Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Dead Milkmen: A Half-Assed Retrospective

As you make your returns of your gifts this holiday season, I'm sure there's one question on your mind:  "What Dead Milkmen album should I exchange this [insert crappy gift name] for?"

This, of course, pre-supposes that you still purchase CDs, or that you've actually given a passing thought to The Dead Milkmen since "Punk Rock Girl" or "Bitchin' Camaro."  Or that you'd want to delve into an actual album rather than a greatest hits.  Or, finally, that you'd want to take advice from someone who's not really a true fan of the band.

If the above is the case... well, then you've come to the right place!

Thanks to chance to go through a friend's riehle really cool music collection before he sells it all, I listened to the entire Dead Milkmen catalog.  They're one of those bands that I've always wanted to explore further, but felt like I'd be dropping myself into a King Missile-like hole.

Overall, I was surprised at just how good these guys play.  As musicians, they rock-solid good -- no joke there.  Their vocal talent is what fans consider "a great contrast to their music," and enemies consider "awful."  But all in all, they are a band first, and goofy lyricists second.  If you like their humor, there is nothing not to like about these guys.  If you don't, it won't work.

Not included in this review:  their 2011 reunion album, The King in Yellow, their first in 16 years.

Without further ado....

Highly Recommended

  • Bucky Fellini (1987)
  • Stoney's Extra Stout (1995)
I picked two albums that did not include either of their hits, which is odd.  Bucky Fellini is critically considered one of their three best albums; Stoney's Extra Stout was not only their last album, but considered by many to be a statement of how far the band had fallen.  I disagree, as I think it's excellent. 

  • Big Lizard in My Backyard (1985)
This was close, but ultimately for me this was a mishmash of songs I loved (about a third) and others I hated (the rest).  Their debut album does feature "Bitchin' Camaro" and "Takin' Retards to the Zoo," but ultimately it fell short for me as a whole.
I Found at Least One Song
  • Eat Your Paisley (1986)
  • Beelzebubba (1988)
  • Metaphysical Graffiti (1990)
  • Chaos Rules:  Live at the Trocodero (1994)
  • Now We are 20 (2003)
Dead Milkmen fans are flinging feces at me for dropping the acclaimed Beelzebubba this far, but I really found only one song besides "Punk Rock Girl" I liked.  Metaphysical Graffiti and Now We are 20 both had multiple songs I liked; the other two had literally one song each.

I Did Not Find at Least One Song
  • Soul Rotation (1992)
  • Not Richard But Dick (1993)
The critics and I are on the same page here.  When these guys missed, they really missed.  Their two Hollywood label records are pretty terrible.

- Snilch

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Ten Songs I'm Constantly Listening to These Days

    In alphabetical order:
    1. Scott Bishop - "The Deep End"
    2. Bush - "Afterlife"
    3. The Duke Spirit - "The Step and the Walk"
    4. Ladyfinger (ne) - "Little Things"
    5. Ride - "Like a Daydream"
    6. Roky Erickson and The Aliens - "Bloody Hammer"
    7. Sabatta - "Raw"
    8. Switchblade Seranades - "On Parole"
    9. The T4 Project - "15 Minutes"
    10. Them Crooked Vultures - "Mind Eraser, No Chaser"
    - Snilch

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    The Weisstronauts - Nineteen Something Nine (2011), In Memphis 2 (2011)

    Most of you know how difficult it is to get me to review anything these days.  So when I got two CD's from The Weisstronauts, that increased my expected review period from three months to six.  

    After an appropriate period of grousing, I gave both Nineteen Something Nine and the EP In Memphis 2 a whirl.  (And all in one week!)  

    Now for the confession part of the story:  I have seen this band play a few times and have been somewhat underwhelmed.  Or maybe it was that their tastes and mine didn't coincide.  I could still see the latter after listening to Nineteen Something Nine; the former definitely not.  

    The band in a nutshell:  three guitars, bass, drum, a little piano, a tiny bit of vocal; it's pretty much all instrumental.  It's like a ramped up folk band that happens to jam and play a lot of electric guitar.  Sometimes it feels like they're a riffing scat band, other times a very musically literate lounge band, and sometimes a jazz band hiding behind guitars.  On "Sunburn" they even sound like The Alan Parsons Project.

    This variety surprised me.  In my previous experience with the band, I recall a Weisstronaut "sound" in the first, second, third, eighth song, etc., I heard.  And for me, that's where I tuned out.

    In this group of songs, they still retain that common musical thread, but have overcome the  repetitiveness.  And much to my surprise... I just kept playing it over and over and over again.  In a word:  it's great.  (Okay, two words.)

    The guitar sounds and production on this album are just fantastic.  "Sunburn" in particular was amazing blasting through the big speakers.  Don't bother listening online; I dismissed "Pete's Straw Hat" out of hand even in mp3 format, but love the fully mixed version when I listened to the CD.

