Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ric Ocasek's Finest Solo Song

One of my regular reads is Uncle E's Musical Nightmares (and it should be yours too!). One thought provoking post earlier this week on the deep cuts of the Cars (yes, I'm an intellectual) got me thinking about Ric Ocasek's first solo album, 'Beatitude.' It came out at the very tail end of 1982, and I was nearing my peak of fandom. I bought the album on the strength of the first single, "Something to Grab For." For better or worse, it sounded exactly like the Cars. I wasn't looking for my hero to experiment. Just keep playing the hits. Well, surprisingly, the single didn't crack the Top 40. Perhaps the fans did want the gangly frontman to break out a bit. If that's the case, the second single, and the song I'm featuring today, should have been a smash.

"Jimmy Jimmy" was long, dark and, dare I state it, kind of danceable. This is really the only moment of Ocasek's solo career I have returned to through the years, but I must admit before Uncle E's post it had been way too long since I had given it a spin. Tip of the hat, sir. So, was it a smash? Hardly. It didn't even make an appearance on the singles chart. Greg Hawkes of the Cars showed up on 'Beatitude,' but it is worth noting Stephen Hague played keyboards on "Jimmy Jimmy." If the name rings a bell, it's because he went on to produce some of your favorites, including OMD and New Order.

I think Ocasek and the other members of the Cars kind of liked this one. "Jimmy Jimmy" made the set list while touring to support 'Heartbeat City.' I'm including a live version recorded in Houston on Sept. 11, 1984. Enjoy.

Ric Ocasek - Jimmy Jimmy (mp3)
The Cars - Jimmy Jimmy (Live) (mp3)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

B-Side From the Sugarcubes

This song is taken from a promo U.S. 12" of the "Motorcrash" single, circa 1988. On the surface, pretty unspectacular. DJ cover (see above) with no information whatsoever. The A-side is taken straight from the 'Life's Too Good' album. It's two minutes of heaven, to be sure, but I like my 12" singles to be extended. The only reason I picked it up was to hear the live version on the flipside. This is Exhibit A in my argument that the Sugarcubes were pretty damn good on stage. Yes, this piece of vinyl was well worth the $1.99 I paid for it.

The Sugarcubes - Motorcrash (Live) (mp3)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Save Your Shekels For These Pending LPs

We are about to be hit with a flurry of intriguing new releases. Here a few that have caught my ear because the labels have been kind enough to give us a little listen. This list doesn't include the new David Bowie (since I posted about that already), OMD (fellas, how about a full song for streaming?) or reissues (by the likes of the Breeders and Primitives) out in the next few months. We also seem to be inching closer to a new Strokes album* (here is a song for download), as well as something from Big Country. I'll give my favorite band from my youth its own post soon. In the meantime, enjoy these:

Veronica Falls
'Waiting for Something to Happen'
Release Date: Feb. 12 in the U.S., next week just about everywhere else

Kid Canaveral
'Now That You Are a Dancer' (not ready for preorder)
Release Date: March 4

Chris Stamey
'Lovesick Blues'
Release Date: Feb. 5

Johnny Marr
'The Messenger'
Release Date: Feb. 26

* Jan. 30 Update: New album from the Strokes announced today. 'Comedown Machine' will be out March 26.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Vital Release of 2013 Is...

If you haven't heard the Danish pop outfit Northern Portrait, the 10" EP 'Pretty Decent Swimmers,' out this week via Matinée Recordings, is a great place to take the plunge.

I should dive right into the music, but I would be remiss if I didn't take a second to proclaim this one of the most physically beautiful pieces of vinyl to ever hit a turntable. The record itself is transparent swimming pool blue, and the limited-edition hand-numbered copies are housed in a sleeve featuring Los Angeles water ballet troupe Aqualillies on the cover. The color and photography are stunning.

Now on to the tunes. All four songs are absolute keepers (and these days you're lucky to get that many on a full-length album!), but I especially like the jangle of "Happy Nice Day" and "I Feel Even Better." I was a big fan of 'Criminal Art Lovers,' the band's debut album, but these new songs are the real masterpieces. Buy it straight from the label for $8. It's going to be a great year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: A Hard Days Nick (Heyward)

Former Haircut 100 frontman Nick Heyward had two minor successes in the '90s... one on each side of the pond. Here in America, it was "Kite," a baroque-pop masterpiece from 1993 off of a pretty good album called 'From Monday to Sunday.' Two years later, the amazingly similar sounding "Rollerblade" cracked the top 40 on the UK Singles Chart. The album it was taken from, 'Tangled,' wasn't quite as good as its predecessor, in my humble opinion, but I would highly recommend the 'A Hard Days Nick' EP from 1995 that featured "Rollerblade." The real keepers are the three covers made famous by a certain band out of Liverpool. Heyward plays these straight as an arrow, and his pop sensibilities really shine through. The EP is out of print, but the 'Tangled' reissue from 2011 does include these songs as bonus tracks.

Nick Heyward - If I Needed Someone (mp3)
Nick Heyward - Nowhere Man (mp3)
Nick Heyward - All My Loving (mp3)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Boom Goes the Scritti Politti

Mrs. LTL! will be home soon. Time to shelve the Scritti Politti, but let's squeeze in one more. I'm going straight to one of the great comebacks in music. In 1999, Scritti Politti released 'Anomie & Bonhomie' with little fanfare. There were a handful of Green Gartside sightings in the ensuing years, but there wouldn't be a full-length album again until 2006.

It was a homecoming of sorts. Scritti Politti returned to Rough Trade for the first time since the debut album in 1982. The new music was certainly a reflection of those early days. The slick production of the Virgin years was replaced with a more lo-fi and stripped-down approach. "The Boom Boom Bap," the only single from 'White Bread Black Beer,' would have fit in nicely on 'Songs to Remember' nearly a quarter century earlier. The album was critically acclaimed and nominated for a Mercury Music Award.

Here is the lone single. In a sign of the times, the song didn't chart. By 2006, however, that wasn't exactly a sign of success anyway, was it? As far as I can tell, the two songs that accompanied the "The Boom Boom Bap" were previously unreleased. Neither song can be called "pop," but I think you will find "The Last Time I Looked" an interesting take on both kinds of music, country and western. I won't comment on the last song except to identify the rapper as Skillz.

Scritti Politti - The Boom Boom Bap (mp3)
Scritti Politti - The Last Time I Looked (mp3)
Scritti Politti - Hands Up (mp3)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Time to Play Another Sunny Day

The song that got me into Another Sunny Day was "Anorak City," a Sarah Records single from '88 that appeared on a C86 compilation I still listen to quite often. This is Another Sunny Day's first record, and it's about as upbeat as a Sarah song gets. It's all bounce and fuzz, and the song grabbed me in a way that got me to the record shop looking for more. Incidentally, for those of you on this side of the pond, here is a great thread from the Guardian explaining the term anorak.

It wasn't too long before I learned Another Sunny Day wasn't really a band at all. This was more or less one guy. Harvey Williams released just one full-length album under the Another Sunny Day moniker, but it's quite possibly my favorite album from the Sarah catalog. Most of the songs on 'London Weekend' (1992) are more subdued (sad sacks unite!!) and typically Sarah than "Anorak City," but Williams packs a little something extra in his jangle that gets your head bobbing whether you want to or not. With songs like "I'm in Love with a Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist" and "You Should All Be Murdered," however, it doesn't take long to realize he must have been a good fit with the label folks in Bristol.

Williams would also play with Blueboy for a bit, and he released albums under his own name. I knew I had seen his name other places, and I noticed recently he popped up on something I have by the Hit Parade. When I think about it, Williams and Julian Henry's band sound quite a bit alike.

As they have done so many times with my favorite albums, Cherry Red remastered 'London Weekend' a few years ago and released it with bonus material. You need to have this one.

Another Sunny Day - Anorak City (mp3)
Another Sunny Day - What's Happened to You, My Dearest Friend? (mp3)

Monday, January 14, 2013

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

Yes, I'm a wild man.

Green didn't have the perfect way to make my girl go crazy. She hates Scritti Politti... and not just the 'Cupid & Psyche 85' stuff either. It seems impossible, but she doesn't even like "The Sweetest Girl." The other day I tried to slip in something from 'White Bread Black Beer.' The thinking was since she had never heard the newer albums it might go unnoticed. I almost had to call in a marriage counselor. Well, she is out of town this week. So, here is the first spin on my own, and I'm going straight for the hard stuff. This is the UK 12" of the band's only American hit. If you're from here in the United States, you might be surprised to learn the song peaked at an anemic No. 48 in the UK. Three other singles from 'Cupid & Psyche 85' performed better there.

For those of you who have the U.S. 12", give the extended mix a listen. It's quite a bit different from the "Way Perfect Version" found on your copy.

I have all five 12" singles from the aforementioned album (It's a sickness!), as well as a few other bits from the band. So, we may hear from Scritti Politti again later this week.

Scritti Politti - Perfect Way (Extended Mix)(mp3)

Friday, January 11, 2013

C'mon, Be Excited About New Bowie

Even though he is one of my all-time favorites (top 10, for sure) and my excitement is off the charts, I wasn't going to comment on the announcement of a new album from David Bowie. Then I read this tweet from Fucked Up's Damian Abraham that some bloggers have posted in agreement. In a nutshell, this camp doesn't understand what all of the hoopla is about. He's 66 years old, and it's not like he could still possibly make something on par with his work in the '70s.

