Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Dexateens - Hardwire Healing

I've had a friend over doing some work on my house here and there the last few weeks.  He's a wonderful guy and a real craftsman, so whatever he charges I never care because the end results are just something else.  He's really a cabinet maker, but the need for cabinet makers in this day and age seems smaller than it used to be.  Years ago, he was married to a girl with a great job, and he worked for the airlines and made seriously good money, and he had a beautiful McIntosh stereo.  That was the first really amazing stereo I had ever heard.  He's since upgraded the one I heard, but he says it's getting older nowadays and he can no longer afford to upgrade it (besides, upgrading $10,000 components requires more than $10,000).  So he's glad he got what he did when he did, but he was saying he wasn't sure he'd do it over again.

Our conversations eventually (make that quickly) turn to music.  This time he mentioned that he doesn't know anyone to turn him on to new music, and the radio is awful and he hates the internet.  I told him the internet is a valuable tool, but you certainly don't need it. You can still do things the old fashioned way, and you'll find all kinds of great stuff.  Now, my friend has an amazing cd collection of well over 5000 disks (years ago he sold his Empire table and all but about 50 MOFI records - he truly regrets this), and he's a little older than me so he's pretty heavy on the classic rock, but also listens to classical, jazz, blues and really twangy country (he really liked my description of new country as "Journey with cowboy hats").  So he's more than willing to see what's out there, but he's just not sure how, and he says that a mutual friend of ours and me are the only people that still need music in their life to get by and be happy.  Since he's not on the internet much, he's really flummoxed that people think shitty mp3's and ipod's are a substitute for a decent stereo, plenty of amplification and cd or vinyl sources.  I had to tell him that he's not alone, but there's not nearly enough kids these days staring at pictures of the modern day equivalents of Pioneer SX 780's and Dual turntables, while they spin records by new bands that have integrity and know how to write their own songs.

So while he was putting in my new front screen door (which is beautiful), I played him The Dexateens' Hardwire Healing cd (I don't have this on vinyl, I should fix that).  Right off the bat, the big, three guitar attack hits him square in the back of the head on Naked Ground and he's asking, "What year did this come out?"  I told him 2006 or 2007, something like that.  He said, "I like that it sounds like it could have come out any time since 1970.  It sounds like it's just always been there, but it sounds real good."  That's what I get from these guys.  I'll even credit them with getting me to revisit Lynyrd Skynyrd (I hated them when I was a kid and for a long time after), because The Dexateens don't sound like some racist assholes with a confederate flag.  When The South rises again, The South is gonna have to deal with a generation of people that think that flag stands for a bunch of jackasses that they're embarrassed with.  I was surprised to find that I think Ronnie Van Zant probably thought more like me than I thought, and I've since been enjoying them.  Fixed my uptight ass!

Now the other things he liked were the crazed and disjointed three guitar intro to Fyffe, and I told him he needed to listen to this one a few times because the lyrics are really cool.  It's about a paranoid sort of guy that actually makes some valid points about wanting answers to his questions.  He liked the thumping of Maker's Mound, which just grabs you reminds you we're all gonna die, and we don't know where we're going, but you can hope it's somewhere you want to be.  What I found funny is the instant empathy he had (as did I the first time I heard it) of living "outside the loop in Ohio, in O-hi-o..." when Outside the Loop played.

I have realized that just because I love a band (make no mistake, I LOVE The Dexateens) doesn't mean the rest of you will.  This has been clearly borne out through getting to see bands like The Dexateens or The Dirtbombs and finding out that only 75 other people in Cleveland cared (and my group made for four or five of those).  I'm not the arbiter of all things great in Rock N' Roll, I'm just a guy.  But it does make me sad that so few people are interested in how great three guitars and some pounding drums can make you feel.  It feels great, and I'm not gonna get bummed out that so many people would rather not feel great.  I'll just keep turning my little part of the world on to bands like this, and be happy that those people are feeling a little more great, like me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Montrose - Montrose

I am by no means a fan of Sammy Hagar.  Nor am I big fan of Arena Style rock.  At least, I don't think I'm a big Arena Rock fan.  I might be though, just because of when I grew up.  I mean, Big was in, and I like Big, Loud music.  So maybe I like Arena Rock more than I want to.  I don't think that matters, though.  So what?  At least a band like Montrose was aspiring to something.  They wanted to Rock the Nations, and on this album, when Sammy Hagar was just Sam, and Ronnie Montrose was an up and coming guitar god, these guys came up with a Big, Loud, Fun album.

Just think about Bad Motor Scooter.  Almost any song with a guitar that sounds like a motor of some sort is okay in my book, and Bad Motor Scooter has that in spades!  I mean, think about it - how cool can a scooter be?  Cool ones are Vespa's and they come in colors like pink and teal.  But the girl Sam (not Sammy) is singing about lives on a farm and her brothers probably put a Harley engine on it, and now her scooter sounds like a cool guitar running through twenty Marshall stacks.  That's a baaad motor scooter, for sure!  But why is she going to hang out with Sam (not Sammy)?  She's got this awesome motor scooter and he's afraid to come over to her house because he's afraid of her dad.  No wonder he changed his name.

