekend, windy cold weather aside.  We will definitely return, and stay longer so as to check out some of the other record stores in town.  Vertigo Records is a must, a highly recommended store that I would rank as highly as my favourite Toronto record stores.

5/5 stars.

And thank you to C. Michael Woodhouse for your hospitality and for everything you have done for this country.

Mike “LeBrain” Ladano



*I’m kidding!  I’m kidding!

**I have a lot of stuff here that I should really mail out to the friends I promised I would mail them out to.

***Hopefully Aaron and his kids.

*^Have you been reading Record Store Tales?  If not, please click here.

*^^I’ve always wanted to say to somebody, “Do you know who I am?” and then whip out my cards as if I’m actually somebody.



REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Keep Your Cool (2003)

Scan_20151226BRANT BJORK – Keep Your Cool (2003 Duna)

Been a while, cats, since I chilled to Keep Your Cool.  That’s what you do to this record.  Loaded with laid-back latino-influenced stoner rock jams, Keep Your Cool is designed with purpose.  In fact it’s all right there in the opening jam, “Hey, Monkey Boy”, loaded down with congas and one steamy groove.

“Hey, Monkey Boy!  Why you unemployed?” asks one character in the song, voiced by Bjork.

“‘Cause I’m jammin’!” answers Bjork, utilizing a different voice.

Mood now set, “Johnny Called” comes right from the garage: simple, laid back, but infectious.  Back in the Record Store, one of our store managers Joe “Big Nose” used to phone me up and sing it to me:  “Johnny called me up on the telephone, just to tell me I’m not alone!” he melodized.  “Huh?” I asked confused.  So “Big Nose” gave me the record — on LP.  Now we’re grooving.  The amusingly-titled “Rock-N-Rol’e” keeps it coming.  These are basic, sparsely adorned grooves with a nostalgic bent.  “Hey there Mr. DJ, won’t you play, some Rock-N-Rol’e!” sings Brant, in an ode to being a kid with a radio and some cheap wine.  In the blazing outro, you can hear Bjork begging for some ZZ Top or some AC/DC, because he wants his “chick” to hear some rock and roll!  The groove then changes to a stomp on “I Miss My Chick”, closing LP side one.  Brant explains what he misses about his “chick”, but this being a family site I won’t list them here!  This is a smoking jam.

Commencing with the instrumental title track “Keep Your Cool”, the second side begins with a laid-back Jalamanta vibe.  Then Brant’s “Gonna Make the Scene”, and he does this with another snakey, sparse but funky groove.  He takes a rare falsetto vocal on the chorus, recalling early Disco.  Dusky, quiet rolling bass dominates “Searchin'”, very different from prior Bjork songs.  This makes it a highlight of the album and perhaps even the Brant Bjork canon.  The relaxed mood maintains on the final song, “My Soul”, which is also the only long bomber on the record.  It descends into another quiet jam, concluding the record on a serene but appropriate note.

Great album — short, and to the point like a punk record.  Ultimately, not particular a standout given Bjork’s incredible solo discography.  Keep Your Cool is still not a purchase to regret.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band – Black Flower Power (2014)


Bought at Sonic Boom during Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto Again…Again! for $14.99 brand new.

Scan_20151203BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Flower Power (2014 Napalm)

I’m a little pissed off that I didn’t get this album last year.  If I had, it might have dramatically changed my Top 5 of 2014 list.  Ever since I first grew to love Black Sabbath, I mourned that nobody (including Sabbath) were able to really capture the ingredients that made the early band special.  Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band have grabbed onto some of that magic.  Their bassist, Dave Dinsmore, is the most Geezer-ish bassist I have heard outside out Geezer Butler himself.  The songwriting gravitates to those chunky kinds of riffs that Black Sabbath made their home.  That’s not to say that Black Flower Power is a Sabbath clone — not at all — but it does have those elements, among many.  You’ll hear me reference the Sabs more than once in this review.

