MY SUPER SWEET ’16: ALBUMS OF THE YEAR. LITERALLY.

It’s been over a year since my last blog entry. It’s been over two years since my last dedicated music blog.

I received positive feedback for my Alice Cooper blog and wanted to do another music retrospective, but on whom, pray tell?

I toyed with my beloved Black Sabbath (which I could do with my eyes closed and is therefore unnecessary) or Deep Purple (for which I actually did the research, much to my great delight and, arguably, greater dismay) but then procrastinated until the idea was no longer fresh or fun.

I briefly entertained the idea of covering the Scorpions, but… why??

..when it dawned on me: AEROSMITH.

No, really. That’s what I decided on. And will be doing sometime in 2017.

This isn’t that blog. Oh no. This blog will be something much worse..

I listen to a lot of music. It might be the one thing the internet is actually good for. Discovering new bands has never been easier and their output has never been more affordable. Bandcamp has become a constant in my life. Today, most of the music I buy is digital, though I will still splurge on the occasional cool piece of vinyl.

Aside from bandcamp, some heavy music sites and blogs have been invaluable in my search for new tuneage: Shout out to Michael Nelson and Doug Moore at Stereogum, Kim Kelly at Noisey, H.P. Taskmaster at The Obelisk, Angry Metal Guy, Brooklyn Vegan and, the mac daddy, Invisible Oranges.

Invisible Oranges is, for my money, the best heavy music blog on the Internet. They strongly remind me of the immortal Metal Maniacs magazine. Which is sorely missed. So I guess that whole “immortal” title isn’t entirely accurate..

Invisible Oranges‘ articles are well-written and do not pander to popularity. They do this weird thing where they appreciate quality over name-recognition. How bizarre.. Their weekly discharge of Upcoming Releases is necessary and has introduced me to dozens of new bands I may not have found anywhere else.

As good as Decibel is, they probably didn’t review the last Aevangelist album. And that’s a pity because that album is bonkers.

These, like virtually all music news outlets, publish a YEAR END BEST OF LIST.

That practice is the inspiration for this blog.

Instead of the generic “BEST ALBUMS OF 2016” shit you can find anywhere else, I will instead be briefly (and occasionally laboriously) writing about all the albums I bought this year, regardless of release date.

I bought about 50 albums in 2016 and maybe 15 of them were released this year.
I’m not reviewing anything here, per se. Just offering a couple thoughts on each listen. I love talking music but rarely have anyone to bounce stuff off of, so these one-sided, open-ended ramblings of a crazy person will have to suffice.

Here goes:

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MAGIC CIRCLE – JOURNEY BLIND (2015)

Magic Circle is a supergroup comprised of members of Boston’s hardcore punk scene whose gimmick is playing 1970s-style throwback heavy metal amazingly well.

Their debut album featured strong material (a heftier one-two punch of “Winter Light” and “Rapture” would be hard to equal) but was terrifically front-loaded and the latter half meandered.

That is not the case with 2015’s Journey Blind. This whole album flows with the driving force of a hundred unchained griffins! That’s a metal thing to say, right?

Each track is complimentary of the other and they seem to all be on the same page as a band this time around.

“Ghosts of the Southern Front”


ELDER – LORE (2015)

Thanks to the success of bands like The Sword, there has been an influx of “throwback” acts that play a version of classic 1970s metal also known as “classic doom” or “traditional metal” or “neo-NWOBHM.” I made that last one up, but it’s apt. These bandwagon heroes owe more than a few nods to Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Blue Oyster Cult etc.

The problem with this unlikely and popular “new” sub-genre is the market has been saturated, making it difficult for truly unique artists to rise above the chaff.

I’m unsure which side of the coin Elder belongs. I will say I did enjoy this album, even if at first glance they’re just a jammier version of The Sword.

“Compendium”


BELL WITCH – FOUR PHANTOMS (2015)

Throwback doom isn’t the only doom available, you know. There’s also the modern, crushing, 14-minutes-is-now-an-acceptable-average-song-length DOOM.

That’s Bell Witch and they’re great. And heavy. And oh so muddy.

“Four Phantoms”

EMPEROR – WRATH OF THE TYRANTS reissue (1998)

I have a difficult relationship with black metal. I really dig some of it, but often what I like is the more atmospheric stuff. I’d like to love the harsher stuff more, but have to be in the right mood for it.

That said, this early release from the mighty Emperor is surprisingly progressive, innovative AND metal as fuck. There’s a reason they are considered the standard bearers for the genre.

“I Am the Black Wizards”

INDIAN – THE UNQUIET SKY (2005)

“Ahead of their time” is an understatement. Chicago’s late sludge outfit Indian were mashing crushingly heavy doom together with black metal intensity when bands (like Bell Witch ) who would come to embrace this sound were still in Pull-Ups.

I always assumed they lifted the title of this album from a chapter in Reader’s Digests classic paranormal hardcover “Mysteries of the Unexplained.” I wonder if I’m right?

“Los Nietos”

ROBERT ELLIS – THE LIGHTS FROM THE CHEMICAL PLANT (2014)

I don’t ONLY listen to metal. There are exceptions. Especially when they are exceptional.

Robert Ellis belongs to a class of young-ish country western singers (like Sturgill Simpson, Ryan Bingham and Jason Isbell) who are currently, against all odds, releasing incredible, traditional country music in an era where most country music sounds like bad hip-hop.

It’s shocking to hear authentic emotion and heartbreak in a genre where contrivance has long been its bread & butter.

“Tour Song”

ARCH ENEMY – BURNING BRIDGES (1999)

Arch Enemy are, and always have been, incredibly metal AND incredibly commercial. I guess that’s the “Gothenburg sound” in a nutshell.

I have a couple albums from the Angela Gossow-era, but with the recent reformation of AE’s classic Black Earth lineup, I thought I’d go back and check out some of their early stuff. It does not disappoint.

The expert arrangements and ultra-slick production that came to define (and ultimately dooms) Arch Enemy is in its early stages here, but works in service of the songs more than against them.

Good stuff from an established act in an era when they still had something to fresh to offer.

“The Immortal”

DARKEST HOUR – THE MARK OF JUDAS (2000)

It’s interesting to hear an early effort from a band that came to define a subgenre. You wonder if they are actually pulling from different styles to create this sound or if they’re just aping a dozen similar bands that came before.

That is ultimately the problem with metalcore: it was born fully formed. No patient zero means it was likely created in a lab somewhere and that makes listeners uneasy.

Still, this is a fun, dark, fast and hook-heavy (of course) release from a band who may be pretenders to the throne, but could just as easily pass for the heir apparent.

“The Mark of Judas”

UTHER PENDRAGON – SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE (2015)

Guerssen Records are an interesting label. They specialize in releasing American rock music that either never received a national release, if a proper release at all. Their wax is beautifully packaged and obscenely expensive because they ship from Europe.

They’re discography is rife with weird easy listening music from the early ’80s, weird biker rock from the late ’60s and weird psychedelia from the 1970s a la Uther Pendragon.

I was reading Le Mort D’Arthur when this was released, so it was fate that I would pay $70 to ship a 3-album vinyl box set from France by a long gone California band named after King Arthur’s father.

Sadly, it isn’t particularly groundbreaking or even interesting music, but it is a one-of-a-kind release/conversation piece. Perhaps it will someday garner me a fat coin or two.

“You’re a Human Now”

DEAD QUIET – DEAD QUIET (2015)

If Barn Burner reminded you, as they did me, of a beer-soaked Iron Maiden tribute band that weren’t quite good enough to play any Maiden songs all the way through, then Kevin Keegan’s Dead Quiet have fulfilled that dream.

Heavy, swinging and catchy as hell, Dead Quiet features bigger numbers and better production than Keegan’s previous outfit, whilst keeping his tongue-in-cheek humor intact.

“The Sorceress”

BLOOD CEREMONY – LORDS OF MISRULE (2016)

Here my bias will show: I love this band and it’s quite a treat to witness them become fully realized.

Maybe it’s their Coven-meets-Jethro Tull boogie, their blistering fuzz guitar solos, their breathless flute solos, their efficient riffs, their perfectly crafted era-authentic pop hooks etc.

What Lords of Misrule has going for it over their last outing is how every song stands up to the last. It’s an even listen throughout, where virtually every track is a standout.

While I have bitched (and shall continue to bitch) extensively about bands attempting to sound like they’re from the 1970s, it’s rare that a band actually achieves said sound without seeming gimmicky.

Yet that’s exactly what Blood Ceremony accomplishes here. Lord of Misrule’s warm, full production is something they always needed to complete their sound and it’s kismet they have it for such a flawless album.

“Half Moon Street”

GRAF ORLOCK – DOOMBOX + TRILOGY (2011)

I’d begin with “Here’s my problem with Graf Orlock..” but I don’t really have a problem with Graf Orlock. They’re fine. I just don’t know what they are.

They claim to be grindcore, but sound like half-baked hardcore. They also defer to hokey gimmicks over actual music: 50% of this release is soundbites from movies and the music they do record sounds like it was taped on a mini-cassette recorder in in an old drafty barn.

Packaging is very important to Graf Orlock. Some might say ALL-IMPORTANT.

I’ll explain:
Eschewing traditional jewel cases, a 2007 release came clutched in a miniature Alien Facehugger. Their current album, Crime Traveler, comes in an actual newspaper. This album, Doombox, came in an elaborate cardboard sleeve that transforms into – what else? – a boom box.

I’m not making this up. In fact, it’s what attracted me to the band.

Well played, dicks.

Maybe I’m just pissy because the CD was scratched and the last 28 of the 47 songs don’t play right.

But dat packaging, tho!

It’s very funny and very outlandish. Now, if only the music matched the creativity of their marketing department..

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CONVERGE – YOU FAIL ME (2004)

What can I say about Converge that hasn’t been said a million times by better writers who actually listen to them regularly?

I got this to listen to in tandem with the You Fail Me Redux they released in July and then completely forgot about it. In fact, I forgot I had this until I began this project. Oops.

I am listening to it now and enjoying it, even if it is kinda dated. Odd how such contemporary music can have such a specific sound.

They kinda sound like Thursday and the Dillinger Escape Plan morphed into a single band.

Fight me.

“Last Light”

WARFATHER – ORCHESTRATING THE APOCALYPSE (2014)

Steve Tucker did for Morbid Angel what John Bush did for Anthrax and Rob Dukes did for Exodus: he made them better.

So, naturally, I was looking forward to this album. Unfortunately, as many have said before, the production is quite bad. Steve has said this was a result of recording at several different studios over the years and not having enough money to do it right. And it shows.

Still, he’s a solid songwriter and there are good ideas here. Warfather’s sophomore effort is being produced by Erik Rutan, so that will definitely be something worth checking out.

“Gods and Machines”

BOB DYLAN – GREATEST HITS (1967)

Not much explanation needed here. “Positively 4th Street” is the greatest song in the history of music. Deal with it.

“Positively 4th Street”

MORBID ANGEL – FOMULAS FATAL TO THE FLESH (1998)

Ah, memories..
I convinced my younger brother he should buy this album because I wanted to hear it but didn’t want to pay for it. Aren’t older brothers the worst?

We didn’t really care for it at first, but since he paid hard earned money for it, he forced himself to listen to it over and over again until he went crazy and murdered our parents.

That last part isn’t true, but everything else is. Even the part about not liking it much. That changed over time, though. This would end up being the only Morbid Angel album I truly like, front to back.

Ironically, my favorite track is an older song Trey hadn’t recorded before these sessions and it’s a bruiser. When Steve bellows “Come Centaur..” I still shit my pants.

“Invocation of the Continual One”

LIVE – THE DISTANCE TO HERE (1999)

Before heavy metal totally corrupted me, I was your average dweeb, listening to whatever the radio told me to.

I loved Counting Crows, Blues Traveler, Sheryl Crow etc. I even owned Fiona Apple’s first album un-ironically. And of course that was the era of Live.

Live was a hugely successful alternative rock band at the time. Their last album, Throwing Copper, featured several smash hits and sold millions of copies. Curiously, on their next album, Secret Samadhi, they purposely changed their sound. Its lead single “Lakini’s Juice” was a heavy, chunky, near-metal tune. I listened to the shit out of that album.

Recently a friend asked me to recommend a “90’s college rock” album and I had no idea what that was. The closest thing I could think of was Live. So I recommended  Secret Samadhi.

To make sure the album was as good as I remembered (and ensure my recommendation wasn’t a huge mistake) I listened to it for the first time in almost 20 years.

It fucking sucks.

Some of the songs hold up, but like so many albums released on the heels of a massive hit, it’s mostly filler. Even some of the big songs from that album were filler. I’m sure my friend thought I was an asshole.

So, I then stumbled across THAT album’s follow-up, The Distance to Here, on Amazon for like $5. I remembered that album featured the shamelessly precious hit single “Dolphin’s Cry” but I’d never heard the whole thing.

Out of sheer curiosity, I bought it, listened to it, and was floored. It’s a fucking GREAT album! Who knew??

I wish I did before I made that shitty recommendation..

“Dolphin’s Cry”

HASHTEROID – RESPECT THE DEPTHS (2015)

I seem to remember Dead Quiet’s Facebook page posted about Hashteroid saying something like: “Hey, you don’t have to miss Barn Burner anymore because this band sounds just like them!” I’m paraphrasing, of course. It probably wasn’t even this band..

Hashteroid play fun, no frills stoner boogie. Not required listening, but I bet they’re a blast live in a Canadian bar where weed is legal. Plus, it was a free download..

“Respect the Depths”

AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED – ARC (2016)

I’m a big fan of Scott Hull’s Pig Destroyer, but until now have never looked into his other long-running grind outfit Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Providence shined upon me when their new EP Arc was released earlier this year at a reasonable price.

Though, at 28 minutes spread over 3 songs, this is hardly grindcore. In fact, you could say it’s not grindcore at all..

What it is, however, is fucking amazing long-form crushing sludge metal. This radical shift in style was done with purpose: to reflect the influence of new vocalist Katherine “Kat” Katz of defunct space doomers Salome.

It’s the first of a series of EPs Scott is recording with Kat and I can’t wait for their next collaboration.

Lead track “Not A Daughter” is the song Eyehategod have been trying to write their entire career. That’s not a dig at EHG, it’s props to how fucking good this song is.

I recently learned this song was inspired by Kat’s experience caring for her mother who was suffering from dementia. This only makes it heavier, in every which way.

“Not A Daughter”

THE WITCH ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK – MARK KORVEN (2016)

“The Witch” was a horror movie unlike many I’d seen before. It was sparse, dark and largely boring.

It was also capable of truly disturbing moments and left me feeling weird.

Like I had to see it again.

“Witch” I did!! Ha ha hah ah ho ho ho aha haha he he he…

I’m glad I did because I picked up on things I’d missed the first time. However, one thing that was unavoidable the first go ’round was Mark Korven’s wonderful soundtrack.

The rusty strings, minimalist percussion and haunting choruses fit and enhance the portrayed era. The music is as important to giving the film a sense of authenticity as the costuming, set decoration and dialogue.

Great mood music for any creepy occasion or when you’re just sick and tired of listening to so much Converge!!

Oh, and stop spelling it “VVitch” you fucking hipster douchebag cocksuckers.

“A Witch Stole Sam”

CASTLE – WELCOME TO THE GRAVEYARD (2016)

At first listen, I had written a long-winded diatribe about how Castle was just another bandwagon-jumping throwback doom collective like Orchid or Lucifer or Death Penalty who throw in with a popular subgenre in order to put money in their pockets and smoke in their pipes.

But after another spin, I knew was wrong.

What they’re aping is closer to NWOBHM or traditional heavy metal than doom, but this is most definitely a racket.

The heavy guitars and absurd occult lyrics and, especially, the moodier closing tracks will draw comparisons to (far superior) retro acts like Blood Ceremony, but Castle emanates an air of insincerity I cannot abide.

There are some positives, though. It’s impressive stuff for a power-trio to pull off. There are some fun vocal hooks and a heavy Iron Maiden vibe throughout.

Yet my favorite track here, “Flash of the Pentagram”, sounds nothing like Maiden or B.C. or Pentagram whose “Sign of the Wolf” is so obviously referenced.

It’s more a hard-charging Judas Priest tune with a fantastic chorus hook: “The living light!”

In a sea of labored heavy metal, this track is accessible and fun, featuring momentum the rest of the album lacks.

If they produced a full album of Flash of the Pentagrams, I’d be more interested and they’d be more interesting.

“Flash of the Pentagram”

FACE DOWN – MINDFIELD (1995)

This is just embarrassing. I went on a tear of ’90s groove metal just to… I don’t ever remember why.

Most of this stuff is just plain bad. It’s target market is young angry kids, I guess, but unless those kids are utter fucking retards who think Kmart is an expensive department store and Long John Silver’s is fine dining, they probably know there are much better bands out there.

Typing this actually made me remember I bought a KILGORE album around the same time. I listened to it in my car and it was so bad I never even bothered ripping it to my collection. So there’s my Kilgore review!

One thing this band had going for it was it features Marco Aro of The Haunted. Much like in the current Haunted lineup, his presence here is not nearly enough.

It’s bewildering how generic this music is. What’s more is how it sounds identical to the same awful hard rock radio sound that STILL exists today.

Hell, maybe these guys were trailblazers?

I’ll share the closing track, One Eyed Man, not because it’s good, but to showcase how eerie it is that modern rock radio has barely changed in 20 years.

“One Eyed Man”

SKINLAB – DISEMBODY: THE NEW FLESH (1999)

Continuing our downward spiral of 20-year-old songs Five Finger Death Punch wish they’d written is Skinlab’s Disembody: The New Flesh.

What’s weird about this album is it sounds like a sellout record. Like, it sounds like Skinlab used to be a legit groove metal band that couldn’t resist shifting changing their style to get in on Korn’s sloppy seconds. BUT apparently there was no Skinlab before 1995, so where the fuck did they come from???

I kinda feel bad writing this because I genuinely liked Skinlab’s last album, The Scars Between Us. For real. It’s a good listen. It sounds like either the best post-nu-metal album ever made or an album that was locked in a vault for 17 years which, had it been released pre-Korn, all the kids would revere it as an important influential album.

Isn’t that funny about nu-metal? Like I’d said about metalcore, nu-metal seemingly showed up on the scene fully formed and ready to party. It had no origin – it simply was.

Didn’t anybody think that was suspicious? Were we so dumb that we thought there was actually hundreds of kids around the world playing that same weird-ass Korn music before their first album hit? Fuck.

“So Far From the Truth”

SALOME – TERMINAL (2011)

I really dug this album. Long and doomy, cold and atmospheric. Is “avant sludge” a thing? These cats may have to trademark it. I even like the minimalist Swans-esque album art.

Salome is no longer active, but their 70 minute album is available through Profound Lore’s bandcamp for $4. That’s nearly 18 minutes of music per dollar!

As mentioned earlier, Salome’s singer Kat is now in Agoraphobic Nosebleed and is absolutely killing it. Go Kat go!

“The Unbelievers”

PISSING RAZORS – PISSING RAZORS (1998)

Ah, crap. I thought I was done with the garbage ’90s groove metal. I’ll try to keep this brief.
Of the four ’90s “groove metal” albums I bought around this time, this is easily the best. It’s catchy (albeit in that mindless nu-metal way) and it’s pretty heavy.
Its failures are the same as Skinlab: it’s completely contrived; obviously just playing a style of whatever was popular at the time. Ugh.

“Dodging Bullets”

PUBLIC ENEMY – POWER TO THE PEOPLE AND THE BEATS (2005)

I am not a rap fan but I listened to this record three times the day I bought it. If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is.

I also bought this single, which, for some insane reason, isn’t on this Greatest Hits album:

“Harder Than You Think”

KING’S X – OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (1988)

How are King’s X not one of the biggest bands in the world?

The songs on this album are so good it’s ridiculous they don’t have at least one legitimate radio hit that still gets airplay.

Out of the Silent Planet is one of the best albums I’ve bought in a long time. I listened to it twice in a row one day because I knew I didn’t have anything better on my mp3 player.

Phenomenal stuff.

“Goldilox”

FAITH NO MORE – WE CARE A LOT remastered band edition (2016)

Gun to my head, Faith No More is my favorite band of the modern era. Nobody else even comes close.

I became a fan during the Mike Patton years and barely knew who Chuck Mosley was aside from a few songs on a greatest hits album.

Those who outright discount the first two albums are doing themselves a disservice. They are EXCELLENT Faith No More records and upon listening you understand what a big part of the band Chuck was and how Patton even patterned some of his vocal performances after Chuck’s.

1985’s debut We Care a Lot was remastered and issued on vinyl for the first time ever this year. Worth every penny. I hope they do the same with Introduce Yourself.

“As The Worm Turns”

CLOSET WITCH / EUTH – SPLIT (2016)
CLOSET WITCH – ERGOT + BLACK SALT (2015)

I don’t know what to say about the wrathfully explosive Closet Witch, aside from they are perhaps the greatest thing I stumbled upon this year and if they ever release a properly produced full-length of their batshit powerviolence, it will unmake reality.

You know that feeling when you experience something so new and so different you just wanna tell everybody about it because it’s so great, but at the same time you don’t wanna tell anyone because you wanna keep it for yourself and they wouldn’t understand anyway?

That’s how I feel about Closet Witch. Like I just fucked a really hot midget.

P.S. I wonder if there’s any connection between Closet Witch and NYC’s Couch Slut? Both have similar names and lady singers. Could it just be a coincidence?

“Nekhbet”

ENTHEOS – THE INFINITE NOTHING (2016)

Entheos is a proggy tech death band fronted by the enormously talented Chaney Crabb (who is a dame) and anchored by enormously talented bassist Evan Brewer (who is a dude).

I’ve discovered more lady-fronted heavy bands this year than any previous. This is super cool. Most surprisingly, the majority of these bands are exceptionally good! I’m a sexist pig!

My biggest problem with this genre (tech death) is it’s so convoluted it gets old fast. Even at 38 minutes this record seems overly long.

“New Light”

CROWBAR – THE SERPENT ONLY LIES (2016)
CROWBAR – CROWBAR (1993)

I never had the patience to listen to Crowbar much before, but when the singles for this new album started dropping, I took notice. There was something different about this Crowbar.

I even went back and bought their self-titled record to compare and contrast, and goddammit if I didn’t end up preferring that one.

But this new record is outstanding. Easily one of the best metal albums of 2016 that I’ve heard, anyway.

It struck me funny listening to the self-titled how all the bullshit emo bands of the early 2000’s were late to the party writing openly about being failures in life. Ol’ Kirk was writing full albums about being a loser over a decade before.

And for the record, Kirk Windstein is no loser. He just sang about depression in an honest way. Christ, he’s a founding member of two of the biggest metal bands ever, he plays music for a living and his wife is a knockout.

For a guy who looks like a garden gnome that’s doing pretty good.

Modern metal print media like Revolver magazine (the Metal Edge of the modern era) does this awful trendy thing where they make up their YEAR END BEST OF lists from whatever major acts put out an album that year.

For example, if Lamb of God put out a new album this year, it would automatically appear on their YEAR END BEST OF LIST. Why? Because it’s Lamb of God. Was the album any good? It doesn’t matter.

That kind of thing.

The point I want to make is while Crowbar is one of those more popular bands that would be automatically be extended that hollow courtesy, The Serpent Only Lies is so strong it would make that list (and many, many others) even without it’s maker’s famous moniker.

Kirk Windstein quit Down to focus full time on Crowbar and it’s paying off.

“Plasmic and Pure”

“I Have Failed”

MONSTER MAGNET – GREATEST HITS (2003)

Come on, man. How can you dislike Monster Magnet? Sure, their shameless rock star posturing during the Powertrip phenomenon was irritating, but I see that as a band who worked their asses off taking the piss for everybody.

Listen to the lyrics to that song, for fucks sake, it’s so obviously satire.

Anyway, I heard a newer Monster Magnet song on the radio from their recent album, Last Patrol, and it was GREAT. Not just okay, it was a fucking great song.

I started thinking back, and couldn’t remember ever truly disliking Monster Magnet. Sure, it was cool to hate them when they had that big record, but I never out-and-out hated them. I’ve secretly liked most of their radio songs over the years and was willing to give them a shot.

“Powertrip”

BLACK PUSSY – WHERE THE EAGLE FLIES (2015)

Speaking of bands who are cool to hate, Portland’s Black Pussy are currently enjoying a wave of promotion they didn’t even have to pay for. Seems the SJW-types think their name is offensive. Someone should tell those lonely spinsters words can have multiple meanings. And that they could stand to lose a couple pounds.

Anyway, this album is fucking tits. Their faithful cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” works and the closing track “The Albatross” is now in my Top Favorite Songs of All Time folder forever.

Black Pussy’s music, while definitely in the pocket of trendy retro 70s rock, does not for a minute seem or sound contrived. They’re so spot on even their song arrangement is kinda shitty. Like it was actually written in the 70s before song structures were strictly radio-single based.

You’d think a band whose name is clearly a gimmick wouldn’t be able – or even need – to back it up in their music, but Black Pussy does so in spades.

A fantastic band any way you lick it.

“The Albatross”

ORANSSI PAZUZU – VARAHTELIJA (2016)

Woof. Where to begin?

How about this: You will only like Oranssi Pazuzu’s Varahtelija if you’re one of those people who insist Disco Volante was the only good Mr. Bungle album. You know, a stupid cunt.

So why all the fanfare? Why has this album topped more YEAR END BEST OF LISTS than any other? Would “The fix is in!” really explain it?

Yup.

Here’s how I see it:

Thirteen years ago, Metallica released the worst album of their career (nearly tying it this year) and, inexplicably, every major music magazine gave it a positive review (except my hero Mike G at Metal Maniacs).

Why?

This is how modern music journalism works:

THE MUSIC PRESS KEEPS ARTISTS AND LABELS HAPPY IN ORDER TO FACILITATE THEIR OWN SURVIVAL.

You can’t give Metallica a bad review and then put them on your cover to sell your magazine, can you? Of course not. (Unless you’re Metal Maniacs – the greatest heavy metal publication of all time.)

Metallica sells as many magazines as they do albums. Your critical (i.e. honest) review will not sink Metallica, but never getting another interview with them – or by proxy any of their label mates, friends, co-managed groups etc. – could very well sink your magazine.

Also, they sue.

So why are so many music critics afraid to say THIS album is pretentious dog shit?

Oranssi Pazuzu’s last album was also a list-topping critical darling. It got them a LOT of attention. (As fate would have it, I just saw an interview with James Hetfield wearing an Oranssi Pazuzu t-shirt!)

Perhaps this blew them up. Perhaps big. Perhaps due to this acclaim their label bought tons of ad space and those same magazines/blogs want to continue that same revenue flow this cycle?

Svart Records aren’t a major, but their roster reads like a Decibel magazine YEAR END BEST OF LIST. They’re making enough money to keep a few dedicated magazines in print and a few dedicated music blogs in bandwidth.

That’s my theory, anyway. You could attribute it to run-of-the-mill snobbery, but I think it’s good ol’ fashioned economics.

In time, the absurd amount of fanfare Varahtelija has generated will be met with the same sobering clarity that haunts those damnable critics still struggling to reconcile how they gave St. Anger four stars..

“Lahja”

GOATESS – II: PURGATORY UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (2016)

An underlying theme of this blog is my gripe with how bands shouldn’t be championed as innovators when they’re only exploiting a sound that’s already been around for a while.

I should also add that I’m a huge hypocrite.

Goatess sound EXACTLY like Black Sabbath. It’s. Fucking. Eerie.

Okay, not EXACTLY exactly, but close. And in the best possible way.

Imagine if Black Sabbath 1973 was transported to the modern day and incorporated the best parts of acts like Clutch and Sleep, especially the latter’s penchant for long spacey jams.

Musically, Goatess’ version of “classic-doom-plus” actually sounds more like Magic Circle than straight up Sabbath. Their singer’s spot-on Ozzy Osbourne is what threw me.

When bands attempt to mimic Sabbath verbatim, they sound cliché. Witchcraft’s first album sounds so much like Sabbath it’s shocking, but Witchcraft are one of those awful throwback bands who, while successful in their imitation, end up sounding hollow and soulless.

Goatess get it right. Their gimmick is so earnest it transcends gimmickry, arriving at the higher plane of Gimmick Nirvana. They are fun and cheerful, reveling in their homage.

Hypocrisy? Perhaps, but I enjoyed this album so damn much!

“Moth to Flame”

PYRRHON – RUNNING OUT OF SKIN (2016)

I don’t know where I ran across Pyrrhon.. maybe Invisible Oranges? I know they came highly recommended.

What strikes me most about this 4-track EP is how truly off the wall it is. They jump from genre to genre with the fuck-around-ness of a free jazz ensemble. The result left me at once awestruck and irritated. It’s a so-so listen. Some of this just sounds wholly improvisational.

