Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guided By Voices

To paraphrase Frank Zappa quoting Edgard Varese -- the present day a capella group refuses to die.

And if you doubt it, I refer you to this fabulous video of Hide and Seek by the charmingly yclept post-modern songstress Imogen Heap.

Okay, she's not an a capella group except through the miracle of overdubbing, but you know what I mean.

This song apparently first became a hit when it was used on THE OC or one of those other dopey teen soap operas. I, however, discovered it in the fall of '06, when it was featured in a montage at the end of the debut episode of Ray Liotta's ill-fated TV crime drama SMITH. (Ill-fated in this case means actually being cancelled while its second episode was in the process of being broadcast. The TV equivalent of a Broadway bound show closing out of town during the first act.)

In any case, I doubt a more haunting four minutes and thirty-three seconds of vocalese has been heard anywhere recently, let alone on a bad TV show.

Food for thought: Heap's little android doo-wop ditty is also the first big a cappela hit since...yipes...Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" (and if you think I'm gonna link to that piece of offal, you've got another think coming).

BTW -- I know I promised to post about this swell new Tim Buckley video comp DVD but I just can't get my brain in gear today.

Later this weekend, I swear.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Midgets

Working on a serious post about Tim Buckley, but while we're waiting enjoy this fabulous 1965 clip of the McCoys -- featuring Suzi Quatro lookalike and future Weird Al Yankovic producer Rick Derringer -- laughing their way through Ritchie Valens' C'mon Let's Go.

High school kids having more fun than human beings should be allowed.

And kind of pretty much a perfect rock record, don't you think? The pause before the last round of choruses is just genius...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's an all Records Wednesday!

Steve's last post got me thinking about other artists who have performed Birch/Wicks compositions and fellow Ohioan Rachel Sweet immediately came to mind. Rachel was all of 16 when Stiff Records released her first longplayer Fool Around in 1978. That record included the Birch/Wicks tune Pin a Medal On Mary that told a tragic tale of teenage heartbreak ala It's My Party that perfectly suited the "little girl with the big voice" as she was billed by her record label.

Of course, the Records were also her backing band on the 1978 Be Stiff tour, and here's a very cool clip of Rachel and the boys on Top of the Pops running through another track from that LP, the 1966 Carla Thomas chestnut B-A-B-Y.

Rachel went on to cut three more discs in the early 80s and probably is best known for her top 40 hit duet with Rex Smith Everlasting Love and for singing the title tracks to John Waters' Hairspray and Cry Baby.

Hmmm... now that I think about it, perhaps I've found the inspiration for the Records' Teenarama!

She Loves All the Boys

Ah, this one really takes me back.

The geezers in this recent (2004) video are what's left of 60s power pop gods The Searchers doing "Hearts in Her Eyes" -- a cover of the classic song by 70s power pop gods The Records.

The Searchers originally recorded it on the first of two brilliant "comeback" albums they did at Dave Edmunds' Rockfield studios at the dawn of the New Wave era; if you've never heard them, your life is the poorer for it and you should order them here immediately.

The Searchers, of course, were the group responsible for such classics as the Sonny Bono penned "Needles and Pins"; back in the day, they were the only important Liverpool band who weren't managed by Beatles empresario Brian Epstein -- all of whose acts were in awe of the Searchers' musicianship, the Fabs included.

As for "Hearts in Her Eyes," faithful readers know that its auteur, John Wicks, is a big fave around these parts and that our blogmate Kid Charlemagne alerted you to his most recent album just a few weeks ago.

What you may not know is that in the late 70s/early 80s I was in a skinny-tie band that played the Greenwich Village/CBGBs scene a lot and that we used to open our sets with the song. In fact, we and it were so ubiquitous downtown that people thought we wrote the damn thing. Needless to say, when fans told us how much they loved it, we rarely, if ever, gave credit where credit was due.

I've actually got a very high quality video of us doing it somewhere in my vaults; one of these days I'll post it to YouTube and we can all have a hearty chortle at the folly of my youth.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Famous Short People

So I was browsing YouTube the other day and I stumbled across this quite astounding 1968 clip of the original Small Faces doing their seminal Tin Soldier.

A great song, obviously, with one of the all-time killer guitar riffs, and even though they're lip-synching it's also obvious that their rep as one of the most exciting live Brit bands of the 60s is justified. Sadly, to my knowledge they never played the States back in the day, although it's hard to believe they didn't tour behind Itchykoo Park, their one big radio hit here. A subject for future research, no doubt.

Anyway, in case you're wondering, the black gal singing with them is P.P. Arnold, the band's Immediate Records labelmate best known for the original hit version of the oft-covered First Cut is the Deepest.

Question: Can you think of any other rock stars of the period who would have cheerfully let themselves be upstaged on TV by a good looking woman of color providing barely audible backup vocals? I mean, the Stones let Merry Clayton steal the show on Gimme Shelter, but only on the record.

I think my point is that these guys were even cooler than I thought.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Life in the Day

Considering that a couple of lame indie-rock covers of the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye" are currently being heard in TV commercials (car ads, if memory serves?) it seems like a good time to revisit the original.

And while hard-core Beatles fans may already be aware of this, I must confess to being utterly astounded by this alternate video version.

The looks Ringo, whose drum fills are the secret star of both song and video, keeps shooting John are worth the price of admission, aren't they? And poor George doesn't get his own hula dancer.....

Monday Really Obscure Stuff Blogging

Ladies and germs, without further ado, here's Norma Tanega's "Walking My Cat Named Dog".

An actual Top 40 hit in its day.

Pretty cool song, if truth be told, but I'm betting that even its auteurette doesn't remember it.

[ht numero uno Norma Tanega fan Kerrin L. Griffith]

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony of NYCD here's some interesting and alarming information about this week's new releases.

HERB ALPERT - "RISE." Herb's 1979 comeback features the still-brilliant title track, with some other not-so-brilliant tracks that sound like anything from a chase scene in a Robert Urich TV special to background music for a David Copperfield plate-spinning extravaganza. If that's your sort of thing, then enjoy.

PERRY FARRELL'S SATELLITE PARTY - "ULTRA PAYLOAD." There are few we find as annoying and repulsive as Perry Farrell. This could be his "Rhapsody In Blue" for all we know, but we'd still hate it, because Perry's an annoying Jewish rocker (we can get away with saying that because Sal is Jewish). Features some more annoying people, including Fergie, Flea, and the very dead but still annoying Jim Morrison.

R. KELLY - "DOUBLE UP." We'll give this to him -- the man is popular. So who are we to judge such masterpieces as "Freaky In The Club" and "Pull Ya Hair"? For all we know, such great composers as Shostakovich and Carole Bayer-Sager also had bizarre liaisons with underage strumpets.

JOHNETTE NAPOLITANO - "SCARRED." The legendary (yes, legendary) vocalist from the legendary (you heard us right, legendary) Concrete Blonde releases her long-awaited solo debut, and Sal is loving it. She's abandoned the Dracula-meets-Emiliano Zapata sounds that seemed to dominate the last two Concrete Blonde records for good ol' fashioned goodness in the guise of ballsy singer-songwriter fare. Also includes covers of Coldplay's "The Scientist" and a killer "All Tomorrow's Parties."

