Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's YOUR Favorite Singles Collection?

With the release of Couple Tracks by Fucked Up this week, it got me to thinking: What is the greatest all-time singles collection?

When I say "singles collections", I don't mean this:

I'm talking about a collection of 7" records or other non-LP tracks and/or b-sides, not greatest hits packages. The old belief, even The Beatles believed this, is that you put out albums but you don't put your singles on your albums. "Hey Jude," is a non-album track, for example. Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," is their most well-known song but it was not on their Closer album, despite being recorded in the same year.

So, here is the list of my favorite singles collections:

Black Flag
The First Four Years
Recorded 1/78 - 4/81
Released 1983

Though widely regarded as the best era of the band, no full length album was ever recorded with singer Keith Morris. Nor with subsequent frontmen Chavo Pederast and Dez Cadena. Not until Henry Rollins joined the band did the final record their first LP. But by that time, the sheen had already begun to fade on the hardcore legends whose fans would always clamor and long for the days of "Nervous Breakdown," and "Jealous Again,".

Singles Going Steady
Recorded 11/77 - 7/79
Released 9/79

A stellar collection with all of the A-Sides on, well, the A-Side with the B-Sides of the corresponding singles on the B-Side. Doesn't get much better than "Orgasm Addict"/"Whatever Happened To...?".

The Beatles
Past Masters
Recorded 9/4/62 - 1/4/70
Released 3/88

As I mentioned before, the classic "Hey Jude," was not any of their studio albums. Hard to believe, maybe, but neither were "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", "We Can Work It Out", and the definitive Lennon anthem "Revolution,".

Jay Reatard
Matador Singles '08
Recorded 4/08 - 9/08
Released 10/07/08

What a great talent. The first four tracks are as strong as anything. The record consists of 7 singles and their B-Sides with one extra track. In a few years, this may be my favorite singles collection. It's still a bit soon.

The Jesus Lizard
Touch & Go
Recorded 8/1/89 - 3/25/99
Released 1/18/00

Bang has a great mix of original B-Sides, covers, and previously unreleased tracks. "Glamorous", "Deaf As A Bat", "Chrome", and their version of The Dicks' "Wheelchair Epidemic," were all concert staples as last year's reunion tour. Personally, I enjoy the cover of Trio's "Anna," featuring ex-Big Black/Naked Raygun guitarist Santiago Durango on vocals.

Joy Division
Recorded 12/77 - 3/80
Released 7/88

In my opinion, Joy Division's best songs were non-album tracks. The great "Novelty," was the B-Side to the classic "Transmission,". The wonderful "Dead Souls," was originally a B-Side in a France-only released single with the heartwrenching "Atmosphere," as the A-Side.

Fucked Up
Epics In Minutes
Recorded 5/02 - 2004
Released 3/16/04

Before Couple Tracks, there were Epics In Minutes. The band thinks this compilation is a bit incomplete as there is a Japanese singles comp that is more comprehensive. But many of the tracks missing from Epics In Minutes have been added to Couple Tracks. So, in essence, the two are companions. Either way, it's good to be able to listen to "Police," in the car.

Dead Kennedys
Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death
Alternative Tentacles
Recorded 6/79 - 1987
Released 1987

The Dead Kennedys B-Sides were better than most bands A-Sides. "Too Drunk To Fuck," is some kind of anthem and Jello Biafra's fresh take on Sonny Curtis's "I Fought The Law," is another in the long line of off kilter DK covers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010

Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010
Various Artists

Gerald Cosley of Matador Records spent some time in the home of the SXSW festival and brought some of the local flavor back to New York with him. One should always be curious of collections like this. When you curate an album made up of bands from one scene that exist concurrently, you sometimes end up with a record with all very similar songs. There is plenty to like in this group of tunes and it starts instantly.

The record starts off with its bar none standout track, "The Ghosts That Wake You," by Follow That Bird!. Imagine PJ Harvey singing with the Vivian Girls and you're just getting close to the potential greatness of this band. There are other fine tracks here and in a wide variety of sounds. The advantage of trying to take an indie snapshot of Austin is that you'll find no limitations of creativity because no band is trying to sound like another band. I have no handy Frankenstein-like comparison for The Persimmons but I really like them. If nothing else, this collection should be treated as a map to finding your favorite new band. There's plenty to choose from.