Covering Death never hurts and shows they can obey structure when they want to:

“Crystal Mountain”

PANOPTICON – AUTUMN ETERNAL (2015)

Like many depressive black metal artists, Minneapolis’ Panopticon is performed by a single dude. A single super-talented dude.

This was on a lot of 2015’s BEST OF lists and was deserved. If I had heard this the day it came out, I’d still be raving about it.

The production is crazy-dense, but with actual instrumentation, not just 6 tracks of guitar playing the same chords. It must have taken years to compose, let alone record.

A very good listen, if a tad long; at over an hour, this is beyond the norm for similar releases.

My experience with Panopticon also suffers slightly from my already being steeped in this style of cinematic, depressive black metal. Australia’s awe-inspiring Woods of Desolation come to mind.

I don’t know if the critics who lauded this as the Second Coming are privy what the Australians and Kiwis are up to down under, but Mr. Lunn certainly seems to be.

“Into the North Woods”

BLACK WIZARD – YOUNG WISDOM (2013)

Another wild party rocker from Canada! Yes, they sound like Barn Burner! Yes, it’s a very fun listen1 Yes, they probably get confused for every band that sounds like them.

But what are ya gonna do? This is a fun fucking record. A little long, but a steal for the price.

I think one of the guys from Anciients was in this band. I need to check them dudes out.

“Young Wisdom”

VRTRA – MY BONES HOLD A STILLNESS (2016)

Harsh, progressive, avant garde black metal isn’t a genre I’m super familiar with, but this shit is pretty epic, if crazy busy.

“Perpetually Hag Ridden”

LOTUS THIEF – GRAMARYE (2016)

Lotus Thief and SubRosa have more than a few things in common: Both feature female vocals, compose epic post-doom prog and released albums in 2016 flaunting minimalist woodcut-style album art etc.

What sets Lotus Thief apart is their greater consistency, leaner song lengths and warmer production.

They also produced the less interesting album.

Strangely, in an earlier draft of this blog, I made the assertion that “Lotus Thief had made the album SubRosa was trying to make.” This is absurd. Especially after listening to both albums multiple times. If anything, the accusation could be reversed, as Gramarye sounds like the commercial version of For This We Fought the Battle of Ages.

The truth is, I did enjoy this album more the first time I heard it; less the second time. I had the opposite experience with SubRosa.

Gramarye is a very pleasant listen with plenty of perfectly crafted hooks and gorgeous vocal harmonizing, I’m just bewildered by how much difference a second spin can make.
It makes me seriously wonder if I confused the artists for each other the first time I listened to these albums.

“The Book of the Dead”

SUBROSA – FOR THIS WE FOUGHT THE BATTLE OF AGES (2016)

SubRosa’s masterpiece starts not with a bang, but a whimper. But the banging is not far behind..

The remarkable 15 minute mini-opera “Despair is a Siren” kicks things off. Sparse and cold one moment, full on orchestral majesty the next, it closes with a jaw dropping lyrical hook that, though a standout, is not alone in an album rife with powerful lyrics. And that’s just the first track!

This album is also on many BEST OF lists, but unlike some bloated prog outings, it deserves to be. Sure, you could be dismissive and scoff how it sounds like Jarboe reformed a version of Swans with Bjork and members of Apocalyptica and Pelican (and your description would be apt) but these artists deserve their own praise, not just comparisons.

BUT that description does sound like an awesome band!

I had to listen to this album a couple times because my first impression was not nearly as positive. Which bewilders me, as this is now one of my favorite albums of the year and has been in constant rotation over the last several weeks.

Perhaps that’s a good lesson for all music snobs: sometimes you listen to an album to convince yourself you like it, but you are better off when the album itself convinces you.

My sole gripe is the album is overly long. Even music this expertly – and emotionally – arranged leaves one gassed after 65 minutes.

It’s worth mentioning this is a concept record based on a hundred-year-old Russian sci-fi novel about a dystopian surveillance state. Because of course it is.

I chide, but this album convinced me to order the book off Amazon. So there. You did your job, SubRosa.

The insanely powerful album closer “Troubled Cells” is arguably my favorite song of the year if not all time:

“Troubled Cells”

TOIM – BUMBO (2016)

A friend from Portland turned me on to Toim and I can see why. They sound like Mr. Bungle and Primus, which are some of his (and my) favorite bands. But they have that dirty underground feel (this is recorded live) that works against as well as in service of their obscene level of musicianship.

A very fun listen, but I don’t know if it’s recommendable to just anybody.
All their albums are available on their bandcamp for free, so check ’em out. You got nothing to lose.

https://toim.bandcamp.com/

AEVANGELIST – ENTHRALL TO THE VOID OF ABYSS (2015)

THIS is the album Oranssi Pazuzu was trying to make! Dirty, bizarre, avant garde black metal bar none.

If Mr. Bungle was a black metal band, they might sound something like Aevangelist. Black hole-gravity heaviness, strange church bell freak-outs, out-of-nowhere clean vocal breaks, shredding guitar and muddy tones abound.

Oddly, as unlistenable as this music should be, it’s very compelling. I really enjoyed listening to it. It’s complicated music; a lot is going on at once, but I like when there’s a lot of stuff to listen to. Gimmicky? Probably, but I’m gullible. So it all works out.


ANGEL WITCH – ANGEL WITCH remastered (2016)

Dope album alert! Angel Witch’s classic debut was remastered and released on vinyl this year for the first time since its 1980 release.

As corny as the title track is (“You’re an angel witch! You’re an angel witch.”) try not getting it stuck in your head for a week after your first listen. “The Gorgon” is a grand bastard of a NWOBHM bar rocker. I love that song in ways unnatural.

If any band encompasses what so many of these neo-throwback retro-doom bands are going for, it’s Angel Witch.

..or Witchfinder General.

“The Gorgon”

SUPERJOINT – CAUGHT UP IN THE GEARS OF APPLICATION (2016)

To say Phil Anselmo’s post-Pantera career has been a mixed bag would be generous. The talented vocalist has struggled in recent years to fit into a band the same way he did his legendary ’90s arena act.

Down went to artistic shit after their masterful second album and Superjoint Ritual died a long slow death in the courts.

So, Superjoint is back, but with an abbreviated name and an abbreviated lineup. The band on this record is three-fifths Phil Anselmo and the Illegals. The majority of the songs are short and more direct hardcore than before. The longer, swampier, NOLA-sludge informed tunes are drifting and directionless. Phil’s attempted lyrical middle-finger to lefty Social Justice Warriors is lazy, but reliably poetic.

There are good songs here, but the majority of the album is just plain forgettable. Too bad. I had high hopes for this one.

“Ruin You”

TESTAMENT – BROTHERHOOD OF THE SNAKE (2016)

Helluva metal album! Slick, powerful, heavy, direct.. if you like that sorta thing. (You do.)

My only problem with this new Testament record is there isn’t a single song that really hooked me.. Which shouldn’t be a problem,  as many of my favorite albums of the year were such because they flowed so well. And this bastard FLOWS.

Christ, just get it to listen to Gene Hoglan’s drumming.

They still haven’t matched The Gathering, but if you like wildly accessible crunching thrash with supremely cheeseball lyrics, look no further.

“The Pale King”

ALAN PARSONS PROJECT – EYE IN THE SKY (1982)

Ha ha! Didn’t see this coming, did you?
Good easy listening prog. Aside from the classic “Sirius / Eye in the Sky” I wasn’t too engaged, but damn that’s a good ass song.

“Sirius/Eye in the Sky”


MOTORHEAD – ORGASMATRON (1986)

MOTORHEAD – 1916 (1991)
MOTORHEAD – SACRIFICE (1995)

Lemmy’s passing reignited my already strong Motorhead fandom. Save for a few, I have owned every Motorhead album, at one time or another. These are those few I finally picked up this year:

Orgasmatron is a GREAT Motorhead album. I knew a handful of the songs, but am ashamed to admit that until 2016 I was unfamiliar with “Deaf Forever” – which has easily taken its place among my favorite ‘Head tunes. Such a catchy, simple main riff and gloriously perfect lyrics (much like the classic eponymous album closer) .

“Deaf Forever”

Again, I was familiar with much of 1916, but never owned a physical copy. There’s nothing new I can say about this album that most folks don’t already know: it’s one of their best. The ’90s were kind to Motorhead, and this was a high point.
I dare you to listen to its closing title track and not shed a tear. Lemmy was nothing if not a powerfully gifted, and powerfully underrated, songwriter.

“1916”

Sacrifice is a solid listen. Stupid-heavy guitar and bass tones throughout. Many of these songs became part of their live repertoire until the end.

“Over Your Shoulder”

TORCHE – RESTARTER (2015)

I won’t spend a lot of time on this. I fucking love Torche, but this album felt like they were mailing it in. Perhaps this is what fulfilling a contractual obligation sounds like in musical form.

I’m sure it deserves another listen, but it really didn’t grab me at all. Unlike every other album they’ve released.

“Restarter”


SAXON – SAXON (1979)

This self-titled debut has more in common with classic hard rock than their later, heavier output, but I still enjoyed it as a time capsule of that era.

This has a heavy Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow vibe, and that’s never a bad thing.

“Frozen Rainbow”

JUDAS PRIEST – BRITISH STEEL remastered (1980/2001)

I was never a Priest guy.

I have a couple of their albums and I like a handful of their songs, but I never took the plunge. I was huge into Maiden and always thought Priest was too slick or static or whatever.

After having “Rapid Fire” stuck in my head for a good long while, I picked up British Steel and was pleasantly surprised by the whole album. Priest was the “commercial metal” band of their day and for what they were, they were the best at it.

I don’t know if this album will inspire me to devour the rest of their discography, but it’s no longer a mystery as to why they’re so revered.

“Rapid Fire”

SOULFLY – 3 (2002)
SOULFLY – PROPHECY 2004)

Sepultura was huge to me back in the day. The first “extreme metal” band I loved. Still love ’em.

IT’S TOO BAD THEY BROKE UP IN 1997 AND NO MEMBERS HAVE RELEASED ANY NEW MUSIC UNDER THAT NAME SINCE!

…at least that’s what I have to keep telling myself.

When Max left and formed Soulfly, I devoured that debut album. I knew that from then on, I would support whatever Max Cavelera would do.

Then that second album happened. Later dude!

I lost track of Soulfly for well over a decade and vainly attempted to reintroduce them to my ears. Bad idea. This is really dated stuff. It’s not even that the whole “nu-metal/world music” crossover thing never worked, this is just bad music. It sounds rushed. It sounds like Max might be the kind of guy who believes his own hype and records any stupid idea he has because it MUST be gold.

Yeah. FOOL’S GOLD!

Yuck. I’m sorry about that. Yuck..

I still rock that debut from time to time, but it’s more a nostalgia trip than anything else.
Max really needs to make nice with Andreas and do a proper reunion. It’s the only way I’ll be interested in anything either do again.

The weak is strong with this one:
“I Believe”

WOLVERINE – COMMUNICATION LOST (2011)

This isn’t bad music. It’s actually quite ambitious prog rock, with a bit too much commercial leaning for my taste.

If you can’t get enough of Opeth’s latter day output and want something not quite as strong or inspired, here ya go:

“Into the Great Nothing”

MOUNTAIN – CLIMBING (1970)

Bought it on vinyl for a dollar!

AMON AMARTH – WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE (2006)

You literally can’t go wrong with Amon Amarth.

The AC/DC of melodic death metal. The real-life Deathklok.

They don’t make bad albums. They don’t make bad songs.

They don’t know how.

If you think you might like Amon Amarth, you will. If you think you won’t, you will.

They’re just that damn good.

“Hermod’s Ride to Hel pt 1 – Loki’s Treachery”

BLACK SABBATH – MASTER OF REALITY remastered (1971/2016)

Master of Reality is a perfect album and arguably Sabbath’s finest hour. If you are reading this blog and have never heard this album, you fucked up.

Here:

**********************************************************************

WHEW! What a bunch of bullshit!

This took more time and effort that I was prepared for when I started four weeks ago.
It’s not perfect and will never be, but it will be published on New Year’s Eve, thus counting as a 2016 release itself.

Happy New Year!

If you did read the whole thing, you have less to do with your day than me. We should hang out.

FOR THE RECORD my favorite 2016 albums of 2016 are:

Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule
SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
Goatess – II: Purgatory Under New Management
Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies
Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc

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Anniversaries, Resignations and a Bad Joke Book

FOREWORD

When I came upon this wordfile, it was titled “Abandonment” which is fitting as that is what it is about and that is what became of it. I started work on it in the Spring and never finished it. It’s still basically unfinished, as what follows was meant as a creativity dump; a bunch of unfinished humorous premises in various stages of completion.

It has been one full year since my last blog post. I just don’t write enough. Which is too bad, as I enjoy it. Or perhaps I just enjoy the pomposity of it. I guess I just haven’t had much to say of late. If ever..

I’ll attempt to clean it up and edit it before publishing, but knowing me I’ll publish and then edit it and then re-publish it over and over, dozens of times until I’m happy with it. And by “happy with it” I of course mean “finally sick of trying and abandon it slightly less unfinished than it was before.”

Also, please don’t steal any of my “material.” If you do, I will find you and I will kill you. I don’t understand the concept of reasonable reaction and tend to take things too far. Theft of intellectual property, in my estimation, is punishable by swift death.

PREFACE

Most shift work in the United States affords employees one 15 minute break for every 4 hours worked. Or is it 2? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. Or The Doctor, who would know more about time than me..

The point is, my job is unique in that it sets aside the last 15 minutes of each day as a 3rd break. Since sometimes the job requires us to get filthy or work out in the cold, we need extra time to clean up or change clothes before clocking out. And it’s cheaper to shut down production for 15 minutes a day than it is to pay 30 employees 2+ hours of overtime every week.

In reality, that time is generally spent sitting in the break room doing nothing. Therefore, finding ways to kill time becomes necessary.

Some people read. Some nap. Some shoot the shit. I got into the habit of sending bizarre text messages to virtually everyone in my phone for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of people.

It was fun. Most folks would get a kick out of it. Some would text back asking if I was drunk or wondering how I got their number. In the end, as with all creepy unsolicited correspondence, people stop responding. They stop caring..

A new outlet for my now burgeoning addiction of mass-marketed annoyance was necessary. Enter Twitter. Twitter is a great outlet for this medium (tedium?) of pestering. It gives the artist unlimited canvas (withheld to 140 characters at a time) while also allowing the target to choose when (or whether) they wish to receive your incomprehensible psychobabble.

Twitter is fun. You launch your yatter into the ether and are sometimes rewarded for its creativity. Mostly you’re ignored by a cold, noncompliant populace concerned only with its own glory. Anything your pitiful mind is wont to muster is of no concern to this indifferent leviathan.

