Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DJ Lance Lockarm - Wouldn't It Be Ecstasy

(no label, 2005)

A bit of a mysterious one. In early 2005, the waning days of the mash-up fad, a handful of these white-label 45s became available for mailorder through Rough Trade. Laying the Beach Boys’ vocals for “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” (taken from the Pet Sounds Sessions box) over Spacemen 3’s “Ecstasy Symphony” drone, it doesn’t offer any particularly revelatory/amusing new angles on either song, as the best mash-ups did, but it’s still a creepily hypnotic luv-thingy that works more than well enough. And sure, there’s a little cheating afoot as the song’s creator employs some necessary pitch-shifting here and there on the Spacemen component, but who among us hasn’t sneakily pitch-shifted from time to time?

Don’t answer that.

On to the aforementioned mystery: There’s a stamp on the label that identifies the disc as “I Will Always Love You Forever” by Sonic Art Crew, but the now-dead website of DJ Lance Lockarm, where the song was called “Wouldn’t it Be Ecstasy,” always appeared to me to be the original source of the track. No idea whether Sonic Art Crew lifted it and then released this bootleg, or if the thing’s just mislabeled. Anyway, I’m officially giving Lance Lockarm the credit until I hear otherwise. Know the deal, you?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LMNOP - Forever Through The Sun

(LMNOP, 1985)

I’ve been reading the infamous “Babysue” for many years – their “Legalize Crime” cartoon resides on my fridge – and it’s always a little surprising to jump from the deliberately offensive, world-hating comics and essays of that magazine/site to LMNOP, its creator’s pleasant if off-kilter musical alter-ego. This debut single is a sincere, driving power-pop-athon (faint whiffs of “Dream Police” at times) filled with big guitars, LOUD drums, and some nice vocal harmonies… a seriously good song. These guys must’ve been really young at the time, given the vocals and the fresh-faced band photos on the back of the ’86 Elemen Opee Elpee, but “Forever Through the Sun” is a full-on winner that many a veteran group of la-la’ers would KILL to record. Impressive biz! So even if I’m far less fond of the more dated B, “Three Colon Oh Oh,” I can safely recommend this disc as both a getter and a keeper – Numero has apparently included the A-side on one of their comps, but the original is the way to go, as it comes packaged in a 12-page zine signed by the band. Bang for your buck!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lilys - A Nanny In Manhattan

(Che, 1998)

After the pants people got “A Nanny in Manhattan” on the tube, Che decided it oughta get on the stick and put some product in the stores, hence this remixed single, complete with snazzy new sleeve and “as featured in Levi’s TV ad” sticker. Aside from a sonically-richer version of the accompanying LP re-released at the same time, the popularity of “Nanny” also gave the universe an insane Lilys lip-synch performance on UK television that should be watched again and again and again. Oh, and there are also a few B-sides in the same vein as Better spread across the formats (here it’s the excellent “The First Half Second”), all of which are on the American Services (For the Soon to Be Departed) EP.

I know I’ve been using the useless catch-all word “pop” to describe these last few Lilys singles, but I should make clear that this stuff is more gloriously weird than that term might imply: Wrapped up in the catchy melodies and concise track-lengths are unusual and unpredictable song structures, consistently surprising sounds, and oft-impenetrable lyrics. That the band managed to sneak out two albums on major-label subsidiaries (follow-up The 3 Way was on Sire) is a nifty feat, and theirs is a discography worth gathering.

Lilys - A Nanny In Manhattan

(Che, 1996)

Another hooky slice of slightly-skewed moddery from Lilys, and it deservedly ended up a British hit a few years down the road after Levi’s stuck it in an ad. I wouldn’t say that it’s significantly better than the rest of what the band was recording at the time, but it’s pretty obvious why this one, with its clanking, clattering kickiness, would have wide appeal when given the proper exposure. On the B side, the psychedelic, Eastern drone of “More Than That is Deserved” is an unfinished-sounding drag (rather like one of the lesser songs on Their Satanic Majesties Request) whose addition to the end of the reworked Better Can’t Make Your Life Better as album-closer was a mistake.

