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Friday, December 19, 2014

Menswe@r - Nuisance

Name: Menswe@r
Album: Nuisance
Year: 1995
Style: Brit-Pop
Similar Bands: Oasis, Blur, Wire, Elastica, Kula Shaker, 
"One-Word" Review: Mediocre Bandwagon Britpop
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: London Recordings, Laurel
 Nuisance - Cover, Liner Picts, CD, Inner Tray
Nuisance - Lyrics, Back
Nuisance (1995)
  1. 125 West 3rd Street 3:05
  2. I'll Manage Somehow 2:35
  3. Sleeping In 4:42
  4. Little Miss Pinpoint Eyes 2:06
  5. Daydreamer 2:16
  6. Hollywood Girl 2:18
  7. Being Brave 4:02
  8. Around You Again 3:23
  9. The One 3:43
  10. Stardust 2:55
  11. Piece of Me 3:02
  12. Stardust (Reprise)/Bones and Red Meat 14:39
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Johnny Dean - Vox, Percussion
Simon White - Guitar, Vox (Finlay Quaye)
Chris Gentry - Guitars (Vatican DC, Urban DK, Ali Love, Crest Mob, Facts About Funerals, )
Stuart Black - Bass, Guitars (Messiah, Bella Echos, Cockney Rejects)
Matt Everitt - Drums, Percussion (Pleasure Thieves, The Montrose Avenue)
Neill King - Producer, Arrangements
Russel Kearney - Recording Engineer
Simon Sheridan - Mix Engineer
Marc Waterman - Producer
Porl Fletcher - Organ/Keys/Piano, Arrangements, Flute
Gavyn Wright - String Arrangement
Nick Ingman - Arrangements
The Kick Horns - Horns
Sian Bell - Cello
Simon Fowler - Front Photo
FTP Creative Imaging - Image Manipulation
David Sims - Other Photography
Stylorouge - Design

Unknown-Ness: Sure, I remember Menswear. I was at the right age at the right time to enjoy all of Brit Pop’s glory. But I’ll be damned if I can remember when I bought this, or what it sounds like, beyond the general brit pop sound. Will I be surprised at the contents, and regret not fully embracing them when they were popular, or is it a throwaway band cashing in on the sound? Was there ever a second album? I cannot remember. All that aside, I like the name and their style is smooth and very “it” in the mid 90’s way.

Album Review: With the slightest of research, I was able to piece together that Menswear was a made to order suit. They were popular for their look and gained magazine cover status before they were declared a band or had a song written. And it sounds like they drove that one album, once it came out, into the ground with multiple singles and heavy promotion. But their second album, leaned away from Britpop into Country territory, was never released outside of Japan. The members never went on to be in anything as noteworthy as Menswear, but a few have and had their hands in popular band management (Bloc Party, Noah & The Whale).

“125 West 3rd Street” starts with reigned in fuzzy guitars and a general pop rock sound. The vocals are nothing memorable, and the chord progressions seem unnecessarily complex. This feels like album filler, not a good album starter. Although the end of the song features the whiny brit pop persona of La-La-La’s sung in a snotty voice over the basic melody.
“I'll Manage Somehow” features a staple on the brit-pop catalogue: the wah-wah guitar. This song is much catchier and the mediocre voice is forgiven with the dictionary melody. I can see the Kula Shaker comparison in this song.
“Sleeping In” starts out with a Monkees/Beatles/Ted Leo-like guitar hook, and the harmonies on the verse also harken back to classic, oldie-pop. The fuzz is not as thick on this tambourine tapping song. It is a nice, steadily driving song, with small rushed sections that fall back into the steady pace. But rather than stop the song at a nice condensed 2.30 song, they extend the chorus one last time, and stretch it out more than it needs to be…finishing the song up with a psychedelic guitar instrumental and accompanying soothing ahhhhhhs and even bringing horns into the production.
“Little Miss Pinpoint Eyes” has a much thicker British accent and is snottier in sound, like a nice marriage of Supergrass and Adam Ant. There is a bit of psych element with the harmonies, and wacky inflection in the lead vocals. But they keep their feet firmly in the present (90’s) with the fuzzed out guitars.
“Daydreamer” was the first single they released, and was their first song they had as a band. It continues the wacky spoken word vocals that are reminiscent of Adam Ant. The school yard mocking melody is reminiscent of Elastica, too.
“Hollywood Girl” is a bouncy, Jam-like song, if The Jam embraced the mid 80’s college radio, jangley pop phenomenon. It has a nice steady energy and more wah-wah guitars.  

“Being Brave” is slow and ballady, in a shoe-gazing way. As it grows, it becomes slightly more anthemic, and incorporates strings for an added sentiment. And they validate their British punch card with some Ba-Ba-Bas. It is a well-crafted song, but falls just short of being interesting.
“Around You Again” builds with energy at the beginning, reminding me of The Rifles with its blue collar appeal. But the drawn out, rolling melody of the second part of the chorus does not capitalize on the energy the verse generates.
“The One” is a bass driven song that chugs along once the instrumental intro relaxes. The soaring keyboard synth reminds me of boybands and Robbie Williams. The instrumental bridge, with revolving string section and motivational chord structure is well constructed, ending right into the verse with a perfect and anticipated fit. Produced slightly different, this would have been a solid hit for a pop-punk/emo-ey band of the mid 2000’s.
“Stardust” is a much more rocking song from the first introductory guitar chords. It builds on solid power pop notes, and touches ever so slightly into the wonderful melodies of Suede. The melodies are enhanced with the horn section as well. But the background ba-ba-ba’s actually detract from the song, as they are sharp, and up too far in the mix.
“Piece of Me” is another sentimental ballad, like Being Brave. This would be a good album ender, as it is the last noted song on the track listing and really takes things down a reflective notch with its peacefulness and tone. It features sad strings and an individually plucked guitar interlude amongst the acoustic strums.
“Stardust (Reprise)/Bones and Red Meat” faded up with the jovial horns, crashing piano, and fuzzy guitars we were familiar with one track back. It lasts for one instrumental minute (and 11 seconds) and we are met with that horrible secret device of hiding an additional song at the end of a track after 10 minutes of silence. At the 10:57 mark, a warbly carnival instrument section begins, with a side to side swaying melody, it feels like they are trying to suck the sound Blur captured on a few Modern Life tracks, even adding in breathy ah-ah-ah’s. It is a pleasant track, and I see how it doesn’t quite fit the template created by the rest of the album, but it’s a shame they had to hide it with that waste of space between it and the reprise.

