Sweaty Nipples

Bug Harvest
Megaforce Records


Sweaty Nipples inaugurate the New Year with an ham-fisted handful of furious funkmetal tunes– which cover the lyrical spectrum from A to B, in divulging the inherent dangers of being a musician in today’s hectic world. Alcohol, sex and violence are the dominant theme. Musically, the band has diversified, knocking down huge chunks of a variety of musical styles.

“Demon Juice,” the lead cut, and the video of which is receiving extensive MTV air time, slashes and burns, propelled by Hans Wagner’s savage drumming and Ryan Moore’s scorching guitar. Funky rap interludes occasionally interrupt the fusillade. Vocalist Scott Heard precisely details the anguished allure of alcohol: “Wake and swear I Won’t drown with you again/But my eyes turn down and I see you in my hand/ Friends and my ritual–I just can’t wait to go/ And do something stupid that I’ll wish I’d never done.” Moore contributes a twisted guitar solo in the middle, and the band contrive a grungy section that breaks down intro a juicy segue before returning to the chorus. A tightly reined steed of a tune.

Wagner’s drums and added percussion by back-up vocalists Brian Lehfeldt and Dave Merrick set up a seductive groove on “Pig Boy,” over which Moore fires some tasty guitar solos. This cut takes some curiously bizarre musical twists and turns, while remaining thoroughly infectious at all times. “Labrador” is pretty straight ahead stuff, well-executed– with some cool guitar riffing throughout. “Smiles” is closer to your standard Sweaty fare, madcap, frenetic and exceedingly brief.

“Swollen” worms insistently around a mechanical, sampled beat in the verses, before breaking into a heavy chorus and middle section. “Eye Tooth Magnet” rocks with authority. “Tequila” sounds like the Sex Pistols doing a Big Country tune in some crazy, mixed-up alternative universe– while neatly outlining the inherent side effects of consuming too much tequila: “I drank the whole fifth right out of the bottle/ Took about an hour and my head began to rattle.” I’ll bet!

As if Deep Purple were working with Smashing Pumpkins, “Clumsy” scores high on the Heaviosity Meter as well. Dave Merrick’s well placed percussive samples drive “Inside,” which moves hard in the verses before melting into a fine chorus– harmonies and everything. “Knuckle Farm” squarely confronts the issue of domestic violence, with unflinching candor.

Perhaps saving the most unusual for last, the Nippers go so far as to provide us with an actual ballad. And a beautiful construction it is. Love On Ice’s Dan Kreuger contributes a sensual violin to the ambiance, as ethereal effects swirl around Heard’s vocal. An acoustic guitar on a Sweaty song. Now I’ve heard everything.

Wisely, Sweaty Nipples have broadened their musical scope. Bug Harvest  finds the boys certainly not lacking for their characteristic over-the-top chaotic zeal. But in addition they have branched into other areas of heavy Rock and have proven themselves more than competent on all counts. Theirs is a sound that is currently undergoing a comprehensive evolution. They’ve opened a lot of doors and have proven themselves worthy of walking through them.


The Five Fingers of Funk

Slap Me Five
Ho Made Media


Over the past couple of years, Pete Ho aka Pete Miser and his trusty band the Five Fingers of Funk have been attracting tons of local attention with their hybrid Rap/Funk Horn band sound; while offering a positive lyrical approach rarely to be found with standard rap fare. And if you can’t party to this shit, you must be dead.

Right off the bat the band clicks into high gear with “Mindstraights.” The horn section of Curt Bieker on trombone, Ted Hille on sax and Josh Prewitt on trumpet are right up front in the mix, sliding and splatting through the intro before giving way to the supple rhythms of Pete’s rhyming. Bieker’s solo at the end is as smooth as satin.

“Whatchyassworth?” begins as a sleepy jazz number, Hille providing a smoky solo while keyboardist Tim Cook, bassist Allan Redd and drummer Talbott Guthrie lay down a quiet, misty groove. Very cool. This is followed by a sterling series of swanky Ho-isms delivered over the horns’ smart funk jabs. “People acting crazy major killings going on/ And ain’t nobody changed ’cause of a song/ But I’ve got to put my two cents in, since when/ does the devil have your brain on lease/ taking it piece by piece?”