By the way, I must note that I have a mouse hiding out – or HOLING UP, if you will, HO HO HO – somewhere in my apartment. Not the worst development in the world, as I’m generally sympathetic to my fellow mammals, feeling a certain kinship with them, but I’m very annoyed by this dink’s habit of leaving feces all over my kitchen floor at night. Unless the mouse happens to read this and change his ways immediately, the penalty is gonna be death by neckbreaking. I’m harsh but fair.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lilys - Which Studies The Past?

(Sub Pop, 1996)

The first Lilys 7” I ever plunked down for, and still top o’ the heap after all these years. Criminal that these two songs, released as a one-off for Sub Pop, aren’t available elsewhere, as they’re easily as good as, heck, not only anything on the stylistically-similar Better Can’t Make Your Life Better, but ANYTHING ELSE Lilys ever put out. The smashingly-titled “Welfare Murder Plot” covers a lotta ground in little time, lurching back and forth from slithery croon to chunky garage-pop before ending with a smooth-rockin’ coda. Nothing finer than the ultra-catchy B, though, a tight Nuggets-y head-shaker called “Baby’s a Dealer” that might be – yup! – the apex of this phase of the band’s existence. So why in tarnation is it buried on the flip of an obscure 7”?? Mysteries abound in this life of ours!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lilys - Returns Every Morning

(Che, 1996)

Yeepers, where’d THIS come from?! Lilys ’96 abruptly says goodbye to gauze-pop and hello to mod-pop, stripping away the layers of dreamy guitars and sighing vocals and going for a sharper, more concise, pill-gulpin’ (yet still semi-psych) sound – the sound of FUN! “Returns Every Morning,” taken from the happy-go-peppy Better Can’t Make Your Life Better album, is a fine representation of the chiming, hazy-summer stomp-pop that Heasley would focus on for the second half of the ’90s, a carefree, kickass – if well-trod – regresso-path that has been shared but never bested by sonic cousins like the Asteroid Number Four, Minders, and, at times, Saturday Looks Good to Me. Zanier still is the Apples in Stereo cover “Touch the Water” – Heasley and Robert Schneider crossed musical piss-streams a few times mid-decade – which turns the Apples’ comparatively flat lo-fi rocker into a full-on bubblegum-garage basher. “Touch the Water” was left off of the initial version of the Better… LP but later included on the 1998 UK re-release, which was remixed and generally re-jiggered after the success of “A Nanny in Manhattan.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lilys - Tone Bender

(Summershine, 1993)

“Tone Bender” gets pulled from In the Presence of Nothing, a song that again offers up the massive, woozy Valentines churn of “February Fourteenth,” this time with a lead guitar that sounds a bit like a much-slowed “Only Shallow.” Another terrific, well-polished A-side. The rarity here is “Eskimo,” and while its relative sunniness is a slight tweak on the gauzy shoegaze formula, the track’s ponderous length eventually makes for a tiresome, impact-free slog. Zzzz.

By the way: The CD version of “Tone Bender,” which adds the two tracks from the debut 7”, holds the piss-me-off honor of being THE record that has most successfully eluded me through the years. In over a decade of searching I’ve never actually seen it in person, and the one time I did buy an affordable copy on eBay, the USPS managed to lose the package. When I finally do obtain it, I’m gonna staple the fuckin thing to my chest.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lilys - February Fourteenth

(Slumberland, 1991)

Back in VHS days, fun-guy buddyboys Slumberland used to release insanely limited versions of their records in special handmade sleeves. Not sure how many of these they actually did, but I have 7”s of this sort by Lilys, Swirlies, and Black Tambourine (the “What Kind of Heaven Do You Want” EP was hand-colored as well, but I think that’s true of the entire run). This Lilys 45, of which 43 – !! – were made, comes in a white sleeve that has a photo pasted to its front and minimal info (band name, track titles, label address) written in purple marker on the back. The vinyl is identical to the standard “February Fourteenth” black-wax single, making the thing strictly collector-dink bait, but I maintain that the unique-artwork idea was – and is! – a fun one that I wouldn’t mind seeing present-day labels revisit. Why not?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lilys - February Fourteenth

(Slumberland, 1991)

The first Lilys single is about as close an approximation of the uptempo bits on the Isn’t Anything-era MBV EPs as a guy’s gonna find, and in a still-growing sea of limp Shieldsian imitators, quality stuff like this is not to be sneered at. “February Fourteenth” in particular is heavier than the by-then chart-baiting Telescopes, crisper than the early BJM stabs at crudegaze, and more invested in maintaining a Rock undercurrent (see: drums) than even the contemporaneous My Bloody Valentine itself. Best American shoegaze record I’ve ever heard? Yup. Oddly enough, “Threw a Day,” which is absolutely the lesser of these two songs, is available on In the Presence of Nothing (as an unlisted track), while the pummeling A-side appears only here and as a bonus on the impossible-to-find Australian “Tone Bender” CDEP. If Kurt Heasley and/or Slumberland ever feels like fixing that situation, your iPod or Discman or whatever will be much the better for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lil Bunnies - Lil Bunnies

(Moo-La-La, 1995)

bunny-suited assholes from Sacramento who vomit forth rabbit-themed scumpunk disasters that include GG Allin-inspired originals (“Hop, Fight, & Fuck”) and Electric Eels covers (“Bunnies”). Yes, it all sounds like total ghetto-blast shit. And yes, the humor/annoyance factor is boosted by the cheesy air organ that gets pounded sub-Kingsmen style throughout the entire record. But for sheer fuck-you purity-of-concept it’s tough to beat these guys… please check out their lone LP (released in Italy?!) in order to experience the group’s ultimate expression of contempt/laziness/jokiness at an excruciatingly-long 33rpm. Perversely, it’s a must. GET.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lightning Bolt - Conan

(Load, 2000)

Remember the Harvard Square Other Music? Good enough store, but it was a pretty crazy proposition from the get-go, what with Twisted Village, Newbury Comics, In Your Ear, CD Spins, HMV, Tower, and the post-Kenmore Planet Records all situated within several blocks of the place. Predictably short-lived, I think it’s now a restaurant hilariously named “OM,” and I heard that the dude who masterminded the whole folly lost his job over it. Anyway, I bought this Lightning Bolt tour single there back in the glory days of 2001 (for $2.99!), and I’ve always held it in rather low regard. I’m of the commonly-held opinion that there’s never been a Lightning Bolt record that comes anywhere close to the greatness of the band’s nutso concerts, and would heartily recommend their Power of Salad live DVD over any of the LPs, since it at least gives you the visual component. But this 7”? Thanks to length restrictions, it doesn’t have even the sustained, tightly-wound semi-insanity of the full-lengths, which is a problem when the sound is much like a sloppier, more manic version of some of the heavier Japanese groove-psych groups – Les Rallizes Denudes or Mainliner, say. “Conan” does generate a fair amount of excitement once it explodes into its motorcycle-guitar second half, but that certainly doesn’t justify the huge cash-wheelbarrows you’ll need to dump in order to pick up this rare’un. Unless you’re dumping that cash at MY feet, of course.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lenola - Colonial 509

(Tappersize, 1994)

Aw heck. This isn’t my finest night. Because of a mishap involving an unstopped sink and my beloved Mach 3, I had to shave using a horrible plastic razor that I bought a few years ago on vacation as part of a $1.69 twelve-pack from a San Francisco bodega. Making matters worse, said beard-scrape was done in the dark after my bathroom light burnt out and I realized I didn’t have any replacement bulbs (the penlight I held in my left hand was quite a help, though). Now finished, the 99-cent “Men’s Choice” aftershave has hardly soothed my angered skin, and I sit here with a scowl gracing my burning skull.

