Friday, February 27, 2009

What if... Part I

Billy and the Banshees

Billy Idol joins Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1976 as the lead singer (obviously before the band was named) but leaves in 1977 to join Chelsea, a run-of-the-mill punk UK punk band of the time. He befriends Chelsea guitarist Tony James and they both leave the band to start their new project, Generation X. Would Billy have taken the Banshees anywhere close to where Siouxsie has?

Phil Collen joins Iron Maiden

Phil grew up with Maiden’s original singer Paul Di’Anno. The two became friends at age six and often talked about playing together someday. Phil was more interested in being in glam bands and later Def Leppard (you decide what kind of band they are besides BAD). Could you imagine Collen shredding up the stage with Eddie shooting fire over his receding blonde dome? What else would have happened if he joined? Would Nicko McBrain be missing an arm? Would my dad blast Powerslave instead of Hysteria?!

Lake Palmer
and Hendrix?!

In the early days of ELP, before the “P” was established (and Carl Palmer asked to join), Emerson and Lake sought out a creative drummer. They first approached Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Mitchell put them on to Hendrix (who had recently expressed interest in new experimental instruments and sounds. Unfortunately Hendrix died shortly after this supergroup consideration, but the rumor is that in the final minutes, Palmer was asked to join as well and the band was to be called H.E.L.P.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Punk Drummers Who Paved the Way

Bill Stevenson - (The Descendents/ ALL/ Black Flag/ Only Crime/ The Lemonheads)

Stevenson is credited as one of the founding fathers of punk drumming. His influence not only spans the last few decades of pop punk drumming, but also contributes to a twenty-six year career as a song writer and producer. His style ranges from a rudimentary four/four style to a powerfully consistent and sometimes complex “drum-rolling” lead technique.

Brendan Canty - (Rites of Spring/One Last Wish/Insurrection/Happy Go Licky/Deadline/Fugazi)

One of the more passionate drummers out there, Canty’s style was like no other. Combining Jazzy rhythms with experimental punk beats, Canty’s execution was as strong as his creativity. Most notable for his signature “Liberty Bell” and interesting kit arrangement, Canty rarely left any piece of his set unattended to. He has worked with countless musicians over the years and even produced the already legendary Burn To Shine Series. Recent works can be found in his soundtrack work on cable television’s TLC and Discovery channel.

Tommy Ramone - (The Ramones)

Not surprisingly the last surviving member of the band, Tommy is the Ramone who had and still has it together, and it shows clear as day in his playing. His drumming was smart, tight, and perfectly complimentary to the rest of the band’s vision. His exceptional level of responsibility made it easy for him to co-produce the first three Ramones records and work to produce records by other punk acts of the 80’s.

Terry Chimes - (The Clash/ Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers/ Cowboys International/Generation X/Hanoi Rocks/Black Sabbath)

Chimes brought his professional rock and roll drum sound to the earth-shattering punk phenomenon known as The Clash. He hit the drums hard and with satisfying precision, helping the band obtain the popularity and notoriety that they deserved. Although his career history with the band is scattered, Chimes was there to drive the sound home when it counted.

Earl Hudson - (Bad Brains)

Hudson’s maniacal, thrashy, hardcore, almost metal drumming style influenced many diverse future acts. As the younger brother and band mate of singer H.R., his style and chops were not surprising. The rage and energy that Hudson demonstrated was almost too perfect a match for the rest of the band’s on stage and recorded works of art.

Peter Prescott (Mission of Burma/Volcano Suns/Kustomized/The Peer Group)

Mission of Burma is one of my favorite groups, and the fact that Pete Prescott not only plays like a champion, but also sings like an angel, helps solidify that belief. His chaotic and huge drum sound is, without a doubt, one of the main contributing factors to the amazing skill level and sound that the group emits.

Bruce “Ted” Slesinger - (Dead Kennedys)

Slesinger left a lasting impression as the short lived second drummer of the epic punk ensemble, Dead Kennedys. His attention to impressive kick-snare-ride patterns locked in with Klaus Flouride’s exciting bass grooves and laid down a bold foundation to compliment East Bay Ray’s shredding guitar riffs. Although he is only credited for contributing to their first album (Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables) and the single “Holiday in Cambodia”, his wild drumming style was not forgotten. Unfortunately he left the band prematurely to pursue a career in architecture.

