shannon larkin

REVIEW: Ugly Kid Joe – Menace to Sobriety / “Milkman’s Son” single (1995)

UGLY KID JOE – Menace to Sobriety (1995 Polygram)

Let me tell ya folks, this album ain’t bad. Ugly Kid Joe made it hard to take them seriously sometimes, but on their second full-length Menace to Sobriety, they did what most jokey bands eventually do: Get serious. Get heavy. With former Wrathchild America drummer Shannon Larkin replacing original member Mark Davis, perhaps this was inevitable.  If not, co-producer GGGarth made it inevitable.

The first single “Tomorrow’s World” was dark-edged modern metal. No jokes, no wit, just Whit, givin’ ‘er at top lung. The album would pretty much follow suit. It felt like they got one side of their personalities out of their systems for the moment and wanted to do something a little more true to the heart.

An instrumental intro just called “Intro” gets a couple heavy riffs out of way in short order. The new drummer’s thick presence is felt immediately. This intro jumps right into “God”, a heavy wade through the mosh pit, spilling hooks all over the floor in violent celebration. Whitfield Crane sounds more menacing, but he’s still obviously the charismatic frontman. Cool wah-wah inflected solo too, which was one of the only ways you could make guitar solos work in 1995.

When “Tomorrow’s World” first hits, it’s with a beat and a rolling bass line, perfectly on brand for the 90s. After the quietly tense opening verses, Whit and the band rip it wide open with another ferocious riff and chorus. It’s well within Black Sabbath’s backyard (U.S. campus), while keeping a foot in 90s. A perfect mix of integrities.

Tempos get faster on “Clover”, with Whit taking his throat even further. The riffs are still the foundation, this one a little bit Priest-like. If the lyrics to “God” were a little on the nose at times, they’re more interesting in light of this one from “Clover”. “I was tempted, but the apple made me stronger.” Whitfield then screams that he’s here to free us. There’s more going on here than a guy who just hates “everything about you”.

The funky side returns on the speedy “C.U.S.T.” (“Can’t You See Them”).  Whit speed-raps through the impressive verses while the band jams hard underneath, wah-wah now back center stage.  Great tune and in fact better than some of the competition’s songs in this genre at the same time.  There’s a killer, clever percussion break in the middle that differentiates Ugly Kid Joe from the bands who were leading the pack.

“Milkman’s Son” was the single, an electric ballad and rightfully chosen.  It’s not soft, there’s a tasty jagged riff to keep it cool, but this is clearly the one that fills the part of prior Ugly Kid Joe hits such as “Busy Bee”.  Great tune, if a bit doomed.

The grind of a bass groove returns on “Suckerpath”, which seems about to about avoiding the ego and big head of rock stardom.  “Never goin’ down a suckerpath, baby,” insists Whit.  Unlike a lot of the tunes on Menace to Sobriety, “Suckerpath” never really explodes with power the way they have so far.  It remains in this wallowing groove, which rocks but never quite satisfies.

Another ballad:  “Cloudy Skies” has the kind of twang where you could called it “Western Skies”.  Still electric; no acoustic softness to be found, but quite excellent.  Crane seems to have tapped into something heartfelt here, and his singing is excellent.  Sticking to tunes with broad appeal, “Jesus Rode A Harley” is one of the most straight ahead and upbeat tracks on the album.

There’s an AC/DC vibe to the opening of “10/10” but then it goes pure grunge groove.  Suitably dark, impressively heavy, and utilizing tricks like conga and slide.  There’s a direction on this album and “10/10” is right down the middle.  Not an outstanding track overall but one you can headbang along to quite easily.  At the end, Whit tries to go full metal scream and does pretty good. This actually leads pretty well into the Priestly vibes on “V.I.P.”.  Priest circa Hell Bent, with a touch of Halford’s Fight.  The lead vocals are Jon Oliva from Savatage to a tee, whether intentional or not.

Finally, the jokey side emerges on “Oompa”, which is exactly what you think it is.  A heavy metal version of the Oompa Loopma song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  And why not?  Green Jelly were having hits with this kind of song.  It’s only two minutes long and hey…it’s Ugly Kid Joe. And just misdirection.  That’s not how the album’s supposed to end.

After long last, the acoustic guitars come out on the tender closer “Candle Song”.  There’s more than a hint of western twang, but if you wanted a traditional hard rock ballad closer, here you go.  “Candle Song” is excellent way to take the listener down after such intensely heavy rocking.

The band isn’t entirely done with their sense of humour.  Open up the booklet and you will find a rental house bill for damages including a food fight.  Total cost:  $12,896.81.

4/5 stars


UGLY KID JOE – “Milkman’s Son” / “Tomorrow’s World” (1995 Mercury CD single)

This single seems kind of like a double header between “Milkman’s Son” and “Tomorrow’s World” which was the music video getting all the play on MuchMusic at the time.  Two of the best tracks from the album, they are a terrific one-two punch for this CD single.

The bonus tracks are quite cool.  There’s a 1994 version of “God”, which is structurally the same but rougher sounding.  Amazing how close to the final mark it was.  Then there’s a really rough demo of “C.U.S.T.” but still very close to its final form.  Hearing these somewhat flatter sounding early versions after listening to the album is really interesting, since it is so consistently pounding, especially in the bass.

Great single for bonus material and a good score if you can find one.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: PoundHound – Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 11


Scan_20151022 (2)POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Metal Blade)

You have to give Doug Pinnick credit for many things, and one of them is his prolific musical output.  The same year as King’s X Tape Head album, Doug released this solo project under the band name PoundHound.   Massive Grooves (the shortened title) featured Doug playing all instruments except drums.  His King’s X bandmate Jerry Gaskill, and Shannon Larkin of Ugly Kid Joe helped out in the percussion department.  The result isn’t that dissimilar from Tape Head itself.  As the title suggests, these are indeed massive grooves.

