Monday, November 29, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #23: Yes – 90125 (Rhino)

Many think of Yes as the 70's prog-rock band with that fantastic alien world album cover art. As a child of the 80's, my memories of Yes are the “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” video and “Owner” on the radio, in the car, going on long road trips to Disney World with the family. At that age, I mostly disregarded any music earlier than 1980, but hey... Michael Jackson had exploded and Duran Duran captured my musical focus. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I rediscovered Yes and their classic 1983 album 90125.

The album could very well have been 90125 by the band Cinema, the name that some members of Yes adopted when singer Jon Anderson quit the band a few years earlier along with keyboardist Rick Wakeman. After singer/guitarist Trevor Rabin entered the band for the 90125 sessions, Chris Squire played some of the music to Jon and it was enough for Jon to agree to rejoin Yes late in the album's construction. The nine tracks that ended up on the album are nothing short of fantastic. Again, this was the emerging 80's and synths were gaining popularity fast. Keyboards had almost always been prominent in Yes with Rick Wakeman's magical fingers, but at the time they were part of the prog-rock style. I can hear some of that style throughout the 90125 album, but there is something quite different going on. The pop/new wave sensibilities had influenced the band without taking over and morphing Yes into something they had not previously been.

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” kicks off the album with a bang with its ultra-catchy verses and chorus, and ended up being the band's first and only number one single in the U.S! In my opinion “Hold On” and “Leave It” rival “Owner” as the best songs on this album full of great songs. With Jon's wonderfully majestic vocal style spearheading them, there is so much melody and intricate excitement going on. I find these songs in my head days after playing the album. A great example of the brilliance of 90125 can be found in the lyrics of “Our Song”: "Music has magic, it's good clear syncopation." Magic indeed. The guitars, keyboards, vocals, even the production by short-lived member Trevor Horn is all top-notch.

I rediscovered Yes as a band (including their 70's output), but this album brings back distant memories of songs from 90125 that I believe hold up very well at 27 years old. The peak of the band Yes is five numbers that are not a zip code of any kind: just
9 0 1 2 5!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer (Atlantic Records)

Cee-Lo Green's The Lady Killer finds the Grammy-winning artist in a familiar place for a superstar – on the prowl. But, much like his fellow ATLien Andre 3000 on The Love Below, the search isn't without its one night stands, lost loves and doubts. The result is a brave and complex soul-inflected journey through Green's colorful ups and downs.
By informing the listener that "my name is…not important" on album opener "The Lady Killer Theme (Intro)," Green immediately identifies with party hoppers looking for love on the dance floor. Pre-party anthem "Bright Lights Bigger City" follows, with a bass line reminiscent of "Billie Jean" and call-to-fun lyrics sure to be played on the way to clubs throughout the winter of 2010 and beyond. Like "Bright Lights Bigger City," The Lady Killer is full of invitations to relax and give in to the pleasures of spontaneity. The use of gunshots in the chorus of "Love Gun" are a positive response to M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," turning "you shot me baby" into a winking double entendre. Elsewhere, Green exposes his disappointments in love on songs like "It's OK," and internet phenomenon "Fuck You" (which is stripped of its appeal in the cleaned up version "Forget You"). However, the true heart and soul of "The Lady Killer" comes in the latter half of the record with the three-song punch of "I Want You," "Cry Baby," and album standout "Fool For You."
Overall The Lady Killer offers a glimpse into Cee-Lo Green's journey through relationships and reveals many relatable situations. Add to that a compelling mix of R&B grooves and soul-inflected pop songs and you've got a record that not only warrants but rewards repeated listens.
- Paul Custer  

I'd Love To Turn You On: At the Movies #1 - Dead Man

Dead Man (1995, dir. Jim Jarmusch)
One of my favorite film critics described Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man as an “acid western.” It’s a fitting label, but misleading. It makes you expect lots of aggressive camera work, special effects and color. Dead Man has none of that. It’s black and white, and the pace is slow. But it’s a total trip just the same — one of those rare works of art that exists in four or five or eighteen different dimensions.
At its core, Dead Man is a simple story. A man sells everything for a train ticket to the western frontier to fill an accounting position he’s been offered. By the time he gets there, though, the job has gone to someone else. He spends his last dime on a bottle and winds up getting shot in a fight over a girl. He flees into the wilderness where an Indian finds him, tries to save him but is unable to remove the bullet from next to his heart. Duty bound, the Indian delivers him to the Pacific Ocean for a proper send off into the afterlife.
Where the film gets really heavy is in its cultural allusions. The biggest is the lead character’s name, William Blake (played by Johnny Depp). This William Blake knows nothing about the British poet, painter and printmaker. In fact, none of the film’s characters do except for the Indian, who, it turns out, actually studied Blake’s work in England after he was captured and hauled across the ocean in a cage and paraded around Europe as an oddity from the New World. When the Native character (who calls himself “Nobody” and is portrayed brilliantly by Gary Farmer) learns Blake’s name he assumes that he’s the real William Blake. He recites a chilling stanza: “Every night and every morn / Some to misery are born / Every morn and every night / Some are born to sweet delight / Some are born to sweet delight / some are born to endless night.” This moment in the film combines with others like it to suggest a theme or message that’s never exactly clear, but still makes sense on multiple levels.
Dead Man is about America and the Manifest Destiny, that much is obvious. During the early shoot-out scene, for instance, when Blake discovers a gun under his lover’s pillow and asks her why she has it she says, “Because this is America,” as if it’s the stupidest question she’s ever heard. Also, the film’s plot line clearly moves from east to west. And throughout the film, Nobody refers to European settlers (invaders) as “stupid fucking white men” and reveres Blake as “a killer of white men.” It gets really deep, though, when filthy fur trappers sit around campfire reading Bible verses about Philistines or when a cold-blooded bounty hunter finds a corpse looks like a “goddam religious icon” or even in the scenes with Robert Mitchum, which are clearly crafted in homage to all the cool and kind of cheesy Westerns he starred in as a young man. It’s funny, too — full of sight gags and inside jokes, including a couple that only people who speak Cree or Blackfoot languages would understand. (There also a lot of rock and roll nods: appearances by Iggy Pop and Gibby Haynes, characters named after musicians and songs.)
It sounds like a recipe for pretentious muddiness, I know, but Jarmusch pulls it all together artfully with the simplicity of the story and with a mesmerizing soundtrack by Neil Young (a must-have in its own right; it’s all solo guitar with a little bit of pump organ with a few key dialogue scenes from the movie and a Blake poem read by Depp mixed in). The slowness of the plot offers time and space for contemplation. I’ve owned a copy of the film for years, watched it dozens and dozens of times, and I always feel profoundly moved after the final scene — one of the most beautiful and poetic in all of cinema. I always walk away with a mixture of disgust and awe about America, which, to my way of thinking, is absolutely on point.

- Joe

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Posies – Blood/Candy (Rykodisc)

The Posies have always been a dark band with lucid undertones, but each album they have produced remains unique and unclassifiable. After a long crazy ride of collaboration and having mentored and collaborated with Alex Chilton as the other half of Big Star for a number of years, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have learned a thing or two about loss and friendship. The song "Accidental Architecture" seems to allude to their collaboration with Chilton, and it is one of the shining examples of the delicate landscapes created by The Posies with each subtle structuring of lyrics and song. With pensive, starkly honest, painful yet playfully childlike lyrics and solid psychedelic sounds, The Posies have caught me off guard yet again by producing one of the most refreshing albums of 2010.

"For The Ashes," one of Blood/Candy’s best tracks, is a masterwork that intricately mixes booming, juicy, psychedelic nuggets with the feel of a powerfully raw ballad. "She's Coming Down Again" is a brutally honest, desperate plea from one friend to another and a haunting warning. Stringfellow and Auer have created a wondrously disturbing portrait in song, something they have always had a gift for. They seem to unlock various puzzles of the mind without question or judgment, and complement that gift with lavish, encompassing melodies that are often times starkly beautiful. Another treat appears on “Plastic Paperbacks” in the form of special guest Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers.

Much like Alex Chilton (one can really hear and understand how they all got along so well) one might be initially put off by the sheer indulgence of their sound. It is so awesomely big and illuminating, but if the listener chooses to embrace its chaos, I am guessing they will find themselves like me, returning again and again to this album. It is the sound of grown adults revisiting childhood fairy tales and making peace with how their lives turned out. It is two long lost friends finally putting the past aside to create a fruitful and fun future.

