とても可愛いですよ!Shonen Knife at the Great Scott

This is going to be bar none, the most un-metal show I’ve ever written about. I shall now vainly attempt to justify it by mentioning that Shonen Knife are fans of Motörhead and have done a song with the warthog Lemmy. Now I have cause to continue.

Opening the show were local rockers, The Moan, who claim to be from space.
From what I can gather, they are a rather new band, and having 75 FB likes as well as no music online, I’m surprised they secured a spot opening for Shonen Knife of all bands. They’re a two-piece that could be likened to Garage meets Hard Rock band The White Stripes, but I hate them so I won’t. Instead, I’ll go ahead and compare them to The Pretenders, a largely British Proto-Punk band fronted by an American lass named Chrissie Hynde, sans the “fuck off” attitude. It was hit-or-miss for me personally, and the stage presence reflected an individual who wished to be anywhere but on a stage, though since they are a fledgling act and certainly not bad at what they do, they can’t really sour their reputation unless they start covering “Doorbell”.

Keeping in the two-piece streak were White Mystery, a red-headed brother-sister tag-team that should have been around long ago so they could have ended up on the Jet Set Radio Future soundtrack alongside BIS’ “Statement Of Intent” and Guitar Vader’s “Baby-T”

Face the flame!

With a mixture of British Invasion-era fuzz, some psychedelic leanings, and an all-American pop sensibility, there was no shortage of catchy songs, so good show by the ginger roots. I definitely would see them again, though I may only get that chance if they come around supporting a similarly old school band like Royal Headache.

Shonen Knife is one of those bands that if you hear them and have a heart, you’ll be fighting to keep a stupid grin from creeping onto your face. Being from Japan, a land that has engineered every export to appeal to the part of our frail American minds that has an insatiable craving for adorable things, and fully embracing the tendency to put cute cartoons and a lackadaisical attitude that would tell you America isn’t currently slaughtering people abroad and oppressing minds at home, Shonen Knife is what one listens to when they just want to be happy. No matter how old, what subculture you hail from, or your gender, you’re not going to resist.

Shonen Knife borrow equally from the poppy surf rock of the Beach Boys, stripped-down Punk in the shape of The Ramones, a distinctive J-Pop feel, and yet there’s a certain low-fidelity atmosphere around it that prevents it from being too squeaky-clean. With a career spanning over 30 years, and being able to boast that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan, one can say with certainty that they’ve led a hell of a career. Live, they’re surprisingly loud, and seeing as the last time I saw a band that made that much noise was New York’s own Sludge/Doom titans Tombs. The only difference being that Tombs was probably not intended to be that loud.

It is a shocking sight when people break out into moshing during Shonen Knife. It was among the last things I expected, being a show headlined by one of the most bubblegum bands I actually enjoy. Alas, once they played a cover of The Ramones’ “Rock & Roll High School”, it was a mess of pogoing, silly dancing, and playful shoving. Ah, to be young. The setlist included four songs from their newest release, Pop Tune, which, as the title suggests, is turning out to be their most straightforward and poppy (go figure) to date.

This coming from  a band who wrote a song about a giant kitty where the chorus is repeating “Big, big. Big, cat!”. I suppose the future for Shonen Knife means less songs about household appliances, animals, sexy bitches, and food, and a bit more about having fun. Well, they were already about having fun, but one can expect the material focus shall dwindle a bit. Shonen Knife is the only band I’ve ever seen that seemed to quite literally enjoy every second they spent onstage, and I’m sure the audience felt the same way. I sure did.

They’ve been around for a long time, and have written many songs, but they’ve never quite mastered the English language. All part of the plan to be cute, I wager. They’re invading our minds, and making us love them, so that when they wage full-scale war on them, we’ll be helplessly drawn to the googly-eyed monstrosities and loud colors that we’ve grown addicted to as a society. Until the day comes where Pokémon is weaponized to its fullest extent (not counting the Porygon seizure inducing test trials), I’ll hope Shonen Knife writes a song about potatoes.

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Churning Satan’s Butter: Amish Noise

It has been several months since Maryland Deathfest, and since I promised the soulless fiery hued gentleman who comprises one half of Amish Noise’s orchestra of cacophanous calamity a write-up, I’m going to finally buckle down my hat and give it a proper overview, dammit. I’ll consider this a birthday present to myself, since any other excuse would just mean I actually care. Now, let’s get on with it while I still think it’s a good idea.

This here shall be a mini review of their release, “Only The Devil Wears Buttons”, which really explains why corporate lawyers are the bloodsuckers we know and love. As the About section on facebook proudly declares:

Your genres cannot contain us, your scenes cannot drain us, we thrive on human disgust, please enjoy our musk.”

The description continues on this theme, as you shall see:

We do not fit into your genre’s, we only live to destroy your concept of music and make you pay for having ears.”

What gets me hot and bothered more than anything is genre bending. I’m still unsure what to call it to this day, so we’ll go track-by-track and play it by ear.

“Get Up N’Get” is the soundtrack to taking a motorcycle for a joyride while swilling cheap gin made in a basement. It’s got the speed of Thrash, maniacal vocals, and at some points near the end, a groovy Jazz influenced bass riff that borrows its tempo from Count Basie, pinned underneath a guitar screaming the same riff as though suffering a bad acid trip and fighting its cat until it fades out, not quite knowing how to end. All of this and I can’t exactly pin what sort of Metal this was supposed to be, if any at all.

“Keeper Of Gates” follows a more straightforward sound, melding the rock’n’roll worship of Black Metal supergroup I (featuring members of Immortal and Gorgoroth) with a tiny bit of Melodic Death Metal influence. This is the moment of lucidity on the relsease, if you’re discounting the vocals layered so as to sound like tortured denizens of Hades.

“Monsters!” brings it back to the amount of crazy I was promised, with vocals taking equally from Mike Patton at his least whacked out, King Diamond, and Hank III sans sounding like a mountain goat eating hallucinogenic weeds. This track sounds a bit like the title, a sudden invasion by Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and Arsenio Hall.

“Knuckle Kids” opens up immediately with a swingin’ groove that makes you wanna just get up and dance, showcasing a little old school Punk influence but always verging a tiny bit on the Metal side so you don’t forget that you’re supposed to be confused while listening to this. The lyrics are still odd, so that constant is still in play,  and the vocals are still treading the line between vocalizing and “Missed-My-Pill” yelling.

“Night Of The Living Bread” opens up like a Dollar Store version of Ihsahn’s solo project, so the Black Metal influence has crept back in, but only momentarily, soon to be shoulder tackled by a schizophrenic Thrash attack. Once the false Ihsahn regains his breath, he gets back to his feet and busts out a rippin’ solo over a surprisingly calm bass and drums, only to be assaulted once again. Ihsahn gets fed up and kills the naughty Thrasher, but is severely wounded, so drags off into the woods slowly, and dies, leaving only a bassist to mourn.

“Suggestive Apricots” wins best song title of the decade. As you may have guessed, this song is gonna be another trip through the deranged psyches of the beardos who make up this band. This here is a compromise between Nuclear Assault style goof Thrash and more Rock infused Black Metal. It all quiets down to explore power chords and what sound like some strange breathing exercises interlaced with whispers and whimpers. After some melodic noodling, drums back up the vocalist(s) simply chanting (in a shout, mind you) “Suggestive… apricots!” until the bass kicks back in, and then the guitars, with the chant becoming more manic as it goes along, simply exploding under its own fruitiness.

And there you have it, strange descriptions for stranger music. I’m starting to like this job, even if the pay isn’t that great. Steal their music here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ANCIENT VVISDOM

A Godlike Inferno – (Prosthetic)

