Sunday, October 29, 2006

Album of the Week 10/30/06:
Trick or Treat Soundtrack

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: I picked this for obvious reasons, but I’ll admit I was intrigued with both the movie and the soundtrack. This is one that you have to consider in the context of the year it came out, 1986. “It was twenty years ago today…we got to jam to the sounds of Fastway…” (Sorry.)

Let me start by saying that with all of their deficiencies, both movie and soundtrack are not as bad as I thought they would be. I figured the special effects and the acting in the movie would be pretty lame. But I thought it was a decent “scary” movie with pretty good acting. There were high school outcast clichés galore, but I thought the storyline was interesting at first. The backward messages in the album were kind of creepy when first introduced in the movie. You have to remember that this did seem to be a threat back in 1986 – metal music corrupting youngsters minds to the point of making them do crazy things (other than just banging their head). (As a sidenote – I think it’s kind of interesting that the advent of CD’s kind of threw out the ability to play stuff backwards. I guess now the evil bands just have to come right out and say it to the kids forwards!) But I will admit the movie kind of falls apart in the end and the whole point becomes a little cloudy. It seemed like they had a good idea for the movie and then lost interest when it came to actually finishing it up. The DVD that is out tries to capitalize on the fact that there are appearances by Gene Simmons and Ozzy. Pretty misleading marketing, their scenes are very short and not all that interesting. But in the end, I sat through the whole movie and kind of cared how it was all going to turn out. And I did get a kick out of how the was music featured in the movie.

I listened to the soundtrack a couple times before watching the music, which made it much more fun. Almost every tune is very anthemic in nature, which I always get a kick out of. And like the movie, clichés galore! This stuff exists for the sole purpose of making kids pump their fist in the air. There’s no way at this point that any fist pumping that I will do to this will be accompanied by a tongue firmly pressed in my cheek. Absolutely none of the song titles or lyrics will surprise you AT ALL: “Don’t Stop The Fight”, “Get Tough”, “Tear Down The Walls”, etc. But you know, what the hell. It’s pretty fun stuff, even if it is kind of silly. And the singer (Dave King) has pretty good chops. I’ll play this again when I don’t want to think to hard and just want to rock.

I find it very interesting looking back that they went with a full soundtrack of original material from Fastway. I don’t recall them being that big at the time, and they were kind of living or dying with these guys. What’s really funny is that the music isn’t scary at all. There’s a hilarious scene in the movie where this guy comes back from the dead to sing a song at the high school dance. There’s a ton of suspense as he’s staring down the crowd. Then he starts beating his crenched fist against his hip. With the look on his face, you would think he would be getting ready to emit mouthfuls of super evil shit. Then the song starts and he starts singing. If I had been drinking a beverage at that instant, it would have been a classic spit take moment. The song isn’t evil at all, just some stuff about rock n’ roll and stuff. I mean, at the time there were some bands out there that put out some pretty brutal stuff. But alas, they wouldn’t have had a chance to be hit singles – and it’s my guess that’s what they were going for. Well, hit singles on a pretty limited budget…

MH: My first comment on movies like this is: PROPAGANDA! It is such a message movie to parents and the producers who made this were clearly in the PMRC. Basically, if you let your children listen to heavy metal, they will end up dead or killing someone. When the scene happened where Skippy from Family Ties started to play the music backwards and the mom had such a scared look on her face, and the mom just didn't understand, I felt so preached to. I listened to a TON of metal growing up, and I am as pleasant as a salve. Bonus points for Melrose Place's Gay icon Doug Savant who, as a bully, looks GREAT in a skinny tie!

The second thing I thought of, while watching this movie, and listening to the soundtrack deftly played by FASTWAY (with a lead singer who always reminded me of Lauraine Newman for SNL): THIS scared parents? The evil main rock character and the music are simply just not scary. Now, don't get me wrong, parents, there are a ton of bands that could be feared. Mayhem, Gorgoroth, slipKnot, Dimmu Borgir and alot of those norweigan bands who advocate the burning of churches. That kind of stuff. That's scary because they are actually following ancient Nordic religious practices of trying to demolish catholicism. I would have bought it more if they threw down some Immortal or Emperor or something....., um, but Fastway? Not exactly scary. But of course, I am comparing them to today's standards where shocking is pretty mainstream and not as shocking anymore.

