Monday, 17 January 2011

Murderdolls - Nowhere

(Originally written for Under City Lights / Rare FM)

When they first came around, the Murderdolls never grabbed me. Whilst the ‘horror punk’ thing was interesting, I could not get over the screech of Wednesday 13. However, key players, Wednesday and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison revived the band last year, releasing a long awaited (for some) second album and every time I hear a track off it, I’m utterly enamoured. I’m not sure what it is about latest single “Nowhere”, but somewhere between the soaring guitar leads, the sing-along chorus and Wednesday’s slightly more melodic vocals, I became hooked. “Nowhere” blends ‘80s style hair-metal with gothic sensibilities seemingly effortlessly, creating a fantastically catchy song in the process. Effectively, it’s an old school horror movie come to life, where the chilling and the campy are inextricably intertwined and it works rather well.

Slash - Beautiful Dangerous

(Originally written for Under City Lights / Rare FM)

When Slash announced that his first solo album proper was going to feature vocal performances from a wide array of musicians old and new, one singer I was exceptionally sceptical about was Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas. Single no. 3 from the top hatted guitarist however proves to be one of Fergie’s best performances. Her voice soars over Slash’s trademark riffing, proving both the perfect accompaniment to the heavy guitars and commanding an audience of its own. It’s surprising, but Fergie sounds completely in her element in a rock context as she bellows the infectious chorus and steal’s Slash’s limelight. Indeed, “Beautiful Dangerous” is amongst the strongest tracks from the album and it’s shocking that it has only just been released as a single due to the potential cross-over appeal. Still, this is rock and roll through and through and well worth a listen.

Black Label Society - Overlord

(Originally written for Under City Lights / Rare FM)

Black Label Society’s latest track, “Overlord”, is primarily dragged on by a compellingly sludgy guitar riff until it reaches the three minute mark and all hell suddenly breaks loose. Manic riffs and violently shredded solos provide a brief but welcome break from the song’s main body before it returns to its initial crushing stomp. Whilst a song that’s basically written around one riff shouldn’t last six minutes, somehow Zakk Wylde and his cohort of menacingly hairy groove-metallers manage to get away with it. Whilst not the most original or inventive of tracks, “Overlord” certainly makes me want to drink beer and shout along to the chorus and, honestly, that’s all you want from a Black Label Society cut.

Rob Zombie - Mars Needs Women

(Originally written for Under City Lights / Rare FM)

Rob Zombie’s latest single does little to stray from the tried and tested Zombie formula – the guitars stomp, Rob barks and the lyrics confuse. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. The sheer ridiculousness of the song proves highly contagious and, whilst I’m not entirely sure if Mars actually does need “angry red women”, I’m happy to take Rob’s word for it. There are a few splatterings of rather interesting, almost funk-based guitar lines from the ever-talented John 5 which, whilst mixed in with the standard Zombie affair of movie sound-bites and industrial tweaks, stop “Mars Needs Women” from becoming stale. At the crux of it, it’s a heavy and catchy track that does little to drag Rob Zombie out of his musical rut. A rehash of prior Zombie efforts perhaps, but an addictive one at least.

Looks That Aren't Standing The Test of Time

(In a bold change from the usual proceedings of reviews, here is an article I wrote for Pi Magazine's 'Style' issue that basically involved me being slightly mean about lots of fantastic musicians. This version is slightly longer than the one that got printed, so enjoy it in all its extended glory. Also, all images in this version are shamelessly stolen from Google Image Search. Sorry about that.)

Music is unquestionably intertwined with image and some of the best musicians out there have rocked rather striking aesthetics in their time. Whilst their classic albums and musical contributions will remain timeless*, their creators will not. Here are a few not-so-stylish stalwarts who have aged far from gracefully.

*Okay, the music of Dead or Alive and Poison has aged horribly, but I will never stop listening to Look What The Cat Dragged In.

Robert Smith
(The Cure)

Pioneering the classic goth look in the ‘80s, no one expects Robert Smith to look clean-cut and trendy. But then, equally, no one expects Robert to look like he was rejected for the title role in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘It’ – for those of you who don’t know ‘It’, what I’m getting at is Smith looks like an evil clown.

Pete Burns
(Dead Or Alive / ‘Celebrity Big Brother’)

Now, the last thing I wish to imply is that Pete Burns ever looked fashionable. The ‘You Spin Me Right Round’ video has him with teased, backcombed hair and an eye-patch, caught adrift in an ocean of ribbons and garishly coloured pop nonsense. But at least he looked vaguely human. Nowadays, his face has been stretched so much that he resembles a monster from Beetlejuice and his lips look like you could pop them just by looking at them too intensely.

Bret Michaels
(Poison / ‘Rock of Love’)

I’ve never seen anyone so insecure of their receding hairline that they have to wear a cowboy hat over a bandana. Take it off Bret, that weave is fooling nobody.

Axl Rose
(The Band Previously Known As Guns N’ Roses)

(2002, 2006, 2010)

I really thought it couldn’t get worse than the multi-coloured braids and hockey jerseys, but Axl Rose’s current look reeks of a middle aged man desperately trying to be “down with the kids”. You’re never going to be considered ‘relevant’ with a Fu Manchu, Axl.

Adam Ant
(Adam & The Technicolour Dreamcoat)

Marginally bizarre clothes aside, there is something moderately inhuman about Adam Ant nowadays. So much so that he looks like more like Kryten from Red Dwarf than Prince Charming.

Iggy Pop
(Iggy & The Stooges / Really annoying car insurance ads)

Please Iggy. Just put your shirt back on and we can pretend your leathery, drug-addled body never happened. Also, if there’s anyone I wouldn’t trust to sell me car insurance, it’s you and your creepy puppet clone.

Boy George
(Culture Club)

The New Romantic look was always a bit of an extreme one but in the last few years, ‘80s crooner Boy George can’t decide whether he wants to be an androgynous “Right Said” Fred Fairbrass or Phil Mitchell from Eastenders.

(The Madge Madgeson Experience)

I love Madonna’s music as much as any self-respecting man (i.e. with a crippling sense of guilt and irrevocable shame) but the woman has transformed beyond creepy. She’s a Frankenstein creation made from Iggy Pop’s arms, a partially melted wax-model head and a shop mannequin’s legs. Amidst all the horrifically revealing costumes and relentless gyrating, all that enters my mind is that Madonna’s a parent. A weird, freaky, 52 year old parent.

Survival Awards

Lemmy Kilmister

Considering he’s 437 years old, Lemmy actually looks remarkably young. Or at least he would, if it wasn’t for the face-altering boils by his beard. Still, Kilmister deserves only respect for being rock & roll incarnate and still dressing like he walked out of a heavy metal spaghetti-western.

Keith Richards
(The Rolling Stones)

For all intents and purposes, Keith should have died multiple times during the ‘70s. Fair play to the guy for having more lives than a cat, even if he does generally look like a maddened homeless man.