Monday, 24 October 2011

#438 - "Under Construction" - Missy Elliot

Released On:  Goldmind / Elektra Records, 2002

Missy Elliot kicked the door open for strange sounds in hip-hop.  There was always a certain eccentricity in sample choices but Under Construction ran that idea through a blender; in essence it's a statement of Missy as an artist coming into her own.  She's on top of her game throughout, working the floor with a wild abandon rarely seen since the genresplosion of the early 90s.  She cuts like a razor switchblade on "Gossip Folks" and has an old-school blast on "Back In The Day".  On "Work It" she gets absolutely filthy, inviting a lover to perform very specific sexual acts on her, backed by an epic club jam complete with a backmasking hook.  The guest list is a who's-who of hip hop in the early Oughts, right down to the representative Ludacris verse on "Gossip Folks".  The mix of expert beatcraft from space-age tag team Missy and Timbaland proved to be a big commercial success, moving over two million sales to date, and listening to the highly creative field of hip-hop today it's hard to imagine a world without it.  It's the sort of album that still gets played when you're out drinking.

Where'd You'd Know It From:  The club and the radio; so, everywhere.

Track Listing:
1.  Intro/Go To The Floor (5:06)
2.  Bring The Pain (ft. Method Man) (2:59)
3.  Gossip Folks (ft. Ludacris) (3:54)
4.  Work It (4:58)
5.  Back In The Day (ft. Jay-Z) (4:55)
6.  Funky Fresh Dressed (ft. Ms. Jade) (3:56)
7.  Pussycat (4:32)
8.  Nothing Out There For Me (ft. Beyonce Knowles) (3:05)
9.  Slide (3:43)
10.  Play That Beat (3:02)
11.  Ain't That Funny (2:48)
12.  Hot (4:09)
13.  Can You Hear Me (ft. TLC) (4:29)

("Work It")

("Gossip Folks")

("Bring The Pain")

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

#439: "Punk In Drublic" - NOFX

Released On:  Epitaph Records, 1994

My last year of high school was spent practically living at the closest thing to a 'punk house' you could get in rural southwestern Ontario.  The guy that ran the local taxi service (which is quite the job in the country, let me tell you) owned a big old house at the edge of town.  He lived there with his two nephews, who didn't like to hold down jobs but who DID like to drink, smoke epic amounts of weed, play Street Fighter and listen loudly to mid-90's hooky post-hardcore punk.  Along with these two were an assorted crew of satellite characters, male and female, who would join in and add their own particular brands of Shenanigans.  There was a lot of feedback, a lot of fucking, and and lot of getting fucked up (to paraphrase the Stooges); oddly, there was also a lot of computerized chess.  It was my second positive experience with punk rock (the first being accidentally getting Stranger Than Fiction for Chirstmas) and, at the risk of sounding like Craig Finn, when I first thought that punk rock might actually be our saviour.  The soundtrack was usually Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords, featuring a slew of great punk records, but Punk In Drublic stands head and shoulders above all of them.  Out of all the so-called skater-punk bands of the mid-to-late 90's NOFX had the best head for memorable melodies and catchy lyrics, while simultaneously having the best eye for how to best state your contempt for modern society using epic amounts of snark.  Punk In Drublic is the triumph of the Epitaph sound.  It took the effortless hook-machine sound of Bad Religion but dropped the high-minded politics in favour of songs that spoke of a broader experience.  The smart ones got it, but so could the dumb ones (and the drunk ones).  Try NOT singing along to "The Brews", or feeling that punch in the gut when Kim Shattuck shows up near the end of "Lori Meyers".  It's not going to happen.  This was an album to define a micro-generation.  

Where You'd Know It From:  The punk kids in high school always blast it.  Every other NOFX album after it kind of sounds like it, too, making it even more ubiquitous.  

