experimental rock

REVIEW: Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard – Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (1999)

ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION! ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION! ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION! We have assumed control. We have assumed control. We have assumed control….

SATCHMO

 Welcome to an April Fools Day switcheroo!! Mike and I have told each other what to listen to for today’s post.  Fun times!! Initially, we were even gonna try to write in each others’ styles, and really try to fool you guys. But, as you’ll see from the album choices, it might have been a nigh on impossible task!

For Mike, I chose Robert Pollard & Doug Gillard’s ‘Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department,’ largely because Mike awesomely found it and bought it for me in Ottawa, but I already had it, so I said he should rock it himself! But it’s awesome that he’ll get to hear a bit of the MAJESTY of Bob Pollard! I can’t wait to read what he says about it…

And for me, Mike has chosen Deep Purple’s In Rock (for which I thank him profusely). And here is where I really worried about trying to write like Mike for a post. That man KNOWS his Deep Purple, and there’s no way I could bring perspective to an album he’s heard for years and probably has coded directly into his DNA by now. It just wouldn’t work. You’d all know it wasn’t Mike!

Anyway, we hope you enjoy this April Fools site switcheroo! Let’s get in there and GIVE ‘ER!!

A

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Scan_20160325 (3)ROBERT POLLARD with DOUG GILLARD – Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (1999 Luna)

Guided By Voices have always eluded me.  Aaron says they’re brilliant but not for everybody.  This Robert Pollard “duo” album with Doug Gillard looks really interesting.  Let’s see if I’m everybody or not!

“Frequent Weaver Who Burns” is instantly likeable.  The lo-fi but genuine recording sounds right out of 1969, and the song recalls some of the best hippie rock bands from that era.  I hear a hint of 54-40’s “I Go Blind” in the guitar, but this is far more ambitious, as it descends into dance music madness.  “Soul Train College Policeman” (how the hell do they come up with these titles?) is different and indescribable, but “Pop Zeus” is brilliant.  Simple guitar melodies weave together with layers of rhythm guitars creating a power-pop rock track without embellishment.

Most of these songs are short bursts of ideas; in and out and no nonsense.  The longest track at 4:20 is “Slick as Snails”, a slow and enticing exercise in mixing sweet notes with sour notes and making a delectable concoction regardless.  Regal guitar chords keep the ship from running aground.  Power pop returns on “Do Something Real”, a simple guitar riff melded with an unorthodox melody.  In fact the album in general is built from these ingredients.  The guitars retain catchy rhythms, often classic sounding in nature.  Meanwhile the vocals are not constrained to sing anything simple or straightforward.  The lo-fi tape hiss and nature of the recordings do not detract; they enhance.  “Life is Beautiful” sounds as if recorded in the can.  Mix in a smidgen of psychedelia.  There is also a contrasting bombast on the album, a power just bursting at the seams.  Drama is often the companion of the arrangements, “Port Authority” being a fine example of this.  The short tunes meld influences varied far and wide.  Aaron hears the Who, and it’s there, and I think I even picked up on some Ace Frehley in the ring of the guitars.

Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department comes highly recommended for the musically fearless.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: VAI – Sex & Religion (1993)

VAI – Sex & Religion (1993 Relativity)

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?

HI TRACY

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.

5/5 stars

Part 221: Frustration Blues

RECORD STORE TALES Part 221:  Frustration Blues

Sometimes, shopping in a music store can be a frustrating experience especially for those who don’t know a lot about music. They might not have a clue what section to find (for example) Linkin Park in. Are they rock? Metal? Alternative? Something else? Somebody who only knows a couple songs might spend a long time walking around aimlessly in a store trying to find Linkin Park.

Sometimes just the simple act of trying to find where Linkin Park is filed alphabetically can be frustrating to the uninitiated. Some people are confused. If Barry Manilow is filed under “M” instead of “B”, why is Linkin Park filed under “L” instead of “P”? This gets even more hard to understand when the band’s name sounds like a person’s name. Max Webster. Pink Floyd. The difficulty is tripled when you’re shopping in a store that has a loose grasp on the alphabet in the first place. Ever shopped at one of the local HMV stores?

Sometimes in order to find something, you might have to get the store employee’s attention. If he or she is busy with customers, please don’t yell across the store. “I can’t find anything in this damn store!” I’ve heard that too many times. Come up to the counter, wait until I’m done giving my full attention to my current customer, and ask. I know some people think they are more important than other customers, but that’s life. Sometimes you have to be patient.  And please don’t yell, “Hey, buddy!  Little help?”

Here’s a true story:  One of my staff members, Matt, was once hailed by a 300 pound Jamaican man with, “YO!  WHITE BOY!”

Be clear about what you want to know. For example, a lost customer once had this question for me:

Him: “Who designed your shelves?”

Me, slightly puzzled: “The owner’s dad built them. Why?”

Him: “Well is the owner’s dad dyslexic? Nothing makes any sense! You’ve got B coming after C, everything’s backwards, upside down, I can’t find anything!”

Hey, thanks for the feedback! Here’s how it works – it’s like reading the page of a book! Go across, then down. Across, then down. Across, then down. Then when you’re at the bottom, you go over to the next section! Across, down. Across, down. Across, down. No need to be a dick about it.

For those who get frustrated finding music in a record store, I offer you these three tips:

1. Before you get too frustrated and feel like blowing your lid, ask. Ask in a clear, reasonably polite manner.

2. If all the staff is otherwise busy with customers, wait your turn. Don’t yell, don’t interrupt, don’t get yourself all worked up over a CD.

3. If the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for, don’t tell the staff that they or their store sucks. Some kid making minimum wage doesn’t care what you think.

Following these three simple tips will make your shopping experience that much more efficient, stress-free, and pleasant. You might even want to say “thanks” for the staff’s help. Saying thanks will help ensure a better experience next time you come in.

Enjoy the music!

frustration