Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Not Exactly An Original Post Idea

There are several posts all over the blogosphere about this so I thought I would throw my two cents in...

So COLDPLAY has joined the "give away our first single free so people will pay attention to us" card with their first off the new record entitled "Violet Hill". Musically, Brian Eno's fingerprints are all over the song taking the ethereal synths at the start from "Where the Streets Have No Name" and mixing it with some later day PINK FLOYD sounds to create a Coldplay song with some surprising bite. Chris Martin still lays the imagery on a bit thick in some places but overall the song serves the purpose of being just original enough to make me anticipate the new record but not straying so far as to alienate fans of their older work. Most of the reviews of the song I have read seem ambivalent to it but I have to admit that it is certainly growing on me. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I have enjoyed all of their work to date. So I am certainly excited about what lies ahead.

Since the song is already free here it is...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sire Records Just Say...Series (Part Five)

I graduated from high school in 1991 and with that my entire musical universe changed. At the time I did not know of course that NIRVANA, PEARL JAM and others were on their way into my life. I felt like I had a good grasp of what I liked and what I didn't. I like electronic pop music (Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, et.al) and was growing to like more traditional alternative rock (REM, U2) but I was starting to get a bit restless with the music in my collection. This happens to me from time to time. I was lucky that, for the most part, I escaped high school without a real Hair Metal encounter (which was certainly possible living in the Inland Empire part of California). So I was ripe for a musical revolution in my world, but it would have to wait for another year. 1991 was all about keeping on with what I was already comfortable with. The Sire compilation from that year (the last one I have) was very much more of the same. THE OCEAN BLUE, returned with another lovely song called "The Planetarium Scene", which sealed the deal for them becoming one of my all time favorite bands. PRIMAL SCREAM and MY BLOODY VALENTINE are also here but with songs that, at the time, I was not as impressed with as I am today. What really strikes me about this compilation is that by this time I was ready to move on to something new. I guess the timing was right given that I was leaving high school and on to college. It's funny how our tastes seem to change at just the right time.

(mp3) The Judybats -- Don't Drop The Baby (a highly underrated Southern folk band with a quirky lyrical sense and a soft, soothing musical style.)

Tracklisting for Just Say Anything...
1) John Wesley Harding and Steve Wynn -- Warning Parental Advisory
2) Body Count featuring Ice-T -- Body Count
3) Royal Crescent Mob -- Timebomb
4) Seal -- Crazy (ed note: remember when he was cool?)
5) Dinosaur Jr. -- Puke + Cry
6) The Judybats -- Don't Drop The Baby
7) Ride -- Today
8) Throwing Muses -- Not Too Soon
9) Primal Scream -- Higher Than the Sun
10) Morrissey -- That's Entertainment
11) The Mighty Lemon Drops -- Another Girl, Another Planet
12) Richard X Heyman -- Falling Away
13) Danielle Dax -- Big Blue '82 (Zen Mix)
14) My Bloody Valentine -- Honey Power
15) Bigod 20 -- Carpe Diem (Transmission Mix)
16) Merlin -- Feel the Fury
17) The Farm -- Groovy Train
18) The Ocean Blue -- The Planetarium Scene

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sire Records Just Say...Series (Part Four)

1990 was a dark year for me. I was a junior in high school and the pressure was immense. I had entered the time when I was taking classes that, for the first time, actually mattered. College was on the horizon (a prospect my somewhat immature make-up was not altogether prepared for) and it was probably the first time I began to really question the future and what was in store. It's funny how we gravitate to music to soothe us, inspire us or console us. In the case of 1990, music was all about anger, frustration and fear. I was angry that I had to face the fact that I was readying to leave high school (unlike most people who spend any time there). This was coupled with the fact that I was in no way shape or form a rebel meant that music was my only expression for my life. On the surface I was a good student (one might even call me a nerd). I had friends and was relatively well liked. But I couldn't shake the sense of anger and the music I listened to that year fueled that.

Here's where this fits into my ongoing deconstruction of Sire Records. 1990 was an angry year for the label as well. This compilation brought MINISTRY, PRIMAL SCREAM and MY BLOODY VALENTINE into my life. (Talk about timing!) Even the DEPECHE MODE track is dark and dirty (this was the first single off "Violator", which has a special place in my heart as far as DM records go...) The MORRISSEY song filled the void of longing and sadness that I carried with me for the year. But it was the combination of Ministry's anger (as evidenced by the relentless drums that make up the song "Breathe") and MBV's foreboding sense of hopelessness that I cam back to again and again. Be the end of the year, things got better and my Senior year was one of joy and fun. But for one year, I was your prototypical angst ridden teenager.

Tracklisting for Just Say Da...

1) Depeche Mode -- Personal Jesus (Kazan Cathedral Mix)
2) Merlin -- Drop the Pressure
3) Erasure -- Star (the Trafalmadore Mix)
4) Ofra Haza -- Wish Me Luck (Karamazov Mix)
5) Chris Thomas -- Help us, Somebody
6) Ian McCulloch -- Candleland (Second Coming Version)
7) Ministry -- Breathe (Live from the Gulag)
8) Ice-T -- The Girl Tried To Kill Me
9) John Wesley Harding -- When The Beatles Hit America
10) Danielle Dax -- The Id Parade
11) Morrissey -- November Spawned a Monster
12) Bradford -- Gang of One
13) Debbie Harry -- Maybe For Sure (Tunguska Event 7" mix)
14) My Blood Valentine -- Soon
15) Wild Swans -- Melting Blue Delicious (St. Petersburg Mix)
16) Primal Scream -- Loaded

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Hype is Overwhelming!!

I'm taking a quick break from our Sire Records tribute because its not often that three, count them three, of my favorite blogs all wrote about a new band called THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS. A side project of Arctic Monkeys' front man Alex Turner and some other dude, the band is releasing a record soon and they have apparently sent out mass e-mails to all the big blogs to plug the record. The two songs sound good, so I guess the hype is worth it. Imagine if the ARCTIC MONKEYS grew up, got in touch with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin to conduct an orchestra and you pretty much have what appears to be the first single. The acoustic stuff is a little more unusual, with a funky bass line and slightly more understated vocals than the usual Monkeys fare. Here is a great example of using the blogosphere for your benefit. But my question is...will all the initial hype kill this band as it tends to do so many others?

Here's for you to decide

(mp3) The Last Shadow Puppets -- In The Heat of the Morning (courtesy of Indie Surfer Blog)

Also check out To Die By Your Side for his take on the new band...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sire Records Just Say...Series (Part Three)

By now the late 80's/early 90's nostalgia might be killing some of you (at least the hazy recollections of my teen years have got to be a bit grating at this point.) But we soldier on nonetheless. The 1989 collection of the Just Say series, entitled "Just Say Mao", comes with a nifty picture of a dancing Mao Tse Tung (leader of Communist China for those of you who slept through world history class in high school) and started a move away from the label's more established artists into somewhat more avant grade territory. The only really big name on this disc was Depeche Mode, who clock in with a remix of "Everything Counts". Morrissey, Erasure and The Replacements check in but with less than stellar tracks. The two highlights here are the first thing I heard from the Hershey, PA band THE OCEAN BLUE and a very early incarnation of UNDERWORLD.

THE OCEAN BLUE stole my heart with this, their first singled called "Between Something and Nothing." I was enthralled with the song which is very simple but has a transcendent guitar solo in the middle of the song. I immediately grabbed their first record and have followed them ever since. If you have a chance to get their debut self-titled album.

UNDERWORLD gives us a song called "Thrash" which truth be told is god awful. And yes, it is the same band that later on gives us the great "Born Slippy". This was before Darren Emerson joined the band and they became the dance floor sensations that they are today. Here the band is run of the mill guitar pop group who ended up dying out and being reborn. I guess this is a lesson that if you first don't connect with an audience don't give up, just take a whole lot of drugs and reinvent yourself (editorial: This is not an endorsement of taking drugs, although it is apparent that at least for these guys the benefit of not having to hold down a real job seems to have worked out okay for them)
So all in all, this is a weak compilation. Apparently the A&R guys had falling in love with Middle Eastern influenced music so it has some real drawbacks (since that is not something I am really into). But the Ocean Blue song saves it and gave me my first real band crush.

(mp3) Underworld -- Thrash (for unintentional comedy sake. Check out The Vinyl Villain for a take on the band at their best.)

Tracklisting for Just Say Mao...

1. Depeche Mode -- Everything Counts (Bomb Beyond the Yalu Remix)
2. Martin Gore -- In A Manner of Speaking
3. Figures on a Beach -- Accidentally 4th Street (Gloria)
4. Underworld -- Thrash
5. Erasure -- Pistol
6. Nasa -- Insha-Allah
7. Throwing Muses -- Dizzy (Remix)
8. Danielle Dax -- Whistling for His Love (Remix)
9. Morrissey -- Lucky Lisp
10. The Ocean Blue -- Between Something and Nothing
11. Ofra Haza -- Da'Ale Da'Ale (Remix)
12. Tom Tom Club -- Don't Say No (Remix)
13. Ice-T -- The Hunted Child
14. Royal Crescent Mob -- Nanana
15. The Replacements -- Date To Church
16. k.d. lang -- Nowhere to Stand
17. Lou Reed -- Strawman (Live)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sire Records Just Say...Series (Part Two)

1988 brought the second installment of the Just Say Compilation series, "Just Say Yo..." and with it new discoveries into the world of music. At this point I was a Sophomore in high school and still very much a socially awkward, bookish geek. I had only two saving graces that got me through high school. 1) I was fortunate enough to hang out with others who were more socially adept than I and who, in exchange for my acumen in History and English, provided me with a social setting and 2) I was starting to amass quite a CD collection. At that time I was developing into a walking collection of mix tapes and obscure tracks from favorite bands. This made me somewhat of an anomaly a cooler than thou nerd. This compilation served me well in a couple of key areas.

First, at the time, the DEPECHE MODE "Behind the Wheel/Route 66" version was in scarcity in the states. Our local alternative station, the once mighty KROQ, was playing the Mode like it was going out of style and so I gained many points for having what was at the time a unique take on this song. Second, the BOOK OF LOVE mash-up of "Tubular Bells/Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls" was something of a minor club hit and so having this made me seem like I was truly on the cutting edge. Finally, the MORRISSEY track "Will Never Marry" gave me depth that I did not possess at the time. (Disclaimer: these are all somewhat fuzzy memories at best, so if you might have been present for my adolescence at the time please spare others from revealing the truly embarrassing truth...it's better for me to live in my dreamworld.)

Tracklisting for Just Say Yo...

1) Ofra Haza -- Galbi
2) Morrissey -- Will Never Marry
3) kd lang -- Black Coffee
4) Depeche Mode -- Behind the Wheel / Route 66 (mega single mix)
5) The Wild Swans -- Bible Dreams
6) Erasure -- Chains of Love (Truly in Love with the Marx Bros. Mix)
7) Book of Love -- Tubular Bells/Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls (Regan's House Medley)
8) Martini Ranch -- Hot Dog
9) Throwing Muses -- Mexican Women
10) A House -- Call Me Blue
11) The Mighty Lemon Drops -- Inside Out (Live)
12) James -- What For
13) The Soup Dragons -- Kingdom Chairs
14) David Rudder/Charlie's Roots -- Bacchanal Lady (Extended Remix)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sire Records Just Say... Series (Part One)

One of the major problems facing the music industry these days is the ability for bands to release their own material without the use of the old record label apparatus. This has been a benefit to those of us who seek out new music on a regular basis but it does have one drawback. Back in my youth I could rely on certain record labels releasing material I was guaranteed to enjoy. 4AD, Sub Pop, Merge, and Sire records all released records that matched my sensibilities to the point that when I saw the logo I bought it without question (and was rewarded more often then not). In the case of Sire records, the best and biggest new wave bands were signed here throughout the 80's (Depeche Mode, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths) so their catalogue was essential to shaping me as a musical youth. For a string of 5 years the label released a compilation CD highlighting artists for the year. The "Just Say..." series is a who's who alternative rock (mostly from Europe with a little US thrown in). There are actually seven volumes but since I only own five I will have to limit this to a five part series of posts.

The first album, Just Say Yes.., released in 1989, gave me my first real taste of Echo and James. I bought the record based on my knowledge of Depeche Mode and the Smiths (and the prospect of a rare Smiths song was worth the purchase alone). Despite all the big names it was two minor acts that I wore out. I absolutely fell in love with THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS track, to the point were I sought out their albums with a furious passion and may have actually threatened a store clerk when he said he had to special order them. The other band that caught my ear was FIGURES ON A BEACH, who are actually from Boston. I was convinced these guys were going to be huge and proceeded to stake my fledgling reputation as a music snob on their merits. Two albums later they were gone, but I managed to get over it.

So here are those two tracks for your listening enjoyment. If you want any of the others drop me a line and I will oblige.

Tracklisting for JUST SAY YES...

Depeche Mode - "Never Let Me Down Again" [Split Mix]
Echo & the Bunnymen - "Lips Like Sugar" [12" Mix]
The Mighty Lemon Drops - "Out of Hand" [Extended Version]
James - "Ya-Ho"
The Smiths - "Work Is a Four-Letter Word"
Figures on a Beach - "No Stars"
Wild Swans - "Young Manhood"
Ice T - "Somebody Gotta Do It (Pimpin' Ain't Easy!)" [Remix]
The Ramones - "I Wanna Live"
Replacements - "Can't Hardly Wait"
Throwing Muses - "A Feeling"
Aztec Camera - "How Men Are"
The Casual Gods - "Cherokee Chief"
Erasure - Hideaway [Little Louie Vega Mix]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sappy Stuff For My Wife!!

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary (and my 150th post) so I thought I would post a bit about it. My wife does a far better job quantifying her sentiments here than I do so I will leave it to others... (fyi: the photo here was taken just after our first dance, so you can imgaine why I look like I'm about to die of embarassment and my wife is cracking up)

Our recessional we used at our wedding

I lobbied for the original by U2 as our first dance song but my wife pointed out that would mean I would have to dance for 7 1/2 minutes (and folks that's just not happening.) But the words still capture what she means to me to this day.

Track By Track: Review of REM's Accelerate

I don't usually do full length album reviews (opting more for snarky comments and reminiscing about bands that are long gone) but with the new REM album I felt it was a good time to deconstruct an album in it's entirety. I am glad to see the band put together a solid album and take some effort and time to sound like the band we all know and love. It fits well with their later work (and borrows sonically from "Automatic For The People", "Monster" and "New Adventures in Hi-Fi"). It may be lesser than those albums, but it is certainly better than any of the post Bill Berry work they have done. So here it is track by track:

Track 1 -- Living Well is the Best Revenge
Within the first 15 seconds it is obvious that the band came to rock. Gone are the slow strings and mellow keyboards, "Living Well..." blasts through with a great guitar and bass combo. Lyrically, Michael Stipe seems to be taking on his critics directly (Don't turn your talking points on me, history will set me free. The future's ours and you don't even read the footnote now!)which is something he tends to not do, opting to be a bit more obtuse in his observations. This song could be a long lost cousin of "It's The End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)."

Track 2 -- Man Sized Wreath
After my initial listen through the album this turned out to be one of my least favorite tracks. It just seems like the song is missing a really good hook. After a few more turns around the album I accepted it as the band's attempt to write a punk song (short, choppy drums, thick guitars, little or no chorus) but I still skip past it in most cases.

Track 3 -- Supernatural Superserious
The first single is the poppiest thing on the record (so it's a natural lead out into the world). a song about lost identity and searching to find a place, it's an obvious allegory for Stipe's own attempts to reconcile his private and public life (something he has been more open about in the past few years then in his younger days). I like it, but it's not a great REM single.

Track 4 -- Hollow Man
The album really gets moving with what starts out as a quiet acoustic song and then finds a real groove. The chorus is absolutely breathtaking as Stipe seeks out meaning in his life. Buck and Mills mine some really familiar territory musically here (there is even the standard descending REM guitar line that is their trademark) and the result is a quintessential REM song. One of the clear highlights of the set.

Track 5 -- Houston
A song about Katrina and the aftermath, "Houston", is a direct attack on the government and it's response and the need for the people of New Orleans to look beyond the ruin and rebuild. One of the band's finest lyrical efforts and musically it is one of two tracks that could be an outtake from Automatic For The People. The electric guitars and the organ comes and goes like waves (an intentional trick given the song's topic). You just sense the narrator's dread as he looks around and wishes he were somewhere else.

Track 6 -- Accelerate
We're back to the rock songs with the title track. I can't say it's very memorable but it sounds great in the car (although the fact that it may be about suicide is certainly a downer).

Track 7 -- Until The Day Is Done
The best song on the album. This is the other Automatic clone, from a musical standpoint, so it's up to the lyrics to carry it. What seems on the surface to be another song about the hopeless nature of the country (a reoccurring theme on the record), it becomes an uplifting song about the ability of man to carry on even in spite of all that he faces.

Track 8 -- Mr. Richards
Could this be addressed to Mr. Bush (or Karl Rove)? A dirge-like number that is definitely a message to those who hold antiquated opinions.

Track 9 -- Sing For The Submarine
A song that hearkens back to early REM (Stipe even throws in an homage to "Feeling Gravity's Pull"), this is a very abstract collection of random lyrics. The song never finds it's groove and left me very unsettled. Somewhere here is a great song (and may get new life live) but I think a little more work on this one would have helped.

Track 10 -- Horse To Water
Of the rock tracks on the album this is one of the best. Stipe is playing the part of a stubborn believer who will not accept the opinion of the masses. This will be a great song live. On this and "Living Well..." Stipe hits the right mix of vitriol and passion and is matched with Buck's big guitar lines and Mills falsetto harmonies.

Track 11 - I'm Gonna DJ
Most people I've read HATE THIS SONG. I can't say I love it but it's not gonna kill me. It's a nice little rock song that will get people up and dancing at the concerts. I'm sure there were better songs that could have been added to the record but it fits with the overall sound and lyrical direction of the album.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New A Classic Education!!

A CLASSIC EDUCATION have just posted a new track on their myspace site. I swear the more I listen to them the more I like them. The new song, called "Badlands and Owls" continues with the ethereal, dreamy sort of indie rock that I heard on their first few tracks. Kind of a mix between BAND OF HORSES and MODEST MOUSE but with more strings. Do yourself a faovr and head over to give this song a listen. I can't wait for a full length album from these guys.

Out of respect to the band I won't post the song, just enjoy the tracks from their site.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Zencast #11 -- The New Cast

So it has been ages since I did a podcast so I thought I would focus this episode on new material that is coming out (or has recently come out) for the 2008 year. Lots of highlights here, including a track from the new REM cd (which I will review in full later this week). Also of note is the new song from DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, which will probably be the biggest record that will hit the blogosphere this year. So sit back, relax and check out what's in store for the new year.

Zencast #11 -- The New Cast


REM -- Until the Day is Done
Counting Crows -- Hanging Tree
Death Cab For Cutie -- I Will Possess Your Heart
Tokyo Police Club -- Juno
The Charlatans -- Missing Beats (for a Generation)
Portishead -- Machine Gun
The Breeders -- Bang On
Black Francis -- I Sent Away
Billy Bragg -- O Freedom (thanks to Song, By Toad for this one)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- Lie Down (And Be My Girl)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Sports Junkie's Dream

So I spent a good portion of today watching a variety of sporting events. The afternoon started with the San Diego Padres beating up on the Dodgers (which warms my heart). From there it was on to the FINAL FOUR. Usually, I prefer college basketball to the pros because college has more pageantry and the players still look like they enjoy themselves. However, the year has been something of an anomaly because the NBA has been so competitive and the LAKERS are actually good again (which makes me sound like something of a fair weather fan, which I am not). But I did anticipate a couple of good college games given that the four teams playing all were very good and had a load of talent on the floor. But Memphis blew UCLA off the court (the score was not even close to the way the game actually played out) and then Kansas opened up a serious can of whoop ass on North Carolina, so I soured on the hoops in favor of the ANGELS game. (For those who have not read this blog for very long, I have a long standing love affair with baseball and the LA Angels in particular). I will eventually share my thoughts on the Halos chances this year but tonight it was just a joy to sit in the chair and watch a little baseball. Fortunately the Angels won so my sports ended on a positive note...

Which brings me to the real reason for this post. I must have seen this commercial about 100 times today (can't really Tivo sports so commercials are a byproduct). Nike has always used music very effectively in their commercials and this is no exception. It got to the point that I was actually humming the song while watching the games. Ah, the power of subliminal advertising. Now please excuse me while I go buy some cross trainers and a Tiger Woods hat...

If you're curious the song is by Saul Williams. Here it is in audio format for your continued listening pleasure.

(mp3) Saul Williams -- List of Demands (courtesy of Slave To The Details)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pop Music Backlash

So I have equally immersed in the new REM and COUNTING CROWS' records for the past two weeks. Which has made start to jones for something off kilter and random. This happens to me from time to time when I feel I might be trading in my indie roots for the Adult Album Alternative crowd. This is also a by product of my age and my inability to go to four shows a week like I did when I was younger. It just becomes easier to buy and enjoy music that's safe.

So in an effort to fight mainstream pop complacency (which I think also can be treated with some sort of antibiotic) I submit to you LONG FIN KILLIE's Hands and Lips ep. These guys were a Scottish band that released a couple of records in the 90's under the Too Pure label. Too Pure housed a lot of really avant garde artists and shoegazer type bands so I naturally gravitate to this music when I feel like something odd or unique. LONG FIN KILLIE seem to travel in the same atmosphere at dEUS (from yesterday's post) so if you enjoyed them you will probably dig this. Folks who enky early MOGWAI might also want to kick the tires on this ep.