Quiet Riot – “Metal Health”

If you’ve ever flipped through vinyl at a used record store, I guarantee that you’ve run across Metal Health.  I have too.  Sometimes I think there’s a secret organization that, when they find out you’re opening a used record store, drops off a box of records in front of your shop on the day it opens.  Because there are albums that EVERY record store seems to have.  Don McLean’s American Pie.  Europe’s The Final Countdown.  Frampton Comes Alive!  It’s easy to roll your eyes when you yet once again put your finger tips on top of one of these and quickly pass it by as you flip through to more promising fare behind it.  But remember one thing, kids – the reason there are so many of these records in the used bins is because these bands sold a shit-ton of records.  Metal Health sold 6 million copies… just in the US.  Let that number sink in for a minute.  Six.  Million.  That’s one copy for roughly every 52 people in the country today, regardless of age.  That’s insane.

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I’m not sure why I decided to finally buy a used copy of Metal Health the other day while I was down in Portland.  I’ve passed it by dozens of times, and I already have “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Metal Health” on my iPod, and my guess is most people couldn’t name another song on Metal Health (I could only think of one other – “Slick Black Cadillac”)… hell, name me a song other than “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” from any of their subsequent nine albums (nine?  really??  there were nine more???).  Quiet Riot were the perfect flash in the pan, the right band with the right look and the right sound at the right time.  And that time was 1983, when hair metal/glam metal/butt rock was rocketing to the top of the charts.  And on the week of November 26, 1983 it bumped off Synchronicity to take over the number one spot on the Billboard 200.  Only six albums were at number one in 1983 (that fact blows my mind…).  The other artists were Michael Jackson, The Police, Men At Work, Lionel Richie, and the Flashdance Soundtrack.  There hadn’t been a hard rock band at the top of the chart since AC/DC spent two weeks there in January 1982.  So it was a pivotal album from a pivotal time in my life, when I was just discovering music that wasn’t the stuff my parents listened to.  In fact, there’s a very good chance that this is the first metal record I ever bought (and I had it on vinyl then too).  So how could I not take the opportunity to re-discover it?

I’m like a laser,
Six-stringed razor,

I got a mouth like an alligator.
I want it louder, 
More power,
I’m gonna rock ’til it strikes the hour.
Bang your head!
— “Metal Health”

You couldn’t escape the video for “Cum On Feel The Noize” in 1983.  It was playing on MTV all the time.  The video for “Metal Health” was, in my opinion, much better (so was the song…), but it never quite caught on as well as the other single.  One of the odd things about Quiet Riot is that their biggest single, the song they’re most known for, is a Slade cover.  Not only did Slade originally write and perform “Cum On Feel The Noize” in 1973 (as a young fan I could never figure out why they spelled it “cum”…), they also wrote another of Quiet Riot’s hits, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” back in 1972.  So two of Quiet Riot’s three charting singles were actually Slade covers.  Does that make them athe greatest Slade cover band of all time?  Regardless, these guys were on top of the world in 1983.  They were in Hit Parader, on MTV, and I thought they were cool as hell.

That being said, how many people every got more than two tracks deep into Metal Health?  Sure, if you had the record you probably played it all the way through once, maybe twice.  But the two big songs were the first two tracks on side A.  Personally I doubt I’ve listened to the rest of the album more than 3-4 times in the last 31 years.  Maybe I played “Slick Black Cadillac” a few more times since my friend Jeff turned me on to it back then, but that’s about it.  But Jeff was ahead of his time.  Even though we were the same age (pre-high school) he had a couple of studded leather wristbands and a roach clip hidden in his room.  I, on the other hand, had parachute pants and good grades.  But I owe Jeff for that one at least.

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Guitar god Randy Rhoads was a founding member of Quiet Riot, but he was gone prior to Metal Health and turned over the guitar duties to Carlos Cavazo, who actually shreds pretty good on the album.  Kevin DuBrow had some decent range up front, able to sing raspy but also hit some of those epic higher notes that were required in the metal world at that time.  I thought the band looked tough as hell (see photo from the reverse jacket), though it always seemed like DuBrow was a bit old looking for an up-and-coming rocker, which I suppose he was – he would have been around 27 when Metal Health was released.  They weren’t as glam as a lot of bands became within the next year or so, and maybe that just made them seem a little more real to me.

