Classic Album Review: “Magnetic Mountain”


Band:
Girls of the Gravitron
Release: 2010
Label: Miss Lonelyhearts Records

Comments: Once in a great while – and it sure is great – I come across a very inspirational group of music creators. Girls of the Gravitron are one of them. I got into this album on a whim, because why wouldn’t I want to explore a Memphis project that features members of the Barbaras and Magic Kids? Magnetic Mountain is not a highly polished offering; in fact, its homey and tinny sound accounts for a lot of what makes this click for me. The one song that I literally couldn’t stop listening to from the time that I heard it first is “Her Flower Opens Like Slow Moving Trail of Atom Bomb”. It makes me want to pick up a guitar and learn how to rip off Girls of the Gravitron. If only I could. It has the cheeriness of a lot of what folks might call underground pop – lots of jangle and some killer keyboard (especially at the end…thanks Will McElroy!). Cole Weintraub sings sort of like Jeffrey Novak and Calvin Johnson with a cool blend of Adam Green’s off-the-cuff delivery (listen to “Weird World” for justification of this claim) . Basically, if you love those dudes and a wide range of music styles – punk, folk, garage – you should have no problem loving this. There are 19 tunes on this one…this review would probably read more like a tiny research paper if I went into intricate detail about everything. At any rate, Magnetic Mountain is something you ought to listen to yourself rather than reading me describe what it is like to listen to. The other thing that is especially noteworthy is that these are dudes who know what they are doing. This record is almost a continuation or a confirmation of their legacies in those other bands which I’d argue puts a cherry on top of a ‘Memphis sound’ that they cultishly created. I will list some other weirdo gems that are approximately outstanding (this is tough!): “Principes of Kimberly,” “Magnetic Mountain,” “Violent Appetites,” “Come Alone,” and the finisher “1000 Yrs”. This will be your new favorite musical discovery!

Classic Album Review: The Final Solutions – Disco Eraser (2003)


Artist: The Final Solutions
Year: 2003
Label: Misprint
Tracklist:
1) Deep Six
2) Bottom Of The Chain
3) I See You On A Path
4) Eat Shit, Hologram
5) No Final Solution
6) Need Me
7) I Can’t Sing Through My Fuzz Pedal
8) Electrofied
9) Disco Eraser
10) Russian Interpreter
11) Not Good
12) You Make Me Laugh
13) Die In The City
14) 40 Licks

Comments: Expecting Disco? You boring fucks! Well yes sir, Disco Eraser that is. The 2003 LP released by Jay Reatard side project- The Final Solutions. I bet you weren’t expecting a review in 2012 however. Why now you may ask. Well, this week KLYAM and friends will be attending the Boston screening of the Jay doc Better Than Something and I want to see everyone there! And if you are not a Boston denizen then hit up a local theater when the flick hits your town. So, in honor of this great event I decided to review a Jay record and with this being my most recent listen, why not? Here it goes…

I have always been one to judge a book (in this case an album) by its cover. Here we see five gentlemen standing outside a brick building just hanging around pounding back some Busch Lights. And that’s the feel of this record for me.  It’s very much a “let’s get shitty and jam” kinda record. No real female touch involved.  There’s an odd masculine (not macho) presence throughout most of Jay’s work and I certainly see it here. Just a bunch of dudes having fun and getting rowdy, but with instruments. Jay under the psudonym “Jimmie Jewlz” and his cronies (Quinn, Tommy, Justice, and Zac) mix together the raw, trashy sound of The Reatards with the more experimental, synth heavy style of the Lost Sounds (in fact fellow Lost Sound Alicja Trout co-produced the album with Jay). This is a fine piece of punk slime, the punk slime we champion on this site. Final Solutions definitely fill your little bellies with dark, vicious jam after jam. Nearly each song is under the two minute mark. The band cuts out any hint of filler, which truly makes the listener have a hard time hating this thing. And if you’re like me you already get a stiffy anyway when you hear most Jay recordings. Purchasing this record is the sonic equivalent of paying for a scantily clad woman to toss you around the room for twenty minutes, beating you mercilessly with each punch representing a new song. The opening track, “Deep Six” certainly wraps its noose around your neck and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Fast, futuristic, and instantly stuck in your skull. It smoothly translates into “Bottom  Of The Chain” a powerhouse song that is extremely catchy and diabolical, leading us to the LP’s greatest moment, “I See You On a Path.” The latter is a true pop gem, and though this album has loads of hooks, this track is a standout that foreshadows Jay’s incredible talents as a pop musician (however Tommy is actually the main songwriter on this song). The “oohhhhhoohwoooo” vocals are insane! coupled with the simple drum work, it doesn’t get any better. Then of course there’s classic Jay mantras in songs such as “Eat Shit, Hologram” where lead vocalist Zac Ives constantly declares “EAT SHIT!!!” Poor Hologram. One of my favorite tracks is the humorous, “I Can’t Sing Through My Fuzz Pedal,” which kicks off with some poorly recorded vocals that are naturally fitting. Not every song is a knock out, but like I said earlier these numbers are so brief, there’s not enough time to dislike them, you just go a long for the ride. There’s nothing earth shattering on this record and it pretty much sticks with the same sound/style, but it’s a fucking awesome sound and the whole band destroys.  I will make one exception actually. The final song “40 Licks” feels pleasantly out of place- it’s like an 80’s pop song. It’s really cool though – not a pussy song – I assure you no wavers out there. I have a burning desire to sync it up with that club scene in  The Terminator when Arnold finally finds Sarah Connor and he pushes through all the dancers in slo-mo! So yeah, a solid album from The Final Solutions – absolutely one of Jay Reatard’s greatest musical contributions, not quite as amazing as his later output, but certainly worthy of (high) recommendation. This shit has incredible replay power; I’ve listened to it three times while writing this review!

Classic Review: Deerhunter- Carve Your Initials..

Full Title: Carve Your Initials Into the Walls of the Night
Artist: Deerhunter
Year: 2005
Tracks:
1) Bright and Early
2) Cicadas
3) Rotation
4) But, I’m A Boy
5) Three Dolphins Melting Into Orange Wax
6) Snow Dogs
7) Dogs Are Cool
8) Homorobotic
9) Cordless
10) When I Taste Blood

Comments: On Saturday, December 12, 2009, Bradford Cox made this old, obscure, 2005 Deerhunter recording freely available to download from the Deerhunter blog (http://deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com/). He also had this to say: “Responding to several requests I have dug up an old copy of this 2005 Deerhunter CD-R. It features only me and Moses and is very experimental in nature. This was during our “tape phase” when we would often play shows as a duo (or as a trio with colin) playing only tape machines and vocal loops. Recorded live to 2-track cassette machine at Moses’ old house on North Ave & Ponce
“Mastered” at the Old Notown building on my dad’s ancient PC using Soundforge,
Scans of all orignal artwork from the Notown Xerox Machine included.”

Now, considering this was just a private recording not intended for official release this is more of a shout out then a review. It’s more of a way for me to keep things interesting and spread the word of some of Deerhunter’s lesser known work. I consider them to be one of the best Rock and Roll bands today and of all time, for that matter. This recording from 2005 is to me their most experimental and shows the different intricacies and dynamics of their sound and perhaps how it has evolved. What we hear on this recording is far different from much of their output and as I said far more experimental with practically none of the pop elements we are accustom to in Deerhunter’s music, which is totally fine and cool in a way. I always enjoy hearing something by a band that is completely different from anything else they have released.  At the same time, one can definitely see how this is Deerhunter and how these sounds/elements/vibes would eventually find their way into later works.  On this reocrding, we hear a lot of dance- club scene music (especially on “But, I’m a Boy) which could faintly be heard on their debut LP Turn It Up Faggot, also from 2005 (though recorded in 2003 or 2004).  Except on that record, they were far more beastial, garage, and chaotic- also there was a full band, if I’m not mistaken. Bradford always describes that record in a negative manner, saying they weren’t ready and that they were a young band.  That could be said about Carve Your Initals.. but I feel like this recording is actually the stronger of the two and feels more complete; I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. I actually prefer Faggot, but this record (if you want to call it that) has its sound down pat and as far as experimentation goes, it seems like it is alway open to anything, while the former felt confined, albeit nice to rock and freak out to. There is a lot to be appreciated here and best of all it shows the potential and neat character of what would later become an amazing band.

