Sunday, 30 September 2007



Lifted from Midnite Vultures this is Beck in one of his most playful moods and motions delivering a song that sounds straight from the opening credits of some cheesy seventies TV show. Throughout the duration of the song a full on horn section creams the scene with a heart pumping stream as all remains upbeat and aiming for the sky. Which is something that is not necessarily usually said about the songs of Mr Hansen.

Just as to what the logic of “Sexxlaws” is addressing is open to debate. Beck is something of a man of mystery. Sure his parents were apparently cuckoo and his upbringing hippy and inappropriate by socially accepted standards, there are also the other tales and rumours of his various religious affiliations and music industry relations. Is this really a man that should be performing is legislation? I guess it depends on the party.

“I’m a full grown man but I’m not afraid to cry.”

Moving on things just get better with the drum machine cum Prince flipside “This Is My Crew” which demonstrates just how horribly savvy and diverse Beck always was.

Memorably accompanying this track came a very fun and colourful music video that featured a memorable speech from Jack Black in the days just before anybody knew who he was. In other words this single was quite ahead of the game. This was a long way from the days when MTV would make Beck want to smoke crack. Now it would just be recreational.

Thesaurus moment: come.


Saturday, 29 September 2007



This was a really exciting prospect when it first emerged as a stonking techno track with the killer Bill Hicks rant from Revelations (and later Arizona Bay) about marketing sampled into the weave. It was a statement that was dying to be sampled, perhaps the best diatribe of modern life that Hicks ever unleashed during his lifetime.

In the end though the sad reality is that I do not think that Adam Freeland was the man to carry it off as this track most definitely suggests he was not able to pull it off. By the time the song was released as a single the inclusion and content of the Hicks rant had been severely dwindled and reduced to nothing, probably in the face of objection from Hicks’ family. From here the original mix was forever buried as a bootleg and all the power from the track was sapped away in one foul swoop.

Away from the sample it soon becomes apparent that it is a pretty stock techno track with a retro futuristic female computerised voice telling the listener just how superficial they are. Is this really a winning formula? Not in this fucking day and age.

Taken from the album Now And Them, which I am not so sure anyone ever heard, there are four mixes of the same track on this single and there is ultimately very little to differentiate between them. Some beats sound like ping pong balls while other mixes feature the odd heavily compressed guitar slash. It’s just not very good.

It’s just too smart for its own good.

Thesaurus moment: spay.


Friday, 28 September 2007



Against expectations it is Joe Lally that has created the best music of any Fugazi members post the going on its hiatus. No mean feat considered he is most definitely considered “the quiet one.”

Happily the album is a departure from the sound of Fugazi and a display of player exploring both his own songwriting abilities and soughting adventure in the performance and execution of his instrument.

Through the history of rock music seldom have there been many interesting bass players making interesting music. Despite being an essential cog in some of the most magnificent machines he was never quite the squeaky wheel he deserved to be.

The calm and tempered pace with which the music is delivered offers a fresh degree of depth as the atmosphere achieved is one of silent menace and an eerie pre-storm excursion. With the breathing and lack of sonic destruction the words/lyrics come piercing through as the subject and content proves less ambiguous.

Joe Lally comes over as one of the best kind of social engineer musicians. For once here are lyrics of concern and occasionally condemnation that do not taste tainted or forced. There is a truly organic feel to the delivery as the drive feels a natural one as his vocals and playing heartily compliment one another. On “Sons And Daughters” he even finds the voice and confidence to lay out an accapella track.

As an album this is a sharp snapshot of the current state of play with regards to social climate and attitudes and the fear that comes with being part of the Bush-era, still enduring the post 9/11 era of hostility that still remains more than five years later.

The pick of the tracks come in the form of the truly bouncy “Lidia’s Song” that eventually pulls together with a closing hook that is scarily strangling. Likewise the title track that comes with a sense of external feedback and devastation is a towering achievement and expertly captures the tone of the entire album. It concludes with “All Must Pay” which offers the sense that “we still have a long way to go.”

All in all this album is a magnificent achievement, truly astounding to hear a bass player from this era of rock music producing such an inventive and creative stand alone body of work. Only Mike Watt can match such a feat. I cannot imagine Flea could do the same.

Thesaurus moment: roar.

Joe Lally

Thursday, 27 September 2007



Released in Australia it is difficult to tell whether this is a genuine release or a bootleg. Certainly looking up Augogo on the internet they do appear to be a legitimate label so perhaps this is another case of one of Sub Pop’s early licensing options.

The cover displays the infamous photo of a drunken Matt Lukin having passed out only to have the remainder of the band cover him with biro tattoos of penises. Its an astonishing sight, the kind of picture that has to be believed to be seen.

The release is of four early cover versions done by the band. The lead track is the aforementioned cover of “Hate The Police” by The Dicks which is a towering steamroller of a track with righteous and disparaging messages all delivered in classic hardcore methodology.

Coming second is the band’s cover of “Revolution” by Spacemen 3 which for a long while they used to close their set with. It has to be said the Mudhoney version improved on the original several times over. Basically they possess fuzz and chops that the Spacemen 3 just lacked.

Having previously appeared on the Sub Pop 200 compilation the band’s cover of “The Rose” by a dramatic Bette Midler has come to be best known as the song Kurt Cobain began singing as he took to the stage at Reading 92. This version here though is without doubt the definitive one that opens with the sound of the tide coming in and sees an emotional Mark Arm croon while Steve Turner adds a torrent over guitar to proceedings scoring the turmoil within the words of the story.

