Feb 27, 2008

All Hail His Majesty, The Purple One

As someone who takes music fairly seriously, I should probably be embarrassed to admit that I've never really had a Prince phase before. Well, I didn't until just recently anyway. I mean, sure, I'd enjoyed the odd single over the years - "Kiss", "Little Red Corvette", "Gett Off", "7", "Batdance" (I was 13, come on) - who hasn't? The man has always had a way with a hook. But every time I got the chance to check out a full album, I was disappointed by how spotty they were. I pretty much wrote him off as a decent singles artist but not much more, always wondering why so many critics fawned over him. I'm not sure what it was, but a recent listen to Purple Rain really, really hit me in the right spot and I decided that I'd avoided him for long enough. It was time to delve into the man's vast, patchy back catalog. I jumped right in by picking up a couple albums for dirt cheap at a local used shop, figuring it was better than fretting over which was the "right" album to hear next. Here's what I found on my first listen to some random Prince albums:

Prince - Lovesexy (1988)
Also known as the one with the naked Prince on the cover. Or, as I like to call it, the annoying one wish all the songs combined on one single track for the CD version. Who's brilliant idea was that? This was probably not the best album to start my exploration with, in retrospect, but it is what is. And what it is, is a pretty weak album. "Alphabet St." is a deservingly popular single, finding Prince dipping his toes into the funk side, but there weren't many other songs that grabbed me. "Anna Stesia" builds to an interesting payoff that treads in light psych-rock, but for the most part this album suffers from a lack of enticing melodies.

Prince - Planet Earth (2007)
I have to admit that I was really hesitant to even bother with a Prince album from this late in the game, but I remembered his jaw-dropping performance at the Super Bowl and popped the disc in. Such a pleasant surprise. The opening title track is a little disappointing, but the rock god facet of Prince blooms full on the searing "Guitar" and I'll be damned if "Chelsea Rogers" isn't one of the best funk songs I've heard in the last ten years. Toss in "Somewhere Here On Earth", a sweet slow jam, and the summery pop of "The One U Wanna C" and you've got a Prince album not to be slept on.

Prince - Music From Graffiti Bridge (1990)
This is a perfect example of the spottiness I'd feared in Prince album, but I think that is par for the course considering this is a collaborative soundtrack effort. Disregarding, at the moment, a couple of pretty sweet jams by The Time (including the heavily sampled "Release It") - you've got a handful of pretty decent Prince tunes. Most people know it for the Top 10 hit "Thieves in the Temple", but I think the fantastic "Joy In Repetition" may be one of Prince's finest pop moments ever. "We Can Funk", featuring George Clinton, is a worthwhile funk workout and "New Power Generation" isn't too bad either. Not a complete waste, but certainly not an essential Prince disc.

Prince & The New Power Generation - Diamonds & Pearls (1991)
Quite simply my favorite of the first bunch, packing quite a few stellar jams into one surprisingly full album. I've always been a fan of "Cream" and "Gett Off", I think those stand up pretty well without much further explanation. I admit to being confused as to why most Prince diehards seem to have the title track, I think it's a fantastic piece of pop with a stellar melody. "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" and "Daddy Pop" are another pair of terrific pop tunes while "Push" and "Walk Don't Walk" are fine examples of those pseudo-uplifting anthems Prince tosses off from time to time. Hell, even the lite-jazz "Strollin'" has its moments.

Hopefully I'll soon have another update as I continue my journey through the Prince back catalog, I'm looking forward to The Love Symbol Album and Sign O The Times next.

