Toe Rag Studios in London, England got its start in the early 1990’s and quickly made its name as the go to source for bands / musicians looking to use analog equipment. One of the founders was Liam Watson, a one time member of the ever revolving cast of characters supporting Daniel Treacy in the Television Personalities. Though I have always loved the mid 90’s singles by the TVP’s that were recorded there (gathered on the Fashion Conscious compilation), there was a definite uptick in notoriety with the release of The White Stripes album Elephant which was recorded at Toe Rag / produced by Jack White. Though they are worlds apart musically, that album shared the same qualities as the TVP’s singles recorded at Toe Rag – sparse sounding, instruments with clear separation – allowing the no frills approach to inundate the listener with the feeling that the instruments were in the same room with you while the record played.
Part 14 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
It seems strange but in 1995 David Bowie wasn’t really considered all that cool anymore. Sure, his 70’s (and for the truly hip, even his late 60’s singles) records would always have new fans and admirers – people who would hear 1 classic record and instantly have to buy them all. It was generally accepted that everything up through Scary Monsters ranged from good to masterpiece while he quickly dropped off as he made a bid for the mainstream with 1983’s Let’s Dance (compare Bowie’s version of China Girl to Iggy Pop’s from 1977. You’ll see what I mean). After a few middling records followed by a stint as “just one of the guys” in the band Tin Machine, Bowie seemed to be making strides towards getting his 70’s mojo back. 1993’s Black Tie White Noise was a nice start in this direction and 1995’s Outside took it a step further. Compounding all of this, Nirvana’s cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” from Bowie’s 1970 album was constantly on the radio in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain‘s suicide.
There comes a point in an artist’s career where every album release is accompanied by a the double-edged damning praise statement “it is INSERT ARTISTS NAME best album since….landmark album, usually from about 20 years ago”. There are a few schools of thought when it comes to this:
1. Lazy journalism
2. Truly the artist reached a peak with that landmark album and for some reason has never been able to match that level of artistry since
3. The listener has not gone into the album with an open mind, saddling the artists final work with the listeners preconceived notions of what the album should sound like (usually, but not always tied into #1)
Neil Young seems to be an artist that confounds reviewers. Almost every album since 1989’s Freedom has included some sort of praise saying “wow, this is Neil’s best album since…”. 18 months goes by, Neil puts another album out and the cycle starts all over again. Every reviewer mysteriously comes down with a case of amnesia about the review they had just written a year and a half before. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about: Continue reading
In the mid to late 90’s the internet as a tool for the general public was still in its infancy – AOL, Compuserve, and Juno were the main providers (unfortunately for Juno they are / were neither the great movie nor the great Seattle emo-core band...nope. Just another dial-up service). I loved the feeling of logging on to the internet and using the extremely fast (I jest, I jest) speeds of dial-up. My main intent was always to find rare music and / or imports that I couldn’t find at my beloved Princeton Record Exchange (surprise, surprise). Around this time there was also a darker subtext of…the internet as an evil entity. I will forever make fun of the Sandra Bullock movie The Net for its oft-repeated line “…but I’m Angela Bennet. I AM ANGELA BENNET”. 17 years on, the joke will still bring a smile to my face (though I may be the only one). The internet in those days was somewhat like the wild west – new things popping up all the time, commerce, news, a place for geeks to unite (and as someone who had to drive past the CD NOW HQ fairly often, still makes me smile that you couldn’t read their CD NOW sign from the Pennsylvania Turnpike because of an unfortunate choice of fonts)
Part 12 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
I was very late to the digital music party, I have to admit. When everything transferred to CD from records / cassettes I was still relatively young in my musical life. I loved that I could just hit track forward or play the song immediately when I wanted to (sounds silly, but if you grew up using fast forward or rewind you know what I mean. The latest hipster obsession with cassette tapes just makes me shake my head in disbelief). I loved that feeling of opening up a CD, scanning the artwork, reading the lyrics and popping that disc in. I would go into sensory overload as the sounds overtook my body. It didn’t matter what kind of music – hip-hop, metal, indie, punk – the ritual was always the same. I spent loads and loads of money over the years collecting rare import CD’s, CD’s that had been long out of print, hard to find CD’s, etc….
In the summer of 2011 I had the chance to be involved with Critical Sun Recordings Band Crawl – an event where the proceeds would go towards helping the cause of Music Aid NW. The mission of this organization is a noble one – to support music education in Washington State. Basically there were 8 bands that played 6 different local venues throughout the entire day / evening – each act travelling to the next bar so that each slot was filled with a different act (hence the name band crawl).