Friday, January 30, 2009

The Connells - "Scotty's Lament" (forgotten song)

The Connells were a band from Raleigh NC that had a string of minor hits from the mid 80s to early 90s. Their biggest hit was probably 1989's "Fun & Games", and while that is a great song the rest of their work should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, nearly their entire catalog is owned by the now defunct TVT Records. As a result, their LPs are out of print and their songs are not available through outlets like iTunes. The band's website gives some information about their catalog's status and is hopeful that the LPs will be reissued on Ryko.

The band's sound was squarely in the mid 80s college radio scene, with a bit of a Byrds-like, jangly sound courtesy of both guitarists often playing 12 string Rickenbackers. "Scotty's Lament", the first song on their 1987 LP "Boylan Heights", is probably my favorite song by The Connells in part because of its great chorus and the contrast between lead and backing vocals. You can't listen to this song and not sing along. The song is a lyrical tour de force as well: "I delight in my despair" -- you'd be hard pressed to come up with a better five word summary of the entire genre*. Robert Smith and Morrissey should be proud.

Despite some success at the time, The Connells are probably less well known today than some of their contemporaries. Having their catalog embroiled in a legal dispute clearly does not help. Here's hoping that situation is resolved and The Connells regain their due recognition.

Links: YouTube and Rhapsody.

* Honorable mention: "Robert Smith is still sad" -- Kurt Loder.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blacktask - "Blacktask" (LP Review)

This one goes out to my friend Scott, who was extremely well connected in the mid 80s demo tape trading scene when we were in high school. Scott turned me on to all kinds of good stuff (including this EP) back when finding out about music you did not hear on the radio required you to have knowledgeable friends. In the days before the Internet, MySpace, etc. it was all about word-of-mouth, fanzines and tape trading.

I listened to a lot of metal back then. Today some of it I enjoy for just the nostalgia, and most of it seems like just a quaint and unintentionally humorous soundtrack for 1980s white-suburban-teen-angst. However, a small percentage of it remains quite good, often for reasons that are hard to express.

Blacktask was a thrash metal band from Philadelphia. They released a 3 song demo tape in 1984 ("Spikes to the Wall") that was pretty good, but their self-titled 1984 EP (released on the tiny label Damnation Records) was the high water mark for this band. The four songs on the EP were titled "Sex and Destruction", "Kill Your Enemies", "Firestorm" and "Smash Your Face". That should pretty much tell you all you need to know.

On this EP they managed to combine the best elements of early Slayer (esp. the opening riff on "Sex and Destruction"), Venom (the opening of "Kill Your Enemies" sounds like Cronos to me), Motorhead (check out the Lemmy-esque bass on the "Smash Your Face") and hardcore punk. The punk influence is especially notable -- the entire EP is 10 minutes long with the songs clocking in at 1:28, 2:40, 2:08 and 3:47. This is in sharp contrast with most metal bands that were doing longer, more heavily-structured songs that were due to the NWOBHM influence. For most metal bands a 1:28 track is a "spooky intro", not a full song.

The production quality is typical for the era -- which is to say almost non-existent. But that's part of the appeal, of course. Sure, it sounds a lot like AM radio static, but how else would you capture the fury of these songs? Polish that out and they're just not as good. This is the same reason that 1950s era blues sounds the best -- some things are not meant to be cleaned up. Sadly, the band did not realize this and their 1986 LP "Long After Midnight" was polished and it s-u-c-k-e-d. Don't waste your $ on that LP (I have a vinyl version somewhere, played just once or twice). It's best to just pretend that Blacktask only released the demo + the EP. Add these songs to your "exercise" playlist on your iPod and if they don't help you get that last mile, set, or whatever then nothing will.

