MAMMÚT – “Ride the Fire” (2020)

Greetings again, dear reader. It’s been a while. In looking back I see this is only my third post in November in what has been a year of sporadic updates. I don’t think the saga that has been 2020 is entirely to blame, thought it has certainly contributed. The ironic thing is I feel like I’ve probably spent more time listening to music this year than I have in a very long time, and maybe ever since I can have it on while I’m working at home. And even though the three trips we had planned for this year all got cancelled, along with the record shopping that would have accompanied them, I’ve continued to buy music at a fairly steady pace. In fact I’m expecting one more shipment from my friends at Reykjavik’s Lucky Record right before Christmas, chock full of new releases.

So why the slowing of the blog? I don’t know. I started to feel like I was writing the same thing over and over. I’ve heard Henry Rollins describe the end of his music career by saying he basically woke up one morning, realized he had no more lyrics, and knew he’d never write a song again. For me it wasn’t quite that harsh, but there is definitely a feeling of not having much new to say, at least not unless an album is particularly compelling.

It’s a gray, damp morning here in the Seattle area. It’s also Thanksgiving, which is an important day here in the US. But of course COVID had other plans. We’ve only had two people inside our house, besides us, since March, and it’ll be just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner. But we still have so much to be thankful for, even in this crazy year. Neither of us have contracted COVID (as far as we know) and our families and friends are healthy. We’re both still working. We lost a dog, but added a new pup to the household. And even with all this time together in the house, both working from home, we’re still happy to be with each other.

Ride the Fire is the perfect soundtrack for a reflective morning like this one, its sense of wistfulness sandwiched between a light layer of sadness and another of hope. It’s hard to believe this is the same group we saw for the first time back in 2010. Is this really the same band that put out Karkari back in 2008? It’s hard to reconcile but also makes perfect sense. It’s as if you can feel how the members of Mammút have matured over the years, both in becoming more talented musicians but also, just as importantly, adults. The members were young teens when the band started in 2003, meaning they’re probably all in their early 30s now. Some of them have children of their own. There are jobs and bills to pay and responsibilities. Relationships have come and gone. Life happened. And that’s reflected in their music.

Ride the Fire has been getting a lot of play here over the last few weeks, and I suspect it will be getting plenty more. You should definitely go give it a listen yourself at Bandcamp HERE, and maybe pick up a copy on red vinyl while you’re at it.

“Animal Liberation” Compilation (1987)

Quick disclaimer – I’m not making any kind of political statement in posting about this record, which was a partnership between PETA and Wax Trax! Records. I bought it because I like some of the artists who contributed – Chris & Cosey, Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Nina Hagen, and Shriekback in particular. You have to admit, the lineup is pretty solid.

While contemporary articles indicate that most of the songs were written specifically for Animal Liberation, many were included by the artists on studio releases or singles prior to 1987. It makes sense that indeed they were written for this comp, which makes sense given that all thematically touch on animal rights, but clearly they weren’t intended only for this record. Others used their song sometime after 1987 – Chris & Cosey’s “Silent Cry” wasn’t put out by the duo until 1990 and Luc Van Acker included “Hunter” on an album in 1992. As near as I can tell the one track that is unique to Animal Liberation is Shriekback’s “Hanging Fire”. Note too that the UK version of the album includes some different tracks, removing Captain Sensible and adding The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The collection of bands is interesting, covering indie rock, new wave, electro, and industrial. While sonically enjoyable, I find that I can’t quite detach myself from the lyrics sufficiently to get into it. Again, this is in no way a comment on the message itself, but more recognizing that it’s a bit of a distraction when it comes to just trying to sit down and play a record. Oh, and the lyric insert contains a pretty gory full color photo of a dog used for animal experiments, so don’t say I didn’t warn you about that.

The Devil Makes Three – “Live At Red Rocks” (2019)

I can’t be certain when I discovered that used record stores were something that actually existed, but it was sometime in the mid-1980s. My best guess is it was Bellevue’s Rubato Records, which was directly across the street from Tower Records in one of those odd 1960s style small, two-level buildings that could house anything from an accountant’s office to a rundown rug store to a marginal nail salon, the kind with worn carpet, cheap construction materials, and the occasional water stain on the ceiling tiles. Rubato at the time was on the second level of one such nondescript building, and I bought a ton of used vinyl there over the course of a few years (and in fact it’s where I sold my vinyl collection in the 1990s). I wasn’t buying rarities t`here, more like getting my education in Blue Öyster Cult, Molly Hatchet, Grand Funk Railroad, and maybe if you were lucky the occasional Judas Priest import. But it was also here that I first laid eyes on The Guess Who’s Live At The Paramount, and it was at that moment that I fell in love with the idea of going to a concert that was eventually released as a live album.

