Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Liam Gallagher Defends George Michael




It has been a terrible year for the entertainment industry, and it seems like there is just death and misery everywhere. Kudos to Liam Gallagher, who has stood up to some of the darkness out there and has made it clear which side of decency he lives on.

I chose not to write about George Michael because I was not a fan; I was not someone who enjoyed his music or his contribution to the culture, but I respected it and I respected him as a person. He's had a lifetime of pain and he has suffered mightily for being gay. No one should suffer because of who they are an who they love. Anyone who mocks the homosexuality of George Michael is a cunt, indeed.

Proof That There's Money in the Vinyl Record Market




Stories like this remind me that there's a renaissance going on in the music business, and it is centered around making quality vinyl records that hipsters buy and don't listen to:

Down an industrial road in southeast Nashville, framed by yellowing, beige-box warehouses, is a building dressed in incongruous, deep-ocean-blue tiling. A burnt-orange sign above its steel-and-glass doors reads UNITED RECORD PRESSING. Inside is where the first Beatles record in America was pressed, where Wayne Newton was fĂȘted as a 16-year-old whippersnapper with an unfathomable jawline. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, was provided an apartment there. Racist hotel owners didn't want his money.

After more than five decades, vinyl records won't be made there anymore. 

In a post yesterday on Instagram, United Record Pressing wrote: "Spending the last workday at the historic United Record Pressing roaming the rooms of Motown Suite before moving to the new facility." Historic Nashville, an organization that looks to preserve spaces exactly like United Record Pressing, called the news "shocking and sad."

United Record Pressing's operations may be moving to a new space -- in a statement to Billboard, a company spokesperson calls the company's new digs "a game-changer" -- the size of which can conservatively be estimated at two football fields, but the history of its original location is, probably, not going anywhere. Its owners write of having "every intention to honor and preserve it," and a recent push to save Nashville's classic spaces, in no small part owed to Historic Nashville's lobbying, has been successful.

If just one of the handful of remaining producers of vinyl records in Europe or North America was to go offline for a few months, the backlog in work would be huge. They're selling records like crazy all over the world. The question is--who's listening to them?













Monday, December 26, 2016

Mojave 3 Puzzles Like You Digipack Covers




This is a wonderfully packaged album from Mojave 3 called Puzzles Like You. I can't believe it has already been ten years. 

All of the Mojave 3 releases that I have are a treat to behold. This one is a fantastic example as to why their stuff is special.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Rick Parfitt 1948-2016




If we were going to go back to last Christmas Eve, and wonder about how 2016 was going to go, I would have said "same as any other year." That would have been wrong. What an awful, awful year this has been. I cannot imagine how 2017 will look, but if it's anything like '16, we're in for a hell of a ride.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The House of Love Babe Rainbow Covers





This album is a masterpiece.

Babe Rainbow

has a fantastic cover--a real winner, if you ask me. I have a soft spot for this album because, back when it was released, I completely missed it. I had the 1990 album, aka, "Butterfly" and, after that, nothing. This was because the House of Love sort of fell off the world for me, but, really, it was just a case of not knowing about this album and what the band was doing. To say that they were underappreciated is an understatement.


They were neglected to death, in other words. And

Babe Rainbow

is one of the most neglected masterpieces of the 1990s. Lost in the sucking swirl of grunge, it ran into a marketplace that wasn't ready for beautiful guitar music. Had Guy Chadwick, et al, simply droned on and screamed about mother, they might have had a chance. Instead, they gave us

The Girl With the Loneliest Eyes

, one of the purest pop songs ever written. Every track on the album is a keeper, by the way. I could mix this whole album up on an iPod and never wonder why those tracks are there.


Acquire this one. It should--it deserves--the reissue treatment, as do all of the other House of Love albums. I would love to see these put back out there with B-sides and live tracks and all, simply because this is crucial music.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Replacements Tim Covers




The Tim album by the Replacements is pretty much the apex of the band--the high point that happened at exactly the moment when they were recorded about as poorly as possible while making the best music of their lives. If this album sounds bad, that's because it does. Tommy Erdelyi was a terrible choice for a producer and the fact that Tim sounds worse than Hootenanny is, well, one more thing to bitch about.

