Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Supporting their 2014 album, Gigantoid (review here), SoCal fuzz progenitors Fu Manchu have been announced for a slot at this year’s Up in Smoke indoor fest, which runs Oct. 3 and 4 in Switzerland. It’s the first of what I expect will probably be more European tour dates to come for Fu Manchu, who also recently wrapped a successful US run alongside Electric Citizen.
They join an out and out killer lineup for Up in Smoke, which as you can see in the poster already includes the likes of Dozer, Mars Red Sky, Greenleaf, Conan, Naam, Ufomammut, Brant Bjork, Kadavar, and many others. The PR wire makes it official:
Up In Smoke Festival – October 3rd & 4th 2014 – Fu Manchu Confirmed !
We are stoked to tell you that the Southern California legendary quartet FU MANCHU is now confirmed to play at UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FEST, on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3RD 2014 !!
For 20 years, fuzz rock progenitors FU MANCHU deliver their delightfully heavy, crisp riffs, many tones, grooves, low ends, doubling of great vocals, and have consistently grown their style from album to album.
After a long five-year gap since their previous studio effort, FU MANCHU have rolled out a new album “Gigantoid” in April, treating the listener with 10 tracks of unadulterated stoner rock righteousness. An amazing example of the sheer impact that a group of musicians can achieve by just doing the simple things right, and having a good time doing it!
For that reason, and because their celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1994 debut, “No One Rides for Free”, we are especially proud to add them to this year’s line-up! It’s gonna be a blast!!
This news will be published at 13:00 on our websites. FU MANCHU join the 16 bands we’ve already announced, which you can discover here below if you missed our past news. Most of the line-up is now unveiled, the last bands will be announced in August / September, so get your TICKETS right now on www.z-7.ch and via Ticketmaster!
Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.
The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.
If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.
I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers(review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahrimanhad been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passesdialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passesis one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.
Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.
There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.
Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.
Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthalhad plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.
Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.
I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majestyis right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads(review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.
Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyesresonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Léger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.
After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grassplenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.
Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II(review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.
Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagleis — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.
It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruitand it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.
From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoiddoesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.
I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadiamore remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.
It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuringboasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.
Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.
Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The problem with reviewing a Fu Manchu show is picking highlights. “Uh, yeah, the best part was when Fu Manchu showed up and played. That kicked ass.” Review over.
With Ohio Sabbath devotees Electric Citizen and supporting and Boston’s own Gozu – who played with Fu Manchu their last time through as well, also at The Sinclair, if I’m not mistaken — as the opener, the evening promised a three-band bill with no filler. My first time at The Sinclair – getting to know venues has been both terrifying and exciting — it turned out to be a cool space. Pro shop. The location is all Harvarded-out. I laughed seeing a kid get on a college shuttle bus carrying a 30-pack of Keystone Light at the notion of “higher” education, but restaurants and bars and whatnot line kind of a side-street near the same square where one finds Armageddon Shop. You go up stairs outside to enter and a couple more to step up to the stage area. There’s a balcony in back that seemed like prime real estate, and the stage, high, well-lit, boasted solid sound even up front. It was a cool place to see a show, and a cool show to see. I felt like I’d won just by virtue of being there.
Of course, that feeling only amplified once Gozu went on. Back less than a month from a European tour that took them from Roadburn, where they destroyed, to Desertfest Berlin, they were still in excellent form, and while it was early, they got a hero’s welcome from the local types present as they ran through a well-oiled set that included the regulars “Irish Dart Fight” and the always-appreciated “Jan-Michael Vincent,” as well as the Locust Seasoncloser “Alone” to round out. That song, slower, longer, distinct from a lot of Gozu‘s other material, seemed to show particularly how much fun bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard are apparently having in the rhythm section. Their styles are well-suited to each other, Hubbard‘s seemingly inherent swing a vast departure from former drummer Barry Spillberg (Wargasm)’s metallized precision. Grotto rides those grooves well, and as Gozu are probably the band I’ve seen most since moving to the area last year, I’ve dug being able to watch that dynamic develop.
It wasn’t a particularly long set, but it was precise, and guitarists Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman offered crunch tones and shredded leads to start the night off right. It was Tuesday — as one ultra-clever showgoer near the front would tell Scott Hill later, it was “Fu-Manchuesday” — so I don’t know how many people were in it for a party to start out, but Gozu laidthe foundation for one anyway and their tightness gave Electric Citizen a heavy lead-in. The Ohio foursome had a different vibe, and after checking out their debut EP last year and their newer Light Years Beyond7″ released for this tour ahead of their first long-player, Sateen, which is due in July, I was curious to see how their retro mindset would play out on stage. There aren’t a lot of bands in the States — at least not nearly as many as seem to be floating around Europe these days — who’ve picked up on what the likes of Graveyard have done to revitalize ’70s heavy. The model is less firmly planted here. I wondered how that might affect Electric Citizen‘s delivery.
