Many of the reviews for the Marty Casey and Lovehammers cd were published shortly after the cd was released. I question the validity and the effort behind those reviews. It seems to me one must listen to a cd over and over and over and over, reflecting upon it in various moods, pretending it is the soundtrack to one’s life movie and imagining how it would change the plot, and inventing unique dance moves to the songs to get a true sense of the episode the band has provided to music history. Unlike those other hacks, I took my sweet time experiencing this cd, so I could provide a review that is engrained in my soul, rather than offering a translucent first impression overview of the material.
I don’t find first impressions, in general, very reliable. I usually make an indistinct first impression on people – horrible impressions at times. I find that this technique weeds out the contemptible folk that aren’t worth knowing me, and it also explains why I have only two friends. Accordingly, I don’t judge people or art or news or zoo animals or restaurants or hardcore facts based on fleeting first impressions. I’ll give them four or five subsequent impressions to prove their quality (about a hundred if they’re hot and/or rich). If I had reviewed the cd on the day it was released, when I had just eaten a rhubarb pie, I would have given it a horrible review since rhubarb makes my ears wilt, and I may have attributed that to the quality of this cd. As it turns out, wilted ears actually makes boy bands sound like zither orchestras. That knowledge may be useful to you someday.
Because most of the songs on this cd were available in prior recordings by the band, my first impression of was, “What the hell is this crap, I already know all these songs!” In fact, that is the review I submitted to Spin magazine. They sent it back to me smeared with used kitty litter (and I think it was used by something bigger than a house cat). Honestly, it did take me about a week of listening to the cd just to accept the changes they made to the old versions of the songs. I rejected them at first, just like my body rejected the butt cheek transplant I tried performing on myself, except this was not as painful or as bloody, nor did it affect my ability to sit on a toilet. Contrarily, listening to this cd makes sitting on the toilet very enjoyable. The acoustics are magnificent in there. I’ve never been so regular my whole life. Once I was able to overcome my preconceptions of these songs that were programmed into my brain, which involved some self-inflicted amnesia techniques, I was able to listen to them with a clear and bruised head.
Marty Casey and Lovehammers serves us, the gentle rockers, a sampler platter of what they’ve been about all these years while most of the country mistakenly ignored them, thanks to the weasel record companies not knowing what the public likes because they are too worried about selling acetonic apparitions rather than good music. Listening to this cd is like sampling a banquet hall’s entrees and appetizers when deciding where to have a wedding reception. I find this sampling exquisitely acceptable, garcon. I, Moist Rub, take thee, Lovehammers, to be my unlawfully amplified rock band, in sobriety and in drunk, for head banger, for ballad, for main set and for encore, in a club or in a concert hall, to rock and to roll until death do us part, at which time we will rock with Jimi and Janis and Duane and Bon and Randy and Bonzo and Elvis and Kurt and the rest.
Others have tried to categorize the Lovehammers as Neo-Grunge or some vapid term like that. That may be true, since I have no idea what Neo-Grunge means. Well, I understand that “neo” means “new” which would indicate that those people believe that the Lovehammers music is a new kind of Grunge, along with Nickelback and Puddle of Mud and others (from what I’ve read). But what does THAT mean? I don’t think they know, otherwise they would have coined a new term or applied an existing one instead of modifying an old one. The big difference I can tell is that, where Grunge was serious, despondent, reactionary and pessimistic, the Lovehammers remind us that rock and roll can be fun, while encompassing a larger range of emotions than Grunge did not do. Although, I enjoyed Grunge (and still do), it pissed me off that I was pissed off all the time. And that pissed me off. I thought I was pissed off during the nineties because my kids were babies, and I had no idea how to handle them. I still don’t know how to handle them, but I don’t let it bother me anymore, because I’ve grown emotionally, thanks, in part, to the Lovehammers. As it turns out, it was Grunge all along telling me to be pissed off. Angst can be a great diversion sometimes, especially when life is all rainbows and lollypops (and who wants that - certainly not Eddie Vedder). Eventually, you have to hop off the drudgery train and lick some roses. The Lovehammers use angst as a sauce, instead of a meat like Grunge did. Given this information, I guess Neo-Grunge means Grunge on Prozac, or maybe Rock Con Grunge Sauce. I think it was Dave Groehl who told Grunge to lighten up.
If any song on the cd is neo-grungish, it would be Casualty, the only new song. Initially, I thought it was a Nickelback cover, and I didn’t like it. After listening to it fifty-six times or so, I began to feel the Lovehammer vibe resonate to the surface. It may have been influenced by Nickelback, but Marty’s voice brings it to a different plane. This song has inspired me to make a difference in this world. From now on, I vow not to cut down any more rain forests, unless, of course, they hinder my real estate development projects.
