Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (LP, 1971)


Just kidding.

In fact, at the risk of sounding like a cool guy (I know, I know), this is actually one of my least favorite Led Zeppelin records. Maybe it's because I've heard it too many times, maybe it's because "Black Dog" just isn't my cup of tea. Maybe it's because "Stairway to Heaven" is idiocy personified. Maybe it's all of those things and more.

My introduction to Led Zeppelin (I probably should have mentioned this earlier) came via their box set. Which would have made me about 14, maybe 15. A little late, I know. A friend at school had it on cassette, and he lent me one tape at a time, probably in exchange for Doors cassettes. Since Jimmy Page is a nut, the box set is not sequenced chronologically. We'll get to that. Anyway, I heard "Stairway to Heaven" out of context, though it is surrounded by songs from roughly the same era. I realized, upon hearing it for the first time, that I had never heard the song before. I had heard people talk about it, and I assumed that I had heard it but just didn't know the title. Nope, didn't recognize it.

And what a letdown. It's some drawn-out mystical bullshit. In fact, this whole record has such a lame wizards & warriors vibe to it that it shouldn't really be enjoyed by anyone over 17. With the exception of "When the Levee Breaks," which rules, and is easily the best song on this record.

Of course, I still firmly believe that every teenage boy should own a copy of this. Because it is some cool shit when you're still discovering rock music, and still naive enough to believe that Zeppelin were some fame-shunning band of misteriosos who refused to release singles and lived in some fucking cottage and practiced black magic or whatever.

Speaking of, I heard if you get high enough while listening to Zeppelin IV, you can actually convince yourself that the Page/Coverdale collabo never happened. Is that true?

"When the Levee Breaks"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III (LP, 1970)

The softer side of Zep.

While I loved the first two Led Zeppelin records during my teenage years, this was the one that I really got into. Sensitive (by Zeppelin standards) cuts like "Friends," "Tangerine," and "That's the Way" got a lot of play in my Walkman. While the rockers like "Immigrant Song" and "Celebration Day" are also great songs, this is the record that will always be remembered as Led Zeppelin's departure into the acoustic realm. It was a cool move, and I'm sure a lot of folks didn't see it coming.

They still insist on dragging out a blues number, and this time it's "Since I've Been Loving You." Yes, it's got a tremendous guitar solo, but it just feels like they're unable to let go of their roots. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that, but like I said, it was these Zeppelin songs that always (though I probably wouldn't admit it at the time) bored me a bit.

"Gallows Pole" is still remains one of the better non-original Zeppelin songs, with Robert Plant finding his spot and not feeling the need to get too busy. I still dig that track. In fact, I still dig most of this record. Hearing Jimmy Page go nuts on the acoustic is a nice change of pace, and considering the full-on barrage of rock that would be coming on their next album, the world would have been wise to take it when they could get it.

This record also contains "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper," which is, while tucked away at the end, one of the weirder Led Zeppelin songs and should not be forgotten. Not that anyone's forgetting it, but you probably won't hear it on the radio sandwiched next to "Out On the Tiles" during a Double-Shot Tuesday. "Out On the Tiles": another good song from this one. Oh, and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is also nice.

Yeah, this is definitely one of my favorite Led Zeppelin records. Maybe my favorite. We'll see what I say when we get to Physical Graffiti.

"Out On the Tiles"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II (LP, 1969)

While this isn't my favorite Zeppelin record, I definitely got some mileage out of this one.

"Whole Lotta Love" continues to be one of the most overrated songs in rock, but once you get past that, things are mostly good. "What Is and What Should Never Be" is a damn fine song, and one that shows the sound that the band was moving towards. Then they go and kill it by slagging through the boring blues of "The Lemon Song."

There's been a lot of talk throughout the years about Led Zeppelin stealing riffs and lyrics from old blues dudes, and "The Lemon Song" always comes up in those conversations. Tracks like that one, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," and "I Can't Quit You Baby" should be more notable for being too long, and ultimately feeling like time-fillers. They're the tracks on the first few Zeppelin albums that are weighing everything down. As soon as they kick into "Thank You," everything becomes lighter, more intricate, and a whole lot more interesting. And that's the song that ends the first side.

The second half of Led Zeppelin II is the strongest side the band had put together up to this point. The one-two combo of "Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)" works terrifically for some reason (which is why we'll never understand how Jimmy Page separated them on the box set), and "Ramble On" works the quiet-loud dynamic really well.

And, ah, how teenage me loved "Moby Dick." We'd tell debaucherous tales of Bonzo while watching a shitty VHS copy of The Song Remains the Same, because, dude, Bonzo plays with his bare hands. It blew our fucking minds.

"Bring It On Home" is another acoustic/electric mishmash, and a very underrated song. A solid end to a solid record. Listening to this today, I realized I never really need to hear it again. I listened to it a lot when I was a teenager. Maybe too much.

"What Is and What Should Never Be"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin (LP, 1968)

Who's ready to get the Led out?

I haven't purposefully listened to Led Zeppelin in years, but I spent many a solitary hour in my teens rocking out to Page, Plant, JPJ and Bonzo. I think most teenage dudes go through a Zep phase. Mine was intense, but it probably could have been a little more obsessive. (I reserved that behavior for The Doors.) Still, I managed to collect all their major albums on LP (not hard to do), and they still remain in my collection. And they will always remain in my collection. I doubt I'll ever get back into Led Zeppelin again, but it's nice to know the albums are there if I need them.

So, get ready for a week and a half of nothing but Led Zeppelin. I know most of these albums really well, but it's been a while since I've really put any time in. We'll see what I can remember.

We start here, with their eponymous debut. Or, as losers like to call it: Led Zeppelin 1. Don't call it that. Maybe you think you're distinguishing it from their untitled fourth record, but everyone calls that one Led Zeppelin IV. Let's just leave it like that.

This was never my favorite Zeppelin record. Maybe it's the two Willie Dixon covers ("You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby"), maybe it's the drawn-out indulgence of "Dazed & Confused," which remains a terribly overrated song. However, most of the Zeppelin originals here (especially the shorter ones) are great. "Good Times Bad Times" is perhaps the most straightforward Zep tune ever, and it still packs a punch. "Communication Breakdown" is equally powerful, and even faster.

"Your Time is Gonna Come" and the terrific instrumental "Black Mountain Side" show the more mellow side of Jimmy Page's playing, and sound more like the Zeppelin that would show up on their third LP. Both really great songs. But, the lengthy blues of the aforementioned cover songs, along with the six-and-a-half minute reworking of the traditional "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and the sprawling eight-minutes-plus of "How Many More Times" are too much for me. I get what they're doing, and I get why people like it, but I always thought Led Zeppelin was the perfect four-minute song band.

They'll prove to be just that on their next three records. That's when shit gets really good.

"Communication Breakdown"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Le Tigre - Feminist Sweepstakes (LP, 2001)

This was the only Le Tigre record I bought right when it came out. I think I really started digging them after From the Desk of Mr. Lady came out but before this one did. So sometime between January and October of 2001. The point being, I had their first two albums and was looking forward to some new shit.

While this batch of songs didn't grab me immediately as strongly as I hoped it would, it's aged really well, and it always proves to be way better than I remember it being. Tracks like "Fake French" were a step in a 80's-pop direction that I wasn't prepared for, but now it makes perfect sense. The strangest thing: Kathleen Hanna sounds great. Like she either got better as a vocalist, or she's trying to match the smooth vibes of some of the cuts. It's only here and there, and it works really well.

You can hear their sound progressing, and while it may have turned some folks off (I think I may have been one of them), it shows that they were getting better at putting the tracks together. And, it makes for a more interesting listen. There's more shit going on. "On Guard" is thick as shit, and "Much Finer" manages to be both lo-fi and textured.

"Dyke March 2001" threatens to bring the whole record to a standstill, and feels like a self-satisfying exercise. It's too long and a bit clunky. Luckily it's followed by "Tres Bien," which is easily one of the best songs on the record. The remainder of the album is strong, but it's just not as strong as their first album. It's still great stuff, it just lacks the catchiness that the first one had ingrained in it. Why they tucked the distorted rock of "Keep On Livin'" at the very end, I don't know. Seems like a first-sider to me. In fact, I think the sequencing of this record is way off, but what the hell do I know.

If people thought this one was a step in a different direction, their next record would be even more divisive. I'm just now realizing I don't have a proper copy of it. So, we won't have a chance to talk about it. Bummer.

"Well Well Well"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Le Tigre - From the Desk of Mr. Lady (CD, 2001)

I always associate this EP with Le Tigre's first album, but it actually came out two years later, the same year as their second. But, it contains a remix of a song from their eponymous debut, so maybe that's why. Maybe that's not important. Anyway.

Though not as substantive as their first record, this short collection of songs is still great. "Get Off the Internet" really rubbed me the wrong way at first, but I've learned to love it. That track sounds like it could have been left off their first album; the rest are an odd mix of styles. "Bang! Bang!" is aggressive and rough, even for them. "They Want Us To Make A Symphony Out Of The Sound Of Women Swallowing Their Own Tongues" is a sample-based blipper that doesn't feature any vocals. "Yr Critique" is a lo-fi rocker that uses more guitar (or at least guitar samples) than most of their stuff. Another great song.

"Gone B4 Yr Home" rocks it full-on Casio demo-style, and it might be the best song on this album. The music is cute but the lyrics aren't, and it's a sweet juxtaposition. "Mediocrity Rules" is another guitar rocker, and actually sounds a lot like "Yr Critique," but with a heavier synth presence. Sweetness. "All That Glitters" is actually a remix of "The Empty" from their first album, and though it's good, it feels like a tacked-on bonus track.

Seven solid bangas. Act like you know.

"Mediocrity Rules"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Le Tigre - Le Tigre (CD, 1999)

I never planned on being a Le Tigre fan. It wasn't that I had anything against the band. I just, like I do with pretty much every band that I hear people talking about, assumed that I would hate it.

The girl I was with in the early 2000s was big-time into Kathleen Hanna. She loved Bikini Kill, and always talked big about Julie Ruin (Hanna's solo project between Bikini Kill and Le Tigre), but had lost the album. I wish I would have heard Julie Ruin first, because then I might have been excited about Le Tigre. I never really cared for Bikini Kill, so I didn't expect much from them. Which makes no sense, because even then I knew the styles of music weren't comparable. I'm just a jerk like that. And like most jerks, I thought Kathleen Hanna was hot, and it made it hard to take her seriously.

My lady friend bought this CD when we were out record shopping one day and I rolled my eyes. Then she played it when we got home and about 45 seconds into "Deceptacon" I realized I owed her an apology. And I did apologize. And after hearing the whole record, I had no choice but to admit that I liked it. I really liked it. And I still do.

I'm not sure if you'll hear much argument from anyone on the subject of whether this is Le Tigre's best album or not. It just is, and I'm fairly certain that's the consensus. Their other records are solid as well, but this one is so good that I'm not sure they ever had a chance of topping it. Yeah, it's fucking dance music, but it's a lot more than that. It's ardently feminist without being annoying. It's slow and surprisingly pretty in parts. The beats are put together really well. And there's not a stinker in the bunch.

It's nice and short, and damn fine when played from beginning to end. And you can't ask for much more than that.

And chicks dig Le Tigre. So you're in, bro!

"Hot Topic"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joe Lally - Nothing Is Underrated (CD, 2007)

I didn't think it was possible for Joe Lally to mellow out any more than he had on his solo debut, but on this group of 13 songs he somehow manages to tone things down a little bit more.

The tracks sound a lot like There to Here, which isn't surprising considering the albums were released little more than a year apart and that he uses a lot of the same musicians. But what little pep emerged from his first record isn't really apparent on this one. And that's fine, because it makes way for more abstract jams like "Scavenger's Garden" and "Tonight at Ten." There's more guitar, and more in the way of noise, which is a welcome addition.

Lally's lyrics are also more indirect, and all of this makes this album a tough egg to crack. I dig that. I've had this for over a year, and I'm still getting into it. These songs are elementally a bit more diverse than his previous ones, but it's not a major jump. And that's cool: you can feel him growing while he finds his own voice.

I hope he keeps going with his solo work. I'm really curious to see where he's going to take this next.

"Skin and Bone"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joe Lally - There to Here (LP, 2006)

Joe Lally has always been the cool, calm and collected member of Fugazi. While Ian screamed, Guy flailed, and Brendan pounded relentlessly on his gold-belled trap kit, Lally was dependably static. He hung in the back, played his parts with the utmost precision, and rarely moved out of the small area he had claimed for himself at Brendan Canty's left. Maybe he wanted to lock in with the drummer. Or maybe he just didn't want to be in the spotlight.

When Lally contributed lead vocals to "By You," a song from Fugazi's 1995 LP Red Medicine, it was completely unexpected. I had never even considered the idea of Joe Lally with a mic in front of his face, let alone what his vocal style might be. After about the third time I listened to the track, I realized I loved it. It was Fugazi with a new voice; a voice that sounded nothing like the other two. It was calm. It was direct. It was great.

(Quick aside: I was once at a Fugazi show and they were having some trouble with a rowdy member of the audience. They tried to corral him to – I'm assuming – kick him out, but they couldn't get a hold of him. Lally walked directly to one of the mics after the melee had subsided, pointed at where he figured the guy had escaped into the crowd, and said: "Everything we do for the rest of the night is not for you." And he walked back to his post. It was fucking awesome.)

I can't remember when I found out that Joe Lally had gone solo. I knew at some point that he was touring, but there didn't seem to be any release that coincided with the tour. That was probably 2005. I guess he decided to make a proper album in '06, but it flew under my radar for a while. I don't think I got this LP when it came out. It was possibly last year or maybe 2007. Either way, I bought the record, then caught him live when he came to Portland. It was a great show, and he was a really nice guy.

There to Here may not be for everyone. It sounds nothing like Fugazi. It's sparse, it's barren, and it's both calm and confrontational. It's like no other album I own (well, aside from Lally's other one). And I love it.

I played the shit out of this record after I got it in the mail, and while it took me a few listens to wrap my head around where he was coming from, once I felt like I had locked into that, I had no trouble embracing every song. I don't listen to it in the car. I listen to it alone at home, usually while cleaning. It's great for that. And seeing Lally perform these songs live was an experience that made them resonate even further with me.

I wouldn't recommend this record to most people, but if you're willing to take a chance on something different (and quite serious), you should consider checking this out.

"There to Here"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lady Sovereign - Public Warning (CD, 2006)

I was reading tons about Lady Sovereign around the time this record was released, and when I found a used copy, I took a chance on it. It's spent more time with my wife than with me, but she listened to it enough that I ended up hearing it more than I would have if left to my own devices.

The term "Feminem" is thrown around a lot by journalists who suck, and it was always one of the easiest things to label Lady Sovereign. It's a lazy categorization, but not completely unwarranted. Her flow and vocal style is a bit reminiscent of Slim Shady, but her beats and her subject matter are mostly her own. In the end, she doesn't really sound like anybody (or at least anybody I listen to). And what she raps about is so varied that it's tough to get bored with this record.

In fact, I was shocked (still am) at how much I dig this album. That's not to say that I love it to death, but I do enjoy it. This little lady can spit quick, and the music is just as chaotic as she is. If nothing else, this album is just plain fun, and I'm never one to fault somebody for making a nice batch of upbeat hip hop party songs.

I'm usually ready to move onto something else by the end of these 13 tracks, but she doesn't wear out her welcome. If you can look past her pissy little badass attitude that she often plays up too much, this disc is really quite enjoyable. Still haven't heard her new one, and I'm not champing at the bit to do so, so that kind of shows you where I stand. Happy to hear it, happy to not hear it. It's one of those.

But like I said, it still leaves me pleasantly surprised. And the beats are crafty as shit, which is the underrated half of what makes this so good.

"9 to 5"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Kill Your Idols (2004)

I have to admit: I'm way more interested in hearing people talk about the No Wave scene than I am actually listening to any of the music that the scene produced. I'm still trying to figure out how Yeah Yeah Yeahs fit into this picture, but other than that, this was a damn cool little hour-long documentary.

The production values were solid, and the interviews were shot and edited nicely. Maybe I'm a sucker for Thurston Moore, but he gives a good interview and always seems to know what he's talking about. Lydia Lunch always comes off as been-there-done-that and unwilling to embrace anything other than stuff she was a part of, but it's fun to hear her deride any and all new music.

I hadn't heard of a few of the bands they covered in the flick (A.R.E. Weapons, Swans), and while I don't think I'll be checking out their records, the live footage of all the groups (especially the newer ones) was cool to see. I really don't care for Gogol Bordello, and I may care for them less after watching this, but their lead dude had some semi-interesting shit to say.

