3.19.2011

The Saturday Symbol: Vic Rattlehead


Good ole' Vic. He's the mascot that has appeared on almost every piece of album art and insignia of the thrash metal band Megadeth, and for good reason. The skeletal body known as "Vic Rattlehead" may be one of many popular skeletal images in metal (such as Iron Maiden's "Eddie"), but I believe Vic illustrates a message that speaks volumes to a community known for wanting to be loud and heard.

Frontman Dave Mustaine first described Vic in the song "Skull Beneath the Skin" from their first album, Killing is My Business...and Business is Good. He states:

Prepare the patients scalp
To peel away
Metal caps his ears
He'll hear not what we say
Solid steel visor
Riveted across his eyes
Iron staples close his jaws
So no one hears his cries

Looking at the lyrics and the picture above, Vic's mouth is wired shut and his eyes and ears both locked away. Basically, he represents the three evils: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

This is interesting because Megadeth uses Vic to symbolize a message that they themselves masterfully present in their musical offerings: The idea of being oppressed and unable to free oneself from the confines the world often presents to them. That's a lot of what metal stands for, isn't it? Here's a band that plays loud and delivers powerful guitar solos and lyrical content to the masses that are just as fed up with the world's problems as they are. Their speedy and loud music matches the vibe of the message, and that's an incredibly identifiable asset.

Megadeth not only makes politcal statements through their music, but also through Vic Rattlehead and what he embodies, and he's probably the reason why Megadeth gets up in the morning.


3.18.2011

Friday's End Note: A Bay Area Original - Then and Now

Hey. I'm Jason.

What you're reading will be my first post on this fantastic music blog that David started a couple of weeks ago. It will cover a vast, eclectic range of all things musically brilliant. I think it's really going places and I hope everyone is onboard :)

I thought it would be a good idea for my first post to establish my musical tastes and cultural standpoint much as David did with his first post in which he listed his favorite songs from every artist he's ever listened to. Now, seeing as I don't have anywhere near his level of patience or discipline I have decided rather to spotlight a band that crashed onto the scene during my very early childhood years, matured with me as I grew into adolescence and adulthood, and also hail from the same part of the U.S. as I do, the beautiful and unique San Francisco Bay Area.


AFI


Genre: Hardcore -> Post-Hardcore -> Alternative

Origin: Formed in Ukiah, California, gained notoriety in Berkeley, California

Standing for "A Fire Inside" (though originally "Asking for It" or alternatively "Anthems for Insubordinates"), AFI has been pushing the punk scene forward since the early 90's. Their early work, along with the efforts of their friends in the band Tiger Army, defined the Bay Area hardcore scene. Their 1996 album, Very Proud of Ya, is filled with quintessential examples of what hardcore is all about: short, fast, unwaveringly aggressive blasts of repetitive instrumentation accompanied by screaming gang vocals courtesy of lead singer, Davey Havok.

AFI - "File 13" off Very Proud of Ya




1999 signaled a change of the guard for AFI. They recruited a new guitarist named Jade Puget. It is my personal opinion that Puget is one of the most under-appreciated guitarists of the past decade. Puget's moody and understated plucking and equally harmonious searing riffs and solo shredding brought in the age of gothic AFI. This new dark strain permeated it's way into many of the up and coming "emo" bands of the early 2000's such as My Chemical Romance and The Used.

AFI - "Silver and Cold" off Sing the Sorrow

AFI - "Summer Shudder" off DECEMBERUNDERGROUND




Crash Love, AFI's latest release (2009), seems to suggest a slight step back from punk, showcasing a focus on a more alternative sound. The album also features less esoteric lyrics which were a standby of their three gothic-phase albums. This has helped to make it more accessible to new fans who may not have been into Havok's wildly poetic writing style in previous efforts. This maturing sound has had an influence on the scene as punk bands such as Sum-41 and New Found Glory take a turn for the serious as well.

AFI - "Darling, I Want to Destroy You" off Crash Love


-JB

3.17.2011

Crash Thursday: The Strokes - Angles


The first lyric off "Machu Piccu", the first track of The Strokes latest album Angles, states that "I'm putting your patience to the test," and I totally buy it, considering the music scene has been pretty much dry of any new Strokes material for five years. The anticipation for a new album has been partly arousing and partly confusing, as I've tried to cope with the fact that these guys have pretty much done everything with the right mindset since their stellar debut Is This It ten years ago, and yet they've only produced four albums. Does it really beg the question over whether they can keep up their sound after such an unusually long hiatus? Well, after one listening of Angles, I can safely say that the question is rather pointless. The Strokes haven't gone anywhere.

Julian Casablancas and his mighty crew of excellence have done quite well on Angles. For the 34 minutes that the album runs with, The Strokes perform a full-fledged show for the ears, varying in results of unique and oftentimes epic sounds of great rhythm and syncopation, the first half especially. The frequently played "Under Cover of Darkness" is rightly played out, as it hearkens right back to their first album. "Taken For A Fool" also fits in similar line, blasting such power to fit a tight rhythm that's enlightening. "You're So Right" is perhaps the grooviest and most fun track of The Strokes I've yet to hear, with a purposely short track length to fit in all the unique qualities of fuzzy guitar and buzzed bass that make it sound like it came right out of Radiohead's Kid A.

The second half presents something a little more experimental if not mixed experience for The Strokes, bringing in synths and electronics to tinker their guitar work, such as on "Games" and "Call Me Back". The sounds are interesting, yet they seem discordant with Casablancas' vocal and lyrical style. That isn't to say they're not good, but it does somewhat drag what they've so effortlessly established in the first half. Things kick back into gear with "Gratisfaction" only to have "Metabolism" enter, and it sounds as if Muse entered the studio. It's a little bit discombobulating (yes, I used that word in everyday English), but it still crosses a finish line with flying colors.

