I do like a wide range of stuff. I give almost everything chances upon chances so I can ‘get it’. But there are somethings I don’t get. At. All. That’s OK, it’s my loss, not the artists or the fans. Or, their stuff has appeal to a different audience. In any event, I just don’t think I can review them fairly. So here they are; things that make me go “Hmmmm…..”
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – I went through four albums of theirs, and put one review here. As I was prepping the others, I thought that there’s not much distinguishing one from another. They’re a decent southern rock band that’s safe for radio. If that’s what you’re after, fine.
BON IVER – People are going to ask me, “What the Hell?” and I’ll say that I like my music to keep me awake on occasion, thanks.
BOWLING FOR SOUP – It’s not high school any more, guys.
THE EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND – They played heavy blues and psychedelic music. They reminded me of what would happen if Captain Beefheart kept playing the blues (they did cover “Drop Out” from the Captain’s first record). But these free festival champions’ records are incomprehensible messes for us non-stoned Yanks, and his UK hits were cheap chants.
CABARET VOLTAIRE – They went from totally art-damaged electronics to almost art-damaged electonica. Admirable for their influence, but not my cuppa joe. Still, “(Do the) Mussolini Headkick” earns them style points for the title.
CANNIBAL CORPSE – Fourteen records, and they almost all sound the same. You do you, Cannibal Corpse.
CARCASS – Well, I tried. The riffs are good, but I do not cotton to the vocals, which sound like someone belching the alphabet in the bass clef. Oh, and the song titles…yeesh. How can I put “Crepitating Bowel Erosion” on a mix tape? “I made this for you!”
COHEED & CAMBRIA – Concept albums, sure, why not? Concept groups, with multi-part albums that are part of multi-album storylines and very dense storytelling? Um, not my cuppa joe. I thought we got rid of this with Magma long, long, ago.
DEERHOOF – They’re all over the place – album to album they’re doing something different. Usually, it’s avant-garde and can test your patience. That’s why I stuck them here. But when they’re good, they’re really really good.
AYNSLEY DUNBAR RETALIATION – After John Mayall sacked him for Mick Fleetwood, Dunbar formed this group with a great name, but the only thing notable is that they were the originators of “Warning”, a track on the first Black Sabbath album. Otherwise their four albums are just fair-to-middlin’ British Blues, nothing special at all. Dunbar later drummed with almost every band in the 70’s and 80’s that needed someone to fill a chair. He and Cozy Powell probably have the longest C.V.’s of any rock drummer of that era.
EGGS OVER EASY – They have some name recognition as one of the first pub-rock bands. That doesn’t mean it’s exciting or revelatory. It means it fit in pubs where they didn’t want prog or hard rock. That’s all.
EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN – They’ve mellowed over the years, but still their mix of heavy machinery, industrial, and German ranting is incomprehenible to me, and I can hang with a lot of art damaged bands. Still, I dig “Kalte Sterne”.
FOETUS – J. G. Thirwell’s project of a million pseudonyms is staggeringly well-crafted and encompassing, but you really need a definite palate for outrage and industrial noise.
G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE – I wasn’t a fan of their amalgam of blues and rap, and I’m still not a fan of this, or him, or whatever.
GONG – In my study of rock music, the European psychedelic scene has always come up, especially as it moved towards either Krautrock or Prog or Hawkwind (their own genre, of course). Gong was always described as the hippie’s hippie music, moreso than the Incredible String Band. They’re streaming, so I threw some tracks in my library, and, well, I just don’t know what to say. They have long (multi-album) concept albums and the music is just WAAAAY to acid-damaged for me.
HAPSHASH & the COLOURED COAT – Psychedelic weirdness for weirdness sake wasn’t limited to New York and San Francisco. It’s ‘influential’, which I think means that better bands listened to this while stoned off the gourd and added some of this randomness into their songs. Maybe. Sober, I have no patience for this.
HARMONIA – A super-group of Krautrock approved by Eno. Sounds intriguing but only for the already Kraut-rock converted. Others will need time, patience, or remedial lessons.
THE HIRS COLLECTIVE – A great idea, but I’m not a fan of the whole ‘grindcore’ or however they name it.
