Monday, April 30, 2018

The Frying Pan is moving.

What started from something so small has and is evolving into bigger and better things. I am grateful for everything this creation taught me, but it was only a small step in a large journey that I cannot wait to undertake. 

If you're interested, come to:

See you on the other side.
- Thatcher

Friday, February 23, 2018


Chinese Restaurant

Steeped in the krautrock-isms of their German neighbors, the Italian duo Chrisma (later known as Krisma in the 80s as they got more and more glamorous and kool) got help from Vangelis' brother Niko Papathanassiou for their debut singles 'Amore' and 'U' in 1976. These singles snagged a few features on splits with such artists as...The Chanter Sisters(?) and even, surprisingly enough, Black 'freakin Sabbath. Don't quite know how that happened. Either way these singles, 'U' in particular, got enough traction for this married couple to be slated for a debut LP in no time at all.

What emerged in the wake of the two, pop rock/disco singles was a surprisingly dark and art-punkish album. Oddly enough it seems Chrisma pulled a 180 and went the direction that Television and Wire were going in the same year and put their foot in the door of the up-and-coming post-punk trend (that was ironically enough occurring at the concurrently to punk's infantile stages). Chinese Restaurant bears a few similarities not only to fellow European synthpop and post-punk groups like Joy Division, but also to the more protopunk bands of the progressive rock boom in the early end of the decade. It does make sense when you do some lightdigging into the history of Maurizio and realize he himself produced some rock progressivo Italiano himself between '70-'73. Above all though the aforementioned krautrock undertones are the most pertinent with a heavy Can influence with, not only the fact that Maurizio sounds beautifully like a stir-crazy Malcolm Mooney on tracks like 'What For', but also with the use of repetitive, spacey guitar hooks following machine-like percussion hearken back to what Can were doing circa Monster Movie. Similarly, songs like 'C-Rock' and 'Black Silk Stocking' have a distinct Neu!-ish quality to them.

Regardless of where Chrisma got their influence, their debut is packed with all sorts of musical goodies. The suave Italian nature of the musicians, combined with methodical ways the melodies play out with either quiet, soft vocals or monotonous, sarcastic monologues make it quite an enjoyable experience. The album is all very modernist, with each song sounding more like a bunch of TI-30s punching out a roll of mechanized melodies. Ezio Vevey's fuzzed out riffing, while fairly proficient, is noticeably tightly bound to the staccato percussion, creating something of an almost hypnotic musical environment. I realize many post-punk bands at the time also used a similar method, but how these guys differntiates themselves from said bands is how they utilize their prog influencers, like the touches of Kraftwerkian progressive electronic on songs like 'Lycee' and 'C. Rock'. Slightly proggy, krautrocking post-punk is what Chrisma goes for here, and while they can stoop to overbearing levels of repetition and musical meandering at some points, the end result is overall still fairly pleasant and intriguing.

RIP Maurizio Arcieri.

Written on February 24, 2018 for Frying Pan Media
To bright tomorrows.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

//INTO THE FIRE | Music Review #159 | BJÖRK - DEBUT (1993)

One Little Indian

The secret to this Icelandic woman's appeal is not one sole reason, but rather several small reasons that form a larger whole. Like a puzzle with a thousand multicolored pieces that form Botticelli's The Birth of Venus when put together. Her public image as a quirky, slightly crazy woman going WWE on reporters who harass her, her surreal music videos, and her seemingly endless supply of creativity that makes each of her studio albums different from the last have created the character of Björk Guðmundsdóttir as we know her today.

Her debut Debut is, other than being the springboard from which Björk and her listeners started their adventures, the clearest insight into Björk's musical sensibilities and her ideas for where she'd take her career. It's certainly different from her Siouxsie and the Banshees-esque post-punk career in Tappi Tíkarrass and later The Sugarcubes (who disbanded a year before Debut's release). Though it's clear Björk synthesized much of the playful and humorous nature of The Sugarcubes into her persona, Debut is a contrastingly eclectic affair then anything she had previously produced or been involved in.

