The Chameleons – In Shreds

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.

I was shocked yesterday (3-13-17) to wake up to the news that John Lever – drummer for The Chameleons, The Sun & the Moon, and The Red Sided Garter Snakes – had passed away after a brief illness. It is not often that you find yourself in touch with your musical heroes, but over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to do that many times. I’d been in touch with John to discuss his departure from ChameleonsVox as well as get information on his latest stunning project, The Red Sided Garter Snakes. It amazed me that not only had John read some of my ramblings on this site, he also seemed to like them. John’s body of work is incredible – his musicianship added that intangible quality to a song that made it rise above the rest. One of the first tracks that John cut with The Chameleons was In Shreds. A blistering punk tune, it was released in March of 1982. A more aggressive track than most of what would be featured on the debut album Script of the Bridge, it features stunning work from Mr. Lever. The song builds and build to a punk breakdown “It seems to me / to be so contradictory / it seems to me / you’ve become a part of the machinery”. Mark Burgess, Reg Smithies, Dave Fielding, and John Lever were on the cusp of something great – and you can feel it begin with this song. RIP John, your art will be here long after us mere mortals are gone from this Earth.

Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction

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This is a guest contribution from Jeffrey Edwards, talking about one of the greatest albums ever made – Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses.

With the legendary rock band in the middle of their worldwide reunion tour Not in This Lifetime, it seems rather fitting to review their best-selling album, Appetite for Destruction. Having sold 30 million copies around the globe, this debut studio album is also one of the best-selling records of all time. It was released back in July 21, 1987, and remains one of the most influential rock ‘n’ roll albums, resonating with that spirit of rebellion that Guns N’ Roses were notoriously famous for.

While the majority of people are more familiar with the more popular tracks of the album, as games like Burnout on the PlayStation and Guns N’ Roses video slots from online gaming portal Pocketfruity feature “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City” in their musical scores, every song on the album played its part in making the album a commercial success. Kicking off the record with “Welcome to the Jungle”, which was reportedly written in just three hours, the aptly named track set the tone for their artistry and image. They were a rambunctious bunch of rockers whose rebellion and impulsivity was the driving force in their musical genius.

There are loads of interesting facts about the compilation of this album. According to NME, “Mr. Brownstone” was penned on a grocery bag. Another fun fact of the album is that “Out ta Get Me” is based on Axl Rose’s life as teenager back in Indiana, where he often found himself at odds with the law. And despite being a fan favorite, the band slated “Sweet Child o’ Mine” as a filler or circus music. But even with their less-than-favorable opinions of their biggest hit, fans love the song no less.

For those that don’t know GNR for anything other than their popular ballads, Appetite for Destruction is not meant for those who are afraid to venture beyond the conventional. The album explores all kinds of taboos through crazy guitar riffs, rebelling against the cultural atmosphere fostered back in the ‘80s. However, the record’s raw punk quality is what garnered its retrospective acclaim, becoming one of the greatest albums in music history.

Here is the complete tracklist for Appetite for Destruction:

1. Welcome to the Jungle
2. It’s So Easy
3. Night Train
4. Out ta Get Me
5. Paradise City
6. My Michelle
7. Think About You
9. Sweet Child o’ Mine
10. You’re Crazy
11. Anything Goes
12. Rocket Queen

What’s your favorite track?

The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

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The Flaming Lips have never failed to baffle, confound, delight, frustrate, and inspire me. I initially wrote them off as “alternative light” in the early 90’s in the wake of their hit single She Don’t Use Jelly (snobby hipster alert). As it now stands, that era of punk stoner pop rock ended around 1995, never to be revisited. It took me until 1999 to actually get into the band – The Soft Bulletin heralded a new era. Also, the best reviews the band ever received. The two shows I saw in Philadelphia for that album’s tour remain among the best, loudest, and most theatrical shows I’ve ever seen. The last 18 years have seen the band embrace electronic melancholy mixed with optimism (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), existential dread in the wake of divorce by way of motorik (The Terror), and a few albums that try as I might just didn’t hit the mark for me. There are also a ton of collaborative albums, wild experiments, and one collaborator that is key to the genesis of Oczy Mlody – Miley Cyrus.

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The DeRellas – Freakshow

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The DeRellas hail from London, England and are reminiscent of the class of ’77 sound of punk. Instantly memorable –  the songs are fast, furious, and instant classics. The band returns with a mini album recorded in the wake of some lineup changes, and is the 1st to feature singer Stevie D and Bish on the drum kit.  Former vocalist Robbie DeRella (Vibrators) gave the tunes a slightly organic feel, whilst Stevie D gives the songs a sunny, California punk sheen. Dare I say it, sometimes reminding me of early Green Day. Any music that conjures up visions of the beach is a sure-fire winner with me – and The DeRellas deliver in spades. It’d be easy to write them off as rehashing a sound that sounded fresh with the original wave of punk – but it simply is not the case. The band takes that pop punk sound and makes it all their own. A truly invigorating mini album, I’ve had Freakshow on repeat for quite some time now (this review is very delayed).

