Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Frank Zappa Presents: Video from Hell (1987)

I watched this movie a long-ass time ago, and have barely even thought about it since. A friend of mine who works at a video store gave me a copy last week, and coincidentally, we're about to get into the first of many Zappa-related albums, so I figured I might as well dive right into it.

If you're hoping for some talk show-ish action with Frank sitting behind a desk like he is on the cover there, you're out of luck. This is basically a teaser video (with a bunch of extras) for the stuff Zappa was getting set to release on VHS in the late 80's. So, there's previews for the Uncle Meat movie, The True Story of 200 Motels (a making-of documentary), and a few clips from Baby Snakes. There is also random footage of various eras of Zappa: Some short interview clips, the video for "You Are What You Is," FZ and Steve Vai going double wank-tastic on an extra-long version of "Stevie's Spanking," and the obligatory claymation from Mr. Bickford.

Good stuff, but it's pulled from all over FZ's career, so it's hard to get too excited about any of it when you know it's going to get cut short. If nothing else, this video just really made me want to see the Uncle Meat movie again. It hasn't been released on DVD yet, and the videos are way overpriced on eBay. I've got two ideas for where I might be able to rent it here in town, but they're long shots. I'm going to try and make it happen.

Get ready for the Mothers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stallion Alert Book Review: Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano (2003)

As an avid record collector, I always look forward to hearing the tales of those who share my passion/affliction. I also enjoy finding out about folks who are way more obsessive about this "hobby" than I am. It makes me feel better about the time and money I spend on my records. I go to record shows here and there (I'm gearing up to go to the Eugene Record Convention at the end of this month, in fact), and there is never any shortage of dudes who are clearly more involved in record collecting than I am. It's like any addiction: if it's getting in the way of you living your day-to-day life, you might have a problem.

While I've definitely made some purchases that might have been slightly ill-advised (or to the untrained eye, completely pointless), I don't think I'm in dangerous territory yet. Taking my wife to see the movie Vinyl was a good move: she now understands that there are people out there who are literally ruining their lives over the pursuit of records. Me? I just like 'em. And while my collecting is probably more intense now than it has been at any other point in my life, I've impressed myself recently by backing away from some tempting eBay auctions and leaving some records, even though I wanted them, sitting right where I found them in the bins at the record store.

So, as you can see, like any delusional addict, I have my legitimization for what I do. It's flawed at times, but like watching Vinyl, this book made me feel like not only do I not have a real obsession with record collecting, but that I should maybe not even consider myself a real collector.

There's the story of the guy who mailed two grand (in cash!) to a guy in Brussels he corresponded with on the internet, who claimed to have a rare Tony Jackson 10" that he had been searching for for years. The letter containing the money ended up being seized by the Belgian government and the dough disappeared. Ouch.

There are tales of dudes whose collections number into the tens of thousands; so big that they either have them in storage or literally can barely move around their house. To put that in perspective, I'm almost halfway through (alphabetically, at least) my collection (including CDs) on this blog, and we're not even to 500 yet. I have two shelves of vinyl that are each the length of an LP wide and about six feet tall. If we guess that I have about 500 LPs (and that might be generous), the guy in the book who boasted 20,000 has forty times as many records as I do. And my LPs take up a nice little chunk of wall space. A guy like that needs like two bedrooms stacked floor to ceiling.

So, yes. I like reading about dudes like that. Actually seeing the collection (like in Vinyl) makes it hit home a little bit more, but this book did a good job of detailing the living situations of some of the obsessed. The author also talked to Thurston Moore and a few other musicians (one of the guys from the J. Geils Band has a huge collection), who had some interesting perspectives on the record collecting game. Robert Crumb is also interviewed, and that dude's so hardcore he only collects 78s.

I blazed through this book in about two days, which was a bummer. For such a vast subject, it seems like it could have been a lot longer. I could have used more nerdery and more details, even though there was plenty. So, that was probably my one complaint. If you've got any interest in record collecting, this is definitely worth a quick read. But be warned: it might get you fired up to go digging through some bins. Be careful out there.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Picks for the Top Ten Albums of 2009.

Here they be: my picks for the ten best albums of 2009. A varied lot, as usual. Some disappointments, as usual. But there ended up being much more good music this year than I initially thought there was going to be. Let's get into it.

10. Eminem - Relapse

We all tried to like this album, didn't we? I know I gave it plenty of chances to finally get under my skin, but I was left fairly disappointed. Still, there were some good things about this spotty collection. "Underground" was the Em from the days of wayback, and that track at least gave me some hope. And an Eminem album has never been without some great lyrics. It's just that this time around, they were delivered in that accent that he just can't let go of. I'd like to see him outgrow the murder fantasies, but I don't think it's going to happen. Still, it was nice to see the dude put out an album after so long without a proper one.

"3 a.m."

09. 50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct

This album is so front-loaded it's ridiculous. This thing starts so strong, then just gradually decreases in quality over the course of its 16 tracks. "The Invitation" is the strongest Fiddy track since "Heat," and the four songs that follow it are almost as good. But somewhere in the middle, things get a little dicey, and by the end, it's all fallen apart. The good: No skits, dope beats, and Fiddy sounding meaner than he has in years. The not good: songs like "Baby By Me" and "Do You Think About Me." And the R. Kelly guest spot on "Could've Been You." But, seriously: The first eight or nine songs on this thing are the best shit 50 Cent's done in a while.

"Death to My Enemies"

08. Ghostface Killah - Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City

Ghost has become such a critic's darling in the last decade that it's hard to believe anything you read about him anymore. And while this album isn't quite as great as some publications would like you to believe, it is good. When Ghost announced he was going to make an album for the ladies (or whatever he considers this), I was a little confused. Seems like he's done a lot of that over the years, and I wasn't really looking forward to a whole album's worth of songs about fucking. Given, he could have reined himself in a little more, but it's Ghost, so we give him plenty of leeway. I think I'll like this album a lot more in about two years.


07. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

I started out with high hopes for this record, but web previews and early reviews didn't show much promise. I lowered my expectations, heard bits and pieces here and there, and eventually just decided to listen to the whole damn thing. I'm glad I did. This album is the logical continuation of all the weird shit from the last Strokes album, and it makes for some great music. Casablancas is a master of melody, and things get more complex here than they ever have on any of his work with his band. I'll concede that this record may not be for everyone, but I think it's fucking fantastic.

