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!