It was the end of the Bob Stinson era and the beginning of the corporate sell-out era, but the drinking and the shenanigans would continue well on through to the end. The songs would never be as good.

The real crowning glory of this era of the band is found on two of the cuts contained on this album. Bastards of Young and Here Comes a Regular are two sides of the same broken heart, and you could build the quintessential novel of the Eighties around those two songs, weaving them in and out of whatever plot full of fuckups and failed glory you could imagine. There are brilliant songs scattered throughout their career, but these two are the two best songs they ever did.

I have never been able to figure out the cover, though. It has an industrial feel to it, with the band portraits designed to make them indie darlings. There were ideas behind it, but how do they match up to the words "a picture on a fridge that's never stocked with food?" And why didn't someone just put that image on the front and call it a day? 

Primal Scream Country Girl Covers




This is where I really, really started to get into Primal Scream again.

This single has a fantastic cover. Country Girl is a classic rave up. Live, this song brings down the house. The cover here is classically presented with a dark and sinister top and bottom bar, just like a scene from a letter-boxed film. I love what they did with this package.

Ten years? Really? It feels like it just came out.

Monday, December 12, 2016

James Laid Cover




The single from James called Laid was easily one of the best things to come out in 1993; I would say that it was definitely a high point for the band that experienced so many highs and had so many great singles.

The design for this one somewhat mars the impact of the single; the cover is difficult to read and I would definitely have flipped what's on the back for the front. I love the close up stitching as a motif and I like the detail in the cloth and the colors. This is not the first time I have liked the back cover more than the front cover, but it won't be the last, either.

Oasis Live Forever Cover

This single broke Oasis wide open, and helped vault their debut album into the stratosphere. Live Forever was more than just some Britpop throwaway. It rose above the genre and defined the Oasis phenomenon. Every subsequent single rode this wave of optimism in the face of bullshit, lies, and blank stares.

The sleeve features the childhood home of John Lennon on Menlove Avenue, and it is one of those fantastic collaborations between Microdot and Michael Spencer Jones. How many singles put the lyrics on the back? Am I right?

Oasis Be Here Now Alternate Cover

Be Here Now has been reissued, and I'll figure out how to get a copy of that in due time. 

This is what could have been an alternate cover, which I regard as a greatly flawed masterpiece that could have been fixed if someone would just do two things:

1. Remove all of the ecstatic choruses that were added when everyone was on cocaine

2. Shorten the songs by at least a minute each

3. Include the cover versions of songs recorded during the sessions and dump the filler tracks

None of that's ever going to happen, but oh well. As reissues go, this is a chance to hear the Mustique demos, which should have been their own album, of course. Why tack them on here? The demos would make a tremendous album on their own.

Here's the best way to look at mid-period Oasis. Separate the first two albums and their B-sides from everything else. They comprise the best one-two punch in the history of music. Nobody has a better first and second album than Oasis.

View The Masterplan as the real "third" album and Be Here Now as a compilation of B-sides. If you flip them around, you can see The Masterplan as a solid third album of great songs. Mash them together if you want. The song The Masterplan alone is the greatest B-side in all of music history. Noel's ridiculous, obstinate temper at that time made The Masterplan a B-side when it should have been a single. It should have been the first track from Be Here Now, backed with Acquiesce, Stand by Me, and Half the World Away.

Alas, who would ever listen to a blogger?

XTC Black Sea Cover

Black Sea

is the XTC album that everyone should hear first. I don't care what your dad says, buy this one first and then explore the rest of them.


I'm not saying that because it has the coolest cover. I'm saying that because the songs are instant classics.

Black Sea

is 35 years old--how is that even possible? You kids today with your music--you just don't know.


This is the fifth best song on the album by the way:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Echo and the Bunnymen A Promise Cover

Another old favorite, and why not?

The cover for the 45 rpm single for the song A Promise borrows from the cover art and theme of the album Heaven Up Here. This is an excellent use of the method of tying in the single to the album.

Sleeper Inbetweener Single Cover


Sleeper's

Inbetweener

Single features a fantastic piece of commercial art, and it works on so many levels.


The song, in and of itself, is a novel set to music, and it is so intelligently rendered as to demand the sort of packaging and artwork seen here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Echo and the Bunnymen Never Stop EP


I find it hard to believe that there aren't more (and better) images than this of Echo and the Bunnymen's Never Stop EP. I have cleaned this up and I tried to enhance it a bit. Somewhere, I can probably dig out a better version.

The Greatest Comeback Album Ever

It's easy to forget just how reviled they were.

Mother Jones Magazine: Let me read you a recent quote from Randy Newman: "I used to be against world peace until U2 came out for it. Then the scales just fell from my eyes.... And when they're singing with those black people? Do you know that black people just love their music? Bono's conducting those black people and they're doing just what he says!...
BONO: I had heard that. Randy Newman is a very funny man, though I think he's written far funnier lines than those.
MJ: Are you interested that criticisms like his have been leveled a lot lately, particularly at "Rattle and Hum?"
B: I suppose. What's uninteresting about that is that we are such an easy target, from the word go, because we perform from our own point of view. I sing about the way I see things. Some people write songs about the way characters see things. Some artists perform with a wink. That's just not the way with U2. When people perform from their gut -- when John Lennon sang a song called "Mother" -- that was not a hip thing to do. He was exposing himself. It's performers like that I admire.... If you're going to spend your whole life worrying about dropping your guard and exposing yourself, worrying that working with a gospel choir might look like imperialism, that would be dumb.
MJ: But the criticisms I read of the film are that it was too guarded. Let me read, if I could, another criticism ....
Well, I'm really not interested.
MJ: I just want to give you the opportunity to respond ....
B: What this suggests is that the music is not enough. That is my expression -- the music -- and within that music I can take my clothes off. Not for the press, not for the TV shows, not for the film. That film was about music, and in that music was everything that we have to say and offer. Now people want it made easy for them. They want it spelled out. Why can't people just accept the music? You know the real reason? It's that people don't listen to the music anymore, and a lot of critics don't.... I think our fans know all the songs on our albums, and I don't think many critics do. I really don't.
MJ: Were there any criticisms that did sting, that hit home, that taught you anything?
B: No. I must say I was generally very disappointed in the community of critics. It's funny. I would've thought that what people would have expected us to do would've been to put out a double live LP, and cash in on "The Joshua Tree," and make a lot of money for very little work. That is what big rock bands do.
When we didn't do that, I expected people to recognize that. When we put the records out at low price, stripped away the U2 sound, then just went with our instincts as fans, and just lost ourselves in this [American R&B] music, in a very un-self-conscious way...
MJ: But if the LP has been unfairly and stupidly criticized by people who aren't listening carefully ...
B: No. It's not even that. It's that the spirit of it has been completely and utterly missed. The spirit of it is unlike any record of a major group, for a long time. That spirit is the very essence of why people get into bands and make music. And it's not about being careful. And it's not about watching your ass....

Achtung Baby

is the result of being torn apart and reduced to having to plead for understanding. I don't think people understand that context. This is the album that only an angry band could make and that's why it still resonates.


U2 needs to make another one of these and come back, fully, into the world with some anger instead of some wry comments about the bar scene.

The Church Gathering Speed Bootleg Cover


Bootlegs offer a glimpse of the past. In this case, the cover of this Church bootleg is far more interesting than the poorly recorded music inside. The tin can through which the sound has been passed failed to do anything other than reduce the band to a stifled growl.