Having been one of the greatest songwriting duos of the 90's, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have now returned and solidified with this thrilling, decadent release. They have proven, working with legends of the past, that this partnership is essential to the future of authentic and innovative music. 
- Christianne Chowning

The Posies play December 1st at the Gothic Theater with Brendan Benson.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lez Zeppelin Lez Zeppelin (Pie Records)

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

The latest girl-group sensation Lez Zeppelin is the hottest thing in blues-rock since the first Jeff Beck album! I mean, these lassies can seriously rock out with the best of the boys, the only possible drawback being a reliance on cover material. Luckily, there is a range of inspiration here, from Willie Dixon, Jake Holmes (a dynamic cover of “Dazed and Confused”), to Bert Jansch and Maurice Ravel (!), with the highlight being a distinctly beefed-up cover of Joan Baez's “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You.” All of this is fed through a powerhouse wall of sound, geared towards the heavier sounds of today. Unusual for a Garage band these days, LZ even have a bass player. The drums too, are very economical yet powerful, with the whole effect of the rhythm section being very original indeed. I would like to hear these ladies attempt some original material, because if they can pull that off the world is their oyster.
- Ben S.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Several Species of Small Furry Thoughts – The Wild Man and The Boss

In the new world of fewer physical sales and diminishing marketing clout going to music sales, it is surprising to see two large and extremely important box sets hit the market on the same day, but this Tuesday saw the release of some very important pieces in the jigsaw puzzles that represent Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen. One of the more interesting Rock and Roll parlor games has been to speculate on the direction Hendrix’s art would have taken had he not died such an early and tragic death. It is pointless at some level because Hendrix’s art and style have become so closely associated with the late 60’s that it is almost impossible to imagine him unstuck in time as an older, less interesting man. He is perfection in his completeness. Unlike his peers his legacy is preserved in a way. He didn’t become less like the Beatles, whose solo work is a clear indication that the parts were indeed less than the sum. He didn’t become a sad drug casualty like Sly Stone, but he also didn’t get to become an institution, touring the world to staggering acclaim and revenue like The Rolling Stones. He has remained a roman candle of color and sound, splashed across the rock firmament in preserved history. There has been a lot of product released since his death, and remarkably most of the major label stuff has been pretty high quality. There might be two explanations for that; one is that since the Hendrix estate has taken over the administration of his music they have been careful and smart with the legacy. The other is that Hendrix didn’t produce much crap. He recorded everything - studio, concert stage, jam sessions, parties - he was always recording himself, and what he recorded was uniformly high quality. He was truly one of the great searching artists of the 60’s. He was always seeking new sounds, new influences new peaks. The box set, entitled West Coast Seattle Boy - The Jimi Hendrix Anthology comprises 4 CDs and 1 DVD and is an incredible smorgasbord of every Hendrix era and style. The first disc compiles 15 songs by different artists who used Hendrix as a hired gun before he was famous. It is fascinating to hear him inserting his proto licks into these more conventional settings. It is especially interesting to hear a song like Don Covay’s chart hit “Mercy Mercy” and realize that this familiar guitar break is actually a young Jimi. The disc ranges from pop to soul to funk to the manic rock performances of Little Richard who turns in the worst recorded performance of the set. Throughout this first disc it is instructive to hear Hendrix figuring out his sound. 
The real fireworks begin on disc 2. There are far too many highlights on each disc - in fact there is almost no filler, so I will just point out a couple of outstanding moments on each disc. “Little One” is a real psychedelic treasure - Dave Mason playing sitar with multiple tracks of Hendrix playing acoustic, lead, slide and bass and Mitch Mitchell playing drums. It’s great, trippy fun with some bracing soloing by Jimi. The real find of this disc however is an incredibly intimate 6-song session of Hendrix and friend Paul Caruso in Jimi’s hotel room in March of 1968. Playing solo electric and singing in a relaxed voice Hendrix plays a stunning cover of Dylan’s as yet unreleased “Tears Of Rage,” a funky “Hear My Train A-Comin’” before ending with a hauntingly simple version of “Angel.”
Disc 3 opens with a big, fat, funky jam session with The Experience, Buddy Miles and some exceptional Hammond organ playing by what is believed to be Lee Michaels. It has a great freewheeling feel - very 1960’s. “Messenger” is a weird, driving, complex song that never made it past the instrumental run-through stage but provides an interesting glimpse into the Hendrix creative process. “Untitled Basic Track” is another pretty developed track with no vocal, but it shows Hendrix as a proto-metal guitar monster. Disc 3 finds its center with “Young/Hendrix,” which is the full 20 minute jam session with Jimi and jazz organ great Larry Young. Recorded in April of 1969 the jam goes through countless changes as Hendrix and Young play off each other with playful telepathy.
