GETTING MORE TALE #616: None of My Exes Live in Texas (But One Lives in Thunder Bay)
“You’re going to meet a lot of girls here.” — The Boss, at The Record Store, summer 1994.
Here’s the sad fact of the matter. Even though it was promised to me like some kind of perk, I didn’t meet any girls at the Record Store.* That perk was as non-existent as 15 minute breaks.
Here’s another sad fact. I was absolutely pathetic at talking to girls. It’s too embarrassing to think about, but if I ever do psychiatric regression to recall all those painful memories, you could write a pretty hilarious comedy movie about my exploits back then. The working title would be The 20 Year Old Virgin. It would be something along the lines of Swingers but with a nerd as the lead character. A heavy metal sci-fi geek.
I just needed the times to catch up to me. When the internet became popular, the nerds became the kings. I was always better at talking when I have a chance to write and think about words. Email was perfect. Otherwise I used to get flustered and just flat-out say stupid things, usually trying to be funny. I began online dating in 2000. Trevor was always willing and able to help me out with advice, but regardless, the first couple years of online dating were epically awful. I can distinctly remember a Christmas card that Trevor gave me. It had a timeline illustrating the 13 “Crazy Exes” I’d accumulated so far.
“Hey, that one wasn’t crazy,” I protested as I pointed to one near the middle.
I can’t remember all the names. The detail I remember most is what city they lived in.
First was Waterloo, then came Hamilton #1. She was nice, Hamilton #1. She was originally from Prince Edward Island, and her cousin was Paul MacAusland of the rock band Haywire. I saw Haywire open for Helix in 1987. My first date with Hamilton #1 was actually record shopping. I bought two Devin Townsend Japanese imports. She got Paul McCartney’s double Tripping the Live Fantastic. She wasn’t the problem though, Hamilton was. I got severely lost on my way home and had (what I now know was) a panic attack.
Hamilton #2 came a bit later that year. She was better with directions, at least, so I didn’t get lost. She was into music too, but not anything particularly good. She liked…Britney. I’ll admit my interest in her was more physical than otherwise, but we did have an incredible first date. I remember telling Trevor that it was the best first date I’d ever had. The third one, not so much. She took me to her AA meeting. Obviously, that was no place for a date and I should have dropped her off and gone home.
Toronto was a repeat of the situation of Hamilton #1; panic attacks getting lost. That one was a Sloan fan, but she really turned me off when I saw that none of the discs were in their proper cases. Sloan At the Palais Royale had something else in it. The discs were scattered! But she was also a stage-5 clinger and the night I called her to say it wasn’t working out, she didn’t want to let it go. I turned my cell phone off because it was constantly ringing and I was going nuts. I went mini-golfing with some friends from the Record Store to clear my head. When I turned it back on, a friend prank called me pretending to be the ex! That eased the mood of the evening.
I really liked Kingston, and fortunately we’re friends. She was a musician and I even have a copy of her CD that I’ll review one day. My heart was heavy when she moved to Thunder Bay for school. I could do long distance but not that long. That wasn’t the end of the city of Thunder Bay though. The city taketh away, but the city also returneth: Thunder Bay Girl herself, subject of Record Store Tales Part 264: Garbage Removal Machine. She moved here from T-Bay and was into the metal. Motley Crue was her favourite. We’d hang out and watch music videos all night. I gave her a giant box of my old cassette tapes. But if Toronto was a stage-5 clinger, Thunder Bay was stage-6. I had to get out, and she justifiably hated me for it. But she hated me even more for bailing on her when she had to deliver a ferret to somebody. Attempting to be friends, I offered to drive her some place to drop off this ferret. I had to cancel because, as always, the Record Store was insane and I had to work. Having a life was very difficult at the Record Store and the ferret thing was not my fault. She didn’t care, and it was all she needed to hate me forever. She went home to Thunder Bay a little later; that’s why I like to say all my tapes are in a Thunder Bay landfill today.
I’m not innocent through all this of course; I’m sure some of these exes have their own stories. I’ll never claim to be blameless. I just like to tell my tales, because at the end of the day, you just gotta laugh. That’s how you ultimately get over shit. Laughter, and music.
Fortunately the last online lady I ever met was Brampton. Her real name is Jennifer, but today she just likes to be called Mrs. LeBrain.
*Confession time! There was one girl that worked at the Cambridge location that I liked, so I invited her out to dinner and then over for a movie. I was living with T-Rev at the time, who worked with her in Cambridge. Well I was so bored on our “date” (IT WAS NOT A DATE, TREVOR! IT WAS A HANG-OUT!) that I went to bed early and she hung out with Trev for the rest of the night! “Very awkward!” according to Trevor.
