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The Hives – Club Vera Live (February 13th, 2001 in Holland)

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Digital Underground Inc, 2001

I am not that much of a fan of live recordings.  I find that no matter how much energy is apparent on the album, what songs are involved or whatever the banter is, it’s just a let down.  It gives you a good idea as to how the band sounds in person, of course, but it completely doesn’t work for me because it’s not in person.  Can’t see anything, can’t smell anything, can’t feel anything … I know KISS pulled it off well on “Alive” but ever since then most live accounts are unimpressive for my ears.  However, I can’t resist any album by a band I really like, especially one that I actually have seen live.  Even if I wasn’t in Holland for this recording, I might be able to relive the great time I had here in Boston with some common songs.  Plus, one never knows when old habits (or perceptions in this case) die, so maybe this would be a live album I could stand.

For those who have heard live bootlegs before, I suppose this review might be predictable.  Therefore, I’ll split it into two predictable parts:  the good and the bad.  The good is mainly the Hives themselves.  Aside from a few singles from their “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” period, the Hives are shamefully ignored for the most part in America.  When one hears songs like “Knock, Knock”, “Main Offender” and “A Get Together to Tear It Apart” on this live record one can feel the hasty energy that the Hives emit on the crowd.  Maybe they’re not as fast as the early Ramones, but they surely can inspire some rapid head bobbin’ and arm jerkin’ in most humans with a pulse.  Since it’s a 2001 concert, the Hives rip through most of the “Veni, Vidi, Vicious” record without a lot of sounds of recognition from the Dutch audience.  Ahhh, those early and best days of the Hives.

Many of the songs get extended a bit due to vocalist Howlin Pelle Almqvist’s chatter between songs.  These were the times that reminded me of when I saw the group, for Almqvist’s discussion is mostly directed towards saying how great his band is and how the Hives were now everyone’s favorite band.  The cheeky confidence, as well as some of the made up stories that Almqvist tells (like the one where he personally surveyed the people of Holland by phone to determine their favorite Hives song), doesn’t come across as dull or irritating.  I suppose when humor is involved anyone is easier to listen to.

Now for a bit of the bad.  At some point during the fourth song some guy decides to speak loudly to the person recording the show.  Apparently the dude with the big mouth missed the recording device that had to be held in the air at the time, but I suppose those interruptions happen often for bootlegs.  For a recording that isn’t straight out of the sound board, the recorder did a great job staying away from a majority of the loud crowd members so that the songs are easily heard.  The songs all still sound a bit muddled due to distance, but that’s forgivable.  That one dude probably still lives with the shame of besmirching this bootleg, though.

Another item that is annoying is that this album doesn’t have a track listing!  To all you bootleggers out there, just throw a track list on there somewhere will ya?  Hives fans know their songs I’m sure but they don’t want to have to guess where certain ones are if they want to skip to them.  Perhaps the bootlegger did intend to put a track listing somewhere in the album art, but while they were printing out the mind numbing day-glo cover the Dutch authorities busted down their door in a Hives bootleg crackdown mission.  The bootlegger had to escape by the window, likely in tears, since his or her product was unfinished.  Yes, that must be why there isn’t a track list.  Couldn’t have been due to indifference, I’m sure of it now.

Listen and see all things Hives at their website, but perhaps it’s just best to see them at Pinkpop in Holland in 2001.  Hey, pretty good visual aim considering the bootleg, eh?

I admit that I am surprised that I didn’t find this a grating listening experience.  The Hives’ songs all sounded as quick as their album versions while the recording never got choppy or distracting.  I don’t know if I”ll ever really enjoy live albums, but this one turned out to be a pretty good one overall.  The Hives continue to release official albums as well as tour around the world, so it’s certain that if you end up seeing them live sometime there will be a person up front with some kind of recording device.  Just don’t go up to them and say something like “Hey!  Are you recording the show?!”.

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The Rondelles – Shined Nickels and Loose Change

May 28, 2012 Leave a comment

K Records, 2001

So one day I saw all this money on the ground of a music store and got excited.  I started snatching at the nickels and dimes and got frustrated when they didn’t materialize between my fingers.  Twenty minutes later I smacked my head and realized that, duuuh, the coins are on the album cover of some band!  I mean, p’shaw!  So given that the change nearly adds up to a dollar it was destiny to turn my frustration into jubilation.  Well, at least I hoped so.

It turns out that this young (and I mean high school young) quartet from New Mexico put out a few records before releasing this collection of rarities and non-album tracks.  I suppose fans of the band at the time were thrilled that this was created, for if much of the group’s material exists on hard to find (or lukewarm to purchase) 7 inch records and compilations, then it’s nice to have everything in one place.  Still, is it worth picking up if one hasn’t heard of ’em at all?

