Thursday, March 29, 2012

Introducing: FAD GADGET!

This will be an ongoing segment where we highlight obscure, and influential bands who really deserve respect, whether it's through groundbreaking music, influence or all around importance. In this first segment we will highlight the band Fad Gadget, a band who deserves so much more recognition for their influence, look, sound and original style.

His songs 'spoke of the diseases and fears poorly hidden from view. They spoke for and against the little man, the ubiquitous civilian bewildered by the speed of events threatening to sweep him up or leave him behind. And they spoke in a variety of voices: dead pan, severe, sardonic, satirical and, finally, disarmingly sincere....' -Biba Kopf '91.

The first band signed to Mute Records (which was started by Daniel Miller of The Normal, and jumpstarted the careers of bands such as Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Erasure, Virgin Prunes, and many others), Fad Gadget was at the forefront of the electronic/dance/synthpop scene in Europe. Frank Tovey would played solo with a drum machine on stage. This confused many audience members who were used to seeing the standard guitar/bass/drums format in popular music. Fad Gadget was a huge inspiration for future Mute Records bands such as Depeche Mode and Erasure (who used a similar formula). Fad Gadget would also inspire bands such as Einst├╝rzende Neubauten with their use of drills and electric razors on their performances and records. What set Frank Tovey apart from many in the early darkwave scene was his avoidance of scifi themes in his music, instead focusing on machinery,construction and human sexuality.

The first three Fad Gadget albums (Fireside Favorites, Incontinent, and Under The Flag) were mostly recorded by Tovey himself. On their fourth record Gag, he finally hired a group of musicians and you can hear a definite change in quality. Einst├╝rzende Neubauten also toured with Fad Gadget during this time in 1984. He also recorded a solo album with famed noise artist Boyd Rice entitled Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing. Fad Gadget was known for his confrontational live performances, which included Tovey covering himself in tar and feathers, leaping into the audience, and playing instruments with his head. Tovey was particularly infamous for spreading his naked body in shaving cream onstage, an image of which is depicted on the cover of The Best of Fad Gadget.

In 1989 he changed musical directions, recording an acoustic album of protest songs called Tyranny and the Hired Hand. He then recorded a series of solo albums until his departure from the music business in 1993.

In 2001, after a near 10 year retirement, Frank Tovey brought back the Fad Gadget name to tour with his former labelmates Depeche Mode on their Exciter tour. He continued to perform live until his sudden death of a heart attack on April 3, 2002.

It's sad we will never hear another note from Frank Tovey and they often get ignored when discussing the early 80s electronic/synthpop scene. Bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, Pet Shop Boys are always mentioned but Fad Gadget was there before any of them. Mute Records has had a reputation of being trailblazers in electronic music and Fad Gadget was the band that led it all. On March and April of this year, New York City will be hosting a tribute to Fad Gadget/Frank Tovey with a screening of a documentary on Frank Tovey's life, examining his music and his influence which will take place at Dixon Place. The loss of Frank Tovey is huge in the underground scene and though they never saw any real mainstream success, the world is a colder place without him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Currently listening to:Week of March 27,2012

To really hear an artist's work, you must look past the hit singles. The entire album is worth hearing to truly get a glimpse of it all in one body of work. Here are some of the albums I am listening to this week.

Pearl Jam - Vs.
 Recorded in 1993, Vs. became one of Pearl Jam's top selling albums. After the success of their debut album Ten, Pearl Jam decided not to release any more music videos and had a lot of pressure on them to make a successful record. Luckily, they did. Vs is a more aggresive record than Ten but it did feature some tender moments such as Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, and Daughter. This record also deals with more serious topics, such as guns, child abuse and racism. A pretty good record that I'm listening to and rediscovering.

Notable tracks:
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

The Smiths - The Smiths

This belongs on a list of best debut albums. This album introduced The Smiths (and Morrissey) to the world and features some of the greatest lyrics ever. This album was originally produced by Troy Tate (former guitarist of Teardrop Explodes) then later by John Porter. The original Tate recordings are available in various formats and is worth hearing to see what this album could have sounded like. The Smiths were unlike any group at the time and this album tackles subjects such as the Moors murders, sexuality and living in Manchester. A great start.

Notable tracks:
Pretty Girls Make Graves
What Difference Does It Make?
Still Ill
This Charming Man

Klaus Nomi - Klaus Nomi

I came across my knowledge of Klaus Nomi through David Bowie. Klaus Nomi performed with David Bowie on Saturday Night Live in 1979. He performed with Bowie on the songs TVC15, The Man Who Sold The World and Boys Keep Swinging. Klaus Nomi is performance art! He performs mostly covers on this album. With his soprano opera style, he makes them his own. See Urgh! A Music War for an outstanding performance of Total Eclipse.

Notable tracks:
Lightning Strikes
Total Eclipse
You Don't Own Me

Alice in Chains - Jar of Flies EP

This is the first EP in history to reach #1 on the charts and this shows a softer side to the band. After recording the hit album, Dirt, the band members found themselves evicted from their home. Lonely and depressed they went on to get a few acoustic guitars and record this album. A low-key, somber, and gorgeous album, this solidified Alice in Chains as more than just another "grunge" band. This stands among Alice In Chains best. Isolation, catharsis and acceptance are all themes throughout this album, though No Excuses is almost hopeful. Nutshell is heartbreak and depression defined, and one of the most beautiful songs ever. I especially love the Unplugged version.

Notable tracks:
I Stay Away
No Excuses
Don't Follow

Bad Religion - Generator

Bad Religion on the verge of mainstream success, this album was released before their major label debut, Recipe For Hate. Epitaph Records founder and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz along with Greg Graffin wrote all these songs and they still stand as anthems currently. This band has been going strong since 1980 and have no signs of slowing down. Generator (the song) is one of my all time favorites and this album is where I feel their songwriting is really in top shape. On this album, they showed a somewhat slower, more experimental side, which continued into their later major label albums. Many are divided on this, I happen to like it.

Notable tracks:
Heaven is Falling

Monday, March 26, 2012

Some cool videos I found

Browsing youtube and looking up my favorite bands I uncovered some cool videos worth seeing. Mostly this will consist of interviews, concerts, and all things music related.

Depeche Mode 1990 riot outside the Wherehouse in Los Angeles
Part 1
Part 2
This was to be a signing at a record store in Los Angeles to promote the album Violator. This was Depeche Mode's bestselling album containing the hit singles Enjoy The Silence, Personal Jesus, World in My Eyes, and Policy of Truth. I suppose Depeche Mode did not expect so many people to show up. Most people who attended did not get to see the band or get autographs so KROQ released a free promo cassette with an interview and remix of Something To Do. This is kinda cool to see them on the verge of a massive breakthrough here in the US.

Dead Can Dance - The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove (live at the Hague, Netherlands 2005)
I've been listening to Dead Can Dance obsessively these past few days, ever since I got tickets to their upcoming Los Angeles show. This was from their last reunion tour in 2005. The quality here is superb! Such an excellent band that everyone should know about. Magical performance.

Russel Brand interviews Morrissey (2009, from the Years of Refusal DVD)
Part 1
Part 2
Silly interview. You can tell Russel is a huge fan of Morrissey. This does show Morrissey's sense of humor which doesn't always come off in interviews.

REM - Live from the Raleigh Underground (1982)
This was recorded before REM even released their Chronic Town EP. This is believed to be the earliest professional recording of REM. I always like seeing live footage of bands before they become huge. It shows their humble beginnings. It's always cool to see Michael Stipe when he was hiding behind his hair. I will forever miss REM.

20/20 talks about new wave in 1979 segment
It's always funny when mainstream journalism latches on to new music. This early 1979 segment talks about the emerging "new wave" music which was becoming popular at the time. This is worth watching to see some early footage of The Ramones, The Clash, Klaus Nomi, Elvis Costello, and Talking Heads among others.

Pink Floyd live at Pompeii (1972)
This is not exactly a "live" concert because there is not much of an audience aside from some random kids. Really cool visuals to go with the songs. One of the best, most beautiful live concerts ever. Watch the whole thing, you will not be disappointed.

This ends this entry. Expect more cool youtube finds in the future. Expect this to be an ongoing segment here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reissues, Dead Can Dance tour and more...

I have a couple of topics on hand for future blog posts, but for now I will talk about some current music news. The first is reissues, which is always interesting. The first is of course, the 40th anniversary of one of David Bowie's most important albums, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The concept album was originally released in 1972 following the album Hunky Dory. It contains such classics as Ziggy Stardust, Moonage Daydream, Five Years, Lady Stardust and Rock and Roll Suicide. You might want to check out my list of top 25 David Bowie songs for a remainder of how amazing this album is. There was a 30th anniversary released in 2002 with a few remastered songs, but very little changes. This deluxe editon promises to include remasters from the original London-based Trident Studios engineer Ray Staff. It will be released on CD, vinyl and DVD-audio. This is scheduled to come out on June 5. Here's the full tracklisting:
I, for one, am looking forward more to a future reissue of David Bowie's more experimental albums such as Low and Lodger.

In related news, Record Store Day (April 21) is coming soon. Look for David Bowie to release a limited edition vinyl of Starman. Record Store Day was started 5 years ago when over 700 independent record stores decided to come together to help release limited edition albums and singles (mostly on vinyl). Check your local record store to get your hands on some of these albums and singles. Look for exclusive releases from David Bowie, Arcade Fire, Devo, Florence and the Machine, Garbage, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Joey Ramone, Leonard Cohen, M83, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, colored vinyl reissued of 3 iconic soundtracks (Empire Records, The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink) and tons more. Full list here!

Also being reissued finally is the Isn't Anything reissue from the band My Bloody Valentine. Also scheduled to be reissued from the band is their first 4 EPs (reissued with 3 never before heard songs!), and the seminal album Loveless in a double cd set. This looks to be the first time any of their albums, (aside from Loveless) has been reissued. This is scheduled to be released on May 7.

Here is the My Bloody Valentine "EPs 1988-1991" tracklist:

Disc 1:
1. You Made Me Realise #
2. Slow #
3. Thorn #
4. Cigarette in Your Bed #
5. Drive It All Over Me #
6. Feed Me With Your Kiss $
7. I Believe $
8. Emptiness Inside $
9. I Need No Trust $
10. Soon %
11. Don’t Ask Why %
12. Off Your Face %

Disc 2:
1. To Here Knows When ^
2. Swallow ^
3. Honey Power ^
4. Moon Song ^
5. Instrumental no. 2 !
6. Instrumental no.1 !
7. Glider [full-length version] &
8. Sugar +
9. Angel *
10. Good for You *
11. How Do You Do It *

# from You Made Me Realise EP
$ from Feed Me With Your Kiss EP
% from Glider EP
^ from Tremolo EP
! free 7-inch w/ first 5000 copies of Isn’t Anything
& B-side, “Soon (The Andrew Weatherall Mix)” 12-inch
+ promo-only B-Side on “Only Shallow” (France only)
* previously unreleased

Summer is a busy touring season for most bands. This year, the one and only Dead Can Dance is coming to Los Angeles. I just saw their presale on their website. It's going to be a great show. Dead Can Dance is described as a " ethereal neoclassical duo formed in Melbourne, Australia, in August 1981, by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry." Australian music historian Ian McFarlane described Dead Can Dance as having an ambient style of world music that "constructed soundscapes of mesmerising grandeur and solemn beauty...with African polyrhythms, Gaelic folk, Gregorian chants, Middle Eastern mantras, and art-rock."

I suppose that is the best way to describe them. Words are truly indescribable when it comes to the music of Dead Can Dance. There is no other band I could possible compare them too, because no one else truly sounds like them or truly takes me to different worlds. They have covered songs from the 1600s and even before. They use old instruments, Lisa Gerrard doesn't truly use words when singing. She sings in a made up language, it sounds so beautiful. Their albums were released on the 4AD label here in the US, (which also includes some of my favorite bands including Bauhaus, This Mortal Coil, Clan of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, and the Pixies, among others) Some of their albums have even charted on the Billboard 200 and the world music charts, yet they were never a household name. Dead Can Dance released the live album, Toward The Within in 1994, recorded live at Santa Monica, California. This truly shows them shine as a live band. Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry's vocals have never sounded so good. They broke up shortly after the release of the 1996 album, Spiritchaser. Lisa Gerrard has had a successful career doing soundtracks for films such as Gladiator, Whale Rider and various solo albums. Brendan Perry has released about 2 solo albums since then. Dead Can Dance reunited in 2005 and went on a world tour. In 2011, Brendan Perry released the solo album, Ark and went on tour with Robin Guthrie (formerly of Cocteau Twins), shortly after this tour, he annouced that Dead Can Dance was reuniting again. If you go on the Dead Can Dance official website, you can download some live tracks they have recorded recently, all free! Now they are currently planning a North American and European tour. I cannot wait to see them! Here are some clips to show you the beauty in their music.