"11th Dimension"

06. Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

Was there any chance that this wasn't going to be good? I have to admit, this album didn't rip my face off like I thought it might, but it's been growing on me good and steady. While there are certainly QOTSA vibes running throughout, this doesn't feel like one of their albums. Instead, it feels like exactly what it is: three dudes who like to rock, rocking out with each other, all for the sake of rock. You can study the nuances of JPJ's bass playing, or you can just sit back and listen to Dave Grohl beat the living shit out of his drum kit. Either one is fun.


05. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug

Do the Arctic Monkeys ever rest? They're like a throwback to the sixties. They put out a new record every year, and each one gets more mature and completely different than the one that preceded it. This is their slowest one yet, and also their thickest. The songs are great, but they're shocking for being so pensive and, well, un-fast. But the change is nice. This band is going in the right direction, and there's still no reason to think they won't be one of the best bands in the world in about three more years. After three more albums.

"Crying Lightning"

04. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy

They've still got it, folks. And lest you fret that they've diverted from the now-classic BTS formula, let me assure you that not much has changed. There's four songs over the six-minute mark on this bad boy, and yes, they get wanky. There's also a bunch of three-and-four-minute songs that are incredibly melodic, washed over with guitar, and really fun to listen to. Doug's lyrics are still as morose-yet-hopeful as ever, and his vocals are still some of the best in the biz. I'm so glad I remembered to buy this.

"Oh Yeah"

03. Sonic Youth - The Eternal

When are Sonic Youth going to stop being good? As soon as things started to dip in quality (2000's NYC Ghosts & Flowers was a low point), they came back and released four great albums between '02 and '09. This one is just as good as its predecessor, and proves that SY still have plenty to say. Did the addition of Mark Ibold have anything to do with it? Or was it the departure of Jim O'Rourke? Or are Thurston and Lee just completely untouchable when they decide to turn it on? Who knows. Who cares. This album is awesome. You should listen to it.

"Sacred Trickster"

02. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

Well Rae, you did it. You proved me wrong. You put out the solid solo album that we once thought you had in you, but had since given up on. How you did it, I'll never know. When you announced the sequel to your first LP (one of my favorite hip hop albums ever), I shuddered. This would be the nail in your coffin. But you got your shit together. Now, let's not get crazy. This album is nowhere near as good as the original Cuban Linx album. But for just being good, sometimes great, it captured my attention. In fact, it still has it. I stand corrected, Raekwon. Now don't let it go to your head.

"New Wu"

01. Busdriver - Jhelli Beam

Busdriver is pulling so far and away from any other rapper on the planet that I'm not sure how much longer our earth can contain him. Clearly I enjoy the hyperbole, but this album is nothing short of incredible. The way Busdriver weaves words together will make your head spin, but if you take the time to get to know these songs, they'll give you a shit-ton of pleasure. The man's big with the quickness, but he can also sing-rap a chorus that'll get stuck in your head for days. One of the most individual artists making hip hop right now, and we should all be taking notice. Get on the bus, punks.


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Top Ten Best Rock Albums You Didn't Hear in 2009.

You gotta branch out, people. Here are my picks for some of the best rock albums I heard this year that probably snuck in way under the radar of most. Although a few of these might be familiar to you (Satan's Pilgrims, Akron/Family, I'm looking in your direction), I hope most of them aren't. Not all of these are in the style of music that I stereotypically find enjoyable, but that makes this a little more fun.

All available at CD Baby.

10. We Are Hex - Gloom Bloom

This one is really not something that I thought I would find enjoyable, and though I do still struggle with the gothiness of some of it, the music is odd enough to hold my attention. The vocals are huge, the lyrics are deep, and if you ever wished for a chick to front the Cure, this will be right up your alley.

Listen to the whole album here.

09. Modern Rifles - I Was Young, It Was Dark

A West Coast band with an East Coast sound, these post-rockers are frantic, frenetic, and though it borders on getting a little too polished for me in spots, a ton of fun to listen to. On top of that, they've got a great album title and some great song titles. And they list No Knife as an influence, which is never a bad thing. Allow them to rock you. And I think they just broke up, so mourn them.

Modern Rifles MySpace

08. Sandman Viper Command - Everybody See This

While I don't necessarily approve of the dirty hipster element of this band of young Canadians, I do find the tunes ragged enough for some enjoyment. They've got the energy, they've got more technical skill than they let on, and they seem sorta pissed off, which is nice. Long live the post-high school post-rock band.

"Yo Bobcat"

07. The Ivys - Requiem

My soft spot for female-fronted folk rock has gotten softer over the past few years, mostly due to my wife's penchant for Jenny Lewis and others like her. It's not the sort of music I'd choose to listen to often, but I don't mind it when it comes on. That's sort of the deal with this one. It's really well done folk-rock, with vocals that seal the deal sweetly. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can impress your friends with this one.

Ivys MySpace

06. Satan's Pilgrims - Psychsploitation

When you're talking about NW psych-surf semi-legends, you gotta bring up Satan's Pilgrims. They were gone for a while, but this year marked their triumphant return to the sound that they are known for: instrumental surf rock that sounds like it was recorded 50 years ago. And they're still great at it. There's a time and a place for tunes like this, but if you can find that time and that place, this album will suit you well.


05. Company Car - The English Eye EP

Yes, they're friends of mine. I'm attempting to be impartial by placing them in the middle of this list, but I'm not fibbing when I tell you that these five songs are fantastic. This EP's only flaw? It's too short. But if you want fifteen minutes of rock solidity, look no further. Start with "San Simeon" and you'll be hooked.

Listen here using the player at the bottom of the page.

04. Elder Statesmen - Hail Cannon

Some of the finest "alternative" pop rock I heard all year. These dudes bring the weird sounds, the heavy melodies, and lyrics that are flat-out great. Not sure what to compare these dudes to, and I think that makes me like 'em even more. Oddball rock that sounds strangely familiar and won't get old. The best part? You can get this whole record for free.

Do that here.

03. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

These guys remain the only jam-rock band that I can listen to, and it's because their albums are always certifiably huge. And weird. And different than the one that preceded it. I still don't know how to classify this band. Psych? Sure, there's some of that. Classic rock? Sometimes. Extended jammery? It never gets that loose. These are well-crafted songs that may not speak to everyone, but they talk to you, you'll totally understand.

"Everyone is Guilty"

02. Disguised as Birds - New Demons

While it's crystal clear that these guys worship at the altar of Jawbox and early Fugazi, it doesn't stop them from ripping shit up in their own way. It's a damn shame that there's only five songs on this thing, because they're all solid. Of course, this is their third release, and that means I need to go back and check out the other stuff. Wondering why I haven't done that yet... Anyway, if you've got a boner for DC rock from twenty years ago, get with this.

