Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Stranglers - The Collection 1977-1982

This fantastic and definitive compilation of The Stranglers covers their essential jams from 1977-1982 (before they turned into a cheesy new wave group), and is rock 'n roll at its finest. They always had a modicum of eccentricity to their otherwise stringent approach to punk rock, always branching out to new horizons of sound, never sitting on one singular genre for too long. This compendium always manages to get my adrenaline pumping; its exorbitant and compelling in the best of ways. The addition of the prominent keyboard in their work adds greatly to the mighty draconian guitar ensemble of Hugh Cornwell, Hans Wärmling, and Jean-Jacques Burnel (on bass) as well as the tight drumming by Jet Black. It's essentially pop music with a rock attitude; its a furiously unique blend. Their cover of "Walk on By" is a million times better than the original, and breaks your heart and has you rocking out simultaneously, which can't be said for many songs. "Waltzin' Black" sounds like Halloween music from outer space, which leads into two of my favorites on The Collection, "Something Better Change" and then "Nice 'N Sleazy." The latter few tracks from La Folie are slower and more melodic, but memorable and a great way to close this wonderful anthology. "Never a frown, with golden brown." Classic.

Rating: 10/10


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ernest Becker - The Denial of Death (1973)

This is my bible. It's also probably the most all-encompassing book on psychology, philosophy and anthropology ever written. To quote an Upright Citizens Brigade episode, its like staring into "a bucket of unmitigated, unadulterated, immutable truth"

"What are we to make of a creation in which the routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart with teeth of all types - biting, grinding flesh, plant stalks, bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence into one's own organization, and then excreting with foul stench and gasses the residue. Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him. The mosquitoes bloating themselves on blood, the maggots, the killer-bees attacking with a fury and a demonism, sharks continuing to tear and swallow while their own innards are being torn out - not to mention the daily dismemberment and slaughter in "natural" accidents of all types: an earthquake buries alive 70 thousand bodies in Peru, automobiles makes a pyramid heap of over 50 thousand a year in the U.S. alone, a tidal wave washes over a quarter of a million in the Indian Ocean. Creation is a nightmare spectacular taking place on a planet that has been soaked for hundreds of years in the blood of all its creatures. The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet for about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit of fertilizer. But the sun distracts our attention, always baking the blood dry, making things grow over it, and with its warmth giving the hope that comes with the organism's comfort and expansiveness. 'Questo sol m'arde, e questo m'innamore,' [The sun burns me, and this enchants me] as Michelangelo put it."

Pulp - Separations (1992)

Separations is Jarvis’ triumphant return after a 6 year recording hiatus. Since his last album, Freaks (which is veritably the worst Pulp LP), he returned with more theatrical sensibilities and began to play around with the disco inspired sounds which would later develop and lead him to Brit-pop stardom. In my opinion, this is one of his most intense and sexually charged albums. Songs such opening track “Love is Blind,” “My Legendary Girlfriend,” and “Death II” have Jarvis howling over the building rising action and bursting into bellowing climaxes.

This celebratory entry into the Pulp canon lies somewhere between melancholic and lascivious, and definitely makes up for the mediocre Freaks, while paving the way for his classics to come.

Rating: 9/10


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

McCarthy - Banking, Violence And The Inner Life Today (1990)

20 years later and their messages are still just as relevant and inspirational as they were when this album was first released in 1990, if not more so. Sadly, not much has changed in the capitalist regime that’s been in control of the world for several decades now. If anything, we lie in the midst of an abysmal nadir with a large majority of the world in a distressing economic crisis and on the verge of financial collapse, despite what our western world facade might insist.

McCarthy was characterized by their politically driven pop, and they’re the only band that I’ve heard to fuse the two so rigorously and with such effect. With song titles like “And Tomorrow the Stock Exchange Will be the Human Race,” Use a Bank, I’d Rather Die,” and “Get a Knife Between Your Teeth” there’s little ambiguity as to what their political stance was. Coupling an equipoise of rhapsodic harmonies with adroit political agendas, McCarthy was out to prove that the guitar is indeed mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, they never achieved wide-spread success, so their message fell short, despite being a passionate and virtuous one.

Rating: 8/10


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fred Frith - Cheap at Half the Price (1983)

When I was down in Austin for South by Southwest a few years back, my friend Lance lost his wallet at End of an Ear records. While he was inquiring about the possible location of his wallet, I struck up a conversation one of the dudes at End of an Ear, and we ended up trading CDs. I gave him a copy of Flaming Tunes, and he gave me a compilation he had made called “demon pop.” The guy was borderline obsessed with Fred Frith and even had a custom made Fred Frith sweater and told me about his band who was inspired by Frith. He just ranted to me about Frith for like 30 minutes about how he was one of the most innovative musicians of the century, and so on. Anyways, the cd the guy gave me had a bunch of Fred Frith stuff from his solo work to Art Bears to Henry Cow and was aptly titled. It was a weird one to say the least.

Aberrant and abstract, Cheap at Half the Price is a cornucopia of pandemonium, a saturnalia of strange sounds, but all within the pop proximity. It’s still very avant-garde, but easily his most accessible record with more traditional song structures than his usual improvisational and noisy oddball stuff. There are some really swell tracks on Cheap at Half the Price, such as “Some Clouds Do,” “Walking Song,” and “Absent Friends” among others. This album is definitely not for everybody, but his dark and exotic approach to avant-pop is interesting and goes nicely if you’re in the right mindstate.

Rating: 7/10


One of the more schizophrenic tracks on the record, from the Fred Frith documentary, Step Across the Border:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Blue Orchids - The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) (1982)

The Blue Orchids were a British band who arrived on the scene in 1980 and caught the attention of many prominent musicians and critics alike, including the great John Peel and punk poet John Cooper Clark who christened their name. The band was formed by Martin Bramah and Una Baines of The Fall alongside guitarist Rick Goldstraw, bassist Steve Toyne and drummer Ian Rogers and signed to Rough Trade. They released a couple of 7"s and an EP before Phillip Toby Toman, an ex-member of The Durutti Column replaced Rogers on the drums and recorded with them on their debut, The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain). Their sound was very similar to New Zealand acts such as The Clean and to a lesser extent early Chills and they had a vivacious espirit noted by a combination of post punk and pop that was fluent and progressive. The highlight track here is "Bad Education" with its organ driven melodies and clever lyrics. Overall, the album is an interesting foray into the realm of pop, which at the time was rather stale in the UK outside of what was happening with Cherry Red and a few other independent labels. Una Baines left the group after they split in '82 to form The Fates, who recorded a single rather folky, psychedelic gem, Furia.

Rating: 8.5/10


The moody, polished song in this video sounds nothing like what's on The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain), but its still pretty solid so I figured I'd post it anyways.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For Against - Autocrat

Even As We Speak Discography

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, this classic Sarah Records band formed in 1986 and consisted of Matthew Love (guitar, banjo, vocals), Mary Wyer (vocals, guitar) and Rob Irwin (bass) joined later by Anita Raynor (drums, mandolin), Paul Clarke (guitar, vocals) and Julian Knowles (keyboards, production, guitar). Love did most of the song writing and man, could this guy write some joyous, supple pop songs. Lyrically, it was also presumably Love at the helm, and the band always had an astute and keen outlook, giving them a sophisticated quality. Their music was quite diversely influenced for a pop band, gallivanting between 70s inspired folk, funky electronica, to your standard Sarah Records twee sound. Their early Sarah singles and their humble beginnings found on A Three Minute Song is One Minute too Long are a little rough around the edges (especially vocally), but they all contain mirthful, merry melodies which enrich the songs nicely. The Feral Pop Frenzy LP is much more cohesive and with smoother production, opening with an unlikely intense prelude before hitting you hard with the power chords that keep on coming. Even As We Speak call to mind suburban days of sunshine and clear skies, birds chirping, squirrels frolicking and all the little things that encompass a perfect day. I would designate them as an intelligent "nice day" kind of band if I was forced to designate them as something. Collection includes all of their Sarah singles as well as one full length and a recently released compilation:

Sarah 37 - Nothing Ever Happens (1990)
Sarah 49 - One Step Forward (1991)
Sarah 59 - Beautiful Day (1991)
Sarah 79 - Blue Eyes Deceiving Me (1993)
Feral Pop Frenzy (1993)
A Three Minute Song is One Minute too Long (2007)


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Way of the West singles collection

Way of the West put out some damn great singles featuring up-tempo rhythms, funky bass lines, dancey hooks, and catchy lyrics that will make you want to bob, jog, jerk and jiggle your ass off. If you like dancing, just stop reading here and proceed straight to the link at the bottom. It's safe to say you'll enjoy it. Although, they never released any EPs or full lengths, they were pretty prosperous in the NYC club scene during the early 80s and released 6 singles, 4 of which are compiled here. "Don't Say it's Just for White Boys" was an underground hit of sorts, and has a nice and lean, but rather groovin' b-side. "Feel the Steel" has a brisk feel to it and some programmed echoing percussion that backs the track nicely. If you listen to these chronologically, you can kind of just close your eyes and pretend its an album. The songs sort of flow together, and would have made for a nice proper release. Collection includes:

Don't Say That It's Just for White Boys 12" (1980)
Drum (It's Just a March in Time) 7" (1981)
See You Shake 7" (1981)
Feel the Steel 12" (1984)

DOWNLOAD (re-upped)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Go-Kart Mozart Discography

Lawrence Hayward, one of the greatest and most under-appreciated musicians since the dawn of pop music. His history is an almost ironic one, as he should have achieved commercial success countless times, but fatefully never managed to take Felt above ground (which was probably for the best, as his fantastic and eccentric post-Felt career trajectory most likely wouldn't have happened otherwise). Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Denim, and similar to the sounds found on Novelty Rock and Denim on Ice, came Lawrence's techno pastiche "hyper pop" outfit, clad in an array of layered synthesizers. Bordering on self parody, Go-Kart Mozart's wry and satirical lyrics touch on a broad range of random, goofy, self-aware topics. The songs themselves are short and spastic, are almost entirely electronic, unlike early Denim, which had a more guitar oriented sound. Both of these albums are indeed "novelty techno" as I've heard them dubbed, but they are really special records in my book. Tearing Up the Album Charts is probably the better of the two, but much like choosing your favorite child, its too difficult to say for sure. Fans of Felt and Denim - I speak of these albums in glowing tones - don't miss out on this.


Instant Wigwam and Igloo Mixture (1999)
Tearing Up The Album Charts (2005)


Wolfgang Press

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Orbital - Halcyon and On and On

There are hundreds of songs that make me nostalgic, and bring to mind a simpler, happier time, however, this particular song will forever encapsulate my childhood. I first heard it on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, which I had on tape and I remember distinctly, around the age of 9 or 10, getting this strange, beautiful feeling that I couldn't figure out at the time, and still can't describe. I think the title of the track is the best description for the feeling that the song evokes, and for me my halcyon days existed during my early youth. I'd have miniature battles with cicada exoskeletons under my neighbors giant oak tree as sunlight filtered through the branches providing a tenebrism of luminaires for my little dramas. I'd also often climb that particular oak tree, each time attempting to ascend higher than before, and then seeing how high I could jump from. It's a miracle I didn't break a leg or an ankle. There was also a labyrinth of routes of fences in my cul de sac which I had memorized and allowed me to get to any of my friends' houses in the neighborhood in a matter of minutes by hopping a fence or two. Swimming in my pool, playing in the park, riding bikes, jumping on friends' trampolines, building lego sets in my room, playing sports out in the street; the days were interminably blissful. I recall being utterly fascinated with everything. My imagination soared at the slightest whim. I collected everything there was for a boy to collect and prided myself on my extensiveness of these collections. If there was ever a heaven, it existed during my childhood years. I dedicate this song to that period.