This release concludes with their cover version of “Halloween” by Sonic Youth which is suitably arty and awkward as a song originally sung by Kim Gordon now comes delivered by a male still bleeding words from a female perspective and sounding quite frankly strange as Arm repeatedly says “you want me to come, you want me to come” in a way that generally New York types tend to be only able to get away with. It’s a slow paced and often torturous track but Mudhoney thankfully manage to bring a bit more life to proceedings than the Yoof did on the original.

They’re so good between the covers.

Thesaurus moment: ameliorate.

Augogo Records

Wednesday, 26 September 2007



Serving as some kind of anthem to disillusion whenever I begin to lose faith in people or they do me wrong often this is the song that enters my mind providing the kind of statutory soundtrack and disco to disappointment at the attitudes and actions of my friends. This is my personal ode to being let down.

There is an almost educational song as Mr Lydon manages to capture in words how I often feel towards people suddenly I arrive at a realisation that people are the same all over, that friendships are fractious all over and ultimately are what you make of them. This isn’t the kind of stuff people teach, it just gets learned from experience. Only then can you put these emotions and situations into words and make them into art. This more than anything is why the word of Lydon has endured. Definitely a line of castigation able to be applied to the big picture, the masses and more.

The song is lofty one that feels as if it were towering over towns and buildings. With its swagger it almost sounds baggy (especially the guitars) as Lydon snarls at his most personally condemning. After a period of resounding contemplation it all builds to a crashing chorus stating just how “disappointed in you people” he is. Still as the realities of human nature kick in with a high dose of irony he concludes “that’s what friends are for.” Here most definitely is man more patient with people than I.

Lesson learned.

Thesaurus moment: indoctrinate.

Public Image Limited

Tuesday, 25 September 2007



This is a classic song of any era. After an opening that sees the band appear to be hold its breath the single kicks with a tumbling hook and the silkiest of intentions with more of the greatest flow of pop that has ever come from jangling indie music.

Here is another love song from Teenage Fanclub dripping in resignation, turning something blue into something beautiful whilst maintaining integrity despite being expressed by clear geeks and nerds. There is much pride is this package.

At a time where so many guitar bands were suddenly appearing out of nowhere, this single arrived in the mid nineties when it was probably needed the most. In a climate where too many airbrushed guitar outfits were experiencing some degree of success, attaining a false career in a vocation they weren’t overly talented at, here was a song that hand claws and hooks that meant you would register the song in the mind immediately and a few listens later the words/lyrics would be cast to the point of singalong.

The song was a regular feature on the Mark Radcliffe (and Marc Riley) graveyard shift on Radio One from 10PM to midnight and for me this song (and Mellow Doubt) have very much come to represent those times which truly were something of a peak in radio history/legend. How green was our valley?

Their affection for Neil Young continues with a cover of “Burned” by Buffalo Springfield to which they once again do true justice to the song and make it their own with the chiming sentiments and none too subtle hooks. “For You” follows in dour and downbeat fashion, quieter fare than from what usually comes from the Fannies. I sounds very much like The Beatles in execution, like a person crying their eyes out on a Saturday night hiding emotions away from the rest of the world. Beauty comes at a price.

“Headstand” closes proceedings and almost sees the band returning to their grunge leanings with a larger electric guitar sound than usual coupled with loud harmonies. With its quiet loud quiet procedure it sounds like the Beach Boys fronting Pavement in a tasteful manner.

This is the sound of a band playing to its strengths and striking gold.

Thesaurus moment: height.

Teenage Fanclub
Creation Records

Monday, 24 September 2007



As great as the song actually is it is somewhat disheartening and distressing to consider that this is THE Beastie Boys song for a whole generation. Sure it’s a good track and all but just because it is popular with a good video it doesn’t mean that it should always be the Beasties song the powers that be reach for whenever they want a piece of classic New York white boy hip hop.

Lifted from Hello Nasty this was the first single from the album that was supposed to mark their great return. Having now gradually picked up an alternative rock fan base through Check Your Head and Ill Communication this was the first record that was to be unleashed straight/direct at these people. With this in mind the band made a conscious decision to not make things too obvious, to not play much live stuff and to return closer to their hip hop roots.

“Intergalactic” is unmistakable as the opening gambits flies in from a robot/computer voice and almost immediately the images of the guys running around Japan in hi-vis vests is what arrives in the mind’s eye. From here it is classic rhymes over classic beats delivery at a quick fire, almost faultless pace. So why the downer?

It’s a pretty clinical and clean sound these work here. It’s too playful and goofy. In a way it just conjures up an awful image of dickheads at a nightclub suddenly doing robotic dancing while trying to keep their piece in their pants. Do you see my issue with it now? Nice bit of scratching and drop outs though.

Elsewhere the release offers up “Hail Sagan”, seemingly an ode to a great man done by way of horror soundtrack gone goofy and a guest appearance from Miho Hatori. Is this really fitting?

That said it does however offer up one of the greatest record sleeves anywhere.

Thesaurus moment: perception.

Beastie Boys
Grand Royal

Sunday, 23 September 2007



Somewhat wayward and occasionally trade Street Hassle is the confident sound of an accomplished artist with the powers that be backing him up.

Spread over eight songs at times Reed just sounds inside as his voice warbles all over the show and words scream/ache of imbalance. Rationally a person would be forgiven for having a toxic reaction to this record but when were things ever easy with this guy.

With many resources at his disposal this is a Bowie sounding record, quite far removed from the sound of Velvet Underground but at the same incredibly restrained where otherwise it could have clung onto a messy glam sound at a time when punk had hit hard. With a song such as “Dirt” there is a real trudge to proceedings and a sense that all things were not necessarily good at this time in this world. Eventually he winds up reciting The Clash lyrics while appearing to be stealing from a Stooges track.

It is the title of the album that fires proceedings into the stratosphere, producing for me what is perhaps the greatest song in the solo catalogue of Lou Reed. The first time I heard “Street Hassle” was on a strange compilation available through mail order by the Melody Maker called “Rebellious Jukebox” which collected together tracks from all the legendary influences that bands would always be name checking. Clocking in at 10 minutes and 53 seconds I expected a nightmare but instead what I received was a breeze.

Forget “Perfect Day” and “Walk On The Wildside”, this is his creative, his masterpiece song that towers over everything else within his being.

A few years ago the song re-entered my consciousness when it was strategically placed at the climax of the movie The Squid And The Whale, placed at a most pivotal point where the emerging strings sat early in the scene and everything would eventually come together as the visuals and music came to climatic perfection in a manner that saw Goosebumps shoot up and down my being.

Putting aside his poison bubblegum tracks this is his most triumphant opus. As the first few lines of string swoop in the song pulls away like a long distance liner leaving shore setting sail on a voyage. This is no bargain package deal.

The ambition of the song always reminded me of “Marquee Moon” (the song) and Cale’s own “The Gift” in the way that the song confidently takes its time while telling a tale from life’s seedy underbelly. The three separate sections and harrowing narrative includes the tales of a girl overdosing at a party. It’s an ugly. Then Bruce Springsteen of all people arrives for a brief cameo and even he cannot ruin the song. If anyone ever doubts the ability of Reed this is the song that must be passed onto them.

As the dust settles the clumsy “I Wanna Be Black” follows with its good intentions but curious execution although the song does sound like a fun party. Equally bemusing is “Real Good Time Together” which strongly/staunchly echoes “Real Cool Time” from the first Stooges album in the worst method imaginable (although word is that this was a left over Velvet Underground track).

Eventually the record reaches the lumbering “Leave Me Alone” that sounds part Roxy Music and part Steve Mackay invasion of a Stooges song. It exhibits a lot of a drive if not necessary the most amount of fun.

The record closes with “Wait” which is another saxophone harbouring ditty that you are not quite sure if it is riding the right side of ironic. I quite suspect that this is the sound of drug goggles in action.

Ultimately Street Hassle is a very important record/point at Lou Reed’s career. Considered by a force now too far gone and ravaged by drugs there turned out plenty here to grasp onto even if it wasn’t necessarily the most original of material although it did at least point towards all influences being the right ones. Moving on.

Thesaurus moment: struggle.

Lou Reed
Arista Records

Friday, 21 September 2007



Rebellious Jukebox used to be a feature that the Melody Maker would run weekly whereby a musician would select ten of his/her favourite tracks. To tie in with the feature the Melody Maker cobbled together this compilation CD which was available through mail order for the price of around £7.

As far as a tracklisting goes it is a pretty spotless selection of the great, the good and the legends, so many names that our current favourite acts would now be name checking. Released in 1993 this turned out to be the first time that I managed to hear many of these artists.

The collection begins incredibly well with “Love Comes In Spurts” by Richard Hell & The Heartbreakers. This was a song that I first heard played in the movie Pump Up The Volume and I am pretty positive I would have later heard it on Mark Radcliffe’s classic graveyard shift show on Radio One. Heard through a teenager’s ears this song was hilarious, ageing amazingly with a prickly sentiment and in-joke that represents the kind of rebellion I was itching/aching to get into at the time.

From here the second track on the compilation is “Personality Crisis” by the New York Dolls and suddenly despite sounding lumbering, early punk appeared to possess a kind of power, ingenuity and humour that the latter stuff I was being exposed to just did not hold.

The stand out track on the compilation arrived in the form of “Street Hassle” by Lou Reed. Having already been exposed to his obvious tracks this was suddenly something completely/thoroughly alien to me. Immediately I noticed that it was almost eleven minutes long. How was I supposed to get through this? Subsequently the majestic pace of the piece and glorious strings cradling the narrative has served me well over the years as the beauty of the song has always touched me (despite the degradation attached to the principles).

After this the album takes in tracks by Gram Parsons, Nick Drake and Captain Beefheart before arriving at “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth which truly rubs shoulders with comfort against such heavyweights.

The next track to have an immense effect on me was a live version of “Thirteen” by Big Star. To date I had never heard anything like it as the beauty of the work seeped into my consciousness and made me long even further for the relationships I was finding impossible to snag and experience. The words of this song explicitly paint a picture of problems I have always be soughting and desiring. This was such poetry, chilling and amazing to the end, the kind of song you might be able to impress members of the opposite sex with.

Continuing the flow are songs by The Modern Lovers, Husker Du, Iggy Pop and the Buzzcocks before a live, near fifteen minute of “Marquee Moon” by Television closes proceedings. Again this was the point where “Marquee Moon” hit me and clicked. A song of such length just should not be as accessible but it just is. It’s a song that loops like a generator as the masters of the piece go off on exploration. Coming from such a punk movement but exhibiting almost jazz tendencies in a way this could quite easily be the first post-punk song emerging at a point when the movement was barely a toddler. There’s no need to party.

Despite collecting together many obvious names this compilation was always far more than a cheap knock-off and cash-in and at a time long before every song was available on the internet it served to educate my musical tastes in a most vintage manner.

There was no second selection.

Thesaurus moment: schooling.

Melody Maker

Thursday, 20 September 2007



Its usually tends to be an indication that the music held within is good when I pull out a CD case to discover a crack on the cover. This will suggest extensive listens and usage in addition to a reckless enthusiasm and approach to the playing of the record. I remember those thrills from when this record came.

This is a big song that shot out like a bolt from the blue. This was not what Faith No More sounded like, the pace was exceptionally upped and the addition of rap vocals brought a new degree of intensity to the piece. With hindsight these were the same kind of dynamics that would eventually resemble the kind of open enthusiasm for mixing genres that Mike Patton would be putting out on Ipecac.

It is funny to note the prominence of Roddy Bottum on the record. It adds a very filmic, almost noir tone to proceedings and when it drags out and closes the remix you wonder if everybody is happy.

Backing up the main track from the soundtrack is the lead track in the form of the Helmet and House Of Pain collaboration, which in earnest is something of a no-brainer as a natural and perfect match. The end result however is very much a Helmet sounding song with some House Of Pain action tagged onto the end. Its good but ultimately should have been so much better.

The Judgement Night soundtrack was a real piece of work. Seldom has so much effort been put into an album accompanying a movie and then outshining. A true missed opportunity.

Thesaurus moment: gel.

Faith No More
Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.
Epic Records
Sony Music

Wednesday, 19 September 2007



When My So-Called Life emerged in the early nineties its timing was perfection. At a time when it appeared that there was an explicit weight of the world on the shoulders of the new generation (Generation X) and the rising stars of the era were making sure to point this out middle America needed a poster child to represent these most salient of gestures. In Angela Chase someone somewhere was onto something.

It wasn’t until after the event that I understood just was a multi faceted and layered TV show it was. I have to concede that I never really “got” the programme when it was first shown on Channel Four at 6PM on Wednesdays. It was only until I read an article about in Spin magazine of all places about it was a show “too good to exist” that I realised its apparent genius. For me there was nothing weird about Angela, the way she acted in an often selfish and self serving manner, such was/is a key mannerism of my generation. It was all for the good, the fabric and personality (disorder) of the time. Now some of these people are parents, influencing a new generation of potential Angelas. Sell outs.

This is the soundtrack to the show that is key is to understanding the times. The songs are diluted, soft MTV friendly versions of the raging alternative rock hits that were fuelling the generation. Regardless these grunge lite songs were still college rock friendly, only now they just had a bigger budget and stronger bargaining position.

It opens with Juliana Hatfield who in a way was the grunge rock equivalent of Angela Chase. Sounding soft and vulnerable while being notorious for addressing female issues with a different (unique sounding) slant for a while she was very popular for being both ballsy and sexy. Her contribution to this record (“Make It Home”) is not her greatest or strongest moment but having appeared on the show as an angel her attendance on this album was mandatory (it didn’t hurt her chances either that the soundtrack was released on the major label she was now signed to).

From here the names range from the great and the good to the downright obscure and alien. Roped in for the height of credibility were Sonic Youth who chipped in with “Genetic”, a b-side from the 100% single. Not that it is a band song, its just not prize stock from New York’s finest and coolest. Already there is a sense of being jipped attached to proceedings. Then by the time Afghan Whigs chip in with an album track things finally fully resemble a cash in.

Obviously the Lemonheads are on here, this was their label and this show’s audience was their fanbase. “Dawn Can’t Decide” is a track that would have sat very comfortably on It’s A Shame About Ray, a lively song with a hint of loud guitar and a dumb happy bounce attached to the sensation of being different.

Elsewhere on the record overrated never-weres Buffalo Tom put in a valiant appearance while decent nearly weres Madder Rose and Frente! drop in classic indie sounding contributions to varying degrees of satisfaction. Archers Of Loaf turn out to be the real oddballs of the piece dedicating a noisy and distorted piece that I can’t really see/hear fitting in with the world of My So-Called Life.

The most telling and interesting inclusion on this album is the appearance of Daniel Johnston with “Come See Me Tonight.” Were the compilers of this CD really so ahead of their time? I doubt so. More this is an interesting example of the happy accident and misfortune that was grunge breaking and the resulting signing of Daniel Johnston to a major. As a result it would have opened doors to him to such paydays as appearing on a television soundtrack such as this. Do you really think that Angela Chase or any of her cronies would ever listen to Daniel Johnston or even associate with his persona and legacy? For me this is the revealing point of this record, where true grunge spirit clashed with the faux grunge chic that followed. This appreciation was just not sincere.

The record comes to a close with the W.G. Snuffy Walden theme to the show, a name so square that he doesn’t even gain tracklisting credit amongst the season’s heroes. Suddenly the album is taken away from its exciting rock demeanour back to the reality of commercial television as suddenly the person that scored shows such as Thirtysomething and The Wonder Years (which I guess makes sense) is cramping the album’s style. This was just a job.

Is there any element of this record that could be attributed to the future success of 30 Seconds To Mars? In half a minute, so much good work all undone.

Thesaurus moment: time.

My So-Called Life

Tuesday, 18 September 2007



The Lemonheads were a really strange outfit. Riding on the coat tales of all the Sub Pop cool bands I knew DM wearing grunge thugs that could/would get all gooey over the songs on this album. In this something smelled fishy and wrong in the alternative nation.

I never really jumped two footed into the Lemonheads experience. Sure I bought (into) “Mrs Robinson” when it came out as a single but I was never fully convinced and after having this record repeatedly shoved down by throat by one of the said grunge thugs it was only out of a sense of immediate nostalgia (and bargain) that I finally bought this record.

When Evan Dando popped up in Reality Bites it made a lot of sense. He was all too photogenic to be the kind of fuck up that felt genuine, sincere and trustworthy. He didn’t stand for what we stood for, when he fucked up there was always going to be somebody there to bail him out. You just knew it. Such is life.

