There’s an attitude in the art world that an artist’s work is only as interesting as the artist itself, an attitude I hold myself, and I’m sure, dear reader, an attitude you hold as well. This attitude, however, has seeped into our subconscious through the superficial celebration of the rockstar, as we have come to know it after years of exposure to images of Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Roger Plant, James Hetfield, John Lennon and the like who have been thumb-tacked to millions of adolescent bedroom walls. And it has done so without further explanation or investigation in such a way that we all agree, but only on the surface. One may chalk this up to short attention spans, the desire to talk the talk without the ability to walk that darn walk, or musical ignorance (how dare I!), but whatever the reason may be, the imagination of the artist has been shadowed by the presentation of the superstar. The image should say enough most assume, but cover those Madden twins with tattoos and they still sing songs that are anything but dangerous or “edgy,” I believe the industry term to be. Write about, talk about, worship the punk DIY and Tim Armstrong will still put out a record on Universal and shoot million dollar videos that will play on TRL. When it comes to discussing music, the image shouldn't be a part of the conversation, unless I’m mistaken and we aren’t talking about music here. Only the really good music will offer itself entirely to the listener without the aid of a face to go with the name, and it will be just busting with personality.
Even though we all, musicians or not, try to promote an image that is inconsistent with who we really are, it’s refreshing to find those (musicians AND regular people, ha) who are honest enough to explore and share that exploration in finding their true voice with an audience instead of 'this is who I am and this is exactly what I am about.' One will be quick to note that those with the largest vocabulary and least amount of limitations will speak the most eloquently and have the deeper personality to rummage through.
With all that said, may I present to you Legalize Cannibalism, the second full-length, self-produced, self-released record from the Cadaver Dogs, an unlikely and unbelievably talented one-man band from Davenport, Iowa. A one-man band who recently shared the stage with Anthrax in honor of his winning their national songwriting competition to find those unknown wunderkind who are out there among us yet remain off the radar because the poster isn’t the goal, the expression and exploration are. And may I say good God!, what fantastic musicianship can come from those who seek out rather than sell out.
Graham Ferguson (guitar, bass, vocals, drum-programming) describes the Cadaver Dogs as a swift kick in the nuts, fusing humor, cynicism, optimism, various metal styles (from Iron Maiden / Megadeth camp to the alterna-camps of Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails, with EVERYTHING in between), and some wicked chops. A swift kick it may be, but one that feels as if delivered from many people stretching over many decades of truly interesting musical personalities, and some killer, killer guitar playing.
Snarling dogs, machine-gun drumming, chainsaw guitar licks, sprinting basslines, a vibrato-laced voice wailing about rebirth…dueling guitars, oh my. And that’s only the first two minutes. “You keep my streetlights burnin’ all night / You keep my city glowing all night / Give me a reason and I’ll pull the plug on you for sure / Take what I don’t need leave what I don’t want for you and yours / We’ve made the game you’re born to play so study up and obey the rules / My body doesn’t make itself, it appears you have someone to do / You’ll wear the uniform, I’ll watch your children starve and die / You’re all working late tonight, feed my electric life / The world is my apartment and I’ll decorate it the way I like / 2000 story furniture pollutes the air for free tonight” exclaims “Electric Life” between guitar solos that would make any guitar player, with a right mind, blush and go home to practice. By this time during your listen, remind yourself that this is the work of one guy, note for note, hit by programmed hit, all genuine Graham Ferguson, a name I’m sure will be hard forgotten after this record eats you alive.
Legalize Cannabilism is the manifestation of an incredibly kick-ass band phantasized by a lone musician with a lot to say in several different voices. The louder of these voices being the tastiest, naturally. The tune “Kill the Machine” is not only one of the most well-arranged pieces of instrumental music one could come across, but it is also an excellent demonstration that sometimes the best voice is one’s speechless voice. In fact, the strongest moments on this record are the less predictable ones, such as the pogo-ed melody on “One Does Not Agree,” the delicate arppeggiated break in “Reborn,” the country interlude on “Kill the Machine,” the solos (and title) of “Never Gonna Ever Be Enough” and time after time the crazy drum programming. Honestly, dear reader, you haven’t heard a man use a drum machine quite like this before, no sir, or ma’am. One-of-a-kind, that’s for sure.
Explore your talent; share it with those who care to listen. Challenge your ability to express your imagination in different voices and above all, put your back into it. The best of the best do this and the Cadaver Dogs have done this with Legalize Cannibalism. I hope for and predict huge things from Graham Ferguson, so listen up folks, there’s much to be learned from him, and he is very willing to share.