Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

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