All of that makes my vivid memories of transporting this very single across the country – broke – on a sweltering Greyhound bus (San Diego to Worcester!) rankle considerably less, even while its stomach-churn guitars make me wish I was safely in bed with the booze-bottle closed. Decent work here, though, Lenola guys. This debut release is bendy-note nausea-gaze pedal-box weirdness that stakes out what I suppose is a rough middle ground between Pavement and the Swirlies, particularly on the A, with B-side “Greedo” tending towards the latter in its extended instrumental sections. Fairly gifted with melody, better stuff was to come once the band tightened up, “got normal,” and veered into Rev/Hopewell/Home country around the turn of the century (The Electric Tickle, etc.), but this one is certainly worth sniffing out on the cheap. An underrated group.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

John Lennon - Jealous Guy

(Capitol, 1988)

The Imagine film was one of the earliest image-control projects from the Lennon Estate, and Yoko and co. cannily (but boringly) go the double A-side route with the release of an American “Jealous Guy” single lifted from the soundtrack. Whereas the Europeans had stuck the semi-headscratcher “Going Down on Love” on the B back in the early ’80s, the US gets the far more famous “Give Peace a Chance” for a full-on warm ’n’ fuzzy mini hits package. Hooray and all that, but there could hardly be a less interesting record twenty-plus years after the fact. Any person dumb enough to seek the thing out owns both songs many times over, and there isn’t anything in the artwork or packaging to make it desirable from even a collector-dummy perspective. Owning this does not reflect well on me.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

John Lennnon - I'm Stepping Out

(Polydor, 1984)

Once more to the well! Here’s further doodly-doo from the archives, a partner/sequel of sorts to “Watching the Wheels” where John addresses the big-city bored-dude itch that comes along with his decision to squirrel himself away as a daddy for five years. It’s a stiff straight-rock-combo performance, clearly not intended to be a final take, but it’s strong enough as far as outtakes go (though maybe not worthy of release as a single). Yoko’s alien-croon funk come-on “Sleepless Night” adds little… beyond “Walking on Thin Ice,” the post-Double Fantasy years aren’t her most exciting musical period. Fashion commentary: the cover of this record reminds me once again that our friend John was bizarrely thin back in ’80. What was that about? Was he skiing the Bolivian slopes, wink-wink? HEY, SEARCH ME!

John Lennon - Borrowed Time

(Polydor, 1984)

I know what you’re wondering: How’s stuff going with my shower? Well let me tells it to you straight by informing one and all that I fixed it my own damned self by bellbottoming down to the local plumbing supply store and simply buying a new shower head, which I then “installed” WITHOUT the recommended thread sealing tape. Problem solved, body cleansed. None more handy than this guy right here, and none more rebellious (re: thread sealing tape). I DO WHAT I WANT.

And what of John Lennon? Baggy white-dude reggae butter from him here with “Borrowed Time”… it’s a very swell simp-Caribbean groove-thingy that ambles along inoffensively just as it should. His DF/M&H sessions were loose, and this pulls that vibe off as well as anything else on those oft-slight tapes, even if, as a whole, Milk and Honey goes a bit far in the anti-slick direction and, perhaps inevitably, feels at times unfinished and patched together. Uh. So?

Monday, February 22, 2010

John Lennon - Nobody Told Me

(Polydor, 1983)

