Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shiny Death

In my never ending search for dirtier rock n roll, my wanderings took me through the east end of Toronto and a walk through the 80s. Somewhere between a haze of jager, long hair and ridiculous, you'll find the Diemonds.

Drawing on equal parts Motley Crue, G'nR, and Scorpions, Diemonds create enough dirty, fuzzed out insanity to last at least 4 or 5 bands.  For a band I'd barely heard of before this week, they boast an impressive resume.  Their 2008 release, In the Rough, received massive critical acclaim, including being named as one of Classic Rock Magazine's best albums of 2009 (ok, they were a touch slow).  They've played CMW, NXNE, Halifax Pop Explosion, and even been one of the few North American rock bands to tour India.  Rumors are churning that they're set to release their second full length this summer.

The sound of this band speaks for its self.  While drawing heavily on 80s glam and hair bands, Diemonds are still unquestionably innovators.  They pull no punches about what they're doing, and I for one can't wait to see this hurricane live on stage.

Note: You can find them at this year's NXNE, playing Parts & Labour on June 18.

-Here's a little piece of my mind, it gets better with time

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A May too good to hide

I would love to show you some fantastic new music today, however, there is far too much news which you need to be made aware of.

First, I gotta give a shout out to one of the greatest metalheads to ever grab a mic.  Ronnie James Dio, who replaced Ozzy as the frontman for Sabbath, passed away on Sunday of Stomach cancer.  Could this have been due to years of substance abuse?  Possibly.  Would it have all still been worth it?  Probably.

Second, the Mango Kid, Mr. Danko Jones has released the video "Full of Regret", the first single off his upcoming album, Below the Belt.  I think now that Lemmy and Elijah Wood are appearing in his videos, we don't need to consider Danko an indie artist anymore.

Also tossing out a new video today is Trent Reznor's new project, How to Destroy Angels. Surprise, surprise; it's really bloody weird!

On the new release front, one of my favorite bands, The Black Keys, officially unveil their new album, Brothers, today.  Sea of Cowards, the new installment from The Dead Weather was released last Tuesday.  The Deftones also unleashed Diamond Eyes to the world just last week.  Though you'll have to be a bit more patient (next Tuesday), Stone Temple Pilots will be giving you the gift of their first studio album in 9 years.

Bad Religion fans, rejoice. The group has recently recorded, and just released a free live album in honour of their 30th year together.  All you need to do is visit their website and provide an email address for them to spam.  Who would have thought that a handful of white guys could find 30 years of material on social responsibility to sing about?

Yet amongst all of this, perhaps the most exciting news (for me at least) is that one of my favorite bands of all time, Big Sugar, is reuniting.  While Gordie has been good and busy with his project down south, Grady, he has apparently missed the company of Mr. Cool and the crew of reggae'd out blues cats.  They're touring this summer, so check their page to see if they come near you.

And that's all I have for you today.  Expect some more good news on Thursday and, as always, enjoy hump day.

-I must admit to past discretions and future temptations for pages to be turned

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Them Crooked Vultures Live

Over the years, I've seen more live shows than your average roadie and like many addicted to the stage, I've grown to hate stadium gigs. Live music is about emotion, engagement and connection between the artist and the audience. There's something about a room big enough to house an airplane and a sea of people large enough to create and orgy that would make Caligula blush which destroys any potential connection which the music could make. Joshua Homme, front man for Them Crooked Vultures, was out to prove me wrong.

...but we'll get to that.

Since this was my first review for Toronto Music Scene and I wanted to show that I am a constant professional, I missed the opening band, Alberta Cross, due to an argument between myself and a case of beer. However, David from Hamilton, who was sitting directly in front of me, informed me that the band was very 'missable'. My review of David is that he was a rather tall, broad-shouldered man in his late 20s who had a genuine look to him, so I feel as though we can trust his judgment.

I stumbled through the gates of the ACC as Hamilton's Arkells were getting their set going. The Arkells are a fantastic group who I have seen a number of times, mostly at the 'shoe. I first saw them at CMW '08, and since that time, they have obviously been doing alright for themselves. In front of thousands, the boys did everything right; they put on a high energy, entertaining, tight set featuring all their well known hits. However, try as they might, the Arkells were unable to overcome the painfully large gap between myself and the stage. I have loved this band live in the past, yet for my money, I could have been watching a youtube video of the set. I really think that certain bands just don't have the sound to pull off a venue that big.

Other bands were born to captivate thousands. Them Crooked Vultures don't just fall into that category, they define it. One could argue that given TCV's resume, it's almost as though they're cheating, but no one ever read me the rules of rock n roll. For all my love of the Foo Fighters, I'll be the first to admit that Dave Grohl is in his true element behind a drum kit. The man was born to hit things, and to hit them exceptionally, ear-shatteringly hard. Multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones was precisely what I expected. Considering that the man basically defined modern rock, no one should be surprised that he continues to innovate and blow minds with every gig. The only thing that surprised me about JPJ is that he still rocks harder than 99% of the music community, even at the age of 66. There is a reason why this man is revered as a god.

However, though he may be the least experienced of the three (which is like saying he's the poorest millionaire) singer/guitarist Joshua Homme is what really holds this force of a band together. At times, mistaking himself for a lounge crooner, Homme's sexy, cool demeanor brings one of the greatest super groups ever created down to earth and makes the audience feel like they could be listening to the Vultures jam in a tiny dive bar.

Opening with the epic Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I, the Vultures only slowed down to remind us that in addition to being one of the heaviest rock bands on the planet, they are also some of the most talented musicians. Jones held the entire arena in a drug like haze with a bluesy piano solo. Homme's guitar solos ripped through the air like he was making sweet love up and down his frets. Even touring guitarist Alain Johannes had a instrumental aside which I think was worth the price of admission. At the end of the day, Grohl was always there to bring the crowd to their feet, or when he felt like it, their knees.

Mixing in a few teasers of new material alongside now famous songs, my only complaint about their set was that I could have listened to this band play for another hour or six. If I had things my way, the only thing I would ever see in the ACC again is the leafs getting their asses handed to them. However if Them Crooked Vultures are back in town, count me in, regardless of what stage they choose to annihilate.

Originally published on Toronto Music Scene

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dig into your spirit

It's been a while since I've dug up some gold from the past. In my dire hunt through modern music, I often forget to stop and listen to the classics like Zeppelin, Cream, or even lesser-known, new finds, such as Spirit.

Spirit was a California group brought together by Mr. Randy California (such an original name).  While they've flown well under my own radar (which basically means my father's radar) in fact, various configurations of the Spirit lineup played with Hendrix, Taj Mahal and Zeppelin.  They played together on and off through the 60s, 70s and 80s, however had a number of break ups and reunions due to big egos and the usual rock n roll bullshit.

What I care about is the fantastic sound.  Like so many 60s and 70s era bands, Spirit found a perfect way of blending jazz with hard rock, prog and blues.  It must have been the acid.  Every time I rediscover a band like this, I really think that I was born in the wrong decade.

-Tonight I wanna get up to no good

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creative Devils

Trent Reznor has never been known as a quiet man, so the fact that he's been able to shut up and build hype around his latest project, How to Destroy Angels, should tell us something about his commitment, or excitement to this project.  After flip flopping between NIN being finished, and still producing enough work to score a cricket match, Reznor has finally shown signs of a life outside of the Nails.

Perhaps also showing his commitment to a new direction, or a new goal with music, HTDA features his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, as well as English composer/producer Atticus Ross.  While interviews with Reznor have all tried to shift Angels' sound away from NIN, the sound is unmistakably Reznor.  Still, one can detect a different approach, likely due to the addition of new minds attempting to steer the project away from Reznor's dark, little, creepy world.

The first single, A Drowning, has been released, however, the song isn't all that good.  I prefer so far to hold some hope in the brief, minute long studio clips released on their website.

-If we're born moving forward, do we move backwards when we're still?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Virtuoso Twins of Unknown Origin

File today's post under odd. After taking a lazy month, I went on a crusade (for the strength of the great Roman Empire, of course) for new music this week. I found a project that I'm still not 100% sure I like, or that I even get for that matter, but really want to.

The release in question belongs to a joint effort between Omar Rodriguez Lopez (of Mars Volta, At the Drive In) and John Frusciante (of RHCP fame).  Before Frusciante left the chili peppers, he had collaberated with Omar on a number of his solo projects (of which there are countless).  The two apparently hit it off and decided to do a joint EP.  Frusciante will also be featured on the next Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet album.

Like I said, I'm still trying to place this one and with these two, you can make a pretty safe bet that it's strange.  The album is completely instrumental and even then, almost entirely guitars (with only a few drum samples present on 2 tracks).  A latin feel shines through the tracks, however, not without a dark, mysterious overtone, indicative of both guitarist's styles.  The closest comparison I can make this entire album to is the brief, mellowed out transitions made on Mars Volta albums between cacophonic walls of sound.  The style and sound are almost unmistakably Lopez, yet it has an emotion and softness I'd never heard before from the prog king.

The nice part is that it is available as a pay-what-you-can download, with proceeds going to the "Keep Music in Schools" foundation.  So, if you're a little aprehensive, you don't have to shell out much to take a listen.

-You look out the window just to stare at your reflection

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Roman Tragedy

After a month of my project which involved simply posting whatever video I was in the mood to listen to (read: me being lazy) I'm going to be shifting ES back to the norm of new music recommendation and concert reviews. Fortunately, a lot can happen in a month and while I was busy verbally drooling all over the internet through April, I assure you, I was also up to no good. Specifically, that no good landed me as one of Toronto Music Scene's newest contributors. I'll be providing concert reviews for TMS which is the polite way of saying that I get free tickets to all kind of shows and you don't.

In the meantime, it's been a while since I've brought something new your way. Since I'm a jerk, I've saved a band which Andrea introduced me to for the time which she is in China and has limited internet access. She's been hounding me to start mentioning some of her favorite bands, so I'll gladly do it when she's not around to see or take credit. It was even her birthday yesterday.

Man, I really am a jerk.

Alas, allow me to introduce Titus Andronicus. This Jersey based quartet has been playing together since 2005, with a number of lineup changes.  In that time, they've released a handful of EPs, splits and 7", in addition to two full length albums.  2008's The Airing of Grievences  was a massive breakthrough for them and their second album, The Monitor, was released just recently.

TA is the epitome of an American indie band.  Following in the footsteps of The Boss (both musically and conceptually), Titus has created a gritty, blue collar, almost punk rock, almost indie sound which is massively complex, yet still easily accessible by the lowest common denominator.  They write epic rock anthems which sometimes knock on the door of 10 minutes long.  The tunes, however, don't come across as prog, but more as rock movements which blend together, almost like mini-albums within each track.

I was dumb enough to miss them playing with Hollerado at one of my favorite venues in Toronto, but be sure to see me there at their next gracing of the city of bovine (hog town for those who still aren't used to my inane ramblings).

-I'm downside up looking in a mirror which reflects what I want to see