Pure Hell – These Boots Are Made For Walking b/w No Rules

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.

Pure Hell’s tagline is, of course, being one of the 1st all black punk bands – ever. Death (all black protopunk band out of Detroit) may have recorded first, but Pure Hell (to my ears) sound closer to the late 70’s punk music that changed the world. Hailing from my hometown of Philadelphia, PA, Pure Hell came together in ’74 and ended up being managed by Curtis Knight – famous for his association with Jimi Hendrix in the mid 60’s. A move to New York and a successful tour of England weren’t enough to make Pure Hell a household name. The band fell apart and a full length album sat in the vaults for over 20 years. The only official release during the bands original run was a 7″ – a Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood cover and an original b side. These Boots Are Made For Walking remains true to the punk tradition of taking a familiar tune and imbuing it with punk attitude and speeding up the tempo quite a bit. Singer Kenny Gordon offers up a perfect mix of attitude and chops.  No Rules comes off like The Stooges filtered through the Sex Pistols. In other words, perfect. It captures the essence of the era “no rules / no rules / for you and me!”. These tracks along with the album cut in the late 70’s are available on the Noise Addiction compilation. Absolutely recommended.

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Bruce Springsteen – Dream Baby Dream

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 would seem an unlikely cover – Bruce Springsteen, considered not cool for as long as I remember (though that is changing) – giving his own interpretation of an old electro punk classic by the band Suicide who came up on the late 70’s and are about as uncompromising as they come – harsh, minimal beats by Martin Rev and beat poetry sung in a somewhat appealing croon by Alan Vega. But Bruce’s roots go deep with dissonant music and the two would strike up an acquaintance that was founded on mutual respect. In the mid 00’s Bruce & the E Street Band started covering Dream Baby Dream  – a song that perfectly balances hope & sadness, traits right at home on a Bruce Springsteen record. The Suicide version veered towards the sadness and the Springsteen version adds a layer of hope. In fact – some Springsteen fans may not realize it is a cover. Before he passed away, Alan Vegas said this of Springsteen’s cover “A lot of bands have done my stuff, Suicide stuff, and they basically try and copy and do it the way that you do it. Thank God – finally somebody did their version of it. He did it his way, and such a great way, that I’m going to have to sing it that way, or not sing it at all any more.” The song was released on a 10″ single in 2008 and later was re-cut for the High Hopes album in 2014. The 2014 version features Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on guitar which brings the punk roots of the song full circle. A perfect cover.

Rowland S. Howard – Life’s What You Make It

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.

Late 2009 saw the release of Pop Crimes the 2nd solo album by Rowland S. Howard. Famous for his stints in The Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls, and Crime & the City Solution – he was sometimes overshadowed by the antics of his band members. Make no mistake about it – Rowland was also a genius. The album arrived in October of 2009 and he was dead by December. Sadly, it was also his most cohesive artistic statement. Recording sessions were quick – he was given a limited time to live based on the condition of his liver and with a transplant unlikely, it became a statement of intent. Every song pulses and sways with abandon. Much like Joey Ramone’s last statement to the world it was clear that Rowland wanted to live. Life’s What You Make It  is the 3rd track on the album and a cover of the song written and originally performed by Talk Talk. The original showed Talk Talk edging away from their synth pop work – here, Rowland S. Howard & company add in some trademark guitar squall and lock into a motorik groove. Having Mick Harvey on drums only adds to the allure – a mini reunion of The Birthday Party alumni. The words ring true and lend the atmosphere a vibe of both euphoria & sadness. “Baby, life’s what you make it / Celebrate it / Anticipate it / Yesterday’s faded / Nothing can change it / Life’s what you make it”. RIP Rowland. 12-30-09.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

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 opening riffs of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid single pointed the way towards modern heavy metal. Released in August 1970, the song was a step forward from the band’s debut album released just 6 months earlier. All of the elements that made Black Sabbath great came together for this song – memorable doom laden riffs, pounding drum & bass, and Ozzy’s detached & demonic vocals. If Ozzy sounds like he is reading the lyrics as he is singing them that’s because he is. The song was written as an afterthought for their 2nd album (also named Paranoid) and came together in under an hour according to all band members. The song was a top 10 hit in the UK and remains one of Black Sabbath’s signature tunes. Curiously, the song never mentions the word paranoid in its lyrics – instead, the lyrics deal with depression in a poetic fashion. Worlds away from the Satanic imagery the band was / is known for. I’ve always thought the band’s lyrics were deeper than their reputation in some circles and this song is proof. “People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time / All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy / Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify”. Perfection.

Arthur Lee – Everybody’s Gotta Live

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.

Bring up the name Arthur Lee and hipsters in the know will wax poetic about the legendary 3rd album by Love, Forever Changes. A drug fueled trip the dark side of the summer of love (1967), it justifiably is always listed on greatest albums of all time lists. A culmination of Arthur Lee’s folk, jazz, & rock n roll fusions, this spells the end of the original Love band. It also marks the point where most people say “After that, Arthur just lost it, man!”. I’m here to tell you that is not true – not even close. The original band split and Arthur put together a new version of Love. Streamlined, it was a different band in tone and feel. Arthur’s new songs alienated his old audience, but he was following his muse. 1972’s Vindicator was released as a solo record instead of a Love record – kind of a mystery to me since the backing players changed steadily in the late 60’s and 70’s anyway. Everybody’s Gotta Live was the single, and what a single it was. A life affirming anthem, it blurred the lines between soul & singer songwriter poetry. Arthur’s always had a way of delivering lines that hit you right in the heart, and this one is no different. “Everybody’s gotta live / And everybody’s gonna die…I had a dream the other night, baby / I dreamt that I was alone / But when I woke up I took a look around myself / And I was surrounded by fifty million strong”. Note that the song was originally released in 1972, then remade for Love’s 1974 album Reel to Real. The solo version is superior. When I saw Arthur Lee & Love (Baby Lemonade was Arthur’s backing band after his release from prison) in 2002 in Seattle they played the song as a medley with John Lennon’s Instant Karma. At that time I was one of those aforementioned hipsters – not really aware of Arthur’s latter-day material. It gave me chills and changed my life. He passed away just a few years later and I’m left revisiting the magic on vinyl, video, and through words. Everybody’s gotta live…

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.

Nirvana – Negative Creep

negativecreep

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.