Welcome to the first of many year-end lists here at mikeladano.com! I’ve decided to call this series“2016 Can Suck Balls“. We will discuss the celebrity deaths that plagued this year on my own list, but first up to bat is the man the myth the legend — Dr. Dave Haslam. His heavier-than-fuck lists always generate a lot of interest, so Dave’s going first!
Please welcome Dr. Dave with his Top Albums list of 2016.
GETTING MORE TALE #537.1: 2016 Can Suck Balls Year End Lists, Part 1 – Dr. Dave Haslam
Well, it was an…interesting…year. The deaths came fast and furious, and the tail end of the year for me went from the sublime (Cubs win!) to the ridiculous (Trump wins!).
It will be fun watching the dumpster fire that is the United States over the next year, and perhaps a few of these tunes will serve as a compelling soundtrack for that.
10.A 3-way tie between Opeth – Sorceress, Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter, and Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us.
Why a three way tie? Because “Top Tens” are an arbitrary convention. I understand that we use the decimal system on this planet, but we’re talking music here, not distance, or measurement, or even the weight of your momma. Opeth was certainly phenomenal live, and there are parts of Sorceress (particularly the title track) that I love, but there is a lot of fluff on this album, a lot of acoustic bits that just didn’t grab me. If even 75% of it was of the calibre of the title track then it would easily be my #1 album. As it is, it merely shares a tie with Winterfylleth, who are awesome, but released an album that was pretty meagre compared to their recent efforts, and Nails, a band I probably wouldn’t even like that much except that the pure, unhinged fury of You Will Never Be One Of Us pretty much encapsulates my reaction to the election of Cheeto Mussolini by our terminally stunned neighbors to the south. Check out the title track (hmm, I see a theme here) if you want the most succinct example of unbridled aggression released this year.
9. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones
So Spellcheck flags “synarchy” as a spelling mistake, which casts a poor light on Spellcheck’s recognition of obscure political terms. And, now that I notice it, Spellcheck also considers “Spellcheck’s” (the possessive form of the noun Spellcheck) as a spelling error as well. What is my takeaway from this? That Spellcheck doesn’t like being talked about, or having particular qualities or characteristics ascribed to it. Well fuck you too, Spellcheck. I don’t even need you, so blow me.
Anywho, this is a half-hour long EP, and it sure isn’t Drought, an EP from 2012 which demonstrated new levels of variety and composition from these devout French Satanists. Instead, this returns to their classic sound: eerie, frenetic, bewildering, and very very fucking evil. There’s a reason why these guys don’t do gigs – it would probably be impossible to do this live. I can only chuckle at the thought that the U.S. Army uses Metallica or some other mainstream band to torture Muslim detainees when they could be using this instead. Then again, maybe that’s for the best. This music would likely have Navy SEALs shitting their undies.
Sample only if you’ve given up on sanity as a “life goal.”
8. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Recorded together live in the studio, this album has a more organic sound than any of their more recent releases. If you know them, then you know what to expect. They are a consistent, well-oiled machine, and there are few surprises or major deviations here. The song that really hooked me is “MonstroCity” (cool title, bro), which has a lurching, idiot-man-child-on-meth kind of funk to it – my favorite tune on the album. This album almost didn’t make the list, as my ability to truly appreciate Meshuggah depends on my mood; however, since I have been in a “smash-shit-up” kind of mood lately, here it is.
7. Devin Townsend – Transcendence
This fucking guy. Devy likely won’t get his proper due until years from now, but now is the time to get on board, if you haven’t already. Is it my favorite release of his? No (I’m looking at you, Ocean Machine). But when you can be as heavy as Devy can, and be as melodically lush and compelling, then you are as far past the run of the mill as it gets. As Rush rides into the sunset (did I mention that 2016 was a very trying year?), Devin Townsend is the Canuck that will pick up that torch and run with it. Time to recognize this national treasure while he’s still alive. Give “Failure” a listen and disagree. I dare you.
6. Dunsmuir – Dunsmuir
My love for Neil Fallon (and Clutch) is hardly a secret. He is the hard-rock equivalent of Tom Waits, but that comparison fails once I realize that Fallon’s tales and subject matter are even more compelling to a freak like me than Waits’. The band behind him soars, snarls, and grooves in a way that sharts on much of what we consider “classic metal.” This is why Vinny Appice replaced Bill Ward in Black Sabbath, and why Tim Sult can access limitless possibilities at the blusier end of heavy guitar. “Crawling Chaos” should give you a good idea.
