The CHIRP Blog
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.
On this day in 1897, Guglielmo Marconi obtained the first ever patent for radio, in London. Granted, it wasn’t broadcast radio — Marconi built on Heinrich Hertz’s discovery of electomagnetic radiation and developed the first wireless transmission of telegraph messages over significant distances. Others had been able to transmit over extremely short distances, but it was Marconi who figured out how to do it over many miles, sparking a communications revolution that reverberates to this day. Of course, someday we here at CHIRP hope that we can take advantage of Marconi’s initial innovation with our own terrestrial radio station. In the meantime, I have no doubt the Guglielmo would have really dug iPods and MP3 players, so grab yours and help celebrate the father of radio’s first patent by hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.
- Pernice Brothers — Our Time Has Passed (The World Won’t End): One of the quintessential Pernice tunes, a mid-tempo pop song with a melody that sounds like it could have come from Jackson Browne or The Eagles in 1974, overlayed with a little ’60s British pop gloss and superb lyrics. The swelling middle eight is pretty much perfect, as the song mixes resignation with celebration of a relationship that was but wasn’t meant to be that long.
- Mano Negra — Amerika Perdida (Amerika Perdida): A jazzy bopping number from the French band led by Mano Chao who were the godfathers of the rock en espanol movement. Mano Negra was conversant in so many styles, from the hardest of rock to ska to traditional folk to this Cuban styled offering, and they could mix and match without any difficulty, binding everything with their incredible energy.
- Supergrass — Lose It (I Should Coco): An early energetic Supergrass song that already showed Gaz Coombes’ skill at marrying punchy rock (this tune sounds like it’s rooted in The Move and ’70s glam rock) with dollops of the most bittersweet melodies. It creates a special tension that makes Supergrass compelling and makes their brand of pop feel a bit weightier, regardless of the lyrical content.
- The Dukes Of Stratosphear — Collideascope (Psonic Psunspot): After the brilliant 25 O’Clock EP, which sold better than XTC’s other releases of the period, a full length album had to be made. And it was almost as good as the EP. This is a terrific Andy Partridge psych-pop song. This is arguably the greatest rock side project ever. It’s a shame that the bubblegum-glam Dukes album Andy planned never got off the ground.
- Iron & Wine — Resurrection Fern (The Shepard’s Dog): Sam Beam’s whispery folk songs are so comforting and manage to sound hip while also not really being that far, at times, from something that Bread or America might have recorded. The differences are both lyrical and how Beam never lets his choruses explode like those AM radio giants did. Beam has created his own musical world. This song would have fit in well on the prior two Iron & Wine LPs, but this album does a nice job of adding some bluesy edges to add variety to his sound.
- XTC — Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!)(Go 2): XTC’s second album is a bit disjointed, as the band seemed unsure of where to go. This was exacerbated by keyboardist Barry Andrews wanting a larger role. Ultimately, Andrews left and was replaced by guitarist David Gregory, which helped Andy Partridge to evolve into a songwriting genius. Even with the creative tension, Go 2 is still a respectable effort, as exemplified by this spiffy piece of post-punk pop. This sound inspired so many British bands of the past few years (like The Futureheads for example), with spiky guitars and a cod disco beat.
- Guided By Voices — Tractor Rape Chain (Bee Thousand): Like most people, this album was my first exposure to GBV and hooked me for life. Robert Pollard knows how to craft a tune that mines from the great British rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s. This song has the grandeur of The Who, but with a melody that more fits a band like The Hollies or The Jam. The band hit on psych-pop, classic rock and power pop, often in the same song. While they had their share of so-so songs, not many bands of their era had as many great songs, like this one.
- Tangiers — Spine To Your Necklace (Never Bring You Pleasure): Tangiers were a Canadian act that fit somewhere with Spoon, The Strokes and some of post-punk poppy Brit acts of the past six or seven years. Their songs are catchy as hell and rely on clipped guitar parts and rhythms with just enough melody to keep them from being monochromatic. They had three albums, and this one is the best. This song works a Wire like riff but mixes in some ’60s psych-pop touches, all over a vaguely Bowieesque glam beat.
- Aztec Camera — Jump (Just Say Yesterday): This originally appeared on the Oblivious EP. Frame does the Van Halen smash in near cocktail jazz version, with a mellow vibe, featuring primarily his acoustic guitar and a piano. He’s clearly taking the piss out of the song. I’m conflicted on this. I think “Jump” is a very well-written slab o’ pop and this is fairly condescending. However, since this is a good song, even this snarky version has appeal.
- Adrian Belew — The Rail Song (Twang Bar King): This is the best song from Belew’s wonderful second solo album. It’s an excellent moody slice of psychedelic pop with some Eastern undertones. The song is very forceful, yet there’s an elegance at its core that really strikes an emotional chord.
While his younger brother Neil ended up with larger commercial success in Crowded House (though Tim was with the band on its most successful album), Tim has been a great pop musician since he co-founded Split Enz in the early ’70s, making everything from arty pop to fun new wave to plain old fashioned good singer-songwriter stuff. Although his recent solo records have been hard to find, he still writes terrific songs. Moreover, it’s still a kick to think that one of the most handsome rock singers ever used to wear garish makeup, crazy costumes and the oddest haircuts that anyone has ever worn on stage. This man deserves a birthday tribute, so grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
- Rich Creamy Paint — I Found Love (Rich Creamy Paint): During the mid to late ’90s, there was a fleeting moment where it looked like the indie power pop revival might make the mainstream, and the major labels signed a few acts. One of these acts was Rich Painter, who performed under the unfortunate moniker Rich Creamy Paint. His sole major label platter is big and brassy teenage pop (in the ’70s sense, not the modern sense) with lots of big hooks. This is a mid-tempo ballady number that still manages to find a couple of spots for crunchy guitars.
- Psychedelic Furs — All That Money Wants (All Of This And Nothing): The first three Furs albums are all great, though each takes a somewhat different approach. From that point forward, the Furs were a lot more hit and miss. This track, which was appended to a “hits” compilation, is somewhat in the Talk Talk Talk mold (and could have been recorded for that album for all I know). It has some psych-jangle guitar and Richard Butler’s sore throated world weary voice.
- Nazareth — Ship Of Dreams (Malice In Wonderland): The Scottish hard rock band, best known for its cover of “Love Hurts”, took a mellower direction on this 1980 album. This has a bit of a California ’70s rock vibe, and the band shows some heretofore unknown harmonizing skill. Moreover, some of the songs, such as this one, have a bit of a darker aspect than the typical Laurel Canyon tune, making for music that is inviting yet a bit unsettling. A real underrated gem of an album.
- Dolly Parton — Highway Headin’ South (Mission Chapel Memories): A great upbeat Dolly tune with a bit of a gospel feel. The tune is basically a hooray for the South number, though it makes the good point that living where it’s cold isn’t always fun. Who cares about the lyrics when Dolly is singing so joyously.
- Green Pajamas — Carmilla (In a Glass Darkly): This cult band is a favorite among those who like baroque psychedlic pop. As time went on, Jeff Kelly and his crew went in a bit more of a chamber pop direction, as on this song. This is a sweet and haunting track that reminds me a bit of the folkier side of Led Zeppelin in spots, mixed with The Left Banke.
- Wax — Continuation (What Else Can We Do): Although based in L.A., three of the four members of this band (who achieved brief fame for the controversial Spike Jonze directed video for “California”) were from the western suburbs. In fact, I worked for three years with Wax bass player Dave (Burdie Cutlass) Georgeff. Wax was a snappy pop-punk band that seemed cut from the same cloth as bands like All, mixed melodic hooks with some odd tempo shifts and arrangements. This song works a simple groove relentlessly, building up to a nice refrain.
- Screaming Blue Messiahs — Too Much Love (Bikini Red): This trio, which sprung from the ashes of Motor Boys Motor, mixed some traditional ’50s rock ‘n’ roll with streamlined punky rock, without sounding like either a punk or a rockabilly band. The band’s rhythm section was ultra steady and tight, alllowing frontman Bill Carter plenty of room to dazzle with his guitar playing. The first two SBM albums, this is from the second, are packed with hooky songs that don’t sound much like anybody else.
- The Rutles — I Must Be In Love (The Rutles): This Beatles parody from the late ’70s was the brain child of Eric Idle of Monty Python and Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band. Innes whipped up 20 Beatle soundalike tunes, many of which sounded as good as the originals that he was spoofing. This track amalgamates the ideas of a few different tracks and is a fun early ’60s rock romp.
- The Raspberries — Rose Colored Glasses (Capitol Collectors Series): Since I’m a big power pop fan, I’ve tried to fully embrace The Raspberries. While I love their hits, many of Eric Carmen’s soppy ballads do nothing for me. Such as this one.
- Nothing Painted Blue — Couldn’t Be Simpler (Placeholders): Hyperliterate indie rock band fronted by Franklin Bruno. Bruno had a limited whiny/drawly voice, but it was well suited for his clever lyrics. The band’s music didn’t fit in any particular bag — it’s pretty much catchy guitar rock, with influences such as Elvis Costello, The Smiths, The Kinks and many others. This song mixes an industrial strength guitar riff with a detour into Burt Bacharach land before heading back into the rock.