If you were aware of music in the 1980s, or have any type of 80s rock compilation, or have every seen any type of 80s VH1 retrospective, or find hair metal ironically funny, you’re probably already familiar with the two opening tracks, “Metal Health” and “Cum On Feel The Noize.”  But what about after that?  “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” is a bit of a twist, kind of a soul-blues rocker that sounds like it would be at home in any Pam Grier movie from the 1970s, while “Slick Black Cadillac” gets a bit heavier again, with the guys joining DuBrow for some dubious attempts at harmonizing.  Side A closes out with “Love’s A Bitch,” the obligatory slow-and-heavy number, though it’s surprisingly decent, like a rawer, less overproduced version of any Whitesnake song that featured Tawny Kitaen in the video.  Overall it’s a pretty good side of music.

Side B opens with “Breathless,” which frankly could have, and probably should, been on the aforementioned Flashdance soundtrack.  If there’s such a thing as a heavy metal dance song, this is it.  “Run For Cover” is sort of average hair metal, though one that closes with a mini John Bonham style drum solo, while “Battle Axe” is the requisite guitar solo song (all the elements are here!).  “Let’s Get Crazy” is, of course, about rockin’ and gettin’ crazy, because why wouldn’t it be?  And the whole thing closes out with “Thunderbird,” a soaring, inspirational number that sounds like a metal gospel tune.

I suppose this is such a seminal album to me because it came at a time when I was just starting to try to learn who I was as a person, what I liked, what I resented, and what type of image I wanted to portray.  That sounds a bit superficial when I put it that way, but I think most of us went through that phase, and music was part of that for me.  Quiet Riot had a look and an attitude that, while seeming cliched today, was legit at the time.  The imagery of the young metal fan being committed to an asylum because he wanted to rock had that anti-authority feel to it, something every generation has to experience it’s own way through music, whether that was Elvis or Dylan or [insert your seminal band here] .  Add in the leather and the ubiquitous Quiet Riot metal mask that hides your face, plus the songs about how much you want to rock and bang your head even if “they” tell you that you shouldn’t, and you have some powerful, if somewhat subliminal and unconscious, archetypes.

I’m glad I picked up a copy of Metal Health.  It certainly does sound a bit dated, but smack-dab in a musical period that was important to me personally, so I still enjoy it quite a bit.  “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was surprisingly good, as was all of side A, really.  It was more than a trip down memory lane, though… I’ll be spinning this thing all the way through again for sure.

A Tale of Two Tapes: Krakkbot – “Amateur Of The Year – Crammed With Cock” and Pink Street Boys – “Trash From The Boys”

ladyboytapesThe crew over at Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records has been at it again, putting out a couple of new tapes over the last few months.  I’d held off buying the Krakkbot release when it came out in April, but when I saw Pink Street Boys was being released this month I figured I’d go ahead and order both, because I really like what Lady Boy is all about.  Their heat-sealed Slugs Þorgeirsboli CD was one of my favorite pick-ups from Iceland Airwaves last year (and one of my favorite albums of 2013 as well), and I also enjoyed the Lady Boy Records 004 compilation, which features an eclectic roster of bands.  They’ve got some cool things going on over there, and all of it is put out in extremely limited copies, so when you see something you want you have to get it right away, at least you do if you want the physical medium.  And I, of course, do.  Because my name is Jeff, and I am a collector (“Hi, Jeff…”).

My tapes were waiting for me in the mail yesterday, though I’d already downloaded both albums as soon as I placed my order.  Today I gave them both a full listen for the first time, so here are some thoughts on each.

Krakkbot – Amateur Of The Year – Crammed With Cock

The laser etched case for this tape is similar to what Lady Boy did with their previous two cassette release, except, you know, with images of cock as part of the design.  The tape, like its predecessors, is a limited edition of 50 and each is hand numbered/etched (mine is #24… so maybe they’ve sold half the run so far?).

