The Meat Challenge

REVIEW: Sexdwarf – Has Disappeared Into the Mystic Dawn (2013)

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  I was given Sexdwarf by Meat.

SEXDWARF – Has Disappeared Into the Mystic Dawn (2013 Busted Flat)

No background, no story, straight into the songs.  The only disclosure I owe you is that Meat and I both know the lead singer of Sexdwarf, Chris Boyne.  I briefly worked with him at the Record Store, but I am putting that completely out of my mind for the sake of the purity of this first listen.  Let’s go.

“Thomasina” – A slinky, 70s jazzy piano starts us off but then a solid beat gets the feet moving.  This kicks.  I could dance to this.  Great lead vocal, Killers-like with slight distortion.  I keep coming back to that catchy piano bit.  It’s disco and it’s rock and it’s brilliant.

“Love is a Boner” – Ah, I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a song with “boner” in the title.  I am not disappointed.  I didn’t expect a Beatles-like psychedelic rock gem.  If the Beatles did a 14th studio album, I hope “Love is a Boner” would have been on it.  There is even a dual lead vocal, perfect for Lennon and McCartney.  Paul would sing the higher part.

“Spazzy” – Not as “spazzy” sounding as I expected.  Great guitar tones here.  This is the kind of stuff July Talk is doing now.  It’s frantic but well-constructed.

“Tear It Out” – “I think I’m gonna break your fuckin’ heart again,” goes the opening line on a song that reminds me a little bit of Jellyfish.  This one seems to be about one of that asshole manipulative boyfriends that everybody hates.  It has one of my favourite guitar solos on the album.

“Young Girls” – Acoustic guitars now, and a fun little keyboard riff.  Excellent, summery tune you could party to.  I hear the quirk of the Kinks.

“People in Trees” – The first…ballad?  Sparse, quiet, atmospheric, bird-like guitars.  And there’s people in trees, apparently and they live to be free.  Hold on — well, that picked up.  Drums, guitars, all fuzzed out.  Everything is fuzzy and it’s beautiful in the headphones.  The ending is like listening to a moon landing.

“Paid Me for Sex” – See, this is more the kind of song title I’m expecting from Sexdwarf.  Back to a vintage bopping pop rock sound.  I prefer this kind of stuff.  The whole album so far is covered in this fuzzy vintage amp kind of sound that makes it easy to imagine it was recorded in 1971.

“I Don’t Think About People” – A surprisingly warm song about a cold antisocial character.  “I don’t think about people, they’re assholes.”  Brilliantly melodic and simple.

“Gold Rush” – Echoey acoustics and then crashing electrics.  Slow and mournful, with a nice noisy Neil Young guitar solo.  Not as outstanding as some of the previous songs but it could be a grower.

“Centre of it All” – A nice grand chorus, lots of crashing drums…sure, I like it.  The vocal arrangement in the chorus is quite excellent.

“Magnolia” – Jazzy piano and bass again, and then the guitars kick in.  It’s another good song in the Sexdwarf vein — which I am hopefully describing to you well enough.  Jangly guitars give way to an awesome solo bit that is the highlight of the song.

“Therapists” – Loud bangy drums.  A strange combination of sounds from the 60s, 70s and 90s.  A ballad by the Ronettes on acid?  Who knows.  It’s Sexdwarf.  It’s its own thing.

“Mystic Dawn” – Finally we arrive at the end after a frankly trippy 50 minutes of quirky music.  Meat insisted we had to use headphones to write these reviews and this time it’s perfect because there’s a bit where the mix bounces back and forth from right to left.  This finale has everything from Black Sabbath chords to trippy Yellow Submarine passages, and then straight into a racing Deep Purple instrumental section.  This, people, is how you end an album!

Sexdwarf, where you have been all this time?  Why have you not been in my life?  Well now you will be — forever and ever.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Yes – Drama (1980) – The Meat Challenge

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  I was given Drama by Yes.