    I love the little nods to musical heritage throughout the album.  For example, there's one to the Rolling Stones' "Gimmie Shelter" in "Timmy the Smelter" and one to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in "A Dandy's Moth Collection."  (And perhaps the bass line from the Charlie Brown theme in the latter as well.  But I'm not completely sure on that.)

    "Hoopin'," "Timmy the Smelter," and "Sunburn" are worth the price of admission alone, but really the whole album is just fantastic.  It's excellent players, all finding their space within songs without being sparce, creating a great sound that's both interesting and expertly mastered.  This was a pleasant surprise of well-crafted, well-produced guitar folk rock.

    In Memphis 2 is part of a series of 4-song EP's (I'm guessing) recorded when the band had a chance to record in some Memphis studios.  Once again, it's great stuff, particularly the standout "Tabasco Fiasco."

    And you can get both albums for $15.  Not bad.  You will not be disappointed.

    CD Placement Rating:  Car CD Changer.  Yes, they're that good.

    Merch rating:  I would make sure I bought at least two drinks during their set (e\which is what clubs care about).  And I'll definitely be on board for their next album, as well as In Memphis 1.

    - Snilch

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Les Savy Fav - Root for Ruin (2011)

    Les Savy Fav is an interesting indie rock group.  In many ways, their early career paralleled that of Modest Mouse:  moments of brilliance on inconsistent albums before finally reaching their LP breakthrough.  For Modest Mouse, it was The Moon and Antarctica; for LSV, it was the singles compilation Inches.  

    The path following these albums, though, was very different.  Modest Mouse immediately tailed off.   Their follow-ups, the EP Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks (Pile of Death/The Peaches Pile) and the LP Good News for People Who Love Bad News (CD Rack) coincided with a move to a major label, and a much more safe approach.  They're no longer even on my radar.

    Les Savy Fav, on the other hand, stormed back with their two most consistent albums:  2007's Let's Stay Friends (Car CD Changer) and this album, Root for Ruin.  The opening track ("Appetites") is in the vein of their best song (IMHO), "We'll Make a Lover of You" (and if you don't know this one, you need to check it out):  starting slightly off time, the song musically fills out as the song progresses.  And much like "WMALOY," there's a major change over halfway in that reveals the most interesting part of the song.  ("Lips N' Stuff" does this one better, waiting for 3 minutes of the 3:48 song to reveal itself.  Great stuff.)

    But that's not the only trick up their sleeve.  "Dirty Nails" has a great sustained groove for the entire song.  And "High and Unhinged" has a classic pop structure:  Verse p1, Verse p 2, Refrain p1, Refrain p2, lather, rinse, repeat.  This may not be the best song on the album, but it's my favorite.

    Throughout the album, the guitar playing is spot on.  It's not jammy, but is right on for each song, well placed and well thought out.  They've taken the step Modest Mouse couldn't:  they've been able to apply consistency to their music without losing their edge.

    Also, this album is great both lo-fi and hi-fi; it works great in the car, but a headphones listen reveals the subtleties of the album.

    However... there are some issues with Root for Ruin.  The sounds are great, but sometimes the wrong ones take center stage.  On "Dear Crutches," for example, the guitars that support the overall melody starting at about 3 minutes in are the best part of the song; they get lost in the morass of everything else.  I really would love to hear this guitar brought out and given a more plaintive treatment, like The Delusions' "Nobody," Longwave's "Ghosts Around You" or "Wake Me When It's Over," Built to Spill's  "The Weather," Sand Rubies' "Never," Failure's "Stuck on You"... and actually Les Savy Fav's "False Starts."  (The perfect reference for this is actually Scott Bishop's "Perfect Mistakes," but none of you have heard this song except for Margo and Mrs. Snilch Report.)

    Also, a great album has a great closer.  For example:  My Bloody Valentine's Loveless - "Soon."  Bob Mould's Workbook - "Whichever Way the Wind Blows."  Weird Al Yankovic's Polka Party! - "Christmas at Ground Zero."  All of these put a period on the end of the sentence, and I'm simply not sold on "Clear Spirits" doing this.

    In the end, these are nitpicks on another great Les Savy Fav album.  They make you think lyrically, and they're great musically, with the layered guitars lockstep with a smart rhythm section.  They are insistent, entertaining, and amusing, retaining the exuberance of youth without sacrificing the wisdom of experience.

    iTunes recommendations:  I'd recommend every single song I  mentioned in this blog, with the possible exception of "Dear Crutches," for obvious reasons.  The reference songs are all tremendous.

    Merch rating:  I'll see them when they come to town next time, as long as it's not on a Sunday.  I'll definitely grab a t-shirt and any albums I don't have.

    CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.  But this album continues to grow on me.

    - Snilch

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    The Black Watch - Led Zeppelin Five (2011)

    Strictly from my perspective, the largest casualty of The Whiskey Dregs switching away from doing further music reviews was this one.  Given the bad luck that has followed The Black Watch since 1989, however, this is just water under the bridge.