What I really dig about the Rondelles is their raw and youthful energy.  There isn’t much in regard to production or cleverness on this release, and I imagine it’s the same across all of their records.  The band really just sounds like a group who likes to get together and bash away.  “Safety In Numbers” and its slightly more than two minute length is a fantastic representation of what the band tends to deliver.  There’s Juliet Swango’s (who sorta looks like a young Winona Ryder, by the way) rather deep vocals amidst Oakley Manson’s rapid drumming that keeps up a punk air, though during the breaks the band shouts out as if they were cheerleaders.  The Rondelles keep up the energy with a combination of chugging guitar and a particularly active mini organ on “Shimmybecker”, which makes one wonder about the place of a mini organ in rock ‘n roll.  I suppose the same could be asked of the Boss’ saxophone or Jethro Tull’s flute, so apparently anything goes as long as the volume is loud at some point, eh?

An artist that I don’t hear covered too often is Madonna … I mean how are you supposed to cover “Justify My Love” anyway?  The Rondelles, however, felt the need to have a go with Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” in a sped up way, which actually sounds pretty good if you want to hear the song without the drama.  By the way, do you remember when “Like A Prayer” was a controversial song due to the video?  As far as I know, no member of the Rondelles made out with the Jesus statue on a pew when recording this song, so clearly they’re just trying to stick to the music here.  Another cover, “Cafeteria Rock” by the Shimmy Beckers, is a thrill with its refrain of simply “Food fight!”.  Unlike “Like a Prayer”, this cover seems a little more relative to their high school lives and sounds such given the spirited way it is sung.  Then there’s “Angels We’ve Heard On High” that finally adds a pop rock element to a Christmas classic.  I was tired of hearing those choirs anyway.

To get a few listens in, the Rondelles are still spinning for free on MySpace and have a spot at Last.fm as well.

As my first Rondelles record, this is an excellent introduction to the band.  B-sides records don’t usually work that way but I feel that every song on “Shined Nickels and Loose Change” represent a consistent pop rock punch without dabbling too deeply in production.  The covers aren’t trying to be anything fancy, the music always ends up with tons of power chords and drum presence, and Swango keeps it low key throughout with that voice of hers.  For only a dollar this turned out to be well spent money on fourteen tracks.  Unfortunately this did turn out to be the Rondelles’ last release before they, I dunno, went off to college or something.  It’s a pity, though I imagine when the group looks back at their high school yearbook they might look at those times differently than some of us hip Math Team members.

I actually did go out and get a hold of their first album after hearing this one and, well, I wasn’t all that impressed.  I found that the songs on that record weren’t catchy enough or nearly as interesting.  Perhaps this B-sides collection gets the band at their most creative period, where they only had to concentrate on one or two songs at a time given the medium the songs were pressed on.  When asked to get ten or so tracks on tape, maybe the group felt a little stretched.  Or maybe I just had to spin the record a few more times, I dunno.  I suppose one album that works is fine for me.  As for the rest of you, based on my experience, see if you can pick this record up one way or another.  It’s a great one for the rock ‘n roll enthusiasts.

Spider Cunts – Stuck Up -N- Mean

May 23, 2012 4 comments

Beer City Records, 2000

I couldn’t resist.  Sifting through yet another dollar bin I came across a band name that consisted of two words I thought I would never see together.  Spider Cunts.  Did the group members sit around one day and think about how spiders had sex, and then thought well, what about spider reproductive organs?  Let’s name ourselves after one of those?  No idea.  Since the four ladies of the band looked content (not angry, not vengeful) on the back cover photo I figured they were either holding something back or just wanted to get my attention with their band name (er, success!).  What amazed me after buying the disc was that when I looked the group up, they didn’t have a single review on allmusic.com or rateyourmusic.com.  I deemed that a travesty, so these next few paragraphs needed to be written.

Spider Cunts don’t get cute with the type of music they play, for a Beer City band should sound like they’re in-your-face rock and roll and, indeed, they are.  With songs like “Punch You in the Neck!” and “60 Stitches in 6 Weeks”, it’s immediately apparent this ain’t no pop band.  The first track of “Rage” is pretty much what the rest of the album sounds like with its chugging bass and simply chorded guitar.  As the song picks up into a sort of punk/hardcore hybrid, vocalist Amyl Nitrate shouts out about how angry she is.  Not she needed to explain herself, for the following songs of “Hey!” and “Scream 4” pretty much sound the same way both musically and lyrically.  You get the message about Spider Cunts immediately.

Unfortunately, even the songs that have more engaging (re: amusing) lyrics don’t separate themselves from the angrier songs.  “7 A.M. Love Affair”, a tune about two drunk people skipping the whole dating phase, is just more shouting.  “Brooklyn Lager” is the band’s tribute to their favorite brew, which is probably a better choice to screech about than Corona with lime or Stella Artois.  Of course, besides the lyrics the song sounds just like “Closed Deli Breakup”, “Boys With Morals 2000” and “Liquor, Heavy N Hard”.  In fact, if one stripped the vocals from every track I bet at least half of the songs are composed the exact same way.  Unfortunately there’s just nothing to distinguish each song from each other as they all mostly conclude in less than two minutes and the entire thing shoves you out the door in less than thirty minutes.  For a debut record I suppose such urgency to just get it all recorded without a nod towards variety is somewhat understandable given a new band’s excitement.  But given that one song is enough of an idea of how the whole record sounds, there’s really not much of a need to spin the whole thing through that often.