I’m all out of sorts. Not only do I have some weird head-congestion situation that’s rendering me half-deaf and three-quarters off-balance, but my shower is also busted. Water pressure problem? Utility company tomfoolery? Wish I knew. Washing and shampooing in the kitchen sink is a skunk-rotten scene even after a single day. These aggravations have left me grouchy, and I’m sulking around the pad tonight with a grimace, a glare, and both fists a-shaking. What is that that deceased fellow from the Beatles sang in his big posthumous hit? “Nobody told me there’d be days like these!” Darn straight, Johnny! ’Cept he’s doling out a wryly bemused helping of whatchoo-gonna-do bafflement that has little to do – moodwise – with the pissy self-pitython that I’m busy rocking. Still, my anger hasta melt a smidge thanks to the goofy looseness of this simple pop ear-pleaser, a song whose rock-combo lightness of touch is refreshing after the off-putting gloss of Double Fantasy. Continuing the “dialogue” structure of DF, Yoko tacks her jarringly short “O’ Sanity” onto the B, wasting wax that woulda been better grooved with, if not a stronger Ono track, one of the many, many Lennon demos or outtakes from the post-’75 period – thematic whatsis is great and all, but this is just self-indulgent, poor-choice silliness. And that’s FACT, not my judgment-impairing sickness and uncleanliness talking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

John Lennon - (Just Like) Starting Over

(Geffen, 1981)

Just in time for the American hardcore explosion, Geffen fires a doubled-sided NUTTIN BUT HITS 7” – “(Just Like) Starting Over” b/w “Woman”!! – up the ass of a nation that will never and CAN NEVER be the same after the dropping of this INSANE VINYL. These two fuckers were straight BANGERS in Lennon’s life, and things haven’t changed since death came creeping. Yeh, “Starting Over” still makes me feel like I should check on ye olde rockin’ prostate, and “Woman” calls to mind drunken fetal-position sobbing for/about mummy: Talk about maxxing out the Intensity Card after driving your Wildguy Minivan down to the Grocery Store of Madness! Has there ever been a back-2-back KRAZIER party offered by the major-label budget bin? I think I heard a 10cc 45 once that came close, but buddy the answer’s nope!

Monday, February 15, 2010

John Lennon - Watching The Wheels

(Geffen, 1981)

HEY! I’m off to see Yoko Ono play at BAM tonight! She’ll be appearing with a star-studded cast of thousands, including Sean Lennon, Cornelius, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, and some of the Sonic Youth-ers! I’m keeping my gentle fingers crossed, though, that she doesn’t perform “Watching the Wheels” B-side “Yes, I’m Your Angel,” which engages in atypical-for-Ono cutesiness and thus sinks under its jaunty old-timey Disneyisms – the McCartneys would’ve been slaughtered for releasing novelty lamb-poop like this.

Poop? Butt. Butt? BUT! Forget the lousiness of the B, for the best of the Double Fantasy A-sides is to be had here, with Lennon’s breezy defense of his “lazy” lifestyle resulting in one of the strongest singles he ever wrote/writ/wrut. Piano, instantly-memorable vocal melody, totally effortless poppiness: This is the one. Along with “Nobody Told Me,” “Watching the Wheels” is the cream of the comeback crop.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

John Lennon - Jealous Guy

(Parlophone, 1981)

A reissue intended to cash in on Lennon’s death, this French 7” rather mysteriously pairs the saccharine “Jealous Guy” with the lightly funky Walls and Bridges obscurity “Going Down On Love.” Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got no beef with either song (and “Jealous Guy” as recorded in 1971 beats hell bigtime on the awful Beatles-era demo), it’s just an odd pairing for a money-grab “tribute” release. As far as the A-side, it’s possible the label chose this one – as opposed to a more famous track – in order to ride the commercial wave of Roxy Music’s then-hit cover version. Which would of course make everything surrounding this release doubly crass, but hey, at least we get a great picture sleeve out of the deal.

And you know what it’s doing in New York City right now? Blizzarding.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

John Lennon - Woman

(Geffen, 1981)

Yeesh. Is there a sappier song than “Woman” in John Lennon’s catalog? I seriously doubt it. From the ultra adult-contemporary lighter-waving sound, to the “I loooooove yoooooou… well well” chorus, to the mommy-issue patheticisms of the lyrics, the track is a kernel of sweet sentiment wrapped in gooey layers of cotton-candy radio-cliché. Perhaps some chump asshole is RIGHT NOW dancing with his mother to this at a wedding? Bet on it.

