Still from AFI's "White Offerings" music video, with vocalist Davey Havok looking deeply into the camera.

Gorgonna’s Playlist, Vol. I: AFI, Power Trip, The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)

It was only a matter of time before all the lullabies and nursery rhymes gave way to actual music.

Gorgonna’s going through a daily state of self-discovery. Along with picking up favorite food preferences, vexing behaviors to challenge us with, and other assorted yet endearing quirks, she has acquired an affinity for songs from Mommy and Daddy’s music libraries. I’m thinking that, since both the wife and I are music lovers (albeit on different, often opposing sonic spectrums), this isn’t going to be a rare occurrence. And naturally, I saw the inevitable outcome of making a recurring series out of it. So here we are.

Presenting Gorgonna’s Playlist: Vol. 1.

AFI – “White Offerings”

Currently, this is far and away Gorgonna’s favorite song. She requests it every time we get in the car, so much so it’s become synonymous with on-the-road travel.  I have to keep the CD in my car and have had to download it to my phone — just for the anywhere, anytime flexibility. She was first subjected to its emo/rock programming via a Sunday afternoon of repeated YouTube viewings — I think she likes the song as much, if not more so, for the enthused rock-out session I perform for her whenever it plays.

I’ve only recently developed a deep appreciation for AFI . I’d listen to a few tracks here and there during high school (what should have been my angsty golden years with them, I know), but they’ve largely been off my radar until now. I can attribute this excellent podcast for my current adoration (both for the podcast’s hosts and for their journey through the band’s discography), but it’s really the timeless quality of AFI’s music that has (ahem) ignited my passion for their songs. It does become a bit tiresome to play “White Offerings” every time we hit the road, but we follow it up with other favorite Blood Album tracks to keep things fresh for my sake.

Status: An Appealing Audio Offering

Power Trip – “Soul Sacrifice”

It seems so counter-intuitive, the way Gorgonna “happened” to like this song. This is metal, a style of music that wants to dominate, to make other genres bend the knee and swear fealty. More than that, it’s thrash — not exactly one of the more accessible subgenres. It’s noisy. But leave it to vocalist Riley Gale’s endlessly appealing charisma and delivery to win over the tykes as well as the die-hards. Gorgonna loves mimicking the opening “WAH!” and more deathly “Owwww!” that occur throughout the song; next thing you know, we’ll be enacting our own gang chants on “Firing Squad.”

My love for “Pow’ Trip” is well-documented. That Gorgonna mirrors even a fraction of the enthusiasm I feel toward this song in particular makes me a very proud papa indeed.

Status: Diaper Thrash

Ylvis – “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)”

Surely you remember the YouTube sensation that swept the world in — what was it, 2011? 2013? The one that had suburban grandmas, tech-illiterate uncles, and junior high schoolers all in a tizzy? Allow me to refresh your memory with a few of the lyrics:


Who could forget?

I’ll be honest — we bought the book-version of the song long before Gorgonna began turning paper pages, even going so far as to inscribe it with the first “Merry Christmas from Mommy and Daddy!” By then it had acquired too much sentiment to simply hide away, and so her exposure to it was assured; “The Fox” will forever go down in the Annals of History as the first “song” she ever liked. Although, to this day, Gorgonna has only seen the video a single time (at our house, anyway; I can’t vouch for the grandmas). But you only need to have heard the song a couple times to have its melodies entrenched in your deepest cranial pits forever.

At the very least, repeating the gibberish that makes up the majority of the song’s lyrics was (and still probably is) a serviceable way to distract Gorgonna from flipping out at the dinner table or on the diaper-changing pad.

Status: Situationally and Functionally Tolerable

Album art for Expulsion's Nightmare Future.

Album Review: Expulsion – Nightmare Future

Whenever big-name musicians drop a world-quaking collaboration, is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? I asked myself that question time and again throughout the entirety of Nightmare Future, the first album by newly formed punk/crust/grind supergroup Expulsion, which enlists the legendary talents of Matt Olivo (Repulsion), Matt Harvey (Exhumed), Menno Verbaten (Lightning Swords of Death), and Danny Walker (Exhumed, Phobia). Writing songs that works to each members’ individual talents can’t be easy, but you’ll be pleased to know that Expulsion proves it can be executed with merciless ease.

