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Hot Animal Machine (1987)


7

Black and White / Followed Around / Lost and Found / There’s a man Outside / Crazy Lover / A Man and a Woman / Hot Animal Machine 1 / Ghost Rider / Move Right in / Hot Animal Machine 2 / No One

Hot Animal MachineSo, Black Flag was disbanded by the summer of 1986 and suddenly Rollins – who’d grown accustomed to endless touring and the trials and tribulations of playing in one of the most notorious band around – found himself without a job, without a project to work on and without any money. So he contacted an old friend of his, Chris Haskett, who was living in the UK at the time, and they got together to create some music, which resulted in the recording of Hot Animal Machine later that year. Credited to Rollins, it’s a transitional album that repeatedly refers to Black Flag, even more than it points forward to Rollins’ next full-time occupation. Next to Haskett, the musicians on this lo-fi slice of bluesy punk were Bernie Wandell (bass) and Mick Green (drums), who’d also accompany him on the next EP and then would step aside for the Cain-Weiss tandem. The sound quality of the album leaves a lot to be desired, certainly the guitars, which sound more like vacuum cleaners, but on the other hand it also lends the album a lean and no-nonsense punk quality that fits Rollins ruminations quite well and turns into an interesting item in the Rollins-catalogue. Whereas the Rollins Band would be one of the heaviest and most intense recording and touring units between 1987 and, say, 1993, these performances are generally quite “subdued” and devoid of the gut-wrenching psychotherapy-committed-to-tape of the next albums.

The opening salvo of “Black and White,” “Followed Around” and “Lost and Found” (also included in definitive versions on Do It) is pretty much faultless. Not a note is spilled during these three superb cuts of bluesy punk, since they’re fairly simple (and short!) compared to Black Flag’s off-kilter rhythms and weird mix of punk, hard rock and avant-garde, or to the Rollins Band’s massive psycho-blues. “There’s a Man Outside” isn’t very strong in the originality department, but offers a nice example of Rollins’ pessimistic and uncompromising view on human relationships. Pretty similar (when it comes down to the subject) is “A Man and a Woman,” a noisy and disjointed piece of spoken word funk that musically situates itself somewhere between Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression” and Gang of Four’s early spastic punk-funk, and lyrically delves into the beauty of love (“”Hey man, why are you beating that woman to an inch of her life?” … and the man says – get this – the man says: “that’s no woman, that’s my wife, that’s no woman, that’s my wife””). “Hot Animal Machine 1,” which would remain a concert favorite for a few years is here in all its glory, while it’s joined by a second part that’s much more messy and less interesting. There’s also a studio version of “No One,” basically one long, chaotic scream from the underbelly of the man who’d become quite possible the wildest vocalist on earth for a while (really, and I’m not talking about a fast delivery, or a death metal grunt, just about sheer intensity and self-deprecating madness). Finally, there are also a few covers that offer an insight in Rollins’ multitude of influences. Richard Berry’s “Crazy Lover” and the Velvet Underground’s forgotten “Move Right In” basically share an infatuation with living on the thin line between mischief and criminality and they’re both rendered in a frill-less way, with grinding guitars and Rollins sounding quite relaxed. In fact, with the exception of “No One,” his performance (and the band’s) is fairly accessible, but it’s doesn’t sound remotely like any other band from that time either. Hot Animal Machine probably won’t satisfy too many fans of Weight-era Rollins nor those who’ll keep on claiming Black Flag’s Damaged is the Holy Bible (hey guys, how are you?), but it sure is a different-sounding and – dare I say it? – enjoyable album, that still sounds as fresh as it must’ve sounded 16 years ago.

Note: The 1999 reissue combines this album with the Drive By Shooting EP.

