Stacks: Midnight Oil – “Back on the Borderline”

I wrote about the strangely forgotten dance rock band Midnight Oil for Stacks:

Perhaps the greatest document of what made them so special is Oils on the Water , the name given to a televised concert from Goat Island in Sydney Harbor. This show, from January 13, 1985, is peak Oils, with frontman Peter Garrett at his most strident and the band at their finest balance of pop hooks and punk fury. The setlist is mostly from their best album, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and it’s only slightly lesser follow-up, Red Sails in the Sunset. It’s a veritable pre-Diesel and Dust greatest hits; “Best of Both Worlds”, “When the Generals Talk”, Kosciuszko”, U.S. Forces”, “Power and the Passion”, “Don’t Wanna Be the One”, “Read About It”, “Short Memory”, and “Back on the Borderline” all made it onto 2012’s Essential Oils.

Picking a track from that killer line-up was incredibly difficult. “Short Memory” is one of my all-time favorite Oils tunes, it’s constant pulse and haunting keyboard line the perfect amplifier to the horror of Peter Garrett’s litany of mankind’s atrocities. Pairing similar moods of music and lyrics was one of Midnight Oil’s common approaches; the other was not to amplify their screed but to contrast the sweetness of the music against Garrett’s polemics. for example, the sweet and catchy music is a fine foil to the imperialist message of “U.S. Forces”. Regardless of the compositional style they chose to employ, the common thread of Midnight Oil’s music is that they almost always get the head bobbing or the body moving. Rare is the artist that makes you want to dance while the world burns.


Last Rites: 5Q5A – Salem’s Pot

Craig and I sent Salem’s Pot some questions. We had no idea what to do with the results, but thankfully Ian did.

You know what? These Swedes’ prickly brevity is sorta reminiscent of certain bygone circulars that used to hit your mailbox still ponging from Kinko’s toner stank. Talking zines, my friend! And, in the age of the ALL O’ ME blog confessional, Salem’s Pot’s detached DGAF is, in a weird way, inspiring, recalling the masochistic, Mascis-esque interviews of the slack motherfucker set.

So, let’s do this up how it should be done: contrasted to hell, xeroxed to bits, and shot-through with that ol’ messy, lefty-scissors, cut n’ paste aesthetic. (No rampant typos, though. We’re better than thaf.) Erik Highter and Craig Hayes asked Salem’s Pot five questions, they told us to stuff it, light it, and listen to the DOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Can’t argue with the logic.

Stacks: Dio – “The Last in Line”

I wrote about the underrated Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 for Stacks. The 1987 version of “The Last in Line” is definitive.

By 1987, Dio was well established, headlining arenas throughout the world. There is less to prove for everyone involved, and the need for the legacy songs to carry the weight of the set has changed. This is ably illustrated by Dio cutting Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea” from a six-minute crowd-pleaser to a minute long intro to a hits medley; likewise, “Heaven and Hell” moves from the 11-minute centerpiece of audience call and response to a three-minute part of that same medley. This is about Dio, and while the nods to the past the present is the focal point.

Last Rites: 5Q5A – Monolord

Craig needed no help coming up with questions for our new favorite Swedes, but he let me throw a couple in anyways.

Empress Rising has a crushing amount of low-end rumble, as deeply resonant as any record in recent memory. What equipment are you using to get such a gut shaking tone?

As I see it, it all boils down to having a solid and distinct band sound, which we put a lot of work into. It is of course a combination of gear and sounds that compliment each other, but mostly it’s how we play together as a band. One good example is how Thomas’ and Mika’s rigs and playing blend together to create that saturated, fat sound, often mistaken as just a good guitar sound. We always strive for being one unit, instead of three separate instrument masturbators.

Last Rites: Monolord – Empress Rising

I reviewed the debut from Sweden’s Monolord for Last Rites. It’s a solid slab of heavy doom, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

When Monolord find the right balance, the result is a stunning example of 90s-tinged doom. Opening track “Harbinger of Death” is them at their most Electric Wizard, and would fit nicely on Witchcult Today; high praise indeed, and most deserved for this head-nodding groove. On the slow creep of “Audhumbla”, they sublimate the Sleep influence and find their own somnambulistic style, with that gut-churning effect described before acting not as a side effect but a featured player, roiling and rolling before stepping back to let the listener breathe, then swooping back in for another round.

Last Rites: 5Q5A – La Chinga

I helped Kyle come up with some questions for Vancouver’s 70s-style hard rockers La Chinga. Our questions were decent but their answers were stellar.

Instead of jumping trends and going for retro-doom or occult rock, your brand of ’70s hard rock seems both more familiar and less derivative. It’s evocative instead of aping, and while close listening makes me think of a T. Rex moment here, a Zep nod there, it sounds like no one but yourselves. How hard is it to trod familiar ground and find new truths in it?

It’s pretty easy for us I think to stay true, it’s natural. This is the first band for me where the chemistry was immediate. When we got together for the first time, there was no plan to sound like this, I actually had a plan for what we were going to sound like, kinda more laid back was what I thought we were gonna sound like. I had some different songs I brought in, sounds I thought we would be heading for, and it all went out the window on the first jam. Right away it was, boom! The room exploded on the first song we played together. We just took off and I knew right away we had something special. Something I had never felt before.



Stacks: Lambchop – “What Else Could It Be?”

Lambchop have multiple live releases, which for some reason are mostly limited in availability and almost never discussed. Live at Merge XX is their easiest to find and might be their best. I scribbled some thoughts for the latest Stacks:

Lambchop has been described as many things, but rarely have they been called rollicking. But that’s exactly the word I’d use for this version of “What Else Could It Be Today?”, with it’s horn stabs and barreling jangle, it’s percussive piano, and soulful and heartfelt lead vocal from Kurt Wagner. The Nashville Nightcrawler (the comic book nerd in me has always wanted to call him that) is at his most emotive; breaking as he pleads, dropping low and cracking high. It sounds like he’s stalking the stage, eyes closed, as he throws his whole body into line after line. But the whole arrangement is that way, a full body charge that careens nearly out of control. In contrast to the reserved studio coolness of the Nixon version it sounds almost like another band.