Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Un-Herd Christmas 2010

Here is, in the words of the terminally unhinged Phil Spector, "A Christmas Gift For You." Of course, Phil baby was talking about a .44 Magnum and urinating on your bullet-ridden corpse while obscured under an eight pound afro wig, while I'm somewhat more peaceably referring to these 25 highly listenable and/or downright awesome songs that go along with last year's 25 Songs of Christmess mix. Your own predilections will dictate which gift you prefer, although for those on the fence let me just point out that the two mixes, when taken together, all but guarantee you at least two and a half pain-free hours during this most pain-filled of seasons. Then again, if pain be your thang you're gonna wanna stick with Phil. In the nonce, best of the season, glad tidings, happy holidays, etcetera etcetera.

Un-Herd Christmas 2010

1. The Mynabirds All I Want Is Truth (For Christmas)
2. Cartel Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
3. Eels Christmas Is Going To The Dogs
4. Leroy Santa Stole My Baby
5. Zombina & the Skeletones A Chainsaw For Christmas
6. Julian Casablancas I Wish It Was Christmas Today
7. The Ramones Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
8. Rancid Xmas Eve (She Got Up And Left Me)
9. The Dualers Mus-Be Christmus
10. Hawaii Mud Bombers Santa's Wish
11. Best Coast w/ Wavves Got Something For You
12. Death Cab For Cutie Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
13. Little Jackie Mrs. Claus Ain't Got Nothin' On Me
14. Guster Tiny Tree Christmas
15. The BAcksliders That's How We Do Christmas
16. Little Isidore Party Hard
17. The Fleshtones Canadian Christmas
18. The Wellingtons I Guess It's Christmas
19. Material Issue Merry Christmas Will Do
20. The Long Blondes Christmas Is Cancelled
21. Rusty It's Christmas Time (And I'm Poor)
22. The Bellrays All I Want To Do Is Shag For Christmas
23. Nerf Herder I've Got A Boner For Christmas
24. The Chevelles O Come All Ye Faithful Surfer Girls
25. Bleu 12 Dayz

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Covers Project Vol. VII

Oh yes, it's the latest installment of cool covers. And, just so we're all on the same page, the cheesy pic to the left is totally lying. These aren't all hits from the '70s (although a surprising amount of them are) and, hell, a few of them would need extensive plastic surgery, a fake moustache, and an accompanying hypnotherapist before they'd ever run the danger of being mistaken as "hits" - but I'm not gonna concern myself with such strict definitions. There is one small sliver of truth-in-advertising, however: if you were so inclined, you really could sing along with these mofos. And if you haven't already downloaded the previous volumes, just click on the "covers" tag at the bottom of this post to have them all laid out neatly before your very eyes.

Are You Ready, Steve?

1. The Oohs Ballroom Blitz (The Sweet)
2. The Crunchies Charlie Don't Surf (The Clash)
3. Grinspoon When You Were Mine (Prince)
4. Izzy Stradlin Pressure Drop (Toots & the Maytals)
5. The Hi-Fives Tainted Love (Gloria Jones, by way of Soft Cell)
6. Wilmer X I Can't Make It On Time (The Ramones)
7. Dramarama I Wish I Was Your Mother (Mott the Hoople)
8. Philadelphia Grand Jury I Got You (Split Enz)
9. Frightened Rabbit (w/ Craig Finn) Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)
10. Reigning Sound Stormy Weather (Lena Horne)
11. Sahara Hotnights Rockaway Beach (The Ramones)
12. Diamond Dogs Pills (Bo Diddley by way of the New York Dolls)
13. Supersuckers Hey Ya (Outkast)
14. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists Suspect Device (Stiff Little Fingers)
15. Riverboat Gamblers Heaven Is Falling (Bad Religion)
16. The Hot Rats (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party) (Beastie Boys)
17. The Gaslight Anthem Tumbling Dice (Rolling Stones)
18. The Rubinoos Cruisin' Music (The Raspberries)
19. The Blue Shadows What The Hell I Got (Pagliaro)
20. Guided By Voices Downed (Cheap Trick)
21. Thelonious Monster For My Lover (Tracy Chapman)
22. Charlie Chesterman I Hate Everything (Young Fresh Fellows)
23. Evan Foster The Girl Can't Dance (Link Wray)
24. The Smugglers Kings of the Party (Brownsville Station)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

14 Songs by Bob Forrest

The strangest aspect of Bob Forrest's career trajectory - from leader of the anarchic Thelonious Monster to semi-celeb counselor on Dr. Drew's rehab series - is just how perfect he's been in both roles. As a counselor he emanates empathy and a hard-won wisdom that has little tolerance for bullshit, while in his previous career as a band leader/songwriter he'd turned those same traits on himself, minus the empathy, which resulted in a sort of public self-flagellation for all his perceived failings as a human being. That probably contributed to a difficult existence for Mr. Forrest, but it made for some astounding music.

Thelonious Monster debuted in 1986 with the album Baby... You're Bumming Me Out In A Supreme Fashion on the then fledgling Epitaph label. Their following two albums, Next Saturday Afternoon and Stormy Weather, saw the band refining their sound, with Forrest's lyrics transcending mere cynicism by mining his own psyche with an unflinching, near-masochistic honesty. The band's major label debut in 1992, the aptly titled Beautiful Mess, was predictably a commercial disappointment. That was the height of the grunge era, and even if Forrest's sensibility wasn't far removed from Kurt Cobain's, the music certainly was - the album incorporated whimsical folk rock, Joan Armatrading covers, and a barroom lament featuring Tom Waits.

That was the end of Thelonious Monster... sort of. They reunited 12 years later and released the awesome California Clam Chowder album, consisting entirely of songs titled after bands that influenced the sound of each particular song (ie: "The Elton John Song", "The Joy Division Song", "The Beck Song" - there was even one called "The Thelonious Monster Song"). Naturally, that album didn't make a dent anywhere. I'm sure I'm probably on some F.B.I. watch list for buying it.

In between go-rounds with the Monster, Forrest formed the short-lived band The Bicycle Thief and put out the excellent You Come And Go Like A Pop Song (first released in 1999, but more widely re-released with different tracks in 2001). It's included on this blog's Best Of the 00's mix and is arguably the finest release of Forrest's career, featuring a selection of uniformly strong songs and (finally) a sympathetic production.

Since then, he put out a single solo album in 2006 called Modern Folk and Blues: Wednesday, which is mostly acoustic cover versions of unlikely songs, such as Guns 'n' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" and Springsteen's "Born To Run". The few original songs are typically excellent. He also had a song featured on the I'm Not There soundtrack, and he continues to release music on his website (you'll find piles of Forrest solo stuff there as well as Thelonious Monster tracks).

And, lastly, I've got to add that Forrest's appearance on those Dr. Drew shows represents, to me, the triumph of the underdog. He has been an artist I've always followed, always respected and supported, and the fact that he can probably pay rent these days means we can score one more for the good guys.

This Is Not A Song For the Clear-Skinned Blondes

1. So What If I Did
2. Sammy Hagar Weekend
3. Anymore
4. I Live In A Nice House
5. Adios Lounge (w/ Tom Waits)
6. Bus With No Driver
7. Max, Jill Called
8. It's Rainin' (4 am)
9. Cereal Song
10. The Bob Dylan Song
11. The Rolling Stones '77 Song
12. The Curtis Mayfield Song
13. Memphis
14. I'm Going Republican

Tracks 1, 2 by Thelonious Monster from Stormy Weather (1989)
Track 3 by Thelonious Monster from Next Saturday Afternoon (1987)
Tracks 4, 5, 6 by Thelonious Monster from Beautiful Mess (1992)
Tracks 7, 8, 9 by The Bicycle Thief from You Come And Go Like A Pop Song (2001)
Tracks 10, 11, 12 by Thelonious Monster from California Clam Chowder (2004)
Tracks 13, 14 by Bob Forrest from Modern Folk And Blues: Wednesday (2006)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Best of '10 (vol. III)

The final volume of my favorite songs from 2010, all of which can be found right here.

This mix is further evidence that, despite what the mainstream charts and their indie counterparts would lead one to believe, there's a golden age of music happening right now. You just have to dig a little harder to find it under all the noise.

My only remaining chore for 2010 is to come up with the year's top 20 which, given the awesomeness and awesomosity of the last twelve months, is gonna be an even tougher task than last year's. And a quick note: the apostrophe in The Record's is not a typo; this is not the same band as the late '70s power poppers, but a similarly inclined crew from Italy.

Faves of 2010 (Vol. III)

1. The Jim Jones Revue High Horse
2. My Jerusalem Sweet Chariot
3. The Posies Cleopatra Street
4. Throwback Suburbia Private Oasis
5. Flashy Jacks & the All Nighters Sweet Anne
6. Young Rebel Set Walk On
7. The Shilohs Carolina
8. Bobby Bare Jr. Your Goat Is On Fire
9. The Dirty Novels Candy Can't Wait
10. The Sugar Stems Black And Blue
11. Cheap Time When Tomorrow Comes
12. Jaill Demon
13. Two Cow Garage Sally, I've Been Shot
14. Luke Doucet Monkeys
15. The 88 Dead On The Water
16. The Gay Blades Try To Understand
17. Asa Be My Man
18. The Record's We All Need To Be Alone
19. You Am I Trigger Finger
20. The Parting Gifts Shine
21. The Booze Cut My Heart Out
22. Marah Muskie Moon

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Covers Project Vol. VI

22 explosive hits, most definitely - but original? Nu-uh. This is volume six of the covers project. A mix of great bands doing their versions of great songs. Or mostly great songs - there's a couple I'll admit to never being particularly fond of ("Sundown" and "Beat It", for example, miraculously rescued by Luke Doucet and Supergrass, respectively). The opening song presents the only curveball, as Hellsongs turns "School's Out" into fingerpopping lounge, but after that the mix settles fairly predictably into a punk and power pop hitfest. The pick for most surprising - to my ears, anyway - is the way Mia Zapata of the Gits soulfully digs in to "A Change Is Gonna Come" like she wrote it herself. Proves we only got to witness the tip of the iceberg when it came to her immense talent. Pick for the most fun? Everything else.

Kick Me Like You've Kicked Before

(secondary link)

1. Hellsongs School's Out (Alice Cooper)
2. Paul Collins The Letter (The Boxtops)
3. The Jim Jones Revue Get Back (The Beatles)
4. Crash Kelly Roxy Roller (Sweeney Todd)
5. The Hellacopters I'm Eighteen (Alice Cooper)
6. The Donnas Strutter (Kiss)
7. The Dahlmanns Holiday Road (Lindsay Buckingham)
8. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Fun, Fun, Fun (Beach Boys)
9. Cheap Trick When The Lights Are Out (Slade)
10. Goldspot Float On (Modest Mouse)
11. Electric Six The Rubberband Man (The Spinners)
12. Supergrass Beat It (Michael Jackson)
13. The Blondes Dyna-Mite (Mud)
14. Old 97's Rocks Off (Rolling Stones)
15. Luke Doucet Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot)
16. Ronnie Spector Something's Gonna Happen (Marshall Crenshaw)
17. The Posies Surrender (Cheap Trick)
18. Material Issue Cowboy Song (Thin Lizzy)
19. Kurt Baker I've Done Everything For You (Sammy Hagar, by way of Rick Springfield)
20. The Wildhearts Understanding Jane (The Icicle Works)
21. Perfect Crocodile Rock (Elton John)
22. The Gits A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Monger Vol. XXIV

monger v. to party, carouse, roister, or otherwise misbehave with little regard for personal longevity nor societal standards of decency

There is an entire series of monger mixes in a state of forgotten disrepair, and I'll occasionally attempt to reclaim them here. This particular one comes from July, 2008, the 24th in the series , and it's almost unrelenting in high energy aggression. There's a few change-ups (Stacie Collins and Pearlene add a slight country twang to the proceedings) but mostly it sticks squarely within the lines drawn by the holy trinity of Keith Richards, Johnny Thunders, and Johnny Ramone. Amen.

Y'All Wants A Taske?

1. Rocket From the Crypt Break It Up
2. Ginger Cars and Vaginas
3. Diamond Dogs Down in the Alley Again
4. Backyard Babies Heaven 2.9
5. The Paybacks Scotch Love
6. Trigger Unforced Peace
7. Jeff Dahl Burn Down The Trailer Park
8. Stacie Collins It Ain't Love
9. Sour Jazz I Like The City
10. Naked Prey Voodoo Godhead
11. Redd Kross One Chord Progression
12. The Doits Never Again
13. Nervous Eaters Shit For Brains
14. Flaming Sideburns Lost Generation
15. Tsar Superdeformed
16. Bash & Pop Loose Ends
17. Pearlene Hosanna!
18. Watts Freeway
19. Prima Donna Stray Doll
20. The Bellrays That's Not The Way It Should Be
21. Dramarama Last Cigarette
22. Graham Parker & the Rumour The Raid


E-Mongeration monger mix from Feb. '09

On The 3rd Day He Mongered Again mix from April /09

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Slow: a Family Tree

For the uninitiated, Slow was one of the greatest, most chaotic bands to ever stalk the Earth. They're also quite possibly ground zero for what would later be known as grunge, but I'm sure the band themselves would sneer in disgust at such an accusation. But the fact is back in '85 there really was nothing else that sounded like them. This was punk rock, played with the genre's typical fuck you attitude, but Slow extended that fuck you to include punk itself by simultaneously embracing rock 'n' roll past while pushing the envelope into the future and the needle deep into the red. They only released a single and an EP in their short existence (oh, and a perverse Christmas tune on a Zulu flexi disc - check out my Xmas '09 mix if you're interested), but they tore shit up every step of the way.

As befitting a legend, 25 years later stories of the band are still told (usually complete with factual errors or exaggerations). The Vancouver Expo '86 debacle is the best known, but anyone who saw them probably has their own story to tell. The above picture, for example, comes from their show with the Cramps in the summer of '86. My girlfriend at the time brought a friend of hers along to the gig. The friend had never experienced anything like this. She turned up wearing an evening gown, and the most recent concert she'd attended was Kool & The Gang. We arrived at the show just as Slow hit the opening chord to "Looking for Something Clean", so loud I felt my hair blow back. The band was dressed in bloody nurses uniforms complete with surgical tubing (I'm not sure why, other than they encored with a cover of "Pills", aided by Buck Cherry of the Modernettes on guitar). Anyway, the friend never spoke another word after that first chord. Didn't speak after the show. Didn't speak in the car home. And when we dropped her at her place, she wordlessly opened the car door and sprinted to her apartment. We never saw or heard from her again. Such was the power of Slow.