Spider Cunts can be heard on Last.fm, sure, but the live video is what you should see.

As excited as I was to see an all girl band named Spider Cunts, I just can’t say that this album lived up to my hopes of rock ‘n roll brilliance.  I guess I wished too hard for hooks and repeat spins, when all it really sounds like to me is a clumsily organized hardcore effort.  Perhaps if I had seen them live I’d appreciate their choice of music more, because I imagine the animated set would have made the band more impressive than the sound off of this disc.  As it stands, it comes across as boring regardless of some of the slick song titles.

Regardless of what I think of their music these days,Spider Cunts certainly could have been bigger during the early nineties when Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill and other grrrlish bands were popular.  But they came out in 2000, so nearly a decade after the movement was in its prime Spider Cunts had a go of it to see if anything was left.  As it turns out, they only put out one record … so I guess that answers that about the grrl movement of 2000.  By the way, looking further into the liner notes apparently Amyl Nitrate got knifed in the face by some guy named Thomas “Ducky” French and he was on the run.  It may be twelve years on, but I hope they got that Ducky guy.  He probably turned himself in eventually, for having a group named Spider Cunts after you likely isn’t good for your health now or later.

Golden Smog – On Golden Smog EP

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Crackpot Records, 1992

Clearly, the cover art grabbed me not only in design but band name representation.  I actually own a Golden Smog record already (“Down By the Old Mainstream”) so it was easy to just scoop this one up as well for a listen.  I was more shocked that I even had the opportunity, for how often does one find a Golden Smog EP from 1992 at the Salvation Army.  Digging around some more, it was apparent that someone (or someplace) had given up nearly their entire nineties indie band collection for my perusal.  Oh, it was a fun time looking through indeed, but I had to take a couple of guesses.  The word “indie” meant something else back then in those nineties.  As in, unknown.  Golden Smog, however, did not entirely fit that label.

In 1992, Golden Smog included members from the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and even the Replacements.  Apparently they wanted to get away from their usual rock acts and spin a few low key covers for this EP, which could read as a good or bad thing.  It always is a curiosity about how side projects will sound involving members of one’s favorite bands, but usually side projects also mean a change in tone.  It wouldn’t be likely to expect the same sound of Soul Asylum’s “Want Somebody to Shove” or the Replacements’ tunes from “Let It Be” or “Tim”, especially the latter since Paul Westerburg isn’t involved in this project (Chris Mars is).  However, for five songs I imagine this was a nice release for these guys so it’s worth a listen to hear what they’ve got.

What they’ve got, apparently, is some real low key music.  The first song, “Son”, is a Michaelangelo cover that sounds like a … well, a nineties bar band.  Not impressive, but still gets you to order another Narragansett from the bar because you want to stick around for the next song.  “Easy to Be Hard” is a tune from the musical “Hair”.  “Hair”!  I suppose this is exactly the kind of cover song that Gary Louris (who sings) and the rest of the band thought had to be a Golden Smog cover and only a Golden Smog cover.  Could you imagine the Replacements covering this?  Or Soul Asylum?  It’s like that guilty karaoke fix where you hide yourself in a room and sing your brains out to songs no one knows you secretly enjoy.  Louris pulls it off pretty well, though I wonder if he sang it naked.

Dave Pirner shows up on the Bad Company tune “Shooting Star” that is on classic rock radio on steady rotation.  Yet another nineties bar band reference here, but I imagine that comparison just doesn’t matter to Golden Smog.  Who cares?  Crackpot Records from Minnesota were letting these guys throw some songs down and, I imagine, the group had a good time.  Same goes for “Backstreet Girl” (Rolling Stones) and “Cowboy Song” (Thin Lizzy), which are respectable towards the originals.  Turns out that “Cowboy Song” was sung by a roadie, who sings like he knows this is some kind of opportunity to sing a Thin Lizzy song with an actual band behind him.

Golden Smog still exist in various forms and can be heard on MySpace, Last.fm,and at Lost Highway Records (their current label).

I like this EP fine enough, but it mainly serves as an introduction to a band of friends who have continued their cover dabbling up to recent years.  It’s not the strongest set of covers, but none of them seem like a waste of time to listen to.  This is probably not a disc to spend too much money on just to hear five songs, but if you’re a fan of one of the band’s covered there might be a tune or two to download or rip just to have handy.  As mentioned before, Golden Smog still exists with members of the Jayhawks and Soul Asylum, and they last released a covers album in 2007.  Actually, that record “Blood On the Slacks” contains David Bowie and Dinosaur Jr covers.  Sheesh, guess I better keep an eye out for it in the bins…