Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back to the grind(house)!

"Zombie Dance" by Aaron Fernandez
My coffin lid just flew open, so that can mean only one thing--all of the sickeningly rotten, frighteningly unholy, and thrillingly sleazy songs that I've kept ripening in the dirt all year are ready to be released! As anyone who has read this blog in past years will know, the ceremony always begins with a Cramps song, and this year is no different.

"Zombie Dance" comes from the band's classic first album, Songs the Lord Taught Us, and tells the tale of a pre-Thriller zombie shindig, where Ben and Betty can tap their toes all night long and never get sweaty. Do they give a damn, though? Hell no, they're done dead already! Get ready to do the swim face down, kiddies, cuz this ain't your momma's monster mash...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

What is the awesomest part about flying across the country on Halloween? Is it that the stewardesses pass out fun-size candy bars to everyone on the plane at six in the morning? That people in the airport are dressed like clowns and witches and TSA officers? (Well, I guess that last one makes sense.) That I gained three more hours of Halloween when I reached Los Angeles? All of these things are pretty fantastic, but the best, most awesomest part of this Halloween is that in just a few hours, I'll be seeing Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark herself, do her stage show at Knott's Scary Farm!

Elvira did many Halloween shows at Knott's throughout the 80s and 90s, but in 2001 she and the park's new management disagreed over her contract and she hadn't done a show there since. Until now! The photos and video footage of her new show, Sinema Seance, look amazing, and I can't wait to see it in person! Here's hoping she revives the old pastie routine from the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark movie.

So what is this Halloween's most special non-"Monster Mash" song? Well, of course it has to come from Elvira. As luck would have it, she just released a new 7" on Jack White's Third Man label, featuring two songs written by Fred Schneider of the B-52s: "2 Big Pumpkins" and "13 Nights of Halloween." The packaging is super-cool--the record is pressed on purple vinyl and the sleeve is heat reactive, so when heat is applied to the Elvira-shaped black blobs on the front and back, her image is revealed. 

As luck would not have it, though, it took so long to get the packaging complete that after releasing the record for a day, Third Man decided to pull it and release it next Halloween instead. I was one of the lucky ones who ordered the album the day it was released, so I currently have one in my hot little hands, but you'll have to wait until next year to hear the songs on this blog. Until then, here's my all-time favorite Elvira song, from her 1994 Halloween compilation Elvira Presents Monster Hits. The monster roll-call at the end always gives me the warm fuzzies--they're the monsters I adore, full of blood and guts and gore! They make me wanna scream and holler, more and more and more and aaaaahhhhhh!

Now get out there and wreak some havoc, I know I'm going to. And until we meet again next year, can't we all try a little harder to make every day more like Halloween? Remember, it's not just about the candy and the costumes and the monsters and the mischief... oh wait, yes it is. It's exactly about all those things. Anyway, Happy Halloween and STAY SICK!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nativity in Black

What if the devil fell in love and decided to clean up his act? Surely out of all the bands out there, he would most appreciate Black Sabbath telling his story, as they did in "N.I.B." on their self-titled 1970 debut album. They took their name from a Boris Karloff horror film called Black Sabbath after guitarist Tony Iommi noticed people lining up around the block to pay to be scared, and with that revelation, music history was forever changed for the darker. Black Sabbath basically defined heavy metal as a genre, with its sludgy tempos, tuned-down guitars, and lyrics dealing with horror/occult themes. 

While heavy metal lore has long held that "N.I.B." stands for "Nativity in Black," and three Black Sabbath tribute albums have been released with that name, the writer of the song, bassist Geezer Butler, swears it was a nickname for their drummer Bill Ward, whose beard looked like a pen nib. The song's storyline is unambiguous, though: "My name is Lucifer," Ozzy wails in the verses, "please take my hand." 

Even though many of Sabbath's songs deal with scary stuff, however, most are scary in much more realistic ways than "N.I.B." Songs such as "Children of the Grave," "War Pigs," and "Paranoid," are about non-violent revolution, the horrors of war, and mental instability. Their lyrics often shared peace-loving sentiments with the hippie/folk culture, but the head-on way they faced the despair and menace they saw in the world peeled away flower power's cheerful veneer and unveiled its angry underside.

