Friday, October 21, 2016

Berserker Bonfire Songs

My love for you is like a truck, Berserker....
Would you like some making f**k, Berserker”

“Did he just say making fuck?”.... Berserker, the song that Olaf (Silent Bob's metal head cousin from Moscow) uses to serenade Veronica Loughran (played by Marilyn Ghigliotti) was an actual song that appears on the official Clerks movie soundtrack album, performed by Love Among Freaks. “Girls think sexy” Olaf and his fictional band, Fuck Your Yankee Bluejeans were hardly Death metal... a closer approximation would be early Judas Priest. Death metal is considered a sub-genre of heavy metal music, though over the years, it's morphed into any number of sub-genres of its own. The style evolved from thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer) and black metal (Emperor, Mayhem, Burzum) The style further developed and spread with the relative success of bands such as Death w/ Chuck Schuldiner (not the Detroit band) Venom, Celtic Frost, Slayer and Kreator.

Death metal is much maligned, due mostly to its inherent preoccupation with subject matter such as; death, suffering, destruction and mayhem..... did I mention death and suffering? The primary characteristic of Death metal that sets it apart from other sub-genres are the vocals. Typically, lead singers will employ a hoarse roaring grunt, sometimes referred to as death growls, which should never be confused with vocal fry, a technique used in other forms of black metal. “The vocal fry register (also known as pulse register, laryngealisation, pulse phonation, creak, croak, popcorning, glottal fry, glottal rattle, glottal scrape, or strohbass) is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency” Though unproven, growled vocals may have been a part of Viking music.

Death growls are also referred to as “cookie monster” vocals, due to its vocal similarity to that of the Sesame Street character. Regardless of what you prefer to call this mutated vocal style, it's nearly unintelligible to all but the most harden fanatics. “However, the harshness of death growls is in keeping with death metal's abrasive music style and often dark and obscene subject matter” The opposite of this vocal style would be the screamo/crunk pig squeal which is a squealing vocal technique resembling that of a pig. Another quirk that sets Death metal apart from the rest is the use of Death metal English. The ponderous diction accents the ominous music. It's a lyrical style designed to give Death metal lyrics a sheen of intelligentsia. Which is totally lost on the listener unless you can decipher the death growls delivering the message. The music website, Invisible Oranges does a bang-up job of identifying some common traits of Death metal English, albeit... tongue in cheek:
  • Big, polysyllabic words: You don’t have to use them correctly; you just have to use them. These words don’t even have to be real.
  • Adjectives: In Death Metal English, they’re like guitar solos. You aren’t using enough. Add more.
  • Prepositional phrases: Same is true here, too — the more prepositional phrases, the better.
  • Progressive tense: Especially useful for song titles
  • Passive voice: Active verbs aren’t brutal. Passive voice is useful when you need to add more syllables to a line to make it fit the riff.
  • Archaic or pseudo-Biblical verbiage: If you write like you are some kind of ancient, ageless force who is unfamiliar with modern grammatical conventions, you are probably pretty evil. Bonus points for using constructions that evoke the King James Bible, which is ironically among the most metal texts in the English canon.
  • Grandiloquent metaphor: This is death metal. Make whatever you’re talking about sound really big and important.

The difference between the genres is in the details. What primarily separates Black metal from Death metal is the former's adherence to ideological Satanism (not necessarily practical Satanism) Defining the term 'black metal', Euronymous (a founder and central figure in the Norwegian black metal scene) said that it applies to any heavy metal band who are theistic Satanists and write Satanic lyrics. Such extreme ideas repeated by other scene members, eventually caused it to implode upon itself. Not all the musicians and fans were mother loving Satan worshipers, many were bandwagon believers who dropped all pretenses of allegiance to Beelzebub once the shit hit the fan with a pair of highly publicized gristly murders involving key figures in the Norwegian black metal scene.

A wave of church fires preceded Bård Guldvik "Faust" Eithun (drummer for black metal band, Emperor) stabbing a gay man, Magne Andreassen to death near Lillehammer. Faust later confessed that he encountered Andreassen at Olympic Park “this man approached me, he was obviously drunk and obviously a faggot” the two went into nearby woods, Faust confessed: “I had decided that I wanted to kill him, which was very weird because I'm not like this” Faust was armed with a knife because “It's better to have a knife you don't need than to not have one when you need it” He stabbed Magne Andreassen 37 times and kicked him in the head repeatedly. It would later be revealed that, all three men, Faust, Euronymous (Mayhem) and Varg Vikernes (Burzum) were present at the burning of Fantoft Stave Church and Holmenkollen Chapel.

