Wednesday, January 31, 2007
And now I feel like I'm a part of something! I picked up Wincing The Night Away last Tuesday at Best Buy. It was just an $8.99 impulse buy, but I can't remember the last time I bought an album at the store on the day of release.
I've listened to Wincing a handful of times, and the jury's still out on my final views. I like the first "side" (everything through "Phantom Limb") a lot more than the second. It starts out with four or five great songs in a row. Then it drags a little on the second half. Not anything I'm tempted to skip or turn off, but the songs all blend together. This seems a lot more "dense" than their first two albums. The best songs on Oh Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow were the stripped down and bare ones, but everything on this one has layers of stuff going on under the surface. I still haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
And not to get all older-school-than-thou, but my first exposure to the Shins was in March 2001 at the SF Noise Pop Festival, sandwiched between the Orange Peels and the Aislers Set at the Bottom of the Hill. That was six months before Oh Inverted World came out. Most of the BOTH crowd loved them, but I thought the singer was trying to channel Robert Smith or Ian McCullough a little too obviously. Plus they're kinda boring live.
But #2 on the album charts on the first week is nothing to scoff at! (Pitchfork). Hooray for our side!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I also just found out that their 1983 mini-LP Party of Two (a collaboration with Utopia produced by Todd Rundgren) is scheduled to be reissued in March, with six bonus tracks.
These guys have been together for nearly 35 years without changing their sound, despite their brand of pop being out of fashion for most of those 35 years. According to their myspace page, they still list Berkeley as their home, but they haven't played more than two local gigs in the last ten years (and I missed them both times). I've only seen them once, at the Starry Plough in the early 90s, and hopefully will see them again before they hang it up.
I've been a Rubinoos fan since the first time I heard "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" on the radio (KFRC AM) . It didn't really sound like anything around at that time, and that song had a timeless 8th grade innocence that spoke to my 8th grade self. I went to buy the record, and told the clerk at the Record Factory I was looking for an album by the Rubynews with "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" on it. He ended up giving me the first Ramones record (which also has a song called "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), either by mistake or maybe just to mess with me. The band names (Rubinoos, Ramones) were close enough that I thought I'd just misheard the name, but that was not the case.
All these years on, the Rubinoos still exude the same junior high innocence they did when they started, even though they're all pushing (or maybe even pulling) 50. If the power pop genre has lifetime achievement awards, these guys have definitely earned theirs!
Monday, January 29, 2007
Now, there's a new player in the game, one that might likely change the way music is heard and possessed.Lala is an online swap service where people trade CDs they don't want for ones that they do. Evidently this is such a revolutionary idea that it will make us stop listening to CDs with our ears and storing them on shelves. Used record stores have been around for a long time, and lala is just like trading in your unwanted CDs to Amoeba. The main difference is that at a used store, you can get cash or store credit for your purchase, and at lala you get "credit for a free trade". Good karma. You send a CD to someone, they pay $1.75 to a third party, and you get "good karma", which near as I can tell, is the chance to pay pay $1.75 to that same third party for a CD that you want. So one unwanted CD + $1.75 = another user's unwanted CD.
Another difference, and one of lala's PR selling points is that 20% of each CD trade goes to "the artist". That's after the shipping costs. This works through lala's non-profit Z Foundation which establishes a trust fund that provides health care to "working musicians" (defined as "any individual who has performed live or on a recorded release in the last year and whose music-related income accounts for more than half of their total income"). Their monthly contributions (somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000) could provide health care to somewhere between 50 and 250 working musicians. Better than the cup of nothing that artists get when someone buys a used copy of their disc at Amoeba.
Lala discourages "rip and ship", or ripping a disc to your computer then shipping it to another user. This is "both illegal and against Lala policy". Bad karma. Their terms of service states that "if you ship the CD, you must delete the files". The buyers at Amoeba don't care what you did with your CD before you sold it to them. Because a used music retailer has no control over what users do with their music. And retaining a digital copy of a music CD before trading it away probably strains the boundaries of "fair use" and "first sale", but it's not really illegal. You can't go to prison for ripping and shipping. And the artists get the same %20 cut from ripper-shipper trades than they do from honest trades, so it doesn't "hurt artists" either. It's condescending to users, just like Apple putting "don't steal music" on every iPod.
And I'm still scratching my head over the final paragraph in the article.
