Monday, March 26, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #147

In earlier posts I've mentioned Boston, MA's remarkable history of great independent music.  This week's featured NW4NW band is another example, who had a bit of an unfortunate twist in their tale.

Nervous Eaters had been playing around Boston's club scene under various names and permutations for a couple of years when their debut single, "Loretta," was released on the very indy Rat label in 1976.  Among their more popular live numbers, "Loretta" clearly captures the sound of a one-time hard rock band who's direction was more influenced by The Stooges than The Stones, and who had heard and loved The Ramones a few times.  With its lazy beat, monotone back-up vocals, and in-your-face simplicity, it's a Boston proto-punk classic, and very fitting for scene they shared with bands like DMZ and The Real Kids (with whom they also interchanged members at various times in the early days).

It would be two and a half years before their next single, but during that time they were a hard-working band developing not only a huge local following but also quite a reputation among the music press, especially in the Northeast.  Their sound evolved into harder, punkier territory, and that second single, 1979's "Just Head," showed it, adding a bit of the Pistols/Damned/UK Punk flavor to the mix.  The two singles and the glowing reviews brought them to the attention of Elektra Records, who had recently scored big with another Boston band, The Cars.

Unfortunately for the band, Elektra's concept was to make Nervous Eaters into the next Cars.  They removed the rough edges, changed their outfits from black t-shirts and blue jeans to colorful neon, and over-produced everything into radio-friendly mush.  As a result, their long-awaited national bow, 1980's Nervous Eaters, appalled the band's fan base, dumbfounded the critics who had been writing about a very different band, and did not sell.  To demonstrate how out of step with the scene Elektra really was, they thought it clever to house the record in a sleeve die-cut to look like a bite had been taken out of it.  (Get it? Nervous Eaters? Is this thing on?)  Only a re-recording of the classic "Loretta" came out of the fiasco relatively unscathed, but then it would take a lot of doing to ruin a song that good.

The damage was done, though, and Nervous Eaters disappeared until a revived version of the band issued the much, much better Hot Steel and Acid in 1986.  A six-song EP on the independent Ace of Hearts label, the record hewed much closer to the gritty, raw sounds of the band's early days.  Their moment had passed, though, and the record fell out of print without making that much of a splash.

An all-new Nervous Eaters album, Eat This!, suddenly appeared in 2003, followed a few years later by Eaterville, Vol. 1, which compiled some of the band's earliest demos and recordings (as far back as 1973!) and serves as strong evidence that the rest of the world really missed out on a great band.  There are those who say that if you go back and listen to the infamous Elektra album nowadays for what it was and not in the context of Nervous Eaters' true sound, it's not that awful of an album.  If you'd like to take that chance, go right ahead.  I've tried, but can't sit through it.

I'd rather remember Nervous Eaters right with their debut single, "Loretta," from 1976.  Then, for your comparison shopping convenience (and because it remains the only palatable thing from that Elektra LP), listen to the re-recorded version from 1980, and decide for yourself.  [Note, for some reason the clip of the second version continues on for almost three minutes of silence after the song ends - don't feel you have to sit through that, you won't be missing anything.]  Enjoy!

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Monday, March 12, 2012


Yeah, it's pretty much going to surprise no one that I'm about to rave over One-Eyed Doll's performance in Baltimore last night at Ram's Head Live, but that's because I'm a sensible person.  How anyone can see the mighty Austin, TX duo in action and not be blown away is simply incomprehensible!

Was beyond psyched to finally get to see One-Eyed Doll live after months of singing their praises here on the blog, over on my Facebook page, and, frankly, anywhere anyone would listen.  Assiduous readers will recall that shortly after I was introduced to the band they were scheduled to play in Allentown, PA - not too far away from good ol' Lancaster - and I was geared up for that show only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  (Long time friends will recall that I like to use the word "assiduous" whenever I can.  I can be a vocab snob sometimes.)  Of course, as soon as the current tour in support of Orgy was announced and a Baltimore show was added to the itinerary, I knew I would be there come hell or high water!

I've mentioned before that Baltimore is swiftly becoming my favorite town for music.  It's only about an hour and a half each way from where I sit in PA, and this particular venue is easy to get to (pretty much a straight shot down I-83 right into the city) and has an attached parking garage with entrance right to the club door - no waiting in long preshow lines on the street like most clubs!  Heck, the restroom even had an attendant - and after many years of experiencing seriously dodgy if not outright vomitous club bathrooms, it was nice to see a clean one that didn't make me feel like I should burn my shoes after setting foot inside.

The show was originally scheduled to be three bands, with Richmond, VA's Faultline joining One-Eyed Doll and Orgy on the bill.  Had a chance to talk with One-Eyed Doll's drummer Jason Rufus "Junior" Sewell before the show at the merch table, and learned that Faultline would not be there.  Apparently, they have split up the band.  So, it became a two-band show with each band getting a little more stage time. Nice.

Technically the set-up was One-Eyed Doll opening for Orgy, but it felt more like Orgy mopping up after One-Eyed Doll tore the place down!  Kimberly Freeman is simply an unstoppable force.  From her stark good-little-goth-girl look to her gymnastic choreography (how does she kick that high?), she seizes your attention from the moment she steps onstage and never lets you out of her clutches. She tells stories, insists on crowd participation, showers the front rows with mouthfuls of water, stalks around the stage like a lioness protecting her territory, and collapses in apparently complete exhaustion between songs only to quickly rise and begin the process anew.  She is constant motion, leaping the barricade to become one with the crowd, tumbling back onto the stage like a rag doll, literally bending over backwards for her performance at times.  She pulls various hats out of a bag behind her amp, but none of them stay on her head very long: a few seconds of wild hair-whipping headbanging sends each one flying.  Yet through all the fury, her guitar never stops - and when you look past the show, she's a damn good guitarist.

Speaking of damn good, if you can somehow manage to summon the strength to tear your eyes away from Kimberly, you'll notice Junior bashing his drums as though his job is to pound them into the ground like nails in a board.  On this evening, his intensity was such that by the midpoint of their set one of his cymbals was literally cracked halfway though!  While he may not be the visual focal point of the show, he is the constant driver of it's ferocity.  

On this night, they scorched through an excellent set, opening with "Committed" and including "Nudie Bar," "Fight," "Pao!," and "Be My Friend" among others - a good representation of their material and their wicked sense of humor.  The closer was an awesome rendition of "Monster," culminating in Kimberly's running leap across the stage into Junior's drum kit, sending drums, cymbals, and Junior sprawling across the floor.  Always helpful, she then picked Junior up by the throat and drug him to center stage where they took their bow before demanding that we all follow her as she leaped the barricade into the crowd and became our pied piper leading us to the merch table, where she and Junior spent the better part of the next hour or so talking to fans, signing autographs, and taking pictures.  Kimberly and Junior are simply two of the nicest, friendliest people.  They truly seem honored by their fans' adulation, and were more than willing to spend time with each and every person.

Orgy turned out to be better than I expected, especially given the task of having to try to follow One-Eyed Doll.  This tour is Orgy's return after 7 or 8 years of inactivity; in actuality, this version of the band contains only one original member, Jay Gordon, and his newly-assembled troupe of musicians.  Orgy was one of those bands that always somehow flew under my radar in the '90s.  Of course, I knew of their cover of New Order's "Blue Monday," and had heard other tracks here and there, but I never really got into their music for whatever reason.  They sounded good last night, though - a bit like Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails crossed with a slicker-sounding Pop Will Eat Itself.  But even with five band members and an LED light show projected behind them, they didn't produce the same energy that two people with a guitar, drums and a bag of hats had created earlier in the night.  And while Orgy's set has inspired me to go back and learn what I missed the first time around, they ran probably about three songs too long - it all started to sound same-y too me.

Overall, I don't think I could have spent a better twenty bucks for a Sunday night's entertainment.  Now, I want you to listen to me closely:  if One-Eyed Doll plays anywhere near you, you must - MUST - go see them.  Drop whatever else you're doing, change plans, whatever, but you must go.  I promise you will not be disappointed!  I sure wasn't!

As always, more pics from the show will be up on the That's What I Was Going To Say Facebook page later tonight. Stop by and maybe "like" the page while you're there, won't you?
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Why You Need To Be In Baltimore MD Next Sunday

After a rough couple of weeks, The Universe turns around and gives me a truly awesome gift:


After missing out on seeing Kimberly and Junior in Allentown, PA on their last tour due to a cancellation, I get another chance. Here they are in the area again, and you can bet your ass I'll be there! 

One-Eyed Doll will be at Ram's Head Live in Baltimore, opening for Orgy.  It's an all-ages show with doors at 6:30.  Faultline (from my old stomping grounds, Richmond VA!) is also on the bill - 3 bands for only $20!  Can't beat a deal like that with a stick!

What, you don't know One-Eyed Doll? Are living under a rock somewhere?!? For those of you yet unenlightened, here's a video primer on Austin, TX's greatest export:

Make your plans, be there - hope I see you there!

My Demons Again...

"I'll give you some advice that cannot be fought
Now I'm gonna warn you: Don't you get caught...
Don't get caught in my brainstorm..."
                                                - The Fleshtones

Brainstorm by The Fleshtones on Grooveshark

I'm picking fights with everyone lately.

