If you have been looking for a reason to travel across the pond, book your trip for the holiday season. For the first time in a decade, Squeeze is going on tour but, for now, it is only in the UK and only this November and December. No Jools Holland, but the lineup is still stellar: Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford, John Bentley, Simon Hanson and Stephen Large. If you're curious about how they sound these days, as well as more details about the tour, check out the clip above.
Now is as good a time as any to express my feelings about Squeeze. As I mentioned earlier this year, 'Singles - 45 And Under' is one of the best compilations of all time. Squeeze is a great singles band, and they also had a handful of great albums. 'Argybargy' and 'East Side Story' are are must-have records that most know about, but there is one more Squeeze album that, for me, falls into that category.
The underrated 'Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti,' from 1985, was the band's sixth album and the first since reuniting after breaking up in 1982. Difford and Tilbrook wrote the album and were backed by keyboardist Holland, drummer Gilson Lavis and bassist Keith Wilkinson. 'Cosi' sounds completely different than any other Squeeze album. This is not pure pop. It's a moody piece dominated by Wilkinson's bass lines and complex percussion by Lavis. Holland's keyboard arrangements were so intricate it took two people to play them on the road. I'm a big fan of the vibraphone, and the instrument is all over this album. 'Cosi' was not commercially successful. It reached No. 31 in the UK and No. 61 here in America. It spawned six singles, but only one of them charted ("Last Time Forever," No, 45 in the UK). Who cares? For me, this is Squeeze at its best. Here are a few tracks from my favorite Squeeze album.
Legendary rock photographer Jim Marshall has passed away at the age of 74. Can you imagine everything he saw? If you can't, buy this book or any of the four others that showcase his talent. When I think of his work, the images that instantly come to mind are of the final Beatles concert at Candlestick Park and the one above of Johnny Cash saluting the camera before going on at San Quentin prison, but he may be best known for chronicling the Monterey Pop and Woodstock music festivals. If you haven't seen any of these photos, you have certainly glanced at some of his more than 500 album covers. Mr. Marshall will be missed, but he has made it impossible to be forgotten. Well done.
Yesterday, Phoenix gave us a present of eight songs recorded live in Sydney. It looks to me like the zip file can no longer be downloaded, but here is the link in case you want to give it a go later. If you didn't get 'Live in Sydney,' in a nutshell, it was a performance of the 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' album and, yes, it sounds great. My point today is when I read the news the show was available, I actually hesitated for a moment. Did I really want to take a few minutes to download it?
I'm not one of these fans that just discovered the band when 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' came out either and, let's face it, there are lots of those folks. I have enjoyed Phoenix's work for many years and even had the privilege of seeing them in 2006. My problem seems to be overexposure. Between the Cadillac commercial, all of the late-night TV appearances, remix after remix and mainstream radio play of the same two songs for more than a year now, I'm tired. If you find yourself in this camp or haven't heard some of the band's earlier work performed live, here are a couple of songs to remind you Phoenix is much more than "1901" and "Lizstomania."
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward stopped by KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' today for more than 35-minutes of live songs and small talk. You can listen to the entire program right here. This is not the typical unplugged in-studio performance you would expect from the duo. We get the benefit of a full band, and they sound incredible.
Since the 1960s, garage rock has never really gone away. From the same wave that gave us bands like the Plimsouls and Hoodoo Gurus came the completely underrated Fleshtones. I first heard of them because the band's leader, Peter Zaremba, hosted an I.R.S. Records-produced show on indie music called 'The Cutting Edge.' Along with 'The Young Ones,' these two programs made MTV must-watch television on Sunday nights back in the early-to-mid '80s. I was at an age when I was so enamoured with Zaremba's hair that I had to find out more about him. (I believe he still has those massive bangs, by the way, but now it's trimmed in silver.) That's when my fascination with the Fleshtones began.