It’s always tempting when supergroups rely too much on the individual talents of its members (noodling around in look-at-me solo sections to the detriment of the songs). But the genres Expulsion plays around in aren’t known for unnecessary flash, and Nightmare Future reflects this with succinct, deadly-simple song compositions that are like shots of pure adrenaline. Danny Walker uses a blast beat-heavy playing style that propels each of the album’s seven songs, unexpectedly interjecting them into frantic half measures between d-beats and dynamic crashing. Matt Harvey’s buzzsaw guitar riffs augment the assault with sulphurous tremolo patterns, though on songs like “Total Human Genocide” he occasionally drops out entirely to let Menno Verbaten’s bass, which rumbles in the bottom level, to come into the spotlight. And on each song, Matt Olivo spews lyrics of the end times like a doomsayer, his toxic delivery demanding your undivided attention. Nightmare Future might be short, but there’s enough song variation and dynamics packed in every track to keep you clinging to every split-second.

It’s worth noting that Expulsion has been described by PR circles as delivering a “vile brand of 80s sickness.” It strikes me as interesting then that the production comes across cleaner than an operating room table. The blasts punch through with powerful clarity, and the bass is a gritty, audible delight. Those aren’t bad qualities, but Nightmare Future sounds unabashedly modern, and I think that’s worth noting for fans who like their crust and grind a little more, well, crusty and grindy.

It must be tough having a prominent musical pedigree — even more so when collaborating with others of similar talents. But when it all comes together as well as it does on Nightmare Future, there can be few complaints among creators or fans. Expulsion shows us what happens when talented individuals accomplish something great, and it just so happens to be a glorious vision of a future ending in swirling, all-consuming flames.

Nightmare Future is out July 11th via Relapse Records. Old-school skateboard grind to your nearest record shop or digital dealer and expulse your wallet of funds to buy it.

Gorgonna, walking before a veritable wall of Thomas & Friends toys.

Idol Worship: Thomas & Friends

“Peep, peep!” All aboarrrrd! FOR OBSESSION.

It didn’t take long for Gorgonna to begin paying tribute to a new deity. Although she’s been idolizing both Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Tank Engine for nearly the same length of time, our ebullient engine has been swiftly picking up steam as the primary divine power.

But from my standpoint, all’s not well with this latest change in faith. The Island of Sodor, where Thomas & Friends reign, has been well-known to the likes of Man (and Man’s Childs) for over seventy years, with TV programs, books, and toys serving as the holy word and scripture. To this day, its perverse nature has been seriously understated — like a thinly veiled Shyamalanian plot, something dark and twisted has been lurking amidst this well-to-do English island of industry…

A creatively reassembled Thomas, made from Mega Bloks.
John Carpenter’s “Thomas & Friends.”

A Thomas Upon Us

Sentient trains populate this depraved hell-dimension. Faces have been carved into them –by whom I know not — making them the steam-powered counterparts to the Game of Thrones‘s weirwoods. As impulsive and vindictive as Norse gods, the engines bicker and fight amongst themselves in the name of “hard work” and being “Really Useful.”

Deifying these denizens of diesel and steam are an enslaved human population. They’re at the mercy of these loco locomotives — literally along for the ride, as every driver seems utterly powerless to stop his engine from fucking up the countryside or getting into who-knows-what kind of tedious mischief. That “Sodor” rhymes with “Mordor” can’t be coincidence — the twisted world of Thomas & Friends is every bit as bleak as Lord Sauron’s domain.

Gorgonna, coloring in the Book of Thomas.

Now, I’m all for Gorgonna getting stoked about new stuff — especially when it comes to male-dominant vehicular pursuits (it’s 2017, trucks and trains ain’t just for boys). And although I may have embellished in the previous section for entertainment’s sake, I can’t say I entirely support the conceptual pillars that have held up Thomas & Friends for three decades.

