Classic rock n roll… Surely, everyone here knows what I am talking about when I say rock n roll. Whether you think about the Rolling Stones, Faces, Georgia Satellites, Dogs D’amour, Quireboys, Electric Angels, Rock City Angels, Black Crowes, Low Cut Connie, etc., we are talking about the kind of music that pumps through my veins and nourishes my soul. Spencer & the Elegant Blackouts released a great four song EP back in 2018 and have returned with another four song EP that picks up where they left off- delivering vintage high quality rock n roll.
As you many have guessed from the introduction, these guys are not chasing trends or trying to reinvent the wheel with their music. Their focus is on getting your fists in the air and your body moving which should not be an issue. ‘Ain’t Never Drinking Again’ opens with the sound of a bottle opening and some old rag time piano in the background before the electric guitar riff arrives to get the party started. If you turn this up really loud, you will feel like you are in your favorite dive bar with the smell of alcohol and perfume in the air. Timeless vintage rock n roll designed to put a smile on your face. Their single from last year ‘Just Another Heartache’ follows and actually sounds better in the context of the EP. The production suffers a bit in the pre-chorus where it doesn’t quite connect sonically. The song is solid and features a solid hook that I really want to hear live where these songs will no doubt shine ever brighter. I really love the guitar work throughout this song.
Next up, ‘Nuthin But Everything’ comes rocking out of the speakers and musically reminds me a bit of Izzy Stadlin. The chorus here is more subdued which works as the singalong becomes a grower, and the guitar solo becomes a huge hook first. Again, if you want a glossy sheen, this is not the place for you as these songs are covered in grit. Closer ‘Me or the Bottle’ is carried by piano and embodies the classic closer where people in the crowd all sing along to the chorus at the end of the night before everyone crawls back home to face the responsibilities and duties of the morning sun. Shout out to the players in the band: Spencer Willhouse whiskey grit and smokey guitar, Eric Mauro- Howlin Hammond and Pinetop Rattlin, Sean Flynn- Big Bends and Sinister Slide, Chris Herninko- Bass thumpin and camel blues, and JoJo Buerklin- Twig twirlin and skins.
Spencer and the Elegant Angels have delivered another really highly enjoyable EP that pairs perfectly with their first release. If you like any of my reference points, I highly suggest you give this a spin, play, stream or whatever the case might be. Let’s make 2021 a year for rock n roll, and hopefully these guys can find a way to play some live dates at some point. In the meantime, I will be here singing along and bouncing around home.
Chez Kane will likely be a new name to many, but she has been singing with her sisters in the excellent Kane’d for many years. With her solo album, she has an opportunity to shine on her own and definitely makes the most of the opportunity. Kane clearly loves the music of the 80’s as evidenced by her work here and with Kane’d. If you have watched any of her YouTube videos where she covers old songs, you already know that she has a killer voice. If you are not a fan of 80’s hard rock and have no interest in it, this is probably not the album for you. For the rest of us, this is sonic gold.
Kane kicks off the album with the excellent ‘Better Than Love’ which introduces itself with a bunch of keyboards that remind me a bit of Shy in their ‘Excess All Areas’ phase. The music in the verses takes a back seat for Kane’s vocals which are excellent and just hit me in the right ways with the inflections she uses and how she hits every note. The horns in this song are a surprise at first, but they complement the song nicely. ‘All of It’ follows and the beginning actually brings to mind Meat Loaf’s ‘Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back’ with the way the opening vocal and music are done. This one has a bit more grit than the opener, but it is still firmly in AOR territory. At this point, this is the song that has grabbed me the least. I don’t consider it a bad song, but it is probably my runt amongst these ten songs.
‘Rocket on the Radio’ would have been in constant rotation on Dial MTV back in the day and is one of my favorites from the record. Kane delivers a killer vocal, and the hook is huge while not being placed too high above the music in the mix. In some ways, it is almost a combination of Lita Ford, Slippery era Bon Jovi, and 80’s Heart, but Kane always has her own individuality in the music too. The guitar solo will have the listener breaking out the air guitar too. ‘Get it On’ begins with a huge chorus of melodic voices and gives way to a clever guitar riff that is supported by some funky bass and keyboards. When the next chorus comes in after the first verse, it leaps right out of the speakers. Kane hits some higher notes here that really showcase her range. Wrapping up the first half of the album is ‘Too Late for Love’ where I am reminded of Honeymoon Suite. There are hints and moments of others here as well with the keyboards providing a debt to the 80’s. In terms of current bands, I would reference the likes of Midnite City and The Defiants.
Kicking off the second half of the album, ‘Defender of the Heart’ carries a power to it with its midtempo beat giving it the feel of an epic. Kane’s vocals here are awesome and given it a chance to shine without her trying to artificially create those moments. There is a purity to it in that she has a great set of songs here, and her voice has a magical quality to my ears. ‘Ball N’ Chain’ might be the first time where I really hear the influence of Crazy Lixx whose Danny Rexon brought Kane to the attention of Frontiers and who I believe wrote the songs here. This is another song that I was singing part of the chorus before my first listen was done. Hard rocker ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ follows with Kane channeling some attitude with this up tempo rocker leaping out of the speakers. This song would have likely been “too heavy” back in the day to be a single but still feels very AOR today. The subtle ‘here comes trouble’ refrain in the chorus adds a cool touch as well with the echo of the vocal on the end seeming to be a nod to Def Leppard.
