The CHIRP Blog
Philip Seymour Hoffman is an actor, sure, but he’s also got some rock and roll in him. Whether it’s his first big appearance in Boogie Nights, his Oscar winning turn in Capote, playing a DJ in that pirate radio movie, or his fantastic portrayal of legendary rock critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, Hoffman has rocked. Accordingly, let’s celebrate his birthday by grabbing an iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first ten songs that come up.
- The Boomtown Rats — Mood Mambo (Mondo Bongo): Coming on the heels of the twin successes of Tonic For The Troops and The Fine Art Of Surfacing, this Irish rock band turned from new wave pop to more of a post-punk direction, incorporating more world music influences into their sound. The opening cut off of Mondo Bongo made this obvious, with its crazy percussion and rubbery basslines. This song is not very faithful to Afrobeat, but that’s okay, as it works well with Bob Geldof’s stream of consciousness lyrics. While the Rats never fully turned away from catchy pop rock, this track announced that they were going to find more interesting ways to do it.
- Catherine Wheel — Judy Staring at the Sun (Happy Days): This is a warm melodic piece from the British band, with Tanya Donnelly of Belly accompanying Rob Dickinson on vocals at points during the track. This is a very insinuating track with an understated yet intense lead vocal from Dickinson and a wonderful pop chorus. This song always feels like it’s on the verge of exploding, and even with a spirited guitar solo, the tension between the sweet melody and the seething undercurrents makes it very compelling.
- The Saints — Memories Are Made of This (Eternally Yours): The first two Saints albums are blistering punk classics, with furious guitars over R & B fueled songs. The band then shifted a bit, keeping the R & B base and extreme intensity, but using more acoustic guitars. This tune from the second album basically foretold the direction The Saints would maintain for the next 20 years. This song has a grandeur and a great lead vocal from Chris Bailey, who had very little range but a compelling personality.
- Public Enemy — You’re Gonna Get Yours (Yo! Bum Rush The Show): This song is about Chuck D.‘s Oldsmobile 98, and the samples fromThe Bomb Squad give this tune the feel of a cinematic car chase. This is the first track on Public Enemy’s debut album and it announced a truly unique group. Chuck D.‘s authoritative voice, the contrast of Flavor Flav (who is a bit limited on this track) and the constant energy of the music tracks. Yet this sounds positively primitive compared to the album that followed it.
- Hot Chocolate — Brother Louie (Every 1’s A Winner: The Best of Hot Chocolate): The first big British hit for this multi-ethinic pop/soul band who later scored in the U.S. with “You Sexy Thing”. This dramatic tale of interracial lovers was covered by The Stories, and was a smash here two. The Stories’ version has a much more over-the-top vocal, whereas here, Hot Chocolate is a bit more low key. Moreover, this version has two spoken word interludes, where the lovers’ parents explain how they don’t want either a “honky” or a “spook” in their family. I think this version, which is much more in the urban soul vein of Issac Hayes and The Temptations, is superior. It’s one hell of a song.
- Free — Travelling Man (Molten Gold: The Anthology): Free is pretty much only remember for one song, “Alright Now”, but they put out a lot of swell blues rock records int he ’70s. Unlike Paul Rodgers’ next group, Bad Company, Free was not as decidely commercial, though the music was certainly accessible. This song showcases a great Rogers vocal and some nifty lead guitar work. This is music for people who wish Led Zeppelin hadn’t been quite so bombastic.
- Blur — Trouble in the Message Centre (Parklife): For a few albums, Blur reached Brit-pop perfection, mixing trenchant (but rarely condescending) observations about middle class life with music that followed in the footsteps of everyone from The Kinks to Madness to XTC. This song is a bit new wavey and behind the glossy mid-tempo pop, there’s a hint of sadness.
- The Oranges — Saturday Night (Right To Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited): This Japanese ’70s bubbleglam revivalist band was clearly inspired by The Bay City Rollers, so having them do the Rollers best known tune on a bubblegum tribute was a natural. Since the band usually does not sing entirely in English, this track shows they can handle the second language. More importantly, they have a ball with this dumb fun classic.
- Air Miami — I Hate Milk (Me, Me, Me): This side project from Mark Robinson of Unrest was a mix of hyper-caffienated pop numbers with some dreamier detours. This lead track from the band’s sole album simply percolates with energy. The verses are static buzzing guitars and crimped drumming which opens up in the chorus (“Please, please, someone kill me soon” — upbeat!), while retaining the stifling repetitive chords in the background. Paranoid fun.
- The Shazam — Fallin’ All Around Me (Tomorrow The World): The third Shazam album should have broke them. Little Steven had been playing them on his show and Hans Rotenberry crafted a great mix of rocking power pop and mid-tempo charmers that sounded like lost ’70s rock classics. This song falls in the latter category, sounding like a Cheap Trick song leavened with a little California Laurel Canyon pop. One of about six should-have-been hits on this excellent album.
In our school there were maybe four kids who knew who Propagandhi was. And while we, in our Jncos and imitation Airwalks, appreciated their hardcore anarcho-feminist messages and loud, aggressive attitudes toward homophobia and thought control, we all had an amount of covert joy when the one song on the album(s) written and sung by bassist John K Samson would come on. They were sweeter, quieter, and concerned matters that hit a little closer to home; relationships with small towns, emotions, longing to break free of the mundane.
Though you might still be dragging/hungover from Pitchfork hoo-ha, it’s that time again — for this month’s CHIRP Benefit Night at the Whistler!
Come on out to support CHIRP and some of our favorite local acts, Cains & Abels and John Bellows, as they bring you back to earth from this weekend’s chaotic mayhem/euphoria. Plus, the event is FREE!
CHIRP Benefit Night
featuring Cains & Abels, John Bellows
Mon. July 19
More about the artists:
From the depths of Cains & Abels singer David Sampson’s gut come haunting, pained vocals, honest and affecting. A caterwaul to fill the room and echo and reverberate with layered folk rock accompaniment, the marriage of distortion and strings. They all at once evoke Neutral Milk Hotel, Jim White, Bowerbirds, and a classic rock sound in the vein of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This Chicago four piece (by way of Michigan) headlines in support of their album “Call Me Up,” out on States Rights Records.
Singer-songwriter John Bellows seems to have been hiding just under the surface before breaking out this year, capturing the attention of many Chicago audiences. Taking a bare-bones approach to traditional recording, Bellows has perfected a rootsy lo-fi aesthetic, bringing in a variety of different sounds and personae. Critics frequently describe him as inspired in the same dorky way that the Ramones and Jonathan Richman were. Bellows identifies himself as “grunge;” we think of him as someone pretty important to watch out for.
Hope to see you!
Let’s celebrate the birthday of the most famous son of a CIA agent in rock history. Stewart Copeland brought something special to his drumming with The Police (and put up with Sting and his massive ego), and has also done a number of interesting solo projects. In Stewart’s honor, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.
- The Swingin’ Neckbreakers — Mad Tea Party (The Return Of Rock): A hammering fuzz guitar riff keys this slamming track from the great New Jersey garage rock band. This is very much in the vein of classic Yardbirds with a slight tinge of psychedelia. I wish these guys would put out another record, but I have a feeling that they’ve rocker their last rock.
- Broken Bells — Sailing to Nowhere (Broken Bells): This collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins is a bit disappointing, mainly because there aren’t enough top shelf tunes. I wonder if DM might be stretching himself a bit thin, or rather, he’s reaching the limits of his vision. Of course, not everything has to be classic and this is an album with some fine moments. This tune stitches together a ’60s soft-pop vibe with some Air-like electronica and even some synth-strings, while Mercer sounds terrific.
- Midnight Oil — Cemetary In My Mind (Redneck Wonderland): After Diesel and Dust made the Oils international stars, the band’s music started slowly but surely blanding out a bit. However, they made a bit of a comeback on Redneck Wonderland. The album was a reaction to the rise of conservative politics in Australia. While the album doesn’t go back to the artier rock of the bands classic 10, 9, 8 and Red Sails In The Sunset albums, the music is much more forceful. This song is more in the vein of Diesel and Dust with a large scale and passionate performances.
- Andrea Perry — Gettin’ To Know You (Two): A lot of Perry’s songs are so precisely arranged. It’s not just the composition but how she puts the instruments and her vocals together to make pop songs that incorporate a wide array of inspirations. This song has a very basic melody and rhythm but is chock full of embellishments that keep it fresh, along with tempo changes that create little hooks. Combined with her soothing voice and nifty guitar work and the result is a little gem.
- Blue Oyster Cult — Mistress Of The Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl)(Tyranny and Mutation): Early BOC is so brilliant. The songs are heavy enough to satisfy Black Sabbath fans, but the psychedelic elements are more upfront. Moreover, the band knew how to put together catchy riffs and lead guitar lines, along with memorable refrains, which made the bizarre lyrics go down all the easier. I wish they had kept the organ as a prominent instrument.
- The Isley Brothers — Harvest For The World (It’s Your Thing: The Story of The Isley Brothers): During the early to mid-‘70s, The Isleys balanced some funky jams with some really swell ’70s pop-rock that was well-suited for FM radio play. This song fits in the latter category, with a utopian world view on par with songs like The O’Jays’ “Love Train”. This sounds like a Todd Rundgren tune.
- Les Fleur de Lys — Circles (Nuggets II): I’m so glad Rhino decided to expand on the Nuggets concept with a four-disc set of garage, freakbeat and psychedelic music from outside the borders of the U.S. of A. This is a solid take on a tune by The Who, though it’s not as good as the original.
- The Sinners — Barbed Wire Heart (Children of Nuggets): I’m also glad Rhino went even further and put out this collection of ’80s and ’90s artists who followed in the footsteps of the original Nuggets bands. This is a good brooding number in the vein of The Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”.