It’s A Shame About Ray is a good college rock album showering occasionally great pop songs. I’m not sure that its author ever really claimed it as anything else, only the powers that be selling it onto Generation X were happy to lump it in with the good and bad fuzzy revolution that had arrived dead on arrival.

The album opens with “Rockin Stroll”, a mindless happy drawl and then in “Confetti”, it continues with a prized subtle stomper of a song that offers so much, one of those clever songs that you seem to know/recognise immediately from keen songwriting and joyful repetition.

Listening back to this record now so many years later it actually feels as if it has more in common with the UK indie scene of the time as opposed to the grunge led market it was lumped in with for commercial reasons.

As the record reaches its title track it offers up the kind of material to justify the hype attached to the release, supplying a hook so succulent you want to taste it.

With Juliana Hatfield on board she seemed to lend a fine degree of balance to the record, potentially helping Dando rail things in at times while Tom Morgan of Smudge helped excessively with the songwriting.

“Rudderless” is an interesting song on the album, listened to too intently the musically the band sound lumbering and basic but it all gets carried triumphantly by more lyrical repetition that successfully serves to stick in the mind. There is no doubting Dando had a way with words.

Borrowing perhaps a bit too heavily from “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan, “(My Drug) Buddy” is one of those gushers that could/would see the roughest grunge thug completely taken in and charmed by the Lemonheads. Describing some kind of dysfunctional drug happy relationship (enhanced by Hatfield’s backing vocals), the Hammond runs strong in this song as you sense this is the kind of autobiographical that the Evan Dando experience is all about. As much as any other song in their catalogue this is what made people fawn in this direction.

After starting extremely strongly from here the album begins to peter out. “Bit Part” lends a bit of life to proceedings but there is no hiding the fact that as the songs begin to bring girls names into their titles (including “Alison’s Starting To Happen” which regards Alison Galloway of Smudge) the album turns wet as a rot sets in.

The album closes on two cover versions in the form of “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair and the aforementioned star making “Mrs Robinson” which has always felt cynically and tactically tagged onto the end of the record; somewhat out of sync/place with proceedings (indeed it wasn’t on original pressings of the album).

For the record the Ray in question is an old club owner from back in the day and the actual title “It’s A Shame About Ray” originates from a line that Dando read in a Sydney newspaper article about a kid called “Ray” and the bad things therewith.

An album lacking sustained staying power, ultimately this was probably the element that stunted the Lemonheads through their career.

Thesaurus moment: element.


Sunday, 16 September 2007



With more measured crooning Tom Waits took on Saturday night through a drunken haze while still sounding relatively healthy while being some distance from the eventual gruff exterior that would inhabit him and his voice.  With this a kind of blissful exuberance takes over play as dimly lit occasions are turned into majestic moments of wonder in search of some clarity.  Regardless it’s romantic all the same.

Early Tom Waits feels very much about being the reflective songwriter.  With his vocal cords still intact his words and gestures contain something of an early grace as instead of the gruff monster sound we are acclimatised to these days, often he sounds like Randy Newman, Van Morrison and even at times Bruce Springsteen.

The album is about the hard living Waits will always be known for.  It is about hitting the town and hitting it hard, looking for life and then love all before last orders and closing time.  In execution he manages to turn what can often be grotty scenarios into true poetry.  His imagery is invigorating, passionate and full of love.  And this is prevailant as “New Coat Of Paint” presents a very exciting option and moment in time with its lush declaration.

The intention of these tracks is to tell the stories that he gathered while working in nightclubs, tales told in “smoky rooms under neon lights.”  With Bones Howe on production the sound is a hybrid of jazz, folk and the blues with the occasional orchestral arrangement thrown in for good measure and a big band sound.

On its cover is the painting of a regal Waits looking about to be propositioned by a lady.  With cigarette in his mouth and hand on the back of his head from within his cap there is an air poetic confidence and exuberance in posture that appears to emerge from a lack of concern.  Ladies and gentleman, this was a more handsome Bukowski.

Playing out of California you get a sense of his home turf and the acquaintance he makes.  There appears to be a lot of yearning and sly gestures on show thus there is some moral ambiguity in the lyrics exhibited as romance.  With his words he is painting the kind of experience the listener would like to have on a night out.

“Please Call Me, Baby” represents the record at its most desperate and romantic.  With its lush arrangements it feels like an oddly wholesome and well intentioned conversation cum plea.  Then arrives the imagery of being in transition that comes with “Depot, Depot”, a track that opens almost as if it were show tune.

There was a heavy literary influence bearing on Waits’ writing and this arrives in the form of the two spoken word tracks in “Diamonds On My Windshield” and “The Ghost Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone’s Pizza House)” that would not look out of place amongst the works of the Beat writers he appreciated.  The latter track also serves as a handy outro to this volume.

Like most warm records it makes me think of Christmas Eve and being out on an illuminated night surrounded by energy, enthusiasm and cheer.  It has that certain ability to transform and alter a person’s focus, to concentrate on the positive when faced with so much surface negative.  Maybe it was the beer goggles.

It was a long night.

Thesaurus moment:

Friday, 14 September 2007



The second release from Shellac in many ways is their best, the one with the most motion and focus combining all their lofty abilities into two of the most devastating and inventive compositions in their cannon. This is a genuinely nasty sounding record but in that cool and rational way which doesn’t for a second cause you to question anything that is being delivered. This is one of the most earnest gestures in modern alternative rock, a truly inventive work of bile that produces guitar sounds and swings that cannot be found anywhere else in rock.

Shellac are cut. There is not one ounce of fat in anything they do and their movements feel cast out of granite with a kick and a punch that is just as solid.

With drums so clear that they sound like they’re in the room “Doris” kicks off the record with one of the most aggressive sounding tracks (still) in the Shellac arsenal. Dishing out repeated stabs of onslaught the seemingly tale of an awkward female is one that builds to an inevitable explosion and harsh act of defiance. It’s funny to think that when I used to hang out with wannabe football thugs they would refer to their significant others as their “Doris” I don’t quite think that this was the type of person they were referring to.

“Wingwalker” is an immense tune filled with dense guitars that spend the duration of the song sounding on the brink of devastation. To this day it remains perhaps the strongest song in their catalogue as it exists as a bitch with many faces and facets. The initial bark of Albini harkening back to a more playful time could have come straight out of Full Metal Jacket and as the bass of Weston drops in to give the track a horror movie air of tension things are explicitly headed in a dark direction.

At the 23 second mark Albini aurally begins abusing his guitar as shards of broken noise pierced the repetitive perfection of the Weston/Trainer engine room. Who could deny him the right to fly?

For a while back there this song was considered by some as a nasty jab towards Kurt Cobain post-In Utero. “I’m a plane” was supposedly a dig at “On A Plain” concealing a barely veiled attack at rock star mentality and the glue sniffers now travelling in business class with the suits. This ain’t some kind of metaphor, goddamn this is real. In some quarters the creation of this song appeared to be considered as Albini in one foul seemingly simple swoop creating the song, sound and energy that Cobain so craved from his third studio album. As to how much weight there is in this theory is very contentious but if that was the mission it was certainly accomplished.

Five minutes later “Wingwalker” crashes to an incendiary conclusion as battered and bruised the work of music is now a much better place. As he does one last scrap of his pick along the top string somewhere somebody just lot their mind.

Without doubt one of the most satisfying seven inches of an era.

Thesaurus moment: fear.

Shellac interview
Shellac live
Touch And Go

Thursday, 13 September 2007



Anyone that tells you that they do not like this song is lying. Lying to themselves and lying to their generation to the point of betrayal. Sure the song has been played to death and has caused the listener to experience a sense of overkill but likewise a listen today coming out of the blue from some dodgy FM radio station still has the potential and power to invigorate and thrill, remind a person in their thirties of how in the early nineties all felt as if our world was being won, that our point was being made and acknowledged and with it our parents and elders felt fear.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a once in a lifetime song. The song that represents a whole generation, time and mindset. It was always a great song but the timing (by fortune and fluke) could not have been more perfect. At a time when things were horrible and the emerging breed had to express it, the grimness and power of this song coupled with the images of the video were ripe to spearhead an onslaught. And Nevermind backed this up, displaying that the band was in it for the long game.

I have to concede I hated this song when it first appeared on MTV. Initially I misunderstood the calmness and apparent angst of the band in the face of such dank turmoil. I actually thought Kurt Cobain was arrogant when he looked into the camera with such disdain. I knew he hated me but I didn’t quite realise, what it was that I had done to him. In the end it was nothing.

Anyone says that they don’t like this song is a fucking liar. The song spreads the board and appeals to everyone, which at the end of the day is a major part/element of its undoing. In the same way that an angry small town punk in some buttfuck town was swallowing this song whole, at the same time a jock at his school who was making his life misery would also be pumping the song from his stereo. In my own experience wearing a snot green cardigan to school because I thought it was like Kurt’s there were complete arseholes at the same time into the record (although in England we did have the house/rave tunes for the “cool” kids). That said I have heard of football discos (AFC Wimbledon) where the DJ has dropped this tune and prompted a mass “bundle” by wannabe hooligans. As I said, across the spectrum.

Listening to the song now it awesome immediately. The first few chops of the song build a kind of anticipation so few modern acts have even captured in their entire career before the drums kick in the explosive cacophony of the most devastating riff of our era. As the song heads to the apparent Pixies bassline Kurt begins exhuming his mind with the kind of words only a touched individual might conjure. For a song of seemingly such lyrical nonsense to capture the minds of people and actually resemble some kind of singalong is ultimately a feat beyond feat.

The structure of the song is, dare I say, quite generic. Fast slow fast. Loud quiet loud. What more do you really need from a rock song though? The pay off is there. The dynamics are there. All in all with such a stinging assortment of sounds and players on hand you need no more in order to lose your shit.

There is nothing than can done or said to ruin this song and its legacy. And certainly over the years people sure have tried.

We never had it so good.

Thesaurus moment: gigantic.


Wednesday, 12 September 2007



Playing out with a similar swagger to another of the great The Jesus Lizard moments in “Then Comes Dudley”, “(Fly) On (The Wall)” is a song guaranteed to induce a drunken sense of feeling and possibly a reaction worthy of something stronger.

There is a beautifully intimidating motion attached to this song. The baseline lumps along as the guitar pumps out some kind of low end loop while Yow leads the charge off on some kind of withdrawal rant aching for somebody to listen to his pained requests.

As far as their peers go there is very little to compare against The Jesus Lizard when their songs are so solid and astounding as this. Put up against of the current batch of so called dangerous bands filling the pages of music weeklies it is just laughable. Without the desire or necessity to boast about their exploits it only serves to extend the legacy of the band causing them to be a group of individuals that you just can’t trust along the way.

I don’t know what happened to music, why it went soft and why it stopped producing bands so deftly menacing as this. Somewhere music slipped between the net and anything loud and with a bit of energy these days just appears to get lumped in with the pedestrian metal crowd and if a band exhibits any such unique traits at the beginning you can sure as fuck guarantee that they will have been knocked out of their system as they exit.

This band should have killed everyone.

Thesaurus moment: nuisance.

The Jesus Lizard
Touch And Go

Tuesday, 11 September 2007



It would seem I am destined to forever be haunted by this fucking record after attending Wall Of Sound for a job interview on the cusp of the release of this record. I never heard back from Wall Of Sound but I seem to be hearing this turgid piece shit every hour of every day on the radio now and it’s just getting me down. If you thought you hated the Arctic Monkeys, save that judgement for the impending album from this source.

Admittedly I did like this record for fifteen minutes when it seemed like it would be paying for my future and my kid’s future to some extent – the guy at the interview gleefully told me how it was “going to do 200,000 units” – but fuck wishes and fuck unfilled hopes held in the gripe of such callous hands.

Of course this is said mostly in jest, I am lost at sea currently and were it not for such reasons I would truly be judging this record on other merits. Such as the relatively pleasant disco-esqe bouncing bass that paves the way for the single to carry through, very reminiscent of an exact lift from Luscious Jackson of all people. Such sounds confuse the act notion and intentions of the record until that is “the Reverend” (what a wankerish name) takes over and spouts his patronising bullshit all over the pretty trad such Arctics fibre. Scratch everything I have already said about this record, I would have hated it anyway.

I think perhaps the fact that people are mistaking the Reverend’s voice for Simon Le Bon kind of immediately serves up a credibility DOA. I don’t think the world really needs some uppity lad on the dole telling the population how shit it is to have a career is really necessary right now in these times of tail spinning into recession. Especially one supposedly claiming to have written parts of the Arctic Monkeys record (obviously not the good bits).

The b-side features the glorious haircut John Cooper Clarke, now a happy resident of Colchester and one I love seeing strolling around town as if time had not taken its toll. It would have been nicer if his influence on the track was heavier but for the man to be dragged back into the charts, albeit by b-side, is a truly great thing and I hope it only serves to add a couple of years to his careers and a few more pounds to his bank account (coupled with the lush license of Evidently Chickentown to The Sopranos).

Were I ten years younger I would lap this shit up.

Thesaurus moment: predeveloped.

Reverend And The Makers
Wall Of Sound

Monday, 10 September 2007



Entourage is a much better and deeper TV series than at surface level it would suggest. For what appears to be a tale of four dickheads being guided by an elder dickhead the reality is that once you lift the lid you uncover a set of guys struggling and muddling their way through life (albeit a life of bling) using a friend and team dynamic akin to the aspects that made a person fall in love with the group of lads in Stand By Me. As a result the notion and complexities of relationships are surprisingly tangible and something that is easy to identify with. Basically it is just dressed funny and too flashy for some.

The TV show opens with “Superhero” by latter day Jane’s Addiction and perfectly suits the journey of four people living a privileged existence. That song however is not present on this disc/compilation.

As with most HBO series there appears to be a lot of thought and technique applied to the cut selections included in the shows that more often than not perfectly compliment the scene going down. Often each episode has enough tracks on it at various stages that themselves would make great compilation albums. It is perhaps fortuitous in a world of iTunes that an audience is now able to make such a selection decision. This does not however make the compilation of a one of soundtrack CD very easy for the marketing people.

Culled from what appears to be the first three seasons this is a fourteen song mish mash of fly hip hop tracks crossed with what is probably perceived as the cutting edge of alternative music somewhere down the line. As a result of this returns are mixed and the rap selections far outstrip the white boy rock for quality.

With Kanye West, Common, T.I., Obie Trice and Dead Prez on board putting in decent appearances the register is pretty impressive and even newbies such as Flo Rida and Saigon do not ruin the roost. In “Wanna Know” by Obie Trice and “Southside” by Common are two songs of the highest order.

Elsewhere another bonafide classic pops up in the form of “Staring At The Sun” by TV On The Radio which is a song so benefiting a morning ahead of victory, sounding like some of the freshest noises known to man. For the win.

Of the rest there are low points such as the appearance of Jamie T with “Salvador” who you sense is on board because the producers could not afford the Arctic Monkeys but wanted some Brit. Also the version of “Hip Hop” by Dead Prez here is a curious drum and bass/metal hybrid which I am genuinely confused by. Luckily the surprisingly ever reliable Gnarls Barkley appear with a bubble pop effort equal parts Devo and Outkast. Class action.

As proceedings close with the aforementioned TV On The Radio track it feels like have been through some kind of aural whirlwind compiled by a person that actually takes the show quite seriously. I hate to say it but I can name fourteen better songs that have appeared in the show off the top of my head (starting with “Runnin’” by The Pharcyde and “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix). Ari Gold wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.

I live my life as Turtle.

The credits say that Jason Alexander is the music supervisor. George from Seinfeld? Really?

Thesaurus moment: fly.

Atlantic Records

Friday, 7 September 2007



A song such as “Cannonball” now feels like something of a mutant occurrence from the past. It was most noticeable at the Shellac All Tomorrows Parties event in 2002 when as the event submerged and drowned in an alternative nation of cool but unlistenable acts and their material when the Deal twins hit home with “Cannonball” the festival had its one bona fide moment of true pop success legacy. Later that night as I slept in my bed a roving gang of indie hoodlums decided to gather in the green forecourt of our chalet complex and moo out the intro of the song en mass. It sounded as if the world was ending.

Complete with Jim McPherson on drums and Josephine Wiggs on bass this was the classic Breeders lineup. Pod may remain their best album but this was when they were at their tightest as a band unit.

