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.

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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.

José González – Stay Alive

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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.

In late 2013 I saw two very different films in the theaters – The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller. Wolf was an assault on the senses – every form of depravity in all its glory (and pitfalls) in my face for 2 hours plus. I loved every second (as did the critics). Walter Mitty was the follow-up film for me, and I also loved every second for very different reasons. Critics seemed divided, but I think is because there isn’t any sarcasm to be found. It’s just a feel good movie that leaves you feeling inspired at the end. Wolf doesn’t make my top 10 films of all time, while Mitty is entrenched in the 2nd spot (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou will never budge from #1). Swedish artist José González was tasked with composing music for the film – star Ben Stiller had been a fan of his music and specifically requested his input. Stay Alive was the single from the soundtrack and was a collaboration between González, Ryan Adams, and Teddy Shapiro. I have had it on constant repeat ever since it was released. Plaintive vocals, lyrics that convey doubt & hopefulness – it is imbued with a sense of the Walter Mitty character that Ben Stiller brought to life so wonderfully. The orchestration is lush while the music is a perfectly constructed indie pop song. Lyrically, it is simply perfect. “Sometimes there’s things a man cannot know / Gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow”…We’ll do whatever just to stay alive / Well the way I feel is the way I write / It isn’t like the thoughts of the man who lies / There is a truth and it’s on our side”.

Evan Dando – All My Life

evandando

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.

By the late 90’s The Lemonheads had mostly disappeared from the music world. 1996’s Car Button Cloth hinted at Evan Dando’s despair and drug fueled adventures, serving as a (temporary) epitaph and harbinger of things yet to pass. In 2002 a live album and EP was released under Evan Dando’s own name followed by 2003’s full studio album Baby I’m Bored. Years lost to partying parlayed into an engaging album full of self-reflection. Curiously, the song that I love the most was written by Ben Lee – though written from Dando’s perspective. All My Life deserves a place in the Great American Songbook. The weight of living a wild life is clear in every word sung by Dando – reminding more than a bit of the sole album by Dennis Wilson. Folk pop with a strong chorus, lyrically it is heartbreaking – though like the best songs it lets some sunshine in. You get the sense of sadness as he thinks about his days of drinking, drugging, and womanizing but also know that it is a thing of the past. “And I’m so impatient / For a new sensation / All my life / I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”.

U2 – Staring At The Sun

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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.

In the mid to late 90’s U2 were restless and relentless in their musical experimentation – beginning with 1991’s Achtung Baby and ending with 1997’s Pop (including 1995’s Passengers project w/ Brian Eno). For me personally, that is the 2nd Golden Age of U2 (the 1st period is their post punk masterpieces encompassing their 1st 3 albums). Pop was not universally embraced and was even later bashed by the band as feeling forced. I can see that on some songs, but Staring At The Sun doesn’t fit within that narrative. The 2nd single lifted from the album, it hit #3 in the UK and #26 in the US. Slightly less electronica based than other songs from the record, it has that classic U2 sound w/ sonic embellishments. Lyrically, it is one of my favorite U2 songs. Weren’t we all told not to stare at the sun when we were kids? Do we always listen to what we are told? Images of summer passing, pushing yourself to try something new, dealing with fears. The one lyric that really makes an impression on me is during the musical interlude. Adam Clayton’s bass sounds positively menacing (looped, sampled, and played live) while Bono sings “God is good but will HE listen”. As an artist who has continually put himself on the line by proclaiming his faith, those words pack a punch. A sometimes overlooked anthem in the U2 canon, Staring At the Sun is a song I continually return to. Perfection.

The Lemonheads – The Outdoor Type

outdoor type cover

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.

Ah, the great outdoors. In Washington State I have no lack of friends who rough it – camping in tents under the stars in the great outdoors. And there is a certain beauty in that and something that I admire. But I’ll be honest – 9 times out of 10  it just isn’t my thing. I like the comfort of a bed at night. And I might also like comfy pajamas, hot cocoa, and checking Facebook by the glow of my phone. It is a battle to be sure. A cabin isn’t so bad though. Back in the mid 90’s Evan Dando’s The Lemonheads brought these exact conundrums to a wider audience. The Outdoor Type was a single released from the 1996 album Car Button Cloth. An album that still confounds me to this day, it is made up of dark masterpieces and slight alternative rock throwaways in equal measure. Little talked about fact – The Outdoor Type was written by Tom Morgan and 1st recorded by his band Smudge in 1994. So The Lemonheads version is a cover. Evan Dando imbues the song with a sense of being lived in, and is equal parts funny & honest. In some ways, the sound points towards his 2003 solo album Baby I’m Bored – melodic, wistful, and just a tad country. For me, this is the quintessential song by The Lemonheads. I’ve played it more times than I know in the last 20 years, and I’d imagine the next 20 years hold more of the same in store. I don’t usually post the entire lyrics from a song, but this one still makes me smile and demands it.

Always had a roof above me
Always paid the rent
I never set foot inside a tent
Couldn’t build a fire to save my life
I lied about being the outdoor type
I’ve never slept out underneath the stars
Closest that I came to that was one time my car,
Broke down for an hour
In the suburbs, at night
I lied about being the outdoor typeToo scared to let you know
I knew what you were looking for
Lied until I’d fit the bill
God bless the great indoors
I lied about being, the outdoor type
I’ve never owned a sleeping bag, let alone a mountain bike

I can’t go away with you on a rocking climbing weekend
What if something’s on TV and it’s never shown again
Just as well I’m not invited
I’m afraid of heights
I lied about being the outdoor type

Never learned to swim
Can’t grow a beard or even fight
I lied about being, the outdoor type

Low – Especially Me

Especially Me

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.

You don’t often expect to find your favorite song by a band 9 albums into their career, but that’s just what happened with me and the band Low. Low had made quite a name for themselves playing a type of music dubbed slowcore – music marked by slow tempos and minimalist arrangements. By 2011 the band had broadened their horizons a bit, incorporating electronics and a harder edge to some of their songs. That year’s C’mon was favorably reviewed by just about every publication and all was well. Especially Me was the 2nd single lifted from the album and has been on repeat for me over the last 5 years. Impassioned vocals by Mimi Park punctuate the song as orchestration swells behind her. What really gets to me though is all of those elements in tandem with the lyrical content. Doubt, hope, and hopelessness coexist here. The feeling of thinking someone feels the same as you, but leaving that sliver of doubt in your mind. It never fails to give me chills. “Cause if we knew where we belong / There’d be no doubt where we’re from / But as it stands, we don’t have a clue / Especially me and probably you”.