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.

Email us for mailing address or send files to:

Thank you for your assistance with this matter.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Album Review – Ringworm Hammer of the Witch

Album Review – Ringworm Hammer of the Witch Cleveland, Ohio is a hardcore town. Its river famously went up in flames, temps average ten below during winter and beer is the beverage of choice most mornings. Simply said, to live in Cleveland you have to be tough. Ringworm is the soundtrack to the city, gritty as the streets; full of the rusty plight of the steel mills. Hammer of the Witch (Relapse Records) brutalizes a message of extreme measure, driving home the ethos of their hometown, a better dead than dieing philosophy.

“Dawn of Decay” starts with a stomping barrage of riff, sounding like an army of pouncing Doc Martins; leading to the pained screams of James Bulloch. Bulloch is known by most as the “human furnace” which seems like a handy super power in the winter wasteland of the mid west, but it’s not propane exuding from him rather pure hell fire and brimstone. Better get a tetanus shot for your ears, his voice cuts like rusty barbed wire on the devastating “Bleed”. Savage and raw, it is the perfect compliment to the razor sharp guitar work of Matt Sorg and John Comprix. Their contribution on Hammer sounds down right nostalgic for fans of mid-west hardcore, like Integrity but more brutish and evil as shit…yes, it’s possible and it’s awesome.

“Psychic Vampire” is just gnarly; beyond pissed off metalcore at it’s most heated. Relapse would be smart to hire a priest to follow the band on tour, reading last rites to any kid dumb enough to get into the pit during “vampire”. The crushing double bass drum assault by Danny Zink, punishment enough, will cause someone to dive off a stage this summer. Please, for the love of all that is unholy, send our regards to his mother. 9/10

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Review: Coffinberry S/T... my first stab

A new Coffinberry release is like an unexpected gift from a loved one: I don’t have any expectations but any time they show me how much they care is greatly appreciated. Needless to say I was swooning when I opened my mailbox to find their brand new self-released, self-titled record inside. I felt like making snow angels in a giant field of dandy lions (or lifting weights and pounding beers if that makes me more of a man.)

These guys have been the best of the strong hold bands in Cleveland for the better part of the past decade. What that means is that they have taken over the reigns from bands like the H-100s, TKOs and Cobra Verde. A workhorse to say the least, Coffinberry has probably amassed enough tunes to satisfy the local music nerds for generations to come. So why, oh why, has their tenacity and pure song writing genius not transferred outside of Cleveland? I have no conclusive answer to that question. America is asleep and it’s sad; maybe this new record can cure the collective coma the rest of the nation seems to be in.

After a brief stint with Morphius Records, Coffinberry has decided to go it alone releasing this LP (that means long-player…it’s a term used to describe 12” vinyl records which is how this album is being released) on their own imprint Central Command Center Records. CCC is best known for their uber awesome collection of cassette tapes (Dimeras, Death Sweats) and maybe it was their lack of knowledge in other more progressive musical formats that led them to co-release with the Collectible Escalators label (home to local favorites Machine Go Boom.) Label woes aside, it’s a great treat to hear the long awaited follow up to what may be a bona fide legendary record, God Damn Dogs.

The Cross brothers are a formable tag-team, Nick continues to hone his vocal prowess on the kicker ‘Lorena’ where he sounds like he is a non-goof King of Leon, one that could easily drink the amount of bourbon as the others claim. His older brother Tony continues to be the back-bone of the band as the one-two punch of his drum work along with his siblings song-writing are comparable to a Cleveland Oasis. Don’t throw your empty bottle of Straub at me for writing such a garbage comparison but what is simple is true.

‘New Color’ expands the bands work by adding a piano and harmonica into the mix, all together it’s like Crimpshrine and Neil Young doing a summer duet. The band is slowing things down in comparison to God Dam Dogs which was a record that almost dared the indie rock world to try and turn their backs on Coffinberry. Full of pop laden anthems and radio ready, reflective life lessons, GDD was an A&R reps wet dream. This record sounds like a defiant step forward and beyond, more country than pop and more the result of a night of bong rips than pints of British ale.

