Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Coming Clean or Ten Bands/Artists I Wish I Liked More Than I Do

Most people know there are three major bands whose music I am not a fan of at all: Led Zeppelin, Rush, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I won't get into specifics about what I don't like about each band's music, although in the case of RHCP it should be obvious, but after all these years I am secure in my feelings towards them.
There are however a couple bands and artists I am not secure in my feelings about. There are some bands and artists that for reasons such being so influenical or supportive to bands I do like, or bands that have overcome hardships to make good music, or even bands that just have an overall reputation of being nice guys. I just feel really bad about not liking their music.
Here are Ten of Them

Guided by Voices - the quintessential music geek band. I recently went through all their albums, eps, singles etc on Spotify, oldest to newest making a playlist of songs I liked.There ended up being 39 of them. 13 of the, from the Under the Bushes Under the Stars album.This is also the only album by them I have owned a physical copy of but even that was because I found a copy among a bunch of promos that were supposed to go to a much larger local chain store with initials K.M..39 might seem like a decent number of songs but too put it into little perspective Guided By Voices has hundreds of albums, eps, etc. So that's 39 out of about 400 songs.

The Fall - Probably my biggest disappointment in not liking a band since they are so seminal and influenced so many bands I do enjoy. I tried the Guided By Voices Spotify trick and ended up with one song on the playlist: Their cover of The Kinks "Victoria",which I knew I liked years ago when it was on 120 Minutes making me rush out to buy all those Fall albums I would later be selling back to the used record store. 

The Jesus and Mary Chain - I loved their feedback drenched debut album Psychocandy since the first day I heard it after hearing the band on theSome Kind of Wonderful soundtrack. Unfortunately I think the next two albums Darklands and Automatic were just the band trying to make more accessible versions of their debut. I honestly lost interest in them after that so I can't really comment of the next couple of records. But Psychocandy  (and the b-sides comp Barbed Wired Kisses) will always be in my regular rotation

Pavement - Their debut album Slanted and Enchanted is awesome (Surprisingly very influenced by The Fall too) I think I wore out multiple copies of the album. I was also lucky enough to see them on that tour and will always be happy I got to see them before they blew up. Except for that album and about half the songs off of the follow up Crooked Rain,Crooked Rain, I just can't get into them. They sound so...lazy and disinterested in what they are playing. I know that's kind of their thing but it's not mine 

Johnny Cash - The cat is really out of the bag for this one. I really like his
history and I made sure to visit Sun Studios when I was in Memphis. I think I even wore black for a year because I thought it was so cool he dressed that way. But when it comes down to it, the songs I like by him would take up half of a 90 minute cassette, with most of the songs recorded before 1960. I know his sound is supposed to be like the rhythm of a train or something but it's just a little to slow for me. When I listen, I just want to give him a little push.Those songs just make me want to give him a push to speed it up. Also I really can't stand his version of "Hurt" 

New York Dolls - I may be the only person who’s prefers David Johanson in his Buster Poindexter persona over his work as vocalist for the New York City proto-punk/glam band. There is something about their sound that I just find too basic and kind of boring. David Sounds like a second rate Mick Jagger (Although I have seen some early live footage where his voice sounds pretty powerful) and Johnny Thunders sounds so held back on guitar compared to what he would go to do in the Heartbreakers and (where I think he sounded the best) the short lived Gang War. I think the New York Dolls fall under one of those bands if I had heard them when their first album came out (which was 6 months after I was born) I would appreciate them a lot more. Now I have heard too many bands influenced but also that expanded on their sound. But there is always a chance my opinion may change. Johnny Thunders, with the Heartbreakers and solo, never really clicked with me until a few years ago. Now I listen to L.AM.F. and Gang War non-stop

Shudder to Think - Maybe as not near as a household name as the others on this list but growing up in the D.C.. area I always wanted to like the band more than I did. Their first couple releases I like a lot. They still sounded punk but with a lot of melody. Kind of like a more melodic, less intense Rites of Spring. But by the time Get Your Goat came out the "groove" was gone and the herky jerky "art-rock" had crept in. Over their next few albums they were probably one of the best bands out there but still to arty and choppy for me. I saw them circa 1993 at Maxwells in Hoboken and all though they did play "Red House" off of  Funeral at the Movies, what I remember most of the show was singer Craig Wedron reciting poetry between each song, which held the whole audience in awe and me looking at my watch to see how much time we had left on the meter 

Gang of Four - My favorite Gang of Four album is 1990's Mall. If you ask most Gang of Four fans they will pan
this album. Too be totally honest it really is not too special but I like it for nostalgic reasons, having been one of the first albums I purchased on compact disc

Public Image Ltd - We recently saw a documentary on John Lyndon and his post Sex Pistols band Public Image Ltd, or P.I.L. for short, at the TriBeCa Filmfest. Not only was the film pretty bad (it was a TrBeCa filmfest movie after all) but it made me realize how uneventful the band's career has been. So many people rave and rave about how awesome their second album, 1979's Second Edition (also known as Metal Box). I've tried many many times over the years and although guitar player Keith Levine's and bassist Jah Wobble turn in awesome performances, I just can't get past John Lydon's voice. Although it was perfect for The Sex Pistols, it just doesn't fit this music.

The Residents - The way this band got their name is one of my favorite “how the band got their name” stories. Years ago the band sent out a demo tape to a record label. The return label didn’t have a name on it so when the label sent back the rejected tape they addressed it to “The Residents”. Unfortunately that is all I like about the band. I mean I like the idea and history of the band. They’ve been around for 40+ years and no one knows their true identities because they wear those big eyeballs over their heads, which by the way seriously creep me out. But out of their zillion releases I can't bear one song. Someone told me once that that is the point. It's "Anti-Music). It;s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. Why would you want to listen to something like that?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Spring is here. The sun is shining and biking season is in full effect. For me this means it's time to dust off those harmony and hook filled Pop/Punk Lp's, CD, and Mp3's to smile and sing along while on bike rides around the city. 

Here are what what I consider-

The Top-15 Pop/Punk Albums of All-Time (with a Spotify Playlist w/ two songs from each album at the bottom of the post)
15) Sicko – Laugh While You Can Monkey Boy (1995, eMTy Records) – Washington State's Sicko debut album You Can Feel the Love In the Room will always be in my Top-25 favorite albums of all time but that album is a little too fast and manic to really be considered Pop/Punk. Their second album Chef-Boy-R-U-Dumb was good but it was on their third album where the smiles and pop hooks really came out. Eleven original songs of punk/pop bliss, with a cover of (Canadian band) Cub's "Little Star". They do have some fun with the faux-metal of "Weasel of Doom" hidden at the end of the album.

14) Consumed – Pistold at and Dawn (2002, Golf Records) – I actually passed over this album when it was originally released since their two Fat Wreck Chords releases to me sounded like sup par Screeching Weasel or NoFX albums. This was a major mistake. Pistols contains some of the thickest pop hooks and funny sarcastic lyrics I have heard. There have been times when I have listend to this album three times in a row.
13) Smoking Popes – Born to Quit (1995, Capital Records) – It's a shame this Chicago band often gets deemed a "One Hit Wonder" since they never really put our a bad album. From the rougher more punk sounding Get Fired to the "reunion" albums of the 2000's The Smoking Popes perfected their own brand of "Low Self-Esteem" pop/punk that significantly influenced another band on this list. Yes "Need You Around" is on this album but so are nine other pop/punk gems.
12) The Dickies – Incredible Shrinking Dickies (1979, A&M Records)- Is it okay to like The Dickies again? To perfectly capture the who experience of this legendary California band you have to listn to one of their (many) compilation albums, but again I don't include compilations in these lists. Out of their individual albums their debut takes the prize since there are so many songs that defined their sound ("Give it Back", "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla") and perfectly picked covers ("Sounds of Silence", "Paranoid")
11) The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About (1999, Vagrant Records) -Many people still consider The Get Up Kids an "Emo" band but I think by the time the Kansas City band released their second album Something to Write Home About all the "emo-ness" had been shed. Instead what is left is underappreciated pop/punk masterpiece.
10) Green Day – Dookie (1994, Reprise) – Of course Green Day would pop up on this list somewhere. Some people may feel their debut or Kerplunk! would be more deserving, and although Kerplunk! is definitely my favorite of their albums, Dookie is the pick since their debut was very good but still a little rough, and Kerplunk! is seriosuly brought down by the terrible "Dominated Love Slave". Their post Dookie albums I feel lean more to power/pop than punk. Plus when you think of the songs on this record tracks like "Basket Case", "When I Come Around", and "Longview" are always the first to come to mind. We often forget about such awesome numbers like "Coming Clean", "Sassafras Root", and the (better sounding than the version on Kerplunk! ) "Welcome to Paradise". I do have to add this album would be much higher on my list if it wasn't  for the terrible "All By Myself" that closes out the album
9) Chixdiggit! – S/T (1996, Sub Pop Records). A lot of people forget these Canadians released their first album on Sub Pop before settling on the Fat Wreck Chords owned label Honest Don's. This is actually one of the albums I have listened to the most out of any in my whole collection. Fifteen urgent songs in thirty minutes. Tons of fast guitars without a note our of place. Also almost every song mentions their mom..Such an upbeat fun album. Even when the band is trying to sound mean on "Angriest Young Men (We're The)" you have to smile while you sing along.
8) Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary (2001, Vagrant Records) – No I do not consider Alkaline Trio a pop/punk band but after they released two very good punk albums (Goddmmit and Maybe I'll Catch Fire) and before they began to form their "horror punk" image on the next album (my favorite Good Mourning) , they released a perfect pop/punk album in From Here To Infirmary. Pop hooks all over the place, with barely any horror lyrics in sight.
7) The Lillingtons – Death By Television (1998, Panic Button) – Although I am thanked on the Montana band's debut album Shit Out of Luck (they did a two night stint at my store on their first tour) I still think they really came into their own on the sophomore album Death By Television. Singer Cody's voice got stronger, the songs got faster, guitars got heavier, and the hooks got sharper. They also gained a more "sci-fi" theme to the songs after their first album dealt mostly with high school and girlfriends problems. After a couple more records Cody went on to sing for the pop/punk band Teenage Bottlerocket but The Lillingtons just got back together, released a new album and are touring at the end of the month.
6) The Undertones – S/T (1979, Sire)- On so many of these lists of best pop/punk albums I see people list Belfast's Stiff Little Finger's Inflammable Materials album listed. That is a great punk album but by no means is it a pop/punk album. But if you look a little west to Derry's The Undertones debut self-titled is one. "Family Entertainment", "Male Model", "Here Comes the Summer" "Get Over You" (which I first heard covered by another band on this list), and the seminal "Teenage Kicks", all delivered with singer Feargal Sharkey's one of a kind voice, pretty much invented the genre.  
5) Bracket - 924 Forrestville St (1994, Caroline) – Take the best song by Green Day and beef it up a bit. Take the best vocals of Stan Lee (Of The Dickies) and slow them down a bit. Add more hooks than almost any other band, make the music LOUD and you may get something close to the California band Bracket. Their debut album clocks it at a whopping (for a pop/punk album) 40 minutes but doesn't contain one note of filler. Definitely an underrated album by an underrated band. The album isn't available on Spotify or Apple Music (some of their other albums are) but try to find a copy or check it out on YouTube.
4) The Parasites – Pair of Sides and Punch Lines – (1990 and 1993, Shredder Records)- This will be the only time on the list where I cheat and list two albums together since both of them are equally awesome. Although The Parasites are now based in California, these two albums where released when the band was located in New Jersey. Fittingly so since when you listen to all the hook and harmony filled songs of these two albums you can picture the band playing them over and over again perfecting them in a suburban home garage somewhere in the Garden State. "Let Down" at the end of Punch Lines is in my Top-10 favorite songs of all-time but make sure you listen to it all the way until the end. For the full effect search out the rougher sounding version on the 7" version.  
Bayside – Sirens and Condolences (2004, Victory Records) – Bayside at this point in their career was a hard band to describe because they were so heavy, had so many hooks, thick riffs, and pretty somber vocals and lyrical subject matter. To me they sounded like the perfect mixture of Jawbreaker and The Smoking Popes.Everyone of the eleven songs on Sirens is perfect. They cheered up a bit on subsequent albums. 
3) The Mr T Experience – Making Things With Light (1990 Lookout! Records) – In my opinion The Mr T Experience sounded the best when they had two guitarists. Once Jon Von left the band in 1992 the band just didn't have the FULL sound. Plus the song or two Jon Von sang on each album were sorely missed. Wen he was in the band, they were in a league of their own. The third album Making Things With Light was where everything gelled together perfectly. The hooks and riffs are there, the two guitarists play off each other perfectly, and singer Dr Frank's lyrics are funny as hell. He even sings a song in pig Latin. Side note: I bought this album the same day I bought Nirvana's Bleach album. Years later I would realize they bother contained cover of the Dutch band Shocking Pink. MTX does" Postcard" and Nirvana "Love Buzz.
2) Discount – Half Fiction (1999, Kat Records) – These days Alison Mosshart is mostly known for being the singer of The Kills or the Jack White project The Dead Weather. But before she moved to London and became VV she sang crisp vocals for Florida's Discount. Discount release three albums (and an ep of Billy Bragg songs) but while all three are great their most infectuos collection is 1999's Half Fiction. Not a clunker among the fifteen tracks.

1) The Queers – Love Songs for the Retarded (Lookout! Records 1993) Now this album in my opinion hands down is the best pop/punk album ever released. For the duration of the sixteen songs there is not one note out of place.
It's definitely not The Queers most punk. That would probably be their debut album Grow Up. It's also not their most poppy album. That would probably go to 1996's Don't Back Down. That album is so filled with Beach Boys style harmonies they decided to name it after the Beach Boys song, which they also happen to cover on the album. It was Love Songs where the punk rock speed and attitude songs, like “You're Tripping”, “I Hate Everything”, or “Monster Zero”, are perfectly teamed up with the harmony filled pop songs like “Teenage Bonehead”, ”Debra Jean”, “Granola Head”,and “Daydreaming”. They also pull off some of the best tongue and cheek song titles and lyrics in “ Ursula Finally Has Tits”, Fuck the World”, and “I Can't Stop Farting”, But what more would you expect from a band who picked their name to piss off the locals in their hometown of Portsmouth, NH. Oh, and lets not forget the VERY un-P.C. name of the album. 

Honorable Mentions: 

Screeching Weasel - Anthems for a New Tomorrow (Lookout Records, 1993) - Screeching Weasel is just a little too angry to crack the top 15
The Ergs - DorkRockCorkRod (Whoa Oh Records, 2004) - Very good album but contains a few clunker/filler songs

 Link to Spotify Playlist: Top Pop/Punk Albums of All-Time (In My Opinion)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Feelies - Time for a Witness (Out of the Vaults #25)

Every once in awhile ..well you know the drill

Where as most 14/15/16 year olds may have written fan letters to their sports players, actors, or pop music idols, I wrote letters to members of indie rock bands. Yeah, my music geek roots run pretty deep.

I would get the addresses of the LP jackets or cassette inserts, write out carefully handwritten letters, seal them, send them out and wait patiently for replies.

I can't remember exactly how I first heard of the Hoboken,New Jersey band  The Feelies but it probably has to do with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck co-producing their 1986 The Good Earth album. Soon The Good Earth and 1988's Only Life, the only two Feelies records I was aware of at that time, were two of my favorite albums,always in heavy rotation.

Along with The Feelies, at the time two of my favorite indie rock discoveries at the time were Boston's Galaxie 500 who had just released the awesome On Fire album, and New Zealand's The Chills. One day I decided the three bands would be the next victims of my music geek letter writing.

I never heard back from Galaxie 500 or The Chills, I chalked it up to the
former being busy on tour and the latter's letter getting lost somewhere overseas en route to New Zealand.

But The Feelies actually wrote back. The letter was written by drummer Stanley Demeski  He said that when he joined the band it was decided he would be the one responsible for all the fan mail the band received. He said my letter was their very first one.

In the letter he expressed how thrilled he and the rest of the band were that someone had taken the time to write to them. He included a Coyote Records press release for the band. It was in the press release that I first learned the band was taken from a device in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I made a mental note to pick up a copy at the Crown Books next to the Kemp Mill Records store in town. I also had no idea the band had actually all but split up in the early 80's , playing together in various musical project, before reforming and recording The Good Earth This was about when Stanley Demeski joined on drums,

The Feelies perforning in "Something Wild"
The press release also talked about the band's close affiliation to director Jonathan Demme. Their song “Too Far Gone” had appeared on the soundtrack to his movie Married to the Mob. The band even made an appearance in Demme's Something Wild as “the Willies”, playing live during the high school reunion. They preformed a couple songs including David Bowie's “Fame”. I would go on to look for an actual recording of that song for years

One of the most important thing the press release informed  me (and plus radio stations and live venues the release was intended for) of was that The Feelies actually had another album. Their debut album Crazy Rhythms was originally released in 1980 but at the point the press release was written it was long out of print. Even then the album was considered a classic. I would go on to try and find a decently priced copy. Finally in 1990 A&M rereleased it on compact disc 

In 1991 I had the opportunity to by my first "new" album by The Feelies when they released Time for a Witness,

The music found on the disc really broke no new ground but
"Sooner or Later" promo 12"
it was by far a disappointment either. Time for a Witness has some awesome revved up songs toward in "Waiting" at track 1, with it's smooth guitar groove during the chorus, "Time for a Witness" with a slight jangle added track, and "Sooner of Later, containing one of my favorite lyrics ("I don't know what's up ahead, Don't think too much, it'll hurt your head") at track 3. 

The band also continues paying tribute to their music
forefathers with the Velvet Underground influenced "Decide" at track 5 and early Rolliug Stones inspired "What She Said", as well what I thought as their totally own sound on "Invitation", a song that would fit perfectly right on The Good Earth

One big surprise of the album is "Doing it Again" at track 6. The song sound very similar to the Jackson Browne classic "Somebody's baby". I'm not sure if this was intended buy the band or just an accidental coincidence. I'm also surprised in all these years no one besides me has ever called the band out on it. 

Continuing to pay tribute to their influence (they covered The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" on the previous album) The Feelies close the album with a amped up cover of The Stooges "Real Cool Time", which may have been the first time I was aware of hearing the classic but at the time pretty unavailable band 

Unfortunately Time for a Witness would be the last album the band would release, The band went on hiatus, Later reforming for post 2000 to play sporatic shows (I caught them in Battery Park opening for Sonic Youth on July 4th 2008) before releasing their Time for a Witness followup Here in 2011.

But The Feelies hiatus did not leave this now 18 year old music geek too upset because right around the same time both Galaxie 500 and The Chills called it a day too. Galaxie 50 's singer/guitarist Dean Warhem would form a new band with The Chills bassist Justin Harwood,  my old pen pal Stanley Demeski on drums. 

Years later Dean Warhem would retweet a tweet I made about an upcoming Luna concert. I consider it my long overdue reply.

The Feelies performing "Doin' it Again" on David Letterman in 1991

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Out of the Vaults # 24 - SUGAR -File Under Easy Listening (Deluxe Edition)

My wife dives into our CD cabinets (The Vaults) and randomly pull out one of the thousands of  CDs. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will talk about the CD for awhile no matter how good, bad, obscure or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, when did I buy it, what was my first reaction to hearing it, do I still listen to it today etc, etc, etc

One of the things I dislike the most in the world is when people say "Thanks Obama". After 11 years it's just not funny anymore, Whenever someone says it, I cringe. It wasn't too funny to begin but when all those years ago the expression first began popping up it would always give me a little laugh, reminding me of something that happened many years before, 

It was 1992, Husker Du's singer/guitarist Bob Mould had new band called Sugar. I hated them so much. Hated them with a passion.And this was before I had even heard a single note.

The reason why I hated Sugar so much was because I wanted Bob Mould to make up with drummer Grant Hart, grab bassist Greg Norton and do Husker Du reunion. Over the past couple of years Bob Mould had released two solo albums, Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook. They were okay albums but didn't have the buzz saw sound of Husker Du, who's back catalog was always in heavy rotation on my stereo.

Bob Nould (Center) with drummer Malcolm Travis (left) and bassist Dave Barbe (right)
Sugar was going to play the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C. and they didn't even have an album out. Their 7" on Bob's  Singles Only Label (S.O.L.) may have been released already but I can't remember. I planned to go to the show but would be doing so “under protest”. I was hoping they would slip in a Husker Du song or two.

The show was so loud. I don't mind loud but this show was so loud if Sugar had released any recordings it would have been  impossible to tell what song was being played anyway. Still I was pretty sure there weren't any Husker Du songs performed that night. When the show was over I managed to grab one of the set lists. There weren't any Husker Du songs listed on it.

Usually after concerts my ears would clear up within an hour or so. This Sugar show was so loud the next day my ears still had a muffled buzz going on.

"Your Favorite Thing" single
At the time I had a summer job  at a warehouse counting maps.The maps consisted of random things from highway trucking routes to electrical systems in buildings all over the United States   A team of two people would have a list of maps they needed to retrieve ("pick") for an order. Once they had them they would bring them over to me and this other guy who would count them out, wrap them in rubber bands, and box them up to be sent out. About half the warehouse was filled with workers from the temp agency. It was a monotonous job but we made the most of it by having rubber band battles, talking about music and telling each other jokes and stories.

Each day at lunch time there would be a ring over the loudspeaker to let everyone know it was time for lunch. Then after a half an hour there was another ring  saying it was time to go back to work. The day after the Sugar show my boxing partner had called out of work so I was working by myself and honestly getting more stuff done than if I was chatting away with my absent coworker.

That day my ears were buzzing so loud from the show I missed both of the rings.
Flier from a show just a few days after the one in D.C.
When I saw the other workers coming back from lunch  I realized  I would now have to wait until the end of the day before I could get something to eat. Ten minutes later when one of the picking teams brought over an order of maps, one of them asked where I had been during the lunch break. I told him what had happened and ended the story with "Thanks Bob Mould".

Soon that became the catch phrase of the summer. Whenever something went wrong we would say "Thank you Bob Mould".

A couple month later Sugar released their first album Copper Blue. Although it was a very good album I still wasn't over my desire for a Husker Du reunion. Almost immediately after Copper Blue Sugar released a mini album called Beaster. This was more like it. Buzz saw guitars all over the place. Then in 1994 Sugar released their final album File Under Easy Listening before Bob once again decided it was time for the band to call it a day. F.U.E.L was more of a continuation of Copper Blue. Good music with full of hooks under Bob's guitars.

 But it still wasn't Husker Du. 

Eventually I traded the discs back to a used CD store. They also released a collection of b-sides called Besides which I am pretty sure I never picked up. 

File Under Easy Listening Deluxe Edition
In 2012 Merge Records released two deluxe Sugar CD collections. The first was a triple disc containing Copper Blue, Beaster, and Live at the Caberet Metro.The second  a double disc containing File Under Easy Listening with some b-Sides, and The Joke Isn't Always On Us, Sometimes, a live disc which was originally included with the first 25,000 copies of Besides.

On a whim I picked up both of the reissues and discovered a new fondness for the band. I guess I had finally come to terms with the idea there was never going to be a Husker Du reunion. To this day both deluxe disc sets remain in my regular rotation. It's also great to finally be able hear a Sugar live show without my ears buzzing for days. 

Thanks Bob Mould

Here is the video for F.U.E.L.'s "Gee Angel"

Friday, July 15, 2016

Beatles (For Sale)

 Over the years that I owned a record store in Historical Ellicott City, Maryland, there were a few regular customers that stood out. The first one would be the kid who worked as a dish washer across the street  at the Phenix who would come in every other Wednesday to order a tape so it would be there when he was paid the upcoming Friday. Then I would put it on the store stereo for him and together we would bang our heads (not literally of course) through a few songs. The tape was always the heaviest of the heaviest Christian bands such as the 80's thrash metal band Believer or Barren Cross. The kid told me he did not necessarily believe in the Christian stuff the bands were singing about but it was the only way his parents would let him listen to such loud music.

The second would be the Pappa John's pizza delivery guy who worked
around the corner on Route 40. Every couple weeks he would stop
at the store while making a delivery and order tapes by Jazz Fusion artists. I would see him in his convertible stopped at the light on Main Street while he delivered a pizza; he would be blasting whatever Chock Corea, Stanely Clarke, or other tape he had recently purchased,, When he saw me he would give me a thumbs up, turn the music up even louder, and continue on his way.

I  have to say my favorite regular customer was the Beatles guy. The guy was  probably in his late 30's to early 40's. The second time he came in we got to talking. He told me how when he 

was young he had been a patient at the mental 

hospital Taylor Manor (now Sheppard Pratt) up 

the street. He had“graduated” and officially 

released but ended up living nearby, so he went 

back later and got a job working in the cafeteria.

The guy told me how he just recently discovered the Beatles, falling instantly in love with their music. He said he did not get paid a lot at his job but would put away a little of each paycheck so at the end of the month he could purchase one of The Beatles albums on CD, The catch was he wanted to make sure to pick them up in the order they were released and would need my help in achieving that.

In order for the guy (and myself) to not become too confused with all the different UK versus US versions of each album, I decided we should concentrate on the North American discography. In 1998 Introducing The Beatles and  a few of their other early releases were  not yet available on Compact Disc so Meet The Beatles was going to be the designated starting point. When he picked up his copy the smile on his face went from ear to ear. He told me how he could not wait to give it a spin.

A month later when the guy showed up I had a brand new shrink wrapped copy of the next album that was available on compact discovered; Hard Days Night, waiting for him. Before he left with his CD the guy told me how he played Meet The Beatles over and over again at home and while at work. At one point he even had the whole cafeteria staff singing along to “I Saw Her Standing There”, “It Won't be Long”, and of course “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
Every month the guy would show up like clockwork
to claim his prize for month of hard work he put in just up the street at the Taylor Manor cafeteria just up the street from my store. It was HelpRubber SoulRevolver, Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, which he confided in me was not his favorite of the Fab Four's recordings, The White Album, and so on.

When I would order the CD's for the guy I would also make sure to order a few copies for the store

too. Soon I realized as I was ordering the Cd's for the guy to discover, I was listening to them too,

gaining a whole new appreciation for these albums I had not listened to in full since I was in my

teens and my parents lent me theirs.

Sure I remembered all the hits but this was the first time in years I was hearing so many of the great Rubber Soul, “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “I've Just Seen a Face” as well as “For No One” off of Revolver.
album cuts like “I Need You” and “Another Girl' off of Help.
When we reached The White Album. I totally forgot about such great songs like “Happiness is Warm Gun”, George Harrison's “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the wacky out of nowhere songs like “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and “Rocky raccoon”.

But then it happened. After months of coming in to pick up compact disc copies of Meet The Beatles to Abbey Road , the guy came in to pick up his copy the last  Beatles album: Let It Be. He had his usual ear to ear smile on his face. As he was about to leave with the final piece of the Beatles puzzle, the smile briefly left as he turned to me and said, “I guess that's it”.

I said back, “What do you mean”. 
The guy shrugged and said, “ That's all their albums”. Then he looked at the ground and said, “There are no more to get”.

There was a brief moment of silence.

Then I said, “Now you can work on getting all the solo albums”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is my least favorite Jawbreaker album

Last week JAWBREAKER's 1994 album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy celebrated it's 175316 Hour (20 Year) Anniversary with a brand new remastered version on drummer Adam Pfaler's Black Ball Records and of course everyone was reminded of how so many music journalists, including just last week Pitchfork's Brandon Stosouy, call 24 Hour Revenge Therapy their "most beloved" album by the fans.

Well here is a very big fan that would place 24 Hour Revenge Therapy all the way at the bottom
Jawbreaker's four album. Here is why:

The first thing is the album has no strong song to kick off the album. Jawbreaker's previous album Bivuac kicks off with the powerful "Shield Your Eyes" and their 24 Hour Revenge Therapy  follow up begins with the almost equally powerful "Save Your Generation". These two songs, along with the classic "Want" that leads off the Jawbreaker's debut (and my first introduction to the band) are all awesome songs that really get the listener psyched for the following tracks. All off them make you think " This is the moment I have waited for. Drop the needle or press "play" on the CD player.sit back and get psyched.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy doesn't have that song. Instead it's lead off track "Boat Dream From the Hill", although in no way a bad song, sounds like it should be located a few tracks in. When the needle is dropped on the album and the listener sits back all bundled up in anticipation, the song is already going, leaving the listener thinking they need to play catch up.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy also has a very awkward ending. The other three albums have very triumphant and satisfying endings. Unfun's final track "Drone" ends in a fury of riffs and samples before closing out with feedback, Bivuac's closing title track has similar various noises ended finishing the sounds of guitars being laid against the amps, drum sticks winding down on cymbals,  like Jawbreaker may have down at the end of one of their concerts, and Dear You's finale, the almost all acoustic "Unlisted Track" ends the album perfectly.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy lacks that triumphant finale. It's last track "In Sadding Around" just sort of ends. No satisfaction is given.

The second thing weighing 24 Hour Revenge Therapy down in the order of my favorite Jawbreaker albums is the songs kind of a little too similar. In fact has anyone else noticed that the second and third tracks "Indictment" and "Boxcar" are pretty much the same song? Even their subject matter is very similar. I totally understand that both songs were written by the same person, are being recorded by the same band on the same album meaning obviously there are going to be similarities between the tracks but still . Maybe this would not be as noticeable, to me at least,  if the songs were a little more separated on the album. "Indictment" would have been great replacing "Boat Dream from the Hill" as the lead off track, with "Boxcar" near the beginning of side two, or  right before "Ache" (track 7) for the folks who have it on Compact Disc or Mp3.

Besides those two back to back songs, there are a few more remarkably similar songs on the album. Every song on Unfun, Bivuac (including the Chesterfield King 12" songs) and just about all on Dear You, I can recognize within the first few seconds. "Do You Still Hate Me" (Track 8) and "Jinx Removing" (Track 10) and "Boat Dream from the Hill" all sound very much alike and take until half way through the first verse, sometimes even  the first chorus, for me to be able to distinguish which is which

The third, and for me in 1994 the most disappointing aspect of the record is the production. When I first read ex Big Black (and future Shellac) singer/guitarist Steve Albini was going to be recording the next Jawbreaker album I was ecstatic. Albini has "engineered" (He always stated  how he hates to be called "producer") so many great albums. Some up to that point they included The Pixies' Surfer Rosa, Jesus Lizard's Goat, The Breeders' haunting debut The Pod, The Poster Children's excellent Daisychain Reaction, Superchunk's best album No Pocky for Kitty, of course Nirvana's In Utero, and Failure's much underrated debut Comfort. 

But 24 Hour Revenge Therapy just does not have that sharp, sound, or as Michael Azerod puts it in his awesome book Our Band Could Be Your Life: "The recordings were both very basic and very exacting. Albini used few special effects, got an aggressive, often violent guitar sound and made sure the rhythm slammed as one"  that you expect and enjoy in a Steve Albin engineered album.24 Hour Revenge Therapy sounds very murky Singer Blake Swartzenbach's voice sounds very buried in the mix, making his voice not sound so original and distinguishable from other band's singers. The ironic thing is that when I first heard the Michael James recorded Unfun, I thought is sounded very much  like and Albini "engineered" album.

I can;t stress enough that  I do not think 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is in any way a bad album. In my opinion it actually contains some of Blake's best lyrics while in Jawbreaker and future bands Jets to Brazil and Forgetters. It just has two very good (Bivuac and Dear You) and one incrdeible (Unfun) album just a little bit, at least to my ears, better.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2013: One Blogger's Opinion ( No Arcade Fire or Daft Punk inside)

1- Warm Soda “Someone for You” (Castleface Records) - In 2011 I had the 70’s AM radio sounding Power/Pop band Bare Wires on my list. Guitarist Mathew Melton’s new band Warm Soda makes the jump to the FM dial with a fuller sound and even sharper hooks. This was definitely my favorite release of the year.

2- Mixtapes “Ordinary Silence” (No Sleep) - Punk guitars playing pop hooks with crystal clear male and female vocals singing tongue in cheek sarcastic lyrics. Plus they like to curse a lot. Why have I never heard of this Cincinnati band before?

3- Palma Violets “180” (Rough Trade) -
While The Vaccines inherited The Libertines guitar hooks, it seems The Palma Violets inherited their drunken swagger. Throw in a bit of a Lloyd Cole and the Commotions influence and you have a great debut album.

4- Iceage “You're Nothing" (Matador)- In 2011 everyone put the Denmark band Iceage's debut album “New Brigade” on their Best of lists leaving me scratching my head wondering why. Sometime within then and this year's ‘You're Nothing” I finally got this (Early) Cure meets Christian Death inspired band. Anxiously waiting what they do next.

5- The Maine “Forever Halloween”(Rude) - The Goo Goo Dolls started out as a fun thrash band. Somewhere in the middle of their transformation into the hugely successful rock band of today, they released the very good Power/Pop "Superstar Carwash" album and most people missed it. Thankfully The Maine did not. This Brendon Benson produced album is literally a million times better than The Maine’s previous releases.

6- California X “S/T” (Don Giovanni) - There are only two things in a song I like more than loud driving guitars. Anathematic vocals and strong hooks. Luckily this Amherst, Massachusetts band posses all three. I can’t wait to see them live in February.

7- The Strokes “Comedown Machine” (RCA) - Sometimes you just have to hear an album in the right place before it clicks. When this album was released in March, I thought it sounded weird, kind of disco-y and a bit unlistenable. It wasn’t until July when I was in Vancouver’s Zulu Records and heard this album playing throughout each room that I realized how good it was.

8- Oblivians “Desperation” (In The Red)- There is no arguing this Oblivians "reunion" album is tamer then the raucous garage rock/demented blues of the Memphis, Tennessee band's nineties output. But Jack, Greg and Eric Oblivian are a decade older and calmed down a bit. Even at the lesser intensity the Oblivians would still blow most of the bands playing this genre today right off the stage

9- Crystal Antlers “Nothing Is Real” (Innovative Leisure)
You could look at
Crystal Antlers as having been unlucky because Touch and Go folded shortly after releasing their 2009 debut or lucky enough to have a released an album (and a EP) on such a great label at all. Either way, after a short stint on Recreation Records, Innovative Leisure picked up the reins and released this album full of Sonic You influenced noisy guitars and Trail of the Dead psychedelica.

10- Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires in the City” (XL Recordings)- I really wanted to like Vampire Weekend after lead singer Ezra Koenig sang the Descendents “Parents" during F*cked Up’s 12 hour show a few years back but could not get into the “trying too hard to be The Police” fake reggae of their first album. The super annoying song “Cousins” on their second album “Contra” almost made me give up on the band forever. Luckily on “Modern Vampires of the City” they have replaced most of the reggae sound with a cranked up bass and loud drums. Great album that has me dancing all the way to the train.

With so many of the same bands ending up on peoples lists year after year, I try to keep my list to ones that have not been on my before. But there are two which have been who that deserve at least a mention:

11- Milk Music – Cruise Your Illusion (Fat Possum) - On the new album this Olympia, Washington band further expands on their Dinosaur Jr/Neil Young/ (early)Buffalo Tom style buzzing guitar hooks that made their 2011 debut album “Beyond Living’ so special. Only this time because of Fat Possum’s RED distribution, this one you can actually find in a store.

12- Wild Moth “Over Again” (Asian Man)- This San Francisco band follow up their two “Revolution Summer” influenced 2012 EPs with a louder and more mature full album,