Get spun or be glum: This is not a record review, but a freakin’ imprimatur to one day retire to the desert. Wash your hair and comb your face.
BY FRED MILLS
In 1992 a coupla East Coasters – that would be me, and my beautiful wife, from North Carolina – took a chance on the Old Pueblo (that’s “Tucson” to my fellow non-natives). Among other things, the move would eventually spawn a young Mills in the early days of ’01 precisely because our desert sojourn had bestowed upon us the courage to simply follow our instincts, rather than our random, often misguided, impulses. Said young Mills is now a college student here in NC, although let the record show that he was also accepted to the University of Arizona and, for a spell, he seriously entertained the idea, at least until the nuances of the term “in-state tuition” became clearer. But I digress…
For my part, I attribute much of my courage to being privy to, often on a firsthand basis (such as the courage of @Allison Mills, duh), that of other residents and transplants, who no doubt had to learn how to navigate the arc of the bad crazy sun during the day while sidestepping random cholla cactus spines that, as best I could tell, were being shot out, with maximum perversity, of aliens’ teeshirt cannons from myriad directions. Well, I learned how to hike in Arizona eventually.
Among those transplants was Mr. Howe Gelb, whose band Giant Sand had already caught my attention prior to my arrival. “Desert rock,” yo. And then came 1994, and “Glum,” on the brutally short-lived (and, let’s face it, somewhat inept during those grungy alt-rock-in-ascendance days) Imago label. All respect to my old friends at Imago – y’all did the best with with what ya wuz dealt. And new respect to Howe’s current supporters at Britain’s Fire Records, with the new 2LP version of “Glum,” which features an extra live disc and all the CD edition’s bonus tracks on the digital download.
The album is as much a revelation in 2019 as it was on “repeat” back when I was manning the trade counter and store stereo at the Zia Records location in 1994. Sean Murphy (of the River Roses), Mike Bollman (record collector extraordinaire), Maggie Golston (also a musician, and a local poet of considerable note), and all the rest of us played it over and over, no doubt aggravating the younger crew that came in later in the day to relieve us of our duties (the store was open until midnight). I suspect we converted more than a few of them to the cause, however, because an album this magical, this so purely Tucson, only happens once in awhile. It was recorded in New Orleans for the most part, but with folks like Rainer Ptacek and Chris Cacavas clocking in alongside Howe, Joey, John, and Paula Jean (let’s not forget Patsy of Patsy’s Rats either) among the many guest players (there is a gentleman named Peter Holsapple among the credits, fellow current North Carolinians), it’s all Old Pueblo.
It’s sublime and serene, chaotic and profane, sexily discombobulated, and both unearthly and familar all at the same time. In short, it was then, and to this day it remains, the sound of Tucson circa ’94. I know, because I was there.
Which is, I suspect, the way Howe intended it. Goddam, this record sounds good. Listen to him croak ‘n’ croon. I just may wash my hair, comb my face, and then go find a random record store where I can stand behind the counter for a few minutes as I savor the memories prior to being ejected from the premises for “activities inscrutable.” So be it. R.I.P. Pappy Allen.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Yer Ropes,” “Spun,” “Helvakowboysong,” “World Stands Still” (KCRW live),“Water Fuels the Fire” (bonus, w/download)
That would be case-sensitive GospelbeacH, and they’re an American Band. They might not be quite ready to come to your town simply to party it down until there’s nothing left but groupie debris, but as the album title suggests, they’re not above proposing multiple strategies, either, of coping with this cultural shithole we call 2019. Plus, it kicks out da jams, period.
BY FRED MILLS
We’ve sung the praises of Brent Rademaker (late of Beachwood Sparks) and his band GospelbeacH plenty of times to date: just do a search on the site. The band has always seemed simpatico with both my personal musical tastes – it’s never been a stretch to propose some, uh, stray Neil Young and Tom Petty influences being traced in the sand of this particular SoCal beacH – as well as those among the core BLURT braintrust.
But this time around, with Let It Burn, I’m so gobsmacked, and have been for several months (I received the CD in the mail and subsequently ponied up for the limited edition, eye-candy colored vinyl edition), I risk being accused of blatant hype with anything I might scribble down here.
