chump change

Speedealer - burned aliveSupagroup
Foodchain Records

This four-piece tours constantly and for that reason, I have much love, respect and adoration. I’ve never seen this supposed pack of Louisiana booze-hounds play live. I’d probably be down, but I won’t be listening to their album again. It does rock--in a washed-up, hairband kind of way. Lead singer and rhythm git player Chris Lee (in Bon Scott-esque fashion) growls and boasts over brother Benji’s bluesy-chops and solos, informing all the KISS-worshipping, whiskey glazed ladies and gents below the Mason Dixon just how cock-strong their band is. Right now in my life I feel that these kind of comedic party tunes are served up with a slice of cheese, but it’s those other party favors that really make Supagroup pump your fist or shake your ass the way they did in ‘77. I love AC/DC, Van Halen, G&R ..but this rockstar shit isn’t really for me. I think it’s attainable, on a nightly basis, to do drugs/women/drink AND create music that is molten and refreshing. I was also born in 1980 and listen to the Postal Service. Sorry. -Smitty

The Cougars Nice, Nice
Go Kart Records

Judging from the sleeve, which is, I assume, a tattoo depicting a woman having conjugal relations with a cougar, I really wasn’t expecting much. Porn country, maybe. Or perhaps something even more deviant. What I wasn’t expecting was an AmRep style noise band, complete with that kick-ass David Wm. Sims heavy bass sound. However, after the first listen: unimpressed. But after shooting pool in my living room and playing the disc in the background, things started jumping out.

While the production is awfully muddy at points, all the instruments get a chance to shine; and even though the main sound is a modern equivalent of Helmet, the modulating electronics and the trumpet and saxophone give the band an almost circusy feel. The way the Birthday Party would have done it. Good job, lads.

Helmet with horns. Would that make the Cougars Viking headgear?–Trevor Wallace

American Beer
Hall of Records (2000)

Want to listen to really good, outrageously high-spirited tunes? Just pop Fear’s American Beer into your stereo and be blown away by their lively, attention-grabbing sound. Simplistic, fun-loving lyrics paired with amazing guitar music will exhilarate your senses and leave you screaming for more. Blending classic rock and punk with fresh new innovation, Fear delivers listeners a superbly animated sound, making sure everyone gets something out of their music. Like heavy hitting guitars? Then, just about every song will strike the right chord with you. “Surgery,” the first song on their album and my personal favorite, will make punks old and new raise their fists. They do what few bands can—bridge the generational gap, appealing to fans of all ages. My own dad loved this band so much that I had to give him a copy of this album. The singing—raw and gruff—cannot just be ignored either, because it defines this bands existence. It gives the music an edgy sound, which completes this band’s overall appeal. The last song, “And the Spiders Craw,l” really showcases lead singer Lee Ving’s unique vocal abilities.

Last month, Fear delighted their fans with a show at Emo’s, but if you have never heard of them or missed the show, purchasing this album can make up for that. Trust me, you will be rocked thoroughly the second this band starts blaring from your speakers. Your ears may never be the same, and you will be crying for an encore visit.

–Misty Sweet

Slough Feg (a.k.a. The Lord Weird Slough Feg)
Down Among the Deadmen
Dragonheart Records, Italy

Amazing. Brilliant. This album is a masterpiece. For collectors of obscure/cult metal, here is a treasure: the 3rd full-length release from Slough Feg, one of the world’s greatest and most under-recognized heavy metal bands. They continue to produce more-bang-for-your-buck records, with most of the bang invested in craftsmanship (rather than over-production). More bang, that is, if you value fantastic songwriting and musical composition, conceptual diversity, riveting guitar work with a heavy, raw sound (Les Paul / Marshall purity), kick-ass musicianship, awesome production for a squat budget, and plain-freaked-out theatrical metal mania.

More accessible than their first two albums of cavernous insanity, Deadmen has something for everyone. Songs summon Voden’s strength to war; Indians slaughter cavalry, trolls gnaw on human flesh. “Fergus Mac Roich” animates the story of a mythical Celtic battle for kingship, and the Knights of the Red Branch appear again in “Cauldron of Blood”. The battle rages on in outer space with “Traders and Gunboats”, a hyper-drive chase through the Sword Worlds… until finally we’re shipwrecked on a plastic planet in “Psionic Illuminations”. There’s even a salute to Roger Corman’s cult movie Death Sport – track 13, “Death Machine”.

