w.a.s.p.

#681: Bad Lessons

GETTING MORE TALE #681: Bad Lessons

Parents of the 80s were always concerned about the impressions that their kids were getting from music videos.  Objectifying women?  Drug and alcohol use?  Absolutely a concern.  But what about other misleading lessons from the music video age?

 

Bad Lesson #1:  You can play guitar with gloves on!

You’re guilty, Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P.!  You too, Jeff Pilson of Dokken!  You both played your instruments in music videos while wearing full leather gloves.  As children, we simply assumed if it got cold outside, you could continue to play your guitar with gloves on.  I’m not talking fingerless gloves, but full coverage.

It doesn’t really look cold in that Dokken video for “Burning Like a Flame”. Why the gloves, Jeff? George Lynch isn’t even wearing a shirt.

 

Bad Lesson #2:  Great hair just happens.

How many music videos of the 80s showed the band members doing up their hair?  None!  Probably due to the “hairspray” stigma of the 80s. Some videos showed the band members literally getting out of bed, with hair intact.  I assumed that once you grew your hair long enough and had it cut by a professional, it would just automatically look cool every morning.  Naturally, I had bad hair for years.  Thanks, rock stars.  Don’t be embarrassed by your hair care products!

 

Bad Lesson #3:  Guitars are eeeeasy to play!

Since we didn’t fully comprehend that music videos were mimed, and not an actual performance, we assumed guitars were easy to play!  After all, they made it look so easy!  C.C. DeVille could jump around and swing his guitar everywhere without missing a note.  Others would just…hit their guitars…and the song played on!  Paul Stanley seemed to play his without even touching it.  You can imagine how we felt when we actually bought our first guitars ourselves.  Hitting it didn’t play a song, it just made a hitting sound.  We were lied to!

Players like DeVille and Jeff Labar of Cinderella also made it look far too easy to swing your guitars over your shoulders.  We damaged some necks and some ceilings trying to imitate these guys.  We learned you had to buy strap locks or watch your guitar get launched skyward.

 

Bad Lesson #4:  Adulthood involves walking the streets at night with your boyz.

As young impressionable kids, we didn’t know what adulthood was really about.  We saw our dads go to work every day.  Mom worked hard too.  But what about before they met and got married and settled down to have kids?  What was life like at that stage?  Judging by Dokken, Journey or Motley Crue videos, adulthood meant walking around town a lot with your buds.  Some bands even cruised in cars!  Is this what growing up looked like?


“Don’t Go Away Mad” (by the most Mötleyest of Crües) is guilty on two counts: plenty of downtown walkin’, and Vince waking up with hair perfectly coiffed.

 

Bad Lesson #5:  Getting arrested is no big deal!

David Lee Roth was led away in handcuffs in the “Panama” music video.  Bobby Dall of Poison got arrested in one of their clips, too.  Let’s not forget Sammy Hagar getting busted for speeding in “I Can’t Drive 55”.   But it’s all good – the guys were all there at the end of the songs.  No big deal!

 

 

It was never the alcohol, or devil worship, or women that made rock videos dangerous. Turns out it was the mundane stuff. Who knew long hair was so hard to upkeep? They never told us that. How naive we were!

 

 

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REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985, 1997 reissue)

scan_20170110W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985, 1997 Snapper reissue)

With W.A.S.P.’s second album The Last Command, Blackie & cohorts made a slight move closer to the mainstream.  Blackie Lawless gave the producer’s chair to Spencer Proffer who worked magic with Quiet Riot in 1983.  There was also a new drummer.  W.A.S.P. said sayonara to Tony Richards and hit Japan with new guy Steve Riley, who today is best known for L.A. Guns.  Riley’s pasty-white demeanor fit right in with W.A.S.P.’s horror rock fantasy.  This foursome (also featuring guitarists Chris Holmes and Randy Piper) became what many refer to as the “classic” lineup.

