Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pagans - Shit Street

So usually I talk about something that happened a really long time ago when I talk about a record.  Today I’m going to talk about a record that I never had until I was an adult.  I kind of wish I had known about The Pagans when I was a kid, but let’s face it – no one knew who they were.   No one knew then, and very few know now, but The Pagans were quite possibly the best and most “punk” of all the early Cleveland Punk bands that were making an everlasting impact on a musical generation that if not for the internet, never would have known who The Pagans were.

The Pagans were probably more out to just be a Rock N’ Roll band and have fun than to actually be famous, or everlasting or to be Punks on the scene.  They were undoubtedly Punks, but I don’t know that they were Punk Rock so much as just Punks that got high a lot and were probably unbearable to live with (Read singer Mike Hudson’s book Diary of a Punk for more info).  When an actual Punk Rock movement came along, I think The Pagans were okay with being labeled Punk, but they weren’t out to change the world.  They were just making music that they liked, and to hell with anyone else.  You can tell by their cover songs, like Little Black Egg, Heart of Stone and Can't Explain.  These guys came from a good place musically.  I think that's why I like so many of the early Punk bands compared to the bands doing Punk today. 

So the first Pagans song I ever heard was probably Six and Change or maybe What's This Shit Called Love on an old Cleveland show that used to play on WCSB called London’s Burning.  They had a really funny commercial that aired on other college shows that started off with The Clash singing London’s Burning, and then the DJ would do a voice over that said, "Are you bored, and do you hate everything?"  How could I not listen to that show?  I’m not bored, and I don’t hate everything, but this guy seemed to actually like Punk Rock and didn’t take it so seriously!  I forget when it was on, but I think it was pretty late and I used to listen to it like Friday after work (I worked mostly night shifts back then).  He played all sorts of stuff.  It didn’t have to be just British, but in the early 80’s here in Cleveland people considered Punk to be something from England, not a local thing.

This is too bad, because The Pagans captured the feel of this gritty, crumbly and kind of dirty city far better than the Michael Stanley Band ever could.  I still think they capture the essence of what Cleveland is better than almost anyone.  The Pagans are noisy, brash and sloppy.  The Pagans drink too much, and it shows.  Most people won’t get The Pagans, and that’s just so like Cleveland to me.  Most people that aren’t from here seem to wonder why anyone would ever come here, even for fifteen minutes, let alone actually live here.

I remember one time when I had to go to Massachusetts for work for a week or two.  I had been there before, and I knew exactly where I needed to go.  When I got in my rental car, I put Shit Street in the cd player, and twisted the volume knob and let The Pagans blast through me like a sonic boom.  I completely missed my merge and would up pulling into a State Highway Patrol station and asking them just how far away I was from my hotel.  I think he considered giving me a field sobriety test, because I was at the other end of the state!  But it just didn’t matter because I felt like I was just rubbing the stink of home all over MA with The Pagans.  So I was happy enough about that.  I switched cd’s because by then Shit Street was over, but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the hotel again.

It was a Pagans week for me, too.  I remember I went to a Newbury Comics store out in the boonies (people on the East Coast call where I was the boonies – I thought it was just suburbia), and figured I’d buy some cd’s with my per Diem.  I don’t remember what cd’s I chose, but I remember the cashier was probably still a teenager, but a future music snob in training.  While he was ringing up my music he told me, “I really like your picks here!  I’m going to say that you’ve bought the best music all day, so you’re my favorite customer today.”  Now, I love having my ego stroked and being told that I listen to cool music, because believe me, no one else ever tells me I listen to anything good.  So I asked the kid what kind of music he liked and he said he liked garage rock, early punk (not Green Day and the modern punks) and stuff like early Stones and Kinks.  I talked to him about The Yardbirds and asked if he know them.  He didn’t, so I told him Clapton and Jimmy Page played with them, but not to hold that against them because their best music was done with Jeff Beck, and that Jeff didn’t do any lengthy soft jazz stuff when he was with them.  He said he’d check them out.  We talked about a few other things and I asked if he had ever heard any Cleveland Punk bands.

