Saturday, December 24, 2011


Crocodiles - Summer of Hate 2010

The Crocodiles debut record sounds like a cross between the Doors and a crappy 80's goth act. It does work, honest. "Summer of Hate" thoroughly delivers on hooks, angst, droning guitars, distortion, and shamble. Some of these tunes, "Flash of Light," "Summer of Hate," and "I Wanna Kill" seem angry and sad, but are deeply infused with pop shimmy. Dance you sad S.O.B., DANCE! "Soft Skull" is covered with low-fi vocals layered over convulsive beats to make you want to get up and jump around. Singer Brandon Welchez yelps and chants his way through the record in an organic stream of consciousness way. He seems at times to be channeling his inner cult leader. I can hear Jim Morrison in there for sure. "Sleeping With the Lord" has a -happy cause I'm high- kind of thing going for it that comes through loud and clear. They don't beat you over the head with it; more they invite you into the haze of their blissed out day-glo nightmare. What they are going for... well I can't figure it out; maximum happy and bottom of the boards sad all at once. The entire thing lumbers forward with an off the cuff organ instrumentation that seems to have creeped out of somebody's early 70's church basement.

WARNING: Certain portions of this album could led to strong feelings of homicidal madness. It should not be listened to over morning coffee or while reading the paper. Apply only when you are feeling active and doing things. Do not look directly at this record. Do not taunt this record.

The VVers have seen Crocodiles twice as opening act (Ladytron/The Faint and Dum Dum Girls) so it's hard to imagine what a full set would bring. The funeral dirge organs would probably be something to behold in a sweaty encore.

Visually the record has a nice little trick. The cover; a pixelated photo, is reproduced on the little inner circle printed on side one and two of the record. The only difference is that side one is zoomed in a little more so you can only see one eye, side two zoomed out a little more to see both eyes. Clever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Gaylords - Let's Have a Pizza Party - 1956

Seriously, I dare you not like this album! Everyone loves a PIZZA PARTY (unless you're lactose intolerant; bummer)!!! I have no good reason why I bought this, only because of an impending vacation to Italy, and that pizza is my desert island food. Oh, and there's a super cool mint green Vespa on the cover. Really, the Vespa would have been enough.

As it turns out, the music is not only REALLY good, it's at times soulful and rich with brio. Having returned from the Italian voyage, I can't help but to wax nostalgically on the accent of the country. Lyrics are recorded in Italian, so despite my efforts to master Italian, I really have no idea what they are saying except for the occasional "mi amore". The harmonies are smartly backed with accordions, mandolins, and a chipper xylophone, which makes for an old world Italian restaurant charm. There is a wisp of a romantic carnival in it all. The clicks, pops, and clacks of the old record just add more to the atmosphere. Picture being serenaded at an outside piazza in Italy while sipping on amazing Chianti and enjoying an apertivo of parmesan and prosciutto on crusty bread.

It's true; this can happen to you ... if you listen to this album. At a mere fifty cents, the VVer's are feeling like millionaires for this score. By the way, this is also Giuseppe the fish's favorite album.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

THE HOOK will grab you

The Hook - Will Grab You - 1968

This album, hailing from 1968 unveiled its cover to me at a thrift store in Bethesda recently.  I have a fun obsession of making a hand gesture of "the claw" (seen clearly on this album cover) when people/things annoy me.  I would love to have an album with "the claw" or as they call it "the hook" on it.  Into the our buying pile it went.  At fifty cents a pop, why not?  When Mr. VV went through our pile of potential purchases, he decided against The Hook and slyly put it back in the bin (not just in the front of the bin, but cleverly sandwiched in the middle, in hopes I wouldn't realize we weren't going to buy it).  I knew absolutely nothing of the album, but I decided I wanted it solely based on the claw-tastic cover.  So, I dug around for it a bit and that is how the album clawed its way into our collection.