- Luke Jackson — Goodbye London (…And Then Some): Jackson is a great British pop artist. He mixes upbeat jangle rockers in the vein of Kimberly Rew and Cosmic Rough Riders, like this one, with some nice orch-pop inflected tunes. I love the full arrangement on this track, as he layers backing vocals and other instruments over the core of the track. I have to throw some Luke on one of my upcoming shows.
- Translator — Another American Night (Translator): The first Translator album mixed folky rock with a bit of post-punk. The second album was simply devoid of solid tunes. The band bounced back with an album that favored the folky/power pop-ish side of their sound. This song is about as close to anything on the debut, but with a much brighter vocal sound.
Pitchfork is a week away, so let’s celebrate a birthday of someone who is headlining there next Friday. Issac Brock is not just the frontman for Modest Mouse — he also plays banjo. Moreover, he and his band paid their dues in the indie rock world, eventually breaking through with mainstream success with the hit “Float On”. Heck, he even got the great Johnny Marr to join the band for a spell. All the while, the band maintained its credibility. Maybe Isaac will find some time to come to the CHIRP Record Fair at Pitchfork (if not, you all should come out to it). So let’s help Isaac celebrate his birthday by grabbing the ol’ iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.
- Tiara — Expert Eyes (Chained To The Crown): This Ohio band is akin to bands like The Kingbury Manx and New Radiant Storm King, making good indie rock songs with solid melodies and hooks. The only thing these bands don’t have is a real upfront vocal personality. But the quality of the songs and performances make them a joy to listen to. This is a sweet mid-tempo song with nice jangling guitars and a slight Velvet Underground influence (think “Sweet Jane”).
- Comsat Angels — Ju Ju Money (Waiting For A Miracle): This is an early recording of a song that ended up on the band’s Fiction album and is a bonus track on the reissue of their debut. The first Comsat Angels album is a post-punk classic, with spare bass and guitar soundscapes augmented by prominent drums creating a constant sense of tension. Some songs have an air of exhaustion and resignation to them. That’s true of this track too, but it has a fuller sound than what’s on the debut and this recording points to where the band would go on its next two efforts, which are also terrific.
- Was (Not Was) — Spy in the House of Love (What Up, Dog?): One of two hit singles from Was (Not Was)‘s third album. Although the first two albums had some wonderfully catchy pop tunes, they were both eccentric enough that they didn’t have much commercial potential. Moving to Chrysalis, the band decided to cut more straight R & B flavored songs, and reduce the wacky factor. This is a solid tune, but the late ’80s production dates it severely.
- Nick Lowe — People Change (At My Age): Lowe’s past few albums have been clinics on how to write a song, drawing from his depth of knowledge about country, rock and soul music. This song tilts a bit towards the R & B side, with a simple message, a nice bounce and a true economy — no notes are wasted. He’s making the best music of his career right now.
- Anton Barbeau — Stewart Mason (Guladong): This Bay Area oddball writes catchy pop songs with twisted lyrics to match his offbeat voice. This song is bass driven and rhythmic, paying tribute to the music writer and former label owner (and my online pal), though only Stewart could vouch for the accuracy of any of Anton’s lyrics. A short, snappy fun song.
- The Bears — Save Me (Rise and Shine): A lot of music fans hoped that this band, which combined Adrian Belew with members of the great Ohio rock band The Raisins might turn into America’s version of XTC. Unfortunately, the band split after two albums (though they later reunited a few years ago). Still, The Bears released two albums of high quality rock that bore the influence of The Beatles and various psych-pop bands, but had plenty of its own personality. One thing that was great about The Bears is that Belew did not dominate. All of these guys could sing and play and they complimented each other so well.
- Rockpile — Now and Always (Seconds of Pleasure): Nick Lowe strikes again! Rockpile played on both Lowe’s and Dave Edmunds’ albums for a few years, with Terry Williams on drums and Billy Bremmer on lead guitar. When they finally did their own album in 1980, it was highly anticipated and a lot of folks were disappointed by the final product. Critics thought it was alright, but they wanted classic. Well, time has been kind to the album, and the relaxed, friendly vibe, and the mix of pub rock and pop works really well. This is a Lowe tune that sounds like a long lost Everly Brothers song.
- The Kinks — Last of the Steam Powered Trains (Village Green Preservation Society): While most of this Kinks’ classic fits the pristine pastoral template, this is a bouncy blues number. This is probable one of the lesser songs on the album, but its simplicity is truly a virtue. Moreover, Ray Davies displays his whimsical side, and that’s never a bad thing.
- The Nomads — Frying Pan (Showdown! 1981-1993): A typically forceful garage rock band from this Swedish band. The Nomads operate under the theory that there’s no garage rock song that can’t be improved with some more raunchy guitar. Often, they are right.
- Fleetwood Mac — Silver Springs (Rumours): This Stevie Nicks tune was the b-side of “Go Your Own Way”. When Rumours was given the deluxe reissue treatment back in 2004, the Mac decided to tack this song onto the original album. This wasn’t a good idea. This is a lesser Nicks’ tune, pleasant but not up to the high standard of the album. It does have a nifty slide guitar solo from Lindsey Buckingham.