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Drive by Shooting EP (1987)


7.5

Drive By Shooting (Watch Out for That Pig) / Ex-Lion Tamer / Hey Henrietta / Can You Speak This? / I Have Come to Kill You / Men Are Pigs

Drive by shootingNow this is something special: around the time Rollins recorded Hot Animal Machine with Haskett, Wandel and Green, they also did a bunch of novelty songs which would make up this EP, which has absolutely nothing in common with anything he did before or ever since. Credited to Henrietta Collins and the Wifebeating Childhaters, this EP contains a variety of stuff, none of which you would expect from Rollins, certainly not after his career in Black Flag (where things were usually kept serious - it’s only during the past few years that he’s been making “fun” on his non-spoken word releases). For that reason alone, this is a document worth having, but fortunately the actual stuff is often also weirdly funny and so deliciously un-correct it’s almost incredible this was really released at the time. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a vinyl copy right after I discovered the Rollins Band more than a dozen years ago, and boy, I quickly knew this EP by heart like I never knew another one. The first side immediately starts off with some great stuff: the opening song recycles some ‘50’s surf/instrumental riff (something like “Hawaii 5-0”? can someone tell me where they got it, because I certainly heard that guitar line before?), while the bubblegum lyrics you would expect are replaced by a hilarious celebration of urban violence (“We’re gonna get in our car, we’re gonna go, go, go, gonna drive to a neighborhood, kill someone we don’t know”), much like “Move Right In” on the debut album.

Next up, and a surprising highlight on the album is a faithful take on Wire’s “Ex-Lion Tamer” (from the seminal Pink Flag (1977)) that sounds a bit less “mechanical” than the original and stretches the ending a bit longer. An unexpected choice, but therefore twice as interesting. The second side of the EP contained the true novelty stuff, because none of the songs is an actual song, they’re more like bits of spoken word fulminations during which Rollins is backed by a dragging racket in the background or a repeated riff. “Hey Henrietta” is a fucked up dialogue between Henrietta and Henry with supercharged and violent lyrics (“Henry, what would you do if I told you I raped a police woman?”). Equally disturbing and perverse – but in a sick way also hilarious as hell – is “Men Are Pigs,” in which Rollins offers a nice solution for women who are all too often obligated to perform oral sex (key words are “knife” and “envelope,” you can figure out the rest). “Can You Speak This?” sounds like an absurd short story (about murder by decapitation and other joyful subject matter) backed by a repetitive sludgy riff, while the lengthy “I Have Come to Kill You” steals the drum pattern of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and replaces those lyrics with “I Have Come to Kill You.” Like on the other three songs, Rollins provides some semi-rapped lyrics about domestic violence, but in this case the joke goes on for a bit too long. One of the most unlikely releases I own, Drive By Shooting is an anomaly in Rollins’ catalogue and an anomaly in modern rock music. Although Rollins would contribute to some more hardly available stuff (like a cover of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock” with Australian punk band The Hard-Ons), this is the first one to check out, and since it’s included on the reissue of Hot Animal Machine, …. what’s keeping you? Go, go, go!

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Sweatbox (1992)


7.5

Getting Home / Riding the Bus / Fun with Letterman / Santa Cruz Pig / Friction pt. 2 / Tough Guys Talk Dirty / Short Story / Hack Writer / Running, Crawling / Sex Ed. / Blueprints for the Destruction of Earth / Mekanik / Late Night Phone Blues / Untouchable

SweatboxAlready during his days with the legendary hardcore band Black Flag, Rollins did some spoken word performances, often with other artists/poets that were members of the same circles (Exene Cervenka, Lydia Lunch, etc). Also the Family Man album by that band contained some spoken word sections instead of usual vocals, but they weren’t very successful yet. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to get my hands on Rollins’ first releases as a proper solo artist. The first one, Short Walk on a Long Pier was simply never released on CD (and you can imagine how hard it is to get your hands on a limited vinyl edition in Belgium, right?), while I haven’t seen the first of the Quarterstick albums, Big Ugly Mouth (1987), in a long time. Sweatbox was the second release in that series, and the double-CD consists of live fragments recorded in 1987-’88. Like on most of the other spoken word releases, the majority of the material is autobiographical, whether it’s about travelling (one of his favorite topics that return on each of the spoken word albums), doing gigs, or observations of his surroundings. Contrary from what you might’ve expected on the basis of his looks, Rollins delivers these monologues with enough wit, colorful descriptions and a sense of perspective. His style isn’t as fluent as on the latest bunch of releases (some new topics are introduced quite clumsily), but highlights such as “Friction pt. 2” (on masturbation) and “Running, Crawling” (about living in Los Angeles), are guaranteed to crack you up. The sound could’ve been better (the sets were recorded on a walkman), but it won’t prevent you from enjoying these energetic performances.

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Human Butt (1992)


8


Adventures of an Asshole / Kicked in the Ass by Adventure / Smokin’ the Filter / Hated / Decoration / Donate Your Body to Science You Fools! / Romance

Sixteen HorsepowerAnother double CD that underlines Rollins’s extraordinary work ethic, Human Butt gathers 145 minutes taken from several spoken word shows recorded during ’89-’90. Like Sweatbox, or for that matter, all other spoken word/comedy albums, it makes you wish you were there during the shows themselves, because if there’s ever been a category of albums intended to satisfy the fans, it must be these spoken word releases. Having witnessed a few of those energetic shows by the James Brown of spoken word artists, I never encountered a spoken word album (and there are about a dozen) that succeeded in capturing the force and intensity of such a show on a shiny disc, but Rollins’ grasp of storytelling nearly makes up for it. If the sound is OK, that is, since most of this again sounds as if it was recorded on a walk-man (large parts of “Donate Your Bodies” are nearly incomprehensible – unless you turn up the volume really high). The most annoying fact about it is that the first three tracks of the second disc have Rollins in one speaker and the audience in the other, and that gets really annoying when the audience’s noise is much louder than Rollins’ microphone (or when you have a member of the audience with the most aggravating laughing sound ever recorded (during bits of “Romance”)).

As for the themes he touches upon: most of them are basically the same as on Sweatbox, and would remain constant factors during his entire career as a spoken word artist: travelling, life on the road, relationships, etc. The lengthy “Adventures of an Asshole,” and “Hated,” for instance, have Rollins telling about the downside of touring: the violence that goes on, confrontation with crazy people (with a crucial passage about Rollins being accused of rape and being harassed by the police), the fact that it doesn’t allow you to have steady relationships, etc. Other parts are rants about his incompetence at lightening up (“Smokin’ the Filter”), his impatience with other people or long diatribes about topics such as public transportation in Britain. Often harsh (“A fat clown with make up weeping over a guitar” – about Robert Smith) and sometimes even pitiful, most of these stories are highly enjoyable because of Rollins’ gift for storytelling, improvisation and his trademark self-deprecating humor. Human Butt is probably only of interest for fans of Rollins or spoken word performances in general – especially with the shitty sound quality, but it is also proof that the bulky, tattooed guy was not only good at screaming.

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Live at McCabe's (1992)


8


Exhaustion / Misunderstanding / I Wish Someone Had Told Me / Travel Tips

Live at McCabe'sA single disc (hey, what’s happening? You’re getting tired Rollins?), Live at McCabe’s was recorded during a triple bill of Rollins, Exene Cervenka (mainly known as a key member of seminal Californian punk outfit X) and author Hubert Selby (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream, etc) in 1990, and it finds Rollins during an early peak. Of course, you listen to spoken word-albums even less than comedy albums (how much re-listening value do most of ‘em have anyway?), no matter how good the story is, but this is probably the solo album of his I gave the most consecutive spins. Feeling completely relaxed on a stage, Rollins touches upon stuff he’s been writing at “airports, the bus station, the train station or in the bus, the plane, the train, the boat, the hovercraft, broomstick, whatever I’m riding on” and among other things mentions “Rock Lobster” as possibly the ultimate rock song. The bulk of the disc, however, is in “I Wish” and “Misunderstanding,” which contains one of his best stories – about getting spit at during gigs in Eastern Europe by a guy in the audience, clipping him on the mouth, unaware of the fact the guy considered spitting as the ultimate punk ritual to show his respect to Rollins (“You are my favorite singer and YOU HIT ME! WHY DID YOU HIT ME?”).