Track Grades:
  1. "The Ghosts That Wake You," Follow That Bird! - 9.7
  2. "Blister," The Young - 7.8
  3. "Spirits Roam," Woven Bones - 7.4
  4. "Crush On You," Flesh Lights - 7.5
  5. "Little City Girl," Dikes Of Holland - 7.0
  6. "The Engineer," Tre Orsi - 8.0
  7. "Akron Bureau," The Distant Seconds - 7.0
  8. "Hoboken Snow," Kingdom Of Suicide Lovers - 7.4
  9. "Mommy's Little Soldiers," Elvis - 7.1
  10. "First 48," Love Collector - 8.5
  11. "Can't Remember Your Name," Bad Sports - 8.3
  12. "Drink It Dry," Wild America - 7.7
  13. "Beautiful & Very Smart," Harlem - 7.1
  14. "No One's Gonna Miss You," The Stuffies - 7.2
  15. "Older Than You," The Golden Boys - 9.0
  16. "Nobody's Fool," The No No No Hopes - 7.3
  17. "Nazis On Film," The Teeners - 8.1
  18. "The Notice," The Persimmons - 9.2
  19. "Entirely Wired For Sound," Lost Controls - 8.0
Overall Grade = 7.86

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 Shammy Awards

Like most intelligent fans, I truly abhor the Grammy Awards because, more and more, they have really just been turning into the American Music Awards. You know, the one where record sales determine your worth. Well, that's just horsecrap. America has proven over and over that it has no idea what's good for them, so an award based solely on their opinion is foolhardy.

Being as the major awards hold absolutely no interest to me, I would like to throw my support toward Beyoncé. Not just because she's extremely beautiful but I actually do find her to be very talented and far less annoying than any of the other "artists" in every category she is nominated. And I actually did really enjoy her last album. So, sweep 'em, B.

As for some other categories, the following would win if there's a God:

Hard Rock Performance: "Check My Brain," Alice In Chains
Heavy Metal Performance: "Head Crusher," Megadeth
Best Alternative Album: It's Blitz! - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Best Contemporary Folk Album: Middle Cyclone - Neko Case
Best Comedy Album: My Weakness Is Strong - Patton Oswalt

Every other category contains artists or styles I know little or nothing about, artists or styles I don't like, or complete abominations (I'm looking at you, Rock and Rap categories).

So, if you are going to watch this clown college a week from today, don't tell me about it. I don't care who won what? how long Bono went on about Haiti? how much Lady Gaga reminds you Marilyn Manson? Keep it to yourself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spoon - Transference


As this if the first review of new music this year, I wish I could say we were starting out on a better foot here. But even as much of a Spoon fan as I am not really, there is very little here to rope the casual fan in. Fans listening for "The Way We Get By," or "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," are going to be sorely disappointed. Britt Daniel's songwriting strengths have always been rooted in pop prowess. That is largely absent here.

There is not very much on Transference to get excited about. The title itself implies that fans will listen to this and just love it anyway, based on past enjoyment. Since I am not a diehard fan of Spoon's, that ploy has no effect on my judgment. Outside of the single, "Got Nuffin'", I have a hard time trying to find a song I would ever want to hear again. Who knows? Maybe in 20 years, I will view this as music historians have viewed Lou Reed's Berlin or (film buffs see Blade Runner) as classics before their time. As for right now, this reminds me of U2's No Line On The Horizon: an album by a band resting on their laurels and being loved for it, probably because the American public identifies with their laziness or just doesn't know any better.

Track Grades:
  1. Before Destruction - 5.7
  2. Is Love Forever - 6.4
  3. The Mystery Zone - 6.6
  4. Who Makes Your Money - 6.2
  5. Written In Reverse - 6.8
  6. I Saw The Light - 4.4
  7. Trouble Comes Running - 6.7
  8. Goodnight Laura - 6.0
  9. Out Go The Lights - 6.6
  10. Got Nuffin - 7.5
  11. Nobody Gets Me But You - 5.8
Overall Grade = 6.25

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jay Reatard 5/1/80 - 1/13/10

Indie rock has lost its hero. Over the past decade plus, Jimmy Lee Lindsey pushed the boundaries of punk rock. In the process, he made some amazing records. At only age 29, Jay Reatard had already amassed quite a prolific portfolio of albums, singles, and ex-bandmates. Everyone knows about his volatility when it came to bandmates as well as meddlesome fans. What could be called anger issues could also be considered defending his art. He did not suffer mediocrity lightly. His perfectionism and talent shown through more with every effort. He was simply the indie artist of the decade.

His work with the Reatards was limited but extremely fun and enjoyable. The Lost Sounds were a great experiment. The Final Solutions, Bad Times, Terror Visions, and Destruction Unit were all fine diversions that really just served as a filter that Jay sang through. With only two full length albums and a slew of singles, Jay was finally coming into his own as a solo artist. Blood Visions is a truly great album but the singles collections showed a different side of the Reatard. One of the truly saddest parts of his death is that he was so hardworking and that is how he became great. He experimented with his music for 11 years and was reaching his creative apex. And he was still only 29 years old. I'm a year older than him and I don't know that I've had as many original ideas as he had songs. But if Watch Me Fall is truly the last thing we ever hear from this brilliant artist, there are worse epitaphs.

Here is the last track off of Watch Me Fall, "A Whisper"

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quarter Century Review: New Day Rising

This is going to be a new segment I do on here because I just don't have the time or resources to review every album that is released new and, frankly, I wanted a recurring deal on the site. This is not meant as just reviewing a classic album. That is too obvious. The real meaning of "review" here is to review whether the album has stood the test of time or perhaps become greater over time. I will be doing this 25 years from the original release date for albums throughout the year. So let's begin:

Hüsker Dü
New Day Rising
Produced by Hüsker Dü and Spot

As no one knows the exact day this album was released (a great example of how SST Records did business), we are just going to re-experience this one today. Hüsker Dü came up through the hardcore ranks in the early eighties via Minneapolis. Their extremely loud though equally melodic balance paved the way for other local bands (Replacements, Soul Asylum) to receive mainstream attention. The band would go on to a major label themselves on the strength of their opus Zen Arcade and this, shorter but hardly lesser, gem. This album is really what kept SST Records in business while the band never really saw the proper return off of it.

SST house producer Spot usually seemed to go out of his way to stifle the powerful sounds of the label's roster. In a bit of what I guess was luck, he just sat back and got out of the way to let the band do their thing. At this point in time, the songwriting of Bob Mould and Grant Hart was at its apex. It was less about experimenting, the likes of Zen Arcade, and more about honesty and, perhaps, transparency. The songs are relatable, loud, and loaded with hooks and, unlike their hardcore peers, not angry. They showed that you could have loud and emotional without being cheesy. There is real sentiment but no one would ever confuse Hüsker Dü with Journey. That being said, the album does devolve over the last 4 songs as if they were just filling space, knowing their defection was imminent.

As far as jumping from the storied SST label to Warner Bros., it was about survival. New Day Rising was one of many simultaneous SST releases. And while all the records received the same amount of promotion (none), New Day Rising was the only one selling. Black Flag was in limbo and The Minutemen had lost frontman D. Boon to a tragic car wreck, so Hüsker Dü was, for all intents and purposes, the only SST band. If they wanted to see any return on their hard work, they had to leave. Though they didn't last much longer after their departure, we still have this to remember them by.

Overall Grade=8.53

Monday, January 04, 2010

Mixtape 2009

Here is an interesting (hopefully) mix CD track listing to encapsulate the strange year in music:
  1. "Sacred Trickster," Sonic Youth - 2:11
  2. "Hindsight," Built To Spill - 3:38
  3. "Zero," Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 4:26
  4. "Fitz And The Dizzyspells," Andrew Bird - 3:37
  5. "Pieces," Dinosaur Jr - 4:32
  6. "To Save Me," M. Ward - 3:02
  7. "Spellbound," Lacuna Coil - 3:21
  8. "Running To The Edge Of The World," Marilyn Manson - 6:26
  9. "Bible Black," Heaven & Hell - 6:27
  10. "Pharoahs," Neko Case - 3:38
  11. "Land Of The Dead," Misfits - 2:13
  12. "Train Song," Feist + Ben Gibbard - 3:02
  13. "The Palace At 4 A.M.," A.C. Newman - 3:23
  14. "Death Threat," My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - 4:33
  15. "Beautiful Things," Quasi - 3:42
  16. "Undesirable," Jemina Pearl - 3:20
  17. "Non-Entity," Nine Inch Nails - 4:03
  18. "The Living North," Cymbals Eat Guitars - 2:32
  19. "French Navy," Camera Obscura - 3:18
  20. "Lives," The Entrance Band - 4:51
  21. "I Have No Fun," Vivian Girls - 1:28
  22. "Rotten Mind," Jay Reatard - 2:20
  23. "Gentle Sons," The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - 4:29
Total Time = 79:51