Thursday, December 31, 2009

John Lennon - Instant Karma!

(Apple, 1970)

Golly gee! Good for John Lennon, directly following up his best-ever ROCK single with his best-ever POP single in a nifty display of quick-pivot versatility (and speaking of versatility, Yoko contributes a medieval-sounding harpsichord-and-flute ditty on the B this time out!). With a big joyous chorus, bouncy piano, passionate vocal, silly drum fills, and echo up the wazoo, “Instant Karma” absolutely SOUNDS like a smash the first time you hear it, thanks to that unit-shifting combo of Lennon’s rhythmic, gut-punch popwrite and Phil Spector’s huge production. Aside from the fact that this was John’s biggest solo hit to date, Spector’s involvement on here is actually quite important in a larger historical sense. This was the first time he’d worked with any of the Beatles, and Lennon and Harrison (who plays guitar on “Instant Karma”) were pleased enough with the results that they both brought him onboard for their next solo albums – Plastic Ono Band and the VERY Spector-esque All Things Must Pass, respectively. But, perhaps more significantly, this session also led to our murderous producer friend being drafted to salvage the Let it Be tapes, a move that ultimately convinced Paul to publically put a bullet in the Beatles’ head – Spector-style, zing! – a few months later. Yes, there were obviously a number of other issues that led to the breakup (and Lennon had effectively quit by now anyway), but it’s amusing to realize that a song as simple and cosmically uplifting as “Instant Karma” played such a big role in what ended up being a decade-plus of sniping and acrimony between the ex-Beatles.

Monday, December 28, 2009

John Lennon - Cold Turkey

(Apple, 1969)

I must say that it’s funny to hear the usual pants-wetting Beatlefan crybabies bleat about Yoko Ono using the Plastic Ono Band name on her latest album, considering that the conceptual non-group was always intended to be whomever John and(/or?) Yoko surrounded themselves with at any given session. Check “Cold Turkey,” which features an entirely different cast of characters than those on “Give Peace a Chance”: This time, it’s John, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, and Ringo Starr, and they’re offering up a far different sound than the jangly street-chant of the previous single, here laying down a hard claustro-rockin’ tale of heroin withdrawal and general misery over some tense, jagged skree. I don’t believe that Lennon ever nastied it up guitar-wise as effectively as he does on this disc, and in terms of overall hot-rock performance, probably only “I Found Out” (which also features Voorman on mean-burblin’ bass) comes at all close to such intensity in the Lennon songbook. Further marrying an ever inward-looking tendency with a raw, Beatle-baggage-free take on the pop/rock setup, “Cold Turkey” – lyrically, musically, vocally – certainly paves the way for the similarly uncomfortable John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band LP of 1970. Just as satisfying, B-side “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand in the Snow)” features the same group jamming in a driving, almost-unhinged blues-rock style as Ono provides the shrieking, ululating vocals for which she’s long been (unfairly) mocked. Ground zero for the Yoko musical template, this song, as with John’s, clearly points towards work undertaken in 1970 – her own P.O.B. album, though, jumps further into crazed, jazz-informed, free-rock mindblow that thumps far harder and far freakier than any solo Beatle effort out there. Shit’s NUTS. Seriously: if you don’t own it, reconsider soon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

John Lennon - Give Peace A Chance

(Apple, 1969)

For the first solo single from a Beatle, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, two acoustic guitars (the second played by Tommy Smothers!), and a roomful of friends/celebs/sycophants make a raucous campfire noise in support of worldwide goodvibes. No deep thoughts to be found therein (the stream-of-consciousness verses are largely incidental), but it’s raw and immediate, just as it needed to be. Which is why I’ve spent the last bunch o’ years considering “Give Peace A Chance” alongside McCartney’s similarly-hokey post-9/11 single “Freedom,” because – no matter what you think of the icky political whatsis surrounding the latter – both guys were shooting for the same thing: Whip up a simple, memorable, of-its-time, stomp-clamp anthem for People Who Want One. Sure, the market success of Paul’s sleeker effort certainly didn’t match that of John’s, but from a purely song-based perspective I think both achieved what they set out to do (though the fact that the masses didn’t embrace “Freedom” as they did “Peace” ultimately marks it a failure). For-what-it’s-worth sidenote: McCartney has since renounced his composition and has taken to covering Lennon’s on his 2009 tour.

Meanwhile, Yoko, backed by John on “Sun King”-esque acoustic, provides the lo-fi B-side, a breathy, gentle lullaby/ballad that sounds like a “White Album” demo and gives no hint of the abrasiveness of much of her later work. A track of both significant quality and interest.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Led Zeppelin - Black Dog

(Atlantic, 1971)

I worked in a supermarket through high school, and one of the great pleasures of the weeknight shift was punching out just in time to drive home to “Get the Led Out,” 101.1’s 10pm rock-block of Led Zeppelin songs. The likes of “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot” were staples of the set, and I’d crank the volume to obnoxious levels as I rolled through town behind the wheel of my mom’s car, feeling groovy in my apron and tie. Much as I loved the stuff, though, it would be years before I actually owned any Zeppelin, because it’s always been my experience that a guy can turn on the radio at any time of the day in any part of the country and hear them on at least one of the classic rock stations. So why buy the cow?, as they say. Anyway, what this means is that while I am quite familiar with the band’s catalog, I only know a select few of the songs by name, and neither side of this single was one where I’d bothered to mentally pair title with riff. “Black Dog”? The one where it sounds like Jimmy Page and John Bonham go out of synch with each other during the bridge (that section has always kinda annoyed me). “Misty Mountain Hop”? The one with the funky-strut electric piano part reminiscent of “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” So yeah! You, like me, may not remember the titles, but you, like me, have heard ’em all and know ’em all, because MAN these songs are hooky and memorable! AND THEY’RE PLAYED CONSTANTLY ON THE RADIO.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

(EMI/DFA, 2007)

LCD Soundsystem pulls a nifty trick on the multi-part “All My Friends” single, drafting John
Cale to cover the title track on one version of the 7”, and Franz Ferdinand on the other. Cale even gets A-side honors, giving the song more of an ominous Bowie/Eno feel by emphasizing the stark and jagged elements of its composition as he half-bellows what are actually quite reflective lyrics. The LCD Soundsystem take is included on the other side, and, while one of the band’s best tracks, it adds little value here in standard LP form beyond making clear, in this context, that the song’s repeating piano line likely owes a fair amount to Cale’s influence (for example, see his New York in the 1960s series of releases). But even if one already owns Sound of Silver, this is well worth finding for the excellent Cale cover. Heck, might as well get the Franz Ferdinand 7”, too; it sounds exactly like you’d expect it to sound and thus isn’t too bad.

Playing this record and digging out my copy of Fear has renewed my interest in John Cale’s catalog, so I headed over to eBay, where I bought Vintage Violence, Paris 1919, Helen of Troy, Animal Justice, and Sabotage to supplement the handful of LPs currently in my clutches. My question now is whether it’s worth pursuing his music after 1980, having heard and loathed both Caribbean Sunset and John Cale Comes Alive. “All My Friends” suggests that all hope is not lost… any hidden goodies from his later career?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LCD Soundsystem - Disco Infiltrator

(EMI/DFA, 2005)

A little clubbier than I might prefer, this one, subtracting the grit and humor of the best LCD Soundsystem songs in favor of a somewhat beat/coke-oriented W’burg/LES sheen. B- material, and the synths sound bigtime like a late-’70s Kraftwerk sample… “Hall of Mirrors”? The liners don’t indicate any such samplery, however, so I’ll take their (its) word for it. THIS TIME. And the flip? Another live-on-Brit-radio cover, here a driving BUT so-so take on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Slowdive.” If you don’t own this single – which EMI mysteriously and expensively jazzed up with heavy vinyl and a bonus poster – feel free to keep those tempting razors far, far away from your eminently slittable wrists; thing’s no hot dick-shake. Still…you know what I like about James Murphy? Guy’s a schlub. A nasal shouter. That hair might be carefully mussed, but he still comes off as a used-bin record-geek everyman, and I have found him to be quite likeable both on stage and on disc. So let that be known, o town of NY!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House

(EMI/DFA, 2005)

Reckon I got into LCD Soundsystem like most people did: “Losing My Edge” came out in 2002, I loved it, and I then religiously followed the trickle of singles that led up to the eventual full-length in 2005. In retrospect, I’m a little surprised that I was committed enough to walk over to the now-dead Virgin Megastore during my lunch breaks in order to buy the band’s major-label import 7”s… and yet here’s the vinyl evidence gathering dust in my apartment. No regrets, though. “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” is a beefy, handclappy, percussion-laden nerdfest that narrates the tense hours before the titular happening, and it’s nearly as funny as the aforementioned “Edge” while upping the overall instrumental density and twitchiness. The 7” presents the radio edit, which is effectively a partytime cockblock, truncating a song that absolutely deserves to stretch out to LP/12” length. The B-side turns that complaint into a minor quibble, however, as a fantastic BBC recording of “Jump Into the Fire” shows off James Murphy’s touring band, a tuff but tight dance/rock group that features pretty nasty bass and non-puss guitar; Harry Nilsson ends up being a great fit for a cover. Could be that I’m just getting old, but this stuff – unlike most of the other NYC dance-oriented bands of the time – strikes me as having aged extremely well. Still exciting to these ears.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lavender Faction - Ride

(Lust, 1990)

Well well well. Some PRICK sold me a Lavender Faction 7” packaged in the wrong sleeve! So now I’m sitting here like a deityfuckin CHUMP with a “Ride” 45 (not pictured) sitting all cozy inside the “In My Mind” artwork (pictured). Yeah? YEAH! DAMM SON. Still, all aren’t ain’t lost. Why? Because the music is topper-popper swell, see. And if a random blogman out there is truthful and Ride for certain took their name from the same-titled A-side, I can VERY MUCH understand that, because this is pretty much the template for that band’s commercialized shoegaze fuzzpop. Choppy, chiming distorto-stuff where the guitar-sound is more important than the vocal-hap… you know the drill. And both sides here bring it BIG in that fashion. Silly and sad that this band never got around to doing a full-length, because they deserved far better than the singles-only obscurity they got kicked into; greatness (or goodness) coulda been had with ease. Weird how these things work out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Last Of The Juanitas - The Jay

(Wantage, 2000)

I was pretty excited about Big Business a few years ago, so I went nuts and bought a pile of Wantage releases – they had some deal where you paid thirty or forty bucks and received a massive sampling of the label’s wares. This Last of the Juanitas single was part of that mailing, and, uh, I’m just getting around to listening to it for the first time tonight. Sounds kinda like a more restrained Pussy Galore, keeping the scuzzy trash-rock elements but slowing it down and adding an element of instrumental competence and in-song tempo variance that Spencer’s group often lacked. Heavy stuff, largely instrumental, and boozy as they come; ’tis truly screaming hangover muzak, and that’s a compliment. Yet: Can’t say that I have much love for the Sun Ra cover on the other side, though Thurston Moore enthusiasts might enjoy its free-jazz meanderings.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Landis - The Water's Electric

(Drive-In/Siladi, 1998)

Another hunk o' indiepop with distortion, buried vocals, and some lo-fi-MBV guitarblasts, a formula pulled off far more effectively (and with better melodies) by countless American bands throughout the ’90s. Based on the evidence here, defunct Michigan musictootlers Landis on a good day would’ve rated as Slumberland C-listers earlier in the decade. Sure, there are far worse things to be than that, of course, but just know ye well that this dinky one-sided (NOW COME ON, GUYS!) 7” isn’t anything particularly special or memorable. Prime dollar bin fodder.

And hey, not to change the subject, but let’s change the subject. Am I crazy, or does the part in Alice Cooper’s “Elected” right before the line “We’re gonna win this one, take the country by storm” sound a WHOLE LOT like the dramatic bit leading into “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes…” in “Born to Run”?! This has been weighing heavily on me, what with Cooper having blatted his biz first.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lambchop - Up With People

(City Slang, 2000)

Every time I bother to throw one my cruelly-neglected Lambchop discs on the stereo, I find myself enjoying their lush pop sounds a great deal and thus make a mental note about how I need to purchase more of their albums. Which, for years, is something I’ve never followed through on. UNTIL NOW! After reviewing “Soaky in the Pooper” Sunday night, I finally decided to give these Nashvillains their due (and my cash) by ordering a hefty haul of seven LPs in one fell swoop, and if any of those are half as satisfying as the largely faultless Nixon, I’ll be a happy headphoneman. Cuz that album’s a real groover, see. And “Up With People” is the single, a toe-tappy AM-radio swinger with an arrangement (heavy on the horns and gospel-tinged backing vocals) that’ll please non-rock generations mightily. I could see Kurt Wagner’s ironic-sounding croon putting some off, but his songs are so well-constructed and well-played that it’s tough not to be won over; dude’s a bit like a twangier Liam Hayes. The Vic Chesnutt cover on the flip, “Miss Prissy,” is soothing in a Neil-Young-when-he-does-quiet kind of way, and makes for another horn-laced winner… find it here or on the Tools in the Dryer rarities comp.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lambchop - Soaky In The Pooper

(Merge, 1994)

A song about offing yourself! In the toilet! By drowning! Yes sir, we’ve all considered doing JUST THAT every now and then, but perhaps it’s better to experience death vicariously through Lambchop’s lovely “Soaky in the Pooper,” which tells a black tale of suicide and its aftermath over lowing horns and pluck-a-pluck strings, Kurt Wagner’s deadpan delivery giving gravity to even the recitation of the ridiculous title line (which is brilliantly rhymed with “Better call the super”!). The studio-/tape-edit-trickery bullshit of B-side “Two Kittens Don’t Make a Puppy” is worthless, however; even the most dire of Elephant 6’ers would be ashamed to include this on any release. Still, if nothing else, I suppose it indicates that Lambchop, even in its earliest days, had ambitions far beyond the orchestral country-pop ghetto to which many wanted to consign the band. And as I sit here mulling this mellow-yet-dark record, you know what? I realize yet again that I really like these guys!

Oh, and speaking of “liking,” I’d “LIKE” to give a very special “fuck you” to the Spanish-speaking fellow who felt the need to scream into his cellphone through the final hour of our choo-choo trip to New York City tonight. I’d been hoping to rest in peaceful, grave-like silence as we rolled on down the tracks, but this dink made it necessary for me to blast loud music through my headphones in an effort to drown him out. So consider my nerves frazzled and my panties twisted on this post-Thanksgiving Sunday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ladybug Transistor - Brighton Bound

(Elefant, 2000)

Chocolate vinyl, vanilla music. Tee hee! But seriously, people, I never thought that the Ladybug Transistor quite lived up to their buddies (and bandmates) the Essex Green when it came to crafting, uh, charming pastoral chamber-pop. While they arguably might’ve had more breadth (as demonstrated by the convincing spaghetti-isms of “Cienfuegos”), they just didn’t have the extra songwriting oomph to push themselves beyond being – despite the horns and baritone vox – at best a junior-varsity Plush, let alone ever manage to create something as perfect as the EG’s “Fabulous Day.” All of which unfairly comes off as a slap, cuz this music is undeniably fine and, yes, quite nice… I’m just saying it’s not going to end up on a desert island with me anytime soon. And, for the record, “Brighton Bound” is on Argyle Heir, while “Cienfuegos” is on The Albemarle Sound, which makes this heavy-wax import single superfluous in the extreme. Still, as indicated, you might as well give the songs a listen over the internet the next time you have a moment or three; stuff ain’t bad.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Labradford - Julius

(Merge, 1994)

I suppose I should account for my absence this past week. You see, I was in Portland (The Bearded City), where I was attending a supercomputing conference and generally enjoying the cheap, rainy livin’… though the best part of the trip was not to come until the flight home, when I shared an airplane with Everclear’s Art Alexakis. Not only was the guy flying economy (latest album musta stiffed), there was also an entertaining anecdote to be collected and shared: my boss sat directly behind him, and at one point his seat started shaking so violently that she thought he was having a seizure. Upon leaning forward to make sure he was OK, she saw that famed vocalist Art was in fact laughing hysterically at a “greatest bloopers” video that was being screened as in-flight entertainment. Ha! A true man of the people!

Labradford is people too, so we can now transition neatly into a brief review of this rather swell early single. The group takes many of its cues from Sonic Boom’s work in Spectrum and late-period Spacemen 3, with its glacial minimalism and sung-spoke vocals. Quite pretty in a chilly sort of way, even if songs like the church-y, drumless “Julius” never build to any satisfying conclusion. “Columna de la Independencia” is similarly languid, like a sleepier, moodier American Analog Set (and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the AmAnSet guys were big Labradford fans in the early days). Neither song is significantly better than what you can find on the band’s easily-had LPs, but it’s all still manna from above for fans of druggy ’90s post-rock.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

L7 - Everglade

(Slash, 1992)

First, some personal business. Jason from the hyper-informative 7 Inches blog recently posted a recording of a telephone conversation we had, so please go forth and thrill to the beautiful sound of my sleepy voice as a coupla disc-geeks discuss various record-related topics at length. And as you look over his site, be sure to note that Jason is far smarter than I am in that he focuses on exciting NEW music while I waste my ever-shrinking time with oft-terrible older stuff. ALTHOUGH! To leap to my own defense, I do have my moments: Why, just last night I bought a copy of the latest Neil Hamburger 7”, a raging pisser on which he sings with Australian punk band The Hard-Ons. Famed rag The Village Voice happened to be on hand to document my purchase, and their website now carries the handsome photographic evidence. Calling all ladies!

Yes people, as the weather turns cold it’s a hot time indeed for the staff here at I Think I Hate My 45s, and things are only getting hotter as we stride boldly forth into reviews of bands whose names begin with the letter “L” (that being the hottest letter).

But oops: Unfortunately, L7 gets us off to a lousy start.

Yeah, lousy. I mean, it’s chunky riff-stuff with Vig production, so there’s a certain sheen that’s not exactly unappealing, but I can’t work up more than half-mast sympathy for the dum-dum anti-machoisms of the failed call-to-arms “Everglade.” Embarrassing it ain’t, but Grohl-meets-Hanna limp is what it is, so forget about it. And there’s even LESS brainpower on display on the B-exclusive “Freak Magnet,” which is a vomitous outsider wannabe-anthem that should’ve been left in the middle-school diary from which it apparently came. My knowledge of the L7 catalog is pretty limited, but was EVERYTHING they wrote intended to be a low-IQ rallying cry for the kids? And, like these songs, did all of those recordings fall totally flat on their faces? Answer or don’t!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kudgel - Alphabet Song

(Cinderblock, 1991)

For their debut, these Boston-area loudguys offer up a funny, foulmouthed take on ye olde alphabet ditty, with guitar-crazy choruses that call to mind what the folks in the Baker-fronted Mercury Rev were soon to be gettin’ up to themselves a few states over. The lyrical/compositional nuttiness of the song, however, perhaps places the tune more squarely in Cows territory – an equally fine place to be. B-side “Eskimo Pie” makes for a similarly intriguing Rev/Cows combo, its fucked sweet-n-gruff vocals and feedback antics balancing the melody and noise sides of the scales quite effectively. Winners both. And while the station sticker on my copy of this single, generously – ahem – “donated” to me by an obscenity-conscious WERS, warns “DO NOT PLAY,” you’d be something more than a fool to pass up any chance to check this one out should the opportunity ever present itself; unheralded though it may be in 2009, thing’s as good a piece of plastic to issue forth from the whateverground of the early ’90s as anything else collecting dust out there in record-store land.

Further: Cheeky chimpies, Kudgel packaged all 750 copies of “Alphabet Song” with “bonus singles” likely culled from local Salvation Army shops. Mine, long since gone, was Sonny & Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kiss - Having Fun On Stage With Stanley

(no label, 19??)

Like the similarly-titled Elvis record before it, “Having Fun On Stage With Stanley” showcases the deep thoughts of a messianic dummy IN HIS ELEMENT by documenting the between-song stage banter of said goofus LIVE and RAW. Meaning that you’re getting prime Starchild here, buddy, as Paul shrieks and lisps his way through a series of passionate-yet-unconvincing spoken intros that touch on groupies, booze (COLD GIN!), Michael Jackson, and all manner of bizarre/gross penile innuendo. For kicks, a transcript of one of the tamer tracks:

“People! There are two ways, there are TWO WAYS I can talk to you people tonight. I can talk to you people like this is an audience at a rock and roll concert. Or I can talk to you people like you were our friends. Now, we have been to Los Angeles enough times to know that the people who came here tonight are most definitely OUR FRIENDS. Now I want to tell you a little story. But this is just between you and me. But I want to caution all you people: this story is a little bit… DIRTY. So if any of you people are offended by that kind of stuff, GET THE FUCK OUT. ARE YOU READY LOS ANGELES?! Because I’m gonna warn you one more time: this story has to do with S-E-X. This afternoon… this afternoon, we flew into Los Angeles, California, we landed in LAX airport, must’ve been about 3:30 this afternoon, and we was walkin’ through the terminal when all of a sudden a stewardess comes walkin’ over to me and says, ‘Are you in a band?’ And you know the way I dress. I looked at this girl and I said, ‘No, sweetheart, I am not in a band; I am a doctor.’ She said, ‘Really?!’ I said, ‘Baby, I am DOCTOR LOVE.’ Then she says to me, ‘You’re really a doctor, huh?’ And I said, ‘Baby, not only am I a doctor, but you see these guys over here? We are aaaaaaall doctors, and we are on our way to the Forum tonight to do a serious, major operation.’ Now, I’m lookin’ this girl upside down, I’m lookin’ her up, I’m lookin’ her down, I’m lookin’ at her sideways, and all of a sudden she says, ‘You know something? I know who you are. You are in a band.’ And I said to her, ‘Baby, I am not in a band, I am in THE band!!’”