Each side of the original LP was top-loaded:  “Wild Child” led off side one while “Blind in Texas” was used to ignite side two.  This was a calculated move, as none of the rest of the songs are as memorable as the two singles.  The strategy worked as this album doubled the sales of W.A.S.P.’s first, and those two singles had a lot to do with it.  “Wild Child” in particular was proof that W.A.S.P. could write songs and not just iron riffs.  With a bright incandescence, “Wild Child” found its way onto radio.  It’s an early example of what Blackie Lawless can do when he gets everything right.

As for “Blind in Texas”?  It was always more of a novelty, a chance for the crowd to yell along with Blackie (just listen to the live B-side version on the Headless Children CD).  A cute ZZ Top cameo in the music video didn’t hurt their chances on the Power Hour, and even the staunchest critic must admit this is a blast of pure fun.

Delving into the deeper cuts, “Ballcrusher” is…a quaint love song, let’s say, with a metal chug and a cutting W.A.S.P. riff.  Throw on one of those shouty W.A.S.P. choruses and you pretty much know how “Ballcrusher” goes!  Wealth is celebrated on “Fistful of Diamonds” which is the blueprint for all the generic W.A.S.P. rockers to follow. Steve Riley made his songwriting debut on “Jack Action”, a cool but forgettable nocturnal chug. On side one, however you will discover one real diamond which is the slow and ominous “Widowmaker”. This one too is a blueprint, for classic W.A.S.P. prowls like “The Headless Children”.

Side two has its own pits and valleys. As a sequel to the first album’s ballad “Sleeping (In the Fire)”, “Cries in the Night” is less successful. However it does have a strangely futuristic Iron Maiden-circa-1992 vibe, as if Steve Harris nicked this song for some of his own on Fear of the Dark.  “The Last Command” is junk; limp and hookless.  Blackie plagiarized himself and not for the last time.  When Blackie goes “Running Wild in the Streets” it sounds as if he’s stealing from Quiet Riot.  Ask Spencer Proffer, but surely the similarity between the “all the way!” section and the “I want more!” part of “Scream and Shout” is not coincidence.  The point is moot as neither song is particularly amazing.  Closing The Last Command is “Sex Drive”, a “good enough” song but only just.

W.A.S.P. have been generous with their reissues and included virtually all their related B-sides on the CDs.  “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain) is actually a decent B-side cover.   You have to wonder if, in 1985, W.A.S.P. could have had a hit with “Mississippi Queen” just as Motley Crue did with “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room”.  Then “Savage” is better than 90% of the actual album.  Why are songs like “Savage” left off albums?  Who makes the decision to release it as an obscure B-side?  The rest of the bonus tracks are all live B-sides, and all W.A.S.P. classics:  “Fuck Like a Beast”, “I Wanna Be Somebody”, “Sleeping (In the Fire)”, “Hellion” and “On Your Knees”.  Some suffer from excessive crowd noise, but it sounds like W.A.S.P. were formidable live.  Blackie should consider selling a live album made up of single B-sides like these, all in one place.

So good are the bonus tracks for The Last Command that they even alter its final score:

3/5 stars (original LP)

to

3.5/5 stars (CD reissue)

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – First Blood…Last Cuts (1993)

scan_20161125W.A.S.P. – First Blood…Last Cuts (1993 Capitol)

When grunge took over the airwaves in 1991-1992, a lot of older guard bands found themselves without a record contract.  W.A.S.P.’s 1992 concept album The Crimson Idol failed to generate enough interest for Capitol Records to continue investing in the band.  A greatest hits contractual obligation album was a typical move for bands in this situation, and that is how First Blood…Last Cuts came to be.  With that in mind, the 16 track album is great bang for the buck.  Rarities and new songs add value, and the photo-loaded booklet is tons of fun.

A rarity right off the bat, “Animal” was a non-album single and W.A.S.P.’s first.  It’s better known as “Fuck Like a Beast”, and that might explain why it wasn’t on the W.A.S.P. album.  A good but not exceptional track, it does boast a nice metal chug, but it’s otherwise just there for shock value.  It is primitive metal akin to the first LP, with Blackie in full screech.  You either like W.A.S.P. or you don’t.

“L.O.V.E. Machine” from the first LP is remixed with the first verse re-recorded, for some reason.  Presumably Blackie must have been dissatisfied with the original.  There are several remixes on this CD, including singles “I Wanna Be Somebody”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (a metalized Ray Charles cover via Humble Pie), “Blind In Texas” and “Wild Child”.  The remixes generally have a sharper drum sound, particular the tracks originally from the muddy first album.  The remixing leads to an uneven listen.  Rather than sounding fresh, the remixes feel off-kilter and slightly unfamiliar, especially when butted up against non-remixed tracks.  The muddy “On Your Knees” follows the remixed “I Wanna Be Somebody”.  The transition between the two songs, both originally from the same album, could be better.

Thankfully the strong songs outnumber the middling by a hefty margin.  “Headless Children” and “The Real Me” (a Who cover from Quadrophenia) remain two highlights of the W.A.S.P. canon.  The chugging heavy epic “Chainsaw Charlie” has never been topped by Blackie.

The final incentives are the two new songs, although one (“Rock and Roll to Death”) was recycled on 1995’s Still Not Black Enough.  “Sunset and Babylon” is special as it features Lita Ford on guest lead guitar.  The nimble-fingered Ford adds some character to the tune, a pretty standard rock n’ roller from Blackie and cohorts.

At 75 minutes, First Blood…Last Cuts is a long running album providing great value.   Perhaps it runs a song or two too long, but nit picking aside it is a solidly hot listen through.  The drunken cowboy blasts of “Blind in Texas” are as fondly remembered as the gentle strumming on ballads like “Hold On to My Heart”.  Indeed, as the album runs on to its second half, ballads begin to outshine the rockers.  “Forever Free” remains one of W.A.S.P.’s brightest stars, as likeable as it was in 1989.  “The Idol” is a darkly beautiful ballad demonstrating that Blackie Lawless is indeed deeper than just his assless chaps.  Although the album dialogue should have been chopped for this greatest hits CD, it just breaks up the flow.

Most people do not need all the W.A.S.P. albums.  In fact, scientific studies have shown that one or two W.A.S.P.’s is all the average homo sapiens will ever need.  First Blood…Last Cuts would be solidly recommended CD for your first or only W.A.S.P. purchase.

4/5 stars

scan_20161125-2

#482: Modified Listening Experiences

AUD 1

GETTING MORE TALE #482: Modified Listening Experiences

With modern music technology and software, it has never been easier to not only take your music anywhere, but now you can even modify the albums you buy.  Using some simple tricks you can change aspects of the tracklist to make the album suit you.   You have probably done this yourself.  Many do regularly, by shuffling the track order.  Let’s go a little deeper than that.

The first time I experienced the concept of modifying an album’s tracklist, I was just a kid.  It was 1985, and I was recording the first W.A.S.P. cassette off my next door neighbour George (R.I.P.), from tape to tape.

“If you don’t like the song ‘Sleeping in the Fire’,” he said, “You can just push pause on this tape recorder.  Then un-pause it when the song is over.  Your copy won’t have ‘Sleeping in the Fire’ if that’s how you like it.”

Even then, I couldn’t imagine a reason to copy an entire album sans one song.  I kept the tape running and never hit pause, but George’s advice kept tumbling around in my brain, for years.   Over time I began experimenting with tracklist modification.  Never to remove songs, mind you, always to add or improve.

Here are some examples of modified track lists in my library.

1. Adding bonus tracks

COOPSingle B-sides just kind of float around in most collections.  Due to their short running time, I don’t often spin CD singles.  On a PC hard drive they tend to get lost while full albums get more play.  To give some of these B-sides a little more air time, in many cases I have chosen to add the songs as “bonus tracks”, at the end of the associated album.  This works best when it’s just one or two tracks.  More than that can extend an album listening experience too long.

Sometimes, different versions of albums will have unique bonus tracks.  Perhaps there’s one on the vinyl version that is on nothing else.  Japanese editions, deluxe versions, European editions, iTunes editions…there are usually lots of bonus tracks out there, but always on different versions of the disc.  Why not take them all, and make your own “super deluxe edition” with all the bonus tracks in one spot?  Listening to an album modified in this way can be a bit longer than the usual, but ultimately it’s rewarding to hear the entire body of work in one smooth sitting.  My MP3 player is loaded with my complete version of Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and it’s just 10 minutes shy of two hours long!

In extreme cases, there are so many bonus tracks out there that you may need to consider creating an entire “bonus disc” folder to house them all.

2. Removing gaps

The 1990’s were such a quaint time.  Remember “hidden bonus tracks”?  At the end of the album, instead of stopping, the CD would continue to play several minutes of silence.  Then you would be surprised by a hidden unlisted song!  A notable example is “Look at Your Game, Girl”, the infamous Charles Manson cover that Axl hid away at the end of The Spaghetti Incident.  There was only a 10 second gap on that CD; still annoying but other albums had much longer pauses before the hidden track.

I use Audacity to remove the long gaps, or to isolate the hidden song to a track all its own.  As much as I enjoy a “pure” listening experience the way the artist intended, these long gaps are pretty easy to sacrifice.

3. Restoring an intended song order

AUD 4

Rock and roll is full of stories about bands who couldn’t get their way when an album was released.  W.A.S.P. for example wanted their song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” to open their self titled album.  Now you can add it there yourself!  (W.A.S.P. also added the song to the start of the remastered version of the album.)  You can even use Audacity to adjust the volume levels, so that everything matches.

A better example is Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story.  The piano ballad “Don’t Leave Me Alone” was only on the cassette version of the album.  The CD couldn’t contain all the songs without making it a double, so that one had to be left off.  Now you can re-add it yourself, right where it belongs at the end of “side two” and before the big side three suite.  Now you can hear the whole album as Extreme intended, seamlessly.

Pardon the pun, but I took an even more “extreme” approach to their second album, Pornograffitti.  The instrumental track “Fight of the Wounded Bumblebee” was written as a longer piece with a slow bluesy coda.  This second half was recorded solo by Nuno Bettencourt as “Bumble Bee (Crash Landing)” for a guitar compilation.  Using Audacity, I combined both tracks to restore the song to its original full structure.  This is about as close as we will ever get to hearing the tracks as written.  I dropped the new longer track into the album tracklisting and voila!  Still seamless, but now with a new darker mood before “He-Man Woman Hater”.

Indeed, the possibilities are limitless.  Steve Harris often complained that the Iron Maiden album No Prayer for the Dying should have had live crowd noise mixed in, like a live album.  Now you can do that yourself.  With a deft touch, you can even edit songs down yourself or extend them by looping sections.

With the advent of the computer as a listening device, the sky is now the limit.  How would you modify your listening experiences?

 

#473.5: The Week of Flaming Turds – Feedback

FLAMING TURDS

The Week of Flaming Turds – Feedback

I hope you enjoyed the Week of Flaming Turds here at mikeladano.com.  When you amass a large collection of music, you end up with a number of stinkers because “hey, it’s part of the collection”.  Collecting could probably be diagnosed as an illness, related to OCD.  As a reviewer, I tend to review the music I listen to more often, which is (generally) stuff I like.  Hence, a skew towards positive reviews.  To break up the monotony I collected some writings about some stinkers this week and put ’em out as the Week of Flaming Turds.  And thank you Sarca for the title and logo.  She rocks, doesn’t she?

