by Ryan Meehan
I want to take a minute to apologize for slacking on yet another one of the seemingly countless projects that I have wanted to do but just haven’t gotten around to taking care of. Ben Crabb runs this awesome records store called Ragged Records at the foot of the Government Bridge in Davenport. You should definitely check it out, and also check out the vintage Clothing store Trash Can Annie which is located in the same building.
I’m not exactly what you would call tech-savvy. I don’t own and iPod, don’t have an iTunes account, and all truth be told it would take me decades to figure out Soundcloud before I slowly stabbed myself to death with a butter knife. So this version of the playlist is going to be a little bit different, and I am going to rely on YouTube and my professionally trained copying and pasting skills in order to get you the videos of the audio files that appear on my playlist. Now not all of these are official clips: Some of them are fan videos, and that’s cool because it exposes listeners to songs other than the typical 3 YouTube Clips that show up off of every album nowadays.
So here’s my playlist, and check out Ragged Records to order any of the items that you see below.
1. Animals as Leaders – “CAFO”
I have a theory as to why a lot of people were turned off of what was considered to be “progressive metal” in the era of bands like Dream Theater and the like: I think that the vocals scared a lot of people off. To be clear, I don’t have anything against those guys but I genuinely believe that the idea that there was a thing that could be classified as technical hair metal really freaked people out heading into the early nineties. The first band on our list Animals as Leaders completely cuts out the middle man (no vocals period) and gives you nothing but straight up chops all the way through. It’s all 8-string, all day, no commercials. Just so we’re all on the same page here, it’s very important to understand that there is absolutely no bass player in this outfit at all. They’re a three piece, and outside of AC/DC they have to be the only heavy metal band in the world where being the drummer is the easiest gig in the group.
2. The Hell – “You’re Listening to the Hell (Full Album)
I actually came across The Hell looking for Animals as Leaders because they are currently on Prosthetic Records, the label that used to be the home of AAL. In my own personal opinion The Hell are currently one of the heaviest bands in the world. They have the best social media presence in music today, make hilarious videos, and even if you can’t get into what they do they are worth the follow alone. A no miss of that which highlights their true ability to realize that most bands (especially the heavy ones) take themselves way too seriously. Aside from a tribute to former Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, points of note are soon-to-be favorites like “Shit Just Got Real”, “It’s The Motherfucking Hell (You Dick)”, “These Butters Bitches (You’re Fucking Butters)”, and “I’ve Never Seen A Jackal On The 142″…but it’s all pretty solid the whole way through. This was when the band still used all strings at their disposable, a more thorough sound when you consider now they don’t have more that two strings on a single instrument that they play.
3. Hyper Crush: “Maniac”
I admit I’m a sucker for a lot of dance club stuff. Although this comes from an album that is not my favorite (2012’s Night Wave) the synth sound in this cut is killer, and the lyrics are way over the top in true Hyper Crush form. My sister can’t stand these guys and a lot of people think that the whole thing is a shtick, but who else is rocking keytars skating around Venice on quad roller skates in Vuarnet shirts twenty-five years after those things went out of style? I also believe that this is probably their best produced song on any of their records, and although I can’t stand the typical R&B back and forth male female dialogue this is a safe distance from R&B. Plus, Donny and Holly are lot more believable and convincing when they do it as opposed to some of the jack-offs and Jill-slits who try to do this in a lot of today’s modern hip hop. God, I hate that shit.
4. Bonnie Koloc – “Mother Country”
When I was very young, my father had a vinyl album of this woman who had worked with Jim Croce in the 1974 region and penned “You’re gonna love yourself in the morning” which is also a great song as well as the title track of this record. It was full of these very folksy tunes, and I loved it – while I can’t necessarily say that about most folk music these days. Now obviously this track was used for a major airline advertisement in the eighties, so if you think you’ve heard it before that would probably be why. But there is something about how this song represented a very loose and positive interpretation of what this country is supposed to look like. It’s an extremely ambitious piece of music, and for me it really helps me identify with a time in my life where the only thing that mattered to me were the records that I could listen to when I got home from school.