ANCIENT VVISDOM, pronounced ‘Wisdom’, unless you’re German. This here be the semi-acoustic project of Jake and Nate from INTEGRITY, along with Justin from a band named IRON AGE, which I haven’t heard yet. With this supergroup-esque gathering of guys from some well-respected Crossover Thrash/Hardcore bands, you’d be forgiven for assuming this project would be a brainchild that shared at least some trace of DNA. What we have here is, in the parlance of our times, a curve-ball from hell in the form low-key paeans to the “Dark One” ideal for a drinking circle with wild woodsmen around a fire rather than a circle of moshers.
“Alter Reality”
As I mentioned earlier, with members hailing from Metallic Hardcore bands, one would be fooled into thinking this is one of those “calm before the storm” tracks. After all, this album is called “A Godlike Infucken’ferno“, so it’s gonna be a firey hellstorm of blazing riffs, machine gun double bass, and larynx punishing shouts, correct?
Instead you’re treated with some softly sung, yet eerie vocals over a steady mid-tempo guitar riff. To use a clichéd word, haunting lyrics take the stage, and soon after comes an electric guitar playing a riff that you’d probably hear on the radio had it not been accompanied by lyrics that are definitely a bit too Pagan for your local Rock Block.  Some odd metallic clanking chimes in with the electric guitar almost like pickaxes hitting iron or a sword being forged, along with a sort of marching drum cadence to seal the deal as far as the militaristic vibe goes.
“The Opposition”
Continuing along in the wooden direction, we have our second in a line of 8 songs about challenging God to a rock’n’roll showdown and being damn proud of being a sinner. This one’s a tad bit heavier than the last, with a bit more of a stomp’n’clap set-up. Where the last was a march to a battlefield, this is a rallying cry to Lucifer, unabashedly Satanic with lyrics like “Hail to thee, God of the Underworld/I sing praises to thee, and I suffer no more.” Not exactly grade-A poetry, but it gets the message across. Boasting a larger hook than “Alter”, this comes across as a hit single gone to the dark side.
“Necessary Evil”
A bit more of a dusty, sun-burnt country vibe opens this track, with a little bit of tambourine giving an out-of-place celebratory feel. The atmosphere just screams abandoned old-Western town, and I dig how well they managed to capture both the spooky and accessible, making combining them look easy. If BIGELF didn’t employ weird accents and made morose country, this is probably how it would come out. Completely eschewing the electric guitar this time, it maintains an organic body throughout, allowing the rumble of bass drums to resonate all the more clearly.
“Forever Tonight”
What could this track possibly sound like? Folksy acoustic guitar driven Blues rock with lyrics about Satan and the occult? Perhaps, but let’s not jump to conclusions, and move on to uncovering Atlantean ruins.
“Lost Civilization”
This song makes no bones about opening up with a rockin’ riff and a plodding drum beat. My one complaint about this otherwise very catchy and well-done track is that the lyrics are so base that you’d be better off ignoring them. If you can get past that, then you may enjoy your reward of the first guitar solo on the album, which comes as a pleasant surprise after the release was starting to drag into the Doldrums of monotony and tunnel visions of Satan. Too bad it’s the track that’s written in such a way you want to sing along. Even though it’s half a minute shorter than “The Opposition”, which is the longest track, it feels like it drags on for a couple too many.
“Devil Brain”
Oh Satan, how I missed you for five minutes. This song continues the hard rockin’ formula of the last one, and with even cheesier lyrics, and a cheddar-drenched title. I really hope they didn’t just run out of ideas for good songs near the end of the album writing process, because that would be a huge disappointment. The chorus riff reminds me a little of the main riff from GEORGE THOROGOOD’s “Bad To The Bone”, so I get some odd imagery of Satanic biker gangs.
“VVorld Of Flesh”
Another guitar solo, though nowhere near as bombastic as that on “Lost Civilization”, opens up under some chilly acoustic noodling. The vocals on the chorus kind of hearken to another Doomy rock’n’roll band, GHOST, with the same chilling effect. ANCIENT VVISDOM’s strength is in the slow and brooding songs, though there is some heavy riffing and pounding drums, but it’s never allowed to rev up too high for its own good. Around the 3 minute mark the song speeds up a bit, and manages to not topple over itself. Another searing solo, this time piercing the heavens! Starts strong, ends strong, is strong, like Mother RRRussia.
“Children Of The Wasteland”
With a completely mellow closer, a real ‘one sad man and his guitar’ feel takes over for the conclusion. If COREY TAYLOR were a better musician, this is the song he could’ve written for SLIPKNOT’s Vol. 3 album instead of the excessively wimpy “Vermilion Pt. 2″.
THE VERDICT: A strong release with a lot of potential, with room for improvement, mainly in the lyrical department.
GRADE: B+
The VVisdom is all in the facial hair.