The Music of Spring 06
ZZ Top El Loco, Deguello
At this point in time, I can't get enough of old ZZ Top. Never really listened to the bearded Texas blues trio much before but it's dawned on me how incredibly cool and unusual their music is, especially the late-70s/early-80s era, songs like "Cheap Sunglasses," "Tubesnake Boogie" and "Pearl Necklace." I enjoy the Eliminator stuff too but not nearly as much. Man, that Billy Gibbons is one badass guitar player.
Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel the Illinois
It's hard to comprehend a piece of work like this without spending alot of time with it. This eccentric, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter has begun what will surely be a lifelong project -- to make a concept album based on each of the 50 states. This, his second installment in the series (the first was Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State, which I have not heard yet) is a big slice of highly-orchestrated indie pop that, lyrically, describes events in Illinois history using a very personal, first-person narrative. If that sounds like something you'd have trouble digesting, let me assure you that the music alone carries the show here; I know because I've barely looked at the lyrics. Thanks to Keeta for pestering me to buy this.
Honey Cone, Soulful Sugar; The Complete Hotwax Recordings
After I heard the great single "Girls It Ain't Easy" on Sirius Radio (I could leave Little Steven's Underground Garage on for the rest of my life and wouldn't tire of it), I was compelled to hear more of this early-70's Motown girl trio, so I found this exhaustive, 2-disc set. After listening a few times, I'd have to say that "Girls It Ain't Easy" is still my favorite song (first impressions, etc), although there's a wealth of uplifting pop gems here like "While You're Out Looking for Sugar" and "The Day I Found Myself." My only complaint is unneccessary covers of "Aquarius" and "Son of a Preacher Man."
If someone could bottle the feeling of this music, it would save the world.
Thanks to Marty E. for foisting this confrontational chunk of clanging, early-90s musical vitriol on me. Apparently the leader of this band is (or was) Rick Rubin's main engineer, and does most of the heavy lifting in Rubin's "productions." As for Barkmarket, it's pretty bracing stuff that recalls Skeleton Key and early Helmet -- noisy, bitter, uncompromising and, as a bonus, intelligent. Not for parties.
Gary Numan + Tubeway Army, Replicas
Already wrote about Replicas, but I just pulled it out of mothballs today. Originally bought this a year ago and listened to it all of summer '05 and now it's back in rotation. This music just sounds so cool, and there's nothing else quite like it. How many have made music you could say that about?
Various Early Seventies Blooze Rock
My friend Alison recently burned me a varitable boatload of CDs by late-60s/early-70s hard rock bands like Cactus, Frijid Pink, Mountain, Black Cat Bones, Pentagram, Beck/Bogert & Appice, Blue Cheer and Humble Pie. These are the bands that get left out of conversations about Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple. It's important to note that, for all the bands that get remembered, there are plenty of fine ones that get forgotten.
Die Warzau, Engine
These guys came from the same Chicago/Wax Traxx! scene that gave us Ministry, Front Line Assembly and KMFDM, but this band is much funkier, favoring walloping, wide-spaced grooves over the rat-tat-tat rhythms of their industrial peers. And they've got an honest-to-god pop song, "All Good Girls," which is quite excellent. I bought this nine years ago, I think.
Jeff Beck Blow By Blow, There and Back
I just picked up Blow By Blow at Academy Records a few weeks ago while Mike D. and I waited for Mark to show up to Motorhead rehearsal. I hadn't heard it in a long time and, wow!! It's so great to check this stuff out again. We all know Jeff Beck is a genius guitarist but my favorite thing about this album is the compositions. "Diamond Dust," in particular, is staggering (thanks in large part to producer George Martin's brilliant orchestration). Ditto for the exhilerating "Scatterbrain."
I've had There and Back for a couple of years and I love it only slightly less than Blow By Blow. It's slicker and more rock (less jazz) than that album and features the massive and unmissable talents of drummer Simon Philips and keyboard genius/creative foil Jan Hammer. After this album, Beck stopped playing with a pick. And he got better.
Lords of the New Church, Method to Our Madness
I've been hearing LOTNC songs on Sirius that I really like and when I found this on vinyl at Academy, I thought I'd drop the measly $5. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it's worth the investment. I think all this band's good songs, like "Open Your Eyes," were on the first record. This one's got no memorable songs and basically sounds like a relic of its time, the 80s.
The Pretty Things, Come See Me
This slightly lesser-known British Invasion group gets touted as the dirty underdogs who made the Rolling Stones look respectable, and indeed, they were one of the few old guard rockers admired by the original punks. I recently heard their song "Walking Through My Dreams," a gorgeous piece of psychedelic pop, on Sirius Radio, which inspired me to pick up Come See Me, a tight, 25-track best-of compilation which spans the Pretties' career from their garagey 60s singles through their more psychedelic, early-70s recordings to their mid-70s tenure at Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label. I don't know if rock and roll is real anymore, but it sure was when these guys were playing it.
IAMX, Kiss + Swallow
My friend gave me this a week ago. I don't know much about this guy, only that his dayjob is singing for the Sneaker Pimps and that he's got a pretty successful, off-the-radar solo career. This is really good, dark electro pop in the vein of Depeche Mode and Soft Cell, with slithering beats and clean, airbrushed production. Gets a little samey towards the end, but certainly not a bad soundscape for sultry summer nights.