Recommendations for Your Autumn Soundtrack
Hooray for fall!
I couldn't be happier to see the end of summer 2005. I usually enjoy summer, but this one really stuck in my craw.
Bring on the crisp weather, the steely skies, the dying leaves and of course, the music.
~Prodigy The Fat of the Land
This album takes me back to the days of Click and Drag. Remember Click and Drag? A moment of silence for New York's great parties of yesteryear...sigh. This album is massive. A confrontational blast of dark, menacing, vituperative punk techno and hypnotic, black psychedelica. Put on some vinyl pants and black eyeliner and go find a dance floor full of freaks. It's fall! Good luck.
~Lush Gala and Spooky
The sound of autumn leaves falling. These guys n' gals were heavily influenced by Cocteau Twins but they use much more straightforward pop melodies and song structures. Lush are like a 60's psychedelic pop group with a penchant for Cure-like use flange and echo. Hey, I could write for SPIN! The songs are gorgeously haunting and some of the vocals are so light, they're almost transparent, ghostly. Needless to say I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. "Sweetness and Light," unfortunately, has been used in a Volkswagen commercial.
~The Jesus and Mary Chain Automatic
I think it's funny -- no, wait, not funny...REALLY IRRITATING -- that every single review I've ever read of Automatic complains loudly about the "annoying" drum machine. Yet not one of these critics even mentions the fact that the VERY SAME drum machine -- same sounds, same programming style -- was also used on Automatic's universally acclaimed predecessor, Darklands. Do you ever get the feeling that critics are just reading eachother's shit and merely repeating a bunch second- and third- and fourth-hand observations? I do.
Anyway, enough about them. I love Automatic -- the songs, the sounds, the lyrics, the album cover, and yes, the drum machine. Some of these tunes -- "Coast to Coast," "Head On," "Gimme Hell," "Blues From a Gun" -- are just so doomy ...yet so utterly cool at the same time. Like taking a joyride on your motorbike while the sky caves in. Or something. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club? Give me a f-ing break.
~Hot Hot Heat Make Up the Breakdown
Amber, you rule for bringing this album into my life. Aside from absolutely unassailable songwriting and flawlessly economic execution, HHH deserve kudos for doing things like having an opening track that doesn't contain a single snare drum hit and for closing the record with an uncharacteristically moody piano ballad. I wish I wish I wish I had written "No, Not Now." It is so perfect. This record is perfect. Buy it. Thank you.
~Add N to [X] Avant Hard
Oddball analog synth fetishists. Really cool, offbeat instrumental music that will not appeal to everyone in your family. But "Revenge of the Black Regent" is an undeniable work of dark genius.
If there were a shred of justice in the world, you would know this band. In 2001, this English quartet quietly put out a masterpiece, and nobody even showed up for the event. The usual scenario -- clueless, underachieving record label lets great band languish in obscurity while focusing on "priority" releases. Whatever. My friend Loni, who was working at Moke's label at the time, sent me this CD and I have to thank him for that. It's become one of my favorite albums.
Describing Moke isn't easy; it's hard to even pinpoint their influences. They've got so much going on, yet they always sound like one band. Their gut-level rock riffs and muscular grooves rival Rage Against the Machine, but they juxtapose the heavier moments against richly textured soundscapes filled with earthy darkness and bluesy undercurrents. The band is dynamic and unpredictable, always offering up surprising melodic and rhythmic twists, while phenomenal singer John Hogg commands your attention completely from start to finish. His voice shifts from sweet, bell-clear melodicism to balls-to-the-wall power. He sings with a world-weary soulfulness that is captivating and sincere. And what a voice. Damn.
And for all their depth and complexity, Moke never sound indulgent; the songs are always concise and catchy. No unnecessary notes here. From the kick-in-the-stomach opening of "My Degeneration" to the epic, autumnal closer "Fluicide," Moke really take you on a journey. Carnival is one of those records that reveals more with each listen. It's beautifully recorded, perfectly paced and doesn't go a minute too long. You're most likely to find this baby hiding in the "super saver" bins of your local CD store. If you see it, don't hesitate...
