Friday, June 26, 2015

Interesting times...

Interesting times here... school I work at is on strike. Might still make time for Slow West tonight at the Vancity, China Syndrome at the Railway, and some David Lam Park jazzfest action tomorrow... not much space for blogging though!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Big Takeover stuff: Wett Stilettos, Flesh Eaters

Wett Stilettos as the Rickshaw, by bev davies, not to be used without permission

So continuing in my tradition of putting my more ambitious writing somewhere other than this blog, I did something on the Wett Stilettos for the online-only version of Big Takeover... I also did something else on the Flesh Eaters, following up my previous online conversation with Chris D., but that's for the print edition (issue 176, in stores now as far as I know). The whole of my writing for B/T can be accessed by clicking on my name on any one article I've done... or just go here. That's all for now... I wonder if I'm going on strike tomorrow? Trouble in job-land... Might mean more time for writing soon, unless I have to find a new job.... Hmm...

Recent horror fare, plus See No Evil 2: The Soska Sisters do a slasher

Been squeezing in a fair bit of horror consumption of late. Last week it was Late Phases, aptly described on the box as "Gran Torino meets Silver Bullet," in which a blind and embittered Vietnam vet is forced to go vigilante to track down a werewolf terrorizing a seniors' community. As with Starry Eyes, another indy horror hit of the last couple of years, it seems to be a bit over-praised; horror fans these days are so hungry for good genre films that they get a bit excitable for anything halfway original, overlooking sometimes glaring flaws in logic and craft so they can champion a film. I understand that tendency quite well, actually, but I don't always fall victim myself, and Late Phases is one such example; I didn't like the characters enough, didn't have enough of an emotional investment in them, to really get excited about the story... plus as seems to happen too frequently with Glass Eye Pix, everything was a bit tainted by slightly cheesy practical-FX monsters (not quite as bad as Hypothermia or Beneath, but some pretty silly-lookin' werewolves, ultimately). All the same, there was lots to like about Late Phases, and I'll watch anything that Tom Noonan is in, of course. Seized the opportunity to play my girl Wendigo shortly thereafter, too, exploiting the connection with Larry Fessenden. I think Habit is probably Fessenden's best film but Wendigo I have now watched three times, and all the others only once, so that says something.... (I haven't actually seen Beneath yet, only looked in horror at still images of the killer fish, which do not look very menacing to say the least).
Also watched the Blacula films this weekend, which I'd been meaning to get around to for a long time; Scream Blacula Scream is probably the stronger of the two, thanks to its voodoo themes and the ever-watchable work of Pam Grier - though its ending is a bit less than satisfying; one wonders if they had a third film in the franchise in mind? Lot of fun though - probably the funniest bit is when a pimped-out narcissist has to deal with the fact that, now that he's a vampire, he can no longer see himself in the mirror. Funny as that moment is, they play both films admirably straight, given the immense potential for campiness; you actually care about the character of Blacula, become invested in his story. Wish there HAD been a Blacula 3, actually...
Also did Taste the Blood of Dracula, which is my favourite of the Christopher Lee/ Hammer Dracula films that I've seen (there are still a couple I haven't!). It plays very much like a folk tale, involving three hypocritical Victorians who preach conservative values at home but flirt with decadence and corruption in their free time - which ends up leading to dire consequences, especially for their daughters. The blood of Dracula does indeed play a major role! Though I'm more of a Peter Cushing man, really, I greatly admire Sir Christopher Lee and mourn his passing. It's great that everyone will remember him kicking ass and taking names in that last Hobbit film; one wonders if they CGI'd some of his movements, so limber does he seem. What a great long life and career he had...
Then there's See No Evil 2. The Soska Sisters are praised throughout the current Video Watchdog, which I might just deserve a smidgen of credit for: I was pitching the idea of a feature on them to Tim Lucas before American Mary hit, having seen a pre-release screening of it, so he may have heard about'em first from me (or he may not have, who knows; it's not like Dead Hooker in a Trunk was a secret or anything, I mean, Eli Roth gave it a blurb fergodsake...). He really praises See No Evil 2, in particular, and their savvy self-promotions and branding, calling them "the Beatles of Blood," and I admit to feeling a bit of glowing hometown pride at such things. I really, really like the Soskas, their energy, their ambition; but I also am aware that I *want* to like them, that I really like the idea of the Twisted Twins and their associations with Vancouver, which bias might tempt me - see above re: the hungers of horror fans - to be a little more forgiving than I should be. Because, you know, there are areas where the Soskas (sorry!) need to work on the basic craft of storytelling in film still. They have terrific ideas, terrific wit, but sometimes -
- well, I'll give you an example. See No Evil 2 starts with a female mortician attempting to leave work early to go to a birthday party in her honour. She changes her mind, however and decides to stay when she and her coworkers learn that nine dead people, plus the corpse of the man who killed them, are on the way to the morgue. She calls her friends, begs off the party, and then goes to work: there's simply too much to do for her to leave now, the film makes clear. BUT: the Soskas neglect to show the nine corpses being brought in, only focus on the body of the killer, Jacob Goodnight (wrestler Kane, repeating his role from the first film). After a single scene where our heroine and a co-worker very briefly investigate the body, some five minutes later, the coworker tells her she's done enough and it's time to go home. There's very little sense of time or great labour having passed, so this immediately jars against his having told her to go home some five minutes previous onscreen. If you're like me, anyhow, you immediately think - wait a minute, if there was too much work to do for her to go home five minutes ago, why is he telling her to leave now? What happened to all that work? 

There is, in fact, a reason her colleague is telling her to go - her friends have schemed to move her birthday party to the morgue, and its all part of a plot, though where and how that got set up in the blink of an eye that these things take on-screen is somewhat confusing. There's a level where, at least for a minute or two, the basic storytelling feels rushed and incomplete, where you get confused and briefly feel a flicker of mistrust for your guides. Maybe material was shot that they elected not to use - there's maybe a reason why things are as they are - but still, you're very briefly taken out of the film by the flaw, and in order to enjoy yourself, you have to sort of resolve to overlook it, to rise above. Suspension of disbelief is one thing; suspension of ones critical faculties is another. I felt that there were a couple of moments like that in American Mary, too, as I recall. Sorry, sorry. I like these films, really I do. I had no problem rising above said flaws. But I did notice them, and I ain't gonna lie about it.
But as I say, I like the Soskas, and I like the IDEA of the Soskas, so here, I will recommend See No Evil 2 nonetheless, based on a few things: first, it boasts a delightfully perverse, giddily macabre supporting performance from Katherine Isabelle, who steals the film. Fans of Ginger Snaps and American Mary and such simply MUST see what she does with her character, it's a lot of fun. Secondly, there's what appears to be a continuity with American Mary, which fans of that film will want to follow up on. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but the Soskas have further developed the idea of a girl who drops out of medical school to do something less reputable, less respectable, and somewhat tainted by taboo (if not, this time, actually criminal). There are clear resonances between the films that make you wonder if they're actually nursing a private obsession here, that may run through their films in the future: a theme emergeth. Finally, there's an interesting twist as we near the end of the film, a deliberate departure from horror movie conventions, which I won't spell out, but it caught me off guard. Not sure exactly what it amounts to in the end - it doesn't feel like a departure that changes the MEANING of the film in any way, seems like a departure for its own sake, really - but it still makes the film a little fresher than it might otherwise have been.

Because really, folks, See No Evil 2 is a fairly old-fashioned slasher film, with young people being chased around at length by a maniac. While it could be gorier, it doesn't wink, it doesn't smirk, it doesn't laugh at itself, and it doesn't make ironic mention of the genre conventions of horror movies every two minutes; it is a fairly faithful entry in a genre that I'd thought somewhat tapped out. It's worth seeing, for the reasons listed above - especially for Ms. Isabelle - but it's also a surprisingly sincere example of the form, which in the days of Scream and The Cabin in the Woods and such in itself deserves some praise. (Not sure its ideas about mortality are really that profound - they feel a bit tacked on, actually, like the Soskas maybe added them to a screenplay that had already been written and just tried to bring a bit of meat to it - but it's interesting, too, that it at least HAS some ideas up its sleeve). It's not an essential horror movie by any means (unlike, say, American Mary - that film, I grant you, is a must-see) - but I rather enjoyed it. (Even my 85 year old Mom got a few laughs; yes, I played it for my Mom!).

Also, note that seeing the first See No Evil is in no way necessary to appreciate the second, which comes as a bit of a relief.

One other horror film to mention. Zombeavers. Which I also played for Ma, right down to the scene where the beaver-girl chews the genitals off her boyfriend with her giant beaver teeth. You can appreciate everything that's delightful about Zombeavers - including that scene! - by watching the video made to accompany the theme song. You'll be humming it for a couple of days, I guarantee. While Mom and I had good, dumb fun with Zombeavers - which is smartassed and self-aware everywhere that See No Evil 2 is fairly sincere and straight-up -  you might just want to save yourself the time and stick with the video, it's the more economical means of delivery (the whole film is basically condensed into its three minutes!).

Not much else to report at present - I'm working a lot and a bit swamped, as usual - but I really enjoyed Jurassic World, and am not ashamed to admit it. So there!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

David M enters my dreams

...but I forget what he did there. Apparently there is now something like 10 CDs worth of No Fun material almost ready for the world, including all their key cassettes and lots of mostly unheard material, like a shockingly punk rock recording from their Battle of the Bands performance from when Triumph of the Ignoroids got recorded (on David M's four track, by the way; did you know that?). David is presently working on the packaging; at some point soon, people may actually be able to BUY No Fun stuff again. And of course, No Fun - with David AND Paul and who-knows-who-else, because there's lots of No Fun alum out there - is set to play the Khats fest July 11th.

But none of that's got anything to do with David appearing in my dreams. Oh, and they were non-sexual, too. That's about all I can say about'em.

More later.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Adstock 2015 lineup - July 5

A free all-day music fest in Maple Ridge... the Rebel Spell headlined last year... This is this this year's lineup.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Of Uwe Boll

My God, would SOME MOVIE THEATRE IN VANCOUVER put on a "Best of Boll" festival, with the director in attendance, so his fans out there (and the billions of people he's given jobs to in Vancouver) can gather to cheer him on?

By the way, Boll has made several decent movies and at least two kind of great ones (in terms of angry political exploitation, anyhow) in recent years, so before you repeat some mouldy cliche about what a horrible filmmaker he is, you really do need to SEE something he's done recently - most particularly Rampage, Rampage II, Assault on Wall Street and Assault on Darfur are all worthwhile, and Tunnel Rats and Stoic are worth a look, to be sure (I haven't actually finished Stoic so I can't really praise it enthusiastically, but what I saw was definitely competent and interesting. I just wasn't in the mood). Postal is pretty bloody unrestrained and his love of confrontation gets the better of him at times - to put it mildly - but at least a few scenes in it are brilliant...

By the way, those curious but unconvinced that Boll can entertain should check out Adrian Mack's article on the Straight blog and listen to Boll's embedded rants... The second one is kind of a thing of beauty, rude, crude and joyously liberating, the way a good rant should be...!

Weird dreams of Roky Erickson and Chris Walter

Two dreams, the relationship of which is unclear:

In one, I am hanging out with Chris Walter at his apartment (not actually his apartment, but some other place I cannot identify easily, though the layout is similar to my girlfriend's parents' previous home in Victoria). I look for something to eat in his fridge. There is very little - Jen and Frank aren't around. So we go out, and end up at a bar, where he asks me to ask the barman if they have a certain kind of de-alcoholized beer (and again, though my waking brain knows that Chris' brand of de-alcoholized beer is Beck's, it just substitutes something else out of indifference to details. My dreaming brain doesn't give a fuck about details, apparently). Turns out they don't have his brand, but the barman gives me a strangely shaped "sample glass," more like a dessert cup, with their brand of de-alcoholized beer in it, and asks me if it's okay. I try it, it's fine by me - kind of like a wheat beer - and I turn and tell Chris what it is and he gives me the thumbs up and tells me to get exactly four ounces of it. I have a hard time imagining what that would look like, but I oblige.

Maybe it was four quarts...

That's not the most interesting dream, though it does give me an idea for interviewing Chris about this Real McKenzies' project of his, which I'm supposed to have been working on all the while. So there's that.

In the second dream, I'm at a Roky Erickson concert with my girlfriend (who actually saw Roky with me a couple years ago at the Electric Owl, where I shot this bad video with her phone). There's a second show, billed as "an intimate evening with Roky Erickson," at a different part of the casino, and I go all the way and buy the second set of tickets. We're not sure where to go, but there's a huge long lineup, so we stand in it, until we discover that it's the lineup for the new Spiderman movie. Oops. A helpful casino employee points our way down an escalator and we arrive at a small lounge. Oooh, this really is going to be an intimate evening.

The evening progresses like this: I get angry with the people sitting next to us for making too much noise and poking me carelessly in the side. My girlfriend gets a little worried that I'm going to overdo it (which she's witnessed). Then Roky takes the stage. He does, I believe, "Stand for the Fire Demon," and then, Vegas-style, walks out into the crowd, sitting at one point in my girlfriend's lap as he sings. He looks healthy and beautiful, 30 years younger than he actually is. My girl gushes, says "I can't waste this moment" and takes out her cellphone and takes a close up picture of Roky, who just smiles shyly. He then moves on - I slap him gently on the shoulder and say, "we love you, Rok!"

But Roky has other things in mind. An emcee explains that there are two girls who are being forced to do slave labour at the top of an escalator where mustard, ketchup, and relish have spilled, and we have to help them clean it. Our job is, one-by-one, to slide down the escalator, wiping up the mustard, ketchup, and relish as we go; whoever gets the most on their body has the honour of "liberating" the girls from their slavery - which presumably means replacing them as their slave. Roky, who designed the exercise, looks on happily as we all commence to slide down the escalator, getting coated in mustard, ketchup, and relish, getting as much on our bodies as possible (don't ask me how one slides down an escalator; maybe the stairs were flattened for this particular activity? My brain fudged this detail too). I score 26, which is high - most people get 20 or 21. My girl finishes after me, and remarks that that's the last time she's going to dress up to see a Roky Erickson concert. I was wearing far more casual clothes, which proves to have been a wise choice.

That's about all I remember from the dream.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Failure to Produce 3: the results are in

The verdict's in, as Greg Godovitz would say, and apparently I have a high concentration of sperm - higher than average, in fact - with decent, if not outstanding, motility. So my seed is just fine. (We had theorized that that maybe that electric fence I stepped over in my teens, which gave me a highly memorable jolt in the nuts, might have done some damage, but no). But the guy has to get tested first before fertility clinics will even begin to look at the woman, so... it was a test worth takin', and I passed. So there.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Clayton Holmes interview: Eargoggles 7 release gig tonight!

Tonight's the night of the EarGoggles 7 release at Funkys - a scene I no longer feel much connection to, I'm afraid. With a girlfriend in Burnaby who doesn't much care for punk (and who doesn't relish going to the downtown eastside at night), an infirm mother who needs me in Maple Ridge most weekends, and nowhere to sleep that's a quick commute from the place, I almost never go there these days. I think I went twice last year - to see the Zero Boys (an awesome gig that I had to leave early, but clutching a signed, booze-stained, much battered LP the damage of which is a proud badge of its having survived the moshpit with me) and to see the Wett Stilettos and Death Sentence (also had to leave early to get the Skytrain; the late night drunk bus up Main Street to Metrotown is NOT an experience I enjoy). So here I am, writing about another gig that I won't be at, about a DVD release party for EarGoggles 7, happening tonight. If you don't know EarGoggles, it's a video compilation focusing almost entirely on local punk and metal bands, with a couple of visiting bands included (in this case, Death and the Meatmen - I'm going to count the Dayglos and other Victoria bands as local). All of it is shot in Vancouver. 99% of it is stuff shot at gigs I wasn't at - including that last Subhumans gig at the Cobalt, which I spent crying and stressing out in my previous, bedbug-and-mouse-infested apartment in Vancouver, back when my father was dying and I was struggling with getting my belongings safely from Vancouver to Maple Ridge without transporting any bedbugs along with me. It's weird to see it, frankly. I was always curious how that show went down...

Anyhow, tonight, 1990's Saskatechewan punks Scum Element - see also here - join Raised by Apes and the Gnar Gnars to kickoff the EarGoggles 7 release at Funkys, with EarGoggles' Clayton Holmes on hand, no doubt with many, many DVDs for interested parties. Clay has done some heroic documentation of the scene here, and besides seven volumes of Eargoggles, has a DVD of the Rebel Spell live at the Cobalt (which I'm really glad to have and can't really watch again; I still haven't really processed Todd's death - it's kind of impossible to take in). Besides Death and the Meatmen and the Subhumans, bands captured on the new DVD include Alcoholic White Trash, Life Against Death, Bishops Green, ENDPROGRAM, Gross Misconduct, Dayglo Abortions, Tendonitis, Entropia, Archspire, Stamina Mantis, DOA, Mr. Plow, B-Lines, Horde of Anachron, Total War, Aeterna, Golers, Compound Terror, Speckled Jim, Fetal Buchery, Fetus Grinder, SNFU, Ahna, Cumsoc, and the Epitomees (a member of whom is now in Blasphemy, and who told me in a chat at Metrotown - because when you see a guy in a Blasphemy T-shirt at Metrotown, you gotta chat with him for a minute - that the misspelling of the word "Epitomes" was entirely an accident; and here I had always thought it was clever and deliberate!). There are also profiles of skater Ryan Brynelson and photographer Femke van Delft, and a short film by Clay (who is a full-fledged filmmaker, besides being a video documentarian; I have a movie around here by him, Breakup.Com, that I confess I have not sat down to watch yet - it has an IMDB page here, which I'm having to link separately because the .Com title of the movie is confusing Blogger. Presumably you can buy that movie off him at the gig too...?).

The other kind of fraught aspect of the DVD is that almost all of it is from video that Clay (and/or any helpers) shot at the Cobalt, back when it was still "Vancouver's Hardcore Bar," with Wendy Fors... no wait, wendythirteen is her real name, innit? - booking it. It's a venue that doesn't exist anymore, another bit of past damage to the scene. There's a new Cobalt, with new bookers and gigs there, that a few people I've talked to feel too weird about going to now, given the history of the place, though it was six years ago that wendy was driven out... It's kind of strange to have a video reminder of the atmosphere of that place, that time, those people, those shows - a bit of a love letter from beyond the grave. Or to beyond the grave. Or something.

So I asked Clay about that for my first question - why focus the new release almost entirely on a bar that, in its classic incarnation at least, ceased to exist six years ago? 

Clay: EarGoggles was created to pay tribute to the Cobalt that I loved. It was a very significant place for me personally and I took comfort in going back to the footage after it closed. EarGoggles was also a personal project that allowed me to work independently with complete creative control. Its lifespan was determined by the footage I got while working at the Cobalt and issue seven represents the last of that footage. It’s time to let go.

Me: So this is the final EarGoggles?

Clay: Yeah, it’s come to its logical conclusion.

Me: Given the emotional history of the venue, are you ready to go back to the Cobalt, if a band you really liked played there, or would it be weird?

Clay: I don’t think I could ever go back unless the circumstances were extraordinary. I don’t mean if a band I love is playing there or if I got offered a lot of money to play there but if Wendy took it over again I would go. The bottom line is that Wendy got fucked over and going back there would be like stabbing her in the back. No show is worth that.

Me: What IS this CD, exactly? (Clay sent me a disc with a CD cover spoofing' SNFU's And No One Else Wanted to Play).

Clay: I made that cd a year ago and it’s irrelevant to EarGoggles. I just have a bunch left over and thought I would send you one because you like punk rock. It has the production value of a postage stamp and features me on every instrument but half decent writing? I dunno, you put a lot of work into something and you want people to experience it. You’re a learned dude, I was hoping for an opinion.

(Me: That's pending, I haven't had a chance to sit down and listen to a lot of music lately. Maybe I'll put it on my phone. Seems like that's the only way I get to listen to music these days, since I spend so much time commuting...)

Me: Are you going to be doing anything special at the event tomorrow, or...?

Clay: Nah. I’ll put the video on at 9pm and the few people there will kind of watch it. I am excited to see Scum Element for the first time and I’m a big fan of Raised by Apes. The Gnar Gnars are old school Cobalt chums and also a great band. Word is that they’re going to play some Alcoholic White Trash songs too.

Me: I was kind of surprised that there's no footage of the Rebel Spell on the new disc. Was it too emotional, given Todd's death, or do you have something else planned, or...?

Clay: I did film them along with DOA at the Rickshaw but the footage was lacklustre - bad sound, shaky (drunk) camera work and I had made the decision not to use it before Todd’s passing. I thought about it afterwards but it would have been a compromise and Todd wouldn't have approved. There are quite a few pictures of Todd that I included in Femke’s photography profile though. Unfortunately there were many posthumous appearances in this issue which I guess is what happens when you spread a bunch of band footage from 2008-2009 over seven years. I had edited and mentally placed Cum Soc and the Subhumans in the second and last spot respectively before anything happened with Stefan and Wimpy. It’s strange to watch the Subhumans footage now which begins with Brian talking about mourning the passing of the Cobalt. It struck me that no matter how much you love a place, and I loved the Cobalt as much as it’s possible to love a bar, its demise was insignificant in comparison.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Heather Haley reading June 18th

I don't know why I kind of like Heather Haley. I think it might just be her aura - she's a striking, charismatic figure, whom I've seen at a few events (last sighted at the Railway at the Dishrags' record release party). I don't really know her poetry, and I never got to see either of her bands, the Zellots or the .45's, who were on the scene when I was still a bit too young for punk rock  - pretty much my earliest involvement with punk was around when DOA's War on 45 came out, in 1982; I was 14, then, so when the Zellots were around, in 1979, I was 11. You can actually hear one Zellots song on Youtube, with photos of the band back in the day; it's pretty much everything you could ask of a vintage all-girl punk band - but I only heard it for the first time now. There's very little audio evidence of the band out there, in fact. Haley told me at a Chapel Arts show of bev.davies photos - some of which are used to illustrate that video - that there are actually aging cassettes of one or both of those bands around, practice tapes or live tapes or such, and there was some discussion about releasing those to the world, depending on their quality, but I have no updates on that. I ask her every time I see her if there's news...

However, Haley's novel, The Town Slut's Daughter, is something I've been meaning to pick up for awhile now, and I can think of no better time to buy it than at her reading on June 18th, at the Storm Crow Tavern on Commercial Drive. Here's her press release, cut-and-pasted verbatim from my email. If you can't be at the Storm Crow, you can order the book here.

Heather Haley Author Reading
The Storm Crow Tavern, Vancouver, BC
Thurs, June 18, 7:00 pm

June 2, 2015, Vancouver--Get down and nerdy with highly regarded BC poet Heather Haley who will share excerpts from her "brash, incendiary debut novel," The Town Slut’s Daughter at the Storm Crow Tavern Reading Series, 1305 Commercial Dr, curated and hosted by Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio and the Real Vancouver Writers' Series on Thurs, June 18 at 7 PM. Come and get your signed copy!

Fiona Larochelle flees a harrowing home life only to land in Vancouver's violently blazing punk rock underground. Music provides a catalyst when she mines a talent for singing and songwriting to form an all-girl band, the Virgin Marries. After the group breaks up, Fiona is stranded in New York City and forced to navigate a minefield of vice, drug abuse, jealous lovers and predatory record producers as she works to rebuild her dream. She discovers that although rage may have facilitated her quest in the beginning, it cannot deliver her. Amid the tumult of the LA Riots, Fiona bolts from her cocaine-fueled marriage to a modern-day Bluebeard. Throughout it all, a fierce, indomitable spirit prevails.

"Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic."-Vancouver Sun

“Haley chronicles the punk scene with insight gleaned from the mosh pit, backstage and onstage fronting her band the Zellots. It was a grimy few years when poverty was a style and anyone with the guts to get onstage could be a star. Haley has written a coming-of-age-novel in which Holden Caulfield is a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.”-Les Wiseman

"This is Punk Literature at its unique and original best, with a Cinderella-like heroine running into the flames of her making."

Howe Sound Publishing
778 868-5845

Author headshots and book cover images at:

Monday, June 01, 2015

On the joylessness of much metal, plus: Titan's Eve, Unleash the Archers - new albums!

I have to admit, music snob or not, that I'm a sucker for a catchy tune. I actually bought a total pop album at Red Cat today, an album I never imagined I would own: Split Enz' 1981 LP Waiata, because of the presence of the song "Hard Act to Follow," an anthemic, slightly gothy New Wave item that has been infecting me for the last few weeks. It came up out of the depths unbidden; I had consciously completely forgotten the song, probably hadn't heard it for something like 30 years, but for no reason I could discern I found myself singing the chorus to myself for weeks on end, constantly meaning to look up on Youtube who the song was by. When I finally remembered the tune when I was actually sitting at my computer, I was kind of embarrassed ("it's by SPLIT ENZ?") and shocked at how much punkier it had sounded to my inner ear while I was humming it to myself in the shower. I've gotten over it, bought the LP, and stuck the song on a playlist on my phone along with an even guiltier pleasure from the early 1980's, Harlequin's "Innocence." Embarrassing, right? But such fun songs. (It helps that I was 12 and 13, respectively, when these songs were actually on the radio, before I even knew what punk rock was).

This brings me to something I don't imagine it's very cool to say, but one of the reasons that I haven't stuck very close to my recent flirtation with metal is that I've begun to realize that a lot of metal these days is simply not very much fun. Evil posing, evil soundscapes, brutal, guttural vocals, double-kick-drum sonic assaults, and shredding like you have thirty fingers are all fine things, and have their place, but there has to be something in the songs that's actually enjoyable to listen to, y'know? Something besides punishing thrash to facilitate your self-conscious glowering. Having devoted a good chunk of time a few years ago to death metal and black metal - neither of which I'd paid any attention to for the first couple of decades of their existence, since I'd walked away from metal as a punk teenager, right when thrash was emerging - I've kind of come up for air and realized that there's something wrong with the fact that I can't hum a single Cannibal Corpse song to myself, even after having listened to a few of their albums dozens of times over. I have a few gross lyrical images that have stuck in my head - worm infested vaginas, necropedophiles, intestinal cranks, what have you - but I can't even replicate in my head the way their catchiest tune goes, which surely has to be that Jack Owen song about some guy going around skinning women - whatsit, "Decency Defied." I mean, that's a REALLY catchy song by Cannibal Corpse standards, but it's no earworm. Best I can do when it's playing is nod my head up and down; once it's over, no tune lingers, nothing you can hum to yourself while you go about your day.

At least nothing I can hum.

Far as I can figure, something happened to metal around the time of the emergence of thrash and the crossover with punk where people started to take it and themselves really, really seriously - maybe to get away from commodified embarassments like Quiet Riot and Ratt and so forth, or maybe to compensate for something else, like being a dork at heart, say (which is nothing to be ashamed of, note). Remember when Mickey Rourke's character gets all sentimental about hair metal of the 80's in The Wrestler? I disagree with his conclusion that Kurt Cobain fucked everything up, because punk has very seldom stopped being fun, or ever had a problem with being dorky; even a brute like GG Allin writes really catchy, silly, memorable and infectious songs (ask my girlfriend, who has to put up with me singing choruses of "she gives me blowjobs" while we walk down the street; I did offer to trade it up for "I Wanna Suck Your Cunt," which has an equally sing-along-able chorus, but it didn't convert her, what can I say). The wrestler has a point, though: since the 80's, the joyful aspect of metal has all but disappeared. Having given it a fair go, I've sold off most of my Mayhem and Gorgoroth and so forth, stuff I bought when I was doing my metal plunge (2008-2011, mostly) and am probably never going to regret that. I've kept some stoner doom stuff, kept some folk metal, kept my Bison and my Motorhead and Sabbath, of course, and hung onto a smattering of more joyless and intense stuff like Deicide, Morbid Angel, and Slayer, but the truth is, I barely listen to it. Hell, I'd put on a Judas Priest album before I put on any of that stuff, these days. Or Iron Maiden - I mean, fuck it, on some level I still am trapped in thinking it's not cool for a punk to enjoy music like this, but "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is an incredible song, just incredible; the fourteen year old me who loved it was right, and the fifteen year old me who rejected it in favour of listening exclusively to hardcore was wrong, period.

In any event, what I'm discovering is that I like my metal - to the extent that I like metal at all these days - to be melodic, dramatic, anthemic, hooky, catchy. I don't care how technical your playing is if it doesn't actually result, at the end of the day, in something resembling a tune - or at least a tune obvious and simple enough that I can recognize it as such. Amon Amarth would be another example of the stuff I still like; they seemed to peak with Twilight of the Idols and Surtur Rising - I didn't actually get much out of their next LP, which seemed a little less inspired, but both of those albums have songs you can actually REMEMBER AS SONGS after they're finished. Here, let me prove it: (proceeds to sing quietly to himself, more or less to the tune of the song, "See me rise the mighty Surt, destroyer of the universe, bringer of pain and death and hurt, something something of men and Earth" - "scorcher," it turns out. I mean, I didn't say you had to understand what the singer was saying, though it does help if you can make out a phrase here and there).

Of the local metal discs I've listened to in the last few years, to review them for the Straight or such, there are actually only a few bands that I really have retained interest in, and - Bison notwithstanding, because I will likely always be a Bison fan - it turns out that the bands I'm most interested in on the local scene are playing very much the same sort of tuneful metal that you see Amon Amarth making, even if they're classified in totally different genres. I'm probably going to pick up the new Unleash the Archers album as soon as it comes out, for instance, and - if my life were different - I would be on hand for the June 6th album release gig by Titan's Eve at the Astoria (event page here). Despite thrashing with considerable intensity, Titan's Eve, on all three of their releases, have written songs that I can sing in my inner ear. "Becoming the Demon," say, off their first album, is one of the catchier local thrash tunes I've heard, especially the chorus - which they don't get around to for a couple of minutes; so don't be thrown by the pummelling build-up. Their new album, Chasing the Devil, isn't quite second nature to me yet, but I've enjoyed the one listen through I've given it. They make metal that is tough, sure, but it's not afraid to actually be enjoyable. Like, you don't have to be embarrassed that you're not going out to burn a church after the show. You're actually allowed to listen to their music and have fun and not take it all so goddamn seriously... It is, in the end, only rock'n'roll, fer chrissake (but I like it).

Alas, come Saturday night, the night of the gig, I will probably be stuck in Maple Ridge, catching up on writing, marking student papers, and hanging out with my Mom; getting out this weekend is just a little too complicated, and it's not like I can drag my girl to this show. I mean, their songs are kinda catchy, but they're not bring-your-girlfriend catchy! (However, I fully intend to expose her to Unleash the Archers sometime soon).