"Paper Doll"

01. Frantic Clam - Anatomica

This album is so retardedly fun that I can't believe it hasn't got more exposure already. The fact that it's really short can't be helping things, but if you combine this with their previous EP, you've got over a half-hour's worth of music! Yeah, these dudes are due for a full-length. I don't even know how to describe the music... TV on the Radio-ish, but with more of a Ziggy-era Bowie feel? That might be close. I highly suggest checking this one out.

"We Own the Night"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Nirvana - Live at Reading (2009)

Holy crap.

The awesomeness that is this 78-minute DVD of Nirvana at their arguable apex can hardly be contained.

I knew that I would enjoy watching this concert. And even though I'd seen a lot of the footage in the bootleg versions that have been on the internet forever, nothing could have prepared me for how fucking sweet this looks and sounds. The picture is incredible. The sound is dialed in. And the show itself is about as good as Nirvana was ever gonna get when they knew they were being filmed by a camera crew.

I saw Nirvana on September 10, 1992 at the Portland Meadows. This show was filmed on August 30, 1992. I think they did the MTV Video Awards in between the two gigs. That doesn't matter. What does matter is that this was the same Nirvana that I saw, more or less. Which makes me endlessly happy. It's the same band that hadn't yet released the follow-up to Nevermind, but were already playing "Dumb," "Tourette's," and "All Apologies" with early lyrics that would eventually change. I swear they played "Rape Me" when I saw them, but that's not on this DVD.

What is on this DVD is 25 songs worth of Nirvana when they were the biggest band on the planet. Kurt is slightly frazzled, but for the most part, he seems into it. Dave and Krist leave no doubt that they are into it. Watching the two of them is just as fun as watching Kurt wail away and yelp.

And their setlist is stellar. The usual suspects are there, but they also pull out some deep cuts. "D-7," "Been a Son," "Spank Thru," and the completely oddball "The Money Will Roll Right In" are all treats. And the version of "Territorial Pissings" that closes out the show – complete with instrument destruction – is worth the price of admission alone.

I really can't say enough about how well done this is. I liked it so much I even bought the double LP so I could have the soundtrack.

If you like Nirvana, you need this.

"Spank Thru"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Travis Morrison Hellfighters - All Y'all (CD, 2007)

My confusion with Travistan didn't prevent me from buying the shit out of Travis Morrison's follow-up as soon as it came out, and I'm glad I did. This is the album I expected Travistan to be: not exactly like Dismemberment Plan, but an exploration of the themes that were bubbling to the surface on their last album. This record isn't exactly that, but the guitars and the double-tracked hooks are back, and they sound pretty damn sweet.

Dismemberment Plan was an acquired taste for me, and this album has been, too. I still feel like I don't know it super well, and I still hear new shit when I listen to it. The lyrics on some of the songs are lacking a bit, but what the hey. The bizarre melodies are there, and the sounds are layered without feeling chaotic. Morrison's vocals sound urgent again, and the songs are slightly complex, but mostly straightforward.

I dig it. Morrison has always struck me as a weird guy trying to act normal, and if this album feels awkward and uncomfortable in spots, that's why. But his best songs have always been like that.

If you like the Dismemberment Plan and haven't picked this up yet, you're missing out. It won't blow your mind, but it'll make you move a little bit. And that's fine.

"You Make Me Feel Like a Freak"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Travis Morrison - Travistan (CD, 2004)

I was never a hardcore-obsessed Dismemberment Plan, but I was definitely into the group. I was bummed when they broke up, but definitely not as devastated as some. Still, I was looking forward to frontman Travis Morrison's first post-Plan album.

I've spent five years with this album, and I still don't know what to make of it. Between the four "Get Me Off This Coin" interludes and the general busyness of the tunes, I've just never been able to latch onto this thing. I don't hate it; far from it, in fact. And I don't mind that it sounds nothing like Dismemberment Plan. It just didn't ever hit me the way the last Plan album did. Strangely enough, the first post-interlude track on this album shares the same name as the final Dismemberment Plan album ("Change"), and is the only song that sounds remotely similar to Morrison's previous band. After that, it's an experimental pop free-for-all that toggles between trying too hard and phoning it in.

Part of my problem is that I can't get past the four "Get Me Off This Coin" sections on this record, especially when I remember that there's only 13 proper tracks on this thing, not counting the hidden cut, "Represent," which should have been left off. So they just feel like space-taker-uppers, and they suck anyway.

Pitchfork made it cool to hate this record, but they were just being extra-pissy that day. I'd rather listen to this than Fuck Buttons or most of the other skinny/greasy bands they're humming on the nuts of. In fact, listening to this now, I'm wondering if I don't come back to it enough.

It's just so fucking weird. I have to prepare myself for it.

Listen to a few cuts here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Special Report: RIP Whereheezity - Another Sign of the Times.

I took my cat to the groomer this morning (yeah, I take my cat to the groomer - he's fancy), and after I dropped him off, I decided to stop by Wherehouse Music at the Eastport Plaza, as it's right around the corner. When I pulled into the parking lot, this is what I saw.


The Wherehouse in the Clackamas Promenade briefly turned into an FYE a few years back, and then closed shortly after that. This was the store that my brother worked at for a long time, and the same one where I pulled holiday shifts for a few years. Honestly, I was sad to see it go. The Wherehouse was never the most reliable place to find the music I liked, but I lucked into some good shit there over the years. And I felt quite comfortable in the Clackamas store. Some good times were had there. I wasn't shocked to see that it had closed, but I was disappointed. One less good place to go when I'm in that neck of the woods.

I sort of assumed that the Eastport store would be quick to follow, but it continued on, and I continued to shop (and sell CDs) there. The writing was on the wall, but I chose to ignore it. They were paying me a little too much for my used CDs, and the store seemed to be getting rearranged every month. One day I went in and they just weren't selling video games anymore. The CD stock dwindled, and the DVD stock expanded. That was fine by me; I mostly bought movies there anyway.

But all this inconsistency pointed to a company struggling to stay afloat in the crappy music business times we live in. I guess maybe I knew I was enjoying it while I still could.