It’s quite like the real world, only in digital form.

Still, it could be endlessly entertaining and challenging. Instead of sending a single stupid text each day, I could come up with multiple stupid tweets! And I got pretty good at it. People said I should be a comedian. People said I should be a writer. People said I was good at something for once in my life.

Then, after a few years, it all stopped. I don’t know which part of my brain responsible for this peculiar skill stopped working properly, but it did. Likely out of spite.

First I thought it was ordinary, run-of-the-mill writer’s block. Comedian Joey Diaz once said the best way to get over writer’s block is to “get inspired.” That was great advice. I watched and listened to more comedy. I went to some local stand-up shows. I started reading more. And it kinda worked.. for a little while. Eventually it stopped for good.

I wonder if I had just stopped being funny or if I ever was. Friends who had goaded me into compiling the best of my tweets/status updates/arrogance capsules had me convinced I had something. So, in lieu of creating new bullshit, I spent several months going through my old tweets and copy/pasting them into a text file. A veritable Greatest Hits collection of my favorite silly ideas.

Once compiled, I then went through them again to whittle down what I had in hopes of distilling the truly okay from the largely awful. Then I began re-writing some of the chosen, attempting to develop them into something that could be spoken aloud to elicit a desired response. I even had the hubris to think I could string 2 or 3 together and expand on them, creating a legitimate “bit” and perhaps finally pushing myself into an open mic somewhere.

Unfortunately, after all this work, I noticed my stuff was fucking terrible! I am a tremendous hack!

Maybe my taste in comedy had evolved or perhaps I had subconsciously noticed those around me had progressed so far beyond what I’m capable of that I’m embarrassed to allow my pedestrian nonsense in the same proximity. Or maybe I’m just finally sober and seeing clearly that my stuff just isn’t very good.

Whatever the reason, I’m done. I can’t do it anymore. My brain has atrophied. I don’t get those “flashes of genius” like I used to. When I do, it’s usually something I already thought up months or even years ago. In the worst cases, it’s something I didn’t even think up in the first place!

And that is dangerous. I despise plagiarism, but it can happen unconsciously. Something pops in my head and I think “Oh, that’s good!” so I tweet it out. Then later I think “That was a little too good. Certainly too good for me to have thought of it.” So I google the phrase, and sure enough: that genius tweet you just sent was sent 4 months ago by the brilliant Kumail Nanjiani. Whom you adore. Whom you’ve just unwittingly stolen from. Then I get depressed.

Anyway… the point of this blog is to expunge all the extra crap I saved up but never used!! HA HA! You thought this might be possibly worth reading? Think again!

See, from time to time, I’d have a thought and would jot it down or record a short voice memo and never do anything more with it. These were never even tweeted! Never even considered for tweeting! This is the shit that never ever made it to the Big Show! (Some of them were. – Ed.)

Still, though this is rough shale, I need to document it someplace besides my desktop/iPhone where perhaps I can come back to it later and examine it. Maybe even polish some of it up as I roll along. Basically, I want to delete the files off my computer.

Hopefully this purge reignites my desire to write. Or at least cleans out the closet so I can clutter it all over again. I have also added commentary to much of what follows, because I think what I think about what I think must be important to you.

Okay. Last chance to bail. Here’s where it all fades to stupid…

THIS IS WHERE THEY FOUND THE BODY

A priest, a lawer, a rabbi, a black guy, a pollock, a woman, a parrot, a dog, a cat and a monkey walk into a.. walk into a.. Ah, shit. What do they walk into?
– This was an idea for a newly hackneyed take on an old hack joke. The idea is you forget the setup because you’ve listed too many walkers. The alternative (i.e. superior) idea for this bit is to keep listing walkers until the crowd boos you.

Find a friend – if you’re a guy find a girl, if a girl find a guy – or maybe even go with the same-sex if you really wanna make the squares uncomfortable – go into a crowded fancy restaurant – get (or act like you’re getting) completely hammered – propose marriage – your betrothed accepts – freak out – have the fellow patrons clap and congratulate you – order drinks – get hammered – then do it all over again, as if you forgot doing it the first time.
– This wasn’t necessarily going to be anything, just an idea for a prank.

When I’m walking down the sidewalk and I see someone coming towards me, I get nervous because I’m not sure how I’m supposed to interact with them. I don’t want to look at them. Don’t want to meet their gaze. It’s just something that makes me uncomfortable. Like, what are you supposed to do? Generally I’ll just stare straight ahead or look at the ground or pretend to look over my shoulder or down the road for a bus. Basically I look everywhere except at the person.

Well, the other day I decided enough was enough. Social anxiety disorder be damned! I was going to go for a walk and purposely meet the gaze of everyone who came walking toward me. I might even smile and nod! I might even say a soft “Hello.” So I did. And you know what people do when you attemp to meet their gaze and smile and nod or even say hello to them on the sidewalk? They stare straight ahead or they look at the ground or they pretend to look over their shoulder or look down the road for a bus. They basically look anywhere exept at you.
– I like the structure of this simple, long-form joke I wrote while walking that happens to be about a problem I really have.

Guys: instead of carrying a Man-Purse around just carry an expensive-looking ladies purse. This way people will think you think you have a wife instead of.. you know.. AIDS.
– This one is a bit too harsh. I still like it, but understand that we’re well past the days when “gay” was a biting punchline.

Yesterday I experimented with a batch of peanut butter cookies, mixing a bag of peanut butter M&Ms into the dough. Then the Archangel Michael appeared to me and said “You got nothing to worry about, pal.”
– I had a similar tweet about cooking where an added ingredient made the dish so remarkable I was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Nobody ever says I wanna be a junkie when I grow up. They say it later, upon the realization that becoming a junkie would have been preferable to adulthood..
– Don’t remember if I tweeted this or not. I think it was too long or just didn’t have the phrasing right at the time.

I don’t know if I just saw the First Robin of Spring or not, but he certainly fucking thought he was!
– Think I did tweet this one a couple times but never got the wording right.

I miss Kindergarten. You got to sit and listen to stories. You got to sing songs and hold hands. Heck, you even got a snack! Oh wait, I’m thinking of Church..
– A version this ended up as a FB status, unsure if I ever tweeted it. I like it. It’s simple, but it’s also kinda hack. Which is likely why I like it.

The reason I never give money to homeless people is because once they make it, they just become assholes. Look at Rob Thomas..
– Rob Thomas is probably not an asshole, but he used to be homeless. Add that to the old adage that money changes people for the worse, and you get this joke. Plus, I really do hate the homeless. Not the legitimate homeless who got a raw deal and can’t catch a break, mind you, but the career-homeless: the ones who have no problem shouting you down until you relent, only to have them ask you for money and then get pissed when you don’t give them enough. They should be fed to an angry Volcano God who will then erupt, irate that He was fed fake people.

While reading a book the other day, I wondered what time it was. So I looked to the upper corner of the book and thought “Where’s the clock?” I need to stop using the internet so much.
–  Unfunny, but a genuine premise based on something that really happened. I usually have my phone or a laptop, so I’m able to check the time. Turns out, paper books don’t feature this option.

IDEA: Do a set of observational comedy deconstructing the annoying aspects of observational comedy.
– I’m certain this is not a new idea, but like the premise. Too bad I’m too inexperienced to put it to paper.

Don’t you love how conservative talking heads have turned the word “progressive” into a negative? They’re basically saying “We are against progress! We mustn’t let progress progress!”
– Decent premise probably done a million times over by self-respecting hacks.

That day was one for the books! Specifically, the book of days I’d rather not remember. Making the journal’s entire existence unnecessary.
– I do remember tweeting this one, but why not have at least something good here?

What are the odds the Catholic Church smears innocent whistle-blowing priests as child molesters to discredit them?
– There’s something there.. I had a follow-up claiming a rogue group of priests discovered this conspiracy and called the Church’s bluff by actually molesting some kids so the Church would have nothing on them. Then the public found out and it blew up in all their faces. Silly, but too complex.

I didn’t think 12 Years a Slave was a bad movie, I just didn’t think it was a great movie. It’s somehow getting universal acclaim despite not being that good. It’s unevenly acted – a handful of strong performances mixed with a bunch of awful ones. Pacing is an issue: It’s supposed to take place over the course of twelve years, but aside from the title, there’s little to inform you of that. It feels like it could have taken place over the course to a year or two at most. There’s a lot wrong with it. Not to mention it’s nothing but cameo after cameo of huge stars plus Brad Pitt, the film’s producer, gave himself a plum role in the film’s messiah. Literally. He plays a Canadian carpenter who doesn’t believe in slavery and ends up getting Solomon freed. Le sigh.. I think it bizarre it’s getting such glowing reviews when it’s obviously not that great of a movie. It’s quite ironic that critics are afraid to give a movie about SLAVERY a bad review for fear of being branded racist.
– Short review of 12 years a slave – obviously not a joke, but it was in the wordfile – I didn’t flesh out completely. Still feel the same about it. Oddly, I saw this move 3 times. Once at a small theater in town, once at home and again at a larger theater. The last time I saw it a dudebrah frat boy and his anorexic blonde girlfriend were walking in front of me to the exit when she burst into tears and fell against the wall sobbing. I guess it was an effective movie to some, just not me. I also think that awful cunt wanted people to see her so overcome with emotion, but that’s probably because I have zero faith in people. And I’m right.

Juggalos are bad, but Jockalos are worse / There’s nothing more frightening that a Mall Security Guard in peak physical condition.
– There was something to both of these and feel I’ve used them before individually, but perhaps I was trying to tie them together?

You need to find that special someone who will take a Rufie for you. So you can drag her semi-conscious body around the bar while people try to stop you and call the cops because you both find that kinda thing hilarious!
– Ah, the perfect woman. A funny premise, just too long to tweet. Also, Bill Cosby has put a real damper on Rufie-based humor.

You never see any albino porn. Who would watch it? There’s nothing more frustrating in porn than making it to the end and there being no money shot, if you’re a completist. It would disappear into the camouflage, or in this case, cum-o-flage, of the receiver’s skin color. Also it would just look like the guy’s dick was melting.
– Attempt at blue humor that was just unfunny and gross. I do like the term cum-o-flage though.

If I ever had a baby, I’d do so old school: Pacing back and forth in the waiting room, nervously smoking a pipe. It’d be easier on me. Especially when they tell me my wife died during childbirth, so I can just say “What are you talking about? I don’t have a wife..” before running out the nearest exit.
– I like this one. Forgot about it. Might be a bit too hack, but whatevs.

I was never properly trained to fight, but I did skim through a Judo book once in junior high. So watch it or I will Figure 1. and Figure 2. you into the boards!
– Too specific.

One thing Peter Parker couldn’t do that a spider can is feed himself.
– Doesn’t really work, as the song says Spider-Man does whatever a spider can. Peter Parker wasn’t doing jack shit.

There’s this early 90’s Jeep Cherokee that’s always parked near my building. It’s filthy dirty. It has several dents. One bumper sits higher than the other. The fog lights are bent etc. The one thing it has going for it is the sweet Jurassic Park logos on either door. So they’re goofing around saying “Ha, yeah it was in the movie!”And I have to wonder: did they do that so they didn’t have to fix it up?
– I like it but was too long for a tweet. Plus, Twitter didn’t exist in 1993.

You know those family member decals you see on the rear window of SUVs sometimes? I just saw one that was just a dad and a little girl. And I thought: I didn’t know they made those for pedophiles.
– Think it works, but I have entirely too much pedomaterial.

There’s a weirdness to the whole being grown up thing where you don’t have to eat the crust on your pizza or you don’t have to eat the crust on your PB&J sandwich and you realize you’re not only eating like you did when you were 5 but you’re eating the same things you ate when you were five.
– There’s something there. Hack for sure. Looking at it now, I think the humor is, being an adult, you actually force yourself to eat the crusts because of money. I don’t know.

I’m not talking to myself. I’m talking to your dead grandmother. She wants me to tell you she’s very upset with you for making fun of people who talk to themselves!
– Hack, but would probably work since people actually believe in psychics.

People wouldn’t have been so horrified over that man raping that pit bull if the dog had been mauling a little kid at the same time.
– The odds of anyone remembering that story is practically nill. Timeliness is next to relatable-ness.

Shoot porno starring male American adult film star Paul Revere opposite the best female English porn stars called “The British Are Coming” #ThousandDollarIdea
– This is humorous, but also doable. I use a couple hashtags for intentionally awful ideas. #ThousandDollarIdea is for ones that would probably work, but wouldn’t be profitable enough to be worth the trouble. #BillionDollarIdea is another – more on that later.

Unified Field Theory means very different things to a physicist and a migrant worker.
– Dumb one-liner that isn’t very funny. Would probably work at a hometown show..

Bacon flavored beer called HogWash #BillionDollarIdea
– A prime example of how I use the #BillionDollarIdea hashtag. Despite being silly, this isn’t a bad idea. So good, in fact, I’m sure (read as: arrogantly paranoid enough to believe) someone will steal it. You owe me money!!

There’s fewer “Come to Jesus moments” going on in a church than you’d imagine. “Come FOR Jesus moments” however…
– Stupid gross and hacky. Which means I must love it.

Hump Day jokes are always bad; worse if you’re a camel.
– I find this chuckle-worthy. Which is why I work back-breaking physical labor.

Part of my job has us destroying expired and recalled beer. We are legally required to have all the doors closed while we do this. The reason they give is, since it’s alcohol, it has to be dealt with away from the public, lest anyone underage were to become present accidentally. My theory is it’s to prevent the zombie-like masses of hobos from attacking us whilst shouting “Grains! Grains! Fermented grains!”
– I think I did tweet a much shorter version of this. I like a good Zombie Joke, but how many people would get the “Return..” reference today?

Every single thing on earth dies alone. Except conjoined twins.
– Think I used this as a FB status once?

Is there a Japanese S.O.D. tribute band and is their first album titled “Speak Engrish or Die”?
– Way too specific. Billy Milano is a hilarious, racist man.

“Judas is My Co-Pilot” bumper sticker #ThousandDollarIdea
– Anti-religious novelties area  passion of mine. If I had the money, I’d actually make this shit. #BillionDollarIdea hashtag would work here too. If you steal this idea, I want 50%.

My Magic 8 Ball told me that Ouija boards are bullshit.
– Toy Wars!! Decent one-liner. Could have been expanded upon.

Religion is therapy for poor people. Which means it’s free and it doesn’t work.
– Something there.. Never quite got there.

The worst thing about being a child of the 80s/90s was being turned down by girls who thought Pauly Shore was hot.
– Setup, no punch. I’m sure this would still happen too.