ROBERT POLLARD - "CRICKETS." It's been at least two weeks since Robert Pollard put out a new record, so the fans are getting antsy. Features the usual drums made out of aluminum foil, amps running on C batteries, and vocals sung through a bullhorn. Low-fi and lovin' it!

RICHARD THOMPSON - "SWEET WARRIOR." Truth be told, Richard Thompson releases records almost as quickly as Robert Pollard. The difference is that Sal loves Richard Thompson and hates Robert Pollard. Nonetheless, this new full-on electric record doesn't stray far from anything Richard's done before -- and that's a good thing. Smart lyrics, great hooks, and some of the greatest guitar playing you'll hear this side of Ace Frehley (you know that's a joke, right?).

There's more at the blog, so scurry over there and start ordering!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means.

Yes, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I are off to a Tibetan monastery where I will be initiated into the mysteries of Unendurable Pleasure Indefinitely Prolonged.

Could be a hot one!

Posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic as a result, but in the meantime here's a fun project for you all.

Best Pop/Rock Song in English But With a Couple of Lines or a Verse in a Foreign (European) Language!!!

My totally off the top of my head Top Three:

1. "Michelle" -- The Beatles
(optional Blindingly Obvious Award cheerfully accepted)

2. "Vera Cruz" -- Warren Zevon

3. "Funky Western Civilization" -- Tonio K.

Join in, won't you?

[ht the Kenosha Kid]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday Pop Quiz

First, please take the time to watch and listen to this clip of Scottish rockers Del Amitri performing the title song from their 1997 album Some Other Sucker's Parade.

All done?

Now answer the following question:

In said year, was there a more gloriously melodic or thrillingly sung guitar-driven musical artifact offered for public consumption in digital form?

If you answered yes, you are correct and good for you. Of course, the even more glorious and thrilling musical artifact in question, was "Not Where It's At," the uber-jangly 12-string Rickenbacker apotheosis that is the lead-off track from -- god, we're tricky -- the very same Del Amitri album!!!.

Alas, it's not on YouTube yet, but we'll get to back to you when it is.

Bonus Essay Question:

The lyrics to Del Amitri's "Not Where It's At"

(With some girls it don't matter who you hang with
With some girls it don't matter how you talk
And some girls they are easy to be yourself with
But the one girl that I want, ain't easy to please with what I've got

With some girls it don't matter where you're aiming
With some girls it don't matter how you act
And some girls they don't care what car you came in
But the one girl that I want, she wants that one bit of geography I lack

Yeah, she don't want me 'cos I'm not where it's at

And some girls they will worry about reactions
And some girls they don't give a damn for that
But somehow I ain't ever in on the action
'Cos the one girl I want, she wants that one little quality I lack

Yeah, she don't want me 'cos I'm not where it's at

I don't have my finger on the pulse of my generation
I just got my hand on my heart, I know no better location)

are either (a) snarky, (b) worldly wise, or (c) sublime.


Oh, apparently the album's out of print, but both songs -- and many other splendid aural confections -- can be found on Del Amitri's 1998 Greatest Hits collection, so just go and buy it already.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Michael Medved: He So Crazy

and gets a smackdown here.

Jesus, what could simels do with Medved's access and finances? The mind boggles.

Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey

Well, actually, Carnegie Hall.

Hopefully, there's a professional video of last April's Bruce Springsteen Tribute Concert somewhere, but in the meantime enjoy this from-the-audience clip of Bruce and company doing "Rosalita".

The goofy looking guy who sings the first verse is, of course, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. For those of you coming in late, Finn is a fellow whose admiration for Bruce probably surpasses even mine at the peak of my late 70s Springsteen-mania.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that the aforementioned Hold Steady are the first band I've connected with on a gut emotional level in what seems like ages, I have just one question:

How in hell were Finn and the Boss able to share a stage without shattering the space/time continuum?


Monica talks to Gonzo and Rove. Should be juicy!

Ah, I love The Office.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Videoblogging: GOMEZ!

For SteveLG, because he said this:
Bush always looks like a dog when you do that fake-throw thing.

I give you Gomez.


UPDATE: Okay, it was Culture of Truth, the bestest bobblehead aggregator of the internets! But the Gomez stands, because it's cool.

The Whippersnapper Effect

I grew up in the 70's and 80's, and yes, we have a lot to answer for, musically speaking. We will probably never overcome, as a society, the dual whammy put on us by the simultaneous scourges of Rick Astley and the Fine Young Cannibals, for example.

But in a way, we can't really be blamed. Let me tell you what it was like to grow up vaguely counter-culturalish and leftish in those dark days of the Reagan Administration. We were reminded, over and over and over again, that we had failed. Our generation, not Baby Boomers, but not yet Gen-X, were the baby bust, and so there weren't as many of us as there had been or would be. But yet we failed. How did we fail? Simply put, we weren't hippies. We didn't drop enough acid or eat enough 'shrooms, and precious few of us ever really dropped out of society altogether. We were Alex P. Keaton, soulless and empty, with our Gary Numans and our Oingo Boingos. Where were our impassioned political singers? Where were our rebels? Alex P. Keaton's nemeses Nick Moore and Skippy Handleman?* John 'Johnny Slash' Ulasewicz? We knew they sucked, but they were all we really had. Is it any wonder we listened to The Fixx and The Cure?

(And a note: it's worth pointing out here that there were plenty of things to protest in the 80's: nuclear proliferation, apartheid, Iran-Contra. And I protested all of them. But I don't recall seeing many ex-hippies at those events. In that sense, I think they key text might be the film Rude Awakening in which hippies return to find that they themselves, their contemporaries, became soulless and money-grubbing during the 80's. In th inimitable phrasing of Steve-o's dad in SLC Punk!, "I didn't sell out, son. I bought in.")

I was dwelling on this "those damn kids" response, which I remember well as a sort of pervasive cultural force, when I heard this song the other day.

Compelling, and unfortunately still timely. A solid piece of protest rock. It was even something of a hit, for which my generation must be given some credit. (It is an outrage that the proper video for this song isn't on Youtube.) The other tune which struck me in this regard was the warning about the doomsday effect of trigger-happy Americans.

We don't always think of this song as a protest song, but we should. I forget sometimes that we lived under the cloud of nuclear war for much of my childhood, and yet somehow we managed to keep our civil rights. Huh. I knew well that my industrial town, pumped to the gills with defense contractors, was a second-strike target. And yet we weathered it. Thers and I knew a girl in grad school who claimed that she thought about nuclear annihilation several times every day. And we laughed, because this was the mid-90's and it was pretty stupid.

My kid tells me that Linkin Park has a good anti-war song on their new record, and I gather there's a lot of that sort of stuff out there. My point is that no one who has taken a stand against greed and violence has a reason to feel ashamed, or to let older generations tell them they're not rebellious enough.

*Note to self: just because it exists on the internets does not mean you need to read it. Case in point? Apparently, there is Family Ties fanfic out there. Just so long as it's not hentai, I guess.

They Write Letters

Now here's our kind of pop obsessives.

Reader Jennifer Knowles alerts us to the fine folks at, a site devoted to...

well, let them explain in their own words:

This is a website by the fans for the fans and our mission is simple:

To convince Warner Bros to release the Roy Wood albums 'Super Active Wizzo' and 'On The Road Again' on CD by raising over 2,000 signatures!

