Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Mute Records

With "Saturdays=Youth" M83's Anthony Gonzalez has attempted a painstakingly alchemical tribute to youth- all hedonism and hope and fearlessness and false beauty and impulse and love and sex. Saturday nights with no Sunday morning even in sight, to wit. With that mission statement, M83 is occasionally successful.

"Saturdays=Youth" is an album in thrall to the most epic of new wave, the most soaring of shoegazing and the most majestic of classic alternative music. Of fucking course it's pastiche - it sounds ten miles high with a size zero waist and the longest eyelashes you've ever seen. Gonzelez knows his pop history well, cribbing from the best; so sometimes the keyboards sound like ten Depeche Mode, the hooks are sweeter than six "Don't You Forget About Me's" or "Lips Like Sugar," the guitars shimmer like an army of Robin Guthries or Johnny Marrs and the vocals are sweet whispery nods to Liz Frasier or Tim Booth.

"Saturdays=Youth" is all melancholy, bittersweet swoons or punching the air fuck-yeah-we're-alive communal dancing. And what's wrong with that? Well the schtick wears thin after awhile. The period piece roleplaying starts to become a little too exhausting to keep up and the album starts feeling more like a Branford Marsalis-esque exercise in musical archivism. It's just a little too perfect. A little too (lips like) sugary sweet. Too big-budget movie It's like, I challenge you to stay awake through "Too Late" - too big. Or "Dark Moves of Love" where nothing really happens at all except for one big buzzing riff and insulin shock female vocals. Even (obvious touchstone) Depeche Mode inserted some dirt and grime and sweat and desperation into their songs. I don't feel/hear that in this album. You just want to leave the club, go home, listen to some Swans or rap - change it up. Everyone knows that the best part about going out is getting dressed and dolled up, anyway. The rest? Cotton candy letdowns.

- Matthew Moyer

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Tomorrow Show: John, Paul, Tom and Ringo

Shout! Factory

Yet another of Shout! Factory's excellent compilations of Tom Snyder's late-night dalliances with some of rock's most iconic characters - this volume doesn't quite deliver the we-wuz-there Beatlesy goodness the title and “Yellow Submarine” aping graphics promise These interviews all take place long after the band's demise, and there is no conversation with George Harrison, which could have been a treat given his deadpan humor. What we do get is an interview from Ringo Starr from 1981, a satellite interview with Paul and Linda McCartney right before a gig in 1979, and a John Lennon tribute show run a few nights after Lennon's death in 1980 that features a clearly rattled Synder screening an interview with Lennon from 1975.

Three Beatles is better than no Beatles at all, especially when interrogated and egged on by the delightfully goofy and brash Snyder, a cross between anchorman-straightness and AM-radio offhandedness and sarcasm. Now given, he's a little more restrained than on previous Shout! comps but that's likely down to the fact that he's overawed to be in the same room as A BEATLE - but then wouldn't we all? What is still in evidence is Snyder's terrible insurance-salesman suits, immaculate steel combover and how he makes lighting up one of his approximately one million cigarettes during the course of these interviews look so fucking seductive. Christ, the tobacco companies should have just put a picture of him sparking up on billboards and there'd be no need for Joe Camel, Marlboro Man, the lot. Smoking and drinking and making inside jokes to the crew, face it, the man made late night seem like LATE NIGHT.

The John Lennon interview comes as part of a John Lennon tribute special that the Tomorrow Show ran a few nights after his death in 1980. Guests Lisa Robinson and “Double Fantasy” producer Jack Douglas try to contain their grief while giving moderately interesting pieces of news and trivia. The true retrospective value of their contributions is just to show how lost everyone was after Lennon's murder, even Snyder seems knocked down a peg. In stark contrast is the rollicking interview Lennon and Snyder conducted back in 1975 for the Tomorrow show. Lennon, post-Lost Weekend and back with Yoko was relaxed and in a jovial mood - you can tell he's actually happy to be on with NY institution Snyder. A starstruck Snyder peppers him with questions about the good ol' days and his new life in America, which Lennon answers with varying degrees of candor and/or friendly sarcasm. The tan suit clad Lennon's casual comportment was even more surprising given that he was dealing with his imminent deportation. To discuss that actionable subject, Lennon - in a move that had to tickle his surrealist funny bone – brought his lawyer on to sit with him on set as a guest and vet what could be discussed. Tom is clearly delighted with the weirdness too; in all this was one of Snyder's strongest pieces that I've seen. Love the leisure wear, as always, Tom.