Now that we’re at the end of the week I have three questions, so please feel free to leave a comment.

1. Did you like this theme week?

2. Which of the five do you think stink the most?  If applicable, which album do you like most?

a) Shania Twain – “Party for Two” (Getting More Tale #473)
b) Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges
c) Queensryche – Tribe
d) W.A.S.P. – K.F.D.
e) Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Inspiration

3. Of these five, did you have a favourite writeup?  Or did you strongly disagree with me?

Lemme know in the comments below!  There are lots more turds in the collection to go.

 

 

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – K.F.D. (1997, domestic and Japanese versions)

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

We continue with the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS!  We’re looking at a collection of malodorous music.  Strike a match, you’ll need it for these stinkers!  This one smells like something went bad in that fridge….

W.A.S.P. – Kill.Fuck.Die (1997 Castle, 1997 Victor Japanese import)

W.A.S.P. sure started to suck in the 1990’s. 1995’s Still Not Black Enough was alright: It got the job done in putting new W.A.S.P. music on the shelves, though it was hard to find in stores.  Then Marilyn Manson came along, the new king of shock rock, and Blackie Lawless said “Hey!  I did that first!  I need to take back my throne.”  Caking on the makeup, he reconnected with erstwhile lead guitarist Chris Holmes.  Rather than playing to their collective strengths, the pair instead wrote and recorded an album of industrial rock that came off as a desperate attempt to be relevant.   The oh-so edgy album title Kill.Fuck.Die. had to be abbreviated to K.F.D.  The album packaging was clever in concept but crap in delivery.  A blurry picture of a fridge opens to reveal another blurry picture body parts and meat.  On the inside, yet another blurry picture of a pig carcass.  Go, 90’s!

Because this writer is a fucking OCD idiot, he owns both the domestic and Japanese versions of K.F.D.  This means I have all the different bonus tracks.  You get to read a one-stop review including all the tracks.  Good for you!

“K.F.D” sounds as if the band were playing in a shoe box full of stuffing.  W.A.S.P. are muffled, robbing them of the guitar excitement we’re used to.  Blackie’s voice is distant because…90’s.  As usual Stet Howland’s drumming is way too busy.  Fortunately the song has hooks, but who wants to run around singing “Kill!  Fuck!  Die!”?  Not this guy.  Sorry Blackie, but even as an angry young man I thought this was lame.

Skip the boring and monotonous “Take the Addiction”.  Do the same for “My Tortured Eyes”, a slow distorted drag of a song.  These tunes are necessary listening only for diehard Blackie fans who need to buy everything he burps and farts.  There are a couple good songs next, though the titles are pretty doltish:  “Killahead” and “Kill Your Pretty Face”.   The first is fast metal, but of course still with this annoying “industrial” production.  (I use the quotation marks because it’s really not industrial music per se…there are no interesting samples or loops to keep things moving.)  The second is a slow burn, that drags for a while before we finally get to the chorus, which is a good one at least.  Good enough to consider it a decent song.  “Fetus” is a waste of time, just a minute of screaming and noise.  It blends into “Little Death”, just noise trying to sound like Trent Reznor.  Wisely, the Japanese edited these two off, and included their own bonus track “Tokyo’s On Fire” in this spot.  Maybe “Little Death” could have been a good song if it wasn’t compressed and distorted into nonsense.  Thankfully they stuck to a rock production with “Tokyo’s On Fire”.  That does make it sound odd sitting in the middle of the album.  Suddenly, the music sounds alive, not strangled!  “Tokyo’s On Fire” sounds like W.A.S.P., not Marilyn-Trent Lawless!