2007 marks the 30th anniversary since the master tapes of 'Super Active Wizzo' were locked away in the record company vaults. 'On The Road Again' was sentenced to the same fate in 1979. Both albums have never appeared on CD and were only released (for good behaviour) as vinyl LPs for a very limited time before being deleted.

This injustice cannot continue!

Warner Bros have said they will hear our case if over 2,000 fans petition the company pledging to liberate the albums from stores if and when they appear on CD. Please sign the petition NOW!

My guess is that if you're reading this, you're already convinced that the aforementioned Roy Wood is a very great man. But here's a rare video of his sublime "Dear Elaine" -- from the equally sublime 1973 Wood solo album Boulders -- to remind you.

So go sign the petition already. And tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Mind Wobbles

So I saw the new Shrek flick the other day, and I liked it a lot (the pussycat steals it of course). One of the neater things about it is that the pre-existing pop songs on the soundtrack are much better integrated into the action than in the other two movies; I don't want to give away a major plot point, but there's a chorus of frogs lip-synching to McCartney's "Live and Let Die" that will make you expel soda through your nose.

I bring this up, however, because there's also a brief snippet of what is beginning to be widely conceded as the worst song in the history of worst songs.

Here's a vintage video of both the offending ditty and its reprehensible auteurette:

Ladies and germs, give it up for Charlene singing "I've Never Been to Me".

Ah, the 70s. As Paul Westerberg famously said, when dogshit really was dogshit.

Dirty F*@*!!!#ing Hippies!

Okay, this one's really peculiar.

Behold, in breathless wonder, the Edgar Broughton Band performing their puckish satire on contemprary mores "Apache Drop Out".

Yes, it's a decades ahead of its time mash-up of Captain Beefheart's "Drop Out Boogie" and the often covered early 60s surf classic "Apache." Like I said, peculiar. If for no other reason that it actually made the British Top 40 in 1970.

Incidentally, if you're unfamiliar with the Broughtons, you're in good company. Although their idiosyncratic brand of prog-rock, punk, blues and psychedelia has made them something of a Grateful Dead-like institution in the UK, they've never made any (you should pardon the expression) noise here in the States. Like Status Quo, sparkling Eno and Vegemite, they're apparently just too darn British to travel well.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Been working like a dog on the garden lately, trying to get all the hardscape done in order to have flowers and vegetables sometime this summer. Enjoy!

The near end, with an old school desk that lived in my grandparent's basement, in the house next door. Also a cool fish from sculptor and landscape architect Jim Gardner.

The far end, with Buddha and an old log rack. When finished, the 8' x 35' bed will contain: white roses, lilacs, purple tulips, iris, grape hyacinth, baby's breath, morning glories, moonflowers, and cerinthe. Virginia Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West, had a whole garden of white. Mine is white and purple.

The boy, in front this time. Dig the hostas!

A little artsy for me, but she looked so damn cute. The lilac bush is technically our neighbor's, but it was planted by my grandfather during the Depression, so I think Rosie has a right to play under it (and I to steal seedlings).

The duck makes a triumphant return, among the tulips and lilacs this time. She let me rototill not a yard from her head without hissing--maybe we have a new pet.

...But Fueled By Beer

I hope NYMary will forgive me if she's previously posted this, but it's just so cool I can't resist.

It's Guided By Voices, one of the greatest bands who ever lived (or so the guy at the beginning of the clip says), performing their infernally catchy "Teenage FBI.

I mean, the fabulous guitar riffs and the addictive tune notwithstanding, what makes this song so great is that the phrase "teenage FBI" is such a wonderful metaphor for...well, actually I'm not sure what's it's a metaphor for. But it makes some kind of sense in the context of the rest of the lyrics so what the hell.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony from NYCD, here's interesting and alarming news about this week's new releases.

THE BRAVERY - "SUN AND THE MOON." Our press release said that the Bravery spent a whole eight months working on their second album. We remember a time when it took Don Henley eight months to properly mic the castanets on "Hotel California." These boys made a name for themselves with their not-bad debut, and this record will either get them back on top or get them on the bill with Quarterflash and Cock Robin at the Nevele.

JEFF BUCKLEY - "SO REAL." A 14 track best-of featuring songs from all ONE AND A HALF of his albums, plus live tracks from his three live records and alternate takes from his two posthumously released outtakes records, AND a brand new outtake which is a cover of the Smiths' "I Know It's Over!" We look forward to Sony's "Essential Jeff Buckley" CD, due out sometime next year, which will feature these same tracks, less one outtake. Barrel scrapers rejoice!

ERASURE - "LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD." Moderate-to-wildly successful pop duo release their ninth (or possibly 16th) record of dated, soulless synth-pop. (Note to all of Tony's Asian friends: Sorry, Sal made me write that.)

FICTION PLANE - "LEFT SIDE OF THE BRAIN." This exciting new band, let by Joe Sumner, the son of legendary English professor (and future hell-dweller) Gordon Sumner (that's Sting for you laymen), has all the excitement the Police left behind when Sting took up faux-jazz, an all-yogurt diet, and sex with plants. High-energy rock n' roll reminiscent of early Police, with smart lyrics and super-catchy melodies. They're opening for the Police on their $250-a-ticket tour, so get there early and get your money's worth!

MAROON 5 - "IT WON'T BE SOON BEFORE LONG." More songs that will make you want to smack that guy in the face, along the lines of "She weeeeeeeeeeeellllllllll, be luuuuuuhhh-uhhhved."

THE NATIONAL - "BOXER." The only thing more offensive than a Republican saying global warming doesn't exist because it's 50 degrees out today is referring to the National as "the greatest rock n' roll band since the E Street Band." This band has sold out the Bowery Ballroom for, like, 97 nights based on a handful of OK records. What's with the hype, people? Just stop it.

CHICK COREA & BELA FLECK - "ENCHANTMENT." Chick & Fleck (and the Knicks and the Hawks and the Bucks -- first person to email us with the reference gets a copy of the CD!) combine for their first ever collaboration. We have not heard it yet, but how can you say anything bad about Willis Reed?

There's more over at their blog, so scurry over there and start ordering up a storm.

Incidentally, have we mentioned that Sal and Tony are now regular contributors to the Huffington Post? We couldn't be more proud or (frankly) jealous.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I will be donning chaps and lederhosen and heading out for a night on the mean (Christopher) streets of New York's Greenwich Village (say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink.)

With any luck, then, posting (by moi) will necessarily be sporadic for a while, but while I'm gone here's a fun project.

Best Use of Electric Twelve-String Guitar on a Record NOT by the Beatles, Byrds or Roger McGuinn!!!

My totally top of my head Top Five:

1. "Dance Dance Dance" -- The Beach Boys

2. "Not Where It's At" -- Del Amitri

3. "Beginning to See the Light" -- Velvet Underground

4. "Senses Working Overtime" -- XTC

5. "Exception That Proves the Rule " --Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams (a great but obscure band from the 90s featuring me on bass and keyboards. No kidding!)

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday Album Review Blogging

[One of the nice perks of writing here is that people send me terrific albums I otherwise probably wouldn't have heard. This is one of them.]

(TurnUp Records )

Let's start this with a mea culpa and an embarassing confession.

