Archive for April, 2008

30
Apr
08

Agnostic Front “Victim In Pain”

By the time this record came out in 1984 I had rejected hardcore completely, as well as most types of current music other than what I was playing myself. I was aware of this band, but never gave them a chance, because by this time I thought it was all over, and hardcore punk was pretty much music for frat houses and sweaty weightlifter guys. So I listened to this record, now,  expecting to cringe, and I was surprised at how much I like it. On a technical level, it strikes me as a pretty great example of this type of music from this time period. It’s lean, energetic, and, of course, angry, but also really pleasing musically, with compelling songs and playing. I mean you hear the inspiration, and a certain joy of making music. They do a lot of that usual hardcore thing, extremely fast tempo that then shifts into a slower, more human scale, compelling tempo. It’s like the hardcore song “hook.” It might be overused, but it works extremely well. Really, a lot of this record reminds me of punk rock when I really liked it, early Black Flag, and Minor Threat, and bands from Ohio that I really liked. I’d say it was nostalgia, though I didn’t think I was nostalgic about hardcore. But listening to this kind of transports me to a bar in the Cleveland Flats, it’s a sweaty summer night, and I’m drinking a bottle of Night Train, and generally things feel pretty edgy but good.

There’s a nice black and white live show photo on the inside of the album cover (which opens, and contains the lyrics). They’re young, have shaved heads, and lots of tattoos, but look like nice guys. I looked them up on the internet, and they’re still together, and still playing, like a lot of bands are, which always surprises me, because I can’t even imagine still being in a band that I was in that many years ago. Or maybe I can. Their website and MySpace page has pictures of them, older of course, more tattoos, and it looks like they’ve gone through a lot of band members over the years, but they’re still doing what they believe in, which is inspiring enough. The art on these sites makes it look like it’s an ad for a video game with lots of weaponry and blood imagery, but this might be mostly due to promoting their newest record, called “Warriors.” But, I mean, when your band is together for over 25 years, imagine the spectrum of fans you must have. You could literally have three generations attending an all-ages show!

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18
Apr
08

Aerosmith “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits”

It’s 1980 and time to be old. This record looks like they were feeling old, or else being pressured to pay their coke bill. There are enough good songs from their 2nd and 3rd album to make a single greatest hits record, sure, but the problem is trying to come up with songs from the rest of them. Though, actually, “Dream On,” which starts this collection, sounds better to me now than it ever did. “Last Child,” from Rocks, which I’ve never heard before, sounds okay. “Back In The Saddle,” however, is something I’m afraid I HAVE heard before but had stored in some dark recess of my mind where things like images of repair guys’ butt cracks and squashed animals, and backed up public toilet smells, and TV shows from my childhood go, hopefully never to be dredged up.

Even as late as the late 1970s, I guess popular musicians weren’t able to escape the Lennon/McCartney cover curse, as in EVERYONE had to do one, and they are usually the most unlistenable songs on the record. “Come Together” isn’t horrible, it’s pretty much exactly like The Beatles version but about ten percent less fresh. That they included “Kings and Queens” on this record completely baffles me, but hey, a few days ago I’d NEVER heard it, and now I’ve listened to it several times, so I guess the jokes on me! “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” could pretty much mark the beginning of the Eighties, lamest decade of all time, or the End of Rock’n’roll, or the end of Aerosmith, or the end of all humanity, or it could just be a series of bad decisions (writing it, learning it, playing it, recording it, putting it on a record, putting it on THIS record).

The best two songs, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” happen to be from Aerosmith’s best record, Toys in the Attic. This is why I love the internet; listening to “Walk This Way” compelled me to search for “cowbells in music” and I pretty much spent a couple of hours then reading crazy people writing about how great the cowbell is, including in this song. Of course, I agree– and I’ve always thought that little cowbell bit was what made a good song a great song. Boy, they really knew how to not overdo it, on this song, as excessive as it is in many ways.

You always have to wonder what it would be like to do some kind of art, like say playing rock music, and suddenly find yourself a commodity. To have some completely soulless money counters putting out a “greatest hits” of your work. I mean, I can’t imagine how weird it must feel! This record kind of documents, for me, the problem of the whole endeavor. Listen to side one, then side two—it’s an amazing illustration of what LEAN sounds like, and what BLOATED sounds like, side by side.

15
Apr
08

Aerosmith “Draw The Line”

I guess this is Aerosmith’s 5th album, and when it came out in 1977 I had already decided that they sucked– I don’t remember why exactly, because I never DIDN’T like the two earlier records I had– though I never liked “Dream On” from their first record. I remember when “Rocks” came out, I just hated it– I don’t remember why– just because of the cover with the diamonds. Or did I actually hear it? Anyway, I don’t recall ever hearing any of this record, or ever being much aware of its existence. I think when I got into punk rock I just really cut a lot of stuff out of my world.