When Slow inevitably exploded they splintered into a small handful of equally interesting bands. Singer Tom Anselmi and guitarist Christian Thorvaldson formed a unit they insisted only be known as ©, and they were signed to Geffen on the basis of a truly awesome demo tape that made the rounds locally (I've never owned a copy, so if anyone out there can hook me up I'd appreciate it - it's become my personal holy grail). © did everything they could to piss off Geffen, until Geffen responded with complete vitriol: they only pressed 7,000 copies of the album (produced by John Porter, who'd helmed albums by the Smiths and the La's) and buried © with the full muscle of a major corporation. That was 1991; it took six years before the band crawled out from under the legal battle, and by that time everything had changed. It's a tragic story, and not merely because the © album was easily one of the best of the decade, but also because I remember seeing them at the Penthouse Gentlemen's Club just before the album was released and they were BETTER than Slow had ever been. They really seemed ready to take over the planet. And for years after that, they'd play gigs with outstanding, immediately striking new material that ultimately never saw the light of day.

When they finally reappeared it was as Copyright, and the album Love Story was a huge disappointment. It felt over-baked, polished to the point of lifelessness, and lacked the invention and originality of the years of gigs that preceded it. There's no mystery about it either: the time Copyright needed to put out two albums was equal to the time the Beatles needed to go from Meet The Beatles to their break-up. An entire band's lifetime and development, in other words, was never recorded. Copyright took another kick at the can in 2001, but the less said about that album the better. Let me put it this way: © is undoubtedly one of the best albums in my collection, The Hidden World ranks among the worst.

Slow's other guitarist, Ziggy Sigmund, formed the Scramblers. They were almost as good as ©. I remember dragging friends to gigs in the early 90s with the promise that "it's like seeing the Stones in '63" (not that I saw the Stones in '63, but hey, sometimes you need a little bit of hyperbole on your side). Fronted by the ultra cool Howard Rix, the Scramblers seemed like they were about to blow up on an international scale - the timing seemed perfect for their style of raw punk mated with Guns 'n' Roses old skool rawk moves - but they made the mistake of signing with Bruce Allen's Penta label, who probably never quite understood why they didn't want to sound like Bryan Adams. Penta screwed the band royally, and they never released anything other than demo tapes while they were a going concern. It took until 2005 before they managed to put out a cobbled-together collection of tweaked demos and live cuts - the rest apparently lost forever or simply non-existent.

Of all the Slow splinter bands, the one that sounded closest to Slow was probably bassist Stephen Hamm's Tankhog. Oddly, that same fact rendered it the least interesting as well. Tankhog was a lumbering beast of a band that really made overt the connection between Slow and grunge - if Hamm's unit had been in Seattle instead of two hours north they may have found themselves with the same sort of reputation as Mudhoney. But instead they wailed in futility for a while, although their cover of the Partridge Family's "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" was a moment of perverse brilliance.

Hamm also put together Jungle, a band that blatantly went against the prevailing trends of the time by fully embracing '70s AM rock. Jungle looked like they might beat the odds, but on the eve of their record release party vocalist Mark Kleiner announced he was heading back home to Saskatchewan to dedicate himself to the church. Or something. He reappeared just over a year later heading the Mark Kleiner Power Trio. Regardless, Jungle was done.

Since then, Hamm has been around in a few bands, possibly most notably (if that's the right word) as one half of Canned Hamm. Christian Thorvaldson played with the Matthew Good Band. Ziggy Sigmund hung around with Econoline Crush for a while and more recently started his own band called Zigmund (can't wait to hear it!). Tom Anselmi has a project called Mirror that, as far as I know, further mines his interest in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

A Broken Ladder

1. Slow I Broke The Circle
2. Slow Have Not Been The Same
3. Slow Looking For Something Clean
4. Slow Against The Glass
5. Tankhog I Woke Up In Love This Morning
6. © The Climb
7. © Dust
8. The Scramblers Ain't That The Truth
9. The Scramblers Outta Sight, Outta Mind
10. The Scramblers Solitary Man
11. Copyright The Flesh Is Weak
12. Copyright A Frame
13. Jungle It's So Fuck'n Great To Be Alive
14. Jungle Long Time No See
15. Copyright Into The Light

Track 1 from I Broke The Circle single (1985)
Tracks 2 - 4 from Against The Glass ep (1986)
Track 5 from Tankhog House of Beauty (1994)
Tracks 6, 7 from © (1991)
Tracks 8, 9 from The Scramblers Good Gone Bad (2005)
Track 10 from Last Call: Vancouver Independent Music 1977-1988 (1991)
Track 11 from Copyright Love Story (1997)
Track 12 unreleased
Track 13 from Jungle It's So Fuck'n Great To Be Alive ep (1997)
Track 14 from Jungle Long Time No See (1999)
Track 15 from Copyright The Hidden World (2001)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

15 songs by Luke Doucet and Veal

One of Vancouver's best kept secrets, it's hard to do justice to Veal in any simple description. Terms like power-pop or post-punk are as inevitable as they are inaccurate, although a quirky, genial mix of the two is right on target. Starting with 1996's Hot Loser they managed to release three albums that obstinately followed their own slack muse through balladry, gloom, boogie, pop, and anything else that fell off the table the night before. At the heart of it all was leader Luke Doucet, who put a stake in the beast after 2003's Embattled Hearts and moved on to Toronto and a similarly quirky (though considerably less rockin') solo career.

Luke Doucet has never been for everybody, and thank god for that. His influences and ambitions range far too wide to be funneled into a previously existing mold. As a singer/songwriter he's among the best of the decade, but he's also a fairly spectacular guitarist (but not in that wanky deedly deedly geetar flash kind of way - Luke's more about melody and finding the emotional core of the song). For an example of exactly that, give "Cleveland" a listen at the end of this mix. The collection also offers a quick run-through of some old Veal highlights, something from each of his studio solo albums, as well as a taste of Doucet's new release Steel City Trawler, which is available right now on i-Tunes. Nab that thang, people.

Hot Loser

1. Monkeys
2. Skid
3. Centre of the Universe
4. Underground
5. Everybody Wants More Cocaine
6. Girlfriend
7. Judy Garland
8. Vanessa
9. Leroy
10. It's Not The Liquor I Miss
11. One Too Many
12. Vladivostok
13. The Commandante
14. Dirty, Dirty Blonde
15. Cleveland

Tracks 1, 14 from Steel City Trawler (2010)
Tracks 2, 3, 4 by Veal from Tilt O'Whirl (1999)
Tracks 5, 6, 7 by Veal from Embattled Hearts (2003)
Tracks 8, 9 from Aloha, Manitoba (2001)
Tracks 10, 11, 12 from Broken (And Other Rogue States) (2005)
Tracks 13, 15 from Blood's Too Rich (2008)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Best of '10 (vol. II)

Another batch of great tunage to commemorate the two thirds mark of the year, pinging and ponging between all the usual points. Lots of entries this time from albums that are insisting to be remembered come the end-of-the-year best-of lists. Plus an unexpected guest appearance from non-other than muffuggin' Toots Hibbert (that's Toots & the Maytals, y'all - I mean "Pressure Drop", "Time Tough", and "Funky Kingston"? That's the godhead raaaght thurr) adding a touch of immortality to the JJ Grey track. Speaking of unannounced guests, Alejandro Escovedo is joined by Chuck Prophet AND his own idol Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople - that's yet more godhead, peeps) for the slow burn of the mix's final track. Come to think of it, there seems to be a faint burn motif running through this whole thing, but it's probably best not to think of such things ('cuz I sho' as shee didn't think about 'em when I was compiling it).

Faves of 2010 (vol. II)

1. Caroline & the Treats Are You Ready?
2. Dan Kelly Hold On, I'm Coming On
3. Robbers On High Street Electric Eye
4. J. Roddy Walston & the Business Don't Break The Needle
5. The Postelles White Night
6. The Biters Beat Me Baby
7. Nobunny Breathe
8. Javi Garcia & Cold Cold Ground Black Tambourine
9. The Love Language Brittany's Back
10. The Silver Seas Candy
11. JJ Grey & Mofro (w/ Toots Hibbert) The Sweetest Thing
12. I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House Hotter Hell
13. The Small Change Nothin' 2 Say
14. The Henry Clay People End of an Empire
15. Hollerado Got To Lose
16. The Vaselines It Wasn't All Duran Duran
17. The Russians Make It Easy
18. Jason Falkner Emotion Machine
19. The Thermals Never Listen to Me
20. Dax Riggs Let Me Be Your Cigarette
21. Sonny & the Sunsets Too Young To Burn
22. Alejandro Escovedo (w/ Ian Hunter) Down In The Bowery

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

15 songs by Thin Lizzy

Okay, bear with me on this one. In fact, let me explain myself right off the top. I'm not a big Thin Lizzy fan - and I'm sure this mix will annoy the band's most ardent supporters - because a great deal of Lizzy traffics in the sort of riff-based butt rock that I've never appreciated. But - and this is a big but (not unlike your mother's BAM!) - there's another side to this band that largely gets ignored. And that side ties them dramatically to the exact same set of influences of soul/rhythm 'n' blues as the likes of Van Morrison and (early) Bruce Springsteen. In fact, leader Phil Lynott sounds most at ease when he's letting that freaky soul flag fly. This mix concentrates entirely on those moments. This is Thin Lizzy at their most mellow, most melodic, most soulful, and, don't say I didn't warn you, least rawkin'. I've included their admittedly overplayed hit "The Boys Are Back In Town" at the end of this thang, because playing it after the 14 songs that precede it allow that tune to be heard in a new context. Works for me, anyway.

Ode to a Black Man

1. Freedom Song
2. Wild One
3. Fighting My Way Back
4. Silver Dollar
5. For Those Who Love To Live
6. Running Back
7. Fight or Fall
8. Buffalo Gal
9. Chatting Today
10. Here I Go Again
11. She Knows
12. Cowboy Song
13. Southbound
14. Dancing In The Moonlight
15. The Boys Are Back In Town

Tracks 1 - 5 from Fighting (1975)
Tracks 6, 7, 12, 15 from Jailbreak (1976)
Tracks 8, 9 from Shades of a Blue Orphanage (1972)
Track 10 b-side of the "The Rocker" single (1973)
Track 11 from Night Life (1974)
Tracks 13, 14 from Bad Reputation (1977)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

RE-UP: Summer mix from '08

Just re-upped the first mix ever posted on this blog. It's a summerfest of genre-straddling, decade-spanning proportions and totally passed the deck test mere moments ago. Snag it if you haven't already. Original post here.


1. Webb Wilder Everyday (I Kick Myself)
2. Limbeck The State
3. The Cryers Shake It Baby
4. Stacie Collins Never Ever
5. Garland Jeffreys Cool Down Boy
6. J. Geils Band Make Up Your Mind
7. Sam Cooke Shake
8. The Jags Here Comes My Baby
9. Madness John Jones
10. The Fleshtones New York City
11. The Heats When You're Mine
12. Blue Rodeo Love & Understanding
13. Rancid Things to Come
14. Diamond Dogs Scunthorpe Avenue
15. The Yum Yums Come On Come On
16. The Presidents of the USA Mixed Up S.O.B.
17. The Flaming Sideburns Slow Down
18. Bash & Pop Tickled to Tears
19. Starz Cherry Baby
20. Drive-by Truckers Like A Rolling Stone

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

King of Summer - the 2010 summer mix

I make these summer mixes as something that you can play during a BBQ or while lounging on the deck. Music that's just meant for sunshine and a slight buzz. Of course, I need to point out that these summer mixes only really work if all your invited guests are, y'know, me (and hey, you should be so lucky, amirite?), because it's typically focused on my usual musical obsessions which serve an admittedly smaller section of the populace than, say, the Black Eyed Peas. Also, quite proudly, there ain't a note of chillwave to be found on this beeyatch.

Usually my summer mixes span the decades, but for whatever reason this time out the only thing close to an oldie is Teenage Head's 1980 chestnut "Let's Shake" (RIP Frankie Venom), and after that the most ancient track comes from 2001 (which is "Any Way You Want It" by the Orange Humble Band, a mysteriously neglected supergroup involving Mitch Easter, Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, Jody Stephens of Big Star, and Daryl Mather of the DM3) . There's a handful of songs from the last couple years, while thirteen of the twenty-two songs are totally brand spankin' new.

If you happened to enjoy the Yum Yums mix, keep an ear out for the track by Caroline & the Treats, on which the lovely Caroline Andersen hooks up with Yum Yums mainman Morten Henriksen - you can do your own googling to discover Caroline's other career (hint: turn the filter off). The J. Roddy Walston track is from the upcoming (as yet unreleased) album, and currently only appears on the HOPE Campaign compilation, which makes for an awesome summer mix on its own right. It's available on both Amazon and iTunes for a mere $7.99 (and it's a good cause).

Anyway, enough chat. It's time to spark up the Q, pour those gin 'n' tonics strong, stare melanoma defiantly in the face, and melt.

King of Summer

1. Hollerado Do the Doot Da Doot Doo
2. The Rumours Get Together
3. Mishka w/ Willie Nelson Homegrown
4. The Henry Clay People This Ain't A Scene
5. Macy Gray Kissed It
6. The Arkells The Ballad of Hugo Chavez
7. Caroline & the Treats Bad All Over
8. Teenage Head Let's Shake
9. Attic Lights Summer Girlfriend
10. Rooney I Don't Want To Lose You
11. Ambershades Happy Now
12. The Dirty Heads Driftin'
13. Orange Humble Band Any Way You Want It
14. Supergrass Seen The Light
15. Japanese Motors Single Fins & Safety Pins
16. Hefner The King of Summer
17. The Like Release Me
18. Young Rival The Ocean
19. The Silver Seas The Best Things In Life
20. The Beautiful Girls 10:10
21. J. Roddy Walston & The Business I Don't Wanna Hear It
22. The Frank Popp Ensemble Love Is On Our Side

Monday, June 28, 2010

Covers Project Vol. V

Another installation of the ongoing project. Every song's a hit.

Oh God I Could Do Better Than That

1. The Hold Steady American Music (Violent Femmes)
2. J Church Don't Bring Me Down (ELO)
3. The Yum Yums I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (The Rubinoos)
4. Psychomania Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Robert Hazard, by way of Cyndi Lauper)
5. Neko Case Misfire (Queen)
6. True Believers The Rebel Kind (The Modernettes)
7. Smithereens It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
8. Joey Ramone What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
9. Barely Pink Don't Look Back (Teenage Fanclub)
10. Sour Jazz Dr. Boogie (The Flamin' Groovies)
11. The Dragons Bad Reputation (Joan Jett)
12. Trip Shakespeare (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding (Brinsley Schwartz, by way of Elvis Costello)
13. The Come Ons Rip Her To Shreds (Blondie)
14. The Yayhoos Roam (The B52s)
15. The Hot Rats Queen Bitch (David Bowie)
16. P. Hux Do Ya (ELO)
17. Southern Culture On The Skids Life's A Gas (T.Rex)
18. Brendan Benson Let Me Roll It (Paul McCartney/Wings)
19. Teenage Head Wild One (Johnny O'Keefe, later Iggy Pop)
20. Bum Pool Hall Richard (The Faces)
21. Black Francis w/ Joey Santiago Cover Of The Rolling Stone (Shel Silverstein, by way of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show)
22. The Crybabys Vaya Con Dios (Gene Autry, by way of Tony Orlando & Dawn)
23. Baby Lemonade Bennie & The Jets (Elton John)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello My Name Is Mix (vol. 2)

With thanks to a few readers' suggestions, I've come up with another volume of self-explanatory silliness. Actually, the overall song quality on this one might even be better than the first. And there's already 17 songs compiled for a third volume, but I've gotta warn you - that one might include such un-Un-Herdlike things as Weezer's "Buddy Holly" and Barenaked Ladies' "Brian Wilson" if I can't find suitable replacements. Stop me now.

Hello My Name Is... (Vol. 2)

1. The Silver Brazilians Kate Winslet
2. Spearmint Julie Christie
3. Pernice Brothers Jacqueline Susann
4. Charlotte Hatherley Kim Wilde
5. Fenix TX Phoebe Cates
6. Idle Jets Karen Valentine
7. The Smugglers Alan Thicke
8. The Haints Carly Simon
9. Oppenheimer Cate Blanchett
10. William Pears Johnny Rotten
11. Brinkman Kirsten Dunst
12. Mambo Sons Overend Watts
13. GE Smith James Brown
14. Dogs D'Amour Errol Flynn
15. Who By Fire Madchen Amick
16. Darlington Jodie Foster
17. The Meanies Lee Remick
18. The Neighborhoods Evel Knievel
19. The Len Price 3 Julia Jones
20. The Gin Blossoms Keli Richards
21. The Sun Sawed In Half Janet Greene
22. Ridel High Wynona Ryder
23. Ozma Natalie Portman
24. Ride Howard Hughes

Sunday, June 13, 2010

15 songs by the Yum Yums

It's almost impossible to describe this band in a way that accurately conveys their genius. The term "pop punk" doesn't do it - it's been marred by a couple decades of whining, tin-eared careerists - and to simply say they sound like the Ramones mated with the early Beach Boys gives short shrift to all three points in the equation. The Yum Yums come from a galaxy (Norway, actually) where nothing matters other than melody, momentum, and bright, fuzzy powerchords. It seems like an easy recipe, but it's only easy until you hear the 9,999,999 bands out of 10 million that fail at it. I can't explain it, but singer/songwriter Morten Henriksen and his fellow Yum Yums just get it. To me, this is the sound of pure, unbridled joy. I can barely imagine a summer without them. Not a good summer, anyway. This is a 15 song sampler from a number of their releases. Take 'em for a test drive and see if you can resist. "It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum!"

15 Songs by the Yum Yums

1. I Wanna Be The One
2. It's Gonna Be A Hit
3. Let's Rock and Roll
4. Come On Come On
5. Twenty Four Seven
6. Shake Some Action (Flamin' Groovies cover)
7. Rock and Roll Tonight
8. Here Comes Summer
9. Forever
10. Miss You Baby
11. Out of Luck (Pointed Sticks cover)
12. Be With Me
13. Chewy Chewy (Ohio Express cover)
14. Too Good To Be True
15. 9,999,999 Tears

tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 14 from Whatever Rhymes With Baby (2008)
tracks 2, 4, 8, 9 from Blame It On The Boogie (2002)
tracks 10, 11, 12, from Sweet As Candy (1997)
track 6 from Come On Come On single (2002)
track 13 from Singles 'n' Stuff (2001)
track 15 from Funzone ep (2001)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best of '10 (Vol. I)

I've got my annual summer mix coming along soon, but in the meantime that role can be filled by this collection of my favorite songs from the year (so far) . There's nothing on here that you won't already expect from this blog: power pop, garage, Americana, glam, and punk all mixed, matched, masticated, and otherwise mulched. Goes well with potato salad too, which is of prime importance 'cuz it's time for some of that hot patio action. Check it out.

Faves of 2010 (vol. I)

1. The Candle Thieves We're All Gonna Die (Have Fun)
2. Lucky Soul Woah Billy!
3. Quattro 134
4. Free Energy Dream City
5. The Men Tonight Is Mine
6. Locksley The Whip
7. The Cute Lepers Smart Accessories
8. Thee Attacks It's Alright
9. Delta Spirit Bushwick Blues
10. Slithering Beast S.I.S.
11. The Mynabirds Numbers Don't Lie
12. The Glossary Lonely Is A Town
13. Ted Leo + the Pharmacists Bottled In Cork
14. The Idyllists Sweet Loretta
15. Nick Curran & the Lowlifes Reform School Girl
16. The Krayolas Good Little Girl (She Don't)
17. The Quails Princess
18. Spoon I Saw The Light
19. The Dirty Heads Stand Tall
20. The Hold Steady Soft In The Center
21. Gin Wigmore Don't Stop
22. Sweet Apple It's Over Now

Friday, April 30, 2010

Un-Herd Music Decade in Review

A Top 20 of the decade. Yeah, right. If anything, this blog has proven to myself (and probably anyone else who reads it) that I am virtually incapable of compiling a Top 20 list. I find it impossibly difficult to pare down my favorite albums to a mere 20 in any given year, let alone an entire decade. I usually end up with a quantum Top 20, which is a Top 20 that numbers 25 (or so).

So, true to form, here's a Top 20 of the decade that manages to omit some of my absolute favorites from the decade. I just couldn't find a way to include songs from albums like Cat Power The Greatest, Amy Winehouse Back To Black, and Joe Henry Scar, but those three albums are most certainly part of the list.

Other deserving albums that aren't represented include My Morning Jacket At Dawn, Frank Black Black Letter Days, Jon Brion Meaningless, Joe Pisapia Daydreams, Warren Zanes Memory Girls, Veal Embattled Hearts, the Mendoza Line Fortune, Jim White Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See, V.V. Brown Traveling Like The Light, and Marah Kids In Philly. Suminumbitch, it was a great decade for music. Maybe a second volume of a Top 20 is necessary. But now, let's get to the actual list. As usual, this is not ranked in any way. Where I've been able, I've included my original review of the album.

1. The Strokes - Is This It (2001)
Probably the most obvious choice on the mix, and not very "un-herd" at all. In fact, the way this album spearheaded a dumb mainstream "garage revival" is the absolute definition of herd mentality. But the evidence remains in the tracks themselves: this is a great album. They got hit by hipster flak for sounding like a variety of first wave New York punk bands, but the hipsters got it wrong (as usual). In reality, the Strokes don't sound like any specific band from that era, they sound like all of them tossed into a martini shaker.

2. Ike Reilly - Salesmen And Racists (2001)
"Stripped-down, intelligent rock'n'roll. If not for a few production touches, Salesmen & Racists sounds like it could have been head of the class back in '78, perfectly complementary with Graham Parker (circa Squeezing Out Sparks), Costello, Lowe, etal. A little more foul-mouthed, a little more world weary than any of those revered precursors, but a stiff shot of the good stuff nonetheless. Old school iconoclastic traditionalism. Refreshing at this late date." (RP 2002)

3. Ted Leo + the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance (2001)
After doing time in Chisel and releasing a disastrous debut with the Pharmacists, Ted Leo found his voice with this album. And that voice is one of the most melodic vehicles in contemporary music. Released on Lookout! Records, a label known at the time for fairly generic pop punk (primarily thanks to Green Day), Tyranny of Distance stood out from the pack immediately. Leo wasn't afraid to slow it down, strip it down, or stretch it out. He borrowed from punk as well as power pop and classic rock - even getting compared by goofy web critics to both Thin Lizzy and Dexy's Midnight Runners. And his egghead lyrics never get in the way of his melodic hooks - so even a song called "Biomusicology" is something you can sing along to.

4. The Bicycle Thief - You Come And Go Like A Pop Song (2001)
This is essentially a Bob Forrest solo album, picking up where Thelonious Monster left off minus any forced need to rock. It boasts Forrest's typically open-wound/picking at scabs songwriting and delivered with a depth that was only hinted at previously. No surprise that if you chip away at the superficial veneer of the smart ass, you find a heartbroken optimist. Forrest has since been paying his bills as a counselor on Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab, playing the role of The Only Person Worth Listening To.

5. The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic (2002)
God, what a tragedy. Here's my original review before the van accident that killed 3/4 of the band: "Zippy punk served up '77 style, from the shoutalong girl-group-derived melodies to the dayglo cover art to a mix that boasts all meters buried in the red. Lotsa fun, in other words, if just shy of greatness. Full marks for effort, though. This is what punk rock sounded like before it got codified into simple barre chords and zitty whining. If you've ever heard the Vibrator's classic Pure Mania then you're already well-acquainted with the game plan. And although it's all highly derivative, the Exploding Hearts at least show good sense and smart album collections in their choice of idols. It also helps that the band possesses an infectious exuberance and a seemingly limitless energy supply. With any luck, a million and one Good Charlotte-lovin' teenie punks will clutch onto this as their favorite album ever and all their subsequent bands will be formed in the image of the Exploding Hearts. And then the world will be a better place. Or something." (RP 2003)

6. Little Jackie - The Stoop (2008)
I'm still a little surprised Little Jackie didn't take over the world in 2008. She's gorgeous, smart, and talented, and she's found a sound that merges hip hop with '50s rock 'n' roll (and anything else that strikes her fancy). Her words are alternately sharp and silly, kinda like the songs themselves, but it's just such a perfect summertime joint that ejecting the silly would've ruined the buzz.

7. The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site (2003)
Another pop punk band that rebelled against the constraints of the form. There's a little bit of folk rock and some pedal steel twang jumbled into the punk energy, and lyrics that aim to be literary. And mostly they even succeed at that lofty pursuit.

8. Viva L'American Death Ray Music - Smash Radio Hits (2002)
"Imagine if the Velvet Underground had given John Cale the boot and replaced him with Roxy Music's Andy McKay. Now imagine them playing White Light/White Heat in some condemned industrial space to an audience of disinterested rats. Chugging electric drones, honking 50's sax that accelerates into avant jazz shrieking at the drop of a dimebag, and Papa Lou's semi-tuneful drawl fighting through the mix. And don't forget about the rats. That, in a rotting nutshell, is American Death Ray's Smash Radio Hits. Decadent, trashy rock & roll from the retro-future." (RP 2002)

9. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005)
At its worst, this sounds like Bruce Springsteen reciting poetry in front of a Jersey bar band. But at its best, it's like Bruce Springsteen reciting poetry in front of a Jersey bar band. Potato potahto. The recurring characters and the Catholic undertones give this album a conceptual thrust that feels complete, and the songs are alternately wise-ass and affecting (sometimes both). Arguably, the Hold Steady may have written better songs on later albums (there's nothing here quite so immediate as "Massive Nights") but as a whole this seems to be their crowning achievement.

10. Tsar - Tsar (2000)
"A wonderful power pop album, almost old-fashioned in its faith in energy and melody. Ten hyper-tuneful songs blast by in just over half an hour, each one filled with the expected vocal and guitar hooks of their genre. But Tsar has a knack for the smaller details - whether it's a slight alteration in the repetition of the chorus, or an unexpected rimshot, or a perfectly placed "woo!" - that make each song more than the sum of its parts. If this young band stays the course and continues this level of craftmanship, their next album could already be declared a classic." (RP 2002)

11. The Jim Jones Revue - The Jim Jones Revue (2008)
It's like I'd been waiting my whole life for someone to hit on this sound. A sonic collision between Little Richard and a jetfighter taking off, Jim Jones knows one speed: FASTER. Boiled down to its essence, this is simply good old time rock 'n' roll, featuring a pounding piano leading a simple guitar/bass/drums lineup through some boogie moves. But, thankfully, there's more to it than essence. The intangible is attitude - and the whole band has it. As an added bonus, Jones finds the raw sexual subtext to the "Princess and the Frog" fable. Now I understand.

12. Grand Mal - Bad Timing (2003)
"The lyrics make the band's intent plain by slyly referencing both the Only Ones' Peter Perrett and the Stooges' "Rock Action", and listeners who don't need footnotes to understand those particular namedrops will find much to enjoy here. Whitten's main stroke of genius amounts to combining the wasted vibe and lazy riffing of Exile on Main Street with the sultry boogie sensibility of T.Rex (even adding wailing Lady Soul backing vocals on some tracks). The resulting hybrid replaces glam androgyny with a kind of macho fatalism that sounds immediately familiar, though trust me, glam rock never sounded like this. But it should have." (RP 2003)

13. You Am I - Dress Me Slowly (2001)
If I was Australian I'd probably a) have a better tan, and b) consider You Am I a financially successful behemoth not worthy of Un-Herd attention. But the fact is that despite their success in their homeland they've sold about twelve albums in total outside of it. This is a band that's determinedly old school; there's a classic rock aura to them that's inescapable. It's the classic rock of bands like the Faces and the Stones, however, which means they're absolutely hooked into the timelessness of genuine rock tradition (in the same way as, for example, the Replacements). Most of their albums are worthwhile, but Dress Me Slowly doesn't contain a single duff track.

14. Spoon - Gimme Fiction (2005)
"Last year when band leader Britt Daniel attempted to describe the direction he was taking on Gimme Fiction as "Marvin Gaye meets Wire" he came close to hitting the bullseye. Like early Wire, this is taut guitar rock that traffics in tension more than release; and like Marvin Gaye, it's brimming with soul and groove. But as far as sonic antecedents go, I'd also add John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band in there, mostly due to Britt's vocal similarities, but also because of the confident and deliberate use of space to cushion each near-majestic chime of the keyboard. When Britt hits the chorus on opening song "The Beast And Dragon, Adored" he sounds like he's channeling the very soul of Lennon himself and, fittingly, he does so while declaring his rediscovered belief in rock and roll. It's a thrilling moment - and it perfectly sets the tone for Spoon's most fully realized album to date. Spoon opened (their previous album) Kill The Moonlight with "Small Stakes", a song in which Britt Daniel declared that his ambition lay well beyond the constricting walls of indie rock. Gimme Fiction razes those walls to rubble." (RP 2005)

15. Roman Candle - The Wee Hours Revue (2006)
Previously released as Say Pop, Roman Candle decided to remix that album and add a song. The resulting re-release got it right, from the new title and graphics to the mix itself. This is pop, but it mines a distinctly late-night vibe. Not exactly mellow, but also never far from melancholy - and every song spools out with at least a couple baited hooks. Low-key perfection.

16. J. Roddy Walston & The Business - Hail Mega Boys (2007)
"One of those rare albums where every song bursts out of the gate in an avalanche of ideas and with such unflagging energy that you wonder how the band ever got quite that stoked to begin with. Songs like "Rock & Roll The Second", "Used To Did" and "Go For It" are reminiscent of the best hard rock moments of Mott the Hoople, all pounding pianos and thick chording, while others stay more in the bar band realm of alt.Americana, and "Mommie Bomb" even tosses in some sub-Queen dancehall moves - and then there are others that just mix all that in a cuisinart in a way that'll leave you shaking your head in wonder. It's a perfectly chaotic document of a band that's willing to try anything and everything. Just makes me glad to be breathing." (RP2009)

17. The Libertines - The Libertines (2004)
A tad more chaotic than their debut album, which is why I give this one the nod. The Libertines' Pete Doherty and Carl Barat were once going to take on the world, and this album finds the two of them at the very moment of realization that drug addiction was the one hurdle too big to leap. Their ramshackle sound (carefully planned ramshackle, of course) is still as powerful as ever, but the entire thing is falling apart before their eyes. Songs of mutual hate and recrimination ("Can't Stand Me Now") end up at the elegiac "What Became of the Likely Lads?", which works as both a plea for the band to continue and an admission of defeat. Rumours of their reunion notwithstanding, this was a perfect last statement.

18. Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait (2007)
Yeah, I know. This is the sort of album serious music fans are supposed to sneer at. It's just great songs. There's nothing new or challenging about it. It sounds like the Beatles. Yada yada yada. Here's the thing: these guys do have a similarity to the Beatles, but it's as if Lennon and Macca from '63 suddenly fell out of a time machine and discovered punk rock. The songs, each and every one of them, are perfectly structured pop, bursting with hooks and infectious energy. It's a little sad that we live in a music climate so jaded that something this awesome is met with not much more than a yawn.

19. Pat Todd & The RankOutsiders - Outskirts Of Your Heart (2007)
Ex-mainman of the Lazy Cowgirls Pat Todd released this opus to little or no fanfare. Two discs and 28 songs, ranging from sparse folk to the raging garage punk that the Cowgirls excelled at. Todd has a way of melding every style of Americana into a glorious, decadent whole and his guitar leads come straight out of the tradition of Johnny Thunders, which is to say they shouldercheck the rest of the band out the way and fight for space. This is a sprawling, messy, warts'n'all work about crushed dreams and the loss of youth, and it joins the Bicycle Thief as one of the most profoundly personal releases of this past decade.

20. The Drive-by Truckers - Southern Rock Opera (2002)
"Truth in advertising. Southern Rock Opera is exactly what it announces in its title. A 2 CD opus that doesn't merely recount the rise and fall of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but uses the tragic story of that classic band as a thread to hang ruminations on life, death, and all things south of the Mason-Dixon line. The clean three-guitar attack of Skynyrd has been updated into punky blasts of murky alt.country, with the band's twang and drawl front-and-center. Kinda fun, kinda profound, and - by the end of the 8 minute closer "Angels and Fuselage" - kinda heartwrenching." (RP 2002)

Best of the '00s

1. The Strokes The Modern Age
2. Ike Reilly Hip Hop Thighs #17
3. Ted Leo + the Pharmacists Timorous Me
4. The Bicycle Thief Max, Jill Called
5. The Exploding Hearts Throwaway Style
6. Little Jackie The Stoop
7. The Weakerthans Reconstruction Site
8. Viva L'American Death Ray Music Baby Lightning
9. The Hold Steady Your Little Hoodrat Friend
10. Tsar Silver Shifter
11. The Jim Jones Revue Hey Hey Hey Hey
12. Grand Mal First Round K.O.
13. You Am I Kick A Hole In The Sky
14. Spoon The Beast And Dragon, Adored
15. Roman Candle You Don't Belong To This World
16. J. Roddy Walston & The Business Rock And Roll The Second
17. The Libertines What Became Of The Likely Lads
18. Locksley All Of The Time
19. Pat Todd & The RankOutsiders Don't Cry Baby, You Ain't Getting Old
20. The Drive-By Truckers Shut Up And Get On The Plane

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Give That Kid A Smack mix

Rock! Roll! Drugs! Girls! Underpants! It's another volume of the most mongerous mongerosity in all of mongerdom. This one ranges a little wider than previous entries, starting with the Tom-Waits-in-Nawlins chug of Royal Fingerbowl and ending on the hyper Dolls-gone-hair-metal of the Nastys, and in between it veers drunkenly between glam, power pop, hard rock, and rootsy Americana. Special thanks to the Look What The Twat Dragged In blog for introducing me to the Sand Rubies, whose "Fuk 'Em" is quickly becoming a personal anthem (even though I'm philosophically opposed to misspellings of song titles). Remember to turn this one up loud.

Give That Kid A Smack

1. Royal Fingerbowl Bad Apples
2. The Compulsions Big, Fat, Sexy Mama
3. The Glossary Save Your Money For The Weekend
4. Cobra Verde Underpants
5. S'cool Girls Put Up Or Shut Up
6. Like A Martyr And By Coffee I Mean Drugs
7. The Respectables Charged By The Minute
8. The Heats Let's All Smoke
9. Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle Too Sober To Sleep
10. The Sand Rubies Fuk 'Em
11. The Liquor Giants Awful Good
12. The Mekons (w/ Neko Case) Last Night On Earth
13. The DomNicks Busted
14. Green Up All Night
15. The Crybabys Swallow Me Up
16. The Glands When I Laugh
17. Doug Gillard The Temperament Twist
18. Free Energy Dark Trance
19. Parallax Project I Hate Girls
20. The Nastys Bad Doctor

Saturday, March 20, 2010

12 Songs by Link Wray

How bad-ass was Link Wray? His song "Rumble" was banned from radio play in the 50s for inciting teen violence - and it was an instrumental! That particular piece of rock history was also honorably footnoted for inventing the power chord and inspiring Pete Townshend to pick up his first guitar. A run of ripping instros followed "Rumble", and although most people associate Link Wray with that era, the man's most enduring work may have been waxed in the '70s. On a series of (mostly ignored) albums in that decade, Link pursued a much deeper, more personal sound, influenced equally by Dylan, the Stones, and a wealth of American blues, folk, and country. Link's guitar playing could still be as aggressive as ever, but he could also tap into new layers of subtlety. Most surprising of all, the one-time instrumentalist had found a soulful vocal style that sure as hell didn't sound like it was emanating from a man with only one lung. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bit about only having one lung. Bad. Ass. Anyway, this is a compilation of tracks from a few of those '70s albums, ending with his downright spectacular cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" from 1979's Bullshot.

12 Songs by Link Wray

1. Backwoods Preacher Man
2. La De Da
3. Southern Lady
4. Black River Swamp
5. Take Me Home Jesus
6. Crowbar
7. Juke Box Mama
8. Fallin' Rain
9. God Out West
10. Fire and Brimstone
11. It Was A Bad Scene
12. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

track #1 and 11 from The Link Wray Rumble (1974)
track #2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 from Link Wray (1971)
track #3 from Stuck In Gear (1975)
track #12 from Bullshot (1979)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Best of the Best of 2009

In my opinion, '09 was a spectacular year for music. Not so good on any other front perhaps, but that kind of bitching is for some other blog. I've been keeping a running tally of my fave tracks all year - there are 3 volumes of them in the archives - and with this mix I've tried to whittle all that great stuff into something that resembles a Top 20. Now, I'll admit I'm not particularly good at ranking these sorts of things. On any given day my #20 could be more appreciated than my #1, and vice versa. So let's just throw out the idea of rankings - these are simply my 20 favorite albums of '09 (with one extra thrown in for good measure).

The XX The XX - This album is the definition of a grower. At first I found it merely pleasant. But eventually it sunk its teeth into me. Somehow these four 20 year olds have alchemized a sound that mixes the Jesus and Mary Chain at their most hushed with undeniable R&B undertones. The sexy/shy male/female vocals sound downright intimate at moments - although I've chosen the instrumental opener "Intro" to start this mix.

V.V. Brown Traveling Like The Light - I can't deny, I have a soft spot for female vocalists with one foot in retro R&B and one in the immediate future, and V.V. Brown does it better than almost anyone I've ever heard. This is one of those albums where each song could be a hit (in my universe, anyway). The song "Crying Blood" is a perfect mix of modern sass and old soul, and perfectly representative of the album.

Philadelphia Grand Jury Hope Is For Hopers - Well, this one came out of nowhere for me. In some other era it might have been called power pop, but it's a little tougher and louder than that term suggests. The song "The New Neil Young" will give you a good idea of what to expect, which is melody, muscle, and mischief.

Roger Klug More Help For Your Nerves - A late addition to my list of faves. Cincinnati's Roger Klug plays pretty much all the instruments on this, and it's a crazed mishmash of power, pop, and rock, at times sounding like early Joe Jackson fronting early XTC, except with a pile of guitar wig-outs piled on top. "When Dreams Dry Up" shows some of Klug's range in a single song, but you really need to hear the whole thing to get the picture. In a word, amazing.

The 1990s Kicks - Scotland's 1990s traffic in the sort of sophisticated yet cheeky pop that would have made them gods in the decade just before their namesake. Of course, these days it barely sticks to the wall. Our loss.

Ike Reilly Hard Luck Stories - Since 2001's near perfect Salesmen & Racists, Ike Reilly has been kicking up a ruckus with the best of 'em. Somewhat miraculously, his '09 release is his best since that first blast of wiseassery.

The Smoke Orange Blood - How have these guys managed to stay such a secret? Maybe they're stars in their native Australia. This album ranges from rootsy stuff like "Cut The Brakes" to more wasted indie pop like "Cassette Culture" to the slow burn of the song on this mix, "Bloody Orange".

Gidgets Ga Ga The Big Bong Fiasco - What's not to like? Sounding like a more jangly Dramarama or less drunken Replacements is, in my eyes, worthy of nothing but praise. And the fact these Chicagoans crammed 17 equally great songs onto this disc is even more impressive. "Baby You're A Star" is featured on the mix, but it could just as easily have been any of the other 16. Um, yeah okay, that band name might be a hindrance to success - but trust me, you just have to look past it.

The Takeover UK Running With The Wasters - Well, for one thing they're not from the UK. They're from Pittsburgh. But I swear, if an album so chockful of this sort of literate, tuneful, modern pop came out of the UK critics and message boarders everywhere would be falling over themselves trying to praise it to the heavens.

Lucero 1372 Overton Park - If you haven't hopped on the Lucero train yet, now is the time. Imagine everything great about the 'Mats and the Drive-by Truckers, and now imagine it coming straight out of Memphis WITH A HORN SECTION. For anyone who ever fell in love with rock 'n' roll, "What Are You Willing To Lose"should make you lose your nut.

AM Future Sons & Daughters - That name (of the band and of the singer/songwriter behind it) foretells exactly what you can expect - melodies and hooks that sound like they should be emanating from a '70s AM radio. A magic radio, at that, because it managed to delete all the tripe. This album sounds like the Josh Rouse album Josh Rouse forgot to make after 1972.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz - Yeah, I know the indie kids want us all to believe that the YYYs have gone downhill since their first album, but screw that. This band keeps expanding its own template, and Karen O's vocals just keep finding new layers of depth with each release. There's an 80s noo wave synth pop flirtation here, but not so much that you can't imagine guitarist Nick Zinner rocking your face off in a live setting.

Reno Bo Happenings And Other Things - He spent time in Albert Hammond Jr.'s vacation from the Strokes, then stepped out on his own and put out this amazing collection of songs. Let's call it power pop, for want of a better term - but that descriptor is based entirely on the sweet hooks in every song and the muscularity of the band. Check out "There Is A Light" and see if you can stop yourself from singing along by the second chorus.

Grant Lee Phillips Little Moon - The ex-frontman and namesake of Grant Lee Buffalo seemed adrift for a while there, but with '07s Strangelet and now this album he appears to have found his footing. His swooning baritone is front and center on "Buried Treasure", and it's just pure magic.

Vetiver Tight Knit - I didn't expect this from a group associated with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Those artists are, mostly, overly precious "freak folk" with a seemingly endless need to be slapped. Vetiver, however, showed up with the mellow triumph of Tight Knit. "Another Reason To Go" even adds a sly R&B groove and horns to the mix. Surprising, to say the least.

The BAcksliders Thank You - A band that could fall into the description of above average garage rock, if not for the sultry vocals of Kim (Pendleton) Bonner. She's got just the right amount of rasp and just the right amount of honey dripping off every line. The band itself is no slouch - they manage a version of Little Richard's "Keep A-Knockin'" that doesn't embarrass itself and the original songs are uniformly strong - but it's those vocals that push this up and over. And they're so cool they're offering the entire album for a free download at their website: http://www.thebacksliders.com/

Used Kids Yeah No - Wow, this one knocked me on my ass. Modern punk/rock that isn't ashamed to admit a love of old Springsteen records. They probably liked a few Mellancamp albums too, actually. Leader Nato Coles is also in the band Radio Faces, which also put out a great album in '09 called Party At The Bushwick Hotel. Not sure if Used Kids even still exist at this point - but I imagine we'll all know the name Nato Coles in the near future. You can download the album for free or by donation here: http://www.ifyoumakeit.com/album/used-kids/yeah-no

Reigning Sound Love And Curses - Greg Cartright has been part of a few great bands - Oblivions, Compulsive Gamblers, Detroit Cobras, and the Deadly Snakes to name four - but his work under the Reigning Sound moniker seems to be the location of his best moves. Love And Curses is another collection of songs that sound like hits from a better time. "Debris" may be one of my favorite songs of the year.

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles The Stars Are Out - She's got a voice as clear as a bell, and taste eclectic enough to cover songs by bands as far afield as Any Trouble, NRBQ, and the Magnetic Fields. If you can draw a straight line through those three acts, then you'll most likely find something to love about this album. "Me And Your Ghost" is an original song, and proves that Borges is equal to her idols.

Bad Lieutenant Never Cry Another Tear - I'm as surprised as anyone by how much I like this album. It's the latest joint by New Order's Bernard Sumner, except this time he's arrived with some first class songs. Sure, it all sounds a bit like it could've come straight out of 1985, but that only means it places a rightful premium on melody and song structure. Give "This Is Home" a listen and see if your head doesn't start bobbing when Sumner's voice comes in on the chorus.

Sour Jazz American Seizure - By all rights, I should disqualify this album on the grounds that I have developed a certain bias to automatically appreciate everything these guys put out (which is why it's at #21 - let's consider it a bonus), but the fact remains that this album is a monster. And "Little Hands"? It sounds like Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople stormed the studio while Iggy was trying to cut a ballad on New Values. In other words, pretty much the coolest sound on the planet.

Best of the Best of '09

1. The XX Intro
2. V.V. Brown Crying Blood
3. Philadelphia Grand Jury The New Neil Young
4. Roger Klug When Dreams Dry Up
5. The 1990s Sparks
6. Ike Reilly Morning Glory
7. The Smoke Bloody Orange
8. Gidgets Ga Ga Baby You're A Star
9. The Takeover UK Ah La La
10. Lucero What Are You Willing To Lose?
11. AM The Other Side
12. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Soft Shock
13. Reno Bo There's A Light
14. Grant Lee Phillips Buried Treasure
15. Vetiver Another Reason To Go
16. The Backsliders Last Call
17. Used Kids Midwest Midsummer
18. Reigning Sound Debris
19. Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles Me And Your Ghost
20 Bad Lieutenant This Is Home
21. Sour Jazz Little Hands