The Sonics – This Is the Sonics

ThisIstheSonics

A couple of weeks ago in the city of Seattle, WA I bore witness to an aural assault not witnessed since the last time I saw Mudhoney live and in the flesh. That I had just taken part in the live Mudhoney experience just 30 minutes earlier has no bearing on what I am saying. The Sonics – forefathers to garage rock, punk, and grunge were headlining a star-studded affair to launch the release of their 1st full length album in 49 years, This Is The Sonics. Rooted in the 60’s, yet sounding delightfully abrasive and modern, it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. Do you know how sometimes artists will insist on playing their new songs and the audience is polite until the better known tracks come along? The Sonics didn’t have to worry about that – the batch of new songs slot in well alongside their covers of Louie, Louie and garage rock classics / originals such as The Witch and Strychnine. In fact, I think quite a few younger bands would do well to see The Sonics and take notes on how to deliver raw, energetic songs that still have the ability to engage with the audience on a visceral level.

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Dot Dash – Earthquakes & Tidal Waves

DotDashEarthquakes

Recap: Dot Dash burst onto the music scene way back in 2010 with the release of their debut album, Spark > Flame > Ember > Ash released on the indie label The Beautiful Music. Dot Dash members include singer / guitarist Terry Banks (formerly of Julie Ocean and Glo-Worm, among others), bassist Hunter Bennett (also formerly of Julie Ocean), guitarist Bill Crandall (formerly of Modest Proposal), and drummer Terry Banks (formerly of Youth Brigade and Swervedriver). Such diverse musical backgrounds enrich the Dot Dash experience – mod influenced punkish rock ‘n’ roll that delivers on every front. Following their debut, the band has released a winning record at a clip of about every 18 months – 2012’s Winter Garden Light and 2013’s Half-Remembered Dream bettered the debut record whilst building and expanding on the mod-punk template. What does a band do for an encore? If you are Dot Dash you go ahead and deliver your best record yet – the just released Earthquakes & Tidal Waves.

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The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet

AnotherGirlAnotherPlanet

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.

The path to my discovery of the band The Only Ones is a curious one. In the early to mid 90s my obsession with The Cure had completely taken hold, to the point of obscuring other gems in the music world. I became aware that The Cure had covered a tune called Another Girl, Another Planet by The Only Ones during a soundcheck in 1987. Of course, I hunted down a bootleg and added it to my growing collection of rarities. I also decided to grab the original version of the song, released on the self titled debut record in 1978. This is a case of me not really getting the band until years later – shame on me. The Only Ones released 3 albums from 1978 to 1980 that were lumped in with the punk scene, but had nods to power pop, classic rock, and especially the proto / pre punk sound of Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell, and the New York Dolls. I just don’t think the 16 year old version of me was ready for music that was of such a timeless nature. The late 30’s (no, I mean 29-year-old) version of me plays The Only Ones at least once a month and sings along with enthusiasm. Another Girl, Another Planet kind of qualifies The Only Ones as 1 hit wonders, but what a song! You have a band putting forth all of its strengths into a perfect song. The long instrumental intro lays the groundwork for the positively explosive chorus. John Perry’s guitar work straddles the line between punk and rock classicism, Alan Mair’s bass bounces along like a freight train, and Peter Perrett’s vocals recall a New York poet punk spouting off lines about life, love, and death: “I always flirt with death / I look ill but I don’t care about it / I can face your threats / Stand up tall and scream and shout about it”. The demo of the song was so strong that the band wanted to keep most of the sound whilst fleshing out certain elements in a studio (bassist Alan Mair also served as producer). Mike Kellie’s drum sound was achieved by drumming over top of the demo and mixing the elements together on the master copy (necessary because of the way the demo was recorded – it was impossible to separate elements in the mixing process). All of these elements contributed to a perfect song that has stood the test of time, covered by many, many artists over the years. Yes, including that version by The Cure that I hunted down 20 years ago.

Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock

Planet Rock

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.