Rip It Up is an unholy mix of the Sex Pistols and Generation X – and is the perfect song to open the album with. “Rip it up / do it again”. A statement of intent. A statement of aggression. A blistering guitar riff half way through marries a bit of classic rock to the punk rock assault. The riff reappears during the noisy outro. Strung Out Sin City is about the most rock ‘n’ roll song title I’ve ever heard. Fortunately the song lives up to its description – a sing a long pop punk ode to destruction. “strung out sin city / burned out, it ain’t pretty”. Soho Hotel is a perfect pop punk anthem with perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album. Freakshow is the title track and is my favorite song on the album. The lower end of the mix is more prominent here, making it a fuller assault to the senses. I still feel like this when I go out to shows (which I do often). “I just wanna go / to the freakshow”. How about these lyrics? “Sometimes I love you baby / sometimes i hate you darling”. Funny, yet cutting. Perfection. Dress Up Mess Up is the last original on the album and another slice of punk perfection. The album closes with a cover of Adam and the Ants Plastic Surgery. I can’t think of a better way to close out this record. Menacing and playful, The DeRellas imbue the song with a renewed sense of urgency.

You can pick up the album on CD or slime green vinyl here. You’ll love it, I guarantee it.

Verdict: Punk Classic

For Fans of: Sex Pistols, Green Day, The Clash, Dead Boys, NOFX

Nutopians – Claustrophobia

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Nutopians duo return with a stunning EP as a teaser for the upcoming full length. Led by Father / Son duo Ian and Phil Jackson, the band have forged their own path of stunning post punk tunes. A short 3 track primer, the Claustrophobia EP is a masterful release that betters what we’ve previously heard in every way. Lead off track is the title track. Claustrophobia is melodic, anthemic, and a masterpiece. It reminds me of early 80’s U2 with the way it builds to a cathartic chorus. “Feeling trapped, alone in despair / Like I was in the womb”. Haunting stuff. A Life Worth Living is one of those new wave inspired songs that makes you want to hop in the car and sing at the top of your lungs while driving the top down on a sunny day. Really feeling the early U2 vibe with this track as well. Sing a long chorus, what’s not to love? The Final Walk is a doom laden instrumental that was quite unexpected the 1st time I gave this EP a spin. Think Faith by The Cure. This is funeral music, and I mean that in the best possible way. It invokes a sense of loss & longing in the listener. An absolutely stunning way to close this short release, it has spine tingling riffs that’ll stick with you long after you are alone with your thoughts.

You can pick up the EP here. I cant wait to see what comes next from Ian and Phil Jackson

Verdict: post punk masterpiece

For Fans of: The Cure, Joy Division, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Sound

The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – Blue Lake

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Less than 18 months after the debut album Endless Sea from The Red-Sided Garter Snakes comes the follow-up Blue Lake. What began as John Lever’s project designed as a catharsis in the wake of his split from Chameleonsvox has become something special in its own right – something reigniting the magic found on those 4 studio albums from The Chameleons. Anger is an energy as Johnny Rotten once said – but what you do with that energy is what counts to me. The Red-Sided Garter Snakes use that energy wisely. Musically, we are drawn into post-punk, shoegaze, britpop, and psychedelic worlds. Lyrically, the songs are imbued with a sense of poetic mysticism. It’d be easy for me to say that it is a group worth exploring just because John Lever was the drummer for the legendary Manchester band The Chameleons – but the truth is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (to quote the original hipster, Aristotle).

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My Favorite Albums of 2016

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Another year gone by, another year filled with musical delights. We lost quite a few musical legends starting in December of 2015 – Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael to name just a few (and let’s not mention an overall list of artists who have left us in 2016). I lost my Aunt unexpectedly back in February the morning after attending a Black Sabbath show. The year was filled with unexpected highs and unexpected lows for me. As with anything in life, sometimes you have to feel bad to feel good (and vice versa). I made some friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with some old friends. Throughout it all, I had music playing. Here are my top albums of 2016:

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Nirvana – Negative Creep

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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.

Like many people in high school in the early 90’s, I first heard about Nirvana through their world-changing 2nd album, Nevermind. Simultaneously killing the hair metal scene and bringing attention to the Seattle scene, it was an event that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime (I hope I’m wrong though). I did what any music obsessed 14-year-old would do – I took my paper route money to the local music store and asked the owner for anything relating to Nirvana and bands from Seattle. Bleach was the band’s 1st album, released in 1989. Dave Grohl is nowhere to be found (though he is on the live version embedded below). The sound is the rawest Nirvana would ever be (and for my ears, the best they ever would be). This is the sound of Aberdeen, WA. Where the bay leads to the sea. Gray mornings, rainy days. Negative Creep is quite possibly the most aggressive song Nirvana ever cut. An unholy blend of Sabbath riffs, Melvins sludge, and Mudhoney-ish lyrics. This one’s made for the mosh pit. The chorus positively kills “I’m a negative creep and I’m stoned!” Some of the other lyrics seem to pay homage to Mudhoney – can there be any doubt that “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more” owes a debt to Mudhoney’s “Sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more”? Only a positive in my book. Notable cover versions include Velvet Revolver’s and Machine Head’s. A deep album cut by Nirvana that deserves more attention.