Category Archives: Reviews

Infamous Albums: Black Flag’s What The…

After the success of the article on  Black Sabbath’s Born Again, we decided to immediately work on the next installment of Infamous Albums. For this second episode we will be looking at Black Flag’s 2013 album What The…

The brain child of guitarist, Greg Ginn and most known for former vocalist Henry Rollins, Black Flag along with D.R.I, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and many other helped formed the U.S hardcore punk sound. Starting with their second album My War, the band would become more experimental, something that followed the band on every release until their 1986 break up.

Post break up, the members would remain in the music business with Rollins forming Rollin’s Band and Ginn continued in his other projects most notably The Descendants. In 2003 the band played three reunion shows in their home state of California. These shows would include My War being played in its entirety with skateboarder Mike Valley doing guest vocals.  In 2010, to celebrate the 50th birthday of then ex-vocalist, Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn along with Reyes himself, played a set of three Black Flag songs in addition, to a regular set from The Ron Reyes Band. On December 8th, 2011 ex-members, Keith Morris,Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, and Descendants guitarist Stephen Egerton played the entire Nervous Breakdown EP. This was a surprise appearance during a Vandals/Descendants show. This line up would continue to tour and be known as Flag.  In 2013, Ron Reyes, and Greg Ginn announced wanting to bring Black Flag back. They were joined by newcomers Gregory Moore on drums and Dave Klein on bass. This caused two versions of the same band to exist, neither which featured Henry Rollins. In 2013, Black Flag released their first album since 1985 titled What The… . Neither fans nor critics were impressed as they saw it as nothing but a cash grab. This is the first full length to not feature Henry Rollins and the first release since their second ep, Jealous Again to feature Ron Reyes.

First off the production on this album is really poor. Sure lo-fi production is one of the charms of Black Flag and punk in general, but here it doesn’t work. The rhythm section is impossible to hear and the mixing is extremely sloppy. Ron Reyes’s vocals on here just sound horrible. While he sounded just fine on Jealous Again, here he just sounds like a washed up version of Mark Arm from Mudhoney.  The lyrics are corny especially coming from a band that’s known for thought provoking lyrics. The album art looks very lazy and more fitting for a 90’s Nicktoon. The guitar work is the closest thing to a redeeming quality. The record has many cool leads and Ginn’s trademark shrieking solos are still there, however the riffs on this album are very generic and get boring fast. The drumming is also very generic. These problems are present on every track, making it a chore to get through in one sitting.

The first half of this album tries to be the in your face, aggressive, punk band we all know and love. Sadly Reyes’s bored sounding vocals combined with the lazy riffs fail to create any sort of energy and a Black Flag album without energy is a big fail. The second half of the album is where we start getting more varied. This is very similar to how My War transitioned from fast, experimental hardcore on side A, to a slow and heavy doom metal inspired style on side B. While that album was great and it’s experimentation inspired many others, What The…, found a way to make even it’s experimental side sound stale. The slow and mid tempo parts  sound very mediocre and chances are the listener is already starting to zone out at this part. The album also doesn’t blur together very well at all. If you were to have this on in the background and not pay attention to the lyrics, you would have no idea which track you are on. This record is so poorly structured that you could cut and paste random sections from random tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. This is a huge step down for Black Flag as their later albums, such as Family Man, were full of variety and risk taking.

In conclusion, What The… , is a sloppy, rushed, mess of an album. Not a single track is worth listening to, as they all sound lazy and are near impossible to tell apart. The mixing and songwriting are bottom of the barrel, which is sad since everyone (when you can actually hear them)  in this band is talented. This is nothing more then an effortless cash grab that puts a stain on the band’s amazing past legacy.

Rating: Why the… did I listen to this.

Review: Lamb of God, Anthrax, Deafheaven & Powertrip Bring The Noise At Starland Ballroom

(GrungeMetalGraveyard.com)
For the live rock music scene is alive and well as old school thrash meets modern day metal. As one of The Big 4, New York natives, Anthrax and Virginia veterans Lamb of God perform to the metal masses as they embark on a 43 date tour with supporting acts, Deafheaven & Power Trip. The international leg of the tour will feature Iron Maiden on multiple shows and Megadeth performing a one-off April 28th. As WSOU presented Tuesday night’s 1/26 show at AEG’s Starland Ballroom, a packed house of Anthrax and Lamb of God fans proved that heavy metal is alive and well in Sayreville, NJ.

LOG Anthrax FlyerFrom Dallas, Texas, Power Trip kicked off the night with their signature style of hardcore speed metal. Lead vocalist, Riley Gale immediately got the crowd going and it wasn’t long before a full blown mosh pit ensued. As a fan of grunge, hard rock and heavy metal, I must say I was instantly impressed by their live energy as the band proved themselves earning much respect and new fans.

Power TripTaking the night into a darker, more melodic direction, Deafheaven took the stage as frontman George Clarke’s evil scream vocal-style and signature hand motions captivated the well-rounded metal crowd. Drummer Daniel Tracy left a searing impression with his lightning fast tempos, tasteful transitions and brutal blast beats. Off their new record, New Bermuda, an enthusiastic crowd response was witnessed during their performances of “Brought to the Water,” “Luna,” their one-off single “From the Kettle Onto the Coil” and Sunbather’s “Dream House.”

DeafHeavenAppearing at Vintage Vinyl in NJ prior to the show for an exclusive signing of their new custom playing cards in promoting their highly anticipated February 26th release, “For All Kings,” Anthrax proved yet again, the genuine love and respect they share with their fans.

ANTHRAX SIGNINGLights went out as the pre-recorded epic opener “Worship” (Intro) played, off of “Worship Music.” Creating a calm before the storm-like feeling, these furious-5 hit the stage with “Fight Em ‘Til You Can’t.” Proudly displaying their signature pentagram logos on both sides of the stage, Benante, Ian, Belladonna, Bello and newly recruited Shadows Fall shredder, Jon Donais, the band fired on all cylinders as the well-oiled metal machine that they are.

jon_donaisAs part of their set, fans enjoyed classic Anthrax hits, “It’s A Mad House,” “Caught In A Mosh,” and closed with their own “Run To The Hills,” equivalent, “Indians,” The band also performed 3 “Among The Living” classic hits, including “Got The Time” and Trust’s “Antisocial.” In a humble yet epic tribute to the very legacy of Pantera late, great Dimebag Darrell & Ronnie James Dio, fans throughout the venue would witness the on-stage banner images in remembrance of both fallen metal gods.

received_1115395905140328As Anthrax laid down the law with an unrelenting, killer set list, it wasn’t until Lamb of God took the stage, that the gates of hell opened. Despite LOG’s uncertain future back in 2013 due to lead singer Randy Blythe’s “manslaughter” incarceration in Prague, Russia, the band inevitably returned to what they do best, owning their set with an aggressive, unrelenting, groove driven energy and stage presence. One might argue that Randy Blythe is a modern day Phil Enselmo as his signature screaming vocals captivated both Anthrax and LOG fans, alike.

20160126_222714Midway into their set, a humble Blythe acknowledged their roots in foremost praise of Anthrax, carrying them out 12 years ago along with New Jersey’s E-Town Concrete and their brothers in Godforbid. “Ruin” was the song of gratitude to each band that paved the way to their mainstream status. In honoring those that put their lives on the line having served in the U.S. armed services, Blythe paid tribute to many of those fallen before tearing into their signature hit, “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For.”

20160126_22375720160126_230027From speaking with various rock fans to full-blown metalheads, whenever Lamb of God has come up in conversation, I’ve always heard the same statement, “They’re incredible Live!” That declaration couldn’t be any more accurate as the band delivered an impressive and tight performance. From white strobe lights to socio political and religious video imagery, Lamb of God showcased their signature style of aggressive, unrelenting heavy metal to a massive metal crowd.

Anthrax’s Set List
Intro
Fight Em
Caught In A Mosh
Got The Time
Antisocial
Evil Twin
In The End
Indians
Among the Living

Anthrax’s Current Lineup
Jon Donais
Joey Belladonna
Scott Ian
Frankie Bello
Charlie Benante

Lamb of God (Partial Song Setlist)
Intro
Ruin
Overlord
Now You’ve Got Something To Die For

Lamb of God Lineup
Randy Blythe
Mark Morton
Chris Adler
Willie Adler
John Campbell

 

Infamous Albums: Black Sabbath’s Born Again

Infamous Albums will be a new series of articles where Alternative Nation writers take a look at albums that are normally panned by the bands fan base, to see if they are as bad as their reputation. To celebrate their final tour this first installment will focus on metal pioneers Black Sabbath’s 1983 album Born Again.

Black Sabbath is a band that needs no intro. Formed in 1968, Sabbath is highly regarded as the “Godfathers of Metal”. Their distinct sound quickly got them fame with albums such as Paranoid and Master of Reality. However, towards the end of the decade the band would release a few flops and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne started losing interest in Sabbath. Finally, in 1979 Ozzy left the band. He would be replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. The next year they would release Heaven and Hell. This record would give the band a more updated sound helping them compete with big releases from Judas Priest, Saxon and Ozzy’s solo act. After releasing the next album, The Mob Rules, Dio would also leave the band, leaving Sabbath to find yet another vocalist.

They recruited Ian Gillan who, at the time, was out of Deep Purple. When this line up, was announced the hype was pretty big.  A rock legend working with the founders of metal? How can this go wrong? Well, to a majority of Sabbath fans it did. Though the album sold well, it was panned by critics and fans alike and is still considered to be among the band’s worst. This is the only album to feature Ian Gillan and the last one to feature classic drummer Bill Ward.

The first thing one notices when checking out this album is the cover which features a red baby with yellow finger nails and teeth. This awkward cover sets the tone for the album… whether it was intended or not.

The first track,”Thrashed”, kicks off real well until Gillan’s scream comes in. Ian Gillan is a great vocalist and his screams were the best parts of Deep Purple tracks like “Child in Time” and ‘Highway Star”, but here it sounds forced and out of place. The lyrics are pretty cool and have an anti-drinking and driving message. The riffs are pretty catchy even if they are a little simple by Sabbath standards. The production on the track is really poor, as the bass cannot be heard at all and Bill Ward’s drumming sounds very processed as if it were done by a drum machine. These same production problems are present throughout most of the album. Flaws aside, “Thrashed” is still an alright track.

Next track, “Stonehenge”, is two minutes of nothing but random sounds. The third track, “Disturbing the Priest”, is an odd one. The melodies, riffs and production on this song are actually pretty well done, but the vocals are some of the worst on the whole album. Like on the first track, they don’t fit and Gillan’s random laughing parts just sound plain ridiculous,, making what could have been a great track only average.

“The Dark” is another track of random noises this one just 45 seconds long. This brings us to the album’s most well known track, “Zero The Hero”.  Gillan’s vocals actually work here and the chorus is very catchy. The intro is dark with its creepy opening riff and ominous bells. The main driving riff is very atmospheric and sounds like nothing the band has done before. The lyrics are about being mediocre which is ironic since this is a solid track and the best on the album.

The next track “Digital Bitch” starts side two of the record as well as the album’s downward spiral. The song has an okay typical 80’s metal riff that is ruined by both the production and Gillan’s vocals (there seems to be a trend here). His attempts at Rob Halford-esque screams aren’t very good and the lyrics are pretty corny.

The title track is a power ballad, something Sabbath has never done before this point. Guitarist Tony Iommi, who is known for writing some of the best riffs known to man, just plays the same generic chords through the whole track. The lyrics feel like they were made up on the spot and the track just feels dull.

“Hot Line” is an attempt at a straight up rocker. The songwriting is very run of the mill and every issue this album has can be heard on this one song.

The final track “Keep It Warm” opens up with a good riff and Gillan sounds surprisingly good. For a second the track sounds a bit like Deep Purple. The track goes downhill fast though as Gillan’s vocals get worse and the production and songwriting problems start to show.

All and all Born Again is not a good album nor is it a terrible one. There is one solid track and two okay tracks keeping the album from being completely bad. Many good ideas can be found on this record though are ruined by the poor production, unfitting vocals and in the case of the last three tracks, lazy songwriting.

