Flash Metal Suicide: Life Sex & Death

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“I made a telephone call to Jesus.” - Telephone Call

I’m aware that 1992 was a couple years after the flash metal explosion finally faded into the ether, but there were a few late-game stragglers worthy of mention. This band is most assuredly one of them.

Life Sex and Death (or LSD, if you’re late for a train) might just be the greatest forgotten rock and roll band of the 90s. No joke. Besides a few b-sides, this album was all they ever released before imploding from the career-wrecking hijinks of their singer, Stanley (just Stanley). Stan, you see, had a gimmick, and a mythological back-story, that he ended up living up to just a little too well. The idea was that LSD was an up n’ coming LA flash metal band (via Chicago, but still, that much was true) in need of a lead singer, and this homeless wreck, Stanley, wandered into the space one day, looking for booze, or empty bottles, or something. The rest is fuzzy rock and roll history.

In reality, Stan was Chris Stann, Chicago glam-rocker and former bandmate of LSD guitarist Alex Kane. But even that fact was laced with wild speculation – Midwest locals swore Stann was not just an average work-a-day spandex abuser, but a spectacularly wealthy trust-funder who adopted the bum shtick as a sort of penance for living a life of luxury. Either way, Stan’s act was all a ruse, at least in the beginning.

But by the time LSD was gaining some ground in the global rock wars, with radio and video airplay, Stanley really was living the homeless lifestyle. He wore dirty clothes, he never bathed, he had lice, and during interviews, he would babble, shriek, and cower in the corner. He would wander into the crowd and blank out for minutes at a time during shows, and preferred sleeping behind venue dumpsters to napping on the tour bus. And here’s the thing: I don’t have any hard numbers, but word on the street was, Warner/Reprise paid crazy money to sign these dudes. Like, an insane seven-figure sum. For a band with a lead singer who eats garbage. I mean, hallelujah rock n’ roll, right?

Of course, it didn’t work, how could it? But holy smokes, did these maniacs manage to squeeze out one helluva record before they imploded. LSD’s sound is hard to explain. It’s arena rock, for sure, liberally splattered with all sorts of incidental weirdness, and driven by the forceful metal guitar heroism of Kane. Besides looking, and smelling, like an absolute freak, Stanley’s vocals are equally confounding — he really does sound like a ranting madman most of the time, albeit a madman with the pipes of a dive-bombing rock’n’roll star and a degree in comparative literature. Silent Majority looks like a protest record, with it’s stark sepia-toned cover of topless chick with an American flag blindfold, and the lyrics are printed out like anarchy propaganda, but this is much more a fluid collection of unconnected songs than a theme record. Unless the theme is “Nervous breakdowns at wall-shaking volume”, of course. In that case, it’s a detailed blueprint.

For a (vaguely) metal band on a major label, it took a fair degree of big brass balls for LSD to open their album with a live ballad, as they do here, with Blue Velvet Moon. Over what sounds like a strumming banjo, Stan drunkenly warbles his melancholy love song before launching into a ragged, phlegmy plea: “Come run away with me”, he begs, “Escape the pain with me.” Then Rian Horak’s drums come in, pounding the ballad to pieces, as the guitars rev up like an outlaw biker gang and all hell breaks loose. We’re Here Now is the real opener, you see, a full-on fist raising, head banging Super Anthem. “Together, we’ll burn the world!” Stanley screeches like snake-bitten hell-preacher, as the song explodes in feedback and crashing guitars, and you can’t help but to believe that we really could, if we wanted to.

The record twists and turns into impossible shapes from there. Jawohl Asshole is an anti-authoritarian scorcher. School is for Fools in a punk-metal riff on Twisted Sister. Telephone Call manages to be a bluesy ballad and a pounding metal jam at the same time. Farm Song is a folky acoustic campfire singalong. Seriously. The weirdness really amps up with the jaw-dropping Fuckin’ Shit Ass, a schizophrenic street-tramp rant that bursts half-way through into a fist-pumping arena-rattler. Hey Buddy is a drawling blues jam, Tank is a supergrunge pounder, Raise a Little Hell is basically a Kiss song. Guatemala is the album’s grand freakout, a five minute orgy of drawling acid-blues riffs and crazed ranting. “In Los Angeles, I saw a man on the street eat his own, straight from his asshole,” Stanley testifies. In Guatemala City, he even saw ‘em shooting the children, right in the street. Dunno if it was the Guatemala City in Guatemala, or the one in his mind, but I believe him, either way.

Do you see what’s happening here? LSD go from heavy fuckin’ metal to country and western to cock rock, to lounge, to blues, to industrial metal and back to the hard stuff, and none of these mad mood changes sound disjointed. If these guys weren’t geniuses, then they were extremely talented lunatics. The album closes with a live version of sex metal singalong Big Black Bush and Stanley’s teary, heartfelt piano ballad Rise Above, which ends up being just as uplifting as the Black Flag riot-punk song of the same name. I understand that the guy smelled awful, but this is still a stunning record, man.

While Stanley’s antics made for great drama (and a bitchin’ live show, from all reports), it just wasn’t the kind of behavior a multi-conglomerate like Warner/Reprise was gonna put up with, and after a short but eventful run around the US and some minor MTV saturation, LSD went the way of all rock and roll flesh. Guitarist Alex Kane moved to England and formed the berserk shock/cock rock band Anti-Product. He reportedly sent a box of his own faeces to a rock journalist that gave them a bad review, so it’s nice to know Stanley wasn’t the only guy in LSD with psychiatric issues. And Stanley? Your guess is as good as mine. Check the dumpster behind your local rock club.

Next week: Down with the clown