Monday, 25 April 2011

#461 - "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me" - The Cure

Released On:  Fiction Records, 1987

Equal parts mystery, anguish, and passion, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was the album that broke the British goth-pop band Stateside.  The stormy love song "Just Like Heaven" entered the band into the Billboard Top 40 and into every sensitive boy's "Hey-I'm-Into-You" mixtape for the rest of time.  "Catch" was whimsical, wistful, and sad all at the same time, the culmination of all of the poppy instincts Robert Smith had finally stopped suppressing.  Twin singles "Why Can't I Be You" and "Hot Hot Hot!" were upbeat pop-funk numbers far removed from the depressed goth-psych of Pornography.  It wasn't all alterna-boy smiles and sunshine, though:  the opening lines to the album, several minutes into a tortured scrawl of guitar noise, were "Kiss me kiss me kiss me / your tongue is like poison / so swollen it fills up my mouth" and follows it up with a wail of "I never wanted any of this / I wish you were dead".  So, while it was definitively still the same band of downers, it was a far hookier band of downers than had ever existed before.

Where You'd Know It From:  "Just Like Heaven" has - and I'm serious here - been on every mixtape ever created, ever.  That lame 2005 rom-com was named after it, ferchrissakes.  Plus, it's the Cure.  Was there ever a band that more exemplified the 80s than The Cure?

Track Listing:
1.  The Kiss (6:17)
2.  Catch (2:42)
3.  Torture (4:13)
4.  If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (4:50)
5.  Why Can't I Be You? (3:11)
6.  How Beautiful You Are (5:10)
7.  Snakepit (6:56)
8.  Hey You! (2:22)
9.  Just Like Heaven (3:30)
10.  All I Want (5:18)
11.  Hot Hot Hot! (3:32)
12.  One More Time (4:29)
13.  Like Cockatoos (3:38)
14.  Icing Sugar (3:48)
15.  The Perfect Girl (2:34)
16.  A Thousand Hours (3:21)
17.  Shiver And Shake (3:26)
18.  Fight (4:27)

("Just Like Heaven")

("Catch") - May I just take a moment to curse WMG here?  The official music video is the first listing for the song on You Tube...but the good folks at Warner Music Group cut the sound out of it.  These dinosaurs actually seem to think that kids are going on You Tube to listen to music to avoid buying records.  Instead of, say, downloading it.  I'm sure you vestigal fucking remnants are losing your pristine Italian suits over some You Tube videos that were freely watchable on MTV in the late 80s.

("Why Can't I Be You?")

Saturday, 23 April 2011

#462 - "The White Birch" - Codeine

Released On:  Sub Pop, 1994

Codeine sounded just like the name implied:  slow and dreamlike.  Their final album was a culmination of every element that formed the band.  The guitars chimed in slow motion, with chords ringing in long spaces and arpeggiated figures stretching out into infinity.  The dynamic-shifting crunch was much more pronounced this time around, with tracks like the opener "Sea" and "Loss Leader" achieving moments of almost grunge-like zen.  If you're ever in need of an album to illustrate empty white spaces, or to soundtrack the howling sadness of long winters, this is the one.  One of the defining albums of "slowcore"

Where You'd Know It From:  Rather obscure, although if you've ever wandered alone through a blizzard, it sounds a lot like that.

Track Listing:
1.  Sea (7:21)
2.  Loss Leader (4:18)
3.  Vacancy (3:37)
4.  Kitchen Light (3:36)
5.  Washed Up (4:40)
6.  Tom (5:02)
7.  Ides (5:07)
8.  Wird (6:05)
9.  Smoking Room (3:18)


("Washed Up")

("Smoking Room")

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

#463 - "McLusky Do Dallas" - McLusky

Released On:  Too Pure Records, 2002

I've just realized that this is the third album in a row I've posted that has been produced by Steve Albini.  And Good Lord.  Does it ever make a difference.  McLusky was a trio of funny, irreverent Welsh punks who were more than a little messed up, upstairs, but they'd spent their debut album, My Pain And Sadness Is More Sad And Painful Than Yours waffling in a sort of mediocre daze.  With Albini on the boards, the band's ass is kicked into gear:  this is a punchy, hook-heavy album that snarls and sneers in equal measure.  It's hard to imagine a more black-hearted punk rock hilarity than "To Hell With Good Intentions" ("My love is bigger than your love / we take more drugs than a touring funk band" is what opens the track) or a more corrosive mash of popular culture than "Lightsabre Cocksucker Blues".  

