A special Christmas Eve edition of the shuffle
You can learn a lot of valuable lessons from the movie Airheads. First, Moby Dick is a book. Second, if a mediocre heavy metal band takes over a radio station in an effort to secure a recording deal, the band will have to deal with Judd Nelson (begging the question, is it really worth it?). And, most importantly, you learn that if someone asks you who would win in a wrestling match between Lemmy and God, it’s a trick question, because Lemmy IS God. But who needs a movie to tell you that, when you can plow through the Motorhead catalog, from “Ace of Spades” to “We Are the Road Crew”, and realize that Lemmy is a deity. In Mr. Kilmeister’s honor, please throw up a horned hand, and, with your free hand, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that pop up.
- Gang Of Four — He’d Send in the Army (Solid Gold): There are some folks who insist that Solid Gold is even better than Go4’s classic debut Entertainment. I’m not one of those folks, but Solid Gold more than stands up on its own. The songs are not quite as consistently awesome, but they are good and the band’s sound thickened up a just a little bit. Here, the band builds tension with quiet interludes consisting of Hugo Burnham brushing his high hat, with small bursts of guitar, before the song hits its lurching groove (the type of groove that clearly inspired The Minutemen).
- Cassandra Wilson — Strange Fruit (New Moon Daughter): Wilson is one of the top contemporary jazz singers, with her smoky, insinuating voice. Her music is informed by shades of other styles, and she loves to deconstruct and rearrange songs. This is a funky take on the standard that Billie Holliday owned. Cassandra doesn’t take it away from Billie, but she certainly puts a distinctive (and quite cool) spin on it.
- The Streets — Let’s Push Things Forward (Original Pirate Material): No matter how often Mike Skinner disappoints, the first two Streets albums will always provide him some cover. His yobbish ruminations on the geezer life and his melding of hip—hop and garage/2—step/grime still sound so cool. The combination of Skinner’s narration and reggae hook on this cut works very well.
- Louis Armstrong — Blueberry Hill (The Essential Louis Armstrong): I intend to spend some more time investigating Satchmo’s early years, with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, where his trumpet playing rules. But he was a pretty terrific singer. This is a great interpretation of the Fats Domino classic, despite the backing choral vocals that sound like they were taken from a 1940s musical.
- The Boys — Turning Grey (The Boys): The Boys were the least sophisticated of the first wave of poppy punk bands (in comparison to The Undertones and Buzzcocks). But they delivered the goods, and by that, I mean the hooks, one right after another. Most of their songs are power pop songs with an extra burst of adrenalin. If you dig The Exploding Hearts, here are their ancestors.
- Montage — Men Are Building Sand (Montage): After Michael Brown left The Left Banke (best known for the ‘60s smash “Walk Away Renee”), he formed this similar baroque pop outfit. Sundazed tracked down the masters and although this doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Left Banke, it’s not too far off. This is a pretty number, though I have no idea what the title means.
- The Morells — Eager Boy (Shake And Push): I have a lot Morells on my iPod. This Springfield, Missouri band played a mix of traditional rock and roll with a bit of R & B and country mixed in, while penning some originals and covering contemporaries like Marshall Crenshaw and Ben Vaughn. This is a semi—rockabilly tune with a spirited vocal from D. Clinton Thompson, who also shows off his six—string mastery.
- Bad Religion — Million Days (Into The Unknown): Bad Religion is so proud of its second album, that it has never been released on CD and has been out of print for over two decades. Why? Because the band abandoned its hardcore punk for hard rock with definite prog rock overtones. This certainly sticks out like a sore thumb in the band’s catalog. But they have nothing to be embarrassed about, as this is still an entertaining album, as the songs are very well constructed. This is a mid—tempo number and it’s kind of hippy dippy, and the only Bad Religion song, I think, with a section of “la la la la” vocals.
- Tom Waits — Midtown (Rain Dogs): This is a brief instrumental on one of Waits’ many essential albums. It’s brassy and jazzy and sounds like it could have been waxed in 1950. Yep, my iPod is feeling very jazzy today.
- The Vapors — Bunkers (New Clear Days): Yes, these are the guys who hit big with “Turning Japanese”, fodder for many VH1 One Hit Wonder specials. It’s a shame. Not to knock “Japanese”, which is a fun song, but it wasn’t representative of The Vapors’ sound. Singer David Fenton constructed songs that mixed the percolating rhythms of The Jam (and the Kinks inspired observational lyrics) with some post—punk edge. This song fits in that mold, with a big emphasis on rhythm, as almost every instrument has a percussive edge and the bass playing is rubbery and flowing. Underrated band.