Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The band’s original 1998 swansong, …At a Loss can be taken two ways when put in the context of Buzzov*en’s catalog as a whole. On the one hand, it’s the Wilmington, North Carolina, outfit’s most coherent offering in terms of songcraft, use of structure, and general self-awareness. By 1998, there may not have been nearly as many practitioners of it as there are today, but there was a set of sludge acts from across the US – Bongzilla and Eyehategod come to mind as contemporaries – and Buzzov*en were always intelligent enough to understand what was happening around them, as they were constantly on tour. So it’s a record with a place and a defined direction. On the other hand, with that, you necessarily lose the chaos of Buzzov*en’s earlier work in albums like To a Frown (1993) and Sore (1994), which had a fuck-all throwaway feel that simply can’t be replicated by anyone who knows what they’re doing without sounding contrived on some level. What’s certain in listening to …At a Loss is that Buzzov*en did pill-popping misanthropy like no one either in the American South or anywhere else. Even as what’s ostensibly their most accessible album, …At a Loss is a litmus test for how much aural hatred a person can withstand before pressing stop.
Given new life with a recent reissue thanks to Michigan imprint Emetic Records, every second of …At a Loss feels saturated with anger. It’s a humid, swampy sound to start with, and Buzzov*en revel in it across songs like the ultra-slow “Loricet,” the blastingly punkish “Flow,” which follows immediately, and the opening title-track, which begins the album with a sample of Robert Di Niro from Taxi Driver giving the “Someday a real rain’s gonna come…” monologue like it’s a mission statement for …At a Loss itself. The samples – an integral part of Buzzov*en’s assault – were handled at last by T-Roy Medlin, who had already by then formed Sourvein, and though that inevitably dates the record in the context of how overused sampling became in sludge, doom and stoner rock, it’s important to remember how pioneering Buzzov*en were in the method and that their doing so involved tapes and not laptops. I don’t know if that makes a difference in how most ears will hear …At a Loss 13 years after the fact, but the context is worth considering one way or the other.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
This came through the line the other day, and maybe it’s old news by now, but I wanted to pass along wishes to Weedeater guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd to get well soon. Shepherd apparently busted his hand toward the end of Weedeater‘s last tour and the band had to cancel some dates, which, as you can see in the press release below, they’ll be rescheduling in no time. Hell, even if those dates are canceled, it can’t be too long until their next tour comes through town. It’s Weedeater.
Here’s the news from the PR wire:
Well, they made it through a month and a half of heavy duty touring in support of Jason… the Dragon, playing packed and sold-out shows every day in front of rabid crowds from coast to coast. But as with all things Weedeater, somebody in the band was finally injured and they were forced to cancel the last few shows of the US leg of their Jason… the Dragon tour. These shows were in the Southeast US and will be rescheduled at a later date.
As for the injury sustained; guitarist Shep broke his hand and could no longer wield his mighty axe of six strings for the remaining shows. But, as with every previous injury this band has sustained — while on or off of tour – Shep has been healing his mangled bones and Weedeater will be getting back out there to hit you all with a dose of their inhumanly heavy live show almost immediately. And of course it follows that Weedeater‘s upcoming European tour and appearance at Roadburn 2011 are still happening, so Europe, get ready to be pummeled. Confirmed dates are posted at: http://www.myspace.com/weedeater.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just because I have them and figured why not. Review of the show is here. It was Naam, ASG and Weedeater in NYC at Santos Party House on Feb. 24. Here’s more of the bands in that order. Click the images to make them bigger.
Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was my first time at Santos Party House. The club, famously shut down last year for dealing drugs, resides in that not-quite-Chinatown, not-quite-financial-district section of Manhattan below Canal St., down by where the Knitting Factory used to make its home on Leonard. It’s kind of a nether-region in New York, at least after 6PM when all the suits have gone home. Stores close. There’s parking. Santos seemed to be doing alright anyway for attracting a crowd; last night’s was the most packed Weedeater show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few.
Over in the Webster Hall basement, The Brought Low and Puny Human were opening for Danko Jones and if I’d had half a brain in my head or a memory to retain what goes into said brain, I would have headed into the city early to catch their sets before hitting up Santos, but no, I was playing it cool, waiting to get to the club at around 9:30. Clubs in NYC can go either way these days. In Brooklyn, you’re more or less guaranteed a late night, but you never know who in Manhattan is going to decide at 11PM that it’s time for the dance party to start. To Santos‘ credit, the dance party was downstairs by the bathrooms and Weedeater, ASG and Naam played upstairs. A few years ago, that would have been the other way around.