On disc tow, Tom hooks up with Paul and Linda via satellite right before a massive London gig around the Christmas holidays. It’s a perfectly decent interview, but the McCartney's seem way too smug and bratty in their responses, whereas usually their wordplay seems somewhat witty, this time it just seems too sarcastic and overcooked. Sure it's nice to hear about what the McCartney's are doing for Christmas, but by the end you’re wondering if anything of note was actually said. The Ringo interview finds Snyder broadcasting from Burbank (he always seems so uncomfortable on the West Coat), where he gets duded up in everyman wear (jeans, izod shirt, unfeasibly large belt buckle) to talk to Ringo at his mansion. Of all three interviews, this one is the weakest. It's 1981, Ringo's peddling some crap new album- maybe, even he seems uncertain at times- he's married to Barbara Bach, and looks like Liberace meets Doc Holiday. He just seems tired, so tired. Except fro the monster-themed music video they screen, it’s tough not to just skip this one.

With the exception of the Lennon interview- which takes up all of disc one- nothing else on this collection feels essential. There are no revelations or bombshells or essential conversations to be found in the McCartney and Starr bits. Starr seems too lost-in-LA and McCartney too self-satisfied to offer anything except for the standard celebutainment runaround. Which is a shame, because the Lennon interview is pretty epochal. And shows everyone else up. Once again.

- Matthew Moyer

Jamie T

Panic Prevention
Caroline Records

The big thing that makes "Panic Prevention" stand out from other albums by upstart singer-songwriters (besides the ADD genre hopping from song to song, hell, verse to verse) is that this album is built around Jamie's instrument of choice, the bass guitar. So he looks up to the likes of Paul Simenon and Jah Wobble instead of Billy Bragg or Paul McCartney, and well, shit, the album's already looking up. Perhaps we should force more solo artists to base their albums around rhythm instruments instead of the ubiquitous guitar - like drums or cello. "Panic Prevention" is very much the sound of an angry young man in the 21st century - trying to make his way in London, busy London with a head full of punk, pub singalongs, hip hop and the adrenaline rush of youth.

Unfortunately, the album itself is simply okay. The problem is that it's so rooted in its time and place that "Panic Prevention" seems hopelessly out of context (much like the Streets, Dizzee Rascal and many a seemingly worldbeating Brit songsmith) to anyone outside of England. It doesn't translate as well here. The range of instruments and playful savvy used in craftnig these song - winking rather than wanking ya dig - calls to mind a younger Beck who prefers lager and spliffs to mushrooms, but Jamie's voice is hard going, almost too bratty and mischievous and brash for it's own good.

There's so much ambition here, like Jamie T. is trying to compress the Clash's "Sandinista" into one song. At its best, you have songs like "Salvador," ramshackle, junk-shop noir. Or standout "Dry Off Your Cheeks" with Suicide-tastic beats and vocal exhortations that sound distant and strident like a sample of a young Joe Strummer, wire-tight ska guitars and a broken-down keyboard; transmissions from a fucking awesome mix tape on a ratty old boom box. At its worst, frustration reigns. Carnival music meets reggae? Brit rap and janglepop? Like everyone who thinks that this is their one big chance to get it all out there, sometimes his reach exceeds his grasp and the album becomes a little too messy and unfocused, trying to incorporate too many disparate elements at the same time, and coming off like half-measures and slipshod pastiche instead of the sonic picaresque that he intends. Too much, too soon.

