Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

In the words of the late, great Zacherley:

"Gather 'round creeps, gather 'round fools,
gather 'round spirits and gather 'round ghouls.

Listen to me, for I have a story,
of blackening fright and all things gory.

Of grinning pumpkins and demon cats
of wicked witches and scurrying rats.

Beistle art
They've all come together to celebrate and feast,
Larry the wolf, and Igor the beast.

For this is the night when little babies cry,
and orange mist pours from their eyes.

Monster girls and monster men,
patiently wait for the fun to begin.

What do they know that you've never seen? 
Well, I'll you my friend...

The glorious hootenanny called HALLOWEEN!"

With so many losses of horror and music icons in recent times, for the last post this year we're going to celebrate the life and legacy of yet another icon who left us for the next realm: Lemmy from MotorheadLemmy bucked the rock 'n roll odds by living fast and hard, but dying old. In his 70 years on earth, his music helped define heavy metal as a genre, his cracked voice (and face) became one of the most recognizable in rock 'n roll, and he made major contributions toward keeping the tobacco and whiskey industries in business. 

To honor him, last November Metallica released a song named after Lemmy's beloved bass amp, "Murder One." The video tells Lemmy's life story in Aeon Flux-style animation. See Lemmy get stranded in Canada by his first band Hawkwind, then have revenge sex with all his former band mates' girlfriends, and finally form the "dirtiest band in the world," just to show 'em. Clearly Lemmy was a master of the long game! Just spending five minutes in an animated version of his neon-lit, whiskey-soaked, chain smoking life feels a bit hard on the health--to make it to 70, Lemmy must've literally been larger than life.

And not to forget the legend himself, here is Motorhead's version of Ozzy's "Hellraiser," used in 1992's Hellraiser III film. In the video, Lemmy plays poker with Pinhead and (of course) outwits him. Silly Pinhead--don't you know your evil is no match for Lemmy's superhuman powers?

But don't get too sad at Lemmy's passing. It's Halloween after all, and besides, Lemmy wouldn't want it that way! When you find yourself feeling down, just take the advice of Lemmy and his good friend Big Mouth Billy Bass:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Long Way Back from Hell

You know that sad feeling when one of your favorite bands has been around for a while and they're still making music, but it's just not what it used to be? It's kind of nice that they're still making an effort, but it also feels like an effort to listen to their new stuff and not just replay the old. That's how I've felt about Glenn Danzig for a long, long time, until...

Back in skull make-up,
where he belongs.
Skeletons! Sure it's a cover album, but who cares? It's so good I think it deserves a fifth spot in the pantheon of great Danzig albums, alongside Danzig #1-4. The songs on it are what Glenn Danzig considers his "skeletons"--songs that fans may or may not have guessed he was influenced by. He takes on The Everly Brothers, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and (of course) Elvis. Even the cover of the album is a cover--it's an homage to Bowie's Pin Ups

The production on Skeletons isn't top-notch, but on at least a couple songs I think that's what Danzig was going for and it works in his favor. Both of those are themes from 60s biker films: Satan's Sadists and Devil's Angels. I love both, but to me the Devil's Angels theme sounds like a long-lost Misfits song, so that's what we're going to hear today.

Devil's Angels is a Roger Corman-produced film starring John Cassavetes as an outlaw biker in a gang called The Skulls. Originally the theme was a surfy instrumental by Davie Allan and the Arrows. Because of the lo-fi production, the lyrics are mostly unintelligible (except for a pause-for-effect "Motherfucker!"), but so it goes with many early Misfits recordings. Glenn Danzig has said he wanted to record "Devil's Angels" since 1979 and used the same arrangement he would have back then, hence its time traveling sound. 

Last year Glenn Danzig reported he'd finished recording an album of Elvis covers, so if we're lucky, maybe we'll be hearing something from that this time next year. Until then, check out "Devil's Angels" and bask with me in the Danzig-is-good-again glow! 

The original theme from Devil's Angels. No lyrics, but lots of fun, fuzzy surf pop.

Wind-fast! Death-driven! They hunt in packs like rabid dogs! Beware... the Devil's Angels!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Shamrock 'n Roll

I didn't really know the Dropkick Murphys' music when I saw them this summer with the two other bands we heard from this weekend, Rancid and The Bouncing Souls, but I liked them more than I would have guessed. They put on a fun, rowdy show, with a sizable but endearing amount of Pogues worship. 

Other than being a good live band, however, several years ago they recorded a cover of "Halloween" by The Misfits, which makes me trust their taste and also makes them relevant to our purposes here. They get the gritty, steel-edged spirit of the song right, and their Celtic inclinations tie into the ancient Celtic origins of Halloween. It isn't really Halloween without a few dozen listens to "Halloween," so check out this version, but don't forget to balance it out with the original. Happy Samhain, witches! 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Evil's my BFF

Give 'em the boot!
The second time this year that I got to see yesterday's band, The Bouncing Souls, was as part of a punk rock powerhouse tour with Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys. They played to a sold out crowd of churning mosh pits and epic mohawks in a Coney Island amphitheater this summer. Coney Island is one of my favorite places on earth at any time, but on a warm night with the boardwalk lit up, the ocean sparkling under moonlight, and some of the best punk rock to survive the 90s filling the air, it's truly magical.

Rancid's 1994 breakthrough album Let's Go came out when I was in high school, so because of some MTV exposure, they ended up passing through the small college town near where I lived in rural Virginia. They weren't my first concert, but they were my first punk show, so they will always hold a special, metal-spiked place in my heart. They've stayed together all this time, and have consistently released good albums of catchy, crunchy, politically relevant punk songs. 

Today's song comes from their 2014 album ...Honor Is All We Know. "Evil's My Friend" is more about real-world evil than anything supernaturally bad, but has some Halloween-suitable organ fills that wouldn't sound out of place in an Addams Family jam session.
 Skank, Lurch, skank!

If you're gonna scream, scream with me!

Fright Rags art
If you weren't yet convinced that hell froze over in the past year, demontrated by all the natural disasters, politcal shenanigannery, and today's arrival of an alien space rock (?!?), rest assured that the fiery pit is now in fact ice-skatable. How can I be sure? The original Misfits reunited last fall! If that isn't a sure sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is.

Sadly I wasn't lucky enough to witness either of their reunion shows, which took place in Chicago and Denver. Why not one in New York, Misfits?? You're from Jersey, for crying out loud. Don't you have to come home to get your East Coast punk cards punched every now and then? The original Misfits did recently announce they're going to do another reunion show later this year in Los Angeles, so I'm still hoping hell will get a little colder and bring a New York show down the pipeline.

More conveniently, an East Coast punk band I've loved for years but never had the opportunity to see live played New York TWICE this year! And I got to see them both times! The Bouncing Souls started out in the late 80s in New Jersey, and have been touring and recording together ever since (with just a couple of drummer swap-outs along the way). While they're known for fast and fun good-time songs that can veer toward the poppy, they have the proper amount of respect for their Jersey horror punk elders. In 2011, they recorded a cover of the original Misfits' "Hybrid Moments" on a live EP. Their version is slowed down from the original, and almost has a Roy Orbison vibe. Appropriate, since Orbison was an influence on Glenn Danzig and even recorded one of Glenn's songs a year before he died.

So sit back, flick your Bic, and enjoy this tender ballad about hybrid creatures raping faces and replicating. Who knows, with this alien space rock thing happening, this song might be reality by tomorrow.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

R.I.P. Fats

Yesterday we lost one of the great rock 'n roll pioneers, Fats Domino. He was part of the early evolution of R&B and jazz into rock 'n roll, and always put his upbeat New Orleans stamp on his music. Listening to his songs is like hearing a New Orleans jazz parade go by. The songs seem happy even when they're sad, and their boogie woogie rhythm pulls at you to get up and join the second line, even when you're listening at home by yourself.

In true New Orleans style, residents of Fats' home city have already begun to commemorate his passing with parties and musical performances of his work. Today we're going to do the same with a traditional song that Fats Domino often used as a grand finale in his shows, "When the Saints Go Marching In." In the true spirit of the song, his horn players would sometimes leave the stage to parade through the audience while playing it. 

And lest you think "When the Saints Go Marching In" isn't a Halloween-appropriate song, if you think about the actual meaning of Halloween, I'd say it's more appropriate than almost any other. Halloween originated as a celebration of the dearly departed, also known as the eve of All Saints Day. In addition to getting dressed up, eating candy, and watching horror movies, it's nice to remember the true reason for the season once in a while. Wherever Fats is marching now, he's surely leading the parade with great style and bootie-shaking rhythm. I know I'd like to be in that number one day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Little Man-eating Mermaids

This year saw the American release of the best (only?) man-eating mermaid rock opera ever made: The Lure, from Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska. It sounds weird because it is, but also gorgeous and fun.

The story is a 1980s retelling/retooling of the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale "The Little Mermaid." Two mermaids join a rock band they encounter one day on a beach. Soon they begin performing as their own act called The Lure in a nightclub. One of the mermaids falls in love with a guy in the band, while the other thirsts for blood like a good mermaid should. She proceeds to quench her thirst via a bar patron, while the other mermaid thirsts to be less fishy and more leggy. I won't give away the ending, other than to say someone turns into sea foam and someone gets to continue swimming around and eating people. Ah, fairy tales. We can always learn something from them, can't we?

Other than imaginative characters and storytelling, The Lure's sets, songs, cinematography, and costumes are a feast for the senses. But you don't have to take my word for it--just a couple of weeks ago, The Lure was released on Blu-Ray by the prestigious Criterion Collection. So if you choose, you can invite these ravishing water nymphs into your very own home! Have a look at one of their performances in the bar and see if you're brave enough to answer their siren call.