Standout tracks: all -- "Sex and Destruction", "Kill Your Enemies", "Firestorm" and "Smash Your Face"

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final score: 9/10

P.S. Why just a 9? Two reasons: 1) I've been reserving 10/10 for genre-defining releases and while this is a nearly perfect 4 song EP it synthesizes the influences listed above; and 2) its "just" an EP; a 10 song LP in this vein would have earned a 10/10. In contrast, Slayer's "Haunting the Chapel" EP would earn a 10/10 because of its genre-defining influence.

P.P.S. The above links are to YouTube versions of the song, but an entry on "bounded by metal" has a link that ultimately leads you to MP3 versions.

P.P.P.S. Yes, I know this is an EP and I've labeled it an LP review. I've decided against separate labels for reviews of singles and EPs.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slapp Happy - "Blue Flower" (the song remains the same)

This installment of "the song remains the same" is based on a suggestion from Danette. The focus is on the song "Blue Flower" which first appeared on the 1972 LP "Sort Of" from Slapp Happy. Haven't heard of them? Well, don't feel bad because nobody else has heard of them either. In fact, although this entry is about Slapp Happy's song, I've never actually heard the original. I can't find any trace of the song online and I'm unwilling to spend the money to purchase the LP. has some of their material online and you can get an idea of what it might sound like, but they don't have "Blue Flower". (edit: via crescentius, there is a version on

However, most people probably have heard the Mazzy Star version from their 1990 debut LP "She Hangs Brightly". Despite being best well-known for their lazy "dream pop", Mazzy Star gives a jangly, straight ahead version that is probably close to the original. There is a good live version on YouTube as well as the studio version.

In 1992, Pale Saints also covered the song on their "Throwing Back the Apple" EP (and at least one version of the "In Ribbons" LP released on Warner Brothers). The Pale Saints cover the song in the typical early 90s style of fellow 4AD artists: lush and epic -- very much in the shoegazing style. The studio version can be found on YouTube (a 1991 live version is also available).

A great song regardless of arrangement.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Toots & the Maytals - "Pressure Drop" (the song remains the same) (forgotten song)

This is the first in a new series I'm calling "the song remains the same" in which I look at cover versions of songs. Why? Because I love covers. One of the unfortunate side effects introduced by the popularity of The Beatles, The Kinks, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and other contemporary artists is the mythologizing of the singer-songwriter. Individuals and groups were held in higher esteem if they played original music as opposed to the music of others. In contemporary use, to be called a "cover-band" is considered a great slur.

That's unfortunate, because there are far more talented musicians than there are talented songwriters -- by at least one, maybe two, orders of magnitude. The truth is there are a lot of great singers, guitarists, etc. that have nothing to say. To hear their craft, we have to endure aimless songs with dreadful lyrics. If your group has a budding John Lennon or Ray Davies, by all means, write a lot of original material. If you don't (be honest), please consult the catalog of, say, Tom Waits or Husker Du for an appropriate vehicle to showcase your skills. Their songs are 100X better than yours and most people still won't recognize them so we all win.

Prior to the mid-60s, "cover" songs were the norm in blues, jazz, country and even rock. Sure, there would be a handful of originals, but reworking standards and traditional songs was expected. You proved your mettle by your arrangement of proven material. Enough history; I recommend "Freedom of Expression" by Kembrew McLeod if you are interested in this and related topics. On to the music...

"Pressure Drop" is a 1969 song from Toots & The Maytals. TATM are one of the progenitors of reggae, even going so far as to invent the term "reggae" itself. Despite their longevity and centrality, they don't enjoy the mainstream recognition of artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee "Scratch" Perry, etc. Fortunately, other musicians know about TATM and have covered many of their songs, the most popular of which is "Pressure Drop". While the various artists listed below have more or less kept it within the original vein, they each find a different aspect of the song to make it their own. The song is fun to sing along with regardless of the version. Given the relative obscurity of the original TATM version (earning it a "forgotten song" label as well), we can be thankful that so many artists have also enjoyed this song.


Toots & The Maytals: YouTube, I'm not sure on which LP this originally appeared. They have a 1969 release entitled "Sweet and Dandy", but that is also the name of one of their greatest hits compilations.

