Category: Reviews: S-V

Jen Trynin – Cockamamie

ARTIST: Jen Trynin           220px-Cockamamie

TITLE: Cockamamie

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None (sigh…)

SINGLES: Better Than Nothing (#15 Alternative, #40 Mainstream), Happier

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, unless you knew me then.

LINEUP: Jennifer Trynin, Paul Bryan, Jerry Deupree, David Gregory, Mike Levesque, Michael Rivard. Aimee Mann sang backup.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Boston based solo artists records a rockin’ alternative power pop-ish solo album with great songs and no reaction from the public for the most part.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coming out of Boston, Warner Brothers released this album after local Squint Records put it out to raves in 1994. It deserved the accolades – it didn’t deserve the commercial freeze-out.

MTV played the video for “Better Than Nothing” at times, and that garnered some airplay. Yet the album has several great tracks like “One Year Down”, “Too Bad You’re Such a Loser”, “Knock Me Down and “Happier”. Her guitar tone is fantastically meaty and raw, which adds to the overall sound and mood. The production and her work with the rotating drummers is strong as well.

There are few dull spots or subpar tracks. It’s just a shame it didn’t resonate with the public or radio.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She later married her producer Mike Denneen.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: Unfairly ignored by the powers that be, it deserved a lot of play.

Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss

ARTIST: Soul Coughing                    220px-Irresistiblebliss

TITLE: Irresistible Bliss

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #136

SINGLES: Soundtrack to Mary (#37 Alternative), Super Bon Bon (#27 Alternative), Soft Serve

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disseminated….

LINEUP: M. Doughty, Sebastian Steinberg, Mark de Gil Antoni, Yuval Gabay

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album is a bit tighter in arrangements and production, which caused some band discord and left some fans disappointed.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The much anticipated second album by Soul Coughing changed up their winning formula a bit. No longer did they throw the kitchen sink out there in samples and arrangements. This time, M. Doughty wanted a tighter record – even as they still combined all sorts of genres into one stew.

“Super Bon Bon” was the song on this record that has left a legacy, and it does harken back to their debut, though it is a bit slicker and polished. As the record moves along, the sense of wonderment and excitement from discovering new sounds didn’t seem to be there. It’s almost as if they were telegraphing their production and sampling tricks.

I wouldn’t call this a ‘slump’ or a bad record by any means. It’s just not as magical as the first one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Doughty didn’t want to wait on Tchad Blake to produce, and enlisted David Kahne to produce most of the record. That didn’t go over well with anyone except Doughty, and bassist Steinberg quit for a few days.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. An EP with live cuts…in Japan (of course).

 GRADE B: By making the record tighter and less random, it takes away some of the more interesting aspects of the band.

Swans – Filth

ARTIST: Swans                                     

TITLE: Filth

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: Are you serious?

SINGLES: None, but the EP Swans is appended.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um….

LINEUP: Michael Gira, Jonathan Kane, Roli Mosimann, Norman Westberg, Harry Crosby

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pummeling your senses into oblivion.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve had issues in adding some really out there and art damaged records to my catalog (See Throbbing Gristle, Einstruzende Neubauten, Foetus, etc. on Ugggh!) but Swans makes the cut, even though it is also grimly difficult and damaged.

Michael Gira and his band of noise terrorists do have song structures, and even songs that you can move a bit too. What they also have is a holy clatter and noise made by two drummers, two bassists, and a guitarist interested in making sheets of noise. Gira sings, er, shouts his tales of degradation and real-life horror. The effect is heightened by the use of repetition in both music and lyrics.

This is not for everyone – probably not for most people. But if you get it (and it may take a while) it’s worth a ride. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Michael Gira said he wanted the music to obliterate, just because it felt good. Mission accomplished.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Several different packages, and some have their debut EP along with this album

 GRADE B+: I get this, not that I’m going to put it on to cook dinner (unless I have to tenderize something with a mallet).

Sleater-Kinney – Call the Doctor

ARTIST: Sleater-Kinney               220px-Callsoctorskinney

TITLE: Call the Doctor

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None really

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Call the Doctor, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

LINEUP: Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, Lora Macfarlane

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from Olympia feminist punks establishes their cred as one of the best bands of the scene in the 90’s.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with the blast of “Call the Doctor”, a punk anthem for sure, but then moving to a complicated track like “Hubcap”, then a complete screamer like “Little Mouth”, Sleater-Kinney showed versatility in their attack and sound. They could change it up and still scream loudly if need be.

As the record goes on, you can feel Sleater-Kinney reveling in their songs and feminist power, strategically placing rage so you don’t get worn out. The structures of the songs are also varied and tricky, with the two-guitar attack varying and the riffs flowing (but not always the way regular rock riffs are constructed). When Corin Tucker says, “I’m the Queen of rock-and-roll”, there’s so much conviction that you believe her and will follow her.

You needed this record in 1996, and you need this record in 2019 to combat the crap going on in the world, right now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Now, when they play “Joey Ramone” live, they change the reference in a lyric from Thurston Moore to Kim Gordon.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: Every song either grabs you immediately, or sneaks up on you later. Play it loud, and scare the patriarchy.

Solange – Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

ARTIST: Solange                                 220px-Solange_-_Sol-Angel_And_The_Hadley_St._Dreams

TITLE: Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

YEAR RELEASED: 2008

CHART ACTION: #9 US, #180 UK

SINGLES: Charting: Sandcastle Disco (#1 Dance, #149 UK), T.O.N.Y. (#62 R&B, #1 Dance), Would’ve Been the One (#3 Dance), Fuck the Industry (#6 Dance), I Told You So (#5 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Solange Knowles, Sean Hurley, John Broussard, Manny Patino, Phillip Todd, Noel Langley, Neil Sidwell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Beyonce’s sister makes a non-teen-pop album and impresses for the most part.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was six years after her debut (a forgettable teen dance-pop record) and Solange Knowles came out with a varied album with lots of references to 60’s soul and 70’s funk coupled with a modern production.

Sure it could have done with a little trimming (it’s almost an hour long wwith a couple of six minute tracks that could have shunk a bit) but it was a fine effort and established her as an artist in her own right.

But, as she became a bigger thing (perhaps due to the elevator video with Jay-Z?), in 2015 they released a deluxe version which grabbed some single B-sides and club mixes and made it a 17 track monster. It included a cover of “The Thrill Is Gone” done with BB King, and excluded “Sandcastle Disco” the first single from the album. You can’t stream that song now, anywhere, which is a very curious thing.

There already was at least four other bonus editions done, and three of the five added tracks were on those versions. “Fuck the Industry” was also it’s own single released in 2010. So not only to re-release another ‘deluxe’ edition, and then removing the first single from it? Hmmm, very curious decision suits.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “T.O.N.Y.” was the only original not co-written by Solange. It was a Cee-Lo Green / Jack Splash joint.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, as I yelled about above.

GRADE B: Pleasant soul / R&B record with homages to the old days, but needed some trimming and fewer record company shenanigans.

Sonic Youth – Sister

ARTIST: Sonic Youth                        220px-Sonic_youth_sister

TITLE: Sister

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Schizophrenia, (I Got A) Catholic Block

LINEUP: Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Where Sonic Youth’s promise intersects with its reality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Finally, an album that fulfilled Sonic Youth’s vision and promise. While Evol was a great leap forward, Sister is the culmination of their SST career and put them at the precipice of greatness.

The trend towards recognizable song-structures is there, and they utilize structures to make an impact in lyrics and sound. Still, they allow Kim Gordon to recite powerful feminism over what sounds like free-form noise (but definitely isn’t). The drumming by Steve Shelley is propulsive and evocative (and really drives songs like “Stereo Sanctity”).

The band was able to construct haunting songs (“Schizophrenia”), first person observations (“Tuff Gnarl” and a combo of creepy first person songs (“Pacific Coast Hightway”). It peters out a bit at the end (after a cover of a song by Crime) but really, the cover is probably the cause of the letdown. Had they re-sequenced it and ended with the cover, it would have been nearly perfect.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first versions, in the UK, had the final two cuts spelled “Kotton Krown” and “White Kross”, while later versions had it as “Cotton Crown” and “White Cross”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The CD version appends “Master=Dik”, the first appearance of the Ciccone Youth sound.

 GRADE A: Of course not for everyone (it IS Sonic Youth), but this is one of their must-haves. A great mix of rock song structures and avant-garde tuning and sounds.

Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die

ARTIST: Tortoise                220px-Millions_Now_Living_Will_Never_Die_-_Tortoise

TITLE: Millions Now Living Will Never Die

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Djed, The Taut and the Tame

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Dan Bitney, John Herndon, Douglas McCombs, John McEntire, David Pajo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A long excursion and some shorter tracks. The long song intrigues, but some of the shorter ones fall flat.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Djed” is the centerpiece of this second album by Tortoise, and it’s an almost 21-minute long work that turns and moves through several motifs and styles that challenges and intrigues the listener.

An on the ball listener could probably go through each of the genres referenced in “Djed”, but as a piece it’s evolution between styles make it its own. It’s fascinating and compelling.

There are five other tracks here, and they don’t reach the brilliance of “Djed”. A couple fall short and seem to be just filler or incomplete ideas, but a couple work pretty well. “Djed” though is the main attraction and the one that makes this worthwhile.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: David Pajo from Slint joined the group on bass.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: “Djed” is tremendous but a couple of the other tracks fall short.

Throwing Muses – House Tornado

ARTIST: Throwing Muses              220px-HouseTornadoUSA

TITLE: House Tornado

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Saving Grace, The River

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Kristin Hersh, Tanya Donnelly, Leslie Langston, David Narcizo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second 4AD release by the band is fuzzy and unfocused, and suffers from ‘songs sound the same’ syndrome..

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a fairly acclaimed debut (not streaming) and two EPs (also not streaming), the second release by Throwing Muses seems to suffer from several maladies. 220px-HouseTornado

There doesn’t seem to be energy, the songs sound the same, the production is muddy, and the songs don’t have pops or energy. Maybe it’s just me, but I tried and tried but couldn’t get into it. It just seems like it’s there, and doesn’t spur one to keep listening.

Of the entire TM catalog, this may be one to skip.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first record on Sire (it was on 4AD elsewhere).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The 4AD version has an EP appended. 

GRADE C: It’s just boring, and alt-rock at that time shouldn’t be boring. The production probably has something to do with this, too. EXILED.

Cat Stevens – Matthew & Son

ARTIST: Cat Stevens                         220px-Matthew_and_Son_cover

TITLE: Matthew & Son

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #173 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: I Love My Dog (#118 US, #28 UK), Matthew & Son (#115 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Here Comes My Baby

LINEUP: Cat Stevens, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, other session players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A young singer and songwriter releases and album with a surprise hit or two in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is more of a pop oriented album than his more famous work, but that doesn’t mean its  just trifly throwaways.

Cat Stevens was just 18 when he started to record this album with some sessions that became singles and slowly worked on the album as time allowed. When it was released, it was better than you’d expect. The original for “Here Comes My Baby” is surprisingly strong with interesting percussion and the two hits are definitely keepers.

His voice is pretty unmistakable, even in his teenage years. The downfall is some of the tracks are a bit over-orchestrated and Stevens struggles to find his voice in the midst of the orchestrations. Still it’s pretty darn decent as these things go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the US, they cut it from 14 tracks to 12, of course.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes a later single “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” (#6 UK)

 GRADE B: A baroque-pop album with little filler but a tad too much orchestration at times.

Slade – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Slade               slade

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: All of em: Of Note: Coz I Luv You (#1 UK), Look Wot You Done (#4 UK), Take Me Back ‘Ome (*97 US, #1 UK), Mama Weer All Crazee Now (#76 US, #1 UK), Gudbuy T’Jane (#68 US, #2 UK), Cum On Feel the Noize (#98 US, #1 UK), Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me (#1 UK), My Friend Stan (#2 UK), Merry Xmas Everybody (#1 UK), Everyday (#3 UK), The Bangin’ Man (#3 UK), Far Far Away (#2 UK), My Oh My (#37 US, #3 UK), Run Runaway (#20 US, #7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you were in the UK and were a Slade-head

LINEUP: Noddy Holder, Jim Lea, Dave Hill, Don Powell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Glam rockers, huge in the UK, barely made a ripple in the states until Quiet Riot covered them, and then they got their deserved hit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Glam rock barely caused a fuss over here, except on rare occasions when singles by some artists hit the airwaves (Mott the Hoople, Sweet). No band was unjustly denied their rightful place over here more than Slade.

From mid 1971 through 1974, they released 12 singles in the UK, and every one of them hit #4 or higher, including six #1 singles. And they weren’t just copy cat hits (they did change it up a bit, honestly), they were solid songs like “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” (on a K-Tel record, even) and Gudbuy T’Jane. They ran out steam and by the punk era they were off the charts.

But they had more life in the early 80’s, as two singles hit the Top 10 again n the UK and gave the band their much deserved Top 40 hits in the US.

Sure, it’s kind of simple – memorable guitar riffs, Noddy Holder shouting about something, and the band chanting and stomping all around. What’s not to like?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, they felt the title they gave their first self-written single didn’t fit with the sound, and thus they named it “Coz I Luv You”. A career of spelling errors ensued.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: I may have bumped this up a bit…but I mean, this is just packed with memorable shouters and bangers. What’s not to love?