Even if you don’t own any of their records, you have most certainly heard The Melvins because their sound rings clearly in the anthems of  bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Tool. Where those legends hammered the Melvins’ sonic textures into more traditional song structures, selling millions of records in the process, the original purveyors of that sound continue to record music as if each instrument were a stallion and the studio a wide open range—each instrument, each riff, runs freely across the tracks as the band charge forward with wild, reckless abandon. Call their sound experimental, avant garde, metal or punk—nothing will consistently fit, and this is perhaps the secret ingredient to a career that is now approaching their thirtieth year.

If Run DMC are The Beatles of the rap world, then Public Enemy are The Rolling Stones. Hell, they’re The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols all rolled into one unstoppable rhythmic megaforce. Few bands  have left a cultural footprint as massive as Public Enemy, who began their recording career twenty-five years ago with a sound that paired the funk of James Brown with the snarl of punk rock. That these New York-based rappers have lasted a quarter century, selling millions of albums and touring over eighty countries speaks to the universal, gut-level appeal of their uncompromising lyrical attack.

You know why you don’t see any heavy metal acts on American Idol or X Factor? Because metal doesn’t sell shampoo. Fresh-faced, heroin-free go-getters who look good in J. Crew? They sell the shit out of shampoo, but metal…not so much. When Five Finger Death Punch’s third album, American Capitalist, entered the charts at number 3 last fall (behind the Midas-throated Adele and pop-goth idols Evanescence), the Vegas-based quintet slapped the music industry into the realization that the thirst for heavy music in this country is far more profound than anyone had understood.

In addition to getting people laid and enhancing training montages in boxing movies, music has long salved the festering emotional wounds of humanity. Who among us has never crawled into a weepy ballad when life laid a bag of flaming dog shit at our front door, rang the doorbell and ran away?

At the very least, music soothes our savage breast; in its greater moments, music has accomplished much more. Or have you forgotten the powers of the pre-Psychic Network Dionne Warwick?

Unless your name is Axl Rose, then ten years is a hell of a long time to get something done. In fact, most people can accomplish terrific feats of mind and body in well under a decade. Hell, with only eight years, US presidents have repainted the entire cultural landscape of the planet. But if you’re not in a hurry and you don’t mind waiting for the right moment to find you, then ten years is perfect.

In 2001, Ohio-born Scott Shriner stepped into the job as Weezer’s bass player—a position he has comfortably helmed for six of the band’s nine albums, through the present day. With followers whose fervor rivals that of Southern snake handling cults, this is officially a “high-profile gig” and with a steady diet of touring and albums over the past ten years, Shriner hasn’t spent a great deal of time surfing QVC. Until lately.

The latest round of TNB Music Staff Picks. Dig it, baby…

 

PHILM
Harmonic
(IPECAC)

Stunningly complex atmospherics from an unlikely legend

When Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo recently talked to TNB Music about his three-piece side project Philm (with guitarist/vocalist Gerry Nestler and bassist Pancho Tomaselli), he gamely addressed the various sounds the band have incorporated into their forthcoming debut: “heavy,” “bluesy” and “diverse.” Having finally sat down with that record, Harmonic, we realize that words cannot begin to approach the spectacular brew of genius, madness, terror and ecstasy that fuel one of the more fascinating releases of 2012. Harmonic is a relentless 15-song campaign that storms through the fields of Coltrane, Santana, Gilmour and Hanneman, and while attempting to identify a singular sound is a fool’s errand, punk vocals, jazzy dissonance and of course, masterful drumming appear in ample doses.

Interview magazine recently published a uniquely compelling interview featuring the unlikely duo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to ever walk on the moon, interviewing rocker Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, seven thousand other bands, side projects and one-offs). White, who never met a trend he didn’t buck, conceived the idea when the magazine solicited his thoughts on who might conduct his interview. Someone’s people called someone else’s people, an agreement was struck and thus flowed a thoroughly fascinating dialogue between these two disparate symbols of American culture.

For Brendon Small, cortex-squashing pressure sort of comes with the territory. Small is the creator of the breakaway hit TV show Metalocalypse, writing the scripts, voicing several characters, and because the show concerns a fictitious death metal band, Small composes all of the ferocious and unbelievably catchy music for each episode. The show is a bona fide cultural phenomenon, first attracting a rabid cult audience (are cult audiences any other way?), then finding seismic popularity in the mainstream.   Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, award-winning documentary producer Warner Herzog and Hall of Fame inductee Slash are a few of the legion of celebrities who have proclaimed their enduring love of Metalocalypse. The show, featured on the Adult Swim cable channel, begins its ravenously-anticipated fourth season on April 29 with more preposterous plots, scorching humor and the show’s most impressive lineup of celebrity voices yet. In fact, both Hamm and Herzog will be appearing in Season Four, along with an astonishingly diverse and talented cast of other actors, comedians and, of course, musicians.

