Tag Archives: The Budos Band

Protomartyr’s ‘Ultimate Success Today’ Is Aaron’s Top Album Of 2020

Protomartyr’s Ultimate Success Today

March 7, 2020 was the last time I saw live music. I finally got to see Chalk Circle, a beloved band from my youth, as part of a benefit show at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace. Five days later the entire music industry in Canada — and largely around the world — shut down and everything changed as we entered The Pandemic Times.

Listening to music in total isolation is strange. Sure, if you’ve got any lonerism in you it’s not that strange. After all, dancing alone to records in your bedroom isn’t entirely daunting if that was half your life in high school. What was missing in 2020, though, was the feedback. Not the actual buzzing noise of feedback, but that static in the air that comes with a shared joke about a song you’d listen to repeatedly on a road trip with friends, or the universal hatred that comes from every mall clothing store playing that same song of the summer constantly. This was the year of no road trips and no shared listens. And none of that feedback that elevates a song to becoming something more, something communal.

That said, with no concerts, no recreation, no visits and virtually no hobbies, this year ended up being a very all-consuming music listening one for me. I listened to more new music this year than any time in recent memory. Which is saying a lot considering that for more than 20 years my professional duties have generally meant listening to new albums all day, constantly, day-in, day-out.

While that need to chase the new sound, to discover anything that could make me feel was incredibly strong, it was the familiar that gave me the most relief. Albums from the likes of Public Enemy, Thurston Moore, Rufus Wainwright, Run The Jewels, The Avalanches and Flaming Lips certainly don’t represent brave new waves at this point, but they provided comforting blankets of sound, even if the actual sounds some of them make are far from comforting.

Language barrier be damned, the experimental cumbia the Meridian Brothers throw down was a party, and the fascinating sci-fi of the Futuro Conjunto project suggests there’s an incredibly exciting alt wave of Latin music to be explored. Elsewhere, Cheekface’s Emphatically No. may turn out to be an unexpected late-stage win for the legacy of Cake, and Daniel Romano’s outlandish series of quality releases (10 or so records, depending on how you count) would only be more impressive if it didn’t make the rest of us feel so bad about our comparatively failed productivity during the pandemic.

But enough wistful pondering, here’s my top 10 albums list for 2020:

10) Kaytranada — BUBBA

I like Kaytranada’s sound and vibe, but BUBBA‘s greatest asset may be its ability to just stick and remain effortlessly cool and enjoyable after repeat listens. It’s a testament to Kaytranada’s skill as a creator. Highlights include “Go DJ,” “10%” and “Vex Oh.”

Kaytranada’s “10% ft. Kali Uchis”

9) The Chats — Dine N Dash

I halfway thought I had grown out of silly pop-punk songs about catching venereal diseases, eating pub food and drinking too much. I was wrong. These Australian garbage pail kids are way more compelling than they should be.

The Chats’ “The Clap”

8) The Dears — Lovers Rock

The Dears might be my favourite band. There’s no band on Earth I’ve seen more than them and at this point I’m not sure I have the ability to accurately assess them as a professional music critic. And so here they are, plunked into a relatively politically neutral spot on my annual list.

The Dears’ “Instant Nightmare”

7) The Budos Band — Long In The Tooth

We have a saying in the Risky Fuel household called “you find your people.” Normally applied to straight up weird bands, movies, art, parties or whatever, it’s the principle that if you’re into some bizarro wackadoodle shit and you find similar people into similar bizarro wackadoodle shit, sometimes something bizarro wackadoodle amazing emerges. A bunch of band dorks trying alchemically fuse Black Sabbath and Fela Kuti qualifies.

The Budos Band’s “Long In The Tooth”

6) Gorillaz — Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

If you told me in 2000 that Damon Albarn would have a band made up entirely of cartoon characters, that they’d be a worldwide phenomenon, and that “the kids” wouldn’t even know who or what a “Blur” was I would straight up fight you. And yet here we are, and on close inspection the globetrotting sound thievery that is Gorillaz is probably the superior Albarn work.

Gorillaz’s “Severed Head ft. Goldlink & Unknown Mortal Orchestra”

5) Sarah Harmer — Are You Gone

There are like three songs on this album — “St. Peter’s Bay,” the ice skating one, “What I Was To You,” the Gord Downie one, and “Shoemaker,” the one about her grandfather — that run the risk of making me cry if I make the mistake of listening to them too closely.

Sarah Harmer’s “St. Peter’s Bay”

4) Witch Prophet — DNA Activation

DNA Activation feels more timeless than of a time, a trip-hop/jazz/soul exploration of family that doesn’t quite sound like anything else that came out this year. Highlights include “Makda” and “Musa.”

Witch Prophet’s “Tesfay”

3) IDLES — Ultra Mono

The thing that shocked me most about IDLES’ new album Ultra Mono was the backlash. To be clear, it’s not surprising that they’d have their enemies. After all, they’re an unapologetic “leftie” and “soft” activist hard rock band. There are people for whom such a thing even existing at all is offensive. Backlash from those sorts wasn’t surprising. What was surprising, though, was the pushback against them from progressive types. Their feminism isn’t right, they’re faux working class, their politics are too simple… They’re all arguments that might be correct, but they’re also all arguments that are very progressives-are-eating-their-own-again. Regardless of whether or not they perfectly meet the ever-changing standards for whatever gatekeepers want and expect them to be, there are at least five bangers on Ultra Mono that are worth soundtracking the war, and those can’t be taken away.

IDLES’ “Mr. Motivator”

2) Jessie Ware — What’s Your Pleasure?

If someone releases a perfect disco album in the middle of a global pandemic and nobody can gather on a dancefloor to hear it, does it even exist? In this case, the answer is a lonely, twirling-around-by-yourself yes. Ware’s shift from sad R&B balladeer into full-on dance diva was one of this year’s unexpected turns, but it was an entirely welcome one. What’s Your Pleasure? is a vessel for escape, something which was incredibly necessary.

Jessie Ware’s “What’s Your Pleasure?”

1) Protomartyr —Ultimate Success Today

I listened to an advance copy Ultimate Success Today for the first time on March 17 when we were just days into the uncertainty and anxiety of lockdown #1. With only the barest hints of colour amidst smears of grey, a bristling post-punk record that confronts one’s mortality and systems of oppression like this really shouldn’t have helped, given the circumstances. But it did. And continued to do so throughout the year. This was my soundtrack to fear and unease, an aural manifestation of the bleak, precarious nature of every single day in 2020. I’m not quite done with this album yet, but truly hope for a time to come in the not-so-distance future where I’ll never want or need to listen to this record ever again.

Protomartyr’s “Processed By The Boys”

Other album lists…

2019 Top Ten — Julia Jacklin’s Crushing is #1
2018 Top Ten — Idles’ Joy As An Act Of Resistance. is #1
2017 Top Ten — Land Of Talk’s Life After Youth is #1
2016 Top Ten — Daniel Romano‘s Mosey is #1
2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart’s SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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Las Vegas Psycho Fest Made A McDonald’s Themed Metal Band Seem Normal

Psycho Fest 2016

In the weeks leading up to Psycho Fest Las Vegas I found myself having to navigate increasingly awkward conversations.

After all, saying to people, “Yeah, I’m not around next week because I’m going to Psycho Fest” yields all sorts of difficult followups.

Namely, what the fuck is Psycho Fest Las Vegas?

If you believe Psycho Fest’s top-line, it was a multi-day heavy music festival featuring classic rockers like Alice Cooper and Blue Oyster Cult, metalcore and post-hardcore acts like Converge and Drive Like Jehu, and stoner-doom acts like Electric Wizard and Sleep.

Shows were split between three venues in the Hard Rock Casino — the 4,000 seat main showroom The Joint, the 650 capacity club Vinyl, and the Paradise Pool, an outdoor stage overlooking, yep, a giant swimming pool.

A slightly deeper look, however, yielded an impressively curated list of names you wouldn’t find at your average energy drink-sponsored mega-fest. Arthur Brown, the Brit eccentric behind the song “Fire” joked it took “the signatures of four Senators” to play his first U.S. show in ages. Other names like Truth And Janey and Wovenhand were playing rare or one-off shows. Doom pioneers like Pentagram and Candlemass were here. So were Fu Manchu and Uncle Acid.

Basically, the whole event was like the Kyuss Desert Sessions miraculously manifested into a strange 100 band-strong takeover of an off-strip Vegas casino. Either that or this whole thing was the masturbatory fever dream of Josh Homme as a sort of concert booking Freddy Krueger.

The thing is, when you take a spirit walk into the desert for something like this you come out changed. More experienced, more knowing. Here are a number of the things I took away from the festival:

1. Grimalice Is A Hero

There’s a McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath parody band called Mac Sabbath. Their gimmick is amazing. They basically turn Sabbath songs (“Iron Man” becomes “Frying Pan,” “Sweet Leaf” is “Sweet Beef”) into anti-food industry anthems, all while wearing costumes perverting traditional McD’s characters like Ronald McDonald. What was most amazing about their set, though, was that the bassist “Grimalice” played an entire show in 90 degree F heat in their gigantic purple outfit. Respect.

2. Questions About Saws

During Black Heart Procession’s set frontman Pall Jenkins played a saw during a song while their drummer created thunderclap-like rumbles using a piece of industrial metal sheeting-as-a-gong. My question is: how much effort goes into finding just the right saw and just the right chunk of sheet metal for this? Did they spend a Saturday morning scouring a Home Depot, clanging at pieces of tin and discreetly bending saws between aisles? Did they scour the local junkyard? Or maybe they just have day jobs as foley people and they took that stuff from work.

3. Vegas Food Lifehack

When the casino you’re in charges $1.50 for a banana and $15 for a modest breakfast plate, you disrupt the system by walking to the Silver Sevens casino a block away, sign up for a player’s card, then eat all of the following things at their buffet for $7…

Cheese blintz
French toast
Berry stuffed pancake
Biscuit with gravy
Hash brown
Chicken fried steak
Apple juice
Scrambled eggs
“Breakfast potatoes”
Sausage patty
Corned beef hash
Vanilla frozen yogurt root beer float

4. Beelzefuzz vs. Bezlebong

This will take a bit of remembering, but Beelzefuzz is the shitty one that sounds like shit Uriah Heep and Bezlebong is the good one that’ll send you off on a rant about how, with their complete lack of vocals, their dependence on laying down a singular riff for five minutes at a time, and their majestic hair-flow in-sync headbanging on said riff, you will declare them stoner rock distilled down to its perfect essence.

5. Mudhoney

For years I was under the impression that some great cosmic injustice must have taken place when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden rose up from the altera-grunge heap to take over the world, leaving behind poor Mudhoney.

I was wrong.

6. Music Festivals In Hotels

Know what’s awesome? When you can roll out of bed, into an elevator and walk your way down to see Blue Oyster Cult in six minutes. Better yet, you never have to worry about porta-potties being gross because you have YOUR OWN PRIVATE TOILET. Also, if you want to sneak off for 2-for-1 breakfast specials at Nacho Daddy on The Strip it’s only an $8 cab ride away. Open air farmer’s field music festivals are dead to me now.

7. The Budos Band

A staple of soul label Daptone Records, the afro-funk jazz act Budos Band are outwardly more at home supporting the likes of Sharon Jones or Lee Fields as opposed to appearing at a metal festival. But that’s a swerve. Their set was metal as fuck. Or at least as “metal” as a band that’s fronted by a trumpet player and a saxophone player and also features two separate guys on congas can be. In the way they acted and the way they were received, it would appear that the band, who put out the metal-spirited Burnt Offering album in 2014, appeared to have finally found their people. And when trumpeter Andrew Greene declared, “This is the greatest day of my life!” part way through their set you knew it was true.

8. Oresund Space Collective

I had a bit all ready for the Oresund Space Collective, “a music collective from Denmark and Sweden that play totally improvised space rock music,” who were scheduled to play from 5 – 7 a.m. at second stage venue Vinyl. It went like this:

“6:18 a.m. Woke up to go see Oresund Space Collective to say that I did.”

“6:26 a.m. Saw them. Now back in bed.”

Except that’s not what happened.

When I walked into Vinyl there was a pack of weirdoes throwing down some of the craziest Hawkwind/early Floyd mind bombs. Better yet, the frontman, a Gandalf lookin’ dude wearing a giant alien head, was jamming away at his “instrument,” which was basically a mixing console he used to add effects to other band members’ playing. He was also the main giver of fist bumps and high fives to the 100 or so bugged out space travelers who were on a spectacular journey.

9. Drive Like Jehu

Constantines are better.

10. Audience Demographic

Shockingly, Psycho Fest was not a complete sausage fest. It was more like a 60-40 fest, or, at worst a 65-35 peen-to-vag fest. It also wasn’t the getaway for old hippie burnouts I was expecting. The audience was younger, metal-er and 100 per cent looked the part. Here’s a rough breakdown:

17% Guitar Center employees
16% Scott Ian chin beards
14% Aspiring Suicide Girls
11% Only topic of conversation is how they’re going to complete their sleeve tattoo
10% Acts like they’re tough, but they’re actually monied Silicon Valley code dorks who chose this instead of Burning Man
10% Air guitarists
7% Dudes with luxurious manes whose cascading waves of hair made you curse the day you cut yours in the failed belief it would help you to make it in the normal world
5% Air drummers
5% Lemmy had sex with their mum back in the day
3% Turbojungen
1% That old guy who was at all the same things as us and was totally into it, proving you’re never too old to rock
1% Narcs

11. Tales Of Murder and Dust

It doesn’t sound like it’d makes sense, but watching Denmark’s Tales Of Murder and Dust unleashing their bespoke Godspeed-meets-Calexico shoegaze while doing aquatic dance moves floating around a swimming pool is a pretty righteous experience.

12. Respect Fu Manchu

With Lemmy gone (RIP), someone’s gonna have to fill Motorhead’s spot in the heavy metal lifer hierarchy and one could make a strong argument for three decade-strong Orange County vets Fu Manchu. It could be argued the band represents the stoner-doom rock genre’s first wave, but what’s more important than their place in the fuzz ‘n’ phaser timeline, is the fact they’re fucking stupendous.

It’s not that hard for a band to bust out a sweet Sabbath riff and coast on it for five minutes, but what Fu Manchu does — a deft mix of songs about classic muscle cars, drag racing and outer space — is conceptually perfect and sonically righteous.

It was their set on Sunday afternoon (which started at 4:20 p.m., by the way) which represented the biggest throwdown of the weekend. They were the undisputed masters of this reality and the standard bearers for a whole musical festival that was built upon the idea of delivering non-stop undulating waves of rippin’ stoner rock riffage. Fu Manchu’s crushing renditions of “King Of The Road,” “Saturn III” and “Regal Begal” sent The Joint’s attendees into hand-waving bouts of ecstasy more fitted to a religious ceremony than a rock concert and it truly represented the peak of the form.

This story was originally published August 30, 2016 via AUX TV.

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