In short, it didn’t. I guess between acts like Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Jex Thoth, etc., there’s enough for a new band like the Cincinnati troupe to match with their own creative whims in terms of aesthetic. If there was any continuity from Gozu, it was in drummer Nate Wagner‘s swagger and swing, though Electric Citizen put it to more boogie-fied use. On stage, they came across as even more Sabbathian than their recorded material, to the point that I was somewhat surprised to see guitarist Ross Dolan playing through Oranges instead of Laneys, but he got his point across anyway. His leads seemed to do that Iommic double-layer effect, though of course he was only playing once, and well-fringed vocalist Laura Dolan carried the rush-grooves with more than capable melodicism. A more subdued presence, bassistNick Vogelpohl was the anchor around which the rest of the band boiled, and in addition to “Shallow Water” from the new album, they made a highlight out of the single “Light Years Beyond,” ending their set with its memorable bounce and stomp. The vibe was a bit rawer without the organ that accompanies their recorded output, but Electric Citizen made plenty of new friends anyway.
And, well, Fu Manchu, right? I mean, if you know the band, you know what you’re going to get. For two decades, they’ve been among the top ranks of fuzz purveyors, beaming in riffs from the cosmos to vibe out earthlings everywhere. Their new one, Gigantoid(review here), was the occasion, but as with any band that has such a backlog of killer material, it was really just an all-around celebration of what they do. Highlights? Yeah, there were some. I’ll never, ever, complain about hearing “Boogie Van” live, or “Evil Eye” from 1997’s The Action is Go, or anything from 1996’s In Search Of…, from which “The Falcon Has Landed” and “Regal Begal” were aired, but seriously, it was Fu Manchu. Whatever they wanted to play, they’ve got more than enough to fill a set. Dudes up front kept yelling for “Hotdoggin'” from 2000’s King of the Road — guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill finally had to address it: “We’re probably not gonna play ‘Hotdoggin’,’ that’s right, I’m the asshole” — but who was about to argue with “Weird Beard” or “Hell on Wheels?” Nobody, if the crowd-surfing and moshing were anything to go by. Further proof that picking tunes for the set is best left to the professionals.
That said, there were a couple requests honored as the Fu tore through their planned set. “Weird Beard” was one, and “Superbird” from the band’s 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free(recently reissued on vinyl; review here), was another, and they broke it out like it was nothing. “Oh yeah, here’s a 20-year-old song that we had no intention of playing, watch us completely nail it.” So, playing in front of a backdrop of the Keiron Copper cover art and Peder Bergstrand logo for Gigantoid the band did leave a bit of room before closing out with “King of the Road,” leaving stage and coming back for an encore of “Saturn III” from The Action is Go, the song seeming in contextlike a jammy precursor to the new album’s finale, “The Last Question,” guitarist Bob Balch swirling out effects while Brad Davis and Scott Reeder held down the groove and Hill headbanged like a man with stock in Advil. They didn’t play “The Last Question” — no need to double up on the jam — but “Invaders on My Back,” “Dimension Shifter,” “Triplanetary” and “Anxiety Reducer” represented the new album well. I’d been hoping for “Radio Source Sagittarius,” but again, there’s that issue of there simply being too much Fu Manchu for one show. They should do two nights in every city they play.
Vinyl for Gigantoid, which the band has released on their own At the Dojo Records label, is reportedly forthcoming, though they had No One Rides for Freeat the merch table. I bought a CD of the new record and made my way back out into a chilly spring night to walk down the block to where I parked. It wasn’t too long before I cracked open that copy of Gigantoidand put it on, either. Some bands, you just can’t get enough.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
It was getting on two in the morning last night and I was yet again trying to figure out how to get the audio editing software I use to make podcasts to work on this laptop. Numerous failed downloads later, I decided screw it, I had nothing to lose, and I zipped up the directory containing the program on my old computer, WeTransfered it to myself, and unzipped it on the newer machine. Frickin’ worked. I couldn’t believe it. Proof that sometimes the stupidest solution of all is the way to go.
This is the first new podcast in a long time, I know. There’s been a lot of really cool stuff coming out in the last few months, but I wanted to still keep it as recent as possible. Some of this is out now and has been for a couple weeks, some of it isn’t out yet. I think it’s a good mix or I wouldn’t have uploaded it, and it gets pretty heavy for a while there, so watch yourself. Figured a good couple of rockers to open wouldn’t meet any complaints either, and hopefully that’s the case. Please enjoy.
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid (2014)
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt (2014)
Abramis Brama, “Blåa Toner” from Enkel Biljett (2014)
The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, “Spoonful” from Through the Dark Matter (2014)
Boris, “Heavy Rain” from Noise (2014)
Eyehategod, “Robitussin and Rejection” from Eyehategod (2014)
Serpentine Path, “House of Worship” from Emanations (2014)
Triptykon, “Boleskine House” from Melana Chasmata (2014)
Wovenhand, “Field of Hedon” from Refractory Obdurate (2014)
Been Obscene, “Memories of Salvation” from Unplugged (2014)
1000mods, “Reverb of the New World” from Vultures (2014)
Electric Citizen, “Light Years Beyond” from Ghost of Me b/w Light Years Beyond (2014)
Mars Red Sky, “The Light Beyond” from Stranded in Arcadia (2014)
Salem’s Pot, “Creep Purple” from Lurar Ut Dig På Prärien (2014)
Black Bombaim, “Arabia” from Far Out (2014)
Dopelord, “Pass the Bong” from Black Arts, Riff Worship and Weed Cult (2014)
Holly Hunt, “Prometheus” from Prometheus (2014)
Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a long five years since SoCal fuzz rock progenitors Fu Manchu released their last album. Like its 2007 predecessor, We Must Obey, 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power had a huge, encompassing sound, the trademark heft in Scott Hill and Bob Balch‘s guitars and Brad Davis‘ bass bolstered by production largesse that, while certainly not short on an appeal of its own, did little to convey the enduring affection for classic West Coast punk in Fu Manchu‘s approach. Released on their own At the Dojo Records and arriving preceded by the late-2013 Scion A/V single “Robotic Invasion,” Gigantoid readjusts the balance. The four-piece of Hill, Balch, Davis and drummer Scott Reeder recorded with Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis, and like Moab‘s own debut, the result on Gigantoidboasts a natural but still vibrant feel, raw in comparison to what Fu Manchu have done their last few times out even going back to 2004’s Start the Machineand 2001’s California Crossing, but still definitely their own style. A campaign the last few years of marking album anniversaries for their earlier works — touring playing whole records like their 1996 and ’97 classics, In Search Of…and The Action is Go, and reissuing those along with demos for California Crossingand their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free– has undeniably had an impact on the direction of Gigantoid‘s nine tracks, and in just under 35 vinyl-ready minutes, Fu Manchu hone a sound that’s not a cloying play at recapturing the magic of their first couple records, but which takes that feel and couples it with the now-decades-long development in their songwriting.
As their fans know, a lot of the Fu Manchu aesthetic isn’t up for debate. They’re not a band who want to reinvent themselves with each release, and as much as one can trace a gradual development over their full-lengths and put any number of narratives to it, the core of heavy, grooved-out fuzz (plus the occasional ’80s cover) remains steadfast in what they do. And as much as the production seems like a left turn outside the context of their exploration through past outings, that’s the case throughout the bulk of Gigantoidas well. The album opens with a four-song salvo of quintessential Fu Manchu-ery, blending sci-fi themes and ultra-nodding push as “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” confirm that Fu Manchu are still Fu Manchu at heart. After five years, it’s something of a relief to know, and with the memorable hooks in each of the first four cuts — the opener more grandiose, the second and third falling gleefully into their choruses and the last of them a rush that’s a highlight of Gigantoidas a whole — it seems their time away from the studio hasn’t been misspent. Following this initial wallop, the subsequent “Mutant” closes out side A with a bass-led start-stop groove to which Reeder soon adds his stomp before launching into its full volume, Hill‘s vocals in the verse not necessarily rushed, but matching urgency with the music behind. It’s not that “Mutant” doesn’t have a hook of its own or that it’s some radical departure, just that with some subtle effects work from Balch, the breaks to Davis‘ bass, and a shorter runtime, it’s an overall shift in vibe that acts as precursor to some of the other expansions in approach that side B brings, beginning with the all-out rager “No Warning.”
Posted in Features on May 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Long-running SoCal fuzz rockers Fu Manchu have embarked on a cross-country US tour (dates here) to herald the arrival this week of their first new studio album in five years, Gigantoid. Of course, the San Clemente-based four-piece have hardly been idle since 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, acquiring much of their back catalog and reissuing and touring classic albums like 1997’s The Action is Go and 1996’s In Search Of through their own At the Dojo Records imprint over the last couple years, up to putting out vinyl of a collection of demos for 2001’s California Crossing and pressing their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free (review here), in limited numbers earlier this year. They’ve never been still for too long, but it was definitely time for a new record.
And Gigantoiddelivers in a big way what longtime fans crave from Fu Manchu. The zero-pretense fuzz from guitarists Scott Hill (also vocals) and Bob Balch is dead on and bassist Brad Davis and drummer Scott Reeder hold down fluid grooves whether it’s a punkish rush like “No Warning” or the steady roll of “The Last Question,” the extended sleepy jam that closes out. With production by Moab guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis (interview here), and partially inspired by their revisiting old material, Fu Manchu present a rawer sound than they have in some time, giving the material a natural feel that highlights the quality of songwriting in cuts like “Anxiety Reducer,” “Invaders on My Back” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” and just what it is about their patterns that makes these pieces so characteristic of the band’s work.
Fu Manchu are not an outfit prone to experimentation, but they’ve consistently grown their style from album to album, and Giacumakis makes a solid match for the production on Gigantoidin conveying the band’s ties to ’80s-era Californian punk and hardcore. Where Signs of Infinite Power and its 2007 predecessor, We Must Obey, seemed to be going for a larger, more encompassing feel, Gigantoidpushes back on that impulse toward largesse and shows a precision strike can have just as much impact on the listener. They are in their element throughout, and what’s more, they sound like they’re having a good time working on their own terms.