5. Alcest – Kodama
A fine return to form from the French pioneers of blackgaze (black metal + shoegaze). Unlike last album Shelter, this one has bite to it, adding much appreciated energy to their lushly melodic soundscapes. With clean vocals and blackish wails, blast beats and proggier grooves, Kodama is an almost perfect balance of their disparate influences. Yes, this requires patience, and it is designed to be atmospheric rather than fist-pumping. Go to bed, turn out the lights, spark one up, and listen to this at volume on good-quality headphones. Immerse yourself. “Oiseaux de Proie” should serve nicely as an introduction.
4. Gojira – Magma
A third French band on my list? Tabernac! This one’s a grower, not a shower. This is a pretty new band for me, and I’m sure getting on the Gojira train at Magma station is like not getting into Mastodon until Once More Round the Sun or The Hunter (“Dude, like, haven’t you heard their early stuff? It kicks this album’s ass, man!”). Yeah, fine, whatever. That doesn’t change the fact that this album has a certain something that I can’t quite put my finger on. While they might have kicked your ass in a more aggressive and complicated fashion a few years ago, they’ve allowed some restraint and melody into their sound, and it has paid off in a big way. “Stranded” is what sold it for me, starting with a Meshuggah-esque riff overtop a deep but spacious groove, which then morphs into a simple bridge riff that is as cool as it is accessible, until the three and a half minute mark, when the real earworm of the song kicks in. Composition might be a four-syllable word, but it’s certainly not a four-letter word. Sometimes simplicity really is the closest step towards genius.
3. Deftones – Gore
I’ll save my rant about how unfair it is to lump these guys into the nu-metal category alongside vastly inferior bands like Korn and Chimp Trisket for a later time. Suffice it to say that this album rewards multiple listens. The story is that guitarist Stephen Carpenter had thoughts about stepping away from the recording of Gore because of how atmospheric and subtle the ideas were compared to their earlier albums. And it’s good that he didn’t, because there is still plenty of succulent riffage here. Chino Moreno is still a very versatile vocalist, going from a whisper to a scream to a croon in no time, and the rhythm section is always tasty and totally underrated. “Pittura Infamante” is probably the best example of how this band has grown – although each of their last three or four albums are totally wicked. This song resembles Gojira’s “Stranded” in that it shows how deceptive simplicity can be the secret weapon that veteran bands use to economize their songs for maximum appeal while still maintaining their true identity. And watch out for one of the riffs of the year at about the 2:25 minute mark. Wow. Then again, listen to “Hearts/Wires” for a more relaxed version of this album. Or the first track. Oh fuck it. It’s all amazing.
2. If These Trees Could Talk – The Bones of a Dying World
I had no idea that these post-rock alchemists got signed by Metal Blade, and I knew nothing about this album’s existence until I randomly came across it at Encore Records, which is where I had to special order their two previous albums about a year ago. This is textbook post-rock, and if you are confused by that particular genre designation then listen to “The Giving Tree.” It’s less spacey and discordant than Mogwai, less stoner-rock than Pelican, and much more immediate than Godspeed! You Black Emperor. There are a lot of layers, textures, and dynamics to be explored with three (3) guitarists, and ITTCT indulge that potential without it all turning into a sprawling, unfocused mess. I get a Steve Rothery vibe from “The Giving Tree,” although it is quite a bit heavier than you would expect from the heart and soul of Marillion. I’m glad that music like this exists. Sometimes you just don’t need a vocalist to get to the real heart of the matter.
1. Abbath – Abbath
After an acrimonious split with his Immortal bandmates, Abbath made the best Immortal album since 2000’s stone-cold classic Sons of Northern Darkness (one of the best heavy metal albums of the past 30 years, by the way), albeit under his own moniker and with a different rhythm section. And that rhythm section kicks massive ass, driving the kind of militant and triumphant anthems that will inspire you to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women on some frosty tundra where glaciers loom and wolves lie in waiting to feast upon the bodies of the vanquished. It doesn’t get more metal than this. Like Slayer, Abbath knows that downshifting to mid-tempo is where the truly heavy and epic begins, and “Winterbane” is a perfect example of this. Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.
Close but no cigar: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (good, but too much meh); Russian Circles (haven’t heard it enough); Khemmis (so close…); SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (not as good as More Constant Than The Gods); Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Alter beyond the Celestial Zenith (crazy title, great black metal album).
