Monday, January 4, 2010

Clownsack - "Rotten Candy" Review!

It's another year & another month, and now is time to dip into the local metal archives for a new local metal CD review! And for just the second time since I started monthly reviews, we'll be looking at a release from a band from Sault Michigan! And this month, it's the debut album from inactive local funk/hard rockers Clownsack! Entitled "Rotten Candy", it was recorded at Klusterfunk Studios with producer Paul Stanaway, and was later released in the spring of 2006. If you don't know, Clownsack took on the persona and appearance of clowns, and didn't openly mention their real identities, which fit well for their style! The band's lineup on this album included original members Schloppy on vocals, Butter Cookie on guitar, Slappy on bass, and Scratchy on drums (who didn't return for their last disc, 2011's "Funny Farm".) Another ex-member, Doinky, is credited for "madness", which involved dancing live and providing backing vocals. I think his contributions on the CD are mostly backing vocals & spoken parts, but don't quote me on that.

How can you buy "Rotten Candy"? Well, it's now physically out of print, but you can purchase it online at CD Baby for the low, low price of $6! For a 13 track album, that's a very good deal! Check Grooves Music and other local merchants too to see if they have copies, just in case. The band also lists dozens of sites where the album (and individual songs/ringtones) can be downloaded at their official MySpace page, so give them a look just in case those sites are still actively hosting the songs! And yes, 5 songs from the album can also be streamed there, but check the above links to get a hold of these tracks! (Updated on November 6th, 2012)

Now to the review! 13 songs, let's start with the opening song, "Clown Sauce"! It starts with music you'd hear at a carnival, which sets the mood for their clown atmosphere! Nice funky riff kicks off the band's work on the song, not especially heavy, but it's really catchy! The lyrics on this song are decidedly NOT family friendly (as are scattered others.) Just thought I'd mention that for the benefit of the easily offended. That being said, it's very funny to listen to, & for all it's innuendos about "clown sauce" & "stroking my gun", it is well written, and veils it enough that you might not get it at first! Schloppy has a solid rock voice, not overly aggressive, but rangy enough to handle whatever's thrown at them! Good drumming too from Scratchy, and Slappy has some good bass lines too! I think the guitar is low in the mix though, there isn't a lot of "punch" to the song, though I imagine live, it'd come through better. There are definitely better musical songs on the album, but this is a very good opener to set the mood for the record, just don't take it too seriously, and have a laugh!

Next is "In Your Face", which begins with an intro where a child (presumably Doinky, who was a youth while in the band) asks a man if he's heard of Clownsack. The man said they sound gay, so the kid delivers a priceless reply! I'll let you figure it out yourself when you hear the song! The punch I was searching for in "Clown Sauce" kicks the song off, guitar sounds nice & clear, good to headbang to! The song's seemingly about getting violent revenge on those tormenting you in school, and the song has appropriate tempo changes! Doinky and Schloppy represent the kid in question at different ages, either questioning the bullying or describing the revenge. The choruses are awesome, heavy & "in your face" as the song describes, with funky verses & some great riffing from Butter Cookie! Definitely a better song than "Clown Sauce", and if I see them live, my head will be banging! If I had to criticize, the lyrics are slightly repetitive in the chorus, but that's minor.

Track 3 is "Social Homicide", a very well written song about rising up & being free, with some great metal sounds to back it up! The song has some great guitar work, especially with the funkier breakdowns, though I wish Butter Cookie was higher mixed, or tuned down a bit, either way. Also, the song features the first solo on the album, my only complaint that much of is concurrent with a sample from a John F. Kennedy speech. Aside from that (and I do understand it's meaning for the song, it fits very well), it's a real good solo, Butter Cookie has real skill! Schloppy sings with some real meaning here, shows that the band can be serious where need be! The song also ends kind of abruptly, which kills a bit of momentum though. Great song, better than "Clown Sauce" but just a bit below "In Your Face".

Then we have "Painted Lazy Faces", which is actually a song about killing mimes! Clownsack sure don't like mimes, and I do prefer clowns, so I understand their angle! That being said, the lyrics are repetitive, but aside from that, it's another solid song! Very energetic stuff here, I like how the riffs go higher in the verse, and Slappy's bass chugs along really well through the chorus! Interesting use of "scat" like vocals at parts too, they're not afraid to try different stuff, which is great to see! Another good song, though the choruses could have stood to have been more confrontational, and there should have been more lyrical content.

The fifth song is "Pissing In The Rain", which starts with a tiny drum intro before hitting some solid rock riffing! Schloppy is borderline rapping in the verses, but as an admitted fan of rap/nu metal, I don't mind! The song's essentially, I think, about not being noticed by others, but the song is definitely heavier than that would suggest! The chorus is great to sing along with, very melodic compared to the harsher verses! A really good song, easy to groove along with, but once again, I'd have liked a higher mix on the backing instruments, and like on "Social Homicide", there's another abrupt ending. Still catchy though! After that is "Boozey", which is about a homeless drunk clown with a hangover. The verses are quite reserved compared to the earlier songs, though I like the guitar effects! Luckily, the choruses crank the heaviness dial up! The guitar really stands out here, if Butter Cookie's in any bands out of his Clownsack disguise, they're lucky to have him! Great soloing midway through the song too, I'd have liked to heard it more on the record! Scratchy puts in one of his best drumming performances here too! It's a slightly repetitive song lyrically too, but it's another fun song!

Seventh is "Tradgically Beautiful" (spelling mistake is intentional), which is a really good song itself! The verses are fast paced & heavy, with the bridges & choruses slowing down. The song's lyrics don't fit the music at all, almost as a motivational tale to a person down on their luck. I'd have put these lyrics with a softer song, but no worries, this is one of Clownsack's best songs musically on the CD, I can imagine this being awesome to mosh with live! Bass is odd though on this song, can't quite place how to describe it. The song is fast & heavy, with awesome sing-along bridges & choruses, all it needs is a solo & higher mixed guitars! Definitely one of my favourites on "Rotten Candy"! Eight is "Saudi-A-Ripoff", a critique of Saudi Arabia's oil monopoly. Interesting hearing commentary like this from clowns, but hey, it works! They add a distinct Arab flavour to the song, with the opening & closing in particular fitting the song! The guitarwork here fits the subject matter, Butter Cookie puts a slight Middle Eastern spin on his riffs, which is definitely appropriate! The choruses are great, with gang vocals grouping together to scream "Ripoff!" where needed! Short & to the point, this song works well, though I don't put it above "Tradgically Beautiful".

Next is the album's shortest song, "Sack O'Clown". It clocks in at just 2:10, luckily they cram it full of good stuff! It's essentially about how clowns will kick your ass, and with songs like they play, can you argue? Very funky & heavy song here, as most of their stuff is! Schloppy has some great singing here, equally aggressive & melodic, and the guitar effects are awesome as well! I'd have made it longer though, thrown a solo in, and it also ends abruptly too. Great song for what it is, but it doesn't feel finished, they could have done more with it.

After that is the tenth track, "Stepdog", a very heavy & catchy song about being treated badly but persevering, using a dog as an analogy. I like the bouncy guitar effects in the verses & bridges, Butter Cookie really is the most impressive aspect of the album to me, he plays with a lot of variance & originality! Vocals are nice & heavy here too, Slappy also does really well on bass here too! Also great use of dog barking & dog-related sounds throughout! This might just be my favourite song on the CD, though that could change by tomorrow!

Then we have "The Box", which is also of high quality, though not perfect. I love the drumming, Scratchy especially beat the skins real well early in the song! The chorus almost sounds like it comes from a different song compared to the rest of the track, it's decidedly more melodic & low key compared to the heavy verses. I'm not really feeling the chorus for that reason, cause the rest of the song is heavy as hell & very moshable, it's sort of a buzzkill. Still a great song, but the chorus needs to be cranked up in heaviness, it's really help the song! Song 12 is the title track, "Rotten Candy", which starts almost against type with a very slow ballad-like opening. Definite sexual innuendos about opening the door to a girl's "candy store", which are amusing if you listen close! Honestly, Schloppy isn't bad at this softer singing, I'd like to see what they could do with a full ballad! Luckily for those of us craving heaviness, the song ends extra heavy! The final minute is almost a complete 180 in the sound change, bordering on hardcore! Great ending to the song, it saved it from being out of place into a slow building moshfest! And though I do like ballads when played well, I do prefer the heavy stuff!

And finally, lucky number 13, "Rumplestillskin"! It opens with tolling bells, good mood setter! As you can judge by the name, it's about the fairy tale character Rumpelstiltskin, and I never thought a fairy tale like this could be spun into a song like this! The verses are slower & softer, but that's likely intentional to allow Schloppy to tell the story clearly, and the verses are still funky! Choruses are really catchy, and once again, I love the guitar! This is the only song on the record to exceed 3:30 in length, and around then is when they take a more melodic softer approach once again to close the song, really morphing into a storyteller mode once again! A widely varying song here, not as heavy as some of the other songs, but musically, it's among the best! So that closes the album.....

...but wait, there's more! "Rumplestillskin's" only about 4:33 long, but if you let the track play for about 2:11 past that, you hit the outtake portion of the CD featuring over 4 minutes of joke outtakes from the recording of "Rotten Candy"! The humour level varies, but it's a fun secret addition to the album!

Overall, "Rotten Candy" is a very good CD full of great songs of a style you don't hear much in the Sault area! Especially considering that this was their very first release, they put in a lot of great stuff on it! I'm especially impressed with Butter Cookie on guitar, he's got some real skills! Schloppy has a great voice & used it effectively throughout the album, while Slappy was really good on bass, and Scratchy nailed the drums for the most part! Now admittedly, there are problems. The instruments could really stand to be mixed higher, especially the guitar. A lot of songs end abruptly, and except for "Rumplestillskin", all the songs are really short. Though yes, there is a lot of variance in sound & subject matter, I'd have liked to have seen more longer songs, and more guitar solos too! But that variance I just talked about is a huge plus about Clownsack to me, they can write anything from dirty sex innuendo-filled songs to more serious material, all while shredding some great music! They admittedly won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially if you lump their sound in with nu metal (I don't), but if you go into this to be entertained & rock out with some funk hard rock, or if you just like clowns, this is the CD to get! Here's hoping their next CD is just as good, and they'll be back on stage in the area real soon!

So there's my review for this month, and as I've already announced, February's review WILL be "Brace For Impact", the new album from Sault Ontario's own Detroit! I'm aiming for this to kick off the month on February 1st, in exactly 4 weeks, so stay tuned for that! As for March & beyond, well...I do want to try & review another Sault Michigan band in the spring months, I'm badly behind on them. Syktoyk Rampage's new album "22" will definitely be in the spring as well, just need to organize everything properly! And if there's a new album from a local band in between, it will be slotted in accordingly! But we'll see what's coming in March in about four weeks, so stay tuned! Thanks everyone, we'll get back to local metal news soon!

No comments: