Filed under: Music
London, England hardcore darlings Gallows released a full album stream of their new, upcoming self-titled record this week. This record will be their first full-length with their still relatively new (but not so shiny) frontman Wade MacNeal, formerly of Alexisonfire and decidedly not British. MacNeal replaced original Gallows frontman Frank Carter just over a year ago and has since brought his biting growl to the band’s Black Flag meets Turbonegro aesthetic with the 2011 EP Death is Birth and this new full length. However, as I sit here and listen to this latest effort from the band, I can’t help but feel like something crucial is missing from the music that was undeniable before.
I first fell in love with the band’s sound at the height of my “almost exclusively listening to angry music phase” (or summer 2007 for those not in possession of an updated Joshicon). It was a boiling summer day in Montreal and I was attending that lovable crossroads of commercialism, tight pants and power chords known at the Vans Warped Tour for the fourth summer in a row. Gallows had been the buzz band in the commercial hardcore scene for a few months at that point, having just signed a cushy distro deal with Epitaph and getting their debut full length Orchestra of Wolves a proper North American release. They took the stage in the late afternoon while Flogging Molly played in the distance and it became immediately clear to me that this would be an entirely different set than any I had taken in earlier in the day. These guys were angry. Not radio friendly, 4/4 time angry that so many other bands were, they were PISSED. They were pissed it was hot, they were pissed that they were sharing a bill with Cute is What We Aim For and they were seemingly pissed to be playing a show in Montreal in the first place.
Or rather, at least Frank Carter was.
As Carter leapt off the stage and performed most of the set from within the pit himself (something I would later find out was his trademark), it was clear that every syllable that emerged out of his sneering maw was intentionally aimed at some person or idea that he found deplorable and in his mind, the louder he screamed the more those people and ideas trembled. And who knows, maybe they did. The honesty and integrity that spewed from him were as sharp as the tattoos that covered his body and his bandmates not only fed off his energy, but were made better for it. As a fan, I was sold. Hook, line and sinker.
I saw Gallows again several months later in New York City opening for Bad Religion at the cavernous Nokia Theater in Times Square. However this time, the tone was shifted. By the time they launched into their second song it was clear that something was very wrong…or rather, more than a few things were right because this time Carter was unquestionable happy. He loved that he was opening for one of his idols, he loved that he was playing in a nice, climate controlled venue and he liked that he was in New York City.
And the set was noticeably lackluster.
It was at this point that I began to formulate a theory about Gallows’ success that I wouldn’t really be able to confirm until several years later. That said, the third and fourth time I saw the band were must more in tune with the first time. After all, being forced to play a show on what was supposed to be their off day because This Is Hell couldn’t cross the border (third) and sharing a bill with Jefferey Starr and Brokencyde at yet another Warped Tour (fourth) would be enough to make any frontman angry, let alone Frank Carter who appeared to always hover just on the edge of “about to crack” on a good day.
It was after these two performances that I could state that Gallows success as a live band was undeniably linked to the level of Carter’s hatred of those around him at the time of that performance. If he tripped and stubbed his toe as he went on stage, that would probably result in an AMAZING set. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I really began to understand how much more their was to the situation than I imagined.
Carter left Gallows in the summer of 2011 in what appeared to be an amicable split entrenched in that oh so common trope of “creative differences” with the four members of the rhythm section (including Carter’s little brother, Steph) continuing on with MacNeal while Carter founded a new band with ex-Hope Conspiracy guitarist Jim Carrol called Pure Love. The exact nature of the music being created by the two was a closely guarded and heavily teased secret for months until the band made their live debut at London’s Bush Hall on Valentines Day 2012. (Get it? Pure Love? Valentines Day? Yuk Yuk Yuk.) Their sound was, to say the least, a departure from the sound that had built the fan bases of both men, sticking much more into areas thread by the likes of Queen and The Darkness than by Black Flag and Cancer Bats. And as Carter bounced around the stage at that initial gig, he was smiling from ear to ear as he abandoned his signature raspy howl for a tone more simple, more clean.
A few months later, Pure Love released their first single “Bury My Bones” for free download. The track, a simple arena rock anthem that skated around making an impact but never really got there, featured a repeated refrain that confirmed a lot of my suspicions stated above. With the direct, undeniable honesty I had come to expect from him, Carter cleanly states over and over that he was “so sick of singing about hate” and that “it’s never gonna make a change.” So there we have it, it seems that Carter wasn’t riled up at any given moment, but that he was perpetually on edge BECAUSE he was in Gallows. It wasn’t that he hated something that day, or week or month, it was that he hated (or was beginning to hate) being in a band that did nothing but scream and expound on the difficulties of life and that the good days (like the one I saw in New York) were the exception, not the rule.