Rat Scabies (The Damned)

The incredibly skilled founding member of punk legends The Damned, Scabies's silly, dangerous, and sometimes intentionally sloppy style landed him a noble spot in the punk rock history books. From setting his drums on fire, to knocking them over in a Keith Moon fashion following performances, Scabies acts were both exciting and entertaining.

Stephen Morris - (Joy Division/New Order)

Appropriately nicknamed “Human Drum Machine”, Morris was essentially just that. His disjointed style was unique, fresh, and revolutionary. To achieve his complex and rich recorded sounds, Morris would sometimes record each hit as a separate track and later patch them together. Morris did admittedly strive to be a drum machine, so with the advent of the changing drum sounds of the early-mid 80’s, he gave in and gave his sticks a little rest.

Robert “Gotobed” Grey - (Wire/Colin Newman/Dome)

From simple, solid, driving blasts to complex polyrhythms, Gotobed successfully tackled it all. In the late 1980’s, his band Wire made a decision to incorporate drum machines into their sound. Thoughts of expensive equipment and burdensome touring were enough to convince him to get up from his stool and leave the band. The band continued for a year without him, and without an “e” in their name as well (then calling themselves “Wir”). One year later Gotobed came to terms with his issues and rejoined the band, permanently renaming it “Wire”.

Monday, February 16, 2009

We are Emo Part I

1984 - Gray Matter - Food For Thought (Dischord)

The members of Gray Matter considered themselves a hardcore punk band for the duration of their existence as a group. It wasn’t until a bit later that the punk community realized that their bright guitar sound accompanying interestingly catchy and melodic vocals were something very different than what was happening at the time. These four regular looking shaggy haired legends set the stage for some great acts of the same breed.

1987 - Rites of Spring - All Through a Life (Dischord)

They were some of the dudes that made the infamous Revolution Summer occur in the mid 80’s. In a time when punk was starting to change in many directions, Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty (later of Fugazi)and band mates steered an amazingly original sound into Rites of Spring. Their performances maintained the intensity of hardcore punk, but the band strived to change the rules in a new and experimental way.

1989 - Moss Icon - Mahpiua Luta 7” (Vermin Scum)

Droning and sometimes spastic, Moss Icon found a very early spot in the game. Befriending other promoters of the Rev Summer phenomenon and being strategically located in Annapolis, Maryland, Moss Icon struck a chord with nearby rock and roll D.C. neighbors and kept the new sound alive.

1993 - Indian Summer – Pitchfork 7” (Repercussion)

The band that really started it all for me. My friend Mike played these guys for me when we first started hanging out many years ago. Their soft/loud dynamics coupled with their ability to build their songs into a chaotically emotional explosion, made these guys stand out from the crowd. The low-fi recordings which often included a quiet background sound featuring Bille Holiday , kept the mystery and realness of Indian Summer exactly how it should have been.

1994 - Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary (Sub Pop)

One of the key defining albums of the genre, SDRE’s Diary rocks hard with honest, serious emotion. The band successfully combined a post-hardcore Seattle rock sound with pretty vocals/vocal melodies. The band broke up shortly after this release but reformed to release three more albums. Bassist Nate Mendel and Drummer Will Goldsmith went on to join the alternative rock monster group Foo Fighters while singer/guitarist Jeremy Enigk continues with solo efforts and remembers one time group The Fire Theft.

1994 - Weezer - S/T (Geffen)

I can’t deny that I love most of what Weezer has done. These guys are heavily responsible for the (silly) sweater vest fad in the late 90’s, and for all of us freaks with creepy retro dork glasses. Their pop sensibility and keen fashion sense was all the young world needed. Unfortunately they’ve recently traveled the radio-friendly path and lost that edge they had a decade plus ago.

1996 - Jimmy Eat World - Static Prevails (Capitol)

I had the pleasure of seeing this band a dozen times during their pinnacle as an amazingly creative group. In the late 90’s, Jimmy Eat World was a household emo name for obvious reasons. The band explored huge new sounds that ripped through the boring radio rock at the time. Unfortunately with time, the band became what they originally stood out from and joined the radio friendly family and began making music suitable for teen films.

