Friday, April 28, 2017

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody (Warner Bros, 2017)

The Flaming Lips
Oczy Mlody
Warner Bros

Rating: 8 healthy glaciers out of 10

I've always considered myself a Flaming Lips fan, but if I'm being honest the last album of theirs I spent much time listening to was 2006's "At War With The Mystics," and the last one I truly loved was 2002's "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots."  It's not that their material since then has been bad, it's more like my Flaming Lips tank was full and I didn't need any more of their particular brand of silly weirdness.  Still, I listen to many of their classic records quite often, so I never felt disconnected from the group. 

A few weeks ago I caught the Lips playing a song from this new unpronounceable record they just released on one of the late night shows, and I found my interest piqued again.  It turns out that all of that old Lips material resting in my brain gut had settled a little bit and there was once again room in the tank for me to soak up some new recordings by this merry band of Oklahomans.  While not on the level of their fantastic span from 1993 to 2002, this is a damn good record.  This record is often a little more mellow and electronic than the band was in past, but still quite catchy.  I immediately took to "How??" and "The Castle," but there are no missteps at all.  Maybe after I listen to this one for a while I'll go back and revisit that missing period to see what else sounds good to me now. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Superchunk - Tower 7'' (Messiah Complex, 1991)

Tower EP
Messiah Complex

Rating: 10 defeated robots out of 10

Possibly the most interesting thing about this Superchunk single is that it was only ever released on an Australian label, never on Merge or Matador.  Well, that and every song on it is awesome and classics and awesomely classic.  All of the songs were available elsewhere I believe, but surely this short player would have down well here in the States.  All tracks would definitely later be able to be found on their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)," and since that was the first Superchunk album I ever bought it all starts making sense why I think these songs are so crucial.  If I have to pick a favorite, it's the last track "What Do I," a short blast catchy, distorted punk that has been frequently stuck in my head for over 25 years now. 

Fugazi - Furniture 7'' (Dischord, 2001)

Furniture 7''

Rating: 8.5 loose barrels of grey matter out of 10

This was the next to last thing Fugazi released (coming out just after their last full-length "The Argument"), but is the last record of theirs I needed to complete my collection.  It's somewhat surprising that for a band that was not only a huge part of the DIY punk world but owned their own successful label, they only ever released two seven inches - this one and the classic "Song #1" that got added to the CD version of "Repeater."  Unlike most of their peers, I guess they preferred saving their songs for the full-lengths.  The title track of this seven inch is nice and all, but the two b-side tracks are the real winners - an instrumental number called "Number 5", and a Guy Picotto-led burner called "Hello Morning" that might be one of their best songs of all time, and that's saying something. 

Why? - Waterlines 7'' (Anticon, 2013)

Waterlines 7''

Rating: 6.5 squeaky water bubbles out of 10

Why? walk a very fine line between the interesting and annoying levels of quirky.  For the most part, they stay on the correct side of the line - their music is always enjoyable, and the rapping is just good enough to pass.  Their apex is still 2005's "Elephant Eyelash," but pretty much everything they put out is worth a listen and this is no different.  The title track can also be found on "Mumps, Etc."  and the b-side "The Water You Walk" is the demos collection "Mumps, Etc, Etc.", but it was still worth the buck or two I shelled out for it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chavez - Cockfighters EP (Matador, 2017)

Cockfighters EP

Rating: 8 electronic moons out of 10

It's been twenty years since Chavez released anything new, and then out of the blue (at least to me) they release a three song EP called "Cockfighters" that sounds exactly like Chavez of old.  The release has the same label, same font, same design aesthetic, same heavy, melodic jams.  Is that a good thing, that there has been no growth of their sound?  It certainly works for me, but then again my taste is pretty well entrenched in the nineties and I listened to Chavez's two full lengths "Gone Glimmering" and "Ride The Fader" a LOT all through college.  This was gold to my ears, especially coming from a band I had never considered might reform.  As always, the band sounds big, almost polished, but still with an edge...think the "heavy alternative" type of music Foo Fighters plays, only Chavez is awesome and not roundly mediocre.  

The real question: is there more to come?  Sometime soon, or in twenty more years?  I would be shocked if they even told us...some new music will just show up again in a year or ten, and it will probably be rad, and then I'll be left wondering if there is more music to come yet again... 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grandaddy - Last Place (30th Century, 2017)

Last Place
30th Century

Rating: 8.5 beard breakthroughs out of 10

I suppose it's just the nature of modern connectivity and social media, but it wasn't the least bit surprising that Grandaddy got back together and recorded this new album, "Last Place."  I've followed lead man Jason Lytle on Instagram for years, and you could see it brewing all along...reconnecting with old bandmates, reforming for festivals, spending time in the studios, and now this obvious final product.  It was actually nice to follow along at arm's length, modern day eavesdropping essentially, on an artist you really admire.   