Keyboards also usher in the beginning of ‘Die in the Name of Love,’ and I would really enjoy seeing this song be a video or single from the album. The backing vocals are big here and serve as an excellent counterpoint to Kane’s lines. If you told me this song was featured on an 80’s soundtrack, I would not be surprised as it just seems like it should have a visual attachment in my brain. Closer ‘Dead End Street’ is the longest song on the album and reminds me of a relatively recent album by LaValle as the song carries some extra weight even with the keyboards. The chorus is much more subdued than the other songs on the album with the keyboard run after the first chorus establishing itself as a hook. The guitar solo is exquisite here as nothing feels rushed at all in the song.
Chez Kane has released an album that stands apart from her work with Kane’d. While there are some common influences, this album definitely feels glossier in terms of the production and the keyboards. There is a fine line where that can go very wrong, but it works to the positive here. Kane has released a solo album that really feels like a true reflection of her based on the covers she will put on YouTube. If you want a gritty rock album, this one is not going to be for you. If you have ever liked any 80’s hard rock songs, I highly recommend this album. I am a huge fan of Kane’s vocals and really like the collection of songs here that come together as an actual album and not just a collection of random songs.
While Lucifer Star Machine was a new band to me, their beginnings go back to 2002 when they released three albums before Tor Abyss (vocals) decided to relocate the band to his home country of Germany in 2012. Since that time, they have released a couple of singles and an EP with a whole new band behind Abyss which I will now be looking to find. I went into the album expecting some straight-ahead Action Rock but found many cool twists and turns throughout this diverse album.
Some cool news samples introduce us to the album with some razor-sharp guitars firing us into ‘The Void.’ This song made the ideal first video for the album as well as the first song on the album as the hooks are huge, and the adrenaline surge starts here. It’s clear the band wanted a stellar production job as the mix is deep and rich here. The guitar work is killer by Mickey Necro and Marshall Speed. ‘Dwell in Misery’ slows the pace a touch with a definite Misfits influence in the vocals, and the chorus provides a sing-along touch on the first listen. The band exercises some restraint leading into the guitar solo which maximizes its effect.
Keeping up the diversity, ‘Cruel Hearts’ features some excellent rhythm work by Benny Zin (bass) and Jay Impact (drums) and another huge chorus. The subtle use of some handclaps adds more character to the song and showcases a band that has refined its sound from many areas to create something all their own, even with some influences standing out more than others. ‘Baby, When You Cry’ reminds me of the Ramones with Abyss singing very melodically and allowing the chorus to stick deep into your brain. The guitar work and solo stand out here again with the band creating a diverse excellent record similar to what the Dead Furies did on their latest album.
‘The Night is Young’ channels a classic hard rock feel with an awesome chugga chugga rhythm propelling the song forward with some excellent lead guitar on top. The band again gives us another larger than life addictive chorus that is simpler lyrically but hits the perfect spot. The breakdown in the song before the guitar solo is simply perfect, and this song would make an ideal single. Zin’s bass work kicks butt in ‘East Dust’ and receives a lot of space in the mix. I hear a Nashville Pussy influence here with lyrics that could have come from their first album, but the music is not as fast or reckless. This one has a cool groove with a lyrical hook that could get you some sideways glances in public. With the songs that have come before and the ones after this one, ‘A Touch of Death’ does not make as much of an impact for me. It could be more of a grower though as it connects with me a bit more with each listen. Check back with me in a few months as this might be one of those that become a favorite.
I am not sure what the new James Bond theme will sound like, but it definitely seems like there should be a Bond movie with ‘El Camino Real’ as its theme. The 60’s feel of this hard rocker and a chorus that could not be catchier make this another obvious choice for a single or song to push from the album. This has been my favorite song since my first listen. The band continues the sonic assault with the rapid-fire ‘Pretender.’ This is another one where the band utilizes another large catchy chorus that should have you singing along in no time. They continue to increase the speed with ‘Evil Blood’ sounding more menacing but still has a catchy chorus and some excellent guitar riffs.
Kicking off the home stretch of the album, ‘Midnight Crawler’ utilizes some Halloween sounding creepy vocals in the chorus that make it stand out from the rest of the album and corresponds to the quick sample to open the song. While there is a Misfits influence here, it is the other elements that create something unique. By holding back on using the chorus, it carries more weight and impact. Zin and Impact again showcase their chemistry before unleashing some killer guitar solos. The piano here again showcases that Lucifer Star Machine is crafting an album with subtle touches that will stand the test of time. ‘Your Love Remains’ smokes with a dirtier sounding mix and a huge melodic chorus that an audience needs to be singing. Wrapping up the album, ‘Devil’s Breath’ utilizes an acoustic approach that ends the album on a mellower note musically but not lyrically. I envision the band riding off into a blood-red sunset as this one plays.