Scan_20160226 (4)

Another dumb title, “U”, masks an OK song.  The lyrics are pretty are pretty half-baked.  “U fuckin’ suck!” sings Blackie.  No wonder they didn’t include a lyric sheet in this baby.  Anger is a great emotion to express in rock music.  Get it out!  But “Kill yourself for me,” doesn’t cut it for lyrics.  Shock without purpose.  A molotov cocktail without a revolution.  It’s just shrapnel, nothing more.  “Wicked Love” is better, thankfully, with a good chorus and melody, but again the compressed guitars just underwhelm.  It would have been nice if Blackie had let the guitars sound like, you know, guitars.  The album closes out on “The Horror” which is way too long, and takes forever to go anywhere.  A good solid five minutes could have been trimmed from this coma-inducer.  It ends powerfully, but it’s basically just a reprise of “K.F.D.”.  So, if you consider “K.F.D.” and “The Horror” to be one song in two parts, and do the same for “Fetus” and “Little Death”, then…holy shit, Blackie only came up with nine new songs for this album, including the Japanese bonus track!

The aforementioned domestic CD packaging has two significant flaws.  One is that the cardboard fridge is hinged on a perforation, which usually tears after opening it too many times.   The other is that it is unfortunately not worth opening.  Keep the fridge closed, fans.

2/5 stars

WTF Search Terms: Joey Tempest Strikes Back edition

DARTH TEMPEST

WTF Search Terms XXVII:  Joey Tempest Strikes Back edition

Been a long time since I rock and rolled?  Hardly!  I just rock and rolled last night actually.  But it has been a long time since we’ve seen some WTF Search Terms!  (The last was in March.)  These are the most bizarre of the bizarre search terms that somehow led people to mikeladano.com.  Today’s instalment includes a couple for the Dark Lord of the Sith himself: Joey Tempest (you devil, you!) and a fair share of farts.

First up, a follow-up to the bizarre Joey Tempest Conspiracy Theory (TM):

  • satanic signs of joey tempest

I think the next person was looking for Joey aka Joakim Larsson as well!

  • presinor in paradies song

Here ya go, fella!  This would actually be the first album with Fake Joey.

Here are some fart and bowel related search terms:

  • thunder fart piss
  • how to rip on coworker who is constipated
  • white lion till death do us fart
  • faith no more farts

The video where Mike Patton farts into his microphone is called You Fat Bastards: Live at the Brixton Academy.  Here ya go, fella!* 20 seconds in. You’re welcome. You’re all welcome!

Here’s an old classic for you.  Were you aware that the Boobsy Animation Whore Wearing Glasses Acquired Screwed series was up to Part 7 already?

  • boobsy animation whores wearing glasses acquire screwed hardcore part 7

The question below is one I have often wondered.  Not really a WTF, but a good question.  Should they have called the album something else?

  • why did cinderella release “long cold winter” album in may

In England, it was released in July.  Imagine that!

Then, the below search term is a belief I do hold.  It’s OK if you don’t but why are you searching for this?  Is there one definitive authority who “knows” this?  (If so, let it be me?)

Finally, I’d like to close this batch of search terms with a guy who, well, he hasn’t been featured in WTF search terms for a long time.  His last appearance was WTF Search Terms XVI, back in February 2014.   Please welcome back the founder and bare buttocks of W.A.S.P., Mr. Steven Edward Duren aka Blackie Lawless!

  • biggest ass in leather
  • black lawless is an arse hole

Thank you, goodnight!

* Yes I made the assumption that the searcher was male.  Because farts.

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – Helldorado (1999)

HELLDORADO_0002

W.A.S.P. – Helldorado (1999 BMG)

Here’s an album I haven’t rocked in a while.  Let’s see how it holds up 16 years after release.  In 1999, this was W.A.S.P.’s “return to form” album after the industrial-metal of K.F.D.  In the liner notes, Blackie says that the goal was not to make a record that sounded like their first album, but sounded like their first demos.  In other words, even more raw.  Those were the goalposts.  Topically, Blackie was done with the messages and concept albums for the moment.  You can tell by the song titles:  “Don’t Cry (Just Suck)” and “Dirty Balls”, for example.

The record opens with creepy carnival music, motorcycle engines, and a voice asking us if we wanna go now?  This goofy opener (called “Drive By”)  goes on way too long, but at least the first song up is the purely smoking “Hellodrado”.  It’s definitely in the mold of the legendary first W.A.S.P. album, and the production does recollect an earlier era.  This blazing fast ride to hell n’ back is plenty fun, even if Blackie is just playing a sped up and more distorted Chuck Berry riff.  Either way, I’m on board, but I’m definitely fastening my seatbelt.

“Don’t Cry (Just Suck)” is lyrically as offensive as you’d expect.  Blackie went too far on this one.  There’s something to be said for leaving things to the imagination.  There’s nothing wrong with the music (similar to the first track with an Angus Young riff) but the lyrics aren’t justified.  I’m sure everybody thought it was hilarious when they wrote it and recorded it, but all I hear are old tired cliches turned up to 11, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

A slower and more ominous mood, akin to “The Razors Edge” by AC/DC, inhabits “Damnation Angels”.  This is a cool song, fitting the slot that a track like “B.A.D.” held on the first album.  “Damnation Angels” is fittingly the only long song (over six minutes) on an album otherwise composed of shorties.  “Dirty Balls” is one such shorty, and it’s fucking awesome.  Too bad about the lame intro.  Again, Blackie would have been better off leaving something to the imagination.  “Dirty Balls” is otherwise hilarious and smokin’ hot at the same time.  Sometimes all W.A.S.P. really needs is a rock n’ roll riff and a screamy chorus.  “Dirty balls! Balls! Balls! Is all I need, hang ’em high, oh tonight, so the world can see!”  I’m easily amused — all it takes is someone saying “balls” and I’m concealing snickers.  (When I was a kid, my favourite song was “Big Balls”.)

HELLDORADO_0003“High on the Flames” kicks ass in a mid-tempo groove once again aping the AC/DC template.  The problem with Helldorado isn’t bad songs, but songs that sound too much alike.  “High on the Flames” kicks ass, but blink for a moment and you might think it’s “Damnation Angels” again.  “Cocaine Cowboys” compounds the issue.  It is a virtual carbon copy of “Dirty Balls” and “Helldorado”, and even the next song “Can’t Die Tonight”.  I have found this to be a problem on W.A.S.P. albums going all the way back to The Crimson Idol if not before.  There seems to be a W.A.S.P. template that you can mix and match parts from.  Take this riff, add this solo, use that bridge, add lyrics and stir.

“Saturday Night Cockfight” is a great song title, you have to admit.  This one sounds especially raw, and has a neat little riff that doesn’t sound like a duplicate of all the others.  I dig Holmes’ solo(s) on this one; he just kicks ass on it. “Saturday Night Cockfight” is the sleeper track, a real classic tucked away at the end of the album right when you think it’s going downhill.

Finally, the album careens to an end by crashing into the boards.  A 9-song album (don’t forget the first track is just an intro), already bogged down by carbon copy riffs, ends on “Hot Rods to Hell (Helldorado Reprise)”.  That’s right, Blackie ends the CD with a reprise of the opening track.  This amounts to a whole lotta solos and screaming, and that’s all well and good, but you feel like the album was perhaps padded out a bit where it could have used a little more time at the songwriter’s table.

I like Helldorado, and if you love the first W.A.S.P. album, you’ll like this too.  You won’t love it as much, and you won’t play it as much, but it’ll have its place in your collection.

3/5 stars

Pet peave: Four full pages of the eight page booklet are dedicated to Blackie hawking his W.A.S.P. merch.

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children (Remastered)

WASP HEADLESS CHILDREN_0001W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children (1998 Sanctuary remaster, originally 1989)

When this album came out in ’89, my friends gave me a hard time for buying it. “You still listening to W.A.S.P.? Don’t they suck?” Then later on that summer, the ballad “Forever Free” was released as a single, and suddenly everybody wanted to tape my W.A.S.P. album! Funny how that worked out.

This is W.A.S.P.’s best. As far as the early stuff goes, It’s their meanest, heaviest, most aggressive and honest record. It’s the last before Chris Holmes split (for the first time anyway) and it has Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) on drums. This is it. If you’re going to own one W.A.S.P. album, it has to be this one. The first single “The Real Me” (a Townshend-approved Who cover) was misleading, as the album is much heavier than that. The title track, “Thunderhead”, and especially “The Heretic” all kick some serious metallic ass. Double-bass, fast riffs, eerie Sabbathy organ, it’s all here.

Blackie outdid himself on this one, even his concept album opus The Crimson Idol couldn’t top it. Lyrically this is (mostly) more serious territory, tackling subjects such as hard drugs, Reagan, and the decline of western civilization. Occasionally they lapse back into joke material (“Mean Man”) but soon it’s back to serious rocking.

Blackie was inspired to get serious by his old song, “B.A.D.” from the first album. A fan had come up to Blackie and said that song had helped her kick drugs. It was the line, “It’s the bloody fix you do” that inspired her to quit. Blackie realized, “Here we did this thing without even trying. What could we do if we tried?”

Hence, songs like “Thunderhead”. Even the excellent ballad “Forever Free” has some serious spirit to it, an ode to someone who is no longer with us. Regardless of the lyrics, music is the most important thing, and The Headless Children is W.A.S.P.’s strongest collection of music to date. It was all there:  heavy metal with solid riffs and influences dating back to the roots. Mood wise, we are firmly in the blackest of Sabbath territory on many songs.

The bonus material is interesting on the remastered edition. “Locomotive Breath” is a W.A.S.P.-ified version of a Jethro Tull classic, much simpler but heavy as lead. Other tracks are outtakes, and some musical and lyrical bits would be re-used on Crimson Idol. See if you can spot them.  The closing track “Blind In Texas” (a live B-side) is unfortunately a useless version with some drunk dude being invited to sing the chorus. A waste of plastic.  Fortunately the rest of the album proper makes up for it.

5/5 stars

Part 302: Blackie Lawless

STILL NOT BLACK ENOUGH_0004

RECORD STORE TALES Part 302:  Blackie Lawless

W.A.S.P. singer, founder and leader Blackie Lawless is known among fandom for his raging douchebaggery.  Witness a recent event in Russia, where Blackie ignored the one and only fan at the train station asking for his autograph.  Everybody should understand a human being’s need for privacy when they live in the limelight, but asking for an autograph at a train station is hardly imposing, especially when they’re the only fan in the place.

Blackie don’t sign nothin’!

Even back in the Record Store days, I was hearing stories about Blackie being an asshole to fans.  Witness the evidence below, an interaction I had with a customer in the late 1990’s:

Customer:  Hey, do you have any W.A.S.P. albums?

Me:  We might…are you looking for a specific one?

Customer:  No.  Just one that has a picture of the singer.  Blackie’s his name right?

Me:  Yup, Blackie Lawless.

Customer:  Here’s the thing.  I just want to see what he looks like.  I was in Toronto a couple months ago, and I swear I saw this guy.  I asked him, “Hey, are you in a rock band called W.A.S.P.?”  The guy said no, but I was sure it was him.  I said, “Come on, you’re him.  You look exactly like him.”  He had the long black hair, and he was really tall, man.

Me:  Well, Blackie’s definitely known for his hair and his height.  Sounds like him.  Hey, I have a CD called Headless Children here and there’s a picture inside.  Let’s take a look.

So we grabbed the W.A.S.P. CD and opened up the booklet.

Customer:  That’s him!  That’s the fucking guy!  I knew he was lying to me!  What an asshole.

Me: Yeah, he’s known for being one of those too!