…And cheers erupt, etc. At once hilarious, humiliating, horrifying, and hypnotic, this is in many ways the definitive Kiss record. Really: what sums the band up better than a series of crude, misogynistic, weirdly-compelling pimple-faced fantasies? This is IT, unfiltered, with no guitars/drums/bass to get in the way. The later appearance of the monster 70-track banter comp People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest (which doesn’t include everything found here) diminishes somewhat the importance of this 7”, but the disc’s still a very worthwhile find for the devoted, as Paul Stanley is undeniably a genius of... uh... well... sorts. And hey, if nothing else, these bootlegs are at least a whole lot more fun than the pitiful Live to Win and Sonic Boom travesties recently dumped onto the market. Get ’em, you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kinks - Me And My Brother

(Frog, 19??)

One more Kinks review, and it’s a four-song collection of audience recordings from post-Think Visual tours, taped at various locations between May, 1987, and April, 1988. Happily, the rougher sound quality (and career-spanning song selection) makes this hodgepodge much more enjoyable than the band’s bland, glassy studio albums of the time, with a clunker like “How Are You” benefiting noticeably from a snappier tempo and cruder taping. The other three tracks are interesting novelties in that they’re all songs sung by Ray on the LPs and here handed off to Dave in the live setting. I’m certainly no rah-rah fan of the younger Davies’ voice, but he acquits himself well on both “Sleepwalker” and a raw “You Really Got Me,” even if he can’t quite give “Too Much on My Mind” the delicate treatment it needs. While hardly a spectacular boot, this is a nice companion to the not-as-awful-as-it-should-be The Road live alb that was recorded around the same time. Heck, if anyone’s dumb enough to ever reissue that unloved disc, these tracks would make for real fine bonus tracks. Worth considering, richie riches of the world.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kinks - Lost And Found

(MCA, 1987)

BREAKING! Kinks in adult-contemporary autopilot-hackery shocker! Yup, “Lost and Found,” which lent its name to an MCA comp that was a cutout-bin mainstay in my formative years, has all the clich├ęs: a midtempo plod, sleek synths, two lame guitar solos, and screaming saxophones. Practically comes off as a parody of such late-’80s nonsense; thing could’ve easily featured on the soundtrack of a cheesy Top Gun-style movie. Oh, and “Killing Time” makes another appearance on the B-side, where it continues to stink.

Sigh.

You know, grumping about lousy Kinks records for the last few weeks has ceased to be much fun, so I’ll inject some positivity by mentioning that the reunited Jesus Lizard is terrific in concert. And that Andrew Loog Oldham’s symphonic Rolling Stones Songbook album is a must-hear. And that John Bellairs remains a pleasure to read. Yeah: hooray for stuff!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kinks - How Are You

(London, 1986)

Two midtempo mediocrities from Think Visual, though, to be fair, these are two of the better songs on that abomination. Whee! “How Are You” is a mature response to a relationship gone bad, crooned in a manner reminiscent of mid-’80s Bowie, and “Killing Time” sounds surprisingly like a period Jeff Lynne production. Which raises this point: aside from the fact these simply aren’t very good songs, it bugs me that the Kinks, in their final years, have not only tried to become JUST LIKE everybody else on the dinosaur circuit, they’ve also failed miserably at it. The result is boring cookie-cutter rock for old people that sounds like it was created by a bunch of disinterested session hacks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kinks - Rock 'N' Roll Cities

(MCA, 1986)

You know what my Kinks reviews have in common with the band’s career? Both are interminable and depressing. Crikey, “Rock ’N’ Roll Cities”? What is this shit? I can’t imagine there’s a worse single in the Kinks’ discography than this appalling turd, which lays out the age-old laundry list of touring-band gripes in the most generic fashion possible over humiliating bar-band backing. Oh, wait! Ha ha! You made up some jokey radio station call letters, one of which is K-O-N-K!! Truly, you’re both a wit and a visionary genius, Dave! Also: FUCK YOU. And “Welcome to Sleazytown” is as bad as its title, a slow, bluesy lump of a song that once again demonstrates Ray’s near-total inability, by the late 1980s, to write – as he once did so easily – lyrics or music capable of moving his audience. Pathetic stuff. Here’s where the Kinks become a joyless, characterless, mindless husk of a band. This is bad music. It really is.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kinks - Do It Again

(Arista, 1984)

Word of Mouth – drum machines and all – is an improvement over the putrid State of Confusion, but it’s pretty clear that Ray’s already-suspect creativity is sapped when the album’s single bites the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night,” morphs into a bad Pete Townshend impression, and then, inexplicably, rips off 1968 B-side “She’s Got Everything.” Maybe the whole thing’s a stroke of brilliance meant to illustrate the “nothing is ever really new” mopery of the lyrics. Or maybe Ray’s just out of new musical ideas. And given how little of his songwriting during this decade stands out as anything resembling MEMORABLE or EXCITING (or even WORTH OWNING), I’m putting my money on the latter being the case. Brother Dave’s not faring too well here either, with “Guilty” blaring forth as yet another boring, riff-by-numbers rocker – albeit with an OK chorus – that’s further sandbagged by Dave’s rotten vocals. Always strained and weak-sounding going back to the ’60s, his nasal yowlings are by this point brutal on the ears.

And just to kick the Kinks while they’re down, can anyone out there think of a band that had nearly as “impressive” a run of hideous album covers as these guys did from ’83 through ’88? I mean, good gravy… State of Confusion, Word of Mouth, Think Visual, and The Road are spectacularly ugly artifacts. Eyeball obscenities, all of ’em.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kinks - Lola

(PRT, 1984)

Reissue madness from the zany Spaniards, who take one song from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, one song from Arthur, cram ’em onto a 7”, and wrap the results in a psychedelicized Village Green Preservation Society sleeve! Such releases are usually crude budget items, so I straight-up dropped my monocle into my martini the first time I saw this fine fella hangin’ out on the shelves of eBay, but recovered quickly enough to send a few coins over to Europe for the thing. Lucky lucky! Now I can inform one and all that this earth-shattering, axis-rocking single contains the stereo “cherry cola” mix of “Lola” and the standard LP version of “Victoria.” And speaking of “Victoria,” I’ve always wondered what’s up with Ray’s voice on there... Why’d he decide to sing it with that then-unheard, lower-register booziness?! I love it plenty, but it’s certainly jarring the first time you hear him mooing away like that! Kinda makes me nervous that there’s a joke here that I’m not in on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kinks - State Of Confusion

(Arista, 1984)

The only CONFUSION one should having regarding this British EP is why it EXISTS, consisting as it does of two then-current LP tracks and edits of two songs off of the band’s 1980 live record. The bits lifted from State of Confusion – the title track and “Heart of Gold” – represent both sides of the bozo-rock coin that make that album such a disaster (one tuff/paranoid growler, one sensitive/Pretenders-style midtempo yawn). An accurate representation of the increasingly tired Kinks at this time, I suppose, but hardly a flattering one. The live songs, meanwhile, are the macho stadium versions of “Lola” and “20th Century Man” that chumps the world over had already bought years earlier on One For the Road. Weird. Honestly, I’m not sure whether this disc was released to promote a tour of the UK, to expose the back catalog to newly-minted fans of “Come Dancing,” or just thrown out there as a cynical (and lousy!) piece of product. All three, perhaps.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kinks - Father Christmas

(Flashback, 1983)

Sometimes life teaches you things. Like Thursday, when I pulled my air conditioner in after a rainstorm and, it being filled with water, promptly dumped a gallon of cloud-piss onto my bedroom floor.