Now, Raven has collected 26 of the band's best songs from their best era. 'It's Super Rock Time! - The I.R.S. Years 1980-1985' is 77 minutes of tunes from the 'Roman Gods,' Hexbreaker' and 'Speed Connection' albums, as well as assorted singles and tracks from EPs. Many of the songs have never been available on CD. If you are into Strokes, the Walkmen or any number of contemporary garage bands, check out this song below from the 'Children of Nuggets' box set that can also be found on 'It's Super Rock Time!' You won't be disappointed.
If you're counting at home (and you should be), 'Together,' the fifth album from the New Pornographers, hits the shelves in 41 days. Matador gave us a sneak listen of the track "Your Hands (Together)" exactly a month ago, and it sounded raucous and wonderful. Now, the label has released the first proper single on iTunes. The song is called "Crash Years," and it's one of those great Neko Case numbers you have been pining for. Sorry, but I'm not going to share this one. Please fork out the 99 cents. You won't be sorry. On the off chance you missed the viral release of "Your Hands (Together)," I will post that one again. Also keep in mind that tickets for the band's U.S. shows start going on sale later this week. Are they coming to your town?
John Cusak once said in an interview that "if you do one type of movie it makes it a lot easier to do other kinds of movies that you want to do. It's just reality." What he's saying is that he has to films like 'Must Love Dogs,' 'Serendipity' and '2012' if he's going to make art like 'Being John Malkovich,' 'High Fidelity' and 'The Grifters.' It's funny. I can't tell which group 'Hot Tub Time Machine' falls into. I wouldn't be surprised if, like 'The Hangover,' this film is a total stinker that the masses inexplicably think is Oscar worthy. But I digress.
One aspect of 'Hot Tub Time Machine' that should win an award is the soundtrack. It's an '80s extravaganza. The only two slips are allowing an actor from the film, Craig Robinson ('The Office'), sing a couple of the tunes. Check out the tracklist. The soundtrack comes out on Tuesday, and the film hits the big screen on Friday. I'm really rooting for this one to be from the Cusak I like about half the time. In true '80s fashion, I'm including 12" versions of a couple tracks below. Enjoy.
1. Louder Than A Bomb (Back Into Time) - Public Enemy 2. Perfect Way (Edited Version) - Scritti Politti 3. The Safety Dance - Men Without Hats 4. What You Need (Single/LP Version) - INXS 5. Modern Love - (Single Version; 2002 Remaster) - David Bowie 6. I Will Dare - The Replacements 7. Push It (Album Version) - Salt N Pepa 8. Bring On The Dancing Horses - Echo & The Bunnymen 9. Save It For Later - The English Beat 10. True - Spandau Ballet 11. Jessie's Girl - Craig Robinson 12. Bizarre Love Triangle (Shep Pettibone 12" Remastered Remix) - New Order 13. Once In A Lifetime - (2006 Remastered Version) - Talking Heads 14. Home Sweet Home - Motely Crue 15. Let's Get It Started - Craig Robinson
The past couple of days, as music bloggers continue to remember Alex Chilton, I have seen a flurry of fantastic Big Star covers posted. I don't want to merely replicate the mp3s of others and, fortunately, I have not seen this gem anywhere. Epic Soundtracks is another great artist that passed away far before his time, and he is one of my favorites from the '90s. In fact, I dare say his album 'Rise Above' would make my Top 20 of that decade. This song, however, came from the last studio album before his death, the out-of-print 'Change My Life.' His label, Bar None, describes the LP as a "a strange blend of Harry Nilsson and Alex Chilton." So, it should not be surprising the record has a Chilton-penned bonus track that isn't listed on the back cover.
The cover of Big Star's "Nightime/Thirteen" was recorded live at London's The Garage in October 1995. If you are a fan of Epic Soundtracks, there's a good chance you are also a fan of the Chamber Strings. For those that are, you will appreciate that Kevin Junior plays guitar and provides the backing vocals. Enjoy classic Chilton (and Chris Bell) done by a seemingly forgotten genius.
