Blowtorch Your Ears Off!


Another night at Chain Reaction, where the men's room graffiti gets better and better. On this evening, we learned that some random gent has been dissed—or praised, perhaps—as "an ass-licking boner-biter." We were also anointed with the knowledge that "MASTER BAITING RULES," but apparently spelling lessons do not. On another note, the club now doles out American flag wristbands to make sure that the people inside are supposed to be inside, which begs the snarky question: If we cut ours off, do the terrorists win?

Anyway, we keep reading that rock is coming back—Robert Hilburn says so, so it must be true! Of course, rock never really went away. We know this because we actually get out to clubs regularly and see these once-small-now-mega bands during their embryonic stages (while everyone's out currently "master baiting" over the White Stripes, we fondly recall seeing bro-sis/hubby-wifey Jack and Meg two years ago at the old Foothill in Signal Hill, wailing away to a room that was mostly empty. Where were all you poseurs back then, huh? Huh?!?).

The Pressure were one such gaggle of blazing youngsters, a Costa Mesa trio who gave us hope that the aural world was in fact not devolving into an ooze of corporate-sculpted ass-clown rock. Now a couple of ex-Pressure peeps have gone and formed Your Enemies Friends, and all we can say is . . . ouch! Your Enemies Friends are harder, thrashier, crustier and angrier—and more into causing sonic compound fractures—than the Pressure ever were. Their tunes—with such vitriol-spewing lines as "I hate my friends/it's totally over!"—lack that keen pop sense the Pressure once had, but the "leave 'em with a throbbing migraine" approach actually works well: tuneful and endearing without that wretched let's-act-all-pissed-off-just-because-we-can aftertaste. From our vantage point, you could barely hear their synthesizer player, and the bass parts were a tad overwhelming, but we got the point, and, perhaps, witnessed the birth of a new genre: PMS-core, anyone? Oh, and we should point out that someone in the band was running a fever of 106 just a few days before this gig, yet they soldiered on remarkably.

The night began inelegantly, though, with Bullet Train to Vegas, who apologized at the outset for their tardy arrival, putting the blame on Guitar Center for some obscure reason. Once their allotted half-hour started, they didn't do much to win us over, firing off some indecipherable heavy metal sludgery and cretinous caterwauling—short, swift explosions that were all right for their raw-meat aspect but not convincing enough for us to want to hear much more. As noise goes, Bullet Train to Vegas have molded a solid enough base, but they just haven't yet built much on it that's terribly memorable (at least everyone in the band was spiky-hair-free, unless that guitar player was hiding something underneath his knit hat). And their singer was absolutely incapable of actual singing, cursed—or, hell, maybe blessed—with a voice box that sounded something like rabid cats getting their eyes gouged out with a rusty dental drill. But maybe it was supposed to be like that.

Bookending the evening's entertainment were Pretty Girls Make Graves, a Seattle outfit with a smidgen of buzz about them, mostly because a couple of people in the band used to be in the Murder City Devils, who were always a hit-and-miss/love-hate thing with us. Whether it was the Murder City connection or the collective, dizzying wallop packed by Your Enemies Friends and Bullet Train to Vegas, Pretty Girls came off merely as another band that wanted to blowtorch your ears off without giving you a good enough reason why—a variation on the Murder City theme, but with an uppity chick doing the lead-singing duties. A couple of their tunes sounded okay, but mostly the band felt unfocused and malnourished, more into substituting volume where you'd think art and creativity oughta be instead. And even they didn't seem sure at times where to take the music, preferring just to hurl it out there in the hopes that someone, anyone, would get it. Some surely did, but they probably forgot exactly what it was as soon as they schlepped out the Chain Reaction front door. Are Pretty Girls Make Graves another one of those new-rock-bands-out-to-save-the-world phenoms? If so, we'd rather dive into our old Osmonds albums.


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