This one is worth the price of admission for the song "Horror Head" alone. So gorgeous. If you've never heard Curve, imagine an Erotica-era Madonna -- or an embittered Elizabeth Frazier -- purring icily over a tapestry of pulsing, noisy electronic dance grooves. Pure pop melodies wrapped in gauzy dreampop atmospherics. Does that sound pretentious enough for you? I met Anthrax's drummer Charlie Benante years ago and we immediately bonded over the fact that we were both into this band.
~Fugazi Red Medicine
Fugazi's most textured, most varied, most moody album. Therefore, their most autumn-like album. I saw Fugazi in '97 and they opened with "Do You Like Me," the first song on this record. BAM! -- the whole place exploded in an instant. What a deadly live band.
~Jason Falkner Author Unknown and Can You Still Feel?
Big thanks to JB for first turning me onto these. Another installment in the "if there were any justice in the world" department...Falkner first showed up as guitarist in the mighty Jellyfish, but quickly outgrew his role in that band. A hyper-talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he was destined to become an autonomous, self-contained artist. And he did. This guy's music is simply stunning -- sophisticated but totally accessible classic pop songwriting that borrows from all the right rock and powerpop sources (the Beatles being probably the most significant one). Falkner's got it all (and that includes great lyrics, too).
Both of these albums are musically astounding and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish yet you're most likely to find them in the cut-out bins, or selling for pocket change on Amazon. If you find 'em anywhere, make that small investment -- these albums will pay dividends for life. And you won't "outgrow" them, either.
~The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette
My favorite Damned album. Dare I say it's perfect? Have some drinks, put on some vampire garb and listen to this before you go flitting out into the crisp Gotham night.
~Gene Loves Jezebel Immigrant and Discover
Ah, the cackling, caterwauling histrionics of the Aston twins. A strictly take-it-or-leave-it affair, the music of Gene Loves Jezebel is just as likely to alienate as it is to enamor (especially the early records). 1983's Promise, the Welshmens' bizarre, goth-tinged debut, is a wicked indulgence, careening brilliantly between undisguised madness and accidental genius.
But Immigrant, the sophomore album, is the band's first work of true greatness, if you ask me. The Jezebels really got it right here -- this time, the twins wrap their crazy, yelping vocal stylings around indelible melodies, while the band lock down on airtight, dancey art punk rhythms, invoking Bauhaus, the Banshees, even U2. A future Perry Farrell was studying this stuff very closely...
If Immigrant was perfect, then Discover was just a slightly glossier, more approachable brand of perfection. Flawless singles like "Heartache,"
"Desire" and "Sweetest Thing" are joined by almost-as-good gems like "Over the Rooftops," "Kick" and "Brand New Moon." The music has become almost stadium-sized by now, thanks in part to the addition of Mick Ronson-worshipping guitarist James Stevenson to the lineup, but the Jezebels still maintain their patented auras of dark mystery. Strange, sublime, and utterly unique pop music.
~Autechre Tri Repetae
Critics call this kind of thing Intelligent Dance Music (IDM), which means that it is absolutely impossible to dance to. Critics think they're too cool to dance, you see? Because they're too intelligent. God, I hate fucking critics -- have I mentioned that lately? Anyway, this is some of the most creepy ambient techno music I've ever heard. I remember walking into a party once and this record was playing. Bad choice for party music -- it was like walking into the end scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My favorite is the beautiful and terrifying "Eutow." Put that one on when you see a storm rolling in -- you will get goosebumps a mile high.
~Deep Purple Burn
Maybe you've seen this album cover -- it's the one with the candles made in the images of all the band members. The candles are lit and the heads of Deep Purple are melting. Really cool. Anyway, alot of people overlook this Purple album cuz it's the first one they did without vocalist Ian Gillian and bassist Roger Glover. However -- their replacements totally rule! I know we all hate David Coverdale now, because he embarrassed himself in the 80s with all those horrible Whitesnake videos. But back in the day, he was just a great, bluesy rock singer, and Ritchie Blackmore brought him in to replace Gillian in Deep Purple. But wait, it gets better! Blackmore then hired Glenn Hughes -- not only a talented bass player but also an absolutely wicked singer -- to fill Glover's shoes. So Purple emerged, on the Burn album, with not one but two fantastic new lead singers. And a really inspired batch of tunes, also -- check out the title track, "Mistreated," "Lay Down Stay Down," "You Fool No One," etc. I like it better than Machine Head. But that's just me.
~The Ventures Walk--Don't Run
I guess surf rock is supposed to be used at beach parties in the summertime but to me this music is ideal for crisp nights, costume parties, dodgy burlesque performances and B-horror movie soundtracks. I picture guys in gorilla suits dancing to it. Either way, the all-instrumental Ventures were a tremendous band who helped to invent surf rock with some of the genre's most definitive and pioneering records in the 1960's. The high-velocity guitar playing even provided inspiration for future thrash metal bands. No kidding. Check out the Ventures; you won't be disappointed.
~Siouxsie and the Banshees Kaleidoscope
There is no better music to provide the soundtrack to your autumns than that of Siouxsie and the Banshees. I've acquired almost all of the Banshees' records in fall seasons past and I could write about all of them but Kaleidoscope is probably my favorite -- and I'm saving Juju for Halloween.
Kaleidoscope welcomes you to the nightmarish, funhouse-mirrored world of Siouxsie and the Banshees with the deceptively bouncy but haunted opener "Happy House," which cheerfully lowers your guard, only to then lock you into a dark room with the lurid "Tenant." If that doesn't give you nightmares, maybe the creepy sing-song of "Clockface" will. Even the lighter, psychedelic pop of the perennial "Christine" conjures images of ghosts, madness and melting visages.
I bought this CD ten years ago, along with PiL's Second Edition, Gene Loves Jezebel's Discover and Morrissey's Southpaw Grammar. Maybe I have a fetish for 1995; when I get corny and nostalgic, I throw all those discs into the CD changer together and play 'em on shuffle.
~Morrissey Southpaw Grammar
Morrissey's overblown, hard-rocking, symphonic masterpiece. This album repulsed his record label and alienated and/or confused almost everyone else. I love it. Who else could write a line like "everyone here is sick to the back teeth of you" ?? Sick to the back teeth? God, I wish I'd written that. But alas, I am only a mere mortal.
~Black Sabbath Master of Reality and Mob Rules
You could argue that the entire Sabbath catalog should be reserved for the season of dying leaves, but for my money, these two records make for the most potent fall consumption. When I was 13 I heard "Iron Man" on the radio and it threw a switch inside me that remains in the "on" position to this day. I bought "Iron Man"'s parent album Paranoid and was mesmerized from note one. Sabbath had me under their spell and soon I was digging deeper into the back catalog of this diabolical and mysterious band from way back in the misty 1970's.
When I snuck Master of Reality home under my parents' noses one night, I listened to it in my room with the door shut and couldn't believe it was even heavier than Paranoid. Black Sabbath had tuned their guitars down to C# and the riffs were absolutely sinister. The mix was dry as a bone and all the more terrifying for it. I hadn't previously heard any of the songs on MOR, so it was all deliciously new to me. I played it over and over.
Right around the same time, someone had played some Dio-era Sabbath for me -- the monolithic Mob Rules. It was made in the early 80's and had a much bigger, more polished sound than the 70's Sab but it was towering in its dark majesty. One of the keys to Sabbath's heaviness is their use of crawling, brontosaurus-slow tempos; and Mob Rules was just loaded with those wicked, pitch-black grooves. And the singer! -- his voice was terrifying. As far as I was concerned, Ronnie James Dio only enhanced Sabbath's bewitching power, and I devoured this satanic music voraciously.
I've immersed myself in Sabbath over the years and have fallen in love with the other records for different reasons at different times, but to this day Master of Reality and Mob Rules remain at the top. When the departing sun gets sucked into the blood-red horizon and the shadows descend on your house, listen to these babies. They're a better pairing than Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
One more thing -- Mob Rules' album cover. It's scary enough on first glance, but then look a little more closely right into the center of it...
~My Bloody Valentine Loveless
There is simply not another recording in the world that sounds anything like this. Kevin Shields & co. made an impossibly brilliant record and then broke the mold. They also broke up the band and bankrupted their label. Nobody survived the experience.
Do you want to drown in beautiful noise? Listen to Loveless.
~Basement Jaxx Rendez-Vu
Hooray for Basement Jaxx! For my money, the best dance act around, and truly transcendent pop music makers, to boot. This British duo fulfilled all of the potential that Daft Punk promised with their first album (and then failed to make good on, if you ask me). Basement Jaxx arrived in 1999 -- just as the "next-big-thing" hype of big beat and electronica was starting to look like a hollow threat -- and swiftly reinvigorated the entire genre with some of the most brilliant songwriting and production anyone had yet heard in electronic music. Rendez-Vu is their stellar first album, and they've only managed to get better with subsequent releases.
~King's X Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
If you've never heard the music of Texas trio King's X, the first thing you have to do is completely disregard anything you might have read about them in the rock press. Most critics, hamstrung by feeble imaginations, laziness and pure spite, are fucked to try to describe something as uncategorizably eclectic and brilliant as King's X. So they just throw a "prog rock" tag on the band and call it a day. And because King's X's lyrics often deal with issues of spirituality, the critics like to throw the word "christian" into the mix, as well. How idiotic.
Anyone who calls King's X something as stupid and belittling as "christian prog metal" clearly has not even listened to the band -- more likely, they're just repeating something they've seen written many times before. Regurgitating received wisdom is always a safe bet in rock "journalism." For this reason, King's X remain terribly misunderstood.
At the end of the day, this band is about songs. The common denominator of the members' combined influences is the Beatles. You can hear it in their phenomenal knack for great melodies and gorgeous three-part harmonies. King's X's music is hard rock that is steeped in the blues, heavy metal, gospel, psychedelic rock (as in Sgt. Pepper's) and pure pop. The songs for the most part are concise and very straightforward. Believe me, these guys couldn't give a rat's ass about "prog."
King's X also happen to possess one of the greatest rock singers of all time. Doug Pinnick, the mohawked, black-skinned, bass playing frontman of King's X brings pure soul to the band, being heavily influenced by people like Aretha Franklin and Sly Stone. What an unbelievable voice this man has -- and every note is unadulterated conviction and sincerity. A closeted homosexual for most of his life, Pinnick's lyrics reflect the conflict of a man trying to reconcile his sexuality with the repressive Southern Baptist values of his upbringing in the Deep South. This guy's got more issues than an attic full of old National Geographics (sorry), and it only makes him a more riveting, fascinating performer.
Guitarist and sometime lead vocalist Ty Tabor may be the most underrated rock guitar player ever. Hundreds of guitarists have fruitlessly tried to copy his tone over the years. Yes, the man is a virtuoso, but his playing is grounded in no-bullshit Texas blues. He always plays the right thing and it's always something new. And his pure, Lennon-esque singing voice offsets Pinnick's perfectly.
Jerry Gaskill plays the drums with an incredible amount of power, behind-the-beat groove and a huge dynamic scale. He's equal parts Bonham and Buddy Rich. His kick drum locks in with Pinnick's growling bass to create one of the most awe-inspiring and immediately-recognizable rhythm sections in rock. Jerry's one of those rare drummers whose style is so well-realized that you know it's him even when he's playing all by himself. He's also the guy who sings all those high harmony parts.