I spent a good amount of time in there today, shopping hard through what was left of the store. It was depressing. The walls were bare, and the store was in even more disarray than it usually is. Of course, the 40% off all remaining merchandise made the whole thing tolerable. I was able to score some last-minute extra Christmas gifts for the wife (at those prices, I couldn't resist), and grabbed some shit for myself that I couldn't pass up. Things were picked through, but there was still plenty of deals to be had. I have no idea when the sale started, but by the amount of people who were there at 11AM and the amount of stuff that was left, I'd say it hadn't been going long.

I asked the girl at the counter when the store was actually closing, and she said they "had to be out by January 31st," but that if they sold as much as they felt they could, they might just pack up the rest and mail it to an FYE store.

I'm going to miss that place. I liked the nerds who worked there, and it was a great place to get used DVDs. Now I'm stuck with...what? Everyday Music and CD/Game Exchange? Meh. Everyday Music's DVD sections are clusterfucks, and I hate everyone who works at the CD/Game Exchange that's closest to my house. Fucking bros.

I guess I've always got eBay. Thank goodness.

Anyway, if there's a high-ticket item you haven't wanted to pay full price for, now's the time. Get down there, get a sweet deal, and pay your respects.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thurston Moore - Trees Outside the Academy (CD, 2007)

From the get-go, this album is much more palatable than his first, which makes me almost like it less, but that's just the cool guy in me. If nothing else, this record (released twelve years after his first solo record, with no others in between) is a testament to how far Thurston's come with both his songwriting and his production tendencies.

"Frozen GTR," the first track, has what sounds like strings on it. Yowsa. And it has backup vocals. What is this, a grown up Thurston Moore? Kind of. These tracks are more deliberate and more meticulous than the songs on his first solo record, but the shit Sonic Youth does now sounds much more mature than the stuff they were doing in '95, too. And you know what? Both eras are completely awesome for completely different reasons. In fact, I really like this album, because it's completely different than anything he's ever done. Not drastically so, but just hearing him use acoustic guitars for more than just a novelty appearance is great. And when a guy's made as much music as Thurston Moore has, it's really cool to hear him still find a new way to work things.

In the end, I probably don't like this one as much as his first one, but that also might be because I haven't spent as much time with it. I rocked this steady when I first got it, but then I must have become distracted. That can happen. And why I didn't buy this on LP, I don't know. They put out a sweet picture disc of this thing, and I guess I just didn't know about it or didn't look for it. I am a rube.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thurston Moore - Psychic Hearts (CD, 1995)

I was all about Sonic Youth in the mid-90's, so when this solo album from their main dude came out, I copped that shit as soon as I could find a used copy on cassette. It took a while, but it was worth it. And as you can see, I've since replaced it with a CD copy.

Stupid thing I did: I found this on vinyl at Crossroads here in Portland a few months back (on colored vinyl, no less - I think green...?) and I didn't buy it. They were asking like 40 bucks for it and I just couldn't do it. Of course now I wish I had it, but I also think that wasn't a great deal. Whatever. My time will come.

Anyway, I think I first found out about this record via the "Ono Soul" video, which is a great clip and a great song. It basically sounded like the more stripped-down Sonic Youth stuff ("Winner's Blues," etc.), and I liked it. And Steve Shelley was on drums, so that wasn't a bad thing. (Does it seem weird to anyone else when someone goes solo and then takes certain members from their band with them? Must hurt the ones who get left out. Or maybe it doesn't.) Of course, this album doesn't sound unlike Sonic Youth, but it's much more sparse and much more ramshackle-y. And I dig it.

"Ono Soul" is probably the most immediately catchy tune, but cuts like "Patti Smith Math Scratch" and the title track are mad infectious as well. I also consider "Feathers" a favorite. It sounds like a leftover from the Experimental Jet Set album that Sonic Youth had just released. In fact, this whole record has that same whispery-distorted vocal thing that that record had, and I think it works pretty darn well.

It wouldn't be right if things didn't disintegrate into madness at the end, so the album wraps up with the five-minute weirdness of "Female Cop" and the almost twenty-minute "Elegy for All the Dead Rock Stars," which is definitely worth listening to if you've got some time on your hands.

All in all, an overlooked album. And a really good one.

"Ono Soul"

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Mono Men - Sin & Tonic (CD, 1994)

During one fleeting week, I had big plans to become a Mono Men fan.

They are featured in the movie Hype, and I found their appearance in the film amusing. In fact, I find their appearance in general amusing. They are an ugly, ugly band. They are NW rock semi-legends, and I have enjoyed every song I have heard from them. These were/are good reasons to get into this band. I decided to make it happen.

I came across a used copy of this CD, and bought the shit out of it. I took it home, listened to it like three times, filed it away, and completely forgot about it.

Listening to it now, I still like it. Maybe I need to put it in my car or something. Or maybe I need to wait for a 90's NW rock phase to hit me hard. I need to regain the feeling I had that one week. I was ready to commit myself to the Mono Men. It still seems like a good idea, but not a great one.

I'll come back around.

Live video of "Can't Understand" here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Money Mark - Mark's Keyboard Repair (CD, 1995)

Man. In the mid-90's, I could not get enough of this album. Of course, I should mention that I was really high at the time.

I was down for anything Beastie Boys-related, so when I came across the CD by their main keyboard guy, I decided to get semi-obscure and scoop the shit up. While it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for (would a Mike D guest spot have killed him?), I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. It's mostly instrumental, has a scratchy vintage feel to it, and moves along quickly. There's thirty tracks, but they're all relatively short, and they all have memorable grooves.

I have not listened to this CD in probably 10 years. But I will keep it. Because it's fun. And it reminds me of how I used to push this record on people via mix tapes and/or playing it all the time, and nobody cared.

Did I mention I was really high at the time?

"Pretty Pain" and more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

MJG - No More Glory (CD, 1997)

An album with a cover that shitty has no right being this good.

As much as I usually despise Southern hip hop, I can't deny the extreme flowage that takes place on this disc. MJG has a knack for hooks, and almost every single one here is memorable. Every time I listen to this disc I remind myself that I need to get more into MJG, and then I usually forget. I'm working on that.

Like any good "hard" rapper worth listening to, MJG takes the same ol' stuff that most rappers talk about and finds a new way to make it interesting. Cuts like "Hip Hop Voodoo" and "What is This" ride fairly standard slinky funk beats, but the way MJG weaves the rhythms, you end up studying every move he makes. Dude's got a feel for the way the words work together, and he really knows how to craft a song. He definitely drives the hooks home, but they're usually complicated enough that they don't get tired.

