Monthly Archives: September 2009
If you mix the reverb-happy psychedelia of Big Star with the skittering, punky sounds of The Soft Boys and the lo-fidelity charm of Sebadoh, you’re not far off from The Mice. The Cleveland, OH trio, comprised of brothers Bill (guitar) and Tommy (drums) Fox, along with bassist Ken Hall (who they acquired through an ad that read, simply “The Mice need bassist. No Metalheads!”) made gloriously unrefined, poppy punk (though, decidedly, not pop-punk) in the most apt of settings: a basement in the Midwest. Their entire official output is collected on For Almost Ever Scooter, named such as a mashing together of their lone EP (For Almost Ever: 1985 | Herb Jackson) and their lone LP (Scooter: 1986 | St. Valentine). The Mice get in and out in less than an hour, and you can’t help but feel like a bigger dose would kill the energy.
From opener “Downtown,” a Let It Be-era Replacements sound-alike, with Bill Fox yelping about Cleveland rather than Minneapolis, the band is relentless: rough housing amplifiers and microphones, the guitars sound somewhere between clean and distorted, as though they’ve eschewed pedals in favor of turning tiny, shitty amps up way too loud. Tommy Fox plays drums like he caught them breaking into his house: drum fills come heavy and come often, both mid-lyric and for post-lyric emphasis. Bill seems angry at everything: the simple life (“Downtown”), his girl (“Rescue You Too,” containing one of the album’s most obvious, effective lyrics: “I need you / you need me too / what will you do?”) and the U.S. (“Not Proud of the USA”) to name just a few.
The second half of the disc, originally packaged as the Scooter LP (the first six songs being an EP known as For Almost Ever) trades in a bit of the punk element for a more Odyssea and Oracle-era Zombies feel, but even here, none of the aggressive energy of the first half is lost. Perhaps just a slightly better recording environment, or maybe Bill scraped enough cash together for a good acoustic, and voila: “When Tiffany Cries” and “Carolina” are the finest moments on a pretty astounding collection of unheard gems.
Bill Fox quit The Mice, and indeed music altogether, in 1986, seemingly immediately on the precipice of garnering serious mainstream attention (or, at least, The Mice might have gotten big enough to quit their day jobs). He disappeared for ten years before briefly resurfacing in 1998 with two sublime solo albums (Shelter From the Smoke and Transit Byzantium), before disappearing, it seems, for good. The Mice shouldn’t remain stuck in a Cleveland basement. They should get stuck in your head.
-Brook Pridemore, jezebelmusic.com
By the time Fly emerged, the battle lines had long been drawn, and those who preferred to place Ono’s domestic situation rather than her music in the foreground were never going to give it a fair shake. Very much their loss — not only is it that rarest of all beasts, a ’70s double album that rewards repeated listening, but Fly also shows the work of a creative artist working with a sympathetic set of backing players to create inspired, varied songs. At points, the appeal lies simply in Ono’s implicit “to heck with you” approach to singing — compositions like “Midsummer New York” are easygoing rock chug that won’t surprise many, but it’s her take on high-pitched soul and quivering delivery that transforms them into something else. The screwy blues yowl of “Don’t Worry Kyoko” is something else again, suggesting something off Led Zeppelin III gone utterly berserk. Meanwhile, check the fragile, pretty acoustic guitar of “Mind Holes,” her singing swooping in the background like a lost ghost, while the reflective “Mrs. Lennon,” as wry but heartfelt a portrait of her position in the public eye as any, ended up being used by Alex Chilton for “Holocaust,” which gives a good sense of the sad tug of the melody. Perhaps the best measure of Fly is how Ono ended up inventing Krautrock, or perhaps more seriously bringing the sense of motorik’s pulse and slow-building tension to an English-language audience. There weren’t many artists of her profile in America getting trance-y, heavy-duty songs like “Mindtrain” and the murky ambient howls of “Aimale” out to an English-language audience. Such songs readily match the work of Can, another band with a Japanese vocalist taking things to a higher level. As for “Fly” itself, the mostly unaccompanied wails and trills from Ono will confirm stereotypes in many folks’ minds, but it’s a strange, often beautiful performance that follows its own logic.
-Ned Raggett, allmusic.com
Yoko Ono-FLY (1971)
Tell me the good Killing Joke albums! I’ve got the first four, a live record called HA!, and CHAOS FOR BREAKFAST which collects their first four singles. I’ve never sat down and listened to anything after the first two albums.
Don’t worry, you can say all of it if you want.
Dub’s golden age dates from the mid-seventies to the early 1980s, when the genre’s most creative forces were heavily active and the dub album was a widely employed format. Both volumes of Dub Landing clock in at the latter end of the scale, bookending the classic period, representing two of the last great ‘classical’ dub albums ever put together in Jamaica, before the digital form of computerized dancehall delivered a killer blow to the longevity of straight dub albums. Produced by Linval Thompson, mixed by Scientist and released in 1981, Dub Landing Volume 1 starts out deep in premo dub territory, with a mighty powerful dub reformation of Al Campbell’s excellent ‘Unfaithful Children,’ here showcasing Scientist’s exceptional skills of deconstruction and reconstruction, evidencing his untouchable mixing credentials. Believe.
A prime document of the last days of classic dub, Volume 2 of Dub Landing, was originally released in 1982 and features unbelievable dubs from both Scientist and Prince, soon to be King Jammy. Stepping out strong with a typical, elliptical dub of the Viceroy’s ‘I’m Trying On,’ from their wonderful We Must Unite album. Dub Landing 2 recalls the final days of dub glory at King Tubby’s studio, before computer circuitry spelled the death-knell for classical Jamaican dub; listen again and marvel at the dub creativity of Scientist and Prince Jammy. Essential volumes both.
This soundtrack captures the various moods of a spacy film starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive rock star whose home is invaded by a fleeing gangster. On the opening track, Randy Newman is driven hard by Ry Cooder’s fierce slide guitar. If you listen closely, you can hear the laconic Newman almost crack up laughing as he rocks like never before or since. Other musical notables include Merry Clayton and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Veteran producer Jack Nitzsche wrote most of the tunes, a notable exception being “Memo From Turner,” penned by Jagger and Keith Richards. Listening to only the soundtrack, you miss the bizarre context of the movie, but this is one interesting listen.
-Mark Allan, allmusic.com
Various Artists-PERFORMANCE OST (1970)