90 Manhattan Ave @ McKibbin StÂ
90 Manhattan Ave @ McKibbin StÂ
Ainâ€™t That Livinâ€™ is a crunchy Glamster that sits somewhere between Suzi Quatro and (the Dutch) Heart â€“The tune is not stupendous, but as one Euro online trader would say: “It has all the 70s GLAM and GLITTER spices we all loveâ€ (sic)
Bombadil â€“Breathless/When The City Sleeps â€“Harvest 5056 (1972 UK)
Bombadil are in fact Barclay James Harvest but it sounds more like Chicory Tip guesting with T. Rex on a backing track where they couldnâ€™t be bothered to write any lyrics. It has a fine groove with neat Bolanesque guitar and chugs along very nicely indeed. Itâ€™s a bit of a mystery how this single came about thoughâ€¦
and it starts off on the right trackâ€¦
from the Letters section in Magnet 75:
Iâ€™ve never quite understood why MAGNET readers take Andrew Earles so seriously. Itâ€™s an intentional shtick: 95 percent of the time heâ€™s abrasive or idiotic, five percent of the time heâ€™s actually amusing. I think those are the actual percentages heâ€™s hoping to achieve. Earles reminds me of the frontman for the late-70â€™s San Francisco band No Alternative; he called himself Johnny Genocide. In the long periods between songs, Genocide would accost the audience by spitting, throwing beer cans and calling us â€œa bunch of fuckinâ€™ fags.â€ I always thought this was stupidly hilarious – even funnier when the audience became upset. When Genocide actually got down to playing his guitar and singing, No Alternative was a damn good pre-thrash punk band. Yet I could never quite take them seriously because of the spectacle they created. In the same way, I have difficulty taking Earles seriously when heâ€™s doing reportage or reviewing outside of the Street Team column. Thatâ€™s the real problem with Earles, not all these other reader complaints. How much of his non-column work can I trust? Eventually, No Alternative disbanded. Genocide went on to dye his hair black and start a band called the Swinginâ€™ Possums, playing rough and exciting punky rockabilly. Genocide dropped the abuse shtick and let the music speak for itself. Earles might want to take a lesson from him.
– William Breiding
I’ve been a bit under the cosh recently with other commitments but I’ve also been drowning in new single purchases. Must have picked up over 20 singles at the London and Brighton record fairs, plus numerous online purchases…
I’ll catch up over the next few days with new reviews -starting tonight
On Monday I’ll be listing some choice singles on ebay…watch this space
All the best
I am back yet again to write about the best music ever created, if I do say so myself….and I do! I wrote this review about a recent reissue of forgotten Memphis power-popper Tommy Hoehn’s best album. With a new album by Paul McCartney not too far away thanks to a label owned by the very same people who help get me awake in the morning, I figured it was a perfect time to write about one of Sir Paul’s best students. So, here t’is:
Tommy Hoehn – Losing You To Sleep
Air Mail Records
Memphis has always reminded me a lot of New Orleans. Not only are both world-class cities with their own rich histories of influencing almost every aspect of the world’s culture from cuisine to art, but they both have a similar way of closely guarding their own, almost to a fault. Take, for example, New Orleans: there are stars from New Orleans that are worshipped like kings but are unknown, or long-forgotten, in almost every other place in the world. There are also plenty of other musicians who are virtual prisoners – so addicted to the way of life they are used to that they cannot succeed anywhere else no matter how hard they try because they simply do not, or cannot, fit in with the rest of the world and end up living in obscurity, despite their abundance of talent.
It is the same way in Memphis.
Though filled to the brim with people with more musical talent than they have a right to possess, there are also tons of the musically walking wounded – artists who should have, could have, had-it-but-lost-it, close-but-no-cigar careers – who just couldn’t conquer the hold (or curse) Memphis has on them.
Probably the biggest rock band from Memphis who should have made it but didn’t is the band Big Star featuring Chris Bell and Alex Chilton (formerly of hit band The Box Tops who had a monster song called The Letter). Influential to a host of ’80’s rockers but whose own albums sold hardly anything, the band remained a footnote in the history of rock until bands like the Replacements started namechecking them and covering their songs. Following up not far behind that legendary band in the Memphis obscurity sweepstakes is Tommy Hoehn, who has himself sang backup with Big Star (on Sisters/Lovers), and had been a vital part of the mid-70’s Memphis pop scene.
A master at McCartney-esque pop filtered through a Southern point of view, Hoehn was poised to break through big time in the mid-70’s when he was signed to London Records after the label caught wind of his first album, the enigmatic, self-released Space Break. Soon, he was hustled to New York City and given free reign to record his melodic but quirky love songs. The result was Losing You To Sleep, a weird little pop record that has a ton of Beatles and Big Star influences right down to it’s production. In this Air Mail Records version (a Japanese import) it is also paired with the EP that followed, I Do Love The Light, which is also an intriguing example of mid-70’s pop. Anyone checking out these albums and looking for the huge hooks of the Raspberries or Badfinger will come off a little confused as Hoehn’s hooks and clever wordplay sneak up on you only after repeated listening. But, when you do put the time in, you will be rewarded with the benefits of one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated pop records of all time.
Encouragingly, Hoehn is still recording today, often recently as a duo with fellow Memphis pop also-ran Van Duren who has also seen a career resurgence with an all-new solo album and reissues of his own older, overlooked Memphis masterpieces.
For his part, Hoehn deftly continues to make masterful pop and is a definite survivor who should never be counted out. Even though the classless inbreds who run radio might never notice him, I often hear his best work played on some cool satellite radio shows, webcasts, and Pandora. A truly cagey singer or band could take any one of the smartly-written tunes on this reissue (and any of his other albums) and probably get the hit record Hoehn deserved.
Anyone interested in McCartney’s ’70’s work and Todd Rundgren will find plenty to like on this wonderful reissue as the songs are all top notch with plenty of great performances. Killer Memphis pop, in a nutshell.
So, there you have it. There is a lot more to the story and maybe I’ll hit you with some additional info in the future (in the meantime, find the two albums Hoehn and Duren have done as a team, Blue Orange being the best of those) but for now, check out as much of the work as you can of the names I’ve dropped and I am sure they will provide you with many hours of fantastic music.
I downloaded Joanna Newsom’s new EP Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band a couple of days ago from eMusic, and I finally sat down last night to listen to it.
And it’s a freaking revelation. All you Joanna Newsom-haters who want to know why I love her so much must – nay, MUST – hear this version of “Cosmia”. All the songs on the EP are live arrangements, but they’ve brought some serious intensity here.
First of all, she’s obviously taken some sort of voice lessons, because all the little-girl tone is gone, and she’s somehow taken her voice, which I always thought interesting and sweet, and brought a level of passion and power to her singing that just blows me away. I say this as a person who rarely gets excited about the human voice.
Then, there’s the arrangements. Let me say briefly why I liked Ys. so much: where some Joanna-haters just heard self-indulgence, I heard an attempt to recast American folk music as a much older artform. To explain, consider that The Band was a reflection of American folk and country by a mostly Canadian rock band that took elements of this artform and combined them with a sort of art-rock lens to make music that was completely new but sounded centuries old. Now, over in England, the Fairport Convention, inspired by The Band, decided to do the same with British folk music, only they had, y’know, almost a millenium of music tradition to draw upon. Liege and Lief, their answer to The Band, also blended the old and new in a completely original way, recasting the past as a vital component of folk music moving forward. With this in mind, I think Joanna Newsom’s Ys. is a similar work to Susanna Clarke’s book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Clarke took the literary trappings of Dickens and Trollope, and recast British history as one of fantasy with near-realistic (at least in terms of Victorian literature) terms. Ys. is to American folk music what Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is to British literature and Liege and Lief is to British folk music, an attempt to recast American history as if it had 1,000 years and a folkway of fantasy to draw upon.
Now, Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band takes one of the songs from Ys., “Cosmia”, and re-arranges it to play up the Appalachian sound. The result is just flat-out gripping, and I barely breathed through its 13 minutes. It starts similar to the album version, just quiet voice and harp, but the other musicians, at first building on Van Dyke Parks’ album arrangements before abandoning them, slowly add intensity until by the final chorus, Newsom is almost hollering, a drum is pounding, and the musicians sound like they are about to break their instruments. As I lay in bed last night, listening to this, breathless, I felt like I was discovering her music all over again, with all due excitement.