Robert Palmer: YouTube, Palmer even titled his 1975 second solo LP "Pressure Drop". He plays this one close to the original, but with the tempo nicely slowed down.

The Specials: YouTube. An obvious choice for one the 1996 revival LP "Today's Specials" from the one of the original ska bands. This version extends the original with additional lyrics and a ska arrangement.

The Clash: YouTube, First released as the B-side for the 1979 single "English Civil War" and then again on their 1980 compilation "Black Market Clash", this continues The Clash's (and in general, punk's) interest in reggae music.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros: YouTube. Strummer's interest in this song did not end when he left The Clash. I think they only performed this song live.

Izzy Stradlin & The Ju Ju Hounds: YouTube. From their eponymous 1992 LP. Not my favorite version, but they get points for doing something outside their GnR repertoire.

If you're asking where you've heard this song before, you probably remember The Clash version from the Nissan Rogue commercial from a few years ago.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

DJ Shadow - "The Outsider" (LP Review)

Where to begin? First, I have to say DJ Shadow is one of my favorite artists. I have worked hard to collect a good portion of his varied discography (the few studio LPs he's released represent only a small bit). Second, I don't want to sound like I'm down on this release because it's not just a rehash of "Endtroducing...." (or even "Psyence Fiction"). "The Private Press" has already established that he can continue to innovate and not just mine the same ground over and over.

Therein lies the problem... While "The Outsider" is a grab-bag of different styles, there is almost no new ground and no central theme or vision that unites them. I won't mention most of the 13+ guest artists on this LP because, frankly, most of them aren't good enough to carry Shadow's crates.

The train wreck begins with a spoken word intro that's too long ("Outsider Intro") and a lounge-inspired track ("This Time (I'm Gonna Try It My Way)") that proves Thievery Corporation has nothing to worry about. Then there are two hyphy tracks ("3 Freaks", "Turf Dancing") that have big beats and silly lyrics. Ok, so it's DJ Shadow doing hyphy, but is he adding anything new? I don't know the genre all that well, but it sounds indistinguishable from the other examples I've heard. I liked it better when Shadow invented genres instead of just participating in them.

There are three dreadful rap songs: "Keep 'em Close", "Backstage Girls" and "Dat's My Part". The rappers are awful and the lyrics puerile (in the "bitches and hoes" style). Those songs actually make me cringe. There are two Katrina-inspired songs: "Seein' Thangs" and "Broken Levee Blues". The former is not bad, and the latter is a simple but effective instrumental. "Artifact" is an instrumental that sounds like a hip-hop interpretation of a Metallica song. There's a novelty appeal I guess, but no staying power.

"Triplicate / Something Happened That Day" is interesting, mostly because it sounds like it could have been included on "The Private Press" (and the fact that it is based on John Cage's "In a Landscape"). Similarly, "The Tiger" and "Erase You" sound like outtakes from "Psyence Fiction" -- not bad, but not new either. "What Have I Done" is a spoken word, new age song that is inadvertently funny (ex. "I am your healing spirit" -- really?! this is the kind of thing that you sample to be ironic (cf. "Blood on the Motorway"), not the kind of thing you actually create). "You Made It" sounds like the theme song for a yet-to-be-created sitcom. Listen to it, listen to Sonny Curtis, and then tell me I'm wrong.

"Enuff" is a good, commercial song and features Q-Tip and former Solesides / Quannum colleague Lateef the Truth Speaker. I can understand Shadow's desire for commercial success. If he really wants to be commercial (and I don't hold that against him, he's earned it), I'd like to see him work more with the Quannum crew: Blackalicious, Latyrx, et al. They deserve to be on the same stage with him. His new guests are beneath him and are holding him back.

Standout tracks: "Enuff", "Triplicate / Something Happened That Day", "Broken Levee Blues".