Lucifer Star Machine has delivered a killer album that deserves to be heard far and wide. They have created their own sound even as some of their influences stand out in the mix. I will be going back to explore their previous work based on the strength of this album and imagine this one will be getting a lot of plays in the future. I imagine you will be doing just the same after you listen to this one. The time is now to be lucified.
This album represents one of those brilliant moments in life when you receive an album that just immediately clicks on almost every level. If this album didn’t come from Hodge, it might not be what you expect from RPMOnline. With a history of performing with Crass, Ryan Hamilton, and Ginger Wildheart among others though, I was going to be very interested in hearing this album on that basis. From the moment I hit play, I found myself stuck on the computer the first time it played. I immediately burned a copy for the car and then made sure it was on the iPod so I could play it throughout the house. Hodge has created a great pop album that takes darkness and immerses it in hope and her charisma.
‘Stop Worrying Baby’ features some very nice piano that reminds me more of the likes of Carole King then what people consider pop music today. Hodge’s voice hits me in all the perfect ways, and she uses it to craft a magical chorus that has made me hit the repeat button numerous times. Piano alone introduces ‘Waving Not Drowning’ with the song feeling like it should be the centerpiece in a movie. Musically, this song has a very haunting feel to it, but, as I mentioned in the introduction, the song has much more of a positive message to tell with this song addressing suicidal ideation and the importance of reaching out to others whether it be friends, family, or strangers. ‘I Still Love Me’ provides an increase in the tempo and celebrates all of the special things that make each of us without it sounding cheesy. Dave Draper’s production is spot on throughout the album (as expected) with this song being a shiny example. The drums and bass jump out of the speaker with the guitar riff being perfectly placed. The chorus is designed for maximum effect without it being over the top in the mix.
‘In Case of Emergency’ showcases how powerful a ballad can truly be. The delicate piano works in perfect union with Hodge’s vocals. The subtle twist in key going into the chorus is tremendous. I also don’t think I have made it all the way through this song one time without the hair on my arms standing up from Hodge’s magical vocal. The subtle use of the guitar here provides some additional texture. Following that song was never going to be easy, ‘Magical Bullet’ rises to the task by providing us with a great rock song that makes it impossible to sit through without moving. You will want to be up on your feet moving, dancing, and singing.
Kicking off the back half of the album, ‘Send Me Someone’ reminds me more of the likes of Fiona Apple perhaps. There is something magical about Hodge’s voice when it is just paired with a piano. While this song does not connect quite the same as ‘In Case of Emergency,’ it remains a powerful song full of powerful, direct lyrics. The sequencing here is extremely important too with ‘Send Me Someone’ containing vocals until almost its last note. The transition to the layered vocals at the start of ‘Semi Colon’ is perfection. I am left hanging on every vocal and piano note on this one. Even after many plays, it becomes a challenge to write a review while listening to the album because I just keep getting lost in the music and words all over again. ‘Virtue Signals’ turns up the rock again and is also the longest song on the album at 5 minutes. This song has proven to be more of a grower which I attribute to the previous song being so amazing. Hodge sings with confidence and power here which gets highlighted with the way the pre-chorus sets up the chorus by taking her vocals and musical down a deep ravine before having the full music and vocals come back for the chorus.
Hitting near the end of the album, ‘Stopped Believing in You’ has all the makings of a huge crossover hit if it could catch some airplay. Draper had made a comment to me about the potential of this song to make this album huge, and he was right on the money. It highlights the strength of the album when this song gets placed near the end. The song builds and builds over a musical beat that again gets the listener moving. Subtle musical touches rise to the surface with each listen, and, at just over 3 minutes, this song ends way too soon so I have noticed this is another one where that repeat button keeps getting abused. ‘Let Gravity Win’ serves as a perfect closer as Hodge tells the narrative that happens to us as we get older in this society. The song provides a sense of catharsis and provides empathy that we all go through this rite of passage. We can do it our own way though.
‘Savage Purge’ hit me at the perfect time when I first heard it so I resisted reviewing it immediately. I wanted to give it a little more time so I could dig in deeper. Additional listens have only strengthened my first impression. These 10 songs deserve to be heard by an audience far and wide. This album also goes to another level in the dead of night when there are no other sounds in the background. Do yourself a favor and give this album some listens and a purchase. We need to keep hearing more songs by Hodge.
‘Savage Purge’ is officially available March 30th and available for purchase now
Always a nice feeling to run across a band that makes an immediate feeling, The Fame made me immediately want to hear more. Their Facebook likes currently hover around 1,500 people, but that number should increase if people get exposed to this debut EP. There is a strong 90’s rock influence running through this which made me realize that 1995 was freaking 25 years ago. I am not sure if I feel really old now or that I went through some sort of time warp. The Fame also channel older artists and lace these songs with plenty of melody and hooks. Hailing from Toronto, the band members met by chance and have been building a following by working both sides of the Canadian and United States border.
