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Album Review

W.A.S.P. – ‘The Last Command’ [Retro Album Review]

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Located in the Old Testament, Proverbs 16:27 offers a bold revelation — “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” And when a gaggle of bored wives of influential Washington power players found they had more than a little spare time in 1985, they used their idle hands to launch the notorious Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). These “concerned” self-appointed crusaders endeavored to clean up what they perceived as objectional music-related content (i.e., dirty rock lyrics) for the benefit of fellow ineffective adults who also were incapable of parenting their own children.

Ensuing Capitol Hill committee hearings stirred a media circus, resulting in major record labels all “bowing” and “voluntarily” affixing generic “Parental Advisory” warning stickers to the covers of any albums of any artists who leaned left of Debbie Gibson. But in the end, the “Washington Wives” and participating legislators only embarrassed themselves — wasting valuable time on “the Hill,” debating the relevance of Twisted Sister lyrics and unpacking the true meaning behind Def Leppard album titles. Ultimately, they only helped to bolster the careers of the very artists who they’d set out to exterminate. Case in point, the budding LA-based metal band, W.A.S.P.

Fronted by founding bassist and chief songwriter, Blackie Lawless, W.A.S.P. became an instant PMRC target with their self-titled 1984 debut LP and their controversial 12″ import single, “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast).” The hard-hitting album boasted a bounty of teen-targeted anthems oozing all the cerebral sensibility of a Spinal Tap after-show soiree, including the soon-to-be staples, “I Wanna Be Somebody,” “L.O.V.E. Machine” and “On Your Knees.”

W.A.S.P also was gaining enormous notoriety as an outrageous live act — sporting essential metal garb; form-fitting black leather, platform boots and Lawless’ infamous custom buzz saw blade accessories. The band resurrected tried and true KISS-inspired stage schtick as well; blood-spitting, clouds of smoke and walls of fire. And reports of Lawless throwing slabs of raw meat into “hungry” concert crowds soon became widespread.

While the PMRC provided a perfect PR launch pad, W.A.S.P. still needed a turbo-charged vessel in which to blast fully into the rock stratosphere. Produced by rising go-to ace, Spencer Proffer (Quiet Riot, Billy Thorpe), their sophomore set, The Last Command, arrived in stores via Capitol Records 35 years ago this week (November 9, 1985). It would prove to be the exact “projectile” they needed.

If your drummer sucks, then your band sucks — plain and simple. Conversely, if your guy is a master marksman, you can’t miss. In that regard, the drum work of newly-recruited, Steve Riley, hit like unrelenting cannon fire — obliterating the bullseye. The ferocious dual guitar buzz of Chris Holmes and Randy Piper — rib-cracking and heart-stopping. The Last Command also delivered a brave decree — vocally, there was the new “sheriff” in town. But he looked more like Elvira’s scrappy kid brother than he did Marshall Matt Dillon.

But chops and posturing don’t mean dick if you don’t got songs. And The Last Command picked up right where the band’s debut left off — and then carried the ball downfield another 30 yards with a slew of stadium-sized fist-pumpers.

W.A.S.P. “Blind In Texas” video outtake photo, 1985

“Wild Child” made for a mighty opener. An AOR-friendly standout with an impressive oft-played companion video, “Wild Child” still speaks to those who ride in life’s fast lane. Bursting with bona fide guitar-driven, cock-rock swagger, the lead-off single, “Blind in Texas” is arguably the greatest, most under-rated anthem of the arena rock era. The high-energy, old-time western-themed video enjoyed massive MTV exposure, and to this day, “Blind in Texas” serves as the band’s ultimate, most effective marketing tool. Hey, dude — let’s party!

Of the record’s numerous highlights, “Ballcrusher” and “Fistful of Diamonds” both packed the necessary testosterone-fueled fury to not compromise anyone’s personal metal perspective. Yet, “Jack Action” and “Sex Drive” provided sufficient libido-drenched inspiration to make you still wanna bang your partner.

The band soon would endure various (almost) inevitable splintered line-ups. However, Lawless has powered through, keeping the W.A,S.P. legacy alive for nearly four decades. And his well-publicized recent spiritual transformation has done little to diminish his street cred. In fact, when pinned to the darker themes of The Last Command, his current faith-focused message beams as a bright, authentic testimony — reinforcing his rep as a prolific songwriter, master storyteller and renowned rock performer.

The Last Command Track Listing:

Side One:
1. Wild Child (5:12)
2. Ballcrusher (3:27)
3. Fistful of Diamonds (4:13)
4. Jack Action (4:16)
5. Widowmaker (5:17)

Side Two:
6. Blind in Texas (4:21)
7. Cries in the Night (3:41)
8. The Last Command (4:10)
9. Running Wild in the Streets (3:30)
10. Sex Drive (3:12)

Run Time: 41:19
Release Date: November 9, 1985
Record Label: Capitol

Christopher Long is an author, show biz analyst, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and entertainment personality. Referred to once as “the rock and roll Erma Bombeck,” Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and passion for sharing his unique perspectives on pop culture. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Long currently lives in Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)

Album Review

Wabi Sabi – ‘The Love Insane’ [Album Review]

‘The Love Insane’ displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

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Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork
Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork

About seven months ago, Atlanta-based ensemble Wabi Sabi released their fourth album, The Love Insane, a record that not only flew under the radar but was also impacted by the pandemic, resulting in it being self-produced.

Pianist/vocalist Damien Cartier explains, “This is the first of our albums that I have produced myself. We have never done an album this way, but Covid mixed with having a spare bedroom home studio seemed like the perfect time to try.”

The genesis of Wabi Sabi occurred in 1999. Initially comprising piano, trombone, and drums, the band’s name was Damien Cartier And His My Newt Orchestra. Before long, the band added horns, bass, guitars, percussion, and singers. However, there was a problem: the band’s name, the spelling of which stymied people.

Then Damian saw an episode of King Of The Hill where Bobby discovered the concept of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that perceives beauty in imperfection and transience. Enter the band Wabi Sabi, whose unique sound amalgamates elements of soul, funk, reggae, and pop with tangs of jazz.

The Love Insane begins with “The Truth,” opening on a soft, low piano topped by tender vocals, mirroring pensive tones. The melody blends savors of rock and jazz, forming a dreamy, almost psychedelic flow of floating textures.

Highlights on the album include the title track, conjuring up the swaying soul surfaces of the ’60s, tinted with twangy, country-laced guitars. Cartier’s vocals are spot-on and convey touching, quixotic aromas.

New Life,” a personal favorite, evinces suggestions of Steely Dan because of its deliciously trippy-lite surfaces and grand brass accents that bray forth finessed tones. The funky “Not Yet, Sister,” with its hints of reggae, features bright horns, skiffing guitars, and a neighing organ.

The album finishes with “The Weirdo Blues,” a luscious fusion of bluesy jazz and orchestral flavors. There’s a delightful, sleazy sensation to the tune, imbuing the song with benevolent craziness.

The Love Insane displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

The Love Insane Track Listing:

1. The Truth
2. I Am OK
3. Manifest
4. The Love Insane
5. New Life
6. Not Yet, Sister
7. Sick Tuna
8. The Fall
9. Please Rescue Me
10. Spacetime
11. The Weirdo Blues

Run Time: 48:18
Release Date: July 28, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Spike Polite & Sewage – ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] [Album Review]

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Spike Polite & Sewage’s ‘Punk Not Dead’ projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

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Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork
Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork

Punk Not Dead, the latest EP from Spike Polite & Sewage, is an insolent, provocative social satire, a response to the clueless decline of Western civilization, à la Oswald Spengler. Unrestrained, the EP was produced by Ted Sabety.

Made up of Spike Polite, aka Reagan Youth and Cheetah Chrome, on vocals, Michelle Shocked (bass, vocals), Antony Romero (guitar), and Beast (drums), Punk Not Dead follows on the band’s 2021 EP, PANDEMONIUM.

