Monday, February 26, 2007


Last night Bane played the Church. There is no other band that I have seen as much as them. The first Bane show I went to, about seven years ago, was as exciting, fresh and exhilarating as last night. I remember my parents wouldn't let me go to shows back then, so I lied and said I was sleeping over my friend's house. His older friend drove us up to Worcester. One King Down played. Wow. I remember the third or so time I had to lie again. I don't remember what my cover was, but the lineup was out of this world. It was at (the old) Lupos in Providence. Hatebreed, Bane, Poison the Well, Shadows Fall, What Feeds the Fire and Most Precious Blood. I remember when Hatebreed played my buddy and I were scared shitless. We went up on the balcony to watch and people were moshing up there. Huge circle pits everywhere. We used to go well out of our way for Bane shows too. Great shows in Salem, Taunton and Fall River, almost always with Reach the Sky.
Yesterday when I woke up I realized how excited I was. I can't think of a better compliment for a band than that. Over 7 years my love for Bane has not changed. It hasn't budged. Last night they opened with Count Me Out and went straight into Can We Start Again. Among others, they also played In Pieces. Oh, hell yeah.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


We were discussing semiotics in class today, and I was surprised when I understood what it means. Unknowingly, I have been thinking a lot about its basic principles lately. Though semiotics deals primarily with symbols and signs, it also includes the study of "how meaning is constructed and understood." In short, we were discussing truth. The idea is used everyday by both the Right and the Left. Many/most believe that there is one truth. One answer. In theory, Wikipedia challenges this, as a database of "truths" on particular subjects. Moreover, these "truths" are written by the public. It's strange. But what's particularly scary is how people use these universal truths when it comes to morality and religion. Beliefs that there is one way to live. One "good" way to live. One "evil" way to live. Does any one have any good sites or know any good books about this stuff?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mastodon - Blood Mountain

For most, the notion of heavy metal conjures images such as the longhaired guy in their high school chemistry class who barely spoke, and a deluded reality-TV dad who seems to have forgotten that he once fronted one of the most badass bands of all time. On the other hand Mastodon’s new record, Blood Mountain, introduces us to a whole new world of popular heavy metal.
Their major label debut establishes a land filled with ogres, dwarves and magic crystals. Wow, can things get any more lame? At first you can practically picture the band sitting around a table in one of their parents’ basements, arguing semantics about Dungeons and Dragons or Star Wars role-playing games. It just fits so perfectly; the idea of 30 year old “men” living with their parents, still fascinated by wizards and hobbits.
But then you put their music on and your perception changes completely as your ears bare witness to amazing drumming, deafening guitars and fuming vocals. Sure, Blood Mountain is a concept album concerning fantasy worlds, but they made it so convincing and cool. The album tells the story of a man in search of the Crystal Skull, which he needs to place atop Blood Mountain. During his journey he encounters numerous varieties of creatures that ultimately threaten the success of his voyage. The story is a metaphor for the journey that the band is on as they face the challenges to being new to major labels and giant tours. Once atop their mountain they will have achieved the artistic success that they strive for.
Songs such as “The Wolf Is Loose,” “Sleeping Giant” and “Hunters of the Sky” document the beings the man stumbles upon, and also the temptations and lures of fame and fortune that threaten to bring the demise of the band. The song “Crystal Skull,” perhaps the best song altogether, showcases the technical transitions in the guitars and in the bass as it often shifts from participating in the leads to simply going off in a completely different direction. Drummer Brann Dailor’s unprecedented talent often provides the leads, which is an unorthodox and original approach to drumming.
The album also features numerous special guests such as Joshua Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Isaiah Ikey Owns from The Mars Volta, and Scott Kelly from Neurosis. Homme and Kelly, on separate songs, provide their signature vocal styles. In addition, Mastodon’s records always feature instrumental prog-rock interludes, clearly influenced by bands like The Mars Volta, whose participants play a key role in the songs they appear on.
All in all, Blood Mountain is an outstanding effort from a gifted group of musicians. It becomes evident by its end that this is not a group of metal heads living in their parents’ basements, playing fantasy games. They’re just a little weird yet very creative. Come on, I know you saw and loved the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Give this a try.

