• Sparks - Big Beat [1976]

    27. Dez. 2011, 10:32

    Okay, here’s the thing: I don’t like Big Beat. I don’t like the sound and I don’t particularly like any of the songs. At least, I think I don’t. The thing about disliking an album is that it doesn’t get listened to all that much, which makes it quite difficult to a) remember accurately and b) discuss. So what I am going to do, in this extremely-delayed next instalment of my Sparks reviews, is listen to Big Beat and then develop and share my opinions on the matter. Here we go.


    It is a serious, serious shame that I don’t like this album because this is the best cover up to this point and it would be lovely to look at it more often.

    First up on Big Beat is Big Boy. From the very beginning, this does not sound even slightly like the Sparks I know. I genuinely feel like Russell’s vocal track has just been planted on some big-noise 70s band. There’s nothing smart about the lyrics or exceptional about the vocals. I don’t even care that this track review is boring because this song is boring. Even the weird instrumental section does nothing. The song goes on forever and there is not a single thing I can pick out as something I like. I have no idea what the point of this song is. Ugh.

    I Want To Be Like Everybody Else at least has some perk to it. I think it peaks in the first verse with lyrics describing being hopelessly out-of-sync with the world (Dressing up when the world is Levi Strauss/Dressing down when tuxedos fill the house) and then the plea I want to be like everybody else. But the song goes on too long without doing much more than making that point over and over again and the music is bland and annoying and the production is ugly so I’m going to leave it there.

    After listening to Nothing To Do, my hypothesis is that the thing that is really really wrong with Big Beat is that it takes something Sparks is/becomes wonderful at (repetition) and uses it on banal music, horrendous production and below-average lyrics. This album has used one of the key strengths of this band to make awful music and that hurts so much more than if it was terrible in a more independent way. As far as the song goes, I don’t like the weird strained register Russell is singing in and I don’t like this song. This review is killing me. I guess Nothing To Do has its lyrical connections with Dick Around and maybe Nothing Is Sacred, but I don’t have the heart to go into it. I could always get snarky and turn the song’s lyrics around to beat it over the head. If I could just take the advice Better drop the requirement that everything be great and apply it to this album maybe I would be having a better time of this.
    But I want things to be great so screw that.

    I guess buying things that nobody would (could?) ever buy is one of Ron’s sustained interests, because not only is there I Bought The Mississippi River on this album, but also on Gratuitous Sax, much later, Now That I Own the BBC, another song I don’t really care for. I like that the music for this song matches the lyrics a bit, and it all sounds a bit less generic and more involved than in the previous songs. It has a cool rhythm to it and Russell’s delivery is pretty good. I could do without the It’s mine all mine/You know it’s yours all yours but this song gets a pass mark because it’s pleasantly ridiculous and has a bit of character of its own.

    Fill-Er-Up is a song built on the metaphor of filling a car with petrol (or gas, as those damn Americans would say) actually being getting yourself drunk. Again, I feel this weird disconnect between the music and the vocals. The vocals sound kind of country or psychobilly and to be frank I don’t think Russell pulls it off. It just doesn’t suit him. There’s nothing particularly horrible about this song but there’s not a lot to recommend it except for its energy. Should I make a joke about the song’s lyrical content and the observation I just made? No, I shouldn’t. There really isn’t one there.

    Everybody’s Stupid is a song I had a pretty good memory of before listening to it for this review even though I hadn’t played it any more times than the others. So I was optimistic going in. Like I Want To Be Like Everybody Else, it begins with its strongest lyrics You fell for me/I fell for you/You think I’m great/I think you’re good and then continues on the same kind of theme without any more real zingers. It’s repetitive, again, but it’s kind of charming me as I listen to it. I dunno, everybody’s stupid, that’s for sure is the kind of fundamentally ridiculous bold artless extreme proclamation I liked so much in Hospitality On Parade (I’m so special/He’s so special/He’s so special/And I’m a king!) so there’s that.

    Now, Throw Her Away (and Get a New One). Usually when Sparks do songs that could come across as hateful there’s some humour or some irony or some sarcasm or some self-awareness or just something to make it clear that the song is entertainment or satire and not a manifesto. I can see how this song is supposed to work, but the problem is that the self-awareness is not there and nothing in the song apart from the original idea is at all amusing. It’s a shame, because it sounds more Sparks-like than any of the songs so far and it could have been funny and biting and everything. It isn’t. And it goes on for too long sounding exactly the same. Ugh.

    Confusion has echoes of Indiscreet running through it, which in this case is a good thing. And all things considered I think I like this song. This song is more than one fairly simple idea set to dispassionate music and then beaten into submission. It feels right. Like everything has been crafted together and they’re presenting something they like and enjoyed making. The lyrics have some complexity to them and I am enjoying listening to Russell sing. It says a lot about this album that I am surprised to find myself enjoying listening to Russell Mael singing words written by Ron Mael. Bizarro-Sparks.

    I’m pretty ambivalent about the next song, Screwed Up. I’m not fond of Russell’s delivery, I like the historical lead-in (other than Positive Jam, do any other songs do this? because I super-like it), I like the I’m getting on my nerves bit, I don’t really like the rest. I’m probably being thick-headed, but I don’t really know what this song is getting at. It’s resentful and unhappy and I am resentful and unhappy about this album so I think I’ll just call it even and move on. There’s only two songs to go, after all, and I’m pretty sure I have things to say about them.

    Unfortunately, most of what I have to say about White Women is in the vein of vague academic ponderings and mostly beside the point. I think it’s funny and clever that they are exoticising the “norm,” and this song definitely belongs in the whiteness studies that are springing up in universities around the place. Russell does a magnificent job vocally (as long as they’re WHITE as long as they’re WHITE) and the song coheres in the same way that Confusion does and, unless I’m imagining it, gives off its own Indiscreet vibes. This is the smart and snappy Sparks I wish this album had more of. In comparison with Throw Her Away, I think the ridiculous vocals, bombastic music and lines like What’s good enough for Adam/Is good enough for me do more than enough to indicate the satire that is intended.

    Finally, we’ve got I Like Girls, which is much in the same vein as White Women. Dumb and loud and making a big, ostentatious deal about something completely socially accepted. To me, though, it’s less obviously satirical, with two fairly believable and very different readings. I don’t want to go into politics with it, but whatever intent is behind the song (I lean strongly towards the satirical, queer-friendly reading, but maybe that’s just me) it’s sharp and the music is alive and distinctive and with the run from White Women to this closing out the album I actually feel like I’m listening to Sparks again.

    Unfortunately, the last two songs aren’t emblematic of the whole album and for the most part the music is boring and the production is bad and the vocals aren’t my thing and the lyrics are only occasionally funny or smart. There are only three songs out of eleven I don’t immediately want to skip. Usually I’ll listen to each song at least twice before putting the review up but there’s only so much I’m willing to go through with this. I very nearly went straight to No.1 In Heaven, but damned if I’m not going to do this thing right.

    I haven’t even listened to Introducing Sparks once yet in my life. Ooh boy, the next one will be fun.
  • Shout It Out -- Hanson [Album Review]

    28. Sep. 2010, 9:06



    Shout It Out
    Hanson

    Critical opinion from reviews I have read so far have two main points:
    1)Shout It Out is a fun record (or album, depending on where they are from)
    1b)The “fun” does not translate into any lasting impression or sense of progress for the band
    2)The lyrics are trite and/or corny and/or juvenile

    They are both pretty solidly on the mark. Luckily I am a Hanson fan, so I have trained myself to like songs in spite of these failings. So here is my review. Reference has been made to my Stand Up Stand Up review, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/arTvhk

    1. Waiting for This

    Without a doubt
    Girl you're ahead of your time
    Let's go out on the town
    Give it a piece of your mind
    You've been going round and round in your head
    So don't think twice
    You'll end up worse than you've been


    I fell in love with the raw energy of this song on Stand Up, Stand Up, and this version fails in two major respects as far as I am concerned. All of the energy and drive the drums had on the acoustic version: gone. Taylor’s full-throated vocals: gone. They seem to have taken a step away from the song, and are playing it cool rather than playing it right. Taylor croons in that horribly nasal way he so irritatingly assumes and that I can barely call singing.

    The roots of the song are still there though, and if I hadn’t been weaned on the acoustic version I daresay I wouldn’t have too many problems with it. Still, it was a disappointing start to the album, all things said and done.

    2. Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’

    You didn't have to do what you did
    But I thank you it ended like this
    'Cause the love I've got is better than what you gave
    Well, I've got girls in line
    Waiting for these arms of mine
    Listen up to what I say


    Just in case anyone in the world hasn’t heard this:


    And just in case anyone in the world hasn’t seen this:


    I do regret that the song took such a drastic turn away from what it was, but what they’ve turned it into is still great. It’s a bit of an aberration music-wise, but it’s a good one, and I’d take a bit of breezy keyboard-brass funk-pop over any amount of overwrought "meaningful" rubbish.

    The video hits perfectly the vibe I think they were trying to hit through the album, and the video does a much better job of it than the album does. Taylor’s Ray Charles is pretty impressive (and the keyboard in his glasses is just too cool), and Isaac and Zac are so unabashedly goofy it brings a smile to this jaded, cynical writer’s face. And awww, adorable kiddies aww etc.

    It’s really a great song, perfectly matched to video, and I think probably the best combined product Hanson have ever come out with. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

    If only they could take pity on me and my fellow pedantic taggers and sort out those apostrophes.

    3. Kiss Me When You Come Home

    I will tell you straight

    If you’re too hot to handle


    Musically, FUCK YES. The drums kicking the song off, and the piano taking the lead, and the interplay between them at key moments just screams “we are slick and cool and totally hep to the groove”. Then the actual words are one of those true-love tracts that get on my nerves. Much like Georgia, except the music is slightly less good and the words are also less good. Though they do get points for on … my … LIPS! for sheer exuberance.

    4. Carry You There

    Well, I don’t care

    What you say
    
Don’t have use for your words anyway


    I’ve written about this one before too on the Stand Up Stand Up review, so here I’ll stick to the studio version, hopefully with less rampant abuse and more intelligent thought. Much less rampant abuse actually, since I consider the studio version an improvement. Yes, that’s right, I prefer the studio version to the acoustic version. I now require a short break to process that thought and all its implications.

    Okay, nothing broken. My favourite thing about this song is the ramp-up at the end. A feeling I get from a lot of this album is that they are holding back, vocally at least, in an effort to capture that chilled-out summer vibe or whatever they call it. Something about the three of them singing together at the top of their lungs is just beautiful. Really brings out the gospel feel they hint at every now and again, and gives the damn song some feeling. With such cheesy lyrics, the vocal strength is the only thing that saves the song from the pit of eternal shittery. And how!

    5. Give a Little

    Leave an empty shoulder
    Let her move in closer


    This is an example of that trying-to-be-cool thing I was just talking about. The guitar line isn’t that great, and some of the lyrics downright clunk. Many of the lyrics downright clunk. The lines I’ve put up above are the best I could find, and it’s not much. The chorus is poppy enough, and of course they pull off the oh-oh!-ohh-oh-oh delightfully, but this song just doesn’t feel like much to me. It feels like they are trying to be something they're not, which is sad, because I think they could easily do a song like this ... this just isn't it.

    6. Make It Out Alive

    These memories, that we've got
    May not amount to much,
    But I'm so glad we've got 'em
    We cannot be, what we're not
    But it's too late to get out
    Or shed a tear for doubt


    Funny, no matter how I agree with every criticism I’ve heard about this song, I still enjoy it for the most part. It’s mixed oddly, with everything coming in at about the same level giving a pretty overloaded effect. No layers, just BLARGHRG THIS IS OUR SONG. I like the cymbal and the brass hits, and the reckless whatever-may-come vibe that kind of matches with Dancin' In The Wind, now I think of it. I think this song would kill live, but on the album it is just a pass-mark kind of a song.

    7. And I Waited

    Now there's nothing wrong with the way you look
    But you've been acting like you're up to no good
    You're playing me like I've got nothing to lose
    You better keep in line

    I'm not gonna get off
    Until the last stop
    Nobody else is gonna save me
    Turn the heat up
    For the meltdown
    I've been up all night


    This is the second-best song on the album. Initially my criticism of this version was along the same kind of lines as for Waiting for This and These Walls. It just sounded a bit more restrained than the 5 of 5 one and his voice had some strange quality I personally didn’t like. I'm not surprised that it's grown on me, since it's a damn good song and I just adore the 5 of 5 one.

    Zac has a knack for setting up the atmosphere of songs like this so that it’s not the meaning of the lyrics that matter, but just that they fit. I mean, what’s this song about? What’s Running Man about? The correct answer to both of these questions is "who cares"? He sings like a man who lives to lose himself in a song (When it's pounding in your ear/Doesn't matter what you feel), and that is what matters. Some other things that matter are every other part of the song (bassline, guitar, horns, drums, harmonies, lyrics, etc etc etc), because it's awesome. I would welcome four thousand more songs in this style, because it's awesome. Also,

    You’re such a doll…
    my…
    dear…
    OHH-OH-OH! OHHH!




    8. Use Me Up

    Even if the hull should crack
    Even if the blood flows red
    Nothing could be worse than numb
    Please, use me up

    ...

    Treat me some way cruel
    You can throw me away
    As long as I feel it
    Show me something real
    You can deceive me
    I am yours to use


    And here comes the other type of Zac-song. The piano ballad. I have mixed feelings about this effort. I’ve been effusive enough about the songwriting itself in this familiar link, so I won’t go over that old ground again, except to say I love the change from the blood flowing red to running cold. What I will say is that this song would do better without the furbelows they have given it, but it certainly wouldn’t have fit on the album. As it is, it doesn’t fit all that well, but if they hadn’t filled out the sound of it it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. So I can forgive the horns and the odd explosions, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to skip the song because I don’t want to hear them. It’s a strong vocal performance, but that’s just not enough. The song doesn’t sound like the lyrics suggest it should, and the dissonance doesn't make it better. It makes it skip-fodder.

    9. These Walls
    See Waiting For This. But not quite so much.

    10. Musical Ride

    It's simple,
    But somehow,
    Letting go's the hardest part.


    Here is another song it was hard to find cool lyrics from. Very hard indeed. Just because Zac is obviously the best one in the band doesn’t mean he can’t write a weak song once in a while (see: Wish That I Was There, Broken Angel). Musically there is nothing especially engaging, though it is a pleasant song. It’s the lyrics that have me cringing and trying to find excuses for him (“he’s only seventeen” doesn’t work that well any more, sadly). It’s sweet how he likes music so much, but I’ve just heard This is the Jam, and that is a much more spirited song about how great music is. I mean, take:

    Come on this musical ride with me.
    It might just change the life you think you're gonna lead.
    And if I'm right you might just stop and see,

    I'll take your breath away.
    Show you more than you have known.
    And everyday, I'll give you all this, nothing, and more.


    and

    This is the jam
    
And I don’t know where we’re going
    
I don’t want to take a stand
    
I just want to be who I am
    This is my jam

    And I don’t care if you’re listening
    
I don’t want to rock the boat
    I just want to rock and roll

    And tell me which one is the more uplifting. (Hint: don’t choose Musical Ride.)

    11. Voice in the Chorus

    All this time
    I've been bearing it alone
    Never had a single doubt in my mind
    You passed me by
    When I was barely hanging on
    But you were there when I was doing just fine


    ...

    Cause you'll be there waiting when I'm back on top
    and you'll be there saying you gave me what I've got

    ...

    Big surprise
    You're the last one to arrive
    and the first to cut in line


    This is the best song on the album “hands down”, as is the parlance on the Hanson boards. By my third-or-so listen, the start of this song had me thinking that finally, here was something I could really get behind as a song. For all the “I like the drums on And I Waited” and “Thinkin Bout Something is a damn cool song”, there wasn’t a song that meant something. This is the first song that really went deep for me, and felt like it did for them as well.

    It’s a funny thing, because when I first saw the tracklisting for this album, I saw Musical Ride, and I saw Voice in the Chorus, and I went nooooooooo. Musical Ride lived up to its sap-factor and then some, but Voice in the Chorus is an uplifting song that works, and that is because it has teeth. It’s that rare thing: a Hanson song that feels meticulously constructed and is stronger for it. The horns don’t feel tacked on

    Of course, for me to have such unqualified praise for a Hanson song means you haven’t finished reading my thoughts on it just yet. My one issue with this song is a surprise to me, because it’s something that Hanson have traditionally done exceptionally well. It is the bridge. Now this is nitpicking, and I don’t care. I would have preferred this song without the really personal turn it takes,

    'Cause you've never really known
    Until you're all on your own
    And the words come out all wrong
    Oh you've never really known
    Oh you never really know
    Til its dark and its cold
    There's no one to call you home
    Oh you've never really known
    Your true colors will be shown
    When you're out all alone
    And everything comes out all wrong
    When you find it you will know


    I dunno, I just feel like it’s unnecessary cruel, or at least negative. How perfect a song it would have been if it had been entirely a song of self-reliance and persistence and defiance. If the name ‘Caroline’ had been a way to fob it off as a love song and it had stayed out of the personal and just been a “guess what? we don't need you” to false friends, the music business, music media, god knows who, rather than a "you suck" to them.

    12. Me Myself and I

    When I'm alone in a cold, dark room,
    well
    There's still someone
    That I can tell my troubles to


    If they wanted to end this album with A Song To Sing, they could have just stuck on the This Time Around recording and saved themselves the money. Or maybe they could have taken the passable if rather maudlin lyrics and written a new song around it.

    Gah.

    Overall, I think this album is a good sign. I have my issues with it, but then I have issues with most things. I'm glad that their mission is pop, and that they're in a place where they can give their lead-off single a goofy music video built around fan involvement and a lot of spirit. I'm also glad they haven't fallen into the trap of giving Isaac a song even if he doesn't have one for the album. It's sad that the direction their music is going leans further and further away from his voice suiting it, but then he doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who minds not singing lead. I've heard Make It Through The Day, and its a nice song, but it doesn't belong on this album. So kudos to the lot of them for that. I just hope they take a step forward for the next album, because they can do so much more than what is on show here.

    And here are a couple of things that made me smile:



  • Sparks - A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing

    2. Dez. 2009, 11:25



    ALERT BLOG PROMOTION ATTACK
    http://suburbanhomeboy.wordpress.com/
    That is my blog where I put album reviews as well as other miscellaneous posts I like it better than last.fm journal but I stay here as well because I'm just that generous.

    A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing is a huge step up from Sparks, even though I guess technically not much has changed. They have found a bigger, more assured sound, and much more variety in styles. Russell is less adolescent-sounding, and he finds a few new voices to play with, but mostly the songs are just better. And here they all are in their majesty and weird:

    Girl From Germany

    It's just on the edges of commercial-friendly musically, but have to somehow get by the stretchy, affected vocals and painfully chipper, whistly chorus to see that this song is a real lyrical gem. Somehow it feels funny to call it a song about racism, but it really is, all about this guy seeing a German chick but whose parents can't deal with the post-war trauma.

    Oh, no! Bring her home and the folks look ill
    My word, they can't forget, they never will
    They can hear the stormtroops on our lawn
    When I show her in
    And the Fuehrer is alive and well
    In our panelled den ...