It starts out almost sounding like the Aerosmith I remember and liked so much. The second song, “I Wanna Know Why” is pretty good– it actually sounds a lot like something from the first solo David Johansen record from almost the same time. It goes on for too long, though, and has too many elements– and the record just goes downhill from there. Though the Joe Perry song is kind of weird; it really reminds me of that Klark Kent (Steward Copeland) song, “Don’t Care” which came out about the same time.

The first song on side two, “Kings and Queens” just totally reminds me of everything that went wrong with rock music in the 1970s and why we (punk rockers) rejected all of it. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry will be the first ones to tell you that they did too many drugs, but I don’t want to presume that drugs are the reason this sounds so bad. Maybe it was too much touring, or too much eating at Taco Bell. At any rate, most of this record is like an aural representation of constipation.

The cover, a pathetic caricature of the band by Al Hirschfeld is just really… sad. It pretty much says “end of the line.” They probably should have called this record “End Of The Line,” or R.I.P. But I love Aerosmith! I’m glad they didn’t OD and die, and I’m even glad they kept playing and recording. I just never want to see or hear this record again.

05
Apr
08

AC/DC “For Those About To Rock We Salute You”

Somehow I got this far in life without ever dropping a needle on an AC/DC record. I mean, I’ve dropped other things on them… no, I’m just kidding. In fact, I had no idea they were from Australia– I think I thought they were from Scotland or something. I want to officially apologize to the band, and to the residents of both countries. All I really knew about AC/DC is that there was a screechy singer who died, and a guy who played a Gibson SG and wore shorts all the time.

I’m finding some of this record way too hi-octane in a really annoying way, and I can’t listen to it– but other songs, the less noisy ones have a nice quality, a little space, maybe a good sound. I guess I’m liking songs that remind me more of good Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, essentially the more blues oriented side of heavy metal. Whenever things get too much sounding like Van Halen I have to take it off.

I guess this record came out (1981) after that singer died and was replaced by an even screechier guy. In that I pretty much never have listened to music with a screechy singer, it’s kind of fascinating, like having a really unlikely dinner guest over at your place. I’m pretty much enjoying it, I have to admit. I don’t have the energy to try to make out many of the lyrics, but once in a while I hear a line I really like, and I’m reminded of the compelling nature of the A,B,A,B rhyme scheme. Young kids should remember not to get away from that– it’s cool to rhyme, and not just for rappers. One songs starts out with “loose lips/sink ships,” and you don’t think for a minute they’re talking about national security. I think that line directly inspired a Spinal Tap song– or maybe it IS in a Spinal Tap song.

I have to say, I do like the overall sound and production of this record. There’s nothing too fancy, and the drums are just really solid sounding, and overall, when they stay away from the dumb choruses and double leads, the whole thing is tolerable, and about one third of it is pleasurable. And for rock music, that’s pretty good!

01
Apr
08

ABC “How to be a… Zillionaire!”

This is unquestionably and without a doubt the greatest album of all time. And the date I’m listening to this is… April 1! I have started my next project, reviewing my roommate’s records, which I have alphabetized, and so starting with ABC makes a lot of sense. I’ve never heard of ABC– most likely because this is the kind of English crap we’d get in the Spindizzy store where I worked when this came out (1985) (okay, we closed in 1983– but I bet their earlier records or singles came into the store) that Keith would put on for about 25 seconds before removing and saying “Another one of THOSE bands.”

The album cover is actually MANY times worse than the music– it’s crappy even WAY beyond 80’s standards of ugliness. It looks like the kind of record they’d be giving away at the grocery store with a 72 serving container of new Peach Tang. There’s really no excuse for it. The sleeve contains unreadable lyrics– this was around when multiple “fonts” became available, so people would use ALL OF THEM.

The nice thing, though, is the band picture on the other side of the sleeve, with black and white photos of the band which oddly made me think of the Dandy Warhols. Which made me think, that’s what the Dandy Warhols are, a New Romantic revival band. “Duh,” I know– sorry, I mean it’s amazing I even know who the Dandy Warhols are, so un-hip am I–  and it’s only because of that movie “DIG”– which could also be called, “The 60’s Vs. The 80’s.” Guess who the winner is.

Amway, the most interesting thing about this record, musically, is that someone is playing something called an “Emulator II” as well as “Fairlight C.M.I.” I have no idea what any of that means (unless it means bad music) but either one of those would make a good name for a movie, or maybe a television series.




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