After Varg Vikernes, a protegee of Euronymous formed Burzum, animosity arose between the two men. The motives for what would follow are shrouded in mystery.... a power struggle, a financial dispute or a need by Vikernes to outdo the murder of Magne Andreassen by committing an even more hideous murder of his own. Whatever the reasons, “on the night of 10 August 1993, Vikernes and Snorre 'Blackthorn' Ruch drove from Bergen to Euronymous's apartment in Oslo. When they arrived there was a confrontation and Vikernes stabbed Euronymous to death. His body was found outside the apartment with 23 cut wounds” Vikernes claimed he killed Euronymous in self-defense, having been lured to the Oslo apartment under the pretense of meeting to iron out details of an unsigned contract. Varg claimed that Euronymous planned to ambush him using a tazer and torture him to death while “filming the event”

"There are very few bands in the history of rock & roll that are undeniable as genuine innovators, Mayhem is one of them." writes Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) in the afterword for The Death Archives: Mayhem 1984-94. (co-authored by Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud) Formed in Norway in 1984 and recognized as the most influential black metal band in the world, they are a group whose story has, over the years, grown so big, so notorious, it often seemed in danger of swallowing them up entirely. Arson and extremism; exploiting the grusome suicide of corpse-paint wearing singer Pelle "Dead" Ohlin and murder of guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth by then bassist Varg "Count Grishnak" Vikernes Today, Norwegian Black Metal is one of the most distinct and controversial subcultures in the music world, its popularity spanning globally to Europe, the UK, the U.S. , Mexico and Brazil. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Radio is Broken

Radio Radio

Recently, Mark Davis who worked for Kmart from the late 1980s to the early '1990s, uploaded over 60 hours of pre-recorded music sent in from the corporate office on cassette tapes. Kmart radio (KMRT) featured an MOR format designed to comfort customers as they browsed through the store's array of discounted goods. It's mostly muzak interspersed with soft rock songs from that era and in-store announcements. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating find for radio heads such as myself. A veritable time capsule of sorts. Mark Davis, for no apparent reason, had the foresight to save over 56 tapes from the trash heap. Years later, Davis converted them into digital files and posted them at Internet Archives where they were met with far more fanfare than he could ever have imagined.

Canned music in stores is nothing new, it's been around forever. Walmart has come full circle with in-store music. Originally (like everyone else) they went with canned music. In the early 1990s Walmart Radio was created as a reliable means of broadcasting important information directly into stores. It evolved to include a morning show hosted by consummate radio pro Terry Berry, the original Walmart Radio legend. However staying true to its policy of “constantly changing things to keep those fuckers on their toes” In 2009 Walmart ditched Walmart Radio instructing stores to play cds' instead. (Terry Berry was long gone at this point) This led to lazy store managers looping the same music over and over.... usually Celine Dion, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or some other inoffensive white bread schmucks. The complaints from associates (most customers are blissfully unaware of the overhead music) came hot and heavy.

This even led to a puppet character named Willie Sellmore (Will He Sell More?) joking to Walmart head honchos at the annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville that “One of my fellow associates recently developed a serious eye-tic from hearing Céline Dion’s greatest hits on loop in our stores.” Ever eager to appease a workforce perpetually threatening to organize a union. Walmart reinstated Walmart Radio. A nationwide talent search to find two associates to serve as morning radio hosts was announced with over 500 cheesy videos submitted from across the country and the two men (sorry ladies, you were shut out) deemed the least offensive of the bunch were selected to become the new voices of Wallyworld. The lucky fuckers were Bo Woloszyn an innocuous bald white guy from Meadville, Pa. and Antonio Williams, an African-American co-manager from Frisco, Tx.