5. XELLE featuring Mimi Imfurst – “Hologram” w/Jeaneane Garafolo
I was actually turned on to XELLE by Kevin Allison of “The State”. I mistakenly thought they were two guys in drag, but as it turns out they just have a great drag sensibility. I included this track (even though “Sweat” is a better cut) because the video is interactive and kind of bizarre. Okay, it’s really bizarre and there’s a lot of creepy stuff in it. Including Kevin in a windowless van, which by itself should make every sleeveless jean jacket playlist in America. This is unapologetic pop music that is designed for people to dance to it, and reflects a lot of what is going on in the New York underground scene at the moment.
6. Abiotic – “Vermosapien”
This is about as linear as true death metal really gets, and although I’m a huge fan of traditional structure when you hear the bassist in this band start to get to work even the biggest pop music or structural junkie in the world would have to respect what’s going on here. This band comes to you courtesy of Metal Blade Records, and in no shock to the death metal community hails from South Florida. In my mind this is true new school death metal, and represents a sound that I believe a lot of bands who self-identify as death metal are running away from in favor of more iTunes and Amazon-friendly vocals. It’s a perfect musical match for an artist whose name is defined as being “physical rather than biological; not derived from living organisms” or “devoid of life; sterile”. That’s what I’m talking about right there – The whole package kind of makes the guys in Asking Alexandria look like a bunch of soybean farmers.
7. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “Life”
There are so many Trail tracks that I could put on my playlist but I’ve selected “Life” off of “So Divided” for a couple of reasons: First, the artwork that accompanies this particular cut on the record is brutal – it shows a young child crying on the floor of a study where a woman (whom I would assume is the child’s mother) appears to be hanging from the ceiling and only her feet are visible. Second, there’s this really nauseating piano track that resonates through the entire time and seems to exist totally separate of the melody that plays throughout. The outro is nearly perfect and features a lead vocal by a woman named Lily Courtney who has a fantastic voice. TOD principal songwriter Conrad Keely has stated that this is one of the few tracks he’s written that he can actually listen to because it doesn’t reflect the band’s sound at all, and although I would agree with him I still think it represents their vision very well.
8. On the Go – “Keep Pretending”
I was really turned on to this Russian-based band by a co-worker of mine and became a really big fan of the bass line that dominates this song. It has a great tone to it, it cuts through the mix really well, and the guy playing it kind of looks like Moshe Kasher. This single is very minimalist, and I have found that the lighter tracks on this record seem to help me get to sleep if I listen to them right before bed. It’s worth a listen, so check it out…
9. Craw – 405
Chowski got this disc from either Indiana or Ohio back in 1995 or 1996 and somewhere along the way it ended up getting either lost, stolen, broken, or we just stopped asking about it. But I never forgot about it, and to be honest I’m a little bit surprised I was able to come across the audio years later. This was the kind of throwdown stuff that was coming out of the rust belt at the time which was too metal to be classified as hard core. It had a real scratchy/methy sound to it that was super uncomfortable, and I really wish I had seen these guys live when they were still around and making music. I don’t really know enough about them to comment any further.
9. Kyuss – Gardenia
Before High on Fire began tuning to drop C and every stoner rock group in the world starting putting the word “Wizard” in their band name, somebody had to pick up where Black Sabbath left off and really get this genre set in motion. That “somebody” ended up being Kyuss, a band whose members ended up starting other great groups such as Mondo Generator, Queens of the Stone Age, and Eagles of Death Metal. This is the first song on “Welcome to Sky Valley”, a record that along with “Wretch” and “Blues for the Red Sun” became seminal classical albums that would define the Palm Desert scene.