Ranking: Worth a look for fans.

Review: Cage The Elephant Recall Beatles, James Bond & Jim Morrison On Tell Me I’m Pretty

Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant are one of the more remarkable young rock groups to emerge over the past decade, constantly reinventing their sound and image with a Bowie-sque flair. On their fourth studio album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, Cage are down a guitarist, Lincoln Parish, and have eschewed longtime producer Jay Joyce in favor of Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame. Under Auerbach’s wing, Cage have created their most rock and roll oriented record since their self-titled 2009 debut while still pushing themselves into new sonic territory.

“Cry Baby” kicks off the record with a mid-tempo rocker. “Mess Around” is the most overtly Auerbach-influenced song on the record, being a straightforward garage rocker about a woman out for blood. Auerbach’s raw production style is quite evident on these two songs which set the tone for the rest of the record.

The next few songs vary in style: “Sweetie Little Jean” possesses a beach pop flair, “Too Late To Say Goodbye” could be the theme for the next James Bond flick, “Cold Cold Cold” is a sixties love letter that could’ve come straight out of a Vietnam war flick, and the psychedelic “Trouble” features a lyrical callback to the band’s first hit, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”.

“How Are You True” is the centerpiece of Tell Me I’m Pretty with its Floydian music and Beatle-esque melody and Cage’s best recorded song so far, a psychedelic ballad about depression, the passing of time, and regret. “Trying to find a way to carry on… one day you’ll find that life has passed you by.”

The rest of the record is a three time punch of retro-rock grooves, with Auerbach’s psychedelic imprint audible on “That’s Right” and “Punching Bag”. Rather than going out on a whisper like Thank You Happy Birthday and Melophobia, Tell Me I’m Pretty closes with the raucous “Portugese Knife Fight” with frontman Matt Shultz channeling the no-fucks-given attitude of late legends Jim Morrison and Scott Weiland: “I wanna waste my life with you.”

Songs like “Cry Baby”, “Cold Cold Cold”, and “How Are You True” hold up to the best of Melophobia and Thank You, Happy Birthday, but is Tell Me I’m Pretty Cage’s best album? I don’t know, and I don’t care,  and I doubt the band really cares what anyone thinks, despite the tongue-in-cheek title: all that matters is Cage have yet again put out a solid release and defied listener expectations to make another debut record, continuing to be one of rock’s best young bands.

To others with synesthesia: I think this album is incredibly purple.

Score: ****

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea & Shaq Are On A New TV Show

Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist and songwriter, makes very sporadic and unexpected appearances in the world of film and television. His filmography is actually a little bigger than his discography – with appearances in the last two of the Back to the Future films, the voice of Donnie in the Wild Thornberrys, the Big Lebowski, Duckman and the Decline of Western Civilization Part III. Flea’s a real cool guy. When I met him a couple months ago, we had this brief exchange of glazed eyes I’ll never forget at Amoeba Records and it was one of the more memorable things that has happened to me all year.  I might have embarrassed myself a little, but there was no way I was going to handle meeting Flea in a calm manner. Sadly, it’s not me.

Now, when my friend Justin said “Flea has a show”, I thought he was referring to a Flea solo concert. He confessed it was a television show and I was certain he was pulling my leg. Well, he was half-right. Flea recently starred in a pilot for Amazon Video entitled “Highston”, a show which may get picked up by Amazon Prime as film and television (post-television?) shows see a shift towards instant streaming release only. The premise revolves around a 19-year old named Highston Liggetts who is a little lost and perceived to be delusional and mentally ill by his family, save for the family member who might actually have real issues, Uncle Bob. The nature of his dissociative disorder is his strong and vivid perceptions of celebrity imaginary friends, from Oprah to Bill Gates. In this pilot however, his friends are Flea and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. Truly, an unforgeable trio. If the show is picked up though, it will have rotating cast. I can only hope Flea will write the score for the show afterwards.

The Highston pilot was a very, very clever piece. Since Calvin & Hobbes, it seems some of the best stories in any form of media involve the dichotomous worlds between imaginary friends and those who can’t see them. Australian (and later American) television series Wilfred is another good example of this format. Highston is different from Calvin & Hobbes and Wilfred in the fact that no one outside of Highston, the eponymous title character, can see his friends or their involvement at all. In both Calvin & Hobbes and Wilfred, characters outside of Calvin and Ryan see Hobbes and Wilfred respectively as a stuffed toy tiger and non-anthropomorphic dog.

I won’t spoil the ending, but Highston’s family wants him to either make something of himself within a week or get admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The pilot provides a lot of blunt but not still pushy nor distracting social commentary, especially on the way society handles mental illness. “No one is happy”, says Highston’s father, Mr. Liggetts. “But Flea and Shaq say they’re happy,” replies Highston. “WELL, that’s because Flea and Shaq are the only happy people! Everybody knows that,” as Flea and Shaq mock the parents to no avail other than what Highston can hear. The show also features some nasty, kooky and funky original basslines from Flea as Shaq teaches Highston dance moves. Highston is a very polite and empathetic person, but no one, especially his family cares to listen to him outside of an agenda they filter everything through.

Nothing I can say is really going to capture the show’s inherent wit and thought provoking social commentary undertones. Regardless if you have Amazon Video and/or Prime, it is available to watch for free here. If you’re a Chili Peppers fan, a basketball nut or just looking to kick back and relax with some new piece of television that isn’t 100% mind rotting, I would definitely recommend the pilot of Highston. Thanks again, Flea.

 

 

Review: Scott Weiland’s Comeback Is In Full Force At Wellmont Theater

Photos by Greg Capra for AlternativeNation.net

After a rocky year, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts completely tore the roof off the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey on Saturday night.

After sets from local band American Diesel and Georgia rockers the Biters, Weiland and his band came out promptly at 10 PM, starting the set megaphone in hand for a rendition of STP’s classic crowdpleaser, “Crackerman”.

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Right off the bat, the band was tight. Scott Weiland hit all the notes, and Tommy Black’s bass lines punctuated Nick Maybury’s crunchy guitar tones. Joey Castillo of Queens of the Stone Age fame, who has been rounding out the band on drums since the departure of Dan Thompson earlier this year, has really added to the band: his trademark powerhouse drumming really adds an edge to the Wildabouts, making this current lineup the strongest in Weiland’s live history.

Weiland’s latest album, Blaster, had the widest representation out of any other album of his career in the setlist. The garage rocker “Modzilla”, Lawless homage “White Lightning”, “Hotel Rio”,  “Amethyst”, slinky “The Way She Moves”, and the ethereal “Parachute” all made it into the night’s set, the latter standing out as a highlight with its psychedelic harmonic vocals from Tommy Black.

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Funnily enough, Scott seemed most at home during his sprawling cover of “Jean Genie” (featured as bonus track on some copies of Blaster), boasting a smile on his face and churning out his trademark slither dance like a modern Jim Morrison.

The usual fan favorites from the STP catalog creeped their way into the set: “Big Empty”, “Big Bang Baby”, “Meatplow”. The Wildabouts’ new version of “Dead And Bloated” updates an old classic with a thrash metal-meets White Zombie vibe.

By the time Weiland and the band nailed the classic “Vasoline”, in the wake of a viral video from earlier in the year of a performance gone wrong, the former STP frontman already completely won the crowd over, which had erupted into a circle pit during the final chords of 1994’s “Unglued”.

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I met Weiland briefly before the show walking the streets of Montclair; he was walking at a brisk pace along Bloomfield Avenue with Tommy.

“Hey… big fan.”

“Thanks,” he said as he continued to walk towards the venue.

An exhausted Weiland would later tell the fans waiting outside by the tour bus that he had to do a meet and greet and didn’t have time. Most of the crowd dispersed at that point, and Tommy Black told the remaining fans that Weiland would be turning in for the night before offering to hang out at a local bar.

Weiland’s had a rough year in general, and the fans said they understood. However if tonight’s performance was an indication for things to come in the future, 2016 will be a total return to form. While the setlist needs a little bit of a shakeup, Scott hardly missed a beat and reminded the audience why he’s one of the great rock frontmen of the past twenty years.

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Check out AlternativeNation.net correspondent Greg Capra’s website GrungeMetalGraveyard.com, and Scott Weiland at ScottWeiland.com

Review: The Renaissance of John Frusciante

Author’s note: Was published without sections on “Zone” and “Renoise Tracks 2009-2011” originally. Now included below.

I can say confidently, as anyone would who knows Frusciante’s history well, that Frusciante does what he wants and it usually turns out very well for him. The sky is the (questionable) limit. Quit the one of the world’s biggest rock bands of the last 25 years – twice – and he lived to tell the tale.

Though when Frusciante goes to tell a story it may be non-linear, upside down, rightside up again, essentially anything non-conventional. This is not to say that his solo work is not enjoyable – it is very much, at least in my view.  Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt is one of my favorite albums ever. I would also recommend To Record Only Water for Ten Days and The Empyrean. I have not finished Inside of Emptiness but I did like what I heard from it, I believe the track “Look On” to be one of his finest works. What people forget sometimes is that Klinghoffer was one of Frusciante’s most frequent collaborators before he joined John’s old band. Klinghoffer was featured on the albums Shadows Collide With People, the Will to Death, Inside of Emptiness, A Sphere in the Heart of Silence and both Ataxia albums.

A few months ago, we reported that John Frusciante was “no longer releasing music for the public”. In fact, I wrote that article. I became a little disheartened because I really enjoy his art and him as a person, but I respected his choice allegedly to not release music. Thankfully, Frusciante goes through a lot of phases. Which is great, I love that about him but you can expect him to say “I’m going to be an elephant from now on” and he’ll come to your next party as a rhinoceros . 2:10 am, I got the most exciting email in awhile. It was a long letter from John Frusciante from his email listing, announcing a triumphant return. In an excerpt from the letter, we see this:

“Even when you make music purely for the sake of doing it, as I do, it sometimes helps to have friends who’s ears and taste you have in the back of your head when you’re making it. But this can also put you in a straightjacket, just as aiming your music at the masses can.  Therefore, in Jan 2014, I decided to stop having an “audience” in this sense, and so I stopped finishing songs or sending what I was doing to friends, and started making a lot of songs at once rather than one song at a time. This freed up my mind so that I could make music purely to hear it and live with it, in order to grow in a different direction for a while. This was not a permanent decision. In fact, I’m already past that phase.

Excellent news, right? He also enclosed links to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud with new releases, about 20 songs spanning different genres. Here, we will discuss them and see how they hold up.

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4-Track Guitar Music (6 tracks, recorded in May 2010)
Download and listen here from Bandcamp

 

For fans of Frusciante’s acoustic and low fidelity works, this is something you would be interestedin , though it is not exactly Niandra Lades. As much as I love Niandra Lades, I actually like watching artists grow. Of course, bands and artists will always harbor old material that is dear to me but if they truly inspire me I like to see where the course of their artistry takes them. Many critics of Frusciante’s latest electronic directions tell him to simply “pick up a guitar”, well, he’s got a guitar here! But the percussion is from a drum machine. As the album cover implies, it is music that may best be listened to at a beach sometime between dawn to dusk. It gives the tracks a beautifully tarnished and retro-electro feel to it, led by melodic but anti-rock guitar soloing. 5 out of the 6 tracks are untitled, except for “Venice”, where Frusciante spends a lot of his time. To me, this is still “classic” Frusciante and I’ve come to really enjoy it. If one tried to summarize Frusciante’s solo work in a couple of songs, well, not saying this is the best candidate only because it is missing his vocals but it incorporates his iconic guitar work with electronic undertones, some of the biggest elements of his solo work. It’s free, I would at least say give this a listen, regardless of where you stand on Frusciante’s solo work. Frusciante quit the Chili Peppers, it’s time to accept that. He has plenty more to offer. This is a beautiful gift.

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Medre (Recorded in 2008)

Download and listen here from Bandcamp

A single track, it is easy to see the connection this track has to his last and self-titled album under Trickfinger. Both album artworks are derived from similar materials and both lie between acid house and electro. Some may be happy to hear this actually includes a very worthy guitar part over an electronic beats, but very drastically different than what was offered in 4-Track Guitar Music. The guitar here is more characteristic of, well, Stadium Arcadium in my book. I wish there was more offered in this collection because I am sure Frusciante has more from this time period. This is one of my favorite tracks from this collection. I am very interested personally in the intersection of electronic and guitars and this is a perfect example of how the two may compliment each other.

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Fight for Love (from the Casa de Mi Padre soundtrack, recorded in November 2013 with Omar Rodriguez of the Mars Volta)
Download and listen from Bandcamp

Rodriguez and Frusciante’s friendship is well documented and they have been involved in several different projects together. Naturally, they come together to cover a song for Casa di Mi Padre, the satirical Spanish language film starring Will Ferrell. Close to the original, it is purely instrumental and has electronic percussion. A good showcase of guitar work, it is something to listen to whilst in the middle of a desert, contemplating life.

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Zone (Acoustic version, from 2014’s Enclosure)

Download and listen from Bandcamp

A poignant rendition of a track from  his 2014 electronic album Enclosure, “Zone” with just guitar and vocalsThis track may be the most “accessible” if it was commercially released. I did not listen to all of Enclosure, but it was a solid effort by Frusciante and it is always interesting to see how artists re-interpret their own work and give alternative versions. I would hope to see a few more of these – either acoustically re-interpreting electronic music or vice versa.

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Renoise Tracks 2009-2011
Download and listen on Bandcamp

The biggest collection of songs from either of the Souncloud or Bandcamp releases and the most comprehensive in a sense. Some complained of 2015’s Trickfinger as underdeveloped and bare bones. Those tracks were made in 2007-2008 and it in the following years, 2009-2011 worked on these tracks and there is a supreme difference. With clips of audio from different media, it almost feels like a movie. It is awesome to see Frusciante progress like this and I can only imagine what his work sounds like today, the work he has been working on this year. He evolved a lot from Trickfinger to Renoise, what will the coming work sound like? Frusciante easily could become a hit in the underground electronic scene, he seems to take a lot of good element from those scenes and makes it exclusively his own.

John Frusciante is again on the rise. Is this Red Hot Chili Peppers? No, but it shouldn’t be. He wanted to evolve as an artist and he is achieving it. He will continue down this path and I’m very happy to see him go down it, as great as it would be for him to be in the Peppers (his “old band” as he referred in the letter). I’m sure the band feels the same about him. He gave them so much and he will continue an abundance of music. God bless John Frusciante, what a great Thanksgiving present to the world and us fans.

Review: New Foo Fighters EP Has Nothing Revolutionary, But It’s Free

The mysterious countdown on the Foo Fighters official website has given way to a surprise release of a five song E.P., Saint Cecilia, for free download. Read on for Alternative Nation’s track-by-track recap of the release and an open letter from Dave Grohl describing the intent of Saint Cecilia and the impact of the recent tragedy in Paris.

The eponymous “Saint Cecilia” kicks off the E.P. with the “comfort food” side of the Foos familiar in tunes like “Walk” and “Learn to Fly”, with layered vocals from Dave Grohl accompanying a country/heartland melody.

“Sean”, the shortest and fastest tune of the release clocking in at 02:11, captures a pop-punk vibe in the verses punctuated by a simple chorus hook consisting of a noodly riff and shouts of “Sean!”.

“Savior Breath” fuses the Foos’ Washington D.C. hardcore punk roots with Motorhead; it’s one of the group’s heaviest songs, right up there with “White Limo” off of 2011’s Wasting Light. Dave Grohl’s solo is one of the most memorable out of his recent output.

“Iron Rooster” is the slow acoustic ballad here, capturing a bit of a Pink Floyd-vibe in Dave Grohl’s vocals and loose guitar solos.

Closing out the five songs is “The Neverending Sigh”, featuring a powerfully driving riff and some very impressive bass work from Nate Mendel despite its vocal hook falling flat

There’s nothing revolutionary here, the E.P. more or less just existing as an extension of Sonic Highways and a treat for established fans. The five songs here more or less have the same impact as the first half of the aforementioned record, but neither reach the heights of 2011’s Wasting Light, nor really have any consistency/flow (which is to expected, considering the songs are made up of “orphaned” song concepts throughout the band’s career). In the end, however, it’s a free Foo Fighters release: you can’t go wrong with that.

See Dave Grohl’s letter to fans below discussing the Paris terrorist attacks and the EP.

19 November 2015

Tonight, Let me begin with a preface to a letter I wrote a few weeks ago from my hotel room in Berlin while on our final tour for this album. I felt the need to write this foreword in light of the heartbreaking tragedies of Nov. 13th, as this project has now taken on an entirely different tone. As has everything, it seems…

The Saint Cecilia EP was put into motion back in October of this year as a celebration of life and music. The concept being that, as our world tour drew to a close this week, we wanted to share our love of both with you in return for everything you have given us.

Now, there is a new, hopeful intention that, even in the smallest way, perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and that hope and healing go hand in hand with song. That much can never be taken away.

To all who were affected by the atrocities in Paris, loved ones and friends, our hearts go out to you and your families. We will return and celebrate life and love with you once again someday with our music. As it should be done.

Dave Grohl

8 November 2015

Hey.

Thanks.

For real.

It was in Austin, Texas March 14th, 2013, at the last show of the “Sound City Players” when I was given a small, but very relevant and perhaps prophetic gift from my Sound City movie producers Jim Rota and John Ramsay. An empty journal, with a note that said something along the lines of, “Congratulations on everything Sound City…..now get to work on the next project!” It was the most beautiful way to end something that I wanted so badly to last forever: with a new beginning.

The basic concept of the Sonic Highways album and series was born right then and there, in a small backstage room surrounded by mountains of Lone Star beer and Stubbs BBQ. 8 songs, 8 cities, 8 studios, and a musical road trip of a lifetime. Removing the Foo Fighters from our comfort zone and challenging the process from top to bottom, it breathed new life into the band, and set us on a journey that unquestionably exceeded any of our simple expectations. And now it has led us here. To another beautiful ending.

So, where do I begin?

We owe it all to Mexico City.

Unbeknownst to them, the people who attended those two concerts back in December, 2013 at Foro Sol stadium helped fund the filming and recording of the bulk of the Sonic Highways project. They were the fuse that lit this little firecracker, baby. Without those gigs, many may have never heard the incredible and truly inspiring life stories of Buddy Guy, Steve Albini, Ian Mackaye, Tony Joe White, Zac Brown, Dolly Parton, Roky Erickson, Gary Clark Jr, Bruce Pavitt, Fred Drake, Terry Lickona, Joan Jett, Steve Rosenthal, Nora Guthrie……a list too long to share here. But, beyond giving our band the equivalent of a rock and roll university year abroad, they gave the entire world the most priceless gift: Inspiration. So….Gracias a todos, Mexico….we couldn’t have done it without you.

Before long, our rag tag crew of ne’er-do-wells was stumbling from city to city, coast to coast, taking in every drop (!) of 100 proof American culture we could squeeze. Dancing in a New Orleans second line parade, laying under the desert stars in Joshua Tree, walking the streets of Chicago in -30 degree weather…it was an American dream come true. Our only responsibility was to share it with you, and the brave people of HBO trusted us with that much. (very freely, I might add.) Blind faith? Perhaps. But, without Nina Rosenstein, we would not be the people who we are today. Looking back, she gave us something immeasurably generous: some of the greatest memories of our lives. These people and places that we experienced have filled our hearts…and ultimately our songs. So, thank you, Nina. We are yours. But, focused on the moment, we never in our wildest dreams could have imagined the whirlwind 23 months that lay ahead of us. We just put one foot in front of the other, and kept moving….

I must admit, I never looked at our schedule. I was too scared. I knew that this was it. This was the big one. There was talk of stadiums, and anniversaries, and TV shows. South Africa, Korea, Colombia. Letterman and Glastonbury. It all seemed too good to be true! But, as always, we kept our heads down and tried to appreciate every single moment as it fled. Because, you realize, none of this was ever supposed to happen. Ever. As we approached our twentieth anniversary, it was hard not to look back on all of those years and smile while shaking our heads in wonder and disbelief. From the Mike Watt van tour of 1995, to RFK stadium in Washington DC (my hometown gig) July 4th, 2015…those dots don’t necessarily connect in real life, you know? It still boggles the mind. But, the spoils of these blessings are not lost upon us. We count every last one.

Even the disasters.

A lucky break? Yeah, you could call it that. Gothenburg was a swift reminder that life is short, and that we’re all here to live it together, no matter what adversity you’re faced with. (Music! The perfect remedy!) Sure, weeks and weeks of shuffling around hotel rooms on my butt with a cast on my leg, trying to pack my suitcase alone before lobby call got pretty fucking stale pretty fucking quick. But, as always, I just put one foot in front of……well, the same one for a while there…

And then everything changed. The energy. The atmosphere. THE THRONE. I was no longer afraid to look at the schedule, I was glued to it. The challenge that we faced from there on out became more of a mission, or a dare, if you will. And it showed. Pat’s smile got even wider (an infallible barometer of all things), Chris’s solos got even faster (thank God someone knows what they’re doing up there), Nate’s stage moves more daring (I once noticed him just to the left of me) and Taylor’s drum set….well….it got pinker. But not without the help of scores of hardworking bad asses that some might call the Foo Fighters road crew (we like refer to them as family, in a very Manson Family kind of way…) They ultimately deserve the lion’s share of credit for keeping this old circus tent erect for the past 6 months. So, let’s all have a nice, warm diet Coke for them tonight. They’re the hardest working motherfuckers in the business. Cheers.

And so we trudged on. Any fatigue was met with an explosion of energy once the curtain went up. Any pain was met with the adrenaline of thousands of voices singing along. Every one of you kept us alive for a while there. One night, at a point where I felt like I was at the end of my rope, it came to me that these few hours we have together every night were something like a heavy blanket to retreat under. I could always rely on our time together to get me to the next stop. Again, and again. From Chicago to Cesena.

That being said….we’ve always been pretty good at knowing when to call it a day. You just….know. You get that feeling that, if you’re not careful, you’ll run out of bread crumbs to find your way home and be lost in the woods forever. It hit me a few months back, crept up on me and tapped me on the shoulder as if to say “Hey…don’t spend it all in one place, asshole.” A sobering reminder that all good things must come to an end. Of course…we could keep going. After all, we’d made it this far, right? What’s another 20 years?

Around that time we arrived in Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits festival. A massive gig, two weekends and hundreds of acts, it was to be some of our final American performances for this album. There’s a certain bittersweet relief to that. On one hand, you’re carrying these monumental experiences under your wing as you anticipate life outside of a tour bus. On the other hand, you fear that the thrill and joy of sharing music with people all over the world will leave you like an empty shell when it’s gone. It becomes your everything. And that’s terrifying.

The Saint Cecilia Hotel, named after the patroness saint of music, is known as “A lush retreat from the world”. And, believe me, that it is! 14 rooms and a small bar, it’s tucked away in the trees within a bustling, Austin neighborhood. As our van pulled up in the wee hours of September 30th, 2015, I was struck with a rather impulsive idea: to record some songs on our days off to give to the world as a “thank you” for the last 2 years. Though there’s a world class recording studio just on the other side of the fence (Arlyn Studios, look it up.), the hotel manager, Jenny offered that we record in the hotel. A most generous, but unrealistic offer. Though, after rolling it around in my head a few times, it made perfect sense! Returning to the city where the entire Sonic Highways concept was born, loading in one last time to a room that was never designed to be a recording studio a la Sonic Highways, and making some music! Fate? Destiny? I was too tired to figure that kind of shit out, so I hit the sack, woke up the next morning and started making some calls…

By 6 pm the next day, the office was transformed into a control room and the bar was littered with microphones and cables. Amps were in the kitchen. Drums in front of the fireplace. Instant studio, courtesy of the legendary Kevin Szymanski! (Those fancy computer things are pretty convenient! More on that another time….) Margaritas were made, friends came to visit, the sun went down, and before long we started making enough noise to drive the neighbors to start drinking along with us. Riffs and ideas were thrown around, songs that were lost in the shuffle over the years, songs that were left unfinished. Like a musical retrospective, we were going through decades of songs no one has ever heard, pieces left on the cutting room floor from every album. Our own sonic scrapbook. (The Neverending Sigh is 20 years old! Was once called 7 corners for all you die hards out there…) Without the usual pressure or expectation of making an “album”, we sat happy and relaxed as we played. A virtual “This Is Your Life” of the Foo Fighters. It was so good, but again, bittersweet knowing that it was all soon coming to an end.

By midnight, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band had arrived, and the “session” turned into a full on party. Guitars were abandoned for horns and the room started swinging (spinning?). People danced between the cables and microphones, dancing behind the bar, strumming acoustic guitars on the patio. Danny Clinch did what Danny Clinch does, capturing the moments in his beautiful pictures between cocktails. Gary Clark Jr. sat on the patio in the candlelight, jamming along with friends from a couch. As the hours passed, the atmosphere had reached exactly what every recording experience should be: A celebration. “Always record! Always record!” said Jack Black in that infamous Tenacious D episode from years ago. Truer words have never been spoken. Because you just might miss something that you’ll never get back again. Moments that happen once in a lifetime. By the time that weekend was over, we had recorded 5 songs in that tiny room.

Weekend two was spent recording vocals and guitars in my bedroom, room 4. More friends, more margaritas, a fire in the fire pit. The most fabulous Cambria Harkey floated in, slinging her camera to insure that this wasn’t all just a dream. The porch was buzzing with activity as I did vocals in my bathroom, stepping in and out to listen to the previous takes. The coffee table became a pile of guitar pedals and scribbled lyrics, beer bottles and ashtrays. At one point, a familiar face walked in and said, “Dave…..it’s Ben Kweller…..” It had been years! Such a talented young man. We hugged, hit play to listen to the last vocal take, and he instinctively started singing the perfect harmony to my line. Without hesitation, I immediately said, “Get your ass in there and sing it right now.” So he picked up the coffee stained piece of hotel stationary with my lyrics penciled on it and banged out his part in two glorious takes. Always record, ladies and gentlemen. Always record. The night faded, friends and family scattered, and I fell asleep with my still glowing amp at the foot of my bed.

It was heartbreaking to leave that place, to say the least. I honestly feel like we left a piece of our band there as we were being torn away from it. The perfect unity of life, and love, and music is something that only comes around so often and in certain circumstances. When you feel it coming on, you have to take hold of it. That place and those people made it possible for our band to take one, big final breath before the curtain closes. Thankfully, we have evidence of this in these songs that we’re giving to you today. Thank you, Saint Cecilia. You made us feel right at home.

And, the music? Maybe these songs are the breadcrumbs that will help us find our way back when it’s time. We could use a nice wander through the woods right about now. Another empty journal, another tap on the shoulder…those things are never far behind. It’s what lies ahead in those woods that excites me now….

So tonight, as I sit in my Berlin hotel room on our final tour for this album, counting down the days until we return home, I can’t help but wonder when we will see each other again. Who knows? But, with everything Foo Fighter related, it will only be when it feels right. And that’s a feeling that’s easy to feel.

To each and every one of you that made the past few years the best our band has ever had, thank you. You have all given us so much, and we are eternally grateful.

For real.

One foot in front of the other….

Dave


 

Scott Weiland Talks James Bond & Star Wars Theories: Is Luke Skywalker Evil?

Written by Alternative Nation reader Doug Mack:

On Sunday night I saw Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts in Covington, KY. Since Scott has always been my favorite artist, I bought a meet and greet package which included meeting him after the concert, getting autographs, a picture with him, and a signed tour poster from the whole band. I talked to Scott about whether he thinks Luke Skywalker will turn to the dark side in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and his thoughts on the latest James Bond film Spectre after the show, which you can read about later in this article.

The concert was definitely different from what I am used to. The venue had about 5 local bands play short 20-25 minute sets before Scott and the crew came on stage close to 10PM. Scott played for about an hour. I was front and center against the stage so I was lucky enough to get a lot of interaction from Scott during the set with fist bumps and handshakes throughout the set.

I will be honest, I felt like I was the only hardcore fan there at the venue. It appeared to me that the majority of the crowd was comprised of fans of the local bands that played earlier. I was the only person there with a Scott Weiland shirt, and I found out later that I was the only person who purchased a meet and greet. This is the third time that I have seen Scott with the Wildabouts, and about the 10th time I have seen him in his various bands: STP, Velvet Revolver, the 12 Bar Blues solo tour, and the Happy in Galoshes solo tour.

The setlist was similar to what I have seen him do in the past few concerts, but he did do an encore of the Velvet Revolver song “Do It For The Kids.” Scott sounded great, although they could have turned up his mic, as the band did drown out his vocals at times. Joey Castillo was a total beast on the drums which was awesome, but at the same time it made Scott’s vocals hard to hear. Tommy Black and Nick Maybury’s playing was spot on. They are both very talented, as is Joey.

I have been a strong supporter of the Wildabouts and was deeply saddened by Jeremy Brown’s tragic passing just the day before their album release. So I made a “RIP Jeremy Brown” poster to hold up in front of the band during the Blaster tunes. At the end of the song “Parachute,” Scott held up my poster to the crowd and said that he was very honored that I made a tribute to his fallen bandmate. I think he also said that song would now be his favorite because of that moment, but I honestly had a hard time hearing some of his comments because of the mic issues.

Towards the end of the show, Scott did make a short statement about the tragedy in Paris and how this situation could happen here in the U.S. at anytime, and that we all need to stand up united together. After the show was over I waited for a little bit, then the sound guy from the band took me backstage to meet Scott.

When I came into the green room, it was just him sitting on a couch. The sound guy said to him, “We only have one meet and greet for you tonight.” Scott looked kind of shocked saying, “Only one.” I went on to shake his hand and explained to him how he has provided the entire soundtrack for my life, and how I have been a life long fan since the release of Core. I then showed him the Jeremy Brown poster that I had made and he told me how he was very appreciative that I would honor his former bandmate and best friend. I told him how my heart really did break for him and the band because I knew that he said that he loved Jeremy as a brother, and how he was so instrumental to the making of Blaster. He went on to tell me how that him, Tommy, and Jeremy have always been the three closest friends since the beginning of this band and he even commented that they were the three musket-queers (his words, not mine). He then signed my Jeremy Brown poster and a copy of my Blaster CD.

I then sat with him in the back room for about 20 minutes. His sound guy was wearing a Star Wars hat which led us into a cool conversation about the new Star Wars movie about to come out, The Force Awakens. His sound guy mentioned that there is a rumor that Luke Skywalker is the new Sith lord in a mask, Kylo Ren. Scott was totally not having it. It was really funny, he kept saying: “No, there is no way that Luke could turn to the dark side. I won’t believe it!” His sound guy was pretty adamant that it could be a possibility. Then I said, “Well they did call Luke a new hope.” Fortunately, Scott liked my answer and was on my side on the matter. We’ll find out in about a month who was right.

I asked Scott how he and Tommy liked the new James Bond movie Spectre, as I saw Tommy and Scott posted on Facebook that they saw the new movie together last week. He said, “It totally kicked ass”. I then told Scott how I was totally loving his newly released song, “Back to the City.” He said, “Yeah, that one really rocks.” I then asked him if that was recorded during the Blaster sessions or afterwards. He said that it was afterwards, and that it was the last song that he was able to record with his late guitarist, Jeremy Brown.

A few of the opening bands then came backstage and was wanting some face time with Scott. It was easy to tell that he was getting agitated with all these people were barging in the room. Scott then shook my hand again, and was off to his bus. I am very grateful to how nice Scott was with me when I met him. I will admit that Scott appears very tired. It may do Scott some good to postpone touring to rest and possibly record some new material with the Wildabouts. My fear is that the audience for Scott and the Wildabouts are dwindling, which could motivate Scott to other avenues such as wanting to get back with his former STP bandmates. Either way, I have been a lifelong fan of his career, and I just to wish him and his bandmates the best.

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Review: Jane’s Addiction Revisit ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’ 25 Years Later

Featured image from Chris Chaney’s Instagram 

Austin, Texas: the world capitol of live music? Potentially, it’s pretty good contender if nothing else. Texas is general has a great live music scene and there are a lot of great bands coming out of Texas, like Ringo Deathstarr. AlternativeNation was given press access to the Fun Fun Fun Fest music festival and I had the pleasure of representing our dear website. Headliners included Cheap Trick, Jane’s Addiction and Coheed and Cambria. Due to traffic constraints and trip itineraries, we were only in able to attend on Saturday. Jane’s Addiction headlined the Orange Stage, playing their classic 1990 album Ritual de lo Habitual in full.  Other highlights our visitors may enjoy from that night were from the sets of Ride, American Football, Fucked Up, Gogol Bordello but also tons of other electronic, rap and hardcore punk groups.

One amusing thing was the dream like growth of the crowd throughout the day. My friend and I got there around 2pm when only about a few hundreds roamed the grounds and with every turn and re-circling around the festival grounds, people were multiplying greatly. By the night’s end, there was probably around 12,000 people in a relatively small park. It became very cramped.

Joanna Gruesome we caught first, straight out of Cardiff, Wales. They are part of the emerging scene in popular yet underground who hold shoegaze roots but just push the music a little harder. The guitar player bore a striking resemblance to Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. The band, upon meeting them, acted very smart ass in response to my question, “Are you Joanna Gruesome,” with a distinct “no, are you?” After wandering around for awhile, we stumbled upon the aptly named Fucked Up’s set at the Black Stage. With 3 guitarists and one big happy barrel-chested frontman, they packed a friendly punch straight to your ears and hearts. An excellent blend of hardcore punk with indie ideals, you could feel the unity between the fans and band as frontman Father Damien went into the crowd, hugging people every couple of minutes. One of the more memorable moments during the festival.

Gesaffelstein, French electronic artist performed with a full band and displayed their rich mix of house music with rock element, a great pairing with Neon Indian which performed shortly after. My friend Nick and I spent some time waiting for Grimes’ set and met some friendly dudes who bummed us cigarettes but Grimes’ set triggered some weird anxiety for me and we decided to leave. It almost didn’t help I had drank much water that entire day. We got some water and pretty soon it would be time for the big bands: Jane’s Addiction and NOFX, respectively some of our favorite bands ever.

Because they played at the same time, we split up: I went to see Jane’s Addiction and Nick would join me after NOFX’s set ended. I had seen Jane’s Addiction once before at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, where they played Nothing’s Shocking in its entirety.

Ritual de lo Habitual, 25 years old this year, is arguably the most incredible album made by Jane’s Addiction. In fact, after the album was made the band felt that they could not create anything better; they had pushed their music to their limit. My favorite album by them, it was privilege to see it done live. These songs have stuck with me through very hard and very weird times. Hard and weird: a perfect description of Jane’s Addiction’s music indeed. Frontman Perry Farrell came out wearing a small cowboy hat and fine western clothes which he eventually stripped. The guitars were tuned a half step down, so the songs sounded a little different but still a good representation of the songs are they were recorded. Around 8:45pm, the band exploded into “Stop” to wild applause. The Spanish spoken word intro blew through the speakers and the crowd went nuts. “No One’s Leaving”, which the band has not played since 1991 during the album’s initial touring was a sight to hear, a truly rarity which lived up true to its name: no one was leaving Jane’s Addiction set. I saw only a handful of people leave towards th end. When it came to “Ain’t No Right”, a most incredible thing happened: the band brought up a very rare medley of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “Burning from the Inside” by Bauhaus known as “Bobhaus.” “Bobhaus”, more awe-worth thing, mixed the lyrics from the intro of “Ain’t No Right” (which is a tease of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll by Ian Dury) and created a unique composite tribute to Jane’s Addiction’s influences. “Obvious” was a true rendition but would have been a shame without the unnamed touring keyboardist in the back who rounded the album’s auxiliary sounds. The crowd nearly burned into flames as “Been Caught Stealing” was brought in by Farrell saying, “Stephens Perkins and I go way back…we were caught stealing together.” But the album’s true magnum opus was next.