Feb 26, 2008

via//chicago hall of fame - "Sunken Treasure"

Wilco - "Sunken Treasure" (taken from Being There)

"Music is my savior / I was maimed by rock and roll"

It starts out innocently enough, all gently strummed acoustic guitar and a little faint and non-threatening piano. Jeff Tweedy starts singing about what could be any calm night on any calm suburban street. But then, without losing a step, cracks in his painting start to appear - "I am so out of tune... with you". Tweedy draws out the pause before those last two words, not wanting to admit exactly what it is that has him feeling so off from the world around him. He's ready to give up and pack it all in, ditching his boat on the shore for someone else more fit for it's use. You can't help but feel for this guy and whatever it was that twisted him up so badly. And all this is before the music implodes on itself about four minutes in, the previously calm piano taking a menacing turn that recalls the fiercest storm ravaging the stillest water. But even though he was just about ready to toss it all away, Tweedy steels himself and sits through the storm as it lashes out. He makes it through to the other side, a little worse for it, but alive. Maimed, but saved. The waters calm again, but Tweedy himself churns them up again for one final squall, shaking his scarred, defiant fist at the world he just doesn't understand and the sunken treasure he'll never find.

Feb 25, 2008

Just Like Sister Ray Says...

I've long been a fan and admirer of The Velvet Underground, but it wasn't until I got the Peel Slowly and See box set for Christmas that I jumped over the edge into full-fledged superfandom. I've spent many an hour during the past two months poring over the liner and notes while listening and relistening to all the fabulous material on those five discs. The alternate mixes, the rarities, the live stuff - tons of wonderful material. But, as it turns out, there is always more stuff out there to discover.

See, a couple of weeks ago a couple eBay auctions popped up offering vinyl versions of a rare bootleg featuring a live set that the band performed in 1967 at New York City's Gymnasium. I can hear you thinking, yeah yeah how exciting can another VU bootleg be at this point, but really... this is some pretty fascinating shit. Apparently most of the songs on this bootleg really have been, for the most part, unavailable until literally a few short weeks ago. Yes, even in this day of peer-to-peer file sharing and obsessive collectors scouring the net for every mp3 tagged with Velvet Underground, there was still something new to be heard. It seems that this show was the band's only 1967 gig and a very fiery one at that.

Some highlights:
- the first ever live performance of the legendary "Sister Ray", this one clocking in at just under nineteen minutes
- an absolutely smoking version of "Run Run Run"
- most notably, however, A COMPLETELY NEW AND UNHEARD VELVET UNDERGROUND SONG!! called "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore"

the complete tracklist:
1. "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore"
2. "Guess I'm Falling In Love" (previously issued on the Peel Slowly and See box)
3. "I'm Waiting For the Man"
4. "Run Run Run"
5. "Sister Ray" (first live performance)

download it here

Feb 24, 2008

Sunday Night Blues...

I really don't like Sunday night, I never really have. The anxiety of the working week is about to set in and another weekend has died a too soon death. With that in mind, some random thoughts flitting about my too tired brain.

- I hadn't seen 80% of the movies nominated this year so I didn't care too much about that Oscars. I will say this though, Juno won about the only award it really deserved and I'm glad Enchanted didn't win for any of its three(!) nominated tunes.

- The new Erykah Badu record, New Amerykah Part One, is getting crazy good advance buzz. I'm looking forward to checking it out on Tuesday. And I love that cover art.

- The decently sunny and reasonably warm Sunday is supposed to be rewarded by six inches of snow tomorrow afternoon. Come on Spring.

- You don't know how excited I am to have gotten my new library card today.

- Some of the stuff I listened to this weekend:
The Roots - Phrenology
Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool (Reissue)
Smashing Pumpkins - Machina II: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music
Erykah Badu - Mama's Gun
The Velvet Underground - The Gymnasium, Live 1967 (more on this tomorrow)

Feb 21, 2008

Conan brings the rock...

Since the via//chicago household is still in the throes of sickness, another lazy post for tonight. But hey, it's better than nothing, right? Inspired by a recent appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien by Brooklyn's Yeasayer, here's some YouTube links to other great v//c approved rock performances on the show:

The Whigs - "Right Hand On My Heart"
Yeasayer - "2080"
The Dillinger Escape Plan - "Black Bubblegum"
Nada Surf - "Whose Authority"
Les Savy Fav - "Patty Lee"
Nicole Atkins - "Maybe Tonight"

The sound is a little wonky on the Les Savy Fav performance, but still well worth watching for Tim Harrington's killer schtick (and man boobs!).