My main obsession in 2016 that does not involve a particular album released in 2016:
Live MGLA – I’ve spent most of my YouTube time in the past year listening to and watching this Polish black metal band slay audiences and perfect heavy metal with an aggressive yet understated style that simply beggars comparison. This is THE SHIT. The drummer is unbelievable, the riffs are unimpeachable, and the compositions are incredible if you consider that hypnotism is just as valuable as anything “showy” or “obvious.” This gets me hard more than anything else in the universe right now. No grandstanding, no histrionics, no drama, no “image,” no trying too hard. This is simply perfect heavy metal. For a short, two-song sampler, check out “Brutal Assault 21 – Mgla (live) 2016”. Or for a boringly- filmed but excellent-sounding full gig, check out “MGLA – Live at Dark Easter Metal Meeting 2016 – Full Show” on YouTube.
This CD was released in 1996, and almost immediately the music press started reporting that Rush were trying to have it taken off the shelves. One of our former owners at the Record Store, the infamous Tom, said: “I can see why they were trying to do that. Because it’s too fucking good.”
It actually is. There are few tribute albums worth listening to all the way through. How many can you name: Encomium, the Zeppelin tribute? The Sabbath tributes Nativity in Black? Do you listen to those front to back? That’s the best and only way to enjoy Working Man. So numerous are the progressive rock and hard rock names here that we may have trouble keeping track of them all.
Sebastian Bach hails from the Great White North, so it is only appropriate for him to open this CD with the title track. He also passionately stuns on “Jacob’s Ladder” a bit later on, utilising the power and range he is known for. What names on these songs! Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan play drums and bass respectively; two guys often cited as the best in the world on their instruments! If that wasn’t enough, ex-Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee shreds the hell out of “Working Man” while John Petrucci from Dream Theater goes for the throat on “Jacob’s”. Take a minute to absorb all that.
Seamlessly, “Working Man” develops into “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” with James LaBrie of Dream Theater in peak voice. Sheehan and Portnoy handle the rhythm for most of the album, so you can be assured that the chops of Mr. Lee and Mr. Peart are served well here by the next generation of players. Dream Theater fans will lose their shit completely. But there is so much more here than just progressive rockers letting it fly. A youthful and impressive Jack Russell from Great White takes on the galloping “Analog Kid” from Signals and wins. Have no fear or doubts: this may seem strange, but Russell’s version of “Analog Kid” may well be one of the best Rush covers you’ll ever hear. (Especially when Billy Sheehan and guitarist Michael Romeo do a synched-up dual bass/guitar solo!)
The late Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery has no problems with “The Trees”, an excellent version.
Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors) takes the main guitar part for “La Villa Strangiato”, causing spontaneous head explosions.
Blue-eyed soul singer Eric Martin (Mr. Big) does a fine job of the light “Mission”, though it sounds very different from the shred-rock elsewhere.
A bang-on “Closer to the Heart” performed by Fates Warning is a must-have for fans.
James LaBrie and his old bandmate in Winter Rose, Rich Chycki, reunite on the classic “Red Barchetta”. A little added Can-Con for rock fans.
And best of all, Devin Townsend screaming his balls off, all over “Natural Science”. Without a doubt, Townsend has the most unorthodox interpretation, but it’s Devin Townsend, so you must expect the unexpected. This guy is an underrated national treasure, and along with James Murphy (Death, Testament) on guitar, Stu Hamm on bass, and Deen Castronovo on drums, all walls are shattered. “Natural Science” is undoubtedly the most different track here, and consequently it’s the most exciting.
The only mis-fire:
“Anthem”, with Mark Slaughter and George Lynch. Slaughter’s voice is too shrill. (I cannot handle when he shrieks “Come on! Yeah!” at the start.) George’s Eastern-flavoured shredding is also overdone and misplaced.
That means out of 13 tracks, 12 of them are keepers.
For an added layer of authenticity, the CD was mixed by Terry Brown himself, in Toronto. Prices fluctuate wildly, but fans of Rush, Dream Theater, Sebastian Bach or Devin Townsend would be wise to pick this up if found in their travels.
Flash back to summer 1993: Steve Vai was just about to debut his brand new “commercial” rock band on Jay Leno. I had been tracking the progress of this band via the guitar mags. Vai already had TM Stevens (bass) on board, as well as the singer Devin Townsend, from Vancouver’s Caustic Thought on vocals. I had heard Vai say in a previous interview that “Nobody sings better than David Coverdale, and nobody is a better showman than David Lee Roth. But I need a singer who combines the best of both singers.” How could you not be psyched? Expectations and hopes were high.
Back to Leno — Vai comes out, his hair in dreads, and he strums the first chord of “Still My Bleeding Heart”. And the singer…holy crap…there was this bald, psycho-looking dude with stuff written all over his body in magic marker. “Caustic Thought” was written in huge letters on his leg. I was taken aback! What the deuce was this?