    It kind of edges around both being a joke and being serious, like the best of their songs do. Ron has gone on record saying he thinks that pretty much everything is funny, and I guess it's that that lets their songs about suicide pacts, the threat of child abuse, racism, senility and so on be so endlessly entertaining and somehow very rarely offensive.

    Well, the car I drive is parked outside
    It's German-made
    They resent that less than the people
    Who are German-made


    Beaver O'Lindy

    A confused, unstable mess of male puberty that I have recently been informed is about masturbation, which at least explains the I'm the girl in your head but the boy in your bed line. It flicks from lethargic waltz to seriously heavy distorted guitar and frenzied drumming to hyperactive cheerleader chorus in I think their most extraordinarily bipolar moment, beating out even Dick Around 34 years later. It's an inspired transition, followed by some fooling around between speeds for a while, and then back to the bizarre B-E-A-V-E-R-O-L-I-N-D-Y of the chorus. I have to be really paying attention to and actively appreciating this song to enjoy it, otherwise it gets on my nerves in no small way.

    Nothing Is Sacred

    This song is about immortality, and how much it would suck.

    Adding some of this to some of that
    Madame Science wins again
    We are now forever people
    We'll outlive our will to live


    Most of the lyrics are nothing is sacred any more, and the song goes on and on and on and on in much the same way that this song portrays an immortal life. It sounds very much like a song from Halfnelson, from the guitar-and-drums foundation with piano extras to Russell's loopy-loop falsetto. It's got a neat bassline, probably the best part of the whole song, except for maybe the frantic outro, which makes the long wait through the rest of the song worthwhile.

    Here Comes Bob

    When I spot a driver worth a second glance
    Foot to floorboard, impact soon achieved
    Here comes Bob!
    I ain't subtle in my ways of making friends


    One of those ideas so out there I don't really know what to say about it and cannot guess where it came from. Basically a gorgeous piano and string arrangement around the concept that some guy doesn't know how to make friends, so goes about it by crashing his car into other vehicles. Notable for an incredible all-but-breathless section in the middle which builds up in intensity and he has actually achieved live:

    Sometimes I'll stoop to hitting
    Two-door coupes without the frills
    But that's just for casual acquaintances,
    For stripped-down thrills
    Your car, girl? or mine?
    It doesn't matter, doesn't matter, no
    But for affairs with staying power
    I go after limousines
    It's always nice if something big
    Is acting as your go-between
    And for group encounters I'll hit buses,
    Mobile homes, or trains to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


    The song has so much charisma it's ridiculous; I almost start thinking that it could be a pretty good idea. The way he announces himself he is so confident and proud of himself. And there's a real gift somewhere in this band for string arrangements, one I feel was extremely under-used in the early years. In all years, really. The string arrangements on Plagiarism of songs from Kimono My House and Propaganda rival the originals, even for This Town. Ah well, none of that can ever stop me from loving this song, so I guess it's all good.

    Moon Over Kentucky

    First five-star song Sparks made. Comes out of nowhere, especially after Here Comes Bob, like nothing they had done before and nothing they have done since. Darkly mysterious, sinister, heavy guitar, deep bass, simple, incredibly effective keyboard and pounding drums and Russell giving the vocal performance of his life with eerie tuneful wails and dark pronouncements such as:

    I heard somewhere that they're stamping,
    Trampling all upon you
    Your pocked face remains impassive
    Though I know it hurts you

    Moon over Kentucky
    Take me with you
    Full moon over Kentucky
    Leave this mooring
    And seek some new rendezvous

    Cut your ties with this possessive mother, she'll destroy you
    Cut your ties and find another one who will respect you


    Co-written by Ron Mael and Jim Mankey, it totally rocks, especially towards the end where the vocals stay the same and the music just gradually edges up and over it. I have simply never heard anything like it, especially not from nineteen seventy bloody two.

    Do-Re-Mi

    Starts out mildly, ramps up hugely. I don't know what inspired them to cover The Sound of Music, but it suits the dynamics experiments of the album perfectly. I mean, we all know the lyrics, but what we can't predict is the strength of the music they write up around them. He could be singing some cliche like a shopping list, and the song would be as powerful, if not as incongruous. While the drums are crashing like crazy things around that simple keyboard melody, I know that Sparks can't possibly be of this earth.

    Angus Desire

    Then back to the same old Halfnelson blueprint of minimal instruments supporting Russell's delivery of fucked-up lyrics, perking up occasionally but mostly just being weird.

    See private parts in public school
    They look so odd, try something else
    Unnatural acts, consent implied
    No one objects to Angus Desire


    This worries me. I think I would be more worried if I felt I understood it at all. I think instead, I will just sit over here.

    Underground

    It's a nice to change to find some relaxing pop in the midst of all the everything, so Underground, penned by guitarist Earle Mankey gets two thumbs up from me. It hits the same kind of spot as Slowboat does on Halfnelson. If you don't listen to any lyrics beyond Oh won't you please go with me underground then it's a pretty kind of a pop song, with a pretty melody, fun bassline and some great tinkly piano. For ages, that was exactly why I liked it. But then I tried to work out the lyrics.

    First, I deciphered this:

    Why don't you please go with me underground
    Where love is free and supergroups can be found


    And that was exciting, because songs about music are some of my favourite things.

    Once I dreamed I was on a basement tape
    Took in just one take
    Oh Lord, we gained our world distribution by relevant means
    Jazz folk-rock fusion appealed to the teens


    Okay so it's not all that coherent, but gives a lot more meaning and charm to the song when Underground means underground music (which they definitely were) and the mission statement is:

    We shall sail off over rainbows
    Till we spy the lands that come together
    Smiles will greet us
    Heads will turn to meet us
    As we make the scene,
    As we would make the scene.


    A little more fey than I feel a Mael would have written it, but it appeals to me and I forgive Mankey for the travesty that is Biology 2.

    The Louvre

    The one song I automatically skip on this album, the one song that prevents it from being perfect. Too drawn out, even by Sparks standards. The gimmick of Russell singing in French doesn't save the song from being essentially dull, and when the same lyrics are sung in English later it takes away the kind of coolness it got from being incomprehensible to a lot of people. You see, me speaking some French, I feel cheated if I can work out what it means and other people just get the meaning spoonfed.

    It's from the point of view of a statue in the Louvre, wanting to get out but being a statue makes it kinda difficult.

    Essayer donc de m'enlever
    Je voudrais voir si vous oser

    Ils touchent mon marbre froid
    Mais mes yeux sont fixer sur la porte


    That's all you're getting from me, I am sick of this song.

    Batteries Not Included

    A great little piano-and-vocals scene, I almost don't want to say anything about it because of spoilers, which is ridiculous because it's a forty-five second song whose ending is the title. I will just say that Russell makes an excellent petulant child and leave it at that.

    Whippings and Apologies

    Far less risque than it sounds. Kinda like Moon Over Kentucky in that the lyrics are few and far between. Less like Moon Over Kentucky in that it starts frenetic and driven, and the vocals are yelped with slighly strangled relish in the slight pauses between onslaughts of noise. The drums are my favourite part of the whole deal, as are those moments where the music has stopped and you're just on edge, waiting for him to cut back in, bringing the music with him with a crash.

    This album is way up there with the best of Sparks, despite its initial obscurity. I wish I had seen it live, like I wish I had seen every single album live. But it was not to be, and I have to settle for videos such as this:

  • Sparks - Sparks AKA Halfnelson - Halfnelson [Review]

    29. Nov. 2009, 10:34

    I feel that for thoroughness' sake I should finish the early Sparks records before moving on to the late ones, so where better to start than Sparks, or Halfnelson, as it is more puristically called?

    Back at this early stage of Sparks history, they were a five-piece band called Halfnelson, as can be seen on this album cover:



    Look at Ron in his corner, peering in the back window, shades and tache in place. Then look at Russell, gazing idyllically into the distance, every bit the bashful maiden. And then look at the other three! My research tells me they are Earle and Jim Mankey (guitar and bass) and Harley Feinstein who, aside from having a great name, plays drums.

    Unfortunately I don't have the buckets of money required to have a copy of the original LP, so I have had to compromise with this reissued cd:



    I have grown to love this cover, with Ron's trademark glare unobscured by sunglasses, Russell and his Adam's apple playing it straight and the strange little man in the back with his ciggie. It looks like Ron is already preparing for the When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way' video. Who knew he was such a dedicated method actor?

    Anyway, enough blather about album covers. We're here for the music, right? I am happy to announce it does not let us down.

    Wonder Girl is a perfect way to start the whole shebang. With Russell's voice coming from everywhere in both the falsetto and the regular variety, tinkling, circular piano resting just underneath and a prominent basic drumbeat, it consists of all Sparks have ever really needed. Repetitive, too, which they seem to like and can usually make work. And the bassline has started to push itself to the forefront the more I listen, soft but pervasive.

    The lyrics? Not sure. A lot of she was a wonder girl (some girl, that girl)-ing, a few verses. Haven't really got a handle on exactly what it's about, but it doesn't bother me.

    Fa La Fa Lee is actually more catchy and far more funny. It's the song from here I find myself singing most often. Unfortunately, it's not the most family-friendly song to be singing aloud, so I often have to restrict myself to just the Fa la fa lee, she ain't heavy she's a brother to me bit. I don't want people thinking I'm singing about ... uh ... being deprived of ... incest:

    Fa la fa lee,
    She thinks only of the higher part of me
    Such a shame, were I she
    I'd set my sights much lower
    Then I'd sing
    Fa la fa la fa lee
    But as it stands now that would be a felony
    Whoo, fa la laaaaa ...

    La lee


    I don't know what half the sounds on this song are from, but they are things of beauty. It's lively and bizarre and unpredictable. But most of all, it is a song about incest called "Fa La Fa Lee". See if you can beat that, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV.

