Saturday, December 17, 2011

A word to the wise (and perhaps not so) may be in order. Reviews #1 and 3 are more or less standard writeups of important product that's been on the market for quite some time only I've gotten around to it now for whatever reasons I harbor in my simian-like brain. Review #2 is yet another one of my attempts to do an essay-length themed piece in the tradition of Russell Desmond, Brian Doherty, Lester Bangs and various other scribes whom I've been swiping from for nigh on thirty years. Whether or not my efforts to emulate the rockscreed stylings of the seventies and beyond work or not is up to you, but at this time I couldn't give two flying figs...I'm having too much of a damned time trying to figure out this new blogger "interface" as it is to be pestered by your at-time inane musings!

Cradle-THE HISTORY CD-R (available through CD Baby)

This is that all-gal Detroit-area band that future New York Doll/Heartbreaker Jerry Nolan drummed in, which wouldn't necessarily have made 'em an all gal group at the time but at least they were one when they recorded the music that appears on this Cee-Dee!. And it ain't the fact that a future rock icon like Nolan was once a member of Cradle that anybody remembers 'em...nosiree, the only reason these femmes're even getting the reissue treatment is because three of the four members were the Quatro sisters, y'know, as in Suzi, Patty and Nancy, two of whom later made it big in seventies rock circles, one as a Fanny fill-in and the other as a solo star/HAPPY DAYS semi-semi-regular in her own right! Other'n that, all Cradle were wuz yet another local group on the Detroit scene who were tryin' to grasp at some of the glory that the MC5 were lucky enough to accrue which in my book is a whole lot more important'n the fact that half of 'em were making  music that I might be interested in hearing one of these days. Maybe not this month, year or even decade, but when I'm 112 like, why not?.

The tracks here were taken from two pretty hotcha live shows (one opening for the MC5 themselves on New Year's Eve), with a sound that's surprisingly clear and not in that high-end FM radio way either which seemed more attuned to the ears of downed out dropouts and various breeds of dog. Performance is particularly snat in its commercial appeal...close to the Detroit ideal in an early Alice Cooper-ish fashion complete with vocal harmonies that add yet another tasteful dimension to Cradle's show. These almost baroque stylings give the act a maudlin but often driving sound, adding to an image which thankfully doesn't put titzenazz up front and musical whatziz behind like many all-femme aggregates do yet it doesn't come off feminist militia complete with the mandatory nutcrackers. Like the best non-male rockers, it puts music ahead of agenda or titty-lation and for that I'm sure we could all be proud.

Really, this is a surprising set that has an ethereal, dream-like slow burn to it (or is this because I'm more or less reminiscing about Christmas holidays past fill'd with youthful erotic exuberance?), and how could I not mention the interesting choice of subject matter from transvestism ("Man is a Man") to dildos ("Peter Porno") and even Iggy Pop ("Funny Man"), perhaps the most disgusting subject in the whole lot!
Suaka-EPISODE 1 CD (Stonedeaf

White Stone-LIVE IN NYC CD (CD Baby)

Heavy Metal Will Stand! Now how many times have you heard that war cry being uttered from the pages of your favorite rockscapading read o'er the past thirtysome years? Now if you ask me (and why not?) this particular phrase certainly made a whole lotta sense when it was first bellowed, (see Metal Mike Saunders for more details), though by the mid-seventies or so it seemed to ring rather hollow what with all of the "lite metal" acts that were beginning to dot the FM scene like chancres on a teenage whore's lips. Nowadays such musical call to arms are laughable considering what has become of the entire heavy metal "idiom" which managed to go from Sabbath to Ozzy to Autograph with a couple of calculated flops.

Naturally when Lauren Agnelli used this phrase as the title to her review of THE DICTATORS GO GIRL CRAZY in CREEM it seemed the most fitting thing in the world to say, and when Don Underwood uttered the exact same words in his RADIO ETHIOPIA writeup I could easily concur. And when Lester Bangs and a whole number of card-carrying rock scribers both pro and fan would utter the most magnificent metallic praise upon such Stooges classics as FUNHOUSE and RAW POWER I felt like signing up for the heavy metal fan club myself. But along the way, something strange happened.