    Let's start with some history:  

    1. The Black Watch released their first album St. Valentine in 1987 (after opening for The Church and Toad the Wet Sprocket), then the EP Short Stories in 1989, on founder/lead singer/lead guitarist John Andrew Fredrick's own "Eskimo" label.  
    2. The band went through some lineup changes, including the crucial addition of vocalist/violinist/fellow songwriter J'Anna Jacoby; they signed to Doctor Dream Records in 1991 and released Flowering.  It's a great album, featuring the outstanding songs "Terrific" and "Humming."  Unfortunately, no one ever heard the album as the label did not promote it at all.  So The Black Watch moved on.
    3. The band signed to Zero Hour Records in 1994 and released Amphetamines.  It's a great album, featuring the outstanding songs "Come Inside," "See You Around," "Whatever You Need," and "Nightlight."  Unfortunately, no one ever heard the album as the label did not promote it at all.  So The Black Watch moved on.
    4. The band went through some lineup changes, signed to Catapult Records in 1997, and released Seven Rollercoasters.  It's a great album, featuring the outstanding songs "I Feel So Weird" and "Steve Albini."  Unfortunately, no one ever heard the album as the label did not promote it at all.  So The Black Watch moved on.
    5. The band went through some lineup changes, signed to Not Lame Records in 1999, and released The King of Good Intentions.  It's a great album, featuring the outstanding songs "Uncheerupable" and "Quasi Stellar Radio Source."  Unfortunately, no one ever heard the album as the label did not promote it at all.  So The Black Watch moved on.
    6. The band went through some lineup changes, signed to Saltwater Records in 2000, and released Lime Green Girl.  It's a great album, featuring the outstanding songs "Caroline" and the cover "If You Could Read My Mind."  This time, fortunately, this label actually promoted the album.  And it included a collection of highlights from all of the above albums, now out of print.  People finally heard this album.
    7. In 2001 they released the EP Christopher Smart, again through Saltwater.  So it took the band 14 years to record consecutive albums with the same record label.  It seems too good to be true, right?  Well, it was:  this release was the last one ever for Saltwater.  They promptly folded.
    Fredrick and Jacoby were the only two constant elements throughout this whole odyssey.  So once the band settled down for the first of three albums with Stonegarden Records in 2002 (Jiggery-Pokery), it appeared that they were finally due for some long-term stability.

    Then Jacoby left the band.  (To play with Rod Stewart, no less.)

    Playing great music no one ever heard, toiling in obscurity, and leapfrogging from one bad label to the next is one thing, but this was definitely the hardest hit of them all.  Jacoby not only contributed fantastic songs, but her vocals and violin were part of the core Black Watch sound.  

    Lesser men would have crumbled as Fate conspired against him at every turn (and with a bit of rancor, I might add).  But Fredrick pressed on.  

    Since then, Fredrick (with various lineups) has released four albums and an EP, the latest of which is Led Zeppelin Five.  Fredrick took a bit of time regaining his footing after Jacoby's departure -- 2008's Icing the Snow Queen was the breakthrough.)  Typically, I think they sound like The Cure meets My Bloody Valentiene with pop sensibilities; Led Zeppelin Five (besides being an ironic, funny, and "how did I not think of that?" title) is actually more laid back in comparison to some of their other albums, and even adds a touch of Longwave (particularly on the track "Weirdly"). 

    And we know that Fredrick is definitely over the hill and down the road a bit from that tumultuous departure of Jacoby's:  for the first time in eight years, another band member gets a lead vocal nod.

    That, of course, is pure speculation, but I won't let my lack of facts get in the way of a good story:  to me, Fredrick's confident voice is what drives this album.  (And by "voice" I mean that of an artist, not "vocals.")  There is obviously no way to measure this, and I can't define it except to say that he just sounds so sure of himself on every song.  And it is what strikes me every time I listen to it.

    Highlights for me include "How Much About Love," "Emily, Are You Sleeping?" and "Cognate Objects."   But there's something here for everyone:  I guarantee that five other people listening to this would have widely varying top 3's.  That's a good album, people.

    I don't have a high enough recommendation for this band.  It's criminal that they've flown as far under the radar as they have all these years and still continue to not only perseve, but to create fabulous music.  

    My recommendation:  go buy everything they've ever done.  But slowly; you'll want to absorb each album before moving on to the next.  And Led Zeppelin Five is not a bad place to get started.

    CD Placement Rating:  Car CD Changer for me, at least Portable CD Case for you.

    - Snilch

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    120 Minutes Returns!

    The last great movement in rock happened in the early 90's.  Grunge took the world by the throat, damning many a hair metal and hard rock act into early retirement.  It even broke mainstream; for the first time in my life the radio was playing my music.  I loved it.

    And for most of these "alternative" bands, 120 Minutes on MTV was either where they broke out or where they wanted to break in.  Between 1992 and 1999, I recorded about 14 hours of music (and still have the cassettes to prove it) from this show, from mainstream fare to one-off songs from bands never to be heard from again.  It was the showcase for alternative music. And where would I be without Fossil's "Moon"?  Grade's "A Year in the Past"? Cibo Matta's "Chicken?"  I shudder to think.  

