Danko Jones – Bring on The Mountain

DANKO JONES
‘Bring on The Mountain DVD’

[Bad Taste]

Formed in Toronto in the mid-Nineties the Canadian trio Danko Jones have been belting out their own punked up homage to the golden years of harder than hard, hard hard rock ever since, with half a dozen albums to their name, and a solid fan base at home, and in mainland Europe.

The main feature of this expansive 2x DVD package is the rockumentary ‘Bring On The Mountain’ where mainstays, and band founders, Danko Jones (vocals/guitar) and bassist John ‘JC’ Calabrese, talk us through the bands history. Format wise, this is a pretty standard setup, as the groups members and their inner circle of crew, soundmen, producers, et al, spill the beans on the ups and downs they’ve experienced over the years. What I liked was, the DJ guys come across as really regular fellas, who primarily let their music do the talking, and whose only ‘gimmick’ as such is the bellowing self-testifying witticisms of front man Danko, a man blessed with a booming set of vocal pipes, and endless stash of one liners and tongue in cheek innuendo. Politically correct they are not, but, as we’re reminded, in the timeless words of Nigel Tufnel… “What’s wrong with bein’ sexy?”

The key message of the DJ story is they’ve gotten where they have through sheer hard work, following the dictate of AC/DC that it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna Rock’n’Roll. Danko and JC have dedicated themselves to the cause, forgoing the 9 to 5, and keeping their heads above water between tours and recording, by working low pay jobs. When it comes to releasing music, the band refuse to sign to any label that would see them relinquishing their publishing rights. A very smart decision, and one a lot of bands over the years will have regretted not doing themselves. Not all members have shared the Danko vision, and at least half a dozen drummers have fallen by the wayside, but as the 90minutes draw to a conclusion there is a positive note with the addition of former Rocket From The Crypt drummer Atom Willard, who’s also served time in The Offspring, and Angels and Airwaves. This solidified line up has been recording a brand new album, and get ready to take to the road again.

Also on Disc One, is a 20minute short film that sees the Danko boys starring in a short thriller that features a host of cameos including Lemmy, Mike Watt, Selma Blair and Elijah Wood. It’s a pretty predictable plot line, but buoyed by decent acting, hard jams, and nice cinematography. Disc Two collates all the bands videos and a stack of live performances, making it a great companion piece to all Danko Jones fans collections.

Words: Pete Craven

ACDC Live At River Plate DVD

(Columbia/Sony Music)

“We don’t speak very good Spanish, but we speak rock n’ roll pretty good!” screeches vocalist Brian Johnson, to roars of joy from a 65,000-strong Argentinean crowd that have waited thirteen years for AC/DC’s return to Buenos Aires. Cheesy? Clichéd? Oh please, this is AC/DC; a band for whom any idea of musical evolution has long been pushed aside in favour of a seemingly endless (but fruitful) quest for the ultimate riff. They’ve always been masters of musical economy, and if the likes of ‘Shoot To Thrill’ and ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ don’t make you dust off your air guitar, you may as well stop reading now.

Pretty much the only surprise on offer here is just how good the band sound after all these years. Long at home in a stadium environment, they know exactly what their audience wants, and following a suitably explosive intro of ‘Rock N’ Roll Train’ (complete with pyro and wrecked locomotive backdrop), the classics come thick and fast. ‘T.N.T.’; ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’; ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ – all of them sounding twice as monolithic as they do on record. At the centre of it all, of course, is lead guitarist and all-round AC/DC icon Angus Young, and tonight he doesn’t disappoint; be it stripping down to his boxers for the sleazy blues of ‘The Jack’, duckwalking along the ego ramp for ‘Hell’s Bells’ or unleashing an impressive solo finale to ‘Let There Be Rock’.

No small credit is due to the Argentinean fans who, at every step, uphold Latin Americans’ reputation for being among the most enthusiastic and devoted rock/metal fans in the world. A handful of them are interviewed on the otherwise fairly redundant ‘Extras’ section of the disc; among them are folks who sport all manner of AC/DC tattoos and have travelled from all over the continent (and beyond) to witness the show. In the excitement stakes, a kid on Christmas morning has nothing on these guys, and as they howl along deliriously to the iconic riff of ‘Back In Black’, you can’t help but wish you’d been there to soak up the atmosphere.

It’s clear that AC/DC’s knack for gut-level, fist-pumping hard rock anthems has rendered them impervious to such trivialities as musical trends or generation gaps. Whether ‘Live At River Plate’ lives up to the band’s classic ‘Live At Donington’ DVD is a moot point, but it does prove that even though these dinosaurs are getting on a bit, it’s still thrilling to watch them go in for the kill.