Screw it. Let It Burn – ya had me with your title. Hype mode on.
Per that name, one cannot escape what I’ll call the proverbial “album title echo” function at play (think about it). But there’s far more going on here than just an obvious record collector who happens to have a band and is playing some sort of clever insider game. This album is the product of a rock ’n’ roll lifer.
See, some artists simply get it. The “it” being how to take a stash of newly-recorded songs and assemble them into a coherent whole, something with a compelling narrative and sonic consistency, which of course involves having at least a tentative grasp of sequencing and flow. You might think, well, how hard can that be; you just set the album in motion – or get your producer in motion – and make sure it has plenty of variety while avoiding jarring stylistic juxtapositions and silly, off-putting segues, and lay the tunes on the table, because if you have faith in your own music, you will prevail, regardless of commercial and critical vicissitudes, right?
Uh-uh. Rademaker and his compatriots have both the savvy and the experience to understand the difference between aspiration and inspiration.
Let It Burn kicks off with a kind of reverie, the gently confessional piano-powered ballad “Bad Habits,” a deliberate stylistic choice aimed at setting the listener up for the sucker punch of second track “Dark Angel,” a riff-descending slice of TP & the Heartbreakers (if you can’t hear echoes of keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell in there, you’ve clearly sat out the past 40 years of rock history) boasting both a chordal and a lyrical hook (“Say goodbye Dark Angel/ Sorry that it had to end”) that you will be hearing in your head during those early morning, 4AM random wake-ups we all get. Good luck tuning it out.
And then the hits just pour forth, from the chugging, insistent power pop of “I’m So High” (do I hear a subtle Peter Perrett/Only Ones influence coming through here?) and the dreamy Young/Springfield-esque orchestral pop of “Get It Back,” to the cynical-yet-buoyant raveup “Nothing Ever Changes” (a meta-meditation which has so many cool/classic R&R references in it you can practically hear the GospelbeacH lawyers hollering in the background, “But Brent, we’re gonna get sued over this…”) and the devastating closing track, “Let It Burn,” a sweeping Crazy Horse-meets-Ryan Adams-meets-Bob-Welch-era-Fleetwood Mac number destined to be remembered as one of THE great indie rock anthems. For me, the tune just may wind up defining the decade we are about to leave behind – and, hopefully, may help play a part in finally saying goodbye to the current sorry era we find ourselves mired in.
Indeed, per the comment above about sequencing, there’s a subtle, thematic through-line to the album as well, one of endings and farewells, of being mindful of certain doors closing and feeling frustratingly uncertain as to which new ones might open in the future. The aforementioned “Dark Angel” is clearly of this sentiment, what with lyrics like, “I don’t know what I could’ve done different/ I don’t know what I could’ve said/ I keep my ideas on my phone/ I should’ve kept them in my head… So, say goodbye, Dark Angel/ I hope you finally found a friend/ Say goodbye, Dark Angel/ I’m sorry that it had to end.”
There’s so much to speculatively unpack in those lines – was there a death? a breakup? a betrayal? worse? Is this a self-soliloquy delivered by the singer to himself? – that, given the knowledge of a series of personal losses on the part of Rademacher’s over the past few years, I probably shouldn’t venture a guess as to specifics, although my hunch is that there’s something deeply existential going on here that the songwriter’s working through. And I do view the song as possibly intended to offer the listener the proverbial shoulder to lean; as true artists know that’s their mandate as regards their friends and fans. We depend on our artists, after all, to alert us to how they’ve been through some shit, and how we might take courage when it comes to going through our own shit.
Fast forward to the end: Ditto with “Let It Burn,” – which also could have been titled “Let It Go,” in fact, given the palpable sense of resignation and remorse infusing lines such as, “Heavy is the head/ That wears the crown/ You can build it up/ But they’re gonna knock it down/ I ain’t some king/ No, I’ve never been/ I’m on the outside, honey/ I’m looking in.”
