JAIMIE VERNON – I DO THE ROCK

Vernon_WeddingBassJaimie Does the Rock

 

KISS_empire

Recently, under no prompting from anyone, Gene Simmons of KISS made the proclamation that rock music was dead. Thanks, Gene. No one asked you. This coming from a guy so out of touch with the public’s taste he believes, erroneously, that KISS was the last battle line of defense against the proliferation of vacuous pop, rap and R & B. Sadly, KISS was washed aside by Grunge as all rock acts were in the 1990s. Rock’s resurgence was only by the grace of nostalgia. Had there not been such a backlash against music by the current youth of the world KISS would be screaming that they weren’t included in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame – rather than complaining that they WERE included (ungrateful fucks).

Kissteria

Mind you, Simmons is an unapologetic self-promoter and everything that comes off the top of his ever balding head (you really don’t believe that hair is real do you?) is carefully choreographed to sell something related to KISS or his own personal brand. Declaring rock music dead allowed him to roll out and shill for KISS’ newest attempt at regurgitating the embarrassing legacy that long ago failed the sniff test: a 40th anniversary boxed set called ‘Kissteria’ that trots out the same old sawhorse tracks and re-workings of shit that no one liked the first time around; Live versions of songs from ‘Animalize‘ and ‘Crazy Nights‘? But why? So you can bilk the KISS army one more time? Oh, yeah…nevermind.

Simmons would have us believe that in the last 30 years only KISS mattered. Maybe to the devout fanbase they did. Admittedly, I was a big fan. Then I turned 15 and realized that my Jaimie_June1978penis was not an extension of my ego and could, in fact, be kept in my pants until such time as it could be used appropriately and not in the name of conquering drunk groupies. I found a bigger world of hard rock not quite as juvenile as the likes of KISS’ “Plaster Caster” or “Lick It Up”. But to the world in general everyone had seen through KISS’ Saturday morning cartoon kabuki theatre and graduated to meatier fare far removed from KISS’ Spinal Tapian tragedies. To his eternal detriment, Simmons discovered and fostered the likes of an L.A. band called Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen is certainly no Ace Frehley. Ace rocks in his own 1970s classic drunken fuzztone way but Eddie took it to the next level by reinventing how the instrument is played. And others would follow: Steve Vai, Malmsteen, Satriani, Nuno Bettencourt. It became a sellers market for guitar virtuosity and rock in general.

Dr FeelgoodThe bands that survived Grunge returned to do what KISS did…only better – in fact, I believe Motley Crue’s ‘Dr. Feelgood stands as the best KISS album they never made largely on the production smarts of Canadian producer Bob Rock – who would revive the careers of both Aerosmith and AC/DC as well as producing the earth shattering black album by Metallica. KISS could have learned from this. Instead they had Mr. Rock remix their poorly produced early 1970s anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite” complete with sampled drums to replace the larger-than-cardboard sound of Peter Criss’ original drum kit. Hardly an inspired use of a talent like Bob Rock’s. To their credit KISS did reconnect with the man that gave them their biggest studio album success, Bob Ezrin, for 1991’s ‘Revenge’. A monster sounding album with a plethora of well written and executed songs. Sadly, it came out minutes before Kurt Cobain ran it over with teen spirit.

10648461_10152581701286355_7504724824816356237_oAs a musician in bands during the post-original line-up KISS epoch, I found myself drifting into harder music with my own act Moving Targetz. We grew, we evolved. From outdated jangly guitar pop to hard ass rock; A mixture of Metallica, GnR, Queensryche, Faith No More and other contemporary cutting edge acts. Surely all these artists owed a certain amount of thanks to KISS, but not so as to let it ruin their careers.

If Simmons could get out of his own ego long enough he might know that rock is actually alive and well. Even if you don’t like Nickelback, they carry that KISS torch (hell, Chad Kroeger has said so). Rival Sons, The Trews, Monster Truck, Big Wreck, Red Dragon Cartel, NickelbackOne Bad Son, Big Sugar, Vintage Trouble (they’ve even added an R & B twist) are all flying the rock flag. What is dead is the old guard. KISS, Aerosmith, Scorpions, and AC/DC are the last men standing. Hats off to them for setting the standard, but we’ve moved on and when they finally retire the world will not collapse. It lives on through bands that didn’t give up just because Simmons said they should.

3QS_RoundIIIFor instance, crushing my speakers right now is Three Quarter Stone who, in their own way, are a throwback to 1980s metal (Scorpions, Maiden, Kick Axe). No drop ‘D’ tuning. No wall of Mutt Leppard vocal overdubs. Just straight up 4-on-the-floor hard rock with Marshall stacks, pounding rhythms and tasty guitar chops. Led by Chris Drone – surgeon by day, headbanger by night – Three Quarter Stone’s ‘Round III is their third kick at the can. Based in the sleepy Waterloo, Ontario community of West Montrose, Three Quarter Stone are a sneak attack from outside of the centre of the Canadian music universe (i.e. Toronto).
HelixOften times they remind me of another Southern Ontario hard rock act, Helix, Three Quarter Stone have an ear for melody and dynamics. Tracks like “Scream”, “Keep Your Distance”, “Til We Meet Again”, and “Searching” are the consumate rock anthems. No cliches here either. Each tune has a contemporary flavour while harkening back to a time when metal was honest and a whole lot less angry and cynical. They have some serious subject matter too with “Deathbed”, “What If”, and “In The Next Life” so these guys aren’t doing this as some reason to drink beer and score chicks. And this is why I like them. It’s a thinking man’s rock band. So rare and sorely missed these days.

Judas PriestThe band scores extra points for not just covering Judas Priest‘s “(You’ve Got) Another Thing Coming” but turning it on its head and making it into a slow blues jam. After some false starts with other line-ups, Drone has assembled the most solid version of this band yet. Danny Way exudes the right amount of scream vs. growl in his vocals; Drone and second guitarist Nathan LeBlanc work off each other well and never step on each other’s toes; and the rhythm section of Scott Clarke (bass) and Ev Locke (drums) are so in the pocket you’re never taken out of the song because of unnecessary bombast. Also on hand is mentor Greg Godovitz (Goddo) who makes one of his surprise appearances on the tune “Where It’s At”.

Three Quarter Stone @ Rockpile East

Three Quarter Stone

This should be the album that brings the band to a wider audience – in Canada and abroad. Catch them live on their Fall tour or get ‘Round III’ at iTunes or on CD from their website. NOTE: No KISS records were referenced in the making of this album. http://www.threequarterstone.com

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

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