Björk's first record is her first showing of her head-over-heels attitude towards experimentation, albeit is a bit more grounded in reality than her latter-day antics like the entirely a Capella Medulla or the bloated ambiance of Vulnicura. Part of it is sort of reflective of the time's zeitgeist- tracks like the killer 'Big Time Sensuality' or 'There's More to Life Than This' are unabashed dance-pop tunes with Björk's flavorful vocals overlaying house-like beats. At the same time though there are times where Björk opts for more folksy, tasteful sonics like the hedonistic 'Venus as a Boy' or the gentle, harp-driven lamentation of 'Like Someone in Love'. This variation from one track to the next keeps this album more fresh and interesting than even some of the albums I keep closest to my heart.

It is the tone of Debut, and similarly all of Björk's music, that evokes the most quality. It becomes clear quickly with the album opener 'Human Behavior', a beautiful mess of a song whose jazzy textures provide the backdrop to Björk singing about the illogical nature of human behavior, but also it's irresistibile and satisfying qualities. It sets the stage for Björk's lyrical and vocal motifs for much of Debut, as she sings her heart out about sexuality and the eroticisms between humans that she, as she's stated in many of her interviews, is fascinated with. All of this is done though on a much more childlike, naïve nature, like the perspective of a Martian experiencing said things for the first time. The thing about all this though is that Björk's singing voice isn't even that great. Sure she can kind of hit high registers and hold notes well enough, but what hooks me more than anything is her pure and vigorous passion with which she cranks out her performances. She becomes practically possessed by her own music, snarling and screaming her lyrics for the entire world to see. It makes her more endearing than 75% of her peers in the craft, and makes her more of a musician than I think most of us'll ever be.

Debut is erratic, haphazard and a tad stark raving. At the same time though it holds up, not exactly as a superior to Björk's later work, but as a young and creative woman's musical insight into human romanticisms, which are funnily enough as puzzling as Björk herself.

Written on February 21, 2018 for Frying Pan Media
To bright tomorrows.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

//INTO THE FIRE | Music Review #158 | FEIST - LET IT DIE (2004)

Let It Die

Summer, 20XX

One of my fondest and youngest memories is a day when I decided to hit the old country roads one particularly humid day in July. The air was filled, not only with heat, but also with the cacophony of bugs hopping helter-skelter through the tall meadow grasses. As usual, when I take time to actually step out of my troll cave, I need a soundtrack to accompany me. I chose a recently purchased CD I had nabbed at the thrift store a few towns over, which attracted me with its mysterious cover art and blunt title. It was on this day, moseying past shabby, peeling farmhouses, rows of young apple trees held up by metal apparatuses, and dense, messy fields of yellow and green that I found myself listening through the entirety of Leslie Feist's Let it Die.

That same week I'd listen to Let it Die on repeat. 'Mushaboom' would be the theme for housework. 'Inside and Out' would be a incongruously cheery soundtrack for the boredom behind unfocused eyes looking through a car window. 'Lonely Lonely' would be a replacement for the silence of laying in bed and staring at the ceiling in the dark. It was truly an odd but introspective time.

It was unlike much of what I had listened to before then, which was mainly progressive rock and heavy metal music. I would consider what Feist did to me that day to be akin to when Pink Floyd triggered my insatiable hunger for artful music a few years prior. That is, this album was able to show me the less grandiose and more restrained side of pop music. It did this by showcasing a veritable rainbow of themes throughout its tracklist. The album bounces from lethargic, softspoken indie pop like 'Gatekeeper' and 'One Evening' to disco power ballads like 'Inside and Out' (originally a 1979 Bee Gees cut) to even a cover of Françoise Hardy's 1963 funky French pop song 'L'amour ne dure pas toujours'. 

Although the album skips around a lot thematically it remains fairly grounded in Feist's homebrew indie sound (which sounds a bit like a Canadian, white-collar Björk with more rock). This generally entails Feist leading the melodies and really the song with her flagship guitar and commanding vocals, with very small accompaniments like minimalist percussion (sometimes just hand claps) and subtle uses of sax or piano here and there. The centerpiece of the performance is Feist herself after all, so rather than having a full band of competing musicians she instead restricts them more as an illustrious background than anything else. Feist and her band bring in elements of bossa nova and chamber pop with her timid indie attitude to create a heavily stylized singer/songwriter sound that channels cute, juvenile attitude, sensuality and bittersweet longing all at the same time. 

Let it Die falls into the category of personal gems rather than objectively perfect gems. The album is brilliantly crafted and has a great attention to detail, but it holds more of a place in my heart more than it ever could in my head. Like I thank The Wall for opening up my eyes, I thank Let it Die for opening up my heart.