Ono’s contribution to the single is, again, more interesting. “Beautiful Boys” is an eerie, slightly psychedelic mood piece about John and Sean Lennon that encourages the embrace of fear/danger/etc. It’s an unsettling analogue to John’s comfort-blanket lyrics in his own “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” on the same album.

Friday, February 5, 2010

John Lennon - (Just Like) Starting Over

(Geffen, 1980)

Five years later, the comeback single. For better or worse – musically speaking, that is – Lennon’s a bit of a happy sappy pappy at this point, and he hammers that home by opening “(Just Like) Starting Over” with a gentle windchime reworking of the ominous bell-tolls that announced “Mother.” The song is perky, 1950s-informed luv-fluff written by and for the middle-aged, and it would not be at all out of place soundtracking an erectile disfunction ad. It’s generally inoffensive, though, and one would be churlish to begrudge Lennon his dull domestic satisfaction after years of unpredictable nuttiness. Thing’s catchy, too, and you can’t fight city hall on shit like that, right? A semi-interesting point to make: The puke-slick production is very ELO-like (check out those backing vocals), with the reverbed outer-space ending sounding especially similar to the Lynne-produced Beatle version of “Real Love” from the 1990s. Huh!

Yoko’s back on the B for the first time since “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” and she once again shows herself to be the more progressive half of the couple, turning out a nervous, jagged pop song that straddles NYC new- and no-wave quite nicely. “Kiss Kiss Kiss” may not be as far out as some of her work from the early ’70s, but it certainly shows that she was keenly aware of what was going on around her musically at the turn of the decade – something with which the developmentally-retarded John proudly admitted as far back as 1970 he couldn’t be bothered.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

John Lennon - Imagine

(Apple, 1975)

This one was released in Europe to fluff the Shaved Fish comp (which, seeing as how it included the rote ’n’ roll “Move Over Ms. L.,” was more a 7”/non-alb round-up than a greatest hits) and it neatly pairs both sides of the marketer’s-dream John Lennon™ coin. Sweet backed with sour: utopian John gets repped by “Imagine,” and pissed John offers “Working Class Hero.” The latter is an embarrassing slice of acoustic, class-baiting poseurism lifted from Plastic Ono Band that, if nothing else, comes off as semi-convincing as long as one decides not to look into Lennon’s actual biographical whatsits. And as a bonus, unenthused credit is hereby granted to Apple for issuing the song on a single with the saucy, ain’t-I-blue lyrics intact.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

John Lennon - Stand By Me

(Apple, 1975)

So this is where it was all headed. After a few years of seeming indifference toward pushing his music forward, Lennon sought fetal-position safety in the late ’50s with Rock ’n’ Roll, an album of teenage-funtime covers. He at least does a fine job on these songs, though, with “Stand By Me” – featuring some of his best singing – a worthy choice as single. Also, the cast of thousands on these sessions gives the songs a full-bodied bad-assedness that largely distracts one from the fact that this record is a lazy vanity project originally inspired by a scummy publishing lawsuit. But so it goes. The B-side, “Move Over Ms. L.,” is a blaring Lennon original that fits in well with the rootsy rock he’d receded back into.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

John Lennon - Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

(Apple, 1974)

John Lennon’s white-boy party jam, but not necessarily in a good way. This cocaine sax-shit sounds a lot like something the Saturday Night Live house band would’ve cranked out during commercial breaks around the same time, and Elton John’s AM-pop presence looms disturbingly large over the chipmunk-voiced proceedings. I don’t begrudge Lennon his chart success – this was his LONE Billboard #1 before he died – but it’s hard to get excited about such gutless, sub-Wings horsepoo. “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” makes the execrably new-agey “#9 Dream” (also a single off of Walls and Bridges) seem appealing by comparison, and that’s obviously no badge of pride. And “Beef Jerky”? Just a silly early-R ’n’ R throwback instrumental that’s cute only for including the “Let Me Roll it” lick during its breaks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

John Lennon - Mind Games

(Toshiba EMI, 1973)

Oops! Someone goofed up and pressed the Japanese “Mind Games” single using the “fuck a pig” version of “Meat City” instead of the standard “check the album” edit used on most 45s internationally. Can’t imagine that too many people in a non-English-speaking country would get exercised over a sped-up, backwards obscenity on the B-side of a mid-sized hit, but it’s still an amusing variation and worthy of note. Aside from that and the sleeve (a single-sheet insert that prints the lyrics to both tracks in English and Japanese on the rear), everything else is the same here as on the American release.