Oh well. On the musical side. I think Fastway could have been big. The singer, Lauraine, has chops and I think maybe they were just kind of overshadowed by more flashy, glammed out bands at the time. Too bad for them. The guitar playing is tight, the energy is up. Their lyrics are awful, but they could be seen as empowering to young budding teenagers who are just sick of it all. I wonder what Fastway is up to now? Um, hard to tell. I bet they are certainly not scaring anyone.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Album of the Week 10/23/06:
Bob Mould - Black Sheets Of Rain

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Suggested by: MH

MH: Mould. Yet ANOTHER connection musically that QM and I share. I have been a Mould fan for a while. Whatever. I'm not as big of a fan of his electronica stuff, but his new album is better. More rock, less techno. I bet I would like it if I had Robot ears.

Which is why I chose 'Black Sheets of Rain' as AOTW. His second solo album after the classic album Workbook. (One of the greatest albums I have.) I liked the acoustic nature of the album comapred to his punk Du days. I always found him fascinating. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew I had a connection to him somehow. His songs were so obsessive and longing and I just kind of related with them hardcore. Then the day I found out that he was indeed gay, I thanked the gods. I love the fact that a gay guy can rock the BEJESUS out of a guitar, and no one cared if he was a gay or not. I was going through some crap with this guy named Charlie, and the song "If I Can't Change Your mind" when he was in Sugar, fit perfectly around my poor little heart. Only a guy could have written that song for another guy. It was clear to me that he was kin, you know? My brother maintains that seeing him on this (Black Sheets of Rain) tour was the loudest concert he had ever seen. And he's seen a lot.

Okay, to the album. I LOVE how dark it is. Just the title track alone which opens the album is perfect. "Is there an upside to every downside?" I remember I listened to this album along with alot of Counting Crows and The Original Cast Recording of RENT as I was driving out to Colorado to see my Tiffy. I quit my job, shaved my head and drove west to see what was up, you know? And this album just felt good to me. I was in love with Charlie, and he was not in love with me even though he would let me rub his naked ass. Whatever, man.

What I like about him is his darkness, and his troubled heart. I think it makes for the best songs, you know? Who wants happy artists? But then he partners the darkness with really optimistic melodies and pop lines, ie "Out of your Life." I wish I could have seen this tour myself. Who knows what I was doing at the time. Probably rubbing "not"-gay Charlie's naked ass then going home to jerk off like a mad man. Wow! There's a picture, huh? I would have loved to see his face (Mould's, not Charlie's) when he ripped through "Stop Your Crying", and the last track which just sounds cathartic to me. I love his screaming songs. Must be the metal and Punk fan in me. Good way to end an album.

MJ: Well, here’s another one of the musicians Hanner and I realized we had in common the first time we met. Right on to that…

Bob Mould is one of those guys that I liked right away. I just love his sound so much – I’m pretty much in for whatever he throws at me. However, I do tend to focus on one of his albums over others – the one that got me into him. The album is “Workbook” and it is likely in my top 20 albums of all time. For this reason, Mark’s selection this week was a fantastic call. This one in particular got lost in the shuffle for me. I just didn’t listen to it much.

Upon listening to it this week, I have no good reason why this one is not on a more regular rotation. While maybe not as complete as “Workbook”, many of the songs stand up nicely to that previous release. I totally dig the title track and for some reason “Stop Your Crying” really jumped out at me this time around.

