Popular Music 2006 Through !*@#Exclaim! (or, The Stench of Redemption)

There’s a big shopping mall in the suburb of Vancouver near where I work.  Around noon every day I mosey on over there to have lunch and a break from the office.

Often I pick up a free throwaway tabloid newsprint magazine on the music scene called exclaim! (or as stated on the cover page                          “!*@#EXCLAIM!”), published in Toronto, Canada.  It’s well written and comprehensive enough to be aimed at a college audience or young musicians.  I’m just a little bit older than that now, but I still enjoy reading about where pop/rock is these days.  This little magazine goes further afield than I do though…

The latest issue provides its picks of 2006 in different categories along with its usual raft of music reviews.  I thought I would ruminate on some of those and also make this an appreciative review of this shopping mall periodical.

My own musical biases may be indicated by my personal three top albums of the last 5 years or so: Welcome Interstate Managers (2003) by Fountains of Wayne, Yours, Mine and Ours (2003) by The Pernice Brothers, and “The Green Album” (2001) by Weezer.  These three shine lyrically and melodically, the people sing like they mean it, and they rock on top of everything else, which is all I basically ask for.

But to give you a small taste of different aspects of the current music industry as portrayed in exclaim!, here’s some ad copy for one album of many distributed by a company in Quebec.  The band is called Deicide.  The title is The Stench of Redemption.  Here’s what they say:

The Stench of Redemption is the next era in the rich and long history of the band.  With the new additions of Jack Owen (Cannibal Corpse) and Ralph Santolla (Death, Iced Earth) on guitars, they are hellbent on raising the bar when it comes to brutality entwined with blasphemy.

I was so glad to hear they are working on raising that particular bar…

This is not going to be a rant about the evils of death/thrash metal or whatever that is, or the music industry in general, and I don’t want this small excerpt to create a mistaken impression of exclaim!  But I am really curious about people who like this music (or say they do).  There’s a kind of crazed rebelliousness about it.  The natural evolution of a close affinity to this music would seem to be suicide or murder, or maybe suddenly taking up a really conservative lifestyle, which might be tough to do with all the tattoos on the face.

Here are exclaim!’s 2006 top picks in the various categories they cover:

In “Electronic” number one is Scale by Herbert.  His previous claim to fame apparently was a concept album about industrial food production.

In “Hip-Hop”, we have Fishscale by Ghostface Killah.  Most hip-hop or rap just sounds like prison music to me, but the reviewer calls this album “a head-spinning marvel of street story-telling,” and that’s probably where the merit of this kind of music resides.

In “Metal/Hardcore”, No Heroes by Converge takes the top spot.  (I don’t see Deicide anywhere on the list, although bands like Decapitated and Napalm Death are represented.)  One band member says of it, “I was trying to conjure up the feeling of shows we went to when we were younger.  Not the commercial hardcore shows that happen these days but basement and hall shows — raw, sweaty and very communal.”

Maybe there’s the secret attraction of this music, the coming together of the disaffected and the outcast, or those who posture as such.  Many may well sport the T-shirt I saw on a kid the other day: “All my heroes are evil.”

In the “Punk” category, the leader is Hidden World by Fucked Up.  That’s got to be the perfect punk rock band name.  A Toronto band, you can expect “a pulverizing swathe of feral cries and rasping overtones.”  I have a fondness for punk music, or at least the more poppy versions of it from bands like Treble Charger.  I admire the young energy, the sheer barn-burning, driving all-out tempo of the form.

Ah, “Folk/Country/Blues”… this is getting to be more my end of things.  Top of the list for 2006 is Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.  Unfortunately, though I know the name, I don’t know the music, which I will correct one of these days.  The reviewer says of the album, “It is where like-minded musicians have come together and worked a magic… that takes bits of Americana, bluegrass, folk and whatever other genre the musicians were channelling that day.”

