If I’m in the mood for a catchy tune and a solid riff, Chicago’s finest will comply. Originating from the remnants of idiosyncratic country rockers Uncle Tupelo, Wilco’s sound gradually changed since their 1995 debut, particularly from their third album Summerteeth (1999), using devices that’ll cause an heart attack to the average country veteran. That evolution continued on this fourth album, for example on this track that has all the Wilco ingredients: opening riff, soft vocals from Tweedy that are carried by a catchy melody and elaborate outro with horn section and backing vocals. Funny: the album was rejected by the record label, Wilco was bought out with all the rights to the album and it became the bands’ most successful record ever.
Another band that grew on the scorched and fertile soil of another break-up, as Californian QOSTA was founded (1996) after singer Josh Homme’s previous band Kyuss broke up. The riffs contain more storm and thunder than those of Wilco, but this track (being the only single) already indicated that QOSTA’s sound would later rather diverge towards Wilco than Kyuss. Not a surprise of course, as Carlo Von Sexron himself stated that rock should be ‘sweet enough for the girls’. With all the experience from Kyuss in their pocket, they delivered a very strong debut album, the first and last from the Kings of the Stone Age, lopsided or not.
One of rock history’s most prominent live performances, with Dave Grohl on drums, who would later become a Vulture with the Homme mentioned above. The true highlight however was of course the argument between Cobain and MTV’s producers afterwards, as Cobain refused to play another encore as he could never improve from this point on. The rock star that doesn’t compromise, where are they today? The record of course turned into loads of platina, but I guess the record label was not very surprised by that.
Closing track on side A of one of Kraftwerk’s best albums, with the wonderful original German title ‘Schaufensterpuppen’. Last time I dealt with Computer World (1981), this is the first part of the golden pair (together with The Man Machine (1978)) that was released some years before with one of the most interesting (cause very weird) album sleeves ever. While punk pretended minimalism, Kraftwerk excelled at it, combining it with elegant melodies that envy the classically educated musician. Did I just write three sentences about Kraftwerk without mentioning their visionary lyrics? “We are standing here, exposing ourselves. We are showroom dummies. We go into a club, and there we start to dance. We are showroom dummies.”
That cross-pollination between Westcoast bands didn’t stop after the seventies might be clear. Second album by A Perfect Circle (obviously featuring Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on vocals), whose recordings were interrupted by the departure of guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen to Queens of the Stone Age. However, the album was way more successful than their debut (perhaps because they really had to create something from scratch now), reaching gold two months after its release. Concept album? Well, there’s a lot about addictions on it.
Small step to the man whose most famous song was covered by A Perfect Circle on their third album eMOTIVe, together with another ten political cover songs. This one stems of course from Lennon’s introspection album after The Beatles break-up (8 months before the release), fueled with screams. The world may not have many years, but then again, you’re not to blame. You’re just a human, a victim of the insane.
Debut album from Montreal band Islands, which might be called indie given that it was recorded in the drummer’s bedroom. Shows that not everything that came from Canada in that era was sublime, and the quality of this album doesn’t incite me to listen to their other work, write something about it or do anything whatsoever.
Opening track from the second (and praised) album of this Scottish band. It contains some recognizable samples from other songs, with that of the Belgian Wallace Collection’s ‘Daydream’ in this track being the best example. It’s perhaps because of this that it was picked as the first single from the album, but was replaced by ‘Broke’ after it became clear that another single by another band (that used the same sample) was released simultaneously. The Beta Band released their third album Heroes to Zeros in 2004, whereupon the band appositely fell apart.
Circuital was My Morning Jacket‘s last album to date, a strong one that shows the bands’ maturity and sense of nostalgia. This track is in fact a tribute to music and especially its role in a human being’s adolescence with backing vocals from the one and only Black Metal Girls. The band still performs live now and then, and a new album will be released in May this year, looking forward to it.
