A Rhode Island art school student who led one of the most successful bands of the post-punk era, a man who exposed the United States to great sounds from Brazil, a composer who continues to explore with his music, a guy who recorded a landmark innovative album with Brian Eno and followed it up with a brilliant art-pop collaboration — that’s David Byrne, a renaissance man beyond compare. While his solo career couldn’t equal the Talking Heads, Byrne’s solo work has only burnished his considerable legacy. Let’s celebrate David’s birthday by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first ten songs that come u
Hawksley Workman — Is This What You Call Love? (Los Manlicious): This album was originally intended as a tour only release, but it made a good rocking alternative to the mellower Between The Beautifuls. Workman mixes buzzy, slashing guitars with kind of a new wave funk feel on this upbeat number. This sounds tossed off, but Workman’s toss offs are better than most people’s A material.
The Jesus Lizard — A Tale Of Two Women (Blue): Typical later day Lizard — chugging mid-tempo rock with plenty of room for David Yow to rant and for the guitars to criss-cross and slash, before resolving itself into a surprisingly melodic chorus. This band started great and pretty much stayed that way.
The Who — Bargain (Who’s Next): If I’m going to listen to The Who, I’m going to grab Sell Out or Quadrophenia, but it’s hard to deny that Who’s Next is a classic rock album that really lives up to its billing, full of larger than life songs. I never need to hear the whole thing, but hearing an awesome track like this is always great on shuffle.
Wilco — Hate It Here (Sky Blue Sky): A lot of Wilco fans who are all about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born are not fond of this album. Regardless of what you think of those two albums (and I think they are overrated), I think with Ghost, Wilco had gone as far as they could with the ultra-experimental stuff. So heading back to just focusing on the songs and the emotional content was the best idea. This is a total ’70s throwback tune, played just right. Not the best song on the album, but it works.
Flop — Parasite (Flop & The Fall of the Mopsqueezer): A cool grunge-era power pop band from the Seattle area. Rusty Willoughby (also of Pure Joy) was the leader of this band. He had a thin voice that somehow worked, even when the guitars are way up in the mix. This song has Buzzcocks and early (darker) Cheap Trick vibes, though it’s not as hooky as most Flop material.
Tommy Keene — Your Heart Beats Alone (Ten Years After): This is one of my favorite Tommy Keene albums. It was this cult power pop legend’s first album of original material since he had been dropped by Geffen and he had clearly stockpiled a lot of top drawer material. His songs are invariably mid-tempo and usual are full of big guitars supporting melancholy melodies with Tommy’s reedy voice up front. This is a quieter mid-tempo song and it goes down real easy.
Linus Of Hollywood — Good Sounds (Your Favorite Record): Linus used to lead the pop-punk band Size 14 (who had a minor hit with “Clare Danes Poster”), but came into his own doing retro soft-pop records that conjured up memories of Harry Nilsson, The Beach Boys, Spanky and Our Gang and Margo Guryan. This is the quasi-title cut and this song is bursting with a sunny melody and a cool backing vocal arrangement. This music is so decidedly unhip that it is ridiculously cool.
Todd Rundgren — All The Children Sing (Hermit Of Mink Hollow): Todd went off the deep end years ago, whether it was CD-Rom interactive B.S. or doing his old songs in a bossa nova style. But whenever he’s decided to do a pure pop album, he has hit a home run. This late ’70s effort spawned the hit “Can We Still Be Friends?”, and there’s more brilliant songwriting where that came from. This is a perky number with an odd feel to it — something about the Todd does everything in the studio thing that makes this both happy and haunting at the same time.
The Beatles — I’ll Be Back (A Hard Day’s Night): A splendid John Lennon song. This downcast tune seems to draw from Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, and maybe even Roy Orbison, but adds a Latin accent that makes the song so distinctive. This has a bit of a folk rock vibe too, going a step beyond what The Searchers were doing at that time.
The Morells — Double Shot of My Baby’s Love (The Morells Anthology Live): The Swinging Medallions’ classic is tailor made for the great roadhouse band from Springfield, Missouri. Bouncy inane fun.