First of all, there's no question in my mind that this album would have made my Top Ten list in the 2006 Village Voice critic's poll save for the inconvenient fact that I didn't hear it until last week. Sorry. What's worse, I'm afraid, is that even though its auteur has been a wildly acclaimed power pop icon for two decades I'd never actually heard a note of his until then. Ridiculous, really, when you consider that my long-time critical colleague Parke Puterbaugh (who contributes excellent liner notes to the album) wrote not one but two rave reviews of earlier Heyman CDs when I was his editor at Sound and Vision (i.e., The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review).

Oy, as they say, gevalt.

But let's move on. For those who've been as out of touch as yours truly, here's what you need to know. Richard X. Heyman is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (one of the best, actually -- he's a killer drummer, unlike most of the breed) who's been making wonderful classicist pop rock (occasionally on major labels) since 1986. The album currently under discussion is in some sense a remake. What happened was that back then Heyman had twenty songs ready to unleash on the waiting world, but after recording six of them he couldn't afford any more studio time and decided to release what he'd finished as a mini-album (or EP, as they used to be called). On "Actual Sighs," ("Actual Size" back in the day) he's re-recorded the original six and finally gotten around to the orphans. As Puterbaugh points out, there's really nothing to compare to it in pop history except for Brian Wilson's revisiting of the Beach Boys' "Smile," except that (for me, anyway) "Actual Sighs" is more consistently terrific.

In any case, Heyman -- a pop classicist, as I mentioned earlier -- has all the influences you'd expect; the aforementioned Beach Boys, Beatles, Byrds, Who, Kinks, "Something/Anything" era Todd Rundgren, yada yada, and a few less obvious; my current obsession on the album, "All in the Way You Found Me," is an unlikely summit meeting between Steely Dan and the Zombies, and the wonderfully sunny "Without True Love" sounds like the greatest Peter and Gordon single never made (true fact: after the first two verses the listener awaits the killer bridge sure to come, and when it arrives the effect is almost chemical). I also hear a bit of solo Roy Wood in "The Gazing Moon," with its multiple acoustic guitars and discreet string quartet, although comparisons to certain more famous products of EMI's Abbey Road studios are also appropriate. Whatever -- it's gorgeous and audacious. And the bottom line is that while Heyman is upfront about his influences, the end results never sound like pastiche.

Heyman doesn't have what you'd consider a typical genre voice. When he sings in his (sort of) higher register, as on the meltingly lovely ballad "Hoosiers," he's as winsome as you could want, but most of the time he employs a gruff-sounding almost-baritone that suggests a more expressive Warren Zevon. (And on the album's two amusing mutant blues numbers he sounds a bit like John Hiatt). No matter: The point is that Heyman's singing, which is to be sure, unfailingly effective, is not really the point. The point is his astoundingly well-crafted songs and the brilliant arrangements and production touches that decorate them.

I have my favorites here, which seems almost churlish, like picking your favorite child, and although they change with every spin of the album, right now they include "Masquerader Man," a glorious piece of 1967-ish baroque pop that sounds like a barely remembered Summer of Love single that should have been on "Nuggets II" (think XTC as the Dukes of Stratosphear with trumpets) and the concluding "Special Love," on whose coda Heyman tosses off as casually brilliant an electric guitar and mandolin exchange as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Have I mentioned that despite the fact Heyman plays just about every note here the whole thing always sounds organic, as if it was the work of a real band? Or that the drumming is particularly exciting throughout, with lots of riveting Keith Moon flourishes? Or that "The Gazing Moon" is a goddamn masterpiece? (Okay, I think I sort of implied that last earlier)

Here's the deal: I waited twenty years to find out how great RXH is, but I'm an idiot. If you're reading this and don't immediately order "Actual Sighs" (which you can do at you need to come up with your own excuse.

Postcript: There is, alas, no video from the album, but here's the Merseyebeat revisionist "Cornerstone" from a few years back to give you an inkling.

NYM adds: early in his career, Heyman played with Tommy Keene. Now there's something I'd like to have heard!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Official -- It's Swedish Appreciation Day at PowerPop!

Here's a charmingly nutty clip of ABBA and their heartrending classic of suburban infidelity and weird beards "Knowing Me Knowing You".

Cracks me up every time -- it's like a Monkees video directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Actually, that's not as far-fetched as it sounds. If memory serves, there's a longform ABBA video directed by My Life as a Dog and Chocolat
auteur Lasse Hellstrom. Come to think of it, this may actually be from it.

Update: As usual, Wikipedia is our friend; the above was indeed directed by Hellstrom.

More Swedish Invasion!

Estimable New York Times pop critic Jon Pareles suggests that frighteningly young Scandinavian 60s garage revisionists Mando Diao might be worth a listen.

On the basis of this video for their appealingly Beatles-on-speedpunk single "Sheepdog" I'd have to say he's right.

Swedes Behaving Badly

These guys slay me.

From Letterman circa '02, here's a clip of snazzily dressed Scandinavian power popsters The Soundtrack of Our Lives doing the infernally catchy "Sister Surround."

It's from their (Grammy nominated, as Dave mentions) album "Behind the Music." If you haven't heard it, all you need to know is that basically these guys sound like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, ABBA, the Move, Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick and just about everybody else of that ilk from the 60s through the 80s.

So what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation to go order it at Amazon?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Pornographers 1, Jerry Falwell 0

Please enjoy a rant.

They Write Letters

Music historian Tim Riley has hit upon a brilliant idea, which he addresses to Paul McCartney:

By the end of the month, this fabled 100-year old music industry pioneer could be in the hands of Wall Street sharks -- and their global equivalents -- looking for the next big flip.

Please don't let this happen. As one of the wealthiest men in show-business, use your influence and wealth to block the pirates and preserve EMI, either by purchasing a controlling interest or aligning yourself with investors most likely to reinvest in EMI's future.

I've tried to stay out of the Divorce Debate, though I admit I love the "PT CWuisah" lady, but the fact remains that Sir Paul's reputation has been a bit--stained--of late, and something like this could really help his profile.

We live in an age where literally everything, including the air that we breathe, is for sale. Corporate raiders are no respecters of history, reputation, or importance. Financial gain is the only gain, and, Protestant Work Ethic-style, proves that Jeebus loves those who put others out of work and bankrupt old ladies' retirement funds.

Riley reminds us here of many of the innovations of EMI, many of which were done during The Beatles' tenure there. I second his suggestion.

Love is a Battlefield

Okay, it's no secret that I'm not a fan of American Idol or that I think all the perfomers on the show suck by definition.

Short version: Idol is a marketing scam designed to reward total lack of originality -- it's a canny and cynical way for music biz weasels to market people who sound exactly like the second-raters they were pushing two or three decades ago.

Also, Ann Althouse digs it. Nuff said.

Anyway, my dear friend Laura the Rock n Roll Travel Agent -- whose path has crossed mine at myriad concerts and band gigs over the years, and who's got really excellent taste -- demurs, at least where Idol alumna Kelly Clarkson is concerned. Great voice, writes her own songs, yada yada yada.

Well, out of respect, I caught Clarkson singing live today on a rerun of the Ellen DeGeneres show. Let's just say I was unconvinced.

Oh hell, let's just say that every generation gets the Pat Benatar it deserves.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Calling Out For Love (at Crying Time)

Okay, you guys knew I was finally gonna get around to posting a Springsteen clip.

