Cooker – Setting the Head on Fire

The post grunge landscape of the late 90’s / early 00’s is littered with Nirvana-lite failures – bands that grabbed the limelight for a brief moment with catchy songs full of faux pain, then disappeared – missing the roots and point of the Seattle original scene. Puddle of Mudd didn’t fit within that convenient narrative. Formed in 1991 by Wes Scantlin, Jimmy Allen, Sean Sammon, and Kenny Burkitt it’d be another decade before the band had a breakthrough with the Jimmy Allen / Doug Ardito / Wes Scantin penned song, Blurry. By this time, Jimmy Allen was no longer with Puddle of Mudd, having moved on to writing for other bands and working with independent projects. The late 00’s saw Jimmy Allen form Against All Will, which released various EP and singles from 2007 through 2013 to critical acclaim. Late 2019 saw the release of a new project – Cooker featuring Jimmy Allen on guitar and former Puddle of Mudd bassist Troy McCoy. This is the real deal – it might be the finest album Jimmy Allen has been involved with.

The album kicks off in high gear with Settle the Score – intricate guitar work, a killer bass line, and howled vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place in Seattle circa 1989 (or 2019 – Seattle’s like that). Choke Up is the single getting spins on hard rock radio – and no wonder. It has the catchiest melody and has the verse chorus verse structure that Kurt Cobain famously talked about in Nirvana’s music long ago. This isn’t retro – it is an invigorating and decidedly modern anthem. The musicianship is outstanding – everyone is firing on all cylinders. Brown Girl is another highlight – a mid-tempo stroll through the emotive side of the band. The song builds and builds until it reaches a crescendo 2/3 of the way through, truly allowing the listener to experience the same catharsis as the performers. Roach is a perfect way to end the album – a pure visceral outpouring that serves as an encapsulation of the band’s strengths. It leaves the listener wanting more.

The album is out now and comes highly recommended. Jimmy and Troy are calling this a side project, but I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Verdict: Masterful

For Fans of: Puddle of Mudd, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Mudhoney

Tracks:

  1. Settle the Score
  2. Sugarmilk
  3. Bad Unit
  4. Choke Up
  5. Robot
  6. Brown Girl
  7. Loop
  8. Subconscious
  9. Roach

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Colorado

The 10’s proved to be a busy time for Neil Young. Starting off the decade with one of his strongest records – 2010’s Le Noise – it ends with another strong record, the recently released Crazy Horse reunion, Colorado. Although the new record marks the first Crazy Horse album in 7 years, Neil Young has released 9 studio albums in the last decade. That’s averaging a new studio release every 13 months, for those of you keeping tracking at home. There were moments over the last few years where people openly wondered if we were in an era comparable to Young’s wilderness period of the 80’s – such was the off the cuff, immediate quality of the records being released. For every Le Noise or Psychedelic Pill we also had Storytone or Peace Trail. In the midst of this, Neil also found time to form a new band with Promise of the Real – thus far, this has resulted in two albums that have multiple moments of inspiration mixed in with some lesser tunes. For me, there is always at least one classic Neil Young song on every album, and I’ve been pretty happy with the output over the last decade. I was excited when Colorado was announced – a reunion with the original grunge band, Crazy Horse. That feeling hasn’t gone away after repeated listens – in fact, this is arguably the strongest Neil Young album of the decade.

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Black Swan Lane – Vita Eterna

Atlanta, GA’s Black Swan Lane has become an institution in the modern post punk scene. Formed in the mid 00’s by Jack Sobel, John Kolbeck, and Mark Burgess, they’ve remained dedicated to nurturing emotional responses out of listeners worldwide through an intoxicating mix of lyrics, soulful vocals, and stellar instrumentation. Early listeners may have been attracted to the band by the connection to The Chameleons, which is understandable – but the years after Mark Burgess (lead singer of The Chameleons) moved on have seen the strongest Black Swan Lane albums. Now down to a duo, the band features multiple guest players on each album. Vita Eterna is the 8th full length offering from Black Swan Lane – and their finest album to date.

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Conduit of Humanity – The Zen Cage

One of my favorite indie releases of the last few years was AAA Battery’s Corrosion of Buddha. A cross country, file swapping kind of project, the project held up as an homage to the corrosion of the human spirit. Musically, it was a blend of alternative sensibilities with progressive rock leanings – kind of like Neil Young meeting Tool. AAA Battery’s Fred Jeske rang me up back in June to tell me about his forthcoming project – Conduit of Humanity. It sounded really ambitious – a group of 20+ individuals getting together to create reality bending music that could change hearts and minds. But isn’t that what the best music does? We made plans to get together in Seattle in August at his band’s performance and…my life took a left turn. Instead of catching up with Fred and taking in his band, I found myself driving across the USA on the very same day I had made plans with Fred. Sorry Fred! His new project – Conduit of Humanity – has recently released their debut album, The Zen Cage. And I can tell you, it is an album that lives up to it’s ambitions.

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Nick Cave – Ghosteen

In early 2016, I began experienced an unexpected death of a love one. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it began a streak of sorts. Each year since then, I’ve lost someone who has played an important role in my life. As the losses mounted up, I’ve returned to Nick Cave’s The Skeleton Tree time and time again. Though it was written prior to the death of his 15 year old son Arthur, it was recorded after. Vocally, it haunts me to this day. The weight behind the words, well, it was a fitting soundtrack as I said goodbye to someone new each year. It resonates with me as much as the day I first heard it. Nick Cave’s new album, Ghosteen, is his first record written and recorded since the loss of his son. And once again, I’ve lost someone dear to me. At its best, this record speaks to me in a way that few records ever have.  It takes Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds into areas previously unexplored by the band. Continue reading

Mudhoney – Morning in America

Mudhoney’s 2018 full length release, Digital Garbage, was a dark garage rock masterpiece. Lyrically imbued with the darkness of the times, it spoke to me on a visceral level. Hitting the sweet spot between The Stooges and Black Flag, it found the band firing on all cylinders. I also found myself playing a Pharisee type character as an extra in the band’s Kill Yourself Live video, just a few days after a good friend actually killed himself. It was strangely cathartic and I loved how the video turned out. It also helped that the song was a sarcastic, tongue in cheek anthem to the digital world of today. It was also catchy as fuck. Just about 1 year later the band is releasing Morning in America – a 7 song collection of outtakes from the Digital Garbage sessions. So how’s the collection hold up, coming hot on the heels of a late career highlight?

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Ten Foot Pole – Escalating Quickly

Southern California’s Ten Foot Pole are stalwarts of the scene’s pop punk sound and scene. The band began as Scared Straight in the early 80’s and were associated with the Nardcore movement which helped them make a name for themselves. The 90’s saw them working as labelmates with The Offspring, Rancid, and NOFX on the Epitaph label. Through the years the band has seen quite a bit of members come and go, with the one constant being Dennis Jagard on guitars and vocals. Escalating Quickly is the band’s 1st full length containing all original material in 15 years and along with Dennis Jagard, features Scott Hallquist on guitars & vocals, “Lil” Joe Raposo on bass guitar, and Sean Sellers on drums. It is a stunning return from these industry vets.

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