When Max attacks
Once dubbed the “monster truck of acoustic guitar,” Max Volume’s new CD Illuminaughty reminds me a little of Twinkies—sweet, enjoyable and familiar.
A mix of classic rock, blues and a couple songs that combine a grungy tuning and fast pacing, Illuminaughty is generally easy to listen to. The guitar work ranks among the best I’ve heard.
Most of the songs have catchy hooks, too. The Nevada Sagebrush called Volume’s music, “A cross between Nirvana and Led Zeppelin—pure beach bonfire music,” which seems a bit off and a little like saying 1+2=a wet Muppet.
That said, the guitar work had better be good because it’s way high up in the mix, sometimes challenging the vocals, the bass and muffling the drums into submission.
Max Volume himself, or Glennn (his name really does have 3 ns) Bailey to his friends, is a long-haired rocker most often heard doing DJ honors at 105.7 FM KOZZ.
Bailey got his start in heavy metal and moved into one-man acoustic music before pulling together a band for the Illuminaughty disc.
Volume says he plays for the meditative qualities of music.
“You shut off your brain when you play guitar, and you come back refreshed,” he says.
Volume and his band mates, lead guitarist Widgeon Holland, bassist John Gaddis and drummer Chuck Ruff, produced the CD on a limited budget. Despite this, Volume says, the band was slow and relaxed during the making of the album.
Despite its playful name, Illuminaughty has a definite dark side.
Volume said he started work on the album after the deaths of several friends, most notably Nick Danger, the former KDOT radio DJ who shot himself to death, and Billy the Janitor, in whose honor the song “BTJ” was written.
“People don’t write good records when they’re fat and happy,” Volume says. “They write good records when they’re hungry, and its two days till payday.”
Incidentally, “BTJ” is the best track on the album by far. Completely instrumental, “BTJ” surges with intensity and features a good strong rhythm. It makes me want to stare out of the nearest window and ponder the infinite.
“Empty Heart Blues” comes in second. It’s catchy and the blues fit Volume’s voice much better than any soulful misfire.
“Reno, Nevada” lionizes our town sincerely with a Tom Petty-esque riff.
“Long Road to Nowhere” has a good blues-rock flow and a kinky/ sexual domination theme. Volume sings, “I wanna tie her up and do her from behind, do her from behind.”
“Baby’s Got Ink” has a butt-rock meets Skynyrd thing going. It’s solo intensive, featuring awkward lyrics and has little bunched-up note flurries where it sounds like the band wormholes back and forth through standard time.
“Baby’s got ink, and I don’t know what we’re doing,” sings Volume.
That’s good because I didn’t know what we were doing, either.
The album title is an obvious play on the word “Illuminati,” a secret society of free thinkers and would-be world conquerors, and the word “naughty,” which is what old women call small children who piss in their herb gardens.
Which leads one to the grouping of symbols on the cover. There’s an ankh, which was the Egyptian hieroglyph for life; the Maltese cross, which symbolizes chivalry; the fleur de lis, which symbolizes either one of many francophone regions or matronly virtue; and the Masonic star, which, in addition to being upside down on the cover, symbolizes a version of Masonry open to women.
Maybe, then, Max Volume is trying to tell us something? Perhaps the secret meaning of Illuminaughty is life is full of annoying young do-nothing free thinkers living virtuously in a women’s secret society eternally and chivalrously?
And maybe not.