Our buddy Josh from Seattle has actually had beers with more WYMA guys than I have. In fact, the only time I've ever had beers with a WYMA person, Josh was with us. Excellent guy, and I've learned a ton about great music from him over the years. Anyway, it was Josh who first alerted me to the existence of Portland, Oregon's asskicking heavy rock band Red Fang. Like many, my first experience with Red Fang was through what is perhaps the greatest rock and roll video of all time -- "Prehistoric Dog." The "Prehistoric Dog" video, like the most sublime Greek tragedy, has all the elements of the human experience: fights to the death, shotgunning beers, puking, Olympian rock and roll, a 1967 Olds Cutlass (my first car was my dad's '69 Cutlass) and LARPers. It also has the greatest spoken (not sung) line in rock video history: "Hey Gandalf, nice dress!" What the hell, there's no sense being cute about it -- here's the video:
In early March of 2009 Red Fang took their two EPs and combined them into their first full length album. One night in early March of 2009 I went to a Modest Mouse show at Disco Rodeo in Raleigh with my daughter. It was so crowded and smelly and smoky that we left after the first band. My daughter felt guilty about wanting to leave, but not so much when I told her my plan was to drop her off and hit the Pour House downtown for a show with Red Fang and the superawesome Early Man. I completely lucked out. At the merch table I bought the Early Man EP (along w/ the just-released-that-day Red Fang) and asked the bass player to sign it for my daughter. I told him we'd been at the MM show. He asked how it was, and I told this longhaired metalhead that we had left because there were too many smelly hippies. He burst out laughing, and ran about the bar getting his bandmates to sign the CD for my daughter. Great guys, all of them, and both bands played phenomenal sets -- proving that there's no substitute for loud music in a small place. One of the best shows I've seen in the past few years.
If you watched the "Prehistoric Dog" video, maybe you'll identify with me when I say that I was worried about Red Fang. Think about it -- they hit that song so pitch perfect. It's a flawless rock song. Then they put it in the greatest video ever. And they didn't even have a full-length album. Where the hell did they get the budget to do such a professional production? Who paid the fooking LARPers? And despite that when glued together the two EPs made a very fine heavy music album, something made me think I wouldn't see these guys again.
Then a couple of days ago, the great website Punknews.org announced that a new Red Fang album was imminent. They also announced that it was streaming over at NPR. Red Fang? NPR? Isn't NPR the station with the announcers whose voices project at exactly the same amplitude of my car's engine? I believe I have tinnitus as a result of putting CDs in the car stereo after growing bored with stories about summer dance festivals narrated by Neal Conan.
So I've listened to the new Red Fang album, "Murder the Mountains" several times now, front to back. It might be my favorite album so far this year. "Prehistoric Dog" was not a fluke, I am happy to report. The new album is bursting with Iommian riffs propelling perfectly constructed 3 and 4 minute metal jams. I guess the exception, at least as to time, is the nearly 6 minute "Wires", which is the best song on the record. Check it out.
This album is still new to me, but I'm so blown away by it that I don't think I'm overstating to say that it belongs on the shelf next to Kyuss circa "Welcome to Sky Valley", or mid-90s Fu Manchu. The vocals (traded between guitarist Bryan Giles (no, not the ex-Brave/Padre, but thanks for asking) and bass player Aaron Beam) match up to those great bands in every way, in a wonderfully indulgent production by Chris Funk of the Decemberists. The album release date is April 12, but it'll be streaming at the NPR link above until then. If you're too tired to go there, here's another another great new tune, called "Hank is Dead"
and a nice live version of a scorcher ("Sharks") from the first album
And what the hell, here's my second favorite song off the first record, "Reverse Thunder"
Thanks Josh. And thank God we still have bands making music like this. Save your dimes between now and Tuesday.
Website: Red Fang (find MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. here)