Sunday, May 30, 2010

VINYL DESTINATION: 3 from the decade's end

These 3 bands were of the alt-metal variety that I pushed in my college radio days. As a matter of fact, all 3 of my vinyl copies were "rescued" by me from the station floor. To me, their music still holds up and I throw the platters on often enough to glance back at them now, in written form...

I Love You emerged from LA in 1990 with a self titled Live debut EP, their only recording for indie Medusa records. They eventually signed with Geffen, put out one hell of a debut, and a couple others over the ensuing 18 years, to little avail. Their biggest national coverage came with an appearance on MTV's "120 Minutes" and on Rick Dees' live show where the former radio host got the title of their single wrong in his introduction of the band.

Back to the EP, It's 6 songs are in front of a small audience. They are a blending of "Disraeli Gears"-era Cream and the trended crossover punk-thrash metal of the period. Jeff Nolan was a guitar god in waiting, and Chris Palmer's voice is like Henry Rollins channeling Jack Bruce. From the ripping "Steppin' On Baby",

to the Cream cover, "SWLABR", and the eerie "Flies" the record has no weak points.

The Psychedelia of the lyrics is another evident symptom of their hippie-era influence.

I Love You were unique.

Broad audiences weren't ready and they faded. They are definitely worth seeking out. This is good stuff, and can be found periodically on Ebay.

Clockhammer were a trio out of Tennessee. A debut from them, self-titled and on First Warning records popped up in 1990.

The grim opener, "Mother Truth" is a grabber from the get-go. A fantastic choice for the first cut. Philosophical metal is what it is, by God, questioning knowledge and the mind's eye over some of the coolest riffs of the time period.

The band likes to dip into a jazzy half reggae vibe at times before slapping you in the head with well produced thrash metal chording.

This is not Metallica, folks, this is thinking man's devil-may-care, set up for people looking for something different. The refreshing thing about Clockhammer, unlike some of the mixed-genre bands of the time, you can tell the musicians had played the "off-metal" structures before, and in the pure.

While vocalist-guitarist Byron Bailey displays both surprising vocal range and convincing growl not to mention enviable six string licks, Ken Coomer and Matt Swanson keep time behind him, and display artful fills that swirl all this together like a nasty twist cone.

Clockhammer also faded, like I Love You, but cuts can be found on YouTube and Itunes. Highly recommended.

It should also be acknowledged that they thank Redd Foxx, the Flaming Lips, and their parents at the bottom of the back panel of the record.

SWA was founded by Black Flags bassist Chuck Dukowski and were often referred to as SST's worst band. Probably unfounded, yet "Winter" shows why that statement is both true and false.

Like the proverbial little girl with the curl, they are awesome and horrible on this record....Tracks 1-6 are fairly strong, they stumble a bit, and then recover into a fantastic song called "Wasting my Time" that really features great vocals by Merrill Ward...two follow up tunes, chiming in at under 2 minutes a piece, "Chances Are" and "Headphones" bookend each other and are truly headbanging.

Phil Van Duyne's riffing is tip-top, but his solos are sloppy, seldom fit the part of the song they appear in, and are in general all over the fretboard, quite the dichotomy from his rhythm parts.

Greg Cameron, is one of those fun drummers to listen to, not just content with keeping time, he likes to use every piece of his kit.

"Talking Behind Your Back" features great tempo changes, a storyline about the title's self explanatory musing, and then "The Man Upstairs" is one great song about the horrors of schizophrenia. The record then devolves into noise again.

Also worth seeking out, I had missed the good parts of this record for so long because my vinyl is in such bad shape, I thank the rock and roll gods someone on Ebay was willing to part with it.

--Rob Will (May 30, 2010)

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