For one, the adventures that the engines have — and by extension, the books and television episodes we indulge Gorgonna with on a daily basis — rarely have a wholesome message to them. I wasn’t kidding about likening Thomas and his engine pals to Odin, Loki, Thor, and Co. — when you get down to it, when the boiler runs dry, they really do seem like a bunch of juvenile brats. There are few substantial lessons tying the stories together — no morals to transmit onto impressionable young minds. The fictitious world of Thomas & Friends is portrayed as a series of random, unrelated, ultimately pointless events:


  • Episode One: Trucks cause mischief for the engines. They fuck up everyone’s schedules. The end.
  • Episode Two: Sir Topham Hatt’s car wants to go fast. He does, and he is admonished for it.
  • Episode Three: The naughty Diesel has to stop being naughty because Thomas saw that he liked some ducks.


Like, you don’t have to bust a blood vessel picking out thematic elements to all of those scenarios — tidy little morals you could feasibly wrap up into tidy little vignettes — but are they present in the actual episodes? Nope. Shit just happens on Sodor; the wheels turn and turn, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. It’s an autonomous world that doesn’t care how many kids are watching or what educational value it imparts. Maybe there’s a zen quality you can get from that, but there are FAR better sources for that, I think.

Also, “Usefulness” isn’t a quality I’m thrilled that Thomas & Friends is projecting onto its young viewers. I understand there’s probably some kind of brand guide, possibly bound in the grotesque, leathery skin of Rev. W. Awdry’s corpse (may he rest in peace), but the Thomas team could afford to be a little flexible. It’s a tough time for the Arts, and every offering needs to pull its weight.

James, dripping in white... milk.
This picture of James presented to you entirely without context.

His Dark Materials

The primary difference between Thomas and other, newer gods is his sheer presence. Criticize him all you want — the merchandise is ON POINT. What started as a few board books here and there for Gorgonna’s reading pleasure has proliferated into two pajama sets, a coloring book, a shirt, and several wooden toys. She’s delighted when she gets to wear the Steam Team to bed, and she could flip through her Thomas “mazagine” all day. He’s omnipresent, the Alpha and Omega.

And it’s not just the relics we have in our home — Gorgonna has found houses of the holy in the local library, as well as the Barnes & Nobles scattered across our fair county. Each one houses an altar — a coveted train table — upon which his disciples enact the engines’ earthly adventures. And while the entire steam- and diesel-powered pantheon are available to her, Gorgonna choo-choo-chooses Thomas — even if another kid is currently playing with him. Gorgonna would bust into a confessional if it meant getting one-on-one time with Tommy Boy himself.

She has, however, begun devoting her affections to Gordon, the big, haughty express train; her smitten reactions to the very sight of him would be enough to make ol’ Tom jealous.

Spencer, from Thomas & Friends, covered in brown... mud.
Not even Spencer is safe from the nocontext treatment.

Pulling into Incantation Station

Thankfully, we don’t own any Thomas videos; they’re strictly stream engines (sorry). But that doesn’t keep me from panicking every time we boot an episode up because I know the insufferable theme song is going to drill deep into my skull and make itself at home for the next few days. Singing British children are a universal fear, a horrifyingly contagious force that compels you to follow them into whatever hell they’ve got planned for you. (Although I’ll admit that “Shunting trucks!” makes for an appealing alternative swear-word.)

Still, as excruciating as it is, the main theme is worlds better than the Thomas team’s attempts at appealing to a modern, hip crowd:

I don’t normally associate cock rock with iconic train-themed children’s shows, but someone over there clearly has the right vision.


Despite all this, I find that trains, in whatever form they happen to take, are still pretty fucking neat. Powerful metal machines, racing noisily along, blasting their horns belligerently — I don’t know, man. Maybe the kids are onto something…

Wait — what am I saying? Oh, good one, Thomas! You almost got me there! You see, his allure is more potent than I’d anticipated. I’m already buying into Gorgonna’s obsession — every time we find ourselves at a toy store, I feel an irresistible pull toward the wall of Thomas toys, thinking how neat it’d be for Gorgonna to own all her favorites…

We’re metalheads; collections are in our blood.

My advice to you is if you value your wallet as much as your sanity (or if you simply think a train with a face is freakish), you could do worse than to stay far, far away from Thomas and his brood. Save yourself a heap of trouble. But if your kid’s got an eye for the classics, like her father before her, then be prepared to invest.