When I was a teen I had a habit of falling asleep at night with the clock radio on, only to wake up around 3 or 4am to turn it off. Most of the time Iâ€™d doze to KFJC, my local college radio station, and I was such an adept snoozer that even hardcore punk, screaming early industrial noise and The Birthday Party, three of KFJCâ€™s specialties circa 1981-84, couldnâ€™t stir me. I did get into trouble twice. Once some late-night program was playing a song called â€œThe Boilerâ€ by a spinoff band made up of members of THE SPECIALS. The song, as I remember, was fairly musically pedestrian but spooky ska number with a spoken-word tale of a woman dodging an attempted rape. At one point in the song she starts screaming, and that coincided with some hideous dream I was having, culminating in me awaking in total, abject terror. Good times!
The only other time I remember that happening was getting startled awake by a song Iâ€™m posting for you today, 1979â€™s â€œCaucasian Guiltâ€ by a short-lived San Francisco duo called NOH MERCY. Ah, I recall it like it was yesterday, the mellifluous notes that floated into my slumber as vocalist Esmerelda Kent shrieked, â€œI didnâ€™t put no JAP in a CAMP!!â€. I didnâ€™t hear the song again outside of 1-2 more times that year until an LP compilation came out in 2000 of rare, weird, ultra-DIY, 70s-80s artpunk noise called â€œI HATE THE POP GROUPâ€ that had this track on it. It originally was part of another comp, a 7â€EP from 1979 called â€œEARCOM 3â€ that I used to see around in the bins, and which had a handful of other noisy acts + two tracks from THE MIDDLE CLASS 45 (!). The other one from them on this EP â€“ the only other song in NOH MERCYâ€™s brief discography â€“ is called â€œRevolutionary Spyâ€, and itâ€™s nowhere near the caliber of â€œCaucasian Guiltâ€. Iâ€™m posting it for you completists.
This covers all the bases â€“ drums, vocals, muffled sound, anger, screaming, alternately great yet often painfully lame lyrics, admirable socio-political statements, nasty words, and wonderfully bizarre echo-chamber recording techniques. I love it. Iâ€™m including a picture of the band playing live in â€™79 at San Franciscoâ€™s MAB, courtesy of Steve Harlow, whose punk photo site you should check out. Bombs away!
This past weekend, I watched the documentary Danielson: A Family Movie, which is about the band/musician also called The Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson, and Danielsonship. I have been a tepid fan of the band for a little while, liking some of the aspects of their music but finding the overall sound a bit offputting. The documentary made a convert of me, and this is language the band might appreciate, as most of its songs are overtly Christian.
The documentary focuses on the discomfort many of the band’s fans, who are primarily indie music people, have with the band’s explicitly Christian message. Some acknowledge that they have no problem when gospel or country singers sing about their faith, but they find it strange when indie bands do so, especially bands as oddball as Danielson. I should take a minute to describe the band and the sound.
The Danielson Famile is primarily composed of Daniel Smith on vocals and guitar with his siblings singing and playing flute, glockenspiel, or drums. One of his oldest friends plays keyboards, and marriage to any member of the band seems to bring along band membership. His friend’s wife plays violin and sings. Daniel Smith’s wife comes aboard as a singer. One of his sisters’ husband joins the band late in the movie as a bassist. His friend Sufjan Stevens, who is a brilliant artist in his own right and many times more successful in finding an audience than Danielson, passes in and out of the band (and as a fan, I could have lived without learning of Stevens’ nebbishy/needy personality, but what are you going to do?).
There’s a scene in which Daniel Smith’s parents joke about how the indie music press always compares the Danielson Famile with bands they’ve never heard of. With that in mind, the math formula I have for the Famile would be (The Shaggs + Pere Ubu + The Pixies) covering (early Talking Heads + Deerhoof) fronted by (the guy from The Flaming Lips screeching at the top of his lungs + the Partridge Family). Odd, odd, odd music. Did I mention that they all used to dress in modified nurse’s uniforms, that Daniel Smith occasionally performs solo in an elaborate tree outfit, or that they’ve constructed an elaborate mythology around the symbols of the band?
