Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You Wanted the Best...

If you were alive in the ‘70’s, KISS was one of the most amazing bands around. Often written off as a kiddie band (partly through their own marketing and creative decisions), KISS actually produced some amazing music that rivals much of the output of their contemporaries.

I discovered KISS in fourth grade (1976). The first album I bought was Alive. I paid all in change at Kmart. Anyway, within the year, I had every release and my walls were plastered with posters and my room was littered with magazines such as Creem and Hit Parader. Sadly, I never had the dolls, but I did have the Color-Forms set. And my dad made me watch Kiss Meets the Phantom on the black and white TV in my room so he could watch the Rockford Files or something (I’m still a bit pissed).

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been watching Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels and I have sort of been thinking about those heady days of yore before my exposure to punk rock and all things out side the main stream. So I figured I would create a quick guide to the early KISS albums. That being said, the last KISS album I purchased was Unmasked, a dubious milestone, to say the least. I will also be ignoring the solo albums. (The only one that really was any good was Ace’s.) So for some insight into the albums that I am familiar with and their later catalog, I have enlisted the opinions of super fan (and good friend) Mike Hogan. RJ will precede my comments, and MH will designate Mike’s.

So without further ado,

4/5 …The classic debut. A really solid album with the exception of "Kissin’ Time" added after the first pressing, and "Love Theme From Kiss." Includes such staples as "Deuce" and "Strutter." My favorite song is probably "Black Diamond."
MH: 5/5... clean-stripped down production and mix, classic songwriting, fave tune: "100,000 Years"

4/5 … I think this album prepared me for my future tastes in weirder music. Everything about the album, from the cover to some of the music was a huge step forward creatively. The song writing wasn’t quite as solid as their debut, but instead of just repeating themselves, they tried some new ideas. Favorite track: "Going Blind."
MH: 4/5 ... minus one for production...mix is too muddy...songwriting is good but not as catchy as the first. Fave Tune: "Strange Ways" (one the best Ace Frehley solos of all time).

5/5 … Probably my all time favorite KISS album. What’s not to like. Heavy, catchy and they looked sharp in those suits. Don’t know if I have a favorite tune, but "C’mon and Love Me" is pretty close.
MH: 5/5 ... Best Kiss album of all time (I'm tired of hearing RNRAN though)... production...mix...songs...cover...title...freakin' classic... Fave Tune: "Rock Bottom" ... pure rawk ...\m/.

RJ: 5/5 … A fan favorite, the album that put the band on the map. The live version of "Rock n’ Roll All Night" was their first real hit and is still on regular rotation on many rock stations. But, the stage banter is some of the best parts of the record. Great version of "Firehouse."
MH: 4/5 ...good for 1975/1976 but I don't think lives up to it's name (and reputation) today after all the fixing we hear about ... Fave Tune(s): "100,000 Years" (..."DO YOU FEEL RI-AIGHT!!!") and "Black Diamond."

RJ: 3/5 … Too much production and silly songs. Throwaways include "Flaming Youth," "Great Expectations," and "Sweet Pain." I’m going to ignore "Beth." Favorite songs include "Detroit Rock City" and "God of Thunder."
MH: 3/5 ... good songs here and there but too much to listen to sonically...could do without "Great Expectations", "Beth", and believe it or not ... I know Cobain loved it, but I always hated "Do You Love Me"... my Fave Tune" Detroit Rock City."

5/5 … A great album. Songs are great, production is great. Can’t say anything bad about it. Next to DTK, it’s my favorite KISS album.
MH: 4/5 ... way better record than Destroyer as a whole. I like the fact that they recorded it all live. Fave Tune(s) "Makin' Love," "Mr.Speed" and one of the most under-rated Kiss tunes "Baby Driver."

3/5 … Another okay record, just slightly better than Destroyer. Ditch "Hooligans" and "Plaster Caster" and "Then She Kissed Me. Favorite songs: "Love Gun" and "I Stole Your Love."
MH: 4/5 ... minus one for including "Then She Kissed Me"... freakin' ridiculous. The whole album pretty much smokes until then end. Great production and mix though... Fave Tune: "Shock Me."

4/5 … Another live album highlighting tracks from the three studio albums released after Alive. I liked this idea of only doing songs since the last batch of releases so as not to double up. I always liked the opening salvo of "Detroit Rock City" and "King of the Nighttime World." Didn’t care too much for the studio tracks on Side Four.
MH: 4/5 ... I understand why they included "Beth" but they still get minus one...for that and "Any Way You Want It"...stupid decision to re-do that track. Fave Tune: "All American Man" and Fave Part: "Ace's Solo."

2/5 … Didn’t really like this album. Probably would like it better now that I have a bit more tolerance for disco, but most of the tracks sucked. But I actually liked the cover of the Rolling Stones "2000 Man." I liked Ace’s dry vocals.
MH: 2/5 ... To me, this album sucks ass ... the only cool thing about this record are Ace's songs. When they re-did "Sure Know Something" for the Unplugged thing I thought they finally did the song justice. I don't like the cover either. Fave Tune: "Hard Times."

RJ: 0/5 … Hated this album. Last KISS album I ever bought. In fact, I bought it, took it to my friend’s house to listen to it and left it there. Later I found out that his little sister was listening to it a lot. I think that sums it up. Even the cover was horrible. "She’s So European"? "Shandi"? "Talk to Me"? Crap, crap, crap.
MH: 2.5/5 ... Better songs than Dyansty. Seems like Anton Fig gave 'em a boost when he took over for Peter, but this album sucks ass. The mix is good but songwriting was lackin' balls. The cover/packaging didn't scream Rock and Roll either...too much compromising to get the record in little kids' hands. Fave Tune: "Naked City"

But, as everyone knows, the story for the four lads (and whomever took over when Ace and Peter left), continues to this day. I don’t care but Mike still listens and he has a couple of ratings for some later albums:

MH: Creatures of the Night (5/5), Lick It Up (5/5), Revenge (4/5), and Ace's Solo (6/5).

Hope that clears things up. I’d like to thank Mike for giving his two cents.

Sadly, I do not have any KISS on my iPod, so we will just have to see what is playing:

1. "A Magazine Called Sunset" by Wilco
2. "Bee Thousand" by Guided By Voices
3. "Neat, Neat, Neat" by the Damned
4. "Louie Louie" by Black Flag
5. "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" by the Birthday Party
6. "Kids on Coffee" by Descendents
7. "Letter Never Sent" by R.E.M.
8. "I Wonder U" by Prince
9. "Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference" by Morrissey
10. "Baby It’s You" by the Beatles

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thought Bubbles

I know I am a tad behind the curve, but I have just starting paying attention to M. Ward. I picked up a copy of his latest, Post-War, at Amoeba a couple of weeks ago and have not been able to stop listening to it. I look forward to exploring his other releases.

If you are a Public Image Ltd. Fan and are still sorely disappointed by This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get, you can download Commerical Zone from Press Random. These are the demos featuring Keith Levene before his falling out with Lydon. These are far superior to the final product.

I ordered Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box. I’m looking forward to it. I have already read complaints about the scope of the selections and it is kind of a strange collection, but it is not so much a definitive gothic collection as much as a mix tape made by a goth fan. That seems to be the only way to explain it. Instead of focusing on a very narrow genre of music, the box explores what goths (what we used to call "death rockers") listened to back in the olden times. As with any collection, there are omissions, but it cannot contain everything and sometimes licensing can be a bitch. However, it does cover a broad swath of music from the obvious (Joy Division and Bauhaus) to the curious (Ministry and Flesh for Lulu) to the dubious (AFI).

I’m enjoying the new Yo La Tengo a bunch. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is a great and fun album. After Summer Sun, I was kind of trying to remember what I liked about the band, then IANAOYAIWBYA came out and I remembered. All is fine with the world. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Other things of note:

I’ve never watched Rockstar: Supernova, or Rockstar: INXS for that matter, and I am proud.

You know things have gotten strange when Perry Farrell and Nuno Bettencourt form a band.

Watch Gene Simmon’s Family Jewels. I have hated Gene Simmons for a couple of decades for being such a pompous ass (even though I worshipped him in my elementary school days). But watching his kids and Shannon Tweed take the piss out of him and seeing that he is helpless without them makes me forgive him for years of bad music and stupid interviews.

That’s it for now.

Let’s check in with my iPod.

1. "Jellikit" by Primus
2. "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles
3. "I Feel Like Going Home" by Yo La Tengo
4. "Heaven’s Gate" by the Keene Brothers
5. "I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)" by Hank Williams
6. "I’m Not Angry" by Elvis Costello
7. "Pioneers" by Bloc Party
8. "Darker My Love" by T.S.O.L.
9. "Can’t Hardly Wait" by the Replacements
10. "Margaret vs. Pauline" by Neko Case

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cash Cow

Okay, I’m a big fan of outtakes and expanded reissues and all that record collector stuff but I think the expanded reissue thing has gotten out of hand. It is great when they are in the context of historical retrospective such as the upcoming Pavement reissue of Wowie Zowie, the Cure reissues, and the Pogues catalog, but when an album is less than a year old, and often only a few months old, it shouldn’t be reissued with bonus tracks and a DVD. It‘s a total rip off. For instance I just read today on Pitchfork about the aforementioned Pavement reissue and also about the expanded edition of At War With The Mystics by the Flaming Lips.

What the cock is that?

At War With The Mystics came out April 4 of this year. Wowie Zowie came out in 1995. One is a historical document, the other is a crass cash-in. And as much as I love the Lips, they did this with the last album too. Ryan Adams did it with Love is Hell. And Bruce Springsteen has done it with his latest album, and everyone seems to be doing it. The big problem is that these expanded editions target the exact same people who purchased the album the day or the week it was originally issued. So, in essence, we are being punished for being enthusiastic, loyal and timely. If only true fans would wait six months to purchase a band’s new release, they would be rewarded with a deluxe expanded edition.

Some bands, of course, do it right, releasing a limited edition first pressing to reward fans. The last Spoon album came with a bonus disc, Pig Lib by Stephen Malkmus came with a bonus disc, Robert Pollard’s next album, Normal Happiness, comes with a free live disc, and the Cure reissues were only "deluxe" for a limited time, then they eliminated the second disc and simply sold a single, remastered disc. This is how it should be done. But instead, I have to go out and re-buy a disc that I just purchased because I am a big fan of the Flaming Lips and have to have everything, and I am a sucker.

So, I guess I will see you in line on October 24.

In the mean time, I console myself with the last ten songs from my iPod:

1. "Babe, I Got You Bad" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
2. "Ride the Darker Wave" by Sebadoh
3. "Halah" by Mazzy Star
4. "Viet Nam" by the Minutemen
5. "It Could Be Sweet" by Portishead
6. "The Everlasting Gaze" by Smashing Pumpkins
7. "I Am The Walrus" by the Beatles
8. "Death Letter" by the White Stripes
9. "A Collection of Accounts" by Superchunk
10. "Expectations" by Belle & Sebastian

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Don't Know Shit About Punk Rock

I am going to go on an old man rant, so please forgive me in advance.

I admit, I don’t call myself a punk. Sure, I listen punk music and I subscribe to many of the attitudes lumped in with punk rock, but walking down the street, no one would peg me as a punk.

To me, punk rock was never about fashion but about attitude. It was about questioning authority and pursuing your own truth. Plus, it was a great outlet for teen angst and frustration.

And I guess that is what bugs me the most about the punks I see wandering around the streets today. It is generally a fashion statement. I know, it always has been (Malcom McClaren, anyone?) and there are always those who think punk rock can change the world, but I see kids trying too hard. It’s like they are playing dress-up. They wouldn’t be any more ridiculous if they wore a spacesuit or a cowboy outfit or scrubs.

They have no sense of history.

After observing today’s "punk rockers," here are a few things I know:

1. Punk rock is not a rigid style of music but a broad pallet united by attitude. Sex Pistols, The Damned, X, The Clash, Husker Du, Germs, Minutemen, TSOL, Black Flag, Generation X, Exploited, Killing Joke, The Cramps, Bad Brains, Agent Orange, Misfits, Crass, Minor Threat, Subhumans, and the Descendents don’t have much in common other than attitude.

2. Punk rock evolved. After the Sex Pistols, John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd and created some of the most challenging music of his career. The Damned created the Black Album, TSOL created Beneath the Shadows, X created Under the Big Black Sun, the Minutemen created Double Nickels on the Dime, The Replacements created Let It Be, Husker Du created Zen Arcade, and so on.

3. "Old school" bands that are really popular now such as the Adicts, Angry Samoans, Vice Squad, and G.B.H. were never really that good and still aren’t. They were kind of second-string punk bands with a few good songs. They just happened to outlive their contemporaries. But so did the Rolling Stones and they haven’t done anything good in thirty years.

