The Flaming Lips – American Head

I have a long history with The Flaming Lips dating back to the late 90’s shows in support of their 1st masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. I’d previously written them off, firmly convinced they weren’t cool. What can I say, I was pretty damn snobby in my youth. I was wrong. Anyway – so began a 21-year (and counting) love affair with all things ‘Lips. The last time I saw the band live was a true spectacle in support of 2017’s Oczy Mlody.

The Paramount in Seattle is a larger venue, typically the largest arena a band will play if they aren’t playing a stadium show. The show was sold out and was a standing room only type deal. I found myself talking with a group of younger (than me) women who were there because of the Miley Cyrus overlap. An unusual scenario, to be sure, but I found myself explaining the history of the band, why I love them, and how their willingness to experiment resulted in their association with Miley Cyrus. A bodyguard came by, asked the group if I was with them – they said yes – and we were whisked down to the front of the stage, in the place typically inhabited by photographers. I got to watch the band entertain a sold-out crowd from a unique perspective. It was one of the stranger experiences of my Seattle concert going adventures, and one that I loved. But now it leads to that dreaded question – what comes next?

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Metallica – S&M2

It isn’t easy being a Metallica fan – ride or die. For every fan who loves the latest record, there are a loud contingent of fans who will scream “Only the 80’s albums!”. Or even more specific, “Only the Cliff Burton years!”. So, it goes, so it goes. As for me, I think there are things to appreciate in each Metallica album – even Lulu, their oft derided 2011 collaboration with the iconic Lou Reed. In fact, the 2017 show I saw in Seattle was one of the best stadium shows I’ve ever seen – family friendly even, if you can believe that. We aren’t in 1986 anymore, fellas. They are – to quote Grand Funk Railroad – an American band. And perhaps history will view them as one of the most successful bands in history. They’ve long since transcended the heavy metal tag.

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A.M. Mills – Angel Eyes

Moving from Washington State back to Pennsylvania after almost 2 decades was a transition that was jarring in many ways. Add in the stress of moving cross country during the worst pandemic in 100 years, you can imagine that I turned to music for solace. One of the finest records that has been on repeat has been Angel Eyes by A.M. Mills (disclosure: I played trombone with band founder Drew Mills throughout middle school). The album gave me a sense of nostalgia – sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack as filtered through a Philadelphia sensibility. Basically, where I was in life when this album came out. Uncanny.

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Darren “DPaul” Wise – God Only Knows

In a previous life I was only into guitar heroes. Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Vito Bratta – just a few guitarists who’d I listen to for extreme riffs. And if there were vocals, fine – but everything was an avenue to get to the solo or some refrain that sounded impossible to pull off. Dallas based guitarist Darren “DPaul” Wise fits in with the aforementioned guitarists. His new single God Only Knows showcases his new relationship with Gibson Guitars. Now, we have the best of both worlds here – the rounded tones that Gibson is known for along with some serious musicianship. Not just an exercise in masturbatory shredding (ahem, Yngwie), this is a fully realized song that taps into an emotional resonance for the listener. In fact, I can’t even imagine vocals with this particular song. A melodic heavy metal jam, the song allows for room to breathe – resulting in some impressive techniques from Wise. A wise man, indeed. The song and video is out now (embedded below). I’d recommend it even if instrumental music isn’t your normal vibe.

Verdict: Excellent!

For Fans of: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore, White Lion, Blue Murder

Melvins / Mudhoney – White Lazy Boy

2020 has been a challenging year for almost everyone I know – probably an understatement for most folks reading this review. Pandemics, economic distress, political unrest, police brutality – and we are still in July. As for me, I haven’t avoided the curse of 2020, but onward life goes. Fortunately, Melvins / Mudhoney have provided a short soundtrack to the chaos of the year. That’s right – two pioneers of grunge have combined into one force of nature to deliver a powerful 4 song EP.

White Lazy Boy was originally released in June of 2020 on an almost instantly sold out CD (snagged it) followed by a vinyl release in July of 2020 (missed out). It features Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney along with King Buzzo, Dale Crover, and Steven McDonald from Melvins. Two originals / two covers, two sung by Mark / two sung by King Buzzo. My War is a fitting way to kick off the EP – Mark Arm screaming his way through a cover of the Black Flag classic. The Melvins / Mudhoney lineup bring a garage rock sensibility to the song and gets your heart racing. Exhilarating! Walking Crazy follows with King Buzzo on vocals. This tune feels closer to a Melvins song, imbued with a sludge layered sense of doom. Black Sabbath worthy riffs galore. Killer tune. 10 Minute Visitation is sung by Mark Arm and might be my favorite song on this release. Mudhoney’s rawness combined with the Melvins’ riffs & stoner grooves makes for an intoxicating brew. Drive Back originally appeared on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Zuma – considered by some to be an influence on the grunge era. Here, the song is given a harder edge with King Buzzo delivering a fine vocal performance. Guitars swirl, white noise overwhelms, and…silence. A perfect ending to a perfect EP.

You can pick up the release here and stream below. Absolutely recommended.

Verdict: Grunge Deluxe

For Fans of: Mudhoney, Melvins, Nirvana, Green River, Alice in Chains, Neil Young