In this latest David vs. Goliath battle for the heart of the cultural-technological nexus, vote your conscience and your wallet and back the small mobile intelligent unit over the lumbering monolithic Man. The bastards can't win all the time.Of all the lala.com hype I keep hearing, the "stick it to the man" rhetoric is the most confusing. Lala's business model ("trade in your unwanted CDs for ones you want") isn't the Bastille. It won't alter the way we listen to music. It's just another way to dump your old Weezer CDs!
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The Easybeats - "Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight" [MP3]
(this should be a music player)
If this works, I should also be able to embed this youtube footage of the 'beats performing "Good Time" on Beat Club in 1968.
In 1987, "Good Time" had dueling cover versions by Jimmy Barnes w/Inxs (on the Lost Boys soundtrack) and the Hindu Love Gods (the R.E.M./Warren Zevon "supergroup") just for fun.
Someone I know just blogged about the new You Am I CD that Miles mentioned. I noticed that earlier this week. You Am I's meat & potatoes (meat pie & chips?) rock & roll might be back in vogue now that the Hold Steady are topping critics' polls. My emusic downloads were supposed to refresh on January 28th (today), but haven't yet. As soon as they do, Convicts will be the first thing I grab.
Meanwhile, to make up for not including You Am I on my Australia Day playlist, here are both sides of their 1993 debut single linked from other places on the internet. "Berlin Chair" b/w "I Can't Explain". The flip side was the debut single for another band.
Friday, January 26, 2007
From the 1960s:
The Easybeats - "Friday On My Mind" [mp3]
If you ask someone to name an Australian group from the 60s, most of them would name this band. And if you ask them to name a song by this group, most of them would name this song. One of the greatest TGIF songs ever. Its wikipedia description of minor-key verses building up to a major-key refrain reminds me of "Senses Working Overtime" by XTC. I'll bet this was one of Andy Partridge's motivations for writing "SWO".
From the 1970s:
The Go-Betweens - "Lee Remick" [mp3]
This is the Go-Betweens first single from 1978. Robert Foster's ode to an actress. He seems to be more fond of the B-side "Karen", which is on the 1978-1990 compilation and the Sunlight Striped Sound live CD/DVD. Both the A and B sides of this single are on their '78-79 Lost Album CD. This single sounds completely different than the GBs sounded later.
From the 1980s:
Paul Kelly & the Messengers - "Before Too Long" [mp3]
A ton of Australian bands made it internationally in the 80s (the Church, the Hoodoo Gurus, Midnight Oil, Men At Work, Air Supply), but Paul Kelly never really did. He's a Dylan/Springsteen level icon in Australia, still largely unknown in the Northern Hemisphere. This is from his 1987 album Gossip. His band were known as the Coloured Girls (from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side") down under, but changed their name to the Messengers for the US market, since they were neither coloured nor girls. This song came out in 1987 at the height of US Aussiephilia (America's Cup, Crocodile Dundee, etc ) so I've never understood why it wasn't a huge Inxs-level hit.
From the 1990s:
The DM3 - "1 Time 2 Times Devastated" [mp3]
The winner of a coin-flip with You Am I, the DM3 were the brainchild of popmeister Dom Mariani, previously of the Stems and the Someloves. "1 x 2 x Devastated" is their best-known song, their "Friday On My Mind" if you will. This version is from an Australian power-pop compilation CD called Pop On Top!, which has a picture of a kangaroo playing a guitar on the cover. Kangaroos, Australian.. I get it!
From the 2000s:
The Chevelles - "Lost In Love" [mp3]
The Chevelles also have a song on that Pop On Top! compilation, but this is from their 2000 album Sun Bleached. It's always interesting when a band decides to cover another great song from their country's past, but sometimes it's even more interesting when they decide to rock up some sappy Air Supply love ballad.
I might keep doing this (posting five songs around a common theme) on future Fridays if it generates "positive feedback". Which means someone leaving a comment or email saying they like this.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
And if I were a Bears' fan last week, I would have stopped being one after last Sunday's NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field. The city of New Orleans was ravaged by a hurricane and a flood last year. The Saints had to play all their games on the road. This year both the team and the community are recovering. They nearly made it to the Super Bowl. It was the football feel good story of this year. Except for the Bears fan who hung this sign up at Soldier Field last Sunday.
For the graphically challenged, the sign says "Bears Finishing What Katrina Started". Which is not cool. Not at all. I know this is just one idiot (or group of idiots) out of 60 thousand fans, but it makes the Super Bowl more relevant when you have a team to root for. Or against, as the case may be. I've found a team to cheer against in Super Bowl XLI. Go Colts!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Go see them if they're near you. Near here, they're playing at Slim's on April 10th, one day before the 30th Anniversary of The Beach Boys Love You. Maybe Robyn's Venus 3 mates Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck (who wrote the sleeve notes for the 2001 CD reissue of Love You) could persuade him to work up a cover of "Solar System" or "Johnny Carson" for its anniversary? Let it be so!
