Monday, April 24, 2017

J. Geils Band - "Love Stinks" (forgotten song)

John Geils, aka J. Geils of the J. Geils Band, died about two weeks ago.  And no, the guy you're thinking of is leading singer Peter Wolf; J. Geils was the guitarist.  Songs like "Centerfold", "Freeze-Frame" or the over-looked "Angel in Blue" would be obvious choices to mark his passing -- anyone who remembers the early days of MTV can attest to how huge all the singles were from their 1981 LP "Freeze Frame" (I recall Bill Glidden had both "Freeze Frame" and "Showtime!" on vinyl).  Or I could go all obscure fan-boy and choose something like "Must of Got Lost" from 1974.  But instead I'll take the middle road and choose 1980's "Love Stinks", the third single from the LP of the same name.  It was a pretty big hit for them (the 84th video MTV played), but it's mostly been bumped from rotation on classic rock stations by "Centerfold".  It's a fun song, with a lovably bad early 80s video, and the final, deciding factor in my choosing this song is the awesome, crunchy guitar riff from J. Geils...

J. Geils Band - "Love Stinks

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pretenders - "Tattooed Love Boys" (forgotten song)

For my final installment for Women's History Month, I'm focusing on a song whose video got a fair amount of play in the early days of MTV (the 196th video they played), but I don't recall ever hearing it on the radio.  Even though it had its own video, "Tattooed Love Boys" was the B-side to The Pretenders' 1979 single "Kid", from their eponymous LP

"Tattooed Love Boys" is a fast-paced, gritty song with an unconventional structure (i.e., no real chorus).  In 1981 I didn't know what all the lyrics were or exactly what the song was about, but the song (and Chrissie) had my full attention. 

Fast forward some 36 (!) years and I'm reading Chrissie's autobiography "Reckless", only to discover that the lyric "Stop snivellin' / You're gonna make some plastic surgeon a rich man" is derives from "Shut up, or you’re going to make some plastic surgeon rich!", which was said to her while she was being gang-raped by bikers.  Chrissie faced significant backlash for this story and taking responsibility for the situation by acknowledging that she knowingly put herself into dangerous situations.

While I enjoyed reading "Reckless", Chrissie's detatched and obfuscated story-telling style made for a difficult read in which she recounts a lot and reveals little.   More importantly, I was aghast to learn that "Tattooed Love Boys", which had an outsized impact on my pre-teen sexuality, was based on a rape.  If I can't unread the book, can I least unread this chapter?

The Pretenders - "Tattooed Love Boys"

Bonus link:  The Pretenders - "Kid"

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions - "Suzanne" (LP Review)

Time for another (belated) installment for Women's History Month.  I'm a huge fan of Mazzy Star, and while they had never officially broken up, their long hiatus between LPs (1996--2013) rivaled only My Bloody Valentine (1991-2013) in the alt-rock world.  So it only makes sense that in the interim Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) and Colm Ó Cíosóig (My Bloody Valentine) came together and created Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions.  And while technically it's a band, make no mistake this band is really about Hope Sandoval.  "Suzanne" is a four song EP released in 2002, it's also the third and final single from the 2001 LP "Bavarian Fruit Bread".  Although it came out after the 2001 LP, this EP was my first introduction to Hope's post-Mazzy Star work, so I'm writing about it first here.

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions sound a lot like Mazzy Star: if you like one, given Hope's distinctive voice, you'll like them both.  Even though both bands mine the dream-pop vein, David Roback (the other half of Mazzy Star), drawing from the Paisley Underground sound,  often writes material that borrows heavily from The Doors (e.g., "Mary of Silence", "She Hangs Brightly") or is very bluesy (e.g., "She's My Baby", "I'm Sailin'").  I won't say I dislike those songs... but I appreciate the more straight-forward dream-pop sound of HS&TWI.  I like David, and he's definitely one-half of Mazzy Star and its sound, but I like Hope more and she's 90% of the sound of HS&TWI.  Of course now you don't really need to choose, since Colm is now also the drummer for Mazzy Star, as well as Suki Ewers playing keyboards for both bands as well.

I should review their proper LPs, but until then enjoy this EP as your introduction to HS&TWI.

Standout songs: "Suzanne", "I Thought You'd Fall for Me", "Friends of a Smile"

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 8/10

Swearin' - "Surfing Strange" (LP Review)

I've already blogged extensively about Waxahatchee, AKA Katie Crutchfield.  Here I will cover her twin sister, Allison Crutchfield, in another installment for Women's History Month.  As documented extensively elsewhere, Allison and Katie lead the punk band P.S. Eliot from 2007-2011, eventually splitting and forming Swearin' and Waxahatchee, respectively.  Although technically separate bands, soon Allison and other members of Swearin' were backing Katie, both in the studio and on tour.  As of 2015, Swearin' is defunct.

