Archive for the ‘Bone Rolling Reviews’ Category

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The Stooges: Fun House (2CD expanded edition)

December 2, 2013

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Roll: 6-3-11
Album: The Stooges, Fun House (2CD expanded edition)

A lot of people cite The Stooges‘ self-titled, proto-punk/garage rock debut as their best. For others it’s the glam-rock third album, Raw Power, a platter I have never been able to understand the appeal of. I’ve always fallen into the equally vocal third camp—those who understand Fun House (1970) is probably not only their best offering, but is possibly the best album from an era chock-a-block with seminal titles.

Placed against it’s contemporaries, Fun House sounds conspicuously timeless. Great as they might be, albums such as Led Zeppelin III, CCR‘s Cosmo’s Factory, Velvet Underground‘s Loaded, and Curtis by Mr. Mayfield all sound cemented to the knees in their own era. Not only do both albums issued by Sabbath that year sound positively dated in comparison, Fun House makes MC5‘s Back In The USA sound like The Bay City Rollers

Let me say that again. This album makes the god-damned MC5 sound like The Bay City Rollers.

But that’s not the only sacred ground this juggernaut tramples over. The free-jazz freak-out that closes the album, “L.A. Blues“, utterly destroys the idea Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders were fearless cosmic travelers and reveals the borders they stepped back from. It’s simultaneously a sneering condemnation of jazz expressionism being placed on a pedestal and supposed “rock’n’roll” music being made palatable for suburban living room stereos. It’s like The Stooges understood that The Who were best while destroying their instruments for shock value and all they needed was a saxophonist having a seizure to make it art. They also clued-in that Coltrane just needed a blown-out Marshall stack to make Ascension punk rock.

Not that Fun House doesn’t have it’s share of late-60’s psychedelic trappings—wah-wah abounds in a way that, until recently, would have been seen as a trifle old fashioned. Perhaps that’s what makes the album feel so fresh. When today’s young psychedelic rockers look to the past, they’re not looking to Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Floyd (and certainly not Hendrix or The Doors), they’re looking to tunes like “T.V. Eye” and VU’s “Sister Ray“—equally as psychedelic as “Dazed and Confused” but with a stripped-down, stream-lined, modern approach that time rolls off of like water on the proverbial duck’s back.

If these tunes sound dated at all, it’s how they sound like Mudhoney or early Nirvana could have recorded them twenty years later. Or Human Eye and Destruction Unit a full 43 years later.

The second disc of this expanded re-issue  doesn’t offer up any surprises, or previously unheard compositions, but it does toss in some nice treats such as a nearly 12-minute version of the title track in among a plethora of alternative takes of every song except, unfortunately, “L.A. Blues”. These alternates range from trashy to messy, but are all of surprisingly decent quality, even when they shudder to a halt. Like many reissues, the essentiality of the second disc comes down to weather or not if you always felt the original album was far too short at 36 minutes and change in length. An unquestionable high-water mark for punk, psychedelia and just plain rock’n’roll in general, you can decide if you require another 70 minutes of material after you listen below…

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Jesus and Mary Chain: Darklands (1987)

October 11, 2013

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Roll: 3-9-16
Album: Jesus and Mary Chain, Darklands — 2011 2CD/1DVD reissue

Until Stoned and Dethroned (1994) came out, Darklands (1987) was always my least favourite Jesus and Mary Chain record. It didn’t deliver what I wanted from JAMC. Sure, “Happy When It Rains“, boasts the mechanical post-modern rock’n’roll sound I loved on Automatic (1989), but not to the same extent; like it was a demo for that later album’s whole sound. But more importantly, and more detrimentally, Darkands famously abandons the “savage noise-pop” of Psychocandy (1985). To me Darklands was always a sort of nebulous, half-formed, netherworld of an album. So, in a way, one of their most aptly titled collections.

Over the years I’ve remained eternally hopeful and every time I listen to Darklands I expect to hear something in it I’d previously missed. Some hint of the magic and brilliance that’s been ascribed to it by music journalists, fans and bloggers in the years since it’s release. And though I’ll admit it never sounds as bad as I remember, I’ve never been able to hear it as other than a lethargic, boring mid-tempo folk-rock record marred by some pretty glaringly cheesy ’80s production.

I’ve never been sure if it’s just the song arrangements that never worked for me, but the John Hughes-style drum machines really don’t help matters. And I normally love me some grandiose ’80s drum machines, yet somehow I’ve always felt they sound entirely out of place on Darklands. To my ears, the album begs for an organic Sam Phillips/Sun Studio-style production. The songs are essentially a post-punk take on The Everly Brothers and deserve a more human touch.

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The Organ: Sinking Hearts (2002)

October 4, 2013

The Organ Sinking Hearts Artwork

Roll: 4-8-15
Album: The Organ, Sinking Hearts

It would have 2002, shortly after Sinking Hearts came out, I was standing beside my buddy Andrew, between the bar and the stage of The Cambie in Nanaimo watching The Organ. He was, at the time, my boss at the record store so he knew I had been crushing hard on the band for a while.