Opening track ‘Wide Awake’ is one of those rare songs where the first thing that stood out to me was the drum pattern (Rodrigo), and I was immediately pulled into a song that recalls the likes of Tonic. This song is laced with harmonies that recall the world before smart phones and would have likely been a hit at the time. What makes this song and EP even better is that it is just proof that a good song is a good song regardless of the year as this song would likely appeal to modern rock fans too. The title track follows with a slightly subdued approach that had me scribbling down the Strokes as a reference point with this one having more of an indie rock feel than the opener. I like that it adds muscle to its frame as it goes, and that chorus just constantly saws deeper into your head with each play. That run on the guitar (Yu) at the end before it concludes is rather awesome to my ears too.
Part of what I really like about these guys is Brandon’s voice (also guitar) which has similarities to other artists but doesn’t sound like anyone in particular. He uses it in a variety of ways with it sometimes feeling a little sloppy such as in the verses of ‘Cherry Lipstick’ and then he hits some gorgeous melodies in the same song. This one packs a 90’s style chorus with some catchy guitar, including a very effective solo. I like how they transition into a quieter bridge too as it creates even more dynamics in this earworm. ‘Vacant Curiosity’ ups the tempo, and I have no doubt that it is even better live as I could see the tempo being even faster there. The rhythm section of Rodrigo and Andrew (bass) do great work here.
Wrapping up the EP is probably my favorite song which recalls the likes of the Beatles and if you want to move forward from them I also hear the likes of Oasis. This could have easily been a way over the top chorus to make it super polished for radio. Instead, that gorgeous chorus sets in the music perfectly and really creates a magical moment. It provides some real character to a song that could open up some doors for them to a much larger set of ears.
This EP will stay in heavy rotation throughout this year with me likely using these songs across a variety of playlists I create. It’s even super affordable so check it out and give these guys some of your time.
Expectations sometimes provide shocks to the system when things prove to be quite different that what you expected. The Poison Boys have released some previous singles/ EPs and material, which I have loved, and I went into this debut album expecting the album to be a more straight forward up tempo punk n roll album. While it is definitely a punk n roll album at its core, these 12 diverse songs make up an album that is diverse, deep, accessible, and a whole lot of fun. I have been following the Poison Boys for a few years now, and I could not be happier with what they have done here. I can imagine everyone from Chuck Berry to Johnny Thunders wanting a chance to come back and guest on this one.
The title track gets the party started and hits my original expectations as it comes on like a cross between the Humpers and Electric Frankenstein. The mix allows the guitar riffs by Matt Dudzik to pop out of the speakers and the bass (mostly Adam Sheets) and drums (mostly Matt Chaney) hit just as hard. ‘Slow Down’ starts with some brief piano notes before everyone else gets in on the action. The riff in the song feels pretty standard, but the song really connects perfectly. I actually thought about old artists like the Big Bopper here as well as someone like the J. Geils Band as this song compels the listener to smile and enjoy the moment. I can picture the glasses in the air as the crowd sings along to the main hook. Another stone cold rock n roll style classic follows in ‘Cut Right Out.’ If anyone out there remembers the likes of Junk Records, this one would have fit like a glove on their roster with those backing ‘wooohs’ settling nicely in the mix. The beat here carries a great groove, guaranteed to get the hips shaking.
Starting on track four with ‘Empty Heart,’ we start to see the band really expanding the songs. The thundering groove of this epic five minute plus song initially may feel a little long, but this one has proven to be a grower with Dudzik’s charismatic vocals being stretched and pulled on the journey. ‘Downtown’ returns to a fairly basic trash rock standard approach with a simple hook that hits the spot. It feels a bit like the Stones jamming with Hanoi Rocks, especially the way some of the guitar pops in the mix where it gets some extra space. I also love the false ending but perhaps I should not give that away. Wrapping up the first half of the album, ‘Up to the Sky’ opens with some acoustic guitar reminding me of Johnny Thunders before the song kicks in at a midtempo pace on this fellow five minute rocker. The acoustic guitar touches really give this album a wonderful depth. Dudzik’s vocals on the chorus really inspire a singalong, even if you are like me and can’t sing a note.
Flip the record over and the good times show no let up with first single/ video ‘Tear Me Apart’ getting it started at breakneck speed. The vocals really take a backseat here with the verses featuring fewer words, and the electrifying guitar riffs pushed to the surface. The hook in the chorus is sharp, but it is the guitar that has stayed with me the most on this one so far. The piano that is featured here and across other songs will hopefully be replicated in the live setting. ‘Desperado’ features some awesome saxophone and again reminds me of early Hanoi Rocks, right down to Dudzik’s vocals, the tasteful backing vocals, and the way the chorus is constructed. This has been one of my early favorites from the record. Hopefully, the band will get an opportunity to make this a single at some point. Slowing the pace down a bit, ‘True Romance’ simmers along nicely with the groove getting under the skin. The backing ‘woooh’s’ are used again here to awesome effect. When the main chorus hits, it really opens up the whole song with the switch in the dynamics.
‘I Won’t Look Back’ turns the tempo back towards rocket speed with the guitar licks again deserving to be highlighted, but the song itself has been the slowest to connect with me. The band hit trash rock nirvana again with the rollicking ‘Say Goodbye’ reminding me again of the Humpers with the rhythm section nailing this one. Closing song ‘Been Here All Night’ truly feels like it had to be the closer on the album and ends the record on an incredible high. The song shimmies and shakes on the beat with the guitar riffs begging to be played by the listener. Something tells me the guys worked long and hard on this one but knew exactly where it needed to be on the album. It just feels like a celebration musically.
The Poison Boys showcase that there is plenty of magic left in rock n roll over the course of these 12 songs. There has clearly been a ton of heart, sweat, and love used to create this album as these songs drip with the genuine distilled spirits of everything that makes rock n roll amazing. Are the vocals always spotless? Do the instruments hit every note perfectly? Absolutely NOT! This is pure, primal rock n roll the way nature intended. A great summer for music became even better with this album. Recommended? You should have it put it on order when you started reading my introduction.
Thanks for checking out my little corner of the Internet again. There really are no rules or expectations of what I am going to do here. Immediately after completing my first one though, this piece started writing itself in my head. It’s also shifted back and forth a bit during that time. The Wildhearts recently released their latest studio album ‘Renaissance Men,’ and it is quite simply a monster of an album. It is a serious album of the year contender with its 10 mostly compact songs reminding us of those albums of yesterday that did not waste time and placed an emphasis on all killer, no filler. That album served as the inspiration for the topic here- the stigma of mental illness.
Completing the first half of the album, ‘Diagnosis’ finds the band making a powerful statement that cannot be heard enough. The album has been on constant rotation, and that song kept nudging me to emphasize it for anyone that carries a mental health diagnosis with them. Coincidentally, I also saw a study by Record Union which indicated 73% of independent musicians suffered from some form of mental illness (https://www.the73percent.com/). I do not believe this is by any means a new phenomenon, but there has thankfully been much more awareness raised now. Unfortunately, there continues to be a stigma attached to mental illness that needs to be destroyed. People are NEVER a diagnosis. I do not care if it is a physical health condition or a medical health condition. Labels have genuine consequences.
‘You are not your diagnosís
You’re not that prescription in your hand
You are not your diagnosís
Simplified for them to understand’
(Ginger Wildheart, The Wildhearts, ‘Diagnosis’ from their latest album ‘Renaissance Men’)
I have worked in behavioral health for many years and have seen remarkable changes taking place within the field which are innovative and produce remarkable results. I remember the first time the clinic I where I worked brought a Peer Support Specialist (PSS) on board. We only had one, and there was some definite ignorance among the clinical team as for the first few days there was an unsaid belief that the PSS probably should not work with someone in crisis because it could cause the PSS to also go into crisis. I am very happy to report this belief was eradicated within about a week because we experienced the power of peer support. Clinically, we had failed to connect with the person, but this approach was remarkably powerful. In the not too distant past, I introduced a Peer Support Specialist to an inpatient psychiatric unit where the concept was entirely new.
“The stigma I experienced working in that facility has permeated through my recovery story. Before I reached wellness, people were telling me that my reality wasn’t true. Throughout my journey, having friends and loved one’s back away. Now in my profession as a Peer Specialist, being denied opportunities to help someone because it would “trigger a crisis” in myself according to their opinion. I am not my diagnosis. I am not my past. I am a person. My name is Jessi.” Jessi Davis, MHPS RSPS Transition Age Youth Coordinator Via Hope
I have been fortunate that I worked in a system that celebrated strengths and meeting people where they are. It inspired a passion for me in my career to always try to do everything I can to make this world a better place. Some days are more successful than others. I have heard and seen horrific stories. I have heard and seen beautiful acts of love, empathy, support, resilience, and recovery.
I know that I never liked the task in school when I was asked to identify 3 strengths or things I liked about myself. I think it has become much easier with time, but I honestly do not know if it is because of the experiences I collected on my way to adulthood or some other reason. Parts of my adolescence were awful, and it didn’t change until I was well into my 20’s. I also know though I was extremely lucky and fortunate in many ways, especially in that I found coping mechanisms that worked for me. Music spoke to me and was my escape from the challenges I experienced. I also began writing in a journal, and, while they were initially song lyrics, my limitations in musical talent (having none) meant that these would become essentially poetry, even if that wasn’t what I wanted to call it due to preconceived stereotypes about my role in this world as a man and how we are trained to guard our feelings. My darkness I felt when I was younger had outlets- healthy outlets.
Along the way in my career, I was presented with an exciting opportunity. Despite having no behavioral health diagnosis, I had the opportunity to attend a two week Peer Support Training class as part of my orientation for a job. Part of the training is the Peer Support Specialist being able to share their story in a way that inspires hope and resiliency. It was scheduled for about the middle of the training, and I felt uncomfortable with the idea of being in the class that day. I felt like I was an outsider and was betraying my classmates trust in some way. On the second or third day, I said something to one of my classmates during a break. This came out later that day in class, and our instructor told me he was sure I would have a story to share. Sure enough, I was annoyed that we only had 10 minutes to share as I felt it was not nearly enough time. While I have never experienced some of the things my classmates had, I had experienced similar emotions, similar moments in my life, and was moved by the stories I heard. Those two weeks have been extremely inspirational in my career. I have worked with others who have also received that training, and the power and energy these individuals radiate with afterward are contagious.
