Archive for October, 2009

Two Months In: Taking the Time for the Pat on the Back!

October 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Party_Aftermath2Dude, last night was crazy!

Alright, the celebration wasn’t that crazy, but as of Thursday it has been two months since I have been throwing some words together around three times a week to inform people of music they may or may not give a toss about.  However!  However, I do think I’ve managed to interest maybe a few, (at least one?) surfers in checking out some bands they hadn’t heard before.  Hey, when the music gets streamed for free it’s easier to take a listen, eh?  I actually managed to re-listen to some of these discs and appreciate them differently than what I had intended to conclude through words, so these reviews have been more rigorous than I had imagined.  Still, I’m having a good time writing some last hurrahs for these albums and I hope to keep it up for yet another two months.  Then I’ll have one of those kind of parties in that picture above.

As for what’s to come, (and this is where you get excited), I think I might try to add a few different types of articles to mix things up a bit.  I have a few ideas regarding the strategies of dollar bin shopping, record labels that I see often, and perhaps some stuff even I won’t pick up.  I might even talk about why I bother to do this when there are freely available mp3s out there!  You know, like what decade am I from anyway?!  Nostalgiasist!  I’m also thinking of writing a few reviews of discs that I got for spending a whopping five bucks or so.  They are dollar bin bound, after all.  Perhaps I’ll call it my Big Money reviews and add a disclaimer for those who need to be warned off about pricey used items.

So in the coming months there’ll be more writing, more descriptions of harrowing vocal styles, and likely a few more busts that come to light.  Trust me, it’s a lot easier to write about something I like than panning bands who, though misguided, have more musical talent than I do.  Thus is the life of the critic, and as I sip the last of those beers I found unopened amidst the party aftermath, I stretch my fingers and snap on the headphones to get ready to write the next opinion piece.  So hey, thanks for reading so far and prepare for some more!

Categories: Author blabber Tags: , ,

Fitz of Depression – Swing

October 28, 2009 2 comments

K Records, 1995fitz_of_depression

If there is an album cover that disguises better than this record’s grinning bird, I’d like to see it.  I’m not sure if the bird is supposed to be a version of one half of Heckle and Jeckle, but it certainly pops out at you past the band name.  I think it was this aspect that made me pick up this record by Fitz of Depression, but I was also interested in why the three guys on the black & white back cover threw sacks over their heads.  Really, it was curious all around.

Turns out these guys are my type of thing with the bang around rock it out sound that, despite not having much along the lines of clarity, has that pump fist element to it.  Although the instrumental opener of “We Three” gives the impression it’s just another rock record, the ensuing nine tracks envelop you with a garage punk immediacy.   I particularly like “No Movie Tonight” because its quick bass intro and onrush of thrash gives a harsh burst on a record that, truthfully, doesn’t quite need it yet.   The only ballad that I could pick out of this record is “She Wants to Know”, which is still pretty quick for something that sounds like a loving emotion was at least tried.  Then it’s back to the punch in the face of “Mind Over Matter” and so on.  Although I can’t really pick out any lyrics, this really is a rousing album to listen to.

This record could easily have been made recently on a small indie label, but instead it was completed with zeal in the mid-nineties when grunge was on the way out and the great mystery of the late nineties trend was still before us. I certainly can’t say this record is for everyone, and would completely understand if one listened to it and thought it was just a bunch of noisy riffs with some guy hoarsely yelling over it. Despite that, I do feel this record is worth a listen for anyone who likes rock n roll because it is a release that doesn’t sound like it has been overproduced or slicked out with posturing that is very common in today’s ‘indie punk’ music. At least the rawness of Fitz of Depression, in their last full length record, might be appreciated regardless of whether anything truly hooks the listener. Truth is, many bands this decade seem to overthink their efforts all too much so that whatever ‘right now’ gusto they want to deliver is completely lost. Fitz of Depression doesn’t make that mistake whatsoever.

Categories: TheRest Tags: , , ,

Various Artists – MOJO: All the Young Dudes

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

youngDudesMOJO magazine, May 2009

In a total disregard to that cute, minimized phrase of “Not to be sold separately”, I’ve seen many used music stores sell these compilations that are included with monthly issues of Mojo magazine out of England.  I managed to get this one for only a dollar in Chicago, yet I’ve seen them sold for $5 around Boston and upwards of $10 in New York City.  It’s usually only worth a few quarters, if that, because I’ve found that these compilations are crummy more often than not.  I don’t think I’ve truly enjoyed a single one through and through, even if I’ve only been picking up MOJO magazines off and on for a few years.  Sometimes the magazine will entice you with the music material, or they’ll throw a few somewhat popular bands at you as motivation to buy the magazine for that month.  Usually this means that you’ll get a C-level track from the big bands and a bunch of filler that, although themed well, turns out to be a collection of tossers.  I don’t think I’ve kept, or at least listened to frequently, a single MOJO compilation.  However, I give the magazine props for trying.

Thank goodness I was not entirely jaded from previous compilation failures when I saw multiple copies of this compilation in a used bin stack.  I love that 70s British rock period, for one thing.  Something about the rock n roll combined with the sexual vibe as well as dodging the classic rock tag out of America seems to work for me.  Bowie from that time, the glam that ensued .. fantastic stuff.  So imagine my surprise when this compilation dished out some instant greatness with T.Rex, Motorhead, and some guy named Larry Wallis early on.  Even the Mott the Hoople track, which isn’t “All the Young Dudes”, holds up as a great tune.  A few songs get a little British midway through, if you get me, yet I found that for the first time in possibly ever I have enjoyed a MOJO compilation nearly in its entirety.  Even once I got past the bands I recognized, I liked what Be-Bop Deluxe and Jook brought on, as well as a high energy rocker from Bearded Lady entitled “Rock Star”.  This disc, finally, is a keeper.

Alas, with the shutdown of Lala, I’ve got nothing for you to listen to.  However, you can always search around Grooveshark and see if there’s a couple of tunes from this compilation to listen to!

Difficult thing with this review is that, though I’d like for you to go check out this fine compilation, finding it affordably is tricky. Like I mentioned before, most places don’t pawn this off for under $3, so you might just have to compile this yourself using mp3s and artwork found online somewhere. I would still caution one from buying these things for a top price since they are, usually, throwaways that aren’t all that interesting. However, if you can find one on the cheap these MOJO compilations do provide a pretty good look into the age or theme that the magazine has featured for that month. They are also impervious to age, as most compilations are based on decades in the past. So in conclusion, regardless of what you think of the cds themselves, everyone should definitely go out and pick up a MOJO magazine to experience some great music writing that will take you days to fully read over. I’m a subscription man, myself!

Catatonia – International Velvet

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Warner Brothers, 1998catatonia

Oh that refreshing, freeing sight of galloping white horses on a beach on a particularly cloudy day.  It reminds me of a post I must write at some point that tries to break down the decision making process on choosing an album’s cover art.  Discussion with experts, psychological test results of band members, color palette vs. astrological signs, that sort of thing.  Off the cuff without a truly informed perspective, I would say that the members of Catatonia were looking ahead in their career with white horses of hope and passion.  That, or they just picked their art from the multitude of bad art found at donation shops.

The third record from this Welsh crew finds them continuing their pop rock interests, yet not nearly with the same success as with their previous records.  In fact, after a good start in the first couple of tracks, this record really stinks.  The first track of “Mulder and Scully” has a semi-enjoyable sound but man, did they have to date themselves with the song title?  If anyone reading is in a band, please don’t title your songs like “Hate Jon and Kate” or “Who Died On Grey’s Anatomy?”.  Moving on, the only song that truly stands out on this record is the single “I Am the Mob” which has Cerys Matthews’ raspy vocals singing a few clever verses about implied violence and sleeping with the fishes.

Unfortunately, the album then takes a nosedive with a few slow songs that rely too heavily on the allure of Matthews’ vocals, which I imagine doesn’t allure many these days.   Truth is, the album completely unravels after the ‘Mob’ song, as the band sinks into a lot of burdened, non-beat music that neither engages nor finds itself memorable.  In fact, one could say that the later half of this album is completely unbearable to listen to, especially if you were expecting continued excitement.  The band surely must have thought that regardless of how the music is composed, the lyrics will certainly rope in the listeners.  It’s the only way I can explain the morass of eye-gouging awfulness.  At least the ‘Mob’ song was good.

If you must check out Catatonia, you could head on over to their MySpace or pages.

Catatonia, while popular at the time in England, did manage to recuperate some face on their next album before exiting from the scene.  To me, this record typifies what might linger in the collection of any older music listener in that it was an album that may have been sought after by casual pop fans at the time but, on a later listen, one wonders what one saw in it.  That’s how I felt about my Sponge and Cracker records, actually.  Regardless, this record just didn’t age well and will likely never find a revival audience.

Categories: Bust Tags: ,

22-20s – Self-titled

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Astralwerks, 20052220s

These Brits have an interesting name (based on a song title) and have a rather stand out cover (oooh, starkness), yet they ended up in the dollar bin because, as one might imagine with even an energetic rock band as the 22-20s, they didn’t truly impress.  After listening to the first two tracks of “Devil in Me” and “Such a Fool” this seems hard to believe, as they are quite the engaging ‘in your face’ bluesy rock that reminds me of the Greenhornes when they are at full throttle. Even the slower numbers have their appeal because the jangling guitars, the steady beat, and the echoing vocals of the lead vocalist all contribute to a pleasant listen.  So … what’s the problem?

The problems aren’t anything truly obvious, really.  The 22-20s, for all their zeal and style, unfortunately were lobbed in with the rest of the full force rock acts of those years.  You know, like that obnoxious Jet band and the Vines.  The former single-handedly bulldozed over all of the other similarly-sounding rock bands that didn’t benefit from a dead horse single that still gets played every year on television.  Sorry 22-20s, you didn’t even get to be a one hit wonder.  So yes, they are talented but they were also expendable.

The other problem is that the 22-20s broke up not long after this record.  Since nothing else was going to ever come out by these guys, and with the fact that the record is really just another rock record by a snappy band, the album tends to drop off the Cliff of Interest.  Too bad, since these guys would likely have put out some consistent rockers for years that might have made those bloody good chaps across the pond happy.  Here’s a couple tunes to hear what you may have missed (or, er, not missed):

Give these guys a spin at their MySpace page.

The truth is that there have likely been scores of bands that have filled up the small void that the 22-20s have left behind, yet those bands are demanding top dollar (or top download) for their stuff. Forget that! Find yourself some 22-20s for some quick pep.

Categories: TheRest Tags: , ,

Sloan – Smeared

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Murderecords, 1993sloan

Although there are many bands that I’ve heard throughout these years of endless musical experimentation, there will always be bands that I’ll never get to.  The same thing goes for countries, chores, and compliments.  Of those bands, there is the subgroup that consist of the veteran artists that set you up for a ‘You’ve never heard them?!’ exclamation from a friend or trendster if you willingly admit your ignorance.  Well, Sloan is one of those bands for me.  Until I picked up this album I had only heard their name in passing because they had put out eleven albums and EPs in the nineties alone.  How could you not have heard of them?  I totally knew who they were, yet I might’ve accidentally pegged them as hard rock since I didn’t take the time to dig deeper.  Up to a few years ago I redeemed myself (to myself) by picking this record up.

What I like about this album is that it begins well with a strong trio of rock numbers that are catchy but do so in a style that doesn’t sound like they’re trying too hard to get your attention.  I really like the vocals from Chris Murphy on this record, but not because they’re anything special.  Instead, they blend with the music so well that they are neither irritating nor full of bravado that tends to sink whatever the musicians put together.  Even the background vocals from the other guys in the band harmonize well, so with the the consistent pop rock that goes from the opener of “Underwhelmed” to the excellent “500 Up,” there isn’t too much to complain about on this record.

You’ve got a few choices to hear some Sloan, like on MySpace, their website, or wherever else you want to look.

Despite some grumblings from some music people on the web, I must say that this record couldn’t have disappointed too many when it arrived in stores way back in the early 90s.  It doesn’t get trapped with the grunge movement of the time, nor does it lean on instruments and style that risked dating itself.  Truth is, aside from a little less fuzziness of the vocals and the more polished sound, Sloan hasn’t changed all that much in the sixteen years that they’ve been on and off again.  The Canadians have to be thrilled these guys are still putting out fun, foot-tapping music that will likely always pick up a mood.

Categories: Bargain Tags: ,

Autolux – Future Perfect

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Columbia Records, 2004autolux

Autolux managed to put out a pretty good record in 2004, one that even Pitchfork gave a rather high rating to.  However, there it lied amidst some anonymous jazz and trip hop castoffs in a dollar bin in Cambridge.  Thing is, someone had given me a nod towards picking up this record at some point, so imagine my luck when I managed to find it quite affordably.  Those are the best days when that kind of thing works out… which has now gone from ‘absolutely never happening’ to ‘never, except when invoked by touch from God’ status.

I’m also a fan of the cover art.  Glowing balloons, nervous writing of the title, and a dark background stirred thoughts of something good going on.  I get the same reaction from the covers of “Psychocandy” or Black Sabbath’s debut.  Perhaps the word I’m looking for is ‘eerie’.  Thankfully the music holds up very well from beginning to end on this disc as Autolux weaves together some aggressive guitar work with the laid back vocals from two of the three band members.  The group does tend to ease into songs making one believe there won’t be much of a pulse to rise, but songs like “Turnstile Blues”, “Sugarless” and “Here Comes Everybody” all wind up as great energy-inducing tunes.  Although I always look forward to such conclusions, I can see where people might prefer the group to stick with the dreamy, Pumpkins-like quiet periods.  I would certainly say that these guys could be better on this record than what the Silversun Pickups are pulling off these days.  Oh yes indeed.

Autolux has got a couple good clips, including “Turnstile Blues” and “Asleep at the Trigger” from this record, on their MySpace page.

Autolux on MySpace

This disc turned out to be quite a good one for the money and it was nice that a recommendation actually worked out as well, so it gets the Golden Dollar for that double dose of excellence.  Autolux are still together after nearly a decade of work and are still touring according to their website.  Whether or not they put out another record is up in the air, but since it has been five years since this release, I imagine they have moved on in their sound.  Still, it would probably be worth the time to go and see for yourself somewhere.