Could have been longer; could have had some bonus interviews; could have not included Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Karen O came off as a real numbskull), but other than that, I really liked it. Worth a Netflix for sure.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kyuss - ...And the Circus Leaves Town (CD, 1995)

With an album title like that, it's no surprise that Kyuss broke up right after this album was released. However, I've never felt like this record was one of those contract-fulfillment phone-ins. The band sounds just as focused as they did on their previous records and the jams, while sprawling and lengthy, are mapped out and tight.

"Hurricane" and "One Inch Man" are vintage Kyuss: Thick riffs over steady beats, with Garcia's vocals almost buried in the back, like he's screaming to be heard. The next two tracks are sludgy and thick, mostly instrumental, and quite badass. "Phototropic" shows early signs of Queens of the Stone Age in its first half, but then crashes into a huge wall of fuzzy guitars.

The rest of the album is all over the place: lots of instrumental sections, but also parts where Garcia does more singing than screaming. It's a nice change, but also sort of a bummer when you consider that their songwriting wouldn't have any more room to expand. I guess that's what QOTSA was for.

Regardless, while this may not be their strongest record, it's definitely not a bad one. It's musically intricate, and takes some real time to get to know. And that's always a good thing.

"One Inch Man"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kyuss - Blues for the Red Sun (CD, 1992)

I'm fairly certain my introduction to Kyuss was the "Thong Song" video, which was in steady rotation on Bohemia Afterdark for a month in 1992. My interest was piqued (because that song rules), but when my brother and I heard that Kyuss would be opening the Faith No More show we were going to in January of 1993, we became even more intrigued. In addition, Dave Grohl had recently told Spin that they were one of his favorite bands. The buzz was brewing.

I don't remember a whole lot about seeing Kyuss on January 17, 1993 at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon, but a few things stuck with me: I know that when we arrived, they were already playing, and we were pissed that we had come in a little late. I remember that they didn't play "Thong Song." However, we theorized that maybe they played it early, and we had missed it.

What I mostly remember is that they were the loudest fucking band I had ever heard. Like head-imploding, make-you-queasy loud. It was uncomfortably awesome. They remained the loudest band I had ever seen live until The Hellacopters made me literally deaf for three days after I saw them in 1999 or 2000. Of course, Kyuss was playing in a much bigger room, so it's hard to say who was technically louder.

It's stupid that I don't own Wretch, which is the album that precedes this one. It's not quite as good as Blues for the Red Sun, but it's worth owning. I'll get around to buying it. But this is the first big-time Kyuss record, and it's positively huge.

Throw away the pointless "stoner rock" labels for now, because this record really isn't about that. I mean, if you're going to call anything that, this would be the album to start with, but lumping this in with Monster Magnet is a huge fucking mistake. This is the smartest dumb rock of the 90's, a bunch of young kids who created some huge riffs and partnered them with vocals and lyrics that couldn't have served the mountainous guitars any better.

This record is just a great rock record. It's intricate, it's noisy, it's everything that good rock should be. There are five-minute-plus songs and there are less-than-a-minute songs. There are long instrumental breaks and there are choruses that get beat into your brain. They all blend together to form one big song anyway, so it barely matters. There is a song at the end that is just John Garcia saying "yeah" once. The song is called "Yeah."

Sure, this is where Queens of the Stone Age started, blah blah blah. Kyuss is its own beast.

"Green Machine"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Talib Kweli - Quality (CD, 2002)

I somehow got a free edited copy of this album when it came out, and though I tried my hardest to embrace it, the edited factor ended up annoying me and I didn't really rock it too thoroughly.

Listening to it now, I definitely recall a lot of the tracks on the album, but apparently I never liked it enough to ditch the edited version in favor of the standard one. With a record like this there isn't a whole lot of swearing to begin with, but on some of the cuts there's definitely a lot of cut-outs and reverse scratchery.

I dig Talib Kweli, but I've just never been a huge fan. I don't know what it is. I just listened to this all the way through, and most of the beats are solid and the rhymes are totally fine; I guess it just doesn't get me too enthused. Some of the hooks are a little too R&B-ish for me as well, but that's a minor gripe: it's hip hop from 2002, after all.

Still, I've held onto it over the years, so that's gotta count for something. Just another one that I don't find myself reaching for too often. Though I always feel like I should... I'm supposed to really like him, right?

"Waitin' for the DJ"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kwamé - Incognito (CD, 1994)

Kwamé's back, and he's got a dark new look. The fade has been retired in favor of a close-cropped Caesar-ish cut, and black leather has taken over for the neon.

It must have been rough being Kwamé in the mid-90's. Reinventing yourself as an artist is a daunting task, and trying to shed the image of a sex-you-up dance fiend is a tall order. So, the fact that this record doesn't suck is impressive, but it's not surprising that it didn't have much commercial success.

Poppy beats have made way for thick drums and echoing vocals, and the beats are way less crowded. Lots of barren bass lines and far-off horns. Very '94, and he pulls it off well. He does seem a bit more serious, but for the most part his rhymes are still filled with come-ons to the ladies and a general desire to have a good time.

Nothing wrong with that, but he again slips into the R&B side of things towards the end, going for a New Jack sound that doesn't quite come off correctly. Still, the first five tracks or so ain't bad at all. I think this was his last record as a solo artist, and that's pretty nuts considering he was only around 21 when this was released. Dude's only in his mid-30's now. And he's still banging out tracks behind the scenes.

So don't you dare diss Kwamé.

Think you might be able to listen to some tracks here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kwamé & A New Beginning - Nastee (CD, 1992)

Kwamé could rock the hi-top fade with the bleached streak like nobody's business, and this would be the last album on which he'd have the chance to couple it with polka dots and some bouncy beats of the unapologetic variety.

His strength: dance beats that are the epitome of fun-time hip hop in '92. His weakness: dumb sex rhymes that sound like they're coming out of the mouth of a thirteen-year-old. So, some of this record hasn't aged particularly well. Not shocking, considering this was an incredibly transitional time for hip hop. Kwamé's haircut would be out of style by the end of the year, and song titles like "Wakeupscratchyobutt!!!" would be thrown out right along with "Doowutchyalike." Unfortunate, but this was the rough-and-tumble 90's. We were finicky, and all of a sudden pajamas weren't cutting it for rap fashion.

I'm getting ahead of myself. This record came right at the end of the baggy neon era, and brought some beats that are partytastic. "Dontmatta" rides a piano loop and hits the horns hard, and is a great song. The title track shows Kwamé flexing varied vocal styles, and he roll with 'em all. It's got a Dana Dane feel to it, and that's cool by me. "Ding Dong" is weak with the hook, but the rhymes are there and the beat thumps.

"Love in F/X Minor," an attempt at an abstract skit that goes on three minutes too long, brings things to a screeching halt, but the three tracks that follow it bring things back up to speed. "Thatthewaydatitgoez" flips the R&B switch, and once it's buzzing, there's no going back. The final four songs ham it up with hook-heavy approaches over pop/dance beats, and the whole thing fizzles out.

But I can still dig on the first half.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Stallion Alert! - Pete Krebs

As if my feelings on the man's music weren't abundantly clear. Figured I'd punctuate it thusly because we've already covered Hazel and his solo stuff, and I'm pretty sure I don't have a proper copy of the Thrillhammer record (though I should...).

He's a great musician, a tragically underrated songwriter, and he was always really nice to me when I would request songs and nerd out to him at the solo gigs he played.

For further Pete Krebs info, I suggest this five-part interview he did with the Willamette Week's Local Cut a few years back:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

It's a long series of interviews, but really well done and incredibly informative. There's an annoying absence of Krebs-related material on the web, so this is a damn fine resource to have.

I also just remembered that one night in 1999 or 2000, my friend Aimee and I – while sitting and watching Pete play – made up a Pete Krebs drinking game. I think we might have called it "Shy Town" or something like that. These are the rules, and probably won't make a lot of sense unless you know his music. This game works for both Hazel and his solo stuff, but maybe better for his solo works.

When listening to/watching Pete Krebs play, take a drink every time he mentions:

- Telephones. In any capacity. Them ringing, someone calling someone, etc.
- The highway. Or any long stretch of road.
- Alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
- Driving a car. Or the dashboard of a car.
- Hearts or valentines.

Also drink every time he does ba-ba-da-da type vocal part.

Now put on Sweet Ona Rose and have yourself a good time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings - I Know It By Heart (CD, 2002)

I fear that this may be the last we'll ever hear of Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings. While he's now tinkering away with swing jazz trios and old-timey vocal groups (which is fine; just not my thing), we're left with this: 12 songs that pick up where Sweet Ona Rose left off and show that Pete was still at the top of his game when he slipped out of the, for lack of a better term, "rock" scene.

(Side note: I heard a rumor from a reliable source that Pete was going to play the entirety of Sweet Ona Rose at MusicFestNW but had a prior commitment. Maybe he's not as far removed from the rock of his past as we thought. Though there hasn't been a Hazel reunion in about four years. But I digress.)

This is, like all of Pete's other records, a great one and an overlooked one. It's not quite as pizazzy and slick as Sweet Ona Rose, but as soon as his voice kicks in on "Sleeping Beauty," you can tell he's still on the ball. The chorus is full of his signature ba-ba-da's, and the song is strangely dark but ultimately pop.

"Distant Lights of Home" is right up there with Krebs' best work, and so are "Kid Domino" and "Cela." Some of these songs are more decidedly country than anything he ever did, but his vocal style adjusts accordingly and adds some real depth to the traditional progressions.

Overall, maybe not quite as strong as Sweet Ona Rose, but damn close. If this ends up being the last rock-type record he ever puts out, it wouldn't be a bad place to leave it.

Have I convinced you to like Pete Krebs yet? Because that was the idea.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pete Krebs/Danny Barnes - Duet for Clarinet and Goat (CD, 2001)

I'm pretty sure Pete Krebs and Danny Barnes spent a long weekend together and just decided to knock out an album while they were kicking around.

Barnes, as far as I can tell, is a banjo strummer. He twangs away all over this thing, although it's hard to tell who's doing what most of the time. There's drum machines mixed with acoustic guitars and distorted vocals, random percussion elements trickling in and out.

This album is fun for what it is, but I never really got too into it. It's a side project in the loosest sense of the word, in that it's clearly a one-off thing that two pals collaborated on. So, for that, it's a nice window into explorations in home recording limitations and makeshift musicality, but there's not a whole lot of cohesion to it. And that's fine: I don't think there was supposed to be.

And hearing someone else sing "Jilted" is just weird. But hey, this whole thing's supposed to be goofy. And it is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pete Krebs - Bittersweet Valentines (CD, 1999)

If we thought the huge undertaking of Sweet Ona Rose took any muster out of Pete Krebs, we were wrong. This short acoustic EP was released later the same year, and contains some great songs.

The first four tracks are acoustic songs reminiscent of Brigadier, pensive numbers that are ostensibly depressing but seem to hold some hope in their structure. The melodies are delicate and the guitar parts are loose but precise. "Powder Keg" is the initial standout, but upon repeated listenings, the other three are just as great, with the fourth track, "Bittersweet," being one of my favorite Krebs tunes from this era.

The fifth track is an untitled phase of noise, but the sixth one takes it back to Ona Rose territory, with Pete leading a full band through a raucous two-minute rocker called "Told You So." It's not as polished as anything from the previous album, but it's more aggressive than most of his stuff. And faster.

Clearly Pete Krebs was in a prolific stage in his career in the late 90's. I've even got a 7" from this same era (released under the Gossamer Wings name, but it's not the same band from Sweet Ona Rose) that has a non-album track ("Where You Been?") and an alternate version of "Pacific Standard Time" that is twangier and more peppy. (Though now I'm realizing the copyright for the songs is listed as 1999, but the release date on the record is 2001.)

If this record has a fault, it's that it's painfully short (somewhere around 15 minutes), but that's no gripe. It's a great little collection.

Looks like you can listen to a little of "Bittersweet" here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

400th Post: Assessment Time.

The big 400. Not bad. That break I took was a good move, and now I'm right back in the thick of this damn thing. Let's break down the findings, even though I'm beginning to realize this is only for my personal benefit.

CDs are still leading vinyl, and now the numbers are 217-156. To review:

By my 200th post, it was 116-84; roughly 58% CDs to 42% vinyl.

By my 300th post, it was 179-112; about 61% to 39%.

Now, we're right back to 58% to 42%.

The numbers aren't budging much, but I still think things might sway a little towards vinyl in the coming months. And years.

Top Genres: 90's rock and hip hop are back to commanding leads, with 2000's rock and hip hop being the next two in line. I expect these numbers to stay steady.

80's Hip Hop/Rap: Not nearly as strong a showing as I would like to see.

That turntable up there: It plays LPs with a laser and goes for about 15k. Looks like I know what I want for Christmas!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings - Sweet Ona Rose (CD, 1999)

I don't know if I'll ever reach a point in my life when listening to this album won't bring back an endless flow of memories for me. I listened to these songs so many times in 1999 and 2000 that I could recite every word, recognize every little quirk in the precise arrangements each one resides in.

I moved to Portland in the summer of 1998, intent on taking advantage of the music scene that had always been lacking in the other (smaller) cities I had lived in. I was now of drinking age, and was always up for some music. It didn't take me long to discover that Pete Krebs did a weekly gig at the Rabbit Hole (or was it the Mad Hatter Lounge? Or was is both?), and I soon found myself there almost every week, (I think it was Wednesdays) always excited to watch Pete play for an hour or two. I had a small group of friends who I met up with, and we made a weekly thing out of it.

I can't remember exactly how it went, but I think Pete let us know that he had a new record coming out, and that it was going to be a full-band sort of deal. We were excited, bought copies from him before it was even officially released, and dove into it. I took it home, sat listening to it in my apartment by myself and half-drunk, and became hooked instantly. To the point that I thought this was going to be Pete's big break. I really thought he'd done it. In fact, I still do. I think it caught on in Portland, but I've never been sure if it stretched much further than that. I forced it on everyone I could, but I'm not sure it affected everyone the way it did me.

My friend Aimee and I were the ones who never missed Pete at the Rabbit Hole. There was a loose group that came and went, but we were the core. Sometimes she and I sat there, just the two of us, talking and listening to Pete's songs. Then we would go home and drink more and argue about what the best song on Sweet Ona Rose was. Mine changed every day. It was either "Quickly Steals Away," "Pacific Standard Time," or "Thunderstorms and Alcohol." Sometimes I would argue the validity of "Ashes Back to Vegas" or "Johnny Come Lately" as the best songs, partly because I believed it at that moment, partly to get a conversation going. Aimee was a hopeless romantic and not nearly as flighty as I was, so she always stuck with "Dressed to the 9's."

I have memories of seeing Pete play these songs a handful of times with the Gossamer Wings, who seemed more a name for whoever Pete was playing with that night than an actual band. Sometimes it was by the books, recreated to sound like it did on the album. One night, late, everyone in the city seeming drunk, we (my brother and I?) saw Pete tear through these songs with the distortion overriding everything, looking pissed. I vaguely remember some technical problem fouling the gig up. Was it NXNW? That sounds right. Anyway, the show was awesome, an ephemeral growl that blew my face off for the twenty-five minutes they played. They blazed through the songs, stormed off the stage, and we couldn't shut up about how great it was. All the way home and for the next year.

I could go on forever. You get the idea: I love this record. You should love this record. You would love this record I bet.

You can listen to some clips here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Golden Delicious/Pete Krebs - Cavity Search (CD, 1998)

I realize this entry seems a bit out of alphabetical order, but I keep it filed under "Krebs, Pete," so that's why it's coming now. Deal with it, won't you?

Also: I always thought this was a self-titled album, but I guess it really is called Cavity Search. That's the label that put it out, so I figured that's why the name was on there, but Cavity Search's website has the album listed as Cavity Search, so we're going with that. I know you were all very interested in that technicality. On to the music.

Golden Delicious was (is?) a jammy bluegrass pickin'/strummin'/washboardin' group that Pete Krebs seemed to be in most of the time, but not all of the time (correct me if I'm wrong about that). I tried my best to embrace their music as much as Pete's solo stuff, but it never got to me the same way. However, this album has, for my money, their strongest set of songs. This disc is broken up into two parts: Golden Delicious with Pete Krebs on the first five tracks, and Krebs solo on the last four.

The opener, a reworking of the traditional "House Carpenter," is the highlight of the album, and a great way to start it off. Rousing and rambunctious, the song is not something I would normally consider my cup of tea, but I love it. Pete used to play it live by himself, and while it was tremendous to watch his hands work frantically to keep up with the peppy pace he chose for the song, it's really in its most wildly refined glory here. The next four songs are more violin-dominated and lots of fun. I hate to compare it to "Man of Constant Sorrow" (O Brother, Where Art Thou? style), but they do sound like that.

