Beyonce is not my queen. “Love Deluxe” is an actual cult. And this is no ordinary love…
And here’s Love Deluxe on YouTube :
Or Spotify :
And here’s Love Deluxe on YouTube :
Or Spotify :
Rush. Progressive rock legends. Loved by millions. Nearly 40 Gold, and Platinum records to their name. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members…but alas, for me their appeal’s been elusive. I’m not happy to say this. After seeing the admittedly excellent documentary and career retrospective, “Beyond the Lighted Stage” a few years ago, I absolutely wanted to like them, the whole story had been so compelling, and cool, I thought yeah, I’m finally getting this….but minus the tale, and the visuals, just listening to them on the headphones, I felt nothing. Was not transported. Had no epiphany.
This hopefulness was nothing new, this attempt to love, feel, and understand Rush. Several years prior to the documentary, I’d been similarly swayed to give them another chance, after witnessing the unbridled Rush passion of Nick Andopolis on “Freaks and Geeks” ( best TV show ever). His complete, and utter worship of them, playing along on his 29 piece drum kit , passionately, and horrifically to “Spirit of the Radio”, and later defending their genius to his ex-girlfriend’s Lindsay’s Dad, made me think, yes, there’s something to all this, I want to feel like this too…and with that, I hopefully cued up their mega “Moving Pictures”album…but again, nothing.
“Neil Peart is the greatest drummer alive !”…say no more Nick, turn that shit up…
Why continually try when these attempts have never worked ? Well, it’s all because of one song ,”Subdivisions”, from 1983. I kind of love it. For real. That song alone is what’s fueled this eternal optimism. It’s fat, melodic synthesizer line, and darkly, perceptive lyrics about suburban teen alienation spoke to my young, angst-ridden ass, as deeply as my most beloved band at the time, the Smiths did. It was my “Manchester, so much to answer for”, except of course my Manchester, was the considerably less historic, austere, damaged, and romantic patch of unbridled suburbia known as, uh,…Long Island. Anyway, this song understood my feelings. It got me. I lived it.
In the High School Halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Yes, Rush, yes, I geekily nodded, and thought. “Subdivisions” release in 1983, coincided with MTV’s growing prominence, and, as a result, the video was on constantly, with it’s overt, and completely literal suggestions of alienation, and bullying, both of which are dealt with by our outcast representative watching Rush sing the song on TV, and playing a video game at the mall. Here it is, in all it’s glory:
You know when you’re so into a song that you have a playlist solely devoted to it, featuring every ( decent) cover version of said song imaginable ? Bueller ? Bueller ? Bueller ?…anyway… while you might be spoiled for choice as far as versions of say, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, or, lord help us, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, when it comes to “Subdivisions”, there is struggle. There’s a real dearth of decent cover versions …still, the best one is exceptionally good, and that’s Anita Athavale’s 2007 version. It’s not available on any of the usual music streaming homes, or on YouTube in a conventional way…as in the only way to hear it, is by watching a grim, un-ironic, lost love letter to a deceased shopping mall in Cleveland, complete with a “1976-2009” graphic at the end, that it soundtracks. Seriously though, Anita strips it down to it’s bones, and it’s pretty great. Here it is :
…there’s one more joyful thing to share regarding this band. In the aforementioned “Beyond the Lighted Stage” doc, the elephant in the room is addressed candidly, and awesomely…that being that the Rush audience is obviously, and overwhelmingly male. It’s become kind of a running joke, and is best encapsulated in this scene from, wait for it, “I Love You Man”. Watch Rashida Jones, as Paul Rudd’s beleaguered girlfriend experience the Rush effect in real time. It’s perfect.
Can I tell you something, after writing all this I’m seriously considering giving Rush another try, I mean, maybe it’ll stick this time….
It’s hard to know what to say about Valerie Carter, the singer-songwriter who died in March of this year, at the too young age of 64. Probably the best way to describe her career, is as one of those woulda/coulda/shouda situations. The nearest she got to having a hit record was when her cover of “Ooh Child”, played over the closing credits, of the bonafide, cult classic of suburban teen ennui from 1979, “Over the Edge”. Her career focus was mainly singing back-up for people like James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, while occasionally contributing songs to other artists like Earth, Wind, & Fire. She recorded 2 promising solo albums in 1977, and 1979 respectively, the first of which, was produced by her musical soulmate, the late Lowell George of Little Feat…but after those releases, it was literally crickets in terms of her solo output : she didn’t release another album until 1996. Her time in between was spent touring with the aforementioned James, and Jackson, and providing backing vocals on a myriad of albums, by other artists. The biggest of the latter, was soft rock flamingo Christopher Cross’s self-titled debut album, which sold 5 million copies, and was the Grammy Album of the Year in 1980. And so while a lot of people were exposed to her beautiful, soaring, full of longing voice on the album’s duet “Spinning”…they didn’t necessarily register that it was her, Valerie Carter, sublimely lifting it off the ground ( and she totally does, listen above), they were just, you know, playing the Christopher Cross album, and basking in it’s west coast sunset glow ( by the way, it’s a pretty nice glow, and no one should be embarrassed for liking it, so go on then, bask).
