Music News

Trick or Trash

This year the kids just banged on Bill's door regardless of the fact that the trailer was dark as a cemetery. And the only exterior light on the tin home came from the silver and yellow strains of the half moon and the barren Dairy Queen sitting well-lit across the street.

Bill was drunk and crouched ineffectually on his hands and knees in front of his couch with the TV and stereo off. It was all about silence.

By no means was the darkened single-wide meant as a fright device for the little bastards who came around this night, ones dressed ornately as pimps and prostitutes and rappers and rapists. Rather, Bill's idea was to make it appear as though no one was home in hopes the bratty trolls would forgo their incessant sugar-fueled knocking and be off to irritate others in the horrible neighborhood.

His turn-off, drop-out maneuver worked well enough until two particularly persistent trick-or-treaters arrived.

"Open up, you old drunk," cried one four-footer between knocks on the door. "Open up, pervert."

Bill peeked through a rip in the drape to see two evil boys standing there in the wan light, strangely handcuffed together. The one talking was dressed in a suit and tie: horrifyingly, a lawyer.

Brave thinking in a trailer park, Bill surmised.
"C'mon, you old gin swill," yammered the bratty barrister.
"Let's go; he's probably passed out in there," the boy's friend said. "My mom says he's always drunk, day and night."

The friend wore a button-down shirt with faux guts dangling out from underneath. He had dark circles under his eyes, and he carried a Styrofoam tombstone. He was dressed as a walking dead person, a zombie.

What kind of message does Halloween send to these greedy, snot-nosed brats, Bill thought as he sat up in the dark, mouth breathing the sterile air around him and feeling the faux-wood-grain walls start to close in: that they can go and beg and get free stuff just by being cleverly dressed and coy?

It reminded Bill of everything he hates about people; how in this culture it is those with the self-promotion skills who succeed, an honor system that transcends morality. A herd mentality that breeds emotional disfigurement, illiteracy and vanity. It is a society with a built-in obsolescence, in the midst of its end, and one to which Bill says: nah.

"No, I know he's here," the first boy said, as his knocking switched to pounding. "We just have to get him up and motivated."

Bill had had it with the night, which to him was just a colorful imitation of real life anyway. All Souls' Day, indeed.

With a crack of the knees, Bill got up off the mauve shag and found the light switch. He flicked it on, and the light signaled an eager voice from outside the door, "He's in there, I knew it."

Bill moved to a pile of CDs stacked on the floor up against the back wall. He dug around until he found the Alice Cooper magnum opus Billion Dollar Babies. He pulled it out, opened it, and plopped the disc into the CD boom box and hit track 10. He then pressed the repeat button and turned the volume nob far to the right.

"I love the dead before they rise/No farewells, no goodbyes . . . ," sang Alice on the pre-eminent anti-yup anthem. "I never knew your rotting face/While friends and lovers mourn your silly grave."

Bill, amused with himself, smirked and moved to the refrigerator. He opened it, grabbed two canned beers from a fresh 12-pack and slammed the icebox shut. He stepped toward the front door, opened it and confronted the lawyer handcuffed to the zombie. The two boys took a step back.

"Easy, now," said the kid lawyer.
With a swift Wagnerian swish of the arms, Bill simultaneously dropped a beer into each of the boys' bags and said, wide-eyed, "This is my enlightenment, brats, now get the fuck outta my life."

The boys, having not yet succumbed to adult pretense, looked up. The kid lawyer said, "Shit, man, thanks, dude."

"I love the dead before they're cold," sang Alice as Bill closed the door and waited for the next innocent ones.

Vanilla Ice
Hard to Swallow

Halloween, 1967, Robert Van Winkle slithered from the womb. A little more than 20 years later he adopted a hokey streetwise persona to more effectively appropriate a black art form, raided a songbook of old glitter queens, and, quickly, albeit briefly, became the patron saint of prepubescent white kids with disposable cash in American shopping malls.

A year and 15 million albums later, "Ice, Ice, Baby" was history and Vanilla's obvious shortage of skills had rendered his job as MC Hammer's pop-chart heir apparent over with more quickly than a prostitute's hand-job on a 16-year-old's virgin boner.

In '94, Vanilla returned with a dire attempt for gangsta cred, a by-the-numbers hard-core rap romp called Mindblowin, which featured, predictably, samples from James Brown and George Clinton and was made, by Vanilla's own account, with a "mind blowing" amount of drugs. Now it is Halloween '98, and this week sees the release of Vanilla's latest opus, unironically titled Hard to Swallow, a calculated grab for the disposable cash of the family-valued children of the Korn.

Vanilla's battleship coif and cheekbone glory of the early '90s whitewashed the suburban perception of rap and took Vanilla from novelty chart-topper to laughingstock nostalgia after "Ice, Ice, Baby" was the first rap single to top the Billboard pop charts. Hence, Vanilla was found guilty of, among other things, taking a black sound and making scads of dough. Big deal, though, 'cause couldn't the same be said of the Stones after they nicked their shtick from old blues cats, or the Clash after they adopted a patented Caribbean skank?

Really, Vanilla's Icarus drop had more to do with the fact that he wished to be black so hard he fabricated a poor black upbringing, both in his bio and in his interviews. In reality Vanilla did time in porcelain white upper-middle-class burbs. And when the fib got out, the white folks, of course, just couldn't swing with a pop-star white guy wishing he were black, and the black kids just hated him more because the rap world trades on credibility. What's a rich white boy to do?

With Hard to Swallow, Vanilla had a chance at redemption, a chance to come clean with the "honest" release; a similar career impasse opportunity utilized by the Monkees with Headquarters and Joan Jett with her post-Runaways debut Bad Reputation. Of course, he blew it.

What is mostly wrong with this mess of current alterna-fave cops is not that Sir Ice simply props himself in front of the firing squad with an ease akin to the next Ratt release; no, it is that he attaches a "nothing posed," "no more image," "nothing made up" posture. Korn/Limp Bizkit/Sepultura producer Russ Robinson and Vanilla made a record that sounds just like Korn/Limp Bizkit/Sepultura; it's all posed, it's all image, and it's 100 percent derived.

The songs plod along in feigned masculine nonsense, one indistinguishable sludge fest after another, incorporating the all-important heavy low end, from-the-side-of-the-mouth garbled rhymes and overprocessed guitar hysterics. One song ("Too Cold") even has the gall to reprise "Ice, Ice, Baby" with all the intent of a right-of-the-dial alternative hard-rock no-hoper. And it's all played by inconsequential yes-men with zero presence who have nothing better to do than ride Vanilla's coattails. And we ask ourselves, what coattails?

Various artists
Bride of Chucky:
Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture
(CMC International)


Just take a gander at the cast on this latest CMC foul-line wallet-packer: a Halford-free Judas Priest, Monster Magnet, Bruce Dickinson, Graeme Revell, Type O Negative, Slayer, Stabbing Westward, Powerman 5000, Static-X, Coal Chamber, the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, White Zombie . . . a veritable accumulation of all things zilch, the things which, by definition, DO NOT ROCK.

What does rock, however, is doll-part Jennifer Tilly, bottle blonde, curvy and pouty in the film's lead role. She slithers with the grace of Venus and offers dialogue in a girlish rasp of a voice that conjures simultaneous goose bumps and boners; enough even to forget about the horrors passed off as tunes in the film. (Though Motsrhead makes a shocking appearance here with the anti-wuss raunch of "Love for Sale," a song which, by definition, DOES ROCK.)

Contact Bill Blake at his online address: [email protected]

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bill Blake