This is Rakim from their live album, Toward The Within. I love all the instruments in this song and the combination of Lisa and Brendan's voice.
This is Host of the Seraphim. This song reminds me of the end of the world, it is very apocalyptic. This video contains clips of the movie, Baraka. This song was also used to great effect on the movie The Mist in it's final scene, which remains one of the best, most depressing final scenes in history.
The Carnival is Over. One of the few videoclips that Dead Can Dance has done. I love all the striking imagery in this.
 Sanvean. This song was only released on the album Toward The Within. It was later recorded for Lisa Gerrard's solo album, The Mirror Pool. Very haunting vocals. A great introduction to the group. Very spiritual. This is a religious experience.
Severance. Brendan Perry shines in this song. This is one of my favorites. I have to be in a certain mood to listen to it. I guess the same can be said of any song from Dead Can Dance. This song was also covered by Bauhaus on their live album, Gotham in 1998.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Top 20 Smiths songs

The most influential band to come out of the Manchester music scene (which also included The Buzzcocks, New Order, Joy Division, Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, to name a few), The Smiths are regarded as legends. They were formed in 1983, and stuck around for only 5 years. In that time they have created not just songs, but anthems. The band consisted of singer Morrissey (who still continues to record solo these days), who is known for his poetic, dramatic lyrics, his love for Oscar Wilde and his disdain for society in general, guitarist Johnny Marr, (who is one of the best guitarists ever and would later join The The and the New Order sideproject Electronic), and bassist Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce. Inner tensions caused the band to break up suddenly in 1987. Johnny Marr has said he usually worked with the producer then Morrissey would come in, sing his part and leave. Although the highest they reached on the British singles charts was #10, their influence is incredible. The Smiths and maybe the Beatles have such devoted fans, to this day there are Smiths conventions and they are all constantly asked to reunite and have been offered millions to do so.

Here is what has been said of Morrisey's lyrics:  "Morrissey's lyrics, while superficially depressing, were often full of mordant humour; John Peel remarked that The Smiths were one of the few bands capable of making him laugh out loud. Influenced by his childhood interest in the social realism of 1960s "kitchen sink" television plays, Morrissey wrote about ordinary people and their experiences with despair, rejection and death."

To realistically write a top 20 songlist for The Smiths is hard work. It's like asked a parent who their favorite child is. I have love for all of their songs. I will probably change my mind the minute I finish this post. Nevertheless, here is my attempt to chart my favorite songs, starting with...

#20 London (b-side of Shoplifters of the World and the compilation album Louder Than Bombs)
The most "punk" sounding Smiths song ever. Anthrax (of all bands!) did a pretty good version of this on the Airheads soundtrack. This song is basically about leaving your town behind and wondering if you made the right decision and the jealousy of people you left behind.

#19 Girl Afraid (b-side of Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and the compilation album Louder Than Bombs)
Insecurity and wondering what the other person is thinking. You are afraid, and so is she. Girl wonders what the boys intentions are or if he even has any.

#18 Rubber Ring (b-side of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and the compilation album Louder Than Bombs)
Louder than Bombs is such a great album. Everything so far has been included on that. This song is about the singer singing to his fans and how songs can save your life. It's really a song aimed at your future and how songs can affect you. One of Morrissey's greatest lyric achievements

#17 How Soon Is Now? (single, also appeared as a b-side on the single William It Was Really Nothing and on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow)
The Smiths best known song, though it did not chart as high as most would imagine (#24 on the British charts), it was mostly because it was already released on the single William It Was Really Nothing. I love the vibrato on this song and I also love the double usage of the world sun/son and air/heir. Numerous cover versions have been released, the most famous ones were from Love Spit Love (which became the theme for the show Charmed and The Craft) and the band t.a.t.u.

#16 . Pretty Girls Make Graves from the album The Smiths
The song title comes from the book The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. This is another song about genders and confusion. I'm not quite sure what the song is about. Most seem to think it's about a woman persuing a gay man, but in the book Dharma Bums, this is said by the main character and the philosophy behind it is that "pretty girls" lead to lust, which in turn leads to birth, which in turn leads to suffering and then, inevitably, death, or "graves". Very cool song.

#15 What Difference Does It Make? from the album The Smiths
Morrissey himself has said this is his least favorite Smiths song. I disagree. The lyrics are great. It sounds like someone revealing a dark secret to another. A mysterious song

#14 You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby from the compilation album The World Won't Listen
A forgotten Smiths song that almost never gets mentioned. A very catchy song that is basically about happiness and how you have to "suffer and cry for a longer time" to really appreciate it.

#13 Girlfriend In A Coma from the album Strangeways Here We Come
One of the finest singles from The Smiths. Very sarcastic Morrissey lyrics, where he displays a lot of anger toward the girlfriend, yet still wishes no harm. Also check out the novel of the same name by Douglas Coupland, which talks of a dystopian future and many other Smiths and Morrissey lyrics are used throughout the book.

#12 Still Ill from the album The Smiths
 Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?" This could be about depression or relationships or holding on to the past and trying to hold on to dying dreams.

