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.


Ella Atlas – The Road To Now

Ella Atlas features Stephen Masucci on guitars, bass, and keyboards, and Tarrah Maria on vocals, guitars, and keyboards. Stephen’s name might be a bit familiar to those who follow the indie scene – as a member of The Lost Patrol and The Lovely Tangibles, he has made his mark on the scene with his Twin Peaks worthy musical styles. Tarrah co-wrote some of my favorite songs by The Lovely Tangibles, so I knew this had the potential to be a match made in heaven. The duo have influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Ella Fitzgerald and have a dynamic that is uniquely their own. The Road To Now is their debut album, arriving just a month or so after their 1st single. The band more than delivers on their promise – this is a striking debut album that will reward listeners after repeated spins.

When The Gods Are Fading is the 1st single from the band and fittingly, it opens the album. A slow fade in to an ethereal lament of love & loss. A dreamscape that sets the tone for the entire record. I love these lines “When the war is done / Paradise isn’t safe / Will you believe now?”. Waking Up does the slow fade in trick again with the song announcing its arrival with a glorious wave of white noise, surf guitar, and impassioned vocals. A tone poem dedicated to uncertainty, this is one of my favorite songs on the album. “I used to hear the trumpets / You were right / Nothing’s ever certain”. Horses On The Run 1st appeared on an album by The Lovely Intangibles and was a co-write with Tarrah Maria. Here, Tarrah sings her heart out performing the tune. Again, this is a standout track – an instantly memorable moment on the album. Calm gives way to the storm – an explosive chorus that is begging to be played on the radio. Can’t Go Back is a sad lament to the end of a relationship, the music & words expertly evoking a sense of loss. Shades of Cocteau Twins on this song. Skin And Bones closes the record on a strong note – in some ways, it encapsulates all the band’s strengths. Emotive vocals, strong lyrical content, and music inspired by – but not tied to – the sounds of shoegazing. “If you’re feeling like you’re haunted / Come and dance with your ghost”

You can follow the band on Facebook and buy the album on Bandcamp. It is a debut worth seeking out – enchanting, unique, original. You’ll hear shades of Stephen Masucci’s earlier work with The Lost Patrol and The Lovely Intangibles but it feels like this partnership with Tarrah Maria has brought something different to the mix (not better – different, in my best Eddie and the Cruisers impersonation). Seek out Ella Atlas – follow them, support them. You won’t regret it.

Verdict: promising debut

For Fans of: Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Luna, Slowdive, Lush, Ivy


  1. When The Gods Are Fading
  2. Red Kingdom
  3. Hotel You
  4. Waking Up
  5. Horses On The Run
  6. Breaking Ice
  7. Something To Be Desired
  8. Blindful & Bliss
  9. Can’t Go Back
  10. Leave Me In Blue
  11. Skin And Bones

Nutopians – Rewind

Ian and Phil Jackson – the father / son duo known as Nutopians – return with their 2nd full length album, RewindThe album was preceded by two EP’s that gave us a taste of what was to come – post punk tunes that’ll stay with you long after the album is over. The new album isn’t so much a new direction – it is the band finding their strengths and pushing themselves towards greatness. The guitar lines are crisp, the bass has me thinking of Pornography era Cure in places, and the singing is more confident. Post punk revival? It never went away. Ian also fronts a punk tribute band called 1977 and you can hear that influence throughout the tracks as well. A bit U2, a bit Buzzcocks, and a whole lot of The Chameleons and Joy Division. Sounds like heaven, right?

The album starts off with Rewind – a statement of intent. Shimmering guitars, soaring melodies, emotional vocals – it has everything. A Matter of Conscience shares its title with an old song by The Sun and the Moon but it isn’t a cover – instead, it is a showcase for Phil Jackson’s melodic bass playing. These 1st two songs serve as an opening punch – masterful. The Final Walk taps into darkness in a way that is really unsettling. Opening synths evoke an unholy alliance of Joy Division & The Cure on their saddest days. An instrumental showcase, this is a truly stunning song. Underworld provides a lighter moment – a mid tempo deep album cut. A Life Worth Living was released on an earlier EP but is worth mentioning again – in an alternate universe this would be a hit song. A slow build towards the chorus and then when it hits you – you’ll be singing “a life worth living” right along with the band. It is emotive, transcendent, magnificent. Perfection. The Scarlet Sea closes the album in epic fashion, an emotional release that engages the listener in a visceral way.

