Classic CD Review: Cuts [2005]


Band:
Toy Love
Label: Flying Nun

1. “Squeeze” – A
2. “Rebel” – A+
3. “Don’t Ask Me” – A
4. “Sheep” – A
5. “I Don’t Mind” – B+
6. “Swimming Pool” – A-
7. “Death Rehearsal” – B+
8. “Bride of Frankenstein” – B+
9. “Toy Love Song” – B+
10. “Photographs of Naked Ladies” – A
11. “Bedroom” – A-
12. “The Crunch” – A
13. “Ain’t It Nice” – A
14. “Cold Meat” – B+
15. “Don’t Catch Fire” – A-
16. “Green Walls” – A-
17. “Pull Down the Shades – A++
18. “Frogs” – B
19. “Fast Ostrich” – A-
20. “Amputee Song” – A-
21. “Good Old Joe” – A-

Comments: Toy Love was an extremely short lived (’78-’79) band from New Zealand. Their legacy proved more lasting as Flying Nun decided to re-master the band’s first LP and include unreleased tracks in a greatest hits compilation called Cuts. The first disc in that set called The Authorized Version is a journey in new wave and punk rock. A song like “Squeeze” is a “Shout To The Top” before “Shout To The Top.” It’s one very rooted in New Wave before most of the world even knew of New Wave.  Speaking of that kind of stuff, “Rebel” sounds like a reaction to the Mod Revival that was occurring around the time of Toy Love’s inception. Choice lyrics: “Credit cards and a maserati/Don’t go to films/Less he knows they’re arty/Likes Women’s Lib/And the Values Party/He’s a Rasta, he’s New Wave/Don’t do nothing/Less he’s told exactly/How to behave.” “Don’t Ask Me” takes a sojourn back to the days of the Velvets/early early punk rock ‘n roll. A catchy chorus “I don’t know where I’m going to” followed by a lush organ equals a neat song in “Sheep.” I’m not so sure I can really grasp how well constructed most of these songs are. Kiwi rock was functioning on a different plane than most of its genre counterparts, taking aim at a bunch of thriving sub-genres from outside the island nation. The transition from “Green Walls” to “Pull Down The Shades” might be the most brilliant of its kind that I’ve heard. I first heard “Pull” when Jay Reatard covered it for Stroke, a Chris Knox tribute album. I prefer the one on this album, with its absolute raw energy and hooky as hell vibe. It’s one of my favorite songs (in general). As a whole, I’d say this record is on the very good end of things. Only a few tracks truly standout, but the rest of them are worthy of some merit. It’s easy to see the influence that this may have had on ’80s alt-rock and ’90s and beyond post-punk/power-pop.

Grade: A-

Classic CD Review: Tim [1985]


Band:
The Replacements
Label: Sire Records

1. “Hold My Life” [A-]
2.  “I’ll Buy” [A-]
3. “On The Bus” – [A-]
4. “Dose of Thunder” – [B+]
5. “Waitress in the Sky” – [B+]
6. “Swingin Party” – [A-]
7. “Bastards of Young” – [A+]
8. “Lay It Down Clown” – [B+]
9. “Left Of The Dial” – [A+]
10. “Little Mascara” – [A]
11. “Here Comes A Regular” – [A+]

Comments: The A side of this classic — the first in a string of major label releases by the band — is full of semi-heavy jams that weren’t totally out of place in the mainstream ’80s rock climate. It’s the lighter ones that I prefer though. I guess starting with “Swingin Party” is a helluva a bottom half. Insta-classics include “Bastards of Young,” “Left of the Dial,” and “Here Comes A Regular.” What makes these three so good? Well they are all really distinct. I might be a little prejudice because I’ve been listening to them independently for a couple of years now, but I’ve got to say they all bring a lot to the table. “Little Mascara” is quite close to that kind of level. It’s the acoustic guitar in “Here Comes A Regular” that really tickles my fancy. What a progression, I tell ya.

Grade: A-

Classic CD Review: Nouns [2008]

Band: No Age
Label: Sub Pop

1. “Miner” – A
2. “Eraser” – A+
3. “Teen Creeps” – A++
4. “Things I Did When I Was Dead” – A
5. “Cappo” – A+
6. “Keechie” – A-
7. “Sleeper Hold” – A++
8. “Errand Boy” – A-
9. “Here Should Be My Home” – A++
10. “Impossible Bouquet” – A-
11. “Ripped Knees” – A++
12. “Brain Burner” – A++

Comments: Truly one of the more outstanding records that the 2000s saw. It exemplifies the power of a near-perfect meshing of raw punk, noise, and melodic pop. The first three songs all have their heavy moments and these heavy moments define this record. Even a softer, more atmospheric number like “Things I Did” serves as a terrific change of pace tune. No Age can pull this off so effectively. An even more ambient tune is “Keechie.” From reading KLYAM you guys have probably figured out ambient usually isn’t my thing, but meaningful and fitting ambiance is a rare art. No Age produces rare art. The five tunes that I gave A++’s too. Those are all-time favorite heavy hitters. Check ’em.

Grade: A (96)

Classic CD Review: The Rekoys [2003]

Band: The Recoys
Label: Troubleman Unlimited

1. “Song on the Paper Dolls” – A
2. “Shake Off Your Nerve” – A
3. “Over Your Shoulder” – A-
4. “That’s the Punchline” – A
5. “Blizzard of ’93” – A-
6. “Let’s Get Educated” – A
7. “Let You In” – A-
8. “Modern Art Museum” – A-
9. “Look Out Your Window” – A-
10. “Roy Orbison” – B
11. “Tribute: The Recoys” – A

Comments: As a big Walkmen fan, I’m impressed by the mere fact that Hamilton Leithauser was playing stuff this good when he was only 19 to 22 years old. You’ll be able to tell these guys had been playing in bands since middle school. Right off the bat, “Song of the Paper Dolls” is distinctively Hamilton. It’s clean garage/power pop — at least compared to most of the stuff I call that on this site. “Shake Off Your Nerve” has shakers and saxophones. It’s a dancer that’s more punk than most of anything that would end up coming out of The Walkmen catalog. Speaking of The Walkmen catalog, “Over Your Shoulder” starts a trend on this collection of tunes (The Recoys never released an LP) of “Walkmen” songs. “Over” has all the niceties that Leithauser and Bauer would wind up incorporating in their future band. Of course, “That’s the Punchline” and “Blizzard of ’93” (renamed “Blizzard of ’96) wound up on the Walkmen’s debut full-length Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone. This has nothing to do with anything, but when Ham says “that’s a change of style” on “Punchline,” I realized that these songs actually do represent a change of style. “Blizzard” is sloppier and heavier on Rekoys. “Let’s Get Educated” is perfect garage rock revivalist material. It’s like the Strokes, but before the Strokes. Dirtier than the Strokes. Nice and dirty. “Modern Art Museum” is a passionate rocker. You can really hear it in Ham’s voice. “No one understands The Recoys” is sung on the very last song. Don’t worry, though, when their “ship comes in” you will understand them. What that means I don’t know! Fans of The Walkmen, definitely try to get your hands on this. You’ll appreciate this as a reference point in Hamilton Leithauser’s (and Pete Bauer’s, if you’re really looking) career. The Recoys broke up in 1999 after a three year stint.

Grade: A- (92)

Classic Review: Stanley Road [1995]

Artist: Paul Weller
Label: Go! Discs

1. “The Changingman” – A
2. “Porcelain Gods” – A-
3. “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” – B+
4. “You Do Something To Me” – A+
5. “Woodcutter’s Son” – B+
6. “Time Passes” – B+
7. “Stanley Road” – B+
8. “Broken Stones” – B
9. “Out of the Sinking” – A-
10. “Pink on White Walls” – B+
11. “Whirlpool’s End” – A+
12. “Wings of Speed”- A+

Comments: I consider this the Modfahjah’s serious, yet bittersweet phase. I’ve been listening to these songs on a fairly irregular basis since about the year 2000. Collectively, they’ve never struck me as worthwhile listens… up until very recently. After seeing Weller in a live setting, I realized that the guy isn’t that bad! No, no, even more shockingly…he’s good! Of course, the sound he’s maintained over his solo career is in a faraway land from punk rock or “mod” rock…whatever that was. On this release in particular, Weller is pretty much down for anything. An extended guitar solo here and there, a soft piano-rock unrequited love ballad, an inspirational oldies power-pop number, country sounding tunes, and other goodies. Even the songs that aren’t “great” tend to flow real well with this album as a whole. The core of this album is in “You Do Something to Me,” Weller’s solo magnum opus “Whirlpool’s End,” and, of course, the gospel piano track “Wings of Speed.” I remember listening to “Wings” when I was a wee lad. I hadn’t heard anything like it. Its gospel swagger (which was something I never would have termed it years ago) was captivating. I think I downloaded it on Napster or Kazaa. That’s how much impact it had on me. It’s still such a touching ditty.

Grade: A- (90)

Classic Review: Pinkerton [1996]

Band: Weezer
Label: DGC Records

1. “Tired of Sex” – A
2. “Getchoo” – A-
3. “No Other One” – B+
4. “Why Bother?” – A
5. “Across the Sea” – A
6. “The Good Life” – A
7. “El Scorcho” – A
8. “Pink Triangle” – A-
9. “Falling for You” – B
10. “Butterfly” – B

Comments: Blue vs. Pinkerton. Blue vs. Pinkerton. What’s the deal? Those two are the only albums that independent-minded fans of Weezer consider worthy of discussion. As you all know Weezer Blue is a heck of an album.  It’s loaded with indefatigable pop/rock numbers.  This record has been claimed to be ‘darker’ and more ‘raw’ and that’s relatively accurate. The rhythm guitar, as on Blue, is the main force behind the goodness on here. It’s not nearly as catchy as Blue (no standout tracks), but a large portion of it is awesome.

Grade: A- (91)

Classic Review: Is This It? [2001]

Band: The Strokes
Label: RCA

1. “Is This It?” A+
2. “The Modern Age” – A+
3. “Soma” – A
4. “Barely Legal” – A+
5. “Someday” – A+
6. “Alone, Together” – A+
7. “Last Nite” – A+
8. “Hard to Explain” – A++
9. “When It Started” – A+ / “New York City Cops” – A+
10. “Trying To Your Luck” – A+
11. “Take It Or Leave It” – A+

Comments: The best of the bunch of so-called revivalists that spawned in the late ’90s and early ‘2000s, The Strokes weren’t really revivalists at all. What were they reviving? These guys weren’t punks, either. This album is vintage pop-rock gold. Pop-rock gold that completely triumphs the dumb, uninspiring, and utterly boring, pop-rock of bands of today like…The Script. Despite widespread media coverage of this record and The Strokes legacy in general, it’s a shame they’ve never really crossed over into mainstream pop radio’s heart. Just a few years ago I was informed of this band, so I’m not going to try to pretend these guys were a favorite when I was eleven. I’d heard odds and ends off this album…most amazing to me, initially, were “Someday” and “The Modern Age”…but this was my first time listening to in its entirety. There’s hardly any bands that have produced a better start-to-finish(er). The little bursts of distortion and Casablancas’ distinctive voice are awesome moments on so many of these tunes. Even the songs that I’ve heard only a few times vs. hundreds of times for the others are immediately likable.