In a way it culminated when they band were dragged onto MTV and New Year’s Eve night as the station showed its infamous Nirvana Live And Loud concert which was initially accompanied by a few short support moments from The Breeders and Cypress Hill. For The Breeders to have raised this high in the ranks of music was genuinely astounding and a subtle victory for the alternative side of proceedings in the music wars. Of course this wasn’t realised at the time, as a dumb teenager this just felt like the natural placing for the band, to be on TV at this time. Obviously when the station reshows the concert now The Breeders are nowhere to be seen.

“Cannonball” is a song of many layers. From the distinguished vocal distortion of Mrs Frampton goes lo-fi onto the breath holding pint glass click track and eventually the bass bar opening, this is how you start in unconvention. Once the track gets in full flow and grinds a groove it is as bouncy as indie can get without getting ruined. Then all goes apeshit at the chorus. Sheer fucking perfection. It doesn’t even have to use whole words, mere vowels do the job.

Elsewhere for the win I always loved the cover version of “Lord Of The Thighs” by Aerosmith which sung by Josephine Wiggs came stoked in subtle perversion. I had a crush on her for years before I discovered she wouldn’t be into me anyway (yeah, as if ever). This was dark and nasty.

It ends with “900” which feels like being at the beach in the dark and feeling positively haunted by memories and reminiscence with its dense strings interwoven with bass playing and curiosity. At one point I thought life was always going to sound as good as this.

Everyday give yourself a little present.

Thesaurus moment: apogee.

The Breeders

Wednesday, 5 September 2007



The second Dinosaur Jr record is perhaps their strongest collection of songs where all elements appear to click. Its amazing from the off as “Little Fury Things” opens the album with a frenzied bout of drumming from Murph coupled with fizzling wah licks from J and Lou screaming in the distance. Then just before the record sounds as if it may implode within the opening seconds it all calms down as the soothing and pained vocals of Mr Mascis drawl in calming things down and a sense of emotional longing gets attached to the song.

Dinosaur Jr is a band all about the volume, of producing a devastating wave of distortion while Mascis wails in a Neil Young fashion. No song better demonstrates this than “Sludgefeast”, an uncompromising ditty that floors the listener immediately with its extended and layered introduction half Sonic Youth half garage. This is easily one of the most outstanding (and understated) songs of the era. As the crushing first few moments kick the listener in the balls a staunch blast of devastating noodling encapsulates the piece as somewhere somebody’s heart explodes as J steps in with yet more wails of longing in a Neil Young. In the middle of the song if calms down to a pin drop before launching into one last flurry of energy and noise.

The record continues to fly with “The Lung” which likewise plays a wicked trick on the listener with a blunt tempo change/charge. It is however “Raisins” that sticks the hooks back in with delicate guitar stabs before an anthemic chorus of “I’ll be down, I’ll be around” which is a very slacker sentiment, one hardly likely to succeed in the real world. To be honest though on this track Mascis’ mind appears to be more on his guitar solo than getting his end away.

Songs such as “In A Jar” demonstrate the wonderful bounce that Barlow possesses in his bass playing in a track where Mascis’ guitar is initially barely audible at a moment where he appears to be stuck struggling with his existence. Of course he rips loose towards the end.

Later “Lose” again demonstrates just how much influence and presence Barlow possessed in the band first time round delivering vocals in a very different but complimentary method compared to the drawl of Mascis. On the album “Lose” proves one of the more subtly devastating moments as everyone gets along and everybody wins.

“Poledo” stands out like a sore thumb as the ukulele strumming Barlow displays a more playful and inventive side, one you suspect may have been much to the other’s chagrin. The real strength however is in his vocal and lyrical delivery.

I always thought covering The Cure was a strange decision as the song would have been very contemporary at the time but you cannot argue with the results as Dinosaur improve on the original several times over as Barlow’s bass playing makes the song their own long before the eventual wig out from Mascis that comes in the form of explosive guitar and sheet screaming at the chorus stage that turns the goth pop classic into something very Kerrang and metallic. You have to wonder just what Robert Smith must have made of it all.

A second cover appeared on the SST version of the record in the form of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way” but this was something of a more trad run out and not really worth writing home, so it came as something of a relief when it disappeared.

Criminally for a long time this record was out of print as SST continued to do strange things with their back catalogue but thanks to the reformation shows as part of the All Tomorrows Parties’ Don’t Look Back series of gig a devastating record truly regained its crown at a time when history wasn’t quite paying it enough credence.

To this day the band sounds like no other.

Thesaurus moment: suffocation.

Dinosaur Jr
Dinosaur Jr live
SST Records
Merge Records

Saturday, 1 September 2007



There was never a time when a DEVO treatment of a song would not add all kinds of exciting new shit to a song and always this would done as an act of affection to the song rather than with spite or mockery.

In many ways “Secret Agent Man” is the perfect addition to the DEVO song arsenal, a slick (ish) tie in to the Booji Boy and General Boy set up and military feel to their apparent covert operations and mission at large. If there wasn’t an air of mystery to the band before this, there most certainly was one beyond it.

It enters with a sly surf riff that is soon pierced by an electronic keyboard sequence before the driving force of the song kicks in with another guitar riff sounds straight out of Peter Gunn and the sound of being followed by the police. As things get jumpy towards the climax a fear and urgency take over that eventually manifests into revelation and declaration of loss of old identity and the enforcement of a government issued ID number. This is a subject you feel weighs heavily on the DEVO agenda.

On the flipside comes “Soo Bawlz”, a keyboard driven frenzied act of song about a person and her craziness. This truly is an ode.

Thesaurus moment: discreet.

Virgin Records