Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Sunday, December 23, 2012

One Bloggers Opinion 2012's Lucky #13 (or 14) Favorite Releases of the Year .

Top 13 or 14 Favorite Releases of 2012. One Blogger's Opinion

The time has come again when every music blogger will unleash what they think were the best releases of the year. In my opinion 2012 was a fantastic year for music and I had trouble narrowing my choices down to just fourteen. Here they are in no particular order

The Vaccines – Come of Age (Columbia Records) – Hands down my favorite album of the year. Guitar hooks and pure pop for now people that would make Nick Lowe very proud. This album could hold up to be my favorite album of the decade.

Converge (Epitaph Records) – All That We Love We Leave Behind – Converge never seems to fail me. Pun intended of course. Sixteen years since their landmark Petitioning the Empty Sky and they can still put out fresh sounding albums in their math/metal style while most their contemporaries either became bland, changed styles or gave up.

Diiv – Oshin (Captured Tracks) – On about a third of the tracks on the late 80’s/early 90’s band Chapterhouse’s Whirlpool album they played music notes and riffs that were as close to sonic perfection as any shoegazer has gotten The Brooklyn band Diiv manages to hit perfect notes and riffs on all thirteen tracks of the Oshin album.

Billy Raygun – s/t (LP People of the Woods, CD John Wilkes Booth Records) – Chunky sounding pop/punk band out of New Hampshire. Dual vocals, which they just added on this album, add very much to this young band’s already fast maturing sound. Great stuff if you like early Jawbreaker, Crimpshrine (if they had better vocals) or Dillinger Four.

The Men – Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones) – The Men sound just like they were yanked out of the early 90’s New York Scene (think Unsane, Surgery, Loudspeaker etc) where bands straddled different underground genres like punk, metal and good old rock and roll. On “Open Your Heart”, The Men combined all of them with a dose of the Ramones rearing it’s head from underneath. Check out the Stiff Little Fingers “Suspect Device” “Influenced” riff on the albums opener.

Roomrunner – Super Vague (Fan Death Records) – Baltimore area’s Roomrunner plays 90’s influenced grunge better than many of those 90’s bands who played grunge. I wish I still had a car because I bet these guys are great to listen to while driving.

Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (Carpark Records) – A young band that knows when to get poppy and knows when to get noisy. The Steve Albini production totally enhances whichever way they choose to go.

Ceremony – Zoo (Matador) – For the past 5 years Ceremony has been my favorite hardcore band. On Zoo they change their sound to more of a Wire/Joy Division influenced sound and become my favorite post-punk band. But don’t worry, they still play the hardcore ragers live.

Nada Surf – “The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy” (Barsuk) – It’s hard to believe that when many people think about Nada Surf they still think about their minor hit “Popular”. It’s unfortunate because those people missing out on sixteen years of some great hook filled power pop. “The Stars…” is fantastic addition to their five album (and one covers record) post “Popular” discography.

Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse) – These guys remain the only grind/thrash/etc band that can hold my attention over an entire album. Make sure to pick the two disc version with awesome covers of Black Flag, Void, Misfits, Angry Samoans and more. No animals were harmed in the making of this record.

Wild Moth – “Mourning Glow” Ep(Asian Man Records ) and  S/T Ep (The Ghost is Cleat – digital, Suitors Club – 10”) – San Francisco hardcore/punk band that is not afraid to add an effects peddle and some feedback. Sometimes they verge into Iceage territory but pull off that sound better than the Danish band has been able to. (Both Eps also available on Bandcamp)

Jack White – Blunderbuss (Thirdman) – I disliked everything the White Stripes ever released almost as much as I disliked everything Led Zeppelin, the band the White Stripes tried to sound like, released. Let’s face it, if the Racanteurs and Dead Weather did not have the names in the band that they did, no one would really care about them. I was totally surprised to find out I liked this album and end up listening to it regularly over the rest of the year. But then again I loved the Robert Plant solo album (with Alison Krause) from a few years back too.

Pop 1280 – The Horror (Sacred Bones) – Many a band has attempted to raise the furious sound of The Birthday party but have all fallen flat on their face in the process. This Brooklyn band succeeds were almost everyone has failed. I’m sure even Nick Cave himself would be impressed.

Forgetters – s/t (To Small To Fail) – Blake of Jawbreaker/Jets To Brazil fame’s newish band (finally) release an album recorded by (Jawbox frontman) J. Robbins. Did you really think this album would not be on this list? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Out of the VINYL Vaults #23 - R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction LP

For a change this time my wife blindly picked one of my Vinyl Records instead of the usual compact disc format.

R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

On a Sunday night in 1990 at a Chinese food restaurant I overheard two people talking about the then new R.E.M. album Green. One of them said, “If you really like that album you should really check out R.E.M.’s first album Document". Hearing the comment left me pretty discouraged. It wasn't because I thought the guy was being ignorant because he thought Document was R.E.M.’s first album, it was because I felt bad this person was missing out on so much great music. They did not know about the bands introduction to the world in Chronic Town, the band's debut album Murmur which pretty much invented College Rock, the laid back minimalism of Reckoning, the near perfect Life’s Rich Pageant or the stories on Fables of the Reconstruction.

Up until 1991's shiny happy Out Of Time album I was a huge R.E.M. fan. So huge that the college I wanted to go to more than anywhere else was University of Georgia because it was in Athens, GA. 

Although Fables of the Reconstruction is not my favorite R.EM. Album, I really enjoy it because each song uses music and lyrics to tell a story, all of them taking place in the South R.E.M. called home. 

The guitars of “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” feel like they are weighting someone down, only to be let up for the chorus before the strings at the end pin them to the ground. The meandering sounds played “Maps and Legends” perfectly illustrate a guy walking through the backwoods of Georgia attempting to follow a map he wrote himself. Each guitar riff on “Driver 8” (my favorite R.E.M. song) is a chug of the train as it speeds a long. You can actually see the "tree house on the outskirts of the farm" and the "power lines with floaters" that the tired train engineer in the song sees as he drives the train. The fast pace and shooting guitar riffs illustrate the rapid fire bids to the auctioneer speaking at a fast pace while selling off bargains in “Auctioneer (Another Engine)”

R.E.M. does allow themselves one track to have a little fun in the bouncy "Can't Get There from Here". This also happens to be the first R.E.M. song I ever heard.

There is one issue that keeps Fables of the Reconstruction behind Life's Rich Pageant, Murmur, Chronic Town, Document and Reckoning in the order of my favorite R.E.M. albums. "Green Grow the Rushes", "Kohoutek" and "Good Advices" all sound a little to simialr. 

In the summer of 1990 my family and I took a trip to look at the University of Georgia and a few other southern schools I was interested in on the way down to Florida. I finally got a chance to see the South and all the people R.E.M sang about on those early albums. 

Somehow I ended up going to school in New York. Although I do not remember exactly how it happened I am pretty sure it had something to do with another band who's name began with an R.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Out of the Vaults #22 - The Lemonheads - Lick

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

Out Of The Vaults # 22 - The Lemonheads - Lick (1989)

Its no secret that the Lemonheads are one of my favorite bands but it is the bands whole history that puts them there. If they had not released anything after the punk bursts of  1987's Hate Your Friends they wouldn't up there. Their Dinosaur Jr-esque major label debut Lovey alone would not put them there. If their "Breakthrough" album It's A Shame About Ray was where the band began they would not be there either . It's all these along with 1988's Creator and the 1993 Power Pop/Alt Rock album Come On Feel the Lemonheads that place them there. Even 1996's Car Button Cloth plays a part.

But out of all the albums the band released 1989's Lick get's a bit of an edge because for me it was the one that was the most important.

Many people may be surprised to know until 1989 the Lemonheads had two singers. There was of course Evan Dando, the smooth voice singer/guitarist who would go one to become a big star in the Alternative Rock world, but there was also the more raspy voiced Ben Deily. One of them would play the drums on the songs the other one wrote and sang.

At the time Evan was great at writing the loud blasts of punk rock like ("Glad I Don't Know". "Come Back D.A.", "Sad Girl") or metal ("Cazzo De Ferro"). Ben's specialty was blaring jilted love songs ("Anyway", "Ever").

 The album did show a few signs of the alternative guitar rock that would later take the Lemonheads near the top. The driven by bassist and future Video/Movie director Jesse Peretz  album opener "Mallo Cup" and "Circle of One" at Track 4 both may not seem too out of place on Lovey or even It's a Shame about Ray.

Lick also contains three great cover songs. The first is "Rabbit" by the obscure New Zealand punk band Proud Scum. The second, Patsy Clines's "Strange", I actually did not even know was a Patsy Cline song until several years later which led to a semi embarrassing night at the old 9:30 Club where I was yelling out for Evan and company to play it. The third cover is the reason why Lick is to me the most important of their albums.

Luka 7" Single
As the very last video on MTV's 120 Minutes one Sunday night the Lemonheads' version of "Luka" came roaring through the television speakers. It was a simple folksy rock song written and recorded by Suzanne Vega just a few years earlier taken by the Lemonheads and transformed into a blaring, noisy punk rock song with wailing guitars all the way through until the end. It was the first time I had heard the band and even though I have used the expression many times in this blog before this is where it probably fits the best; I was blown away.

After Lick was released Ben left the band taking his songs with him to his bands The Pods and later Varsity Drag. Of course the Lemonheads, now with Evan as the sole vocalist continued on to become one of the biggest names in Alternative Rock.

However the days of the one two punch of Evan Dando/Ben Deily may not be totally behind us. I heard  it through the lemon tree that Ben has actually joined Evan in an all new Lemonheads line up. Definitely a project I will be keeping an eye out for.

Meanwhile here is a video of The Lemonheads doing "Anyway" live in 1989 with Evan on Drums which I actually just found last night. Definitely check out this song and the other 14 songs on Youtube from the show.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A look back at DURAN DURAN'S first "DECADE" (Out of the Vaults with a twist # 3)

Because my wife's CD collection is so eclectic, blindly taking out a CD to write about is always a gamble. I always relate it too the "woodbeast" scene in Flash Gordon where Prince Baron challenges Flash to reach into a tree trunk, risking a fatal bite from the creature inside. Will I reach into my wife's collection and safely pull out Neil Young's greatest hits or will I be bitten by one of the Dance Party compilations lurking around inside there.

This time I was lucky

Duran Duran - Decade (Greatest Hits, 1989)

“Planet Earth” and its self-titled first album’s co representative “Girls on Film” are two very good songs and a great introduction to the band. The only thing is they sound very stripped down. Even when I listened to “Planet Earth”, “Girls on Film” and the rest of the songs on Duran Duran’s debut all those years ago I thought they sounded like “demos”of what the band wanted to become. The songs sound almost one dimensional. The album was missing something. Altogether it sounded  like the band had still not worked out the kinks in their sound but wanted to get something out there before they unleashed their masterpieces. 

Duran Duran circa 1981
Even the videos were nothing unbelievable. “Girls on Film” had the band playing in an abandoned boxing gym while models walk around a catwalk. The video for “Planet Earth” featured the band playing on a crystal podium that looks like it was ripped out of the first Superman movie's  “Fortress of Solitude”. These videos were not  actually bad. They were actually on par for most of what was being released. But if you think about the fantastic imagery of the Duran Duran videos to come, these two really paled in comparison.  Please don’t get me wrong. I loved these two songs and played the heck out of them.

The awesome "Hungry Like A Wolf " video
At Track 3 “Hungry like the Wolf” is more like it. When this song and the incredible album it was on came out Duran Duran had reached a whole new level. The smooth tempo, steady bass line and crashing synthesized drums show those holes from the first album had been filled just right. Plus there was the video. Instead of the cramped studio set of “Girls on Film” we get to see an Indiana Jones-esque story line filmed over some incredible scenery. Although I have yet to find someone who knows exactly what is going on in the story, most people I talked to back then and even today agree on how awesome a video it was.

Even more awesome "Rio" video
Just when we are basking in the greatness of “Hungry like the Wolf”, the swooping keyboards of what I always considered Duran Duran’s signature song comes over the speaker. “Rio” is another unbelievable song. With it’s out front guitar riffs and original bass line “Rio” may prove to be an even better song then “Hungry like the Wolf”. I mean this song even makes a saxophone sounds cool. Plus we were given another spectacular video with even more beautiful scenery and vague story line to accompany it.

"Save a Prayer" for the morning after what?
Track 5 brings us the final representative of the landmark Rio album. Every perfect album needs a couple slower numbers to break it up a bit, give the listener a chance to catch their breath. “Save a Prayer” fills one of those positions on Rio and does an excellent job. But this song has always left me with one question. Save it for the morning after what? Over the years I have scoured many Duran Duran interviews and read many Duran Duran entries in Rock and Roll history books but have never been able to find an answer to this question bugging me since I first heard this song almost thirty years ago.

 Groundbreaking graphics on the "Is There Something" video
“Is There Something I Should Know” is the first of two standalone singles found on Decade. The second one is “Wild Boys” a Track 9 a few songs down the line. Both brought together on a Long Player for the not really too live sounding live album Arena. But before we get too far ahead there are a couple representatives of Duran Duran’s almost as monumental album Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

I have this clear memory of watching the “World Premier” of the video for Track 7 “Union of the Snake”. It was a pretty big deal. I remember MTV advertised it for weeks.

Strange character in "Wild Boys" video
“The Reflex” at Track 8 surprises you. It starts off slow but just when you think it will be another mid paced head bopper like “Union of the Snake” the chorus really takes off. 

Now we are officially at Track 9. With its gang shouts at the beginning, solid bass line and anathematic chorus followed by awesome drums, “Wild Boys” will always be one of my favorite Duran Duran song. Possibly tied with Rio’s “The Chauffeur  which for some reason did not make the Decade cut. 

Taking in the sights during "A View to a Kill" vudeo
At Track 10 is another song not from an official Duran Duran album but from the James Bond movie of the same name. Plus the song had an awesome video. In the video the band is the Eiffel Tower as spies intertwined with Roger Moore and Grace Jones from the actual movie fighting it out on the tower. My memory always mixes up different scenes from the video and the movie with the Eiffel Tower scene at the beginning of Superman II. Either way I always felt the elaborate video must have been a huge part of "View to a Kill" being the only James Bond theme song to reach #1.

Even he knows "Skin Trade" is not up to par
Unfortunately after "A View to a Kill " the band took a turn for the worse. Drummer Roger Taylor had left the band while guitarist Andy Taylor on was his way out too. The resulting Notorious album's representatives Track 11 the title track and Track 12 "Skin Trade" showed the remaining members decided to aim for a more "funk" sound but instead both songs come off a little awkward. The slap bass on "Notorious" and James Brown horns on "Skin Trade" actually makes me feel uncomfortable when I listen to them. 

1989 - And then there were three
Track 13 "All She Wants Is" and 14 "I Don't Want Your Love" were for me the final nails in the Duran Duran heyday coffin. 1988's Big Thing, the album both these songs can be found on may have been the first Duran Duran album I did not purchase.

After examining this album pulled from my wife's collection, it's seems so strange all these songs were released in only a decades time. Their best material, their debut album through number album Seven and the Ragged Tiger, were only three years apart. 

The band did redeem themselves a little bit when in 1993 they released another self titled album (also known as "The Wedding Album") but that is a discussion for a another day. Maybe even another decade.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Out Of The Vaults #21 - The Subhumans (Canada) - Incorrect Thoughts

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

Out of the Vaults #21 - The Subhumans (Canada) - Incorrect Thoughts (1980)

First off these guys are not be confused with the more known Subhumans from the United Kingdom. These guys were from Canada. Vancouver, British Columbia to be exact. Guitarist Mike “Normal”  Graham and bassist Gerry “Useless” Hannah played louder and drummer Jim Imagawa hit harder then any member of the UK band. Singer Brian “Wimpy” Gobel definitely belted out the tunes a hell of a lot better than Dick, the winy UK Subhumans singer.

Although I knew about the UK Subhumans since high school it was not until 1993 when Rhino records released Faster and Louder: Hardcore Punk Volume compilations until a knew about their Canadian band possessing the same name. On Volume 2 was a track titled “Firing Squad” by The Subhumans. At first I dismissed it thinking it was that annoying winy band I tried so many times but just couldn't like but then when the song came on I was pleasantly corrected. The song was definitely punk with semi snotty lyrics but it was melodic. It actually possessed hooks. Looking through the disc liner notes, I learned thesinger was now bassist for D.O.A, a band I had been listening to for years.

Unfortunately circa 1993 Canadian Subhumans material was not easy to come by. Their Incorrect Thoughts and their second album No Wishes, No Prayers were extremely expensive and highly sought after. Except for “Firing Squad” on this comp, I thought nothing of the band had been released yet on disc.

In 1996 Sudden Death Records released Subhumans compilation named Pissed off with Good Reason. On it were a few odds and ends of the band's catalog but it would be a year later until I got the big picture.

When I bought my record store in 1997 one of the first things I did was place a huge order to distributor of punk and indie music. In the clearance section of their catalog was an actual CD version of The Subhumans’ Incorrect Thoughts album. I grabbed  the last five copies.

I can’t get too much into the track listing since so many different versions of the album contain different orders but anyway you mix up the songs Incorrect Thoughts is a near perfect punk rock record.

 “Death to the Sickoids”, “We’re Alive” and Mike Graham’s machine gun guitar led “Out of Line” and “New Order” shows they knew how to pen rebellious punk anthems but “Dead at Birth”, “Model of Stupidity” and “Refugee” show they also knew how to write a hook. Even some, like the before mentioned “Firing Squad” contained melody.

Vinyl version of the CD Presents  release
The Subhumans were by no means a positive band. They were anti-music business (“The Scheme”), anti-conformist (“The Big Picture”), anti-tough guy (“Greaser Boy”), anti-macho (“Slave to My Dick”) and anti-everything (“Behind the Smile”)

“Behind My Smile" ,which actually was not on the original Friends Records release of Incorrect Thoughts,  is one of my top ten favorite songs. It’s anathematic, it's heavy and has one of the greatest hooks of all-time. All the things that made the Subhumans such as awesome band. I could listen to this song on repeat for days and never tire of it. 

The Subhumans weren't just going through the punk rock motions either. They actually meant what they were singing about. Bassist Gerry Hannah became part of a group who would later be called “The Squamish Five”. When I say later I mean because it was after the activists bombed a Toronto plant which was making parts for “first strike” cruise missiles. ( 

Even though LPs still fetch a large amounts of money and the CD version I have is extremely hard to find (Actually I have never even seen another copy) somehow the original recording made its way on to iTunes. Go download it now!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mr Mister: Lessons about life in Welcome to the Real World

Even though Mr Mister's had released their debut album entitled I Wear the Face , it was not until 1985's Welcome To The Real World was unleashed to the world that I became aware of them. 

The first song "Black and White" may possess an artificial drum sound but this was just the sound of the day. The catchy lead off track is highlighted by a Pink Floyd inspired guitar solo at 2:45. Yes I did just compare pop rockers Mr Mister with Rock and Roll legends Pink Floyd. Just listen to Steve Farris’s guitar solo “Black and White” back to back with the David Gilmour guitar solo on “Dogs” or any other song off of the Pink Floyd's Animals and you will see just what I mean.

Track 2 “The Uniform of Youth” is a rebel song. Even though they wear Miami Vice style blazers and have spiky highlighted hair Mr Mister could still get angry! When singer/bassist Richard Page sings lines like “I don’t think I like this place, I don’t think I like your face” you better watch out because he means it!

But of course it’s not all about anger. Mr Mister could write an inspirational anthem and Track 3 “Don’t Slow Down” was one of 1984’s best. Hearing Page sing “Don’t slow down. The fires burning in us now. Don’t slow down. We've come too far to turn back now”, will get you so pumped up that by the time the “Oh ohs ohhs” of the second chorus comes on you are ready to take on anything the world puts in front of you.

Unfortunately power ballads were the only clink in Mr Mister’s armor. “Run to Here” may have been a ballad but it not at all powerful. It’s actually almost painful to listen to. How I used to wish you could fast forward a LP.

The band greatly redeems themselves when “Into My Own Hands” comes on. It’s a quintessential 80’s pop song right up there with Track 1, only this time a little heavier with the keyboards. The keyboards do take a step back at the 3 minute mark when the bass and guitar duel it out for a few seconds. The guitar proves the victor but it was probably due to bassist Page having to go back to concentrating on the singing.

Since I originally owned this album on vinyl LP and played it HUNDREDS of times, regardless of later owning Welcome To The Real World on CD followed by Mp3’s, to me “Is It Love” will always be considered the beginning of Side B. With its heavy bass, shooting missiles of guitar and its and ever questioning philosophical title, “Is It Love?” was such a great way to kick it off. Plus we are given some more of that awesome Pink Floyd Animals guitar work.

Then the first of Mr Mister’s masterpieces comes on. On “Kyrie” lines like “When I was young I thought of growing old, Of what my life would mean to me. Would have followed down my chosen road or only wished that I could be” show “introspection” was yet another weapon in Mr Mister’s arsenal. It’s not just singer/bassist Page either. It’s the whole band. Listening to the whole group sing together on the final chorus brings to mind the chorus of the ensemble “We Are The World”. This is rather ironic since that is the song “Kyrie” lost out the “Best Pop Song” category at the Grammys that year. 

As great a song as "Kyrie" was, I will always favor that first single I heard from Mr Mister just a fraction more. "Broken Wings" has such a great build up over the first three choruses before, at the three minute point it becomes to much and comes crashing down. But wait. There is still one more emotion filled verse. In fact the song is so powerful with Page putting forth so much emotion that at the four minute mark you can hear his voice crack. Too choked up to continue singing Page allows keyboardist Steve George to bring the song home. 

One thing that always made me think how awesome and daring Mr Mister's Welcome to the Real World was is how the album has it's two biggest singles at track 7 and 8 of the LP, neither one the first song on one of the sides of the record. Very unconventional and awesome move for 1985. 

Nearing the end of the album, at Track 9 the steady paced "Tangent Tears" showcases Page's astonishing vocal range. This song shows clearly why Page had been chosen by both Toto and Chicago to replace singers Bobby Kimball and Peter Cetera. I for one am glad he turned both band's down. Had Page accepted one of those offers Welcome to the Real World may have never been created.

The album's closer, the title track "Welcome to the Real World" teaches us another lesson: Life is not always easy. Just try to make the most of it. 

Not only did Mr Mister put out such a landmark rock and roll album but they were also a gateway band. Because of them I wanted to check out other double named musical groups. Soon Talk Talk and The The were constants in my rotation. (I had been listening to Duran Duran for a few years already)

Over the next few years my musical tastes would seriously expand making me totally miss Mr Mister's 1987 follow up album Go On. Actually I didn't even know that album existed until I wrote this blog entry.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Out Of The Vault's # 20 - The Pixies - Doolittle

I usually try not to do too many "Out Of The Vaults" in a row but when my wife picked out one of the greatest albums of all-time I just could not wait.

Out Of The Vaults #20 - The Pixies - Doolittle (1989)

Let's try to forget all that we know about the Pixies after the Doolittle album. Forget that we know the band released two more albums before splitting up. Forget we know singer/guitarist Black Francis changed his name to Frank Black and went solo while bassist/singer Kim Deal formed the Breeders with her twin sister Kelly. Let's try to ignore that we know The Pixies reunited in 2004, then celebrated Doolittle's 20th Anniversary a few years later.

While we are at it let's try to forget about The Pixies first Mini-LP Come On Pilgrim and first album Surfer Rosa because when Doolittle was released I'm positive most of us did not even know those records existed.

Just ignore all that. Wipe it from your mind. Now picture yourself putting Doolittle on the turntable and hearing it come through your headphones for the first time. Hearing one of your all-time favorite albums for the first time. For me it was in when I was 16 years old in 1989.

The Pixies album Doolittle was out for at least a month or two before I finally picked it up. The video for "Monkey Gone To Heaven" was in regular rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes for a few weeks but on those  squeaky, fuzzy  VHS tapes I constantly recorded over each week, the song just did not sound too hot.  After seeing in Rolling Stone Magazine that Doolittle was climbing up the charts I figured even though the  "Monkey Gone To Heaven" video had failed to win me over, maybe it was time to give the rest of the album a chance.

When the needle hit the vinyl for "Debaser" I am  greeted with a couple bass notes before a melodic surf riff comes in. Just when I am  about to think this is nothing too groundbreaking , Black Francis's manic vocals take over. Not only are they manic but he is singing about slicing up eyeballs and something in indecipherable French or Spanish. The vocals are not even going with the melody.  What have I gotten myself into here? Soon the first chorus with that smooth guitar from the beginning, only this time with Kim Deal's smooth spoken vocals contrasting Black  Francis's shrieks of "Debaser". Black Francis's manic vocals return for a second verse. Once again they are still not going with the melody but for some reason it works. For the second chorus Kim once again joins Black Francis only time she sings. While Joey Santiago's guitar is bringing the song home I  begin to think  this album may be something special. About twenty seconds into the "Tame" I am convinced.

The song goes from a quiet whisper of Black Francis accompanied by a bouncy bass line to the full band accompanied by shrieking vocals and right back down before repeating again. When it is over and I wonder what just happened, the guitars of "Wave of Mutilation" come roaring in. That is exactly what the song sounds like. Close your eyes and try not to picture the sounds or the guitars forming a wave bowling over everything in it's path.

"Bleed" proves even more original then Track 2. After a intro of swirling guitar hooks and steady bass line we receive our first Black Francis Kim Deal duet only Kim's vocals sound as if they are haunting Black Francis's. After two verses, broken up by more guitars, at just under two minutes the guitars suddenly twist downwards. They continue to twist lower and lower while Black Francis's voice becomes more and more desperate and Kim's voice becomes more and more evil. By the time the song was over, not only was I beginning to think Doolittle may be one best albums I have ever heard, I also think it may be one of the scariest too.

But then something strange happens. A very upbeat bass line comes over the headphones. It is soon followed by an upbeat full band. Just when I think Black Francis's manic shrieks would break in instead he sings very happily. "Here Comes Your Man" turns out to be an upbeat, clean and very catchy pop song. Kim's vocals seem happy for Black Francis's vocals and not haunting them like they did on the last track.

With the song that follows I am reminded this is not a Pop record. "Dead" is yet another totally original sounding song, with piercing guitars and more of Black Francis's manic vocals, only this time they are distorted and buried under the music. Becoming more melodic for the chorus's , the song acts as almost the anti version of "Debaser".

At the end of Side One I find that song which was just on MTV's 120 Minutes for the fifth straight week. "Monkey Gone To Heaven" sounds so much better coming through my headphones than the television speakers. Now I can really hear each one of Joey Santiago's guitar riffs. I can really feel each strum of Kim's bass . There is even cello and strings lurking underneath the whole song that I never detected when listening to the song recorded on those VHS tapes. As the song and Side 1 came to an end I could not believe I almost didn't give Doolittle a chance.

Of course I cannot flip the record over fast enough.

Side 2's first track "Mr Grieves" begins with the slow creeping guitar plucks accompanied by Black Francis's now creepy vocals before the song picks up. After hearing this song and it's Spanish flavored follower "Crackity Jones", I realized Side Two will be no less amazing than Side One.

When the Drummer David Lovering sung "La La Love You" comes on, The Pixies once again prove they can throw a totalally different sounding song into the mix without it sounding at all out of place. David's vocals, as well as the surf tinged guitar and vocal appearance by all four members of the band (Black Francis contributes a very nice "Shake your butt") make the song a nice variation on the darker sound of the other songs on the record.

The steady paced "No. 13 Baby" and swirling build up of "There Goes My Gun" keep the albums flow going before Black Francis calls a halt to it with the slower "Hey". With it's totally original format, awesome lyrics and well placed guitar riffs and Black Francis varied vocal styles, "Hey" proves to be an unexpected highlight of the album.

After "Silver", with it's Black Francis/Kim Deal vocal duet, slide guitar and thudding bass the album is about to come to a close but it is not going quietly. "Gouge Away" begins a steady laid back song with a bouncy bass line but thirty seconds in the guitars begin to rev back up. Pretty soon Black Francis is back in full manic  mode with loud guitars ringing. The song acts as the perfect bookend to "Debaser" up at Track 1 without a clunker anywhere found between them.

Doolittle was an landmark  album for me in another way. When I went to the local record store to purchase the album I was shocked to find all the vinyl had been relocated to the back room of the store. Compact Discs and Cassettes had overtaken the much larger front room. When I went to the same record store a year later to buy The Pixies next album Bossanova, the vinyl section was gone all together.

Here are The Pixies performing "Wave of Mutilation" in 1990. I urge you to check out all the classic live videos of The Pixies playing songs off of Doolittle on Youtube.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Out Of The Vaults #19 - Weston - The Massed Albert Sounds

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

Out Of The Vaults #19 - Weston - The Massed Albert Sounds (2000)

Weston was an indie rock/pop-punk band from Bethlehem, PA which were liked by punk, pop, rock and hardcore fans alike. They were also my accomplices in pulling off one of the slickest moves in history.

Shortly before The Massed Albert Sounds was released I was given a promo tapes by my friend Eric who worked at Universal Records. On the tape was two songs from the forthcoming album. One of the songs, "Summer's Over", was a typical Weston song with bouncy hooks, awkward melodic vocals and lyrics about girls. The second song "To Some I'm Genius" was different. It was loud, it had distortion and it was awesome. My girlfriend at the time Cindy  and I would play it over and over again in the car, blasting the volume each time. When the album was released a few weeks later all the songs on it were good but none of them could touch "To Some I'm Genius".

A little while later Weston was set to play with the band Samiam at the Black Cat in D.C. Cindy and I , as well as a bunch more of our friends, made plans to attend the show.

The day before the show I received a call from Eric. In celebration of The Massed Albert Sounds release Weston was going to come into the Universal Records offices to play a few acoustic songs. Eric said I was welcome to come and check it out.

When I got to the Universal Record office the next day there was about 20 people present to watch the band perform. Weston played about five songs including the Pet Sounds influenced "I Just Quit Rock and Roll" and the laid back melodic rocker "Radio", track 1 and 5 on the new album.

Absent from the performance was "To Some I'm Genius". After the performance was finished and a bunch of us were just hanging out talking with the guys in the band. Eventually someone brought up "To Some I'm Genius". One of the guys said they did not play it because it does not really work acoustically but they were definitely going to be playing it at the show later. That's when I saw my chance.

 I explained to the guys how "To Some I'm Genius" had been such a favorite for Cindy and I. Then I asked if they could possibly dedicate it to Cindy when they play it at the show. "Yes, of course we can", one of them answered.

Leaving the office I was happy I had asked but the show was still roughly nine hours away. This was plenty of time for Weston to forget my request.

That night at the show I was a little anxious to see if the band would remember the dedication. A group of people who were at the Universal Records office performance were also at the show. They came up to me, said hello and expressed how they too were anxious to see if Weston would come through.

Around 9pm Weston took the stage. Their set included many songs off The Massed Albert Hall. The Brit Pop flavored "Kiss Like And Angel" (Track 3), the keyboard driven "Liz Phair" (Track 7), the evil sounding distortion filled "El Differente" (Track 10) as well "Radio" and "Summers Over" fit in well with a few songs from the Weston back catalog that were played that night.

The band announced they had one more song to go. Then the beginning  keyboards of "To Some I'm Genius" started up. After about 20 seconds into the song the distortion began. I figured the band had forgotten about my request. Then right before the guitars really kicked in the singer James yells, "This song goes out to Cindy"!

I could see a slight look of confusion come over Cindy's face. Then after a quick look over at me with a smile on my face, Cindy went back to rocking out to the song. One of the guys from the Universal Records show came up and patted me on the back in congratulations. At the far end of the crowd I could see another one of the guys from the Universal show as he gave me the thumbs up.

On the ride home Cindy kept saying how she could not believe what had happened. Too this day I don't think she has any idea how I was able to get the band to dedicate to the song to her.

Not too long after the show Weston decided to call it quits. Although most the Weston back catalog is still in print and available on iTunes and Spotify, The Massed Albert Sounds is nowhere to be found on either. Hopefully they will be available soon. Except for "Liz Phair", because it had previously been on another album, none of songs are even present on Youtube. That is until last night when I uploaded "To Some I'm Genius" specifically for this blog. The catch is you must promise me to listen to it at very high volume.

(The girls name was changed to protect me from having my wife make me sleep on the couch for the next few weeks)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Out of The Vaults #18 - Chernobyl Kids - Demo 99

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

Out Of The Vaults # 18 - The Chernobyl Kids - Demo 99

Many times in this blog I have referred to the record store I owned in the late 90's called The Sound Exchange. One of the things that kept my store going for as long as it did was the support of local bands. One of these bands the fun punk/hardcore band The Chernobyl Kids. The band was made up of members of various other past and present Baltimore area bands. Singer Funny had been the vocalist for the Maryland favorites The Pee Tanks. Bassist Steve was in another well liked Maryland band (who also played my store) named Longshot while guitarist John had been in Crew Jones. John and Steve were also in the awesome hardcore band No Justice. Drummer Matt came from a band named S.Q.U.I.D which always surprised me a bit because I was only familiar with them from the Baltimore City: That Breeds compilation from awhile back

All together they made up and awesome band that knew when it was time to be poppy and when it was time to be hard, both times with great hooks. The Chernobyl Kids played my store at least twice that I can remember, one of which was the final two day event blow out before the store's doors closed for good.

The Chernobyl Kids always ranked among my favorite Maryland bands. Here is why:

Top: Funny. Bottom: John and Steve
There is an age old punk rock debate about who was the first band to bring the "Woahs" into punk rock music. Some say it was Glenn Danzig's Misfits. Some say it was Chicago's Naked Raygun. Whichever one it was I am glad they brought them. The "woahs" are one of the things that make a song fun to sing a long too. The Chernobyl Kids had no shortage of them. The Fahrenheit 451 inspired lead off track "Clarisee McLellan Lives" and "Pop Song" at track 5 were especially filled with some good old fashion "Woahs".

The demo also had it's fair share of fast ones too. "Sinister Icy Cold Blackhand Of Death" (Track 3), "Slumlords of Towson" (Track 4) and "Genralization" (Track 6)  all reach break neck speeds while still retaining their fun punk rock charm.

A definite stand out song on the Demo would be "Park Bench" (Track 7). The very powerful and introspective Avail influenced (sorry guys) song definitely sticks in your head and to this day finds it's way on  many of the mix CDs I make for people

Most of these song did end up on the Chernobyls Kids album To The Spoil Goes The Victors which can be downloaded here .

Flyer courtesy of
Since the band called it quits the members have remained active. Funny now plays bass in Widows Watch, a very good Maryland band which you can download their demo here: Widows Watch Demo 2011/2012. Also check out their Facebook page here to find out about upcoming shows.

(According to my friend Mike's blog Speech Impediment ) John went on to play in DC bands The Aftermath and Set To Explode while Steve would go on to another DC band 86 Mentality, both with releases available on my friend (and Words With Friends adversary) Alex's Grave Mistake Records here

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Your Favorite Trainwreck - Self-Titled Album - One Blogger's Opinion

When I told my wife I was going to write a blog entry about Your Favorite Trainwreck, she replied "That's you"!  While I could not really argue what she said, I assured her it was also the name of a new band with a couple very influential figures of the punk/hardcore/indie world.

Gameface and Farside were two bands I could never really get into when they were still around. In the 90's Gameface's music was just a little too poppy and singer Jeff Caudill's voice just a little to clear compared to the harsher more punk sounding bands on Dr Strange Records. By the time the band made to the move to Revelation Records in 1999, they had long been off my radar.

With Farside's band members having a history in various hardcore bands, including at one point Inside Out/Rage Against The Machine singer Zach De La Rocha on guitar, they were signed to Revelation from almost their beginning. The only thing was when I thought of Revelation Records I thought of  hardcore bands. Gorilla Biscuits, Bold or Underdog to name a few. Bands I could sing along to real loud. When I bought Farside's Rochambeau album alternative/indie/guitar rock was what I found. Lead singer Mike had a very original voice but still not what I wanted to sing along too. When Rigged was released in 1994 I gave Farside one more chance but again I found out it just wasn't my thing.

Around 2006 I finally got into both bands when I found an album by each one in the last few remaining discs at a going out of business record store. For Gameface it was their 2000 album Always On. Their music on this album was much mature then on those Dr Strange albums. Plus this time Jeff's clean vocals just clicked with me. For Farside it was their 1999 great Monroe Doctrine album. With it's awesome loud guitar hooks and very personal lyrics sung in Mike's totally original voice, plus a few fun different style songs  mixed into the 17 tracks, in my opinion it's one of the best albums out there. I would go into the styles of the songs but I do not want to ruin it for anyone. If you like music you owe it to yourself to check out Monroe Doctrine.

Farside had broke up in 2000, not too long after Monroe Doctrine had been released. Gameface had called it a day in 2003.

But now with Jeff and Mike together in power pop rock and roll band Your Favorite Train Wreck, we get the best of both worlds.

The album kicks off with "Let's Get Wrecked" and right away the band has their theme song. The rocking song has a seriously revved up first minute getting you all ready to go before Jeff and Mike start singing half way through. The two of them singing on the same song is an awesome way to get the ball rolling.

When Jeff takes the lead on the power pop of "Bounce Back" his vocals sound fuller and more powerful then on those old Gameface record. Mike's lower voice singing the back ups compliment Jeff's vocals perfectly.  Jeff returns the favor when Mike takes over the lead on "Late Expectations". The main thing which makes the album work so well is the way each singer puts their ego aside and supplies backing vocals when the other singer is in the spotlight.

The band also knows how to bring it down a bit like on the Mike sung "Broken Pieces". The acoustic guitars with a slight twang segue perfectly into the slightly more upbeat "Forget How To Live", this time with Jeff on lead vocals.

With songs like the super fast "The Reason Why You Sang", the driving "On Tonight" and the all out rock and roll hooks of the album closer "Roll Out The Barrel" there is not a clunker to be found anywhere on the album. This is definitely one of my favorite  albums so far this year.

But don't just take my word for it. Your Favorite Trainwreck has their whole album availiable for streaming right here. You can also buy it on RED vinyl straight from Revelation Records here