Vinny Peculiar says the song “Judy Wood” is where he “tried hardest to capture the Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust feel, moody cellos, na na na chorus, ‘Five Years’ drum sound, and a Les Paul sustain as Ronsoneque as I could muster.” It’s one of the standouts on Vinny’s latest long-player, Other People Like Me, one of DI’s favorite albums of 2011 (see our rave here). The song also works well in this more stripped down live version, where Peculiar has married it to an older follicular gem.
We set the timer and snuggle in with our favorite new bands in the Impound’s version of speed dating with a killer-diller soundtrack.
“I consider the circumstance/ and mold it into sound/ and whatever the trappings are/ I’m bound to shout it down.”
These tough, knotted lines open the roaring good self-titled debut album from Boston-based Ghosts of Jupiter, which seizes and holds one firm, a bold, musky sound that recalls the halcyon days of double gatefold vinyl and perfectly weathered denim and suede. That said, these Ghosts are cut a little leaner, forgoing 70s bloat for taut, meaty musicianship grounded in marvelously melodic frameworks. Heck, a lot of this set is radio ready if radio weren’t such a seething sinkhole of suck these days – we’d all be WAY better off if Ghosts of Jupiter were the yardstick for rock airwaves instead of Nickelback.
The album, released November 8, builds seamlessly, growing more interesting and throwing off expectations as it moves towards its final stand in softly burning fields where blackbirds fly overhead and the shoreline wind catches us with a snap – evocative stuff to say the least. And yet, it never feels cerebral, giving into animal instincts musically in a way that makes one wonder if Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott left some pale boy children around Beantown before he took his bow. Nate Wilson (lead vocals, keyboards), Johnny Trama (guitar), Adam Terrell (guitar), Tommy Lada (bass), and Thomas Arey (drums) are part of real rock’s new phalanx, shoulder to shoulder with The Black Keys, Rival Sons and The Raconteurs beating back the teen-focused twaddle that passes for rock in the mainstream.
We grabbed Nate Wilson to discuss Jupiter’s orbit.
We know quality hit-ya-in-your-gut rock ‘n’ roll when we hear it, and the recent Nasty, Brutish, And Short EP (released October 18 on Saddle Creek) from Pujol makes us shake our hair and shimmy around delightedly. The punchy energy and ear-snagging lyrics on all seven cuts carry one along breathlessly, a score ready made to stomp on the gas and sing loud as your tires eat asphalt and you wear a seated-dance groove in the driver’s seat. We’re down to hear more from this graduate student of global affairs who moonlights as a rocker. It’s a groovy combination – we can’t think of another new artist who’s married a Thomas Hobbes reference to music that’d do the young Kinks proud. Here’s the video for the opening track from Nasty, Brutish, And Short.
In terms of official documents, The Barr Brothers aren’t exactly prolific. Brad and Andrew Barr have been making music together since childhood but even with multiple projects (including The Slip and Surprise Me Mr. Davis), the siblings have only released a handful of studio works. A profound sense of care infuses their albums, where each number has been loved and massaged in a way that gets into the cellular structure – a seemingly natural character that’s the product of intelligent design. It’s an approach that makes past works like The Slip’s under-sung Eisenhower (2006) and Surprise Me’s That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast presents waiting to be unwrapped at any time, i.e. music not locked into the time frame of its creation. This sense has never been more palpable than The Barr Brothers’ self-titled debut released this past September, a song cycle that hums with contemporary and ancient subtext, a mixture of traditional sounds and modernity’s cross-pollinating drive. These tunes breathe with moist reality, a scent filled with ideas that keep one awake at night or perhaps usher in a new sun on brighter days – music that feels unutterably alive. That they’re able to achieve this in the finite world of a studio is impressive and makes one patient for each new chapter since experience has shown it’s worth the wait.
Thankfully, the Barrs are touring regulars who frequently offer up new music in front of audiences. The band – which is fleshed out beautifully by harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial starts a new slate of shows this Wednesday, November 30th, in South Burlington, VT. You can see the full tour here, and here’s what Andrew and Brad had to say to our inquiries to get you in the mood.
