Archive for August, 2012

For the week of 8/27/2012…

“Yesterday to Tomorrow” by Audioslave

I needn’t introduce you to Audioslave, which was both one of the better-known rock bands of the 2000s and the answer to the once-burning question, “What would happen if Chris Cornell was the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine?”

But you’re less likely to be familiar with “Yesterday to Tomorrow,” a deep cut from the band’s 2005 sophomore effort, Out of Exile.  It works far better than most slower Audioslave songs, and on a lot of levels.  Cornell’s singing and lyrics do a good job of communicating emotion.  A lot of attention is paid to melody and, with the echo effects on some vocal and guitar parts, mood.  Indeed, Tom Morello temporarily abandons his penchant for metal riffs and inventive but weird solos, managing to play a relatively mellow solo that actually fits with the rest of the song while also showcasing some guitar acrobatics.  By the way, while this is surely slower than Audioslave’s usual fare, “Yesterday to Tomorrow” still has a thumping pulse, thanks especially to Tim Commerford’s killer bass hook.


Covers: Nirvana’s “Sliver”

If you’d never heard of the Gaslight Anthem and their ’59 Sound before this year, in all likelihood you’ve become acquainted with them this summer, courtesy of the generous radio play of their current single, “45.”  I’m not planning on buying or otherwise obtaining their newest album, Handwritten, but my interest was piqued when I learned that the deluxe version of the album includes a cover of Nirvana’s “Sliver.”  After all, “Sliver,” a non-album single released in 1990, is one of my favorite Nirvana songs (others include “Lounge Act” and “Swap Meet”).  So, I hopped on YouTube and gave the Gaslight Anthem’s cover a listen.  I actually liked it quite a bit, probably because it’s a pretty faithful cover (right down to the lead singer doing a sort of Kurt Cobain impression).  Then I went back and listened to the studio and live versions of Nirvana playing the song; it now strikes me that the Gaslight cover, despite being a studio cut, more than anything captures the grunge-punk turbulence of the live performances from the early ’90s.  Frankly, I’d rather listen to this cover than to the original compositions on Handwritten — and I like “45”!

Here’s the Nirvana studio version, which can of course be found on Incesticide.

Here’s a live performance of the song by Nirvana in November 1993 in Springfield, MA, which was included on the From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah compilation.  (For some reason, this video keeps jumping to 22:26 even though I’m telling it to jump to the 22:44 timestamp.  “Sliver” starts at 22:44.)

And finally, here’s the Gaslight Anthem cover version, released this very year.

“Kids” by the Features

As mentioned previously, the Features’ most recent album, Wilderness, has been subject to not one but many listens since I discovered it at the Princeton Record Exchange a couple of weeks ago.  My car, my basement, and my room have each borne witness to me playing, at more than ample volume, songs like “How It Starts” and “Kids.”  On the latter track, I really dig the sludgy punk guitar riff, the howled vocals, and the keyboard ascending towards the climax of the chorus.  This is a great little rock & roll song.

Artist:  Mark Lanegan

Album:  Scraps at Midnight (1998)

Notes:  Of the six CDs I got, this was the only one by an artist I knew; Lanegan was the lead singer of the Screaming Trees.  This is the second solo album of his that I’ve purchased, and it does not disappoint.  His deep, husky voice is a great fit for the dark acoustic sound of his solo work.

Sample song:  “Stay”

Artist:  The Features

Album:  Wilderness (2011)

Notes:  This was a good find; I’ve listened to this album a few times over since I picked it up, and I like it a lot.  The Features are an indie-rock band from Nashville.  With their guitar-and-synth pairing, they sound kind of like the Killers and the Bravery, but with a harder edge.  The vocals, on the other hand, remind me more of the guy from the Black Keys.  And the song below, which I think was the single from the album, at times reminds me of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.”  I would love to see this band live; I bet they have a great energy.

Sample song:  “How It Starts”

Artist:  Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Album:  Strategem (1994)

Notes:  Big Head Todd has the distinction of having penned some of the most pompous, pretentious liner notes I’ve ever seen in a rock album.  He goes on and on about how this album is “a pastoral,” how its songs are written as “koans,” how the painting of a horse on the cover has some kind of symbolic significance that has to do with “the cardinal oriental virtue of balance between pen and sword.”  This all seems even more absurd once you’ve listened to the album, which is nothing more than a solidly mediocre mid-‘90s album.  Indeed, critics panned the album and criticized the band for squandering the promise of its prior album – as if to say, “Fuck you and your pretentious intellectual bullshit, Big Head Todd!  That’s our department.”  Todd Park Mohr’s voice at various times reminds me of — in no particular order — Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Van Zant, and the guy from Paw.

Sample song:  “Neckbreaker”

Artist:  Guadalcanal Diary

Album:  Flip-Flop (1989)

Notes:  Talk about your R.E.M. knockoffs!  Guadalcanal Diary apparently came up in the same theater of ‘80s Southern college rock, but that doesn’t account for how similar their singer sounds to Michael Stipe.  This is supposedly their worst album, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up one of their better ones.  After all, if I want to listen to the sounds of ‘80s R.E.M., I’ll just get the genuine article.  (That said, I’d pick this Guadalcanal Diary album over anything R.E.M. released in the 2000s, eleven times out of ten.)  Anyway, I do like a number of songs on Flip-Flop, but none more than “Pretty Is As Pretty Does.”  It’s unfortunate that the YouTube video below cuts off a few seconds too early.

