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.

Moby – Come On Baby

Moby

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.

When you think of Moby, you probably think of radio friendly electronic music. Or perhaps Eminem dissing him in his 2002 hit single Without Me (side note, part of the diss related to Moby’s age at the time which was 36. Em’s in his 40’s now. Time’s a bitch, eh Marshall?). You could think these things and you wouldn’t be wrong. If you came across Moby in the mid 90’s though, you’d be thrown into quite a bit of confusion. Fresh off 3 electronic albums released from 1992 to 1995 that were starting to make Moby a household name he decided to throw a curveball. Feeling disillusioned by the lack of positive press, Moby released a punk rock album in 1996. Animal Rights might be the most misunderstood album of the 90’s – confrontational punk / metal tunes mixed with soothing ambient instrumentals, it was confounding. It also almost destroyed Moby’s career (we all know he recovered beyond his wildest dreams). Personally, it is my favorite record that Moby has ever released. The 1st single was a cover of Mission of Burma’s That’s When I Reach For My Revolver which received a bit of radio play. The 2nd single was Come On Baby - a slab of electronic punk metal. You’ve never really heard Moby like this before – and probably never will again. Guitars rage, sound f/x overwhelm and Moby shouts lines like “Love myself with a broken-hearted love / What I never saw what do I care? / You don’t want a sick celebration love / Think about a broken time was soulless”. The single was released in late 1996 and was backed by a death metal version of Devo’s Whip It (yes, I’m serious). By 1997 Moby was back to making electronic music almost exclusively (save for the odd Joy Division cover here and there) and would hit mainstream success in 1999. Some might look back on the Animal Rights punk rock experiment as a failure – I look on it as a glorious experiment that is still exhilarating 19 years later.

Lay Low Moon – One Winter

LayLowMoon

Winters in the Pacific Northwest are a different beast compared to the snowy winters of my youth in Southeast Pennsylvania. The rain lingers, the grey skies seem omnipresent. From mid October until April, the outlook can be a little bleak. For me, I’m counting down the days until the sun returns in fully glory and I can skimboard on Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean beaches again. While I’m dreaming of the sun, I look towards wintry type music, those albums imbued with wistful longing and nostalgia. Boston’s Lay Low Moon fit the bill perfectly.

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The Sonics – Louie Louie

The Sonics

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.

If you were to ask me where the roots of Seattle grunge lie (and you are reading this, aren’t you?), I’d tell you to look 40 miles to the south in the city of Tacoma and go back in time to the mid 60’s. The Pacific Northwest music scene was a vibrant community that leaned towards the garage rock end of the spectrum. The Sonics were rougher than all of their peers, sounding truly possessed on their records. Abrasive (though melodic) sax by Rob Lind was part of their signature sound, along with Gerry Rosalie’s unhinged vocals. Rounding out the classic line-up were the Parypa brothers – Larry on guitar, Andy on bass, and Bob Bennett on drums. For the recording of their 2nd record, Boom, The Sonics ripped the sound proofing off the walls at Wiley / Griffith studios in Tacoma to get a rawer sound. The cover photo for the record, of course, is one of the most famous record sleeves in history – the handiwork of Jini Dellaccio.  An exhilarating mix of covers and originals, it features the definitive version of Richard Berry’s Louie Louie. Originally an R&B hit from 1955, it was covered in the early 60’s by The Wailers, The Kingsmen, The Beach Boys, and Paul Revere & The Raiders. All of those versions are great and stand on their own – but they pale in comparison to the aggressive version offered up by The Sonics in 1966. A fuzz drenched guitar riff opens the tune with Rosalie’s entering the mix at the 7 second mark sounding like a man absolutely possessed. This is THE definitive version of this song, sounding like a precursor to punk AND grunge. It should be mentioned that even later versions by punk legends Motorhead and Black Flag don’t sound this aggressive. Lind’s sax lines keep the tune from falling apart, while the band creates a storm of white noise. Absolute perfection. I’m looking forward to seeing this performed live by The Sonics at their Seattle show in April (with Mudhoney opening up!).

The Electric Mess – House On Fire

The Electric MessThe Electric Mess hail from New York City and embrace the ethos of honest, in your face Rock ‘n’ Roll. This isn’t a revival – this is music that could have been recorded at any point in the last 45 years or so. The band describes lead singer Esther Crow as “androgynous and dynamic” which is an apt description for her unique affectations. The band also features Dan Crow on lead guitar, Derek Davidson on bass & vocals, Craig Rogers on drums, and Oweinama Biu on keyboards & rhythm guitar. Garage punk mixed with a bit of The Doors? Think along those lines, and you might be getting warm.

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Badfinger – Without You

badfinger

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 discuss anything relating to the band Badfinger without discussing the myriads of woes that plagued the band during their lifetime. Misfortune, mismanagement, and plaid old bad luck meant that the band never reached the pinnacle of success that they rightfully deserved. Originally signed to Apple Records and given a song by Paul McCartney that became a hit (you can watch Sir Paul discuss this at length in the Beatles Anthology video), the band was at its strongest when tapping into raw emotion. Power pop, classic rock, balladry – all hallmarks of the Badfinger signature sound. Without You was made famous by Harry Nilsson in 1971 and again by Mariah Carey in 1994, but both versions removed a bit of the muscle that is found on the original version by Badfinger. Originally a deep album cut on their 1970 record No Dice, it is now considered a classic, being covered by over 180 artists. Guitarist / vocalist Pete Ham had the verses, but couldn’t come up with a strong chorus. He had the perfect opening line “”Well I can’t forget tomorrow, when I think of all my sorrow, I had you there but then I let you go…”. Vocalist / bassist Tom Evans had a perfect chorus based on events in his life, but no suitable verses. The two worked together and found that “I can’t live, if living is without you, I can’t live, I can’t give any more” worked really well as the chorus to the song Pete Ham had worked on. A bit of nostalgia mixed with melancholy, it is a perfect song. Both principal songwriters would commit suicide – Pete Ham in 1975 at age 27, and Tom Evans in 1983 at age 36. Both gone too soon, making the emotional resonance of this song just a little more poignant.

Favorite Records of 2014

record

Another year gone by, another year in music to review. For me personally, it was a strange year in music. I found myself listening to unsigned / self released artists more often than some of the mainstream artists that I love so much. 2 Neil Young records – the 1st was good, if not great. The 2nd was a little too lush for my tastes. Neither appear on my year-end round-up. I looked forward to the new John Mellencamp (yes, seriously) but I came away only loving about half the record. Bruce Springsteen added Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to his band and the record he released didn’t disappoint me. I managed to get out to a few shows in 2014 and was blown away by Mudhoney (twice) and First Aid Kit. Speaking of First Aid Kit, their Stay Gold record grew in stature with repeated listens and should help them become a household name. So without further rambling, here are the records that I played the most in 2014. Note: these are listed randomly and I chose to focus on full length releases that were released in 2014.

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