THE YEAR IN JACKHEAD BOOMBOOM MUSIC, YEAR OF OUR LORD 2014
Hot And Heavy Edition
“We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”
–The Eagles, “Hotel California” (1976)
As we get older, our musical tastes are supposed to become kinder and gentler—less Gasoline Alley and more It Had To Be You…The Great American Songbook. Workingman’s Dead willingly and without malice aforethought transmogrified into a disturbing overabundance of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs like “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town”. Less Faith No More and more Songs Of Faith And Praise. FORTISSISSIMO > DECRESCRENDO > Decrescendo > pianissimo > picardy third, fermata > angelo misericordioso di morte.
But me? Not so much. Every year that passes, I trudge further and further down the road less traveled. It’s dark as a dungeon, damp as the dew, and increasingly lonely, but there is nothing I loathe more than the forced inevitability of age inertia or the sheepdog of commerce trying to herd me into a cattle pen or a pig trailer. I will not wear a box muzzle and no one will put a ring in my nose. No one. I am divergent.
I’m supposed to donate my Nick Cave records to Goodwill and spend $49.98 for Yanni’s Live At The Acropolis and a Kenny G Christmas CD. I’m supposed to listen to Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Their Merry Blues Bland Of Respectable And Harmless White People. I’m not supposed to listen to Skip James and John Lee Hooker. I’m not supposed to know who Tom G. Warrior is. I’m supposed to listen to Kind Of Blue, not Bitches Brew. I’m supposed to eat my strained peas and listen to Train.
But I just.
I won’t do it.
I mean no offense to Kenny G, Eric Claptozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, or Yanni. I’m sure they’re all lovely people. But if my choice is between Michael Buble and death, I choose death. I just hope to bleed out before the chorus of “Haven’t Met You Yet” kicks in. When I face The Good Lord Himself at the pearly gates and He asks me what music moved my soul, I don’t want to say, “Oh my goodness, Sandi Patty and The Chuck Wagon Gang. They’re simply delightful.” I’m better than that.
I don’t want to bounce my grandchildren on my knee and introduce them to the damaged frontal lobe charm of Trixter and The Vinnie Vincent Invasion. I want to eat at the grown-ups’ table. I don’t want my rough edges scoured off with a belt sander. I want to see Wendy O. Williams sledgehammer a TV and kick some guy in the nuts. I don’t want to hear David Archuleta sing “The Cat And Mouse Carol” with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Why would I want to do that? I’d rather remove six ribs and teabag myself.
Most of my generation seems to be headed for the kiddie pool, but I’m running into a raging house fire carrying a full gas can and a bottle of Boone’s Farm. All my friends are Up With People and I’m The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, member in good standing. They’re drinking Orange Metamucil and singing “Don’t Worry Be Happy” while I’m swigging 40 Malt and humming along to Obituary’s Inked In Blood. They’re calling the fire department and I’m roasting jumbo wieners.
And every year without fail, the fire gets bigger and bigger. If my life could be described in a metaphorical nutshell, it would be Johnny Cash’s pickup truck slowly overheating, burning down a national forest, and putting the California Condor on the Endangered Species list. If this pattern continues (and the smart money says it will), I fully expect to listen to nothing but Sunn O))) and Portal for the next year, then spontaneously combust with my ashes forming a perfect pentagram on the forehead of a goat. It seems like the logical conclusion. Alas, it is the path I have chosen—or perhaps it’s chosen me—but it still seems infinitely less painful than Michael Bolton’s Timeless: The Classics. That is a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enema.
What can I say? I like it rough. Give it to me, baby.
I make no excuses. I like what I like. What it is.
Now…with that loud and lascivious word soup out of the way and no further ado, here’s what I listened to most in 2014:
11. BODY COUNT Manslaughter / UPON A BURNING BODY The World Is My Enemy Now (tie)
Nothing like some hardcore beatdowns after a hard day at the office.
10. D’ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD Black Messiah
After a 14-year wait, D’Angelo finally drives a silver cross through the soulless orange heart and distended belly of modern R&B. Also see: empirical evidence of a God.
