We begin this week’s edition of Hot Rocks with a special segment entitled “Hot Take vs. Hot Take,” where our intrepid Hot Rocks columnist, Vinny Cecolini, and our noble Managing Editor, Daniel Alleva, bring you two very different opinions of the same album. This week, Vinny and Dan each sound off on Danzig’s new release, Danzig Sings Elvis (Cleopatra). Alright, lads…. let it rip!
Vinny: As the world continues its downward spiral into total madness, Glenn Danzig has provided a soundtrack with the disturbingly ludicrous Danzig Sings Elvis. Yes, the diminutive demonic crooner has always fashioned himself as an evil Elvis, but now he has simply gone too far. Preposterous, this record will be remembered for the wrong reasons. Under produced and poorly recorded like his 2015 covers travesty Skeletons (Nuclear Blast), Danzig Sings Elvis sounds like it was captured on a boombox in his bathroom, though a few added flushes might have actually improved upon the final product. Instead of interpreting Elvis classics such as “Baby, Let’s Play House” and “Lone Blue Boy,” Danzig takes a karaoke approach, even mimicking the King’s enunciations and vocal mannerisms with comedic results. His take on “Fever” will only recall Pee Wee Herman’s oversized shoe dance routine, while “Always on my Mind” is simply spit-take hilarious. I am ecstatic that Glenn Danzig is currently fronting a version of The Misfits that headlines arenas, but this disc is more than a misfire; it is sad.
Rating: 1 star (Poor)
Dan: By now, Danzig Sings Elvis is near legendary, if for no other reason than the Mope of Metal has been teasing the album for nearly a decade. In a 2011 interview with The Aquarian, he told me, “I’ve got six or seven songs recorded… [I’ll] let everyone know soon what songs I’m doing.” But at the time, with music streaming platforms skyrocketing in popularity and the vinyl renaissance yet to take shape in full, the financial realities of recording and distributing an album were bleak, and Danzig himself even said, “We’ll see if I start working on it again.” From there on, rumors speculated wildly about what Danzig was actually doing. An album of Doors or Elvis covers were the likely subjects, given his affinity for both and his famous baritone befitting of such songs. So when the lackluster Skeletons arrived in 2015 it was a head-scratcher, to say the least. Was this really what Danzig was toying us with for all these years? Apparently not, as five years later, he graces us with the phenomenal Danzig Sings Elvis. What makes this collection of songs so brilliant is that Danzig plays it smart, opting to cover some of The King’s album tracks instead of his widely-recognized smash hits; You won’t find “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Jailhouse Rock,” or any other of Elvis’s rock ‘n’ roll staples here on this set. Instead of reinventing the songs he’s selected, and short of recording Danzig Sings Elvis in mono, Danzig opts to record them as bare-bones as possible in attempt to conjure up the limited sonic capabilities available to The King at the time. A single guitar and the occasional piano run through the melodies as Danzig’s vocals sit front and center of the arrangement in a successful attempt to convey the aura of early rock ‘n’ roll with these coveted compositions. Every now and again, a lonely kick drum is heard in the background to keep time, and as for Danzig himself, his vocals are strong, echoing the sound of faith and devotion for the one and only King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Naturally, an album like this is going to garner its fair share of eye-rolling from skeptics. All cover albums do, to a degree. But if you listen with open ears, it’s easy to see that Danzig poured his heart and soul into this album, and the results are nothing short of exceptional.
“As the news seems to turn ever more grim by the hour, we’ve found ourselves vacillating wildly between feeling like there may be hope at times to utter despair—often changing minute to minute,” writes Trent Reznor and long-time collaborator Atticus Ross on Nine Inch Nails’ official Web site (www.nin.com). “Music—whether listening to it, thinking about it or creating—has always been the thing that helped us get through anything—good or bad.” To that end, the duo has released the latest two installments in their on-going instrumental series, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locust, for free on the band’s website and through other platforms. In stark contrast to the aggressive, sweaty, and cathartic music of The Downward Spiral, this music is the perfect soundtrack for a virus induced apocalypse. Perhaps intended for a nightmarish science fiction film, these incidental tracks are darkly ethereal, hauntingly ambient and, at times, experimental. Both volumes are reminiscent of music released during the ‘90s by the Staalplaat label, whose artists include the late Muslimguaze, Rapoon, and Nocturnal Emissions.
Rating: 2 Stars (Decent)
NICK MASON’ SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS
Live at The Roundhouse
Now that Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright and Syd Barrett have passed, David Gilmour is seemingly retired, and Roger Waters is performing latter-day material, drummer and founding member Nick Mason has taken it upon himself to keep the band’s early, pre-The Darkside of the Moon material alive. Captured at London’s famed Roundhouse, where Pink Floyd performed some of their early club shows, this performance features all of the obvious early hits including “Arnold Layne,” “Astronomy Domine,” and “Interstellar Overdrive” played alongside deep cuts like the whimsical “Bike.” Each rendition is pitch perfect and I’d love to see this band perform live. Hopefully, the recently announced British tour to take place later this year is extended to include a few East Coast dates (Pandemic permitting, naturally). So then what is the problem with this recording? It is not Pink Floyd. No matter how good the performances are, they could never match the charm of the originals. And although Nick Manson is playing drums, his Saucerful of Secrets is merely a top-notch tribute band.
Rating: 2 stars (Decent)
Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infinity
Bauhaus and Love and Rockets founding member David J’s latest solo record is full of hauntingly beautiful poetry that paints, rich, detailed images throughout. “Mosaic,” for instance, takes listeners into John Entwistle’s Las Vegas hotel room as The Who bassist nears his final moments. So why does this record ultimately fail? David J, instead of simply being himself, is so desperate to embody Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen that he often doesn’t connect with the music. With the exception of a few tracks, including “Baudelaire” and “Lovelorn,” Missive to an Angel would have been more successful had it been separated into two discs: The first featuring David J’s spoken word performances and the second, featuring the instrumentals, which sadly will not receive the attention they deserve.
Rating: 1 star (Poor)
ME AND THAT MAN
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit Volume 1
Murder ballads and songs about burning churches. Psychobilly, rebel Country, gothic-laced folk and blues so dark, it might as well be called black. Guest appearances by members of Slipknot, Trivium, Emperor, Entombed, and Volbeat? Where do I sign up? Behemoth’s Negral’s solo project Me and That Man is back with its second unsuspecting musical slap in the face. Unlike most solo offerings, which sound like poor renditions of a given artist’s primary band, this album could not be more different from Behemoth’s trademark brutality. If Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings had come of age during the ‘90s, and were thematically and lyrically influenced by black metal, they might have written songs like “Confession,” “By the River,” and “You Will Be Mine.” I realize that that Me and That Man is not Nergal’s day job, but I hope it doesn’t take three years for his next solo offering, because evil rarely sounds this good.
Rating: 4 stars (Excellent)
All reviews by Vinny Cecolini unless otherwise noted.