Monday, February 18, 2008

SLUDGE IN THE 70s: Recent cost effectives

US still not quite ready for shemale-fronted metal band in 2008.

The Toilet Boys Sex Music, allegedly a final stand, one last hurrah of material leftover from a project that wasn't finished a couple years ago. Does it sound like leftovers?


Actually, it sounds better than their last studio album which fell slightly flat in energy and songwriting after a big build-up resulting from an EP called Living Like a Millionaire. In any case, Sex Music delivers the immediately recognizable NYC punk metal sound, heavy on a Ramones/Dictators/Plasmatics vibe.

In 2001, I rated their last studio (self-titled) album:
While Miss Guy has no great talent for high-energy rock vocals, the imprecation in his delivery saves him. Close your eyes, eliminating the stagy imagery of someone shaking his bloomers at the audience while baring a physique somewhere between Cherie Currie and Gwen Stefani, and the Toilet Boys work anyway as a garagey metal band that makes great use of drama through volume and block riffing.

For Toilet Boys, the songs are glee club zum klo anthems and football cheers to rock mythology, vintage glam cliché sold by brute conviction. Guy loves the word whore — he's my whore on Money Street, my rock 'n' roll whore; yes sir, send us a pair of panties that somehow slipped off in the back of your stretch limo, please? (I mean it! The pair from an Alice Cooper album went missing decades ago.) "Hollywood" is a hooky tune that makes the compounds and cement wastelands of Los Angeles sound better than the reality. "Saturday Nite" is not a Bay City Rollers song, but could be a Sweet thing. Someone should also introduce these fellows to Suzi Quatro's "Can the Can" — they're born for it.

Entirety at the Village Voice here.

"Astrological" is the catchiest number on Sex Music, becoming the best pop song in The Toilet Boys catalog. Miss Guy, who still can't sing well is used well, buried in great-sounding reverb employed to make a bit of tonelessness sound like the conveyance of ennui. Good voices are frequently somewhat overrated for rock 'n' roll, anyway, and this is one of those times. Plus the band throws in a mellotron backing track for color.

"Carbona Not Glue," a Ramones cover, is also included. The remainder is much better than fair and Debbie Harry of Blondie kicks off the CD with a recommendation.

Despite tours with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other heavyweights, The Toilet Boys never seemed to get traction in the US. Blame the presentation, simultaneously way ahead of and behind the times: Transexual fronting a band that was seemingly big fans of Kiss.

If you're going to name your album The Power of Rock and Roll in 2007-2008, it better deliver. This does.

Helix is only Helix insofar that Brian Vollmer was the throat and focus of the band. Axeman Paul Hackman died years ago but he'd be proud of the everlasting effort.

Helix were Canadians, always on undercards in the US hinterlands. Saw 'em a bunch at the Airport Music Hall in Allentown and as dependable and dedicated jobbers they never failed to entertain. Helix's Wild In the Streets album was great mid-Eighties party rock, capable of competing with the vibe given off by Mutt Lange Def Leppard.

This album is more punch your face. The delivery is still Eighties but the production is old school. Gone is the shine and gated reverb, replaced with mid-70's semi-rawness and blooz. The title track is top fuel and nothing's below 110 beats/minute for the duration of the record.

The best thing is that its eleven songs in just over half an hour. Each number is 2:30-3:30 of direct rock and roll. No fussing around trying to prove something through delivery of social commentary or angst, just dragstrip drive and a cloud of dust. "Get Up," "Living Life Large," "Fill Your Head with Rock" and the title track furnishing the general idea, showing those looking for messages and sensitivity the door. Do what you know best and so Brian Vollmer did. He and his band of ringers aren't giving up on the Canadian hockey barn fighting crowd and neither should you give up on Helix.

"You have the best seat in the house," Allison Robertson told the Donnas' newest little groupie guy back at the tourbus.

DD missed The Donna's Bitchin' late last year. However, thanks to availability at firesale, they sound like they took good advice after two records of fiddling with a major label.

Thanks to the wayback machine, we read of The Donnas' Spend the Night in 2002:
Altie title for the Donnas' latest: She's Got to Be a Macho Girl, after a piece in The New York Times about high school girls said to be ravening fuck monsters bent on raiding the panties of boys nationwide.

