Illinois’ voter registration deadline is October 18!
In Illinois, any registered voter can vote by mail for any reason. If you're concerned about the post office situation, in Chicago, you can securely drop off your mail-in ballot at any early voting location. Learn more about registering and voting by mail at chicagoelections.gov. Not in Chicago? Find the information you need at vote.org.
While Johnny and Sid got all the ink, Steve Jones was part of the backbone of the snotty roar that was the Sex Pistols. His beefy riffs powered the many classic tunes on their one proper album. After the Pistols fell apart, Jones didn’t rest on his laurels, doing everything from playing in The Professionals with fellow Pistol Paul Cook to backing Iggy Pop for a spell in the late ’80s. He gained new popularity with his fantastic radio show (broadcast from Los Angeles), showing off his great music taste and fun loving personality. While the ideal way to celebrate Jonesy’s birthday would be raising a pint with him, the next best thing would be taking out your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Dolly Varden — Apple Doll (The Dumbest Magnets): This is where Dolly Varden, Chicago’s very own, went from being a nice, somewhat rootsy band, to an undefinablely wonderful adult pop band. While most of the band’s material is the product of the amazing Steve Dawson, his wife Diane Christiansen’s contributions are also key. Some of her best songs are reminiscent of Roseanne Cash. But this languid number, built around a simple guitar figure, is probably a bit closer to the more atmospheric Lucinda Williams’ material. It’s a beautiful song.
Liz Phair — Johnny Feelgood (Whitechocolatespaceegg): Hey, another Chicago artist! This is from Phair’s last album before she decided to (unsuccessfully) become a pop star. Although the production values are better than Exile In Guyville, this song comes from the same sensibility, with Phair’s typically insightful take on female sexuality. It’s like she was a one woman Sex in the City, before there was a Sex in the City.
The Beach Boys — When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) (Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights)): This song straddles between the surf-pop of early Beach Boys hits and Brian Wilson’s more sophisticated compositions. This is one of the band’s more clever lyrics and the mix of Mike Love’s lead vocal and Brian Wilson’s soaring falsetto in the chorus (with typically fantastic harmonies) is pretty classic.
Santigold — My Superman (Santigold): One of the few tracks from Miss Santi White’s debut album that was not licensed for a television commercial. Maybe because this moody slice of new wavey synth-pop isn’t driving enough to sell beer or whatever. So what. While this isn’t one of the best tracks on the album, it’s closer to killer than filler. One thing I appreciate is White sounds like she’s having fun singing this song.
The Saints — Crazy Googenheimer Blues (Prehistoric Sounds): This is a bit more playful than the typical Saints song from their early days. This is a bouncy R & B based number with the guitar in the background and a bouncy piano. When Ed Kuepper does break into a guitar solo, he throws in a little twang. This song really highlights the unique qualities of Chris Bailey’s lower range. It’s a bit forced, which shouldn’t work, yet somehow it does.
The Fall — Two Steps Back (Live At The Witch Trials): Early lurching rant from Manchester’s finest. The song is built on a repetitive guitar riff, augmented by some keyboard noodling. The rhythm section moves things along, while Mark E. Smith still sounds young, yet he’s clearly already a curmudgeon.
Kaiser Chiefs — Like It Too Much (Off With Their Heads): While not innovators by any stretch, Kaiser Chiefs come up with some fine Britpop nuggets on each album. They seem to have really studied past greats like XTC, Madness and Blur. This song works a simple riff in the verse but blossoms with a soaring melody, which provides an excellent contrast to what came before it. At their best, they make good songwriting seem fairly easy, which, of course, it isn’t.
Thin Lizzy — Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) (Black Rose: A Rock Legend): Thin Lizzy had its first success with a boogie-fied take on the folk ballad “Whiskey In A Jar”. And Irish and English folk was a vital component of this great hard band’s sound. Ted Leo once noted that his seeming Thin Lizzy influence is more of a by-product of his trying to write in similar folk idioms. This track takes the Irish folk to the extreme, telling an Irish legend in classic Lizzy style, dual lead guitars and all, stretched to an epic length (with a shout out near the end to the aforementioned “Whiskey”). It’s a great closer to Lizzy’s best album.
The Four Tops — Bernadette (The Singles +): This song seems to have escaped perpetual rotation on oldies radio, which is a shame, as it is one of the two or three best Four Tops’ songs. It is an insistent, driving number, in the vein of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. Insistent and driving and Levi Stubbs go together like peanut butter and jelly, making for a perfect record.
Motorhead — Rock ‘N’ Roll (Rock ‘N’ Roll): How could Motorhead screw up a song with this title? Guess what, they don’t. This is a two-chord song pounded into submission by Lemmy and crew. Sometimes simple is best.
You say Pee Wee Herman isn’t rock and roll? How can you, after the way he danced to The Champs’ “Tequila” in his movie debut? And who can forget Joeski Love’s hip-hop novelty classic, “Pee Wee’s Dance”? Today is Paul Reubens’ birthday, the man who created Pee Wee. The Pee Wee Herman Saturday morning show is one of the great children’s shows ever, and surely has inspired some of the artists we play on CHIRP. Even if that’s not true, Pee Wee is a lot of fun, which is reason enough to pay tribute to Mr. Reubens. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that come up!
Ray, Goodman & Brown — Special Lady (Ray, Goodman & Brown): These guys were originally called The Moments, and had a big hit with “Love on a Two Way Street”. But when they wanted to leave their record label, they found that the label owned the name. So they decided to just use their own monikers. They were a classic R & B vocal band, with sterling harmonies. This was their signature hit, a lush ballad that started with a nod to their street corner singing roots. As they harmonize the first chorus, they also “ad lib” advice to each other, to make sure they are in sync. The song is really good, too.
Elton John — This Song Has No Title (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road): Oh how clever Elton John and Bernie Taupin were. It’s the rock equivalent of Rene Magritte’s This Is Not A Pipe painting. But enough about the title. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is arguably Sir Elton’s best album, and the deep cuts, such as this one, are pretty darn good. This is a melodic mid-tempo song that sounds great, though its hook isn’t as strong as a typical Elton single.
Chitlin’ Fooks — Did It Again (Did It Again): The title cut from the second collaboration between Carolyn Van Dyk of Bettie Serveert and Pascal Deweze of Sukilove. There is a country rock gloss on all of these songs, with bits of steel guitar and other twang showing up. But the songs don’t stray too far from the artful pop of Deweze’s regular gig. This starts off twangin’, and then adds some beefy guitars and horns to make this a very nice hodgepodge.
The Sorrows — Bad Times Good Times (Teenage Heartbreak): This is another skinny tie power pop band that snagged a major label deal in 1980, when everyone was trying to find the next Knack. The Sorrows had more of a traditional rock and roll base than some of the other bands of this stripe, so their songs were more ’60s oriented. Some, like this one, are as much garage rock as power pop. This has an authentic sound, except for the drum sound, which is very late ’70s.
Missy Elliott — Teary Eyed (Respect M.E.): A relatively melodic mid-tempo number from Missy, which showcases her vocal skills more than her rapping. As a result, it doesn’t have the usual attitude one would expect from Ms. Elliott. This could be one of a number of R & B divas. Nevertheless, this is a pretty good song, with typically inventive production.
The Sweet — Daydream (Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be): Sweet started out as a bubblegum band. Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn wrote the Archies-esque A-sides (like “Funny Funny” and “Co-Co”), the band got to release rocking B-sides (which they played on, while the A-sides were performed by session dudes — only the vocals were Sweet). When it came time to make an album, it was padded with more session music, including this sugary cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s hit. This is nothing special, but it shows how versatile singer Brian Connolly was. He could sing with great power, or sound like a more manly Davy Jones, as he does on this track.
Sukilove — Woe (You Kill Me): On Sukilove’s second album, the aforementioned Pascal Deweze broke away from the sunnier, Aztec Camera-like surfaces of his band’s earlier work. Some of the strong melodies remained, but there was more aggressive blues-based guitar, often distorted, as the songs became moodier. Actually, maybe bitter would be a good word. On this song, the guitar and a distant drum are eventually met by distant choral vocals that are hard to pick up. In some respects, this conjures up a similar mood to the more paranoid side of Radiohead (is that the only side of Radiohead?), but with a somewhat more organic sound. Sparklehorse might also be a good comparison point.
Rank and File — Coyote (Sundown): After the punk band The Dils dissolved, Chip and Tony Kinman went in a totally different direction, playing a very Everly Brothers-inspired take on cow punk. Their version of twang rock is so unique, both in the spacious way they played it, and how the sweet harmonies were usually contrasted by the distinctive baritone voice of Tony Kinman. How authentic their songs were is open to question, but they certainly had the right feel. This is such a simple composition, with all of the right elements in place.
The Kinks — Johnny Thunder (Village Green Preservation Society): Whether this is the best Kinks album is debatable, but the five album run from Face To Face through Lola, with Village Green falling smack dab in the middle, is about as good as any artist as ever had. This album is the height of the band’s pastoral period, with songs suffused in nostalgia and traditional values. Ray Davies was spinning out classic song structures one after the other. Just from this song, you can hear how it influenced everyone from Bowie to The Smiths to Blur and more.
Chris Isaak — Talk To Me (Silvertone): The first Chris Isaak album was a revelation. The album cover tried to make him look as much like a young Elvis as possible, and the music was steeped in melodramatic ’50s and ’60s balladeering. It sounded like nothing else at the time. This is a very typical track, which starts at a slow burn, with Isaak finding a moment to show off his vocal range and unleashing the anguish that builds up in each verse. He’s spent the rest of his career refining this style, with generally good results. But he will never top this timeless debut.
