They Might Be Giants – Miscellaneous T

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants 220px-Misc_t

TITLE: Miscellaneous T

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: These were single B-sides or remixes for singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Kiss Me Son of God, The World’s Address, (She Was a) Hotel Detective, Don’t Let’s Start – all of these in their singles remixes

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: B-sides and a new track released as a good-bye to their independent label.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a compilation of all of the B-sides recorded and (mostly) released for their Restless Records singles.

It shows the group as profilic, and as always, a good imitator of genres on all kinds of instruments. (“The Famous Polka” for one). As with any odds-and-sods collection, there are highs and lows, and they’re no different. However, for the most part these are enjoyable trifles and novelties. But there are definitely highlights – songs that could have been released on their own (at least I think so).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the UK, there was an earlier version that included all of the songs except “Hello Radio”. Also there’s a track of an answering machine conversation left on the bands Dial-A-Song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: “For Science”, “We’re the Replacements’, “It’s Not My Birthday”, “Birds Fly” are just examples of the tossed-off weirdness and wonder.

They Might Be Giants – Flood

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants 220px-Flood_album_cover

TITLE: Flood

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: #75 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Birdhouse in Your Soul (#3 Alternative, #6 UK), Twisting (#22 Alternative), Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (#61 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Particle Man, They Might Be Giants

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and a lot of people helping here and there with vocals and other instruments.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The major label debut by TMBG may be their peak in their original style and sound.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Songs? Arrangements? Clever and insightful lyrics? All here!

Hooks? Yeppers.

Fun? Satire? Tributes? Reinventions of classic songs? Oh, yes. 220px-TMBG-Flood-Vinyl

Any album that goes from the eclectic new wavish pop of “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, to the social commentary (serious) of “Your Racist Friend”, to the all-time mid-temp polka (I guess) “Particle Man”, and then later to the perfect western of “Minimum Wage”, is well worth the listen. Then all of the other tracks will open themselves up to you. Even with the oom-pahs, and boings, and other sounds. They’re all brilliantly arranged and inserted.

They probably peaked here. That’s OK. This is a definitive statement of…They Might Be Giants.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: UK producers Winstanley and Langer helped produce. 2/3 of the albums budget was used on four tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A live bonus disc,

GRADE A+: “Hang on, hang on tightly…”

They Might Be Giants – Lincoln

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants TheyMightBeGiants-Lincoln

TITLE: Lincoln

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: #89

SINGLES: Ana Ng (#11 Alternative), They’ll Need a Crane, Purple Toupee

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Kiss Me Son of God, Santa’s Beard, The World’s Address

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A few excellent singles turns more heads and boots them another level in popularity.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As silly and fun as their songs are, They Might Be Giants understand pop music, hooks, and arrangements. They also understand moods and motifs. This is quite evident as you go through Lincoln, where each song is a stand-alone tribute or pastiche.

That can be risky if you don’t quite hit the marks, and on a few tracks TMBGs are off a bit, but then you have tracks like the singles, the other songs listed above, and weirdness like “Cage & Aquarium” and “Shoehorn with Teeth”. The use of a long conversation in “Snowball in Hell” is also effective. But a few tracks just don’t stand up.

Yet, this is a record you can just put on and enjoy the eclectic silliness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Most of the weird sounds are from keyboards or drum programs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a whole whole bunch of stuff in the Australian version.

GRADE A-: If you’re not feeling a certain song – just skip ahead and you’ll find a winner.

The Clash – Cut the Crap

ARTIST: The Clash 220px-Cut_the_Crap

TITLE: Cut the Crap

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: #88 US, #16 UK

SINGLES: This Is England (#24 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Straight to Hell

LINEUP: Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, Vince White, Nick Sheppard, Pete Howard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: This is what you get when you appoint your manager as producer and he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After the departures of Mick Jones and Topper Headon, Joe Strummer and manager Bernie Rhodes kept The Clash going, and the ‘new’ clash (with three new recruits) toured with some new songs, and then…released…this.

Without Jones, the melodies and sensibility are non-existent. The lyrics seem trite and tired. And the production? Oh! My! God!

Synth drums, synthesizers, inane sound effects, no bass, muted guitars, odd vocal mixes. Holy cow. It’s like the producer didn’t know what he was doing – he didn’t. It was Rhodes, and it was a total butcher job. Weak songs and bad production. Only “This Is England” is semi-worthy of their name, and a couple of other tracks are passable, if I’m in a good mood. But man, as a whole this stinks and I hate it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Paul Simonon, still in the band, didn’t do anything really because of Rhodes’ involvement.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE F: Exiled faster than anything else ever.

The Clash – Combat Rock

ARTIST: The Clash 220px-The_Clash_-_Combat_Rock

TITLE: Combat Rock

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Know Your Rights (#43 UK), Rock the Casbah (#8 US, #6 Mainstream, #8 Dance, #30 UK), Should I stay or Should I Go (#45 US, #13 Mainstream, #17 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Straight to Hell

LINEUP: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon. Help from a bunch of their usual suspects (Ellen Foley, Tymon Dogg, Kosmo Vinyl, Tommy Mandel, Gary Barnacle) and others, like Allen Ginsberg, Joe Ely, Futura 2000.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The long awaited and deserved US commercial breakthrough papered over a big division in the band musically.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roaring out of the gates with “Know Your Rights” and careening down 11 other songs with various styles and motifs but unified by a voice, the Clash’s experiments in London Calling and Sandanista! were boiled into one successful, and challenging record.

Tracks like “Red Angel Dragnet” (Paul Simonon did the reciting, with Kosmo Vinyl adding the Travis Bickle bit), “Sean Flynn”, and “Death Is a Star”, as out of the mainstream as they were, successfully melded into the commercial sphere. Other great tracks like “Straight to Hell” and “Car Jamming” were great album tracks supported by the hits.

The issue here is the hidden division between Mick Jones and Joe Strummer. Mick wanted a double album with longer tracks and more dance / dub experiments, but Joe and manager Bernie Rhodes shut that down. (You can find the proposed album on You Tube as Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg). By October 1983, they were basically done.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Topper Headon wrote the melody and piano part for “Rock the Casbah”, but was out of the band within weeks of release due to his drug addiction

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: The experimental cuts don’t hit 100% but the album wouldn’t be the album without it.

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual

ARTIST: Jane’s Addiction 220px-Jane's_Addiction-Ritual_de_lo_Habitual

TITLE: Ritual de lo Haibitual

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: #19

SINGLES: Stop! (#1 Alternative), Been Caught Stealing (#1 Alternative, #29 Mainstream, #34 UK), Three Days, Classic Girl (#15 Alternative, #60 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ain’t No Right

LINEUP: Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, Stephen Perkins. Classical musicians helped on a couple of tracks

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Split into two sections, Jane’s second album shows both sides of Perry Farrell and the band. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roaring out of the gate with “Stop!” and furiously blasting through five tracks (ending with the enduring “Been Caught Stealing”), the first half of Ritual de lo Habitual is everything you thought you wanted from an alternative rock band.

Then you get to the second half, and that’s upended. Jane's_Addiction-Ritual_de_lo_Habitual_(clean_cover)

Admittedly, it took me a while to get that second half – four long songs about Farrell’s ex-girlfriend and the suicide of his mother. Moody, ethereal, with the long, intense “Three Days” the highlight, with Dave Navarro’s guitar solo the highlight. It took a big leap of faith for a band known for riffs and volume (for the most part) to branch out like this.

They pretty much imploded after this, and while the band came back (for the most part), it never was the same. How could it?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Many retailers didn’t want to stock the album due to the cover, so the band produced an alternate cover with the 1st Amendment and a warning about facism for those stores.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: It grows on you. You put it away for a while, and listen to it, and it intrigues you more and more.

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking

ARTIST: Jane’s Addiction 220px-Nothing's_Shocking_(Jane's_Addiction_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Nothing’s Shocking

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: #103

SINGLES: Jane Says (#6 Alternative), Mountain Song, Had a Dad, Ocean Size (#36 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pigs in Zen

LINEUP: Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, Stephen Perkins. Flea, Angelo Moore and Christopher Dowd played horns on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Major label debut announces Jane’s Addiction as a force to be reckoned with in the scene.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At the time, this record was a revelation. An LA band who eschewed glam and hair and posing, and was more concerned with art and statements. The band rocked, with guitarist Dave Navarro creating inventive riffs and solos and bassist Eric Avery melodic anchor. Meanwhile, frontman and lyricist Perry Farrell was spinning unique tales with his intense, high-pitched vocals.

The power of songs like “Ocean Size”, “Mountain Song” and “Had a Dad” almost overwhelm the listener but the band and Farrell pulls back at the right time. Tracks like “Ted, Just Admit It” (about Ted Bundy) may seem pretentious at first but they’re not. Only a couple track seem a bit forced (“Idiots Rule” for one).

“Jane Says”, the big ‘hit’ from the record, was overplayed, and still is, and it’s nowhere near the best song on the record. That’s not a detraction, as there’s so so much depth here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The seeds of discord were planted here. Farrell wanted sole royalties for the lyrics, and a ¼ share for the music. That caused strife that almost broke up the band before the record was started, and lingered.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: A solid, genre-bending record that set the course for hard rock, alternative rock, and nu-metal in the 90’s, for better or worse.

Jane’s Addiction – Jane’s Addiction

ARTIST: Jane’s Addiction 220px-Jane's_Addiction_album

TITLE: Jane’s Addiction

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pigs in Zen and Jane Says were re-done later.

LINEUP: Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, Stephen Perkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Live” record released before their major label debut

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I wasn’t too convinced I’d like this prequel to Jane’s Addiction’s proper debut, but my fears were unfounded.

Recorded live (basic tracks) with overdubs at a studio, the basic building blocks of Jane’s Addiction are here. The band is tight, and inventive, winding around Perry Farrell’s lyrics and melodies. Sometimes Farrell goes over the top, and while the cover version of the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones had their moments, it seemed that they were just there for filler.

The songs you don’t really know are just as strong as the two they recorded later. All in all, while it’s not an essential release, for fans it’s pretty good. It even changed my mind (somewhat) on “Jane Says”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: On the very first pressing of the disc, “Pigs in Zen” was typed as “Pigs in Ten”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes

GRADE B+: It was a good intro to the band then, and now it’s a good document of what they were.

The Meat Puppets – Up on the Sun

ARTIST: The Meat Puppets  220px-MeatPuppets_-_UpOnTheSun

TITLE: Up on the Sun

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Swimming Ground

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Meat Puppets’ release a laid-back, country-tinged record that’s psychedelic and weird while being normal at the same time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This album is bifurcated, in that the guitar and the playing are pretty darn straight up – tight and impressive with Curt Kirkwood’s guitar’s sounding very clean and interacting well with his brother Cris’ bass and Derrick Bostrom’s drums. Everything is solid and clean.

Then, the songs, and the lyrics. Curt’s vocals are mellow and still trying to find a note or five, and at times “Up on the Sun” sounded like the record was warped as he was singing. There’s a lazy vibe – like they’re baked out in the sun (and I don’t mean they’re sunbathing). Here’s also where Curt and Cris start singing together (at times here), which can smooth out the ‘oddities’.

This is a more stylistically together album, so there’s not an element of surprise. It’s a good, kinda mellow record with some excellent playing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Curt Kirkwood did the cover painting, and Bostrom did the sleeve art.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes

 GRADE A-: A fine, mellow-ish, trip.

The Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II

ARTIST: The Meat Puppets 

TITLE: Meat Puppets II

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lost, Plateau, Oh Me, Lake of Fire

LINEUP: Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An punk record? A psychedelic record? A country-rock record? All of them, for sure. It’s unique.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, you can quibble about Curt Kirkwood’s vocals (not really in any key known to mankind), and the stylistic diversions, and the uprooting of the punk norm (for those SST Records purists), but dang this is a fun record that’s, well, always keeping you guessing.

The opening track, “Split Myself in Two” is really punk rock with other overtones, but then as you move along to tracks like “Lost”, “Plateau”, and “Lake of Fire”, you’re in totally uncharted waters for an SST act. Acoustic guitars, country rhythms, jammy instrumentals, psychedelic overtones, mystical lyrics, and Lord knows what else. It’s like the Grateful Dead crossed with the Minutemen, or something.

If you can get past the vocals (I mean it, they’re surprisingly off-key, but earnest), and forget this was a punk band (was) on a punk rock label, then you’re in for an adventurous treat.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They played with Black Flag and Nig Heist on a tour, and the punkers in the audience didn’t get it. Long hair? Jams? Wow. Oh, and three of the tracks were on Nirvana’s unplugged record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and other tracks.

GRADE A+: Sod the vocals, and listen to “Plateau” on repeat, forever.