And hey, more power to him. It takes a lot of courage to put your notoriety, not to mention your financial stability, on the line to stay true to your passions. Frank Carter wanted to play softer music, and even if that softer music isn’t quite my taste (I like softer music, just not boring softer music that sounds like The Darkness), I still say more power to him.
Which leads us back to Gallows and their reconstituted musical identity. As I listen to this new record and it’s simple and direct song structures I hear as lot that is familiar to me. Carter, Barett, Gili-Ross and Barnard are still as tight of a backline as they always were, with their rapid fire drum beat and slicing chord progressions as solid as they ever were. No, the problem here isn’t the instrumentals, its the vocals. And calling them a problem is really not entirely fair either. MacNeal is trying, he really is. His lyrics, while a little less verbose and more simplistic than Carter’s still make their point as powerfully as Carter made his. Overall, this record isn’t a BAD one. As far as modern, straight ahead hardcore goes, this is a solid A-/B+ effort. It’s quick, catchy and well structured, but it really is Gallows in name only.
Putting it simply, Wade MacNeal WANTS to be in Gallows.
He legitimately loves being a member of the band. He’s stated on several occasions that he was a fan of them with Carter fronting the band and that his primary goal in taking Carter’s old job was to stay true to what came before. At the end of the day though, he can growl, perform sets in the middle of the pit and cover himself in mud all he wants, but as long as he enjoys waking up in the morning as a member of Gallows he will never be able to reach the raw, unrelenting fury that gave the band it’s name.
Filed under: Monologues
It’s been just about four years since I started this blog and began haphazardly updating it (I think I may have averaged between 5 and 10 posts a year as a best estimate). When I started it I definitely had some intention that I can’t seem to remember since every time I returned to the blog each year I had a different intention behind it. More to the point, I think my innate to desire to assign intention and significance to my blogging to mask the vapid rants as something OTHER than vapid rants is probably what lead me to psyching myself out, ODing on my own hubris and abandoning the idea of personal journalism for a year before trying again.
Then I started to think that, rather than trying to implement a goal-based intentionality to every goddamn thing I write, why don’t I take a page out of my own book (the one I use with my students) and give myself more of a process based goal. I then started to think about the name of this blog, thoughtgrenade. I began to think that there was probably a direct corollary between the name and the content I want to be producing. I began to think there was more to the name than simply the type of attack one character used in one comic book that I read when I was fourteen (there ya go, secrets out).
So what is a thoughtgrenade?
It’s slightly more than a vapid rant since it usually stems from some aspect of the world that bothers me quite a bit (okay, so maybe that is a vapid rant, but stay with me here), particularly enough to make me want to actually write about it. While I tend to be a fairly extroverted person in general, I tend to not commit my opinions to written word all that often. Shooting your mouth off in a bar, forum or (from time to time) classroom is one thing, but putting it to text usually means you REALLY mean it, at least enough to leave a paper trail.
By that very nature, its also something that has been percolating in my mind for a while, and as such I want to put a little bit more grace into the presentation than I would any other article. A thoughtgrenade must be crafted, not vomited. I realize this may be inserting just a little too much importance on the process, but I do earnestly believe that if I am putting a piece out there that it should be the best piece it possibly can be.
Finally, a thoughtgrenade cannot be tame. Ever. Sometimes I write to make friends, sometimes the warmest, fuzziest bullshit spews from my mouth like a runny faucet. I am more or less okay committing to not doing that here. If I don’t piss someone off with what I write then I’m not doing my job right. This world is full of complacency, full of good little lambs doing what they are told. This blog is where I actively and respectfully do the opposite. This blog is my objection, my raised fist, my a’capella protest song. If I am not challenging someone with what I write, even if that someone happens to be myself, I have no business ever putting words to this digital parchment ever again.
So there you have it. Commitment, craft, challenging…thoughtgrenade.
Yeah. I like that.
