Sunday, January 29, 2012

New M. Ward Solo Album Announced

As a member of She & Him and the all-star band Monsters of Folk, it's easy to forget M. Ward is also an acclaimed solo artist. M. Ward's sporadic output doesn't help. His last album, 'Hold Time,' came out three years ago, and its predecessor came out three years before that. Fortunately, M. Ward as solo artist is about to be back on the map. His sixth album, 'A Wasteland Companion,' comes out via Merge Records on April 10. I, for one, can't wait.

M. Ward's most successful solo album (at least on the charts) was 'Hold Time,' and it was fairly well received by critics too, but I think his brightest moment was 'Post-War' from 2006. If you don't have it, get it. If you are a card-carrying member of the seemingly growing "I hate She & Him" camp, keep in mind the following song came out a couple of years before that band launched. It just might help.

M. Ward - Chinese Translation (mp3)

M. Ward will be on the road throughout April and May, but I want to highlight a handful of shows in mid-April because he is on the bill with one of my favorites, the recently reunited fIREHOSE. Now that's a night of entertainment.

M. Ward on Tour With fIREHOSE
Apr 12 Santa Cruz, Calif., The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom
Apr 16 San Diego, Belly Up
Apr 17 Phoenix, Crescent Ballroom
Apr 18 Flagstaff, Ariz, The Orpheum

'A Wasteland Companion' Tracklist
1. Clean Slate (for Alex & El Goodo)
2. Primitive Girl
3. Me And My Shadow
4. Sweetheart
5. I Get Ideas
6. The First Time I Ran Away
7. A Wasteland Companion
8. Watch The Show
9. There’s A Key
10. Crawl After You
11. Wild Goose
12. Pure Joy

Feb. 1 Update: Here is our first listen from the impending album. Enjoy "The First Time I Ran Away."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

12 Inches of Love: General Public Edition

I picked up a vinyl copy of the English Beat's 1981 album 'Wha'ppen?' the other day (for a mere $2, yippee!), and that has me on a real Dave Wakeling/Ranking Roger kick. Let's see if it's contagious.

"Tenderness" is a great pop single from the 1984 album "All the Rage." Along with Talk Talk, the Style Council, Icicle Works and a handful of others from the era, this was a band I liked that actually cracked the Top 40. John "Jellybean" Benitez produced this extended version, and I can honestly say this is one of my favorite 12" singles of all time.

General Public - Tenderness (Dance Mix) (mp3)

Two years after 'All the Rage,' General Public released 'Hand to Mouth.' Believe me, there is no "Tenderness" here, and the album was ignored by just about all. For nearly a decade thereafter, Wakeling and Ranking Roger would go their separate ways. During this blog's infancy, I wrote about Ranking Roger's one bright moment during that period, but I digress. The song below was the best of the 'Hand to Mouth' lot, but I'm pretty indifferent on the 12" single. I pulled out the record for mp3 conversion just tonight, and it seemed like a very long seven minutes.

General Public - too much or NOTHING (extended DANCE MIX) (mp3)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Early Simple Minds Albums Get Boxed

Many, especially here in the States, think Simple Minds got their start when they appeared on a certain "Brat Pack" soundtrack and followed it up with the full-length smash 'Once Upon a Time.' That's a shame. It kind of reminds me of Madness. By the time Madness hit the U.S. charts for the first time (with "Our House"), their best work was already behind them. Let's hope that gets rectified when Simple Minds' first five albums are bundled together as the six-disc 'x5' box set, out as a UK import on Feb. 13. There are six discs because 'Sons and Fascination' and 'Sister Feelings Call,' first released together, are on separate discs this time around. There are two or three bonus tracks on each disc (B-sides, remixes, etc.), with the exception of 'New Gold Dream' and its six extra cuts. Unfortunately for you die-hard fans, none of these are previously unreleased tracks.

As for me, I'm a fan that falls somewhere between Simple Minds' earliest work and the inferior U.S.-hits period. I think 'Sparkle in the Rain' is their best, but I don't have every record in this box set. I think it might be time to rectify that situation.

