VIDEO: Dum Dum Girls’ “Bedroom Eyes”

They are the Dum Dum Girls, which sadly is what some people in our world would call any band of women who play their own instruments. That would be unfortunate. Their new video is a lure, especially with a title like “Bedroom Eyes”, but take a listen and you’ll hear that these ladies are serious, as they should be.

Their album is doing quite well so if you’ve heard of them and wanted to know if they were really “dum dum”, find out for yourself when their new album, Only In Dreams, is released on September 27th.

REVIEW: Mocean Worker’s “Candygram For Mowo!”

Photobucket Adam Dorm is back under his musical nom de plume Mocean Worker on an album that is a continuation of his digital exploration and manipulation with Candygram For Mowo! (!K7).

If you have enjoyed what he has been doing with the wide range of styles he has created in his music, you’ll enjoy this one as well. There are still hints of jazz, but also hip-hop, funk, soul, and dance music. His tracks are up there with the likes of RJD2, Jazzanova, and Fatboy Slim, and a few of these songs sound as comfortable as Us3, one might argue that it sounds like he just pressed play and went into cruise control mode, but that’s merely someone who knows how to organize and program his tracks extremely well. Your mileage, interpretation, and consumption may vary.

My personal favorite on this album is “My Own Little World”, featuring the one and only Lyrics Born getting into his finely tuned groove and entering another, while bringing in Mindi Abair into the proceedings too. If you’ve been a fan of LB’s work in the last decade, this is just him putting on a freshly cleaned suit and showing Mocean Worker fans what it’s all about.

The most touching song is the album closer “JD”, an obvious tribute and thank you to Mocean Worker’s father, the late Joel Dorn. If it’s a bit melancholy, go back into “Ya Damn Right” and “Say Yeah Yeah” and hear music that could tear apart any funky dance club or music you may hear in a television commercial or show, and not realize who created it.

I’ve always liked Mocean Worker’s production, never loose. One might say it’s too tight but really, when you know what you’re doing in the studio and are capable of making decent sounds, why bother with being lower than low? He delivers each and every time, and he does so again here. I for one would love to see him create a remix album out of this too. Maybe next year.

REVIEW: Dan Levy’s “Congrats On Your Success!”

Photobucket Let me talk off the top about what I don’t like about Dan Levy‘s new comedy album, Congrats On Your Success! (Comedy Central). This is not important, but if you’re someone who has a pet peeve of someone saying the word “like” every five to ten words, do not listen to this.

A good reason to listen to this? Levy is funny and covers everything from sex (and the lack of it), drugs, partying, and things that are more or less the day in the life of a 20-something in college, ready to explore nothing but has brownies, big boobies, and that’s pretty much it. Levy does it in a way which comes off as someone who has experienced a lot of this, or maybe he’s merely the spectator to the tomfoolery around him, but it doesn’t matter, Levy is a present-day dork who sounds like a businessman-to-be who is simply having fun, and having a great time sharing these stories in his own way and style.

REVIEW: Hundredth’s “Let Go”

Photobucket Upon my first listening to Hundredth‘s album Let Go (Mediaskare), I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It wasn’t a decision of good or bad, just a bit of questionable “hmmm” and this was my issue. This is a band that combines the instant brutality of hardcore with the solid riffs of thrash and speed metal, but they’re not a thrash or speed metal band, these guys are very true to their love of punk and hardcore. Songs like “Live Today” and “Carry On” sound like what would happen if the guys in Bone Dance punched out Bad Religion. The vocals are not so much razor sharp as they are the after effect of swallowing razors, Chadwick Johnson is a sick screamer and it sounds incredible. Then a few songs down, I’m hearing vocal harmonies that come close to sounding like Chester Bennington, so I’m thinking okay, you don’t want to be a Chester anything, but then it made me wonder if it was merely a move to reach into Linkin Park. I wasn’t sure, but there was enough goodness in my first listen that made me want to try Let Go a second time.

The second time allowed me to hear the album knowing ahead of time what these guys are capable of. The vocals can scream and rip, offering messages of frustration, pain, and occasional hope, leaving the listener a desire to sing to these songs. But within the throaty screams are a band that play incredibly well, arranged like a finely tuned prog metal band that know how to enhance the delicate moments and mix it in with visions of extreme brutality. Sometime you’ll hear Johnson screaming over a melodic passage, and then at the band’s sickest attacks, you’ll hear vocals from guitarist Alex Blackwell and a few special guests, you tend to want to welcome in what would normally be a conflict of sound with other bands. It’s a great balance, and one that I hope will be fitting for fans who have been waiting for the group to do a follow up to their debut. As the lyrics say in “Remain & Sustain”, “my dreams, they will remain/my purpose, it must sustain”, and I think Hundredth show a level of commitment that will help them sustain a level of integrity that will keep them a champion among their fans, and new monarchs for those who will discover them for the first time.

REVIEW: Paul Rutherford’s “Oh World” (2 CD remaster)

Photobucket While Holly Johnson was known as being the lead vocalist of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, there are many who will tell that second vocalist Paul Rutherford was the group’s true source or energy. He was always there with his energetic dancing and charisma, and heard throughout many of their songs. When the group split up, it was expected for Johnson to release a solo album but in 1989, Rutherford came out with one too, one that managed to give him a huge hits but barely caused a dent in the U.S., with the exception of clubs. It may surprise fans of 80’s music even more that a label has released a 2CD deluxe edition of that album.

Oh World (Cherry Pop) is newly remastered and is a 2CD affair, with the second disc featuring remixes and vinyl-only cuts. Rutherford shows his love of dance and disco throughout all of these songs, but he was merely a lover of pop,as songs lik e”Get Real”, “Cracked Wide Open”, and “Half The Picture Show”. His cover of Chic‘s “I Want Your Love” would do very well if it was released in 2011. The vibe of the album is not unlike what George Michael did with Faith in 1987, and hearing this album 22 years after its initial release, it should have been up there with that album.