Written on February 20, 2018 for Frying Pan Media
To bright tomorrows.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Warner Bros.

The fifteen-year journey the Flaming Lips trekked until they hit their often-considered-to-be creative peak with The Soft Bulletin in 1999 was a long and arduous one. After a decade a half of creating commercially unpalatable noise rock, conducting musical parking lot experiments with car stereos and being generally abstract, The Lips were finally starting receive more and more airtime using success that had been growing slowly since 1993's Clouds Taste Metallic. Compared to Clouds Taste Metallic though, The Soft Bulletin was strikingly different, employing a more ethereal wall-of-sound technique that would become what the band would continue onwards with and become known for. 

Thus enters Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the Lips' breakthrough into the new millennium and likely their most ambitious record to date. Although it does take much from its predecessor's attitudes and themes, it and The Soft Bulletin are not nearly the same. For one, it's a definite transformation from neo-psychedelia to dream pop a la Mew or Fishmans. Psychedelia is still here in spoonfuls, but the utilization on synths and other electronics is increased tenfold and with a drenching of sugary upbeat-sounding yet bittersweet melodies, The Lips are able to easily create a dense, impenetrable dreamscape. Unlike their more experimental Japanese contemporaries in Boredoms (although the album is influenced heavily by drummer Yoshimi P-We), The Lips opt for being tight-knit as opposed to being completely bonkers. That is, the staccato, machine-like nature of the instrumentation is conveyed as extremely loud and bright, yet is also extremely concisely delivered, giving for a very stark contrast between delivery and what sound is delivered. Steven Drozd's  reverb-heavy electrodrums on tracks like 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1', 'Fist Test' or 'Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon' lend a sense of importance and weight equal to that of a standard kit, not to mention they're almost melodic nature in which they combine with the hypnotic guitar and the creamy bass to create an amalgam of often-times breathtaking soundscapes. 'One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21' is a perfect example of the perfect storm that comes out of this instrumental torrent and Wayne Coyne's amateurish yet delicate vocals.

One thing that the Lips are able to consistently do impeccably, even in their earliest years, is hold emotional weight. Coyne's infatuation with the beauty of life and death has weaved its way into the band's music on more than one occasion, such as with 'A Spoonful Weighs a Ton' on 
The Soft Bulletin or 'Can't Exist' from Oh My Gawd!!, and he doesn't stop here. The meaning of being, of loving, of existence and of living life to the fullest even with the weight of death constantly on your shoulders come straight from the innermost reaches of these men's hearts, and make Yoshimi and most other Flaming Lips records tearjerkingly heartfelt in their delivery. The bluntness of 'Do You Realize??' and 'All We Have is Now' will strum the chords of the deepest part of your soul, guaranteed.

Yoshimi may not be able to compete with what the ground The Soft Bulletin broke, but its emotional value and competently put together construction are able to turn it into an album that still transcends boundaries of what we know as psychedelic music.

Written on February 6, 2018 for Frying Pan Media
To bright tomorrows.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Music Review #156:
Gentle Giant
In a Glass House

1972's Octopus album was nothing short of a breakthrough record for Gentle Giant. Not only was it, stylistically, a seminal album in the history of progressive rock, but it was also the band's biggest broach into North American popularity up to that point with Columbia Records giving it a fair distribution throughout all of Canada and the United States. 

Though Octopus' release remains a brilliant light of success for this band that had never really achieved the "limelight", it also wrought its fair share of misfortune. Its success was able to land them a tour with none other than fellow Vertigo bedfellows Black Sabbath, wherein they attempted (and hilariously failed) to coincide Sabbath's Vol. 4 era with the comparably whimsical sounds of both Octopus and Three Friends, their two '72 records. This ultimately led to Giant getting a cherry bomb chucked at them during a certain show, to which Phil Shulman responded stoically with "you're a bunch of cunts!", followed by them getting booed off the stage. 

Though Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson was able to pull them into a much more fitting tour in the US, the sucker punch that was the Sabbath tour still took its toll on the group. It's certainly touted as one of the primary reasons for Phil Shulman's departure that very year, though seeking a teaching career, getting back to his family, unabashedly banging roadies and plain old "deteriorated relations" according to his brother Derek have all been similarly put forth as reasons over the years.

Phil's departure was indeed a shaking for the two remaining Shulmans, Gary Green, John Weathers and Kerry Minnear. If anything, it put a lot of unneeded stress on the group as they flocked back across the Atlantic to record their followup to Octopus. However his absence was certainly not Giant's death-knell. Sure, they had to lay off of the acoustics a bit more, but Giant's spirit was certainly not brittle enough to be broken by such an event. In fact Phil leaving caused quite the opposite effect as In a Glass House, the band's fifth album in 1973, turned out to be one of the most biting and impressive English records of the decade.

Let me just go ahead and lay it on the line; if you think that Gentle Giant's main weakness is their pretentiousness, then you will hate In a Glass House. I mean, Columbia (who had previously been accepting of GG's records in the US) refused to even publish it in North America simply because they thought the record's inaccessibility would make it bomb. But if you don't mind the bollocks or you're infatuated with the "pretentiousness" of Giant's music (like me), then In a Glass House is their peak performance.

Gentle Giant's sound, like a more by-the-books Frank Zappa, is a layered one. The virtuoso multi-instrumentalist chops of each of the band members allows for an extremely eclectic, complex sound that you rarely get in other groups. Not only that, it's all delivered in a tight fashion so that each creative turn, whether it be a great riff or experimental cobbling, hits you like the lashing of a whip. This is shown no better than on this record, with songs like the masterpiece 'Experience' being a brilliant collage of quiet keyboarding, folk-y gallops and pure, lashing blues rocking. The dynamics conveyed in this particular song are pristine and absolutely flooring, to say the least. These warm words can certainly be extended to the two other sister epics of the album, 'The Runaway' and the title track, though in comparison to 'Experience' are the more "conventional" tracks. 'Way of Life' is also a massive track, though comparatively a bit lacking in substance. Not it isn't great, because you bet your bottom dollar it is, it's just that it's certainly more straightforward and deviates far less than the other three. It's mainly comprised of a sharp, rapid staccato groove punctured only briefly by a short choral piece and a slower, by-the-books symphonic prog sections. Because it's exceptiona,l it still rocks. However because this is Gentle Giant, it certainly can feel a bit milquetoast at times especially when compared to the rest of their repertoire. The title track is a fast paced, medieval-inspired romp in the first half before quickly evolving into a heavy riff-laden rocker in the second. 'The Runaway' is likely the tune that appeals toward the progressive rock crowd, with it's steady staccato hooks underlayed by such things as Kerry Minnear's exemplary keyboarding and tenor vocals, silky choral breaks, and funky bass and drum fills. It still remains one of my all-time favorite openers to any album. 

The two shorter tracks that fill in the gap between these three legendary tracks are the conduits for Giant's more experimental ideas. 'An Inmates Lullaby' is a unnerving, vibraphone-headed ditty that delights in alternating between cheery vibe' tinkles and haunting vocal melodies. 'A Reunion' is an out-and-out neo-Rennaissance ballad, bereft of rockisms and instead chock-full of strings, strings and more strings. Delightfully simple and effective in its delivery.

In a Glass House was bestowed onto my ears at a very young age and likely has caused me to have my nostalgia goggles on when looking at this album to a certain extent. As I am human I cannot throw away my biases entirely, but what I can do is assure you objectively that In a Glass House is still one of the most sonically daring, creative, and wonderful records that I've heard in my lifetime.

2018 -  Frying Pan Media & Thatcher 
Have a nice day! 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Music Review #155:
Pounding the Pavement

DISCLAIMER: because this is Anvil, a band that holds a very special place in my heart, my words are bound to be much less formal and a bit loose as I will tend to ramble. Be warned. Also happy new year.

Ever since the release of the 2009 Netflix documentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil", the sad tale of misfortune about the talented 80's group Anvil has garnered them the success and support that they've been seeking so dearly for almost 40 years. The members of Anvil have been very keen on stating how ecstatic they are to have found their success on numerous occasions through interview after interview. Hell, their newest effort is titled "Pounding the Pavement", a title that frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow postulates is referring to him "rustling up business for forty years and staying at it". That must mean, undoubtedly, that the product of this newfound success that is even titled as an acknowledgement to said success should be a glowing symbol of Anvil's victory. It should.

When bands like Slayer and Metallica started out, it only took them five or less years to have the hype of mainstream popularity hefted onto their shoulders. As such, they were rather quick to the mark to familiarize themselves with not only the expectations for themselves, but the expectations other put onto them. When Anvil, a band so good during the same time that it influenced the two aforementioned examples, received no such popularity. Though stagnant in this regard, Anvil was nonetheless able to forge on, providing continued quality for the past several decades. But now that Anvil has gained a somewhat of a higher level of popularity, with them providing live show after live show with an attendee count higher than anything they would have gotten in the 80s, the staleness that usually hits a band after an extended amount of time under the same level of popularity has hit Anvil drastically in a matter of a few years.

Yes, it's rather unfortunate, but this album is likely the worst Anvil album yet. It's surreal to say as just two years ago Anvil is Anvil hit the scene and was, although a run-through of Anvil's signature traditional heavy metal sound, a still creative and rather entertaining release. Songs like 'Up, Down Sideways' and 'Fire On The Highway' remain exemplary tracks in the band's repertoire. 

However with a lapse of creativity and a far more boiled down production, Pounding the Pavement lacks much of the charm and authenticity of it's predecessor. For one, this has to be the absolute worst Anvil lyricism yet, and that is definitely saying something. This is made clear with each time Anvil moves anywhere close to the political spectrum, such as on 'Ego' (likely the most laughably bad anti-Trump anthem put to music- "change your diapers", yikes) or on 'Don't Tell Me' (a lambasting of "fake news"). It isn't helped that Lips' vocals are seemingly more on the forefront of the sound, giving him ample opportunity to let loose his extremely cringe-inducing lyrics and similarly downsizing his fellow bandmates' place in the fray. With all that taken into account, Lips' vocal delivery isn't even that good. While adopting different tones and inflections on Anvil is Anvil (such as the Mustaine-esque one on 'Fire on the Highway'), his delivery seems to remain very bound to his default rasp that gets extremely grating, especially as it's not quite intimidating enough to come off as genuine.

Aside from the lyrics and vocals, Pounding the Pavement missteps in quite a few other areas. The aforementioned production muddies the overall sound quite badly. Chris Robertson's bass is almost completely drowned under the drums and guitar, giving him little room to be heard at all. Secondly, the charming songwriting that usually propels Anvil out of the halls of mediocrity have fused them to the spot on this one. On one end of the spectrum the songs are completely hook with little to no filling, i.e. trotting out the same (relatively boring) riff ad nauseum for three or so minutes. The other end sounds like what I believe my friend Khaliq put best: "a glam metal band comeback- and not a good glam metal band". 'Doing What I Want' is very true to the latter, with pseudo-swagger being backed by a contrived staccato riff. Other tracks like 'Rock That Shit' have a horribly cheesy arena-rock tone that would fit something done by latter-day Poison.

The magic that Anvil had on previous releases might be a bit stagnant here, but it doesn't mean that some things weren't objectively done right, particularly concerning the Anvil trio itself. Robb Reiner. All that needs to be said is that name. Reiner is perhaps the most underappreciated and balls-to-the-wall drummers to ever grace heavy metal, and his performance on this record is the biggest driving force keeping me going through it. On the other hand bassist Robertson, I believe, will never ascend to the greatness that was Glenn Five, nor will he get a truly explosive track like 2001's 'The Creep'. Definitely not with this sort of songwriting or production. It seems like that even in songs where his bass must be at the forefront like 'Warming Up', he's pushed unceremoniously into the background as he tries desperately to follow with Reiner and Lips. In the guitar section, Lips is still rather on top even if his riffs are fairly contrived. It is still wise for him to follow the advice that many have given him over the years and obtain a second guitarist as to add dynamics that Anvil so badly needs.

Song-wise, there's a few standout tracks here. The title track instrumental is a classic gallop of a tune, hitting quite a few good strokes in its grooving runtime. The cowbell is a nice, earthy touch too. 'World of Tomorrow' is a big, monumental track that's kind of funny with this hard-ass riff being the background to moments like Lips weakly shouting "peace and love!!!!" Nevertheless its pounding nature and the impressive clashing guitar tones towards the second half make it stand out quite well. Other than that, the tracks have a bad tendency to bleed into one another, or stand out in a not-very-positive way.

That ends this ramble. I must stress that I did very much want this album to be as good as Anvil is Anvil was. It just wasn't. Hopefully, this is not a signalling of Anvil breaking their near-perfect forty-year streak of good albums, because that would really be a shame. Knock on wood.

2018 -  Frying Pan Media & Thatcher 
Have a nice day!