…And I’m BACK! I was pretty distracted for a while because of some surprising life-related situations, the likes of which some people reading this may or may not know about, that were taking up all of my mental energy for a few weeks. Anyway, it had been a while, so I thought, “Hey! Why not review yet another album that won’t blow your mind or anything, but is pretty enjoyable!” Then this post was born.
The Damned’s second album, Music For Pleasure, gets shit on quite a bit- even more so than their new albums which are just “ignored.” In addition to this, many friends of mine that are known to enjoy The Damned quite a bit are only vaguely familiar with this album or haven’t even heard of it. From what I’ve gathered, at the time of its release, less than a year after the classic Damned Damned Damned, it was basically written off because it happened to be produced by Nick Mason- the drummer for Pink Floyd. I’m also pretty sure that all of these horrible reviews came from people who never even bothered to listen to it.
Yes, I would be very skeptical of purchasing an album produced by a member of Pink Floyd, mostly because I hate them, but also, at the time, Pink Floyd themselves thought punk rock was pretty stupid- so how could that result in a good collaboration? It turns out that it’s actually fine, really- the only production complaint I have about the album is that the drums occasionally sound a little flat- but it’s really not that big of a deal. I’ve also read, though I’m not sure if it’s true, that the band members themselves strongly dislike this album, which makes little sense to me, as the songs are great, save several moments in “Idiot Box” where the band doesn’t sound together at all. The only other issue is that the closer, “You Know,” is one of the biggest Stooges rip-offs I’ve ever heard (complete with Funhouse sax), but if you embrace it (and like the Stooges), it’s fairly enjoyable and makes sense- Damned Damned Damned itself ended with a Stooges cover, the not-so-cleverly retitled “I Feel Alright.”
I guess I had better mention why the album is actually good, cause it sure seems like I’ve done a lot of complainin’ just now. First of all, it doesn’t really sound all that different from Damned Damned Damned, which rules, but is also why this album is not able to attain “AMAZING!” standards in my opinion, because it doesn’t do anything new. However, releasing a sort-of retread of an album as good as that first one is just fine with me! The only problem with it is that I can’t really think of any stand-out tracks off the top of my head. The band has also added a second guitarist, who in addition to original guitarist Brian James, wouldn’t even be on the next album! This new (and apparently unappreciated) guy , Lu Edmunds, doesn’t really stand out that much, save for some super catchy country-inspired lead guitar on “One Way Love,” which might be the best song on here. I guess he also does fill out the guitar lines, which makes it much easier to ignore the moments when the drums fall kind of flat, WHICH ISN’T REALLY A BIG DEAL LIKE I SAID IN THE FIRST PLACE, REMEMBER? Pay attention. Finally, another reason to check this out, which is the other thing that’s actually different from Damned Damned Damned, is the increased amount of actual melody coming from the vocal parts. Whereas that album had “Neat Neat Neat”-style searing guitar lines to carry most of the tunes, here there are actual hooks and occasional harmonies! NOT PUNK!
And because harmonies aren’t punk rock, this album sucks and this review was a joke. Go fuck yourself! I’m gonna go stand on a bridge and pretend I’m a poor, hard-living traveler and ask for spare change even though I could just ask my mom for some rent money.
Download it here, if you really like upholding the man and the system and government and showers:
Well, what do you know, another compilation! Rest assured, this is a justified posting just as the Dicks one was. I know you were horribly worried that this wasn’t the case. I’ve had this on my computer for quite some time, thinking it would be something I would never come across in real life, but LO AND BEHOLD, I saw a copy of it sittin’ around this weekend for 8 bucks!
Smells Like Smoked Sausages is double 7″ release from the Sub Pop singles club, serving as the February/March 1992 installment- each disc counts for a month even though it was released as one package. Now, here comes the justification- this particular entry in the singles club is comprised entirely of bands on Amphetamine Reptile Records, and none of the songs are available ANYWHERE ELSE (except for the Helmet song)! That’s right- if you call within the next 10 minutes, all eight of these gems can be yours with fifteen EASY payments of just 54 cents (I’ll make a 10 cent profit)!
So, yeah, this isn’t Punk-O-Rama 27 where everything is already on other records- it’s just here, and it’s comprised of bands who have some really fun, noisy songs, but full-lengths that are mostly a chore to listen to (except for the Cows discography and the first Helmet album, WHICH I SWEAR I’LL REVIEW). Even if you do find some of the bands’ full lengths worthwhile, this can at least be the stepping stone for you to dive right into owning the entire Surgery discography (I’m pretty sure no one has ever done this).
