Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Hear An Echo in My Future

Wow, what a great time to be an Echo & The Bunnymen fan. First came word 'The Fountain', their first studio album in four years, would be out Oct. 13. Just a few weeks after that, Nov. 10, to be exact, the band will release 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall', a classic recording from July 19, 1983. To complete the trifecta, Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant (the two remaining band members) are performing the 1984 album 'Ocean Rain' in its entirety... with an orchestra to boot. That's one to add to my list.

Here are a few must-listen tracks. The first one is from 'The Fountain'. To get you in the live mood, the second song is from a 1983 show. Finally, here is a track from 'Ocean Rain' to round out the threesome.

Echo & The Bunnymen - Think I Need It Too (mp3)
Echo & The Bunnymen - Do It Clean (Live) (mp3)
Echo & The Bunnymen - Silver (mp3)

And here is another great song from 'Ocean Rain', performed live in 1984.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New-Release Tuesday

Followers of this blog know my affinity towards Neil Finn. So, today's release of the latest from his project, 7 Worlds Collide, is an exciting one for me. For those who have not heard it, Finn assembled several rockers back in 2001, including Johnny Marr and Eddie Vedder, for a live double album. He assembled several friends and family members this time around for a double album of studio work called 'The Sun Came Out'. Contributors include members of Wilco and Radiohead, KT Tunstall, Marr, Finn's wife Sharon, sons Liam and Elroy and brother Tim. Check out Finn's duet with his wife below. Beautiful.

7 Worlds Collide - What Could Have Been (mp3)

There are a couple of significant soundtracks out today. Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame put together the music for the new Spike Jonze flick 'Where the Wild Things Are'. She can sing the phone book, and I'm there. Drew Barrymore's directorial debut is the rollicking roller-derby epic 'Whip It', starring Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig. The soundtrack is is a 21-song collection containing the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Go! Team, Ramones, Jens Lekman and this one by The Breeders.

Karen O and the Kids - All Is Love (mp3)
The Breeders - Bang On (mp3)

Check out the singles chart from 1964 until mid-1966. If not for The Beatles, Dave Clark Five would have been THE "it" band. Try this on for size. DC5 had 15 Top 40 hits in during that 2 1/2-year span. Still, try buying their music today and it's nearly impossible, at least until today. Finally, 'History of the Dave Clark Five' is reissued this week. The double-disc set (or digital download) is the definitive anthology. I bought it at auction several years ago -- during the out-of-print years -- for an obscene amount of dough. So, I guess this is a dark day for me.

Dave Clark Five - Catch Us If You Can (mp3)

And don't forget Elvis Costello's famous 1978 recording 'Live at the El Macambo' is out today. I wrote about this one last week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Entire Albums Played at Concerts: Part 2

Last time, I listed 25 albums I would love to see performed in their entirety. Even if many of the bands I mentioned are no longer still together, all of the key members of the bands are still alive and kicking. Thus, all of the albums COULD be performed. Today's list is pure fantasy. As Cher once semi-sang, "If I could turn back time..." Here are the albums I wish I could have seen performed.

My Top 11 Albums at Concerts Wish List: Dead Edition
1. The Minutemen - 'Double Nickels on the Dime'
2. The Beatles - 'Rubber Soul'
3. The Cars - 'The Cars'
4. The Clash - London Calling
5. Go-Betweens - '16 Lovers Lane'
6. Ian Dury & The Blockheads - 'New Boots and Panties!!'
7. INXS - 'Listen Like Thieves'
8. The Exploding Hearts - 'Guitar Romantic'
9. Ramones - 'Ramones'
10. Epic Soundtracks - 'Rise Above'
11. Wilco - 'Summerteeth'

The Minutemen - This Ain't No Picnic (mp3)
The Cars - My Best Friend's Girl (mp3)
Go-Betweens - Streets of Your Town (mp3)
INXS - What You Need (mp3)

There are three bands above still performing with an altered roster. Don't even try to tell me I could, in theory, still see 'Listen Like Thieves' sans Michael Hutchence. The same goes for 'The Cars'. The New Cars are a far cry from the days when Benjamin Orr was still alive. I respect Ric Ocasek's stance on never reuniting with Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes, too. Finally, Wilco fans are probably confused with the band's appearance on this list, but I feel 'Summerteeth' should not be performed without Jay Bennett.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Entire Albums Played at Concerts: Part 1

