Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dwarves - Blood Guts & Pussy (Sub Pop, 1990)

“I wanna get fucked in the back seat of my car."

Those words were magical (yeah, I said it) as they came pouring into my ears at age fifteen through my Walkman. And I didn’t even drive or fuck at that time! After hearing something this amazing, I just had to go see them open for Soul Asylum in a couple of days. Two songs, instruments thrown down, and off the stage they went! And so my love affair with The Dwarves began.

Blood Guts & Pussy: Exactly what do you make of a title like that, and can you even begin to imagine what would come out of such fine fellows who would name an album that? Pure genius is what I think! I compare it to a horror movie when it comes to the timing: anything over an hour and a half is shit.

With just over thirteen minutes, you get right to the point. All fucking around here, literally! “Motherfucker” gives tribute (you can say) to The Trashmen’s "Surfin’ Bird' ("What’s the word?/I’m a motherfucker/Papa-ooma-mow-mow").

Does anyone remember Rhonda's "Up All Night" on the weekends on USA? That's when they would play the “Drug Store” video flashing different drugs and crowd shots for one of your more memorable tunes, 'cause it’s slow enough for you to understand what Blag’s saying.

Nothing before this could compare to The Dwarves. You may claim punk rock ’77 and the Sex Pistols and blah blah blah….But this was different. With the album cover of bloodied, naked women and midgets, they had come to take those three chords of punk and crank them up. With drums pounding with a purpose to destroy. With simple guitar riffs to make you need that drug that was The Dwarves. With words that you would never utter in front of your mother. Summoning tales of drugs, sex, STDs, nuns, girls, and don’t forget about Astroboy! It was their credo: Fuck you up and get high!

Blag Dhalia is quite possibly one of the best front men in the business. Not a large man, but he will beat the crap out of anyone who dares challenge him. His always sidekick, Hewhocannotbenamed, adorned in jock-strap and wrestling mask, provides powerful stage presence without ever speaking a word by just showing you his ball sack! However, under that mask lies a professor who happens to be rather laid back. Yeah, Hewho, I just blew your cover!

This is pure-on hate fuck rock-n-roll! The kind where you would walk out of the show bleeding, bruised, and exhilarated! Listening to it now while writing this makes me want to go outside and punch one of the hipsters outside my house in the face! In my pajamas, no less! At thirty-four, it still instills the same feelings that it did when I was fifteen. I guess I never grew up, or this album is just that great. This is why I will always love you, Blag! My Dwarves tattoo is my testament to why I refuse to grow up and will always be right up front, yelling every word right along with you!

-Angie Granado-Wehrle

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen (Elektra, 1993)

At seventeen, you think you know everything there is to know about love, heartbreak, and the matters that come in between. Little did I know that some scrawny white boy from Cincinnati could write an album that would explain so much more about how people could tear each other apart in relationships.

The Afghan Whigs were the first band ever signed to Sub Pop from outside Seattle. Their major label debut on Elektra Records marked the beginning of their turn from grunge/rock Midwestern bar band to a new sound that was more rooted in soul, R & B, and raw emotions. Although Congregation was a gateway album to this sound, Gentlemen put that final touch on their change into soul singers, particularly those from the heart.

Emotions abound on this album, whether it's the part of a jilted lover, a cruel battle/relationship that is constantly beginning and ending, a domineering control freak who insists that all actions are in his favor and you are against him, or a tortured soul who will crawl back to you no matter what the cost to forsake all others until his next trick on the sly.

The album reads out perfectly as a diary/story, starting out with its swagger. Showing off as a man who is, above all, a ladies man who can crush you with the power of his cunning wit, oozing lines such as, "I've got a dick for a brain/And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you." Seriously, could any woman resist a man with confidence like that who would have the guts to say that to her?

After a few tracks such as these, Gentlemen turns to the heartbreak, and when this man sings of such, it brings any woman to her knees, taking a man back no matter how dirty the deed done the night before ("If I inflict the pain, then, baby, only I can comfort you"). How perfect! How perfectly evil! To only think what may have happened to inflict those words to another...

The amazing and talented Marcy Mays from Scrawl steps in the main role for "My Curse" and perfectly kills the song as if it were written for her. Perfect in a way to show a woman with the prowess of a man who deserves the agony that she has been given ("Temptation come not from hell, but from above"). When the Whigs' Greg Dulli goes back and does this, it just doesn't do justice in the same way as Mays does.

Of course when you depart into soul, you're going to cover a sweet slow jam from the '70s, and this is what AW do here with Tyrone Davis's "I Keep Coming Back." Dulli croons the magic pleas of a confused man ("I wanna go away/But, honey, I just can't stay/See, I'm your fool/I lost my cool/And I wouldn't lie/But I lay down and cry").

As I think back years later to when Gentlemen came out, I still sit and listen to the perfect melodies that carry these stories. But I also try to think about where that man was at in his own head and heart when he had to sing what he had to say. I have heard the stories of an ending relationship and impressing a "working woman" while wasted out of his mind when he sang half of these tracks at Ardent Studios in Memphis. However it got out, this album will always stick in my mind as the man who broke my heart and crawled back on his knees to me, with the devil in tow, to only do it all over again.

-Angie Granado-Wehrle

The Lurkers - Greatest Hit: Last Will And Testament (Beggars Banquet, 1980)

My initial introduction to these suburbanites from London wasn't through a proper album or singles compilation. An old bud from college had picked up The Lurkers' Greatest Hits Live as an alternate choice via mail order from the Get Hip catalog. The year on the release read 1990. By this point, only bassist Arturo Bassick remained from the '70s glory days. Other members such as vocalist Howard Wall and gas-station-named drummer Esso had long abandoned the punk scene for pursuits like proper dress and steady employment. With Bassick and a bunch of scabs in tow, I was concerned that GHL would paint The Lurkers in the nastiest shade of fecal matter imaginable. Any poop-smeared fears were overcome after the first few chords.

Blending the carefree fun of the Ramones with the earnest chants of Sham 69, The Lurkers '90 instantly made me a true believer. After securing a dubbed tape for myself, I took the C-90 home and popped it in the deck for the first of at least 125 spins. On every play, Bassick's rapport with a rowdy audience elicited hearty laughter. Threatening free-jazz improvisations after someone in the crowd called The Lurkers "shallow"! Dedicating "Just Thirteen" to Bill Wyman! Thanking the 34th member of the band's fan club! To this day, I posit GHL on the short list of must-hear live albums. How do the original studio slabs compare, you ask?

Collecting twelve tracks from the first two LPs (Fulham Fallout [1978] and God's Lonely Men [1979]) and adding six cuts from the 45s, Greatest Hit has Jimmy Buffett-like laughs with its title, but serious students of punk rock know many of these songs by heart. Nigel Moore plucks the bass on most of the selections, but Bassick provides the thump on two of The Lurkers' most crucial A-sides. As the front slice of the first release on the Beggars Banquet label, "Shadow" is a three-layer cake of loss, jealousy and revenge. Not enjoying the sight of his former girlfriend flaunting the affections and riches of a new lover, the jilted John crumbles the good-bye letter and enlists help from a pistol-packing mama ("Jenny said she'd lend me her gun/She knows I'm not well/Then I'll shoot that boy in the legs/When he comes to ring your bell"). Emptying the chamber on an unlucky bloke gives our hero time to place a M4W personal ad in a specialty mag. Though it would be nice to report of a coupling with a lass as sweet as Kate Winslet's character in "The Holiday," John's blind dates star in a fictional film entitled "Freak Show." Perhaps a blurb in a different publication is in order, since the 1977 version of Craigslist UK isn't working for him on Friday nights ("Always out with terminal cases/I don't remember their rotten faces"). John wants to drown some sorrows in a pool of brown ale, but his name is mud throughout the local pubs and hostelries. Should he sip amidst the snickers or drink at home? The poor guy "Ain't Got A Clue," so extend a surprise invitation to a night out with the lads. Well, look who's back on the block? "Jenny," with her hazel eyes and slow dances, fires Cupid's arrows into John's wide-targeted heart. However, a murder involving a knife is pinned upon her. What's up with this girl and weapons? Pete Stride consoles John with a blanket of Thunders-style guitar, but our man still can't put his arms around the memories of better days. Over time, John heals the wound caused by Jenny's prison term by falling for a woman in the free world. Wanting to be a hero who shines in her eyes, he adopts a humbling "I Don't Need To Tell Her" strategy. Still, John has enough hidden hubris to think he's gonna get first prize. Failing to win even a bronze-medal kiss from Jenny's potential replacement, J-Man develops a taste for abusive substances. Whiskey and gin are old hat. Heroin does not fit into the budget. Thus, "Cyanide" becomes the best way for John to get his kicks. If the U.K. Subs-sounding beats come across as rough, imagine the state of our man's nasal passages. John's end is drawing near, so he tells no one in particular to "Take Me Back To Babylon." His plan for a return to the basics is uncomplicated ("Soon, I'll listen to the radio/Guess I'll go out and watch a show/ I'll have fun, if we live off the land/When I say, "Can I give you a hand?' ").

From the 35th member of your fan club, thank you for not improvising.

-Gunther 8544