I think Frank Kogan, for all of his faults, hit the nail on the head when he said that the spawn of the seventies rock generation wasn't exactly looking for raw ear-bleeding energy in their music but technical precision, professional performances and an over abundantly clean sound without any spec of distortion, atonality or energy for that matter. Where listeners such as myself and perhaps you were interested in music as a violent catharsis tonality/metre/chords/any semblance of cold humanity be damned, the majority of the ever-popular 18-34 (give or take) market was looking for a music with a clean sound, professional playing, clearasil vocals and worst of all a total lack of energy. It may have been loud, grating and perhaps even sludge-y, but it certainly signified nothing!

The heavy metal groups, hearing the clarion call of mega arena bucks, were just itching to dish just that out to a world fulla youth who somehow decided that a guy playing a guitar fast was akin to good musicianship no matter how lameass the entire solo might have been. I blame it on a lotta things from bad drugs, bad upbringing, bad examples and Andy Secher, who turned HIT PARADER into one of the shallowest, one-dimensional excuses for a rock music of any genre let alone heavy metal which, judging from some of the brilliant pearls of wisdom he's spouted, he knew about as much of as he did quantum physics.

But hey, when heavy metal did click on all pistons via the speedgrindcore movement...talkin' early Metallica, Slayer and even a more trad outfit like Anthrax who I found rather was some of the better original music to make its way outta the dump that most of us readers remember as the eighties. Pretty refreshing in fact, especially when the hardcore punk groups who seemed to be the last gasp of the seventies regime was flaking away into meaningless political diatribes or experimental piddle and what had held so much promise for us (such as the New York Underground) had pretty much fizzled out into nada with the survivors more or less making bigger fools of themselves than the "dinosaur" groups they oh so loathed. (Or so we thought...) Heck, even the spawn of Pere Ubu were making horrible records and with MX-80 Sound temporarily out of action it wasn't like there was that much to really sustain a person like myself. At least speedmetal helped fill a gap, no matter how minuscule in might have been in my own listening parameter.

Of course I liked my metal a whole lot more when it was mixed with that high energy (early) punk that had been my bailiwick for a few years prior. Naturally the best metal always had a load of punk rock credo to it...take the Stooges and even UFO, whose early platters with Mick Bolton on guitar seemed just as much born of NUGGETS as they did Zep. Face it, for me heavy metal was always best when focused through a gritty punk lens 'stead of the progressive professionalism that most heavy metallics seemed to cherish...the distorted quivering amped up drive sans the pyrotechnical blah Eddie Van Halen "hey look at me play fast c'mon 'n worship me!" stylings that continue to make me wanna cringe even though that era is long dead 'n buried with the corpse of "classic rock" still lingering on somewhere on your FM dial.

Yes, consider that Rocket From The Tombs were originally billed as being "Dumb Metal" (a term that could have applied to most of the HM practitioners of the day, but I guess they meant it differently) and that their live radio broadcast was part of a "heavy metal showcase" where they opened for not only longtime Hendrix cover group Paragon but Youngstown's Left End just beginning their long slide into collector's heaven.  And over in New York recall the various heavy metal festivals at Max's Kansas City not forgetting Von Lmo's "heavy metal dance rock/electroshock" depending on which "Voice Choice" you happened to read, and if anybody can tip me off to the name of that "heavy metal country and western band" that played a CBGB audition one night and Max's the next (autumn 1981) I will be eternally grateful, especially since you'll save me a trip to the Youngstown Public Library microfilm department which should cost me a pretty penny in gas! (And I recall the story about the bass guitarist from Bitch Magnet talking to someone I used to know with the bassist saying that when they played CB's in '87 all of the other groups on the bill with them were heavy metal, he even making the assumption that CBGB was now a metal club and nothing but which does surprise me because if so why book Bitch Magnet?)