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Psychedelic Afternoon

Monday, October 11, 2010

Boat Club - Caught the Breeze EP (2007)

Boat Club are a Balearic pop duo from Sweden. A quick peek at their band name, album title or EP's cover art, which is a photo of a seemingly endless seascape and dusky sky blending together on the horizon, gives you an idea of what their music sounds like. Their only release so far, Caught the Breeze, is like a tropical tinged version of The Wake's Here Comes Everybody - which in theory (and execution) is amazing. Although it's the same intelligent electronic yacht rock that has become somewhat of a trend as of late, and similar to what fellow genre mates The Tough Alliance, Air France, and The Embassy are doing, the only difference is that Andreas and Magnus are a step above their peers. It's not only the best in the genre, but I'd go as far as to say that its arguably the best and most enjoyable EP of the last decade. Bold statement, but once you listen, you may just agree. Their combination of breezy, easy going synths drift along with their uptempo beats and will make your ears happy. Andreas' vocals sound like he's kicked back on a reclining seat on a beach somewhere and someone stuck a microphone up to him while he's sipping a mimosa. Boat Club embody a general philosophy which I can get behind: beatitude - all the time, no less. Its a shame they've only released one six song EP, and haven't put out anything new in a while, as I'd love to hear a full album from these gents. Get on it, guys!

Rating: 10/10


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mr. Wright - Metropolitan (2004)

Mr. Wright is a fashionable gentleman, a "Fancy Man" in his own words. That's not to say he's conceited. He's no stranger to loneliness, self-doubt, broken hearts, regrets, rejections, disappointments, and unrequited love stories to name a few. In short, he's a savant of immense depth and he portrays life and love and pain brilliantly and poetically through his songs. Metropolitan is equal parts melancholic and hopeful, his songwriting undulates dramatically from tristful, saturnine umbras to uplifting ballads, soft and poppy. His lyrical skill is remarkable and his words lie at the core of the songs themselves, simple enough, yet written on par with the lyrics of a great poet. "Anna Karina" especially, breaks my heart into a million pieces, every time. This is a truly earnest and endearing album that should be heard by all. Once again, I fully endorse this man and you should support him and buy his stuff on Itunes.

Note: Unfortunately, before I zipped this, I didn't add the track numbers to the song titles so the album is out of order. I can't stress enough how important it is to listen to this as it was originally intended. Here's the correct track listing:

1. North West Six
2. Crossing Shoot Up Hill
3. Cats Eyes
4. Anna Karina
5. Goodbye Baby
6. Hello World
7. Metropolitan
8. Autumn Sun
9. Over Your Rainbow
10. Future Love City
11. Underground

Rating: 9.5/10


Denis Johnson - Jesus' Son (1992)

"I’d been staying at the Holiday Inn with my girlfriend, honestly the most beautiful woman I’d even known, for three days under a phony name, shooting heroin. We made love in the bed, ate steaks at the restaurant, shot up in the john, puked, cried, accused one another, begged of one another, forgave, promised, and carried one another to heaven."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tracey Emin - You Should Have Loved Me

VIDEO ART - Oliver Laric - Touch My Body

"For this work, Laric edited out all the visual information from Mariah Carey's video Touch My Body (Green Screen Version) except the singer's image, and added in a green screen background, allowing anyone to manipulate the video as they wish."

Really interesting stuff. Here are just a few results:

I'm back! (...kind of)

To begin with, I have internet again, finally! Shoddy, undependable, leeched internet, but still, internet nevertheless. I can't really upload just yet until I get a more stable connection, however I'll still be posting stuff regularly. I've also just started my first semester at school so I may not be posting as frequently, but I will do my best to keep the wheels spinnin'

Now. First thing I want to do is laud an outstanding mix by the guys over at Sqwelsch. This is seriously one of the most bangin' mixes I've ever come across. Which is a bold statement but it really is that good. Its flawlessly fluid and orbits around a seemingly singular beat. It's just really well done and I've had it on repeat for the past couple weeks and it has yet to show any signs of wear. You can download it here. It's well worth your time.