Even better is “I Wish Someone Had Told Me,” during which Rollins openly tells about his first sexual experiences, his fear of being impotent and the aggression that resulted from it (“Instead of getting a hard-on, my hand would turn into a fist”), the most remarkable aspect of it being that it never gets self-pitying. Honesty is what it’s all about here, and Rollins definitely lays bare more than a bit of his soul. It’s quite an eye-opener if you hear Rollins do this for the first time, and after repeated listens it still appealed to me in its unremitting frankness. Of course, 15 euros/dollars may seem a lot for a verbal working out-session of 76 minutes and some of his stories are really stretched out, but once in a while – when you’re home alone, have the time and feel in for it – listening to albums like this can be a blast.

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The Boxed Life (1992)


8.5

Bone Tired / Airplanes / Airport Courtesy Phone / Jet Lag / Hating Someone’s Guts – Pt. 1 / Funny Guy / Love in Venice / Strength – Pt. 1 / Strength – Pt. 2 / The Odd Ball / Hating Someone’s Guts – Pt. 2 / Blues / Big Knowledge / Good Advice / Vacation in England / Condos / Trade Secrets / I Know You / The Odd Ball Gets a Big Laugh

The Boxed LifeThe fact that this was the first of Rollins’ solo albums that I heard may be partly responsible for the fact that I still have a soft spot for it, but there are definitely more reasons why you might also enjoy this. Contrary to the previous two albums, on which he dwelled on a handful of topics extensively, these are shorter bits: diary fragments, observational humor (and the man does have an unusual life) and the predictable themes such as hate, depression, relationships, urine on toilet seats, etc. But the difference is that this time around Rollins doesn’t just tell stories in a funny way, he’s not afraid to crack jokes either, and he’s mighty good at it. During these excited diatribes, the one thing that becomes clear more than ever, is the guy’s underrecognized eloquence. He introduces a topic, sidesteps it, elaborates, switches the topic for a moment again and again, finally returning to the point where he initially left off. It’s an intriguing combination of improvisation and memory that’s nearly comparable to the mastery with which George Carlin or Bill Hicks knew how to keep the attention as tensed as possible. He switches from his first acquaintance with the movie industry to his visit to the Windmill Studios (‘that Bono built!”), to his trips to England (“Everyone is soooo sad ... then you see why Morrissey happens”) – to name but a few – as if they’re all part of this huge narrative.

More juvenile (but SO funny) are the several instances he touches upon his pet peeves, whether it’s directly, as in the case of Edie Brickell (“an agent of Satan”), Wayne Newton, Rolling Stone and The Eagles, hair metal and house music; or only semi-directly like “My body feels like Billy idol himself” (on a bad day). An unquestionable highlight is his rant about U2 (“Hating Someone’s Guts – Pt. 2), one of the most hilarious band bashings these ears had ever heard (and I like U2!) and one that easily makes up for the price you’ll have to pay for this 2-CD. On the other hand, the CD also gives a hint of his enormous enthusiasm about a variety of heroes and influences, ranging from John Coltrane and Thin Lizzy, to Bill Graham and Tom Waits. So, it is a bit of a different side of Rollins you get here, a side that some people didn’t like as much as the more self-effacing misanthrope of Live at McCabe’s, but the drive that never loosens, his genuinely witty performance and an improved sound make sure it’s a document that could be best described as “dynamite action.” A good candidate if you wanna have a first - agreeable - taste of the man’s solo persona and one of his very best spoken albums.

