Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Full Album Stream - Away: Cities




I'm very pleased to present a free stream of Cities, the upcoming debut solo album from Michel "Away" Langevin of the mighty VOIVOD. The album will be released on July 27 by Utech Records.

Here is a description of Cities from the label:

"I’ve always been fascinated by field recordings, tape collage and musique concrète. I was introduced to it by Piggy as a youngster." – Away

Strong field recordings capture more than just the sound of an area; they capture a mood and spirit of the place and people. On Cities, local color and nature recordings clash with riots and discord, capturing the full human experience across the world. Literal and metaphorical “found music” appears: The booming stereo of a passing car or distant church bells, as does the rhythmic engine hum of a bus or the chirping of birds. This tour is a fast-paced one, rapidly weaving through the geographic locations building a diverse, yet consistently engaging experience. The audio journey captured here perfectly reinforces the fact that, regardless of one’s location, the presence of music is never far, nor should it be.


Cities is a journey into the life and thought process of an itinerant musician. Recorded in and around Montreal and on the road with Voivod, Cities is an experience in travel via sound, capturing both the geography and the music of the locations visited. The album is a rapid journey across the globe, via a first-ear account from an artist like no other.


Presented in a heavy, black jacket printed with metallic silver and white ink. Contains exclusive art from Away's travel sketchbook. Limited to 500 copies. FIRST 30 COPIES ARE HAND SIGNED.


Whenever Away does something, I pay attention. Cities is a fascinating listen and a new chapter in a creative history that has enthralled and intrigued for three decades.

Go to www.utechrecords.com for more information on Cities. More information on VOIVOD is available at www.voivod.com.



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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bernie Worrell Orchestra: BWO Is Landing




In my never-humble opinion, Bernie Worrell is America’s greatest living musician.

Although he is primarily known as the otherworldly keyboardist in the most revered incarnations of Parliament-Funkadelic, Worrell has made his presence known on dozens of recordings by the likes of Talking Heads, Public Image Limited, Golden Palominos, Keith Richards and many more. From the conventional (guitarist Steve Kimock) to the surreal (Bill Laswell’s off-the-wall Praxis project), Worrell effortlessly elevates each and every artist lucky enough to share a stage or session with him.

So what exactly makes Bernie Worrell’s playing so special? To be honest, I simply don’t have the vocabulary necessary to describe it. I write for a living, but I can’t come up with a definitive way to sum up this man’s many gifts. Frankly, I don’t think the English language has evolved to that point. Worrell’s work is something you feel, not analyze. But as a starting point, check out “Burning Down The House” off Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense concert film and “Flash Light” off Parliament’s Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome album.

Now, pick yourself off the floor and read on.

On July 1, Worrell released his latest album, BWO Is Landing, with The Bernie Worrell Orchestra. Boasting eight tracks, BWO Is Landing demonstrates the skills of a man still surpassing musical heights that many of us will never reach. Just take a listen to “Piri Piri,” “Moneypenny,” “Double W” or the live track “Thug.”

Unsurprisingly, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra is comprised of topnotch players who provide a stellar vehicle for Worrell to demonstrate his incomparable craft. And like any great bandleader, Worrell allows the other members to shine in their own right, making BWO Is Landing a clear representation of a real band as opposed to a legend and his backing troupe.

As great as BWO Is Landing is, Bernie Worrell’s true wizardry must be experienced live to be fully appreciated. A Bernie Worrell show is a sonic roller coaster that literally takes you somewhere else as the maestro works his magic. As each song ends, audience members (at least those truly paying attention and feeling it) are delivered back to Earth, grateful to have been able to take the trip.

And this happens even at a small bar!

Like many true innovators, Worrell hasn’t enjoyed a particularly comfortable life. Although he has contributed to some of the richest music in history, fame and fortune haven’t come easy to the man – a fact made depressingly clear in the 2005 documentary film, Stranger: Bernie Worrell On Earth.

The last time I saw The Bernie Worrell Orchestra perform in Massachusetts, Worrell had to shoo away rowdy drunks bumping into his keyboard setup and rise above the hipsters who chose to talk through the show instead of being transported to that place that only he could send them. And not too long ago, he launched a (thankfully successful) Kickstarter campaign so that he – the modern equivalent to Mozart – could afford a tour van.

Our world rarely values its treasures until they’re gone. It’s time to rectify that problem when it comes to Mr. Worrell. As his former P-Funk bandmate Bootsy Collins says in Stranger, “If you’re not watching or listening, you’ll miss him.”

If you cherish music, don’t miss BWO Is Landing.