Sometimes Arista reissues things. Like 1983, when the label paired two Kinks singles of the ’70s for a budget 7” and, it being a pointless catalog goosing, promptly dumped tons of unwanted vinyl onto the market.

See what I did there? It’s called craftsmanship. Savor it while I savor my Pulitzer.

All seriousness aside, though – I did in fact win a Pulitzer – this Frankenstein reissue of two semi-golden semi-oldies is a real jukebox champ: “Father Christmas” is mid-/late-period Kinks recalling their snotty/pissed best circa ’64, and “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” is perhaps the finest, heppest, slinkiest ’60s-band-gone-disco song out there… sure beats hell on “Goodnight Tonight,” “Miss You,” and even (MAYBE) “Wiggle That Wotsit.” A pointless cheapie not worth owning, this, but still, thing’s admittedly an impeccable two-song comp. And there’s enough similarly solid stuff out there that if you spring for an LP-length assemblage of Ray’s best from these years you’ll manage to appreciate the guy’s occasional hiccups of brilliance as spread – however thinly – throughout the RCA/Arista/MCA era; I give him a hard time, but dude was OK. Frustrating as heck, but generally OK.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kinks - Come Dancing

(Arista, 1983)

Yup, you know it: This is the big ol’ hit offa that famed album where an ageing Mick Avory, one fifth of the world’s Ugliest Band, is snapped lumbering through the cover-shot in an unfortunate sweatsuit. Yikes! He, all a-perspiring, clearly dug deep for that sprint, so let’s assign credit where due: nicely done, Mick! Gold star for you! And, sure, yeh, while we’re handing out plaudits based on State of Confusion, let’s toss one to the previously catchysong-barren RAY, what with “Come Dancing,” last of the Kinky smashes, being a synth-kissed way-back-when-fest that sledgehammers home most of the standard Davies lyrical obsessions while wrapping everything up in a tidy radio-bow. You: dig the craftsmanship, dig the steel-drum pep, dig the big-band horns at the end. A tasty trifle! Like it! Love it! Congrats, Raymond; you pulled one last nostalgia-hump outta your rump! Huzzah! And yet… the non-LP “Noise” on the B is a sour, curmudgeonly response to mid-’80s radio that’s made all the worse given Ray’s INABILITY TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR and realize that he’s gotta suck big dong on that front, given that he’s desperately trying to get himself on the airwaves at this point by adapting his sound to current trends. A pathetic lyric, a pathetic sentiment, a pathetic song… if anything marks the end of the Kinks as a to-be-taken-seriously thingy, it’s this embarrassing whine-fest. The A was a hit, but the B makes it clear: GIVE UP, RAY. YOU’RE OLD AND OUTTA TOUCH. So? BOO.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kinks - Better Things

(Arista, 1981)

The second American single from Give the People What They Want backs away from the big-gesture aggression of the “Destroyer” 45 by pairing two of the album’s more thoughtful, midtempo songs for 7” release. “Better Things” (now 15 seconds longer than on the LP; ZOINKS!) was a radio hit, but a rather unlikely one due to a wobbly, tentative delivery by Ray and rhythmically-awkward lyrics in the verses that are only semi-successfully shoehorned into the melody. And while there’s definitely something “off” and demo-ish about the whole thing, I suppose there’s enough here to enjoy, like a nice dual-guitar line in the chorus and an overall air of optimism that’s refreshing as compared to the rest of the songs on the album. The significantly darker “Yo-Yo” is a return to sharp, regular-guy character sketches a la Something Else, but with Ray shouting the arena-crunch chorus in his stupid Jagger-of-the-’80s bellow, this is easily identifiable as a Give the People track and not some lost ’60s classic: ultimately, as on the A-side, it’s a good lyric matched with some decent if unremarkable songwriting. So what’s not to tolerate?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kinks - Destroyer

(Arista, 1981)

There’s so much to dislike on
“Destroyer” – the recycling of the “All Day and All of the Night” riff, the gratuitous reappearance of the Lola character, the simplistic red/bed/head rhymes, the bar-band keyboard – that I’m a little bit ashamed by how much I enjoy this gloriously stupid song. It: Calculated…crappy…catchy. Me: CONFLICTED. Which is actually how I feel about most of Give the People What They Want, a guilty-pleasure fave of an album where the Kinks, trying to ape their more successful musical offspring (circa ’81), indulge in big, dumbed-down guitar moves that are bizarrely SHOUTED over by a middle-aged, fashion-conscious, skinny-tie wearing Ray Davies. The weird and fun thing with this material, though, is that thanks (I figure) to the presence of horrible-solo-album-makin’ Dave, the Kinks go beyond new-wave pussyisms and creep into boneheaded Kiss-style territory on songs like B-side “Back to Front,” which is driven by some fantastic chunka-chunka guitar and caveman drums. Lookee: the Kinks prove themselves supremely capable of doing STOOPID quite well here, and given that that’s the direction they’d clearly been moving in since Low Budget, it’s odd to realize that the one thing holding them back from achieving true braindead TRANSCENDENCE (again: Kiss) is the stubborn refusal of Ray’s few remaining shreds of cleverness and craftsmanship to give up the ghost – social commentary and conceptual hoo-haw still abound. It all leads to an odd mixture of beefy fist-pump and psuedo-poetic over-exertion, but thankfully the final product skews dumb, and we’re all the better for that. Find this one in your local dollar bin and hear that I’m right. YOU BETTER ADMIT IT.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kinks - Celluloid Heroes (live)

(Arista, 1980)

Wheeee, the Kinks recorded an overdub-heavy double live album at the end of the ’70s. And wheeee they bothered to release a single from it, perhaps trying to shamefacedly give “Celluloid Heroes” the chart opportunity it should have had back in ’72. Fuck it: As with most live records, this stuff follows the tired “play it faster, play it louder” formula that has resulted in many a pointless concert-souvenir cash-in over the years. Plus you get obnoxious Wings-style synths and some sweaty guitar-noodling by Dave that detracts from the fragility of the original. So why bother? And on the other side, if you’re silly enough to care, the audience-heavy recording of “Lola” is muscular and energetic, but still begs the same question.

Yet: Biggest head-scratcher? Why’s there a palm frond on the cover of this record?! Ray, TELL A GUY.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kinks - Father Christmas

(Arista, 1977)

I can only imagine the excitement felt by the citizens of 1976 when it was reported (on the internet of 1976) that famous baldy Clive Davis had hung Ray Davies by his ankles off of a 20th-story balcony, demanding that he stop recording shitty rock operas. Ray found Clive’s message to be persuasive, and thus, fellow Red Sox fans, did we get Sleepwalker and Misfits, two albums of boring, middle-aged plod-rock that induce yawns aplenty by offering up ultra-slick, Showbiz-style rock-life complaints; beefy, dum-dum Seger-isms; and keyboardarific proto-power ballads. Now, as much as those reviled concept records tended to stink, they at least had a distinctly Kinksian personality… these albums play like Ray Davies wrote them desperately needing a hit and is therefore trying to fit into some sort of AOR mainstream that he doesn’t really understand; it’s here where the Kinks fall behind the times rather than simply out of step with them.

But between those two LPs, the band released “Father Christmas,” a non-album holiday single that showed there might still indeed be some life left in these paunch-rockers. With a sneering, class-conscious lyric about mugging Santa Claus, it’s the most frantic, supercharged song from the Kinks since maybe 1966 (laugh all you want, but calling it Motorhead-lite is just a slight exaggeration), and its memorable chorus and hooks are a welcome respite from the facelessness of so much of Ray’s writing around this time. You: Love it! And then play it repeatedly on your local bowling-alley jukebox, just as I did all the time back in high school! And then prepare to be disappointed by the B-side! “Prince of the Punks,” allegedly a slam directed at ex-bud Tom Robinson, swipes the chorus of “Substitute” and hopefully – given its piano, horns, and bouncy choogle – isn’t actually supposed to sound like punk. The “Substitute” rip could be considered semi-clever, what with the Sex Pistols covering that song and all, but the whole thing isn’t nearly as sharp or damning as I’m sure Ray thought it was at the time.

The A-side is now a bonus track on the Misfits CD, the B is on the Sleepwalker reissue. Good to know, but Smarty Smartman will get either the original 7” or the 99-cent download of “Father Christmas” and just ignore the rest of that era’s Kinks material altogether.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kinks - Sweet Lady Genevieve

(RCA, 1973)

The two-volume Preservation saga is the first major embarrassment for the Kinks (but don’t worry – there are plenty more to come!), a pair of bloated, confused albums almost stunningly uncompelling and inessential in concept, composition, and execution. Still, among the pretentious wreckage of boring rockers and odious show tunes, there are a few tracks that can stand quite ably on their own, and “Sweet Lady Genevieve,” wisely chosen as a single, is one of them. This is a folksy stomp that could have easily come from the group’s ’67-’69 glory days – simple, sunny, laid-back, outstanding melody. It’s pretty much the last gasp from Ray Davies in this style, and it was released, coincidentally, around the same time as the musically-similar late-’60s outtake/rarity LP The Great Lost Kinks Album. Sounds more like a single pushing that disc than Preservation, sez a guy who tends to be right (me).

Perhaps reflecting band or rec-label awareness of the serious lack of strong material from these sessions (though I do like the “Celluloid Heroes”-esque “Where Are They Now”), Everybody’s in Showbiz’s “Sitting in My Hotel” is dusted off for the B-side of “Genevieve.” Which is fine with me, because, if nothing else, it’s nice that there was an attempt to score further exposure for the song, a slice of sad, piano-led self-examination wherein Davies observes his own rock-star ridiculousness from the viewpoint of his back-when friends. Cutting, hard-hitting stuff, and certainly one that deserves to be included on any Kinks comp that purports to collect the group’s greatest. Just a shame that Ray, his head burrowing its way ever further up his own ass, couldn’t train that same sharp, brutally-honest eye on his laughable Preservation and Soap Opera concepts before he decided to dump them on an instantly-vomiting fanbase (rather than into his own brain-toilet).

You know, I have Preservation Act 1 playing right now as I type, and I realize what it is that REALLY annoys me about this album. It’s the fact that, aside from the obvious dreck – a Lou Reed knockoff?! – there are elements of what COULD HAVE BEEN good songs in here, especially within “Daylight” and “Money & Corruption/I am Your Man.” But instead of developing these bits and pieces into lovely little self-contained tracks, Ray decides to strangle them with distracting, plot-advancing lyrics and the ugly musical/vocal bloat of his bellbottomed theater-troupe nonsense. A frustrating waste; he wasn’t out of ideas by ’73, he was just committed to pursuing grandiose ones he was incapable of pulling off.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kinks - Supersonic Rocket Ship

(RCA, 1972)

Mysteries abound on a Sunday night. Like, why did I buy and chew a boneless spare-rib combo from China One? I should have known it would only make me feel ill. And why did some kid of yesteryear write “LOVE IS LOVE – BARRY RYAN” on the back sleeve of my “Supersonic Rocket Ship” single? That ditty by Mr. Ryan alarms me to no end, and I’m not sure why anyone felt compelled to scribble its name on a Kinks 45 in 1972. The biggest mystery of all, however, is why in heck I really, truly LIKE “Supersonic Rocket Ship” when it’s essentially a rewrite of “Apeman,” a song I’m famous the world over for loathing. Escapism, tropical feel, Fey-Ray Davies – it’s all here. Still, as with much of the ultra-silly Everybody’s in Showbiz album, there’s a lazy-yet-punchy feel to the track – dig them horns and kettle drums! – that makes it hard to resist its goofy grooviness. A nifty single, a nifty songle. I woulda maybe preferred to have it paired with the incredible “Sitting in My Hotel,” perhaps the best, most honest song Ray Davies wrote in the ’70s, but hey, instead the B-side is “You Don’t Even Know My Name,” a slide-guitar shitkicker from Dave. Thing would’ve fit better on Muswell Hillbillies or Lola, and yet here it is! Funny how this world works sometimes. Really, though, tune’s fine and so’s life; I bear both but little ill will.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kinks - God's Children

(Pye, 1971)

The oft-ignored Percy soundtrack doesn’t get much love from the people of this world, but the Hott XXX Secret I’m gonna tell you now is that it’s actually filled to bustin’ with terrific songs in the basic mold of the Lola LP’s gentler moments. Ignoring the instrumental throwaways that pad out the record, these are mature, thoughtful, well-produced weepies that stand up as some of the strongest ballads Ray Davies ever recorded. “God’s Children” is the best of them, a rousing, string-filled syrup-fest that makes the same “back to nature” case as “Apeman,” but does it successfully and gorgeously, without the smirky, braindead hokiness that sabotaged the earlier track. An excellent song, and it’s almost matched by “Moments” on the B-side, a fragile hanky-honker that sounds quite a bit like something Paul McCartney might have recorded around the same time (especially when the brief guitar solo begins). Man. YOU WERE SO GOOD AT YOUR JOB BACK THEN, RAY DAVIES. And! Sweetening the deal here is the fact that the German wing of Pye Records offers yet another picture sleeve that kicks the ass of your eyeball, making for an absolute winner of a package. But still: Buy the entire album – both songs are on there – and thrill to the last of the classy, subdued, “sixties-sounding” Kinks records. Things were to get pretty rough after this…

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kinks - Apeman

(Pye, 1970)