    Next! Roger
    Grandiose count-in? Check! Atonal irrythmic music? Check! Lyrics you can decipher but that are impossible to interpret? Check! Vocal gymnastics? Check! Tireless repetition of one word? Check! Cymbals? Check! Quite a nice piano line coming in and fading out at the end for no apparent reason? Check!

    Russell Mael wrote this song, one of his two solo songwriting credits for the album, and it's a perfectly calibrated mess of a song.

    High C
    Sorry, did someone say vocal gymnastics? This song, about an opera diva who's lost her touch, is all about reaching, as you may have guessed, high C. From the point of view of some guy, manager, agent, whatever, who wants to guide her back to the elusive high C. Or at least so I thought originally, now I'm thinking maybe it's a fan, considering the opening lines:

    A picket fence, I leaped it
    Through your screen door, I gotta meet you


    and the closing:

    Come on home with me and we'll sing our little hearts out
    We will hit high C or maybe somewhere thereabouts


    The song flips from grandiose vocal with jaunty musical stylings to jaunty vocal with grandiose musical stylings and back again, with little interspersed vocal romps up and down the scales. Not a highlight as far as the album goes, but pretty fun.

    Fletcher Honorama is quite spooky, and easily my favourite. I don't know what or who Fletcher Honorama is, but the song is about an old man (of eighty Junes), or a boy, depending on what part of the lyrics you listen to, on his deathbed. It's gentle, eerie and even when it revs up a little and the vocals slip from muted to full bore, it remains disjointed and surreal. The piano break initially seems to break the mood, but the more times it starts up again the more it fits in.

    Please, go easy now with him
    Because this is his final whim
    So be sure that the boy don't die before the morn

    We'll merely sing the songs that made you scream


    The way he sings scream is just subtly different and hell-creepy.

    The outro is the high point of the whole song, with overlapping so be sure, so be sure, that the ... boy, don't die before the morrrrnnnns and ghostly oooo-oo-ooooos creating a place I could stay in for hours.

    Simple Ballet

    Publicity getting out of hand. It all just started out with a simple ballet.

    Simple ballet was an idea,
    Then a novel,
    Next a movie,
    Soon on T.V.

    Do a plié
    For the D.A.
    When he comes round
    Your alleged conduct with the director
    Has raised some questions
    That he wants answered
    Good for the ratings


    The music is all plinky plonk, with massive clashing cymbals at regular intervals and high-pitched backing vocals on occasion. Russell's voice is refined and delicate, and even when the guitar makes an entry it's very clean and respectable. Maybe a little longer than it needs to be, but nice, sweet and subversive.

    Slowboat

    A pure slow soft rock song, vaguely about waiting patiently for a lost love to return, even though you know they won't, but they definitely will. Or something. The most important thing about this song is the prop-work it got in the early days:


    Russell Mael complete with papier-mache slowboat

    Russell gives this song the thorough crooning it deserves, and the piano part is very pretty. It feels almost like filler, but since it's better than at least half of the other songs on here, I guess it can't be.

    Biology 2

    A Sparks song without a Mael as a songwriter? Blasphemy! It's a straightforward comedy song written by Earle Mankey, and it's not very good. At least I hope it's not just me reacting to it being a Mankey song aha manky; I think I didn't like it before I knew who wrote it. The vocals are silly beyond endearing, and though the structure is pretty interesting, and the music does some cool things, it just can't win me over. The intro is hopelessly cheesy and dated, and most of the song is just genetics references masquerading as wit, and references to Darwin and Mendel. The line I do like comes right at the end:

    Pick a stud to congeal your blood, and get your earlobes freed

    Eugenics!

    Saccharin and the War

    What. The. Hell. Someone, please explain this to me. Or at least reassure me that it makes no sense.

    Fifteen years the bus had waited,
    Before it moved on into the town.
    Eye liner worn by all their girls.

    Through the night the war was fought
    Each eye liner took two small drops
    Reaction
    Elation
    Joy, Joy, Joy

    Every girl took in a doctor
    The Constitution says: "You must house the men"
    Each doctor undermined a plot
    Yes they did

    All the weight that was soon lost
    They erected as a golden cross
    Remember the weight is no longer here

    Through the street girls sang
    The marching bands brought on the rain
    The doctors stood by the gold cross

    One eye liner she had an idea
    She read the Book, the Golden Book
    It seems another man had come across a cross

    Well, Dr. Jones they crucified
    But, all their weight was returned back
    Ha, ha for all the girls
    Now


    The only sense I can maybe make of it is that a lot of people took a weight loss pill, then turned on the doctor responsible and all the weight miraculously returned? I thought Ron was the crazier one, but now I am not so sure... Musically it's almost as disjointed as Roger, and after all the lyrics are out of the way it goes on a rockin spree with crashing drums, cool piano and odd squeakings at the periphery for a while.

    Big Bands

    Here is a love song for the most enduring love of all: music. This strikes me as a love song from a middle-aged man to his halcyon days when big bands ruled the waves. It's really quite touching. The bittersweetness of him having practically bankrupted himself:

    Follow me my lady to my home
    See my large collection, some on loan
    Of every big band record ever made
    I had to sell my heater, so don't shake


    to keep up his passion, which is pretty much all he has to live for:

    I find it so much warmer in the ballroom than at home
    A common bond unites us so we're really not alone
    Sure we've got our problems, but tonight we won't admit it
    If I have a lady friend, we'll make it seem like we were there tonight


    is something I think most music-lovers can identify with to some degree.

    I smile like Herbert Hoover when the big bands play is a line that I don't need to understand to love. I did a little looking into Mr. Hoover, and all I can say is he doesn't have much of a smile that I can find anywhere. Maybe that's the joke.

    Musically, it's a really good song, starting out guitar-heavy but for a surprisingly long time staying sedate and piano-y. Russell demonstrates his vocal versatility, from the soft warbling in the verses to the bald statement in the chorus (I ... am ... quite ... partial!), and as it goes mental towards the end like the best songs do, speeding up and speaking the remaining verses.

    (No More) Mr. Nice Guys

    Is a fairly epic closer, full of dynamics and words and sounds and things. It rocks out the most of any of the songs, maybe due to it being co-written by Jim Mankey and Ron? Centering on the incongruous man of morals (see It Ain't 1918), it tells us that being nice really isn't what a girl is looking for these days.

    Just when sin was quite the thing,
    There's one who holds quite tight to what had worked before
    What's his outlet?
    What's his secret?
    Is it something one can buy at some drug store?
    Could the gospel be his girl,
    Does he exercise by breaking 2 by 4's?
    Just what is his game?
    Could he be enticed?
    No, no one's quite that plain
    No one's quite that nice
    That nice


    It almost reads as a mission statement in the chorus:

    No more Mr. Nice Guys
    Few are left but him
    No more Mr. Nice Guys
    The nice guys cannot
    And the nice guys shall not,
    The nice guys will not win


    And sure enough, no one really is quite that nice:

    He could be enticed
    His game had to end
    But he's still quite nice
    She sees other men than him


    So cynicism is justified, and there really are no more Mr. Nice Guys.

    This album is unusual and interesting, and a surprisingly accurate introduction to Sparks as they have been for most of their career. Sure, the Mankeys and Feinstein would only be around for one more album, but able replacements were found and Biology 2 is one of my least favourite Sparks songs, so I won't be missing the songwriting skills. Russell's voice is very young, but in fine fettle, and the songwriting is if anything more adventurous than in much of their later work. I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if Russell had kept up his songwriting efforts instead of just letting Ron take over. From the glimpses this album has given us, it would have been an alternate history to be baffled by.

    I like Sparks.
  • Nothing Without You EP - Carney [Review]

    29. Nov. 2009, 7:07


    Nothing Without You

    Carney are one of the few bands from the 00s (and by that I mean originating in the 00s, not just continuing into them) that I can really get into. No surprises that they have a pure heavy classic-rock sound, but for them it sounds organic and natural, definitely not an attempt to cash in on nostalgia or just ape other bands (I was going to put in a jab at Wolfmother here, but I haven't heard enough of either them or Zeppelin for it to be warranted. Hell, why should that stop me, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, WOLFMOTHER). The band itself is tight and powerful, and it's all drawn together by the sometimes-ethereal sometimes-raw always-genuine vocals of Reeve Carney, brother of lead guitarist Zane. No, I don't know what their parents were thinking either. And in other news, Reeve has just been cast as Spiderman in the Broadway musical I believe, so yay for him.

    This EP is just four songs, but they are all high-quality and diverse enough for me to have high hopes for an LP soon enough.

    1. Nothing Without You
    2. Imperial Lover
    3. There She Goes
    4. Testify

    Nothing Without You is the song that drew me in, and is probably still my favourite if I am forced to choose. It opens the EP with a barely-controlled yell of

    I'm NOTHING! WITHOUT! YOU!

    and then after a moment of quiet the song settles into its rhythm, mellow and understated, vocals cool and breathy except for those few moments where there is nothing for it but to howl. I feel like I need to know a lot more about music to be able to explain how great this song is. It's atmospheric, with a steady cymbal-heavy drumbeat, and guitars working around the spaces in the song. It's one of those songs where everything just does exactly what it needs to do without standing out above any other part. The lead up to the ending is fantastic, where the drums finally get a hammering before it ends just as it began.

    Sometimes
    I'm kinda surprised
    You kept me alive
    This long

    I will be your lover
    Holding you close to my heart
    And forever
    I will endeavour to show
    Oh that I will be
    Your lover


    Imperial Lover opens quietly, with the vocals at centre stage again.

    Imperial lover
    I didn't know this was the way it was gonna be
    We're pulling me under
    All that it was
    Is nothing but a memory


    Something I tend to not realise is how good the lyrics to these songs are. They're not exceptional, of course, and the content isn't anything out of the ordinary, but they have a poetry and a flow that I haven't found in many places. The strongest thing about them is the way they meld effortlessly with the music around them, so that most of the time I don't notice a particular instrument, or the words he's saying, but I just hear the sound they have made with the combination. This song doesn't even really have a high point like Nothing Without You had, but it is captivating as a whole.