Around the same time, a new documentary on Robyn Hitchcock called "Sex, Food, Death, and Insects" (a nod to Amy X.'s "Death & Love & Insects"?) will debut Tuesday March 27th on the Sundance Channel. It's by John Edgington, who directed the most excellent Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, so you know it's going to be a good one.
Speaking of upcoming 30th anniversaries, I just noticed a version of the 1977 Give It To The Soft Boys EP with a naked breast on the cover? If I'd seen that at a record shop when I was 12 or 13 years old, I'd have become a Robyn Hitchcock fan at a much younger age!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The rules are this
Each player of this game starts with "6 weird things about you". Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says "you’re tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.Six Weird Things About Me
- I didn't learn to drive a car until I was in my 20s.
- I nearly always choose three right turns over one left turn.
- I've been to more foreign countries (42) than US states (37).
- I still own more pre-recorded tapes than CDs.
- For CDs, I prefer digipaks to jewel cases.
- I take cable TV mostly for The Food Network and The Golf Channel.
Also, I don't know six bloggers who haven't already been tagged..
..the Sunday lineup includes Rage Against The Machine, Air, Happy Mondays, Manu Chao, Willie Nelson, Paul Van Dyk, Crowded House, Kaiser Chiefs, Damien Rice, lacebo, Explosions In The Sky, Soulwax, Lily Allen, Jose Gonzalez, The Feeling, The Klaxons, The Kooks and Mika.
Crowded House? Wow! Neil Finn and Nick Seymour are currently auditioning drummers to replace the late Paul Hester, and are set to reform for a world tour. And if they're playing Coachella, they have to be playing somewhere in the Bay Area (probably either the Fillmore or the Warfield) shortly after that!
Monday, January 22, 2007
That self-titled debut album was one of the best things I heard in 2006. It was billed by their label as "Wire covering the Beach Boys", which gives a pretty good description of their sound, if not an ideal one. Peter and David are brothers, with the same knack for vocal harmonies that the Wilson brothers had, but they sound more English, closer to Ray and Dave than Brian, Carl, and Dennis. The addition of Andrew's keyboard and strings evoke XTC covering the Kinks or the Zombies. There's also a northern soul feel to the vocals and a 70s prog-rock quality that sounds like Peter Gabriel-era Genesis without all the soloing.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
My NFL interest is at such an all-time low, when I heard Indy was finally headed to the Super Bowl, I thought maybe the NFL had hired the Shins to play the halftime show!
I didn't think I'd be able to use that line a few hours ago when the Colts were down 21-3. The second half, with Indy rallying to come back 38-34, made this AFC Championship the best professional football game of 2007.
The last time da Bears made the Super Bowl, I was attending college in Illinois, and was swept up in the Chicago Bearmania, much to the chagrin of my Packer-lovin' relatives in Wisconsin.
Anyway, I remember Super Bowl XX (46-10 ) vividly, and if that's all the Bears and Patriots can offer, I'm relieved they're not doing a sequel 21 years later. An I65 Bears-Colts showdown seems a lot more promising.
This year, da Bears aren't as impressive as they were in 1985-86, but they've still lost only two games all year. If they win the Super Bowl this year, Rex Grossman can unseat Trent Dilfer as the worst QB ever to win a Super Bowl. Da Colts look really impressive though, and congratulations to Peyton Manning for no longer being the worst QB to never make it to the big one.
Let the super hype begin!
Friday, January 19, 2007
It must be the week of the three word imperative ending with an exclamation point.
It's still a work-in-progress, and the clunky interface has an almost Bugzilla-like complexity (a single text box with a search button would work a lot better), but still a lot of fun to play around with. You can take some clueless Pitchfork review (let's take this one for the Hollies' Dear Eloise/King Midas) and discover that the same reviewer gave the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka a 0.0 rating but gave the The Soft Bulletin a 10.0 one year later. Talk about having a critical about-face on an artist!
Unfortunately Mango Starr (the reviewer who wrote this Tiny Mix Tapes slam of the Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers last year) hasn't reviewed anything else for TMT.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
For their first new material of the 21st century, the Smithereens have just released Meet The Smithereens! , a song-for-song replica of Meet The Beatles!, that January 1964 Capitol Records U.S. debut by England's Phenomenal Pop Combo. It's worth a listen (at least one listen. Stream it here when you've got 23 minutes to spare).