The opening track “The New Wave” led me to believe this was going to be some light hearted, chip-tuney electronica, but things quickly took a bit of a dark turn.  “Strictly Ballroom” took on a more drone-y feel, and was followed up by “I Got Love For My Woman,” which starts to take things in a slightly more weird, quietly intense direction.  By time we get to “DzzDzzzDeath” it feels like things are getting kind of creepy, like the suspense building in some kind of horror move that involve bugs.  “Lag #6” makes you think things are going to chill out again, at least until “The Message” lets you know that in fact, no, you’re in creepy town.  It’s the first track featuring vocals, and they’re very robotic and modulated, like a filthy-talking Stephen Hawking with his voice computer starting to lose power.  It stays trippy the rest of the way through and never gives you what you expect, when you expect it.

Pink Street Boys – Trash From The Boys

This is a new direction in packaging, with the tape encased in a cardboard box that actually appears to have been, at least for my copy, part of the packaging for a frozen pizza turned inside out, with the original packaging printing on the inside (0.9g of Salt… 9.5g of Protein…) and the printing for this release on what would have originally been the plain brown cardboard interior.  An interesting design concept, though if they could make it smell like pizza that might be even better.  The tape itself is numbered/etched like the others in the series, and this time I picked up an early one, scoring copy #3.

Trash From The Boys caught me a bit off guard.  I’d only heard the first track before, and it’s a pretty mellow electronica sounding song… which is quite unlike the rest of the cassette and its more psych garage punk in-your-faceness.  Though when I went back and listened to the opener “Up In Air” again, it wasn’t as clean cut as it had sounded before when I played it at a much lower volume.  There was definitely an undercurrent of something that spoke to a certain amount of weirdness, perhaps just a trace of a Butthole Surfers kind of vibe.  That’s followed by “Sleezus,” a good representative of the Pink Street Boys overall sound – raw, rocking, heavy, and a bit sloppy.  “Drullusama” finds the Boys even fuzzier with more static and feedback and reverb, while “Body Language” is recorded so hot and loud it’ll probably make you have to get up to turn down the volume a bit; it’s like a live performance recorded on a boom box and cranked up to 11 (in a good way).

Pink Street Boys have something lo-fi and great going on, channeling Iggy & The Stooges (especially on “Get Away”), Violent Femmes, and the overall trippy fuzztones of the Nuggets records.  That’s not to say they’re derivative, because the Boys are taking it in their own direction, doing things like the previously mentioned “Up In Air” as well as the pure hippy-drippy folk psych number “Psilocybe Semilanceata,” a song that would make me want to put flowers in my hair if I had any (any hair, that is…) and tell you how far out, man, those Pink Street Boys are.

 

All in all I like what Lady Boy Records has going on – their artists cover a wide range of styles, and they put a lot of effort into the design, packaging, and presentation of their releases.  If anyone knows where I can track down the Lady Boy Records 001 comp tape, by all means let me know, because I missed my chance to get it last year when I was in Reykjavik.  I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves next.  If you’re out there reading this, my vote is something on vinyl!

Record Shopping – Portland, Oregon Style, 2014 Edition

Mrs. Life In The Vinyl Lane and I just celebrated an anniversary, and we decided to do so down in Portland, Oregon so we could visit some friends and do a bit of a pub crawl.  Of course this also meant hitting up some of the local Portland shops for a bit of record shopping, because Holly is a trooper and willing to put up with my nonsense, and has done so for a really long time.  I’ve done the Portland scene before as posted HERE, but here’s a fresh look.

Mississippi Records

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Our first stop was at Portland’s own Mississippi Records, the combo record store/record label.  The store is small, but the selection is deep – you’re not going to find the run of the mill new releases here, but what you will find is the stuff that’s important and obscure.  And the prices… man, the prices.  Let’s just say you’ll never go to Mississippi and decide not to buy something because it’s too expensive.  Almost everything I picked up was cheaper than the lowest prices on Discogs, and when you factor in the fact that Oregon has no sales tax, this place is a win win win.  Dub from Augustus Pablo, punk from The Birthday Party, and my first foray into the weirdness that is Death In June, and I’d say I came away with some great stuff… and at a surprisingly reasonable price.  I probably could have spent four hours here… and the place isn’t that big.  An essential stop in Portland.

Crossroads Music

Crossroads is a great co-op, one location that houses product from over a dozen vendors who specialize in all kinds of stuff.  I did well here last time, and this trip was no different, coming away with Green River, Icelandic metal from Fortis, and some Cypress Hill.  But what really blew my mind was that while I was flipping through some stuff, something came on that I recognized – MALLEVS!  I asked the guy working there and the person he was talking to if that was the new MALLEVS record, and I think there was a second of stunned silence.  Turns out the visitor was from Gilgongo Records and was showing off the vinyl, which is massively random since I’ve reviewed it before and we’d never met previously.  My mind is still a bit blown by this.

If you’re into metal or punk, Crossroads is a must.  It’s probably a must for other genres too, but I didn’t have time to go through everything.

Millennium Music

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I didn’t make it here during my visit to Portland last year, but I’m glad we stopped by this time around.  It’s a big store with a healthy vinyl section, though much if not most of the records are new and unopened.  That being said, the selection is pretty deep, especially in rock.  I bought a comp of early Belgian Punk and, most importantly, a really nice copy of Quiet Riot’s Metal Health that I can’t wait to listen to, because I probably haven’t heard it all the way through since 1985 or so.

I can also recommend the local antique/junk shops, since in one of them I found this gem for a very reasonable price.  Not only is it a combo record / film strip player (for use by an insurance salesman, based on the records and films included), but it even works and has a built in speaker.  The best part is it plays records at 33, 45, and 78, so now I have all my bases covered!

recordfilmplayerYou spin me right round baby right round…

Lee “Scratch” Perry – “The Return Of Sound System Scratch: More Lee Perry Dub Plate Mixes & Rarities 1973 To 1979”

thereturnofsoundsystemscratchSo remember how the other day I wrote that doing dub reviews felt kind of pointless, since invariably everything ends up being described as spacey and trippy?  Well, The Return Of Sound System Scratch:  More Lee Perry Dub Plate Mixes & Rarities 1973 To 1979 sort of refutes that theory.  Perry’s early work from the mid to late 1970s isn’t super heavy on effects and overly focused on the riddim.  Instead he takes songs and just tweaks them a little here and there, leaving them remarkably intact with just a little extra spice and flair thrown in for good measure.  The originals remain recognizable and it feels more like listening to reggae than dub.

With two records and 18 tracks there are plenty of tunes on here to enjoy.  The vinyl is heavy weight and the liner notes in the reverse jacket tell a pretty decent and concise story.  So if you’re more into the reggae part than the dub part, this is the dub record for you.

The Fixtures – “Dangerous Music”

thefixturesdangerousmusicI don’t know much about this punk rock nugget from 1986.  The Fixtures are described as a “midwest” band who relocated to California and who, while punk, didn’t get caught up in all the ways people defined what is and what is not punk.  Except, perhaps, having a DIY ethic, self-releasing their debut Dangerous Music and packaging it in a plain bright pink jacket.  No band photos, no track listing; just a manifesto on the reverse that basically tells everyone to F off (“If you enjoy labeling things, people, and especially yourself, do not waste your time and money on this album”).  It all seemed odd enough that I felt like I needed to hear it for myself.

The Fixtures play a somewhat uptempo old school style of punk rock, with a lead singer who reminds me of a cross between Tortelvis of Dread Zeppelin and Tad Doyle of, well, Tad.  The music is tight and the vocals quirky but passionate – they don’t come across like some kind of joke or something.  All in all I think I prefer the songs on side B in general, particularly “Brutal Recipe” and “Bible Man,” but to be honest that could be as much because it takes a few songs to get into The Fixtures’ groove, which is sounding more and more to me likely moderately deranged cow punk.

This might be the most static-y record I own… plus there’s an annoying skip on side A, all of which is odd because it doesn’t have any obvious visible defects (<– I looked again… and there is a scuff) and I cleaned it before playing.  In fact, a lot of it sounds just a tiny bit “off,” and I don’t think it’s my stereo.  Dangerous Music may be a little hard to find on vinyl (though it is out there), but have no fear – in 1997 a CD came out that included both this album in full, as well as the band’s second album Defect, under the title Dangerous Music Defect (makes sense).  Frankly I think it’s worth picking up if you run across it, especially if you can find it used (and therefore cheaper).