This album is the CD equivalent of the morning after the night before.
You know how it is. You wake with your head throbbing, and a creeping sense of concern about what might have led to the current messy state of affairs.
It quickly dawns on you that what seemed a very sensible and alluring idea last night is now snoring next to you and not the pretty picture you recall.
That’s pretty much how this CD ended up on the shelf. My lovely spouse and I ventured to a gig in some university campus bar in Copenhagen, giggled at all the bright young things in their pimple-faced finery, supped beer in plastic cups, and saw this local outfit launch this debut album.
For some brief moment the energy, the bright lights, the enthusiasm of the band and the crowd all grabbed hold of us, and we ignored our reservations and purchased the band’s opus.
In the cold light of day (well, three years later) there is little to recommend about this album. It is try-hard, over-produced, ’80s-influenced pop-rock with nothing catchy (which is a good thing to discover on the morning after, but not when it’s music). Think Divinyls or Baby Animals:
File under: Hangovers are over-rated
I do feel slightly conflicted with this album, as I have the vaguest of a personal connection to the band.
They went to the same high school as me (although long after I’d moved on), and my brother’s (sole?) claim to Melbourne street cred is that he saw them play at a local fete when they were 14 year-olds.
I’m also challenged by the enormous backlash these boys have copped almost from day one.
Let’s just say the history teachers at St.Bede’s should be very, very proud of the lessons these lads learnt. Much of the material here is a finely distilled version of what has come before in the rock world. But, hey, that’s not a new thing either.
Sure, this sounds like some modern-day facsimile of (amongst others) the Beatles, the Stones, various Motown artists, and AC/DC.
But, so what? In the end, these guys have that hard-to-quantify magic so many acts lack – that knack for producing catchy, rocking tunes. Pop music is all about walking that tightrope where songs sound both completely familiar and also irresistible. For a few weeks in 2003, these guys did that with Roll Over DJ, Cold Hard Bitch and that iPod ad:
Is this a great album (e.g. should it be in Australia’s top 100 EVER?) No, it has loads of filler and is a hodge-podge of incongruous styles. Are those three singles worth the CD purchase? Yeah, they are.
File under: From Dingley to Lake Como
Sometimes I’ve just bought an album on the basis of distinctive or intriguing cover art, a vague understanding of the band’s reputation, and a few bucks burning a hole in my pocket.
Such an alignment of the planets must have happened at the local second-hand store when I purchased this CD.
This is reportedly one of the more listener-friendly of The Jesus Lizard’s early output. Everything’s relative I guess.
I’ve never had much love for this sort of jarring noise rock. I do appreciate the punk aesthetic at either end of the spectrum – the trashy, garage sloppiness of the Ramones or the more hard edged, but fast-paced work of the Descendents (and occasionally the Dead Kennedys), but this middle ground leaves me pretty cold.
I don’t get much out of this bass-heavy dirge and David Yow’s awkward vocal stylings. I guess these guys were influential, as I remember seeing far too many local bands ripping off the sound in the early ’90s. I suspect it would have been a lot better to see The Jesus Lizard live than any of them however:
File under: Not one to pick up
Note to self – check vinyl collection more regularly. Here’s one that should have been reviewed before Etta.
Another dalliance from my NME-reading years was this brief flirtation with the mop-haired British band James.
This record is the 1991 version of their third album, including their hugest song, the very stadium-friendly Sit Down:
That tune has always worked for me, although as a guilty pleasure, in that it is the aural equivalent of a rom-com. It is manipulative and cheesy, but I involuntarily can’t avert my eyes/ears. The drums are over-amped (and over-echoed), while the chorus and sentiment shouldn’t be scrutinised too closely.
These guys are much more like Simple Minds or Flock of Seagulls (that’s a bad thing!) than the tastemakers at NME were willing to acknowledge. Sit Down is the least pompous and over-produced track on here. Much of the material says the band sounding even more U2-like in their pontificating and art-school posturing.
The only really joy of doing this review is discovering from the vid above that lead singer Tim Booth could be Mats Wilander’s doppelgänger… and hoping that whoever was blowing that plastic horn intermittently through the performance subsequently suffered some debilitating and drawn-out toxic reaction to said plastic.
File under: Bad parenting
Solo releases from lead singers of a favourite band can be a bit of a musical minefield, especially when they are side-projects rather than a new phase in the career.
Is said artist really the lifeblood of the band? How much have the others been holding him back? And might that actually be a good thing, in that they have always curbed the excesses and plain dumb ideas?
There is enormous danger that such albums can be hugely self-indulgent twaddle where every whim of an enormous ego is inflicted upon those of us keen enough to have found the CD.
Buffalo Tom were certainly a big fave of mine, and I picked this solo effort up second-hand somewhere. I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. Close to half of the tracks do just feel like leftover BT tracks, and not overly interesting ones at that.
It’s when Billy boy gets more adventurous that the album becomes justifiable. The rollicking country-tinged Strangers is a real blast and would never fit on a BT release, while his version of My Funny Valentine has a Waits-like sloppiness that appeals.
Thankfully this isn’t the frivolous or pompous outcome it could have been, and Janovitz’ rep stays intact.
An aside: In chasing up info for this review I discovered Bill’s blog. It is excellent and full of much better writing than you’ll ever see around here (and loads of cover versions).
File under: Befriend
This alternative rock classic is a relatively recent addition to my collection, but the content was very, very familiar.
Perry Farrell and the lads were one of the first big US funk-rock acts that I can remember having any affection for (yet, somehow, I didn’t purchase this album back in the day).
There was (and is) a certain easy-listening aspect to their sound, with he high production levels, and a sound much more in tune with Led Zep than their more indie-rock and punk-edged contemporaries.
Farrell’s wailings wrap around Dave Navarro’s piercing and swirling riffs with ease, and the band is not afraid to roll out the big tom runs, the strings, and the rumbling basslines. This is album that screams out for playing loud.
This is an album of two halves. Up front half are the poppy tracks (the overrated Been Caught Stealing, and the much more infectious Stop):
The back half is where the band really lets rip, with epic gypsy-rock that warrants a big tent and much haze. I guess there was a certain feminity to it all that scared off the blue-collar metal fans, or perhaps it was the gothic pomp (although to me the imagery and attitude has always felt more like grimy, sweaty chemically-enhanced psychedelia), but this should have been even bigger than it was.
File under: Worth stealing
I presumably picked this album up out of a discount bin on some rampant buying spree.
Etta James is one of those ‘names’ I’d heard dropped as being under-appreciated, cruelly forgotten etc (although the latter is clearly a contradiction once she’s getting mentioned…).
The cover pic and various clips of her floating around the intertubes stand as testament to her being an independent soul that walked a different path to her more svelte, mainstream contemporaries.
She has a standout soul voice, full of power and emotion. The song choices on this compilation stretch from the very familiar (standards like Leave your hat on and At last) to a whole lot of ‘oh, is that who sings this’ numbers.
A scary number of tracks could be used as a soundtrack to some domestic abuse awareness campaign, except that they’d make it somehow seem glamorous, bearable and justified.
There’s a lot to love on here, and about the much-troubled survivor that is Ms.James. I dig that she has been a-feuding with Beyonce, and that she thought this cardie worked:
File under: Soul don’t get much betta than Etta