The CHIRP Blog
Entries categorized as “Friday MP3 Shuffle” 276 results
Today, let’s pay tribute to the late, great Grant McLennan, one of the two songwriters who fueled the wonderful Australian band, The Go Betweens. Their warm and pensive melodic guitar songs often had subtle undercurrents of The Velvet Underground and post-punkers. Both McLennan and his partner, Robert Forster, played literate and humanistic songs, sometimes sparely and sometimes with grandeur, but almost always extremely compelling. In honor of Grant, please grab your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that come up.
- Sex Pistols — New York (Never Mind The Bollocks): Yes, the music sounds comparatively tame 33 years after the fact, but in the context of the 1977 rock scene, the Pistols were a gob of fresh air. And the music does still rock and Johnny Rotten sounds more menacing that almost anyone he inspired. This is a lesser number from one hell of a rock and roll album. One other thing — the most important aspect of the Sex Pistols’ legacy is how they fueled the D.I.Y. movement. The number of Brits who saw them and formed a band is staggering, and one of those bands, Buzzcocks, put out Spiral Scratch, the first true indie release, and started a movement that CHIRP is effectively part of.
- Blue Oyster Cult — Godzilla (Spectres): This hilarious tribute to everyone’s favorite mutant dinosaur killing machine awakened by nuclear testing showed that the Cult could not only traffic in subtle black humor, but also in up front fun. I’m baffled why this was never released as a single. If you want to explore some truly cool ’70s heavy metal, BOC is the place to start.
- Original Sins — Rather Be Sad (The Hardest Way): John Terlinsky, who later went on to do the Brother JT thing, led this great garage rock band during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Terlinsky is a really good songwriter, with a strong sense of melody, and then throws in some fuzzy guitars and the requisite garage rock organ on this tale of a guy who’d rather be sad, because he knows he’s going to get hurt by love in the end.
- The Brothers Johnson — The Devil (Look Out For #1): This is about as funky as George and Louis Johnson got, in a cautionary tale of how sinning will get “your ass burnin’” for a really long time. These guys were funk lightweights, but working with mentor Quincy Jones, they often threw melodic twists into their songs that gave them a distinctive stamp. There are a couple of those on this tune to render it above average.
- Scritti Politti — Small Talk (Cupid & Psyche 85): Green Gartside’s transformation from ultra-leftist amelodic post-punker to subtly poltiical smooth synth-soul star is one of the more amazing stories of the ’80s, well chronicled in Simon Reynolds’ excellent book Rip It Up & Start Again. This is the album where the transformation was complete. Gartside’s airy tenor vocals managed to thread his wordy lyrics through some of the happiest darn white R & B you’ve ever heard. Dated, yes, but still catchy as hell.
- The Sames — There’s No Mystery Here (You Are The Sames): At one level, this is a fairly standard indie rock record, released in 2005, tailor made for college radio airplay. But this North Carolina band both fits in with and stands out from The Shins and The Arcade Fire and other contemporaries. How? By writing excellent songs, each which has a strong chorus or memorable instrumental hooks that really stick. If they were on Sub Pop, I think The Sames would have been big, as this was one of the best albums of 2005.
- E’Nuff Z’Nuff — In Crowd (Strength): This is not a cover of the ’60s hit by Dobie Gray. Blue Island’s pride and joy jumped on the hair metal bandwagon and was touted by Rolling Stone magazine as the next big thing. For some reason, perhaps because they were not sexist enough or didn’t have an androgynous frontman, they didn’t take off. And once you stripped away the bad make up and ignored the garish clothes, E’Nuff Z’Nuff were a Beatles/Cheap Trick inspired hard rock band with some metally trappings (especially in the flashy guitar solos). This is the best song on their second album, with strong vocals from Donnie Vie.
- Fine Young Cannibals — Love For Sale (Red, Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter): This album, which benefited AIDS research, is chock full of great modernized versions of classic Cole Porter tunes. I believe this is the final recording by the Cannibals, and they play this song in a jazzy acoustic guitar dominated arrangement, with Roland Gift emoting in characteristic fashion.