#11 Handsome Devil from the compilation album Hatful of Hallow
I remember first hearing this on Miami's college radio station, WVUM and falling in love with this song. I love the guitar in this song and Morrissey's voice throughout. Lyrically, their most sexual song.

#10 Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me from the album Strangeways Here We Come
Morrissey has called this his favorite Smiths song. A very depressing song, yet I always feel hopeful after hearing it. Intense. The Eurythmics have covered this song.

#09 This Charming Man from the album The Smiths
Awesome guitar work on this track. Morrissey has said this about the song. " "I really like the idea of the male voice being quite vulnerable, of it being taken and slightly manipulated, rather than there being always this heavy machismo thing that just bores everybody." The video for the song features the band playing in a room with the floor covered by flowers.

#08 The Boy With The Thorn In His Side from the album The Queen Is Dead
The first song I ever heard from The Smiths and my introduction to their world. This song holds a special place for me. I was walking randomly around Miami and on my Walkman this song came on while hearing WVUM and I had to hear more from this band. Luckily I remembered the name of the band.  "Behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love"

#07 A Rush and A Push and the Land is Ours from the album Strangeways Here We Come
This could be about a person stressed out about life, talking with their father and reassuring him that he's alright despite being single. It could be about someone just coming out of a relationship as well. Like all good Smiths songs, the lyrics are meant to be ambiguous. "A rush and a charge and the land is ours" is an old Irish battle motto. This could be about independece. Superb song!

#06 Shoplifters of The World Unite from the compilation album Louder than Bombs
Morrissey has also said at one time this was his favorite Smiths songs. The title alludes to the communist slogan "workers of the world, unite!". To me this has always seemed like a very revolutionary song. Stealing stuff to piss off capitalists. I could be wrong, but one of the best singles from the band.

#05 William It Was Really Nothing from the compilation album Louder than Bombs
I love that this song contains my first name!
The song is popularly believed to have been written by Morrissey about his short-lived friendship with Billy Mackenzie, lead singer of Associates. The compilation Associates: Double Hipness released in Aug 2000 included the song "Stephen You're Really Something" recorded by Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine during the Associates reunion in 1993 as a tribute to "William, It Was Really Nothing".Morrissey has said the song was in response to all those 60s song sung by women about marriage.

#04 Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now from the compilation Louder Than Bombs
This includes one of the best Morrissey lines ever "In my life why do I give valuable time
to people who don't care if I live or die? " I also love the lines about getting a job, yet still being miserable. This song is one of the most honest ones ever and for this reason is one of the best known Smiths songs.

#03 Bigmouth Strikes Again from the album The Queen is Dead
Another great Johnny Marr guitar lick! The rock band Placebo have done a great cover of this also. A very witty song. I really like the opening lines about being joking about being bludgeoned in your bed. Morrissey has said the song is about being misunderstood and crucified for things you say, much like Joan of Arc.

#02 Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want from the compilation album Louder Than Bombs
A very short, beautiful song that has been covered to death but I still love the original version. It's only 2 minutes long, doesn't have many lyrics, yet it says so much. Depressing, bitter, sad, angsty, yet so brilliant. I can recall myself being a teenager and playing this song on repeat over and over again.

#01 There Is A Light That Never Goes Out from the album The Queen Is Dead
The ultimate song from the Smiths. Most lists of people's favorite Smiths song list this as #1 also, and with good reason. A very depressing, inspiring song. It conveys a moment of happiness so pure that if the person were to die by his beloved, it would be a great way to die. There's also a longing for a better life and not being accepting by family "it not my home, it's their home and I'm welcome no more" that seems so sad. The perfect combination love and death and my personal favorite song from this band.

Further reading.

All Men Have Secrets by Tom Gallagher - People share their stories about what Smiths songs mean to them
Girlfriend in A Coma by Douglas Coupland - Dystopian novel about a girl who falls into a coma and has strange visions, Smiths and Morrissey lyrics throughout.
Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan - Brilliant book about Morrissey's early life and his time with the Smiths and their breakup
Mozipedia by Simon Goddard - Encyclopedia of all things Morrissey related. Everything from Manchester to Golden Girls!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Currently listening to:Week of March 20,2012

To really hear an artist's work, you must look past the hit singles. The entire album is worth hearing to truly get a glimpse of it all in one body of work. Here are some of the albums I am listening to this week.

Nirvana - Nevermind Deluxe Edition (Devonshire mixes)

To coincide with my previous post about producer Butch Vig, I decided to listen to the newest Nirvana reissue for their landmark album, Nevermind. Nevermind was released in an expansive 3 CD/1DVD box set last year and one of those cds. One of those CDs from that set is called the Devonshire mix. These are basically the Butch Vig mixes of what would become Nevermind before Andy Wallace polished them up. The songs still sound familiar and golden and it's a nice look at what was to come. Such a difference from their previous album, Bleach.

Skinny Puppy - Singles Collection

Skinny Puppy is in a word:art. Art is not easily understood, sometimes difficult, sometimes beautiful, at times strangely haunting. I suppose that would be the best way to describe Skinny Puppy, a Canadian industrial band that has been around since 1983, this showcases all the singles that were released form them at their time at Nettwerk. This is a great intro to people who might be interested in Skinny Puppy, but don't want to explore their massive discography yet. Assimilate remains a favorite of mine, and the first song I heard from them. I love the melodies and loud chorus. Worlock appears in it's remixed form here and I actually prefer this version. Recommended if you like Front Line Assembly, Throbbing Gristle or any other challenging acts.

Current 93 - Soft Black Stars

Current 93 is a band that is difficult to categorize. They themselves describe their music as apocalyptic folk, and it seems fitting but there are elements of industrial (especially in their early days, and piano music, such as this album), Contemporaries of Death in June, Sol Invictus, Boyd Rice, Coil and others affiliated with the former World Serpent label, Current 93 creates some disturbing, chaotic, beautiful tunes. This album is all piano based and simple and I especially like A Gothic Love Song, and Antichrist and Barcodes. References to Gnosticism and Kabbalah run throughout and an album I haven't heard in a while prior to this week but I love.

Smashing Pumpkins - Gish

Another album reissued last year and produced by Butch Vig. This is a taste of great things to come. Released in 1991, before Butch produced Nevermind, this shows the Pumpkins. I would call it psychedelic hard rock. I love the drums on Window Paine and it showcases what a great drummer Jimmy Chamberlin is. Billy Corgan shows great promise on these songs, especially Siva and Crush. This was rereleased as a Deluxe Edition in 2011, with an extra cd with Peel Sessions, bonus tracks and early versions of the songs and a live DVD. Get this album.

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
One of the best albums of all time. The harmonies on this are incredible. Songs include Wouldn't It Be Nice, God Only Knows and Caroline No. This is always on the top 10 best albums of all time lists and one listen will tell you why that is. No one can sing like Brian Wilson does. No one had such great melodies and harmonies. A very infectious album. Has influenced generations of musicians such as REM, Elton John, Pink Floyd and the Beatles themselves who were inspired to create Sgt Peppers after this album was released.

Iggy Pop - The Idiot

Released in 1977 and produced by David Bowie, The Idiot is one of those great classic Iggy Pop albums. The original China Girl appears here sung by Iggy. Nightclubbing is another great song which was later sampled by Nine Inch Nails on their song, Closer and used on the movie Trainspotting. This album or Lust for Life are the two best Iggy albums I would listen to before any others. Funtime has been covered by artists as diverse as REM and Peter Murphy. With only eight tracks, there is no filler here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Butch Vig

Butch Vig is perhaps the most legendary producer and has produced some of the most important albums of all time. He first got his big break in 1991 when he produced both Smashing Pumpkins debut album, Gish and the second album from a little known band (at the time) from Seattle called Nirvana. That album was called Nevermind and has become legendary. Some of his best known recording techniques is his use of overdubbed guitars and vocals. Originally Kurt Cobain did not want to overdub his vocals, he felt it was too pop, but Butch convinced him when he told him John Lennon overdubbed his vocals. Here is Butch talking about recording the Nirvana song, In Bloom where he mentions overdubbing vocals.
and here he is talking about recording overdubbed guitars and vocals on the song Drain You.
A few years after in 1993, he would record the Smashing Pumpkins breakthrough album, Siamese Dream. This album would be more expansive than Gish, with strings, lots of orchestrations and more than 40 guitar tracks on songs like Soma. Another recording technique he uses is recording to analog, which is a more raw sound.

He has also produced Dirty by Sonic Youth, which is one of their best albums, using the same recording techniques, and has produced AFI's Sing the Sorrow album, their most ambitious album in my opinion. This is their breakthrough and where they really became a real band. More strings, more expansive lyrics and you can tell they really put a lot of work on their recording, as did Butch.

Most recently Butch has been working with Green Day on the album 21st Century Breakdown, which is another example where he takes a band and really expands their horizons. The album took home a Grammy for Rock Album of the Year.

He has been the drummer for Garbage since around 1995 and has employed the same recording techniques on Garbage's albums.