“Uuuuh…no.  I don’t think I ever heard any bands from Cleveland,” he says.  I told him, “Hey, I’m not saying they’re all good, or even that most of them are any good, but you guys have one copy of The Pagans Shit Street over there.  I’m sure with your store discount it’s not much of a risk for you to check them out.  But if you like the stuff I bought today, then I think you’ll like them, because I’ve been listening to Shit Street for three days straight.”
I gotta hand it to the kid.  He looked over his glasses and said, “There’s only one copy?  I’ll go grab it now.  Is it kind of raw?”
A million ideas about how raw The Pagans were entered my mind, like “It’s more raw than Ted Nugent’s dinner, “ or “It’s as raw as a skateboard trainee’s palms.”  I just said, “If you want raw, you want the Pagans.”  So he went and grabbed it and rang it up for himself while we were still talking.  He asked if I had seen them, and I said I hadn’t.  No one had.  Maybe 100 people can legitimately claim to having saw The Pagans and they were the same people that went to every show (might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).  I told him a song like Boy Can I Dance Good would have been my teenage anthem if I had actually heard it back then.  I told him Dead End America is the political Punk song to match anything by Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash or The Pistols.
I still believe that, too (not that I said this all that long ago).  I thought it was really cool to talk to a kid that wasn’t my kid about the music I love and see him actually care.  I thought it was really cool of him to try to turn me onto bands that I was already either really digging myself, or didn’t care about.  But the kid was just so dorky, like me when I was his age.  His enthusiasm was so cool to me.  I could tell looking at him that he wasn’t a popular kid and it didn’t matter to him.  He had something to care about, and he found a place to be where maybe everyone didn’t care about the music he liked the same way he did, but once in a while, he’d find someone like me that had time to kill on a day when no one was in the store and he could talk.  The way we used to talk at record stores.  We’d go in and just talk about music and it was great; and that was a great afternoon hanging with that kid, even if he never does get who or what The Pagans were all about.
When I left, instead of playing new music, I put The Pagans back in.  Cranked it up and let it start spreading Cleveland stink all over Massachusetts.  And I missed my exit on the way back, but I didn’t care.
As I mentioned, I have the cd of Shit Street.  It’s kind of nice because there’s some bonus tracks on there, but they’re mostly pretty raw live recordings.  It’s also available on vinyl, and I have that, too.  It has a song called Jaguar Ride (old Electric Eels song) on it that isn't on the cd.  When I was in Memphis a year or so ago I told my wife I had to go to Goner Records.  I liked the store, but I like my options here in Cleveland better.  In fact, I think while I was at Goner I ended up buying a copy of Shit Street and The Dead Boys – We Have Come For Your Children.  The guy at the register said, “These bands are both from Cleveland.”  I told him I was, too.  So this vinyl is terrific, because I bought it new.  The recordings are pretty much a lo fi experience, but I don't know if I'd have it any other way.

Friday, September 20, 2013

2000 Man's Rock N Roll HOF

OK, so I'm a Clevelander (sort of - I live in a suburb and can be in Public Square in twenty minutes) and when the powers that be decided they wanted us taxpayers to pay for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and Museum I was dead set against it.  My usual argument was that every record store in the city was like a wholesale Rock Hall and they let you take what you considered the truly worthy stuff home.  They were also already in existence, so why did we need to waste money on something else?  Well, I lost that election and after they built the damned thing, I had to admit, I like it.  I think it's really cool and if you've never been, you should definitely see it.  Come when it's not winter, make sure you have a car (Cleveland is a car kind of place), and be hungry because there's really great food here.

My real complaint is the HOF.  The museum and the things they do in the community is fantastic.  The HOF?  Dumb as hell.  When it originally opened, it was at the top of the building, they only let like 12 people in at a time and it was very quiet and the lighting was dim.  When my group was next to go in, the usher says (in very hushed tones), "Please, no talking in the Hall itself.  Many people will want to reflect quietly."

I looked to see if she was just fucking with us.  It appeared she wasn't.  While the others in our group started looking at their friends with quizzical looks, I said, "Be quiet?  Why would I be quiet?  Rock N' Roll is the loud music we got high and fucked to.  The music we threw parties with.  The music we played to piss quiet people off!"