- Eleventh Dream Day — There’s This Thing (Lived To Tell): Wow, when my iPod is in Friday Shuffle mode, it loves Eleventh Dream Day. Not that I have a problem with it. This is a percussive cooker that uses a pretty basic blues chord progression and a variation on the Bo Diddley beat. You can actually dance a bit to this one.
- The Beat Farmers — California Kid (Tales Of The New West): The first Beat Farmers album came smack dab in the middle of a country rock revival in the mid-‘80s. Unlike the ’70s country rock, the bands tended to rock a bit more. The Beat Farmers were a bit less countrified than Jason & The Scorchers and The Long Ryders, but could twang away pretty well. This song spotlighted their drummer Country Dick, who had a rumbling baritone voice that was perfect for this tale of a horny outlaw.
They say that if you have a choice between printing the facts and the legend, print the legend. But with the immortal Nigel Tufnel, the legend and the facts are one in the same. Since he first came into the public eye with the beat group The Thamesmen, Nigel has been turning it up to eleven night in and night out, blazing heavy metal trails that are still too hot for anyone to trod upon and follow. This Spinal Tap axe god, who shares a birthday with actor-director Christopher Guest, is still working on his first solo album, and perhaps we can all encourage him, by getting out your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.
- The Go-Gos — Yes Or No (Talk Show): The third Go-Gos album is a hidden gem, fueled by stylized production by Martin Rushent. The album crackles with prominent drums, ultra jangly guitars and Belinda Carlisle’s dramatic singing. This mid-tempo track was a collaboration between guitarist Jane Wiedlin and Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks. The song is decidedly more conventional than most Sparks tracks, but has a few clever lines here and there.
- The Last — And They Laugh (Confession): The first reunion album from The Last ditched some of the garage-ier elements of their classic early work (like the L.A. Explosion album) in favor of the folkier Paisley Underground aspects. This wasn’t a problem, because these guys added teeth and guts to their post-Beau Brummels jangle. This is one of the best tracks on an album that overflows with passion.
- Gary Numan & Tubeway Army — Bombers (single version)(The Plan): Brittle sci-fi punk from Numan in the days before he discovered a synthesizer and began finding his direction. This song is based on a clipped guitar riff and Numan’s equally choppy vocal phrasing. His distinctive voice always oozes discomfort and paranoia. A reasonably catchy song indicative of the promise that his future work fulfilled.
- Jim Croce — Stone Walls (50th Anniversary Collection): I’m a big fan of Croce’s work. He found a unique conversational bluesy vocal style to go with his poppy folk story songs. Without looking at the CD, this is clearly an early work of his, as he sounds a lot more like a conventional folk singer on this far from authentic tale of prison life. Better things were ahead.
- Nomads — Stranded On A Dateless Night (Showdown! 1981-93): This Swedish garage rock band laid on the guitars thick but never too heavy. This sounds like a ’50s rock and roll number, a la “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care”, beefed up. The Nomads didn’t often venture into Cramps territory, but this comes close.
- Eleventh Dream Day — Dream Of a Sleeping Sheep (Lived To Tell): This is an electrified country stomp with the patented Crazy Horse-ish guitar stylings of early Eleventh Dream Day. Rick Rizzo’s lead guitar work is magnificent, while Janet Beveridge Bean slams out a bopping beat.
- Darker My Love — Waves (2): This L.A. band melds retro psychedelic rock with shoegazer dreaminess on its most recent album. Some songs reach a midpoint of those two styles, but this leans heavily on the psych side, with some genuine guitar freak outs, with a mellotron breakdown in the middle before one last dash of feedback and spectral harmony vocals.
- Nick Heyward — Whistle Down the Wind (North Of A Miracle): I’m still baffled why the first solo album from the former leader of Haircut One Hundred wasn’t a worldwide smash. Heyward knows how to write a big hook and this widescreen ballad sounds like it would have been perfect for the early-‘80s pop charts. It’s the rare song of this type that isn’t overwrought, which is a credit to Heyward’s measured vocal performance and the lovely string and horn arrangements that make this emotionally affecting instead of manipulative cheese.
