Kill Van Kull: Kickin' out the Jams at the Edge of Sunrise
Rock has been killed more times than all the hatchet victims in Rob Zombie's movies put together. Even more than jazz and hip hop. And the pretenders (not Chrissie Hynde's awesome group), poseurs and emo-indie-post-whatever bands have staggered around for more than a quarter century like the corpses in Shaun of the Dead. So you can't help but be surprised that burning, ass-kicking hard rock keeps rising out of the muck that the music is mired in. The latest group to rock this the listener's world comes from the working class band known as Kill Van Kull.
When you hear musical veterans, no matter what the style, you can tell right away there is a depth of feeling and confidence in their playing. There's no way around experience but to have experience. One of the worst aspects of the music business today is that most bands don't have the years of dues paying -- driving around the backwaters of North Dakota and East Texas playing clubs in tiny college towns -- necessary to get a band identity and some skills. Kill Van Kull, however, have rocked clubs and halls in New York, New Jersey, and, Los Angeles, CA, since the 80's, with time out here and there for health and personal crises and the intrusions of everyday life. Members came and went, but the core of the band -- Bill Cardinale on bass, Vinnie Raschella on drums, and vocalist Rick Cabrera -- stayed in touch even when they were in different places and playing in different bands. Eventually they came out of their hiatus in 2005, with a band consisting of the above original members and new members Al Anzalone on lead and rhythm guitars and Alex Mahoney on the saxophone and rhythm guitar. Their new CD 'Edge of Sunrise' is a hard rock record from the old school, with what hard core hard rock fans would expect from veteran pros, and some twists and turns in arrangements and songwriting.
The opening song, "Hot Date," let's you know what up - they're here to rock which rhymes with sex. From the blazing, unison bass and guitar licks to the caterwauling of Cabrera, Kill Van Kull kicks out the jams from the first note to the last. Though this song is a rock and roll sex fantasy that captures the dream of a magical moment, Kill Van Kull shows a wittiness not typical of the style of music: "I see you on the TV screen, in the middle of my magazine / Slide my fingers across your lips, softly kiss your fingertips / Infatuated, drenched in sweat ... Just say you want me and let me crawl inside / Wrap yourself around me honey / Watch me come alive."
Rick Cabrera - Vocals|
Bill Cardinale - Bass
Vinnie Raschella - Drums
Al Anzalone - Lead Guitar
Alex Mahoney - Saxophone & Rhythm Guitar
This band's forte is raw hard rock, but on the next cut, "Then You Were Gone," they flip the script. It starts out as a power ballad that, typically, sounds like a song that laments lost love, one that is meant to, as Bevis and Butthead used to say, "get the band some chicks, hehe, hehe." In fact, it is a song about the unrequited lost love of a boy - for his dad: "I never had a chance to go hunting with you / And what about the planes, and all the baseball games / All the things a son was supposed to do with you." The ballad parts, played by acoustic guitars, are interrupted by contrasting blasts of hard rock power chords. This keeps the song moving forward and creates a sound that is intensely mellow.
"Through the Night" starts out like a hard rock "met-a-chick-had-a-freak-scene and split" kind of song, a f--k 'em and back on the tour bus number. But this ain't the '80's and even rock chicks have come a long way. Instead of my man keeping in control, he finds himself rocked and his heart, mind, and body taken: "She started pushin', I started shakin' / My hands were tied, I was hers for the taking." The next morning he finds himself, not the player, but the played, as she shows him the door leaving him begging: "She said 'Baby, you know we're better off this way / Yesterday is gone now boy and tomorrow's another day.' / I said don't you want me to feel you Don't you want me to touch you?" And using the less-is-more approach to lyrics, Van Kull shuts up and lets the guitar do the talking with a burning solo that has all the emotion of the moment. Mr. Anzalone shreds to the end, spraying sheets of pure rock guitar sound.
"Kick 'Em and Smile" remind us why Van Halen was so goddamn cool back in the day. Van Halen wasn't afraid to get a little silly. This cut, like great rock records past and present, goes up to the edgy intersection where anger, teen age rebellion, and ridiculousness meets. And how can you beat lyrics like "I go to work, and you're bustin' my balls / I've kept my cool, now I'm ready to brawl / F--k this, f--k that, f--k everyone I'll kick your ass." You can't.
Kill Van Kull puts the first of the CD's sophisticated twists next on the song "Sweet Summertime." A normal rock song about summer love - rather, getting with a hot chick - is elevated, like a classic record from the '70s, by a bluesy horn section, featuring Mahoney, and sweet and soulful backup vocals. Like the band says, Kill Van Kull's music is "Hard rock with an infusion of blues and jazz." This approach crops up on the cuts that serve as contrast to the ballast of the rock and roll style found on most of the tracks: "Rock It Steady" and "The Bottom" have the slinky funk horns, rock funk beat, and, on the former, the growling vocals of vintage Tower of Power; "Summer Rose" starts as a soulful, jazzy ballad with a sax intro by Mr. Mahoney and continues as a trippy psychedelic affair and ends ala "Stairway to Heaven" with Mr. Anzalone playing, as he does throughout the record, incendiary blues-based guitar leads.
So many young groups and artists get caught up in the idea of making CD's and videos and getting on stage while forgetting to develop their music. That's why it's good to hear some old school kick ass rock and roll played by a working class band that is tight, inspired and clearly having a damn good time doing it. 'Edge of Sunrise' is a flavorful and fun smorgasbord of rock that ki-ki-ki-kicks out the jams!
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