Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 69)

69. "Timeless Melody"
Artist: The La's
Year: 1990

Ah, the La's. What could have been... what should have been. I don't know where you stand on frontman Lee Mavers, probably somewhere between prick and perfectionist, but at the end of the day, that self-titled debut, years in the making, sounded perfect to me. Mavers didn't agree, and I can understand why he felt that way since he had quit the sessions, leaving producer Steve Lillywhite to work with what he had to get a completed album in the can for Go! Discs. All of that behind-the-scenes stuff aside, most fans and critics liked the jangle, too, especially the re-recorded version of the 1988 single "There She Goes." OK, get out your abacus so you can follow along with the timeline of recordings and re-recordings of my personal favorite from the album, "Timeless Melody."

This is the original "Timeless Melody" single that was set to be released in 1989. It was pulled by the band at the 11th hour. In fact, some copies had already been sent to critics for review. Personally, I like the Lillywhite version much better.

Here is an alternate version of the song done in a style thought to be more in line with what the band had in mind. It certainly sounds like how they performed it on stage while on tour to support the album. I think it's better than the aborted single from 1988, but I still don't think I like it as much as the Lillywhite version. What are your thoughts?

Nice 'Pattern' From Paul Weller

Since we had a lively conversation about Paul Weller's solo work the other day, I wanted to make sure you hadn't missed the latest song up for streaming from 'Saturns Pattern,' his 12th solo album, which should be in our hands come May.

This, the title track, is the second song we have heard from the new one. Personally, I was a little worried when "White Sky" came out in February, but I really like "Saturns Pattern." When Weller said this was a 21st century album, after that first song I was thinking I wanted to be taken back to the 20th. Well, I got what I asked for, as the title track is a nice mix of the old and the new. Lots of '60s and '70s influences here. Weller told Uncut magazine he thinks this album is "one of the best things I've done." I'm not sure these two songs back up such a bold statement, but at least this latest song has me looking forward to hearing some new Weller again.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 70)

70. "The King Is Half-Undressed"
Artist: Jellyfish
Year: 1990

The band wasn't around long, just two proper albums, but Jellyfish should be considered one of the power-pop greats of the '90s and of all time. The fellas wore their influences on their sleeves, the Beach Boys, XTC, Cheap Trick, the Paisley Underground, and core members Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., surrounded themselves with like-minded geniuses such as Jason Falkner (on the first album) and Jon Brion (on the second album) to create a sort of supergroup to be. Every musician named here would go on to create many of my favorite pop albums later in the '90s and beyond as songwriters, solo artists, producers and as members of other bands.

There were a whopping five singles on the first album, and any of them could have been chosen to fill this spot. "Baby's Coming Back" was the closest to a hit here in America, peaking at No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "That Is Why" is the one that seems to get selected the most for compilations, but I went with "The King Is Half-Undressed" because it was the first song I ever heard from them and because its stuffed with all of the bells and whistles that became even more prevalent on the second album. If, by chance, you aren't familiar with the albums 'Bellybutton' or 'Spilt Milk,' this is a great time to jump on the bandwagon. Both have been reissued as double-disc deluxe editions in 2015. Perhaps we will hear from a Jellyfish alum a little later in the countdown.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 71)

71. "No More 'I Love You's'"
Artist: Annie Lennox
Year: 1995

The original version of this song by the Lover Speaks got some airplay on MTV in 1986, and I really took to it. Couldn't sound any more 4AD than that without actually being on the label, and I liked David Freeman's croon. At the end of the day, it was a very minor hit, doing nothing over here and peaking at No. 58 on the UK Singles Chart. Fast forward about a decade and I hear the song covered on the radio by Annie Lennox. I didn't take to it right away. I harbored possessive feelings (This is my song, and I don't want moms singing along. Where were you people a decade ago? That sort of thing. Ridiculous.), but the song was just too good to ignore. I was also eventually won over when I read what big fans Lennox and Dave Stewart were when they were with the Eurythmics. I had no idea Stewart helped the Lover Speaks get signed, and they opened for the Eurythmics on their '86 world tour.

Anyway, the rest is ancient history you already know well. The version by Lennox was a smash all over the planet, In fact, it remains her biggest solo hit, and it won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. I would also assume it made Joseph Hughes and Freeman, the two with the songwriting credit, a nice chunk of change. As for Lennox, she continues to impress. I have seen her on a few recent awards and tribute shows, and her voice never sounded better. For obvious reasons, I'm a little nervous about posting this song for very long. I'll probably take it down in a day or two. For those that see this later, here are YouTube clips. You can find "No More 'I Love You's'" on her covers album 'Medusa.'

Friday, March 27, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 72)

72. "Our Frank"
Artist: Morrissey
Year: 1991

If you're asking yourself how I could possibly choose just one song from Moz, then prepare yourself to be disappointed. It wasn't all that difficult. Morrissey was one of the most important voices from my youth, and I thoroughly enjoyed his early solo singles as well. Songs like "Suedehead," "Everyday Is Like Sunday," "Interesting Drug" and "Hairdresser on Fire" led me to believe I would continue to enjoy his work for years to come. Didn't happen. I expect to hear from a few of my blogging pals for this one, but I would only recommend one album from Morrissey in the 1990s. 'Vauxhall and I' was better than the rest. Other than a couple of singles, that's it for me the entire decade.

Morrissey was still quite clever with a lyric. "Beware, I bear more grudges than lonely high court judges" pops into mind, and the tale told in "November Spawned a Monster" is so odd and off-putting that I couldn't help but be fascinated. The band, man, it's the band that I never took too. The music of Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer didn't (and doesn't) do it for me. Still, to completely shut out Morrissey wouldn't be right. I was still hopeful and somewhat content in 1990 and 1991. So, that's where I'm going with No. 72. This one is the opener from 'Kill Uncle,' produced by the team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Not a great album, but I really like this one. I don't think it's remembered all that fondly by most. It was a minor hit, but the first of several successive singles that didn't burn up the charts like the old days.

I hate that this post comes off so negatively. Morrissey is one of many casualties from a decade I don't rate highly, but I still consider Morrissey one of my favorites. I'm going to put on 'Bona Drag' or something from the Smiths to make myself feel better.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (The Bump)

The Bump. "Don't Go Away Mad"
Artist: Little Village
Year: 1992

What a miserable lot. The entire family unit, including myself, is sick. So, I'm presenting something I already had in the hopper. Brace yourselves. I'm giving you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into this riveting list. Thanks to me thinking Superchunk was from 1989, taking it off the list, then bringing it back a day later when I found out I was correct in the first place because it was, indeed, from 1990, my countdown has been a spot off here on the back end since No. 82. This is the song that got bumped during the debacle. Of course, on the front end, all you see is the well-oiled machine that is Top 100 Songs From the 1990s. I'm presenting the one that got bumped with no corresponding number. Back with No. 72 next time.

This supergroup consisting of Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner first played as a unit on Hiatt's 1987 album 'Bring the Family.' If you're choosing between that one and 'Little Village,' go with 'Bring the Family,' by all means, but there were a couple of inspired moments, including "Solar Sex Panel" and this one with Hiatt as frontman. The album was nominated for a Grammy, but not even the participants were all that enthralled with the results. Eight years ago, Lowe told AV Club, "Little Village was really good fun. Unfortunately, the record we did was no good. I suppose on some level, it worked, but Warner Brothers kind of gave us too much time to do it."

That's the quote that gave me the ammunition to choose this one for "The Bump." Righting the ship feels good. Let's keep this one between us, shall we?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Don't Miss Blur's Performance of New Album

As I'm sure you are well aware, Blur is back, not just on stage, but with new music as well. We have been fed video and audio clips from the impending album, 'The Magic Whip,' for the past month, and you may have heard there was a secret show for 300 fans in a West London club last Friday. The fellas played the new album in its entirety, and it was filmed for the Beats by Dr. Dre YouTube channel. The show will be streamed tomorrow for one day only. A band interview follows the concert, and the Q&A will be available for viewing throughout April. Times are as follows: 8pm GMT, 9pm CET for Europe and 8pm PST/11pm EST here in America. Here's the link:

Blur Show

These are the three new songs heard so far. We have been told there will not be no more song previews before 'The Magic Whip' is released at the end of April. Enjoy the show.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 73)

73. "Parallel Horizontal"
Artist: Marine Research
Year: 1999

For a few of reasons, 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' is probably the least known album in Amelia Fletcher's impressive discography. The name Marine Research was used only for this one record. The band scrapped the well-known moniker Heavenly following the death of the band's drummer (and Amelia's brother), Mathew Fletcher. So, for fans, I think there has always been a certain feeling, a dark cloud, if you will, floating above this brief era.

Its lack of popularity can also be traced back to the demise of the legendary Sarah Records, the former home to Fletcher's previous bands. Although 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' was released on K Records here in America (as Fletcher's albums always were), there wasn't a proper outlet for it in the UK.

I won't pretend this was Amelia's best moment, but through all of the personal turmoil, I still think 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' was a good album, full of all the trademark jangle and catchy hooks we had come to expect, and the two singles, including the song featured here today, were top-notch tunes. The good news for me is with all of these changes in band names, I get to feature most of its members one more time on this countdown.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 74)

74. "I'm Gonna Soothe You"
Artist: Maria McKee
Year: 1993

This is the opening track to 'You've Got to Sin to Get Saved,' an album that really grabbed me at the time of its release and has never let go. What's strange is that I was never into her work (solo or with Lone Justice) before this one, and I never bought another album after it either. Sometimes we have these brief moments in time with artists, don't we? When looking her up today for this post, I was struck by her varied body of work and relatively successful run in the UK, at least when compared to here in America. As far as the charts go, she peaked with Lone Justice's "Shelter" in 1986, but across the pond, McKee had a No. 1 hit in 1990 with "Show Me Heaven." I never heard the song until about five minutes ago. Meh. She also wrote Feargal Sharkey's "A Good Heart," another song that went to No. 1 over there. Another meh.

There were other minor hits for McKee in the UK, including the song I have for you today peaking at No. 35. For me, though, I'm perfectly content having her be a one-album wonder (although I have been tempted by 'Life Is Sweet' many times at my local shop). This song, in particular, is pretty powerful. The protagonist is ready to take the reins from a girlfriend who has treated her man so very badly. She's going to take care of everything. McKee really sweeps you in with her "soothing" voice, and I will tell you with a little trepidation and a blushing face that by the time she sings "lay your head on my breast, I'll do the rest," I'm sure McKee has this guy and any other one she wants within earshot.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 75)

75. "Uh Huh Oh Yeh"
Artist: Paul Weller
Year: 1992

I feel guilty. No. 75?!? Shameful. He's the Modfather, for cryin' out loud! The man behind two of my all-timers, the Jam and the Style Council. So, why aren't I enamored with Paul Weller's solo work? There have been some fine moments, and I felt nothing but excitement when I heard his first two singles, "Into Tomorrow" and "Uh Huh Oh Yeh." So what if his self-titled debut didn't quite live up to past glories. He was finding his footing. Great albums were sure to follow... Unfortunately, for me, that solo masterpiece never came, at least not yet, although I have continued to enjoy songs from time to time, like "Wild Wood," "You Do Something to Me" and the more recent "Brand New Toy." Like a lemming, I keep buying and hoping.

"Uh Huh Oh Yeh" was a pretty big hit in the UK, peaking at No. 18. Like much of that first album, there's a lot of '60s-inspired soul, funk and R&B in there. For most listeners, however, I imagine this song hinges on whether you like the sample taken from "Hot Rod Poppa," a scorching Marsha Hunt B-side, written by Marc Bolan, that came out in 1969. I do. Oh, yes, I do. If you think I'm way off on Weller's solo work, let me have it. I can take it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 76)

76. "Some Fantastic Place"
Artist: Squeeze
Year: 1993

We all loved Squeeze. By this time, however, I imagine there are quite a few of you out there that had given up on the band. For me, I threw in the towel with the release of 'Babylon and On.' Man, I didn't like that one. I won't deny there were a couple of fine moments on 'Frank' and 'Play,' but I didn't find that out until years after their releases. This is the song that brought me back into the fold. "Some Fantastic Place" is a very personal song about an old friend (I think she was called Maxine) Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook knew from their earliest days together. She was Tilbrook's first girlfriend, and the one that made him answer Difford's ad put up in a shop window requesting a guitar player influenced by the Kinks, Velvet Underground and Glenn Miller. She passed away from leukemia, and this beautiful song is a moving tribute to her and her optimistic view, especially in the face of such a grim prognosis. I find this one quite uplifting. So, I'm including all of the lyrics below.

'Some Fantastic Place' was the first album without Gilson Lavis. In his place on drums was Pete Thomas from the Attractions. Jools Holland was absent as well, but Paul Carrack made a triumphant return on keyboard for the first time since 'East Side Story.' Difford and Tilbrook have gone on record that this is their favorite Squeeze song. Oh, and for those of you that did lose track of Squeeze, you might be surprised to learn both Difford and Tilbrook have put out some excellent solo albums this millennium.

She gave to me her tenderness
Her friendship and her love
I see her face from time to time
There in the sky above

We grew up learning as we went
What a voyage our life could be
It took us through a wilderness
Into the calmest sea

Her smile could lift me from the pain
I often found within
She said some things I won't forget
She made a few bells ring

So simple her humility
Her beauty found in grace
Today she lives another life
In some fantastic place

She showed me how to raise a smile
Out of her bed of gloom
And in her garden sanctuary
A life began to bloom

She visualized a world ahead
And planned how it would be
She left behind the strongest love
That lives eternally

I have the hope that when it's time
For me to come her way
That she'll be there to show me round
Whenever comes that day

Her love was life and happiness
And in her steps I trace
The way to live a better life
In some fantastic place

Seems Like Old Times

I have four albums by the Monochrome Set... the first four. Love 'em, but this means my most recent album is 30 years old. There is a new one out this week, the third since reuniting (again) about four years ago. Most reviews I have seen of 'Spaces Everywhere' have been mixed (at best). I would have just left it at that and enjoyed an evening listening to 'Eligible Bachelors' in complete contentment, but then I watched the video for "Iceman" the other day. As I listened, it felt like three decades just disappeared. Wouldn't this song have fit in quite nicely on 'The Lost Weekend?" Thanks to Lester, Bid and the rest of the bunch. I'm all in... again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 77)

77. "History of Lies"
Artist: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Year: 1993

After yesterday's song from Brighter, I'm figuring you're ready for something with balls, or "a glorious racket," as a more articulate blogger would say. (See, Swede, I told you I was going to steal that!) I worked in a record store for much of 1993, and it's no coincidence so many of the songs on this list come from that year. Pavement was the "it" band of the moment (rightly so!), and those fellas almost single-handedly put Matador Records on the map a year earlier. Given that track record, we always opened a copy of the latest release from the label to play in the shop. A couple of Matador's memorable moments that year were 'Exile in Guyville' from Liz Phair and this one, 'Extra Width' from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Album opener "Afro" was the one and only single from 'Extra Width,' but I preferred the next song on the tracklist, "History of Lies," even more. I don't know who Spencer is singing to, but the words and delivery drip with all sorts of conflicting emotions, and the tension is palpable. I don't know if the following piece of trivia is true, but I want to believe it. When the band signed with Caroline Records in 1992, they had an unusual rider in the deal. The fellas wanted the new 10-disc Jerry Lee Lewis box set. They reportedly never got it, and they left the label after one album. When the band signed with Matador the following year, they asked for the nine-disc Stax-Volt Complete Singles 1959–1968 box as part of the agreement. Matador made good with the request. The band went on to enjoy a decade-long partnership with the label. Just sayin'... OK, now turn this one UP!

If you have a moment while you're listening, this show review appears on the inner sleeve of 'Extra Width.' It's a great read that captures the band perfectly. If those eyes are going, you can click on the image to make it a little bigger... old man.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 78)

78. "Does Love Last Forever?"
Artist: Brighter
Year: 1990

The following goes against everything you know about Sarah Records. Brighter's "Does Love Last Forever?" should have been a bona fide radio hit. Truth be told, my favorite moment from the band is the trio's debut single, the four-song "Around the World in Eighty Days." Sarah 19 is solitary, introspective and oh-so Sarah. The calendar, however, precludes it from making this list by a handful of months. That's quite alright. The followup single is wonderful too.

"Does Love Last Forever?" (Sarah 27) is like a cool slice of summer. There's lots of catchy jangle, and the added distortion sounds a lot like label mate Another Sunny Day at Harvey Williams' loudest. In a nutshell, the song is downright upbeat, but as the second song on the B-side of "Noah's Ark," it's as buried as a tune can be on a 7". In direct contrast to the sleeve of a beach, I'm sure it didn't help that the single was released in the winter either. Oh, well. That's Sarah, and I'm sure Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes weren't exactly thinking this was the one that would bring them fortune and fame. Still, I have always felt this was an opportunity squandered, but now it's a hit on my countdown!

Sadly, Matinée Recordings' wonderful compilation 'Singles 1989-1992' is now out of print, but I highly recommend trying secondary markets for that one. On a "brighter" note, you can still get 'Out to Sea,' which includes the 'Laurel' mini-album and many rarities. Absolutely essential.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 79)

79. "Everything You've Done Wrong"
Artist: Sloan
Year: 1997

Do your time to pay the price
For every thing you've done wrong baby
In your life, you get so high
There's nowhere left to go but down

Don't believe that no one cares
'Cause we're here waiting for you, baby
Do your time, and then come home for good

There is something about prison songs set to pop music that seem so wrong, and that's probably why I like them so much. My all-time favorite is the Zombies' "Care of Cell 44," but this one about a girl on her way to serve a sentence is right there. It's full of hand claps, jangle and a couple of trumpets to boot. Like I said, so wrong. I don't know why these Canadians never quite made it, but the same lineup from nearly a quarter of a century ago continues to pump out power-pop nuggets for the faithful lucky enough to have found them. Not long ago, as a big thank you to their fans, several of their vital singles were made available as a free download. Check it out below. Apparently their label agrees everyone should have a copy of "Everything You've Done Wrong" and "The Good in Everyone." I should think you'll hear a lot of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub in this lot.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 80)

80. "Maria"
Artist: Blondie
Year: 1999

First Chrissie, now Debbie. Female rock royalty... represent. Before today, I had no idea what a smash "Maria" was in other parts of the world. Exactly twenty years after the band's first of six No. 1 hits with "Heart of Glass," Blondie grabbed the top spot again in the UK. It's a wonder I even caught the song at all over here. First of all, "Maria" is actually higher on my list than it ever registered on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 82). Second, this was the busiest time in my life, and I wasn't following the music scene at all. One night after another late one at work I flipped on the car radio. Blondie was so off the radar that when I caught the tail end of this song I thought to myself that some new singer sure sounded an awful lot like Debbie Harry. Maybe a week later I heard "...and not only is it Blondie, but it's actually really good..." as two people passed my office. (Yes, this was the one time in my life I had my own office.) Anyway, I put two and two together and headed to the record shop.

This reunited Blondie wasn't just Harry and Chris Stein either. Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri were there too. Only Gary Valentine was missing from the classic lineup. 'Parallel Lines' is an absolute all timer for me. So, this was exciting stuff. Well, 'No Exit,' the first Blondie album since 1982, was no 'Parallel Lines,' but this song was such a nice distraction at a time when I really needed it. By the way, across the pond, Blondie released two more relatively successful singles from the album after "Maria." Interesting how much bigger Blondie was over there.

In case you're late to the party, I'll recap the countdown every 20 spots or so.

100. Die Funf Fruende - JETZT!
99. Save Ferris - Come on Eileen (Night Mix)
98. World Party - Put the Message in the Box
97. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd
96. The Ocean Blue - Sublime
95. Puffy Ami Yumi - Wild Girls on Circuit
94. The Muffs - Oh Nina
93. Smoking Popes - Need You Around
92. The Feelies - Sooner or Later
91. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
90. The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
89. fIREHOSE - Disciples of the 3-Way
88. The Sugargliders - Letter From a Lifeboat
87. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
86. Vegas - Walk Into the Wind
85. k.d. lang - Miss Chatelaine
84. Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You
83. The Pretenders - I'm Not in Love
82. Jeffrey Foskett - Thru My Window
81. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Get Out 'Wallet' for Massive McCarthy Reissue

No label tackles a reissue project with the gusto of Optic Nerve Recordings. If you bought the recent releases 'Pleasure' from Girls At Our Best or 'Unseen Ripples From a Pebble' from the Wolfhounds, then you know the look, feel and sound of the vinyl is matched only by the mountains of bonus material. The label's obvious labor of love continues with the 1987 debut full-length 'I Am a Wallet' by McCarthy. Even if you have an original album from September Records or the very well-done reissue Cherry Red released in 2007, you're still going to be tempted by this new-and-improved version.

The 2-LP set is pressed on red vinyl (Is this in honor of the band's leftist leanings? Ha!). Record one is the original. The second record eclipses Cherry Red's nine bonus songs by four (although a few from that previous reissue are missing) and includes all of the tracks from the band's four singles. So, yes, "Red Sleeping Beauty," "Frans Hals" and "In Purgatory" are there. Oh, and the first 250 copies include a reproduction of the three song "In Purgatory" 7" -- the one that started it all -- remastered from the original master tapes.

Imagine the rest of this in an over-the-top infomercial voice: That's not all! You also get an 8x10 black-and-white press photo, reproduction tour poster, "The Well Of Loneliness" promo poster (No. 45 on my UK indie singles countdown last year), giant poster of Georg Grosz' cover art and a McCarthy sticker. The 20 page 12x12 color booklet is chock full of photos, press clippings, lyrics, introduction by uberfan Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers and a track-by-track commentary by Malcolm Eden. Preorder now... now... now... for a June release!

