Adventures of a University Finalist

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BA Baracus Ain't Got Nothing On Bobby

Bland

Bobby "Blue" Bland - Anthology (Universal, 2002)

Bobby "Blue" Bland - Lead Me On
Bobby "Blue" Bland - Cry, Cry, Cry
Bobby "Blue" Bland - Farther Up the Road
Bobby "Blue" Bland - I Pity the Fool
Bobby "Blue" Bland - You've Got Bad Intentions

Hello again, my musical brethren. Despite my penchant for the epic recently, I'll try and keep this missive brief not due to lack of invective but because I ain't no expert when it comes to the blues. The fact that I refuse to pad this blog out with biographies straight from the pen of AMG and amusing anecdotes that I located via Google probably doesn't help either.
As you all know, I've been on a rather large Lester Bangs trip recently but this particular artist, Bobby "Blue" Bland, was discovered thanks to another legend of American music journalism Dave Marsh. One of the greatest presents I have ever recevied was Marsh's 'The Heart of Rock n' Soul: The Greatest 100 Hits Ever Made' and one holiday I decided in my ennui to locate every single one of those 1001. I got as far as 350 I believe before stopping but in doing so I discovered bands such as The Rascals and the Stylistics, Billy Ocean's guilty pleasure 'Get Out Of My Dreams and Into My Car', and of course, Mr Bland who has numerous entries in that mystical tome.
'Lead Me On' is the song that really got me hooked on Bland and following repeated plays on my computer I rushed to the nearest Borders and picked up his two-disc Anthology set released by Universal. 'Lead Me On', accompanied by the Sam Cooke flavoured, 'Call On Me' (with its rhythm section doing that hip shakin' tropical shuffle), shows how Bland is seen by many as the first to really bridge the gap between blues and soul. 'Lead Me On' is the ultimate torch song with its howling strings, spectral flutes and plaintive piano melody that form the perfect musical background for Bland's voice to work in. You see Bland wasn't like BB King shooting out hot buttered licks from Lucille. Bland is a crooner, plain and simple, and his work is definitely up there with the true greats like Nat King Cole with his eclecticism often tantamount that to the Bobby Darins of this world. Back to the song and we rejoin Bobby's beautific plea of "Here's my hand/here are my hands/take it darling/and I'll follow you" and the subsequent introduction of the backing singers that accompanied by the echoing acoustics give the song this wonderfully funereal texture. It's as if the man is singing in a chapel and it begs the question? Who is he singing to? Jesus? He talks of the subject of his pleas understanding loneliness and persecution in "an unfriendly land". So, rather than the usual jive talk about ex-lovers who he wants to poison or commit suicide so that he doesn't have to spare the effort ("You've Got Bad Intentions" - the most bluesy cut I've put on offer) it appears that he's venturing toward gospel and redemption. It is a truely haunting track and one of my top five favourites of all time. I myself am not a deeply religious person with a preference for the safe ground of agnosticism but, unlike so much shouting from the pulpit, this song does sometimes make me reconsider the power of faith.
'Farther Up the Road' has become a blues standard since Bobby cut the definitive version with the version that you probably all now being The Band and Eric Clapton's collaboration for 'The Last Waltz' and the ensuing blues solo duelling between Robbie Robertson and E.C. The Band's version certainly has the musical chops but I always felt that, like with almost all his stuff, it's ultimately left hollow by Clapton's gruff and mumbled vocals. Isn't the purpose of the blues to get across your own personal sense of hurt and individual injustice? I've always felt that Clapton saw it as a vehicle to show off his knowledge of pentatonic scales. I mean where is the malevolence that Bland shows as he utters those words "Now you're laughing pretty, baby". As the piano starts to hammer like chattering teeth, you just know what business Bland sees in his lover's future and so does the guitar, his confidant, as it begins this low moan in response to his verbal taunts. The man ain't lyin'.
Moving on to the inspiration to my usual non sequiteur of a title, 'I Pity the Fool'. It's your typical 12 bar blues moving along at its own pace. However, Bland is just like Sam Cooke. He can transcend the most simple of material and turn into gold. Remember some of those awful tunes that Cooke had to sing such as the jailbait lovin' 'Only Sixteen', the bland 'Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha' and the simplistic 'Win Your Love'. In anyone elses hands, they would surely (well maybe not 'Win Your Love') be mocked as either perverted or formulaic. But he turned them into flawed works of art with his unbelievable grasp of how to deliver with a perfect idea of pitch and measure. You just have to hear Bobby Bland's voice. I've heard it compared to a rasp before but I feel that's a swing and a miss. He definitely can't hear the high notes and in 'Cry, Cry, Cry' you can hear the faint trace of lisp but the way that he emotes lyrics that he didn't even right is incredible. He shouts, hisses and spits without ever losing control. Often losing control is the easiest way out
but only the true greats don't deign themselves to such easy fixes.

Post-Script: Just remembered that Sam actually wrote most of those songs; the man was a great arranger as well as one of the greatest ever singers. His lyrics sucked sometimes though. Rough meet smooth.

Buy - Bobby Bland - The Anthology

Monday, June 27, 2005

John Barleycorn Is Back and Mighty Pissed Off

Wheat

Wheat - Hope and Adams (Sugar Free, 1999)

Wheat - Raised Ranch Revolution
Wheat - Body Talk (Part 1)
Wheat - San Diego
Wheat - More Than You'll Ever Know
Wheat - Who's the One

Well, the new name has been decided. I am now Lightning Kingfisher. Why? Because it's a bloody stupid name in what is the start of a farcical era of job applications and subsequent rejections (although thanks to Dick for his suggestions that were mulled over but ultimately discarded). Also, it makes me sound like a Bond villain which I secretly enjoy despite loathing the Bond series as a jingoistic relic of a bygone era of chauvinism in English cinema. The man's dick should have fallen off by now too. Maybe that could be the next film's plot - James Bond fighting agains the clock to cure his debilitating syphillis so that he can get back to rutting anonymous ladies as soon as possible. Please send in prospective film titles for my amusement.
So we move from the ludicrous to the sublime with my offering of the second long player by Massachusett's Wheat. Yes, all of those who've investigated the back pages of Adventures... will know that I've already done a "post" on Wheat which in my eyes in a half-finished abomination that I have already apologised for. Don't bother finding it - all the tracks are available at their web page which also features entire live shows! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
First off, 'Raised Ranch Revolution' is one of the best tracks on one of the pantheons of indie pop. In other words, it not only rocks the casbah but adds in a bit of roll and tumble too. It begins with the usual click of snare and arching fuzz guitars until Scott begins his poetic drawl that appears to take the song's title literally; it's White Riot if only Notting Hill had been in a huff about ranch dressing. The song is a perfect example of what makes this band so amazing. The song is just under five minutes long and contains only six lines of relatively vague words that
always end up applying to any individual who listens to them. These boys have discovered the elixir of musical growth and prosperity! it may be a sham but like the great work of PT Barnum you're instantly drawn in to it never to escape until you become a lone maniac constantly shouting "They can't have used mirrors. I saw it happen!". When it finally reaches the end with its simple piano chords, it's as if its laughing at you with a victorious sneer of "That song was only three chords but didn't we make it seem like the greatest music upon the planet?". The bastards.
I mean I remember first hearing Wheat played on Triple J (Australia's head alternative music station) around five years ago and that walk home with my headphones in my ears so transfixed by the music emanating from them it was if I drifting outside by body as it plodded through suburban streets and past empty jungle gyms. Lester Bangs always said that "horrific nosie" was the music that only ever made him feel like not killing himself. Now, I certainly have never sported such nihilistic tendencies as the great man but I do feel like the "glorious noise" that emanates from this album makes feel even more alive. And surely that's something that I'd like to pass on to you, my faithful readership.
'San Diego' is another case in point with computer game bleeps on the synth before the familiar guitar sound and the words "Your love is a parking lot" as the aforementioned guitars begin to hiss and spit with noise that although atonal and disfigured somehow fits into the overall vision of the song. It mirrors an aesthetic which is anti-Spector in its belief in the quality retained by musical imperfections; such imperfections are a constant within life unlike some of pop's candyfloss confections thus making the music more vibrant in its sheer humanity. 'San Diego' also highlights the main flaw behind Wheat that would become all too apparent on their last studio effort "Per Second..."; the double edged sword that is Dave Fridmann's overproduction. It allows for the music to echo in its sparsity creating that specific Wheat sound but somehow at the same time manages to throw in too many unwanted elements. Why the strings??? Yes, they're nice but personally I would have preferred the simple synth bleeps that you can hear in the background intertwined with a simple guitar motif. As so often happens when I find myself confronted by orchestral arrangements in such music, the word "bludgeon" comes to mind. However, at 2.20 there is this absolutely bizarre synth fart that seems to go nowhere in any form of coherent direction other than all over the place. Naturally, I love it.
The good work is continued consistently throughout the album with not a single duff track and I would have included the track for which Wheat are best known 'Don't I Hold You', their most commercial offering from this release, but you can get it on their website for free. 'Don't I Hold You' isn't the best song though in my opinion with that honour going to 'Body Talk (Part One)' with a lyric that doesn't say much but what it does say is so key note perfect that it makes it a classic. The piano and acoustic guitar are slightly Dawson's Creek but the rhythm is slowed down so much and accompanied by multitracked shouts of "Right On!" following each statement of "I feel so low" that I don't ever know if I've just walked straight into a parody. The canter of the two fingered piano riff as the song builds toward its end crescendo brings you back to earth with a thud though. It's not a parody but has managed to tap into mainstream musical archetypes whilst remaining so blatantly left field in its instrumentation to an extent that is just mind-boggling. In 'Body Talk (Part Two)' they even begin to nick from the mainstream artists that went before them with "Goodybe Rosie, Queen of Corona" (a blatant steal from 'Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard'). They even begin to adopt Simon's 'Obvious Child' drumbeat for 'More Than You'll Ever Know' but drown it in so much noise that it starts to sound like Radiohead covering the Stooges. Are those drums just on a continuous tape loop? Whatever the band did, it's an intoxicating mixture.
As you can tell from my eulogising tone, Wheat are now rather defunct after legal problems with their record label led to personal differences. Their guitarist Ricky Brennan is in a new band called Duresse who don;t sound too bad from their demos. Check them out.
PS - Have just been informed that The Graduate would be a good name. Yes it would... poo. I've purchased a lovely eyepatch to go with my new persona and cannot find the receipt. Guess I will have to continue the farce at present.

Visit - Wheat Music
Visit - Duresse

Friday, June 24, 2005

This Peacock Has Flown

Todd

Todd Rundgren - Todd (Bearsville, 1974)

Todd Rundgren - Heavy Metal Kids
Todd Rundgren - Everybody's Going to Heaven/King Kong Reggae
Todd Rundgren - Izzat Love?
Todd Rundgren - Sons of 1984

How did this post come to be? Well, it all stemmed from a conversation between my lovely lady and I where she asked of me if I could have one tattoo where would it be and what would it represent. After much thought and contemplation, I resolved that I would permanently scar the skin of my forearm for no aesthetic reason with the words "Todd is God" is celtic script. How cool would that be? My adoaration of things Rundgren encompassed by a single futile gesture of self-harm mirroring the man's refusal to live the easy, clean life. He is a man who has, in the eyes of many, frequently thrown away the chance of superstardom in pursuing a higher art musical art form. The peacock-esque costume whilst performing 'Hello It's Me' on Midnight Special, the accapella and bossa nova albums, the Gilbert and Sullivan covers, the flare-ups with Andy Partridge whilst Skylarking, Bebe Beull, Utopia... the man has done it all. That's probably why I have so much admiration for his work and take such pleasure in his recent comeback with the strange electro-pop album that was 'Liars'.
Why did I choose his 1974 double album that, if possible, is even more impregnable and plain difficult than his lollipop psychedelic classic 'A Wizard, A True Star'? Errrr, all my other Todd CDs are at home. Sorry, it's not very scientific but I have a deep affection for this album. Personally, I must have only listened to it once within the first year I bought it but then one day forced myself to walk round town with it on my CD walkman. The thing grows on you like a particularly brand of fungal infection. Initially irritating, it becomes a strange yet constant companion. I'll be the first to admit that it should really be listened to in one big swallow but it does have some hidden gems that can be listened independent of its Hieronymous Bosch vision. Warped evil shapes forming an eerie whole - it's almost gestalt in its construction.
But away from the horrible long words that attempt to make me seem much smarter than I actually am. Onwards to the bastions of the double album; the possible singles and the prog-metal guitar noodling! 'Izzat Love?' and 'Sons of 1984' represent the singles market, and 'Heavy Metal Kids' and 'Everybody's Going to Heaven/King Kong Reggae' the prog corner.
'Sons of 1984' was the originator of the idea of a live performance where the audience has been taught to sing the song's chorus. Ha! And you all thought that Elbow's 'Grace Under Pressure' was innovative. Also, Elbow didn't create a song filled with stomping horns and a great little piano riff. Admittedly, even Todd has admitted that the idea of crowd participation didn't quite work and probably prevented the song from being his new 'Just One Victory' but at least it doesn't descend to seeking permanence to its message by "clever" use of the word fuck. Central Park 1, Glastonbury 0. Apparently, Rundgren thought of possibly doing an entire album like this; in doing so creating a truely proletarian album. Sung by the masses for the masses. Orwell would have been proud of such a vision especially after hearing Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs' and its stultified, retro-chic 1984isms.
'Izzat Love' is comparison to 'Sons...' is relatively simple steering away from gospel textures to the blissful pop of 'Something/Anything?' and in doing so almost resembles a re-write of the King/Goffin pastiche ' I Saw the Light'. How the man manages this with just synths, drums and his own sweet as honey multi-tracked vocals is beyond me. The lyric is simple yet effective with its opening platitudes of "Izzat love, what I feel when you're in my arms?/Make me die before I do you harm". The trick seems to be a sleight of hand where the man actually means exactly what he's saying - a rarity in pop - and due to his sheer musicianship, he not only creates his feelings through his words but also his music with the featherlight chug of organ, snapping snares and brief handclaps.
Sailing on from perfect pop, we move toward scuzzy hard rock. I mean 'Heavy Metal Kids' ain't jus' bein' a smart-ass name. Punchy power chords. Check. Plodding bass. Check. Tumbling toms. Check. Electrifying blues soloing that would make Clapton and Beck both cream their collective jeans. Check. Lyrics regarding the world conservation and societal entropy with allusions to pipe bombs, Sherman Tanks and teenage rebellion. Check. Yeah, it's definitely a favourite with its shrouding of macabre content with a conventional wrapping. The guitar work is just scintillating.
Yet, 'Everybody's Going to Heaven...' manages to eclipse it in every single way with its face melting opening salvo of heavy riffing and clashing cymbals leading toward a quagmire of a slow boogie. Then Todd opens his mouth and out comes probably his best ever lyric that doesn't centre itself on the perils of the lovestruck heart. It instead shapes up as an introspective examination of a man on the precipice of depression with his ultimate conclusion that "Everybody's goin' to Heaven/'Cause already we've all been through Hell". It manages to create a song that speaks of death without ever meeting the bloated opulence of whimsy, nostalgia or nihilism - a tradition started by men such as Johnny Cash and carried on by such troubadours as Nick Cave. So here we have it. A fantastic slice of prog rock with a decent lyric to boot so what does our man Todd do. Halfway through the songs crasehes into a squelchy stab at nonsense reggae talking about "A big monkey doin; the King Kong Reggae". He ruins the song! And you know something, I absolutely love it. It's such a thrill to find an artist not afraid to not only straddle genres but to stick in the spurs and ride that buckin' bronco as best they can. Sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed but at least everyone had a good time whilst you were at it.
Next time, I might have an interview with David Dewese, member of the Nash-Pop outfits the Foxymorons and The Luxury Liners. I've sent him the questions. All he has to add are monosyllabic answers and we'll be set! Also, I;m thinking of changing my name from The Finalist. I was thinking, in honour of another of the greatest multi-instrumentalist/enigmas of all time, my monicker could be The Blogger Formerly Known As... Any opinions on this?

Buy - Todd Rundgren - Todd
Visit - Todd's Website (try and sit through the entire flash sequence... it's an education)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Everybody's Got Something to Hide 'Cept Me and Peter Tork

Monkees

The Monkees - The Definitive Monkees (Rhino, 2002)

The Monkees - (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
The Monkees - For Pete's Sake
The Monkees - Randy Scouse Git
The Monkees - Words
The Monkees - Cuddly Toy

Apologies for no post on Monday. Was in Glasgow. Got my results for my entire University carrer and am pleased/vexed to announce that I received a 2:2 degree in Law with Politics at the Univeristy of Durham. This is mainly due to my spending the entire 2nd year eating pasta, playing Prince of Persia (or Burnout 2 dependent on my mood) and going out. Yes, I was an idiot then. As a result of this news I have finished off half a bottle of wine with my lovely lady and thus must seek forgiveness for the rest of this post.
Why was '(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone' covered by both the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols? Because it's the greatest garage single ever released. Fuck '96 Tears', 'Lies' and 'Stryichnine'. 'Steppin' Stone' should have been the first port of call for all the teeny boppers currently polluting the airwaves including the Cheeto-bearing Mrs Spears, Jackass-banging Mrs Simpson and the omnipresent victim of all cultural viruses infecting this gigantic stress ball known as Earth Ms Lohan. Lavigne would be included in this list but her nouveau punk chic is so unbearably grating that it is probably best not to give her fuel for her continued existence.
The other day, 'I Love Rock n' Roll' began blasting out from a revival DJ at the local discotek (sic) creating an orgy of dancing, kissing and off-key singing. Why of all songs has this been chosen as an iconic anthem with its shallow Bob Seger-lovin' bar room prejudices winking the proverbial eye at classic rock's sagnant traditions. "Put another dime in the jukebox baby"? With a quarter of the balls of the Runaways 'Cherry Bomb' and its repetitive riff destroying brain cells faster than a quart of JD, what does such an evil basilisk offer to the general public? Nothing is the answer. 'Stepping' Stone' is the antithesis to such whimsical offerings as Joan Jetts. It's sparkling organ line instantly draws you in before the band begins singing the rambunctious chorus extending "I'm" towards the realm of a Scouse growl or the mewing of a wounded sacred cow. This is an instant shout against the De Barres establishment of the groupie and the hanger-on - the most rightfully despised and loved oxymoronic institution still present within the insittutional walls of rock n' roll. The Monkees are keeping the red snapper on the table, babe, and you're going to know that straight from the off.
And that's just the intro! The body blow before the devastating molar dislodging right uppercut that is Mickey Dolenz's snarling vocal. I don't care that the Monkees were a front for a bunch of faceless session musicians to start with. Is Glen Campbell ridiculed for his partenrship with the great Jimmy Webb? No. And why? Because together they created, with Webb's simple words and Campbell's mink tongue, some of the greatest songs ever to be placed on record. The same goes for Dolenz's vocal track on this record. Boyce/Hart may have created the words but Dolenz delivers them with gusto despite his refusal to descend into comic spits and curses. It's the suburban boy gone bad and you better get out his way. When it finally get to the point when he shouts "Oh no girl not me" you've fallen in love with a song that you have no right to. It's acerbic guitar, pounding toms, and echoing backing vocals make it an essential addition to any Nuggets' themed compilation.
Peter Tork has a co-write on 'For Pete's Sake', the opening track on Side B of their third album 'Headquarters' and it is superb. Dolenz yet again contributes lead vocals and hearing it you realise how fully he encompassed the character of 'Steppin' Stone'. Now, he becomes the clean crooner within the song's pop 'My Generation' framework with its simplistic free love equation equalling freedom. It's rhetoric is simplistic but that never seems to detract from any specific element of the song. Also, placed in conjunction with the song's title, it takes on a charming form looking for a kind of understanding that it can't believe that others haven't realised. A 60's 'Do You Realise?' if you will but rather than shouting "Your eyes are beautiful! Accept the bloody compliment!" it develops into into a plea for rationality than never descends ito the illogicallity of Sir Bob (supposed purveyors of all that is good and righteous).
'Randy Scouse Git' and 'Cuddly Toy' both receive a hoozah for their psychedelic meanderings and Nilsson covers respectively showing how diverse the 'Fab Four' (I can use that term if I want. When it finally becomes trademarked THEN you can sue me) could be. From dense yet well constructed musical experimentations to child like ditties they excelled that everything. Even pseudo-scatting. The Monkees invented Americana with 'You Just May Be the One'! It may not be strictly true (it could do with a slightly stripped down arrangement) but it still sounds bloody impressive. Hands up if you want hear Calexico cover the Monkees? That's what I thought. I'd better start an internet petition.
So we come to the last song 'Words', b-side of the eternally misunderstand vitriolic blast of 'Pleasant Valley Sunday'. It's chamber-pop sensibilities create a phenomenal tune that points toward complex Wilsonian pop arrangements but never falls to twee sentimentalities bluntly hammering away at its avarice fuelled subject. Every time the title is cried in this song I get artic chills down my spine. This song deserves a hell of a lot of recognition that no one seems whant to give it because of its associations with a band that are unviersally regaled as frauds. Well, I'm saying it now. If you put this song in the blue corner and a lot of new garage tunes by bands like The Strokes and The Libertines, the ref would have to stop the fight before it even reached the second round. The dual lead vocal parts, the deep echo, the bass trembling as it is consumed with hate and fear, the shuffling drums... it is magnificent. Wait a minute, what's that? Perusing the credits I've discovered something fascinating. Tork, Dolenz, Jones and Nesmith are listed as all playing the lead parts on this song. Hahahahaha. Well maybe that's 60s pop's greatest joke (other than Nancy Sinatra's newly recovered fame based on a spare death ballad). The Monkees rocked! Learn for yourselves 'cause I'm officially spent and off to consume some Lambs Navy's best rum.

Buy - The Monkees - The Definitive...

Friday, June 17, 2005

James Taylor Marked For Death

MC5

The MC5 - The Big Bang! The Best of... (Rhino, 2000)

The MC5 - I Can Only Give You Everything
The MC5 - Ramblin' Rose
The MC5 - Teenage Lust
The MC5 - The Human Being Lawnmower
The MC5 - Sister Anne
The MC5 - Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)

I've been flitting in and out of reading Lester Bangs's 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung' recently in my post-exam haze and he is indeed one of the finest writers I've ever come across. In his drug induced mania, he shoots off on existential tangents about the injustice found within bargain bins whilst talking about the Count Five and his "pre-balling years" accompanied by his pubescent fetish for female calves when he should rightly be deconstructing 'Wild Thing' by The Troggs. It's like pure adrenaline and as such has been relegated to small doses so far but when I journey up to Glasgow this Sunday I think that I'm going to have the best train ride ever accompanied by my lightweight tome.
In reading Bangs, I found that in his search for the base level zero on which all music rests and a band that acheives the essentail goal of stripping its sound down to that "troglodyte" level that in the process he keeps coming back to two of Detroit's ancestral primiteevs; the Stooges and the MC5. Now I saw the resurrected MC5/DKT at Reading Festival last year and I must say that with Mudhoney's Mark Arm shaking his tambourine, the Bellray's Lisa Kekaula bringing the old school soul holler and Wayne Kramer just being plain cool as fuck that they were the greatest live act that I have seen and will probably ever see.
Admittedly, I haven't included my personal favourite from their set - 'Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)' with its instinctual cry of "I'm the man for ya!" that I can just imagine made the great Bangs' hair stand on end. This is due to my belief that the Kick Out the Jams version somehow doesn't do it justice. Don't get me wrong; I love the late great Rob Tyner (not to the extent to berate the existence of DKT like some small minded journalists have tended towards - yes I'm looking at you arsehole who wrote that MC5 DVD review in Mojo... hippy) but his delivery on that version bends too much toward a generic Kick Out the Jams rip-off. Something that can never be said in regard to his attempt at falsetto on 'Ramblin' Rose', a song whose chorus does full justic to the existence of the metaphor "hit by a sledgehammer". Wow, what a song.
Two of the songs here are taken off the wildly reviled, Jon "I Saw the Future of Rock n' Roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen" Landau produced sophomore effort 'Back in the USA'. At the time, it was seen far too polished and admittedly, 'Teenage Lust' does tend toward a tightened up form of British Invasion pop that I personally really dig (for example, I L-O-V-E Shake Some Action era Flamin' Groovies material). 'The Human Being Lawnmower', on the other hand, is like nothing you've heard in your life with the drums all other the place except where they should be, Fred 'Sonic' Smith and Kramer's guitar screeching out blasphemous tones intertwining like a paralytic Thin Lizzy and the bit at 1.44 where it all begins to sound like a helicopter landing in Charlie infested jungle.
As you can tell, I adore the 5 but I haven't even gotten started regarding a song whose first 5 minutes and 48 seconds should be labelled in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame under ' How to Rock Your Face Off'. When I hear it, I can just imagine Rob Tyner pacing the stage, hips shakin', afro sweat weighin down his head, until he became an uncontrollable mass of nerves pulsing at the exact frequency of the lay lines wrapping this hunk of rock we call Earth. As a result, if you do one thing download this song with its dual harmonica workout, boogie piano, "soul sister, brown sugar" backup singers and its chugging guitars that shouldn't be as jaw droppingly unbelievable as it so obviously is. Sometimes, the overly busy nature of a song that sounds like a drunken busload of musicians has been ferried into the recording studio can emanate such a vibe so succinctly that it's incomparable even by modern standards. Maybe that's why the 5, due to their inherently self-destructive nature, decided to ruin it so badly with that odd parping horn bollocks at the end. 'Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)' ain't too shabby either with its movement toward African rhythms overlaid by a goddamn brilliant guitar riff and then THAT horn breakdown. Both are key reasons to purchase the MC5's last effort before initially disbanding in 1972 - 'High Time'.

Buy - The MC5 - The Big Bang
Buy - Lester Bangs - Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

If Only I Had A Musical Brain

Showroom

Showroom - The World Is Too Much With Us (Independent Release, 2005)

Showroom - Clarity
Showroom - Fighting Words
Showroom - The Residence of Ben
Showroom - Paradise Misplaced
Showroom - Lonely Crowd

Indie rock is such a vague term isn't it? It alludes to angst, distorted guitars, plonking bass and a general aura of the ordinary and unexceptional. It would the modern day pub rock if bands such as the Libertines didn't continue to lift that long forgotten institutions flag aloft against all expectations. However, sometimes from this deep peat bog of laudable workmanship and its intrinsic bedfellow of blandness some fantastic bands can emerge. One of those bands are the Canadian outfit Showroom - the darlings of the fantastic institution that is Download.com.
Why is this? Well, I lay the credit mainly at the feet of their vocalist Ben Hutchinson whose unabated call to arms, even in the relatively lightweight 'Residence of Ben', turns all of the band's admittedly solid playing into stadium ready anthems. The blogosphere at the moment is rife with discussion of Coldplay and their latest effort (which I have stayed well clear of) and in doing so have forgotten that the band's music is carried by the charisma of Chris Martin. Bands such as Showroom can more than equal Coldplay's with 'Lonely Crowd' sounding like 'Clocks' but with a crunchier mix. Where bands end up on the ladder of success is all ultimately dependent on luck as much as skill and is that not why we as mp3 blogs exist? To inform people of bands worthy of their attention rather than endlessly recycling illegal streams and mp3s of bands that they already know of. Not that I don't believe in some discussion of major label acts - I especially enjoyed Scenestars' examination of X & Y - but sometimes I find some blogs increasingly grating in their refusal to dig slightly deeper. I hope that Adventures... will never be accused of becoming staid and predictable because when it is I'll probably quit.
Wow - didn't expect that diatribe to tumble out. Back to the music, 'Fighting Words' is my favourite of the bunch with its tumbling guitar intro leading the listener toward its cracking and simple drumbeat and ultimately Hutchinson's pro-Bono tribal yell. "Heel bitch" indeed. 'Residence of Ben' is on regular play as well albeit due to its relative quirkiness with its lyrics taking the form of an answer phone message and a guitar part reminiscent of vintage Marr.
Nervous Acid has called it a day. Shame as I was just beginning to really like it. Am loving the team at Last Night AN Mp3 Stole My Wife. Friday's mixed bag was superb with the macabre Mr Zevon married with the insane Mr Cope and the talismanic Mr Cole. They say hello to me too in their links and my comments as well which is always nice.

Visit - Showroom
Buy - Showroom - The World Is Too Much With Us

Monday, June 13, 2005

Rockin' the Swan and Three

Parker

Graham Parker and the Rumour - Pumpin' It Out (Deleted Aussie Import)

Graham Parker - Back Door Love
Graham Parker - Problem Child
Graham Parker - White Honey
Graham Parker - Stick to Me
Graham Parker - Heat Treatment

Whilst cruising through the record shops in Newcastle the other day I managed to steer my girlfriend and I into a vinyl store where I proceeded to spend five minutes intently perusing a sinlge vinyl record sleeve. Which record you ask? Why it was Graham Parker's 1977 effort 'Stick to Me'. What an album it is too with its incendiary title track, the loose shuffle on 'The Heat in Harlem' and the playfulness of 'The New York Shuffle' whose basic boogie could have been rather flacid in a lesser band than the Rumour's hands.
Parker often becomes embroiled in comparisons with pub rock and the late 70s Canvey Island pub rock scene of Ian Dury (a wonderful songsmith in his own right) and Dr Feelgood which I find rather unfair. He creates a fantastically tight form of R & B with fluid rhythms, taut solos and an acerbic vocal style. Even nowadays, Parker continues to perforem unabated by musical changes and still sounds as fresh and important as ever.
Of the five tracks I've put up for a gander, 'Stick to Me' is definitely my favourite with 'White Honey' and 'Back Door Love' not-so-close seconds which saying a lot when you hear how wonderful 'Stick...' is. With its biting strings, electricfying chorus and pulsing horns no other song from that era will ever equal it in intensity. Listen to it right this minute and wonder why you haven't heard Parker's name before.
On a quick side note, check out Moistworks's post on EC's Armed Forces. It's fantastic.

Buy - Graham Parker and the Rumour - Stick to Me

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cardinal Davies Sings the Best Yankee Hits

Davies

Richard Davies - Telegraph (Blue Rose, 1998)

Richard Davies - Cantina
Richard Davies - Papillon
Richard Davies - Main Street Electrical Parade
Richard Davies - Days to Remember

In honour of the wonderful people at Borrowed Tunes and their recent post on the brief collaborative project between Eric Matthews and Richard Davies, 'Cardinal', has led me to pull my finger out and post my one album by Richard Davies.
I actually purchased this album as a result of browsing Allmusic and discovering the link between Matthews, whose album It's Heavy in Here is a firm favourite of mine, and Davies. The fact that I only cost £1.99 sweetened the deal even more. For some reason, the album has been on low rotation since my purchasing it so I personally haven't been able to really get firm handle on it just yet. I do know that I definitely like it but am not yet sure if I can ever fall in love with it like I have done so with so many other records (I'm a record slut).
Davies's doesn't possess the honeyed vocals of Matthews nor does he attempt to hide his clear Australian twang resulting in a rather bizarre yet clearly likeable vocal style that sits uncertainly with the delightful acoustic based song structures that he can often pull out of his magic hat. For example, 'Main Street Electrical Parade' has an several acoustic picking patterns (can't quite put my finger on how many but there's definitely more than one) to drive the song which is augmented by unobtrusive slide electric and finally a bit of honky tonk piano. On the face of it, the song could have been played relatively simply on one acoustic but Davies adds to it with welcome light touches giving the arrangment that extra little something.
It is also a welcome sign that he doesn't feel the need to flesh out his songs with the simple fix of orchestral arrangements. I am ready to concede that the reliance upon strings can really turn
what would normally be a good song into a great song. However, I feel that, more often than not, orchestral arrangements are played far too heavy handed drowning the melody with noise leading into bloated monsters worthy of no-one's time. Davies pulls out a fugel horn on the album's two closing tracks, heard on 'Days to Remember', but thats as far as it goes.
'Cantina', released as a single, has to be my favourite track on the album with its propulsive drum beat (very in tone and rhythm to that of Wheat's 'World United Already' which I've previously posted) and spiralling yet controlled guitar lines. It's a real pop gem and when the vocals finally kick in you can't help but appreciate that you're listening to something worth a lot more than £1.99 + P&P. Actually, listening to 'Cantina' again as I write this, I think that this album and I have begun the start of a beautiful friendship.

Buy - Richard Davies - Telegraph

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Successful Side Saddle Summer Songs AKA Alliteration is Fun!

Defense

The Autumn Defense - Circles (Cooking Vinyl, 2003)

The Autumn Defense - Circles
The Autumn Defense - The Sun in California
The Autumn Defense - Why I'm Like This

The Autumn Defense - The Green Hour (Broadmoor Records, 2001)

The Autumn Defense - Long Forgotten Love
The Autumn Defense - This Kind of Day

Ok - a speed post because I have to get going to the suits and boots affair celebrating exams' end. So here goes:
The Autumn Defense... two guys... one = Wilco's bassist... Jeff Tweedy guests... described as "coma rock"/Americana... silly, silly pigeonholing... subtle acoustic landscaping... highly soothing... prefer it to the insomnia inducing alternatives (Frou Frou - I'm looking at you)... 2nd album slightly less experimental and therefore more accessible than the first... plenty of other mp3s in the 'albums' section on their great site... love every single track I've heard by them... opinions in the comments section please. And done! Another speed blog spectacular brought to you by Finalist-vision.

Visit - The Autumn Defense
Buy - The Autumn Defense - Circles

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spongebob Should Have a Starfish Hospital

Paperbacks

The Paperbacks - An Episode of Sparrows (Pshaw!, 2003)


The Paperbacks - Bridge
The Paperbacks - Plans in Advance

Canada - land of the free, the French and the most unbelievable crop of brilliant bands since dear ol' Blighty back in the 60s. Yes, The Paperbacks are Canadian and a new favourite of mine. Kudos to The Weakerthans for linking to their site (which now appears to be going through reconstructive surgery).
The two above tracks are taken of their latest effort, 'An Episode of Sparrows', but I must state before going on that the entire album is streamed on their page at New Music Canada with 'Who Will Run the Starfish Hospital' and 'The New Poverty' two firm favourites of mine. The sound that they create could be lazily branded as emo with Doug McLean (the band's major songwriter) possessing a very similar vocal style to Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins. However, where bands such as Jimmy... can dive off into tangents buried by vague lyrical concepts and overdriven guitars, the Paperbacks refuse to follow that path constantly staying within range of their pop sensibilities. They even find themselves upon the curiously inviting void that is twee jangle pop before pulling themselves away from the brink. Actually thinking about it they remind me of Zumpano except without the erratic nature that made that band so intoxicating. The New Pornographers may have left Zumpano's rotting corpse to fester (lovely imagery, no?) so that they could pursue its more bubblegum sensibilities but I think that The Paperbacks could well take over Zumpano's throne with a little help from their friends. And possibly some Febreze.
Been having fun post-exams so far. Won a music quiz in the city yesterday despite not recognising the intro to 'The Sunshine of my Life' which was irksome and, on my return from the aforementioned victory, we spied a mobile Cat neuteuring vehicle cum ambulance (arrgh just realised that pun!) which gave me a good chuckle. Beer festival yesterday too with much German wiesse beer and crisp Japanese lager. Yummy. More Locksley demos on You Ain't No Picasso. Ultra yum.
Next time - Wilco's bassist makes purty music not-so-much-of-a-shocker.

Visit - The Paperbacks (New Music Canada) and stream the entire album
Buy - The Paperbacks - An Episode of Sparrows

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Finalist No Longer

Pearls

The Pearlfishers - The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies (Marina Records, 2002)

The Pearlfishers - Cherry Sky
The Pearlfishers - Sugar Mountain Babies
The Pearlfishers - Banana Sandwich
The Pearlfishers - Waiting on the Flood

My Dad, for some reason beyond me, says that the first five tracks of 'Get Born' by Jet are the best opening to an album in the past ten years or so. I love him but The Pearlfishers' 'Strange Underworld...' is one of the key examples as to why he is so wrong.
Released in 1997, the debut on Marina Records by this Scottish duo has to be the perfect summer album, along with The Pernice Brothers 'The World Won't End' and The Beach Boys' 'Sunflower' to name a few. 'Strange Underworld...' is the debut by the band with two albums and a Christmas EP released since. You can check out the whole history of the band on their website. They can tell it much better than I.
The Pearlfishers are often compared to 70s acts such as The Beach Boys, The Raspberries and Todd Rundgren (they recorded a song called 'Todd is God', a favourite of mine as I share the same sentiment) and 90s power pop acts such as the legendary Jellyfish. This is mainly derived from their chiming guitars and intelligent, sweeping arrangements. As a result, their music is overpowering in its emotional impact and never stultified by too much busyness going on in the mix. The perfect example has to be 'Waiting on the Flood' with David Scott's magnificent delivery that whenever he sings the word 'love' tears immediately spring to my eyes. Scott reminds me of Danny Wilson's Gary Clark which isn;t really surprising as both are Scottish (highly recommend people check out Clark's short side project King L whose one album was superb). 'Banana Sandwich' wants to make me skip for no apparent reason which can only be a good thing unless it springs to mind at a highly embarrasing moment. 'Cherry Sky' starts off slowly with a simple plonking organ riff until joined by a loping bass line, superb vocal harmonies and horns to create a real power pop gem. The chorus is just wonderful. 'Sugar Mountain Babies', on the other hand, is a simple acoustic number supported by delicately placed strings and charming lyrical couplets such as "we were in love in the belly of summer/warmed by the honeyed wildness of the sun". I like Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian but to think that they are so ardently loved and the Pearlfishers so roundly ignored is jaw dropping. Download all these songs and fall in love with them as I've done.
By the way, had my last exam today and am enjoying a celebratory rum and coke. Yay! Check out Dodge's recent post on Cory Branan and the song 'Skateland South' - enchanting half sketches masquerading as songs with some stunning lyrical conceits. Putting your crush's name instead of yours when you reach the high score on an arcade game is such a disarmingly romantic concept that you can't help smiling. Like I've said before, sometimes all you want is something to brighten your day and both acts do just that.

Buy - The Pearlfishers - The Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies
Visit - The Excellent Pearlfishers' Site (song explanations and everything!)