There was more to Carl Perkins than “Blue Suede Shoes”. Perkins was a great songwriter and guitarist who brought a stronger country influence to rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll (as compared to Sun Records colleagues Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis). The Beatles knew that, covering a number of his songs, including “Honey Don’t”. And if you want to hear Carl at his best, track down classics like “Movie Magg” and “Dixie Fried”. The last time Perkins played Chicago before he passed away, he was at the House of Blues. Two of his sons were in his backing band (his third son worked in Western Tennessee at the same company as my Uncle Frank). During the set, one of his sons had a heart attack. Really. An ambulance came and took him away. There was a delay, as you can imagine. But eventually, Carl came back out and finished the show. What a trouper! Carl Perkins always let the show go on and you should let the shuffle go on. Get out your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.
The Insomniacs — Crystal Clear (Out Of It): A really durned good garage rock band with a mod orientation. The Insomniacs are super tight, with powerful drumming, a mix of fuzzy and jangly guitars and some deceptive melodies. This song sounds like The Jam mixed with the best of the Nuggets collection.
Northern State — Signal Flow (You Can’t Fade Me)(Dying In Stereo): A mid-tempo number from these three ladies who conjure up memories of the Beastie Boys. Of course, they aren’t that good, but they have loads of personality, and with decent tunes like this one, it entertains me.
Translator — Come With Me (Translator): Translator had many facets, from songs that blended the Paisley Underground with post-punk vibes to jamming bluesy rock. They also had a pure pop song, best represented by this soaring jangle rocker that is inspirational and has an indelible chorus.
Jerry Lee Lewis — Red Hot Memories (Ice Cold Beer)(Southern Roots & Boogie Woogie Country Man): A basic honky-tonk number with a big chorus of back up singers, a weepy harmonica and just a little bit of The Killer’s piano magic. Oh, and Jerry Lee’s oversized personality. He refers to himself about 20 seconds into the song.
The Balancing Act — Fishing In Your Eye (Curtains): Overlooked folk-pop group of the ’80s who recorded for a subsidiary of the IRS label. This song is premised on a cool offbeat jazz rhythm, with the bands usual smooth vocals and a good use of a melodica (though is there ever a bad one?).
Franz Ferdinand — Send Him Away (Tonight: Franz Ferdinand): A mid-tempo tune from last year’s FF release. I don’t think they’ll ever top the debut, which was pretty much perfect. But Tonight has some really good songs, and this was a respite from the more upbeat numbers.
Nicole Atkins — Neptune City (Bleeding Diamonds): This is a stripped down version of the title song from Atkins’ debut album. Here, Atkins and her amazing voice are accompanied primarily by a piano. Though the Neptune City album is characterized by lush production, Nicole’s songs are so strong that she doesn’t need all those extras to impress.
Pernice Brothers — The Ballad Of Bjorn Borg (The World Won’t End): One of my five favorite Pernice Brothers songs. This has Peyton Pinkerton’s wonderful guitar embellishments accompanying a melancholy and romantic melody, which all leads to gigantic chorus: “And we killed the endless summer.” It’s pithy and memorable phrases like that which I offer as proof of Joe Pernice’s brilliance as a lyricist.
Thee Oh Sees — Peanut Butter Oven (Help): Primitive songs with oddball production. I’m not sure that low-fi is the right way to describe it, as there is a lot going on in the mix. This song just works a two chord vamp with ghostly male and female vocals, punctuated with guitar at just the right time. This band shows that you can always find new wrinkles for old garage rock tropes.
Lilys — The Lost Victory (The 3 Way): A pithy Kinks-y pop tune from an album that is generally complex as all hell. Lilys have dabbled in a few different sounds, but I’m most taken by their forays into this fey ’60s pop that goes in totally unexpected directions. The songs are catchy but never obvious. Even this short song has a curveball or two.