When a fast food place features a new item and you say “I’d like to try..” I’m glad they understand you want to buy one and not just take a bite from the communal Cheeto Burrito.
– I like this one, but it’s aged-out unless the Cheeto Burrito makes a comeback!

I feel bad for the anyone trapped in an elevator with Uri Gellar when the spoons come..
– Very specific, but I fucking love this one. Absurd, ominous and bashes Uri Gellar in one go! I probably have tweeted it at some point.

Country Music’s alright, but it’s got nothing on City Music!
– This is the kind of thing I use the #hackorama hashtag for. Most of my stuff is painfully hack. Even more painful, I find a lot of that stuff hysterical. I love it so.

If you ask me, a fetus isn’t a person until it’s old enough to carry a rifle and die for the Owl God Moloch! #Republicant
– I use the #Republicant hashtag when making light of right-wing politics – which is so profoundly easy I try not to if I can help it. But we are on the eve of an election year..

My wife said to me the other day (in an effeminite voice) “We should do something about those drapes.” to which I replied “Why do you sound like a gay version of me?”
– Hack-o-rama indeed! I’m not married and am not out to offend the gays, so this is another small town bar joke at best.

I’d only have kids with someone who wants them less than I do..
– Baseless absurd humor is my one true love. This is my mantra when a girl asks “Do you want to have kids?” and it usually gets a chuckle, which is great because it makes zero sense.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth unless you want an eye full of glitter..
– Don’t think I ever used this but I really like it! I use the #amendedquotes hashtag for stuff like this.

Ever notice how in those Before & After Meth pictures the “Before” picture is never a fat person? #conspiracytheory
– I like this one too!! THEY don’t want you knowing about the positives of that horrible, horrible drug!

The easiest way to overcome the fear of death is to have nothing to live for. #lifehacks
– Depressive and self-serving. Oh woe is me.

Denial isn’t just the way black people refer to that river in Egypt, it’s also a real psychological condition.
– Ugh. This sounds like an Adam Carolla “joke” – someone I’ve really come to dislike.

I’m not in favor of eugenics, but if the people behind Faygo were to, say, slip a chemical into their product that made Juggalos sterile..
– The more Juggalo hate, the better. What a truly useless group of people. The base for this is obviously the old KFC sterility conspiracy theory.

#BillionDollarIdea Double Large shirts! (LL) A size between Large and Extra Large – helps people think they’re not as fat as they are.
– This could really work! $$$

Whoever ACTUALLY wins the Internet better be really into Tranny Porn.
– Because there’s a lot of it! This is great. Please be offended.

Don’t set the bar too high and you’ll never be disappointed. For instance, if your goal is to someday be worm food, you’re in luck!
– Sound advice.

If I were a doctor I’d be super fucking psyched considering I never even went to college.
– This one cracked me up, so I probably didn’t write it. :eyerollemoji:

How often, in years, are you supposed to clean a George Forman grill? Mine looks like that bathtub from the end of Silence of the Lambs.
– Love it. Was a FB status/never tweeted.

If archaeologists found the Ark of the Covenant and it was actually just full of Gummy Bears, I’d be okay with it. I think we all would.
– I love this too! What’s happening? Why didn’t I use these??

We rag on them all the time, but the truth is Creationists are not stupid people. They’re just dumber than you or me.
– Rimshot! Another easy one.

I don’t mean to boast, but if there’s one virtue I possess that most people do not, it’s humility..
– Love this despite it’s hackiness. Unsure if this was ever tweeted.

#FunFact Sir Mix-a-Lot is an actual knight!
– I used the #FunFact hashtag a lot – of course they were never facts, just funs.

A lot of people will argue over which Universal Monster gave the most convincing performance: Was it Lugosi in Dracula or Karloff in Frankenstein? Or even Lon Cheney Jr. in the Wolf Man? If you ask me, the answer is obviously Claude Raines as The Invisible Man. He made himself INVISIBLE for Christ’s sake!
– Silliness. Just another variation on a go-to premise, but I love the absurdity.

Comedy Central commercial: From the makers of “That’s My Bush!” comes “Oh, Bama!”
– Aged the fuck out. When did I even write this? 2008??

If you say you work graveyards, that usually means you work the overnight shift. Or it could mean you’re a very unsuccessful prostitute..
– Crash boom bang! This isn’t bad, just supremely hacky.

I often daydream about having delusions of grandeur..
– Used on FB once, but think the wording might have been different.

On my way to work the other day I was thinking “I need to finish the next chapter in a philosophy book I’m reading” but I couldn’t remember if the chapter was titled “Morality” or “Ethics”. Turns out it’s “Politics”, so.. neither of those things.
– I used to read philosophy! Can’t get hackier than that..

Art Collage Idea: Zepplin 2 cover art – replace the faceless military folks around them with the angry faces of all the old blues men they stole their music from
– I fucking love this one. Would make a great Photoshop if one had the talent.

I get nervous when people ask me to hold their baby. I’d at least like to get a couple drinks in me first.
– I guess the drinks would steady my hands? Don’t know what the fuck this was supposed to be.

“I am my father’s son!” – Dr. Obvious, world’s laziest geneologist
– I think I’ve used this somewhere before.

Naming your daughter “Virginity” may not seem funny now, but just wait until she gets kidnapped..
– Decent hack one-liner about a horrible possible event.

“Let them eat cock!” – Marie Antwatnette, porn queen
– This is why I gave up. This was the zenith of my creativity.

Pre-Columbian North America: Grasslands, Buffalos, Casinos as far as the eye can see.. Now look at it! – I like the idea that Indians had way more casinos before the white man came.

I wonder how many of those kids from the AppleJacks commercials have diabetes now? #weeatwhatwelike
– “We Eat What We Like!” is a dangerous slogan for a sugary kids cereal. So is marketing a cereal as healthy simply by putting apples in the name. Oh well. What matters is the higher-ups at Kellogg’s continue to make record profits.

The Muslim world doesn’t have the same hangups about naming their children after their messiah as Christian’s do, but they do have a problem with making graven images, whilst the Christians do not.
– I think I had rumblings of a good point here. Where a Catholic might find naming a child Jesus is prideful (and therefor a sin), Muslims are all named Muhammed, yet drawing a picture of the prophet is punishable by death? We don’t have to respect religions that don’t respect us – and by us I mean human beings, not the religious. Removing someone’s natural rights because your jihad requires it is not respectable. As it happens, some religions are more peaceful than others. Maybe it’s just a time thing. Christianity was pretty goddamn bloody during the Inquisition. Islam is still a few hundred years behind the times. They need their own Reformation if they want to survive. But I’m not here to bag on specific religions. I believe the best course of action is to abolish all faiths and make studying philosophy a requirement. But what do I know..

Ray Rice claims the elevator tape was edited? Is Speilberg a fucking Browns fan or sumpthin?? #chippa
– Sometimes I hashtag a tweet with #chippa. The reason for this is probably lost on many. Lyle “Chip” Chipperson is an alter ego of comic/radio host Jim Norton – one of the quickest wits of our time. On the Opie & Anthony show, Chip (or Chippa as he is also known) is Jim’s outlet for terrible hack material delivered under the guise of an annoying character. Which is fucking genius and only makes it funnier. So when I think of a terribly cheesy line, I imagine Chippa saying it and hashtag it thusly. Chippa always tags his shit with “…or something?” but he emphasizes it as “suMPthin” so I spell it as such.

Yeast are the Concentration Camp Victims of the Animal Kingdom. They work and work and work to build something and then it’s into the oven!
– Zing! If you spell “zing” d-u-m-b.

There’s a lot of speculation about why Solange attacked Jay-Z in that elevator, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s because she be trippin’.
– I love the dryness of this, but it is aged-out by now.

I give no quarter to the homeless. In every interpretation of that phrase.
– I had a bum yelling at me this morning in my own goddamn parking lot! “Sir!! Hey!! HEY!!! No, behind you!! Hey!! Can I ask you a question??” I did my best to ignore him, then finally turned around and said “I don’t want to talk to you.” He replies “Oh.. Okay have a good day. God bless. Motherfucker!” And that’s why I no longer help these humps.

Albums that don’t exist but should: “Yo Yo Ma Live at Yo Mama’s House” #dejatweet
– #dejatweet is a hashtag I use when I tweet something I swear I’ve tweeted before

BucketList: Spearhead new musical movement called “Drab” which proves to be the most uninteresting music possible. #BillionDollarIdea
– This has potential. If Ridley Scott ever makes that Blade Runner sequel, the music of the future will be Drab.

If you really want to see your tax dollars at work, you should use them to buy slaves..
– This might have worked prior to the 1860’s.

Nobody hates politics more than politicians. Except maybe cats. They hate everything.
– Dumb cat joke. Nothing to see here, folks.

No one on the high seas was less feared than the dread hipster pirate Neckbeard!
– I like this, although I’m sure I’m not the first (or the last) to think of it.

“I guess I’m more of a dog person.” said the half-man/half-canine mutant
– This never worked, but I get a kick out of it.

Did Spiderman ever have a sidekick named Fly Boy? And was his nemesis The Swatter?
– I could have written for Marvel in the ’60s

How many Indian Casinos were purposely built on Indian Burial Grounds just to ensure everyone there had bad luck?
– This could be reworked as a #FunFact. I love Indian stuff. Dummies may find it racially insensitive, I just think it’s good irony.

Do they still have Piggly Wiggly’s down south? The supermarket, not the sexual position.
– Limitless interpretations. Do Southerners fuck pigs? Fuck like pigs? Is it a fat joke? I don’t know, but it made me chuckle.

There’s probably sadder things than going to Pizza Ranch by yourself. Like taking your entire family to Pizza Ranch to celebrate a big promotion you got at Pizza Ranch.
– Repeating funny words is always good. And if there’s a funnier term in the English language than “Pizza Ranch” I don’t know about it.

Wait.. was “Little. Yellow. Different.” the Nuprin slogan or how Marco Polo described the Chinese? #possiblyracist
– Derp! I don’t use the #possiblyracist hashtag much since even (attempted) humor that might be misinterpreted as racial will now cause you to lose your job and be branded a pariah. But if you find this offensive, you’re a dum-dum.

#FunFact The amount of psychics claiming to have predicted 9/11 went up drastically after 9/11.
– I probably tweeted this. Seems like something I’d do.

IDEA: African-America gay dating site BlackPeopleMeat.com! Slogan: “Helping a Brother Out”
– I write for Robin Williams in the 70’s. Fun fact: BlackPeopleMeat.com will indeed reroute you to BlackPeopleMeet.com. So they saw that one coming.

My dad might be a racist Vietnam vet, but his favorite porno is titled “Slippery Slopes”, which I think is progressive.
– I never got the wording right for this one and it’s probably too harsh in this climate anyways.

Jesus Fish decals that just says “Fish” in it. #BillionDollarIdea
– More like #ThousandDollarIdea, but sometimes the hubris is funnier than the premise.

#FunFact Chris Hardwicke’s use of the term “Nerdist” actually means he’s racist against nerds.
– No joke. I truly believe this.

You can eat a bullet, but you can’t really enjoy it. Much like fruitcake.
– This is perfect hack comedy. Whatever that means..

Oprah’s magazine is now sold in a plastic bag, ensuring it protects the public from what’s inside it.
– Just like porn! There’s a reason this one was shelved.

Of course there’s such a thing as White Privilage. What do you think we feel White Guilt about?
– I like this as a premise, but would need to build on it a lot to make it worth a damn.

Remember in the early ’90s when the Simpsons were absurdly popular and the characters would make public appearances and it would just be a person in a costume with a big plastic head and all they’d say was the character’s tired catchphrases? That was still funnier than this current season of The Simpsons.
– we close on an evergreen Simpsons joke!

ASSESSMENT

So there we have it. All the shit unfit to print. Reading through it again didn’t inspire me much, although I think there’s a handful of decent lines hidden throughout.

See, it’s always been a volume game for me. I write and write and write, then go back and cherry pick the passable stuff. This list is not the result of that method, however. This is the raw mess in toto.

It’s getting late here. I’m going to catch up on my Art Bell podcasts and go get some Taco Bell. Saturday nights like these don’t just plan themselves, people..

Ugh.. I hate myself.

Have a good rest of your Summer. I love you.

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WELCOME TO MY TRITE-MARE: THE ALICE COOPER DISCBLOGRAPHY

I’ve always been peripherally aware of Alice Cooper. Like many of my generation, I knew him best from his classic radio hits and now-legendary bit part in Wayne’s World, a film that received seemingly infinite repeat viewings in my childhood home.

There was never an active disinterest. No preconceived punk ethos guiding corrupting me to believe he was bad because he’s Christian or because he’s experimented with multiple genres in multiple bids to remain relevant (some wildly successful; most tragically tragic).

The impetus for this particular listening binge was my viewing Banger Films’ excellent new documentary SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER.

The film follows Vincent Furnier and the gang from their humble beginnings as Arizona garage rockers to the Alice Cooper Band’s triumphant 70’s reign as shock rock stalwarts, Alice’s mid-decade conversion to solo fame, his destruction at the hands of substance abuse, and his successful return to the stage via 80’s glam metal.

With this blog, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I listened to an unfamiliar artist’s discography and wrote my thoughts on each listen.

I enjoyed a great deal of the good, was put off by much of the bad, and in the end found real appreciation for a musical icon I knew very little about.

Before we get too far along, a couple things:

If you don’t already know, “Alice Cooper” was originally the name of the BAND, not just their singer. They’re sometimes referred to as the Alice Cooper Band or Alice Cooper Group (ACG). Eventually, Alice (the man) would fire the rest of the band and recondition the act as his solo vehicle.

Also, despite my introduction, this won’t be a complete overview: I have not listened to the Alice Cooper Group’s first two albums. As I understand it, they’re unlistenable slabs of experimental art/acid rock with little focus or direction. I guess when you’re signed to Frank Zappa’s label that’s expected if not altogether required..

Nor did I delve fully into Cooper’s early 80’s New Wave period because… why?

So, let’s start with their 3rd album, which was their last with Zappa’s Straight Records. It was distributed by Warner Bros, who later became the bands permanent home.