Maybe Rutherford didn’t need any support from North America to prove his validity, but a lot of people weren’t even aware Rutherford did anything with the group but dance, so this is not only a reissue, but a re-introduction and re-awareness of the not-so-forgotten Frankie, who made a decent attempt at trying to move away from the group’s spotlight. For all intents and purposes, this album was a musical success but now those who weren’t aware of it the first time can appreciate it for the decent dance pop album that it is.

REVIEW: Wyatt Cenac’s “Comedy Person”

Photobucket Wyatt Cenac is an incredibly funny… well, person, or at least that’s what he wants you to think with his first comedy CD, Comedy Person (Comedy Central), and he definitely succeeds.

What I like about him is that he isn’t afraid to show his nerdy and geeky side, so when he makes the kind of obscure references that might make Dennis Miller fans smile, you know there has to be something to it. Like most comedians, Cenac simply speaks on his life and his observations, but does so in a way where it feels less like something you’d hear in a comedic setting, but like a personal conversation with a friend in a car while looking for some Philly cheese steak sandwiches. His career may take off even more as a writer, and if he does more acting, he’s sure to become an important person in not just comedy, but entertainment. I like this (also available as a DVD), and I’m an open ear.

DUST IT OFF: A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” 20 years later

A term that has been used in the last few years is “game changer” as a reference to something that “changed the game” forever. In other words, once it made its presence known, it would result in things influenced by its impact. A Tribe Called Quest‘s second album, The Low End Theory was released on September 24, 1991 and was never pushed as a game changer by any means. It wasn’t even that five years later, but the rise of hip-hop fans on the internet would bring up a generation who were immediate about their views, and the perception of the group and album being life-changing started. 20 years after its release, it is considered to be one of their best, if not THE best ATCQ album. That will lead to arguments in which you will not win, but it shows how devoted fans are to the album and Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Mohammad, and Phife. The recent release of the group’s documentary touches on what made that album the “it” album. It was make or break, it was one that ended up taking them around the world, but it was not an album that made them riches. Then again, they came from a generation that did not mind not having massive success because no one wanted to be ridiculous as MC Hammer. Everyone wanted that money, but not the silliness some had seen in him, yet despite the criticism towards him, you couldn’t help but admire his drive. If someone wanted something more organic, more rootsy, more traditional, you had the Native Tongues and you had its greatest success story, A Tribe Called Quest, and it was with The Low End Theory that they became a success.

However, I did not take to the album as quickly as I did with People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm. To me, that album is perfect ATCQ. It was rough and rugged, a lot of it sounds like it was recorded onto Chrome cassette, and the sound quality at times is not consistent. But what it didn’t sound like was Jungle Brothers first album, Straight Out The Jungle, which sounds like a demo they didn’t bother wanting to improve on. People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm is a fantastic album and to this day I’ll rock it. Yet amongst hip-hop fans online, liking it is equal to admitting you like Method Man‘s Tical more than The GeniusLiquid Swords. You’re told you’re a fool and aren’t worthy of participating in any discussion.

That’s not to say I didn’t like The Low End Theory, because I did, the entire album is great. It wasn’t the fact that Jarobi wasn’t on it, it was pretty much a non-issue. Everyone wondered where he was, but since he wasn’t on there, then people were happy that ATCQ were around and now a 3-piece crew. When the group came out with “Check The Rime”, it felt good to hear something that funky and powerful. Phife had been, for the first album, the “second dog” but with this album and this song he was equal in status of Q-Tip, and that would make people want to hear more of work, hoping he’d drop verses in other songs (cue up Fu Schnickens‘s “La Schmoove”), and maybe one day do a solo album. Fans honored the sanctity of the group unit, and thus wanted to hear all three of them as a group and nothing but.

The Low End Theory was an album that made its greatest impact through its videos. Both MTV’s YO! MTV Raps and BET’s Rap City were in existence when they released their first, and people loved the fact their videos were not just a simple “walk on stage, hold a microphone, walk back and forth, make goofy faces in the camera, fade to black”. The video for “Bonita Applebum” had Special Ed and Kika dancing randomly in different locations, a jazzy man on the Hammond organ, and a guy being an umpire in a friendly game of baseball (a reference that would pop up later when De La Soul released De La Soul Is Dead in May 1991.) The video for “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” had them in California looking like boho hippies, while the video for “Can I Kick It” brought in their De La friends and other close associates. But “Check The Rime” looked a bit more “rich”, as in “wow, these guys have a bigger budget to make a video, this looks cool”. It was also the first time fans got to see what the world of ATCQ was like, turning Linden Boulevard into a street as popular as The BeatlesAbbey Road, Booker T. & The MG’sMcLemore Avenue, and L.L. Cool J‘s Farmers Boulevard, which happened to intersect Linden near St. Alban’s, a place that Biz Markie celebrated a lot in his early music. Like a lot of hip-hop in the 80’s and 90’s, it catered to localism while seeking to be worldy, so indirectly they were telling fans “this is home to us”.

The video for “Jazz/Buggin’ Out” was like a much colder version of Journey‘s “Separate Ways (World’s Apart)”, but not as dorky. Then again, all of them bugged out at the end as Phife dropped his verse, and that stood out in a genre when you were often treated like dirt if you not only looked funny, but acted weird, even if it was of your own doing. You were an outcast. Then the Spike Lee-directed “Scenario” video helped to officially make this album a genuine classic, with cameos from all of the MC’s in the song plus Fab 5 Freddy, Redman, Posdnous, Kid Capri, Cut Monitor Milo and many others in a recipe that was true to modern vibe of the Native Tongue, but also futuristic, specifically how the video was programmed to look. There was a digital interfact at a time when most people had no idea what WAV files and digital synchronization was, plus the subtle in-jokes throughout: the “neg” (negative) option changing to “pos” (positive) when Posdnous’ face was shown in full, the Jimi Hendrix drum loop arranged to show each “stab” in visual form, and during Charlie Brown‘s verse, the map options switch as he mentions “New York, North Cacalaca (Carolina) & Compton”, and when you see the word Linden, you see the homes as originally shown in the “Check The Rime” video.