Skip 'em tracks: All except the 3 mentioned above. Don't believe me? Listen to them at You were warned.

Final score: 2/10

2010-11-21 Edit: This post has been identified as violating DMCA, which of course is completely false. All music links are to YouTube & I've also changed the image.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "So In Love" (forgotten song)

Before their 1986 smash hit "If You Leave", Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) had a minor hit in the US with "So In Love" from their LP "Crush". Although I did not realize it at the time, OMD had 5 critically acclaimed LPs prior to the more commercially oriented "Crush". I recall this song receiving minor airplay on MTV, but then all trace of it was removed when the Pretty in Pink soundtrack juggernaut rolled through. It has a nice hook and Andy McCluskey certainly has a distinctive voice, but what does it for me is the mid-80s synth pop meets Wall of Sound production quality. What's not to love?

Links: YouTube.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Highwaymen - "Highwayman" (forgotten song)

What's cooler than Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (collectively known as "The Highwaymen") singing together? How about them singing "Highwayman", a Jimmy Webb song that is: 1) a literal account of reincarnation, 2) an objectivist paean to heroic individualism, or 3) an example of Nietzschean eternal recurrence. Take your pick, but it's a cool song.

It is a single of the 1985 debut LP "Highwayman". Cash, Jennings, Nelson & Kristofferson are four of the main figures in "Outlaw Country", which is a lot more fun than the lifeless, corporate- & RNC-approved pablum that currently passes for country.

Link: YouTube (live 1993)

Bonus Links #1, studio version:, YouTube (cheesy video alert!).

Bonus Links #2, Jimmy Webb version:, YouTube.

Bonus Link #3, Glen Campell: live 1992.  

(Thanks to Joy for the updated links: 2015-03-07)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lukid - "Onandon" (LP Review)

"Onandon" is the 2007 debut LP by Luke Blair, aka Lukid. Herbert first turned me on to Lukid, but it took quite some time for me to find a copy. It is released on Werk Discs, a small indie label based in London. It now seems to be more available in places like Amazon so you should not have any problem finding a copy.

This is an amazing instrumental electronica LP. The songs are dense and lush. They find the right balance between being rich enough to allow for active listening, but not so busy that you can't focus on other tasks while listening. This balance is hard to achieve. For example, I like DJ Spooky, but it seems he tries to prove how smart he is on every track and overworks them to the point where 1 song contains 3 songs worth of ideas. In contrast, Lukid seems to have hit the sweet spot between "too busy" and "too bland".

There are a lot of good electronica LPs out there, but few that I would describe as "fresh" or "innovative". "Onandon" is both. I could try to further describe the music, but since song samples are well represented on and MySpace you should just go there and listen for yourself. I eagerly look forward to Lukid's next release.

Standout tracks: Smart Girl, Onandon, Wonder Years, Fela.

Skip 'em tracks: "Isis" is interesting, but has a shrill sound that often causes me to skip to the next track.

Final score: 9/10.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Misfits - "Where Eagles Dare" (forgotten song)

"Where Eagles Dare" is the B-side of the Misfits's 1979 "Night of the Living Dead" single (although the links below are of the overdubbed version on the 1985 compilation "Legacy of Brutality"). The Misfits were the progenitors of the "horror punk" sub-genre -- think sci-fi and zombie movies set to music (the single title is a reference to the canonical zombie film and it was released on Plan 9 Records which is a reference to Plan 9 From Outer Space).

I don't believe the Misfits ever received much in the way of radio or MTV airplay. I'm not sure they ever had a "hit", although candidates might include "She", "Die, Die My Darling", and "Last Caress". In fact, most people probably learned of the Misfits posthumously from the Metallica covers of the latter two songs on Garage, Inc. and Garage Days Re-revisited.

