The Police: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

The Police
Zenyatta Mondatta; 1980
A&M Records
My Rating: 90/100
Progatta masters of the creepy smash hit, The Police kick off their third and greatest album with an absolute classic. It’s also their darkest. The best Sting can seem to make of a hopeless world on this incredibly pessimistic-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it-for-the-music  masterpiece consists of humming a wordless little ditty to himself round about track seven. Moods included, the Police get it right from start to finish on Zenyatta. There’s no excess. There’s no meaningless excursions. In fact, there’s not even a cringe-worthy moment contained herein. Instead, there’s a completely unique blend of rock, prog and reggae filtered through the smooth jazz sensibilities of a former British school teacher. What seems to turn others off about this record keeps me coming back. The lean start and stop of “Driven to Tears”, the propulsive funk-lite of “When the World…”, the bouncy, catchy proto-ska of “Man in a Suitcase” – what’s not to love? To put a nice bow it all, you’ve got weird but engaging excursions like “Voices Inside My Head”, “Shadows in the Rain”, and “The Other Way of Stopping.” The Police made some great records, but they never managed to tie an album together so well. Bonus points for Andy Summers’ ethereal guitars, hands down my favorite thing about this record.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me (5/5)
2. Driven to Tears (5/5)
3. When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around (5/5)
4. Canary in a Coalmine (5/5)
5. Voices Inside My Head (5/5)
6. Bombs Away (4.5/5)
7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (5/5)
8. Behind My Camel (4/5)
9. Man in a Suitcase (5/5)
10. Shadows in the Rain (4/5)
11. The Other Way of Stopping (4.5/5)

Police-album-zenyattamondattaThe Police
Zenyatta Mondatta; 1980
A&M Records

My Rating: 90/100

Classic rock masters of the creepy smash hit, The Police lead off their third long player with the indelible “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” This is their greatest album; it’s also their darkest. The best Sting can seem to make of a hopeless world on this incredibly pessimistic-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it-for-the-music  masterpiece consists of humming a wordless little ditty to himself round about track seven. Moods included, the Police get it right from start to finish. There’s no excess. There’s no meaningless excursions. In fact, there’s not even a cringe-worthy moment contained herein. Instead, there’s a completely unique blend of rock, prog and reggae filtered through the smooth jazz sensibilities of a former British school teacher. What seems to turn others off about this record keeps me coming back. The lean start and stop of “Driven to Tears”, the propulsive funk-lite of “When the World…”, the bouncy, catchy proto-ska of “Man in a Suitcase” – what’s not to love? To put a nice bow it all, you’ve got weird but engaging excursions like “Voices Inside My Head”, “Shadows in the Rain”, and “The Other Way of Stopping.” The Police made some great records, but they never managed to tie an album together so well. Bonus points for Andy Summers’ ethereal guitars, hands down my favorite thing about this record.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me (5/5)
2. Driven to Tears (5/5)
3. When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around (5/5)
4. Canary in a Coalmine (5/5)
5. Voices Inside My Head (5/5)
6. Bombs Away (4.5/5)
7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (5/5)
8. Behind My Camel (4/5)
9. Man in a Suitcase (5/5)
10. Shadows in the Rain (4/5)
11. The Other Way of Stopping (4.5/5)

Tracks of the Decade: “Poison Cup” by M. Ward

M. Ward
“Poison Cup”
from Post-War
I don’t really expect this one to make any other “best of the decade” lists, but when it comes to greatness in pop music, focus and simplicity go a long way in my book. A short and (bitter)sweet meditation on love that finds a few millenia worth of religious imagery in tow, “Poison Cup” harkens back to the innocent rural magic of “Stand By Me” but adds the haunting twist that loyalty in the name of love might just consume you. This recalls the central theme of P.T. Anderson’s film Punchdrunk Love – love as a force of nature. By opening Ward’s classic album POST-WAR, a further dimension is added to the song. When Ward sings “I’m gonna give you everything”, we’re subtly reminded of those we all know who have indeed given everything this decade. It’s this mysterious cup that beckons each of us. Drink it up.

mward1M. Ward
“Poison Cup”
from Post-War

I don’t really expect this one to make any other “best of the decade” lists, but when it comes to greatness in pop music, focus and simplicity go a long way in my book. A short and (bitter)sweet meditation on love that finds a few millenia worth of religious imagery in tow, “Poison Cup” harkens back to the innocent rural magic of “Stand By Me” but adds the haunting twist that loyalty in the name of love might just consume you. This recalls the central theme of P.T. Anderson’s film Punchdrunk Love – love as a force of nature. By opening Ward’s classic album POST-WAR, a further dimension is added to the song. When Ward sings “I’m gonna give you everything”, we’re subtly reminded of those we all know who have indeed given everything this decade. It’s this mysterious cup that beckons each of us. Drink it up.

Evergreen: Wholeness of the Soul part 3

On Evergreen’s debut 7″, the band weaved DC post-punk, progressive metal, and funk into tight tracks coming in at no more than 3 minutes each. Things are off in a hurry with the hard-nosed punk of “1980”, Tim Ruth’s furious guitar playing propelling the track into the stratosphere. The fractured funk-punk frankenstein “Wholeness of the Soul” follows, this time showcasing the blended chops of Ruth and bassist Troy Cox. “Precious” ends side one of the 7″ (only track 3 on the CD), easily the poppiest thing the band ever recorded, demonstrating that Evergreen never took itself too seriously. It’s a great tune, once again featuring great instrumentation, no riff ever quite the same in Ruth’s hands. The 7″ ends with two tracks that were “epic” for Evergreen, “Fall” and “Empty Sun.” Featuring indelibly great rhythm section work from Cox and Matt Tucker, Dave Pollard’s vocal work also shines throughout. He’s the perfect voice for the band, never once hitting a note in any classical sense, but projecting a powerful, sonorous quality via a raspy, insistent delivery. A great punk voice to be sure.
Tracks 6 thru 13 comprised the GO KART RIDE cassette, released less than a year after the 5 song 7″. “Man That Crawls” launches in a surge of spastic punk, seamlessly shifting through more tempos in under two minutes than most bands will ever use in a life of making music. “Avarice” follows, probably the greatest musical statement the band made, ample demonstration that all Evergreen was missing was the right place at the right time. Featuring a powerful melody and conscientous lyrics, it gives evidence that Evergreen had more than two dimensions at play. The reggae-tinged “Blood”, featuring an unforgettably catchy bass line from Cox, stands out as another obvious highlight, while “Say You Are” is the kind of fist-in-the-air shout-along youth crew anthem that kept the kids coming back for more. The live recording “Liquid”, essentially an instrumental, delivers yet another dimension for Evergreen, but it’s the last two GO KART RIDE tracks, “Knowledge” and “Feed” that provide definitive proof that Evergreen had more to deliver than your typical garage punks. Whereas other funk/punk combos of the time put all the emphasis on devastating the listeners’ senses, these two tracks provide definitive proof that Evergreen’s sense of melody was just as strong as its instinct to bring the noise. There’s plenty of nuance here, begging repeated listens, leaving the fans craving more.
Sadly, as “Feed” rushes to a close, so does the story of Pollard/Tucker era Evergreen, leaving later enthusiasts such as myself forever wondering what might have been. That’s the story with a lot of the bands I grew up loving in Louisville, such as Rodan, Crain, and Slint among many others.  Although it’s great to see these forgotten hardcore heroes get the digital treatment, I find it bittersweet. The fun was had back in the day for sure, but will it ever be that way again?
Many props go to Noise Pollution Records for pursuing a forgotten dream on behalf of the band and a whole lot of fans.Eve

wholenessEvergreen
Wholeness of the Soul; 2009
Noise Pollution Records

continued from part two

On Evergreen’s debut 7″, the band weaved DC post-punk, progressive metal, and funk into tight tracks coming in at no more than 3 minutes each. Things are off in a hurry with the hard-nosed punk of “1980”, Tim Ruth’s furious guitar playing propelling the track into the stratosphere. The fractured funk-punk frankenstein “Wholeness of the Soul” follows, this time showcasing the blended chops of Ruth and bassist Troy Cox. “Precious” ends side one of the 7″ (only track 3 on the CD), easily the poppiest thing the band ever recorded, demonstrating that Evergreen never took itself too seriously. It’s a great tune, once again featuring great instrumentation, no riff ever quite the same in Ruth’s hands. The 7″ ends with two tracks that were “epic” for Evergreen, “Fall” and “Empty Sun.” Featuring indelibly great rhythm section work from Cox and Matt Tucker, Dave Pollard’s vocal work also shines throughout. He’s the perfect voice for the band, never once hitting a note in any classical sense, but projecting a powerful, sonorous quality via a raspy, insistent delivery. A great punk voice to be sure.

Tracks 6 thru 13 comprised the GO KART RIDE cassette, released less than a year after the 5 song 7″. “Man That Crawls” launches in a surge of spastic punk, seamlessly shifting through more tempos in under two minutes than most bands will ever use in a life of making music. “Avarice” follows, probably the greatest musical statement the band made, ample demonstration that all Evergreen was missing was the right place at the right time. Featuring a powerful melody and conscientous lyrics, it gives evidence that Evergreen had more than two dimensions at play. The reggae-tinged “Blood”, featuring an unforgettably catchy bass line from Cox, stands out as another obvious highlight, while “Say You Are” is the kind of fist-in-the-air shout-along youth crew anthem that kept the kids coming back for more. The live recording “Liquid”, essentially an instrumental, delivers yet another dimension for Evergreen, but it’s the last two GO KART RIDE tracks, “Knowledge” and “Feed” that provide definitive proof that Evergreen had more to deliver than your typical garage punks. Whereas other funk/punk combos of the time put all the emphasis on devastating the listeners’ senses, these two tracks provide definitive proof that Evergreen’s sense of melody was just as strong as its instinct to bring the noise. There’s plenty of nuance here, begging repeated listens, leaving the fans craving more.

Sadly, as “Feed” rushes to a close, so does the story of Pollard/Tucker era Evergreen, leaving later enthusiasts such as myself forever wondering what might have been. That’s the story with a lot of the bands I grew up loving in Louisville, such as Rodan, Crain, and Slint among many others.  Although it’s great to see these forgotten hardcore heroes get the digital treatment, I find it bittersweet. The fun was had back in the day for sure, but will it ever be that way again?

Many props go to Noise Pollution Records for pursuing a forgotten dream on behalf of the band and a whole lot of fans.

Evergreen: Wholeness of the Soul (part 2)

wholenessEvergreen
Wholeness of the Soul; 2009
Noise Pollution Records

continued from part one

The Louisville all-ages scene of the early 1990’s was a mish-mash of influences. You had bands like Kinghorse melding Black Sabbath metal with Misfits punk, bands like Endpoint proclaiming the conscientious hardcore ethos of the DC sound, and bands like Rodan building upon the classical dynamics of local heroes Slint. There was also a handful of other bands that could easily sell out a venue in Louisville anytime, anywhere, such as Crain, Erchint, or Bush League. All of these bands were great in their own right, and some, like Crain, have received a strong reissue treatment elsewhere. However, this collection of Evergreen’s long out of print Self Destruct recordings finally brings to digital format one of Louisville’s greatest and most original punk acts.

Noise Pollution’s anthology rightly puts the band’s official releases ahead of previously unreleased demo and live recordings, but to best understand how the band progressed in just a few years, it’s interesting to begin at track 14 and listen through to the end. Tracks 14 thru 17 are 4-track demo recordings from 1991. Recorded when the band was called Cinderblock (but composed of the same members), these tracks show a band heavily influenced by contemporary local heroes like the afore-mentioned Kinghorse and Bush League. The spidery guitar breakdown in the middle of “Psyche Scream Closet” bears a strong resemblance to the proggish instrumentalism of bands like Rodan and Crain. Nevertheless, the hardcore here is sludgy, brutal, and nasty. Between the demos and the live recordings, we get some indication of where Evergreen began, making tracks 1 thru 13 all the more astounding.

completed tomorrow…

The Louisville all-ages scene of the early 1990’s was inspired by a mish-mash of influences. You had bands like Kinghorse melding Black Sabbath metal with Misfits punk, bands like Endpoint proclaiming the conscientious hardcore ethos of the DC sound, and bands like Rodan building upon the classical dynamics of local heroes Slint. There was also a handful of other bands that could easily sell out a venue in Louisville anytime, anywhere, such as Crain, Erchint, or Bush League. All of these bands were great in their own right, and some, like Crain, have received a strong reissue treatment elsewhere. However, the reissue of Evergreen’s long out of print Self Destruct recordings finally brings to digital format one of Louisville’s greatest and most original punk acts.
Noise Pollution’s anthology rightly puts the band’s official releases ahead of previously unreleased demo and live recordings, but to best understand how the band progressed in just a few years, it’s interesting to begin at track 14 and listen through to the end before beginning from track 1. Tracks 14 thru 17 are 4-track demo recordings from 1991. Recorded when the band was called Cinderblock (but composed of the same members), these tracks show a band heavily influenced by contemporary local heroes like the afore-mentioned Kinghorse and Bush League. The spidery guitar breakdown in the middle of “Psyche Scream Closet” bears a strong resemblance to the proggish instrumentalism of bands like Rodan and Crain. Nevertheless, the hardcore here is sludgy, brutal, and nasty. Between the demos and the live recordings, we get some indication of where Evergreen began, making tracks 1 thru 13 all the more astounding.
completed tomorr

Evergreen: Wholeness of the Soul (part 1)

Evergreen
Wholeness of the Soul
Noise Pollution; 2009
1992: I’m a seventh grader in Louisville, Kentucky, enamoured with the “alternative” bands that have de-throned glam rock heroes like Poison and Motley Crue on MTV. Watching Pearl Jam’s videos for “Even Flow” and “Alive” introduces me to the non-stadium “show” experience. Simultaneously, the skater kids at my school begin sporting t-shirts for bands like Sunspring, Kinghorse, Crain, Sancred, and Evergreen, bands that don’t exist on MTV. I’m intrigued.
1994: I buy my first 7″ records via the Slamdek distribution catalogue. They are records released by the Self Destruct record label. One of them is Evergreen’s self-titled 5-song 7″.
1996: I finally get my hands on a dubbed copy of Evergreen’s Go Kart Ride cassette. It’s official. I love this band. Too bad that version ended three years ago.
2006: I listen to my CD-R of “old” Evergreen’s 13 tracks for somewhere around the 200th or 300th time.
2009: Noise Pollution releases the “old” Evergreen anthology Wholeness of the Soul. It’s about time.
to be continued tomorrow…

wholenessEvergreen
Wholeness of the Soul; 2009
Noise Pollution

1992: I’m a seventh grader in Louisville, Kentucky, enamoured with the “alternative” bands that have de-throned glam rock heroes like Poison and Motley Crue on MTV. Watching Pearl Jam’s videos for “Even Flow” and “Alive” introduces me to the non-stadium “show” experience. Simultaneously, the skater kids at my school begin sporting t-shirts for bands like Sunspring, Kinghorse, Crain, Sancred, and Evergreen, bands that don’t exist on MTV. I’m intrigued.

1994: I buy my first 7″ records via the Slamdek distribution catalogue. They are records released by the Self Destruct record label. One of them is Evergreen’s self-titled 5-song 7″.

1996: I finally get my hands on a dubbed copy of Evergreen’s GO CART RIDE cassette. It’s official. I love this band. Too bad that version ended three years ago.

2006: I listen to my CD-R of “old” Evergreen’s 13 tracks for somewhere around the 200th or 300th time.

2009: Noise Pollution releases the “old” Evergreen anthology WHOLENESS OF THE SOUL. It’s about time.

continued here

Tracks of the Decade: “Myriad Harbour” by The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers
“Myriad Harbour”
from CHALLENGERS
It may be the most collosal Pixies rip-off since Cobain & co. delivered “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but a little tribute never hurt anyone, especially done this well. In a decade that saw AC Newman’s power-pop young guns deliver triumph upon triumph, it was their own Billy the Kid, Dan Bejar, that scored an absolute classic. “Myriad Harbour” is a simple song. The lyrics are a short and simple narrative, the chord structure has already been tried by a thousand garage bands, and the chorus doesn’t tell us to do anything but “look out upon the myriad harbour.” In this, it’s a song about simple joys. And in a decade that was, let’s face it, particularly dark, sometimes we want to be reminded of the spontaneous fun that can come from standing on the street corner looking for something to do. A silly song, sure, but certainly full of delights.

bejarThe New Pornographers
“Myriad Harbour”
from CHALLENGERS

It may be the most collosal Pixies rip-off since Cobain & co. delivered “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but a little tribute never hurt anyone, especially done so well. In a decade that saw AC Newman’s power-pop young guns deliver triumph upon triumph, it was their own Billy the Kid, Dan Bejar, that scored an absolute classic. “Myriad Harbour” is a simple song. The lyrics are a short and disjointed narrative, the chord structure has already been tried by a thousand garage bands, and the choral exhortation to “look out upon the myriad harbour” is as profound as “I wanna hold your hand.”  Yet in a decade that was, let’s face it, particularly dark, sometimes we want to be reminded of the spontaneous fun that can come from standing on the street corner in a big city looking for something to do. A silly song, sure, but certainly full of delights.

Thank You Emusic

This blog is not about advertising, but given that I have a healthy dose of writer’s block tonight, I thought I’d switch gears and just appreciate the fact that Emusic has pretty much drowned me in music over the last month.

1. There’s the standard 37 tracks per month at $15.
2. I purchased 100 tracks using a $30 gift card in August.
3. Last night, they gave me 50 extra downloads for being a loyal customer through their transition in bringing Sony onboard.
4. I will shortly be receiving 10 more downloads for rating 10 albums. Yes, I select stars for my favorite records, and I will get 10 free songs.

That’s 197 tracks in one month at $45.  That’s 23 cents a tracks. Muy bueno.

And what did I purchase? Well, here’s an incomplete list:

1. Modest Mouse, No One’s First and You’re Next EP
2. 12 tracks from Bob Dylan’s first two greatest hits volumes (i.e. “All Along the Watchtower”, “I Shall Be Released”)
3. 5 tracks from Pearl Jam (i.e. “Nothingman”, “Once”)
4. Nathan, Jimson Weed
5. Hem, Funnel Cloud
6.  Neu! 75
7. Arcade Fire EP
8.  The Swell Season
9.  The Inbred, Kombinator
10. Sandra McCracken, Red Balloon
11.  The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime (43 tracks for the price of 12!)
12.  5 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Sad Sappy Sucker
13. Son Volt, The Search (Deluxe Edition)
14. Sandra McCracken, Gravity/Love
15.  Dinosaur Jr., Farm
16. 6 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Epic releases
17. Bruce Springsteen, Hammersmith Odeon London ’75

And while there’s more where that came from, I’m not even done buying yet. I don’t know of a deal that even comes close to that in music downloads. So if you haven’t done a free trial with eMusic, what are you waiting for?

Tracks of the Decade: “I am trying to break your heart” by Wilco

Wilco
“I am trying to break your heart”
from YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT
While Thom Yorke was busy sucking lemons, Jeff Tweedy found himself assassining down avenues in the opening track to his own game-changing record. The biggest, boldest statement in Americana this decade begins here, Tweedy borrowing aesthetics and off-the-wall lyrical acumen from the likes of Beck and Silver Jews’ DC Berman and producing an archetypal slacker classic. The song itself would have been enough, but Jim O’Rourke throws in everything but the kitchen sink (actually, it might be in there too) to round this one into a cacophonous avant-folk classic. Tweedy has remarked that he appreciates the ability of music to evoke not just pure emotion but landscapes and buildings in the mind of the listener. That all happens here, as the chronic noise and apathetic churn of the big city comes alive in one glorious open-ended malaise. Yet the track squats in your subconscious with its oddly hypnotic gestures, proving that while it may not travel at light speed, it’s nevertheless one of the classic tracks of the decade.

jefftweedyWilco
“I am trying to break your heart”
from YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT

While Thom Yorke was busy sucking lemons, Jeff Tweedy found himself assassining down avenues in the opening track to his own game-changing record. The biggest, boldest statement in Americana this decade begins here, Tweedy borrowing aesthetics and off-the-wall lyrical acumen from the likes of Beck and Silver Jews’ DC Berman and producing an archetypal slacker classic. The song itself would have been enough, but Jim O’Rourke throws in everything but the kitchen sink (actually, it might be in there too) to round this one into a cacophonous avant-folk classic. Tweedy has remarked that he appreciates the ability of music to evoke not just pure emotion but landscapes and buildings in the mind of the listener. That all happens here, as the chronic noise and apathetic churn of the big city comes alive in one glorious open-ended malaise. Yet the track squats in your subconscious with its oddly hypnotic gestures, proving that while it may not travel at light speed, it’s nevertheless one of the classic tracks of the decade.

CD Review | Counting Crows: August & Everything After

Counting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records
My Rating: 96/100
I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)

CountingCrowsAugustandEverythingAfterCounting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records

My Rating: 96/100

I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)