These Arms are Snakes - Easter

For those familiar with Seattle’s “These Arms Are Snakes,” nothing extremely new, vital or groundbreaking will be found on their new record, Easter. The record’s production treads the same ground as their past two efforts as guitarist Ryan Fredericksen’s innovative licks continue to practically drone out singer Steve Snere’s yelps. Drummer Joe Preston, formerly of the revolutionary bands “Earth” and “the Melvins,” continues to provide excellent skilled beats and fills, constantly reminding the listener of his presence. However, if the band did indeed strive for a new sound on Easter, merely one listen undoubtedly proves that they stuck to the same formula that has defined their sound over the past few years.
Regardless of such negative comments, Easter may please old fans of the band in the argument that if they had indeed changed their sound to a discernible extent, it would probably be very dreadful. “These Arms Are Snakes,” despite their clearly idiotic band name come from a scene with a history of breeding strange, original and successful “indie” bands such as “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” “the Blood Brothers” and “Minus the Bear.” “Snakes” fits in with these bands with their use of bizarre and often meaningless lyrics, (if anyone can explain the meaning of the lines, “What was found on the wall was written by a third grader and read “I was found like molten rats in your city unkept,” I’ll take it all back.) Also assisting in their strange persona are keyboards, their tendency to tour with pioneering bands such as “Isis” and “Planes Mistaken for Stars,” and their secret weapon in guitarist Ryan Fredericksen. Prior to “Snakes” Fredericksen played in the seminal math-core band “Botch,” famous for pioneering a heavy sound with precise and uncanny time signatures somewhat similar to that of “the Dillinger Escape Plan.”
While tracks from Easter such as “Child Chicken Play,” “Lady North” and “Crazy Woman Dirty Town” (there are those horrible lyrics again) do indeed explore new melodies musically; others fall short in such endeavors. Two songs, “Subtle Body” and “Corporeal” each run between six and seven minutes. It’s not the length of these songs that kill them; it is the fact that they drag on, quite literally, without anything happening. In the band’s two efforts prior to Easter there are likewise two songs on each record that run anywhere from five minutes to eight minutes. These songs however do not bore the listener as the new ones do. Their centerpieces are incredible crescendos that erupt in violence and fury by their ends, most notably in “Drinking From the Necks of the Ones You Love.”
It seems as if “These Arms Are Snakes” have backed themselves into a corner with their music and are left to write the same songs over again, without the emphasis on originality that made them so remarkable in the first place. Unfortunately with Easter many people will be hearing the band for the first time and hopefully will not be turned off by the record. This band is excellent, both live and on their previous records. Don’t let their mistake with this record ruin your perception of them, even if with future efforts they do prove to be a band of the past.