This was Glenn Danzig's first band, and his subsequent bands (Samhain and Danzig) would become more metal and less campy (or less "intentionally campy" anyway). I was never a huge Misfits fan during my metal & punk years and I didn't hear this song until several years later. Despite all this, I think "Where Eagles Dare" has the strongest hook of all their songs that I've heard, but without sacrificing their trademark ferocity. The profanity in the chorus pretty much assures that you won't hear this elsewhere, so give it a listen with links below.

Links: YouTube and

2012-07-21 Edit: Clearly this song needs a slow, acoustic cover version...  Check out David Pajo's version of "Where Eagles Dare" -- surprisingly good!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Barnes and Barnes - "Fish Heads" (forgotten song)

"Fish Heads" is a 1978 single from Barnes and Barnes (it can also be found on their 1980 LP "Voobaha"). The only way you'd hear this on the radio is if you were listening to Dr. Demento. This is a silly (but fun) novelty song, but I'm presenting it here only because I realized that in many of the "forgotten song" entries, I've waxed nostalgic about the early days of MTV and the fact that they would play just about anything that had a video, including some alternative material that otherwise would not be played on the radio (at least in the Hampton Roads region). At that time, MTV had so few videos (and no other programming) that they would have to play "intermissions" (as far as I recall, just image montage videos set to instrumental music) because they had nothing else to show! I must be one of the few that actually remembers this, because I can't even find a clever page to link to describe it (the best I can do is this list of Day 1 Programming for MTV).

So instead of the regularly scheduled modestly successful pop songs, this MTV nostalgia moment features "Fish Heads", with lyrics like "ask a fish head anything you want to / they won't answer, they can't talk". But hey, it had a video so it was put in rotation.

Link: YouTube.

My Bloody Valentine - "You Made Me Realise" (forgotten song)

"You Made Me Realise" is a 1988 release by My Bloody Valentine. It was first released as a 7" single and then a 12" EP, then a CD. But the CD is out of print and you'll pay stupid $$$ to get a copy. I don't have a copy, so I'm just focusing on the song and not the entire EP.

MBV is one of my favorite bands and their impact reaches beyond their relatively limited output. Discussion of MBV is inevitably dominated by their landmark 1991 "shoegazing" LP "Loveless", one of my favorite LPs of all time. I'll review that LP later, but suffice to say that it was so good it effectively ended the genre because there was nothing left to accomplish after it was released.

It is quite easy to overlook this song, considering: 1) the gravitational pull of "Loveless", 2) this song was never released on an LP, and 3) the EP is out of print. The celebrated MBV sound is still forming and there is more of a conventional song structure. It is "fuzzy", but actually rocks a good bit harder than most of the material on the LP that immediately followed, 1988's "Isn't Anything". It sounds more like MBV covering a Jesus and Mary Chain song, and that's pretty good in my book.

Link: YouTube and

Edit: This EP and others are now available on the compilation: "EPs 1988-1991".   I'll review it later, but it is worth getting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Order - "Movement" (LP Review)

In 1980, right as Joy Division was poised for major commercial success, Ian Curtis (lead singer) committed suicide. The three remaining members of Joy Division formed as New Order. Very shortly afterwards Gillian Gilbert (Stephen Morris's then girlfriend and now wife) was added to make New Order a 4 piece. The subject of Curtis and Joy Division has been covered in various films (e.g. Control, 24 Hour Party People) and documentaries (e.g., Joy Division). I have no new insights to offer there.

Furthermore, when most people think of New Order they think of Bizarre Love Triangle, Blue Monday and the various other mid- and late-1980s dance synth-pop singles they released (and the dozens of associated remixes).

Released in 1981, "Movement" is the sound of a band in transition from the post-punk sound of Joy Division to the synth band New Order would become several years later. Most people don't especially care of this LP for those reasons: it is neither Joy Division (b/c of Curtis's absence), nor New Order (in the conventional sense).