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Get in the Van: on the Road with Black Flag (1994)


9

Get in the VanBasically a short audio version of the book (same title, same cover, different format, great lay-out and a few hundred photos by Glen E. Friedman, Ed Colver, Naomi Petersen, etc) Get in the Van mostly contains diary fragments written by Rollins between 1981 and 1986. They touch upon the things that happened at a time when ‘difficult’ bands like Black Flag tried to make a living on the road, which involved lots of violence, stolen gear, being mugged, decibels, worthless food, sweat, sleeping on cold, damp floors (or not sleeping at all), hostile audiences, and violence-prone police. More than anything else, it also traces a young guy’s mental state (Rollins was merely twenty years old when he joined the band and still only twenty-five when Greg Ginn broke the band up in the summer of 1986), which evolves from high hopes, to increasingly more insanity, (self-) hatred (“I don’t enjoy playing unless I see blood or get hurt” – May 1983), disgust and disillusionment with a life that doesn’t involve playing loud. All the while, Rollins never hides the fact that he felt like an intruder/visitor in the band, feeling alienated even in the band he ‘fronted’.

This album is not interesting if you’re not into the man, the band or that particular era, but it’s an absolute must if you are, since it’s three things at once: a biography of Rollins during 1981-1986 – a portrait of the artist as a young maniac if you wish (and it’s pretty obvious Black Flag was his life) -, a personal account of the same years of Black Flag, and how it was for an American punk band in the first half of the ‘80’s (it’s also especially cool also to hear about encounters with The Misfits, Jello Biafra and Flipper, and touring with The Minutemen, The Meat Puppets, etc). On the basis of this version of the story, I can only conclude it was tough, exciting and fucked up, all at once. Nowadays, Rollins doesn’t touch upon this period that often (probably also because the relation between him and Ginn seems to have soured) and that’s one reason more to check it out. Get in the Van is, simply put, essential.

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Everything (1996)


5

EverythingEverything is an “audio book,” more specifically it’s Rollins reading a chapter from his book Eye Scream, while being backed by jazz musicians Charles Gayle and Rashied Ali. It looks pretty interesting on paper – well, at least I got all enthusiastic when I heard about this release – since both Gayle and Ali were guaranteed to provide interesting touches, Gayle with a resume of ultra-prominent avant-garde saxophone player (although he provides some violin and piano touches as well), Ali as the legendary drummer that followed up Elvin Jones as John Coltrane’s drummer who stayed with the giant until his death a few years later. It’s hard to define why I’m not fond of this album. Get in the Van was also recorded in a studio, was also read from a book like Everything, but whereas the former was one long piece of written history that mainly wanted to describe events, an era, and one person’s feelings and life in a chronological narrative, Eye Scream has more literary aspirations, which is not so suggest Rollins is a failure as a poet. I read some of his stuff and certainly appreciated it. It often was dense and dark, but definitely a distillation of many of the themes that make up the bulk of his lyrics, and poetry – said the lecturer – takes patience.

Rollins’ poetry is not a slave of rhyme and stanzas, but even his narrative prose poetry isn’t written to be consumed at the pace most people gobble up comic books (which is not to say that comic books deserve less of your time), and when the meaningful repetitions, metaphors, philosophical thoughts, alliterations, observations and stories pass you by at the pace of a spoken word performance, you just can’t keep up. Maybe it would work in a live context (the comedy albums that I heard that were recorded in a studio without an audience didn’t work that well either) - with Rollins there’s always an ‘interesting’ visual aspect - and maybe then the music would seem less arbitrary and subordinate as well, but it just doesn’t work here. An interesting idea, but one that was bound to become a misfire right from the start, Everything simply misses the mark. Do Rollins a favor and try to appreciate his writings in the right format. Get the book instead.