Stand Out Track: Hollywood Girl

Official Site
Guardian 2014 review

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(the) Meices - Dirty Bird

Name: (the) Meices
Album: Dirty Bird
Year: 1995
Style: Alternative
Similar Bands: Soul Asylum, Green Apple Quickstep, Goo Goo Dolls, Ape Hangers, John Easdale, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr
"One-Word" Review: Slacker-Nasal-Grunge
Based Out Of: San Francisco, CA
Label: London Records
 Dirty Bird - Real Cover
Dirty Bird - Promo Cover, Back, CD

Dirty Bird (1995)
  1. Wow 3:13
  2. Disenchanted Eyes 3:22
  3. Hold It Together 3:05
  4. Uncool 3:23
  5. Wings 2:42
  6. Harry 4:07
  7. Yeah 4:08
  8. Monday Mood 4:09
  9. Helping Me Along 3:35
  10. Hey Fella 2:17
  11. Rosies 3:45
  12. Leave Me Alone 2:46
  13. Well I 3:56
---Bonus College Radio Play Tracks---
     14. Wow (no fuck or shit) 3:15
     15. Yeah (no fuck) 4:08

Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Howie Weinberg - Mastering Engineer
Joe Reineke - Guitar, Vox (Alien Crime Syndicate, Yusif!, Sweetkiss Momma, Colorsoul, Schoolyard Heroes, Lonely H)
Steve Borgerding - Bass (Grand Mal)
Gil Norton - Producer
Apollo 9 - Drums (Rocket From The Crypt)
Marina Chavez - Photography
Melanie Clarin - Strings, Vox (Barbara Manning, SF Seals, Cat Heads, Donner Party)
Bradley Cook - Engineer Producer
Katrina Del Mar - Photography
Tom Galbraith - Drums (Field Trip, Mensclub, The Time Outs)
Scott Hull - Editing
JC 2000 Drums (Rocket From the Crypt)
Edward O'Dowd - Design
Mark Pythain - Electronics
Audrey Riley - Arranger
Chris Shaw - Engineering, Mixing
Roy Spong - Mixing
Shawn Trupeau - Drums
Eric White - Illustration

Unknown-ness: So this is one of those albums I have, that I don’t remember why I purchased it. It sat on my shelf since high school, and I don’t remember one song from it, nor what it sounds like. Assuming it’s alternative, but to what degree? I’m pretty sure I read about them in CMJ music monthly, and later with the name in my mind, I must have seen it for sale used, and picked it up then. NO artwork, and instructions on how to keep CDs clean on the back, there is nothing to identify this album by it’s packaging (with the minor exception of revealing that there are cuss words in 2 of the songs, and the 2 bonus n on-album tracks are for [college] radio airplay).

Album Review: Well, this is just a slice of alternative history. Teetering on the balance of metal, garage rock and pop, this, their 4th album also dips a toe in the ska/swing revitalization with the use of horns. At least for the first song. It’s no Might Mighty Bosstones or Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, but it invites a touch of diversity, as the band entered the twilight of their career. But overall, this is a general dictionary definition for the Alt-Grunge scene. Reineke went on to start Alien Crime Syndicate, another TSM entry I did a while back, which was more popular and slightly divergent, adding electronics into their genre mix.

“Wow” begins the album with a “Huh!” and horns. This is sorta Nu-Metal, with heavy guitars and a brash personality. The chant of “wowwow” in chorus, punches home the melody. The vocals are angsty and strained, and a little nasally. The big hook in the song is the instrumental horns section. The rest of the song just builds to that chorus. The vocals are sung in distorted fashion through a megaphone at some times, and the end of the song has a call and response bit between the main vocals and backing chorus.
“Disenchanted Eyes” starts with three Nirvana style chords, and adds in a sing song melody of David Pirner style lyrics. The gritty feel to the song typifies the Alternative style that was starting to wane in popularity at the time of this albums release. There is a little John Easdale (Dramarama) in the vocal delivery as well. But the music is far from as catchy as Dramarama ever was.
“Hold It Together” begins without a break from the previous song. This song starts at a higher tone, and is sunnier pop-punk tempo and structure. But the singing style is just as jaded as the previous songs. The song drives on and heads straight through the verse to the delivery in the chorus. After 2 sets of verse-chorus, there is a slight come down, that builds back up, only to quit and fall flat. Like a multiple personality, the song picks back up, and it can’t decide to relax or sprint forward. It comes crashing down at the end in some chaotic clashing styles.
“Uncool” lightens the mood with a strummy acoustic guitar and super nasally vocals. But they cannot let that Alternative title fall, because soon after it begins, the grungy fuzzy guitars pick up the rhythm and bolster the sound. The song builds right up to the chorus, which is an uncreative repetition of the title; similar to the repetitious usage of Wow (and in the future song “Yeah”).
“Wings” also wastes no time with driving electric guitars and chugging bass line, with minor chord changes like a car shifting lanes without slowing down. There are a couple of pauses of tempo in the chorus, giving the live music mosher a chance to breath, but it ends in a fury.
“Harry” twinkles in the beginning with softly plucked guitar notes, before soaring ahead with fuzzed out chord changes and vocals that almost teeter off the cliff of following the melody. The guitars remind me of Dinosaur Jr. At its heart is a power pop song, buried under the sludge that was alternative production. We are briefly transported back to the sentimental sting plucked emotion of the intro, but the guitar wipes that clean (or makes it dirty) and blasts the listener away from that imagery, with only a quiet retaliation at the end with the echoing individual note melody.
“Yeah” starts with a dark bass line that rolls between two notes with a third transitory note between. This is the set up for the entire song’s melody. The chorus is shouting “Yea-hey-hey-e-yeah” It is Nirvana quality in fuzziness and slacker simplicity. The one line of the song that sticks out is “Don’t take our guns when killing’s all we got.” Still a quality commentary on today’s society. 

“Monday Mood” is a sullen, brooding number that features a string section paralleled with sludge chugging guitars. The song pauses for a sentimental realization that a Monday mood is not something to be enjoyed, but it is a chemically sedated state where it seems pleasant, but is really just tedious. By the time the song comes full circle, the strings begin to soar, and the song reaches a sunny perception, embracing the Monday mood [like he changing outlook in Pearl Jam’s Better Man]
“Helping Me Along” has an elongated drum intro that finds its rhythm along with a repeating siren like guitar. The vocals begin with an energetic yeah, and the song becomes another album stuffer of alternative sound. The energy and mood feels a little frantic at the end of the song.
“Hey Fella” is a heavier song, and driving, like “Wings.” There are harmonizing background vocals during the bridge, as there is really no chorus. There is a lot of energy in the song, with some shout and response sections and grimy bass. The song ends quite abruptly.
“Rosies” starts quietly enough with some muted conversation dialogue, then what sounds like the approaching mechanical energy of an airplane. The dark bass line quickly lets us know the song will have a stomping, rolling rhythm, and by the time the song reaches the chorus, the soaring metal guitars take their turn at guiding the spotlight. The chorus at the end of the song features more call and response set up from the lead singer and backing chorus. Then a heavy, chugging guitar reboots the path into repeating with even more energy for one final round.
“Leave Me Alone” has high hat playing, coupled with a passive aggressive bass line. This song possesses the typical grunge music song in lyrical meaning. But the song is actually kind of bold, with power pop changes and what sounds like a keyboard buried down in the mix. After a barrage of leave me alones yelled on repeat, the song wears itself out and goes to sleep.
“Well I…” enters with a wary guitar and brushed percussion section. Even after the energetic instruments are added for an emotional section, the song returns to the unsure, paranoid vibe. This song is reminiscent of the mid 80’s dark and depressing college radio album filler songs. If this was made 10 years earlier, it would sound vaguely the same. But it could not have been in today’s musical landscape.

Meco - Music Inspired By Star Wars

Artist: Meco
Album: Music Inspired By Star Wars
Year: 2005
Style: Disco, Electronic, Soundtrack
Similar Bands: there is nothing quite like this.
"One-Word" Review: Fanboy's-musical-diorama
Based Out Of: Johnsonburg, PA
Label: DM Records Group
Music Inspired By Star Wars - Cover, CD, Back
Music Inspired By Star Wars - Liner notes, CD Tray

Music Inspired By Star Wars (2005)
  1. I Am Your Father 3:09
  2. Star Wars Party 3:12
  3. Across the Stars / Princess Leia's Theme (Star Wars Love Themes) 4:03
  4. Star Wars Theme (New Star Wars) 3:08
  5. The Imperial March (Empire Strikes Back) 3:32
  6. Yoda's Theme (You Are Reckless) 3:22
  7. Jedi Knight 4:05
  8. Lapti Nek 3:25
  9. Live Your Life 3:19
  10. Boogie Wookiee 6:25

Album Rating (1-10): 3.0

Members & Other Bands:
Meco Mondardo - Producer, Arrangements, Programming, Recording, Mixing (Eastman School of Music Jazz Band, Tommy James, Diana Ross)
Peter Frank - Vox, Character Vocal Re-enactment, Guitar Solo
Jeff Jenkins - Character Vocal Re-enactment
Kim Weiss - Vox, Character Vocal Re-enactment
Yamira Santieli - Vox
Sal Vecchio - remix
David Watson - Executive Producer
Mark Watson - Executive Producer
Brian Fleniken - Mastering
Joe Corcoran - Licensing & Copyright Administration
Karl Braun Esq. - Legal Advisor
Herman Moskowitz CPA - Accounting

Unknown-ness: I have heard of Meco, sure. Being a fan of Star Wars, and growing up with the original 3 as my template to compare all other movies to, I was a fan of the Cantina Band version Meco produced. But that song is nowhere on this 2005 version, which professes to have music inspired by all 6 episodes of the dual trilogy. I doubt it is good, since Meco is generally a Disco-related producer/musician, and although 1977 music could lend itself to the genre, I don’t see how the newer three will translate. But it is worth a few minutes of time to find out.

Album Review: So more to the history of Meco…he went to school for music, even formed a band in school with friends Chuck Mangione and bassist Ron Carter. In the mid 70’s as disco was emerging, he was producer to a couple of Gloria Gaynor hits. But it was his love of sci-fi growing up that lead him to making dance versions of familiar soundtrack themes. All that aside, this is a horrendous album. It is incredibly embarrassing, almost more so than hearing the Mini-Pops sing about “making love.”

“I Am Your Father” starts with an echoing cymbal, Darth Vader’s famous breathing, and a sensuous light jazz backing melody. Vocal/quote samples are spoken/layered over the music. The song is not even dancey. It brings in Vader’s melody via synthesized string sections. Luke’s “that’s impossible” line is added in, and there are lots of washed quotes, and a guitar solo for no reason. The song is chaotic and is like a child’s magazine cut up collage for 3rd grade.
“Star Wars Party” is just an embarrassing attempt at rapping about how great a star wars party is. It’s general, never really explaining what exactly a star wars party is, except that it involves dancing Jedi and Wookies helping R2. There is a flat produced quality about the song: nothing sounds crisp or “real.” The melody for the chorus feels Christmassy. The chorus fades out in the end.
“Across the Stars / Princess Leia's Theme (Star Wars Love Themes)” uses more rattling cymbals. The familiar Leia’s Theme is played with fast tempo marching drums played to make it more dancey. The tone is solemn, and it sounds like an 80’s TV show.  There are more quotes layered over the music of Darth Vader, the Emperor, then Obi-Wan. The rest of the cast joins in with one off quotes, taken out of meaning or sequence. But the Han, Luke and Leia voices don’t sound very identifiable. Not a good song, or really, a song at all.
“Star Wars Theme (New Star Wars)” begins like it’s going to be a new age pop song, and features star fighters swooping by, and a loose representation of the star wars theme is synthesized behind more vocal samples. The song grows stagnant quickly, and tried to just carry a drum beat beneath more rearranged character dialogue. Rather than songs inspired by Star Wars, this is more like a bastardized version of your childhood memories.  
“The Imperial March (Empire Strikes Back)” has a dark, metallic quality beneath the familiar march. This feels closer to music, as it is more like a game show version of the theme. There are disco stings accenting certain measures, and the only movie sounds are lasers shots and light saber battles. Later R2 sounds are added as the song rises out of the dark, and moves to positive territory. It is definitely the most creative and musically interesting interpretation of the familiar themes.

“Yoda's Theme (You Are Reckless)” starts with mediocre-to-poor vocal impressions of Yoda over a floating dream like sequence complete with harp playing and a new age or medieval like melody. This again could be the actions of a 15 yr old making a tribute to Yoda with self-made audio clips. At the 2:10 mark, the familiar Star Wars themes are mashed together in disco fashion with sound effects added at random moments.
“Jedi Knight” is a sung song, it is a driving, yet light female sung number that is slightly disco, slightly Japanese, and pretty toe tapping. If it did not have the Weird Al like embarrassment of partial knowledge and selected information of a topic, it might be a generally ok song. The chorus reminds me of Village People, with the chorus of male “sailors” saying to fight behind the female vocals. It follows a good pop music template of music.
“Lapti Nek” reaches more funky disco territories, and is another actually sung song that harkens back more accurately to the disco era. There are creature samples of monsters from Jabba’s Palace. The synthesizer flourishes make this into an interesting audio song. The tempo is danceable and driving, and if the annoying Jabba sounds were removed, it might be a stand-alone tolerable song.
“Live Your Life” starts with a tinny drum beat and dialogue clips overlayed. The mellow melody is very thin, and cruises along for the first minute, until the chorus hits after about a minute, and the sung vocals are raise from the background. This song feels like a fleshed out version of one single thought.
“Boogie Wookiee” fades up with a jungle drum beat and a complex melody with overly synthesized effects and short singing Ooos and other bursts of lyric. The overall general is world music, and not nearly as funky as the rhyming title would suggest. About half way through the tempo and melody shifts up a notch and although it is still a world music beat, it is done in a video game (toe-jam and earl) spirit for a minute. After that, the music falls away leaving an angelic vibe and maraca percussion. It has dropped most of the boogie, and has become a floating cloud of mechanically created choir. 

Stand Out Track: Jedi Knight


Monday, December 15, 2014

3-D - s/t

Name: 3-D
Album: s/t
Style: New Wave, Power Pop
Similar Bands: The A's, Code Blue, Cars, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker
"One Word" Review: Surfy Piano Synth Pop
Based out of: New York
Label: Polydor, Polygram Distribution
3-D - Cover, Liner Notes, Record
3-D - Back, Lyrics, Record
3-D (1980)

  1. Telephone Number 2:47
  2. It's No Fun 4:09
  3. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow 3:24
  4. Pin Up Girl 4:00
  5. Back to You 3:58 /
  6. X-Ray Eyes 4:25
  7. All American Boy 4:21
  8. Carnival 4:13
  9. All Night TV 4:20
Album Rating (1-10): 10

Members & Other Bands: (Wonderland Band, Trans-Lux)
Rick Zivic - Vox (Red White and Blues Band)
Ted Wender - Keys, Vox (White Cloud, Loudon Wainwright III, Doobie Brothers, Red White and Blues Band)
Mike Fink - Drums (Ronnie Wood, Bo Diddly, Whippersnapper)
Keiv Ginsberg - Vox, Guitars (Boffalongo, Blues Brothers Soundtrack)
Ken Scott - Engineer, Producer
Nick Stevens - Bass, Vox(Impulsive Manslaughter, Holy Heart Failure)
John Doumanian - Management
Premier Talen - Booking Agent
Phil Jost - Asst. Engineer
Tim Garrity - Asst. Engineer
Bernie Grundman - Mastering
David Alexander - Cover Photo
Chris Callas - Inner Sleeve Photo
Rod Dyer - Design
Andy Engel - Design
AGI - Art Coordination

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, but from the looks of the album artwork, it will be some sort of new wave act. I like the angular, chaotic chunks of broken mirror reflecting the band. Makes me think that the contents will be fun, angular hooks as well. The logo of the name looks as if it was quickly written, which keeps me optimistic that the music will be fast paced too. 1980 is a good year for the style, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Album Review: So this band had a bunch of tour dates opening for bigger bands such as J Geils and the Ramones, and they even reached critical success as a performer on SNL back in May of 1980. There were three singles from the album: “Telephone Number” “X-Ray Eyes” and “All Night TV.” And thourhgout the album, they follow the mold set by Elvis Costello and Graham Parker and the A’s with nasally pop new wave. There is not one bad song on this record. Nothing comes close to being bad. The main two musicians Ted & Ric have moved on to form their own production company, and it looks as if drummer Mike Fink is more known for his album designing (20th Century Millennium Masters Collections) rather than drumming.

“Telephone Number” begins with a jaunty piano intro, followed by drums and a upbeat piano pop somg. The vocals are nasally like a nice balance from Elvis Costello and Richard Bush (from the A’s). This is very shiny, pleasant and catchy song. And has a general naivety present in most of the late 50-early 60’s pop songs, but sung with a distinct late 70’s early 80’s new wave style.
“It's No Fun” enters with a bass line, and the same nasally vocals. After the first verse follows through, instrumentation bridges the gap into the second verse, and the bouncy organ and a singular, non-harmonized doo-wop melody carries through the chorus. The bass line carries the song through, presenting the back bone for the light ska harmonies and a bit of laid back island/surf tempo.
“Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” has a self-paced drum and keyboard melody creating a steady driving tempo. The piano and synth combination bring a lot of hooks and keep the songs feet straddled perfectly between pub piano pop and odd new wave. Bottom line, the song is a straight forward pop song, full of energy. The song is generally fun with throwaway hooks buried deep and burned up without thought.
“Pin Up Girl” again embraces simple surf elements possible in new wave synth. This song sounds just like Richard Bush. I would be hard press to do the “cola challenge” and not guess that this was an A’s song.  Except there is a falsetto section in the chorus that is unique to the band.
“Back to You” feels like a much more pub rock style song, built on guitar and drums. The song is driving, with a cars like tempo, with minor broken moments in the steady beat, which amplifies the urgency in the song. After an instrumental punctuated with a rolling drum section, the guitar melody borrows from Mony Mony.

“X-Ray Eyes” drives right off of side one with a pounding drum beat in a nervous rhythm, and it is coupled with synth sounds and a rapid pulsing bass line. This is some fine breeding of powerpop and new wave, and to wave the fear of sounding repetitive, it sounds just like the A’s first album material. This might be the catchiest hook on the album, as the chorus melody is just a clarified version of the verse.
“All American Boy” has an anthemic like intro, and delves into a creepy relaxed pace with a dark synth sound. The vocals are basically spoken at a marching cadence leading up to the chorus, which does not quite deliver all the energy it builds up. But the second time through, it is a little better. There is a music box like breakdown, twinkling and light. Dammit, even the theme in the song is ripped directly from the middle American plots to the A’s songs. There must have been a build-a-band kit available in the late 70’s that both bands purchased.
“Carnival” brings back the atmosphere of island/light ska keyboards from “It’s No Fun,” and rather than be creepy and carousel-like, it is a nostalgic trip to carnivals from the early 60’s with a playful bass line and hand clap percussion. On top of that I thoroughly enjoy the singer’s percussive throat flourishes of “Uh-Oh-Uh-Oh.” It adds a great accent to the melody.
“All Night TV” brings the straight forward power pop sound to the album finally with some powerful chord changes. The guitar chords are supplemented with a keyboard changes once the verse gets going. The song embraces the strutting, marching tempo by the second verse, and just when it might go on for too long, the prog-ish breakdown reinvigorates the song, and it come marching back with a stronger energy. The harmonized chorus of the word Television evokes a bold, Bee-Gees or Supertramp comparison. 

Stand Out Track: Telephone Number

SNL episode IMDB
Ric's Linkedin page
Red White & Blues band's reverb page
Brooklyn Vegan's RWB band description
Ric & Ted productions
newspaper show review from 1980
Rate Your Music

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Planets - S/T

Name: Planets
Album: s/t
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Pub Rock
Similar Bands: New Musik, Police, XTC, Squeeze, J. Geils Band. 
"One-Word" Review: Eccentric-Rock-Pub-Reggae
Based Out Of: Liverpool, UK
Label: Motown
 Planets - Cover & Record
Planets - Back & Record
Planets (1980)
  1. Iron for the Iron 3:37
  2. Mile High 3:53
  3. A Minute Ago 3:55
  4. Lines 3:57 /
  5. Break It To Me Gently 3:05
  6. Too Late 3:22
  7. Secret 2:41
  8. Ball & Chain 3:22
  9. I'm On Fire 4:08

Album Rating (1-10): 9.5

Members & Other Bands:
Steve Lindsey - Producer, Writer, Keys, Bass, Vox, Guitars, Drums (Deaf School
Charlie Charles - Producer, Drums, Percussion (Ian Dury & Blockheads, Bop, Loving Awareness)
Mickey Gallagher - Producer, Keys (Animals. ARC, Ian Dury & Blockheads, Heavy Jelly, Skip Bifferty)
John Turnbill - Producer, Guitar (Ian Dury & Blockheads, Glencoe, Heavy Jelly, Loving Awareness, Skip Bifferty, Dave Steward & the Spiritual Cowboys, ARC)
Gregory Rose - String & Horn Arrangements & Conducting
John Ward - Keys, Backing Vox
Tony Wimshurst - Backing Vocals, Guitars (Nasty Pop)
Jane Robbins - Backing Vox (Satellite Sisters, Prima Donna)
Katie Robbins - Backing Vox (Satellite Sisters, Prima Donna, Anti-Heroin Project)
Kit Woolven - Engineer
Gut Bidmead - Engineer
Alan Winstanley - Engineer
Martin Moss - Engineer
Frank Silver - Managment
Ginny Livingston - Art Direction
Max James - Design & Illustration
Budgie (Peter Clarke) - Drums (Siouxie Sioux, Slits, Creatures, Clive Langer, Indigo Girls, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond)
Danny Kustow - Guitar (Spectres, Tom Robinson Band)
Paul Madden - Guitar
Andy Duncan - Percussion (Then Jericho)

Unknown-ness: So I have never heard of this band before buying the record. While I do like the random and chaotic nature of the artwork, it comes off as soft, as this might be an ambitions light jazz band that uses the artwork as the physical illustration of music: particularly as per the back cover. But then again, there are 9 songs, and they are not jazz song lengths. And in any case, 1980 was a good year, even if Motown is not quite the right label for what I look forward to.

Album Review: This was one of the first albums I picked up with the Thrift Store Music idea in mind. And this (as well as Code Blue) was perhaps thee record that kept me going, looking for more unheard of gems. It is near perfect for all of my tastes. It might taper off a little at the end, out as a whole; you can’t make a much better discovery than this. I quickly sought out their 2 records as they were reissued together on CD. Historically, Steve Lindsey was part of the second most important band from Liverpool, Deaf School, which boasts the hugely influential Clive Langer on guitar. He started The Planets after Deaf School dissolved. The musicians in The Planets make up most of the Blockheads, who backed Ian Dury in the mid 80’s. The record I picked up was the US release of their first album, Goonhilly Down, but Motown just released it as self-titled. Although it is dated 1980, it was actually released a year earlier in the UK.

“Iron for the Iron” starts off with an XTC – Wait ‘til Your Boat Goes Down like start with iron chains clanking, or being manufactured. Then the keyboard and drums fade up to a wonderful, and slyly sung bouncy pop song. The chorus is built on a call and response between a chorus and the wacky, nasally vocals from the lead singer that is stepped away from the front, and sung through grainy-on-purpose production. Just as you think you’ve got the gist of the verse-chorus structure, the song throws in a new melody that is related, but like a reprise. It easily flows into the verse again, that’s bouncy character has a fun ska-reggae style rhythm. This song is just perfect magic. The song ends with metal beams being hammered in an iron works factory which fade up and take over the end of the song.
“Mile High” buzzes and whips by the speakers with synth sounds, before settling on a very Squeeze 1978 “Take Me I’m Yours” synth melody. But rather than the straight driving lyrics from Tilbrook, this is a more playful, sing-song melody, which soars like a roller coaster out of the murky synth depths to the bright and catchy chorus encapsulating the perfect building anticipation and delivery format. It forgoes a lyrical verse a second time around, and instead launches into the chorus. The instrumentation for the ending instrumental section is a little too bombastic and all over the place, but the soaring guitars and booming drum kit fade out after a perfectly set amount of time
“A Minute Ago” has very angularly and grinding guitar notes to start off, the song, and like the other two songs, it loses the chaotic-ness, and goes for a smooth luster of a pop song up through the chorus, before returning to the noisy (in a good way) bridge. The vocals are not too far from Elvis Costello, but are not as quite as urgent. There is a lot of pub rock guitar in this song, which takes the attention away from the simple and catchy melody, and just drowns out the bouncy time keeping drums and bass.
“Lines” was the original single in the UK, and it begins with echoing, reverberating, watery guitar. The song transitions into an eerie reggae song. I would not have guessed this was a single. There are some fun bipping synth effects supporting the first breakdown at about the 2 minute mark. In my opinion, sadly this is the stylistic direction the second album followed. Quite an array of synth, organ, and keyboard sounds finish out the song as it fades away. But the song continues to haunt on very quietly with hushed singing on “who’s side are you” being uttered.

“Break It To Me Gently” starts off with some aggressive power pop chords and accompanying electric guitar. But this is the more Elvis Costello song on the record in vocal melody, and this was the US released single. It is slightly dark in musical structure, but the rollicking melody follows a preset wave form of chord progression, rising and dipping as it drives along. This is a very solid song. It is also one of those songs where you cannot figure out the catchiest melody, and feel like the sections could repeat infinitely (like TMBG’s “Birdhouse”) and never get boring. It finishes with a fade out and a ringing guitar.
“Too Late” quietly fades in until the electric guitar and drums kick. The song feels like a pub rock J Geils Band song. The song has a bold swagger to it, with a backing chorus of female singers, and follows its second chorus section with a new-to-the-song nursery rhyme melody.
“Secret” sounds like it could be an Oingo Boingo song at the beginning with the style of guitar and machine gun drums. Then the song really begins, revisiting that Squeeze style of synth shrouding another pub rock song. But when the chorus comes, somewhat out of the blue, it carries a mockery tone with it that maintains the song’s catchiness, and it kind of sounds like an emergency vehicle’s siren.
“Ball & Chain” begins with a harsh transition from the previous song, as if they were meant to be played as one track, even though the style, tempo and structure are vastly different. This song is darker; reflecting on the song’s topic of needing another person like you’d need a ball & chain. This song too, carries a bold, confident tone.
“I'm On Fire” previews the following album’s style with a straight forward reggae song. The wah-wah guitar, and stumbling drum give way to a smooth groove, coupled with female vocals supplementing the lead. The song is a bit of a downer to the album, but the rest of the album holds up tremendously well.

Stand Out Track: Iron For the Iron
Break It To Me Gently

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

(the) Tremeloes - Here Comes My Baby

Name: The Tremeloes
Album: Here Comes My Baby
Year: 1967
Style: Oldies, Pop Rock, Bubblegum
Similar Bands: Beatles, Monkees, Buddy Holly, Four Seasons, 1910 Fruitgum Co. Ohio Express, Kinks, Paul Revere & Raiders, Bee-Gees, Cat Stevens
"One-Word" Review: Another Merceybeat-Brit-pop band
Based Out Of: Dagenham, East London
Label: Epic, CBS
 Here Comes My Baby - Cover & Record
Here Comes My Baby - Back & Record
Here Comes My Baby (1967)
  1. Here Comes My Baby 3:05
  2. Run Baby Run 2:35
  3. My Own 2:25
  4. What a State I'm In 2:20
  5. Loving You 2:25 /
  6. Good Day Sunshine 2:00
  7. You 2:30
  8. Shake Hands 2:20
  9. When I'm With Her 2:15
  10. Even the Bad Times are Good 2:45
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5

Members & Other Bands:
Alan Blakley - Guitar, Keys
Len "Chip" Hawkes - Bass
Ricky West - Guitar
David Munden - Drums
Mike Smith - Producer

Unknown-ness: So I had never heard of this band before now. Or maybe I have, but I don’t recall them. Either way, I expect this to be full on oldies pop, perhaps psychedelic pop, since it is from 1967 and the cover has streaming, gloopy lobs of color. It could either be really good or really bad, and with the Paul Revere & Raiders outfits, I’m going to lean to pretty good.