If it’s praise for “Apeman” that you seek, seek elsewhere, PAL, because I don’t have many kind things to say about a single that takes Ray Davies’ dead-horse themes of dislocation and escape and forces them into a cloying, dunderheaded novelty entirely lacking in wit. Sure, I can appreciate new-guy John Gosling, who continues to make his presence felt with a pronounced piano/keys oom-pah that adds extra weight to the music, but, as on “Lola,” what’s up with Ray’s “in-character” vocals? That weak, tip-toe style of enunciating that he employs is EXTREMELY irritating, not to mention mildly racist during his terrible “reggae-man” spoken bit. Lousy lyrics (“I’m an apeman, I’m an ape-apeman, oh I’m an apeman / I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man / Oh I’m an apeman”) compound the problem, making “Apeman” a record that hardly ranks among the finer moments from ol’ Ray, a guy who likes to fancy himself the thinking-fellow’s pop star. Pfft. Clunker though it is, feel free to flip the thing over and enjoy “Rats,” a typically serviceable Dave Davies rawker. While the Kinks aren’t quite capable of running with the Heavy crowd of the early ’70s, this one makes a noble, noisy go of it and actually ain’t half bad. We’ll never see eye to eye on the whole alien-visitation thing, but I think we can at least agree that you did a swell job here, Dave! Common ground, my friend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kinks - Lola

(Pye, 1970)

German issue… same music, better sleeve (for whatever reason, the Germans typically had FANTASTIC ones through the ’70s). What interests me here is that both this and the French pressing, reviewed below, have the “cherry cola” lyric as opposed to the original “Coca Cola.” My understanding is that the Kinks made this change in order to satisfy the BBC’s policies regarding commercial placement, but was the re-recording in fact used across the board for the 7” release worldwide? Hardly a scandal, but I’m at least mildly surprised that the seemingly stubborn Ray Davies would let the international radio version of his comeback hit be the semi-compromised take, even outside of territories where such concessions would have been required for broadcast. Did any countries get the “Coca Cola” line on their 7”s? The good ol’ United States, perhaps? Lemme know!

Kinks - Lola

(Pye, 1970)

I can remember a grocery-baggin’ period in high school when I would shudder and reach for the dial each time the local classic-rock station trotted this one out, but calendars have changed and so have I, and I gotta cop now to MUCH toe-tappery whenever I hear “Lola.” Undeniable that the song’s instantly memorable, and, for those keen on expending at least minimal brain power on bigger-picture considerations, it DOES emerge from a particularly interesting time for the Kinks. The entire Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround album is a transitional one in that it moves further away from the precious, hyper-conceptual British-isms of albums past by rocking harder (a move hinted at musically on Arthur) while also showing some of the country/Americana influences that would soon dominate the band on Muswell Hillbillies. “Lola” marries these two forward-thinking impulses quite effectively, its big, aggressive choruses alternating with rolling, string-pluckin’ verses, all with a pre-glam gender-bend story slathered atop it. I still have mixed feelings about the way an over-mannered Ray Davies delicately picks his way through the lyrics, but younger-bro Dave’s nasal owl-hoot actually works well here in the background as a complementary vocal part. Also intriguing is the B-side, “Berkeley Mews,” a Village Green Preservation Society outtake that is quite inessential but ends up fitting in surprisingly well – both in its faux-American barrelhouse shtick and sexually-confused lyrics – when paired (two years after its recording) with “Lola.” A relative rarity, the song was mysteriously left off of the late-’90s CD reissues and, on full-lengths, is only easily found on The Kink Kronikles and the 3CD Village Green deluxe set.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Kingsmen - Louie Louie

(Wand, 1963)

The best rock single ever? Maybe. Probably? Sure. No point word-wanking about this one; you’ve heard it ten-thousand times and know the deal. And so do I. Thing’s outstanding, stoopid, and perfect. But the B-side, “Haunted Castle,” has rarely received the attention it’s semi-deserved, it being a woozy booty-shake instrumental that manages to – at the very least – nobly stick its chin above the waterline of party-band competency. Catchy enough, and I always appreciated it when the now-dead Soiled Mattress and the Springs used to cover the thing in concert. The Kingsmen themselves apparently succumbed to ultra-litigious showbiz silliness soon after this 45rpm triumph, but at least we can still luv these two songs for the leering dance-wiggle scum-bash that they were and are. So thanks for that, fellas, and have fun at your next state fair or casino or resort appearance, where you’ll still be rockin’ hard despite, ahem, “several personnel changes” in recent decades that pretty much have you doing things phony-baloney style. Whee!!! And I suppose it’s amusing to note that I’ve spent many trashy hours in the vicinity of the old Wand Records headquarters at 1650 Broadway… these days that address is nestled among a McDonald’s and a Mars 2112 theme restaurant. Now, between that fact and the forehead-slappin’ retardedness of the Kingsmen's intra-band lawsuit-legacy, there are probably some deep and valuable truths or least LESSONS about Rock to be learned, but I’m too lazy to probe for them right now. Hey: time for a beer!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Killdozer - Short Eyes

(Amphetamine Reptile, 1990)

So what’s the deal with that “Featuring Tom Hazelmyer” thingy scrawled across the cover? I’d long assumed that he was just “featured” as an additional player on the disc, but I recently found out that I was WRONG. Oh how wrong I was. Yep, according to an informative interview with Mr. AmRep himself, he was temporarily standing in as THE guitarist for Killdozer while Bill Hobson was out on paternity leave, and during tour rehearsals there happened to occur a recording session that produced the find-em-nowhere-else songs on this single. So that’s interesting. As is this: while the addition of Hazelmyer hardly turns the band into Halo of Flies, there’s more liveliness and trebly elasticity on here than on any Killdozer release in many a moon. Crotch-oriented lyrics on both sides and some floor-rattling guitar on “Short Eyes” offer further guffaws and thrills, but, while a minor (and necessary) departure from the past, neither song is quite up to the sky-high thump-skree standards previously established by the band. Now, don’t get me wrong; I like this record plenty. It’s just that I know Twelve Point Buck, and this is no Twelve Point Buck.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Killdozer - Yow!

(Touch and Go, 1989)

Criticizing a single that has the best song from the best Killdozer album on one side, a superb Janet Jackson cover on the other, and label-chum David Yow on the sleeve is a total no-can-do; this is prime sleaze-grunge, heavy, scummy, and smart. “Lupus” adds horns to the band’s slow, crushing attack, and stars an especially animated Michael Gerald, who weaves summaries of the works of Flannery O’Connor around a genius chorus: “Lupus took the life of Flannery O’Connor / She wrote many books before death came upon her.” Ha! Funny rhyme, true biographical tidbit! The Jackson song, “Nasty,” tops most of what’s on For Ladies Only (where it wouldn’t have fit, thematically, due to those tracks coming from the late ’60s and early-/mid-’70s), thanks to a mostly-synthetic backing and a low, creepy vocal delivery. When Gerald finally breaks the slinky tension and lets loose with his standard growl-yell on the lines “I’m not a prude / I just want some respect,” that’s about as close as you’re gonna get to pure audio gold, mister. So pencil this one in at the top of your handy “to-get” list, and then go ahead and add the parent LP, Twelve Point Buck (which includes “Lupus,” but not “Nasty”) right under that – I’ll stack side one of that album up against that of almost any other record in terms of sheer perfection.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Killdozer - For Ladies Only

(Touch and Go, 1989)

