Friday, May 25, 2018

Weekend Listomania: Special How Do You Say Self-Indulgent in French? Edition


[This started a week or so ago as a sort of parlor game over at Facebook, but at some point it occurred to me it would be appropriate to post the equivalent over here. In any case, enjoy. -- S.S.]

Okay, kids here we go.

The Post-Elvis Songs or Albums -- In Any Genre Whatsoever -- That Totally Changed Your Life!!!

Excluding the Canonical BeatlesByrdsStonesWhoDylanKinksBeachBoysSpringfieldZombiesBigStar Etc. That Everybody Likes, or Should!!!


And my not at all top of my head Top Ten exemplars of same are...

10. John Cale -- Paris 1919



Or as we call it at Casa Simels, "Procol Harum meets Little Feat and the Velvet Underground, and then they all go out for dinner at Maxims."

9. Richard X. Heyman -- Actual Sighs




Why, you ask? Well, here's my review of the album that masterpiece song derives from.

8. The Loud Family -- Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things



The closest thing to the side two medley of Abbey Road as has ever been achieved by anybody.

7. Lothar and the Hand People -- Presenting...



The first synth pop record and by far still the best (and the band were really snazzy dressers, too). These guys were the coolest underground act in NYC back in their day, and I was lucky enough to see them open for The Byrds at the Village Gate in 1966. So there.

6. George Gershwin/Michael Tilson Thomas -- Rhapsody in Blue



The ghost of the composer (via piano roll) with live accompaniment by a simpatico conductor using Gershwin's original small jazz band orchestration (rather than the familiar traditional full orchestra version by Ferde Grofe). And Gershwin plays it like a jazz guy.

5. The Firesign Theatre -- Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers



True stories of working people as told by rich Hollywood stars!

From my liner notes to the FT box set:
Remarkable as How Can You Be was, however, it hardly prepared the group's now sizeable audience for the next Firesign Theatre release, 1970's Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. Here, everything came together - the parodies of TV commercials and televangelists ("We had our knives sharpened for television on Dwarf," Austin says), the post-modern self-referential touches (you hear the other side of a phone conversation previously heard on Nick Danger, the mastery of sound effects and music (The B-movie takeoff, High School Madness, sounds astonishingly like the real soundtrack to some half-remembered Monogram youth film of the '40s). But what hit hardest for many listeners was Dwarf's unprecedented ending, in which the protagonist, old actor George Leroy Tirebiter (named after a locally famous dog who used to chase cars at USC) wakes up in front of his TV all alone on the top of the hill in sector R, then dashes out to chase a stray ice cream truck, his voice trailing off into childhood as he fades into the distance. By this point, of course, people expected funny from the Firesign Theatre; inexplicably moving was something else completely.

4. Howlin' Wolf -- The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions



Yes -- skinny, pasty-faced white boys can play the blues authoritatively, without embarrassing themselves in the company of the titans of the genre.

Also: Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart -- no better rhythm section ever existed for this music.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.



I'll take a wild stab here and suggest that anybody who's been reading my poor scribblings over the years is totally shocked -- SHOCKED!!! -- at this particular entry.

2. Moby Grape -- Moby Grape



The greatest American debut album of all time. A fantastically exciting three guitar attack, they all sang (brilliantly) and they all wrote (even more brilliantly). Plus, they had a punk rock attitude -- as Greil Marcus famously said, their best recordings sounded less like songs and more like gang fights.

And my number one choice, there was never a moment's doubt in my mind about its inclusion, is obviously --

1. The Replacements -- Let it Be



I had never heard of or listened to these guys until my brilliant colleague Glenn Kenny (now a film critic over at the New York Times) did a 1984 piece on the album for the Village Voice. They sounded like my cup of tea, so I borrowed somebody's copy of the LP and gave it a spin. And nothing was the same afterwards. This was to me, and still is, what rock-and-roll is supposed to sound like -- passionate, funny, heartbreaking, melodic, snotty, and really fucking loud.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1965 and The Soupy Sales Show, Pookie the Lion (Frank Nastase) lip-synchs "Mumbles" (by Clark Terry and Oscar Peterson).



A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans that clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

Bruce Springsteen and the original E-Street Band -- with David Sancious and the criminally underrated Vinnie Lopez on drums -- in Los Angeles, 1973. "Spirit in the Night" live.



I wrote about a similar performance in NYC around the same time.

My own Springsteen moment was in early 1973. At the time, I was a baby rock critic at the old Stereo Review, and "Greetings from Asbury Park" had just come out, accompanied by reams of Columbia hype, the gist of which was that Bruce was (what were they thinking?) the latest New Dylan. Little did I know, of course, that for the rest of the more jaded rock press, this tag had the sort of negative connotations associated with phrases like "serial killer" or "record company weasel." In any case, in my naïveté I gave the disc a spin, and sure enough Bruce was spewing the sort of freely associative lyrics that could most charitably be described as Dylanesque (if not, more accurately, verbose and in need of a good editor), and I recall being mildly unimpressed. And then suddenly: Boom! A drum beat and Clarence Clemons's near-mystic sax wail announced "Spirit in the Night," and I was a goner. The music was perfect, like much of Bruce's stuff to come: a sort of Proustian mix of half-remembered licks from rock and R&B oldies that may or may not have actually ever existed, the whole thing sounding simultaneously sublime and absurd, like Van Morrison at his most uplifting, jamming at a South Jersey pizzeria. And the song's lyrics were—and are—the most dead-on evocation ever of what it felt like to be a post-Woodstock 20-something with no direction home. I personally had the eerie feeling that Bruce had been reading my mail, and I later found I was far from alone in that perception.

Now excuse me, I'm gonna go watch that again.

[h/t Laura G]

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Silence of a Falling Star Lights Up a Purple Sky

I hadn't heard of either this kid...


...or this song...



As lonely as these days are long
As dark as the night bird’s song
This strange way of livin’
Has bled my heart dry
I'm lonesome
But too stoned to cry

My clothes are ragged and worn
I’m a sailor who's lost in the worst kind of storm
The water keeps rising
But I’m gettin’ by
I keep walking
But I’m too stoned to fly

There’s whiskey and wine
And pills for the pain
Fast easy women
And a little cocaine
Im walking the line
Between hell bent and high
I ain’t happy
Just too stoned to cry

I been livin’ from town to town
I always been lost, ain’t ever been found
They said Jesus could save me
But that was a lie
I keep tryin’
But I’m too stoned to die
I keep tryin’
But I’m too stoned to die

...until last Sunday.

But Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of challah toast, that is just great.

In fact, I was gonna say that it isn't just great, it's almost Hank Williams for the 21st Century great. But upon sober reflection I'm not gonna go that far.

Still -- what an amazing song.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special The Fab Four Live! Edition

The greatest Beatles tribute band of all time. David Tennant as George, Michael Shannon as Ringo, Hugh Laurie as John, and John Oliver as Paul.


And here's where you can see them. Warning: This is some seriously funny shit.



And yes -- the kids are alright.

Friday, May 18, 2018

How Old Am I? (An Occasional Series)

It has come to my attention that some of today's kids will be attending this shebang.


My point is that the only one of the performers advertised here I've ever heard of is Courtney Barnett. Who's actually pretty good, but still — it pains me that I’m so out of it.



I rather like the band name Cigarettes After Sex, however.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

[h/t wgg]

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Today We Are a CD

It's been 45 years in the making, but my 70s band, The Hounds, finally has a commercially available recording.



Okay, it's been 45 years since we first went into the studio to do demos. But the CD itself has only sort of been in the works for 10 years. These projects always take longer than you expect.

In any case, here's a representative track. As you can hear, we kinda liked The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane.



The physical CDs just went out to our distributor yesterday, so you won't be able to order copies -- including over at Amazon -- for another week or two; I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, the album is already available for streaming or download at iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and the rest of the usual suspects who pay shit royalties. Heh.

Seriously, I'm insufferably pleased with how well the project turned out. Hell, I'm sufferably pleased with the fact the original master tapes were still in playable condition.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business


Had a long, and extremely productive, studio session last night. Adding an amazing guitar track to the latest Floor Models masterpiece.

Regular posting resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Girl Crazy! (Part Deux)

As promised, courtesy of Captain Al, here's that live version of "More LIke Them" by the irrepressible Lydia Loveless we discussed last week.




As I mentioned the other day, that derives from the vinyl-only soundtrack album for the Who Is Lydia Loveless? documentary film, which behooves beholding, obviously.

