Shane Schedler

REVIEW: My Wicked Twin – Decibel Music (2008)

MY WICKED TWIN – Decibel Music (2008 MWT)

Helix fans take note, since My Wicked Twin was 3/4 composed of former members of that band.  Brent Doerner and his twin brother Brian first joined Helix in 1975-76, and both were members of that band more than once.  Brent in particular clocked in a couple decades total in Helix.   Brian spent a few years touring and recorded with Saga as well.  Joining them on bass is Mike Uzelac aka “Uzi”, who played and wrote on their Capitol Records debut No Rest for the Wicked (1983).  None of these guys seemed to have lost anything with the years.

SHANEMy Wicked Twin evolved from Brent’s first solo outfit, Brent Doerner’s Decibel who released an excellent CD in 2006.  From that earlier incarnation comes guitarist/vocalist Shane Schedler, a talented Kitchener-area musician whom I first met back in the 90’s at the old Record Store.  Needless to say I’m a little biased when it comes to reviewing these guys.  Being objective is the goal, so let’s get on with it!

On first listen it’s clear that Brent has raised the bar. This time there’s more music (12 songs), and it’s noticeably heavier.  At the same time it’s also more diverse, and the production is improved.

I need to single out “Maybe Love” as a particularly outstanding track. When I saw them debut it live in ’07 it was obvious what a great song it was going to be. Its evolved into a superior hard rock song with a melodic vocal and a thoughtful lyric.  There are top-tier rock bands who don’t put out material as good as “Maybe Love” on their albums.  This is a song to be proud of, absolutely.  Brent made a pretty cool video for the song too.

Most of the rest of the album is more raw, and more rock. “All The Action”, with its adventurous melodies, is a highlight. “One Big Bad Whoopie” is a lyric in which Brent shows his sly humour, something that comes frequently on this album. “Decibel City Hall” and “Get Your Game On” are fast boogie rockers a-la-Van-Halen-with-Roth. If you’re a hockey fan, you may have heard “Get Your Game On” before the album came out, as the band submitted it to the CBC for their “Write the new Hockey Night In Canada theme song” contest.  (I prefer it to the selection they finally picked, but hey, it may be a tad too rock n’ roll for Hockey Night In Canada.)

Other standouts include “The Sting I Need” and “Love is What I Lean On”. “Alone Again, Face to Face” is a nocturnal, sneering rocker.  “That Kind of a Love” is a guitar haven within a stunning power ballad.  I tend to use the word “epic” a lot, but it does apply here, especially in the middle when it goes all Zeppelin. As one would expect with musicians of this caliber, the playing is more than competent. Brent and Shane weave cool lick after cool lick, while Brian and Mike groove with nuance. While everything is solidly rock n’ roll, the rhythms are not simplistic, and paying attention to the drums will produce many smiles.

Pick up My Wicked Twin’s Decibel Music, if you’re a fan of rock “the way they used to make it”.  But give it time to grow on you.  Some songs have a lot going on, and not many are instant.  Play it a few times.  You’ll be glad you found this band.  Or, in their words:

“So don’t steal our record,
Cause we gotta eat,
So buy our record,
Satisfies, ’cause we love the taste of meat,
We love the taste of meat!”

I’ve seen the juicy ribs Brent eats, so I’m inclined to agree.

4/5 stars

CONCERT REVIEW: Brent Doerner’s Decibel – 3/10/2007, Edelweiss Tavern, Kitchener ON

I keep finding these old concert reviews that I forgot to post here!  Enjoy this one from former HELIX guitarist Brent Doerner.  This was written the day of the show.  Photos from an old crap Motorola phone.

BRENT DOERNER’S DECIBEL – March 10 2007, Edelweiss Tavern, Kitchener ON

It was only an hour ago, but it is already a blur.