    My dirty little secret:  this is where I used to find half the music no one else had heard of.  It awed my music pals, but I was just taping this show and watching it.  Simple as that.

    The show, like grunge, started to peter out by the end of the 90's.  It officially lost the plot when Matt Pinfield left in 1999.  I watched a bit of the Dave Holmes era, but by then the show had no more zip on its fastball.  It eventually migrated to MTV2 (which I didn't have at the time) and died an ignominious death in 2003. 

    That is, until it came back.

    120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield now airs on the last Saturday every month on MTV2.  Sure, Subterranean tried to fill the gap in the interim, but it came off as a soulless hour.  I feel much better with the bald guru Pinfield behind the wheel again, even if it is only once a month.

    So how did the first show back compare with the old show?  Well, let's go to the videotape and identify some highlights:
    • Matt Pinfield.  He's bald.  He knows every band since the beginning of time (i.e., 1950), and even has research on a bunch that haven't formed yet.  Some have not yet even been born.  That's how on top of it he is.
    • First video:  The Joy Formidable - "Whirring."  An inspired choice.  It's edgy but reflects the ethos of classic alternative.  And it's a great guitar-grit power-pop song with soaring harmonies and a tempo change thrown in.  I will definitely be checking this band out.  Well played.
    • It appears that they've compiled about 38,000 hours of interview footage that they want to cram into each show.  I have this weird thing about about wanting my "music" shows to be filled with music and my "talk" shows to be filled with conversation.  I'm odd that way.
    • Second video:  Jeff the Brotherhood - "U Got the Look." Following the rich tradition of Local H, The Black Keys, and The White Stripes, this duo packs some '60's retro punch.  It's amazing how good a standard, by-the-numbers drum beat can sound in the right song.
    • There were 895 promos of the Dave Grohl interview during the show... which of course was aired in the final segment (last 10 minutes) of the show.
    • I don't really like Sleigh Bells.  Sorry.
    • First "classic" video:  Pearl Jam - "Jeremy."  This was so mainstream back in the day that I felt this was cheating, until they decided to show the "uncensored" version MTV never aired. That's the one where Jeremy sticks his gun in his mouth at the end.  Wow.  Well, that effectively ends the speculation that he shot the rest of the class up at the end of the video.  The show followed the video with a PSA on suicide prevention.
    • Zach Braff should be interviewed, but not on this show.  I have nothing against the guy personally, but in the interview he says he "loves Coldplay."  I just threw up in my mouth.
    • There was a lot of fast forwarding though the lesser light videos and interviews.  As it should be.
    • Final tally:  with two "classic" videos closing out the show, we ended up with 9 new videos and 3 "classic" videos.  And one massively promoted Dave Grohl interview.
    (This post was a lot longer originally.  However, my browser crashed in the middle of the post, wiping most of it out.  And I had already deleted the show from my DVR, so... this is what you get.)

    Summary:  12 videos in 2 hours?  Too few.  And the ratio of 25% "classic" to new is crap.  For a monthly show, there needs to be at least 2-4 more videos (so kill one or two of the 14 talking head/interview segments), and 1-2 less "classic" videos in the mix.  Hopefully they are just working out the kinks.  Even with the warts, though, it's still great to see this show back on the air.  Pinfield!!!!!

    - Snilch

      Monday, August 08, 2011

      Kraftwerk - Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)

      Thanks to Andrew for this one.  With the Tour de France being over, I figured the best way to combat cycling withdrawal would be with this album, specifically written around the 2003 Tour de France.  It starts with an actual Prologue, Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3... and then it gets more abstract, with songs like "Chrono," "Aero Dynamik," and "Elektro Kardiogramm."  

      It's interesting, but ultimately it doesn't capture the event from either the fan or the rider's point of view; it mainly seems to be an exercise in inspiring Kraftwerk to make a typical album with some touches from the event.  In any event, it's a very subtle tribute:  think 90% Kraftwerk, 9% cycling, 1% creepy vocals.  It's a bit monotonous as well, taking 15 minutes in to change the melody.  Perhaps that was their point?

      That being said, the last song, "Tour de France" is the highlight of the album:  the vocals make me cringe, but this is actually a very decent representation of the album concept.  And clearly displays this band's love for the event.

      CD Placement Rating:  I might quite possibly never listen to this album ever again, but the novelty keeps it in my CD Rack.

      Wednesday, August 03, 2011

      Teachable Historical Moments

      This is a bit off the beaten path, but today's lesson is in history, as told to us by the bards.  You have to love it when our musicians try to teach us about the Merrimac and the Monitor, Amelia Earhart, or why Kenny G sucks.  Plus, we all know history students don't have any practical use for their majors, so this will make them feel like their education wasn't a complete waste.

      Honorable mentions:  there are too many to include here.  (Seriously, I had 27 songs that did not make the cut.  I started to list them all out, but that made this interminably long post twice as long.)

      Here are my favorites.  ("Favorites" being defined as what I wrote down/found in my music collection in the last week since I came up with this idea.  Very scientific.)

      1. Tesla - "Edison's Medicine." (1991)  The band named themselves after Nikita Tesla for some reason; it seemed like just a cool band name from an 80's metal act until their 1991 release.  Lyrics addressed to Edison such as "My jury finds you'll be doing time/When you go straight to hell" make it clear that the band is surprisingly passionate about their namesake.  Historical lesson:  1) "They'll sell you on Marconi/Familiar but a phony."  2) Nikita Tesla:  "(They) thought you was crazy/You was one of a kind...All along, world was wrong. You was right."  3) Band Tesla:  they give a pretty good historical diss.  Yes, they clearly skipped grammar in school (or as they call it, "twelve years of hard time"), but they did not skip the School of Hard Rawk.
      2. Caroline's Spine - "Sullivan." (1997)  This song tells the story of the five Sullivan brothers, who enlisted in the Navy in 1942 on the condition that they all serve together.  The Navy complied, putting them all on the USS Juneau.  It did not end well; in the battle of Guadalcanal, their ship sank and all five brothers were killed.  This led directly to the policy that separates family members in the military and protects sole family survivors from service.  Historical lesson:  the song tells the story of the family tragedy eloquently, and I learned that "turning your blue star to gold" meant that your child had passed away.  It's a well-told story with the emotional component intact.
      3. Morrissey - "Irish Blood, English Heart." (2004)  Now, I could have picked about twelve different Morrissey solo or Smiths songs, but I'm partial to this one.  It's both personally and historically reflective.  Describing his "Irish blood, English heart" immediately announces his heritage and nationality; singing "I've been dreaming of a time when/To be English is not to be baneful/To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial" announces that he won't be accepting it all with a blind eye.  It's Morrissey at his best:  both literate and indignant.  He acknowledges his context while presenting his bonafides, then delivers the barbed, pointed conclusion.  Historical lesson:  "I've been been dreaming of a time when/The English/Are sick to death of Labour/And Tories/And spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell/And denounce this royal line that still salutes him/And will salute him forever."  Well, that about sums it up.
      4. Les Savy Fav - "The Year Before the Year 2000." (2007)  This speaks to some recent history; as you might imagine, they're a bit condescending towards the "sky is falling" crowd.  "If you fear, my dear, the end is near/Please do check your frontal hemisphere."  Well said.  Historical lesson:  after the obligatory "I told you so" about Y2K, Les Savy Fav draws an interesting conclusion:  there's something that was great about thinking the world was about to end, and something very disconcerting about the seemingly endless vista of time in front of us.  "Everybody, please keep trying/Trying to party like it's 1999/Even though we've got so much time/We gotta spend it like it's 1999."  Didn't think it was going that way, did you?  Very well done, fellas.
      5. Paul Hardcastle - "19." (1985)  Classic.  Summary:  "In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26/In Vietnam he was 19."  This song has a lot facts and figures, lots of different voices, and a beat you can dance to, all about that little conflict in Vietnam.  Some will tell you their favorite line was the vet saying, "I wasn't really sure what was going on"; I've always been partial to the female chorus:  "All those who remember the war/They won't forget what they've seen/Destruction of men in their prime/Whose average age was 19."  It takes a lot of guts to try and pull off the "average age" line when:  1) you're carrying the only true singing part in the song; 2) you're trying to state a fact -- musically; and 3) you're trying to make this sound as if people are walking around actually talking like this.  (It's part of the song's charm.)  Historical lesson:  none of them received a hero's welcome.
      6. Culture Club – "I’ll Tumble 4 Ya." (1982)  Just checking to see if you’re still reading.
      7. Richard Thompson - "Alexander Graham Bell."  (2003) I learned that Bell had 50 inventions other than the telephone – including x-rays, faxes, and respirators.  And that he laid the groundwork for television.  Historical lesson:  “Edison was a thief, Tesla nuts beyond belief.”  (Edison takes it on the chin quite a bit, doesn't he?)   You'll learn a lot in 3 minutes and 23 seconds - it's literate, clever, and informative.  (Thompson has a ton of such songs, including  “My Daddy Was a Mummy,” "The Story of Hamlet," and “Madonna’s Wedding.”  “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” a reference to Bagdad, is a future history lesson.  On a completely unrelated note, here's Thompson covering "Oops!  I Did It Again.")
      8. U2 - "Sunday Bloody Sunday." (1983)   A description of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, focusing on the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry.  British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders; Bono got righteous.  Historical lesson:  war sucks, we would prefer to not have it happen again.   Thank you for your consideration.  I'll wave a white flag and yell "No More War!" now.
      9. Anthemic Pop Wonder - "How Great Was Hüsker Dü!" (2002)  The answer:  pretty damn good.  Historical lesson:  underappreciated.
      10. Nerf Herder - "Mr. Spock." (2002)  This not only vividly describes nerd romantic frustration by using science fiction (which is like trying to teach a dog to do tricks with trigonometry), but also completely summarizes the Star Trek episode "Arena" in the lyrics.  There's a bit about destroying robots as well.  Sci fi geeks will play this for their uncomprehending partners, most of whom are undoubtedly blissfully unaware that said geek considers them a "partner" in the first place.  Historical lesson:  you don't want a boyfriend.  What you want is Mr. Spock.  (See the song here; make sure you play it at 240p.) 
      11. Night Ranger - "Sister Christian." (1984)  With its obscurely plausible religious overtones, this song is quite the mystery, especially when delivered by a band that is used to singing songs about drinkin', rockin', and datin'.  Was this "Sister Christian" a nun?  Some historical figure?  Or should we focus on "Christian" -- does her religious choice matter?  Could it be Sister Buddhist?  Sister Hindu?  Sister Agnostic?  Alas... the truth is ultimately far less interesting.  The song was originally called "Sister Christy" and written about the drummer's sister.  Huh.   Well, that sucks.  Historical lesson:  much like the Black Eyed Peas (whose "Let's Get Retarded" anthem about drinking was changed by an ad agency to the "Let's Get It Started" anthem about car commercials), the truth hurts.  Lesson learned:  try not to read too much into Night Ranger's lyrics.
      12. Gang of Four - "History's Bunk!"  The message here:  “There are no lessons in the past.”  They're smarter than I am, so I guess we'll leave it at that.  Historical lesson:   you say there are no lessons in the past, but if this is a lesson learned from the past, then you did learn it, but you could not have learned this truth except from the past... illogical! Illogical!  Please explain!  You are human; only humans can explain!  Illogical!  (Head explodes.  This is a basic summary of the Star Trek episode "I, Mudd.")
      - Snilch