Hey. Also. Sunday night I had a dream that I was listening to a trash-punk single that featured the lyrics “Madonna is so mean / Madonna is so mean / Madonna is so mean / She doesn’t even sing her own songs.” And while I don’t know anything about the veracity of such a statement, I think we can all agree that that is the finest verse ever sleep-penned. Poetry from beyond.

John Lennon - Mind Games

(Apple, 1973)

Retreating from the real-world grit of his last few records, Lennon’s back in “all you need is love” mode on “Mind Games,” promoting positive thinking as a means to achieving peace. The lyrics, of course, go a little too heavy on the cosmic fiddle-faddle, trotting out “mind guerrillas,” “the karmic wheel,” and – worst of all – “some kind of druid dude lifting the veil.” Ugh. Still, the music, even with Phil Spector out of the picture, is pleasant and rich – slow, piano- and key-based balladry that sounds more sleekly “adult” than anything Lennon had done previously (“Out the Blue” from the LP is an even better example of this). Switching gears, B-side “Meat City” is a boogie-rocker that, unlike too many of the r’n’r-minded mid-’70s efforts that pad out John’s albums, manages to be fairly enjoyable and memorable thanks to a loose yet heavy funkiness. As a joke, the brief backwards segment at the end of the first verse (“fuck a pig”) is replaced on the single with “check the album.” Tee hee, etc.!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

John Lennon - Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

(Apple, 1972)

Naughty, naughty! The feminist sentiment is noble, and the sax-dominated arrangement ultra-muscular (that chunka-chunk “We make her paint her face and dance” coda is especially terrific), but when your political/cultural/intellectual ally Angela Davis professes to being uncomfortable about your lyric, well… I guess that makes things complicated. Still, writing as a white male nearly 40 years on, I admire “Woman is the Nigger of the World” for being a ballsy, heart-in-its-right-place piece of commercial suicide that has musical appeal well beyond its chorus’s intended shock value. Hard to knock Lennon for following his political 45s pushing peace (“Give Peace a Chance,” “Happy Xmas”) and social justice (“Power to the People”) with one promoting women’s rights. Yoko rounds things out by adding the uplifting reggae-tinged girl-groupisms of “Sisters, O Sisters” on the B-side, and while I would have preferred her zany boogie-fest “We’re All Water” for single release, this one does fit nicely for obvious thematic reasons.

Both tracks are on Sometime in New York City, and, to be honest, I’m not sure why the consensus on the album is that it’s some major discographical blemish. It’s dated, ragged, and ham-fisted, but with the newspaper-themed packaging, Lennon suggests that he’s knowingly creating ephemeral, of-its-moment rock, rather than the Grand Statements of some of his Imagine-era material. It’s a fun, loose LP that reeks of excitement and conviction (no matter how naïve), with little of the contrived rock-star posturing of later political-minded pop-celebs. Lennon is willing to look silly on this album – and he occasionally does – but he at least doesn’t try to cloak himself and his music in arrogant, singing-from-on-high grandiosity. The mistakes in judgment and songwriting that pockmark this era in Lennon’s career ultimately come off as charmingly well-meaning rather than self-aggrandizing or self-important. Worth shoving some of it into your ears.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

John Lennon - Happy Xmas

(Apple, 1971)

When John and Yoko recorded this festive – yet barbed – chestnut back in ’71, little did they know the avalanche of gifts that would tumble my way one warm California afternoon in early 2010. Yes, several days ago, I was on a quick trip out west for work, and here are just a few of the exciting junk-shelf freebies I picked up: CD holder from Citrix, playing cards from Yahoo, tote bag from LinkedIn, dominoes from Amazon, laundry bag from InterDigital, sunglasses from Cooliris. “Happy Xmas” indeed! Sure, the Lennons were using their song to challenge listeners to actively do something about ending war and promoting peace, but hey, I got myself a combination reading light/laser pointer from vmware, which is what the season’s all about!