Have you noticed lately that quite a few bands are performing seminal records in their entirety? It isn't an entirely new phenomenon. I saw Brian Wilson perform 'Pet Sounds' a decade ago and 'Smile' about five years ago. This concept has worked well for aging performers like Bruce Springsteen ('Born to Run'), Van Morrison ('Astral Weeks'), Love ('Forever Changes', Note: Arthur Lee has since passed away), The Zombies ('Odyssey and Oracle'), Sonic Youth ('Daydream Nation'), Nine Inch Nails ('Downward Spiral') and Todd Rundgren ('A Wizard, A True Star'). It has worked with lesser success, in my opinion, for newbies like The Decemberists ('Hazards of Love') and Saint Etienne ('Foxbase Alpha'). These records need more time to resonate with us.

This fall, there are a few bands trying the album as concert idea that intrigue me. I mentioned Devo the other day, but there are also bands I grew up with, like They Might Be Giants ('Flood') and The Pixies ('Doolittle'), that have been around long enough for such nostalgia. I guess this means I'm officially old.

This movement has me thinking about who else I would like to see on stage to present an album. I have also thought about those no longer with us that should have tried this while they could. We'll discuss that group next time. For now, here is my list of bands I want to see do entire albums as concerts. Some would have to reunite, but the main cogs of the groups are still with us. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

My Top 25 Albums at Concerts Wish List
1. Marshall Crenshaw: 'Marshall Crenshaw'
2. The Kinks: 'The Village Green Preservation Society'
3. The Police: 'Zenyatta Mondatta'
4. The Replacements: 'Let It Be'
5. Blur: 'Parklife'
6. Paul Simon: 'Graceland'
7. The Smiths: 'Meat Is Murder'
8. R.E.M. - 'Murmur'
9. The Jam: 'The Gift'
10. Talking Heads: 'More Songs About Buildings and Food'
11. Nick Lowe: 'Pure Pop for Now People'
12. Joe Jackson: 'Look Sharp!'
13. The dB's: 'Stands for Decibels'
14. X: 'Los Angeles'
15. The High Llamas: 'Hawaii'
16. Matthew Sweet: 'Girlfriend'
17. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - 'Get Happy!!'
18. Iggy Pop: 'Lust for Life'
19. Fishbone: 'Truth and Soul'
20. The Housemartins: 'London O Hull 4'
21. David Bowie: 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars'
22. Beck: 'Sea Change'
23. Duran Duran: 'Rio'
24. 10,000 Maniacs: 'In My Tribe'
25. The Cure: 'The Head on the Door'

To set the mood, here are a handful of live songs taken from the albums above.
Marshall Crenshaw - The Usual Thing (mp3)
The Police - Driven to Tears (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Temptation (mp3)
Joe Jackson - One More Time (mp3)
The Replacements - Unsatisfied (mp3)
Talking Heads - Found a Job (mp3)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hip-O Kicks Off 'Costello Show Series'

Back in 1993, Rykodisk reissued all of Elvis Costello's CBS catalog (1977-1986). Little did we know at the time all of those albums would be reissued again and again, but that's not the point. As part of that series, there was a box set called '2 1/2 Years'. It was comprised of Costello's first three albums, and they were chock full o' bonus cuts for the first time. For fans, however, the real jewel was the fourth disc. 'Live at the El Macambo' was a famous show Costello did with his brand-new band, The Attractions, from the equally famous Toronto club. I already owned a vinyl copy of this March 6, 1978, concert under the name 'Saturated', but this concert was the reason I bought the CD set. We were told at the time the live disc would never be sold on its own... box set only. Well, never say never because 'Live at the El Macambo' will be out on Sept. 29.

'Live at the El Macambo' is the first of several live shows Hip-O Records will release under the name "The Costello Show Series", and it's, admittedly, a great place to start. The concert was recorded for Canadian radio just days before Costello's second album, 'This Year's Model', hit the stores, and this would be the first time many heard songs like "Radio Radio", "Pump It Up" and "You Belong to Me".

