Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: R

After a couple of days, I’m back out on the road today. I don’t have a lot of time, thanks to articles on multiple sites, but it’s a perfect day out. The temp is in the mid-70’s, there’s no humidity, and just a slight cooling breeze. It’s the easiest walk this summer!
Today’s music selection is a band that should get much more attention than they’ve received over the years. Rifle Sport, who were around in the early 80’s, had the misfortune to be in a city that already had bands like Husker Du, The Replacements, The Suburbs, and so many more. Their post-punk sounds were clearly influenced by Devo, albeit with a big heavier of a sound.
Voice of Reason, today’s choice, was released on Reflex Records, the label that Husker Du created to put out their own early releases. The Devo influence is much more apparent than on later releases, and it was a great soundtrack for today’s adventure. I was so influenced by the weather that I actually moved on to another release in the “R” section, the Songs For Slim reunion of The Replacements.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Live Ledge #117: Walking Alphabet

What started off as an unprepared show became a bit busier. The majority of the show is a soundtrack of sorts to the "Walking Rock Alphabet" series that has been all over the Rant-a-Bit blog. Beyond that, there's a preview of the new Pixies song, "Bagboy", more news on the Replacements reunion, and a few brand new releases.
To hear the show, download the newly updated android/iPhone Ledge app, stream it on Stitcher, or subscribe in iTunes. Or...

FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD/STREAM, CLICK HERE!!!

1. Pixies, Bagboy
2. Wilco, Color Me Impressed
3. The Replacements, Smokin' In The Boy's Room
4. Bash & Pop, Friday Night Is Killing Me
5. AM Stereo, That's High School
6. The Bronx, The Unholy Hand
7. The Chevelles, Angelina Jolie
8. Downliners Sect, One Ugly Child
9. E-I-E-I-O, This Time
10. FIDLAR, Stoked And Broke
11. Graham Parker, Last Bookstore in Town
12. The Hillbilly Moon Explosion, Motorhead Girl
13. Ill Bill and the Spinal Chills, Shut Up!
14. Jonathan Richman, Give Paris One More Chance
15. The Kaisers, Walking the Dog
16. The Leatherwoods, Don't Go Down
17. Love & Rockets, Mirror People
18. The Mortals, She's So Dangerous
19. The Nomads, (I'm) Out Of It
20. Old 97's, House That Used To Be
21. Old 97's, Beer Cans
22. Paul Westerberg, Knockin On Mine
23. The Quakes, Puttin'Out the Flame
24. Suburbs, Cigarette In Backwards
25. Sugar, Armenia City In The Sky
26. The Clash, Stay Free
27. Glen Matlock & The Philistines, Hot Water
28. Criminal Hygiene, Dirty Knees
29. The Bots, You Name It We Got It
30. Lemuria, Clay Baby
31. The Kinks, Never Met A Girl Like You Before


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: Q

Q is a lonely letter. It’s easily the loneliest letter of the alphabet, especially when it comes to band names that I’d consider to endure. I’m no fan of Queen or Queensryche, nor was in the mood for The Queers. The new Queens of the Stoneage was a possibility, and I almost went for The Quadrajets before dismissing it due to the deluge of garage-rock I’ve used in recent weeks.
Instead, I settled on Voice of America by The Quakes, a latter day psychobilly band. What’s psychobilly, you ask? The easiest description would be to say it’s The Stray Cats played at 45 instead of 33 1/3.
That’s too easy of a description, though. It’s a hybrid genre of sorts, primarily combining punk rock and rockabilly. Probably the best description comes from About.com - “tak[ing] the traditional countrified rock style known as rockabilly, ramp[ing] up its speed to a sweaty pace, and combin[ing] it with punk rock and imagery lifted from horror films and late-night sci-fi schlock,...[creating a] gritty honky tonk punk rock.” Sound fun, right?
I’ll admit I was late to the party with this genre, until my buddy Greg Lonesome and his wonderful Rock ‘n’ Roll Manifesto show introduced me to bands like The Meteors, Sharks, Guana Batz, and so many others. In fact, The Meteors are to his musical background as The Replacements are too mine.
The Quakes are a latter day part of this scene, having formed in Buffalo in 1986. Unsatisfied with this country’s psychobilly scene, they relocated to Britian, where they eventually (and after multiple tries) signed to Nervous Records. Voice of America was their second release, and quite honestly was my choice simply because it includes a cover of “Paint It Black”.

Unfortunately for me, the Stones cover suffered from a clearly-overdubbed electronic drum sound that dominated the track. Luckily, it’s one of the few missteps of this release, as the rest of it is prime high-speed rockabilly. With today’s weather conditions even worse than yesterday (90 degrees!), this was the perfect record to push me to not take the easy way out when I landed just a half-block away from my home. Beverly was almost pleased today. The key word is “almost”.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: P

The voice of my walking app, Beverly, is not pleased. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’ve missed an entire week, or the fact that a brisk pace rapidly descended. Maybe a certain friend is right, and Beverly is like most women when it comes to their attitude towards me. I just want her to like me.
As I said, though, I started off at almost a sprint. The later afternoon heat and humidity was unbearable, and by the halfway mark I was a full minute per mile slower. The sweat was just pouring off me, blinding me at times.
On any other day, those conditions would have caused me to just give up. Today, though, I had the perfect soundtrack. To understand my musical walking influence, one must go back twenty years. The Replacements had broke up two years before, but 1993 was the year all four of them started releasing their first post-‘mats albums. (Actually, drummer Chris Mars’ first album was the previous year.)
The four albums released that year were universally strong. Drummer Chris Mars finally had an outlet for his hatred of Paul. Guitarist Slim Dunlap proved to be a modern day Keith Richards, and Tommy Stinson’s new band, Bash and Pop, was such a wonderful surprise.
Most of the focus, though, was on leader Paul Westerberg’s first solo album, 14 Songs. There has always been criticism of the slick production, and Westerberg’s apparent desire to actually chase commercial success, but the album works as a successor to the final Replacements album, All Shook Down. 
Twenty years later, I’m struck at the strength of the album. Sure, the middle section lags a bit. “Silver Naked Ladies” is fun but a throwaway; “A Few Minutes of Silence” should have been thrown away. But the first few songs - ‘Knockin’ On Mine”, “First Glimmer”, and “World Class Fad” - are amazing tracks, and the final trio are bookmarked by tunes that harken back to Bob-era Replacments.
Most importantly, there is one of the best ballads that Westerberg has ever written, and couldn’t have come at a better time. The summer of ’93 was when my marriage went bust, and 14 Songs was a major part of my self-therapy. “Things” couldn’t have spoken my mind any better, especially lines such as:
Things I try to tell you but come out oh so wrong
Seem to feel pretty good, seem to last pretty long
Things I don't wanna tell you
Now there ain't no doubt 
You lit a fire in me 
Can't seem to put out

Always things
All these things

Things I long to tell you but I don't know how 
Things I don't wanna tell you but I have to now 
Packed my things


A good album would have been even better, though, if Westerberg hadn't held off one particular song to be wasted as a B-side. "Seein' Her" is a perfect energetic power pop tune, and the catchiest thing he's ever written. Given the right circumstance, it could and should have been a huge hit.
While this album doesn’t fit this alphabetical round of mainly rarities and forgotten releases, it really was the perfect record to get my little ass around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, tomorrow looks even hotter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: 0

Not a lot to say about today’s walk. Life is getting busier and busier, and the upcoming season of Big Brother adds to my diminishing spare time. (For those not aware, I am a contributor to a Big Brother blog that is owned by a friend, and we also do a weekly podcast that is far more successful that I would have ever predicted.)
Partly because of this, I have to shake off those lazy ass feelings that want me to just relax for the evening. Instead, I again throw on my walking shoes and head out the door. I’m determined to please “Beverly” today. (If you haven’t read my piece from a couple of days ago, that’s the name that has been given to the RunKeeper voice that gives you updates on your workout every five minutes. She generally doesn’t seem to care.)
This is another day where there isn’t much to choose from musically. Luckily, my iPhone housed 1997’s Too Far to Care by Dallas Americana rockers, The Old 97’s. This was their first record for Elektra Records, and their third overall. It is also generally considered their best album and the last to retain some of their rockin’ twang. 
It’s always been a bit of a surprise that this band didn’t go farther than it did. They always exhibited high energy, and lead singer Rhett Miller’s lyrics were catchy AND clever. 

Too bad I didn’t really pay that much attention on my little journey around the neighborhood, as shortly after I commenced I received word that Bonnie “Prince” Billy will be coming to town later t his summer. This is one assigned article I’ll be completely enthusiastic to write!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: N

A few weeks ago, I finally broke down and subscribed to Spotify. I didn’t really want to do this, as I’m not much of a playlist person and I (obviously) have a pretty substantial library.
I was kind of forced into it, though, when one of my favorite apps was shut down a few months ago. Audiogalaxy was an app that allowed me remote access to my entire music library. It was one of the few apps that was close to perfection, and I have yet to find one that works quite as well. Sure, there are other apps that are supposed to do the same thing, but they’re all pretty buggy, cumbersome, or they don’t “scrob” to Last.FM.
Subscribing to Spotify is sort of my response to this issue, and will be used more often on my walks as we’re now hitting some of those letters that have few acts to choose from. It will be especially difficult because of how I sync music on to my devices.
My iPad works as a new release device, with 40 gigs of the newest albums on it at any given time. The iPhone is set to a somewhat similar yet kind of opposite playlist - 40 gigs of the most recent additions to my library that is NOT from the current year. While 80 gigs between the two devices is certainly a substantial number of tracks, it’s still not enough for a freak like me!
So Spotify it is, but it’s not without frustration. My main complaint is the search function. When I’m choosing my album of the day from my device’s libraries, it’s a matter of looking at the alphabetical list.
You can’t do that on Spotify! Go ahead - type in one letter for a search. You get every single title that includes that letter somewhere in the name! You also can’t fine-tune the search to specific genres, so every awful pop, bubblegum country, and EDMT releases are included in this unusable list.
Which brings us to today’s walk. After seeing there was nothing satisfactory in the “N” section of my iPhone, I used wikipedia to find a list of every artist whose name begins with that letter. Wait, wiki can do this but Spotify can’t?
I decided to go with one of the most underrated bands from a country that never gets enough credit for their pure rock and roll. Actually, there’s a whole area that needs some notice - Scandinavia. In fact, I should do a Ledge episode soon featuring nothing but bands from this portion of Europe.
The Nomads are quite possibly the best of the bunch. The Swedish garage punkers got their start in 1981, and have never let the pedal down in their 32-year existence. All you have to do is look at the covers they have released as B-sides over the years to understand their brilliance - Dictators, Wipers, Sonics, Saints, Damned, Link Wray, Ramones, Kinks, MC5, and so many more.

I actually wanted to walk to one of their singles collections that have collected many of these covers, but one of my little rules has been to avoid compilations. Instead, I went with 1994’s Powerstrip. I guess the once criticism that can be made is that if you have one of their albums, you have them all. Why mess with a good formula, though? It was a perfect companion, especially since I appeared to have angered “Beverly” from the RunKeeper program with my slightly slower walking pace.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: M

I didn’t have much time to bash out today’s walk. I had two articles to write today, and it was way too hot to head out before I started in on those articles. When I finished in mid-afternoon, it appeared that rain was imminent, so I rushed out the door.
It would have been easy to just skip today’s venture, but, besides the fact that I don’t want to be a lazy sod, I had a new app to check out. A few days ago, I had downloaded a pedometer app, but a good friend suggested I go with RunKeeper. It has most of the same features, but RunKeeper also has a lovely woman my friend has named Beverly to keep me appraised of my stats. 
While the calories burned on my venture was a bit depressing, I am encouraged by the fact that my pace barely dimmed over the two miles of walking. In fact, outside of a couple of minutes towards the end when I was walking against the wind, I rarely wavered. 
Ok, on to the music. On this round of walking, I have tried to stay even more obscure as possible. The music portion of the exercise is to reacquaint myself with portions of my library that rarely make my playlists. Today was a perfect example, as my album of choice was RItual Dimension of Sound by The Mortals. 

I don’t have much to say about them, though, as their online presence is almost nil. They’re apparently from Cincinnati, they were on the Estrus label, and their sound is almost like an American Hoodoo Gurus, minus some of the eccentricities of that band. A rather enjoyable blast of garage-y guitars that was only interrupted by the latest updates from Beverly.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: L (Again)

I’m sure at least one or two of you noticed that today’s letter is a repeat. That’s against the rules!!! I have a very good reason to remain with the letter “L”. 
Obviously, the news of the reunion of The Replacements has turned me into an obsessive fool. My soundtrack for this entire week has been little but their catalog, and shortly before I went for today’s walk I remembered an obscurity in Paul Westerberg’s post-mats career.
Sometime in 1992, Medium Cool Records, a subsidiary of Twin Tone, released an album by The Leatherwoods. Entitled Topeka Oratorio, it took just a few seconds to realize that a certain guitarist/songwriter was involved with the record.
A quick glance at the album’s credits show a person by the name Pablo Louserama contributing guitar, bass, keyboards, and two co-writes. Could that possibly be a pseudonym for Paul Westerberg?
It came out a few months later that it was indeed Westerberg, and there’s a good chance he had more to do with the album than advertised. There is something about the song arrangements, the mid-tempo pace, and so much more that makes it sound like an undiscovered Westerberg solo album.
Yet that may be giving him too much credit (as I am prone to do), as The Leatherwoods is indeed a real band that includes future Jayhawks drummer Tim O’Reagan and songwriter Todd Newman. Both accomplished songwriters, together they have created on Topeka Oratorio a folk-ish power pop sound not unlike the db’s, Tommy Keene, and many others.

Another interesting fact about this album - while physical copies are out of print, this album, like many other old Twin Tone/Medium Cool releases, are available via the Twin Tone website (burned copy) or iTunes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Live Ledge #116: Replacements Reunion

This was already going to be a super-packed show, as my freelance gig at the Argus Leader had set up interviews with members of Cursive and Teenage Bottlerocket to promote upcoming local gigs. Both thankfully agreed to appear on tonight's Live Ledge, and were wonderful guests. Look for articles on both bands to appear in next Thursday's Link insert.
Of course, when news filtered out this past Wednesday that The Replacements were reuniting, it was a given that I'd be spending some time talking about these upcoming RiotFest appearances. Color Me Obsessed director Gorman Bechard agreed to once again appear on the show, and we both took an honest look at the (mainly) positives and negatives about their decision to play live again. It's always fun to chat with Bechard, and even without the travels to see the 'mats he has a busy summer and fall with three movies about to be unleashed on the public.
With all of this chatter, there wasn't a lot of room for music, but I found time to squeeze in a few tracks. Download this show from the usual online sources, or...

DIRECTLY STREAM/DOWNLOAD BY CLICKING HERE!!!

1. The Replacements, Kids Don't Follow
2. The Replacements, I'm Not Sayin'
3. The Replacements, Bastards Of Young
4. Paul Westerberg, Live Forever
5. Bash & Pop, Tiny Pieces
6. Cursive, Art Is Hard
7. Cursive, Warmer Warmer
8. Pixies, Gigantic
9. Teenage Bottlerocket, Headbanger
10. Teenage Bottlerocket, Cruising For Chicks
11. The Ramones, 53rd & 3rd
12. Dee Dee Ramone, Now I Wanna Be Sedated
13. Pretenders, Precious
14. The Clash, Police & Thieves

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: L

Another hot day; another semi-devoted walker. Despite the humidity, this was the day to move beyond what I’ve previously accomplished. While partly due to the weather, so far I haven’t made it past albums that are 35 or so minutes long. I’m in a rut.
So today I picked a record that was a bit longer. Sure, 51 minutes is no Zen Arcade, but it’s still 30% or more of a workout than I’ve previously accomplished this spring. The disc of choice? 1987’s Earth Sun Moon by Love and Rockets. Yes, this is a bit of a surprising choice, but it’s also a disc I haven’t heard in years.
I know I used to own it, but at some point it disappeared from my collection. Maybe it was part of the divorce settlement way back in the early 90’s, or maybe it ended up in somebody’s jacket after a party. All I know is that at one point a good friend wanted to hear it and it was nowhere to be found.
What prompted the return of his album to my archives was the release last month of a remastered box set consisting of their first four albums, along with a fifth disc of rarities. If you’re not familiar with the band, they were originally 3/4 of the members of goth pioneers Bauhaus. After breaking up in 1983, guitarist Daniel Ash formed Tones on Tail, which drummer Kevin Haskins joined a year later. Meanwhile, bassist David J was attempting a solo career.
At one point, it was decided that Bauhaus should reform, but singer Peter Murphy didn’t show up for the initial rehearsal. The other three elected to carry on, but under the Love and Rockets name. 
Ironically, Love and Rockets were a much bigger commercial success than Bauhaus, although nobody would consider their artistic influence nearly as great. While the second album, Express, was the first move to a more radio-friendly sound, it was Earth Sun Moon that solidified their pop sensibilities.
Most of the success of this record is due to a more acoustic approach. There were still some elements of their spooky Bauhaus quirks, but songs like “Welcome Tomorrow” and “No New Tale To Tell” were perfect college radio complements to the jangle pop of R.E.M. and their various clones.
Overall, it was a nice trip down memory lane, not unlike what I feel when I pull out those old Guadalcanal Diary or House of Love albums. Nothing groundbreaking; just enjoyable, catchy alt-rock.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: K

Nobody can say I’m not devoted to this project. Sure, I’ve missed quite a few days lately, but I already went over that yesterday. Rain, rain, and more rain is the main culprit, along with other obligations on some of those rare nice days.
Today, it is over ninety degrees, with a matching humidity, and what was the first thing I did when I got home from work? Changed clothes and headed back out the door. This was obviously not an easy day, but I trudged through a slightly different (and longer) route than yesterday.
What was today’s soundtrack? I had some difficulty making my choice. Sure, I could have picked one of around forty Kinks releases, but that was too easy. Few other artists looked inviting, so I settled on a recent blog find, the second album by The Kaisers, 1994’s In Step With the Kaisers.
You may recall a few weeks ago, I pulled out a shockingly underrated band called the Downliners Sect, contemporaries of the Stones and Pretty Things that for whatever reason never captured the public’s attention. Today was a similar pick, but in this case it’s not the primitive r&b of the Stones that is emulated.
Instead, The Kaisers are beat band purists who make the early Beatles sound like a chamber group. In fact, if the pre-Love Me Do Hamburg/Cavern Club-era Beatles were ever properly recorded, they would sound like The Kaisers. Simply put, take those BBC recordings of the Fab Four’s early days, speed them up just a tad (or two), and crank the volume. That is The Kaisers.
Oh wait, I forgot to mention one important piece of information on this band. While the Downliners actually played the same clubs as the Stones, The Kaisers didn’t. There’s a good reason for that, as this is a 90’s Scottish band.
Seriously, without the assistance of websites and wikipedia, The Kaisers could indeed create a Klaatu-ish backstory that nobody could possibly prove wrong. They have the sound down. They have the intensity. They even have the one-take, live in the studio feel that was set aside by the time of Rubber Soul. 

In Step With The Kaisers is almost all covers, but there’s not a track on here that doesn’t stand proud with the originals, or best known cover versions. In fact, their version of “Walking the Dog” does beat the Stones version. Maybe they’re not breaking any new ground here, but this was a fantastic motivator for a day I ended up covered from head to toe with sweat.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Walking Rock Alphabet: J

I’m back, bitches! I’m sure the handful of you that bother reading these self-indulgent ramblings of an out of shape hack assumed that I had decided the couch was more important than a bit of exercise. 
Ok, maybe you’re not far off. Wait, no you’re not! Here’s the deal. This has been the worst spring that I can ever remember! It’s rained almost every single day since early April. And if it didn’t rain, it snowed! That doesn’t make it easy for a load like me to be hitting the streets!
Sure, there was a day or two that I could have made it out, but those were days that I had a short porch of time either due to my podcasts or writing assignments. After a full weekend of non-stop rain, though, today couldn’t have been any more perfect. My phone says it’s 73 out, but on my ride home my vehicle said it was over 80. Nothing could stop me from lacing the walking shoes!
The question, though, is what should I listen to on this journey. I had quite a few to choose from, and I almost chose The Gift, the final album by The Jam. Ultimately, I went with Jonathan Richman’s 1983 release, Jonathan Sings. My main reason for this choice came about a couple of weeks ago when I did a Live Ledge broadcast of nothing but songs from that year. I had almost forgotten about this album, and with an opening track called “That Summer Feeling”, it was a natural choice.
Jonathan Sings is an interesting album as it marked a change in Richman’s sound. His previous albums under the Modern Lovers name (or Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers) were noteworthy for their influence on punk rock, and also for the fact that the Modern Lovers included future members of the Cars and Talking Heads. Their 1972 debut album included the classic, “Roadrunner”, which, besides a furious Sex Pistols cover a few years later, is now being considered as the official state song of Massachusetts. 
While latter Modern Lovers recordings hinted at Richman’s desire for a quieter pace, few expected what we got on Jonathan Sings. Always an awkward presence on vocals, this album is actually perfectly titled as Richman repositioned himself as a crooner. An odd crooner, to be fair, but the perfect voice for his whimsical, sometimes humorous lyrics. The call and response interplay between him and his backup vocalists (Ellie Marshall and Beth Harrington) are almost heartwarming, and the minimal musical backing completely enhances Richman’s vocals.

Sure, this isn’t a classic album by any means, but it is an album any Richman fan should own. Beyond that, it was a perfect record to use as my soundtrack for this warm, late spring day, and a perfect complement to that wonderful aroma of freshly cut grass. Now let’s keep up this kind of weather, so these walks can actually make a difference!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Live Ledge #115: New Finds

As always, the first show of the month means there's nothing but new releases and finds. The past few weeks have seen new music from the likes of The Hussy, Savages, Mikal Cronin, Oblivians, and so much more, and some of the "blog finds" includes rarities by The Replacements, Roy Loney, Dee Dee Ramone, and The Clash. Add in sets devoted to Sexy Baby Records and Adult Swim's Garage Swim compilations, and you have two hours of POUNDERS!!!
Nab this from the usual online spots, or...

DIRECTLY STREAM/DOWNLOAD BY CLICKING HERE!!!

1. Devo, Girl U Want
2. The Hussy, Blame
3. Savages, City's Full
4. Kim Deal, Hot Shot
5. The Breeders, So Sad About Us
6. Square Songs, Paul Westerberg
7. Paul Westerberg, If I Had A Hammer
8. The Replacements, Nowhere Man
9. Tommy Stinson, Teenage Kicks
10. Dee Dee Ramone, Born to Lose
11. Eddie and the Hot Rods, The Kids Are Alright
12. Willie Nile, People Who Died
13. The Clash, Spanish Bombs
14. The Clash, Fujiyama Mama (with Pearl Harbour on vocals)
15. The Vibrators, 2nd Skin
16. Oblivians, Loving Cup
17. Mikal Cronin, Am I Wrong
18. Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, Haunted Head
19. The So So Glos, Wrecking Ball  
20. Dave Davies, Little Green Amp
21. Iggy and The Stooges, Burn
22. Eddie Spaghetti, Fuckin' With My Head
23. Supersuckers, Caliente
24. TuTu and the Pirates, Debbie Debie Debbie (and her) Prison
25. Adam Widener, Lets Talk About Punk
26. HotLips Messiah, Time to Drop the Bomb
27. The Vindictives, Nightmare Man
28. Thee Oh Sees, Devil Again
29. Black Lips, Crusing
30. Cheap Time, Kill The Light
31. King Khan, Strange Ways
32. Roy Loney and The A-Bones, Stop It
33. Roy Loney & The Longshots, Who'll Be the Next In Line?
34. Willie 'Loco' Alexander Boom Boom Band, Pup Tune
35. DMZ, Ball Me Out
36. Nick The Barbarian, Monkey Wrench
37. Nervous Eaters, Loretta