Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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

Here are what what I consider-

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions: 

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

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