Comprising three tracks, Punk Not Dead opens with “What Happened to the Punk Rock,” rolling out in buzzsaw guitars riding tight, raw percussion. A single voice segues into gang-like vocals, imbuing the lyrics with enflamed indignation. This is old-school, fulminating punk rock.

Twitter is a Death Machine” delivers a short, vicious commentary on the malicious ramifications of social media platforms, specifically Twitter, now known as X. Traveling on a fast, chunky rhythm, the harmonics slice the atmosphere with edgy guitars.

Snarling, grinding guitars give the intro to the title track chaotic textures as sneering vocals infuse the lyrics with ferocious energy highlighted by ringing percussion. The outro reveals the spoken word vocals of Spike and Michelle announcing that “punk is not dead.”

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Punk Not Dead projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Punk Not Dead Track Listing:

1. What Happened to the Punk Rock
2. Twitter is a Death Machine
3. Punk not Dead

Run Time: 3:24
Release Date: January 15, 2024
Record Label: Solid Bass Records

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Album Review

Night Wilds – ‘All That Should Have Been’ [Album Review]

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Night Wilds “Heartland” single artwork

Progressive alt-rock artist Night Wilds, the musical brainchild of Seth Micarelli, will drop his debut album, All That Should Have Been, on April 1. A darkly cathartic record, it’s an immersive concept album cloaking autobiography in fantastical fiction. (Check out our previous single review here.)

All That Should Have Been was tracked at Robert Lang Studios, London Bridge Studios, and Electrokitty Studios. The sessions boasted an audiophile’s dream of vintage gear and exceptional contributions from mastering and mixing engineer Tom Hall and longtime Heart drummer Ben Smith.

“For my whole life, I have been searching for that magic pill to make everything feel better,” shares Micarelli. “This album is about making sense of that void.”

Encompassing 17 tracks, All That Should Have Been begins with the dramatic “The Curtain,” a heated monologue delivered by the compere of a circus, rebuking the performers, focusing on a small child. His criticism travels over a creepy mosaic of sonic motifs, conjuring up a toxic milieu.

Entry points include “New Jerusalem,” opening on low-slung ethereal surfaces topped by Micarelli’s soft, poignant vocals. Slowly building and taking on elevating harmonics, the melody swells into a grandiose prog-rock performance, highlighted by radiant female harmonies, infusing the tune with gospel savors.

City Of Strangers,” a symphonic rock ballad, reveals the protagonist’s realization that he has created a self-constructed prison in his mind, a prison reflecting the events of his life in his youth. A melancholic piano and weeping strings mirror the passionate lyrics, imbuing the song with regret, yearning, and a moving appeal for human tenderness and forgiveness.

A personal favorite because of the exposure of intimate, inner feelings, “Long Way From Graceland” features an alluring folk-rock melody supporting Micarelli’s raw, sensitive vocals, drenched in musing timbres.

Just A Moment More” conjures up suggestions of Bruce Springsteen, unwrapping textures of folk-rock. Blending gleaming guitar accents, a gently sparkling piano, and a mid-tempo rhythmic flow, the tune evokes the pensive longing for more time in embracing the carefree sensation of life’s satisfying moments.

The album closes with “Where Do We Go From Here,” juxtaposing Micarelli’s haunting voice against the maniacal, cackling laugh and wild spoken words of the crazed compere from the first track. The drifting prog-rock ambiance of the melody, reminiscent of Pink Floyd, is at once delicate and elegantly haunting.

Tucked inside All That Should Have Been is an unforgettable story of working to emerge from darkness and addiction into light.

All That Should Have Been Track Listing:

1. The Curtain
2. The Show
3. Mother
4. Fear
5. New Jerusalem
6. Confusion
7. Control
8. Heartland
9. Where Do We Go From Here
10. City Of Strangers
11. A Long Way From Graceland
12. Joni
13. No Way Home
14. Tired
15. Just A Moment More
16. Lost Light
17. Where Do We Go From Here

Run Time: 60:32
Release Date: April 1, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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