That was it: three official singles and videos, but one album that fans embraced, absorbed, and stapled into the consciousness of hip-hop. Another thing to consider at the time was the make-believe feuds of the East and West Coast. A Tribe Called Quest represented the East but were much more than the guys who loved Linden. It would be with the next album that they’d wantto be on an “Award Tour”, but they had no issues with people from New York, North Cacalaca, or Compton. The Low End Theory was very much New York hip-hop personified, especially as an album and a group that came from the city where hip-hop started. Yet without having a territorial preference, the group were able to travel across the country, Europe, Japan, and Australia and gain fans, all of whom loved what the group shared in their videos but more importantly what they could deliver on an album. Singers are a major part of hip-hop’s history, but soon it was all about proving yourself in album form, and A Tribe Called Quest did not have a problem.

It was because of this album that helped move ATCQ into the forefront for the Native Tongues, and when they released Midnight Marauders two years later, they were the leaders of their own school, even bringing on Busta Rhymes as an unofficial member when his group officially collapsed. If A Tribe Called Quest was a game changer in anything, it was the fact that not only were their videos showing a bit of forward thinking adventure, but it was also one of the first hip-hop albums to be partly recorded in digital. Digital had been a luxury for classical, rock, and pop music for years, but not with hip-hop. You may have recorded the music using modern equipment, but everything was still recorded on and mixed on analog. Engineer Bob Power helped to bring the sound of the group further into the future, and as everyone was highly impressed by its “future primitive” groove, everyone wanted to make an album that was as polished as The Low End Theory. That changed the way hip-hop was recorded from that point on, or at least allowed producers and engineers to record songs without the limitations placed on itself. In terms of recording studio technology and use of the studio as a “member” of the group, The Low End Theory was truly a game changer.)

To say how much this album changed things for others would be repeating what everyone has said for years, so… just listen. As for what makes up the perfect A Tribe Called Quest triad of albums, maybe will say the first three with The Low End Theory being on top. Regardless of your personal best, it’s safe to say that The Low End Theory is in there, or at least should be.

The music and culture of hip-hop has changed in the last 20 years. The Low End Theory was meant to represent what they called “the art of moving butts”, they made albums and music that would move the low end of women and men. In time, some will argue that “low end” meant low-class or old, and that all hip-hop after 1996 represented the “high end” aspirations of the music and its people, which felt like it was nothing more than a dividing line between the “old school” and “new school “mentality”, now that an era of “new school” was seen as “your father’s hip-hop”. That bitter feud is what continued to drive the music as a whole to do better, even as New York hip-hop started to fade out from mainstream acceptance. Yet when one puts on The Low End Theory, it very much goes back to when NYC was king, but when hip-hop felt like not just like the soundtrack to your life, but life itself. Or as ATCQ would announce a few years later, it was about Beats, Rhymes & Life: why bother with anything else? It’s a theory that the mainstream will claim is hanging out at grandma’s house, but even grandma knows how to get down to The Abstract.

DUST IT OFF: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “BloodSugarSexMagik”…20 years later

BloodSugarSexMagik was the fifth album by Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that I had been a fan of a year before they released an actual album. It was this brief rap interlude on MTV, when they were at the New Music Seminar in New York City in 1984, that made me a fan.

Keep in mind that it was the oddity of white guys doing a goofy rap, and then the fact that they said they were funky. I love funk, but still had no idea what they sounded like at all. They were signed to EMI America but being 14 at the time, my only means of knowing what kind of impact they were making was the videos I may have seen on MTV. That’s when I saw the almighty “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”, and when the band jump out of the sand farm in the video, I was happy.

Truth be told, Anthony Kiedis did a lot of raps on a music video network that didn’t have a lot of raps, Run-DMC‘s “Walk This Way” being one of the few exceptions, so their exposure on the network was minimal. Yet if you read Spin magazine, they were obviously having a good time traveling throughout North America and eventually the world, so someone was listening. One could see their videos elsewhere, because “Catholic School Girls Rule” was nowhere to be found on MTV.

Despite doing an full album with George Clinton and actually making it to a third album (the belief was that if you were a band and could make it to a third album in one piece, you might have the potential to go further), Red Hot Chili Peppers were not massive. The release of Mother’s Milk on August 16, 1989 changed that forever, with a promotional campaign that was bigger than before, and constant MTV exposure, which was important in terms of getting their music to everyone at one time, when most radio stations across the U.S. would shy away from anything “alternative” or anything with a rap in it. It may have been 1989, but music fans had bought the Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique that summer, expecting Licensed To Ill Again only to get what they called “disco rap” (the term coming from the disco-era clothing the group wore in the “Hey Ladies” video). De La Soul came out with 3 Feet High And Rising, but because it wasn’t hardcore rap, they were called “alternative” or “the hippies of hip-hop”, only because of the fact that “Me, Myself & I” was getting rotation on the 20th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, what some call “the end of the summer of love that lasted two years”. Red Hot Chili Peppers came out with “Knock Me Down” as the first single and video from the album, and they welcomed in the guys in Fishbone for the video. As a diehard Fishbone band, I was excited because maybe it meant that they too would finally break through. It would make sense since another California band, Faith No More, were getting a lot of attention with their third album, The Real Thing, the first with their new singer, Mike Patton. “From Out Of Nowhere” went into rotation, but it was “Epic”, with its verses being a rap, that brought them over the top. Also in the air were yet another California band, Jane’s Addiction, whose Nothing’s Shocking album had been out for a year and new fans were discovering how wild Perry Farrell and friends could take things in their music and in a live setting.

Once again, take a look at the four albums that were released between the summer of 1988 and summer of 1989:
Jane’s Addiction-Nothing’s Shocking
Faith No More-The Real Thing
Fishbone-Truth & Soul
Red Hot Chili Peppers-Mother’s Milk

These were albums that pulled me through a summer that could’ve ended better but didn’t. I was wrapping up my senior year in high school but knew that I wouldn’t be graduating with my class due to being short in credits. A lot of it was of my own doing, as I was fed up with the bullshit of my high school, and I wanted to move away but didn’t know how. I dealt with my situation, and while I had been a fan of a wide range of music at this point, these albums helped me expand my interests even more. They might be considered “college rock”, and maybe in a small way I was listening to them because I ended up not going to college as I wanted to, but they were groups in the magazines I read on a regular basis, I had the option and means of hearing them, nothing was going to hold me back. I was never under pressure in high school to fit in, in fact I was more like Enid in Ghost World in that I roamed in my own world, found my friendships dwindling down to a small handful, and waited for my bus to arrive. I used to show off my musical tastes by bringing in albums and placing them next to my desk in each period so people would know what I would be into. Yet if I was being ignored, no one could care less. Then, like now, I figured if I was going to be that goofy fat kid that people would want to poke and prod at, I’ll give them something to look at. Looking back, I think I had wanted some friends to carry me through my “golden years” of education and didn’t get it. I was a headbanger, but I wore a Public Enemy T-shirt in a school where Michael Jackson jheri curls and Sir Mix-A-Lot‘s “Posse On Broadway” were kings, so even P.E. were extreme and bizarre. Nonetheless, I was on my own and music was an outlet. I ventured forward.

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Higher Ground” is what broke the band, and you were not able to avoid them on MTV. Their infamous appearance on Club MTV, where all artists would normally lip-synch to their songs and the band ended up doing everything but comply while people danced to the song, remains an incredible moment, and that would help make them big time rock stars. With all this attention and accolades, it surprised everyone when the group announced they would be leaving EMI, the record label that helped make them reach an unknown level of success. Reports indicated that while they enjoyed the attention they were getting on their own terms, they did not like working on Mother’s Milk with producer Michael Beinhorn, who was insistent on coming up with a hit song for the group. RHCP were funksters who just wanted to jam, Beinhorn wanted to trim the fat from their jams and find a way for the group to produce concise, radio-friendly singles. The group did achieve this, but their time with Beinhorn was one of a number of reasons the group felt it was time to try a new home. The band wanted to explore new territories and a new label home, and after taking a breather, they shopped themselves around before they reached the plantation that was Warner Bros. Records. Little did the group know it would become their home for 20 years, four times longer than their stay at EMI.

  • When Rick Rubin came into the picture, he was no longer the Def Jam guy. He had wanted to do his own thing so upon leaving the Def Jam camp, he moved to Los Angeles and formed Def American Recordings. He wanted to remain “Def” (figuratively and literally) and that would bring him success when working with Danzig and The Black Crowes. Fans wanted to know if he would still keep his foot in the hip-hop door, and he did when he signed the Ghetto Boys, later changed to Geto Boys, and recorded and released an album that became (in my opinion) one of the best albums in hip-hop. Some fans were upset that Rubin “ruined” the Geto Boys’ music, especially since many of the songs were taken from their previous album, Grip It! On That Other Level, and fans were devoted to the rough, almost demo-like qualities of the songs, while these new versions were rough-yet-polished. Def American would achieve bigger hip-hop success when Sir Mix-A-Lot entered the picture, but that’s another story, another time.

    When the union of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rubin was set in stone, Rubin decided the best place to try something new would be to bring the band in what is known as The Mansion, a literal mansion that was converted into a recording studio. Artists could come in and literally feel at home, because it was a home. The studio is located in Laurel Canyon in California, an area that has become mythical for what represents Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Some of the mysteries of those who have lived and died there make Laurel Canyon what it is, and people are drawn to it because it is located in “the crossroads of fame and obscurity”, and perhaps the Red Hot Chili Peppers, seeing that metaphor as something that could easily apply to them, found the use of The Mansion perfect, and working with Rubin who understood the reality and myths of the area would be more than ideal.

  • Had there been the world wide web in 1991, I believe an album like BloodSugarSexMagik would brings fans in with blogs, photographs, live Twitter updates, and everything. Yet the reality of these recording sessions was that it was the band and Rubin, and no one else. If they wanted to bring in family during a down time, they could, and they did as shown on the documentary film they created to show the album’s recording sessions, Funky Monks. But for four months, their world remained in The Mansion and only the mansion, as they recorded, ate, bathed, sleeped, drank, and partied there 24 hours a day until the album was complete. That is, with the exception of drummer Chad Smith, who believed in the myth that the home was haunted and wanted nothing to do with the “heebee geebees”, so he would ride on his motorcycle on a daily basis to the mansion, and leave when the day was over. As for the rest of the band, being isolated of the world locked them as one, and the end result was something that was beautiful and brilliant.
  • What I wanted to hear was how different the group would be, knowing they were at a new label. Warner Bros. knew they were a successful band, which is why they were welcomed from EMI, so they and everyone was curious to see what they would bring to their new label. What they brought was an accumulation of everything the group had ever wanted to be, but pushed even further. They may have feared the possibility of being a pop group who could create hits, and Rubin probably told them to do it in a unique or different way, to at least give it a shot and see where it leads. No one ever expected RHCP to come up with a song like “Under The Bridge”, not from a man who used to sing songs about wanting to “party on your pussy” a few years earlier. No one ever expected for “Give It Away” to be a staple song for a generation of younger kids who would eventually discover a band of weirdos from… where? Seattle? What is that? What is a Nirvana?

    MTV put the Red Hot Chili Peppers into rotation religiously, but music videos were nothing more than commercials for the full album, with the hope that the album would be a welcome mat for fans to see them in concert. What fans discovered was a band who showed a lot of musical and songwriting maturity, with help from a producer who allowed them to grow up without losing the fun, funk, or foolishness they were known for. Rubin could be credited as someone who helped them redirect their “itchy nut” energies towards something that could benefit all of them. This is what happened.

    I was actually lucky to received a copy of BloodSugarSexMagik two months before the album’s proper release on September 24th. I had my own fanzine, and Warner Bros. gave me an advance tape of the album in full. In the summer of 1991, the album’s 17-song sequence was set in stone, but my copy featured every song separated from one another. The final album was a non-stop experience in that there were little to no gaps separating each track, with a few songs mixed right into the next. I immediately loved “The Power Of Equality”, as it was an ode to their old-yet-trusted funky ways, sounding like the perfect “welcome back” song for fans who first became aware of them with Mother’s Milk. “If You Have To Ask” reached back even further with its deep funky grooves as Kiedis dropped a rhyme in his laid back Los Angeles style. The song leads to the chorus with sweet vocal harmonies from Flea and John Frusciante, and for at least two songs it sounded like the group were still in top form. It was business as usual, but then came song #3.

