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 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

Classic Soundtrack Review: American Graffiti

Full Title: American Graffiti
Year: 1973
Tracks:

Side One
:
1) (We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & the Comets (1954)- 9
2) Sixteen Candles by The Crests (1958)- 9
3) Runaway by Del Shannon (1961)- 10
4) Why Do Fools Fall in Love? by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers (1956)- 10
5) That’ll Be the Day by Buddy Holly (1957)- 9
6) Fanny Mae by Buster Brown (1959)- 7/8
7) At the Hop by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (1973)- 9
8) She’s So Fine by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (1973)- 8
9) The Stroll by The Diamonds (1957)- 7
10) See You In September by The Tempos (1959)- 10

Side Two:
1) Surfin’ Safari by The Beach Boys (1962)- 9
2) He’s The Great Imposter by The Fleetwoods (1961)- 10
3) Almost Grown by Chuck Berry (1959)- 7
4) Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by The Platters (1959)- 10
5) Little Darlin’ by The Diamonds (1957)- 7/8
6) Peppermint Twist by Joey Dee and the Starlighters (1961)- 7
7) Barbara Anne by The Regents (1961)- 8
8) Book of Love by The Monotones (1958)- 9
9) Maybe Baby by Buddy Holly (1958)- 8
10) Ya Ya by Lee Dorsey (1961)- 6
11) The Great Pretender by The Platters (1955)- 8

Side Three :
1) Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino (1955)- 8
2) Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry (1958)- 9
3) I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos (1959)- 8
4) Get a Job by The Silhouettes (1958)- 7
5) To The Aisle by The Five Satins (1957)- 9
6) Do You Wanna Dance by Bobby Freeman (1958)- 5
7) Party Doll by Buddy Knox (1957)- 8
8) Come Go with Me by The Del-Vikings (1956)- 7
9) You’re Sixteen – You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine) by Johnny Burnette (1960)- 7
10) Love Potion No. 9 by The Clovers (1959)- 7

Side Four :
1) Since I Don’t Have You by The Skyliners (1958)- 8
2) Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper (1958)- 7
3) Teen Angel by Mark Dinning (1960)- 9
4) Crying in the Chapel by Sonny Till & the Orioles (1953)- 7/8
5) A Thousand Miles Away by The Heartbeats (1957)- 8
6) Heart and Soul by The Cleftones (1961)- 8
7) Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)- 8
8) Only You (and You Alone) by The Platters (1954)- 8
9) Goodnight, Well it’s Time to Go by The Spaniels (1953)- 7/8
10) All Summer Long by The Beach Boys (1964)- 9

Comments: This is pure, good old, fun Rock and Roll from one of the best eras of music! Since, the film American Graffiti is set in 1962 all of the music is from 1950s and early 1960s. We hear a wide variety of hits, but overall the soundtrack has a cohesive, consistent sound. Mostly hoppin and boppin rockers (“Rock Around the Clock,” “Barabara Anne,” etc.), teen oriented love and dance numbers (“Sixteen Candles,” “At the Hop,” etc.), some slow ballads (“He’s the Great Imposter,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” etc.), and best of all the advent of surf rock in the form of the legendary Beach Boys (“Surfin’ Safari,” and “All Summer Long,”), a genre new at the time of the story’s setting. For my money, this is one of the greatest soundtracks of all times and the music is perfectly placed in each scene, literally. It should be noted that the film’s use of music is significant in the history of cinema for it was the first or at least one of the first movies to strictly use populars songs as its sole soundtrack instead of a more conventional score. Nowadays, this is more common, but at the time it was unheard of. On the other hand, looking at this in terms of a record, the second half is not nearly as contagious as the first and not all the songs on here are as strong as some of the others, but I suppose that’s custom. The top tracks for me are “Runaway,” (the structure of this song is incredible, there’s at least four or five stand out, pop hooks) by Del Shannon, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, “See You in September” by The Tempos, “He’s the Great Imposter” by The Fleetwoods, and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” by The Platters. All in all, this is simply a great record to just kick back, relax, and rock out to!

Grade: 8/10- I highly recommend you pick this up if you’re a huge fan of early Rock and Roll and/or the movie.

Classic Album Review: Survival [1979]


Band:
Bob Marley & The Wailers
Label: Island

Side One

1. “Wake Up and Live” – A
2. “Africa Unite” – A
3. “One Drop” – A
4. “Ride Natty Ride” –  A-
5. “Ambush” – A

Side Two
1. “So Much Trouble in the World” – A
2. “Zimbabwe” – A
3. “Top Rankin” – A-
4. “Babylon System” – B
5. “Survival” – B+

Comments: This isn’t Marley’s most recognizable album by any stretch, but it is ripe with politically charged and rhythmic songs. Basic, easily communicated dissident sentiments came from the mouth of Marley from “Ambush” (they say what we know is just what they teach us) to “Zimbabwe” (no more internal power struggle; we come together, to overcome the little trouble) and that’s what made the man such a legend. Survival didn’t need a “Stir It Up” or a “Could You Be Loved” to achieve greatness. There’s hardly a low point to be found on here, even “Babylon System” keeps up the groove just fine, despite being less of an immediate catch.

Grade: A-

Classic Album Review: Heaven Up Here [1981]


Band:
Echo & the Bunnymen
Label: Korova

Side One
1. “Show of Strength” – A
2. “With A Hip” – B+
3. “Over the Wall” – A-
4. “It Was A Pleasure” – A-
5. “A Promise” – A

Side Two
1. “Heaven Up Here” – A
2. “The Disease” – B-
3. “All My Colours” – B+
4. “No Dark Things” – A-
5. “Turquoise Days” – B-
6. “All I Want” – B-

Comments: As far as influential British post-punk groups go, Echo & the Bunnymen are right in the mix alongside Joy Division, The Fall, The Cure, and so-on and so forth. Compared to most music in this style, Heaven Up Here is hardly pop sensible. Heck, Joy Division was well broken up by the time this record came out so to say that band influenced these guys would probably be an understatement. I can even hear some Talking Heads esque arrangements on the latter half of the first side like on “It Was a Pleasure” and “A Promise.” I love the passion on “Heaven Up Here”; that song is kickin’! The second side is kind of yes and no. There’s a lot to like, but some other things on the boring side. The ending is pretty weak.

Grade: B+

Classic Album Review: Road To Ruin [1978]


Band:
Ramones
Label: Sire

Side One
1. “I Just Want To Have Something To Do” – A
2. “I Wanted Everything” – A-
3. “Don’t Come Close” – A-
4. “I Don’t Want You” – A-
5. “Needles and Pins” – B+
6. “I’m Against It” – B+

Side Two
1. “I Wanna Be Sedated” – A
2. “Go Mental” – A-
3. “Questioningly” – B+
4. “She’s The One” – A-
5. “Bad Brain” – A
6. “It’s A Long Way Back” – A

Comments: Road To Ruin is a really good album. It features a fine mix of fast punk rockers and slower rock and roll.  It’s more of a ‘listener’ for me, rather than a record that contains a plethora of standout tracks. Of course, the hit was and still is “I Wanna Be Sedated” — appreciated by people far and wide. Additionally, I find myself really liking “I Just Want To Have Something To Do” and the particularly hardcore influential “Bad Brain.” I can’t say that I’m particularly floored by this record, but at the same token I can really imagine how impressionable it must have been back in ’78.

Grade: A-

Classic Album Review: Endless Summer [1974]


Band:
The Beach Boys
Label: Capitol

Side A
1. “Surfin Safari” – A
2. “Surfer Girl” – A+
3. “Catch A Wave” – A+
4. “The Warmth of the Sun” – B+
5. “Surfin’ USA” – A
[Grade: A]

Side B
1. “Be True To Your School” – A+
2. “Little Deuce Couple” – A
3. “In My Room” – A
4. “Shut Down” – A
5. “Fun, Fun, Fun” – A+
[Grade: A]

Side C
1. “I Get Around” – A
2. “Girls on the Beach” – A+
3. “Wendy” – A
4. “Let Him Run Wild” – A
5. “Don’t Worry Baby” – A+
[Grade: A]

Side D
1. “California Girls” – A+
2. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” – A
3. “Help Me, Rhonda” – A
4. “You’re So Good To Me” – B+
5. “All Summer Long” – A+
[Grade: A]

Comments: This was a just a great great listen. I can’t say anything really that hasn’t already been said. The only thing that sucks is changing the record after every five songs! I guess that’s the product of growing up in the digital age. As far as ‘older’ songs go, there were just so many fantastic ones on this compilation that just instantly ‘clicked’. Love when that happens.

Grade: A

Classic Review: Locust Abortion Technician

Artist: Butthole Surfers
Full Title: Locust Abortion Technician
Year: 1987
Label: Touch and Go/Latin Buggerveil
Tracks:
1) Sweat Loaf– 9
2) Graveyard- 8
3) Pitsburg to Lebanon- 7/8
4) Weber- 5
5) Hay- 7/8
6) Human Cannonball- 8
7) U.S.S.A.- 8
8) The O-Men-7
9) Kuntz– 9
10) Graveyard- 8
11) 22 Going on 23- 8/9

Comments
: Early Butthole Surfers equals Music made for, by, and of heavy psychedelic drug use and Locust Abortion Technician is no exception. This is the pinnacle of the Buttholes’ highly experimental music. They dabble in Punk, Heavy Metal, Noise Rock, and definitely psychedlia. Without a doubt this is the group’s best offering up until then and since. I really dig the humor and chaos of “Sweat Loaf,” it is certainly a fantastic opener and really sets you up for what is to come. “Kuntz,” a remixing of an old Thai song and “22 Going On 23,” a disturbing/awkwardly amusing recount of a sexual assault case and its effects on the victim, round out my favorite tracks on this record. Overall, this is the kind of album that should be heard for its experimentation and the overall sound collage, oh and yeah, also for you and your pals to giggle and say “WTF?!!!” Turn it up at loud volumes, blast it as high as you can and freak out the whole neighborhood! In short, I feel like this serves better as a handbook for those who want to make experimental music, rather than an album you listen to again and again. With that being said, it is quite listenable and worthy of praise for it’s somewhat brave and unquestionably unique style. Basically, the Buttholes entered the studio and fumbled around with what they had (which was limited), took tons of acid (amongst other substances I can imagine) and ultimately created a really cool, trippy experience for all of us music lovers.

Grade: B