So here's one I'd never seen before -- a glorious version of Little Steven's classic r&b romance "I Don't Want to Go Home" done up live with ultimate bar band Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, circa 1978. In case you're wondering, the funny looking guy playing trombone is now a late-night TV celeb. The shaggy-haired drummer in the back is Steve Becker, a lovely guy who ran a recording studio in Jersey that I did a bunch of demos at back in the day.

For an encore, here's a link to a piece I wrote about my first exposure to Bruce live occasioned by the 1999 publication of a huge coffee table book of Bruce's complete lyrics.

BTW -- although Bruce wouldn't necessarily be the first guy to spring to mind when the phrase power pop is uttered, he's actually got impeccable credentials along those lines. A lot of his roots as a songwriter involve 60s Brit pop classics, as anybody who's ever seen him cover Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo" or the Searchers' "When You Walk in the Room" can attest. Plus, he wrote the often covered "Rendezvous," which is about as pure power pop as you can get.

Space Age Love Song

From the land of blondes and Bergman movies, here's a 1962 clip of The Spotnicks, the Swedish instro-band that can credibly claim to be the oldest extant rock group in the world, performing The Rocket Man.

Eat your heart out, Elton.

Incidentally, I suspect the Spotnicks were a huge influence on the transplendent Laika and the Cosmonauts, who, of course, are somewhat younger and the greatest musical export from Finland since Sibelius.

If you've never heard their "Amazing Colossal Band" CD, get thee over to Amazon and order it forthwith.

Speaking of Gorgeous

During last night's "Waterloo Sunset/Eleanor Rigby" blood feud cage match, estimable commentator Underwhelm let drop the fact that he'd never heard "Waterloo Sunset". This made me very sad, since I belong (from time to time) to the small subspecies of humanity that considers it the most beautiful song written in the English language in the second half of the 20th century.

So, Underwhelm -- this one's for you: The Kinks lipsynching the Ray Davies classic sometime in early 1967.

Incidentally, I'm not sure what show that clip comes from, but according to at least one Kinks bio I've read, while the band waited backstage to perform WS on "Top of the Pops," show co-star Jimi Hendrix told Ray how much he loved the record, a compliment that its auteur considers one of the high points of his life.

NYM comments: Embedding disabled on this one, sorry. But you can watch it at YouTube.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Videoblogging: FOW


I liked Demetri Martin on The Daily Show.

And one for all those mothers out there!

UPDATE: trifecta beat me to it!

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony at NYCD, here's some interesting and alarming info on the weeks upcoming new releases.

GENESIS - "1976-1982 (BOX SET)." There is so much to love and hate about Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and the rest of this pretentious gang of Brits. Pros include "Selling England By The Pound," "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway," Phil Collins' drumming, Peter Gabriel's reverse Mohawk, Tony Banks' impish grin, and "Paperlate." Cons: Phil Collins post-1982, Peter Gabriel's fascination with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mike Rutherford and his Mechanics, and Phil Collins post-1982 -- so horrendous we had to mention it twice. As for this box set, it's a brilliant idea. Take the five best post-Gabriel records, give them new stereo mixes, 5.1 Surround Sound, and rare videos, slap 'em in a box with a bonus disc of rarities, and Bob's yer uncle. But the British version, which is identical musically, presses the discs on the best audio format around, SACD Hybrids, while here in the States, we can only listen to our 5.1 Surround mixes on the DVD-Audios. That would be fine, if we could afford the British version, which is twice the price. But even if we could afford it, the DVDs wouldn't play unless you had an all-region player. Thanks, Rhino! For years we've been calling you the gold standard of reissue labels, but you blew it this time.

A 2004 set recorded for Austin City Limits on their farewell tour. GBV records are few and far between, so you should snap this up!

IAN HUNTER - "SHRUNKEN HEADS." The older this Hoople gets, the better he sounds. The followup to "Rant," one of the strongest records in Hunter's career, is just as strong. With lots of help from Jeff "Will Someone Hold My Hair Back?" Tweedy, "Shrunken Heads" sounds like Bob Dylan fronting "Exile"-era Stones. You can't get much better than that.

LINKIN PARK - "MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT." The press release we're reading claims that this is the most anticipated release of the year. It is? Wait, what year is this again?

VARIOUS ARTISTS - "A REGGAE TRIBUTE TO THE POLICE." This is probably as lame as you think it is. It's $11.98 in 49 states, but $250 in New York City.

There's more at the homepage so get over there and order up a storm.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

They Say It's Your Birthday

The great Steve (nee Stevie) Winwood turns 59 today.

Here's a clip of the lad doing Somebody Help Me with the Spencer Davis Group in the fullness of his Boy Genius period circa 1966. Great song, actually.

Although I'm reminded that the late sainted Lester Bangs, reviewing one of Winwood's lesser tours with Traffic in the early 70s, famously observed that the good thing about being a Boy Genius is that if your career winds down there's still time to go to dental school.

[h/t to numero uno Stevie fan Kerrin L. Griffith]

Rock Italiano

Ciao Ragazzi!

I am about to leave on a well-deserved and long-awaited vacation to Italy so I don't have time for a longer post, but I thought I would leave you with a bit of Rock Italiano.

Here's I Nomadi (The Nomads) performing their first hit Come potete giudicar (How Can You Judge) on Italian television in 1966. Apparently, this appealing folk rocker was the anthem of the Italian Beat Generation according to Wikipedia.

A presto!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, once again my Asian houseboy Kato and I will be donning black masks, reving up the Simelsmobile, and searching for crimes to foil.

As a result, posting will necessarily be sporadic until Monday, but in the meantime here's a fun project:

Most Memorable Opening Line to a Pop/Rock Song!!!

[arbitrary rule: It doesn't have to be a good song]

My completely top of my head Top Two:

1. "I really don't mind if you sit this one out" -- Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick

2. "It's getting to the point where I'm no fun anymore." --CSN, Suite Judy Blue Eyes

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Album Review Blogging

[One of the nice perks of writing here is that people send me terrific albums I otherwise probably wouldn't have heard. This is one of them.]

NELSON BRAGG: Day Into Night
(SideB Music 100501)

It's not very often that I listen to a rock album and think about Gustav Mahler, but that's what happened when I first heard Nelson Bragg's new debut CD.

Actually, this often seraphically lovely song cycle owes a lot more to the Beach Boys (its auteur is a member of Brian Wilson's current touring band), their various acolytes (people like Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher and Van Dyke Parks) and California pop and chamber rock in general rather than a post-Wagnerian symphonist, but there is an odd connection I'll get to later.

The basic musical template of the record is airy-sounding massed acoustic guitars overlaid with jangly twelve-string, choirboy harmonies, and the occasional strings, horns, recorders, discreet keyboards, and pedal steel; if you're thinking early America or George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, you wouldn't be off the mark. (The album's only cover is a lovely version of "Dark Sweet Lady," from Harrison's eponymous 1979 solo album, which on the basis of Bragg's take I'd say must be better than I remember). There are also little nods (perhaps unconscious, perhaps not) to Paul McCartney, the Zombies, the Millenium, and Todd Rundgren, but the album has its own personality in spades.

