Sunday, October 29, 2006

Black Monk Time (1966)

"Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice" If I didn't know better, I would swear time travel must be involved with the Monks. I understand they were five U.S. servicemen just off their hitches, that this was recorded in Berlin, and that it's basically their only album. I come to it nearly 40 years late, so call this an early flush of enthusiasm if you like. Here we have raw, amazing, original, powerful stuff, so far ahead of its time that I doubt the parents of any of them have even met yet. Absolutely ranks with 13th Floor Elevators or Lollipop Shoppe/Dead Moon, and miles ahead of Chocolate Watchband or Seeds or Mysterians. It's hard not to be excited.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Zen Arcade (1984)

"Pink Turns to Blue" The early stuff by Hüsker Dü, especially the debut Land Speed Record, often didn't get past an onslaught of unlistenable sludge. But then something shifted. A handful of singles and EPs came along that increasingly showed songwriting chops and a unique sensibility, using point of view, dramatic tension, even melody, to inflect and texture the trademark flying-V giant roar. I suppose nobody should have been surprised when one of the premier hardcore bands of the time proved capable of a tender, beautiful, harrowing, bludgeoning, and always interesting double vinyl concept LP. But everyone was. It was about the last thing anyone expected -- which is only one of the features about it that make it so sweet.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't Tell a Soul (1989)

"Rock 'n' Roll Ghost" It's fair enough to call this Paul Westerberg's first (or second, or third) solo outing. Viz., the cover. Me, I don't go that route, and I don't see the break until the next one, All Shook Down. Meanwhile, for any number of purely personal reasons, this is one of my favorite Replacements albums. Westerberg goes wading hip-deep into the swamps of bathos and comes back with a bunch of beauties: "Back to Back," "We'll Inherit the Earth," "Achin' to Be," "They're Blind," "Rock 'n' Roll Ghost." Did I say hip-deep? He had to be in it up to his neck.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

"Alex Chilton" Dead horse metaphor alert: So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls Just the beer light to guide us, So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands? All of a sudden the referents aren't so clear now are they? Sooner or later, from Hootenanny to All Shook Down, you have to make the call. Where does it all go wrong for the Replacements? This has to be a candidate, but come on. Bob Stinson or not, Westerberg's songs carry it -- no matter how coldly you might want to reduce the band to journeyman/faceless status. Hey, Chris Mars is at the top of his game. Winning lyric: "Jesus rides beside me He never buys any smokes."

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Tim (1985)

"Kiss Me on the Bus" Expectations for the Major Label debut ran high, but these guys were never going to be stars. Nobody wanted it enough. So, like a sports team on a losing steak, here's where they started to tear apart at each other. Overlooked by all of them, maybe, was the incredible run they were on. This was at least their third great one in a row. Some, even in retrospect, sniff that it's a notch off, but to me it feels loose and warm and fun and stuffed with inspiration. They whip up the most beautiful little bittersweet things: "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Here Comes a Regular, "Hold My Life." They go to the roar dependably on "Bastards of Young" and "Left of the Dial." And shot through all of it, that sad, hangdog personality, radiating pain and sweetness with his darts of line and melody, whom we would soon know as Ziggy Stardust. Er, I mean, Paul Westerberg.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let It Be (1984)

"Unsatisfied" Most consider this far and away the best Replacements, which is interesting given the KISS cover, the instantly outdated "Answering Machine," and throwaways like "Gary's Got a Boner" and "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out." But what's good here is not merely good but magnitudes of superlatives: amazing, awesome, unparalleled, hairs at the back of your neck, however you want to put it. "Unsatisfied" takes a respectable shot at anthem for a generation. "Androgynous" is as fresh as a minute ago and 6,000 years in the making. "We're Comin' Out," "I Will Dare," "Sixteen Blue" -- for that matter, "Answering Machine" -- all of them. Timeless. Searing. Poignant. Dramatic. Real. Don't let the shambolics fool you.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Hootenanny (1983)

"Take Me Down to the Hospital" Glory days, glory days. Except for "Johnny's Gonna Die" I never much cottoned to the debut, and Stink was for the laughs. But this is where the legend of the Replacements locked down: the sound of a band furiously trying to escape collapse, the collapse itself at some of the shows, the brilliant nights, the many and various excesses, sets of some or all spontaneous covers, Bob Stinson in a dress, Tommy Stinson the perennial Boy Wonder, and the whispers and hints of Paul Westerberg, said to be one of the Great Ones. The only thing left was the watchful wait for fame.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Shake Some Action (1976)

"Shake Some Action" I appreciate that the Flamin' Groovies rocked a heckuva job Brownie harder when Roy Loney was at the helm. But this outfit is so blamed sweet, and not half bad when it's time to rock -- how could it be otherwise with Dave Edmunds producing? I found this in a cutout bin in 1979 and have not been without it since. The songs are short and to the point, a splendid mix of covers and originals. Rockers and ballads. Bloozy. Pop. Rock'n'roll. Seamless. Every harmony, every ringing chord. I play the whole thing all at once. It's a big gulp. Save some for tomorrow. No, I'll get another one tomorrow. LOUD.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Legendary Hearts (1983)

"Bottoming Out" Continuing, moving forward with a newfound songcraft that hit its peak on the following New Sensations, the music here is organic and discovered, rich and yeasty like a stout. Fernando Saunders finds his amazing trademark loping bass guitar voice and Lou Reed puts it to good use in some of his most moving and confessional work ever. The Happy Heterosexual loves his wife, he loves his motorcycle, but he's been maybe drinking a little too much lately. Elsewhere, as on "Martial Law," there's a band reaching heights no one suspected it could reach, kicking it out like a homerun derby, stroking the sweet spot over and over -- "unconscious," I think they call it in sports. Nice to see Reed so relaxed that he's actually funny. That alone is worth the price.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Blue Mask (1982)

"Heavenly Arms" All lingering doubts about his VU origins evidently clarified, Lou Reed here re-embraces the "2 guitars bass drum" aesthetic that would see its apotheosis on New York, first matches himself against the amazing Robert Quine late of Richard Hell's Voidoids, and continues the breathtaking balance of acute takes on crude lizard-brain human behavior and sensation (as in "The Gun" or "Waves of Fear," see also Street Hassle) against achingly beautiful, emotionally naked tilts at all of the sweetness in life. Which here includes spiritual connection to poet Delmore Schwartz, membership in the I Remember JFK Boomer club, and, of course, the Happy Heterosexual at his ease, with his rooftop garden, longing for the embrace of the woman he married the previous Valentine's Day.

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