Expectations were low for the first spin of this record, I mean really, "The Hook Will Grab You" - way to be cliche on your album naming conventions.  We made it all the way through Side A (nervous looks for what was to come) without wanting to run screaming, and in fact, it was even good!  But would the B Side hold up?  It got a flip and surprising enough, it wasn't bad.  Their sound is very reminiscent of their contemporaries, The Doors, mixed in with some Cream and Jimi Hendrix.  They are a tablespoon tie-dye pysch rock, a teaspoon blues rock, a teaspoon rock and roll, and a pinch of whimsy.  "Garbage Man" is literally a love song about a girl swooning over the local garbage man which is accompanied by garbage truck sounds - think shattering glass and truck varoooom noises.  There's also some lalala-la-la-la-la-ing.  Pretty fun.  But then take the bad side of whimsy with a track "Everything's Groovy" which is a low (or high) point in the record.  It is in fact very groovy.  Hopefully they were super drugged out when the lyrics came to them: "everything's groovy, things are nice, think we're living in a paradise!"   Think of "Afternoon Delight" but sung by Ron Burgundy and cohorts in Anchorman.  Yeah.

However, this is not representative of the rest of the tracks on this album.   Opening track "Homes" has distorted guitar solos and screeching a la Rolling Stones.  Harmonica kicks in on "Looking for You" and catchy double time beats define "Turn Your Head" which sounds like it is recorded in lo-fi - maybe inspiration for the Black Keys.  Heavy guitar riffs (sounding like a precursor to Black Sabbath) and vocals on "Son of Fantasy" prove they are a serious band.  

Something tells me this gem of an album has gotten lost in all the format medium crossovers in the past decades.  It seems only to be available on a grossly overpriced import CD and of course the vinyl.  Further proving a good reason to listen to vinyl and to rummage through bins at your local thrift shop!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tom Tom Club

Tom Tom Club - 1981

Knowing that half the core creative force in this oddball dance act comes from seminal 80's band the Talking Heads has always been in my head. Knowing how swimmingly quirky their debut album is came way later. The disc has a virtual smorgasbord of funk, synth, hand claps, and general what-the-heck-ama-doozery.

Tom Tom Club makes dancing happen; true. The first two songs, "Wordy Rappinghood", and "Genius of Love" are probably two of the most sampled/lifted from songs of 1981. You may never have heard these originals before, but you'll recognize their chords from a lot of songs that you do know. Why copy from Tom Tom Club? These songs are insanely catchy. When listening, it is basically impossible not to be dancing. Trust me, I have tried standing still and it doesn't work. I ended up twitching and it was really awkward. So... more about this record; Tina Weymouth and singing sisters chirp along to each beat to beat tune. Sometimes they seem to be singing together, but often it's like a cacophonous conversation from a gaggle of funky art ladies. The power to the people jam "On, On, On, On...", which sounds like it was recorded in somebody's den, is probably the most catchy tune on here. The lyrics are simple and motivating: on and on, we will come, there are scores of us. You'll be singing along in short order. "As Above, So Below" has a ticklish rhythm section and some unusual percussion. Synthesizers percolate in and through every inch of this tune. It has a throbbing bump bump bump zip zap zooie zooie zap zim bump thing that just DOES NOT QUIT! Play this entire album before leaving the house for the day and you will be energized four hours, or at least long enough to bike yourself to work.

As far as side projects go, expectations usually end up high and results end up low. This is a respectable exception. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth never stop creating the things that made Talking Heads so great. They just added more fun and ridiculously talented musicians to the mix and went to the clubs with it. On a recent tour stop in Silver Spring the VV'ers got to check out the still poppy and peppy group. For some fairly over the hill folks they sure made a racket! Fun.

Tom Tom Club's sound reminds me of a slinky.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two 2011

Waiting for an album, especially if it's one that I'm dying to hear, is an absolutely excruciating experience. I've certainly sat in line at a few midnight releases with my tiny stack of cash burning flash in my pocket. When it's the new, and much talked up Beastie Boys album, the feeling is triple excruciating. The Boys, all due respect, put out an album (not counting their excellent instrumental  records) about every fifty years it seems. Shall we take a look at the numbers for a second?