Naam were on stage when I got in, bathed in blue light, playing songs from their self-titled Tee Pee Records debut and Kingdom EP, which, try as I might, I still can’t find a copy of on CD. They had the vinyl for sale, but any disc smaller than that was a no dice. I’ve seen them a couple times now, and as they make ready to head over to Europe for a Tee Pee label tour that includes a stop at Roadburn, they sound ready for it. “Kingdom,” which they closed with, sounded especially killer, beardo bassist John Bundy‘s backing vocals giving that last chorus an extra push behind guitarist Ryan Lugar.
There are printed signs posted all around the club with messages like, “Santos Wants You To Be Happy” and “No One Knows Who You Are” and an attendant in the bathroom to hand me a paper towel, so there were some mixed messages in terms of what the vibe of the club overall was supposed to be, but I could easily see it being a rave-type place. Still, a ton of people came out for the show, and young people, and girls. Not just girlfriends, either. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know quite what to make of it.
For their part, ASG — who share Weedeater‘s hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina — were heavier than I thought they’d be. I vaguely recall their 2008 Win Us Over debut on Volcom, and it was passable in terms of West Coast-style riff rock, but nothing really landmark. Likewise, their live set was full of killer guitar work, and crowd ate it up each time drummer Scott Key locked into a half-time groove (who could blame them?), but overall, I was left somewhat cold by the performance.
When the lights came down at the start of their set, guitarist Jason Shi took an extra five minutes to check and get the levels on his mic, feeding back into the crowd and apologizing for it, but doing it anyway. Maybe I never got over that. Not to hold wanting to sound as good as possible against the guy, but come on dude, at some point it just has to be what it’s gonna be. I’m sure thinking that makes me a prick. I’ll live.
The last time I remember seeing Weedeater (which, since it’sWeedeater, isn’t necessarily the last time I saw them) was a few years back in an Alphabet City basement that’s not there anymore called Club Midway. Or if it’s there, they stopped putting on this kind of show because they weren’t making any money. Anyway, the place had a decent amount of people in it — not a crowd by any stretch, but a good showing of the NYC faithful. Santos was jammed. I guess the people who’ve moved to the area over the last five years, mostly Brooklynite hipsters, but some humans as well, are of a different mindset than the last generation of showgoers — mine — and more open to this kind of thing.
Part of me wants to be the grumpy old man and tell the damn kids to get off my lawn, but on the other hand, fuck it, good for the bands. If Weedeater can pack a house in NYC and have people moshing to songs on an album that isn’t even out yet, maybe Manhattan will start getting more shows again. And if that saves me driving two hours to Brooklyn at any point, it can’t be all that bad.
Weedeater opened with the start of their new record, Jason… the Dragon, which they were also selling in advance of its release date. “The Great Unfurling” intro led into “Hammerhandle” led into “Mancoon” led into “Turkey Warlock,” and it was a violent, energetic start to the set. Guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd sounded huge through a spraypainted Marshall stack, and recent Obelisk interviewee “Dixie” Dave Collins might have the best bass tone in sludge. His cackling vocals seemed to be swallowed up in the distortion and groove surrounding, but he managed to cut through well enough, on more or less equal footing on the stage with Shepherd and be-dreadlocked drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum.
The highlight of the set and the night for me was “Homecoming,” which Collins introduced by saying something like “Here’s a new song, I hope you fucking hate it.” That riff is one of the best they’ve ever come up with, and whether or not the audience had heard the track before, they dug it hard. Moshing at a stoner show. I guess that’s what happens when the kids show up.
Some bands act angry on stage, posture and look pissed off, but there’s something about the contempt with which Collins delivers his performance that makes me believe it’s genuine. And being in New York, I’m used to bands coming through who hate the town — half the time I’m there, I feel the same way, and it’s only going to take me an hour to get home — but with Weedeater, it was more than that. Some kind of drunken misanthropy-turned-rage that only got more visceral as the set wore on. Toward the end, when Collins said, “We’re gonna play a couple old songs now,” and then launched into “God Luck and Good Speed” from the 2007 album of the same name, I wondered if maybe there was a little extra edge of “fuck you” in his voice, as Weedeater had two albums out before then that, in all likelihood, the crowd wouldn’t know nearly as well.
Their Skynyrd cover of “Gimme Back My Bullets” followed “God Luck and Good Speed,” and they closed with “Weed Monkey,” also both from God Luck and Good Speed, and at the end of the set, Collins — if I heard correctly — advised everyone to “get high as eagle pussy on stilts.” Sound advice, and a little ironic after I watched Santos security drag a dude out by his hairpresumably for smoking something he shouldn’t have been, but I didn’t take it.
Instead, I headed down the block to the car and drove back to the valley to be up for work this morning, the wackiness of my recently-purchased Leeches of Lore CD keeping me company along the way. I wound up with a bunch of extra pictures from the show, so if you want to have a look, feel free after the jump.
Posted in Features on February 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
At one point during our conversation, “Dixie” Dave Collins — bassist, vocalist and central figure behind North Carolinian slingers Weedeater — walked outside the bar he was talking to me from to take a piss on the side of the building. This, my friends, is what sludge is all about.
Collins — along with guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd and drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum — is about to release Jason… the Dragon, the fourth album in 10 years from Weedeater, which formed after the dissolution of his prior outfit, the recently-reunited Buzzov*en. Along with expanding on some of the ideas first presented on 2007′s God Luck and Good Speed (also issued on Southern Lord), Jason… the Dragon finds the trio trying out some genuinely new ideas on tracks like “Palms of Opium” and “Homecoming,” flirting with acid blues and (dare I say it?) accessible songwriting in ways they never have before.
More than stylistic twists though, what Jason… the Dragon represents is remarkable persistence on the part of the band. They tour like bastards. I mean it. Weedeater is always on the road, and before they finally got down to recording this album at Electrical Audio in Chicago with Steve Albini, they had to get through Kirkum tearing his meniscus, Shepherd breaking a finger and Collins — not to be outdone — blowing off one of his toes while cleaning his favorite shotgun.
No word on whether or not it’s still his favorite.
After all that, one might be tempted to say “fuck it” and begin a whole new lifestyle, let alone leave one’s band. But not Weedeater. They stuck it out, and the result they got in the form of Jason… the Dragon is not only a couple killer stories, but probably the best album of their career. There will always be purists and first-album-worshipers, but screw it, these guys are writing songs better now than they ever have before, and captured live by Albini, they sound thick, nasty and baked just right.
The topics of conversation should be pretty obvious given all the band put up with to get Jason… the Dragon together, but suffice it to say that there’s a reason why among all the sludge bands who’ve come along in the last decade-plus, there’s only been and only could be one Weedeater. Read on and I think you’ll get a good idea of at least part of why that is.
Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
As a dickhead Northeastern liberal college boy, my impulse when it comes to North Carolinian sludgers Weedeater is to see their dirt-worshiping malevolence as some form of high art. This held true with 2007’s excellent God Luck and Good Speed, but perhaps the drive has never been so present as it is with their latest, Jason… the Dragon. An album born of blown-off toes and broken bones, it’s Weedeater’s fourth overall, second for Southern Lord, and backed by stunning Arik Roper artwork and the formidable and live-sounding production of the venerable Steve Albini, it does a hell of a job marrying Weedeater’s aural fuck-all to a tradition of creatively naturalist Southern nihilism that goes back to Delta blues and Robert Johnson. For their part, Weedeater play that up on a song like “Palms of Opium,” where it’s mainly the drugs keeping the track from being all-out acoustic blues – frontman/bassist “Dixie” Dave Collins’ vocal delivery, though somewhat dialed back, is another key factor – and they seem to make the most out of the growing mythology of Southern metal. Whether that’s conscious or not, I haven’t a fucking clue, but for the 34-minute duration of Jason… the Dragon, it sure works.
Weedeater’s time-tested formula of “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing on NyQuil” is in full effect throughout Jason… the Dragon, and Collins’ bass drives many of the band’s plundering grooves, like that of the memorable “Long Gone” or the six-minute centerpiece title-track, noises that sound like either he or guitarist Dave Shepherd bumping a microphone popping here and there, as on earlier, faster cuts “Hammerhandle” and “Mancoon.” The aforementioned “Palms of Opium” hits as an appropriate change of pace after “Jason… the Dragon,” giving a Ween-style air of weirdness to the album where intro “The Great Unfurling,” with its sampled preaching, more or less just affirmed the overarching Southern-ness. More than the clever plays on expectation, however, what Weedeater genuinely do better on Jason… the Dragon than they’ve ever done before, is write good songs. God Luck and Good Speed had a couple standouts in its titular opener or “Dirt Merchant,” but almost across the board, Jason… the Dragon is built on a foundation of solid songwriting. To be fair, “Long Gone” and “Turkey Warlock” were included on the Crushers Killers Destroyers II compilation in 2004, but as Collins spews the lines on the latter, “Too bad, nice try/So sad, no lie/I think much less of you/But you know how I do,” in his now-trademark dry-throated rasp, it’s not just a novelty for its lack of bullshit, it’s also a catchy verse.