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xmag.com : October 2000 : JKMA

"Just kick my ass." The line which titles this fledgling column comes from Marty Pufkin, the sycophant publicist from the movie This Is Spinal Tap, portrayed by that noted thespian and David Letterman orchestra leader, Paul Shaffer. However, I must add that the context in this instance is substantially different: while Pufkin was begging for a heiny kick as masochistic payment for his utter incompetence, I'm pleading with the local rock 'n' roll community to deliver unto me a metaphorical butt-booting. What I'm looking for is revelation, epiphany or catharsis--a pleasant surprise among those legions of local bands that think imitation--please, no more groups that sound like Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews--is the sincerest form of flattery... or, key to success.

Musicians unafraid to take chances or buck trends are the ones that earn my admiration and, consequently, get rewarded with a little ink. One such band that recently surfaced with a bang is The Real Pills, a quartet of suit-and-tie-wearing lads from the far reaches of Idaho that relocated to Portland to seek greener career pastures. Quite often a band that decides to add a sartorial edge to their stage show does so in order to mask some musical deficiency. Not so with The Real Pills. Their turbo-charged 60s-informed garage rock is the genuine article, driven by flailing drums and soulful, action-packed vocals. Obviously these guys have an affinity for both brutal proto-punks like The Sonics and somewhat more melodically inclined noise boys like The Flamin' Groovies. Needless to say, this isn't music that has a snowball's chance in a microwave of being even remotely commercial, but The Real Pills shake it up for all they're worth every time they take the stage. If you're looking for a good time, The Real Pills are easy to swallow.
Crack City Rockers is another band that prides itself on motoring under its own power without a thought given to which way the winds of style are blowing. The Crack City contingent are by no means the "hottest" musicians in town, nor are they a particularly polished ensemble. Yet CCR (not to be confused with Creedence Clearwater Revival!) ALWAYS go out on a limb during a performance. Whether it's singer Eric Gregory rolling around on the floor, free associating declarations of love and bitterness while his guitar feeds back, whines and eventually falls over, or the rest of the band blasting away behind him amidst a flurry of sweat and warm beer residue lashing about like an unexpected rain storm, this is one band that makes certain every note's expended, even if its a clinker. Gregory is a disciple of the Lou Reed/Richard Hell school of face-down-in-the-gutter poets, who forge a tough relationship between their uncontrollable desires (LUST!) and the mean streets around them. On songs like "Hey World" and "I Know What Cities Know," Gregory is a defiant but wounded character looking for a healing love while trying to keep his wits and his defenses in good working order.
In both cases, what we have here is rock without the slightest whiff of artifice, something we're in short supply of. For bands that actually love music, it's a matter of necessity, the need to vent the demons that drive you and not a series of calculated career moves. It's like looking for a true Christian--one that prays and performs charitable acts because they are truly inclined to do so, as opposed to a hypocrite consciously working towards a heavenly reward (sorry for waxing metaphysical).
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