David Peisner



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    Soundgarden: Alive in the Superunknown

    One guy's homeless, one likes sleeping all day, one's in Pearl Jam, and one's Chris Cornell. Beloved '90s titans Soundgarden are back, but where are they going? [Magazine Excerpt] From a distance, it doesn't look like much has changed. On a cool Thursday evening in June, three-quarters of Soundgarden stand on a street corner in the Belltown section of Seattle, smoking cigarettes. From half a block away, I can make out the long, lean figure of Chris Cornell clad in a green military jacket, leaning against the window outside the Palace Ballroom, a private dining room serviced by local celebrity chef Tom Douglas. The Soundgarden frontman's dark locks hang past his shoulders, a throwback to the band's heyday and a reminder of his status as grunge's only bona fide sex symbol.

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    Vic Chesnutt: When the Bottom Fell Out

    Last Christmas, Vic Chesnutt delivered on the promise of a career's worth of haunting, darkly comic songs and took his own life. David Peisner talks to his friends and family to get the untold story of one of rock's most curious characters. [Magazine excerpt] On December 5, 2009, Vic Chesnutt sat onstage at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, backed by a six-piece band that included Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto, Quavers multi-instrumentalist T. Griffin, and members of the Montreal chamber-rock ensemble Thee Silver Mt. Zion. A Christmas tree decorated with ornaments towered behind them, and large stained-glass windows flanked the stage. Chesnutt, his face heavy with scraggly stubble, propped a small wooden guitar on his lap as he slouched in the wheelchair he'd used since breaking his neck in a car accident in 1983.

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    Festival Guide: Against Me!

    Do you remember your first music festival? Probably Warped Tour when I was 16. Social Distortion played. I remember Mike Ness was like, "I wrote this when I was young and angry. I'm still angry!" [Laughs] That was my most vivid memory. What's the best thing about playing festivals? Being in a band, you don't get to see a lot of shows, so festivals are your chance to see bands play. You're also playing for an audience that isn't your own, so you have something to prove. What's the worst thing? Let's just say some of the more long-standing European festivals have a disorganized bathroom situation. You know there's going to be thousands of people, get it together! You guys have been accused of selling out your anarcho-punk ideals. Is it difficult to block out that criticism? You get numb to it. There's no way you'll ever convince people who feel like that to think otherwise.

  • Rhymefest, 'El Che' (dN Be)

    The table was set for Rhymefest in 2006: He'd won a Grammy for writing "Jesus Walks" and had a Kanye-approved major-label debut filled with smart, funny rhymes and big-money beats from guys like Mark Ronson and Just Blaze. The album tanked, though, and after years in limbo, the follow-up surfaces via an indie. 'Fest is suitably pissed about all this, but it's only sharpened his edges. On "Talk My Shit" and the hilarious "Truth on You," bitter jabs are never far from self-deprecating punch lines, and the beats -- while likely less expensive -- are still brash and booming. BUY: Amazon

  • Airbourne, 'No Guts. No Glory.' (Roadrunner)

    On their second album, these Aussie hard rockers are exactly one schoolboy outfit away from being an AC/DC cover band. Frontman Joel O'Keefe has perfected Bon Scott's pinched howl, and the songs themselves pile up chunky riffs over a leaden imitation of AC/DC's signature boogie-woogie backbeat. As if that's not enough, the lyrics ("As long as you're alive and we're alive / Rock'n'roll will never die!") and song titles ("Born To Kill," "Overdrive," "Back On The Bottle") also have that haven't-we-been-here-before feel. Originality may be overrated, but this is ridiculous.

  • Josh Ritter, 'So Runs the World Away' (Pytheas)

    Josh Ritter long ago cast off his trad-folk chains, and his seventh album continues to make the most of his freedom. "Change of Time" begins as a delicate acoustic ballad but builds to a swirl of electric guitar, organ, timpani, and winsome backup vocals. "Another New World" piles piano, horns, and haunting organ atop a mesmerizing acoustic guitar lick, creating a wildly theatrical epic. Elsewhere, there are nods to '80s-era Paul Simon, classic U2, and recent-vintage Dylan. Ritter's wordplay can be dense, but his warm, inviting voice makes it a pleasure to unravel. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Matt Pond PA, 'The Dark Leaves' (Altitude)

    Matt Pond PA is often dissed as "lifestyle music": Y'know, tasteful aural wallpaper to decorate the lives of mildly depressed, postcollegiate junior copywriters with cool haircuts. That's not entirely inaccurate, but it's a little harsh. The Dark Leaves wraps Pond's spry, jangly indie-pop melodies in plush, melancholy arrangements. It's rarely as lively as 2007's Last Light, but the interplay of organ, cello, and acoustic guitar on "Brooklyn Fawn" has a genuinely comforting warmth. BUY:Amazon

  • Rogue Wave, 'Permalight' (Brushfire)

    On their first three albums, Rogue Wave luxuriated in the melancholy side ofthe California dream. Here they trade rainy days for sunny optimism, unbridled rock, and grooves you can almost dance to. "We Will Make a Song Destroy" isan ambitious title for a band known for winsome pop bummers, but asguitars toggle from delicate to full blast, it lives up to its billing. With an acoustic guitar strumming over percolating synths, frenetic beats, and a rubbery bass line, "Good Morning" feels like Depeche Mode on happy pills. A jarring, but refreshing, makeover. Amazon

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    Story of the Year: Health Care

    The last thing Ian McDougall remembers is riding his bike home around 3 a.m., enjoying a warm mid-October night in Austin, Texas. The Riverboat Gamblers guitarist had been hanging out with his friends in Valient Thorr, who had played a show earlier that night. "I wake up in the ambulance and they are cutting all my clothes off," McDougall recalls. "I'm staring up at all these people who are moving my body around and putting things in me. I had no idea what happened." A pickup truck going 45 mph had hit McDougall, who smacked the vehicle's windshield with his head, then flew 100 feet through the air before landing hard on the ground, breaking an ankle, wrist, and hip socket, as well as fracturing his skull and face.

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    Metal in the Garden of Good and Evil

    A winding dirt road weaves through thickets of oak trees covered in Spanish moss, past a rhubarb patch, a chicken coop, and several wire pens housing dogs and one semi domesticated wild boar, before ending at a cluster of rustic wooden cabins. Disused auto parts lie scattered, a beat-up sign reading "Goin' to Getta Gator" hangs on the back wall of a tall lean-to, and just a few yards into the woods is a large pile of alligator carcasses that gets consistently picked over by turkey vultures. The property, which lies a few miles inland from Savannah, Georgia, belongs to a licensed alligator trapper, but on this July evening it's hosting a low-key barbecue for a couple dozen metalheads who happen to be friendly with his daughter.

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