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND – I didn’t really get Gong because it’s just way, way, too much. This is also too much, but in an acoustic way. I know they’re well regarded and have a lot of fans, but it just bores me. It’s like every hippie cliche come to life.
TERRY KNIGHT & THE PACK – “Hey, it’s the manager and two guys from Grand Funk” may pique your interest until you realize it’s the manager who sang and wrote their originals.
LE STELLE di MARIO SHIFANO – A group put together for an Italian artist, this was the rarest and most expensive Italian album in the red vinyl edition. It’s art damaged prog hooey.
LIGHTNING BOLT – It’s fun to make noise, sure. And I guess there’s something to this, but I’m at a loss to discover what that is.
MUSIC EMPORIUM – “Nam Myo Renge Kyo” sounds neat once or twice, but the band really turned itself into a psychedelic mubmo-jumbo group, complete with ‘heavy’ but ludicrious non-sequitirs, and that’s exactly what the rest of this is.
THE NEW CHRISTY MINSTRELS – See the movie A Mighty Wind. Then make your choice.
JOANNA NEWSOM – This is a personal thing. I don’t like her voice – her wild untrainable voice. I can’t get past it. The songs are great and the arrangements on Ys. are so damn great. But the voice. Please don’t revoke my critic card.
PIGFACE – The really outre avant-garde industrial stuff is, to my ears, a load of art damaged hooey.
PUSSY GALORE – Glancing at their song titles early in their career (“You Look Like a Jew”, “Fuck You, Man”, “Pussy Stomp”), they were just there to shock. Most of the band came from the suburban elite (Jon Spencer went to Brown, Julia Cafritz’ family were high society in DC) or in the boho no-wave scene. Later, they moved to more experimental but still trashy tunes, all in the name to provoke the unhip and create a ‘cool kids’ club for those who got ‘it’. There were other, actually decent, bands the evolved out of this band, but together their attempted outrage was easily foiled.
RED CRAYOLA (KRAYOLA) – The Parable of Arable Land was a freak out to the nth degree, but even my Beefheart-loving self didn’t get it. I tried. I know it’s art and all, and acid-damaged art at that. But this eludes my grasp of understanding.
SACCHARINE TRUST – Up above, I said there were going to be bands that I don’t get. This is a prime example. I admire the free-formy guitar of Joe Baiza, who was a contemporary and friend of the Minutemen, but the songs have no focus (that’s intentional, but not necessarily a good thing here), veer into and out of free jazz and post-punk without warning or reason, and vocalst Jack Brewer is one that you take or leave.
TY SEGALL – Critics love him, and he’s prolific as hell. But the sludge is sometimes too much. More research is necessary.
SIGUR ROS – Don’t be alarmed, people. I don’t get it. You may, I don’t. It’s all on me, probably.
SLIPKNOT – I’ve heard them but I don’t understand their appeal at all. Every time I hear a track by them I feel someone has trepanned me, in a bad way.
STAIND – They’re not the WORST Nu Metal band. Damn with the faint praise why don’t ya.
SUN DIAL – There are psychedelic tribute bands, and then there are bands that go whole hog. Sun Dial goes whole hog, along with wild boar, antelope, and wildebeest. A little too much art damage here.
SUNN 0))) – When you make the Melvins seem like speed metal, you’ve got turgidity down to a science. I know what they’re trying to do, and I wonder why I’d listen to it more than once, or for more than five minutes.
THEORETICAL GIRLS – The “No Wave” scene in late-70’s NYC had some arty moments and some dreadful moments. While I kinda get where they’re gunning for, it’s a chore to listen to. Glenn Branca would have better ideas later.
THROBBING GRISTLE – Important for their art, sure. Important for their influence, yes. But important doesn’t always mean listenable. And I can listen to almost anything!
RICK WAKEMAN – Never one to shy away from excess, his solo work definitely fits that bill. A suite about the wives of Henry VIII was the ‘most normal’ of his early work. He then replicated the Deep Purple experiment (more successfully), and did a work on King Arthur that was staged as a goddamn ice show on a couple of occasions. He calmed down, a bit, after that, but man, that’s a lot of pretentiousness in excelsius deo there.