And may I just say, and for the record, that I suspect it might be fun to share an adult beverage or two with that young lady.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me

From 2018, and his new album First Thing Tomorrow (produced by the great Andy Bopp, frontman/auteur of the transplendent Myracle Brah)...


...please enjoy power pop phenom Dave Sheinin and the fiendishly catchy lead-off track "Lies."



And who is Dave Sheinin, you may ask?

Well, I did too, and the answer blew my tiny mind. As he explains:

I have kind of a crazy backstory, as I'm a 48-year-old sports writer for The Washington Post, and this is my debut record. People are understandably skeptical, but for what it's worth, Absolute Power Pop last week called it "one of the year's best."

I agree with that review, BTW, and you can (and should) download Dave's entire album (which is delightful from stem to stern) OVER HERE as soon as possible.

BTW, Myracle Brah was one of the first bands NYMary turned me on to in preparation to giving me the metaphorical keys to the car at this here blog, and I've always been grateful. And if you're wondering why, check out this song, which slayed me then and still slays me now.



In any case -- Dave, you're our kind of guy, and if you're ever in the vicinity of Hackensack, NJ or Forest Hills, NY I would consider it an honor to shake your hand and buy you a glass of the adult beverage of your choice.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Girl Crazy!

From 2011, please enjoy the incomparable Lydia Loveless and her attractively Stones-ish "More Like Them."



I actually hadn't heard this until last Tuesday, when Friend of PowerPop Capt. Al played it on his intertube radio show in an absolutely astounding live version. Alas, that derives from the hard to get vinyl-only soundtrack to the must-see documentary Who Is Lydia Loveless?...



...but I have an in with the good Capt., and I'll see if I can con him into sharing an mp3 with me and post it here later.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Your Thursday Moment of Not Paul Weller

From 1968, please enjoy The Jam -- no, not them -- and their absolutely astounding power pop/garage rock should have been a classic "Something's Gone."



Who these guys were seems to have been lost in the mists of history, except that they were apparently from the Pacific Northwest somewhere. And, interestingly enough, this was the very first release on Sire Records (which is pretty cool).

In any case, had this been a hit I suspect the future of what we refer to as the popular music field might have been changed in totally unfathomable ways.

[h/t Herb S.]

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business


Had a long, but very productive, evening in the studio yesterday, toiling on the instrumental track for the next Floor Models masterpiece.

Regular postings resume on the morrow.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Rudy and the Beast

Okay, I'm aware that the name of this blog is PowerPop, and not Pissed-Off-Lefty, but this version of the title song from a beloved Disney musical is a work of genius. (There's a few minutes of very funny interview footage before the song starts, BTW. Watch it all -- you'll thank me.)



I should add that apparently Francisco de Goya...


...anticipated Rudy by several hundred years.


Ewww....

At Last -- Somebody is Singing My Theme Song!




The irony is that this is actually terrific.

Now I can die happy if somebody else finally writes something called "Swear to God, I'm Gonna Take a Hostage."

[h/t dmark]

Friday, May 04, 2018

I Can See For Miles

Friend of PowerPop (and me) Jonnie Miles has a riveting new music video.



If Jonnie's name is familiar, it may be because I've posted about him before -- specifically, from his days as the drummer of The Prostitutes, an absolutely classic New York City rock band whose I've described (accurately, as you'll hear) as a cross between The Doors and The Smithereens.



I'd forgotten Jonnie's other cool credit, though; he actually was in a band -- Albania -- with an album on Chiswick Records, the first British 70s indie label of note (they also had The Count Bishops, and cooler than that it does not get).


Here's their single -- a smash in Italy, I'm informed.



In any case, apart from being a wonderful musician, Jonnie's also a great photographer; you can (and should) check out his work over HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Darkness on the Edge of Your Whatever

You know, in retrospect, I think that my contemporaneous review of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, which I posted yesterday, was a little harsh.

That said, this song -- which Bruce wrote and gave to Gary U.S. Bonds at the same time he was toiling on said album -- is just...uh, what's the word I'm looking for?


Oh yeah. Better.



Hey, in the immortal words of Chuck Barris -- what do I know, I like cold toilet seats.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Songs for the New Depression Revisited

And speaking as we were on Monday of Bruce Springsteen -- from the December 1982 issue of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, please enjoy -- if that's the word -- my review of Nebraska.

