#190 – Negasonic Teenage Warhead

81evz06HlYL._SL1200_

Artist – Monster Magnet

Album – Dopes To Infinity

Year – 1995

Genre – Stoner Rock/Hard Rock

 

In honor of Deadpool, which I’m incredibly excited to see, I decided to review a song befitting of the kickassery and hijinks that I’m sure I’ll bear witness to in the next few days. Also, for those who don’t know, this is actually the song that Grant Morrison derived the name of his character, who appears in the film. Let’s heat up some chimichangas and get to work on this bad boy of a song.

One thing about Monster Magnet that I always liked is that they existed in this time where the music all around them sounded nothing like them. It was either the beginnings of the softer alternative and radio rock movement, or right in the full swing of post-grunge bands. What’s great about this song is that it’s a lampoon of the “oh woe is me” angst of all the grunge and post grunge rockers out there. Monster Magnet stands them on their head and creates a balls out old fashioned rock and roll track that really stands out even today. When the band is finished with their thoughts on the genre in each verse, they vehemently claim that “I will deny you.” I suppose they thought most of the bands they were speaking about had no place in rock and roll. Either way, it’s a funny and different perspective on music that, obviously today, has become extremely influential. Monster Magnet has hung in there, but ironically they haven’t been as recognized as the subjects of their song.

But how’s the music? Well just like every good comic book movie, it’s kickass. The opening flanger effect on the guitar sets the intro up perfectly before frontman Dave Wyndorm kicks it in with the incredible riff that permeates the prechorus and chorus of the song. The guitar is crunchy and the stomping rhythm promotes maximum headbanging capabilities. It’s science, kids.

Speaking of, that prechorus and chorus are the absolute highlights of the song. This is where every instrument comes together and really proves that sometimes old fashioned rock needs to remind everyone it’s still around. Wyndorf snarles and absolutely lets loose his frustration. The echo on his voice adds some power and adds to the whole space-y vibe they have going on with this song. It’s got a mean hook that hits your face like a sonic boom, and if you love rock and roll and haven’t heard of these guys before, you’re going to be kicking yourself after this song.

All in all, this is more of a song to just let loose to and will hopefully appear in the end credits of some film someday. Picture this: classic good guy walks away from massive explosion whilst putting on sunglasses to this song. Cut to black. Roll credits. Hey, it works in my mind! Enjoy Deadpool everyone! Hopefully when you see Negasonic Teenage Warhead, you’ll think of this song!

 

 

#189 – Romeo

homepage_large.d03020fe

Artist – Chairlift

Album – Moth

Year – 2016

Genre – Synthpop/Indie Pop

 

 

The nature of gaining someone’s affection has been through an incredible amount of sports analogies, including the classic depiction of a race with all potential suitors competing. It’s this picture that Chairlift so wonderfully paints in bright color on my personal favorite from their latest album Moth. Caroline Polachek has always continued to surprise me as a singer, and the duo certainly has a talent for hooks that I’m sure will continue to develop on further albums. With endearing love songs being a certain specialty for Chairlift, “Romeo” adds itself as another great one that the band makes their own with it’s own unique sounds, whilst maintaining a solid ground of pop sensibility.

“ON YOUR MARKS. GET SET…”

Distortion is the first sound out of the starting gate (pun intended). It certainly is an interesting choice to add a sort of aggressive sound and drum scheme to a song with many other bright tones. The song starts by building up with a sort of shout-sing verse with crystal synth effects that quickly leads to the chorus, which is the highlight here.

“Hey Romeo, put on your running shoes

I’m ready to go”

The drum n’ bass beat kicks in with a very lush background of synths, and Polachek absolutely delivers with her delicate yet powerful vocals that hit every note succinctly. It’s lovely how she drifts into and out of falsetto, and it adds a neat texture to the melody, which is as much of a hook as any top 40 pop song.

With every verse, the lyrics deal with the chase; the race of love. It’s fast paced and breathless, like going for a long and arduous run on a summer day when all you want to do is chill inside with the A/C running and a lemonade. But Polachek’s part symbolizes the tantalizing reward for success, luring the titular Romeo to push himself and even to “cheat” to win her affection. The song makes you feel like you’re constantly running behind her, trying to catch up, but in a way that you find yourself enjoying.

I love the bridge, where Polachek shares the “On your mark” with bandmate Patrick Wimberly. The punctuation that it brings to the song and how sharp it is is a nice touch, and Polachek’s delivery as well as the backing instrumentation here is almost like someone running out of breath, before exploding into a second wind with the last chorus and pulse pounding ending.

The song is interesting because of its pop qualities but mainly because it’s more of an aggressively fun love song, rather than a delicate and intimate song that Chairlift has explored quite a bit in their past. But it’s a welcome change for me, and by the next album, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chairlift explores their full pop capability.

#188 – Lipstick Wonder Woman

tumblr_mz1josYZ3z1r0pgpso1_1280

Artist – Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Album – Wild Child

Year – 2013

Genre – Blues Rock

 

After my last piece on Buckethead (here), I definitely felt in the mood to write about another guitarist that’s flown under a lot of people’s radars. That guitarist in question would be Tyler Bryant, a strapping young lad of only 24 who can play a slide guitar like a mother. “Lipstick Wonder Woman” is the ultimate display of just how sexy and slinky a good slide can be.

With a short little tease intro, Tyler basically gives us the instrumental equivalent of foreplay before launching right into the lap dance, metaphorically speaking. This little slide lick that opens the song makes you want to fan yourself it’s so smoking. It’s like biting into absolutely delicious BBQ. It’s that “hoo boy, that is good” feeling that you get here. You can hear this kid’s talent less than 30 seconds into the song. The rhythm is so slick that you can’t help but put yourself in that cowboy (or girl) fantasy you’ve had. Get your mind out of the gutter, I didn’t mean that kind of fantasy…or maybe I did. Either works.

When Bryant starts singing, he’s just as smooth as his guitar skills. The words flow and he weaves them in between his finger picked guitar underneath, and the lyrics are perfect for every crazy night out when you want to get a little naughty. And by time we hit the thumping chorus, we’re past the lap dance and now the metaphorical clothes are coming off. These lyrics are as sexy as anything and his slides just give it that awesome bluesy and bad boy feel that every rock and roll artist wishes they could capture. Bryant, at 24, has got it down to a T from square one.

When the intro riff comes around again, Bryant gets sassy and shows off a bit on the high end, but those fireworks absolutely add to the mood and feel of the song. Taking it down a bit quieter before exploding back into the next verse, he just strings you right along. You want more with every second that passes.

After the second chorus, there’s a quiet interlude that builds to an absolutely pounding bridge where the band goes full on guns a blazing, just like the old west. This auditory gunfight goes right into the end of the song, and by the time the song ends on the last chorus, you’ll be wondering why you’ve never heard of this kid in your life. He’s got the skills to pay the bills.

Hopefully as time passes Tyler will get his due in the spotlight, and he truly deserves it. For anyone looking for a slinky, sexual blues rock banger, I present to you not only this song, but the entire catalog of Mr. Bryant. I highly urge you to go check it out, and promptly pretend you’re a character in Sons of Anarchy.

 

 

Buckethead: A Journey Into the Bizarre and Beautiful

Vegoose Music Festival - Day One

LAS VEGAS – OCTOBER 28: Guitarist Buckethead performs with the band Praxis at the Vegoose music festival October 28, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

If you were a Guitar Hero player back in its early days, then you remember a little song that you could unlock as a bonus track called “Jordan.” This, for many people including myself, was their first taste of Buckethead. The song, with its stuttering rhythm and booming tone was unlike any song, actually any THING that I’d ever heard. It was so weird and wonky, with solos that sounded like a computer was imploding on itself. But the song was the most challenging in the game and it proved to be a Herculean task for players to overcome. Despite never having heard of him in my life, his skills were undeniable. Naturally curious by this oddity, I started to dig deeper into just who was this mysterious master guitarist, and soon I took the plunge into the most fascinating rabbit hole of my musical life.


What the average listener may not know about Buckethead is that he’s prolific, and incredibly so. Born Brian Carroll in 1969, very little is known about much of Carroll’s life at all. There are very few pictures of him unmasked, and most are from his childhood. We do know he studied under Paul Gilbert, another virtuosic player of the era, and soon after he adopted the persona known as Buckethead. As to why Carroll decided to wear a KFC bucket on his head and a Michael Myers plastic mask, he is quoted as saying the idea came to him whilst, well, eating KFC:

I was eating it, and I put the mask on and then the bucket on my head. I went to the mirror. I just said, ‘Buckethead. That’s Buckethead right there.’ It was just one of those things. After that, I wanted to be that thing all the time.

Since those days, Buckethead has gone on to work with some of music’s best and brightest. Guns n’ Roses, Les Claypool, Iggy Pop, Serj Tankian, Bassnectar, and even Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen are just a select few of those who have collaborated with him over the years. This fact alone was enough to baffle me. I understood he was a talented shredder, but what could possibly attract all of these artists to him? It’s only when you explore the Buckethead catalog that you discover why that is.

 

After about eight years of listening, I can tell you that the sheer diversity, scope, and emotional depth of Buckethead’s skills as a musician and a player is more nuanced than any solo guitar artist I’ve ever heard. His music ranges from the sweeping and epic to the intimate and very intensely introspective, to the raging and angry. He has a similar ability to pop writer Sia, who can pull melodies from her head and come out with hit after hit. Buckethead is much the same, and though his songs may not be hits, they are just one new amazing journey after another. Take for example the next song linked, “She Sells Seashells by the Slaughterhouse.” It’s title is classic Buckethead, with a penchant for the bizarre, but I haven’t heard a guitar weep like the way it does in this track. It’s haunting and peaceful, and showcases how he is just as adept at playing with emotions in a slow, methodical way as he is at melting faces.

 

In order to know the music in this case, I feel like you have to know the man in some ways, which is very difficult to do. The man who is Brian Carroll seems a very reclusive and guarded individual, and flashes of that come out in his public persona. He rarely speaks when in uniform, and usually uses a puppet to do so. His voice is soft high pitched, and he often appears awkward and uncomfortable. This is a man who cared for his parents very much, and who has dedicated many songs to his family. When his mother and father recently passed away, he released an album with the cover being an unguarded look at the man who, despite being faceless on stage, is a human like any of us:

Pike_13

In many ways, Buckethead is the uber-nerd many of us wish we could be. He has a love for giant monsters, robots, and even did a performance with nunchuks on stage. He played songs from Star Wars and Willy Wonka, and many classic horror movies. He has an absolute love of basketball and its players (and, like “Jordan” has written many songs about them.) In essence, like I said before, he is one of us. But despite his talents and quirks, he hides away and hides behind. He adopts the nature of a robot; a pure guitar playing machine. But he’s not. He lets his music speak when he cannot, and that makes the his music all the more potent. It’s perhaps the only glimpse of a man who is so talented, yet perhaps very tortured. Or not, but one can only speculate.

 

Buckethead has released over 253 studio albums in his career, with over 115 being released last year, and each one holds something new to discover. Remember when I said prolific? Yeah, how many artists can say “Oh I released 115 albums last year and also was in Guns n’ Roses.” Be he doesn’t. He doesn’t say a thing. Most guitarists who are incredibly talented use that to gain spotlight. But Buckethead retreats from all of this. Despite his high profile work, few out there can place him or even know who he is.

The bizarre and the beautiful are the two sides of human nature. Perhaps Brian Carroll wears a mask because he’s free from judgment, and he can be anything he wants to be. His music can be anything we want it to be. It’s creation in its purest form. Looking at a track like “Nottingham Lace,” one of his most popular tracks, takes us on a trip across a plethora of emotions, and many more than most “standard” songs can do in my opinion. It’s here that we see his skills as incredible virtuoso, soloist, and manipulator on full display.

 

I suppose “original” is the only word you really can use. Buckethead has created a style all his own and seems to have, paradoxically, lived more authentically through his music and performance than many people have in their ordinary lives. This is, I think, what makes a true artist. It’s the complete, unabashed “I’m going to create, perform, and live how I want. I may come across a strange, even reclusive, but despite the stares and whispers behind my back I get, I’ll be me through and through.” When you listen to any Buckethead song, you are getting a pure, undiluted look under the mask at the very human man underneath. It’s a strange and beautiful world that Mr. Carroll lives in, but one I’m happy to be a part of and hopefully others will want to explore. Because, yes, Buckethead is an American classic and a true artist. Can we ask for more?