Grade: A+ (97)

Classic Review: Cryptograms [2007]

Band: Deerhunter
Album: Cryptograms
Label: Kranky Records

1. “Intro” – (B-)Reminds me of an atmospheric No Age number.
2. “Cryptograms” – (B+) Not really my kind of Deerhunter tune, although it does have a lot of little hints of catchiness.
3. “White Ink” – (C)Relaxing and probably great under the influence of some kind of drug, but as a stand alone track…boring.
4. “Lake Somerset” – (B)Too chaotic for my liking, but still decent enough. If pure noise and subliminal hooks are your kind of thangs then God bless you.
5. “Providence” – (C)See “White Ink” for this.
6. “Octet” – (B-)Too long, but has a decent drumbeat.
7. “Red Ink” – (D)Really, really, really pointless. Top of the line pointlessness.
8. “Spring Hall Convert” – (B+)Mellow rock. Perhaps veers too much in the ambient direction.
9. “Strange Lights” – (B)Similar in quality to the track before it.
10. “Hazel Street” – (A-)Down to earth (woo hoo!). A fun adventure.
11. “Tape Hiss Orchid” – (D)See, “Red Ink.” Thanks.
12. “Heatherwood” – (B+)Pretty neat. Not a great closer, but it’s fun.

Final Comments: If you are sucker for ambiance and I mean AMBIANCE, this record is for you! If you like rock and roll and I mean ROCK AND ROLL, this record is probably not for you. For those suckers who like a delicate mix, it will probably be like flipping a quarter. TAILS, you like it. HEADS, you hate it. For me, unfortunately, this would probably fall somewhere in the middle or lower end of my favorite albums of a given year. In other words, this record isn’t very notable in Deerhunter’s discography let alone music. Period. I feel like I might be too harsh to a certain degree…I mean this isn’t an aimless record. Deerhunter is better than that.

Grade: B- (80)

Classic Review: You’re Living All Over Me [1987]

Band: Dinosaur Jr.
Label: SST

1. “Little Fury Things” – (A+)A long-time favorite, I love the smothering of distortion and pop at the beginning of the tune. Of course, the rest of the tune is just as amazing; the solo toward the middle really stands out.

2. “Kracked” – (A-)Interesting solos, but rather dull verses. I do like the proto-grunge chorus.

3. “Sludgefeast” – (B+)Another heavy battering of noise! Of course, a little teaser of a slowdown leads to an even more massive outbreak of…sludge. Mascis’ vocals fit snug on here.

4. “The Lung” – (B+)A tiny bit toned down from the two tracks before it, this is a more relaxed interpretation of distortion.

5. “Raisans” – (A-)Unfortunately not really note-worthy, but it’s still quite listenable. The final long shred is impressive. The best of its kind on here so far, I’d wager.

6. “Tarpit” – (A)Would probably work best as an album closer because it’s just that great and has that whirlpool of noise that gives me a sense of closure.

7. “In a Jar” – (A-)Reminiscent of Pavement in its clean, yet lo-fi waysat least at first.

8. “Lose” – (B+)A little bit of a hassle to appreciate, but Barlow meant well.

9. “Poledo” – (C-)An unnecessary “sound collage” as Wikipedia dubs it. Really not necessary. For throw-aways in the grand scheme of throw-aways, I guess this isn’t terrible.

10. “Show Me the Way” – (A+)Awesome! An instant favorite!

GRADE: A-/B+

Classic CD Review: In Utero

Band: Nirvana
Release: 1993
Label: DGC

1. “Serve the Servants” – A
2. “Scentless Apprentice” – C+
3. “Heart Shaped Box” – B
4. “Rape Me” – B+
5. “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” – B+
6. “Dumb” – B
7. “Very Ape” – B
8. “Milk It” – C+
9. “Pennyroyal Tea” – B-
10. “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” – B-
11. “Tourette’s” – B
12. “All Apologies” – B

Comments: Not exactly the biggest fan of Kurt Cobain’s singing voice or what is grunge music, I was unsure what to expect from this critically hailed record. “Serve the Servants” is the perfect speed/heaviness  that I’m personally looking for. The screaming on “Scentless” bugs me much. I dig the chorus on “Heart Shaped Box,” but other than that it’s just all right. “Rape me/Rape me my friend” is fun. It’s not something I’ll constantly listen to, but it’s fun. Jay’s cover of “Frances” is better. I don’t care. I’m not going to say the second half of this is bad, but it’s far away from pop. Big ups to “Tourette’s” for being a decent punk tune. It’s so bad it’s good.

Grade: B- (83)