Vacation, Had to Get Away

Riddle of Steel checks in from Europe, Ghostface Killah gets all James Joyce on us, while the Download directs us to MP3 nirvana

Ghostface Killah's epic Fishscale is the Finnegans Wake of 2006: a dense, textured creation rich with wordplay, visions, rants and insanity. It's a kaleidoscopic crack-house opera, a true-crime novel, a Coppola screenplay. Ghostface's machine-gun rhymes fly out of the speakers so fast that by the time you've dodged one, you've been slayed by a dozen others. How is anyone supposed to keep up? Now that we're starting to digest the masterwork (and the lyrics have been posted online), B-Sides thinks it's time to offer a CliffsNotes-style synopsis of the stunning opening track, "Shakey Dog." As we decipher — the best we can, at least — more songs, B-Sides will bring them to you.

"Shakey Dog" by Ghostface Killah We're riding around in a taxi smoking marijuana that smells like the fish they sell on 125th Street. The music is up loud and we are drinking Grey Goose gimlets. I'm with a man named Frank, who's wearing a hooded sweatshirt. We are eating French fries with ketchup. Oops. Move the seat up. I accidentally spilled tartar sauce on my new shoes. We stop in front of a crack house. I load my gun and keep an eye on that 77-year old bag lady standing in the door. She works for Kevin and keeps a shotgun in that hallway. That lady killed Kevin's brother-in-law at his boss' wedding, but fled to Venezuela when the FBI started investigating.

We're headed to the third floor. Don't be paranoid, Frank. You've got a bigger gun than they do. You could go all Three Stooges on those guys. You could steal their cocaine, their Krispy Kreme donuts, kill them, go to jail and still come out victorious. But I'm going to carry the money. We'll divvy it up later at the Marriott Hotel.

As we approach, we can see them in their living room drinking rum and watching Sanford and Son. One of them is eating plantains and rice, and the other is eating T-bone steak with big round onions on it. I'm hungry. I want some of it.

I knock on the door. If they reach for their guns, Frank, kill them.

"Who's there?"

"Tony," I say.

"Tony? Hold on. You're always supposed to call first." He opens the door, and I point the gun at him. I tell him to lay down on the ground and enjoy the moment. Frank takes the guy's gun and cold-cocks him with it. "Where are the drugs and the money!?"

His Spanish-speaking, big-breasted wife is on the couch. She runs toward the kitchen and shoots at us. She trips, falls, breaks her wrist and drops her gun. "Where is the cocaine!?" She doesn't answer. Frank kills her.

Look out! Here comes their big-headed pitbull Bruno! He's got big teeth and is foaming at the mouth! I'm scared! Frank screams! He fires into the air, and a bullet bounces off the refrigerator and grazes my ear. Frank kills the pitbull, runs to the bathroom and puts two bullets in a security guard's head. The cocaine is hidden in a vacuum cleaner, but a skinny man and a big man with a scar are guarding it. Frank shoots the skinny man, but the big guy shoots back and kills Frank.
Randall Roberts

England's Screaming
By day, Riddle of Steel have been writing new "jams" for an album they hope to release this fall. But by night — at least in recent weeks — the erstwhile power trio has been pummeling European audiences on its debut overseas tour. Bassist-vocalist Jimmy Vavak and guitarist-vocalist Andrew Elstner were nice enough to check in with B-Sides from Glasgow, Scotland, late one night to give us the skinny.

B-Sides:What's surprised you most about Europe?

Andrew Elstner: I'd say the drinking. In Germany, there literally was not a place we went where you couldn't buy beer, nor a place where you couldn't drink it. It's so much more casual, much more of a social thing than a "party" thing. It's been pretty much the same everywhere we've been. The gas stations here are incredibly clean as well; the food at the French and German gas stations is on an entirely different level. Also, the venues/promoters are so much more hospitable to bands. There's a different level of respect for bands in general. Providing food (good food) and drinks for the touring bands is just something that is expected over here. We've been thoroughly spoiled, and we love it.

What's the biggest difference in the way Riddle of Steel has been approached/treated so far by fans and/or clubs?

Elstner: The fans over here have been really, really cool. These guys at our show in Lancaster, UK, were dancing so hard and were so pumped that they formed a spontaneous human pyramid — actually they did this a few times. I'm not kidding. Quite a compliment to get a human pyramid so far from home!

What's been the best gig over there so far?

Jimmy Vavak: I would have to say Manchester. We were taped and interviewed for realfresh.tv for a podcast throughout Europe and the UK. They had hosts like Fuse or MTV would have interviewing and introducing. Don't be mistaken, this club was about as big as the Creepy Crawl, so it seemed really out of place. But they were so nice, and our friend Andy, who had set up the gig, played with his band as well and brought a slew of folks out.

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