Last night while I was assembling a silly little mix of Irish rock for this blog, news surfaced that one of my musical heroes, Alex Chilton, had passed away. I didn't have the heart to write about it. Instead, I went to bed and thought about how I discovered his work. For those of a certain age, he was the guy from the Box Tops that had a monster hit with "The Letter" back in the '60s. For me (and probably quite a few of you if you were a teen in the '80s), I first heard his name with the Replacements tune "Alex Chilton" back on the 1987 album 'Pleased to Meet Me.' Unfortunately, I did not do my homework. I just liked the song.
Fast forward to 1993. I was working at a record store when a curious album was released under the band name Big Star. It was a live LP called 'Columbia.' I probably wouldn't have given it much thought, but then I read it was Chilton backed by power-pop darlings the Posies. Well, I liked the Posies, and I certainly knew Chilton's name from the Replacements. So, I opened up this new release and put it on in the store while I read more about the record.
What? Let me get this straight. Some kids at the college radio station in Columbia, Mo., just asked Chilton to come and play... and he agreed to do it? That's pretty cool. Only a few hundred people were there under the big striped circus tent on April 25, 1993, as he and the Posies ripped through the best of Big Star's catalog, as well as "I Am the Cosmos," from fellow Big Star mate Chris Bell's solo album of the same name. As I stood behind the counter listening, I began to get angry. If I hadn't been so lazy, I could have been listening to this beautiful power pop since at least '87! Lesson learned. Within a matter of weeks I had every Big Star album, and now I consider them one of my favorites.
This is certainly an unorthodox place to have begun my Big Star education, but I thank those kids from the University of Missouri who took a chance and, in turn, helped me discover one of the greats. Rest in peace, Mr. Chilton. If you haven't listened to Big Star, here is your chance to start at the same place I did:
I could care less that it's St. Patrick's Day. I'm not Irish. I don't go to bars. That pretty much it, right? This is, however, as good a day as any to celebrate some great music from Ireland. Now, I know I'm supposed to go all Celtic/folk/'Riverdance' on you this holiday, but that's not what this blog is about. Stomp your feet to these instead, Flatley. By the way, did you know that 'Riverdance' dude is from Chicago? Anyway, in no particular order, here are my top 10 Irish acts. Be safe out there... and enjoy the mix.
So, the 25th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was the other day. Here are the newest members:
ABBA Genesis The Hollies Jimmy Cliff The Stooges
We are told by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation that one of its "many functions is to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll." Here is the process: "The Foundation's nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, selects nominees each year in the Performer category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of more than 500 rock experts. Those performers who receive the highest number of votes - and more than 50 percent of the vote - are inducted."
Now, the Hollies had a handful of good tunes, and I understand the significance of the Stooges, but this year's group, in general, only solidifies a stance I have had for the past few years that we could use a moratorium on inductees. I love rock and roll, but most of the recent inductees don't speak to my tastes. I mean, c'mon rock historians... Genesis? Really? Great artists will continue to come out of nowhere and make their marks but, after 25 years of inductions, it's time to take a little rest and let the industry catch up with the next generation of geniuses. If not a break, then at least dig a little deeper into sub-genres like jangle pop, new wave, cowpunk or a host of others. Am I alone here? Listen to "I Can't Dance" or this one below and tell me with a straight face these guys are at the top of their field. Sorry to pick on Genesis. They are just the latest travesty.
Elvis Costello and Jimmy Cliff - Seven Day Weekend (mp3) -- This song is a bonus track from the Ryko version of Elvis Costello & the Attractions' album 'Blood and Chocolate.' It was initially recorded for the soundtrack to the film 'Club Paradise.' It also appeared on the Costello compilation 'Out Of Our Idiot.'
In 2006, one of the real bright spots was the debut by North Carolina sextet Annuals. 'Be He Me' was full of experimental art pop and quirky harmonies. Critics and major labels loved it, too. As we have seen far too many times, the band signed with one of the big boys for their sophomore effort, and it tanked both critically and commercially. Well, Annuals are indie again, and we have a first listen at their new five-song EP, 'Sweet Sister,' out March 30. If "Loxtep" is any indication, Annuals have returned to the sound that made them a sensation just a few short years ago. The $8 asking price over at Amazon is a little steep for five songs, but it sounds like it will be worth it.
Somewhat buried in a strong week of new releases is 'The Last Place You'll Look' from We Were Promised Jetpacks. Out on Fat Cat Records, the five-song EP is a must for fans of the Scottish quartet. A few of the song titles may seem familiar from last year's acclaimed album 'These Four Walls' (my No. 9 album of 2009), but I can assure you these are very different versions. The band is often compared to the tight but spastic sounds of Futureheads, but they won't be this time. This collection is slow, lush and beautiful. You can give all of the tunes a listen here at Fat Cat.
'The Last Place You'll Look' Tracklist 1. A Far Cry 2. Short Bursts (Alternate Version) 3. The Walls Are Wearing Thin 4. With The Benefit Of Hindsight 5. This Is My House, This Is My Home (Alternate Version)
At the beginning of the year I wrote about how excited I was to hear a new song from Austin-based Harlem. The tune, "Friendly Ghost" was our first listen from the album 'Hippies,' out April 6 on Matador. It was a brilliant piece of lo-fi power pop that has had me impatiently waiting for another preview. Finally, the label has given us a second listen. Although it's not quite as good as that first song, I'm far from disappointed. This is going to be a great LP. Check out "Gay Human Bones," and let me know what you think.
I have been meaning to write about Girls' cover of Skeeter Davis' "The End Of The World" since it was released as a B-side on their single "Morning Light" last month. The song has been available on Girls' 'Album' (my No. 2 record of 2009) for quite some time, but it was only as a bonus track. So, I'm assuming some of you out there have not heard it.
Country music has never been my forte. Therefore, I don't know a lot about Davis. In fact, I never heard a song by her until I got into the 1985 album she did with NRBQ. 'She Sings, They Play' is a really good listen I can recommend... especially if, like me, you're into the Q. If you like them, then you probably already know NRBQ bassist Joey Spampinato tied the knot with Davis in 1987. They remained married for about a decade. Davis, unfortunately, is no longer with us either. She died about six years ago.
As for "The End Of The World," this 1963 single was the biggest hit in Davis' storied career. Not only did it nearly top the country chart (No. 2), but it almost duplicated that feat on the pop charts (No. 2), too. The song is one of those dramatic arrangements made famous by Lesley Gore, Petula Clark and others during the period. The strings are lush, and I'm glad Girls stayed true to the original. I prefer the toned down songs of Girls anyway, and this one couldn't be any different than the fuzzy guitar sound of the A-side, "Morning Light."
"The End Of The World" has been covered by dozens of artists, but it has received recent attention because, besides this version by Girls, Internet star Susan Boyle recorded it for her debut album as well. So, obviously, it's a versatile tune liked by artists of all genres. The cover I would most like to hear but haven't is by Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon. The one I would least like to hear (other than Boyle's) is from the forgettable '80s vocal group Expose. Ugh.
I know. I know. I write about this duo ad nauseam, but I do love them so. March 23, the anticipated release date for She & Him's 'Volume Two,' is just around the corner, but I can hardly wait. No, I don't have another new song today, but I do have She & Him's brand-new video for "In The Sun." Is it possible Zooey is even more adorable than usual in this reel? Reserve judgment until you've seen her on a hula hoop. Enjoy.
In the occasional series that has included geniuses such as Steve Lillywhite and the team of Langer & Winstanley, this time we take a listen to the production work of the great Nick Lowe. Whether it's his work as part of Brinsley Schwartz, Rockpile or as a solo artist, I have admired every turn in his career, including his role as producer.
While wearing that hat, he will always be best known as the guy behind the board of Elvis Costello's earliest and, arguably, best work. Lowe was recently a guest on 'Spectacle,' Costello's show on the Sundance Channel, and he said keeping things simple is the one rule that has given him a long and successful career. It seems like he has kept it pretty simple as producer, too. You won't hear any amazing wizardry, but you have to keep his importance as producer in context. He worked with Costello, Wreckless Eric, The Damned, Mickey Jupp and countless others at Stiff Records, almost single-handedly keeping the label going in its infancy. It is also no coincidence the best work of Paul Carrack and Carlene Carter were when Lowe was producing (and helping out as songwriter and bassist to boot).
Perhaps his only misstep as producer was after working with the Pretenders on their first single... a cover of "Stop Your Sobbing." Lowe quit working with Chrissy Hynde and the boys after that one song because he thought the band "wasn't going anywhere." Other acts Lowe produced you may want to check out include Johnny Cash, the Mavericks, Graham Parker, the Katydids and Dr. Feelgood. Now, obviously, the production on his own work and with Dave Edmunds/Rockpile should be your first stop.
Here are a few other interesting notes about the songs featured below:
Carter is the daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash. She put out two fabulous records while the wife of Lowe ('Musical Shapes' in 1980 and 'Blue Nun' in 1981). Both were produced by Lowe, and her backing band, in essence, was Rockpile. Carrack played a big role on the second LP.
Lowe covered Jupp's "You'll Never Get Me Up In One Of Those" on his 1984 album 'Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit.' Carrack, coincidentally, was in Lowe's band during that period. Lowe's Rockpile mate Dave Edmunds also covered Jupp's song on his 1981 album 'Twangin'.'
Lowe played bass (and other instruments) and Ian Dury played drums on Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World."
The Damned's "New Rose," released in 1976, is widely considered the first punk single ever released by a British group.
If you remember the song "123 Stop" from back in 2008, then you probably know the Postelles are a NYC outfit that often gets compared to the Strokes. That's partly because they do, indeed, sound a little bit like them, but I also think it's because Albert Hammond, Jr., is a big supporter of the band and has produced much of their work. So, it's easy for bloggers, fans and critics to lump them together. If I had to come up with a Big Apple band to compare them to, I might say the Walkmen. What separates the Postelles from that whole lot is a doo-wop element and heavy Buddy Holly influence that makes them less garage and more pop. Whatever. All I know for sure is I like what I have heard, and their new three-song EP complete with a bonus remix by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear has me really excited about the upcoming album. Get the free download of "White Night," buy the EP from their Web site and keep an ear on these guys.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, the Futureheads fourth album is on the way. The band gave us a sneak listen then with "Struck Dumb," and I thought it was much more in line with the band's stellar debut. Now we know the release date for 'The Chaos,' out on the bands own Nul Records, and here is the video for the first single, "Heartbeat Song." Not everyone out there seems to like it but, like "Struck Dumb, I think the song gives us hope the Futureheads are back! Circle April 27 on your calendar, and here is the mp3 for that first song from a couple of months back, too.
For the past three decades, Manchester has brought us scores of great bands. Now, I must admit, last decade's output wasn't quite like the '80s and '90s, but Doves were one of Manchester's real bright spots in the '00s. Man, it's hard to believe 10 years have passed since Doves dazzled us with the debut 'Lost Souls.' Since then, we've had one other stellar album and a couple of other solid ones. So, what's next? A compilation, of course. Heavenly Recordings releases 'The Places Between' on May 5. If you are new to Doves, you may want to stick with the single disc version. It has 15 songs picked and sequenced by the band, and I have to say they did a pretty good job. One thing that bugs me is they included a new single. Ooh, I hate when bands put new music on a best of.