Great instrumental opener of side two on one of Bowie’s best albums, his twelfth and the centre of his Berlin trilogy with Brian Eno. Hold tight for a last example of continuity in rock history for this week: ‘V-2 Schneider’ was named after Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider, after Kraftwerk had mentioned Bowie earlier in 1977 on their track… ‘Trans-Europe Express’.
Closing chapter from the third book of Portland’s finest storytellers, an epilogue from singer Colin Meloy, only supported by the acoustic guitar. Although their sound may sometimes revoke a kind of lamenting feel (Meloy is a big Morrissey fan and the album was recorded in a church, go figure), they cleverly avoid a lethal blend with little personal stories. Instead, it matches perfectly with picaresque (satirical prose, apparently) stuff like this.
No problem of course for good old Lenny to follow up such an acoustic ballad. It’s acoustic guitar and great vocals again, only briefly supported by a backing vocal during the chorus. One of the many Cohen songs covered by Westcoast nightingale Judy Collins and also my favorite song from his debut album with one of the best (although very sober) sung choruses ever. Very curious how the album would have sounded if Cohen would have had the upper hand over producer John Simon when finishing the album.
Live recording (including introduction, always adding some value if not reenacted afterwards) from Grace Slick’s family ensemble, recorded (obviously) before and released after Airplane‘s success. Together with Conspicious Only in it’s Absence a great pair of live albums, from the famous San Francisco Matrix Club.
Same era, same region, this tremendous Doors song with cracking organ riff. I’ve had a serious Doors year thanks to the many times their songs popped up in the shuffle, each time inciting me to play the complete albums. This one contains that raw, pure Doors sound from the debut album, which isn’t that strange as the songs of both records were written during the same period of time. Some kind of Amnesiac of its own era.
Pass me the peace pipe once more, as we keep hanging around underneath the Californian sun. Another great switch by the shuffle, as the lead vocals don’t differ much from Morrison’s in the previous song. The stories of Buffalo Springfield’s origins are meanwhile almost as legendary as those about ‘successor’ CSNY, but we’ll concentrate on the role of those famous stages of that time. We discussed The Matrix Club before, and Buffalo Springfield’s first performance took place in Hollywood’s The Troubadour. A tour with The Byrds followed, after which Springfield became a regular at that third big club: The Wisky A Go Go. The disputes within the band were as similar as to CSNY’s ones and this (second) album even resembles Déjà-Vu as a collection of individual contributions of each band member. The joint tour de force of guitars and vocals in the end of this Stephen Stills song is very impressive, on an album on which the complete Westcoast elite is present, ranging from Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Jack Nitsche and … David Crosby.
The piano intro is followed by sound effects that after two minutes inject this song with a serious load of stereo, a true gift for your headphones. A debut album from a post rock band can’t become much better than this.
Unlike many other bands, Interpol didn’t just repeat the sound of their debut album, but didn’t improve it much either. Solid though, and they’d better stopped right here, as this closing track already lasts a little too long, just like the entire album and the band’s complete oeuvre.
The Elephant 6 was mentioned last time when talking about Of Montreal, and here we got its pioneers, founded by Will Hart, Bill Doss and Jeff Mangum. Mangum already left the band before the release of the first album (Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996)) to concentrate on Neutral Milk Hotel and the entire project basically stopped after this second and final album. This is in fact the complete anthithesis of the solid selling predictability of Interpol’s Antics: delicious Beatles-Beach Boys pop alternated with long, experimental audio-collages and brief intermezzos with a length that make the average GBV-fan become a little jealous.
A last return to 1967 with this Memphis based band, but clearly rather an echo from the past than a glance into the future, as the artificial sound of rain and thunderstorm are rather touching after the sound effects in previous tracks. Closing track from an album that was released semi-obliged after the succesfull single ‘The Letter’, with Alex Chilton (who would later front Big Star) on lead vocals.
Strong track, again dominated by several sound effects, that (combined with the shrilling guitar, the driving drums and the threatening voice of Cave) perfectly succeed to absorb you into the song. Cave’s temporary return to rawness after the baroque gospeltriumph on Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.
Prereleased and succesfull single from Ministry’s fifth album, on which a blend of industrial and beat-driven speed metal bans out all melody. Most noteworthy is of course the title of the radio-edited version on the single: Short, Pusillanimous, So-They-Can-Fit-More-Commercials-On-The-Radio Edit.
Post-punk with a classic rock line-up, from Northern-England during the 1980’s. That’s exactly what you get: dreamy guitar melodies and a drummer impersonating a computer. They disbanded after this album (before reuniting between 2000 and 2003), probably because they suffered from that typical post-punk syndrome, the lack of much variation in their songs, something they inevitably inherited from their testators.
Early morning in Robotland, where the population wakes up with a lot of bleeps and beeps till the mighty drums march in. After a while some deformed voices seep through and the landing of aliens seems to be completed. This could have been some avant-garde band from the early 2000’s if you didn’t know it’s ELO.
Exactly one of those acts I was referring to, thank you. The ideal opportunity for your headphones to act like they got a pair, with sounds draining away and rising up all over the place.
Recording from their live performance in San Francisco (2004), collected on this report from their world tour. It originally appeared on Kraftwerk’s eight album Computer World (1981), that successfully succeeded to defy the ungrateful fate of following up The Man Machine. Computer World (with great cover) continues to tell the story about the human being becoming one with his machine, although it is now called a computer.
The Scyths was a generic term for different kinds of horseman tribes that reigned over the extensive plains in Eurasia for about ten centuries. No wonder this was a great source of inspiration for the young Andrew Bird when searching for a good subject to start his songwriting life. Awesome song, highlighted by the piano intermezzo, on a very strong album.
The proof on Led Zep’s debut album that Plant’s voice also sounds great along the acoustic guitar. It’s a traditional folk song that was written (and played) by Anne Bredon and later recorded for the first time by Joan Baez as the opener of her first live album. With Page and Plant both being fans of Baez it was only a matter of time before this song was transformed into a hard rock classic, right?
Band that was founded in 1999 by Billy Howerdel, who had been writing some songs in the years before. Maynard James Keenan offered his vocals already back then (Howerdel was one of Tool’s guitar technicians) and was eventually invited to form a band together. After adding some wigs and gigs in L.A., this album was released as the band’s debut. The line-up of backing musicians has changed numerous times since then, but Howerdel (music) – Keenan (lyrics) always remained a solid tandem.
Second sucessfull single (after the title track) from the album that is considered by some music professors as the best album ever made. Including a delicious sax solo by Wild Bill Moore in the second part.
A girl called Dusty growing up, leaving the lighthearted pop trios behind and cautiously entering the worlds of Motown, Bacharach/David and Goffin/King. Excellent debut album from the Princess of the Swinging Sixties.
As written earlier, Boston based Lemonheads’ lonely claim to fame. Solid, melodic alternative rock that unfortunately quickly lost its rudder when it grew up.
Satisfied with a bunker full of professional musicians (including Keith Richards), Tom snaps out for some fresh air and smokes a cigarette or ten on the roof top. Coming from the distant neon spoiled city, he can hear the industrial sound of synthesizers and drum machines. After inhaling a last shot of imagination, he’s ready to go back inside. Unleash the Chinese drunk and give me your best midget’s bar mitzvah’s sound.
Not playing at the Ba Da Bing anymore, but at his own Pompeii label on this third album. Pleasant and fresh indie pop, but lacking the musical class from his first two albums. Looking forward to number four nevertheless.
Like I said last time, probably the Doors album with their best songs on it. Although I consider this one not among them, it became the album’s first single (with a stripped-down outro) and closed side 1. Rather an anti-media than anti-war song, with typical Morrisonesk catharsis in the end.
According to its name, you might associate this band with Canadian peers like Islands, Sunset Rubdown, Apostle of Hustle and Arcade Fire. However, these guys are from Athens, Georgia and rather linked to a group of guys who regarded the unfinished Smile-album as their Holy Grail, recorded albums in their Pet Sounds Studio and like to hang around in their pedestrian-based eco-village: Elephant 6. Collective sixties-tribute.
Traditional from Jack Eliott’s third studio album, recorded off-the-cuff in London while this New York cowboy (for real) was touring across the British pubs and nightclubs. Keith Richards and Paul McCartney could have been among his audience and after returning to the US, he adopted Bob Dylan as his musical son: all admirers of the Ramblin’ Jack Eliott.
Ending up in Canada at last, with former Broken Social Scene vocalist Leslie Feist. Feist broke through with her second album Let it Die, but this third one was the biggest success after all, especially commercially. Good album, although the shuffle didn’t hit its strongest track.
What I said last time about Gary Usher’s work on The Notorious Byrd Brothers, does as well apply to David Briggs’ production of this fourth Spirit album: it completely disguised the hostilities between the band’s greatest actors, guitarist Randy California and singer Jay Ferguson. The original line-up still fell apart a month after the release, but the album was certified Gold five years later.
The shuffle heard my prayers and delivers an early Beirut just in time, back in Tom’s bunker. Cheers.
Strings-piano duet from Tindersticks’ (Nottingham) second self-titled album. Lost the band out of sight for a few years but listening this record again a few times proved that I have to regret that, especially the strings on several tracks (recorded at Abbey Road) are intriguing. Imagine that the lyrics were sung in German and it would be the perfect soundtrack for a Stasi movie.
Dayton’s finest featuring sound wizard Robert Pollard as its only captain, whose characterizing voice kicks in after a classic guitar intro. Propeller was GBV’s fifth album, and the first one that gained them some nationwide attention. Ironically, only 500 copies of it were originally released, all with different, handmade artwork. Another artisanal credit: the intro of the opening track was reenacted by the band itself during the recording sessions.
The Troggs? ‘Wild Thing’, right? Yes, their cover of Chip Taylor’ song will always remain the first thing that crosses into people’s minds when asked after this band (if anything at all comes up, that is). Is there more to say? Yes, The Troggs were a classic mid-sixties British (Andover) four piece band that had eleven other songs on this debut album of which at least eight are to be classified somewhere in between ‘worth listening’ and ‘great song’. However, although much cited as an influence for later garage bands, they have more in common with early Beach Boys and Lennon-McCartney compositions.
Roger Waters left Floyd in 1985 after using it as a vehicle for his personal trilogy Animals, The Wall and The Final Cut. Gilmour and Mason asked Richard Wright to rejoin the band and together they proved (with this album) what Waters probably believed to be impossible: that Pink Floyd without Waters would still be a more successful act than Waters on his own. One of the better songs on the album, including typical Gilmour solos and biting backing vocals.
Probably the best song on this terrific debut album. Affirming what was stated last time.
Great Crosby song, that could as well have been appeared on his later projects Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu. Not surprisingly, these projects were started right after this album, as he was already fired at the release of it, giving the horse the opportunity to feature the cover of one of rock’s greatest albums. Melody and experimentation dance with each other, while Gary Usher’s production completely wiped the underlying tensions (drummer Michael Clarke also left the band and former member Gene Clark made a temporary comeback of three weeks).
From the debut of this Australian (Perth) band, if you want to call it a band because it’s a one man project. Kevin Parker recorded the vocals and most of the instrumentation on this album, that sounds like 13th Floor Elevators walking into a 2010 studio.
American equivalent of today’s opener, with a song from their tenth album. Eventually sounds like a hit sensitive song featuring a catchy ‘lalala’ chorus, but halfway it suddenly transforms into an Afghan Whigs track, somehow cleverly combined with a southern touch. Interesting.
Although John Fogerty could also offer you a serious jam when he wanted to (only think of ‘Susie Q’), it was especially after the fog above the psychedelic San Francisco was cleared that CCR claimed most of its fame. A roots sound started to dominate the American rock scene, led by this band and The Band.
Must have been over five years since I heard this. British band from the Isle of Wight, led by Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher. Sounds Caribean, but is also perfectly served on a European summer morning underneath a tree.