Alex Gosman

The Big Four

Metallica/Megadeth/Slayer/Anthrax
Sonisphere: The Big 4 Live From Sofia, Bulgaria
(Universal)

“This is a celebration, man! These bands have been together almost 30 years, and we’re all still alive, still on the road!”  Metallica’s James Hetfield declares to the 50,000-odd Sofia crowd. Indeed, what with the various personal troubles that all four of thrash metal’s leading lights have weathered over the years, combined with the genre’s relative decline in popularity during the 1990s, it’s amazing that they’ve all survived long enough to finally unite for this summer 2010 jaunt across eastern Europe. The performances themselves, you’ll be pleased to hear, prove that these thrash veterans are in particularly rude health.

Anthrax have had more than their fair share of internal turmoil lately, but they seem to have stabilised with the return of Joey Belladonna to the fold. They blast through the likes of ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and ‘Antisocial’ with typical enthusiasm and gonzoid charm. Torrential rain accompanies the arrival of Megadeth, but neither band nor crowd are deterred in the slightest, the former unleashing a slew of their finest efforts as the latter mosh along in multi-coloured rain coats. The return of long-serving bassist Dave Ellefson has clearly rejuvenated Mustaine’s crew, and they still impress on technicality alone.

Slayer, meanwhile, just get on with being their usual hyper-speedy, musically brutal and lyrically sinister selves. Vocalist/bassist Tom Araya has recently recovered from back surgery, but his enraged howl still hits the target on classics like ‘War Ensemble’ and ‘Raining Blood’, whilst the more recent ‘Hate Worldwide’ shows that his band aren’t going soft in their increasingly old age.

Metallica, of course, have been masters of this stadium lark for years now, and tonight they rise to the occasion in typically grandiose style; flanked by countless pyrotechnics as the crowd roar themselves hoarse to ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Blackened’ and a suitably epic ‘Master Of Puppets’. A couple of ‘Death Magnetic’ songs help to keep things fresh, but the real treat is saved for the encore – namely, an all-star, 4-band rendition of Diamond Head’s NWOBHM classic ‘Am I Evil?’, with Hetfield, Belladonna and Mustaine trading vocals, and each drummer with their own snare. It’s quite a spectacle; one very much in keeping with the spirit of the day, and everyone involved is clearly enjoying themselves.

There’s also a 45-minute documentary that focuses on the preparations for the show, and on various members of the bands before and after they play their sets. It’s worth a look, if only because it really captures the sense of occasion. Here’s hoping that such a show will soon be repeated on UK soil; until then, this is a great document of a very special day for the pioneers of thrash metal.

Alex Gosman

Doomtree Blowout – DVD

Doomtree Records

The Doomtree crew hail from Minneapolis and consist of 5 rappers – P.O.S., Sims, Cecil Otter, Dessa and Mike Mictlan; 3 producers – Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger and MK Larada and a turntablist – Turbo Nemesis.

Having grown in stature in their home town, they put on a concert in December 2005, named the Doomtree Blowout, which was held at the Varsity Theatre. The year after that, they moved up to the legendary First Avenue for their second annual blowout, which is documented in this DVD.

As well as incredible live footage from the event, including a full run of the interval, which saw the best breakers in the Twin Cities hit the stage as MK Larada stepped to the decks, the DVD features every video the crew has made to this point. Videos featuring yours truly as a bellhop, clown make up, old cars, enormous amounts of bikes and even animation, there is so much to enjoy, it gets to the point of being ridiculous.

Not only is there live footage and videos, but you get a whole heap of extras too. From Turbo taking 20 minutes to tell a story that could have been told in 2 [honestly, one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen] to the incredibly inventive previews made for the release of the crew’s debut collective album, you will be glued to the screen peaking at it all.

But to get a real idea of what makes these cats tick, there is a documentary made about the lead in to the Blowout, which goes backstage and speak to all the members, giving their history, their passion and their will to make each show the best it can possibly be. If there was any justice in the world, this lot would be raking it in, but for now, this DVD is good enough to tide you over. A must have.

Abjekt [can you guess which Londoner made the final cut of the doc? Hmmm?]

Channel 3 – “One More for all My True Friends”

TKO Records

Hailing from the one time “thriving dairy community” of Cerritos in suburban Los Angeles, Channel 3 were among the multitude of bands that made up the Punk explosion which spread thru Southern California like wild fire at the dawn of the Eighties…

This documentary is based around interviews with CH3’s founding members Mike Magrann and Kimm Gardner that charts their friendship since school and spending the early Seventies riding dirt bikes and cutting their musical chops on Hard Rock. A eureka moment arrived when they discovered the tiny and vibrant Hollywood Punk scene… it was the kick up the rear they needed to pick up some instruments and form a band of their own. And after only a few gigs they got a big break when Robbie Fields, owner of Posh Boy Records (which put out the earliest singles by Agent Orange, Social Distortion and T.S.O.L) approached the band on the strength of a demo tape that’d been past on to him. The rest as they say is history… with CH3 sticking out a number of highly influential records, touring the USA, and gaining a big following in the UK thanks to their Posh Boy releases getting licensed to No Future Records, home at the time to Blitz, Partisans and Peter and the Test Tube Babies.

As the Eighties rumbled on band members came and went, and the band were drawn increasingly towards a harder rocking sound… the hair grew, the cowboy boots came out… and after chasing a half-shot at the big time the wheels came off the wagon, and CH3 were history. In the mid-Nineties they regrouped and still exist to this day. I saw them in London a few years back and they were bloody excellent.

Charting the CH3 story, the interviews are spliced with comments from former band members and other cohorts, as well as live footage, inc. a terrific set filmed by Target Video, tons of photos, flyers… and even a few words with Mike’s Mum… ahhh! It’s an informative format that doesn’t really throw up any major surprises, but what I really liked about this DVD was the total down to earth attitude of Kimm and Mike. Often in documentaries the subjects can come across as a bit phoney, look at the past thru rose tinted glasses, and present day Punk with a certain degree of distain. But these two come across as genuinely nice guys who are very open about their decent upbringings and being Grade ‘A’ students, and were music nuts who happened to get in to Punk Rock at such an important time. They are very self-depreciating about the achievements of CH3 but also realistic on the subject of their slide and eventual demise. And most important they are still friends, who now have good steady jobs, families, and when they can fit it in still find time to crank out their powerful melodic Punk songs and sink a few brews.

There’s also an ‘bonus’ CD containing a high quality gig recording of CH3 at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach in 2006, which forms a bulk of the present day live footage in the film. All adds up to a very entertaining package, well worth checking out.

Pete Craven

The Briefs – The Greatest Story Ever Told

(BYO Records)
www.myspace.com/thebriefs

A very neat DVD/CD package from Seattle’s Briefs, whose rip-roaring live sets and ear-popping recorded output have kept me entertained for the past few years. They are presently on a hiatus, but this DVD documents their story… so far. Following the traditional formula of band members (and friends / cohorts) being interviewed, with spliced live footage, The Briefs story evolves to chronicle their emergence in late Nineties drug-hung-over Seattle, playing their catchy brand of ’77 Punk in small bars and coffee shops/cafes, sticking out a single, and, as confidence grew, spread their wings and gigged further and further from home.

With the release of debut album “Hit after Hit” (Dirtnap Records) The Briefs found themselves very much in demand from Major Labels, and after a soiree at LA’s Viper Room inked a deal with Interscope Records (an arm of the Universal Music Group) A new album was recorded with a ‘hot shot‘ English producer (funnily enough an old school friend of mine) but Interscope stalled and stalled on the release, and then decided they would not be releasing it. The Briefs members for the most part describe this period as strange; initially being courted by the ‘Majors‘, and then frustrated by their chosen Labels choice of producer, and attempts at Management manipulation, and decreasing levels of support. I don’t think in reality they were so naïve to the situation they signed up to, and like any band that takes this choice expects fame and fortune. If ever there was a lesson in getting your fingers burned by a Major Record Label, then The Briefs torrid experience is it.

To their credit they kept on touring hard all through the record label debacle, and (post legal wrangling / Label release) managed to get picked up by independent BYO Records – a more fruitful relationship that has seen the release of two albums to date. The DVD is charged with stacks of extras, inc. music videos and live footage, and additionally there is a most rocking audio CD of a live-to-air Peel session.

Pete Craven

Well Deep DVD

Ten years is quite a long time really. Ten years ago from now, Tony Blair had just come into power promising all sorts, Biggie was shot dead, Princess Di died and Nintendo brought out the N64. A long time has passed since then but one thing that has remained a constant since all those events took place is the continued brilliance of Big Dada.

The label was started by hip hop journalist Will Ashon as an imprint of the ever-popular and boundary pushing Ninja Tune and made sure that everyone knew it wasn’t a label for British hip hop, it was a British label which had hip hop on it. In the ten years it has been going, Big Dada has put out amazing record after amazing record and this DVD is a testament to that fact.

A 30 minute documentary which features Diplo, Mike Ladd, Juice Aleem, Roots Manuva, TTC, Ty and more talking about why they love their home label is an interesting and informative watch allowing the artists to express both their gratitude for being given a chance to shine and also their feelings on why the label has thrived so much.

It’s not just the documentary that you get with this DVD however, you get every single video ever released by the label, around 30 in all, for your viewing pleasure. See Roots Manuva go back to school for Witness (1 Hope), Infinitive LivezAdventure Of A Lactating Man [if you’ve not seen this, get ready for weirdness] and other classic joints. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a half hour megamix by System-D 128 of the videos which packs a real punch.

Big Dada has gone from strength to strength in its 10 years and the signs on this brilliant DVD are that there is a hell of a lot more to come. Happy Birthday BD, long may you continue!

Abjekt

Dresden Dolls – DVD

Live At The Roundhouse: London
(Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Since joining forces as the Dresden Dolls at the turn of the decade, singer/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione have gained a deeply loyal following with songs like ‘Backstabber‘ and ‘Coin Operated Boy‘; a mix of art-punk and cabaret influences. Small wonder, then, that their fans are a gaudily dressed, oft-costumed bunch, whom can always be relied on to come out to play when the Dolls are in town.

In November 2006, the band played two nights at London’s newly refurbished Camden Roundhouse, where they invited several of their performance artist friends along to create a wonderfully bizarre and entertaining event that highlighted the theatrical background of their music. Unfortunately, the footage of this aspect of the evening is fairly limited; just a handful of interviews with various performers, and a few clips of them in action.

Still, these were ultimately Dresden Dolls show, and the footage of the band’s live set (included in its entirety) is of superb quality. Considering that a pianist and a drummer hardly equate to a traditional rock band set-up, the duo turn in a raucous, vivacious performance; with highlights including an adrenaline-fuelled romp through ‘Modern Moonlight‘ , a stripped-down cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World‘, and a clutch of performers joining the band for backing vocals on ‘The Jeep Song‘.

As a document of the Dresden Dolls live experience, ‘Live At The Roundhouse‘ does a fine job, but it fails to truly capture the spirit of these two very special nights. This time, you really did have to be there.

Alex Gosman

Roadrunner Roadrage 2007 DVD

The problem with compilations – be it on CD or DVD – is that if not done correctly they can present themselves as a rather shocking waste of time and money.

As luck would have it, the latest installment of the annual Roadrunner Roadrage DVD series is in fact not one of these, presenting genuine value for money and enough hard rocking action to give you whiplash. There may be a severe lack of extras here – you’re literally getting nothing but the videos listed on the back of the case – but it still amounts to one hell of a heavy metal marathon.

Featuring videos from the likes of metal gods Machine Head, thrash upstarts Trivium, hard rocking veterans Megadeth, pop-punk upstarts Madina Lake, sword-toting battle lords 3 Inches Of Blood and more, Roadrage 2007 looks set to provide metalheads across the UK with yet another excuse never to leave their bedroom. For a bit.

The DVD is available exclusively via Play.com for the bargain price of £5.99, so take your finger out of your ass and get clicking. Wash your hands first, mind.

Ryan Bird

Coldcut – Sound Mirrors DVD

(Ninja Tune)

Coldcut have always produced innovative music, splicing genres from all parts of the tuneful spectrum, and with this DVD release, they do all that and more. This DVD, which stands alongside their Sound Mirrors album features not only a DVD, but a remix CD.

So, let’s bump the CD quickly – DJ Kentaro hauls arse with his energetic drum n bass remix of ETUC, Spank Rock come in with a typically bassy and ballsy remix of True Skool, The Qemists give their own particular fuzzy and fast paced version of Everything Is Under Control and even UK rapper Sway puts his slant on True Skool. With that sort of calibre on the remix tip, you know it’s worth checking out.

Right then, onto the DVD. Every song on the album has got its visual counterpart, and every single video can stand out on its own as a terrific piece of art. But what makes this DVD such a valuable one is that every video really does fit the feel of the song its portraying and when watched in full, you are taken all over the place senses-wise.

From the charismatic appearance of Roots Manuva on the cover-art styled video of True Skool to the animation which bounces along to the thump of the bass in Just For The Kick to the mosaic backdrop of A Whistle And A Prayer, the individual styles all give the tracks another dimension.

Everything Is Under Control‘s video, which moves on a “Big Brother” style theme, runs close to the wire, showing masked riot police beating innocent people. The main character in the video is running away, trying to figure out what is going on whilst the constant flashing of the message that everything is under control tries to force its way into his consciousness.

The best video of the collection is the masterful Sound Mirrors. It begins in a similar vein to Massive Attack’s Teardrop, with its slow burning, gloomy atmospherics. Then the mesmeric turning of the light grabs your attention and slowly but surely, jelly fish evolve and are lit up against the bleak backdrop. Eventually they work their way up to the surface and onto a giant dish, which then transmits their light up to the sky.

If you’re a fan of Coldcut, then this is a must-buy as it shows just how malleable their music can be. But even if you’re not in love with the music, the videos are enough to warrant a purchase, each holding its own tiny piece of glory amongst the others.

Abjekt