Antonio is inoffensive, not totally lacking in talent and believe it or not when he's in the groove, he spins some killer tunes. Bo plays the straight man, makes announcements and comes off as bland as mashed taters without salt or pepper. The nadir of the Morning show comes when Bo & Antonio muster up a shitload of phony cheeriness and lead the Walmart morning cheer, which in stores, usually follows the reading of daily sales numbers. “Give me a W-A-L-M-A-R-T,” with the rest of the people in the room shouting back the same letter. It's pure cornball, inspired by a trip Sam and Helen Walton made to a filthy tennis ball factory in South Korea. Between the L and the M...... Bo musters up all the personality he can find and yells “Give me a squiggly!” at which point I'm sure Antonio does a butt wiggle. So Help me, Sam. It's corny as hell... but the faithful eat it up.

The entire charade ends with an emphatic chant of “Who's Walmart is this?” to which the now frothing associates yell back “My Walmart!” They should just hand out amphetamine pills at the start of every shift. Wash them down with those Little Hugs fruit drinks that Walmart sells by the millions. Not all stores do the cheer anymore, mainly because it scares the shit out of customers. All in all, Walmart radio isn't that bad. It's a carefully formatted station that mixes Contemporary Hit radio with the that old format warhorse, Good Time Oldies.... sprinkled with just enough country music hits to keep the redneck associates happy. No actual commercials are played, just Walmart ads and friendly reminders designed to keep associates productive and focused. Walmart has licensed tons of music since the days of Walmart Music, so the playlist varies more than that of your average “Hot mix” station. Plenty of hit songs, lots of Beatles, Stones, classic rock, classic oldies and what have you.

Do you have any idea how surreal it is to hear “Sold in a market down in New Orleans, Scarred old slaver know he's doin' alright, Hear him whip the women just around midnight” played overhead in a Walmart at 3a.m.? It gives me the whammy. I still say that the song selections are meant to carry a subliminal message. The Beatles “Don't Let Me Down” plays at crunch time, just as associates are struggling to complete their daily tasks. “When Will I Be Loved” kicks in just after that (I've been cheated, been mistreated) Paul Revere's “Hungry” comes on right before the lunch break and The Guess Who's “No Time” just as the lunch hour comes to a close. Invariably associates will call in with requests for “Proud Mary” ..... “Workin' for the man ev'ry night and day and I never lost one minute of sleepin' worryin' 'bout the way things might have been” or “Working in a Coalmine”.... “Five o'clock in the mornin' I'm already up and gone Lord, I'm so tired How long can this go on?”

The second time I heard Larry from Vernon, store # 3229 in the Great state of Texas call in to request “Neon Moon” It dawned on me that dedications are pre-recorded and carefully screened. During Terry Berry's days, associates abused the request line by sending out mean spirited shout outs.... “Splish Splash” for that associate with a body odor problem. Weird Al's “Eat It” for that grossly obese assistant manager. Oh! that's classic. Walmart Radio's daily broadcast is pre-recorded. I suppose that Bo and Antonio's show is live, though it's hard to tell. Either way, Bo and Antonio broadcast to a captive audience that radio advertising salesmen would die for. (5,000 stores and clubs, 1.5 million associates) Sweet Jesus on the cross, that's just in the U.S. No terrestrial radio station broadcasting today can even come close to matching those numbers.

Hello!... this is Eager Beaver from ghetto Walmart, store #831, Albuquerque N.M. And I'd like to request I Wanna Fuck you Like an Animal..... err!, Closer by Nine Inch Nails and dedicate it to that shorty in Meats & Dairy, she's the spicy Tapatio meatball of my dreams..... Hello? Oh, they cut me off. I wonder why they cut me off?..... Hello?, they keep cutting me off, someone answers but they keep cutting me off ..... Hello?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 45

  Put 'er in Cruise Control

Let's drive that old Chrysler down to Las Cruces. Keep your hands on the wheel boss.... roll me up another Zig Zag, can't you do that with one hand? It's going on two years since we visited New Mexico's second city. It's a vibrant scene, though not one bent on experimentation. For the most part the local music scene is dominated by beefy classic rock inspired anthems produced by bearded bros rocking out like it's 1973 and ZZ Top just dropped “Tres Hombres” This trend is mostly due to the efforts and influence of Travis Manning, his Nasty Cactus recording studio and its legacy of heavy metal thunder bands such as New Mexican Erection, Dirty Clydes, Worm Hole and most recently Flat Blak. It's a variable time capsule of rehashed hesher riffs and beats. If you loved Grand Funk Railroad back in 1970, you'll love anyone of the previously mentioned bands.