There is not much info yet on the other concerts Hip-O plans to release, but we do know the next one will be the June 4, 1978 show from Hollywood High. For those like me who have purchased all the Ryko reissues, three songs from that concert can be found as bonus tracks on 'Armed Forces'.

Here are four songs from 'Live at the El Macambo'. Two are tunes from his debut album, 'My Aim Is True', and two are concert closers from the then soon-to-be-released followup, 'This Year's Model'. Happy, happy listening.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Mystery Dance (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Welcome to the Working Week (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - You Belong to Me (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Pump It Up (mp3)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

12 Inches of Love: Hall & Oates Edition

Even though she isn't exactly into the tunes featured here, my mother checks out this blog from time to time. That's what mothers do. Outside of '60s pop, we don't have much music in common. Hall & Oates is one of the big exceptions. So, this is dedicated to her.

Hall & Oates were prolific hit makers from 1976 until about 1990, but this Philly duo had very few peers during my favorite years for the fellas, 1981-1983. They had ten Top 40 hits during this period, including four No. 1 smashes. These 12-inch singles are from the 1982 album 'H2O'. It's arguably their best. Enjoy a little '80s-pop nostalgia.

Hall & Oates - Family Man (Rock Mix) (mp3)
Hall & Oates - One on One (12" Version) (mp3)
Hall & Oates - Maneater (Extended Club Mix) (mp3)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Songs in Cinema: 'Doctor Detroit'

All this exciting news about Devo has me on a real kick. Now don't get me wrong, 'Doctor Detroit' might not be Devo's best moment, but I'm a real sucker for for bad '80s Dan Aykroyd vehicles and this song. Sure, he did 'Trading Places' and 'Ghostbusters', but give me these five on the tube at 3 o'clock in the morning before those blockbusters.

Top 5 "Bad" '80s Aykroyd Flicks
1. 'The Couch Trip'
2. 'Neighbors'
3. 'Doctor Detroit'
4. 'Spies Like Us'
5. 'Dragnet'

Devo - Theme From Doctor Detroit (mp3)

Besides Devo, the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" also made an appearance in the film and on the soundtrack. Enjoy this clip of JB and the good doctor:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Just a Shadow'

"Just a Shadow", released Jan. 11, 1985, was the last of the 'Steeltown' singles and, for me personally, the end of an unblemished string of 12" extended remixes. It was the perfect way to finish the LP. The band had a couple of more decent releases, but they never reached the same creative output found on the first two albums. If I could only listen to one Big Country song for the rest of my days, this is the one I would choose. The subject matter may seem dated now, but "Winter Sky", the beautiful flip side of "Just a Shadow", was serious stuff in the middle '80s:

All the clouds will come to you
So the sun never comes through
And we will hide
From twenty years of winter sky

The video for "Just a Shadow" was really cool... especially the shadowy band performance intertwined with a nice story. I only saw the video once while it was out as a single, and it wasn't on MTV. My little brother used to watch the Nick game show 'Double Dare' religiously. I remember walking through the family room one afternoon as the show was ending. I guess back then the channel would occasionally kill a couple of minutes between shows with a music video because there was "Just a Shadow". I checked in every day at that time for several weeks, but I never saw it again. In our next installment, we will take a listen to 'The Seer' singles.

Big Country - Just a Shadow (Extended Version) (mp3)
Big Country - Just a Shadow (Album Version) (mp3)
Big Country - Winter Sky (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'Where the Rose Is Sown'
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fans Hit the Pavement and Other News

The Pavement reuniting rumor has been alive for almost this entire decade. Well, you can stop listening to the rumors because it's a fact. If you don't believe me, check out the matablog on the Matador Records site. The label says they will tour the world in 2010. The first of four shows in New York is already sold out. We have been told there are no plans for a new record, and this will not be a permanent arrangement. In other words, get a ticket!

Pavement - Major Leagues (demo) (mp3)

Spoon is giving their first four releases a "deluxe digital" release on Sept. 29. To whet your appetite, the band is giving you one song from each release right now. All you have to do is register at

Spoon - The Underdog (mp3)

The Flaming Lips paid Stephen Colbert a visit this week. They left him (and us) quite a present at Colbert Nation. You can stream 'Embryonic' in its entirety until Monday. Pick up the record on Oct. 13.