For you die-hard fans, there is a multi-disc version that includes the disc I just mentioned, plus an impressive 19-song second disc of rarities, B-sides and alternate versions and, finally, a DVD of 13 music videos. My two favorite songs made the cut on the first disc, and I would like to share one of those songs with you now. "Sea Song" was a pretty big hit in the UK, but it wasn't even released as a single on this side of the pond. What a pity. If you were curious about which record I was referring to when I used the word "stellar," just go get "The Last Broadcast." I love this band's first two albums. I use the word "essential" quite a bit on this blog. Sorry, I'm going to use it again for "Lost Souls" and "The Last Broadcast."
Tracklist Disc 1 1. There Goes The Fear 2. Black and White Town 3. Snowden 4. Here It Comes 5. Words 6. Kingdom Of Rust 7. Sea Song 8. Pounding 9. 10:03 10. Catch The Sun 11. Jetstream 12. The Man Who Told Everything (Summer Version) 13. Andalucia 14. Caught By The River 15. The Cedar Room
Disc 2 1. Blue Water 2. Eleven Miles Out 3. Rise 4. Darker 5. Push Me On 6. Willow's Song (Bury Version) 7. Valley 8. Northenden 9. M62 Song 10. Drifter 11. Friday's Dust (Capitol Tower Session) 12. Almost Forgot Myself (Demo) 13. Your Shadow Lay Across My Life 14. The Last Son 15. The Sulphur Man 16. At The Tower (Instrumental Edit) 17. Reprise 18. Ambition 19. Firesuite (Noise Version)
Disc 3 (DVD) 1. The Cedar Room 2. Sea Song 3. Here It Comes 4. Catch The Sun 5. Man Who Told Everything 6. There Goes The Fear 7. Pounding 8. Caught By The River 9. Black and White Town (directors Cut) 10. Snowden (Live Edit) 11. Sky Starts falling 12. Kingdom Of Rust 13. Winter Hill
It has only been a week since I posted about new Robyn Hitchcock, but now I see he has properly announced his new album, 'Propellor Time,' will be out March 22 on Sartorial Records. I absolutely loved 'Goodnight Oslo.' It was No. 19 on my list of favorite albums of 2009. His backing band then, the Venus 3, returns for this one. That's Scott McCaughey (of Young Fresh Fellows) on bass, Bill Rieflin on drums (formerly of Ministry and Revolting Cocks) and Peter Buck (of R.E.M.) on 12 string and acoustic guitars. Other musicians who stopped by include Johnny Marr, John Paul Jones and Nick Lowe. You can pre-order it over at the Yep Roc store. Enjoy the brand-new video for "Ordinary Millionaire" below. This one was co-written with Lowe and has me really excited about the release.
The first song from the Apples In Stereo's 'Travellers in Space and Time' has hit the blogosphere and, for me, it's a bit of a head scratcher. If you're expecting power pop like 'Velocity of Sound,' you're going to be surprised. Our first clue should have been the title, "Dance Floor". It sounds a lot like more recent Of Montreal. That's not bad, exactly, but I don't think I would be happy with an entire album that sounds like this one.
Also, you may remember a couple of weeks ago I posted a new song from the Pipettes that I didn't like very much. Well, over at the band's MySpace page you can stream the first official single from the new album, "Stop the Music," as well as another song, "So I Say Goodbye" (out April 20 on Fortuna Pop). Both of these songs are much better than the earlier "Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen," but I think all three of these songs would be considered weak tracks when compared to anything on the first album. After listening to the latest Pipettes, all of a sudden that new Apples In Stereo song is sounding a lot better.
Updated March 2: Yep Roc just announced you can stream the entire 'Travellers In Space and Time' album right here... for one week only. Here is what Apples In Stereo's own Robert Schneider says about the record: "I wanted to make a futuristic pop record, to reach out to the kids of the future. It is what I imagine their more highly-evolved pop might sound like: shiny soul music with robots and humans singing together. We are sending a pop music message through time." Trippy.
All mp3s posted at LTL! are to highlight music you should buy... right now. Sure, give it a listen, but then run to your nearest indie record shop and pay up. Mp3s are linked for a limited time. Rants and raves to firstname.lastname@example.org.