The Chuck Dukowski Sextet are a relatively new musical powerhouse consisting of legendary Black Flag, Wurm, SWA bassist and SST alumni Chuck Dukowski, amazing artist Lora Norton on vocals, Lynn Johnston on horns, and Milo Gonzalez on guitars (although on this album he is only listed as a "guest," and is now a permanent member). Drums are played by Bill Stinson on this release, but by the looks of the band's MySpace page, it appears he is no longer a permanent member of the band.
This album features a wealth of guest appearances, some of them very well-known names; Joe Biaza of incredible SST band Saccharine Trust lends guitar to the tracks "Freedom" and "Xipe Totec," while Dukowski / Black Flag fan Flea of Red Hot Chilli Peppers fame lends mellotron and tambourine to the Velvet Underground cover "Venus in Furs." As for the music? It's completely mind-blowing, like little else you've ever heard before. There are a some echoes of Wurm and plenty of the distorted "punk-jazz" that was a staple of Black Flag. As a matter of fact, this album would not have been out of place on SST during the label's mid-`80s prime, but make no mistake -- this is an exciting and very new kind of music.
Many of the album's tracks feature no guitar at all and replace what would usually be done by a guitar with saxophone and clarinet, which may seem like an strange idea at first...until you realize that both Chuck Dukowski and his fellow Flag mate Greg Ginn's playing was often compared more to that of free jazz players like Ornette Coleman than to any bassists or guitarists. Given that Dukowski is the main mastermind behind this band, this move should now come as no surprise.
If I had to put this band into a category, it would be one hell of a long description -- post-hardcore punk free jazz?? I would rather just call it really good and intense music. Think of some of the more experimental SST "jam" bands, only with more direction and sonic power, not to mention better songs and absolutely wonderful vocals by Lora Nortan whom can switch seamlessly between beautiful crooning and violent screaming from song to song.
I know what many of you are thinking: Wouldn't it be cool to hear what a Black Flag song would sound like coming from this perspective? Well...you're in luck! The final song on this record is a Dukowski written Flag song and probably my favorite song of all-time PERIOD, and that song is of course "My War." The CD6's redition of the Flag classic is intense, to say the least. There are high-pitched sqealing horns in place of where would usually be Greg Ginn's high-pitched guitar sqealing and it adds to the intensity perfectly and Lora Norton hits the mic with more intensity than anyone has since Henry Rollins did on the original.
What are my favorite songs on the record? I'd go with the title track "Eat My Life," the haunting "Freedom," "Dreaming of the Endless Death," and, of course, "My War." In addition to having an absolutely amazing album, you also get amazing surreal artwork from Norton herself covering the entire booklet. If you are not familiar with the kind of SST pioneered brand of "jazz-punk" of which I speak, this may be an aquired taste, but no doubt if you like intense music then this album will be on your "best of" end-of-the-year list.
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