- Matthew Moyer

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jennie Tebler's Out Of Oblivion

Till Death Tear Us Apart
Black Mark

This is another female fronted, gothic/doom metal band which offer's some beautiful vocals, low-end grinding guitar and bass riffs, and a solid drum section holding it togther. Even with all this going for it, I wasn't jumping through hoops to start it over again once the cd was finished. Ok, that may have sounded a bit harsh, but what I am trying to say is, these guys sound like so many other bands of this style that it's nothing that mind blowing. The talent is there no doubt, just not the originality. This is not entirely their fault, as we all well know it's damn hard to stand out amongst the competition with the music world flooded with new bands everyday. There are a few negatives to the production as I thought her voice could have come up a bit in the mix. The guitars sounded a bit muddy in places (due to tuning down so low) and again, every other metal band does this as of late. Still, It's definitely not a bad album at all. If your new to this style of music it's as good a place to start as any.

- Craig Harvey

London After Midnight

Violent Acts of Beauty

One gets the sense, listening to "Violent Acts of Beauty," that the moment has passed for gothic godfathers London After Midnight. Lingering feelings of opportunities missed and chances almost run out. A door closing. Even with a record, on its face, as thematically in the moment as "Violent Acts of Beauty" - the booklet is strewn with images of protest, tabloid exploitation and defaced American iconography - the music itself seems more tired and dated than it should.

Aping moves from Nine Inch Nails circa "Broken," Pig, Chemlab's later work, the long-lost Sister Machine Gun and, most cruelly of all, the robo-glam swagger of that great pretender Marilyn Manson (whose act, let's fucking face it, is chapter and verse ripped from Nivek Ogre, Rozz Williams and Sean Brennan), ends up sounding less than each (except for Manson, LAM still run fucking circles around him) and somewhat dated to boot. It's almost fucking unseemly. London After Midnight should be leading the pack, not waiting around for other people's scraps.

There are attempts to scrap the blueprint, or at least dog-ear a corner of the blueprint, with horns, pianos and other diverse instrumentation occasionally brought into play, arena-ready poses aplenty are struck, and the band is tightly synched, poised and ready for that HIM opening slot, but it's just not enough. Some of the lyrics come off as a little too direct and clumsy, like a refrain of "can't you see/you'll never be free" - I want arrogant disdain, not something that would sound just as good coming out of the mouth of Jerry Garcia. Right now, LAM is stuck in an aesthetic cul-de-sac.

There's still time to get it all back. The tribal stomp-electro revolt of "Complex Messiah" paints a much more appealing possible future for them.

Full marks for the politics and package, considerably less so for the music. To see this merger done correctly, check out the new Christian Death record. Yowza!

- Matthew Moyer


Artifacts II 1990-1994

This is a collection of early industrial from the Cracknation label that mainly revolves around the music of Acumen Nation and Dj Accucrack (which consist of the same members.) The main difference is, that this is a much more stripped down, completely electronic version of their music. Devoid of the heavy guitar riffs and the jungle/drum and bass beats which both acts employ so heavily today, this is their start; the bare bones industrial from the early nineties. It's just the essentials; beats, synths, vocals, samples etc... and it sounds dated, no getting around it. But hey, it is dated. From a fan's perspective, I found it somewhat lackluster after hearing what their music has evolved into today. It's not bad, just not overly exciting. However for collector's, it's a nice piece of musical history to have, giving us a brief glimpse into these artist's first creative outpourings.

- Craig Harvey

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Brown Jenkins

Angel Eyes
Moribund Cult

Fucking Austin Texas, man... they definitely have their own way of doing things over there. Within just a handful of releases, Umesh and his Brown Jenkins project, have, to this reviewer at least, an eye on the upper echelons of Austin aesthetic weirdo darkness up there with early Butthole Surfers at their most atonal and the 13th Floor Elevators at their most kerr-azy.

Like Loren MazzaCane Connors with a head full of Burzum and Celtic Frost or Junior Kimbrough and Sonic Boom jamming after burning down a bunch of churches and drinking blood, the music Brown Jenkins crafts for "AngelEyes" forcibly welds blues-based musical forms (along with a welcome dose of psychedelia) to the frigidly white black metal template. Thus, songs like the strutting "Black Procession" are music for the hips as much as the head - overloaded guitar riffs just thrusting and shaking in dirty one-chord lascivious simplicity.