He's also the master of the "slow beat/fast raps" approach, which I always find intriguing. It's tough to pull that off, especially with as many syllables as he crams into his verses. This album sounds a little dated now, but it's still a damn fine time. Pretty sure I scored my copy for two bucks. If you see it slummin', don't let the cover scare you. Pick it up and listen to "Don't Hold Back." You'll be hooked.

"That Girl"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Missin' Linx - Exhibit A (LP, 2000)

Back in the early aughts, I was on a mad search for any albums containing guest spots from Freddie Foxxx. That journey led me to this, a six-song EP from some dudes who used to be in the Beatnuts, or are affiliated with the Beatnuts, or something like that.

So, I signed up for the song "Family Ties," but I kept this bad boy because the rest of it is solid as well. Not spectacular, but I was pleasantly surprised. Dudes can bring the lyrics, and the beats are hard-hitting without trying to do too much. I figured I'd see more from these guys, but I never have. I actually think I have one of their 12"s, but I don't feel like going to see what song it is. I think it might be "M.I.A.," which is the last song on this record.

Around the turn of the century, Freddie Foxxx was in prime form, spitting verses that took out every one in sight. Which is why I was so disappointed to find out that he only rocks the chorus on "Family Ties," along with some shit-talking at the beginning and end. Bummer. But, because I'm a completist, the song still makes it onto the Bumpy Knuckles guest appearance mixes. Man, I haven't made one of those in a long time. Probably needs to be updated.

"Family Ties"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Milk Cult - Burn or Bury (CD, 1994)

When you talk about Steel Pole Bath Tub side projects, you gotta talk about Milk Cult.

I haven't listened to this CD in ages, but the Mike Patton guest spot on "Psychoanalytwist" will forever be burned into my ear holes. One of the catchier noise-related instrumentals you're bound to hear, and a great song all around. And if you can stomach the sea of noise and rock on the rest of this disc, you may be in for a treat.

Some of the cuts are easier to get with than others, and the variation on the instruments and vocalists used makes for a fun listen. Listening to this now, it's all coming back to me a bit. There is a lot that happens on this album, and it can either be exactly what you're looking for, or just too much chaos to stand.

If Steel Pole Bath Tub is seeming a little too poppy for you, this is the next logical step. But be warned: the last 15 minutes or so of this one is a challenge. A real challenge.

"Bow Kiness Static"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Milk - Never Dated (CD, 1995)

This is such a weird album.

In '95 or '96, a friend of mine gave this to me, saying he found it cheap at a used record store. Had I heard it? Nope. Did I know that it had a track with King Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys on it? Nope. But I'd love to hear it. The song was called "Spam," and it quickly became one of my favorite mix tape tunes for the late 90's. Lots of people got subjected to "Spam" via my cassette mixes. And they liked it. Fat beat, nonsense lyrics, and Ad Rock just going nuts. I had no idea who this Milk dude was, and as much as I tried to like the rest of the album, it didn't get to me as much as "Spam."

Part of that is due to the setup of this CD, which brings us back to why this record is weird. There are nine tracks. One is an intro that is seventeen seconds long, another is a remix of a tune that is on the album. So, there's really only seven songs. The whole thing is only 26 minutes long, and it goes by quick. It's actually the sort of spazzy, senseless hip hop that I enjoy, but you never really get an idea of what this dude is about. The liner notes suck, I never met anybody who had even heard of him, and he was never heard from again.

Of course, now with the power of the ol' internet it's easy to find out who Milk is, and the story's not even that interesting. But I still find this CD interesting. So I'll be holding onto it until I find the LP, thank you.

"Get Off My Log"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Method Man - 4:21... The Day After (CD, 2006)

Just when you thought Meth couldn't come up with a dumber title than Tical 0: The Prequel, he reaches down deep and kicks out one of the stupidest album titles ever. Check it out y'all: he likes weed!

Aside from that, I was really into this album when it first came out. Method Man had set the bar so low for his solo records that the first two songs on this one sounded brilliant just because they didn't suck super hard. "Is It Me" is a lyrically sound song, which isn't surprising, but the Scott Storch beat sounds played out now. Still, the songs where Meth takes on his critics are always good, and it's those moments where this album really works.

Unfortunately, there's not enough of that. I was listening to this record the other day, and while there are still some songs I like ("Dirty Mef," "The Glide," "Everything," "Presidential MC"), they're mostly limited to the ones that are Wu-affiliated, either through guest spots or RZA/Mathematics production. Do I need a track with Fat Joe and Styles P on it? I sure don't. Am I embarrassed to own a song called "Let's Ride" (featuring Ginuwine)? You're goddamn right I am.

And that's becoming the tradeoff with modern rap music. While there used to be one R&B song on a hip hop album (and it sometimes wouldn't even suck), now there's four. Or five. Or half the fucking thing. And it ends up souring me on the whole deal. Meth drops some great lyrics on this record, but I just can't stop thinking about "4 Ever," the song that closes this record. It's a love song that samples a well-known 80's pop song, and it's flat-out terrible.

It's a shame. But I'll still buy Method Man's next record. Because I love to hear the dude rap. How screwy is that?

Oh, I forgot to mention: The track "4:20" is, like the album, stupidly titled, but it features Streetlife and Carlton Fisk and aside from the lame hook, it's dope.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Method Man - Tical 0: The Prequel (CD, 2004)

I didn't buy this disc until well after it came out, for a few reasons. First, the word on the street (and everywhere else) was not good. Second, I saw it in the store, peeped the guest appearances, and put it right back on the shelf. It's like a who's-who of suckery: Missy Elliott, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg. If Meth thought he was trying to win the popular vote before, he must have been tired from his efforts. Because on this one, he was looking to take a shortcut to mainstream acceptance. And it's embarrassing.

Oh, I think I may have also seen Puff Daddy's name on the back of this thing, which is never a good sign. Anyway, I finally bought this a year or so ago because I had all of Meth's other albums and I found the CD for a few bucks. I keep it because I always convince myself that it's not that bad. Turns out, it's always way worse than I remember it. The beats are brutal. Just awful. Pretty much every single one. And worst of all, Meth sounds positively bored. I'm pretty sure this is the record where he says "I'm in the house like foreclosures." I mean, that one doesn't even make sense.

So, yes: when people tell you this one sucks, they're right. It's still Method Man, so there's some lyrical value to a few of the cuts (and the track with Ghostface is entertaining), but it's a rough listen. And how Streetlife got stuck rapping over the worst beats on the album is beyond me. Poor dude.