So are The Strokes back? Yes - in some form - and you should be happy. Is This It may continue to be their masterpiece and "signature sound," but their latest offerings on Angles mixes and matches The Strokes catalog and solo efforts in a way that never feels rushed or lacking. They provide new directions they may head into, but they also provide what The Strokes are always best at. If another five year hiatus is in order, I cannot expect any less of them.

3.5/5

The Strokes - Taken For A Fool


The Strokes - You're So Right


Angles is available on Rough Trade Records on March 22nd.

Crash Thursday: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong


Shoegazing seems to be a popular target to get a listener's head to nod side to side, a hand to strum the air guitar strapped around their neck, or a foot to tap until the bone begins to chisel. This is the style that has branded artists like Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine, and it has now branded New York City's The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. This is not one of your run-of-the-mill-type brands, however - this is one of the good ones.

I don't know if it's the 90's nostalgia that's hitting me or the incessant need to turn my volume up to 10, but there's a reason why shoegaze works so well. The frequent use of flange to appropriate the longing distance between chords and the respective lyrical content make the music soar high and above, even if it does tend to meander. Luckily, The Pains don't make Belong a repetitive affair - this is just delightful.

The starting title track and the song "Too Tough" are perfect examples of the genre, cranking the flanging guitars and low-vibe harmonics to match the vocalist's subtle and chilled tone. Any of the two bands mentioned in the above paragraph could have easily turned these tunes into hits of their own, and it helps that these two tracks help to open and close the album, respectively. Tracks like "The Body" and "My Terrible Friend" continue the trend, albeit much more upbeat and producing bass similar to that of 80's synth-pop. The other six tracks remain consistently and surprisingly vibrant and nourished, keeping a balance of both rhythm and beat that's scattered nicely throughout the album.

These ten tracks are pure shoegazing, and that's a stellar choice. Sure, it's easy to write off Belong as a close repeat performance of big bands prior, but The Pains aren't making music for comparisons. Quite frankly, they're making music to add to the dimensions that shoegazing offers in the first place.

4/5

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong


The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Too Tough


Belong is available on Slumberland Records on March 29th.

3.16.2011

A Special Crashing Symbol: Nate Dogg


It was announced sometime last night that G-Funk mastermind and rap influence Nate Dogg passed away at 41. There is no cause of death announced yet, but it's interesting to note that Nate Dogg had suffered two strokes in the last four years.

I'll admit that I'm not entirely focused on the rap or hip hop scene, but upon listening to Nate Dogg and G-Funk, it's easy to understand why he was such an icon to many. He seemed to smooth out the sounds whenever he guest appeared with artists like Ludacris and Dr. Dre, and then take that same mindset to his own work, creating a unique flow that's been unmatched. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to his music off and on, now that I have reason to really appreciate what he did for a huge community of music followers.

Nate Dogg - Nobody Does It Better


Nate Dogg & Warren G. - Regulate

Vid Break! Andy McKee and His Magic Fingers

Welcome to Vid Break! Are you ready for a rollicking ditty?

Slap me if I ever use that language again.

Today's video comes from guitar impresario and YouTube star Andy McKee. At 37 million hits and counting, "Drifting" is like watching an artist at work, physically molding his craft with his hands but without the clay. This is guitar picking and slapping at it's finest, and just goes to show that one-man-bands are totally worth the price of any admission to anywhere, anytime.

3.15.2011

Take 2 Tuesdays: "Hip Hop" by Mos Def


I'm getting big props, with this thing called hip hop/
Where you can either get paid or get shot


If there's one hip-hop artist with the most energy and soul to take to the bank, it's Mos Def. His alluding lyrical style and excellent production and placement of versing and rap are just some of the many great things about his music that I wouldn't be able to fully describe. "Hip Hop," the second track off his debut solo album Black On Both Sides, is one of those great things. It's so heavy and admirable that it takes you through the rest of the album as if it's the starting radio-tuner changing the stations he truly creates in each song. It's perfectly titled, as he graciously represents and honors the genre that bore before him, or perhaps he that helped it to grow.

Mos Def - Hip Hop

3.14.2011

In Case of the Mondays: Anytime "Will Do" for TV On The Radio


So it goes like this: TV On The Radio are going to be releasing their latest album Nine Types of Light on April 12th. I will be lucky enough to see them in San Diego at the beginning of May (a post with pictures will be taken for sure), but here's your chance to listen to a song off the new album called "Will Do". It's a fantastic love song if I ever heard one, and it manually builds upon its slow tempo with strong beats and excellent lyrical and vocal stability. It shows what TV On The Radio are best at and continue to be best at, and, in case of the Mondays - or any day for that matter - this works on so many levels to get you through.

TV On The Radio - "Will Do"

3.13.2011

The Bencherwarmer - 3/13/11

Every Sunday will consist of The Benchwarmer - also known as the Question of the Week.

Today's question is in relation to the merit of music as far as the longevity of artists and bands.

Would you still appreciate a band if their decision to split was because they feel that the mark they have left on the world is the right amount, and that continuing on would undermine their short but huge success?

A lot of this can be somewhat related to the band Nirvana and that, while their career was short, their impact on music was more than monumental. Arcade Fire has also recently expressed this, in that the three albums they've made have been hugely successful, and that continuing would just taint their value, considering the mounting pressure and expectations from fans. As Kurt Cobain said, "It's better to burn out than fade away."