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Various Artists – MOJO: Beyond Punk!

January 27, 2010 1 comment

MOJO Magazine, April 2005

Well look, it’s another one of those free compilations that come with those great MOJO magazines and yet usually sells individually for a few bucks (or more) at record shops.  Lucky for us, some of these can be found cheaply here and there.  No, I imagine you’re not shocked that this compilation has the word ‘punk’ in it and I bought it, but you may be surprised that I still held this record with hesitation.  I have to say that I am not a huge post-punk fan and, if I am going to be honest, the Siouxsie song I’m most familiar with is “Peek-a-Boo” that I heard a lot of from watching “Beavis and Butthead”.  Yeah, I know, my credibility just took a hit there (even if I scored major points with the mundane humor crowd!)  Therefore, this record read like a list of bands that I should know more about, so I suppose that the choice to pick it up was even more obvious.

Post-punk, by definition, really does mean ‘beyond punk’ when put in context of the time.  Punk was getting played out and musicians were trying to be more creative with elements of punk but without resorting to the typical thrash and yelp that was common in most punk outfits.  What you get on this compilation is a wide array of sometimes complicated, sometimes noisy tunes that won’t always necessarily mesh with your tastes.  However, there are quite a few great tunes on here, like Mission of Burma’s “Academy Fight Song” (mislabeled on this comp) which is a classic song that is right up there with their “Revolver” tune in greatness.  Wire, my favorite post-punk band, gets their soothingly enjoyable yet essentially nonsensical “Kidney Bingos” on this disc, which highlights their later period of music more than their earlier raucous.

Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Mirage” comes across as the most punkish tune, with the speed and hard riffs required to cause a bit of pogo-ing.  The band that I had hoped would be great is Bird Blobs, if only because their name is rather amusingly curious.  However, they are rather noisy without being memorable, which I suppose appeals to some.   A few more modern bands, like Radio 4 and Death From Above 1979, get a tune on this record due to their post-punk style in the more modern day.  It’s too bad that the latter have disbanded and the former hasn’t put out anything particularly good since 2002.  Those two groups, once promising in 2005, are now just another addition to the post-punk back catalog.

Unlike some other genres, I’m not sure if there are many people out there who like everything that is post-punk, but this is a great introduction to the sound of the genre.  Some of the artists on this compilation are still putting out music, like Mission of Burma and Siouxsie Sioux, but it’s mostly a collection of tunes from time gone by.  One would have to check out some post-punk revivalists like A Place to Bury Strangers and the Walkmen to get their modern day fix these days, but that shouldn’t be too much of a chore since I can vouch for the Strangers’ excellent live show.  Still, is there any chance we can rewind a few decades to when the music scene was utterly fantastic?

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Eleventh Dream Day – Lived to Tell

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Atlantic Records, 1991

I am not a fan of this album cover, which probably has something to do with the interpretive art piece as well as the sand-colored color all around.  Looks like something that the band thought was meaningful but why they chose the dull, earthy color as the theme is a mystery.  It all reminds me of those early R.E.M. records where the covers were rather atypical and unflashy, because a band is certainly more interested in what the listener thinks about the music instead of whatever graces the record sleeve.  In this case I think Eleventh Dream Day went a bit far in that regard, but that did not stop me from nabbing this one from the dollar dustbin!  Y’see, this here’s a bit of a forgotten rock classic…

Eleventh Dream Day are the band that no one tends to rave about these days.  The band name is clunky, the music isn’t out there or particularly noticeable, and to top it off one of their best records could actually be found for a dollar somewhere.  Time tends to do that to any band, especially ones that may have been somewhat popular back in the nineties before the grunge bands defined the decade.   The quartet that is Eleventh Dream Day were known for their upbeat rock n roll with a penchant for solid lyrics.  The excellent opening song, “Rose of Jericho”, showcases a lot of what Eleventh Dream Day do best.  The vocal pairing of Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean sing crisply during the choruses while layers of guitars cascade around them without any sort of pause. “Dream of a Sleeping Sheep” continues the party with a bluesy tinge thanks to Baird Figi’s fervent lapsteel guitar.

The record doesn’t slow down for five tracks until another bluesy, yet slower tune of “Frozen Mile” trods in … only to break into a pretty stellar guitar solo halfway through. This tune stands alone, for the most part, because Eleventh Dream Day get right back into uptempo rock for most of the rest of the record. They do go out on an acoustic, echoed harmonica tune in “Angels Spread Your Wings”, which I guess is obligatory as a kind of cliche comedown track. Oh well, the rest of the record makes up for it.

Check out a few tunes from Eleventh Dream Day at their MySpace page.

