Thursday, 7 July 2011

Don't Give Up The Day Job...

I have this mental image of branches of McDonalds throughout California being staffed almost exclusively by one-time members of also-ran Hair Metal bands. For every Motley Crue and Ratt there was a Roxx Gang, an Odin, a Hans Naughty, a Tuff or a Pair-A-Dice. 

"Do you want fries with that?"
There's a typically uncomfortable scene in Penelope Spheeris' Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, where an emotionally overwrought Randy 'O' insists that Odin will make it, no two ways about it, they will make it. They didn't. Not all would-be rock stars are like Brian May, guitar god and astrophysicist, they don't have a back-up plan if things don't work out. I suppose there's much to be said for the motivating influence afforded by having nothing to lose. An unfinished PhD thesis might act as a distraction to an aspiring rock god, causing him to lose focus. How many years would you want to spend schlepping up and down the M1 in a Transit van between gigs to play to one man and his dog when you know you could be curled up with a book in the university library? Thankfully, the corporate headhunters weren't clamouring to recruit ex-jailbird and abattoir worker Ozzy Osbourne, allowing him to concentrate on fronting Black Sabbath with his beautiful, plaintive bellow.

Some musicians manage to maintain a day job alongside the rock 'n' roll fantasy: Bruce Dickinson flies Jumbo Jets, Coldplay create cures for insomnia, Ronnie Wood has his art, Roger Daltrey has a pond full of trout, and Gary Glitter is always keen to babysit. Ron Chenier of Myofist (known as 'Fist' in their native Canada) has perhaps the most fascinating parallel career of all: he travels back in time to the Middle Ages to work as a blacksmith. I think it's wonderful that back in the Fifteenth Century Ron forges metal and then hops forward to 1980 to do the same thing in a musical context. And, the Medieval togs work beautifully in both situations.


 Their rather prosaic attire attests to the fact that Ron's bandmates don't have such exotic extracurricular pastimes. A bit of a shame because, despite having stolen the tassles from the handlebars of a little girl's bike to adorn his wrists, I think he's really onto something here. Clearly Manowar thought so because they stole his look wholesale. And added some baby oil.

More 'Manilow' than 'Manowar'

Revolting Hawaiian shirts and banana-hued leisure suits aside, Myofist are a band for whom I have a real soft spot. Their Hot Spikes LP from 1980 is a particular favourite.

It has a lively, infectious, quirky production which lends the tracks a joyful immediacy that always puts a smile on my face. The production techniques seem to anticipate those that came to dominate the 1980s without making the album sound hopelessly dated like so many records of that era. Containing elements of heavy rock, new wave and powerpop, stylistically, Hot Spikes is a tough one to pin down, but who cares, I want to listen to it, not file it. Having said that, see what you think of the title track: I hear a suggestion of Bachman Turner Overdrive's Not Fragile filtered through ZZ Top's Eliminator.

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