This year was the most difficult year of my life. Not for any bad reasons, but I’d been used to doing my own thing for so long and all of the sudden, in August, I had a daughter who told me, “Fuck you and fuck your life. I own you now.” My own band, Mass Driver, released an album and a live EP, as well as tore down stages here in Knoxville, but I just didn’t get out to heavy shows as much or dig into as many new records as I’d liked.
So, in hindsight, it was actually sort of a down year for me in rock ‘n’ roll, but there were a few things worthy of note; a few records and moments that I remain excited about.
Behold this mishmash of moments that made “Rock ‘n’ roll 2014” what it was.
The Shrine Bless Off. I’ve always liked anything Southern California and these guys continue to trod all over the planet, bringing the sounds of SoCal punk and hard rock to the masses. The newest release, Bless Off is a rad blend of Black Flag and Black Sabbath and it’s played with conviction. They’ve gone the trendy route and released this on cassette too, a revival I could do without as tapes are shit and anyone who grew up with them knows it. But aside from all that, their live show is a corker, they love to skate pools and rip shit-hot guitar solos. AND, they’re young guys too, so hopefully, we’ll have them around for many years to come.
Fu Manchu Gigantoid. For us old fans, every FU release is met with mixed feelings. Part of us wishes the band would bag the aggro/punk buzz they’ve adopted since ’02 or so, and go back to the laid-back, SoCal vibe. The other part is just happy the band is still around, cranking out the fuzzy riffs, and being the onstage bulldozer we’ve come to appreciate. Gigantoid, oddly enough, is a little bit of all of that. Sure, it’s still really aggressive and fast, but there’s more spaciness and groove than we’ve heard in a while; surely a result of touring the older, reissued, albums In Search Of… and The Action Is Go. Gigantoid, while not a classic release, is a good release with great moments and it finds the band energized and having fun; which is what it’s all about.
Ed Mundell’s Ultra-Electric, Mega-Galactic EP release. I love anything Ed’s involved in as it’s always totally pro, the tones are stellar, and I know I’m gonna be able to steal a guitar lick or two. This record was no exception and although it featured some vocals, it was still a guitar record and that’s what I like best. Big rock guitar. It was also a pleasure to receive a copy for free from Ed and his wife, Karen, through their RockMedia enterprise and an even bigger pleasure to be able to write about it.
Acid King finished a new album. Yes. It’s been, what, a decade since Lori and the guys released III? Good to hear it’s in the can and I’ll be first in line to pick it up. OFF! Wasted Years record was stellar, with Keith Morris showing that, when the world is this fucked, you don’t have to be young to play punk rock convincingly. I got the chance to write about the new Steak record, Slab City, and found it to be a great desert rock record; written and played with absolute reverence to the gods, Kyuss. The Supersuckers released Get The Hell in January and it was a pretty decent return to form after the overly slick dud, Get It Together. The guitar tones are super, wiith their Les Pauls plugged into Satellite amps and the speed and attitude are back. The band recently rolled past the quarter-century mark, and despite various setbacks that would kill off most bands, they’ve still got a penchant for irreverence and the devil. Not bad.
An honorable mention in guitar rock releases this year for me is Ted Nugent’s Shut Up And Jam. The Nuge is, well, The Nuge, but you can’t deny that he’s here to rock and this record is just that. Usually, these classic rock veterans seem to settle down with age, but thanks to his clean and sober lifestyle and consumption of a metric shit-ton of BBQ, Nugent is as wild as ever. Shut Up And Jam is a big, loud rhythm and blues, boogie record that’s every bit as ballsy as anything he’s ever done. Teddy has a penchant for twang, as do I, and these songs are comically over-the-top with riffs and licks and also contain lyrical content just as laughable. I always love artists who know what they do, do it, and won’t apologize a bit for it. Stand for something; pick a side; be polarizing. It’s refreshing, if nothing else.
In January, I caught Lionize at the NV Club in Knoxville, Tennessee on New Year’s Eve. Technically, it was 12/31/13, but the show spilled over to the new year, so I’m counting it. These guys tour relentlessly under the wing of Clutch and as a bigger Clutch fan, it can be annoying. BUT, a promoter friend of mine is a HUGE Lionize fan and he booked them for himself, for his big NYE bash, and it kicked off Lionize’s own touring cycle. And they were good; without getting to see Clutch blow them off stage after the set, Lionize provided a pretty tight set of rock, reggae, and soul that made 2014 enter on a good note. Nate Bergman’s voice is really pleasant to listen to and the songs are well crafted. I lacked the cash to pickup their latest record, Jetpack Soundtrack, but I plan on it as soon as I remember.
But, all of that said, by far the coolest thing of my “Rock ‘n’ roll 2014” was meeting Scott Hill. I wouldn’t cross a street to meet most anyone in Hollywood, but Scott Hill from the almighty and powerful Fu? Yes. Fu Manchu is my favorite band of all time. A combination of everything I love and grew up with, wrapped up into one band that happened to come along at a pivotal time in my life. I’m damn-near a moderator on their message boards and have been put on a guest list a time or two, but I’d never spoken to them. It was too risky.
But, now as a grown-ass man, I figured it was time. So some friends and I headed south on I-75, scarfed down a burger at the legendary Vortex, and saw Fu Manchu blow it up at The Earl in Atlanta. After the show, I grabbed my Fender Jaguar I’d outfitted to be like Hill’s, and after some reassuring social media interaction, I’m proud to say that I got it signed, and Scott was every bit as California-cool as I’d hoped. We chatted it up about guitars, touring, surfing, and being dads. It was as good as a fanboy could have wanted.
That’s the thing about that. Here at the Fulton Manor, we’re getting life figured out, so I’m excited about what 2015 will bring. As far as I can see, heavy rock ‘n’ roll is thriving and I’m excited and honored to be a tiny, tiny speck in it’s world. Remember: It is that important. XOXO Drew
Scribed by: Drew Fulton