Go HERE to purchase a copy in CD or download form.


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Petra Goes To The Movies




There’s no such thing as being bored when there’s so much great music to track down and experience.

Recently, I was watching an Amoeba Records “What's In My Bag?” video segment when guest shopper Fred Armisen (Trenchmouth) talked up an album by Petra Haden called Petra Goes To The Movies. “She does a cappella albums,” he said. Amoeba followed Fred’s statement with about 15 seconds of the album’s version of the “Superman Theme.” After hearing the clip, I immediately knew that Petra Goes To The Movies was an album I had to check out.

Petra Haden first earned acclaim two decades ago as a member of that dog., a quirky Los Angeles-based Alternapop band that fizzled out well before their time shortly after the release of 1997’s underrated Retreat From The Sun. While my fandom of that dog. has remained strong over the years, I confess that I failed to keep track of Petra’s activities (including her 2005 a cappella rendition of The Who Sell Out) in the years following the band’s breakup.

My loss.

Listening to the (mostly) a cappella Petra Goes To The Movies for the first time, I instantly realized that I had neglected to pay attention to an artist who has been up to something utterly extraordinary. And this album has been out since January? What kind of self-respecting music geek am I?  Don’t I know anything about what’s going on? How did something this great miss my radar for so many months?

Petra’s interpretations of “God’s Lonely Man” from Taxi Driver and the main title from Psycho deserve to be heard right now rather than read about, while her take on the “Superman Theme” is downright epic.  However, the album’s greatest moment is also its softest: Accompanied by guitarist Bill Frisell, Petra turns the Adult Contemporary fluff of Tootsie’s “It Might Be You” into a sweet, understated work of beauty. Petra also dresses up as the film’s iconic Dorothy Michaels in Petra Goes To The Movies’ packaging, which also features her costumed as characters from Taxi Driver, Rebel Without A Cause and some of the others films she honors on the disc.

It would be mistake to categorize Petra Goes To The Movies as an album of cheeky novelty tunes best used as party background music. This is not the product of someone crafting an elaborate goof in a recording studio; this is an album created by someone with the talent, craft and care needed to elevate this album from a hokey homage to a true musical treasure.  

Petra Goes To The Movies is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years, and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of Petra’s post-that dog. work. You can bet I’ll be paying close attention to what she comes up with from here on out.

Petra Goes To The Movies is available HERE.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Rigor Mortis Re-Animated




Way back in 1988, I was listening to a cassette of the soundtrack to a movie called The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years for the first time when I heard a song that stood out like a sore thumb. Towards the end of Side Two sat “Foaming At The Mouth,” a punishing aural assault courtesy of a Texas Thrash band called Rigor Mortis. Although the soundtrack featured heavyweights like Megadeth and Armored Saint, nothing touched Rigor Mortis on this soundtrack in terms of sheer brutality. 

Spread that intensity over 40 or so minutes and you have Rigor Mortis’ self-titled debut album, released 25 years ago today on (get this!) Capitol Records. Aside from the Big Four, very few bands from the genre ever made it to the majors – and certainly not with music this raw. Sure, Testament and Overkill were well out of the indie league by ’88 as well, but they were fucking lightweights compared to Rigor Mortis. Those who own this album know what I’m talking about. (Songs called “Re-Animator” and “Bodily Dismemberment” released by the same label that put out The Beatles? Yup.)

The first time I heard this album, I was immediately blown away by the shredding of guitarist Mike Scaccia. No, this wasn’t the kind of show-off glitz and glam displayed by Yngwie Malmsteen; this was twisted, downright evil playing by someone with a hummingbird from Hell for a picking hand!

Rigor Mortis was not only a powerful Metal album, but also the recording that birthed a hybrid genre of music that would help define the ’90s.

Wait…what? Let me explain. The album’s producer, Dave Ogilvie, also happened to be Ministry’s sound engineer around this time. Through this connection, an impressed Al Jourgensen pitched Scaccia the idea of adding his unique guitar style to the Ministry sound. 

This union changed fucking everything

When considering Ministry’s musical output since 1988, most hardcore fans usually place it into two categories: Paul Barker and Post-Paul Barker. However, I would argue that Mike Scaccia had just as much to do with the development of  Ministry’s sound in the ’90s - and the commercial  success that welcomed the band - as Al and Paul did. Play Psalm 69 - Ministry's biggest record - and you’ll hear for yourself how vital Scaccia’s presence was to this band.

Take a listen to Psalm 69’s “TV II” and Rigor Mortis’ “Shroud Of Gloom“ back to back. I rest my case.

Rock was already inching its way into Industrial music by the late ’80s/very early ’90s thanks to tunes like KMFDM’s “Godlike” and even Ministry’s own “Stigmata,” but Scaccia took the combination to the next level. The man helped to re-shape an entire musical form– not a small feat by any means. And Rigor Mortis is the album where his journey - and the journey of millions of Industrial Metal fans - began.

It’s a shame that Mike didn’t live to celebrate this milestone today. My thoughts go out to his wife, kids and former bandmates.

The remainder of 2013 promises to deliver more Mike Scaccia to the world in the form of Ministry’s Enjoy The Quiet - Live At Wacken 2012 DVD and From Beer To Eternity album. As far as I’m concerned, keep Mike’s music coming forever.

If you’ve never heard Rigor Mortis before, the band is currently selling copies of the 2003 CD reissue of the album HERE. It is a crucial addition to any serious Metal fan’s collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an album to blast and an innovator to honor. 

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A New Mission



Photo Credit: The End Records 


Well, happy birthday to ME!

In addition to a great evening with my family in celebration of my 36th year, today brought the release of an audio preview of The Brightest Light, the new album by one of my old favorites, The Mission UK. The Brightest Light features the classic Simon Hinkler/Wayne Hussey/Craig Adams incarnation of the band on record for the first time since 1990’s extraordinary Carved In Sand.

Due for a North American release exactly two months from today, The Brightest Light is slated to include the following tunes:

Black Cat Bone
Everything But The Squeal
Sometimes The Brightest Light Comes From The Darkest Place
Born Under A Good Sign
The Girl In The Furskin Rug
When The Trap Clicks Shut Behind Us
Ain’t No Prayer In The Bible Can Save Me Now
Just Another Pawn In Your Game
From The Oyster Comes The Pearl
Swan Song
Litany For The Faithful

I’m a huge fan of the original Mission UK, so the news that Simon, Wayne and Craig are recording together again (with new drummer Mike Kelly) made my day even better. Have a listen to the album preview below. 

More information on The Mission UK is available HERE.





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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hated in New Hampshire



On June 28, I took a 90-minute trip from my home through a pea soup-thick fog to The Dutch Treat, a bar/restaurant in Franconia, NH. Already something out of a Stephen King movie thanks to the odd weather conditions, my journey instantly became more surreal once I arrived at my destination. 

Characterized by beat-up buildings housing dingy food/convenience stores and the like, the part of Franconia I was in looked like one those run-down, sparse towns you’d normally expect to find on the set of an old Western. It proved the perfect locale for The Dutch Treat, a dive reminiscent of the first Porky’s film that boasted the kind of clientele you’d expect. On this special night, The Dutch Treat was the site of a live music show commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of America’s favorite New Hampshire-bred outlaw feces chucker/muncher, Kevin “GG” Allin.

Now, if you’re completely unfamiliar with GG, this blog is not the place to go for an introduction. First, take a trip to YouTube to see his many controversial television appearances or live performances. Then, dive into Todd Phillips’ infamous 1994 documentary Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies for a more in-depth look into GG’s short life – an explosive run cut short when he checked himself out with a heroin overdose on June 28, 1993 at the age of 36. 

Since GG’s death, his last backing band, The Murder Junkies, has soldiered on under the direction of GG’s older brother (and frequent collaborator) Merle. These days, the all-important singer position is filled by a skinny-yet-intimidating growler by the name of PP Duvay. The band was headlining the affair with two sets, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. 

Like all rednecky Rockers I’ve encountered over the years (C.O.C., Weedeater, Down, etc.), all four members of The Murder Junkies were laid-back, polite and cool. Guitarist Sonny Joe Harlan was the most affable of the bunch, chatting me up about the great Lynyrd Skynyrd when he saw that I was wearing one of the Southern Rock band’s t-shirts. In addition to boasting a truckload of GG items, the band’s merch table featured an 11-by-17 poster version of the art used for the show’s flyer (pictured above). At $5 a pop, the poster was a steal –and I had to have one. After buying one from Merle, he offered to have the band autograph it.

How in the world could I possibly refuse?


Ladies and gentlemen...Dino Sex!

After the three nearby band members signed it (Harlan’s message: “Play some Skynyrd!!”), I walked the poster to the bar in the back to have it signed by one Donald “Dino Sex” Sachs - The Murder Junkies’ masturbation-loving, frequently naked drummer. After taking the marker, Dino proceeded to sign my poster – or at least do something to it – for what felt like 15 minutes. Once he handed it back to me, I was equally amazed and perplexed by the seemingly alien hieroglyphics that now adorned the drawing. These markings were mostly placed within the black border around the art, rendering them readable only when held to the light. (Perhaps I’ve discovered a new party game for guests: “What Did Dino Write?” Kinda like charades, but inspired by a mental patient.) Oh, and he also drew a dick on GG and wrote #1 above it. In addition to signing his own name, Dino was also kind enough to sign for other folks who weren’t able to make it, like Hank III and Jeff Clayton of Antiseen.  

Dino Sex would make the world’s greatest TLC reality show star ever.





Although Dino didn’t strip naked at The Dutch Treat, he did offer a few words about GG prior to the set. (At least I think that’s what he was talking about.) His monologue was followed by an appearance by GG’s elderly mother Arleta, who thanked the crowd while wearing a shirt with a picture of sweet baby Kevin on the john.  


GG's mom, Arleta

The Murder Junkies’ set ranged from songs from the band’s post-GG career (including tracks from this year’s A Killing Tradition album) to such cherished GG chestnuts as “Dog Shit” and “Exposure Yourself To Kids.” Naturally, tunes like these brought out some of the hardest, most intense-looking people I’ve ever seen at a show. Memorable audience members included a guy bashing his glass beer bottle on the table in time with the music and a shirtless, drunk, angry, at least 350-pound gentleman slamming his arms and elbows into anyone standing in his way – female or otherwise. Naturally, this didn’t slow down any of people knocked over in his path, as they immediately got up to further partake in the drunken, filthy fun.


Merle Allin 

As soon as the last note of the first set rang out, a visibly exhausted PP limped to the door as blood ran from his forehead. A few minutes later, a fellow showgoer told me that PP broke some of his ribs at the band’s show earlier in the week and was still recovering. Goddamn!  Before long, PP and the rest of The Murder Junkies were back for their second set, although travel commitments for the following day forced me to leave the show during Dino’s drum solo.


PP Duvay

While no excrement was thrown at the show (at least while I was there), it appeared that everyone still had an absolute ball. The Murder Junkies were great, the crowd got off on the tunes and the energy in the room was real. Hell, at least you walk out of a Murder Junkies show never forgetting the band. The same can’t be said for the majority of groups wasting their time and ours these days. And while Dino is a perverted clown who should probably be in treatment, he’s still one talented motherfucker on the drums, as evident on his surprisingly intricate playing on “Chicks Can’t Rock” off A Killing Tradition.

(By the way, it’s important to note that GG wasn’t a slouch in the musicianship department either. His Jazz-colored drumming circa 1977 with his first band Malpractice is even more impressive when considering he was barely in his twenties at the time, while the music he did with The Jabbers in the late ’70s/early ’80s remains some of the finest Punk ever conceived in New England.)


PP Duvay, Dino Sex, Sonny Joe Harlan


Twenty years after GG took his final dump, The Murder Junkies celebrated his life the honorable way: No pretense. No posing. Just good old fashioned, offensive Rock ‘N’ Roll. I’m sure GG was there in spirit, checking out the festivities with a proud, shit-eating grin.

Go HERE for all things GG Allin/Murder Junkies.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crazy Rhythms Fade Away: The End of Maxwell's





Yes, that’s me standing outside of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ on a hot July night. And although you can’t see it too well in the pic, I’m holding the Maxwell’s t-shirt I bought earlier in the evening. I know…very touristy, right? Well, even though I live up in New England these days, I’m originally from the Garden State and spent a good chunk of my musical existence circa 1998-2003 at this amazing place. In all the years I went to Maxwell’s, it never once occurred to me to get a picture taken there, let alone get a shirt. Why? Because I always took Maxwell’s for granted. Sure, virtually every other NJ/NYC venue I loved to frequent (CBGB, The Pipeline, Connections, Wetlands, Coney Island High and many more) bit the dust, but Maxwell’s was always there. How could it possibly go away? But there I was on July 6, standing outside Maxwell’s with a lump in my throat as my wife Shannon snapped a picture after our five-hour drive to New Jersey. It was time for me to say my farewell to the site of some of the most important nights of my life.

Although I missed out on the club’s legendary ’80s era with original owner Steve Fallon, I sure made up for lost time when Maxwell's re-opened in 1998. Attending Montclair State University in the late '90s/early ’00s, I regularly made Maxwell’s my hangout when I needed to get away from studies and take in great music. It was also the place I took friends who normally didn’t like music clubs, as the restaurant and the always-friendly crowd made it a nice alternative to the usual routine. I had more than a few dates at the place in my single years. When I returned to New Jersey in 2006 after a three-year run in Los Angeles, it didn’t take long before I was back at Maxwell’s. 