Lyrically, about half of Spend the Night is kinda in line with a "let's have sex now, sissy man who drinks mai tais" 'tude. According to the Times, that would make the Donnas part of something called Generation Slut. But if so, I'm Ernest Hemingway — it's a put-on. Donnas riffs, though, are a different matter: convincingly hot forearm smash. And if Brett Anderson sounds like she's rolling her eyes or stifling yawns before the "Honey, please"s in "Take Me to the Backseat," it doesn't wreck anything.

Their guitars and drums speak louder than their words, and the Donnas are ready to go Priestly Turbo if they want to stay metal-poppy, Point of Entry if they shed mixing-board nuisance Chris Lord-Alge. (Didn't anyone ever tell ya, ladies, to scorn all with royalty in their name? C'mon, you know I'm right.)

On the outro of "Five O'Clock in the Morning," guitarist Allison Robertson lets her inner wanker out to roam the room. It could be the shape of things to come. And since in a few years the Donnas are gonna look like a distaff Rose Tattoo, they might as well ditch the ditsy-girls-at-a-slumber-party imagery — it doesn't fit the ampage — and go right to lumpy leather dirtbag now.

As it turns out, Bitchin' is Spend the Night's future. The Donnas have stopped trying to be girly-girls in packaging. Girlschool took a similar tack. Lumpy leather dirtbags first, they took seriously the advice of major labels, trying to look like something they weren't, pretty girls, for a couple of records. Eventually they went back to denim and leather for the closeout of the career. It's a history everyone lives to repeat.

Bitchin' is lots of anthemic rock music with groove, handclaps and 'na-na-na's, songs about getting paralytically drunk, something all British fans would certainly get behind. Credit the groove exploding off the sticks of Torry Castellano as the ace-in-the-hole on this one. Her swing is faultless. Guys no longer do this stuff so well and shame on us for it.

If a song called "Here for the Party" telegraphs its title, is it evil? Not if you actually bring the party. "Save Me" is also worth a bullet point. It captures the hit sound of Def Leppard exactly. Before the singing comes in, you can't tell it's not the Brit band for its recreation of the patented arena-rock-in-a-box riff. Best song in the set.

Big pro wrestling fans when it was on local cable and no one wanted to buy advertising. Ross the Boss (far left) is smirking because he knew he was laying down the best electric guitar in show business, buddy boy!

The Dictators' Every Day is Saturday rewards the nutty rock and roll fans who actually heard the jokes on the band's debut, Go Girl Crazy, and liked them. Thirty-three years ago.

It packages up the demo made under for CBS/Epic before The Dictators had played one live show. It clinched a record deal and under the guidance (and the term's used loosely) of Blue Oyster Cult's management, the band went into the studio and cut Go Girl Crazy, a flop of still astounding proportion.

The cover of Go Girl Crazy was a scene DD knew well -- locker room in a dingy and beat-up high-school with some shmuck, "secret weapon" Handsome Dick Manitoba, showing off an old-timey wrestling uniform. Yes, kids and adults, we did wear uniforms that looked THAT awful. The only thing we didn't have was the piece of brownish paper, the one with "Maricon!" scribbled on it, tacked on the wall.

Inspirational lyrics, from "Master Race Rock" -- remember this is 1974 and such songs just weren't done, classic rock being business of the most serious kind: "We're the members of the master race! Got no tact and we got no grace. First you put your sneakers on, goin' outside to have some fun! Don't forget to wipe your ass, oh no!" Set to a guitar riff that kills.

Every Day is Saturday is a must-buy for those who loved Go Girl Crazy.

Colleague Metal Mike Saunders alerted me to the album's arrival and we'll let him fill in the rest:
[Every Day is Saturday] starts with the 1973 5-song CBS tape, which was always by five miles The Dictators' best sounding performances/recording, along with the original demo of "16 Forever" right before Elektra/Asylum dropped them to press up more Andrew Gold LPs.

"Backseat Boogie" is obviously the lead track of an album or set opener onstage. If they never opened a live set with it, they were just plain retarded.

[The] 1973 CBS demo is my favorite American rock and roll live-in-the-studio performance. (OK, the vocals were dubbed, but NOT the leads. It's Ross the Boss in live-time and the best he ever played on tape. "Barefoot Louie," the drummer, was perfect for a young slightly raggedy band, since he's ragged on tempos and drum rolls but with lots of drive, pushing the tempos just like Ross does on every single note and chord.

State of the art rock 'n' roll as teen life. The inside of every high school locker room dump from Shenandoah to Mahanoy City ca. 1975. Bought it at once!


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