Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Faint - Doom Abuse - 2014

Listening to The Faint on vinyl is a must and this clever band actually makes albums that fit into LP format.  Not a double LP; how novel!  The Faint make a brand of industrial, dance pop that is hard, fast, and direct; it begs to be played LOUD (sorry neighbors)!!!  The VVers have seen these guys in concert a few times and it's insane how well the records match up with the intensity of their shows.  For the most recent concert at the 9:30 Club the VVers had a few reasons for some built-up excitement.  First, they were just simply pumped to see the show (why else buy tickets ya underwear face!?!).  Second, there was a chance to score the new record, Doom Abuse, straight from the band.  Now this might not seem like such a big deal, but from the perspective of the band, they typically make a much bigger profit when they can sell directly to the fans without a middle man.  Third, and most importantly, was a high expectation to hear teased tidbits from the last show in full developedness.  An explanation - step back to the prior The Faint show (a mere year and a half before this one) where VVer #1 was fortunate enough to snag a copy of the small-batch tour 12" EP (the copy is stamped with 988 of 1000, whew!).  Two of the four EP tunes were performed that night and were absolutely highlights of the show.  The tour disc is a house favorite, but totally spare with no artwork, no title, no frills.

Back to Doom Abuse!  This LP includes brand new versions of those two coveted EP tracks that were amazing live and have been played over and over in the House of VV.  "Evil Voices" is a song about being caught up in your own negativity/misperceptions.  It also happens to be extremely fulfilling to shout/sing along with.  The version on the LP is basically the same as the EP, with the new version throwing in a few more abstract synths and sharper production.  DEVO influences are apparent in the use of bleeps, bloops, and electronic noise.  "The Unseen Hand" is the other extremely catchy one that got reworked from the tour disc.  The Doom Abuse version sounds like it's been amped up considerably and a bit overproduced.  Consider this one the kitchen sink version.  It's loaded with a ton more effects, cracked-out beats, and is a good deal faster.  Both versions are interesting in their own way, but the tour disc is a lot creepier and darker - the version the VVers prefer.

"Animal Needs" and "Help in the Head" on side A are both quick tempo bangers that are relatively straight forward at first listen.  While "Animal Needs" seems to just simply list things that humans don't "need" it actually does a pretty nifty job of getting the listener to contemplate how deeply civilized we've made ourselves; how far the human race has strayed from what our basic needs truly are.   It's an interesting reflection that somehow manages to fit into the package of a tightly paced track. "Help in the Head" seems to simply be a "tell off" song, but as the listening piles up it's hard not to think that as a famous singer you must meet a lot of highly deranged fans who may take things the wrong way.

"Lesson from the Darkness" and "Damage Control" help close out side B.  Both are insanely catchy.  The VVers continue to find themselves humming, whistling, singing these well after the disc has stopped spinning.  Did The Faint write the Doom Abuse track "Mental Radio" for this sole purpose?  "Damage Control" takes it distinctly slower than the rest of the album, which after all of that thrash and dancing is somewhat a relief.  The song has some weird, high pitched slinky synth line that repeats up and down the scale throughout the track.  Singer, Todd Fink, recounts conversation gone wrong with the closing refrain "Last night was the worst, I said a million things I shouldn't of said" as the slinky synth distorts into oblivion.

Unlike many albums, Doom Abuse holds up on multiple formats.
Also, this pie chart sort of looks like a record, right?
While listening to Doom Abuse you may have a hard time concentrating on anything but the most mundane activities.  VVer #1 has found it to be a quality garden weeding soundtrack.  The music will likely have you air-drumming, head-bobbing, and your personal tempo will increase dramatically.  In less skillful hands this record could easily go wrong, but The Faint have a knack for sharp production, sly writing, and originality that works extremely well here.  Each beat, blorp, and crunch sounds like something new and retro all at once.  Lyrics about anti-consumerism and mental health are all over this album.  How the band manages to say as much as they do with all the music's noise and chaos is impressive.  Usually a waste, the download card has come in handy for some mobile listening and lyric parsing.  The Faint's album artwork is not subtle, but continues their trend of using interesting and somewhat jarring collage to adorn their LP covers.  It should be added that this is no b-list collage; the plush photos and words are englossed against the lipstick red background.  Shiny.

The initial excitement for the show and anticipation for the LP was so high it seemed impossible for The Faint to meet expectations, but somehow they did.  The VVers salute The Faint for not being underwhelming.  "Kudos Gentleman!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


For your reading pleasure, a sampler of tasty platters from the VVer's collection.

What's with all the pairing of music and food?  Is it perhaps that the two leisurely activities go hand-in-hand?  What's good food without top notch tunes?  Does yummy looking food and captivating music elicit a similar brain response?  I'm Ron Burgundy?

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery - The Dynamic Duo - 1966
The cover of this LP is what single handedly inspired this here food themed write-up.  At first glance, it appears as if this "dynamic duo" is sharing a hot dog.  However, upon closer inspection, it's not like that scene from Lady and the Tramp; they are in fact eating their own sandwiches.  Look how much fun they are having!  What could have possibly inspired this arms intertwined manwich photo?  The cover is so amazing that it makes the vegetarian VVers want to eat a bologna sandwich.  The music?  Jazz guitar from Mr. Montgomery and electric organ from Mr. Smith.  "Jim and Wes are puttin the pot on so they can really 'cook'" says the liner notes.  Cookin' up some jazzy, uptempo swing is really all this album has to do with food.  Sandwich!

Fat Boys - Self Titled - 1984
Clearly this needs a mention because of their name and the cover art, but no double dipping allowed, feast your eyes and read about this LP here.

Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed - 1969
This VVer spies a cake.  And a pizza!  And ... a tire?  Featuring the Stones as cake toppers, their music on this album is, well, iconic.  Every track is amazing on this stunningly classic record.  Blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock n roll, swagger; the band is at their peak.  Let it Bleed takes the cake.

Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis - Wings and Things - 1965
As frequent collaborators (the VVers wrote about this duo before), these two on alto sax and organ, respectively, combine their jazzy skills on this loose LP.  There's a call and response between the two on title track "Wings and Things" and on "Imbo" which defines their sound on this Verve platter (which doesn't seem to have ever been put out on any other format than vinyl).  "Spotted Dog" gets those fingers snapping over the seven-minute jam.  Back cover liner notes draw all the connections between the music and featured food for the reader, mostly by using many an adjective.  Of note about the title track: "There's a swinging restaurant with this name in Washington, and the band here salutes the eatery and the food with this rhythmic romp."

Supertramp - Breakfast in America - 1979
This is a seriously tight package of prog pop rock thing stuff music whatnots.  Side B has a few duds on it, but by and large it's a great listen.  Definitely the first time VVer #2 heard this one, she recognized most songs such as "The Logical Song," "Goodbye Stranger," and "Take the Long Way Home" but never knew they were all jammed onto this one LP.  What a fantastic cover also!  Our orange juice waitress a la Statue of Liberty stands affront Manhattan made of assorted porcelain dish-ware and breakfast served as Battery Park.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Willy and the Poor Boys - 1969
VVer #2 doesn't really remember the actual name of this album when requesting to hear it and always refers to it as Duck Kee Market (which she actually thought was the name of the album for some time).  The store on the cover is in Oakland, CA, nearby to CCR's hometown, El Cerrito.  Could it be the corner from the famous "Down on the Corner" track opening this album?  Or, is it just meaningless and good place for a photo op?  The music on this one is top notch, and perhaps the VVer's favorite CCR platter.  The shimmying, slow-burner of "Feelin' Blue" would make a fine backdrop for a swamp hoedown.  Fast paced rocker "Fortunate Son" and sing along "The Midnight Special" are great in their own right, but "Effigy" is really where it's at. Its deep E-chords give the somber track gravity and help round out this fantastic LP.  Also, there is a great lyric right before the musical breakdown about "no food on the table" on the song "Midnight Special."

DEVO - oh, no! it's DEVO - 1982
Well this takes the potato as the weirdest cover to feature food in the VVer's collection, but does that surprise you?  It's D-E-V-O!  Their super-electronic album is full of fast paced silliness including a track titled "Peek-a-Boo!"  80's aerobics anyone??  The mega-synths and peppy tempo are almost too much for these VVers; they are truly out-DEVOing themselves.  The LP jacket has a nice little doodad feature on the back - a fold out stand so that you can sit the record up as a display like a picture frame.  The boys of DEVO often refer to themselves as spud boys, and are known for their potato-iness, so this cover is highly appropriate.

Booker T. and the M.G.s - Green Onions - 1962
This LP is so loaded with classic tunes that you'll probably know at least half from movie soundtracks and pop culture.  Booker T. wails away on his Hammond M3 organ and Steve Cropper contributes some serious funk riffs on nearly every track.  It's obvious these guys could just jam all night and it's a sort of tragedy to have fade-out after fade-out end the fun.  Title track "Green Onions" is one of those tunes that you're going to wish was longer. This is the sort of record that will whet your appetite for further Booker T. and the M.G.s.  Might the VVers recommend Melting Pot, the last full album put out by the classic line-up of this group?  On the back cover liner notes "There is no guarantee that the wave of publicity Booker T. has kicked off for Green Onions will increase the consumption of that potent vegetable, on the other hand, it is certain that more and more people will be digging Booker T.'s Green Onions sound."  Dig it!

Dexter Gordon - Tangerine - 1972
On the tenor sax, Gordon bebops his way around this album with drummer Louis Hayes keeping beat on the cymbals.  Solid scat and bopping jazz on this one, but with no clear connection to the tangerine on the cover other than sleeve credits "Electric tangerine by Boots," whatever that means.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream and Other Delights - 1965
An infamous album cover or a great Halloween costume idea?  "She's super chesty and covered in whipped cream" says VVer #1.  VVer #2 is just disappointed to have to see Herb's face on the back cover instead of Chesty McGee!  Whipped Cream and Other Delights is full of bubbly elevator music that's surprisingly listenable, should the mood strike.

Meat Puppets - Huevos - 1987
"Automatic Mojo" is a straight ahead bass driven rock track (VVer #2 disagrees and just fell asleep whilst listening).  The rest of this album is just crazy town.  The brothers meat (Cris and Curt Kirkwood along with awesome drummer Derrick Bostrum) have been cranking out psycho, country-tinged, weirdo rock since the  early 80's.  This, their sixth album, is a little closer to mainstream at times and a fun listen.  The vocals can occasionally be a little rough, bordering on atonal yelping; surprisingly Huevos is not a breakfast album.  The tenor of the LP is that of a boozey jam session; a good late-nighter.  Beautiful painted cover and weird interior drawings are all by the brothers.  By the way, the song "Paradise" has the lyric "ivory whales high on corn bread."  A good example of how very, very weird these guys are.

Mongo Santamaria - Stone Soul - 1969

It appears that the VVers have never listened to this one.  Why, you may ask?  Not only does the cover feature a proper southern meal (ham-hock, black-eyed peas, etc.) but when the vinyl was pulled out of the cover, it looks like that very meal was served on this album.  With a little elbow grease, it cleaned up enough to find out that the brassy, hip-shakin "Love Child" has probably been featured in the triumphant closing credits to some schmaltzy spaghetti western.  LP closer "Cloud Nine" has some zazz and true form afro-Cuban action.  The rest of the album could use more ham-hock.  "Maybe it needs more of that table cloth" says VVer #2.  This one is on the way to the compost bin.

Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty - 1998
The boys of beastie are wedged into a giant sardine can hurtling towards the sun.  Opening lyric on "Super Disco Breakin'" begins "fifty cups of coffee and you know it's on!"  Don't they know that sardines and coffee are not a good combo?  Thankfully the random assortment of musical styles the Beastie Boys whip up on this lengthy LP do mix well.  In fact they do it all on Hello Nasty jumping from funk, hip-hop, lounge, bossa-nova, latin, and that doesn't even cover the spaced-out computer voiced monster hit "Intergalactic."  The Boys may also be the masters of food lyrics: "so what if I'm a ham and cheese on rye, I gotta do my things and that's no lie" and "I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental when I eat French toast."

Sesame Street - C is for COOKIE! - 1974
Amazing!  This album is so scratched up from years of love from some little kids, it has never been played in the House of VV.   "It's gunked up, we can't listen to it, a child has had it."  Strange that there are no crayon marks on it.  Imagination is the only way to hear what it sounds like.  Ok readers, imagine for a moment what the song "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd've Baked a Cake" sounds like... pretty good right?  It's Cookie Monster, he makes the cut and he chomps on the letter C.  Done!

Missed Opportunity:
The Gaylords - Let's Have a Pizza Party - 1956
What happened to the pizza!?!  Instead you feature and Italian-esque fountain and Vespa?  The VVers surprisingly approve.

(Disclaimer: For the sake of clarity, beverages don't count.  Food only.  A write up including beverage albums would easily have doubled the length of this list!)