Friday, February 20, 2015

Draw Hard Trailer

I am admittedly sad for myself that I did not know about the film Draw Hard sooner than today. Set to be released February 27th through Fandor, it is a documentary by TurnStyle Films about Cleveland's gnarliest and most dedicated poster artist, John G. I have known John for what seems like forever - always welcoming a warm conversation with him whenever we ran into each other. John was one of the first people to regularly read this blog and pushed me foreword with encouraging words when I first moved to Los Angeles.

It was his penchant for drawing humans with animal heads and other such post apocalyptic images that turned me on to his work - later hiring him to draw posters for my band Southern Trespass (I will never forget that babe he drew, shotgun draped over shoulder, for the big Jigsaw gig.)

Anyway, I am glad I know about this film and I am surely going to seek it out next week. And I am over joyed to help spread the word about Draw Hard and my old friend Johns collection of work because he is truly the embodiment of Cleveland's DIY spirit.

Check out the Draw Hard Facebook

Draw Hard Trailer from TurnStyle Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One Song in Words - HIRAM-MAXIM Visceral

The Lottery League was always a great way to hear some abstract music from people who usually stick to what they know. Much like the Battle Bowl in World Championship Wrestling, it randomly drew names of local musicians from a hat to create bands made up of sometimes total strangers forced to write brand new music together ASAP. This Marvel comics “What If” philosophy is how local ambient stoner metallers Hiram-Maxim came to be – in pure truth is stranger than fiction fashion, they are set to release their first full length record on Aqualamb records.

Thanks to the fine people at Vice, the world got a sneak peak with the early release of the song Visceral: a seven minute opus of raw emotion and down trodden riffs – a journey through a dark dimension of musical experimentation (aka Cleveland weirdness at it’s most artistic). Fred Gunn provides the eerie vocals – a far removal from his days fronting the snotty punk rock antagonizers Sex Crimes. Here he shows another side of his personality: a somber, dare we say more adult, Gunn has a voice full of sorrow on Visceral, a song he says he wrote in remembrance of a deceased friend.

The first two minutes creeps with the vampy persistence of Type O Negative; a gothy mystery that tugs us along until exploding into a doom metal ode to Midwest hardcore, like Windhand covering Endpoint. Pedal fuzz drains the song into horror movie score territory, blissfully spinning into a heavy-eyed end, leaving goose bumps on arms and sleep at bay. If the full length stands up against Visceral then we are in for a long night of exceptional music that’s in a league of its own.

Hiram-Maxim Website

Friday, February 6, 2015

Album Review: Cruelster – Potatoe Boys

The abbreviation LP is for the term ‘”long player” which is used to describe a twelve inch record or a “full length” release from a recording artist. Usually an LP is a chance for a band to give the listener an hour or so of their musical vision but you don’t have to worry about all that shit with Cleveland oddities Cruelster: their first LP is a seven inch disguised as a twelve; clocking in at eleven minutes, it is about the same length as a Rush song.

“Boys in the Biggest City” is Cleveland hardcore at it’s most obnoxious, shitty and all around ugliest self. Reminiscent of all the great late nineties stuff that came out of the city, Cruelster is a monster of thrashy angst and masters of pointless noise. There is nothing considerably great about Potatoe Boys but it’s an insanely fun couple of minutes.

“Lipid” meshes the chaotic joy of the Darvocets with the smart destructive nature of the Homostupids while “I’m Too Small” nears the pained, suburban anger of eighties Cleveland legends the Dark. It’s hard to say if Potatoe Boys needs a few more tunes or its perfect in its gruff and fleeting existence. While not original, the genre has seen it all done before, sometimes a band like Cruelster makes the old seem new and twice as much fun the second (or third) time around. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Album Review: Obnox – Boogalou Reed

Lamont “Bim” Thomas is a scene stalwart for the generations; you knew him when you were a young buck, shared a joint with him when your band opened for his and introduced him to your girl when you came back to town for a visit. He was around when Lakewood was fringe and he continues to push Cleveland toward artistic Valhalla rather than hot topic wasteland.

From the Bassholes to This Moment in Black History and on to his current project, Obnox, Bim has been a Cleveland punk rock ambassador of the high kind. While not for everyone, Obnox has created a body of work as eclectic as the man himself; a dizzying blend of Funk, Punk, Hip Hop and pure noise. Past records like I’m Still Bleeding are difficult to grasp, challenging listeners to broaden their interpretations of music and crushing the idea of genres, tilting from fuzzed out garage rock to unorthodox Miami bass. It’s all a little much for new ears to take; maybe a hit off that joint will help.

We get a good indication of where Boogalou Reed is headed from the gates; starting with a plodding two minute number called “Wonder Weed”, the long player is already pushing our buttons. That is the point of rowdy rock music after all and Bim shovels attitude down our throats on the brash “Too Punk Shakur”; full of pure Clevo snarl, “Shakur” is a triumph of turbulent rock and roll. The title track is an eerie work of experimentation; like a smoother Self Destruct Button sipping on a wine cooler.

“I don’t care about Maximum Rock n Roll” Bim reflects on “Situation”, trading guitar driven garage rock for east coast hip-hop. It’s blunt music, ride or die meets the nineties Cleveland punk scene.