Yet, earlier in the song, Rademaker subtly suggested that there’s the eternal optimism of a sunshine-drenched heart/mind behind those sober sentiments when he sings, “I’ve waited so long/ For something to change/ I’ve waited on a feeling/ I can’t explain,” and taken in the broader context, you get the sense that this guy’s not going to quit. Not on us, not on himself. After all, you don’t write a song about giving up – you might write a song about a negative, but then you’re gonna flip it around because, yeah, things have sucked lately, so fuck you, I’m moving on, come along with me for the ride, too, if you dare.
The fact that this album also represents some of the final recordings of one of indiedom’s most beloved artists, collaborators (to Ryan Adams and Chris Robinson, among others), utility players, and just plain inspirational forces – the late Neal Casal, who took his own life in August – puts a sad but relevant coda to things as well. That’s Casal’s gorgeous fretboard peals swirling throughout the title track, and Rademaker and the other band members have openly mourned their losing of Casal in interviews. Rademaker has even suggested that the album title comes from an offhand comment that Casal made during the sessions about bearing down and not overthinking the music.
While I’ve never lived the proverbial “band experience” myself, anyone who can’t identify with that type of loss clearly lacks a heart… maybe a soul as well. So, again, you come away from Let It Burn with a definitive sense of celebration, as in, we got through this, and the rest of you can, too.
This album, then, is also about all us folks who might have a chance to recover some things we thought we’d lost. Man, is this ever drenched in heart and soul. The first time I heard it, several months ago, I muttered to myself, “Think this gonna be in my top 10 of 2019.”
‘deed it is, folks.
Oh, did I mention that GospelbeacH is a band that gets it?
‘deed they do, folks.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Let it Burn,” “Dark Angel,” “Get It Back”
Knoxville’s finest are still that city’s big dogs, and no amount of physical and psychic loss they’ve experienced will ever diminish that fact.
BY FRED MILLS
Tim and Susan Bauer Lee are now on their third outing as Bark, the Knoxville, Tenn., husband-and-wife team which, for a short while, overlapped with their previous trio, the Tim Lee 3. For those of us who have been charting their evolution over the years up to their current incarnation as a kind of self-enclosed small/mobile/intelligent musical duo, Terminal Everything represents a bit of a culmination of promise… it is one motherfucker of an album, and I use that term on more than just a colloquial level. It kicks ass, sure, featuring the kinds of indelible rock ’n’ roll hooks that Tim has been serving up since the early ‘80s in the Windbreakers (reference: yours truly’s dissection of 1985’s Terminalas part of my “The College Rock Chronicles” series), not to mention the muscular rhythmic nuances that Susan brought to the fore throughout the TL3’s tenure (for your consideration: a review of the band’s 2016 swansong Tin, Man).
Not to mention that this album further refines the pair’s steady incursions into bluesier, and at times heavier, territory, areas that were certainly signposted over the years and which bubbled decisively to the surface on 2017’s scabrous-yet-elegant Year of the Dog, spotlighted by such dusky jewels as the baritone guitar-fueled “How You Gonna Miss Me” and the minimalist trudge of “World of Regret.” There was also a Link Wray-centric sonic depth charge submerged deep in the middle of the album, but you’ll have to work for that one, gentle listeners. I’m not here to hold your hand.
I’m not here to hold Tim or Susan’s hand either, other than to tell them that… I get it. And this album, put simply, destroys me. It’s more than just the fact that I already know about their losing Tim’s mom and Susan’s pop, plus their beloved pooches, which of course anyone with half an aorta could understand might inform songs subsequently written in the aftermath of an emotional trauma. “This world just wants to break my heart,” the Lees intone together, somberly, against the low-key, garage-twang arrangement of “This World,” and it comes across as far, far more profoundly than if uttered as a throwaway line by an 18-year old pop tart singer wholly unaware of what the word “break” fully implies. Here, the song ends up as gospel reverie, and anyone who has even the slightest knowledge about gospel music will understand that when people write and sing songs in this manner, they’re not making an observation—they’re asking, in some manner, for deliverance.
Many of the other songs similarly trace the lines of existential darkness. For deeply personal reasons, I’m drawn over and over to opening track “Walk Small” which is clearly dedicated to their aforementioned doggos, with its metaphorical depiction of how it feels to one day hear four paws gently padding the house, only to realize on the next day how that subtle sound is abruptly absent; the music hearkens to some of Tim’s classic Windbreakers power pop compositions, thanks to his instinctive riff sense, and the gentle chorus harmonies that Tim excelled at with bandmate Bobby Sutliff back in the day and has subsequently found a second co-voice in Susan. Each time I hear the lines, “You graced us with your presence/ We didn’t know how good we had / You never let go of your essence / Even when it all went bad,” I think about my own hairy children, in particular Sammy The Dawg, who is now about 14, knowing that when I inevitably, finally have to say goodbye to him, I will say to myself, “I didn’t know how good it was.” But hearing those lines at this moment in time simply makes me want to sing along, and celebrate another creature’s noble existence.
And the churning surf/garage/blooze workout “Apocalypse Shimmy,” though dark as Kentucky coal (it’s written by Cody Cox), demonstrates how a musician can peer deep into the darkness and then find his or her way back from the edge simply by, as the saying goes, kicking out the fucking jams. A little reverb and a lotta tremolo can do wonders when someone’s needing some relief, ya know?
A decade or so ago, in a long conversation I had with Patti Smith, she made the observation that part of the artist’s job is to provide a shoulder for the rest of us to lean on when we need that kind of solace and reassurance: You are not alone. I have gone through this myself. I’ve believed that ever since. And Terminal Everything, despite its death-centric title and myriad bleak moments,is not an album about despairing or giving up. It’s about voicing, acknowledging, and accepting the stuff all of us have to go through, and then offering an outstretched hand.
Accept that offer with your own hand, just like the two hands are doing on the cover of this remarkably moving record, easily the best independent release—hell, just make that the best album—I have heard in 2019 thus far.
Postscript: This also gets my vote for best record sleeve of the year, hands down. A limited-to-300-copies, hand-numbered vinyl edition, it offers a 3-color, hand-printed, letterpress sleeve courtesy Knoxville’s Striped Light Letterpress company, and it is as tactile-compelling as it is visually arresting. You can also score it on regular CD or download, of course—and I would be remiss by not mentioning that if you drop into the BandCamp link for the album, above, you might want to check out a digital-only album they have up on the site called Quake Orphans, which hearkens back to a long-out-of-print limited edition from 2013 that is now newly available. Just sayin’….
Detroit band brings it, and then some, on their long-playing debut. More, please.
BY FRED MILLS
Eddie Baranek is no slacker; as frontman for much-revered Motor City outfit The Sights, he spearheaded a singular garage/pop/punk vision that still resonates to this day via five blistering long-players issued between 1999 and 2012. One of yours truly’s high points during my 1 1/2 decades of attending SXSW in Austin each March was getting to hang with Eddie and his gang at the 2013 BLURT day party, held at the Ginger Man venue. Sadly, as things happen, the band called it quits the following year, but all former members can still rest assured that their efforts definitely did not go unappreciated.
Baranek, however, remains a scrapper—or, more accurate, a Scrapper, heading up his latest band The Scrappers. Not totally unlike another well-known Detroiter, Jack White—currently a Nashville denizen, of course—Baranek has never really settled into a singular “style,” preferring instead to let his muse roam at will and then let circumstances and settings dictate what ultimately gets picked up by the mic.
Ergo, The Scrappers—featuring Baranek on vocals, guitar, and piano; plus Dave Lawson on vocals/bass, Ben Luckett on drums, and Pete Ballard on pedal steel (both Lawson and Ballard previously played with Baranek in The Sights)—has an offhand, let’s-just-do-this vibe that ropes in certain garage-y elements while maintaining a distinctive country-meets-pubrock-meets-Southern-pop sound. Baranek himself told me that these days he’s thinking along lines of “sorta rooftop Beatles, kinda Big Star, sometimes Nick Lowe/Brinsleys,” and that’s a pretty solid estimation. It comes through loud ‘n’ clear regardless of your choice of sonic format, digital, CD (via Barn Party), or vinyl (on New Fortune)… you can probably guess my choice, and knowing that the wax comes with a download card, well… whattaya waitin’ for?.