Just after 9:30 pm, Brent Doerner’s DECIBEL hit the stage at the Edelweiss with earthshaking volume. The three Gibsons of Shane Schedler, Ralph “Chick” Schumilas, and Brent himself were crystal clear and gelling beautifully. I can’t even remember what song they opened with, but it might have been “Taking The Colour Out Of The Blues”, one of the best tracks from their debut CD. This was only their second “real” show, and the new lineup (featuring bassist Hilliard Walter and Brent’s twin brother Brian Doerner, fresh off a Saga tour) sounded hot. Most importantly, the pressures of playing to a hometown crowd didn’t phase them at all, and they looked like they were having an awesome time.

Brent Doerner has evolved from Helix’s lead gunslinger to a frontman in his own right. I suppose if one is in a band for a decade and a half with a guy like Brian Vollmer, you’re bound to learn something about being a frontman. Yet Brent has his own style. He points to the crowd, he interacts with them, he slings his guitar to the side and sings to them. He hoists his guitar like a shotgun for emphasis, and does it all as if it’s second nature. The guy is a natural, no doubts there.

All the best tunes from the CD were played, in effective order, along with four new ones. And let me tell ya, folks, these weary heavy-metal eardrums of mine rarely hear a song as good as “Maybe Love”. The song has only been played twice, and they band are still working out the kinks, but could you tell? No, this song smoked, as more than one person in the audience noticed. As my fiancée noted on the way out, “that song was the single.” And yes, indeed, if Decibel were to suddenly press up a slab of 7” vinyl, that would be the song to put on the A-side.

Video for “Maybe Love”, after some lineup changes and a name switch to My Wicked Twin

The show was not without technical problems, but the band overcame with lots of comedy courtesy of Brian Doerner, and a wicked impromptu drum solo from the rock god. In the dark. He couldn’t have even seen what he was doing, but did that solo ever smoke. While some bands would view a blackout as a disaster, Decibel turned it into a rare chance to see a drum solo by one of Canada’s most underrated percussionists. And he made sure that lots of people got complimentary sticks, too, which was really cool.

One of the many highlights of the show was Shane Schedler’s vocal turn on “Never Turn Your Back”. Not to be outdone, however, Hills Walter kicked out the jams on his vocal “Dancin’ Frogs” featuring not a dancing frog, but a dancing blonde in a top hat, fishnets and Decibel panties. Sweet!

Such was the reaction from the crowd that Decibel were unexpectedly forced to retake the stage after they had already said goodnight. Having nothing else to play, they played “Taking The Colour” one more time, this time with even more excitement. The crowd ate it up, every last morsel, and left very very satisfied.

You simply must see the band live. If you care about rock and roll, if you care about local artists, then you must see this band live. If you don’t, you are the only one missing out.

Good show boys. See you next time, front row center.

5/5 stars

Part 177 / REVIEW: Helix – Live! In Buffalo

Another double feature for y’all boys and girls.  First the Record Store Tale, then the review…

Brent live October 3 2007

RECORD STORE TALES Part 177:  Hot On the Heels of Love

The record store had begun selling Brent Doerner’s Decibel, the first solo album by the ex-Helix guitarist on consignment.  My buddy Chuck hooked me up with a copy.  I opened it up, and lo and behold — another buddy of mine, and one of my best customers, was playing guitar in Brent’s band!  I have talked about Shane Schedler in the past, he was a great guy and I was glad he had hooked up with Brent.

I met Brent at a Helix gig at Molly Bloom’s, told him about how I knew Shane from my store, and this led to our first interview, which I published a while ago on this site.  I did numerous other writing jobs for Brent over the years as well.

Anyway, we shot the shit for a couple hours, just talking about music.  He was very passionate about songwriting, particularly lyrics.  Sometimes he would come up with a catchy song title or interesting phrase, and try to write lyrics around it.  He was heavily influenced by the lyrics of Burton Cummings, from The Guess Who.

“I like the fact that Burton Cummings kind of sang in riddles,” said Brent.  “You could listen to the song 100 times and try to pick the meaning out of the sentences.  And therefore, it doesn’t have a high burnout factor.  When I’m writing, that’s the big challenge.  I don’t want it to have a burnout factor.”

“I worked really hard at getting unique titles…I want unique titles so I can have unique songs,” he told me.