    There She Goes runs with a classic theme and does it flawlessly: that of the everyboy watching the unattainable female, and dreaming about what they could be together, but without the courage to make a move.

    There she goes
    Once again
    She's the kind of girl who'll drive a poor boy insane
    As she strolls
    Down the lane
    Every word prepared eludes my heart can't explain

    Maybe this time I'll be brave and tell her how I feel
    Oooh, there she goes
    You know I think it's time
    I let her know
    Oooh, there she goes
    I don't think I can wait
    Another day...


    The chorus and the bridge both rise above the gentle verses, the boy psyching himself up out of his admiration, trying to find the nerve to go up to her. There is a wider variety of instruments (as far as I can tell, there's underlying organ, occasional flute and some form of strings in addition to the regular crew), and impeccable female backing vocals that come in at the high points and lift the song to a whole new level. Every note is considered, and though the guitar is nowhere near the front of the mix, on closer listening it is one of the greatest parts of the song. From a high point it shuts down pretty quickly, with descending ooohs and guitar, leading in to the five-minute closer:

    Testify is a pure heavy blues-rock jam, complete with heavy guitars, extended jams, solid drums and a bassline I can't hear very well with my un-awesome headphones. The vocals are rougher for the most part as well, but not without that same haunting quality.

    I just wanna listen to your heartbeat
    Tell your people that you're still alive
    There ain't nothin' sweeter than your mercy
    I will testify


    The strongest parts are without lyrics, where they just play. For the first half it just rocks hard, then there is an almost psychedelic section, complete with wordless wailing, both from the voicebox and the guitars, which settle down into silence. The intro repeats itself after this, with the opening lyrics all but acapella:

    I don't wanna have to learn the hard way
    I don't wanna fall along the side
    Why'd I keep on learning I was (???)
    I will testify.


    Then the same thing, genuinely acapella.

    Then the same trick as in Nothing Without You, but out of complete silence, and accompanied by the crash of the whole band coming back in.

    It's ALL! for you
    Gonna do it all for you
    I'm gonna give it all for you
    Gonna do it all for
    You.


    And the thing is done.

    These four songs, in less than fifteen minutes, take me to another place. One of those pasts-that-never-was, or a world-that-could-never-be, where everything is heightened and means so much more than it does in this dreary reality. This band plays music like it's the reason they are still breathing. Reeve has incredible presence in the music, not just on stage, and I hope he stays a musician rather than heading more into acting, because I am selfish and greedy.

    The one other song they have out officially, Love Me Chase Me is of course nowhere to be found in Australia, but I have used my extreme research skills to unearth it on a secret music website called "youtube". I had no idea about the whole circus theme either, but then I learned that for some reason they had access to the Carnivale sets at HBO, so I guess that's why. Warning: TIGER

  • Album: Generic Flipper - Flipper [Album Review]

    29. Nov. 2009, 3:13

    Flipper was a band I really thought I would like, just from the little bits of information about them I'd read around the place. The catalyst for actually getting me some of their music was a handy site www.nexterlizer.com, where you type in something you've recently listened to, watched, read or played, and it comes up with what it thinks you should tackle next. I typed in "Wipers", and Nexterlizer suggested Album: Generic Flipper aka Generic. I liked the album cover when I looked it up, and critical opinion over most of the internet made me optimistic about having found another good band. Also, Kurt Cobain was a fan, and though I'm not really into Nirvana as such, other favourite bands of his were Wipers and Meat Puppets, so if nothing else his taste was pretty good bordering on excellent.



    My first impression of the album, as a whole, is that it's a whole lot of unattractive mess. I don't mind dark, heavy music, or unmusical vocals, or repetitive lyrics, but there needs to be something special or interesting to pull it out of being a morass of dull. Most of the time I was bored to death, and when I wasn't, chances were I was actively unenjoying myself. And I know my dislike is genuine, because I really did want to like this band.

    Ever was a deceptively okay track, but I knew that it was one of their most popular songs, so hearing it and knowing that the rest probably wouldn't be as good was distressing. I really liked the lyrics (ever do nothing and gain nothing from it? being my especial favourite line) and the incongruous claptrack. The music itself just foreshadowed what was to come. Sludgy sludge, but not in a good way: in the they-seem-half-asleep-and-to-have-forgotten-the-song way. If the spoken-shouted vocals of the other songs stood out the same way as they do here, I would have more to like about the album as a whole.

    Life Is Cheap started out okay, with a descending guitar line, spacey effects and a dull drum sound, but after thirty seconds I actually paused it instinctively. I had an actual physical aversion to the girl-boy vocals in this song, and it went on in the exact same way forever. Her voice is harsh and metallic, and sets me on edge, halfway between creepy and comedic. All the attention of the song is focused on these spoken vocals, and yech. Nothing else happens. And the one lyric that stands out to me is a clunky one Why is there religion? It's just not fair. People cling to things to make to make their lives seem real. Yeah, real profound.

    Shed No Tears has a bit more life to it, with a bassline that gives the song the feeling that it's actually going somewhere. The lyrics are genuinely interesting, but again the delivery leaves a lot to be desired. It's neither here nor there: it occasionally borders on having a melody, and occasionally sounds like there's an ounce of passion behind it. The music isn't as boring as previously, but it still doesn't have anything more than middle-of-the-road appeal.

    Shed no tears for the martyr dying
    Only in pain suffering and death
    Can the martyr become what he's chosen to be

    ...

    Shed no tears for the cop bleeding
    He once held the gun he once held the key
    Now his prisoners will sing and dance and play

    ...

    Shed no tears for the nun beaten
    By the children she once called her flock
    How they hate their teachers who force darkness upon us


    (I Saw You) Shine opens with a fuzzy bassline, and as the guitars whine in and the drums crash, it sounds like this could be a really powerfully ominous track. But then of course words happened, and in addition to the unpleasant vocals (this time a little more musical but even more unappealing somehow) the lyrics themselves are repetitive and uninspiring, probably because I am not sure what they are trying to say. Something about wanting something so much I've got to strip this flesh from my bones/I've got to hammer this wall with my hands/With my hands. The promise of the intro fades out, and again the vocals take prominence and the rest is relegated to background. Priorities are all wrong, here. And this song goes for EIGHT AND A HALF MINUTES and I really can't take it. I listened to the whole thing the first time I listened to it, but this time I just can't make myself. Five minutes is long enough for me to realise my opinion has not changed.

    Way Of The World is another song where the vocals let down the lyrics. The singalong of That's the way of the world is uninspiring, and becomes even more so every time they repeat it, and again the intro is good but then the music just lays right down into inconspicuous. If they would play a little more with dynamics perhaps, or change up the tempo a little, I would find more to like about them, but I guess that wasn't what they were aiming for. The sameness of the music and the single level of delivery match the theme of most of the album, but that doesn't make it better, just consistent.

    There are eyes that cannot see
    And fingers that cannot touch
    That's the way of the world
    There are dreams left empty and blank
    And legs that have ceased to walk
    That's the way of the world


    Life was a surprise to me. From what I'd heard earlier on the album, I wasn't expecting a song with such cheese for lyrics.

    I too have sung death's praise
    But I'm not going to sing that song anymore
    Yes, I've figured out what living is all about
    It's life! life!
    Life is the only thing worth living for


    It's hard to reconcile the music style with the sentiment here, and though sometimes such a disparate partnership can create music genius, here it doesn't. It just sounds stupid to me. And repetitive to the point of stoned. Maybe my problem is that I'm not out of my mind on licit or illicit substances. But I don't intend to ever be, so too bad.

    Nothing has an intro that makes me laugh. A guy reminds the band, "Everybody start at the same time, ready?" and counts them in, and it just strikes me, fairly or otherwise, as exactly the kind of thing this band might just forget to do. The song itself is straightforward nihilism.

    Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing
    Not to believe is what you believe


    The delivery here is rougher and actually kinda good, and I found myself nodding my head to it a little. That, coupled with the fact it's not even two and a half minutes long, makes it one of the better songs on the album.

    Living For The Depression is even shorter, and also quite good, packed with more lyrics than in their million-minute-long songs. The virtue of having something to say gives the song life, and it hums along at a merry pace:

    We're living for life to be the way we feel
    Not living for life, but the death appeal
    Who needs a cancerous boring end
    When you can die from misery and follow the trend?


    And there's a nod to the merits of the song which I really like:

    This song rhymes and we play it in time

    Sex Bomb is actually a great song, probably because of the use of saxophone. I'm telling you, add saxophone to a song and it is a better song. On wikipedia it records the sax credits as being to Bobby and Ward, and whoever they are, I love them. The hoarse yelling, sax line and ramblings, deep fuzzy bass riff and whatever that wavery whistle thing is could be the whole album and I would be happy. Man, if this was the base from which all their songs were made, they would be the greatest band ever. It's just a chaotic jumble jam and at nearly eight minutes, it ends far too soon. Remove lyrics (apart from SEX BOMB BABY, YEAH!), play like there's something to play for, become awesome.

    I think my problem with this album is not that it's a bad album, it's that the worst songs on it are truly excruciating for me. Take out Life is Cheap, (I Saw You) Shine and Life and the album is okay. Ideally, the album would open with Ever, maybe include the quick one-two of Nothing and Living for the Depression and then let Sex Bomb live for about half an hour to close out the record. To that, I would give a hearty thumbs-up.
  • Fun House - The Stooges [review]

    17. Nov. 2009, 12:37



    Fun House - The Stooges

    Rarely have I encountered an album whose artwork so perfectly describes what it sounds like. I'm going to say some words about it now, but it truly has to be heard to be believed.

    Down On The Street opens with a sedate drumbeat, heavy blues-y guitar, a perfectly sleazy bassline and a series of deranged yelps. Iggy narrates in that trademark drawl no one else can come close to touching and the guitars keep pace dutifully. When it revs up for the second time (the first really being just a teaser), and lyrics descend into those same shrieks and grunts from Iggy sitting over the top of a pair of guitar solos constantly threatening to fall to pieces, that is when you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. It's a simple song, heavy and uncomplicated, just a taste of things to come.

    Loose is essentially the same dark blues rock. The thing that really sticks out of this track for me is the transition from the nasal sneer of I took a riiiiide, with the pretty music to the lighter, almost gentle I'll stick it deep inside. I don't really like this song as much as Down on the Street: it's just as simple, but I get less energy from it. The bass riff is painfully evocative of Smoke In The Water (and you do not want to know how long it took me to remember the name of that song. And by remember, I mean ask the right person, who told me immediately and made me feel stupid), which is more than a little distracting. The best part is when the minimal control they have over the song erodes that little bit further and the guitars and Iggy go mental for some time.

    T.V. Eye

    I haven't paid much mind to the lyrics so far in this review, mostly because who the hell cares? The only reason for words in this kind of an environment is to make the mouth make sound, to fit in with all the other sounds and make sounds sound good. The cooler they sound the better, so writing them down here where you can't hear them is kind of pointless. For this album it tends to be a few phrases repeated over and over and over, as a rule. Here is an example from this song, just in case you are curious:

    See that cat
    Yeah I do mean you
    See that cat
    Yeah I do mean you
    She got a TV eye on me
    She got a TV eye
    She got a TV eye on me, oh
    See that cat
    Down on her back
    See that cat
    Down on her back
    She got a TV eye on me
    She got a TV eye
    She got a TV eye on me, oh
    See that cat


    et cetera.

    The vocals are grating, nasal and harsh, and as usual the bass booms around it, and guitars ramble on around a fairly simple drumbeat for the majority of the song. When the song breaks out of that structure and they start to jam the song improves, Iggy springs his howling madness on the listener and then there is actually a part with horrific screaming, coughing and mumbling that serves some sort of purpose I expect.

    Dirt rolls up slowly from a light slow beat and a loud inhalation, adding in some smooth rolling bass and some guitar shudderings and twangings and then Iggy comes in all sultry and slow Ooh, I been dirt ... and I don't care, and as the guitars wail up all demented the seven minutes of this song each promise to be something incredible. Every part of this song works just perfectly to create that undertone of menace in a leisurely stroll through sordidville. It has a similar touch of the surreal to it as I Will Fall, but there is something far more menacing about this song that makes it so much more enthralling. It always ends before I think it will, and it's like just waking up. Just go and listen to it, it's not like I can describe it here anyway. Just keep an ear on that bass, it rules me.

    1970

    This song almost has traces of pop in it, the way it almost has like a melody and everything. It's a more conventional kind of a song, and I mean that only in comparison with the rest of the songs on here, not in any wider sense. It is loud and wild and really quite good. Covered by The Damned as I Feel Alright, for a while I didn't realise who had covered whom (grammer). Then I remembered that the Stooges were absurdly ahead of their time, and that I was confusing the Damned with MC5, and I had to punch myself in the face a few times in punishment. Once that was done, I tried very hard to listen to this song without thinking the lyrics were wrong. I didn't altogether succeed at that. It is the first time we hear the legendary saxomophone on this album, too, where the song actually goes completely mental. The saxophone whinnies, Iggy audibly loses his mind and the song implodes nicely.

    Fun House

    Listening to this song now, I wish the saxophone had showed itself even a little on side one, because here it just gives so much life to the jam. It stops being the raw proto-garage-punk-mess of side one and adds some kind of edge, funk or jazz or big band or just something that gives it a real unique sound. Even after seven minutes, there's no sign of any tiring on anyone's part even when it takes a turn for the slower. Least of all mine. Iggy's vocals are, as always, deranged, extreme, diverse and skilful, especially at just after five minutes. I'm surprised he can still talk at his age after all this shit, let alone sing.

    L.A. Blues

    Some screaming, some demented wordless yammering, some hammering drums, some atonal guitar, and a surprisingly sane saxophone part make up about the first lemme see ... four and a half minutes of this song. The remaining thirty seconds is the guitar feedback fading out. Sooo, yeah. The messiest mess of the messiest messy messy messy messy AMAZINGLY GOOD mess. It doesn't need to make sense it just needs to exist. Nothing else would have done to close this monster out.

    Strangely, on second listen this album actually did less for me overall. I was far less impressed by the first three tracks, and maybe appreciated the others a little more at most. I have yet to properly listen to it though. My good headphones broke, I am on a laptop, and I don't want to blast all the hearing out of my ears until I am at least fifty. The opportunity will come, I am sure, and when I can turn the volume up to 11 I expect I'll be hearing it in a whole new light.
  • Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash - The Replacements [Review]

    15. Nov. 2009, 4:07

    I like The Replacements. I like them very, very much. They are one of the very few bands I know who started hardcore-ish and developed a different sound as they went on whose later sound equals or betters their raw beginnings. This post is dedicated to those raw beginnings. Well, as raw as a debut LP can get, anyway.

    There is just something about the Replacements that elevates what they do to being more than just some guys getting smashed and making noise. I haven't had the "pleasure" of seeing them live, of course, but I have had reports placed on my desk stating that they weren't exactly the most fan-friendly of bands, what with the alcohol and the drugs and the attitude. Despite this, they were doing a lot of things right. Recording this record their bass player Tommy Stinson had to be only like thirteen or fourteen, which earns him a hearty well done handshake from me. Instead of me giving my uninformed opinions of the people in the band, I will put this quote from the book This Band Could Be Your Life, spoken by Paul Westerberg (guitarist, singer, songwriter) about the way the songs he wrote were received by his bandmates:

    "If it doesn't rock enough, Bob [Stinson, lead guitarist] will scoff at it, and if it isn't catchy enough, Chris [Mars, drummer] won't like it, and if it isn't modern enough, Tommy won't like it"

    Anyway, enough of me pretending I have anything to say, and down to the down and dirty review itself:



    Takin' a Ride

    No pussyfooting around, let's just get right to it with a hell-raising opener about speeding around in a car: drunk, high, and fully aware that they'll probably end up dead. Adrenaline, adrenaline and more adrenaline, with music that wouldn't sound out of place as a soundtrack for some racing game, especially with the little drumrolls and the bit where everything else goes quiet while the bass descends and the guitar moves up in sync with it, in the intro and a couple of other places. My favourite part of the song is the thorough subversion of the whole driving too fast along with rock music in these lyrics:

    Going real fast, hanging out the window
    Drinking in the back seat, half the bottle
    The light was green, and so was I
    The radio blasting, TURN THAT SHIT OFF!


    The song ends with them arrested (Out of the car/Your hands on the hood), but there's no hint of guilt or regret to be found anywhere, as an earlier verse is sung straight after that. It's just a song in the moment, without any statement to be made or lesson to be learned. After an opener like this, first time I listened this album I knew I was in for a treat.

    Careless

    Nothing in the attitude changes for the next song, summed up nicely in the opening couplet:

    Irresponsibility's my closest friend
    Forget my duty I couldn't give a shit


    He's careless, and he couldn't care less. Very straightforward, enjoyable musically but not outstanding, delightful statement of intent.

    Customer

    A key member of the "punk songs about shopping" coterie, this song is so painfully true it's both sad and hilarious. It begins with a rushed spoken section: I'm in love with the girl who works at the store where I'm nothing but a... and then he goes on bemoaning that he's just a customer (I'm a customer, ad nauseam) while also getting as close to her as he can: "What's on sale?", "Uh, where're the Twinkies?", "Yeah, can I get change?" The crowning moment of this song is where he finally loses his cool and just comes out and announces: I love you!, and it echoes through the music as the guitar solo gets going. The guitar gets increasingly unhinged and high-pitched as the song closes and he continues to I'm a customer until the very end. Poor poor man.

    Hangin' Downtown

    There is one theme running through this album: that of the aimless, unambitious and somewhat hopeless youth, making music to say things that on the surface really don't need to be said. Over and over again. They take the most banal experiences and tangential ideas and turn them into ramshackle, chaotic music, for no more reason than because it's what they know and, probably, what they enjoy. This song, for example, is about hanging around downtown (surprising, huh), but nothing happens in the song. A bus stop is mentioned, as is TV and liquor stores, but the song goes nowhere. The music somehow livens the thing up: the relentless energy and freedom they play with and Westerberg's hoarse frantic vocals combine to give the song some spirit, while simultaneously showing up the mundanity of the lyrics.

    Kick Your Door Down

    The lyrics to this song are just gumpf grouped around the theme made evident in the title. The music is somewhat more restrained than it has been so far, with the lead guitar mixed more distinctly, and playing almost smoothly, slightly calmer drumming, vocals that sound almost like real singing from Westerberg, and an overall slower pace. It's kind of an opposite to Hangin' Downtown, where the music was wild but the events in the song were dull, as here it's all knock pound knock pound/I'm gonna kick, kick/your door down, but in a bizarrely sedate fashion for the most part. It's the second-longest song on the album, too, which came as a surprise to me when I realised.

    Otto

    The lyrics go everybody got to go Otto, Otto/everybody wants to know Otto, Otto, in the beginning of the song, a very repetitive, fiercely whirlwind beginning, then it slows to an old-style chugalong about halfway through to

    Tried to come over here
    Thought I might give her, give her a call
    Tried to phone my baby, give her a call
    But Otto, he went crazy
    He ripped the phone right off the wall


    At which point it revs right up again just to let Stinson the elder mess around on his guitar for a while before the song ends. So in other words this song is meaningless lyrically and kinda whatever musically.

    I Bought a Headache

    This song is the middle of the "whatever" trio of songs on this album, where I am just like hurry up with better songs please. This one is about wasting your money on shit drugs blah blah blah. Production quality is pretty bad too, it sounds pretty much live. I like the bassline though, so well done ickle Tommykins. I don't care how old he is now, he will always be ickle Tommykins to me.

    Rattlesnake

    The transition from Headache to this song promises so much, but the song fails ultimately to live up to that promise. It's a ramshackle jam where Westerberg goes on and on about being a rattlesnake: Cruisin' on my belly all night long I'm a rattlesnake I'm a rat a rat a rat. He sounds stoned in the end when it slows down and wears out at the end. I don't know why I even bothered to mention that.

    I Hate Music

    My one beef with this song is that it just has far too many notes.

    Johnny's Gonna Die

    This is one of my favourite songs by them ever. Of which there are probably at least twenty. It has similarities to the sound of some of Johnny Thunders' own dark songs from the late seventies, especially So Alone. I assume this is intentional. There's a lot of empty space in the song, hypnotic bass, ghostly guitar lines, and sparse lyrics portraying Johnny as a lonely, fucked up man on the edge of reality, just edging closer and closer to the inevitable. The ending is tragic, with Westerberg calling out Johnny ... Johnny ... building up into a desperate howl, then just closing out the song with fading bye-bye ... bye-bye ... It took Thunders quite a few years to eventually make the song come true, but I guess it was always going to happen. I can't imagine how it would have felt for him to hear this song, or how the Replacements felt when he really had died. I hear it in context all the time, and I have only come to love it more the more I hear of Thunders' life and work. Even the childish Johnny's gonna die, na na na-na naaa naa is made poignant by the atmosphere. Though the song sticks out like a sore thumb on this album in terms of both sound and attitude (it is well-crafted !!?!), when considered in context with their later work it fits in perfectly.

    Shiftless When Idle

    This is another one of those songs generally considered to be the best on an album which I just see nothing special in. I'm listening to it now, trying to think of something to say, but to me in seems pretty much a by-the-numbers early Replacements song, without really much to say but saying it anyway, forcing a little energy into it but ultimately not memorable.

    More Cigarettes

    He's fixated on cigarettes, needs more, smokes them a lot, needs more again.

    Don't Ask Why

    This was an early favourite of mine, for two main reasons:

    You're...

    Goin'...

    Out of my mind
    I'm...

    Stayin'...

    Out of your...
    Way I used to love ya
    That's the way I hate ya now
    You know the way I used to love ya
    That's the way I hate ya
    Don't ask why
    Don't ask why
    Don't ask why


    Pretty good lyrics, especially for the standard of this album, but the delivery is what makes it great, the way it goes from being words into ragged fragments of sound just falling out of his mouth. The other great bit is the ending:

    Don't ask why
    Don't ask why
    Don't ask why
    Don't ask why

    ...Why not?


    In terms of what the song is about, it's the first kind of conventional relationship song. They're usually more into songs about the lifestyle, but this song is really a pretty good breakup song, where it's a surprise to neither party, not really a sad thing (You don't call, I don't cry), but he's still apparently not all that happy about it. The song itself is fast, driven by drums heavy on the rolls like so many of their songs are, with pretty frenzied guitar and Westerberg's hoarse, impassioned vocals giving it no small amount of character.

    Somethin' to Dü

    The second song about another band, this is a song obviously about Hüsker Dü, their contemporaries and local rivals. Like Johnny's Gonna Die, they take the style of their subject and meld it with their own. As a result, this song is fast and guitar-driven, heavier than their usual fare. It seems to be fondly derisive, with digs at the tough-guy image the Huskers had:

    Delivering noise
    Real tough boys
    What else have I got?
    Half-priced drugs
    Stolen guitars
    What else is new
    It's somethin to du
    Somethin to du
    Well it ain't nothin' new


    Also, the stand around and sweat/girls? you bet! has to be tongue-in-cheek, and usually makes me grin. As does the end, where it changes to Somethin' to Husker, and as the song ends you hear break the [Bob] mould, which despite all the rivalry stuff flying around never actually seemed to be on anyone's agenda. Despite being from the same city, kind of playing the same scene, I never picked up on there being any actual bad blood between the two. Maybe because they really weren't that similar, just lumped together by geography and the way they started.

    I'm in Trouble

    You're in love/And I'm in trouble. What more needs to be said? Girlfriends only spend my cash, waste my time so this guy's in deep shit with this girl crushing on him. He runs and hides, but draws the line at suicide. I really like this song, even though I can't really think of anything to say about it. Not many lyrics, not much stands out musically. Just good, somehow.

    Love You Till Friday

    Building on the same theme, this song starts up with:

    Girls are a pain in my life
    When they try to be my wife


    Commitment is not a strong point, it seems. The whole love you till Friday thing consistently makes the da-da-da-da! from David Bowie's Love You Till Tuesday go through my head. Thanks a lot, Replacements, what did I do to deserve that? I don't need reminders of dumb old twee pop while listening to your album. The styles don't exactly mix well. Aside from that, the song keeps the momentum of the album going without adding too much of interest for me.

    Shutup

    I am always slightly confused by this song, not only because half the lyrics are incomprehensible (he really lays on the rasp and lays off the diction) but because I'm really not sure who he's talking to at different points and who exactly is being told to shut up and why. I really enjoy listening to it though, even though it tooks me months to understand the lyrics to the second verse, which are clearly the greatest part of the whole song:

    Well Tommy's too young
    Bobby's too drunk
    I only can shout one note
    Chris needs a watch to keep time
    We'll never find the time to vote


    Raised in the City

    What better way to end the album but with a perfect summary of the attitude, a song with lyrics such as:

    Raised in the city
    Till I'm old
    Buy a car maybe
    When I'm old
    This my goddamn band


    and

    Outta my way
    I can't see it
    Outta my way
    Can't see no band


    Most of the songs in the middle aren't even necessary. Open with Takin' a Ride, close with Raised in the City, you know what the deal with this band is.

    But they end up going a lot further. As fun as this album is, it's pretty much an exercise in unpolished rock and roll. I don't know exactly how punk I consider it. They're disenfranchised youth, yes, the music is fast, pretty sloppy and straightforward, yes, the songs are short, yes, the vocals are more emotional than they are melodious, yes, but I just don't get much of a punk feel from the whole thing. It's called punk, maybe even hardcore, but I'm just not convinced. If anything they only hit punk at Stink, before they just came out with Hootenanny, Let It Be and Tim. There are hints of what is to come to be found in this album, but it is still incredible to me that they developed so much without losing the spirit that can be found here.

    Probably my third- or fourth-favourite album by them, but being my introduction to their music always has a soft spot in my heart. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going off to listen to Johnny Thunders.
  • Screeching Weasel - Screeching Weasel [Review]

    25. Okt. 2009, 10:06


    “... that’s right, your stereo is fucked up.”

    Screeching Weasel

    Because of my muchlike for 999 and Buzzcocks, and my like for Dude Ranch, I went trawling the web to find pop punk bands that were generally liked by people whose opinions I respected. The consensus seemed to be the Ramones, and Screeching Weasel. I have the Ramones’ self-titled, and I can’t even get all the way through the thing without getting bored and annoyed. So with hope in my heart, I checked out these Screeching Weasel fellows.

    With core members going by the names Ben Weasel and John Jughead, I could tell straight away that these guys were either pretentious as hell, or didn’t take themselves at all seriously. I admire Ben Weasel for giving up on playing bass and singing at the same time and just hiring a bassist. That is the kind of can-do attitude I respect.



    Their self-titled debut, released in 1987, has 27 tracks, the longest of which clocks in at two and a half minutes, and only two other tracks even make the two-minute mark. As with a great number of punkish bands, they started raw and hardcore and then gradually developed “sophistication” and “pop smarts”. The vast majority of the time, this rates as a deterioration in my opinion. Screeching Weasel’s followup album Boogadaboogadaboogada! has tracks that are stronger than any on the self-titled, but is overall a less appealing album, and later albums which I have only heard parts of have a totally different sound. This album, if you believe wikipediathefontofallknowledge, was recorded in one night in a studio in Chicago for $200, and is well worth both the time and the money.

    My usual method of reviewing an album track-by-track is doomed to fail for an album of these proportions, so I will just make it up as I go along. The album starts out pretty strong, falters in the middle and ends more strongly than it started. The low points are Cows and O.M.W., while the high points are the songs that are straightforward and aggressive, like California Sucks, Hardcore Hippie, Clean-cut Asshole and Jockpunk. The overall theme seems to be “I hate some stuff”. The stuff includes:

    •authority (I like saying no! to authority)

    •society (society makes me wanna puke)

    •California (California sucks/It’s worse than old New York/Filled with scum and wealthy worms and stupid surfing dorks)

    •himself (Don’t have a job/Don’t go to school/And worst of all/I think I’m cool/I can’t stand myself)

    •People touching his car

    •work (Overtime I’m getting pissed off/I don’t have a life/Hey boss fuck off!)

    •liars (You’re a worthless old douchebag and I hate you)

    •clean-cut assholes (You got no right tellin me that I ain’t okay/College buttfucks rule this world and claim to be alternative/You’re a fucking slimebag I don’t care what you say)

    •jocks (You’re startin fights with people weaker than you/Come over here and I’ll pound on you)

    •Kmart (I’d like to punch the customers in the face)

    •7-11 (There’s an asshole behind the counter/This atmosphere really sucks)

    •alcoholics (You can’t have a good time without it/Personality from a bottle/Just leave me alone)

    •hippies (You’ll go from beatnik to yuppie in the blink of an eye/Can’t think for yourself cause you’re always fuckin high

    They manage to work in a couple of attacks on bands as well, with the alcoholic from Leave Me Alone puking and passing out listening to U2, to the Clean-cut Asshole and all his mates liking R.E.M., and maybe a jab at the hardcore scene in Experience the Ozzfish with Ozzfish just ain't cool anymore/Cause Ozz don't listen to any hardcore.

    There are a few poppier numbers, like My Song (as close as it comes to stereotypical teen angst), What Is Right and Murder in the Brady House, which I’d probably find funnier if I were at all familiar with the Brady Bunch. You get a pretty good idea of the song from the first verse:

    Bobby Brady's dealing crack, Marcia's on the pill

    Mike's in bed with Alice and Sam sells dog chops at his meat shop
    
Greg is trying on garter belts and Peter spent three nights in jail

    Murder in the Brady house because Jan Brady couldn't stand it


    The lyrics in general can border on banal, in songs like Wanna Die (Wanna die, wanna die, wanna die, I don’t wanna live), but most of the lyrics are simplistic and still work pretty well, helped along by Ben Weasel’s apparent sincerity and rage. Even a song about microwaving Fred the gerbil (Wavin Gerbs) avoids being completely disgusting and repugnant just by virtue of the stupid voice he puts on, dull-witted and dopey:

    I was there alone one day
    Me, Fred and my microwave
    Fred was a gerbil just the same
    I was feeling quite insane
    60 seconds set on high
    Kiss my gerbil Fred goodbye
    Watch old Freddy run and run
    He went kaboom ! Just like a gun
    <--- best part ever
    I'm having so much fun
    Go and get a Brillo pad
    Fred is dead aw ain't it sad
    I didn't do it - that I wish
    Guess who's next it's Bob my fish


    And, for the last track Yeah Baby they even break out the acoustic guitars and a tuneless singalong to get set into a hilarious takeoff of love songs which compliment the girl’s features, starting with face and eyes and ending up with:

    Yeah, baby
    
I like your knees
    
Yeah, baby
    
I like your nose

    Yeah, baby

    I like the cheese

    Yeah, baby

    Between your toes




    For sophistication you’ll have to go elsewhere, or maybe check out what they’ve done later, I dunno, but what they’ve got here is a winning thing. I don’t have an actual favourite song on this album; in iTunes none of them got above three stars. As a whole album though it’s a good listen, especially when in the mood for some undemanding angry-youth sounds mixed in with a bit of poppy goodness, some flashes of real wit and quite a few idiot moments.
  • Reverend Horton Heat - Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em [Review]

    25. Okt. 2009, 2:26

    !

    I came across Reverend Horton Heat through the allmusic article on The Living End, which cited them as the rockabilly cats of the 90s, which immediately endeared them to me. I am a sucker for people being called cats, and my especial favourite is hepcats. My enthusiasm was dimmed when I got The Cramps as well and didn't really feel it, but right now I am listening to If You Got 'em, Smoke 'em for the first time and loving it.

    Recently it seems I have been edging into weird country-related genres (cowpunk (!) courtesy of Meat Puppets, psychobilly from the Reverend) and liking them more than I feel I have the right to. My experience of pure country is pretty much Johnny Cash and anonymous men with guitars and twangs. Johnny Cash, as everyone knows, is a king among men, but country seems to me to be usually one of the most boring genres out there. My inexperience is showing, but whatever. Until someone proves to me country is worth the delve, I'll stick to the bizarre offshoots.

    Anyway, the Reverend.

    Reasons to like: from Texas, upright bass, crazy energy, crazy guitar, crazy drums, old-style vocals
    Reasons to dislike: ???




    Bullet
    The album starts off with this swingin’ instrumental that starts quiet but builds up pretty quickly and heavily, with a few interspersed coarse howls from the Reverend and brief quiet passages. Toe-tappin stuff, keeps to the same pattern but just gets fiercer as it goes along.

    I’m Mad
    Lyrically pretty simple (guy mad at his lazy good-for-nothing girlfriend). The music is what sells this song. Crazy-fast all around, almost out of control, centring around the Reverend’s
    I've had it up to here
    I'm mad!
    I'm mad!


    Again, hard to keep the feet still, but for this one I had trouble keeping my head still.

    Bad Reputation
    Another song with a classic sound to it, it sounds pretty country, but the (unsurprising) twist here is that the girl with the bad reputation is the kind of girl the singer is into. In fact, she is the kind of girl he’d like to eat, to put it like he does, the first instance of the dirty kind of stuff these guys revel in.

    You've got bright red lips and a pretty face
    A rose tattooed in a private place
    Spiked high heels and a wiggle in your walk
    Makin' everyone in this big city talk


    It’s a Dark Day
    Slower this time, where the Reverend shows a different side of his voice, with extended notes, sung slow in a minor key, more like a crooner than anything else. The first four lines of the chorus are a slight up from the atmosphere, but it quickly returns to its dark atmosphere

    And it's a dark day, for love
    And it's a cool day, for pain
    And it's an old day, for a young man
    So callous and vain, but not insane
    Well, maybe just a little hard


    I really like this song, it’s a nice relief from the relentless speed the album started with, and strong in its own intense, brooding way. This surely isn’t a one-trick band if this song is anything to go by.

    Big Dwarf Rodeo
    And if you want politically incorrect, check this out! Though the actual song doesn’t have much to do with actual dwarfs, as it’s about a rodeo where everything is small, as in:

    Tiny little broncs that bust
    Tiny little clowns that fuss
    Tiny little cattle that ride
    And sell you itsy little biddy cowhide


    This song is more mid-tempo, and also clearly country-tinged, albeit with the same dark tinge that suffuses all the songs. Kinda strange without a point, as in what are world-famous high diving mules supposed to be, and what’s with the pig that goes to school? The instrumental section is less remarkable than the others so far, and this song is the most filler-ish so far, as it doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything that catches my interest.

    Psychobilly Freakout
    This song is exactly what it claims to be. As fast as I’m Mad, with the guitar leading the way, alternating between spaced out effects and straightforward speedy melodies, with the drums crashing their way along and the bass pounding along powerfully. This song summarises itself thus:

    I’ll tell you what it is!
    Some kind of Texas psychobilly freakout, that’s what it is!


    Put It to Me Straight
    Very rockabilly here, modernised in that it is a sex song here, the highlight of it being:

    Slow down!
    Woo! just a little bit
    Baby, kiss my lips
    And I'm about to throw some
    Kind of spastic fit


    Kind of understated musically compared to the other songs, vocals up front, not a favourite but got a laugh out loud first time I heard about the spastic fit.

    Marijuana
    Another instrumental, this one’s foundations being the tom-heavy drumbeat. Plays with dynamics, switching to snare when it’s on the up, solid bassline all the way through, fun guitar as always. Also, the classic “saying the title occasionally during breaks in the song” thing happening. Almost too long at nearly five minutes, but stays enjoyable pretty much the way through due to the intensity changing regularly through the song.

    Baby, You Know Who
    Reminded me immediately of I Ain’t Got You, down to the timing of the vocals:

    I've got chicks to the left, women to the right
    Guess who it is I think about at night
    It's you, yeah you, it's you
    Baby you know who


    The rest isn’t as similar, and his voice carries it well enough that I like it better than I Ain’t Got You anyway. It’s nice to find simple heartfelt lyrics on such a wacky album as this, with:

    Just ask my closest friends what's true
    They'll say I'm still in love with you
    I want you back and I need you real bad
    You're the best damn lover I've ever had


    A little one-dimensional but also unique in some way I haven’t actually worked out yet. It seems a little more broken up than the other songs, more conventionally structured musically? I’m not really sure what I’m saying here, I may work it out one day.

    Eat Steak
    Hilariously insensitive song. Quieter drums, very country, rockin’ along pretty calmly the whole way, the focus entirely on such lyrics as:
    Eat a cow, eat a cow cause it's good for you.
    Eat a cow, eat a cow it's a thing that goes "mooooo"


    With great insight into the transformation of cow to meat:

    Look at all the cows in the slaughterhouse yard.
    Gotta hit 'em in the head, gotta hit 'em real hard.
    First you gotta clean 'em then the butcher cuts 'em up,
    Throws it on a scale, throws an eyeball in a cup.


    More funny than musically interesting, but it’s funny enough to get my seal of approval.

    “D” for Dangerous

    Pretty mellow for this album, with low-grade ominousness (ominosity?) and a relatively slow rhythm section. Also, I get the feeling that a band having this many instrumentals doesn’t show a lack of lyrical skills but a justified confidence in the music they put out. Meat Puppets and these guys both have plenty of great instrumentals, and I think it’s a pity that fewer bands are prepared to let their music speak for itself like these guys. This track, like the other instrumentals on this album has the guitar alternate between controlled slow darker stuff and energetic sharper upbeat sections, with the rhythm section rising and dropping to fit in with it.

    Love Whip

    I can hear harmonica, and I can hear piano. A pretty classic rock ‘n’ roll song until you start to pay attention to the lyrics, delivered with that good ol’ growl to his voice that brings so much swagger and style to the song that it doesn’t really matter what he’s singing. Which is stuff like this:

    Took me home, took the phone off the hook
    She said “Baby come and take a look
    At my love whip”
    Hanging on a bare hip


    Seems to be a rock-solid trio (the Reverend [aka Jim Heath] on guitar and vocals, Jimbo Wallace on bass and Patrick Bentley on drums. Each member has a vital part to play, and they fit seamlessly together. The album was recorded live off the floor (except for Love Whip, which had a guest pianist, harmonica-er, and a horn section) after they had recorded it traditionally and rejected the result as not having the feel they wanted. Overall it’s a pretty consistent album, with definite high points and a couple of throwaways, and I definitely want to check out the rest of their catalogue.