But all kidding aside, I sure do like my metal and punk mixed up nice and heavy (Wurm and Rotomagus should also fit in here somewhere), which is why I tend to pick out a whole lotta metallic recordings that have emanated from the bowels of the New York underground from the seventies until the final days of CBGB's. Call it nostalgia if you will but I'll only bop you on the nose...let's just say that it's more spiritual, like listening to a music that has roots from way back during the birth of feedback into redlined teenage recordings and late-sixties blind rage mixed with avant garde inclinations that might or might now be intentional, all the way through to more modern applications of all of these influences and ideas that cranked out goes to show you the logical end result of a good thirty years of rock emulation and bared-wire intensity!

Anywah, the two groups on today's itinerary have at least one thing in common other'n being of the metal idiom, and that is they were both alive and perhaps even kicking during the final days of the last gasp at CBGB, a haunt who as we now know never really shied away from heavy metal from the Dictators and Sorcerers down through a number of eighties acts on whom I will probably discover sometime before I do the big check out into the great record shop in the sky. And for a guy who had more or less tuned into the various live CBGB cybercasts throughout the early-to-mid-oh-oh's I can tell you that as far as metal went the folks at CBGB were probably more conscious of it as an underground form to be reckoned with as most of the labels who were willy-nillying signing some of the worst ever heavy metal acts back in the mid-eighties. I can recall seeing a number of metal acts who were worth their weight in stud leather via these cybercasts, from Karen Black to Crisis and the Electric Magic Side Show (OK, I missed their set by a few minutes!) There was even was rather obscure band I caught called Cherry Hill High who were being touted as metal via some website that had linked up a number of archived CBGB 'casts...and these guys were pretty great not only because they had a seventies look down (with the lead singer kinda looking like a sneako perv with an Australian army hat and mirrored shades) but their sound seemed to take the early Dictators credo and muddled it out as if these guys didn't care that much whether or not you liked what they were doing for you. But what I did experience was pretty good hard rockin' in that cool seventies style I sure do miss, and although I fear that any recordings by Cherry Hill High let alone the cybercast I saw are perhaps lost to the ether I can only HOPE that somebody, a member of the group or someone from their inner circle will read this and provide me with all of the information, snaps, sounds etc. that I can use if only to sate my inner turmoil regarding what I had experienced oh so long ago.

Enough rheumy reminiscences...first on today's bill so-to-speak is this Indonesia transplanted to En Why See metallic batch who go by the name Suaka. Dunno what that means, but if you were to tell me that it means an Indonesian version of Pantera or Metallica I'd probably believe you. A group whom, like many acts both famous and not before 'em, got their break via a CBGB audition night, Suaka may tread some metal cliches both old and new and throw in a li'l progressive influx here and there. However, its their devotion to a more punkist frame of mind that keeps me interested in these guys as a variant on the same (and tried) forms that don't tend to bore even though you've heard that hotcha boiler room blast passing as a guitar solo many times before. No real meaning of the world here, but every group can't be Von Lmo!

Suaka might not have the same sense of forced submission that early Metallica had and they do have the kinda demeanor that could appeal just as much to the prog leftovers as the metallic bunch, but their sense of addled punkitude, when it rears its ugly li'l head, drags this recording down to the ragged level of grovel that I most certainly enjoy. And although I personally don't expect much success (critically/financially/muff-wise) in Suaka's future...frankly they're too nice to make it least they present a heavy metal vision that doesn't reek of the eighties fake glam devil-sign trappings that were just about as indicative of the entire decade's blandness as rubic cubes. And that's something we can believe in, even after grunge replaced metal as the new choice of teenage addledness a good two decades back.

Frankly I got a bigger kick outta White Stone, whose LIVE IN NYC was recorded at the hallowed CBGB haunt in front of what seems like one of the smallest audiences they've had in quite awhile. Might have been one of those 7:00 PM opening gig slots that the club would have during their later years when up to six or so groups would get booked per evening and of course the opening act always gets a duff reception because hardly anybody would be in the club so early in the first place. But whether or not this is true it sure looks like White Stone got the crap end of the stick trying to warm up a handfulla people who were just starting to get into their evening jollies. Hey, I guess even the better groups got stuck in worse situations on their way up, even if most of 'em probably never got anywhere at all in their nefarious climb to the top of the rock 'n roll slag heap!

