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Courtney Love – America’s Sweetheart

I think we can all agree that Courtney Love is not the most predictable, calm, reserved, or sane individual roaming planet Earth.



“Shock me, shock me, shock me, with that deviant behavior.” There are a few out there who I know will appreciate this quote. Sadly, there are also many out there who will not, for them I am sad. I’ll get over it soon enough though. I think we can all agree that Courtney Love is not the most predictable, calm, reserved, or sane individual roaming planet Earth. Her antics have found their way to the front pages of a many tabloids and websites, and with good reason. The relationship she had with Kurt Cobain instigated this call to fame or notoriety Love seems to cloak herself with. Usually, I like to try to separate an artist’s habits and lifestyle from his/her music. If I did not do this then I would be left excessively disappointed and would not be able to enjoy much of the music I love. For instance, if I was not able to put aside the drugged up ways of the boys of Television I may not be such a fan of their amazingly good music.

Still, sometimes it is extremely difficult not to identify an artist as an amalgamation of his/her music, personal past, and personal present. This is evident by the excessive amount of media attention given to the personal lives of these beings. I, myself, find it extremely difficult to pull Love’s music away from her oh so deviant ways. I do not mean to say that her behavior is shocking in that sometimes necessary “open your eyes and quit being so stringent about rules” way. It is shocking as in appalling. Doing drugs in front of your child is definitely something I do not condone. I do not see how anybody could defend himself or herself after doing such a horrible thing. Still, Courtney Love is not just anybody, which she has proved time and time again with her schizophrenic like regressions from glam to rock trash. Apparently, she mentioned that she thought it was fun; her daughter taking care of her drugged up mother. Before the heat of the onset of the custody battle for her child could be tamed she was a guest on Letterman promoting her new album. On the show she flashed Lettermen numerous times. It was the oddest thing I had ever seen. Just the manner in which it was done was so psychotic-like, your eyebrows furrow and you wonder what the hell is going on in this bra-less women’s mind.

Well now that I have made it clear that I do not in anyway support her actions, I will say that I do love her voice. I loved it in Live Through This, I loved it in Celebrity Skin, and I love it in America’s Sweetheart. Talk about oxymorons, right? The artwork for this album is cool and sweet. It romanticizes Love in a way that is sexy, adoring, and powerful (the inside artwork is more angelic and alluring than the cover). Even the cover insert background color is a caring light pink. It makes me want to pull on my thigh highs, put my mic in the mic stand, strap on my Jesse Michaels model GPC and play (not in front of anyone, mind you). 

While this solo album is slightly different from Hole’s Celebrity Skin, it is not a big stretch. “Hold On To Me,” “Sunset Strip” (especially the guitar parts) falls in line with the Celebrity Skin tone. For those who found the last Hole album too slow, fear not for “All The Drugs” has much heavier guitar parts than the songs mentioned above. Track seven gladly veers toward the punk rock genre. The ninth song of the album is reminiscent of old school punk rock (Richard Hell or MC5) with the wavering and almost screeching voices and dirtied guitars. While tracks seven and nine hold special places in my heart, my true love is “But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You.” With the “oi’s” and the “gabba gabba hey’s” I cannot help but rid myself from the knowledge of Love’s horrible antics. The album is much calmer than I expected. I was looking forward to hearing a few more screams from the thorny but sweet throat of Courtney Love. I was also hoping for some faster paced, jump up and down, play till your metal strings break kind of songs. This album does not parallel Love’s bizarre and erratic behavior in the least. This is a classic case of when one needs to separate an artist’s personal habits from his/her music in order to enjoy the work and avoid feeling like a traitor.

(Virgin Records)


Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance



good riddance

It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities




When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

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