Chris Bell – I Am the Cosmos

chris_bell_cosmos

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 Big Star story is full of “what ifs”. What if the 1st record had proper distribution and had become an International hit? (1972’s modestly titled #1 Record). What if Chris Bell hadn’t left the band and had carried on his songwriting with Alex Chilton? Would the world be in awe of Big Star’s mythic 3rd record, Third / Sister Lovers? Would the world be blessed with the equally haunting solo LP from Chris Bell, I Am the Cosmos? That’s a lot of questioning, and sadly the story remains the same – Chris Bell left Big Star after the 1st record and faced personal problems and difficulties in getting his music heard (Alex Chilton & the rest of Big Star faced these issues concurrently, to be discussed another day). Sadly, Chris Bell’s story came to an end with a fatal automobile accident in late 1978. Earlier that year he had released his 1st officially released solo single I Am the Cosmos b/w You And Your Sister. Bell had a spiritual yearning and had an interest in Christianity – I Am the Cosmos alludes to a higher power, interjecting romantic insecurity along the way. Chris Bell’s voice conveys pain and hope in equal measures, whilst the melodic guitar refrain / solo running through the track might be the finest playing of Bell’s career. Truly, one of my favorite songs of all time. It wasn’t until 1992 that the single was compiled along with unreleased recordings to give the world a solo Chris Bell LP also titled I Am the Cosmos (reissued in 2009 with tons of more goodies). “Every night I tell myself  / “I am the cosmos, I am the wind”  / But that don’t get you back again”

Black Swan Lane – A Moment of Happiness

BLACK-SWAN-LANE-vi-cover-art-300x298

About 15 or 16 months ago I wrote that Black Swan Lane would have a hard time topping then current effort, The Last Time In Your Light. A perfect distillation of the bands strengths, I wondered where they’d go from there. As it turns out – on to greater things. Just 16 months after the last record, Black Swan Lane have delivered their latest offering to the world. A Moment Of Happiness bears traces of its predecessors whilst looking inwardly in a way the band hasn’t yet explored.

Continue reading

Dan Florio – Malleability

a0986201761_10

The darkness set in around 7:45 last night – the Fall is relentless in its approach this time of year. Rather than lament the summer now gone, it is time to start thinking about bonfires, pumpkin beer, and flannels (I’m in the Seattle area, after all). The perfect complement to those mandatory Autumnal delights is music that revels in the spirit of the season. Some of my fondest memories involve sitting around a fire, listening to friends play songs by The Smiths, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and whatever other tunes are easy to sing along to. Each Fall brings some variation of this bit of nostalgic story telling, but what can I say? A good time was had by all. Records that evoke those feelings can be hard to come by – if an artist tries too hard, it can sound a little too earnest. Off the cuff recordings bring the opposite problem – it can sound a little ragged. Malleability is the new record from Connecticut based indie artist Dan Florio, and it delivers a strong set of tunes in an Autumnal spirit.

Continue reading

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”