The dozen-song album, cut with both Adam Cox (at Hamtramck Sound Studios) and Jim Diamond (at Detroit’s Ghetto Rec0orders), kicks off with “Feel Love,” a slice of Southern country soul highlighted by Baranek’s impossibly sweet falsetto—something that would come through on certain power pop moments the Sights used to serve up, but never quite this prominently—and Ballard’s mirrored steel lines, both underscored by a subtly muscular, wonderfully agile rhythm section and intermittent, chunky riffs from Baranek. From there the band goes all in, from the Wings/McCartneyesque “Everything’s in Style” and the way-more-than-kinda Big Star vibe of “Seem to Act Surprised” (which, I must state, is not so much in what might be, for some, a presumed Alex Chilton vein; rather, it’s pure Chris Bell); to a blazingly glammy slice of ‘70s power pop, “Wonder Where I Even Start” (think: that era’s Sunset Strip outfits) and shuffley, countryish ballad “Since I Met You,” which conjures at times Roy Orbison’s vintage weepers (here, that Baranek voice, along with Ballard’s supple steel, positively seduces).
The Scrappers go out the way they came in—scrappin’—with defiant thumper “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” essentially a hi-nrg, full-rawk summation of everything that’s gone down during the 11 prior numbers. At precisely the point where the listener’s twitching wrists start hoisting the air maracas, the band brings in the fuckin’ maracas. Which I’d call, right on the fuckin’ mark. As is the entire record. It’s just what I needed, that’s for sure.
TRACK DOWN THESE TRACKS: “Wonder Where I Even Start,” “Seem to Act Surprised,” “Feel Love”
The ubiquitously titled Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson could be considered payback of sorts. Twenty years ago, Waterson befriended and subsequently mentored Younge, an 18-year-old budding musician whose ambition and admiration eventually made him the perfect foil for the near legend that Waterson had become. Indeed, there was reason for Younge’s devotion; a critical member of L.A.’s hugely influential psychedelic revivalist ensemble Green on Red, Waterson was rarely heard from, though he remained a seminal figure regardless.
In the 25 plus years since Green On Red originally disbanded prior to briefly reforming in the new millennium – read about the group’s history and legacy here – the band’s pervasive appeal has only broadened, even though Waterson’s individual output was limited to only one earlier album, 1988’s well-regarded Whose Dog? With this current effort, Waterson seems intent on restating his claim to the band’s acid-drenched imprint, thanks to ten tracks that firmly instil that same hallucinatory impression. Songs such as “Smile,” “Religion of Death” and “The Legend of Shorty George” are flush with ominous uncertainty, a tangle of bleak and bizarre atmospherics that defy form and function. Even the titles are lysergic in tone — “Flashback,” “They Won’t Help You” and “Prepare for a Long Fall” are clearly a set-up for the dire circumstance they share. Waterson and his protege play all the instruments between them, but the darkness and density suggests some far deeper design.
After all the harsh, harrowing circumstance, the final two tracks, “Larceny” and “All Hail the Emperor,” find the duo shifting somewhat into more subdued circumspect. But no matter. The imagery and intrigue of this effort overall ensures its lingering largesse.
A year after the re-release of their seminal album Glum and their first new album in three years, Returns to Valley of Pain, Giant Sand make a quick turnaround with Recounting the Ballads of Thin Line Men, an album that shows even after an earlier extended absence, the band is in fine form. Leader and guiding light Howe Gelb remains at the helm of this ever-shifting ensemble, as always responsible for a strange assortment of sounds that are often as inexplicable as the album title itself. Given the fact that the band is frequently on hiatus, it’s still cause for celebration, particularly for those fans who have come to appreciate the way they reflect their particular southwest desert noir. However, for those who have yet to catch up, or catch on, even after nearly 35 years, the music often comes across like a confounding contradiction.
As expected then, Recounting the Ballads of Thin Line Men offers a series of menacing melodies, one moment, loud and unruly, and then several that are, by equal measure, sombre and subdued. Howe himself possesses a vocal quality that conveys a decided sense of gravitas in his doom-laden delivery. “Get your acid at the door,” he suggests in the opening verse of “Tantamount,” and indeed a psychedelic mindset might well be the key to full appreciation. That said, Howe and company are at their best when the music is propulsive — the robust “Reptillian,” an upbeat “The Chill Outside” and the scorching rocker “Thin Line Man” being prime examples. All too often however Gelb resorts to his Lou Reed variety deadpan demeanor, an approach which comes across as ominous and overbearing. On the other hand, when he veers off with some variation on the aptly-dubbed “Who Am I,” he sounds like Jim Morrison stoking the flames of pure petulance, and appears far more veracious for it. Likewise, the Zeppelin-sounding riff underscoring “Hard Man To Get To Know” offers an all too rare familiarity factor that promises, albeit temporarily, a common connection.
Then again, Giant Sand would not be the eccentric outfit they are without a few twists and turns along the way. In Recounting the Ballads, they offer ample reasons why. (Editor’s note: The album is available on limited edition colored vinyl – with download card included – in addition to CD and standard black vinyl versions.)
DOWNLOAD: “Reptillian,” “The Chill Outside” “Thin Line Man”
I rarely get a chance to review 7” records these days, so when these three recently showed up I was beyond excited.
No need to rehash The Dickies’ long and storied punk history, but on this slab they decided to cover Cheap Trick’s “I Dig Go-Go Girls” and the results are stunning. This song, in The Dickies’ hands, rips and snorts with an aggression that is about as perfect a slab of summer as you can get. The vocals are bitchin with an extra bite courtesy of Monkey from The Addicts. The infectious nature of a Cheap trick tune is amplified to stratospheric heights and buffed to perfection with a punk sheen.
B-side “The Dreaded Pigasaurus”, a Dickies original, is no slouch to its A-side brother. It’s a storming anthem replete with saxophone and what sounds like Hammond B3, stretched over a menacing throbbing bass line. Leonard Phillips vocals provide just the right dose of pop-punk to the proceedings that transported me back to the 1980’s. Short, sharp shock, just what the doctor ordered!
On Jack Ellister’s latest 7” he tackles two rather disparate tunes. The A-side, “When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease,” by the late British icon Roy Harper, is a nostalgic number that Ellister tackles, strikingly capturing the original’s somber beauty. Ellister’s voice, along with his old Polish piano, are as much a perfect combination as were Harper and his guitar when he first recorded it. Stunning!
The B-side sees Ellister turn his sights to Black Sabbath. Here his take on the super heavy “Supernaut” is to give the track a decidedly narco-haze and sing in an almost Mark E. Smith acid snarl. Every thud of the drums, drone of the bass, and wailing of the synthesizer is simply spectacular. A killer cover that sees Ellister not only inhabit the track, but modernize and push its boundaries a tad further.
Fruits de Mer have done it once again. Get this 7” from your local shop on colored vinyl with a fold-out poster.
Meanwhile, Malmo, Sweden, outfit Hater will drop their new single next month (September 6, to be precise) and it’s a lovely slice of pop that, to this reviewers’ ears, recalls elements of ‘90s era Tanya Donnelly and Lush, with a smidgen of Broadcast thrown in for good measure. Those may be the touchstones to convey to people what they’re in store for, but that’s not meant to say the band lacks creativity; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Side A’s “Four Tries Down” is a mighty seductive slab of pop that is clear, effective, and memorable; it combines so many elements hitting sweet spots in my brain—from the deep female vocals at the opening, to the beat and catchy melody—that I played it over and over and over… okay, you get the message. The flipside’s “It’s a Mess” is another addictive gem. The understated vocals that border on whispers are seductively dreamy and left me under the singer’s pied-piper like spell. Me wants more!
DOWNLOAD: We here at BLURT recommend physical therapy, but if you must go digital, download all 6tracks from these two singles direct from the labels or the artists’ websites so they are guaranteed to get your dough!
Despite breaking up nearly 10 years ago, there are still few bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s that can still command allegiance from the masses like R.E.M. Sure there are a slew of groups from that era that can brag about cult status, but R.E.M is among the few who have managed to hold on to their core early adopters from their I.R.S. years and bring along an entire generation of new fans when they moved onto the much larger Warner Bros label in 1988. Which brings us to this stellar vinyl reissue of In Time their best of 1988 – 2003 collections.
The set, released less than six months after the band’s Reveal album, covers their time on Warner from 1988’s Green up to this point. The label Craft Recordings, like they have with other R.E.M. vinyl reissues, have done a brilliant job. Released on 180-gram vinyl, they made a limited run on translucent blue – simply stunning. This marks the first time in 15 years this record has been out on vinyl.
The double LP set includes 18 songs, including two from soundtracks (the so-so “All The Right Friends” from Vanilla Sky and the stunning “The Great Beyond” from Man On The Moon) as well as two previously unreleased tracks, “Animal” and “Bad Day”. The records are housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket. Unlike many of the quickly thrown together vinyl re-releases that are almost routine nowadays, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, along from being crammed with great songs, is gorgeously designed, befitting a band as important as R.E.M.
Available on digital, compact laser disc, and sweet colored vinyl (see below).
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Though best known as a power pop/garage rock god fronting the Stems and DM3, Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Dom Mariani got his initial inspiration from the original wave of his country’s bluesy hard rock bands: Coloured Balls, Buffalo, etc. Joined by ex-Drones drummer Warren Hall, Dave Hole keyboardist Bob Patient, and Jack and the Beanstalk/Majestic Kelp bassist Stu Loasby, Mariani turns Datura4 into a tribute to his youthful influences. Blessed is the Boogie, the quartet’s third LP, goes right for the jugular, putting Mariani’s formidable six-string chops up front of a set of songs that could have come from 1974.
The blues is at the heart of “Run With Lucy” and “Black Dog Keep Running,” but to equate these songs with John Lee Hooker—or even Led Zeppelin—is to do them a disservice. When it comes to writing memorable tunes, Mariani can’t help himself, and while this isn’t the Badfinger-meets-Foghat mashup of which some wags have likely dreamed, it’s not far off.
Plus, Mariani is no macho cock rock shouter – no matter what backdrop he stands in front of, he’ll always have that slightful soulful, melodic power pop voice, backed here, as everywhere, with creamy vocal harmonies. Check the folk rocking “Not For Me” and “The City of Lights” and the overtly psychedelic “Cat On a Roof,” breaths of fresh air that meld Mariani’s pop sensibilities with the period sounds he evokes elsewhere. Ultimately, though, the record is all about riffing, strumming and soloing guitars—that Mariani drafts his exceptional axepersonship to such indelible tunes makes Blessed is the Boogie all the more satisfying.
DOWNLOAD: “City of Lights,” “Run With Lucy,” “Not For Me”
It’s rare these days for a record to stun me upon first listen, but that’s exactly what happened with Moon Goose’s debut album.
Opening cut “Second Life” is a gloriously tight psychedelic instrumental that reminded me of the band White Manna with its widescreen spirit leading us somewhere uncharted. “Knifeless Skinning” is a fascinating descent into an unsettling scene, where exploration and an incantations are all rolled into one.
And it just gets better from here.
“Le Conte” amps up the uniqueness to 10. Funky, diverse, and deep, the song is magical as it unfolds for the listener. Here the band reminds me of Malesch-era Agitation Free with their organic transitory sound. “Trains” is a slow burner that eventually reaches max elevation, with guitar playing that’s as magical as it can get. Then there’s “Carnage,” which is an amazing amalgam of the band’s best elements and musical leanings. Succinct, melodic, and tighter than a nun’s ass, the band really lets it fly on this brilliant track.
This record glides from one glorious moment to the next. There’s even a double colored vinyl pressing in the offing (it includes a CD of the whole album as well) so our vinyl-porn-fixated Chief Editor Fred Blurt can get his fix. (Gimme. You had me at “Agitation Free” who, incidentally, have just seen Malesch reissued on colored wax.— Krautrock Ed.)