Posts Tagged ‘Chris Goss’

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The Cult: Choice of Weapon

May 22, 2012

 

I am young again. I am skinny and long-haired and tight-jeaned and cowboy-booted.

This is because in my head, and on my iPod, and in my car stereo, I have Choice of Weapon, the first Cult album since 1989’s Sonic Temple that didn’t make me say “Sure, they’re my favourite band, and it’s good to have a new record, but …”

There are two kinds of Cult albums: Billy music and Ian music. When Astbury has his way, the music is trippy, atmospheric, cinematic. When Duffy forces his hand, the tracks are bigger, louder and more ferocious, all about the riff, with everything else secondary.

Choice of Weapon is the first Cult record in decades that manages to capture both mens’ passions. Not since Love, in 1985, has Astbury’s esoteric snarl meshed so perfectly with Duffy’s Gretsch-grinding guitar work.

The songs on Choice of Weapon remind me most of Love, largely because of the way they insinuate themselves. There are few huge hooks here, but a lot of great little moments, whether vocal or guitar, hidden usually in the bridges of the album’s tracks.

Bombast? Yeah. Lots. The Wolf, Pale Horse, Honey from a Knife, Lucifer and first single For The Animals are raw, raunchy rock, and listening to them offers a glimpse of what 2007’s rushed Born Into This might have been able to achieve.

Turning away from the rough-from-the-floor sound of Born Into This (and, by extension, 1987’s Electric), The Cult has wrapped its tattooed arms around the studio tricks and effects layering that made Love and 1989’s Sonic Temple work so well. There are little reminders, too, like the jukey piano lick in For The Animals, a direct lift from Sonic Temple’s New York City, and little desert-rock tributes to Duffy’s skeleton spider guitar on Dreamtime, the 1984 album that launched the band while also managing to sound like it was made by a totally different crew of dudes.

The desert sound is honest this time around, as the band worked with Chris Goss, frontman of Masters of Reality, a band I like almost as much as The Cult. Goss, who produced Astbury’s slick solo CD (you really should seek it out) is the mastermind behind the Palm Desert scene (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, etc.) and he brings that esthetic to Choice of Weapon in a big way.

This involves envoking big, wide skies, heat, crashing waters and passion, both through Astbury’s lyrics and Duffy’s playing. Astbury is better here than he’s been since the 80s; rougher, angrier, his trademark yelping toned down to something solemn and dark. There are no “Baby baby baby” chants here. “I came to you with love in my heart,” from For The Animals, carries a weary weight that Astbury has always seemed to be trying for. The man has been through a lot, and he finally sounds like the bluesman he’s always wanted to be.

And Duffy … this man can do no wrong on guitar, if you ask me. He sounds amazing even when playing on pure bona fide Cult garbage like Gone (from the band’s self-titled 1994 disc) or Sweet Salvation (from Ceremony, a song I listen to only because my cousin Donny Gerrard sings backup on it, and even then, it’s a challenge). Duffy knows that space can say more than noise, and he knows how to keep it simple, so we get big riffy songs like The Wolf and Pale Rider that have as much air as riffage, and they work.

Rhythm section: This is the first time the Astbury/Duffy team has produced two consecutive albums with the same bassist and drummer. Chris Wyse and John Tempesta know enough to hang back and do what has to be done without getting in the way, and they sound solid here.

Goss didn’t wrap production on Choice of Weapon; the band took the work they’d done with him and paid a visit to old crony Bob Rock, the Canadian pop star, super-producer and all-around cool cat. And it’s that combination, that rare mix of Goss, Rock, Astbury, Duffy, Wyse, Tempesta and, of course, my stuck-in-the-past musical tastes, that makes Choice of Weapon my album of the year. And it’s only May.

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About That Ian Astbury Thing …

September 24, 2010

I received this in my comment section today:

  • Gimme a break man, ‘cupcakes are wrong, they do not mix with rock’. Astbury still rocks and still has one of the best rock-voices ever. If you dont like to see him being ‘pussy-whipped’, just dont watch this and play his records! He is in balance: on stage rocking, off stage being himself and loving his woman. Cheers Ian! — Michael

This is in response to an article, something I wrote a couple of years ago. And it got me thinking, reading it again today, that I was, perhaps, too hard on Ian Astbury and his cupcakes.

Read the original, then come back.

Ian Astbury fronts The Cult, my favourite rock band. Period. His music has been played more times than anything else I own. (You would think this would make Ian my favourite singer, but that’s actually Elvis. Ian’s up there, though.)

