Heavy Makes Me Happy (April 24th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Have you heard of the Mexican psych-metal band Apolo? Well, neither had I, until I received my most recent installment in Joyful Noise Recordings‘ so far very fruitful White Label Series. Each month, a different established artist, in April’s case Teri Gender Bender, of Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows fame, selects a recording they personally endorse. I am someone who’s very selective about where I send my music money–even though it may seem like I must go broke–but I felt this series was a great gamble. In a fantasy sense, I almost feel like an A&R rep is reporting to me with a fabulous find about which I know absolutely nothing, and that the rep’s expertise guarantees that at least I’m going to be interested. I’ve enjoyed the first three entries in the series–February’s release, Berry’s Everything, Compromised is even in my top 10 for the year–and Apolo’s Live in Stockholm is no exception. If you’re in the mood for some heavy but movin’-movin’-movin’ music, I’d give this album I try. What little psych-metal / -rock / -punk I’ve heard has tended to get mired in rather dated trippy-dippiness, bald-faced derivitiveness, and corny posing; if you consider the original inspirations for such bands, they themselves were the cream skimmed off the top of a mostly sour batch. Apolo plays with a difference. With a bite and intensity. Perhaps I should let Teri’s liner notes refine my own commentary (especially since the singing’s en Español, and she’s fluent and I’m not):

“Their music and lyricism is a representation of Mexico’s fiery youth, of an unsettled fight against corruption imposed by the brutal government that forever tries to attenuate hopelessness as a normality. The eerie, indigenous, mythical storytelling captured in the native tongue of our historically rich country expresses the various forms that light and love can morph into. Their growth has become undeniable because they persisted and turned their surroundings into metaphorical bullets loaded within their music”

Here’s a track from 2011 that might hammer the argument all the way home (note: they’ve gotten tougher in seven years):

The Joyful Noise Series is supposed to be subscription-only, but looks like you can buy it here. If you need some heaviness to make you happy, I’d prescribe it, because it worked for me.

In more heavy developments, Apolo’s assault led me to crave more riffage and fury, so I reached back into my past. There’s nothing like teaching middle school and discovering you have a musical jones in common with your kids, and in those days, the jones was Local H. “Bound for the Floor” and “Copacetic” had lit our fuses, but unlike me, they didn’t seem to obsessively follow folks’ careers–singles kids, pretty strictly. When Here Comes the Zoo came out in ’02, they were none the wiser, so I brought it with me one morning, and before long, we were all chanting, “We’re all defanged and declawed! / Creature-comforted!” We even had a running joke about Chinese pugs, and were a whisker away from being official arms of the band’s street team (Midwest rock and roller unity) before policy interfered. Anyway…those were the days, and I always thought this record was underrated:

At my age, I can only handle so much heavy, so after those two burners, I turned to another new recording I was tipped to by the mercurial jazz and metal scribe Phil Freemah of Burning Ambulance. After an hour of listening trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer improvising impressionistically over the grooves of none other than Sly & Robbie, I was not only in a perfect contemplative state for reading, but also I’d moved a new slab into my pantheon for this trip around the sun. Dig:

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