Disc 4 bows with a previously unreleased track from The Band Of Gypsys’ triumphant New Year’s Eve shows at the Fillmore East in 1969. These shows yielded the Band Of Gypsys album and several reissues, so it is sort of amazing that this track has never seen the light of day. Especially because it is an incendiary 14 minute performance where Hendrix improvises wildly, taking on “The March Of The Wooden Soldiers,” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” among others before coming back to “Stone Free” where he started. It is really an exciting find. “Lonely Avenue” is a slow, bluesy reading of the Doc Pomus classic that is shockingly credited as a Hendrix original in the liner notes. “Peter Gunn/Catastrophe” finds Jimi screwing around between takes with funny results. The box set closes with a gorgeous unreleased recording from the spring of 1970 called “Suddenly November Morning” that is another tantalizing peek at what might have lay ahead for Hendrix had he not checked out. It is beautiful and fragile and points to many possible new directions. 
This box set is so full of great stuff it is kind of hard to believe. There is never the feeling that this is anything but a fresh and exciting collection of material from a vital and vibrant artist, not something from a man close to half a century gone.
Speaking of vital and vibrant, Bruce Springsteen has remained on an upward trajectory for so long that it hard to fathom. Like Dylan, he has had career peak after career peak (along with a few lows). The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story puts a microscope on what I consider to be his ultimate peak, both as a songwriter, and as a performing artist. The mammoth box set includes a remastered version of the album proper, two discs of unreleased songs that came out of the remarkable period between Born To Run and Darkness and three videos containing over 6 hours of illuminating and thrilling material. 
I don’t know about you, but for me there is the phenomenon of albums that I never fully understand. Some albums are 80% above the surface. I got Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols immediately. I got Nevermind by Nirvana immediately, and even London Calling by The Clash. Darkness On The Edge Of Town was always a deep, strange mystery to me. It was, for me, the last Springsteen album I really loved until The Rising (with the possible exception of Nebraska). It wasn’t that I thought he was bad, it just seemed like he never topped the creative high-water mark this album represented. The fact that it was so mysterious; such a beguiling blend of muscle-car rock and highbrow poetry is what made it such an enigma to me. The River and Born In The USA are many things, but enigmas they are not. Part of the equation was THAT show. Red Rocks, June 20th 1978, the summer of my freshman year of college. It was everything I have ever wanted from a rock concert. I was familiar with all of his albums, but had only heard of his live reputation. I had a hard time believing the hype. By the late 70’s many of the dreams of the last decades had evaporated like so much powder up the nose of disco dancers at Studio 54. Springsteen kind of represented the four corners of Rock and Roll. He stood straddled between four decades. He embraces Doo-wop and the great revue type rock shows of the 50’s; he embodied the singer/songwriter/social conscience of the 1960’s; he helped define the giant rock show of the 70’s, while providing the most meaningful anthems of the decade; and in 1978, he looked forward to the future and years of confusion and bitterness as music changed irrevocably from art to business. That Red Rocks show was like seeing an artist at THE moment of his career. It was palpable in the air. This was one of those moments when an artist transcends fashion and just delivers the goods. He did that night. It was three hours of balls to the wall rock. His material was epic, and his band was, on any given night, the greatest show on earth. Did you miss that tour? Wish you could see it? You can now. 
The Promise contains the best video proof of Springsteen’s greatness. One video is an entire show from Houston in 1978 that finds the E-Street Band winning over an arena-sized crowd of yahoos who probably don’t know his material as well as the coastal audiences he is used to. They perform valiantly. The show encompasses the best of his early material, and all the big numbers from Born To Run and Darkness as well as some rarities like “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” and the “Detroit Medley” which actually lives up to the term “barn-burner.” It is pretty exhilarating, but the next video (compiling various clips from ’76-’78) really showcases what an explosive band they were. In particular, the five songs from Phoenix are unbeatable. The chemistry between Bruce, Clarence Clemons and the audience is something to behold. The version of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” is what that show at Red Rocks was like. In the future, if young people want to know why we found Rock so exciting, this would be a good piece of footage to show them.
But there is so much more. There is The E-Street Band in 2009 performing the album in its entirety in an empty theatre in New Jersey. One is struck by the fact that these guys are definitely older, but maintain a gritty intensity that still puts the material over. There is a great documentary about the making of the album, and this period of extraordinary achievement for Springsteen. Few artists could stand up to the challenge of following up Born To Run and yet Springsteen gave an album that meets and possibly surpasses. The two discs of material left off the album are a revelation as well. His castoffs are better than many great albums. There are at least 10 bona fide Springsteen classics in this bunch of songs, and in total it fills in a lot of blank spaces between Born and Darkness. The path this artist took between albums is much more clearly illustrated with this addition to his canon. I love those first two albums like a first kiss, and Born To Run is just incomprehensible, but with history at its back Darkness On The Edge Of Town might just be the best Springsteen for me. This is an artist reaching for the stars and actually getting hold of them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IMA Robot - Another Man's Treasure (Werewolf Heart Records)

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

Whatever vision singer Alex Ebert had out in the desert a few years back really changed him and his musical ideas. Though the experience did spark the Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros magic, here IMA Robot is subdued compared to previous albums. Maybe the collective ADD is under control rendering a more focused output; maybe the band has discovered love. Lyrics like "love will lead us home" and "pass it on and multiply your love" are signs that the band's hippie flag is flying high and in the same yard as the Zeros. The best song, "Life Is Short" really stands out to me with its catchy as hell verses and chorus plus the Dean Ween style guitar solo towards the end. This song sticks to my cortex like honey. "Sail With Me" has some semi-tribal elements and the closer "Swell" takes notice of various instruments and sounds utilizing a professional studio (Werewolf Heart Studios; Werewolf Records is home to Ryan Gosling's Dead Man's Bones band). I am always excited to hear more music from Alex and Another Man's Treasure is said to be an experimental album, and lives up to that statement. 
- Joel

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You On #22 - The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks

When going through the list of universally acknowledged rock and roll masterpieces, one will usually come across The Kinks' 1968 album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. However, often lost in the praise heaped upon Village Green is the masterpiece that came before, 1967's Something Else By The Kinks. The title can be looked at in a couple of different ways, as in "oh, here's something else" or "WOW! that's really SOMETHING ELSE!" What's clear is that in the psychedelic summer of love year of 1967, The Kinks really were doing something else compared to their rock and roll peers. They had left behind the blues and R&B-based rock of their early years, but instead of following the psychedelic path of Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd and the San Francisco scene, they turned to traditional British music hall and folk stylings. It also helped that Ray Davies was writing some of his very best songs.
The opener, "David Watts," is the closest they come here to the heavy-riff guitar rock on which they initially made their name. Yet the lyrics offer a contrasting mood as they detail a schoolboy's jealous obsession with the popular athlete of the title. These attitudes of vulnerability and self-doubt were new to rock and roll at the time and would set the stage for many introspective songwriters such as Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. The band takes its biggest musical left turn on the bossa nova flavored "No Return." Davies originally wrote this song for bossa nova star Astrud Gilberto. The music hall influence comes through on the jaunty "Tin Soldier Man" and the wistful "End of the Season." "Harry Rag" is a particularly British song that I had to look up on wikipedia to find out just what it was all about. "Situation Vacant" is a phrase that sounds stark and grim to us yanks, though it's really just what the Brits use for "help wanted" (which also can sound a bit grim when you think about it).

One of the most striking songs on the album is "Two Sisters," an intriguing look at a sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is certainly something Ray and his guitarist brother Dave knew a thing about. Dave contributes a pair of songs to Something Else and they may just be his two best. "Death of a Clown" is a folk-rock character study with a great sing-a-long chorus. "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" is an infectious rocker that should be required learning for garage bands everywhere.
The album concludes with the masterful "Waterloo Sunset," easily one of the greatest pop songs of the rock era. A beautiful tale of a young couple finding quiet time in the midst of a sprawling urban landscape, this may just be Ray Davies' finest work. It's also a fitting finale for an album of quiet yearnings and small pleasures, proving that great music can be made from things other than volume and bombast. Something Else is certainly not your typical rock masterpiece, but it is a collection of excellent songs that work both individually and as a complete work. It led off a string of fantastic Kinks albums that are all worth checking out as well.
- Adam Reshotko

Friday, November 12, 2010

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts - KEEF

It’s going to be a very Keith Richards Christmas and New Year. What with the recent release of the incredible concert movie Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, the re-release and re-expansion of Keith’s hypnotic Wingless Angels project, the earlier releases of the expanded Exile On Main Street and its accompanying documentaryStones In Exile, it all seems to be setting the stage for the massive two-year world trek that even the band is calling their final tour. Thus it is almost an embarrassment of riches that Keith has released his tremendously entertaining autobiography Life and put out a single disc retrospective of his solo career Vintage Vinos that elicits a reassessment of the man and the myth.
Life is so much more than I could have expected. The hoped for tales of excess on the road are all there; and he really hides very little in the way of juicy details. The book opens during the Stones’ ’75 tour of America with him tearing across the country in a rented car with Woody and the ultimate drug-dealer to the stars, Freddie Sessler (there needs to be a book about this guy too), completely ripped on every drug imaginable. They getting popped in small-town Arkansas, and through wile, bravado, and high-as-a-kite luck they talk their way out of it. We learn about both the recklessness and the charmed nature of his existence right off the bat. There is no other rock star - period. Keith is the ultimate! One suspects that he paints himself as a bit more saintly in the last decade or so than might be the truth, but for the most part he pulls no punches. After the ’75 incident, we jump back in time for a long, fascinating and very Anglo look back at his childhood. He seems to have grown up a cross between the Artful Dodger and well, Keith Richards. His post-war, lower class upbringing seems a perfect metaphor for the entire generation who came of age with him. He is a baby-boomer whose life was shaped by the immediate past (WWII) and whose life helped shape the future. The casual way he talks about the birth of Rock and Roll and his part in it just reeks of authenticity. You know he was there, and we now know he was not some drugged up moron. He was a drugged up keen observer of people and places. His take on the events of the times are always thoughtful and earthy. After all the many books written about the era, it is interesting that the Human Riff has some of the most insightful things to say about the times he inhabited.
His insights into the music of The Rolling Stones are also unique. He is impressed with Mick Jagger’s talent, but is clearly not star-struck and again pulls no punches when describing the large ego and small weenie of his 50-year partner. His overall feeling towards Jagger and all the Stones is loving and respectful, and in spite of some playful cattiness we actually get the clearest picture ever of the depth of their creative marriage and their love for each other. It is hard to remember a better book about Rock and Roll than Life, but then it is hard to find a better rock and roller than Keith Richards.
In addition to all the Stones albums you will listen to while reading this book, pick up Vintage Vinos. This superbly chosen set takes songs from all three X-pensive Winos releases; Talk Is CheapMain Offender and their Live At The Hollywood Palladium and shows Richards’ solo career to be pretty damn great. Songs like “You Don’ Move Me,” “Eileen,” Wicked As It Seems” and “Locked Away” would fit in perfectly with the Stones repertoire, but others like “Struggle” or “Take It So Hard” have a uniquely Keith feel about them, and the three Stones songs he performs live - “Connection,” “Happy” and “Time Is On My Side” - boast his rough and ready abilities to carry this material. Perhaps the most exciting song on the album is the rarely heard “Hurricane” which was released as a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Written by the Glimmer Twins, it is just Keith and Woody in the studio playing acoustic guitars and Keith singing the slyly simplistic lyrics about the great tragedy unfolding before his eyes. It is short, very sweet and it alone demands you own the album.

Solar Bear - Captains Of Industry

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

Solar Bear Captains Of Industry

Solar Bear’s Captains Of Industry is the sound of a band growing up but refusing to go quietly. The foursome specializes in melding post-hardcore ferocity with angular, progressive melodies, usually connected with just a sprinkling of tasty grooves. But on this six-song disc, they seem finally content to let the reins of their hardcore past loosen a bit and give in to the bounce: For every dissonant start-stop arrangement, there are swinging breaks that are downright danceable. The result is that they instantly widen their party tent without losing an ounce of aggro crunch.
The key to maintaining this constant ebb-and-flow between high-energy chaos and devil dance comes from the interplay between Tyler Stoakes’ bouncing bass thump and Marshall Gallagher’s dextrous guitars. Gallagher weaves intricate licks that balance dissonance and uplift; these riffs then seesaw between Stoakes' elastic, earthshaking foundation. Together, they're masters of pacing, and Gallagher knows exactly how to balance his spiky runs atop Stoakes' high-tension wires before both crash together into a ruthless but catchy breakdown. The dearly-departed Kevin Henkelman serves as a solid backbone on the drum kit, pounding out beats that suit both the complexity and subtlety of the group’s writing without trying to hog the spotlight in a band already blessed with virtuosos. To wit: Marcus Tallitsch’s ability to talk-scream like a banshee and overdrive into a razor-sharp wail would make Steve Snere of These Arms Are Snakes proud (or jealous). Solar Bear’s latest does more than solidify their place in Denver’s post-hardcore scene: It makes them noisy captains of the next wave.


