Friday, May 26, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 13: Love and Rockets - Express

Album - Express
Artist - Love and Rockets
Key Players - David J (bass + vocals), Daniel Ash (guitar, saxophone, vocals), Kevin Haskins (drums)
Produced by - John River and Love and Rockets.
Released - 1986

Overview - Love and Rockets were formed in 1985 by 3 members of the band Bauhaus. Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins selected the name from a comic book of the same name. Express was the bands second release. Learning again on hints of goth, glam and even psychedelic sounds the band continued to grow musically and in popularity. The band found some moderate success with "No New Tale to Tell" from the Earth Sun Moon record as well as "So Alive" from their self titled follow up. The band was released from RCA records in 1994 after some weak album sales, released a few more records and then called it quits in 1999.

FDF Comments (aks the Songs) - For a record from a bunch of former goth members its surprising an uptempo affair. The original US release of the cd had 11 tracks 2 of which were "All in my mind" one was an "electric" version, while the other was acoustic. Lead off track "Angels and Devils" takes a bit to get going and would be a perfect live show opener as they could fill the stage with smoke and lights before starting up. "Kundalini Express" has the chugging tempo you'd expect from a song that would talk about trains. One of the more unique covers you'll ever hear is at the mid point of the cd. The band tackles the Temptations song "Ball of Confusion (thats what the world is today)". In the end if I were to play you a song from them to give you the feel/sound of the band I'd go with the epic "Yin and Yang the Flower Pot Man".

Where are they now? - David J and Daniel Ash have both released a few solo albums. Peter Murphy decided to re-form Bauhaus and the guys re-joined him for a reunion tour in 1998. They broke up again, then reformed yet again in 2005 to play Cochella in which during their most famous song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" Peter Murphy hung upside down like a bat. Bauhaus is currently (or just about) ready to hit the road opening for Nine Inch Nails.

FDF Personal Comments - I saw the band live on only two occasions. The first was on the Earth Sun Moon Tour on April 16, 1988 at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. My buddy Steve got tickets and we headed in. I think we had 2nd to last row in the balcony. There are 2 things that really stood out that night. The first was the opening band. They were called "The Mighty Lemon Drops" and I fell in love instantly. I will be doing an FDF on them soon. The second was how L+R chose too take the stage. They had an ep out that had a song called "The Bubblemen". Also at this time they were big in to dressing like white bees. The stage was dark and three "bees" arrived and danced in circles for the duration of the recorded "Bubblemen", then they left the stage, and we waited and waited and waited. It took a good 45 minutes for L+R to return to play. The second and final time I saw the band was April 3, 1996 at the Paradise in Boston. It was a pretty solid crowd as the band had label issues and what have you. It was cool to see them in such a small venue as well.

FDF Overall Take - When I went back to this record there were moments of sheer brilliance but at the same time it shows its age. I found myself skipping a few tracks on the 2nd and 3rd recent spins. If you can find it for cheap the few stand out tracks are really top notch. If the band were smart they'd let this one die and never do a reunion tour. The select few that got it the first time will only appreciate it later.

Friday, May 19, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 12: Elvis Costello - My Aim is True

Album - My Aim is True
Artist - Elvis Costello
Key Players - Elvis Costello - guitar/vocals.
Produced by - Nick Lowe
Released - 1977

Overview: This album was reportedly recorded in 24hrs while Elvis was "out sick" from his daytime computer job. Due to contract issues the original backing band, Clover, were not listed. Clover was an American country rock band and would later morph in to Huey Lewis and the News. John McFee who was credited on the record as the guitar player played with the Doobie Brothers as well. In 13 very short tracks Elvis Costello (born Declan McManus) would forever change, if not define "new wave". You will find this cd listed on virtually every "best of" cd list, either best debuts of all time, or finest records of all time. In 2003 VH1 named this record the 80th greatest album of all time.

FDF Comments (aka The Songs) - Where does one even begin? Of the 13 there are at least 6 songs that even your mom probably knows. This is a rare occasion where a studio album is pretty much a "best of" collection. The nice part about the Rhino re-issues is that even cleaned up they still seem to have some "tape hiss". Opening with Welcome To the Working Week in 1:23 you are given the ground work for this record. Elvis wastes no time in getting in and out of the songs. The longest song on the album is 3:45 (Watching the Detectives). Arguably the best song on the record is "Alison". If its not the best its hands down a top 5 song from Elvis. When I was researching this record I found that Watching the Detectives was not even on the original UK release of the album. It was issued in October of 1977.

Where is he now - Elvis is still making records to this day. Some argue he has not found a good direction with often quiet records (see "north") or his work with Burt Bacharach and symphony orchestras. The largest know backing band he had was the Attractions. Elvis Costello AND the Attractions were inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2003. Elvis tours solo these days or with a new backing band called the Imposters.

FDF Personal Comments - Seeing Elvis live can be a treat, or very very boring. He has a massive catalog of songs to pull from. With that being said if you are a "casual" fan (as I am..maybe a scant more than casual) some of the deep tracks live can be tedious. Its like if you go to see the Rolling Stones you want to hear "Satisfaction". First time was touring for the Spike record (Veronica is on this) at Great Woods on 6-21-91. Elvis was fat and bloated but the show was good. The about to implode Replacements opened that show. The next was 8-14-96 at Harborlights in Boston. Elvis was with the Attractions on this tour and the audience was seated for most, but during the up tempo ones they'd rise up. What stands out the most on this show is the number of encores he did. I think we walked out to our car when he came back out for his fourth. The last time was 7-13-03 at Lupos Heartbreak Hotel in Providence. It was marketed as a big deal since Elvis was "back in a club" but a few years earlier her had played the Paradise in Boston. He did 2 shows this night 7 and 10pm. I went to the 10pm and Elvis just seemed to play and play and play. He must have played 35 songs. (actually it was only 24) Still it was hit or miss, the deep dark catalog stuff had a few people going "wow" but when he'd rip stuff like in the 3rd encore (notice a trend) of Alison->Tell Me Right Now->Radio Radio->Whats' So Funny bout Peace Love and Understanding. I need to go back and listen to that show again.

FDF Overall take - Many people will have a best of Elvis in their collection, but if you need a studio release this one or Armed Forces are the way to go. As noted with the myriad of Elvis Costello best of collections its easy to just hear the best ofs but when a record gives you one after the other that is "not" a best of, that is really something. You can't go wrong with this, you really can't.

Monday, May 08, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 11 - Sponge - Wax Ecstatic

FDF is thrilled to have dim jump on board. Be sure to check out his personal blog here.

Album: Wax Ecstatic
Artist: Sponge
Key Players: Vinnie Dombroski - Vocals, drums, guitar
Joey Mazzola - Guitars
Mike Cross - Guitars and bass
Charlie Grover - Drums
Produced by : Sponge and Tim Patalan
Release Date: July 2, 1996

Overview: Wax Ecstatic is the second disc released by "post-grunge" Detroit band Sponge. Formed in 1991, the band had some modest success with their first offering, Rotting Pinata, which yielded radio-tunes "Plowed" (which had a catchy guitar riff, but when Dombroski's Drano-gargled vocals spewed the lyrics "a world of human wreckage", the eyes rolled) and the overtly poppy "Molly (Sixteen Candles)". Didn't much care for that disc, so what do I do? I buy their second one. In the meantime, the band experienced the first in what would be many personnel changes when drummer Jimmy Paluzzi quit and was replaced by Charlie Grover (with Dombroski continuing to add the beats as he did in the first incarnation of the band, where he sang lead from behind the kit).

FDF Comments aka The Songs: From the moment Wax Ecstatic kicks in, you can't help but get the feeling that the band matured by leaps and bounds with this sophomore, yet not sophomoric effort. A waft of feedback and very cool drum beat heralds the arrival of "My Purity" and so starts this rocking bluesy journal into the underbelly world of drag queens. Yes, drag queens. Dombroski's vocals are much less abrasive here and the music, previously formulaic and forgettable is now richer, more textured, and well-played. The crunch of "Got To Be A Bore" wonderfully offsets the more delicate (yet equally powerful) "The Drag Queens of Memphis", the latter of which is piano-driven and complete with breezy slide guitar that makes you feel like you are walking down a dusty side street in New Orleans in the middle of the summer. The title track (parenthetically titled "To Sell Angelina") and the only thing close to a radio single from the disc is infectious as the front half of the disc settles into a great audio groove. The epically glorious "I Am Anastasia" closes out the first half and while the second portion of the disc falls a little short of its previous brilliance (Dombroski's gloomy vocals on "Death of a Drag Queen" are a little more annoying than they are spooky), it is still strong, with horns punctuating "My Baby Said" and the acoustic "Velveteen" finishing out the disc nicely.

Where are they now: Sponge put out three discs after Wax Ecstatic, including last year's offering The Man. Personnel changes continue to dog the band as only Dombroski remains from the Wax Ecstatic line-up.

FDF Personal Comments: I never saw this band live and can't quite recall what possessed me to get Rotting Pinata, since I didn't like the radio singles. And further, I can't quite recall what would have possessed me to get Wax Ecstatic, given my dislike for the debut disc. I never did get any of the follow-ups, but would be a liar to say that revisiting this disc didn't make me a little curious to check out their post-Wax offerings.

FDF Overall take - When a song from this disc comes up on the iPod shuffle, I always take notice, because Sponge is an anomaly in my collection. They have only one disc that I like, of the two that I own, but when I say I like it, I mean, I REALLY REALLY like it. The musical maturity here is staggering and if you can't immediately relate to Dombroski's tales of drugs and drag queens, you can at least relate to the emotion with which he sings about such topics. I highly recommend this disc, even relevant musically today after ten years. And when I tell someone when it is playing that it's Sponge, and they say "Isn't that that awful 'human wreckage' band?" I safely say "no". That band sucked. But this Wax Ecstatic band is very good.

Friday, May 05, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 10: Ride - Going Blank Again

Album: Going Blank Again
Artist: Ride
Key Players: Mark Gardener - guitar and vocals
Andy Bell - guitar and vocals.
Loz John Colbert -drums
Stephen Queralt - bass
Produced by : Alan Moulder
Release Date: March 9, 1992

Overview: Going Blank again is the second album from the British band Ride. Formed in the late 80's they'd grow to become synonymous with the term "shoegazing" (the UK Fad before "britpop"). Although they never amassed chart success they were darlings to the critics and the fans smart enough to listen to them. The band got a record deal after a run of supporting gigs for the Soup Dragons in 1989. The band broke up in 1995 while recording their final album. Creative tensions between Bell and Gardener are sighted as the reasons.

FDF Comments aka The Songs: (trying not to do each one)
The opening track "Leave them All Behind" (at an epic 8+ minutes long) really sets the tone of this release. A drum and bass intro repeating the same line then 2 guitars come in and swirl over your head. The bass is locked in keeping everyone where they need to but the drums fills add a great touch. When the vocals do come in they are breathy and you can be taken right to a smoky club with the lights swirling all around you. The song has such a head bobbing chug to it you suddenly realize its reaching its climax and the band just steps in to overdrive. The drums get harder and even more accented, the guitars tandem off one another all the while the bass just holds you to the same groove that got your head bobbing the transition to Twistarella is just perfect. Twistarella has the sound and feel, perhaps, of a left over Stone Roses song. If I were ever to try to get someone in to this band (using just this cd) I'd play these two songs right in order. Twistarella has less of a "shoegaze" feel giving you a nice representation of the bands sound. Chrome Waves opens with some acoustic guitar and some synths to add some ambience. The acoustic makes its return a few times during the song making it feel like it really had a place in the song and not lead to confuse the listener. Mouse Trap rewards you at the midway point of the record. It returns you to the ride of the fist 1,2 tracks. Almost made up lyrics at first the song just kicks full force about half way in and never lets up. Cool Your Boots is one of those songs that grabs your attention, you are trying to do something and you will just stop to listen. Its rare, but when it happens you wonder if anyone else has ever "gotten it" with you. OX4 closes out the collection of 10 songs

Where are they now: Andy Bell is now the bass player for Oasis. He had formed a band called "Hurricane #1" but that band released a single record and Andy went to Oasis. Mark Gardener is also now pursuing a solo career. Loz Colbert has also started playing in a band again - not as drummer, but as guitarist and vocalist.
Stephen Queralt has kept a low profile. The few things I have read about him haven't been updated in ages. He tried to launch a record store but otherwise even his former band mates are not sure what he is up to.

In October of 2001 all four members were filmed for a Sonic Youth documentary. The 30 minute jam of this, plus 2 short sound check songs were released in 2002
There have also been rumors that Bell and Gardener are on somewhat of a mend but fear the expectations of a reunion would never live up to expectations.

FDF Personal Comments: The band only played 3 local shows to me. One in Providence and 2 in Boston at the Paradise. I saw them one time only. June 19, 1992 was the date. I was very interested in a young lady and begged her to go to the show with me. She finally said yes and we were treated to quite and evening with Ride. They were everything I had hoped for after hearing Going Blank Again. There was smoke, and lights along with the swirling guitars. My night ended outside the venue with said lady friend and a stranger coming up to her and asking "You are not really with him are you?". Kick ass moment shattered in a Ralph Wiggum like moment. For the record she is NOT Mrs March.

FDF Overall take - This is one of those cds that when I listen to it I wonder why i don't play it once a week. The early 90's for me personally was a strong time for music. You had harder "grunge" rock but also, if you looked, really great UK bands. Hands down my favorite era of music.