TVotR -Return to Cookie Mountain

Prior to the release of their new record Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio, one of the most original bands of recent memory, was at a crossroads. They immediately garnered critical acclaim with their first releases, demonstrating influences as diverse as the Beach Boys and Gang of Four, along with hip-hop. Their last offering, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, while fresh and innovative, was too dense for its own good. Its nine tracks did not allow for a healthy progression in the record as a whole. Instead the songs each stood out as individuals rather than comprising a full developed record. On their major label debut however, their comfort level is obvious as they flow though 11 songs with such ease it’s a wonder why they aren’t the biggest band in the world.
The record opens with “I Was a Lover,” which features a deeply orchestrated sound often interrupted, in a very stunning way, by walls of noise. The song begins with a laid back hip-hop beat before the gorgeous textures of instruments and harmony flow though it. Then said noise breaks right in. It is unapologetic and brash, yet invigorating as it threatens to literally block out the rest of the music, which at that point has moved from centerpiece to background.
The vocals have always been the most refreshing part of TvotR. The band thrives on vocal synchronizations that take the Beach Boys’ harmonies and dresses them up in haunting imagery and tones. Though this dark, moody and invigorating style of harmony is present throughout the entire record, it flourishes like never before on “Wolf Like Me.” This is by far their best song to date. It opens with a single driving beat and gloomy synthesizers, which at first could be misheard as an opening for a more artsy Nine Inch Nails song, a band who they toured with this summer along with Bauhaus. By the time the vocals cut in the song is pushed farther and farther into a beautiful melody. Lyrically the song illustrates tension as they sing, “Got a curse I cannot lift, Shines when the sunset shifts, When the moon is round and full, Gotta bust that box gotta gut that fish.” Perhaps representing their apprehension on a major label, the brilliance of the song proves that they won.
Featuring an impressive guest vocalist on “Province,” it becomes clear that it only makes sense that David Bowie is on the record. As a figure that represents the fundamental basics of art and originality, he works well with TvotR, who have shown that they are worthy of carrying the same torch. With “A Method,” a simple doo-wop influenced song; the listener can practically see the band standing on the corner of Broad and Olney in 1950 doing the song, snapping their fingers and drawing spectators.
Such lavish atmosphere resounds though out Return to Cookie Mountain. Like past efforts, this one features density, but the patience in the record along with their lengths, makes it work. They have, undoubtedly, succeeded.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Music of 2006

I have finally gotten around to organizing my ideas and opinions of music in 2006. To get right to the point, the year seemed to be in limbo between 2005 and 2007. Many great bands/records came out and will come out in those years. Thus, 2006 served as a year writing those records and touring on them.

For example, 2005 saw new releases from Against Me!, My Morning Jacket, Broken Social Scene and Sleater Kinney. 2007 will see releases from Wilco, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire. Big bands that came out with new material last year included Mastodon, Built to Spill, Sonic Youth and Belle & Sebastian. Are these bands of the same caliber? Yes, but their efforts did not seem to be as strong. MMJ's 2005 record, "Z," was one of their best releases in their history. Sonic Youth's 2006 record, "Rather Ripped," though good, was rather just like their last two records. Sleater Kinney's 2005 record, "The Woods," again, found itself amongst their top three records of all time. Belle & Sebastian's 2006, "The Life Pursuit," was a dissapointment, especially when placed next to their 2005 compilation, "Push Barman to Open Old Wounds."

2007, so far, holds much promise. Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible," is absolutely amazing. Already my candidate, in February!, for album of the year. The Good, the Bad & the Queen put out a stellar eponymous debut. Released tracks from upcoming records by Jesu and Wilco show considerable promise.

2006 did have a lot of nice surprises, however. With hesitation, here is my list for "top records of 2006." There are 11 here because I heard 11 records that deserved it. Not enough to warrant a dwindling down to 10. Sad.

11. Tragedy - Nerve Damage
10. Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
9. Isis - In the Absence of Truth
8. Boris - Pink
7. Converge - No Heroes
6. Built to Spill - You in Reverse
5. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
4. Planes Mistaken For Stars - Mercy
3. Thom Yorke - The Eraser
2. Tom Waits - Orphans
1. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

There were too many dissapointments on the year. Flaming Lips "At War with the Mystics" worked too hard to accomplish its goal of "Yoshimi Part II." Pretty Girls Make Graves "Elan Vital" had three decent tracks on it, namely "The Nocturnal House." And what is it with all the critics blowing "The Hold Steady?" Those dudes are empty.

Musically, 2006 was best remembered by me for getting into new bands/obsessing over old ones even more. It was the year I picked up the Trojan Records Box Set of Dub. The year I obsessed over Elvis Costello, Isis and Dylan even more. The year I picked up The Velvet's "White Light/White Heat." It was also the year I got into Nick Cave. Those are much more memorable than my list.

So, here's to 2007!