indie rock

VHS Archives #52: Deadline – “Donna (Do You Wanna)” music video (1992)

I am pleased to present the best quality copy of this video available.  It’s complete and in stereo!

You can read a review of the first Deadline mini-album (from which “Donna (Do You Wanna)” was the single) right here.  From Sarnia Ontario, this quartet was primed for the big time but failed to launch.  You can tell from this video that they spared no expense in looking and sounding like pros.

This video was recorded from MuchMusic’s Start Me Up program, in early 1993.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

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REVIEWS: Russian Blue – Demo #1 and #2 (1990-91)

RUSSIAN BLUE – Russian Blue demo #1 (1990), demo #2 (1991)

Russian Blue were a Toronto hard rock act fronted by the talented Jo E. Donner who, in a perfect world, would have been signed to a major label deal had not the roof caved in when grunge arrived.  They first rose to national awareness as part of the legendary Raw M.E.A.T Vol 1 compilation of Canadian indi rockers.  Upon hearing that first song, “Once a Madman”, I was immediately hooked on this band!  Donner had the pipes (often compared to a young Robert Plant) and the looks (also Plant), and the band clearly had the writing chops to crank out at least one world class rock song.  Its slow build was unusual in hard rock at the time, as was the lack of an actual chorus.  I had to hear more, so I wrote the band and ordered a tape.

RUSSIAN BLUE_0004Demo #1 (1990)

The first self-titled tape came in a professionally printed three colour J-card, with printed stickers on a white cassette.  Pretty pro for the time.  The J-card itself is a three panel fold out, with a black and white photo of the band and lyrics too.  Four songs, same both sides.  Let’s give’r.

The familiar tamborine and guitar licks of “Once a Madman” open the first tape.  M.E.A.T editor Drew Masters always advised bands submitting demo tapes to keep it short (three to five songs), professional looking, and top-loaded with the best songs.  Someone listening to a tape was likely to hit eject after the first half of the first song if they weren’t feeling it.  Russian Blue must have been paying attention because they hit all three marks.  (Masters’ other major beef with bands was not listing the song titles, the name of the band, or any contact info on a demo tape!)  The second strongest song “Likkin’ Dog” (ugh, come on, spelling) is suitably next in line.  Digging into a heavy groove and solid riff, I’m reminded of early Skid Row or Guns N’ Roses.  Donner truly had the voice of a rock star.  The other members (guitarist Richard Gauci, drummer Mike Willerding and bassist “Robo”) are also up to the task.  Gauci in particular boasts an impressive arsenal of tricks and licks for a guy you’ve never heard of before.

“Miss Precocious” enters with the same drum drum hook as “Dirty Weapons” by Killer Dwarfs which came out earlier that year.  Coincidence or inspiration aside, it’s a demo so it’s not a big deal.  “Miss Precocious” is an OK sleaze rocker that David Coverdale would have been comfortable taking a spin with.  This could have been on Slip of the Tongue as one of David’s randy odes to young ladies.  The generic “Had Enough” is the weakest of the four tracks, and is last on the tape for that reason.


A brief history of M.E.A.T Magazine

RUSSIAN BLUE_0005Demo #2 (1991)

Russian Blue added me to their mailing list and sent updates as to their current goings-on.  A second demo tape with four all-new songs was put up for sale and I ordered mine forthwith.  I was disappointed that the second demo didn’t come as professionally packaged as the first, but I suspect that the band spent all their money on that first tape and the spot on Raw M.E.A.T Vol 1.  The second tape came in a hand-made J-card with a photocopied band photo on the front and a sticker with the song titles inside.  Unfortunately the second song is misspelled “Balck” (“Black”) and this carried over to the sticker on the cassette shell as well.  The tape, a TDK D50 (50 minutes was a specialized length) was of good quality and has the same songs on both sides.  The tape also came with a little Russian Blue paper logo.  At least they tried.

The second demo showed the creeping influence of darker alternative tendencies.  “Mama’s Love” was different from anything on the first demo, taking a swampy minimalist approach to the verses.  When Donner rips out some rock shrieks, things kick up on a notch or two on the chorus.  The song is almost equal to “Once a Madman” in terms of quality, but traversing a different more menacing direction.  Keeping the stronger tunes up front, “Balck”…err, I mean “Black” is second in quality.  It opens with a psychedelic lullaby-like opening, before creeping into another swampy groove.  The vibe is nastier, including the first “F-bomb” of the album: “Nothing lasts forever, except the words to this fuckin’ song.”  It’s a good track and though it didn’t really last forever, it did get re-worked into “All”, a song on Russian Blue’s only full length CD, after they changed their name to Feel.  The album was called This (1994).

sam_1568“Child of the Ocean” has a drony, spare riff and a cool exotic sounding guitar solo by Richard Gauci.  It continues Russian Blue’s journey into less mainstream sounds, as this is a dreamy rocker.  The final song, which is the F-bomb  laden “Bleed”, is the most old school.  This one is basically a Guns N’ Roses B-side wannabe, but who gives an F-bomb?  Russian Blue had ability to pull of a ballsy song like “Bleed”, false ending and all, without sounding like douchebags.  Good on them.

In closing

A few years back, I posted a chapter of Record Store Tales (Part 146) about my cassette collection called Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years.  I showed off these old Russian Blue tapes, and less than a month later, a fellow enthusiast found the post and contacted me.  He was really excited about this second demo, because he had never seen it nor even heard of it before.  He didn’t know that Russian Blue had anything out between the first demo tape, and Raw M.E.A.T Vol 3 (1992), to which they contributed “Mama’s Love”.  It’s always a pleasure to be able to bring content like this to the internet, finally shedding light on the dark crevasses of rock and roll that were previously obscure.  The reader told me, “I was really into these guys back in high school. I pretty much bought a cowbell because of ‘Once A Madman'”.  How awesome is that?

Given that you have to allow for certain deficiencies in demos, especially from the cassette era, I am giving Russian Blue a grade based on the reasonable expectations from the period.  That considered, the Russian Blue demos come in at:

4/5 stars each.

REVIEW: Deadline – Tangible Vibe (1996)

DEADLINE_0005DEADLINE – Tangible Vibe (1996 Deadline Productions)

When we last checked in on this old Canadian indi band, it was on the 1994 EP So This is Limbo, which I rated a 2.75/5.  I haven’t played Tangible Vibe, the full length followup, in quite a few years.  I remember liking it back in 1996, when hard rock was all but dead and we were forced to seek out other kinds of rock music.  Will I still like it now?

“Another Low” is a pretty simple pop punk track, not the kind of thing I usually listen to.  It’s fast with heavy guitars and poppy vocals.  What stands in for a guitar solo is a simple melody.  It’s more annoying than likable.  “Frustrated” is more entertaining, taking the tempo back to a radio-ready pace.   Seems that I still like this one!  You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a new single by Sum 41.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me for liking it.  Back then we didn’t call this stuff “pop-punk”, we called it “alt-rock”.

I recall liking “Living Proof” which sounds very much like Green Day.  It’s still a catchy little tune, that just it needs identity.  There’s certainly no reason it couldn’t have been a hit.  On the other hand, I remember not caring too much for “Headtrip”.  Its seemingly pro-drug message didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t think the song had much individuality going for it.  My feelings haven’t changed too much although I do appreciate the great vocal performance and guitars, but it could have been half as long.

Then and now, I love the title track “Tangible Vibe”.  Almost Monkees-like, it’s a soft rocker with a heavier chorus. I really like the recurring guitar melody.  Maybe I shouldn’t say Monkees-like, when I have heard Weezer do songs similar to this.  It’s a standout and now that I have re-discovered it, I plan on playing it a lot more.  Equally good is “Kill Me Slowly” which again is firmly in pop-punk territory, with vocal harmonies.