Honestly, all of the songs on here are great, except for the Boss Hog “I’m Jon Spencer’s other band and I still play stupid, kitschy moronic fake blues” entry. It starts off with a Tar song, “Deep Throw,” which has a surprisingly good combination of noise with a melodic chorus, most of which cannot be said about their other releases (I own several of their albums, I don’t know why), and then immediately jumps into Helmet covering the Melvins’ “Oven,” which is GREAT, and this version sounds (essentially) exactly the same, thus making it great and pointless at the same time. Also thrown in at one point or another, you have two efforts in some straight, standard AmRep rock stuff by Surgery and Vertigo, again made enjoyable because of the length of their appearances. There’s a spacey Helios Creed offering, that worthless Boss Hog shit, and, saving the best for last, the Cows performing an overly noisy version of Leadbelly’s “My Girl,” and a really funny and disturbing entry by God Bullies called “Bullet,” which is unrelated to the Misfits tune, but does involve a lot of murderin’.
And there you have it! Little did you know that Vienna sausages were actually modeled after the smell and taste of Page Hamilton’s penis.
There are three “eras” of Killing Joke albums- their first run of 80s albums (which did include a break-up, but it was less than a year so it doesn’t count), a 90s regrouping for two albums, and the most recent reunion starting in 2003, which resulted in their second self-titled effort being available in Circuit Cities and Best Buys across America. Why? I have no idea! Anyway, the very last album from the 80s period (which was actually 1990) and their stuff after that kind of just sounds like Ministry, with a couple of OK songs thrown in, so it’s not that great. Out of the 80s efforts, 1980’s self-titled debut is revered as the classic album- and it probably is their best- it’s all minimal and angry and weird. Then, 1985’s Night Time gets a lot of praise, particularly for including the very 80s sounding “Love Like Blood” and (surprise) “Eighties,” which were apparently (at least) minor hits, though I certainly have never heard either of them anywhere except for my own home. Between these two albums, there is no room for anyone to talk about 1983’s Fire Dances, which is sad! So, now, I’m going to laboriously highlight it as a public service.
In a surprisingly logical turn of events, Fire Dances sounds like it was made right in the middle of Killing Joke’s transition from “kinda scary pounding noise” to “smoother melodies with vocals drenched in 80s reverb” because it was! Normally, transitional albums aren’t so great because it results in 40 minutes of songs that don’t sound like they should go together, but this is not the case- they did it the correct way. Each song has elements of both sounds, so it actually sounds like one band recorded it.
The whole “homogenized, yet transitional” sound for Killing Joke results in the album having a very distinct mood, which is what makes it especially worthwhile- and no, the mood is not “Enya at a BBQ” as the cover may mistakenly cause you to assume. It still has pounding, repetitive percussion on essentially every song, but this paired with the slightly more melodious guitars and (much more so) vocals, giving a lot of the songs a celebratory feel. However, the guitar lines seem to constantly be moving throughout each song- there aren’t really a lot of “riffs”- and when it hits a lower register, often gets arpeggiated and dark/nervy, so, overall, it’s a little bit like Christmas Day minus the sleigh bells, but with the threat of a family brawl in the background. The two extremes are highlighted in the (sort of) title track, “Let’s All Go (to the Fire Dances),” which may be the best song on here (listen to that guitar line about 1:44 in!) and the perpetual tempo increase at the end of “Frenzy.”
So, if you’re too lazy to read three paragraphs, Fire Dances may not be the best Killing Joke album (it’s the 2nd best), but it’s worth your time and attention because of its mood and consistency. TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS!
Watch the sort-of-weird, sort-of-medieval, not-sure-what-the-point-of-the-video-is-but-it’s-the-album’s-only-single video for “Let’s All Go (to the Fire Dances)” on Youtube:
Download the whole durn album here:
In yet another exercise in poor album art, apparently someone became fascinated with the blue cellophane encasing his or her untouched fruit basket, combined this with a love for arbitrarily changing font sizes, and came up with this gem of an album cover, sure to pique the interests of anyone fingering through the “Used 90s Albums That No One Cares About Anymore” section of the local Half Priced Books. Thankfully, like many design-inept 90s guitar rock bands, Arcwelder’s Entropy is far, far better than their choice in packaging aesthetics.
As I unsubtly just hinted, Arcwelder is one of those bands that sounds like a distillation of “90s guitar guys on independent labels,” and it even shows in their non-musical representetions- 1991’s Jacket Made in Canada comes with a record label catalog that sells t-shirts strictly in large and extra large. SO WHAT SETS THEM APART, you ask? Well, it’s kind of hard to describe. I find their vocals to be both distinctive and pleasing- Bill Graber and Scott McDonald sing in an almost identical register, which is similar to that of Bob Mould, and often back each other up, creating a sound of DOUBLE TRACKED BOB MOULDS without actually doing any double tracked vocals. The other brother, Rob Graber, only ever plays bass or guitar, and therefore is incredibly lazy and slobbish, leeching off of the rest of the band’s efforts. In addition to that last snippet not really being true, they tend to jump between a stuttering post-hardcore sound and a 90s “heart on sleeve” (for lack of a better expression) Archers of Loaf style within the same album and/or song- which are two things that rule.
Honestly, none of their albums really sound that different, but Entropy is my pick because of it’s consistency with being able to rock hard, be melodic, or both. Some of their other albums, even though they’re all pretty good, have a tendency to contain a few songs that don’t really do either, which suffers at the hands of the unvaried vocals. It’s also the first of their albums that I purchased due to it receiving a check mark on Allmusic.com, so I may just be obeying what people on the Internet that I’ve never met are telling me. Either way, it contains examples of everything I mentioned before- offbeat post-hardcore (“Captain Allen”), sort-of-sappy heart-on-sleeve stuff (“I Promise Not to Be an Asshole”), combinations of both (“Blowin’ Smoke”), and the greatest song ever (“Turn To”).
And yes, I realize that these entries are getting a little bit 90s heavy, BUT I’M WORKIN’ ON IT! My next review is going to be the very first Helmet album. I’m not sure if I’m joking yet.
Get all 90s listenin’ and stuff with Entropy:
Shellac’s first release was The Rude Gesture: A Pictorial History, which among other things (one other song), included “The Billiard Player Song” (perhaps their best song to date) and “The Rambler Song.” The latter of which still kicked ass- as much as a song comprised of one chord and a bunch of feedback could, anyway.
This release contains an alternate version of “The Rambler Song,” released several years later, and holy hell is it awesome. Produced even more minimally than the original, which seems impossible considering Shellac recordings are all incredibly minimal, this version sounds like it was recorded after an inspired by a marathon session of listening to ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres. I’m fucking serious, go back and listen to that album, specifically focusing on “Sheik” and “Master of Sparks” and tell me that it doesn’t resemble that album at all- I dare you. I dare you at the expense of losing nothing. This new production, coupled with adding a few extra notes to the song somehow simultaneously makes you feel like sportin’ some cheap sunglasses, yet feeling oddly emotional at the same time- and the song is just about a goddamn car! AND THERE IS A KEYBOARD PART AT ONE POINT! None of these things are contained in normal Shellac songs, which is why I thought it was worth highlighting.
I don’t really know much about Mule, except that some of them were in the Laughing Hyenas (I have one of their albums) a few years before. Apparently Mule is bluesier. “Beauteous” is produced with the same vibe as “Rambler Song,” except the vocalist is a little more nasal-y and traditionally blues-ish sounding. Apparently it was also recorded before, but basically sounds the same except with a different mix. I didn’t really write this review for that one, though. Sorry, Mule. Not a bad song though!
Ramble around right here, pal:
Pod was a really really really good album by The Breeders. In fact, I vastly prefer it to any of the post Surfer Rosa Pixies material (yes, even Doolittle, what an asshole I am). To make a long story short, it was cold, weird, catchy, and contains some of the best drum recording I’ve ever heard. Last Splash was its follow-up, which contained a fairly huge hit (“Cannonball”), different band members, wasn’t too bad, but it essentially sounded like a fuzz box covered in lollipops. Unfortunately, though a hairy lollipop sounds desirable at first, it’s nothin’ special. After that, The Breeders took a break for a little while, and Kim Deal recorded an album, Pacer, with a (semi) new band, The Amps. I heard part of it before, but two weeks ago I found it used for a mere two dollars at the horrific expense of being able to buy just one less beer the following evening.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to drink away my sorrows over the purchase of Pacer, because it’s great! Even almost as great as Pod! I’m not lying! That’s right, other dollar bin finds like The Meat Puppets’ Too High to Die, you can all go fuck yourselves!