At “Pop/Rock” I’m home at last, only to find that the top album picked is Return to Cookie Mountain by TV On the Radio.  I’m so out of it, I know them not.  They are described as an experimental five-piece New York band who create an “apocalyptic soundscape of buzzing guitars, urgent, clanky percussion and swooping shards of white noise through which [the singers’] soaring falsettos… fight to be heard.”  I hope it’s better than it sounds.

I am glad to see on the list Beck’s The Information, which I bought recently and like a lot, and Everything All The Time by Band of Horses, which I keep meaning to get, but haven’t yet.

Then the tabloid goes on with its regular reviews in all those same departments along with articles about Web 2.0, history of the band Pulp, and how to find a good vocal teacher.  This is a good rag.  I’m happy to report, too, that there’s a review of the Pernice Brothers new album Live A Little, although the reviewer thought that “for all the impassioned playing, it’s a little too easy to ignore.”

For anyone interested, exclaim!‘s website is: www.exclaim.ca.


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8 Comments on “Popular Music 2006 Through !*@#Exclaim! (or, The Stench of Redemption)”

  1. Eliza D Says:

    Hey Fencer – coincidentally, I was working on a post about music too when my broadband connection fizzled (lightning hit the modem). I think you are a lot more adventurous when it comes to music than me. None of the names mentioned here rings any bell at all, which is a testament to my narrow breadth of experimenting. I love the adjectives for music here though – raw, sweaty – and the description: brutality mixed with blasphemy – sounds just – well, wild.

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Eliza,

    A lot of contemporary music is pretty far out for me too. And I don’t really seem to have as much time as I’d like to listen to more of it. Not like my wild (with restraint) university days…


  3. qazse Says:

    My 16 year old guitar and cello playing son has friends whose musical interests span the genres. He has gone w/ them to Oz Fest and the Warp Tour where you will find groups such as My Chemical Romance and System of a Down. His interests run the gamut from classic rock to punk, jam, heavy, rap, blues, jazz, and eclectic. One of the interesting eclectic groups is Modest Mouse. I can hear many influences in them from Talking Heads to the Kinks.

    I am impressed by the musical openness of todays generation.

    It seems to me that the death metal is just a logical extension of rock tributaries which have developed over the years. How do you top the Sones, Zep, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, J Giels, the Ramones, Patti Smith, the Cure etc. Each generation will find a way.

    Did you ever see the movie River’s Edge. It is about a teen who chokes his girlfriend dead during sex and the cover up. The background music is very heavy. It is an extremely effective movie. (88?) Check it out if you ever get a chance.


  4. fencer Says:

    Your son playing both guitar and cello already seems quite eclectic! It sounds like you may get exposed even more to an interesting variety of music…

    I have heard of Modest Mouse, but don’t know their music. I will add them to my list of bands to check out at some time.

    Heavy metal does seem to have its traditions. Just some of it seems so over the top, makes me laugh.

    Is that the movie with River Phoenix? I noticed it but never rented, probably because it seemed rather dark subject matter. Heard it was well done, though.

  5. qazse Says:

    the vocals are often laughable but if you look at the voice as a instrument it can make sense for the particular genre. NPR’s All Thintg Considered had a piece on a woman who was a voice coach for such singers. Interesting, she has written a book about it.

    I am not sure about River but I do know the actor who was Michael J Fox’s father in Back to the Future had a big roll in it.


  6. fencer Says:

    I often wonder how the voices of some of the rawer acts, especially, manage to last. A lot of abuse to the vocal cords…


  7. bloglily Says:

    I loved these excerpts. The language of praise reminds me of the stuff you hear about wine, where apparently it’s not enough just to say, this tasted pretty good. One of my 2007 projects is to get some new superlatives — and I do believe I can use a few of these.

    I’m going to investigate YOUR 2006 favorites, by the way. They sound really worth listening to.

    And merry christmas dear Mike. (Also, a beautiful new year to you too.) xo, BL

  8. fencer Says:

    Hi Lily,

    Glad you came by! I was having trouble with access to your blog for some reason (maybe my browser, but yours seemed to be the only one that I couldn’t access the blue strip at the top…)

    And Merry Christmas to you and yours as well…


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