THE SEVENTIES

LOVE IT TO DEATH is a perfect album. Rough production highlights its electrifying sleaze and calls to mind the Stooges on more than a few occasions. It’s cool to go back and listen to this stuff now because you can really hear the influence they had on so many future punk and glam bands. Some that immediately come to mind are the New York Dolls and the Misfits. Glenn Danzig is on record as a massive Alice Cooper fan, and one can envision him taking notes whilst listening to Cooper’s ragged holler on tracks like the dark voodoo dirge “Black JuJu” the religious condemnation of “Hallowed Be My Name” and the psychedelic epic “The Ballad of Dwight Frye.” Every song is so strong you’d be forgiven for forgetting this album also includes “I’m Eighteen”, the classic single that was the band’s first big hit. And deservedly so; that song is 40+ years old and still holds up. As does this entire record. A-fucking-plus.

Ostensibly presaging Cooper’s career, KILLER starts strong and ends weird. Its production is similar to LOVE IT TO DEATH, but features more keyboards and lounge music influence that would soon come to characterize the band’s sound. The Jerry Lee Lewis-style stomper “Under My Wheels” and Detroit rock of “Be My Lover” serve as perfect album openers to a mostly lukewarm endeavor. While the big, sick and angry “Halo of Flies” and Zappa-esque “Dead Babies” make it a worthy addition to their discography, it just doesn’t punch as hard as LOVE IT TO DEATH and its B-sides sound like B-sides. I’ve noticed that Cooper albums seem to “pair up” and this is the earliest example.

SCHOOL’S OUT is Alice Cooper’s most varied work to date, but also their most forgettable. Aside from the title track (which would become another massive hit, live staple and part of the indelible American zeitgeist) ACG’s 5th album doesn’t offer an awful lot in the way of great songs. There’s a fun swipe at Broadway in “Gutter Cat vs the Jets” and the album closer “Grande Finale” lives up to its name, but all in all, SCHOOL’S OUT is just an unremarkable album. Luckily, this was not a trend setter..

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is the original Alice Cooper Group’s masterpiece. Every aspect of their sound is fully represented and beautifully produced by Bob Ezrin. Ezrin had produced (or co-produced) all previous Cooper albums for Warner Bros, but this was the one where he shines brightest. Instrumentally, songs are stripped down, but still sound full and warm. The grandeur present in the orchestral arrangements, jazz breaks and especially Glen Buxton’s excellent lead guitar work (eerily similar to the sound he would later achieve for Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour) is all classic Ezrin. The running order of the songs is also key. From the cabaret lunacy of opener “Hello, Hooray!” to the doo-wop morbidity of “I Love The Dead” every song clicks and fits together like the ideal jigsaw puzzle of pure 70’s perfection. And it’s not just classic arena rock; BILLION DOLLAR BABIES has EVERYTHING: cabaret, big band, sleaze rock, campy novelty songs, heavy metal, hard rock, jazz, doo-wop, space rock, folk rock, proggy weirdness, acid freak-outs and country twang. Literally everything and done so well it’s scary.

Obviously I’m partial to this album, but there’s a reason for it: So many modern productions fall back on the old trick of making terrible songs bearable by adding symphonic flourishes or avant-garde noise or catchy (if foreign) hooks, but on BILLION DOLLAR BABIES, Ezrin utilizes those gimmicks to make good songs better.

Of course, there are some weak moments: the original release’s split-stereo mix makes for a hard listen at times and “Raped & Freezin'” could have been further down the track listing, if not omitted completely. Then again, I’ve found sometimes removing a song you don’t like can kill the momentum of an album rather than improve it, so who am I to judge?

I mentioned him earlier, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to lead guitarist Glen Buxton. Buxton’s guitar is the driving force of this band. Every great riff, hook or lead you associate with classic Cooper is his and besides the original group breaking up a year after this release, the real shame is that Alice never collaborated with him again before his untimely death in 1997. Rest in Peace.

MUSCLE OF LOVE – The final release from the original Alice Cooper Band. Things are less produced and back to basics, but it’s not all bare-bones rock n roll either. The feel of the songs is more in tune with LOVE IT TO DEATH or KILLER, but the arrangement is similar to SCHOOL’S OUT.

Obviously, following BILLION DOLLAR BABIES was going to be a chore and MUSCLE OF LOVE does fall short of the mark, but panning it simply on that comparison isn’t fair. I have to believe had it been released right before or after SCHOOL’S OUT, it wouldn’t have received such universal disdain. It’s not a bad album; it’s just not a good one.

MUSCLE OF LOVE features a ton of great guitar work and some, pardon the pun, more muscular moments. The title track (a raucous, tongue-in-cheek ode to.. well, you figure it out..) features a wealth of great Glen Buxton licks while Alice howls over it all like a banshee. “Teenage Lament ’74” ranks among ACG’s catchiest songs and album closer “Woman Machine” offers some solid, if repetitive, rock stomp.

That being said, there’s also a lot of unsuccessful lounge and swing elements (“Man with the Golden Gun”), some really corny rockabilly (“Working Up a Sweat”) and a huge, unfocused ballad (“Hard-Hearted Alice”). Overall, none of these risks do the album any favors. Unlike previous albums, Alice’s vocals are a major focal point this time around. An omen of things to come..

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE – is Alice Cooper’s first official solo album and another goliath production by Bob Ezrin.

To be honest, the first time I heard this album, I didn’t particularly care for it. If you’re familiar with the original, harder rocking ACG stuff, it’s a drastic change in direction. Gone is Glen Buxton’s signature guitar tone; gone is Dwayne Dennison’s rollicking, chaotic bass playing; gone is Michael Bruce’s inventive and experimental keyboards.

Not to say the music on WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE is bad. It isn’t. Not at all. I just really got to love those guys’ sound, so it was an adjustment. In fact, upon my second listen to WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, I fell in love with it.

Sure, it’s a departure, in that it’s obviously just Alice and Bob and a bunch of hired guns, but some of the music they craft here is truly excellent.

It doesn’t rock as much as it flows. Being a concept album, I guess that’s important. It is VERY 70’s: big, loud and glittery. Luckily, it’s also expertly produced, so every synthesizer run and brass flourish fits exactly where it needs to.

The title track/album opener “Welcome to my Nightmare” brings the big band funk. Conversely, “Devil’s Food” is stupidly corny; using up every hokey production trick in the book. Luckily, it doesn’t exist as a full song as much as an intro to Vincent Price’s a spoken word lead-in to the next track: “The Black Widow” is a sprawling, metallic theatrical number that moves the narrative along and is followed up by the excellent “Some Folks” which funky, driving bass line, big band horns, frenetic guitar soloing and hooky chorus makes it a standout. “Only Women Bleed” continues the tradition of strong Alice Cooper ballads, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. I feel this cut is about 2 minutes too long; the single version is superior. “Department of Youth” is a great sing-along with a sparkly production (plus, its Donnie Osmond fade-out gag still works) and “Cold Ethyl” is an up-tempo dirty boogie about necrophilia. Because why wouldn’t it be?

That gives way to the second half of the album where we finally meet Steven..

Steven is the subject of the album. I guess the first half of the record represents different dreams Steven’s been having and the characters he meets along the way, while the second half is more personal. I still don’t get the whole story: Is Steven a little boy or a grown man who thinks he’s a boy? Or an adult remembering his childhood? Does Steven have a split personality disorder? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Concept albums were all the rage back then, and I assume its creation was just a selling point. But Cooper has revisited the character several times since, so maybe it’s a legit passion. Or a selling point.. I don’t know. All I know is the next 4 Steven-centric songs make for a mind-bendingly awesome climax.

It took a couple listens, but I fully admit to legitimately enjoying WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE. A truly excellent record.

Picking up where WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE left off, Alice continues with the Steven story. Rather than do another boring old concept album, ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL is a full-on rock opera

As it has a stronger narrative than WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, picking favorite tracks is tough. I quite enjoyed “Go to Hell” where Alice is admonished and sentenced to the underworld for crimes against humanity. “Didn’t We Meet” is a memorable tune and “I Never Cry” is a nice, if repetitive, ballad.

As listenable as it is, ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL sounds as if it’s composed of unused B-sides from the WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE sessions. It’s dirtier and grimier than WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, but it also includes a disco song, so…

Not a bad album, but probably not a necessary addition to your collection.

On LACE AND WHISKEY Alice has gone full-on cabaret/swing/big band/saloon/what-have-you and it’s just so.. embarrassing.

Why are there so many synthesizers in this juke joint??

This is a complete detachment from previous incarnations. Overall, LACE AND WHISKEY is a listenable record, but it pushes so far into the realm of Broadway and revue, you really have a hard time keeping up with it. Whether you’re bored stiff or flat-out exhausted by the time album closer “My God” rolls around, it’s obvious the Nightmare has long been over. It really makes you wonder who is controlling Alice at this point? Considering this was the last time Bob Ezrin and Cooper would work together for decades might answer that question.

FROM THE INSIDE – From the earworm album opener, we know things are back on track. This album sounds more like Alice Cooper than any of his solo efforts thus far. It’s also his best collection of songs since BILLION DOLLAR BABIES. Bernie Taupin’s presence is evident by the marked improvement of the lyrics.

This is much more of an “easy listening” album, but at least it’s honest about what it is. It’s chock full of sappy ballads that would fit comfortably on an Elton John record (“How You Gonna See Me Now” being the best of these) but also includes some big theatrical numbers that would sit pretty on any earlier Alice Cooper or Meat Loaf effort.

It also features a number of rockers, seeing Alice once again portraying the Ghost of Glam Rock Yet To Come: “I Wish I was Born in Beverly Hills” is the template from which all Motley Crue songs were torn, while “For Veronica’s Sake” perfectly (read as: retroactively) mimics Poison.

Again, it’s interesting to see just how influential Coop was/is, even if that genre of music is mostly horseshit.

There’s a lot to like about this album. If I was a stuffy music critic I might insist that this is the first real Alice Cooper solo album. There’s a handful of corny, uber-70’s moments (the dreaded synthesizers; lusty female backup vocals), but they’re largely forgivable thanks to the quality of the compositions

FROM THE INSIDE is a great album. Unfortunately, it’s the last good record he did for quite some time..

THE EIGHTIES

There’s something really weird about FLUSH THE FASHION! and it’s not that it’s a woeful disgrace of an album that marked the downfall of a once relevant artist.

What’s weird is I really like a few of the songs. “(We’re All) Clones” is a fun, catchy 80’s New Wave track. Easily the best song here. “Grim Facts” and “Model Citizen” also have their moments.

What’s wrong with FLUSH THE FASHION is how its title completely contradicts the artist’s intentions. How can fully embracing a popular form of music be flushing the fashion?

Alice was heavily addicted to cocaine at this point in his career and devoted the next 4 years and 3 albums to New Wave. Some people claim they’re good records. I’m not going to bother finding out. FLUSH THE FASHION has a couple catchy tunes, but good hooks don’t always equal good music. As we are about to unavoidably find out..


By 1983, Alice had consumed all the cocaine in the world, thus facilitating his need to enter rehab. He got clean and retired from the industry for 3 years to repair his marriage and spend more time with his family.

Cooper returned to music in 1986. This time, attempting a comeback riding the coattails of a genre he helped invent: Glam Metal.

1986’s CONSTRICTOR is Alice Cooper’s first attempt at a career comeback as a full-fledged heavy metal artist. While it’s not a great album, it is fairly listenable and features the halfway decent album opener “Teenage Frankenstein” and the goofy synth-laden single “He’s Back! (The Man Behind the Mask)”, which served as the theme to Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives.


Awful.. just awful.

Unlike its predecessor, 1987’s RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL is embarrassingly bad and hard to listen to. It’s another predictable slab of 80’s hair metal, but unlike CONSTRICTOR, there’s not a single decent song on it. It’s just my opinion, but this music is garbage and Alice deserves better. I really can’t say anything good about this record. Yuck.

Here’s the thing about 1989’s TRASH: I love the hit single “Poison.” It’s a solid 80’s song, the lyrics are perfect Cooper and the music is catchy without being too annoying.

I also really like the Joan Jett-penned “House of Fire.” It’s hokey in the way Joan Jett songs generally are, but it’s also listenable and catchy, the way Joan Jett songs generally are. It sounds like Alice covering Joan Jett with no attempt to “make it his own” and that’s why it works.

Problem is, the rest of the album succeeds in living up to its title. While it’s better produced than Coop’s previous hair metal coasters (thanks to Desmond Child) and the writing is noticeably stronger (thanks to a barrage of guest musicians) it’s still just better produced/better written 80’s pop metal nonsense. I’m glad he had such great success with it, as it served as the major comeback he was looking for, but it’s just not my bag.

Another fun fact about this record: a session guitarist for the album is named, I shit you not, GUY MANN-DUDE! That’s just plain funny and so 80’s it hurts.

THE NINETIES

Finally! The 80’s have drawn to a close, but none of the glam metal bands that made their fortune during that decade seem to know it, so they continued to put out more silly, tired shit. Since Alice Cooper is now among their ranks, he follows suit..

1991’s HEY STOOPID is easily the best of Cooper’s four attempts at glam metal, but that’s not saying much. I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than CONSTRICTOR. Actually, I like it a little more than I let on..

While TRASH and RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL are unapologetically generic 80’s hair metal, CONSTRICTOR and HEY STOOPID! sound more like classic Alice Cooper songs given a once over with a shitty glam metal brush.

Like TRASH, HEY STOOPID is loaded with guest musicians and songwriters, but this time, the songs came out better. My assumption is the goal of this album was to have songs purposely written to sound more like Alice Cooper than just a bunch of sure-fire hits he could cover. “Hurricane Years” “Feed My Frankenstein” and the title-track are all stand-outs. As is album closer “Wind-Up Toy” which could have been a leftover track from WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.

Good show, old man. It’s still not a great album, but it’s the best thing he’s done in 15 years.

THE LAST TEMPTAION is Alice’s “return to form” album. All artists blessed with longevity seem to have these; Alice just seems to have more than most..

THE LAST TEMPTATION is another concept album about Alice’s alter-ego Steven, who first appeared 20 years prior in WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.

Songs are more “normal” this time, but the production is quite dry. I don’t know how to accurately describe this album. It’s fairly varied. Tone and style-wise, he’s emulating something dark, like 90’s-era Megadeth. But I’d liken it more to Ozzy’s “Ozzmosis” record: a still-heavy album by an aging artist steadily shuffling towards Adult Contemporary.

There are 10 tracks, I think 5 are decent:

Epic album opener “Sideshow” refreshingly reestablishes Cooper in a style similar to his 70’s output, but things quickly fall apart over the next few tracks.

The Chris Cornell-penned “Stolen Prayer” is high point and the theatrical, metallic album closer “Cleansed by Fire” shows more variety and scope than his four previous albums combined.

Ironically, “It’s Me”, a sappy leftover 80’s ballad sung by the Devil, is the real standout here. In fact, its premise is kinda genius.