It's sort of a concept record, in fact, divided into two parts, "Day" and "Night" (in the LP era, those would have been side one and side two, of course). The "Day" section is mostly plaintive love songs and generally upbeat rather than melancholy, while "Night", fittingly, is a little, uh, darker, with serious undercurrents of mortality. "Night" is also where I thought of Gustav Mahler. On the achingly melodic opening "Death of Caroline" (a deliberately ironic take on the Pet Sounds girl of the same name), the closing instrumental coda suddenly flips the song's chords into something minor key and dissonant, underscoring the failed relationship limned in the lyrics; the effect is not unlike the movement in Mahler's first symphony where the composer turns variations on a minor key "Frere Jacques" into a sardonic funeral march.

Anyway, there's just so much here to admire -- "A Father's Foolish Will," for example, whose sunny melody belies lyrics that are either about a grieving absent dad or the ghost of same (I can't quite decide), or the utterly gorgeous Wilsonian vocal arrangements on "Tell Someone" -- that it's impossible to pick the album's best-in-show. Let's just say that the overall level of melodic invention here is impressively high, that the performances (fellow Wilson band vet and Wondermint stalwart Probyn Gregory puts in an appearance on the elegaic "Lived This Life to Long") and production are world class, and that, bottom line, this is one of the most thoroughly beguiling records I've heard this year.

You can order the album at

And for more about Nelson, check out

Surf's Up

[I'm in the process of reviewing a new solo album by one of the guys in Brian Wilson's touring band, which I plan to have up later today. But by way of a lead in, I thought I'd rejigger a passionate defense of the Beach Boys I originally wrote for the comments section back on 1/31/06. The essay was occasioned by NYMary's surprise that I rated the Beach Boys as high as I did in the American 60s pantheon; she didn't agree, obviously, and I don't know if the following screed caused her to alter her opinion. In any case, I stand by the assessment.



I must confess I find it a little odd to be writing this -- the Beach Boys music is pretty much my lingua franca, and the idea that they need defending feels weird to me given how much I love them (although I understand your skepticism, at least in the abstract. After all, Mike Love sucks).

In any event, here's why I think they deserve respect from
mere mortals like you and me.



1. They invented an instantly recognizable sound of their own,
one that practically defines a genre. Very few rock artists can make that claim. (Chuck Berry with "Johnny B Goode", The Byrds with "Tambourine Man," the Ramones, and maybe U2). That alone should guarantee the Beach Boys immortality.

2. What Raymond Chandler did for California in prose the Beach Boys did in music. They reflected a place and a time and made a kind of poetry out of it. They were not fake.

3. Five part harmonies, astoundingly gorgeous. And Brian's conception -- mating progressive jazz voicings a la the Four Freshman with classic doo-wop -- was totally unique. Here's a 1965 live clip that proves the point -- and if this a capella version of the Freshman's "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring"doesn't put a lump in your throat, you need to check your meds.

4. From their inception in the early 60s, they were pretty much the only self-contained rock band in America. Wrote all their own songs, produced their own records. Who else was doing that?

5. Kick-ass live act. If you doubt it, listen to "Beach Boys Concert," get a video of their closed-circuit show from '64, or find "The TAMI Show" video, in which -- performing on the same bill with the Stones, James Brown and most of the Motown acts, they tear the audience to shreds. Carl Wilson was a killer surf guitarist, and the rhythm section was as good as anybody in rock at the time.

Here's their British TV debut on Top of the Pops -- from 1964, totally live versions of "I Get Around" and "When I Grow Up."

6. Contrary to myth, they were not white bread at all. Carl and Dennis Wilson were as soulful singers in the r&b sense as anybody else working in the mid-Sixties. And that includes Stevie Winwood or Felix Cavliere.

7. The car and surf songs are actually quite brilliant. Who else ever conceived of writing love songs to a carburetor? And has any rock song ever conveyed as much sheer teenage elan as "Fun Fun Fun" or "I Get Around"?

8. Brian's best songs from the early period anticipate the confessional singer/songwriter LA genre. "Don't Worry Baby" may be as nakedly emotional and self-revealing as anything Joni Mitchell ever wrote. Ditto "Warmth of the Sun" or "In My Room" or "When I Grow Up."

9. The albums that preceed the sainted "Pet Sounds" and "Smile" are masterpeices. "The Beach Boys Today," Brian's first real studio concept album, is masterly; "When I Grow Up" isn't even the best song on it (try "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" or the astounding Sinatra goes r&b of "The Back of My Mind" sung by Dennis). It's every bit as good as "Rubber Soul." in terms of consistency and melodic invention. The follow-up --"Summer Days and Summer Nights," of which "California Girls" is simply the icing on the cake, is even better -- it's every bit Brian's "Revolver." He never used the studio more impressively than "Let Him Run Wild" or emulated the Beatles with the riffy brilliance of "Girl Don't Tell Me."

10. The album that follows the sainted "Pet Sounds" and
"Smile" is another masterpiece. "Wild Honey" is one of the handful of great white r&b albums of the period, and if you doubt it check out the title song or Carl's gorgeous reading of Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her." And in it's back to basics way, it's very much of a piece with the Beatles "White Album."

I could go on about the Beach Boys early 70s output -- you could make a fabulous comp album with songs like "Marcella" (one of their best ever rockers), "This Whole World" (Brian's canniest pocket symphony), "All I Wanna Do"(the most glorious use of reverb in history), "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" (progressive rockabilly, if you can believe it), "Do It Again" and any number of others up through "Trader" on HOLLAND.

The decline after that was appalling, to be sure, but you get my point....the Beach Boys have a huge body of really transcendent work, and Brian wasn't the only big talent in the

Have I mentioned that Mike Love sucks?

NYM replies: I have actually reconsidered my position in light of steve's arguments. I expect my attitude was based on limited knowledge and access, plus coming up in the later, crazy Brian days. But I've listened more carefully now, and I see what steve sees. Also, the fact that he did the Barenaked Ladies' "Brian Wilson" in concert tickles me no end and speaks to a healthy self-image nad sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Unknown Tongues

They say (and they, of course, is defined here as TV's Van Patten Family) that music is a universal language, which is of course demonstrably untrue, as anybody who's ever played a Chinese folk song on a Nashville country station knows full well. But what is true is that, by and large, the lingua franca of contemporary pop music is English. And it has been since the British Invasion at the very least.

One of the results of that is that scads of bands in non-English speaking countries, primarily in Europe (but a few elsewhere), made their music in what was for them a second language, which if you think about it is no small feat (hey -- could you write pop songs in French? I don't think so). The most obvious example of such a band (and certainly the most succesful) was and is ABBA, but there is a small subspecies of humanity which holds, with justification, that the very best of them were Dutch garage rockers The Outsiders.

Unlike the American group of the same period and name (best known for the greaseball classic "Time Won't Let Me"), the lowland Outsiders worked the Stones/Pretty Things side of the mid-60s street, and for a period of about two years, they pretty much ruled in their home country. By the end of the decade they were out of fashion, but during their run they made a lot of terrific records, including an eponymous debut album (half live, half studio, all blistering) and the 1968 "CQ," one of the very best of the artsy concept albums that sprung up in the immediate wake of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper."