The years and memories blur quite a bit, but here is a small sampling of highlights that immediately come to mind:

* Watching the LA band Betty Blowtorch pull out all the stops during an ’80s Hair Metal-fueled, all-girl Punk explosion. (Less than six months later, singer Bianca “Butthole” Halstead was killed in an auto accident.)

* Jim Thirlwell’s paint-peeling performance with a particularly menacing incarnation of Foetus. He didn’t utter a single word to the audience between songs. As captivating as it was intimidating. 

* J Mascis performing a solo acoustic show to a shoulder-to-shoulder room.

* The Januaries bringing songs from their brilliant (and criminally overlooked) 2000 self-titled album to life on the Maxwell’s stage.

* Tiny Masters of Today, fronted by two pre-teen siblings, rocking it hard with Russell Simins from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on drums.

* Living legend Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club/Cramps/Bad Seeds) and Hoboken mainstay/underground music encyclopedia/absolute sweetheart Bob Bert (Sonic Youth/Bewitched/Pussy Galore/Chrome Cranks) slaying the stage with The Knoxville Girls.

* Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret getting his Pop on as the bassist for Lady Luck.

* Having a cigarette outside the club on New Year’s Eve 2007 when a very friendly Dean Wareham (Luna/Galaxie 500/Dean And Britta) walked over, introduced himself, shook my hand and proceeded to have a nice chat with me. Usually, the fans introduce themselves to the artists - not the other way around! A decent fellow - and Dean and Britta were stunning that evening.

* Every Dirtbombs show I ever saw there. (Three cheers for Mr. Troy Gregory!)

Like countless others, I was knocked over by the announcement that Maxwell’s would be closing at the end of July. With a trip to New Jersey already planned for July 6th to visit with friends earlier in the afternoon, I checked the Maxwell’s website to see who would be playing on that date.

It was The Feelies.


Glenn Mercer of The Feelies 

Growing up an underground music fan in New Jersey, I was exposed to The Feelies’ music at an early age. After reading about the Haledon-born band in the East Coast Rocker while still in grade school, I tracked down a used copy of their classic 1980 album, Crazy Rhythms. Nearly 25 years later, that album is still on my Top Ten Favorite Albums list. In fact, Crazy Rhythms has the distinction (alongside only The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa) of being The Album That Got Me Through High School. And I could go another 10 blogs on how much the rest of their discography (especially 1991’s Time For A Witness) means to me.

So, yeah, the idea of seeing The Feelies’ last-ever show at Maxwell’s was quite appealing to me - especially since fate had never allowed the band and me to be at the same place at the same time before.


The Feelies' Bill Million 

Boasting the same lineup they’ve had since at least 1984, The Feelies far exceeded my decades’ worth of expectations. The band’s immaculate song list (comprised of two sets and numerous encores) included tracks from each of the band’s five albums (with Crazy Rhythms’ “Original Love” and “Raised Eyebrows,” Only Life’s “Deep Fascination” and Time For A Witness’ “Invitation” being personal highlights) as well as faithful covers of The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves The Sun,” The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride” and a slew of other classics. (Since other commitments prevented me from staying beyond midnight, I reluctantly missed the band’s renditions of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” The Stones’ “Paint It, Black” and another 10 or so cover/original tunes. Amazingly, they had already played 30 songs by the time I left!)

As much as I adore The Feelies’ albums, the band was even better live – and that’s after doing this for nearly four decades. Just perfect. Seeing this extraordinary band on this stage on this night was the very definition of bittersweet.


Feelies bassist Brenda Sauter

The live photos in this post were the best of the batch I took while working my way around the dancing of an enthusiastic capacity crowd. In addition to the three members photographed, The Feelies are rounded out by drummer Stan Demeski (Luna) and percussionist Dave Weckerman (formerly of the Electric Frankenstein offshoot band High School Sweethearts). Guests at the July 6th show included John Baumgartner and Toni Paruta of Speed The Plough and even Haledon Mayor Domenick Stampone, who introduced the band’s second set of the evening.

If you’re new to The Feelies, most of their back catalog (as well as a pretty nice bio) is available HERE. Their music is as great as it gets.

Not surprisingly, the sadness kicked in the second I stepped out of the club for the last time. It’s still hard to take as I write this two days later. A few weeks ago, I was feeling especially maudlin while talking with a friend about the club’s imminent demise and “the temporary nature of things.” When he heard those words, my friend chuckled and said, “It’s been there for more than 30 years! Everything has its time.”

He’s right, of course. I’m just thankful I got to spend so much of my time at Maxwell’s.

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