I taped the performance, so I rewound, rewatched…and quickly became hooked on the song, and the vocalist, Devin Townsend. Here was a guy, I thought, who would be the next Mike Patton. He had the power, and range and quirkiness, yet had his own style. Devin was a unique right from his first major release! Here, his style is based mostly on (as Devin once put it, and I quote) “screaming his balls off!” Devin said he was usually pretty happy as long as he sounded as if his larynx was bouncing off the studio walls.
This album is my second favourite Vai platter after Passion and Warfare. A band effort with Terry Bozzio on drums, Sex & Religion was a mindblowing album to me at the time. I thought it was extremely profound, though it sounds somewhat dated today. It still kicks my kicks my ass to listen to it, you cannot go wrong with this lineup. The music is intricate, composed with great care to both stimulate and rock. I don’t need to tell you that the guitar is a shredder’s wet dream.
To me, 90% of the songs here are winners. Highlights are “Still My Bleeding Heart” and the single “In My Dreams With You”. Both are extremely catchy rock songs with slightly off-kilter arrangement, innovative guitar playing, and challenging but powerful vocals. There is an emphasis on melody, even if they melodies are not typical of modern rock music. Elsewhere you will find “Down Deep Into The Pain”, a very fast and heavy song that was obviously designed to keep up with some of the newer heavy bands that were out at the time. The lead vocal here is absolutely shriek-tastic.
I’m also a big fan of “Dirty Black Hole” which combines a speedy assault of instrumentation with a soul-rock chorus. The title track is a bit funky, with Devin doing some scream-rapping. I remember my mom being offended by the lyric, “Jesus Christ is in your bed tonight.”
More standard rock arrangements can be found on songs like “Survive” and “Here And Now”, although they are still well coated in Vai-isms and guitar madness. There are instrumentals sprinkled in as well, “Touching Tongues” being especially sublime. And then there is “Pig”. It’s the only song with a co-write by Townsend. This is what happened, according to Vai, when he tried to write song “Remedy” by the Black Crowes. Vai was into the Crowes at the time, and somehow “Pig” was the result of that. Can you hear any connection to “Remedy”? I sure can’t! This song is where the album hits its peak of absolute madness. As Vai likes to say, “Sorry folks, I just can’t help myself”.
That sums up this album in a nutshell. “Sorry folks, I just can’t help myself.” It is a simply brilliant piece of work that will take some folks a while to get used to. For Vai fans, this might be easy listening compared to some of his instrumental workouts. Either way, if you can penetrate its sometimes off-putting weirdness, you’ll find a rewarding listening experience.
The final song , “Rescue Me or Bury Me”, is the only one I can do without. Featuring Steve singing lead, I find it too long and meandering, spoiling what was for me an otherwise gripping ride the whole way through.
This is it! The end! In alphabetical order, here’s Part 4 of 4: 88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved. Thanks for joining in!
Savatage – Streets: A Rock Opera (sheer brilliance, their first and best rock opera)
Savatage – Edge of Thorns (an album to give Queensryche a run for their money)
Savatage – Handful of Rain (recovering from tragedy to create a triumph)
Savatage – The Wake of Magellan (how did this band just keep getting more brilliant?)
Scorpions – Face the Heat (had a couple good heavy rockers on there like “Alien Nation”)
Shaw/Blades – Hallucination (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, campfire goodness)
Skid Row – Subhuman Race (when you’re pissed off and you know it, bang thy head)
Sloan – 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (one of the best live albums of all time – ignored internationally)
Dee Snider’s SMF’s – Live / Forever Twisted (fuck, I missed Dee in the 90’s!)
Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind
Stryper – Can’t Stop the Rock (a compilation with two great new tunes)
Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (see here)
Talas – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (Billy Sheehan and the boys reunited for one night, and has the wisdom to record it)
Tesla – Bust A Nut (in some ways it’s better than their prior records)
Testament – The Ritual (really heavily slagged at the time as a sellout)
Tonic – Sugar (much better than the first record, you know, the one that was a hit)
Devin Townsend / Ocean Machine – Biomech (one of his more accessible albums)
Union – Union (Bruce Kulick + John Corabi = better than what the Crue or Kiss was releasing)
Steve Vai – Sex and Religion (Devin Townsend — lead throat)
Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You (their best album, better than the big hit one)
White Lion – Mane Attraction (it was a little mushy, but brilliant guitars by Vito Bratta)
Whitesnake – Restless Heart (back to his blues rock roots, it wasn’t even released here)
We’re done! 88 albums that meant a lot to me in the 1990’s, but in some cases were criminally ignored. Check them out.