The cover features a photo of the band I have not seen before. This is the Richard Ploog era, and it begins with all of them looking like they are ready to conquer the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ride




The fact that Ride have decided to put out a new album is a welcome surprise:

Ride will release their first album in over 20 years in 2017.

 After a brief reconciliation in 2001 for a live televised performance, Ride officially reunited in 2014, with guitarist Andy Bell telling NME at the time that: “As we were all still friends, we always thought when the time was right we’d [reform]. And now the time is right.”

The four-piece, who are considered to be pioneers of the shoegaze genre, last released a full-length record, ‘Tarantula’, back in March 1996. The band broke up later that year.

It now appears that the band are gearing up to release their first album in over 20 years. DJ Erol Alkan first broke the news – as well as revealing that he would be producing the forthcoming LP – on his Instagram account, posting an in-the-studio picture of the band recording with the caption “Currently in the studio with Ride producing their forthcoming album.”

As long as I'm on this sad parade of non-reunions, breakups and whatever, allow me to have a moment. I can still remember the week I picked up Tarantula. It was in some mallrat music store in Minneapolis. There, on the front, was a sticker proclaiming it the final album from the band, a kick in the ass that haunted the rest of the decade. There was the Live Light album, a thumb of the nose at the music business and one of those rare "legal" bootleg albums that sounded OK but could have done with some serious remastering and remixing. 

Ride got me through the first few years of being in the Army and I have never taken them out of the rotation. I would encourage everyone to buy this album when it comes out and support the band as directly as possible. Buy things from their merchandise page and, if they come back out on the road, definitely go see them play live (why wouldn't they tour to support the new album, right?).

At some point, I was going to complain about not having a Stone Roses album to listen to, but you can't have everything.

 













Come On




Urban Hymns turns twenty years old next year, and this should be celebrated. If you were to stack it up against everything in the Nineties, it's a top five album, easily.

It's a top twenty album of all time in terms of British music since the Eighties. It's a verified classic album and someone needs to bring it out and play it for the masses. If that isn't in the cards, well, why not? Who wants to wait around for a 25th anniversary?

Lush




I wish I could say that I was shocked by this, but I am not:

Lush have announced that they will be breaking up at the end of this year. 

The four-piece previously broke up in 1996 before playing their first gig in 20 years earlier this year. They reunited for a warm-up gig at London’s 375 capacity Oslo venue on April 11. Their last live show had taken place in Tokyo during September 1996. 

Posting a statement to Facebook, the band wrote; “It’s been a fantastic year for Lush. We received an incredible reception to our Blind Spot EP and the three beautiful career-spanning 4AD releases, sold out two Roundhouse shows, toured North America with great success and had a ball at our European festival appearances.”

I missed their show at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. I had the ticket, I had spent months waiting for the show to happen, and then the schedule of moving house got in the way of everything and obliterated my September. I literally spent every day working, moving, lifting, planning, and hoping everything would work out okay and it did.

I wish I could have gone, but I had to make a choice. Either clean the house and make it so that we could sell it or spend two hours trying to get to D.C., find parking, and wait to see the show. I chose the house, and it is good and sold. Of all the things I've had to deal with, selling the house in Maryland was the toughest and most important obstacle to overcome.

It wasn't a bad year--I saw Leo Kottke and Robyn Hitchcock from the front row, and I really would have liked to have seen Lush, The Replacements, and Ride but it was not to be. And the Bunnymen--can't forget them, either.

I don't know the particulars and I'm sure someone does. I hope it was not a case where Miki and Emma couldn't agree on anything. I suspect that the stress of it all was too much. Getting together and playing live should not disrupt entirely the raising of kids and all that--they have to come first. Moving house, raising a family, having a normal life--that's all vastly more important than music when you are in your advanced years.

Music is a young person's game. You can really do fantastic things when there are no obligations and no one left at home wondering where mummy went to and what city in North America is barely paying enough to host a show.

Time to get back to blogging, time to get on with things, time to savor the records and remember everything that is still wonderful to hear.