Sunday, January 20, 2019

The 1984 Listening Post - The 77s - All Fall Down

The 77s - All Fall Down

January1 1984
The 77s
All Fall Down
4 out of 5

You Don’t Scare Me
Caught in an Unguarded Moment

There is a band from New York, an Indie band called The Drums. I love their first couple records from the early 10s. It’s as though they heard BaBaBaBa and decided that would be their entire sound. 
Unlike this band, The Drums never seemed to be able to venture out from that herky-jerkiness. At least the 77s try. Just when I think I get what they’re about, they make a left turn into beat-noir rock (“You Don’t Scare Me”) and I’m kept off balance. I’m really surprised that, amidst the Huey Lewises, Hall & Oatesiness & John Cougar Mellencamps the 77s didn’t cut through in some way. In a world where John Cafferty could have a hit song, these guys should’ve been more than an asterisk. Perhaps its the cover, which presents the band as a punk outfit. Or the bookending synth tunes. Or the Power Pop semi-ballad at the end. I don’t know. I look forward to more from them. 

The 1984 Listening Post - Naked Raygun - Throb Throb

Naked Raygun - Throb Throb

January 1 1984
Naked Raygun
Throb Throb
3 out of 5

Surf Combat

Nothing wrong here. Good, pummeling punk rock. When they hit the mark, they are fun but when they aren’t, especially on the longer songs, the more they wear out their welcome and the shitty production takes my focus away from whatever fun I was having. But, along with Wipers, it’s easy to hear the roots of 90s grunge coming from the kids who had these records. 

The 1984 Listening Post - Judas Priest - Defending the Faith

Judas Priest - Defending the Faith

January 4, 1984
Judas Priest
Defending the Faith
3.5 out of 5

Freewheel Burning
Love Bites

Perhaps it was not the best idea to listen to the entire Judas Priest catalog in one sitting 10 years ago. By the time I got to Defending the Faith I must have been experiencing burnout because this is a lot better than I recall it at the time. In retrospect I had just listened to Screaming for Vengeance and this felt like a redux but I haven’t listened to the former for a couple years now and this is a great companion piece to that album. The dual guitars attack even on songs that sound like outtakes from Screaming (“Sentinal”) but, other than that the record starts to show signs of strain on the second side and I am reminded of why I felt the way I did the first time around. The ballad “Night Comes Down” feels like 8 minutes and it’s followed by...the sludge metal “Heavy Duty”. Please note that Spinal Tap would record a much better, hilariously meta metal version of the same name in the same year, rendering Priest and their song parodies of themselves. 
I gave it a C back then. Turns out I was correct. 

The 1984 Listening Post - Dalis Car - The Waking Hour

Dalis Car - The Waking Hour

January 2 1984
Dalis Car
The Waking Hour
2 out of 5

Did you miss the self-indulgence of another Bauhaus member in 1983? Here’s a link to the interminably hateful The Etiquette of Violence by David J ( What about bandmate Peter Murphy’s side project? This one off was a collaboration with Mick Karn of Japan
It opens with a lot of bass doing whatever it wants, it seems and a sax fighting for prominence surrounded by sleeps and blips and random synth sounds…so there’s that. I don’t remember Dali being the sound of cacophonous images battling each other for room on the dance floor. But, if that’s what you got from the master of surrealism, more power to you. That doesn’t make it any good. 
It sort of has to wash over you, like “His Box” did and then just when I think, “Hmm…maybe I can get into this…” I realize that I do not like it, its going nowhere and my time is being sucked away by someone else’s wanna-be-artful indulgence that I am sure they have forgotten.
It’s stunning how much if this sounds similar to Gary Numan’s I, Assassin. It’s gotta be that fret less bass. Anyway. Didn’t like this sound from Gary. Don’t care much for it here. 

The 1984 Listening Post - Box of Frogs - Box of Frogs

Box of Frogs - Box of Frogs

January 1 1984
Box of Frogs
Box of Frogs
3 out of 5

Back Where I Started
Two Steps Ahead

In name only, this is where the 90s really start. I mean, come on, has there ever been a more 90s sounding band? Did they inspire and ultimately tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket? If not, how did promotors miss that opportunity?
After all that synth-pop and blue eyed soul I actually forgot that good old blues rock existed. When it’s good (“Back when I Started”) it’s delicious. The “Ah-ha” backing vocals echo Led Zeppelin’s screaming in “The Immigrant Song” but, when it’s brought down to earth, as it is here, it’s more ominous and comforting. Should be noted that this group is made up ex-Yardbirds players with guys playing by Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton and others. 
Beyond that opener there’s a lot of solid playing but not enough meat on the song bones. The exception being the somewhat blistering “Two Steps Ahead”.

The 1984 Listening Post - Malcolm McLaren - Fans

Malcolm McLaren - Fans

January 1 1984
Malcolm McLaren
3.25 out of 5

Madam Butterfly (Un bel dì vedremo)

Oh boy, the 80s were weird. 
It’s fitting that the first album in 1984’s Listening Post be this record, actually. It was an impulsive comment about the brilliant Duck Rock on my Facebook feed that started a conversation about music which resulted in this group. 
As what we accept as popular music changes (just 10 years before the closest we would get to Opera in pop was the middle section of Bohemian Rhapsody and that was Fauxpera) it’s also fitting that it’s Malcolm that, he of African rhythms and Hip Hop and punk appropriations be the one to make something like this: a disco, post punk version of Madame Butterfly and Carmen and Turandot….
This is all about the opening track. The rest is middling studio created stuff that wishes it was more poignant or pointed than it ultimately can ever aspire to be. Carmen as rap track is…a noble attempt but Bizet is Bizet and Malcolm is Malcolm. The latter isn’t expanding on the former just mashing it up. 
Ray Manzarek’s Carmina Burana this isn’t. And it’s not even close to what Weezer would do with some of the same source material a decade later. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The 1983 Listening Post - Bruce Cockburn - The Trouble with Normal

Bruce Cockburn - The Trouble with Normal

Bruce Cockburn
The Trouble with Normal
2.5 out of 5

I really appreciate the sentiment. Bruce is hitting on some very important social and political issues here. Trouble is, he comes across as so paternal because his production, playing, style, is all so…history teacher. He lacks the edge that even a Billy Joel has and that is saying something.
If you wanted to know what Warren Zevon sounds like occasionally impersonating Bob Dylan while fronting a Dire Straits band, who only listen to Genesis records, look no further.
This is as MOR as it gets, whatever messages are mired deep in these meandering tunes.

The 1983 Listening Post - Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart

Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart

Stevie Nicks
The Wild Heart
2.75 out of 5

Stand Back

There is a singer songwriter named Beth Hart. I met her a few years ago at an music function. She heard my band. She loved us. Blah blah. She was also a favorite of my wife’s who had her song “L.A. Song” on repeat before she moved here. Beth (Hart) was a star search contestant and told us that she had been met with pushback by record labels because of the incessant vibrato in her singing. And I’ve always wondered…did any of those record execs ever listen to Fleetwood Mac? Cuz…Stevie Nicks is all vibrato. And oddly nasal.
Anyway. This is her second solo album. It’s kind of boring. Kind of ok. It’s very pub rock. It dances close to the edge of country but I think a lot of California 70s sounding rock is where country and rock meet.
Those are a lot words to say that this is a sub-par Mac-less Fleetwood-esque album. The single, “Nightbird” is such a redux of “Dreams” that the author of that song should sue.
And I would love to live in a world where Stevie Nicks sues herself for plagiarism.
Also, synthesizers. The 80s are all about synthesizers. I forgot just how much.
This is the sound of too much money + studio time. Dull.

The 1983 Listening Post - The Cleaners from Venus - In the Golden Autumn

The Cleaners from Venus - In the Golden Autumn

The Cleaners from Venus
In the Golden Autumn
3.5 out of 5
Please Don’t Step on My Rainbow
Krugerrand Gladiators
I almost didn’t include this one. But, two things persuaded me. 1. The DIY aesthetic is in stark contrast to all the bombast and over production we’ve been hearing and I love me some Mountain Goats, who recorded under the same constraints. 2. Martin Newell released a solo album in the 90s which was produced by Andy Partridge and, with a pedigree like that, I thought him worthy of inclusion.
From the outset I hear echoes of Marco Pirroni-esque guitars. That’s just on the opener but it adds something to this otherwise super lo fi retro entry. I’d have more appreciation for this record if it seemed like the participants were having fun and not just recording sound effects of birds (”The Autumn Cornfield”).
Later, around “Marilyn on a Train”) I found myself falling under this record’s spell the more time I spent with it but I really want the 60s to end.

The 1983 Listening Post - Altered Images - Bite

Altered Images - Bite

Altered Images
2.75 out of 5

Now That You’re Here

NONONONONO! I don’t want disco in my New Wave! Strings? WTF? Why is Clare Grogan’s vocals pushed so far behind the bass? This reminds me of when Rilo Kiley came out with that shitty last album and tried to pass it off as a forward step but it was really just an attempt to be pop and it also failed spectacularly. The next 35 minutes are going to suck.
Wait! That saxophone…that’s terrible. Make it stop.
The production on this, considering the pedigree of Nicky China and Tony Visconti, is terrible. Whoever mastered it was high and neeeeeeded that bass. 
The deeper into this listen the more I hate this record. It seems like the producers hate the band and everyone just wants out. 
There’s a hint of Altered Images that fights to come through on the Side One closer, “Now That You’re Here” and they get really close on “Don’t Talk to Me About Love” but the bass…that fucking bass…..also, turning Altered Images into BananaramaLauperGoGos is a bad idea.