Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Nicely done podcast by the Orb on their website, including a fun, dubby version of Freebird (though I seriously doubt any Skynyrd members were involved or harmed in the making of it...).
It's a freebie, and it's available at http://www.theorb.com/

The tracklisting for the podcast is:
1. Intro Dark Star
2. The Orb "Star 6+7,8,9"
3. The Last Poets "The White Man's Got A God Complex"
4. KLF "3AM Eternal" (Remix)
5. Massive Attack "Hymn Of The Big Wheel"
6. Primal Scream "Higher Than The Sun"
7. Erasure "Ship Of Fools" (Orb Remix)
8. The Orb "Spaced" (1989 - unreleased)
9. The Orb "Little Fluffy Clouds" (Coldcut Remix)
10. The Orb "Freebird"
11. Transit Kings "The Last Lighthouse Keeper"
12. Embrace "World At Our Feet Remix"
Also, there's a new Transit Kings full-length album available from Malicious Damage. Haven't heard it yet, but the EP was greatness...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dethklok Metalocalypse!

Growl these lyrics in your best death-metal voice:
Do you folks like coffee?
Real Coffee from the hills of Columbia
The Duncan Hills will wake you
from a thousand deaths
A cup of blackened blood
You're dying for a cup

I'm a sucker for the Adult Swim cartoons, and Dethklok Metalocalypse kicks ass. Dethklok has summoned their fans to a concert in Batsfjord, Norway to hear one song -- a jingle for Duncan Hills coffee. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett provide voices for the show, and the music is a lot of fun. Can't wait to see more...

And it's a bonus that the singer, Nathan Explosion, looks a lot like Glenn Danzig, and that Murderface looks like one of the guys in Black Sabbath (sorry, I'm not very good at playing "Name that Sabbath member," but the one I'm thinking of is second from the left in the photo).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Arthur Lee

Hate to have two death things in a row, but Arthur Lee of Love passed away at 61.

I've been doing some research for a paper I'm writing, and in the course of that, I read Follow the Music by Jac Holzman and Gavan Daws, about Elektra Records. I really enjoyed the section on Elektra signing Arthur Lee and Love to the label:
Herb Cohen: They're [Love] all living in one hotel room, starving, and Arthur says, "I want a $5,000 advance to sign the contract -- cash." Jac says, "OK, meet me at the bank." Jac cashes a check. Arthur says to the band, "Go back to the hotel. I have to pick up something." And about four or five hours later Arthur shows up with a gold Mercedes 300 gull-wing that he paid $4,500 for. "Well," he says, "we need some transportation for the band, so we can get around to the gigs." [...]
Arthur had also bought a harmonica. He gives each of the guys a hundred bucks, and there goes the five thousand.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

R.I.P. Syd

I was handling the death of Syd Barrett pretty well until I read his tribute in the August 10 issue of Rolling Stone. That really depressed me. And yeah, I know this isn't especially timely, but it just reached a boiling point in my head, and I needed to say something.

There was so much music he could have/should have made, but the ingestion of LSD and other drugs took precedence. Instead of making music, he just ended up living the life of a hermit.

I can understand... There are times when life is pretty damned scary and intimidating, and you just want to pull the covers over your head and hide. Brian Wilson almost fell into the same trap, but thankfully, his loved ones, and prehaps even Dr. Landy, helped him get out of it. Syd just seemed to bask in his isolation.

Syd was always a fascinating figure to me, and Pink Floyd was one of my major bands during high school (more on that in the never-ending Steve's Favorite series, coming soon to a blog near you). One of the tapes that my friends and I passed around for Walkman consumption was Relics (the current CD version has a drastically different cover: I miss the old one...), a collection of early Floyd tunes. My two favorites on the collection were both Barrett tunes -- "Arnold Layne" about a guy who steals women's underwear off the washlines and then models it in the mirror, and "Bike," featuring some of the best nonsensical lyrics ever. In addition, the vocals and most of the instrumentation on "Bike" are panned hard right on the stereo mix, with echoes and piano happening hard left. The result is a lopsided feeling on headphones, until it reaches the "clockwork" section at the end -- a wonderful cacophony of clock sounds and other mechanical and freaky noises balanced equally across both speakers. It may be far-fetched, but I hear Syd setting the stage for some of the later sound collage of Ummagumma and the incorporation of everyday sounds into Dark Side of the Moon.

I know it sounds cheesy and all, but I do hope Syd died a happy man. I'm sad to see him go, and the selfish side of me hopes he's been working on some masterpiece all these years that's stashed under the floorboards of his house. But I'm not optimistic... Bye Syd.