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Think Tank (1998)


8.5


How I Got Here / Airport Hell / Television / World Peace / El Niño / Weatherman / The Gay Thing / Vegas // Nothing Can Go Wrong / Brazil / Russia / Marius / No One Is Fax Exempt

A Rollins in the WryeFans of stand-up comedy (or spoken word performances in general) will probably confirm that no such album out there even resembles the real thing, something which also very true in Rollins’ case. It’s not that he prowls over the stage and works out like he does with his band, but the face is expressive to say the least and – admit it – you’d love to see the guy wearing fancy pants, right? Anyway, there’s nothing you can do about it, except to track down the few video’s/DVD’s of his shows out there or get a ticket to one of his shows, but if it’s any consolation: at least the sound of the later releases is excellent. Think Tank is probably one of the most enjoyable (double) albums of the bunch, one of his funniest and easiest accessible albums out there. Whereas the first few albums were a kind of psychotherapy dressed up like diary readings (often funny, but usually bittersweet), Rollins has become more confident over the years, tackling a wider array of subjects. It’s not that it’s a complete surrender to full-fledged comedy – he still starts from his own experience and mixes funnily told anecdotes with pseudo-meaningful socio-critical commentary – but he’s learned to loosen things up and go with the flow of the show. You might say that Think Tank basically combines the two approaches: whereas the first disc, recorded on his birthday in 1998, is rather fast-paced (like most other comedy) and tackles subjects such as homosexuality, the recurring stupidity of mankind (as confronted with at airports), mass culture (with hilarious rants on Friends and Baywatch: “David Hasselhoff … looks kind of like, uh, … have you ever seen when the dogs get bred too much…. they kinda get that … constant look of confusion Michael Bolton has … Hasselhoff has that too”) and the weather (“El Niño … why not call it “The Motherfucker” … or “The first four Black Sabbath albums”?).

The second disc is more laidback and throughout it, Rollins basically sticks to personal anecdotes from the road. These range from making an ass of himself in Australia (forgetting the lyrics to a song and opting to “rock out with the band”), Brazil (“I kicked my own ass”) and Russia (“You didn’t drink the tap water, did you?”), as well as fantasies about slicing Michael Bolton’s vocal chords (that’s recognizable, right?). Most memorable, however, might be a story about meeting a teenaged fan with leukaemia that’s very touching. Two discs can be a bit too much to take in one sitting, but Think Tank is – certainly when compared to the pre-Boxed Life material, surprisingly accessible and good-natured. It’s the ideal starting place if you wanna check out the other side of the man, and I’m pretty sure it will stand as one of his best spoken word albums out there.

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Henry Rollins in Eric the Pilot (1999)


7.5


Henry Rollins in Eric the Pilot Parts 1-6

… and the saga continues. Eric the Pilot is another artefact (single-disc!) to satisfy the hungry fans that can’t get enough. Recorded in Australia in October 1997, it was recovered when Rollins was editing material for Think Tank. While most spoken word-released by Rollins contains a mix of wide-ranging stories, anecdotes and diary fragments, this release contains only one extended story about, you guessed it, a pilot called Eric. I won’t be a spoilsport by telling the point of the story (do an effort and check it out for yourself), but I’ll disclose it’s another example of the crazy things that happen when you’re on the road for 11 months a year. That’s about it. It’s not one of his essential spoken word-albums, probably because it - even more than the others - depends on the pay-off in the end, but it’s worth checking out. To further fill some space I might add that our cat (Ringo the Great) was acting like a maniac the whole night through. For some reason, he thought that scratching the front door of the apartment (which is right next to the bedroom door) was the best thing he could do, even after I’d reprimanded him several times. The cat’s an idiot: walk up to him screaming and yelling and he’ll lie down on his back waiting to be stroked. The thing is, I’m stupid enough to do just that so he thinks I appreciate his nightly battles and quests. Anyway, to revisit Rollins: Eric the Pilot might be hard to find in the regular stores you visit, but it can be ordered online (try www.cdbaby.com or www.21361.com).