Just then the inside usher opened the door as it was our turn to go in.  Everyone started laughing and people were saying, "Yeah, when I see The Beatles (Stones, Clapton et al.) plaque I'll say whatever I need to say."  So we actually had a pretty raucous group inside the actual HOF.  They have since made it much more open and the whole place has lightened up.

So as you can see, my HOF is a little less amazing and doesn't have a museum or gift shop.  My HOF doesn't give a shit if you like the band or not.  My HOF doesn't have nearly as many people in it as the one in Cleveland, because my HOF says that the day you induct Rush is the day you need to go back and start over, because you'll take anybody.  So let's get to the first inductee, shall we?

Chuck Berry.  This induction will include Johnnie Johnson and Willie Dixon for appearing on Chuck's first hit, Maybellene (and others).  Chuck Berry is inducted for the following Act of Awesomeness in 2000 Man's eyes:

When my mom was 13 (she doesn't think I can do the math, that's why she told the story truthfully), she cut school one day and drove around with older kids and smoked cigarettes and drove around Schuyler County, New York.  Now, that part may or may not be true. Maybellene came out in the summer, so mom may not have cut school, but that's how she remembers this happening.  It's not like Cow Country, New York kids were the cutting edge, I'm sure.  When they got hungry for lunch, they stopped at a diner of the sort that had a jukebox.  Being with older kids, someone dropped a dime in there and played a new song, by a black man named Chuck Berry.

My mom was hooked immediately.  The sound of the guitars and drums.  A boy with a car asking her to dance in a town she couldn't normally get to on her bicycle or walking, cigarettes and chocolate malts.  She tells me she played that song until everyone said they'd heard it enough and that there were other songs on the jukebox.  My mom knew that there may have been other songs on there, but that one song was the only song on there that mattered.  Looking back sixty years later, my mom, when she was just a punk of a thirteen year old, really understood what Rock N' Roll was about.  She played Rock N' Roll on the radio all my life and when the oldies station played Maybellene she told me that story.  I have a feeling that there are other songs that remind her of similar days, but I don't know all of them.

So when I was a kid in Junior High, we had a class that gave me all my music credit for high school because it was a year long, full hour class.  It well may have been the first History of Rock class ever offered in a public school for real credit.  We got to bring in records, and we also got to listen to Mr. Demkowicz' records.  I could talk Chuck Berry and some other fifties Rock pretty well for a kid just older than my mom when she first heard Maybellene, and I loved that class.

Which bring me to inductee number two:

Alex Demkowicz.  Mr. Demkowicz was a music teacher at my school.  Back then he well may have had to drive from school to school teaching music all week, but I wouldn't know about that.  I do know that in Jr. High we had an offer of a History of Rock class that would give us a full year's credit, good for high school credit if we needed it, so long as we had enough kids sign up.  We wound up with a good sized class and I still think some of the things he said were pretty astute observations.  Mr. Demkowicz said that yes, Rock N' Roll was born in the South primarily.  Too many people discount the Doo Wop groups of the North and their impact, and too often everything is simplified.  Mr. Demkowicz started with music from so far back it was unbelievable.  We had kids drop out, because you couldn't pass the class until you could write the words to the Star Spangled Banner or because I swear it was at least nine weeks before we heard an electric guitar.  I seemed to get the feeling that he thought the leisure time of kids, cheap musical instruments and electric guitars and kids with money had as much to do with the birth of Rock N' Roll as anything else.  I'm not saying he discounted anything, he just wasn't one of those "It came from Sun Studios in Memphis and if you disagree you can suck my dick" kind of guys.

Every Friday we were encouraged to bring in our own records.  Our music room had a custom made cart with an AR turntable, a Realistic integrated amp of some sort and some Advent speakers (which cam off the cart and had stands).  This sounded pretty nice!  I took a lot of records in there, and I remember taking Dark Side of the Moon in and telling him there were swear words on it, so he'd have to audition it first (if we sneaked one by and he caught it while we were listening we'd never be allowed to bring our own records in again).  When he came back with it that Friday we listened to the whole album, goody good bullshit line and all.  He said this record was too important and that one day a song like Time would completely blow us away.  Plus, there was wildly innovative use of synthesizers and we would find out that one day this would be a landmark album.  I'm pretty sure it was three years old by that point, but hey, the guy didn't just listen to Rock N' Roll like some boring blogger I can think of.