Turning this back to the song ‘Diagnosis’ and what inspired this, people are never just one thing. If you take 60 seconds and write down everything you are, I am sure you will have quite a list. It might start with father, son, husband, supervisor and then it gets really interesting as we drill down even deeper into what makes us who we are. To label someone as a disease takes away everything else they are. I have been fortunate to work with a CEO who frequently serves to remind others of this and has inspired significant changes in organizations across multiple States on this side of the pond with his approach. He also plays to people’s strengths and understands that you meet the person where they are in their reality, which can be quite challenging for some staff. Whatever the person is experiencing is what is real to them, if that is not validated, what reason does the person have to trust you?
If you watch the evening news, scroll Facebook or Twitter, pick up a newspaper after a horrific event, you will be hit hard with the power of stigma as people are quickly labeled or assumed to be (fill in the derogatory word that comes to your mind). What word was it for you? How did that become your conditioned response? Statistics over the years have demonstrated that individuals diagnosed with a serious mental illness are more likely to be the victim of a crime than the perpetrator.
While I am not writing this to dig out all of those reasons why that might happen, I believe addressing the stigma of mental illness can help serve as a catalyst for change. If people felt like they could discuss what they were feeling and experiencing without the negative responses and shame, I believe it would begin to make differences, even if the ripple of change is small. Several of them become larger and a wave can form with enough of them. It starts with each of us though. We interact with people on a constant basis in our lives. We do not know what most of them are experiencing or have gone through in the moments before we see them, earlier that day, earlier in their lives. We often get one snapshot of that person. In my worst moments, I would not want someone to take that as being all I am.
When I look at the artists whose lyrics have hit me in the heart and soul the hardest, it is the likes of Frank Turner, Ginger Wildheart, Tyla, and others who articulate so clearly many of the thoughts that have passed through my brain over the years. Many of their songs have become personal anthems that inspire me when I need them. They inspire resiliency and let me know my brain is not really that strange in those weak moments. Turner’s ‘Get Better’ Being a powerful anthem for many and a reminder that we can always get better as people as long as we are still breathing.
Thinking about this topic has also given me a reason to really take a look across several parts of my collection with various albums immediately coming to mind that has connections to this blog. If we travel back in time to 1978 when I was just a boy, Alice Cooper unleashed ‘From the Inside’ which was conceptually based around his stay in a psychiatric hospital of the time.
The ballad ‘How You Gonna See Me Now’ has always been one of my favorite Alice ballads, and I have really enjoyed the lyrical depth to it that became apparent as I got older. Titus Andronicus released ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’ in 2015 and shared the story of someone dealing with symptoms related to bipolar disorder over the course of a rock-opera with the band releasing one segment of the story as a music video that portrays someone receiving services in an institution.
Stand Atlantic released a music video for their song ‘Lavender Bones’ in 2018 which show their singer being treated the same as everyone else and being taught to think and act the same way. She breaks free from the authority in the video, and, to me, celebrates the character she is playing by showing all of the different sides to who she is as a person through all of the colors she uses in her painting (my interpretation).
Ginger Wildheart has been very open with the challenges he experiences and their impact on him. Between Twitter, his music, his charitable actions, and even negative incidents, he has let fans have a window into a world that would not have been seen decades earlier before the rise of social media. Ginger Wildheart has albums such as ‘Ghost in the Tanglewood’ and ‘The Pessimist’s Companion’ that really speak to the insecurities and dark emotions that we experience and provide catharsis. He has also addressed these experiences in specific songs over the years as well such as ‘The Order of the Dog’ and personal favorite ‘Drive.’ Ginger was recently on “Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon” with Alan Niven talking about their recent suicide attempts and mental health care. Here is a link to the show:
Wade Bowen is a red dirt singer/ songwriter based here in Texas who has a discography of amazing albums, and he has never backed away from singing about person topics that have affected both him and his family, such as his song about post-partum depression ‘Turn on the Lights.’ He recently released a piece on YouTube that addresses his own recent struggle with a physical illness as well as the suicide of his nephew who was also a member of their team. While Bowen and the team continue to process their grief, it serves as another reminder to eliminate the stigma that keeps this topic from being discussed. Here is a link to ‘Inconsistent Chaos.’
Another band that served me extremely well back in my late teens when I felt mentally exhausted and struggling was Suicidal Tendencies. I felt like Mike Muir was often tapping into my own brain with the likes of ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down,’ ‘Alone,’ ‘Can’t Stop,’ etc. His lyrics served as a kick in the butt while also tapping into human emotions that all of us feel at some point in time. They also helped provide another realization in that we need to like the person we are and be comfortable in our own skin. I feel like that goes back to my earlier example where I would struggle as a teen to identify my own strengths.
As the Wildhearts served as the inspiration behind this blog, it seems fitting to close it with Ginger Wildheart and Ryan Hamilton ‘Fuck You Brain’
As part of one of my son’s activities at school, I was recently in a theater filled with elementary school age children and parents watching the new kids’ movie ‘Ugly Dolls.’ It obviously would not be a movie I would be watching if my wife and I didn’t have children, but the time as a family is priceless. I am sometimes amazed by how much I know about Peppa the Pig, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and the like. I have seen Thomas the Train and the Cat in the Hat get eclipsed over time with these other shows and movie characters.