He said, “Still in love?”

I said, “Yeah,”

He said, “I don’t think you’re their type.”

Taking his meaning, I said, “I think you’re probably right.” If all five members weren’t clearly lesbians, at least some of  them were. A few might have been just “arty” but who’s to say and who cares? It was irrelevant to me as I had mainly been seduced by their melancholy Cure-meets-Smiths post-punk indie-pop.

Andrew, hadn’t been.

He said, “This isn’t for me. I thought I’d be able to do this, but I can’t. Enjoy,” patted me on the shoulder and then left to kayak to a small island he was living on with a goat.

For myself, it was exactly for me. I was in school after a hiatus, studying graphic design, and newly single so a lyric like—

Oh goodness me
We’ve got to meet
I need someone to have fun

—sung in a morose monotone resonated with me to the very core of my crush-crazy and romantically jaded heart. No one had spoken to my inner arrested adolescent so profoundly since Morrissey. I was lost and looking for answers to unspoken questions and The Organ seemed to have them.

So someone snuck into your room
And it got back to me
Now, I lie here in my room
And there is nothing I can do

They were one of the bands at the cusp of the millennium’s first post-punk revival and, as a result of Sinking Hearts, I looked for answers in the music of a dozen or so bands riding the same new wave; bands who also borrowed from The Cure, Joy Division, and Gang of Four.

I hung onto my Organ discs, but over the years I discarded albums by MetricRadio 4Bloc PartyMoving Units, and The Rapture as they proved to be style over substance (similar to what the original movement was often accused of being). Where the Organ were influenced by new wave and post-punk, these other bands took a more carbon-copy approach, seemingly as much or more interested in the fashion and graphic design of the era than making honest music. Remove the staccato guitar lines and funky beats from a Radio 4 or Bloc Party song and you aren’t left with much.

Conversely, much like the songs of The Smiths which they do somewhat mimic, The Organ’s songs could have been strummed on an acoustic guitar and been just as affecting. They speak to universal experiences—though not necessarily happy or healthy ones. It really was only icing on the cake that they were wrapped in the sounds and textures of my youth. Sounds which, as it happened, I’d already been immersing myself in like a bath of nostalgic wallowing.

It really shook you when I said
“No one has ever looked so dead”
Well, it’s over and I can’t go there anymore

And in the backseat of your car
You showed me every single star
And how the zenith and the sounds
Change in every single town
Well, it’s over and I can’t go there anymore

I’m pretty sure I spent quite a bit of time literally wallow in a bath listening to those lyrics on repeat.  “Well, it’s over and I can’t go there anymore.” Well, fuck, if that doesn’t boil it all down the essence of the situation. The sheer banality of a broken heart; the conscious admittal that the ego crushing experience of lost love is existentially meaningless.

Remember when I left you
I couldn’t say your name
or other crucial things like I love you,
oh, that’s a shame
I don’t know if you’re hearing
my voice or the reprise
our hearts didn’t come together
but I saw the two collide

Every once in a while a record becomes a door leading into the corridors of your own heart, and when you open it, the light comes in and things look brighter. You can’t ask anymore from a pop record than that.

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Bardo Pond: Set and Setting (1999)

September 16, 2013

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Roll: 1-3-4
Album: Bardo Pond, Set and Setting

I’m not sure if Set and Setting is the heaviest Bardo Pond record, but it has to be one of the fuzziest. Any fuzzier and it’d sound like a room full of broken TVs. Not a criticism at all, I like a fuzzed-out jam. I’m just saying this record has the fuzz turned up to eleven. That’s a good thing. Twelve might be a problem, but for the ultimate brain-blending, sludgy, fuzz-rock experience, well, anything less than ten really isn’t sufficient. Eleven is a good amount of fuzz.

It took me a long time to get into Bardo Pond. Mostly because they’re a bit of a difficult band to pigeonhole—their records range from tightly focused psychedelic indie-rock to sloppy stoner jams that slide out from under you—so I was always labouring under a misconception about what kind of band they are. In the ’90s I was under the impression they were just a lesser alt/grunge unit I didn’t need to bother with. In some ways, that’s a fair description. They hit the scene a bit later in the game (1994), never wrote pop songs and consequently never really made a splash in the public consciousness like Sonic Youth or Mudhoney did. In fact, they were pretty easy to ignore and since no one in my circles championed them, I forgot they existed for about 20 years.

Then a few summers ago a champion finally came along. My buddy Stephen told me that (since I was lamenting how I’d pretty much emptied the desert rock, shoegaze and krautrock wells) my next musical excursion should be a dive into the depths of the Bardo Pond catalogue.

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Eric’s Trip: Peter (1993)

August 22, 2013

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Roll: 3-1-6
Album: Eric’s Trip, Peter

Sometimes life, and being an utter pillock, conspires to keep you from enjoying a really great band. Let what follows be a cautionary tale.

The year was 1993 and despite being into other “Halifax Pop Explosion” bands such as Sloan, Thrush Hermit and Jale, I didn’t really take to Eric’s Trip. It was partly for the rather shaky reason I was leery of bands named after songs. Rightly or wrongly, I instantly associated Eric’s Trip with the tribute bands that’d come through the local rock club on their perennial circuit.

  • Cold Gin: a KISS tribute
  • Black Dog: an evening of Led Zeppelin classics
  • Comfortably Numb: the songs of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters
  • Freebird: a celebration of Lynyrd Skynyrd 
  • Eric’s Trip: playing the hits of Sonic Youth 

Obviously, Eric’s Trip were never actually a Sonic Youth tribute band. Though in true ’90s fashion they did emulate the Pixies/Smashing Pumpkins/Sonic Youth gender roles.  And if the name wasn’t a giveaway, you could easily surmise from their noisy take on the pop song that the band had listened to their fair share of Sonic Youth records.

At any rate, Sonic Youth (who I’d mysteriously—and temporarily—decided were talentless hacks) were at the forefront of my mind when I heard Eric’s Trip for the first time. It was at a record store where I asked about Sloan’s self-released EP, Peppermint (1992), and the dude behind the counter sneeringly said, “Yeah, I guess we can get that in for you… but have you heard Eric’s Trip?”

So he tossed Peter on the listening station for me and I gave it an optimistic listen.

I regret to report I simply didn’t get it.

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Medicine: The Buried Life (1993)

August 8, 2013

Medicine Buried Life artwork

Roll: 4-2-15
Album: Medicine: The Buried Life (2CD reissue)

In my previous post on Lilys I detailed how in 1992, late to the party, I got the shoegaze bug. Once I was infected, I started dosing myself with all the albums where My Bloody Valentine were mentioned in the reviews. Taking this metaphor to its logical conclusion, I should now say Medicine‘s The Buried Life was the cure for my new affliction but, if anything, the album made me a terminal case.

In 1988, if some reviewer was going to describe MBV’s Isn’t Anything, they might have said it was a combination of Cocteau Twins’ dreamy atmospherics and The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s primitive white-noise pop. That would be an apt appraisal but it even better describes the extremes of Medicine’s music.

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Lilys: In The Presence of Nothing (1992)

July 26, 2013

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Roll: 4-1-1
Album: Lilys, In The Presence of Nothing

Everybody has this experience. There’s records that used to be your favourites you just can’t listen to anymore. Not because you overplayed them, but because they conjure a painful memories of a specific time in your life. They place you back to some bitter situation as surely as if you’d been teleported in some infernal time machine. For me U2‘s Achtung Baby (1991) and Depeche Mode‘s Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) both play like soundtracks to a rich and varied selection of bad memories surrounding my first serious girlfriend, Tikki. To this day, the opening guitar noises of “Zoo Station” fill me with an odd mix of dread and nausea.

Other albums, such as Lilys’ 1992 shoegaze classic In The Presence of Nothing remain unmarred by such associations. Perhaps because by the time I’d immersed myself In The Presence of Nothing, the halcyon days of constantly listening to those U2 and Depeche Mode tapes together were long past us.

As things got worse, as simple communication became a minefield of passive aggression and resentment, I retreated further into my own private headphone world. And if  I wanted an album to sweep me away into the depths of oblivion, there aren’t many better suited than In The Presence of Nothing with it’s swells, swirling eddies and multiple layers of fuzzy haze.

Somewhat ironically, it was Tikki who discovered the album for me. At some point around ’92, when things were still pretty good between us,  we were shopping in Nanaimo’s Fascinating Rhythm record store (in their first Country Club Mall location). They were playing In The Presence of Nothing on the overhead and, though it now seems out-of-character, Tikki said to me, “This is the kind of stuff I like.”

I hadn’t been paying any attention to the drifting waves of white noise but, of course, as soon as she said that I decided I liked it too.

It reminded me vaguely of the Posies, Teenage Fanclub and House of Love tapes I’d been enjoying but mixed with a little bit of the fuzz-obscured dreaminess I loved about Hüsker Dü‘s New Day Rising (1985). Not knowing My Bloody Valentine except as a name that got dropped in reviews of bands I didn’t particularly like or know (at the time), those were my closest reference points. And maybe not knowing its direct lineage made In The Presence of Nothing all the more mesmerizing that afternoon. It was dense and shimmering and soft and harsh and melodic and magical and like nothing I’d heard before. It threw the shutters off the windows of noise rock and let in the bright, hazy light in a way Sonic Youth hadn’t been able to do for me.

In an instant, primarily just to impress a girl, I became a shoegazer.

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