Thursday, 29 October 2009

RIP Chuck Biscuits - Or not!

Legendary hard rock drummer Chuck Biscuits, whose lengthy résumé included stints in such flagship underground acts as Black Flag and Social Distortion, died Saturday after a prolonged battle with throat cancer. He was 44.

“In response to the inquires, thank you for all the support,” an anonymous family member wrote in an e-mail sent this morning. “Chuck did not survive his battle with throat cancer. He passed surrounded by his family on 10/24/09.”

Chuck Biscuits was probably best known to the general populous for his work with Danzig. Beginning in 1988, Chuck played on that group’s first four albums, which are often hailed as Danzig’s best (thanks in no small part to Chuck’s powerful drumming style). The percussionist also appeared on 1993’s Thrall: Demonsweatlive EP; that release yielded an unexpected chart-burning hit for Danzig in “Mother,” a song the band originally included on their self-titled debut.

Yet Chuck Biscuits was not completely bound by the shackles of heavy metal/hard rock – the drummer kindly lent his talents to various tracks on Run-D.M.C.’s fourth album, 1988’s Tougher Than Leather. Leather boasted a handful of hits for the famed Hollis Crew, including “Mary, Mary” and “Beats To The Rhyme.”

Born Charles Montgomery on April 17, 1965, in British Columbia, Chuck Biscuits cut his teeth with Canadian hardcore outfit D.O.A. before relocating to California in 1982 and joining Black Flag. Biscuits left that group after five months of touring and began bouncing around from band to band, clocking time with classic punk acts such as the Circle Jerks, Fear, and the Weirdos. It wasn’t long before Chuck made a name for himself in the rock underground with his utterly ferocious yet completely accurate attack; he was rumored to be at the top of Nirvana’s drummer “wish list” in the days prior to Dave Grohl.

The last major group Chuck played with was Social Distortion, beginning in 1996. He appeared on only one of their releases, 1998’s Live At The Roxy, before promptly leaving the band a year later. It is unknown whether the drummer’s throat cancer played a part in that departure.

Outside of music, Chuck Biscuits was a known lover of art who spent some time in the late 1980s sculpting and attending college art classes. Biscuits also enjoyed vintage breakfast cereal collecting; one Danzig home video release tagged Chuck as a “Professor of Cerealogy, PhD.” in a segment wherein the drummer expounded upon his love of sugary morning delights (“It’s a very expensive habit…once you’ve had Boo Berry, there’s no turning back.”)

“Chuck was one of the best of the original wave of punk drummers,” Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson said in brief e-mail exchange with the author last year. “His style was easily recognizable, and he seemed to have just a ton of extra energy when playing drums. He is one of those people who did not have to practice a lot to play really well.”

“It came very natural to him,” Stevenson continued. “He was hugely influential without really being as ‘famous’ as drummers who were actually much less influential musically.”

It is unknown exactly who Chuck is survived by, but they will surely miss him, as will an entire generation of rock n’ roll fans.

RIP Chuck, I never met the guy or saw him play live but this is pretty gutting to hear about a guy who lived an unbelievable life. To think of how much he achieved would take other people about four life times. This ones for you Chuck...

*EDIT* So it seems this was all a hoax and I was one of millions to fall for it. Sorry for posting the original story. Keep on keeping on Chuck!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Records That Shaped The 2000s - Sun Kil Moon "Ghosts Of The Great Highway" (2003)

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts Of The Great Highway (Jetset 2003)
Folk Rock/Slowcore

Sun Kil Moon, otherwise known as Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters, is somewhat of a musical genius. I've never met the guy before but he seems to know everything about me (and you for that matter) and it's all here, in the shape of these songs. Ghosts Of The Great Highway is not just a record I think every music fan just own from the decade, it's an album that I wish I could have written, even if it's just so I could sit with acoustic guitar in hand in the corner of a small cafe on an open mic night and pour my heart out.

"Sun Kil Moon is the current project of singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, best known for his previous band, Red House Painters. Sun Kil Moon sees Kozelek undertake all the writing, composing, singing and guitar playing accompanied by Tim Mooney and Anthony Koutsos (also an ex-member of RHP) on drums, and Geoff Stanfield on bass. The band is named after korean bantamweight boxer Sung-Kil Moon.

Their debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway, was written entirely by Kozelek, and released by Jetset Records in 2003. It is an album centered around the theme of memory, connecting Kozelek’s haunting memories with the true-life stories of deceased boxers, such as featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez and flyweight Pancho Villa."

GOTGH is as intimate as it gets, I don't think you can listen to this record without actually feeling like you were in the room when it was recorded. It's also warm, if you read the back story to the album; tragedy and heartbreak, yet Mark Kozelek serves it all up on a plate that makes you feel ok, like he's reaching out to give you a hug when you're down.

Carry Me, Ohio is my personal favourite off the album and it's also a highlight in the world of music in the '00s, this is perfection. It's so strong that it usually makes me want to cry, it's haunting without really giving you that kick of depression. I can't sit here and write a load of lines describing what the reason was behind the song or who it's really about, all I can do is sit here and think about what Mark (or someone he knows) must have been going through to write such a delicate song. It also makes me want to reflect on my own life, the choices, friends lost and road not yet taken. To me, this is what hearing a song for the hundredth time should be all about and that is what makes this whole record timeless.

The way this record seems to be able to convey every emotion in the human body is beyond me, this is more than music, this is a reflection of modern day living without the subject being relevant to anything in today's society. Mark Kozelek doesn't have the best tone, the music isn't catchy enough to be sitting at the top of the mainstream record charts, this isn't about that, it's about an album that has been written with a labour of love, loss and new beginnings that every listener can connect to.

To find out more:

Tubelord - Our American Friends (Hassle Records 2009)


Everyone's favourite Kingston trio release their debut album this week on Hassle Records, everyone who has had the pleasure to witness these guys live will agree that they are one of the most exciting British bands around today. With a string of singles released in the last couple of years (I Am Azerrad and Feed Me A Box Of Worms, both on Big Scary Monsters). The blood thirsty youth have been shouting from the rooftops for an album to call their own, a collection as jangly and vibrant as their live act. Well the people got their wish this week.

On first look of the tracklisting it's easy to notice that there are a few tracks which have been released, in one shape or another, in one way or another almost like it's shaping the past of the're on the Tubelord journey and it really shows how the band has progressed and grown up...without forgetting what it is to be young.
To the seasoned Tubelord fan though, this could become a distraction, those songs would stick in your mind so much that unless the new material blows your mind, it will be easy to forget about them. I for one, don't want that to happen, not when it comes to Tubelord.

To the new fan though, this is genius, you'll get the record on your best friend's recommendation (who's caught Tubelord live about twenty times by now) and they will point out which songs they love, sound better live or just better than The Beatles. You'll listen to Tubelord for the first time, everything will sound fresh, you won't just focus the previously released material, your foot will tapping the whole way through, you'll want to go and see them live, it's like your mind is being blown for the first time. This is how we all want to feel when we listen to this album, right?

If you haven't already got a beaming smile on your face from the first two tracks, Night Of The Pencils will definitely change that. It showcases that Tubelord are not just a one dimensional band (honestly I think a kid with ADHD writes the bands songs sometimes) changing direction faster than a shark, just as you think you've got Tubelord all summed up, something else hits you smack in the face. Every time I hear the beginning of this song live I knew everyone's in for a treat, it has everything you want from the band, jangly guitars, the little 'spazz out' and then finishing with an epic sing along of "We're bigger than Memphis" that everyone can get involved in.

Propeller is possibly my favourite Tubelord song, it's the first one I heard on the bands myspace a few years ago, I think we all knew that the band were offering something just a little different, special. I'm really glad this song found it's way onto the album as it sums up the band for me. Synthesize is one of those songs that's new but also one that the band have been playing live for a while now, it's much in the vein of what the Tubelord ethos is all about "Playing pop music to indie kids" and that's exactly what it is...I think.

The last song on the record and also the titled of the album, Our American Friends, is more about showing off that Tubelord have the more secure sound that could fill a room, not just your head. Giving us that side of Tubelord that we've never really seen much of before, there's a strings section, a soaring chorus, almost like how Biffy Clyro have found that chart topping anthem sound they've been carrying around with them for some time now. It's actually a great album finisher, it gives you time to get your breathe back and you just about enough to time to get over what you've heard and to press that play button for another round.

I once had to describe what Tubelord sounded like to a friend (as his band were due to support Tubelord) I found it hard without just using the word "Amazing". To be honest to this day I still do, I think I said something like "Oh it's like indie music, jangly, but it's like having three songs in one, it's just crazy" without trying to sound like an idiot. After listening to this record a few times and really trying not to overthink it, I think the best way to describe Tubelord is; Pandora's Box, once opened you're never too sure what's going to come out...but it's going to be one hell of a ride.

If Gandhi himself were sitting next to me right, he would be doing so with a grinning smile on his face and sticking two thumbs up. This album has everything you wanted to hear, the ups, the downs, the party flavour, it just sounds like three friends doing what they do best, having too much fun...and every listener can join in. If find an album this year that is more fun to listen to, you have my permission to feed me a box of worms.

Buy from Hassle:

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Drums - Summertime! EP [2009]

The band that brought you the (should have been) song of the summer.

The NYC (by way of Florida) band bring the summer vibe back into our already heavy autumn heads with something that could get championed college rockers Vampire Weekend to up their game on their pending second record.

Their debut EP could have been made with their love of surf rock like The Beach Boys merged with new wave offerings from The Cure. Whatever it is, it works. I'm almost 99% sure they've already accomplished that perfect pop song in "Let's Go Surfing" (If your ears already haven't had the pleasure of hearing this yet, do it NOW). This is the feel good song you've waited all summer for, right from the infectious whistling, down to the "I've fallen in love for the first time" lyrics you used to hum as a sixteen year old.

Another EP highlight is "Down By The Water" with it's melancholy vocals and tranquil tones really shows that The Drums are already matching lyric content with melody across the board.

Let's pretend for one minute that this band hasn't received any of the recent hype from every media outlet across the Internet right now. This band seem like there's a huge wave taking them all the way to thousands of new hearts. If you love this like I do, then don't fret, a full length has been promised to drop in the new year, hopefully bubbling with more carefree and good times vibes.

Expect to hear much more from The Drums, a larger UK tour and many, many festival appearances next year.

RIYL: The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart, Vampire Weekend, Girls, Summer, Indie-Pop.