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A Rollins in the Wry


7

Intro / Death to Poets / Journal / Clintonese / Language / Never Again / The United Colors of West L.A. / Rite Aid / Israel / Maturity / Men in Make Up / Future Parents / Encore

A Rollins in the WryeThe 638th release in the interminable story of the tattooed blabbermouth, A Rollins in the Wry covers the same old familiar territory (travelling, language, Rite Aid), but there are some new topics and perspectives as well. A nice example is a piece on language skills, discussed first by superficially analyzing the Clinton-testimony (“Basically, he had 800 spears a minute thrown at him for five hours and dodged everyone of them…amazing…here’s a guy who uses his tongue prettier than a $50 whore”) and then by quoting from a hilarious Czech fan letter (“On two concert I’m should collective photo but small fat bald-headed technologist be insane”), elaborating on it by imagining how great a feature-length movie would be with that kind of language. Another high-light is the hyper-active, self-deprecating maturity-monologue in which he dismantles the entire Rollins-myth by ways of a feminine perspective (“You will lecture me about the virtues of this author or this musician, how you understand ‘em better than anyone else can, cause these people just don’t understand, and you, you understand everything cause you are Mr. Intensity, and you are Mr. World Traveller Guy and soon as you have impressed me with how worldly you are and how smart you are, then you’ll let your façade down and show me how sensitive your are. The muscular, scarred, sinewy exterior is just there to protect the tender poet warrior who lives inside...”). Very few people ridicule themselves in such a thorough way as Rollins, despite the angry macho image. Another reason why it’s somewhat of a “different” release, is because the show was recorded on the day the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado happened. Mere hours after the fact, Rollins predicts how the experts will speculate on what would bring persons to do such an act (picking up the rumour that electro-band KMFDM could be to blame and elaborating on the lack of substantial relationships and values). Sceptical, but not moralistic, it shows Rollins to be an extremely dedicated and opinionated individual who brings more variation into the autobiographical rants with socio-critical commentary. Perhaps you don’t share his opinions, but you sure gotta admit the guy can be extremely thoughtful and funny. Often both at the same time.

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Live at the Westbeth Theater (2001)


7.5


Intro / Canadians Are on the Move / Jr. Pilot League / Worcester Mass. / Mars Needs Aryans / I Smell a Ratt I-V // Back After the Break / As the Crow Flies / The Undoing of a Man I-IV

Live at the Westbeth TheaterThis low-priced, 110 minute-long 2CD contains the fifth of six consecutive New York shows that Rollins did at the end of 1999. As Rollins argues in the liner notes, it was one of the last shows of a crammed schedule and it shows, as the entire performance goes very smooth and fast-talking Henry effortlessly switches from topic to topic, makes sudden and occasionally long digressions to finally return to exactly the same point where he left off. Unlike several of his earlier spoken word-albums that mainly seemed to serve therapeutic goals, Rollins runs the gamut here from anecdotes to every observations and the occasional political issue. More specifically, he touches upon baffling newspaper articles ("He crushed it between the toilet seat?"), America's obsession with celebrities (in this case John Kennedy, Jr. - "a guy who failed the bar and ran a shitty magazine"), thinking up ways to get rid of the KKK, strictly Aryan dating sites and solve political conflicts ("Blast The Ramones!"). More than half of the first disc is about going to a Ratt ("misogynist, mediocre music") concert in L.A., the dress code of the crowd and the band's unlikely stage banter (the "Ratt shit is better than cat shit… cat shit stinks"-line is already a classic at the Peters residence), which triggers an elaboration on the use/abuse of English that somewhat overlaps with the material on A Rollins in the Wry (something that actually happens rarely, despite the large amount of spoken word-albums out there). The second disc contains more 'personal' stuff, as he briefly discusses 'on the road-experiences,' growing older and the pitfalls that come with it, like buying furniture, a dish-drainer, a soap-holder and a blanket. Occasionally he meanders a bit, which gives the performance a bit of a too pedestrian pace, but in the end most of this cocktail of idealism, wittiness and brutal honesty still works as pure dynamite action.

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