The Reverend Hershall Happiness is your host for this heavy celebration.  “Jangle”, the opening song, isn’t that much different from the groovy side of King’s X at all, and just listen to that bass!  Doug lets it ring low, and boy oh boy does it sound good.  “Jangle” is as catchy as it is groovy.  “Shake” puts the emphasis strictly on groove.  “Everybody, shake your thing,” sings the Reverend.  It probably surprises nobody that Doug is a good enough guitar player to nail some cool solos too.  Is there anything he can’t do?  (Just the drums, apparently!)

The songs are mostly short and to the point.  Don’t expect the progressive metal of King’s X.  Do not think you’re getting simply good time party groovers either.  A great song called “Friends” for example is pretty blunt.  “Kevin is a razorhead, he says the cutting numbs the pain.”  Just like King’s X, Doug is not afraid to paint a stark picture of some parts of real life that we often want to bury.  “My world just got darker,” he sings on “Darker”.  If you were expecting an entire album of good times, this is not it.  But good rock and roll?  Absolutely.   The direction is more or less the same from track to track.  It’s heavy groove based rock with the best soul singer in metal.  The variety that you get from King’s X (and their multiple singers) is not present here, but if you like Doug then you will love PoundHound.

Doug’s bass and guitar sound amazing (you will rarely hear such a full bass sound), but the drums are fairly dry and a little thin (compared to the last few King’s X discs).  This does not hamper enjoyment of the disc.  The songs and sound are consistent enough.

Best tracks:  “Jangle”, “Shake”, “PsychoLove”, “Friends”, “Hey”.  Only semi-stinker in the bunch:  “Supersalad” (too much grungy grunting vocalizing).

Doug released a second album as PoundHound, before shortening his name to Dug and putting out proper solo albums under his own name.  For all intents and purposes though, Massive Grooves is the first Doug Pinnick solo album and a damn good one it is.

3.5/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)

REVIEW: Glenn Tipton – Baptizm Of Fire (1997, 2006 reissue)

GLENN TIPTON – Baptizm Of Fire (1997, 2006 reissue)

One cool thing about working in a record store:  I actually bought this album 3 times.  Essentially, I bought it once and the other two times were upgrades!  When it first came out in 1997, I ordered in three copies — one for myself, and one each for my regular customers Len and Shane.  Then another regular, Conrad, traded in the Japanese version.  I upgraded mine, trading it in and paying the slight difference.  Then in 2006 when the remastered edition came out (with the addition of the bonus track “New Breed”), I traded up once more, this time getting some money back for my Japanese printing.  All for an album I don’t even like that much! 

In fact, if this album came out today, without my staff discounts, most likely I would have skipped it. Back then though, things were very different.  Priest was seemingly on ice since 1991.  There wasn’t a new Priest album to look forward to. Halford’s most recent solo material (Fight’s A Small Deadly Space) had failed to excite me the way his debut album had.  Now it was now up to Glenn to carry the Priest flag for me, and I eagerly ordered three copies of his debut solo CD from our distributor, for me and my customers.

The problem with Baptizm of Fire is, sadly, Glenn’s voice. Glenn’s always sung backup vocals with Priest, but as a lead…sorry. I don’t think so. Sounding like an out-of-breath Dave Mustaine, Glenn definitely gives it his all, which just isn’t enough.  Not for metal this powerful.  You need a soaring vocal to give you a melody to sing along to, not to whisper.

The songs are good enough though. I really liked “Fuel Me Up”, “Hard Core”, and “Extinct”. Back then, mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone treated rockers like Tipton as dinosaurs, better off extinct!  Well today, things have changed and they are considered living legends. Such was the 90’s! Tiptop furiously refutes the claim that he was a dinosaur in “Extinct”, one of the best songs on Baptizm Of Fire.

The original Japanese bonus track, “Himalaya” is included on the remaster, a tribute to the Japanese people according to the liner notes on that version of the CD. Well, Glenn, I am really sorry to be the one to break this to you. Japan is nowhere near the Himalayas. I’m not sure I get it.  The other bonus track is included, “New Breed” is of unknown origin but I assume from the album sessions.

In fact so much was recorded that there’s a companion album available:  Edge of the World, consisting of tracks recorded with the late John Entwistle and Cozy Powell.  More outtakes, they were released under the name Tipton, Enwistle & Powell

Glenn generated some pre-release hype by loading up this album with guests. Besides the aformentioned Entwistle and Powell, there’s also the devastating Billy Sheehan, Rob Trujillo, Neil Murray on bass! Cozy Powell on drums! Don Airey on keys! And Ugly Kid Joe drummer, the excellent Shannon Larkin!  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performances.

Production-wise, this is a little over-processed sounding, a bit like the soon to come Jugulator album by Judas Priest.  Tipton had a hand in producing both. 

I’m sorry Glenn. I really wanted to love your solo album, but today it sits on a shelf, seldomly played. Sorry man.

2/5 stars

  1. “Hard Core” – 4:39
  2. “Paint It Black” – 2:56 (yup…Stones cover…and not that good) 
  3. “Enter the Storm” – 5:56
  4. “Fuel Me Up” – 3:02
  5. “Extinct” – 5:33
  6. “Baptizm of Fire” (Instrumental)5:16 (one of the best tracks if not the best!)
  7. “The Healer” – 4:56
  8. “Cruise Control” – 4:08
  9. “Kill or Be Killed” – 3:21
  10. “Voodoo Brother” – 5:36
  11. “Left for Dead” – 3:45
  12. “Himalaya” (Bonus track on Japanese and remastered editions)
  13. “New Breed” (Bonus track on remastered edition)