Posts Tagged ‘Classic Albums’

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which turns 10 years of age this week, The New York indie pop quartet built up a pretty rabid fan base in the indie pop community prior to the release of their self-titled debut record in early 2009. For this, they could thank a string of excellent singles and EPs that began in 2007 (songs from which appear on the album) but more than that they can put it down to the fact that their sound melds together the trademarked sounds of many beloved indie and noise pop bands into one shiny ball of sound and melancholy. Mixed in skillfully are the sonic assaults of early My Bloody Valentine, the hazy sweetness of Ride, the introspective and usually morose lyrical approach perfected by the Field Mice, the sensitive and tender vocals purveyed by most Sarah records bands, and the rhythmic drive of early-’90s Amer-Indie bands the likes of which more often than not found themselves on Slumberland (Lilys, the Ropers, Velocity Girl — whose Archie Moore ably mixes the album).

The awkward characters that populate the New York group’s brisk and clumsy first full-length are also lovesick misfits for whom the simple task of staying alive seems overwhelming. “It sounds like teen drama,” the band’s frontman Kip Berman explained once.

In the tradition of bands like Beat Happening and Belle And Sebastian, the members of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart celebrate teenageness — nowhere towns, long wasted summers, lust at first sight — with a bit of hindsight. Before Pains, Berman toiled away in a call center and did some some marketing for a company called Drillteam. He also spent time stumbling around Portland, Oregon’s DIY scene, eventually moving to NYC and geeking out over Dear Nora songs with Pains’ founding keyboardist Peggy Wang, who worked full-time for a new startup called BuzzFeed. At the same time, bassist Alex Naidus edited for eMusic’s Canadian website and drummer Kurt Feldman taught music to kids. Their teenage years were in the rear view, but an adolescent-like desire to belong to something lingered — as did their appreciation for the messy mythology of being young and in love.

The record dropped in February 2009 via Slumberland, an act of kismet considering the band’s vibe was clearly informed by the iconic label’s roster of scrappy noise-makers. At first glance, Pains seemed doomed to be typecast as yet another fashionable group with fashionable influences and a retro looking album cover. And while it was true that nothing about the songs felt particularly contemporary, they definitely didn’t sound stale either. The album’s first track, “Contender,” which makes lyrical allusions to the Exploding Hearts and On The Waterfront, was the first song the group wrote together. It’s a mid tempo letter from Berman to his aimless younger self: “You saw the boys in white sing ‘I’m a pretender’ / But you never were / You never were a contender,” he sings, his mopey timbre layered atop Wang’s background melodies.

Things mostly get brighter and noisier from there: The sweet and thrashy “Come Saturday” posits a skipped party as the light at the end of the tunnel, while the Psychocandy-esque closer “Gentle Sons” is about mortality and Mondays: “You stumble down the diamond path / And every breath could be your last,” goes the latter’s hook. The relatively huge-sounding “Stay Alive” teases the kind of room-filling, Creation Records-indebted dream pop that the group turned to when making the album’s 2011 follow-up, Belong. (The Higher Than The Stars EP, which includes a drop-dead gorgeous Saint Etienne remix that is absolutely worth revisiting, came in between.) But the self-titled’s most eternal artifact is probably “Young Adult Friction,” an unselfconsciously twee chant-along about hooking up in a library. The innuendo-laced wordplay is top-notch (“I never thought I would come of age / Let alone on a moldy page”) and Berman and Wang’s call-and-response chorus is pure, jangly joy.

Best of all is the amazingly hooky “Everything with You,” which stands as the equal of anything the shoegaze poppers or pop losers cranked out back in the day. If you had gone out and bought the 7,” after one play you would have tacked the sleeve up on your wall and played the record until the grooves wore out. It’s that good. It lifts the album from pretty good to almost great.

But for all its nostalgic energy, the songs on Pains also reflect another classically teenage concern: uncertainty about the future. “You say you’ve been waiting … waiting since you were born / For a moment when everything’s alright,” Berman sings on the bouncy, distorted “Hey Paul.” It’s hard to look back at albums that came out at the end of the aughts without thinking about the financial crisis — especially ones made by 20-somethings who were attempting to find their place in a bottomed-out economy while simultaneously searching for footing in the shifting musical landscape. Maybe there is a tendency to drift off into an idealized version of the past when things seem really shitty. Listening to the album in 2019, when things are deeply fucked in a different way, it feels borderline magical to spend 35 minutes in a teenage world full of power pop bangers and dusty old books, a place where hearts break and dreams fade but there’s always another weekend on the horizon.

It remains a coming-of-age classic to many, an unflinching and hopelessly quotable tribute to the rollercoaster romance of youth. So far it seems like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is destined to be remembered fondly.

thanks a little to Stereogum,

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Spooky Tooth was formed in 1967. Among the players forming its heavy sound were organist Gary Wright, who in the mid-1970s had a massive hit, “Dream Weaver.” Spooky Tooth’s second album in 1969, “Spooky Two”, was their best album, full of deep cuts (i.e., “Lost In My Dream,” “Evil Woman,” “Better By You, Better By Me,” and “That Was Only Yesterday” among them) that still received FM radio in the early 1970s.

Spooky Two is the second studio album by the English rock band Spooky Tooth. It was originally released in March 1969, on the label Island Records in 1969 , “Spooky Two” is this British blues-rock band’s pièce de résistance. All eight of the tracks compound free-styled rock and loose-fitting guitar playing, resulting in some fantastic raw music … their smooth, relaxed tempos and riffs mirrored bands like Savoy Brown and, at times, even the Yardbirds … Although Spooky Tooth lasted about seven years, their other albums never really contained the same passion or talented collaborating by each individual musician as Spooky Two.

It was Spooky Tooth’s misfortune to be sandwiched between Led Zeppelin and Free’s turbo-charged, all-pervasive ascents. A couple of years later and the band’s thoughtful but solid style would have found room to grow. Keyboard player Gary Wright shares vocals with Mike Harrison, a strong, complementary pair of voices, and also writes most of the songs including the memorably catchy Better By You Better Than Me, later rescued from oblivion by Judas Priest. The tracks on their second album are an eclectic bunch, blending the blues with folk, country, gospel and even prog. And they sound better now than they did then.

Spooky Tooth’s lead vocalist, was Mike Harrison, was serviceable, although not in Rodgers’ league. His shortcomings were evident when he tried to hit high notes with a weak falsetto. Yet for most of the material, Harrison’s voice was just what their music needed. Subsequent to the release of the album, Greg Ridley left the group, to join Humble Pie

Everything goes back to Mott the Hoople. After Ralph’s departure, Hunter poached Luther Grosvenor (who left Spooky Tooth in 1970) from another fondly remembered British one-hit wonder Stealers Wheel (the hit was “Stuck in the Middle With You”), whose leader Gerry Rafferty quit and Grosvenor replaced him for a tour. Used to the fill-in role, Grosvenor adopted the “Ariel Bender” moniker for contractual reasons when Mott toured in 1973 and 1974 and recorded their seventh album The Hoople.

Mott the Hoople reformed in 2009 and 2013 for British tours with the original lineup. But in the summer of 2018, Hunter, now 79, brought back Ariel and Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher for a series of European dates.

  • Mike Harrison – keyboards, vocals
  • Luther Grosvenor – guitar
  • Gary Wright – keyboards, vocals
  • Greg Ridley – bass
  • Mike Kellie – drums

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On this day in 1990, Oxford, England shoegazers Ride unleashed their debut album, “Nowhere”, at the height of shoegaze, and it still stands up as one of the genre’s defining works.  The word “shoegaze”  became one of my favorite musical styles. Nowhere” is the debut album by Ride, released 15th October 1990. Rolling Stone called the album “a masterpiece”,one of [shoegazing’s] enduring moments”. Ride had released three EPs, Ride, Play, and Fall, prior to the release of “Nowhere”  .

Before the ear-splitting beauty of My Bloody Valentine, the sugary noise-pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain or the washed-out soundscapes of Slowdive,

“Vapour Trail,” though this string-filled ballad wasn’t quite full-on shoegaze like the remainder of the record, its swirling, transcendent energy and chiming 12-string guitars left me wanting more. I previously knew of the band’s co-lead singer and guitarist Andy Bell as the bassist in Oasis, but after I heard him sing on “Vapour Trail” with soft-hearted conviction, At the time theybecame my new favorite band—Ride.

The opening track, “Seagull,” I was met by a guitar assault, an unrelenting drone-like groove, breakneck drums and the harmonized co-lead vocals of Mark Gardener and Bell. Sure,  This LP made me completely rethink the capabilities of musical transcendence.

I’d been exposed to uplifting romanticism and isolating sadness colliding in the same song before with artists like The Smiths and The Cure, but never with such extreme poles as Ride. On the eight tracks of “Nowhere”, Ride fired a distorted wash of piercing guitars, Loz Colbert’s vigorous percussion, bassist Steve Queralt’s clamoring melodies and Gardener and Bell’s angelic vocal harmonies. Songs shift from the soft wisp of “Dreams Burn Down” and “Vapour Trail” to the chugging chaos of “Decay” and “Kaleidoscope,” but more often than not, they incorporate both delicate allure and fierce annihilation within the same song.

Ride are a musical contradiction, and the best shoegaze music excels at contradiction. One of the things that kept pulling me back to Ride’s “Nowhere” and the rest of their discography and separated them from other shoegaze bands I love—was their refusal to obscure their harmonious vocals. If you were to transcribe the lyrics of bands like Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine, you’d probably get a different set of words with each attempt due to their washed out sound mix. But with Ride, they preserved their distorted onslaught of instrumentals while allowing their shimmery pop vocals a la The Byrds or Teenage Fanclub to remain fully audible. Its opening cut, “Seagull,” is a stunning exploration of strung-out guitar notes and elongated vocal textures; a mission statement, for what would be one of shoegaze’s most pristine moments. “Definitions confine thoughts, they are a myth” Mark Gardener muses, The Songs like “Seagull” and “Polar Bear” display the perfect fusion of Gardener and Bell’s vocals with their discernible Oxford tongue and even those turned off by their wall of sound would admit to being charmed by their vocal match made in heaven.

The discourse around shoegaze seems mostly to be structured around a Holy Trinity dynamic, with Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine making up the trio of essential bands within the genre. Ride, though, were never quite as exclusive to reverb and hushed vocals as the other two, tailing off into Britpop, the total opposite of shoegaze, territory far too often to be considered their greatest. “Nowhere”, though, was arguably the highlight of their discography—a cohesively immersive, stunningly crafted shoegaze coup.

For a brief moment in 1990, Ride defied definition—crafting one of the most mind-bending and utterly stunning records of the era. Leaving “Nowhere” out of any record collection is totally inexcusable.

I’ve since come to know and love the overwhelming disarray of My Bloody Valentine, the hypnotic spirituality of early Verve, the sprightly, quiet firestorm of Lush and the intricate shoegaze-pop of DIIV, but it all began with Ride’s Nowhere. I’m not sure I would be able to come to grips with the harsh underbelly of bands like those along with the ambient work of Grouper or the atmospheric dream-pop of Galaxie 500 if it weren’t for the noisy, divine abyss of shoegaze via Ride’s Nowhere. I view Ride and Nowhere as the essential connecting tissue between the jangle pop of The Stone Roses, the dream-pop of The Ocean Blue, the discordant haze of My Bloody Valentine and the machine-like krautrock of Toy.

Funeral

After the release of this album, Arcade Fire’s popularity escalated at the same unwavering pace as lead-off track “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).” What began with a twinkle and a passionate voice turned into a dance party before you knew it. The band’s rapid rise was a testament to word of mouth and a thrilling live show, but also the unmistakably winning material found on ‘Funeral.’ Like its title suggests, the album is both a mournful elegy and a celebration of life. Time signatures shift, guitars chug then blare, sweet noises drift in and out of earshot, and the folks in Arcade Fire never stop singing and shouting. It’s a beautiful slice of humanity.

I recall when I first bought it in 2005, I loved a couple of songs straight away, but wasn’t too sure about the rest of the album. Around two or three plays later and I was left in no doubt as to the greatness of the Canadian band’s first long player . When it was first released, I repeat-played Funeral like I was addicted to it; it made me feel euphoric, it brought me to tears… it made me feel so wonderfully alive. From the tinkling pianos that introduce the album like bubbling spring water on Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), the music, from tiny buds, bloom into an utterly relentless, gorgeous monster of a song with a beautiful streak of romanticism running through its core; the imagery of building a tunnel through the snow from “my window to yours” is truly endearing. Neighborhood #2 starts off with a thumping drum beat and disjointed shouted lyric in the verse, but soon explodes into a string-backed, thrilling chorus which provides a sublime juxtaposition. “My eyes are shooting sparks” croons Win Butler in the soft, yet shimmering Une Annee Sans Lumière and, even this gentle, more conventional sounding song ends with a thrashed guitar and high-tempo outro.

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) begins with a cacophony of percussive instruments and growling guitar, providing an adrenaline rush of drama and melody whereas #4 (7 Kettles) is a more subtle animal, a slow burning acoustic track augmented by persuasive strings which are simply beautiful. One song that made an immediate impact on me the very first time I heard this record is Crown Of Love, an unbelievably heart-breaking and gorgeous melody combined with the magnificent lyrics, which are a desperately sorrowful plea to win back a broken love; “In my heart there’s flowers growin’/on the grave of our old love/since you gave me a straight answer” The tempo shift and pounding strings at the end of the song is the superb finishing touch on that masterful piece.

It seems impossible to think that anything could come close to”Crown Of Love” at that moment and then the opening bars of “Wake Up” begin to rhythmically chug, a sparse drum beat joins in and then it explodes into one of the most glorious, euphoric, stunning tracks I’ve ever heard . “Wake Up” is a masterpiece, perhaps the defining moment on”Funeral” all the album is truly great, but this particular composition takes it to another level and the lyrics are excellent (any song that begins with “Somethin’ filled my heart with nothin’” wins my adoration instantly). After such a magnificent track, it’s fine that “Haiti” sounds a little ordinary, as it only suffers by comparison. In fact, it has a pretty, persistent riff which happens to masks the dark meaning of the lyrics. “Rebellion (Lies)” is a powerful, relentless song which draws you into the mesmerising groove until it throws the curveball of a minor key change and takes the listener in another direction completely. The final song, In The Backseat, which Regine performs with a perfect mix of fragility and feeling, is a melodic beauty and the metaphoric meaning in the lyrics weigh heavy when revealed in the last few lines of the song; it’s the final knockout blow on an album that packs many emotional punches.

For me, Arcade Fire’s debut album is not only one of the greatest albums of the 21st century so far, but one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s one of an exclusive group of records that I will still listen to at least a few times every year and, each time, the power and beauty of the work never cease to amaze and astonish me. The musical composition, the inspired choice of instruments, the lyrics, Win Butler’s vocals, the frequent changes in tempo and emotions; it’s as close to perfection as it could possibly be. Funeral is a breathtaking piece of work (often literally) that sounded nothing pretty much nothing like anything that ever came before it and, in my opinion, that they have never quite managed to top or even equal since. Funeral is an all time great and, quite seriously, up there with the greatest releases of any artist.

Arcade Fire

  • Win Butler – vocals, 12 string electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizer, bass
  • Régine Chassagne – vocals, drums, synthesizer, piano, accordion, xylophone, recorders, percussion, double bass
  • Richard Reed Parry – electric guitar, synthesizer, organ, piano, accordion, xylophone, percussion, double bass, engineering, recording
  • Tim Kingsbury – bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Howard Bilerman – drums, guitar, engineer, recording
  • William Butler – bass, xylophone, synthesizer, percussion

What it did: Introduced the band as a family-and-friends gang-cum-cult. So titled because several of the band’s family members died while it was being made, ‘Funeral’ is a towering and life-affirming work about dancing through the darkness.  ‘Wake Up’ was played at the start of Manchester City home games in 2006.

thanks Andysweeney

Todd Rundgren was among one of the first artists I discovered through my best friend who adored the Nazz. Todd was weird, smart and very talented, In his press he came off like a wunderkind he wrote the songs and played all of the instruments himself and he was always pictured with hot models. Todd Rundgren’s albums were among the first records I bought. Both Something/Anything and Todd were long double albums that sold for the same price as a single LP, Something/Anything the fourth album by the American musician was released on March 2nd, 1973. Its music was a significant departure from his previous album Something/Anything? (1972), which consisted largely of straightforward ballads. He attributed the idiosyncratic sound of A Wizard, a True Star to his experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and said that he “became more aware … [o]f what music and sound were like in my internal environment, and how different that was from the music I had been making up to that point in time.

The album that I bought on the day of release was A Wizard, A True Star. I can remember reading a scathingly negative review of that album when it came out. Recently I noticed that Analog Spark had released audiophile SACDs of Wizard and the earlier Something/Anything.

Several of Todd Rundgren’s classic 70s albums were known to sound a bit tinny due to the narrower vinyl grooves resulting from trying to cram so much music on each side. It was something you were even warned about via a “Technical Note” included on the inner sleeve of 1975’s Initiation:

“Due to the amount of music on this disc (over one hour), two points must be emphasized. Firstly, if your needle is worn or damaged, it will ruin the disc immediately. Secondly, if the sound does seem not loud enough on your system, try re-recording the music onto tape. By the way, thanks for buying the album.”

The new Analog Spark SACD of Something/Anything (mastered like Wizard by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes) It does in fact sound much better than I recall the original LP sounding A Wizard, A True Star?  floated effortlessly into my list of favorite albums as I listened to it again.  I blasted at an ear-splitting volume on my stereo. Seriously, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard not just recently, but ever—and started me off on a whole new experience of Todd Rundgren listening. If you are “looking for something new to listen to,” like I was, look no further.

But just don’t take my word for it, here’s what none other than the great Patti Smith wrote of A Wizard, A True Star :

“Side one is double dose. It takes the bull by the brain. Another point to be examined. He’s always been eclectic. Why didn’t he care? The evidence is here. Something very magical is happening. The man is magi chef. His influences are homogenizing. Like a coat of many colors. May be someone else’s paintbox but the coat is all his.”

“Each album he vomits like a diary. Each page closer to the stars. Process is the point. A kaleidoscoping view. Blasphemy even the gods smile on. Rock and roll for the skull. A very noble concept. Past present and tomorrow in one glance. Understanding through musical sensation. Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation. “

I read that despite having absolutely no idea of what she intended to convey with all of those words, even if I do wholeheartedly agree with her. Had I read Patti’s review back then, I’d have no doubt rushed out and grabbed this album.

Just listen to A Wizard, A True Star for yourself and turn it up LOUD please:

thanks to dangerousminds

warren zevon album

Though only a modest commercial success, the Jackson Browne-produced Warren Zevon album(1976) would later be termed a masterpiece in the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and is cited in the book’s most recently revised edition as Zevon’s most realized work. Representative tracks include the junkie’s lament “Carmelita”; the Copland-esque outlaw ballad “Frank and Jesse James”; “The French Inhaler”, a scathing insider’s look at life and lust in the L.A. music business (which was, in fact, about his long-time girlfriend and mother to his son Jordan); and “Desperados Under the Eaves”, a chronicle of Zevon’s increasing alcoholism.

Warren Zevon was an industry veteran by the time he made his major label debut in 1976. He had toured with the Everly Brothers as their band leader, and was rooming with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975. Jackson Browne had championed Zevon, and produced his first major solo album (his 1969 debut was unsuccessful).

And ‘The French Inhaler’ is an extraordinary song for an artist launching their career. It’s not ambitious stylistically, following the same laid back west coast template as Browne and the Eagles. But it’s a complex song, dispensing with verse/chorus structures and winding its way through a series of jabs at his ex-girlfriend Tule Livingston. Jordan Zevon, Zevon and Livingston’s son, recalled “despite the subject matter, my mom would play that song to me after a couple of glasses of wine and laugh and say: ‘Isn’t that brilliant?’ She knew he was a genius”.

Musically, it’s centred on Zevon’s proficient piano playing, but the magic comes from the backing vocals from Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey. They appear halfway through the word “night” about a minute into the song, and come and go throughout. As much as I’m sometimes ambivalent about their band’s work, the two head Eagles are magnificent here.

Zevon’s music was full of blood, bile, and mean-spirited irony, and the glossy surfaces of Jackson Browne’s production failed to disguise the bitter heart of the songs on Warren Zevon. The album opened with a jaunty celebration of a pair of Old West thieves and gunfighters (“Frank and Jesse James”), and went on to tell remarkable, slightly unnerving tales of ambitious pimps (“The French Inhaler”), lonesome junkies (“Carmelita”), wired, hard-living lunatics (“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”), and truly dastardly womanizers (“Poor Poor Pitiful Me”), and even Zevon’s celebrations of life in Los Angeles, long a staple of the soft rock genre, had both a menace and an epic sweep his contemporaries could never match (“Join Me in L.A.” and “Desperados Under the Eaves”). But for all their darkness, Zevon’s songs also possessed a steely intelligence, a winning wit, and an unusually sophisticated melodic sense, and he certainly made the most of the high-priced help who backed him on the album.”

 

ny dolls The 50 Albums That Shaped Punk Rock

The New York Dolls – were David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Billy Murcia, and Arthur Kane Jr. A band that kept the erection but deflated the egos. The Dolls “single handedly lowered the standards of an entire industry.” They came on like a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon wearing a rag-tag concoction of Thrift Store and Salvation Army toss offs. the band’s first two albums New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much Too Soon (1974) became among the most popular cult records in rock.

From fashion sense alone, the New York Dolls set a unique tone, inspiring glam rock and hair metal artists alike. On stage, they donned an androgynous wardrobe, wearing high heels, eccentric hats, and satin. However, their influence doesn’t just end at their choice of women’s attire and big-screen drama. Their sharp-tongued alienation and jigsaw guitars get at the wild energy and “anything goes” intensity of kids escaping their family lives and finding freedom in the big city. That could mean pushing deeper into hard rock or embracing pop, as long as it was done with the smirking power of David Johansen. The opener to the Dolls’ self-titled debut has been covered by everyone from Sonic Youth to Scott Weiland, Teenage Fanclub to Todd Rundgren, showing their ability to appeal to anyone, even though they refused to play by anyone’s rules.

The band had a glammed up look and pared down sound. They were funny. They were rude. They covered classic rock and roll hits like “Stranded in the Jungle” by The Cadets under a red communist flag.

The New York Dolls won Best New Band and Worst New Band in Creem Magazine’s Readers Poll in 1973. Music aficionados complained that the New York Dolls couldn’t play. So what? Whoever said Bob Dylan could sing? Robert Christgau called them “the best hard-rock band since the Rolling Stones.”

The New York Dolls predated punk and glam metal. They influenced rock groups like the Sex Pistols, The Damned, Kiss, the Ramones, Guns N’ Roses, W.A.S.P (whose leader, Blackie Lawless, replaced guitarist Johnny Thunders after he left the group in 1975, playing guitar in the last New York Dolls performances, and also played guitar and sang in bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane’s only EP, Mr. Cool, When the Dolls started, Patti Smith did poetry readings before their shows. Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine caught the Dolls right before they formed the Neon Boys, which became Television.

The New York Dolls can be traced to the 1967 band The Pox, which included Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, who were friends since a schoolyard fight at Van Wyck Junior High in Jamaica, Queens. Sylvain crossed the Suez Canal from Cairo to be a New York Doll and the first words of English he learned were “fuck you.” Murcia came from Bogota, Colombia, not Jersey, and the two were finally able to finish sentences, according to the book Too Much Too Soon: The New York Dolls. They met Johnny Genzale at New Town High. The Italian bassist was thunder on a basketball court or a baseball diamond, but wound up being just a Jaywalker. Arthur Kane came down from the Bronx with a thick Irish accent.

The Pox were recorded by Harry Lookofsky, the same guy who produced “Walk Away Rene.” When the Pox broke up, the two friends got into fashion, opening Truth and Soul. Sylvain also worked at men’s boutique, A Different Drummer that was across the street a doll repair shop called the New York Doll HospitalSylvain said that the shop inspired the name for their future band. They also sold “keef,” which was really good hash. By the early seventies they were playing with Rick Rivets. Thunder rechristened himself after the hero of DC Comics’ All-Star Western after he turned down the Volume. Thunders played lead guitar and sang for the band, called Actress during practice but named Dawn of the Dolls on an October 1971 rehearsal tape release.

David Johansen was living on East 6th Street when he got the call because he looked like a cross between Mick Jagger and French actress Simone Signoret. Thunders decided that he no longer wanted to be the front man, David Johansen joined the band. Johansen had started singing in the late 1960s in the local Staten Island band the Vagabond Missionaries before hitting Café Wha with Fast Freddie and The Electric Japs. He was a stud on Main Street and maybe some other porn movies. David Jo looked 16 and bored shitless. Rick Rivets was replaced by Sylvain Sylvain and the bottom was held together by bass guitarist Arthur “Killer” Kane and drummer Billy Murcia.

The Bowery butterflies wore Spandex and platform boots at their debut first performance at homeless shelter The Endicott Hotel on Christmas Eve 1971. They caught the eye of Andy Warhol who helped them get a gig on Broadway, lower Broadway. Ex-Paramount Records exec Marty Thau saw a sign outside the Mercer Center advertising: “NEW YORK DOLLS: 2 SETS $3.” For six bucks he and his wife caught “five guys dressed as women in horrible makeup and jewelry” and became the band’s manager, arranging a residency at the Center.

Bands did New York City residencies at theaters in the early seventies. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played Wednesday afternoons at the Garrick Theater on Bleecker St. The Fugs played seven nights a week at the Players Theater on MacDougal Street. The Velvet Underground played around the block twice a night, five days a week at Max’s Kansas City. The New York Dolls had a regular Tuesday-night gig in the Oscar Wilde Room of the Mercer Arts Center.

The New York Dolls were plastic dolls with a fresh coat of paint . Who was gonna sit through the madness and still act quaint? They mixed drag queens with glam rock to lead an assault on what was happening on the radio. “Is it a crime for you to fall in love with Frankenstein?” asked David Johansen, Johansen began a solo career who would go on to become Buster Poindexter .before learning intricate blues guitar and go back to being David Jo. Johansen only wore a dress one time onstage at Club 82, though he rocked the Capri pant.

Mercer Arts Center kicked The New York Dolls out in 1972 because they wanted neither rock nor roll in the theaters. The center came crawling back after they saw the diminished bar tabs. The Center’s Blue Room theater also hosted the Modern Lovers and Suicide. Rod Stewart invited the Dolls to open for him at a London concert. The Mercer Arts Center was buried in the Grand Hotel collapse just after five p.m. on Friday August 9, 1973.

Well if you don’t like it, go ahead, find yourself a saint. Billy Murcia would be dead of “misadventure” before the New York Dolls even signed a record contract. While on a brief tour of England in 1972, Murcia passed out from an accidental overdose at a party. He was put in a bathtub and force-fed coffee to bring him around but wound up choking on it, dying of asphyxiation. Murcia was found dead on the morning of November 6th, 1972, at the age of 21, David Bowie, who proclaimed The New York Dolls as a major influence, immortalized Murcia when he sang “Billy Dolls and other friends of mine” in the song “Time” which opened side two of his 1973 album Aladdin Sane.

Once back in New York, the Dolls auditioned drummers, including Marc Bell (who was to go on to play with Richard Hell, and with the Ramones under the stage name “Marky Ramone”), Peter Criscuola (better known as Peter Criss, former drummer of Kiss and Jerry Nolan, a friend of the band. They selected Nolan.

The Dolls were signed by Mercury Records‘ A&R man Paul Nelson. Their debut album was produced by Todd Rundgren. Stereo Review magazine said they sounded like lawnmowers. How she ever gonna love you when she can’t parlez vous your Francais?They topped from the bottom in Creem magazine and lit out for Europe, where Bob Harris called them “mock rock” on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

The New York Dolls’ second album, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by George “Shadow” Morton. He made his bones recording morbid motorcycle death hits like “Leader of the Pack” and “Out on the Street” for girl groups like the Shangri-Las and helping Janis Ian bridge the racial divide in “Society’s Child.” There’s gonna be a showdown don’t you worry. Mercury Records let them go shortly after the album also failed to do much on the charts.

By 1975 the Dolls were playing smaller venues than they had been previously. Drug and alcohol abuse by Thunders, Nolan and Kane as well as artistic differences added to the tensions among members , Future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren managed to split the band up by 1975. He put the band in front of a communist flag for a 5-concert-five-borough tour of New York. Television opened for them. Their last show in New York State was at The Shoram, in Quogue, New York. Thunders and Nolan left while on tour in Florida in 1975. Blackie Lawless sat in on guitar for the rest of the Florida tour. The New York Dolls played at the Beacon Theater on New Year’s Eve, 1975 and a follow-up show at Max’s Kansas City. The group played its final shows in 1977.

Too Much Too Soon

Sylvain formed The Criminals. Johansen got funky, but chic and by the late 1980s he rechristened himself Buster Poindexter for Saturday Night Live, kept it through Sunday morning, made some movies, had some laughs. Thunders and Nolan formed The Heartbreakers with bassist Richard Hell.

A rock n roll nurse went into my head. In 1991, Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans. It was originally believed he overdosed on heroin and methadone but it later came out that he had t-cell leukemia. Nolan died in 1992 following a stroke brought about by bacterial meningitis.

Early New York Dolls demo tapes were released on cassette as Lipstick Killers on ROIR Records in 1981. Sylvain’s The Criminals, cut a solo album for RCA and drove a cab. He recorded the album Sleep Baby Doll for Fishhead Records in the early 1990s.

The Smiths’ Morrissey reunited Johansen, Sylvain and Kane for the Meltdown Festival in London in 2004. Morrissey’s Attack label released a live album. A film called New York Doll came out and it looked like the Dolls could be back. But Arthur Kane died of leukemia on July 13, 2004. After reuniting, they recorded and released three more albums One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (2006), Cause I Sez So (2009) and Dancing Backward in High Heels (2011)

All dressed up, I got nowhere to go. In November 2006, the Dolls headlined “Little Steven’s Underground Garage Presents the Rolling Rock and Roll Show” about 20 times and the former new Dead End Kids played in Australia and New Zealand. On September 22, 2007, the Dolls were then dropped by Roadrunner Records

The current lineup is David Johansen on vocals and harmonica; Sylvain Sylvain on guitar, bass and piano; Brian Delaney on drums, and Claton Pitcher on guitar and vocals.

A lot of the information for this article was retrieved from the book Too Much Too Soon: The New York Dolls by Nina Antonia

Image result for surfer rosa images

Surfer Rosa is one of those perfect debut albums, that lets you know what you’re in for right out of the gate. The blueprint for the album, and for so much of the guitar-based music that followed over the next decade or so, is set within the first minute of the lead track, “Bone Machine.” David Lovering’s spare yet ferocious drums, the sound of them so vast that you wonder if he’s actually playing an oil rig. Kim Deal’s muscular, melodic bassline, underpinning but never overstepping. Joey Santiago drawing blood out of a few crystal-sharp notes of guitar. Black Francis (aka Frank Black) yelping for sixteen bars of agitated verse over a relative lull of music before Santiago yanks the song back into a chorus of blistered lips and “uh-oh!”—the first instance of the loud/soft motif that the band further refine and recalibrate through another dozen frenetic and thrilling songs, most of which combust around the two-minute mark.

The Pixies made Surfer Rosa not long after their formation in Boston, Massachusetts, and just a few weeks after the release of their debut mini album, Come On Pilgrim. Both releases were themselves culled from a March ’87 demo, The Purple Tape, which included embryonic versions of several Surfer Rosa songs: “Break My Body,” “I’m Amazed” and the album’s most straightforwardly hardcore moment, “Broken Face.” At the urging of their British label, 4AD Records, Surfer Rosa saw the Pixies replace Purple Tape producer Gary Smith with a relatively unknown recording engineer, Steve Albini, who was best known at the time for his work with his own band, Big Black. After a get-to-know-you dinner at Lovering’s place, the band and Albini set to work on the record at the newly opened Q Division Studios in Somerville, a few miles north of Boston, which had ironically been recommended to them by the ousted Smith.

Famously opposed to both the title “producer” and the concept of receiving royalties on albums he worked on, Albini was paid a flat fee of $1,500 for his ten days of work on the album, out of a total recording budget of $10,000. He would be similarly forthright in his critiques of the band’s performances, alternately hailing them as “genius” or dismissing them entirely.

In press interviews at the time, the band would characterize Albini as a “brainiac” who loved lo-fi and instruction manuals but had little enthusiasm for “anything human-sounding”—the result of which meant that those ten days of recording were spent honing guitar and drum sounds, with vocal parts left until the very last evening. Special effects were eschewed in favor of an abrasive, unadorned—and soon to be much copied style that found its perfect foil in the Pixies’ deceptively delicate (and often delicately played) songs. Even overdubbing was generally avoided. “He hates overdubs,” Deal had told Melody Maker.

Though the two would later on form a deep friendship (as evidenced by their joint panel at this year’s SXSW festival), Deal was somewhat dismissive of Albini’s methodology in subsequent interviews. But Albini always had a fan in Black Francis. “I like him because he likes loud,” he exclaimed in the same interview. “All the needles were on red. He totally overloaded the tape.”

Assistant engineer John Lupner, meanwhile, was struck by the lengths Albini went to authentically capture the particular sound of Q Division Studios. Not everything was quite so meticulously planned, however. According to John Murphy—Deal’s husband at the time—the abrupt end to “Where Is My Mind?” came about by accident, as a result of the tape running out while the band was playing. “The tape started to go click click click,” he told Frank and Ganz, “and they went, ‘Well, we got most of it.

If there’s an overarching theme to Surfer Rosa, it’s a Lynchian scratching away at the underbelly of modern life to reveal tales of voyeurism, incest, and other deviant behavior. Francis put these preoccupations—that include a rather ahead-of-its-time portrayal, in “Bone Machine,” of a pedophile priest (or “preachy-preach” in Pixies vernacular)—down to his “real hardcore Pentecostal” upbringing. It’s not all about molestation, though. Two songs (“Broken Body” and “Tony’s Theme”) reference superheroes, while several others draw on a six-month period Francis spent as an exchange student in Puerto Rico the inspiration for both the Spanglish lyrics in “Vamos” and “Where Is My Mind?” with its dreamy evocation of snorkeling “in the Car-ibb-e-an.”

Though vocals were left until the final day of recording, they were by no means an afterthought. Indeed, the interplay between the band’s two vocalists, Francis and Deal, would become another Pixies trademark. In keeping with his vérité style, Albini abandoned studio trickery in favor of natural acoustics. Deal’s two most memorable vocal performances—her lead on the bouncing, pop-toned single, “Gigantic” and the oo-oohs that run throughout “Where Is My Mind?”—were recorded in the bathroom, its natural echo proving preferable, as far as Albini was concerned, to any available studio effect. The latter song’s false start jarring and seemingly throwaway on first listen is instructive as to the attention to detail from both band and engineer. Deal’s first ooh, which precedes Francis’s curt instruction to “Stop,” has a sharp rawness to it. When her voice returns in the song proper, it’s engulfed in an underwater haze much more befitting the lyrical reverie.

There are further spoken interjections elsewhere: some within the songs, such as the aforementioned opening to “Bone Machine” and Deal’s similar announcement that “Tony’s Theme” is about “a superhero named Tony,” and some in between. “I’m Amazed” begins with Deal mid-sentence, gossiping about a teacher who’s “into field-hockey players.” “Oh My Golly!” ends with Francis yelling “You fuckin’ die!” at her. He goes on to clarify that he’d done so in jest, in response to her warning that no one mess with her equipment.

Surfer Rosa was released in March 1988 in the UK and remained available only as an import in the United States until late summer, when 4AD signed a North American distribution deal with Rough Trade. Initial U.S. pressings paired the album with Come On Pilgrim. The two works were then reissued separately in 1992, after Elektra Records took on the 4AD catalogue.

Having received largely positive press notices, Surfer Rosa sold solidly in the interim, if unspectacularly—perhaps in part because, like so many landmark albums, it found itself a little far ahead of the curve. Winning the hearts and minds of college radio and Melody Maker (which named the album the best of 1988) would not yet yield widespread success. The album did not go gold in the U.S. until 2005, by which time the Pixies had disbanded, lain dormant for a decade, and then reunited for the first of several deservedly lucrative world tours.

By then, of course, Surfer Rosa had been well and truly canonized as one of the most influential albums of its time, with Nirvana and myriad others taking the Rosa model and running with it, many of them queuing up both to sing its praises and to summon Steve Albini to work his magic to record his own band’s album In Utero . Kurt Cobain listed it as his second favorite album of all time (after Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power)

Among the earliest advocates for the band, meanwhile, was one of rock’s greatest statesmen, David Bowie, who would later lament, “I thought it was a hell of a shame that America didn’t recognize its own with the Pixies.” His 2002 album Heathen includes a well-judged cover of Rosa’s “Cactus,” a short and sweet ballad about a prisoner so desperate for something—anything from his wife that he ends up begging her to smear her dress with blood and “send it to meeee.”

Another important step in the album’s elevation came a few years earlier, with David Fincher’s clever use of “Where Is My Mind?” in a pivotal scene toward the end of Fight Club. Since then, that song in particular has become so inescapable that you’ll even hear gentle piano renditions in HBO prestige dramas. Surfer Rosa regularly appears on all-time “best-of” lists online and in print.

Pixies
  • Black Francis – vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Kim Deal – bass, backing vocals, vocals on “Gigantic” (credited as Mrs. John Murphy)
  • Joey Santiago – lead guitar
  • David Lovering – drums

Another one of Perth’s heroes. £Giant Tortoise” is mega, there’s nothing like it really. Pond changed the game for me with Hobo Magic. Going back to Sabbath roots, heavy prog, ’70s metal origins to add their unique flavour of psych to the modern era.

A Perthadelic mind-splurge, that’s what. To simplify matters, let’s start with just two: Kevin Parker and Nick Allbrook, Tame Impala’s singer and ex-bassist respectively, and the two biggest heads in the burgeoning Perth psych scene. Whenever Parker was locked away to single-handedly pull Tame’s albums out of God’s nostril, Allbrook was busy with his own astral pop projections.

Jamming randomly with other at-loose-ends Tame members (and occasionally Kevin too, on drums), he built a sprawling collective around Pond, the improvisational art-rock collaboration that was formed on the day of their first house-party gig in 2008, and knocked up their 2009 debut album ‘Psychedelic Mango’ on an eight-track in Nick’s parents’ granny flat. After three more albums (see box, right), and with all the sounds in his head colliding with the fucked-Floyd freak-outs of ‘Lonerism’ on tour, Nick left Tame Impala in May to concentrate on Pond, among other projects. Bizarrely, he was replaced in Tame by Pond drummer Cam Avery, who clearly never got the ‘Leaving Tame Impala To Concentrate On Pond’ memo.

To quit the coolest band in the world to go make a seven-track album of surreal psychedelic blues about spiritualism, giant tortoises, conspiracy theorists and Pegasus. But that’s what Allbrook has done, and with considerable success. Pond’s fifth album, ‘Hobo Rocket’, bristles with unrestrained creativity and sonic exploration, while verging away from pastoral prog towards a harder garage blues slant. Spiritualist acid mania infects ‘Hobo Rocket’ from its first mystical inklings: opener ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide?’ wafts in on a cloud of MGMT and a distorted Buddy Holly bass riff, Nick emitting psychedelic yowls between references to “the holiest of holies’’ and how “I am, you are Buddha, Krishna, God’’. Then he screams, and the track becomes a White Stripes/Band Of Skulls voodoo rocker, Nick shifting from meditative peacenik to paranoid conspiracy freak: “I’m gonna sleep for a week and not speak at all/Cover myself in oil and tin foil’’. It’s a schizophrenic mash-up, but one hell of a sucker-punch opening.

Heavy as a narwhal’s balls and concerning the crippling emotional effects of psychoactive medication, the brittle blues bluster of ‘Xanman’ provides pop relief in the style of a wormhole ‘Seven Nation Army’, Nick playing the lusty funk squealer with commitment during the blow-out coda. ‘O Dharma’ – by turns The Beatles’ ‘Sun King’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Any Colour You Like’ and Hot Chip getting groovy round the Maharaja’s gaff – is perhaps the sweetest acoustic gospel-hippy swirl ever to centre around the phrase “And if you muthafuckers don’t like it you can all get out’’. It’s a key phrase to Pond’s ethos; reflecting their experimental roots – and perhaps Nick’s wild musical mood swings – this is an album of dichotomies, both thematic and sonic. Lulled into a pleasant dopamine haze by ‘O Dharma’? Now take the ponderous, misanthropic Zep-metal chunder of ‘Aloneaflamaflower’, segueing into ‘Giant Tortoise’ – a tune that imagines Jack White going back in time to guest on ‘Across The Universe’.

Pond’s open-mindedness lifts off towards event status on the title track, in which a guy called Cowboy John – a local legend described in the sleevenotes as “artist, mystic, wanderer, eccentric’’ – rants and mumbles about flying through the universe at “twice the speed of light’’ on a “horse with wings’’ like a dope-fried Lou Reed, then starts asking the band mid-song what drugs they’ve got. It all wraps up with the demonic blues metal of ‘Midnight Mass (At The Market St Payphone)’, complete with a pastoral, Floyd-y, four-minute ‘Dear Prudence’ outro to a record that leaves you mentally a-quiver. When a million heads collide, it seems, it’s a colourstorm.

Giant track, tortoise friendly.

Release date: 05th Aug, 2013

Warren Zevon’s self-titled 1976 album announced he was one of the most striking talents to emerge from the Los Angeles soft rock singer/songwriter community, and Linda Ronstadt (a shrewd judge of talent if a sometimes questionable interpreter) recorded three of its songs on two of her biggest-selling albums, which doubtlessly earned Zevon bigger royalty checks than the album itself ever did.

His own breakthrough album from the songwriter’s songwriter from LA. Warren Zevon had been knocking around since the late ‘60s, but with the championing of Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt (who recorded a bunch of his tunes) and subsequently the patronage of David Geffen at Asylum Records, he finally connected in a big way. The fact that it was with “Werewolves of London”, the most throwaway song he’d recorded for the label at that point didn’t matter; it was still a great song, and a great entre to Zevon’s weird and violent world. The title track, “Lawyers, Guns & Money”, “Accidentally Like a Martyr” and the seriously wacko “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” are the stuff of genius. Oh, and did you know “Werewolves…” (which peaked at #11 in Australia and was Zevon’s only charting single) features the rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood?.

The tracks “Excitable Boy” and “Werewolves of London” were considered macabrely humorous by critics. The historical “Veracruz” dramatizes the United States occupation of Veracruz, and likewise “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” is a fictionalization of a mercenary in Africa. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a young American man’s adventures in Cold War era Latin America. In addition, there are two ballads about life and relationships (“Accidentally Like a Martyr” and “Tenderness on the Block”), as well as a dance tune (“Nighttime in the Switching Yard”).