      Friday, July 29, 2011

      Brakes - Give Blood (2005)

      Andrew strikes again with a band beginning in the 92nd percentile of the alphabet.  This album is the personification of the drunk at the end of a bar.  (Well, if he were a musician, recorded only when he was mostly coherent, and Scottish.)  

      Lyrically, sometimes he's conversational, sometimes a total ripoff of others (like "Hear About Your Band", which sounds like an exact cross of The Silversun Pickups and The Frames).  Sometimes he's very loud and other times eerily quiet.  Sometimes he's capable of imparting incredible insight and humor; other times he simply recites mundane details.  Sometimes you're kept at arms length, other times, he'll mentions the most revealing insight into his life as an aside.  Sometimes he communicates in long diatribes, sometimes in short stacatto outbursts.   He can be the life of the party or the downer that brings everyone down.  Mostly he's alone, but occasionally he'll have a lady friend along.  But there is always an undercurrent of sadness, an inevitability of the weight of reality's yoke that he always slouches under.  (Yes, this description could also apply to The Pogues.)   It's bar rock at its most interesting.

      CD Placement Rating:  Car CD Changer.  

      Thursday, July 28, 2011

      What You Would Have Been Listing to in the Early 90's If You Were in School

      Okay, I'll admit it:  there are at least three things in that title that are pretentious, assumptive, and/or flat out arrogant.  At least it's not totally self-involved.  That post would be titled something like "What You Would Have Been Listening to in 1992 If You Were at College in the Northeast and Attended One of Our Parties, Including a Mention of Every Roommate I Had at That Fine Institution of Higher Learning."

      What You Would Have Been Listening to in 1992 If You Were at College in the Northeast and Attended One of Our Parties, Including a Mention of Every Roommate I Had at That Fine Institution of Higher Learning

      I have no shame.

      So let's go in order of roommates from freshman to senior year, and reminisce: 