Feb 18, 2008

a sickly shuffle...

I'm sick of winter. I'm sick of the cold. I'm sick of temperatures dropping 40 degrees in one night. I'm sick of crappy television. I'm sick, well, I'm just sick. Again. Thanks Old Man Winter. I'm sick of bitching about things I'm sick of... so here's a crappy list of stuff I listened to tonight:

Magnolia Electric Co. - "Talk To Me Devil, Again"
The Fiery Furnaces - "Sullivan's Social Slub"
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - "Humanoid Boogie"
Lifetime - "Hey Catrine"
The Field - "Action"
Deerhoof - "Scream Team"
Angels & Airwaves - "Valkyrie Missile"
Disco Inferno - "Next Year"
Youth Group - "Drowned"
Rachel Stevens - "Funny How"

(this was a really awkward and disorienting mix, which actually fit my cold and medication addled state of mind pretty well)

Feb 14, 2008

Stop Breaking Down...

Ahhh, the B-side, how I love thee. Many of my favorite bands have been big fans of the bastard non-album track, releasing some of their very best material as single fodder - Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Oasis, Blur, Suede, Robert Pollard - I could go on and on. Mostly a British phenomenon, thanks to a greater emphasis on the physical single market, but a few American bands are able to make good use of the flipside track. You can add The White Stripes to that list, they've been steadily releasing a stream of quality non-album tracks since their career first began. It started on limited edition discs attached to pinball magazines and Sub Pop Club singles, now it continues with them releasing stop-gap EPs chock full of new material. In celebration of their latest such release, Conquest (B-sides recorded in Beck's living room!), here's the tracklist of a (far from comprehensive) Stripes B-Sides compilation I put together tonight and a couple tracks for your listening pleasure.

Special Things To Do - White Stripes B-Sides
01. "Let's Shake Hands" (from Let's Shake Hands 7")
02. "Lafayette Blues" (from Lafayette Blues 7")
03. "The Red Bowling Ball Ruth" (from The Big Three Killed My Baby 7")
04. "Hand Springs" (from White Stripes/Dirtbombs split 7")
05. "Party of Special Things To Do" (from Sub Pop 7")
06. "China Pig" (from Sub Pop 7")
07. "Ashtray Heart" (from Sub Pop 7")
08. "Lovesick (live at The Forum)" (from Fell in With a Girl single)
09. "Suzy Lee (BBC Session)" (from Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground single)
10. "Stop Breaking Down (BBC Session)" (from Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground single)
11. "Good To Me" (from Seven Nation Army single)
12. "Black Jack Davey" (from Seven Nation Army single)
13. "Who's To Say" (from I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself single)
14. "I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman (John Peel Live)" (from I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself single)
15. "Though I Heard You Calling I Will Not Answer" (from Blue Orchid single)
16. "Walking With A Ghost" (from Walking With A Ghost EP)
17. "Screwdriver (live)" (from My Doorbell single)
18. "Shelter of Your Arms" (from The Denial Twist single)
19. "It's My Fault For Being Famous" (from Conquest EP)
20. "Cash Grab Complications on the Matter" (from Conquest EP)
21. "Honey, We Can't Afford To Look This Cheap" (from Conquest EP)
22. "Conquest" (acoustic mariachi version) (from Conquest EP)

Feb 11, 2008

So there were some Grammys, or something, last night...

I've had a couple people ask me today what I thought about last night's Grammy Awards. I had to be honest and tell them that I didn't watch a single second of the ceremony and that seemed to surprise them, I guess people figure that since I love music so much I'd dedicate three precious hours of my Sunday evening to watching that soul-crushing, self-congratulatory sham of an award show. But I don't. I gave that up completely a couple years ago, I got sick of sitting through horrible performances by whatever "dream duet" or two decades past their prime old fogey they trotted out in front of us only to froth at the mouth when the "winners" were announced. I suppose it goes back to the Metallica/Jethro Tull debacle, but really almost every year becomes a complete joke. In case you haven't noticed by now, the NARAS people love to celebrate the work of venerated artists and/or living legends. Which would be great, you know, if they were actually awarding them for work that deserved to be recognized! Take Steely Dan in 2001 and their win for Best Album over Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP. There is no single alternate reality in existence in which Two Against Nature is ever better than Eminem's magnum opus. The voters just realized that they never recognized The Dan during their prime, so they decided to toss them a long overdue bone and screw over much more worthwhile, timely music. For other examples of this horrifying tendency see Ray Charles in 2005, Tony Bennett in 1995, and apparently Herbie Hancock in 2008. Don't get me wrong, each of those artists produced some wonderful, meaningful work in their time - but certainly not in the years they were showered with praise by the Grammy voters! It's frustrating, to say the least. And really, don't even get me started on how horrifying the nominations generally are.

So, no, I didn't watch the ceremony last night. But I did watch Kanye West's electrifying performance with Daft Punk on YouTube this morning, just about all the Grammy material I could stand. It was what Kanye really needed to do - just shut the fuck up and perform one of his best songs in front of a huge audience, I think he pulled it off fairly well. His "Hey Mama" tribute wasn't too bad either. The man, despite his incredibly large ego and tendency to shoot his mouth off at all the wrong times, is still a thrilling entertainer and a (fine, I'll say it) pop visionary. That Daft Punk sample may not seem all that brilliant to those of us who have been listening to the French duo for the past decade, but pulling it off as well as he did goes to show just how much skill the guy has. I think a performance of "Stronger" at the Super Bowl would have killed!

Looking over the list of last night's winners, a few things that jump out at me:
- "Rehab" and Amy Winehouse got a lot of love, the Grammy people are enablers.
- "Umbrella" deserved at least one of the two big song/record of the year awards, "Stronger" the other. They deserve better than just winning the rap categories.
- I love, love, that Paramore was nominated for Best New Artist.
- JTim's win for "What Goes Around", I can't argue that.
- Daughtry was nominated for a Grammy? what. the. fuck.
- Oh shit! The Beastie Boys won a Grammy! But if was for a sucky instrumental album.
- "D.A.N.C.E." and Sound of Silver got screwed in the dance categories.
- Rock winners - Bruce Springsteen (thrice), Foo Fighters (thrice), White Stripes - oh Grammies, could you be any more, I don't know, safe?
- Scratch that, Slayer won a Grammy! Probably because it was the only name the voters recognized in the Metal category.
- Actually, seeing the complete list, I think the rap category is the only one in which the voters nailed all of 'em, that's a surprise.

Feb 10, 2008

Exploring Latin Pop...

Every now and then I get the urge to throw myself knee-deep into a genre, subgenre, or classification of music that I've never really explored before - usually for one of two main reasons. The first, and usually the more common reason, is the feeling that I'm missing out one something really good. After nu-metal completely ruined a lot of heavy rock for me from about 1998-2003 I pretty much gave up on any metal music, thankfully I threw myself back into it over the last couple of years and discovered a lot of truly great albums and artists. The second reason, and more the driving factor this time around, was my desire to understand and process the popularity of music that I'm just not taken with. In this case, I was mainly trying to understand the appeal of reggaeton. The few songs I'd heard in passing did virtually nothing for me, all sounding like thin variations on the same beat. But its popularity continues to grow and critics occasionally praise one release or another as breaking some new ground. So I figured I would pass this frigidly cold February day by throwing myself right in the mix and delving into three relatively popular reggaeton (or related) albums from the past year. And, for good measure, another album of popular Mexican synth-pop. Here's what I found.

Calle 13 - Residente o Visitante (Sony International)
This is a duo consisting of half brothers from Puerto Rico that use hip-hop and reggaeton as a jumping off point to explore quite a few different genres and rhythms from around the world. These guys seem to have a lot of fun with their music, incorporating lots of orchestral flourishes and epic arrangements. The production is what makes this a winner, flowing effortlessly through all sorts of different vibes and flavors. These guys also like to swear, a lot, which was apparent even to someone like me who understands only the bare minimum of the language. Still, it was a fun and entertaining listen that I can see myself returning to over time.
check out: "Sin Exagerer (f. Tego Calderon)"

Wisin y Yandel - Los Extraterrestres (Machete Music)
Another Puerto Rican duo, these guys have been working together for just over a decade and recently launched themselves to international acclaim with their take on reggaeton. But, really, I'm just not sure I'm getting it. I found this to be the most disappointing of all the albums I listened to today, reinforcing nearly every negative opinion I had about the genre going into it. There didn't seem to be much variation from one track to another, it all seemed to blend together in one unspectacular stew. Despite guest shots from familiar names like Eve and Fat Joe, I just couldn't get into this one at all.
check out: "Sexy Movimiento"

Tego Calderon - El Abayarde Contraataca (WEA International)
Now this... this is what I was hoping I would come across. Tego Calderon, a name I was already familiar with thanks to his appearances on remixes of American hits like Usher's "Yeah", delivered exactly the type of album I was looking for. This album, much like Calle 13, uses reggaeton as only one of the styles in its' bag of tricks, choosing instead to pull rhythms and inspiration from a wide variety of Latin American and African locations. The production on this disc is absolutely stellar, with an imaginative flair and ear for details that reminded me of Timbaland more than once. Check out those drums on "No Era Por Ahi" or the almost G-Funk organ on "Por Mi Madre". "Tradicional A Lo Bravo", the album's huge lead single, and "Ni Fu Ni Fa" will definitely find their way into my regular rotation. This is some pretty fantastic stuff that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience, I think even those who think they hate reggaeton would find something to love.
check out: "Ni Fu Ni Fa"

Belanova - Fantasia Pop (Universal Latino)
Alright, totally not reggaeton, but the idea of a Mexican synth-pop band had me really intrigued and a lot of people seem to have loved this disc so I decided to give it a shot. And I'm quite glad I did, this is come of the most catchy electropop records I've heard in some time. Immediate melodies, insistent beats, and lovely synth lines unite to make this an absolute joy to listen to, even if if lead singer Denisse Guerrero's vocals waver a little too close to Avril territory at times.
check out: "Baila Mi Corazon"

The result of today's explorations? I've been a little silly to dismiss reggaeton right out of hand but, much like mainstream American hip-hop, there are some examples of it being done really well and I'll just have to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Tego Calderon, Calle 13, and even Belanova have earned themselves their iTunes space, but it'll be straight to the recycle bin for Wisin y Yandel.

EDIT: Just hours after finishing up this post I saw that Calle 13 won the Latin Urban Album Grammy for Residente o Visitante.

Feb 9, 2008


You know the drill - iTunes, shuffle, five tunes, words by me.

Super Furry Animals - "Bleed Forever" (taken from Phantom Power)
A slower ballad from one of my least favorite albums from SFA, but even a bad Furries album still has a gem or three buried within and this song is perfect testimonial to that. Piano and a subdued Gruff Rhys lead us through their take on a country song, with the barest hint of steel guitar. As usual with these guys though, its all about the nifty little sonic details they paste on top of the already serviceable pop songs.

Beck - "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskelton"
(taken from The Information)
The closing epic to Beck's most recent full-length starts off with a slightly haunting, disheveled mass that eventually evolves into a beat that would have made a young Trent Reznor proud and allows Beck to rock his white-boy flow over the top. The vocals are buried in the mix and the beat is always threatening to run off the rails, but it makes for an engaging listen. As a bonus we get a couple sweet guitar solos and Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze talking about what would make the ultimate album! Being buried at the end of The Information makes this usually a bit hard to sit through, but its nice to appreciate it our of context.

R.E.M. - "King of the Road" (taken from Singles Collected)
Originally a b-side to one of the band's earliest singles, "So. Central Rain", this is broken down into two parts - the first being a minute or so jaunty instrumental leading up to the band's take on the Roger Miller classic. Certainly not essential, but its fun to remember that a band that sometimes takes itself a little too seriously was able to have a little fun knocking out a cover song.

Guided by Voices - "Kicker of Elves" (taken from Bee Thousand)
A brief tune anchored by a slow, steady bass drum and rapid-fire acoustic strumming that appears on an album that is a shining gem from the early part of the band's discography. You;ll notice that Guided by Voices, Robert Pollard, and his side projects songs will frequently appear in these shuffles because I have over 1,100 Pollard penned songs on iTunes.

Vampire Weekend - "M79" (taken from Vampire Weekend)
One of the two new tunes from the band's much-hyped (and loved by me) debut album that didn't originally appear on the self-titled demo compilation that floated around the net for most of 2007. It's a bit of a departure from the rest of the songs of the disc, relying on a string arrangement that recalls European classical music rather that the Afropop signifiers found throughout the rest of the disc. It really doesn't grab me until the chorus finally kicks in about two and a half minutes, then I'm hooked. I love these guys for being so economic with their music, there hardly seems to be any notes or words that don't serve a purpose.

Feb 8, 2008

Hey kids, Smile...

Boris. No, not that diminutive baddie from a certain moose and squirrel's television cartoon. I'm talking about the Japanese doom/metal/noise/psych band that has been putting out some of the most consistently hard-hitting music I've laid ears to in the past several years. Depending on how you count some of their less "official" releases, they've put out at least a dozen records since 1996 - each one exploring different aspect of noisy and/or experimental rock. Highlights include the debut, Absolutego, which was made up of a single 65 and 2005's Pink, which was released in the States a year later and gained them quite a lot of attention. Anyway, they are set to drop another album later this year, entitled Smile. I've had a chance to hear the Japanese version and I have to say it sounds really, really great and all over the place. The lead-off track, "Message", assaults with some huge bottom heavy scuzz and a krautrock inspired rhythm for over seven minutes. Over the course of the rest of the disc we get breakneck doom-punk ("BUZZ-IN"), pretty nearly shoegaze fuzz ("Next Saturn"), and even some 60's psych-folk complete with actual harmonies and a sizzling guitar lead ("Flower Sun Rain"). The album also features appearances from guitarist Michio Kurihara of the band Ghost (who also teamed up with Boris for one of my top ten records of last year, Rainbow) and Stephen O'Malley (from another pioneering doom band, Sunn O))) ). Let's hope Southern Lord gives us a U.S. release later this year, I'll be psyched to hear my own copy (not to mention admire that awesome cover art).

Boris - "Next Saturn" (taken from Smile (Japanese Version))
and please, buy something from Southern Lord... a great label run by some great dudes

Feb 6, 2008

Endless Winter...

If you're anything like me, you are sick and tired of winter. Here it is February and it seems like winter has just now been really gearing up to kick us in the ass. After shoveling the 9 inches of snow off our sidewalk tonight, I decided it was time to quit fighting it and roll with it (or at least try to anyway). In that spirit, I've put together what I'm calling my Endless Winter Mix - sixteen tracks that sum up this time of year perfectly. These are tracks that recall the feelings of a too-long winter - slow-paced movement, sparseness, darkness, lethargy, and all the other trappings of cabin fever. Some of these tracks are fairly obvious from the title alone ("Wailing Wintry Wind", "Cold As Ice") while others just capture a vibe that reminds me of walking down a snow covered sidewalk as traffic slows to a crawl beside you ("NYC", "To Sheila"). Whether its the snow crunching sample in "Aurora" or the screw-it-I'm-just-gonna-give-up despair of "I'm So Tired", these songs all sound like winter to me. Grab your shovel, fire up the iPod, and embrace the icy cold...

Endless Winter 020608
01. "NYC" - Interpol
02. "Mescaline Sunrise" - Minsk
03. "New Star in the Sky (Chanson Pour Solal)" - Air
04. "Northern Sky" - Nick Drake
05. "Ciel Errant" - Alcest
06. "Cold As Ice" - Atlas Sound
07. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" - The Arcade Fire
08. "Untitled 3" - Sigur Ros
09. "To Sheila" - Smashing Pumpkins
10. "Aurora" - Bjork
11. "Wailing Wintry Wind" - Baroness
12. "Angel in the Snow" - Elliott Smith
13. "February Stars" - Foo Fighters
14. "I'm So Tired" - The Beatles
15. "Weightless & Horizontal" - Jesu
16. "Last Snowstorm of the Year" - Low

Download it here.

Feb 5, 2008

Tonight's shuffle...

It's been a long, hellish day and I feel a little lazy. Here's what is providing my evening soundtrack as I catch up on some work e-mails, watch primary returns, and finish up some other mundane tasks.

Bon Iver - "Creature Fear"
Pinback - "Victorious D"
Pearl Jam - "Angel"
Saul Williams - "Skin of a Drum"
Notorious B.I.G. - "Hypnotize"
The Afghan Whigs - "My Curse"
Girls Aloud - "Jump"
Guided by Voices - "Watch Me Jumpstart"
The Heartbreakers - "Born To Lose"
The Fake Fictions - "Red Balloons"
The Sadies - "Why Would Anybody Live Here?"
Times New Viking - "Post Teen Drama"
Joan of Arc - "For a Half-Deaf Girl Named Echo"

(the Girls Aloud to Guided by Voices transition made me smile and it set up an awesome run of garage-ish rock)

Feb 4, 2008

A retro kind of Monday...

Today found me listening to a pair of recent releases by new (well, one is not so much with the "new" part) artists that immediately brought to mind some great music from the past.

Airbourne are the latest hard rock exports from Australia, following in footsteps of bands like AC/DC, Jet, Spiderbait, The Datsuns (okay, New Zealand in this case), The Casanovas, and The Vines (some bands obviously more successful than the others when it came to making an impact here in the States). But rather than relying on the third (fourth?) wave of garage rock revival to make an impact, Airbourne goes directly to the source material for inspiration and riff borrowing - in this case the three cord swagger and stomp of AC/DC themselves. True, Airbourne are completely derivative and unoriginal, but they also lack the hipster irony and mainstream aspirations that have sunk many a revivalist. These four dudes want nothing more than to get drunk, get laid, and worship at the altar of Bon Scott and Angus Young. I mean, check out these song titles - "Stand Up For Rock 'N' Roll", "Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women", "Hellfire" - the agenda is pretty clear. Thing is, this manages to be one of the most flat-out fun rock albums I've heard in awhile. No needless wankery, no hardcore breakdowns, no hipster posturing - just balls out, horns up, riff-tastic rock and roll. Bon would be proud.

Airbourne - "Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast"
(taken from Runnin' Wild)
Airbourne - "Fat City" (taken from Runnin' Wild)

Jumping back a little further in time, we have the debut EP from Foxboro Hot Tubs, a (assuredly) trio that traces it's lineage and inspiration back a little further, the early rock and roll 1960's to be more specific. The EP, Stop Drop and Roll, is a sixteen minute blast of upbeat pop that channels early rock pioneers like Tommy James and the Shondells and The Kinks, but with a distinctly familiar pop-punk tinge. It all sounds vaguely familiar, but for good reason - Foxboro Hot Tubs are actually another "secret" side project from pop-punk superstars Green Day, ala The Network and their new-wave 2003 album Money Money 2020. Apparently killing some studio time while recording the follow-up to mega-seller American Idiot, the band threw this EP together and gave it away for free on the Foxboro Hot Tubs' website for a brief amount of time. Those looking for an easy indicator as to what these songs sound like should look no further than Green Day's cover of "Tired of Waiting For You" from the Shenanigans compilation. Hard to say whether or not this experiment will inform future projects by the band, but for now its a fun little release that any fan of old-timey, easily digestible rock and roll will enjoy. Click on the link below for the entire EP.

Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll EP