‘Salty’ mix tape below essay
If I had a hammer I’d break every fucking copy of “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song).” I got nothing against Pete Seeger but traditional protest folk music has always grated against my sensibilities – its abject earnestness, its flagrant moral superiority, its sing-along simplicity. The people writing and singing this kind of music are selling Bibles in a church parking lot. Without question it can be effective but if one hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid it’s not especially useful or even welcome even if one agrees with the basic sentiments.
The growing proliferation of classic folkies (and their modern descendents) showing up at Zuccotti Park – Joan Baez, Crosby & Nash, Tom Morello, Peter Yarrow, and Seeger himself – got me thinking about the differences between this movement’s character and the 1960s civil rights uprisings and where music fits in. The ideas of Seeger’s omnipresent anthem remain sound – “I’d hammer out danger/ I’d hammer out a warning/ I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters” – but the tone is all wrong for the young generation rubbing sand in Wall Street’s Vaseline. The cynicism and broad pop culture understanding of the majority of folks pitching tents and mic checking across the U.S. (and now the entire planet) can’t be underestimated. A profound distrust of ANY power structure is central to the Occupy Movement, seen most obviously in the adamant refusal to designate official leaders and figureheads. They understand how even a bit of power is almost always inherently corrupting in this messed up system we find ourselves awash in.
As someone whose political and social awakening was ushered in as a high school student during the Reagan years, I’ve always had a more combative attitude than most traditional leftie protesters. I’m not endorsing violence but I’m attracted to scrappers, people willing to get bloodied by the powers that be, smiling as they stand in the face of dumbness and overreaching authority, a posture that screams, “Come on, motherfuckers, let’s throw down!” without ever needing to throw a punch. Punk rock provided the coal for my young engine, particularly the snarky insights of the Dead Kennedys, the never-dumb-it-down polemics of Bad Religion, and especially the hugely diverse musical sweep and utterly wise yet often funny directness of The Clash.
I’m a generation removed from the college students and similarly dispossessed youth spearheading the Occupy Movement but it’s hard to believe they’ve grown more comfortable with traditional protest music’s platitudes and often painful sincerity. In a broad sense, folks involved in the Occupy Movement are pissed off – massively and achingly pissed off and not entirely clear where to aim their anger, fear and frustration. Some targets are easy – Wall Street, Congress – but at this early stage one of the only things there’s consensus on is there’s something wrong and something must be done about it. Simply giving voice to these feelings – a thunderous, wounded shout from the streets – is actually enough for now.
Ginsberg understood this, his famous Howl beginning, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” and concluding, “In my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night.” He’s describing the long road through personal pain that becomes public pain, a stabbing discomfort that must be expressed aloud, and in doing so one discovers that they are not alone, that they share common ground and common cause with people they would likely have never known, the “others” on the other side of our many fences that look and act and dream and suffer just like us.
It’s said the greatest lie the Devil ever pulled off is to make us believe he doesn’t exist. The power mongers in the financial sector and the government don’t want the system discussed. They don’t want to hear about the reality of their choices from the people living the society they’ve engineered. Nick Cave once observed:
Money, man, it is a bitch
The poor, they spoil it for the rich
With my face pressed in the clover
I wondered when this would be over
And at home we are all so guilty-sad
Right now at what is hopefully the start of real, immensely needed change for the 99-percent, what’s required are songs that angry up the blood, anthems to make the homebound hit the parks and plazas and lend their numbers and voices to a cause that might just overturn the apple cart so the majority can get a bite of the harvest…or simply feed their children…or feel like what they do and desire matters and is reflected in a larger sense by our culture. The values and concerns of the vast majority are at direct odds with the existing power structure yet a sizeable chunk of the populace remains unmoved, the suffering and crazy-making unfairness of it all still kept at a comfortable distance so reality doesn’t have to sink in, oblivious to how one job loss, a few late mortgage payments, a contested medical claim, or any of a thousand other inevitable turns of fate are the only thing standing between them and the laissez-faire, market-worshipping world outside their window.
Where we find ourselves today isn’t an accident. It is a series of fiendishly interconnected, heartlessly constructed systems designed to fuck anyone who isn’t privy to their inner workings. Lip service Christians and vote courtin’ politicians spouting truisms about the generosity and kindness of the American people aren’t talking about the dillholes at the top of the heap. No one who lives in that high place and refuses a 6-percent tax hike so that bridges don’t collapse and the poorest of us can eat breakfast and get an education has any claim to compassion. There’s still a resistance to call out the people who are working day and night to keep their white-knuckled grip on power and riches for being as callous and short-sighted as they are. Well, this soundtrack aims to do just that, and I hope it prods anyone who listens to it to some action for the greater good.
1. Know Your Rights – The Clash
“You have the right to remain silent/ You are warned that anything you say can and will be taken down and used as evidence against you.” Combat Rock arrived in 1982, and the subject matter of this track was old news then. America is still not living up to its ideals in reality. No one deserves investigation or humiliation to put bread on their table.
2. I Party All The Time – Gang of Four
“We are not prisoners – although we’re putting in the hours/ We are not innocent – although we’re singing in the choir/ If there’s a revolution then you’ll stay home.” It’s hard to stop living a carefree, oblivious existence, especially when it’s so easy to have fun.
3. Binge And Purge – Clutch
“I’ve got nothing to lose but my apathy.” Once you figure out that the guns – literal and metaphorical – are pointed at you it really focuses one’s attention. A fight song for those that don’t yet realize they’re in a battle.
4. Before You Die – Bad Religion
“Rewrite the morals, rectify the nation/ Now may be your time.” We’ve only so many hours before we shuffle off this mortal coil and what we do with them matters – for today and for the tomorrows those we love live after us. Think about it and act accordingly.
5. A Young Man’s Money – Ivan Julian
“See, we can get this and that in every which way/ But we get the same thing right or wrong/ I think about it all the time/ And wrap my cage around me.” A snarling inducement to knock the mold off musty, crippling systems.
6. Welcome To The Factory – Backyard Tire Fire
“You’re locked on the clock/ You’re ready to blow/ And nobody knows.” The grind and workaday desperation of repetitive labor whirrs in this gutbucket wail from one of Illinois’ best bands.
7. The Power’s Out – Flogging Molly
“Forgive me for dreaming it’s all I have left/ Except this pending foreclosure and mountains of debt.” Detroit shines as a beacon of what market/corporate thinking produces in the end, a cautionary tableau of where the rest of America is going if we continue on our current path. Kudos to Dave King and the rest of Flogging Molly for hunkering down in the Motor City to record their fantastically timely new album Speed of Darkness (Impound review). This is a thumb in the eye of blood sucking leech CEOs everywhere.
8. Zombie Blues – The Denmark Veseys
“Zombies in the blue states and zombies in the red/ Just another country of the living dead/ There are zombies of all colors, black and brown and white/ There are zombies on the left and zombies on the right/ There are zombies that have money and zombies who are poor/ And they’re brandishing Kalashnikovs and mopping up the floor.” Jerry Joseph is wise in many ways and the guy pulls NO punches, including the haymakers he throws at himself. Being honest about our own role in sustaining a poisonous system is important.
9. Hard Day On The Planet – Loudon Wainwright III
“Don’t turn on the TV, don’t show me the paper/ Don’t want to know he got kidnapped or why they all raped her/ I want to go on vacation till the pressure lets up.” Pretending things aren’t “tough all over on Earth” isn’t going to make the problems go away.
10. Things Goin’ On – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Well, they’re goin’ ruin the air we breathe/ Lord have mercy/ They’re gonna ruin us all, by and by/ I’m telling all you beware/ I don’t think they really care.” Ronnie Van Zant was a deeper rabble-rouser than his legacy suggests. This call to “stand up and scream” comes from the band’s 1973 debut and is but one of many insightful blows he landed before his too, too early demise.
11. Funky Dollar Bill – Funkadelic
“It’ll buy you a life but not a true life/ The kind of life where the soul is lost.” What do we value as a country? Is it a quarterly profit guarantee or is it clean water, art, caring for the sick and needy? The almighty dollar can be used for good or ill, but it’s only a tool for the humans pushing it around. What do YOU want to make with this tool?
12. This Fucking Job – Drive-By Truckers
“Working this job is like a knife in the back/ It ain’t getting me further than the dump I live in/ It ain’t getting me further than my next paycheck.” The sense that we’re stuck and there is zero chance of improvement is creeping into our bones. We’re losing the belief that there’s anything else other than what we’ve got. It’s a lie, but changing the dynamics of day-to-day existence for the majority isn’t going to come quickly or easily.
13. ¡Let Freedom Ring! – Chuck Prophet
“Let there be darkness, let there be light/ As the hawk cripples the dove/ Over and over watch the dove die as they rip out the floorboards of love.” How we define a word is crucial. Even Fox News clatters endlessly about “American freedom” but what does it actually mean to be ‘free’ in the current context? Chuck dissects the double plus good rhetoric with humor and deft skill here.
14. I’m Gonna Assemble A City – These United States
“I’m gonna assemble a city right in the heart of their war/ I’m gonna sit in my lawn chair as the missiles and maggots bore/ I’m gonna sit in my lawn chair with a pointed but good-natured grin, letting the strangers that pass know they are always welcome to come in.” The launch of the Occupy Movement in New York City and the way the community evolved in Zuccotti Park is mirrored in this prescient number from 2009’s Everything Touches Everything, which is filled with hymns for kind revolutionaries everywhere.
15. Old News – Dr. Dog
“We’ve been toiling our tears hit the soil/ Taking up a voice from a flower field of noise.” A kiss to those sleeping in the street and dreaming loud enough for all to hear. It really is time to wrap up our old blues and toss them away.
16. Take ‘Em Down – Dropkick Murphys
“When the boss comes calling, don’t believe their lies.” This pro-union corker got some attention from NPR and elsewhere earlier this year but it’s not about one state or one boss – it’s about who we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with. The folks in power – almost to a one – aren’t interested in sharing that power and privilege, and it will take the might of the many to pry it from their hands.
17. Mean Streak – John Gorka
“No money coming in/ It’s all going out/ I’m standing on the corner/ In the shadow of doubt.” Things feel desperate for an increasing number of people. What stability we possess seems tenuous at best, and even if we don’t know how we’ll manage we cannot let the powers that be continue to take advantage of the 99-percent.
18. Is This Thing Working? – Todd Snider
“”You gonna hit somebody, today? You gonna hit me too/ In fact, you’re gonna hit me every day, because now I’m picking on you.” People who would steal pensions, starve the hungry and condemn the sick to die are bullies. People who compensate themselves to tune of thousands of times what the average worker in their company makes are bullies. The folks Occupy is confronting are thugs and jerks and bullies, and part of why they and the mainstream media and Mayor Bloomberg (and mayors like him) are upset is they’ve been exposed. They’ve been stealing our lunch money for decades and they don’t want to stop. Well, a hearty fuck you to all of them. Now we’re picking on you.
19. Can We Really Party Today? – Jonathan Wilson
“With all that’s going on/ shouldn’t we get started today?” Again, distraction and personal pleasure are wonderful opiates. The rise of video game culture and pocketsize entertainment in general is not an accident. It’s nicer to take a hike in the woods and pop open a sixer with one’s pals, but there’s important shit to be done. Let’s not forget that.
20. Last Year – Akron/Family
“Last year was such a hard year/ For such a long time/ This year’s gonna be ours.” A simple, open-ended chant for the Occupy Movement as 2011 nears its close. Keep up the charge and 2012 might just be our year.