Killdozer had a habit of slapping funny, unpredictable li’l covers here and there on their records, taking familiar hits of the past and, well, turning them into Killdozer songs – which more or less meant sludging ’em up with tons of bass and distortion while Michael Gerald lumbered his way through the lyrics in his Gene-Simmons-as-angry-drunk growl. Anyway, having already pulled this trick prior to ’89 with material by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, and Neil Diamond, it probably wasn’t too shocking that the band decided to go ahead and record a full LP’s worth of ugly – yet faithful! – covers. Touch and Go went all out, releasing For Ladies Only in a few different configurations (CD, LP, picture disc LP, and 5x7”), and if you’re of the money-spending persuasion, it’s the fancy 7” set that you’re gonna want to possess, both for its unicorn-themed packaging and the presence of a bonus song included nowhere else. That’s right: not only do you get to hear world-famous standards by the likes of Deep Purple, Bad Company, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Coven, Steve Miller Band, Don McLean, and James Gang as interpreted by beloved Milwaukee hitmakers Killdozer, but you ALSO get their spin on a Buffalo Springfield song AT NO EXTRA COST. And how is this exclusive performance of “Mr. Soul”? Does it live up to the rumbling, beer-addled heaviness of the rest of the collection? I wouldn’t know. The used copy I bought of this rare item was MISSING THE DISC WITH “MR. SOUL” ON IT. So who wants to send me a freebie?

Thanks!

While you prepare to mail me your personal copies of For Ladies Only, I’ll leave you now by reprinting the mini-bio (also exclusive to the 7”s!) that Steve Albini wrote for the band, what with it being a real super-hoot and all:

Killdozer may be a new name on the pop scene, but with their smart looks, peppy “now” beat and penny-perfect vocal stylings, that’ll change soon enough. Killdozer have the exciting sound of today, and on this, their first Dynagroove long playing album, they play their driving beat with a twist: Unicorns.

That’s right, Unicorns. With Unicorns behind them, it won’t be long before people all over the globe are saying, “Killdozer? Fuck me, they’re okay.”

Now lets meet these exciting young men, the spearheads of the hottest new sound on the scene.

MICHAEL, who sings and plays guitar for the band, began his performing career early in life, when he joined his mother, a talented musician and entertainer herself, in an onstage rendition of “Tits Ain’t A Big Enough Word For These, Luv.”

“Mister Romance” (as Michael is known to his admirers around the world) is also a well-traveled, highly educated intellectual whose hobbies include lathework and cat polishing.

As for Unicorns, he likes them. “Yeah, I guess so,” he says.

BILL, who sings and plays guitar for the band, has been on the pop scene for a few years. Folks in the know recognize Bill playing the driving guitar on chart-toppers like “My Generation” and “Flying Purple People Eater.”

“Bill” (as Bill is known to his friends) is, like Jesus was, a carpenter, who would be better off learning a respectable trade like dopin’ and pimpin’.

Bill thinks Unicorns are alright. “Unicorns? They’re alright,” he says.

DAN, who sings and plays guitar for the band, enjoys himself the old fashioned way: by drinking himself completely stupid and smashing up the trailer every night.

“The Thinker” (as Dan is known to people who want to make him feel bad) has pen pals of both genders and a collection of different colored feathers. Some with no blood on them.

What does Dan think of Unicorns? They’re tops! “But not that fucking goat I saw at the freak house. That was a fake,” he says.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kid Champion - Conscious

(Mint, 1994)

Now here’s an interesting fact for all you fact-loving fact-lovers out there: Know what manner of sexy “schwag” the CIA is handing out at college recruiting events in the year 2009? Psst: I do. Because I obtained it while up in Boston on my business trip last week. And, as you might imagine, the world’s premier intelligence agency is indeed distributing a giveaway well worthy of its high-tech reputation and mindblowing mega-budget. Which can mean only one thing.

A wallet-sized gratuity table.

Yes, friends, the CIA is giving out wallet-sized gratuity tables to the top college students of America, ensuring that they never need to pause for an embarrassing amount of time while trying to calculate 15% or – God forbid! – 20% of their next meal check. An outstanding and thoughtful offering from our beloved spooks. Personally, as one who appreciates the fine work done by the waiters and waitresses of this world, regardless of nationality, I’ll be sure to keep this durable (plastic!) item handy the next time I’m gaming elections in Central America or slipping out for a drink or two near Guantanomo Base. Your tax dollars at work!

Over to you now, Canada.

Hi, Canada here. We’ve got a band called Kid Champion, or at least DID HAVE, back in the mid-’90s, and they, on their one and only release, proved themselves to be a real crock o’ shit. Ha! JUST KIDDING (we love jokes up in Canada)… these folks were in fact kinda OK, more like a “thimble o’ shit” than a full-on “crock” of the stuff. Yeah? I’m saying: Imagine the ultimate Slumberland Records also-ran – complete with ethereal girl-sing and gauzy lo-fi shoegaze aesthetic – and you have yourself a mighty accurate ear-picture of what we’re dealing with on this one. Happens to be a micro-genre I like, though, so I’ll be snide but I won’t be dismissive. Worth a buck? You betcha.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eddie Kendricks - Shoeshine Boy

(Tamla, 1975)

Kendricks is an ex-Temptations fella, and he’s doling out some sleek, breezy falsetto-funk here, making glossy genre-product intended for mature radio-ears in much the same way George Harrison did (within a pop/rock context) in the late ’70s. It’s fluff, DIG? The B-Side, “Hooked on Your Love,” is from his previous album and at least has a slightly more dramatic, Blaxploitation-esque feel to it thanks to some punchy string and bongo action, yet it still comes off as too slick and superficial to really take hold. Feel free to appreciate the arrangements and the overall, uh, professionalism of these songs, but you’d have to have a pair of mighty virginal ears to actually find yourself rocked and/or challenged by such stuff.

Not all is grumpiness in my world, however, as I received the following exciting items in the mail this very afternoon: Bobby Beausoleil
Lucifer Rising Suite 4LP box; Dan Melchior Und Das Menace Obscured By Fuzz LP; Mayyors 12”; ridiculous Velvet Underground 7x7” reissue box on Sundazed; and, at long last, Forced Exposure issue 7/8. DANG. Sorry, Eddie Kendricks, but you and your scratched-to-all-heck 45 just can’t compete with a nerdy haul like that. SO GET OFF MY TURNTABLE!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kathode - Kathode

(Denied A Custom, 1996)

Japanese release from these Michigan scruffies, and it’s pretty-OK, pretty-brutal stuff nestled within your standard grind-y framework: short songs, high-screech/low-growl vox, much drum-driven speed. Nothing especially noteworthy about the actual sounds contained herein (though still a fun slab o’ metal), but it is VERY worth noting that the drummer is a teenaged, pre-celeb Andrew W.K., credited in the liners as both “Glaucomanie” and “Andrew Graucoma.” And while there’s little in Kathode’s sound to suggest the bulldozer-pop of Andrew’s post-2001 career, the electronically-screwed speaker-assault of “Return” on side B definitely calls to mind his solo work (Ancient Art of Boar, “Old Man” on AWKGOJ) and his sonic/social/spiritual ties to Wolf Eyes. Considered alongside AAB, the Pterodactyls, and W.K.’s contributions to Labyrinths & Jokes, it’s actually quite amazing how wide-ranging the guy’s interests and abilities were at such a young age… as another piece of the larger career-puzzle, this record makes for a revealing chunk.