Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

My 2011 Listening Pleasures, In No Particular Order

The end of the year is coming on fast. Now is the time for every magazine, website, blogger of whatever to come out with their “Best Of 2011” or their “Top 10 of 2011”. One thing about these “Year End Lists” that always made me wonder was the variation of types of music. I could never figure out how a person’s list would have an artists like the Black Keys at #6 followed by Lady Gaga at #5, then Bon Iver at #4 and Kanye West at #3. How do the people writing these lists decide which act should edge the other one out of the higher position? Obviously they play TOTALLY different types of music, probably at the best of each of their genres too. At anytime during the year these two artist’s names will most likely never be uttered in the same sentence much less in the same magazine article or blog posts.
Plus when are these artists going to come out with bad albums? (Most of them at least). If the Black Keys put out an album this year, chacces are it’s going to be pretty good. Why not just assume that it is and let another artists/band who releases and album way better than any they have released before? 
So now that I have lifted that off my chest I bring some of my 2011 picks but not in any “Top Ten” or “Best of”. These are just my favorite releases, which some people may have missed, that I have been “Rockin’ Out” too over the past twelve months. Some of these may look failair since I have been praising many of them all year round.

In no particular order:

SMITH WESTERNS – Dye It Blonde – a little bit of Pop, a little bit of Glam, but all Rock and Roll
THE VACCINES – What Did You Expect? – Pure Pop mixed with a slight surf sound. Toss in a bit of The Who ("Think I Can See for Miles"). Great debut album
BARE WIRES – Cheap Perfume – Power Pop rock and Roll chock full of hooks. You just know they have smiles on their faces while playing.
GIRLS – Father, Son, Holy Ghost- Vocal focused laid back heartbreak rock with great guitar solos.  Not one girl in the band but all the songs are about them.
NIGHTBIRDS – Other Side Of Darkness -  This band makes me very nostalgic for those times when I was 14 and discovering skate punk bands like J.F.A., The Faction, The Crucifucks and many more.  Also make me dance down the street.
FORMING – s/t 7” Ep – Restored my faith in Punk N Roll. Early Replacements vibe. Lots of beer and hooks. Get it free here:
TY SEGALL – Goodbye Bread – Very young but a veteran of a dozen Bay Area garage bands. On this album Ty becomes a bit more focused. (Full Blog entry on this album in the near future)
PUNCH – Push/Pull – Female fronted, very sincere hardcore band. Imagine a younger Kat Bjelland (from Babes in Toyland)
PSYCHIC BLOOD – Demo, Leaves (cassette) and Strain Ep – It’s good to see a new noisy yet controlled band. They are from Mass but could fit right into Pacific Northwest rock history. Can’t wait to see what they do with a real studio and release. Download all three releases for free here:
CEREMONY – Covers Ep – Usually covers collections wouldn’t make the cut but these tracks really are incredible. Best Pixies cover (“Nimrod’s Son") I have heard. Plus Wire, Crisis and more. Can’t wait to see what CEREMONY does this year now that they are on Matador Records
MR. DREAM – Trash Hit – Heirs to the Big Black, Shellac, Jesus Lizard, Tar and the rest of the (now defunct) Touch and Go Records roster’s throne. Totally ruled opening for Archers of Loaf last July.
MILK MUSIC – Beyond Living – BEST ALBUM  RELEASED THIS YEAR. ‘90’s era Boston fuzzed out rock and roll but these guys are from Olympia, Washington. Nice salute to their heroes in the album title. Vary  hard to find a physical copy but you can get it digitally here:
MALE BONDINGEndless Now – This UK band made an album leaps and bounds over their debut album last year, which was one of the best. A bit of a Ned’s Atomic Dustbin vibe. “Channeling Your Fears” is my favorite song of the year.
WILD FLAG – S/T and The Corin Tucker Band 1000 Years – Two ex-Sleater-Kinney bands that don’t sound too much like their old band. Wild Flag (Carrie Brownstein, also of the TV show “Portlandia”, and Janet Weiss) get a little WIRE-y. Corin Tucker Band (Corin Tucker) gets a little introspective. Both albums incredibly catchy.
VOID – Sessions 81-83 – Compilation of all this very influential hardcore band’s pre Dischord records stuff. Sounds a bit more human then the classic Split album with The Faith. Vital music here from this Columbia, MD (My hometown) band
ROZWELL KID – s/t –Remember when Weezer was in their garage listening to Buddy Holly records and trying not to destroy their sweaters? These guys do. Download it free on Band camp here:
THE DUM DUM GIRLSHe Gets Me High EP– Fuzz Pop at its finest with singer Sune Rose Wagner’s dreamy voice up front. My favorite Smith record gets covered at the end. Not telling which one, you'll have to go find out yourself. Get this but be cautious of the WAY too Pretenders sounding album that followed.
COLD CAVE – Cherish The Light Years – Wes Eisold’s (ex-American Nightmare, XO Skeletons, Some Girls and many more) second album sounding straight out of 80’s post-punk/dark wave/industrial dance/almost Goth England. Much improved over the 2009 debut
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL – Mergers and Acquisitions – Is the new Wilco album too boring for you? Check out this young Florida band’s fresh sound. I love the band’s name too.
TOTAL CONTROL – Henge Beat - Guitar noise with definite pop hooks lurking underneath. Throw in a bit of Kraut Rock and you have this Australian band’s album.
SUNDIALS – Never Settle – very J Church inspired catchy  pop punk. Also check out their earlier stuff on their Band Camp page

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Zombie's - Odessey and Oracle - A Perfect Album

 A few days ago  I was knocked over by a person entering large appliance store. As I dusted myself off the security guard at the door said to me, "It's the time of the season". When he spoke those words to me I was remnded of a song I had not heard in quite awhile, and it wasn't a Christmas song.

When I was 15 years old I went through a “British Invasion” phase. Of course it began with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but soon it evolved into other lesser known but still awesome bands. The Animals, The Yardbirds and the Zombies were my favorites. I was eager to get my hands on any material by these groups. Since the local record store only carried basic completions by each band, I decided to place an ad in the “Wanted” section of the local paper looking for actual individual albums by these artists. Maybe there were people out there who had a few of these records and did not want them anymore. At 15 I did not too much money and figured this may be a good way to purchase a few of these bands records at a very low price. The day after the ad appeared in the paper I received a phone call from a woman a couple towns over. She had a few records by two of the bands I had listed in the classified ad and said she would sell them to me for $5 each.

 The next Saturday my father and I took a car ride out to see which records she had. When I got there she went over to a large cabinet filled with records and pulled two of them out. There was one by the Animals and one by the Zombies. We paid her the $10 bucks and headed home. As my dad drove I looked over album covers, reading every word, studying every picture

As I examined up the Zombies record. There was something different about it. The cover did not have the basic band photo cover which most of these British Invasion albums I had run across usually possessed. This one had weird psychedelic designs across it. There was a drawing of a couple dancing, next to a flower and a few other strange figures of people scattered here and there. But was even stranger was the title of the album was spelled wrong! Although my computer’s spell check keeps wanting me to change it now, the title on the record was spelled as Odessey and Oracle. It would not be until much later when I learned the spelling error was a mistake made by the album cover’s designer. I put the record on. Although at this point I was familiar with some singles by The Zombies such as “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” and “Time Of The Season”, only the later was on this album. As soon as I put the needle down I knew this album was leaps and bounds over those early singles. The songs coming out of the speakers were incredible. The whole album did not have a note out of place.

20 years later I am still amazed by this perfect album. An album which if you are a fan of music, any kind of music, you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen.

The first track on the album ,“Care of Cell 44” kicks off with a few notes from a harpsichord, probably the first time I had ever heard one present on a rock song. Then lead singer Colin Blunstone’s smoky smooth vocals come in. The song, relaying a letter from a guy to a girl in jail. He talks about her imminent release and how happy he is to have here returning home. His joy is shown by the raise in volume for the chorus “Feel so good. You’re coming home soon”. The vocals return to the regular volume and tempo before the chorus with the volume raised as the guy can’t control his enthusiasm any longer
One thing about this song that always struck me as rather a little strange, maybe even bold, was how in 1967 the Zombies would put out a song about a women in prison and the guys waiting outside. You would think the opposite would have seen much more acceptable. But also this was a band named after a return from the dead creature whose sole purpose to seek out and eat peoples brains.

Track #2 “A Rose for Emily” for me brings to mind a grown up version of the character in Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” which I had just heard for the first time a few month before Odessy and Oracle. Now she is all grown up, growing flowers to sell to people buying them to give to their loved ones. Yet she never finds someone to buy a rose to her. Almost all acapella, the song features only Blunstone’s vocals with writer/keyboardist Rod Argent backing vocals and keyboard adding to the songs sorrow. Like so many other songs on Odessey And Oracle, the vocals supply the hook.

Track #3 “Maybe After He’s Gone” relays greatly the feeling of losing a girlfriend/boyfriend, perhaps your first, with them moving on to someone else. Feeling you will never find another, your only hope like the chorus says, “Maybe after he’s gone, she’ll come back and love me again”.

Track # 4“Beechwood Park” is a song telling about remembering a time in the summertime when you are just getting to know each other. When listening to the song, close your eyes and the guitars and keyboards bring images of the character walking on a beach with an off season wind swaying the trees around you.

Tracks # 5 and #6, “Brief Candles” and “Hung Up On A Dream”, continue in the style that is already making  Odessey And The Oracle such a great album. Both songs sounding like the Zombies had a whole orchestra in the studio with them. Later I learned the group did not possess enough money to hire more studio musicians. To create the sound of a backing orchestra, a mellotron was used.

Track # 7, “Changes” I always feel is best heard with headphones. Blunstone singing the chorus of “I knew her when summer was here crown and autumn sang how brown her eyes” sounds unbelievable coming into your ears from all around you. Track #8, “I Want Her, She Wants Me” tells how the heartbroken person of “Maybe After He’s Gone” did eventually find someone new.

In Track #9 “This Will Be Our Year” Blunstone sing how things have been tough but with the help of the person he is singing to, they managed to make it through. “And I won’t forget the way you held me up when I was down. And I won’t forget when you said ‘Darling I love you’. You give me faith to go on. Now we’re there, and we’ve only just begun” before showing the hope of the future with “This will be our year, took a long time to come”. From the first time I hear this song at 15 years old to the the present, this song has always been somewhere among my top 10 all- time favorite songs.

When track # 11 comes around the album finally allows it's self to become a tad upbeat. "Friends of Mine" is a very positive (almost) closing song. During the song many of The Zombie's friend's names are mentioned and you can tell the band is having a ball in the studio together. 

The song that once again reminded me of how great this album is comes appears as the albums last track.. After the single “She Not There",  “Time of the Season" was the first song I ever heard by the Zombies. The song fills me with images of a soul, a little psychedelics and even a touch of hippieness. When the end of the chorus says, “It’s the time of the season for loving you”, maybe it’s not what Colin Blunstone, Rod Agent and crew were saying but I always took it as for loving this album.

In Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time, Odessey and Oracle was ranked at 80. For my 15 year old ears back then as well as my 38 year old ones today, this album without one single note out of place, definitely rests nicely in the Top 10.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Four Parks, Many Sounds Part 1 - Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios

For a  while my eyes were feeling a little strained and things were also appearing a little darker. Almost like seeing static.  A few years ago a doctor prescribed a special contact for my left eye. It seemed I have Corconia , a condition that causes you cornea to slightly bend. The  lens was very expensive and would probably have to be adjusted over a few months before getting it exactly right. Two years later and with my eyes feeling  strained and things seeming slightly darker I was scared my eyesight may be fading. Maybe even leaving altogether. The first thing that crossed my mind was “Do blind people still go to Disney World”?
Then I thought about all the sounds and music of Walt Disney World which add so much to the magic. The music is an important part to many Disney attractions but some of the music will stand on its own without the visuals. With my Disney trip just a few weeks away I was sure to find out.
My next day off I had the eye doctor appointment, this time to see a new Ophthalmologist. The doctor who prescribed the contact just was not working out. Three hours in the waiting room before the doctor seeing me was just not a way to spend another day off. When I made the appointment for this new doctor the receptionist promised me I would not be there for more than an hour.
Arriving at the doctor’s office I checked in, picked out a magazine in the waiting room and began to get confortable. As I was about to sit down the doctor called me in. He dilated my eyes, took a few tests and then asked me to come back to his office. No hour long trip to the waiting room in between. He asked me to have a seat in the examination chair while he went to get something.  As I sat there I thought about how this was it. The doctor was going to come in and inform me my eyes were going to become worse and worse until my vision was gone for good. There goes that idea of beginning a music blog.
When the doctor returned I braced myself for the negative diagnosis. Thankfully I was wrong. The doctor told me my eyes were in pretty good shape. The right eye was still seeing 20/20 and the left one had remained the same as it was two years ago. There had been no more worsening. The doctor then told me he was surprised my eyesight in that eye was as good as it was. The contact lens for my left eye was not really necessary.The contact is only required if I  want to see perfectly. He also said the straining and static is probably caused by migraines. It is not really his area of expertise so he referred me to another doctor to treat it. He said otherwise my eyes were in good shape.

After this eye scare I focused my sights on Disney and decided I would appreciate every sight and sound that comes with the experience.

In a series of FOUR posts I am going to talk about all the important audio, with an emphasis on the music, of all four Disney World Parks. The order will probably go Disney Hollywood Studios, Epcot Center, Disney’s Animal Kingdom (including our hotel, the Animal Kingdom Lodge) , Epcot and finally The Magic Kingdom.
 The reason this is going to be spread out over FOUR posts is partly to give myself the chance to post about other things.The trip was an awesome week but now we have returned and back at work. We are grown-ups again. Well at least until our Disney Cruise in July.

At Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, or MGM as some still refer to the theme park, there are many different rides and attractions, all themed to various movies or television shows. A few of these attractions are the Star Wars based Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride and Indiana Jones Stunt Show. For the purpose of time and space I am going to concentrate on the three main attractions of the theme park.
 The Rock N Roller Coaster- For the readers who may not visit Disney World or may have not since 1999, the Rock N Roller Coaster is an inside Roller Coaster. Unlike Space Mountain over at the Magic Kingdom, The Rock N Roller Coaster goes upside down. The ride is also the second fastest ride in Walt Disney world, second only to Test Track across the lake at Epcot. When the ride begins, your limo shaped car is shot through a tunnel at 60 MPH. Pretty fast even for a rollercoaster. There are a few loops, a corkscrew and some other fun stuff almost entirely in the dark. The only thing you can really see are street signs marking upcoming interstates and exits. This may not seem too different from any other “Extreme” roller coaster except for one thing: This one has Aerosmith. And it has Aerosmith really loud. Even though I had grew tired of Aerosmith a long time ago there is something fitting about hearing “Sweet Emotion”, “Love in an Elevator” and all those tired old songs blaring full blast as you are tossed through loops and drops in the dark while you car drives at high speeds to get you and Aerosmith to the gig on time. Aerosmith possesses the semi corniness to make them the perfect fit for this ride’s scenario.
When Aerosmith broke up a few years back the first thought to cross my mind was what about the Rock N Roller Coaster? Even though the beginning part of the ride where you see Aerosmith in the studio (and Dana Carvey as the sound man) becomes rather  annoying the more times you go on the ride, it is still part of the overall attraction. Would that part be eliminated? Possibly even redone with a newer Disney act. “The Jonas Brother’s Rock N Rollercoaster”. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
I don’t think the scenario of the ride would have worked if Walt Disney World had featured either U2 or R.E.M., their first two choices ahead of Aerosmith.
Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror – Right across from the Rock N Roller Coaster sits a 300 ft tall structure designed to look like a 1930’s Hollywood Hotel. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the second major attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The story of the ride is you are staying at the famed Hollywood Tower hotel- a hotel where a family and bell hop disappeared on a night in 1939.When you are about to enter  the hotel elevator, a TV comes on by itself. On the TV is a mock up of the old Twilight Zone television epsiode. The sound of that recognizable Twilight Zone theme music followed by Rod Sterling’s introduction coming from this TV is pretty bad. It is made to simulate the sound quality that appeared on the original show. When you sit inside the elevator the real audio begins. The elevator goes up and makes its first stop. Here you can see the ghost image of the  family and bellhop who disappeared in the elevator all those years ago; there is also a perfectly pitched thunderstorm brewing through the one window. The ghosts wave to you. For fun, most people wave back.
Then the elevator climbs another floor. When your car emerges from the elevator shaft you are greeted with life sized  size images of the starfields, a few strange sights and even stranger sounds. It is here where Disney’s perfect sound really makes the ride scare me.

 Every New Years Day I watch the Twilight Zone Marathon. Every episode has the beginning with the strange star field, hourglass etc. When you are in this part of the Tower Of Terror, the “Fifth Dimension” room, you are right there IN the beginning of all those Twilight Zone episodes. It is basically a nightmare I have had many times over the years. But then the whole purpose why this ride is being included in my Music blog happens, the glass breaks. The audio is so real the sound cuts right through you. Then the oh so familiar Twilight Zone theme music comes on (music you should not listen to while grooming a dog. A story for another time) and this time it does not sound like its coming from a 50 year old television set. It is all around you in totally flawless surround sound.
Then the elevator car goes down. Not only does it drop, it is actually pulled down. Then up, then down. Then up, the down. A computer randomly picks three drops for your car to complete. Each time you go up the doors open and the whole park is laid out in front of you. That is until you once again here that perfect sounding Twilight Zone theme. This time the music is welcomed. You know you are back on solid ground.

The third major atraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a new attraction called Toy Story Midway Mania. The only problem with the Toy Story ride is the wait. The standby line is usually past the two hour mark. Even with a Fast Pass your chances are slim your turn to ride will be anytime soon. Two years ago we arrived at the park around 9:10, just a minutes after the park gates were opened. Figuring this maybe the only shot at the ride we made our way straight over to the brand new Toy Story Midway Mania and picked up Fast Passes. When the passes where done printing, the time listed on them was 3:30-4:30. Not wanting to wait around the park all day for the one ride we gave the fast passes to some people who had just tried to get some fast passes themselves. At that point all the passes were already sold out.
We figured the ride was brand new. Next year the hype will be over and the wait not so long. We were wrong. I guess word how great the ride was had gotten out. The standby wait was just short of three hours with Fast Passes for the day long gone. This year we didn’t even try.
Luckily this year we were there for the Christmas Season. This meant Disney’s Hollywood Studios had something going on I had never experienced in my 5 visits to Walt Disney World. Something going on that my wife hasn’t see in her 9 visits. Something which just would not been the same without music.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights- Unlike I believed before we arrived at Disney Hollywood Studios, the “Osborne Family” does not have anything to do with Ozzy Osboure, his wife Sharon or any of the other characters who appeared on that family’s “reality” show. At first I was disappointed. I had already seen the Joy Division Mickey Mouse shirt so an attraction named after the “Godfather of Heavy Metal” would not have been so shocking. When I read the back story of the Osborne family the attraction was named after I was a great deal more interested.
Without going into too much detail about it, the lights were originally owned by an Arkansas resident name Jennings Osborne. The idea to display Christmas lights began when Jennings’ daughter was 4 years old. Her one wish for Christmas was to decorate the outside of the house. Jennings made his daughter's wish comes true. When the next Christmas came around Osborne decided to add more. The next year even more. Little by little over the years the Osborne’s light grew so much that Jennings decided to purchase the two lots on either side to make room for even more lights.
The town began to tire of endless traffic around their homes- a result of visitors driving by to take in the awesome display. In 1995 the Arkansas State Supreme Court shut it down. Jennings would no longer be allowed to display his lights.
After entertaining the idea of selling all his lights to various different sources, Jennings was ready to give up. Then Disney put in an offer. Every year since, the lights have been on display in Hollywood Studios. First they were decorating the “Residential Street” of the faux Hollywood back lot. When that was destroyed to make room for “Lights, Motor, Action!” Extreme Stunt Show, the lights were relocated to the “City Street” and remain there to this day.
However you may think these lights look just go ahead and scrap that image right now. These lights are incredible! Every little detail is not overlooked. When you turn the corner on to the “City Street” of the Hollywood Back Lot you are greeted with two simulated lines of building on either side of you all encompassed with color changing lights. The movie theater. The department store. Everything is covered from ground to roof with a lit up banner strewn across the street declaring “The Osborne Family’s Spectacle of Dancing Lights”. Continuing down the street there is a 70 Ft Christmas tree consisting of 80,000 color lights. Lights in the shape of tins soldiers line the foot of the tree with Mickey in the middle. If you make a diagonal left halfway down the street there is extremely large canopy consisting of over 30,000 lights. Further down two rotating carrousels with reindeer shaped lights and a humongous illuminated globe  sit high on either side of even more buildings, The globe, as my wife pointed out too me, has a special lighted arrow pointing to Arkansas. A nice salute to the lights originator.
Considering Walt Disney World’s reputatation about their attention to detail and how everything there is larger than life, this grand display may seem expected. But think how every single light, including the large carousels and globe, presented on the “City Street” were once displayed on the property of one family from Arkansas, the only change being a burnt out bulb here and there, 
If the lights were the end of the story it would still be breathtaking but some people may not be too impressed. Everyone has one of those houses up the street who goes overboard on the lights. Although these lights are very awesome someone may look at them as just an even further over exageration of that house up the street illuminating the neighborhood.
It would also mean there is really no reason to include this attraction on my music and sound based blog. But these lights are something more than just a striking display. They do more than just change colors and twinkle. These lights change color to music. These lights dance too music.
Every 10 minutes the lights will go down before Christmas songs by groups ranging from The Trans Siberian Orchestra to Jose Feliciano kick in. All songs very loud with that perfect Disney Sound. The tin soldiers at the foot of the tree dance around the tree to the various pieces of Tachovsky's “Nutcracker Suite”. All the lights turn waves of blue as Elvis belts out the classic “Blue Christmas”. Just like the tired old Aerosmith songs on the Rock N Roller Coaster, new life is breathed into these songs.
The whole experience was so breathtaking to both my wife and I, we made sure to allow time for a return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to experience the “Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights” one more time before the trip home.
Now that we have covered some of the major music and sounds of Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios theme park, in a few days we will take a ride across the lake to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Most of the time known simply as EPCOT,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Out Of The Vaults #2 - Quicksand - Manic Compression

In our new apartment there is one wall with 10 cabinets stacked from floor to ceiling with a sliding library style ladder to reach the high ones. These cabinets were custom built by a previous owner. Inside each cabinet is four shelves, each one the perfect width for a CD. This is what sold me on the apartment.These are the "Vaults" were the music is stored.

Each week or so I will ask my wife to dive deep into the cabinets and pull out a random CD. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will "muse" on the disc for awhile in this blog no matter how good, bad, or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, how old was I, first reaction to hearing the album, do I still listen to it today and anywhere else my stream of conscious will take me in regards to the "Out Of The Vaults" weekly pick.

Out Of The Vaults #2 - Quicksand - Manic Compression

If my wife had come out of "The Vaults" with Quicksand's debut Ep I could have said how the first time I saw Quicksand live I had no idea who they were. It was at the 9:30 club and the Quicksand was opening for the band Helmet. I also would have to add  that when leader Walter Schreifels and the rest of the band began playing they were so tight I was immediately hooked. I could not leave out  how halfway through their set guitarist Tom Capone accidentally knocked over his amp sending it off the stage. I caught the amp as  it made it's way over the edge and to thank me Tom gave me a copy of Quicksand's then brand new 1990 debut Ep'

But unfortunately that Ep was not the disc that was picked.

 If my wife had come out of "The Vaults" with Quicksand's first album, the 1993  Slip I could have gone on to say how unbelievable the album was. I definitely would have talked about how every song from the lead off track "Fazer" all the way through the closer "Transparent" is  chock full of angular guitars and hidden metallic hooks that  run smoothly from one song right into the next . I couldn't leave out  fact that every time I am making a mix tape/cd play list of instrumentals to listen to while writing or studying  Slip's "Baphomet"  is one of the first tracks I go for. I also would  have mentioned the first time my ears took in this incredible debut album was when we played and advance copy over the loudspeakers of one of our C.W. Post auditoriums prior to a spoken word performance by Henry Rollins. A very short Henry Rollins, I found out that day as he stood next to me.

 If Slip had been the pick I would definitely need to relay how this album was a mainstay in my CD player for well over a decade and still gets taken out every few weeks to blast over my headphones. 

But unfortunately  Slip was not the disc that was picked.either.

The Cd that was picked was Quicksand's second album Manic Compression.

When this album came out I had extremely high hopes for it. For the past two years I had been listening to Slip non stop.

During the Winter of 1995, 120 Minutes (MTV Alternative show) aired an interview with the band with famed New York Hardcore producer Don Fury. The interview was held at the New York City location of The Royal Canadian Pancake House. While the band ate their obnoxiously large pancakes they talked about the new album and revealed the fact that Don Fury had once done time in the band Twisted Sister. Then they  premiered the video for the single "Thorn In My Side". The video which had the band driving around New York City in go-karts, was the perfect image for the song that definitely was driving  and  had hooks with  the great Quicksand way of going to the edge of becoming Metal without going over it. The song and video was awesome.  I couldn't wait for the album to be released.

The album starts off with "Backwards". It is a basic Quicksand song incorporating all the elements that made Quicksand stand out from other bands. All the elements many bands would try to copy over  the next few years. Quicksand was back.

Then from the first few guitar riffs, the second song "Delusional" reminded me instantly of the Beatles's "Come Together". Maybe it wasn't intended but the whole song does sound so much like the Beatles's track I am a bit surprised Michael Jackson did not come after the band for royalties.The next two tracks both come off a bit like a train wreck with awkward choruses fighting it out with repetitive guitar riffs.

Tracks 6 and 7  turned out to be decent Quicksand songs. They have rising guitars here and there plus a few hooks. What takes away from these songs is the production. There is no bottom end. The songs  sound two dimensional. They do not have the full 3-D sound displayed so awesomely in Slip's tracks "Dine Alone" and "Freezing Process" where you can hear each instrument clearly coming from every direction. Although Wharton Tiers (Manic Compression's producer) may have done some great jobs for Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, he appears to have not been the right choice for Walter and crew.

Halfway through the album "Thorn In My Side" finally appears and right away the image of the band driving around the city I loved instantly comes to mind.

The following track "Landmine spring" you can hear the hooks trying to come through but they have to struggle to find they way out of the way out front heavy guitar sounds and Walter's vocals. Track 8 "Blister" proves to be the best song on the record. Definitely the old school Quicksand sound but kicked up another notch. The rest of the album follows suit with the other lesser songs on the album. Except "East 3rd St" which automatically gets a few extra points from me for being named after a new York City Street. A street I would actually live on 8 years later.

Overall Manic Compression is not too bad of an album. The songs get repetitive a lot of the time but they are decent songs. Except of course "Thorn In My Side" and "Blister" which are awesome songs.

When this album came out the biggest problem for me was that it wasn't a bad album but that it was following a GREAT album. After a few years of giving Manic Compression chances, somewhere down the line a few years later this disc was traded in to a used CD store.

But of course we can't end there. This is a POSITIVE music blog.

A few years back while scanning through the 99 Cent Cd bins at Academy Music I ran across a used copy of Quicksand's Manic Compression. At such a low price i had to pick it up and give it another shot. With the extremely high expectations I had 15 years ago for this album now long gone, I can really appreciate this album by one of hardcore's defining bands. Even through I mainly only listen to "Thorn In My Side" and "Blister" the whole album does remain on my iPod

Now let's check out that awesome "Thorn In My Side" Video


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mickey's Lost Control

Joy Division was a band from the UK. The band was one of the most influential post punk groups. Their slow, somber, music, fronted by lead singer Ian Curtis’s deep baritone voice would influence many bands from rock and roll, new wave, industrial and Gothic music. Joy Division’s debut album Unknown Pleasures was released in 1979. The album was critically acclaimed right from the beginning.

 Because of emotional turmoil caused by the relationship with his wife as well as another woman, epilepsy and the pressure of dealing with his new found fame, Ian committed suicide on May 18th 1980. Even though Joy Division had released another album Closer before Ian’s death, Unknown Pleasure’s cover, with it’s pulsar image taken from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, would go on to be one of the images Joy Division would most be known for.

 So it only make sense to take one of the worlds most recognizable and beloved cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and parody the Unknown Pleasures cover image. Not only that but take this new Disneyfied pulsar image, put it on a t-shirt to sell at Walt Disney World.

I wonder who the "imagineer" was that brought this design to the table. An image that pretty much will always be thought of as a symbol of musical starkness, despair and tragedy is on a t-shirt for sale at "The Happiest Place On Earth".

I could understand a t-shirt parody of other classic albums. Maybe the Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald walking across the Abbey Road crosswalk or something along those lines.Even the image of Donald Duck smashing a guitar on stage in the style of The Clash's London Calling album would not be too startling. But Joy Division? A band who was named after a fictional group of women kept alive at Concentration Camps for the purpose of satisfying German Soldiers.

Were sales of A Nightmare Christmas merchandise on a decline and Disney is attempting to hold onto their "goth" demographic? Is Disney attempting to attract a new "hipster" phenomonon? Was the "imagineer" not fully aware what the design was know for? How was he able to slip this design the know for being very "attentions to detail" Walt Disney World corporation? Maybe the "imagineer" was an avid follower of Astronomy and had no idea of the images connection to Joy Division. Was the "imgineer" let go as soon as the history of Joy Division was discovered?

What would Ian and the rest of the guys in Joy Division (of course all now in New Order) would think about this shirt?

Either way I was totally stunned when on the first day of my recent trip to Walt Disney World, (and you can bet you will be hearing about that trip in future posts) I walked into Epcot's Mouse Gear store and laid my eyes this shirt up on the racks next to all the classic Disney World shirts.

During the rest of the trip I spotted at least a dozen other people sporting the shirt around the parks and hotels. A quick Google search when I returned home shows this to be a highly sought after piece of Walt Disney World attire.It looks like the Unknown Pleasures "imagineer" may have just known what he was doing.

The title of this post was totally stolen from my friend Carlos A. Thanks Carlos!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

AVAIL - Four Albums Strong

Everyone has a band or a few bands that at the time you do not realize how great that band is. How historical that band will become to musical fans once they are gone. How many people will be so jealous you had a chance to see that band live. You may even forget about them until one day a song of theirs that you do not even remember putting on there comes over your iPod's headphones bringing back all those great music memories.

For me one of those bands would be Richmond, VA's Avail,

My first exposure to Avail was around 1994 while I was in my junior year of college. The album Dixie was scheduled to be released on Lookout! Records along with a reissue of their first album Satiate.

Just a few weeks before we left for Winter Break I was walking by the WCWP Radio Station window and heard the song "Sidewalk" blasting out of the outside monitors. I went inside and asked my friend Joe, who had been manning the FM control board, who it was coming out of the speakers.

Handing over two CD's Joe told me how the radios station had just received the promo copies the day before and he had been playing them non stop since.

On the cover of Dixie under the "Promo" stamp there was the name AVAIL and a drawing of a stick figure holding a flag. This would become the symbol AVAIL would be known by. A symbol you would still find on stickers on the back of street signs and tattooed on the bodies of many people for years to come.

Later that day Joe came up to me in the cafeteria and handed me a 90 minute cassette. Side A was labeled "Dixie" with "Satiate" on side B. Over the next few weeks I listened to them over and over, eventually wearing out the tape. Finally on Superbowl Sunday 1994 I picked up true copies of both the CDS and still have them 17 years later.

AVAIL put out six studios albums. The first four: Satiate, Dixie, 4 A.M. Friday and Over the James are all unbelievable albums. Each of them showing the bands development. The last two albums are not as great. One Wrench has a few good songs but they really just sound like attempts to copy tracks from Over the James. The sixth and final album Front Porch Stories is the band just going through the motions. For me at least, it was no surprise when after Front Porch Stories the band decided to call it quits.

But over those for albums AVAIL was something special to me. Here is why:

Satiate, originally self-released and then on Old Glory Records before being reissues on Lookout! Records is a great introduction for a new band. When you press play one of the first things coming through the headphones lead singer Tim Barry singing "Set me free". Then the drums kick in. Then the almost marching band drums of the first track "March". You can almost picture the band marching over a hill introduce themselves and show what they've got. When track two comes on the it gets a little harder. We are here and we can get angry! Over the next 11 tracks Avail would show the beginnings of the styles they would known for. Styles that no other band could really pull off.

When Quicksand came out millions of bands attempted to recreate the sound that made that band so great. The same thing happened when Hot Water Music became popular. Kid Dynamite and Against Me! also had many imitators. I cant even think of one band who attempted to copy AVAIL. If there any they were so far off the mark you can't even hear a resemblance.

Getting back to Satiate, some of these examples of these budding styles are the driving melody of track 4 "Bob's Crew". The melodic to hard to back to melodic of track 5 "Observations". Even the acoustic track 12 "Hope" is a great closing number with a title showing a band that will go on to do great things. The title of that song also signifies there will still be good and fresh bands in the hardcore punk world.

The Lookout! Records reissue, as well as the Jade Tree Records reissue a decade later both include the very early AVAIL 7" Ep Attempt to Regress with the tracks "Connection" and "Mr. Morgan" tacked on to the end. On the two songs of the 7" I hear a strong FUGAZI influence. An influence probably explained by Richmond close proximity to DC. An influence that  had all but disappeared by the time Satiate was recorded. "Connection" begins as an intense song but becomes even more and more intense the guitars get sharper and sharper and singer Tim Barry's sings "Why" more and more intense until it sounds like his head is about to explode. So intense that if the band had not gone on to release more material I would have thought it had.

The b-side "Mr Morgan" ( I found out later) was named after a Senior resident of Richmond who was beaten to death for just a few dollars, is a little less intense. You can begin to hear the smooth  melodic, hard, back to smooth melodic sound emerging from the FUGAZI influence.

Then came the Dixie. The album kicks of with the roaring "On The Nod". It arrives at your headphones like an old friend returning after not seeing them in some time. Tracks "Clone" and "Treading on Heels" show AVAIL has not lost the knack for switching from melodic to hard to melodic all in the same song. Five tracks in comes AVAIL's best song. "Sidewalk" is a solid driving , upbeat song with hooks and an awesome chorus. After "Sidewalk", "25 Years" slows it down a bit, letting you catch your breath the piercing guitars of "Virus" kick in upping the albums temp all over again.

The album (almost) closes with "Southbound 95", which has a sample of the actual classic song "Dixie" before the song takes off. The song, about returning home to the South after a tour is fast and loud. Probably AVAIL's fastest and loudest song. 
Supposedly they would only play this song on the last night of a tour. I was lucky. The one time I did get to see AVAIL live was at the Capital Ballroom in D.C. the last show of the tour before they returned home. That night they played this song with a whole new level of urgency.

The album finally closes with a very good cover of Jon Cougar Mellencamp's "Pink Houses". The song is done with not a trace of cheesiness. The lyrics about living in a small town could easily fit into any AVAIL song. Even through AVAIL would go on to cover Elvis's "Suspicious Minds", Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" among others, I will always think of "Pink Houses" as AVAIL's signature cover.

To grasp an idea of the transition from Satiate to Dixie, check out the Live at The King's Head Inn 10" (also included on the Jade Tree reissue of Dixie). It has a few songs from each album as well as a pretty good cover of the VIOLENT FEMMES's "Kiss Off"

The next album 4 A.M. Friday still remains AVAIL's most underrated album. Perhaps because it's sandwiched between the strong breakthrough of Dixie and the maturity of Over The James but there are many great songs on the 4 A.M. Friday. The best being "Simple Song" which is just that: a simple song. Also a simple song with driving groove and strong hooks. My favorite AVAIL song, "FCA" is also on this album. The songs is a not only another example of the hard to melodic to hard style that AVAIL does so well, its also a tribute to their friends Bob Baynor of the band MAXMILLIAN COLBY who had passed away. I'm not sure what exactly happened to him but the song does mention a "Spiderco" which is a very serious knife so I am sure it was not good . The album's title 4 A.M. Friday comes from the time and day the band found out about Bob's death.

"92" and "Armchair" are two more fantastic fast moving songs, both complete with a great hook. Track 11 is a quick acoustic version of the classic " Swing Low". Not only is this a nice salute to the South AVAIL calls home but a sign of things to come when lead singer Tim Barry explores acoustic "roots" music almost ten years later.

A few years later the last of AVAIL's four great albums Over The James  was released. Almost immediately there is no denying the production is seriously beefed up and more polished than  4 A,M, Friday. The songs are overall more melodic but in by no means in a sell out way. This album would allow AVAIL to bring in a larger fan base (before making the move to Fat Wreckords ) but also not oust the band's loyal fans of the past decade.

Song 3 "August" slows the tempo down but the roaring guitars are still present. Track 5 "Nickle Bridge" was given a sneak peak on the Live at the Bottom of The Hill CD. Here we get to hear it all it's studio produced glory. Once again we get to catch our breath when "Nickle Bridge" winds down with a little jingle-jangle at the end before "Scuffle Town" (also on the Bottom of the Hill) revs it up again  with it's driving chorus which also brings us the album's title. "Still it's a beautiful day. The sun is still shining over the James"

It may have taken a bit of time but at track 7 "S.R,O," we once again get to hear the melodic to hard to melodic AVAIL sound which won us over years ago.

At track 12 "Cross Tie" you get your last chance to take a breath . Looking back it is almost as if AVAIL is taking a second to look back at their years on Lookout! Records and that awesome four album run before they hammer it home with the powerful "Ask" and even more unbelievable (as well as one of my favorite AVAIL songs) "Fifth Wheel".

Like I said at the beginning of this entry, AVAIL did move on to the bigger Fat Wreckords and release two more albums but for me AVAIL's greatness ends when at the very end of Over The James a kid's voice says, "Thanks for buying this hardcore product". Basically with this blog entry I am thanking AVAIL for putting them out for us.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Out Of The Vaults - Sonic Youth - DAYDREAM NATION

In our new apartment there is one wall with 10 cabinets stacked from floor to ceiling with a sliding library style ladder to reach the high ones. These cabinets were custom built by a previous owner. Inside each cabinet is four shelves, each one the perfect width for a CD. This is what sold me on the apartment.These are the "Vaults" were the music is stored.

Each week I will ask my wife to dive deep into the cabinets and pull out a random CD. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will "muse" on the disc for awhile in this blog no matter how good, bad, or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, how old was I, first reaction to hearing the album, do I still listen to it today and anywhere else my stream of conscious will take me in regards to the "Out Of The Vaults" weekly pick.

Out Of The Vaults #1- Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

I grew up in Columbia, Md.The town next door was called Laurel. Every once in awhile my parents would want a change from shopping at the Columbia Mall and make the 15 minute trip to the rival Laurel Mall.
I always welcomed the change because the Laurel Mall's record store kicked the butt of either of the Columbia Mall record stores. The store was Camelot Music or The Wall or Coconuts or some other form of the Transworld family. For some reason this store had an extensive collection of punk/hardcore/indie music. Each time we went there it was agony deciding which CD or Cassette to go home with.

It was one of these trips that I picked up Daydream Nation. Since I was 13 years old I had been a fan of the Dead Milkmen buying almost everything they released. In one of the linear notes of one of their cassettes was an advertisement for other Enigma Records releases. Most of the releases listed did not catch my attention but the name Sonic Youth did. Their name sounded to me like a hardcore or punk band but the picture of the album cover seemed to imply more than just a hardcore band.

A few days later we once again found ourselves past the boundaries of Columbia and drinking Orange Juliuses at the Laurel Mall. I drank mine very fast. The record store was on the other side of the mall and I was itching to get over there. Once I did make it over to the store it was probably the quickest visit I had ever made there. I bee lined to the "Indie/Punk" section of the store and found what I was seeking

Being a teenager and involuntarily feeling the need to rebel against anything and everything, the lead off track "Teenage Riot" hit home before the disc even began. Thurston Moore, the bands leader on vocals. The second song , "Silver Rocket" is where the album really takes off (pun intended). The first few guitar chords are the engines revving before the song kicks in and I literally felt like I was being fired straight up in the sky. A minute or so into the song it slows down, guitars crash chaotic noise erupts giving the feeling of having engine problems high up in space. Then song picks up again and I plummet back to earth at the speed which it launched until you reach the ground with a "thud" at the very end of the song.

In the next song bassist Kim Gordon takes over the lead vocals. Half way through the song she has almost replaced Blondie as my teenage rock crush.
The following song again with Kim on vocals finishes the job. This song , "Cross the Breeze" is then (and still today) one of the my most visual songs. If I close my eyes the driving guitars perfectly create an image of a guy running to escape some bullys in hot pursuit before the song slows down and the guitars get heavy as you picture the guy being caught and beaten . Somehow the guy escapes and the guitars pick up and smooth out as he once again runs for his life. After a another few minutes of Kim singing, the chase, beating and escape takes place once more before the song winds down and the guys has successfully gotten away.

On song 5 "Eric's Trip" another singer takes over. At only 16 the Andy Warhol Art scene references were lost on me but this was a good first exposure to Lee Renaldo's "Spoken" vocal style.He would also be taking over vocals for "Hey Joni" and "Rain King" a little later in the album.

Track 8 "Providence" was a mystery to my 16 year old ears. There really is no music. Just a very slow piano bit with some guy talking to Thurston through what sounds like a distorted tape recorder. Little did I know that the voice on that song was Mike Watt leaving a message on Thurston's answering machine. By the next year Mike's classic band The Minutemen would be in heavy rotation on my stereo and his newer band fIREHOSE was soon to follow. 

For track 9 Sonic Youth's leader Thurston  once again takes over the vocals on "Candle".

" I see a falling snowgirl walking Broadway.
Turns the corner at 14th st and I know there's no way"

 Even at 16 I had a strong love affair with New York City. Whenever a landmark, borough or street of the city was mentioned in a song, it would send chills down my back. At the time I may not have understood connotations of the Coke addicted girl ("Snowgirl") disappearing down 14th  St to score but I was just excited to hear the names of these streets. It was at this point where the names Sonic Youth and New York would become synonymous to me from then on.

On track 11 "Kissability" Kim once again takes over on vocals and sings with such urgency that the song send even more shivers down my back.

Then the trilogy begins: "The Wonder" kicks in with Thurston's almost screaming vocals and roaring guitars before coming down for the great chorus, "I'm just walking around. Your city is a wonder town". In the song I visualize the guy who was being chased down in "Cross the Breeze" now wandering aimlessly round the city running into various people do a variety of  vices occurring around town each time the guitar hits another chord before the song winds down, the guy falling to the ground with his head in his cupped hands.

Now it's 22 years later. Do I still listen to Daydream Nation

Yep. Probably at least once every few weeks too. Every time: Start to Finish. Over the past 22 years I have not grown one bit tired of the album either. Every time I have a long car ride or drive this album, along with it's fellow godlike double albums The Minutemen's Double Nickles on the Dime and Husker Due's Zen Arcade, are the first ones on the stereo to make the long ride fly right by.

In 2007 Daydream Nation was reissued. This time it was released as a double CD with one disc being the album itself and one disc being full of live versions of the Daydream Nation songs. Not only are they live versions but they are from the 1988 tour Sonic Youth did for their then new album. 

Although over the years I have seen Sonic Youth dozens of times and they have always had Daydream Nation songs mixed throughout their set list, this disc is awesome because it allows you to hear these songs performed  live when were are the freshest. 

With this brand new "deluxe" copy of Daydream Nation it now came time to retire one of the CD's that has graced my CD player probably more than any other of my 3000+ Cd's. The  long stained and scuffed up Enigma Records copy of Daydream Nation  I had bought and was blown away almost 20 years before was not going to be needed anymore.

From now on this new copy will  have the job of blowing me away for many more years to come. 

A Formal Introduction

Let's get introductions out of the way. I am a music lover who used to own a record store outside of Baltimore and now lives in New York and works as a dog groomer but still has a strong love affair with music. The last 38 years has left me with a vast knowledge of music. Rock and Roll in particular. It's packed so tightly in there that it will inevitability explode someday. Why not save the mess and leak a little out into this blog each day. Its much cleaner that way.

The title of this blog "Audio Lore" is a play on the Archers Of Loaf song "Audio Whore". Originally that was going to be the title of the blog. Then it accord to me that it was rather negative. There are too many bitter, opinionated curmudgeonly and negative music bloggers out there. This will stay on the positive side. Still opinionated but positive