All in all, this proves out one of the reasons for this webpage: to be reminded of things that for whatever reason did not get your full attention the first time around. I’m sure there are many more out there. Stay tuned…

Monday, October 16, 2006

Album of the Week 10/16/06:
Dokken - Back For The Attack

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: Okay - first of all, part of my reason for picking this album ended up being an inaccurate figment of my imagination. For some reason I was thinking this album was released a bit later, outside of the metal heyday of the mid to late 80’s. I’ve since read some really good reviews on this album and it intrigued me. My theory was going to be that there was some really good metal albums that were released that never caught on simply because metal was “out of favor”. (How many interviews have you seen with 80’s metal folks that blame Nirvana for their demise? The thing is, I don’t think they are just trying to blame someone. I think that’s really what happened, more or less.) So I made it my pick, then realized this came out in 1987. My theory was blown. Metal was alive and well in 1987. So, as a fan of Dokken around this time, why did I miss this album?

I realized that occasionally I get a mental block on some bands and albums that I just can’t shake. For this album, I think it was the whole business with the song “Dream Warriors” and it’s association with the third installment of the “Nightmare on Elm Street ” movies. I didn’t really like the song and I’m pretty sure the video was ridiculous and had Freddie in it. In fact, on further listening I think this is the weakest song on the album. The chorus just sounded kind of weak to me. Now, it turns out that this song was originally released on a special EP, then thrown on the end of this album for the heck of it. Also, I swear I remember hearing a fairly lame chorus that would have been for a song called “Back for the Attack”, but now I see that there wasn’t a song like that on this album. That one really confuses me. So with those two things in my head, I did not pursue the album any further.

Another thing I find interesting is that the timing of your inroads to an album could be critical. Take some album that for some reason just clicked with you at the time it came out and you still love today. Now ask yourself, if I were to listen to this album for the first time 15-20 years later, would I embrace it as I did before? I’m guessing in many cases the answer is no. So I was definitely up against that problem with this Dokken release.

I’ve listened to this album a couple times before this week, so I didn’t go into it completely cold. I was surprised that it sounded pretty good and heavy before. But this week I was going to really sink my teeth into it. So I listened to it four times. As much as I will admit it does sound a bit dated, I had a fantastic time listening to it and it felt very nostalgic. But I think it stands up musically pretty darn well. As much as Don Dokken’s vocals have always been my key to the band, it was George Lynch’s axework that really jumped out at me. Really good stuff. (I read somewhere the Lynch was the runner up in Ozzy’s auditions for lead guitarist for his solo band behind Randy Rhoads – so yes, he’s good.) Generally the first part of the album is its strongest : “Prisoner”, “Night by Night” – then holy crap, the instrumental song “Mr. Scary”. My god that song is a jam. Lynch just totally shreads. Shreads, I say!

A lot of people cite one of the weaker songs as the single which enjoyed some success “Burning Like a Flame”. Yes, it’s pretty melodic, but I like it. You can’t rock your ass off all the time. It’s a great song to sing in the shower, I suspect.

So this exercise renewed my appreciation for Dokken. I think another reason that I didn’t bite on this back in 1987 is that I was distancing myself from much of the glam metal type bands in favor of bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, etc. Dokken leans much closer to the glam side of the spectrum, but in the end I don’t think they should be lumped in with that genre. I think they were a good band with great licks and nice melodic chops from Don. I think it stands the test of time pretty well. It works for me, at least.

(Future AOTW foreshadowing – there’s another band/album that may just fit into my original theory that may be coming down the pipeline at some point…)

MH: Yup, I actually had two Dokken albums.(!) Vinyl! I was so into Def Leppard that I started to wander outside the Pyromania camp I was holled up in, and got "Breaking The Chains" for my birthday. I loved the song "Breaking The Chains" SO MUCH! I listened to it, then I turned off the album. I don't know why, I just didn't know that there would be more songs that I would like. Isn't that weird? My brother in law (at the time) Andrew told me that I should listen to the rest of the album as there might be other good songs on there. I for some reason never thought of that. I listened to all of Pyromania, why wouldn't I listen to all of Dokken.

I then got "Tooth and Nail". I though it was the height of toughness with the evil claw and the flames coming out of it. Then I fell in love with the song 'Alone again' that I wrote down the lyrics and put them in my literary magazine for my eighth grade english class. Then I suddenly totally stopped listening to them. I think it was because I got, "Piece of Mind" by Iron Maiden. and that left Don's melodic warbling to the side unforunately.

I, of course, still LOVE "Breaking The Chains", and it's still on my ipod.

I had no idea what this album, "Back For The Attack", would be like...QM had been talking about it for a while and how it was released later than all the hey-day of the metallic eighties, but if you read the previous post, that was proven to be a little off. Which makes me think. Why wasn't this album bigger when it was out? It had to be better than the other stuff that was out! This album has hooks all OVER it. I really enjoyed the shit out of this. I think George Lynch is the pulse of this band. He is such a good guitarist and muscular and powerful and highly underrated in my eyes as an axeman.

Then I realized why this album wasn't big... Forget everything that was out at the time. This album has some of the WORST lyrics I have ever heard. And, unfortunately, every song has some of the same structure. Riff, verse, sing along chorus, verse, sing along chorus, guitar solo, sing along chorus, fade out. Now do NOT get me wrong. The music on this album is fantastic, but I could not get past the lyrics. When I finally got to "Tale of the Gypsy" I was ready to give up. Don Dokken has such a nice melodic voice, that I have always wondered why he chose to be a metal star. It seems to betray his golden tones. He certainly can growl, sort of, but when he was singing the lyrics he just sounded a little silly to me. He needs to work a little bit harder on the content and less on making sure the audience has a sing along opportunity. I think maybe the band would have stuck together if they would have focused on making music that they liked, and not what every studio was putting out at the time. I was also really pleased how uptempo the album was. There wasn't really a ballad on there that I could discern. Well, done Don. All in all, this album is something they should be proud of musically. And George Lynch is a madman on the fret.

My Dad likes Dokken.

MJ: I would have to agree with you on the lyrics. Don and the boys are no thespians. Thank god I have always been able to ignore the silly lyrics in some of my favorite bands. If I had to defend the lyrical content of some of my faves (Y&T included!!!!), I would have an uphill battle. Now when I hear the ridiculous things that are said, I just smile and jam to the riff. I know you agree with this as well, MH - in fact, I think you said something like this in a previous post.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Album of the Week 10/09/06:
Meshuggah - Catch Thirty-Three

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Suggested By: MH

MH: First of all, I think the idea of a concept album is awesome. I agree that sometimes, it is a bit alienating to the new listener of the band or if you just want to have singles off an album. But bottom line some of my favorite albums have been very conceptual. Operation Mindcrime, Leviathan, 2112, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. So I was IN at the release of this album.

These guys are such good players. There is one track that just had the guitarist playing the same chord for what feels like, 30 seconds. Then the rest of the band comes in and he is still playing the same notes. These guys are good. I wonder what Rush thinks of them? I think they should hear this disc. These guys are super heavy too. You can't really understand the lyrics, but I don't really care much about lyrics anyway. One thing that I learned about this disc is if you aren't lisenting to it in a row, these songs sort of don't work on their own. They are needed to be listened to the whole disc. Which isn't really that hard since the disc is, maybe 37 minutes or something.

I feel the album picks up during the last few songs. Dehumanization is great and a Jam. They seemed to be able to write the whole album with certain chords and have been able to sustain it, and yet, change some of the ideas with a simple change in tempo or melody line. Again, these guys are good. I need to listen to more of these guys. Which is kind of why I picked them, so I could be reminded about their jammingness. QM (Queensryche Mike, a.k.a MJ) got to see them, and I couldn't . Which sucked. Oh well. This album may not make the rotation, but I love it!!!!!! I ain't gonna worry about a god damn thing.

MJ: So what is this classified as, "Math Metal"? I'm still trying to figure out what the hell that means - music to play when you are leisurely working on calculus? Does the guitarist take a fairly awesome riff, then raise it to the third power? Anyway, it's been so long since I listenened to Meshuggah that I kind of forgot how they sounded. To me, it's one of those fairly extreme bands that has that little extra something that makes it work for me. Nice chunky riffs, they slow it down a bit and just go heavy on our ass...that's what I'm talking about. I will admit, there are times when the songs get a little repetitive - but I guess sometimes you just have to settle into the groove and see it all the way through...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Album of the Week 10/02/06:
Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: I went with this as my first pick due to its historical metal significance, that this year marks its 30th anniversary, and that I personally don't play this JP release all that much. So I wanted to give it a little love...