Track Listing:
1.  Linoleum (2:10)
2.  Leave It Alone (2:04)
3.  Dig (2:16)
4.  The Cause (1:37)
5.  Don't Call Me White (2:33)
6.  My Heart Is Yearning (2:23)
7.  Perfect Government (2:05)
8.  The Brews (2:40)
9.  The Quass (1:18)
10.  Dying Degree (1:50)
11.  Fleas (1:47)
12.  Lori Meyers (2:21)
13.  Jeff Wears Birkenstocks? (1:26)
14.  Punk Guy ('Cause He Does Punk Things) (1:08)
15.  Happy Guy (1:58)
16.  Reeko (3:05)
17.  Scavenger Type (7:12)

("Don't Call Me White")

("The Brews")

("Leave It Alone")

Monday, 18 July 2011

#440 - "Strangeways, Here We Come" - The Smiths

Released On:  Rough Trade, 1987

Johnny Marr's primary songwriting influence for this album was The Beatles, and it's just those sort of slow, druggy atmospheres that are all over moments like the epic coda of "Death Of A Disco Dancer".  As the last album the band ever released it is something of a disappointment; the band was beginning to break away from the sound that it had perfected on The Queen Is Dead but we will never know where they might have gone to had they not worked themselves to the breaking point.  Lead single "Girlfriend In A Coma" is really the only nod to their previous music.  Elsewhere throughout, there is an emphasis on a sort of piano-led Morrissey-driven bombast that is best exemplified by "Death Of A Disco Dancer" and "Last Night I Dreamr That Somebody Love Me".  Lyrically the album is haunted by the specter of death; people die, people contemplate murder, the death of the band is even foreshadowed in "Paint A Vulgar Picture".  This is, of course, really the only way to possibly end The Smiths - a band of such exquisitely dark snark can only end in theatrical bloodbath.  Interestingly, all four former members count the album as their favourite.

Where You'd Know It From:  "Girlfriend In A Coma" is a favourite of retro clubs and radio shows.  The album also went to #2 in the UK (#55 in the U.S.).



Track Listing:
1.  A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours (3:00)
2.  I Started Something I Couldn't Finish (3:47)
3.  Death Of A Disco Dancer (5:26)
4.  Girlfriend In A Coma (2:03)
5.  Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before (3:32)
6.  Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me (5:03)
7.  Unhappy Birthday (2:46)
8.  Paint A Vulgar Picture (5:35)
9.  Death At One's Elbow (2:01)
10.  I Won't Share You (2:48)

("Girlfriend In A Coma")

("Death Of A Disco Dancer")

("I Started Something I Couldn't Finish")

Friday, 15 July 2011

#441 - "Hangable Auto Bulb" - Richard D James (AFX)

Released On:  Warp Records, 1995

I think that this is the only EP on the list (as far as I know), but it's a very necessary one.  The album not only invents/perfects an electronic micro-genre - drill n' bass - but is also a stellar example of drum n' bass in general.  Hangable Auto Bulb pays no attention to the dancefloor; this is not a rave album.  It concerns itself instead with twisted, high-tempo and high-intensity breakbeats interlaced with Richard D James' trademark off-kilter creepiness.  Tracks like "Children Talking" and "Laughable Butane Bob" are both mind-blowing and incredibly unsettling.  The sounds that close out the title track are nothing less than the sound of a man taking music, heating it until it has the consistency of warm taffy, and then twisting it into shapes that only vaguely resemble what came before.  For extra fun, take something hallucinatory, grab a copy of the Richard D James album, stare at that unearthly grin for ten minutes, and then listen to Hangable Auto Bulb.  "Custodian Discount" alone will earn you a berth in the local psych ward.

Where You'd Know It From:  Weird parties, weirder people.  Electronic musicians, "digital DJs".



Track Listing:
1.  Children Talking (5:16)
2.  Hangable Auto Bulb (6:46)
3.  Laughable Butane Bob (2:59)
4.  Bit (0:07)
5.  Custodian Discount (4:23)
6.  Wabby Legs (5:28)

("Children Talking")

("Laughable Butane Bob")

("Custodian Discount")

Thursday, 14 July 2011

#442 - "Darklands" - The Jesus And Mary Chain

Released On:  Blanco y Negro, 1987

In the early part of their career, Scotland's Jesus and Mary Chain were synonymous with epic violence; 20-minute, audience-baiting sets followed by near-riots were quite common, with the band claiming it was "art as terrorism".  They were also synonymous with feedback-slathered noise-pop, where classic pop melodies were buried under screaming guitar noise (something many modern artists - Wavves, Times New Viking, Eat Skull - seem hellbent on emulating).  By Darklands both of those things were virtually gone; the band's inability to get gigs in the UK for most of 1985 had ended the most flagrant acts of artistic terrorism and the feedback had been dialed back to a much more accessible level.  Also gone was drummer Bobby Gillespie, who had gone on to form Primal Scream and was replaced by a drum machine.  The result is much more of a classic pop album than it is a pillar of the post-punk 80s; think of a volumed-up Beach Boys on a Velvet Underground bender through Scotland.  Anyone who claims to dislike this album simply has not loved or drank enough.

Despite the end to the violent reputation, 1987 did hold one notorious incident for the band.  They played a show at the Guvernment in Toronto (then known as the RPM Nightclub) during which singer Jim Reid attacked two audience members with his microphone stand.  I'm sure the night spent in a Toronto jail was fun and educational.

Where You'd Know It From:  Being British in the 80s, when it went to #5 (although it scored a berth at *ahem* #167 in the US).



Track Listing:
1.  Darklands (5:29)
2.  Deep One Perfect Morning (2:43)
3.  Happy When It Rains (3:36)
4.  Down On Me (2:36)
5.  Nine Million Rainy Days (4:29)
6.  April Skies (4:00)
7.  Fall (2:28)
8.  Cherry Came Too (3:06)
9.  On The Wall (5:05)
10.  About You (2:33)


("Happy When It Rains")

("April Skies")

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

#443 - "Pod" - The Breeders

Released On:  4AD, 1990

Released at the height of her day-job band's prowess, Kim Deal's side-project debut is immediately more straightforward than anything the Pixies ever did.  Much of this has to do with Deal's bandmate, Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses.  The Pixies were all dynamic and angles; Donnelly's influence serves to sand down some of the sharper angles and shore up a more pop-influenced sound, helped along the way by the punchy, bottom-heavy production courtesy of uber-producer Steve Albini.  Listening closely you can realize that it's definitely an album of the 90s; it's sound, fury, and structure are all classically grungy in nature, yet it predates almost everything of that era.  Kurt Cobain called it one of the biggest influences in his life, saying that "it's an epic that will never let you forget your ex-girlfriend".  Whatever that means.  Personally it sounds like the band took "Gigantic" and ran with it - something many bands would have been wiser to adopt.

Where You'd Know It From:  You went to college in the 90s.  Maybe you collect Beatles covers.  Weirdo.



Track Listing:
1.  Glorious (3:23)
2.  Doe (2:06)
3.  Happiness Is A Warm Gun (2:46)
4.  Oh! (2:27)
5.  Hellbound (2:21)
6.  When I Was A Painter (3:24)
7.  Fortunately Gone (1:44)
8.  Iris (3:29)
9.  Opened (2:28)
10.  Only In 3's (1:56)
11.  Lime House (1:45)
12.  Metal Man (2:46)


("Happiness Is A Warm Gun")

("Fortunately Gone")

Sunday, 10 July 2011

#444 - "L'Autrichienne" - Jucifer

Released On:  Relapse Records, 2008

There's so much heavy on this album that it's sometimes hard to realize that there are only two players here:  husband-and-wife duo Gazelle Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood.  Between the two of them they touch on Sabbath-inspired hard rock ("Blackpowder"), grindcore ("Thermidor"), doom metal ("Deficit", "Armada") and some good old-fashioned yearning minor-key balladry ("To The End", "L'Autrichienne").  The diversity here is almost as astounding as the sheer length; for an album that clocks in at 70 minutes it drags very rarely. Plus, it's a concept album about Marie Antoinette (the titular Austrian) which only adds to the hard-edged cool factor.  If you've ever been a fan of dynamics in heavy music then this is definitely one to check out, all the more so as the band is severely underrated and has spent the last seven years in an RV touring the country.  As far as rock n' roll lives go, that's admittedly pretty cool, but click that BUY link anyway, as I'm sure they could use the change.

Where You'd Know Them From:  They've probably rocked your town at least twice, even if you've never heard of them.



Track Listing:
1.  Blackpowder (2:16)
2.  Thermidor (0:32)
3.  To Earth (3:04)
4.  Deficit (2:29)
5.  Champ De Mars (3:52)
6.  Fall Of The Bastille (0:56)
7.  To The End (3:18)
8.  Armada (5:56)
9.  L'Autrichienne (5:00)
10.  Behind Every Great Man (3:10)
11.  October (4:09)
12.  Birds Of A Feather (2:11)
13.  Traitors (2:28)
14.  The Law Of Suspects (2:31)
15.  Noyade (4:21)
16.  The Mountain (9:07)
17.  Window (Where The Sea Falls Forever) (4:59)
18.  Fleur De Lis (2:39)
19.  Procession A La Guillotine (3:50)
20.  Coma (1:40)
21.  The Assembly (1:57)



("The Mountain")