- The House Of Love — Touch Me (1986-88 The Creation Years): Another appearance by Guy Chambers and company. This mid-tempo song is keyed on a gently ebbing drum pattern with accompanying strumming guitars. Chambers’ vocal is doubled up in a very ’60s style harmony vocal, making for a pleasingly retro pop song. Then Terry Bickers rips off a spectacular dramatic guitar solo which gives the song a lot more heft.
- Neil Finn — She Will Have Her Way (Try Whistling This): Neil’s first solo album found him experimenting more with keyboards and textures, freed from a band format (not that Crowded House didn’t do some of this) leading him into some new territory. But there was still room for a straightforward guitar pop song, and this showed that Finn hadn’t exhausted his supply of silky smooth melodies. The way he draws out that melody in the chorus and little arrangement tricks show why Neil Finn is a pop master.
This Friday, let’s pay tribute to an underrated figure in rock ‘n’ roll history, Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone. This native Hungarian was originally going to manage the Ramones, but when they needed a drummer, he stepped behind the skins and pounded out that super fast beat. Moreover, he is an unknown legend in sports arenas everywhere, as he was the primary writer of “Blitzkrieg Bop”. On top of that, he actually played some of the guitar solos on the band’s records, because Johnny Ramone just liked to play rhythm guitar. He also played on the Too Tough To Die LP, and has produced some swell albums, including The Replacements’ Tim and Redd Kross’ Neurotica. Please salute Tommy by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up!
- The Psychedelic Furs — Dumb Waiters (Talk Talk Talk): The first two Furs albums are a fascinating tandem. The first album is dark, bleak and angry with the Furs’ accessible take on post-punk sounds. But Talk Talk Talk manages to be brighter, overall, showing a wider array of influences. This track might be the closest to what transpired on the first album. This is a prickly rant, with Duncan Kilburn’s off-kilter saxophone keying the proceedings as the band lurches and drones very effectively.
- Split Enz — History Never Repeats (Corroboree): A sparkly jangly Neil Finn number. After the success of “I Got You” on the band’s True Colours album, it’s obvious that Neil’s confidence rocketed sky high and suddenly he was dashing off one hooky number after the other. This one relies on a somewhat sing-songy melody with a very creative arrangement with lots of cool keyboard embellishments by Eddie Rayner. This song had a terrific video, with Neil singing to his brother Tim, who was on a small TV screen, with Tim dressed in the garish costumes of the old mid-‘70s Split Enz.
- Pixies — Oh My Golly! (Surfer Rosa): Because the Pixies are certified rock deities, I think I have some of their stuff on my iPod out of obligation rather than because I like every track. Don’t get me wrong, Surfer Rosa, Doolitte and Trompe Le Monde are big faves of mine. But they had more than their fair shore of throwaways. This speedy rush of a track is a nice burst of energy, but there’s not a whole lot to it. But it breezes by in less than two minutes, and nobody gets hurt, so I suppose it’s okay.
- Number One Cup — Ease Back Down (Wrecked By Lions): Number One Cup played a nifty arty alt-rock that fit somewhere between the aforementioned Pixies and Pavement. There were hooks in the songs, but none were obvious. Indeed, a lot of their best material avoided obvious directions while remaining memorable. Wrecked By Lions was the best of their three albums, with copious amounts of guitars framing serviceable melodies and those not-so-obvious hooks. This would sound great on CHIRP Radio and I need to play this soon.
- Jason & The Scorchers — Last Time Around (Lost & Found): For a few years, Jason & The Scorchers were one of the best bands on the planet. They loved hard rock and they loved country music and they jammed it together and made it work. Some called it “cowpunk,” but whatever it was labeled, it was quintessentially American music played by one of the hottest band’s around, with the surprisingly rangy drawl of Jason Ringenberg and all-world guitarist Warner Hodges. This is the opening track on the album and it smokes. And it’s not even the rockingest track on the album.
- The Sugarplastic – Arizona (Radio Jejune): This L.A. band always garnered XTC comparisons, since singer Ben Eshbach’s voice has a bit of a resemblance to Andy Partridge’s voice and the band played a herky-jerky brand of rock. There is a little XTC in the band’s sound. but Eshbach has noted The Monochrome Set as a big influence, which is pretty obvious. If you take more XTC-ish melodies and lay them on circular chord patterns reminiscent of The Monochrome Set, Orange Juice, Josef K and others from that era, that gives you a clue as to where this criminally overlooked band is coming from.
- Didjits — The Man (Little Miss Carriage!): This is from a five-song EP which featured Rey Washam of Scratch Acid on drums. This is a mid-tempo song, thus much slower than most Didjits tunes, which features some typically stinging Rick Sims guitar work. This isn’t a great song, but when a band is really great, and Didjits was really great, even lesser efforts fly, because the overall sound is worth hearing.
- The Fall — The Steak Place (The Frenz Experiment): The Frenz Experiment is a good but not great album from the first Brix Smith era. Mark E. Smith’s first wife propelled the band into more accessible directions, as not every song was a grinding dirge or off-kilter rockabilly track. Her love of jangly guitars melded at times with Mark’s love of Can like drone, as illustrated by this moody composition which features a finger snapping rhythm section.
- Ramones — Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy (Leave Home): Finally! I get a shuffle track for a birthday artist! This is probably my favorite of the early Ramones albums, as they tempered their power with a bit more of their pop influence. Their music is so basic and immediate, it’s hard to fathom how difficult it was for them commercially, as it wasn’t really until “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” that they got substantial airplay nationwide. And now you see grade school kids wearing Ramones shirts. Better late than never.
- Brett Smiley — VaVaVa Voom (Velvet Tinmine): I have three or four collections of obscure British glam rock singles. Basically, every band on these collections picks someone to ape — T. Rex, Slade or Sparks — and then gives it their best. Mr. Smiley certainly does his best to emulate Marc Bolan’s fey vocal stylings and the music is pepped up ’50s rock and roll. Not as good as the inspiration, but it’s bloody fun.
Chicago has such a rich musical history and one of the greatest talents to come out of our fair city was Sam Cooke. He bridged gospel roots with an urban sensibility — it’s like he found the midpoint between Ray Charles and Nat King Cole, capable of being as smooth as silk or gritty and down home. On top of that, he was a ridiculously talented songwriter, penning hit after hit and influencing so many of the great soul singers who followed him. What a wonderful world this would be if you would get your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up! (NOTE: the 11th tune on my shuffle this morning was Cooke’s “Sugar Dumpling”).
- Gaza Strippers — D Is For Dead (Laced Candy): The Strippers were Rick Sims’ band after Didjits. At one level, they weren’t much different than Didjits — more fast punky songs with Sims’ fingers flying on the fretboard making sounds like a mess of pissed off hornets leaving the nest and lots of lyrics about being a badass. But the Strippers had a bit more of metal orientation that both tied them a bit to the ’70s and even moreso to ’90s contemporaries like Hellacopters. As a result, I preferred Didjits, but still dug the Strippers, and this is one the better songs off of the band’s debut.
- The Streets — Has It Come To This (Original Pirate Material): Gosh, remember how exciting that first Streets record was? A lot of songs about not doing much more than being lazy and getting high over grime and hip-hop beats. Mike Skinner yobbed his way through his insightful lyrics and someone would sing the hook. I wish Skinner would go back to doing that.
- The Replacements — Androgynous (Let It Be): I like but don’t love The Replacements. The major label part of their career was more craftsman-like than inspired, in my (decidedly minority) opinion. Their inspiration peaked on Let It Be. Legendary Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau explained that on Let It Be, the ‘mats simply played the music they liked, whether is was loping rockabilly-ish pop (“I Will Dare”), Kiss (the cover of “Black Diamond”), or this tender exploration of folks who like to wear clothing of the opposite sex. Not the deepest treatment of the subject, but it’s not exploitative and is rather affecting.
- Velvet Crush — Gentle Breeze (A Single Odessey): The duo of Ric Menck and Paul Chastain made plenty of classic power pop in the ’90s. This singles collection is a great place to start if you want to find out more. This might be my favorite Velvet Crush tune, a pure jangle fest that is steeped in The Byrds and Big Star (they even reference Big Star’s “Way Out West” in the chorus).
- Channels — New Logo (Waiting for The Next End Of The World): Both of J. Robbins’ post-Jawbox projects haven’t really deviated from the style he perfected on Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart. Jagged guitars, an ultra-tight rhythm section with surprisingly strong melodies. Channels is perhaps a hair less powerful than Jawbox or Burning Airlines and a touch more melodic. And Robbins is still articulately angry, as this song varies from clangorous roar to delicate middle eights.
- The House Of Love — Sulphur (1986-88: The Creation Years): A British indie guitar rock band that wasn’t really a shoegazer band but meshed well with that style, House Of Love put out two terrific albums before getting lost trying to figure out its next move. This is from that early period, when they could really do no wrong. Lead singer Guy Chadwick had this interesting low key vocal style that exerted an all-knowing and comforting presence. Meanwhile, there were always lots of great guitar work on top of the sturdy compositions, like this one.
- Polara — Allay (Polara): This Minneapolis band was lead by Ed Ackerson, who had previously fronted The 27 Various. Both bands played power poppish indie rock. On Polara’s 1995 debut, Ackerson created a really cool wall of sound, augmenting the guitars with an array of keyboards and percussion sounds, giving Polara a special texture that rocked out enough to hold its own in the alt-rock ’90s. Ackerson also had a voice that sounded a fair amount like Scott Miller of Game Theory and The Loud Family. The debut is great, as is this song, but on subsequent albums, the band got slicker, and less interesting.
- Tommy Keene — Love Is The Only Thing That Matters (The Real Underground): Keene is a revered cult figure both in and out of power pop circles. For nearly 30 years, he’s been reliably churning out melancholy pop songs, supported by his wistful, reedy voice and his excellent guitar playing. Keene, who has collaborated with Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices in The Keene Brothers (Tommy’s tunes with Robert’s words) and has been Paul Westerberg’s touring guitarist, is skilled in Big Star style jangle, but also can produce riffs that are catchy and tinged with bittersweet emotion. This is more of a jangly tune.
- Northern State — Trinity (Dying In Stereo): Three gals doing old school rap that calls to mind the Beastie Boys? Sure, they’re not as good as the Beasties, but there were some really good songs on their debut. Neither the music nor the lyrics reach the heights of their inspiration, but the bar was set pretty high. More importantly, they have loads of personality, making this a fun listen.
- Shoes — Your Imagination (Present Tense/Tongue Twister): This is a pretty power poppy shuffle, and Shoes are also legends if you are into the style. The Zion, Illinois band graduated to Elektra Records after one classic DIY record, and managed to retain their low fi charm with bigger budgets. Shoes boiled down pop songwriting to its basics, drawing from everyone from Buddy Holly to The Beatles to The Raspberries and their best songs have two or three hooks and usually get right to the point. Kind of like a wussier Buzzcocks. This song fits that formula to a T.
Can one birthday wish be enough for the man originally known as David Robert Jones, who changed his name to David Bowie so as not to be confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees? Or does one have to wish a Happy Birthday to The Thin White Duke, The Earthling, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and so on and so on? Perhaps the best way to celebrate the birthday of a man whose career was premised on versatility and change is to show him your musical diversity. So give David a special birthday wish in his golden years by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
- Cockeyed Ghost — I’m OK You’re Not OK (Neverest): Cockeyed Ghost was a cool power pop band that sprang from a rich late-‘90s L.A. scene that also spawned Wondermints and The Negro Problem. They didn’t get quite the same notoriety of those two acts, but the band added punkish energy and finely honed sense of classic pop (a la Elton John and The Beach Boys) to create a distinctive sound. Moreover, frontman Adam Marsland is a creative lyricist who manages to be prolix without getting in the way of the music. This song moves from driving sunny pop-rock to quiet melodicism and ends with a spunky guitar breakdown.
- James Brown — Let Yourself Go (The 50th Anniversary Collection): This is one of the Godfather of Soul’s early funk tunes. Or rather, this song is one of the bridges from Brown’s primal R & B to something a bit more fluid and grooving. Even in the early stages of developing funk, the depth of the arrangement is pretty amazing. And it would only get better from here.
- The Hives — You Got It All…Wrong (The Black And White Album): I love how these guys have evolved without losing their garage-y essence. This song has great bursts of guitar but contrasts it with some relatively pretty guitar passages. This makes the driving parts of the song sound all the more rocking.
- Ray, Goodman & Brown — Stay (The Best of Ray, Goodman & Brown): When the ’70s R & B vocal group The Moments ran into some contractual problems with their record label, they changed their name, signed with a major label and finally moved from the R & B charts to the pop charts. Their classic vocalizing had its roots in street corner doo-wop singing, best exemplified on their Top 5 smash “Special Lady”. This wasn’t a smash, but the smooth vocals and beautiful harmonies meld well with a mid-tempo song with a few disco production touches.
- The Greenberry Woods — You Know The Real (Yellow Pills, Volume 3): The Woods had two major label albums in the ’90s, playing sweet power pop, falling somewhere between Jellyfish and Fountains Of Wayne. This outtake is featured on one of the classic Yellow Pills compilations, which are essential for power pop fans. This is a psychedelic pop number with an obvious Beatles influence. It features strong vocals from the Huseman brothers, who later went on to form Splitsville.
- Muddy Waters — (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man (The Anthology): Waters was an innovator, who was one of thousands of African-Americans who migrated from the Deep South to Chicago and brought the Delta Blues with them. Muddy was at the forefront of bringing the electric guitar to Mississippi blues and that has resonated throughout music, from contemporaries like Bo Diddley to Led Zeppelin to The White Stripes. This song is such a standard bearer. Even if you haven’t heard it before, you have heard before.
- The Left Banke —I’ve Got Something On My Mind (There’s Gonna Be A Storm): The band that hit big in the ’60s with “Walk Away Renee” had plenty of other baroque pop delights. This song has massed harmony vocals and amazing keyboards (one of them kind of sounds like a harpsichord) and strings. The Left Banke has inspired a lot of modern orch-pop bands, such as The Ladybug Transistor.
- The Lightning Seeds — Like You Do (Dizzy Heights): This British band, led by Ian Broudie, had a minor hit during the alt-rock era with a song called “Pure”. They were a Brit-pop band with a strong ’60s Swingin’ London vibe, but Broudie, who was also a successful producer, added lots of cool contemporary production tricks. This song is a dazzling showcase for Broudie’s songwriting, with its melodic twists and turns and inventive dense production, with strings, backing vocals, loads of percussion, and a whole lot more.
- Billy Bragg — Moving the Goalposts (Don’t Try This At Home): A pretty number from Mr. Bragg, which belies the hangdog lyrics about love and romance. But, to be honest, the lyrics don’t fully hang together on this song, which isn’t typical for Billy. But the music makes it worthwhile.
- They Might Be Giants — Hope That I Get Old Before I Die (They Might Be Giants): If you have any affinity for They Might Be Giants and haven’t seen the documentary Gigantic, by all means do so. It’s not earth shattering cinema, but it’s an affectionate look at John Linnell and John Flansburgh. The main premise of the film is how incredibly unlikely it is that the two Johns ever found a relatively large audience, and, you know, it is hard to believe. This silly nugget from the band’s debut has Linnell’s accordion up front and awkward drum machines playing a modified polka tempo. And it’s a lot of fun.