“Three Days” with its dark and melodic bassline drug me back to the hollowed place every time I listen to the song. The live dancers added to the song’s erotic and macabre influence and nothing existed for 11 minutes but that stage. Navarro’s guitar work brought one single salty tear to my eye, it was so glorious. It was the most awe inspiring moment of that day, of nearly that whole week I spent in Texas. “Then She Did” was just as heavy, a song about the deaths of Farrell’s mother and his ex-girlfriend Xiola Blue. The whole crowd by this point was either completely engaged or dead silent. They finished the album with performing “Of Course” and “Classic Girl” and emerged into other hits from their past.

From Nothing’s Shocking, they played hits “Mountain Song” and “Ocean Size”. Of course, no Jane’s set would be complete without a dreamy Caribbean rendition of “Jane Says”, their biggest hit. To my astonishment, they closed the set with the tribal “Chip Away” which featured bassist Chris Chaney, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins on single drums while Perry Farrell chanted and dancers male and female stormed the stage.

Fun Fun Fun Fest was indeed a lot of fun, fun and fun. I would give a lot to see Jane’s Addiction to perform Ritual de lo Habitual and I got it all. Sadly, this was the last stop of their album in support for the album’s anniversary. Farrell is hard at work for his extravagant musical project called Kind Heaven which may see the light of day next year.

 

Josh Homme Owns Party Crasher, Talks To Alternative Nation

Co-written & photography by Elias Fulmer and Justin Zabilski

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show that good. The Eagles of Death Metal recently kicked off their tour of Zipper Down with two shows in Los Angeles (not counting an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live) and appearances at Santa Ana’s Beach Goth and Aftershock in Sacramento. AlternativeNation was lucky enough to receive passes to the second show at the Teragram Ballroom, a relatively new venue in Los Angeles that hosted a secret show for Queens of the Stone Age last month as well as an additional Eagles of Death Metal show on the 19th. Alternative Nation also had a chance to briefly talk to Josh Homme, Reggie Watts, and Alex Turner, and to also be in the midst of Josh Homme hilariously kicking someone out of the backstage area!

Opening the night was another Palm Desert band Gram Rabbit, whose music combines of electronica, rock, country, and psychedelia. Their set was accompanied by a mirage of visuals from Alice in Wonderland and other aesthetic driven films with an array of colorful lights thrown into the mix. They played much heavier than their studio recordings, likely to appeal to the audience, and were well received by the crowd. If interested, they are hosting a Halloween event in Pioneertown, California. Information available here.

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Gram Rabbit, performing live

When the Eagles Of Death Metal came on, the crowd instantly lit up with receptive cheers. Jesse Hughes entered wearing a golden hooded cape, with Josh Homme sitting on the drums, David Catching on guitar, and Matt McJunkins (of A Perfect Circle) on bass. Auxiliary guitarist Eden Galindo also performed on certain songs. They started the show off with “Bad Dream Mama” off of Peace Love and Death Metal and it only went up from there. Curiously enough, the setlist consisted of songs from their older material, with only a handful of Zipper Down songs being featured. However, the crowd didn’t seem to mind getting to hear their old favorites along with the new material. AlternativeNation’s Swedish reporter, Hanna Graf, reviewed the album a few weeks ago.

Certainly it can be said that Jesse Hughes knows how to work a crowd. He was all over the place, changing outfits, interacting with his other band mates and the crowd, and even giving a shout-out to a certain birthday girl in the audience. His stage banter was top notch, telling the stories behind some of the songs adjacent to playing them and joking about guitarist Dave Catching wanting to marry him. The current lineup had an incredible energy and chemistry on stage and all stage members all shared vocals at different points of the show. Josh Homme, because of commitments to other bands, does not always perform with the band and his appearance was quite a treat.

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Eagles of Death Metal, performing live

The music was the real treat of the night, EODM played quite a long set, but nobody even thought about calling it a night early. Calling it a solid performance is an understatement. Sometimes when you are in the crowd you can just tell that this is one of the shows they have their whole heart in, and this was definitely one of them. The set also hosted two covers, “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran and “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones. After the main set, Hughes did a solo encore before being rejoined by the whole for even more encores and then finally ending the set with “Speaking in Tongues”. At the end of the last song when you thought it was over, they restarted the main riff and continued even more with a solo-off between Catching and Hughes, playing off crowd interaction. They left the crowd lusting for more, they left us wanting more, and then they took a bow.

Josh and Jesse

Of course, after the show all who were able packed in tightly backstage to give their compliments to the musicians. The family and friends of the band were there giving their support. Upon being asked what it’s like to have a dad for a rockstar, Hughes’ son, Micah, said “It’s fucking awesome!” There were others backstage of course, such as the likes of comedian Reggie Watts and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. Reggie Watts was extremely personable and brought along his kind friend Erick Lodwik, an East Coast musician who had recently moved out to Los Angeles. Getting to spend some time with Watts, we found out that him and Josh Homme had become friends ever since Homme’s appearance on Comedy Bang Bang, which Watts used to host from 2012 until recently. Watts didn’t just sit backstage either, he was in the crowd enjoying the show. Nobody could just sit backstage for such a show, it had to be experienced. Alex Turner showed up late in the set and he was very reserved but polite. We exchanged few words with him but we had an about 15 second staring contest with all of our mouths’, including Turner’s, opened almost to say in unison, “Do I know you?”
Josh Homme was a character, a smart ass but in the best way and highest compliment possible. He is a short recap of a conversation between us:

Fulmer: “Hey, how are you?”
Homme: [pauses] “…I guess I’m doing PRETTY well!”
Fulmer: “Sorry we didn’t introduce ourselves earlier.”
Homme: “Oh yeah, I’m so disappointed you didn’t introduce yourselves earlier.”

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Josh “Baby Duck” Homme on drums

Homme, past the sarcasm in good jest, was pretty nice and took several pictures, shook hands and chatted a bit after the show. In the parking lot was his famous Camaro, the same car he has had since he was 14 years old. One of the more memorable moments backstage was when Homme, in his regular fashion, threw out who I can only assume was a local party crasher. In our interactions with the crasher, it was obvious this guy was full of crap, prancing around like he owned the place. He was pretending to be somebody and spouting off like he was the owner. Josh finally getting annoyed stepped out into the hallway where the crasher was loitering and bothering the other attendee’s, and told him “You’re done, get out”. When the crasher looked upon him confused Josh reaffirmed his position and began walking towards him elevating his voice saying “get out” until the crasher quickly got out of his sight, with his tail between his legs. Would it be an Eagles of Death Metal show if Homme didn’t have any of his usual antics which constitute him to be a well-rounded person? Jesse Hughes seemed as he always is, an old-timey cowboy with a quick wit but quicker with a 6-string. He is the perfect method actor and is perfect for the role he will play in Gutterdämmerung. The other live members, David Catching and Matt McJunkins, were very humble in person and possessed a great stage presence.

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I would be doing a disservice not to mention the sound quality of the night. Being active in the music scene, both of us suffer from near constant tinnitus which tends to flare up after a show. But with the excellent acoustics of the Teragram and great sound engineering, neither of us had that incessant ringing afterwards or at least not any worse than usual. Still, it was more than loud enough to get lost in the performance. Definitely check out the Teragram if you get the chance or see an act you like is playing there, Los Angeles is incredibly lucky to have such a venue new on the scene. To follow the rest of the Eagles of Death Metal’s tour, click here. Setlist is below:

Intro
Bad Dream Mama
Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang!)
So Easy
Complexity (Boots Electric cover)
Kiss the Devil
Shasta Beast
Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.)
Whorehoppin’ (Shit, Goddamn)
The Reverend
Cherry Cola
Got a Woman (Slight Return)
Wannabe in L.A.
Save a Prayer (Duran Duran cover)
Miss Alissa
Anything ‘Cept the Truth
I Got a Feelin (Just Nineteen)
I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)

Encore

Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones cover) 
Already Died (Jesse Hughes solo)
Stuck in the Metal (Jesse Hughes solo)
I Only Want You
Speaking in Tongues

Additional pictures:

Potential

Cover

EODM 2

Jesse 2

Kiss The Devil, from the October 19th show

Review: New Kurt Cobain Album Has Raw Hits

Edited by Brett Buchanan

I had the privilege of receiving and reviewing an advance copy of the upcoming Kurt Cobain album Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings album for Alternative Nation. It’s basic, low-fi, and stripped down to the bare bones. It’s raw! The album jumps straight into Cobain’s psyche. From the opening strumming and mumbles on “The Yodel Song,” to the ever-angelic, elongated, work-in-progress take of “Do Re Mi,” the album is a trip inside of Cobain’s creative process.  It even features a track that easily could have been a Nirvana pop hit.

Sound collage experiments like “Montage of Kurt I” & II,” “Kurt’s Audio Collage,” “Scream,” and “Kurt’s Ambiance” provide a sonic representation of what was written in Cobain’s journals. This is where noise rock experimental influences like William S. Burroughs (Kurt had read Naked Lunch after getting it in a bookstall in London while on tour), Sonic Youth, and Scratch Acid are evident.

The spoken-word comedy bits like the satirical advertisement for the “Capitol Lake Jam Commercial,” “Rhesus Monkey,” “Sea Monkeys,” “Underground Celebritism,” as well as “Aberdeen,” and “Beans” show the foray of Kurt’s genius at work, merging music with comedy.

Instrumental pieces like “Reverb Experiment,” with its intense feedback, sounds like an end-type jam at a Nirvana gig, as well as a homage to the Melvins. “Retreat,” “Letters To Frances,” and “The Happy Guitar” show off other styles of guitar playing that Kurt didn’t show off in live performances with his band Nirvana. This is a new kind of Kurt Cobain, as you’ve never heard him before.

The album also features acoustic demos of 5 songs, that would later be released on subsequent Nirvana albums, both live, and in the studio (“Been A Son,” “Scoff,” “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle,” “Sappy,” “Something In the Way”).

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Super Deluxe Edition and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings both include the highly anticipated soundtrack, an aural complement to the documentary in both concept and experience. Comprised from various early and raw cassette recordings made by Kurt alone, the soundtrack allows a rare, unfiltered glimpse into Cobain’s creative progression.

Track by Track

“The Yodel Song” – Starts off with a bit of mumbling, and then a chord progression, with mumbles/yodeling over the top. Recorded circa 1986 – 1988.

“Been A Son (Early Demo)”– Acoustic demo, with alternate lyrics, where Cobain first performs the song on guitar, and then performs the bass part.

“What More Can I Say?”– An acoustic/electric song, that was added in the limited theatrical re-release of the film in August 2015. Clocking in at 3 minutes, it’s a very formulaic song, and would’ve easily fit within the Nirvana repertoire in 1993/1994.

“1988 Capitol Lake Jam Commercial” – Cobain’s satirical and comedic take on the then-upcoming Capitol Lake Jam, using a multitude of voices. One was heard in “Beans” (the With The Lights Out Version), as well as another deeper voice.

“The Happy Guitar” is an instrumental that sounds like a theme from a 60’s television series set in Hawaii. This was first released on the Outcesticide bootleg series in 1994, under the title “Black and White Blues” (made by Bootleggers) albeit in inferior quality.

“Montage Of Kurt I” –  Vocal experimentation featuring Kurt satirically talking about, among other things: Bong water, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and other weird vocal abnormalities. It ends with weird squeaks from baby toys and guitar/pedal feedback.

“Beans” – From a recording in 1987/1988. Cobain uses his “chipmunk” voice again, as also featured within the 1988 Capitol Lake Jam track, as well as others.  First released on the Outcesticide III: The Final Solution bootleg, albeit in inferior quality. Released again in 2004, on With The Lights Out. This is a sonic upgrade, and could be an alternate take/mix of the “song.”

“Burn The Rain” – Speculated to be recorded somewhere from 1987 – 1988, as evidenced on the tape that: “she’s not home right now” part in the Montage Of Heck film, where this comes from. At this time, Kurt was dating Tracy Marander.

“Clean Up Before She Comes (Early Demo)” – An earlier take of the song, than the one released on With The Lights Out. From c. 1987/1988 based on research provided by www.LiveNirvana.com.

“Reverb Experiment” – An instrumental piece of guitar feedback/distortion, with an over-use of the Polychorus reverb effects pedal. It sounds like an ode to both his contemporaries (The Melvins and Butthole Surfers) as well as a homage to The Grateful Dead’s long exploratory “Space” segments of their later shows.

“Montage Of Kurt II” – Another spoken audio collage of everything from bong water, to pieces from what we knew as “Beans” (those voices were first heard in “Beans” (With the Lights Out,2004) although this is an extended version of said “skit.”

“Rehash” sounds like Henry Rollins era Black Flag thrash-style with a heavy guitar riff and heavy screams, while the chorus (Rehash, Rehash) doesn’t sound at all like Cobain’s regular vocals. It’s clearly an in-development idea, as Cobain recites where he wants the solo, by orally saying:  “Solo” as he plays the riff, over and over again.

“You Can’t Change Me/Burn My Britches/Something In The Way (Early Demo)” – A 3-song segue, which Brett Morgen has described as a “Punk Opera.” It really is an epic, in every sense of the word. From the start of the verse of “You Can’t Change Me,” sounding very thrashesque, and then segueing into the grungy “Burn My Britches.” The segue then softly decrescendos to a slow, but heavy, version of “Something In The Way” (akin to the BBC version mixed with the Boombox Rehearsal version, if both didn’t have drums. (both versions were released on Nevermind 20th). This version of “Something in The Way,” sounds as if Cobain is close to tears (like the Boombox’s final verse/chorus segment).

“Scoff (Early Demo)” – A Quick run-through of what seems to be the first ever recording of the song, released later on, on the album “Bleach

“Aberdeen” is the story of Cobain rehearsing his narrative of story-telling; a story about having sexual intercourse with a mentally disabled girl in his early teens. This has been disproven as being a true story by Buzz Osbourne, Kurt’s close friend and mentor in his early days of playing music, and was only another example of his dark sense of humor.

“Bright Smile” – Cobain uses his falsetto voice here to sing this almost 2-minute song, with an electric guitar underneath the vocals. The lyrics “Bright smile” are repeated throughout until the final “Smile” is yelled at the end.

“Underground Celebritism” – A short 28-second audio snippet of Kurt rhyming off about “underground celebration” which seems to be about not selling out, while he plays a little riff underneath the vocals.

“Retreat” – A 2-minute instrumental piece, with Cobain’s vocals breathing to end the track.

“Desire” – A standout acoustic number, running at 2 minutes and 27-seconds long. If this was worked on anymore, it could’ve been a hit. With the leading chorus of “Desire” repeated twice, and the riff afterwards before the second verse, it could’ve been another poppy acoustic hit.

“And I Love Her” – An acoustic rendition of the Fab Four’s ’64 hit. Recorded approximately in late 1993/early 1994.

“Sea Monkeys” – Spoken word audio of Kurt talking about Sea Monkeys…. Tower Records… and Paula Abdul.

“Sappy” – A new upgraded mix, from the version that was released unofficially on the “Outcesticide” bootleg series. A raw, stripped, acoustic version of the song that would eventually end up, electrically and more Nirvana-ized on the No Alternative Compilation in 1993.

“Letters To Frances” – A bright, and mellow 2-minute instrumental piece, written for his daughter, alternating from light strums, to a heavier strumming pattern/tone near the end.

“Scream” – A 32-second montage of wails layered with static, with Kurt using a pitch-shifter at the end for his screaming.

“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle”
– An acoustic 4 minute demo of the In Utero track, with some alternate lyrics.

“Kurt Ambiance” is just what one would believe it to be. It’s nothing more than static through the cassette player.

“She Only Lies” – A haunting song, with dark lyrics alluding to guilt and self-condemnation, along with shame towards the other person. This could’ve easily been another song by Nirvana, with such a great bass-line.

“Kurt Audio Collage” – A 24-second audio collage of birds chirping, water flowing, and some signal interference near the end.

“Poison’s Gone” – An acoustic song clocking in at 2 minutes, with similar subject matter to “She Only Lies.”

“Rhesus Monkey” – One more of Kurt’s spoken word comedy skits, using various voices.

“Do Re Mi” (Medley) – The grandiose finale of the Deluxe Edition, of one of Kurt’s final recordings (recorded just 3 weeks before his death). By the end of the take, at over 10 minutes, Kurt’s voice is shrill, and cracking.

For historical value of the insight into Cobain’s process of crafting songs from his early, pre-Nirvana days, to his final months, this is essential listening for any fan of Cobain, as well as anyone whom may be a fan of Nirvana.

Verdict:

I’ll definitely be listening to this, not just for historical value, but as it was intended: as a way to get inside Kurt’s mind and listen how he composes songs the way he does. It feels exactly like you’re in the room with Kurt, as he’s practicing the chords, tuning the guitar, or just goofing off with one of his voices for comedy. In conclusion, Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings (Deluxe Ed.) is exactly what any hardcore Nirvana/ Kurt Cobain fan would love, to understand the creative process – along with the film, of Kurt Cobain.  5/5 Stars.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, will be released by Universal Music Enterprises in multiple formats, including the Super Deluxe Edition as well as in Blu-ray, DVD and digital video formats. The soundtrack album, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings will also be released on CD and digitally on November 13, 2015. A 2LP vinyl edition of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings will follow on December 4, 2015. In addition, a 7-inch single featuring “And I Love Her” and “Sappy (Early Demo)” is also scheduled for release on November 20, 2015. Cobain_MOH_DLX_RGB

Review: Eagles of Death Metal’s ‘Zipper Down’

Ever since I first heard an Eagles of Death Metal song, I have loved listening to them. Not in a ‘this-is-my-favourite-band’ kind of way, but their entertaining, fun, mood lifting vibe has always appealed to me.

That’s what I expect from Eagles of Death Metal, no more, no less. Zipper Down is their fourth studio album, and it has been seven years since the last. This time, original members Jesse Hughes (on the album cover referred to as Boots Electric) and Josh Homme (Baby Duck) do everything themselves without help from additional musicians, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The album hit the spot for me immediately.

The first track, ”Complexity”, captures the spirit of EoDM: funky, uptempo and fun.

”Silverlake”, ”Got a Woman” and ”Got the Power” follow the same pattern, while ”I Love You All The Time” is a slower song that is, as the title suggests, full of love.

”Skin-Tight Boogie” is a groovy kind of rap, featuring Hughes’ girlfriend Tuesday Cross on backing vocals.

An unexpected track is ”Save a Prayer”, which is a cover of the song by Duran Duran from 1982. It sound surprisingly much like the original, only a little faster with a dirtier kind of garage sound.

With ”The Reverend” the band finishes the album excellently with the classic EoDM sound that leaves me smiling for the rest of the day.

A couple of plain and uninteresting song make the overall impression a 4 out of 5, but for the most part I love the album. Eagles of Death Metal is a band that’s here to entertain you, with no pretentious intentions. I bet the duo has as much fun in the studio as I have listening to the result of their recording sessions.

Track listing:
1. Complexity
2. Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.)
3. Got a Woman
4. I Love You All The Time
5. Oh Girl
6. Got the Power
7. Skin-Tight Boogie
8. Got a Woman (slight return)
9. The Deuce
10. Save a Prayer (Duran Duran cover)
11. The Reverend

eagles

Review: Pearl Jam, Coldplay & Beyonce At Global Citizens Festival

Photo credit: @tysonsadler on Instagram

“Feel the sky blanket you, with gems and rhinestones. See the path cut by the moon, for you to walk on.” — Eddie Vedder (“Unthought Known”)

About halfway through Pearl Jam’s headlining set of Saturday’s Global Citizens festival, Eddie Vedder tells a story about writing Backspacer’s “Unthought Known” in New York City. “About four or five years back, in a room overlooking Central Park, I was still awake at four in the morning. I saw the most beautiful evening sky, the streets were empty, the stars were out. I should have been getting some sleep, but I started scribbling lyrics. There was magic happening in front of me. Then I got to see the sunrise in this beautiful part of this great city,” said Vedder.

A perfect day for a festival, it seemed that song, and the moments surrounding it, could serve as the emotional foundation for the entire day. 60,000 people jammed into New York City’s Great Lawn – Central Park. What makes this festival different is that the crowd had to participate in the activism before the actual show. It’s the only way you have a chance to get in (without shelling out huge money for VIP). With that, the artists and celebrity speakers showed great appreciation for all that was done before a single note was played.

Coldplay kicked off the show at 4pm and got the crowd moving with a jumpy “Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall.” They continued on their path to get the juices flowing with an uptempo set and a few surprises mixed in – including Ariana Grande joining Chris Martin on stage for an acoustic performance of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” and a new song entitled “Amazing Day” to close their set.

Next up was English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran. If you only know Sheeran by his radio songs, go see him live. He performed his entire set solo with simply a guitar and his loop pedals. If you miss one note or are off beat by a split second when using loop pedals, you have then ruined your entire song. Sheeran was flawless, incredibly entertaining and is remarkably talented. The highlight of his set being – Chris Martin joining him (on piano) for a rendition of “Thinking Out Loud.”

The night certainly had its run of collaborations including Sting joining Common on stage 2 before Beyonce’s performance, who many were there to see. Beyonce had a strong empowerment message to deliver throughout her set that fit the theme of the festival and organization. Sheeran would join her mid-set for an acoustic version of “Drunk in Love” (though this festival does not serve alcohol).

The nights hosts’ – Stephan Colbert and Hugh Jackman then returned for their MC finale which included a lineup of CEO’s to lead up the nights headliners, the one and only Pearl Jam.

“Good Evening. I think a toast is in order. Here’s to New York City, here’s to Central Park, here’s to you,” said lead singer Eddie Vedder, before a thunderous “Mind Your Manners” opener. The Seattle rockers came out swinging as “Do the Evolution” and “Given to Fly” followed.

A bit of a shorter set than usual for Pearl Jam, even for a festival, the band did a great job of mixing hits in with songs appropriate for the setting and purpose. They carried the torch of gratitude for all Global Citizens does and for what those in attendance had done in order to be apart of festivities. They too kept on the theme of surprises. For one, their encore started with a full band version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” where Eddie gave a beautiful tribute to Lennon, speaking of how relevant Central Park was to his music and advertising the gathering that will be taking place in the park in honor of Lennon’s would-be – 75th birthday. Though Vedder has played “Imagine” solo numerous times, this was the first time Pearl Jam played a full band version. It was stellar, and got all 60,000 people singing in unison.

Then came perhaps the nights most unique pairing as Vedder welcomed Beyonce to the stage for a duet of “Redemption Song.” “It’s not everyday you get to sing with a queen,” said Vedder.

To close the evening, all artists were welcomed on stage for a celebratory “Rockin in the Free World.” During a week where faith and spirituality were ever-present in New York City, Pearl Jam did a perfect job tying it all together with the motives of the concert. Often, their own movement is compared to that of a spiritual journey. How fitting we would find them at the musical helm to unify the masses at the conclusion of it all.

Pearl Jam’s setlist:
Mind Your Manners
Do the Evolution
Given to Fly
Elderly Woman
Lightning Bolt
Daughter
Unthought Known
Betterman
Alive
——–
Imagine
Redemption Song (Vedder solo with Beyonce)
Rockin in the Free World

Review: Silversun Pickups’ Better Nature

The Silversun Pickups are a long way from Swoon’s “Panic Switch,” which translates to about 6 years (or one bachelor and master’s degrees’ year’s worth of study). Better Nature definitely has a more restrained and thoughtful sound and feel about it, as one might expect of an older, more thoughtful and educated in the ways of the world and human nature, group of musicians. The only problem is that all that thoughtfulness, which leads to airy musical atmospherics as opposed to grungy grounding, has caused Silversun Pickups’ sound to regress instead of progress. Better Nature is thoughtful sonically and lyrically, but to the detriment of the intensity and unique supersonic, yet grounded, sound of their early albums-a sound that made Silversun Pickups something truly inspiring musically and emotionally.

