Being the brother of a legend can’t be easy, and the relationship between Dave and Ray Davies has always been perilous, but birthday boy Dave has carved his own deserved niche in rock history. Indeed, Ray has taken great pains to point out how essential Dave’s dirty, feedback laden playing was to putting The Kinks on the map, and, in so doing, sending rock into harder and louder territory. Dave also has been one of the great backup singers in rock history and has penned some fine Kinks tunes (such as “Death of a Clown”). Dave’s solo career has been pretty solid too. He has recovered decently from his stroke from a few years ago, but it remains to be seen if that will prevent any hope for a Kinks reunion. Let’s celebrate Mr. Davies by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Bee Gees — The British Opera (Odessa): For all the great music the Bee Gees released in the ’60s, they never really made a definitive album statement. Some fans will disagree, pointing to this 2 CD effort which is, I suppose, at some level, conceptual, though it doesn’t really tell a story. But it’s heavily orchestrated and contains some of the Brothers Gibb’s most ambitious music. This track is an instrumental that sounds like the love theme to a ’60s romantic movie.
The Intelligence — Universal Babysitter (Fake Surfers): This is echo laden garage rock with a surf music vibe. This sounds inspired by The Cramps and has a bit of that low fi recorded by ghosts feel that Thee Oh Sees have perfected. Good tune.
Outkast — I’ll Call Before I Come (featuring Eco, Gangsta Boo) (Stankonia): Very few hip hop acts, in my opinion, crafted hooks as well as Outkast. This track uses a simple drum machine pattern and overlays a very melodic chorus that showed how Outkast took Parliament’s influence and Atlanta-ized it. Andre 3000 carries the chorus and Big Boi adds spice with his rapid fire rhyming.
Martin Phillipps & The Chills — Swimming In The Rain (Sunburnt): Unless Phillipps revives the band, this track comes from the final Chills album. It is on par with most of this Kiwi band’s later material, adding a bouncy twist to Velvet Underground drone riffing, making for an inviting twist on jangle pop.
Tall Dwarfs — Small Talk (Fork Songs): Speaking of Kiwi drone, the Tall Dwarfs leaned on that on a lot of their quirky pop ditties. This song is grounded in a repetitive guitar part, with embellishment from separate bursts of rhythm from another guitar. This builds tension, which gets resolved when the chorus melody is introduced. These guys were low fi indie pop before there was low fi indie pop.
Scruffs — This Can’t Go On (Yellow Pills, Volume 3): Big Star wasn’t the only legendary power pop band to come out of Memphis in the ’70s. The Scruffs built upon the music of groups like The Raspberries, but added layers of paranoia, lust and pathos that made them less slick and radio ready. There is a ruggedness to their music that most groups of the era didn’t have, and, as a result, their best music still sound fresh today.
Foxy Shazam — A Dangerous Man (Introducing): This Cincinnati band matches the pomp and overkill of bands like Queen and Darkness with a crazy edge, somewhat akin to Mike Patton back in his Faith No More days. The result is careening rock tunes that are in your face and might not be for everyone. I’m not sure if the band is sincere, or just sincere in its theatricality, but either way is fine with me.
Digital Underground — Street Scene (Sex Packets): A brief skit that bridged a couple songs on this classic hip hop album.
Sewing Pattern — Sugar Into Tea (Sewing Pattern): I saw Sewing Pattern open for Canasta last year, as their front woman, Angie Ma, was, at the time, the keyboardist for Canasta. Ma really digs classic ’60s and ’70s soft pop writing, and her voice is not rangy but she is pretty expressive on her baroque creations. Some of her songs are straightforward, but this is more of a Jimmy Webb-meets-Laura Nyro journey, with a number of parts that Ma stitches together quite well. If she can get more consistent, Sewing Pattern is capable a really great album.
The Like — Wishing He Was Dead (Release Me): Sadly, The Like split after the release of their excellent Mark Ronson produced album. The Like did an excellent job of building on ’60s girl group and garage sounds, but adding a contemporary edge to the proceedings. Unlike groups like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, who mine some similar influences, this isn’t washed out or wan, it’s tight and punchy. Being polished was probably not the right thing for the times, but it suited these cracker jack pop songs.