If you’ve been wondering why it’s been so damn quiet around here, a few weeks ago I jumped in a Delorean and zoomed back to the early 1990s where I have been trapped listening to this here album.
What a delightful trip it’s been. The album is some hybrid of so many wonderful things from this time when my hair was long, my waist smaller and belly taut.
This band evoke the guitar work of the more poppy Cure work while also sounding a little Sonic Youth-y. The rhythms could be Buffalo Tom, while the vocals bridge the (admittedly narrow) Breeders–Donelly–Hatfield divide.
The latter lass could easily ‘sub in’ for Mary Lorson at any point, although the latter has the better song-writing chops. The lyrics are less bratty and self-effacing.
As debuts go this is a ripper. The band even have the audacity to build the album around a track which is a veritable theme song – Swim – with its “Hey, Rose, Hey Madder” chorus:
I love that this album manages not just the ‘small room’ sway-ey numbers, but also the screaming numbers like Lay Down Low.
And I love that I dialed the “New York 1993” code to rediscover this gem. You should too.
File under: Bring it back
Posted in M
Tagged album, album review, Breeders, Buffalo Tom, CD review, Juliana Hatfield, Madder Rose, music, music review, Sonic Youth, Tanya Donelly, The Breeders, The Cure
How appropriate that this album has a velvet themed cover.
This album evokes a sense of adult sophistication (like the velvet bags that one purchases at the theatre), yet it is playful and textural.
Indeed, the juxtaposition of the single title Chocolate Clown keeps up the sweet, but possibly psychotic theme:
Ahh, so finally I got to share this band’s sound with you. Polished but fresh isn’t it? (there’s that contrast thing again). That particular song is the most Buffalo Tom-like on here.
The rest mine the B-band vein of the Beatles and Big Star, with enormous dollops of pop sensibility,jaunty guitar work and luscious yet raw harmonies (all delivered by one-man-show Ward Dotson). Dotson sings more confidently and consistently, and he pens some great lyrics, including rhyming ‘Scott Baio’ with ‘Gallileo’ (of course, those two geniuses are often in the same sentence).
There is much more killer than filler on here. I find myself humming along to most, and belting out the choruses to $100 Car, Bastanchury Park and the big-rocking Cheap Trick-esque closer which is untitled on the CD, but my iTunes tells me (as does the chorus) is called Hold Tight.
File under: Sweet with a punch
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 a band I know so very little about. I think I may have bought this CD second-hand on the recommendation of a buddy back in the mid-90s.
The album is a snapshot of a world that doesn’t really exist anymore, for this decrepit 38 year old anyway.
Five Eight sprung from somewhere in the States, probably a college town. They take the more power pop side of Husker Du and presage the much more successful sound of Weezer.
They deliver a series of guitar-driven tunes, typically chronicling early 20s apathy and late teen misdemeanors. It is classic slacker rock, but of the shorter haired variety.
Stanley is the most successful effort. A few too many tracks sound like the faux skate punk Blink 182 ‘were to ‘master’ later.
The album is dated also by a ‘where I was when I heard Kurt topped himself’ tale, but at least the ambivalent vibe is retained with a ‘whatever’ tone…
Perhaps bands are still mining this rich musical vein, but for me this sits alongside Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads and a few others as my mid-20s indulgence.
File under: Some rugby pun
I was one album off in my memory of Buffalo Tom losing it. This is the album where the wheels fell off and I stopped purchasing (they also took a very long hiatus after this release – perhaps understandably).
The band really have misplaced their mojo here. The tracks are way too soft and overproduced. There is very little edge. The focus on slower numbers only serves to highlight their inadequacies.
It feels like a band going through the motions. At the same time there is a sniff of desperation. New elements like harmonising are explored. The song-writing is laboured. They are grasping for rhymes, and wallowing in a deep pit of cliches.
I’m searching for redeeming characteristics here. I guess if you’d never heard any of their other stuff you might see glimpses of gold and promise. But when the fall has been so swift it is very hard to get excited.
The opening track (Rachel) is their best effort, but it isn’t anywhere enough to justify the album.
My CD comes with a bonus 4-track live set at Melbourne’s own Triple-R radio station. As these are songs from their glory days, it just serves to remind us what has been lost.
File under: I think they meant smited
The prime motivation behind starting this blog was the incentive to revisit albums that might have been gathered dust on my shelf. Today is one of those days where I pat myself on the back for this brainwave.
For some reason I had pretty much forgotten this album. For some reason I had convinced myself that Buffalo Tom had ‘lost it’ some time after Big Red Letter Day and that this album was the onset of this decline. I was wrong.
I must have given this CD many spins back in the day. Each track is very familiar, and its great to back amongst old friends.
While Big Red Letter Day was a chilled out set of slower tempo tunes, this album sees the band rocking out again. The drums have been cranked up, the riffs are flying again, and Janovitz is belting out the vocals.
The three opening tracks are big, powerful and fun. Rhyming “kitchen door” with “baseball team from Baltimore” is whacky (at least in the world of BT). It seems the boys were enjoying themselves a lot on this one.
The album retains the pace and quality right through its 14 tracks.
I’m glad to have rediscovered this winner.
File under: A cracking dawn