Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Want More New Pissed Jeans Album Info? Depends...

All of a sudden, a little blurb about the new Pissed Jeans record, Honeys, that I posted back in December just started taking off stat-wise. Then I remembered the album is coming out shortly, which may account for the recent interest.

Well guess what? New details about the tour dates have just been announced, which should start get everyone damp in the diapers in about 10 weeks, the way the previous post stats would indicate.

Urine luck, Sub Pop just sent the following:

Pissed Jeans will take their unpredictably raucous live show on the road this spring to support their stellar 4th album Honeys, out this February on Sub Pop.

The tour begins April 12 in Washington, DC at Black Cat and currently ends on April 20 in Madison, WI at Der Rahtskeller (at University of Wisconsin).

Additionally, the band will play a hometown album release show on February 15 at Underground Arts.

There will be additional tour dates announced soon.

Please find a full list of tour dates below.

In equally exciting new, Sub Pop is now offering a free download of Honeys second single, “Cathouse.” An ode to feline allergy sufferers everywhere, “Cathouse” is a pummeling, 2 ½ minute punk rock jam that does not disappoint.

Pissed Jeans’ Honeys will be available February 12 on CD, LP and digitally via Sub Pop. The album, which features the singles “Bathroom Laughter” and “Cathouse,” along with stand-outs “Health Plan,” “Loubs” and “Teenage Adult” was recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Alex Newport at Milkboy Studios in Philadelphia.

Tour Dates

Feb. 15 - Philadelphia, PA - Underground Arts
Apr 12 - Washington, DC - Black Cat
Apr.13 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
Apr.14 - Boston, MA - Sinclair
Apr.15 - Montreal, QC - Il Motore
Apr.16 - Toronto, ON - Lee’s Palace
Apr.17 - Detroit, MI  - Lager House
Apr.18 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
Apr.19 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock
Apr.20 - Madison, WI - Der Rahtskeller / University of Wisconsin
Apr.21 - Hopefully, Iowa

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Iran Sends A Monkey Into Space While Flaming Lips Blow Up The Sun

"Which end is its ass?"

I thought that the Lips were no longer on Warner Brothers.

Whatever the case, the promotional department of  Warner Bros would like to remind you that the Lips are prepping their 13th record and that a sneak peak of a new song that you'll get just for pre-ordering the album is available for you to learn the words to.

If that isn't enough, be sure to check out the Lips as they pay for the recording costs of their thirteenth record just by shelling for Korean automaker, Hyundai on a Super Bowl ad this weekend.

Here's all the details, and Totale's sure fire pick of the Ravens by 3.


Jan 28, 2013 - (Burbank) - THE FLAMING LIPS and Warner Bros. Records will release their thirteenth studio album, The Terror on April 2nd but you can see and hear and the new video for an exclusive non-album track, titled "Sun Blows Up Today" right now at Rolling Stone. dot Com

As previously announced, those who pre-order The Terror digitally beginning Jan 29th, through the iTunes Store or other participating digital retailers will receive "Sun Blows Up Today" as an Instant gratification, Non-Album, Bonus Track. This is the only way to get the new song by The Flaming Lips.

Looking for more from your favorite band?   Well, if you're near a TV set this Sunday, Feb 3rd, watching the Super Bowl, you might just see a very cool TV commercial by Hyundai that stars none other than The Flaming Lips and features the song, "Sun Blows Up Today". Don't miss it!!

More news to be announced soon. Until then keep an eye on for details.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Goodnight Sweet Prince (Be): The Overlooked Twilight Of PM Dawn

Its starts with a fleeting remembrance. A moment where bliss seemed to permeate every day, to the point where everything is so romanticized twenty years after the fact. The reality was much different. I also remember being broke. All the time. But then again, I had just come out of college, so I was used to living lean. Whittling paychecks down to the last ten bucks and funding my music habits off the promotional copies of bands like PM Dawn.

And when you start to look lovingly on those years that have left you, you also begin to cherish the very music that you gave away, dismissing it in favor of something on Touch & Go.

On one instance, I cleared out a load of promotional cds and pissed it all away on a box set of all the singles from R.E.M.’s Out Of Time release. Each disc had maybe four songs on them. Oh, and it was an import. Probably the stupidest purchase of my life.

There’s no telling where that copy of PM Dawn’s The Bliss Album is now. Maybe it’s still up in the bargain bins of Weird Harold’s, along with the other five copies of the same title. The “band,” essentially two brothers, Attrell and Jarrett Cordes, brought a different blend of r&b hip-hop soul, first exposed with a cut that melded a soft rap over a gentle beat, and an unexpected sample of Spandau Ballet’s “True.”

How successful was it? “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” became the first #1 U.S. single in the SoundScan era and even the video, which featured the not-so-photogenic pair in various stages of weird, bright colored hippy attire, received incessant airplay on MTV.

PM Dawn milked success for a few more albums, but by record three, Jesus Wept, the band wasn’t even able to top the top 100.

I came across an old aircheck tape featuring a new news reporter from the station and before one of my breaks with her, the leadoff single from Jesus Wept was wrapping up.

I heard the last thirty seconds of “Downtown Venus” and then my voice explaining to listeners that the sample that was featured so prominently in the track was none other than Deep Purple’s “Hush.”

Personally, I think the song is a hoot, but the rest of America didn’t agree with my new playlist selection as “Downtown Venus” only reached number 48 on the charts and became what we used to call in the biz, a “stiff.”

Logically, my recent encounter prompted me to find a copy of “Downtown Venus” and to ponder what became of PM Dawn. I was shocked at what I had missed.

Evidently, Attrell-known by his more blissful name of “Prince Be”-suffered a massive stroke in early 2005, which severely impacted the left side of his body. PM Dawn re-formed that same year despite the setbacks of the lead singer and appeared on the show Hit Me One More Time, a program that features reunited bands competing against each other for charity.

In the video footage, a third member of PM Dawn appears. “Doc G” runs around the stage, and during one song is seen handing out roses to the girls in the studio crowd. Just who exactly is this “hype man” that was never part of the original picture turns out to be the brother’s cousin.

You can also see him serve another purpose. If you look closely at the video, Doc appears to be helping Prince Be stay upright. The camera farts around with some other shots while Prince Be is navigated down some stairs and into a waiting chair, obviously still reeling from his stroke.

“Doc G,” also known as the “Doc of the Dawn,” was originally tapped to be a member of PM Dawn with the Cordes brothers, but who split and joined the navy instead.

Doc later re-tells the incident where he was stuck in the military while his cousins were getting verbally manhandled by KRS-One in the early 90’s.

But it wouldn’t be until the appearance on Hit Me One More Time in 2005 where Doc G. got asked again to become a member, and this time he said “Yes.”

Just as soon as the reunion began, Jarrett Cordes decides to split and take his talents to South Beach, but he doesn’t take the name PM Dawn with him. Prince Be and Doc G continue onward, making soft inroads with Be’s feeble condition, until 2009 when he suffers several more strokes.

In late December of 2009, doctors are forced to remove Prince Be’s leg at the knee due to gangrene infection, and since then Doc G has been performing, albeit questionably, as the “sole member” of PM Dawn.

Additionally, Doc G also has his own music available and he appears to be very sensitive about any criticism towards his use of the PM Dawn moniker, something that he says he has Price Be’s blessings on.

There seems to be some beef with Jarrett too, but I’m not sure of the feud itself. What I am sure of is that Doc G recently had a bad case of bronchitis, which has made him “65%,” is on a record label that can only be accessed by “intelligent” people, and is prone to wearing a plastic mask that appears to have been made from an old Dust Buster.

I also know that Doc G needs to replace the “D” batteries in his fire alarm.

Kind of a tragic ending to a band that seemed to thrive on positivity, regardless of how dorky or contrived as it may have seemed through the gaze of an MTV camera.

The ended up wining that Hit Me One More Time contest, even after some pretty shaky moments. Maybe that should serve as their curtain call, and maybe Doc G could stop from reminding us that he has everyone’s blessing to us the PM Dawn “franchise” (as he called it) and instead focus on what he might be doing to the name itself.

Perhaps it’s time for PM Dawn to fade to black.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Have You Seen Junior's Grades?

Might as well jump...
Here's a real life email that I sent to my son's 4th grade teacher after she reported to my wife and I that he was acting tired and "out of it" in class and neglecting his homework duties.

We spoil our kids to no end in the Totale household, and this is undoubtedly part of the problem. They control our televisions and claim to have no homework while my wife and I disengage in our respective Kindles, laptops, and smart phones on the couch.

It's the American Dream, and we can only be interrupted when someone reaches us through one of those aforementioned devices.

So here was my response to my son's teacher, who we'll change the name of, because it's the internet and there's creepy people afoot.

Mrs Kotter:

My wife forwarded me your email and we have had conversations with E regarding his recent behavior and inconsistencies with his assignment book. At home, he has demonstrated ambivalence towards his school work and appears tired and a bit impatient with others. We did discover an incident of minor bullying that took place at Kids Corporate Conglomerate Inc. after school last week, but that issue has apparently resolved on its own and was not that significant. 

E denied that this matter had anything to do with his recent behavior and seemed surprised that any changes were noticed in him at all. Nonetheless, he committed to focusing more on addressing his “job,” which is to complete all school-related duties immediately when coming home for the day in order to enjoy the many privileges that he is allowed (television, gaming, internet, etc). 

He also understands that if he does not meet the expectations that you have for him, then some of these privileges may be lost. Of course, we will need your feedback if you continue to witness a problem with submitting his assignments on time as we will do our part in making sure it is a higher priority in our nightly schedule.

Finally, one private matter concerning his tiredness. His younger sister often requested to sleep with him on nights where she had trouble getting to sleep. These requests soon became the norm, to the point where we began to insist that they sleep in their own rooms after his sister came down with a cold. Ironically, it is now E who seems to be suffering from her absence as he has suggested that it is harder to get to sleep without her in the same bed. 

To help, I put up my huge poster of Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA cover on his bedroom wall, the very same one  that I had in my bedroom back in 1984. 

We’ll see if “The Boss” can straighten things out with his sleep patterns.

Thank you,

Todd Totale 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Postal Service Give Up...And Then Try Again, 10 Years Later

The fact that the Postal Service's Give Up is now 10 year's old is almost as amazing that it is now Sub Pop Record's second largest selling record of all time.

Second only to some olde tyme grunge rockers name Nirvana.

To be honest, the record never resonated with me the way it did with so many others. I found the record to be lacking in emotional honesty during points, but that may be because Give Up is part of a divorce playlist that is littered with bad decisions.

Be that as it may, some may find the following record company mass email of interest.

Some may just feel ten years older.

Sub Pop is thrilled to share the news that The Postal Service, the much-beloved, long-distance collaboration between Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, will reunite this spring to celebrate the 10th anniversary and deluxe edition reissue of their universally acclaimed release, Give Up.  The Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition will include the original 10-track album along with 15 bonus tracks (including the 2 brand new songs "Turn Around" and "A Tattered Line of String," a previously unreleased live recording, and every other official recording the band has ever released--as well as cover versions of Postal Service classics by The Shins and Iron & Wine) and was mastered by Grammy nominated engineers Emily Lazar and Joe Laporte. Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition will be available as a 2xCD, 3xLP and digitally on April 8 in the UK and Europe and April 9 in North America via Sub Pop. A very limited “Loser” edition of the 3xLP will be pressed on colored vinyl. Please find a complete tracklisting below.
The release of the Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition will also be commemorated by the first live Postal Service dates in a decade. Shows will be announced as they are confirmed. Check for further details as they become available.
Give Up was certified platinum last year just shy of 10 years from its original February 9, 2003 release. Led by the single "Such Great Heights,” the landmark album 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 nearly 25-year history.
Give Up, which Entertainment Weekly called a "near-perfect" album, is the first and only full-length by The Postal Service. The album received 2003 year-end praise from an array of publications, including SPIN, Rolling Stone and the Village Voice “Pazz & Jop” critics’ poll. Give Up 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 in 2012: Gibbard's solo outing, Former Lives, was released via Barsuk Records last October; Dntel's Aimlessness was released this past June on Pampa Records.
About The Postal Service:
You can spend all the time and money in the world trying to craft the perfect pop-music scenario, but sometimes the stars have to align all by themselves. Even though early on the members of The Postal Service jokingly referred to “Such Great Heights” as “the hit” on their debut album, Give Up, there’s no way anyone could have predicted the eventual impact made by a mail-order album designed in a pair of West Coast bedrooms. It’s been 10 years since the little project that could from Seattelite Ben Gibbard (also known as Death Cab For Cutie’s frontman) and Angeleno Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel, Figurine) emerged from seemingly nowhere and began to burrow its way into the ears of anyone who came into contact with the band’s infectious electro-pop (read more at Sub Pop).
Disc 1 (Original Album):
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Such Great Heights
Sleeping In
Nothing Better
Recycled Air
Clark Gable
We Will Become Silhouettes
This Place Is a Prison
Brand New Colony
Natural Anthem
Disc 2 (New Tracks, Rarities, B-Sides, Remixes, Cover Versions, etc.):
Turn Around
A Tattered Line of String
Be Still My Heart
There’s Never Enough Time
Suddenly Everything Has Changed
Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)
Grow Old With Me
Such Great Heights (John Tejada Remix)
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (DJ Downfall Persistent Beat Mix)
Be Still My Heart (Nobody Remix)
We Will Become Silhouettes (Matthew Dear Remix)
Nothing Better (Styrofoam Remix)
Recycled Air (Live on KEXP)
We Will Become Silhouettes (Performed by The Shins)
Such Great Heights (Performed by Iron and Wine)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ween - Pure Guava

Part of the reason why I love Ween so much is their humor. I relate to it. On a daily basis. And I can be a problem.

Because there isn’t that many people who can relate or immediately appreciate this kind of humor. It’s druggy, nonsensical, childish, and downright wrong at times. So whenever you meet-or in this case, hear-someone who expresses the same kind of humor, you’re a friend for life. Mainly because you don’t have to preface anything before you begin to unleash some truly inappropriate comments about something.

Pure Guava was my first exposure to Ween, so this would have been the record where I first caught a glimpse of Dean and Gene Ween’s inappropriate behavior. It is with this album that I began to appreciate the duo’s work and keep up with their whereabouts.

It began with the “Secondary Radio Markets Promotions Representative” for Elektra Records named Traci. She was swell. More than any other person that I dealt with on a weekly basis as the Music Director for some small town radio station in Iowa. The only other person who could compare to her was some other rep-I believe the dude was on RCA’s payroll-who I always thought was an asshole until one day I referenced Steve Albini to him. From that point on we were buds. He told me about a Big Black show he attended where Albini came up to his friend as he pulled out a cigarette, and asked the unsuspecting smoker “Need a light, buddy?” Albini then produced a blowtorch or some kind of welder’s torch, which he proceeded to use as a cigarette lighter.

Traci at Elektra was different, though. She was a girl and I was a guy, and the fact that I could have educated and extended conversations about music-on the company dime, no less-was pretty awesome to me. We were both in relationships, so it wasn’t about anything sexual, and the fact that I was in Iowa and she was in New York City put a stop to any real social encounter. The guy she married also worked at Elektra, and when he got a big promotion, her job became eliminated, primarily due to the fear of the way their relationship would look to other staff members.

Needless to say, Traci would provide me the hook up to all of Elektra’s releases and promotional items that were beyond what my station would normally play. Pure Guava resulted from that relationship and I appreciate that in more ways that can be explained with this resulting “review” of it.

First of all, I marveled at the fact that anyone…ANYONE…would could pull off releasing an honest-to-goodness four track recording on a major label like Elektra. This was the shit that you remembered from the late 60’s or late 70’s when record companies had no idea what they were doing, other than sending out droves of A&R people with orders of “Sign more hippies” or “Get me some punk rockers on our roster.” There is nothing in Pure Guava that hints at commercial potential, and whatever funds that Ween secured from Elektra records-at the time part of the massive WEA group, which included Warner Brothers and Atlantic records-should be immediately cashed for fear that someone will figure out the ruse and put a stop payment on the advancement.

The record is known for “Push th’ Little Daisies,” the single that was later incorporated into an episode of MTV’s Beavis & Butthead who declared it to be the worst song ever. The “endorsement” was enough to propel the song into the alternative top 40 (for whoever kept such a tally) and the top 20 of the Australian singles charts, because they put acid in Vegemite down under.

The song is easy and incredibly catchy, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the inherent weirdness that lays throughout Pure Guava.

The record begins with “Little Birdy,” a sweet ode to our winged friends that seems to go horribly wrong with its warble guitars and pitched vocals. At one point, Gene cracks up, explaining, “See, the birdy make me laugh/Take a little birdy bath/I don’t know why he got me high.”

To me, it all made perfect sense.

Gene and Dean also break character on “I Play It Off Legit,” another weirdo favorite that examines the parlance of the times, specifically, the word “legit,” as in to be “legitimate.” The brothers carry on what sounds to be a phone conversation, which is nothing more than a declaration of things that are, or are not, “legit.” To clarify, “Mom bought me a cool shirt/When I wear it, I’m the shit/Really not that legit/My Mom bought it.”

Got it?

Highlights are “Pumpin’ For The Man,” a fast tempoed anthem to the struggles of the working man, dealing with the bossman demands to “Get your fingers out your ass/Pump some faggot’s gas/Some asshole down on Main Street needs a jump.”

And the curio “I Saw Gener Cryin’ In His Sleep” which has Dean re-telling a moment when he finds his brother crying while sleeping. In between the shitty guitar solo and an even worse whistling solo, lies some sage advice where Dean tells listeners to block the bad shit out of your head because “When it’s time for bed/You shouldn’t think about such stuff.”

Pure Guava is probably a quarter-hour too long and riddled with too many inconsistencies for it to qualify as necessary listening. But if there’s a part of you that enjoys an examination of juvenile humor, audio experiments and too many bong hits, then Pure Guava may serve as a welcomed reprieve to “playin’ it off legit” with your milquetoast reality.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pop Will Eat Itself - Now For A Feast

Evidently, there was a brief moment during the late 80’s when I was a supporter of the “Grebo” movement. I say this because I own records by The Wonder Stuff, Eat, and Pop Will Eat Itself. I don’t own anything by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin or Carter USM, but I’m familiar with their output as well.

All of this is revelatory to me, as I had never heard the term “Grebo” before tonight. It came during a vinyl excursion with Pop Will Eat Itself’s Now For A Feast, a 14-track collection of the band’s early extended plays.

I’ll save you the clicks and tell you that “Grebo” represents a very brief moment before grunge when a gaggle of bands from the Midlands of England with weird hair, second-hand chic, all began to weave garage rock into hip-hop beats with some novel results.

At least they were novel to me, and I’m man enough to admit that there’s probably a very good reason why you’ve never heard the term “Grebo” before right now. That reason is that it’s the equivalent to the brief musical boom in places like Athens or Seattle or Austin or Minneapolis or any other city of emphasis. The difference here is that it was over there and we’re to self-absorbed with ourselves here in America to give a shit about what other countries are doing. Plus, geography just sounds gay.

What makes this subgenre even less intriguing is how utterly forgettable it is, and this is probably the most evident within the brief blast that is Now For A Feast! Clocking it at a mere 24 minutes, the compilation is over before you know it.

In between those 24 minutes are up-tempo pop tunes awash in buzz saw power chords and Johnny Ramone leftovers.

All of which are voiced by PWEI vocalist Grahamm Crabb, a man of limited ability behind the mic and pen. You’ll hear very little beyond his one-to-two note range, but with so little to say, you’ll appreciate that he’s not getting too worked up about the garbage in his notebook.

For “Candydiosis,” Crabb laments at how a few bands use the word “Candy” in their songs. He points out the Husker’s Candy Apple Grey album title and references Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psycho Candy, but the only thing that these irritants can muster in him is a half-assed chorus of “What’s so fucking good/What’s so fucking good about candy?” It’s delivered with such stale aggression that you wonder if the band was worried about getting their ass kicked, because they sure get their asses handed to them musically if you compare ‘em apples to apples. Candy, grey, or otherwise.

There are some brief moments of pleasure. There’s the cute l’il acknowledgement to their scene “Oh Grebo I Think I Love You,” a swell bit of garage stomp during the side-closing “Like An Angel,” and they even deconstruct Hawkwind’s “Orgone Accumulator” for good measure.

It worked enough for me to take notice when Pop Will Eat Itself released their follow-up album, this time taking on a much more industrial tone with plenty of nifty samples and big drum beats.

If it wasn’t the product of white dudes from England, then maybe the hip-hop culture direction could have landed them enough credibility to be on the same page as the Beastie Boys.

They weren’t, and PWEI’s subsequent output is riddled with a dated sheen that easily points to its decade of relevance while managing to completely overlook the identity of its creators entirely.

All of this adds an extra layer of nostalgia to Now For A Feast, serving as a reminder to when Pop Will Eat Itself were a band of guitar fuel and rudimentary prose. Those warm feelings will dissipate just about as quickly as this compilation runs out and what you’re left with it a collection that’s more about snacking on the leftovers of the band’s much better influences than providing a decent spread of its own making.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ween - 12 Golden Country Greats

Occasionally, I'll write a review where I enjoy the record far more than what the review would lead you to believe. These are releases that qualify as “guilty pleasures,” even though its a term that’s cheapened with the misconception that it’s something already perceived as awful by general consensus.

But a guilty pleasure doesn’t mean that it’s a bad record, at least not in my mind. Instead, I think of a guilty pleasure as a record that is neither groundbreaking nor all that well executed. For me, a guilty pleasure can be something that you enjoy listening to and have unchecked fondness for, without having a very good explanation for why it ranks in such high regard.

A good example of what I’m trying to explain is Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats. It’s a record that I return to time an again for reasons that cannot be explained by the record’s place in recorded music or by the actual quality of the songs themselves.

I remember buying the album sight unseen and without the benefit of hearing a song sample. The very notion that Ween was devoting an entire record to one specific genre and were using some very legendary session musicians to help execute ten songs into a very misleading album title, was a very bold movie in my mind. It was an idea that remains as the most divisive entry in their cannon of weirdness and something that I felt deserved immediate support.

However, I can’t overlook the fact that I was somewhat disappointed after my first listen. It’s the most polished the brothers have ever sounded, which is a testament to the performers they’ve enlisted, I suppose, but after years of audible tape his in nearly every moment of their recording history up to this point, its absence suddenly sounds unsettling.

The other thing that was immediately off-putting was how subtle the humor is throughout 12 Golden Country Greats. Besides the obvious entries (“Piss Up A Rope,” “Mister Richard Smoker” and “Fluffy”), most of the record remains straight, at least by Ween standards.

Finally, I’m not utterly convinced that Ween aren’t entirely earnest in their appreciation with the genre of country music, a critical necessity when doing such a swan dive into such major left turns like this. And even though Gene does a nice roll call during “Powder Blue” of some of the musicians, he also has them present for such mundane moments like “I Don’t Wanna Leave You On The Farm,” a song so contrived that you want to apologize to the players for wasting their time with such rudimentary material.

Just as I would be remiss in telling you about all of these questionable moments on 12 Golden Country Greats is the fact that regularly let this record into my schedule and I’m just as regularly satisfied with it.

Ironically, it’s that subtle approach that makes such repeated listens so rewarding for me. When they let the talent loose during “Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain,” Ween goes beyond any prior expectations of how great of a project this could have been.

“You Were The Fool” reaches similar heights as the band counts off “Slow four….one, two, three, four…” A gentle acoustic moment is created while Gene effortlessly takes listeners on a wild ride, at one point advising, “You can speak with a turtle just by flippin’ him around.”

And I’m sorry, but “Piss Up A Rope” is one of the best “Fuck you” songs of all time, making 12 Golden Country Greats worth the price of admission.

As with any “guilty pleasure,” your mileage may vary, but for me 12 Golden Country Greats has gotten plenty of highway miles. It never quite reaches the heights that the idea hints at during a few moments, but it’s a project that I find strange comfort in their flawed attempt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Samuel Locke Ward - Where The Sick Go To Die

“Running with scissors/Put shit in the food” begins Samuel Locke Ward’s Where The Sick Go To Die, his 18 song collection from 2009. The song is nothing more than a list of fuck-ups, an anthem of apathy that SLW seemingly subscribes to, setting the tone for another release of low expectations and even lower self-esteem.

“Put water in the gas/And fire to the woods” he continues before imploring listeners with a chorus of screaming “Do it wrong,” three words that could serve as his mantra in a world were SLW releases “records” at an alarming rate and with even more alarming consistency.

Think of this Iowa City artist’s prodigious output as a defense mechanism, something that’s less a result of some manic urge (like Daniel Johnston) or satisfying some insatiable muse. Instead, it’s a distraction, attempting to hide the fact that Samuel Lock Ward desperately wants you to like him, and chances are if he throws enough shit at you, something will stick and you’ll either smile, laugh, or hum the chorus along with him.

It’s frustrating at times, because within his low-fi chaos are some very good tunes and untapped potential, something that I’m sure S.L.W. cares very little about or has little interest in pursuing. Instead, the assembly line release schedule makes it difficult to keep up to speed and hard to appreciate every bit of available material completely.

And while it’s not my place to advise an artist to slow down or consider a much needed editor, I can only remind myself and others that Samuel Locke Ward is doing it while I’m doing little more than reporting on what he’s doing.

Where The Sick Go To Die is a gem in the same sense that a BeDazzler will turn your clothing into a jewel filled piece of clothing that gets less impressive the closer you examine it. The aforementioned “Do It Wrong” is unquestionably awesome, while “18 Candles” is a remarkable character study of unchecked entitlement, more than SLW probably even realizes.

“Just blew out 18 candles” Ward deadpans, before admitting “18 more than I can handle” in mock admission. It sucks getting old, but it is pretty awesome to be able to figure out how utterly ridiculous the youth can be with their incessant need for instant gratification and narcissistic attitudes.

The same can probably be said for SLW at times, like the lazy couplet “Let me bake you a cake/by the lake/With a rake/Oh what a lovely day” (“May I Lead You Astray”) or any of the frequent inside jokes that line the track listings of Where The Sick Go To Die. They cheapen its effectiveness, albeit slightly as Locke Ward’s uncanny pop sensibility and unwavering need to document every musical ejaculate that leaves his body can make for some strangely enjoyable moments.

Like the five-song closer, beginning with “The Stupid King” and ending with what ends up being the record’s highlight. With a decidedly primitive electronic rhythm and repetitive three-chord verses, “Pomp + Unfortunate Living” provides Where The Sick Go To Die with some of SLW’s most emotive moments with lines like “Wasted youth on bitter rainclouds.” It’s an earnest attempt at making Where The Sick Go To Die more than just another self-indulgent mess that could probably be found in any city that counts a public university as its primary employer. It hints that, beyond the liberal arts support group that coddles him, lies a musician that could actually breathe life into the a community that has a history of lo-fi jokers with more time on their hands than actual talent.

Samuel Locke Ward demonstrates that his talent is quite abundant, but his time would be better served in making sure his music is considered beyond his primary caregivers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rolling Stones - Grrr!

A half-century is nothing to sneeze at, so if the Stones want to peddle out yet another compilation of the most remembered moments of their catalog, then let ‘em. If anything, it’s kind of hard to fuck up a retrospective that pulls from five friggin’ decades of material, even if you have to cherry pick from the titles from Undercover on.

The cover art is a hoot and the punchy earbud mix that Grrr! provides listeners actually works wonders on the early material. For real: I dialed up the new mix of “The Last Time” and followed it with an older mono version and was amazed at how great Charlie sounded and how ballsy Bill Wyman’s fuzz bass really was on that track.

Yes, Grrr! is pretty pointless for any devoted Stones fan that already has these tracks, in multiple formats if you’re a sucker like me or a silly completists. And besides, no self-serving Stones fan is going to tolerate the edited versions that are presented.

The two new cuts, “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” are standard-issue Stones songs that are much better than the newbies included with their last retrospective, Forty Licks. For some reason one of those cuts, the awful “Don’t Stop,” makes another appearance here.

In fact, most of the band’s later material on Grrr! reeks more of obligation than essential evidence of the band’s prowess. You will think of more suitable replacements for every “Harlem Shuffle” or “Anybody Seen My Baby,” but you’ll also marvel at how far you’ve traveled before mediocrity settles in.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

The longer David Byrne releases work outside of his nearly impeccable material with Talking Heads, the more I think that his departure from rock music has more to do with his contempt for the art form than the oft excuse of feeling confined from it.

This is all just a theory, and I have no way of claiming to know exactly what Mr. Byrne feels or thinks. Yet my hypothesis continues to build credibility the more David releases solo material. At their worst, some of these titles sound nothing more than a sense of entitlement, a carte blanche pass at fiddling about with genres that are beyond his basic talents as a musician and songwriter.

At their best, they’re mediocre. Which begs the question: why ignore a past filled with challenging and brilliant material while releasing utterly forgettable and snarky records that sound better on paper than they do through the speakers.

Add Love This Giant to that list. And while the record’s ultimate downfall can be shared between Byrne and collaborator Annie Clark (i.e. St. Vincent), it stings a bit more when you compare it to David’s enviable past and egghead knowledge of practically everything. Love This Giant is a horn-heavy effort that alternates between Byrne’s smug musings and St. Vincent’s empty narrative. Combine the two and you get a particularly clunky effort that has about the same shelf life that it took to create this project.

Regardless of how clever Byrne and Clark seem to think they are, the limitations of their patchwork collaboration is evident upon first listen. Brass and saxophones blurt out staccato jabs over stop/start rhythms, occasionally pausing or slowing the tempos just enough to let you know a deep moment is approaching.

On “The Forest Awakes” Clark admires the simpletons shuffling about their everyday routines while channeling Walt Whitman through Byrne’s hand. That alone should hint at the exaggerated importance that is found throughout Love This Giant. There’s simply no need to get this high and mighty over a collection of cut and paste pop songs and certainly no aficionado of pop music would ever confess to wanting a few more nods to Blades Of Grass in their ear candy.

By the time “Forest” reaches its halfway point, the best that Byrne can manage is “A fruit that falls before its grown/I heard a sound and our bird has flown/It breaks to pieces above the forest/A million particles born today.” Since the icy beats suddenly end and the horns get quieter, I’m guessing that the stanza qualifies as one of those aforementioned “deep” moments.

This kind of thing goes on throughout the album for a good forty minutes or so. It’s less if you’re like me and end up finding something else to listen halfway through Love This Giant, because it suddenly becomes this annoying distraction that’s cold, unfunny, and soulless.

Clearly, St. Vincent is the one that benefits from this collaboration the most, by being able to reference this moment in every press release going forward.

And for Byrne, a quote from Walt Whitman is in order, given the circumstances, “But where is what I started for so long ago/And why is it yet unfound?”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bob Dylan - Tempest

Last summer, my family and I drove down to Kansas City for a bit of summer vacation. One of the reasons we decided on K.C. is because they were having the Titanic exhibit at Union Station. My son had studied about the Titanic in school that year and had done some research on the topic. We thought that the exhibit, which featured tons of cool artifacts, would be a special thing for him.

What we didn’t expect was for our eight-year old to suddenly become the annoying expert on everything concerning the wreck, opening disputing the facts posted on informational points and just being kind of a swarmy asshole throughout the exhibit.

Now, I love my son very much, and ironically enough, one of the things that I love about him is that he can be a swarmy asshole. It’s just at that moment, I didn’t like it because the very reason why we decided to spend close to a hundie for tickets to this thing was we were trying to do something nice for him.

When we brought these very expensive tickets to the lady that lets you into the exhibit hands you a “boarding pass.” On it is the name of a real passenger of the Titanic, and at the end of the exhibit is a wall listing all of the riders of the ship on that fateful night.

The names were categorized into two groups: dead and survived.

The lady explained that we could match our names up with the ones on the wall to find out if we survived or not. Spoiler alert: everyone in our family died except our five-year old daughter. Personally, I think that shit was rigged.

Anyway, I joke to everyone that the name on my ticket said “Leonardo DiCaprio” and the lady said that she has people every day asking her to give them Leo’s ticket for a souvenir. They actually get a little pissy with her when she explains that the movie contained fictional characters. Never mind the fact that these confused ticket holders don’t get the concept that Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character named Jack Dawson, so technically, asking for DiCaprio’s ticket is an act worthy of ridicule.

The same shit happens on “Tempest,” the title track of Bob Dylan’s thousandth record, and the record’s obvious centerpiece. And if you mean by “centerpiece” that it simply goes on and on and on and on, then you get an idea of how the verses all begin to run together after a while.

Until the moment when Dylan goes “Leo grabbed his sketchbook/He was often so inclined” and you’re stunned.

“Did Bobby just quote something from a James Cameron movie?”

He does indeed. And it bugged the shit out of me so much that I obsessed on it for days. Then I read something where Dylan explains DiCaprio’s entrance into “Tempest” as a necessity. He says he can’t think of the real Titanic any more without thinking about the film.

And if you’ll recall, I couldn’t either.

Then you discover that the entire thing is nothing more than a lift from an old Carter Family song, where extended re-tellings of the Titanic disaster were often filled with half-truths and exaggerations to make the song even more riveting.

I’ve probably spent too much time on one track and haven’t adequately acknowledged the themes of mortality and human nature that run throughout the rest of the disc. I also should probably mention that, musically, the band continues to find hues in early 20th Century American music as Dylan seems to find comfort in the music that first grabbed his attention some six decades ago, an act of full-circle implications, and clues to the artist’s exit.

I wouldn’t blame him. The voice continues to be an issue, but less so than on the abysmal Christmas In The Heart. It’s because the stories on Tempest are so rugged and reek of the end that every song can handle the way Dylan just chews up a song and spits them out in such compelling fashion.

You can even understand the opening line in “Pay In Blood,” and by the time you begin to decipher his gravel, it’s on a line like “Another politician pumpin’ out the piss.” From that perspective, you begin to appreciate how Bob is tucked way up high in the mix, like a seething old man.

Tempest is a continuation of Dylan’s late career direction, but it’s a surprising one. For all of its dustbowl tones and nautical tragedies, it’s thematically modern effort. You get the sense that the populist theme is intentional, serving less to satisfy Dylan’s own late-career comforts than to release a collection that represents the most appropriate songs for the time it was intended. Figuring out how they relate to our moment is part of the fun, but one line in Tempest rings louder than any other: “I ain’t dead yet/My bell still rings.”

It’s true, and Tempest is a real clapper.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel

What makes The Idler Wheel work in ways that completely surpass Fiona Apple’s previous trio of releases is how the stark production perfectly blends against the album’s deep exorcisms. This is a heavy record, more so than the limited instrumentation would initially suggest, but within those moments of quiet space and avoidance of clutter, you can hear every ounce of inner turmoil in Apple’s words. And even if you’re not the lyrical type, you can clearly hear that aforementioned turmoil in her open-heart delivery.

The Idler Wheel neglects any attempt of pop accessibility, which is fine as the record’s weight would just topple over trying to polish up a record of such blatant malaise. Instead, Apple just occupies the space with little more than her piano and her nearly frightening vocals. It had to be this way. Fiona is now in her mid-30’s, and as she’s apparently hinting at with all of this is how she’s looking at having to tackle the pressures of life alone.

“How can I ask anyone to love me/When all I do is beg to be left alone” she asks, knowing all too well that her inner struggle may indeed be to blame for not being able to resolving that aforementioned struggle. In the course of the song’s nearly 5 minutes, you hear Apple wail, feel the words delivered against clinched teeth, until at the very end you can hear her voice trail off in a defeated whine. The only thing the listener can hope for is that the last 5 minutes have offered some kind of cathartic release to help push ahead some sort of resolution.

Besides voice and piano, The Idler Wheel is moved forward with nothing more than hand clapped rhythms, found items, and in the case of “Periphery,” footsteps marching on gravel and sand. Apple doesn’t stay still to wallow in her depression. Instead, she marches on. “Hot Knife,” the album’s closer and potential high-point, contradicts the rest of the album’s bittersweet journey with its nifty acapella vocals and cannibal drums.

Its placement is important as it leaves listeners with the impression that Apple will probably end up in this very same place again someday soon, because love tends to make you forget about all of those red flags that pop up along the way, on route to your next breakup. Make no mistake about it, The Idler Wheel is indeed a breakup album, perhaps one of the most intricate, passionate, and deeply personal ones ever committed to tape. It does so with utmost maturity, hitting hard at the creeps that have left her in a lurch as well as fully realizing that she’s no picnic either.

It’s a heavy album, for sure, but one where you can help but admire her unwavering vision for it and how it’s primary sound is pure emotion. “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key” she tells us in “Werewolf,” and after several repeated listening to The Idler Wheel, you can’t help but agree. No one told us that life would be easy, but Apple has created a record that makes those low moments of dread into an intriguing collage of creativity that ends up being the artist’s first indisputable masterpiece.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Baker's Dozen 2012

I say this every year-a clear sign of my increasing age, if there ever was one-but I don’t want to hear the words “The music of today sucks compared to (enter decade or frame of reference)” or “There isn’t any decent new music out today” and I’m even growing tired of “I don’t listen to a lot of new stuff any more” a little bit too.

But here’s the thing: if you’ve given up or even pre-judged anything that was released in 2012, you’re missed out on some really, really good music.

As in music that you’ll be talking about in twenty years.

As in music that can still change your fucking life.

And these are, in order, the records that you should really take a listen to in the near future, because they represent those releases that kind of blew my mind this year.

Not all of you will like the music on the list (see the Swans record and the testosterone fueled High On Fire concept album) and some may even chuckle at the rankings (Rush and Van Halen? What is this? 1982?!) which positively reeks of that aforementioned “old and in the way” reference.

The point is that you should jump in, because I’m pretty certain there’s a record somewhere in the list below that will stick to that same part inside of you that made you fall in love with music to begin with.

There is a bit of a critical aspect of the Baker’s Dozen list, but ultimately it’s ranked on personal preference alone. I’ll probably play Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange album more than any other record on this list in the future, but I have to acknowledge that Fiona Apple’s record was just flat out brilliant and placed the artist’s entire career on a heightened level than Ocean’s, whose career is just now in its first chapter.

But oh, what a chapter in that short amount of time.

And Dr. John?

Get the fuck outta here!

For a man of this age, at this stage of his career, to come out of a “Let’s see if this sticks to the wall” decision like pairing him with a dude from the Black Keys manhandling the good doctor’s production decisions. I never would have guessed it would have turned out as great as Locked Down is, and I am amazed at how often I keep coming back to it. It’s just a joy of a record that probably stands as the list’s most absolutely solid recommendation to anyone reading this. Start here.

Here’s the 2012 Baker’s Dozen, each briefly discussed with links to the original reviews if available and an extra 13 Honorable Mentions that got more than a few extra spins around the way.

1.) Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel
Nothing prepared me for discovering just how good Fiona Apple’s fourth long-player really is, but its barren production makes for some immediate gratification. You’ll be amazed at the wide range of emotion and atmosphere that Apple makes with such limited tricks, and you’ll be thankful that such a talent resides on our shores that you’ll look at the rest of her catalog-both current and future-in a completely new way. She’s in the same breath as Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell now, and watching where she goes from this-her first certifiable masterpiece-is gonna be a blast.
2.) Frank OceanChannel Orange
People like me have seen this kind of sexually ambivalent tales of love longing/lost/lust before. But it’s been forever since I remember this kind of controversy (pun intended), unless you count this one chick back in high school who swore she thought Prince was saying “I’m in love with guys/It’s the only way” during the ending rap part on “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” Right out of the gate, Ocean delivers one of the best soul records in a generation only to watch its themes of love, romance and decadence get lost in tabloid confessions.
3.) Dr. JohnLocked Down
Remarkable. A late career statement that does nothing but lend a dirty take on some dirty rice. The drums are mixed high and the rhythms are proud. And through it all, the good doctor stirs up his old Night Tripper persona for an album that sounds too easy to be as brilliant as it is. A mood is instantly created with each play of this record, and it’s one you’ll want to revisit for the rest of your life.
4.) JapandroidsCelebration Rock
There’s a moment in every music lover’s life where you go to a show and you look around only to find the surroundings are much younger than you are. This record celebrates those occasional moments when rock and roll music transcends the age that you display superficiously. All the while, it never ignores the fact that Japandroids are very much in the midst of a middle age crisis, a welcomed thing since they’re living it with guitar and drums instead of cocaine and strippers. More brutal than White Stripes if you’re into that whole duo comparison thing, but tons more emotionally honest.
5.) SwansThe Seer
Swans’ CEO Michael Gira has been doing this for three decades now, but the apocalyptic stir he dishes up this late in the game is as focused as it’s ever been and his advancing years turn the girth of these songs into near revelatory hymns. As with any religion, this one isn’t for everyone. But if your faith is deep enough to allow Gira to nudge you along some pretty intense passages, he will certainly point out the beauty within his cathartic passion.
6.) Tame ImpalaLonerism
Credit my cousin for burning me a copy of Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker to get these guys on my radar. Lonerism moves farther into the psychedelic abyss, recalling a swell mixture of Revolver-era melodies against David Fridmann turn of the century masterpieces (The Soft Bulletin, Deserter Songs, etc.). Yet through it all, you get the sense that Tame Impala are focused on the masterpiece that Lonerism already hints at with record number two.
7.) High On FireDe Vermis Mysteriss
Shit’s gettin’ serious in Matt Pike‘s world as he now has HOF rockin’ out the HP Lovecraft like some book readin’ mo fogie. Pike’s always been a smart fella, but I have to admit that I was not expecting him to take this band, this far, this good. They’ve done nothing new with their formula except 1.) become really friggin tight together and 2.) jump on the concept album tip to show off said chops. The production has been dialed down a bit compared to Snakes For The Devine, which is a bit unsettling at first. Normally, such heaviness is a match for the full spectrum treatment, but HOF take the entire concept premise and milk it for nothing much more than an hour-long slugfest of riffage. And that’s fine by me. It makes De Vermis Mysteriss yet another winner in HOF’s growing catalog of necessities.
8.) RushClockwork Angels
I honestly thought that Snakes and Arrows would probably be as good as a late career Rush album as we’d see, but they’ve clearly proven my cynicism wrong with Clockwork Angels. Not only does Rush’s bazillionth long-player turn on the afterburners compared to its predecessor; it ranks as one of the band’s best records in their entire catalog. It gently incorporates nearly all phases of the band’s career while never sounding nostalgic. In fact, that’s what makes Clockwork Angels such a triumph: it sounds like they’re just getting started.
9.) SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light
Another phoenix of a record, even though it’s actually the second record of redemption. After nearly writing off Jason Pierce mid-decade, he’s returned with a record of traditional dread that has an admirable sprinkle of optimism. It’s grand, it’s thoughtful, and it reaffirms Pierce’s status in today’s rock echelon of brilliant performers. He put’s it best on the track “Freedom,” “This is dedicated baby, what more can I say”.
10.) Sweet Billy PilgrimCrown and Treaty
At its core, Crown and Treaty is a pop album, if only in the sense that it defies logical categorization. The band swings with age beyond their actual years, transforming the three to four minute song structure into something very wise beyond the traditional pop format. There’s tons going on throughout their songs, but everything sounds wonderfully organic and pure. Crown and Treaty is a record that’s not easily forgotten and it begins with each repeated listen.
11.) The MenOpen Your Heart
For a record that’s admittedly all over the place, Open Your Heart is surprisingly convincing regardless of what band they’re emulating. Sure, you’d be better served to visit the originals (too many to mention) but The Men make that process seem like too much work. Generally speaking, if you’ve followed any post-punk band in the past thirty years that counts the electric guitar as their primary source of energy, there’s something for you on Open Your Heart.
12.) OFF!Off!
Punk rock that sounds like it came from the vaults some three decades ago, mouthed from a dude that was actually making waves during that time. Keith Morris has found some younger blood to help fuel all of this startling accuracy and none of it pretends to be something more than what it is: a flash of SoCal punk rock for a time when that is all that’s required.
13.) Van HalenA Different Kind Of Truth
They had everyone frightened when lead-off single “Tattoo” was released, but even the doubters found out that it was probably the worse song found on the first real Van Halen album in 28 years. With a gap that long, it’s pretty remarkable that A Different Kind Of Truth is even remotely listenable. Not only is it listenable, it smokes more than it really needs to. We were all just getting comfortable with the notion that Diamond Dave was even in the same room as Eddie and Alex, and here they are releasing a record that is on par with when we last heard them together.

Honorable Mention (aka 'The Extra Dozen')

14.) Pig DestroyerBook Burner
15.) Alabama ShakesBoys and Girls
16.) TennisYoung & Old
17.) DIIVOshin
18.) Jack White - Blunderbuss
19.) Jamey JohnsonLiving For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran
20.) Godspeed You Black Emperor!Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
21.) Lotus AtlasSpooky Action At A Distance
22.) Bob DylanTempest
23.) Bob MouldSilver Age
24.) Bruno MarsUnorthodox Jukebox
25.) Saint Vitus – Lillie F-65
26.) Accept - Stalingrad

Friday, January 4, 2013

Roxy Music - The Complete Studio Recordings

A few years ago, I named Bryan Ferry’s Olympia release as worthy enough to receive the Roxy Music moniker. The argument went that the Roxy personnel all took part in its creation (including Brian Eno) so why not just used the brand name?

I had a chance to review that brand recently, thanks to the newly issued Roxy Music box set, The Complete Studio Recordings 1972 – 1982. And while I still would have no trouble with calling Olympia a Roxy Music album, the new box set has provided me with a renewed appreciation of why Ferry decided to leave well enough alone, because what they accomplished during their 8 studio records is already better than “well enough.”

The Complete Studio Recordings 1972 – 1982 is a ten-disc collection of those eight records, with the additional two housing the band’s debut single (“Virginia Plain” may be worth the price of admission alone), their b-sides, and the endless mixes and remixes that were all of the Avalon singles.

Since we’ve already seen Roxy Music’s catalog reissued with the allure of re-mastered mixes, and since The Thrill Of It All had already served as a boxed compendium, why would anyone need to revisit the band in another career overview?

For me, it was a matter of simple mathematics. Having not gotten beyond a well worn, first generation cd of Avalon (that after a well-worn vinyl version from the friends at Columbia House) and some equally hissy copies of a few other titles, I knew that I’d eventually need to find a home for every single Roxy release. The new box set is priced low enough to hit everything at once.

That sticker price gets every release the full reproduction gatefold sleeves and, perhaps more importantly considering our trend on the loudness wars, a completely tinker-free mix of the recordings themselves.

This set represents the original mixes-for better or worse in some cases-with no hint of compression or eq’ing. That’s important when dealing with a band like Roxy Music, who seemed completely focused on their attention to detail..

“For worse” would be the awful mix that hindered the debut, to the point where Bryan Ferry himself wanted to redo the entire album for years after, because of the record’s unforgiving mix. They got better-as in remarkably better-on the follow-up For Your Pleasure, which finds Ferry exerting his dominance over Eno in the band’s arrangements.

In fact, For Your Pleasure not only shows the band to continue to grow without the aid of Eno’s input, it also finds them growing better as his role diminished. For Your Pleasure secures the band’s place in history even as their sophomore offering, and it’s just one of many discoveries that I found from The Complete Studio Recordings.
There’s two other must have releases, featured in their original and intended mixes that are, without question, deserving of everyone’s record collection: Siren and Avalon. Each effort shows the band in periods of enviable growth and brimming confidence. All three records taken in once again show a band perfectly adaptable at reinventing themselves, seemingly without sounding as if they were even setting out to do exactly that. They stumble into the career building moments with such ease that it makes the entire Eno departure feel like a necessary decision that allowed the band to become as great as they were.

But the real treat with The Complete Studio Recordings is re-examining Roxy Music’s other records, which pale only because that aforementioned trio of essential records shine so brightly.

I remembered being drawn to Country Life as a teenager, most assuredly for its risqué cover and confirmation of Bryan Ferry’s prowess as a ladies man. I am now drawn to it entirely from its content inside. It is a collection of consistent growth, finding the band very comfortable with their fashion and abilities as musicians. This is the sound of a band working hard at their craft, while donning a business casual clothing sense during the rehearsal time.

By Manifesto! the band is acting the part of royal statesmen while Flesh + Blood-a personal favorite that’s much maligned by others outside of the Roxy faithful-begins to show signs of a new subgenre, one whose name doesn’t even exist.

I understand the complaints of how Flesh + Blood is nothing more than a tepid return from a lengthy (by 1980 standards) hiatus, but for me it sounds like a victory lab before unleashing what would become the band’s signature opus, Avalon.

Avalon benefits the most from the 2012 mix as it leaves the record’s rich texture and subtle dynamics in tact, a rare feat during a time when most re-issues are met with a tradition of mixing records of some note to cater to the thin fidelity of today’s earbud generation.

The Complete Studio Recordings 1972 – 1982 hints at a much different era. It reflects a time when bands were given a wide birth in order to grow and develop. It also demonstrates how this freedom can actually lend itself to fostering an environment where a band can become great on its own, through natural selection and just plain old stubbornness.

It is a necessary document of the band’s legacy and consistency, one that’s needed not only out of the duty that’s created from their influence, but for the sheer enjoyment of listening to a band grow, develop, and become great.

What makes it such a requirement is how it shows that Roxy managed to do that not just once or twice, but for at least three of titles included with this collection. And to be able to achieve this in the span of a decade makes this box set not only complete, but completely essential.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.