I have lamented the lack of importance and value of music in today’s world. There seem to be fewer and fewer well-known bands and artists creating a legacy and leaving an imprint than in previous generations. Over the years, music has been a powerful tool for people from a personal level to a societal level. It has provided comfort to us when needed to help us in our times of need as well as been a soundtrack for great moments. It has courted the ire of the powers that be due to its ability to unite people behind a common goal It has been condemned as a tool of a devil and the inspiration for teenage debauchery. I love going back through time and discovering old music. Time machines do not exist, but there is something magical about losing myself in old songs and imagining life at that time, whether it is Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five, Chuck Berry, Janis Joplin, or another artist. I love knowing what was happening at the time, what inspired the songs, and information about the artists. Those artists have also transcended time and continue to be widely known.
I do not see music resonating with as many people the same way today though. Music has become an inessential afterthought to the mainstream in many ways. With the internet, we have lost some of the iconic moments such as what it meant to be on the cover of Rolling Stone, being the musical artist on Saturday Night Live, having a video world premier on MTV, etc. These were significant things in our culture in the past. Musical genre did not matter as there were stars in seemingly every genre who would cross lines in terms of popularity. For example, I did not listen to country but knew who the artists were. In the 80’s, I was mainly a metal head, but my seeds of listening to everything were also planted at that time. I was listening to oldies as well as bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, INXS, and NWA. I didn’t realize at the time just how costly this form of salvation would cost me in the years to come. I even got an electric guitar around the age of 14 and had to come to grips with a hard truth- I have not one ounce of musical talent anywhere in my body. It did not stop me though from creating my own rock band in my head, writing songs (lyrics), and imagining giving interviews. After all, I had read that was what Joe Elliot of Def Leppard had done when he was younger.
I wasn’t thinking about any of this when the movie started the other night. I was wondering how loud all the kids would be during the movie, how bad the storm was outside, which way to go if one of my kids needed to go to the bathroom, and a hundred other thoughts. We sat through what seemed like 20 previews before ‘Ugly Dolls’ finally started. Almost immediately, we had the main character starting to sing a song and then other characters were contributing lines to the song. While I will say the poppy genre didn’t do it for me, I appreciated that it began with a song. Pretty soon, we had another song and then another.
Each song propelled the narrative in a way to engage the kids’ attention. My mind began to go down other avenues now where I thought about so many of the other animated movies and the songs that are attached to them. I have never been unfortunate enough to sit through ‘Frozen,’ but I know the hook from ‘Let It Go’ like it has been cut into my brain with a rusty nail. I can still hear the ‘Thomas the Train’ theme in my head. Just think of all the music in ‘Shrek,’ it is one of the reasons I really liked the movie. When ‘Trolls’ was recently released, both of my kids loved the music and wanted the soundtrack so they could sing along. If they hear any of the songs from the movie, they are dancing, singing, and letting me know it is from ‘Trolls.’ With all this flooding my mind, I started wondering where we are losing our passion for music and our willingness to support the artists. Kids obviously still love music. On a side note, one of my favorite scenes from ‘The Hangover’ is when Stu sings his short song while the tiger passes out from the roofies.
Twice per week, my son has a music class where he is exposed to different musical instruments and songs. They learn to sing songs, and some of them perform for us during the school year. I remember doing the same thing when I was in elementary school and thinking ‘Silver Bells’ was the best Christmas song in the world. I can’t tell you why; there was just something about it at that time. Band was important, even at that age to many students as they were already playing instruments, even if it wasn’t always what they wanted to be doing. Now, we have education budgets under fire with the arts being one of the first to always be on the cutting board. Perhaps, that was the same in the ’80s, and it just wasn’t part of my world at the time as I was too busy in sports to think about trying to play music. I can’t help but think though that it is part of where music as a cultural phenomena is struggling. It is being minimized, and that message is making it down to the kids.
Another possible factor is truly ironic to me. We have too much music which truly spreads popularity across so many artists that there are fewer and fewer icons. For those of us that love music, we are constantly discovering new bands and artists from all over the world. Within a day, I may discover several bands that I love such as the Dead Furies from Estonia or the Fadeaways from Japan. I might not have ever heard of these bands though back before the Internet. I am incredibly happy to have found them because I love the music. It can start to spread us thin though because there are only so many hours in a day. This month I find myself extremely excited that there are four new releases released I have been anticipating- the Darts, the Wildhearts, the Sweet Things, and the Glam Skanks. I imagine there will be someone else that suddenly appears which will also connect with me. How do I find the time to listen to all of them? Seriously, I am open to ideas on this one as the Darts and Wildhearts are already on constant rotation.
As the final song in ‘Ugly Dolls’ set up the final scene where the doll’s dream of being with a child is realized, I was pulled out of my thoughts and back to the hustle and bustle of getting out of the theater. I ultimately have hope that kids today will help us rediscover music and get it back to where it belongs in society. There is something to be said about people being able to remember more through the power of music such as recent studies of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have revealed.
