Archive for the ‘Away’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2019] Voivod

I’ve been a fan of Voivod for decades.  But I never saw them live when I was most into them (late 80’s).  Then after Denis “Piggy” D’Amour’s death in 2005 I assumed I never would.

But amazingly they found a guy who plays guitar very much like Piggy did–a bizarre hybrid of prog, metal, dissonance and eerie harmony.  That man is Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain.  Chewy is able to play Piggy’s parts.  And his new parts are very much in the style of old Voivod, but are certainly his own (his soloing style is definitely different for instance.  And since recording songs with him in 2013, Voivod have been touring fairly regularly.  (They played Philly in 2015 and 2016–to see them at the Black Box in Underground Arts would have been amazing!)

For a band that’s been active (in one form or another) for over 30 years, they still had a lot of fun on stage.  If there’s one thing I love it’s seeing a band enjoying themselves.

Strangely, in the 30 years that they’ve been together, nearly everyone has been replaced (with some returns), and there have been a number of styles. (more…)

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dec2004SOUNDTRACK: AWAY-Cities (2013).

awayAway is Michel Langevin, the drummer for metal band Voivod.  But on his first solo album he eschews all conventional music.  Rather, he has created an exercise in found sound and released it on the small label Utech Records.

The album is described as

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.

What we get is a collection that sounds like a tour through the streets of the respective cities (nothing more specific than Europe is given, sadly).  We hear street noise and buskers playing (interestingly just about every type of music I have heard in Boston subways as well).

I only wish more information was given about just what Away was up to.  Where he was and, more importantly, how he recorded these sounds. The recording quality is amazing—the panpipes and harmonicas sound crisp and clean with no other ambient noise.  Did he ask the performers if he could record?  How did he get them so pristine especially since I assume they are in the streets?  And for the Europe ones, was there any given order to the way they were edited?  Is it the progression of their Voivod tour, or is it just random?  The mixing and sequencing is quite good, especially in the shorter pieces which really take you on a journey.  Not knowing what’s happening is maddening and part of the fun as you try to picture (especially if you use headphones) exactly what you are hearing.

“Montreal 2010” opens with the sound of travel until we zoom in on panpipes (for a few seconds).  This switches to a lurching shanty (sung, I suspect in French—it’s a little hard to hear).  Then from the shadows comes the sound of someone playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the harmonica.

“Europe 2012” opens with someone playing what I suspect is a hammered dulcimer (exactly the kind of thing that buskers play in subway stations), it shifts to a jazz trio (sax, bass, drums) wailing away with traffic noises in the background.  After some busses and an accordion solo, there are delicate chimes.  Finally a bagpipe melody leads us away from the delicate chimes until we hear announcements in what sound like Russian and then French.  The track ends with fans chanting “Voivod Voivod.”

Montreal 2012 returns Away to near his home city.  This time the scene is much nosier—it could be joyous, it could be angry—there are whistles and horns, and by the end it seems like a joyous parade.  The noise diminishes as an operatic voice pierces through briefly until the drums return.  More street noises, including police sirens, French chanting and a train passing by as we return to yet more street drumming.  If this track had more context for the title it would probably be more enjoyable. And yet as the parade (for surely that is what it is ) marches past you feel like you’re there.

“Mexico City 2012” opens with a truck honking and street noise until we hear what sounds like an indigenous band playing, then some more flute music and church bells pealing. Then there are announcements in Spanish (by both a man and woman presumably in the church) and church organ music.  Pan pipes and drums bring us back into the street and what sounds like a market scene which ends with some Mexican music playing.

“Europe 2011” opens with some beautiful guitar or perhaps an Indian stringed instrument playing and some traditional Indian singing.  There’s some more music playing and cheering and then some peace as birds take us out of this short track.

“Montreal 2011” opens with banjo music (!).  And then the more typically French sounding violin moves us along.  More pan pipes and traffic noise progress us through the city.  Then two very different examples of accordion music meld until the noise of the train wipes them out.   The track fades out with a band playing a  jaunty accordion inspired track.

“Chicago 2012” ends the disc with a symphony orchestra tuning up (I presume) for a few minutes.  It’s a shocking cacophony.  Until someone shushes the noises and the birds return, playing us out of this aural tour.

You can stream, download or buy the CD  here.  Buying the CD gets you some of Away’s cool art (although I wish there was more).

[READ: October 8, 2013] “War Wounds”

Since I’ve been enjoying Tom Bissell’s book reviews, I thought I’d see what else he had written in Harper’s.  He seems to have a storied career with the magazine as a traveling journalist.  And this article dates back to 2004.

It is a personal article about himself and his father.  What I found fascinating about this is that his father was a Vietnam veteran, and I don’t know too much in the way of writing that concerns being the child of a Vietnam veteran.  There are a lot of books and films about the Vietnam experience for the soldiers, but not so much about the families that they returned to (as far as I know).  So it was interesting to read Bissell’s account of growing up with his father–who was a hard man and who wasn’t afraid to fight with his children (especially when drunk).

The man that Tom grew up with had a temper and didn’t much approve of Tom’s chosen profession.  But unlike many people of his generation, Tom didn’t feel that he had a particularly estranged relationship with his father.  What on earth possessed him to invite his father on a trip to Vietnam–to visit the sites where he lost friends and was himself wounded, is the stuff of journalism. (more…)

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