Sean Lennon – Parachute

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.

2006 saw the release of Sean Lennon’s 2nd album, Friendly Fire – a full 8 years after his debut, Into the Sun.  On this sophomore release the genre exercises were gone. Instead, listeners were treated to a song cycle detailing his relationship with Bijou Phillips and the loss of his friendship with Max LeRoy (who was killed in a motorcycle accident before they could reconcile). It took a long, long time for this album to connect with me – it seemed redundant to me for Sean Lennon to put out a John Lennon type album. Silly me. Every song is stunning, but the 3rd track Parachute is probably my favorite. Pain spills from Lennon’s voice, the piano and instrumentation swells around him, all leading to a heartbreaking chorus. It is simply perfection. “Cause if I have to die tonight / I’d rather be with you / Cut the parachute before you die / Baby don’t you cry / You had to bring me down / We had some fun before we hit the ground”.

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The Cure – This Morning

The Cure were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. It’s been a while since they’ve released an album – 11 years, to be exact. The band’s output from 1996 on has been sporadic and hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot for me (sometimes a matter of how the songs are sequenced, truthfully). 2004’s self titled album had multiple track listings for different regions, adding & deleting songs randomly. This Morning was a vinyl only song that was also used as a b-side to the single The End Of The World. It is a shame that it was relegated to an afterthought – it is my favorite song by The Cure of the last 25 years. Simon Gallup’s bass recalls the “original trilogy” era of 17 Seconds, Faith, and Pornography from 1980 to 1982. Robert Smith’s vocals on this a song are a reminder of why he is such an iconic figure in music – regrets, melancholy thoughts and sadness co-exist here. There is a spoken word interlude, Robert barely audible whispering his laments: “I couldn’t understand too much of what was being said, in a matter of minutes, peacefully so slow, I had to think to breath, my heart burst, we moved in silence really slowly away from the world, as we drove a strange silence, that moment, nothing will ever be the same, nothing will ever be the same, nothing”. The bass plods along, a soundtrack to broken hearts, the synths swell, the band is in sync – this is perfection. The chorus? “Nothing left to feel / Nothing more to do” An encapsulation of the darker side of The Cure.

Robin Gibb – Saved by the Bell

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.

Think of the Bee Gees in 2019 and the 1st thing that comes to mind for most people is their late 70’s / early 80’s disco hits. To focus on that era is to ignore a fascinating, artistically resonant era from a decade earlier. In 1969 the 1st incarnation of the Bee Gees had split – after several records in Australia, and 4 increasingly complex, masterful psychedelic albums released worldwide. Robin was – briefly – a solo artist. So productive were these sessions, that 2 albums worth of songs were recorded (all eventually released on Saved by the Bell: The Collected Works of Robin Gibb 1968-1970). I “discovered” the earlier Bee Gees records through my bookworm nature of consuming anything and everything relating to the 60’s scene. I do love those albums – but Robin’s solo work is another level. Robin’s Reign and Sing Slowly Sisters were both recorded in 1970, though the latter was not officially released until 2015 (I’d like to thank New Hope, PA for providing me with so many bootlegs of obscurities 20 years ago). The songs feel beamed in from another planet – hell, another universe. World weary at 19, Robin sings with a sense of melancholy that feels lived in. Saved by the Bell was the hit single from Robin’s Reign, preceding the album’s release by several months. The song is deceptively simple, Robin singing out his heart over orchestra & piano (courtesy of Maurice Gibb). A heartbreaking tale of a broken heart, it is an essential listen.

Madonna – Frozen

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’ve had this song on my mind over the last week or so – the Puget Sound region has experienced Winter conditions that are very unusual for the region – snow, ice, and well…more snow and ice. It certainly has led to many nights by the fire trying to warm up. Frozen was released as a single in February, 1998 by Madonna – hard to believe, but this single is old enough to drink. It represented a change in direction for Madonna – spiritual yearning, electronica beats, and an overall more mature presentation to the world (one that sadly would not last). The song was lifted from the Ray of Light album with a peak chart position of #2 in the US and #1 in the UK. It also was accused of plagiarism in Belgium, with similarities noted to Ma vie fout le camp by Salvatore Acquaviva – in fact, sales of the single were banned for an eight year period in Belgium, as the case went through the courts (no plagiarism was found). I have fond memories of playing this single (and to a lesser extent, it’s parent album) and noting the strange new direction Madonna’s muse had taken her. Vocally it is vulnerable while lyrically conveying strength as the orchestrations swell at the emotional apex. Perfection.

Tom Petty – To Find a Friend

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.

A year ago I was in disbelief as the news about Tom Petty made the rounds. Seemingly invincible, he was on his deathbed – in fact, his death was prematurely announced and quickly retracted. The inevitable was upon us – a musical icon taken much too soon. In the aftermath of his departure I indulged in the works of Tom Petty like I never had before. His biography was enlightening and had me obsessively listening to his 1994 solo album, Wildflowers. The entire Rick Rubin produced album is incredible, but To Find a Friend spoke to me in a way that it never had before. Now I had the back story of Tom’s personal life changing rapidly around the time it was cut. The opening lines are autobiographical somewhat. “In the middle of his life / He left his wife / And ran off to be bad / Boy, it was sad”. It is about as direct as can be. Musically, this a breezy, Beatles by way of the American South tune. It is perfection. It is my absolute favorite Tom Petty song. A year gone today. “And the days went by like paper in the wind / Everything changed, then changed again / It’s hard to find a friend”.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

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 took me some time to appreciate the genius of Marvin Gaye. Of course, like most people growing up in the 80’s, I had been inundated with various Marvin Gaye duets and songs on the oldies stations my parents would play. It was only after listening to a cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine by The Slits in my late teens that I decided to seek out the originals. And what a treat that was. What’s Going On marked the dawn of the 70’s for Marvin Gaye. In fact, the song was deemed too political and was almost not released. Fortunately, Marvin stuck to his guns and refused to record or release anything else unless this song was released as a single. January 20, 1971 saw the official release of the song – it had been recorded 6 months earlier. The song is directly inspired by – and addresses – police brutality as witnessed by Obie Benson of the Four Tops. Vocally, it is one of the best performances of Gaye’s career. His voice pulls off the trick of sounding relaxed, emotional, and pained – sometimes within the same sentence. Musically, this is classic soul – infectious beats and a strong, strong melody. Lyrically, it is timeless – and modern. Unfortunately so. “Don’t punish me with brutality / Talk to me / So you can see / What’s going on”. On the full album, the song segues into What’s Happening Brother – the songs tied together lyrically with the beat acting as a segue between the tunes. Embedded below is a live performance of both masterful songs.

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.