Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nick Mason & Rick Fenn - Profiles

Navigating through the terrain of solo records from members of Pink Floyd should be a very rewarding experience, particularly given the member’s talents, their incredible consistency within the band structure, and-in some cases-incredibly lofty egos.

Well, everyone except drummer Nick Mason who, besides some fairly weak contributions in Ummagumma and some less than notable percussion work in the band, never really stands out as someone capable releasing original music that is anywhere near as compelling as his quiet contributions to the Floyd.
Yet, the powers that be within the band’s record company appeased the individual members with was appears to be the addition of solo contracts for each of them, Nick Mason included.

The funny thing about Nick Mason “solo” records, however, is how much he truly relies on the talents and generosity of others. So, in a sense, they’re not really his, even when he gets top billing on them.
In 1985, Mason teamed up with 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn to release Profiles, a collection of (mostly) instrumentals that are mired in dated production techniques, horrible guitar tones, and rudimentary electronic percussion that sounds more programmed than performed.

The instrumental tracks sound as interesting as the hold music you hear while waiting on the phone for a customer service department, but at least they’re not as the two embarrassing cuts where someone actually handles vocal duties.

David Gilmour gets hoodwinked into lending his voice to the tolerable “Eye For An Eye,” the albums only contender for single and only reason why any self respecting Floyd fan would even care about Profiles. To be polite, it sounds like it would find a great home on some forgotten soundtrack album.

Worse still is “Israel” sung by the keyboard player from UFO. It’s a pretty awful attempt at placing Mason/Fenn in the category of “rockers with political conviction” because that’s what superstars tended to do in the mid-80’s. The thing is, “Israel” doesn’t really identify what political stance Mason actually takes, but you know it has something to do with the conflict between the Jews and Arabs.  ”Goodbye good thing/Africa’s a lonely place” goes the chorus, which ultimately begs the question “Couldn’t have they just made this one an instrumental cut too?”

Profiles does nothing to showcase the talents of Mason and more importantly, it does nothing to demonstrate that the Floyd drummer was anything more in that band’s creative process other than the guy most trusted to fix the other member’s tea. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

John Travolta and Olivia Newton John - This Christmas

The pairing is complete nostalgia. There is no other reason that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are together for a Christmas album aside from the fact that they were both cast together in a small little movie musical called Grease over thirty years ago.

Grease has flourished since its first run on charm alone. How else can you explain the impossible plot of an Australian immigrant-who is hot off an innocent summer fling with a local gearhead-as she navigates the social landscape of high school with a collective of sexually active girls, headed by a 34-year old Stockard Channing?

As the main characters in the film, Olivia and Travolta aren’t particularly compatible on screen and their voices don’t blend together all that notably during their duets. Regardless, they have managed to become the biggest selling duet in pop history and their presence in Grease completes the film’s campy homage to 50’s B-movies, giving all of that aforementioned improbability a free pass.

How these characters managed to ride Greased Lightening up through the skies and endured for so long is pretty remarkable, so the idea of both of them returning together to perform Christmas music isn’t completely out of the realm. Unfortunately, when one doesn’t properly attend to the execution of such a reunion, what you get is a record that’s more acknowledged for its weird aftertaste than musical notoriety.

I won’t even mention the cover, because it’d be like bitching about how Kraft Macaroni and Cheese tastes nothing like a homemade batch of the gooey comfort food. This is truth in advertising, and the only thing that would make the cover of This Christmas more awesome is if Travolta sported a cheesy seasonal sweater.

As hard as it is to be polite about the cover art, I simply cannot get away from all of the tabloid overtones when Travolta takes over the resistant role of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” We’re all accustomed to Olivia’s occasional glimpses as the sexual aggressor (Shake Shack, anyone?), but to hear Danny Zuko put up a fight to Sandy’s advances thirty years after the fact makes for a perfect hushed whisper of “Beard!”

There are other laugh-out-loud moments within This Christmas that are much less juvenile, but equally surreal. Like the part during “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” when Barbara Streisand pops in for a verse for absolutely no reason at all.

Speaking of guest cameos, there are tons of ‘em. From another brake-slamming appearance (this time with James Taylor on “Deck The Halls”) to a not-so-subtle nod to the Scientology folks with some ivory-tickling from Chick Corea, John and Olivia bring a whole slew of friends to join in their Christmas spirit and it’s as sincere as you pretending to think the gag gift you get at work during your department’s holiday party is funny.

There’s octogenarian Tony Bennett who drops in for “Winter Wonderland,” if you count having your verses recorded at a completely different studio during a completely different session as “dropping in.”

ONJ brings out longtime musical partner John Farrar for the record’s lone original track “I Think You Might Like It.” Farrar was responsible for many of Olivia’s biggest hits, and he served as both the writer and producer for “You’re The One That I Want,” the hit single that propelled the pair into the record books.

Farrar’s latest tune for is being called the sequel to that Grease classic, and it’s hard to dispute that claim since it follows nearly the same chord progression under the guise of some light country swag.

Check out the shoes.
Clearly, I’m not the man who should be reviewing This Christmas because I’m overflowing with cynicism at every turn.

So I ask my wife, who often fills the house with a bit of Christmas singing of her own during the holidays, to offer her opinion of the pairing. Suddenly, I find her singing along with This Christmas, causing me to consider that maybe it is my jaded outlook that’s causing me to be so dismissive of this holiday collection.

When I ask her if This Christmas has caused her spontaneous outburst of seasonal caroling, she admitted that it wasn’t the quality of the songs that prompted her singing, but just the familiarity of the material.

Indeed, the selection doesn’t stray to far from the obligatory set list that every holiday record seems to cull from. Case in point: ONJ has now selected “Silent Night” for every single Christmas album she has released.

This Christmas is the perfect holiday record for anyone who has been waiting since Two Of A Kind for the return of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Beyond that, This Christmas is another run-of-the-mill collection of uninspired holiday classics featuring a bunch of questionable guest appearances and two longstanding friends who can’t seem to get away from those hallowed halls of Rydell High.

An extra star has been added for this release as all proceeds from the sale of This Christmas go to the artist’s charitable foundations.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

10 Years After The Death Of Joe Strummer

It’s been ten years since the death of Joe Strummer today, so I couldn’t help but think about him.

A few days ago, I revisited Westway To The World and I’d encourage you to do the same. If not in remembrance of Joe, at least for the fine work that director Don Letts has achieved with this documentary. It was first released in 2000, but it remains as the definitive Clash film, complete with candid interviews and telling soundbites, while conveniently overlooking the heartless Cut The Crap release.

I always seem to focus on Joe’s work with the Clash, so today I’ve decided to consider one of my favorite Strummer solo tracks, this one from his debut release Earthquake Weather.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Steppenwolf - 7

There was a moment in my childhood where I was enamored with albums based entirely on the covers alone. When I say “childhood,” I’m talking kindergarten age, the time when a young boy left to his own turntable instead of human contact begins to form realities within the cover art in front of him.
What’s concerning is the nature of those records, in terms of content, but mainly the covers themselves.
Three records stand out: Bloodrock Bloodrock 2, Alice Cooper Love It To Death and Steppenwolf 7.
Only one of those albums-Love It To Death-remains in high esteem, for reasons that I didn’t know back then. The other two have been lost to youthful admiration, seemingly selected on their easy heaviness and bitchin’ album art.
But the Steppenwolf record was lost early, and I have not been able to verify that it deserved to be forgotten since I left it in the back of my mom’s baby blue VW Beetle. I was going to bring it to show and tell at school, and on the way home I put it in the very back for “safe keeping” only to promptly forget about it for a few days. When I remembered, it was unplayable.
Fast forward to last night, when I remembered the above story and quickly downloaded a replacement copy for my long lost warped vinyl copy.
What I discovered-and this is something that I suspected before-was that Steppenwolf’s 7 is nothing like it’s menacing cover projects. In fact, it’s quite a collage of different styles, each one proficient enough to place this Canadian outfit as a credible touring act capable of stirring up enough dust on the circuit to deserve the bigger letters on the marquee.
But by the time 7 was released in 1972, the band was reaching the end of their popularity and the record seems to hint that John Kay and the boys are throwing up different styles just to see what sticks and what might take off for continued commercial success in the new decade.
For “Snowblind Friend,” Steppenwolf dig out the pedal steel and try a bit of Canadian Prairie country, telling the story of a young drifter who spent his last buck on drugs. They seem to imply that more money is coming to him on Monday-from what, the listener doesn’t know-and they admit that someone simply needs to get him on a bus home.
“He said he wanted Heaven/But prayin’ was way too slow” indicates an impatient character, and John Kay’s weary baritone nearly makes this melodramatic tale work.
And that’s the problem throughout 7; Steppenwolf nearly makes an album as worthy as their heyday, and they nearly seemed poised to take on the new decade with something refreshing.
Trouble is, they can’t seem to focus on one style long enough to grain traction. Even the gatefold sleeve is filled with identity conflict. It finds the band members donning gladiator costumes, except  Kay who is still in his biker motif.
When they start given other members the lead vocals, like “Fat Man,” things go from bad to worse. Guitarist Larry Byrom provides some ridiculous unbuttoned shirt singing, magically turning Steppenwolf into an atypical Canadian bar band who’s nightly setlist contains the FM rock staples of the day and a few of their own “Let’s go grab a beer” originals.
Of course, at six-years of age this stuff probably seemed as badassed as the dual skull cover art, but as the decade wore on and I grew older, it was probably for the best that I left this record as a relic of my youth. Because some four decades later, listening to it now reminds me how leaving it the sun’s glare was probably the most appropriate outcome for this forgotten document.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mudhoney Reappears With 'Vanishing Point'

I love Mark Arm so much that I once tried to grow hair like him.

I don't have hair anymore, but I still love Mudhoney, and by default, I still love Mark Arm.

It is my opinion that Mudhoney are far more influential that you believe them to be and that the band's only downfall is their wonderful single-mindedness, in much the same way that a band like The Ramones or AC/DC are fairly linear in their own creativity.

With that being said, I suppose the band's narrow focus is the reason why their only approaching album number nine in a quarter-century long career that had them practically inventing a new sub-genre (along with Melvins) only to watch a bunch of upstarts take over the sound and parlay it into financial security while these originators stood on the sidelines with thin wallets and better records.

Hopefully, some of that unfair neglect will turn around with a new album and documentary, both of which the press department of Sub Pop records (where Arm is apparently employed in the warehouse) have detailed in their promotional email that follows.

Mudhoney is gearing up to release their 9th album, Vanishing Point, on April 2, 2013 through Sub Pop. Mark Arm spoke with SPIN  earlier this week about the recording of the album, and shared touring plans and what fans can expect from the album (see interview December 11).

In related news, the long-awaited, much-anticipated, and really very good documentary film I'm Now: The Story of Mudhoney is now available on DVD. The film, directed by Ryan Short and Adam Pease, follows the band's nearly-25-year career, from their early beginnings in the Pacific Northwest through the band’s most recent world tour. I’m Now includes testimonials from friends, music industry veterans, and musicians such as Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Sub Pop's Jonathan Poneman, as well as many, if not all, of the members of Mudhoney. Í’m Now is available on DVD and as a streaming rental at It’s also available on Sub Pop’s site here.

In further evidence that Mudhoney is assuredly, right about now-ish, finally reaching their “tipping point,” !K7 Records recently released Mudhoney: Live In Berlin, 1988 on DVD. The footage, filmed by a professional camera crew at 1988’s Berlin Independent Days festival and only recently rediscovered, captures Mudhoney’s first-ever performance on foreign soil. Playing as representatives of Sub Pop to a crowd of curious punters, critics and members of Europe’s independent music community, the show was also the first grunge gig in Europe, laying essential groundwork for the genre’s subsequent global domination. You can find more information on the documentary here.

25 years in, Vanishing Point decisively affirms that, even in an age where only the newest of the new can survive (and even then, only for a few weeks at best), Mudhoney still have plenty to say and more to offer. These are songs written from the rare vantage point of a band who went through the rock n’ roll meat-grinder and not only lived to tell such a tale, they came out full of the wisdom and dark humor such a journey provides. Vanishing Point is filled with dread, psychoanalysis and Nuggets-on-fire riffs; the sort of real, uninhibited rock music that is harder and harder to locate these days. With Vanishing Point, Mudhoney makes it easy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

So I’m guessing that when Frank was working on Captain Beefheart’s magnum opus, Hot Rats was the album that he was working on for himself.

I don’t pretend to know squat about Zappa beyond what I read in his autobiography and what I learned from Sheik Yerbouti. As a friend once told me, “Every town has a big fan of Frank Zappa.” And I’ve discovered that he was right on. So to anyone who knows their shit about Zappa and is reading this, I’d like to apologize for the assumptions here. Feed us the real story in the comments.

It appears that Zappa is really earning his chops as a guitarist here, and Hot Rats displays his notable talents in supreme fashion. You start to hear bits of an individualized tone crop up within the grooves, particularly on the mindblowing solo for “Willy The Pimp.”

There’s a sense of his compositional sense showing fruit on Hot Rats, particularly on “Son Of Mr. Green Genes” where horns, jazzy keys and, yes, more ridiculous guitar solos to make more ridiculous Zappaphiles.
Fair warning, there are clarinets, but the fact that I can appreciate them while otherwise despising that instrument is noteworthy.

It works because everything here has been rehearsed to death, tweaking every performance to ebb and flow to allow listeners the ability to grasp at just how good Zappa was at finding top-notch performers, and then finding more of them when the first ones moved out of the line-up.

About 10 years ago, I started hedging towards the Zappa catalog tentatively, asking friends who seemed to be long in the tooth with his work where to begin. I started throwing out albums that struck me with just their cover art, records that grabbed me visually whenever I came across them in someone else’s collection.

Hot Rats fits that category, and I remember the response that it was an instrumental work caused me to move somewhere else. I wish I hadn’t done that now. There is so much being said within those notes of Hot Rats that it makes a claim for repeated listening, ones where those fortunate enough to be a part of it will find new discoveries and chart the record as a period of great heights for the man.

The drag isn’t that those Zappaphiles were on to something beyond what the rest of us would understand. Instead, it's that we squandered the all of that time we could have been listening right along with them.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

It puzzles me why, some thirty-two years after John Lennon’s death, we’re still struggling with the issue of gun violence and in taking a clear path towards becoming better at this thing called humanity.

Not that Lennon was a saint, but he clearly is an example of someone from a less-than-ideal upbringing can break the cycle of those limitations and become better than anything that was expected of him.

The point worth taking is that Lennon was able to achieve far more than his expectations, and even with those achievements he was able to see a more righteous path for everyone, if we all just imagined it for three minutes in our day.

That song is a sacred sacrament. It’s not something that I particularly want to hear every day, but it’s something that I want to live. I want to imagine that we can live in a world where violence is an option that’s just a little bit harder to choose.

I want to make sure that those parents with children who have mental health issues are able to address them professionally, without having to worry about the costs involved. Because, to me, that’s a hell of a bargain compared to the lives of twenty children.

I want to make sure that those individuals who own guns are trained how to use them. I want them to make sure they’re secured when they’re not in use, so that individuals who shouldn’t be around them have no access to them. And I want them to have to work hard and be heavily regulated whenever they’re considering weapons that go beyond general protection of their family or possessions, or assist them with hunting for game or sport.

I feel that respecting my rights to feel safe in this country trumps the assertion of whatever interpretation that someone has of the second amendment. We were under the very real threat that another country could walk right into our neighborhood when those were written. Now, the threat could be living right next door, with enough high powered weapons to dismantle another country.

It’s 2012. When can we move away from this ridiculous wild west perception of our country and backwards mentality that people should be able to fend for themselves when dealing with a family member who has significant mental illness? If we can’t see the benefit of managing these two things that seem to intersect with every fucking mass shooting we have to endure, then how can we ever imagine "a world that lives as one?"

Much to Bill Maher’s chagrin, I’m going to pray for those forced to endure this needless tragedy, and I’ll probably hug my children a bit longer tonight too. Because both of these actions go beyond the politics of this tragedy and they’re in addition to the aforementioned frustrations of why my country can’t wrap its head around doing the right thing. If we’re ever going to move forward, we need to have a government that lays a clear path to having higher expectations of how its citizens are required to live.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Men - Open Your Heart

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during the resurgence of punk rock music during 2012, it’s that the additional attention has very little to do with the genre breaking out of its sleepy slumber. Instead, there is a collective group of artists that use the format for its own outline, play to it with faithful abandon, and then begin adding on different elements to demonstrate that punk rock music does not have to sound like a monochromatic narrative.

In fact, if there’s one thing that the purveyors of punk rock have glaringly forgotten until late is how the most notable and acknowledged artists did not hesitate to incorporate honest, raw emotion into their output. Because without that level of raw feeling, the music only assimilates the genre rather than motivate it.
Which is exactly what The Men have done with their third release, Open Your Heart. And while the album title might suggest that the raw emotion they present is done with empathy and tenderness, the reality is much different.

The band flows in and out of various touch points, occasionally nodding to old Spacemen 3 and Buzzcocks records while paying close attention to the ever-revolving dynamics of Fugazi during a few moments of guitar interplay.

The result is something that's wonderfully respectful of the path that's brought them here while remaining incredibly fresh and, most importantly, just a whole lot of fun.

“I want to know what’s in store” they ponder on the wonderful seven-minute “Oscillation.”

That makes two of us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frank Black - Frank Black

The most favorable thing about Frank Black’s debut solo album is that it doesn’t stray too far from where the Pixies last offering, Trompe le Monde. Maybe that’s why people such as myself got more hot and bothered with The Breeders’ early efforts because they actually presented something different when compared to Kim Deal’s former band, and that difference was surprisingly well exececuted.

Not that Black is any slouch, but we came to expect great things from the guy that composed the vast majority of all those Pixies songs that we just beginning to lament.

I suppose you could complain at the lack of diversity with Frank Black, but why bother. There was a real possibility that Black was going to break out into the mainstream, and that possibility seemed to allude him with The Pixies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and just let the muse sneak out a hit or two, but I’d be hard pressed to find it here.

Los Angeles,” the great opener here, came the closest, with its full scale video and extra promotional push that’s usually provided to a critical darling that’s just about to test the waters alone. With the drums way up in the mix and guitars punching out of every speaker, there was a chance that this song could have taken off, but like many good songs in the age of grunge, it was not meant to be.

“Hang On To Your Ego” is a telling cover as newly recruited keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman came from Pere Ubu, a band who’s frontman (David Thomas) was a huge Beach Boys fan and would often incorporate an occasional nod or line into one of that band’s originals. Feldman gives Black a wide birth, but all Frank can do is play it legitimately and with respect.

But rock radio and its fans weren’t interested in old Beach Boy tunes at the time, which makes cuts like “Fu Manchu” and the awesome “Parry The Wind High, Low” such great possibilities. Even the Ramones worshipping “I Heard Ramona Sing” cut got buried after Elektra cut the gravy train to any more singles, leaving Frank Black to wallow in obscurity, becoming nothing more than an interesting curio for those seeking out the output of the post-Pixies creative forces.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michael Schenker Releases Temple Of Rock - Live In Europe DVD

I have to admit that Temple Of Rock is a real letdown, but the idea of watching Michael Schenker shredding alongside Herman Ze German, Pete Way, and Rudolph Schenker is intriguing. Here's the details on Michael's new dvd:

Michael Schenker Temple Of Rock - Live In Europe 
to be released on January 15, 2013

Assault Attack!!
Inakustik will release Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock: Live in Europe on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Deluxe Edition, on January 15, 2013 in North America. This essential live rock'n'roll release includes songs performed live in Tilburg, The Netherlands in May 2012, plus songs performed at London's 2011 High Voltage Festival.

At the ripe age of 15, after a very early start in his professional music career recording his first album with the Scorpions and after joining UFO age 17, Michael Schenker focused exclusively on lead guitar and pure self-expression. The second chapter in his career was focused on experimenting and developing his expertise on a more musical and personal level. With excellent musicians, friends and fans from all over the world, this live recording is part of this celebration. Michael Schenker sees his music as a building block in the construction of the Temple Of Rock. "The Temple Of Rock is almost finished," explains Michael Schenker. "The foundation was laid in the 60s by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Jeff Beck, and Cream. In the late 70s, the pillars were then built by bands like UFO and AC/DC.

By the 80s it was further reinforced by the likes of Judas Priest and the Scorpions, and many other influential rock bands. "There's not much new left to expect, but I am glad to be a part of this temple," says Michael. "It's unbelievable fun and an honor to share a stage and make music with some of the world's best musicians."

A concert from Tilburg, the Netherlands was recorded in May 2012 that noticeably distinguishes itself from previous releases due to the line-up that includes Michael Schenker (lead guitar), Doogie White (vocals), Herman Rarebell (drums), Francis Buchholz (bass) and Wayne Findley (rhythm guitar, keyboards).

In addition to this Tilburg concert, fans can experience extracts from London's 2011 High Voltage Festival with Michael Voss (vocals), featuring awe-inspiring guest appearances from Schenker's friends and musical companions including his brother Rudolf Schenker (The Scorpions) who plays rhythm guitar on "Rock You Like a Hurricane", "Hanging On" and "Doctor Doctor", UFO's Pete Way who plays bass guitar on "Doctor Doctor", and vocalists Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey), and Doogie White, who jointly sing on "Doctor Doctor".

All in all, there has never been such extensive and high quality material from Michael Schenker for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Into The Arena
Armed And Ready
Another Piece Of Meat
Hanging On
Cry For The Nations
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Coast To Coast
Assault Attack
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Lights Out
On And On
Let It Roll
Shoot Shoot
Rock You Like A Hurricane
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor

Michael Schenker (lead guitars)
Doogie White (lead vocals)
Herman Rarebell (drums)
Francis Buchholz (bass)
Wayne Findlay (keyboards, guitars, backing vocals)
Michael Voss (lead vocals, guitar - Special guest on 'Hanging On')


Armed And Ready
Another Piece Of Meat
Rock You Like A Hurricane (ft. Rudolph Schenker)
Hanging On (ft. Rudolph Schenker)
Doctor Doctor (ft. Rudolph Schenker)

Michael Schenker (lead guitars)
Michael Voss (lead vocals, guitar)
 Herman Rarebell (drums)
Wayne Findlay (keyboards, guitars, backing vocals)
Elliott Dean Rubinson (bass)

Rudolf Schenker (rhythm guitar on Rock You Like A Hurricane, Hanging On, Doctor Doctor)
Pete Way (bass guitar on Doctor Doctor)
Jeff Scott Soto (vocals on Doctor Doctor)
Doogie White (vocals on Doctor Doctor)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jah Wobble and Keith Levine Release Yin & Yang

I have to confess, I wasn't very blown away from what I've heard so far.

I mean, this should be a glorious pairing judging by their incredible work together on Metal Box and a few criminally overlooked gems from the debut ("Analisa" anyone?).

But hey, judge for yourself and read the clippings from the new Jah Wobble and Keith Levine pairing:

Jah Wobble and Keith Levene

Yin & Yang Available on December 11

The first collaboration by Public Image Limited founding members since the landmark 1980 album Metal Box

Due for release on Cherry Red Records (via MVD in North America) on December 11, Yin and Yang is the first full-length collaboration by PIL founding members Jah Wobble and Keith Levene since the landmark 1980 album Metal Box. Below, Jah Wobble spills the beans on the making of the album.

"I reunited with Keith a couple of years ago. He was off smack and keen to play again. We had a bash in a rehearsal room and it went well. To start with I got him to play on three tracks of the album, (Psychic Life) that I was making with Julie Campbell (Lonelady). Since then we have performed 'Metal Box in Dub' live.

These shows were very well received. As far as I was concerned he was back and on top of his game again. I thought it would be a good idea to go and record some new material. I wasn't sure what we would come up with. As we proceeded, in a very relaxed fashion, the realisation dawned on me , that we were making music that was linked to psychedelic music (especially the British variety), of the swinging sixties through the mid seventies that we both would have been exposed to when we were young. (Albeit our stuff has a spiteful post modern edge to it, I must admit it was a good, (if rather juvenile), laugh referring to myself, (and the listener) as a c*** , as well as eulogising about my beloved Jags and Staffs in the mist of a psychedelic onslaught).

Bands such as Hawkwind and the Pretty Things spring to mind. Our 7/4 version of George Harrison's 'Within/Without you' reminds me of Cream, in its wild approach and execution. There are elements of Americana in 'Yin and Yang' as well. Check out the Keith's acoustic work on the dubby Appalachian flavoured 'Strut' . Likewise listen to the Southern States R&B of 'Mississippi', especially the baptist church organ of the multi- talented Jonas Persson. But my favourite track is the moody instrumental 'Back on the Block', just listen to the controlled anger of Keith's electric guitar.

When Keith and I performed Metal Box In Dub I invited my regular trumpet player Sean Corby along. I knew that he would help inject an element of 'Electric period Miles' into the mix. Not long after we had finished recording Metal Box back in 1979 I heard Miles Davis's 'Dark Magus'. Well, it absolutely blew me away. Talk about cathartic moments. Since then I had dreamed of introducing trumpet into compositions such as 'Graveyard' and 'Memories'. Sean steals the show on 'Fluid', my old friend 'Little Annie' does the same on 'Vampires'. Marc Layton-Bennett, my regular drummer, plays like a demon throughout. The track 'Understand' features Nathan Maverick on vocals. He is the singer that we employed to handle vocals on the Metal Box in Dub performances. I was determined to get him to help write a song for this album. And the boy did good. He really reminds me of someone. Just can't quite put my finger on who it is."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pissed Jeans Share The Honey(s) Hole

Here's the skinny on the new Pissed Jeans album:

Pissed Jeans will release their stellar fourth album, Honeys, on CD, LP, and digitally through Sub Pop Records on February 12, 2013.

The album, which features the single “Bathroom Laughter,” along with stand-outs “Health Plan,” “Loubs,” “Vain in Costume,” and “Teenage Adult,” was recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Alex Newport at Milkboy Studios in Philadelphia. Please find a full track list below.

SPIN, who spoke with Pissed Jeans’ singer Matt Korvette about the recording of Honeys, raved: “Listeners will have the opportunity to take in yet another electrifying helping of Korvette’s very distinct, some might say sobering, dispatches from beyond the cubicle to address both ‘crippling pet allergies’ (‘Cathouse’), a ‘blistering fear of going to the doctor’ (‘Health Plan’) and more…Honeys is arguably their most muscular and direct effort yet…”

Pitchfork premiered the first single, the aforementioned “Bathroom Laughter” as a “Best New Track,” and said, “…the rage boils over in typical fashion on leadoff track ‘Bathroom Laughter.’ It isn't easy to ascertain, exactly, what has captured the animus of Mr. Korvette this time around, as the band rips through an impossibly scuzzy, breakneck punk romp that reimagines previous single ‘False Jesii Pt. 2’ hopped up on gas station coffee”

More on Pissed Jeans Honeys:

The songs on Honeys are direct without being obtuse, evocative without being vague, and personal without being indulgent. They also rock like nobody's business. Do yourself a favor and forget all the claptrap you've heard about other bands delivering the goods. If you want bloodthirsty, you’ve got it… Sean McGuiness makes other rock drummers look like one of those dimwit longhairs with an involuntary smile playing a bongo by himself on the lawn behind a store that sells rain sticks. With a bass that bass that sounds like a train filled with stolen shopping carts crashing into an orchestra pit, Randy Huth doesn't waste a note. Bradley Fry doesn't look like a guitar hero; he looks a nice guy who would volunteer to help you reformat the drive on your laptop. But if he looked like he sounds he'd be wearing a necklace of human heads and even his reflection would turn you to stone. Matt Korvette screams out observations on the tedium and absurdity of adulthood, delivered in a fashion similar to the way people must sound when being waterboarded. Sometimes the band sounds like hearing yourself being bashed over the head with a snow shovel… (read more at Sub Pop).

Pissed Jeans Honeys Tracklisting

1) Bathroom Laughter
2) Chain Worker
3) Romanticize Me
4) Vain in Costume
5) You're Different (In Person)
6) Cafeteria Food
7) Something About Mrs. Johnson
8) Male Gaze
9) Cathouse
10) Loubs
11) Health Plan
12) Teenage Adult

Monday, December 3, 2012

Harry Nilsson's The Point DVD Released

There's so much more about Harry Nilsson that I've yet to discover, and now the list gets longer.

Evidently, besides a really bad vampire movie (or so I'm told, since I've never actually seen it), Nilsson also released a kid's cartoon, a sampling of which is below.

A friend of mine once went as Nilsson circa '73 for Halloween and pulled it off remarkably well. He showed me the picture and had me guess who he was. He said that not a lot of people remembered or knew who Nilsson was, which is a damn shame if you've ever heard Aerial Ballet.

Here's the poop:

Harry Nilsson's The Point: The Definitive Collector's Edition out now
via MVD Entertainment Group

The animated classic returns to DVD with over 25 minutes of bonus features!

Directed by Academy Award-winner Fred Wolf, The Point tells the story of Oblio, a round-headed boy living in the land of "Point," where everything and everybody has one. Oblio, along with his trusty dog, Arrow, is banished to the Pointless Forest. The tale is narrated by Ringo Starr and includes songs written and sung by Grammy Award-winner Harry Nilsson. The definitive collector's edition.

Track Listing

Me And My Arrow
Everything's Got 'Em
Poli High
Think About Your Troubles
Life Line
Waltz Are You Sleeping?

Bonus Materials Includes Four Never-Before-Seen Bonus Featurettes:

Who Is Harry Nilsson?
Pitching The Point 
Making The Point 
Legacy Of The Point

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tegan and Sara Release New Video for "Closer"

So it seems that the new Tegan and Sara album Heartthrob is going to be more of the same electronic bent as Saints, an album that I wasn't all that fond of.

I doubt that I'll do the knee jerk purchase like I did last time-which was only done because the album before it, The Con, is just so friggin' awesome.

The new one?

Not so much, IMO.

As Tegan and Sara attempt to inexplicably move towards the mainstream, the less interesting and unique they become.

Here's the record label's enthusiastic version:

Tegan and Sara Release Official Video for "Closer"
Heartthrob Out January 29th
Available for Pre-Order Now

Tegan and Sara just released the official video for their piping hot single,"Closer." The video premiered on, who glow "it's become clear that Tegan and Sara are indeed readying some of their most accessible and interesting material in years." Truth!

"Closer," off of their upcoming seventh studio album, Heartthrob (out January 29th on WBR), initially premiered on and proved to be internet gold, peaking at #1 on Hype Machine's "Most Popular" chart that same week.

Tegan and Sara offered fans another taste of what they can expect on Heartthrob when they posted a stream of another new song, "I'm Not Your Hero" and just recently released the cover art and track listing for Heartthrob.

Official Heartthrob Tracklisting:

1. Closer
2. Goodbye, Goodbye
3. I Was a Fool
4. I'm Not Your Hero
5. Drove Me Wild
6. How Come You Don't Want Me
7. I Couldn't Be Your Friend
8. Love They Say
9. Now I'm All Messed Up
10. Shock To Your System

**Deluxe Version includes bonus tracks "Guilty as Charged," "I Run Empty" and "Closer" Official Music Video

The girls just returned from the UK on tour in support of The Killers, played a sold out show at Bowery Ballroom in NYC, and performed "Closer" on The Late Show with David Letterman. They will be kicking of additional US dates with the band on November 29th.

For a full list of upcoming dates, see below.

Confirmed T&S Tour Dates:
w/The Killers:

Nov 29 - 1st Bank Center - Broomfield, CO
Nov 30 - UCCU Center - Orem, UT
Dec 1 - Knitting Factory - Reno, NV *
Dec 3 - Pacific Coliseum - Vancouver, BC
Dec 4 - Kitting Factory - Spokane, WA *
Dec 5 - Theatre of the Clouds @ Rose Garden - Portland, OR
Dec 7 - 91x WREX The Halls - San Diego, CA *
Dec 8 - Live 105's Not So Silent Night - San Francisco, CA *
Dec 10 - KJEE Winter Round Up - Santa Barbara, CA *
Dec 13 - Susquehanna Bank Center - Camden, NJ
Dec 14 - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY
Dec 15 - Air Canada Centre - Toronto, ON
Dec 16 - Metropolis - Montreal, QB
Dec 17 - Agganis Arena - Boston, MA
Dec 18 - Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA
Dec 20 - EMU Convocation Center - Ypsilanti, MI
Dec 21 - UIC Pavilion - Chicago, IL
 *without The Killers

Saturday, December 1, 2012

XTC - The Big Express

By the time XTC’s The Big Express was released, I was already a fan, chomping at the bit to absorb all of their catalog to see if it was as good as Black Sea or English Settlement. The trouble was, their records were not always available in my neck of the woods, so a rare visit to a Tower Records presented me with a chance to get The Big Express (albeit on a pricey Virgin import) as well as score a cheap cut-out of the band’s second release, Go 2.

It would take me all of the way back to Iowa to listen to it-cd players still weren’t readily available-and it would take me even longer to get used to the record’s polished production and the fact that drummer Terry Chambers had left the fold and was replaced by a dude who didn’t even get membership privileges.

Not that the album proceeding this one was a drum pounding effort (which may explain why Chambers left) but The Big Express was being billed as a return to form and a polar opposite of the soft arrangements that wrecked Mummer.

Sonically, The Big Express is a harder album that its predecessor, but not in the drums and wires way of XTC of old. While the arrangements may be a tad heavier-and heavy handed in some cases-this is still a record of enormous pop zeal and quirky arrangements just like in years past.

The album title and a few tracks suggest an almost steampunk approach to the lyrical content, with references to trains, industrial centers, and blue collar dreaming. What it doesn’t hint at are the nearly embarrassing references to the cold war and the continuous fear of nuclear annihilation. It’s here that Andy Partridge gets a bit preachy, claiming concern for the kids while lambasting the parents for not doing enough to change the course of nuclear proliferation.

In “This World Over,” he tells the story about a father taking the kids on a hike of London’s rubble-supposedly the result of war-and fielding questions about “What was London like?”

In “Reign Of Blows,” he states that “Joe Stalin looks just like Uncle Sam,” never mind the chord progression sounds like a Rolling Stones outtake, complete with some pretty tepid harmonica work.

When he lays off the preachy politics, Partridge scores easily. On the tremendous. “You’re The Wish You Are I Had” he recalls XTC’s wonderful sense of playfulness within the melodies. Andy must have worked himself into hyperventilation spitting out the steam engine tempo of the closer “Train Running Low On Soul Coal,” furthering the tradition of the band’s tradition of ending things on a strong note.

Guitarist Dave Gregory and Colin Moulding are critical in keeping The Big Express from running off the rails thanks to some top notch performances, including three positively great tunes from Moulding. While Partridge make consistently produce some of XTC’s best closing moments, Moulding shines with his opener “Wake Up” and he displays talent beyond his own pop upbringings with the jazzy “I Remember The Sun,” complete with stand up bass and Gregory’s fretwork.

While certainly not one of the band’s required listening efforts, The Big Express does point the ship in the right direction once again, paving the way for even more rewarding records in their impressive catalog. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Foals Announce New Album "Holy Fire"

I still bring up Foals' sophomore effort Total Life Forever on occasion, and I'm willing to bet that they put on a pretty good live show too.

They've followed up that terrific record with a new one that's just around the corner as recently announced below, cheese.

The cheddar:

Foals has announced the release of their third full-length album, Holy Fire, available via Warner Bros Records in the US on February 12, 2013.

Produced by Flood & Moulder (PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) at Assault & Battery studios in London, Holy Fire is the Oxford five-piece's most direct and fully-realized album yet.

Of the electric "Inhaler," front man Yannis Philippakis says "It's heavy, that song; it was liberating," adding that it is the sound of the band shedding their inhibitions.

Foals released their debut album Antidotes in 2008, followed by 2010's breakthrough Total Life Forever. Both are certified gold. Total Life Forever was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize, an Ivor Novello award for Best Song and they received five nods at the 2011 NME awards, winning Best Single for "Spanish Sahara." TLF was also voted The Fly magazine's album of the year in 2010.

 The band will hit the road on a small club tour in the UK next month, look for them stateside in the spring.

Foals are:
Yannis Philippakis (vocals/guitar)
Edwin Congreave (keys)
Walter Gervers (bass)
Jimmy Smith (guitar/keys)
Jack Bevan (drums)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes - Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes EP

“My name is Winston Churchill” states the grizzled voice at the beginning of The Greenhornes’ new e.p. “And I’m having a fucking nervous breakdown.”

That old voice belongs to none other than Eric Burdon, and that’s about the only indication of the man’s age that you’ll hear during the quarter-hour offering. During this 4 song sampling, Burdon turns back the clock on his 71 years on Earth, reminding both the unfamiliar and the lost fans that he’s still got some chops to be reckoned with.

Beginning with the incredible stomp of “Black Dog” (no, not the Zeppelin track), Burdon sounds like he’s shaking the cobwebs loose while the band lays down some pretty dirty riffing.

While the one-take Jake approach starts off strong, you begin to wish a bit more time was spent creating music that attempts to add to Burdon’s legacy instead of simply referring to it.

The same care was needed as Greenhorne members Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler displayed with Loretta Lynn during her Van Lear Rose record. Instead, they allow Burdon to end this otherwise fine offering with “Cab Driver.”

It finds the Greenhornes enabling Burdon down this misguided attempt at humor which sounds lazy at its best and racist at its worst.

That aforementioned Churchill line is a reference to Winston’s battles with the “black dog” of depression. Instead, Burdon should have focused on making more character studies like what’s taking place at the beginning of Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes instead of depressing the entire proceedings with such embarrassments like this e.p.’s final moment.

Stream Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Hives Join Pink For 2013 Tour

I say this without a hint of sarcasm: I wouldn't mind seeing The Hives open for Pink.

It seems like the kind of show that both my wife and I would both enjoy, which is a rare commodity in our home.

I really have no frame of reference for how popular Pink is-she seems to have a lot of hit singles, but then again, what's a "hit" single?-and I have no idea if she could realistically fill an arena. But it's been a while since I've been to an arena show, and my gut says that this could be a fun night.

Then again, I bet every night is a fun night when The Hives are on the bill.

The poop:

The Hives add some Pink to their black tie, white noise sound

"As long as you scream 'The Hives!' at the top of your voice, nothing can go wrong in your life." 
 - Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, World's Wisest Frontman 

The Hives will return to the U.S. in February for a nationwide arena tour in support of P!nk. Kicking off February 13 in Phoenix, the dates will take them to 25 cities across the U.S. See below for details.

The band is currently in the midst of a world tour - kicking off their European headline dates next week - in support of their widely-acclaimed new album Lex Hives that has included show-stopping sets at Coachella, Reading & Leeds and Jay-Z's Made in America festival, as well as appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Conan, Last Call with Carson Daly and more.

Carson will air a second episode with The Hives on December 10, featuring two songs from their October 8 set at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. The Hives are Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, Nicholaus Arson, Chris Dangerous, Dr. Matt Destruction, and Vigilante Carlstroem.

February 13, 2013 - Phoenix, AZ @ U.S. Airways Center
February 15, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay Events Center
February 16, 2013 - @ Los Angeles, CA @ STAPLES Center
February 18, 2013 - San Jose, CA @ HP Pavilion at San Jose
February 21, 2013 - Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
February 22, 2013 - Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
February 24, 2013 - Orlando, FL @ Amway Center
February 25, 2013 - Fort Lauderdale, FL @ BB&T Center
February 27, 2013 - Tampa, FL @ Tampa Bay Times Forum
March 1, 2013 - Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
March 2, 2013 - Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
March 5, 2013 - Detroit, MI @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
March 6, 2013 - Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center
March 8, 2013 - Louisville, KY @ KFC Yum! Center
March 09, 2013 - Chicago, IL @ United Center
March 11, 2013 - Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
March 12, 2013 - Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
March 14, 2013 - Washington DC @ Verizon Center
March 22, 2012 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
March 23, 2013 - East Rutherford, NJ @ Izod Center
March 25, 2013 - Uniondale, NY @ Nassau Coliseum
March 27, 2013 - Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
March 28, 2013 - Boston, MA @ TD Garden

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Crown And Treaty

Occasionally, an album arrives and upon first listen you get the sense that the music jumping out of the grooves wasn’t created in a sterile studio with too little daylight and too much attention to detail. With Sweet Billy Pilgrims third release, Crown and Treaty, you get the sense that the recording studio is nothing more than a few rooms in a house with wires littering the floor and dirty dishes pilling up in the kitchen sink.

Fuck those chores, particularly if the end results command a record as eloquently crafted as this. Crown and Treaty doesn’t suffer from any poor fidelity sonics resulting from this homespun approach. It’s as detailed as anything as you’d expect from a band with a recording budget that matches the muse that they’ve set out to scale. This muse is in full, beautiful array throughout Crown and Treaty, in what is certainly one of the best albums that you’ll hear all year.

Crown and Treaty incorporates delicate organic instrumentation (clean guitars, banjos, pianos, whatever’s lying around) with some great harmonies, initiated by Tim Elsenburg’s gentle voice. With the recent addition of Jana Carpenter to the fold, Sweet Billy Pilgrim has now found a wider range of vocal emotion, which only begins to take off during the album’s second half.

Prior to those moments, Crown and Treaty offers a wide range of expression through its original arrangements and Elsenburg’s own imaginative lyrics.  There’s a sense of maturity throughout his study on melancholia, suggesting that the existential crisis that we all experience is preordained from day one. Or, as Elsenburg himself details more succinctly in one track, “Life is a place we arrive at upside down.”

If it’s not his own demons he’s documenting, he uses other source material for the task. “Kracklite” appends Brian Dennehy’s character in the 1987 The Belly of an Architect and uses it as a discussion of the folly of trying to overcome our own mortality. “Monuments we build  tumble to the ground,” Elsenburg sings, accurately pointing out that even the most majestic of structures we place on this earth are “just another way to be forgotten.”

With Crown and Treaty, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have delivered their homespun masterstroke, an album that only begs the question of what other gems do they have hidden in their house of creativity and enviable sense of arrangements. 

Here’s hoping that this musical monument never gets forgotten.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ike & Tina Turner On The Road 1971 - 1972

I doubt that you could go wrong with this purchase: a new dvd of Ike and Tina Turner's '71/'72 Tour with lots of behind the scenes footage of the couple together. Of course we now know what went on when the cameras were turned off, but when they were on, Ike and Tina delivered some of the best rock and soul performances that one could ever hope to see.

Here's the spiel:

Ike & Tina: On The Road: 1971-72 comes to DVD on November 20 An intimate look at the dynamic Ike and Tina Turner at their creative peak...

From the lens of legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen By combining soul music with an explosive stage show, complete with the high energy dance choreography of Tina Turner and the Ikettes, and an ingredient sorely missed in today's soul - gritty rock n' roll - Ike & Tina Turner gained a reputation as one of the great live acts of all-time.

In the early 70's, legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya toured with Ike & Tina, filming them performing, on the road, and behind the scenes. Now for the first time ever this footage is available to the public... This is a look inside a hardworking band as well as an iconic couple.

With portable video recorders not as prominent during that era as they are nowadays, no one has seen scenes like this. But with the release of Ike & Tina: On The Road: 1971-72, fans are finally treated to a must-see behind-the-scenes view of the band, at the peak of their powers. Similar to an earlier DVD set, The New York Dolls: All Dolled Up, the Gruens toured with Ike & Tina and documented everything in black and white (and some color as well).

Now, 40 years later, fans get to experience what it was like to be with one of the most popular touring/recording bands of this time period. In addition to simply awesome renditions of several Ike & Tina classics, we also get a glimpse of the group at work in the recording studio, Tina and the Ikettes practicing their dance routines (and primping their wigs!), and goofing around on airplanes and in airports. We even get to see inside Ike & Tina's house and the couple's funky retro '70s home décor, as Tina cooks dinner for her kids.

 A lot has been written about Ike and Tina's relationship over the years (mostly in the negative light). But for many years, they were able to coexist together in the public eye, and in the process, created some of the most exciting and gripping soul/rock music ever recorded.

Now with Ike & Tina: On The Road: 1971-72, we have a more than worthy visual accompaniment to their classic sounds. "The film Whats Love Got To Do With It? shows why Ike and Tina Turner broke up," says Gruen. "Ike & Tina: On The Road: 1971-72 shows why Ike and Tina were together for twenty years before that."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Finally, A Slice Of Gooseberry Pie

My Mother did something extraordinary for me this Thanksgiving, in addition to the ridiculously consistent awesomeness that is my parent's turkey dinner.

For as many years as I can remember, my Grandparents would drive from their small town in Southwest Iowa to our bigger, yet still small town in Southeast Iowa. They would come for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, occasionally deviating from this schedule, but they were with us enough that the fact that they're no longer part of the holidays is still a bit different.

And it's been almost 10 years since they both passed away.

Their presence wasn't something that stands out as "special" in the sense of an annual meeting filled with joy and memory inducing moments. In fact, there were times when their presence could be somewhat annoying as they frequently bickered, creating a holiday environment that was not up to my ideal of simply getting along for a few days out of the year.

Not that it our holiday was filled with drama or tense arguments; it wasn't. No, our Thanksgivings were just like everyone else's, filled with over-eating, Detroit Lions football games that nobody paid attention to (unless the Packers were playing them), and the eventual nap on the couch or recliner.

It was just the fact that they were there that makes these holidays without them such a weird feeling.

One of the things that my Grandmother used to do was to bake a Gooseberry pie and bring it to my parent's home for the festivities. My uncle would collect a few Gooseberry's in a forest near his place and he would give them to my Grandmother. She'd freeze them and use the tart berries for pies that generally made their appearance around this time of year. She knew that I went crazy for them, so it turned out to be a special thing for me. I mean, when was the last time you've seen a gooseberry pie at your bakery?

My mom got the recipe from her, but since my uncle died as well shortly after my Grandparent' passed, so did our gooseberry connection. They're not a popular berry-for most pie connoisseurs they are too tart-which means that even around the farmer's market circuit in Iowa they're a rare commodity.

Finally, my mom came across an older woman selling fresh berries at one of the last farmer's markets of the season in Des Moines. She had one bag of gooseberries left, and my Mom snagged it for $8. I'd seen green gooseberries listed from some dealer in Oregon for something like $30 a pound, which seemed ridiculous to me. After all, these were the fruits of some prickly shrub that dots the forests of Iowa, a plant that's frequently left for the birds and wildlife to munch on. They are not looked upon as a cash crop, at least not in the same way that those potheads in Oregon must view it with their Internet pricing.

With those berries, she brought out my Grandmother's recipe-the same one that calls for less sugar than most people would prefer, which makes it the perfect companion to a scoop of ice cream. While everyone else fed on apple, yours truly was able to secure the first slice of the gooseberry. It was a delicacy that hadn't crossed my lips in over a decade, and it immediately conjured up an emotional response that can only be described as comparable to the dish served up in Ratatouille.

The crust was nicely done and the berries stayed secure in their tapioca foundation. My grandmother would have been proud of her as I recall a few occasions when her own pie allowed the gooseberry to spill out after slicing the first piece, causing her to apologize for not putting enough tapioca mix to congeal the gooseberry innards.

I never complained. You never look a gift horse in the mouth and you never speak of any inadequacies of a pie's quality, particularly one that's baked by your grandmother.

Because you never know when your next slice of gooseberry pie will come next.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

L7 - Bricks Are Heavy

I first discovered L7 in college when I had the misfortune of hearing the band’s debut. It’s awful, horribly produced, and it’s absolutely nothing that you need to consider.

The point it, by the time their third album¸ Bricks Are Heavy, I was already predisposed to disliking this band very much and probably wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t for the promotional copy I received.

Bricks Are Heavy is produced by Butch Vig, which had a certain amount of credibility back when this record was first released as Mr. Vig was already regarded as the dude that helped break Nirvana.

Within moments, you’re greeted by that friendly compression that Vig painted on nearly every early 90’s document he touched, but the amazing thing is how L7 brought their A-game to the Midwestern comforts of his Wisconsin studio.

Credit Donita Sparks for shouldering a large portion of those crunchy and melodic songs. She’s no poet, but she brings a lot of piss and vinegar to the proceedings with stories straight out of the trailer park, garage, and mosh pit.

Sparks is sassy and she has an incredible knack for a good story. Like the mother huffing skinhead named “Scrap” who has a taste for sniffing up gold metallic paint in a garage, only to come out of it “seeing stars.” Sparks passes no judgment on Scrap, she merely tells his story, accentuating the “funky dyin’ brain cell!” line just enough to point out that Scrap’s story is not something to emulate.

These fringe characters were real, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they were part of L7’s world back in the early 90’s. The time capsule is here, it’s loud, and it’s catchy as hell even two decades later.

In the cd booklet, there are pictures of the band in various stages of poses, but there’s a lone picture of a girl’s legs, each one intricately inked with L7’s logo, a pair of hands shaped like an “L” and a “7.”

Those legs belonged to Stacie Quijas, a member of San Francisco’s LGBT punk community and, obviously, a fan of L7. 8 years after the photo was taken, Quijas succumbed to her heroin addiction in the form of an awful flesh-eating bacteria that was acquired from intravenous injections. It came from a nasty strain of tar heroin, and the tainted drugs nearly took another friend of hers shortly after her passing.

Like I said, Bricks Are Heavy works because there is sad reality behind these goofy characters that L7 brings to the forefront. There’s Stacie the addict, the temperamental music fan Everglade, and that aforementioned squatter skinhead, Scrap. But what they also bring to those tragic figures is a voice-supplemented by heavy guitar chords-and a fuck all feistiness that transcends gender, economics, and in the case of this album, the twenty years since these stones were first hurled.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sub Pop Records Is Really Happy That The Postal Service Album Went Platinum

I supposed it's a big deal when a record label sells a million copies of something...particularly in this era!

But for Sub Pop Records-who's last platinum record came with Nirvana's Bleach-they got all sentimental when the Postal Service's Give Up release went Platinum last month. Good for them.

For me, this record is permanently embedded in the soundtrack to my divorce, "Such Great Heights" a cruel reminder of the lows that a person can face.

The announcement also reminds me that there were a million of others like me, wallowing in this spotty electronic album that permanently altered by perception of Ben Gibbard and Death Cab For Cutie.

Like they give a shit! There was 999,999 in back of me to make Give Up such a success.

Here's Sub Pop's Press Release:

"We at Seattle’s Sub Pop Records feel a profound sense of self-satisfaction in announcing that The Postal Service's universally acclaimed 2003 album, Give Up, is now a certified platinum record. It is only our second ever; please forgive us for the excitement. Released on February 9, 2003, the landmark album, led by the single "Such Great Heights,” peaked at #114 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and has sold 1,067, 087 copies in the US to date. After Nirvana’s Bleach, Give Up is the second-biggest selling album in Sub Pop’s 24-year history.

The Postal Service is a long-distance collaboration between Ben Gibbard (singer/guitarist from Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (who also records under the names James Figurine and Dntel). Ben and Jimmy sent music back and forth, between California and Washington, each adding new elements until the record was complete. The result is a sweetly charming, largely electronic album with warmth not typically associated with the clicks-and-beeps set. As an added bonus, additional vocals on the record were provided by Jen Wood and Jenny Lewis.

Give Up, which Entertainment Weekly called a "near-perfect" album, is the first and only full-length by The Postal Service. And the album received 2003 year-end praise from an array of publications, including SPIN, Rolling Stone and the Village Voice “Pazz & Jop” critics’ poll. The album also earned "Best of the Decade" status from Pitchfork, NPR, Complex, Paste, Under the Radar, and more. Both Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello (as Dntel) recorded albums this year: Gibbard's solo outing, Former Lives, was released via Barsuk Records earlier this month; Dntel's Aimlessness was released this past June on Pampa Records. We’re exceedingly proud of our association with The Postal Service and Give Up is a true high point in Sub Pop’s catalog (and admittedly somewhat checkered past).

Congratulations, you guys.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Def Leppard - Pyromania

The trick is to be able to convince those of you snickering right now that Def Leppard’s Pyromania is worthy of a 5-star review, even though the album has sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone
But I get it, and I understand that sales don’t always translate into worthy records, but you’d be surprised at how often they really do.

To start with, I think it’s best to acknowledge that Def Leppard set out to make a commercially viable record, something that transcends the hard rock corner they had been placed in. Because Pyromania is an album that strategically tries to break out of that mold in order to get a larger audience, and if you’ve read about the band’s hometown of Sheffield, you understand why that was an important thing for them.

That blueprint, which probably wasn’t even discussed in much detail, is based on the band’s prior work with producer Robert “Mutt” Lange on High ‘n Dry, which is actually a record that I prefer over this one. Regardless, High ‘n Dry gave the band a chance to work with the same producer that worked on AC/DC’s last three records at the time. AC/DC was the band that they were always compared to in terms of riffs and content, so the match made sense.

It also made them rich. But because Mutt Lange is such a bitch of a guy to work with, it would have been easy for them to say “Fuck it!” and find someone else to man their follow up, someone with a more pleasant demeanor and a less strict work ethic.

They didn’t. And Lange took the opportunity to not only drill the band into an obedient bunch of rock and roll workers who took every ounce of criticism to heart, indulged in every bit of studio window dressing that he conjured up, and delivered on every take that was asked of them, prompting Lange to supplant a normal count-off with “Gunter glieben glauchen globen,” just to bring some levity to the insane number of takes he demanded.

But a producer can only be as good as the material that he’s asked to work with, and in that regard, Def Leppard provided him with 10 cuts that were strong enough to capture an audience, even in their most basic form.

They run the gamut of the obligatory rock anthem “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop”), which gives teenagers a pass for being a bit naughty, because “Your mama don’t mind what your mama don’t see!”
We took those words to heart during the summer of 1983, where this album and Prince’s 1999 shared equal blockbuster billing, blaring out of every car window that cruised Main Street as some point on Friday and Saturday night.

It’d be easy to suggest that my high praise for Pyromania is only the result of soft focused nostalgia, and I’d be willing to give that criticism some validity. But then I’m reminded of the fact that we’re no longer speaking about bands like Autograph or Britny Fox today, and it rests upon the reality that both of those bands-and any other band that attempted to follow Def Leppard’s lead on pop rock appeal-simply did not have the same amount of really good songs to work with.

Even the ballads are better than they should be, with “Too Late For Love” being a prime example. There’s the riff, the stupid Mutt Lange sound effects, and then there’s the tale of a woman who gives it up too soon. Elliot brings no sympathy to her plight, declaring “When it comes to playing life/She always plays the fool,” giving thousands of teenage boys a reprieve for their complete lack of warmth in chasing after the ladies while giving those very same women a song that they can relate to in the slow tempo package.

On the cut “Rock Of Ages,” Elliot declares that “it’s better to burn out than fade away,” but after kicking guitarist Pete Willis out of the band just prior to the recording of Pyromania for excessive drinking, it’s hard to take that claim very seriously. This was a band that enjoyed the success that their previous album High ‘n Dry very much, and after seeing the bump in pay that Mutt Lange helped secure for them, they were very willing to sober up and tolerate the producer’s unhealthy attention to detail.

Except for Willis, of course, who’s termination provided an opportunity for Phil Collen to come into the fold, take off his shirt, and similarly enjoy the windfall of cash that was about to fall in his lap.

I’m still working from the original cd pressing, which is a step-up from the original music cassette that I originally had. It’s plagued with Lange’s now-dated production and I have no idea if the re-mastered version sounds any better, but I’d be surprised if it does. Amazingly, for an album that’s emotionally and sonically tied to the 80’s, Pyromania remains an enduring piece of heavy pop rock that satisfies both men and women tied to the decade it represents while finding a new audience for their offspring who are already going through the same dramas that this record agelessly documents.