1996 - Texas is the Reason – Do You Know Who You Are? (Revelation)

Do You Know Who You Are?, named after the final words to reach John Lennon’s ears, could have been and should have been the next huge thing for the genre’s success. Hailing from hardcore label Revelation Records, the band featured Shelter’s guitarist, 108’s Drummer, and Copper’s bassist. The sound these godfathers of 90’s hardcore came up with in TITR lives on in infamy as one of the greatest.

1997 - Christie Front Drive - S/T (Caulfield)

These Denver kids had a completely different approach to what was happening at the time. CFD combined the desperate sounds of early 90’s south California emocore with a late 90’s, almost avant-garde semi-instrumental sound. The vocals were extremely obscured and mysterious, the music was bright and dark, soft then hard. Christie Front Drive, in my opinion, was one the greatest success stories of its sort.

1997 - Mineral - The Power of Failing (Crank!)

Probably one of the most “powerful” records of the sort, The Power of Failing dishes out 10 driving tracks in about fifty minutes. The guitar work is big and loud and leaves you envisioning your own sub-plot to Chris Simpson’s touching lyrics. For a bunch of regular guys (or “pizza boys gone rock” as the insert describes) their efforts are quite extraordinary.

1997 - The Promise Ring – Nothing Feels Good (Jade Tree)

The Promise Ring bring you the poppier side of the genre with Nothing Feels Good. The hooky bass lines and simple yet captivating guitars have you bobbing your head with each track. The lyrics are serious and sometimes fun, and always visual and thought-provoking.

1998 – Braid – Frame and Canvas (Polyvinyl)

I consider this album the best Braid album available. Poppy, mathy, and melodic, Frame and Canvas takes you on a colorful journey through the minds of four Illinois rockers. The band broke up in 1999 but reunited in 2004 for one of the most successful reunions of the sort. The response and turnout at the events were living proof of the band’s influence on the music scene and the followers of the genre.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gimmicks, Good and Bad

Kiss – Slipknot


When I first heard the words coming out of Gene Simmons’s mouth, I was floored. How could this guy sing like this if he dresses like he wants to feast on my soul? Somehow it works though, and it works enough to sell billions of dollars in useless merchandise. Slipknot tried the mask and makeup thing. Only problem is that they suck at music. I guess if I was in a band that attracted the followers that they do, I’d wear a mask too.

Rage Against The Machine – Limp Bizkit


There was nothing better at 12 years old than singing along to Rage with my fists clenched. Zack de la Rocha delivered hard-hitting political truth to the arrangements of an intelligent and creative rock group. Unfortunately, his style was mimicked until it was beaten to death. People like Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit should have never been allowed to operate a microphone. Your lyrics are corny and silly, your band looks like they each want to join some other bad group, and you are not so tough Freddie.

The Knack - Hives

Skinny Ties

So the 80’s brought a ton of skinny ties into the mix. The retro 60’s “I wanna be in a clean British Invasion-looking group” thing picked up as well. The Knack was able to do it and not many people hit them with negative feedback on their decision to do so. The Hives however, missed the boat on this one by a long, long time. Not to mention the fact that they just aren’t good sounding, which should be priority over the way a band looks.

Nirvana - Creed


“Mehr-hehr” or “Meer Heer” (roughly pronounced Mare Hare) is a style name one of my good friends often uses to describe that lockjaw vocal sound that started up in the rainy city of Seattle some decade and a half ago. Kurt Cobain was one of the first to do it and I can shamelessly say that I enjoyed his efforts. I don’t know if it was because I could relate to his honesty, or if it was just new and undisturbed at the time. More recent bands like Creed and such, have managed to completely embarrass the human race with their singing style. Try opening your mouth when you sing. Holy Suckfest.

Alice Cooper – Marilyn Manson

Rock and Roll Villain

When he realized that the rock world was full of musical heroes, Alice Cooper set out to give Rock and Roll a Villain. With his make up and his pet snake, Alice shocked the world and hooked a great number of true fans. The irony is that he is apparently one of the nicest guys in the business. Marilyn Manson on the other hand, is a total dork. He thinks he is this generation’s rock villain, but he has nothing but a handful of crappy albums and a million confused teenage fans to show for. His make up and gimmicky looks only cover up his enormously produced pseudo-metal sound. Marilyn is as much of a musician as Davey Jones, and should probably stop as soon as possible.