It’s time to wish a happy birthday to the man once known as Crocus Behemoth. David Thomas helped found the short lived but extremely important proto-punk band Rocket From The Tombs, and once they split, formed Pere Ubu, the self-proclaimed avant-garage band. With the large and oddly compelling front man whose quavering high voice somehow was perfect for an ultra-arty take on rock tropes, Pere Ubu has been making important music over five decades. From spooky to rocking to pretty darn catchy (the band’s Cloudland album is one of the great pop albums of the ‘80s), Thomas has managed to put his stamp on everything he’s done. And he’s had some nifty side projects too. In honor of Thomas, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Led Zeppelin – Going To California (Led Zeppelin IV): Pretty track from arguably the ultimate classic rock album. This is a folk rock gem, with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones playing so well together and a wonderful vocal from Robert Plant.
The Bamboos – My Baby’s Cheating (I Sure Got The Feeling)(Listen! Hear! The Bamboos Live!!!): A live recording from Australia’s top retro soul act is a no brainer. While a tad slick, this has a great funk groove, in the pocket drumming and the sultry vocals of their main singer, the amazing Kylie Auldist.
LL Cool J – Kanday (Bigger And Deffer): Sniggering and kind of sexist, I suppose, but LL was still pretty young at this point. The production on LL’s second album wasn’t as striking as the classic Radio LP, but his flow is fine and the hooks are there.
The Eastern Dark – Johnny And Dee (Do The Pop!): An Aussie tribute to the axe handlers in Ramones. The song starts with a somber intro before moving into the punk rock tempo this song demands. The handclaps are a nice touch.
Mount Moriah – Union Street Bridge (Miracle Temple): One of the more striking records of 2013, this North Carolina group plays rock with strong country and folk overtones. This is a beautifully sung ballad that begins with just a vocal and percussion before other instruments come in. The beginning really sucks the listener in.
Arcwelder – Staback (Jacket Made In Canada): Arcwelder has been coming up more often on my shuffles and that’s fine with me, especially since I’m still getting familiar from this CD which collects their earliest stuff. The production isn’t as sharp as on their later releases, but their melodic post-punk sound is already there, reminding a bit of Bob Mould fronting Mission Of Burma on this track.
The Troggs – Come Now (Archaeology (1966-1976)): A dopey riff played in a wobbly fashion with Reg Presley offering come ons in that sleazy voice. This song probably took 30 seconds to write, but that’s about all one needs for a great Troggs track.
Title Tracks – Shaking Hands (In Blank): A peppy indie power pop track from the band led by former Georgie James member John Davis. This would appeal to fans of Buzzcocks, The Undertones and The New Pornographers. A band that deserves more attention.
Paul Weller – Moonshine (Wake Up The Nation): Weller has been so engaged on his recent records, so even though his voice is slowly but surely deteriorating, his songwriting has been strong, making for really good records. Typical of this album, this is a punchy, just over two minute rock track that moves quickly, with guitar crunch, a solid melody and pounding piano.
Nat King Cole – Embraceable You (Nat King Cole): Next to Frank Sinatra, perhaps the greatest interpretive pop singer of the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era. And he was an ace piano player too. So smooth, so soulful, so lovely. Great song made even greater by this performance.