I met a kid in that class and he was like me.  He answered questions, did the homework, asked questions and always brought records on Fridays.  We started to hit it off.  He turned me on to Sparks' Kimono My House and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.  I turned him on to Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Yes.  We smoked after school sometimes and talked about music.  Halfway through the school year his father got transferred and they sold their house.  Coincidentally halfway through the school year we bought his house and moved in.  That kind of sucked, because while my friends liked music, they didn't like it the same way as this kid and I did.  I looked a little less forwards to those Fridays the second half of the year.

Mr. Demkowicz encouraged me to listen to what I liked, and try to listen with a critical ear, but to always remember that music was about the song.  If the song was good, it didn't matter if a woman sang it, or a black man, or a white guy or even a band that was uncool.  It only mattered and it was only good if I thought so, and I shouldn't let other things get in the way of that.  So while Yes was still a big deal to me, I could see that all those old songs I liked that weren't 20 minutes long were just as good, even if the guitar player had never heard of Mozart.

I'm happy to include these first two inductees to my Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The It*Men - Greatest Its

I don't usually write about something I haven't had for awhile, because as a record reviewer, I think I suck.  But in this case, if I actually convince someone to find this record and buy it, I'd at least like to do it while you can get your grubby little mitts on it and the proceeds will still go to help singer Ken Janssen deal with his ALS because this country is too stupid to have free health care so a handful of people can be rich while the rest of us work more and more and have less and less.  So right now this is the kind of thing you can easily order, but that will change because there's only so many of us that even know who The It*Men were.

So let's flash backwards to the early 2000's and Cleveland's music scene.  The It*Men were one of those bands.  I never saw them or really heard any of their music.  We get to the middle/later half of the decade and I started seeing a band called The Hot Rails around.  They seemed like really nice guys and said they were working on a cd.  I actually bought it from them at a show at The Beachland where Ken actually worked, and if you bought the cd, he'd get you a free can of Pabst.  I think it's the best three or four dollars I ever spent.  The Hot Rails were terrific.  They were over the top, pumping out a completely tongue-in-cheek version of Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy and The Ramones with more than a pinch of Teenage Boy.

I had heard that Ken was sick but I haven't been able to go to a show or anything to support a cool local guy on the scene, but then I was just looking at Cleveland bands and saw that this album was coming out.  I thought it was only on cd, but Music Saves got me a vinyl copy when I ordered it, because they know I always go for vinyl when I have a choice (yet another reason to have a favorite record store!).  So I've been digging Greatest Its for a couple of weeks, and I'm gonna say why it's great, right here.

Inside everybody (young or old, male or female) is a Teenage Boy.  Your inner Teenage Boy is not easily satisfied and he demands you walk a thin, jagged and hypocritical line between sucking and getting it. He is demanding, immature, gets too wasted and wants people to look at him and leave him alone at the same time.  He swears when he talks and he's pretty self absorbed.  He also likes to Rock. So your inner Teenage Boy wants to hear some It*Men, and he wants to hear them loud and he wants to hear them now, and he wants to hear them all the time.  Like when he's standing on the hood of a beater car doing air guitar with a Milwaukee's Best in his pick hand to the solo on Screw the Pooch.  He doesn't care if he's too loud when he sings along to Baby, I'm Your Man and he not only doesn't care if the words that he sings along to are dumb, he doesn't even care if he sings them right. He's busy singing about his constant horniness in What's Up Action.  Inner Teenage Boy is all about Rock, and so are The It*Men. Rock and Fun.

When your inner Teenage Boy is Rocking The Fuck Out, he sure doesn't care if the backing vocals are a little off when they attempt to harmonize.  He only needs to focus on the part of the song that's the most fun at every second.  Sometimes it's singing along to the chorus of Bowie Dick Test.  The next two bars of the song may be more fun to air drum or guitar to.  There's no reason to try to understand this as more than an expression of Rocking Out.  I mean, this isn't The Talking Heads.  It's not challenging.  It's not some pretentious King Crimson album.  Just look at the back cover, it's Ken Janssen's mic in one hand and a can of Pabst in the other.  This is about having fun and living in the moment.  This is about the screaming guitar solo on Doing Drugs for You.

I think my inner Teenage Boy knows that the quantifiable best song on this set is the positively epic Death Machine, which takes up all of side four.  That's right.  It's over twenty minutes long.  Sure it's really only a four minute song, but how many Rock songs that are that long aren't really just some attempt at just Rocking Out without abandon.  Can the solo's go back and forth without getting your Teenage Boy bored?  Does the music get back to the riffs fast enough?  The It*Men can do it.  They've spent three sides introducing you to The Rock N' Roll.  They're ready.  They're willing.  They're able to bring on a twenty minute blast that doesn't sound like some dud named Tray Pantyhose or whatever his name is.   Think about it a minute.  The It*Men are from Cleveland.  Cleveland can be kind of bleak to an outsider, but I assure you - we are anything but bleak.  Our politicians frustrate us.  Our sports teams frustrate us.  People on TV that have never been here joking about us frustrates us.  Taking a ride on a Death Machine?  I have no idea what that means.  But I know it sounds like wah-wah pedals and huge riffs.  It sounds like snare drums cracking and whammy bars.  It sounds like the engine is a bass guitar and amplifier hum.  It takes you there, and it takes you back, but when you get back you keep saying, "What?" because those amplifiers are still buzzing in your head.

It sounds like Rock N' Roll.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

I really love the Fall here in Ohio.  Football starts and while the leaves falling make me sneeze, I just love it here.  That really doesn't have anything to do with listening to records, you might think, but I assure you I've listened to an amazing amount of records while I watched football with the sound off on the TV.  Everything about Fall seems new to me.  It's weird that I feel that way, but I suppose it has to do with memories of school and new classes, clothes, friends and all that stuff.  We'd get all new radio shows on the college stations and I'd always blow some clothes money on records instead of clothes.  So if you ask me, New Year's Day should be September first, because everything seems new then.  Nothing seems new January first.  It's like celebrating the middle day of a long coma.  There's no fun clambakes or anything, and the media has messed up New Year's Day football.  So my idea is better.

Which brings me to Bruce Springsteen.  I got The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle when I was supposed to be buying school jeans or shirts and I convinced the friend I was with we should go to a record store instead of The Levitation or The Pant Scene.  I think I remember getting talked into buying "some Springsteen" by my friend.  I don't dislike Bruce, but I never understood the people that were head over heels for him, like Kid Leo on WMMS.  That dude loved Bruce, and I think he's the one that initially nicknamed Bruce The Boss.  So here in Cleveland, Bruce was huge.  This album was older than other records that were out at the time, but I had already owned Born to Run on 8 Track and I think I gave it to a friend that liked it more than me.  I knew I didn't like the way Bruce sang "darkness on the eh-eh-eh-eh hedge of town," so I figured I'd get an older album and see if there wasn't something there I'd like a little more than what everyone was listening to.

Now I know that the Internets make it seem like Bruce was huge right from 1973, but I assure you - in 1978 when I bought this album no high school kids had heard any of it.  Maybe Rosalita got some airplay, but probably not until after the first of the year in 1979, when Bruce did two sold out shows New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  So I figured if I got something older, maybe I'd get a way into hearing and feeling all that was special about Bruce that I was kind of missing.

Because all my friends had his records and seemed to love the guy.  I went and saw those New Year's shows two years in a row and the shows were really fun.  I still never cared if I heard Bruce on the radio or not.  I had a shirt that I liked, too, but I got it at one of those New Year's shows.  So I don't really know why I'm so ambivalent about Bruce.  I had fun at his shows, my friends all loved the guy, so what gives?

I think what gives is that he's just too much.  It's too many musicians, too many stories, too many sax solo's, too many words and just too much for my head.  As I listen to this I've got to wonder, "will I ever play this again?"  I don't know.  I might and then again I might not.  I'm sure I could get some decent store credit if I took this in, but I've had it so long, and what if I finally "get it" someday?  It's happened before.  I was in hate with Aerosmith for a long time, and I kind like some of their stuff these days.  This is a nice, flat and quiet record (because I hardly ever play it) and these days there are plenty of people that would love to have it.  I just can't seem to decide if I'm that guy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

1977 was a pretty wild year for music.  I was 15, and coming into my own as a music snob.  I always thought it was amazing that no one I knew listened to Yes or Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but when Punk came around and I got interested in that, it would soon turn into no one I knew had any idea what the fuck I was talking about half of the time I talked about music.  When Elvis Costello released his first album I only heard it on college radio, and even then not very often.  I do know one thing - I got this album for my birthday in 1978.  Which means maybe Wikipedia is wrong when they say it came out in the US in March of 78, because I got it in January.  Two of my friends (whom I still know and see to this day) gave me My Aim Is True and Never Mind the Bollocks for my 16th birthday.  I actually stayed in school a good part of that day so that I could carry my records around because I actually thought records were cool and that other people would, too.  The older I get the more I've found that some of us think records are really cool, and most of us are busy.  Oh well, I still think records are cool.

Now I know that you're supposed to like Elvis Costello and the Attractions records better than this one, but this is still my favorite.  I don't have any problems with Clover backing Elvis.  I think they handle the duties just fine.  They let Elvis and the songs themselves take center stage.  Since these are songs that were absolute life savers for me back when I couldn't figure out what it was I was going to be (other than high all the time) I think it's good that the band stays out of the way.  Besides, I'm not nearly as cool as I thought I was.  I'm pretty dorky (case in point - who's the dork talking about getting an Elvis Costello record for his birthday twenty-five years ago?), and the drums in Watching the Detectives still do the trick for me to this day.

I still think I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused is possibly the shortest way to sum up how I felt when I was a teenager, back when everything was black and white, hypocrisy was lost on me and I actually felt like I knew what was going on in the world.  Now that I'm far removed from that guy, those lyrics cut in a different place.  I don't think I'm much smarter than that kid, but I actually see my shortcomings and don't think I know everything that's going on and can offer an opinion on it.  Actually, I don't think I need an opinion on half of it.  Syria?  Bad fucking idea.  Why?  Is it because I understand the Middle East?  No.  I'm just sick and tired of my country killing people for peace.

Which leads me to Mystery Dance.  Man, I know what the song is about, but Elvis just sounds fucking unsatisfied and sometimes that's how I feel, and I feel exactly how Elvis sounds on that.  It can be almost anything that I don't wanna do anymore that's not satisfying me.  How many songs can maintain that kind of relevancy to you after twenty-five years?  Not many, I'd say.  This whole album does that for me.  My Aim is True seemed like a more mature type of record to me back then.  It seemed like what a generation earlier probably felt about Bob Dylan and what my generation was making Bruce Springsteen out to be, but Elvis knew that you only needed two minutes to get a feeling across, and with thirteen songs on this record Elvis was bringing a whole lot of feelings into a very short amount of time.

I think this is probably one of my Good Mental Health Records.  I have to play this to keep myself balanced.  Some people need antidepressants and stuff, but a few of the right records and a little time are all it usually takes to get me back on the right path when things feel a little wobbly.  While Elvis went on to make arguably better records than this one, this is the one that's most important to me.

Mine is nice and flat, with a pretty perfect cover.  I'd actually give this a NM/NM grade (I don't need perfect jackets, I listen to my records so I want them nice, but a bump or crease doesn't bother me much).  I think this one is a first pressing as it looks exactly like my old one, but I think I got this about five years ago when I bought my Rega turntable.  My high school copy was gone, but I had it on cd.  So I was shopping with my wife and we were in some store that sold vintage stuff (lunch boxes and Baby Boomer junk) and they had about twenty records.  All beat up, all boring except a perfect copy of My Aim Is True.  It was three dollars.  The guy at the counter said he didn't know it was there or he'd have taken it home himself.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Joe Jackson - Beat Crazy

I really thought Joe Jackson was something else right around his first three records.  After that he kinda lost me (have you read anything he's said lately?  He's a nut).  I can understand people really liking his later stuff and not being interested in his first three records, though.  He really kind of drew a line in the sand between early and later stuff, if you ask me.  I don't know what prompted me to go up and grab Beat Crazy, but that's what I did, so that's what I'll write about.

