ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Monroe “The Best”

MICHAEL MONROE "The Best" album cover

MICHAEL MONROE “The Best” album cover

On his latest release The Best (available Jul 7 on Spinefarm Records) Michael Monroe sings, sneers and struts his way through the 29 songs on this excellent double disc collection of his solo output.

Monroe is one of the true believers. One of those artists that worship at the altar of The Stones, The Dolls and The Dead Boys. That guy that always wears black Ray-Bans, a leather biker jacket, and is always the sharpest dressed guy in the room. A troubadour misfit who’s on a mission to help us remember how good rock-n-roll can sound when it’s played with heart and above all with style.

Monroe was lead vocalist with star crossed rockers Hanoi Rocks a band that burned out before they gained much traction (at least here in the USA). But since then Mike Monroe has been putting out album after album of near perfect glam rock ear candy, the best of which has been collected on these two discs.

Opening track “Dead, Jail Or Rock n’ Roll” sets the thematic tone for 30 years of dirty sleazy rock played just the right way. By the right way I mean grinding guitars, catchy hooks and a fuck you attitude…all set to a beat you can dance to.

Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

Listening to this collection as a whole what really stands out is the high quality of material Monroe has been able to maintain over ten albums and three decades. Honestly, it’s a wonder he hasn’t achieved a higher profile in the States; maybe that’s a good thing.

This music sounds like it was created by an artist who’s still hungry and that gives the music from the first track recorded 30 years ago to the very latest tracks recoded exclusively for this collection an urgency and electricity that many lesser talents lose after so many years in the game. Like I said Monroe is a true believer and his mantra is three chords and a dream.

This is a great Friday night record. Have a few friends over. Have a few shots of tequila (ok have many shots of tequila). It’s going to be a long night of partying and you’ve got 30 years of great rock n’ roll for your soundtrack, what are you waiting for?

ALBUM REVIEW: Nitrogods “Roadkill BBQ”

NITROGODS "Roadkill BBQ" album cover

NITROGODS “Roadkill BBQ” album cover

Nitrogods come roaring out of Germany like the bastard sons of Motorhead, picking up the torch from a fallen Lemmy and running with it to a Valhalla where everything is louder than everything else and bands don’t play any slow songs.

Album opener “Rancid Rock” sets the tone with heavy riffs, jackhammer drumming, guitar solos that shred through Marshall amps cranked to 11 and vocals of the two packs of Marlboro’s and a fifth of Jack Daniels variety. In other words this is the stuff rock-n-roll dreams are made of.

Oh and these guys are plenty funny too! The raucous track “My Loves A Wire Brush” features some blistering slide guitar work and a repeated chant of “Feel my wire brush/my loves a wire brush” which leads one to believe that maybe a little manscaping might not be amiss for this crew? Ouch! Groupies you have been warned!

As you may have guessed, subtlety and nuance are not Nitrogods strong suit but loud, fast, aggressive rock-n-roll is. And they are very, very good at it. If you like it hard and rough, if you miss Lemmy Kilmister or if you find yourself head banging throughout the day for no apparent reason then The Nitrogods are the “made loud to be played loud” band you’ve been looking for.

Pick up their third studio album Roadkill BBQ via Steamhammer / SPV May 26.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mammoth Mammoth “Mount The Mountain”

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH "Mount The Mountain" CD cover art 2017

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH “Mount The Mountain” CD cover art 2017

Mount The Mountain is the unashamedly riff-rocking new release by Australian stoner metal band Mammoth Mammoth. Mix together the grease of Mudhoney, the energy of The MC5 and the strutting sexuality of the Stooges and you have the racing fuel that super charges their excellent new album.

Title track and stoner epic “Mount The Mountain,” starts the ball rolling with a horns up, guitar buzzing, big ass RIFF! By the time the storming chorus kicks in vocalist Mikey Tucker is shouting “Yeah… Well Yeah Alright!” And listening to the sheer bravado of these guys you can’t help but pump your fist in the air and shout along with him that things here are indeed “ALRIGHT!”. Obviously these guys are on a serious mission to rock and are taking no prisoners, if you were waiting to hear some slow dance numbers you might be listening to the wrong album.

What Mammoth Mammoth has in spades, besides an unerring knack for riding a guitar riff like it was a rodeo bull they were stuck fast to with superglue, is the even better trick of knowing how to write a really good song. Now don’t get me wrong, these guys ain’t Mozart…subtle they are not. But what they do very, very well is structure songs that were literally crafted so you can bang your head to them. But they sprinkle a little ear-candy into the mix that burrows into your brain and makes you want to play them again and again.

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH press photo

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH press photo

Mammoth Mammoth has made a record that’s ultimately a celebration of being alive. Because you know… life’s a bitch and then you die, blah blah blah. But what’s great about Mammoth Mammoth is this is the kind of music that invites you to forget that things can sometimes be a grind and get back to what’s really important, you know what I’m talking about…big riffed ROCK MUSIC done right!

This is pure escapism at 100 mph and I like it. Consider this album an invitation to a place where every night is Friday night. Put the record on, turn the volume up real loud, then jump in the ‘69 Camaro with Mammoth Mammoth – tires squealing and smoking on the blacktop as you peel out with them.

Release Date April 28, 2017
Napalm Records

ALBUM REVIEW: Mew “Visuals”

MEW Visuals

MEW “Visuals” CD cover art 2017

With their new album Visuals, Mew delivers to their fans (both old and new) the perfect soundtrack for the upcoming summer. It is their seventh album in a twenty year career by the Scandinavian alt-prog rockers and their first since the departure of founding member guitarist Bo Madsen.

Visuals presents Mew in their purest state, the band produced the record, crafted the artwork and designed the stage lighting for their upcoming tour.

Album opener “Nothingness and No Regrets” begins things off quietly with lush vocals floating above keyboard pads and acoustic guitars. The quiet before the squall – as the drums and bass erupt like a thunderstorm, propelling the song into a massive, festival sized, crowd sing-along anthem.

“The Wake Of Your Life” rumbles to life with drum rolls that would make any 70’s prog rock band proud before subversively breaking into sunshine drenched pop. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a convertible ride in summer. Top down, singing along with your friends to the big radio ready chorus: “Ooh they don’t know / They don’t know / What fools are we / An elixir of light / You’re reciting the words”.

And suddenly you comprehend that in the sugar spinning, cotton candy machine world that is Mew, there is so much more going on than you realized on first impression.

Vocals float across the soundstage buoyed up by perfect harmonies. Guitars shimmer and keyboards grind, adding just the right amount of color and texture. The drums enter and exit at the perfect moments to propel the songs forward or reel them back in, providing contrast and shadow.

MEW

MEW photo: Sasha Ryabina

The album cover features a striking image of a Mexican Day of The Dead sugar skull super- imposed over lead vocalist Jonas Bjerre’s face. It’s a perfect visual image for their music. But underneath the sugar there is a constant hint of melancholy that has Mew striking just the right balance of sweet to sour.

Listening to Visuals I was struck by the finely crafted arrangements. This is music that was made to be listened to on headphones, but also music that translates to a blasting car stereo. Mew has concocted a mature album of pure pop that would surely bring a smile to Brian Wilson’s face.

Enjoy the ride.

Release Date April 28, 2017
PIAS (Play It Again Sam)

Walter Trout’s Special Night Experienced Through A Lens

walter trout

WALTER TROUT played The Coach House Jul 10 photo: James Christopher

This was Walter Trout’s return to live performance after he cheated death and made what appears to be a full and miraculous recovery from liver failure. And as he mentioned at the beginning of his set, because of his long history in Huntington Beach, the gig had to be at an Orange County venue.

So tonight saw him almost literally rise from the dead to amaze and stun a sold out crowd with an energetic and brilliant performance. The Coach House is like an old school roadhouse, there is no photo pit, patrons sit communally at long tables and on an evening like this one the air was heavy with the smells of sweat and beer. In other words it was prime time for a rock-n-roll blues revival.

My job tonight was to find a way to somehow capture the emotion of Walter’s performance in a venue that was packed well beyond capacity. In other words I needed to capture images without standing in front of any paying guests and try not to piss them or the venue management off.

There were ZERO empty seats in the venue and I was feeling even more pressure because it was a special night, you could feel it in the air, in the crowd’s expectation and most importantly in Walter Trout’s amazing performance. This was a man who had been given a second chance to continue doing what he loves, maybe even what he was born to do. And I was having a hell of a time trying to find a spot to capture it.

I ended up shooting most of the photos from the sound desk located upstairs (there were even paying customers up there) about 100 feet from the stage. I chose a 70-200mm lens with shutter speeds of between 400-650 and usually with the F-stop wide open to 2.8. It may not have been ideal but then again it usually isn’t ever ideal when shooting a concert. And in the end I think I was able to capture some of the excitement of this once in a lifetime event.