Although Eleventh Dream Day took a short hiatus at the end of the nineties, they have since put out a record in 2006 that was well-received. Still, I feel that I may see more of these guys in my dollar bin travels because they’re a talent that modestly releases music without making a lot of noise about it. Their fans are just thrilled that they’re still putting out records. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a record cover that won’t just be a simple wrapping of some good tunes, but if you’re looking for an experienced rock band that has some long-lived credibility in various circles, pick something up from Eleventh Dream Day.

Categories: TheRest Tags: ,

The Giraffes – Self-Titled

January 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Razor & Tie Records, 2005

The cover of a record that has nothing to do with anything regarding an “African even-toed ungulate mammal” can be a bit disconcerting, especially if that cover shows what looks like the nervous system of something.  The cover also looks like it could potentially be in 3-D, so if you’ve got those red and blue glasses handy maybe you can have quite the experience staring at a 3-D version … of a nervous system.  I figured that for a dollar I could have a great time pretending I’m a real doctor by staring at this piece of anatomy, complaining about my personal problems, and consider dating another doctor like on some of those television shows.  But regardless of what I do in my spare time, the attractively sparse album art gives a hint of what is likely to be shaking you on the inside if you were to turn this record up loud on the stereo.

The New York-based Giraffes are a hard rock band through and through.  They’ve even got a look about them if you take a look at some pictures, for lead vocalist Aaron Lazar has a powerful looking mustache that can draw the envy of barbershop quartet members everywhere.  What those quartets may envy more, though, is the full throttle blast that the Giraffes pound out for ten tracks without much of a pause.  The opener of “Jr. At His Worst” leads the listener in quietly before commencing in the heavy riffs and the constant drum rolls and cymbal crashes that is evident in all of the songs on the record.  What really stands out to me is Lazar’s ‘rock voice’, which clearly shows he’s not a pretty singer and yet doesn’t sound like he’s barking or screaming like most non-singers do.  It’s that even ground that slips in well with the harsher tones of the instruments that makes this, and each of the songs, that much more listenable to.  I cannot stress enough how important it is for the lead vocalist to be appealing in the music that he or she sings over, and Lazar fits in well.

“Haunted Heaven” has a winding, screeching intro that immediately escalates into a crazed drumming display by Andrew Totolos before Lazar careens in with his wails.  “Sugarbomb” is another epic rocker that reminds me a bit of some of the plodding rock approach of some old Sabbath tunes, while “BLCKNTWHTCSTL” has a more Turbonegro brashness to it.  The band does sort of slow it down a bit more with the even more Sabbath-like “Honey Baby Child” to end the record.  Overall, it’s a very high energy album that most in the search for some new rock n roll are bound to appreciate in some instance.  Check out a few from these guys:

The band is still pulverizing the New York area by playing numerous live shows and festivals, so even though they haven’t put out a record in awhile one can still go check out what is likely to be an exhilarating time at a club somewhere. I’ve said it before, but it seems to be rare these days when a band can just play some great rock n roll and not sound irritating due to over-production or over-indulgence by the lead vocalist.  The Giraffes, despite their leaf-eating band name, really know how to kick one in the face with their tough grit and loud sound.  They certainly did that for me, so this is no doubt a bargain for me culled from a lucky dollar bin.

Eddy Grant – Killer on the Rampage

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Ice Records, 1982

So I rocked down to Massachusetts Avenue one day (woah, did you just see that?!) and was able to secure a copy of this well known classic record, which is mostly due to one particular song and the longevity of one Eddy Grant.  Heck, they made a deluxe version of this record it’s so important to our eighties catalog.  However, if one didn’t know this was a classic would someone pick up a record that had a guy in ultra tight and short bright red shorts on the cover?  Especially if it looked like he saw someone in the distance that may be his nemesis based on his facial expression?  Debatable.  One can’t really determine what kind of music is coming off of this record based on the song titles, so unless someone stereotypically associated Grant’s hair with reggae, they’d likely take a stab that this could be a Caribbean-sounding album that had some light, comfortable beach music.  But oh (“oh NO!”) they’d be wrong.

I have heard it many times and yet I can’t get enough of “Electric Avenue”.  Even though we all do an awkward jig to it despite a rather harrowing message, it’s the delivery of the chorus as well as Grant’s deep, forceful vocals that continue to make the tune a particular favorite of mine.  I admit, I sometimes add in my own “oh no’s” whenever I deem it necessary.  The rest of the disc is probably what’s in question in here, and the truth is that it’s a real mix.  There are some catchy numbers that don’t sound strictly reggae, like the bouncy “It’s All in You” and the slightly edgier “Killer on a Rampage”.  There are, of course, the more traditional, simply riffed reggae tunes like “War Party” and “Drop Baby Drop”, the latter of which is a charming love song if you can picture that tough guy on the cover getting all sentimental and stuff.  One might say that Grant opted to intermingle pop and reggae so as to make sure every song can conceivably get someone to move, which I’d have to say he succeeded in.

I know why you came here, though, and that is to watch this beauty:

You can also hear a lot of Eddy on his website.

Grant is still out and about playing live shows and, of course, giving the people what they want with a slightly quicker version of “Electric Avenue”.  His lengthy stay in the business is rather remarkable given that he’s still considered a one-hit wonder up here in the States.  What might be even more impressive is that he put out about a record a year from 1980 to 1988, with most of those records turning out as mediocre.  Since Grant’s eighties output has that eighties tinge to it one may not be so interested to follow up on his career at that point, but what remains great no matter the decade is Grant’s notable vocals.  For a dollar, this was worth a revisit to those jean jacket, big haired reggae days.

The Adored – A New Language

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

V2 Records, 2006

I remember a conversation with a friend about how many ‘The’ bands are out there.  Think of any noun you can and you’re bound to encounter a band that has already named themselves such.  If you think about it, how else do you name a band?  There’s the “The (noun)” method, the “(name) and the (plural noun)” method, or just a noun without a “The”.  Therefore, I suppose it’s understandable that bands like the Buttless Chaps and the Screaming Headless Torsos exist since if you’re going to go “The”, you might as well go all out.  Bands named something dull like the Doors just don’t excite … oh, never mind.  The Adored decide to be slightly narcissistic about their band name, which is another kind of bold, eye-catching approach to seeking out fans.  Another way to pick up someone’s attention is to make a jumbled mess of the band members upon a duo of metal horses on the cover of one’s album.  I suppose not everything needs to be explained, so let’s get on with the music.

If you’ve had a chance to listen to seventies and eighties pop rock, then you will notice that you might be a happier person than others, for you have found some of the best music ever written.  Bands during that time, like the Jam, the Pointed Sticks and the Nerves, wrote a lot of great pick-me-up tunes that were simple, had a bit of an edge, and were quick treats of musical enjoyment.  Guitars, drums, perhaps a keyboard … that’s all that was needed to fill up two to three minutes of pop and hook to convey a heartbroken experience or a girl that should be one’s own.  The Adored continue the tradition by putting together fourteen tracks that average about three minutes of length but don’t get cutesy with typical indie pop bravado that is evident in much of the music today.  Songs like “Savage Youth” and “The Window” have the immediacy and quick chorus arrival that can get anyone energized, and though “Weak Spots” has a slightly lighter tone to it, it’s still an endearing tune about difficulty in a relationship.  The band doesn’t alter their style much from song to song, so a touch of swing in “Less I Know” and a stronger dose of singalong in “The Queen’s Head” add a little bit of diversity, but everything eventually culminates in an appealing chorus.  I suppose one could complain that all the songs may sound as if they’re blended together, but sometimes that is what makes an album great in that it builds on its main strength without disengaging the listener with creative missteps.

These guys can be heard on MySpace and can also be ‘liked’ on Facebook … if that’s your thing.

The Adored turned out to be one of the few relatively recent rock acts that I’ve appreciated in a music industry that is turning more and more into a confused state of whatever. If artists aren’t rapping or yelping incoherent lyrics over quirky musicianship, they’re sounding like a repetitive electronic robot over a predictable hook that prays you’ll be assimilated into liking it.  The Adored haven’t created anything particularly new or groundbreaking, but they have put together an album that is all there on the table when it comes to how one can have fun with it. It’s got a hint of punk, it appeals to the young and the not so young, and one can imagine it can rouse an entire crowd into an exuberant frenzy with its tightness and volume.  It has been at least three years since this album came out, but hopefully that is because the band is still crafting more pop rock perfection for their sophomore effort.  If the next record is as good as this one, I may be one of the adoring.

Categories: Bargain Tags: , , ,

Sugar – File Under: Easy Listening

January 11, 2010 1 comment

Rykodisc Records, 1994

Aside from the usual mainstream failures from various decades that I constantly see exiled to dollar bins everywhere, this disc is one that always seems to catch my eye because there is usually at least one copy available for peanuts at all music stores. It certainly doesn’t wow me with its cover design, which is putridly boring (though perhaps intentionally so given the title). Nope, it’s the fact that Bob Mould of Husker Du was running his solo show with this record that I have known to be a rather enjoyable mid-level rock record. Truth is, not many people these days do or are willing to take a chance on such an unfortunate-looking record. Therefore, I felt it was my music blog writing duty to write something up about this veteran dollar bin resident.

As a fan of Husker Du, I’ve always liked their sometimes poppy but usually noisy repertoire.  When Bob Mould formed Sugar after the demise of that group he opted to go a bit lighter and less chaotic than his former band.  After the relative success of “Copper Blue”, this record continues his foray in catchy pop rock tunes with his usual strength of lyric writing.  Even though Mould’s voice has virtually no style and almost sounds as if he’d rather let the instruments drown him out (which usually happens anyway), it has a nice low level to it so that songs like “Gift” can gradually build in volume from under him without it feeling sudden.  It’s almost as if Mould’s somewhat monotone singing provides the constant while everything else interweaves around him.  Given the fact that people tend to like brazen volume in much of today’s rock acts, this facet of the band may not appeal to everyone and could make some deem it all a bit boring.