I, however, really like this LP because of its transitional sound. Many songs are arranged like their dance singles would be arranged, but the technology hasn't caught up (so the synthesizer parts are limited and conventional instruments often used in their place) and consequently the sound is not marred by the cheesy, mid-80's "casio sound" that limits my enjoyment of New Order's later LPs. JD/NO were/are first rate song writers, and this LP is solid from start to finish. The shadow of Curtis looms over this LP -- neither Bernard Sumner nor Stephen Hook sing with his confidence (but who does?) and many of the songs sound like what the next Joy Division LP would have sounded like (indeed, some of the singles from this era were unrecorded Joy Division songs).

The only thing preventing this record from receiving a higher score is that it lacks strong, stand-out singles. That is because their strongest singles of this era: Ceremony, Procession, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation, were all released only as singles and not included on a studio LP. There is a 2008 collector's edition that collects these singles, alternate versions and b-sides onto a bonus disc for "Movement" and that would look to be the version to get if you don't already have this LP (or "Substance").

Standout tracks: Dreams Never End, The Him (live Glastonbury 1981, live Hamburg 1981), Denial. (1981-1982 era singles not on LP: Ceremony, Procession, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation -- thanks to those who posted these amazing, rare clips on YouTube).

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final score: 7/10 (original version as released in 1981).
If the 4 singles had originally appeared on the LP, it would have rated a 9/10.

Dr. Octagon / Handsome Boy Modeling School / Dan the Automator - "Bear Witness I, II, III" (forgotten song)

Is it really a "forgotten song" if very few people heard it to begin with? In this segment, I step away from obscure videos I recall from the early days of MTV to bring to your attention what is really three songs that are apparently by three different artists, span seven years yet share a single title: "Bear Witness", parts I, II and III.

"Bear Witness" is on the 1996 release "Dr. Octagonecologyst" by Dr. Octagon (aka Kool Keith). "Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II)" is from the 1999 release "So... How's Your Girl?" by Handsome Boy Modeling School. "Bear Witness III" is (as far as I can determine) a 2002 12" only release by Dan the Automator.

The common thread is Dan the Automator. He's the producer on the Dr. Octagon LP and he's 1/2 of HBMS (on the left in the photo above; the other 1/2 is De La Soul affiliate Prince Paul). The Dr. Octagon LP is critically acclaimed. I don't have a copy, but in the few samples I've found online it appears to be an extended joke that I don't find very funny. Perhaps if I listened to it start to finish, but I doubt it. The HBMS LP is also critically acclaimed; it's on my list to get but I just haven't done it yet.

Since I have none of the associated LPs, I "discovered" this song because "Bear Witness II" is featured on DJ Shadow's "Live! In Tune and On Time" LP. Dan the Automator and DJ Shadow are frequent collaborators; in fact DJ Shadow guests on "Bear Witness II" (see also: "Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars, and Sitars").

Ok, so that was a confusing and possibly unnecessary explanation of the pedigree of this song cycle. They represent some of the best in largely instrumental hip hop: big beats, hooks, great samples, fun vocal fills ("create rap music cuz I never dug disco"), etc. I guess they're old enough to qualify as "forgotten", so give them a listen whether it is for the 1st time or not.

Links: All three songs nicely edited into a single track: YouTube.
Bear Witness I: YouTube.
Bear Witness II: YouTube.
Bear Wtiness III: YouTube.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ric Ocasek - "Something To Grab For" (forgotten song)

This 1982 single from Ric Ocasek's first solo LP, Beatitude, received a bit of radio and MTV airplay. But ultimately it was overshadowed by The Cars oeuvre.

I'm a big fan of The Cars, and their influence on modern pop music is hard to overstate. But... this is a good example of "did he really need to release this solo?" This song is indistinguishable from other songs by The Cars. Was Ocasek holding out some of his better material in anticipation of leaving the band? Was it presented to The Cars and turned down? That seems unlikely (interesting side note: Greg Hawkes, keyboard player for The Cars, played on Beatitude).

So maybe you remember this song. Maybe you remember Marianne Gravatte from the video. But you probably haven't heard it in a while. Rewind to 1982 and give it another listen.

