Saturday, July 14, 2018

Peaches - Live KEXP 2015-10-07

I'm about two weeks late for Pride Month and about six weeks late for the Samantha Bee controversy, but today I address both, via a live in the KEXP studio three song set by Peaches, aka Merrill Beth Nisker.


1. Peaches is awesome, and her entire canon is a wickedly-clever blend of feminist, LGBTQ, and social commentary.  Even though you've probably never heard of her, a scan of her guest appearances and remixes will establish her alt-cred. 

2. The Peaches song "Boys Wanna Be Her" is used as the theme song for Samantha Bee's TV show "Full Frontal".  Samantha Bee is also awesome, wickedly clever, fierce, and... I don't think she should have apologized.  One word should not distract us from the larger message, but I suppose this leaves us with the other "c-word".  

Friday, June 29, 2018

Velocity Girl - "Sorry Again" (forgotten song)

I already mentioned "Sorry Again" in passing in my review of Velocity Girl's self-titled 1993 EP, but I was recently reminded how much I love this song when it recently came up in my iTunes session the other day.  As the only single of their 1994 LP "¡Simpatico!", this actually received limited airplay locally in the mid-90s but I don't think I've heard it on the radio in 20+ years.  That's too bad because it's an amazing alt-power-pop song as well as a great aural mid-90s time capsule.  And the outfits in the video -- was 1994 really that long ago?! 

Eventually I should review the entire LP, and although it's solid, nothing else on it matches the magic of "Sorry Again".  For me, this song is like "Cruel to be kind" and "Jessie's Girl" -- I can play them 10+ times in a row without getting tired of them.

Velocity Girl - "Sorry Again"

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sun Mahshene - "Drones That Don't Kill" (LP review)

A year ago yesterday, Terry, Drew, and several other of us saw the Irish band Sun Mahshene at a bar in Dublin, Ireland.  We were there for Terry's bachelor party and Terry had researched where we could catch some live music close to where we were staying.  We listened to some of their stuff on Youtube and decided to arrange our schedule so we could catch them performing that Saturday.  They put on a great show and we were able to purchase one of their last copies they had with them that evening of their 2016 EP "Drones That Don't Kill".

Their web site describes their sound as:
Lead by Nathan Henderson, Sun Mahshene is a collective of musicians from Dublin Ireland. Their melodic hooks mixed with fuzz and grit delivers a sonic wall of sound.
This brings up a recent conversation Danette and I had last week: I stated that I thought 96X was no longer as alternative as they used to be, to which Danette countered that perhaps the definition of alternative had changed.  I thought about it some and decided that probably at least part of it, because I prefer my "alternative" to stick mostly to modern interpretations of 80s and early 90s alternative music.  Sun Mahshene certainly does that: a shoegazing sound with heavy influences from "Darklands"-era The Jesus and Mary Chain and "Bad Moon Rising"-era Sonic Youth.  So, yeah, it's new music, but there is a clear line of sight back to what for me (and presumably for Danette, Terry, Drew, et al. as well) is real alternative music; the aural equivalent of what we in the car world call "new old stock" (see also the video for "No Control", which is reminiscent of Terry's light shows back in the day...).

The streaming EP has four tracks, but the CD has a hidden fifth track ("I Love You").  It's just a few bucks and it would be a great addition to your collection.  And keeping with the theme of this post, I'm happy to have the actual CD in my collection.

Standout songs: "No Control", "In the End" (with a great guest vocal from Lydia Des Dolles that would make Hope Sandoval proud), "You", "I Love You" (hidden track)

Skip 'em songs: n/a

Final score: 7/10

Bonus links: Review on Primal Music, Review on GoldenPlec

Bonus pic:

May 27, 2017, at the correct bar (Sin é, IIRC), but after the band was done -- who thought to take a pic of Sun Mahshene performing?

Update (bonus bonus pic): Drew sent me this image and "reminded" me that he was smart enough to take a pic of the band performing...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Boogie Down Productions - "Love's Gonna Get'cha (Material Love)" (forgotten song)

It's been a while since I've discussed BDP / KRS-One, and the 1990 single "Love's Gonna Get'cha (Material Love)", from their LP "Edutainment", is a good opportunity to pull together a variety of threads.

First, I like songs that tell a story, and KRS-One is an excellent storyteller.  In this song, KRS-One tells of a teenager's progression into criminality in order to provide for his family:
The very next day while I'm off to class
My moms goes to work cold busting her ass
My sister's cute but she got no gear
I got three pairs of pants and with my brother I share
See there in school see I'm made a fool
With one and a half pair of pants you ain't cool
But there's no dollars for nothing else
I got beans, rice, and bread on my shelf
So here comes Rob his gold is shimmery
He gives me two hundred for a quick delivery,
I do it once, I do it twice,
Now there's steak with the beans and rice,
My mother's nervous but she knows the deal,
My sister's gear now has sex appeal,
My brother's my partner and we're getting paper,
Three months later we run our own caper,
My family's happy everything is new,
Now tell me what the fuck am I supposed to do
Second, I recently finished Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime", part autobiography and part biography of Trevor's mother and growing up in South Africa with apartheid and subsequent poverty.  This passage (p. 209) about his post-high school hustling in Alex struck me as similar to the story that KRS-One tells:
One of the first things I learned in the hood is that there is a very fine line between civilian and criminal.  We like to believe we live in a world of good guys and bad guys, and in the suburbs it's easy to believe that, because getting to know a career criminal in the suburbs is a difficult thing.  But you go to the hood and you see there are so many shades in between.  ... In the hood, even if you're not a hardcore criminal, crime is in your life in some way or another.  There are degrees of it.  It's everyone from the mom buying some food that fell off the back of a truck to feed her family, all the way up to the gangs selling military-grade weapons and hardware. 
Third, for some reason the BDP Youtube Vevo channel seems to have removed the official video (4:52 radio edit); in fact all the bookmarked URLs come back with a copyright violation takedown notice (example 1, example 2).  But since this was a popular video, there are correctly archived (i.e., HTML 5 video, post-Flash) versions in the Internet Archive.  For reasons I don't understand, the 6:39 LP version is still available on the official Youtube channel.

