Category: Grade: C

The Styrenes – Essential Styrenes Vol. 1 (1975-1979)

ARTIST: The Styrenes

TITLE: Essential Styrenes Vol. 1 (1975-1979)                    r-4432280-1364729490-3484.jpeg

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Drano in Your Veins, I Saw You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

LINEUP: George Klimek, Paul Marotta, Anton Fier, Mike Antle, Jim Jones, other various drummers and bassists

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Arising out of the ashes of the early avant-garde Cleveland scene, the Styrenes were born, and wallowed in serious obscurity until people started to pay attention to Pere Ubu. Then they were just obscure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cleveland in the early 70’s produced some dark avant-garde rock, and after the first wave of bands came and went (including Mirrors and the infamous Electric Eels), the Styrenes formed.

Their first single (“Drano in Your Veins”) rather much captured it all. They weren’t loud and destructive – at least on record – they were subversive in other ways. The lyrics were just weird, art damaged maybe (early on), and the arrangements were a bit odd and off-putting. Later, they added saxes, shed members (many, like Anton Fier, joined Pere Ubu or other Cleveland bands) and Paul Marotta’s piano took more prominence. They were still weird.

This compilation covers their Cleveland years, containing the best two singles and album highlights. This was released originally as two 7” records, which was probably the perfect format for them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They moved to New York, recorded an album, waited about eight years, recorded another one, and somehow Marotta have kept a version going.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE C+: Google the lyrics to “Drano in Your Veins”. If you can dig it, you can dig this. It’s just inconsistent weirdness.

 

Black Oak Arkansas – Definitive Rock: Black Oak Arkansas

ARTIST: Black Oak Arkansas                    boa definitive rock

TITLE: Definitive Rock : Black Oak Arkansas

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Jim Dandy (#25)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m sure someone’s heard other stuff by them. The question begs, why?

LINEUP: Jim Dandy Mangrum, Rickie Lee Reynolds, Harvey Jett, Pat Daugherty, Stanley Knight, Wayne Evans, Tommy Aldridge. Probably others. I ain’t lookin’ at each albums credits.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The stoopedest swamp-rock of the 70’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They had three guitars, but really didn’t need ‘em. (Unlike Skynyrd, who really made three guitars work in space). They had energy, yes, and a “sense” of humor, and probably put on a good show, but also they sported inane lyrics mostly ineptly sung by Jim Dandy.

Then why have I kept over half of this record, then? Well, when Jim Dandy doesn’t do his ‘wacky character’ voice, he’s kind of engaging, like a primordial David Lee Roth. They could rock out when their asinine ideas, gimmicks, or jokes didn’t stand in the way. And, everyone needs some 8-track tape tunes in their life.

After 1974, their career slowly faded away like the business end of a Marlboro Red. You gotta pick and choose very carefully. I mean carefully. They covered “Taxman” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. You wanna go THERE?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Formed in 1963 or so as The Knowbody Else, they’ve had 70 members or so, including their present touring band. You probably know Tommy Aldridge from his work with Ozzy and Whitesnake. Other members have played with Johnny Winter, Cinderella, Gene Simmons, Krokus, REO Speedwagon, Winger, and the Bluesbreakers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C: They catered to the shirtless heathens of the 70’s – those who stood on the hood of their ’73 Chevy Impala, barefoot, sun baked, in the grass parking lot of the festival, drinking Stroh’s and smoking heaters with an occasional hit of grass or a snort of cheap wine or whiskey.

Tsunami – The Heart’s Tremolo

ARTIST: Tsunami                       Tsunami-The_Heart's_Tremolo

TITLE: The Heart’s Tremolo

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Be Like That

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jenny Toomey, Kristin Thomson, John Palmer, Andrew Webster

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DC area band and record label owners second full length runs into a rut of same-same and bad production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I guess I DON’T have to follow the hipster crowd on some things. One of these is this Tsunami record.

Critics loved this band, but they must have seen them live, because on record they sound flat, have same-same songs, and have mixing and production issues. I can her fits and starts of songs that sound good, but when they get to the chorus it blurs together, at least in my ears.

Tsumani has a great DIY and independent legacy, and I don’t mean to belittle that. It’s just…I don’t get this record. It’s probably on me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they took a hiatus as Andrew Webster finished his degree.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE C: It’s probably a cop-out review but I’ll exile this and see if my ears perk up for their final album.

Joe Jackson – Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive

ARTIST: Joe Jackson

TITLE: Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive  220px-Jumpinjive

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #42 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: Jumpin’ Jive (#43 UK), Jack You’re Dead

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of these are swing-era hit songs

LINEUP: Joe Jackson, Pete Thomas, Raul D’Oliveira, Nick Weldon, Dave Bitelli, Graham Maby, Larry Tolfree.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After he broke up his angry-young-man band, Jackson goes swing (!?!) It was probably a fun record to make.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The swing music era always has affectionados, and revivals every now and then pop up in space and time. Joe Jackson loved the jump blues and swing, so why not put out an album of covers of his favorite songs.

Featuring songs made famous by Louis Jordan, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and others, Jackson leads a competent swing band through the paces in what sounds like a fun time.

Yet after a couple of plays, what you want to do is find the originals (which is now much, much easier in the streaming world) than listen to Jackson’s versions. (His voice isn’t always built for these songs). So a fun concept, the tour was probably a hoot, but these aren’t the originals and that’s what you really want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this tour, Jackson changed directions again, keeping Graham Maby as the only continuum between his first band and 1982.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: C+: It’s fun, but it doesn’t have staying power since the originals are the ones you need to seek out.

The Dirtbombs – Horndog Fest

ARTIST: The Dirtbombs                    220px-Horndogfest

TITLE:  Horndog Fest

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

LINEUP: Mick Collins, Tom Lynch, Eric Wheeler, Chris Handyside, Joe Greenwald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Retro garage and soul band, record an album after a bunch of singles. It’s hit or miss in a big way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After releasing a bunch of singles, and before they found their groove in the early 2000’s, the Dirtbombs mastermind Mick Collins accepted an offer to record an album and treated it like a single, except there was a lot more B-side material than A-side stuff.

“I Can’t Stop Thinking About It” is one of those coulda shoulda songs that really should be rescued (it was in a TV commercial, though). There are a couple of other tracks that deserve to hang around, but most of the rest is a bit puerile or obtuse, or way way overcome by noise. Though I dig Joe Greenwald’s guitar settings.

They’d get their mojo around the turn of the decade, but this one is a pass except for a couple of tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had released five singles by the time this was put out, and had an EP come out in 1999 as well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C-: A couple tracks save it from total ignominy

Rick Derringer – Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

ARTIST: Rick Derringer                     71++RgMezdL._SX425_

TITLE:  Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Hang on Sloopy (#1 US, #5 UK), Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo (#23 US), Teenage Love Affair (#80 US), Let Me In (#86)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Still Alive and Well

LINEUP: Rick Derringer and various session people, plus his own group called Derringer, which existed in the mid-70’s

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitarist and vocalist for the McCoys, Johnny Winter, and Edgar Winter’s solo career is compiled in a single disc that illustrates the problems he had sustaining a solo career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s no doubt Rick Derringer’s a good wingman, as his worth with both Winter brothers and Weird Al show. He’s also got a good rock-and-roll voice. But as a songwriter, he’s got few highlights outside of “Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo”.

“Still Alive and Well” works well, and various dribs and drabs from his group Derringer are decent enough. But his 70’s solo albums found him straddling glam and hard rock, with no real purpose, and some of his tracks are just cringeworthy (who the hell thought “If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You” was a song title that would be both a single AND the title of an album???)

I was quite disappointed here – but it illustrates why you’ve not heard much besides his big solo hit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He recorded a version of “Real American” for Alex Jones’ show. I don’t need to say more.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C: Many tracks exiled. Just not great

The Monkees – Head

ARTIST: The Monkees                                     220px-Monkees-Head

TITLE:  Head

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #45

SINGLES: Porpoise Song (#62)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Circle Sky

LINEUP: Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and lots of session musicians and actors

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The soundtrack to the Monkees gobsmackingly odd movie is just as odd as the movie.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Porpoise Song” and “Circle Sky” are amongst the Monkees’ best tracks. Peter Tork has a couple of nice songs here as well, and a lot of session and LA musician heavyweights play on this. But it’s…strange.

Of the 14 original tracks, only six are real songs, and one is their “War Chant” which has more significance in the movie than on this soundtrack. One of the real songs is yet another tribute to music of vaudeville – making it the third such ‘tribute’ in a year.

The dialogue in oddly placed, and just makes no sense in context without the movie. I guess this could have been an EP, but the strategy was to have a multi-media experience. But the movie was buried and mostly unseen, and thus this album made no sense to a lot of people and was way way over the head of many of their fans. It’s sad, because “Porpoise Song” and “Circle Sky” deserve more than this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jack Nicholson was the one who compiled the dialogue and wrote the script for the movie.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: As usual, Rhino documents the heck out of this group. There is a nice live version of “Circle Sky” which shows that the band was competent out on the road.

 GRADE: C-: This is best picked apart, and the good tracks saved and the other stuff just shunted off.

Die Kreuzen – Century Days

ARTIST: Die Kreuzen               220px-Die_Kreuzen_-_Century_Days

TITLE:  Century Days

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s a negative

LINEUP: Keith Brammer, Brian Egeness, Dan Kubinski, Erik Tunison. Help from Tim Cole and Peter Balistrieri

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Die Kreuzen slows it down. Dan Kubinski doesn’t scream as much. Eh.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Die Kreuzen had good notices and a decent live show, but it seemed never to really get over on a record. On this third full-length, vocal shredder Dan Kubinski slows down and actually sings some songs, and the band reduces the tempo away from being mostly hardfastrules.

Somehow, though, that didn’t improve the proceedings. It seems turgid and bloated at times, and the production from Butch Vig doesn’t do the band any favors (though the band is also credited with co-producing, so he may have just made sure the tape was rolling properly…) By the time “Halloween” comes on to liven up the place a bit, it’s too late.

Whatever the wags were saying, and how good the press WAS in the day, I’m not hearing it. So I’m off the Die Kreuzen train after exiling this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released their last record in 1991, but have reunited for shows. Why wouldn’t they?

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C: I may be missing something, but I’m just not feeling this. They seem to be running in place on this one.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

ARTIST: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah     Clap_Your_Hands_Say_Yeah_(Front_Cover)

TITLE:  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #16 US Indie, #26 UK

SINGLES: Is This Love (#74 UK), In This Home on Ice (#68 UK), The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth (#149 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe if you were tuned into indie or college stations.

LINEUP: Alex Ounsworth, Sean Greenhaigh, Robbie Guertin, Lee Sargent, Tyler Sargent..

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Indie rock sensations in 2005, in retrospect it’s a lot of whiny stuff.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you were a whiny skinny white boy, then 2005 was the year for you. In the UK, and over here, bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got airplay and noticed.

Alex Ounsworth is the brains behind the band, and he has a good knack for melodies and arrangements, mostly. But my goodness, his voice. He’s got a natural whine, and not in a good way. It’s high pitched, pleading, and grating at times.

Mind you, there is some decent stuff on here, if you can forget the voice. I really can’t, but I’m keeping some anyway. Going forward, I’m forgetting their other records.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This record was self-released and sold by the band here in the US before it was released in the UK on a proper label.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. 

GRADE: C+: There’s some material that Ounsworth’s voice doesn’t take away from, but it’s a detriment on many, and I can’t deal. Those songs are exiled.

Broken Social Scene – Feel Good Lost

ARTIST: Broken Social Scene          220px-Broken_Social_Scene-Feel_Good_Lost

TITLE:  Feel Good Lost

YEAR RELEASED: 2001

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s a big no

LINEUP: Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Brodie West, Justin Peroff, Charles Spearing, Bill Priddle, Jessica Moss, Evan Cranley, Leslie Feist (barely).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A mostly instrumental (and the vocals are just ethereal really) record that’s good to put on while cleaning your bathroom, but that’s not a recommendation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, they were an ambient instrumental group founded by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and they gathered some friends and recorded this record of ambient doodlings.

It’s alright if you’re into that kind of thing, but I kept waiting and waiting for something to pop out at me and give me a reason to keep going. I didn’t find it.

Obviously, they’d change up and become the big ol’ Toronto collective histpers now and nod to, but this…this isn’t it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The duo formed the band in 1999 and it took a couple years to get this made.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C: Be my guest if you like ambient noise scapes.