Slightly edited for style (don't ask) but otherwise exactly as it appeared at the time.


When times get tough, someone once observed, entertainment gets sloppy, but in the case of Bruce Springsteen, the once and future Bard of Asbury Park, New Jersey, we may have to amend that; when times get tough, entertainment gets grim. At least that's one implication to be derived from Nebraska, Springsteen's new all-acoustic -- dare I say it? -- folk music album. Another is that the record business is in even worse shape than I thought. Since the production costs of what sounds like the bleakest record of the year must have been next to nothing (Springsteen recorded it at home on a four-track Teac cassette deck), you might think Columbia would give us a break and sell it at a really reduced price -- like about two bucks. No such luck.

That's a pretty cynical thing to say about a Bruce Springsteen album, Springsteen being the one mainstream rock star who maintains a genuine give-and-take relationship with his audience, but I'm afraid Nebraska inspires cynicism. It sounds like it was written for critics rather than people. I'm not suggesting a sellout; in a lot of ways a release like this is a very gutsy career move, and I don't doubt that the ten songs on it are as sincerely, deeply felt as anything Springsteen has ever done. In some ways, actually, it's weirdly appropriate that he should mutate, however briefly, into a latter-day Woody Guthrie. CBS originally signed him as a folk singer, things are pretty depressing out there, and somebody's got to do it, I suppose. It's just that most of Nebraska is, well, boring.

I can't fault the stories Springsteen tells here. He seems to have aimed for a sort of contemporary working-class, factory-town equivalent of The Grapes of Wrath, and mostly he's succeeded. As vignettes they're wonderful; one in particular -- "Highway Patrolman" -- is going to make a heck of a movie someday. But musically...my God. The tunes are less than minimalist, the tempos are uniformly dirgelike, and hardly a ray of sunlight breaks through the overpowering miasma of fatalism and gloom. The effect is to trivialize the stories. It's impossible to care about the lives of the people being chronicled when the music is so resolutely leaden.

I suspect that this is not due so much to a lack of inspiration as it is to deliberate calculation. Springsteen has been headed in this direction for some time now. A lot of Darkness on the Edge of Town was all but unlistenable for the same reasons, and in places The River was even worse, the stark dramas inflated to operatic pretentious and unintentional self-parody. Nebraska, with its self-conscious underproduction, achieves the same sad result from the opposite direction. Springsteen must know better -- just listen to the material he gives away to other artists. Heck, his "Out of Work," on the recent Gary U.S. Bonds album, says far more about blue-collar aspirations than anything on Nebraska, and it's also tuneful, danceable and fun.

But Springsteen seems to think that fun is beneath him now. As much as it pains me to say it, I think what we have here is a classic case of a "primitive" artist corrupted by "intellectuals" (well, ex-rock writers, like his producer Jon Landau and official biographer Dave Marsh). How else to explain Springsteen's apparent compulsion to make the Big Statement every time out, the references to film directors -- here it's Terence Malick (Badlands) in the title song -- and the hectoring preachiness of so much of his recent output? Nebraska, its offhand simplicity notwithstanding, is an ambitious work, and, given the thoroughly decadent state of contemporary pop music, it merits respect if only because it aims high. But the fact is, it misses -- by a big margin -- and the reasons suggest that its author has worked himself into what may be an artistic cul-de-sac. Let's hope I'm wrong. -- Steve Simels

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Nebraska. Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar, harmonica).
COLUMBIA TC 38358

A review that holds up pretty well, I think.

Although I've mellowed a bit on Darkness since then. I'm still not crazy about it, but the obviously anthemic songs (plus "Candy's Room," which I've always thought of as Bruce channeling The Yardbirds) are great enough that I can sort of ignore the (IMHO) lame West Coast-style production.

I'm also tickled by my prediction about "Highway Patrolman," which of course Sean Penn filmed as The Indian Runner in 1991

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Praying for Wal-Mart

From 2015, please enjoy the incomparably droll Matt the Electrician and his ode to finding love in all the wrong customer service departments, "For Angela."



Let's just say that apart from being, obviously, a very funny guy, he's also an extremely lucky one. Also, god bless him for rhyming the word "virus" with Miley Cyrus.

[h/t Matt M.]