To fully appreciate this, you have to listen in the context of what it must of sounded like back in 1976. What was ruling the airwaves at the time? Lite rock? Disco? Now, it's not like this kind of heavier music hadn't been heard before: Black Sabbath had been out for quite a while, and it is the second Priest release. But I have to make the claim that a new breed of metal was born at approximately the 6:48 minute mark on the first track "Victim Of Changes". From this point on, Halford just brings the song home with his signature screaming. Over the last five seconds of the song he emits a soaring scream that acted as a sonic calling to all would-be metalheads. It's beautiful.

How I would have loved to have picked this up at a record store in 1976. I give credit to anyone who did. I wonder if there were people who complained of their new direction and preferred the previously released "Rocka Rolla" ("I like the old shit better").

It's always good to have an excuse to throw down more Halford. Chops galore...

MH: I am always surprised at Judas Priest albums. I'm not sure if it's because I tend to compare them with what is out now, or what is popular, but I'm always surprised by them. Nowadays, music is so crazy heavy and insane (ie slipKnot, Meshuggah, Mastodon, and others) that I wonder why people were so afraid of heavy metal back in the day that this came out. It's not nearly as heavy. It was heavier than what was out in the day though, so that's cool. They have two great guitars and a lot of bass, but they aren't that shocking. And Sabbath was doing it first, so they were just following suit. Much like how there are always a ton of lookalike bands in every genre. Priest just sound like good rock and roll to me.

Sad Wings of Destiny starts off like how a Priest album should, with an awesome scream by Rob Halford. The hottest gay guy in metal. I'd jump his bones. I also listened to this album with the knowledge that the singer that replaced him after he left the band was named after track 2. Tim "the Ripper" Owens. I wanted to know why it was this song that he picked to be named after. Why not the Hellion? or Painkiller, or The Electric Eye? Which also brings me to what I find funny about Priest. They always have titles for really supremely evil things that are meant to "getcha": The Hellion, Painkiller, Green Menalishi, Exciter, and it always makes me laugh. Plus I wasn't expecting as much piano on the album as there was. Piano isn't particularly heavy, so I am glad to see that they weren't afraid to use it. (However, pianos are generally really heavy physically.) Keyboards are always used more in the european bands anyway. It's not considered wimpy as it is over in the states...
Another thing I like about Priest is that they are never afraid to have a story line of some sorts within the tracks. I kind of scoffed at the reports that the new album would be conceptual, but then they have always tried to keep up with Maiden's boys at writing long flowing verses about mythical things. Personally, I think Preist are better at the 3 or 4 minute rock jams. But they have had something like the last track on the albums. It has an intro, and then tell a story. Which is cool, I thought. The guitar playing on this album is so good, and I could tell that they were hungry and were only going to go up in their talents and rocking nature. I'm glad to have this album now under my belt.

Here it is folks, the official launching of the "Hooks So Big" blog. Here's the scoop:

Main contributors: Mark Hanner and Mike Johnson

Main purpose: MH and MJ will alternate picking an album of the week. We will listen to it during the week (M-Su), then talk about it. Simple enough? You are all welcome to play at home. Just add a comment as you see fit. We will post on Monday what the album of the week is, and who's pick it was - no other comments at that time. Then by the next Monday both MH and MJ will have posted their comments.

Secondary purpose: There may be some random postings from time to time - maybe concert previews or reviews, etc. Who really knows?

What are the rules of each album of the week you pick?: There are none. We alternate, and no questions are asked.

Where did the name of the blog come from?: There was a random comment made by one of the contributors in reference to the Y&T song "Love Has No Cure" (from Unearthed Vol. 2): "It's got a hook so big you could hang a side of beef from it".

Warning: We kind of like a lot of metal. A lot of the albums will probably be of or pertaining to metal music. And we are not apologizing for this...