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.