"The Show"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day (2xLP, 1998)

Is it "judgment" or "judgement"? Can we get a ruling on that? I was pretty sure there was no "E" in that shit. Anyway.

In the four years between Method Man's first two solo albums, a lot happened. The Wu was huge when Tical dropped, but by the time this one came out, they were massive. Wu-Tang Forever had just been released, and the country was enamored with the Clan. So, what to do? How about try to make a star of Method Man? I remember seeing something on MTV saying that the video for "Judgement Day" was the second-most expensive video ever made at that point. Now, we have to remember that the world was all wrapped up in Y2K fever at the time, but I still thought it was a bold move to spend millions on a post-apocalyptic mini-film of Meth dicking around in Mad Max outfits. Still, I thought it was pretty dope.

Turns out the elaborate (and arguably overdone) video was all too representative of the album itself. When this bad boy dropped and I saw that it had 28 tracks on it - yet wasn't a double album - I feared the worst: they let Meth run loose. And they did. You know how many actual songs are on this record? 17, by my count. Counting the intro, there are 11 skits or interlude-type-things on this record. And they all suck. What it equals is an LP that fucks itself by being majorly bloated. It's 74 minutes long, which is too long. And, again, the skits. A phone message from Donald Trump? I can't imagine who could possibly give a fuck about that.

The biggest bummer? In between all this crap, there's a bunch of pretty darn good songs. There's also some stinkers, but I can always come back to the title track, as well as a bunch of other ones. "Torture" is one of my favorite Method Man songs ever. You know why? Because the beat is sweet and Method Man just straight-up raps. And it is awesome.

Other highlights: "Suspect Chin Music," "Dangerous Grounds," "Snuffed Out" - basically any of the songs that Streetlife is on. And "Sweet Love," which should suck, but Cappadonna is so hilarious on it that it ends up ruling.

My advice. Put this disc in iTunes, pare it down to the bare essentials, and you'll have a solid little record. Throw those skits in the trash.

Funny thing: it was kind of agreed that this album wasn't great when it came out. Thanks to the even shittier albums that Meth dropped after this one, it's ended up aging pretty well.

"Break Ups 2 Make Ups"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Method Man - Tical (CD, 1994)

I love Method Man. There have been many times when I have briefly hated him, but he always wins me back. Wanna know why? Because is one of the best rappers on the planet. He has proven himself, for over 15 years now, to be the most reliable MC in hip hop. Lyrics-wise, at least. His solo albums? That's another story.

But, this one is a great story. It's about the first-ever Wu solo joint, and one that still remains in the top ten of all the Wu solo joints. It's about Tical, an album that I hear people sometimes saying isn't very good. Or they consider it "disappointing." Those people are idiots. Tical remains (and will probably always remain) Meth's one great solo record. It was recorded during that mid-90's period when the Wu (mostly the RZA) could do no wrong, and Method Man just completely fucking brings it on every cut.

You hear folks talk about "grimy" hip hop, and as much as I absolutely hate that term, it does work well to describe this one. It's dark, shoddily recorded, and just reeks like the stinkiest pot ever. The title track is slow, almost frustratingly so, and is probably the weirdest song Meth has ever recorded. The beauty part: he opens the record with it. I was so confused the first time I heard this, but I was intrigued. This wasn't going to be the fun-and-games Method Man that showed up on some of the peppier tracks on the Wu-Tang debut. This was going to be Meth getting high and getting inside his own head, and spitting some nutso shit.

And he does. And it's brilliant. Tracks like "Biscuits" and "Release Yo' Delf" are what Method Man is all about: lyrical stallionism. And the beats are dope as well. Pure mid-90's RZA. Forget about it. Those cuts are fairly accessible, but it's the ones like "Sub Crazy" and "What the Blood Clot" that get dark, stoned, and crazy inventive. "Mr. Sandman" uses both approaches, and is arguably the best song on the record. A great one.

Method Man in his prime, and he's untouchable. Yet, somehow he convinced himself that this record wasn't what everyone wanted. Maybe it wasn't what the radio wanted. And when he remixed "All I Need," put Mary J. Blige on that shit, and won a Grammy, it probably sealed the deal. He'd spend the rest of his solo career trying to please everyone, and fucking everything up in the process. We're getting to that.

"Release Yo' Delf"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Men at Work - Two Hearts (LP, 1985)

The forgotten Men at Work album.

Made after a couple of dudes left the band and sounding unlike their previous two, this one is a sweet oddity in the short Men at Work catalog. I was pretty excited the first time I saw this, especially when I opened it up and realized there were only three guys left in the band. Ah, the pre-breakup, contractual obligation LP. Of course, the cover is gatefold, way more elaborate than their first two, and much more "80's" than those, as well. So is the music.

While the first two Men at Work records were nicely produced, this one borders on slick-as-fuck, with more audible synths and way smoother guitar tones. If they were trying for a radio hit, they didn't get it. But they did crank out some decent songs. "The Man with Two Hearts" and "Maria" almost sound like hits. But cuts like "Children on Parade" and "Hard Luck Story" sound phoned in.

The presence of other vocalist Greg Ham, who had sang on other albums, is way more jarring here. Every track he sings is synth-dependent, almost too much so. Hay's songs sound pretty much in the same style as his earlier ones. So, yes, this sounds like a typical record from a band about to fall apart. Two completely different sounds coming from two completely different dudes. Should have let Hay handle it, boys.

I love this record for what it is, but it's clearly their weakest work. Still, great to have and great to play every once in a while.

"Sail to You"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Men at Work - Cargo (LP, 1983)

In my opinion, this is the Men at Work album. How they outdid their debut is anyone's guess, but they did it. Which is sweet, because everyone probably expected them to flop with their sophomore release. The fact that they didn't is just another reason why Men at Work rules.

Not only does this LP contain their best song ("Overkill"), it's also just out-and-out solid from front to back. It flows together far better than their debut, and also feels more thought-out and just generally fuller. Colin Hay sounds enthused, adding a palpable energy to every cut. It's pretty crazy how much their overall sound has matured, especially considering that this LP came out fairly quickly after their debut.

This is definitely the Men at Work album I've listened to the most, and that's simply because it's their best one. Songs like "It's a Mistake" and "High Wire" never get old, and are just further proof that this band remains terribly underrated.

"Overkill" and "It's a Mistake" were definitely big parts of my karaoke repertoire for a while. Good choices. People know 'em, but you don't hear them performed very often.