That’s the impression Hill gives in conversation as well, and while he hardly complains about working with Century Media the last couple times out, there’s a bit of relief in his voice when discussing being able to set his own timeline for a release and handle the practical ends of making an album available to the public, as much work as it is. They’ve gotten there now. Gigantoidis available and the band is just beginning its touring cycle — a whole different kind of work supporting the album. In the interview that follows, Hill discusses these processes as well as writing these songs, recording them with Giacumakis, handling their own release and their (tentative) plans for future tours and At the Dojo releases and reissues.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy:
Posted in Features on April 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This kind of thing happens every now and again throughout the course of a year, where there just happens to be one day filled with killer releases. It’s convenient if periodically overwhelming, and even in this age of preorders and stuff just showing up in the mail — a somewhat disconnected process compared to going to a shop and asking at the counter if something is in yet, but again, convenient — a day like that can be special. I remember days like that going back a longer time than I care to admit, and yesterday was definitely one of them as well.
If you felt the North American continent rumble just a little bit, that was probably just the combined weight — applied one on the West Coast, one on the East — of Fu Manchu and Floor putting out records at the same time. What will no doubt be two of 2014’s best releases when the year is done both arrived on April 29, but they were hardly the end of the story. In case you missed any of it, here’s a convenient (there’s that word again), alphabetically-organized assemblage from which to organize yourself before payday:
1. Floor, Oblation
Released by Season of Mist. File picking up the first Floor record since 2004’s Dove as a no-brainer. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson have been kicking around doing stuff live since a little while after they released their 8CD Below and Beyond box set in 2009, but Oblation(review here) is the new album and spiritual successor to 2002’s landmark self-titled outing. Following that one up is no easy task and they know it, but I think history will serve Oblationwell in the long run, songs like “Love Comes Crushing” and the eight-minute “Sign of Aeth” expanding the sludge-pop formula that made Floor‘s early work so vital without sacrificing the hooks that at this point have spanned more than a decade en route towards timelessness. Floor on Thee Facebooks.
Floor, Oblation (2014)
2. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid
Released by At the Dojo. The first new Fu Manchu self-release after two full-lengths on Century Media and a handful of reissues through their own imprint, Gigantoidbrings a rawer sound from the widely influential SoCal fuzz stalwarts. They recorded with Moab guitarist Andrew Giacumakis, and while the album boasts some quintessential examples of what’s always made the Fu‘s songwriting so infectious — looking at you, “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” — their hardcore punk roots come through on “No Warning” and Gigantoidrounds out with an extended jam led by bassist Brad Davis on “Last Question” and filled out through a barrage of effects from guitarist Bob Balch. If I can get to it today I’ll have an interview up with guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (otherwise tomorrow), and a review is forthcoming, but the short version is Gigantoidis one of the year’s best, no doubt. Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks.
Fu Manchu, Selections from Gigantoid (2014)
3. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife
Released by Small Stone. Swedish upstarts Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus offer engaging touches of heavy psychedelic blues and expanded-definition stoner rock on their third long-player and Small Stone debut, Spirit Knife (stream/video premiere here), working naturally in a classic heavy context without pretending the last 40 years never happened. The album is immersive and atmospheric, offering standout moments of righteousness in 10-minute opener “Fog by the Steep,” “Clang,” “Point Growth” and elsewhere, and provides a look at a unit with the potential to continue to expand their sound going forward. Seems like JIRM have thus far flown under North American radars for the most part, but Spirit Knifeis worth the effort of tracking down, and by that I mean clicking “play” on the Bandcamp stream below to hear it for yourself. Give it some time to unfold and you won’t regret it. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus on Thee Facebooks.
Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Spirit Knife (2014)
4. Revelation, Salvation’s Answer
Released by Shadow Kingdom. Perennially underappreciated Maryland doomers Revelation and Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records are no strangers. The label has handled reissues of 1992’s Never Comes Silence, 1995’s …Yet So Far, and 2008’s Release, in addition to having the first release of 2009’s For the Sake of No Oneand 2012’s Inner Harbor. This time, the band and imprint partner up for a revisit of Revelation‘s 1991 debut, Salvation’s Answer, and while the look is overdue, it’s no less welcome for its late coming. Salvation’s Answermight sound raw 23 years after the fact, but its elemental sound remains deceptively atmospheric, and like much of Revelation‘s earlier output, it wears a deep-running melancholy on its sleeve and blends progressive guitar work with a strong foundation of metallic groove. Revelation on Thee Facebooks.
Revelation, Salvation’s Answer (1991/2014)
5. Salem’s Pot, …Lurar ut dig på prärien
Released by EasyRider Records. Mired in drug-derived riffing and classic horror/exploitation ambience, Swedish four-piece Salem’s Pot have plenty of scummer groove in common with Electric Wizard on their debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien, but if worshiping at the altar of Sabbath and drawn-out fuzz was a crime, we’d all have been put to death years ago. Their reverential depravity comes through in the three extended tracks, “Creep Purple” (14:28), “Dr. Death” (9:52) and “Nothing Hill” (9:12), and the album unfolds in a haze of degenerate psychedelia. It’s crafted with vinyl in mind, but give me a CD to get lost in front-t0-back without having to worry about changing sides, because Salem’s Pot isn’t the kind of listen where you want to have anything whatsoever to do with consciousness. You could tag it derivative, but what isn’t? Familiar though it might be, it’s still worth a nod. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks.
Salem’s Pot, “Nothing Hill” from …Lurar ut dig på prärien (2014)
6. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate
Released by Deathwish Inc. History has taught time and again not to be surprised when it comes to the David Eugene Edwards-led outfit Wovenhand, and their seventh offering and first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate continues to expand beyond genre bounds, incorporating tonal weight into their signature brilliant arrangements so that songs like “Masonic Youth” (get it?) and “Hiss” pummel their payoffs as much as they enhance the atmospheres of “Salome,” “King David” and the joyously rumbling “Good Shepherd.” Wovenhand are a singular entity on stylistic terms, and Edwards‘ commanding presence burns through this material even at moments when he seems consumed by the full-breadth chaotic churning surrounding him in the mix. Refractory Obdurate– culling influences no less a patchwork than its cover art — is the work of genius, driven by faith and in perpetual development. Wovenhand on Thee Facebooks.
Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate (2014)
That’s a pretty good day. If I left anything out or if you’ve already picked any of these up, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
A Fu Manchu tour would be good news enough, but to have a list of dates come with word that the band’s new album, Gigantoid, is currently in the mixing stages is even better. Southern California’s Godfathers of Fuzz will embark on a spring run across the US at the start of May, making their way into Canada to hit Toronto and Montreal en route to the East Coast, presumably with some new material from Gigantoidin tow. Hopefully, anyway.
Gigantoid will also be theFu‘s first new full-length through their own At the Dojo imprint. If the recent 20th anniversary vinyl reissue for their first album, No One Rides for Free(review here), is anything to go by, they should be more than up to the task of handling the next record themselves. Freedom of choice, right?
Here’s the latest:
FU MANCHU ANNOUNCE US TOUR DATES, FINISH UP NEW ALBUM
California rockers FU MANCHU announce their Spring USA INVASION Tour 2014
Fu Manchu are hitting the road in May 2014 to bring their new album “Gigantoid” to fans in the Unites States and Canada. Tickets go on sale Friday March Friday March 7th 2014 for all shows in the US and Canada. The band is currently mixing the album, their first new studio album in 5 years, with Andrew Giacumakis (MOAB). The album was recorded by Giacumakis and Jim Monroe(The Adolescents, X) at the end of February 2014.
The band recorded and released the single “Robotic Invasion” with Andrew Giacumakis last October for Scion Motors.
This is the bands 10th studio album, their 14th release over all and follows on two years of touring in the US, Europe Australia and New Zealand on successful reissues of the classic records ” In Search Of” and ” The Action Is Go.” This will be their first new full length release on their own AT THE DOJO label. The band celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2015 and this year marks the 20th Anniversary of their first album “No One Rides For Free” recently reissued on AT THE DOJO.
FU MANCHU INVASION USA TOUR/ SPRING 2014 Thursday May 1st San Francisco CA Bottom Of The Hill Saturday May 03 Portland OR Dante’s Sunday May 4th Seattle WA El Corazon Tuesday May 06 Salt Lake City UT Club Sound Wed May 07 Denver CO Marquis Theatre Saturday May 10 Chicago Il SubTerranean Sunday May 11 Detroit MI Smalls Tuesday May 13th Columbus OH Ace Of Cups Wednesday May 14th Cleveland OH Grog Shop Friday May 16th Toronto ON Horseshoe Tavern Saturday May 17th Montreal QC Cabaret Mile End Monday May 19th New York City NY Mercury Lounge Tuesday May 20th Boston MA The Sinclair Wednesday May 21st Philidelphia PA Barbary Friday May 23rd Washington DC Rock N Roll Hotel Saturday May 24th Raleigh NC Kings Sunday May 25th Atlanta GA The Earl Tuesday May 27th Austin TX Red 7 Wednesday May 28th Dallas TX Gas Monkey Bar and Grill Saturday May 31st Mesa AZ Pub Rock Live
Los Angeles / San Diego show info soon… Europe tour info soon… Australia / japan tour info soon… Canadian tour info soon…
Posted in On Wax on February 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
“Gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free.” — ancient boogie van proverb
Here’s a fun idea: let’s talk about Fu Manchu. The long-running SoCal fuzz rock progenitors have a vinyl remaster of their 1994 debut LP, No One Rides for Free, out direct from the band on their own At the Dojo Records imprint, following reissues of In Search Of, The Action is Go, Godzilla’s/Eatin’ Dust, California Crossing Demos and a collection of their cover material aptly-titled The Covers. Even as they’re currently in the studio working on a follow-up to 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, however, they’re going back to their van-worshiping roots in repressing No One Rides for Free. The album arrives in gatefold form, quality card stock with photos of the four-piece from that era, pressed either to yellow (300), clear (300) or black (the rest) platter of substantive heft, and sounds even better than it looks, the eight tracks reading like a gnostic text of the heavy that would follow in their wake over these two decades since No One Rides for Free was first issued.
The lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, guitarist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano would be a supergroup if they got together today, with Hill having put out some of CA’s finest fuzz in Fu Manchu over the years while the others went on to form Nebula (whereabouts unknown), Romano now good company and good time in The Freeks — never mind Brant Bjork, who produced the thing — but make no mistake, on No One Rides for Free, there were no laurels to rest upon. Fu Manchu had put out a handful of singles between 1990 and 1994, but what’s widely considered their best work lay well ahead of them, and 20 years ago, the laid back, easy-flowing grooves of side A cuts like the opening one-two of “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” didn’t fit nearly as easily into assignations like “stoner” and “fuzz,” since they barely existed as a subgenre of rock. It’s easy to imagine No One Rides for Freefinding an audience among the more baked-out contingent in Southern California’s seemingly perpetual punk and hardcore scene — that’s where Fu Manchu‘s roots lie, as the 2010 Southern Lord release of Virulence‘s If this isn’t a Dream… 1985-1989(review here) showed, with Hill, Abshire and Romano in that lineup — but it’s not like it came prepackaged with a sticker that said, “Okay kids, this is stoner rock! Get on board!”
And for everyone who wound up doing that (i.e. getting on board), it’s no stretch to figure there were just as many who heard the acoustics and dreamy leads of “Summer Girls (Free and Easy)” — which here starts side B — and had no clue or context for what to make. If it was next-generation surf rock, however, Fu Manchu could easily fit that bill. No One Rides for Free sets in place an allegiance to that culture that continues to be a part of the band’s identity to this day, and a lot of what they’d later turn into the core of their sound is present in these tracks, let alone a lyrical affinity for good times, vans, Camaros, chrome pipes, ladies, and so on. Is it the record that launched a thousand Spicolis? More likely it’s a piece of that burnout puzzle than a sole actor, but Fu Manchu make it plain by the time Romano starts in with the cowbell of “Shine it On” that they know what they’re doing, and that the rolling grooves preceding are no mistake. Hill sounds like a kid on “Show and Shine” and “Mega Bumpers,” but that only adds to the fun of the reissue, and with the interplay of his and Glass‘ guitars in the jam of closer “Snakebellies” — which they still pull back to the main riff before they’re done – it’s easy to hear where a lot of players might’ve heard it and decided to try their hand at something similar. Like everybody.
It’s not a release that needs to justify its own release. Some reissues you wonder why they even exist. For Fu Manchu to be re-releasing their back catalog as they continue to work on new material wants nothing for rationale, and since they obviously have the rights to the material, all the better they’re the ones getting the chance to profit from putting it back out. Its production might sound dated here and there, but No One Rides for Freehas a righteousness at its core that Fu Manchu‘s unyielding relevance and enduring influence shows to be timeless, and whether you’re a fan looking for an excuse to revisit their early output or a newcomer just getting to know them beyond preliminary investigations, this LP seems to serve all interests in a manner worthy of the band’s legacy. You can’t really lose.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After running a contest to give away the test-pressing on their Thee Facebooks page (I didn’t win), Southern California fuzz innovators Fu Manchu have made available a limited run of vinyl for a new remaster of their 1994 debut album, No One Rides for Free. Obviously this is a scenario in which all of humanity benefits.
That’s not sarcasm. Yeah, No One Rides for Freedoesn’t enjoy the same kind of landmark status as some of Fu Manchu‘s subsequent outings, like 1997’s The Action is Go or 1996’s In Search Of, but it’s amazing how much of Fu Manchu‘s approach was already laid out by the time they got to No One Rides for Freeafter a couple of initial singles. Cuts like “Mega-Bumpers” and “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” lay out the blueprint for what the band would become, and with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire, guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano — the latter three who’d go on to form Nebula – not to mention production by Brant Bjork, who’d later join on drums, the badassery speaks for itself. It’s like they recorded surfing.
Instructions for how to order follow here, and Fu Manchu are also playing Feb. 8 at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, CA, with Blasting Concept, so one imagines you can pick up a copy at that show as well. From there, the Fu head into the studio to lay down a new album reportedly for release later in the year. Like I said, everybody wins:
Fu Manchu 20 year anniversary of “no one rides for free” remaster / reissue gatefold LP out now. 300 on yellow vinyl and 300 on clear vinyl the rest on black vinyl. We will be selling the colored copies here. CD’s out soon.
Inside the USA $13.00 plus $7.00 shipping fedex priority. email your order.
Outside the USA contact us for shipping.
Paypal and contact is firstname.lastname@example.org
Orders will start shipping out 3rd week of feb. Include order and address with payment.
Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberationwith the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999’s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.
Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013’s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork
How did you come to do what you do?
I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.
Describe your first musical memory.
When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.
How do you define success?
To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.
I’ll gladly grant that there are way more obvious Fu Manchu records with which to end the week. Indeed, even the Californian fuzz legends themselves seem to have acknowledged by touring playing full records an audience preference for older material, if not actually the oldest, albums like 1996’s In SearchOf…,their third, and 1997’s subsequent The Action is Gohailed as heavy rock classics while much of the rest of their catalog, particularly the three LPs they’ve released in the last decade, are viewed with interest varied from superfan loyalty to utter discount from those whose allegiance lies with their ’90s output.
