Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Doughboys, Part II: Crush is Fucking AWESOME

Isn't it awesome when two things you love go together great? I was hanging out with Adam Franklin from Swervedriver between soundcheck and showtime in downtown Seattle and when the Doughboys came up in conversation, he immediately revealed that only was John Kastner a good friend, but also a guitar tech for the Swervies when they played Coachella this past spring. Small world. Apparently both bands gigged together some back in the day...what I wouldn't give to have been born a decade earlier...

Crush arrived while I was still at college. Appropriately, the CD was in fact crushed, the case cracked and the lower-right corner of the case broken off. Dismayed, I gave the seller some neutral feedback and threw the album on.

Holy shit.

Better than Home Again? It's sure as shit in the same league, at the very, very least. But here, most of the band's hardcore elements are completely stripped away. In their place? Pop. Outright, catchy-as-hell vocal harmonies even more accessible than on previous records. Polished guitar tone with just enough messiness in the playing to keep things loose and fun. This is a special record, and not like Home Again; Crush is a rare record: incredibly commercial, but entirely guilt-free. The Husker Du-influenced "honest" sound of Kastner and company's vocals are hardly gone, but soaked in just enough sugar.

There's not a bad song on the record. "Shine" kicks it off with a riff that, well, shines like the summer sun. The energy has nowhere to go but up on the chorus of "Melt"-- its soaring guitars beautifully juxtaposed with the slightly subdued but still active bass fuzztone of Peter Arsenault during the verses. "Disposable" briefly takes things down a notch with a tale of a girl who's "drunk again/on Listerine" and who's "just a toothpaste cap/falling down my bathroom sink." Another phenomal chorus. "Fix Me" explodes with a riff that hits you face first. It's also ripe for photogenic slo-mo headbanging in pop-punk. Don't take my word for it, watch below.

Note John singing the prechorus just before returning to headbanging.

You get all this awesome in just the first four tracks. There's still 2/3 of an album's worth of awesome left.

So go to eBay, sort through the dollar bins and find this record. It can easily be had for under five bucks.

I'll post a song or two soon, check back.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Their Presence is Unquestionable

Atheist were a Floridian technical death metal band and one of the first to incorporate jazz elements into their sound. Their first record, Piece of Time, was a ragin' disc of death/thrash and a very promising debut. The band really came into their own, however, on 1991's Unquestionable Presence. The only traditional death metal element present was Kelly Shaefer's rasp-- but even then, he was one of the more intelligible extreme vocalists of the era. Shaefer and Rand Burkey's guitars clashed over or played with the insane bass style of Tony Choy (who recorded the lines written by original, amazingly promising bassist Roger Patterson, the unfortunate victim of a tour van crash) and the jazzy, almost melodic drumming style of Steve Flynn.

The band reunited and played a whole bunch of festival appearances throughout 2006 and 2007. I was very fortunate to meet, see, and hang out with the guys (including live guitarists Sonny Carson and Chris Baker, filling due to Shaefer's carpal tunnel and Burkey's legal troubles) at their first US show in 13 years for Baltimore's 2006 Auditory Assault Fest. Great guys, amazing set, and overall one of the best nights of my life.

The interview I did with Steve, Kelly and Tony was first published in my school's newspaper, but as of this week it's been published in the fine, long-running metal/punk/grind zine Disposable Underground, written by Richard Johnson of grind 'n' rollers Drugs of Faith. Every single issue he's ever written can be downloaded in PDF form and is worth your attention if you're into any sort of extreme music. Back in the day, he did quality interviews with Carcass, Discordance Axis, Napalm Death, Gorguts, and a bazillion more. Richard will also send you a copy of the zine free of charge, should you want a print copy.

Back to my interview, though-- it's not my best piece, writing-wise. With that said, however, the band's answers are quite awesome and quite thorough. Have a read through some of Richard's stuff, too– he's a great journalist.

If you're scratching your head wondering what the hell jazz and death metal sound like when they're mixed, try their classic "An Incarnation's Dream" on for size.

Atheist- An Incarnation's Dream

Star Wars Can Be Mixed With Goddamn Near Anything And Still Rule