Saturday, August 30, 2008
Enjoy some modern psychedelia while you wolf down those hot dogs and corn chips during your Labor Day weekend, folks...
PRIMAL SCREAM'S Slip Inside This House (cover of the 13th Floor Elevators). Ignore the emo-chick that introduces it...
BOO RADLEYS Lazarus, from Giant Steps
XTC's Making Plans For Nigel
MERCURY REV's Opus 40
Friday, August 29, 2008
Pal Hal, who reamins one of my favorite undiscovered writers (if only he would post more often)and who maintains a blog entitled "Dispatches From The Away Dad Nation", discovered an interesting artist I thought warranted further exposure.
There's no way on God's green earth that I could do a better job of dissecting the unique Ice Mac Sea better than Hal, so without further adieu I give you Hal's excellent review, posted a couple of weeks ago.
"Michael McCrickard, aka Ice Mac Sea, calls his music “listenable, but downright weird alternative rocking country-techno pop.” If you’re the sort of listener who simply must put things in a category, that’ll do.
I discovered Ice Mac Sea at four in the morning while driving to Sacramento airport. The car rental company had apparently run short of cheap cars, because I got one with satellite radio. I tuned up the “Progressive Country” channel, and a half-hour down Interstate 5, Ice Mac Sea’s “Steve Earle” popped up.
Gram Parsons never died
You can hear him singing every night
They love the dead ones the best
They never disappoint you like the rest.
I liked “Steve Earle” right away. I pulled over at the next gas station, and wrote down the name of the artist. I was afraid to rely on my memory, since the sun hadn’t even shown a hint, and my caffeine level was dangerously low.
So, I decided that I had to have “Measure for Measure” in its entirety. It’s a leap of faith to buy an album based on one song, but that one song led me to believe that Ice Mac Sea had something special to offer."
...continue reading the rest of the review HERE
Thursday, August 28, 2008
U2, The Joshua Tree
Bad Brains, I Against I
Bill Drummond, The Man
Pop Wil Eat Itself, Box Frenzy
Replacements, Pleased To Meet Me
Neil Young, Life
Spaceman 3, Perfect Prescription
Big Black, Songs About F*#!ing
Pet Shop Boys, Actually
Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel Of Love
Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me
Def Leppard, Hysteria
The Cure, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Housemartins, The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
Prince, Sign O’ The Times
Primal Scream, Sonic Flower Groove
The Cult, Electric
Psychedelic Furs, Midnight To Midnight
Depeche Mode, Music For The Masses
The Sisters Of Mercy, Floodland
Love And Rockets, Earth Sun Moon
George Michael, Faith
Butthole Surfers, Locust Abortion Technician
Husker Du, Warehouse: Songs and Stories
The Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come
Men Without Hats, Pop Goes The World
Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper, Bo-Day-Shus!
Guns And Roses, Appetite For Destruction
Jesus And Mary Chain, Darklands
Laibach, Opus Dei
Sonic Youth, Sister
Michael Jackson, BAD
The Flaming Lips, Oh My God! It’s The…
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I cannot wait any longer. My patience is running thin.
I’ve played the re-issue of Nick Lowe’s Jesus Of Cool about a billion times since it came out this year, and it’s great that Nick is finally on a label that respects his massive talent, but it’s time for the fine folks over at Yep Roc records to get off the dumper and re-issue the rest of his catalog.
Start with Labor Of Lust and work your way up, people. Then, but only if you’re feeling generous, start releasing the old Brinsley Schwarz stuff as well. With all the turmoil and uncertainty in the world today we could surely use a little more Nick.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
With Partner Jimmy Cauty, Bill Drummond formed one of the most controversial and important rock bands of the century, the KLF, which stands for 'Kopyright Liberation Front' . They released many excellent slabs of wax and plastic during their time, the best of the lot being the ambient “Chill Out”, the dance/ rock masterpiece “The White Room” and the incendiary and extremely popular “Doctorin’ The Tardis”, which blended Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll with the theme music for the television program Doctor Who.
From the beginning they adopted the philosophy of anarchists, manifested by the defacement of billboard adverts, the posting of prominent cryptic advertisements in NME magazine, and highly distinctive and violent performances on Top of the Pops. Their most notorious performance was at the February 1992 BRIT Awards, where they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF's departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue in a final act of defiance.
But things get real interesting after the “breakup” of the KLF...
“Despite The KLF's retirement from the music business, Drummond's involvement with Jimmy Cauty was far from over. Infamy followed when, on 23 August 1994, the K Foundation burnt what remained of The KLF's earnings - one million pounds sterling - at a boathouse on the Scottish island of Jura. A film of the event - Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid - was taken on tour, with Drummond and Cauty discussing the incineration with members of the public after each screening. In 2004 Drummond admitted to the BBC that he now regretted burning the money. "It's a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn't get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand."Rumor has it that the £1 million was "bought' from the Royal Mint - and was to be incinerated anyway (as notes that have become too fragile to remain in circulation usually are). It is reported that the £1 million actually cost the KLF £40,000 - the publicity generated by the "stunt" was well worth the financial outlay. However this seems unlikely; Banknotes deemed for destruction have to suffer that fate at the Mint, they cannot be sold. Equally, when the ashes of the notes were sent to the Bank of England for analysis so it could be confirmed they were the remains of £1 million in £50 notes, the Bank refused to touch them as they could not believe anyone in the public domain would willingly destroy their banknotes. The K-Foundation had to use an independent analysis company to confirm they were the remains as claimed.
On 4 September 1995 the duo recorded "The Magnificent" for The Help Album. In 1997, Drummond and Cauty briefly re-emerged as 2K and K2 Plant Hire Ltd. with various plans to "Fuck the Millennium". K2 Plant Hire's published aim was to "build a massive pyramid containing one brick for every person born in the UK during the 20th century" Members of the public were urged to donate bricks, with 1.5 bricks per Briton being needed to complete the project. Drummond also contributed a short story titled "Let’s Grind, or How K2 Plant Hire Ltd Went to Work" to the book "Disco 2000".
In the years after the final activities of the K Foundation, Drummond has sought a career as an artist and writer.
In 1995, Drummond bought A Smell of Sulphur in the Wind by Richard Long, his favorite contemporary artist, for $20,000. Five years later, he attempted to sell the work by placing a series of placards around the country. When this failed to work, in 2001, he cut the photograph and text work into 20,000 pieces, to sell for $1each.
In 2002, Bill Drummond was involved - along with Turner Prize nominee Tracey Emin - in a controversial exhibition at the deconsecrated St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Liverpool. Drummond contributed a guestbook which asked visitors "Is God a C***?". It was later reported that the artwork had been stolen and a £1000 reward offered for its return. Drummond himself said that he would answer "no" to his own question: "God is responsible for all the things I love, the speckles on a brown trout; the sound of Angus Young's guitar, the nape of my girlfriend's neck, the song of the blackcap when he returns in Spring. I never blame God for all the shit, for the baby Rwandan slaughtered in a casual genocide, the ever-present wars, drudgery and misery that fills most of our lives."
Other projects have included MyDeath.net, where people can plan their own funeral.
Drummond is also co-founder of The Foundry, an arts centre in Shoreditch, London, and owner of The Curfew Tower in Cushendall, Northern Ireland. Via an arts trust called In You We Trust, Drummond loans the tower to young artists and exhibits their work."
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Flaunt It (come on Rumproast, back me up on this one!)
Elvis Costello, Blood And Chocolate
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, Planet Rock
Beastie Boys, Licenced To Ill
Metallica, Master Of Puppets
The The, Infected
The Housemartins, London 0, Hull 4
Billy Bragg, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry
Talk Talk, The Colour Of Spring
Sonic Youth, Evol
Mojo Nixon, Frenzy/ Get Out Of My Way
Throwing Muses, Throwing Muses
Paul Simon, Graceland
Run-DMC, Raising Hell
Bad Brains, I Against I
Steve Earl, Guitar Town
The Woodentops, Giant
Pet Shop Boys, Please
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
Peter Gabriel, So
New Order, Brotherhood
REM, Life’s Rich Pageant
Love And Rockets, Express
The Cramps, A Date With Elvis
Husker Du, Candy Apple Grey
Big Audio Dynamite, No. 10 Upping Street
The Jazz Butcher, Distressed Gentlefolk
Fishbone, In Your Face
The Flaming Lips, Hear It Is~!
They Might Be Giants, TMBG
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Question for you.
Have you ever asked someone what their favorite Beatles album is? Did their opinion differ from yours? I bet you an autographed Ringo drum stick that it did.
At this point, I think you’ll agree, The Beatles are beyond any criticism. They introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century and are revered by millions of rock fans who universally agree that they didn’t release a bad record during their 7 years of recording albums.
But ask any Beatles fan what their favorite Beatles album is and chances are the answer will be radically different from yours.
For example my wife is a fan of the early stuff while I tend to gravitate towards the mid to late 60’s output. I know people who prefer the White album’s chaotic creativity over the structured brilliance of Abbey Road and still others who prefer the muscle bound rock and roll of Help! over the whimsy and sophisticated psychedelia of Sgt. Peppers.
With me, as I stated, it’s the latter half of the bands career I find most consistently enjoyable, but the ranking changes quite regularly. Here’s my (current) favorite Beatles albums, in order, for you to critique and debate over.
Have at it!
#2. The White Album
#3. Sgt. Pepper
#4. Rubber Soul
#5. Abbey Road
#7. Magical Mystery Tour
#8. A Hard Days Night
#9. Let It Be
#10. With The Beatles
As you’ll no doubt notice, all of the below are albums released prior to Green Day’s debut in 1991. Actually, nothing released after 1985 was punk, in my humble opinionated opinion. Nothing against Green Day or any of the countless others, but they were never punk. They lack(ed) the originality, the angst, of the originals.
The Stooges, Raw Power. There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said about the Stooges and their importance on the punk movement of the mid 1970's. Truthfully, I could have picked any one of their albums, all great.
The Sex Pistols, The Great Rock And Roll Swindle. I always thought this was much more punk than Never Mind The Bollocks, in the sense that it was more sloppy and more thrown together. Plus, it was more fun!
The Ramones, Rocket To Russia. I waffle between this and the debut. Both excellent, but this one had better cover art…
SNFU, If You Swear You’ll Catch No Fish. These guys took North American hardcore to new extremes. Crunching guitar attacks and a tiny Asian lead singer who did back flips a-la David Lee Roth (albeit with WAY more energy and fury) named Mr. Chi Pig!
Forgotten Rebels, In Love With The System. Canada’s answer to the Pistols. Note to Mickey DeSadist: Get yer effin’ albums on itunes, maaaan!!!!!!!!
Dead Kennedys, Plastic Surgery Disasters. Jello Biafra takes on Jocks, republicans, organized religion and Winnebago’s, sometimes all in one song!
Black Flag, Damaged. Southern California anger at it’s absolute purest. The definitive LA hardcore band, with no less a cult figure than Henry Rollins fronting.
Buzzcocks, Singles Going Steady. Punk goes POP!
The Clash, The Clash. Before the polish of London Calling and international stardom, these four guys released a seminal punk album at the dawn of 1977.
The Meatmen, War Of The Superbikes. Stupid, fun and totally brainless punk from Michigan.
DOA, War On 45 (Expanded Edition). Canada’s favorite and most influential punk band, this is a compilation of, in my opinion, their finest and most furious moments.
Minutemen, Double Nickels On The Dime. An all time classic, 43 songs and not one longer than 2:45. An absolute classic!
The Misfits, Legacy Of Brutality. Glen Danzig, before he took steroids and became a parody of himself. Alice Cooper? Meet The Ramones!
Suicide, Suicide. Not one guitar, bass or drum kit on this album, but these guys and this album were the very definition of punk.
NOMEANSNO, Wrong. Punks version of RUSH. Complex time changes done very very VERY fast.
New York Dolls, New York Dolls. The Rolling Stones if they were transvestites.
The Damned, Damned Damned Damned. Contained New Rose. Do I need to say any more?
The Stranglers, Rattus Norvegicus. The punks answer to the Doors. They were too old and played their instruments too well to be called punk, but their attitude and ambitions were pure anarchy at the time.
Thom, who’d I leave off?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
E’s definition of a ‘ponce‘: “A posh, effeminate man; one who prances about; a silly, self important individual; one who wears frills and pantaloons; eyeliner boys; modern day minstrels; unicorn fanciers.”
So I’m riding to work the other day and “Jolly Roger” by Adam Ant comes on the old ipod, a song I haven’t heard since the early 80’s. It’s a modern post-punk sea shanty of a song and about halfway through I found myself cringing and the hairs on the back on my neck standing straight up.
God, did I really used to listen to this? Yes, I have to admit I did. And, by God, I probably even sung along with it with conviction and vigor, the windows rolled down and the song blasting from my 1983 Chevy Bel-Aire for every one to hear it’s wretchedness. Looking back I may as well have shouted “Hey everyone, look at me! I’m a gay pirate!” at the top of my lungs. No wonder I went date-less that year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still like a lot of the early Adam And The Ants stuff. They released some really decent pop songs during their short existence. But Jolly Roger is just the very definition of “Ponce-Rock”. Even though it was probably done with tongue firmly planted in cheek it’s still an awful song.
Marc Bolan is another one. Before he released Electric Warrior, Marc Bolan and his merry crew of cohorts were cosmic pixie-elves and wrote and performed songs that were about as fey as they come. One need only gaze upon the titles of his first four albums to understand this truism: “My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair…But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars” from 1968; “Prophets, Seers and Sages The Angels Of The Ages”, also from 1968; 1969’s “Unicorn”, and “A Beard Of Stars” from 1970. He was able to turn things around, musically speaking, but his lyrics would continue in this cosmic vein until his death in 1977.
Ponce-rock is making a bit of a comeback these days with folks like Devendra Banhart proudly carrying the torch, but I’ve bashed poor DB enough as of late, and he’s too easy a target anyway. One can only hope that his devoted followers will eventually wash the glitter out of their beards, wipe off their half moon water soluble tattoos and come to the realization that there are better artists to invest their time in than a silly man with a badly tuned acoustic guitar wearing eyeliner and a gold lame strapless gown.
Oops, I said I wouldn’t pick on him, didn’t I?
See what I did?
I said I wouldn’t but I did it anyway!
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The last time I posted the inductees (A-B), some courageous soul calling himself "anonymous" asked, "What's the point of all this?"
It's available on the web right now on multiple sites. All one has to do is type in "Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductees" on google and...BLAMMO!...you've got 'em.
So why here?
Short answer #1 is because I can. The longer answer is because this is a music blog, populated by a few friends and like minded music fans who may not be geeky enough (or have the time) to search for these things on their own but may find some interest in my posting it. Short answer #2 is because it may spark some debate, like Mr. "Anonymous" thinking it pointless.
Which is really cool, actually. "Anonymous", whether he likes it or not, IS the reason I do what I do here on this little music blog.
So thank you "anonymous". Come back anytime. You're always welcome.
Now, on to the list:
Nat King Cole
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young)
The Dave Clark Five
Earth, Wind & Fire
The Everly Brothers
The Four Seasons (group)
Gamble and Huff
Gladys Knight & the Pips
Bill Graham (promoter)
Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Some songs are just custom made to slam the accelerator to the floorboard, dontchathink? Ever received a speeding ticket while listening to a particularly kick-ass song on your car stereo? I have, and I remember it well.
I used to have a crappy old silver Chevy Bel Aire, complete with a jazzy factory installed am/fm radio that would get nothing but static and the odd oldies station. So when I received my first “Ghetto Blaster” I stocked up on double D batteries (I think it took 12) and stuck it in the center of the back seat and played my carefully constructed mixed tapes whenever I went cruising’ with my posse (my Canadian friends will find the fact I’ve labeled them here as my “posse” quite funny, I believe). The car was usually packed and the person sitting on the hump in the back got to hold and control the music.
When the evening was over the “blaster” was on it’s own, free to sway and tip over onto the back seat floor mats whenever I had to slam on the breaks or make a sharp turn.
Coming home (when the thing didn’t tip over and knock the removable speakers off their hinges and the batteries out of their casing) I usually preferred to listen to really fast and hard music, mostly to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel at 3:00 am in the morning.
It was The Dead Kennedy’s “Riot” that did me in. It’s a slow burner, taking it’s time to build the mood, and as the song progressed in tempo I could feel my foot inch down on the accelerator in perfect time with the song. Inch by inch, kilometer by kilometer, the trees whizzing past at an ever increasing rate. By the time the song reached the explosive chorus (at what seemed like 2000 BPM) I SLAMMED my foot down, pounded my fists on the dashboard and…saw red lights in my rearview. If there is a worse feeling than that, especially at the unholy hour of 3:00 am on a Sunday, I‘d like to hear it. I must have been going at least 100 down a country road where the limit was 60, but I can’t be sure of anything except it was way over the limit. I popped a breath mint (even though I hadn’t been drinking) and nervously gave the officer my drivers license and other info. He in turn gave me a massive ticket and sent me on my way with a stern warning to “slow the hell down“.
SO what’re your favorite speeding songs?
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I thought I’d take a page out of Holly’s book and talk briefly about one song by the Kinks that I firmly believe is one of the most underrated in their large and varied catalog. Holly does this kind of micro-analysis much better than I could ever hope, but what the hell. It's a song worth touting, no matter how sloppy the writing!
Art Lover, released on 1981’s Give The People What They Want album, is the great lost Kinks song. First, the lyrics:
“Sunday afternoon there’s something special
Its just like another world.
Jogging in the park is my excuse
To look at all the little girls.
I’m not a flasher in a rain coat,
I’m not a dirty old man,
I’m not gonna snatch you from your mother,
I’m an art lover.
Come to daddy,
Ah, come to daddy,
Come to daddy.
Pretty little legs, I want to draw them,
Like a degas ballerina.
Pure white skin, like porcelain,
She’s a work of art and I should know
I’m an art lover.
Come to daddy,
And I'll give you some spangles.
Little girl don’t notice me
Watching as she innocently plays.
She cant see me staring at her
Because I’m always wearing shades.
She feeds the ducks, looks at the flowers.
I follow her around for hours and hours.
Id take her home, but that could never be,
She’s just a substitute
For what’s been taken from me.
Ah, come to daddy, come on.
Sunday afternoon cant last forever,
Wish I could take you home.
So, come on, give us a smile
Before you vanish out of view.
I’ve learned to appreciate you
The way art lovers do,
And I only want to look at you.”
Is it simply about an English pedophile, or is it about someone who’s child has been removed from his life by a bitter ex, or is it a bit of both? Not sure, but whatever it’s about Ray Davies makes you feel sorry for the guy and a little sick to your stomach at the same time. The guys a master.
It’s impossible to listen to the song and not visualize it. Musically it’s a mid-tempo number, and a little waltz-y, and it suit’s the mood of the piece perfectly. The song strolls along keeping time perfectly with the “art lover” as he walks and stalks the “little girls in the park”.
It’s a bit of a throw back too, in a good way, to Ray’s character sketches of the past and a welcome return to form. It sits near the end of the album and doesn’t really reflect the overall harder rock tone of Give The People What They Want. Along with the other real standouts on the album (the optimistic "Better Things", the fun piss-take of "Destroyer") it is what saves this album from being simply mediocre.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
If you need proof that the Super Furry Animals are one of the best, inventive and most exciting bands out there, take a gander at the following video for "God! Show Me Magic", from their debut album, Fuzzy Logic...
Monday, August 11, 2008
A good example of quality over quantity, I would say...
Nick Lowe, The Rose Of England
New Order – Low-Life
Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen
The Pogues – Rum Sodomy And The Lash
The Cure - The Head on the Door
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
The Smiths - Meat Is Murder
The Waterboys - This Is The Sea
ABC, How To Be A Zillionaire
Love And Rockets, Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven
B.A.D., This Is Big Audio Dynamite
Bob Dylan, Empire Burlesque
The Fall, This Nation’s Saving Grace
Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair
Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms
Mekons, Fear And Whiskey
Big Black, Atomizer
Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
The Jesus And Mary Chain, Psychocandy
Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Don’t Stand Me Down
Who'd I forget?
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The Itunes store is really pissing me off. There's a new Primal Scream album which came out two weeks or so ago and the US store isn't making it available yet for some damn reason. Jeezus, you'd think that someone would figure out this international copyright crap. I'm sick of screaming "CONVERT MY EFFIN US DOLLARS INTO PESOS/PONDS/FRANCS ETC ALREADY, ITUNES! HOW FRIGGIN'' HARD CAN THAT BE?!?!?" at my computer. Plus it's scaring the kids.
So, to summarize...
The Canadian store has it.
The Australian store has it.
The UK store has it.
The friggin Denmark store has it (a STEAL at only 80.00 KR!)
F*&cking New Zealand has it!!!
...but not the good old U.S.A., where everything is at your fingertips and available at the click of a mouse. Except the album I want, of course. And I hear it's kind of mediocre...
...but I still want it.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Wikipedia definition of “Jumping The Shark”, as tweaked by E: “Jumping the shark is a colloquialism used by music critics and fans to denote that point in a rock band’s history where they “lose the plot” and veer off into ridiculous or unsavory directions, undergoing too many changes to retain their original appeal. Bands that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak as after this point critical fans can point to a noticeable decline in the band's overall quality.”
Every band has it’s day and every band has it’s moment where it releases an album that disappoints it’s longtime fans and sends said band directly into the abyss of the “I remember when they were good” files. I submit that every band will eventually “jump the shark” at some point in their careers, make that fatal misstep that sends them off in a terrible and tuneless direction.
The only exception to this rule would be those bands smart enough or lucky enough to break up or die before this actually happens. Case in point: The Beatles. From '63-70, the Beatles didn't release any horrible albums. Even Yellow Submarine contained some amazing tracks! But had they continued into the 00’s together I have no doubt they would have produced a sub-par or even laughable album, probably evolving into a sad parody of their former selves.
Like the Rolling Stones.
Many fans think the Stones bit it when they released Emotional Rescue back in 1980, but I think they had one more good album left in ‘em with Tattoo You. After that they released Undercover, then Jagger made the horrible decision to do Dancin’ In The Street with David Bowie and it was all over but the memories. Some bands can make a comeback, but it’s rare and nigh to impossible to regain the glory of past successes. Most fans lose interest, some diehards stick with an artist and pan for gold with each release, trying to find that rare nugget in a fog of muck.
But some actually do succeed, make that rare comeback album. Take Nick Lowe and his At My Age album of 2007. Most fans had given up after 1983’s sub-par Abominable Showman. Nick released some fine albums after that but it wasn’t until that pivotal 2007 release that fans started coming back in a big way. Who knows why that album re-ignited so many fans passion for The Basher, but it did. Good on him, he deserved it.
Bob Dylan was on a roll from 1962 to 1976, and even though, like Nick Lowe, he released some pretty good albums since, he kind of lost his muse until 1997’s Time Out Of Mind.
There are many other examples of notable comebacks but they are few and far between. Most bands fizzle out after such a blow to their ego and never recover. But at least we had some good times, eh? There’s always the reissue.
Here’s my take on some bands and the albums that killed them, commercially and critically.
Queen, Hot Space: Freddie Mercury and John Deacon’s disco infatuation take control. Songs such as Body Language, Back Chat and Staying Power almost single-handedly destroy the band’s prior achievements. They would never recover, in America anyway…
Primal Scream, Give Out But Don’t Give Up: After the genre defining and magnificent Screamadelica, the boys released this album of sub-par Black Crowes tunes. They redeemed themselves with the next three albums, but saw fit to test their fans with an even worse, totally embarrassing Riot City Blues in 2006. Fool me once…
Blur, 13: England’s finest brit pop band hit it big in America with their self titled 1997 album (remember Song 2 with it’s jubilant “Whooooohooooooooooo‘s!!!”?), but threw it all away with the subsequent downer 13. Sure there were some good tracks (Tender, Coffee and TV, No Distance Left To Run), but it’s all so by-the-numbers Blur. Damon Albarn would regain his respect with subsequent projects, but 13 and the horrible Think Tank remain the turds in their discography and marked the moment when Blur ceased to exist.
Genesis, And Then There Were Three: This is the moment where the second phase, the Phil Collins phase, of Genesis really began. Follow You Follow Me was the beginning of their AOR soft rock phase and sounded the death knell of their proggy ways. Some say this was a good thing, me, well…
The Jam, The Gift: An uneven album with tons of white boy soul overindulgences, you could almost call this a demo version of the first Style Council album. Their punky swagger was gone, replaced by pasty and stale faux funk. Still, it did contain the excellent Ghosts…
What about you? What albums by your (once) favorite bands did you find disappointing? And did you ever go back?
An even better question would be: Are there any bands that you think have never released a sub-standard album? I'd be very interested in your responses to that one!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Been a little under the weather, folks. Posts may be few and far between until the weekend.
To hold you over, here's a quick version of Uncle E's Ipod Roulette. No commentary from me though, I'll leave the debate over what's good and what's crap up to you fine music snobberinos. As always, no editing. That should become painfully apparent very, very soon...
#1. Battersea Odyssey, The Super Furry Animals
#2. Titties 'n Beer, Frank Zappa
#3. Electro Lux Imbroglio, Steve Miller Band
#4. Justice League, Orgone
#5. Day's Done, John Prine
#6. The Jazz Butcher Meets Count Dracula, The Jazz Butcher
#7. All I Am Is All You're Not, Sloan
#8. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, The Smiths
#9. Into The Woods, My Morning Jacket
#10. Temptation, New Order
#11. Bat Out Of Hell, Meatloaf
#12. Janie Jones, The Clash
#13. ...And The Gods Made Love, Jimi Hendrix
#14. Lean Period, Orange Juice
#15. Big Mouth Blues, Gram Parsons
#16. Livin' Thing, Electric Light Orchestra
#17. Go Tell It To The Trees, Egghead, The Future Sound Of London
#18. High Voltage, AC/DC
#19. Miles Ahead, Miles Davis
#20. Burn Down The Mission, Elton John
#21. She's The One, Caribou
#22. Morning Lemon, The Chemical Brothers
#23. D'Ya Like Scratchin'?, Malcolm McLaren
#24. Farewell My Friend, Dennis Wilson
#25. Road To Rouen, Supergrass
#26. Relax, Frankie Goes To Hollywood
#28. The Glory Of Man, The Minutemen
#29. Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel, Simple Minds
#30. Rainy Day Women #12 and #35, Bob Dylan
...see you all in a few days.
Monday, August 4, 2008
I humbly submit that the original Alice Cooper group were one of the tightest, raunchiest and brilliantly inventive garage bands of the early seventies. Well, for 4 albums anyway, and even his first solo album (Welcome To My Nightmare) and his foray into the ‘new wave’ (Flush The Fashion) are deserving of a critical re-evaluation. Lumped in (and rightfully so, in most respects) with other Detroit acts of the time such as the Stooges and MC5, The Alice Cooper Band were more tuneful than Iggy and his ilk, always a little more aware of the pop side of scary rock and roll. But when you hear people talk about Alice Cooper it's never in the same hushed and reverent tones they use to discuss those other two bands and their discography; with Alice, any discussion regarding his place in the R&R hierarchy is usually accompanied by snickers of disdain. And that's a shame, because if you re-listen to the following four albums I think you may agree that this band was a fine one indeed.
Love It To Death --1971(read album review HERE)
Killer--1971 (read album review HERE)
School’s Out--1972 (read album review HERE)
Billion Dollar Babies--1973 (read album review HERE)
…and, according to the liner notes from the excellent Cooper compilation Mascara and Monsters, the author rightfully states that “Any act worth it’s weight in rock and roll theatrics, and in-your-face punk attitude owes more than just a passing nod of respect in the direction of this malignantly macabre culprit. Need proof? Just ask KISS, David Bowie, The New York Dolls, Nine Inch Nails, Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, Parliament-Funkadelic, The Tubes, T-Rex, Elton John, Guns and Roses, Adam Ant, Prince, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Cheap Trick, Devo, The Rolling Stones (!), The Cramps, Rob Zombie” and many more.
AND, this last line’s for “Philbert the Cooper Skeptic“, even Bob Dylan who’s been known to dip into the eyeliner from time to time, said in a Rolling Stone cover story: “I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked songwriter.”
…you Be The Judge.
"Those who hear not the music. . . think the dancers mad."--Unknown
"Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body."-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr
"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."-- Aldous Leonard Huxley
"I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music."-- George Eliot
"Military justice is to justice what military music is to music."-- Groucho Marx
“What is the truth about rock music? Music is a powerful and perhaps the most powerful medium in the world. Music. Plato says when the music of a society changes, the whole society will change. Aristotle, a contemporary of Plato’s, says when music changes there should be laws to govern the nature and the character of that music. Lenin says that the best and the quickest way to undermine any society is through its music…Music, ladies and gentleman, is the gift of God. It was given to man to offer praises to God and to lift us up to him and to exalt Him to touch the tender recesses of our hearts and of our minds. Satan has taken music and he has counterfeited it, convoluted it, twisted it, exploited it and now he’s using it to hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer a message into the minds and the lifestyles of this generation.” --Jimmy Swaggart
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I preface this latest entry as I have all the other previous “Bogus Band Bio” entries; that this is a phenomenally ridiculous and fictional account of a phenomenally ridiculous band, and should any members of said band or their legal representation read this, highly unlikely as that would be, please forgive me as I am a deranged lunatic with far too much time on my hands.
Without further adieu, I give you...
"Hocus Pocus, My God It's FOCUS!"
Flutist Thijs Van Leer, bassist Martin Dresden, and drummer Hans Cleuver met at a “fiddler’s meet” in the summer of 1968, where Van Leer’s brother, Po Tidholm-Van Leer (men in Sweden are required to keep their maiden names after marriage), was vying to retain his title of Lord Fiddler King-Man, which he had won every year since he was a young prodigy of 3. Po’s main competition, as it had been for many years, was a young man by the name of Orlendr Guofriar. Guofriar was born without the benefit of elbows which made his prowess on the fiddle even more spectacular and subsequently endeared him to the local crowd. A combination of Po’s arrogance and Guofriar’s spectacular performance that day led to the crown being passed on to a new, elbow-less champion. Po was understandably devastated, and ran away from the festival soon after the announcement, crying “VLANDERSPAST!! VANDERSPLAST MON HICKKMAAN!!”, which loosely translated means “elbow demon is lactose intolerant”.
He ran 4 miles to the Cliffs of Despair and plunged 400 feet into the icy sea below. Local artist Gjord Hildegarrrrd captured the moment in this fine artist’s rendering:
The Swedish Sea Rescue team tried for hours to save Po but their effort was cut short due to the drunken captain who choked on a schnitzel while trying to traverse the choppy waters (see below).
At the funeral the following day the three boys placed their toenail clippings on the body’s eyelids while they sipped on cat’s milk which, of course, is part of Swedish burial tradition. It was at this time that the three boys became men and decided to honor Po’s memory by vowing to form a progressive rock band in his honor. Po’s lack of focus at the prior day’s competition would be the inspiration for the burgeoning band’s moniker; the Swedish translation for “Focus” is “Gilgerbloorst”, but Thijs decided to change it to the English translation in the hopes of being able to tell Po’s story to a worldwide audience.
The first two albums were cut in a flurry of creative productivity, and were a fair collection of progressive rock tunes but devoid of a clear, erm, focus, and the material is primarily dominated by Thijs Van Leer and his classical sensibilities. But at least as often, it sticks with fairly conventional period Swedish folk-rock with occasional jazzy shadings. Akkerman's "House of the King Fiddler", the first recorded tribute to their fallen brother Po, is the most heart wrenching and accurate Jethro Tull rip-off ever recorded.
Their second album, Moving Waves, contained the breakthrough worldwide smash “Hocus Pocus”. Built around a killer guitar riff by Jan Akkerman , this instrumental replaced Sweden‘s National Anthem as a staple of SPR (Swedish Public Radio) for three straight days. The bizarrely hilarious vocal and incendiary accordion solos by Thijs van Leer have to be heard to be believed. Compared to the groundbreaking “Hocus Pocus” the other tracks seemed comparatively constrained: the gentle "Le Clochard" features some gorgeous classical guitar over Mellotron strings, but other than that the rest just feels like directionless meandering. The album concludes with "Eruption," which while mimicking the multi-suite nomenclature of Yes and King Crimson, is essentially a side-long jam session.
After the massive success of “Hocus Pocus” the band decided to take a 4 year sabbatical to, erm, focus on individual solo projects. Hans Cleuver lent his voice to the popular Swedish breath mint commercials for Ricola (that’s him singing “Riiiiiiicoooolllaaaaaaa”) while Thijs Van Leer was busy utilizing his considerable production talents to help mentor the up and coming Swedish disco group ABBA.
Martin Dresden, on the other hand, spent his time and royalties forming the National Unified Waffle Makers Union (NUWMU), a collective of underpaid waffle merchants based in Amsterdam. Their mandate was simple: a fair and equitable opportunity to sell their delectable fried batter treats in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District without fear of harassment or reprisal. Martin was rumored to utilize several “unpopular and violent” tactics to achieve his goals. The hashish merchants of Amsterdam didn’t take too kindly to Dresden’s bully tactics, but were too stoned and docile to really do anything about it. Therefore, Dresden and his collective thrived on the tourists appetite for waffles and were finally accepted into the fold of the whore mongers and drug dealers of the Red Light District. As a matter of fact, Dresden was eventually honored by being elected president of the B.I.A. office (Business Improvement Area) and getting a local Rhune sculpture named in his honor.
It wasn’t until their third album, the aptly titled Focus III, that the band really gained critical acceptance. Focus III kept this same sound, but approached it with a jollier, more accessible tone. As with its predecessor, Focus III featured only one tune that would have a chance of being a hit single. The semi-enjoyable rhythm of "Sylvia," partnered with Jan Akkerman's victorious and Thor-like guitar solo, and some of Van Leer's finest flugelhorn work, new member Bert Ruiter's tight basslines, and Pierre Van Der Linden's mellow drumming, assured the track classic status. "Sylvia" found worldwide success and gained the band valuable radio and press exposure. The consistency in musical variety throughout Focus III is enough to merit any listeners' respect. To be frank, this LP should unquestionably be ranked alongside the likes of Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, and any others of rock's greatest.
After a triumphant tour of Bangladesh the band got to work on the fourth Focus album entitled “…Or Lack Thereof”. It flopped, paling in the wake of the massive success of III. This sent Van Leer into a horrible tailspin of alcoholism and addiction to Belgian chocolate Easter bunnies. He checked himself into the Stockholm Hospital For The Tragically Inflicted in February of 1975 and remained in their care until the Summer of 2002. The rest of the band attempted to go on without him, releasing no less than 57 albums during that time, but without their leader and spiritual mentor to guide them the band flailed, retreating to the bars and festivals of their homeland.
It wasn’t until the reclusive Van Leer wandered into the studio while the rest of the band were recording their 61st LP (Lingonberies and Nordquist) that the original band finally reformed. Van Leer explained that during his 27 year hiatus he had musically mentored a young lad by the name of Pete Almqvist who had gone on a pilgrimage of sorts to find and convince the mercurial Van Leer to rejoin his former mates and reform Focus. Pete later formed his own band, The Hives, and changed his name to “Howlin’” Pete Almqvist, but that’s another story.
During the time that Van Leer was in the hospital, Sweden had changed dramatically. Its remote position on the map, its remarkable capacity for staying out of wars and its endless supply of timber and ore made Sweden both a rich country and an unusual one by international standards. Old musical customs and traditions were suddenly thought useless. Young people closed their ears to the stories of their rock elders and refused to look back.
The band recorded one more album, 2005’s “Socially Unacceptable“, before disbanding for good.
Van Leer checked himself back into the hospital where he regales the patients with his one-man productions of famous Swedish folk lore. Here’s an excerpt from his latest show:
“Could you pass the salt, please (Kan du skicka saltet, tack)?”
“Here you are (Varsågod).”
“Thank you (Tack)!”
Hans Cleuver is living off his royalties from the first three Focus albums and his Ricola commercials while Martin Dresden was forced into exile by the members of his waffle collective after being caught embezzling millions of Krona from the NUWMU treasury vaults.