Play my music way too loud
My hair’s too long, I don’t fit in the crowd
Leather jacket and denim jeans
Metal studs run down the seams
Times are hard but I don’t care
‘Cause if I want it I’ll take my share
Talkin’ life on a bit too steep
Outta my way or I’ll bury you deep
Metal wouldn’t have evolved the way it has without Anvil. While never the commercial powerhouse of their many high-profile acolytes, this Canadian institution helped steer the course of modern metal and hard rock with an opening trio of releases – Hard ‘n’ Heavy (1981), Metal On Metal (1982) and Forged In Fire (1983) – that exerted as much gravity on young bands as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and the California pioneers like Metallica and Exodus (notably both admirers of Anvil). After a series of rough industry travails, lineup changes and other turmoil, Anvil resurfaced in the popular consciousness in 2008 with the stellar documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a fascinating, ultra-warts-and-all history of the band’s endurance in the face of shit that crushes most musicians. It’s a portrait full of intense, understandable emotion and pummeling rock that reeks of ball sweat and real steel, a survivor’s story that’s sad and funny and crazily true.
Since the film’s release Anvil has been more active than ever, and just this year released a bang-up new album, Juggernaut of Justice and a boffo career-spanning anthology, Monument of Metal. Dirty Impound had the great pleasure of a short audience with Anvil’s colorful, ever-rockin’ singer-guitarist-songwriter Steve “Lips” Kudlow, who filled us in on some of the band’s operating ideals as the trio – Kudlow, drummer Robb Reiner and bassist Glenn Five – forges ahead after more than 30 years of heaviness.
Even before I heard the first album, as soon as I saw the name Anvil, I thought, “That is the most goddamn metal name of all time!”
We had to come up with that [name] right from the beginning of the metal genre because somebody was gonna get it!
What drew you into making this incredibly fast and heavy music, which was different from other metal, particularly in North America, in the early 80s?
We were an anomaly, especially for Canada. We had such an attitude right from the beginning which was young and stupid and naïve and call it what you will, but we felt the only reason there were no heavy bands in Canada was no one was doing it.
Starting in Canada is way different than starting in New York or Detroit.
It was. There were heavy bands but every time they petered out and didn’t stay heavy. I’m talking a band like Thundermug. You probably don’t know what that is but I give that as a prime example. They started out very heavy and the infiltration of record companies and everything caused them to dissipate and eventually broke them up. But there are endless stories of that. The initiative and the thing we wanted to do was to create the heaviest band Canada has ever known. That was what Robb and I set out to do. We had to make history for this country, one way or another, man.
We grew up on that shit, and I’m not saying I’m the first one that was ever heavy – no, no, no. I’m a big fan of the Midwest sound of the sixties, where distortion was pretty much discovered, that and Hendrix. And distortion is a big, big deal. Sonically, it’s what really defines hard rock and heavy metal. It pigeonholed the whole thing, but it’s a particular sound of distorted guitar that we’re talking about.
If you vibe with that sort of aggression and volume there’s no other music that will get you off in the same way. That’s how metal becomes the one true love for a lot of people.
People who aren’t metalheads don’t realize the variety in the genre. This leads nicely into the new compilation, which really shows off Anvil’s range. It showcases a lot of different sides of this band.
Well, there are [a lot of different sides], which is part of the problem as well as what makes us what we are. People misunderstand the diversity. It’s just music [laughs]. Certain types of songs sort of argue with others, and it’s really subjective. There’s more to us than meets the eye. Let’s just put it that way.
This anthology really spells that out in a clear, neat way, but it also shows the continuity in your work. Anvil didn’t have one great era; there’s a through-line that speaks to generally consistent quality.
You know what the saddest part is? The production in the dark years – that’s what I call them – when we were completely on our own and didn’t have a producer, well, a lot of those songs could have been so much better had there been another hand in there. You can’t really produce yourself, not properly. You end up thinking in a box. You don’t see the whole picture, and that’s because you’re in the middle of the forest [laughs]. The only way to get that objectivity [on your own] is to record your album, go away, and come back a year later and listen to what you did with fresh ears. How can you get objective about your performances and writing otherwise? You can’t, not without time. When a producer fixes stuff, in their mind, they’re thinking, “This is forever.” In your mind it’s just a performance and it’s over. What they want to do is make sure that the performance presented lasts forever.
Are there any hard rock/metal producers on your wish list to work with? I wonder if a collaboration with some of the iconic producers out there might not be the next step for Anvil’s recent reemergence.
I don’t know if that’s necessarily the next step. A lot of the guys I would have wanted to work with are no longer doing it, or if they are it isn’t going to be relevant enough. It’s a completely different school now. All the guys from the old days – Ted Templeman, Tom Werman, Jack Douglas – those guys worked in the old school, two-inch tape, and today the guys in the studios with Pro-Tools and all the electronic stuff they have nowadays, you just can’t compare. The old guys aren’t part of that world; they came before. I’ve worked with Chris Tsangarides (Killing Joke, Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen) and Bob Marlette (Atreyu, Saliva, Alice Cooper), who’s a digital genius. He knows how to work in that format, and there’s an art to that which takes years to learn. Bob is a very special producer because he was on the cutting edge of the digital/Pro-Tools thing. He was a consultant in the working group that developed that software. So, not only does he know how to use the software, his ideas helped create it in the first place.
Juggernaut of Justice is a very modern sounding metal record.
It is but at the same time it’s very old school.
One of the things that’s always made Anvil stand out is how you understand that playing fast isn’t the only way to be heavy. You understand the power and impact of slowing down, and how that can be just as heavy, something you show again on Juggernaut.
Absolutely! To me, metal is a lot of different things…because it really is! Most bands are narrow. Either they’re fast or they’re slow, and either they sing with melody or they don’t. That’s like North, South, East, West. No! There are lots of different directions! There’s a lot of different ways to express yourself and feel. Look at this drummer we have. It would be a real shame not to utilize all the things that guy can do. Thank goodness somebody’s here for him [laughs].
The band had been a four-piece for good while but has settled into a really tight trio in recent years. What’s the difference for you approaching the material with three guys instead of four? Personally, I really love the three-piece and how it puts your guitar right in our faces. It’s like this sword in the middle of everything.
I agree. I think that it was unfocused sounding as a four-piece. There are certain things that compensate for other things. It’s hard to explain but you can get away with having a not-great bass player if you have a ripping rhythm guitar. But if you have a really great bass player then you don’t need a rhythm guitar. That’s about as simple as it gets.
Glenn is just wicked.
We hired Glenn after Ivan [Hurd, ex-guitarist]. Ivan was in the band first, and then the bass player we had at the time quit and we got Glenn. When we got Glenn we wondered, “Why do we still have Ivan?” But I wasn’t quick at the draw at it and there were a lot of years of heartache. You try to do it for the greater cause until it proves itself that it’s not. You have to be certain of things before you take steps like that. It wasn’t that [Ivan being in the band] was harmful but it wasn’t going anywhere or growing with us.
Anvil is still clearly growing, and that’s pretty rare for a band that’s been around this long.
I think it’s the will to survive. I think it really comes down to that. It’s wanting to [grow]. Most bands don’t want to, and that’s the problem. I don’t get it. You get these old iconic bands that would be great if they just kicked some ass instead of lightening it up and becoming not heavy anymore.
Playing the same eight songs every night doesn’t seem like a very satisfying career.
I know, and I want to be different. Man, I really want to be different.
You use the phrase ‘the greater cause’ and that’s maybe the heart of it. Anvil has always given the impression that metal/hard rock is a cause for them.
That’s pretty much it. It’s right there in the lyric for “Metal On Metal,” where we say, “Join the heavy metal fight.” That’s been going on my entire career. It’s a fight for survival. It never ends. So long as you create music it’s a fight for survival because music becomes so disposable, in a certain sense, by the public. No sooner do I put out a new album than people are asking when the next one comes out.
It’s like feeding snacks to a dog.
You could have pocketfuls and then when your pockets are empty the dog is still sitting in front of you wagging its tail.
In this edition: Spacecamp, Holmes, Kate Bush and Russian Circles.
Any excuse to pump some Joan Jett is good by us, and the Foo Fighters prove a rocking good backup band. If you party too hearty today just play this one and sluff off any guilt. Eat, drink and be merry…even if you’re a bit of a mess at the end. We should all be as happy as Dave Grohl’s head in this clip.