Back when I still owned vinyl, I had every album up to Sonic Temple, every EP, every single, every remix. My memorabilia box would probably fetch me some serious eBay coin, except it burned in the fire — kind of fitting, considering it contained at least one Fire Woman metal badge. And also lots of Billy Duffy’s guitar picks. This still pisses me off.

And so I feel kind of bad that I made fun of Ian Astbury and his cupcake love. Especially with new music out, two rocking tracks that prove The Cult may age, but their power, their energy, just gets better with time.

The new album, a “capsule,” is a mini-recording, self-released, and produced by Chris Goss, the mastermind behind one of my other favourite bands, Masters of Reality. Goss also produced Astbury’s underappreciated solo album, which has some amazing not-quite-Cult-but-amazing tracks on it. I bought Steve Jones’ Fire and Gasoline, for crying out loud. Oh, and I still play that Holy Barbarians album regularly, too, and the song he did on Slash’s solo CD this year is my favourite on the record.

In other words, Ian Astbury is my hero. And so, tonight, I ate a cupcake. It had pink icing and a plastic Thomas the Tank Engine stuck to it. It was very sweet, and while I didn’t feel very rock ’n’ roll, I enjoyed every bite.

You rock, Ian Astbury. Sorry I made fun of your cupcakes.

Buy his new music here (in several formats, including on USB sticks, which is monstrously cool). Also, here’s some old stuff you may not know, but should.

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Music Review: Masters of Reality

October 2, 2008

I can’t really call the Masters of Reality a band. It’s a guy. But singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Chris Goss has managed to surround himself with an ever-shifting array of wicked little sidemen, and has crafted some of the best new classic hard rock of the past two decades. Every album is different, and every song is different, from party-time hard rock to gentle ballads, from psychedelic sonic tapestries to jam-based guitar freakouts, and also a song about riding a bicycle around at night.

Actually, it’s been 20 years since I first found this band. I’d never heard of them, but the crazy-ass LP cover of the band’s self-titled debut caught my eye in a record store, so I bought it, put it on, and heard the butt-smacking sonic barrage of a short intro called Theme For The Scientist Of The Invisible, followed by the crunchy chordwork of a track called Domino.

I don’t know why Steven Seagal is in this video. Sorry about that.

That disc, along with Blue Oyster Cult’s Imaginos, was the soundtrack of that summer, my last summer as a teenager. I can still bring those hot months back by popping either one of these albums on the turntable … well, clicking on iTunes, as it were.

But then … nothing. Grunge happened, and this kind of music faded out, and in a pre-Internet world, finding out whatever happened to the Masters was pretty much impossible. The first album wasn’t a hit. They vanished.

So I was stunned five years later when the Masters of Reality re-emerged, this time with a new lineup that included Ginger Baker on drums, with a disc called Sunrise on the Sufferbus. This was an entirely different animal, a melodic pop-rock album, but still a total winner. It was new, it wasn’t grungy and it had Ginger Baker, that overly distilled English drum legend, who sort of raps through a great little track called T.U.S.A., which is all about how he can’t get decent tea in the States.

Things were quiet for a few years before How High The Moon, a live disc recorded at the Viper Room in L.A., roared forth, and man, what an epic. A thundering new version of The Blue Garden (from the first album) accompanied by a gorgeous tune called Jindalie Jindalie, sung by Scott Weiland of STP … this is one of the best live discs ever made.

After that, things got a little strange. Goss retreated to the Palm Desert, where he produced acts like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Cult singer Ian Astbury. A new Masters album comes out every couple of years; they’re more experimental, far more challenging, but still rock nicely. And Goss’s understated vocals have gotten stronger as the years wear on.

I don’t know anyone who’s even heard of this band, but I try to turn new people on every chance I get. It usually works. People hear songs like John Brown, Kill the King, Ants in the Kitchen or Jody Sings and they say “Who ARE these guys?”

So trust me on this one. If you come across the Masters anywhere, especially the first three discs, give them a shot. You will rock.

Discography:

  • Masters of Reality (aka The Blue Garden), 1988
  • Sunrise on the Sufferbus, 1993
  • How High The Moon, 1997
  • Welcome to the Western Lodge, 1999
  • Deep in the Hole, 2001
  • Flak n Flight, 2003
  • Give Us Barabbas, 2004
  • Pine/Cross Dover, 2008

The gatefold cover to the original vinyl debut album,
the image that sucked me in.