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")

#445 - "Black On Both Sides" - Mos Def

Released On:  Rawkus Records, 1999

Contrary to what you might imagine, rapper-musician-actor-political activist Mos Def only has one great album to his name (although 2009's The Ecstatic is good too, in its own way).  Coming off the stellar pairing of himself and Talib Kwali, though, how could his debut be anything but a bona fide hip hop classic?  Lyrically it was quite different from the vast majority of mainstream rap then and now; socially conscious hip hop doesn't chart all that often but when it does it's worth it.  Musically its basis is in old-school hip-hop (two songs sample Eric B and Rakim) and tempered sampling with live instrumentation (will.i.am is playing the electric Fender Rhodes on "Umi Says", before he abandoned musicianship for money and political posturing). Front and center is Mos Def's intricate flow and clever wordplay, proving that the man has always had the skills even if he made questionable choices on later albums.  Mos Def would always get eclectic, which would fail as often as it would succeed, but his most successfully eclectic moment is one of the highlights here, "Rock And Roll", in which he embraces hardcore punk and discusses White America's continual appropriation of black music as their own ("Elvis Presley ain't got no soul / Chuck Berry is rock and roll").  It's a brilliant juxtaposition and contains a diss of Limp Bizkit; in retrospect I was sold from the start.  One of the most adventurous hip hop albums of the 90s.

Where You'd Know It From:  Mos Def has of course been in such films as "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" and "Be Kind Rewind".  Soon he'll even be on Dexter (how fun is that?!).  The album itself was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts and "Ms. Fat Booty" is a classic track from the 90s.

Track Listing:
1.  Fear Not Of Man (4:28)
2.  Hip Hop (3:16)
3.  Love (4:23)
4.  Ms. Fat Booty (3:43)
5.  Speed Law (4:16)
6.  Do It Now (Ft. Busta Rhymes) (3:49)
7.  Got (3:27)
8.  Umi Says (5:10)
9.  New World Water (3:11)
10.  Rock And Roll (5:02)
11.  Know That (Ft. Talib Kwali) (4:03)
12.  Climb (Ft. Vinia Mojica) (4:02)
13.  Brooklyn (5:09)
14.  Habitat (4:39)
15.  Mr. Nigga (Ft. Q-Tip) (5:12)
16.  Mathematics (4:06)
17.  May-December (3:29)

("Ms. Fat Booty")

("Rock And Roll")

( "Brooklyn")

Saturday, 9 July 2011

#446 - "New Adventures In Hi-Fi" - R.E.M.

Released On:  Warner Bros., 1996

I first got into modern rock music the summer before this album was released.  As I was first forming an opinion of music and what was pleasing, the local radio station was playing "E-Bow The Letter", "The Wakeup Bomb", and "Bittersweet Me" in regular rotation.  This album has forever since reminded me of being fourteen and discovering everything for the first time.  For the band it was a retreat from the bombastic guitar noise that made 1994's Monster such a drag, and a willingness to use that noise in moderation and in balance with the somber acoustics that informed Automatic For The People.  The Monster tour did not go swimmingly, but they took a page from their opening act (*cough* Radiohead *cough*) and recorded these songs on the road (presumably learning the mistakes they made on Monster in the process).  There was still a lot of studio-amped loudness ("Leave", "The Wakeup Bomb") but it didn't overwhelm the listener this time around, and it tended to sound more like R.E.M discovering volume rather than R.E.M. discovering grunge.  "Bittersweet Me" especially sounded like a contemporary update of something from their 80s IRS output.  Sometimes at night when I close my eyes I can still hear "E-Bow The Letter" rattling around in there.

Where You'd Know It From:  Radio and television, aging Gen-Xers.



Track Listing:
1.  How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us (4:31)
2.  The Wake-Up Bomb (5:08)
3.  New Test Leper (5:26)
4.  Undertow (5:09)
5.  E-Bow The Letter (5:24)
6.  Leave (7:17)
7.  Departure (3:29)
8.  Bittersweet Me (4:05)
9.  Be Mine (5:33)
10.  Binky The Doormat (5:01)
11.  Zither (2:34)
12.  So Fast, So Numb (4:12)
13.  Low Desert (3:31)
14.  Electrolite (4:05)

("E-Bow The Letter")

("Bittersweet Me")


Thursday, 7 July 2011

#447 - "The Warning" - Hot Chip

Released On:  EMI / Astralwerks

If you've ever seen Revenge Of The Nerds then you've seen the part where the titular nerds win a talent competition by playing a so-80s synth pop song with homebuilt equipment (and robots).  This, in essence, is Hot Chip.  British indie kids attracted to electronica early in their career, they were relatively unknown before The Warning took over the blogs in 2006, and subsequently the charts (at home anyway - the most they managed over here was a top 20 berth on the Electronic Albums chart).  The album was an earthy mixture of live instruments and warm, well-loved analog synths.  The combination produced a friendly, dancefloor-ready sound that was often at odds with the lyrical subject matter.  That side of the album is quite a bit darker than electronic albums usually get; it can be quite jarring to hear the refrain of "We try, but we don't belong" over the breezy, relaxed butterscotch beats of "And I Was A Boy From School" or the rather violent posturing of the title track ("Hot Chip will break your legs, snap off your head" goes one memorable line).  This was perfectly in keeping with the Revenge Of The Nerds idea, too; the protagonist-nerd in the movie technically rapes his love interest by pretending to be her boyfriend, and thinks no worse of himself for it.  After all, there's always been a resentful, revengeful streak to the nerd motif in society - if you were constantly picked on you'd be seething with rage too.

Where You'd Know It From:  Blogs and music mags alike adored it; it was a top 40 hit in the UK.



Track Listing:
1.  Careful (3:28)
2.  And I Was A Boy From School (5:19)
3.  Colours (5:28)
4.  Over And Over (5:47)
5.  (Just Like We) Breakdown (4:12)
6.  Tchaparian (3:20)
7.  Look After Me (4:50)
8.  The Warning (4:51)
9.  Arrest Yourself (2:31)
10.  So Glad To See You (4:05)
11.  No Fit State (5:38)
12.  Won't Wash (2:35)

("And I Was A Boy From School")

("Over And Over")

("The Warning")