Most bands don’t want to write the same songs over and over, even if some bands (Metallica, U2, and Pearl Jam) encounter great success doing so. Bands like Pearl Jam deviate very slightly, if at all, from what makes their songs and sound so powerful, yet manage to feel fresh and unique with every album released. Silversun Pickups were well on their way to the same type of unique and powerful sonic status with Carnavas and Swoon. Then came Neck of the Woods. The more straightforward 90s alt-guitar rock which swayed from shoegaze to an individualistic take on Billy Corgan’s “grunge in furs” fuzz buzz obviously owed much to artists like Corgan, but Silversun Pickups’ Brian Aubert made the sound all his own with his unique vocals while drummer Christopher Guanlao’s staccato smacks distanced the band from Smashing Pumpkins-like rhythms nicely. Then came Neck of the Woods

…and now we have Better Nature, for better or worse. There is much that made Silversun Pickups what they were on Carnavas and Swoon present on Better Nature, but it’s now lost in a swirl of synth-pop atmospherics and techno beeps and boops. The Silversun Pickups of Better Nature have more in common with Eurythmics and Depeche Mode (once they discovered the guitar) than Smashing Pumpkins or My Bloody Valentine-hence the sonic regression. There was a good bit of this type of sound on Neck of the Woods-hence the disappointment with this album as alluded to above-but there at least the darkness of the overall musical atmosphere lent itself to a certain weight that kept the album grounded. On Better Nature, too often the synths send the songs spinning out of control and off into a glitter spangled twilight that is just a little poppy and colorful for a band that once had such a natural world grounding (a la grungy) sound.

One of the better moments on Better Nature is “Connection” with its sly social commentary on our society’s social media additions and its interesting guitar work that is reminiscent of early Silversun Pickups. The dance backbeat makes “Connection” a pop rather than rock song though-for better or worse. “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” is the album’s best moment. A steady beat, contributed vocals from the wonderfully talented Silversun Pickups bassist Nikki Monninger, plenty of acoustic and electric guitar lines that interweave nicely, and just enough restraint to create the proper tension necessary to cause the listener to crave the release the band hints at in the song’s final movement all come together to recreate and, more importantly, advance (by building upon the band’s greatest musical momennts: “Lazy Eye,” “The Royal We,” “Panic Switch,” “Little Lover’s So Polite”). Sadly, it’s only one of a handful of these moments. Better Nature would have benefited from more.

Review: Chris Cornell Plays It Safe On ‘Higher Truth’

I’m a Chris Cornell fan. I have a framed signed copy of Scream. I paid 28 bucks to buy a case to get it framed. So please don’t revoke my fan card for this review, or take my opinion as being anything more than any other guy who has a Down on the Upside poster hanging up in his room shooting the shit on a new record. To me Chris Cornell had a run from Temple of the Dog’s album to Audioslave’s first album in 2002 of six great albums. Since then I haven’t been a huge fan of his material, but there have been a smattering of solid additions to his catalog like “Doesn’t Remind Me,” “You Know My Name,” “The Keeper,” and “A Thousand Days Before” over the years. Even the title track of Scream was a pretty good song. Cornell’s Songbook shows have also been incredible, even better than some recent Soundgarden shows I have attended.

Cornell’s new album Higher Truth is the epitome of playing it safe. Cornell sounds fantastic, quite possibly the best he has since Euphoria Morning. Brendan O’Brien nailed the production, whereas Steve Lillywhite completely failed with Carry On. The problem is the songs aren’t half as good as they were on Euphoria Morning. There aren’t any soaring memorable choruses here, many songs like “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” and “Worried Moon” show a lot of promise, but never reach that next level. Especially with the amount of adult contemporary geared songs on this album, the hooks just aren’t there. The title track “Higher Truth” is a perfect example; the song meanders and repeatedly hits a forgettable chorus. “Before We Disappear” seems to pick up where “Halfway There” off of Soundgarden’s King Animal left off.

Album highlight “Dead Wishes” tells the story of homeless people Cornell observed in Florida, and has some of the most inspired lyrics of the album, especially compared to many which lean generic, like “Before We Disappear.” Cornell’s biggest strength in recent years when it comes to songwriting has been when he takes on the role of storyteller, much like he did on “The Keeper” a few years ago. The tragically nostalgic “Through The Window” also has solid lyrics.

Marriage ballad “Josephine” is enjoyable; its strength is its simplicity, like “Sweet Euphoria” off of Euphoria Morning. Cornell sings in the final chorus: ‘My sweet Josephine/won’t you come and marry me/I’ve got every single kind of love that you will ever need/dying here on bended knees.’

“Murderer of Blue Skies” experiments with the arrangement and features some vintage Cornell wailing, and some of the best melodies on the album. While other songs tend to fall into a rut, it sounds like some experimentation was going on here. After this track the album just starts to run together and has me checking how many songs are left each time I listen. “Let Your Eyes Wander” and “Circling” sound like some of the weaker songs off of Eddie Vedder’s ukulele record.

I don’t expect the same unbridled passion Cornell brought in his prime (or many of his contemporaries), and to be honest this album is exactly what I expected. There are a few solid songs I’ll go back to, but no tracks that stand up with Cornell’s best work. I hope Alternative Nation readers and fellow Cornell die hards are getting more out of this album than I am.

Key tracks:
Dead Wishes, Through the Window, and Murderer Of Blue Skies

Score:
2.5/5

Album Review: Motorhead’s ‘Bad Magic’

Motorhead is a legendary outfit which needs no intro. Being one of the first bands to fuse metal and punk, vocalist/bassist Lemmy and co. paved the way for metal’s more extreme subgenres but at the same time demonstrate a lot of influence from old time rock’n’roll and blues. The band has over 20 albums that, for the most part, are very consistent and more often than not are of high quality.   

Coming off the heels of 2013’s classic Aftershock and several health-mandated life changes for Lemmy (I.E. smoking and drinking, something that worried many fans as Lemmy’s life style seemed to fuel Motorheads music), doubt was in the air as to the band’s continued success. The band would then clear it out that everyone’s favorite frontman was doing better and will continue fronting this legendary band. 

Fortunately, this life change has not hurt Lemmy’s signature voice or this record whatsoever, and Bad Magic tops Aftershock. Yes, this is a band that normally sticks to the same style, but this album’s songwriting and hooks make it one of the band’s best recent efforts.

Some of the highlights from this album include the opening track, “Victory or Death” which starts out with Lemmy screaming the title before going into some excellent bass and guitar work. “Electricity” and “Shoot Out All Your Lights” are both classic style heavy metal tracks the band has been praised for.

The song “Evil Eye” is filled to the brim with awesome drum work from Mikey Dee. Then we have the blues rock-charged track “Fire Storm Hotel”, showcasing Lemmy’s love for 50’s rock’n’roll and 40’s twelve bar blues.

The final track of the album is a cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”. This version is one of the song’s best covers because the band makes it their own and Lemmy does not try to sound like Jagger.

Overall, the production is spot on giving the album a live feel. While this isn’t going to top the classics like Ace of Spades or Overkill, Bad Magic is still a very solid release that shows Motorhead is here to stay and is essentially a compilation of the band’s best ideas.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRvNu9cioLo]

Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley & Mike Starr Honored By Seattle Rockers

Layne Staley- Mike Starr Seattle Tribute Weekend Recap
Written by Cindy Slade
Edited and review co-written by Brett Buchanan

This past weekend marked the 14th annual birthday celebration for late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley. After the passing of Alice In Chains original bassist Mike Starr in 2011, the annual August tributes incorporated the celebration of his life as well.

Layne Staley’s 48th birthday would have been this past Saturday, August 22nd, and that date is also why the annual tributes are around this date annually.

As someone who has attended these tributes off and on over the years (regularly since 2013), this year was a combination of spectacular, and absolutely magical.

On Friday August 21st, the celebration started off at the Central Saloon in Seattle for an acoustic night for fans 21 and older. The coordinator of this weekend’s events JT Phillips (who also plays guitar in Alice In Chains tribute band Jar of Flies and Soundgarden/Temple of the Dog tribute band Outshined) told me that they wanted to do an acoustic night to replicate MTV’s “Unplugged” show, which Alice In Chains performed on in 1996. They were able to achieve this by bringing in “flameless” candles with dim lighting. Jar of Flies’ “Unplugged” replication was on the money at least setlist wise, as they played just about every song from that show, except two I’m told, and they also played them in the same order as well. Outshined also performed, as did “Poottana…Play for Money,” a Nirvana tribute band all the way over from Milan, Italy. This is Poottana’s second time coming over to perform for the annual tribute weekend. Their last visit was in 2013.

One thing I didn’t know is that both Jar of Flies and Outshined are really considered one big band. That’s because both Jar of Flies and Outshined have the same members, except for the singers. Rane Stone is the lead singer of Jar of Flies, and Kevin Hoffman is the lead singer of Outshined. JT told me that it’s like one big brotherhood, and judging from the show they clearly love what they do.

The very next night, Saturday August 22nd, was the all-ages show at The Crocodile, which just so happens to be co-owned by Alice In Chains drummer Sean Kinney.  It was evident that the show was sold out.  The maximum capacity of 525 people had been reached, but with the energy it felt like well over 1000.  Italians rockers Poottana…Play for Money opened the show.  The band consists of the following wonderfully talented musicians; Pino Foderaro-guitarist, Andrea Paglione (lead vocals/guitar), Claudio Ciaccia (drums), and Steve Stewie Armeli (bassist).  They go by Shame the Band when they perform original material.

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From the very moment Poottana…Play for Money went on, the crowd was on fire, they were like kids at their first concert. Jar of Flies and Outshined guitarist Shannon Sharp was definitely touched by the performance, saying he closed his eyes and for a second thought it was Kurt Cobain out there singing. Poottana..Play for Money ended their set with Nirvana’s seminal hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

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The Outshined portion of the big “brotherhood” band performed next. A soulful Kevin Hoffman sang Mother Love Bone’s “Stardog Champion” in memory of the late Andrew Wood to end their set on an emotional high note.

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Jar of Flies headlined the show, led by the charismatic Rane Stone.  Their set was filled with special guests who honored Layne Staley and Mike Starr.  Mad Season’s “I Don’t Know Anything” was a definite standout. Jason Kertson sang “Down in a Hole”, “What the Hell Have I?” and “Again”.  On “Again” Jason sang with JoF bassist Lee Bruso, which was brilliant and closely replicated the recorded version, due to Layne Staley’s use of stacking his vocals through innovative production techniques when he was recording that song for the Tripod album.

Powertrain & Pretso Ballet bassist Bobby Ferkovich and drummer Martin Lyson stepped in for “What The Hell Have I?” and “Again.”  The next special guest was Randy Vanadisson, performing an original song with JT Phillips, written for Layne, titled “Body and Soul.” The final guest was Stacey Meyer who sang “Junkhead.” Stacey is also the vocalist for Seattle band Furniture Girls.  Jar of Flies closed the show with a rousing rendition of “Would”.

I had a chance to talk to the band members and about why it’s important for them to continue to perform at these shows. Here is Alternative Nation’s interview with Jar of Flies vocalist Rane Stone.

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Alternative Nation: Rane, why do you continue to do the Layne Staley and Mike Starr tributes year after year?

Rane Stone: Interesting question, we could go on and on about Layne and Mike and the fans and the families, music, how it meant so much and all…but in reality, we never knew Layne or Mike. So, us being philosophical about reasons and feelings, and emotions and such about why we do it in order to, most likely, manipulate people into thinking that we do it for some higher purpose of “channeling Layne” or recreating some moment of walking in the flesh of spirits and such; well that’s just a bunch of fakery. We do it for the legacy and heritage of the Seattle music scene. Our main reason is the preservation of a period of time for the historical, musical heritage and legacy of what meant SO very much to so many over the world.

AN: When did you join Jar of Flies?

RS: I joined in 2005, been doing it about 10 years. It has been a blast and I’m so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be just a small part of it. IT IS AWESOME!

AN: Why is it important for Jar of Flies to replicate the original sound of Alice in Chains?

RS: Well obviously they were the Led Zeppelin of a generation. So you don’t go Led Zeppelin’s back yard and start playing a hack version of their songs, and since we’re in the backyard of AIC, with all their friends and families usually in attendance, we better not do a hack job of that either. Tell the stories the way the stories were told; no more, no less. Give homage, give respect, show some class and do it in a way that their friends and family can be proud of the performance. If it isn’t on par, or at least in the ballpark of the original, then don’t touch it, don’t do it and just move on. If we can’t do it right, we simply just will not do it at all.

AN: How are you able to engage the crowd so easily?

RS: Am I? I don’t notice. I’m just being myself. I do make efforts to remove as much as myself from the performance as possible, because it is about the material of the music and has absolutely nothing to do with me. I get to just enjoy the ride. Maybe that is why…People see that we as a band are having fun, and in that, everyone else is able to see and know that they can have fun as well. It’s a celebration! So, let’s have some fun together remembering the times we all heard those songs for the very first time! Let’s be kids again in high school/college for a couple of hours. Let’s rock out together!

AN: I noticed you guys played some songs you don’t normally play, was there a specific reason for that?

RS: I think that has to do with just wanting to keep each performance fresh. Change it up. Do songs that people may have never heard live before. Do acoustic versions of songs that have never been done before. We have done the entire Dirt, Jar of Flies and Facelift Albums before, and some songs work well live and others don’t. We have yet to do the entire SAP and Alice in Chains (Tripod) albums yet…..and yet to do Mad Season Above in it’s entirety. But…I’m sure we will….soon.

AN: For someone that has been attending your shows regularly over the years, I noticed this year in particular was nothing short of electrifying, did you feel that too? And if you did, why do you think that is?

RS: Well, let’s put it this way, we knew this weekend was going to be magical. We didn’t know why or how, we just knew it. And it was. The entire weekend was absolutely magical and we are so happy that people from all over the country and all over the world were able to be a part of this celebration of life and music and memory. We feel so tremendously blessed to be just a small part of some aspect that does its best to provide a time and a place for the friends, families and fans that adored this music and these lives so very dearly and so very much. We feel honored to have been a part of it and it is an absolute privilege for us to be able to do this for so many people that love and adore Alice in Chains and Seattle music in general. We feel very full, thankful and grateful.

AN: What does it feel like to have a sold out show?

RS: AMAZBALLS dripping with AWESOMESAUCE!! When it came down that by 8:30pm, 15 minutes before the show….IT WAS SOLD OUT!?!? On Layne’s B-Day Party Celebration!?!? I just chuckled to myself and said “Thank you Layne, Thank You Mike, Thank You Andrew, Thank You Kurt. Let’s go have some fun, guys! You guys Rock.”

AND THEY DID ROCK….the entire night.  Portions of the proceeds from the weekend’s events goes to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund through Therapeutic Health Services in Seattle; if you’d like to donate, click here.

I briefly spoke with Pino Foderaro, the guitarist for Poottana..Play for Money.  He told me (on behalf of himself and the band) that it was the Seattle music that brought them here. He said the main reason they came back is because they felt loved by so many people. In Italy, they also do their own annual tributes for Layne and Mike in April. They also donate a portion of the proceeds from their events to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund through Therapeutic Health Services also.

I would like to take the opportunity to introduce the band members by name and how long they’ve been playing with Jar of Flies and Outshined.

Jar of Flies and Outshined are:

Rane Stone- Vocalist for Jar of Flies, since 2005
Kevin Hoffman-Vocalist for Outshined, since 2012
JT Phillips- Guitarist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2006
Shannon Sharp- Guitarist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2006
Daryl Williams-Drums for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2005
Lee Bruso- Bassist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2013

You can find Jar of Flies and https://www.facebook.com/outshinedtribute?fref=ts” title=”Outshined” target=”_blank”>Outshined on Facebook to check out where they are performing next, you’ll definitely want to see them.

Thanks to all of the band members for allowing Alternative Nation into their world for one night. Special thanks to JT Phillips for making all the arrangements.

Review: Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson Declare ‘Rock Ain’t F***ing Dead’ In Irvine

All photos taken by AlternativeNation.net owner Brett Buchanan

Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson performed at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, CA last night for their second End Times tour show, and Alternative Nation was in attendance to review and photograph the concert.

Marilyn Manson went on at 8PM sharp, kicking off with “Deep Six.” Manson was very talkative during his hour long set, at one point explaining that his coat ‘cost him a blowjob.’ He also gave a shout out to his father, and then he started talking about a doctor who said he was crazy, but that crazy is good. He later talked about being a sinner, and said if he couldn’t be the devil he would join him by sin. He said he did not get beaten up by the devil, and that he also could not reach up and punch God. He then said, “If you want to say fuck Jesus, make it personal.” This led right into a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” He wore an American flag on his head during the “Personal Jesus” cover. He also thanked god for doing good and bad.

He also proclaimed, “People thought I was sarcastic when I said it, but rock ain’t fucking dead” leading into “Rock is Dead.” I read through all of these notes on Manson’s on stage banter to a couple of fans and to Alternative Nation reporter Elias Fulmer, and they seemed impressed that I managed to write all of this down in my iPhone notepad. Apologies for any inaccuracies.

Manson’s voice was strong for his heavy rockers like “Disposable Teens” and his scream sounded strong as ever. His voice was hit and miss during some more melodic verses with some mumbling, but his unique (and bizarre) rock and roll swagger made up for it. “The Dope Show” was definitely the highlight of his set.

In between Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins I picked up some food and saw a rogue bunny running around the venue. There was also a cute kitty cat on my Smashing Pumpkins photo pass that I hope to get signed someday by Billy Corgan’s cat Mr. Thom. Or maybe Diamond Baby? Or Angel Face? Tough choice. I need to make the puuuuurfect pick. Our reporter Elias then gave a letter he wrote to Billy Corgan to a security guard, who claimed Billy got it. We’re fully expecting a response letter to publish on Alternative Nation.

The Pumpkins, with Jimmy Chamberlin back in the fold, went on at just after 9:30. I had previously seen The Smashing Pumpkins 4 times (September 2007 on the Zeitgeist tour, December 2008 on the 20th anniversary tour, and October 2012 on the Oceania tour), and with all due respect to Mike Byrne, the Pumpkins did not have the same sense of power the time I saw them in 2012 without Jimmy Chamberlin. While the Pumpkins’ 2008 show I saw (one of their last with Chamberlin at the time) featured some ridiculous stuff like a 20 minute Pink Floyd cover and a kazoo encore, Corgan and Chamberlin’s chemistry somehow made it work (except for the fans in the audience who just wanted to hear “The World Is A Vampire” on repeat).

The set kicked off with three hits: “Cherub Rock,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and “Tonight, Tonight.” Corgan thanked the audience and said, “As you know the more I talk, the worse it gets, so I’m just going to play music tonight.” The setlist featured many hits from the band’s career mixed in with new songs, and this was a very smart move. Corgan has challenged audiences in the past by playing 30 minute jams (“Gossamer”) and debuting a new album live front to back (Oceania), and while those were brave endeavors, it seems like the Pumpkins found the right mix setlist wise with this show to please an amphitheater/arena audience, while avoiding becoming a nostalgia act like most non-Pearl Jam Grunge bands have become. Corgan played several seminal hits while also working in the best new songs from Monuments to an Elegy. The mix really worked when “Run2Me” and “1979” were played back to back. The songs compliment each other, and surrounding newer songs with hits that are in the same sonic range really seemed to help the newer songs fit seamlessly into the set. “One and All” also had a lot of passion, with Jimmy Chamberlin really pushing Corgan. Corgan’s vocals in general were on point the entire show, even moreso than the other times I’ve seen.

Jeff Schroeder ripped during the “Ava Adore” solo. Schroeder has really grown into becoming a key part of the band, so much so that I don’t see why anybody would want James Iha to return to replace him. James was a key part of the original lineup’s chemistry, but Jeff Schroeder is the best guitar player The Smashing Pumpkins can have in 2015. His chemistry he has built with Corgan in the last 8 plus years was apparent during the acoustic “Landslide” cover, and the track was one of the highlights of the show.

The new, somewhat poppier version of “The Everlasting Gaze” was another highlight, it really breathed new life into a 15 year old song, and made it work in a way where Corgan didn’t have to try and scream constantly pretending like he was still 30. The chemistry of the band’s new lineup (Corgan, Schroeder, Chamberlin, and bassist Jack Bates) really blossomed during “Thru the Eyes of Ruby.” “United States” closed the main set, and it was further proof that Jimmy Chamberlin is still the greatest drummer in the world. It might have been the loudest song I’ve ever heard at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.

The band then returned for the encore, and Billy Corgan introduced his bandmates. He joked that after “1979” was performed, the Laker fans left (the Los Angeles Lakers are an NBA basketball team for readers who don’t follow sports). He then clarified that he meant ‘the third quarter Laker fans,’ and not all Laker fans. Corgan then said he was going to make a Deandre Jordan joke (Jordan is a Los Angeles Clippers player), but he was deciding against it. He then joked that Jordan had signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls, in reference to Jordan recently backing out of a deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Corgan then said Marilyn Manson isn’t a sports fan, followed by praising his ‘brother.’ The Pumpkins then closed their show with a visceral performance of “Geek USA,” followed by a jovial Corgan greeting fans before he left.

Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming is the balls of The Smashing Pumpkins, and even with the core of the band (Corgan, Chamberlin, and Schroeder) all being over 40, the Pumpkins are still capable of rocking harder than most bands half their age. I was very hesitant to see the Pumpkins without Chamberlin during his 6 and a half years away (which is why I only saw them once), and this show was further proof that Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin need to stick together for good this time. With Jeff Schroeder in tow, that trio can make The Smashing Pumpkins a live act to be reckoned with even as they near 30 years into their career.

Overall The End Times show was very enjoyable, and it felt a lot more vital than other tours featuring other 90’s bands touring together. Manson and the Pumpkins seemed to have a big cross section audience (unfortunately full of aging Gen X’ers, Billy is going to need to write his own “American Idiot” to get some ladies besides the cougars coming out) so the audience loved the show. Our reporter Elias told me after the Pumpkins’ set, “That was straight spiritual, and I don’t even like using that word.” Rock ain’t fucking dead.

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Review: Morrissey Shows ‘Meat is Murder’ Slaughtering Video At Firefly Leading To Boos

While Morrissey put on an incredible performance at the Firefly Festival in Dover last night, the crowd was a bit sparse, about a quarter full for Morrissey standards. He definitely noticed the pot in the crowd, proclaiming, “I can smell it!” There were some rude fans in the crowd, with some booing and a couple even laughing and sarcastically yelling for him to get off the stage, especially during “Meat is Murder.”

One fan asked “Who is the old guy?” and another sarcastically said “I know that song.” There was also a ‘KFC’ chant. Maybe the stoners should have put the pot down and listened to the music! Morrissey’s videos showing a slaughterhouse during select songs got boos, and it was definitely a divisive set, but a brave one for Morrissey to promote Veganism. Morrissey did ask fans at one point though if they wanted him to leave, and they said no, a sign of respect for Moz. Morrissey’s drummer also threw part of his kit, and Morrissey himself threw a bass drum across the stage and into the crowd. While many fans were there for Paul McCartney, it was definitely a memorable performance.

Morrissey!

A video posted by LotusGirl34 (@lotusgirl34) on

Setlist (out of order/incomplete):
Suedehead
First of the Gang to Die
Alma Matters
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (The Smiths song)
Meat Is Murder (The Smiths song)
You Have Killed Me