The only other song that may fit into this nebulous neo-grunge category would be Clinic. Here is an example where mood comes into my review. Sometimes, I don’t want to listen to this song, because I may be feeling melancholy and vulnerable, like after a trip to the gynecologist. It hurts my feelings when they kick me out of there. On those days, this song scares me, especially Marty’s disturbed voicing of “coma”. Oooooh, somebody hold me. Other days, like when I just finished mowing the lawn and have inadvertently decapitated six bunnies with the mower, I want to crank up this song. Had I limited my review to my experience on gynecology day, I would not have given Clinic a second chance.
Call of Distress may have fit into the Neo-Grunge category if they had not modified it from its original recording. They “popped” it up, and I like it better that way. The song is about a suicide, which is a bad vibe. But the arrangement implies hope, or at least acceptance and contentment. Why does suicide have to be such a sad event? The Lovehammers tell us it doesn’t. This dichotomy works. If you’re going to bring everybody down by killing yourself, you may as well accompany it with some upbeat music. I especially like the emulation of sirens at the bridge. Everybody likes sirens.
The rest of the cd departs from this fascist neo-grunge label. It is chock full of variety, all within the rock realm, touching different parts of my brain. Songs like Hold On and The Riddle and Trees are up beat with important messages about love and life and loving life and living love and living to love and loving to live. Speaking of Trees, this song was inspired by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, when he climbed the trees in Mirkwood to give the dwarves a sense of where they were in the forest. He was then molested by butterflies. If that’s not an allegory for finding one’s soul mate and fighting for him/her, I don’t know what is. The Tunnel and Eyes Can’t See crank it up a little to remind us that sometimes you need to knock down some walls with a driving guitar and pounding rhythm section to figure out what the hell is going on in life. Then they tender it up with Rain on the Brain and Clouds to give us a break to reflect on the important things in life, like irritating precipitation inside the skull and metaphorical free falling. What makes Lovehammers’ mellow songs stand up is that they are not pussified. They have substance and are not merely wishy-washy, empty lamentations of passion in an insipid attempt to get flood gates flowing. They have guts, and I respect that. I’m sure the record company encouraged them to pussify those songs. That is what happened to REO Speedwagon and Journey. They used to rock in the seventies until they discovered eunuch love songs sell, and they gave us crap like Can’t Fight This Feeling and Open Arms (sorry, Karen). That’s when their careers peaked and the record companies rejoiced. That’s also when I left their work at the record store.
And then there's Maude, I mean, Straight as an Arrow - the best song on the cd. Simply put, this song is an ass kicker. The phallic implications of this song are obvious. You can read about them in entirety in my next book, Oedipus Lovehammer. My favorite line is “kiss is like a handshake”, which is a blatant reference to the human male’s attitude that sex means nothing. Add to that the line “What about me, so what, so what” and we learn how the Lovehammers feel about the women they’ve known who questioned their own lack of orgasms with the Lovehammers responding accordingly, “so what”. Not all of us men feel that way, ladies. Some of us would love to help you out with your orgasms, but I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to that, and frankly, I’m a little tired.
The cd successfully conveys how versatile the Lovehammers are. Sure, there are songs missing I had hoped they would include. But, like the tortuous water slide that is one of their shows, the cd provides the same emotional and rockin’ contortions. Having said that, there is one point of contention I must bring up. I understand that Epic tried to get LH to dumb down some songs to make them more pop friendly. I don’t mind that. Even with Epic’s influence, the Lovehammers were able to rock through unscathed. I’ve come to accept both versions of each duplicated song, and enjoy them both. But, the producers went over the line in one particular manipulation on Hold On, which didn’t destroy the song, luckily. They employed a pitch corrector to modify Marty’s voice in the first verse, when repeating “in one year”. For those of you not familiar with the pitch corrector, it is that effect Cher used in Life after Love, or whatever that horrible song was called, where it makes the voice sound computerized if employed to a maximum level. This effect was quite popular a few years ago. Cher’s producers were pretty liberal with the use of the pitch corrector, probably since they were already using it to fix her voice, in general. It is a cheap, boneheaded, parlor trick used by Epic to attract the lowest common denominators who wallow in pop fizz. I doubt that one instance of it is enough to attract the attention of pop radio lemmings, so why use it at all?
Marty Casey and Lovehammers cd cranks, consoles, inspires, caresses, harasses, cajoles, pokes, provokes, soothes and, most importantly, rocks. It is this flexibility that should allow the Lovehammers to remain in the public ear for years to come, while successfully overcoming the delusive Neo-Grunge label that has been impaled upon them. I don’t know if they’ll be able to achieve a unique term for their music, but what is wrong with plain old rock ‘n roll? I do know that in my own life’s movie, this cd has changed the plot dramatically. OK, not dramatically. OK, not at all, but it has given it a fabulous new soundtrack to aggrandize my major life events, like when I turn over my couch cushions to redecorate my living room. Look for that in a theater near you.