But let's talk about what's important - how does this new album by a reformed Grandaddy actually sound?  Well - exactly as you probably are hoping - exactly like the Grandaddy of old.  If it leaked that they actually recorded "Last Place" right after they finished "Just Like the Fambly Cat" in 2006, no one would question it.  I wouldn't rank this as high as their masterpiece "The Sophtware Slump," but it easily stands toe-to-toe with the rest.  The album kicks off with a great one-two punch, "Way We Won't" and "Brush with the Wild," and never fails to delight from there on out.  There's even a call back to "Sophtware" with the track "Jed the 4th," not only referencing a frequent theme from that record, but even including a snippet of one of the "Jed" songs you can find on "Sophtware." 

My only complaint - they're not playing anywhere near me anytime soon, and I might have to fly my dumb ass out to California just to see them next month.   

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Superchunk - The Breadman 7'' (1991, Matador)

The Breadman 7''

Rating: 10 embroidered shirts out of 10

Another Superchunk gem - the title track is still an exciting one to hear, and the band still plays it occasionally.  You can also find it on the "Tossing Seeds" compilation if you're so inclined.  The real story though is side b, "Cast Iron" - if not my very favorite Chunk song, it's at least top three.  It was also my very first favorite song of theirs, which I'm sure colors my overall ranking at least a little bit.  If "Slack Motherfucker" was that first taste that got me interested in the band, "Cast Iron" was the full shot of heroin that got me totally addicted for life.  This is the seventh physical copy of this song I've owned - this seven inch, LP/CD/cassette of "No Pocky for Kitty" (the full-length it appeared on after this single), and lastly the LP/CD/cassette of the already mentioned "Tossing Seeds" compilation.  I've not got a problem, you've a got a problem for not being as stupid about this band as I am!

Honor Role - Craig Olive 7'' (Homestead, 1988)

Honor Role
Craig Olive 7''

Rating: 6.5 viking settlers out of 10

It should be noted that neither song on this Honor Role record is named "Craig Olive" - yeah, it's one of those seven inches.  I'm not even sure what I mean by that...I've just never liked it when a seven inch has a "name."  Pet peeves don't always have to make sense.  I've always thought of Honor Role as a "spazzy proto-math rock" meets "eighties college rock" band, but only the b-side "Lives Of The Saints No. 135 (Naked Wife)" mostly fits that billing; side a, "Twist!," is kinda boring and uneventful and not a cover of the famous song by the same name.  Both songs can also be found on the compilation that Merge put out in the nineties that was inventively titled "Album."

Cause Co-Motion - I Lie Awake 7'' (Slumberland, 2008)

Cause Co-Motion
I Lie Awake 7''

Rating: 6 future laboratories out of 10

Cause Co-Motion were an underrated jangle pop band from a few years ago that never released a proper album, but had a shit ton of singles (and eventually, a compilation of these singles that would act as a full length).  They had a bunch of really catchy songs but never seemed to make a splash.  This isn't their strongest single, but it's decent - the title track is the strongest of the three short offerings, but all are worth a listen.  I always assumed these guys were from the Midwest, probably getting them confused with the Midwest Beat who have a similar sound, but they were actually from Brooklyn.  Useless information!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Neil Halstead - You Are the Glue 7'' (Brushfire, 2012)

Neil Halstead
You Are the Glue 7''

Rating: 6.5 qwerty keyboards out of 10

This seven inch is strangely upbeat for Neil Halstead.  Released around the same time as his great solo record "Palindrome Hunches," I assume these two songs ("You Are the Glue" / "Tennis for Dennis") were recorded around the same time and just didn't fit the overall vibe of that album.  Mind you this is me completely guessing out of my ass, I could be totally wrong.  They're not bad songs, I'll probably dig them more with some additional listens, but it just isn't what I was expecting from the typically somber and morose Halstead. 

Teenage Fanclub - Long Shot 7'' (Creation, 1998)

Teenage Fanclub
Long Shot 7''

Rating: 5 corner kicks out of 10

This seven inch is for the most die hard of Teenage Fanclub fans only, and even then it would only be for completest reasons.  I ran across it in the bargain bin so no real gain or loss for me to be honest.  The title track is an instrumental the band recorded for the 1998 World Cup, I presume to be used in commercials and promos and whatnot.  It's a rather uneventful but upbeat number, and includes a brief portion of the Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again" right in the middle of it for unknown reasons.  The b-side is a twelve minute version of this same song called "Loops and Stings," which is designed solely for TV production use.  The fact that they released this at all is pretty funny to me, and probably a sign of just how "football" crazy they are across the pond.

Superchunk - Mower 7'' (Merge, 1992)

Mower 7''

Rating: 9 sharpened blades out of 10

Came across a bunch of Superchunk singles that I was missing from my collection - this is the first of that group.  Obviously, this is a Chunk classic - "Mower" is from what is widely considered one of their best records "On the Mouth," a song that is still often featured in their live sets.  Interestingly, the b-side "On the Mouth" isn't actually on the record "On the Mouth," but for my money it's one of their very best songs - probably the very best non-album track IMO.  It's entirely possible I love this band even more now in my old age than when I first heard them in high school after buying their first singles comp "Tossing Seeds" on a whim.