Can't help but like this group. First off, White Stone are heavy metal in the classic, CREEM sense just like in that 1981 special issue where what was left of the bullpen was once again stretching the boundaries trying to explain just why acts like the MC5 and Amon Duul I were just as important to the heavy metal canon as Ted Nugent and Molly Hatchet. Second off, this group is a duo consisting of guitar and drums, though don't expect this to sound anything like Randy Holden's POPULATION TWO for (#3) White Stone's overall musical abilities are very loose and matter-of-fact (dare I say amateurish?) in the same way I'd see these weirdo off-the-wall groups at the CBGB 313 Gallery on the Kenny McLaughlin-hosted rock 'n roll party nights or whatever they were called and these acts outta nowhere'd come on and perform their original compositions only to dissipate into nothingness as soon as they were through. I remember one show (which started on a Saturday afternoon...and you could tell it was gonna be a LONG night!) where McLaughlin had booked this duo consisting of a Lenny Kaye lookalike on a cheap electric piano and his drummer pal playing some of the most untogether jazz-rock-y music as if they were a low budget Steely Dan thinking this was the first stop in their trek towards fame, fortune and perhaps a lip synch job on AMERICAN BANDSTAND (which was long gone by this time, but the thought seemed to be there!). Naturally I didn't hear a thing from this duo after their CB's appearance, but sheesh would I love to hear that set they did again as well as anything else they may have laid down in their boudoir or basement for that matter. Had more soul 'n feel than the entire recorded output of the eighties-nineties combined I'll tell ya!

And for a buncha guys who say they had been doing this metallic pounce since the mid-eighties (!) White Stone's resultant sound is pretty amateur hour grasping for life! It comes off kinda thin considering the stripped down setup, but as usual its primal nature and general approach makes this platter a definite metallic must have. I am reminded of the reviews that such critics as John Rockwell (THE NEW YORK TIMES) and Fred Kirby (VARIETY) gave this similarly endowed act that went by the name of Ice (featuring future Necessaries/Love of Life Orchestra member Randy Burns/Gunn) back during their CBGB Summer Festival gig in 1975 where both scribes mentioned this duo's comparatively "thin" sound due to their lack of a bass guitarist. And yeah, White Stone also can sound "thin" especially for an act that purports to be metallic (I mean, you should check out the under-miked, weak singing courtesy of guitarist M.C. Cancassi!), but then again I really find no fault with this group or their music, which has a whole lot more going for it entertainment and energy-wise than a good portion of what was being pumped to the locals with regards to what heavy metal (as a movement/style/marketing ploy) was supposed to mean and supposed to be for that matter.

Because once you get down to it what this heavy metal stuff was supposed to "be" all along is "fun", and although something along those lines would undoubtedly be foreign to those stiff punque rock elitists of the eighties (sorry if I can't get the image of this blahed out representative from Existencil Press on the old MAXIMUM ROCK 'N ROLL radio show vehemently denying that the music of Crass or they labelmates was in any way to be construed as "entertainment"...glad that I have people like her telling me how evil I am for seeking pleasure outta something meant to change the world for the betterment of all) well, it sure makes sense to me! Gotta say that I love White Stone on all levels, from their primitive performance to their use of seventies metallic chords long discarded as well as the fact that they just durn lack a bass guitar, and even if sometimes their material can be a li'l rote I'm not throwing out any babies or bath water at this time. When I listen to their guys all I can say is that "Long Live Heavy Metal" still has a shard of meaning and dignity left in its oft-hollow cry, and although I might have sniffed at the prospect at one time now I am full front and center for the least-pure, least-talented metal money can buy, or obsessed fans can beg from long-gone groups for that matter!.

WHITE STONE POSTSCRIPT-I just hadda find out more, and it turns out there is a li'l bitta information on the group available via the web that perhaps sheds some light on this act. Por ejemplo, it seems as if White Stone are not as flybynight obscure as I thought, and in fact they even have a number of Cee-Dees available (via CD Universe) which really surprised me considering how they sound as if they're barely able to get the music they recorded here out of their systems and into the air! Also the group was only a duo for this particular recording (or so I would surmise), also utilizing a bass guitar on most if not all of the rest of their output. One release currently available is an instrumental tribute to their favorite guitar heroes from Leslie West to Steve Hackett (!) and yeah, they consider this above release not metallic in nature but more in a "post punk" vein. I'll still be drawing my own conclusions for quite a long time, though right now I'm really hungerin' to hear that electric piano/drums duo who played that King Kenny's night afternoon at the Gallery oh so long ago...
Little Diesel-NO LIE CD (Telstar)

Betcha wond'rin why I snatched this particular spinner up a good five years after the blasted thing was released. If you must know, this is the reason why I bought it! Yes, the UGLY THINGS review was less than complimentary, and although it ain't like I stake my curiosity on any item on just one review it wasn't like I was champing on the bit to rush out 'n buy the thing!

It wasn't until reading the aforementioned WAITAKERE WALKS post entry, coupled with memories of ex-Diesel Peter Holsapple's article on the Winston-Salem proto-punk scene in the first issue of KICKS that I decided that Little Diesel were actually worth whatever $$$ that Moviemarz were offering for this li'l slab. And it's a pretty hotcha one too. If your idea of punk rock was a buncha kids who got together in somebody's garage and did their best to pound out music tightly based on the standard CREEM/ROCK SCENE credo with loads of mid-seventies bargain bin wonders tossed into the mix well, this'll bring a smile to the face of anybody still mourning the loss of the late Gizmos!

It's got that Mid/South style and swerve down, that's for sure, with an approach that comes off like FLAMINGO-period Flamin' Groovies with a few Ludlow Garage audiences tossed in for good measure. The choice of covers are definitely atypical...yeah I'm sure there were more'n a few local garage bands out there who were adding MC5, the Electric Prunes and Bowie in with their own originals, but Little Diesel were also doing everything from Beatles filtered through Blue Ash ("Anytime At All"), Spirit ("I Got a Line on You") and even Kool And The Gang's "Hollywood Swingin'". Why the Stooge-influenced version of the Osmonds' "Yo Yo" was left off I'll never know, though you will be glad to hear that the platter ends with a hidden treat, a cover of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" which I guess proves that Jymn Parrett was right all along to call 'em "punk rockin'" in the fourth issue of his sainted DENIM DELINQUENT fanzine! So good that I wouldn't even mind hearing the pre-Diesel Rittenhouse Square's take on Yes' "Yours is no Disgrace"!

Little Diesel also crank out some good originals too, the strongest of 'em being the New York Dolls "tribute" "Kissy Boys"! And the mix of these originals and the covers works swell as a lighter side to the at-times hard, underground and avant garde rock that was coming out of places as distinct as New York City, Cleveland and Prague during the same time. Nothing wrong with that naturally, but Little Diesel have a nice, suburban freshness to their sound which easily enough correlates to just about everything else that was retaining the wholesome ranch house picnic ideal during a time when Ameriga was suffering through everything from Watergate to STAND UP AND CHEER. I can relate to Little Diesel on this fun, UHF tee-vee potato chip 'n mayo kinda level, and really, maybe YOU should too!


Papa Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papa Jon said...

Chris - glad you checked out that Little Diesel cd. Taken at face value and apart from the bands that came later, it is a cool teenage/suburban snapshot of a culture that is long gone. I mean when "Phase-III" and "Crazy Horses" start to sound good as longplayers, you know we are in trouble! For what it is worth - and don't ask why I was listening to it - BTC gets a namedrop in the liners to the 2004 deluxe reissue of "Slanted and Enchanted" by Kannberg: "there were a few good reviews of our first singles in Black to Comm and Conflict who would compare us to Pere Ubu or Generation X." ok. On the heavy metal topic, in the authorized M.E. Smith bio, there are several references to the reviews of the first Sex Pistols gig in Manchester and Smith's reference to them (favorably) as a "pretty bad heavy metal band" and his love of Rotten's great "non-voice" over the racket. There are a few other contempo reviews where the HM tag is used. As a follow-on to the lps of the 70's post, did you see this clip of the Larry Wallis era of UFO (sent via Grady who found it):