You can find this LP for fifty cents at any record store. Buy it. Love it.

"High Wire"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Men at Work - Business as Usual (LP, 1982)

I actually have both the US version of this album, along with the white-covered original Australian pressing. So, you know, that's what I've got going on.

Like any red-blooded American kid, I loved Men at Work in their heyday. None of the Australian charm even occurred to me; I just thought "Down Under" and "Who Can it Be Now?" were solid cuts. And they are. I never thought much about them after that, until at some point during my early twenties, when a friend of mine was rocking their second album, Cargo, pretty steadily. And I enjoyed it. I owned a copy of Business as Usualat the time, but never really played it much. I revisited it, and fell in love all over again.

While Men at Work will always remain a misplaced 80's punch line, they deserve so much more. This record is radio-friendly pop music at its finest, with deeper cuts like "Underground" and "Be Good Johnny" sounding better now than the singles that made this record so popular. ("Be Good Johnny" may have been a single, but it was never as huge as "Down Under" or "Who Can it Be Now?") And Colin Hay is just a great singer.

The best thing about Men at Work? If you got yourself a turntable, you can pick up their entire discography for about three bucks.

Get on it.

"Be Good Johnny"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Melvins - Colossus of Destiny (CD, 2001)

When you get burned by the Melvins, you get torched.

I distinctly remember buying this CD at the Music Millennium on NW 23rd here in Portland. It had just come out, and I was in a Melvins mood. I took a chance. What I ended up with is a CD I've listened to twice.

This is a poorly recorded live show from 1998, featuring about 57 minutes of feedback, synthy noodling, and noise, followed by a sludgy version of "Eye Flys." The disc is broken up into two tracks, with the first being 59:24 long, and the second clocking in at five seconds. Yeah, the second track is not even dedicated to the actual song they play.

Such are the chances you take with the Melvins. You can consider it a huge annoyance, or part of the fun. I've still held onto this one, so I must find it sort of fun.

But, still. Bold move.

Here's the first ten minutes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Melvins - The Trilogy (3xLP, 2000)

1999-2000 was a great time to be a Melvins fan. Not only did they put out three albums in well under a year, they also managed to make those albums highly listenable. A crazy concept, I know. To top it all off, they released this, the limited edition 3-LP set that collected (or claimed to) all three discs of the trilogy: The Maggot, The Bootlicker, and The Crybaby.

While the entirety of those albums is not actually represented here, most of it is, and if you're like me, you had already purchased all three on CD, so you were covered. I received this collection as a Christmas present from my brother, and it turned out to be a most fortuitous one: this is now one of the most valuable records in my collection. It's also one of the most interesting, presentation-wise. Each LP is a picture disc, with corresponding-and-opposite images represented on either side. You can check the photos here for a more detailed breakdown. Needless to say, this is the only thing I own with a swastika on it, and it still creeps me out to look at it. Gutsy move, Melvins. But despite the mixed messages, the cover art and the LPs themselves are really beautiful to look at, and really well put-together. Still, sort of creepy though.

The music is equally creepy, but in that lovable Melvins way. The Maggot is drawn-out and slightly challenging, with a fucked-up track listing that is best ignored. Front-to-back that shit. It's a great album.

The Bootlicker is possibly my favorite Melvins album. Tracks like "Mary Lady Bobby Kins" and "Up the Dumper" still sound amazing to me. Heck, the whole damn thing does. "Let it All Be" is pure bliss for the full ten minutes. An incredible song. And of course, you get the complete disarray of "Prig" at the end to remind you who exactly you're listening to. This one spent some serious time with me during the year following its release. Couldn't get enough, and still can't.

The Crybaby has always been a tougher sell for me. Covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with Leif Garrett on vocals just never seemed right to me. Not only does the version sort of suck, it always struck as me as being in poor taste. But anybody messing with Nirvana strikes me as bad taste, and that's my cross to bear. The rest of the record fares better, with the highlights being Mike Patton's guest spot on "GI Joe" and the Pink Floyd-y "Mine is No Disgrace." Not the ending I would have liked to have seen for this trilogy, but with the Melvins, things rarely work out the way you think they might.

"Mary Lady Bobby Kins"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Melvins - Gluey Porch Treatments (CD, 1987/1999)

This is the 1999 reissue of the Melvins' first album, and I'll tell you: if you are a Melvins fanboy, this is a must-own. Not only does it contain all the lo-fi glory of the actual album, but it also includes "garage demos" of a bunch of the songs. The sound quality is horrible in both cases, but it's incredibly horrible on the demos. Again, the Melvins test your patience. This is actually a pretty tame example.

Anyway, this is (almost) the beginning of the band, and for what it is, it's a great record. I actually haven't listened to this in years, so I don't know how much I'll have to say about it. The sludge you would expect is here, and though the recording is shit, the band still manages to sound powerful. Dale Crover, as always, sounds like he's trying to splinter his drums, and it's great fun to listen to.

This was when Matt Lukin (later of Mudhoney) was still in the band, and though the bass player in the Melvins has never been the focus, it's nice to know he's there. The strange thing, Melvins-wise, about this album, is that none of the songs (aside from the perfect opener, "Eye Flys") is particularly long. In fact, the majority of 'em are quite short. And some are even fast in spots. Yeah, they were still finding their niche.

If you enjoy the demos on this CD, you are officially a Melvins nerd. Congratulations.

"Happy Gray or Black"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Melvins - Houdini (CD, 1993)

My Melvins collection is sadly lacking in quantity. It's a damn shame, but somehow, collecting the Melvins stuff on vinyl is an expensive undertaking. I have yet to venture down that path. I'd like to pay $100 for a copy of Lysol, I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet. You understand.

One of the albums I do have is this one, the band's major label debut. First off, it's hilarious that the Melvins ever got signed to Atlantic records, and even funnier that the label ended up putting out more than one of their albums. Ah, the early 90's. You know as soon as Kurt Cobain listed the Melvins as his favorite band, the label dudes were falling all over themselves to meet up with Buzz and Dale. I wonder what they thought when they actually heard the band.

As far as the Melvins go, this album is crazy accessible. But I think it's safe to say that none of these tracks ever got anywhere near the radio. Though it's wonderful to consider that "Night Goat" got released as a single. A great song, but it wasn't exactly "Black Hole Sun." But, in Melvins' terms, it kind of is. There's like, a chorus and shit!

Seriously though, this album rules. Don't get too caught up in the Kurt Cobain co-production credits, or the fact that he dicks around on guitar on one of the tracks. This is all about King Buzzo showing all he's got to offer, blazing through quickies like "Honey Bucket" and "Copache," and dragging out sludgers "Hag Me" and "Joan of Arc" like only he can. And while they're at it, why not give the drummer some? I think that's what's happening on the ten-minute "Spread Eagle Beagle," but I've never been sure.

It's not like the Melvins were going to make an album that was completely easy to handle. "Spread Eagle Beagle" is a challenge, and so are a few of the others. "Pearl Bomb" uses what sounds like a CD skipping as the percussion track; "Set Me Straight" frustratingly ends as soon as you feel like it's picking up steam.

The most easy-on-the ears jams here are the first three: "Hooch," "Night Goat," and "Lizzy." Tracks like "Lizzy" show up on a lot of Melvins records. Buzz seems to always toss in one melodically coherent cut, just to let you know that he is capable of writing semi-normal rock songs - he's just doesn't have much interest in it.

You gotta be careful which Melvins albums you buy (unless you're an extremely patient and forgiving person), but this one's a safe bet.

Also - I saw the Melvins when they toured for this record. This is about what it was like. That first drum part went on for at least 15 minutes. The crowd was fairly thin by the end.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Meat Puppets - Too High to Die (CD, 1994)

Like a high school girl who latched onto "Backwater" on a whim, this is the only Meat Puppets album I own. When and why I bought it, I can't remember. I was probably going through a "90's bands who jumped from indies to majors" phase, or something of the sort.

I've barely ever listened to this, but I've been spinning it over the last few days. And it's pretty good. It sucks that that's all I can really say about it. I'd like to be able to compare it to their other albums (the band had been around for over a decade at this point), but I have no frame of reference.

I am a fan of "Backwater," and while that's certainly the catchiest track here, there's plenty of other good stuff. I just haven't ever taken the time to really dive deep into it. I think at some point I planned to get into the Meat Puppets. Probably should have started at the beginning.

There's still time.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Paul McCartney - Снова в СССР (LP, 1988)

I picked this record up sometime in the last year, and now I can't remember why. It must have been cheap. This is an initially Russian-only LP that eventually found a U.S. release. I have the Russian version, which is pretty sweet. Though I don't think it's rare or anything. Still, the print is all in Russian, so that's kind of cool.

Anyway, it's just Paul doing a bunch of golden oldies, and I think I've listened to it once. I'm all for artists getting back to their roots, I just don't usually enjoy the results. When you've got such a great songwriter, it's only natural to want to hear them do their own shit. Of course, I'm far from the ideal audience for a record like this.

Still, nice to have. And the songs are fun.

"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paul McCartney - Tug of War (LP, 1982)

Compared to the lo-fi starkness of McCartney II, this record sounds slick as heck. And it really is. But more importantly, it's McCartney's first real post-Wings statement, and it finds him rushing into the 80's with some serious ambition.

Listening to it now, it sounds a bit overly polished and perhaps blatantly striving for radio play, but it's also an interesting window into where Paul was at during the time. The duets with Stevie Wonder (the lengthy funk of "What's That You're Doing?" and the hammy feel-gooder "Ebony and Ivory") are both a bit much for me, but it's definitely cool to hear these two bigwigs teamed up with each other. But before either of those, the title track shows us just how massive in scope McCartney's ideas were. The song is layered to the gills with strings, smooth backup vocals, and intricate arrangements. It flows seamlessly into the catchy-as-shit "Take it Away," which Paul must have known would be a huge hit. It's very 80's, and not my favorite single of his, but it's a big song.

"Here Today," McCartney's tribute to the recently-deceased John Lennon, is a moving song, both uplifting and terribly tragic. It's "Eleanor Rigby"-ish in its structure, and strangely short. Hard to know how to feel about that one.

The second side of the album is less mainstream poppy, and the mix of songs makes for some nice stylistic diversity. The duet with Carl Perkins isn't really my cup of tea, and "Dress Me Up as a Robber" is a little too slick and slinky for me, but "The Pound is Sinking" and "Wanderlust" are both pretty nice.

This was the beginning of McCartney in the Eighties, and people certainly dug it. But man, "Ebony and Ivory" still just sounds like such a stinker to me. Eh. If he wanted radio play, he got it. So that's something.

"Take it Away"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Paul McCartney - McCartney II (LP, 1980)

What the hell was Paul McCartney doing between 1971 and 1980? Oh yeah... Wings. Well, when he was done dicking around with those jokers, he went into his home studio and started dicking around with a new-fangled synthesizer. Seems he didn't initially intend on releasing the results, but we should be damn glad he did. McCartney II is a really unique record, and a damn fine one as well.

Maybe I just like the idea of Paul playing all the instruments himself, or maybe I like the idea of him releasing his home recordings. Either way, this is one of my favorite McCartney solo records. Maybe my absolute favorite. "Coming Up" would you describe it? Stoned disco? The falsetto is both hilarious and awesome, and so are Paul's muffly vocals in the verses. Listen to this track in headphones for the full effect. There's a lot of peripheral shit going on, and it's worth dissecting a little bit.

"Temporary Secretary" is my favorite track on this LP, mostly because it's just so un-McCartney and so fucking weird in general. I could see how it would get on some folk's nerves, but the drum machines and sequenced blips, combined with Paul's nasally vocals - it's just too good. Things take a big detour from there, with the lo-fi blues of "On the Way" and the underrated loveliness of "Waterfalls." Sure, it's a little corny, but that's where Paul shines. (And when I say "underrated," I mean in the context of the guy's whole career. It's a well-liked song, just not as much as some of his other ones.) "Nobody Knows" closes out the second side with some blues-shakin', and the heavy drums and distorted vocals make it work nicely.

Side Two is where shit gets mad fiddly, with "Front Parlour" sounding like Paul's just trying out his new synth toy and seeing what works. "Summer's Day Song" is fake strings and layered vocals, and though it's not as huge as it might like to be, it's cool. The unfortunately titled "Frozen Jap" sounds strangely like an instrumental version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and the hand claps are pretty damn funny. "Bogey Music" is a bizarre electronic boogie that, again, features Paul really tweaking the knobs. "Darkroom" is another blippy number, and must have endlessly amused a stoned McCartney.

The record closes on a more standard note, with the timid balladry of "One of These Days," which, even though it sounds like a slightly souped-up demo, is really a nice little song. McCartney isn't really known for being an experimental dude, but the stuff he does here makes me wish he would have done more.

"Coming Up"