YES – Drama (1980 Atlantic)

Because context is always important, a quick glance at Wikipedia tells us that Drama the first Yes album “to feature Trevor Horn as lead vocalist, as well as keyboardist Geoff Downes. This followed the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman after numerous attempts to record a new album…Drama was recorded hurriedly, because a tour had already been booked before the change in personnel.”

Heavy-footed “Machine Messiah” begins like a metal epic, with a dense, galvanizing guitar riff, and then goes through multiple lighter sections of acoustics and keyboards.  Regal and bouncy, “Machine Messiah” is uplifting despite (and because of) its complexity.  Clouds form about halfway through the song, darkening the landscape, but that guitar returns for second round.  Tricky bits are three-dimensional, snakelike and winding, but satisfying.  An enticing start!

After a 10 minute opener, you’re fairly warmed up for anything, but “White Car” is surprising nonetheless for its lushness and brevity.  It sounds like there should be more, but then Chris Squire brings the bass of “Does it Really Happen”, reminding me that he’s truly one of the all time greatest four-stringers in history.  His fingers gallop.  What a crisp, tight bass sound.  Hard to describe this track — it moves, and it’s full, but not immediate.  Builds nicely up with organ, vocal layers and guitar chords though.  I dig the bass licks right after the false ending.  Chris Squire was the man!

Drama‘s second side starts with “Into the Lens”, and another bass pulse by Chris Squire.  Bouncing from section to section, it’s hard to pin this song down to one style.  It’s easy to say it’s great though.  It’s a big song, always interesting and going someplace.  From the camera lens, we “Run Through the Light”, opening with gentle acoustic picking and elegant singing.  Then the electric guitar and keyboards lay down the hooks.  This is my favourite song so far.  Trevor Horn’s vocals are enticingly catchy with a Police-like chorus, but then there’s a squirrely and cool Steve Howe guitar solo.

We end the set on “Tempus Fugit”, the only track I was previously familiar with.  Like a space race with time, this song goes into hyperspace with engines powered by Chris Squire.   In a flurry, the album is over.  Drama.

That wasn’t a bad first listen.

4.5/5 stars

GUEST REVIEW – Roky Erickson and the Aliens – The Evil One – The Meat Challenge

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  Meat was given Roky Erikson by LeBrain.

ROKY ERICKSON & THE ALIENS – The Evil One (1981)

How did we get to where we are now?  Let’s have a very quick nutshell synopsis of a pretty incredible story (a story which is captured in much more detail in a very good 2005 documentary titled You’re Gonna Miss Me.  Have you seen it? It’s a beauty.)

Roky Erickson was born in 1947 in Dallas, Texas.  He co-founded an influential psychedelic rock band called The 13th Floor Elevators, who had some chart success in the late 60s. In 1969, Roky Erickson got arrested for smoking a joint and to avoid jail, pled guilty and was sent to the nuthouse until his release in 1974.  Roky Erickson & the Aliens were born and released their debut album in 1980.

Now that we have that out of the way, I have not heard the debut album.  Nor have I heard any other Roky Erickson album going into this.  I was not sure what to expect and what I got was different and frankly more than I expected.  The Evil One was produced by ex-CCR bassist Stu Cook, and together he and Roky definitely came out with a great sounding record…that talks about Lucifer a lot…and the devil …and ghosts….  Basically, you could look at this album a collection of crazy stories.  More specifically, I now look at The Evil One as a collection of 15 short B-movies expressed through exceptional Pop-Rock songwriting.  Imagine if Hall and Oates got a bit of Rock balls and started worshipping Satan.  Here are some thoughts I had while listening to each song/movie on The Evil One.

  1. “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” –  The first track is the only song I had actually heard before on this album.  LeBrain picked this for a tribute back in the days when Sausagefest was doing them.  Hearing this again, I enjoy it like I did when I first heard it.  Great rock song with guitar licks that kinda surprised me.  Roky Erickson possesses a great voice with a naturally high register, which allows him to belt out the hearty Rock.
  1. “I Think of Demons” –  Another solid rock song bringing to mind everything from the Ramones to Thin Lizzy to “insert 70s melodic rock band here”.  A lot of poppy goodness here.  Perhaps the happiest song ever with “Demons” in the title?  You’d be right if you guessed there is more of this kinda thing to come.
  1. “Creature With The Atom Brain” –  Nicholas Cage would have been the star of this movie.  I really like the twin guitar parts in this track.  Bit of a hillbilly rock song.  Some conspiracy-minded strange banter in the middle which leads to even stranger banter at the end.
  1. “The Wind and More” –  This is probably my favorite track on the album.  I really got a Max Webster meets Wishbone Ash vibe from this song.  Erickson seems to have a great way of finding his way melodically through rock and roll riffs.  Of course Lucifer is mentioned again.   Speaking of…could this be what Pye Dubois would have sounded like if he made music? Hmmmm.
  1. “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” –  Yes, this time the one of the Prince of Darkness’ given names makes the title.  Roky really channels his inner Mick Jagger in this track.  Very Rolling Stones-esque all around really.  A bit more of an aggressive punk thing going on here.  Perhaps Teenage Head would be a better comparison.   Not one of my favorite tracks on the album to be honest.
  1. “Bloody Hammer” –  This is another stand out track on the album.  Bit of a cock-out rock song that probably just cooks live.  Some epic ranting in this too.  For some reason I was thinking about Budgie during this song.  As for lyrically?  I am really not sure if I really wanna know what the actual bloody hammer was that inspired this song.
  1. “Stand For the Fire Demon” –  I don’t know what to make of this one.  While I admire the passion poured out in this track, there is a bit of a drag to it.  Another Nicholas Cager here.  You know…the crazed, bug-eyed Cage where he makes no sense but is really adamant about it?  I think this might be a prayer to Satan.
  1. “Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play” –  Fun Thin Lizzy twin-guitar licks in this.  Other than that nothing especially stands out about this track.
  1. “If You Have Ghosts” –  …You have everything.  This is a hell of a song.  The middle musical part in this song starting with the solo is a fun piece of music.  Very good slightly-off-road rock song.
  1. “I Walked With a Zombie” –  Imagine if you were watching an episode of Happy Days, and instead of a jukebox they had a really fucking high Tom Petty playing music for the acid-tripping kids at Arnold’s.  I think Ralph Malph lost his virginity to this song.   Just another sock-hop with the devil.
  1. “Night of the Vampire” –  This song is very Alice Cooper.  This would be the Rob Zombie directed movie set in the 70s.  By the way, I’ve given up trying to analyse these lyrics.
  1. “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators” –  An average silly mid tempo rock song.  Actually it’s better than that.  I’m getting a Max Webster vibe again, and some fun twin leads once more.
  1. “Mine Mine Mind” –  Starting off with a tribal Alex Harvey rock feel, this is pretty much everything I like about 70s pop-rock.  This is basically what Trooper and Streetheart were doing around this time, but in this case, instead of singing about cars and girls, Roky Erickson chooses to sing about the Devil.  To each his/her own I guess.
  1. “Sputnik” –  The second this song started, I was thinking about Ace Frehley.  Even the lyrics seem cosmos and NASA inspired.  This is the KISS song of the album.  I really like this track, and it could right now be one of those songs everyone is sick of hearing on FM radio.  Why isn’t it?  Well… the science fiction lyrics.  Oh…and Satan.
  1. “White Faces” –  The album ends with more driving rock and roll.  The first verse of this song is:

Friends with a beast,
Because of sharp teeth,
The devil so red,
The fiery evil blieb.
 

WHAT!?!?!?!?!??!

 Once again we have melodic and poppy mid tempo rock referring to Satan.  This man is just too happy about demons.

Overall I would call this a better than average rock record.  Perhaps with multiple listens some of the melodic hooks would sink into me deeper, but as of now better than average is pretty much what I feel about this record.  Anyone who loves 70s rock would really love this album.  The devil is in the details.  No…I’m serious…The devil is truly within the details of this album.  I think the title speaks for itself.  This is an album about The Evil One.

3.75/5 demons

 BY MEAT