“World domination”–two simple words that evoke visions of battles and conquest; of smoldering ruins and vanquished enemies; of being able to cut to the front of every line on the planet. Real power.

Whether seen as a goal or a lifestyle, “world domination” has been exhaustively explored in literature, yet never as boldly, crudely and hilariously as by guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde, founder of rock outfit Black Label Society, church-going Catholic boy and all-around inducer of mayhem. Wylde’s new book, Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination delivers explicit, often jaw-droppingly graphic instructions for transitioning from fat-fingered guitar novice to flaxen-haired rock god, exploring everything from choosing the music you play to how to avoid being tea-bagged on a tour bus. Yes, tea-bagged.

Guns N’ Roses mercurial frontman Axl Rose has pulled the ultimate deke on the music industry–he has decided to take a pass on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Specifically, he has declared that he will not be attending this weekend’s induction ceremony, and via a letter to the RRHOF, he is requesting that he not be inducted in absentia.

Unfortunately, this announcement will be confused as news. People will come at him from all sides, triumphantly pointing out the Orca-sized holes in his arguments and decrying his ongoing megalomaniacal delusions. This is simply pointing out the obvious with a sense of discovery. In fact, such attention will only buttress Axl’s view of himself as a tragically-misunderstood, well-meaning, regular guy, constantly fending off the unprovoked attacks of the media and his former bandmates (the ones who made the music that he sings).

There is no news here.

As the Nineties approached the halfway mark and grunge yielded to more pop-flavored fare, a legion of acts stormed the airwaves under the “alternative” flag, whipping the planet into a radio-friendly alt-frenzy. At the time, that epithet was pasted onto virtually any guitar-based rock that didn’t fall under a clearly-defined genre, gathering groups like Pavement and Sonic Youth under the same umbrella as the Cranberries and Counting Crows. Many of those acts have since faded away, and while some continue to make music, very few have done so with the consistency and vitality of Portland’s The Dandy Warhols. This month the Dandys, now in their eighteenth year, release their eight full-length studio album, This Machine–an eclectic listening party that alternates between punchy rockers, moody ballads and seratonin-inducing electronica. Yes, electronica.

There are two kinds of all-star jams: the kind that people rave about for years and the kind that leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. An example of the latter category is what happens at the end of every single Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

An example of the former took place last September, when a gang of heavy metal’s tallest legends assembled in New York City to literally put on a clinic. David Ellefson (Megadeth), Kerry King (Slayer), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Frank Bello (Anthrax) and Mike Portnoy (Adrenaline Mob/Flying Colors) descended on the Best Buy Theater in New York City and took turns demonstrating techniques before breaking into a ferocious jam session that ended with surprise guests Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo taking the stage for a pair of Pantera songs. Anthrax closed the festivities by delivering a full set for the 500 lucky bastards who paid zero dollars to watch history go down.

It all began when Joe Daly found himself thinking of Brion James.  You know, the bug-eyed replicant in Blade Runner who gets kind of nervous when he takes tests.  This led to Daly’s stellar list of the ten greatest character actors of all time, which led me to add five of my own in commentary – including Chris Cooper, John Hawkes, Mark Strong, Clancy Brown, and Brian Cox, in case you’re curious.  It would seem, though, that neither of us found ourselves thinking of women in these sorts of roles.  At first I reasoned, “It’s because there aren’t any!  All the good supporting character-centered roles are written for men!”  Then I had a vision of Joan Cusack in Say Anything pausing in the chaos of her young single-mom-hood to remember how she used to be fun.  Then I couldn’t stop thinking of great female character actors in more substantial roles than this little blip in the Cameron Crowe classic.  So, without further ado, here are ten great female character actors for your consideration:

 

The first time I met Mike Portnoy was on the set of That Metal Show after the taping of an episode featuring him and guitarist John Sykes.

“Hey there, Mike,” I said, “Big fan.”

 

 

Stepping away from the distractions of genres, Felony Flats is one of the most exciting releases of 2012 and the beguiling Anya Marina continues to establish herself as one of the decade’s most interesting musicians. Her latest batch of sonic narcotics bring together a number of styles, anchored by her sultry whispers, serrated wit and impossibly addictive melodies.

Marina’s savvy pop has decorated the scenes of numerous films and television shows, with her biggest placement on the New Moon soundtrack, catapulting her into the heart of the Twilight franchise maelstrom. Although that album boasted the likes of Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Deathcab for Cutie, it was  Marina’s sparse, haunting “Satellite Heart” that hijacked the attention of the film’s obsessive fan base.