When this band came on the scene in the late eighties, they made everyone else look like a bunch of chumps. Immediately respected and worshipped by musicians everywhere, from Chic's Nile Rodgers to Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, King's X sounded like the future. Gretchen, the band's second album, was the first King's X record I heard and it is my favorite. It remains their masterpiece, even though they've put out so many other brilliant records.
"Out of the Silent Planet"'s opening sitar melody immediately announces that a mystical journey is underway; a musical quest for truth, joy and salvation. Does that sound lofty? Well, this album has some lofty ambitions, and it totally achieves them. "Over My Head" is gospel music with a heavy rock backbone. "Summerland," a haunting meditaion on getting older, is one of the most achingly, darkly beautiful things ever recorded. The evangelist-bashing "Mission" rages with righteous (the good kind of righteous) anger; its lyrics prove how simpleminded and erroneous the "christian" tag is. Each song sets up the next one perfectly. By the time you get to album-closing "The Burning Down," you feel that same mix of exhilaration and melancholy that comes over you when you've reached the end of a great story.
I've been lucky enough to become friends with King's X over the last few years and I'm even playing in a band with Jerry Gaskill, doing music from his recent solo album. Doug, Ty and Jerry are some of the most approachable and humble people you're likely to meet. But I'm not saying all this nice stuff about them because I know them -- I'm saying it because they're my heroes, role models for what a rock and roll band should be. And Gretchen Goes to Nebraska remains a shining example of how imaginative, intelligent and innovative hard rock can be.
~Joy Division Still
The icy bleakness of this music is almost too much to take; these are not sunny songs for your backyard barbeque or beach blanket bingo. That's why I always save this record for fall. Still rounds up a slew of studio tracks that didn't make it to JD's two proper albums and a bunch of pretty atrocious live recordings. If that doesn't sound like a shining endorsement, then let me point out that I love all the songs on this record and the sound of Joy Division's Martin Hannett-produced studio work always gives me chills.
~Leftfield Rhythm and Stealth
Far darker and more singleminded than its more eclectic predecessor (Leftism), Rhythm and Stealth focuses every bit of its energy on creating menacing, apocalyptic dance music with hard, relentless grooves and creepy dub soundscapes. The crawling, foreboding "Swords" may just be my fave track -- it sounds like hordes of locusts approaching. This album is exceptional and riveting from front to back.
~Motorhead Another Perfect Day
Apparently hated at the time of its release, APD has slowly but steadily gained respect over the years. When Fast Eddie quit in '82, he was replaced by former Thin Lizzy six-stringer Brian Robertson, who brought a welcome dash of color to Motorhead's sound, which had just started to get the slightest bit stale by the time of their fifth studio album. Robbo only lasted for about a year, but the experience was liberating for Motorhead, and gave them the confidence to experiment more in the future. And anyway, there are some great songs on this disc: "Back at the Funny Farm," "Shine," "Dancing On Your Grave" -- are you kidding? Those are classics. I picked this one up on the street in Williamsburg in autumn of 2000, and it has become a fall fave of mine.
~Kool Keith Black Elvis/Lost In Space
Perhaps best known for his creepy Dr. Octagon persona, Kool Keith is equally entertaining as the space-obsessed eccentric who raps about "Robots," "Rockets on the Battlefield" and "Livin' Astro." And that's only the first half of this disc. On tracks nine through 17, Kool Keith adopts his bizarre "Black Elvis" alter ego on hilarious tracks like "Maxi Curls," "Keith Turbo" and "The Girls Don't Like the Job."
It's amazing how the same guy who dreamed up the perverted, psychopathic "Doctor Octagonocologist" character could then turn around and make a record that almost completely eschews the topic of sex altogether. Hilarious. The space-age synths and programming suit Keith's weird Star Trek ramblings perfectly.
~Slayer Hell Awaits
The nightmare begins. Slayer have been called "the house band in hell." Listen to this frightening cacophony of pure satanic musical violence and you'll hear why. What separates Slayer from all the other thrash bands of their generation is the completely feral, threatening, chaotic way they play; it's as if they're trying to tear a hole in the music. Unbelievably brutal and ugly. It took me awhile to understand this band. Now they are like a basic food group for me.
Check out Hell Awaits this fall. Make a nightly ritual of putting it on at dusk. And then, if you think you're ready, move on to Reign In Blood. It's far, far worse. And by that I mean better.
~Breakbeat Era Ultra Obscene
Slithering, sexy, sordid drum~n~bass music courtesy of UK producers Roni Size, DJ Die and a sultry, wicked chanteuse named Leonie Laws. This is dark, depraved dance music that makes you move while engaging your reptile brain. Like Portishead on crystal meth.
~The Creatures A Bestiary
The Creatures, for those of you who are unacquainted, is the extracurricular musical hobby for Sioux and Budgie (singer and drummer, respectively), of English post punk titans Siouxsie and the Banshees (more on them later). Given the makeup of the group -- just Budgie's percussion and Siouxsie's voice -- one might assume that the music would be harmonically limited. Or just empty-sounding. But the lack of instrumentation only gives these two more space to work in. The songs are surprisingly interesting, thanks to Budgie's use of a wide array of percussion instruments (including melodic tools like vibes, marimbas, xylophones, bells, etc). But on the tunes where he sticks to non-pitched drums, Siouxsie is free to invent her own harmonic space. Very cool. The overall sound is somewhat exotic and wildly rhythmic, tribal-sounding -- and leaves plenty to the imagination. Thanks to Scarlett for hooking me up with Bestiary.
Completely disposable electropop music. Not a bad song in the whole bunch.
~Plexi Cheer Up
My old band Keeta Speed opened for these guys at Mercury Lounge back in 1997 and I swear to god, they were louder than Motorhead. But they were really cool looking and they had a theramin. It was hard to tell if the music was good or not but then a little later I heard the "Forest Ranger" single and I thought it was great -- sort of a mix of the Misfits and Echo and the Bunnymen.
I bought the album for $3.99 at Sounds on St. Marks Place and was thrilled to discover that the CD was worth far more than what I'd paid for it.
A near-perfect mix of goth's dark textures, glam's druggy swagger and punk's sense of FTW nihilism, Cheer Up sounds amazingly cohesive. The whole package -- music, image, attitude, lyrics, artwork -- makes it super easy for you to decide whether you're gonna follow these guys into battle or dodge the draft. I was ready to enlist in the Plexi army, but the band broke up after this album. Years later, I still get a huge kick out of listening to Cheer Up in the fall. You can purchase this album with the amount of money that lives under your couch cushions, so go make that small investment.
~Tom Waits Bone Machine
I'm not sure I understand Tom Waits yet, but I sure do like him. I bought this album last fall and it spent the entire season in my CD changer. Time to bring it out again.
~King Crimson Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair
I know King Crimson have a million albums and I admit that I only know these three. They were released in the early eighties, by the Fripp/Belew/Levin/Bruford lineup and all three albums are cut from more or less the same sonic cloth, like a trilogy. I got into all of them at the same time (when my ex-roomate left his woefully worn-out cassettes behind when he moved from E. 11th Street to Europe -- thanks Mike!) so to me they are all like chapters in the same story.
For those of you who think that "prog" is a bad word, I advise you to check out this stuff. It is frighteningly well-played music that is wonderfully weird and amazingly accessible at times. The things that Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew do with guitars give me nightmares. The instrumentals paint chilling, angular soundscapes with multicolored swatches of alien sound, while the vocal tunes are often fantastically poppy ("Model Man," "Heartbeat," "Frame By Frame"). I used to sneak "Man With an Open Heart" into my DJ sets and people bopped along unwittingly, as if it they were doing the robot to the Talking Heads.
~Cocteau Twins Blues Bell Knoll
Few artists have made sounds as beautiful as Cocteau Twins. The music is so painterly -- evocative of colors, images, landscapes, dreams. This is where dreampop began -- many English shoegazers have tried to capture the flower-pedals-in-a-windtunnel sound of Robin Gutherie's production (Lush even hired Gutherie to produce their first full-length record). But no one can match the ethereal virtuoso singing of Elizabeth Frazier. Most people say that Treasure is the Cocteaus' best, but Blue Bell Knoll was my introduction to the band, so I'll always be a bit attached to it. This is what I was listening to in the fall of '92, when everyone else was fussing over grunge.
~The Smashing Pumpkins Gish
Speaking of the Cocteaus, it's hard to miss the 4AD influence that stamps itself all over the first Pumpkins' album. But there's much more than that -- Billy Corgan is one of the few artists who can successfully mix heavy metal bombast with textured delicacy, brute force with beautiful vulnerability. The Smashing Pumpkins made some fairly astonishing albums, in my opinion. For a debut, this is pretty brilliant.
~The Faint Blank Light Arcade, Danse Macabre, Danse Macabre Remixes and Wet From Birth
Thank you to Ami for introducing me to this band. The Faint are like a modern day Soft Cell -- is that accurate? It just occurred to me. Hyper, jerky dance beats and outrageous, angular synth riffs accompany lyrical meditations on paranoia, sex and paranoid sex. Here's your "intelligent dance music." Awesome.
~Hum Downward Is Heavenward
Hum's second album isn't the one with the hit (1995's awesome "Stars") but it is breath-taking anyway. Like the Pumpkins, Hum know how to successfully combine the seemingly incompatible ingredients of crushing power and swirling beauty, all in the same moment. Lead singer Matt Talbot sings his brainy, poetic lyrics in an almost lackadaisical monotone over an oceanic mass of gorgeous, crashing distortion and aural flower petals. This music is almost completely free of commercial aspirations. Maybe that's why it's so good.
~Enuff Z'Nuff Strength
Those few of you who know this band will no doubt associate them with the dreaded "hair metal" era. You're partly right. They had the hair, they had some wanky guitar solos, they wrote some insipid lyrics. But Enuff Z'Nuff were really a power-pop band dying to break out of the spandex n' hairspray ghetto. Their second album Strength bears this out. Peek underneath that slick pop metal exterior and you will find some surprisingly mature and sophisticated songwriting that is steeped in The Beatles, Cheap Trick, even Elvis Costello. The opening song, "Heaven or Hell," is pure pop ecstasy. I wish I'd written it.
~Ima Robot self-titled
This record came out a couple years ago and was met with profound indifference. I don't know why everyone's lapping up mediocre bands like The Killers (yawn), while top-notch groups like The Faint and Ima Robot (and, ahem, a certain New York band I know of) remain relatively obscure. Oh well, I guess The Bravery are good enough for most folks.
Ima Robot will totally satisfy post-punk fans who like their new wave delivered with industrial-strength musicianship and a healthy respect for Bowie. This highly entertaining record features rollercoaster rockers and affecting ballads, and is always loaded with character and verve. Let Ima Robot pep up your fall evenings this year.
~Imperial Drag self-titled
Another mid-90s Jellyfish offshoot, Imperial Drag are the uber-glam one-off project helmed by virtuoso singer/keyboardist/guitarist/songwriter Roger Manning. The band obsessively recreate the spirit and sound of 70's glam rock and the music is consequently loaded with nods and references to T Rex, Sweet, Queen, Bowie and ELO. If throwbacks aren't your thing, rest assured -- the tunes here are killer, completely valuable in their own right.