Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick Hits - Hardcore Part 2

To remind everyone: back in February, I posted Part 1 of the hardcore music I got into after reading American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush. You can read the rest of the preamble and excuses there, the second half of the review here. In alphabetical order:
  • Bad Brains - I Against I. Now here is an album where I can get behind the Bad Brains. "I Against I" is a great opening track, and you can hear how great these guys are musically on tracks like "She's Calling You." A very nice album all around.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD rack.

  • Black Market Baby - Coulda... Shoulda... Woulda. Remastered compilation. Another DC hardcore outfit, this band had only one proper album release. Pro: sounds like a truly "in the moment" experience, reflecting the energy of the scene and the state of music at the time. Con: sounds like a truly "in the moment" experience that I wasn't part of. So it remains stuck in the early 80's for me.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back 1.
  • Dag Nasty - Field Day. The first song ("Trouble Is") instantly alerts you that this is going to be something really special. This album doesn't really qualify as hardcore, more as heavy power pop, which is probably why it's as good as it is -- it's even bluesy at times. And it has excellent, smart lyrics too. The song "Dear Mrs. Touma," says, "might be the band's high-water mark, and one for punk in general" -- what can you say to that? I was going to criticize "Never Green Lane" for being a completely wimpy effort, but with a refrain like "I remember your mouth/You never kept it shut," I found there was more than enough vitriol to... well, to keep my mouth shut. It was almost impossible to find, but I'm really glad I did.
    Verdict: Highly recommended (if you can find it). Portable CD case.
  • Duh - Blowhard. I had high hopes for this one. The best songs are "Solo Hanneman", which lasts for 9 seconds, and "Solo King", which lasts for 5 seconds. The other 34:50 last interminably.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Pile of Death/"The Peaches File".
  • JFA - We Know You Suck. Compilation. JFA (a.k.a. "Jodie Foster's Army") put a hardcore twist onto what was known as "skatepunk." Too bad I don't skateboard. They actually have a song called "JFA" -- IMHO, you can really only only do a song with your band name in it if your band is called "Damn Yankees." The surf guitar songs resonate with me, but otherwise -- not bad, just not my cup of tea.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back 1.
  • Nomads - Showdown! (1981-1993). 2-disc Remastered Compilation. This album was very difficult to track down and thus the main reason that Part 2 took so long to come about -- and here I had always heard Swedish hardcore was easy to find. Who knew?

    The opening track, "The Way (You Touch My Hand)" I instantly recognized, although I'm not sure from where. This was 1981? Sounds like Nick Cave if he picked up the pace a bit and picked up a surf guitar sound. They're really a garage band -- most of their materials are either covers or "originals" the take bits straight from other songs -- and Disc 1 is a lot of fun and very listenable. Disc 2 is more "demos and rarities for the real fans" but still has nice nuggets throughout. In any case, this album is not really hardcore (at least my perception of the genre), but a great listen for fun, familiar sounds.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD case.
  • J Church - The Horror of Life (2007). No, this band (essentially Lance Hahn and a cast of rotating characters) was not in the book. No, they did not even exist during the hardcore era. No, this is not even listed in alphabetical order. But as I listened to this album, I realized that it belonged in this list as the contemporary embodiment of the values espoused by hardcore back in the day.

    I have yo-yo'd back and forth on this review. The best songs here have the best names: tops is "If I Have to Dance Then I Don't Want Your Revolution", followed by "Vampire Girl Prefers Me Alive"(which I'd like even more if it were a bitter, rather than happy, song), and "We Play Secular Music." So it's good. However, I would pick up J Church's 2000 classic
    One Mississippi (a power pop album) or 2004's Society is a Carnivorous Flower (harder, punkier power pop) before this one. So it's not that good. However, this is better than 95% of the stuff out there. So it's better than most and definitely worth checking out, especially of you like the more frenetic stuff.

    Lance Hahn is amazing -- he's currently on dialysis (and may need a kidney transplant), yet he still is putting out albums and running his own label. (In case that isn't enough, he has been hospitalized because of an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, and has seen his business and apartment both burn to the ground in the last 5 years. Not sure where the bitterness comes from.) Go out and support him, people!

    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD case.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Loomers - Today Tomorrow (2006)

Albums given to you by friends are a tricky thing. Half the time they are gold, but half the time... well, you can form your own mental picture.

So when my friend Andrew gave me The Loomers Tomorrow Today, I was doubly concerned, as he has racked up somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 hits on this site (seriously -- he's lost his mind) and thus I might be dooming my blog readership if this album turned out like the "other" half of the time. And it's not in my nature to not rail against something if it's not up to par... so you see my dilemma.

Fortunately for me, Andrew may have poor taste in blogs to obsess over, but he does have an excellent ear. The Loomers are a very good listen and definitely recommended. They fall somewhere in the folk-rock genre, tending more towards the fun and whimsy side. I'd almost call it a "children's album," but that would be denigrating the musical chops here -- this is a very pleasant, light, fun (there's that word again) romp with some very nice highlights ("Have a Ball," "Hard to Believe," and my favorite, "Pocketful of Change"). Sometimes the lyrics are slightly cliché (to be fair, sometimes this is clearly on purpose, like on "Love Right Now"), but at this point I'm trying to find something to criticize so you all don't think I've gone completely soft. A very nice listen and one that I'll enjoy again in the near future.

Merch rating: I definitely will go see these guys when they play in Davis Square again. I'll buy the next album but probably not any other merch.

CD Placement rating: This goes into the CD Rack.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Peaches - Impeach My Bush (2006)

I want to thank whoever screwed up when I was ordering The Nomad's Showdown album and mistakenly sent this masterpiece in its place. I've heard varying things about Peaches and her music, and this golden opportunity just planted itself (as if by fate) in my lap for a musical journey. And what a short, strange trip it was.

This is my second listen, which at least doubles the amount of time this album deserves -- and it proves that this is truly as god-awful as I thought it was the first time. The tough part is deciding whether the music is more insipid than the lyrics or vice versa. I'd reprint some of the words, but there may be kids reading. Here's the PG-13 version: "Love me" or "I will love you" or "You and your friend will love me" or "I will love you, your friend, and another friend to be named later," etc. There not a lot of subtlety, thought, or originality here. The music is equal -- trite, thin, and repetitive. But if you are vapid, soulless, and dumb enough to still think that Hussein was behind 9/11 (don't laugh, 41% of the country still believes this), this may be the ticket for you.

Merch rating: I got this album for free, and that was way too expensive.

CD Placement rating: I may be re-naming the "Pile of Death" the "Peaches File." I probably won't sell this, because I believe karma would find a way to repay me shortly thereafter, like by running me over with a bus. On the flip side, this would be a great album for someone trying to stretch an hour into seeming like a whole day. Maybe even a week.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Quick Hits

Here's the latest on a few albums I've checked out recently. In alphabetical order.
  • Menomena - Friend and Foe. 2007. Like Of Montreal's piss-poor offering detailed in an earlier post, this was recommended by Pitchfork. Much like that album, it's got great packaging. At least here there are a couple of tracks that are interesting ("Muscle 'N Flow," "Wet & Nasty"), and it's well-produced. But it's by no stretch a "great" or even "very good" album. I'm starting to work up an opinion on what it is that Pitchfork likes these days, which has changed from where they were at a couple of years ago (and where I am still at, apparently). Maybe I'll even write about that soon.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-Back Pile 1.

  • On - Make Believe. 2002. The full extent of my musical man-crush on Ken Andrews (frontman for Failure and Year of the Rabbit) will become readily apparent over the next number of posts. This is the second album of what was essentially a solo project of his, On. Ken is a great producer as well as an excellent musician, and thus at the very least his stuff all sounds great. Ken also understands what type of music best suits his voice and plays to that dirty guitar sound, all the while keeping his indie pop sensibilities about him. This is a bit more electronica than his other offerings, and not what I'd consider his best stuff, but still better than most music out there. Check out the very nice cover of "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around."
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Scanners - Violence is Golden. 2006. Yet another winner from the "Under the Radar in '06" column. When I first heard the opening track ("Joy"), I was sure I had found a complete classic. While the rest of the album does not hit that high point, and repeated listens have not taken this album to a new level, this is still a very good album. Think The Yeah Yeah Yeah's with more traditional rock/pop structures. I will be buying their next album (whenever they release it) when it hits the stands -- this has lots of potential.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD Rack.
  • Shapes of Race Cars - Apocalypse Hurts EP. 2004. I ended up with this album in some "3 albums for $10" offer from CD Baby. This is the best of that lot. The first track, "Angry Books," is great -- nice 2-guitar interplay and oddly sung vocals that work very well. The rest? Extremely formulaic and generic, but what can you really expect for 3 bucks? It's not great when the cover of "Tainted Love" isn't worth keeping.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.
  • Ultravox - Systems of Romance. 1978, remastered in 2006. Think of this as the electronica cousin of Killing Joke's debut -- I think KJ fans will like this one as well. It really was ahead of its time. It's not as strong front-to-back as Killing Joke, but this is an excellent album in its own right.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

- Snilch