On what may be the most dissimilar cover of all time, Bim spins “Ohio” around on its axes until there is no note of Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young, only the type of Cleveland weirdness capable exclusively from a man who lived to define what that weirdness was. Boogalou Reed is not a normal record by any stretch of the word unless, of course, you are Lamont "Bim" Thomas because for him it's just another day in the life. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cleveland Classic - WMMS The Pride of Cleveland Compilation

There are certain images you grow up with as a music fan in Cleveland and chances are most of them revolve around a rock and roll buzzard with an annoying smirk on his face. The WMMS buzzard (does he have a formal name?) was a big part of Cleveland rock for at least three decades (he seemed to have died sometime around the early 00’s); the mascot of the cities flagship AOR radio station, he was less a character and more a symbol of our town’s readiness to rock.

The Pride of Cleveland compilation (an EBay score at $8 including postage) is a vinyl time capsule taking us back to a moment in music where everything was changing.  1980 was not just the start of a new decade but it also ushered in the Mtv generation, saw the steady decline of Punk Rock and the emergence of Hardcore. There was a lot going on in Cleveland music but, for WMMS, it was all about rock and this record shines a bright light on some bands that, at the time, were probably heralded on 101 FM as the next big thing to come out of the North Coast. That didn’t ring true but it’s still, looking back, a fine example of steel belt guitar rock at it’s beer chugging, factory working finest.

American Noise rattles the record into gear with their Midwest power-rock (a theme we will get used to before this over). The lyric pounds home a hard luck ethos: “I don’t care where you’ve been, we’ve all been there before” which is a familiar mantra for Ohio natives. The Cheap Trick influence drips like sugary quarter water off of the Jerry Busch Group’s “Nobody Does Me Better” but it’s the Hanoi Rocks attitude meets the Stones swagger on the Don Kriss party starter “Where’s the Fire” that really highlights what the local rock scene was made of. So catchy and worthy of another round of shots, it would make Gilby Clarke blush.

There are misses of course; the suburban reggae of I-Tal sounds out of place, better suited for a River Rocks afternoon set in the Flats. Wild Horses just need to get the fuck out of here with their “Funky Poodle”, recorded live at the Agora during a taping of the famous “Coffee Break Concert Series” promoted by the station. A well-intentioned stab at a skanking Ska romp came off like Around the Corner yacht club rock.

The Generators bring us back with their punk tinged anthem “I’m a Generator” while Love Affair burn through “Mama Sez”; perfect regional rock, equal parts Nugent and Segar.

Things end with the dull disco of Flatbush. While not much of value can be found in their end-of-the-seventies ugliness their lyrics do impart some pure Cleveland bar romanticism “out of all the girls, you’re the one that I have dug”.

It’s important to remember that in the middle of Michael Stanley madness, Cleveland did have bands going in other directions and Pride of Cleveland, while not a perfect frame of reference for the time, is a good example of what was and who ‘could have been’.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Album Review - Wetbrain

Hands are shaky, nose running, head spinning; Cleveland morning syndrome brought on by “the lifestyle” which leads some to early party-remorse-retirement and others to musical shittery of the most excellent variety. Wetbrain is made up of hard luck lifers of the west side variety (you know, the kind that saw Motorhead at the Variety) and their stuff sounds the part even as much as they look it, scabbed knuckles, callused fingers et al.

If you live in Cleveland and have been living under the rock that is the local music scene, then you don’t need to be told the lineage of dumpster dive orchestras that these guys created in their past but let’s just say that with out their histories the music scene would have been more Modest Mouse influence than Gauze. Nine Shocks Terror, GSMF, The Darvocets…the list reads like a documentary on Speak in Tongues.

Wetbrain isn’t a “where they left off” type of band though; instead they are the type of booze and bruise rock and roll only made by assholes that never stopped. It’s West Blvd rock, Unique Thrift punk: just don’t call it rehash because this is a full on pipe bomb of rust belt aggression. The musical chronicle of being down and out in a town that’s just the same.

“Occupy This” stumbles like last call at Now That’s Class; crass and unapologetic street rock played by guys who know it well. The spastic rush of “This Never Happened” rattles your brains with the rapid fire call ‘shut your mouth, can’t win’ being a little too close for Cleveland comfort.

The blood curdling hardcore of “Party ‘Till It’s a Blurr” is a strange and near perfect companion to the borderline smart rock and roll of “Euthanize Me”. It ends as blurry as it began; “Mental Surgery” showing as much Cleveland panache as a Browns Starter jacket.

Also to be noted is the sad in a way self-portrait cover art by Shaun and the classy color vinyl. It may have taken awhile but the first Wetbrain long player is worth every hangover you had last year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Location is a Problem -aka- A Call for New Music!

The Dead Town offices have officially re-opened and we are accepting the solicitation of recorded musical material. I usually would not beg you to send music to me but it's kind of hard to find new tunes from Cleveland bands while living in Los Angeles. Tough shit you say (man, you are a friend in rough times)? Yes, you are right, it is tough shit.

Ok. I will be honest with you. I miss my hometown. I miss it so much my mother and I danced to "Burn On" by Randy Newman on my wedding night. That river calls my name, I taste the sweet sting of a buttered pierogi as I write. Take mercy on a home sick ex-patriot and send me your wares so I can write pretty things about them.

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