I don’t really know what to make of THE LAST TEMPTATION. Half great songs, half not-so-great songs. It ends up feeling like it just limps across the finish line.

THE 2000s

For whatever reason, Alice decided against producing a “twin album” to THE LAST TEMPTATION and instead went on to, once again, repeat a familiar cycle..

At the dawn of the 80’s, Alice abandoned his Shock Rock roots for New Wave. In the mid-80’s he abandoned New Wave for Glam Metal. And after slowly creeping back towards a more familiar, dark theatrical/hard rock sound in the 90s, he stumbled into the 21st century via, um, Industrial Metal.

What?

I have to assume this drastic change of direction was heavily influenced by his friend and acolyte Rob Zombie.

It makes sense. Rob had been stupidly successful in recent years by essentially aping his idol – ditching his old band and going solo with a friendly pop sound.

So, when Alice saw the success his pal had found in this obviously permanent new style of heavy metal, he jumped in with both feet.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t make sense.

Like all previous genres Cooper had imitated, this style of music would prove popular for a spell before becoming mostly irrelevant.

2000’s BRUTAL PLANET is very heavy, fairly catchy industrial metal, but it gets old fast and doesn’t contain many good songs. The title track/album opener is the best tune here. Super heavy, hooky riffing paired with Alice’s lightly distorted vocals and some of his more inventive lyrics make for a great listen, but the rest of the album doesn’t hold up. “Pick Up the Bones” has its moments and obligatory ballad “Take It Like a Woman” is so-so, but overall, BRUTAL PLANET misses the mark.

I mean, in one song he even makes a double self-reference including the line “Welcome to my nightmare. No more Mr. Nice Guy!” in the lyrics!! Ugh.. I want to fucking vomit. And scream. And vomit while screaming.

I do like the allegory Cooper is shaping of Brutal Planet as a post-apocalyptic Earth. He uses a lot of Christian mythology in his lyrics this time around and it pairs well with the heavy music. I just wish it was a better album.

Oddly and, perhaps by now, expectedly, BRUTAL PLANET’s twin, 2001’s DRAGONTOWN is oddly and expectedly a much better album.

Here, Alice explores Dragontown, which he claims is Brutal Planet’s roughest city. I enjoyed DRAGONTOWN more than BRUTAL PLANET, but it suffers from the same problems: some really good tracks and a whole lot of filler. Like the TRASH/HEY STOOPID dichotomy, DRAGONTOWN sounds more like Alice Cooper than BRUTAL PLANET did, but still exists in a genre that does him few favors.

Still, I like the idea of Cooper as a modern heavy metal god. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pull it off.

There is something he does pull off rather well, though, and it’s on full display on his 2003 effort THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER. Which also happens to be his best album since WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.

Despite opener “What Do You Want From Me?” sounding like a holdover from one of his 80’s records and “Between High School and Old School” inexplicably sending up Nirvana, THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER sounds so much like 70’s ACG it’s spooky. You can feel the energy of the band and Alice is actually singing again, abandoning his patented “angry croak” he favored over the last couple industrial outings. The production is up to snuff and many tracks feature the long absent brass section that rounded out classic albums like SCHOOL’S OUT.

It took nearly 30 years, but Alice Cooper finally realized there’s no shame in doing the thing you’re best at. Especially when that thing has the most universal appeal of anything you’ve ever done.

Or, hell, perhaps he knows it’s blatant nostalgia, but feels he’s tried enough different things that he can comfortably return to his roots without feeling like a hack. It probably feels fresh again. It certainly sounds that way.

I really enjoyed this album. It makes my list of Cooper’s best and if you listen to anything Alice produced post-1975, this is a great place to start.

One trend Alice hasn’t bucked is his habit of releasing twin albums. So it follows that THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER would have a companion piece: DIRTY DIAMONDS.

When was the last time you heard a 14-track album where they purposely front-loaded the worst songs?

If you can get past the first four tragically bad tunes (including the ludicrous “Woman of Mass Distraction”) the next 10 songs (starting with the transsexual country “Ballad of Jesse Jane” and finishing with the rap-rock Xhibit duet “Stand”) are every bit as good as those of its predecessor.

Seriously. What’s wrong with releasing a 10 song album? It could have been another homerun, but instead it’s confusingly lopsided. While this album is slightly weaker than its predecessor, it does feature a slightly beefier production.

What can I say about 2008’S ALONG CAME A SPIDER other than the curse is broken?

Another solid offering from the revitalized Cooper & Company, ALONG CAME A SPIDER is another concept album. This time about a serial killer calling himself “the Spider,” who I think is supposed to be Steven, but I’m not quite sure. What I am sure about is this album is epic, creepy, rocking, scary and cool. Everything we love about Alice Cooper is represented here and represented well.

I liked this album a lot. If “Vengeance is Mine” hasn’t become a staple of his live show, there is no justice in the world.

As good as these last 3 Cooper albums are, there’s a hint.. just a hint, mind you.. that something’s been missing…

Luckily, in 2011, Alice Cooper collaborated with the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Band and many of the musicians he’d employed throughout his solo career to write a sequel to his classic album, WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.

This record, WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE, also reunited him with producer Bob Ezrin for the first time in over 20 years.

Sequelizing albums is usually a desperate bid to reclaim past glories (and record sales) and while you can’t claim Cooper & Ezrin aren’t doing that here, they’re definitely not slacking either.

WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is very strong and Ezrin’s production, while more modern than his 70’s work, is every bit as full. They don’t ape the original NIGHTMARE, save for a few gimmicks: the creepy piano line from “Steven” returns and album closer “I Gotta Get Outta Here” effectively mirrors NIGHTMARE’s closer “Escape.”

Otherwise, it’s a whole new production. Some of the songs sound like they may have fit on classic Ezrin-produced Cooper records, while others are all new, modern Cooper tunes.

“Caffeine”, with its boogie woogie glue trap of a chorus is fun and loose, picking things up after inflated opener “I Am Made of You.”

“Last Man on Earth” (bringing that dark sideshow/cabaret feel into the ProTools era) and “The Congregation” (with it’s catchy, multi-tracked “Sgt. Pepper’s”-style vocals) are two of the album’s best songs while single “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” and “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” are two of its worst.

Luckily, the next cuts are winners: “Ghouls Gone Wild” sounds like the Beach Boys covering the Misfits. “Something to Remember Me By” is the obligatory-yet-earnest ballad. “When Hell Comes Home” is a heavy, clanging revenge dirge told from Steven’s POV. Silly dance number “What Baby Wants” features pop tart Ke$ha and is dumb as it is fun. Album closer “I Gotta Get Outta Here” offers more of Cooper’s patented humor and one final shock. And it’s not that it’s inexplicably co-written by Drive-By Trucker’s Patterson Hood!

I only listened to WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE twice, but had much of it stuck in my head for days afterwards. I think that’s a pretty good sign.

It’s interesting to see things come full circle like this. Or as close to full circle as he dare get.


As initially stated, I enjoyed much of the good and detested much of the bad. And it makes me wonder..

What IS with all the experimentation and genre hopping, anyway? Is it just a bid to stay relevant or does Coop really enjoy inhabiting all these different versions of his character?

He must have more money than he knows what to do with, but continues to release new studio albums and tour extensively to this day. I have to conclude he does it for the love of the game. And that’s just awesome.

Also, I feel Cooper can get away with it because he was there for the birth of rock n roll. Sure, he initially aped the British Invasion groups, but what teenager of the 60’s didn’t? In fact, what aspiring youth doesn’t start by copying their heroes?

Perhaps we who take those to task for “selling out” or “buying in” are the real poseurs. Damned to belief that the specific, obscure sub-genre we emulated in our youth is the one true god. Content to suffocate inside its cocoon. Blissfully unaware that although its membrane has prevented the outside world from creeping in, it’s also kept us from branching out.

Anyway.. there we are! My pompous, bloated, meandering write-up on Alice Cooper. If you made it this far, you may find this short list of my favorite Cooper records helpful:

LOVE IT TO DEATH

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE

FROM THE INSIDE

THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER

ALONG CAME A SPIDER

WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE

and

MASCARA & MONSTERS: THE BEST OF ALICE COOPER – 2001 release that includes all 12 tracks from 1974’s original ACG greatest hits album and a few of his 70’s and 80’s solo hits is a great place to start.

Thank you for reading. Coffee and pie will be served in the foyer.

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Unborn Blogs and Dead Heroes: RIP Otto & George

George (after Otto tells him his delivery needs to be more classy, like Seinfeld):
“Ever notice how when you kick your girlfriend in the cunt she calls the cops on you?”

-from Otto & George in The Aristocrats

Unborn Blogs

I don’t blog enough.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, despite not being particularly good at it, and thought having a blog would inspire me to write more.

It hasn’t.

Maybe it’s because I don’t read enough. I read a total of 9 books last year (if you don’t count audiobooks) and that’s the most I’ve read within a year since high school. And I only did it because it’s the one 2013 New Year’s Resolution I stuck to. I didn’t even make a resolution for 2014. If I did, it should have been to write a blog bragging about how much I read last year.

It took me the last 4 months to finish a 250 page book I’ve had since 2010.

Maybe I shouldn’t read more. I’m not particularly good at it.

I’ve had some good ideas for blogs, though

I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan and wanted to do a thorough review/revisiting of their catalog complete with teenage memories from when I first heard those albums and what they meant to me. I wanted to follow it up with a blog about my fears that their recent “comeback” album would suck and, lo and behold, my fears were just. I started it, but it devolved into a hodgepodge of too-personal prejudices and nonsensical bickering.

I had another idea for an in-depth blog on Deep Purple. The rub being I am not a Deep Purple fan, but had recently acquired their entire discography. I would listen to the discography once, all the way through and then write down my first impressions. I would then listen to the discography again, but this time, write a more detailed review about each album after each individual listen. I was going to call it “One-Two Punch: Deep Purple’s Complete Discography in Two Easy Movements”

Problem was, there was nothing easy about listening to that discography. The late 60s stuff was interesting, and the original 70s Mk. II stuff was excellent, but pretty much everything else (save for some of Glenn Hughes’ fantastic contributions) was so bad I could hardly stand it. That being said, I did discover their underrated 1973 album ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’, which is now one of my favorite albums.

I stopped after the truly awful second or third Mk. II comeback album “The Battle Rages On” and I didn’t even bother listening to their late 90’s, post-Ritchie Blackmore stuff (perhaps regrettably, as I understand some of that output is stellar). I will get around to it, but probably won’t blog about it. All I can say is, if you want to listen to and appreciate Deep Purple, get everything from “In Rock” through “Who Do We Think We Are?” and call it a day. A fucking awesome, rocking day.

Another idea was re-listening to Metallica’s 2003 embarrassing disaster of an album ‘St. Anger’ in 2013 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of me hating it. That didn’t happen either. Mainly because finding 80 minutes to literally throw away hasn’t come up yet.

I did write a long, confusing, poorly edited history about the cult classic Comedy Central movie Windy City Heat and published it here. Then I took it down, reedited and published it again. Then took it down again and never bothered doing anything more with it. It just didn’t turn out the way I wanted. All I intended was that people please see that movie and listen to their podcast. It’s comedy gold.

Dead Heroes

George (after Otto tells him to improvise a scene from the Aristocrats joke with him):
“Okay.. ‘Are you a Jew agent, you filthy, hook-nosed, thieving fuck?’”
Startled, Otto replies “Well, yeah..”

-from Otto & George in The Aristocrats

So, on the subject of comedy, it’s come to pass that something happened recently in that world I actually want to write about. One of my favorite comedians died.

2014 has already been a bad year for comedy: Television legend Sid Caesar, Midwest road dog Tim Wilson, stand-up titans David Brenner and John Pinette and even a legitimate superstar, Mickey Rooney, have all passed and it’s not even May!

But my favorite of them all, whose loss truly shocked and saddened me, whom I will legitimately miss, was Otto Petersen.

If you’re not familiar, Otto & George was a ventriloquist act. Correction: Otto & George was the filthiest, most unapologetically offensive and FUNNIEST ventriloquist act that ever existed.

The first time I saw Otto & George was in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats. Our local theater actually screened the NC-17 film and me and a group of friends went and laughed our collective balls off.

Their appearance was mind-bendingly funny. It wasn’t just Otto’s version of that joke being better than the others, it was everything about the act.

Not only did I love the obscene humor, but the act itself was hysterical: Otto sets up a joke, George berates Otto for being an idiot. Otto tells a purposely awful joke on his own. The puppet insults him for even trying and criticizes him for being dependent on a fucking puppet. George gets out of line, Otto has to restrain him. The timing is exquisite, the puppetry imperfect and all the while, for whatever reason, I am buying it!

It’s so goddamn funny.

In addition to their dysfunctional working relationship, a huge part of the humor comes from the fact that Otto isn’t that great of a ventriloquist. Otto moves his mouth.. a lot.. and sometimes doesn’t move George’s. So much so to the point of self-parody, which I always assumed was intentional.

So what if he’s not as polished as Jeff Dunham, at least he’s actually funny.

Before I forget, allow me to exaggerate to clarify: Otto is the human; George, the dummy. And yes, most people get that backwards. You don’t encounter a great many people named Otto, and when you do, they’re generally of the fictional variety. So, the confusion is understandable.

I didn’t intend to write a boring bio piece, because so many other articles detailing his passing already have, but there are some tidbits I’d like to type out so I’m going to anyway because fuck you.

Otto dropped out of school at age 14 and began his career as a street performer in New York City the 1970s. The real New York. The gritty Gotham captured so starkly in early Scorsese that, to this day, is endlessly romanticized by those who were actually there and millions of hipster douches who weren’t.

Within a few short years, Otto & George became a popular act around the city, performing regularly in Central Park. One fateful day, the crescent-shaped crowd included none other than John Lennon. In several interviews, Otto recounts the surreal nature of being in the presence of the greatest living Beatle while all of the attention was focused on him! After the crowd dispersed (which Otto discovered happened whenever time came to pass the hat around) Lennon approached with 2 dollars in hand, instructing the young ventriloquist that 50 cents was for him, but the remaining $1.50 go to George, because “the dummy was funnier than you.”

Another early (and arguably as bizarre) Otto & George performance in Central Park involved a crazed fan of assumed Puerto Rican descent. Here, the fearless (and politically incorrect) George, began mocking the fellow’s ethnicity to the point that the disturbed man pulled a switchblade and stabbed George in the chest! Otto continued the act unfazed. George continued berating his attempted assassin, accusing the attacker of being “so dumb he thinks I’m real!” The man fled and Otto went to the hospital to receive medical treatment on his lacerated hand.

After slugging it out as a street performer for a number of years, Otto took his act into the night clubs, attempting to glom onto the then burgeoning comedy scene. Otto & George regularly shared the stage with future superstars like Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler. Rumor has it Andrew Dice Clay’s famous dirty nursery rhymes were lifted (some verbatim) from Otto & George.

Although that level of fame eluded him, the strength of his club performances and word of mouth made Otto a “comic’s comic” and Otto & George a must-see act.

Comedians Louis CK, Dave Attell, Artie Lange, Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo, Jim Florentine, Robert Kelly, Joe DeRosa, Rich Vos and Rev. Bob Levy, as well as every other working East Coast comic, has an Otto & George story.

His fans in the mainstream include sitcom magnate Tim Allen, illusionist David Copperfield, magicians Penn & Teller, actor Kevin Spacey, satellite radio heavyweights Opie & Anthony and the King of All Media himself, Howard Stern.

Perhaps Otto’s most high-profile gig was his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. A life-long New York comic, Otto had never appeared on Letterman. In fact, up until this point, Otto had never appeared on national network television. That all changed in 2007 when the Late Show dedicated a week-worth of stand-up spots to ventriloquist acts. Otto & George had to clean up their blue language for the February 14th broadcast. They dropped the cursing, but none of the dark, bawdy humor that defined them. In a set peppered with corny one-liners and allusions to ultraviolence, George opened by mocking Valentine’s Day. He then took swipes at Letterman, band leader Paul Schafer, CBS and the gimmicky “Ventriloquist Week” itself! They closed strong by shitting all over New Jersey. It’s unknown what Letterman thought of the act, but judging by the crowd’s reaction, they killed. Perfect stand-up.

Despite his now legendary Letterman appearance and high-profile fanbase, Otto remained a working night club comic the rest of his days. Which is nothing to sneer at: when Otto Petersen died in his sleep at age 53 he had worked as an entertainer for 40 years! He never had a “normal job” and he never needed one.

On an episode of his infrequently released podcast “Puppies and Sunshine” Otto admitted that he never regretted dropping out of school because he saw it as little more than a farm team for the army: children being taught to keep their mouths shut and follow orders, regardless of how beautiful it was outside. Total detachment from nature in favor of authoritarianism. He stressed kids shouldn’t be cooped up indoors when the sun is shining! You should be able to go outside and just play all day!

Otto found a way to do just that.

 

Otto & George perform clean material for a little boy’s birthday party, proving that in addition to being a wildly talented entertainer, Otto was also the greatest guy ever:

Otto Petersen was a regular guest on the Opie & Anthony show. A collection of all his appearances on the satellite radio incarnation of the show are available here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lx9AZ_eLTc&list=PLGybSNXDX5WMyLQZsmuC-_N2la-4-rDbH

Please visit Otto & George’s official website. Sign his guestbook and check out his merch. I highly recommend his DVD “Classic Moments” for the Special Features alone:
http://www.ottoandgeorge.com/

Otto & George hosted a unique internet variety show called the Pig Roast. See all the episodes here:
http://www.bashboxtv.com/shows/1/

and follow Otto & George on Twitter
https://twitter.com/OttoAndGeorge

—————————————————————————————

Editor’s Note:

The author of this blog (@fredbydawn on Twitter) is a rapidly disintegrating, self-deprecating, occasional blogger and moribund humorist currently existing somewhere in the recesses of Fargo, ND. He likes heavy metal, comedy and movies and detests imperialism and himself.

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Okefenokee After Dark – a poem

Mrs. Robinson was cursed
Despite remaining quite averse
To the scuttlebutt her husband hadn’t just run off

Though the rumors did persist
Still she wouldn’t bend or drift
Towards the probability the townsfolk claimed
She scoffed

Rebecca wouldn’t for a minute
Think of things outside the limits
Of the possibilities created on this earth by God

Still the townsfolk hissed and rumored
That old Harold simply toured
One too many patches of the southern Georgia swamps

Goes like this, the old men say
That nearing dusk that fateful day
Harold loaded up his double-barrel and his hound

Headed west on old dirt roads
Out of Folkston towards the soul
and the heart of that damn swamp where soft became the ground

With his faithful hunting dog
Harold marched through marsh and bog
With a lantern hanging off the barrel of his gun

Before too long he heard the screaming
Of a thousand hairy demons
Standing 8 foot tall or more
He knew his time had come

When dawn broke a search commenced
To the whereabouts they guessed
Harold Robinson had often hunted late at night

Hours dragged and interest drifted
Far from hope and to the cryptids
That the townsfolk all believed had won that final fight

Despite her staunch belief he’d left her
For a younger gal or better
Rebecca Robinson knew better:
Harold was no more

For that hunting dog reappeared
At their house a full week later
Stinking something awful and mouth full of coarse brown hair

The people of Folkston remember
Harold Robinson, the legend
As the only man on record
Killed by a Sasquatch

So dear reader, please take warning
If ever in the swamps of Georgia
Know those Skunk Apes up from Florida
Are always keeping watch

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THIS TRAILER PARK EARTH

THIS TRAILER PARK EARTH

Good title, right? Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with this blog entry. Fortunately, it has EVERYTHING to do with a website I plan to register under that name which will feature pics of people & products found at America’s vast and varied “dollar stores.”

Think of it as the poor man’s People of Walmart..

GLOATING

I’m very active on Twitter. While most people use it to let their followers know what time they’ll be doing a webcam show or what pornography convention they’ll be appearing at next, I use it the way a comedian (who doesn’t care if his material gets jacked) does: I post things that make me laugh, and hopefully, achieve a similar reaction in others.

I am not a comedian, per se, but my method is similar: When I think of a funny line I log it on my iPhone, as either a text note or voice memo, and later post it to Twitter after I’ve had some time to tweak the idea.

Sometimes a complete thought comes to me the first time and I can tweet it immediately, but that’s rarer and rarer these days. Perhaps I’ve actually improved at what I do and realize not everything I think of immediately is funny? (Though you wouldn’t know it from some of my output. Yeesh!)

Many times I’ll ruminate on an idea for a while and the longer it stews, the worse it becomes: more complex = less funny. Yet sometimes, after hitting a wall, you put it in the back of your mind and, suddenly, without reason, the right piece comes to you and you have what’s called a “eureka moment.” I love those!

Similarly, rediscovering an old bit and improving it vastly by making a simple change is fun too: whether it’s a single word, phrase or adding a different punchline altogether.

Lately, I’ve been digging through old tweets and discovering I’ve posted the same joke 2 or 3 times! Generally, they’re the same idea with varying levels of quality. Sometimes better, often worse. Usually I’ll remember them (I add a “#dejatweet” hashtag to ID these) but it’s really strange when you don’t. It’s spooky. Like you’ve ghostwritten for yourself!

Since Twitter challenges you to cram your thoughts into a compact, 140 character burst, I’ve mostly abandoned long-form writing entirely. And it sucks.

I even started this blog in hopes it would reignite my interest in writing long-form; that it would allow me sever ties from Twitter‘s all-encompassing paradigm shift. It did not.

Maybe I’m just out of practice? Writing long-form has now become difficult. I know this because whenever I attempt to write a blog, I end up drastically editing or starting over completely several times! (which is the case with this blog. This is it’s 4th incarnation)

RETARD FACTORY

As far as creative writing is concerned, Twitter is all I’ve done for the past 2 years. In that time I’ve amassed a small following of over 100 people. I assume most of these are “bots” or normal, everyday people who started a Twitter account just to stalk porn stars and stopped using it completely after their intended victim was in the ground or, more likely, their freezer.

Some, however, are friends and acquaintances who enjoy my material and for them I am grateful. A couple even suggest I should try my shaky, arthritic hand at stand-up comedy.

Secretly, it is something I’ve always wanted to do..

..but I’m afraid.

It’s not the public performance aspect that bothers me. I was making a fool of myself in a rock band for 5 years for Christ’s sake! No. I am my biggest critic and that critic is an asshole of Armond White-proportions. When I fail, I never let it go. It eats away at me forever. In this case, my biggest fear is the material failing. Which I assume is a common fear among comedians and nuclear power plant workers alike..

Getting back to it, some of these prodding friends… well, acquaintances… well, guys I know who sometimes remember my name are legitimate comics. Good ones, at that. It’s flattering to know people I respect in the local comedy community would even take the time to offer their encouragement! Still, I am not confident enough to rush headlong into an open mic with a napkin full of barely legible scribbling I thought up an hour prior. No. I want things to go well, and so I’ve opted to base my strategy on the Legend of Rodney Dangerfield:

THE LEGEND OF RODNEY DANGERFIELD

Following his release from a Korean POW camp, Rodney Dangerfield worked in a Chinese Laundry for 30 years. He had a habit of slinging jokes off the cuff, but since most of his improvised material was what would now be considered “savagely racist” he opted to write broader, more universally acceptable fare. Whenever he’d think of a good joke, he’d write it on an index card and throw it in an old mail sack (though a laundry bag may have been more convenient). Once he’d amassed a thousand jokes, he hit the road on his way to fame and fortune!

This, of course, is total horseshit. It’s a variation on the myth of Rodney’s humble beginnings. That doesn’t mean, however, that at it’s base it isn’t a good strategy to follow..

The way I figure it, when I’ve amassed 5000 tweets, I should have enough material to stitch together 5 solid minutes. It sounds like overkill, but anything worth doing is worth doing right… for 5 minutes… after 2 years of preparation.

SYNCHRONICITY

While working ever so slowly at mining gold from my elephantine pile of pointless bullshit (I’d whittled over 3000 tweets down to 1200 and plan to whittle them down further) my computer’s motherboard fried. The hard drive was still okay, so a friend helped me save it so I could transfer the files to a new PC. Upon doing so, a miracle occurred..

While sifting through the remnants of my old files, I discovered a good deal of writing I’d forgotten I even had! Long-form writing, at that. The following example is a short diatribe about the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” circa 2008:

“Everybody Loves Raymond Except Me

Every once in a while I will purposely subject myself to watching an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” simply to.. well.. probably because I hate myself.

The popularity of the sitcom has always mystified me. At it’s base, it’s a normal, formulaic sitcom, using the same mold that’s been in place since the 60’s, but there’s something truly wrong with it..

Watching the actors pause after every single line of dialogue so the canned laughter may roll on for an ever increasing, ever uncomfortable length of time is almost… morbid. They stop talking for seconds at a time so a wealth pre-recorded aural hysteria can be stuffed into you earholes.

It’s creepy.

Creepier still is imagining dead air between lines on the set. Then all you’d have is a bunch of people standing around talking to one another in tight, smarmy, two-sentence barks, but leaving 5 full beats of space between the chatter.

Then the subject matter; it’s absurd: Ray is a Momma’s boy who hates his mother and married a similar woman who controls him or some such thing. I honestly never understood it. Maybe the masses of 90-somethings who die while watching CBS the country over know something I don’t. I suppose it could appeal to older, retired women who always hated their children, I just didn’t know the demographic was so big it would warrant billions of dollars in ad revenue and over 9 seasons of shit.

Ray Ramono is a likable guy. His standup isn’t anything to write home about (and just to be fair, neither was Jerry Seinfeld’s) but I’ve liked him in other things. His cameo in “Funny People” where he’s publically humiliated by Eminem comes to mind. Also, he’s responsible for one of the funniest SNL sketches of all time where he and Tim Medows are color commentators for SportsCenter and Ray keeps blurting out bizarre, quasi-racist banter, much to the chagrin of Medows. Classic. Sweet-sassy-molassy classic.

I never like him in his own show, though.

Everyone else clicks: Patricia Heaton is good at playing a bitch because she probably is one in real life. Brad Garrett, the lumbering, morose giant, as the down-on-his-luck brother is believable, mainly because he’s kind of always played the same character throughout his career (conversely, Garrett’s stand-up is very filthy and funny) as is Doris Roberts as Ray’s manipulative mother, but the only joy I ever got from the show was Peter Boyle as Ray’s dad. And of course he’s dead now…”

Not bad. It’s a little dated and grammatically daft, but it’s obviously my handiwork. It’s not terribly funny either, but it is observational, and it offers a glimpse at how my humor would develop over the last 5 years or so. It’s like being an amnesiac archaeologist. Something I’ve also always wanted to be.

If nothing else, at least now I have some long-form stuff I can look through and maybe post some of it here for safe-keeping. It would be nice to have a convenient place one could go to revisit some it.

HAPPY ACCIDENTS

What a wild coincidence! At a time dedicated to sorting through short-form tweets (and at the same time, lamenting my inability to write long-form prose) my computer dies and, like the mighty Phoenix, from it’s ashes I find all this long-form stuff I’d forgotten about! What are the chances?

And it’s now inspired this long-ass blog!

POST SCRIPT

It took a full week for my new computer to show up, so in that time I came up with another several dozen ideas I need to sort through and write out. Ugh.. It’s nice to know I’ve not burned out completely, but it’s also hard to find the time to sort through and revise the old stuff when I keep thinking of new stuff. I know, I know… “white people problems” or whatever it is they say..

POST POST SCRIPT

What else? Oh yeah. That new Black Sabbath album is garbage. I’m sorry. I really tried to like it. The opening song “The End of the Beginning” is hella strong. Like, frighteningly good. Yet, I can’t help but feel it only has pole position because after they’d finished the album they listened to it and said “We don’t have anything good on the record! Let’s write at least one good song and use it as the opener to give fans a glimmer of hope before totally pulling the rug out from under them. Mate.”

Don’t get me wrong, if you love it, by all means love it, (I must admit Tony Iommi’s riffs are infectious even if they’re not the strongest of songs) but I remember being 16 years old and listening to “Sabotage” so much I could actually hear the audio quality of the CD diminish with each spin. This one will never get that kind of treatment.

To combat this disappointment, I’ve been listening to a shitload of Dio.

Maybe someday I’ll bore you to tears with a detailed history of my love for the immortal Ronnie James. Until then I’ll just say “Holy Diver” is a perfect album. Except maybe the keyboard hook in “Rainbow in the Dark”. There’s just no call for that..

Fred Frenzel is an American amateur humorist from Fargo, ND. He works part-time harvesting used condoms from the side of the interstate which he boils in alcohol and regifts to at-risk inner-city youths. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Thoughts on a Rainy Day

It must have rained cats & dogs last night, because when I went outside for just a moment, I stepped in a poodle! It wailed and howled and gnashed it’s teeth at my ankle, but try as I might I was unable to dislodge my foot from it’s rib cage. As I watched in horror, the light faded from it’s eyes and I thought to myself, “What does this have to do with rain? This isn’t funny at all!”

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