Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

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.