      • Jimbo:  Guns 'N Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine."  Jimbo was a man of planning and action:  he came in with a plan to play Appetite for Destruction at least once, in is entirety, every day our freshman year.   He succeeded.  "Cause worry's a waste of my --- time."  (Per Mr. Brownstone.)
      • Mac:  Ziggy Marley - "Tomorrow People."  Sean showed up at school with two music cassettes -- Ziggy Marley and 10,000 Maniacs -- and a Betamax VCR, with a Pete Townsend concert and 2/3 of Trading Places.  (We found out the latter the hard way.)  If you've never heard Mac crooning "Tomorrow Pee-pal" (Ziggy) or "Shiver in Me Bones Just Tinking About the Weathah" (10,000 Maniacs), then you've missed some serious 6'5" Milton (MA) Irish soul.
      • Paco:  LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out."  Paco was into a lot of current rap and hiphop at the time, which helped make the rest of us look a lot more well rounded than our Journey, Night Ranger, and Bon Jovi music collection might imply.  He also had the audacity to buy a glass table for our dorm room, which we somehow managed not to break until we tried to move it into storage at the end of the year.  Don't call it a comeback!
      • Jay:  Sinead O'Connor - "Nothing Compares 2 U."  Jay had the best stereo I had ever seen, which I got to try out prior to living with him when a party was thrown on his floor my sophomore year.  For some reason, most of the partygoers decided to hang outside the dorm; Bubba and I took the far more practical route of standing next to the keg and controlling the music.  This was the hot song at the time and sounded great blasting through Jay's stereo.  Classic night and a classic song.
      • Bean:  Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Suck My Kiss."  Ben's musical tastes started freshman year with  Eric Clapton and The Grateful Dead; by senior year it had evolved into Lenny Kravitz and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  When freshmen stole Ben's hamsters, he figured out their voicemail password and horrified their parents; I think this song was playing in the background, but that could be a total lie.  The final takeaway:  partially thanks to said freshman parental horror, the hamsters were swiftly returned, and some of you learned a valuable life lesson:  don't mess with seniors.  This still puts me right back in my dorm room senior year.
      • Bubba:  Anthrax - "Bring the Noise."  This was a toss up between Anthrax, Nirvana, L.A. Guns, and the Go-Go's.  If you know Bubba, you'll realize I'm not kidding.  We used to slamdance to this tune in our dorm room.  (But it was really cool, I assure you.  Not dorky at all.)  Our part of the dorm was torn down two years later due to "irreparable structural damage.  Probably a coincidence.
      • BA:  Naughty by Nature - "O.P.P."  Besides being the object of adapted lyrics like "Ain't Gonna Hurt Brad's Mommy" or "I've Had Enough of Brad's Mom," BA turned his freshman obsession with Kool Moe Dee's "Go See the Doctor" into a senior year music infatuation with Naughty by Nature.  It's timeless.  Well, sort of.  Just don't ask him to dance to it.  
      • TC:  The Police - "So Lonely."  Besides bringing "Safety/Doorknob" to school, Tim introduced us to the song we played at every party we ever threw.  Did it seem odd to see 10 guys chugging at a specific spot in a song that's all about loneliness?  Probably not.  Probably not.
      • Salami, er, Snilch:  Bob Mould - "It's Too Late."  If you read any of my reviews, this should not be a surprise.  One of my favorite songs ever, and the one that really sparked my interest in finding great but obscure music.  And I still love it as much today as I did when it came out 21 years ago.
      • Turner House:  Seal - "Crazy."  Our MWF schedule 2nd semester senior year staggered so that the five of ended up playing this album in its entirety five times a day.  We could not figure out why everyone else who lived near us hated this album, until we figured out that this was how our schedule has magically settled.  And that was in April.  A self-described mutant, Seal provided the soundtrack for our senior year.
      Appearances have been altered to protect the innocent
      How does this soundtrack hold up today?  Well, our focus group of three will find out this weekend.  Early odds will be that the songs will hold up just fine.  Our tolerance, on the other hand, is likely to be another matter entirely.

      - Snilch

      Monday, July 25, 2011

      Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare (2010)

      When I played this for Mrs. Snilch Report, I asked, "Who do you think recommended this?"  It took her about 5 seconds.  This is a classic Bubba album for sure.  

      Think of some Metallica fan who watched a ton of Metalocalypse (on Cartoon Network, if you're not familiar), and wishes he could sound like the guy from Queensryche or Axl Rose.  For as cheesy as this could be, it's really not; it's better than most of the current metal wanna-be's.  But it's got a low ceiling, as it's more brute force than finesse.  Best used for psyching up your frat for Keg Wars, getting back at your annoying neighbors, or torturing suspected insurgents in your basement.

      CD Placement Rating:  CD Rack.

      Back... finally

      Yes, here we are at the start again at The Snilch Report.  We're going to try something different this time around -- we'll be posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until my attention wanes again (probably by Friday).  The Whiskey Dregs is no more (at least for music reviews), so this is where you will see stuff from me for the time being.

      Please adjust your social calendars accordingly.
      - Snilch

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      Yes, I Got Your E-mail. Now Leave Me Alone. Part 1.

      I do (eventually) get around to most of what you recommend.  I generally try not to publicly disparage you unless you really provoke or annoy me.  Which most of you do.

      In any case... here are your feeble well-intentioned efforts to expand my already prodigious musical vocabulary, and the details on how you all have failed me yet again.

      • The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (2009)Al actually sent this to me to listen to, which is good because I probably wouldn’t have bought it on my own. Oddly enough, he chose this week to get all over me about listening to it as well.  Normally I run screaming from this brand of light pop, but I have to say it’s decent.  It’s very nice, light, and introspective, although I rarely sit down to listen to music on the porch rocker with my corncob pipe to watch lightning bugs.  Nothing against that; I just don’t do it that often.  But this is decent and well worth a listen.
        CD Placement rating:  CD Rack.