‘Twas the good sir knight More Wood that introduced me to Brant Bjork, via Fu Manchu and Kyuss.  Yet his solo work has reached and sometimes surpassed the heights of his former bands.  I’ve never been disappointed with any of his projects, although Jalamanta was and remains a favourite.  Black Flower Power has the potential to be that, too.

Over the course of eight tracks plus two bonus, the Low Desert Punk Band law down a variety of grooving rock.  Bjork brings his diverse influences to the table, so you’ll hear latin influences sitting comfortably next to punk rock.  Mostly, you will hear pure 1970’s rockin’ groovalicious smoke, and judging by the artwork, it’s the funky green smoke.  “Feelin’ so high, so alive” sings Brant on “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain”, so we know where his head is at.

Bonus tracks are always interesting, because I say, hey!  Why not just put more songs on the album if they’re good?  “Hustler’s Blues” makes sense as a bonus track because it’s kind of outside the general direction of the album.  It has laid-back aspects that are more Black Flower Power meets Jalamanta.  Brilliant jam, though, especially as it accelerates towards the end.  The second bonus track is “Where You From, Man?”, a title taken from the lyrics to “We Don’t Serve Their Kind”.  The songs are unrelated, though.  “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” is a driving metallic sludge with a chorus that will assassinate your brain;  “Where You From, Man?” is a jammy instrumental that meanders around with, what sounds like, samples quotes from James T. Kirk?!  (Wonder where he got that idea?)  It’s also one of the most Sabbathy, in terms of the early jazzy jamming Sabbath.

No matter your musical persuasion, it’s hard to deny the genius contained herein.  If you’re attracted to playing, there’s that.  Experimentation, yup, just listen to the guitar noise manipulation that passes for a solo in “Where You From, Man?”  Melody is here, in aggressive rock form.  Folks, this is quality shit.

Highly recommended, especially to fans of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and the mighty Sabbath.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Fu Manchu – King of the Road (1999)

Check out Mr. 1537‘s review of this same album (except on vinyl)! Right HERE!

KING OF THE ROAD_0001FU MANCHU – King of the Road (1999 Mammoth)

Of course it had to be Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete, that introduced me to Fu Manchu.  It was at a Record Store staff party, and the song he was obsessed with was “Saturn III” from The Action is Go (as recounted in Tyler and LeBrain episode two).  Since collecting most of the Fu Manchu albums, I’ve managed to boil it down to three favourites.  Of these favourites, King of the Road from ’99 may be their best album.

If you don’t know Fu Manchu, they are certainly not for everybody.  Lumped into the stoner rock scene, their repetitive drone-y songs are not commercial enough for many rock fans.  Lyrics are about cars, skateboards and UFOs are not typical rock fare.  The half-spoken half-sung vocals of Scott Hill are very different.  Yet these are some of the factors that make them Fu Manchu.  On top of the cake, the incredible drummer Brant Bjork played on some of the albums, including King of the Road.  Ready for the ride?

The appropriately titled “Hell on Wheels”  opens the proceedings on a decidely adrenalized note.  That repetitive detuned riff enables the band, powered by the inimitable Bjork, to groove their way through your skull.  “So put the keys in my hand! In my hand!” sings Scott Hill, over and over again.  The lyrics are straight and to the point: “El Camaro never dies, look closely and you’ll know why.”  So it’s one of the car songs, then!  I strongly advise you to exercise caution if choosing to play King of the Road in the car.  Traffic tickets are your responsibility, not mine.

“Hell on Wheels” fades into “Over the Edge”, pure groove at a mid-tempo pace.  One doesn’t necessarily have to differentiate between Fu Manchu songs in a review.  They all feature heavy-as-fuck repetitive riffs, Hill’s unmistakable flat vocal stylings, and an unstoppable groove.  It’s just a matter of fast, slow or in-between.  “Over the Edge” is absolutely an album highlight on a CD containing little else.  “Boogie Van” is less a highlight but boasts a vintage-Sabbath style riff and some cool slide courtesy of Bob Balch.  Then the doors are blown off the place on the title track, similar to “Hell on Wheels” in speed but even more intense. It’s one of the UFO songs, but the lyrics are as muddy as the music:

Under forty over is UFO,
Hell bent, stacked in rows,
The galaxy is lined with hundreds more,
Small town, you bet we’re sure,
All through my head,
It’s happenin’ over again,
As the day is long, they keep movin’ on.

As this sucker builds towards its end, I dare you to try and not bang your head.  It’s my favourite song on the album.

King of the Road says you move too slow

After a ride like that, you need to come down, and “No Dice” does the trick with a groove right in the pocket.  “No shoes, no shirt, no dice!” sings Scott, and for a while I really wanted to post a sign that said that on the door of the Record Store.  (They never let me have any fun!)

Kicking back now, “Blue Tile Fever” keeps the grooving movin’.  “It’s all brand new, just like I told you,” is the repetitive vocal hook, and Bjork gives you some tasty cowbell to gnaw on.  Bob Balch’s squirrely lead guitar stylings keeps things interesting.  “Grasschopper” is cool but not as hooky as the previous songs.  That’s alright, because “Weird Beard” (the theme song of Iron Tom Sharpe himself) is hilariously catchy.  My sister started calling Tom “weird beard” a few years earlier because of his sometimes unique facial hair stylings.  When Fu Manchu came out with a song called “Weird Beard”, I couldn’t stop chuckling.  No idea what this one’s about at all, but dig that groove!

Wikipedia tells us that the next song “Drive” was only on the North American version of King of the Road. Other territories got a song called “Breathing Fire” (wishlisted!).  “Drive” kicks ass at maximum rpm.  Brant Bjork and Bob Balch keep it interesting, while bassist Brad Davis keeps the groove going with pedal to the metal.  (Do not play while driving!)   Once again a comedown is necessary and “Hotdoggin'” does the trick as a slow cruiser.  The surprise is the closer, “Freedom of Choice”, a Devo cover.  It’s surprising because of how heavy they make it.

The CD is “enhanced” and contains the music video for “King of the Road”, as well as the single “Evil Eye” from The Action is Go.  (So you can consider “Evil Eye”, an awesome tune with a cool video, as a bonus track.) This outdated technology never really worked well in the first place and now with YouTube, nobody cares anymore.  It’s there if you want to check it out.

There are a few Fu Manchu albums that I would bestow the coveted 5/5 upon.  King of the Road is one.

5/5 stars

Tom and Meat’s Top Whatever of 2014

For my Top Five of 2014, click here.

For Dr. Dave’s Top Ten of 2014, click here.

For the Top Whatever of No Pre-Determined Amount from two of Canada’s most knowledgeable rock gods, stay tuned right here.  From Meaford Ontario, weighing in at XXX lbs, it’s Iron Tom Sharpe, who turns it up to 11.


Tom’s Top Eleven of 2014

BEN WARD11. Various ArtistsRONNIE JAMES DIO: This Is Your Life
10. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Single Mothers
9. MASTODON Once More ‘Round the Sun
8. EARLY MAN – Thank God You’ve Got the Answers For Us All
7. OPETH – Pale Communion
6. JOHN GARCIA – John Garcia
5. ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Half the City
4. sHEAVY – The Best Of sHeavy – A Misleading Collection
3. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans
2. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss

Saving the best for last, here’s Uncle Meat.  For added rocket sauce he’s also given me his top movies of 2014.


Meat’s Top Eight of 2014

Copy of IMG_20140706_0857128. MASTODONOnce More ‘Round the Sun
6. FOO FIGHTERSSonic Highways
5. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC – Mandatory Fun
4. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
3. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
2. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS English Oceans
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss

Meat’s Top Twelve Movies of 2014

11. X Men : Days of Future Past
10. St. Vincent
9. Interstellar
8. The Lego Movie
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Get On Up
2. Birdman
1. Whiplash