Tracklist for 'I Am a Wallet'

An MP Speaks
The International Narcotics Traffic
The Way Of The World
Charles Windsor
The Vision Of Peregrine Worsthorne
The Well Of Loneliness
The Wicked Palace Revolution
God Made The Virus
The Funeral
A Child Soon In Chains
In The Dark Times
The Procession Of Popular Capitalism

In Purgatory
Comrade Era
Something Wrong Somewhere
Red Sleeping Beauty
From The Damned
For The Fat Lady
Frans Hals
Kill Kill Kill Kill
You're Alive
Bad Dreams
Someone Worse Off

Bonus 7" (first 250 orders)
In Purgatory
Comrade Era
Something Wrong Somewhere

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 81)

81. "Slack Motherfucker"
Artist: Superchunk
Year: 1990

Thanks to Dirk for setting me straight. Yes, the single of "Slack" was released on April 1, 1990, not in 1989, as I read in a few places yesterday. April Fool's Day seems fitting, eh? As so often happens, I came to this band via the cover route. fIREHOSE performed it on their "Live Totem Pole" EP in 1992. For me, it was such a highlight that I immediately ran out and found the original. And so began a love affair with Merge Records, one of the most successful indies out there, but back then Superchunk members Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance probably couldn't imagine what their label would become when they started it in 1989 to get the music of Superchunk (and a few of their friends) out there.

Lyrically, "Slack" is such a simple song, but the lines are so very memorable that it's almost impossible not to scream along: "You haven't moved from that spot all night/since you asked for a light/you little smoke stack/You've wasted my time/I'd like to see you try and give it back" and "I'm working/But I'm not working for you!" sounded awfully good as a student in the early '90s, and it still works now if you want to pretend for a moment you're subversive... even if you have to listen on headphones because of the kids. Man, how did we get here? Give this a listen. Then find a way, no matter how small, to stick it to the man. Go on, you'll feel better. Find this one on the singles comp 'Tossing Seeds.'

You need to give fIREHOSE's take a spin, too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 82)

82. "Thru My Window"
Artist: Jeffrey Foskett
Year: 1993

Uh-oh. First slip up of the countdown. Right now you should be listening to an anthem about working for the man, Superchunk's "Slack Motherfucker," but guess what? I realized a few moments ago that the single came out in 1989. I should never trust my memory. So, today is a spackle job, but a fine repair it shall be... if you like the sunny sound of the Beach Boys.

Jeffrey Foskett has been the backbone of Brian Wilson's band ever since the formerly reclusive artist returned to the stage in the late '90s. That (and hitting those high notes) will be Foskett's legacy, but he has recorded a few fine albums of his own, even finding a modicum of success in Japan, such as the No. 3 smash "FISH!" Today's selection was Foskett's first as a solo artist, and it's still my favorite. You can find it on the compilation 'Stars in the Sand,' a must have for fans of Mr. Wilson.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 83)

83. "I'm Not in Love"
Artist: The Pretenders
Year: 1993

My first memories of pop music are as a six year old listening on my mother's portable transistor radio. I grew up three hours from the big city, but at that time everyone in the Midwest tuned in the 50,000-watt AM station WLS out of Chicago (long before they went to an all-talk format). I remember the on-air personalities, such as Larry Lujack... Uncle Larry, the King of the Corn Belt, as he was often called... more than the music, but there are two songs that hit me like a lightning bolt, even at such a young age. One was "Silly Love Songs" by Wings, and the other was "I'm Not in Love" from 10cc. Man, did I dig 'em. Even today, roughly 40 years later, hearing these songs take me back to dragging Mom's radio around the house or sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon. Of course, for about the last three decades, these songs have popped up while shopping for groceries or sitting in a dentist's waiting room. Still, I smile every time I hear either one of them.

The Pretenders covered the 10cc hit for the soundtrack to the film 'Indecent Proposal.' I have never seen it, but I remember when the movie was out and am quite sure it's one of the biggest pieces of crap ever put on celluloid. Clearly, as illustrated by the photo above, I couldn't even bring myself to spring for the album, even though I know I fell in love with this remake. By the way, if you're scoring at home, this is the second and last of my cassette singles to appear on the countdown. It wouldn't have been out of line to credit this one solely to Chrissie Hynde. I don't even think Martin Chambers was on this one. Ms. Hynde is in fine voice, and the song suits her well. It was produced by Trevor Horn, and this version is quite a bit shorter than the original, completely bypassing that long bridge in the middle. Wise choice. That section may have worked in 1975, but I don't think it would have in 1993.

Ms. Hynde has an autobiography expected out later this year, and I will be first in line for that one. Early word is it's juicy.

The Toppermost of the Poppermost

Well, they have done it again. NYC Popfest, year in and year out, continues to be the best music festival on this continent. Last week, the 2015 lineup was revealed. Every March, like clockwork, I'm tempted to ask Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives to donate air miles to her devoted. It's the fest's balance of indie-pop rookies and relics that appeals to this, mmm, "mature" fan. Here's a quick look at some of my favorite bands from past years: the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Tender Trap, Allo Darlin', Sea Lions, the Pooh Sticks, Cats on Fire, Veronica Falls, the Orchids, the Hermit Crabs, BMX Bandits, Mitch Easter, the School, the Monochrome Set, the Bats, the Wolfhounds, Close Lobsters, the Popguns, the Flatmates.... and I could go on and on. Feels a bit like Indietracks without the trains, eh?

For me, highlights from this year's impressive roster include the Catenary Wires (that's the latest incarnation of Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey), Club 8 ("Shape Up!" is one of my favorite songs from last decade), the Darling Buds (big crush on Andrea Lewis back in the day), the Loft (never seen Peter Astor before!), Lunchbox ('Lunchbox Loves You' was my No. 4 album of 2014), Pale Lights (oft compared to Lloyd Cole and the Brilliant Corners) and Palms on Fire (first thing I have ever wanted to catch from Russia). Of course, this barely scratches the surface. Here's the lineup as of today.

It's more or less the same dates and places as usual, May 28-31 at four venues mostly in and around Brooklyn, and a four-day pass is a modest $70. Why wait? You can buy them now. Here are a few songs to whet your appetite.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 84)

84. "All I Want to Do Is Be With You"
Artist: Robert Crenshaw
Year: 1999

Robert Crenshaw is best known as the drummer on brother Marshall's earliest and most successful albums, such as his self-titled debut from 1982 and 'Field Day' in 1983, two of my all-time favorites. I bring those up because many of the songs on 'Full Length Stereo Recordings,' Robert's solo debut, sound a lot like brother Marshall in his heyday, and that's a very good thing. Robert's 2000 followup, 'Victory Songs,' is more polished, and it includes his best song, "Missing You More," but I feel like he captured something special on this first effort. I was pleasantly surprised to see today that Gadfly Records has kept his output in print. To be a fan of either of the Crenshaw brothers you have to have the patience of Job, often waiting many years between albums, but I'm happy to report Robert has a relatively new one out now. And yes, we will see an appearance from his brother later in the countdown. In the meantime, enjoy this peppy pop nugget that would sound great in any decade.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 85)

85. "Miss Chatelaine"
Artist: k.d. lang
Year: 1992

I'm not really a fan. I swear. I was in college. It was just a phase. I was just experimenting. Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Kidding. k.d. lang has just about the best voice in the biz, and I still listen to the songs on 'Ingenue' (and the music of 'Even Cowgirls Get the Blues') quite a bit. I converted very few of my record-shop peers during this period... too low on the coolness scale, I suppose... but I offer no apologies.

I particularly enjoy "Miss Chatelaine" for its throwback style and cheeky fun. Chatelaine refers to a Canadian magazine that celebrates wholesome domesticated housewife types, much like Good Housekeeping does. Lang is Canadian, and she was named the magazine's woman of the year in 1988. Curious choice, and one more layer to consider when listening to this fascinating song. The music video was brilliant, and she brought out the character for a trip to the "Arsenio Hall Show," too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 86)

86. "Walk Into the Wind"
Artist: Vegas
Year: 1992

Obviously, this one needs no introduction. I mean, c'mon, if Terry Hall of the Specials and Fun Boy Three teams up with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, the only thing that could possibly happen would be a string of hit songs and eventual world domination, right? Uh, maybe not.