Krebs' four songs at the end are reminiscent of his Brigadier recordings, sparse in arrangement but still plenty wide with feeling and melody. "Ashes Back to Vegas" and "Dressed to the Nines" would appear in fleshed-out versions on his next LP, but the rambling anthem "America" and the poignant "We Never Sleep" are exclusive to this collection.

All four songs are good ones, and they each work as a fitting lead-in to his ambitious next project, which must have already been in the works.

Again, I can't find any damn tracks for this one.

Listen to some clips here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pete Krebs - Western Electric (CD, 1997)

For his second solo effort, Pete Krebs decided to maintain the basic structures of his first one, while adding in (if the title didn't tip you off) electric guitars, drums, the whole deal. It makes for a record equally as good as his first, but with a more souped-up feel.

At just under a half hour, it's a short disc, and with two of the cuts being instrumentals, it flies by. That may be my only gripe with this one, because the songs are great. "JFK" is a propulsive opener, a song that starts strong and builds momentum as it speeds along, aided by some of Pete's best lyrics up to this point.

This album also marks Pete's first forays into country and western-ish stuff, though I've never been sure if that's the right term for it. "Purple Heart of Texas" is country, but it's old-timey country, with a rootsy feel to it. It's "traditional," for lack of a better word. The lyrics are ostensibly personal but probably ultimately not based in fact, if that makes sense. Again: not a direction I saw him ever going, but he's great at it.

The sad songs are, of course, the heart of the album, but this time they seem to be about other people, which makes for a nice change of pace and tense. "Madison" remains one of Kreb's best songs, another one that I used to see him play quite a bit when he did his solo shows.

Elliott Smith plays on this album, but thanks to vague liner notes, it's hard to know the extent to which he did so. He seems to be doing some of the backing vocals, but it's hard to tell if it's him. He at least co-wrote "Tom Waits and the Attack of the Crab Monster," the ramshackle instrumental that closes the album. A fun song, but definitely wise to be the last one on the record.

Another Pete Krebs winner, another album that more people should know about but probably don't. It's a damn shame.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pete Krebs - Brigadier (CD, 1995)

Wow, did this really come out the same year as Hazel's Are You Going to Eat That? I guess it did. And that would explain why this didn't seem to be Pete's post-Hazel debut (and it wasn't – they'd put out one more EP before officially disbanding), and more of a side project sort of thing.

Pete Krebs going acoustic had never occurred to me, though the first time I heard this record it made perfect sense. If Are You Going to Eat That seemed to be Pete heading in an introspective (read: hyper-sensitive) and aggressive direction, then this seemed to propose a method that musically suited his lyrics just as well, maybe better. The love-lost songs are still here, but they're not as blatant, not as forcibly gut-wrenching. And by coupling the heartbreak themes with smoothly detailed acoustic guitar strumming/plucking, they're stripped away of any pretense and left, bare-boned and stunning.

If you can't tell, I really dig this record. It's personal, it's simple (in regards to the minimal accompaniment), and the songs are fantastic. "D Tune Drop" was a staple of Pete's live acoustic sets when I used to see him in the early 2000's, and it never failed to put a smile on my face when I really needed one. And though all of these songs can be both depressing and uplifting, they're never boring.

It was (and still is) great to hear a guy who had spent his whole career (as far as we knew) wrenching away at a guitar take a step back and roll out some songs that weren't meant to be played with a "rock band." I could go through and talk about each of these songs individually, but it'd get too involved. And besides: they're all great.

I don't know if this CD is still readily floating around, but if you need a great partner for the dark and dreary fall, this is a safe bet.

I'm having a hard time finding any full songs, but you can listen to a few clips here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stallion Alert Book Review: Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza (2007)

I'd been wanting to read this book since it came out, but I had no intention of shelling out twenty-some bucks to do so. Instead, I waited almost two years and was able to get it from Amazon for like five bucks. And it was worth every penny.

I'm not a huge Guns 'N Roses fan, nor am I particularly a Slash fan. I usually enjoy the music he makes, but it's gone no farther than owning a copy of Appetite for Destruction. Though I am familiar with the more well-known tracks from the two Use Your Illusion albums, so that helped me a little when he was talking about that era of his career. I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is, in many ways, probably exactly what you think it is: the story of Slash's life from birth to present, warts and all (literally, in fact). And while the tales of debauchery are certainly omnipresent throughout this surprisingly long book, there's also insights that come from Slash the Musician that are equally interesting. Hearing how Guns came up with some of their most famous tunes makes for some cool rehearsal stories, as does the first person accounts of the inner workings of one the world's most dysfunctional bands. (Spoiler alert: Axl is a diiiiick.)

This book was every bit as good as I hoped it would be, and maybe even a little better. You don't have to be a fan of the music to enjoy it, and Slash's writing style keeps the whole thing casual, which becomes inherently necessary when dealing with some of the unbelievable shit this dude has been through.

Notably unbelievable: That Slash is alive; that Steven Adler is alive; and that neither of their dicks fell off. And really: I knew Axl was a nut, but this book, by just pulling together well-documented facts, a few new ones, and offering some asides about them, really doesn't leave any mystery as to why Guns 'N Roses broke up. In fact, it seems a miracle that they stayed together as long as they did.

I highly suggest knocking this one out over a long weekend.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live and Let Die (CD, 1992)

Make no mistake: this is some hard shit.