Where You'd Know It From:  "Lightsabre Cocksucker Blues" was a pleasant surprise in Observe And Report, Seth Rogen's The Cable Guy.  

Track Listing:
1.  Lightsabre Cocksucker Blues (1:51)
2.  No New Wave No Fun (2:19)
3.  Collagen Rock (2:52)
4.  What We've Learned (1:54)
5.  Day Of The Deadringers (3:01)
6.  Dethink To Survive (1:58)
7.  Fuck This Band (3:38)
8.  To Hell With Good Intentions (2:25)
9.  Clique Application Form (1:53)
10.  The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch (2:23)
11.  Alan Is A Cowboy Killer (4:09)
12.  Gareth Brown Says (1:50)
13.  Chases (1:47)
14.  Whoyouknow / Reviewing The Reviewers (3:53)

("Lightsabre Cocksucker Blues")

("Dethink To Survive")

("To Hell With Good Intentions")

#464 - "Rid Of Me" - PJ Harvey

Released On:  Island Records, 1993

If her debut album, Dry, was full of "scorching guitar noise" (as the always-excitable NME put it), then her follow up, Rid Of Me, amps the scorch up to nuclear blast levels.  The heavy hand of Steve Albini is all over this record; the drums thump with tribal fury (although they're oddly hollow in spots) and the guitars are heavier than lead, but even in the midst of Albini's infamously crushing sound Ms. Harvey's voice cuts through with a lustful abandon.  It would be her last album as a real trio; during the tour (backing U2 on Zooropa) her 'band' broke up and she was left as a solo artist from then on.  The album remains a touchstone for what constituted raw songwriting in the early 90s, and certainly ranks as one of the best albums in PJ's discography.

Where You'd Know It From:  Feminist rockers, introspective and sorta dark art girls, grunge completionists.  Also, Beavis And Butthead reviewed "50 Foot Queenie"

Track Listing:
1.  Rid Of Me (4:28)
2.  Missed (4:25)
3.  Legs (3:40)
4.  Rub 'til It Bleeds (5:03)
5.  Hook (3:57)
6.  Man-Size Sextet (2:18)
7.  Highway 61 Revisited (2:57)
8.  50 Ft Queenie (2:23)
9.  Yuri-G (3:28)
10.  Man-Size (3:16)
11.  Dry (3:23)
12.  Me-Jane (2:42)
13.  Snake (1:35)
14.  Ecstasy (4:26)

("Rid Of Me")

("50 Ft Queenie")

("Highway 61 Revisited")

Thursday, 14 April 2011

#465 - "Journal For Plague Lovers" - Manic Street Preachers

Released On:  Columbia Records, 2009

In 1995, unstable enigma Richey Edwards handed his bandmate Nicky Wire a folder of poetry, collages, and haikus.  A few weeks later he disappeared, never to be seen again.  Although there are the usual legendary claims of sightings around the world, with his car found abandoned near a known suicide bridge there can be little doubt as to his fate.  Journal For Plague Lovers is the musical embodiment of that final creative package; after several albums of striking out on their own, the band decided to create an album using only Richey Edwards' last words for lyrics.  The result is the rawest Manics album in the canon, a slashing, exuberant alt-rock album that kicks in the door with disturbed abandon.  Part of this, to be fair, is due to rock auteur Steve Albini's one-of-a-kind production.  The deranged intensity, however, is all Edwards.

Where You'd Know It From:  Alternablogs, English radio stations.