As with previous album "Dagonite," "Angel Eyes" upsets the usual sonic arrangements of black metal, placing the drums far to the back (if not omitting them altogether) and using vocals as flourishes or punctuations (athough there's some real ferocity in "Angel Eyes") rather than narrative or confession, that leaves the guitar at front and center. Tarpit dark, corruscating sheets of thick sonic fuzz and broken glass - the tempos are codeine slow and steady, not like doom, mind you, there's definitely more of a groove here. That is, as much as it's possible for drug-crazed cannibals to boogie. Okay? The song titles are to die for. "Ash Eaters," "Pale Conqueror," "Seven - Joy in Darkness," and each spiralling tower of noise and fuck more than lives up to these sort of graven epithets.

Brown Jekins is the bastard hybrid of, say, Mudhoney's one-chord junksick garage raveups and Earth's labcoated tonal distortion explorations. Trust me, next year some dude from Rolling Stone or the New York Times is going to pick one of these platters up at South By Southwest and it's not gonna be our little secret anymore. So get moving.

- Matthew Moyer

Drawn And Quartered

Merciless Hammer of Lucifer
Moribund Cult

A simply okay slice of retro-grotesque death metal courtesy of Seattle's Drawn and Quartered, "Merciless Hammer of Lucifer" is very obviously in debt to Suffocation and the classic New York DM scene (NY lifers Incantation and Mortician spring to mind immediately too). I'm also thinking of early Carcass and Pig Destroyer, though they don't do the awesome blood-and-guts-mongering of primo gorecore, they're more on a Deicide tip, thematically speaking. The material on this record is executed well enough, but with neither innovations enough nor, conversely, over-the-top warlust enough to make Drawn and Quartered seem more than the sum of their influences. And that's fine to a point, there's never enough death metal in the world; but when there's nothing to distinguish it from, say, Incantation/Suffocation, you'd probably rather just listen to Incantation/Suffocation. This album lacks the feral ultraviolence to really stand out and redefine the form. I want this fucker to be like an explosion of blood, like that fucking scene in "Scanners," right out of the gate!

- Matthew Moyer

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


De Oppresso Liber
Candlelight Records

Ok, folks just to be crystal clear on this release; Sothis = Dimmu Borgir clone. A great clone no doubt, but a clone nonetheless. Also, you would never guess in a million years these guys are from Los Angeles! They sound (and look) like they stepped right off the boat from Norway or Sweden. I hate to be negative right from the start, but it's just sooooo obvious who they idolize. I understand bands have to have influences, but from the very first track I would have sworn I was listening to Dimmu. Now, on the positive side, the musician ship is fantastic. Blastbeats reign, guitars swarm like angry hornets screaming death from above, the bass thundering behind, and the vocals sound like...well, you know who I am talking about. As I said before, bands have to draw their inspiration from somewhere, but I think Sothis should focus on acheiving their own sound rather than copying their idols so blatantly. However, if you have never heard Dimmu Borgir before, check it out!

- Craig Harvey


Candlelight Records

Wow, some great German thrash metal from a veteran band who has been in the trenches since the eighties! Destruction, along with bands such as Kreator and Sodom epitomized the tuetonic thrash metal scene. My main exposure to thrash back in the day were bands such as Testament, Exodus, Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax. These were the titans of the bay area and east coast thrash metal scene. I didn't sink my teeth into any of the European groups until many years later. That said, Destruction have a great brutal sound that heralds the early days but still manage to keep it from sounding dated. Not to mention, this trio sounds heavier than some bands with twice the members. The only non-original member is the drummer, which also shows stability for a band who has been going for over twenty years!
The title track "Devolution" starts with a somber acoustic part, then moves into a overdriven frenzy that had me sold right away. Marcel Shirmer (bass and vocals) has a gritty but truly powerful set of pipes. A nice departure from the new school of screamo/death/yelling etc...type of vocals that saturates so much of today's metal scene. Guitarist Mike Sifringer lays down a thick barrage of riffs and some great shredding lead work as well. The newest addition Marc Reign, is one bad-ass drummer! He assaults his kit with a double bass attack and solid skin pounding with machine-like precision. "Elevator to Hell" continues with some ominusly sick riffing and monstrous grooves, while "Offenders of the Throne" had a sludgy, crawling, doom-laden feel to it. "The Violation Of Morality" and "The Last Desperate Scream" were two more of my personal favorites, but there is not a bad track on this album. To add to all this glorious mayhem, guitarist Gary Hold (of Exodus), Jeff Waters (Annihilator) and Vinnie Moore (currently with UFO) lay down some fretwork brilliance to take this album even one step further. This album made my blood boil, got my head banging and made remember why I got into metal to begin with!