Monday, November 1, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #21: John Cale - Paris 1919

Before this all gets completely incoherent, let me say that John Cale's 1973 masterpiece Paris 1919 is a fabulous record that you should own if you love great, classic pop music. And good lyrics. This is one of those rare albums with both rich, thoughtful music and intelligent, thought-provoking words. The arrangements, playing and production are equal to the compositions. It is one of those records that is just special. It's one of those dearly cherished albums that immediately spring to mind when one thinks about these things - desert island discs and so forth. Like Neil Young's Tonight's The Night, Big Star's 3rd or Scott Walker's 4th album, Paris 1919 gives me that magic feeling. I want it to belong to me; it's just special.

In 1967, John Cale was a Welshman in New York, a viola and bass player aggressively exploring the outer limits of noise and minimalism. His sound gave the Velvet  Underground that edge which made them arguably the most influential group of the following decade. And, while for much of his subsequent production and recording career, Cale has maintained a high level of manic abrasiveness, there is little of that to be found on Paris 1919. If this was any other Cale album, our protagonist might be found to be yelling about, oh! the horror of things, but this is 1919 after all; stultified post-colonial grin-and-bear is the "customary thing to say and do." So this time the anger is folded in between cushions of literary references and lush major 7 chords.

I like to see Paris 1919 as a concept album - a narrative that slips in and out of consciousness like a dizzy Bruce Chatwin travelogue with maybe a dash of Proust. We are on a train ride through Europe, after the war. At a time of renewal and hope, just as all this potential was about to be squandered at Versailles (which the title surely refers to), there is a sense of innocence and foreboding. After all, with all that grizzly Grand Guignol slaughter we had just witnessed still fresh in our minds, among the calm of this journey there is a creeping sense of menace. And, perhaps with the roundabout lyrics betraying a hero after too much opium or absinthe, the half-remembered, half-understood lyrics make this one of the most compelling song-cycles of the era.

Paris 1919 opens with a rollicking dream of “A Child's Christmas in Wales” (Dylan Thomas is the first of several quoted men of letters in this revolving novella). It's one of the "rockers" on the LP but that doesn't mean the subtle erudition escapes him. Splendid lines about "murdered oranges" and the whole "cattle graze bolt uprightly, seducing down the door," like everything on this LP continue to bewilder and delight me on every listen. Next up are two master classes in songwriting: “Hanky Panky Nohow” and “The Endless Plain of Fortune” - one of Cale's greatest ever tracks. This stuff is just breathtaking. And then there is “Andulacia,” another stop on the train journey (this time in Spain) and the tenderest love song on the album. Ending side one (or CD part one, if you will), “Macbeth” appears to be another frenzied fever dream, specifically Shakespearean but channeled through a Glam-era bonfire of pounding drums and slide guitar. This is the only track that sounds remotely like the band that is actually on this LP - Little Feat. 

One side two, the quirkily macabre, self-consciously cultivated “Graham Greene” is sandwiched between three of the best, most beguiling songs in the pop canon. Geography is again the main focus for imagery, the itinerary taking in England and France, with daydreams drifting all the way from Norway to Africa, the church and the spoils of war. The great title track is part-jolly, part-terrifying with stunning “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings. With “Half Past France,” Cale airs his feelings of exhaustion and dislocation through the eyes of an Edwardian gentleman, and even manages to get a dig in at Lou Reed. “Antarctica Starts Here” ends the album with Cale assuming a dangerous sotto voce over blissful descending chords. The final line of the album is one the best - "the anaesthetic wearing off...Antarctica starts here."

Paris 1919 is more than just a pop album, it is more like a novel. Or maybe a fine wine.