Today Jews all over the world are participating in the day of mourning known as Tisha B’Av (which usually falls, as the name would suggest, on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. However due to a bit of a double booking with the sabbath is commemorated on the 10th this year.) In most circles, this day commemorates the destruction of both the first and second great temple in Jerusalem (you know, the one we still have one outer wall of that people want to kill each other over) and in modernity has taken on the added significance of mourning the senseless violence committed against Jews throughout all of history. Boiled down, its the day Jews lament the 2000+ years we’ve had a target painted on our backs, usually by fasting and other assorted means.
I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with this day for quite a while (and with most aspects of Jewish practice, but that is an entirely different story). While on the one hand I am fully on board with the whole “don’t eat to commemorate your people being consistently and often systematically persecuted and murdered by pretty much every civilization anyone can name” deal, I am also not really a fan of Jewish victimhood.
When I was younger, I was pretty openly and proudly Jewish. I also happened to be one of three (sometimes four depending on the season) Jews in a public school system of over 3000 in a small New Hampshire town. Given that, I ended up encountering a pretty bad crop of young anti-semites. It was nothing particularly severe from a physical perspective (I wasn’t attacked or anything) and from a psychological perspective I realize now I probably shouldn’t have let get to me as much as I did. A bunch of ignorant rednecks with parents that are cousins shooting their mouths off about things they had no clue about (I swear I had a girl try to convince me Judaism began in the 1970s) wasn’t anything new to me at that point. The fact of the matter is that I went out of my way to make myself different, and that community at that time (and probably still, if we’re being honest) despised difference. If I wasn’t Jewish, I would still be the fat, Canadian kid that liked Pokemon a lot longer than he had any business doing so. My Judaism was a target, but not necessarily the target and, in a lot of ways, it was the target I chose for myself.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to turn into one of those “I did it to myself” posts. I know I didn’t make those rednecks ignorant (genetics probably did) and I sure as hell am not going to make the argument that I should have been less proud of my heritage. My history played out the way it was meant to play out and I am (probably) a better person for it. But Jewish victimhood is an entirely different thing altogether. Throughout history and especially in the wake of the holocaust, many Jews the world over (and one or two in my immediate bloodline as well) have taken on the role of consumate victim. They believe that no matter what happens, no matter how the tides change or political parties ebb and flow, the Jews will always be hated. And strictly speaking, that is probably not a lie. But hunkering down and crying wolf every time a redneck kid makes a misguided slur they heard from their grandparents does not mean the sky is falling. As a people and members of the worldwide religious/cultural community, we can do better than belittling ourselves, painting “defenseless” on our foreheads and lashing out every time stupidity rears its ugly head. Phrased another way: if we keep going around with our dukes up then eventually someone is going to want to punch us in the face.
There are no easy conclusions to be reached here. On the one hand, anti-semitism isn’t going to go away and we must always remain aware of that fact. I once spoke to an older woman that spent her life creating opportunities for young American Jews to be Jewish that claimed that “the world would never let us forget we were Jewish” and the sad/liberating truth is that she is absolutely right. Sad in that hatred will always exist and liberating in that we shouldn’t want to forget that in the first place. On the other hand though, there is an argument to be made that the more we embrace who we are, the more we will be persecuted for it. When homogeny is the goal, difference is the enemy. The bigger the difference, the bigger response it begets.
Today, the ninth of Av, I mourn this conundrum more than the destruction, holocaust, and persecution that the day has become known for. I mourn the lack of answers and the unending torrent of questions. I mourn the simple and direct injustices that have tragically become the norm.
Filed under: Music
By now I’m sure most people are aware of the supremely fucked up shit happening down in Arizona. That immigration law is an absolutely despicable piece of garbage legislation, written and signed into law by a bunch of scared white fear mongers that desperately want to make people believe that the founding fathers were “just kidding” with all that “liberty and justice for all” stuff. Clearly what they meant is liberty and justice for everyone that is white and Christian…everyone else is clearly here illegally and needs to get the fuck out, right? Anyway, the point of this article is not the bill itself (I think my stance on that should be pretty clear at this point) since everyone and their goddamn mothers is either coming out for or against that sucker. No, this article is specifically about of the of the REACTIONS to the bill that, while not quite disturbing me YET, has got me thinking. (more…)
Filed under: Uncategorized
I’m gonna start updating this again…promise.
Filed under: Uncategorized
No more disclaimers…there are some I COULD make but eh…fuck it. (more…)
Filed under: Music
Yeah….we’ve reached the point in the list where the records have become such an engrained part of my existence that anything beyond “DUUUHHRRRRRR” is really hard to formulate…but we’ll see how it goes… (more…)