Monday, November 19, 2012

Rock and Roll Is Black & Blue

Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue

The Decibel Geeks are no strangers to the Canadian rock trio, Danko Jones.  Chris and Aaron featured one of Danko's tracks during Episode 32-Radio Sucks Canadian edition.  I Want You from 2003's We Sweat Blood CD was the chosen track to make the Danko Jones introduction to Decibel Geek world.  Danko Jones formed in Toronto in 1996 and consists of Danko Jones on lead vocals and guitar, John Calabrese on bass and Atom Willard on drums.  Willard replaced drummer Dan Cornelius who left in 2011, making Willard the sixth drummer for the band.  The song Bounce from their 1999 EP My Love Is Bold received a fair amount of radio airplay on Canadian stations and assisted in garnering them a Juno nomination in 2000 for Best Alternative Album.

The next year saw the release of I'm Alive and On Fire, a compilation of some of the bands earlier recordings and B-sides.  It contained five of the six tracks from My Love Is Bold and also one track from the even earlier, self titled, EP from Sonic Unyon Records.  The rest of the tracks from the EP would surface years later on 2009's B-Sides CD.  They also toured hard in Europe playing festivals such as Denmark's Roskilde Festival and Sweden's Hultsfred Festival.

The first full length recording, Born A Lion, my personal fave Danko album came in 2002 and sported such killer cuts as the first five tracks Play The Blues, Lovercall, Sound of Love, Papa and Soul On Ice.  This album saw more tours in Europe visiting Netherlands and Belgium and also returning to the two festivals from the previous year.  They were able to secure the opening slot for The Rolling Stones on their "40 Licks Tour".  Catch the videos for Lovercall ( and Sound Of Love ( with these links.

Not a band to rest or slow down they charged forward with We Sweat Blood in 2003.  The song I Want You was featured by Chris and Aaron during Episode 32-Radio Suck Canadian Edition.  The relentless touring continued throughout Europe and also visiting Japan.  Two more Juno nominations arrived for Born A Lion as Best Rock Album and Best Video for Lovercall.  In 2004 Danko Jones appeared on Canadian television supporting the downloading of music.  This is believed to be the cause of being dropped by their record label.  No matter, that didn't slow the trio down at all with that little speed bump.  The touring was now in full force visiting Germany for festival appearances at Rock am Ring and  Rock im Park.  These two festivals take place simultaneously one in the south and one in the west with the same bands appearing at both locations.  Sticking with the festivals Danko and company hit Download, Reading and Leeds festivals in England as well.  Australia also was invaded by the power trio and they obviously left their mark down under as influenced by the sold out shows scheduled for Feb/March.  All this and managing to garner yet another Juno nomination for Best Rock Album for We Sweat Blood.  A busy year for the hard working Canadians!

It would be a three year break before seeing the next CD from Danko Jones as Sleep Is The Enemy hit in 2006.  The title of the CD makes a statement that is certainly backed up by their hard work on the touring circuit.  Early in the year saw them in Germany, Netherlands and South Africa, but when We Sweat Blood was picked up by an American label they concentrated on the US and were simultaneously working two releases on both sides of the Atlantic.  Before Sleep Is The Enemy was released, drummer Damon Richardson departed the band, citing fatigue as his reason, making way for Dan Cornelius.  Sleep came out in February in Europe and Canada, but did not see the US until May, presumably to make space for marketing the recent We Sweat Blood release.  The tours continued, playing Canada for the first time in almost four years as well as more festivals in Europe like a return engagement at Rock am Ring and Rock im Park and also Wacken Open Air in Germany.  There were countless more festival appearances in France, Netherlands, UK, Finland, Switzerland , Sweden and Norway.

Code of the Road led off the next release in 2008's Never Too Loud, another two year break between releases, certainly a more humanly pace in this day and age of music.  Touring in Canada ensued along with more appearances on the European festival circuit.  An opening bill on the Motorhead tour of England, Germany and France helped push the album.  While three singles came from this recording, it is probably my least favourite Danko CD.  Aside from the great Code Of The Road, it seems to lack the bounce and originality of the other releases, but maybe I'm just being to critical and not catching the buzz of this one so much.

2009 brought B-Sides, released only in Europe and boasting a whopping 27 tracks including the remaining tracks from the original EP put out on Sonic Unyon Records in 1998.  They did a large European tour landing in countries like Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France and the UK.  Amongst this were still gigs at the festivals.  A Canadian only release of a greatest hits album also came out this year.

