Friday, February 24, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 255: The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Behind the Music

Album – Behind the Music
Artist – The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Key Players - Fredrik Sansten – drums and percussion. Ian Person – guitar, backing vocals, percussion. Ebbot Lundberg – lead vocals, sitar, harmonica and dulcimer. Martin Hederos – piano, Mellotron, organ, backing vocals, Mattias Bärjed – guitar, backing vocals. Åke Karl Kalle Gustafsson – bass, backing vocals, double bass violin and cembalo.

Produced By
- Johan Forsman and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

Release Date – September 24, 2002 (US Release)

What caused me to blow off the dust? - When this record came out I was ravenous for them. I couldn't get enough. They couldn't release a follow up record and tour enough for me. The story how I found out about them is fun. I used to order stuff from time to time from Parasol Mail Order (now closed) and they did a year end best of list from their staffers. If they had 10 people working 9 of them had it on their list and 8 of them had it as number 1. I figured I'd take a chance and I bought it sight unseen.

Overview – Formed in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden The Soundtrack Of Our Lives (or T.S.O.O.L) blend 60's and 70's punk rock and toss in a little psychedelic rock. The band has found success in Europe with all of their albums breaking the top 10 and the last two hitting #1 in Sweden. This is their third full length release and would be nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003 for “Best Alternative Album”. They have had moderate success elsewhere, and they continue to write and perform live.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The 15 track 57+ minute album opens up with guitars and drums sounding like they are around a campfire, slowly building, then an electric cuts through it and "Infra Riot" takes off. Lundberg has a deep baritone that seems to soar over the guitars. The band is fully on task as the Sansten rumbles across his kit. As the chorus hits Lundberg pushes himself even further. The band comes around on the same melody of the intro then they have a very cool jam on the backside with a lot of various instruments. Gustafsson has some swooping basslines and they rumble to a close. Sandsten locks the groove as "Sister Surround" begins and the tandem on guitar of Barjed and Person fire off one another. The song feels a little slow in tempo but the band has some good harmonies on the chorus as the two guitars really seem to fight each other while Gustafsson holds a strong bass line This was the first single I heard on the radio from the band, and it is a solid example of who/what the band is about. "In Someone Else's Mind” is a mellow acoustic lead track. The song title, the vibe of the track will have you thinking 60's psychedelic music for sure. The guitar riff repeats and there are bird songs, but nothing other than Lundberg on vocals. After the first verse we hear more of the Hederos keyboard parts, but it returns to its laid back feel once more. Acoustics are out at the start of "Mind the Gap" and Lundberg starts to sing. After part of a verse Hederos comes up in piano. This is the first really dominate piano track. The full band comes in after the first verse. Again, the song seems to be a mid-tempo affair, but Lundberg just has this voice that causes you to really pay attention. Once the chorus comes the band again has some nice harmonies and the slide guitars on the back side add to the quality of this very solid track. Hederos channels his church organ player as "Broken Imaginary Time” gets underway. It is a quiet and somber feeling track with Hederos getting the primary focus. Lundberg sings to fit the mood as well. The track doesn't seem to speed up or really change in mood, there is a string section, but it feels like a song that would work in a horror film. Hederos then pushes the organ to a pipe organ as the guitars swell along with it, ringing the notes and Lundberg quietly sings and is taken over by some spoken word parts (including N.Armstrong's “one small step...line). We get a little more uptempo and fun as "21st Century Rip Off" starts. This has a 60's pop feel to it. The strong bass work from Gustafsson returns and the guitars are quick and biting. The band channels some Rolling Stones like guitar riffs at the end as well. Hederos is alone on piano as "Tonight" begins. Again he is given room to get the song going before Lundberg begins. The track is just the two of them with no other instruments until some strings come in to fill out the sound. If anything this shows that Lundberg has both a strong and unique voice. The band is good at mixing up song styles as the track "Keep the Line Movin'" opens with a rumbling, marching band like drum line. Barjed and Person get to fire off one another and each takes a brief solo. Gustafsson continues to be the rock holding everyone on task with his bass work. "Nevermore" is another fun acoustic lead track, but it is not a mellow track by any means, just the guitars open up the track ringing out. It sounds as if the bass drum head is loose on Sandsten's drum kit as it has this loose “whap” to the kick drum. Hederos has a short piano section after the verse, in lieu of a guitar solo which is a nice touch. Even still, the slide guitar solo does appear, but the piano portion is more rewarding. Not to be outdone, there is a second, “cleaner” guitar solo but it is just the right length before the vocals begin. Sounding like a train Lundberg scats the intro to "Independent Luxury. As Gustafsson gets the bass rolling the guitars come in. This reminds me of a Kula Shaker type psychedelic track. Hederos find the right buttons on his synth and this track gets down and funky and the band almost seems to “bounce'. Its hard to describe, but when you hear it you can see the band all smiling at one another just wanting to jam on the progression for hours on end. Back to the acoustic guitars as "Ten Years Ahead" starts. Again the two guitars play before Lundberg starts to sing. He is left alone for the verses as the two guitars range from straight riffs to almost flamenco style strumming. Sandsten clicks the snare and then Hederos puts in some light piano/organ notes. Still its a showcase for the guitars and is even more to the point when the percussive instruments and organ really gel. A solid track. I find the track "Still Aging" sounding like a left over XTC song. That is not a bad thing by any stretch either. Another solid, fun track. We slow it down again for "In Your Veins" where the acoustic guitar starts the track. The second guitar is the electric but it plays a few short notes and Lundberg is joined by Hederos. Strings also make a return on the track giving it a much fuller sound. "The Flood" also starts off on the quieter side, but, don't let that fool you. It takes off and the band all comes together with Lundberg almost screaming his vocal parts. From bass, to drums, to the guitars everyone seems frantic. It is still put together though, it is a controlled chaos. The album concludes with Into the Next Sun". Hederos does the slow build and Lundberg sings his first verse before playing the harmonica. The track is a bit on the mellow side but is a solid album closer.

Where are they now? - The band is still active both in the studio and on tour. They have a new album slated for April of 2012 called “Throw it To The Universe”

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I only ever saw the band live one time. It was March 24, 2003 at Lupos in Providence Rhode Island. The band was first slated to play the much smaller attached club called “The Met” and it was moved to Lupos. We had a lot of elbow room...a lot. The band didn't seem to mind the lighter crowd and they brought a full rock set. I was actually thinking the band, and all their gear wouldn't have fit very well on the other stage.

FDF Overall Take – There are some really strong tunes on this record. Sure the band might not "look the part" but there is no doubt that they know how to write and perform. The band could use some PR here in the states as the last few records seem to have gone un-noticed. Check this one out though and be surprised and excited like I was. Trust me.

Official Site

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album is still in print, you can find it here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 254 Sonic Youth - Goo

Album - Goo
Artist – Sonic Youth
Key Players - Lee Ranaldo – guitar and vocals. Steve Shelly – drums and percussion Kim Gordon – bass and vocals. Thurston Moore – vocals and guitar
Produced By – Nick Sansano, Ron Saint Germain and Sonic Youth

Release Date – June 26, 1990

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Not really sure. Probably thought “I need to write something for another post”

Overview – This is the major label debut from New York based band Sonic Youth. This album is the bands sixth studio album and they were signed to Geffen after “Daydream Nation” was released in 1988. Critics and fans seemed to have found this to be a very accessible album from the alternative rock band. With the strength of the song “Kool Thing” the band would find a little chart success and crack the Billboard top 200 peaking at 96.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – On the lead off track “Dirty Boots” we slowly fade up to find a single guitar before Gordon gets going on the bass. Shelly starts to get the drums moving and Ranaldo and Moore join in. The vocals are hushed with Moore taking the lead. The band is tight and focused with Gordon really strong on the bass. No one player, other than Gordon, seems to really take off during the verses or choruses. About the 3 minute mark the band takes off and starts to have a noisy, fun jam. Each guitar takes off and the bass and drums rumble. It sounds like what older fans are used to, but the band comes right back after tearing it down. They continue until the track ends, and although it never gets frantic again, its a pretty solid session by the band. “Tunic (Song for Karen)” is a track about Karen Carpenter. According to notes its about her in heaven playing drums and meeting new friends like Elvis and Janis Joplin. The guitars at the start are really compressed and fire off one another. Shelley is quick to get things on task and the band plays for close to a minute before Gordon takes the vocals. Kim often “talk sings” but here deep voice is still unique enough to make it interesting. For the second week in a row we find J Mascis assisting in some way. He is on backing vocals on this track. Ranaldo and Moore found a real tight guitar sound and they use it often. A solid track. Shelley clicks off “Mary-Christ” and the band is off to the races. The song is fuzzy as expected, but the guitars and bass seem to be in tandem. The vocals have some compression and they use what sounds a little like a megaphone on parts. Clocking in at just over 3 minutes this is the shortest track so far on the record. As the track fades you can hear the start of the next track (Kool Thing) but it fades to silence. Perhaps the bands most well known song “Kool Thing” follows. Public Enemy member Chuck D guests on the track. The guitars on this track is what makes it for me personally, but the bass and drums are no slouches. Shelley is quick to show you that as he rumbles across his kit before the first verse starts. Gordon has the lead on this track. By the time Chuck D and Gordon have their banter mid song the pay off back to the music just explodes. The guitars are top notch, just firing off one another with big slides and screeching lines. The longest track on the album “Mote” follows. Clocking over 7 minutes the swirling guitars take center stage before the drums come up. Once again J Mascis helps with the backing vocals. Ranaldo take the lead vocal duties on the track and he sounds good. He seems to “sing” a little more than Gordon/Moore. Some of the vocals have effects placed on them, but he seems to have a decent range. The band, not to be outdone, play at a frantic pace at times and then seem to slow it down, to speed it up. This is a cohesive unit for sure. There is a longer “breakdown” mid song with Gordon repeating the same few deep bass notes and Moore and Ranaldo abuse their guitars. Mascis appears for the final time on “My Friend Goo”. Gordon has the lead vocal duties on this track and she seems to sing a bit more and you'll find her pushing herself in the range department at times. Moore tosses in a little vocal at the chorus, but its short. This is a straight up rock song, in and out in just over two minutes. “Disappearer” starts like many, a lone guitar making a lot of noise before the rest of the band comes in. The guitars again are the killer here, not as frantic on the track so it is a good change of pace. The track “Mildred Pierce” is named for the film of the same name. Gordon drops the opening bass riff before the others come in. This is one of the first songs the band ever wrote as a band and its nice to hear a clean well produced version of their early ideas. Until the completely absurd vocals come in the track is rather enjoyable. The screaming distorted mess is almost enough to get you to hit skip, but its over very quickly. “Cinderella's Big Score” sets the listener back in the mode of the album. Gordon has the vocals and she seems angry. Sure the music is energetic, but Gordon seems to particularly urgent on the track. “Scooter + Jinx” is a vocal free track that is just a lot of guitar noise. It's over at 1:06. Skip it. The album concludes with “Titanium Expose” the track has a similar structure of “Kool Thing” with its big guitars and booming drums. For me personally this is a great album closer. The band is loud but it is not this over bearing crazy feed back track. The guitars just stand out and Gordon has some nice bass fills. A very solid closer.

Where are they now? - The band is currently on an “indefinite hiatus”. Due in part to the separation of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. No new material is planned at this time.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have seen Sonic Youth live just two times. The first was part of Lollapaloosa 1995. July 25, 1995 at Great Woods/Tweeter Center/Comcast Center they played with Hole, Cypress Hill and others. I don't recall a ton of their set. The second time was opening for Pearl Jam at the same venue. This was August 29, 2000. They had a solid rocking set and during their set, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder sang praise to the band for their longevity. At the time Sonic Youth as on or about 20 years, and Pearl Jam just 10. The set was good albeit short due to it being an opening slot.