In 2011, he also produced the most recent Foo Fighter's album, Wasting Light, once again working with Dave Grohl, whom he previously worked with on Nirvana's Nevermind. From wikipedia: "Wasting Light is the seventh studio album by American alternative rock band Foo Fighters. It was released on April 12, 2011 on RCA Records. As frontman Dave Grohl wanted a record that would capture the essence of the band's earlier work and lack the artificiality of digital recording, the group recorded in Grohl's garage in Encino, California with only analog equipment. The sessions were supervised by producer Butch Vig, with whom Grohl had worked on Nirvana's Nevermind. Since the old equipment did not allow for many mistakes to be corrected in post-production, the band spent three weeks rehearsing the songs, and Vig had to relearn outdated editing techniques. The band went for a heavier and rawer sound to contrast with the musical experiments in the previous albums, and most of the lyrics were written as Grohl reflected upon his life and possible future. Guest musicians include Bob Mould and Krist Novoselic." Foo Fighters went on to win 5 Grammys at this years Grammy Awards.

Currently, Butch is working with Garbage again, and they are releasing their new album, Not Your Kind of People on May 21, 2012, which was recording in or around the Los Angeles, Atwater Village, Glendale and Silverlake area. He is one of the best producers out there and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bands with only one album

Some bands such as The Cure, Duran Duran, Alice In Chains, and New Order go on to legendary careers spanning many albums and decades, others only registered a blip and only recorded a one-time album. These are the bands that should have been. Bands who only had one major release then disappeared and should be given another look. Here are a couple

Q-Feel - Q-Feel (1983)
A British synthpop band. You might know them as a one-hit wonder for their song "Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Bebop) which was used in the movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
A great song. I actually prefer the 8 minute version. Other great songs were Crosstalk
This single didn't go anywhere, though it was the followup to Dancing in Heaven. Fans of Depeche Mode and Thompson Twins would like this. The band broke up shortly after and Martin Page did have a solo career. You might remember his one hit, In The House of Stone and Light.Good for fans of Crowded House or Phil Collins.

The Germs - GI (1979)
Produced by Joan Jett, this was one of the first hardcore punk albums released. This really captures the intense energy by this band and their enigmatic vocalist, Darby Crash. One of their best known songs is Lexicon Devil.
They were later featured on the documentary Decline of Western Civilization. Sadly, Darby Crash would commit suicide on December 1980. Pat Smear, the bassist, would later join Nirvana and later the Foo Fighters. In 1995 a biopic was made entitled What We Do Is Secret with actor Shane West portraying Darby Crash. The album GI will forever stand as a testament to the Los Angeles early punk rock scene.
The Sex Pistols - Nevermind The Bollocks...Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)
There isn't anything more than can be said about the Sex Pistols which hasn't already been said. They have a lasting influence on British punk for years to come. Most people are unaware that this is their only studio album, the others being compilations. The band would disband 3 months after this album came out. Anarchy in the UK even hit #2 on the British charts.
Johnny Rotten would later form PiL, this album was #3 on NME's list of greatest album of all time and in 2006, The Sex Pistols would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, (which no surviving member attended)

Angelfish - Angelfish (1994)

Scottish band fronted by Shirley Manson, who would later front the rock band Garbage. This band was started to fulfill a record contract from the band Goodbye Mr. MacKensie, in which Shirley Manson was a backup singer. Steve Marker was watching 120 Minutes one day when he saw the video for Suffocate Me from Angelfish, and later on, contacted Manson and was asked to join him, Butch Vig, and Duke Erickson to form the band Garbage. This album was produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.

Temple of the Dog - Temple of The Dog (1992)
Former from the ashes of Seattle band, Mother Love Bone, this album was formed with vocalist Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Their most famous song is Hunger Strike, with Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell both doing lead vocals.
Matt Cameron and Chris Cornell would go back to Soundgarden, Chris would release a few solo albums, and release some more with Audioslave. Eddie Vedder would later form Pearl Jam with Temple of the Dog members Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and Mike McCready. This album is essentially a collaboration between the drummer and vocalist of Soundgarden and what would later be Pearl Jam. This is more mellow than Soundgarden and an album that any fan of Soundgarden, or Pearl Jam should listen to.

Mad Season - Above (1995)

Featuring members of Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees and Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley. This is a blues rock album which was very underrated for it's time. I keep going back and listening to it. The first single was River of Deceit which was a beautiful song.
Another one I really like is I Don't Know Anything. Every Alice In Chains fan should own this.
Layne Staley rejoined Alice In Chains and released one more album and also an Unplugged performance. Sadly, Layne passed away in 2002 but we will always have the music to remember him by.