DEADLINE_0006

As back in 1996, “Mary” bores me.  It feels like it’s a repeat of ideas from previous songs.  Such is the problem with these simple melodies.  Sure they’re catchy, but you run the risk of ideas that sound too similar.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but we’ve heard it before.  “Amore di Gatto” (“Love Cat”?) is a beautiful classical guitar intro to the dark song “Circus”.   This song has more in common with Deadline’s early hard rock roots than modern pop rock.  It’s mournful with with the strong melodies still intact, and a tricky guitar solo to boot.  It has the most emotion on on the album, and remains its best song.

“I Don’t Even Like You” is fast and fun; the drums are played with brushes and the guitars are acoustic.  It’s one of the shortest songs, which good because novelty songs are best kept short.  “Friend In Me” was the “hit”, and it’s the exact same version as on the So This is Limbo EP, which is great.  Closer “Go With the Flow” is another Green Day copycat, unfortunately.   It’s the early, heavier side of Green Day, but still the comparisons are unavoidable.

Shame.  A really great EP could have been made from the best songs on this album.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Deadline – So This is Limbo (1994)

Review dedicated to Scott the Skeptic.

DEADLINE – So This is Limbo (1994 Deadline Productions)

Ahh, the 90’s, how I do not miss thee.  When I think of the 90’s, I remember how bands I liked simplified things to fit in better with the new alt-rock hordes.  Guys like Deadline initially showed a lot of promise.  They combined diverse elements and showed potential for future growth.  Then they cut down the guitar solos and streamlined everything to its melodic basics.

I like So This is Limbo, (a five song EP) but it is safe to say that I do not like it as much as their self-titled debut.  Its five songs all fit into a soundalike form.  The first two (“Friend in Me” and “Going With a Smile”) are so similar that they both feature harmonica parts as one of the hooks, bouncy basslines, and a simple guitar melody where a solo would go.  That’s not to say they’re bad songs.  They’re good for what they are: happy-go-lucky 90’s pop rock.  “Friend in Me” got a bit of airplay at the time, and it’s the best song here.  The second best is “Going With a Smile”.

MuchWest interview with Deadline by TDM and “Galactic premier” of video

“Laundry Day” is a little darker, but “You know it’s laundry day again,” isn’t the kind of chorus that really gets my angst out.  This one has a guitar solo too, and it’s a gooder.  Too bad that the song isn’t as good as the solo.  The pop-punk of “Darkest Hour” is better.  Why did singers always use distortion on their voices in the early 90’s?  It’s too bad.  “Darkest Hour” isn’t bad at all.  The last song is the dreary “Better Things to Do”, which kind of leaves the EP on a downer note.

It’s too bad really because I know they can do better.  They did do better, on the Deadline EP.  Would they redeem it on the Tangible Vibe album?  I remember liking it back then, but I haven’t played it in a long time.  That’s the next review.  As for So This is Limbo?

2.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Deadline – Deadline (1992)

DEADLINE – Deadline (1992 Deadline Productions)

DEADLINE_0008Old school adherents of the classic Pepsi Power Hour may remember the video for “Donna (Do You Wanna)” by Sarnia Ontario’s Deadline.  This self-titled mini-album was not their first release, they did have an indi cassette before this.  Their 1992 CD debut was impressive quality for the period.  “Friction Addiction” (heard in re-recorded form on Raw M.E.A.T 3) is a cool, innovative hard rock number with a funky lead vocal.  The guys were all musically and vocally talented:  the Wood brothers Tim and Tom (vocals and drums respectively), Paul Albert (bass), and Shawn Meehan (guitars).  “Friction Addition” was exactly the kind of song that could have become a hit in 1992.  It was still upbeat, good-time hard rock, but with modern elements that the 1990’s demanded.

“Donna” sounds like an outtake from Extreme’s first album, a bit dated now.  It’s a nice shuffle complete with harmonica blasts, and fans of that old time hard rock will still like it.  The juvenile lyrics however are way below the quality of the music and playing.  “Nothing Left to Lose” is a somber ballad, a cross between Europe’s “Tomorrow” and Dokken’s “Alone Again”.  Bassist Paul Albert is credited as the pianist on the track.