And the music? Spector drags out the Harlem Community Choir for this one, and the sleighbell-boasting production is delightfully rich and echo-y, just as a Christmas song oughta be. Plus: green vinyl! Of all the holiday ditties released by ex-Beatles, “Happy Xmas” is by far the most substantial in terms of musical and lyrical content, and it’s deservedly the most successful. Sure, I guess time could still vindicate Ringo’s I Wanna Be Santa Claus record, but, personally, I wouldn’t take a free copy even if Silicon Graphics stuck it on a USB thingy and gave it out for free at the Stanford Computer Forum.

Monday, January 11, 2010

John Lennon - Imagine

(EMI/Odeon, 1971)

No need to bore you with musings on “Imagine”; not only is it one of the most famous songs of all time, it’s also pretty doggone straightforward in its moist-eyed utopianism. Perhaps very much to Lennon’s credit, what you hear is what you get, and most commentary on the thing is no more than worthless word-diddling. Pairing the track with the dirty, bloozy throwaway “It’s So Hard” makes for a good illustration of the Imagine LP as a whole, as it’s an album where Lennon swings from syrupy ballads (“Jealous Guy”) to nasty personal attacks (“How Do You Sleep”). Overall, it’s probably his most well-balanced, accessible record, and it actually contains a handful of lesser-known songs superior to the two chosen for this 7”. Of minor note is the fact that the absence of a Yoko-composed B-side makes this the first John-only 45 to have hit the racks, and, as such, in a way his first “true” solo single.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Lennon - Power To The People

(Apple 1971)

Well. I’ve been accidentally falling asleep on my couch every evening this week like a naughty, lazy fellow, thus the lack of John Lennon reviews. Luckily, the coming of the new year has directed pretty much all site traffic to the entry for “Ding Dong, Ding Dong,” so I suppose I can hide behind that fact and get away with some pitiful January sloth. And if it seems too obvious that I’m phoning it in on this one, please note that Lennon was doing the same when he churned out “Power to the People,” his second slogan-based political-pop single. Still, no matter how trite the lyrics, the huge, uptempo, sax-blare Wall-of-Spector backing sells the thing to an astonishing degree. Sonically and thematically, the song fits far better with the Sometime in New York City material of ’72 than with the more personal Imagine songs that were soon to follow, but it works as an over-earnest, one-off stopgap between albums and demonstrates, after Plastic Ono Band, that Lennon had in no way shunned the mass-appeal single-writing process.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

John Lennon - Mother

(Apple, 1970)

Ol’ John’s first LP-pimping single was a bafflingly non-commercial one – the stark, screaming, piano-smashing “Mother” – but, to be fair, what offa Plastic Ono Band WOULD have been commercial? “God,” maybe? Gussied up remixes of “Remember” or “Well Well Well”?? Dunno. At any rate, some concessions are made for radio here, as the opening bell tolls and most of the closing howls are edited out for the 45 mono-mix. Still a poor marketing choice, but a fine bit of post-’60s, post-pop-universalist self-indulgence nonetheless. A shortened version of Yoko’s terrifically nutzoid jam “Why” is on the B, and it suggests that a fully collaborative pop/rock effort between John and Yoko around this time might’ve yielded some truly hot poop. Shame that that wouldn’t happen until Sometime in New York City, when the supporting players were, to the resulting rec’s detriment, of a far lesser caliber.

Oh, and the American picture sleeve for this one is rare as HJECK. Head straight for the mountains if you gots a copy.