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.

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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.

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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

LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

ll-cool-j-mama-said-knock-you-out

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.

It’s hard to believe, but Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J is fast approaching its 25th anniversary. Even harder to believe, LL Cool J is still in his 40’s for a few more years. In 1990, LL Cool J was trying to figure out his place in the hip hop community. 1989’s Walking With a Panther had been a commercial success, but a critical failure. Even worse, LL Cool J’s peers were critical of the “softer” love ballads that peppered the album. LL discussed his plight with his Grandmother – lamenting the rise of gangsta rap and his insecurity in light of harsh words from several up and coming rappers. His Grandma replied “Oh baby, just knock them out!”, which fueled the inspiration for the title track from his 1990 record, Mama Said Knock You Out. Raw and aggressive, the song is a an absolute classic. In some ways, it is an updated version of LL’s 1987 single I’m Bad. LL Cool J spits out the words as if he is being chased by the Devil himself, the music equally frantic. Samples scattered throughout the song are courtesy of James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, and the Chicago Gangsters. As if this song wasn’t impressive enough coming from a seasoned 22-year-old music veteran, LL Cool J delivered a performance on MTV Unplugged that managed to outdo the studio cut. The immortal words “Don’t call it a comeback / I been here for years” still bring me joy to this day. The song hit #17 on the US charts and earned Todd Smith aka LL Cool J a Grammy.