By Margaret Welsh
Pittsburgh Current Music Editor
[Heavy Head] vincristine.bandcamp.com
Nicholas Alexander Ranayhossaini describes his project Vincristine as a “Trent Reznor situation,” which is to say that — like Nine Inch Nails — it’s essentially a one-man show. Everything you hear on Honor is Ranayhossaini: the guitars, the drums, the bass, the vocals. He recorded and produced the record. He made the cover art.
It’s an ambitious effort indeed, packing in elements of doom metal, stoner, desert and alt-rock, psychedelia, prog, and nearly every other heavy genre you can think of. Ranayhossaini throws in a wide range of vocal influences as well, giving the impression that Vincristine has about five different singers, at least. In the space of the two first tracks, I heard shades of Wino, early Ozzy, Chris Cornell, Johan Langqvist, and Matt Pike. And Ranayhossaini pushes the limits of his range, striving for some low-lows, and some soaring high notes, even hitting a tortured Robert Plant style buildup and howl on opening track “Stag:” “I’m so fucking ….. looooooooonly!”
Honor follows 2016’s The Machine, a record that doesn’t try to do quite as much and is ultimately a little more successful as a cohesive work. Honor has lots of interesting stuff going on, and some great moments which showcase Ranayhossaini’s skill as a musician and a songwriter, not to mention his imagination and knowledge of heavy music. Every track has some piece to recommend: a catchy, sludgy riff, an interesting vocal flourish, a particularly vulnerable lyric. But the record often becomes unwieldy under the sheer weight of ideas.
It’s intriguing to witness Ranayhossaini as he truly just goes for it, no matter what, and sometimes it works: the classic doom of “Warrior” hits a nice balance, and I’d love to hear the restraint of the Zeppelin-esque instrumental “Cornellian Ether” carried out elsewhere. Other times Ranayhossaini falls short of his ambitious reach, leaving the listener with a half-built castle when a cottage would have done just fine.
Fuck Yeah Dinosaurs
65 Million Beers Ago
You gotta hand it to Fuck Yeah Dinosaurs, they’re committed to the bit.
65 Million Beers Ago is the follow up to 2018’s Jurassic Drunks, the band’s party-saurus-themed debut. Does the world really need more skate-punk songs about drinking and Dinosaurs? Arguably, no. But on the other hand, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released eight (!) full albums so perhaps excess should be considered a hallmark of the novelty pop-punk genre.
Opening “Earl Sinclair (What a Guy)” with some advice (“The more you drink, the less you think” might as well be the tagline for life in quarantine), the band then imagines Sinclair, the patriarch from the short-lived sitcom Dinosaurs, lamenting his daily grind: “Five o’clock I’ll get away/I’ve been fighting trees all damn day/Quitting time, I’m chuggin’ beers with Roy/Cracking open cold ones with the boys.” It’s an ultra-high-energy track, and undeniably catchy. But it’s hard to imagine anyone who isn’t a dinosaur themselves (myself included) would know enough about Dinosaurs to even get the joke (and not even I remember who Roy is).
On the sinister, heavy-ish “Life, Uh, Finds a Way” (one of two songs titled after famous Jurassic Park lines) “dino-kind” promises that they will “reclaim their place at the top when a man becomes extinct.” In “A Critique of the Human Condition,” we hear more speculation on the thoughts of prehistoric minds, which, of course, end up reflecting very human concerns:
I want you to know that we’re still alive somewhere in the south pacific
Hiding behind rocks in caves, wasting away our retirement days
I don’t want to run into your human debris, the state of your race is
You took all that was left of our great planet, you fucked it all up
And i don’t understand it
We just want a place to rest our bones
These imaginative moments can be genuinely charming. And there is much to like in this well-produced collection of joke-y, hook-filled party music. But other times the record is burdened by its own relentless schtick.
The question is, I guess, who is this for? Aging NOFX fans, looking to branch out? People with a passion for ’90s nostalgia? Budding paleontologist skateboarders? Honestly, I have no idea, but I bet it’s best heard live in a basement crowded with people after you’ve had several of those 65 million beers. Hopefully, that world isn’t completely extinct.