The city's music scene also has an inspired progressive side, which we'll be exploring in this episode. I'm partial to DAMN Union a collective of musicians anchored by Danny Graves and Aaron Ransbarger, both formerly of The Rawdogs. Build around jam sessions referred to as The Dona Ana Music Night Union (DAMN Union) the lineup is fluid. I'm reading this off their Facebook page... the current touring roster consists of Graves, Ransbarger, Larry Ramos, Tucker and Andrew Levi Hiller. Other notable members include: Audra Rogers, Neeshia Macanowicz, Joe Hecker, Mike Granado, Ben Cantrell, Chuck Drexler. A variable super group of sorts, especially so when Sean Lucy joins the proceedings. Casting egos aside for the betterment of music, a collaborative effort that sparkles like the starry skies of Southern New Mexico.... the results speak for themselves. 

Sean Lucy is the last of the cosmic cowboys, taking up where Gram Parsons (the original cosmic cowboy) and legendary troubadour, Townes Van Zandt left off. Michael Murphy, another singer/songwriter with New Mexico ties describes cosmic cowboy music as “The cross pollination between Hippie and Cowboy. Early 70s hippie stuff combined with kind of the red-neck mentality. Texas accents and Country music” Boy Howdy. DoStuff Media: “This blonde cowboy hails from Texas, where lots of good things come from.... and then they stay gone” We'll stake a claim on the technicolor cowboy, Texas' loss in New Mexico's gain. Sean is a prolific songwriter with an extensive discography, Eleven albums starting with “The New Vulgarity” released in 2006 leading up his two latest releases, “King Clone Creosote” and “Pearl Snaps & Blunt Wraps”

As the frontman for The Answer Lies and then Shang-a-Lang, Chris Mason became synonymous with Las Cruces' minuscule but resilient punk rock scene. In addition he operated a record label out of his home and ran The Trainyard, a local venue that became a home away from home for Cruces punk rockers. Mason like so many other New Mexico musicians eventually felt the need to leave the state. “I was kind of feeling like, at 34, I was ready to live somewhere that already had a flourishing scene” that place would be Portland, Or. Home base for Mason's current band, Low Culture which includes Mason's longtime drummer Sam George, guitarist Joe Ayoub of El Paso, Tx. And Chicago transplant Jay Castaldi on bass guitar. Low Culture, essentially a slightly more melodic version of Shang-a-Lang, has steadily ingrained itself on the indie punk scene.

The Answer Lies was hardcore, a buzzsaw of punk angst delivered with propulsive determination. Shang-a-Lang changed things up just enough to cause critics to speculate whether Mason had gone soft or not. Low Culture continues down that path. Mature punk rock for mature punk rockers. “There's unlimited supply and there is no reason why” What do white punks approaching forty have to rage against? The answer for the most part is nothing and therein lies the problem with much of modern punk rock.... it's bland as fuck. The lyrics are selfishly self absorbed. The vocal delivery invariably whiny and given that we're currently living through a period of polarizing social change and one of the vilest presidential campaigns in recent memory.... totally devoid of significant sociopolitical content.

Anarchy in the U.S. It's coming sometime and maybe? Not a fucking chance, that would be bad for the brand. There's a big hard sun beating on a big people The future's so dim, you need night vision goggles just to grope your way through the sunniest of days. Don't be afraid homies, accept the Las Cruces challenge. To sample more of what Las Cruces has to offer, go to Bandcamp, tag New Mexico, tag Las Cruces. You'll be amazed at what you'll find. (There's also tags for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos.... by all means, check 'em out) My favorite Las Cruces bands from the past in no particular order: Rawdogs, Moonshiners, Beat Cowboys, Space Truckers, Liquid Cheese and my favorite Las Cruces bands recently active: The Raggies, Drunk Armstrong, Desert Ratts, The Gold Hearted Crows, DAMN Union, Everett Howl and the Wolves. Boy Howdy!

