I didn't think I'd make it past 10, to tell you the truth! Your comments, suggestions and overall participation have made this a fun little hobby, and I appreciate the feedback folks! Your opinions are very much welcome here so keep them coming.
To celebrate, I've added a new link on the right rail under "Friends Who deserve Your Eyeballs" entitled 'All Songs Considered' by the fine folks at NPR. Their latest entry is a fun one about terrible live shows they've attended. Gotta give 'em props for fessin' up!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I didn't think I'd make it past 10, to tell you the truth! Your comments, suggestions and overall participation have made this a fun little hobby, and I appreciate the feedback folks! Your opinions are very much welcome here so keep them coming.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
God I’m really regretting leaving off some great albums (see last post), so bear with me while I give ’em the credit they so rightfully deserve:
Forever Changes, by Love, Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies, After The Gold Rush by Neil Young, Dubnobasswithmyheadman by Underworld, Plastic Surgery Disasters by The DK’s, Rockin’ The Suburbs by Ben Folds, #1 Record by Big Star, The Great Escape by Blur, Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen, Avalon by Roxy Music, The Cars self titled debut, Repeat When Necessary by Dave Edmunds, The Doors debut, Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys, Pleased To Meet Me by The Replacements, The Missing Years by John Prine, I Just Can’t Stop It by The English Beat, The Specials debut, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized, Entertainment by Gang Of Four, Never Loved Elvis by The Wonderstuff, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John, London 0, Hull 4 by The Housemartins, The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths, Raw Power by The Stooges, Setting Sons by The Jam, Moondance by Van Morrison, Stone Roses debut, Good Old Boys by Randy Newman, A Scandal In Bohemia by The Jazz Butcher, Bellybutton by Jellyfish, Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk, Leftism by Leftfield, Songs From A Room by Leonard Cohen, The Slider by T-Rex, Z by My Morning Jacket, Soul Mining by The THE, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, Power Corruption and Lies by New Order, Rip It Up by Orange Juice, In It For The Money by Supergrass, Hot Rats by Frank Zappa, RAM by Paul McCartney, Moving Pictures by Rush, Paul Simon’s self titled debut, Rum Sodomy and the Lash by The Pogues, Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout, The Flat Earth by Thomas Dolby, Talk Talk Talk by Psychedelic Furs, Different Class by Pulp, OK Computer by Radiohead, Rocket To Russia by The Ramones, Summerteeth by Wilco, East Side Story by Squeeze, Raw Power by The Stooges, Colour Of Spring by Talk Talk, Remain In Light by Talking Heads, Velvet Underground’s debut.
That feels better!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Ok, so you know this doesn’t mean anything, right?
My top 25 (couldn't do it in 20, folks) albums of all time is not about technical prowess or critical favorites. It’s simply a list that documents those albums in my collection that I never tire of, original LP’s (greatest hits were, of course, omitted from playing) that continue to move me time and time again. Other albums that I have been introduced to recently which I am currently enjoying greatly will have to wait a couple of years to get on the list. It wasn’t easy, and I am not completely satisfied with my choices, but if I don’t stop analyzing now I’ll never stop and it’ll never get published.
Some of the artists listed below have many great albums that could/ should have been included but I decided to limit it to one per, else the Beatles would have dominated, naturally. I also started in the 60's and limited it to R&R, which means that great albums by Miles Davis, Coltrane, Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley were not included, sadly.
It was a painful process leaving out many, many great deserving albums, especially those by The Mats, DK’s, Underworld, John Prine, Wilco, Big Star, Squeeze, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Lloyd Cole, Leftfield, Van Morrison, ABC, AC/DC, Talk Talk, Supergrass, Stooges, Thomas Dolby,Specials, Smiths, LCD Soundsystem, Prefab Sprout, Renegade Soundwave, Leonard Cohen, Jazz Butcher (that one really hurt!), Gang Of Four, Frank Zappa, Eels, Doors, Roxy Music, Nick Cave, Dave Edmunds, My Morning Jacket, etc etc etc etc. If I did this list again today, it would probably be different. But oh well. This list is NOT in order, that exercise would have driven me mad. And please remember that it’s just my opinion as I am today, totally subjective.
Here goes. Guys, have at me! But after you blast my choices I challenge you to comment by listing YOUR own top LP's.
BEATLES, WHITE ALBUM: The sheer variety of styles on this album has made it the easiest Beatles album to go back to time and time again. The fact that the band was writing some ace tunes at the time didn’t hurt, either.
BEACH BOYS, PET SOUNDS: The original mono version of this album still sounds great, and it deserves all the accolades thrown at it over the years. If I was doing a “Top Songs Of All Time List”, God Only Knows would be in the top 2.
KLF, WHITE ROOM: There is something very subversive and mysterious about this album, and I continue to find new sonic marvels every time I put it on. For an electronic album released in the early 90’s, it hasn’t aged a day. To my ears, anyway.
KINKS, VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY: I love virtually anything Ray Davies and Co. put out between the years of 1965 to 1983 (State Of Confusion). And although I am currently grooving to their 70’s catalogue, this is the album I always come back to.
BOB DYLAN, JOHN WESLEY HARDING: I HAD TO PICK ONE Dylan, of course, and this is my personal favorite. I have come to respect the guy’s talent immensely, but it’s taken me almost 40 years! I’ll probably catch hell for not picking Blonde On Blonde, or Hwy 61, but I don’t care. Philbert!
BOO RADLEYS, GIANT STEPS: I have played this album a good 300 times in it’s entirety. Stylistically it’s all over the place, with elements of 60’s psych, power pop, dub and noise. It remains, since 1993, one of the most consistently satisfying listens in my entire collection.
CLASH, LONDON CALLING: It was between this and Sandinista!, but in the end it was no contest. This is the album where the boys grew up. They were too good to stay within the boundaries of ‘punk’. The songs are stellar (not one dud among the 19 tracks), the sequencing perfect.
DAVID BOWIE, HUNKY DORY: Bowie returns to singer/songwriter territory, but uses a vast array of musical styles to keep us interested. Not as thematically consistent as Ziggy, but much more…human, I guess.
ELVIS COSTELLO, ARMED FORCES: It was a toss up between this and This Years Model, and this won by a hair. It has a fuller more sophisticated sound compared to the former and contains my favorite Costello track in Oliver’s Army. And Accidents Will Happen kicking off side one: Brilliant!
FLAMING LIPS, YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS: My favorite new band of the last 15 years. Yoshimi is the place where analog synthesizers and acoustic instrumentation live in complete harmony with one another. Just as emotionally naked and affecting as the Soft Bulletin, but more focused. Forget about the so-called ‘concept’ and just enjoy the Lips best ever set of tunes!
HAPPY MONDAYS, PILLS, THRILLS AND BELLYACHES: Madchester at it’s peak. There is no other album that perfectly sums up the druggy, chaotic rave scene better than this. That alone wouldn’t place this album in my top 25, but the energy of the band and the amazing set of songs does. Unfortunately they blew their load with this one…
PRIMAL SCREAM, SCREAMADELICA: OK, this album…The cliché is that the song sequence perfectly mirrors the experience one has while tripping on the psychoactive drug ecstasy. It starts with a Stonesy gospel sing along and ends with the dream-like meditative Shine Like Stars, and in between you have some of the most trippy and melodic rock and roll ever produced. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to add the EP only (Dixie-Narco) “Screamadelica” track. As Allmusic states, “There's no overestimating the importance of Screamadelica.”
JOE JACKSON, LOOK SHARP: The angry young piano man writes his best set of songs in this fantastic debut album. I absolutely love Jumpin’ Jive and am also partial to Night and Day, but there is no denying the power pop brilliance of Jackson’s first, and best, album.
LOU REED, TRANSFORMER: I will no doubt be called a heretic for this, but I actually prefer this solo outing from Lou Reed to any VU album. Really, it’s probably tied with the first VU (Banana album), but I happen to be listening to this more lately. Some say it’s too ‘Bowie’, and perhaps musically it is, but the lyrics are pure Reed. It’s my favorite skuzzy rock and roll album, one that makes you feel delightfully dirty after listening, but satisfied.
MERCURY REV, DESERTERS SONGS: You either love this album or you hate it, there is no in-between. I happen to love it. Even the bow-saws! It’s one of those albums, like many on my list, that demands total attention and immersion, but once you dedicate the time, you get it and it never leaves.
NICK LOWE, JESUS OF COOL: I was a late bloomer to the Nick Lowe party, I am sorry to admit. There is no other album on this list that has risen higher and faster than this one. It’s ‘pure pop’ at it’s absolute finest, from start to finish. One of the most talented, underrated songwriters of any generation, and this album is his finest achievement.
PET SHOP BOYS, INTROSPECTIVE: The most underrated in the PSB cannon, but definitely their best produced (Trevor Horn) and, I think, their most enjoyable album overall. PSB, an electronic pop duo that is loved by the critics, adored by their fans and abhorred by rock ‘purists’. The amazing Left To My Own Devices is one of my favorite tracks ever. It’s a fun album, full of drama and real emotion. Phil would hate it.
PINK FLOYD, THE WALL: It’s overproduced, overly dramatic, overlong and just a little self serving. All reasons why I actually prefer this to Dark Side Of The Moon, or any of the other Floyd albums, for that matter. Like the White Album it has many different elements that shouldn’t work together as one cohesive art piece, but they somehow all fit perfectly. I dunno, I went back and forth between this and Dark Side…can I change my mind?
POP WILL EAT ITSELF, CURE FOR SANITY: This band was my favorite during my late teens/ early 20’s and remains a favorite to this day (just not THE favorite). Cure contains catchy, immediate singles and excellent album cuts which highlight the claustrophobic mood of the album. From allmusic.com: The one line from "X Y & Zee" says it best about the album and the Pop Will Eat Itself experience: "Let's get lost/In intergalactic punk rock hip-hop."
QUEEN, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: It’s well documented that I am a big fan of Queen Mach I (1973-1980), and there is no question that this is the standout. Bohemian Rhapsody has been talked about so much it would be pointless and redundant to write about it here. The album tracks are what make this THE complete Queen album for me: Death On Two Legs, ‘39, Good Company and the epic Prophet’s Song.
ROLLING STONES, LET IT BLEED: The sound of the 60’s exploding, pure and simple. Gimme Shelter is so full of menace that Martin Scorsese uses it in most of his films, and Monkey Man is the aural equivalent of snorting a line of coke! Rock and roll at it’s purest…and nastiest.
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS FUZZY LOGIC: Pop, art rock, psychedelic and punkish angst is what this album is all about. Great harmonies and off kilter vocals dominate, but like most of their albums it is an extremely fun listen from front to back.
TEENAGE FAN CLUB, BANDWAGONESQUE: This should have been bigger than Nevermind, and it is certainly more of a benchmark album than that lauded release. A combination of Big Star harmonies and grungy guitar attacks, this album got me back into guitar bands. Allmusic states: “The gold standard of the early-'90s power pop revival, in its own way Bandwagoneque was as much a benchmark as contemporary records like Nevermind and Loveless”
XTC, SKYLARKING: One of the most underrated bands in the history of Rock and Roll! I love every thing these guys have done (well, almost--1st album, not so great), but this sunny, psychedelic, pastoral landmark is by far my favorite. Dear God (the single was added to the album after it became an unexpected hit) is only one of many tuneful, original cuts on this magnificent mid-80’s LP.
THE WHO, TOMMY: Sure Who’s Next has more street cred, but this remains my favorite Who album. Dumb concept, musically daring (an ‘Overture’ and an ‘Underture‘, totaling over 15 minutes in length?!?) and containing many, many great songs, especially Amazing Journey/ Sparks. Pretentious? Absolutely. Still enjoyable after all these years? Abso-freakin’-lutely!
**Interesting to note what percentage of my favs fell into each specific decade...**
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Artist: David Bowie
Release Date: 2002
Wow, what a pleasant surprise! Truth be told, I haven't had much use for David Bowie's albums since Scary Monsters, so when my wife bought me this back in 2002 for my birthday I pleasantly smiled, said 'thank you' and filed it away in my music library.
On a whim last weekend I pulled it out and was really overjoyed with what I heard. This album really is pretty damn good! Reteaming with producer Tony Visconti seems to bring out the best in Bowie. The songs and sound are classic 70's Bowie with enough modern production updates to make the album 'current'. Virtually every track on here will remind you of one from his Eno/ Berlin period and even as far back as Hunky Dory and Ziggy!
Is he pandering a bit? For certain, but who gives a crap? Pretty much everything he has done since 1981 has been garbage, so I'll take this album and run with it just the way it is, thank you very much! He was so good back in the day and this album's biggest asset is that it makes you want to pull out all your old Bowie records and listen to them all in one sitting.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
God help me, I’ve been in a PROG mood all day today.
Rush, early E.L.O., Floyd, The Mars Volta, Genesis and even…gulp…The Alan Parsons Project! I fear I’ve gone too far down the progressive rabbit hole this time and fear I shan’t be returning anytime soon.
The last time this happened I started using words like “thou” , “my lord” and “pantaloon” in every day conversations and even had a hankering to attend, nay PARTICIPATE, in a Renaissance Festival.
I couldn’t concentrate at work. I started doodling unicorns and elves on my budget excel spreadsheets before turning them into my Director for approval. I started referring to my office as my ‘Manor’ and forced my employees to address me as 'Sir Chickweed'. I refused to eat with utensils and brought only large drumsticks for lunches. My attire consisted only of tunics, capes and surcoats.
I almost pawned my wedding band for a double necked bass guitar, for Chrissakes!!
Does anybody reading have the antidote for this affliction? Don't let me get to the point where I learn to play the pan flute.
Please help as soon as you can or I shall force myself into a pillory as punishment for my unholy aural crimes!
Right after I pay a visit to the privy, of course.
Music snobs love lists. Especially “Best Of All Time” lists. They can validate our choices or cause us to erupt in fits of uncontrollable rage. “How the HELL could they leave (insert your favorite album here) off of the list?”, or “What? THAT’S the #1 album of all time?” Almost all of these lists contain top notch records, there is no debating that. It’s the order they’re in that’s debatable.
Below you’ll find two lists, one from an English music periodical (The NME) and one from America’s own Rolling Stone magazine of the top 20 rock albums of all time. My top 20 list, although no doubt containing some of the selections below, is very different.
From the New Musical Express (Great Britain):
1. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
2. Pixies – Doolittle
3. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
4. Television – Marquee Moon
5. The Beatles – Revolver
6. Love – Forever Changes
7. The Strokes – Is This It
8. The Smiths – The Queen In Dead
9. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
10. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks…
11. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
12. The Clash – London Calling
13. Oasis – Definitely Maybe
14. Joy Division – Closer
15. Nirvana – In Utero
16. Radiohead – Ok Computer
17. Spritualized – Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space
18. Blondie – Parallel Lines
19. Nirvana – Nevermind
20. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
From Rolling Stone (U.S.A.):
1. Beatles - Revolver (1966)
2. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
3. Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
4. U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)
5. Beatles - The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
6. Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)
7. Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)
8. Radiohead - Ok Computer (1997)
9. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin 4 (1971)
10. U2 - Achtung Baby (1991)
11. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
12. Michael Jackson -Thriller (1982)
13. Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street (1972)
14. Clash - London Calling (1979)
15. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
16. Weezer - Pinkerton (1996)
17. Radiohead - The Bends (1995)
18. Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)
19. Pearl Jam - Ten (1991)
20. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)
The differences are astounding, yes? Love him or hate him, omitting Dylan is a travesty. Right, Philbert? And U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam certainly do not derserve to be on this list! Someday, when I gather up the nerve, I'll print my own top 20.
Have you thrown your computer down the stairs yet?
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Second hand record shops.
Those lazy afternoons flipping through endless copies of the Clash’s Give ’Em Enough Rope while two dudes at the other end of the racks debated the relative merits of Frank Zappa's You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Nos. 1 to 98. Your olfactory senses in overdrive with the scents of used gatefold albums. Feeling your pulse quicken when you come across that rare album you've been looking for for 10 years. Taking the vinyl out of the sleeve and gently flipping it over to make sure there were no scratches or warps, and after hours of perusing taking your choices under your arms and bringing them to the front counter to be scrutinized by the cashier. Getting the records home, gently placing them on the turntable and playing them for hours while you read every single liner note and lyric. Once finished, placing the record in one of those milk crates you scammed from behind 7-11 for safe storage after, of course, you slip it in one of those protective plastic outer sleeves.
Those were the days...
For better or worse theses stores and times are a dying breed, nothing more than a pleasant memory and let's face it, MP3 internet stores are here to stay but there's no soul there.
In unrestrained homage to the plywood racks and surly till-minders of days past, here are a few photos to take you back to those halcyon days.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Is it just me, or am I the only one that is totally underwhelmed by the fact that R.E.M. is releasing a new album?
I used to be a big fan. Murmur was an amazing listen, and in 1983 (year of release) it's garagey-jangle-alterna-pop was a welcome antidote to the bands that were on the radio at the time: Toto, Journey, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Flock Of Seagulls, etc.
But somewhere around 1988, when they released Green, I lost interest. Each subsequent album seemed less interesting, sonically, than the last and Michael Stipe was, quite honestly, getting on my nerves. He was SOOOO alternative, SOOOO righteous and too damn smug. The way he looked (what the HELL was that Blue Man look he was sporting all about, anyway?) irritated me to no end, and that ageing hipster mumble of his made me want to stick an ice pick in my ear. I never wanted to smack anyone upside the head with a pipe wrench as much as I did him at that time.
I think the years of lukewarm and downright scathing reviews have humbled the boys, but at this point it's too late. The damage was done, the interest gone.
So now they're releasing a new album and I really couldn't care less. I mean, if someone threatened to waterboard me I suppose I'd give it a listen. But other than that...
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It is still extremely difficult to type for any length of time, so I'm gonna post three totally unrelated music videos. The first is by The Buzzcocks, the second best British band to come out of the punk explosion of the late 70's. The video and audio are a little out of sync but the sound quality is pretty good.
The second is by The Alabama 3. You know these guys. They wrote the Sopranos theme song, but I actually prefer this little ditty entitled "I an't Goin' To Goa".
The last is one of my all time favorite songs. It's the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl singing Fairytale Of New York.
Here's The Buzzcocks....
The Alabama 3...
And The Pogues!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Record producers can make or break an album, wouldn't you agree?
Would The Dark Side Of The Moon have sounded so magnificent without the contributions of Alan Parsons?* How about Roy Thomas Baker, producer of Queen and the Cars in their mega platinum heydays. Both bands cite him as a major reason for their successes, pushing Queen to new levels of, erm, sonic majesty and molding the Cars into the cool metronomic hit machine that birthed that amazing debut in 1978.
Trevor Horn, one time Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star, anyone?) front man, pretty much ruled the airwaves during the 1980’s. ABC’s The Lexicon Of Love, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the Ethiopia charity simgle "Do They Know It’s Christmas" (far superior to it’s American counterpart "We Are The World", in my opinion), Tina Turner, Pet Shop Boys, Paul McCartney, to name but a few. His production techniques were immediately identifiable, there was no mistaking his mark.
How about George Martin, the widely acknowledged 5th Beatle. I know I don’t need to remind you of his contributions
Mutt Lange, responsible for AC/DC’s breakthrough Back In Black, was Trevor Horn’s heavy metal doppelganger during the 80’s. Whatever he touched went platinum or better, and in most cases MUCH better.
Brian Eno, Rick Rubin, Daniel Lanois, Bob Ezrin (The Wall, Welcome To My Nightmare, etc), Martin Hannett, Nick Lowe, the list is endless. Producers are integral to the sound and feel of an album and sadly, in most cases, go unnoticed and unheralded.
I’d like to hear your input, gentle readers, on who you think deserves to be on this list. I'd be even more curious to hear which producers you think should be banished fom music studios forever.
Come on, I know you’ve got an opinion…
*I know that Parson's was engineer on Dark Side Of The Moon, but he also was integral in the production of the album, specifically with the sound effects. Or so I've heard.
For a fascinating article entitled "The Death Of High Fidelity", cut and paste the following link:
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
It’s music that soothes and grooves.
Modern, earthy, beat oriented and sometimes ambient, the genre (or sub-genre, whatever) of downtempo is an eclectic one whose sound harkens back to the sunnier and more psychedelic times of the mid to late 1960’s. A friend of mine likes to say that “electronic music is inherently psychedelic“, focusing on mood rather than traditional song structure. He's right. Downtempo is hypnotic music, often using repetitive loops and keyboard driven melodies that can have the effect of putting the active listener in a state of “musical” trance, not unlike some of the better psychedelic records of the sixties (such as “Tomorrow Never knows” by the Beatles).
There’s a quote I remember that says these types of bands take drugs to make music to take drugs to (I love that!), and they’re partially right. In the best cases though, the music is the drug.
That being said, you have to be in the right frame of mind to really ‘get’ this music. If you don’t take the time to really listen you may think of it as monotonous or simply as background music. And some second or third tier downtempo bands can sound cheesy and lethargic, some bordering on bad lounge. There are many out there that fit that bill, let me assure you.
But the best ones can take you to another place and slow your heart rate back to healthy levels after a particularly stressful day. The good songs and albums in this genre are textbook examples of mellowness (but never boring), simple sounding but extremely complex compositions with a great, memorable melody. If all of this is sounding a little hippy-dippy, well…it is, really.
Downtempo is our generation's equivalent to Esquivel. Space age lounge pop updated for this century.
*Mixing Instructions: Take equal parts of Esquivel and Miles Davis, one part Amboy Dukes and one ounce of Massive Attack. Shake vigorously. Chill well before serving.*
I'm tellin' ya, it makes one heck of a great after hours cocktail. And, like some of the best cocktails it may sound silly at first, and it may not taste great at first either, but it will get you high and it will grow on ya.
Bands Of Note: Air, Thievery Corporation, Lemon Jelly, Royksopp, High Llamas, Stereolab, The Orb, Portishead, Caribou.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Had a heck of a stressfull day/ week/ month/ last 13 months, fellow surfers, and there is no better way to relax the old nerve endings quite like sticking on a pair of good headphones and grooving to the soothing sounds of modern downtempo.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
ALBUM: Pleasant Smut Anthology
ARTIST: Hugh G. Rection And The Sexual Experience
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
RELEASE DATE: August 12th, 1990
Pleasant Smut Anthology is a revolutionary album, but it's a subtle, understated revolution. Without question, it is a guitar rock album — it's astonishing to hear the interplay between Hugh G. Rection (lead singer/ songwriter) and Vinnie Gerdouche (lead axe/ pan flute) — but it is a guitar rock album unlike any other. Where their predecessors in the Hamilton punk scene, most notably the band Bulls^%t Mouse, had fused blues structures with avant-garde flourishes, Hugh G. Rection and The Sexual Experience completely strip away any sense of swing or groove, even when they are playing standard three-chord changes. Pleasant Smut Anthology is comprised almost entirely of tense garage rockers that spiral into heady intellectual territory, which is achieved through the group's long, interweaving instrumental sections, not through Rection's words. That alone makes Pleasant Smut a trailblazing album — it's impossible to imagine modern post-punk soundscapes without it. Of course, it wouldn't have had such an impact if Rection and Gerdouche (and Buster Hyman, pictured at left--skins--& Emmanuel Labour--bass, pennywhistle--, to a lesser extent) hadn't written an excellent set of songs that conveyed a fractured urban mythology unlike any of his contemporaries. From the nervy opener, "Sammy The Sperm," to the majestic “Eat S%^t You Bitch“, to the ephemeral “Would You Mind?“ to the stunningly primal “Methane Pyro”, there is simply not a bad song on the entire record. And what has kept Pleasant Smut Anthology fresh over the years is how The Sexual Experience flesh Hugh’s poetry into sweeping sonic epics. The album has been compared, and rightfully so, to Nirvana’s Nevermind in terms of sonic brilliance and revolutionary inspiration.
Although the band went their separate ways in 1992 Hugh has stayed active in the music business, releasing a string of successful solo albums the most noteworthy of which being “I Have My Ups And Downs”, released in 2001.
I was fortunate enough to see this maverick band live a number of times, and even more fortunate to witness the recording of the afore mentioned masterpiece as it was laid down in the studio.
After the albums release the band was interviewed and even performed live on college radio station CFMU,in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. The set was recorded and sold in the thousands, even though an obviously drunk Gerdouche kept playing the riff to Sweet Home Alabama throughout the session.
Truly one for the ages, folks!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Psycobilly is a sub-genre of music that mixes 1950’s rockabilly sensibilities with the DIY aesthetic of late 1970’s punk and B grade horror flicks (lyrically and especially visually). Musically speaking,
Psychobilly owes a massive debt to those Nugget era garage bands of the 60’s such as The Count 5, The Trashmen, and ? And The Mysterians.
Since the late 1970’s, Psycobilly has remained an underground cult sensation, and the self proclaimed leaders of the revolution were/ are The Cramps.
Led by the demented howler Lux Interior, the Cramps made a reputation for themselves by playing a number of incendiary gigs in and around their home base of NYC. Live they celebrated everything that was dirty and deviant, but always with a sly wink, a perverse joy in shocking their audience and a marvelous sense of warped humor.
The guitarist (Poison Ivy) looked like Satan’s concubine; drippy eyeliner, ripped fishnet stockings, birds nest hair and a dangerously pointy push up bra. She (yes, SHE) could play a swampy 1 note solo and make it sound like a drugged out lost John Fogerty riff, full of dread and voodoo precision.
I got hooked on these guys after hearing their 1981 album Psychedelic Jungle. A witches brew of wicked originals (Caveman, Voodoo Idol, Natives Are Restless) and superbly interpreted covers ( Goo Goo Muck, The Crusher and the sublime Green Door), this album was gone daddy gone, man, and still sounds great on a cheap pair of speakers.
The Meteors and The Fuzztones (and their Lysergic Emissions LP in particular) were two other leading bands of the genre . The Meteors were punkier than the Cramps and the Fuzztones were more musically adept. Thankfully, the Meteors discography is now available on iTunes, but the long forgotten Fuzztones are extremely hard to track down. Trust me, download whatever you can find by these guys. Scuzzy rock and roll at it's finest, a zombified version of the Black Crowes.
Eugene Chadbourne, an innovative guitarist and one of rock and roll’s great eccentrics, first gained recognition for fronting the somewhat legendary band Shockabilly. His many, many solo outings (129 since 1975--no joke!) has made him a living legend and the genres spiritual leader. Chadbourne completests sure have their job cut out for them, and I wouldn’t recommend you become one. His albums were and remain spotty at best. For the curious, start with ‘83’s Chicken On The Way and 1987’s Vermin Of The Blues.
The spirit of Psychobilly lives on, and is being discovered by today’s college kids and re-discovered by early fans every day. It’s fun, throwaway music that has mutated into many different styles such as cow-punk, garage rock/ surf punk etc etc etc.
Some essentials to get you started:
Fuzztones, Lysergic Emissions
The Cramps, Psychedelic Jungle or Bad Music For Bad People
The Gun Club, Fire Of Love
The Meteors, Bastard Sons Of A Rock And Roll Devil
The Gruesomes, Gruesomology
…and don’t forget, folks: STAY SICK!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Since I’m currently one handed at the moment and it takes me, like, FOREVER to type just a few lines, I thought I’d cheat a little and post an internet cut-and-paste version of the history of psychedelic music. It’s a genre/ style I have much interest in and I do believe it’s currently making a comeback.
Or, did it ever really leave?
Psychedelic rock evolved in the 60s as an offshoot of the rock and roll movement combining elements of rock, reggae, and other diverse elements. Inspired by the use of mind altering drugs like cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin, and especially LSD, psychedelic rock broke with traditional rock and laid the roots for psychedelic metal and experimental rock genres. In the USA bands like the Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane lead the way for later bands like 13th Floor Elevators, Bubble Puppy, and Third Bardo (of "I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time" fame) to name a few. A few years later The Who and The Beatles picked up on the psychedelic movement with tunes like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" to name a few, but were not strictly classified as psychedelic rock. Cream and Pink Floyd (with original founder Syd Barrett) embraced psychedelic music fully becoming two of the first truly psychedelic bands.
Psychedelia could also be interpreted as simply a "surreal and dreamy feeling" in a particular song, instead of a specific genre with rules to follow. In some cases this simply requires writing one coherent song, then to experiment recording that song in the studio while under "psychedelic influence", yielding very surreal musical results.
Neo-psychedelia is a broad term used to describe groups with overt psychedelic influences. Much like traditional psychedelia, neo-psychedelia is associated with experimental and jam-oriented music. Many modern bands incorporate elements of traditional psychedelia into their music, such as the Boo Radleys, Primal Scream, the Orb, Air, Olivia Tremor Control, Caribou, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev along with an endless list of others. In addition, many jam bands, like Umphrey's McGee, Phish, Califone and Rusted Root, play psychedelia-influenced music. However, the art-rock band Tool leads the pack commercially in the neo-psychedelic genre, maintaining number one albums and sold out stadium shows. Much like Pink Floyd, they have over the top psychedelic shows, but with a darker edge.
The shoegaze genre of the late 80’s, mid 90’s also bordered on the psychedelic with its drones and ethereal dreamlike qualities and odd feedback. My Bloody Valentine and Ride were two of the best progenitors of this sub-genre of psychedelia.
Also stigmatized and ignored but nonetheless worth noting - perhaps the most influential psychedelic band of modern times - Ozric Tentacles - discovered a new and potent source of psychedelia in the mid eighties that propelled them into the next century, spawning and influencing a whole slew of other bands such as; most successfully Eat Static and Nodens Ictus, Wooden Baby, Zub Zub, The Ullulators, and The Oroonies.
Albums/ bands of note?
What do you think?
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I've gone and broken my hand and fractured my arm, folks. Needless to say I may be talking a short sabbatical from blogging for a week or two.
I broke the left, so I can still check back in once in a while, perhaps craft the odd short post.
I think my next regular post will be "Which albums sound the best under the influence of the painkiller NORCO."
Saturday, March 8, 2008
He’s an English eccentric! He’s a philosophy major! He’s a singer, a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist! He’s Patrick Fish!
He’s…THE JAZZ BUTCHER!
I have been a fan of The Jazz Butcher, aka Pat Fish since 1985 when he released an album called Sex and Travel, a collection of smart, post punk character sketches, odes to various alcoholic beverages and…well…sex, a-la Ray Davies and Jonathan Richman.
His wry sense of humor and overall impressive and eclectic musicianship have been with me since my high school days. The guys music never sounds dated and the sheer variety of musical styles on each album ensures endless years of sonic pleasure for yours truly.
A combination of jangly guitars, acoustic folk, punk/ new wave sensibilities (and just a smidgen of Jazz) and sincere, funny and thought provoking lyrics make him, in my estimation, one of the great never-heard-of-him musicians of the last 20 years. He’s prolific, too, releasing no less than 16 proper albums and 2 live documents in 17 years. He joins Edwyn Collins, Lloyd Cole and Robyn Hitchcock in the (amazingly!) ignored but remarkably talented British eccentric musicians club.
Take it from me, The Jazz Butcher is a treasure you should track down, and here's a list of JB albums, in order of purchase, you must own:
A Scandal In Bohemia, 1984
Sex And Travel, 1984
Distressed Gentlefolk, 1986
In Bath Of Bacon, 1983
Cult Of The Basement, 1990
Big Planet, Scary Planet, 1989
Start with these, and then pick up everything else. If you are unsure about making the investment, start with the excellent compilation Draining The Glass: 82-86. It contains a great selection of the Butcher’s best tracks, including superior versions of "Party Time" , "The Human Jungle" and "Zombie Love". His B-sides are really something special too, if you can locate them: "Olaf Palme", "Peter Lorre", "X-Mas With The Pygmies" and the hilarious "My Arse Is On Fire".
Here's a sample lyric from “Who Loves You Now”, originally released on Distressed Gentlefolk:
Who la-la-la-la loves you now?
Do I, do I, do I?
Who calms you down and shows you how...to comply?
Whose concern is how you contend with the pain?
Whose tender hands have touched your flesh and your heart and your brain
Again and again?
Who ne-ne-ne-ne needs you near?
Do I, do I, do I?
Who knows exactly what you fear?
Who'll stand by you, send your temperature high?
Who'll be with you when you hemorrhage, stagger and die, dear?
Don't leave me, my wretched memory,
Don't leave me now.
You get safe pills for self-inflicted ills -
Who loves you now?
Who lets you out and locks you in
Who knows where you begin?
Who nestles snug inside your skin?
Who pursues you, with desperate cries?
Whose fine taste only your death satisfies?
*WARNING: The following mini-post has nothing at all to do with music!
Just had to get this plug in for the weirdest, sickest, funniest cartoon strip on the planet, Red Meat. I discovered it whilst living in San Diego and have followed this demented 'toonist ever since.
Click on the cartoon strips to enlarge, or go to www.redmeat.com for more! If you dare...
Musically speaking I’ve been in a bit of an aggressive mood lately. I’m attempting, for the umpteenth time, to quit the cancer sticks and I always lose a little of my mind during these times, and good old fashioned angst ridden rock and roll is the perfect companion to my celery sticks and Nicorette patches.
I crafted a play list on my ipod, chronologically of course, of the most aggressive balls-out (thanks for the term, Thom!) music in my collection starting in the late 60’s with the MC5 and the Stooges. “Kick Out The Jams" (Motherf*&ckers!!) by the Motor City 5 (quite revolutionary for 1969) starts my day off with a bang followed by “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Raw Power” (wonderfully under produced by David Bowie) by Iggy and The Stooges.
Then it’s on to the 1970’s with The Ramones, the Clash and The Sex Pistols. Yes, I have forgiven the Pistols for their excursion into self-parody. “Submission” and “God Save The Queen” still sound wonderfully subversive cranked to 11, as does any Clash song from their first three albums. I even included two Queen tracks from this decade, the proto thrash ditty “Sheer Heart Attack” (written for the album of the same name, released three years later on News Of The World) and “”Stone Cold Crazy”.
Of course I had to include some Bon Scott era AC/DC with “Let There Be Rock” and “Sin City”. Bon Scott, the Devil's younger, alcoholic brother. Sleazy, rocket fueled blues-metal-punk, long before the soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive killed their charm.
The 80’s hardcore scene is represented by the DK’s (“California Uber Alles”, “Terminal Preppie” and “Winnebago Warrior”), Black Flag (“My War”, “Rise Above”) and D.O.A.’s version of “Eve Of Destruction”. To end the 80’s I chose “Not Now James” by Pop Will Eat Itself, a wonderful description of James Brown’s infamous run in with the law. It involved James Brown, a rooftop and a shotgun, if you remember…
The 1990’s contained some great agro-techno numbers like the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and the Chemical Brothers “Leave Home”. Just as aggressive and adrenaline fueled as the punk of the 70’s, but you could dance to it.
Still sounds great in the car.
Nirvana had to have an entry, and I chose “Lithium” and “In Bloom” from Nevermind to round out the decade.
To end the play list I chose Queens Of The Stone Age’s new album in it’s entirety, Era Vulgaris. Josh Homme is unparalleled in his ability to write monster riffs with a melody, and his new album is fantastic, his best since Lullabies To Paralyze. A sample lyric from "Misfit Love:
"Ain't born to lose baby,
I'm born to win,
I'm so goddamn sick baby, it's a sin,
It's a Sin.
Just a dead man, walking through the dead of night,
And if you are going anywhere tonight? Just a dead end,
Walking through the dead of night and if you are going,
Can I get a ride?
Just a dead man walking through the dead of night,
Its impossible to wait until the light,
Cause, I'm already gone,
If you bet on me, you've won."
I suspect it will take a few weeks for the nicotine to exit my body and my nerve endings to return to some sort of normalcy, and even longer for the 20+ year routine of having a cig after my morning coffee/ in the car/ after meals/ etc to dissipate. Until then, though, listening to the above music and taking my withdrawal-fueled anger out on the steering wheel of my Mazda Protégé will have to suffice.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The Charlatans, those crafty Madchester veterans across the pond, have released a new album entitled “You Cross My Path” and it’s being offered as a free download (in its entirety) on XFM. For those of you not familiar with the band, here’s a brief history:
“For many years, the Charlatans UK were perceived as the also-rans of Madchester, the group that didn't capture the zeitgeist like the Stone Roses or the band that failed to match the mad genre-bending of the Happy Mondays. Of course, they were more traditional than either of their peers. Working from a Stonesy foundation, the Charlatans added dance-oriented rhythms and layers of swirling organs straight out of '60s psychedelia. At first, the Charlatans had great promise, and their initial singles — including "The Only One I Know" — were hits, but as Madchester and "baggy" faded away, the group began to look like a relic. It was commonly assumed that their third album, 1994's Up to Our Hips, was the end of the line. However, the Charlatans made a remarkable comeback in 1995 with their eponymous fourth album, which found them embracing not only the flourishing Britpop movement, but also underground dance and techno, as well as their mainstay of classic rock. The Charlatans UK debuted at number one, and the group was hailed as survivors. Unfortunately, few knew how literal that term was — as the band was recording its follow-up album in 1996, organist Rob Collins, who had defined the band's sound, died in a car crash. The Charlatans decided to continue as a quartet, and their subsequent album, Tellin' Stories, debuted at number one upon its 1997 release, suggesting that they had become one of the great British journeyman bands of the '90s.”
The new album is quite good. It still has that Stonsey swagger, but the real difference is in how much they sound like New Order. Tim Burgess (lead vocals) in particular sounds eerily similar to Bernard Sumner circa Power Corruption and Lies, but it doesn‘t come across as imitation. It works because the songs are strong, filled with hooks and propelled into the stratosphere by the seemingly reinvigorated rhythm section of Martin Blunt (bass) and Jon Brooks (drums).
I’ve only listened once, but I like what I hear so far. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to download these ten tracks.
If you’re interested go to http://xfm.co.uk and follow the instructions.
Nine Inch Nails is offering the first nine tracks off their new instrumental album “Ghosts I-IV” free on it’s web site (http://www.nin.com). If you want the full recording (it’s 36 tracks!), it’ll cost you a whopping $5.00 for the entire digital album. I’ve never been a huge fan of NIN, but I have it on good authority that it’s pretty darn good. I’ll download the free ones and tell you what I think in a later post.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
From Pitchfork Media:
"30 years after forming and 26 since they last played live together, the original lineup of influential post-punk band Killing Joke has reformed for a new album and a tour. (Via Paper Thin Walls.)
The album will come out this summer, but details remain scarce. The tour, however, is a carefully planned affair. It currently consists of a month of dates across the world this fall, with a fair number of two-night residencies. On the first night of each residency, vocalist/keyboardist Jaz Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, drummer Paul Ferguson, and bassist Martin "Youth" Glover (who you might know from his production work for the Verge and the Orb) will tear through their first two albums-- 1980's Killing Joke and 1981's What's This For?-- in their entirety. The second night will feature the foursome doing the same for 1994's Pandemonium and their singles released on Island Records in 1979 and 1980."
From 1977 through 1982 Elvis Costello had no peers. He released 7 near perfect albums (and one live one), growing with each successive release in creativity and maturity. Allmusic states that he is perhaps the most important songwriter since Bob Dylan and after listening to these 7 albums in succession I am at a loss to disagree.
77’s My Aim Is True is pure punk/ pub rock nastiness on the surface but it is evident that his songwriting chops were fully formed from the beginning. Backed by Clover (Huey Lewis’ backing group!) and not the Attractions, he turns out classic after classic, including the lauded Alison, Welcome To The Working Week, (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes, Less Than Zero. But it’s Watching The Detectives, the album closer, that’s the most astonishing song here. A better and more affecting pop song during 1977 you will not find.
78’s This Years Model is even better, partly because he is now backed by The Attractions who up the ante in the power and angst department, but mostly because it seems his songwriting has reached a new level. Before all you Elvis aficionados slam me, I am aware that this album is compiled of leftovers from the My Aim Is True sessions, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it sounds different, more mature but no less urgent. Pump It Up, Lipstick Vogue and the wonderful Radio Radio are the highlights of a highlight packed album. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Nick Lowe produced this album, either.
In 1979 Elvis Costello released Armed Forces. It’s my personal favorite, possibly because it’s the first Elvis album I heard, probably because it contains some of his finest compositions to date. It is more detailed and sophisticated but hardly less affecting. The original working title, Emotional Fascism, will give you a hint on the lyrical content of this album. It’s his most politically charged album to date, but that doesn’t take away from the pure beauty of Costello classics such as Two Little Hitlers, Oliver’s Army, Accident’s Will Happen and Party Girl. His cover of Nick Lowe’s What’s So Funny (‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding) is also his most passionate vocal on the album, rivaling Bowie’s Heroes, in my opinion. Absolutely perfect album from start to finish.
The genre exercise that was 1980’s Get Happy is a textbook lesson in white boy angst infused soul. 20 songs, the longest clocking in at 3:36, move by so fast that their charms may not be evident on the first couple of listens. But after many spins this will reveal itself as one of his most consistently enjoyable albums, and it contains one of his very best tracks in I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.
Almost Blue, released in 1981, is often chided for being his most self indulgent record. Consisting entirely of Country and Western covers, this album is not for everyone. The ghost of Gram Parsons haunts this album and Elvis covers two of his songs here with How Much I Lied and I’m Your Toy. Like most of Costello’s albums you need to keep an open mind, but once you get it you get it. It’s a very good album, but probably his weakest of this period.
Also released in 1981 was Trust. This is where Elvis began to stretch out, stylistically speaking. Infused with elements of Jazz, rockabilly, soul and straight out balls-to-the-wall rock (From A Whisper To A Scream), it sounded a bit fractured upon it’s release. It’s an album of transition, his very own crossroads, and the next album would see him reaching his creative peak.
1982’s Imperial Bedroom is Elvis Costello’s Sgt. Pepper. It’s a concept album in the sense that each song follows a stylistic theme, and the production is the most lavish up to this point. Geoff Emerick, who engineered some of the Beatles most ambitious records, produces here, and his presence is extremely evident, especially on tracks like Beyond Belief, Man Out Of Time and Town Cryer. He’s less bitter here, more comfortable with his songwriting abilities. Imperial Bedroom is an ambitious listen all these years later, and the end of Elvis Mach I, his most fertile and rewarding phase.