The early days of hip hop collided with the early days of electronic music and no other artists encapsulated the era like Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force. Bambaataa embraced the groundbreaking eerie synths used by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra and married the sounds to rhymes that were positive in nature. Produced by Arthur Baker, Planet Rock stands as the pinnacle of the sound & vision Afrika Bambaataa brought to music. Kraftwerk are a huge influence on this particular song – the TR-808 (and heartbreak) beat is based on the song Computer World while the melody is the synth line from Trans-Europe Express. The only other song I can think of that uses a sample to such stunning effect is the remix of Busta Rhymes Fire it Up that incorporates the Knight Rider theme. Planet Rock peaked at #4 on the soul charts and #48 on the Hot 100 – but has proven to be influential far beyond its modest chart positions. Hip-hop, dance, electronic, and trance all owe a huge debt to Afrika Bambaataa. The founders of Kraftwerk – Ralf Hütter & Florian Schneider – were later added as principal songwriters after reaching a settlement with Tommy Boy Records. Lyrically, this is a far cry from the later days of misogyny and violence in hip hop – in fact, the song is positively inspiring in places. With the perfect beat and infectious melody married to the perfect words, how can you go wrong? “You gotta rock it, pop it, ’cause it’s the century / There is such a place that creates such a melody / Our world is but a land of a master jam, get up and dance / It’s time to chase your dreams”

 

 

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to meet up with some friends and attend the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee celebration in the Georgetown area of Seattle. I certainly made note of a few artists that I absolutely had to see – J. Mascis, Father John Misty, Mudhoney, among others – but it was the artists I had no preconceived notions of that left me stunned and bewildered (except for Mudhoney – I’m still riding on that obsession). I strolled over to the Elysian Stage, oblivious to the bodyguards turning people away from the gate. A tap on the shoulder later, and I was enjoying the set from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth from outside of the filled to capacity main viewing area – along with hundreds of other folks who were lined up in the street and on the hills bordering the I-5 freeway. What we were treated to was a grunge doom metal set that delivered in spades.

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The Times – This Is London

This Is London

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.

1983 saw The Times release their 3rd full length (though 2nd released) LP, This Is London (their 1st LP proper was held back and not released until 1985). Ed Ball fronted The Times through various guises, but the period immediately following his tenure as a founding member of the Television Personalities, O-Level, and Teenage Filmstars is my favorite. Hipsters and those in the know look towards The Jam for their daily fix of mod inspired punk rock – dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Ed Ball was a mod before Paul Weller was a mod. The Kinks as filtered through a punk rock delivery? Something like that. The title track presents a bleak picture of London, England – times changing, hope evaporating. The song has a mod punk vibe but is wrapped up in pop sensibilities making it one of the most memorable songs by The Times. Resignation and anger collide as Ball delivers these words “I’m walking in the streets of Battersea in search of happiness / But all I find is misery in this London borough mess / My very best friend deserted me for someone else today / She met a small time insurance broker / And they’ll be married by next May”. This is amazing stuff and it is fairly easy to find as most of the early records by The Times were reissued in 2007. You can’t go wrong starting out with this song and record.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Chasing Yesterday

At their peak of popularity, Oasis were the biggest band…in the UK. Though they had a few hits in the US, they never broke the US market like many expected them to in the mid 90’s. Driven to success with the double-edged sword of talent & sibling rivalry, it all fizzled out in 2009 after a pre gig fight between Liam and Noel Gallagher. Critics mocked their reverent worship of The Beatles, but I admired it. Is it really so different from the latest crop of post-punk bands who worship at the altar of Joy Division? At their best, Oasis could hang with The Beatles. At their worst, they were left in the dust by The Rutles. Where does a band go when it all crashes down?

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Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

LWTUA

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.

Listening to Joy Division the other day, it dawned on me that I haven’t written about their signature tune, Love Will Tear Us Apart. I briefly mentioned it in my overview of their 2nd record, Closer (since it was cut from the same sessions), but haven’t given it the proper breakdown. For me, it is a bit obvious – anyone who has interacted with me will eventually know that I hold Joy Division as the standard by which all other bands are measured. Love Will Tear Us Apart lyrically deals with the issues presenting themselves between singer Ian Curtis and his wife Deborah. Written in late 1979, it was cut two times – January 1980 and March 1980, both versions making appearances on the original 7″ release (a 3rd version was remixed / released on 1995’s compilation Permanent). The version cut in March 1980 is the single version, the January 1980 version was the b-side – the instrumentation is the same, with Ian Curtis singing each cut slightly differently. Musically, it hits all the high points that Joy Division are known for – Peter Hook’s bass is prominent, Stephen Morris lays down the perfect beat and Bernard Sumner gives us melodic guitar lines (though Ian Curtis played guitar on this song when it was played live). The song was released as a single in June of 1980 and hit #13 in the UK, #42 in the US, and #1 in New Zealand (where my brother lives, smart country). It was the band’s 1st hit, and unfortunately Ian Curtis wasn’t around to revel in its success – he committed suicide in May of 1980. Much like the song itself, the song’s success was bittersweet. I’ve listened to Joy Division since I was 15 and they sound as fresh now – 22 years later – as they did the day I 1st heard them.