Category Archives: CD

SOUL ASYLUM – Say What You Will…Everything Can Happen / Made to Be Broken

January 01, 1970

Omnivore (July 20, 2018)

http://www.omnivorerecordings.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Of the eighties Big 3 of Minneapolis college rock, Soul Asylum was considered the junior partner (after Hüsker Dü and the Replacements). So it’s ironic that the scrappy young quartet became far and away the most successful. Of course, that may have simply been by virtue of sticking around – by the time Nirvana ushered in the alt.rock wave, the ‘Mats and the Dü had split and Dave Pirner’s crew was on Columbia and boasted an honest-to-top 40 hit single in the folk rocking “Runaway Train.” In a way, though, it’s not so surprising – Soul Asylum always seemed to have the most commercial instincts, if for no other reason than they had the biggest penchant for the classic rock punk hadn’t yet muscled aside. Plus they could become a (highly irreverent) top 40 cover band at the drop of a hat, so they understood what it took to gain the attention of listeners outside of the college rock circuit.

Listening to the new reissue of Say What You Will…Everything Can Happen (produced, as would be its successor, by Dü’s Bob Mould), that commercial clout is hard to hear. Not because Soul Asylum, though young and unseasoned, was a bad band. Far from it, in fact – the explosive recordings on this 1984 album show off a fledgling group already displaying signs of greatness. Like a lot of emerging rockers in the eighties, Pirner, guitarist Dan Murphy, bassist Karl Mueller and drummer Pat Torpey (replaced after these sessions by Grant Young) came out of the hardcore scene, and it shows in the band’s blazing attack and Pirner’s unhinged snarl. “Long Day,” “Happy” and “Voodoo Doll” rush to the finish line, nearly barrelling over the nascent melodies and postpunk dynamics hidden under the roar. But the band’s desire to be their own thing becomes quickly apparent. Though in rough form, “Walking” introduces the warped C&W into which Soul Asylum occasionally dipped its toes, while “Black and Blue” blends country, hardcore and postpunk into a unique blast that must have been a bitch to play. “Religiavision” pits an ambitious and wideranging set of lyrics against a knotty hard rock anthem, while “Stranger” forms the first glimpse of Pirner’s distinctive blend of sensitivity and swagger. Though possibly the purest hardcore move musically, “Sick of That Song” is the clearest signal that the band won’t be satisfied with clichés, as Pirner rages against the typical subject matter of both classic rock and punk at the time. Though hardly a classic in the Soul Asylum catalog, Say What You Will is a coarse but compelling guide to what the band would later become.

Omnivore’s edition offers up a slew of bonus tracks. The five outtakes from the album sessions (eventually released on the 1988 CD version) include the rampaging but catchy “Do You Know” and “Spacehead,” the almost self-consciously varied “Masquerade” and the furiously rocking “Broken Glass,” Murphy’s first significant contribution to the band’s repertoire. The other nine tracks constitute the group’s first demo, back when it was still known as Loud Fast Rules, and a pair of recordings, including a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” under the name Proud Class Fools. Though crude, these tracks also show off the combo’s range, alternating between punk rocking crunches like “Job For Me” and “Your Clock” with brittle oddities like “Out of Style” and a rougher version of “Black and Blue.” Though there aren’t any track-by-track notes, writer Robert Vodicka’s essay sheds light on Soul Asylum’s early work.

By the time Soul Asylum released its second LP Made to Be Broken, it barely sounded like the same band. The punk fury had been replaced by old-fashioned rock & roll energy, and Pirner had developed into a dynamic, thoughtful songwriter that valued melody as much as punch. In an opening one-two-three attack,“Tied to the Tracks,” “Ship of Fools” and “Can’t Go Back” (penned by Murphy, proving himself his bandleader’s equal in the craft department, though not in prolificacy) set a standard for SA rockers thereafter: tuneful, tough, smarter than revealed on one spin, with twists in the arrangements that follow the song’s internal logic. The band continues its experiments with country music on the wistful “Never Really Been” and the crackling title track, as well as beginning a new tradition of warping heavy rock to its own purposes with “Growing Pain” and “Don’t It (Make Your Troubles Seem Small).” The group hasn’t forgotten its punk rock roots, however – cf. the breathless rush of “New Feelings” and the frenzied explosion of “Whoa!” Due to its carefully curated eclecticism and strong songwriting and arrangement skills, it’s no exaggeration to say that Made to Be Broken is the birth of Soul Asylum as we know it.

As with Say What You Will, a passel of album outtakes fill out the disk, from the fierce “Long Way Home,” “Friends” and “Hey Bird” to the goofy “Freeway” and “The Snake.” Also included are seven unsourced recordings with demo quality production and not-quite-there arrangements and performances. “Swingin’” and “Song of the Terrorist” may be useful more for fan service than potential playlist rotation, perhaps, but they’re no less oddly charming for that.

Soul Asylum would go on to make records with more acclaim and success, but its first two lay out the qualities that would get them there, making them as essential as anything in the band’s catalog.

JACK DRAG – 2018

January 01, 1970

Burger Records (Sept. 14, 2018)

http://burgerrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

At this point in his career, singer/songwriter/composer John Dragonetti is best known for his work with (now ex-wife) Blake Hazard in the Submarines and for film and TV scores (All About Nina, FX’s Married, We Are Legion, The Secret Life of Muslims). Before all that, however, the Bostonian led the underrated indie rock band Jack Drag.

Dormant since 2002, the moniker is back for 2018, a state of the union address from the low-key musical polyglot. Looking back at past relationships (and not just marriages) and forward to the present, Dragonetti soaks his tunes in bittersweetness. The synths ‘n’ percussion arrangement of “Bloody Noses” gives lightness to its emotional confusion, while the catchy hooks of “I Am Not Willing” bely its disillusioned theme. “Marigolds” pulls light out of the darkness through a subtly anthemic pop arrangement, while “Strangers” dips into sixties pop for its tunefulness and nineties angst for its heart. “Hope Revisited” goes unabashedly for its title concept, with brash hooks and unambiguous lyrics, though it almost feels like the forced giddiness of the damned.

With his now-signature blend of twinkly new wave and melancholic power pop, Dragonetti knocks out one sweetly melodic gem after another here, putting adult uncertainty and confusion to a catchy soundtrack.

BROKEN ARROWS – Streetflowers

January 01, 1970

Intelligent Design Records

https://brokenarrows1.bandcamp.com/album/streetflowers

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Music, of late, makes me sad.  Turning on the radio is a game of Russian roulette with five chambers out of six holding a bullet.  Pseudo-soul, re-hashed 1980s synth garbage, ham-fisted knuckle dragger butt rock and over produced rap tracks about shaking ass and making money pass for music.  Yes, I sound like an old man but the years I’ve spent sifting through the mountain of crap to uncover gems has left me somewhat jaded and cold.  Where many bands are content releasing tracks with endless over-dubs of inane lyrics and unimaginative licks of scant guitar tracks, Kansas City’s own Broken Arrows, a group of seasoned players, unloading their musical knowledge of all things power pop and classic garage, go deeper, farther into the past, using the great wave of garage rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s as touchstones and thank god they do.

Streetflowers, the latest from Broken Arrows, is an album packed with the minimalist approach of bands like The Sonics and The Trashmen crossed up with the psychedelic jump of the great Roky Erickson and the 13 Floor Elevators, intermingled with bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star (a strong influence throughout) and the power pop goodness of Matthew Sweet, alongside lesser known acts like The Exploding Hearts, The Electric Prunes, the always great Seeds and The Castaways.

While most acts seem content churning out half-baked thoughts and thrown together, unimaginative, inane workings that pass for singles, Broken Arrows approach Streetflowers as a whole, to be listened to as a completed work, to be listened to in its entirety, its song sequencing calling to be heard in order, the type of album that screams at the listeners to put on headphones, light a joint and soak it all in.

Within the opening chords of “Not Coming Back”, Broken Arrows show that they aren’t perfect and aren’t trying to be; an act somewhat unwilling to be polished by studio magicians (no Pro-Tools here.  Again, thank the God of your choice for that), standing up for how they want their music cast into the world.;

Broken Arrows, above all else are a band of friends, like minded individuals on the same musical page, the same frequency.  This is shown above else by the tracks “Behind the Eight Ball” and the heavy Big Star or Paul Westerberg influences weaving in and out of Streetflowers, directing an album of songwriting that is both complex while speaking to the simplicity and fragility of life.

John Chevalier, Barry Lee, Mike Penner, Bill Ryan and Dave Storms should be proud of what they’ve created with Streetflowers; an album not of songs but a whole thought.  It has a rough beauty, a drive, a joy that is oftentimes  missing in music today.  Broken Arrows are not overly polished musicians; passion and drive replace technical prowess, “perfection” and virtuoso coldness; each song has a place, building to the next.  Is it perfect? No… is that ok? Absolutely.  Broken Arrows’ Streetflowers, at its heart, is a garage rock record standing tall in a time of Disco.

 

 

REVEREND HORTON HEAT – Whole New Life

January 01, 1970

Victory

www.victoryrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The Reverend Horton Heat (known by his parents as Jim Heath) is likely the only musician out there to be namechecked by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, John Lydon, and Rob Zombie. But it makes sense, as no band since The Cramps has done a better job of fusing rockabilly with a sharp punk rock attitude. And his latest, “A Whole New Life,” shows he still has a foot planted firmly in each musical camp.

The band is at its best when they’re playing ferocious up-tempo tracks, like “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” or the New Orleans-styled “Tchoupitoulas Street” (a song you’d swear was an old standard, but is actually a Heath original). The album takes a brief detour on the Nick cave-ish dirge “Don’t Let Go of Me,” the weakest track here. But the band quickly corrects course for the remainder of the record. They also throw in a great cover of “Viva Las Vegas” on the closing track – a perfect ending to this 30-plus minute nostalgic ride.

This latest effort marks an even dozen albums for the trio and is just as solid as anything they’ve done so far. If you never dug their high-octane rockabilly/cocktail vibe, this record certainly isn’t going to change your mind. But, if you’re a fan, “Whole New Life” will only serve to reaffirm that admiration.

DOWNLOAD: “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” and “Tchoupitoulas Street”

THE RATCHETS – First Light

January 01, 1970

Pirates Press

www.piratespressrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

New Jersey has long been the farm team for punk rock bands. Everyone from The Bouncing Souls to Gaslight Anthem have hailed from one city or another off the NJ Turnpike before going on to spread the punk rock gospel to the rest of the globe. The Ratchets prove yet again with their latest LP, First Light, that the Garden State is still churning out punk rock’s best and brightest.

Relatively MIA for more than a decade after the 2006 release of their debut, the band is back – a little older, but just as promising as that debut that brought about more than a few comparisons to The Clash. On First Light those Clash influences are still front and center, as well as some of Joe Strummer’s more thoughtful later work. You can also hear a hint of Springsteen’s influence on the lyrics all across this one, as well. (You  didn’t think I could write about a Jersey band without at least one Springsteen reference, did you?)

But there’s also plenty of other elements here that make the band sound impressively original: the Bluesy guitar riffs on “Drone Control,” the ‘70s hard rock vibe of “2-4-6-8 Motorway” (a cover of the Tom Robinson Band punk classic), and Jed Engine’s sandpaper rasp vocals that were made for punk rock. The band manages to flawlessly bridge the political urgency of late ‘70s British punk rock with modern concerns.

Crammed with memorable hooks, air guitar-worth riffs and whip sharp lyrics, First Light finds The Ratchets back in fighting form and, if this record is any indication, ready to take over the world.

DOWNLOAD: “Drone Control” and “2-4-6-8 Motorway”

MISS WORLD — Keeping Up with Miss World

Album: Keeping Up with Miss World

Artist: Miss World

Label: PNKSLM

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://pnkslm.com

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Natalie Chalal named her one-person, do-everything-yourself band after a Hole song, and that’s fitting, since not since Courtney’s heyday has a female rock musician skewered the conventions of contemporary young woman-hood while rocking the hell out this hard. Chalal, from London, has her finger on the pulse of Internet meme-ery, but her foot on the pedal of a blistering electric guitar. Her songs address a season’s worth of Keeping Up with the Kardashians ephemera, everything from low-card diets to collagen lip injections; she keeps such a straight face in doing so that it’s hard to tell whether she’s celebrating or sending up, except that she’s way too smart, self-aware and wickedly acid-tongued to be this excited about Tinder (a couple of truly vacant spoken word bits give the joke away if you haven’t gotten it before).

The best songs, though, go well beyond satire into fully realized, joyfully dissonant rock songs, which sound so rough and organic and live that you check for band credits. There are none. Chahal played everything, one track at a time. Whether you appreciate this album as social satire or straight up Joan Jett-into-Weezer rock and roll (or both) is up to you, but either way, songs like “Put Me in a Movie” and “Carb Yr Enthusiam” hit the mark. All hail Miss World, queen of the tawdry surface-y, click-obsessed world she surveys.  

DOWNLOAD: “Put Me in a Movie,” “Carb Yr Enthusiasm”

THE BAND OF HEATHENS – A Message From The People Revisited

Album: A Message From The People Revisited

Artist: The Band of Heathens

Label: BOH Records

Release Date: September 21, 2018

www.bohrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

A super group of sorts originally hailing from Austin Texas, The Band of Heathens are composed of five supremely talented individuals that are capable songwriters each in their own right. However on their new album, A Message From The People Revisited, they take a different tack, covering songs that remains essential to the character of this country and humanity as a whole. The band says they were inspired by “the artistry and genius of Ray Charles,” and indeed, in their soaring renditions of “America the Beautiful,” “There’ll Be No Peace Without All Men As One,” and “Heaven Help Us All,” the light and legacy of Brother Ray clearly comes shining through.

Other songs provide additional inspiration — Melanie’s “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in particular — recall the triumphs and tragedies that this nation has witnessed in modern times, with today’s trials clearly top of mind. Clearly meant to encourage a sense of unity and pride, this set of songs is perfectly timed. It arrives on the heels of their recent EP, Live Via Satellite, a breezy example of the band’s earlier efforts rendered with the effortless enthusiasm that consistently characterizes their concert performances.

That said, credit The Band of Heathens for taking time to deliver music with a message that’s needed more than every nowadays. Every individual, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation, ought to consider it mandatory listening.

DOWNLOAD: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “America the Beautiful,” “Abraham, Martin and John”

BOBBY FULLER FOUR – Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles

Album: Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles

Artist: Bobby Fuller Four

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: November 30, 2018

www.cherryred.co.uk

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Bobby Fuller was from my hometown of El Paso Texas, and I came to know this in the most roundabout of ways. After college I was hell-bent on landing a job in the music industry and given my China interest I found myself in Hong Kong for the Reed Midem music convention. I was also poor as a church mouse at the time and couldn’t afford the $200.00 entrance fee, so I did the next best thing and snuck in. I walked around giving out my resume and met people from a variety of international labels, picked up loads of swag, all the while trying to keep an eye out for security guards.

Eventually I made my way to the Del-Fi Records table and met Bob Keane*, surf music impresario and Bobby Fuller’s producer. He had a Hawaiian shirt on and told me that he might just have a job for me and said I should come to the LA office and discuss it. He wanted to create a sales a promotion office out in Hong Kong.  I caught a courier flight to LA and recall working out in my immature mind what sort of salary I’d ask for and worked out a rudimentary business plan of sorts. Then came my meeting at Del Fi records which was somewhere in the vicinity of Sunset Boulevard, and a smiling Bob Keane came out and invited me into his office and proceeded to burst every illusion I had about what this job might be. Dollar symbols quickly began to melt in front of me and on the way out of his office, crestfallen and all, I met his Director of Promotions, Elliot “Le Hot Show” Kendall, who showed me a mockup of a Bobby fuller box set they were working on and seeing as I was from El Paso he showed me the liner notes which were written by El Paso DJ extraordinaire Steve Crosno. I eventually made my way into the harsh LA light and caught a bus back to my friend’s home, completely deflated by the experience. I mention all of this because in the ensuing years Bob Keane and his staff stayed in touch sending me music and occasionally shooting the shit over email.

I jumped at the chance to take a listen to the latest compilation of Bobby Fuller’s music. This release covers all of his Mustang singles and is a real joy to listen to. You can see that Bob Keane tried to temper the rougher hewn elements of Bobby’s music not always to the greatest of results. My favorite songs like, “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law”, “Let Her Dance” and “Never to be Forgotten” are here for the listening and are sprinkled in between weaker numbers like “She’s my Girl” that tried to capitalize on the romantic schmaltz of the time. “You Kiss Me” is trying to be Elvis Presley, with its shuffle beat and vibrato vocals.

For me, Bobby Fuller’s greatest music is when he lets his rougher tendencies shine through and that I sense is what Bob Keane tried to rein in on several of these numbers. The CD has some amazing liner notes by Andrew Sandoval and the music is presented in its original mono format. I recall that “I fought the law” was number one close in time to when The Beatles came to America and that the titanic shift that caused was a heavy blow to Bobby Fuller. It’s a compilation like this that shows why he’ll “Never to be Forgotten” by music lovers worldwide.

DOWNLOAD: “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law” , “Let Her Dance”, “Never to be Forgotten”

*Ed. Note: For readers with sharp eyesight, check out the text on the album sleeve, above, and for a cheap thrill, note the spelling of the aforementioned Mr. Keane’s name.

 

CURSE OF LONO – As I Fell

Album: As I Fell

Artist: Curse of Lono

Label: Submarine Cat

Release Date: August 17, 2018

http://www.submarinecatrecords.com/

The Upshot: With the band’s 2017 album, Severed, already in the BLURT hall of musical fame, we now turn to their kickass 2018 entry.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Every once and a while you stumble on an amazing band that is so frustratingly under the radar that it makes you question the very concept of justice. The London-based five-piece, Curse of Lono, is one of those bands.

For three albums now, spread across the past three years, the band has turned in one nearly-flawless record after another and aside from the cheers coming from music reporters, some Americana devotees and record store nerds, the ripples in the pop culture lake never seem to go beyond one or two rings. The band’s latest effort, As I Fell, continues their streak of brilliantly simple and simply brilliant blend of Americana and Gothic Alternative Rock. Though the band has never been accused of being overly raucous, As I Fell finds the band at their most subdued, bringing about a strong Dylan vibe throughout the 11 songs here.

It seems almost unfair to single out one track from the next as the record is nearly devoid of any filler material. The band instead opts for creating a deeply moving Southern Gothic (yes, I realize they’re from London) sound that recalls everyone from the Cowboy Junkies to Nick Cave.

It sort of makes sense, given the remarkably twisted political world we are currently living in, that one of the best bands out there is not getting the attention it clearly deserves. Here’s hoping change is coming soon, on all fronts.

DOWNLOAD: “Blackout Fever” and “As I Fell”

 

THE TREWS – Civilianaires

Album: Civilianaires

Artist: THE TREWS

Label: Cadence Music

Release Date: September 14, 2018

By John B. Moore

Despite half a dozen albums to their name and plenty of love and adulation above the U.S. border, Ontario/Toronto-based band The Trews have never really been able to break through in the States. Like The Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts, ‘Merica was always just a little bit out of reach.

But, Civilianaires, their latest, could possibly be the record that gets them the attention they deserve here. Their sound has evolved quite a bit since the early ‘00s, losing a lot of the hard rock influences and focusing more on a cleaner, straight-ahead rock sound with hints of pop that offers a less dated feel. The slow-burn opener “Vintage Love” finds the band channeling everyone from U2 to INXS and offering a strong promise for what lies ahead. And for the most part, they deliver across 13 songs, an ambitious, expansive rock record that seems tailor-made for stadium sing-alongs. Lyrically, the band sometimes come across a little preachy and contrived, but those moments are few and far between. For the most part, they stretch their sound to impressive heights. Especially on a song like the gorgeous “Is it Too Late?”.

The Trews are finally a north-of-the-border band we can get behind. We gave Bryan Adams a career for Christ’s sake, we should at least get to experience some of the good stuff Canada has to offer as well.

Download: “Vintage Love,” “Leave It Alone” and “Is It Too Late?”