Operation Ivy - Energy (1989)
One of the most influencial albums in skapunk. This Gilman Street band never hit the mainstream but would later influence platinum bands Sublime and Green Day who covered Knowledge. Here is the original version:
Their lyrics concerned social justice and equality. Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman would later form the band Rancid, which continues to exist to this day. Sadly this is their only studio album, but their legend lives on.

Arcadia - So Red The Rose (1986)

The only studio album released by Simon LeBon, Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. This album is famous for all the musical guests on the album including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Sting of the Police, Herbie Hancock and Grace Jones.  A dark, lush album full of catchy memories and smooth vocals. Many of the tracks are pretty long. Election Day was the first single released from the album.
One of my favorite videos is for the single, Goodbye is Forever.
The members would later rejoin Duran Duran, except Roger Taylor who would not rejoin until 2001.

Team Sleep - Team Sleep (2005)

Led by Chino Moreno of the Deftones, A way mellower sound than the Deftones, Team Sleep includes elements of The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and even Depeche Mode at times. This is a real pretty album and I must give it another listen soon.Also includes vocals from Pinback's Rob Crow. Expect a new album soon.

Blaqk Audio - Cexcells (2007)

Sideproject of AFI's Davey Havok and Jade Puget. This is similar to AFI's more electronic experimental songs such as 33mm, and such. Their is a strong synthpop influence throughout with the occasional EBM influence. I really like the direction of this album and it's like nothing I have heard from the guys. Look for the extra album tracks Mute and Black Electric. A new album entitled Bright Black Heaven will be released this year.

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures (2009)

Featuring John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, this is an excellent debut album. A pure ROCK record by any definition. Their first single was New Fang, which hints at Southern Rock.
The second single was Mind Eraser, No Chaser. Queens of the Stone Age fans take notice. This is good old fashioned rock. Look for a new album this year as well.

mdfmk - mdfmk (2002)

KMFDM was always a band which stuck by it's underground roots. They were hardly played on MTV and while huge on the Wax Trax label, never a household name. Due to disagreements between the band, KMFDM split up. En Esch and Gunter Schulz formed Slick Idiot and the rest of the band (Lucia, Sasha, and Tim Skold) formed MDFMK. This album is a departure from KMFDM, mostly because it sounds a bit more europop, but the industrial beats and ranting vocals are still intact. One of my favorite tracks is Torpedoes.
KMFDM (without En Esch and Gunter Schulz) reformed in 2002 and continues to record to this day. Skold left the band to tour with Marilyn Manson, but later left the band and has released an album with KMFDM as well as a solo album which came out in 2011.

Zwan - Mary Star of The Sea (2003)

In 2000, Billy Corgan announced Smashing Pumpkins was breaking up. It was huge news at the time. In 2001, him, Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins and some other guns for hire released Mary Star of the Sea. The album was named for a famous Catholic church in Key West where Billy Corgan found solace after the breakup of Smashing Pumpkins. This album was a real departure from Smashing Pumpkins. It's probably Billy Corgan's happiest, most optimistic work. The album received mostly positive reviews but album sales were nowhere near his work with Smashing Pumpkins. The first single was called Honestly and it's a very poppish number.
The single went to the top 10 in the modern rock charts. Another single, called Lyric was released and went nowhere.
Soon after in 2003, Billy Corgan disbanded the project, released a solo album, then "reunited" Smashing Pumpkins (which did not include D'arcy, James Iha or Melissa Auf Der Maur), which released the album Zeitgeist in 2007. Jimmy Chamberlin was involved in the reunited Smashing Pumpkins but left the group in 2009. Smashing Pumpkins are currently recording their new album, Oceania, with a 2012 release date.

Ashes Divide - Keep Telling Myself It's Alright (2008)

Formed by Billy Howerdell of A Perfect Circle, Ashes Divide is a mix of hard songs and then alternates between that and ballads. Formed during a break from A Perfect Circle, Ashes Divide only has this one album, but plans to record another one soon. Billy is working with Maynard James Keenan to see which songs will be A Perfect Circle songs and which will be Ashes Divide songs. Keep an eye out for more music. The Stone is the best song on this album.

Malign - Shatter and Impale (1996)

The one and only album from Los Angeles goth band, Malign. Released on Anubis Recordings (owned by William Faith and Monica Richards of Faith and the Muse), this album was a breathe of fresh air in the 90s goth scene. Very eerie and melodic, while having an original sound. I would recommend this to fans of Faith and the Muse, Diary of Dreams or Nosferatu. This was playing at many goth clubs back then. It's an album that should be heard more. It's impossible to find any info on this band,so I have no idea why they never released a followup. Get it on amazon or on ebay while you can.