One of the band’s most successful live tunes, “Rise,” is given special treatment here. Pete’s persistent rap is supported by punchy bass and drums and diving horns. The uplifting chorus, which Pete mugs Louis Armstrong-style, springs upon Redd’s rubbery bassline and Todd Smith’s skittering timbales. But it’s Pete’s message that pervades: “From the center of my being I’m seeing a growing movement/ In my youth I was seeking truth whereas now social improvement/ Generation X has got to flex on politicians/ When they’re on a power mission and money makes their decisions.”

Redd’s slippery basswork spearheads the churning funk of “Pass The Vibe.” Soul horns weave around the intro, backing off in the verses. Clever chord changes in the turns and a zesty reggae twist in the middle transport this cut to a higher plane. “Look At Where You At” recalls Gil Scott-Heron’s fiery poetry raps while sounding fresh and new as well. Appropriately enough, “Posters” is a rather forlorn rap about the now-departed X-Ray Club. The key line here being “Fuck you Key Largo, get me back to the X-Ray.”  Pete pays loving tribute to a number of regular X-Ray performers as well as giving a first hand glimpse into  the world of postering. Truthfully, any bands involved in postering should check Pete’s rap out. He gives some great advice to novices.

“Whose Loadin’?” adds latin flavors to the percussive mix of this friendly jam number. “Autumn Blue” turns on a classical piano figure and Prewitt’s lonely muted trumpet. Pete’s introspective rap provides proof positive of his contemplative nature. And “You Jane, Me Funky” is the pure confection you’d expect from the title.

Pete Miser and the Five Fingers of Funk cover a lot of musical ground while staying true to the hip hop format. Pete’s unerring wit and incisive intelligence is rampant in his rhymes, His positive message is articulate without being overbearing. He does not preach, but his inherent wisdom and artistic disposition give his words meaning, giving light to important insights.

The Five Fingers of Funk are a top-notch band, smart enough not to overplay and good enough not to need to. This impeccably recorded entry would be a great addition to anyone’s collection. These guys are going somewhere.



Self Produced

One of the pleasant surprises of 1994 was the opening last Summer of the ultra-hip and tres cool  1201 Club. Besides providing this podunk with a trendy cocktail lounge of the highest 50’s time-warp order, in it’s brief existence the club has become home to a number of quality musical acts– Kaitlyn ni Donovan, Swoon 23, Dandy Warhols and the Canaries among them.

The Canaries come to Portland from Athens, Georgia by way of the Bay area and play dexterous power pop similar in style, perhaps, to Oingo Boingo or XTC. What sets this band apart from most other local acts is their sense of humor. While not as apparent on a studio tape, singer/guitarist Clyde Bailey is very funny at live shows, throwing off pithy one-liners and self-deprecating remarks at an hilarious pace. Musically, this solid four-piece unit holds its own against anyone.

Check out “Miss Taken” for instance. A simple arrangement surrounds witty lyrics. Bailey sings in a soft, friendly tenor while lead guitarist Jonathan Drews inserts succinct flourishes underneath. A cut that could be easily mistaken as one from XTC’s Black Sea  period. “Forgotten Man” could just as easily be a pre-Crowded House, Split Enz out take. Drews creates tension behind Bailey’s acoustic guitar and moody vocals, by applying a nervous, stuttering filigree that weaves around Eric Furlong’s limpingly hesitant bass movements.

A sinuous arrangement lends “Natural” a golden aura. Bailey’s oddly compelling melody draws the listener, Furlong”s galloping basswork provides the momentum. Split Enz come to mind again with “No Valentines,” a tightly wound cut. Drews’ staccato leads add to the tension.

“Monster” succeeds with a focused production built around Drews’ catchy guitarwork and Bailey’s quirky vocals in the bridges. A strong chorus solidifies “Force of Habit.” Sterling ensemble work is the bond on “Grow.” Bailey’s knack for catchy melodies and nifty word-play are in high relief here. And “Uncle Uncle” is the hit single from this collection– a hopped up ditty with a chorus that sounds like Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” played upside down and sideways.

This is a nicely recorded project, but the Canaries seem to lack the energy they present in live situations. While this batch of tunes is particularly listener friendly, anyone not familiar with the band would do well to hear them play live. For the Canaries are as entertaining a band as there is in town.



Self Produced

Alphabitch marks the return to the trenches of long-time local rock soldier Chelsea Rae. After a three-year hiatus, Rae is back with a powerful band that is already making waves in the clubs after only a month on the local circuit.

This recording of a live KBOO broadcast showcases the bands strengths– a solid rhythm section, a well-orchestrated guitar onslaught and Chelsea’s amazingly effective voice. More than just a hoarse wail, Chelsea’s voice exhibits power and control. The first cut is a perfect indication of all of the above. Careening guitars meld behind Chelsea’s street opera contralto to form a cunningly sinister musical machine. The heavier doomage of “Woman With A Death Wish” is underscored by the passionate vibrato gloom of Chelsea’s vocal. Moaning lead guitar psychedelia adds greatly to the atmosphere.

The band follow with a pretty ballad. Chelsea’s voice swoops gloriously around a tender melody and a great chorus. And the final song combines many of the aforementioned elements, fusing together naked emotion and an harnessed musical assault. Chelsea’s gut-wrenching vocal attack levels all surrounding terrain.

Alphabitch are a good band, certain to get better with time. All the ingredients are in place for them to become real local contenders. Chelsea Rae is to be congratulated. Without missing a beat she has jumped back into the fire, flaming as bright as ever.

Besides trying to organize operations for this fledgling outfit, Chelsea is in the midst of assembling a series of Portland-based benefits to aid in the apprehension and prosecution of Mia Zapata’s murderer. Zapata, a member of Seattle’s The Gits, was strangled outside a Seattle club in 1993. Chelsea says that Mia’s friends hired a private investigator after police investigations of the crime led nowhere. The PI has turned up new evidence that points to a suspect. But Zapata supporters are running low on funds to proceed with the investigation. So be on the lookout for these benefits in the months to come.

Be on the watch too for Alphabitch. Their sound is original and forceful. And the band is led by a savvy pro in Chelsea Rae. They can’t go wrong.



Self Produced

Here’s a band that has risen out of the ashes of another. But whereas the former band, Vancouver’s  Echo Park, was sort of out in Duran Duran land, in this incarnation, Daisy, we find the band leaning toward the full bodied metal approach of Sound Garden and Pearl Jam. What they have in common with their previous band is that they’re pretty good at what they do.

Take “Full” for example, a hard charging number that highlights some ballsy twin guitar work by Jason Huffendick and Jason Samodurov. Vocalist Pete Donell has the power to overcome the guitar barrage and the added fervor of Stuart Packer’s bass and Jim Crouse’s drums. “Decisions” backs off slightly, bounding into INXS turf somewhat, though the heavier edge remains intact as well. A well-hewn guitar riff is the hook here. “No Flowers” sort of treads the middleground between the previous two cuts.

“Not So Funny” hinges on a meticulous Zepish guitar riff that rattles and roars behind Donell’s maniacally restrained vocal. A hot solo makes of this cut the pick of the litter– although the band might have worked a little harder on making the song more chordally/melodically interesting. Taking the riff and melody into another key for a couple of lines could do wonders for this cut.

This is true too of the slower “Alone.”  While everything is in place for this cut to work, a predictability to the melody– a lack of variation and imagination in the musical movement, undermines the bands’ ensemble efforts.

Daisy are an accomplished group of musicians. They display the elan  and chops to make a go of it, It is up to the band to develop more interesting songs. Musicianship and execution can only get you so far. A concentration on breaking up the melodies, giving each song it’s “precious moment” would be a wise investment,

A melody, even in metal and grunge, is more than singing over a series of guitar chord changes. That’s precisely why Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder have been successful at their craft, if not altogether satisfied in their personal lives. Any band would do well to analyze these elements in the songwriting of successful bands. Daisy are certainly not alone in their need to develop in this area.

And as for Daisy, I wouldn’t worry about them. They seem competent enough to eventually figure these things out on their own.

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