DEADLINE_0001“Imagine That” is one of those early 90’s Ugly Kid Funk Metal™ tracks.  Paint a visual picture and you’ll probably be pretty close.  Regardless of the dated sound, it is still a pretty fun song.  Following that is the less-funky “Do You Believe”, a fun hard rocker that even quotes “Bomehian Rhapsody”.  How 1992!  Once again, Extreme comparisons are apt.  Slaughter too, especially vocally.  “Set Your Sails” is the “inspirational” track.  You always had to have one of those, didn’t you?  As such it’s upbeat and plenty good.  The tricky guitar solo reminds me of Richie Kotzen in style.

The CD ends with the jokey acoustic jam, “I Hate Workin'”.  It has that old Van Halen vibe of the “drunken party” in the background, and the singalong chorus.  Their hearts were the right place, but the song is a bit on the corny side.  Still, for a first CD?  Not bad at all.

After this the band released an EP called So This is Limbo and an album called Tangible Vibe.  These releases had a marked change of direction.  Guitar solos were chopped and songs shortened; as the 90’s progressed so they did, right into pop punk.  Both are pretty good releases, but we’ll have to look at them another time.  Deadline, the debut, scores a respectable:

3/5 stars

Incidentally, this CD will not rip on any machine.  No computer will play it, only an actual CD player.  I have had that problem with a few Canadian made CDs from the early 90’s.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

From M.E.A.T Magazine

Part 244: Diary of a Mad Record Store Man

JAMIE MIKE

Friend with LeBrain, Phil’s, Waterloo

RECORD STORE TALES Part 244:  Diary of a Mad Record Store Man

I’d like to share with you a selection of entries, verbatim from my journal in 2005.  Here’s a snapshot of Record Store Life, November 2005, one month before quitting the store.

Date: 2005/11/04 10:35

PLAYING IN CAR:
Fu Manchu – King Of The Road

I was just thinking today how much I hate bars. I haven’t been to a bar in a year. Last time I went, a bunch of jocks wanted to kick my ass because they thought I looked “gay”. (With my Motörhead shirt on?)

Also thinking about how rude some customers can be. Like it is MY fault that they have to pawn their shit to buy crack.

Date: 2005/11/04 11:59

Today has been very annoying thus far.

People are idiots sometimes, and people rarely seem to listen. And while I’m working away here among the idiots, the Hives are singing, “Walk Idiot Walk”. Very nice.

Oakville tomorrow…yeah…not hyped for that, either.

Date: 2005/11/15 07:29

I have 3 hours to clean my apartment before my parents arrive.

Date: 2005/11/22 19:51

What goes up must come down.

– I spilled candle wax all over my brand new rug (only 6 days old).
– The trunk of my car has a leak, water has ruined a few items inside.
– I have no money.
– I have a total of three days off in the entire month of December

 Date: 2005/11/24 19:39

With this new beard, people have taken to calling me either “Ewen” or “Señor Speilbergo”. I’m fine with either name.

Date: 2005/11/25 11:05

Just because you are spending hundreds of dollars in my store does NOT make me your bitch.

Date: 2005/11/26 17:56

There’s this dude in my store that looks exactly like a short Sean Astin.

Except I’m not really sure, maybe Sean Astin is short anyways? I mean, he’s a hobbit, right?

Part 214.5: Klassik Kwote – The New Pornographers

NEKO

Back in March, I said that the Klassic Kwote well had run dry.  I just remembered this one that I had to share.

In summer 2003, we carried Electric Version by the New Pornographers on our front chart.  One customer thought he was tremendously clever with this question, asked in loud bellow:

“The NEW Pornographers?  What was wrong with the OLD pornographers?  I didn’t know there were new ones!  HA HA HA!  Haaaaaah..ha ha!  Didn’t get the memo!  Hah…”