On this day in 1897, Guglielmo Marconi obtained the first ever patent for radio, in London. Granted, it wasn’t broadcast radio — Marconi built on Heinrich Hertz’s discovery of electomagnetic radiation and developed the first wireless transmission of telegraph messages over significant distances. Others had been able to transmit over extremely short distances, but it was Marconi who figured out how to do it over many miles, sparking a communications revolution that reverberates to this day. Of course, someday we here at CHIRP hope that we can take advantage of Marconi’s initial innovation with our own terrestrial radio station. In the meantime, I have no doubt the Guglielmo would have really dug iPods and MP3 players, so grab yours and help celebrate the father of radio’s first patent by hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.
Pernice Brothers — Our Time Has Passed (The World Won’t End): One of the quintessential Pernice tunes, a mid-tempo pop song with a melody that sounds like it could have come from Jackson Browne or The Eagles in 1974, overlayed with a little ’60s British pop gloss and superb lyrics. The swelling middle eight is pretty much perfect, as the song mixes resignation with celebration of a relationship that was but wasn’t meant to be that long.
Mano Negra — Amerika Perdida (Amerika Perdida): A jazzy bopping number from the French band led by Mano Chao who were the godfathers of the rock en espanol movement. Mano Negra was conversant in so many styles, from the hardest of rock to ska to traditional folk to this Cuban styled offering, and they could mix and match without any difficulty, binding everything with their incredible energy.
Supergrass — Lose It (I Should Coco): An early energetic Supergrass song that already showed Gaz Coombes’ skill at marrying punchy rock (this tune sounds like it’s rooted in The Move and ’70s glam rock) with dollops of the most bittersweet melodies. It creates a special tension that makes Supergrass compelling and makes their brand of pop feel a bit weightier, regardless of the lyrical content.
The Dukes Of Stratosphear — Collideascope (Psonic Psunspot): After the brilliant 25 O’Clock EP, which sold better than XTC’s other releases of the period, a full length album had to be made. And it was almost as good as the EP. This is a terrific Andy Partridge psych-pop song. This is arguably the greatest rock side project ever. It’s a shame that the bubblegum-glam Dukes album Andy planned never got off the ground.
Iron & Wine — Resurrection Fern (The Shepard’s Dog): Sam Beam’s whispery folk songs are so comforting and manage to sound hip while also not really being that far, at times, from something that Bread or America might have recorded. The differences are both lyrical and how Beam never lets his choruses explode like those AM radio giants did. Beam has created his own musical world. This song would have fit in well on the prior two Iron & Wine LPs, but this album does a nice job of adding some bluesy edges to add variety to his sound.
XTC — Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!)(Go 2):XTC’s second album is a bit disjointed, as the band seemed unsure of where to go. This was exacerbated by keyboardist Barry Andrews wanting a larger role. Ultimately, Andrews left and was replaced by guitarist David Gregory, which helped Andy Partridge to evolve into a songwriting genius. Even with the creative tension, Go 2 is still a respectable effort, as exemplified by this spiffy piece of post-punk pop. This sound inspired so many British bands of the past few years (like The Futureheads for example), with spiky guitars and a cod disco beat.
Guided By Voices — Tractor Rape Chain (Bee Thousand): Like most people, this album was my first exposure to GBV and hooked me for life. Robert Pollard knows how to craft a tune that mines from the great British rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s. This song has the grandeur of The Who, but with a melody that more fits a band like The Hollies or The Jam. The band hit on psych-pop, classic rock and power pop, often in the same song. While they had their share of so-so songs, not many bands of their era had as many great songs, like this one.
Tangiers — Spine To Your Necklace (Never Bring You Pleasure): Tangiers were a Canadian act that fit somewhere with Spoon, The Strokes and some of post-punk poppy Brit acts of the past six or seven years. Their songs are catchy as hell and rely on clipped guitar parts and rhythms with just enough melody to keep them from being monochromatic. They had three albums, and this one is the best. This song works a Wire like riff but mixes in some ’60s psych-pop touches, all over a vaguely Bowieesque glam beat.
Aztec Camera — Jump (Just Say Yesterday): This originally appeared on the Oblivious EP. Frame does the Van Halen smash in near cocktail jazz version, with a mellow vibe, featuring primarily his acoustic guitar and a piano. He’s clearly taking the piss out of the song. I’m conflicted on this. I think “Jump” is a very well-written slab o’ pop and this is fairly condescending. However, since this is a good song, even this snarky version has appeal.
Adrian Belew — The Rail Song (Twang Bar King): This is the best song from Belew’s wonderful second solo album. It’s an excellent moody slice of psychedelic pop with some Eastern undertones. The song is very forceful, yet there’s an elegance at its core that really strikes an emotional chord.