Titty Baby ~ The Raggies
Spooky Fuckin Blues ~ Holy Wave
Shake it Off ~ Low Culture
Drug Town ~ Back of a Car
Late Night ~ Sorrytown
Those Sweet Mojave Blues ~ Bad Homosapiens
Hot Fire ~ DAMN Union
Kinda sick and tired of paying my damn rent ~ Desert Ratts
Bill W. ~ Drunk Armstrong
No Way in this World- Sean Lucy
Texas Women/Memphis Girl- Everett Howl and the Wolves
Dead or Alive- The Beat Cowboys
Willow Grove- The Gold Hearted Crows
Albuquerque Freakout ~ Holy Wave
Southern NM ~ DAMN Union
Alamogordo ~ Back of a Car

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 44

“Simplicity is the key to doors divine”

Pickin' On is a series of tribute albums recorded by studio musicians in a bluegrass style. The series logs in at over one hundred albums, running the gamut from Three Doors Down to Hank Williams Jr. plus everyone and anyone that you can imagine in between. It's hit or miss. When it's good, (Van Halen's “Ain't Talking 'Bout Love” or The Offspring's “Gone Away”) it's really good. The bad stuff amounts to little more than the bluegrass equivalent of a square peg being forced into a round hole. “The Pickin' On series isn't alone in this world. Iron Horse a bluegrass band from Killen, Alabama has perfected the same formula for turning alt-rock songs into bluegrass tunes. It's the Sound-a-Like marketing technique of the early 1970s reinvented for the Americana set. The local tie-in? both Iron Horse and Pickin' On have covered The Shins, with good results.

Grand Canyon (Lesser bands have labels. We are the Grand Canyon) which evolved into Jenny Invert and hightailed it out of 'Burque, contributes “From the Westside” a cautionary tale about getting belligerent and shit faced, then having to walk from Albuquerque's westside back to the heights.... at night. Much ado about nothing. In my opinion, walking from the eastside to the westside would be much more harrowing, day or night. The best known band currently based in the Duke City would be The Handsome Family and “My Friend” does little to dissuade their reputation for producing music cloaked in a shroud of Gothic mystique. That can't be an easy thing to do in cheap and sunny Albuquerque N.M. What with all those colorful hot air balloons floating around on a daily basis.

Rod Lacy (The Old Main) is the product of his environment, Western New Mexico's coal country. Situated around Gallup on the state's western edge, it shares the same traits as its Appalachian counterpart. Rod Lacy hints at his roots with a jaded drawl that would seem more at home in West Virginia hollers than New Mexico arroyos. His plaintive tales pull you into the uncomplicated lives of the hearty men... broke dick and busted, who journeyed out to work the coal veins. “I feel okay but I came home with a busted back today” Rod's first album Blacklung was recorded in a cabin near Ruidoso while snowbound during a blizzard. It comes in two versions, the original 4-track recording from those cabin sessions, which is just a tad rough around the edges when compared to the subsequent studio version.

I will without the least bit of hesitation, admit to crying whenever I hear either Fast Heart Mart or The Handsome Family's original version of “My Sister's Tiny Hands” It's a song that fucks with my emotions. “We came in this world together, legs wrapped around each other. My cheek against my sister's, we were born like tangled vines” We all know the feeling of having someone ripped from us. Such pain being the vehicle that drives this heart rendering tale of sorrow and vengeance. “Every creature casts a shadow, under the sun's golden fingers” Makes ya' wanna grab a sharpened stick and start killing snakes. Fast Heart Mart (Martin Stamper) having completed a series of concerts in Germany and Finland, is still based in San Diego, with his most recent performances taking place at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

You got to roll me and call me the tumblin' dice. It's time to roll out another edition of New Mexico's one and only podcast dedicated solely to local music. This episode consists of tracks trimmed off previous podcast episodes in order to comply with Dailymotion's fifty nine minute rule. As a result, episode 44 is an odd mix of songs that slide up and down the genre scale. Nonetheless it goes down easy, not hard on the ears whatsoever. Excuse the two holiday tracks, I know we're nowhere near Christmas, but I just couldn't waste 'em. Boy Howdy!

Turn a Square- Iron Horse
From the Westside- Grand Canyon
My Friend- The Handsome Family
Black Xmas- Then Eats Them
Christmas Without You- The Angel Babies
Directions in a Bottle- Next 2 The Tracks
Black Lung- The Old Main
Norma Jean- Holiday Sail
Ought Five Thunder- The Foxx
Do Pot- Racist Cop
Soda Ride- Electricoolade
Darlin' Corey- Young Edward
My Sister's Tiny Hands- Fast Heart Mart
Drive- Hazeldine
New Slang- Iron Horse