Along with “Gift”, there are many great songs on this record that everyone should give a spin at some point.  “Gee Angel” is a fantastic rocker describing what seems to be a love-shocked Mould trying to keep up with his deep appreciation of his love interest.  Then there’s the pining, somewhat stalking “Your Favorite Thing” that has one of the more inviting, colorful riffs I’ve heard from any song.  The bouncy “Can’t Help You Anymore” is quite the mirage in tone after one gives a listen to the opening lines of “I can’t help you anymore/you can’t hurt me anymore”, which is another example of a song that Mould tends to pull off on these Sugar records using contrasting impressions.  The last song, “Explode and Make Up”, is wonderfully titled and sounds subtly volatile about what you might expect.  In fact, I would say that this song sounds like something Mould would have emotionally sung while still in Husker Du, so it’s a great ending to a very good album.

There are a few songs from this record, as well as others, on Grooveshark: Sugar

Listening to this now, I can hear why this record may not have been as popular as it could have been at the time when it was released.  In the midst of the grunge and power rock of the time, Sugar was a band that might have been played as a lighter buffer between harder songs on the radio.  However, even though many songs on “File Under..” have the elements necessary to wrap up listeners in a candied feeling of enjoyment, Sugar was not a flashy, edgy or bombastic enough band to garner the attention that some other big bands were getting.  This might have been one reason why the group disbanded and Mould went truly solo after this record.  Reading around a little more, apparently the record company pressed too many copies of this album expecting it to be a major seller but failed to market it well, thus the glut of copies lying in dollar bins everywhere. There is likely little chance that every copy will eventually be purchased by bargain hunters like us, so we might as well just do what the title says and stick this disc between Celine Dion and Kenny G whenever we find a copy of it. Maybe those easy listeners will finally dig this stuff as much as we do.

Categories: Bargain Tags: , , , ,

Trapped By Mormons – Go Go Go

January 8, 2010 2 comments

TBM Records, 2003

You want a record cover, you got one!  There’s a lot going on in this sordid scene that struck my eyeballs as I thumbed through the endless rows of refuse at Amoeba Music.  For one, a half-naked asian woman is dreaming the druggy dream in a room that can be easily described as decrepit.  Shoddy walls, a dog that has been forgotten to be let out, and a soaking mop that will likely help the dog situation give off a feeling of real desperation.  And hey, check out that glaring neon light staring through the window, adding to the oppressive redness of that cramped room.  I’m not sure if there’s a message that Trapped By Mormons were trying to convey, other than that all you kids out there better listen to your mom when she says you gotta clean up your room or you could end up like this chick.  Just another piece of sound advice by mom.

Aside from the cover, I also loved the band name.  I’ve always thought Mormons to be relatively nice people regardless of whatever they believe in, but apparently these guys from Florida felt that this was the most threatening band name they could come up with.  This one and only EP from the group happens to be a live recording of the raunchy rock n roll the band enjoys serving up.  Todd Nolan mangles his way through the five songs with a sneer while relating some questionable practices to the listener.  For instance, in the excellently quick “Chinese Girls on Heroin”, Nolan contemplates the morality of having a go with a woman who is in a substance-fueled happy place.  Gotta say I’ve never really thought about this scenario, so it’s good he brought it up for debate.  He also waxes poetic in “Fez Dispenser” with the line “And every action that I shall take/Will be forward and that is hence”.  I still can’t figure that usage of ‘hence’, but then again, I am not a poetic lyrics writer.  Then there’s all sorts of colorful references to what I believe is a description of a gang bang in “The Money Shot”, so you get the idea of the crude enjoyment these guys are having onstage.  Needless to say, the EP could probably have used a “Mormon Advisory Warning” stamp on the cover just in case.

Their music can be streamed on their MySpace page, which unfortunately is missing that “Chinese Girls On Heroin” song.  Apparently the band felt they were giving the wrong idea to today’s youth and took it off.  C’mon guys, forget about the youth!

I admit that I really only picked the disc up for the novelty of it.  It didn’t matter what it sounded like since I thought the band name itself was hilarious!  Poking around their rather fiery website gives the hint that the group isn’t together any longer since the shows haven’t been updated, but at least anything and everything Trapped By Mormons is stored on the Internet for all time.  So you see, we’ve all got our own kind of cramped room on this Internet place to store our mess, and people like Trapped By Mormons and myself are busy filling up the place in the vaguest chance that you barge in sometime.