Beastie Boys years in operation (since 1979!)= 32ish

Beastie Boys albums (full length original, non instrumental)= 7

Now granted, Beastie Adam Yauch was dealing with cancer (recovering well it seems, hooray!) which delayed the release of this one, but seriously, LOOK AT THOSE NUMBERS!!! That averages out to about two albums per decade, with the 2000's being the slowest time by far. Only the generally unappreciated "To the 5 Boroughs" in '04 kept the hope alive. Why mention all o this, belaboring the obvious? Well, this is just a lead up to the extra month the VV's waited to get our grimy hands on this vinyl beauty! Why an extra month? Well, for some stupid reason or another it took that much time after the digital and CD release on HSC Pt.2 for the vinyl to come to our humble Silver Spring record emporium (CD/Game Exchange, who were always nice about the delay, but didn't really have any answers for us other than, "we'll call you"). Thank goodness for Soundcloud for streaming the album while we patiently (four calls to the record store) waited for these pristine platters to arrive. Thanks to the music gods; it was worth the wait.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Boys are back, and off the wall as ever. HSC Pt.2 has plenty of old school moments to savor; "Make Some Noise", "The Larry Routine", and "Say It" are all strong examples of that old rhyme, swagger, and humor. Still, it's important to note that this new music has a modern vibe, clean production, and some very tasty sound.  Parts reminisce all the various gold standard albums... some Paul's Boutique on "Say It" for example.  Yet the message has matured somewhat.  Particularly impressive is the interplay of core Beastie values with just letting loose and being silly.  It's a constantly spinning blend.  Much of the musicality is a confident throwback to their later 80's/early 90's sounds with some tightly produced modern beats. Guest spots from Santigold and NAS are highlights, but the entire album delivers.  It's not a lengthy affair either.  Most of the tunes clock in at around three minutes and several amp up the pace considerably; the hardcoreish "Lee Majors Come Again" is a good example of this.  I can't imagine what would have happened if the Boys stuck to their hardcore roots.  It probably would have worked out pretty well.  They lay it down and still trade off couplets with effortless agility.  Weird thing is, every time I listen to the record I just want to hear it over again.  It has a sound that's like a puzzle, it keeps constantly challenging me.  I especially have enjoyed listening to it with the lyric sheet as I've been able to sift through all of the mouth watering musical nuggets with more precision.  The lyrics are sharply arranged on the record sleeve inserts with a color coding system to help the uninitiated tell who is saying what (also with plenty of added hahaha commentary).  That's how I can say with utter certainty that ADROCK, during the cooly minimal "Long Burn the Fire" spins without a hint of irony "See this rap thing is all about the bragadacia, I check my rearview MC's ain't gettin closer... I'm like a tailor cause I got the thing sewn up, or a proctologist I move asses".  It's just that simple.

Packaging included crisp white vinyl, a free 45, digital download, an iron on shirt decal, and some pretty fun drawings/artwork. No complaints here at all.  See if you get all that with the $8 digital download.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heartless Bastards

Heartless Bastards - Stairs and Elevators 2005

Go no further fans of power chord churning lady blues. On this, the Bastards debut album, all signs point to a kick in the ass parts! I've had a few friends over the years complain of the absolute dearth of woman fronted bands where the lady actually sings like a grown up, not a little girl. Well the Bastards do indeed oblige the adult sound. Leading lady and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom does more than just howl her way through these up tempo blues crushers. She shows these tunes no pity, her steamroller of a voice is so dominant. On songs such as "Gray", "Done Got Old", and "New Resolution" she upends a dump-truck of soul and heartache. Lyrical content can sometimes veer into a hazy stupor; possibly some booze and other substances were involved in this. Still, it's a potent whiplash combination of tone, energy, and message. Kind of down at times, but with so much raw power. It seems clear the Erika has lived some livin', which you better do before you try to start singing the blues. With all the fireworks it can be difficult to pay attention to all of this melancholy. My little eardrum hairs get singed every time. This album in particular is a frenetic mix of boom boom thud and churn churn browrrrrrrrrllll. The action is GO! Haha...well, occasionally the intensity clicks down a notch, but only for a brief moment or two. That moment is generally followed by the mega wallop and it's right back into "TAKE THAT" and "COME OVER HERE!". There is a whiff of early 90's grunge in this, but it is surprisingly effective.