Fair enough. I can’t and won’t argue that In Search Of…isn’t genre genius, but neither do I think Fu Manchu‘s contributions ended with what’s commonly considered their most highly-regarded material. Whether it’s the early rawness of their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free, or the striving to breathe new life into their established wall of fuzz in 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power by means of focusing on the SoCal punk and hardcore influence that served as the band’s drive when they got their start as Virulence in 1985, it’s strange to think of a band as being both classic and underrated — unless you think of all heavy rock as underrated in the wider pop-cultural sphere — but Fu Manchu seem to be exactly that. It’s a fascinating position for a group who are past 25 years together, who’ve toured the world and who’ve influenced a generation of bands in their wake.
So yeah, I could’ve closed out the week with The Action is Go, and I’m sure at some point I will, but with “Shake it Loose,” the opening title-track, “Hung out to Dry,” the slow-grooving “Land of Giants,” “Sensei vs. Sensei” and a cover of The Cars‘ “Moving in Stereo” to its credit, I decided to roll with We Must Obey as an example ofFu Manchu‘s work that never quite got the attention it deserved. If that makes me a sucker for the band, I can think of far worse things to be. As always, I hope you enjoy.
I know I had that Queens of the Stone Age live review on Monday, but I only reviewed one record this week, and it was an EP. In fact, over the last few months, I’ve been doing fewer and fewer reviews from week to week, and I find it unacceptable. I don’t believe in “resolutions,” but I may start imposing a word count on reviews — 500-700 words tops, let’s say — until I can restore some balance. It would be an interesting challenge for me anyway I think to have to say what I want to say about a record without hitting 1,000 words, which is where most of them hover nowadays when I do get to bang one out. If I do or don’t decide to do that, I need to figure out a way to deal with the anxiety I’ve come to feel about writing up records and still manage to keep my critical voice, which apparently has a thing for compound sentences.
Or maybe I should cut myself some fucking slack and just try to live out my meager fucking existence in the best way I can.
Yeah, not likely.
This coming week is the inexplicable federal holiday Xmas. If you’re of a persuasion to celebrate that or its more Jesus-ified equivalent, Christmas, I wish you a happy one. I’m traveling — of course, because that’s what I do now; unfortunately it’s not to Europe — south to see family and coworkers in Jersey, but I’ll be posting where and when I can. I’d like to get a list together of the best EPs, demos, singles, etc. I heard this year, and I’ll do my best to make it somewhat less… elaborate… than the Top 20 albums list that went up on Monday. Thanks as well to everyone who commented and shared that link.
Double thanks to everyone who’s submitted a list to the Readers Poll. I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the picks come in, the things people agree on, disagree on. I look forward to getting the final results together and sharing them when the time comes. If you haven’t added a list yet, the form will be up next week and then comes down the week after, so there’s time, but not too much.
Next week I review Clagg‘s new album and if I have a chance, do some more stuff to wrap up the year as well, best debut, favorite song live, etc., but it might have to wait until the week after. We’ll see how it goes with road time and all that.
Until then, I wish you a great and safe weekend and a great and safe holiday if you’re celebrating. If you’re not celebrating and you at least have the day off, I hope that’s at least relaxing. Cheers.
A couple weeks ago, I asked the question above: “What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?” It was kind of just something I was throwing out there to see what came back. Nothing scientific, pretty vague on what “stoner rock” actually meant as a genre designation. Basically just trying to get a spur-of-the-moment response, like an inkblot test for riffs. First thing that comes to mind.
The response was awesome, so before anything else, thank you to everyone who contributed a list to the original post. I was taken aback by the number of replies that came in — a total 73 comments — and the resultant breadth of records named reads like a wishlist of the damned. Some people were pretty orthodox in their definition of the genre, and some more open in the bands they included, but working from everyone’s lists, I tallied up the votes, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices personally (I added my own list as a comment to the initial post, so I won’t bother reprinting it), it was a blast to see what emerged on top. The people have spoken.
I tried to be as fair as I could in the tallying. There were some comments left that were individual songs and not albums, and those I didn’t count, but everything else went in, even if it was only mentioned once, and when someone said, for example, “Melvins – all,” I actually added a tally to everything by the Melvins that everyone else had said. Again, it’s not really a scientific thing polling demographic data, but it was a lot of fun.
Okay, here’s the list:
The Top 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records Poll Results:
1. Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (41 votes)
2. Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (27 votes)
3. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (19 votes)
4. Kyuss,Blues for the Red Sun (18 votes)
5. Monster Magnet,Spine of God (15 votes)
5. Sleep,Dopesmoker(15 votes)
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone(14 votes)
7. Fu Manchu, In Search Of… (14 votes)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, Queens of the Stone Age (12 votes)
10. Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (10 votes)
As you can see, some real classics in there, and Welcome to Sky Valleywas far and away the winner, picked by 41 out of the 73 people (myself included), with Sleep and Black Sabbath behind. There were two ties at numbers five and seven, but beyond that, it’s a pretty clear picture of where people are at with their favorites.
What about everything else? Well, it was all counted. I broke all the entries down by number of votes and listed them by artist with albums in chronological order.
Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now aligned to Clutch’s Weathermaker Music imprint, corporately themed supergroup The Company Band make their latest wager in the form of the five-track Pros and Cons EP. Like the band’s past works – 2009’s self-titled full-length (review here) and 2007’s introductory Sign Here, Here and Here EP – Pros and Cons was produced by Andrew Alekel, and to The Company Band’s credit, aside from replacing bassist Jason Diamond of MIA NYC rockers Puny Human, they’ve managed to hold together a very busy lineup for half a decade now. That lineup shakes down as follows:
Neil Fallon (Clutch): Vocals Jim Rota (Fireball Ministry): Guitar Dave Bone: Guitar Brad Davis (Fu Manchu): Bass Jess Margera (CKY): Drums
Not exactly small potatoes as regards pedigree, and though The Company Band has never toured – they’re doing a few East Coast shows in support of Pros and Cons – their recorded output has remained as consistent in quality as their lineup has stayed stable. Their process seems to be that every so often the musicians get together and rock out some new tracks and then Fallon either tops those songs in the studio with them, as was the case with the LP, or on his own, as is the case with the new EP. Rota, Bone, Davis and Margera recorded with Alekel out on the West Coast, and Fallon put his vocals to the instrumental tracks afterwards, the steady hands of Clutch familiar J. Robbins helming the recording. The result on these five songs is a few strong chorus, some excellent straightforward riffing, Davis’ always stellar bass, and an overall mixture of elements that’s distinct from each individual part while not necessarily separate in terms of genre. Heavy rock persists, is another way of putting it. Rota has long since proved his songwriting acumen in Fireball Ministry, and he’s got excellent collaborative accompaniment in the rest of The Company Band. Perhaps most importantly, as much as it’s been enjoyable to follow the project’s periodic installments since their 2007 first outing, the players’ enjoyment and respect for each other bleeds into everything they create, and that can be heard here from the opening strains of “House of Capricorn” to the fadeout of “El Dorado”’s catchy title line.
Fallon peppers the lyrics of “House of Capricorn” with the kind of tongue-in-cheek corporate-speak that has in no small part defined the course of the band since their inception. It’s almost an exit interview, or the kind of questionnaire one might get upon calling a “How’s my driving” number on the back of a track. The lines, “Welcome everybody to the House of Capricorn/Here’s a short presentation/Please enjoy your stay and thank you in advance for your kindness and participation,” serve as a verse in what I can only imagine is a perfect live set kickoff. A subtly righteous guitar lead is worked into the end, and with its pointedness of direction, “House of Capricorn” is every bit the strong opening statement, following “Zombie Barricades” from the self-titled and the course-setting “Company Man” from the first EP in that regard. The Company Band, it seems, know how to launch a release. Davis’ bass at the beginning of “Black Light Fever” double-times the guitar and commences to launch a profitable groove in the verse, which leads to a grower chorus, Fallon eventually answering himself in a revivalist mode bound to be familiar to anyone who’s gotten down with latter-day Clutch. Moments like that leave me wondering what would happen if Rota was charged with backup vocal duties, what he might be able to do to complement Fallon’s ultra-distinct, ultra-established methods, and how much potential there is there that’s yet been unexploited. Whatever methods they take to get there, The Company Band has never yet failed to produce top-grade choruses, and as the rest of Pros and Cons plays out, it quickly becomes evident that “House of Capricorn” and “Black Light Fever” are, figuratively as well as literally, just the start.
Posted in Features on July 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s hot. I mean, seriously hot. Like August hot and it’s only July. Obnoxiously hot. It’s so hot that in fact I’ve already passed out and I don’t even know what I’m typing anymore. Here in the scenic, urine-stank Northeast, we’re mired in a permanent-seeming cloud of humidity the only action against which one can take is to rock and roll as loudly as possible and hopefully sweat enough to cool down. To that end, for the next few weeks, I thought we’d have a series of posts: “The Album of the Summer of the Week.”
We’ll do a few of them until my inevitable death from dehydration. For the first, I couldn’t think of a better start than Fu Manchu‘s classic third album, In Search Of… A record that turned 15 last year, it was the last Fu Manchu outing to feature the guitar of Eddie Glass and Ruben Romano‘s drumming before they left to form Nebula, and there’s something about the über-fuzz of “Missing Link” that feels like a refreshing jump in the ocean. Guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (who spoke about playing the album live front to back in an interview last year) and bassist Brad Davis turn in classic performances, and aside from being one of heavy rock’s most landmark albums, it also goes great with a sunny day.
You could probably say the same for most of Fu Manchu‘s discography, but In Search Of… is pretty much the archetype they’re working from, so whether it’s the psych guitar on “Supershooter,” the motor-ready groove and Davis‘ boogie bassline in “Regal Begal,” or the none-more-stoned leads of “Strato-Streak,” it’s about as necessary for your summer as a cold beverage and lawn furniture. In case you’re so overheated that you can’t get up and go get the album off your shelf — because you and I both know you already own it — I’ve included the video below for “Asphalt Risin’.” All you gotta do is lift a finger to click play: