I had “Airscape” from this album pop up on my iPod while eating breakfast this morning, and figured ‘Element of Light’ would be a great candidate to reconsider. I’ve always been a fan of Hitchcock’s stuff, whether on his own or with The Soft Boys, and once I saw him live in the mid 80’s I was hooked. He was brilliant both musically and lyrically, but what really intrigued me was his between-song, stream-of-conciousness banter. Kind of like Henry Rollins (spoken-word version) with ADD and an amphetamine habit.
Mr. Mirainga. During my student years I was given a college radio station promo cassette of this band, and for some reason listened the hell out of. It was only a couple of tracks, including Loaded and Waterdog, both of which were memorable - especially the one about the dog - well, memorable to me anyhow. Rockin’, fun, a little punky whiny and not too ashamed of it. In thinking about ‘reconsiderations’ I located their self-titled full-length on Amazon, released in 96 a year or two after the demo with both of those tracks, and I plan to give it a shot. Maybe you should too! It looks like they had a song in Ace Ventura II, but you should listen to them anyway. :)
Another great, under-hyped band. Check out the album “Simmer”. “Slouch” is my favorite track. These guys rocked live: loud, great harmonies. Like mixing Wedding Present with Dinosaur Jr or something…Really great.
Here’s an album that I always thought lived a little to far below the radar here in the US. Released in 1990, it’s DDD (digitally recorded, mixed and mastered), produced by Thomas Dolby, who had previously worked with the band on their second album ‘Steve McQueen’ (released in the US as ‘Two Wheels Good’ after a C&D from McQueen’s estate).
As an exercise in how good something can sound this album is in the upper strata. Tight, crisp, lush, full are just a few of the terms that fit. Plus, if you’re a fan of flowery, sometimes sappy lyrics you’ll love this record. “We Let the Stars Go” can easily raise goose bumps. A true Pop gem.
I had a different record slated for my next post but by pure chance I took a listen to this compilation album this morning while I was working out and as a result I offer a slight departure in that rather than an overlooked album, I present to you an overlooked band…The Thrills.
Dublin’s The Thrills put out 3 records between ’03 and ’07. It was weird, that an Irish band was recreating the Beach Boys in a way that suggested early 70’s independent cinema. Take a listen to a song like Santa Cruz or Big Sur and you’ll see what I mean. It sounds like sunny, beachy, California, definitely not dizzily old Dublin town. There’s a real cinematic quality to what they guys did too. “Hollywood Kids” sounds like Ali MacGraw’s face looked in “Love Story”. You love it, it touches you but you can’t touch it! It’s the aural definition of longing.
They really were on to something. You can tell from the songs that represent the second album “Let’s Bottle Bohemia” this dichotomy of sunny tunes about aging and loss continues. “Not For All The Love In The World” has a devastating opening line (You show your age when you drown your rage, but I see past those laughter lines). Faded Beauty Queens and The Irish Keep Gate Crashing are two other particular faves of mine, again sun drenched beauty over a twinge of sorrow.
By “Teenager” the final record it becomes clear that The Thrills really have only one gear. That’s the sad thing. They never took any chances outside of doing what they’d already done, which while bold at the start, eventually became safe. But they still did what they do fantastically. “I Came All This Way” and “Restaurant” are really excellent tunes. My wife even likes “Restaurant” and she hates everything I listen to!
The bottom line is, sure The Palace Brothers did a similar thing, and to a lesser extent Girls do it now (although they throw in a bit more Pink Floyd in the mix) but if you’d really like a good slice of California sunshine via Ireland, you could do a crapload worse than The Thrills.
Here’s a mid-70’s release from Todd where on the A-side he attempts to somewhat “faithfully” reproduce 6 of his favorite songs from Hendrix, Dylan, the Beach Boys and others, and on the B-side he presents 6 of his own new tracks (a few of which are now considered Rundgren classics).
Todd always has and still tends to confound his fans and the critics by pretty much doing whatever he feels like at any given time. Critics seemed to like the B-side but couldn’t understand why the A-side was all covers that seemed to have no collective theme. Todd had supposedly approached these covers in the way a classical conductor might approach a symphonic piece: something known to the audience that had been performed many times before and figuring how to interpret the piece without changing it. Enjoy!
Sometimes having a (semi) hit single can shift focus away from the album that song comes from. Released on Luaka Bop in 1996, Geggy Tah’s “Sacred Cow” featured the song & video for “Whoever You Are” (aka “You let me change lanes, while I was riving in my car”), a funky tribute to the rarely-seen courteous driver. But whether you found that song danceable or irritating (It received a second gust of life in a car commercial years later), the album that contained it slipped under the radar of a lot of people. The second release by Geggy Tah ( singer/writer Tommy Jordan and keyboard/guitarist Greg Kurtsin…later of Action Figure Party, and currently in The Bird and The Bee) was a better produced record improving on their lo-fi funky debut “Grand Opening”. Besides the single, the album was a fun, lighthearted mix of song styles, silly lyrics, with some excellent musicianship (drummer Daren Hahn joined the line-up for the record). From Funky (“Whoever You Are”) to pop-punkish (“Lotta Stuff”), from quirky love songs to pets (“Gina”) to pushing out towards prog-rock (“Sacred Cow”, “Century Plant 2000”) to mixing up all of the above (“Las Vegas With The Lights Out”). Sacred Cow is a unique record that is definitely worth giving a few follow-up spins.
This album is not on Spotify (though you can get it on iTunes) (and we found it on Grooveshark as as well - Ed.) and definitely isn’t as “rock” as any of these other records, but I was thinking about this one this morning and think it deserves a mention. Strangely, this was the first B-52’s I ever heard - I was in high school, visiting some older friends in Indiana and they played it constantly. I thought it was bliss. Released in 1986, it never got any attention and, in fact, many B-52’s fans have never heard of it, all due to tragedy. Ricky Wilson, the guitarist for the band died of AIDS during the recording of it, never having told his bandmates that he was even sick. They were so devastated that they never toured for the record and so it never made a blip on music’s radar. And yet, this record has some absolute gems on it - the first track (“Summer of Love”) sometimes gets some play, and then the next two, “Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland” and “Housework” are just pure, goofy, B-52’s. The second side was not my favorite, but the final track, “She Breaks for Rainbows” is a beautiful one. It’s still - and probably always will be - my “go-to” record when I need to do some cleaning around the house and just bop around with my mop and broom and it’s the last of the original B-52’s sound before they became overplayed on pop radio and over-performed by bad karaoke singers.
I guess it was 1992 when I heard UK’s Daisy Chainsaw’s Love Your Money on the radio. It sounded new, and different from the classic rock I was listening to, and I really dug it. It was from an earlier single but released on their debut full length that had just come out, Eleventeen, which, apparently, flopped. I didn’t know that until years later when I remembered the song and tracked the disc down. The band didn’t last long after that, though Kate Jane Garside went on to do some solo stuff and another full band incarnation, Queen Adreena, but if they ever come to the states it’s infrequent at best.
This has a couple of hits but no one is familiar with the “album tracks”. I highly recommend SIDE 2 ( tracks 7-12). One of the first Rock-n-Roll bands I fell in love with at the age of 4 thanks to my older sister. ( The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits were the others)
by Brother Mike Cohen
I listened to this album for the first time in years on a road trip a last month. It wasn’t my favorite BX release, I gave it a few listens and shelved it, and I don’t think it was reviewed very favorably at the time. With the Black Keys enjoying a surge it’s worth seeing where quite a few threads of what they’re doing come from. Definitely worth a listen.
How do you follow up one of the most successful New Wave/synth-pop/dance-rock/disco debuts of an era? Surely with something close to the same so that the band builds upon that success and is able to make a brand out of themselves and sell posters and lunch boxes and ladies underwear with their faces on them and the record company can make scads of cash on you and your talent.
Not these guys! In late 1983 these guys pissed of a shitload of people by releasing a Guitar Rock record called Beauty Stab to follow up Lexicon of Love. Just in the way of background, Lexicon had 4 Top 20 hits in the UK and was a number one album and 2 Top 20 hits in the U.S.! Difficult feats to accomplish on a debut. Everyone of course wanted more, Martin Fry gave them rock instead.
So what happened was, no one was able to listen to the record because it wasn’t even in the wheelhouse of what was expected and as a result it is a criminally ignored ballsy, bombastic wonderfully produced and lovingly crafted piece of work!
The opener “That Was Then But This is Now” is a punch in the face. Producer Gary Lanagan seems to be embracing the big drum sound that Steve Lillywhite was perfecting at the time and the effect here is awesome. When this record came out I remember being pumped at hearing they way this album started.
It gets even better from there, “The Power Of Persuasion” funks and rocks at the same time. Like a hard rock band playing music by The Bar-Kays! “Hey Citizen” is a kick ass in the slogan-y wake-up call style it is intended. “Unzip” has one of my favorite lines in a pop song ever (“She’s vegetarian except when it comes to sex, she’s strictly ad-lib except when she consults the text!” WORD!) The original album closer “United Kingdom” is absolutely majestic.
Additionally, this record really stands up! Because it’s not adorned with all the synths and pomp of the era, it doesn’t sound dated. I cannot say enough about the production of this LP its big and wonderful!
The thing you have to do here is forget that this is an ABC record. Just listen to it without thinking of Martin Fry’s gold suits and oh-so-styled hair. Divorce the image you remember of this band from the excellent songs contained here and I really believe you will find the gem hidden beneath the dust of pop music history here.
Decried as a sellout when it came out in 1981, the production on the Ramones’ 6th album does tone down the raw guitar sound of Leave Home, Rocket To Russia, et al - but its not that much more polished than the Phil Spector-produced “End Of The Century” that immediately preceded it. Johnny said in later years that the production on this was 100% record-company-driven as they tried to get the band on the radio. The album was produced by 10cc songman Graham Gouldman…. But 30+ years later it just sounds like a Ramones record - and if you ask me the songs are better than the Spector album. It’s the first Ramones record with no covers and no songwriting contributions from the outside and it contains the song “The KKK Took My Baby Away” - which is a song about Johnny stealing Joey’s girlfriend (Johnny was a Reaganite), a development that led to those two guys never speaking to each other again - even though the band kept on for another 15+ years…
This is not chosen because it was panned or under-appreciated at the time of its release. To the contrary, when this record came out in the spring of 1988, Soul Asylum were the undisputed “coolest” band in the country. Yes; Soul Asylum were cool! This was their first “major label” release and the Underground/College Radio wing of the music business were giddy with Soul Asylum fever. Solid hooks, great harmonies, and huge helping of R-O-C-K. To this day any time a song from this album comes on I want to bang my head and whip my hair (but unfortunately since 1988 my hair has since gone the way of Dave Pirner’s rock credibility - all gone!). The decline of Soul Asylum’s respect within the hipster-college-rock world is understandable; 1995’s “Let Your Dim Light Shine” sounds more like Steve Perry than Steve Albini…but its always been surprising to me how few people remember (or how few times they are reminded) how fucking awesome they were….”The tables are turning, your bridges are burning. My destination Sometime To Return”
Ok, and now for something completely different! I’m not saying that this is an absolutely great record, but I don’t think it deserved such harshness by the critics when it came out in 1991. In fact, they used words like “blowing in the stylistic breeze” and “the group sounds lost and bored, a plight exacerbated by the dire production, which is not only flat and sloppy but inconsistent at that.” Ouch! At that time I was discovering what a sucker I was for catchy Brit pop and I played this CD over and over. I still love “My Shadow Girl” and “You Don’t Appreciate Anything” and “Unkind’ is still toe-tapping, head-bobbing cute. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic…
I’m going to give a shout-out to Dylan’s SLOW TRAIN COMING (1979), which was originally dismissed by critics who were put off by Bob’s defection to Christianity. It’s got a top 10 Bob track by any measure (Gotta Serve Somebody) and more than a couple other tracks that are minor classics (Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, When You Gonna Wake Up, Man Gave Names to All the Animals). The album is less well known than Infidels (from 1983), but both records came at an awkward time in Dylan’s life; he had already achieved an insane amount of fame in a very short time but he was already becoming passe at a time when the public was starting to lean more into disco and punk than earnest rock.
If you’re a Bob fan give it another listen. You’ll be surprised at the power of the songwriting and singing (of course) as well as the musicianship (which includes Mark Knopfler on guitar).
It’s 1990, the bloom has clearly come off the rose. After blowing the critics and the public away 3 times in a row with “Come On Pilgrim” “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle”, this record is met with yawns on the high side and scorn on the low…when I looked at the Wikipedia site they state that the record was met wit generally positive reviews, I do not remember it that way. It could be that it was just not complete raves like the first 3 were but even now this record doesn’t get its props. I’m here to give it up!
Now its not a perfect record, I know…this is where Black Francis’ UFO obsession starts to show, and it gets a little weird over the final two albums with that. Also Gil Norton’s production is muddy and it takes away from the power of the louder stuff like “Rock Music” and “Celia Ann”. Unfortunately those two songs open up the disc, and it can be hard to shake the dust off after that, however, when you go back and listen those two tracks lift the roof and kick some serious ass. Its kinda the last we ever hear Black Francis’ early trademarked scream singing too, which is kinda sad. The record really soars after that. “Ana” is one of my faves (I always remember that if you take the first letter from each line in that song, it spells out SURFER. I’m a sucker for shit like that!) “Dig For Fire” is one of the band’s best singles if you ask me. Its the height of their songwriting chops. Hang Wire is punk rock spaghetti western.
Look the record works on all freaking levels. You probably haven’t listened to it in a long ass time. Give it a shot, I think you’ll dig it now!