Live, the band is absolutely sick. Even acoustically (the most recent time {four times and counting} the VV's saw them @ Iota in NOVA) the Cincinnati bred trio left no doubts as to their blues rock chops. Yes, the Heartless Bastards do share some DNA (the blues), a home state (Ohio), and a record label (Fat Possum) with recent mega star the Black Keys. No, the sounds are not the same. Let's face it, Erika is a barnstormer of a lead musician. Comparing what she does to what the Black Keys are doing is just plain silly. Like comparing cheese and tofu. Sure they're both curds, but c'mon... it's not the same thing. This isn't about a battle of the sexes, but when you listen to the Bastards you are most assuredly listing to a woman. This factoid is out there, intentional, and pretty damn essential to the identity of sound of this absolutely awesome band.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peter Tosh - Equal Rights

A blog on Peter Tosh has been writer’s block to me.  Having accumulated six out of his seven solo studio albums, I am still in search of his first, “Legalize It” to complete the collection.  Yet, out of the albums that I do have, at least two stand out as brilliant recordings, start to finish: “Mystic Man” and “Equal Rights”.  I have been wanting to write about them, but without knowing how to get started.  Usually a drink helps – which it did last night – when Mr. VV played a record with “Get Up, Stand Up” and (without having seen what record was spinning) I found myself asking if this was our Bob Marley or Peter Tosh record; in this particular instance I genuinely could not tell the difference.  This got me wondering who actually is credited for this song, because inherently, the tune is more in the style of Tosh - writing about injustice, war, and poverty - not Marley’s one love, three little birds, and that the sun is shining.  Well it’s a split bill on this one, both get the recognition for the penning of “Get Up, Stand Up”.  However, let the record show, that I prefer Tosh's rendition.  Tosh seems to really own the lyrics a bit more than Marley... just sayin'. 
Ms. VV vs. Writer’s Block: 1-0

Peter Tosh, being a founding member of the Wailers, released his sophomore solo album “Equal Rights” in 1977 starting with “Get Up, Stand Up"; how stylistically appropriate.  But it really only gets better from here.  His lamenting sway in "Downpressor Man" is his Jamaican roots take on "Sinnerman", an American folk song made popular by Nina Simone.  Its multi-tonal instrumentals come through as captivating on this track, and make it my favorite on the album.  This is followed by the thoughtful "I Am That I Am" and the politically motivated "Equal Rights" starts off the B-Side.

Peter Tosh's inspired vocals matched with the backing musician's drumbeats provide a definitive heartbeat that can be heard throughout the entire LP and it is worth many a listen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Big Brother and the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills 1968

If you've never heard this album in its entirety, which I hadn't before about a month ago, go out and find a copy and sit down and give it a spin. Then get up and flip the record. You'll likely flip it several times; yes you will.

Then top it off with watching D.A. Pennebaker's documentary footage of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (thank you AFI SilverDocs Film Festival who recently screened this gem) and be prepared to be blown away by Janis Joplin's powerful, rending of garments vocals. Her performance at Monterey Pop of "Ball and Chain" even had Mama Cass (The Mamas and the Papas) watching the performance in jaw dropped awe. Joplin's performance was over-the-top powerful, especially for a relatively unknown white girl from Texas singing the blues.

So back to the album, their second, which is filled with the aforementioned powerful and raw vocals from Joplin, as well as blues beats, and doo-wop inspired energy. "Piece of My Heart" is the obvious hit from the album, but also the band's rendition of "Summertime" is full of screeching guitar riffs complimented by Joplin's raspy howls to re-invent this classic. Her sheer heart attack power at lead absolutely dominates the recording. This should not in any way imply the rest of the band holds back or is not up to the challenge. They lay down a steady full groove. She just snatches it up and sets it on fire. You can hear occasional coughs and bottles breaking in the background. Parts seem like they were recorded in someone's party barn. This is a perfect album for an afternoon in the summer; a few beers, maybe an Arnold Palmer, very little responsibility.

Also worth serious consideration, is the album artwork; most notably the front cover illustration by underground comic legend Robert Crumb. His seemingly simple style belied the artists absolute mastery of layout, lettering, and caricature. His "ideal" image of Janis Joplin as the ultimate hippy (hipsome as well) chick with a big round bra-less bod is classic Crumb. He has a well deserved reputation as being somewhat sex obsessed, especially with the curvy ladies. Thing with Crumb is that he doesn't so much objectify the big ladies as he worships them.  The fact that Joplin asked him personally to do the art gives some merit to him being way more special than just being some random pervert comic guy. With it's bright colors, clean lines, and one panel mini-stories, Crumb deftly incorporates all the album information into one mega pop sleeve. He fluently combines out of luck turtles, stoner freaks, and the merriment of the movement into the mix. An awesome black and white photo of Joplin was relegated to back cover status in deference to Crumb's illustration's obvious power and uniqueness. Watch this interview snipet with Crumb about his work on the cover. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Cave Singers - No Witch

The Cave Singers - No Witch

If the sound of dust lifting off from patting bongo drums appeals to you, this album will as well. If raspy echo laced chants to a hidden ghost send you into a dream of fantasy past, this album is in that spirit. If you like your music to peak and valley in time to strums and hooks that seem to belly up from a time long gone - jackpot. If you have any curiosity about what a melodica is, then welcome to "No Witch", a back woods style tribute to knee slappin' boot stompers, folk, roots rock, bluegrass, and probably some sort of hipster trend that I am yet to get in on. The whole affair has a touch of the black magic in it. Approach with caution.

I learned of the Cave Singers through a long term relationship with another awesome band that decided to call it quits after their third album. I was lucky to have seen Pretty Girls Make Graves out of Seattle, who played the second Siren Festival in Coney Island Brooklyn, NY in 2002 (along with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Les Savy Fav, The Shins, The Donnas, Mooney Suzuki, Sleater Kinney, etc.). Does that sound trite? Well, anyways I bought their record and have seen them three times since. I felt like they kept getting better and better (live... the records are good, but live is like... sweet baby Jehosaphat!), but they decided to do a farewell tour in an amicable nature. They killed in the farewell show I caught at the Black Cat, and out of PGMG came the Cave Singers from guitar whiz Derek Fudesco.

So... this guy is some sort of musical freak because he just absolutely owns every instrument he touches. He's got a soulful vibe; sort of a mystic shamble thing. It's something to see. On record it comes across, especially on "Haller Lake" and "No Prosecution if we Bail". These and others are full of the sort of huff and puff rock that makes this album have a dance around the fire medicine man/peyote kind of vibe. Some of the tones are steeped in this dark mantra of yesterwhen. It's hard to really figure out what singer Peter Quirk is going on about (but in concert it looked pretty important). The lyric sheet didn't help much. Seems that somebody had a bad day mostly while on acid... but it's hard to figure out. Their first two albums are a little more straight forward in this area. On "No Witch" the Cave Singers got stung by the poetry scorpion. It made things go all strange. Example: "Faze Wave" - "gold workout before I saw you, you're waiting for a ride, saw you at the supermarket shopping for a mind"  - uhh, whut?

Anyways, it's good, so you should try and listen to it a few times or something. If you can't find this one maybe the first ones are easier to track down, "Invitation Songs" and "Welcome Joy".

Friday, March 18, 2011

Street Sweeper Social Club

Well, this post has been a long time coming.  The VVs were first introduced to this supergroup of Tom Morello (formerly of Rage Against the Machine) on guitar and Boots Riley (formerly of The Coup) on vocals at a show in 2009.  Morello was touring on his solo gig, The Nightwatchman, which is mostly acoustic folk music, at Sonar in Baltimore.  The opening act was actually Street Sweeper (as they called themselves then) with Boots rapping and Morello unplugged.  This was not expected, in fact, it seemed like they just came up with the idea for the collaboration on the way to the gig.  It was awesome.  Boots has some pretty sharp lyrics, telling stories of the times, and laced with his brick to the face kind of humor.  Boots is also like four feet tall (his stunning afro adds at least a foot) and pretty adorable.  You will want to give him a high five and a noogie.  Of course Morello's guitar riffs are epic.  Both of Morello's projects that we saw that night were, although vastly different, pretty mind-blowing.  The Nightwatchman's music is definitely worth checking out.  To get a sense of the rest of the show, I distinctly remember ending the night with an all-room Pete Seeger-esque sing-along to Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land".  Yeah.
So back to Street Sweeper.  In the 2009 show, Boots and Morello were in the beginnings of forming their band, and it seemed like they were trying out their demo songs to gauge the audience perception.  Not by accident we saw them again, this time opening for Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction in 2010 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  They rocked, but in a different way than that first show.  For one, the music was hard and heavy, stadium style, but in a good way.  Morello was playing guitar with his teeth and Boots was busting out the dance moves coinciding with his lyrics.  "Promenade" from the group's first full length album, and remixed on this EP, is an all interactive square dance accompanied by Boots instructing the listeners to circulate and dosey-do.  Their best song preformed live that also carries through to the recorded format is "MEGABLAST" (how can that not be all caps?) - which yes, is an awesome rip-off of Public Enemy's "Megablast" appearing on Yo! Bum Rush the Show.  Speaking of remakes, the seven track Ghetto Blaster EP contains two pretty respectable ones - M.I.A.'s "Paper Airplanes" and LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out".  In fact,  "Mama Said" does not sound anything like the original due to Morello's heavy guitar;  the only thing that resembles a cover is the lyrics.  "The New Fuck You" is really not as evil as it sounds and it is a bouncy catchy song to end Side A with.  All of the new songs on the EP are tight, loud, and thoroughly sing-along-able.  Hope the Street Sweepers come back to town again soon.  Every track on this album is primed for a nasty concert throw-down.  Did I mention I'm a sucker for red translucent vinyl?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flock of Seagulls

A Flock of Seagulls - 1982

No, really, it's good. The guy's hair isn't even totally atrocious yet.

So much of this record is awesome! Maybe my excitement here could be partially attributed to low expectations, but the actual quality and pep of this record cannot be denied. A good number of the songs on the album are jingly-jangly pop gems with some fine tuned laser light-sheen, primed for late night electro boogaloo dance parties (or early morning pancake flipping). It's hard to really follow what lead man Mike Score is singing about, but generally it can be summed up in the titles: I Ran, Space Age Love Song, You Can Run, Don't Ask Me, Messages, Telecommunication, Modern Love is Automatic, Standing in the Doorway, D.N.A., and Man Made ... ahh yes, a sci-fi workout album! I guess the real trick is that it's not just 80's pop. There are strong bass lines, wailing guitar hooks, a convulsive drumline, and traces of a hip hop stutter rhythm in sections. Many of the choruses demand full sing-along participation as well.

The two obvious singles/hits live on side A while side B is one propulsive and interesting song after the next. The second track "Modern Love is Automatic" is like listening to music on another planet, and the fourth "D.N.A." is just pure fun. Both feature tempo shifts that are at times ushered in via an explosion or a bleep bloop. This album is categorized for its 80's synths as new wave - as they called it then - which is just a crappy short hand for saying high energy pop rock with synths. Either way, there is no mistaking the sound for anything other than groundbreaking. This album kick-started the 80's MTV sound.

This find was snapped up at the True Vine in Hampden/Baltimore along with a good chunk of other affordable vinyl (none as good as this one). Since we were able to snag this album for a dollar in preparation for a very important 80s birthday party we got to check the entire thing out. Imagine if we weren't using vinyl? We would likely have just Limewire'd "I Ran" or scoffed at the idea of buying the CD. Hooray for records! This record in no way was expected to be good by either of us, but thank goodness for vinyl!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nite City

How good is this music?  
How bad is this singer?
Why the fade out at the end of nearly all the tracks?
How hard is this crew trying to destroy the world with each song?  
Why are they totally trying to CRUSH IT one epic "best song ever man!" after the next?
Why did Ray Manzarek go from The Doors to Nite City?
Lastly, why do they all have longer, poofy-er hair than me?

...Further proving that buying any old record out of sheer curiosity can be hazardous to your health (your hearing in particular)...

That is all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Landing on Water

Landing on Water - Neil Young 1986
Why review this album? We've already done two Neil Young albums (Trans, Le Noise) and the idea that we'll be reviewing all Young's albums should immediately be stricken! The main reason to review "Landing on Water" is because so many people pass off Young's music from the 80s as terrible, and a divergence from what he did best in the decades before and after.  The album is 80s, experimental, and extremely listenable. In fact... it's fun, which is something special when you're singing about the weighty things that Young does (homelessness, war, the death of hippie-dom, poverty). It's really something that he manages to get quirky pop music with serious messages to meld into something more than just absolute cheese. Yes, there is some cheese here, but it's the good kind, think Wisconsin Cheddar. It works in his favor, the fact that he can play in these oddball pop landscapes without getting absolutely ruined by them. It's pretty incredible. This particular album has all sorts of typical 80's cheese moments: crummy synths, sing along choirs, slick production, etc. What is missing that you would normally experience in the typical pop crap of the age? Well, for starters the songs don't make me want to hurl. Young sings genuine themes in a passionate way without preaching. The total lack of filler is nice. What's cool as well is that the cover of the album is somewhat avant garde, instead of some airbrushed glamour shot.
Catchy tracks of the album: "People on the Street" and "Touch the Night"
Noteworthy good tracks on the album: "Hippie Dream" and "Bad News Beat"
Bonus Points: "Drifters" has kazoo-ish type noises that overlay the synth rifts.
Sidenote: This album was unpriced at CD Game Exchange, but had a previous pricetag from another store for $1.99 on it. When going to pay, the cashier didn't know what to charge and called over another employee for consultation, who in turn, reasoned "Well, its a Neil Young album, so its at least $5". Needless to say, I got it for the price I wanted, but ohhhh the reasoning!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Gatti

Gato Barbieri - Chapter One: Latin America, 1973

Well this record wins the What Just Happened Award for the week.  It comes to us from being bought on a whim at Woodwards in Hampden, Baltimore, and with having known nothing about it.  Its a total chaotic cluster.  I'm tired after listening to it only once.  Perhaps, there will be a second listen and blog in the future, but, I need to recover first.  I don't think its a bad record, just different.  As "G.V.A" (possibly a former owner of this record) has scrawled on the back cover, "Gato could be better one side not bad", which sums it up pretty well. 
Tip of the day: I do not recommend listening to this record while hungover.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Shirks!

"DC is Doomed" 
The Shirks are a local DC band that does NOTHING on the internet, plays straight ahead garage rock without a hint of irony, only releases 45s (and the occasional mix-tape), and totally kicks ass in tightly wound 30 minute live sets... I may be a little biased. It might just behoove you to find the next show these four fellows are playing and go. Finding is the difficult part though as the show can be a bit of word of mouth and luck. Keep an eye on local venues; Black Cat, Velvet Lounge, Comet, Quarry House, etc. Chat up the local bartenders, record store folks. Maybe you'll get hints from listings in the City Paper.

The songs on these three 45s are all cut from the same cloth. High energy, chug-a-chug rhythm, sing along chorus's, no waste. Facefulls of 70's era punk get amped up with an unhealthy fist drubbing of Ramones styled rah-rah-rahs. The breakneck Devo pacing will certainly have you head thrashing and makes me grin from ear to ear. No lyric sheet (or even any info on the DC is Doomed 45), but it's pretty easy to sort out what the songs are about. Living in the city with the dregs of the world and making the most of it. That's what I pick up. The low-fi production could use a little more vocal on a few of the recordings but generally it's a bit swampy. For full effect I recommend you crank it up LOUD!!! Some very catchy tunes with stellar guitar work. It's classic.

In response to my concern that the band has yet to release a full LP, Shirks vocalist Al gave me the rundown on how to best enjoy your collection of 45s. Place chair next to turntable. Play 45, flip, change 45, repeat. It's that simple.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ellington at Newport

So I find myself having listened to this album at least 4 times this weekend.  It could be out of sheer laziness of not having to switch the record, but it's probably more because it's good.  This record makes me happy.

The 1956 recording starts off modestly with a new Ellington composition for the Festival.  Although apparently its reception isn't what Ellington had hoped for, it's pretty swingin.  It starts a little big band-y full of squealing trumpets and trombones, and morphs into a sultry piano and alto sax duet accompanied by the pulse of the ride cymbals (the sustained and shimmering "do-da-do").  

What really stands out happens on Side B with the performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" where Paul Gonsalves was told by Duke to blow on the tenor sax for as long as he wanted, which turned out lasting for a remarkable 27 straight choruses (and in no way is that a bad thing). During this, the cover notes mention the "girl who launches 7,000 cheers" (accompanied by a flattering photo) who began dancing in one of the boxes and set off the crowds' building excitement and got them to their feet.  The recording really shines through on expressing how everyone was having a great time both playing and being a part of this performance.  Put to vinyl, the energy of that moment in 1956 has really captured me.