The Journey of the Fun Machine

When it was announced in January 2004 that Nick Oliveri had been fired from Queens of the Stone Age by fellow band mate Josh Homme, I felt queasy. Oliveri and Homme, the dynamic duo behind the band, had restored my faith in loud, mean rock and roll. Together they showed me that a metal band could be about more than just worshiping Satan and screaming. Oliveri, the sour to Homme’s sweet, provided the faster “fuck it all” punk attitude while Homme brought a more laidback sound, often referred to as “stoner rock” by music critics desperate for a label. Make no mistake, Homme has always been the brains of the operation, but without Oliveri, I feared Queens would lose its angry edge and find itself limited to Homme’s romantic (if you could call it that) style.

Only two months later, Homme said work had begun on the fourth Queens album, this time without Oliveri. In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Homme described the album as a return to the earliest Queens’ sound: a sort of slow metal you could dance to. While Homme’s talent for constructing intoxicating melodies cannot be denied, his apparent inability to write lyrics that don’t involve drugs, sex, or a combination of the two becomes repetitive all too quickly. It’s this weakness that made Oliveri seem more valuable to the band.

In the months prior to its release, Homme spoke highly of his forthcoming work. In another interview with Pitchfork Media, he mentioned one specific track that peaked my interest: an amalgam of fuzz guitars, screams and a Moog synthesizer titled “The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died.”

"It's about 15 minutes long, but it's about 15 different parts,” said Homme. “It sits for a minute or something, and then it revisits things in different tempos. We re-recorded through my cassette player. It's a badass cassette player. It's the truth, actually. That's no lie."

I’ve always been a sucker for long songs, especially those with recurring themes. I think of them as short stories: an introduction of the players, a conflict, climax and resolution. And though Queens of the Stone Age have never been stranger to the long song nor the idea of recurring themes, the idea of Homme alone taking a swing at a multifaceted opera of sound was intriguing.

“Lullabies to Paralyze” was released in March 2005. The album is bittersweet. I was relieved that the album was not entirely “stoner rock”, however I found it lacked the bipolar QOTSA sound that made their two previous albums (“Rated R”, “Songs for the Deaf”) so good.

I was also surprised to find one song oddly missing from the track list. In the liner notes to “Lullabies”, after the final song credit, Homme writes the following:

The Fun Machine took a shit and died
Was lost or misplaced. (There is a reward for the return of said tapes)


While Queens of the Stone Age were making the rounds in Europe during the last half of summer 2005, Homme reportedly began hacking up blood before finally collapsing of exhaustion on stage at a Hamburg concert. Three shows were subsequently cancelled and Homme took a leave of absence from touring to recover.

To make up for having cancelled on his fans, Homme entered the studio to re-record “Fun Machine” for those who never got to see QOTSA perform due to his medical maladies.

"..we re-recorded parts of 'The Fun Machine' and we're putting it on a 45 and giving it to all the kids we canceled on in Europe. So it's coming out in little pieces,” Homme said.

So many months after Homme first mentioned it in the press, a demo of “Fun Machine” was finally given a limited release of less than 1000 on August 22, 2005.

The song begins slowly with a heavily filtered organ whose melody sounds like it was lifted from a child’s carnival ride. The carefree sound is quickly ended by the introduction of a heavily distorted guitar, rhythmic drum shots and the eeriest guitar plucks I’ve ever heard. With Homme singing in a strained whisper, the guitars and drums build increasingly before breaking into an all-out roar and coming full circle around the four-minute mark.

The lyrics are as violent as Homme has ever written, almost a rejection of his previous material. While Homme’s lyrics have never been lovey-dovey, they’ve at least been somewhat tongue-in-cheek-romantic and they’ve almost always had something to do with sex or girls. With “Fun Machine”, Homme restricts himself exclusively to male versus male braggadocio. Before playing the song live, Homme has said he wrote the song about his “former friends.”

“Got knives, have you seen ‘em?
In your back’s where we keep ‘em,
And you’re never gonna reach ‘em,
Now that sounds fair.”

The cassette player used to record “Fun Machine” fits the mood of the song perfectly, picking up every sound while providing enough distortion to give the entire piece an unrehearsed, garage band feel. The joy of listening to the song comes not with what’s immediately audible, but what is in the background. Every listen brings a new sound you didn’t hear before. Who the hell is screaming? Was that a cowbell? Did I just hear a dog bark?

While not quite the 15-minute odyssey Homme had originally envisioned, the re-recorded “Fun Machine” is still a five and a half minute orgy of distorted drum cacophony, eerie guitar plucks, grunts, “whats” and screams all laid over a simple three-time organ melody. But the beauty of “Fun Machine” is how well it stands alone from the rest of QOTSA's material; the sounds, the lyrics, even the history of the song's development. It's quite a departure from the polished and precise sound I've been used to.

“Fun Machine” proves to me that Homme can write a damn good metal song à la Oliveri and he can do it all without mentioning his two favorite pastimes: sex and substance abuse.