Sample song:  “Pretty Is As Pretty Does”

Artist:  Big Dipper

Album:  Slam (1990)

Notes:  Here’s another great find.  I’d never heard of Big Dipper, and I’d surmised from looking over their album that they were a Devo knockoff band.  Instead, I find that I prefer their sound:  a sort of guitar-based jangle-pop.  I guess this is what alternative music was like in the ’80s before the advent of grunge.

Sample song:  “Love Barge”

Artist:  2 Live Jews

Album:  As Kosher As They Wanna Be (1990)

Notes:  Comedy rap, courtesy of two Jewish comedians in the guise of two elderly Jewish men who’ve discovered their rhyming prowess late in life.  The name of the group and the album title parody 2 Live Crew’s (in)famous hit album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be.  Moreover, the song below is a direct parody of “Me So Horny,” where, instead of the Full Metal Jacket dialogue sample of a Vietnamese hooker saying, “Oh!  Me so horny, me love you long time!” we get a stereotypical Jewish woman’s voice exclaiming, “Oy!  It’s so humid, it’s like a sauna in heah!”  Pretty funny stuff, but it’s a one-note joke so it’s best taken in small doses.

Sample song:  “Oy!  It’s So Humid”

For the week of 8/20/2012…

“Creepy Jackalope Eye” by the Supersuckers

My first exposure to the Supersuckers was during either my freshman or sophomore year of high school, which is when I picked up a compilation called Sleepless in Seattle:  The Birth of Grunge.  I had begun my dive into exploring the wealth of rock music produced during the grunge era of the late ’80s and early ’90s, devouring albums by the obvious bands (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains).  I was ready to investigate the many other participants in the Seattle scene, and so I picked up SiS, which was the first grunge compilation I ever owned (indeed preceding my purchase of the Singles soundtrack and Sub Pop 200).  SiS eschewed the “Big Four” in favor of worthy and prolific but lesser-known bands like the Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Love Battery, Tad, etc.; all told, twenty bands were featured.  This compilation played a big role in growing my deep interest in music and the history of rock music in particular.  With grunge, I attained something close to an intimate knowledge of a musical genre for the first time.

The twentieth and final song on the SiS compilation was a Supersuckers song called “Creepy Jackalope Eye,” taken from their 1994 album La Mano Cornuda.  When I first heard the song (no doubt as I listened to the CD on my Walkman), I was confused as to why it was on a grunge compilation.  The Supersuckers, it turns out, were indeed on the Sub Pop label until the late ’90s.  Nevertheless, they don’t fit in particularly well with the grunge scene.  While they weren’t the only band on the compilation better described as simply a punk band — Seaweed, too, fits the bill — they didn’t really share the downbeat ethos of the Seattle sound (nor did they share a geographic location, hailing as they did from Tucson, Arizona).  That’s not to stay they were performing happy music necessarily, just that their hard-charging brand of punk rock was far more preoccupied with positive accounts of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll than with wallowing in angst and misery.  But let’s remember, this is a band with a penchant for power chords and calling themselves things like Eddie Spaghetti (singer/bassist) and Dancing Eagle (drummer).  It should be no surprise that they drew more upon Cheap Trick and Motorhead than upon Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.  To each his own, man.

So, here’s the music video for “Creepy Jackalope Eye,” which I suppose serves as a counterpoint to the idea that the ’90s sucked most/all of the fun out of music videos; after all, Eddie Spaghetti and the boys certainly seem to be having plenty of fun rocking out in the desert.

For the week of 8/13/2012…

“Pain in My Heart” by Otis Redding

This is almost certainly my favorite Otis Redding song, and perhaps my favorite soul song, period.  I love everything about this song; all of its components just work together so well, from the horns (whose shifting dynamics complement the impassioned vocals perfectly) to the guitar line that follows the second line of each verse.  “Pain in My Heart” may very well be my Song of the Summer, a title which I can assure you I do not bestow lightly.  But as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, ’60s soul is the ideal music for summertime listening.

KISS tried to kill me

KISS Tried To Kill Me – Black Spiders

Your extremely late post for the week of 8/6/2012…

“Oh My God” by Cults

This is great music for nighttime driving.  I love the way the bells play along with the melody of the vocals; the song’s shimmering synth backdrop; and the groove of the punched-up bass.

As I said in a previous post, the music on Cults’ self-titled debut album is basically ’60s girl-group wall-of-sound pop updated for the MGMT era.  No wonder I like it so much.

Your extremely late post for the week of 7/30/2012…

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by the Temptations

I think ’60s soul is the perfect summer music.  If I were to host a barbeque, I might offer a soundtrack composed entirely of tunes by Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, and the Temptations.

And so it’s no surprise that my current song of the week is a soul classic by those tempting Temptations.  “Just My Imagination” is a beautiful, romantic song and has long been one of my favorites; however, it’s been stuck in my head this week especially because of an awesome jam session I happened upon on the internet.  Listen to the original first:

And then bathe in the glory of this guy’s falsetto: