Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Fluid - Roadmouth

The Fluid – Roadmouth

The Fluid were a Denver quintet and one of the highlights of the 80’s music scene, combining the best of punk and classic rock with a ravin’ live show and lots of big guitars!

Roadmouth is one of my fave records of these cats and of the time, though I would recommend all of their albums – with the possible exception of Purple Metal Flake Music, which was their last recording. It sounded like it was a final record and the band knew it when I first heard it, but I haven’t listened to it in ages, so I’ll have to take another listen at some point.

This one starts off with the incredible “Hooked”, which is damn-well packed with hooks! The opening line “well she just walked right up and stole my heart away” unleashes this riff-rocker and it never lets up! Great, great tune that just about anyone can relate to at one point or another – “it’s a damn good thing that I don’t believe in sin”! Super lyrics, amazing riffs, high energy – one of their best!

The whole album absolutely rocks! The guitars are everywhere – with lots of wah-wah (a friend once noticed that one guitarist was apparently on his wah-wah the entirety of one set in LA), distortion and licks galore! All the songs are memorable – including a cool version of Rare Earth’s (!) “Big Brother” – with lyrics that stick with you (“he was the only son of a drag-queen dope dealer”) and melodies that you can sing along with – though this is far from pop! Just wild punk’n’roll!

Also check out the fantastic “Glue” that includes a terrific cover of the Troggs’ “Our Love Will Be There” along with lots more Fluid originals.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Pink Spiders - Teenage Graffiti

Wow! Just got this record on a lark – the cover is great – and this is wild stuff! The record is pretty varied, really, but has super songwriting and is mostly filled with fun, harmony-driven, pop-punk stuff.

Reminds me of a few bands, most notably the Briefs and American Heartbreak with hints of the Boys, but really original songwriting and huge production by Ric Ocasek, of all people!

The record opens with the gargantuan guitar sound of “Soft Smoke” which sets the pace for this album. “Modern Swinger” is the most Briefs-like, “Hollywood Fix” includes tasty harmony guitar licks, and then they slow down to mid-tempo for the single, “Little Razorblade”. This is a pretty basic pop tune – nice, enjoyable, a standard break-down in the middle, some simple riffs – good stuff, though I dunno if it’s my favorite from the record.

But, overall, the songwriting is what makes Teenage Graffiti a stand-out. Sure, there are references that you’ve heard before, but put together in an interesting and catchy way. Just when you think you have it pinned down, they’ll veer off on a tangent that I, for one, would never have thought of, but it totally works!

Towards the end of the CD they move into slower territory, like the power-ballad “Hey Jane”, which loses me along the way. “Adalae” is a mid-period, Kinks rip-off in the style of Village Green Preservation Society that also doesn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Thankfully, they pick up the pace again with the rockin’ “Easy Way Out” and then the official closer is “Pretend That This is Fiction”, which is more of a mix of Kinks-y pop with harder-rock. Not a bad song, but personally, I would have used a more powerful closer. There is a “secret track” that is a super-short piano ballad – sounds like something that would be used to close up a bar at the end of the night…

Some excellent stuff, a couple so-so songs, but definitely well worth getting! I will keep my eyes peeled to see if they’ll ever play in our area – bet they are a blast live!

Lou Reed Rock'n'Roll Animal

Having mentioned this record in the Dylan post, I was thinking maybe I would expound upon it a little.

I remember when this record came out and there was a lot negative reaction due to the extreme re-workings of the old Velvets’ material. Looking around these days, it seems like opinions have changed and most people really like this record – possibly for the same reasons that people didn’t like it at the time!

As a guitar player, I have always enjoyed this recording of top-notch 70’s rock guitar playing. Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner were at their prime as top session guitarists who played with just about everyone at the time. Some might see some of these tunes as experiments in over indulgence, but I like that kinda stuff!!

The record opens with a Hunter/Wagner “Intro” that eventually becomes “Sweet Jane” as Lou comes out on stage to the cheers of the audience. As you can see from the cover, he was into his Transformer/glam persona and I think this was his version of the big-rock of bands like the Spiders From Mars. His songs were already main-stays in most glitter bands’ repertoire so it only makes sense that he would do his best to out-do them all at their own game!

“Heroin” sounds huge and dramatic and is another guitar showcase, but certainly isn’t quite as dangerous as the Velvet’s version. It’s almost a more dreamy version, rather than a desperate cry of a junkie.

“White Light/White Heat” undergoes a radical transformation from the stripped-down punk rock of the original album version to this stadium rock take on it. Still great r’n’r, but almost a different song!

The only song on the original record from his then-recent work, Berlin, is “Lady Day”, and obviously, that is the least re-worked tune. It’s excellent, though!

Closing with “Rock’n’Roll”, this anthem also becomes a big-rock guitar jam, and while very rockin’, I have to admit that it is slightly long and excessive.

This is definitely a good primer for an average “rock kid” (as I was at the time) to learn about Lou and his Velvet Underground heritage. It doesn’t have the insane magic of the VU, but it is a high quality 70’s rock record!

Bob Dylan Live 1975

Dylan as Lou Reed’s R’n’R Animal.

Dylan’s Roller Thunder Revue was a great experiment with Dylan gathering a fine assortment of musicians and creating what was basically his version of the then-current glam rock phenomenon. Check out the make up that Dylan and at least some of the band is wearing on the DVD that comes with this. He even has Mick Ronson (a glitter-rock guitar hero at the height of his fame) playing guitar for him!

Lou Reed’s RNRA album (recorded 1973, released in ’74) was a collection of glam/heavy metal versions of his VU songs, which some critics took as sacrilegious. His take – “what if this is the way I always wanted them to sound?!” He took chances and wasn’t (and isn’t) afraid of change.

This is the way I view this phase of Dylan’s career. He was obvious undergoing one of his many transformations and he was radically changing his songs from their original context.

Not that he hadn’t done that before – just going electric was sacrilegious to his original fans! But this took the songs to a completely different level.

He does still do some relatively traditional acoustic versions of some of his material and includes old friends such as Joan Baez on a few tunes, which serve as a touchstone to his previous incarnations. But some of these performances bulldoze over the old songs almost to the point of being unrecognizable.

Opening (appropriately) with a great version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, he then moves into an almost reggae version of “It Ain’t Me Babe”, which gives the audience a taste of the variety they will hear in this concert.

It takes a minute to realize that he is singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” due to the hard-rock arrangement, but it’s a rollicking good time!

Throughout the concert, he throws in some songs from the then-new Desire album. I’m not much of a fan of “Romance in Durango”, but “Isis” is particularly strong and passionate.

His lengthy acoustic segment starts with his classic “Mr. Tamborine Man” and includes “Blowin’ In The Wind” with Joan which goes into a re-worked, upbeat, and practically bluegrass take of “Mama, You Been On My Mind”, both with nice harmony work.

Several more great tunes fill out this set including “Tangled Up in Blue” and another duet with Baez on the traditional “The Water Is Wide”.

Back to electric with a very hi-energy, 70’s-rock-styled “It Takes a Lot to Laugh”. From here Dylan goes into a mini-set of songs from Desire – “Oh Sister”, “Hurricane”, “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Sara”. Powerful stuff, especially “Hurricane”, which deservedly rec’d quite a bit of airplay when the studio album was released.

The album closes with an electric, slightly eclectic “Just Like a Woman” and a finale of his anthemic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.

This is a super collection of an under-represented period for Dylan. I love the 1966 set, but this is great for showing off how versatile this man really is.