I like Beat Crazy.  Not as much as I like Look Sharp! but I think it's a really solid record.  I remember my brother had this one before me, so that was actually where I heard it first.  I could grab any of his records any time I felt like it because I was bigger, and I'd kick his ass if he touched mine.  Now if that sounds like a dickish way to be, think about this:  I have lots of records from back in my youth.  My brother has none.  They were all destroyed because he considered himself a Punk and that meant nothing needed to be well cared for.  Someone stole your brother's records at a party?  So what!  That's PUNK, man.

Which I always found to be an interesting philosophy - we all dress the same to show how different we are.  So I never looked Punk and I didn't care.  I had a lot of the records, at least from the bands that could actually make an entire album of decent music.  As much as I've always loved Punk and swear that Never Mind the Bollocks is the album that changed everything about how, why and what I listened to, I always thought it was more important to follow Mr. Wizard's advice and be vhat you iss, and not vhat you iss not.  What I am not is a guy with piercings, tattoos and blue hair.

I think I liked Joe Jackson because he wasn't a guy with blue hair, either.  He just looked like a guy.  But on records he was a guy with a really great bass player.  I think Graham Maby was really great.  Like as cool as I thought Chris Squire was when I was first getting into music and still understood everything the way a kid does.  Like in sporting terms.  Like when I went to the record store and asked who the best guitar player was, as if that could be quantified with a stopwatch or something.  I really like Graham Maby, though.

So if I think about Beat Crazy I think about how much I like Graham Maby's playing, and I always think next about the song Crime Don't Pay.  I just love the whole atmosphere of that song.  It's kind of like what Traffic would sound like if Traffic were cooler to people in my grade.  I mean, they did some cool stuff, but they sounded pretty dated by 1980, and Joe Jackson sounded old and new at the same time.  Which is really cool.  After that is Someone Up There, and Joe gets to to unleash some of his angry young man persona, and I always felt that when Joe sounded angry he could make Elvis Costello sound like a whiner.

I don't even know if Beat Crazy got any airplay back then.  I can't ever take any of it out of the context of listening to the whole album, and this is one of those albums that I always play both sides.  It just seems to be the kind of record that should be listened to like that.  I often just play one side of a record and move on to something else because that's what I like about records.  Twenty minutes or so and move on to a new sound.  I mean, when's the last time you played an entire 75 minute cd?  But there's something about the first scream on Beat Crazy that just gets me sucked in to the whole album.  I mean, Joe has some party music on this, but the lyrics are pretty serious.  Maybe that's why I don't remember hearing any of this on the radio.  It's probably too serious for the radio.

I don't know how long I've had my copy of this.  I know I bought it used, and it was probably in the 2000's. I had a friend that had it and that was good for me, but I haven't seen him in fifteen years or more, so I bought this.  The cover is pretty good, and the record is nice and flat and plays nice.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Those Darlins - Those Darlins

Look, I started just taking my own pictures and they suck ass, don't they?  That dude peering over the records is the Blatz guy.  I'll show you more of him some day.  None of that stuff is very important, though, so let's talk about Those Darlins and their first album.

I get to say I was actually on the bandwagon for Those Darlins pretty early.  They've been together since 2006, and I didn't have any idea who they were until 2009, but I saw them open up for The Dexateens here in Cleveland before their first album came out.  In fact, I loved them so much, that I went to Music Saves the next Tuesday to see if they had their album, because they didn't have it at their merch table at the show, because it hadn't come out yet.  As it turned out, Music Saves had just got it that day, and I even got a free pair of sunglasses with the record (long gone, cheap and didn't say anything like Those Darlins on them).  So I bought the record and may very well be the first person here to actually buy one.  So I've got that going for me.

I was really psyched to see The Dexateens and didn't care one way or another who opened for them, but these three girls and a guy (on drums) just blew me away.  They sang funny, crazy songs about getting drunk and eating chickens out of the garbage in the kitchen and they sang about being snaggle-toothed and getting a tin roof tan.  The also blasted me with twangy guitars, hard hitting drums and harmony vocals that were the kind of thing I didn't think people remembered how to do.  Elliot from The Dexateens ran across their stage once or twice and it just looked like everyone was having a blast!  After the show I met the band (it was a small place and meeting bands there is easy), and they were just terrific people, genuinely happy to hear that we thought they were great, and seemed bummed that I couldn't get their album yet because they'd have signed it for me.

They got some TV time with the opening track, Red Light Love for a Kia commercial.  It's a raucous blast of fun to open the record, and while they really have a Punkish edge live, this album is a little more laid back and Countrified.  I think it may be a little cleaner than they actually sound, but it just works so well with a twangy song from the holler like Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy or Glass To You.  If it were up to me, I'd have left a little more crunchiness in the rockers like Red Light Love or DUI or Die, but then I think I'm kind of picking nits.  It's a first album, and it shows a lot of directions this band can go, but it never loses touch of where it came from.  I really love it, and I really love the band.  You know women singing, If you can't handle crazy, go ahead and leave probably know what they want, and I bet this record is pretty close to sounding like they wanted it to.

My record is cool.  It's pink vinyl, nice and flat, but it has a few pops and crackles in it that I wish weren't there.  I guess some records are just like that, so it's not wrecking my day or anything.  Those Darlins also included a cd version of the album, too.  I think that's just beyond cool of them, particularly for their first album.  I'm sure the money for that came out of their side of the deal, and it was nice of them to do that so I could listen to it on my way home the day I bought it.  They're a kick ass band, and this is a great start!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall

I mostly missed the whole 90's No thing.  I like a lot of it, and the cool thing is that I can keep finding new records by bands that were big in this movement to this day.  I'm not necessarily sure if The Jayhawks quite fit that genre, because they sound a little like California to me.  In fact, I think they often sound like Eagles fans think The Eagles sound.  Which is to say that those fans think The Eagles sound great, when in truth they sound like shit and they're completely awful (just ask The Dude). The Jayhawks are just one of the easiest bands to get to like, because they sound great, the songs are cool and Gary Louris and Mark Olson's vocals are the kind of thing that at one time meant instant chart success.

Unfortunately, radio stations didn't play The Jayhawks.  Mostly because radio stations have been fucking stupid for decades.  I'm not saying all radio stations should be some kind of free form free for all, but they should always be promoting new music by using the older, more familiar songs as the buffer between the unknown and the 32 minutes of commercials they're really interested in playing.  This album should have been a hit record, and that's all there is to it.  For once I'm not saying this about a record that I absolutely love that no one else seems to "get" in the way I do.  I know this because several times I've had people over to visit and I'll toss on Hollywood Town Hall and my friends that have never heard it will get about three songs into it and say, "This is great music!  Is it new?  What station did you hear it on?"

Which I get to answer with, "No, it's not new.  It's twenty years old, it's as fresh sounding as the day it came out and I've never heard any of their songs on the radio."

"How do you find out about this stuff?" they always ask.

"I dunno.  I guess I just actually still give a shit about what I listen to, just like I did when I was a kid."  I always want to ask them questions like, "Why don't you listen to anything but shitty country radio anymore?" and "How do you stop doing something you absolutely loved at one point in your life?"

But that's kind of argumentative and I know they just have more important things to do, so I just keep quiet and listen to the record.  It's a swell record to sit and listen to.  I can listen to Nevada, California and Clouds all day and they aren't anywhere near the best songs on the record.  There aren't many records half this good that were big sellers and I'm big boy enough to face up to the fact that a lot of the more obscure albums I like just aren't better than surprisingly good to most people.  I guess if you're the kind of person that has 100 cd's, then you need to make them count and you probably don't have room to take a chance on The Jayhawks, even if they have songs as good as Crowded in the Wings and Waiting for the Sun on them.  So I suppose I understand the thought process, but I don't like it.  Everyone should buy more and more music.  The world would be a better place.

My record is a reissue from a couple of years ago, on real heavy black vinyl and it even came in it's own plastic bag.  I think it was pressed at RTI, so the inner sleeve is a pink plastic thing that seems pretty anti static to me.  I'm sure you can still get a new one somewhere, but you can probably get a used one, too.  If you don't have it, you really should get this one.