4. Some great bands only did one really great album. And that is okay. Buy the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, the Adolescents debut, Agent Orange’s Living In Darkness, the Germs’ G.I., Descendents’ Milo Goes to College, Fear’s The Record, and Black Flag’s Damaged.

5. "Selling Out" is a myth. Signing to a major label is not selling out (Sex Pistols, anyone?). Success is not selling out. Writing catchy hooks is not selling out.

6. If you are repeating the past instead of building upon it, then you are just cookie-cutter poseurs.

7. Punk rock is alive and well. Listen to Bright Eyes, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Green Day (yes, Green Day), Be Your Own Pet, Hank Williams III, Riverboat Gamblers, White Stripes, and more.

8. Anything I say might be wrong.

And, in the spirit of this blog, I have been listening to my "punk rock" playlist, so here is the last 10 songs played this morning:

1. "Sub-Mission" by the Sex Pistols
2. "I Shook Hands" by the Minutemen
3. "Buzzbomb" by Dead Kennedys
4. "Against the Grain" by Bad Religion
5. "Turn It Around" by Hüsker Dü
6. "Hybrid Moments" by the Misfits
7. "Wasted" by Black Flag
8. "Curtain Call" by the Damned
9. "Kick Out The Jams" by Bad Brains featuring Henry Rollins
10. "Dog and Pony Show" by the Descendents

Friday, September 01, 2006

Release the Bats

Alright, alright, I know it has been a while, a long while, but I’ve been busy. But I do want to continue with this blog thing, so I have to check in and say hello.

Did you see the Raconteurs with Lou Reed on the MTV Video Music Awards? Performing "White Light/White Heat." Damn it was cool if abbreviated. Remember that video when Lou Reed is actually a robot and he starts pulling his own face off? Lou Reed kind of looks as real as that robot now. But at least he has grown out of his Joe Piscopo faze.

Well, what’s going on?

My wife and I are going to go see Be Your Own Pet at the Glass House in Pomona on Oct. 21. Then we are going to see the Lemonheads at the Galaxy in Santa Ana on Nov. 18.

Been listening to a lot of the Birthday Party recently. Had to rebuy Hee Haw and Junkyard. Good stuff. Not for all tastes, but I love it.

I picked up the latest Cure reissues: The Top, The Head On The Door, and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, as well as the reissue of The Glove’s Blue Sunshine. If you don’t know, The Glove is a one-off collaboration between Robert Smith and Steve Severin from Siouxsie & the Banshees. It’s an interesting record, but I liked it a lot more in high school. Regarding the Cure, The Top is, along with Pornography, one of my two favorite Cure albums. It is demented and crazed but beautiful and dazzling. It came out of a very difficult time in Robert Smith’s life, but like many great works, chaos is often the best atmosphere for creation. The Head on the Door is really the last great album by the Cure. Kiss Me on the other hand is the beginning of a rapid decline. What could have been an OK single disc is really a bloated double album that hinted at the mediocrity to come. Of course, all of the extras on these deluxe reissues are generally the bottom of the barrel. The best leftovers from these sessions ended up as b-sides, thus ended up being collected on the Connect the Dots b-side box set.

Just a side note: the Robert Smith vocals on the demos on The Glove reissue are recently recorded. He did not record vocals for the original demos. But it is still pretty cool to hear him sing these songs.

And one more side note, I posted a "review" on Amazon and it has never appeared. Anyone know how to figure out what happened or whether it was deemed inappropriate? I don’t’ know why anyone would take exception to my comments, but I cannot figure out why it didn’t make it online.

And some advice, buy Be Your Own Pet, Modern Times by Bob Dylan, and Passover from the Black Angels. Do not buy the new Pete Yorn.

And, here are the last ten songs my iPod has churned out on Shuffle:

1. "Testify" by Rage Against the Machine
2. "Politician" by Los Lobos
3. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Paul on vocals) by the Beatles
4. "Breathless" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
5. "Shaman’s Blues" by the Doors
6. "Hands on the Wheel" by Geraldine Fibbers
7. "You’re Not Evil" by Black Flag
8. "Company Calls" by Death Cab For Cutie
9. "Long Time Jerk" by the Clash
10. "Mesmerizing" by Liz Phair