Featured Music: Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Scum Scunge is equally old-school and by-the-book ... you punk-ass mofo!

Here’s a disco-version of this week’s column for y’all, eh.

By HearSay

There’s something about progressive heavy metal and ice hockey that just goes together. Maybe it has to do with the fact that, to play either or both, you have to be technically proficient and more than willing to show it off (thanks to your low self-esteem). Or that the Great White North, the land where ice hockey is religion, has produced several legendary prog-metal outfits, including Rush, Max Webster, and Triumph, whose early-MTV videos always featured bass player Michael Levine in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Or maybe that both the sport and the sound are men-only preserves — and extremely white.

HearSay hasn’t thought about the connection between prog-metal and hockey (and, incidentally, comic books, weight-lifting, and human skull tattoos) in years. Then I got Just a Taste ..., the most recent, four-track e.p. from local metal-heads Scum Scunge, along with a publicity photo of the band in which one of the guys is wearing — that’s right — a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt. (Awesome.)

There are problems. The c.d.’s mix is pancake batter; lead singer Donovan Cleveland has a liberal interpretation of staying on pitch; and, while I applaud the band’s ability and bravery to write songs about something (imagine that), some of what results is severely anemic lyrically. With the exception of “Complicated” and “Abuse,” two moderately mature tracks in which the concept of personal relationships is handled with a 10th-level Regdar fighter’s eye, the songs are, verbally, just a lot of chest thumping. “Nothing” finds Cleveland in the role of a tough, no-bullshit, clinically depressed guy who wants everyone to know he’s comfortable in his own tough, no-bullshit, clinically depressed skin. Similarly, “Crack Your Knuckles,” obviously an indictment of hip-hoppers who choose to battle with bullets instead of fists, is full of so much self-affirmation (in the words of Stuart Smiley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and — doggone it — people like me”) that you can’t help but smell the desperation. Cleveland even gets a little ghetto himself, saying stuff like, “step to me,” “punk-ass mother fuckers,” and “I step to anyone” — pure N.W.A. The track also gives the impression that the frontman dropped by the local watering hole one night, had words with someone, and then, on the way home, thought to himself, “Man, I shoulda just punched that dumbass in the teeth.” Unable to return to the scene of the confrontation, Cleveland could only turn his angst into music. And “Crack Your Knuckles” was born.

I’m probably making too much of the lyrics; they’re more than decent enough for music that draws its strength primarily from musicianship, and Scum Scunge’s is frequently inspired. The sound isn’t prog-metal in the traditional sense. It’s much heavier, more brittle, and less dependent on crafty time signature changes to make a point; head-banging rhythms are the chief passageways to impression-making. “Abuse” — a track from the band’s 2003 debut, Five Bucks Ain’t Shit, which features the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott on guitar — is a methodical stomp, with a simple, highly effective, old-school riff, a nice flattening out during the chorus, and Cleveland in good form throughout, going from monotone sing-talking to scream-singing to actual singing, as if he were three vocalists in one (à la Axl Rose).

Bands like Scum Scunge didn’t exist in the early 1980s, when prog-metal from Canada was spilling down into the states. You could see the outfit now as a reaction against the almost-anything-goes mentality that dictates most genre music today, including prog-metal. Scum Scunge seems to be saying that playing strictly by the rules of adventuresome heavy metal can not only lead to some decent songs, it’s also good sportsmanship. Wayne Gretzky would approve. Scum Scunge has two big shows this weekend. On Fri., they play the Ridglea Theater (6025 Camp Bowie Blvd., in Fort Worth) as part of a benefit for (no, not Katrina survivors) Richard Van Zandt, co-owner of the Ridglea who’s slowly recovering from a serious illness. Also on the bill are LaME, the Aftermath, 3/4 Ton, Necrogazm, Negative 263, and more. Scum Scunge then plays Sat. with Rotting Corpse, Necrogazm, and Kromium at Dreamworld Music Complex, 3102 W. Division St., in Arlington. Visit www.myspace.com/scumscunge.

Other Stuff

For those of you who missed the opportunity to live vicariously through your children about a month ago, don’t fret: Rock Camp will return, possibly with a couple-a twists. Here are two Camp-related ideas being kicked around very informally (we’re talking, 3-in-the-morning-bar-talk informally): Rock Camp for folks 50 and over and Rock Camp for “chicks.” Visit www.fwam.org, the web site of the ad hoc group that oversees Rock Camp, the Fort Worth Academy of Music. ... Taking place this Sat. at Firehouse Art Studios and Gallery (4147 Meadowbrook Dr., in east Fort Worth) is another installation of IMPRoVISED SOUND. Featuring some of North Texas’ finest sonic artists and promoters of the style — including Terry Horn, Mark Cook, Michael Briggs, and Ryan Supak — IS is neither a concert nor an art exhibition; it’s an experience (dude). Cover charge is $6. Stop by www.firehouseart.net or www.myspace.com/terryhorn. ... One guy who knows a lot about sound art and, in particular, musique concrete is Jhon Kahsen, the straight-ahead jazz artist formerly known as Johnny Case. Over several decades of recording, Kahsen has also put on polycarbonate some self-described “collages for concrete sound”; his most recent, Auralaire, came out a few weeks ago. Now that he’s adopted a Muslim name in honor of the civilians killed in the Iraq War and has recently released a full-length of protest jazz songs called Love’s Bitter Rage, Kahsen is beating the peace drum louder by holding a c.d.-release party Sun. at Arts Fifth Avenue (1628 5th Ave., in Cowtown; 817-923-9500). Kahsen will be accompanied by some of Cowtown’s finest jazzbos, including percussionist Joey Carter, bassist Byron Gordon, and horn players Chris White and Sylvester Jones. Cover charge is $10. See www.jcasemusic.com. ... Shows you oughta check out this week: Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (411 E. Sycamore St., in Denton; 940-387-7781) is hosting not one but two crazy-ass Fort Worth bands. Wed. brings Darrin and Adam Kobetich’s bluegrass-rock-jazz-film-score-C&W group, the Electric Mountain Rotten Apple Gang (with Warren Jackson Hearne and Esmeralda Strange); and Tue. gives us a synth-pop duo that has kept public appearances to a minimum, Best FWends (with Grand Buffet and DJ Jester the Filipino Fist). Lastly, the Gypsy Tea Room (2548 Elm St., in Dallas; 214-74-GYPSY) delivers to North Texas, on Fri., Tristan Prettyman, who is not a man but is extreeemely pretty (with Mike Doughty’s Band), and, on Sat., the kick-ass psychedelic-metal outfit from Sweden, Dungen (with the Doves, Longwave, and Mia Doi Todd).

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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