- Craig Harvey


Hundre A Gammal
Candlelight Records

This Norwegian black metal band has a completely different sound than many of their peers. It harkens back to a more primitive style, but not with shitty, tin-can sounding production. No it's heavy, dark, and it "grooves" for lack of a better word. (I tend use that word a lot because sometimes there is no other accurate way of describing how a song flows.) No blastbeats are to be found on this release (which I am sure will displease many black metal purists) it has more of a stoner/doom metal vibe, but as soon as the keyboards kick in, it gives it that symphonic backdrop which adds a nice texture. On the down side there are zero guitar solos which was very disappointing. Also, the vocals while effective, with their raspy, grating, evilness did not change very much, which made all the songs tend to sound very similar after about four tracks. Not to mention it's all in native Norwegian (which is fine) but unless your fluent in that language, it's all guesswork on the subject matter (although I am sure it's dark and gloomy). I give these guys kudos for trying to avoid sounding like every other black metal band out there (and having great production), but they need to add more depth (especially with the vocals) to the songs and a guitar solo now and then wouldn't hurt either.

- Craig Harvey

Brother Von Doom

Deathcote Records

Right from the start we have some of the most inhuman drumming I have heard in a while. The (typical) down-tuned guitars and bass are just as tight, but then come the vocals (heavy sigh). What could have been a really great album, turned mediocre as soon as their frontman started singing (well yelling/screaming) would be a more accurate description. It sounds like the tired metalcore style of vocals that every other band has these days (picture the guy screaming his lungs out, his eyes about to burst from the sockets, veins popping out of his neck etc...) you get the picture. There are absolutely no dynamics at all, just full on all the time. I like death vocals, screaming and all that is metal, but I hate one dimensional singers. Amazing drum-work and cool cover art, but that won't save this album from being extremely mediocre.

- Craig Harvey


Unplugged in New York

This is a weird one to review. It's been rerun so many times, especially in those eventful weeks of 1994, that I could replay most of it in my mind, without the aid of this DVD release. Th cumulative effect of this constant repitition of the original work is not unlike xeroxing a picture over and over again, until the source has lost all emotional closeness and you're just staring at a distorted, impersonal facsimile of what was a cherished memory. Y'know how they repeatedly screen "A Christmas Story" for like 24 hours on Christmas Day? That bad. And the seed of what actually made Nirvana distinct and vital becomes ever more distant. I will admit though, it's nice to see it without commercial interruptions and with the excised Meat Puppets cover "Oh Me" restored.

A bit of context. By this point, Nirvana as a band were surely on their last legs. Cobain, wracked by drugs, marital problems and plain ol' rock star pressure, was already making noises about breaking up Nirvana and forming a new one with Mudhoney's Mark Arm and solitary man Mark Lanegan. Management and MTV brass no doubt had to basically blackmail Nirvana into taking part in this, but having already experimented with a quieter mini-set in the midst of their usual apocalyptic noise on a recent tour, Nirvana were as ready as they would ever be. So it was that the band clomped onto an MTV soundstage festooned with flowers and candles (like for a wake), augmented by cellist Lori Goldstein, guitarist Pat Smear, and played their hearts out in front of a invitation-only audience with an inspired set of covers and deep album tracks. It was a night that would be full of surprises.

Almost fifteen years later, some moments of this performance still pack a prickly, visceral thrill. Like what? The last verse of Leadbelly's already haunted "In The Pines" is fucking well beyond spooky - it's like a pained, frantic seance. Listen to that voice soar and crack. Tracks like "All Apologies" and "Something in the Way" became baroque dirges. The Vaseliees' "Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam" was like a transcendent hymn, with lead lines taken by Krist on an accordion! David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World," was an out of fucking nowhere selection, and let me tell you as a Bowie fanatic that the song never sounded better. Best of all to this reviewer was a clearly jazzed (and finally stirring from his hazy grumpiness) Cobain inviting the bemused Kirkwood brothers, the twin engines behind pioneering country punkers the Meat Puppets, onstage to pitch in on coves of three of their classic songs. It was on these country thrash nuggets, recast as ramshackle bluesy sadness that Nirvana really fucking sizzled. This was another magnanimous gesture from a band that always SEEMED to try its best to help out the bands that "brung them to the dance," so to speak (see also Melvins, Breeders, Mudhoney, Shonen Knife, Half Japanese).

The extras remind you that, yes, even at the best of the time Kurt could be a dick to even the best of friends. The rehearsal recordings are by turns intriguing and terribly uncomfortable. Check out the icy contempt he projects like flying daggers towards Krist and Dave, though the beatific Pat Smear, punk legend and Germs mainstay, floats above it all, perched on a stool, barefoot, with a quiet smile on his face. Intriguing, because, as you can tell by the uncertain and tentative rehearsals, the whole shebang really did come together only in the final performance. That, and whoever the director was did a pretty good job in choosing iconic angles.

Other extras include the original MTV version (sure, why not), some interviews with various MTV types ("I can't believe it came together like this!") and some more largely unimportant documentary type stuff. Nowhere near essential but kinda nice that it's there. The packaging is a dead ringer for the "MTV Unplugged" cd release of a few years ago - the inner booklet has a bevy of great still shots. Should you buy this now or wait for the inevitable double disc anniversary set with 32 seconds of unseen footage? I don't want this performance to become as impersonal and unnecessarily imposing as Woodstock or somesuch. But the Market marches on. And YOU thought you hated yourself and wanted to die...

- Matthew Moyer

Sapphire Solace

Self Titled EP

I do so enjoy hearing collaboration projects between established artists. It's always new and interesting when solid acts in the Dark Rock scene begin to share talent and ability in creating new and beautiful projects. In 2007, established Gothic Rock legends Velvet Shadow (of Dream Cypher) and Rick Joyce (from The Last Dance) began a project they titled Sapphire Solace. A romantic blend of Velvet Shadows haunting vocals combined with Joyce's signature dreamy ripping electric guitar sound. The project began when the two met to collaborate on Velvet Shadows five song EP project and from this direct collaboration spawned a new and beautiful project. Already having been featured in multiple Goth magazine compilations, the duo continues to attract attention the world over.

The self-titled EP opens with the gripping dance track "Take a Look Inside". The track opens with a pulse pounding synth beat followed by Joyce's signature evocative guitar rifts. Velvet Shadow's voice flows smooth as mercury, painting a luxurious soundscape for this racing track. "Completely" is an indelibly dysphoric ballad that moves slowly and purposefully. A deeply written and very emotionally blue track, it conjures up memories of unrequited love and loss while plucking your heartstrings with barbed emotional guitar rifts. "Too Late" is a signature traditionally romantic Goth track traipsing in to a more macabre feel. Velvet Shadow's eerie vocals permeates the track with a saccharine sound that bleeds confidence and assurance. "Believe" is an operatic gem combined with inspirational lyrics. A hopeful and encouraging track combined with moving stripped down drum beats and compelling dreamy rifts. "Ugly Form" is much more 'industrial' in its approach. Pounding drum backbeats combined with tenebrous synth rifts creates an angsty and bitter track. "Finally" is a slower trippy new wave ballad with a bleeding edge. Velvet Shadow's moving vocals bleed confidence and closure in this pointed track. Joyce's signature illusory eerie guitar sound gives the track a frightening nightmare edge.

Sapphire Solace's sound is an empiral blend of both respective talents. The duo's beautiful combined writing and musical talents blend and mix seamlessly with each other. Velvet Shadow's lovely vocals are gripping and compelling. Combined with the Joyce's signature guitar and instrumentals, the act creates a glamour dripping Gothic work of art. Currently, the Sapphire Solace EP is only available via the acts official website or distributed via Amazon.com, Napster, Itunes, et al. Their official press release in 2008 has already generated an enormous buzz early on and continues to build steam. Keep posted on this act as it develops because if this is just the beginning opener for the duo, the further recordings given the longstanding experience the duo has in the music industry can only become even more fascinating.


- Dr. Raven