10. The Dwarves – We Must Have Blood
The Dwarves really got my goat because I was never 100% into punk rock. This band really isn’t either…they’re way too well-schooled at their instruments to fit in the same category as Screeching Weasel. I think the Dwarves were one of these acts that were punk kids at heart but wanted to take it to the next level. The best story I ever heard about this band was that supposedly in 1993 they issued a press release which stated their guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed had been stabbed to death in Philadelphia. Even though he was still alive, they even went so far as to tell the guy’s parents that he was dead before he eventually returned to play a show. Hilarious. There are plenty of other Dwarves-related stories that involve such prankery and silliness, and “We Must Have Blood” is a perfect representation of how crazy they really are. It’s also priceless that after hearing them cram this song into less than three minutes, you can pretty much tell what they are all about. It’s totally over the top, and insane to boot. Speaking of over-the-top and insane…
11. Human Aftertaste – Lazer Gun
Set your stunners to mullet ladies and gentleman, Count Jabula and the gang are coming to your computer screen. When I was in From the Wreckage we played a couple of shows with these guys, and I was blown away at the stage show they were able to pull off. Some years later I went to check them out as a spectator. I showed up in a dog costume, paid five bucks to get in, got hit in the head with a head of lettuce, then wrestled a dude in a monkey suit – So you can take your fucking $185 U2 ticket stub and shove it right up your ass. That’s value enough for your entertainment dollar right there, but Protus really captured the Stage 2 vibe with the sound of this track and the look of this video. These guys have a series of webisodes that may tickle your fancy if your fancy is tickled by some of the messed up subject matter these guys tackle.
12. Redd Foxx – HBO On Location 1978
You knew I wasn’t going to be able to get through this list without throwing some comedy in there, so for the comedy selection of the playlist I give you the uncensored 1978 standup special of one Redd Foxx. Most of America got to know Redd as the seemingly always ready to have a heart attack Fred Sanford in the hit show “Sanford and Son”. But Redd cut his teeth in the nightclubs and back roads bars where he invented a whole different style of dirty comedy. He grew up in St. Louis, and likely would have stayed there had Dinah Washington not suggested he bite the bullet and move to LA. Redd talked about some real shit indeed. And while today’s comedians like Katt Williams make jokes about pimpin’, Redd actually knew about the business inside and out. He came from a world where life was very cheap, and entertainment was a real form of currency. Even though while he was on stage it seemed like he could care less about what the crowd thought of him, he cared deeply about his work and making people laugh.
13. Mike Patton & The Metropole Orchestra – Mondo Cane
A lot of playlists are going to feature some type of project that Mike Patton is involved with, but not many of them are going to showcase him singing cover versions of 1950s and 1960s Italian pop music backed by the Netherlands’ finest jazz and pop orchestra. Obviously this clip does wonders when it comes to showcasing the range of the man who wrote such other 50s and 60s European classics like “Everyone I Went to High School with is Dead”, “Jizzlobber”, and “My Ass is On Fire”. I’d put Mike right up there with all of the other rock singers that became popular in the time between “The Real Thing” and now, and not only does he possess an incredible vocal talent but I’m convinced he is slowly attempting to learn just about every language on the planet. His versatility is nothing short of incredible, and it’s hard to imagine another guy in the history of music who has been able to accomplish so much long before his fiftieth birthday. This particular snapshot in his storied career is an hour and a half long, but pretty much any ten minute segment should give you idea what he is capable of – providing of course you don’t already know.
14. Lenny Zakatek – “Games People Play” (Live)
Around the same time I was introduced to Bonnie Koloc, I found another record by a group called The Alan Parsons Project and was instantly hooked. The best part about having a project instead of a band is you can have many different singers on the same long-form program of music, and Alan utilized this setup better than anybody. One of the sharper vocalists on his hit list was Lenny Zakatek, shown here in this clip from a television show that I’m guessing was probably not filmed in the Nebraska area. The music starts at 3:55 and I picked this song because it represents a lot of the best elements of the Alan Parsons Project: Great structure, a clean and fuzzy guitar solo, killer pop sensibility, and true to form – Alan is nowhere in sight. In fact, I’d probably be willing to bet a down payment on a house that he was in bed when this show aired and I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if he still hasn’t seen it to this day.
Thanks to Ben for letting me submit a playlist! Check out the store, and once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.