Archive | January, 2012

Day 337: Oingo Boingo – Only a Lad

31 Jan


Danny Elfman? What?  The dude that I’ve seen in the credits of movies and TV shows since the beginning of time?  The guy who created the freaking theme song for The Simpsons?  According to my bro, Wikipedia, it’s not an insane coincidence.  Film-overture-composer extraordinaire Danny Elfman had a band.  And they were kind of weird.

But also kind of good.  All I could think of while today’s Dad Rock Tuesday assignment was playing was Devo.  Keep in mind, most of what I know about Devo stems from the footage of their set at Lollapalooza a couple of years ago, but from what I’ve listened to, the two bands are very similar.

I guess what I mean by that has a lot to do with the ’80s, and the sounds associated with that decade.  Think fast-paced, random, and strange.  Elfman abides by no common standards when it comes to singing, and there’s no way to classify exactly what it is that he’s doing on Only a Lad.  There are plenty of squeals, broken-up words and phrases, as well as out-of-nowhere harmonizations with a dozen different layers of himself.

Apparently, this band started as a theater troupe.  I can’t say that’s all too surprising.  This music just feels like it was created by actors, as if Oingo Boingo itself is screaming “LOOK AT ME!” through every track.  However, the album’s tendency towards spotlight hogging doesn’t come off as obnoxious.  What can I say?  The Elf Man knows his music. I just wish we got to hear his lyrics more often today.


Day 336: Albert Hammond, Jr. – Yours to Keep

30 Jan

Bright Young Thing

Look at this guy.  This is not a man who should release solo records.  Just look at him.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit unfair here.  Would I have written that if Albert Hammond’s Yours to Keep were any good?  Well, yeah, I probably would, but I’d then go on to write about all of the massive obstacles that this dude must have overcome before getting a solo record out there.  Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for my ears, Yours to Keep is boring, boring, boring.

The man can play guitar; I’m not claiming anything to the contrary.  After four records as The Stroke’s main riff-generator, I definitely respect Hammond and his musical abilities.  However, when it comes to any other aspect of an indie rock record (i.e. songwriting, pacing, likability), he falls flat on his face.  And that hair.

Unfortunately, Hammond doesn’t even stick with the rock-tastic guitar pieces that we have all come to expect from him when he is with The Strokes.  With some acoustic numbers, and a few inexplicable and flagrant rip-offs of Fountains of Wayne, Yours to Keep has left me more confused than anything else. I must admit, it is very likely that I’d be annoyed if Hammond created a record that sounded exactly like a Strokes effort, so y’all probably shouldn’t listen to me.  You know that by now, though.  But once again, I ask you to look at that dude.  Tell me you feel comfortable listening to something put out there by him.  I’d rather listen to Ken.

Day 335: De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising

29 Jan

The Magic Number

It is records like this that make me regret sticking with the different-record-every-day format.  There is so much going on in De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising—mostly good—that I couldn’t possibly cover it all after a single listen, using 250+ words.

Believe me, I could easily write another one of my trademark “I don’t listen to much hip-hop, so I’m justified in making massive generalizations” posts, but I feel that 3 Feet deserves more than that, even if I can’t do it complete justice in a single day.

Part of this record’s sense of insurmountability comes from its length. With 24 tracks, and clocking in at more than an hour long, there’s a lot to cover.  For instance, that ever-changing-but-somehow-recognizable sound.   I should probably say that I’ve never listened to anything that sounds like this group.  Never before have I heard hip-hop so relaxed and laid back.  Instead of the hate-filled rhymes that I’ve come to expect from the genre, these songs make it sound like it would be pretty easy to have a conversation with these guys.

Granted, it would probably be a pretty…uh…lucid conversation, and one that involved the dudes referencing their names a lot. However, it would definitely be a lot of fun.

As unusual as it is, 3 Feet can’t escape the cliché skits that plague far too many hip-hop records.  The good news is that here, they usually come in five-second snippets at the tail end of songs, so you’re never completely overloaded.  I guess I’ll never get what those are about.

Regardless, listening to this album was a lot of fun.  I would go as far as to say that there isn’t a single awful song on the disc.  Sure, there are some head scratchers, but even those serve a purpose within this enigma.

Day 334: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

28 Jan

Sunday Morning

I was at a Los Campesinos! concert yesterday (see if you can spot me—I’m not the guy in the Scooby Doo costume half way through).  After the show, I bought a shirt.  On this shirt, is a wishbone drawn in a manner very similar to the Warhol banana on the cover of today’s record.  That got me thinking about The Velvet Underground—long time readers may remember that the band didn’t do all that much for me back in the early days of The Swole.  But, as encouraged by one of the site’s more vocal commenters, I decided that I should give them another shot, especially if I’m going to wear a shirt that references The VU’s work.

Do you know why I did (and continue to) not like White Light/White Heat? It’s really, really bad, almost objectively so. However, Nico almost sounds like it was made by a different band entirely.  Lou Reed’s got some great lyrics on this effort, and everything sounds rehearsed and planned—there’s no seventeen-minute genre-odyssey this time around.  Perhaps the fact that Andy freakin’ Warhol was the producer has got something to do with it…

The most noticeable difference between this record and White Light is that Nico really serves a purpose.  There’s still good music being released today that draws from this record—any band that claims to conjure inspiration from any other VU record is extremely misguided.  Plus, I finally know where the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals got their name—check track 6.

I feel like I can wear my wishbone shirt with pride now, repping two bands that I don’t hate at the same time.  Now that’s kind of cool.

Day 333: The Raconteurs – Live At Third Man Records

27 Jan

Salute Your Solution

Well, they’ve still got it.  The only question now, is are they going to do anything with it?

In July of last year, to the music world’s surprise, The Raconteurs announced a string of shows.  In typical Jack White-fashion, the details of the circumstances surrounding the reunion were never discussed, and the band’s multitudes of fans outside of Michigan and Nashville were left to pray for a North American tour of some kind.  Well, the shows have all come to pass, and it appears that The Raconteurs have faded right back into nothingness.

White did do one thing right, though.  Members of The Vault, TMR’s quarterly vinyl subscription service, received a recording of the show that took place at TMR headquarters.  While it is cool to have this black and blue consolation prize of sorts, it almost feels like a slap in the face to fans who weren’t able to catch one of these shows in person.  The album sleeve boasts that the concert was “recorded live and direct to 1-inch analog tape,” but it neglects to mention that someone must have left a vacuum cleaner running next to one of the microphones.  Seriously, this recording is of such low quality that it almost interferes with one’s ability to enjoy it.  Almost.  They’re still The Raconteurs, and Jack White is still one of the best guitar players out there.  Any hardcore fan—as most Vault members are—will have no trouble overcoming the fuzz and scratches.  Mr. White, I just can’t bring myself to hate you.

Day 332: LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

26 Jan

Drunk Girls

I was listening to my (now-massive) Swole Ear iTunes library the other day, when a track by LCD Soundsystem came on.  Remember Day 62?  Remember how bad of a writer I was?  Granted, I’m not much better now, but I reread that post while prepping for today’s, and it actually caused me physical pain.

It’s not just my writing that is extremely flawed—I discovered that my opinions were as well.  I’ve changed my mind, and decided that Sound of Silver is an awesome record. I feel that I need make up for that terrible post, and that I should try to write some wrongs.  Get it? Oh man, I should go jump off of a bridge for that one.

All terrible puns aside, LCD Soundsystem’s final record, This Is Happening, clicked with me immediately.  James Murphy’s voice has gone from whiney and annoying to unique and endearing in my mind, and I now appreciate his ability to work commentary, humor, and great lyrics—a rare triple threat—into many of his songs.   For proof of this, I direct you to the nine-minute-long “You Wanted A Hit,” a song with lines entirely about Murphy’s issues with the music industry and humanity as a whole. Looking at the lyrics now, it’s hard to find a few lines that work well out of context…you’ve got to trust me on this, though—it’s quite a song.

On second thought, you may be a little hesitant to trust me, given my track record with things like this.  For that reason, I provide you with a link to the song—hear for yourself.  James Murphy, I’m sorry that I wronged you.

Day 331: Parva – 22

25 Jan

Good Bad Right Wrong

What’s that?  Why am I listening to an early-’00s record by an unimportant brit-pop band?  Well, I was digging around on Wikipedia today, and somehow landed on the Kaiser Chiefs page.  Little did I know, one of my favorite more-pop-than-rock bands went through a couple of name changes….Before Kaiser Chiefs released Employment to massive success in 2005, a little, unknown band called Parva released a record called 22.

I wasn’t expecting much going into this.  I figured that if the band decided that they needed a name change, their previous releases must have been pretty horrid—almost like they were trying to escape their past.  This record is pretty good, though, so I guess what happened is the guys realized that Parva is a bad band name, and that Kaiser Chiefs is a good one, so they decided to make the switch.

When I first started listening to 22, I figured that Wikipedia had mislead me; that I got my hands on something completely non-Kaiser-ish.  “Heavy,” while interesting in its own right, sounds absolutely nothing like anything I’ve ever heard by Kaiser Chiefs.  Fuzzy, distorted guitars, rough, un-altered vocals, and a whole lot of anger dominate, making for something that doesn’t sound like anything you’d hear on a crisp and produced record by today’s Chiefs.

But I don’t mind; this stuff is good as well. There’s so much raw emotion on this record—it makes Ricky Kaiser sound like he isn’t really giving it his all now…although I don’t think a Parva show could ever have been as fun as a Kaiser Chiefs concert.

Day 330: Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World

24 Jan

Yearnin’ Learnin’

A few weeks ago, my father sent me an email with five picks for upcoming Dad Rock Tuesdays.  On a list loaded with punk records, it was only natural that I left a record by Earth, Wind & Fire until the last possible moment.  They’re no punk band, and, as we all know, my forays into soul music have not been too successful, regardless of whether or not they were encouraged by my dad.

It may be the large quantity of uninventive punk music that I’ve been subjected to for the past few Tuesdays, but I’m actually liking this record. That’s the Way of the World opens with “Shining Star,” a song that we’ve all heard a million times before.  However, I, probably like a lot of you, have never actually sat down and listened to the song.  This is a track that’s usually pumped into my ears in unnatural contexts (commercials, grocery stores, cheesy montages).  I failed to realize that it’s a really good tune, and, at risk of taking a bit of heat for using this upcoming adjective, it’s pretty catchy.

There’s plenty to like about this album beyond that one hit. Whether going on a rant (the content of which I didn’t really listen to, although I assume it’s about love) on “All About Love,” or just engaging in a 5-minute jam bender on “Africano,” Earth, Wind & Fire have a really clean and clear sound that can’t make you mad.  I just wish our modern indie rock bass players could do it like these guys do.

Day 329: Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll

23 Jan

Welcome to the Church of Rock And Roll

“Foxy Shazam is a jet plane going down, and we have been playing the same tune the whole way. It just sounds different the closer we get to the ground,” reads the insert of Foxy Shazam’s newest CD (which technically comes out tomorrow, but my preorder came in a day early). I’ve only listened to three of this band’s four records, but from the stuff I’ve heard, there is no better (or more ominous) way to describe this group and their approach to music.  Not one record sounds like another, which led to an initial disappointment when I first checked out Introducing—I was expecting more Queen-inspired cheese-rock glory, like I found on their self-titled effort.  This time around, the band has decided to try and revive classic rock of a more standard variety—think Guns N’ Roses, with a little flamboyant twist.

Based on this record, it’s clear that Eric Nally is not one to do the same thing with his music for too long.  He shouts “your music sucks including us / it’s time we clear our name.”  I’m not entirely sure what to make of that statement, but it sure as hell goes perfectly with some raging guitar riffs and an extremely fast tempo.

From Boston (“(It’s) Too Late Baby”) to Kansas (“I Wanna Be Yours”), it seems that no old school rock band is safe from imitation by Foxy.  I’m not complaining because it all manages to sound good.  Plus, it’s original enough to justify its existence.

I hope the Foxy Shazam plane has just begun its descent—I can’t wait to hear whatever else they have in store for us.

Day 328: We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomach

22 Jan

Sore Thumb

All right, we’ve got to be kind of fast with this tonight.  I have about 100 more psychology vocab words to define before the night is up, plus I somehow need to get around 8 hours of sleep before my final in that class tomorrow.

Fortunately, I did myself a favor with tonight’s album choice.  Not only are We Were Promised Jetpacks a standard indie rock band, they’re a standard indie rock band that I already know pretty well.  Another plus, which I didn’t even consider when picking the record, is that We Were Promised Jetpacks is a fairly long band name.  That means that every time I type out “We Were Promised Jetpacks,” I cover a much greater chunk of my self-inflicted 250-word requirement than usual.

See, we’ve already reached the halfway point of this We Were Promised Jetpacks post!  I’ve really got this whole writing thing figured out, I’d say.

If you like your indie rock with a little foreign twist, then look no further then We Were Promised Jetpack’s In the Pit of the Stomach (long album name too. Bonus).  These Scottish dudes can rock, but you (I) already knew that—2009’s These Four Walls is all kinds of awesome.  They picked up right where they left off with this record, as Stomach Pits sounds like it was recorded in the same session as their debut.

I don’t care, though, because it’s still a really cool sound.  Think of a Frightened Rabbit that rocks harder, and you’ve got these guys.   Whiney Scottish brogue and all.

And that, folks, is how you knock out 270 words in less than 10 minutes.