I know I’m a  year and half late on this, but thanks for this free CD Bradford!

Classic EP Review: Deerhunter- Fluorescent Grey

Artist: Deerhunter
Full Title: Fluorescent Grey EP
Year: 2007
Label: Kranky
Tracks:
1) Fluorescent Grey- 9
2) Dr. Glass- 7/8
3) Like New- 7
4) Wash Off- 9
Comments: Fluorescent Grey is a strong release from the always mind blowing Deerhunter. FG is a good middle ground between the more experimental aspects of Deerhunter’s earlier career and what would become their far more accessible, pop driven style in future albums. In this sense, this EP is a nice companion to their then previous LP Cryptograms (2007), as they often appear together as one full package. FG is representative of the more traditional pop song half of Cryptograms, leaving the more experimental, ambient half behind for this release. In some ways, Deerhunter recycles many of the same ideas and sounds from that record, but overall the songs are so strong it really doesn’t matter. I can’t say there’s a huge progression, except maybe in the title track, which is easily one of the group’s finest songs in all of their catalog, but who cares?! This is an EP, and a great one at that. Deerhunter’s lesser works are half your average band’s strongest records, if even that. Anyway, I love the opening guitar riff to FG and the vocals are really creepy, but what stands out the most is definitely when the song “explodes” midway through after Bradford utters the classic line “you were my God in high school.” Just everything about the song is fantastic, the simple drums the contrast between mellow, calm vibes and complete chaos, violence; a great microcosm for Deerhunter as a whole. The next two tracks “Dr. Glass” and “Like New” are pretty solid and demonstrate the band’s talent as songwriters, but they are not on par with the first last and tracks. Speaking of which, “Wash Off, ” the final song is now one of my favorites from these guys. It’s a really catchy song, and the guitars sound like they are from some sort of 80s John Hughes flick: it simultaneously displays the pop side of them with the equally bizarre side of their music. In terms of lyrics, these are some of the most fascinating I’ve seen from Bradford (actually that could be said for all the songs here)- I love how it gets really manic and wild when Bradford starts singing “I was sixteen” over and over again. For whatever reason, it just makes the music seem that much more intriguing and strange for that matter. WO really showcases the Punk, Garage, if you will side to the band, which is usually there, but not as apparent. Here, Bradford, Lockett, Josh, Colin, and Moses place their Atlanta roots on their sleeves. I feel like this track perfectly captures the frenetic aspect of early Deerhunter in perhaps a bit more soothing fashion, but very tight and purposeful, and that’s the way I like it! So, now after hearing this EP, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to actually sit down and listen to all four of these songs as one collective. Without a doubt, a sound record and as with all of Deerhunter’s releases, powerful enough to stand alone, but shares that wonderfully distinctive, calmly menacing quality that runs throughout all of Deerhunter’s discography.

Grade: 8/10

Jay Reatard: Live At Golden Plains [2008]

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Comments: Hundreds of videos have been taken of Jay Reatard’s live performance, but never until now has there been an official live release. This LP captures Reatard’s live assault near perfectly — one song after another, little pause, screamed song titles before each, the occasional extended jam. This is from March 2008, so the set is heavy on Blood Visions and singles material. After “My Shadow” we hear a receptive cheer from the audience, but that is quickly lost after Reatard, Pope, and Hayes reel into “Oh It’s Such A Shame.” I remember seeing Reatard for the first time in July 2009 and thinking damn his set was way faster than this one, but that might be because he made more of an effort in pacing/slower playing for this occasion than during a usual show. Still, though, Jay’s slow is a normal person’s lightning quick. The barebones aspect of the performance really comes through as well. Reatard’s vocals aren’t as perfect (obviously) as they were mixed on record and some singing parts are ommitted like “she creeps me out” on “See Saw” in favor of an instrumental jam. Billy’s drum playing is heavy on the snare, man he loved doing rolls (“Fading All Away”) on that instrument. One song that particularly stuck out to me on this Live LP that never really had much of an effect on me on record is “So Useless.” I never appreciated its beauty. I was missing out! “So useless, I must be, to waste time with you!” “Hammer I Miss You Let’s GO! Hammer I Miss You” shouts Jay. Showing off his vocal varieties — a precursor to the bullshit Nicki Minaj now pulls — he really plays the shit out of that tune. Owning it. Jay can barely keep up the chorus on “Death Is Forming” and by this point in the set he must be exhausted to no end. “Death is forming death is forming death is forming forming death forming death fucking death forming” The set closes on “Let It All Go” with its constant barrage of guitar noise, pop hooks, and unpredictable finish. This is something that I highly recommend sharing with others who maybe never got to see a Jay Reatard show. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to Jay.

Classic Album Review: Animal Collective- Sung Tongs

Full Title: Sung Tongs
Artist: Animal Collective
Year: 2004
Label: Fat Cat
Tracks:
1) Leaf House- 7
2) Who Could Win a Rabbit- 9
3) The Softest Voice- 7
4) Winters Love– 9
5) Kids On Holiday- 7/8
6) Sweet Road- 7
7) Visiting Friends- 6
8) College- 7
9) We Tigers- 8
10) Mouth Wooed Her- 7/8
11) Good Lovin Outside- 8
12) Whaddit I Done- 7

Comments: Animal Collective is in the haus with some wonderful tongs for you and me. These tongs are brought to you by Panda Bear and Avey Tare, two of today’s greatest tongwriters. On this record, we hear mostly soft tongs, an incredibly warm, serene vibe is communicated. Much of the loud, manic, beastial quality to AC’s music as can be seen in their then previous release Here Comes the Indian (2003) and later recordings is absent here. Instead, we experience something much gentler and calmer- which isn’t bad, but at the end of the day isn’t what I chiefly adore about this group. With that being said, it works quite well on this record and emotional inducing songs like “Winters Love” and “Kids On Holiday” (particularly the former) produce a massive feeling of nostalgia and an almost quiet joy in me. WL is without a doubt one of AC’s best musical moments, powerful in it’s shamanistic yalping and simply acoustic guitar strummin’. Speaking of which, the acoustic guitar plays a crucial role in the sound and recording of this album; it’s all acoustic! Naturally, the lack of electric guitar has an undeniable impact on the sound/production of the album, and for fans of more folkier music this might be a positive thang, for those that dig heavier music, then I could easily see this as a turn off. In any case, I feel like the boys succeeded in what they set out to do and though it lacks in the oft-seen menace of AC, it still delivers a bizarre mish mash of humanity and insanity- especially on what is arguably the band’s first breakthrough “pop” song “Who Could Win A Rabbit,” which was my introduction to their music. Rabbit’ is both playful and savage and is perhaps the biggest song from Sung Tongs. As a whole, I didn’t love this record, but I really dig it; ST marks Animal Collective’s transition from unknown Neo-Psych Rockers to fairly recognizable underground stalwurts.

Grade: 7/10

Classic Compilation Review: Boys Don’t Cry


Band:
The Cure
Release: 1980
Label: Fiction Records

Side One
1. “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” – A-
2. “Boys Don’t Cry” – A
3. “Plastic Passion” – B+
4. “10:15 Saturday Night” – B
5. “Accuracy” – B
6. “Object” – B+
7. “Subway Song” – B

Side Two
1. “Killing An Arab” – B-
2. “Fire In Cairo” – B-
3. “Another Day” – B
4. “Grinding Halt” – B
5. “World War” – B-
6. “Three Imaginary Boys” – B-

Comments: At a different time in my journey listening to music, I’d probably like this record a bit more than I do. Sure, there are the standouts “Jumping” and “Boys,” but then there are a slew (read, the other tunes) that don’t stand out as much. The record isn’t as dark and interesting as something Joy Division did and the pop hooks just totally aren’t there a la Psychedelic Furs.

Grade: B

Classic Album Review: The Original Modern Lovers


Band: The Modern Lovers
Release: 1981
Label: Bomp! Records

Side One
1. “Road Runner #1” – A-
2. “She Cracked” – B+
3. “Astral Plain” – A
4. “Walk up the Street” – A

Side Two
1. “I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms” – A-
2. “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” – B+
3. “Dance With Me” – B
4. “Girlfren” – A+
5. “Road Runner #2” – A+

Comments: These recordings were made in the summer of 1972, before the punk rock explosion. Like the proto-punk of the Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers created pretty basic rock and roll — talk and roll, I’d call it. Mumbling, attempted singing, uncomplicated musical structures. “Road Runner” is no shrills Boston — mentioning Stop n Shop and Route 93 among other things. “Walk up the Street” speaks of waking up in the Back Bay. “Girlfren” has the MFA thrown in the mix. Flows so good. What a song, for real, though!  On this tune particularly, the guitars and tone in general call to mind a future Bomp! release — Black Lips! On the back cover, Richman states “if it wasn’t for Iggy and Lou Reed this record wouldn’t have existed.” Sounds about right. “Astral Plain” is more Iggy than anything. Perhaps though, if this record hadn’t existed many underground bands wouldn’t exist. In fact, the inspiration that this record had on future records probably spills over into the realm of Beat Happening and such.

Grade: A-

Classic Album Review: The Man From Utopia


Band:
Frank Zappa
Release: 1983
Label: Barking Pumpkin

Side One

1. “Cocaine Decisions” – A
2. “The Dangerous Kitchen” – A-
3. “Tink Walks Amok” – B
4. “The Radio Is Broken” – B-
5. “Moggio” – B-

Side Two
1. “The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou” – B-
2. “Stick Together” – A-
3. “SEX” – B+
4. “The Jazz Discharge Party Hats” – A-
5. “We Are Not Alone” – B+

Comments: If this record has any worth, it gets said worth from “Cocaine Decisions” and “The Dangerous Kitchen.” This is a hilarious 1-2 punch showcasing Zappa’s deviant delivery and way with words. “Stick Together” about the ills of unions is another goodie: “The labor movement’s got the Mafia curse.” “The Jazz Discharge Party Hats” has its merits too about skinny dipping girls in COLL-egeeeeeeee!

Grade: B+

Classic Album Review: More Songs About Buildings and Food


Band:
Talking Heads
Release: 1978
Label: Sire

Side One
1. “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” – A-
2. “With Our Love” – B
3. “The Good Thing” – A-
4. “Warning Sign” – B
5. “The Girls Want to be With the Girls” – B+
6. “Found a Job” – B

Side Two
1. “Artists Only” – B-
2. “I’m Not In Love” – B
3. “Stay Hungry” – B+
4. “Take Me to the River” – B+
5. “The Big Country” – A-

Comments: Straight up, Talking Heads are hugely influential. How influential exactly is up for debate, but try telling me The Strokes didn’t have “The Good Thing” in mind while conjuring up Is This It? In any case, Byrne’s innate weirdo brand of new wave/punk was extremely fresh and different at the time — a combination not explored by too many other bands. That said, the songs themselves aren’t extraordinary by any means — creative tunes catchy, but not overly. Best song? The closer, “The Big Country.”

Grade: B