Here's a 1965 video of one of their early hits, "Lying All the Time", presumably from Dutch TV. For those of you keeping score, this is the band's original line-up; there's a slicker version of the song from the "CQ" sessions featuring slightly different personnel, but this one has period vibe to spare. [BTW -- note the wonderfully cheezy Hagstrom solid body electric twelve-string played by lead guitarist Appie Rammers(!). The guitarist in my early 80s skinny-tie band had the very same model, and although we rejoiced when he put it away in favor of a far better sounding Rickenbacker, we kind of missed it anyway. To paraphrase Noel Coward, there's something incredibly potent about cheap 60s instruments.]

Anyway, the band's debut album and "CQ" are both still available somewhere as European imports, although I can't find a link at the moment; if you're curious, "Strange Things Are Happening: The Complete Singles, 1965-1969" is a good place to start. And I just remembered that the fourth disc on Rhino's invaluable period anthology "Nuggets II" features not only a representative Outsiders track, but also "Break It All," the fab Merseybeat confection by Beatles-of-Uruguay Los Shakers which our co-blogger Kid Charlemagne posted about just the other day.

That Thing They Do

Well, this is just adorable.

In case you hadn't heard, Neil Sedaka is making yet another comeback. Here's a video of him live at Joe's Pub in NYC a week or so ago doing "Calendar Girl" with vocal backing by -- get this -- the guys from Fountains of Wayne. Who are, of course, young enough to be his grandchildren.

No generation gap here, thank you.

Interesting thing about Sedaka, for my money, is that of all the great Brill Building songwriters he came up with -- Goffin-King, Mann-Weill, Barry-Greenwich, Doc Pomus, Leiber and Stoller -- he's the one who most obviously connects to the pre-rock Tin Pan Alley tradition. The above mentioned "Calendar Girl" is a case in point -- although superficially it sounds like 50s pop rock, there's really nothing about it, either lyrically or harmonically, that Irving Berlin wouldn't have cheerfully accepted the royalties for.

[h/t to L.A. legend Eric C. Boardman]

Update:For some reason, the YouTube link wasn't working before. It's up now, j'espere.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cheers! Paul Samwell-Smith!

The Rock Birthdays page tells me that today is Paul Samwell-Smith's birthday, born May 8, 1943. Paul was a founding member and bassist for the Yardbirds from 1963-1966. He went on to enjoy a successful career as a record producer working with acts such as Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull, and Carly Simon. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 as a member of the Yardbirds.

Here's the Yardbirds Mk. III (according to Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees) performing their single Heart Full of Soul, issued in June 1965. This smash on both sides of the Atlantic always sounded to me as if it could have been co-written with Ennio Morricone given the spaghetti-western lope on the chorus. This clip also features Joltin' Jeff Beck on guitar dishing out one of the more memorable guitar riffs of the 60s as well as the always-cool Keith Relf looking enigmatic in a pair of impenetrable shades.

Happy Birthday Mate!

The Golden Age of Cheesy Video Effects

More proof, if any was still needed, that YouTube is the highest achievement of Western Civilization:

Here's an ultra-rare and very high quality genuine live video of the Lower East Side's finest band, The Blues Project doing their signature gospel-derived raveup "Wake Me Shake Me."

How rare is it? Well, until this showed up on YouTube, the only place you could see it was in the subterranean archive/vault of the Museum of Radio and Television in Manhattan.

Incidentally, it's a document of the short-lived version of the Project with one John-John McDuffy filling in for the then recently departed Al Kooper. It was taped for a one-off TV special on NYC's Metromedia affiliate station in the summer of '67. The host was club owner (and later manager of Rick Derringer and Johnny Winter) Steve Paul, who's Scene venue was at the time the heppest joint in town and the location of many legendary jam sessions, including the one -- and this is documented -- where a drunken Jim Morrison blew Jimi Hendrix in mid-guitar solo.

Good times!

Oh Grow Up

Extremely irksome NY Times pop music critic Kelefa Sanneh weighed in yesterday on "Ain't Nothin' Like Me," the latest CD from boringly monikered R&B love man Joe --

One of Joe’s signature songs is “I Wanna Know,” a sublime slow jam. He teamed up with 50 Cent’s G Unit for a club-conquering collaboration, “Wanna Get to Know You.” And this new CD, No. 2 on Billboard’s album chart, begins with a song called “Get to Know Me.” Near the end comes “You Should Know Me.” Think he’s trying to tell us something?

-- and you'll note that, once again, the statistics-obsessed Sanneh proves incapable of reviewing an artist without a mention of their current chart position.

Apart from being a really annoying stylistic tic, this is a manifestation of a form of nerdy fanboy bullshit that's really embarassing for a guy his age.

Note to Sanneh: When I was ten years old, back during the Spanish Civil War, I went through a period when I felt compelled to write down a list of every week's Top Forty Hits as played on WMGM-AM in New York City.

By the time I was eleven, however, I had gotten over it.

Word to your mother.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Kids Are Back!!

Jeez Louise, what you find on YouTube!

Here's former N.Y. Doll Syl Sylvain and his group of the moment The Ugly Americans (with ex-bandmate Jerry Nolan) performing the A side to the great 1978 powerpop single he cut with the Criminals entitled The Kids are Back. There's no date on this cool piece of video detritus, but judging by the hairdos and the tasteful dresses of the ladies in this clip I peg it from sometime in the mid 80s.

By the way, Wounded Bird Records released Syl's two RCA LPs earlier this year.

Enjoy These Fine Audio Products

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony at NYCD, here's some interesting and alarming news about this week's new releases.

This 18 track compilation of the drunken American Idol judge's biggest pop hits includes four which weren't on her previous greatest hits album. If that's not exciting news, I don't know what is.

BJORK - VOLTA. Yes, she may be a weirdo, but... well, she's a weirdo. Our favorite Icelandic chanteuse follows up her mostly-acapella Medulla with this non-acapella collaboration featuring ubiquitous producer Timbaland, Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons, and an all-female Icelandic brass section. Insert your own joke here.

OF MONTREAL - ICONS ABSTRACT THEE. Previously available only at the indie hipsters' shows, this EP, which is a companion piece to the indie hipsters' latest release, Hissing Fauna, is now available to indie hipsters everywhere through non-hipster, rapidly-dying, traditional music retail.

BARBRA STREISAND - LIVE IN CONCERT 2006. Barbra, along with Judy Garland, is an artist who's regarded as a genius by many, but whose voice hits me like fingernails scraping down a blackboard. I'm sure that somewhere in her vast oeuvre there's an album's worth of songs that I'd enjoy, but I'm also sure that this album won't be it. Especially considering the duet she does here with Il Divo. Simon Cowell should be taken out back and flogged for coming up with that idea. Not to mention all his other crimes against pop culture.

TRAVIS - THE BOY WITH NO NAME. Everyone's second or third favorite sensitive British band returns with their latest collection of delicate, moody pop anthems. But seriously, they're pretty good if you like that sort of thing.

There's more at their website, so go over there and order up a storm.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Videoblogging

Hamell on Trial, late of "Coulter's Snatch," goes "Strolling in Baghdad."

And another Hamell number, on parenting.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday Night Glam Rock Blogging!

Noted rock philosopher David St. Hubbins once said that "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." When one reconsiders the glam rock era, no truer words have ever been spoken. Indeed, they should be writ large as that era's epitaph. To me, the truly memorable and transcendent groups of the past 40 years such as the Sonics, the Ramones, and the Replacements achieved rock immortality by teetering along that knife-edge between stupidity and intellect with a beer in one hand and a guitar in the other. The best of the Glitter bands of the era between 1971-1974 followed a similar path.

Setting aside the art school pretentions of
Bowie and Roxy Music, the front-line foot soldiers of glam such as Slade, Sweet, and T-Rex all had a simple formula: lay down a huge, thumping beat, add some crunchy guitar and then tie it all together with a fist-pumping football cheer chorus. Toss in a handful of glitter and spray-paint the whole shebang candy apple red and presto, you have your silver-studded sabertooth dream band!

While the aforementioned groups had considerable commercial success in America in the mid-70s, my real fascination is with some of the more obscure bands of the era. One such fave rave is
Mud. While charting over a dozen top-ten hits in the UK between 1971-1975, they remain virtually unknown back here in the States. That's a shame because they epitomize all the qualities that make Glam so great: super pop hooks and a decidedly campy, let's-have-some-fun attitude.

While Mud had been around since the late 60's, things really started to happen for them when they were signed to Micky Most's RAK label in 1973. That move meant that the band would be supplied tunes by the hottest song writing team of the era Chinn-Chapman, who had penned numerous hits for Sweet and
Suzi Quatro. At the height of their career in 1974, the band had two number one hits in England with "Tiger Feet" in February, 1974 and "Lonely this Christmas" in December. That same year, they also had a number 2 with "The Cat Crept In" in May, followed by a number six with "Rocket" in August.

The featured video is their fantabulous single "Dyna-Mite," which was a tune rejected by Sweet that reached number 4 in December 1973. As you can see, Mud had the choreographed dance moves down well over 30 years before OK-GO achieved acclaim for their treadmill workout for
"Here it Goes Again." Also, the band's sartorial sense would probably have made Elton John blush with their day-glo Teddy Boy getups and guitarist Rob Davis' threads which simply defy any categorization.

The Glam era was hugely influential on the punk rock movement and great pop bands like
Jellyfish and Redd Kross would simply not have existed without this much-maligned, overlooked era.

Cheers! Mud Rocks!

Speaking of Gorgeous

Ladies and gentleman, The Mohammedan Menace.

Well, actually, it's a video clip of Richard and Linda Thompson doing "A Heart Needs a Home" on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Ravishingly beautiful, and the guy in the Captain Kirk shirt at the beginning explains why the sound quality is so good. Seems OGWT was the only 70s TV show where they really worked on the audio.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means.

Yes, the Little Sociopath(TM) and I are going to go out to find some dogs to set on fire.

Good times, people!

Anyway, posting by moi will necessarily be a little sporadic, but in the meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

Best Car Song Not By the Beach Boys!!!!

My totally top of my head Top Four:

1. "Bitchin' Camaro" -- Dead Milkmen

2. "Little Red Corvette" -- Prince

3. "Hot Rod Lincoln" -- Commander Cody

4. "Little Honda" -- The Hondells

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

International Pop Overthrow

True confession: in 1994, when I heard the news that Kurt Cobain had killed himself, I didn't feel much of anything. Not because he was just "another dead doper," as human slime Rush Limbaugh said earlier of Jerry Garcia, and not because I was on the wrong side of a musical generation gap (although obviously I wasn't exactly Nirvana's demographic), but rather because it was just so predictable. Cobain had been The Voice of a Generation Most Likely to Be Stilled for so long that his actual death, for me at least, was largely anti-climactic.

Three years later, however, when I heard that Cobain's contemporary Jim Ellison, the ebullient frontman for Chicago popsters Material Issue had committed suicide, I felt genuine sadness. How did someone whose public personna and music mostly seemed so full of the sheer joy of being alive reach such a despairing point? It seemed, both then and now, inexplicable.

I bring all this up because I stumbled across the Ish's wonderful video for "What Girls Want" the other day, and was charmed all over again. The sentiments are adorable to be sure, but I think what I most like is how when Ellison sings the line about Keith Richard's stagger, the music seems to go all wobbly.

You can almost imagine Captain Jack Sparrow making a cameo appearance.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Los Shakers!!!

May I present exhibit 1,821,000 proving that the Beatles dropped a 20 megaton musical bomb on an unsuspecting world and were the international cultural phenomena of the 60s?

Case in point, Ladies and Gentlemen is Los Shakers, the "Beatles del Río de la Plata." It appears that those Liverpool lunkheads (that's what Murry Wilson called 'em!) also messed with the cabezas of a few impressionable yoots in Latin America and here's the direct result of that fallout.

Caio Vila, Pelin Capobianco, and brothers Hugo and Osvaldo Fattoruso met at the Hot Club in Montevideo, Uruguay in the early 60s and after seeing A Hard Day's Night decided to form a band in the style of the Beatles. The band's first single "Break it All" was an immediate smash in early 1965 and their eponymous first LP was released later in the year. While much of Los Shakers' catalog is incredibly enjoyable spot-on Merseybeat mimicry, their crowning musical achievement is their 1966 tune "I Hope You'll Like It" which takes the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" as a starting point to reach heretofore unexplored psychedelic heights. Sadly, it has not been committed to video.

Regardless, here is a snippet of the band's unfinished movie from late 1966 which finds the boys romping through Buenos Aires in an frenetic homage to "Help!" The soundtrack features the previously mentioned single "Break it All."

Más Shakers por favor!!

Wednesday Canadian Content

It's no secret that on occasion in these precincts I've poked (possibly unwaranted) fun at our neighbors to the North, or as I like to call them (in the words of the the immortal Mystery Science Theater 3000 "Canada Song") those lousy stinking bacon eating Fracophonic bastards.

After all, what has Canada ever given us? Anne Murray? Gino Vanelli? Mahoganny Rush? Sheesh, they're such feebs.

Okay, that's totally unfair and I'm sorry for the snark. And all the more so because right now I'm totally blown away by "Never Hear the End of It," the audacious new album from the 100 percent Canadian pop rockers known simply as Sloan.

A colleague recently described said album to me as "sounding like side two of Abbey Road extended into infinity," and when -- understandably intrigued -- I checked it out, darned if that wasn't a pretty accurate description. Thirty songs of widely varying lengths and lyrical concerns segued together into a sort of de facto suite (or aural collage), the whole thing inhabiting a sonic and melodic landscape redolent of the Beatles, ELO, and the detritus of 60s/70s power pop. Comparisons with Guided By Voices wouldn't be off the mark, although the Sloan guys are a lot less abstract and obscure (plus there isn't a hint of a low-fi esthetic here). The bottom line, of course, is that the damn thing is both wildly ambitious and gloriously accessible, and to my jaded ears, something approaching a masterpiece -- easily the best thing of its kind since "Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things", the 1993 stunner by The Loud Family (although that one was closer to the White Album. But you get the idea).

The Sloan album, out late last year in the Great White North, has just been released in the States on Yep Roc, and you can order it here or through the band's estimable web site. Incidentally, for whatever reason, the first official video from the record is only just now being finished, but in the meantime here's an under-a-minute clip of the guys in the studio putting some final touches on the very cool album track "I Can't Sleep".

Canada -- I take it all back. You're good people.

[h/t the divine Plum P, Canadian DJ extraordinaire]