GWAR – The Blood Of Gods
The last thing I expected to find when I listened to a new GWAR album in 2017 was… humanity. And yet, here we are. In an age where Insane Clown Posse have become civil rights activists, where Jimmy Kimmel, a person’s whose old show used to do a side-business selling Girls on Trampolines DVDs, is now our nightly voice of the resistance, and where Eminem has become a woke protest singer, GWAR’s enlightenment (of a sort) doesn’t feel so weird.
To be fair, you still have to squint a fair amount to find said humanity from these alien invader/heavy metal cartoon warriors. After all, there’s still lots of in-the-pocket GWAR to be found on The Blood Of Gods. “I’ll Be Your Monster” is like a flip on Alice Cooper shock rock with an actual hint of menace, “Viking Death Machine” is a free wheel burnin’ highway anthem, and the band’s cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” is so obvious it’s stunning they hadn’t thought to do it before now.
But then there’s the anti-overpopulation screed “Swarm,” the let’s-kill-the-president shanty “El Presidente” and the cathartically universal “Fuck This Place.” If sometimes feeling like our need to conquer and explore has irreparably messed up the planet, or worrying that the world is teetering on the brink of destruction because of a mentally damaged world leader aren’t absolutely human concerns then I don’t know what are. Throw in “Phantom Limb,” a fitting tribute to deceased former band leader Oderus Urungus, and these songs are a fair argument for a surprisingly tender GWAR. At least in their way.
Either that, or the world is going to such shit that I’ve started to look to GWAR for morality tales. In which case, fuck this place.
Daniel Romano’s Mosey
By this point it shouldn’t be a surprise that Welland, Ontario’s Daniel Romano would take a wild musical shift between albums. This is, after all, a person who went from manning bristling rock-punkers Attack In Black to pursuing the most old tyme-y countraay music a fella with a bolo necktie and a guitar could conjure over his last few albums.
That said, there’s still a jarring sensation that comes from listening to Romano’s latest album Mosey. It’s not so much time travel disorientation as it is a wide-eyed wonderment that comes from witnessing Romano so effortlessly integrate himself into another musical era.
This time Romano’s attentions take him to the 1970s. A place where Dusty Springfield’s big technicolour paint splashes and Lee Hazlewood’s wry observations are jotted down the margins of a well-thumbed copy of Leonard Cohen’s Death Of A Lady’s Man.
“Valerie Leon,” the album’s first song, exemplifies this best. The tale of an love that loses its charm as it loses its illicitness, Romano’s winding vocal delivery combines with gnawingly infectious string lines for an irresistible earworm. Equally beguiling are the other big symphonic tracks, the inward looking “Mr. E Me” and the dark souled Cohen callback “Sorrow (For Leonard And William).”
A whole separate thread that runs through Mosey is the barely concealed electric Dylan-ism. In other circumstances invoking the well-trod and thoroughly eyeroll-worthy “sounds like [insert specific Bob Dylan record here]” is cause to shut down on a record more than anything else. Here, though, particularly on the winding guitar thriller “I Had To Hide Your Poem In A Song” and the bristling “Dead Medium” Romano evokes the sometimes less-appreciated rawk side of Dylan’s sound.
Perhaps the most intriguing minor detail about Mosey comes in the form of two codas that close out the countrified gem “Toulouse” and “Maybe Remember Me.” In each case, the songs have abrupt musical shifts that feel closer to The Avalanches reinterpreting the Shaft soundtrack than Glen Campbell-goes-big-TV country. Whether this is foreshadowing for Romano’s next musical shift remains to be seen.
What does become clear after repeat listens, though, is that Mosey is an album out of time, a magically narcotic thing that the record collectors of the world will be mining well into the future.