On some level, I understand the sentiment. I have had this line of thinking with the likes of U2, R.E.M. and scores of others. After a while you just give up and stop listening. Not many can sustain the quality of the work for decades, but there have been exceptions. Nick Lowe is one I can think of off the top of my head. I know quite a few Bowie fans lost interest either just before or just after 'Let's Dance.' There were inferior albums and lost years. If you are one of those that agree with Mr. Abraham, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and assume you simply gave up on Bowie before his last two albums, 'Heathen' (2002) and 'Reality' (2003).

It's time for a little education. 'Heathen,' and to a slightly lesser extent 'Reality,' are fantastic works that were produced by the legendary Tony Visconti. He's the same fella that worked beside Bowie on many of the albums Mr. Abraham and his ilk enjoy. Visconti captured something pretty incredible with Bowie a decade ago, and I'm betting he did it again with 'The Next Day.' If your feelings on Bowie are like Mr. Abraham's, I'm asking you to give 'Heathen' a listen. Then you will join my camp of the excited. It's a lot more fun over here, I promise. Wow, if this is what not being a naysayer feels like, I may have to try it again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Love My Way'

On celluloid, the Psychedelic Furs will always be remembered for the theme to "Pretty in Pink," a vastly inferior rerecording of a gem from the 1981 album 'Talk Talk Talk.' In my humble opinion, however, the scene in 'Valley Girl' that featured "Love My Way" is far more memorable. As a 13 year old in 1983, I thought this was about as romantic as it gets. Here are a few seconds to refresh your memory. Sorry about the quality and abrupt stop. It was all I could find.

"Love My Way" was a minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at No. 42 in the UK and No. 44 in America. I don't think I'm exaggerating: This might be my most played song of all time. If you're into the early years of the Furs, I recommend this piece Popdose did a few weeks ago. It's quite interesting to hear the story of how the 1982 album 'Forever Now' came together.

For most of you, today's cover will probably be a "love it" or "hate it" proposition. You either buy into the Polyphonic Spree aesthetic or you don't. In 2006, Tim DeLaughter's outfit released the five-song EP 'Wait.' It was a walk up to the 2007 full-length album 'The Fragile Army.' There were two originals, but it was the three covers on 'Wait' that interested me: "Love My Way" from the Furs, "Sonic Bloom" from Tripping Daisy and "Lithium" from Nirvana. If you're unaware, Tripping Daisy was DeLaughter's previous band. So, in a sense, he covered himself. I really enjoy the entire EP, but "Love My Way" is the real standout.

This take of "Love My Way," the US Remix, can be found on the flip side of the "Pretty in Pink" single, released in 1986. Enjoy.

The Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way (US Remix) (mp3)
The Polyphonic Spree - Love My Way (mp3)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Not So Easy for Easy Street Records After All

These are sad but all-too-familiar days here in Rain City. A couple of days ago we learned a Seattle institution, Easy Street Records, would be closing its Queen Anne location for good on Jan. 18. The West Seattle store remains open, but this spot on Mercer was my place. If I don't make it over there again -- but I probably will since stock went on sale beginning today -- my last purchase will have been The Servants' 'Youth Club Disco*' on vinyl just one week ago. Not a bad way to go out, to be sure, but, like a friend, I thought this shop would always be there for me.

The property owners, apparently, wanted Easy Street to sign a new and very lengthy lease. It wasn't worth the risk. So, enjoy the new Chase bank that's about to open in its place. Kind of reminds me of the characters in the film 'Best in Show' that met at Starbucks. Not the same Starbucks. They saw each other from across the street... at two different Starbucks. Easy Street is going out in style: Yo La Tengo will be performing on the last day. Say "goodbye" if you can.

I know most of you aren't from the Pacific Northwest, and I rarely go local on the blog, but I'm sure you can understand the loss. Chances are it has happened to you.

Oingo Boingo - Goodbye-Goodbye (mp3)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let the Best of 2012 Exclusions Begin

Well, that didn't take long. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm filled with anxiety when I release my year-end lists because I always end up tardy hearing a song or album worthy of induction. This is my latest exclusion. 'BMX Bandits in Space' was released in October, and I completely missed it. In fact, I didn't even know Duglas T. Stewart still had the band together. Last week I was in a record shop and came across a very early album from the band. I ran home to check out some reviews when I discovered the following video, the first song released from the new album. If I had heard it a couple of weeks earlier, this one would have made my Top 25 Songs of 2012.

To me, "Listen to Some Music" has the same vibe as the Beach Boys' "Add Some Music to Your Day" and "Busy Doin' Nothin.'" If you haven't followed BMX Bandits since the C86 days, you might be excited to learn Stewart has reunited with some old mates from yesteryear, including Jim McCulloch of the Soup Dragons and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub. Sean Dickson of the Soup Dragons wrote a couple of the songs for 'BMX Bandits in Space' as well. If anybody out there has this new album, let me know what you think.