Track Listing:
1.  Peeled Apples (3:33)
2.  Jackie Collins Existential Question Time (2:24)
3.  Me And Stephen Hawking (2:46)
4.  This Joke Sport Severed (3:04)
5.  Journal For Plague Lovers (3:45)
6.  She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach (2:18)
7.  Facing Page: Top Left (2:40)
8.  Marlon J.D. (2:50)
9.  Doors Closing Slowly (2:52)
10.  All Is Vanity (3:35)
11.  Pretension/Repulsion (2:05)
12.  Virginia State Epileptic Colony (3:25)
13.  William's Last Words (4:15)
14.  Bag Lady (hidden track) (3:05)

("Peeled Apples")

("She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach")

("Jackie Collins Existential Question Time")

Monday, 11 April 2011

#466 - "Left And Leaving" - The Weakerthans

Released On:  G7 Welcoming Committee Records

John K Samson's last album for G7 is a perfect showcase for the subdued, wordy songwriting he split from Propagandhi to pursue.  Left And Leaving is a blend of wistful, emotionally complicated melody and Samson's literate, intricate lyrics; it's the perfect indie-punk album to show your Elvis Costello-loving dad.  "Aside" and "This Is A Firedoor, Never Leave Open" channel in part the aggressive spirit of his former band while opener "Everything Must Go!" and the heart-wrenching title track give voice to a much more vulnerable side.  Canada has produced a number of poets masquerading as lyricists of popular music; Left And Leaving  is Samson's entry into this club.

Where You'd Know It From:  Wedding Crashers used "Aside" and it's been Juno nominated.

Track Listing:
1.  Everything Must Go!  (4:35)
2.  Aside (3:21)
3.  Watermark (2:38)
4.  Pamphleteer (5:16)
5.  This Is A Fire Door, Never Leave Open (5:07)
6.  Without Mythologies (3:12)
7.  Left And Leaving (4:45)
8.  Elegy For Elsabet (6:20)
9.  History To The Defeated (3:55)
10.  Exiles Among You (5:11)
11.  My Favourite Chords (4:27)
12.  Slips And Tangles (3:00)

("Left And Leaving")


("This Is A Firedoor, Never Leave Open")

Thursday, 7 April 2011

#467 - "Becoming X" - Sneaker Pimps

Released On:  Virgin Records, 1996

I was fourteen when this was released, a total grunge-and-metal kid with long hair and pretensions at being talented with the guitar.  The media kept parading "techno" (as they termed it) as the Next Big Thing, and I raged with all the impotent rage of a teenaged boy.  Then, one night on the radio, I heard "6 Underground" and I felt something hypnotic in it.  "Spin Spin Sugar" was as cool as last call on a summer night.  "Post-Modern Sleaze" had a bleak, serene beauty to it that had nothing to do with how I'd been told "techno" was supposed to sound.  It was a turning point, the moment when I realized that there was more to life than meat and potatoes.  Still a staple of rock clubs everywhere.

Where You'd Know It From:  The electronic boom of the mid-90s, Saturday nights at rock clubs, the 23 weeks it spent on the Billboard chart.

Track Listing:
1.  Low Place Like Home (4:38)
2.  Tesko Suicide (3:48)
3.  6 Underground (3:54)
4.  Becoming X (4:15)
5.  Spin Spin Sugar (4:21)
6.  Post-Modern Sleaze (5:21)
7.  Waterbaby (4:12)
8.  Roll On (4:28)
9.  Wasted Early Sunday Morning (4:29)
10.  Walking Zero (4:31)
11.  How Do (5:03)

("6 Underground")

("Spin Spin Sugar (Armand's Dark Garage Mix)"

("Post-Modern Sleaze")

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

#468 - "Diary" - Sunny Day Real Estate

Released On:  Sub Pop, 1994

This is emo.  Not My Chemical Romance, not The Used, not any of the thousands of crap scenecore bands littering the walls of 13-year olds across the continent.  This.  As the young man's answer to then-burgeoning riot grrrl scene, it excels; heavy post-hardcore with a haunting sense of melody and introspective, self-doubting lyricism.  With Diary, Sunny Day Real Estate took the breathy, urgent vocals and hardcore punk center of mid-80s Dischord releases and crossed them with the fuzzy sound of Nineties Seattle.  The result was a more accessible hardcore that yearned to love as much as it slashed and burned.  It sounds great when you're a freshman.