He was the charismatic black Irishman who melded Irish folk music with hard rock, sometimes sprinkling in some Van Morrison, yielding the indelible classic, “The Boys Are Back In Town”. If you ever see a video of Thin Lizzy, one thing is obvious — Phil Lynott was a rock star. While U.S. success was fleeting, Lynott fronted the band known for its dual lead guitars, cranking out dozens upon dozens of great songs and top notch albums like Jailbreak, Live And Dangerous and Black Rose (A Rock Legend). When punk and new wave came blasting out, Lynott didn’t run and hide. He rubbed shoulders with them, paying tribute on the tune “Back in ’79” (from his first solo album) and working with Midge Ure of Ultravox. Today, you can hear other bands influenced by Thin Lizzy, such as Ted Leo + Pharmacists (check out “Timourous Me”, which is pure Lizzy homage, though Ted claims otherwise). Let’s pay tribute to the great Phil Lynott on his birthday by grabbing the ol’ iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.
Jawbox — Send Down (Novelty): A number from the second Jawbox album, which found the band starting to really define its angular post-punk sound. This tune isn’t as intricately constructed as later song and has more of an early emo anthem vibe. In that respect, it plays a little bit closer to a Naked Raygun song. J. Robbins has a powerful enough voice to pull it off.
Neil Finn — Souvenir (Try Whistling This): Finn’s first solo album did a great job of building on what he had been doing with Crowded House. This means Finn continued to pen superb sophisticated pop songs with layered instrumentation, articulate lyrics and melodies on par with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Andy Partridge and Robyn Hitchcock. This song has a neat structure, using synthesized strings in the verses to play static parts to build tension, released by a jangly guitar that kicks the chorus in. The song has many parts to it, and they flow together seamlessly.
The Sights — Talk To You (Are You Green?): These Detroit area garage rockers came in early during the wave of revivalists — i.e., right around the time of the The White Stripes. The band see-sawed between riffy proto-punk and cheerful Kinks-y pop tunes. On this song, both sides are on display. Which is very cool.
Mott The Hoople — Momma’s Little Jewel (All The Young Dudes): A mid-tempo track with a little barroom piano added to the mix. This song sounds like a more playful version of Free.
Big Dipper — Wet Weekend (Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology): A spin off of the likeminded Kansas post-punk pop band The Embarrassment, Big Dipper specialized in catchy rock tunes that were just a little bit askew. The lyrics often were a bit off-beat and the rhythms and melodies had little wrinkles that indicated they came from a post-Velvet Underground/Big Star world, rather than a more mainstream perspective. This is a very typical song, with a bouncy rhythm and a strong lead guitar line throughout the entire track, building up to a big chorus. This is the essence of ’80s college radio.
Kitchens of Distinction — In a Cave (Love Is Hell): The Kitchens, on their first album, hadn’t fully fleshed out their big dramatic rock sound, but it was already pretty big. This is a slow burner of a song with ample helpings of the reverbing My Bloody Valentine-ish guitar work that was their trademark. Unlike MBV, the Kitchens had a much more spacious song, which was needed so vocalist Patrick Fitzgerald could have room to emote. These guys were lumped in with the shoegazer movement, for good reason, but they had the most vocal personality by far.
The Guess Who — Baby’s Birthday (Shakin’ All Over): Before this Winnepeg, Canada band became stars for hits like “American Women”, they were a pretty typical ’60s rock band. They had a garage rock phase, but even during that period, they tried on all sorts of styles. This is a jangly rock tune that sounds somewhat like a Mike Nesmith Monkees’ tune. Randy Bachman’s twangy guitar sounds great.
The Jam — Strange Town (Direction, Reaction, Creation): A fantastic tune that combines a Motown rhythm with a classic Brit pop tune. This is one of those songs that clearly inspired bands like Blur, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and others. Paul Weller at his best.
All — Sugar and Spice (Allroy Sez): After Milo left The Descendents, Bill Stevenson formed the similar All. The first All album is an outstanding pop-punk record, chock full of great songs. Moreover, the playing, especially in the rhythm section, is really creative, giving the songs a unique stamp. This song is a warning about a girl who is going to break a friend’s heart. It has a dramatic, ominous feel to it, and has a super cool middle eight where the song breaks down to a whisper before slamming into the urgent chorus.
Watermelon Men — Seven Years (Children of Nuggets): If someone hasn’t put together a compilation of this ’80s Swedish garage band, they should. The Watermelon Men really captured the feel of the original era of garage bands, with better fidelity. This song is one of those doomy folk-psych garage tunes.