By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
A few years ago, bored by grunge and late speed metal and still lamenting the loss of pretty glam in prettier haircuts, I thought loud guitar bands had entirely run out of both options and steam - the only stuff I was liking was sung in Spanish, which I don't even speak! But somewhere along the line, as tends to happen whenever I stop paying attention to a musical style, either the tables or my ears turned. So now in 1998, here are 11 ways to make metal interesting (i.e.: beautiful or danceable while tugging my heart and mind - none of that hokey Nashville Pussy/REO Speeddealer/Zeke let's-pretend-we-drive-Mac-trucks horseshtick), a decade or two past the expiration date on the genre's cereal box.
Listen to L.A.L.: Real Audio Format Vacation Old Gold
Download the RealPlayer FREE! L.A.L. #1 USA (K Records). Led by a crony of Beck from his One Foot in the Grave daze, this trio of youngsters makes the only '90s so-called "lo-fi" rock I've heard that actually rocks me. The final four cuts, left over from an earlier EP, aren't much more than drab basement-boy Sebadoodling. But how L.A.L.'s newer stuff pits high telegraphed shouts over lowstrung downbound bwaaangs reminds me of forgotten Philly metal-wave couldabeens the Reds, if not Sonic Youth in their forgotten '80s forward-motion "Stereo Sanctity" mode. A spurtful bash that squeezes Valkyrie rides into blue suede shoes as it references "Satisfaction," "Fever," "California Dreamin'," bank robberies, phobias and unnamed movies from 1974, this is boogie-woogie avant-garde.
Listen to Wallmen: Real Audio Format Rock 101 Nice Lady The Gauge
Wallmen Electronic Home Entertainment System (Wild Pitch). Somehow, this here drug-and-feedback-fed incoherence comes together more consistently than similar garbage-dumping by more famous who-gives-a-fucksters like the Pixies, Butthole Surfers and noted tangerine fans the Flaming Lips - demented baby talk and punchlineless Fugs-to-Firesign-Theater yippie silliness curdle by in a wobbly blur over tinkled keyboards, with strangely homey little hillbilly squeaks eking out of curt circular guitar licks throbbing finger-lickin' good from beginning to end. Still, I wish more songs distinguished themselves with audible vocals like the "Sister Ray"-vamped nugget "Foam Hippie Cereal" does: a hot sax part and lyrics that at least partially address "getting all drunk and talking about Xuxa." Or at least that's what they sound like to me.
Rocket From the Crypt RFTC (Interscope) I've always taken these slickly dressed San Diego punks for so-what hardcore hacks, but RFTC is immersed in soul music like no hard rock in eons. The songs aren't just slopped together; their hooks and grooves are constructed, with sax, cheesy organs, percussion breaks, ooh-ahh call-and-response, even lots of lyrics about fast dancing - "When in Rome, you do the jerk." The Stooges ("Eye on You" = "TV Eye") and Dolls ("Lipstick") figure heavily, and though mouthman Speedo betrays a bit of an Anthony Keidis minstrel lisp when he gets heartfelt, his usual blue-eyed quiver is pure Peter Wolf: I.e., it ain't nothin' but a frat-house party.
The Styrenes We Care, So You Don't Have To (Scat) Cleveland legends since 1973, the Styrenes have never given themselves so much shape before - organ swells lend a sadness even to the speedy stuff as Mike Hudson raggedly yawps seedy yarns about walking streets with 40 ounces of Bud, and wondering where his old letters to an ex are now, and (in three different songs) murder with guns. They tie down an S&M anthem by the Velvet Underground; they explore the minimalism of "Three Blind Mice." And "He Was a Loser" (also about an ex who never calls because you have no phone) is the best song ever written about the Detroit Tigers.
The Brain Surgeons Malpractice (Cellsum). A critic-turned-chanteuse in the lofty tradition of ex-Blue Oyster Cult sideperson Patti Smith, whose vocal range hers eerily resembles, Deborah Frost and her BOC-alumnus drum spouse Al Bouchard find eccentric humor, slimy grooves and reaper-unfearing melodiousness in jaded old BOC and Hawkwind and Minutemen obscurities about New Year's Eve and syringes and petrodollars and the difficulty of writing songs on the road. Kinda reminds me of the time Metal Mike Saunders of the Angry Samoans called me right after seeing Val Kilmer in Oliver Stone's Doors movie: "I always knew those were great songs; they just needed somebody better than Jim Morrison to sing them!"
Deep Purple Abandon (CMC). These geezers' dusty dusk ballad "Fingers to the Bone" out-desert-rocks anything I've heard by Kyuss. Vintage organs add gravity to the unsentimental nostalgia of "Jack Ruby" and "'69," and wise highway-star-riff economy from Steve Morse counteracts Ian Gillan's blooze-boorish lack of insight into the opposite sex. "Any Fule Kno That" is a hopped-up Zep-rap with obligatorily misspelled gangsta title, but I'm still waiting for them to cover "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes, which I never realized stole "Smoke on the Water"'s chords until my 6-year-old son played the latter on the piano a few months ago.
In Flames Whoracle (Nuclear Blast). Despite their incendiary moniker (and Spinal Tap-worthy CD title, illustrated on the cover by a woman without eyes preaching amid architectural ruins as her appendages turn into snakes!) and a weakness for angry machine-gun-guitar/ barfbag-bassoprofundo hatespew, these Swedes don't appear to toe their nation's church-burning death-metal line. Their sound is oddly tempered and sculpted, with heavenly Celtic-folklike spirals from three (often acoustic) guitars, tapestries comparable in metal circles only to the Thin Lizzy of, say, "Whiskey in the Jar." And by album's end, their intense somberness gives way to uplifting medieval choruses over extended tribal tom-toms, thawing the Viking ice.