Where You'd Know It From:  The indie nerd on your dorm floor, hardcore kids with a sense of history.  Also, you'd probably know the rhythm section better as the rhythm section of the Foo Fighters.

Track Listing:
1.  Seven (4:45)
2.  In Circles (4:58)
3.  Song About An Angel (6:14)
4.  Round (4:09)
5.  47 (4:34)
6. The Blankets Were Stairs (5:27)
7.  Pheurton Skeurto (2:33)
8.  Shadows (4:46)
9.  48 (4:46)
10.  Grendel (4:53)
11.  Sometimes (5:42)


("In Circles")

("The Blankets Were Stairs")

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

#469 - "Fiestas And Fiascos" - Lifter Puller

Released On:  The Self-Starter Foundation / The Orchard, 2000

Before the blue-collar, Boss-esque rock 'n roll cautionary of the Hold Steady, Craig Finn fronted Lifter Puller, in which he used the same delivery he would later perfect on classics like Separation Sunday but backed them with spiky, angular New Wave.  It's a fascinating record, especially in light of later lines like "At least in dying you don't have to deal with New Wave for a second time".  Finn's vocals are quite suited to this kind of music; in some places it's hard to believe it's not just an experimental turn for his later band.  Lifter Puller has it's own internal storyline as well, one which comes to a completion on Fiestas And Fiascos with the burning down of the club that's central to the plot.  It's a record that continues to provide pleasant surprises, even as it's overshadowed by Finn's much-ballyhooed later work.

Where You'd Know It From:  Blog followers, snarky indie kids

Track Listing:
1.  Lonely In A Limousine (2:11)
2.  Candy's Room (1:54)
3.  Space Humping $19.99 (2:45)
4.  Manpark (2:33)
5.  Lake Street Is For Lovers (1:06)
6.  Nice Nice (3:35)
7.  Katrina And The K-Hole (2:07)
8.  Cruised And Accused Of Cruising (1:37)
9.  Touch My Stuff (2:36)
10.  Lie Down On Landsdowne (3:36)
11.  Lifter Puller Vs. The End Of The Evening (3:27)
12,  The Flex And The Buff Result (3:21)

("Lonely In A Limousine")

("Candy's Room")

("Nice Nice")

Monday, 4 April 2011

#470 - "The Midnight Organ Fight" - Frightened Rabbit

Released On:  Fat Cat Records, 2008

The album's name is euphemism for sex, and that's pretty much what Frightened Rabbit songwriter Scott Hutchison sticks to as he writes one of the most honest albums ever produced by rock 'n roll.  At some point before the authoring of the album, Hutchison broke up with someone.  By all accounts it was a bad breakup.  Out of it came this:  fourteen chiming indie-rock songs about failing relationships and sub-par sex.  It's especially hard to deny in the face of lines like "I'm drunk, I'm drunk / And you're probably on pills / If we both have the same diseases / it's irrelevant girl" or "The door shut, shut / I was vacuum packed / shrink wrapped out of air / and the spine collapsed / and the eyes rolled back / to stare at my starving brain"; they're the sort of things that hook you in instantly.

Where You'd Know It From:  It's been thrust into lots of TV appearances:  Grey's Anatomy, Chuck, One Tree Hill.  