Anyway, this album sounds much more appropriate as a follow-up to Pod. It has the fuzziness of Last Splash, but isn’t nearly as slick, and is charmingly sloppy on many occasions. All of the songs are incredibly simple, only three of which being over three minutes long, and those songs aren’t exactly “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part 3.” It opens with the fairly mellow title track, which misleadingly sounds exactly like a song from Last Splash, but when it transitions into “Tipp City,” it goes from a sunny beach party atmosphere to a much sweeter drinkin’-too-many-beers-after-dark rock and roll beach party. And those are the kind of parties I enjoy, though I could take or leave the beach part. Speaking of drinking a lot of beers, Robert Pollard allegedly “loaned” Kim Deal parts (if not all) of the song “I Am Decided.”
When I initially decided to post this, I didn’t realize I would have that little to say about Pacer, but I think that might be because of how simple it really is, as I said before. The only thing left to do would be a shitty song-for-song breakdown, which I’m not going to do because it’s UNPROFESSIONAL and goes against the aesthetics of this blog, my own integrity, and America. I will say that “First Revival” has a super melodic and pretty surf-ish chorus, and that “Full on Idle,” which would appear yet again on The Breeders’ (totally half-assed) Title TK, is a bunch of punk-rockin’ fun. I don’t know. Enjoy this album and its minimal, totally uninformative insert.
Have a drunk beach party, cut your hair, and glue it to a lollipop right here:
I’m going to start this off with a bang by talking about something that’s pretty good but not mind-blowing. It’ll really get you excited for the rest of my posts!
If you saw me last week, which I’m sure you did if you’re reading this unless it has received some bizarre amount of exposure that is impossible and this point and only slightly less impossible years and years down the line, I was talking about this album, Airport 5’s “Tower in the Fountain of Sparks” a bunch. The reason being that it’s a pretty damn good non-Guided by Voices Robert Pollard project from the early 2000s. This is a genuinely frightening area of music to explore- in fact, it’s probably the most intimidating thing I’ve done since I first decided to get into The Fall in high school and had to decided where to start in that ridiculously large catalog. Post-GBV Pollard stuff is almost as plentiful in about a third of the amount of time, but the highs aren’t nearly as high, and the lows are unfathomably lower. So, this is where you explore if you want to spend a lot of time and effort to find that perfect “pretty good” album.
Also, Tobin Sprout is the other person involved in the project.
Anyway, this started as a “mail tapes to the other dude” project, but in an incredibly strict sense of the word. As far as I’ve seen, there were “no sendbacks,” so Tobin Sprout played all of the instrumental tracks, mailed it off to Bob, and he sang over it. That’s it. There was no going back and changing up ideas to better fit with the lyrics/melody that found their way to the tune. In other words- there are no surprises on this. No magical left turns or sudden mood shifts. No “half the guitar lines cutting out for no reason in the middle of a song” (that’s for you, Hardcore UFOs.) What it is though, is a really solid collection of (occasionally dark) mid-tempo REM-ish janglers. Basically, it sounds a lot like the more mellow songs on “Under the Bushes Under the Stars,” which is GOOD!
It opens with “Burns Carpenter, Man of Science,” which, despite the somewhat absurd name, is a pretty somber song with a beautiful chorus about LOVE! SCIENTIFICALLY INVENTED LOVE! And it’s destroying the ozone layer (because too many people drove their cars to purchase it at the local store). That second part isn’t true, but it is one of the best songs on the album. Honestly, the album doesn’t become much more dynamic than that. It’s not a record to rock out to at all, but there are no “I’m drunk and in a basement” songs that plagued nearly every GBV release. Speaking of GBV, the song that sounds most like their classic material, “Stifled Man Casino,” absolutely kicks ass in an undistorted three (or four- I don’t know music theory) chord fashion. I’m actually writing this entire post because the chorus has been stuck in my head all day like a teenage girl.
I don’t know what else to say about this that isn’t a song for song explanation. I will say that the most faceless songs on it just kind of sound like different versions of “To Remake the Young Flyer,” which as I stated the similarities earlier, is on “Under the Bushes Under the Stars,” and is a (shock!) Tobin Sprout tune. WITH FLANGE! Dunno. Enjoy it. Download link below. It’s some guy I don’t know’s sendspace, so who knows how long it’ll be up. That’s the risk you have to take with things that are probably illegal, though.