That was an itch that I never scratched (♠) until last year when The Devil Makes Three put out Live At Red Rocks, a recording of their 2018 show at the fabled outdoor amphitheater. For whatever reason I missed that this had come out on vinyl until just the other day and I immediately ordered it – life goal achieved! Originally it was a digital only release, which I promptly purchased – it was just the physical copy that came as a total surprise. And as a result I broke one of my “rules”, which is not buying something on vinyl if I already have it on another format. But it’s not so much as a rule as a guideline. Don’t judge me!

In comparing the track list to set lists online, I’m intrigued by some of the songs that didn’t make the cut, classic tracks like “Tow”, “Gracefully Facedown”, “Johnson Family”, “Graveyard”, and “Bangor Mash” (at least if the set lists I’ve read are accurate…). To be fair, with the exceptions of “Johnson Family” and “Gracefully Facedown” the others have appeared on other DM3 live albums in the past, which may have played into the decision making process. Regardless, the album offers a wide selection of songs from the band’s catalog, including “The Bullet” and “Old Number 7” from their 2002 debut. All the songs sound great, though if I’m picking highlights my money is on the uptempo “All Hail” and the amazing a cappella of “What Would You Give”.

(♠) I have been to shows from which an individual song was pulled that later appeared on an album at least one time – Gusgus’ version of “Over” that appears on Live At KEXP – Volume Eight.

“We Were Living In Cincinnati” Compilation (2019)

I’m sure every US city had some kind of punk scene in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Sure they varied in size, but they were there somewhere, underground, outsiders facing disdain at best and violence at worst from the mainstream. And all these scenes had at least a few bands, even if that meant playing to your friends in your garage. Over the last decade or so there’s been a pretty substantial rise in punk historiography, much of it centered on shedding light into these local and regionalized scenes. As a result we’ve been treated to a lot of regional comps, something that in prior years were limited to a few indie projects and the Killed By Death series. And we’re all the better for it.

We Were Living In Cincinnati is one such comp, a look at the Cincinnati underground circa 1975-82 that was released last year by Chicago label Hozac Records. And it’s a beauty. Right from the opening Who-like riff of “Drinking Elvis Wine” I was hooked. Denis the Menace’s double-entendre homage “Working Girls” is a straight-forward classic, followed by the sneering “Asshole” by The Ed Davis Band, which then bleeds into the old school 1950s style rocker “Let’s Get It On” by The Customs… there’s something a bit different waiting for you on every track. My favorite track is News’ “Stop”, which has a somewhat contemporary feel given the recent popularity of bands like Idles and Fontaines D.C.

You can listen to We Were Living In Cincinnati on the Hozac Bandcamp page HERE.

Mr. Bungle – “California” (1999 / 2014)

I had exactly zero experience with Mr. Bungle prior to sitting down to play this record. My buddy Andy sent it to me, which was a pleasant surprise, and I decided to go into it cold without reading anything about the band or album in advance.

My version is the Music On Vinyl re-release from 2014. First things first – as always, MOV puts out a well-packaged product. Oddly, though, my copy seems to have some kind of issue during the first minute of the side A opener “Sweet Charity” in which the left speaker goes in and out. Cleaned my stylus, brushed the record again… same deal. That being said, Andy has the same version and his played clean, so could be something with my copy or possibly something that got into a couple of grooves. I usually don’t do a full clean of new vinyl, but may need to get this one into the Spin Clean to see.

As for the music, well, what can I say? Mr. Bungle incorporates elements of… well… EVERYTHING in California. Crooning? Check. Easy listening? Check. Surf… psych… Persian? Check check check. It’s both all-over-the-place and cohesive at the same time, maintaining a consistency by its commitment to being inconsistent.

I haven’t spent much time listening to some of the weirder rock performers like Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Butthole Surfers (Locust Abortion Technician still scares me a little). Most of my weirdness has been in the electronic and more purely avant garde side. I like what Mr. Bungle are doing here, though – the musicianship is excellent, as is the overall commitment to getting each style right, which makes for a pleasing listening experience.