The Flaming Lips - Convinced Of The Hex (mp3)

Earlier this month, Bar None reissued The Feelies first two albums. The classic 1980 release 'Crazy Rhythms' and the 1986 followup 'The Good Earth' have been out of print for years, but now you can get them on CD and vinyl with a few additional surprises. Besides stellar sound, each record comes with a download card that entitles you to downloads of demos, B-sides and new live recordings. The only head scratcher is 'Crazy Rhythms' was pared down from ten songs to nine. Why no "Paint It Black"? The Beatles' cover is still on there.

The Feelies - Paint It Black (mp3)

The first single from Julian Casablancas' first solo album is out now. Don't expect "11th Dimension" to sound much like his work with The Strokes, but I'm very impressed with this one. 'Phrazes for the Young' will be out Oct. 20.

Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension (mp3)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh No! It's Devo... Again

Kidding... kidding. Love the Devo. Actually, 'Oh No! It's Devo' isn't part of the exciting news. On Nov. 3, Warner Bros. will give the deluxe treatment to two other Devo albums, 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo' from 1978 and 'Freedom of Choice' from 1980. Wait, there's more. That same month Devo will hit the road and stay at each tour stop for two nights. The first night they will perform 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo' in its entirety. The second night is reserved for all of 'Freedom of Choice'. Cool, eh? You're going to want to live in L.A., San Fran, Seattle, Chicago, D.C., New York or Toronto. That's where they plan to land the spaceship. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention they are working on a new record, too. If you heard "Watch Us Work It" from a couple of years ago, you know these nerds still got it. Here is one song from each of the impending reissues.

Devo - (I Can't Get Know) Satisfaction (mp3)
Devo - Freedom of Choice (mp3)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Vampire Weekend at Dawn of 2010

I don't get the recent rise in popularity of all things vampire. This is the only vampire I care about, and we finally have some info about the followup to their brilliant self-titled debut. 'Contra' is due out Jan. 12 on XL, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one. Here's the tracklist:

1. Horchata
2. White Sky
3. Holiday
4. California English
5. Taxi Cab
6. Run
7. Cousins
8. Giving Up the Gun
9. Diplomat's Son
10. I Think Ur a Contra

As I wrote back in June: I'm really hoping the band doesn't have the sophomore slump Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tapes 'n Tapes and other Internet sensations have had in recent years. So far, I have heard live versions of "White Sky" and "Run", and it doesn't seem I have much to worry about. While we wait for the new year, here is some Vampire Weekend to fill the hole.

My Fave Five
1.Vampire Weekend - Ottoman (mp3) (from 'Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist')
2.Vampire Weekend - White Sky (mp3) (from 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon')
3.Vampire Weekend - Mansard Roof (mp3) (from 'Vampire Weekend')
4.Vampire Weekend - A-Punk (mp3) (from 'Vampire Weekend')
5.Vampire Weekend - Everywhere (mp3) (live Fleetwood Mac cover)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

12 Inches of Love: 'Loving the Alien'

I'm going to be labeled a David Bowie apologist for what I'm about to write, but I can find at least something to like on every one of his albums. Yes, that includes his work in the '80s. Most fans hate 'Tonight', his 1984 followup to 'Let's Dance', and I can't even begin to defend the LP. "Blue Jean" was catchy, and I will never forget how exciting it was for me, a wide-eyed 13-year-old fanatic, when Julien Temple's 21-minute "Jazzin' for Blue Jean" music video made its world premiere on MTV. Besides that hit single (No. 8 on the Billboard chart), you could tell the rest of the album was a lazy job rushed out to capitalize on the mega success of his last record. There is, however, one other huge exception on 'Tonight', and this is it.

David Bowie - Loving the Alien (Album Version) (mp3)
David Bowie - Loving the Alien (Extended Dance Mix) (mp3)
David Bowie - Loving the Alien (Extended Dub Mix) (mp3)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Remastered Beatles Race Up the UK Charts

So, this week's UK album charts were just released, and it's a Beatles bonanza. There is no scientific polling to back it up, but these numbers are an interesting look at how fans rank the Fab Four's catalog. Four of the remastered albums made the Top 10, and all but three of their albums are in the Top 50. Here's a quick look. It will be interesting to see if we Yanks differ from the Brits when the American charts are out later this week.

UK Album Chart (numbers represent rank)
5. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
6. Abbey Road
9. Revolver
10. Rubber Soul
21. The Beatles (White Album)
29. Help!
31. Past Masters
33. Magical Mystery Tour
37. A Hard Day's Night
38. Please Please Me
49. Let It Be
51. With the Beatles
56. Beatles for Sale
89. Yellow Submarine

Also, the two new complete box sets (stereo and mono) also charted as No. 24 and No. 57, respectfully. One thing is for sure. Not that many seem interested in hearing Lennon bark on "Hey Bulldog".

The Beatles: A Covers Countdown

Yesterday's work on "And Your Bird Can Sing" inspired me to really think about my favorite covers of Fab Four tunes. Here are my Top 10 tunes... with a few caveats. Since just about every band on the planet has performed their songs on stage, I only chose studio recordings. Further, I picked performers I truly admire. Finally, no title or performer could appear on the list more than one time.

I wanted to honorably mention a few that just missed the list. I'm a big fan of Frank Sinatra and, in his later years, he did record "Something". He thought it was one of the most beautifully penned pieces of all time. Beatles' fans gasped, however, when he added the word "Jack" to George Harrison's lyrics. "You stick around, Jack, she might show..." Personally, I think it's acceptable to add your own stamp to a cover, at least within reason. Still, it just missed the list. Earth, Wind & Fire had a huge hit with 'Got to get You Into My Life", and I loved blaring it from the car stereo when I was a teen. The production was so clean, and the horns were so crisp. As I write this, I wish I had put it on the list. I also like the Pixies doing "Wild Honey Pie", but the addition of Kim Deal to the list made me reconsider. Of course, I could have added Daniel Johnston or William Shatner, but they seemed out of place on such a short list. What covers do you enjoy?

1. Siouxsie & the Banshees - Dear Prudence (mp3)
2. Todd Rundgren - Rain (mp3)
3. Andy Partridge - Strawberry Fields Forever (mp3)
4. Johnny Cash - In My Life (mp3)
5. The Jam - And Your Bird Can Sing (mp3)
6. Elvis Costello - You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (mp3)
7. David Bowie - Across the Universe (mp3)
8. The Breeders - Happiness Is a Warm Gun (mp3)
9. The Feelies - Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey (mp3)
10. Booker T & the M.G.'s - Something (mp3)

Just a few more notes: The Booker T song is taken from 'McLemore Avenue', a complete album of Abbey Road songs recorded for Stax. The album and record cover are absolute classics. Todd Rundgren has worn the Fab Four's influence on his sleeve throughout his career. "Rain" is taken from the album 'Faithful'. Side one of the record is all covers, including a nice rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever". If the old mop-top stuff is your speed, check out Utopia's 'Deface the Music'. Rundgren lifts every note from the Lennon/McCartney early years and, yet, his theft is really enjoyable. I chose Siouxsie No. 1 because her cover shows the most vision. She made the song all hers without butchering it in the process.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cover Me Impressed: 'And Your Bird Can Sing'

A few days have passed since The Beatles reissues hit the shelves. I have to admit I almost got caught up in the hype, but I think the moment has passed. I own all of the old 1987 CD versions of the records, as well as the 'Anthology' series, 'Let It Be... Naked', 'Live at the BBC' and just about everything else that has come out along the way. Can someone give me an honest assessment of the remastered versions? Will I really be blown away by the sound? I mean, c'mon, I have owned all of these records on just about every format possible. Do I really need to do it all over again? It's not like there are bonus tracks. They are the same albums!! I don't particularly care about CD-size photos or the "making of" videos. So, don't tell me about those incidentals. I just care about the music. Is it worth it?

My two favorite Beatles albums, like many of you out there, are 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver'. The copy of 'Revolver' I had when I was 9 years old was the inferior American version out on Capitol without "I'm Only Sleeping" and "And Your Bird Can Sing". Even though 30 years have passed and I have had these two songs for more than two decades, they are among my favorites because they still seem like rare bonus tracks to me. Ridiculous, I know, but I still get that excited feeling when I hear them. Perhaps, in part, it's because John Lennon was on fire. These are my top covers of one of those "rare bonus tracks". Ha!

The Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing (mp3)
The Jam - And Your Bird Can Sing (mp3)
Guadalcanal Diary - And Your Bird Can Sing (mp3)
Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - And Your Bird Can Sing (mp3)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Where... Rose Is Sown'

About one month after the release of Big Country's second full-length LP, 'Steeltown', the label released this followup single to "East of Eden". It was Nov. 16, 1984. Although lyrically the song is quite serious, I thought the music was upbeat in tone for the first time since "Fields of Fire" and "In A Big Country". During my teen years I preferred the extended version of "Where the Rose Is Sown". In my adult years, I have enjoyed the album version more because the song mixes so well into the next tune, "Come Back to Me". For me, the songs are forever linked. I almost never listen to one without the other.

I remember feeling pure joy when I picked up the 12"single for the first time and saw there were TWO B-side songs, as well as a 7" version of "Where the Rose Is Sown". I quickly learned "Bass Dance" was only about 100 seconds long and kind of a throwaway. My apologies to Tony Butler. "Belief in the Small Man" isn't the best B-side in the Big Country catalog, but I have liked it enough to include it in my Big Country mixes over the years. It is definitely not a throwaway. If you get the chance, take a look at the music video below for "Where the Rose Is Sown". Quietly, the band's videos were getting much better.

Big Country - Where the Rose Is Sown (Extended Version) (mp3)
Big Country - Where the Rose Is Sown (Album Version) (mp3)
Big Country - Bass Dance (mp3)
Big Country - Belief in the Small Man (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

12 Inches of Love: OMD Edition

In my world, circa 1984 and 1985, I thought Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were one of the biggest bands on the planet. In some parts of the world, that was almost true. Here in America, however, OMD did not make an appearance on Billboard's Top 40 until the end of '85... at least five years into their discography. In fact, OMD had only four Top 40 hits, and I contend at least two of them were well after the band had peaked. Certainly, earlier songs like "Locomotion" and "Tesla Girls" deserved to be hits before, say, "Dreaming". Let's take a listen to OMD's four American hits and judge accordingly: "So in Love", taken from the 1985 album "Crush", illustrated OMD's move from new wave to beautiful synth pop (that began on the 1984 album 'Junk Culture') was permanent. The single peaked at No. 26 and spent seven weeks in the Top 40. "So in Love" was not my favorite single from the album -- I liked "Secret" better -- but the airplay was well deserved. OMD - So in Love (Special American Dance Remix) (mp3) "If You Leave" was recorded for the John Hughes film 'Pretty in Pink'. Duh. The song was used in a scene that has always made me squirm. Andrew McCarthy's proclamation of love is one of the most forced and uncomfortable lines in film, but I digress. What I like most about "So in Love" hitting the charts six months earlier than this smash hit was that the hits that followed "If You Leave" always felt like songs that "made it" on the coattails of this one. It was as if OMD finally made the club, and now they could rest on their laurels. Having said that, the extended mix of "If You Leave" is one of my favorite 12-inch singles of all time. It's simple and not full of gimmicks that can weigh down a remix. The song hit the Top 40 on April 5, 1986, and stayed there for 13 weeks. It peaked at No. 4. OMD - If You Leave (Extended Version) (mp3) OMD didn't waste any time following up their biggest hit. 'The Pacific Age' was released later in 1986 and spawned one Top 40 hit. "(Forever) Live and Die" was pure pop in an adult alternative sort of way. Like on 'Crush', it was not my favorite single from the album. That goes to "We Love You". I rarely pull this one out, but I did like it back in the day. The song broke into the Top 40 on Nov. 1, 1986, stayed for seven weeks and peaked at a respectable No. 19. OMD - (Forever) Live and Die (Extended Mix) (mp3) OMD's last moments on the Billboard singles chart came in 1988 when it released a new song on its "Best Of" record. I hate when a band releases a new song on a compilation, but that is an argument for another time. Let me just say that as far as best of records go, this one actually was one of the best. The new song, "Dreaming", never did much for me, and I'm not even that big of a fan of the 12-inch single. I'm a completist, however. So, here it is. OMD carried on throughout the rest of the '80s and even into the '90s, but it was with revolving personnel and a different sound. I had long given up on them by then. OMD - Dreaming (Club Mix) (mp3)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Listen: Air

You may recall two months ago Air released the viral single "Do the Joy" from their upcoming album 'Love 2'. I was so excited... until I heard it. Here's what I said on July 8:

Uh-oh. I just heard the first single from Air's 'Love 2', and it was not quite what I was expecting. As you know from my preview a couple of weeks ago, I have been looking forward to this moment for a long time. I have enjoyed the mature sound of the last couple of albums much more than the '10,000 Hz Legend' and, to a lesser extent, 'Moon Safari' songs from their youth. I made the assumption (wrongly, it appears), the French duo would continue to move in that direction. Perhaps it's a midlife crisis.

Well, the first official single from 'Love 2' is out now, and the song sounds much more like an evolutionary step to follow the mellow and mature albums 'Pocket Symphony' and 'Talkie Walkie'. What a relief! I'm looking forward to the Oct. 6 release again. Check out the new music video, and sample the tune below.

Air - Sing Sang Sung (mp3)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Listen: The Swell Season

You can't help but root for Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova... otherwise known as The Swell Season. They encompass everything that is good about indie music. The Oscar winners for Best Original Song -- "Falling Slowly" from the 2007 film 'Once' -- not only gave us one of the best films of that year, but they also gave me my favorite Oscar moment of all time. It has taken a couple of years, but the charming duo is about to release the followup to the gold-certified soundtrack. Thanks to IFC, we can hear the opening song from 'Strict Joy', out Oct. 27 on ANTI-. I think you will agree it has been worth the wait.

The Swell Season - Low Rising (mp3)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cover Me Impressed: 'So Sad About Us'

I'm a huge fan of the sounds of '66. The Who are a perfect example. I don't consider myself a Who fanatic because I never got into the rock opera material (or anything that came after it). The Who's mod years, however, have been a favorite of mine since I was a lad. There is a Pete Townshend-penned song from the album 'A Quick One' that I particularly like, and I must not be alone because a couple of my favorite bands have covered it.

"So Sad About Us" was never a single. In fact, Townshend originally wrote it for The Merseybeats. This one is pure pop. No windmill guitar solos here. Lots of "la-la-las" and simple chords. Beautiful. Fast forward to 1978 for the UK's second mod wave. The Jam were at the forefront of the movement, and the band was obviously enamored with early Who. They covered several Who songs during this period, including "Disguises" and this one. The Jam's "So Sad About Us" was the B-side of the hit "Down in the Tube Station at Night". I'm taking the song from the import version of 'Extras'.

In 1992, "So Sad About Us" found its way to wax again with 'Safari', a four-song EP by The Breeders. I highly recommend this one to all Breeders fans. It has been out of print for quite a while, but it is worth the hunt. This was a year before The Breeders exploded with 'Last Splash'. I have followed The Breeders from its inception to today, and I say without hesitation this EP is the band at the top of its game. I'm happy "So Sad About Us" is a part of it.

The Who - So Sad About Us (mp3)
The Jam - So Sad About Us (mp3)
The Breeders - So Sad About Us (mp3)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Duran Duran News: 'Rio' Reissue and More

Duran Duran's 1982 tour de force will be remastered and expanded later this month as a two-disc set. Disc one is the UK version of the May '82 release but will also include the American album remixes that were released in November of that year. Disc two contains the Manchester Square demos, all 'Rio' B-sides and remixes. This includes the band's famous "Night Versions". This was Duran Duran's fancy way of saying extended versions since they were meant to be played at dance clubs during the wee hours. There will also be a vinyl reissue, and the digital download will have two additional tracks. If you're lucky enough to live in the UK, 'Rio: Collector's Edition' will be available next week. We Americans have to wait until Sept. 22. I have let it be known many times I think reissues can be a ripoff, but the tracklist for this one begs for a purchase... even if you already have the album. It's tough to round up all of these extras. I know.

Duran Duran - Hungry Like the Wolf (Night Version) (mp3)

On the same day 'Rio: Collector's Edition' is released, Duran Duran will also put out 'Live at Hammersmith '82' as a double-disc DVD and CD. 'Rio'-era videos and other live performances will also be included on the DVDs. Check out the stellar tracklist, and note old-timey fan favorite "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)". I can't wait to see that one on screen.

1. Rio
2. Hungry Like The Wolf
3. Night Boat
4. New Religion
5. Save A Prayer
6. Planet Earth
7. Friends Of Mine
8. Careless Memories
9. Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
10. Girls On Film

Music Videos:
1. My Own Way
2. Hungry Like The Wolf
3. Save A Prayer
4. Lonely In Your Nightmare
5. Rio
6. The Chauffeur

Top Of The Pops Performances:
1. Hungry Like The Wolf (May 13, 1982)
2. Rio (Nov. 18, 1982)

1. Rio
2. Hungry Like The Wolf
3. Night Boat
4. New Religion
5. Save A Prayer
6. Planet Earth
7. Friends Of Mine
8. Careless Memories
9. Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
10. Girls On Film

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'

One month prior to the release of Big Country's second full-length LP, 'Steeltown', the band hit the airwaves with its first single. The date was Sept. 21, 1984, and all indications were the album and this song would be a smash. It was... at least across the pond.

In a trend that began after the "In A Big Country" single, we fickle Americans were finished with these Scots. Big Country was already in the process of being labeled "one-hit wonders" and "cult figures". 'Steeltown' peaked at No. 70 here while it debuted at No. 1 in the UK. Every single, including this one, made it to at least No. 30 over there. MTV maniac that I was, I never once saw a 'Steeltown' video on the channel.

I love 'Steeltown' at least as much as 'The Crossing', but I have to admit I don't spin it as much as their debut. The B-sides on this 12" single were the album version of "East of Eden" and "Prairie Rose". I can't believe this stellar song didn't make the album. This Roxy Music cover from 1974 is my favorite Big Country B-side. I especially like the line "I hear your voice and it keeps me from sleeping" at the end of the song. Fans know this lyric from the 'Steeltown' song "Tall Ships Go". Up next are my two favorite singles from the Big Country catalog.

Big Country - East of Eden (extended version) (mp3)
Big Country - Prairie Rose (mp3)
Big Country - East of Eden (album version) (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Listen: Bad Lieutenant, The Clean, More

Joy Division and New Order alum Bernard Sumner returns with Bad Lieutenant. It sound quite a bit like what New Order would sound like if New Order was still around... and for good reason. Stephen Morris of Joy Division and New Order is on drums. Phil Cunningham and Jake Evans of New Order are on guitars. In fact, only bassist Alex James didn't clock time in New Order. He was too busy playing in Blur. Give this song a listen before you buy 'Never Cry Another Tear' digitally on Oct. 6 or physically on Nov. 10.

Bad Lieutenant - Sink or Swim (mp3)

Three months ago I posted the first song from New Zealand's The Clean since 2001. I loved "In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul" so much it made my favorite songs of the first half of 2009. Well, the album the song comes from, 'Mister Pop', finally comes out next Tuesday. To celebrate, the band's label, Merge, has given us a second song. It's another jangly jewel. Expect to see The Clean on my Best of 2009 list come December.

The Clean - Tensile (mp3)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have been releasing singles from their debut album like absolute fiends. This week they released "Come Saturday" with a new B-side, but that's not the big news. On Sept. 22, there will be a four-song EP of brand-spanking new material. Here is one of the songs, and it's an inspired piece of work.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher Than the Stars (mp3)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New-Release Tuesday

There are two big new ones out today in my world, one by Liam Finn and the other by Apples in Stereo. I have written about both ad nauseum. So, I'll direct you here and here so you can read up and download samples.

Another happy little release today is by the two Johns... otherwise known as They Might Be Giants. This is not one of their quirky rockers. Instead, it's another one of their children's albums. 'Here Comes the Science' follows 'Here Come the ABCs' (2005) and 'Here Come the 123s' (2008). This one is not so much for the pre-K crowd. I'm thinking this record works well with about a second or third grader. The songs are fun and catchy, as usual, but these are a little more educational. My favorite part is that they rerecorded "Why Does the Sun Shine?" and followed it up with the song "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" because they got the science all wrong the first time around. That won't happen this time. Eric Siegel of the New York Hall of Science was a consultant on all of the songs. Don't worry, TMBG fans. The boys are putting the final touches on more adult fare that should be out soon.

They Might Be Giants (By Danny Weinkauf) - I Am a Paleontologist (mp3)