Simple Minds - Love Song (mp3) (from 'Sons and Fascination')

'x5' Bonus Tracks

Disc 1: 'Life in a Day' (1979)
"Special View" (B-side to "Life in a Day")
"Garden of Hate" (B-side to "Chelsea Girl")

Disc 2: 'Real to Real Cacophony' (1979)
"Kaleidoscope" (Flexi-disc A-side)
"Film Theme" (Dub) (Flexi-disc B-side)
"Premonition" (Live) (B-side to "Changeling")

Disc 3: 'Empires and Dance' (1980)
"New Warm Skin" (B-side to "I Travel")
"I Travel" (Extended Mix)
"Celebrate" (Extended Mix)

Disc 4: 'Sons and Fascination' (1981)
"Sweat in Bullet" (Extended Remix)
"In Trance As Mission" (Live) (B-side to "Sweat in Bullet" 12″)
"This Earth That You Walk Upon" (Instrumental) (B-side to "Love Song" 12″)

Disc 5: 'Sister Feelings Call' (1981)
"The American" (Extended Mix)
"League of Nations" (Live) (B-side to "Sweat in Bullet" 12")

Disc 6: 'New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)' (1982)
"Promised You a Miracle" (Extended Version)
"Glittering Prize" (Club Mix) (12" A-side)
"Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)" (Extended Mix)
"Soundtrack for Every Heaven" (B-side to "Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)" 12″)
"New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)" (German 12" Remix) (12" A-side)
"In Every Heaven" (from 'New Gold Dream' DVD-Audio)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Close Lobsters Come Out of Shell

Perhaps I need to book a second trip to Scotland. All five original members of Close Lobsters, one of my favorite jangle-pop bands of all time, are reuniting for a few shows in 2012, including Glasgow. You can see Andrew Burnett's announcement and the reasons for getting back together on Facebook. The best part is there seems to be a good chance more shows will be added. This lineup hasn't played together since 1989. So, yes, it's kind of a big deal. Most of their work is pretty hard to come by here in the States, but I highly recommend the import singles collection 'Forever, Until Victory!' for starters.

Close Lobsters - What Is There to Smile About? (mp3)
Close Lobsters - Firestation Towers (mp3)

Close Lobsters on Tour:
March 10: Madrid Popfest, Madrid
April 27: Stereo, Glasgow
July 28: Berlin Popfest, Berlin

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Top Reissues and Box Sets of 2011

There wasn't a 'Coals to Newcastle' like last year, but 2011 did have quite a few keepers. To keep things simple, I'm going to list my favorite at these three price points:

1. Reasonable
2. A sacrifice
3. Who needs to eat?

1. Reasonable
The Left Banke
'Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina'

Usually, the best thing about a reissue is the addition of B-sides, bonus tracks and other bells and whistles. This pick has none of that. Sometimes it's just enough when a little label takes the time to bring an old out-of-print album out of moth balls. Thanks to Sundazed for bringing back this perfect piece of baroque pop from 1967. For you slightly younger readers, think the Clientele. ($14.98)

The Left Banke - She May Call You Up Tonight (mp3)

2. A Sacrifice
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
'Live in Berlin'

The cost is awfully high for a single disc from the synthpop pioneers, but it has always been tough to find a good live collection of OMD songs that span their entire career... bootleg or otherwise. Kudos to the band for releasing this set on their own. The show was recorded in 2010 on the 'History of Modern Tour,' the first time the classic lineup of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes had played together since 1986. Not only is the sound quality top notch, but the hard-cover book that houses the disc includes some nice art and written remembrances from the fellas. ($40.47)

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Messages (Live) (mp3)

3. Who Needs to Eat?
The Beach Boys
'The SMiLE Sessions' Box Set

I never planned to own this box set. Too decadent. I asked for the double-album version for my birthday from Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! She knows of my affinity for Brian Wilson and went the extra mile for the five CD, two LP, two 7" single edition. The box also includes a 60-page hard-cover book and huge poster of the Frank Holmes cover art. Even the box itself is a sight to behold. In short, this is a monster. I got this in mid-November, and I still haven't heard and read everything. No, this is obviously not for everybody... unless you need 35 separate takes of "Heroes and Villains," for example, but it's a fascinating history lesson. If you can't shell out the big bucks, choose the vinyl version over CD. The sound is better. ($133.85)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's Official... fIREHOSE Reunites

By now, you have probably seen the lineup announced yesterday for this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Gotta say, I like it. Girls, the Shins, We Were Promised Jetpacks and M83 are highlights for me. For fans of a certain age, however, it's pure nirvana... Pulp, Madness and Buzzcocks will all be there. That's not the one band, however, that made my eyes bug out.

I have read a rumor or two since last spring that fIREHOSE were reuniting, but nothing was officially in print until the Coachella was announcement. I'm a huge fan. It's my personal record holder for the band I have seen the most times live. I think this reunion means so much to me because it's one of those bands I grew up with. I bought Minutemen's 'Double Nickels on the Dime' when it came out in 1984 and went through the dark time following D. Boon's death. There was such a buzz about Mike Watt and George Hurley reforming as fIREHOSE with Ed Crawford. I'll never forget my first listen to their debut back in '86, 'Ragin,' Full On.' Dropping the needle on "Brave Captain" was practically a religious experience. So tight. Let's do it again. This is ripped from my 25-year-old vinyl.

fIREHOSE - Brave Captain (mp3)

When fIREHOSE became one of the bevy of indie bands that were signed to major labels in the early '90s, I couldn't help but think the music suffered at least a little bit. That, of course, could just be my bias, but I didn't like seeing my beloved fIREHOSE ending on that note. So I'll hope for a new album and a lengthy tour.

I followed Mike Watt's solo career off and on the past couple of decades but kind of lost track of him for a while until last year when he released the excellent 'hyphenated-man.' If I had done a top albums list for 2011, it definitely would have landed there. I highly recommend this one... especially if you were a fan of the Minutemen.

Jan. 12 Update: A small left-coast tour is coming together... and they are coming to my town! Here's what we know so far:

April 5: Harlow's, Sacramento
April 6: Doug Fir, Portland
April 7: Neumos, Seattle
April 9: Wild Buffalo House of Music, Bellingham, Wash.
April 10: WOW Hall, Eugene, Ore.
April 11: Slim's, San Francisco
April 12: Historic Coconut Grove Ballroom, Santa Cruz, Calif.
April 13: Fulton 55, Fresno, Calif.
April 14: Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio, Calif.
April 17: Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix
April 18: Orpheum Theatre, Flagstaff, Ariz.
April 19: Plush, Tucson, Ariz.
April 20: Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio, Calif.

Bowie at 65

Yesterday, the "Thin White Duke," "Ziggy Stardust," or however you like to recall the great David Bowie, turned 65. He is now officially of retirement age, although he has appeared to have been out of work for several years now. His catalog of work is nearly without peer, and if he wants to call it quits, who can blame him? There is nothing left for him to prove. If this is, truly, the end of his recording career, he did not leave at the tippy-top of his game. In my humble opinion, however, he had rebounded quite nicely from several sub-par outings. 'Heathen' and 'Reality' are nice notes to go out on, I suppose, but I can't help but yearn for more. So, I give a rousing and belated "Happy Birthday" to you, Mr. Bowie. I hope your day was filled with celebration, but today I hope you decide to grace us with your tremendous talents once more.

I have been in trouble a time or two for posting songs by this, my favorite, artist, but I think I have gotten away with using songs from this live double album because it's a boot. Enjoy a couple of songs from the Glass Spider Tour, circa 1987.

David Bowie - Absolute Beginners (live) (mp3)
David Bowie - Never Let Me Down (live) (mp3)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Listen to New Song From the Shins

It's been nearly five years since we've heard anything new from the Shins... until today. Stream "Simple Song," from the upcoming album 'Port of Morrow,' out March 20. I'm really looking forward to this release and tour. I haven't seen them live in nearly a decade. In fact, I believe James Mercer is the only member from those days that's still part of the touring band. I digress. Get listening.

Simple Song by theshins

Staples, Wilco and Lowe

No, it's not a law firm... it's a jam session. I have really been enjoying this clip that was posted the other day. Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe and Wilco are practicing a cover of the Band's "The Weight" backstage at Chicago's Civic Opera House last month. Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to see both Wilco and Lowe perform live many times but never together. What a double bill! I'm starting to regret missing their well-received 2011 tour.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In a Big Country, Dreams Stay With You...

My New Year's Eve was almost like any other. As happens every year, I went back in time to my youth, Dec. 31, 1983, to be exact. I watched Big Country's legendary New Year's Eve show from Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom.

As I have written here many times, Big Country was my favorite band in the early and middle '80s, and this concert was the lads' absolute high-water mark. They had just returned home from a successful stint in the States, and you can see and feel the homesickness subside and the happiness envelop them as they rip through every song on 'The Crossing,' and a couple of new songs from the upcoming "Wonderland" EP. They perform with pure passion and an unbridled enthusiasm that's downright infectious. And, in what I imagine was a first for a rock show, as the clock struck 12 in Scotland, the band leaves the stage for a bagpipe brigade that nearly tears the roof off the place.

I watched this show with nearly the same feeling of excitement as I did almost three decades ago when it aired on MTV, but this time I was downright euphoric. You see, I got quite a Christmas gift from Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! Remember when I wrote about Big Country reuniting for a small tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of 'The Crossing?' Well, we're crossing the pond to see them... at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, no less. So, pardon me if I gush. This is pure nostalgia, I know, but I make no apologies. I get to feel like a 13-year-old fan again, and this time it won't be from my sofa. I should add that the deluxe edition of 'The Crossing' will now be released in the UK on Feb. 6, the same day as the Glasgow show. Should be quite a celebration.

Here's a bit from the '83/'84 New Year's Eve show. Stay alive!