    I grew up admiring The Beatles and everything they represented as innovators of the recording studio as a true instrument, and that would help shine light on a lot of the creative ways artists in the mid to late 60’s were getting their music across. There are certain sounds, sound effects, and filters that are associated with a “psychedelic” sound and “Breaking The Girl” could be considered a bit Beatlesque, if not psychedelic. The kind of head games RHCP would sign about was more about the groin than mental games, but this was a move up for the group. The song begins in a 3/4 time measure with Flea playing his bassline while Frusciante played his acoustic guitar, and it isn’t until the 0:40 mark when the drums are pushed up into the mix. The song is obviously about a man wanting to deflower a woman, but done in a way that was without jokes or humor. People would later claim the song was about everything from rape to child molestation (since the song title refers to a “girl” and not a “woman”), but the song seemed to be a slight reflection of that late 60’s mentality of love being free and easy, while also being a song that absorbed the myths of the band’s Laurel Canyon surroundings. The highlight of the song is hearing the “breaking” of the girl, created with various percussive instruments pounding with rhythm, as if was a tribal experience, as if everyone in their community is united in a man “breaking” in the girl. Is it savage, is it cruel, or is it merely the circle of life? Or a folk life drum circle? Something that sounds so great and tribal becomes more humbling in the Funky Monks> documentary when it is shown that the sounds were nothing more than random pipes, cans, and hubcaps pounded by hammers. It’s a Wizard Of Oz moment when you discover the truth behind the curtain: does it take away from the myth you want to visualize, or does it just add to the “aura” of the song? For me, it’s the latter, seeing reality to create something that simply sounds cool even though the way they did it is quite simple. Upon hearing this song, I knew I had to hear the next 14.

    The band go through a lot of unique levels of funk, rock, and pop to get to where they need to go, dwelling through “Funky Monks”, “Suck My Kiss”, “Mellowship Slinky in B Major”, and “The Righteous & the Wicked”. Calling out Bob Marley as a prophet in “Give It Away” did not validate the reggae singer, but singling him out as the song gained a lot of exposure let fans know that the group were never shy from citing their influences and music interests. The songs were programmed on the album in a way that was arguably like sexual endurance, knowing when to go deep when needed, understanding the role of foreplay and touching audio erogenous zones, and adjusting one’s techniques and speed. The group sound like they are in tune with one another and themselves, and the idea of Rubin as an overseer that would help them complete the journey can be considered as the album moves along and heads home.

    “Sir Psycho Sexy” immediately brought to mind Parliament‘s “Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk” on their 1977 album Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome. In the Parliament song, George Clinton and his crew explore the character of Sir Nose, a man who is “devoid of funk” and they want to shoot him with a “bop gun” because they feel those who instinctively know how to bop are becoming an endangered species. The song is done at a laid back pace throughout its 10-minute duration where casual fans may seem it’s poorly executed, but it’s about putting faith in the journey and trusting where the song will end up. With RHCP, it seems Sir Nose has, in theory, helped create the confident offspring known as Sir Psycho Sexy. Or at least helped inspire someone who was inspired by the P-Funk to become his own man, and in a way that’s a metaphor for what the band had become: offspring ready to leave home and become their own people, not just mere “children of the funk”. The song changes textures around the 4:00 mark, showing what they are about to do before locking themselves in at 5:37, when Kiedis says that perhaps he (they) will stay there for awhile. The band then get into a cool and laid back repetitive groove that shows hints of The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and the “Würm” section of Yes‘ “Starship Trooper”, and one then realizes that the young, itchy-nut boys, with the Mellotron-layer in the background, are ready to grow up and become something more.

    But then again, they leave us with one last message showing fans that they’ll never forget who they are by doing a speedy and quick rendition of Robert Johnson‘s “They’re Red Hot”. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are ready to have some hot tamales because, yes, they’re red hot, and yes, she has them for sale. Is it food, is it sexual, is it complete foolishness? Truth is, it’s all of the above. While it wouldn’t be known until the Funky Monks documentary was released, the song was recorded outside of The Mansion recording studio late at night, and it’s a cool way to end an album that was not expected to be anything but “the band’s Warner Bros. debut”. For me, it was a solid album from start to finish and one that I felt was… well, maybe not perfect but I knew it would become my “instant classic”. I liked, no, I loved it because it wasn’t just Flea slapping his thumbs on his bass over and over, I loved that but I loved when his funk was laid back, but he was much more than the funk/punk guy. When he got into it in a jazzy fashion, he showed he was as effective being deliberately subtle and complex at the same time. Kiedis didn’t have to prove himself as being the cool white guy who loved rock, funk, and rap. Smith and Frusciante were new when they were on Mother’s Milk, but this album showed they were perfect for the group and hopefully stay with the band for years (Frusciante would eventually leave a few months after the making of this album, but would return years later).

    As a whole, the album title could not have been a more perfect title for what the group represented. Blood was the bond, Sugar was the topping, Sex was the lure, and Magik was something that often times was created without their being knowledge or motive of it being created. Rubin was aware of how things could and should work, and thus was the hall monitor for all of the “happy accidents” that could happen in the locked confines of a mansion posing as a recording studio. The album would lead to incredible success for the band, but the sound and chemistry they created during May and June 1991 would not be duplicated. It was as if the group had given their all during that month and said “it’s all or nothing”, and when all was given, the end result was an album that in my opinion became the best thing they ever recorded.