FDF Overall Take – Let me just put it out there, I am a far cry from an expert on the band. I'd say I am a casual at best fan. I was introduced to them with “Teenage Riot” and own that cd (Daydream Nation) and two others. I don't rush to play their music, I don't think of them often but being in the genre of the music I most listen to I hear them mention a lot and really should dive in more. The record as a whole is pretty easy to get in to. Kool Thing still gets radio play and the other tracks really are similar. It might not be for everyone, but this is a good record to start with if you are curious.

Official Site

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album is still in print, you can get it here

Friday, February 10, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 253 - Mark Lanegan - Scraps at Midnight

Album – Scraps and Midnight
Artist – Mark Lanegan
Key Players – Mark Lanegan – vocals. A series of other musicians play on the records from Tad Doyle to J.Mascis, I'll make note on the tracks they perform.
Produced By - Mike Johnson and Mark Lanegan

Release Date – July 21, 1998

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Mark has a new solo album out and I was just bitten by the bug.

Overview – This is the third solo album from Mark Lanegan. Lanegan, who rose to fame as a member of the band “Screaming Trees” released his first solo record in 1994. This release many consider to be the final installment of a trilogy of albums. Lanegans first two records explored American roots and Blues and Lanegan was quoted in an 2004 interview he intended to make records with a blues feel but to not fall in to what many see as a blues record.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – A lone guitar bends and twists a few times before the band comes in and “Hospital Roll Call” starts. The band is cool and Lanegan speaks a few lines but lets the band roll along. The track is rumored to be about a stay in rehab for Mark and he says “Sixteen” (Room or Patient number?) It sounds like the theme to a modern western movie at times. Johnson has a run on guitar but one can't escape that “Western Movie” feel. The moody acoustics come out as “Hotel” begins. Lanegan is in no rush and his whiskey soaked vocals are honestly to die for. He has one of the best voices in rock. Think a little Tom Waits, but not nearly as gruff and you'll get the idea. There are slide guitars but we don't really hear drums and the band is in no rush. “Stay” feels a little like Pink Floyds “Mother” in its single ringing guitar, but as the drums join in we are about as crazy as we have been up to this point. There is a longer guitar solo as well that is quick, and used during the fade out. “Bell Black Ocean” finds acoustic guitar, piano and some slide guitar to accompany Mark. The piano seems to be more of the focus with Mark, but its not a rushed, note filled piano part. A few notes here, a quick burst there, but when a short guitar section cuts it short you actually await the return. The slide guitar works well as it plays over the piano at time, but without being overbearing. The track “Last One In the World” follows. Rumored to be about Kurt Cobain it finds more of a band setting with the bass, guitar and drums. Think a dark and smokey bar, and you are there. The drum sticks tap off the rim of the snare as the acoustic guitars strum at times, bend notes at others for a dark and moody feel. Mark sings “good bye friend, thank you for the dream” you tend to believe its about someone dear to his heart. The track “Wheels” finds a collection of guest players. J.Mascis (Dinosaur Jnr) on piano, Tad Doyle (TAD) on drums. Also joining are Phil Sparks on upright bass and Mike Stinette on saxophone. Mark sings early on within the track. Stinette plays the sax after the first verse and then you hear Sparks bass work a little more. Mascis holds the melody together nicely on piano. Known for his big wall of guitar it is a nice touch. Mark starts to sing early on “Waiting On A Train” accompanied by two guitars. To paint the picture think three people on a stage, sitting on bar stools just playing for the audience...cigarettes in the ash trays billowing swirls of smoke as glasses clink in the background. For the first time a female vocal can be heard along with mark. It is Liz Burns who lends her voice, its not very up in your face, but its there. Phil Sparks returns on the bass for “Day and Night” and Terry Yohn plays the harmonica parts which can be heard from the start. The vocals are primarily with the acoustic guitar with the harmonica washing in at times. Personally I find this track to be a challenge to listen to for some reason, it just seems almost “beyond heavy” emotionally. Hard to really describe. We don't perk up that much as “Praying Ground” starts. Again the piano and single guitar seem to be Lanegans go to accompaniment and big change come in the closing track “Because of This”. It feels like a band really wants to get rolling. Its nice to hear a drum get hit, a guitar seem to get struck a little harder. A blend of this on the record would have been nice, but it sounds good overall. The subtle instruments seem to wrestle and the cool fade down, before bringing everyone up and Marks final vocal run are top notch. It is so cool they do it twice.

Where are they now? - Mark released a new solo album in February of 2012.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have never seen a “solo” Mark Lanegan show. He doesn't seem to tour the east coast, or the US for that matter as a solo artist. I've seen him in guest slots with Queens of the Stone Age and have seen the Screaming Trees, but a solo Mark show continues to be on the “bucket list”.

FDF Overall Take – As noted I think Mark has one of the best voices in music. There is just something so honest, and just awesome in his vocals. The solo stuff early on is very similar. Mark was doing a trio of records at the time, and as “nice” as they are you may not win a ton of friends trying to get them to listen. Mark was doing something he wanted to do and its his voice and support cast that help make the records even better. I use the line “you won't throw this record on to get the party started” and this is a key time to use that line. Still, his voice just destroys my insides and I'd suggest any and all of his records to the person willing to give it a chance.

Official page is here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

You can still find the album, even right here.

Friday, February 03, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 252 - Skunk Anansie Paranoid and Sunburnt

Album - Paranoid & Sunburnt
Artist – Skunk Anansie
Key Players – Cass (Richard Keith Lewis) – bass. Ace (Martin Ivor Kent) – guitars. Robbie France – drums. Skin (Deborah Dyer) – vocals
Produced By – Sylvia Massey and Skunk Anansie

Release Date – September 21, 1995

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I am actually surprised that I haven't done one of this bands records yet. I am/was a big fan of them both in studio and Live. I wish they'd come to the US more.

Overview – The name comes from a combination of words. A West African folk tale speaks of “Anansi – the spider man and the band added “Skunk” to make the name “nastier”. Formed in 1994 in London the four piece would dominate the UK charts. They'd have a total of 141 weeks of albums or singles on the charts. The band would find themselves on the soundtrack to the film “Strange Days” and an early fan of the band was radio personality Howard Stern who announced the band would “be huge”. They'd release a few more records in the US, but success here would elude them. (none of their albums would crack the US charts, but the first three were all top 20 releases). The band would disband in 2001, but reformed in 2009. They released their fifth studio album “Wonderlustre” in September of 2010.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The album opens with the rocking “Selling Jesus”. The instruments slowly build before crashing in. Once Skin starts to sing it is with a fierce growl that at the same time seems to soar above the chaos. Skin has one of my favorite female voices in rock of all time. She just pulls it from her toes to her throat. Cass throws some cool bass slides and fires off France. One thing the band is not afraid of is pushing the boundaries with the lyrics or song titles. After the second verse there is a short bridge with Skin having overdubs on her vocals and they bring it back seemingly even more urgent. Skin then really pushes the range at the close. An absolutely kick ass album intro. The guitars are abuzz as “Intellectualize my Blackness” starts off. Cass finds a funk bass groove and France keeps things in check. We are little slower on this from the opener but the bass is very high in the mix allowing the vocals to really be on the upfront. I am not sure what this song is about, but Skin is pretty passionate about it and you really start to think. Ace doesn't have any flashy guitar runs, instead he holds on to some big riffs to play off the others. As the song progresses Skin seems to really push herself even further in range and urgency. “I Can Dream” finds Skin seemingly hushed at the start with the guitar bass and drums keeping things in check. After a few lines Ace gets things rolling and as the chorus approaches it grows until the chorus just reaches out and shakes you. As a casual bass player myself its fun to hear Cass toss some in some big booming fills as the band clicks along. The song is a really a strong example of how powerful a voice Skin has. File under a song that could be dissected in a few dozen ways “Little Baby Swastikka” is next. Yeah, you read that right. On this track Skin is almost whispering the verses as Ace strums his guitar and France finds time on the hi-hat. As the chorus strikes Cass pops off on his bass and he does this a lot. The song is angry, rocking and another strong example of what the band is capable of. Hard song to admit you like due to content, but its a ripper. France doesn't want things to slow down so he has a big thunderous drum intro on “All In The Name of Pity” and again Cass gets to stand back and drop the bass grooves. Ace seems to sit back to just give the riffs heading to the chorus with Skin singing along to just the bass and drums. “Charity” is about as slow/mellow as the band gets. Even with that being said, everyone fires off at the start, but as Skin sings everyone cools down. This is a showcase for Skin to show her range. She ranges from 'vein in the head' screams to hushed lullaby style. The chorus finds everyone getting a little frantic so it is by no stretch a ballad, but this is about as calm as we've heard the band to this point. Cass has a few bass chords he plays and “It Takes Blood and Guts to Be This Cool But I'm Still Just a Cliche” kicks off. Ace seems to be a little frantic and Cass continues to lay the bass pops and thumps. The band tries to slow things down leading to the chorus, showing a little more musical diversity vs just these front to back rockers. Ace also seems to have found more effect pedals and slides across the strings like a machine gun while France goes from cymbals to hi-hat rolls. “Weak” is a “clean” track. It just seems to find the band in a comfort zone and comfortable with their positions in the track. Not sure this makes sense, but this is sort of just a straight ahead and clean track. You hear everyone, Skin sounds great but it doesn't have that big riff, or fill, or huge hook. Bigger is better though and when the band gets “And Here I Stand” going you'll feel it in your bones. Cass, Ace and France seem to chug things along and they seem to almost “jam” longer than on any other tracks before Skin comes in. When Skin starts the lyrics they settle back a little but come the chorus we have, what seems like only the second time, backing vocals. The track is dirty and grinds to a gradual swell, finally really taking off and the band getting to rumble and Skin howls over everyone, she is about as angry as you'll hear, but in that good rocking sort of way. Ace plays a few delayed guitar notes and Skin comes in to get
“100 Ways to Be A Good Girl” started. She sings just about a full verse before Cass comes with a few bass notes. The drums are kept to light taps of the cymbals and snare strikes. The song keeps the same feel through the second verse and choruses. “Rise Up” closes out the record and has a similar feel. A decent closer, but not as rocking as we'd hope.

Where are they now? - Skin, Ace and Cass as noted have reformed and perform. Drummer Mark Richardson joined the band soon after the debut. Original drummer Robbie France passed away on January 14, 2012 at age 52. Skin worked as a solo artist for a bit after the band disbanded. Ace released a record and worked worked with others, as did Cass. Mark will write and record and work with Ace during down times.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – The first time I saw the band live was at the Paradise with the Australian band Ammonia. Ammonia was actually supposed to be the headliner, but the rumor was the band couldn't see themselves going on after Skunk Anansie so they traded slots. The show was great, but so horribly undersold, I swear there was less than 100 people there. Made for a fun show and Skin was just all over the stage. (We took a look at "Mint 400" from Ammonia here. In May of 1997 they were back opening for the Rollins Band at Avalon. A 30 minute set set the room on fire. We looked at the Rollins Band "Weight" album here. On August 26, 1999 was the last time I saw the band live (and perhaps one of the last times they were in the states?) opening for Sevendust at Lupos. Again, the band did their best with an early and short set. I talked to the bass player after and he said they were thinking of moving to the States for some time to try to get a bigger presence. I guess that meeting didn't go well. One other time I saw them was with Jawbreaker as part of a Newbury Comics birthday concert. I don't have the date, but it was at Venus DeMilo in Boston.

FDF Overall TakeI am surprised this record doesn't have a parental advisory sticker. Its pretty heavy at times lyrically and musically. Skin just has this awesome voice and its different to hear a female fronted “hard rock” band. Might not be for everyone, but worthy of a spin for you to decide if they are for you.


Official page is here.
The page for Skin is right here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album appears to be out of print, but you can still find it