Majestic mind-control metal, epic medieval power metal, whatever you call them, this band is over the top and out of this world. More obscure comparisons are Manila Road and Brocas Helm, but fans of Iron Maiden (Killers), Cirith Ungol, Venom, Thin Lizzy or Rush might like Slough Feg. Singer/guitarist Mike Scalzi writes the lyrics and most of the music; John Cobbett (Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra) on guitar; Greg Haa on drums, and John Torres (Angel Witch, Laaz Rocket) on bass. Cover and booklet design by fantasy/comic artist Erol Otis. Go to www.slough-feg.com for discography, interviews, Europe-tour photos, shwag, and lots of b.s. --Bek Sabbath

Hammers of Misfortune : The August Engine

This moody, operatic venture into uncharted lands is the 2nd album from Hammers of Misfortune, the innovative epic-prog-classical-folk-goth-metal band driven by San Francisco veterans John Cobbett and Mike Scalzi, partners in songwriting and double guitar leads. Their skilled guitar work here is impressive, as always. Cobbett (also in Ludicra with members of Impaled) is the conceptual mastermind of Hammers, while Scalzi (mastermind of Slough Feg, also with Cobbett on guitar) commands most of the male vocals with his cocky Camelot style. Hammers is the more feminine, gothish of the two Cobbett/Scalzi bands, due to the songwriting style, the keyboards, and the willowy female vocals. As a general hater of female vocals, I was taken off-guard and against my will by the dreamy lulling on track two, and the musky, deep-alto throughout.

The August Engine comes across less heavy than the first release (The Bastard), partly due to these wistful, girlish elements, and partly due to production unworthy of this band's live power (witnessed at Room 710, July '03). Another factor is the fractured, meandering song structure - particularly sections that slap like windshield wipers between solid metal riffs and ethereal retreats. Some will feel jerked around by this approach to composition, others will be on their knees pledging their allegiance. Whatever your taste, you can't deny the leaps at creativity that went into this album. Promise: you've never heard anything just like it. One minute it sounds like Simon & Garfunkel, then the devil horns are up again to the sound of classic, scale-running anthem metal.

Texan Jamie Myers (Like Flies on Flesh) has replaced Janis Tanaka (L7, Pink) on bass and vocals. Sigrid Sheie is on Hammond Organ, piano, flute and vocals. On drums it's Chewy Marzolo, San Francisco's hottest, chewiest Italian pizza. -- Bek Sabbath

Stick Men With Ray Guns
Some People Deserve to Suffer : Emperor Jones Records

The dull knife of punk rock has been caught buttering the muffins of many a grade schooler these days. As the country swooshes into another chapter of domination, democratization, and the hunt for terrorists, I have to remind myself that there was a music that placed at its forefront the ideals of Opposition, Dissent, and Fucking Off; ideals able to defame a president like McReagan, able to toss utter contempt at a status quo who quivered from the fear of Crack and slept well as thousands "disappeared" in El Salvador.

Some friends and I were listening to Some People Deserve…last weekend and amidst the 23 tracks compiled from a selection of taped shows, rehearsals, and studio sessions this yell issues from the speakers: "FUCK REAGAN!!!"

Well, my buddy takes this as a cue to begin his tirade against the "complaining liberals" of this country. Seems as though the Stick Men can still incite. Not that I think they meant to. This is just it; you lived resistance by being whatever you had to be and not giving a fuck. Being political was/is a consequence of criticizing what's in your face. As Stick Men's singer, Bobby Soxx, says on the CD:

"We're not Nazis. We're just singin' about the shit that's going around."

To spare the details, I've seen those above grade schoolers pull off better arguments in the name of
chewing gum in class than my buddy did. But the point here is the MUSIC and LYRICS by today's onslaught of pop, indie records, and the "visible underground" aren't a bit resistant and seem to be ever waning into the dull knife category, rife with abstraction, love and the other banal emotional conditions. Sure there are the rockers against Bush but this cause celebre has more to do with the ideas in the heads of Thurston and others and not the music which used to denounce.

So Stickmen are here in 2004, singing about Nazis, Murder, Christians, Landlords. This, mind you, all written before 1988. The sound of the album is an endearingly gritty bootleg sound. My first thought about Some People Deserve…was: Texas had a Flipper? Followed quickly by the thought that the Surfers' Paul Leary and the Stickmen's guitarist had to be using that same damn Ibanez f/x rack ca. '84.

This music is seminal and perhaps the missing link of Texas punk. -Kevin Stack


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