Chatting away, Brent told me of some future song ideas.  “I really want to write a song called ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’,” he said.  At first, I was quiet, and kind of confused.  Brent seemed to be waiting for my reaction.

“Brent,” I said, “You already have a song called that.”

“No I don’t,” he answered, and then paused.  “Really?”

“Yeah you do.  It’s on one of the Helix live albums,” I told him, trying to not embarrass him!

“Really?  Which one?” he asked me.

We were in his basement, sitting at this beautiful bar.  He had a small CD tower down there in the basement, with a complete selection of every Helix album he’d ever appeared on.  I studied the tower and spotted the album I was looking for:  Live! In Buffalo, which was recorded in 1983 but not released until 2001.

“Right there…Live! In Buffalo,” I said, “you have a song on there called ‘Hot On the Heels of Love’, that you sang, but as far as I know Helix never recorded a studio version of it.”

Brent grabbed the CD and looked it over.  Sure enough, there it was.  “Hot On the Heels of Love” is track #9.

I guess this shows that a good song title is a good song title no matter what.  But it was also the first time that LeBrain schooled a member of Helix!  (It was not the last time!)

Onto the review!

HELIX LIVE FRONT

HELIX – Live! In Buffalo (2001 Dirty Dog Records, recorded September 29, 1983)

Right from Vollmer’s first “Let’s rock!” at the beginning of this CD, Live! In Buffalo kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop until the end. Only one ballad (and barely a ballad at that, when performed at this volume), this concert sounds like it was a real sweaty affair. Helix were at the top of their game in ’83, hot on the heels of No Rest For The Wicked and “Heavy Metal Love”. This album is loud, there are no overdubs, this is a pure rock concert with no frills. The music is broken up with the occasional (breathless) intros by Vollmer, but then it’s right back into the high-octane rock.  Incredible to think this album was recorded in the middle of the day!

Sometimes I’ve felt that a good bootleg is much better than a well-recorded live album. There’s no fakery on a bootleg, and there is no fakery here. This was recorded for a radio broadcast, and miraculously the tapes were in good enough shape to release as a CD.

Helix opened with the title track from their current album.  “No Rest For the Wicked” is pounding, Fritz Hinz on the skins, pummeling them into submission, Brent on backing vocals while Vollmer seemingly shreds his own vocal cords.  This version is faster and heavier than the album version, as is every song on Live! In Buffalo.  Even a melodic rocker like “Let’s All Do It Tonite” has more bite.

Brian’s on stage raps are from the Paul Stanley school of thought.  For example, “White Lace & Black Leather”.

“This next song is about those ladies that you meet that got lots of class.  Lots of class…elegance.  When it comes to etiquette they’re at the top of their class…you’ll never find them with the fork on the wrong side of their plate.    You dare never tell a dirty joke to this lady because she’ll get up and leave the table.  But you get that same lady home, that very same night, get her back to your place, get her behind closed doors…she’ll turn out to be a moaner every time!  This is called ‘White Lace & Black Leather’!”

Elsewhere, a grizzled “Ain’t No High Like Rock and Roll” combines catchy licks with a driving melody.  A lot of these early Helix songs are among the best tunes they ever wrote.  Yet unfortunately, they are seldom if ever played anymore.  Thankfully, this album exists to remind us how great Helix can be.

Historically, this is also cool for a couple reasons. One, some of these songs had yet to be recorded on a studio album, such as “6 Strings 9 Lives” and “You Keep Me Rockin'”, which would turn up on the next album.  As mentioned in the above Record Store Tale Part 177, one tune was never released on a studio album at all. That is Brent Doerner’s “Hot On The Heels Of Love”, sung by Brent (don’t forget he also sang “Billy Oxygen”, one of Helix’ first hits from the debut album). It is a gritty fast rocker, with a memorably galvanic riff.

There are some other live offerings out there by Helix, such as Half-Alive and the promo-only Live At The Marquee, but this one blows them all away even though it was just for a radio broadcast. One of my favourite live albums, and one of my favourite Helix CDs.

5/5 R’s!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES:

Part 178:  Some really kooky movie makers…