Track Listing:
1.  The Modern Leper (3:48)
2.  I Feel Better (2:51)
3.  Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms (5:07)
4.  Fast Blood (3:47)
5.  Old Old Fashioned (3:43)
6.  The Twist (3:31)
7.  Bright Pink Bookmark (1:13)
8.  Head Rolls Off (3:44)
9.  Backwards Walk (3:30)
10.  Keep Yourself Warm (5:33)
11.  Extrasupervery (1:18)
12.  Poke (4:36)
13.  Floating In The Forth (4:14)
14.  Who'd You Kill Now? (1:05)

("The Modern Leper")

("Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms")

("Keep Yourself Warm")

#471 - "Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards" - The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band

Released On:  Constellation Records, 2001

There are many passages on this album that could comfortably soundtrack the apocalypse.  The band was born out of and eventually replaced Montreal post-rock titans Godspeed You Black Emperor; they were no strangers to darkly beautiful instrumental chamber rock.  Unlike Godspeed, though, the group on Born Into Trouble has a deeper interest in deliberating on smaller themes.  The half-hour build-and-crescendo suites are dropped in favour of (relatively) more compact ideas.  It's still Efrim and Co, though; the slashing strings on "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River" are as monumentally heavy as anything found on a Godspeed album, and the stately piano figure from "Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky!" is the sort of sad waltz that underwrote much of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antenna To Heaven.  Perfect if you need your apocalyptic post-rock beauty in more manageable chunks.

Where You'd Know It From:  Post-rock hipsters, and "This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen" was used in Snow Angels, that Kate Beckinsale movie critics liked and did all of $14 000 in it's opening weekend.

Track Listing:
1.  Sisters!  Brothers!  Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky! (9:07)
2.  This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen (5:47)
3.  Built Then Burnt (Hurrah!  Hurrah!) (5:41)
4.  Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River (6:58)
5.  Could've Moved Mountains (10:59)
6.  Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You (4:48)
7.  C'monCOMEON(Loose An Endless Longing) (8:06)
8.  The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes (6:54)

("Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River")

("This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen")

("The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes")

Saturday, 2 April 2011

#472 - "Treasure" - Cocteau Twins

Released On:  4AD, 1984

Treasure is, beginning to end, one of the most glorious pop albums ever recorded.  From the moment the drums kick in on "Ivo" and Elizabeth Fraser's soaring, unintelligible vocals begin their ascent, nothing is ever quite the same.  Throughout the album, guitars, synths, chimes, Fraser's voice and the band's Baroque sensibilities combine into the perfect example of what a pop band from 1984 should sound like.  It plays almost like the ultimate dream sequence, especially when you realize that you likely won't be able to understand a single word coming out of Fraser's mouth, but that at the same time it makes perfect emotional sense.

Where You'd Know It From:  Arty 80's-loving types, retro night at rock clubs.

Track Listing:
1.  Ivo (3:53)
2.  Lorelei (3:43)
3.  Beatrix (3:11)
4.  Persephone (4:20)
5.  Pandora (For Cindy) (5:35)
6.  Amelia (3:11)
7.  Aloysius (3:26)
8.  Cicely (3:29)
9.  Otterley (4:04)
10.  Donimo (6:19)




#473 - "You'd Prefer An Astronaut" - Hum

Released On:  RCA, 1995

Hum traded in the same sort of big-rock touchstones that the Smashing Pumpkins did in their heyday:  huge-sounding distorted guitars, slamming drums, post-Hendrixian song structures.  What made Hum different was that they eschewed the nasal guitar heroics and concentrated on punching up their songs with aggro chording. Topped off with vocalist Matt Talbott's laid-back, heartfelt tone, it makes for a serene, intriguing version of the grunge we grew up with.  You'd Prefer An Astronaut actually kicked out a hit single, "Stars", and subsequently toured with Bush and the Toadies.  Neither of these, it should be noted, did anything for their career; their next album, the sublime Downward Is Heavenward sold a scant 38 000 copies in two years and RCA dropped them like a ticking bomb.

Where You'd Know It From:  "Stars", their lone hit.

Track Listing:
1.  Little Dipper (4:45)
2.  The Pod (2:38)
3.  Stars (5:09)
4.  Suicide Machine (5:58)
5.  The Very Old Man (2:45)
6.  Why I Like The Robins (4:58)
7.  I'd Like Your Hair Long (5:25)
8.  I Hate It Too (5:59)
9.  Songs Of Farewell And Departure (6:16)


("The Pod")

("Songs Of Farewell And Departure")