Congratulations America, I’m pretty sure this is the most recently recorded album to be reviewed on your favorite blog, Records and Beer.
The Narrator is a band hailing from Chicago, and I’m not going to lie to you- I have no idea what the band members’ names are at this moment in time, nor am I going to take the time to look them up- and the reason I’m not going to look them up is ’cause they just sound like “dudes.” And by “dudes,” I mean that the guy singing sounds like he comes from the Tim Kinsella school of ROCK. Does the fact that they happen to be on Flameshovel Records influence him to sing a bit like Mr. Kinsella? Who knows. What I do know is that this album is totally overlooked, even though it was (shockingly) reviewed on Pitchfork and given a pretty good rating. Oh, and I like this album because it just kind of sounds like 90s rock.
So yeah, I guess because it sounds like “90s rock,” it’s not really anything groundbreaking, but goddamn did I listen to the shit out of this a couple years ago. The mood is definitely “hopeful, yet apathetic,” which is something I (and hopefully YOU) can rock and roll to. Also, I’m pretty sure I stole the part about them being apathetic from a review of this album I read somewhere else once, so please forgive me for the unoriginal thought. Anyway, back to the whole 90s rock thing. This is pretty much all guitars- bass-drums stuff, with nothing particularly standing out in the mix except some occasional out-of-nowhere vocal hooks.
There are some songs about going nowhere in life, having not really accomplished anything in life, smoking a joint with your sister, a cover of a weird Bob Dylan song from that Self Portrait album no one likes, and “Surf Jew,” which better have been a goddamn single, because it sure sounds like that’s what The Narrator was trying for, and it rules. If there is one song that I can say, “Hey, this may interest you in listening to this album,” then by Jove, that one is it. That up-and-down bass line, palm muting, raspy-vocals-in-the-chorus, “anthemic but not quite as downtrodden as the rest of the album” quality really makes it the focal point of the album. Not that the other songs are shitty, mind you, as that is immediately followed by “Panic at Puppy Beach,” which, despite the chorus sounding blatantly like early Modest Mouse, is quite good as well, and almost touching, until you realize how depressing and occasionally mean-spirited the lyrics are.
And there you have it, I can pound out an incredibly vague review in a small amount of time when I’ve had a few beers feel the need to accomplish something. Honestly, I was just listening to this really loudly while I was driving around a couple of weeks ago and felt the need to put it up here even though I don’t really have anything constructive to say about it. Also, I first heard of it from someone ELSE’S blog! How charming and appropriate. I know, this might not have been up to par, but believe me, I can’t always pump out stuff as engrossing as that “I gave you absolutely no reason to be interested in this” Alice Donut review I did last time.
Don’t let THIS unreliable narrator steer you towards a WALL- download the album here (ROFL- books):
I wasn’t planning on covering any compilations on here, but this one is an exception for some (I think) fairly legitimate reasons. REASON #1: The full length LP that some of these songs are taken from is entirely out of print, the master tapes have been lost, and a vinyl copy probably costs 8 million dollars. REASON #2: The other good parts of the compilation are from two 7″ records, which apparently have been reprinted, but this band has such little printed material, that it’s worthwhile to talk about it all at once. REASON #3: The other full length with featured tracks on the compilation is fucking terrible, so I am including the entirety of the aforementioned album that has essentially been LOST FOREVER (sort of).
The Dicks are a band that you are more likely to be familiar with via covers, particularly The Byrds’ 1966 hit single, “Bourgeois Fascist Pig.” Lesser known covers include Mudhoney’s version of “Hate the Police” and The Jesus Lizard 7″ version of “Wheelchair Epidemic.” So, let me rephrase, if you like either Mudhoney or The Jesus Lizard, you may have heard one or two of these songs before. Basically, they are a fairly catchy hardcore punk band, but have a tendency to insert a lot of blues influences and even some noise rock, which along with having a flamboyantly gay, obese, and (at times) seemingly insane frontman- Gary Floyd, helped set them apart from all of those other 80s punk rock people.
1980-1986 features 2/3 of the Dicks Hate the Police 7″, the majority of the Live at Raul’s split with the Big Boys, five songs from Kill from the Heart (the album that has disappeared), the entirety of the Peace? 7″, and seven songs of horrible boring shit from the band’s last lineup. If you haven’t guessed, the stuff before those last seven songs is GREAT!
The songs included from Hate the Police are fairly standard hardcore punk, the titular track with an overly pleasing chord progression, and the following, “Lifetime Problems,” featuring a stupendous chorus of inane laughter, fitting right at home with Flipper’s “Ha Ha Ha.”