Not the Beatles but an incredible simulation. For further authenticity, the Smithereens should have persuaded Capitol (their former label) to press a duophonic LP version on cheap vinyl.
This should be a lot of fun live though (two nights at the Red Devil Lounge in Feb, yay!)
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Fortunately for the geographically unfortunate, the programs are available for streaming or downloading from their web site. Last week's episode (#59) featured a three song live set by Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 (Peter Buck & Scott McCaughey) which included a great impromptu cover of Syd Barrett's "Dominoes", a call with a record store owner in Juneau Alaska (who said he's been enjoying the "sunny California power pop" of the Loud Family & Anton Barbeau's What If It Works? during the Alaskan winter), and a discussion of the latest nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (yawn, but I guess Peter Buck's other band made it in this year. Good for them!).
And apparently Peter's colleagues in that "other band" (Michael Stipe and Mike Mills) have joined Hitchcock and the Venus 3 at assorted dates on their recent UK tour. Or at least one of the dates. The Smudge of Ashen Fluff blog has a writeup of the Jan 7th show at the Zodiac in Oxford (avec mp3s). Scrolling further down is the news that Bill Berry likely will be joining R.E.M. at their HoF appearance in March, and even further down is an mp3 of Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3's performance of "Adventure Rocket Ship" on SO last weekend.
Which is where I came in. The only question left for me is when is Robyn Hitchcock playing San Francisco again? He hasn't been here since early last year, before the release of Olé Tarantula.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Hooray, there's a new Fountains of Wayne album called Traffic and Weather coming in April! USA Today describes it as "a 14-track album of guitar-driven neo-psychedelia and retro-pop rife with intriguing characters ranging from an assassin target and department of motor vehicles clerk to a pair of lusty newscasters." That's just three songs, unless there are two separate songs about lusty newscasters, so there must be 11 more songs about other intriguing characters.
Adam Schlesinger also co-produced and co-wrote a couple of songs on the new America (yes that America) album Here & Now. They also cover songs by My Morning Jacket and Nada Surf, and anyone who's ever imagined Nada Surf's "Always Love" being sung by better singers doesn't have to imagine anymore. I'd link to an mp3 if I could find one, but I don't see any on the bloggregators. More proof that indie bloggers hate America.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Recently reissued with three bonus tracks and the original Australian cover art: The Hoodoo Gurus' debut Stoneage Romeos (not Stoneage Romeo, as emusic has it listed). The leadoff track "(Let's All) Turn On" has to be one of the best album starters ever. I once made a mix tape consisting of that song followed by all the songs mentioned in the lyrics.
- (Let's All) Turn On - The Hoodoo Gurus
- Shake Some Action - The Flamin' Groovies
- Psychotic Reaction - The Count Five
- Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
- Sky Pilot - Eric Burdon & The Animals
- Pushin' Too Hard - The Seeds
- Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones
- Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
- Stop Stop Stop - The Hollies
- At The Hop - Danny & the Juniors
- Bluejean Bop - Gene Vincent
- Get Off My Cloud - The Rolling Stones
- Get Off the Phone - Johnny Thunders
- Twist & Shout - The Isley Brothers
- Ride A White Swan - T. Rex
- Get it On (Bang a Gong) - T. Rex
- Born To Lose - Johnny Thunders
- Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
- Blue Suede Shoes - Carl Perkins
- I Want You Back - The Hoodoo Gurus
- What I Like About You - The Romantics
- Waiting for The Man - Velvet Underground
- Can The Can - Suzi Quatro
- I Want To Hold Hold Your Hand - The Beatles
- Wolly Bully - Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
- When You Walk in The Room - The Searchers
- Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks
- Tutti Frutti - Little Richard
- Sugar, Sugar - The Archies
- Talk, Talk - The Music Machine
- Money, Honey - Elvis Presley
- Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters
- Short Shorts - The Royal Teens
... if you don't like the Hoodoo Gurus, I suspect you don't like rock & roll very much.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
There's another song called "Clementine" on their first album, Castaways and Cutouts.
Are there any other artists who have multiple songs with the same title?
Saturday, January 13, 2007
From a cold sweat.
Elliott Smith - Thirteen (Big Star Cover)
Elliott's studio version of "Thirteen" as well as his cover of Cat Stevens' "Trouble", can be found on the soundtrack to Mike Mills' (not that Mike Mills) movie Thumbsucker.
I just realized that exactly one month after this performance, I spotted Elliott at a Loud Family show at Satyricon in Portland. If he covered both Alex Chilton and Cat Stevens, how could he not be a Scott Miller fan?
