The Cure – The Last Day of Summer

LastDayOfSummer

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

As August segues into September, I’m left with a feeling of disbelief; the summer – as in years past – has passed us by again. Officially, Autumn doesn’t begin for another few weeks, but each September 1st I can feel myself mourning the passage of time and resigning myself to all things related to the Fall (totally wired!). Back in 2000 The Cure released what many consider to be one of their best records, Bloodflowers. Band founder / leader Robert Smith called it the “third part of the trilogy”, which was confusing to me as 1980’s 17 Seconds, 1981’s Faith, and 1982’s Pornography had already been called a “trilogy” by Robert Smith in the 80’s (and thematically, that made more sense). No matter – the new “trilogy” was now Pornography, 1989’s Disintegration, and Bloodflowers. I’ll be honest with you – I’m not a huge fan of “back to basics” records by legacy artists. I like watching artists grow, develop, and push themselves to new sounds. Bloodflowers was heralded as a return to form – and I can see why people thought that. For me, it has taken a long, long time to warm up to the record (though the tour was brilliant). It’ll never be in my top 5 records by The Cure, but there are a few gems to be found. The Last Day of Summer succeeds wildly on every count. Originally released as a promo single in Poland, it slots in as the 6th track on most editions of Bloodflowers. Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order gets well deserved credit for coming up with melodic bass lines, but Simon Gallup of The Cure deserves credit as well – he lays down another memorable bass line in this tune. Resignation bursts forth from Robert Smith’s vocals, complimented by melodic guitar strumming and well placed keyboard flourishes (something lacking with follow-up records – Roger O’Donnell was dismissed from the band following this album’s release). Summer slipping away, a broader statement on the passage of time – this is a song that rings true. “But the last day of summer / Never felt so cold / The last day of summer / Never felt so old”

The Rutles – Cheese and Onions

The Rutles

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

At some point between declaring themselves “Bigger than Rod” (Stewart, that is) and admitting to indulging in tea, The Rutles released what I consider to be their finest song, Cheese and Onions. A single of epic proportions, it was later looked to for inspiration by none other than The Beatles. The song features an emotive vocal performance by Ron Nasty, in a style reminiscent of John Lennon. The orchestration conjures up visions of the 60’s – hippies & tea. It isn’t just a Nasty performance though, Dirk McQuickly, Stig O’Hara (a guitarist of no fixed hairstyle), and Barrington Womble all contribute to the song equally. Some may say that Womble is the Ringo of The Rutles, but I’d hardly agree – his drumming is essential to the overall vibe. The song itself was released on a 7″ alongside Rutlemania hits I Must Be In Love and A Girl Like You. Galaxie 500 later covered Cheese and Onions in stunning fashion – a Velvet Underground inspired slice of nostalgia. “Do I have to spell it out? / C-H-E-E-S-E-A-N-D-O-N-I-O-N-S, oh no”

Bee Gees – Black Diamond

Bee Gees - Odessa

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

1969 saw the Bee Gees stretching themselves creatively, delivering their magnum opus, Odessa. The band’s 4th International record and 6th overall, it remains my favorite Bee Gees record. This also happened to be the band’s only double LP and was a concept album of sorts. Most people know the Bee Gees from their mid to late 70’s commercial peak period (DISCO) – and while I do confess to loving those songs, my heart resides firmly with the band’s output from 1966 to 1969. The Gibb brothers were barely in their 20’s (Robin Gibb was 19 when Odessa was released), but carried an aura of world-weariness that gave the music depth. In those early years it wasn’t Barry Gibb’s famous falsetto that carried the tunes – vocals were split pretty evenly among Barry and Robin, with Maurice helping out occasionally. Barry’s songs veered towards Beatles pop and country, whilst Robin’s….well, Robin’s are hard to describe. Vocals that seem not of this earth, quivering, emotive – a precursor to Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. Black Diamond is one of my favorite tunes from this era – music that recalls other 60’s bands, but elevated to another level by Robin’s otherworldly vocals. The song starts out on a deceptively simple note – pop music imbued with warmth. It’s a nice trick – within a minute the song absolutely crushes you with emotion as Robin sings “And I’m leaving in the morning / And I won’t die, so don’t cry. I’ll be home / Those big black diamonds that lie there for me / By the tall white mountains which lie by the sea”. The song fades out on a refrain that sounds inspired by The Beatles “Oh oh oh oh oh / Say goodbye to Auld Lang Syne”. This song is just one of the many masterpieces by the Bee Gees in the 60’s. I also recommend hunting down Robin Gibb’s albums from 1970 – Robin’s Reign  and Sing Slowly Sisters (this one was never released, but can be found on bootleg. It is my favorite Robin Gibb record).

Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Morrissey_World_Peace_Album_Art

Is the musical icon a dying breed? Legacy artists populated the public consciousness seemingly since the beginning of popular music, but lately it seems this will soon become a memory. Can we really rely on Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, or Miley Cyrus to carry the torch for the next 30 to 40 years? It seems improbable at best. For pretend hipsters or music geeks like me it is becoming clear that our Idols are also susceptible to the passage of time. Where is their place in this world of divided attention spans? If you are Morrissey, you carry on as usual – maybe with a slightly more world-weary resignation.

Continue reading

Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk

Here Come The Warm Jets

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Fresh off a stint in Roxy Music, Brian Eno began putting out futuristic and bleak solo records. Still a few years away from becoming the Godfather of Ambient, these early records featured vocals on almost all the tracks and are similar in feel to David Bowie’s 1976 to 1980 output (where he was assisted on 3 of those records by…Brian Eno). Sometimes overlooked in favor of his instrumental work, they are records that really fit the description of “ahead of its time”. 1974’s solo debut Here Come The Warm Jets has been described as “glammed up art-pop” which is as an apt of a description as I can think of. The nonsensical lyrics come to a fore in album standout Dead Finks Don’t Talk. Eno employed a free associative view to the lyrics, believing the vocals were just another instrument. ‘Finks is post-punk before punk even existed, avant-garde yet pop in structure. Eno even throws in a bit of an Elvis Presley impression at the 1:16 mark. An absolute highlight and a nice starting point for Brian Eno’s 40 years of solo work. Here Come The Warm Jets hit #26 on the UK charts and has been a consistent seller for Eno, since its release 40 years ago. In 2014 Brian Eno has already released 2 records and provided guest vocals on Damon Albarn’s record. We haven’t even talked about Eno’s career as record producer for some of the biggest names in music over the last 35 years. Perhaps another time. Until then, here’s where it all starts. “Oh cheeky cheeky / Oh naughty sneaky / You’re so perceptive and I wonder how you knew”

Sunstack Jones – Roam

sunstackjones

About a year ago, I had the privilege of interacting with Sunstack Jones – an indie band that hail from Northern England (Liverpool and Blackburn). Their 2013 single You Can Help Me Out was one of my anthems for the summer of ’13, its Britpop-ish vibe perfectly aligning with what I was feeling at the time. The band promised a 2nd record coming soon, and we got the 1st taste of the new record in Spring of 2014. Bet I Could offered up a dreamy slice of melancholy that never felt sad. A perfect introduction to the new record, Roam.

Continue reading

Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel

Chris Isaak - Blue Hotel

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Chris Isaak – true original or Sun Records knock off? There are compelling arguments for both sides, but my opinion lies firmly in the former. Chris Isaak’s 1st two records sometimes get overlooked due to the worldwide success of his later records (and who hasn’t heard or seen the video for 1989’s Wicked Game?). They show an artist honing his craft, taking his influences and spinning them into something he could call his own. David Lynch was certainly a fan – he featured Isaak’s music in several of his films and cast him as a lead actor in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The 1987 single Blue Hotel embodies everything that is great about the music of Chris Isaak – surf guitar, 50’s vibe, impassioned singing – all married to a melody that is insanely memorable. Watching the video and listening to this tune, I can’t help but think of another artist that was inspired by Isaak’s penchant for 50’s noir – Lana Del Rey. The way Isaak belts out the lyrics “Blue Hotel, on a lonely highway / Blue Hotel, life don’t work out my way / I wait alone each lonely night” and marries it surf guitar licks delivered with urgency is perfect. The song was a minor hit overseas when it was released as single and never cracked the charts in the US.

Ryan Adams – Gimme Something Good b/w Aching For More

Ryan Adams - Gimme Something Good If anything, you can’t fault Ryan Adams for lacking pure enthusiasm when it comes to his recording career. He has attacked disparate genres with gusto, though his later records have mostly settled into a pop rock alt county feel (not counting his metal side project, Orion). His recent records aren’t bad by any means, they just seem to lack that certain “it” factor. Perhaps a bit workmanlike, perhaps a little too serious. It’s been 3 1/2 years since the release of 2011’s Ashes & Fire which is absolute eternity in the world of Ryan Adams. Here we are with a new single and exclusive b-side, tasters for the upcoming self titled album. How do the tunes stack up?

Gimme Something Good is a slice of John Mellencamp inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. For the cool kids at home reading this, you can think of it as Bruce Springsteen inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. The track has a roots rock based vibe, building into a chorus that will get lodged in your head in no time at all. Honestly, the chorus was slightly underwhelming the 1st time I heard it, but I can’t deny that I’ve been singing the tune since the 1st time I heard it. This a good sign for the full length record. For Ryan Adams fans, think back to the 3 albums he released in 2005 (29, Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights) – that’s the feel of this single. Grateful Dead by way of Gram Parsons by way of John Mellencamp. Aching For More is more acoustic based and tones down the Rock ‘n ‘Roll vibe in favor of an alt-country feel. It is a nice counterpart to the A side. All in all, this new single has me looking forward to a new Ryan Adams album in a way that I haven’t felt since the mid 00’s.

Verdict: Something Great

For Fans of: Whiskeytown, Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen