Tag: 1985

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – The Firstborn Is Dead

ARTIST: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds       220px-The_Firstborn_Is_Dead

TITLE: The Firstborn Is Dead




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Wanted Man

LINEUP: Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Barry Adamson, Mick Harvey

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: For their second album, Nick Cave leads his Bad Seeds into a blues exploration. A scary, dark, demon-laced blues exploration.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Tupelo”, based on a John Lee Hooker song, with some parts lifted from Lead Belly, and lyrics about Elvis Presley and Christ, is a perfect opener to this record. It’s a classic Nick Cave performance, with his voice evoking all kinds of emotions, and his band playing the menacing licks while singing the backing vocals as they were a cowboy band.

But the rest of the record doesn’t let up, either, with the blues and early rock-and-roll getting the Bad Seeds treatment. The band contributes greatly as well and it all concludes “Blind Lemon Jefferson”, a tribute to the old bluesman.

There’s not a lot wrong with this album, though their cover of “Wanted Man” isn’t as effective and “Black Crow King” overstays its welcome. Still, for “Tupelo” alone, it’s worthwhile.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title refers to Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin Jesse.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A CD vesion has a B-side

 GRADE A-: Creepy blues record thrills and chills.

The Mekons – Fear and Whiskey

ARTIST: The Mekons             R-1048893-1423850467-5698.jpeg

TITLE: Fear and Whiskey


CHART ACTION: None (sniff…)



LINEUP: Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh, Sally Timms, Susie Honeyman, Lu Edmonds, Rico Bell, Steve Goulding, Mark White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Mekons, mark 2, trade anarcho-punk for anarcho-alt-country-before-its-time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of albums and a classic single or two, the original band of the Mekons petered out in 1982. But during the Coal Strike of 1984, the core of the group decided the time was nigh for a reboot, and The Mekons rode again.

But, there was a new sound. Instead of clattering punk rock, there was fiddle, slide guitar, and a country tilt to the entire sound. Now, there was still some anarcho-wierdness (“Trouble Down South”), and some experimental tracks (the spoken word “Psycho Cupid”) but traditional sounding songs like “Flitcraft” exist in this universe too, along with the fantastic lead cut “Chivalry”.

They’re still loose, they’re still political, but God love ‘em, they came back with a strong record that defied expectations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’ll cover the early version of the band when I review their compilation, which will cover the entire gamut of the band. The classic mid-80’s and early-90’s albums will be reviewed in whole, though.


 GRADE A: The Mekons definitely started some of the alt-Country movement, and they didn’t even know it.

“Weird Al” Yankovic – Dare to Be Stupid

ARTIST: “Weird Al” Yankovic           weird_al_yankovic_-_dare_to_be_stupid

TITLE: Dare to Be Stupid



SINGLES: This Is the Life, Like a Surgeon (#47). I Want a New Duck, One More Minute, Hooked on Polkas


LINEUP: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Rick Derringer, Steve Jay, Jim West, Jon Schartz, other sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A third “Weird Al” album follows a predictable formula, with predictable laughs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By 1985, “Weird Al” was a known commodity. Any new record was going to have a half-dozen parodies, a polka medley, and some originals lampooning a style or motif.

While the parodies are pretty hilarious (all but one provide a guffaw, or at least a loud ha), the originals seem to be better on this album. Especially “This Is the Life”, with a catchy melody and a convincing update of the jazz age sound, and the title track, which hits Devo where it hurts,

There’s fun to be had here, and at least you won’t skip some of the originals here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He covered the George of the Jungle theme, which is his only straight cover.


 GRADE B: It’s more consistent, even if it doesn’t reach the highs of his previous parodies.

Squirrel Bait – Squirrel Bait

ARTIST: Squirrel Bait                                    220px-Squirrel_Bait_Squirrel_Bait_EP_

TITLE:  Squirrel Bait



SINGLES: Technically an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, maybe if you followed the family tree of Slint.

LINEUP: David Grubbs, Clark Johnson, Brian McMahan, Peter Searcy, Ben Daughtry. Britt Walford drummed on two tracks taken from their demo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punky band from Louisville document themselves after opening  for several prominent bands who were touring in the midwest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: These were kids who were inspired by the punk scene and not radio. Just out of high school, they toured with Husker Du and Black Flag, among others, and got enough buzz to get in a bidding war of sorts between punk labels before settling with Homestead.

The sound is definitely an evolution of the original punk scene, with melodies and textural changes that complement the punk, and doesn’t sound like it was grafted onto it unwillingly. “Sun God” may be the beginning of the emo movement with Peter Searcy’s pleading over a simple guitar line, then a mild cacophony. It’s like Die Kreuzen with better production and a better lead singer.

There’s still a lot of hardfastrules here, but the variety in sounds is something that differentiated the band from other youngsters trodding the punk rock boards in the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Albini designed the cover. .


 GRADE: B+: Pretty good EP that was influential for the right people.

The Long Ryders – State of Our Union

ARTIST: The Long Ryders               state of our union

TITLE: State of Our Union


CHART ACTION: State of Our Union (#66 UK)

SINGLES: Looking for Lewis & Clark (#59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, probably not unless you were in my house in the 80’s and 90’s

LINEUP: Sid Griffin, Tom Stevens, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Sowders. Snake Davis & His Longhorns play on a track

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Major label debut for the fathers of alt country combines country, blues, and rock in a delightful mix. No one bought it here in the US, though.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A complaint in the 80’s was that ‘real rock and roll’ was going away, thanks to the New Wave hipsters and hair-metal glamsters. Well, the Long Ryders practically gave the US ‘real’ rock and roll, to crickets.

The Byrds and Gram Parsons figure in heavily here, but so does CCR, and hints of Memphis blues and Buck Owens show up here as well. Rock was always an amalgamation of those elements, and the Long Ryders delivered. The single, “Looking for Lewis & Clark” burned up some college radio airwaves, but they never broke a video in MTV, which doomed them here. The UK was kinda into them for a bit, but they only charted for a week or two.

Not a perfect album (a couple of cuts slow the thing down a bit), but it still should have been a hit for those who wanted rock and roll. Alas, no.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: All four members of the band contributed songs, and three of them sing lead.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some bonus tracks on the CD.

GRADE: A-: It coulda been an alt-country contender, if it was released 10 years later.


Megadeth – Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good

ARTIST: Megadeth                                   Combat_KIMB

TITLE: Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good!




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Killing Is My Business

LINEUP: Dave Mustaine, Chris Poland, David Ellefson, Gar Samuelson.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from the band Dave Mustaine formed after being booted from Metallica. It displays chops, and is tightly wound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dave Mustaine took his anger and disappointment about being thrown out of Metallica into his new band, where he’s definitely the one in charge. 220px-Killingismybusinessremastered

The tight riffing, the speed drumming, and the yelped, growled vocals by Mustaine set a signature sound for the band, and through the entire record they revel in it. There’s some decent riffage and solo work. Also, “Mechanix” is very similar to “Four Horsemen” by Metallica, as Mustaine wrote the main part of that song for his former band.

What doesn’t work is the cover of “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, especially on the re-issue, where they beeped out all of the changed lyrics.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mustaine sketched out a cover, and gave it to the record company. They lost it, and tried to ‘fake’ it.


GRADE: B: I’ve never been a real of fan of Megadeth but this has some good riffs and definite headbanging. Mustaine just rubs me the wrong way vocally at times and they really should have left off the cover.


Prince – Around the World in a Day

ARTIST: Prince                        Prince_Around

TITLE: Around the World in a Day


CHART ACTION: #1 US, #4 R&B, #5 UK

SINGLES: Raspberry Beret (#2 US, #4 R&B, #25 UK), Paisley Park (#18 UK), Pop Life (#7 US, #8 R&B, #60 UK), America (#46 US, #35 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Condition of the Heart

LINEUP: Prince with some help from the Revolution, David Coleman, Jonathan Melvoin, Susannah Melvoin and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Prince releases a ‘disappointing album’, which was perfectly fine, just not a masterpiece like his previous two.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Except for “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, Prince’s psychedelic excursion isn’t memorable to casual fans. And yes, there are a couple of cuts that aren’t up to his usual high quality, and drag the album down a bit.

Yet, Prince showed that he definitely has a psychedelic and mystical side with an album that updates the psychedelic soul of the late 60’s into the mid 80’s. He uses more collaborators than usual (the siblings of Wendy and Lisa are prominent), and strings and instruments like the oud and darbuka come into play.

It’s not so much as a stylistic detour, as an enhancement. Prince is adding sounds and textures to his repertoire, and at times that supersedes the actual songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Prince didn’t want much publicity, and “Raspberry Beret” wasn’t officially released as a single for three weeks after the album release..


GRADE: B+: Some great songs, some great stylistic textures, just a couple of duds.

Dinosaur Jr. – Dinosaur

ARTIST: Dinosaur, Jr.                             220px-dinosaur_album_cover_dinosaur_jr

TITLE:  Dinosaur



SINGLES: Repulsion


LINEUP: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murph

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early work from long-standing alternative / punkish band is full of songs that point a way forward, but still has a punk rock motif at times.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After their original band Deep Wound broke up, Mascis and Barlow formed another band, and their record was released thanks to a college friend (Gerald Cosloy) said he’d put it out on his record label.

The band’s original sound was a mish-mosh, with some folkish idioms churned through loud guitars, next to a punk rock style song. It wasn’t very cohesive, and sometimes made worse by Mascis’ unique nasal vocals. Also, they were sued early on by an old band called Dinosaur, and so appended the Jr. to their name.

However, there are gems like “Repulsion” here, and the guitar work is pretty darn great the way through. It’d take a little bit for them to find there way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original pressing sold just 1,500

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the B-side of “Repulsion”, which J. Mascis wanted to start the album off on the reissue.

GRADE: C+: A couple of great songs, some mediocrity as well. The guitar work almost saves it.

Slayer – Hell Awaits

ARTIST: Slayer                                     220px-slayerhellawaits

TITLE:  Hell Awaits




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Speed metal freaks know this record.

LINEUP: Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moving forward from straight thrash, Slayer adds some progressive elements to the mix, while still keeping their brutally propulsive tone.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This album lets you breathe, a little bit. Somewhat.

Tom Araya’s vocals are still distilled in a quick, blurry bark that makes you just guess at a lot of the lyrics. But the vocals aren’t quite why you’re here. You’re here for the riffs and solos and the crazy tempos. This record delivers that. It also varies thing enough so you’re not bored (if you can be bored at 200 MPH metal) and it showcases that they’re actually musicians and noise makers. They add in odd time signatures and some interesting progressions that show their chops, even as you worry that Dave Lombardo’s arms will fall off from drumming so fast.

The production is much better than their first album. The only drawback is its length. It’s only seven songs, and it seems like it’s over before it starts. Always leave them wanting more, I guess.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Instead of being self-financed, this record had an actual recording budget.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two tracks from an EP.

GRADE: B+:  This sets the stage for their major label debut.

LL Cool J – Radio

ARTIST: LL Cool J                                              radio_llcoolj

TITLE:  Radio


CHART ACTION: #46 US, #6 R&B, #71 UK

SINGLES: I Can’t Live Without My Radio (#21 Dance, #15 R&B), Rock the Bells (#24 Dance, #17 R&B), I Can Give You More (#21 Dance), You’ll Rock (#59 R&B)


LINEUP: LL Cool J, DJ Cut Creator. Russell Rush is one one track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Excellent debut album, minimally produced by Rick Rubin, that displays LL Cool J’s excellent rap and flow, and Cut Creator’s turntables and beats.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hip-hop is so much a production now (some say too much of a production) that listening to this album now is jarring because of its simplicity.

James Tood Smith (LL Cool J) had one single under his belt when Rubin nabbed him and his DJ Jay Philpot (Cut Creator) and unleashed this upon the public. Unadorned beats, splashes of turntables, and Cool J’s raps was all they needed to create an old-school classic.

There’s a soft side to this (“I Can Give You More), but the best cuts are direct and in your face. Most everything works, and it’s a landmark album in hip-hop. I mean, it’s got “Rock the Bells”. That’s all you need, period.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” was featured in the movie Krush Groove.


GRADE: A:  Stripped down, minimalist hip-hop. The skeleton of the genre. Classic.