Monthly Archives: February 2009
That’s the cover to their original 1976 EP, which I like more than the cover to their new compilation. -Ian!
The Nerves were the trio of guitarist Peter Case, bassist Jack Lee and drummer Paul Collins. The band orginally formed in San Francisco and eventually moved down to L.A., where they recorded an EP and cultivated a small scene of like-minded pop acts with tiny budgets. They supported the Ramones, and managed to shore up enough bread for a national tour. That lone recorded document of their brief career ended up being regarded as a hallmark of what was eventually termed “power pop.”
The Nerves’ EP is one of those items — like a bootleg videotape of a rare kung fu movie — that gets passed around between friends to get people in the know. “Oh, you like Guided By Voices? Well, wait’ll you hear the Nerves!”
It contains four numbers: “When You Find Out,” “Working Too Hard,” “Give Me Some Time” and “Hanging on the Telephone.” The last track probably looks familiar, and it should: While touring in Japan, Blondie heard the song in their limo and covered it as the opener on their now-canonical 1979 album Parallel Lines. Their version was released as a single and charted at No. 5 in the U.K. The song would be reinterpreted by a number of artists down the line — including Cat Power and Def Leppard — and, like most songs referencing phones, it landed in cell-phone commercials.
Anyone hearing the Nerves’ original recording of “Hanging on the Telephone” might be surprised. Blondie embellished the song with so many new-wave accoutrements (frilly organs, laser-guided guitar parts) that it was rendered into a blanched version of the original. The minimal instrumentation of the Nerves’ version, with the hoarse howl of its vocals and brisk pace, sounds more like the youthful vigor of early Beatles than the stylish sheen of new wave.
The remaining three tracks possess the same jaunty rhythms, deft instrumental interplay, bottled-up enthusiasm, sharp vocal harmonies and unflappable hooks that characterize the first Beatles singles.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Shortly after their tour, the Nerves disbanded. Case and Collins attempted to re-form the band with a new guitarist under the moniker the Breakaways, but that turned out to have an even briefer life span than its predecessor. Lee penned a couple more songs for other artists before vanishing from the music industry. Collins went on to form the Beat, while Case carried on with the Plimsouls before creating a rather successful solo career for himself (even garnering a Grammy in recent years). Although these later careers eventually bore more monetarily successful fruits, on purely musical grounds their accomplishments are dwarfed by the influence and ingenuity of the Nerves’ four-song EP. It will endure long after Chinese Democracy is finally buried.
The Nerves-ONE WAY TICKET (2008)
WHERE I BELONG: A MIX FROM IAN! (2009)
The three-disc Wipers box, released by Greg Sage through his own Zeno label, is a rare instance where everyone is left happy, longtime convert and recently curious alike. Not only does it contain the Wipers’ earliest and most revered major works remastered in their entirety, it also jam-packs 23 bonus tracks of alternate takes and mixes, outtakes, and live tracks. Sage also provides band photos and extensive liner notes. The bonuses are a feast for dedicated fans who have owned the straight-ahead new wave of Is This Real?, the epic chug of Youth of America, and the tightly coiled brilliance of Over the Edge since their first pressings. The previously orphaned material especially won’t sound much different in quality to fresh ears than the choice album material, and — most importantly — listeners mustn’t feel as if they’re paying extra for them. Thanks to Sage’s lack of greed, you’d be spending more money by picking up used copies of the three releases this bases itself on. And if that’s not enough perspective, the bonus tracks are actually worth the price alone — no kidding. If you have any interest whatsoever, you really can’t afford to not pick it up. Your collection should have as much space for this band as it does Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, and Mission of Burma. These three discs comprise some of the most articulate, urgent, intense, and proficient rock & roll made in the name of alienation.
-Andy Kellman, allmusic.com
WIPERS BOX SET (2001)
That’s not the original cover, but from the liner notes. I just think it’s cooler looking than the bad 90s design layout of actual cover. -Ian!
Brian Williams is a Welshman recording as Lustmord. The Place Where the Black Stars Hang is a huge, atmospheric effort with dark overtones and satanic dirges. This music is about as dark as it gets. The entire soundscape is electronic. Williams builds on the drone with atmospheric effects and wild synth washes. The soundscape is dense and foggy and the sound design is flawless. There are no holes or gaps in this layout. The disc is set up as one long (75 minutes and 48 seconds) track with five distinct sections. Williams builds the atmospheres upon each other as they ebb and flow. This dark minimalism will appeal to fans of Jeff Greinke, Alio Die, Richard Bone, Max Corbacho, Pete Namlook, and Oöphoi. In dark ambient circles it is essential.
-Jim Brenholts, allmusic.com
Lustmord-THE PLACE WHERE THE BLACK STARS HANG (1994)
This is the Rhino deluxe edition with the mono and stereo versions. Great stuff! -Ian!
After wresting control of the Monkees from Don Kirschner and recording the very good Headquarters album as a mostly self-contained unit, the bandmembers returned to using studio musicians to augment their sound as well as looking outside the group for the majority of the songs on their fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Whatever the reason for the decision, the resulting album is one of their best. Filled with hooky pop like “She Hangs Out” and the Harry Nilsson-penned “Cuddly Toy,” psychedelic ravers “Daily Nightly” and “Star Collector” (both of which feature the newly invented Moog synthesizer), Mike Nesmith-produced rockers (“Love Is Only Sleeping”), and ballads (the lovely “Don’t Call on Me”), the album is filler-free and fun-filled. That it contains three of their finest songs (“Words,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and the song that “invented” country-rock for better or for worse, “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?”) means that not only is it one of the Monkees’ best, it is one of 1967’s best. To think that both this album and Headquarters came out the same year! Most bands would be lucky to have two albums this good come out their entire career. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. is a must-have for any fan of smart, fun, and exciting ’60s pop. It doesn’t get much better than this.
-Tim Sendra, allmusic.com
The Monkees-PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN & JONES LTD. (1967)
Formed by two childhood friends from San Pedro, CA, D. Boon and Mike Watt, the Minutemen were at once one of the key bands in the Southern California hardcore punk scene of the ’80s and a group who flew in the face of all rules, including those of punk rock. Named in part because their early songs usually lasted 60 seconds or less, the Minutemen were a band who stripped their music down to the bone — short songs with minimal solos and wiry structures — but at the same time found ways to integrate elements of funk, jazz, and world music into their bubbling aural bouillabaisse. Despite the stark frameworks of their music, no one could argue that the Minutemen couldn’t play — bassist Watt and drummer George Hurley were one of the most potent rhythm sections in underground music, and Boon’s guitar work marked the place where Jimi Hendrix and Captain Beefheart’s influences met. While many punk bands bellowed harsh political rants, the Minutemen offered pithy but intelligent discourse on the world around them, focusing on how larger issues impacted ordinary folks in a way few people in rock ever managed. And the Minutemen’s “econo” philosophy took D.I.Y. to a new level, as they set out to show by example how even the most cash-strapped musicians could bring their music to the people. (Their best album, Double Nickels on the Dime, was a two-record set recorded for less than 2,000 dollars.) The band were critical favorites on the cusp of a new level of popularity following a tour opening for R.E.M. when their career was stopped in its tracks by the tragic death of Boon in a car wreck in late 1985. We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen is a documentary which tells the full story of this unusual and influential group, featuring performance footage of the Minutemen on stage, extensive interviews with Watt and Hurley, and contributions from friends and family members. Interview subjects include Thurston Moore, Ian MacKaye, Flea, Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Greg Ginn, and many more.
WE JAM ECONO
Legendary New London, CT trio the Condo Fucks returned to the stage last March after a long absence from the Tri-State Area’s concert circuit. A secretive Hoboken rehearsal was recorded and is being released March 24, 2009 by Matador as the LP/CD, Fuckbook.
Eschewing such Condo Fucks originals as ‘Fuckin’ Gary Sandy’ and ‘Let’s Get Rid Of New Haven’, the trio – Georgia Condo (drums), Kid Condo (guitar), and James McNew (bass) – instead tear through covers of The Small Faces, Richard Hell, Beach Boys, Electric Eels, Troggs, Flaming Groovies and Slade classics in the style that previously won them so much acclaim from the Nutmeg State’s music journalists and radio programmers all those years ago.
In the go-go 1990s, the Condo Fucks released 4 titles on the Matador label (see right), some of which were prominently advertised on the inner sleeve of Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Sadly, these titles are long out of print and we are unable to provide the media with copies.
Condo Fucks-FUCKBOOK (2009)
When an international artist records an English-language album, crossover is usually in the cards. For Caetano Veloso, however, it’s an entirely different matter. The statesman of Brazilian pop, a musical giant who is on track to record more in his fifth decade of artistic striving than in any other (not to mention his accompanying exploits in literature), Veloso has no need to begin an American campaign. He also has shown no wish to. Caetano Veloso has never courted an American audience, though he has drawn a sizeable one because of his prescient, emotionally charged songwriting and a performance style that can be studied or unhinged depending on the circumstances required. A Foreign Sound is not only an English-language album but an American songbook, one that explores Veloso’s long fascination with the greatest composers in American history. It began when he was a child in the ’40s and ’50s enamored of American culture, was strengthened when his hero João Gilberto began championing the great American songbook, and has remained steady if not continuous through his artistic career. (After all, one of his most loved performances is his version of Gilberto Gil’s “Soy Loco por Ti, América”).
The record is perhaps his most ambitious project ever, a 22-song album that ranges for its material from emperors of Broadway to the denizens of folk music, from the cultured (Rodgers & Hart’s “Manhattan”) to the torchy (Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”) to the gritty (Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”). Veloso’s high tenor has only strengthened 30 years after his other English-language record — an eponymous 1971 LP, recorded in London as a forlorn postcard to the country he had been forcibly removed from by Brazil’s fascist-leaning government. Although few recordings in his discography (or any other’s) can rival that one’s emotional power, A Foreign Sound comes very close. Veloso transforms these standards by a clever combination of his subtle interpretive gifts, his precise, literate delivery, and his ability to frame each song with an arrangement that fits perfectly (usually either a small group led by his acoustic guitar or a small string group, though “Love for Sale” is given a spine-tingling a cappella treatment). Out of 22 songs, only Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” sounds like a mistake; every other performance here is nearly irresistible, the perfect valentine to a country with a strong songwriting tradition that Veloso unites and celebrates with this album.
-John Bush, allmusic.com
Caetano Veloso-A FOREIGN SOUND (2004)