So there you go: a great storytelling song from some 27 years ago, with a connection to a book I recently finished, and I was able to use web archives to resurrect the original video (with its charming, community theater production feel).

Boogie Down Productions - "Love's Gonna Get'cha (Material Love)" official video / radio edit, LP version

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Opal - Rimini, Italy 1988-03-26 (concert)

I uncovered this gem just yesterday, almost 30 years to the day from when it was recorded.  I already reviewed "Happy Nightmare Baby", where I briefly mentioned that Opal continued for a while with Hope Sandoval in place of Kendra Smith before transitioning to Mazzy Star.  I had found a handful of mp3s online from the Hope/Opal era, but this is the first full concert video had I found. The video quality is not great, but considering this was an underground band in a small club 30 years ago, well you just have to be happy that you have something at all.

As mentioned in my "HNB" review, while Opal is similar in style to Mazzy Star they still had not developed the more lazy, acoustic sound that would become more prevalent in the Mazzy Star catalog.  That plus the fact that it is a live recording, the sound is heavy and sometimes harsh and thus casual Mazzy Star fans will not particularly enjoy it.  I had previously mentioned that Opal's sound could be "triangulated between The Doors, The Velvet Underground, and Black Sabbath".  Here, they make those influences explicit with  consecutive covers of "Indian Summer" by the Doors (which appeared on "Early Recordings") and "Heroin" by VU.

The set list is interesting in that it includes many songs from "HNB", including my favorites "Rocket Machine", "Magick Power", "Happy Nightmare Baby", and the indomitable "Soul Giver".  I think "Indian Summer" is the only song from "Early Recordings" or the bootleg "Early Recordings Vol. 2".  Other songs include: "Ghost Highway" and "Blue Flower" would show up on "She Hangs Brightly", a cover of "Killing Moon" (Echo and the Bunnymen), a cover of "Soon Be Home" (The Who), and a couple of other songs I can't place.  At least one song, "Where did you run to", is from Hope's high school band, Going Home, with Sylvia Gomez.

And since it's still Women's History Month, I should acknowledge not only Hope Sandoval, but also Suki Ewers (playing keyboards in the screenshot above), who has been a multi-instrumentalist in Opal, Mazzy Star, and the Warm Inventions (in addition to a solo career).  With the death of drummer Keith Mitchell last year, Suki is the only member, outside of the core of David Roback & Hope Sandoval, who can trace her involvement back to Opal and the late 80s.

Opal, live in Italy, 1988-03-26

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tanya Donnelly - "Heart of Gold" (the song remains the same)

One of my favorite LPs is the 2008 Neil Young tribute LP "Cinnamon Girl", which consists entirely of covers of Neil Young songs by female artists.  I'll eventually get around to reviewing the entire LP, but for the moment we'll continue Women's History Month with the advance single from the LP: Tanya Donnelly covering "Heart of Gold" on the A-side, and LUFF covering "Tell Me Why" on the B-side.

Tanya Donelly is on the A-side because she is an alt-rock icon, having been in Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly, in addition to her solo career.  That's quite a resume, and she deserves to be the featured artist.  She turns in a really good version of one Neil Young's most popular -- and one of my favorite -- songs.

But the real surprise of this single (and indeed, the entire LP) is LUFF's cover of "Tell Me Why".  Whereas Tanya and most of the other artists on the LP stay pretty close in style to the originals, LUFF gives a mesmerizing, shoegazing version of a more obscure song.  I did not know of LUFF prior to this LP and I'm not 100% sure they're still active, but I intend to explore more of their (limited) discography.

Tanya Donelly - "Heart of Gold"
LUFF - "Tell Me Why"

Neil Young - "Heart of Gold", "Tell Me Why"
CSNY - "Tell Me Why"

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sonic Youth - "Kool Thing" (forgotten song)

I realized recently that so far my discussion of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth here were mostly in the context of the Kim / Thurston split ("Diamond Sea", "Girl in a Band").  Women's History Month is a good excuse to fix that and to remind everyone why Kim is the Lemmy of alt/college rock.

I certainly knew about Sonic Youth prior to "Goo", their 1990 major label release, but just through coincidence of timing this was the first LP of theirs that I bought and really embraced.  "Kool Thing" was the first single off the LP and is certainly more accessible than their previous work.  At the time I enjoyed it as a great song, but it wasn't until much later that I learned the back story that it is about a 1989 article in Spin Magazine where Kim interviewed LL Cool J and the resulting cultural chasm between them, part of which is attributable to not finding space for feminism in the machismo of LL's style of hip-hop (e.g., "The guy has to have control over his woman").

Of course, the video and song are filled with many clever LL "Kool" J references (e.g., "walking like a panther", "I don't think so", "let me play with your radio"), and even briefly features Chuck D  (I always felt he was significantly underutilized in this song, but to be fair the story goes theirs was an unplanned, serendipitous collaboration resulting from Public Enemy being in a nearby studio).

Enough about the back story -- there's a good "official" video and many live versions available, but this 1993 live version is a good reminder of when and why Kim (and Thurston) were the queen (and king) of the scene...

"Fear of a female planet"
Sonic Youth - "Kool Thing": live 1993, official video

LL Cool J - "Going Back to Cali" (from which the official "Kool Thing" video borrows)