I always kind of wanted to fly in a spaceship.  Mostly because you can probably really, really haul ass with warp drive.  There are certain songs that I've always felt would just be good to play while hauling ass around Alpha Centauri, and Space Station #5 is definitely one of those songs.  I mean the coolest things about this album are definitely Ronnie's guitars, but the whole thing actually works pretty well.    Actually every song on here that works really well is built on a big assed riff that just won't quit, and I'm pretty sure that's the recipe to follow to write awesome rock songs.  Montrose succeeds on every level on this album.

I'd like to say I knew all about this back in 1973, but I didn't.  The girls I looked to for musical guidance half the time probably liked Rock Candy because you could dance to it (I bet it was popular in strip clubs for awhile), but none of them really seemed all that interested in a record like this.  So I suppose this is a guy's album, more or less.  I know the first time I heard it I had already heard some Punk, and this is far removed from that, but this is just really fun music.  I can remember hearing Rock Candy on the radio, but I never knew who it was.  I bet I didn't buy this until the mid to late 80's, and I still probably don't play it as much as I would have if I had heard this before I had a car.

The funny thing is that the first side is really great, all the way through.  The second side is good, but it also has Rock Candy on it, which is smart because it's the best song on the album and gets you to listen to some of the songs that aren't quite good enough to fit on side one.  Songs like Good Rockin' Tonight and One Thing on My Mind are good, but they'd never have made it onto side one.  Still, if you play side two first and then flip it over, it's a record that just gets better and better, so that's the way to do it.

My record is nice and flat and has a little surface noise, but it's not bad.  It doesn't have a bar code, but it has a plastic inner sleeve.  So I either bought it used or got a new sleeve for it, I'd guess.  I bet you can get one of these real cheap and it would be a nice addition to your collection.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cheap Trick - In Color

The first time I bought Cheap Trick - In Color, was in 1977 for my brother for xmas.  I wasn't all that familiar with them, but they played them a bit on college radio back then.  I thought they'd be a fun band for a 13 year old to get into.  He seemed to like them for awhile but then eventually he got into The Clash and I'm pretty sure that when push comes to shove they're the only band he listens to, even to this day.  I don't know why he decided he only needed to listen to one band, but maybe that's all the attention span he's got?

This record always kind of sat on the back burner for me.  I liked it.  I didn't love it, but I liked it.  I think I was working at a car wash, and if I went into my brother's room and stole his album (which was something I was allowed to do - he was forbidden to touch my records) before work, I'd have Cheap Trick stuck in my head all day while I dried cars at the end of the wash.  I really liked being up at that end of the wash, because I was allowed to smoke when there wasn't a car, and I had enough time if a car just entered the wash to run next door and get and ice cold Orange Crush.  Man, I loved that stuff when I worked there. Not a big fan of orange pop these days or even ever since, but back then I could smoke a half a joint in the car wash, have a nice menthol smoke and run next door and get an Orange Crush and I thought life was pretty fuckin' great!

This album was kind of funny in that when you played it for someone back then, they didn't seem to interested in it.  But come 1979 and all these songs became standard airplay and big hits with the release of Cheap Trick - Live at Budokan.  I thought it was pretty cool that they got some recognition, but I always liked the way this album sounded more.  They were simple, straight up Rock songs and they had the kind of production that would make those songs just stick in your head.  I always liked Hello There, and I remember reading somewhere that they used to use that song to help the sound guy dial in the sound.  That's why each member comes in clearly on their own in the song.  It's short and simple, but that seemed like a great idea to me, and I like songs that are put together like that for some reason.  I think my favorite song is still Come On, Come On but Southern Girls gives it a run for the money.

I remember hearing I Want You to Want Me from the live album a few years later and arguing with a friend in his car that there was no way I had heard it, because it was "new."  I told him it was on a live album, so odds were pretty good they had some other albums out, you just hadn't heard of them yet.  I remember he was pretty solid in his argument, and then I told him, "But you never heard of Peter Frampton before Frampton Comes Alive, so why wouldn't it be the same for Cheap Trick?"  Lemme tell ya, sometimes you just can't argue with someone when they're high.  I think I even pulled out my ultimate bit of Rock Snobbery and called the album, In Color and in Black and White, because that way I could show my massive superiority of all things Rock N Roll, but he had never seen the album so it was pretty lost on him.  Lemme tell ya, sometimes you just can't argue with someone when you're high.

So I think I found this on the reissued CD in 1998, with some bonus tracks.  I called my brother to come over because I was sure he hadn't heard it in decades, and he didn't even know what album we were listening to!  What?  So I was left in a bit of a funk, lemme tell ya.  The cd is fine and you get a few bonus tracks that won't change your life any.  I found a copy of the record at a record store in Corning, NY for like two bucks (I think that's where I got this, you can get it anywhere, I'm sure).  The record is nice and flat and I think sounds pretty good.  The cover is nice and pretty and it's funny to look at how Cheap Trick was trying to market themselves.  I think it's a fun record, but for some reason a little Cheap Trick goes a long way for me.