Not sure how I got into this frame of mind, and I seem powerless to stop it.  I've been here before, though.  Many years back, before I was diagnosed with my demons, I went through a phase that led me directly into what I refer to as my "Hermit Phase."  Before I even knew what Social Anxiety or OCD were, I realized one day I had changed from a very sociable, friendly person into someone who grew easily irritated when others seemed oblivious, whether consciously or unconsciously so, to things that seemed so simple and obvious to me.  Further, whatever filter most people have that allows them to shield others from that irritation didn't seem to be functional in me.  Coupled with my natural tendency towards sarcasm, I quickly found myself driving people away, pissing off friends, and destroying relationships.  Yet, I felt incapable of stopping myself from doing it.

Once I began working with my therapist and began to learn about the processes that were likely happening in my brain, I also began to learn coping skills.  The process went like this: My OCD Demon would see something not "right" in what someone else was saying or doing, and immediately fire off the alarm that it had to be fixed; my Social Anxiety Demon would begin whispering in my ear that whatever that other person was saying or doing was being said or done in order to make me look bad, or to attack me in some way, and would insist that I go into full defense mode - fight or flight, so to speak, except I couldn't flee because OCD compelled me to stay and fix it, so that left "fight" as my only option.  I upset a lot of people over a lot of little things.

A combination of learning some coping skills (especially recognizing the warning signs that such a process was beginning and getting myself out of the situation before it reached the point I couldn't "flee") and finding the right medication (better living through Zoloft!) helped immensely.  I also believe that, in many ways, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, helped me to improve to a point where I could begin being social in the real world again, because the built-in buffer created by being able to simply turn off the computer let me begin to push and stretch my boundaries.

As I've shared here before, my fight against my demons is never, and will never be, finished.  I must always remain vigilant against their schemes.  I haven't written much about them in recent months because they've been relatively quiet - or so I thought. The holidays came and went with no flare-ups, and I was feeling pretty good about where my head was.

Those demons are insidious, and infuriatingly patient.  They sit and wait until the slightest crack in my armor appears, and then they make their moves.  They will slowly but inexorably chip away until the crack becomes larger and larger and finally, before I even realize it, they've gotten into my brain again. This time, rather than sending me on my usual depression spirals or battles of self-doubt, they pulled an old trick out of their armory: They brought back that process.

At first, I didn't even notice it.  Most of my friends know I love to debate.  I love a well-structured argument; I actually enjoy having my beliefs challenged in ways that forces me to assess (and, if necessary re-assess) them.  And if I can find someone to debate with who is both skilled in the art of the debate and also realizes the pure joy found in a well-placed pun or sudden non sequitur in the midst of an otherwise straight, logical argument, I am beyond happy!  Because it is the structure of the debate itself and not necessarily the content that I enjoy, I will occasionally take a devil's advocate stance even if it's not really my belief just for the fun of the contest.  It's not a malicious thing at all; I don't debate to make personal attacks, nor will I remain in a debate with an opponent who is so unskilled as to devolve from arguing his point to attacking me.  That's not fun.

But slowly, over the past month or so, I've noticed the tone of my debates growing darker.  I've found myself almost incapable of passing up opportunities to jump into the fray with anyone, and I've heard the sarcasm in my own words grow.  I'm no longer asking others to defend their beliefs because I am interested in how they think; I am now insisting that they defend stances that I see as, for lack of a better word, stupid.  My demons have taken one of the mental and logical exercises I enjoy most and once again turned it into a weapon against me.

I know it's happening because, over time, the old familiar symptoms are resurfacing:  I find myself getting actually angry at what I perceive as personal attacks that probably aren't; I find myself thinking of the other person as at best ill-informed and at worst stupid for not seeing things that seem so obvious to me; I find my inner frustration level rise to the point where adrenalin starts coursing through me and I feel as if I am physically fighting to get out of my own head.  More to the point, I find myself pissing people off or getting pissed off at people and pushing them away over the slightest perceived infraction.

What becomes even more frustrating is, now that the rational observer in my head is aware that this is happening but not yet able to do anything about it, I have begun internally dissecting each and every conversation, whether argument or not, to try to determine which are the battles that are worth fighting - the situations where I really do need to stand up and fight for something valid - and which are the inconsequential skirmishes that my demons are trying dust up into life-and-death battles.  It's not easy to define which is which; right now they look identical from inside my head.

But I'm not giving in.  I can't and won't.  I've noted before that the hell of this all is that sometimes the demons win.  But I know they won't win all the time, and I know I can get back to a place where I win more often than they do.  Writing these posts helps - a lot.  I just hope that this time around I don't have to count as many causalities among my friends and relationships as I have before.

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