Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Equals - "Police On My Back" (the song remains the same)

My previous post was about The Clash covering a rebellious song, so let's do another.  "Police On My Back" was originally a 1967 single by The Equals.  Don't worry, nobody in the US has heard of them either.  But if you're a Gen Xer, you might remember Eddy Grant's 1983 hit "Electric Avenue" -- that's the same Eddy Grant that was fronting The Equals in the late 60s.  Now you know.

I learned of this song from Sandinista!, the 1980 sprawling, ambitious, wreck of a triple LP from The Clash.  I keep threatening to review Sandinista!, but truthfully it is simply too daunting.  In the meantime I'll just chip away at it, starting with arguably the best track on the LP.

The Equals: no, that's not Austin Powers IV or "Listen to the Flower People"-era Spinal Tap, it's a lip sync version on Beat-Club, ca. 1967 (version 1, version 2), studio version

The Clash: studio, live in Jamaica, live in Tokyo, live in ???

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Clash - "I Fought The Law" (The Song Remains The Same)

Russia now has the most legitimate contemporary punk band I can think of: Pussy Riot, who are now officially "hooligans". Lots of artists have "gaming debts, ... drunken routs, ... debauches, intrigues, seductions"*, but "excess ain't rebellion".  How many are willing to risk jail for political protest?

As a result, I can only conclude there is now a "punk gap"** between Russia and the US/UK.  Alert Buck Turgidson, this is serious...

In support of Pussy Riot's protest of Putin, I offer "I Fought The Law".  Originally written in 1958 by Sonny Curtis and performed by The Crickets, it was made famous in 1965 by the Bobby Fuller Four.  It has been covered by every band imaginable, but probably none better than "the only band that matters".  Where have you gone Joe Strummer?  A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

"I Fought The Law":  The Clash (live, studio), The Crickets, Bobby Fuller Four.

* Jane Austen, O.R.G. (original riot grrrl).
** "punk gap" is not to be confused with "GAP punk", although both are sad in their own way.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Catherine Wheel - "Ferment" (LP Review)

You know that music that's played before and in between sets at concerts?  Presumably it is the sound engineer's cousin's band, with music that is simultaneously slightly familiar (if only because it is so derivative) but ultimately forgettable.  It blandly fills the aural space without distracting from the live acts that will follow.

Got that sound in your mind?  That's what "Ferment", the 1992 LP by Catherine Wheel sounds like.  None of the songs on this LP are really bad, some are decent (e.g., "Indigo is Blue"), but it's mostly an uninspiring shoegaze-by-numbers.  A reminder: I like shoegazing, but CW is no MBV or Slowdive; they're not even Curve or Lush -- a point apparently lost on Allmusic's Andy Kellman.

Uninspiring except for, and this is a huge "except", the song "Black Metallic".  Catherine Wheel caught lightning in a bottle for this one epic song.  I don't recall this song getting radio airplay, and although they have a video for the single edit (i.e., 4 minute version), I don't remember the video either.  But you really need to hear the 7 minute LP version; the single version doesn't build the same energy.  And it goes without saying that you also need maximum volume.

I'm not entirely sure what the song is about: some explanations include being in love with an emotionally unavailable person ("I never see you when you're smiling") or even an automobile ("Your skin is black metallic").  Those are pretty boring explanations; I read in some forgotten page a long time ago that it was about sex with a robot.  Granted, that's almost surely not true, but it ought to be true because it lends an engaging sci-fi creepiness to the song ("I think of you when you're sleeping / And all the secrets that you're keeping").

Standout songs: "Black Metallic" (7 minute LP version), (live version), (4 minute single version)

Skip 'em songs: none

Songs that appear: "Indigo Is Blue" (live version)

Final score: 5/10.  I don't normally recommend skipping the entire LP in favor of a single, but this is one of those times.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Velocity Girl - "Velocity Girl" (LP Review)

"Velocity Girl", later unimaginatively reissued as "6 Song Compilation", is an EP by the late 80s - mid 90s band Velocity Girl. Although they were based in Maryland, I didn't know about Velocity Girl until they received minor radio airplay with their 1994 single "Sorry Again", a song I simply don't tire of.  Unfortunately they were a one hit wonder: they released three solid, but ultimately unspectacular LPs on Sub Pop before hanging it up in 1996. 

This 1993 EP collects their early singles released on Slumberland Records before they joined Sub Pop.  It captures their early sound, including three songs with their first lead singer, Bridget Cross, who was replaced by Sarah Shannon in 1990.  It includes the 1990 single "I Don't Care If You Go", the Australian version of that same single (with different B-sides), and the 1992 single "My Forgotten Favorite". 

What makes this EP enjoyable is that even though I did not know of them prior to 1993, the band's sound is very much of the time and as such makes a pleasant time capsule for early 90s college rock (see also: The Connells).  I'm not claiming this is a retroactively vital lost classic, but if you haven't heard of Velocity Girl then think of it as "new" music from twenty years ago. 

Standout songs: "I Don't Care If You Go", "Always" (live), "My Forgotten Favorite", "Why Should I Be Nice To You" (live)

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 6/10  Fun, but not necessary.  Want the full time capsule effect?  Check out the live concert footage links above.