After releasing eight classic albums, the band gave Ozzy the boot in 1979 because of his drug abuse and he went on to a stellar solo career. Black Sabbath continued with various singers and musicians, but in recent years, the original line-up has reunited for shows and just released their first studio album with Ozzy since 1979, titled 13. Forty-plus years ago, who would've thought these scruffy guys from Birmingham singing a love song about the devil would still be making music together today, or that they would've changed the course of music history? But they are, and they did.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Aquabats vs. Hot Topic!

Hard to believe it's almost the end of this year's Halloweek! October has flown by on leathery bat wings, but it's not over yet--still two more days of hell to raise until the big day, and I plan to celebrate right up until the end. In fact, I'll be traveling to a different time zone on Thursday just to have the longest (and best?) Halloween ever! More on that adventure later, though.

After traveling back in time over the last few days to relive the gloomiest glory days of goth, I thought it would be a good idea to get out the cold cream today and wash off the pancake make-up. I mean, looking undead is great and all, but let's face it--if you don't take off the white face every now and then, you'll get zits. So if the songs from the past few days have made your lust for the funereal get a little out of hand, today's song is offered as an antidote.

"Fashion Zombies" by the Aquabats comes from their 2005 album Charge!! and spins a cautionary tale of what happens when you only shop at Hot Topic. Lest you be offended by the band's depiction of goths, however, keep in mind that this missive is coming from a group of paunchy adult men who dress in skin-tight superhero costumes and go by names like "MC Bat Commander" and "Eagle 'Bones' Falconhawk." 
The Aquabats started out in 1994 as a ska band, but in the years since, their sound has evolved to incorporate punk, New Wave, surf, and other influences. Since March of last year, they have even starred in their own children's TV show called The Aquabats! Super Show!, which is based on the band's superhero mythology and follows in the footsteps of other great children's variety shows, like Sid and Marty Kroft and Pee-Wee's Playhouse. 

The video for "Fashion Zombies" gives a good feel for the band's child-friendly but adult-clever style. Is it wrong that I love this song but also own most of the clothing items lambasted in its lyrics? Aquabats, you have divided my black little heart against itself.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trick or treat, the bitter and the sweet...

...and in the case of "Halloween" by Siouxsie and the Banshees, mostly bitter. She wears her silence like a mask, her memories like a shroud, and murmurs like a ghost--oh 1981 goth, how gloriously brooding you were!

"Halloween" comes from one of Siouxsie and the Banshees' masterwork albums, Ju Ju, which helped define goth as a genre. At the same time, however, the band denied the goth label: "Gothic in its purest sense is actually a very powerful, twisted genre," Siouxsie Sioux said, "but the way it was being used by jouralists--'goff' with a double 'f'--always seemed to me to be about tacky harum scarum horror, and I find that anything but scary. That wasn't what we were about at all."

Well, I'm all for tacky harum scarum horror, but certainly the image of haunting memory that the band presents in this song is scarier than red devils or the dancing undead. The band's artistry and seriousness have stood the test of time--they stayed together for twenty years, from 1976 to 1996, and have been a major influence on a vast array of musicians, from Morrissey to the Scissor Sisters. Much of the reason for that is Siouxsie Sioux herself, whose art punk style and vocals have made her one of the most iconic frontwomen in all of rock. Here she is gazing at you with her scorpion eyes!

R.I.P. Lou Reed

To honor the passing of the great Lou Reed, Sunday's post is pre-empted by a re-posting of a song of his used last year called "Halloween Parade." He was something, to be sure, and will be greatly missed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hot metal and methadrine.

Who's got two thumbs and is using them to paint her nails black tonight and put on cat eye make-up? This girl! Yes, it's back to the old good ol' goth days for me this weekend, so it's fitting that today's song was written for one of the founding ladies of goth, bassist Patricia Morrison.

Morrison was in several punk and goth bands in the 70s and 80s, and joined The Sisters of Mercy in the mid-80s. The band's singer and songwriter, Andrew Eldritch, said he thought of her as a Lucrezia Borgia-type person, so he wrote "Lucretia, My Reflection" with her in mind. The song concerns a society's downfall and contains a repeated entreaty from Eldritch for Lucretia to dance the ghost with him. 

The Sisters of Mercy formed in the late 70s and were part of the first wave of goth. Although none of the original members remain besides Eldritch, he continues to tour under The Sisters of Mercy name. They were always a bit more rock-n-roll than many other early goth bands, and "Lucretia, My Reflection," with its dystopian lyrics and mechanical beat, became a big influence on industrial music that followed. Patricia Morrison wanders through an urban wasteland in the song's video, which with its grinding machinery and her Victorian goth style is almost a steampunk how-to: