Posts Tagged ‘Warner Music’

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Second to none in the stoner rock canon (save for the massive influence of Sabbath and Blue Cheer), Kyuss refined the art of psychedelic heaviness late in their career with “Welcome to Sky Valley”. The most focused and cohesive collection of the band’s “desert rock” jams, Sky Valley was sequenced in a way that allowed tracks to bleed into one another, grouped into threes for optimum vinyl listening (with optional chemical enhancement).

On paper this looks like some kind of cosmic odyssey, but the individual songs are among the band’s most direct and hardest rocking, whether on the opening burst of “Gardenia” (which resembles molten lava flowing down the side of a volcano), continues into the moody space jam instrumental “Asteroid,” and culminates in the strangely titled yet superbly diverse “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop.” Other highlights include the solid thrashing of “100 Degrees,” the prog rock instrumental “Whitewater,”or the catchy single “Demon Cleaner” (the heaviest song about dental care in the canon). Though when the group did space out and go full-on psych-folk, as with the stunning dirge “Space Cadet,” it’s a thing of stoned wonder

But no song exemplifies the Kyuss sound as well as the aptly titled “Odyssey,” which opens suite number three and provides a veritable blueprint of the band’s unique combination of ingredients. The track begins with a cryptic melody, explodes into a ferocious riff, glides into a psychedelic bridge, then returns to full-throttle for its conclusion.

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The Replacements were always going to be a risk for any label to sign in the mid eighties. The band’s reputation for sloppy live shows, drunken interviews and overall contempt for anything resembling self promotion was already legendary. Not that any of this ever worried the band, when Sire eventually signed the Mat’s in 1986 they seemed more concerned with keeping up with their local rivals Husker Du (who had just signed to Warners) than proving any doubters wrong.

Paul Westerberg always seemed to understand that for the kind of band he was going to run, danger was a part of deal. Indeed, the Replacements seemed to revel in it. One of their very first songs was a tribute to Westerberg’s great hero and soon-to-be inevitable heroin casualty Johnny Thunders. On “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” Westerberg sings with an offhand casualness: “Johnny always takes more then he needs / knows a couple chords / knows a couple leads / and Johnny’s gonna die.” The sentiment is decidedly not, “Hey, we should probably do something before Thunders finally kicks it!” It’s more like he’s noting the weather outside, an absolutely prosaic dispatch. Westerberg even ends the song with a sort of cheerful refrain of “bye, bye” — it was 10 years before Thunders would finally leave the building, but the Replacements had already skipped ahead to the eulogy.

For all of the tremendous hilarity surrounding the band’s legendary antics, the Replacements’ story is far more tragedy then comedy. The band wasn’t a suicide pact, but they were a sort of four-man Russian Roulette game. Excess bordered on mandatory. A much-repeated (and unconfirmed) story tells of Westerberg confronting the deeply troubled and dependent founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson before a show when Stinson had just finished 30 days in a detox clinic. Westerberg brings him a bottle of champagne and tells him: “Either take a drink, motherfucker, or get off my stage.” It doesn’t matter so much if this is true or not, simply because it is plausible. Being wasted was Bob Stinson’s brief in the Replacements — he really wasn’t good enough a technical player to keep around sober and levelheaded. The fact that he was eventually fired for being overly erratic is an unamusing irony.

All Shook Down [Explicit]

‘All Shook Down’ (1990)

The band’s final LP gets punished for what it’s not – a real Replacements record. Paul Westerberg began ‘All Shook Down’ as a solo effort and only shifted to include his bandmates during sessions. On its own merits, and stripped of ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’’s misguided bombast, the album is pleasant. It is fine. The steady “Merry-Go-Round” has a nice hook and Paul’s sleeve-hearted storytelling is solid – even if, as he looks back, Westerberg takes his band’s legacy more seriously than the boys did in the moment). But middling tempos and hushed shuffles make ‘All Shook Down’ the audio equivalent of beige. Stuck between being a Replacements record and a solo debut, the album doesn’t satisfy in either way. Westerberg’s pen is typically astute and nimble here, noting the soon-to-be-disastrous marriage depicted in “Nobody” and the fractious future of an unsettled newborn in “Sadly Beautiful.” It’s an album reckoning with the consequences of all that has come before. On the final track the band would ever release, “The Last,” Westerberg ruefully acknowledges: “It’s too late to run like hell.”

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When Fleet Foxes’ new album, “Crack-Up,” is released on Friday, June 16th, it will be more than six years since “Helplessness Blues.” But the band is returning with a weighty, ambitious album of shape-shifting songs that builds on the exacting finger-plucked guitar melodies and cooing multipart harmonies central to its earlier music. At a time when indie-rock seems be growing more culturally marginal by the day, “Crack-Up” is a defiant artistic statement, an album that dares to feel important. It leaked more than a month before its scheduled release date, a frustrating turn of events but one the band ultimately found encouraging.

Fleet Foxes’ “If You Need To, Keep Time on Me” from the 2017 album Crack-Up. pictured Hiroshi Hamaya’s “Peaks of Takachiho Volcano”,