It appears the last years of her life were challenging, as she battled substance abuse issues, got arrested twice as a result in 2009, and was ultimately sent to rehab. Yeah, it’s sad, but know what, she was an incredible singer, in possession of a truly transcendent, and soaring voice, and she should’ve been famous, and she died too young, and it’s not too late to discover, and give over to the loveliness she offered, because damn, she was just so great. Take a listen….
Here’s a geeky question for you. Ready ?.. because I’m telling you it’s really geeky… okay, so what would your “dream band” sound like ? The one that would encapsulate everything you love in the musical universe in every way ? Vocals, sound, songs, everything. I love hearing people’s answers to this because they are usually weird, awesome, and distressing all at the same time. I’ve sadly spent many waking hours pondering this question, out loud even, and came to the realization that my mythical band would sound something like Chaka Khan, or Gladys Knight fronting the Beach Boys circa 1966-1973. It shouldn’t surprise that I’m still waiting for this unicorn to arrive. Okay, I had a false alarm a few years back when Laura Mvula first came onto the scene. She had the voice, and there were some Brian Wilson-esque flourishes production-wise on her debut LP, and my childish hopes were raised for a second…but no, as sweet as it was in parts, it just wasn’t it. And so, in the interim, I’ve had to make do with other stuff . Maybe “make do” is a bad way to put it, as there are some beautiful, singular songs that have surfaced over the years, that have been touched by that Wilson genius ( not just Brian’s, but Dennis’s too), proudly wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are completely wonderful, and cool, and worth getting lost in.
Here’s a playlist called, “Beach Boy-esque”, and I ask that you forgive me on that title. It’s been in my I-Tunes with that name for ages, because basically, that’s what every song in it is. It’s full of tracks that have that influence, that feel, that signature Wilson thing, and sound great on headphones, long drives, or during crying sessions ( basically all the normal activities Beach Boys music is utilized for in life). There are some truly beautiful things out there, so have a listen, and hey, if anyone out there has any recommendations, I wanna know a.s.a.p. !
Click on the link below for the playlist :
p.s. I wanted to include songs from Lewis Taylor’s “The Lost Album”, which is basically the sound of a one man British-Soul-Beach Boys, and is gorgeous. It isn’t on Spotify or YouTube as of this writing, but here’s a pic, and I highly recommend tracking it down: it’s amazing.
p.s.s. One more ! Check this out by John Davis, formerly of Superdrag. Oh man…
Toni Halliday of Curve was not a warm, sweet girl next door. No. She was all mean, and scary, and beautiful like Fairuza Balk in “The Craft”. This persona was to me best exemplified during a show Curve played at Irving Plaza, in NYC, back in the 90’s. In between songs a guy predictably yelled out “marry me !” to her. Toni, the human embodiment of a raven, stood at the mike, totally deadpan, then said, and I quote , “In your fuckin’ dreams mate“. It was uttered with such hostility, I still have nightmares about it. “Coast is Clear” is a chilly, cold, wondrous piece of alternative shoegazery, is basically the blueprint for most songs by Garbage, and is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Curve is concerned. Definitely check out their first 2 studio albums ” Doppelgänger”, and ” Cuckoo”, as well as “Pubic Fruit”, a compilation of their early EP’s. It’s all scary good.
Britpop was not just a phase, for me it was a gateway that lead to a strong love for music with a Touch of CLASS.
In 5th and 6th grade my music knowledge pretty much consisted of whatever my Pops played on our family turntable. He had a huge record collection with a wide range of stuff including records from the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, Eric Clapton, Musical Youth, Donna Summer, Lovin’ Spoonful, Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, as well as Disney Soundtracks. By the way, I still have all of those soundtracks, and they are great, my personal favorite being the “Mickey Goes Disco” lp.
But it wasn’t ’til the summer between 6th grade and 7th grade that I truly got inspired by music on my own. I spent the summer with one of my best friends, and his family, in Stuttgart, Germany. Our days consisted of skateboarding, eating gummy bears, talking about girls, and trying to do our hair cool. And at night we spent our time listening to the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, INXS, and OMD, and dreaming of being invited out to the disco that his older sisters snuck out to at night.
When summer ended, I came back to the States, and hit 7th grade, with a newly spiked New Wave haircut, purple baggy pants, long green army jacket, and high top Vans. I thought my skate buddies would be stoked to hear what I’d been listening to all summer in Europe. They were not. While I’d been away, they’d all become obsessed with American Punk Rock, and made it clear they thought my favored stuff was truly wimpy. Truly wussy.
Kevin, one of my best skate buddies at the time, was really into the Misfits, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, 7 Seconds, Agent Orange, Black Flag etc, and we’d spend a lot of weekends in his room listening to that stuff. Though I admit I kind of began to love all of those bands musically, I still didn’t have a complete connection, style-wise, with what they were all about. It was like I was missing something.
Then in 8th grade, something happened: I heard The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division, and Echo and The Bunnymen (still my fave band to this day), for the first time, and felt an instant connection. Yes, they all had a dark undertones to them, but their music actually made me feel hopeful.
Luckily, one of my other skate buddies had succumbed to these these sounds as well. Since he lived over an hour away, I’d take a bus to his every weekend, and skate around downtown with him by day, then soak up the newest bands coming from the UK on his cassette stereo, at night.
9th grade hit, and I found a new love, namely the Wax Trax label. I was into the whole style of the scene they represented, from the cool, dark clothes to, most importantly, the heavy synth beats they churned out. Frontline Assembly were my favorite band on the roster, but I also especially dug Revolting Cocks, Ministry, and My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult …yet once again, especially after I started going to their shows, I felt that I was not entirely aligned with what they were thinking, as in, everyone into the scene seemed ultra-aggressive, dirty, and unhappy.
See, I was spending my days in beautiful Florida, waking up to looking out my window at orange groves, then skating all day long in the sun. And so the aggression of the scene didn’t relate to my life, I mean I was not an angry teenager. I was still looking. Then in 10th grade, something even bigger happened to alter my musical landscape. It was a TV show. Yes, really.
MTV’s 120 Minutes was on from 12am-2am every Sunday, and hosted by this guy Dave Kendall. They would play the coolest new music from around the world, which back then was referred to as “alternative”. We used to call girls that were into it “Alter-Natives”, as those were the cool girls. I could never stay up that late, and so I would set up my VCR to record it, and the next day my sister, and I would watch it after school. It was a ton of work, as you had to fast forward through a lot of commercials, and bad interviews, but it was worth it to see an amazing new video from a band like Blur.
And that is where I first heard of the Charlatans, Lush, Stone Roses, Sundays, Inspiral Carpets, Soup Dragons, and Jesus and The Mary Chain. I felt a strong, and instant kinship with these bands. They had a punk spirit, great tunes, and great style. It was love.
At that time Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and other U.S. bands were big on the scene but I couldn’t relate. I mean to me, Kurt Cobain looked like a homeless guy, and sang about wanting to kill himself. I was like damn dude, life is great just enjoy it.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt like an outsider as a teenager, like a lot of us do, but the way the Charlatans described it in ‘The Weirdo”, well that was what it was about. They spoke my language. It celebrated life, and the fact that it was ok to be different. In other words, different was cool. Being happy was cool.
Fast forward to 1994. I had been hungrily following the UK music scene courtesy of the old NME magazines that I found at various record stores in Florida, and Atlanta. Usually I would have to read year old issues, but I didn’t care, as that was my only connection to what was going on in the UK. And hey, remember there was no internet in the mid 90’s.
I was entranced with the UK music scene : it seemed like a magical place. I talked so much about wanting to go to London that one summer, that I ultimately convinced my Dad to take us there. My sister, Mom, Dad, and I, in London for 3 whole weeks. I was in heaven. The mission for my sister, and I, was to hit as many record, clothing, and shoe stores as possible (Dr. Martens were hard to come by in Florida, so of course we couldn’t leave without picking up some).
I remember there were posters of Oasis all over town. We ourselves peeled a huge Blur “Parklike” subway poster off a wall. It had a big picture of a beer in the middle, and so I naturally loved it, and had to have it (p.s. still have it, and it’s since been displayed in bunch of different apartments I’ve lived in). We also bought as many music magazines as we could, as they were also hard to get in the States at that time. Within those magazines I discovered even more cool, new bands to get excited about. Pulp. Suede. Echobelly. Shed Seven. Placebo. Sleeper. The Auteurs. Marion…and on, and on.
Once we returned home, I was stuck by myself listening to this new crop of music from the UK, as my skate buddies were now firmly, officially stuck in Punk Rock land. Cool for them, but by then I was hanging Morrissey posters on the wall. I can remember a few parties at my house where I had to witness my drunk friends actually spitting on my Moz, Primal Scream, and Elastica posters. Spitting. The one, and only band spared from their hatred, was Supergrass who they thought “rocked”, and “had jams” . Once again, I felt separated because of my music taste…but I didn’t care. I had this little, happy place of music in my head, from a “magical land”, and it was far, far away from boring flannel, and torn jeans, and the negative sounds that went with them.
The rest of my college years I spent all of my time saving up money to take trips up to Atlanta to see an occasional British band play, and raid Wax n Facts Record Shop for all of their British Imports. On one crazy trip, I ventured up to see the band Gene, and got to meet Martin Rossiter, the singer, in person hours before the show. At that time I dressed in a pretty similar style to the guys in these British bands I loved, so much so, that the night of the show I was having pints in the upstairs bar, and one of the bouncers grabbed me, and said, “Dude, its show-time you gotta go downstairs and play”. He then ushered me past the door guy into the room. I didn’t even have time to react. I just let it happen. I was so excited that he thought I was in the band, and that I got in for free to see one of my favorite English bands play. I took a picture of Martin singing that night, and to this day it hangs in my office framed. Gene’s “Olympian” was the song that got me through many hard years in college, and is still there for me everytime I need it. The album of the same name, their debut, is by far one of my favorites of all time, and I never get tired of listening to it.
After that show, we went to an underground club called MJQ that specialized in MOD/Britpop. I walked in the door, and instantly, I was in heaven. Everyone was dressed super Mod, Britpop, and cool. No flannel shirts or torn up jeans, or dirty hair anywhere. Everyone dressed up to come out, and party, and dance to their favorite bands. I was stoked. It was heaven. Right then I knew I had to move to Atlanta, just as soon as I finished college in Florida.
Once I migrated to Atlanta, I managed to score an apartment across the street from my new, beloved Brit/Mod club MJQ. I would spend hours after work listening to my favorite new singles from the UK, while watching the early birds go into the club. Then at 12am my buddies would pile into my apartment for pre-drinks, and we’d all walk across the street like a gang into the club, ready to dominate the dance floor. Each year I would save a ton of money so that I could venture to the UK to buy mountains of records ( and they had to have the “Made in UK” stamp on them, that was important ), and see bands. I went to the Reading and Leeds Festivals twice, T in the Park, and some other amazing ones. It was a great thing to see the bands that you love, in their homeland , where the people “really got the music”. After spending years in Atlanta, I realized that there was more out there, and ventured up to NYC, driven by my strong love of Britpop/Mod Culture. Once there, I started my own club night called “Crashin’ In”(named after The Charlatans song), to share my musical love, which lasted well over 13 years. I even worked in an indie record store called Rebel Rebel that specialized in carrying UK band imports so that I could be closer to the music that I love ( and spend my weekly paycheck with way too much ease).
And so you see, Britpop was not a phase, or a fad, not for me it wasn’t. It remains my inspiration to this day, and that will never change.
Lio’s made an INSANE playlist featuring his most beloved Britpop, and Britpop adjacent tunes. Check it out on Spotify below ! Plus bonus YouTube playlist with stuff not featured on the former !
And a Note to NYer’s ! : Lio will be celebrating the magnificence of Britpop from all eras with “Return of the Party People”, a full DJ/Dance party, on Saturday, June 24th, at Brooklyn Nite Bazaar, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. It runs from 8:00pm to 2:00am. It’s free, and open to all ages. He heartily invites everyone to come Dance, and Drink, and Screw ( hopefully), and bask in the glow of 1995.
Here’s a show of love from Guest Rediscover-er, Andy Moreno, of the Brooklyn Food Monkey blog. Take it away Andy….
Even though War’s “The World is a Ghetto”, was the #1 selling album in 1973, I don’t feel they’ve received their deserved accolades: they were, and are, a treasure. Recently I’ve been revisiting key albums from my brother’s 70’s record collection, ones that moved me enough to ultimately include them in my own pile. He’s 68 now, and battling liver cancer. This ritual helps me to feel close to him while examining that time from an older perspective.
Musically, the 70’s had so many faces, emotions, and ways of mirroring the world. Wherever you were in your life, there were bands to perfectly portray that place. War’s instrumental track “City Country City” is an excellent example of their moody variety of musicianship. Like a song recalling better days, Lonnie Jordan’s organ gives a gorgeous sundowning feel, before he lights it all on fire. That pairs just right with Lee Oskar’s slightly somber, and hypnotic, genius harmonica chorus. A sax solo was never so cool, with conga drums guiding you through it. In this song, you hear all the energy of youth, as reality and struggles pour in. For me, this multi-cultural blend of Latin, funk and jazz especially in both this album, and “All Day Music” (1971), perfectly echo the bleakness, and grace of my Midwest factory hometown.
Colourbox were an unusual, esoteric pop band that were on the 4ad label, and put out a grand total of 1 full length album, in 1985. It was a absolutely a pop record, with proper songs, and ear candy, but it also had an electronic tinge, and featured some nascent sampling experiments. It was unquestionably different, and sounded nothing like the other stuff that was big at the time ( that being Duran Duran, Culture Club and the like). The band consisted of Martyn, and Steven Young, who later went onto to fame, as part of M/A/A/R/S, creators of the massive “Pump up the Volume”, and a vocalist by the name of Lorita Grahame.
“They say he’s got an ’81 Firebird, I’m still in my ’79” – Paul Davis lyric from “Somebody’s Been Gettin’ to You”
For me, that line kind of typifies the “West Coast” sound, a sound which during it’s 1978-1983 heyday, was as pervasive in the U.S., as hair metal was in later in the decade. During those years, the top 40 charts were littered end to end with the stuff. The “sound” was typified by supreme musicianship, slick production, and melodic cleanliness, and the people that made it tended to be straight, white guys, within the age range of 25-35. And as the state of the art recording studios in Southern California were where the overwhelmingly majority of it was created, at some point, years later, it started getting referred to as “West Coast”. When it was actually happening, it was just pop music, but the latterly coined genre name, and the sound are, admittedly, a perfect match.
As for the music itself, I loved it. It spoke to me in ways I did not understand since I had nothing in common with the people creating it, or their life experiences ( I was also obsessed with soul man Billy Preston, so there you go). I listened religiously to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on Sunday mornings with anticipation , hoping for a new smoothie to spend my allowance on. The deal was, if you had a neatly trimmed beard, and were leaning on a sports car, in a crumpled, yet clean, linen suit, with the sun descending behind you on the cover, and your single was at least # 39 in the chart, I bought your record. I trusted you, and I loved you. My big obsession for awhile was this guy named Robbie Dupree, who turned out to be from Brooklyn, but to me, was the west coast-iast of all the west coasters. His self-titled 1980 album is full of sleek, lonely, and lovelorn tunes, nearly all of which I loved. I would endlessly play it, and simultaneously attempt to draw portraits of Robbie’s sullen, bearded face, as he stared out sadly from the album cover.
Of course, there’s been a resurgence in popularity of West Coast over the past handful of years. Most recently with Thundercat having esteemed West Coast royalty Kenny Loggins, and Michael McDonald, guest on his album. Prior to that, the lovingly curated “Too Slow to Disco” compilations, featuring some of West Coast’s finest, and the first of which was issued in 2014, garnered a lot of attention…and, surprisingly, critical love…but of course, it’s the “Yacht Rock” phenomenon, that really reignited the interest in the artists, and songs. That’s a cool thing. And it’s great that people are openly, brazenly loving these songs without guilt ( hopefully)…but…can’t bring myself to refer to this music as “Yacht Rock”… no. Never. To me it’s no joke, it is, and shall always will be, sigh, West Coast.
And with that, here’s a playlist, and a couple of loose ends from Mr. Dupree , of spineless, wussy, and truly awesome songs to play in your ’79 Firebird, as you drive to 7-11. Go on then.
Colenso Parade were a post-punk band from Ireland, who only ever released 1 album,”Glentoran” (1986). And from that they culled one of the most glorious, and not as famous as it should’ve been, singles of the 80’s, “Fontana Eyes”.
The song is built around references to “Pan & Fontana”, a still beloved, paperback horror anthology book series, that was extremely popular in the UK, in the early sixties, and has apparently become a real cult thing over the years.
And so, this song. Lush piano, stuttering drums, sinewy vocalizing : it’s just one big, fat, epic beauty.
And in case you were curious about the line,”God put my eyes in with smoky fingers”, that is repeated throughout the song, and what it means, well, I remember reading an interview a million years ago, where the singer was saying, that the line refers to that classic horror creature/ghost/ zombie look, of having big, black circles around the eyes, you know, like the kind you’d read about in those books. “Smoky fingers”. Perfect.