    As a fan of an album, I tend to want to hear more and find out what else they recorded. As it was the habit for bands for years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would record songs that would be released as non-LP B-sides (the “B-side” being a term for the flip side of a single (known as the “A-side”, the potential hit that would often be merely something else to listen to. A lot of times artists would become more adventurous on their B-sides, or carry a unique path that was often times different from the focus of their proper albums, see Prince, Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen for incredible references). For RHCP, the band initially presented four more songs recorded during these sessions:

    1. Search & Destroy (a Stooges cover)
    2. Soul To Squeeze
    3. Sikamikanico
    4. Fela’s Cock

    “Search & Destroy” probably received the most attention since it was found on “Give It Away”, and it would often be the gateway drug for new fans who had never heard of the band until now. Because of the success of “Give It Away”, a number of radio stations would also play “Search & Destroy” (plus, anything Iggy Pop-related is always a good thing.) “Soul To Squeeze” sounded as if it was unfinished, with Kiedis eventually doing a verse that sounds like him doing a reference vocal track and running out of things to say. The song was widely ignored because of this, but would gain attention when it was used for the Coneheads soundtrack two years later. RHCR were dormant and perhaps Warner Bros. Records felt that with no new music coming from the band, they needed to fill the market with something to keep attention towards the band active. The song, to me, sounds like fluke and yet when released as a single, the group would shoot a video for it and the song actually became a hit. I feel that the success of this song helped to shape the path the group would end up taking for the next 18 years. My thought is that “wow, their success is based on a garbage B-side that sounds unfinished, and yet the public likes this without even knowing this?” A lot of times, artists don’t care what path they end up going on, as long as it’s one that leads to more music and more activity. It may not have been my personal favorite, but it’s still part of the BloodSugarSexMagik experience.

    The two other songs were released in a number of ways, depending on where you lived and what you chose to buy. “Sikamikaniko” should have been on BloodSugarSexMagik, but with the final album being just under 74 minutes (at a time when the limit of a compact disc was a few seconds short of the 74 minute mark), something had to be removed. The song combines an aggressive punch of funk and rock, with wicked bass runs from Flea, hard beats from Smith, and groovy riffs from Frusciante. Forget the fact that much of what Kiedis was saying was nonsense, but it was a fun and good nonsense that made the song work, like a lot of their EMI work.

    “Fela’s Cock” was a instrumental done in honor of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti‘s penis. Flea had mentioned a few times in interviews (including a great article in Spin m,agazine) that he was a hardcore Fela fan, anyone who loves funk will eventually find himself going towards the music of Nigeria’s greatest musical export. This was also at a time when embracing the music of Kuti meant seriously searching, because his music could not be found anywhere, especially not in any normal record stores between the two coasts. If anything, it was a group who, like the Marley reference in “Give It Away”, were simply sharing another musical interest. It wouldn’t be until later in the decade, as the internet started to change the way people consumed and learned about music, that people like Fela and Lee “Scratch” Perry would gain attention outside of their core audiences. Both “Sikamikaniko” and “Fela’s Cock” could be found on the “Under The Bridge” CD single, while in Japan and Australia you could find it on the Suck My Kiss tour EP.

    Right after I posted this article, I noticed that the most current digital version of the album features yet another track, a cover of Jimi Hendrix Experience‘s “Little Miss Lover”, available if you buy the album through Amazon, iTunes, and I’m sure other digital outlets. I had assumed the song was a random outtake from another time, but after taking a listen, it definitely has the same audio characteristics as the rest of the album.

    The end result is 22 songs recorded during the BloodSugarSexMagik sessions, and along with the Funky Monks documentary, it’s a chance to experience the album from the inside out. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have never been big headed, or at least they have never presented themselves that way, and the Funky Monks showed the group to be humble and just good friends who loved music and good times. This album definitely represented their good times, and the good times of those who experienced this album when it was first released 20 years ago. I remained a fan with their follow up album four years later, One Hot Minute, even though the band felt that guitarist Dave Navarro changed their sound a bit to the point where some felt they left that core sound behind. One listen to BloodSugarSexMagik shows they were a group willing to take the risk of not only exploring, but jumping ship into a vast ocean of the unknown. In other words, they didn’t want to be locked in that punk/funk vibe forever. There is a generation who may have only heard the band from the sample of “Pretty Little Ditty” in Crazy Town‘s “Butterfly”, not even realizing that it is a Peppers song and not anyone in the video playing instruments. RHCP became known for playing and living hard, but when they allowed themselves to share a more delicate side, they were rewarded. The rewards probably lead them to wanting to repeat that formula in order to keep the attention and success, and I myself didn’t find anything I could hold onto anymore. The last RHCP album I cared for in full was One Hot Minute, and out of everything they’ve recorded in the last 15 years, I really enjoy “Can’t Stop”, and that’s partially due to Frusciante’s input in the song. I think years after the fact, it may be time to approach those older albums from a different perspective.

    BloodSugarSexMagik was released when I was 20, looking at 21 a few weeks ago. It reminds me of my youth, and as I listen to the album today, I’m honored to be still around 20 years later. This doesn’t sound like old man music, even though a younger generation may think this is. I say listen and approach this from a different perspective. For those of you who were around to hear it the first time, but haven’t in years, listen again. If you consider yourself an RHCP fan but haven’t heard this for whatever reason, do so.

    It would be too easy to say that this is their Abbey Road, their Sgt. Pepper, their Dark Side Of The Moon, their The Wall. This could be their Wesley Willis album for all that I know but for me, this will forever be a masterpiece, not bad for a band who will always be known for their “cocks on their cocks”. It seemed that in the spring of 1991, these guys finally decided to put on some pants. It may not have been washed for a month, but they had pants on nonetheless.

    To Anthony Kiedis, Michael Balzary, John Frusciante, Chad Smith, Rick Rubin, engineer Brendan O’Brien, and everyone else involved in the making of that album, from Gus Van Zant (who snapped the photos of the tattoos on the cover) to the band’s assistant in the Funky Monks documentary who drove around watching their clothes and doing errands for them: mahalo nui loa. Eternal gratitude for this album.

    In closing, I’m surprised Warner Bros. did not remaster this album this year as a deluxe edition, with all of the B-sides, remixes, and perhaps outtakes, alternate takes/mixes, and demos. If there are more songs from these recording sessions that remain “in the vaults”, I’d love a chance to hear them and write about them and these sessions someday. Let me explore the multi-tracks (with proper supervision of course). I’m at BooksMusica [at] gmail [dot] com if someone wants to contact me.