Reuniting with producer Matt DeMatteo from albums Sleep Is The Enemy and We Sweat Blood saw the culmination of Below The Belt for 2010's offering.  Danko Jones produced a very cool video trilogy for the singles that were released from the album.  The first was Full Of Regret and the accompanying video featured performances from Elijah Wood, Selma Blair and rock God Lemmy  Had Enough was next and serves as a prequel to the Full Of Regret story, this time featuring the Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio  The trilogy finishes with the video for I Think Bad Thoughts with Ralph Macchio and Elijah Wood

Now the hard working trio is back in 2012 with a freshly released collection of new rockers filled with lyrics about sex and partying, hey why mess with the formula?  Entitled Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue, which frontman Danko says in an interview reflects the beating that hard rock has taken in the last few years, dropping to below the fifth most popular style of music. This CD, while staying true to the proven Danko formula does show a little more depth to the lyrics on a couple of tracks and his vocals are shaved off just a bit, so that they are more melodic as he gains confidence in his singing ablilities.  Don't be afraid or concerned though, this is still a Danko Jones record and therefore is guaranteed to kick your ass! 

I had the opportunity to catch this trio's recent performance Friday November 16th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club in downtown Toronto.  Dentata, a local punk outfit fronted by two ladies on vocals/guitar and bass, with an energetic male drummer situated behind them set the stage and warmed up the audience.  They powered through what seemed like a short opening set with very little banter to the crowd, although the lead vocalist did announce something prior to the fifth track that sounded a lot like "like giving birth to Satan's Baby", but maybe I didn't hear it correctly.

For his first show in his home town in almost two years, Danko, John Calbrese and Atom Willard held nothing back and pulled out all the stops assaulting the crowd and leaving us black and blue.  Danko's intro music filled the auditorium at around 9:05pm as the trio sauntered on stage.  They led the charge with Terrified, the opening track from the new Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue CD.  By the second song, I Want You, you could see a vein popping in Danko's head as he gave it his all, putting in a big effort.  Forget My Name was up next and these guys sounded tight and were obviously happy to be up on stage.  Danko took a moment here to address the crowd, his animated and funny monologue was rather entertaining. He introduced the next song as "First Date is not a song about kissing on the first date, but a song about fucking", he says, "but if I
say that it doesn't get radio play......uhoh, probably pissed them off again already".  Following First Date was the poppier flared first single from the new CD, Just A Beautiful Day  From there we were treated to their first hit that brought them more mainstream attention in Bounce, during which Danko's facial expressions were quite animated.  Known for his spoken word and rants, he expressed his feelings on playing here at The Mod Club on the night before the club's 10th anniversary and how Danko Jones wasn't invited to the party, but Kanye West was and how he wanted to hang out with Kanye.  "Code of the Road is about three, not like that, three guys in a band" Danko quipped as they broke into the lead track from 2008's Never Too Loud.  Full Of Regret brought us into a short drum solo and then Danko's proclamation that there will never be a Danko Jones reunion tour because they will never break up no matter how tough it gets was met with raucous cheers from the audience. Next Danko explained the gist behind the song Lovercall.  "It's about oral sex", he said. "Men pleasing women for 7 hours" as he flicked his Gene Simmons like tongue at the ladies down front.  Conceited from the new CD was next and led us to Cadillac off of the I'm Alive And On Fire release.  Another track from the latest offering, I Believed In God closed
out the regular set as they left the stage for a short break.  The popular I Think Bad Thoughts led the charge of the encore and they even broke into a little of Judas Priest's Breaking The Law during it.  As a tribute to many, many great musicians that have left us Danko listed off an extensive group (including Eric Carr) that he was waiting to party with when the time comes.  Had Enough brought the show to a close and I was stunned into shock at the cohesiveness of the unit, tight vocals and each instrument was properly highlighted all around throughout the performance.  This was my premier foray into a live performance of Danko Jones and I must say, they sound amazing on CD, but absolutely blow your mind live and they must be seen and heard this way to truly appreciate them!

The Mango Kid is a busy man!  Aside from the near constant touring with the band, he also hosts a radio show based in Stockholm Sweden that is syndicated to stations in Canada, Germany and Norway.  He has released a spoken word CD and toured as a spoken word act as well.  As if that's not enough, he writes columns for magazines in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Hungary.  But, wait, he's not finished yet!!  His podcasts, yes he records and releases his own podcasts as well, are available for free from the official website
Do yourself a favour and dive into the new, fresh sound found in the catalogue of music from this Torontonian trio.

The Meister

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