‘Glassy Shiny Sun’ is a beautiful reaction to what national music media calls alt-country; sweet guitar strumming and a young, excited tone from Nick comes together to rival most of the herald My Morning Jackets latest work. Coffinberry is easing their way into a world that few local Cle bands have ever set foot one into and they are doing it their way which is to say wonderfully.

‘Little Machine’ may be the hit that these guys have seemingly been avoiding for the past few years. It’s exciting and addictive, full of summer fun and maybe a little of autumn regrets. I don’t’ know, is this indie rock, college rock or just plain kick-ass rock and roll?
The answer avoids me as ‘The Vapors’ slowly drags my spirit away. With tokens of the aforementioned MMJ’s most depressing songs and Tom Waits circus world undertones, this song is a kick in the mouth at the end of a record that still makes me wonder: is this the best they have? If it is, that is a feat that deserves the utmost praise and respect and, if not, then I am finding God and repenting because I never saw something this good in Cleveland’s future.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Welcome to Cleveland Big Cactus!

I’m thankful that I was not pre-mature in welcoming Shaq to the city of Cleveland. The news broke late last night, he is on his way for better or worse. I stand by my remarks that Shaquille O’Neil will make a fine Clevelander even if he disappoints on the court. Be it scandal or hilarity, Shaq will bring some much needed water cooler worthy antics to a city that has had only one real A-list celeb for far too long (no offense King, you’ll always be our favorite).

So break out the confetti and champagne; there’s a new neighbor that needs to be welcomed to Cleveland in style.

And no one has even mentioned all the Hip Hop cuts Joe Smith and Shaq can cut together. A new Cleveland Classic is on the cusp of being born in some fashion, I can feel it in the air.

See you soon, Shaquille.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

World Wide Wonderful Episode I : My Friend Cleveland

I have always wished that there was a community of cool Cleveland music webpage’s that I could drool over each morning and being in Los Angeles only magnifies how little access I have to the city. Of course there are the shinning stars: Clepunk for example has been a great resource for those wanting to know more about the Cleveland punk scene or to altogether reconnect with it. It hasn’t changed much over the years but the message board remains a place for old and young wastoids alike to come together to discuss old Starvation Army and Floyd Band shows. And no one here is afraid to get into catty internet name calling which is a huge plus.

Message boards are pretty much key to making a local website work. I know this blog is lacking without one; where is a guy supposed to talk shit and alter porn photos? That sort of stuff is really the drawing factor to My Friend Cleveland.

I will be the first to admit that I should have done my homework and found out who is behind this website and what their history is; but, let’s be honest, I am not going to go that far. I have, though, been a transient visitor for the past couple of years but I usually pass up the blog entries and head straight for the ‘board of all boards’.

There’s not a ton of people posting here but you have some key figures writing weekly and it’s an A-list of local wingnut musicians and more than a few professional barfly. It’s pretty rad that amid the flyers and let-you-in-on-it posts there are gems about the history of .10 cent beer night (complete with highlights from this years reenactment), photos from the Romantic Getaway fest and a thread posted by a dude in need of a tap for his keg of beer.

Unfortunately the main page acts primarily as a gateway to the board; it’s barely been touched since the new year and what few updates we've been given are more personal than anything. There are some high-techy bits though: it would be fool hardy of me not to mention the sweet Vietnam Werewolf video posted in March. This is another band I feel really angry about missing out on. Honestly I have heard very little of them and here I feel a strange Fifteen vibe coming from their stage show. There are beers being held high as they tear through a bouncy punk tune that brings to mind Berkeley punk, mid-90s. Is that way far off or totally right on? You tell me but don’t post any fucked up altered pics of me in a hot tub with rr (that’s an internet message board abbreviation, get used to it).