Friday, January 12, 2007
The show itself was great, and the guys rocked the place to the rafters, but I mostly remember it as the night my car got stolen. I parked at my usual spot on secluded side street a few blocks away, but when I walked back after the show, there was just an empty space on the curb where my car was left. After going through nearly every human emotion in the space of a few minutes, I decided to report my car as missing.
This was before I had a cell phone, so I called the SFPD from a pay phone at the Eagle Tavern (a nearby establishment that happened to be a "leather/gay" bar) and told the police dispatch that I couldn't my car where I'd parked it just a few hours ago. I gave a description of the car and where it was parked and when I left it, but froze up when he asked me where I was calling from. I didn't want to say I calling from the Eagle, afraid he'd think I was some dude in leather and chains who couldn't recall where he left his car after a wild night, so I said "Uhh.. 12th and .. Folsom!" (one block up from the Eagle where I actually was).
After I got off the phone I headed up the street to wait for the police to show up, and while they were on their way to meet me, they got a call on the radio that a car matching mine was spotted about ten blocks up from where I was. Some hooligans had taken it for a ten block joyride, adjusted the driver's seat, set all FM radio presets to Wild 94.9, then left it on the side of the road with the engine running.
All's well that ends well, but even though Sloan had nothing to do with my car being stolen, that post-concert experience turned me off the band for the next few years. And I still haven't been able to listen to Pretty Together. Coincidentally, that's the only one of their albums that isn't currently available on emusic.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
He'll be joining the Galaxy in mid-July, after his contract with Real Madrid expires, at which time he'll be 32 years old. The obvious parallel is Pele and Beckenbauer to the New York Cosmos in the mid-70s, so Alexi Lalas and the Galaxy are hoping for another Once in a Lifetime.
Whether Beckham can kick up US soccer, prevent more top US players (Brian McBride, DaMarcus Beasely, Clint Dempsey) from hightailing it to Europe, or even turn the Galaxy into a better team (the "defending champs" didn't even make the MLS playoffs last year) remains to be seen, but he'll certainly make soccer more interesting on this side of the ocean.
Maybe he'll do a guest slot with Dr. Neela on ER
(Is that show still on the air?)
(1996 CAN, 1997 USA)
This is the my favorite Sloan album, 40 minutes full of absolute and total pop brilliance, from the MC's introduction before "The Good In Everyone" through the finale of "400 Metres". The three tracks that made it to 2005's A Sides Win ("The Good In Everyone", "Everything You've Done Wrong", and"The Lines You Amend", though strangely not "A Sides Win") are barely the tip of the maritime iceberg. It's like a distillation of all the best parts from their first two albums, or a final step in the progression from Smeared through Twice Removed.
Everyone should own this record and listen to it regularly.
One Chord To Another came out in the US on The Enclave (the same label that issued Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister at around the same time) eight months after the Canadian release, but as a treat for patient fans south of the border, came with a special bonus disc, Recorded Live At A Sloan Party!. This nine song set included covers of songs by Jonathan Richman ("Dignified and Old"), the Everly Brothers ("Glitter and Gold"), Roxy Music ("Over You"), the Hollies("I Can't Let Go"), Stereolab("Transona Five" in an unlikely medley with Canned Heat's "On The Road Again") and fellow Canadians April Wine ("Wouldn't Want To Lose Your Love") and Matthew Grimson("Stood Up"), and well as their own "I Can Feel It". The title is an obvious nod to the 1965 Beach Boys Party! LP, which was also recorded in the studio with overdubbed "party" sounds added after the fact.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Navy Blues is now out of print in these United States, but isn't that difficult to find used for just a few US dollars. And well worth those dollars tool. This is Power Pop with two capital P's, equally powerful and poppy, in contrast with some of the others. The two tracks that made it to A Sides Win were the two Canadian hit singles from the disc, "Money City Maniacs" and "She Says What She Means", but the album sounds like a list of singles. A few of the songs are Beatlesque in a good way, combining the pop smarts of Rubber Soul with the group rocking of Abbey Road. "Chester the Molester" is "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Iggy & Angus" sounds more like "Come Together" than either Iggy Pop or AC/DC. But it's not so much copycat Beatles as what the Beatles would sound like if they were from Halifax instead of Liverpool and came of age in the 90s instead of the 60s.
Earlier this week, Idolator posted a couple of Navy Blues songs , for anyone who needs to be reminded (or introduced) to this album's greatness. Was it really nine years ago?