Link: YouTube (live version).

B-side bonus link: "Connect Up To Me".

The Members - "Working Girl" (forgotten song)

"Working Girl" is a 1981 single from the UK group The Members. It later appeared on the 1982 LP "Uprhythm, Downbeat".

I don't recall this receiving radio airplay in the US, but it was a staple from the early days of MTV. If you had MTV in the early 80s, you've heard this song. If you didn't, you haven't.

It won't change your musical orientation, but it is a fun song and a pretty good video (by 1981 standards anyway).

Links: YouTube, vbox7, grooveshark, and

The Cribs - "Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever" (LP Review)

"Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever" is the third LP from The Cribs. This LP came out after I had fallen in love with their first two LPs. I have to confess I was initially very disappointed with this LP. The song writing is largely just as good as the first two (although not as uniformly good -- the best songs are as good as the best songs on the other LPs, but I find myself skipping more songs on this one).

If there is a villain in this story, I'll go with the producer Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand). The sound on this LP is another entry in the "loudness war" (thanks to Johan for pointing this out). The fuzzy, garage sound is gone and in its place is a sound that is just a bit too polished and bright. If I had heard this LP first, I probably would have no complaints. But as it stands, it is simply not as good as the others. But in fairness, the first two established a nearly impossibly high standard to maintain.

Lyrically, the targets have not changed (e.g., "You'd never exist if you wasn't generic", "fakes, liars, and stars of moving pictures / What's the difference? / Like all the parts that I'm not into / But I see in you"). The song "Be Safe" features a spoken word part by Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. It is a very good song, but it sounds just a bit too similar to Nada Surf's "Popular". My initial disappointment with it was that when you combine Lee Ranaldo with The Cribs, you shouldn't get a song that sounds similar to a novelty song that came out 11 years prior (just for the record, I do like the song).

A really strong LP, but I can't help but wonder what it would have sounded like if Edwyn Collins (producer of the "The New Fellas") had produced it instead of Kapranos. I eagerly await their fourth release (sometime in 2009?).

Standout tracks: Men's Needs, Our Bovine Public, Moving Pictures, Major's Titling Victory, Be Safe.

Skip 'em tracks: "Shoot the Poets" -- another LP-closing acoustic piece that doesn't really work for me. Although not really bad, I will sometimes find myself skipping "I'm a realist" and "Girls like mystery".

Final score: 9/10

2014-04-23: Bonus links: entire LP, a demo version of "Our Bovine Public" (which answers the "what would this sound like without Alex Kapranos?" question).  

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Clash - "This is Radio Clash" (forgotten song)

Lodged somewhere between the critically acclaimed "London Calling" and the commerically accessible "Combat Rock" LPs, the only band that matters released a lot of experimental and genre-defying material, including the 3LP "Sandinista!" and the 1981 single "This is Radio Clash" that does not appear on any studio LPs (though it appears on several compilations -- which would be one of the few reasons a true fan would ever buy a compilation).

Sure, this song received some radio airplay and even a bit of MTV coverage. You might even remember it. But The Clash canon has been sadly reduced to "Train In Vain", "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (and "I Fought the Law" if they're really digging). Those are all fine songs, to be sure, but "This is Radio Clash" deserves to be heard. It visually and lyrically presages the U2 Zoo TV concept by, oh, 12 years. It arguably shares a common thread with Cyberpunk novels such as Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net. This is one of their most successful punk/dub/rap mashups. Again, not to besmirch "Combat Rock", but you cannot listen to this and wistfully wonder what would have been if Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had patched their differences and given us a few more LPs in this vein (or at least "Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg").

YouTube links: official video and on the Tom Snyder Show.

Grooveshark links: This is Radio Clash and Radio Clash. On the original single, I believe these two songs were run together as a single 8 minute song. The above YouTube links, as well as most other versions you hear, are actually "This is Radio Clash" and not "Radio Clash". The music is the same but the lyrics are different. I've yet to find a copy of the 8 minute original.

The Cribs - "The New Fellas" (LP review)

"The New Fellas" is the 2nd LP from The Cribs. With this LP they have accomplished what few bands have done before: produce a sophomore effort that surpasses their first LP. In many ways it follows the blue print from their previous release, but the song writing is even better (as if that were possible) and the LP really benefits from the production of Edwyn Collins (of Orange Juice and later, "Girl like you before" fame). Collins brings out the best in the band: they're still garage, but the sound is tighter. In a perfect world, everyone would know who The Cribs are, this LP would be considered one of the classic LPs of all time, and the collaboration between Collins and The Cribs would go on forever (foreshadowing...).

Lyrically, the band continues to flay "the mirror kissing ways of the hipster type" and those who "take drugs, don't eat, have contempt for those you meet". I could quote more witty lyrical nuggets, but you get the point. Nearly every track is classic.

Standout tracks: Hey scenesters!, Martell (acoustic version), Mirror kissers, I'm alright me, We can no longer cheat you, Wrong way to be.

Skip 'em tracks: "Haunted" is a short, acoustic, throw away track that while not bad, has to be considered the weakest on an otherwise perfect LP.

Final score: 10/10

2013-04-07 Edit: It's been about four years since I wrote this review and if anything, my appreciation for this LP has only grown.  I had to laugh (in a sad way) when I read this 2005 review on pitchfork -- some people just didn't "get it" until Lee Ranaldo and Johnny Marr told them The Cribs were cool.  "You were always late / But you always had a story..."

Graham Parker - "Local Girls" (forgotten song)

This is my first installment in the "forgotten song" series where I highlight songs that may have been popular at one time, but for one reason or another have largely been forgotten.

I rediscovered this gem on YouTube. It is a single of Parker's 1979 LP "Squeezing Out Sparks". I first heard this back in the first days of MTV, not only when MTV still played music, but also when they had so few videos that would play nearly anything (often including some truly alternative stuff). I'm not sure this ever got radio airplay, but it was in heavy rotation on MTV. This is an excellent song that deserves a second listen.

Links to the song at: YouTube and
Live version: (1979-05-17)

The Cribs - "The Cribs" (LP review)

"The Cribs" is the eponymous debut LP from the West Yorkshire-based band, The Cribs. Although this LP was released in 2004, I did not discover them until 2007 on the YouTube Channel for their label "Wichita Recordings". This will be the first of many Wichita Recordings LPs featured on "F-Measure".

Quite simply, The Cribs are currently my favorite band and all of my friends have had to suffer my extolment of the band. They represent the pinnacle (?) of lo-fi -- listening to their music puts you right there, in the garage with them -- complete with constant feedback squeals and other deliciously unpolished reminders. They are not musical virtuosos, but they are songwriters almost without peer. It almost seems like damning with faint praise to say so, but they write consummate power pop songs -- three minutes of perfection with strong hooks, snarky lyrics, and a liberal dose of "whoah!" and "oh yeah!" distributed through each song.

I simply cannot understand why 1) more people don't know about this band and 2) they are not in heavy rotation on the radio. Perhaps they have suffered from comparison to "The Libertines". While I have nothing against The Libertines, such a comparison seems superficial and for my money the song writing of The Cribs is far better. If I was forced to compare, I would actually say if Weezer is quintessentially American, then The Cribs are their UK counterpart. I would go further and say The Cribs should be spoken of in the same breath as The Ramones. Yes, I think they're that good.

Standout tracks: Nearly of them, but we'll settle on: You were always the one, What about me, Baby don't sweat, Direction, Learning how to fightFull LP.

Skip 'em tracks: The LP-closing track "Third Outing" doesn't really work for me, but not enough for me to complain. The opening track "The Watch Trick" is not bad, but not really representative of the rest of the LP.

Final score: 10/10