Anyway, the documentary was thought-provoking, tackling not just the band for the band’s fans’ sake, but also the band’s faith and acceptance by pop culture mavens and indie rock fans. There’s a subtle suggestion in the movie – maybe not even a suggestion, but just a hint – that Sufjan Stevens stole ideas from Danielson to achieve his success, but I have to say that I don’t hear a lot of Danielson in Stevens’ music. And Stevens’ support of his friend appears to be heartfelt, so I don’t think the archetypical theme of the hanger-on who steals the real genius’s work and makes it more mainstream really applies in this case.
Oh, and a final note. My friend Michael Sherer of the band Padre Pio appears in the background of a scene in which Daniel Smith’s artwork has a showing at a gallery in Brooklyn. He appears to be representing the way in which Brooklyn hipsters dig Danielson, although he assures me via email that he isn’t really a fan of the band, but was there to check the artwork of Tim Rutili (of Califone). But it’s extra-cool, anyway!
Hold your applause, please. If you must show appreciation for The Music Nerd’s very brief re-appearance on this site I would prefer you throw money in my South Easterly direction. And if not money, grab your good-looking sister or your hot girlfriend, attach the required amount of stamps to her butt and mail her to Charlotte, North Kakalacki. I’ll take it from there.
But, seriously folks, I am actually here to give you the lowdown (so you can throwdown) about a band name Stories.
Featuring certified musical genius Michael Brown (he of the legendary Left Banke and writer of their classic hits “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina” and also of even more obscure pop band Montage and that band’s eponymously titled long-playing masterpiece)the band Stories evolved out of a solo project Brown was starting for the Kama Sutra label. The label had signed Brown in 1971 because the label wanted an instrumental album that would marry the contemporary rock at the time with Brown’s baroque classical influences, hopefully culminating in an album that would distill the best of The Left Banke and Montage together in one hopefully chart-busting album.
Little was produced save two songs for an obscure movie soundtrack until the talented Ian Lloyd was introduced into the mix, however. Lloyd, a masterful bassist, lyricist and singer, sparked Brown’s muse. Brown has always done his most incredible work as part of a collaborational process and Lloyd managed to fit the bill perfectly.
The new band Stories was quickly rounded out by two of Lloyd’s friends and an album was released by 1972. The eponymously named, self-produced album perfectly exhibited the label’s desired mix between a more modern rock sound mixed with shadows of Brown’s former bands. Featuring ten new Brown compositions, anyone interested in classic songwriting in the Beatles and Raspberried mode will no doubt cream their jeans when listening to this great album.
Though it wasn’t a hardy seller, the band was excited with all of the critical praise bestowed onj them and started work on their next album, hoping to finally score a decent hit.
Sadly, it would not quite work out the way the band had envisioned. About halfway through self-producing their second album noted producer/engineer Eddie Kramer was hired by the record company to oversee the rest of the album’s tracks. While Kramer’s talent in the producer’s chair is reknowned, the band (anbd especially Brown) balked at having their control taken away from them. With Kramer’s style being a little too hands-on for Brown’s taste, Brown soon quit the band.
Surprisingly, that second album “About Us,” is even better than the first Stories album. With a tad more modern rock tendencies, the band found the perfect recipe for it’s music. Brown’s baroque touches gave the album a different feel than most of the boogie/blooze on the charts at the time and, although he left the band by the time the album was released, he still appeared on most of the songs.
Surprisingly, the band’s classic hit “Brother Louie” originally did not appear on this album. Recorded as a stop-gap single, after the song became a worldwide smash it was added to subsequent pressings of the album. It’s actually a cover of a UK hit by the band Hot Chocolate, and the song eventually rose to near top of the charts in many countries and became Stories only hit record.
Splintered, the band only made one more album (a disappointing disc larded with attempts to remake “Brother Louie”) before calling it quits. Both Lloyd and Brown have kept very low-profile careers since, Lloyd releasing the occasional solo album and Brown only appearing on only two other albums, with a group called The Beckies in 1976 and singer Yvonne Vitale in 1994. Though it is rumored Brown has been finishing another album with a reconstitutued Left Banke, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.
The Austrailian reissue label Raven has recently put the first two Stories albums together on one disc and any fans of Beatlesque pop with baroque leanings will fall in love with Stories’ work. It’s one incredible disc with all the best of the band on display. I can guarantee it won’t leave my CD player for a long time. Do yourself a favor and pick it up!!
Dinosaur Jr. is back and they just played on Letterman.
Is it me, or is J. Mascis looking like a troll doll?