Picking Up The Slack for MTV: Grace Askew - Empty Rooms

As pretty as autumn in the Smoky Mountains, Grace Askew, who was not only on The Voice and won 1st place in the Folk category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and probably has many other accolades I'm not aware of, hails from Memphis, TN
Her infectious and dynamic voice takes her brand of country and blues and gives it an honesty that not many singer/songwriters are able to project. Her clever wordplay lyrics tell of ugly breakups and gritty struggle. 

The video below while giving off the loneliness she sings about in the song and staying true to the imagery projected by the lyrics with it's open spaces and wind blowing misses the mark of what could be a really great music video. I wish Ms. Askew were a bit more animated with her hand claps and her singing and moving around a bit more as she with her stage performances. I also feel like there could have been a guy wandering around or fixing an old or truck maybe that one could perceive as being the muse she pines for. 

Tonight :Twin Peaks

No not a staged translation of the David Lynch show, but the garage rock band from Chi-town . They just released their new album "Wild Onion" that shares a great deal of common ground with other indie rock bands like the Black Lips who have taken their sound into the party rock of the late 60's. What you hear is what you get with these guys. It doesn't get any more bare bones straight up vintage party rock than this. So bring your beer goggles and dancing shoes. They are playing on the newly renovated Purgatory at The Masquerade

Tweens and Minor Miracle open

Ten Dollars

Doors are at 8:00, but there is a lot of stuff going on down there tonight to get there early to find parking.

Track of the Week: Watkins Music's "One Life One Love"

The family formula has worked with such  early soul masters ranging from  the Jacksons to Brothers Johnson...No, Sly and the Family stone were not actual family, but this  brother and sister duo consisting of  Asa and Arriel  Watkins  are. Her brother  an L.A. based producer lent is magic to this track. He gives an ample nod the  Chicago house scene of the late 80's , that changed dance music as we know it. To call this pop music would be only giving this the most passing listen, and not hearing the very intricate arrangement that layers the vocals of Airreal and Adrian Battle atop a groove that wraps around it like a velvet glove. This is more than a song, but an education to those that are too young to remember when dance was once an organic entity, that was preformed using real instruments rather than pull-down and plug - ins from a computer screen.

That is not to say this track is not birthed from outstanding production, seeing that Asa' production skills capture bursts of modern dance sounds and combine them with the timeless grooves birthed from post- Vietnam era Soul that has been most recently revisited by the likes of Grammy award winners Daft Punk's most recent collaborative effort with Pharell Willaims. Here Watkins Music is not just settling for pop music , but have woven together something more akin to something Herbie Hancock  might have penned if he had wanted to make a disco jazz-fusion album. This sophisticated approach is not just their thumbprint on their new single "One life One Love" but seems to mark all of the other output i have heard from this project  as their other single  "Black Widow" employs similar elements though utilizing male vocals , however it's Airreal's ability to achieve such a vocal blend that makes their newest release stand out.

"One Life One Love"  opens with an ultra- dexterous bass line  courtesy of Taiki Tsuyama . Tsuyama is a Japanese bassist, who cut his teeth playing bass in the Gospel Circuit. His playing is a mix of Bootsy and Pastorious. The bass propels the song. When it comes to serving the song and laying back to hold down the groove and reminds me more of bassists Paul S Denman from Sade's band..The  shades of Kool and the Gang are no coincidence as their guitar Noah Hernandez also plays with Rodney Ellis of Kool and the Gang, so Watkins Music searched in all the right places for their session guys.  The pedigree of talent doesn't stop there as the Horn Arrangements and brass section were handled by Winston Byrd who has played with a who's who of Jazz,, Soul and funk including the Chi-lites, the Dells the Stylistics Chaka Khan, Usher and Charles Mingus's Big Band. He knows where to throw the accents in the old school manner that makes this sound all the more authentic.

It is often said that common secret among CEO's is they surround themselves with people smarter than they are. I think left to their often devices this brother and sister team have enough musical smarts to compete, but the factor that pushes this track and others over the edge into greatness is the level of talent they have gathered to just to make what but first listen might be a retro tinged dance / pop song. It is layered with so many textures of groove highlights the vocals and brings out the best of their preformance, but in a manner that makes them the icing on this cake, rather than having thin synthetic track playing karaoke to auto-tuned vocals that is now common place in this world of disposable pop, where r&b has nothing at all to to with the blues. This restores faith to those disillusioned with the hungry money machine that is now the music business, pumping out hits with all the substance of a Twinkie.

The future can only hold bigger and better things for this duo, and I am curious what a full length from these two might mights like. While they could certainly achieve a broader level of commercial success by heading into a more blatant dance oriented direction, I think they are not interested in dumbing it down for the masses as this is what seem to flow most naturally from them, a progressive soul vibe that would not sound out of place on the soundtrack to the next Quintin Tarintino movie. If that sound like the sort of thing that lights your fire then make sure to step away from the bong and  check out this track and their video for "Metronome" below

The Most Metal Haunts in America

Ever since Black Sabbath named themselves after the Bela Lugosi film horror and metal have been a marriage made in hell.Both art forms trigger psychological reactions similar that of a drug user. A tolerance is developed and the user must seek out higher doses or in this case increased intensity. With metal it's louder , harder, faster ( or in My case darker), while fans of horror seek out films that are scarier, gorier of more twisted. Haunted Houses holding a similar demographic to horror fans, so they were bound to move in a more gruesome direction to keep pace with their on screen counterparts, that often provide the inspiration. Given the connection between horror and metal it's also not surprising that a movement of extreme haunts was started by a metal head.

The haunts web sit claims that the end is near for the House of Shock. If this is true then the  New Orleans haunt is sadly in it's  final season.  In the early days House of Shock was picketed due to it's satanic themes and New Orleans residence sought to shut it down. At first you might think a  city so steeped in voo-doo, would be more accepting of satanic themes, until you take into consideration it's even larger catholic community.

House of Shock derived it's name from a horror movie host Morgus the Magnificent.It all started in Jay Gracinette's back yard in 1992 with co - founder Phil Anselmo.The following year they moved it to the back yard of Jay's Grandmother's house, and were told by authorities they would have to move it to a commercial location. the following year found it at a warehouse on Baronne st and it became a New Orleans institution ever since. The room dedicated to the Church of Satan first caused the initial controversy. Ross Karpelman who plays Lord Belial, has upheld the dark tradition over the years by trying to steal the souls of  their patrons every October.

More than just a Haunt, it's an immersive night of entertainment, with a pyrotechnics show that is boasted by House of Shock as having  more fire in it's first five minutes than Kiss uses in their entire show. They also have metal bands playing afterwards. In the past such bands as Eyehategod and Crowbar have played house of Shock. This year playing the Haunt are Chicago's doom legends Trouble and Goatwhore who featured the Haunt in it's video for "Baring teeth for Revolt".

 If any haunt is destined to carry the torch for House of Shock it would be another haunt based in the South. Chambers of Horror in Atlanta, which has some similarities, though mostly taking  different route. Chambers of Horror got it's start as more of a torture porn themed attraction in the vein of Hostel or Saw.Located behind the Masquerade, the three story  venue in Atlanta's old 4th Ward District , that also hosts the bulk of the city's metal shows. In fact there is a long list of metal bands that have passed through Chambers of Horror ranging from Gwar to Queensryche to Mastodon. The haunt's  poster-child and  lead character Dr. Splatter,  or Dieter Von Splechter  is the mad scientist purveyor of Torture Co.  A war criminal from Nazi Germany, Splatter has seen various incarnations some more virile than others, ranging from the Dr. Being confined to a wheel chair like Grandpa from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to more mobile and getting his hands bloody in more feral manner.

After it's first couple of the years the creative direction of the Haunt took a shift, with characters becoming more developed. This expanded the story line expanded beyond the extreme BDSM dynamic of it's former torture porn vibe. Soon occult elements were introduced, but never dipped in the realm of supernatural. Satanic rituals and exorcisms occurred, but never materialized any actual demons or devils, staying in the blurred lines of science and magic. The past two seasons have seen the visual spectacle of  the Atlanta haunt flourish as it  has morphed into a post-apocalyptic nightmare focusing more on cyborgs than the dismemberment of sexual organs that marked it's earlier days.

With a story line that picks up where the previous season left off The back story is Torture Co. was a Hostel like institution where the wealthy went to maim and murder for a price, when they advanced the story line the ATF raided Torture co while patrons where left to get caught in the cross- fire, the story continued from there that in Haunt was burned down during the course of the police raid Waco style and then the survivors took their exploits down into the basements. This lead to an elevator being installed in the haunt received criticism for misogynistic due to rape like elements and despite the fact the torture was non-bias with male on male, girl on girl and every variation in-between. In on-line debates over if the haunt had artistic merit the fact was brought up that even opera has sexual undertones in it's violence

One of the main differences between House of Shock and Chambers of Horror is Chambers often dips into gore infused camp more like a Troma Film than remaining deadly serious through out the night. This year the Haunt has a Robot stripper among it's inhabitants. In the past it has featured almost Gwar like characters such Laser-Tits and Shark Dick. Overall the haunt has more scares than laughs. Chambers often scares many  patron so badly they beg to be escorted out by security staff. So if you have decided zombies and vampires are kids stuff and are ready to venture into one of America's most metal Haunted houses you now know where to find them.



Album of the Week : Manilow's Cease Desist

Checking out the Facebook page of this British Punk band makes it obvious  humor factors into their presentation. So it's you have to wonder if part of the joke in the title of their new album "Cease and Desist" refers to any possible interactions with "Mandy" singer Barry. Just try Googling their name and you'll get the Vegas fixture.  But in the days of the inner webs punk has to stay underground somehow. Not that punk is always the most accessible of genres. Manilow's sound is decidedly punk but incorporates enough different elements to sell me on them.Their  guitar sound is so  big and fuzzed it wouldn't sound out of place on a stoner rock album. The credit here probably goes to Tim Cedar of Part Chimp engineered this album at Dropout Studios in London. There is still plenty of anarchy in the UK despite the Orange Amp sound.

The Brits have always carried the natural swagger and sneer associated with punk. So you could say it's in Manilow's blood. cent.  Vocalist Dean Moston's old school punk sneer,  offsets the fuzzed out guitar tone. The  band takes a turn toward post-punk with the sinewy tension of the serpentine guitar groove of  "Law Here". The lingering vibrato in Moston's voice on this one carries a similar sense of unease as Jell Biafra's manic ranting. The subtle arrangements don't stick the chorus in  your face too heavily despite the predominant backing vocals.It moves almost like a Fugazi song on cruise control. At over five minutes such indulgences would be odd if these guys leaned a tad closer to being straight up punk.

"Taking Control" puts the band back in  punk mode. That is if  we are talking about the earlier days of  punk along the lines of the Mc-5's "Sonic Reducer".Clocking in at under two minutes the song kicks in the door for wham, bam, thank you mam. They  groove into a steady almost grunged out stoner vibe on " Vitamins". The vocals here stay in the punk sphere of things, leaving "Law Here" as the only song that strays from that. It also makes "Law Here"  the strongest song on this ep , because it gives a wider range of dynamics. The more rock moments left to the desert fuzz of the guitar leads, which when branching out into more jammy solo passages give the song odd breathing and an almost psychedelic element. If you like your post-punk heavy on the punk, or like some rock in your punk rock these guys are loud yet thoughtful in their approach. Fans of Hellacopters, Beastmilk,the Dwarves will all find some common ground here too.

Picking Up the Slack For Mtv : Vajra's "Inside the Flame"

I'm already in the mood for Halloween...o.k when am I not. But perhaps this video will help get you in the mood . After all the reason for the season is for witches to call forth the coming darkness when the veil between worlds is the thinnest. This video does have a Witch. The band Vajra haunt the purgatory somewhere in-between goth and rock which would be a slippery slope if you remember the 90's but the vocals of  their front woman save the day and Mars Volta drummer Blake Flemming plays on this.

If you still remember that Tool still has an album coming out and are counting down the days until this Rapture like even takes place, this might tide you over as they enlisted Tool producer Sylvia Massey to mix this. After a few listens it made me imagine this is what Concrete Blonde  would sound like if they hired  Tool's producer. The tribal elements are rather  Parabola like and she is not doing her best Maynard impersonation like so many bands of the early 2000's did, so that is worth something.

Tons of  potential here, but bands in this direction I've moved onto are more along the lines of  Soap&Skin and Esben & the Witch, the next wave of Chelsea Wolfes's who prove darker is better. 1999. Their song writing and goth tendencies, keep me engaged, I liked "Inside the Flame" better than Blind ep leaving me curious as to their sound as a whole.The key selling points are their flare for the exotic and the singers voice. She has power and range, over all her voice is impressive and unique. I look forward to hearing what this gal does in the future as she matures and hopefully abandons some of the rock star production for a darker tone,

Album of the Week: the Oxford Coma's "Morphine" ep

Rough and dirtied with feedback, this Phoenix band raises a ruckus much like the Amp Rep bands from the late 90's. The grooves wind around singer Billy Tegerhoff's  wild man howling . They bring the noise in a very calculated manner, even during  bass thump of "Tradition" that might remind you later era Kyuss or early Clutch . They stumble into post- punk, with a  Killing Joke like chant during  "Grindstone".  From there they hit the grunge meets drone  of the Catherine Wheel. The vocals straddle the fence between Headbangers Ball and 120 minutes, not unlike Faith No More or Primus. So it not get too arena they recorded all the basic tracks live to  hone it's edge.

Slightly to the right of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum when it comes to the cerebral leanings of their proggy spasms. The singer's choices of melodies border something Filter might have done early on. The closer "Black Balloons" has ah an almost ballad like quality, with sound  effects zooming around behind in the mix, until it build into something falling in-between grunge and something more Sunny Day Real Estate.

Tegerhoff has said they are not really a metal band, but a throw back to Nirvana's Bleach Days and Eyehategod's  Dopesick album, along with Steve Albini and Neurosis. It's good to know I am not crazy for hearing some sort of grunge thing going on. Vocally  Black Balloons  carries a Cobain vibe the elements of the other bands he mentioned primarilly lie in the squealing feedback along the sharp edges.  This provides the noisey gift wrap holding the meat of the package together. Comparison to bands like the Jesus Lizard or Tool found be much more factually founded.

Overall these guys have a raging machine going. Plenty of  rawness to keep the blood flowing. If you ever dream of crowd surfing again like you did during that one summer a Lollapalooza then make it a point to check these guys out.