      • Adam Ezra Group - View from the Root (2008). Brian (via John S.) recommended this one, as a light powerpop album in the vein of Alanis Morrissette.  As I listened to the opening track (“Vision”), I was more struck by a cross between the Dave Matthews Band and the Goo Goo Dolls, with the vocals reminiscent of the lead singer of the O.C. Supertones.  Now, it is true that I’d like to like both Dave Matthews and the Goo Goo Dolls, but they both lack some indefinable something that ultimately sours me on both.  Not here.  Adam and the band play in that folk-rock vein that can very easily verge into the self-indulgent; they have a bit more substance than that and manage to stay on the correct side of the ledger throughout, even when they veer to the brink (like in “Basement Song”).  Ultimately there’s less Goo Goo’s and more Dave Matthews, but the more authentic lyric quality and meticulously produced sound is ultimately undeniable.  Now don’t turn into Train, guys.  
        CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.

      • A Band of Bees - Free the Bees (2004).  Andrew likes to recommend bands whose names start from A-L so he doesn't have to scroll too far down to see his name.  This strategy plays off here in spades.  A Band of Bees took a time warp directly from the 60's, and have refused to adapt past that musical technique, style, and production.  Even the vocals make you think this is from 40-50 years ago.  It's a pleasant listen, just not really my thing these days.
        CD Placement rating:  If you still listen to The Beach Boys or Herman's Hermits, this will be a Portable CD Case or Car CD Changer pick for you.  For me, it's nice, but ends up in Sell-back Pile 1.

      • Miklós Rózsa - Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Soundtrack) (1982). Another Brian recommendation, who keeps trying to expand my musical vocabulary with soundtracks, and it must be working because I keep picking these things up.  First impression:  it’s orchestral.  (Thanks, I’ll be here all week.  Please try the roast beef, and tip your server generously.)  It's very good, but I lack the musical vocabulary in this genre to explain exactly why.
        CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.

      • Killing Joke - What's THIS for...! (1981, re-mastered/re-issued 2005). The mysterious uzine and its unidentifiable author posted a response to a 2007 post in August 2010 (!), claiming I had wrongfully represented Killing Joke's best album as their first, despite the statute of limitations on that review having long since run out.  (Yes, these are the jokes.)  I went back to Killing Joke source/"expert" Mark, who immediately backed down from his 2007 statements with a "well, I haven’t listened to EVERYTHING they’ve done," thus hanging me out to dry.  So I now throw him under the bus in public.  (Well, this blog really only qualifies as "semi-private.")  Having listened to their sophomore follow-up, I find that it is really splitting hairs:  they're both great albums.  If I had to pick one, I'd probably give the edge to the first album over the second simply because the second doesn't have an equivalent to "Wardance" or "Complications."  But this one is musically more mature; in two or three years I could easily see reversing my opinion.  Or not.
        CD Placement rating:  Car CD Changer.

      • Plunderphonics - Plunderphonics 69/96 (2001).  I had to pick this up off iTunes as I didn't want to plunk down the massive quid based on what I believed was a "blind" recommendation by Donna M.  Quite simply, this whole album (all 60 tracks) is absolutely nuts.  On the first disc it's sample after sample after sample -- the album starts with the final piano chord at the end of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life," and continues with Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Public Enemy, Dolly Parton, and everywhere in between.  There's even a song that appears to be a career summary of The Doors. So it's all over the place with rock, rap, pop, etc., until the second half, which is spoken word and orchestral, which is also nuts, but different, and, much like this run-on sentence that seems like it will never end, in some ways you don't want the album to end either because you're not quite sure what's coming next.  I didn't know what to call this music, but calls it "Avant-Garde," which is another way of saying "you will love this or despise this."  Allmusic has a lot more prose, flowery language, and pointed descriptions of this album as well.  My take is "Me likee."
        CD Placement rating:  This is a Car CD Changer worthy play for me, but could be Pile of Death for you.  One word of warning:  these songs most definitely are not shuffle friendly; play them as an album, it is an experience.

      • The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site (2003).  Thanks to @gcn1 for this one.  Somehow all Canadian bands (from Sloan to The Tragically Hip to Glass Tiger) all share a common tonality – I can’t put my finger on it, but I knew The Weakerthans were Canadian before I read the liner notes.  (Okay, so the song “One Great City!” with the line “I hate Winnipeg” may have been a pretty obvious clue as well.)  Overall, it’s excellent Canadian indie/garage power pop touched with a twang of Uncle Tupelo, with the standout track “The Reasons” occupying my T rides on repeat for the entire month of November.  They’re fun, smart, self-depricating, and they rock.  Great car drive fare. 
        CD Placement rating:  CD Rack.  Go get “The Reasons” on iTunes, jackass.


      Thursday, February 10, 2011

      11 Songs I'm Playing Constantly These Days

      In no particular order:
      1. The Weakerthans – "The Reasons"
      2. Scott Bishop – "The Start (Again)"
      3. The Wrens – "Rest Your Head"
      4. Ride – "Time of Her Time"
      5. Ride - "Furthest Sense"
      6. Idlewild – "Little Discourage"
      7. All – "She’s My Ex"
      8. The Shiela Divine – "Like a Criminal"
      9. Manic Street Preachers – "Marlon J.D."
      10. Bob Mould - "Paralyzed" (yes, still)
      11. The Big Sleep - "Pinkies"
      - Snilch