9. JOHN MELLENCAMP Plain Spoken
Yes, he sounds like a candidate for a tracheotomy. Yes, he sounds like an old black man sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch. But the next person to call him ‘heartland rocker’ is going to get a mouthful of their own fucking teeth. I’m going to say this once: JOHN MELLENCAMP IS THE FATHER OF AMERICANA MUSIC. American music—strike that—AMERICA owes him a huge debt. Feel free to dispute my characterization if you want, but my assessment will still be correct and you will still be full of shit. Besides, how many of you can write a song as good as “The Brass Ring”? Yeah, I didn’t think so. My assessment stands.
8. VOICES London
I spent the summer of 1988 in London, but I don’t remember it sounding anything like this. Banshee screams, blastbeats, piano interludes, gothic sexual imagery, mental disintegration, suffocating darkness, and a succubus named Megan? I don’t recall any of that. In my defense I wasn’t hanging around the right people, but still. I must return. Apparently London has improved beyond measure. The Master has called me to serve.
7. BLACK STROBE Godforsaken Roads
I bought this because of one song title: “For Those Who Came On The Earth Thru The Devil’s Asshole”. That’s enough for a year-end-best designation right there. But as it turns out, Godforsaken Roads is an inspired goulash of blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, and house music. Think Ultra-era Depeche Mode or a sprightly Leonard Cohen doing Soft Cell. High point: a synthy plink-plonk rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues” that sounds like an ESL student getting creative with their citizenship final. Out among the stars, JR Cash is smiling.
6. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN High Hopes / TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS Hypnotic Eye (tie)
Seriously? Does Tom T. Hall love honest open smiles, kisses from a child, tomatoes on the vine, and onions? Does Joan Jett love rock ‘n’ roll? Does Eddie Rabbitt love a rainy night?
Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty released records in 2014;
This is a year-end best-of list;
Therefore they are on it.
I don’t need another reason. Both of them are inherently incapable of making a mediocre record, even by accident.
5. WILLIE NELSON Band Of Brothers
Willie Nelson is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.
4. AVATAR Hail The Apocalypse
According to legend (and James Cameron), a string quartet played “Nearer, My God, To Thee” while the RMS Titanic dragged more than 1,500 souls to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Hail The Apocalypse would have been a more appropriate choice. But, you know, 1912.
3. JOHN GARCIA John Garcia
A desert rock classic. Hotter than Arizona asphalt. Every time I play this in the car, I get hot enough to breed sheep and my tires explode. Garcia, one of the most unique singers in the history of history, wails like smoke and lava, like he’s chewing through the microphone. Extra credit for this lyric: “If you leave me I will kill you/I will kill you if you leave me”. Hotter than a mink and twice as dangerous.
2. MACHINE HEAD Bloodstone & Diamonds
Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album (“The Black Album”) is universally regarded as a masterpiece. Fine. As you will. But Machine Head’s Bloodstone & Diamonds is infinitely better. Note for note and pound for pound, it’s not even fair. Suck on that, Lars.
1. KING 810 Memoirs Of A Murderer
Welcome to Murdertown—Flint, Michigan, the most violent city in America, population 100,000, a grand total of 122 police officers, no city council, and no mayor. (All you armchair constitutionalists and libertarian freethinkers hell-bent on drowning government in the bathtub, please take note.) Your tour guide to this devil’s hunting ground will be 28-year-old David Gunn, a man not unfamiliar with the inside of a jail cell or the error of his ways. He has little concern for your highly principled drive-by opinions and is most likely in violation of his parole. He’ll cry like a baby, he’ll scream like a panther in the middle of the night, and he seems quite willing to trade a lifetime of road sign and license plate manufacture for the momentary pleasure of duct taping your mouth shut and beating you with a lead pipe. Whatever the song requires. He and his fellow horsemen of the Midwest apocalypse offer you no choice but to listen.
If Mark Lanegan fronted Body Count, Nick Cave joined Hatebreed, or Johnny Cash was raised in the inner city on N.W.A. and Slipknot, you would get Memoirs Of A Murderer. It’s bone-chilling, brutal, cathartic, and the best debut by an American band in 30 years.
King 810 has changed everything. All bets are off.
BOOM. *mic drop*
Onward to 2015. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
By the way, if anyone knows where I can find a copy of Sammy Davis, Jr.’s Satan Swings Baby! LP (1974), let me know. I hear Anton LaVey plays a mean Wurlitzer.
Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.
Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.