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

Mudhoney – Digital Garbage

I first fell in love with Mudhoney in the summer of 2013. You could say I was about 25 years late to the party. I’d owned their records and liked them. But it wasn’t until I was at my first Mudhoney show at the Sub Pop Festival in Seattle that everything clicked for me. The perfect unholy alliance of garage rock, punk, and grunge. Fortunately, Mudhoney play a ton of local shows and I’ve had the opportunity to meet members of the band, catch their live show over a dozen times, and even appear in one of their music videos. Digital Garbage is the band’s first album in 5 years and reflects the uncertain times in which it was recorded.

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Nirvana – Negative Creep

negativecreep

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Like many people in high school in the early 90’s, I first heard about Nirvana through their world-changing 2nd album, Nevermind. Simultaneously killing the hair metal scene and bringing attention to the Seattle scene, it was an event that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime (I hope I’m wrong though). I did what any music obsessed 14-year-old would do – I took my paper route money to the local music store and asked the owner for anything relating to Nirvana and bands from Seattle. Bleach was the band’s 1st album, released in 1989. Dave Grohl is nowhere to be found (though he is on the live version embedded below). The sound is the rawest Nirvana would ever be (and for my ears, the best they ever would be). This is the sound of Aberdeen, WA. Where the bay leads to the sea. Gray mornings, rainy days. Negative Creep is quite possibly the most aggressive song Nirvana ever cut. An unholy blend of Sabbath riffs, Melvins sludge, and Mudhoney-ish lyrics. This one’s made for the mosh pit. The chorus positively kills “I’m a negative creep and I’m stoned!” Some of the other lyrics seem to pay homage to Mudhoney – can there be any doubt that “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more” owes a debt to Mudhoney’s “Sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more”? Only a positive in my book. Notable cover versions include Velvet Revolver’s and Machine Head’s. A deep album cut by Nirvana that deserves more attention.

Death Threat Cassette – Dial M for Masham

Masham

About 3 years ago or so I was sent the debut album by Death Threat Cassette, a 1 man band based out of North Yorkshire, England. I was instantly blown away by the originality on display – a perfect meshing of violence & beauty, 90’s inspired yet modern. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and I’ve been patiently waiting for a follow-up ever since. Dial M for Masham arrives unheralded yet once again makes a case for being album of the year. It will feel instantly familiar to those who have heard the 1st album, yet mixes it up enough to rope in new listeners. Lee Pecqueur aka Death Threat Cassette disproves the theory of the “sophomore slump”.

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The Wipers – D-7

thewipers

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was famous for promoting the bands he loved while growing up in the coastal town of Aberdeen, WA (just drove through there a few days ago). It’s safe to say that quite a few people wouldn’t have heard of The Raincoats or Vaselines without the prompting of Mr. Cobain. For me, the best band that he introduced me to was The Wipers based out of Portland, OR. Nirvana covered two songs by The Wipers – Return of the Rat and D-7. Both songs appear on the band’s 1980 debut, Is This Real?. Both songs are insanely strong (as is the entire album), but I prefer D-7 just a tad. The song seemingly features the template Nirvana would use to take over the world just 11 years later – dirty guitars, pop-like melodies, and pure emotion. The Wipers were Greg Sage on vocals & guitar, Dave Koupal on bass, and Sam Henry on drums (Henry would later go onto play with pre Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows band, The Rats). I love Nirvana’s version, but I REALLY love The Wipers version. The song just smokes – a guitar riff that won’t quit, and emotion bleeding out of Sage’s vocals. Seven dimensional space refers to a place without any notion of distance. Sage’s lyrics take this idea and add appropriate vague statements that heighten the dread: “Standing on the stairs / Cold, cold morning / Ghostly image of fear / Mayday mayday / Gonna leave this region / They’ll take me with them / Dimension seven”.  An unheralded masterpiece that deserves a wider audience.

Pierced Arrows – This is the Day

piercedarrows

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

This past weekend I finally had a chance to see Pierced Arrows in Portland, OR at a co-headlining show with The Sonics. Featuring Fred & Toody Cole, it exceeded my wildest expectations. The friend I went with was familiar with The Sonics (who hasn’t heard the best version of Louie Louie ever laid to wax?), but wasn’t too familiar with Pierced Arrows. The best I could come up with was “a punk rock version of Neil Young w/ male + female vocals. Also, they are peers of Neil Young”. Something like that, and certainly doesn’t do the band justice. Singer / guitarist Fred Cole has led many bands, the most famous being Dead Moon. He also led Portland punk stalwarts The Rats, the early 70’s hard rock band Zipper, and became famous with his first band in the late 60’s – The Lollipop Shoppe / The Weeds (band name was changed from The Weeds). Pierced Arrows were formed when Dead Moon ground to a halt in 2006, after being active since 1987. Featuring Fred Cole on guitar & vocals, Toody Cole on bass & vocals, and Kelly Halliburton on drums, they are a slightly less shambolic unit than Dead Moon were and feature some of my favorite songs the Cole’s & company have laid to tape. This is the Day features emotionally bare vocals from both of the Coles as well as an infectious punk rock chorus. It encapsulates everything that makes the band so great. Starting anew, putting past mistakes to rest – lyrically, it is universally resonant. Thankfully they played it when I got to see them live, and they absolutely nailed it. It is a performance that will stay with me forever. The song can be found on the band’s 2010 record, Descending Shadows. It’s a great entry point for the wonderful world of the Coles, and you’ll find yourself collecting every one of the records these great musicians have been involved with.

The Sonics – This Is the Sonics

ThisIstheSonics

A couple of weeks ago in the city of Seattle, WA I bore witness to an aural assault not witnessed since the last time I saw Mudhoney live and in the flesh. That I had just taken part in the live Mudhoney experience just 30 minutes earlier has no bearing on what I am saying. The Sonics – forefathers to garage rock, punk, and grunge were headlining a star-studded affair to launch the release of their 1st full length album in 49 years, This Is The Sonics. Rooted in the 60’s, yet sounding delightfully abrasive and modern, it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. Do you know how sometimes artists will insist on playing their new songs and the audience is polite until the better known tracks come along? The Sonics didn’t have to worry about that – the batch of new songs slot in well alongside their covers of Louie, Louie and garage rock classics / originals such as The Witch and Strychnine. In fact, I think quite a few younger bands would do well to see The Sonics and take notes on how to deliver raw, energetic songs that still have the ability to engage with the audience on a visceral level.

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