Album Review: As it turns out, I really should have heard of the Tremeloes by now. After all, they were the band chosen by Decca over the Beatles in a rehearsal tryout back in 1962. At that time, Brian Poole was the leader of the band, and they did turn out a bunch of hits for Decca, and later, for CBS, which is where they were for this album. I do feel a little embarrassed for not knowing this band, but I guess you have to learn some time.

“Here Comes My Baby” begins with some hand claps and cheering, and it feels like it will go right into “If You Wanna Be Happy.” Then the George of the Jungle bass line comes in, (along with cow bell) and it finds footing as a much more rocking version of Cat Stevens’ original (released the same year). There are freewheeling hoots and hollers in the background, trying to promote an intimate live setting.
“Run Baby Run” starts off with the nice psych organ and is a much more garage heavy sound, with thick harmony, which gets dissected in the verse with a high falsetto voice singing in overlap to the title. The driving pace makes it hard to ignore, and the harmonies synch up the pop hooks.
“My Own” is a more vocal based skiffle song. It is laid back and features more of the male vocal band harmonies, making this a much lighter song, which is not always found to be a highly regarded style. It seems to be in the right place on the album to display the diversity of the band, but as a standalone song, it is a bit of a passé number, even for their time.
“What a State I'm In” has a guitar and harmony coupling that is very Beatles in production. There are backing sections of the guitar that is very fuzzed our and heavy, but they also added in short spacey lines that are spoken, that feel like when a story breaks the third wall of reader/story separation with a character speaking directly to the reader.
“Loving You” is a bouncy pop song, reminding me of the more exciting early Bee Gees songs. But it still is lacking some clinching hook that would make this a great song. It is pretty close. Perhaps it is because the chorus is too close to the verse, so there is not much diversity within the song.

“Good Day Sunshine” starts off the second side, like a Kinks version of the Beatles classic, released a year earlier. The melody of the chorus is not quite as sunny as the original, as the notes are not on an up-tempo structure, and they fall flat. The verse, however, is fun with a Vintage vaudevillian style.
“You” is a marching right from the get go, where the vocal melody is established right away, and is very catchy. After two verses, the song becomes guitar heavy and is more rock than pop. But after that “chorus” section, it returns to the simplified verse from the outset. The instrumental is very heavy with electric guitar. But the basic melody remains throughout the song, even into the fade out, and is one of the best hooks on the album.
“Shake Hands” goes back to the Beatles style of jangley pop that is super fun to dance to. They bring in some higher pitch harmonies here, and the Frankie Valli-ish falsetto vocals are the lead in the chorus (and are part of the chorus), and are the true spotlight to this driving song.
“When I'm With Her” brings the jangely guitar back (perhaps too much so) for this folksy, side-to-side love song. It is the most Buddy Holly / Roy Orbison style song on the record.
“Even the Bad Times are Good” is the stand out track on the album. It starts off with some background chatter and La-La-La’s before it delves into the rollicking melody that continually builds up to the chorus, which has a very satisfying delivery (particularly the hook ‘as soon as I get to you baby’). It is not as gritty as “the letter,” so it is not as good, but it feels like it has a similar structure. There is one particular odd mouth harp sound in the background of the chorus that doesn’t quite fit, but helps make the song that much less serious. 

Stand Out Track: Even the Bad Times Are Good

Discography @ 45rpm
British Invasion

New Musik - Sanctuary

Name: New Musik
Album: Sanctuary
Year: 1981
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Phil Collins, Buggles, Thomas Dolby, Naked Eyes, A Flock Of Seagulls, Brian Eno, The Planets
"One-Word" Review: Smooth-Sterile-Synth-Pop
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Epic, CBS inc, GTO Records
 Sanctuary - Cover & Lyrics
Sanctuary - Back & Record
Sanctuary (1981)
  1. They All Run After the Carving Knife4:54
  2. Areas 4:08
  3. Churches 4:53
  4. Sanctuary 4:12
  5. Science 3:20
  6. Division 4:20 /
  7. Luxury 3:49
  8. Straight Lines 5:11
  9. This World of Water 3:36
  10. Dead Fish (Don't Swim Home) 5:23
  11. While You Wait 5:04
  12. Back To Room One 4:14
Album Rating (1-10): 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
Tony Mansfield - Producer, Vox, Guitar, Keys (Nick Straker Band, Yukihiro Takahashi, Captain Sensible, Naked Eyes, Burning Bridges)
Tony Hibbert - Bass (Nick Straker Band, )
Phil Towner - Drums, Percussion (NIck Straker Band, Buggles, Naked Eyes, Burning Bridges)
Clive Gates - keyboards (Wet)
Paula Scher - Cover Design
Peter Hammond - Engineer

Unknownness: I’ve never heard of this band, and despite it being a good year, 1981, the cover does not tell much about what is in store. It has a bleak look to it, with a “Little Boxes” style housing development. The back has a dark tint to it, but displays the band, who looks like they could be anything from power pop, to new wave, to pub rock (not that there are big jumps in those classifications). Even the band’s name could mean anything. I’ll have to see what we have here.

Album Review: So New Musik put out 3 albums in the UK, and this record, Sanctuary, is a US released compilation of tracks from their two albums From A to B and Anywhere. “Living by Numbers,” their most “successful” track (a top 20 single, yet not included on this record) was used in a Casio digital calculator commercial back in 1980. Their third album, Warp, was released after this compilation, and was recorded after half of the band left in 1982. It was credited as one of the first albums to be recorded only with digital samplers and emulators. The band leader, Mansfield, went on to collect quite the resume of albums produced. I really like this album, through some of its bleakness, these long-running songs contain some simple catchy parts, and they carry on without much downtime, but with confidence. Although, this album is set up in an incredibly awkward way, where putting the atmospheric songs in the line up as batters two and three, and leaving their star song off the record, and the other catchier songs at eight and nine. The casual listener may have given up by the third song, and never reached the gems in the later part of the album

“They All Run After the Carving Knife” combines jangle guitar strums, with cold, synthesizers and a simple two-hit drum beat. The vocals are sung with a precise execution, where every syllable is important. The chorus is a catchy repletion of “See How They Run” over the crystalline synth. This is the lighter side of dark wave, as it treads the fine line between the two new wave genres with as much precision as the vocal delivery. The song does go on a bit much, but it never loses its hook. The song ends in an instrumental section that could still carry the chorus with it if they so chose, but they showcase some of the nuanced tones and effects that they are capable of, as the song fades out.
“Areas” starts with more bleak, airy/watery synth sound choices with a drum kit that at times sounds like crickets. After a minute goes by, the Phil Collins sounding vocals with a Gary Numan cadence begin over the tundra-esq landscape. The song is sullen and quiet. The song reminds me of what Thomas Dolby was doing with his sonic dreamscapes that created feeling more than pop. This is definitely a practice in musical texture rather than catchy hooks and verse-bridge-chorus-repeat rock song. It too, ends with a fade
“Churches” fades up with some warbley electronic sounds, mixed with a marching pace synth-like drum beat. The verse has a sparse-yet-driving tempo that crashes right into the chorus, which simply states, with a mechanically enhanced vocal, “churches” over and over following the musical breakdown in the chorus. The haunting synth “bells” creates the aesthetic feel of being in an empty church. The randomness of the verse-chorus structure feels like either section could go on for as long or as short as the band chooses, and the result would not make the song any different. The song keeps rebooting as you think it is about to wind down, again, a practice in atmospheric resonance and not a precise song out of a mold.
“Sanctuary” continues with the religious tones for the first few seconds, and then the song thrusts itself into a bouncy piano based new wave pop song. The melody on the verse reminds me of the song “All I Want for Xmas Is You” as well as the Airwaves’ song “Nobody Is.” The secondary chorus melody is a very nice reprise on the previously set up melodies. There are a bunch of great hooks all tied together in this song.
“Science” starts off like a general story song. But the chorus comes on quickly, and has a catchy, yet somewhat unconventional melody, reminding me of Brian Eno a little.
“Division” starts off with an echoing synth keyboard that evolves into an upbeat, shiny, and warbley pop number. The band has a tremendous way of crafting their songs by grouping a bunch of related sounded segments together in any order or length and still coming out with a balanced and cohesive song. And this song is no different in the way they blend parts to the song and over lay them, shorten or lengthen them, and always know when to bring it back to the peaceful, uplifting melody. The song even fades out, and then comes back in for a short 30 second segment to end the first side.

“Luxury” starts out as an airy, sparse atmospheric song, but it quickly finds its computer assisted melody, sounding a whole lot like the band The Planets. There is a bit of a broken down carnival feel in the verse, which is flipped over for the chorus. There is a computerized vocal that repeats “This Is Your Life” over a couple times, enhancing the sterile atmosphere the song creates. They mess around with playing some of the vocal parts backwards further enhancing the alien planet effect they’ve created.
“Straight Lines” fades up with the most straightforward, bouncy, new wave song they have on the record, which is still a far cry from bass-drum-guitar driven pop of their counterparts. The entire song is built on catchy interchangeable parts, that builds to the chorus, and like Lucy’s football, is  plucked right out from under our feet when the Charlie brown chorus is supposed to get there, But after the second run through, we connect with the chorus, and its simple and repetitive delivery is quite satisfying. The single note bass line for the majority of the song moves the song along with the drums as a time keeping percussion. You can’t help but tap your foot to this song. So many parts of the song are visited at the same time as the song ends, and the combination/overlapping of the sections is fantastic.  You don’t even realize 5 minutes has gone by, by the time the song fades out.
“This World of Water” starts with some jangley guitars and synth drumming. The song sprints right into the fast tempo and creative rollercoaster melody, breaking from verse to chorus at random whim. The chorus itself is a wackily computer enhanced vocal when he sings the three parts “Swim for the other side / swimming against the tide / drown but you’re still survive” that is unnecessary, but equally essential to the song. This song could go on and on forever with this chorus repeating with slight differences in tone, and it would still be amazing.
“Deadfish (Don't Swim Home)” continues the water theme on this compilation, and starts off with some celestial spacey tones, sounding like it is played in reverse. For the first minute and a half before the drums kick in. The precisely executed vocal punctuate the verse, and the chorus is sung with a very British melody. But there is definitely a specific style of composition that is all New Musik, and is immediately identifiable, if only they became more popular. The chorus in this song is drawn out a little long, and it is a bit too simplistic to carry with it the same attention as “World of Water.”
“While You Wait” has tinkling bells, echoing racquetball sounds and a lonesome space feel to the start. As the vocals start, a slipshod array of overlaid vocals singing different things begins, coming off as more of a remix than an original track. All of the other New Musik elements are here, but this feels like an un-fleshed out idea, rather than a conscious directional song. I’m not sure why this song was included on this record, unless they wanted to illustrate the diversity of the band. Otherwise, I’m to the point where Epic was trying to make the album as unappealing as possible, while still including some of their best material. The song itself gets caught in a loop, and just fades out when the band hits the 4:50 mark.
“Back To Room One” combines the airy synth jingly sound with a driving kick drum. This song has an interesting melody when it comes to the chorus, where it sounds backwards and unfinished, all while employing washing/computer effects, yet overall, a very appealing end product. Like many of their songs, it goes on for a little too long, and gets caught up in its own repetitive ness, and even though strategies are employed to change up the general construction and keep the listener interested, 4-5 minutes is a little too long for these last three songs.

Stand Out Track: This World of Water
Straight Lines

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