Our Lady Peace

#924.5: Rippin’

RECORD STORE TALES #924.5:  Rippin’ 

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and since we’re stuck in Kitchener instead of the lake this time, I spent my Saturday ripping music to hard drive.  And then backing up that hard drive to about five other devices.  I’ve been slowly but surely putting my collection on the ol’ PC for years now, in spurts.  Huge catalogues of bands have gone un-ripped due to negligence.  It’s fun to do when I’m looking for something to listen to that I haven’t heard in a while.

Right now I’m working on my Soundgarden.  Most of my Soundgarden was sitting there on the  shelves unloved until now.  Before that, I updated my Nine Inch Nails folder with all my CDs.  Apparently I was collecting NIN right up to The Slip (2008), although I missed a few albums like The Fragile and Ghosts.

I enjoy doing pretty mechanical tasks, like combining “part 1” and “part 2” of a CD single into one folder.  Adjusting the id3 tags.  For my “March of the Pigs” double CD, I added in an mp3 of the live music video as a bonus track.  All the while, listening to this music I haven’t played in over a decade.

Remixes are not something I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from over the years, but bands like Nine Inch Nails flood their singles with them.   And I found myself enjoying quite a few of them.  The nine minute version of “Wish” from the Fixed EP is awesome.  Might even be my go-to version!  The “Clay” mix of “Head Like a Hole” (which is on both the “black” and “pink” versions of the single) was quite enjoyable.  And I have a lot of Nine Inch Nails it seems.  Three bootlegs too, including Purest Feeling (early versions and unreleased songs), Demos & Remixes (which includes “Supernaut”) and Woodstock ’94.  Diving back in is an adventure, listening to Trent Reznor evolve.

While I was grabbing my Prodigy Fat of the Land and “Firestarter” single, I lingered in the “P” section and pulled Elvis Presley, Praying Mantis, and Gord Prior.  Praying Mantis with Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton, in fact.  A lot of Maiden covers that just remind me that nobody sounds like Iron Maiden.  Nobody.  I’ll probably get more enjoyment from the Elvis 30 #1 Hits.  “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto”, oh yeah!  I know the saying goes “There are only two kinds of people, Beatles people and Elvis people”.  I’m a Beatles guy.  That’s all the Elvis I need, I’m good with it.

Moving up into the “O” section, I realized I hadn’t touched any of my Our Lady Peace.  I don’t have a lot.  A couple singles, Naveed, Spiritual Machines, Gravity and Burn Burn Burn.  Raine Maida is admittedly an acquired taste vocally and I won’t spend any time trying to convince you, or KevinSpiritual Machines is interesting for two reasons.  One, it’s a concept album about artificial intelligence, and two, I have an early copy in the rare black jewel case in perfect condition.

One thing for sure I’m noticing about these pockets of my collection.  I went big or I went home.  I have the DualDisc versions of Nine Inch Nails albums, or the CD/DVD combo sets.  I have the double CD of Badmotorfinger.  I didn’t buy the basic version of anything.  It looks like I also bought just about every single I could get my hands on.  Most of this stuff was acquired back in the Record Store days, so I had access to the rare stuff in the best condition.

Soundgarden seem to be hit or miss as far as B-sides go.  For every “Cold Bitch” there’s a “Jerry’s Garcia’s Finger”.  I see there is a super deluxe of Superunknown out there with four discs of extras.  I think I’d better just listen to what I’ve neglected before I worry about any upgrades.

Tangent:  Speaking of super deluxes, this week we were given previews for new ones from Whitesnake (Restless Heart) and Black Sabbath (Technical Ecstacy).  We have a 42 CD Judas Priest box set coming with oddles of unreleased live albums.  A Metallica “Black” album box with 14 CDs, six LPs and 6 DVDs.  There. Is. A. Lot.  It’s getting harder to pick and choose.  It’s also getting harder to find time to listen to it all.  In particular, all that DVD content.  There are not that many long weekends.

I know what my dad would say.  “Don’t you have enough music?”  Evidently!

A music collection is the kind of thing we justify by saying “It’s there for me to listen to on a rainy day.”  A long weekend home from the lake is kind of like a rainy day, so here I am enjoying the very dusty corners of my music collection.  Let’s see if these Soundgarden B-sides get any better!

 

 

#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: Crash Karma – Crash Karma (2010)

CRASH KARMA – Crash Karma (2010 E1 Entertainment)

I wrote a review for this album back in 2010, not so glowing.  For me, the album just sat there.  Even though Crash Karma are made up of members of some of my favourite Canadian bands from the 90’s wave of alterna-hard rock, nothing happened.  I did the review, gave it a middling review and forgot about it.

About six months later, I’ll be damned if the whole thing didn’t just suddenly “click” with me. Rethinking my position, I had to re-write my review.  I think Crash Karma works best after a few listens.

Crash Karma consist of Edwin (ex-I Mother Earth) on lead vocals, guitarist Mike Turner (ex-Our Lady Peace), drummer Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party), and someone named Amir Epstein on bass.  They combine some of the best elements of the bands that spawned them. At first I saw a another faceless post-grunge band rocking past their prime, but now I’m getting it a little more. To the contrary, it sounds like these guys have some ideas to get off their chests. Wracked with Mike Turner’s angular guitar riffage and some mature and pensive lyrics by Edwin, this album rocks. Edwin is singing better than he has in years, pushing the voice to the limits we remember from the heady I Mother Earth prime. Turner is rocking much harder than Our Lady Peace, and much more straightforwardly. Burrows, freed of The Tea Party’s exotic leanings, lays down hard fast fills, recorded expertly by Turner. The result is a collection of songs that combines some of the best elements from the original bands, mixed in with some latter-day Rush.  (Edwin is a veteran of Alex Lifeson’s Victor album.)

Best songs include IME-like “Like A Wave” (the opener), “Awake”, and the furious “Fight”. Another track I begrundingly like is “Lost”, a slow one that sounds a bit too close to Edwin’s solo hit “Alive”. The melodies and vibe are suspiciously alike. However there is no filler on this album. It works better as an album, a single piece, than individual songs. Rather than make a road CD with your favourites on it, this one works as a front-to-back listen.

I still don’t like the cover.  The punk dude makes it look like I’m buying something from fucking Simple Plan or Theory Of a Dead Man.  It’s not like the guys’ faces are all that recognizable, even in Canada. It’s a shame because this album just disappeared. I never heard the tracks on the radio and back in the early 90’s, these guys were the kings of radio. I rarely saw it in the stores, I never saw ads for these guys on tour. It seems that this album will appeal to dudes from the post grunge era, not so much for younger kids.  They did release a second album in 2013, called Rock Musique Deluxe (co-produced by Terry Brown) — but I have not heard it yet.  (Send me a copy, E1, and I’ll be happy to review it!)

Crash Karma:  great musicianship, great songs, very good album.   Check it out.

3.5/5 stars
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REVIEW: Psycho Circus – Scarred (1993)

This was one of the first, if not the first, discs I bought with my staff discount at the record store!  I wonder if Deke remembers these guys?

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PSYCHO CIRCUS – Scarred (Anthem 1993)

20 years ago, Psycho Circus were one of the bands hyped as the “next big thing” out of Canada. They originated in Mississauga, Ontario, just west of Toronto.  They signed with SRO management (Rush, Van Halen, King’s X, Extreme) and producer Terry Brown (also Rush) and released a trendy but still unique goth-rap-funk-metal album called Scarred.  They also released a music video for the excellent “Pulsate”.

These guys were hanging out with old dudes way before Our Lady Peace.

The problem with Psycho Circus is their split personality.  On one hand (roughly half the album) they inhabit this cool, dark land I call Diet Faith No More.  Singer Vince Franchi has the lungs and range to emulate Patton’s style on The Real Thing.  Their cool use of keyboards also reminds me of that band, but without the dementia.  On the other hand, there’s a goofy rap-funk side, which does not appeal to me in the least.  I think funk metal got stale very quickly, and the juvenile lyrics render the rapping limp.  “Acid Monkey Junk”, a song about the testing of cosmetics on animals, is painful at time.  “Monkeys in the ocean and fishes in the trees?”

A M.E.A.T Magazine interview by Karen Bliss, from 1993, reveals that the band had already dropped even more irritating material from their live set.  They name a discarded song called “Picky Purple People” as being particularly notable for its silliness.  Glad I didn’t have to hear that one.

 

I prefer the Diet Faith No More side of the band: hard, melodic and dark songs like “Thru the Backbone” (which also features rapping in a non-annoying way).  “Pulsate” is easily the best song on the album, demonstrating Franchi’s impressive vocal range and power.  I’m also fond of the angry “I Know”, the haunting “Leave Me Alone”, and the closer “Goodbye”.  The rest of the album is unfortunately skip-worthy and occasionally irritating to me.

There was also a CD single made for “I Know” featuring an exclusive “Psylicone Mix”.  Although I don’t enjoy the remix as much as the album version, it’s notable for being remixed by Brown and the band, not some outsider.  I happened upon this single within my first year at the record store, and it surely must be one of the rarest discs I have.

For half a good album:

2.5/5 stars

M.E.A.T Magazine

REVIEW: Geddy Lee – My Favourite Headache (autographed)

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GEDDY LEE – My Favourite Headache (Atlantic, 2000)

I have owned this album twice now. I bought it when it first came out, then a couple years later Lemon Kurri Klopek hooked me with up with a copy autographed by Ged himself! As a diehard Rush fan, this album is one of my prized possesions.

I just don’t enjoy it as much as Geddy’s Rush discs.

The title refers to Geddy’s love of music — a source of satisfaction and frustration, his “favourite headache”. Personally, I was disappointed by the album. I thought the songwriting was not up to standard, treading familiar waters already crossed on Test For Echo. The playing is competant enough. I mean, you can’t go wrong with Matt Cameron and Jeremy Taggart on drums, can you? Ben Mink is a fine multi-instrumentalist, but there is no shredding like you’re used to on Rush albums.  (Geddy also plays guitar himself.)

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Can a listener separate Geddy as a solo artist from Rush? It is very difficult to do. Whatever Geddy writes, sings, and plays is going to automatically sound something like Rush. But without Alex and Neil, of course it won’t sound exactly like Rush. And that is more the fault of the listener (me) than the artist (Geddy). I personally cannot separate the two.

There’s some monstrous playing here — just listen to that opening bass on “My Favourite Headache”.  There’s also some decent riffs (“The Present Tense”).  There’s some passion (“Working at Perfekt”) but very little that stands out as memorable, as classic, or something you just crave to hear again.  In general the songs here are all pleasant, solid rockers (with a few slower tunes). Geddy’s lyrics are weak at times (“Home on the Strange”) but his singing is good and the production is excellent.

Best tune:  The final one, “Grace to Grace” which is the only one that really cooks.

The cover art is pretty disappointing. I’m sure it meant something to someone along the way, but to me it’s just a generic cover that could have been on any album in the faceless morass of the 1990’s.

3/5 stars. Not bad, but no stand-outs.