High School Teacher at Hamilton High School and Adjunct English Instructor at CGC. Record collector, comic book nerd, one-time textbook author, and retired record store clerk. Loves hiking. Lindsey’s husband.
Welcome to the Record Room for the latest edition of Burning Hot Interviews. In this episode, host Ryan Novak talks with Xiån Austin [3pac] & Mike Lee of Goth Brooks about how they conceptualized the band beginning with the name, making multiple genres work within a song, wanting to compose a classical music and industrial metal hybrid symphony, the glory days of MTV, Christmas music, and carrying on after a tragic loss. Their new albumFreakabillywas released on May 19th, and is available to download for free at GothBrooks.rocks.*
* Formerly GothBrooksBand.com – update your links and bookmarks!
Burning Hot Interview featuring Xiån Austin [3pac] & Mike Lee of Goth Brooks
Arizona’s own Goth Brooks is a band that defies easy classification. Its members, Mike Lee, Chris “3pac” Austin, and the late Jonah “Werm” Foree each represent different genres they individually bring to the group: country, hip-hop, and metal. The group’s sound, though, stretches each of those genres to their limits, melding country, Western swing, rockabilly, industrial metal, death metal, hardcore, and gangster rap, among still more, into a sound that is fun and wholly original.
The band made a very brief appearance on America’s Got Talent when auditioning in 2018. According to a Facebook comment made by Foree, “We only got flashed for like 2 seconds… It was weird, because the filming crew literally pulled us aside, out of the long line, and spent over an hour filming us doing different things. But in the end, the producers put us on the cutting room floor… The tryout & trip to Vegas was still a blast though!”
The Christmas in Black EP was released in August of 2021. Following the tragic passing of Foree, Goth Brooks released their second studio album Freakabilly on May 19. Just like their previous releases, the 13-track album is available to download from their website for free. It is also available to stream on Spotify in a 9-track form.
On the cusp of the release of the Crashing Cairo’s next single “Souls”, frontman Robert Wax discusses how the Beatles and David Bowie made him fall in love with music, the importance of U2, full-circle moments, working with legends, drawing inspiration from a radio contest, and what the future holds for the band, in the inaugural Burning Hot Interview video.
Burning Hot Interview featuring Robert Wax of Crashing Cairo
Crashing Cairo’s New Track “Souls” to Release on July 8, 2022
About Crashing Cairo
Hailing from metro Detroit, Crashing Cairo first broke onto the scene with their 2008 debut Monday Changed Everything, and the band has been going steady ever since. On their 10th anniversary, their EP At Speeds that Destroy brought some exciting new course for the group, as a shot-in-the-dark email by Wax gave them the opportunity to work with not one but two legendary producers. Wax is a modern-day renaissance man, as he is not only a singer and songwriter but also an actor, writer, and producer.
Pop-punk band Brooklane recently released their new single “Breakaway” on April 28th of this year, and they are gearing up for a tour with details yet to be revealed (get notified here). Inspired by bands like The Story So Far, State Champs, and Neck Deep, they debuted with the Roll With the Punches EP during the pandemic in 2020.
Burning Hot Events’ music journalist Ryan Novak and Brooklane discuss the new single, recording during the pandemic, cover art, mental health, new directions for the band, and more.
Q & A with music journalist Ryan Novak
RYAN:What was the recording experience like for your debut “Roll With the Punches” (2020)? Was it recorded pre-pandemic?
“The recording experience for “Roll With The Punches” was pretty standard for the most part until the pandemic hit. We had to find ways to finish recording safely. Luckily, we just had to add finishing touches and were able to release it during the pandemic.”
RYAN: “Roll With the Punches” was first released as an EP but is now listed as a deluxe LP released in 2021.
When was the decision made to expand it?
“We made the decision to expand it because we wanted to provide our fans with alternative reimagined versions, as well as softer songs to diversify our catalog.”
RYAN: I’m always fascinated by cover art. Your early singles and first album all featured color variations on the same image: of an arm preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail.
Was there a reason behind this specific image, especially with the political upheaval in America these last five years?
Honestly, that cover art has no greater meaning other than being reflective of our energetic and explosive sound, while staying true to our band’s visual aesthetic.
RYAN: The album has got some strong punk, pop punk, and hardcore DNA in it, which makes the tracks “Here to Stay” and “Empty Room” stick out to me. The slower tempo and acoustic guitars really highlight the heartbreak of the lyrics on each.
Were both songs always written to be more emotionally raw in that way?
Yes! Both of the songs were intentionally written to be more emotionally raw. We always try to pull from all of our personal experiences to help as many people as possible. Fun fact, “Empty Room” was never written for Brooklane and almost didn’t make the record.
RYAN: As a huge fan of punk and hardcore, what always drew me to it was that the music provided an emotional outlet for pent-up emotions. The best bands to do it always have lyrics that express these same feelings. “Here to Stay” and “Bite the Bullet” dig into dealing with a broken heart, and “Anxiety” deals with mental illness and reminds me, at least thematically, of The Offspring’s “Gotta Get Away.”
While a lot of people will share more freely about dealing with heartbreak or regret over a breakup, there’s still a societal stigma with mental health. Was it difficult being as open on “Anxiety”?
Anxiety is something that we all struggle with as band members and it is so important to us to be open and honest to our fans who may benefit from relating to what we are going through. We write these songs to help our personal healing journeys, but more importantly, for everyone else in the world who may be struggling. If we didn’t open up about these hard topics in the hopes to destigmatize these conversations, we would be doing a disservice as musicians with a platform.
RYAN: The deluxe edition of the album featured reimagined versions of “Anxiety” and “Ship Wrecked,” which highlights the melodies of each song even more.
What was the inspiration behind doing these reimagined tracks, and could they be a possible direction the band might take on future albums?
We really wanted to produce these reimagined tracks to further diversify our catalog and give our fans musical variety overall. We felt strongly like some of these more emotional songs should have more emotional instrumentals. We definitely hope to continue weaving these types of tracks into our albums in the future!
RYAN: I really like the new single “Breakaway” because it feels like the whole band leveled up on the song, especially because it has a great “firework” music moment with the sort of muted opening chords building to an explosion as the band goes full force into the song. Across the board, it feels like everyone really shines.
Was there a feeling during the writing and recording of the song that this would be something as special as it seems for the band?
“Breakaway” is a song that we all really love and all individually relate to as members as it was written based upon our own personal experiences. With that said, we really wanted to give it the spotlight it deserved as a single, especially during Mental Health Awareness month.
You just announced that you’ll be crowdsourcing your next album.
What motivated this decision to have direct support from your fans ahead of the release?
“We are headed into the studio with Andrew Wade next month to create our dream EP, and thought this would be a great opportunity to ask for support from our fans to help us in our mission to destigmatize mental health by utilizing our music to start important conversations so we all feel less alone in this world.”
What are you most looking forward to about playing on tour? Obviously “Breakaway” will get its first live performances across the cities…
“We have a ton of shows in the works for this year and can’t wait to finally connect with our fans in person.”
Glendale, AZ — Pearl Jam’s concert at Gila River Arena, with support from Pluralone, has been in the making for some time. You could say it’s been since the original date in May of 2020 as part of the Gigaton Tour, however, for me this show has been overdue since December of 1991, when I got a copy of Ten. I fell in love with Pearl Jam, only for the chance to see them live evade me for nearly thirty years, living in my mind through their MTV Unplugged performance, playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” with Neil Young at the MTV Video Music Awards, various talk show appearances, and multiple live albums and videos from over the years. At the show, though, I met fans who were well into double and even triple digits for seeing the band. I was assured repeatedly that it would be an unforgettable evening.
Considering his status in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, it was surprising for the show to open with Eddie Vedder strolling out alone without any undue fanfare and simply introducing himself to the crowd with, “Hi, I’m Ed.”
Anyone who follows Pearl Jam’s setlists online for each tour stop would have been aware that he’s been doing this on the tour, treating the crowd, so far, to solo covers of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” during the tour opener in San Diego, and a double dose of Tom Petty with “I Won’t Back Down” on night 1 in Inglewood and “Wildflowers” on night two. For Arizona, he played his own “Far Behind” from the soundtrack he did for Into the Wild. Vedder’s voice is so powerful, so transcendent, that even for those who might not be familiar with his emotional score for the film were quickly enveloped in its beauty. As he wrapped up the song, he gave an introduction to the show’s opener Josh Klinghoffer, heaping praise on him.
“I’m really excited to be here, but I’m gonna play a song that doesn’t sound like I am”, Klinghoffer greeted the crowd, following Vedder’s introduction. Billed under his project Pluralone, the talented multi-instrumentalist filled the arena through a variety of instruments, even if he took moments to jokingly chastise some of the more complicated electric instruments for not working properly. Mid-set, he gave a shout out to one of Arizona’s greatest bands, asking, “How can I be in Phoenix, Arizona without paying homage to the Meat Puppets?!”, before launching into a cover of “Backwater” from their 1994 album Too High To Die.
Most are familiar with Klinghoffer for his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but if you are not already, it is well worth your time to check out the music he is making as Pluralone. The sounds he is able to produce solo would leave anyone believing they were listening to a full band if they only closed their eyes as they took it all in.
He closed out his set with a cover of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance,” noting that it was Victory Day in Russia.“I don’t know why they call it that since they’re the ones starting all the wars.”
He got the crowd to join in on the chorus and played around with the lyrics, even working in a tribute to the departed Taylor Hawkins with “Everybody talkin’ ‘bout Taylor Hawkins… Taylor Hawkins… man I miss Taylor Hawkins,” which elicited cheers from all corners of the arena. “This might be presumptuous of me, but I thought we’d just keep singing it until Pearl Jam comes out in 30 minutes. If you do, I’ll cover Jane’s Addition,” he jokingly offered before exiting the stage, leaving the crowd to solo acapella the final run through the chorus.
Every Pearl Jam show has a completely unique setlist. While a lot of bands are comfortable with having the same set night after night, with little variation, every Pearl Jam performance is completely fresh. This is why “Wash” was a shocker as a show opener. First appearing as a B-side on different editions of their first single “Alive,” it’s a darker song and not what you might expect from Pearl Jam, but it still crackled with an electricity, as the band performed bathed in a blue light. It was like a prayer cast from darkness and despair just hoping for salvation. As the song faded, they immediately launched into “Given to Fly” from Yield, which brought the few people who weren’t already standing to their feet.
After over 30 years, Pearl Jam is still anchored by founding members Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament, and hasn’t had any changes since Matt Cameron took over the drums on the band’s fifth album Yield. The touring band is filled out by Boom Gaspar, a Hawaiin native Vedder met through C.J. Ramone, and by Klinghoffer pulling double duty throughout the tour. Collectively, they are as tight a band as you are going to find in this or any generation.
“I don’t know how it feels out there, but it feels pretty good up here,” an enthusiastic Vedder told the crowd. Pearl Jam’s performance came almost exactly on the two year anniversary of when it was originally scheduled, in May of 2020 to support their 11th studio album Gigaton. “Good things come to those who wait. My good friend Tom Petty used to say the waiting was the hardest part,” he added. Pearl Jam never makes any stop on their tour feel like just another show for the band and throughout the night, Vedder launched into several monologues with the crowd that showed how Phoenix was a special stop for them.
One such moment came when Vedder told the story of Tom and Avis. In 1988, when Eddie Vedder wasn’t “Eddie Vedder the lead singer of Pearl Jam and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” but was just a young, directionless kid like any of us at that age, he was driving through Arizona on his way back to San Diego and his car broke down in Gila Bend. Stranded and with no money, he was taken in by an older couple named Tom and Avis who gave him a place to stay while his car was being repaired. Today any of us would be more than willing to let Eddie Vedder crash at our place for a day or two, but to take in a broke, stranded kid named Ed Vedder speaks to the inherent good we sometimes forgets still thrives in the world, even when everything else seems, at times, to be relentlessly awful.
The story of Tom and Avis was followed with a soulful rendition of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and quickly followed by “Corduroy” and “Quick Escape,” the latter off of Gigaton, showing that the new work stands toe-to-toe with the band’s back-catalog classics.
“You have the freedom to fuck up and learn and grow from fucking up. If anyone tries to judge you for fucking up it’s probably because they’ve fucked up and are trying to divert attention form their fuck ups by making you feel bad for yours,” Vedder told the crowd; though attributing the words to Jeff Ament. They then dipped back into Ten, the band’s run through “Why Go,” which had the crowd air guitaring and shouting the lyrics into the rafters. Vedder shouted out the Arizona Coyotes for loaning the band their arena for the night and acknowledging Coyotes players Christian Fischer and Clayton Keller, who were at the show. He dedicated Gigaton’s “Superblood Wolfmoon” to them. “I figure Wolf is close enough to Coyote.”
All across social media prior to the show was an ADOT highway sign reading “Even Flow on the gas. Keep left to pass,” which amused the band. “Shoutout to the pot-smoking employee who made that sign. Life’s incredible, so keep eating those edibles,” Vedder laughed. The moment of amusement was followed by the band performing “Even Flow,” which featured Mike McCready doing an extended mid-song guitar solo behind his head in one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the night. Following “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” Vedder talked about the band’s friend, retired astronaut Scott Kelly. At Kelly’s request, the band played “Black,” arguably Pearl Jam’s greatest song.
Afterwards, Vedder talked about the band’s admiration for former state representative Gabby Gifford and her husband Senator Mark Kelly (twin brother of Scott Kelly). He then turned his attention to the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe V. Wade, punctuating his expression of frustration about the decision with a performance of “Daughter,” tagged with a rare performance of “W.M.A.,” (both from Vs), tweaking the lyrics to “Police shot my daughter again…” It was one of the night’s highlights. They followed it with “Porch,” which was the song the band closed their 1992 MTV Unplugged performance with and Vedder took a sharpie and wrote “Pro Choice” on his arm.
With the crowd riding the high wave of “Porch,” the band exited the stage briefly, returning with haste. “We’re having too much fun to be gone for too long!”Before playing the first song of the encore, Vedder put a spotlight, literally, on his niece who was at the show (missing her graduation from ASU to do so) and dedicated the No Code gem “Smile” to her.
“We lost so many wonderful people in the last few years, like my friend Tom Petty. We also recently lost Eddie Van Halen who was a friend.” This set up Mike McCready to show off exactly why he is one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, as he busted out a solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Following “Do the Evolution,” Vedder told the story of a woman he had met who had lost her sister to COVID. With her in attendance, he dedicated a gorgeous rendition of “Better Man” to her. “This is for all the badass women out there and all the badass men who support them”, Vedder said as a set up to the band’s cover of Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Home.”
As “Leaving Home” faded out, they shifted into performing “Alive,” a song that seems to take on a special significance over the years as a reminder that even in the worst of times, to appreciate your continued survival. The crowd sing-along was the connective tissue of the night, bringing everyone together for a beautiful moment. In those moments, the personal, philosophical, political, religious, and whatever difference that tragically gets too much focus in our day-to-day existence vashined, as the chorus echoed from every corner of the arena and collectively rose to the heavens. If “Wash” started us in darkness and despair, then “Alive” pulled us out, refreshed, and renewed like a musical baptism.
As they closed out the night with the grace and beauty that is “Yellow Ledbetter,” the “Jeremy” B-side-turned-beloved-live-show-staple and bonafide Pearl Jam classic, we were each sent out into the cool desert evening knowing that even in the most dire of times, there are the Tom and Avis’s of the world passing along simple acts of kindness to a stranger and there is a good fight to be fought, because even the smallest of us is capable of so much more than we think. It was a night worth the two-year wait. It was a night worth my 30-year wait.
Pearl Jam Setlist from Phoenix 5-9-22:
Wash (tour debut)
Given to Fly
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Alright (tour debut)
Dance of the Clairvoyants
Black (with “We Belong Together” tag)
I Got Id (tour debut)
Red Mosquito (tour debut)
Sleeping by Myself (Eddie Vedder song) (tour debut)
PHOENIX — Ministry’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Corrosion of Conformity and Melvins, has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for July 29th, 2020 and featuring a completely different lineup (Ministry, KMFDM, and Front Line Assembly), the show was of course forestalled by the pandemic. Various attempts were made to reschedule with varying lineups, including a pre-Halloween show with Helmet and Frontline Assembly last October. Through these fits and starts, the show finally happened this past Tuesday, and it was worth the wait.
Corrosion of Conformity
“How many of you fuckers here in Phoenix like heavy shit?” was how Corrosion of Conformity lead singer Pepper Keenan greeted the crowd, as the band launched into “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)” from their 1995 album Wiseblood. Heavy was what was promised, and heavy was what was delivered. Pulling from nearly every album since 1991’s Blind, when the North Carolina band moved away from its earlier thrash/hardcore days with the addition of Louisiana native Keenan, their set covered everything from hits from their biggest selling album, 1994’s Deliverance, to the criminally underrated America’s Volume Dealer (2000).
“Nice pipes, y’all”, Keenan said mid-set in response to the crowd’s fierce sing-along to “Shake Like You”, adding, “Thanks for getting here early. We appreciate that shit. I’ve been home sitting in my garage for two years, and that fucking sucked.” In fact, the band was stepping in to replace the previously scheduled Helmet on the tour. CoC’s blend of hardcore and southern rock had the crowd in a frenzy, with the mosh pit never slowing down.
Closing out their set with the 1-2-3 punch of “Albatross,” “Who’s Got the Fire,” and an extended jam on their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds,” it was an instance where you wish every band on the bill could get a full set of time, as their set didn’t even get a chance to touch on recent albums IX or No Cross No Crown nor dip back into the early thrash records like Eye for an Eye or Animosity. Still though, as the crowd would obviously agree, 45 minutes of Corrosion of Conformity blows away 90 minutes of most bands.
“The Melvins are coming up next to bulldoze you,” Keenan had promised at the end of their set, and bulldoze they did. Opening their set with “The Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude with Boots, Buzz Osborne’s guitar stands out in the band’s sound. Osborne himself, whose large shock of white hair and stage outfits that have him resembling the leader of an alien race from a long-lost 1950’s sci-fi cult film, is the perfect visual representation of the band’s sound, as it manages to be at times trippy and psychedelic and then shift into something more heavy and dark.
The rhythm section of drummer Dale Crover, whose drumming is so heavy you half-expect to see him using cinder blocks and not drum sticks, and bass player Steven Shane McDonald, whose own all-white outfit, long hair, and goatee made him look like a 1970’s transcendental meditation guru, fill out the band’s legendary sound.
For those not familiar with the Washington natives, Melvins’ experimental style has led people to compare them to bands as far-ranging as Black Sabbath to Black Flag (frontman Osborne, for the record, cites Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn as his biggest influence), and the band inspired so many other legendary bands from the Pacific Northwest, which is evident from their entire Tuesday-night set, as you can hear what elements of their sound other bands spent their whole careers trying to emulate.
Their set covered all eras of the band, with some nice surprises pulled from their mid-nineties classic albums: 91’s Bullhead(“It’s Shoved” and “Anaconda”), 93’s Houdini (“Hooch” and “Honey Bucket”), 94’s Stoner Witch (“Queen”), and 96’s Stag (“The Bit”). The band was joined by Ministry drummer Roy Mayorga for the two Houdini tracks, playing in perfect tandem with Crover.
This summer, Melvins will be hitting the road again in June and July on their Electric Roach Tour, supported by Helms Alee and Harsh Mellow, stopping in Tucson on June 18th for their only Arizona date.
With a chain-link fence set up across the front of the stage before their set began, Ministry had already set a specific atmosphere for their performance. Just moments before they came out, a visual was cast with the familiar blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and a message reading Ministry Stands With Ukraine across it. While other bands choose songs specific to their sound to walk out to, they elected to further drive home their message of solidarity by entering to the Ukrainian National Anthem.
Each member filed out one by one, with lead Al Jourgensen out last. As the band stood ready to perform, he stalked the stage, moving in front of the fencing like an animal who smelled fresh blood. He clawed at, banged on, and swayed the fence back and forth, all the while the audience in turn lurched forward in response, like an aggressive lion tamer goading the beast into action. With the band’s two-drum assault, this dance moved with the rhythm of each song, like watching a violent wash crash into a rocky promenade and then just as quickly recede back.
It’s hard to fathom that Ministry is approaching the 40th anniversary of their first release (1983’s With Sympathy), as their sound still feels eons ahead of its time. Having recently passed anniversaries for two of their greatest albums, they opened their set with “Breathe” from 1989’s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and “The Missing” from The Land of Rape and Honey. Their entire performance was a multimedia experience, as their backdrop featured images and video that thematically connected to each song, like witnessing a live music video. Mid-set, they broke out a trio of songs from Jourgensen’s many side projects, including 1,000 Homo DJ’s cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” from Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black and two songs from Pailhead, Jourgensen’s band with Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye.
The band has never shied away from its politics (their 2018 album AmeriKKKant features the track “Antifa,” for instance), and despite being now almost a 30-year-old song, their performance of “NWO” from Ministry’s landmark album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (also known as Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed & The Way to Suck Eggs) seems more appropriate for the times than it did upon its initial release, in this era of increasing social and political upheaval and seems to speak even more so to the political tensions in the country in the five years, especially in light of their opening tribute and show of support for the people of Ukraine. They ended the night with an encore of “Alert Level”, “Good Trouble” (both from 2001’s Moral Hygiene), and a blistering cover of Iggy and The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”.
Ministry alone is an intense, primal, and heavy concert experience, but when you add to it the Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity it enters an entire new realm. Yes, this concert has been two years in the making, but it was two years worth it. After all, after such a wait, we were all ready for some heavy shit.
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins passed away on Friday, March 25th, just hours before the band was scheduled to play at a festival in Bogota, Colombia. While the official cause of death has not yet been revealed, what really matters is that one of the most beloved musicians of his (or arguably any) generation is gone, and in his wake, a huge hole has been left in the music world.
The Foo Fighters are one of the biggest bands in the world, continuing consistently for ten albums spread out across 27 years since their self-titled debut album released in 1995. They famously started out as a solo project for former-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, written and recorded by him in the aftermath of the end of Nirvana, following Kurt Cobain’s death. However, what most people think of as the Foo Fighters came together with the addition of Hawkins just after the release of their seminal second album, The Colour and the Shape. He joined the band for the ensuing tour, permanently replacing departing drummer William Goldsmith. He quickly became an integral part of the group and Dave Grohl’s best friend.
His journey to that point, though, was one of a man seizing each opportunity presented to him. In a 2020 interview, Hawkins was asked what his plan B would have been if he hadn’t made it in rock ‘n’ roll. Laughing, he responded, “Weed dealer? Pizza delivery guy? Manager of the drum department at Guitar Center? I don’t know.” It was the third one – manager of the drum department at Guitar Center – that could have been the fate of the man who became not only a legendary drummer and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but so beloved by seemingly everyone he encountered, from fans to fellow musicians. Guitar Center was exactly where Hawkins was at when he got the chance to join the touring band for Canadian rocker Sass Jordan.
This led to a two-year gig drumming for another Canadian musician (and legend): Alanis Morissette. He joined right as Morisette was becoming one of the biggest artists in the world, hot on the heels of her Jagged Little Pill album. It was while touring with Morissette that he first crossed paths with Grohl, when Foo Fighters and Morissette played the same festival. The two became fast friends, and when Grohl called Hawkins for a suggestion for a replacement for Goldsmith, Hawkins volunteered and the rest is history. Even within a band with such clear camaraderie as Foo Fighters, Grohl and Hawkins seemed like long-lost twins. Their friendship was endearing and affection for each other was clear.
By his own admission, though, Hawkins admits that early on he battled self-doubt. He felt that if he became a rock star, everything would be better in his life, and in some ways it was but in some it was not. This led to a period of self-examination. Though he had everything he could want, he still struggled with life. Money and fame, for him, didn’t translate to confidence and self-esteem. He seemed to battle these moments with a blue-collar approach to his job: he drummed every chance he got.
While being the Foo Fighters drummer was his main job, he also drummed on albums by Coheed and Cambria, on their Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow album, Eric Avery’s (formerly of Jane’s Addiction) first solo album Help Wanted, and on a Foo Fighter bandmate Chris Shiflett’s side project, Jackson United, splitting drumming duties with Grohl on the band’s third album. All of this was in addition to his own side project, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, and his heavy metal cover band Chevy Metal.
With his passing, the tributes have poured in from all over the music community from acts as diverse as Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr, Wofgang Van Halen, Questlove, Miley Cyrus, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Morello, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss of Kiss; Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Susanna Hoffs, Conan O’Brien, and even First Lady Jill Biden. This list could go on and on and double the length of this tribute, but what is clear is that Taylor Hawkins was loved instantly by all he met and worked with. From the fan community, there are hundreds of stories of a guy who took time for every fan he met and always made people feel special.
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth once said people pay money to go to concerts because they like seeing people believe in themselves. Even though he admitted to his own struggles with self-esteem, to see Taylor Hawkins drum was to watch someone who truly believed in himself the moment he sat down behind the kit or took over vocal duties, such as his Foo live highlight singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” – performed in the US for the last time at Innings Festival in Tempe, AZ on February 26th. He clearly relished every moment, never taking a second of joy for granted. Maybe what we loved so much about him was getting to watch someone markedly love what they do.
Regardless of the cause of death, one of rock’s true good guys is gone now. He leaves behind an undeniable legacy. He might’ve been, as music critic and senior editor for AllMusicStephen Thomas Erlewin tweeted, “…the only drummer alive who could support Dave Grohl and not make you wish Grohl was sitting behind the kit.” He played with an unabashed passion, like a guy who had won the golden ticket of life, and was never going to let the opportunity slip from his fingers.
Honor his memory by revisiting his greatest moments: “Breakout” from There’s Nothing Left to Lose, “Times Like These” from One by One, “Best of You” from In Your Honor, or look up any Foo Fighters live performances on YouTube – especially the band’s performance of “My Hero” from the final episode of Late Show with David Letterman. As you do, let his legacy be more than just a great drummer, but a guy who took on every opportunity and gave it everything he had. Relish life, just as Taylor Hawkins did, and rock out every chance you get along the way.
Mesa, AZ — The annual Punk in Drublic Festival, held this past Saturday at Mesa’s brand new Bell Bank Park, is built around two things: craft beer and punk rock. This year’s lineup, anchored as always by festival founder Fat Mike’s band NOFX, also featured Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Bouncing Souls, Lagwagon, Authority Zero, The Last Gang, The Venomous Pinks, and WinterHaven. It was a lineup that covered several generations of punk and just as many styles.
When the gates opened at 11 a.m., with WinterHaven not going on to open the festival until 1 p.m., the other opener took front stage and center: craft beer, and plenty of it. With breweries from all over Arizona giving out free samples to the 21+ crowd in the free Punk in Drublic souvenir sample cups, cans and kegs were emptied on a consistent basis from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
What makes a punk festival so different from other all-day festivals is that punks, regardless of era or style, are accepting of everyone who enters the sanctum of punk, as a place of brotherhood and sisterhood for all. Names are never needed, as the t-shirt you wore is enough to identify you. “Hey yo, Black Flag, try that Hazy IPA they got! It’s my favorite!” was shouted at me as I approached one of the many tents. The same guy followed up with me later to get my thoughts.
There’s an inspiring sense of community and fun, like we’re all on the same team, whether we’re toasting a craft brew or slamming into each other in a circle pit. If this day were a musical, it would almost be expected that at any moment the crowd would break out into a punk rock rendition of “Gaston,” sloshing frothy beers from those mini Punk in Drublic sampler cups to and fro in the spirit of a hardy sing-along.
Opening the show was Flagstaff’s own Winterhaven. Made up of singer and rhythm guitarist Jack Hernandez, lead guitarist Brendan Goepfrich, bassist Colton Henderson, and drummer Nick Schira, they brought the right balance of humor and youthful energy to open the show. By their own admission, they have gotten onto the festival by getting in touch with Cameron Collins, who handles lining up the breweries for each stop (Fat Mike handles the bands) who dug what he heard and got them added to the lineup. Though the youngest band on the bill, they came out swinging like old pros.
The band wears its pop-punk influences on their sleeves like a badge of honor. Though you could hear the importance that bands like blink-182 and The Offspring had on their sound (and also some noticeable Ian MacKaye Fugazi-era basslines), there was nothing derivative about WinterHaven. As the opening chords of the first song hit, their music was a magnet pulling people away from beer and merch tents right to the front of the stage. In between songs, they joked with the crowd about Spider-Man and in a hilarious moment, Hernandez said that his mom asked him to remember to wear sunscreen before they went on that day, but he had immediately forgotten and asked that no one tells. (I’m sorry if she reads this and learns that way.)
The Venomous Pinks
It would seem Arizona was the perfect starting point for the festival, since three-fifths of the acts hail from State 48, with Mesa’s The Venomous Pinks playing second. Though the all-female outfit certainly has some Bikini Kill in their sound, they would not be out of place amongst the heaviest of hitters of early 80’s hardcore. The three-piece attack of Drea Doll on guitar and vocals, Gaby Kaos on bass and vocals, and Cassie Jalilie on drums sounded like the sister band to Bad Brains or Minor Threat, playing each song with a fast and furious intensity.
Their second song “Todos Unidos” had some Generator-era Bad Religion guitar and “oohs” and “aahs” on the backing vocals. Their new single “No Rules,” the first from their upcoming debut album Vita Mors from SBÄM Records, was a set highlight (the single is out on 03/24/2022 and the album is forthcoming). They closed out their nine-song set with “We Do It Better,” an absolutely righteous rager and the perfect anthem for the band. They were joined by The Last Gang’s lead singer Brenna Red for the final verse.
The Last Gang
The decidedly more political The Last Gang played next. The California quartet – Red on vocals and guitar, Ken Aquino on guitar, Sean Viele on bass, and Robert Wantland on drums – surprised the crowd throughout their set, as they used the punk rock template as a springboard for so many other styles. Their third song, “Gimme Action,” even opened with a surprising AC/DC-esque guitar riff.
Red admitted to listening to a lot of The Clash and some classic reggae and dub, including Toots And The Maytals and the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. This was no more evident than on “Noise Noise Noise,” the title track from their 2021 album, which had some very clear Clash London Calling-era dub influence. She is an incredible frontwoman, and the band plays loosely within the punk genre. If their nine-song set is any indication of even a snippet of what they are capable of, they are going to be a band to watch for many years to come.
Rounding out the Arizona triad was Mesa’s Authority Zero. The skate punk legends came out guns blazing with lead singer Jason DeVore leading into the first song (or perhaps warning the crowd) with “Here we go!” He was immediately perched on top of amps (rocking one precariously forward before he hopped off of it) and bounced around the stage with each song. For a guy who’s been doing this since the mid-nineties, he didn’t show even a hint of slowing down.
Though DeVore’s vocals are rooted firmly in hardcore, Authority Zero includes reggae and some very noticeable Bad Religion rhythms in their music. The band’s new song “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” from the album of the same name was a set highlight.
Mid-set, DeVore stopped to plug Punk Rock Saves Lives, an organization he supports whose work focuses on mental health, human rights, and equality. His passion for their work was clear in the set’s closer, “Lift One Up.”
It spoke to DeVore’s love for his audience and to the communal feeling so clear amongst the attendees since the gates opened: “So lift one up/To put one down/We’ll keep singing these old songs our whole lives through/It’s where we’re found/They’ve touched our hearts/They’ve saved our lives.” It was one of the best sing-alongs of the day.
Considering their name was inspired by the band’s unreliable touring van, Lagwagon have been anything but unreliable, recording and touring since 1990. Before they began their set, an audience member complained to the soundman checking the microphones that it was “too loud.” In response, he received a hard laugh from the guy who said, “Don’t worry. Joey’s known for his soft vocals.” Indeed, the start of their set was like a bomb going off (leaving this writer wondering what the kids playing soccer just across the way from the festival at the rather vast Bell Bank Park complex were wondering).
With nine albums spread across their 30-year career, frontman Joey Cape joked, “All we have are old songs,” when an audience member requested they play something new after they played “Bombs Away” from their 1995 album Hoss. Regardless of his self-deprecating comment, the band with a lineup almost unchanged since they started, played each song with an ageless vigor. They dedicated “Surviving California” to all of their fallen comrades over the years, in the highlight of their set.
The Bouncing Souls
New Jersey’s favorite punk sons The Bouncing Souls showed that Lagwagon were not the only 30-year veterans who hadn’t lost a step. The pogoing punk icons brought their trademark lighthearted sound to the stage. Opening with the title-track from the 1999 album “Hopeless Romantic”, the band had the crowd bouncing in unison from the word go (not the song “Go,” because that was their fifth track).
Singer Greg Attonito was a consummate showman, playfully dancing around the stage during each song. The Bouncing Souls have always been a fun live band, and this day’s set was no different. Their song “That Song” was one of the highlights, with the audience singing along throughout. It felt like a fitting summation of the vibe for the day, with the lyrics: And in the end what have we learned? Are we just faces in the crowd? I died and was reborn again today. Hold fast to myself. Make these good feelings stay. On a pleasantly cool Arizona spring day, it felt like many of us were reborn in those moments of community.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
“We’re not a cover band,” declared lead singer Spike Slawson, “We are THE cover band!” For the uninitiated, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are like punk-rock karaoke. They are a supergroup, with a rotating cast of members including Slawson of Re-Volts and Swignin’ Utters, Joey Cape and Dave Raun from Lagwagon pulling double duty, Fat Mike, and CJ Ramone. They will cover any genre of music, with the songs poured through their unique filter.
Opening with “Different Drum,” written by the late Mike Nesmith of The Monkees and made famous by Linda Rondstadt, they followed it with “Sloop John B” and a three-song country superset of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and John Denver’s “Country Roads,” with Fat Mike coming out to sing on the songs. With no set genre they will pull from, the set is full of surprises because every song is unexpected. Where else are you going to get Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” followed by CJ Ramone singing Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”? Only at a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes concert. They closed their night with a rousing rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
To close out the night was NOFX, fronted by Punk in Drublic founder Mike “Fat Mike” Burkett. Though their live album I Heard They Suck Live!! might set certain expectations for anyone who has never witnessed a NOFX concert, they make each show unique from any other they’ve played before.
Not to veer into politics, but it can be reasonably inferred by the t-shirts and buttons you see around the festival exactly what the political leanings are of a punk-rock crowd. Regardless, Fat Mike opened their set with “Greetings Republicans!” Throughout their set, he continued to playfully troll the crowd, from saying the only thing Arizona got right was doing away with daylight savings, to telling the crowd the only good thing to ever come out of the state was stand-up comic Doug Stanhope. Mike even attempted to call Stanhope from the stage, but the call went to voicemail.
Some songs were introduced but quickly abandoned. After claiming that drummer Smelly Sandin did not want to play “Liza and Louise,” they moved on to “I Love You More Than I Hate Me” instead. “We’ve only got 5 good songs,” Mike claimed at one point, “and we’ve been doing this for 38 years!” Following “Eat the Meek” and “Franco UnAmerican,” Mike called Arizona “the Alabama of the west.” They closed out their set with a one-two punch of “Don’t Call Me White” and “Kill All the White Man.”
Though the beer tents were all long gone at this point, everyone held tight to their Punk in Drublic beer sampler cups as they headed for the exit. Together or not, the punk community is always united, and maybe those cups will make their way out again on some random night, filled to the rim, and toasted high to the brothers and sisters, before turning the music up and slamming the beer down.
The 2022 Punk In Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival will continue on through the spring and summer with the following dates:
Saturday, March 26 – San Diego, CA – Petco Park – Tickets
Sunday, March 27 – Ventura, CA – Ventura Fairgrounds – Tickets
Saturday, May 7 – Sacramento, CA – Heart Health Park at the Cal Expo – Tickets
PHOENIX — Before Flogging Molly’s concert at The Marquee Theater – with support from Vandoliers and Russkaja – even began, there was a vibe in the crowd different from anything seen the last time concerts were a normal occurrence, and it led to what made this show so special. You see, back in those waning, naïve days of January and February of 2020 – before our lives were collectively turned upside down, leaving us wondering if any semblance of normalcy would return, let alone gathering en masse to enjoy live music once again – we could see live shows whenever we wanted. Though we may not have realized it then, we took live music for granted.
No, the crowd on Tuesday night at the Marquee was buzzing with a noticeable sense of joy, community, and most of all, gratitude. Strangers happily chatted away with each other when the house lights were still on and an array of punk and classic rock was piped through the P.A. Conversations centered so much on “I was supposed to see… until…” and many specifically mentioned having tickets to see Flogging Molly in spring of 2020. No one was taking this moment for granted, because so much was survived to get to this point.
Openers Vandoliers hail from Dallas, Texas and were described on the hype sticker on the vinyl pressing of their 2019 album Foreveras sounding like a cross between Boston Irish punk legends Dropkick Murphys and Arizona’s own Calexico. With so many physical miles between Boston and Tucson and just as many musical style miles between the two as well, the description was intriguing. At the start of their set, the description immediately made sense. With a similar style of rhythm section, made up of bassist Mark Moncrieff and drummer Trey Alfaro, combined with guitar and aggressive vocals from Dustin Fleming, the Murphys-punk influence was evident. What made their sound so unique, though, was the addition of fiddler Travis Curry and multi-instrumentalist Cory Graves who combined to bring a southwest seasoning on top of the Irish punk brew.
Their seven-song set was fast and furious, punctuated with shout-along should-be classics like “Cigarettes in the Rain,” “Sixteen Years,” and “Troublemaker,” which should be the band’s anthem and the anthem for anyone who were told early on that they’d “be a problem” in life. They closed their set with a cover of Scottish rock duo The Proclaimers’ classic, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” recasting the early 90’s alternative sing-along smash as a rowdy West Texas bar band end-of-the–night, last-call rager. If there was a person in attendance not singing along throughout, they were not easily spotted amongst the packed crowd.
Austria’s Russkaja, self-described as “Russian Turbo Polka Metal,” played second. With a foundation of traditional Russian music, they layer it with a confluence of styles, ranging from punk to ska to metal to, yes, polka, all rolled into a wholly unique sound. Founding member and vocalist Georgij Makazaria leads the charge alongside bassist Dimitrij Miller, guitarist Engel Mayr, violinist Lea-Sophie Fischer, Mayr, potete player Hans-Georg Gutternigg, and drummer Mario Stübler, with each member contributing their own particular stitch to their vast tapestry of sound. Mayr’s guitar playing shifted effortlessly between ska and metal, not just across the entire set, but even within one song.
The highlight of their hard-charging set, though, was not even music, but a somber moment midway when Makazaria and Miller stood together and spoke to the crowd not as musicians but as citizens of two countries. Makazaria is Russian and Miller is Ukrainian and together they condemned the war and called for peace and love.
“The people of Russia and Ukraine have to fight against each other, and it is terrible. This is the politics that is destroying peace. We condemn this fucking war. We are against this war! Instead of battle stations, we bring some music equipment and make a festival. We will not give the world a chance to destroy our music!”
It was as powerful, if not more so, than any note played or any lyric sung, and it underscored a theme, intentional or not, that was playing throughout the evening: through disease and war and a score of so many other horrible things plaguing our world now and in the future, we are all very lucky to be together sharing a space and letting live music nourish our souls.
What was once an annual tradition, Flogging Molly’s St. Patrick’s Day Tour, like so many other tours, was put on hold, going on a two-year hiatus, save for a St. Patrick’s Day show done via Zoom for fans last year. While their concerts are always a must-see event, they performed with a renewed vigor. Opening the show with “Drunken Lullabies,” from their 2001 album of the same name, there was an extra punch to every note and every lyric.
Hitting some old favorites early in the set, that theme noticed so early in the night amongst the crowd chatter re-emerged as frontman Dave King touched on the feelings so many of us had surviving the past two years, with the emotional struggles and low-low points before launching into “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” from 2000’s Swagger, which immediately took on a new feel. They followed it with their first new song of the night, written during those early scary and confusing days, called “These Times Have Got Me Drinking,” which given the crowd’s reaction to it, will easily stand beside so many of the band’s greatest.
Flogging Molly have always been a tight band, both on their albums and performing live, but each member was in top form throughout the night. King regularly shouted out members of the band between songs. With such an incredible group of musicians holding down each song, it allows King to be so many things throughout the show: singer, showman, dancer, and all-around master of ceremonies. A lesser band would not be able to afford such freedom to the frontman, but Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, and King’s wife of almost 15 years), Dennis Casey (guitar), Matt Hensley (accordion), Nathen Maxwell (bass), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, and guitar), and Mike Alonso (drums) are all so accomplished that it gives King a wide lane in which to play. One minute, he’ll be bantering with fans, and the next, he’ll have his pant legs pulled up, as he dances around the stage, sometimes doing an impromptu jig and others doing a one-man chorus line.
This is what makes a Flogging Molly concert so special: it never feels overly-rehearsed but instead gives each show an impromptu feel, like each moment is special for that night’s audience exclusively. These moments accompanied a run through a great many classics, including a particularly rousing run through “If I Ever Leave this World Alive.” They left the stage after “Seven Deadly Sins” from 2004’s Within a Mile of Home that felt like it was a well-rehearsed rendition between the band and the entire crowd who sang along and mimicked each one of King’s movements.
Returning for an encore, they finished the set with “Tobacco Island,” also from Within a Mile of Home. That was not, however, how they closed the show. While it has become the norm for many bands to have a walk-out song (Vandoliers came out to The Vandals’ “Urban Struggle,” Russkaja played an anti-war message set to a dark, ominous beat as they walked out, and Flogging Molly themselves used The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” paired with the acapella intro to their own “The Wrong Company”), but very few bands have a walk-off song. While most shows end with a good night, band walk off, and the house lights coming on as music is piped over the P.A., Flogging Molly played “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.
While not as well-known to the audience, save for this journalist and others within his particular age range, the lyrics, even to fresh ears, served to punctuate the night’s theme: “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” As the song played out, the group stood together, joined by various members of Vandoliers and Russkaja in kick lines, as King handed out set lists to the younger fans (there were many older fans in attendance with their children), and playfully blew kisses to the audience before everyone at last left the stage with the song’s fading notes and those awkward feelings of 2020 despair dissipating. Nights like this remind us to never again take live music for granted, because it’s one of our true blessings, and that alone should hopefully keep us all on the bright side of life.
With a career dating back to 1982 with their lone release as a hardcore group, the Pollywog Stew EP, and their 1986 genre-defining hip-hop debut, Licensed to Ill, it’s hard to remember a world without the Beastie Boys. Considering the deep personal connection many of us have with them (Questlove from The Roots once said that there’s no such thing as a casual Beastie Boys fan), it feels triumphant and yet bittersweet to see the Beasties take one final career lap. Beginning with the 2018 release of their mammoth tome of a memoir Beastie Boys Book, and continuing this year with Apple TV’s Beastie Boys Story, the cycle is now complete with the release of the career-spanning Beastie Boys Music, which was released October 23rd on Universal Music Enterprises.
This is not the first compilation from the band, however, as it follows the previous releases of 1999’s Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science and 2005’s Solid Gold Hits. What’s so different about Beastie Boys Music is the feeling of finality to it. While the future could perhaps see the release of anniversary deluxe editions of any of their landmark albums featuring B-sides and unreleased tracks or alternate takes (the 30th anniversary of Check Your Head is in two years, for instance), this still feels like the final word on a career that dates back to their early days as a New York hardcore punk band, through their years as hip-hop innovators, and finally their time as the genre’s elder statesman. With the 2012 death of Adam “MCA” Yauch from salivary cancer, we will never get “new” Beastie Boys music in the truest sense, as Adam “Adrock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond have vowed to never again record as Beastie Boys.
Now, the first issue to confront with any greatest hits album isn’t in reviewing the songs themselves. It’s insulting to the reader and even to the band themselves to approach a collection of their hits as if it is the first time any of us have heard the music. “You should really check out the song ‘Sabotage’ because it’s a total banger!” As with any greatest hits collection, it comes down to two main things: which songs and the sequencing.
Looking at a track-by-track breakdown of the album, it is evident that for this collection, the group opted for the singles specifically in chronological order. That is why their landmark debut Licensed to Ill (the first hip-hop album to go to #1 on the Billboards chart) is disproportionately represented, as compared to later albums, with a total of five songs appearing on the collection:
“Hold It Now, Hit It” – Both Beastie Boys Book or Beastie Boys Story explain the importance of this song to their growth as a hip-hop group).
“Paul Revere” – If you doubt its well-earned stature, try saying “Now here’s a little story that I got to tell” and listen for the inevitable reply from someone within earshot of “of three bad brothers you know so well”
“No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” with Kerry King of Slayer providing the iconic guitar riff, was a long-time set closer for their live shows (later to be supplanted by another song on the collection) and is a deserved inclusion.
The goofy-fun drinking ode “Brass Monkey” is a nice surprise, though it comes at the cost of a lot of great singles that were left off.
Of course, no Beastie Boys collection could possibly omit “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” the song the band intended as an ironic parody of “party” and “attitude”-themed songs, in the same vein as “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and “I Wanna Rock” and which the dearly-departed MCA once referred to as “kind of a joke that went too far.” Regardless of its original intentions or how it was received and what it became as a result, it’s still a fun song and hard to not sing along to (as loudly and obnoxiously as possible).
Heavily regarded by both fans and critics as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, Paul’s Boutique still somehow feels like it’s underrated in their discography, as it’s sandwiched between the instant-classic Licensed to Ill and the one-two punch of Check Your Head and Ill Communication, like being the smart, sensitive middle child between the class clown and the golden child. Maybe it’s that status that makes the three tracks included from it (“Shake Your Rump,” “Hey Ladies,” and “Shadrach”) sound so fresh. They also don’t suffer from cultural saturation, as some of Licensed to Ill’s singles do. In fact, I would argue that “Shadrach” may be one of their greatest tracks on any album (check out the Nathanial Hörnblowér-directed video for it that featured live footage hand-painted by different artists to create a moving painting).
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Anyone who even has a cursory knowledge of the band’s history knows that the lack of success from Paul’s Boutique left the group with a unique opportunity: to reinvent themselves free from the somewhat indifferent eye of their record label, Capitol. This led to them doing anything and everything they wanted to try, resulting in the genre-defying 1992 classic Check Your Head.
While for a band that released eight albums across 25 years, “best album” becomes a heated debate, I place myself firmly in the Check Your Head camp. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard them: “Jimmy James,” “Pass the Mic,” and “So What’cha Want” still hit just as hard. The album’s “anything goes” experimentation took them to the next level. By taking up their instruments again (for the first time since their early hardcore days) and creating their own samples, they did what no hip-hop groups before them had done and only a few have sense.
If Check Your Head was the reinvention, then Ill Communication was the polished refinement of that reinvention. Two of Ill’s tracks, “Get It Together,” (featuring Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip guest verse), and the ode to early NYC hip-hop “Root Down”, are no brainers, but the album’s two true classics get to the essence of the Beastie’s greatness, “Sure Shot” and “Sabotage,” as they draw on the band’s two eras: hardcore punk (“Sabotage” is essentially a radio-friendly punk song) and hip-hop (“Sure Shot” has the classic pass-the-mic structure of the best of their songs).
“Sure Shot” features a verse from MCA that still sounds ahead of its time, when the late rapper dropped “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end,” and seemingly became the first male rapper to embrace feminism. This lyric and MCA as the group’s spiritual leader was well-highlighted in the book and documentary. At a time when a lot of rap lyrics were still leaning heavily into “bitches” and “hoes,” MCA took an important step for rap music as a whole and changed the image of a group much-maligned early for songs like “Girls” (you can Google the lyrics, if you don’t know).
Now, “Sabotage” is “Sabotage” and it will outlive us all. Heck, a joke in the rebooted Star Trek films was Captain James T. Kirk’s love of the song — considered to be an “oldie” in a distant future of routine space exploration. Fun bit of band trivia: “Sabotage” first had life as an instrumental jam inspired by MCA fiddling around on the bass and coming up with the signature bassline. The original recording had no title, and became known as “Chris Rocks” after an overly-enthusiastic studio tech named Chris lost his mind after hearing them record the demo and yelled “this shit rocks!” It lived as “Chris Rocks” until Adrock free-styled the vocals screaming his frustrations at the band’s producer Mario Caldato, resulting in the thinly-veiled but good-natured shots at Mario C, such as: So, so, so, so listen up, ’cause you can’t say nothin’/You’ll shut me down with a push of your button. Though arguments can be made for their greatest track, “Sabotage” is their most well-known song, finally dethroning “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” for that title and has aged well, now 26 years since it’s original release. That is why it became and remained their set closer for the rest of their existence as a touring group.
The later half of their career, though representing three albums over a 13-year period is relegated to a total of five tracks, with two tracks from 1998’s Hello Nasty, one track from 2004’s To The 5 Boroughs, and two tracks from their 2011 swan song Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. This is the lone weakness of this compilation, as each of those albums deserves more time, but that is time that a single-set greatest hits collection simply cannot afford. Still though, it feels strange that the demands of a reasonable runtime means that Nasty’s “Three MC’s and One DJ,” Boroughs’ “Triple Trouble” or “Open Letter to NYC,” and Hot Sauce’s Nas-duet “Too Many Rappers” are unfairly left off the album. It is recognized, though, that those tracks were singles but not huge hits. Que sera, sera, I suppose.
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While the dream of a Beastie Boys compilation in the same vein as the three-part Beatles Anthology series — filled with outtakes, b-sides, and demos — will hopefully be realized someday, for now we have this solid greatest hits. Though the hardcore Beastie devotees, like myself, will still pick this up and file it next to all the albums its songs are taken from, it is not an album strictly for us. It is an album for the next generation — for kids who are discovering the Beastie Boys through their parents and a family viewing of Beastie Boys Story.
A greatest hits album is meant to crystalize the essence of the artist, and to that degree, Beastie Boys Music does that admirably so. This collection eschews The Meters-inspired jazz-funk tracks that were sprinkled across Check Your Head and Ill Communications, as well as their returns to their hardcore roots on the same albums. (Not many are going to argue that a greatest hits collection should include “Heartattack Man,” no matter how killer of a hardcore track it is). The focus here is on the accepted canon of Beasties hits and the tracks that made them so beloved worldwide.
If this is their final career lap, then it’s a fitting send-off for them; it’s a reminder of everything that made them so great, because more than anything, the Beastie Boys are the soundtrack of fun. With this collection, older fans will revisit those moments in our lives and rekindle those memories with each song. (“So What’cha Want” was the first song I played in my car when I got my license… to drive, not to ill.) However, this collection will serve as a bridge to new fans — the children (or even grandchildren) of those who grew up with Mike, Adam, and Adam.
There is certainly a timelessness to the Beasties’ music that will transcend generations, and as each comes and goes, and even as each of us who remember the first time we saw the 70’s cop-show inspired video when it premiered on MTV are laid to dust, there will still be people with the windows down and “Sabotage” turned loud.
“Released in conjunction with his book How to Write One Song, the Wilco frontman’s response to the pandemic is a mellow, easygoing collection of songs stressing the importance of human connection.” — Pitchfork
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