Most of the material included from the live split (note: there are no studio versions of these songs anyway) fits the same mold as the first two songs, save two tracks that stand out, the first of these being “Saturday Night at the Bookstore,” which is slower, bass-driven tune with mostly spoken lyrics detailing the goings-ons at a popular gay sex shop and is quite colorful- highlights include Gary addressing someone in the audience at one point with, “I’ll suck your dick after the show, motherfucker.” The latter song, “Wheelchair Epidemic,” was covered by The Jesus Lizard and- surprise- kind of sounds like The Jesus Lizard! In addition, the line “Are you stupid, or just a faggot?” is rendered much less offensive when said by a gay man as compared to the cover version out of context.
And now, Kill from the Heart, which is by far the best part of the compilation (but I will be discussing the whole album)! This is where the blues influence comes in, but don’t worry- it’s not anywhere near being “blues rock,” it’s just joyously sloppy hardcore songs that happen to be comprised of blues riffs. “Rich Daddy” kind of sounds like a particularly angry Sonics song, and “Anti-Klan Part 2” even has a slide guitar! The album is still peppered with some fun, short and standard hardcore songs too, so everyone gets to be happy- and I mean everyone– it even includes a completely butchered cover of “Purple Haze” and ends with the most poorly performed dance song I’ve ever heard, which also happens to be 11 minutes long- and somehow enjoyable! These songs are the biggest shifts in that “new” direction, which happened to be abandoned right after this as the band broke up and came back with an entirely different line-up.
The new line-up recorded a decent 7″ (Peace?) and then devoted itself to making longer, boring songs with no hooks or interesting lyrics, represented on These People, which is where the last seven of these songs are taken from (minus the last, which is a short and live dicking-around track). Check them out if you want, but they really do suck, which is why I have included the entirety of Kill from the Heart. Don’t let it keep you from checking out 1980-1986, though, because the beginning is fantastic.
Onto album number two, which is also from the past decade, which is unexpected, even by myself.
Oneida has put out a shitload of albums- sometimes more than one per year- since their first in 1997 (which wasn’t issued as a wide release until later, but whatever). It’s hard to describe their sound overall- they’re one of those bands that definitely has their own sound, but it’s basically a mixture of 70s rock riffs, krautrock, and tinny antique-sounding keyboards/organs. Since I’ve gotten into them, I’ve purchased pretty much every widely available new release that they’ve had since, which has proved to be pretty worthwhile. They can get into some irritating repetition and self indulgence pretty frequently (their latest full length was 3 discs, over two hours long, and the entire first third was basically a few 12 minute organic live techno songs), but each album is such a departure from the last, it’s worth looking into as they include great material somewhere on each release (the second disc of the aforementioned album kicks ass).
So, onto “Come on Everybody Let’s Rock,” which must be missing that comma in the title because you’re supposed to yell it at someone without pause. It seems like no one ever talks about this album. I will say that it’s far more heavily steeped in the 70s rock (sometimes nearing stoner metal) thing than any of their other albums. Needless to say, the entirety of it is a lot more fun and much less tedious than later experiments.
Oddly, it opens with “I Love Rock,” which is by far the least rock-sounding track on the album- a bunch of shouted cliches about, shockingly, how much the band loves rock laid over a bunch of noise. Honestly, I have no idea if this was the band’s intention, but it seems like it’s there purely to remind whoever is listening that the band can get experimental, because there really isn’t any other sign of it afterwards- it immediately jumps into the good-time hangin’ out-and-getting-high-in-a-basement-with-outdated-70s-wallpaper-feel of “Major Havoc.” Allmusic.com says this might be a reference to XTC’s “Sgt. Rock,” but this literally does not make any sense.
From that point on out, “Let’s Rock” basically alternates songs with overtly 70s influences with faster, ridiculous, frantic straight rock songs, including the overly absurd (and awesome) “Doin’ Business in Japan,” which is about just that- several rhyming things that occur while doing business in Japan. Topped off with one of the most blatant cocaine songs I’ve ever heard, along with a double speed cover of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Slip Inside This House,” the mood is far less serious than later Oneida albums (not that they try to be fucking U2 or anything), and often times much more enjoyable because of it. It’s a good time. Click the link below to download it, but if you do purchase it, you will be pleased to know that the insert contains not one, but two photos of a fully nude man laying down with his dick out, just for you! (I’m actually serious.)
Download Here (one track is out of order in the .rar, but you’ll figure it out):