Nutopians have avoided the sophomore slump – not that I had any doubts. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. You can buy the album here and follow them on Facebook to keep up with their latest activities.

Verdict: post punk classic

For Fans of: The Chameleons, Joy Division, The Cure, Brian Eno, David Bowie, U2


  1. Rewind
  2. A Matter of Conscience
  3. For a Moment (They Took My Soul Away)
  4. Claustrophobia
  5. (Is This) Where The Story Ends?
  6. The Final Walk
  7. Fast Forward
  8. Underworld
  9. Delay the Day
  10. A Life Worth Living
  11. The Scarlet Sea

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.

Paul Draper – Spooky Action

A year after reintroducing himself to the music world with the 1st of 2 EP’s, Mansun’s Paul Draper returns with his debut solo full length album – over a decade in the making. EP1 and EP2 from last year showcased Paul’s writing partnerships with Catherine Anne Davies (The Anchoress) and Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame). Older, wiser – packing a punch. The lyrics hinted at sadness & hurt – which makes for great songs, even if the experiences were painful. Not one to dwell on nostalgia, the new songs remained true to the Mansun sound while forging a new way forward. It was exhilarating music to listen to, but it made me wonder – could the long-awaited full length Spooky Action live up to expectations? I’ve lived with the album for a bit now, and the answer is a resounding yes.

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Natalie Merchant – Butterfly

A couple of weeks ago I finally had the opportunity to see Natalie Merchant in concert again at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. It had been about 16 years since I last saw her in Philadelphia on the Motherland tour. All those years ago in Philadelphia – a concert emblazoned in my memory. Natalie had just released her 3rd solo album, her set list was tight, and her vocals were powerful. Even then, she refused to rely heavily on her hit heavy back catalogue with 10,000 Maniacs. Lost in the moment, lost in the music – it was an amazing show. Flash forward 16 years or so and I found myself surrounded by people of all ages anticipating Ms. Merchant’s arrival to the stage. The open air filled with her unique voice, songs, and strings. Fiery and a bit more wise, she played for over 3 hours, again eschewing most of her hits with 10,000 Maniacs in favor of her lustrous solo career. Older, wiser, leaning more heavily on string embellishments – different, yet familiar. Natalie Merchant is like no other.

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Lorde – Melodrama

Many years ago a friend gushed to me about pop star Lorde – telling me that she was the absolute best he’d heard in a bit. Now, most of the aging hipsters in my age range (mid 30’s to mid 40’s) DO seem like pop music – ironically or genuine, i have no idea. I filed his advice into the back of my head and forgot about it, hipster that I am. Now, I i don’t live under a rock – I’ve seen her name pop up over the years and really enjoyed the cover of Royals by Puddles Pity Party (the sad clown you’ve probably seen on YouTube or season 12 of America’s Got Talent). Anyway – my point is, though I new of her and knew she was talented, I’d never sat down and indulged myself in her particular brand of pop prowess. Until now.

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Dog Toffee – The Future Has Been

It is a classic case of “what could have been”. Local Manchester, England band gets some buzz, records an EP, quickly gets signed to a label and the EP never comes out. But what if the EP had pointed to an alternate future? A future not dictated by the whims of record label executives following trends? Dog Toffee fit that scenario perfectly. Led by Gav Rourke & Sean Lyons and backed by a string of drummers (finally solidified w/ long time drummer Phil Nelson), the band tapped into punk, grunge, girl group sounds, and white noise inspired by The Fall. The band would go on to support legends in concert (Dwarves, Misfits, and Dee Dee Ramone to name just a few), headline shows, and record with Seattle legend Jack Endino. But until now, their debut recordings have never been released. 20 years later is as good as time as any.

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