I don’t think the platform to truly demonstrate the power of music has found itself again yet. Print magazines have sadly continued to disappear with the decline of book stores making that even more prevalent. We have wonderful music sites like this one, but we need to be in front of more people. We can be an excellent conduit for new music to the people who try and say there is no great music being made. It is being made, and it can be found all around the globe. It just takes a little more digging because it is not in heavy rotation on MTV or all over magazines at the check stands. People also do not have the record stores to lose themselves in and discover a hidden gem. The music is out there though. Let’s each make sure that we remember to tell others what music means to us, what music moves us, and why we need it in our lives.
Many great albums drift away to never be heard or forgotten by the vast majority of people, while a handful of us cherish those albums and hold them close, lamenting the fact that those bands are gone and will not be gracing us with more magic. Back in the 90’s, the Dogtown Balladeers released an album and a couple of incredible CD singles (remember those?) that have constantly remained in my rotation throughout the years. I have made it a point to continue to tell people about the band and how great their music was. Now, everyone gets a second chance to latch onto some pure rock n roll that brings to mind the sounds of the Rolling Stones, the Dogs D’amour, the New York Dolls, and others through this new EP by Spencer and the Elegant Blackouts. Spencer Willhouse was one of the original guitar players in the Dogtown Balladeers, and this EP finds him exploring the same vintage sounds that the Balladeers did all those years ago. Simply put, this is essential for those of us who love classic rock n roll.
These songs were made for the live setting where the music fuses with the soul and works its magic on each person. Time stops moving as these songs take us to another place where we sing at the top of our lungs, the dream of being in a band, and remember when rock n roll was king. A ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ gets ‘Childs Eyes’ started with some rollicking piano and a Stones riff leads us into a verse where Willhouse’s voice greets us like an old friend in a rough and ready fashion. Up next is a cover of ‘The Worst’ by the Rolling Stones which was originally on their ‘Voodoo Lounge’ record so not one of the standard covers that many bands do. Here, the Elegant Blackouts give it much more of a rock spin where I remember the original was more of a ballad. Ironically, this is the song I like the least here, but I do love the piano work by Eric Mauro and think the song works very well within the context of the EP. I should emphasize that I still really enjoy the song, but the others I enjoy that much more.
‘The Next Time’ begins with some acoustic picking before becoming an up-tempo rocker with a great hook. This is currently my favourite on the record with the lead into the chorus being done perfectly. Mark Melchiorre (Silvertide) provides some excellent guitar work here and on the following song ‘Plastic Roses,’ which closes the EP in fine style. This is a classic rock n roll song that gets the body moving and finds Kevin Frank (Silvertide) laying down the perfect beat on the drums. The spoken word vocal before the final run of the chorus is perfectly placed and simply divine.
I hope it goes without saying that if you like any of the bands I have referenced that you owe it to your soul to check this EP out and spin it about 10 straight times. This is timeless vintage rock n roll distilled from the finest spirits; let’s not let it disappear into obscurity. Hopefully, this is just a sample of more to come from the band.
Indonesian Junk return with a new EP of three originals and one cover. They hail from Wisconsin here in the United States and have put out a couple albums as well as past singles, a live album and an EP. This EP is not a bad place to get started if you want to get a taste of the band. Drawing inspiration from the likes of the Heartbreakers and those early bands from New York back on the 70’s with a healthy dollop of powerpop hooks, Indonesian Junk carves out their own identity to sound fresh and inspiring.
Lead track ‘When I Find You’ roars out of the speaker and finds Daniel James crooning over a cool guitar riff, and he then lays down a killer solo for good measure. This is straight forward rock designed to clear your head and celebrate life for a few minutes… assuming you are not the one he is going to beat up when he finds you. I’m always surprised more bands don’t cover early KISS songs with the excellent cover of ‘C’mon and Love Me’ sounding like they were the ones who wrote it with the attitude spilling out of James’ vocals throughout the song. Mike Mattner pounds the drums into submission, and Johnny Cyanide (bass) provides some excellent backing vocals. As the song fades out, the riff for ‘Detroit Rock City’ bubbles up for a moment and leaves me wishing the band had gone ahead and covered it too.
‘I Could Die’ opens with some nice work by Mattner to set up a midtempo song that features a slow subtle guitar riff. Unfortunately, this song lets the momentum of the first two tracks slip, and I have caught my mind wandering on this song each time I have played the EP. I think I would connect with it more in the context of an album’s worth of material. The band grab my attention back every time with the big swaggering riff and beat of ‘See the Light.’ My favorite song on the EP, this one channels all that is great with sleazy sounding rock and roll with James serving as a conduit for the likes of Thunders, Berry, and even some McCoy.
Indonesian Junk will hopefully get exposed to some new fans with this one as the EP represents a really cost effective way to start your collection if you are not already a fan. While it is not perfect, it does represent their sound really well overall with the band specializing in primal, punky, hook filled rock and roll, which their record label (Rum Bar) seem to have some innate ability to find and deliver to us.