When one thinks of gangsta rap (the real shit – the early shit) at its hardest and rawest, this record should be near the top of the list. But because it was so damn hard to get a hold of for so many years, I don't think it ever got its just due. I lucked out and scored a copy a few years before they reissued it, and didn't have to pay the thirty or forty bucks it was going for on eBay at the time. And I'll be holding onto this one until I decide to fork out the dough for the vinyl.

It's a damn shame that this is the only Kool G Rap and DJ Polo album I have on CD right now. I have Road to the Riches on cassette, but that's never been enough. Need to pick up that, this one, and Wanted Dead or Alive on vinyl real soon. Add it to the list.

Hearing the progression of Kool G Rap over he and Polo's three records is an interesting study. He gets progressively better as an MC, and progressively rougher as a streetwise motherfucker. While he started to show signs of hardening on Wanted Dead or Alive (after keeping shit relatively mild on Road to the Riches), on this record he's in full-on Tony Montana/Godfather/Shoot-you-in-the-fucking-face mode. And it's brilliant.

Apparently Warner Bros. had an issue with distributing this record, and while the content doesn't seem crazy over-the-top by today's standards, this was some rough shit for '92. It's right up there with the Geto Boys for the sheer brutality of all of it: lots of people dying, lots of bitches sucking dick, and no tolerance from G Rap for any of it. The most egregious offender is probably "Operation CB," in which G Rap chastises a kid for complaining of hunger when Rap's trying to fuck the kid's mom. (The CB stands for "cock block.") While it's hard to find humor in that narrative, the rest of the song is pretty witty. But Rap's discussions of sex are about as graphic as it can get, and his tales of drug running and making dudes eat pistols aren't spared any details, either. "Train Robbery" is a linear robbery tale that is crafted brilliantly, and simultaneously cringe-inducing.

G Rap weaves words on this record probably better than I've ever heard him pull it off on any other one. And Sir Jinx's beats are insanely great. Tracks like "Nuff Said" and "Crime Pays" are solid as stone, and when you break it down, there's really not a stinker on the whole album.

To top it all off, the guest spots are monumental: Big Daddy Kane kills it on "#1 With a Bullet," and when Ice Cube, Bushwick Bill, and Scarface show up on "Two to the Head," you know you're in for some murder raps. The beat is slow and steady, and the song is dark and dope.

Get with it.

"Ill Street Blues"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kings of Pressure - Slang Teacher (LP, 1989)

I picked this up a few months back on a whim. I had never heard of these dudes, which actually surprised me a little. It's '89 hip hop and it's on the Next Plateau label, so it wasn't fully underground. Turns out I'm not the hip hop scholar I thought I was...

Anyway, I wanted to like this a lot more than I do. The beats are rudimentary (even by '89 standards), and the samples are lazy. It has potential to be a kitschy kind of fun, but the recording quality is so bad that it's hard to open up to it. Though I should say that I don't hate it. You can see what they're trying to do, and the knowledge-dropping deserves some respect. It's just the execution that's hard to get with.

Tracks like "Brains Unchained" and the title track are the highlights, with roughneck beats that almost hit as hard as they would like to. And like I said, these guys are down for intelligent hip hop, so that ain't a bad thing.

"Tales from the Darkside"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kings of Leon - Youth and Young Manhood (CD, 2003)

Aside from the terrible title, this still remains a good album. Four of the five songs from the Holy Roller Novocaine EP are presented here, and I think they've all been revamped. They add seven more tracks (eight including a hidden one tacked on at the end), and they're all solid enough.

Now that I think about it, this was the last Kings album I purchased, so maybe I didn't love this as much as I think I did. Actually, I remember what happened: I went to see them in Seattle with The Strokes (yeah, I like The Strokes, deal with it) and they (Kings of Leon) were dicks. They kept whining about the venue and berating the audience. Normally I don't give a shit about stuff like that, but it seemed a bit cocky coming from a band who had just released their debut, and from what I could tell, really wasn't blowing up the way everyone had expected them to. I remember being really put off by the whole affair, and not giving too much of a shit when they dropped their next record.

Now of course, they're oily bros who have finally become the arena rock stars they wanted to be, but I have to admit: this record still makes for a good listen. The best songs are the ones that were on the previous EP, but the other tracks aren't shabby at all. The guitar tones are grungy/twangy good, and the songs don't fuck around, which is a plus.

At what point did they start wearing sleeveless t-shirts and getting fancy little haircuts? Eh.

"Wasted Time"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kings of Leon - Holy Roller Novocaine (CD, 2003)

I can't remember what made me buy into the hype surrounding Kings of Leon. I'm pretty sure I picked this EP up before I had even heard them, so I must have grown tired of reading about them in every music rag I flipped through. Sometimes they just goad me into listening to the shit.

Imagine my surprise when I actually liked the music. These five tracks are raw rock, nothing fancy. Summing up the band was tough for music journalists, and I understood why when I heard their songs. Sure, it was Southern rock, but it wasn't quite that simple. The singer's voice was certainly divisive; I wouldn't have blamed some people for being turned off by it. I didn't mind it, still don't. Caleb Followill has a vocal style that almost seems intentionally lazy, but it fits the music just fine.

For a brief introduction to the band (the whole disc is only fifteen minutes long), this small collection works well. "Molly's Chambers" is a great opener, and though "California Waiting" was just destined to be a pop hit, I'm not sure that it ever really took off the way they thought it would. I was a bit taken aback when "Molly's Chambers" ended up in a VW commercial, but it should have been a clear indicator that these guys were ready to go mainstream at any cost. Maybe I've got that all wrong, but considering what they're doing now, it sure seems like that was the plan.

Once the beards came off it was all downhill from there.

"Wicker Chair"