    ADDITION (September 26, 2012)
    While I posted the digital bonus track of “Little Miss Lover”, a year after I wrote this article, I’ve discovered another bonus track for the iTunes addition, yet another Jimi Hendrix cover, this time for “Castles Made Of Sand”. The band had always performed this over the years, and a live version had been released when they were signed to EMI. Here is the Rick Rubin-produced version from the BloodSugarSexMagik sessions.

    As a journalist, I tend to play the role of someone that is trying to push a product for someone. We are sent press releases that are meant to be a guide of sorts to help the writer out. Some writers will use them religiously, to where their review tends to be a rewrite. If you read more than five reviews of the same product, you can often see certain “keywords” that are meant to be used as the sales pitch, written so that it will be effective in creating awareness of the product, and thus sales.

    While I have written my share of press releases, I tend to ignore it from others. When I do reviews, I tend to read it after I’ve listened and done the review, as I don’t want someone else’s views becoming my own. When I have read a press release, I sometimes will refer or acknowledge this in the review, and highlight whether or not those words made an impression on me. Most of the time it doesn’t, but I’m not afraid to make fun of the press release if I feel it was written a bit half-assed.

    I feel that music press releases are not only a means of marketing, but can often be a document of the way the record label wanted the public to perceive the album. Sometimes press releases are written well, with a bit of humor from its creator and occasionally from the artist involved. I tend to like the “marketing” aspect of things, which is why I’ve been interested in radio spots for albums and movies. I may not have been alive or too small to care, but it’s interesting to see and hear how something was marketed, and whether or not that sales pitch had an effect on its success, if at all.

    What you’ll find below are scans of the original 8-page press release for BloodSugarSexMagik as sent out by Warner Bros. Records in early 1991. It touches on the mindset of the album, where the group came from and where they hoped to go with this then-new release. These press releases are usually promotional items made only available to the media in press kits, usually with a photo or two of the artist. Occasionally you can find them sold by those who collect music memorabilia, but the rise of eBay has made it possible to purchase press kits by meeting or beating the minimum bid. Since this album has been a personal favorite, I kept this press release. It’s interesting to note that the press release does express the humor the group have with one another and share, but still shows them to be humble. It is usually “the responsibility” of the media to help create the superhype, so consider this press release merely a guide for what others had to work on in order to describe the band and its music through radio, newspapers, magazines, television, and cable. These days, a big chunk of that buzz is created via social media, websites, and blogs, so you might consider this a documentation of a means of music promotion that once was. It most likely will not change your view of the album or its music in anyway, but if it adds a bit more perspective, excellent. Enjoy.




  • VIDEO: Kate Turner’s “Baby No”

    She is a new country singer that was in my local newspaper this weekend, so I decided to take a listen. She goes by the name of Kate Turner, and is from a place that was known as having a great “pizza barn”. It’s a small town in Eastern Washington called Burbank, which is not too far from where I reside.

    While people will see her and immediately think “ooh, female”, she’s much more than a pretty face. She is a musician and songwriter, and even studied to become a sports broadcaster according to an article on her by Tri-City Herald’s Dori O’Neal, which means she’s someone who wants to be in full control of her music career. It means if she wanted to, she could technically get into video/film directing, the sky is the limit, but for this video she passed it on to Chase Thompson.

    Country music fans tend to be devoted for the life of an artist, where one is able to play big venues but also still be welcome to play at county fairs and VFW’s, it is not an issue. Turner’s interview with O’Neal shows that she’s very determined, has already made music a big part of her life and wants to bring that love to a much wider audience. May this be an introduction.

    DUST IT OFF: Nirvana’s “Nevermind” 20 years later

    As a longtime resident of Washington State, I was very aware of who Nirvana were when they released their second album on this day in 1991. I had been involved in my local punk scene at the time, and while I lived 200 miles from Seattle, I knew of some of what was going on up there. I loved Sub Pop Records and much of what they were releasing, but Soundgarden had moved on to A&M. Green River was long gone, so some of its members moved on to Mudhoney, others went to Mother Love Bone. Mother Love Bone had been signed to a major label when its vocalist, Andrew Wood, died of a heroin overdose. In time, there would be discussion of a new band called Mookie Blaylock, who would eventually change their name to Pearl Jam. I liked the almighty Tad, but my favorite band on Sub Pop was Mudhoney. They were raw, grungy, and not grungy in “sound” but just… if they wanted to be sloppy, they had no problem in doing this. They were not my favorite Seattle or Seattle-area band, that honor went to Melvins and Melvins only, although by the time the 90’s started they had moved to Los Angeles.

    Then there was Nirvana.

    I think what I liked about Nirvana is that they could do the loud and distorted thing very well, but turn around and be pretty, harmonious, and delicate. Bleach was an album that became mandatory listening not only for music fans in the Pacific Northwest who loved the Seattle music scene, but anyone who looked to Seattle as a place for something different musically. If you wanted college rock, you normally had to turn to the “left of the dial” on the radio. Or you had to seek independent magazines or fanzines, and when you dipped into the underground, those publications were plentiful. If you wanted it, you had to seek it out yourself. England, however, showed an appreciation for the Seattle music long before the U.S. did, and that attention in England and the rest of Europe lead to an appreciation in Japan. Even if Sub Pop did find incredible ways to promote/hype their artists, it was effective and it got them into more venues, expanding their audiences incredibly. Or at least “incredible” in an indie label way.

    In 1991, there was a great publication called Backlash, edited by Dawn Anderson, whose work I liked in another Seattle publication I had read frequently, The Rocket. In the March 1991 issue of Backlash was a Nirvana cover story, and it would become the magazine’s final issue. On the cover was a photo of the band, and the word “BYE”, which at the time seemed like nothing more than Anderson saying goodbye to her readers. The article hinted that the group were signed to a major, but it was almost as if she was hinting at something more, even though she didn’t know what that “more” would be. In truth, no one knew, but perhaps there were hints that Nirvana were going to get a greater push than any other Seattle band signed to a major label up until that point. Soundgarden were popular, but they were still a Seattle band. It was almost as if the “BYE” was saying aloha to another chapter in Seattle’s rich music history. Six months after that issue hit the streets, we’d found out exactly what would be changed.

    Everyone has a Nirvana memory, or more specifically a Nevermind memory, and mine may not be any different than any others, but this is how I viewed things 20 years ago. A few weeks before the release of the album, MTV aired “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on its alternative music show, 120 Minutes. The music scene at the time was still about the power of hard rock and heavy metal, and while Nirvana never shied away from their love of hard rock & heavy metal, this was a different vibe. I was familiar with it, because the tattooed cheerleaders and slam dancers in the high school gym all looked like friends I hung out with at shows. Dave Grohl had been in the band for a short time at this point, but I knew of him from Scream. The video looked like the kind of mosh pit I wished I had in high school, and that everlasting note at the end of the song made me think “wow, what the hell?” I didn’t think “ooh, music is going to change from this point on”, it was an honor to realize that this band from 200 miles the west of me were getting airtime on MTV, and that was that.

    Or so I thought.

    Nevermind was released on September 24, 1991 by DGC, or the David Geffen Group. They had invested a good amount of money in the hopes Nirvana would break it big, but at that point in time, their major bread and butter was Guns N’ Roses. Geffen had just released the massive 2CD/4LP set Use Your Illusion, sold as two separate albums, on September 17th, so Geffen was more than happy to do anything for their golden boys. At that point in time, hard rock and heavy metal was king, so when it came to loud and abrasive, Guns N’ Roses were it. A month before this, Metallica had released their self-titled “Black Album”, which pushed them into the mainstream in a major way, pushed by the soon-to-be-radio-friendly “Enter Sandman”. Metal fans now had to battle between the old school GN’R and then-new school thrash of Metallica, there were headbanger battles on who would reign supreme, who would spend time with a patch on their denim jackets. Nirvana didn’t intend to be a swift kick in the nuts, but because they too also rocked but with an attitude that was far from metal and more like the prankster skateboarder kid who would mock you right in your face, people noticed. Nevermind caused a few ripples, which was to be expected since only 46,251 copies were initially pressed. Wikipedia also states that 35,000 more copies were pressed in the UK since most of Nirvana’s fans were there. The group were appreciated overseas, so they at least knew sales of it would lead to more tours. But the presence of a video on MTV, which for many was the first time they had witnessed slam dancing or a mosh pit, made everyone want to know who they were and what they were about. Sales of Nevermind would eventually grow, and of course the rest is history.

    When I listened to Nevermind in full for the first time, I liked it. Lots of heaviness, lots of cool songs, and a few mellow tracks. It was merely a follow-up to Bleach and the other songs the group had released, nothing more than just “new Nirvana”. After “Something In The Way” ended, my CD player kept going but nothing was playing. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured I’d wait it out. Then I fast forwarded. 9 minutes, 10 minutes, nothing. 12, 13, and then I hear something. Rewind the CD dial. The band begins a new song, not listed anywhere on the cover, and it starts out with nothing but a bass. Then the guitar comes in, then the drums. It’s loud and distorted, and then it gets to a delicate part. Kurt Cobain sounds like he’s just moaning into the mic, then the venom comes back. Not even a minute into the song and I’m completely feeling this song, as it reminds me of a band Nirvana knew very well, Melvins. I knew Cobain used to hang out and go to many Melvins shows, but this song to me sounded like some Melvins tribute. They were honoring their friends, the band who arguably pushed these guys to become who they were, and I ate it up. The song then sounded like he was smashing his guitar in the studio, so all you ended up hearing was Grohl’s drums and Krist Novoselic‘s bass. After almost seven minutes, the song was over and I had the biggest shit-eating grin on my face. This was truly “nirvana”, I felt spent but I went to play the song again.

    It wasn’t until early 1992 that I found there was a title for this song: “Endless, Nameless”, which makes sense since it had no proper title and it sounded like it could/should never end. Even though “Something In The Way” is the album’s proper ending, when I hear the album get to that point, it’s so open-ended that it’s openness left me going “okay, now I want a proper close.” Was “Endless, Nameless” in a small way a thank you to Melvins, a tribute to the Pacific Northwest, and to all of their fans who had stayed with them in the few years of their existence? The feedback sounds like a massive, sonic fuck but it’s so beautiful because that stereophonic chaos feels like it’s meant to be for you. Everything you ever wanted for people to know about the Seattle music scene felt like it was coming out of that damn studio in Los Angeles, it was like they were saying “c’mon fuckers, now we’re going to kick you in your face, this is our shit.” The last 20 seconds of the song comes off like a chime from outer space before the fuzz of the amps slowly fades out. I knew I would be listening to it in a year, 5 years, 10 years and now? “Endless, Nameless” is as awesome as it was when I first heard it. The song was their orgasm, and now we were bathing in the afterglow.

    Too poetic? It didn’t matter. People speak about the 27 curse, and when Cobain died three years later at the age of 27, it almost solidified him as someone of importance. When he died, people wanted to make him a monarch and maybe rightfully so, since the power of the band *as a whole* made people want to cheer. That’s the power of music. Would he want to be a monarch, hell no. But people looked at him dying at 27. People also noted that Cobain’s major label exposure was barely three years. roughly the same time that both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had between their first major label releases and deaths. Deep down, Cobain was just a punk rock kid from a small hillbilly town with a love for music, writing, and art. He wanted to escape, first through his music, and with his music he left the town that made him feel like an outsider. I think with age, he might have realized that a lot of us are outsiders, but we eventually find someone or something that takes us to where we need to be. I’d like to think for a short time, Cobain was able to see an escape from the doldrums, and I’m certain he knows that his music helped many to leave their own situations as well.

    A band like Nirvana would never get the kind of attention by major labels as they did 20 years ago. Because of Nirvana, every other major label wanted to have a chunk of their Seattle pie, but it helped push alternative music to a place it had never been, something that would never happen in that way again. Nirvana were something long before Cobain died, and will remain that for those who put faith in their music and how they did it. Nevermind is some incredible music, and I hope people who discover it for the first time today will appreciate what it was like to hear it when it was released in 1991, same for those in 2031 who will honor its 40th anniversary.