"Planet of Blood"
The Ded Bugs, IBC Shadows Music
It's hard to believe that the Ded Bugs have been around long enough to record four, full-length records and log another half-dozen appearances on compilations and/or videos. Their most recent, "Planet of Blood," is arguably the band's best, ranking right there with 1999's power-pop excursion, "Sugar coated SNOT POPS for kids," a really fun, summery CD. As with all the group's releases, songwriting and vocals are split in equal measures between the four Bugs: guitarists Matt Bug and Jeff Devulhead, bassist D.A.V.E. and drummer Menace the Dennis.
Fueled by a love of pop culture and energized by loud, fast rock'n'roll, the band is putting together a sound that's equal parts smarmy, one-eyebrow-wrinkled humor and classic pop, run through a time machine into 1979. Mixing the occasional metal rave-up with a sing-along chorus, the band's expert at piecing together their influences, while maintaining an original take on life. Maintaining the ability to keep "Spiderman" cartoons at the center of your art's not something everyone can do.
Luckily, the Ded Bugs can.
The Urge with Ulcer, ResistAll and Pomeroy
Friday, December 21
Everyone who followed the progress of the Urge had their own theory on why the group never quite broke through to the next level. They have their own favorite era of the band, their own favorite songs. Those kinds of separations happen after a group's been working the scene for nearly 15 years.
I'll pass on making any observations on the specifics of the show, just noting two things. One: the pit was massive. Bouncers were continually driving back people who'd gathered on the ramps, trying to get into the churning mass at the foot of the stage. It ultimately became a cat-and-mouse game. Enough massing, a push back. Good fun, no one got hurt. And, two: it's amazing to see a St. Louis band engender this much pride from the hometown. For whatever reason, other groups have punched through to label deals or scored radio hits. But none ever got this kind of consistent, year-in, year-out, positive feedback.
For that reason alone, it was special being in the building for any of these three nights. It was a celebration of the band, sure, but also of a band that came... from... here. Not to sound sappy, but there's something remarkable about that. The energy was so real. Bravo for the band and their fans.
Sunday, December 23 (w/ Fred Early) and Tuesday, December 25 (w/ the Ambassadors)
The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill
Two very different nights for the St. Louis near-legends, who performed to a fuller house on the first evening despite The Urge playing the finale of their three-night, sold-out shows down the block. The second night for The Unconscious, meanwhile, drew about a half-full Duck Room, with a set that heated up as the night went along.
Both evenings featured heaping helpings of Unconscious music, with originals and the covers that the group adopted as their own. At their peak, few St. Louis bands had the ability to light up an audience like them, moving people to the dance floor with a mere wink-and-nod. And while the crowd's older and maybe a bit less party-centric, the band's still got the chops to make their formula work. (Some folks who hadn't seen the band before mentioned the horn section of Paul Matulef and John Covelli as the real linchpins to the group's sound, not necessarily mercurial frontman Mike Apirion. Interesting.)
The group didn't have a discussed CD in place, but may be releasing sometime in early 2002, including the entirety of their first cassette release and a batch of live material from 2000's reunion show at the Pageant. Check their website for details: www.theunconscious.com.
Chuck Norman Party for the Handicapped
Sunday, December 23
Millennium Hotel Grand Ballroom
What can you say?
One year later, one decade later. Doesn't really matter. Things don't change much at Chuck Norman's annual parties, with the usual fare of dancing women and a big-band swing. The audience, milling about the room, flitting from table-to-table, pretty well represent the wide appeal of WGNU 920 AM, with a heavy emphasis on folks in the autumns and winters of their lives. Some might buy a beer in the lobby, more will bring their own. It's tradition.
Kids in Raggedy Anne outfits. Creepy cats with Southern flags pinned to their lapels. Hairstyles from every era, dating back to the 1920s and probably beyond. For pure people-watching, the Chuck Norman Party hosted by the man, himself, holding court in the center of the room is the finest one-day gawk in all of town. A bargain at twice the price.
Brew and View: Russ Meyer
Thursday, December 27
Way Out Club
Say this about Camel: they do help bring some entertainment to life in local clubs. You can certainly cast a wary eye to the idea of cigarette manufacturers having so much influence over... okay, you get the idea. Preamble over.
It was unequivocally funny to drive up to the Way Out on a Thursday night and see a giant video screen onstage, with some of Russ Meyer's finest actresses strutting their stuff. Culled from proprietor Bob Putnam's personal collection, movies like "Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens" and "Common Law Cabin" played to a small, but enthusiastic, house.
Movies in bars. The concept works so, so well in other cities. Maybe, someday, it'll catch on here, too. If so, the Way Out and Frederick's will have done the heavy lifting. With a little help from Camel.
"Head in a Milk Bottle" Vol. 2 #2
PO Box 15125
St. Louis, MO 63110
It's refreshing to see a St. Louis music zine make it to issue two, especially one that delivers the qualities exhibited by HIAMB: a strong, central focus; a quality look and design; lots of ads (hey, in zines, the ads are often as informative as the text); and a lively style, often in the Q/A format.
Publisher Bob Thurmond and chief second Kopper (of KDHX's "The Wayback Machine") offer up a nice second edition, with truly amusing interviews with local horror-maker Eric Stanze (interviewed by Matt Meyer, who contributed our current "Media Shoegaze" piece); Screamin' Mee-Mee/recluse Bruce Cole; and the Cripplers, who've been building a strong rep playing St. Louis stages.
Even when the music's not really my cup of tea, the enthusiasm of the writing staff makes me want to take a flyer. The energy just about jumps off the page. Good stuff.
Bob's Scratchy Records
KDHX, 88.1 FM
Tuesdays, 12-2 p.m.
Hosted by noted local photographer and musician Bob Reuter, this show goes far beyond the tracks that you might expect to play. His live gigs, which blend folk, rock and country would suggest some of the songs that he plays on a weekly basis, though the way they're mixed-up indicates that he's comfortable in any number of genres. On December 18, for example (a show admittedly heavy on the seasonal fare), Reuter went through a setlist comprised of exactly these artists: Kamikaze Cowboy, ? and the Mysterians, Mighty Clouds of Joy, T-Rex, The Moonglows, Robert Pete Williams, The Cramps, Rod Stewart, the cast of "Don't Play Us Cheap," The Mississippi Sheiks, Humble Pie, Black Pearl, John Sebastian, JJ Jackson, The Staples Singers, Uncle Tupelo, Martin Carthy, David Bowie/Bing Crosby, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, the Kinks, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Burnette and the Rock'n'Roll Trio, Devo, Mission of Burma, Kamikaze Cowboy, Climber, the Kings, Beatles, George Thoroughgood.