Music Reviews By Chris Cummins, Skizz Cyzyk & Mike White. Belle & Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant Don’t judge Belle & Sebastian by the majority of their fans...
Belle & Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant
Don’t judge Belle & Sebastian by the majority of their fans. You know the type. Art school hipsters who long for dreary days in England. They are so misunderstood. After all, who needs hygiene when you’ve got a new mod outfit that you’ve just paid way too much for from an ultra-hip thrift store? The kind of boutique where the workers all look exactly like you do, though every misguided sod in the store thinks they are the most unique individual in the entire world of which they are so weary. These unkempt legions of Brit-popping shoegazers just can’t bear to eat meat, and apparently, use shampoo. They were happy in the haze of drunken hour, but heaven knows they’re miserable now. And the turtlenecks don’t get me started about the turtlenecks...
Anyway, I’m sure it annoys these folks to no end that Belle & Sebastian are the critics’ darlings right now. However, I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. Sure, long time fans will be peeved now that their little secret is out, but this is a band that needs to be heard. Often the Scottish group has been called the second coming of The Smiths, and this is a fair assessment. Tracks like “Women’s Realm,” “Nice Day For A Sulk,” and “The Wrong Girl” are eerily reminiscent of the early work of Morrissey & Marr. The general criticism about this album is that it is more of the same type of pop the band had on their three previous efforts. But why should the band tamper with perfection? Droll lyrics along with insidiously catchy melodies (good luck getting “The Model” out of your head) add up to an incredible auditory experience. Just go out and buy it already, and take off the turtleneck, please. - CC
(Matador Records, www.matadorrecords.com)
The Tragically Hip - Music @ Work
Why isn’t The Tragically Hip huge in America? This is the question that I asked myself repeatedly upon listening to their latest album Music @ Work. Although the band is huge in Canada and has an extremely dedicated fan base in the States, they don’t fill the stadiums as so many of their contemporaries do (fellow Canucks Barenaked Ladies spring to mind instantly). With the release of their latest album, all that may change. Many of the songs on this new album would lend themselves to the arena format just fine. Want proof? Check out the rousing album opener “My Music At Work.” I foresee this rousing power-pop anthem being the opener to many a mixed tape that I will make over the next couple of months. Other highlights include “The Bear,” “Lake Fever,” and “Putting Down.” Lead singer Gordon Downie’s vocal style can best be described as spastic. His quivering voice is the perfect counterpoint for the enigmatic lyrics and skilled musicianship. This album isn’t the masterpiece that their previous work, “Phantom Power” was. However, this is an album whose richness and depth is fully realized with each additional listen. Get to know the Hip now, before the bandwagon runs you over! - CC
(Sire Records, www.sirerecords.com)
Eels - Daises of the Galaxy
Towards the end of Daisies of the Galaxy, the third disc from L.A.’s Eels, lead singer E laments “Now the party’s over, I’m on my own.” It is from “Wooden Nickels,” a song that is about the aftermath of the death of a loved one. It is also about longing for clarity, which seems to be the running theme for the disc. The band’s pervious effort was 1998’s “Electro-Shock Blues,” a doom laden effort that focused on the suicide of E’s sister and the impending death of his mother. The subject matter may have been bleak; nevertheless it remains as one of the most honest and important albums of the 1990s. But now with the deaths behind him, E is taking stock of his life and learning how to deal with insurmountable loss. He’s on his way to accomplishing these tasks on the 15 tracks of this album. This is apparent on the song “It’s a Motherfucker” in which he sings directly about his loss“It’s a motherfucker being here without you...and I won’t ever be the same.” On “Selective Memory,” E recalls the innocence and peacefulness of childhood: “Days go on forever when you only know that much, and everything you need to know is answered with one touch.” The lyrics are delivered very matter of factly; this simplicity resonates with the listener on an emotional level. “Estate Sale” finds E teaming up with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck for a song that opens with a voice speaking “These are the sounds of days that are past.” A beautiful yet cacophonous instrumental piece follows. Elsewhere on the disc, we find E longing for a connection with another“That could be me in a couple of years, suckin’ fumes under the highway pass,” he sings on “Something Is Sacred.” The lyrics are explicitly personal, but they never descend into self-pity. E also isn’t afraid to rock. This is unmistakable on the tracks “Flyswatter” and “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” (the latter of which is the hidden track that closes the disc). The album is a perfect combination of intelligent lyrics and accomplished melodies. Daisies of the Galaxy is a very intense journey of self-discovery for E, and you’ll be glad he’s letting you hitchhike along with him. - CC
(Dreamworks Records, www.dreamworksrecords.com)
Spider-Man - Rock Reflections of a Superhero
They don’t make ’em much more bizarre than this one. Listening to this disc-originally released in 1975 (and now on CD)-it’s hard to believe that the thing actually exists. Over the course of 23 tracks, the album takes the listener from the origin of Spiderman, the classic Marvel comic webhead, through to the death of Gwen Stacy. Spidey takes a break from the singing long enough for the occasional interjection by Stan Lee. Lee is as entertaining as ever with his narration. It’s as if he’s a carnival barker performing Shakespeare, walking a tightrope of sincerity and absurdity. Most of the music here is fairly generic ’70s-style pop that could best be described as Jim Croce meets Schoolhouse Rock. This hardly matters because every song is a loving tribute to everyone’s favorite wall crawler! Highlights of the album include “Peter Stays and Spider-Man Goes” which details Peter Parker’s struggle with the duality of his life“Its like fighting both sides of a mirror,” he sighs. In the arena rocking “Doctor Octopus,” Doc Ock, (doing his best impersonation of Robert Plant) warns other superheroes that he will destroy them, right after he’s through with Spider-Man. “Fantastic Four and the Hulk, you’re going to cry like a baby, and you’re gonna sulk,” he warns. The album also has its moments of pathos, nowhere more evident than on “A Soldier Starts to Bleed,” in which Spidey pays tribute to his love, Gwen Stacy. It’s all very strange and very wonderful. It may not be that “with great power, comes great responsibility and great music,” but if you’re a fan of Spidey, its essential listening. Now if only someone would release the music from the 1960s animated show...- CC
Barenaked Ladies - Maroon
With the release of 1998’s Stunt, the Canadian quintet Barenaked Ladies went from cult status to mainstream success with their hit single “One Week.” Listeners who buy this new album hoping for more of the same will probably be disappointed. There is nothing as gimmicky as that song here. Instead, the band has cooked up a musical stew of various styles that will leave listeners coming back for repeat helpings. There is feel good rock (“Too Little Too Late,” “Pinch Me,” “Never Do Anything”), country flavored jangle pop (“Go Home”), laid-back R&B groove (“Conventioneers”), even a Broadway showstopper (“Sell Sell Sell”). The writing team of Steven Page and Ed Robertson has always excelled at creating infectious melodies that contrast the dark subversive lyrics. This practice is utilized especially well on tracks like “Falling For The First Time” and “Helicopters,” which explores the fickle nature of the media in times of tragedy“A world that loves its irony must hate the protest singer” vocalist Steven Page caustically croons. Nothing the band has previously recorded could prepare you for the grim masterpiece that is “Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel.” This first hand account of a drive home gone very astray is at once horrifying and beautiful. The melody rises and falls like a ghostly carousel, overlapped with the ethereal vocals: “In all the confusion there’s something serene, I’m just a posthumous part of the scene.” Utilizing the formidable production talents of Don Was, as well as pushing the creative envelope, the band has released one of the best albums of the year. Whether or not Maroon will match the success of Stunt remains to be seen, but the band is determined to be taken seriously, even when they are joking around. - CC
(Reprise Records, www.bnlmusic.com)
Groovie Ghoulies - Travels With My Amp
I had been hearing good things about this band, so with this, their umpteenth release, I finally get to hear what they’re all about. The first two things I noticed about this CD were A) the obvious influence of the Ramones, and B) unlike the Ramones, the singer’s annunciation is so precise that you can make out all the lyrics perfectly-a good thing since his lyrics are pretty clever at times. Musically, they’re fun, upbeat, three chord punk rock stuff, with catchiness being the only similarity between them and the bubblegum pop of their Filmation Archies-style cartoon counterparts (Remember that Saturday morning show from decades ago?) My only complaint is that for a band that’s half-male, half-female, you would expect some interesting backing vocals and harmonies, yet this CD contains no backing vocals at all. But at least they score bonus points for covering Jonathan Richman’s “Dancing Late At Night” and having a CD cover with a lot to look at. - SC
(Lookout! Records, www.lookoutrecords.com)
The Put-Outs - Sing The Hits
I like this CD a lot. In fact, I like this CD enough that I’ve taped it so that I can listen to it while I drive. The Put-Outs are reminiscent of that cool sound that was coming out of Minneapolis in the ’80s (Replacements, Soul Asylum), but mostly because of the raspy nice-guy vocals and songwriting of frontman, John Shafer. Songwriters are a dime a dozen, but he has a gift for writing songs that convey emotions, while still rocking with just the right amount of punch. In addition, his vocal delivery drives those emotions home. You believe he’s feeling something even if you’re not sure what he’s singing. How many people in the rock world are capable of that these days? Catchy and memorable, these songs get inside you and make you feel happily sad. Shafer evokes the spirit of early, ballsier-era Paul Westerberg, and it doesn’t hurt that this disc was produced by Tommy Stinson either. - SC
(Joe Records, 1205 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn NY 11222)
Sicko - A Brief History Of Sicko
A tribute to the late fun-loving punk trio, Sicko, this disc collects a bunch of Sicko rarities, and a live show on one disc. Sicko had a good sense of humor, upbeat songwriting, and some tight playing. Their fans loved them. But if you weren’t a fan, I’m not sure this disc is a good starting point. It’s not bad, mind you, but they’ve done better. Their fans, however, will love it. - SC
(Mutant Pop Records, www.mutantpop.com)
Pulaski - Why Are You Doing This To Me?
The comedy-oriented garage punk band, Sick, spent ten years playing and releasing material before changing their name to Pulaski and releasing this CD. The new moniker is just one hint at the maturity the band has gone through over the years, the most noticeable difference (not counting lineup changes) being the music itself. While the band has become more accomplished as musicians, their music has become more polished, radio-friendly modern rock sounding, complete with dead-on vocal harmonies. They could (and should) easily fit in among all the modern rock bands on commercial radio these days, except their lyrics would make them stand out among the crowd. Frontman Roy Fisher’s clever wordplay consistently shines through his charmingly juvenile sense of humor. His lyrical tributes to baseball, superheroes, and Auguste Rodin sound strangely in-place next to the anthems of misogyny, alcohol, and failed relationships that ought to make this CD a hit at any frat house. Regardless, the songs themselves (half of which are more than 4 minutes long) are catchy and memorable with lyrics you can understand and sing along to. Plus they do an interesting cover of America’s “I Need You.” Leave your political correctness at the door, and come in for a toe-tapping laugh. - SC
(Noise Box Recordings, www.pulaskiband.com)
The Mr. T Experience - Alcatraz
I haven’t heard anything this band has been up to since 1987, when I used to overplay their Everyone’s Entitled To Their Own Opinion LP on college radio. I can’t believe it’s the same band! The music has changed a lot. Sounds like they’re trying to write some fun, upbeat, radio-friendly songs, but they’re held back from sounding commercial by a charming “unpolished” quality in the vocals and production departments. Songwriting remains one of their strongest points. They’ve still got some clever, funny lyrics making interesting statements, but love songs dominate this disc. The opening cut, “I Wrote A Book About Rock & Roll,” makes it embarrassing to be a music critic, but for the record, stands out as one of the catchiest tunes on the CD. Next in line would have to be the closing cut, “We’ll Get By,” with it’s sing-along chorus of nonsense words. - SC
(Lookout! Records, www.lookoutrecords.com)
The Snugglers - Swinger’s Serenadesoundtrack
”Journey to the Center of The Satchel” is a cool re-working of the “Peter Gunn” theme with brassy references to “Green Onions” layered over an improvisational style. “Medley To Mash By” starts with a dark blues-raunch similar to something from a David Lynch soundtrack (“The Slow Grind”), before moving into an electric guitar & brass fueled Cocktails-ish mambo (“The Arms Akimbo Mambo”), before settling back into a jazzy, Pink Panther-ish improvisation (“Wife Reaches Into Bowl”) that continues into “It’s Murder,” adding a crescendo of noisy suspense. “Whodunnit?” is mostly a bongo solo with a few brass outbursts overtop. The fifteen-minute CD ends with the smokey torch-ballad, “The Stranger’s Kiss,” the only song with vocals. - SC
($8 PPD, Danny Plotnick, PO Box 460472, San Fran CA 94146)
Supergrass - Supergrass
The debut album from Supergrass, I Should CoCo, was one of those instantly likeable and memorable albums that came out of nowhere. A great mixture of Buzzcocks-style punk, Madness-style musical humor, and modern Brit-pop, the British three-piece topped many critics best-of lists, earning them a reputation of a band to watch out for, despite not reaching major success in the public’s eye (in the States at least). On this, their self-titled third album, Supergrass picks up where their second album, In It For The Money, left off; it’s disappointing compared to their first album, but still not a bad album on its own. They seem to have mellowed and matured a lot, losing a lot of their trademark creative zaniness and punk sounds, but nevertheless the songwriting is still strong and the performances have a power that’s mostly missing in today’s radio-friendly music. While it didn’t grab me instantly, on second listen the songs sounded familiar and by the third listen they became catchy and memorable. The first single, “Pumping On Your Stereo,” sounds like it could’ve been a good Bowie radio hit. - SC
(Island Records, www.islandrecords.com)
Ween - White Pepper
Here’s what I’ve always liked about Ween; their songs are infused with an offbeat sense of humor, delving into wide influences, complemented by a sense of production in which they make the most of whatever studio they’re recording in. Now guess what’s missing on this, their eighth album (counting their live CD)? The wide influences are still there, but the humor is mostly gone, and the production just isn’t as mind-blowing as on previous efforts. The songs themselves aren’t bad, (except for maybe the embarrassing-with-no-excuse “Bananas And Blow”), but there’s just nothing special about them. At most, some of the songs are simply pleasant and borderline catchy, but I’ve never listened to Ween when I wanted something pleasant. All previous Ween albums have had at least one standout cut that made that album worth having. I have not found that cut on White Pepper yet, and the most memorable cut is, unfortunately, the worst one, “Bananas And Blow.” - SC
(Elektra Records, www.elektra.com)
The Fastbacks - The Day That Didn’t Exist
The Fastbacks have been churning out release after release for years now, and while I usually appreciate their songwriting, energy and tightness, I’ve often found their vocal abilities and production to be somewhat lacking on their albums. With that said, this has to be their best album yet. Scoring high marks in all areas; the production is topnotch, the energy and tightness is in top form, the vocals are dead on, with layers of female lead & backing vocals mixing pretty, cute, and tough singing styles together without ever sounding too “girlie,” and the songs-14 sing-song catchy, poppy, punk anthems that’ll be stuck in your head after one listen. - SC
(spinART records, www.spinartrecords.com)
The Muffs - Hamburger
I like The Muffs, even though all their albums seem pretty much the same: catchy three-chord punk rock & roll, with tough girl vocals, topped off with top-notch production. Hamburger, however, is a big 30-song/74-minute mish-mash of b-sides, outtakes, rarities, demos, alternate versions, covers, and answering machine messages, complete with a 24-page insert-book full of photos and liner notes. A big point proven by this album is that The Muffs don’t need to rely on flawless production to be a good band. The home-recording demos show that a good song is a good song regardless of its production quality. The cover songs alone make this album worth having (Elvis Costello’s “No Action,” Kim Wylde’s “Kids In America,” The Paul Collins Beat’s “Rock & Roll Girl,” and a ton of more obscure ones). This is a must-have for Muffs fans, and a good starting point for non-Muffs fans. - SC
(Sympathy Records, www.sympathyrecords.com)
Two Dollar Guitar - Weak Beats and Lame-ass Rhymes
Seeing Steve Shelley’s name in the lineup for this indie-rock supergroup made me immediately think, “Uh ohanother Sonic Youth side project!” Sometimes it seems like any member of Sonic Youth could fart into a tape recorder and Smells Like Records would release it, thus contributing to both the pile of unnecessary album releases glutting the market and to all the great worthwhile unsigned bands that no one will ever hear. But this Two Dollar Guitar release is a nice surprise. Pleasant, mellow indie-rock, reminding me of Leonard Cohen and Magnetic Fields, with a little Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure. My biggest complaint is that, after three listens, nothing stands out as memorable, but nevertheless, it’s nice to listen to. - SC
(Smells Like Records, www.smellslikerecords.com)
Various Artists - Surfbeat Behind The Iron Curtain
Already being a fan of surf music gave me an appreciation for this CD before I ever heard it. But hearing it was a real treat. This is a collection of 24 songs by 19 bands, all recorded behind the Iron Curtain between 1963-66. What makes this CD special is hearing new and interesting takes on American surf and British big-beat music. Hearing an isolated German or Russian’s take on a familiar sound is really interesting; it sounds familiar but something is definitely different. I think it’s because the American & British versions were mostly created for kids, by kids in garage bands, while the Iron Curtain stuff was created by older, more established professional musicians, paying very close attention to arrangement and production in order to make music for the general public. Since some of the countries in those days had only one record label, and it was usually government run, musicians had fewer chances of success, and therefore, designed a lot of their music for crossover audiences. Strings, horn-sections, and vocal choruses sound oddly not-out-of-place on music that has usually been associated with rough, young, under-produced garage bands. It reminds me a lot of the swing/exotica/lounge stuff but with more twang & edge, like “spy music.” The CD booklet contains cool band photos and informative liner notes. - SC
(Bomp! Records, www.bomp.com)
The Forty Fives - Get It Together
Wow! This is one heck of a cool band. It’s powerful, sorta ’60s garage rock, but replacing tough-guy posing with well-crafted pop hooks. Some of the singing and songwriting reminds me of Redd Kross. I love the organ playing too. The first six songs just flow with energy. Things start to get a little goofy around the seventh track, “King Of Mexico,” which sounds like one of those novelty numbers Davy Jones would’ve sang in The Monkees. From there, “Get It Together” and “All Now” are slow numbers, and “Ain’t That Lovin’ You” is a raunchy blues number, but the remaining three tracks pack the same punch as the first half of the disc. These guys know what they’re doing! - SC
(Ng/Artemis Records, www.artemisrecords.com)
Ann Beretta - To All Our Fallen Heroes...
Well-produced powerful punk rock stuff. It’s not bad, but not necessarily a stand-out either. The playing is tight. The singing is pretty good. The songs are familiar sounding. Considering how polished their sound is, though, I was surprised that their cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” wasn’t better, especially since it’s such a good song to begin with. I bet these guys put on a good live show. - SC
(Lookout! Records, www.lookoutrecords.com)
Bantam Rooster - The Cross and the Switchblade
Yikes! That’s some unhinged singing! Reminds me a little of Rick Sims from the Didgits/Gaza Strippers. What you’ve got here is two guys; one plays drums, the other yells and plays cool garage riffs on the guitar, like Flat Duo Jets. They’re a little more ’60s garage punk than turbo-billy though. They look like really nice guys in the photo, but then you hear the raucousness they unleash and it’s hard to believe it’s the same guys. - SC
(Crypt Records, www.crypt.de)
Knoxville Girls - Knoxville Girls
Kid Congo Powers leads this quintet through some authentic sounding vintage country, blues and rockabilly licks. I’m guessing they used as much vintage equipment to play and record with in order to get “that sound,” with just the right amount of slap-back delay or distortion on the vocals and an appreciation for analog technology. There’s a lot of variety among the song styles, and a lot of different instrument sounds popping up here and there, too (organ, harmonica, slide guitar, saxophone, stand up bass). - SC
(In The Red Records, 2627 E. Strong Pl., Anaheim, CA 92806)
Government Issue - Complete History Volume One
I know I’ll probably get some shit for saying this, but I always felt like Government Issue was my little private band. I was turned on to them during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school by this cool chick, Michelle Maxwell. She flipped my lid by introducing me to some musicians that’d give me joy for years to come-among them: The Velvet Underground, The Cramps, The Inbreds and Government Issue.
In my punk rock high school clique folks drifted to certain groups and it just wasn’t “cool” if two of us both liked the same band-at least if we liked the same group as intensely. After a while it became something of a challenge to dig a group that no one had heard of before. That was Government Issue for me. In all my years of high school and college I never ran into anyone who dug GI as much as I did. Hell, to even find another person who had heard GI or even heard of them was a challenge. Obviously, someone at WCBN had. ’CBN’s record library contained just about every GI release I’ve ever seen.
Coming out of the volatile Washington D.C. punk scene (which is still going strong on Dischord Records-the record label founded by Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat), Government Issue released a flurry of live and studio cuts on EPs and singles throughout the early ’80s. As to be expected, Government Issue had a few politically-fueled tunes in their repertoire like “Hey Ronny,” or “No Rights.” Moreover, the music of Government Issue dealt with post-adolescent themes of loneliness (“When I’m Alone”), personal identification (“Reflection”), and inter-personal relationships (“Notch to My Crotch”). More than one note/three chord wailing anthems, the songs of Government Issue show a refreshingly mature attitude in both lyrics and structure.
Apart from a stray single here and there, Complete History Volume One collects the bulk of Government Issues 82-85 oeuvre in a two-disc set. Numbering eighty tracks in all, the set has a few clunkers and, for better or worse, boasts five different versions of their trademark tune “Sheer Terror.” The last thirteen tracks are the strongest as they come from GI’s self-titled fifth album (also known as GI5), one of my favorite albums. It’s polished without being overproduced or lacking the intensity typical to Government Issue.
I’ve seen too many “complete history, volume one” compilations in my time without follow-up that the term (or variations thereof) is almost a joke. Does anyone seriously think that there’ll come a day that a second volume of Van Halen songs will be released? If there is, it’ll just be the good old Diamond Dave songs that the shortsighted Van Halen brothers chose to ignore in favor of Sammy Hagar’s screechy ballads.
Still barely in print, You and Crash are the last two full-length GI releases and the albums fall as their most under-appreciated work. While You is firmly lodged in their body of work, Crash is often disregarded by fans of the “punker” GI to be their “sell-out” album. Coming in 1988 when “alternative music” was starting to come of age, Crash was a logical progression for the band and not the drastic departure that fans of old claim it to be. Regardless, I hope that some day soon Dr. Strange Records will have the good sense and acquire the necessary rights to produce a Government Issue compilation titled “Complete History, Volume Two.” In the meantime, the last few releases from GI will remain somewhat difficult to find but, thankfully, their early work is accessible thanks to the Dr. Strange collection. - MW
(Dr. Strange Records, www.drstrange.com)
Various Artists - Cinemaphonic: Electro Soul
Hey, man! Not every star of your favorite seventies sit-com is dead, doped-up or sitting in anticipation of “the block” on “Hollywood Squares.” The other highly viable alternative for folks whose faces may have populated your TV screen in the disco-era is the music industry. If Cousin Oliver (Robby Rist) and Will Robinson (Billy Mumy) are rockin’ out in bands, why can’t Little Earl (David Hollander) of “What’s Happening” compile a kick-ass collection of rare library music? That is to say, these are tunes dug from the vaults of Major/Valentino Records composed under the auspice of use in films-either as background or incidental music.
Being out of the spotlight of “major film themes,” these tunes tend to convey single emotions instead of a theatrical roller coaster. These ain’t no John Williams, “Witness The Power Of The Ark” tunes. Instead, these should bear titles like “Hustla Kicks Some Ass” or “Let’s Break Out The Whipped Cream And Get Freaky.” Fans of classic exploitation films will recognize these grooves right offif not by their notes at least by their spirit. Sounding like a cold funk fusion between The Goblins and Willie Hutch, Cinemaphonic should find its way into any self-respecting film junkie’s or Player’s collection. - MW
(Emperor Norton, www.emperornorton.com)
Various Artists - Pornosonic
Very similar in theme to Cinemaphonic, Pornosonic collects ten tunes of apparently unreleased porn music with introductions to each song courtesy of porn legend, Ron Jeremy. Unfortunately, though the dates on the films from which these songs were taken range from 1972-1976, the music sounds like it could have been recorded a few days ago in a studio session. The production values are almost too high and the music isn’t nearly funky enough. - MW
(J-Bird Records, www.j-birdrecords.com)
Manning & Reitzell - Logan’s SanctuarySoundtrack
A real soundtrack for a fake movie, Logan’s Sanctuary is the fictitious sequel to Michael Anderson’s perennial sci-fi favorite, Logan’s Run. Composed, conceived, and created by Roger Manning (Moog Cookbook) and Brian Reitzell (Red Kross), the duo delved into their collections of classic instruments in order to stay true to the feel of the era of the original film. Moreover, they wrote out an extensive outline for the action in Logan’s Sanctuary. Then they scored essential scenes of the “film.” There’s the stirring opening title theme, “Islands In The Sky.” The obligatory “hit single” is “Search for Tomorrow.” Manning and Reitzell even supply listeners with several tracks of finger-popping incidental music (“The Game,” “Pleasure Dome 12”). The disc is a carousel ride of grooves and makes me want to see another Sandman on the loose! - MW
(Emperor Norton, www.emperornorton.com)
Tyler Bates - Get Carter Soundtrack
The original soundtrack for Get Carter stands as a seminal masterpiece by Roy Budd, just as Mike Hodges’ film is considered the epitome of British pop cinema. The idea of remaking either the soundtrack or the film had purists in an uproar. But, if they took the time to actually listen to this new take on the Get Carter theme and watch the Stephen T. Kay-directed film, they might just get a kick out of what they discover.
The standout of Tyler Bates’s score is his reworking of Budd’s theme. Ultra-cool with its pulsing bassline and creaky refrain, this is one that I immediately added to a compilation tape I was working on. From there the score treads a lot of “typical” ground with a few tunes that could be used in just about any film: “House of Cards,” “Jack’s Consolation,” “World Upside Down.” Nicely interspersed are tunes such as “Christmas Tree Chase” where Bates mixes jazz horns and bass with electronica. By the time the score ends, the disc is in full modern music mode with “Cybersex” and “Let’s Take A Ride.” While this combination of moody music and dance tunes may sound incongruous, Bates makes the whole she-bang work. - MW
(Jellybean Recordings, www.jellybean-recordings.com)
tied + tickled trio - EA1 EA2
I’ve got to admit that I often have a knee-jerk reaction to jazz. That’s because jerks I used to know at WCBN seemed so into it. I should know better than to judge a music style or group by its fans but I often can’t help but feeling the desire to slap someone silly when they start dropping names like “Coleman, Mingus, Bird, or Monk.” The older (and possibly more mature) I get, the more I’ve allowed myself to enjoy certain aspects of jazz. I’m not adept enough at jazz as a musical genre to outline what styles I enjoy. I tend to think that I come in from two angles of extremity. I’m a fan of the John Zorn project “Naked City” with its bleets and bloops-its mad genius of mixing country and western with hardcore and turning from one to another on a dime, never dropping the beat. Likewise, I dig the slow hand of Vince Guaraldi and his Charlie Brown tunes.
Somewhere in the mire I find tied + tickled trio mixing up a glitch’s brew of tape loops, vibraphones, and the expected sax/trumpet combo. If I was tied and tickled until I had to put a name on it, I suppose I’d categorize it as “Jazz Electronica.” Some tunes are purely more one breed than the other (jazz: “Yolanda” / electronica: “Sevastopol”), but there’s no disparity from track to track. The plus sign in the name of the band is no accident; they add the smooth soul of classic riffs with the clickity-clack of modernity to equal one hell of a sound. Cool, daddy, cool. - MW
(Drag City Records, www.dragcity.com)
Joel Forrester - Stop the Music & Pre-Microscopic Music Circa 1980
If you’re a fan of National Public Radio then I’d bet dollars to donuts that you’ve heard at least one song by Joel Forrester. He’s the composer of the theme for NPR’s amazing interview show, “Fresh Air.” That song and a dozen others were recorded during a February ’97 session at WHYY in Philadelphia and populate Stop the Music. Forrester is a pianist in the tradition of Monk (his mentor) and Vince Guaraldi. The songs on Stop the Music have a traditional vibe to them. His take on “Summertime” fits right in with original Forrester compositions that range from boogie-woogie (“Backtalk”) to frantic (“Snugglebunnies”).
Tellingly, Gershwin is the only non-Forrester contributor to Stop the Music, while the only artist covered on Pre-Microscopic Music Circa 1980 is Thelonious Monk. Pre-Microscopic Music is definitely a few notches higher on the be-bop ratio. Along with Forrester’s tickling of the ivories, he’s joined on several tracks by his future Microscopic Septet cronies. Sounding more like a full-fledged “jazz album” with the prerequisite squawking saxophone and snare drum rim shots, Pre-Microscopic Music is accessible enough that even non-jazz aficionados can groove to the tunes. - MW
(Koch Jazz International, www.kochint.com)
Seksu Roba - Seksu Roba
I try to shy away from reviewing stuff from contributors and friends. First there’s that “conflict of interest” thing and secondly, what if I dislike it?
Luckily, regular CdC illustrator, Kevin Lee, didn’t tell me about Seksy Roba hoping for a review. At least, I don’t think he did! But Seksu Roba is so good that I said “conflict of interests be damned, people should be listening to this!”
Billed as DJ Sukho, Kevin is one of four main musicians who comprise Seksu Roba, a modern band with a decidely retro-current sound. This freshman outing finds Seksu Roba turning out some funked up tunes that sound as if they’ve been hidden away in Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab’s closet for the better part of this century.
Mixing moog, Godzilla samples, wah-wah guitar, and heavy-duty dance beats, Seksu Roba is the party album you’ve been waiting for. A must for fans of amalgamated musical genres, this one will fit well on the same shelf with your Schulmädchen Report and The Vampyros Lesbos Soundtrack CDs. - MW
(Crippled Dick Hot Wax, www.seksuroba.com)
eX-Girl - Big When Far, Small When Close
What in the wild, wide world of music is a-goin’ on here? The last time I heard anything slightly similar to the foot-stomping, primal drum beating music of eX-Girl’s CD, Big When Far, Small When Close, I was freaking myself out listening to “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict” by Pink Floyd in a stupefied state.
Part performance artists, part accomplished musicians, eX-Girl is a trio of females from Japan whose lyrics part from that oddball Japanenglish style typical of other popular Japanese imports like Pizzicato Five or Shoen Knife. It’s not what they’re singing that rings my bell but how they sing itlike holy hymns, tribal chants, or scattered voices lost on the other end of a telephone line. Often switching from English to their native tongue, eX-Girl do so for the tones of the language. By mixing in a bare minimum of instrumentation, their songs gain additional strength, making this a group I want to know better.
It took a lot of teeth-pulling to get this disc. However, something tells me that their albums can be found in hipper metropolitan record stores. Luckily, British label Guided Missile Recordings promises to make at least one other eX-Girl record available. Check out www.guidedmissile.co.uk for updates. - MW
(Kiki-Poo Records, 4-6-6 Sakuragaoka, Setagaya-ku Tokyo 156-0054, Japan)
Cibo Matto - Stereo Type A
I picked up this album ages ago but set it aside and kind of forgot about it. I’d been pleased as punch with Cibo Matto’s first release, Viva! La Woman and wanted to hear more of them. I can’t say that there was any particular reason why I never got back to Stereo Type A except perhaps for fear of Sean Lennon’s involvement in their second outing. Maybe something in the back of my mind put a Japanese female duo together with Lennon and brought out a fear of Cibo Matto suddenly sounding like the second coming of The Plastic Ono Band. Heaven forbid.
Luckily, that isn’t the case. If anything, Stereo Type A is a more accessible musical venturekeeping the funky hip hop lyrics and pumping up the highly dig-able music. I find myself actually preferring this new album to Cibo Matto’s initial offering! It’s like a blast of sci-fi wasabi to your musical sensibilities. - MW
(Warner Brothers, www.wbr.com)
The Dust Brothers - Fight Club soundtrack
As if the cinematic experience of Fight Club couldn’t get any better, the cutting edge mixers/producers The Dust Brothers were brought aboard on the project to write a soundtrack for David Fincher’s under-appreciated 1999 film.
While the jaws of America fell agape at the shocking revelations of The Sixth Sense, bohemians got their street cred by lining up to see Being John Malcovich. However, those in the know were bopping along to the poetic ranting of Tyler Durden set to the amalgamated tunes of The Dust Brothers. Mixing elements as disparate as Mexican horns, Gregorian chants, and some killer turntable scratching, the inexperience of The Dust Brothers worked in favor of the film. The dynamic duo of Michael Simpson and John King (the brothers Dust) provided the perfect musical accompaniment to jettison a fleet of space monkeys into orbit while audiences witnessed the nadir of a corporate drone. The patchwork quality of the songs with their elements floating in and clashing or blending with the bits around them is a musical metaphor for the film’s insomniac narrator. Everything is being filtered by his sense of unreality and removal from the present. You can dream to this music. You can fight to this music.
I don’t know why I feel the need to throw in this caveat except that I was surfing around the web one day at work (before I decided to write a familiar haiku poem and send it out to all of my company’s offices), when I found a site listing quite a few grievances about the Fight Club soundtrack. Those complaints seemed to focus on the issue that the two songs most prominently featured during the film but not composed by The Dust Brothers“Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies and “Goin’ Out West” by Tom Waits-are missing from the soundtrack. No shit. Folks wanting to hear those tunes in addition to the fine work of The Dust Brothers should invest in Surfer Rosa by The Pixies and Bone Machine by Tom Waits. Both albums are smart investments as well-being among the finest works by either artist. - MW
(Restless Records, www.restless.com)
Various Artists - The Virgin Suicides Soundtrack
Right off, I need to say that I haven’t seen The Virgin Suicides as of the time of this writing. I know, I know, shame on me. I’ve heard that it’s a terrific motion picture and Sofia Coppola’s direction is on par with her old man’s early films. I was too afraid that The Virgin Suicides would be as shitty as the performance she gave in The Godfather Part III-her dad’s pathetic attempt to milk The Godfather cash cow with an unnecessary third film.
So, that said, I’m looking at this soundtrack more as a collection of tunes than how they interact with the film in which they were used. From what I gather from this group of tunes is that The Virgin Suicides strikes me as a melancholy film. From Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” to 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love,” this has to be one of the saddest compendium of songs I’ve ever experienced! Yet, more than just sob songs of unrequited love and loss, the tracks on The Virgin Suicides soundtrack all share the fact that they’re solid compositions.
While bearing a definite stamp of the years in which they were written, every song on the soundtrack stands the test of time. The two original compositions by Air included here are remarkable for capturing the feel of the songs surrounding them, not sticking out like post-modernist reflections of the ’70s. If anything, they’re conspicuous for their lack of vocals-setting them apart from the strong lyrical content of the other ten tracks.
And, just when it looks like this might turn into the perfect trove of tunes to which one should slit their wrists, the last pace picks up with Heart’s “Crazy On You” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” providing a triumphant conclusion. - MW
(Emperor Norton, www.emperornorton.com)
Various Artists - Murder Is My Beat
The gruff cop: “Is it any of your business?&”
The wry detective: “I could make it my business.”
The gruff cop: “I could make your business mine.”
The wry detective: “Oh, you wouldn’t like it. The pay’s too small.”
Of course, that’s from Howard Hawk’s The Big Sleep with the wry detectivePhillip Marlowebeing played by Humphrey Bogart.
This collection of film noir themes and scenes is not for everyone but it’s definitely for me. Plucking some of the most stirring main title tunes from works like The Maltese Falcon, Laura, and Born to Kill and mixing in a healthy dose of hardboiled dialogue, Murder Is My Beat plays like a beautifully schizophrenic soundtrack for an era of bygone classics. The music’s courtesy of classic soundtrack composers like Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, and Miklos Rozsa. The “lyrics” come from some of the finest writers in and out of Hollywood: Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, et cetera.
It may piss off audiophiles but the orchestrations are all from their original mono recordings-a painful necessity to allow the snippets of dialogue to flow in and out with ease of listening. If you’re not a fan of film noir this probably isn’t the disc for you. If you’ve got a taste for noir, this will get you jonesing to track down some of these classic films and experience them visually as well. - MW
(Rhino Records, www.rhino.com)
Gene Defcon - Come Party With Me 2000
It took me the longest time to be convinced that this album wasn’t some sort of a joke. I guess I’m still waiting to hear that it is! If it’s not, then I’ll say that Eugene Gordon Defcon is a goddamn genius and perhaps the King of Outsider Music. Boasting forty-five “party songs,” Come Party With Me is an amazing collection of tunes by Gene Defcon. He’s a one man band following in the footsteps of artists like Hasil Adkins, Daniel Johnson, Ernie Paul, Jeff Duchovny, The Kids of Widney High, and Space Negroes.
With a heavy reliance on a pre-programmed keyboard rhythm section and doubled vocal tracks, Gene deals with subjects ranging from “Gettin’ Crazy in the Hot Tub” to “Space Boots.” I’ve put this CD in jeopardy of being worn out as I put my player on “repeat” and just groove on the insightful lyrics and heavy 4/4 rhythms. Indeed, Gene’s music makes me want to party hardily! - MW
(K Records, www.kpunk.com)
Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto - El Baile Aleman
Hey, hipster! If you know what’s good for you, you’ll put down this magazine in a few minutes and make a run out to your local indie record store and scour the racks for this release by Señor Coconut. When you get home, you’ll be feasting your ears on post-modern exotica, the likes of which you’ve only dreamed. Dig on those Latin beats accented with samplers and a rockin’ horn section. Baby, this is dangerous territory but you know you love the thrill of the verboten. Witness the oddity and toe-tapping intensity of nine tracks of Kraftwerk music filtered through el Señor’s imaginative coconut. Es muy bueno y muy loco! - MW
(Emperor Norton, www.emperornorton.com)
Frenchy - Che’s Lounge
I haven’t heard much in the way of nouvelle vague Lounge Music in the last few yearsat least nothing that’s knocked my socks off. Then came Frenchy. Boasting a dozen tight tunes, some killer instrumentation, and the vocal talents of Carla Lease, whose voice sounds like Chivas Regal being poured over ice, Che’s Lounge is a solid and refreshing entry into an otherwise tired genre. - MW
(Dionysus Records, www.dionysusrecords.com)
Various Artists - Swing West Volume 2: Guitar Slingers
”Chicken Reel.” “Wildwood Flower.” “Caravan.” You might not know the names to these songs but the tunes are unmistakable, especially when wrung out of a rich electric guitar, slid from a steel guitar, or plucked off a fiddle. These three tunes and seventeen others comprise the second volume of Razor and Tie’s three-disc Swing West set. As the CD’s subtitle suggests, the tunes herein are heavy on guitar-only one tune on the entire disc sports vocals. Similarly, to folks who want nothing to do with country music, this disc sports names of artist who are undoubtedly familiar; Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, and Les Paul, to name a few. This is the perfect music for inviting Jessco White over to the crib to do a little Mountain Dancing. It gets your feet a-movin’ and your fingers a-poppin’. - MW
(Razor & Tie, www.razorandtie.com)
adjust vs. theeq - versus002
I thought this album was going to be some sort of DJ battle royale. Instead, it’s two long-ass mixes by DJ Adjust and The EQ. After digging on this tape for about a month (and deciding that DJ Adjust was the clear cut victor) I surfed on over to the tape’s label and found that Adjust and EQ are two handles for the same guy! D’oh!
That said, while I enjoy the tape as a whole I still dig on the first side more. DJ Adjust mixes in samples smoothly-throwing in everything from Beavis & Butthead to Goodfellas. My favorite tracks have to be his reworking of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and NWA’s “Quiet On Tha Set.”
Meanwhile The EQ has his fair share of sampling but impliments them more as between-track sets, as if flipping channels between funk-fueled bombastic electronica. Don’t get me wrong, The EQ’s stuff is “da bomb” but I prefer the seemless mix of DJ Adjust’s side. Just put it on and have fun funking. - MW
(Low Res Records, www.lowres.com)
Various Artists - The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, 25th Anniversary Edition
I’ve been a regular Rocky Horror fan from the time I entered high school and finally started making weekly sojourns to the Fairlane Mall for late night screenings. This was years before I was aware of things like “print quality” or of a movie having multiple versions. I didn’t realize that the print I feasted upon week after week was the original print. I didn’t know what I wasn’t missing until I missed it.
When I started at the University of Michigan, I thought I’d keep my Rocky Horror tradition alive and attend screenings at the Briarwood Mall theater. Oy vay! Not only was the audience participation lame at best but there was an entire song missing from the print! Yes, the folks here were enjoying the 1976 re-release of the film in which after the Transylvanians beam their castle back to planet Transsexual the film abruptly cuts to the film’s neckless narrator. Where the hell was “Superheroes”?
I later found out that this “Superheroes”-less Rocky Horror was the norm for many fans. What confused me even more was the fact that the song of “Superheroes” is on The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, despite not being included in the original film. Meanwhile, two songs that are in every print“Sword of Damocles” and “Planet, Schmanet”are not! What a disconcerting situation!
To further confound the situation, when CBS/Fox released The Rocky Horror Picture Show on video it was devoid of “Superheroes”! A subsequent re-release in 1992 also found “Superheroes” missing in action! The 1998 re-re-re-release had “Superheroes” but only as an “extra” after the film! I have yet to purchase the 2000 DVD release, as I fear being burned once more. To not provide the original cut of the film is a travesty!
Meanwhile, a song that ended up on the cutting room floor before the release of the film, “Once In A While,” popped up on the aforementioned 1998 video re-re-re-release. I was not familiar with this song at all nor did I want to be. The omission of this tune was for the best, not only is it rather bland but to include it in the narrative would have slowed the film to a grinding halt.
Thus, I’m in a quandary about the release of a 25th Anniversary Soundtrack. On the one hand, I’ve been waiting for years to have “Sword of Damocles” and “Planet Schmanet” as part of a complete Rocky Horror film soundtrack. On the other, I’m disappointed to hear “Planet Schmanet” cut short (no “you’re a hot dog” finale!) Likewise, I’m distracted by the inclusion of “Once In A While”it doesn’t belong here! What does belong on this soundtrack are all of the songs from the original cut of the filmthis would include the rockin’ instrumental version of “The Time Warp” that plays during the end credits. Sadly, this is lacking.
I still can’t decide if I’m pleased or annoyed by the inclusion of between-song snippets or dialogue from the movie. I know that soundtracks with dialogue has been more of a common practice in the last few years and there’s no other film with dialogue as “important” to its fans than The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but if I wanted to interact with the dialogue I’d watch the movie. If I want to hear just the songs, that’s all I’d like to find on the soundtrack. Perhaps the thirtieth anniversary release will please me. Until then I’ll be waiting in antici- - MW
(Rhino Records, www.rhino.com)
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