The duo known as Vegas released three singles, only one of which barely broke into the Top 40 in the UK, and a self-titled album that didn't bother to chart at all... before quickly going out of print. It's a pity. I think the subdued mood of the material makes it a real grower. Unfortunately, not many had the patience. I had a difficult time choosing between the three singles, and I nearly went with the lovely "She," a cover originally done by Charles Aznavour, France's Frank Sinatra, but some of the luster has been taken off of that one through the years because Elvis Costello made a more popular version of it for the film 'Notting Hill' in 1999. So, "Walk Into the Wind" wins. In case you're wondering, that's the backing vocals (and whispering) of Siobhan Fahey, she of Bananarama and Shakespeare's Sister fame, as well as Mrs. Stewart at the time.

The good news about Vegas is that it gives me a chance to bend the rules a bit and feature Hall as solo artist a little later in the countdown.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bobby's Birthday

While listening to KEXP on the way home tonight I heard it's the late Bobby Womack's birthday. So, you're getting a twofer from me today. Now, it's been said that when the Rolling Stones wanted to cover "It's All Over Now," Bobby pretty much told the lads to find their own damn songs. Bobby and his brothers were making a name for themselves with it as the Valentinos, under the tutelage of Sam Cooke. Then the royalty checks started "rolling" in, so to speak, and Mr. Womack changed his tune and told Mick he and the boys could record his songs whenever they wanted. Now, I have no idea what he thought of this take from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, with Dr. John on vocals, but I have always loved it. The country tinge of the original is gone on this funk version straight outta N'awlins, but there is something about that tuba as bass that fills in that missing element quite nicely. Find this one on 'Voodoo' from back in '89.

It's All Over Now

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 87)

87. "Orange Crate Art"
Artist: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks
Year: 1995

There have been a few "Brian is Back!" campaigns, but I think the Brian Wilson we see on stage today can be traced to old pal Van Dyke Parks asking Wilson to lend his voice to this set of his compositions in 1992. The aftermath of being under the care of a certain infamous psychiatrist left Wilson a shell of himself. The process of making the album, and Wilson's participation in it, was slow. It took three years to complete the songs of 'Orange Crate Art,' Parks' nostalgic look at California, but the finished product was beautiful. In fact, I think it's Parks' best album. The orchestration is lush, the production is clean and crisp, and the lyrics are like a great piece of literature. Too bad my opinion means nothing. It wasn't hated as much as it was ignored, and I'm sure it must have been a crushing blow to the composer, but we should all be pleased at the way it seemed to rehabilitate Wilson.

The first hint I had that the album might be something special occurred earlier in 1995 with the release of Don Was' documentary on Wilson called 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.' Here is a clip of Parks and Wilson at the piano:

I would love to hear a stripped down version of the entire 'Orange Crate Art' album. The record turns 20 this year, and I would pay big bucks to see just the two of them on stage performing an anniversary concert like this. A couple of side notes: Wilson has a new album out a month from now called 'No Pier Pressure,' and I have noticed "Sail Away" is on the tracklisting. I'm assuming this is the same Parks-penned song that appeared on 'Orange Crate Art.' I hope so. That means a few bucks for Parks, and it's a great tune that got more than a passing thought for my countdown. Also, if you're interested in Parks and the songs of 'Orange Crate Art,' I would recommend 'Moonlighting: Live At The Ash Grove.' Parks' 1998 concert album has a couple from 'Orange Crate Art' on it, and it's interesting to hear Parks sing them.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 88)

88. "Letter From a Lifeboat"
Artist: The Sugargliders
Year: 1992

I think "Ahprahran" is the song Melbourne lads Josh and Joel Meadows will remembered for most, but I have always enjoyed this one even more, the first of six singles they recorded for the legendary Sarah label. I dig the looped shuffling beat, Spanish riff and mellow vibe... even if the theme is pretty serious business.

The pedigree of these fellas is like something out of a dream. Before joining Matt and Clare's Bristol outfit after mailing them this song, their earliest singles appeared on Summershine, a revered label in its own right. They grew up listening to the likes of Lloyd Cole and Aztec Camera. The decision on their band name came down to wanting to appear in the record-shop bins between the Style Council and the Sundays. Later, I learned their cousin is Tali White of the Lucksmiths, one of my absolute favorite bands (more on them a little later down the list). All of this and more led me to believe I would want to hang out with these guys. In 2012, when the opportunity to touch base with Josh just as the Sugargliders' retrospective 'A Nest With A View 1990-1994' was being released, I jumped at the chance. He was very cool to take the time to answer my silly questions with thoughtful answers, which I have found is quite a rarity. Could that have swayed me to include them on this countdown? Without apologies, I say, "absolutely," but it's a lovely song, regardless.