When I first learned of Swearin', I was super excited and ordered their 2013 LP "Surfing Strange".  The video for the single from the LP, "Dust in the Gold Sack", was great and I was hoping for an LP as strong as "American Weekend" or "Cerulean Salt".  Unfortunately, while it's not a bad LP, it's not nearly as great as Katie's first two LPs.  The problem?  Too much Kyle Gilbride & Keith Spencer, and not enough Allison.  I totally respect their DIY "if you write it, you sing it" approach, but Kyle & Keith singing (and writing) aren't why I bought this LP. 

Again, this is not a bad LP, and there aren't really any bad songs.  But ultimately it's just "Dust in the Gold Sack" and a few others, making this is a good, but not necessary, LP.    

Standout songs: "Dust in the Gold Sack" (live 2013), "Mermaid" (live 2013), "Parts of Speech", "Unwanted Place"

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 6/10



P.S. (Eliot): Fortunately, Allison has since gone solo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Angel Olsen - "My Woman" (LP Review)

In my second installment for Women's History Month, I take a look at one of the better results for 2016 -- a year that was pretty bad for music in general.  In the Now Playing Facebook Group, I took note of a parade of posts extolling Angel Olsen's third LP, "My Woman".  Eventually I had to investigate and I was not disappointed: this really is a candidate for LP of the year.

I worked my way backward through her catalog: 2014's "Burn Your Fire for No Witness" and 2012's "Halfway Home", and while those are good LPs they don't foreshadow the level of accomplishment and mastery she displays on "My Woman".  Pitchfork gives an eloquent review, complete with references to Dolly, Loretta, Patti, and Cat Power.  Sure, no pressure there.  They should throw in a good bit of Mazzy Star as well. The New Yorker has a similarly effusive review, evoking Julee Cruise (via David Lynch) and Fleetwood Mac.

But Angel does move confidently and effortlessly from genre to genre, from the abstract synth of "Intern", to the garage-rock of "Shut Up Kiss Me", to the epic, slow burn of "Sister", and many others.  There are no bad songs on this LP, and you owe it to yourself to see what all the buzz is about*.

Standout songs: "Intern", "Never Be Mine", "Shut Up Kiss Me" (live on the Late Show, 2016-08-29; the backup singer takes this to 11),  "Give It Up", "Not Gonna Kill You",  "Sister", "Those Were the Days", "Woman" (live, 2016-10-30?)

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 9/10

Bonus link: "Intern / Woman" (live 2017-02-23)

* For the record: while Danette doesn't dislike the LP, she doesn't "get it".

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mount Moriah - "Mount Moriah" (LP Review)

In recognition of Women's History Month I'll be reviewing as many female artists (or at least bands with prominent female members) as I can get to. 

I've been meaning to review Chapel Hill's Mount Moriah for a while now.  Butch first turned me on to them a couple of years ago and they've been working their way in my play list for some time.  The most concise way to describe them is young Dolly Parton meets Crazy Horse / Stray Gators.  I realize everyone makes that comparison, but listen to "Plane" and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" and tell me I'm wrong. 

In a review of their most recent LP, Evan Rytlewski said "Mount Moriah no longer sound like an indie band playing country music".  That's a fair description of their 2011 debut LP, and to be honest that's what I like about it.  Heather McEntire's powerful, haunting voice dominates the band, just edging out Jenks Miller's country/metal guitar sound (see my previous review of Jenks' drone metal band, Horseback).  The LP "Mount Moriah" is definitely alt-country with an emphasis on "alt", and also is evidence for the "everyone-in-the-south-likes-at-least-a-little-country" phenomenon Margo Timmins described in the 80s (see my review of "The Trinity Session" for the full quote).  You also have to acknowledge their debt to the Indigo Girls, in attitude if not entirely in sound (although I've been to at least one Indigo Girls show where their sound had more in common with Horseback than you might expect -- Joy tells me that's Amy's influence).

Pitchfork gave this LP a good review when it came out, although the CoS review is less favorable.  I think Pitchfork got it right: there are no bad songs on this LP and the best songs on the LP are extraordinary.

Standout songs: "Only Way Out" (live version), "Plane" (live version), "Lament" (live version), "Reckoning" (live version)

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 8/10



Saturday, February 18, 2017

James Brown - "Funky Drummer" (LP Review)

After completing my previous blog post about an obscure source of hip hop samples, I just learned of the death of Clyde Stubblefield, the original "funky drummer" and the source of what is probably the most popular -- almost to the point of cliche -- hip hop sample. 

"Funky Drummer" is a non-LP single released in 1970 by James Brown.  At 7+ minutes, the song itself was split over the A- and B-sides but it really should be heard as one song.  Then skip to about 5:34 in the track: it might not be the first breakbeat, but it's probably the most sampled.  Even when the breakbeats are from other songs, they pretty much all owe a debt to the Wilhelm scream of hip hop, "Funky Drummer", and Clyde Stubblefield. 

In the immortal words of James Brown, "give the drummer some!"

James Brown - "Funky Drummer" (break at ~5:34)

Final score: 10/10