Quick Review (LP): For Your Own Special Sweetheart by Jawbox

jawbox for your own special sweetheart Jawbox
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Atlantic; 1994

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “FF=66”, “Savory”, “Breathe”, “Cooling Card”, “Whitney Walks”

The only problem with Novelty was the production. All I can say is that it sounded a bit off, sort of glossed and imbalanced. The drums, for example, popped with too much pizzazz. The guitars came off a little too metal. All that has been remedied on For Your Own Special Sweetheart, apparently by the efforts of Fugazi-standby producer Ted Nicely. With his assistance, the band made the defining Jawbox experience, an album that captures the band in all of their gorgeous, hyper-melodic dissonance. Everything – and I mean everything – about this record brims with sonic glory. The choruses are fist-pumpingly mighty, the drums and bass are pummeling and full, and the guitars are explosive and razor-sharp. The only drawback, and it is minor, is that the best material seems to be packed into the record’s first half. Still, it could just be that tracks 1-6 are so strong that nothing could compare, and to be honest, “Chicago Piano”, “U-Trau”, and “Whitney Walks” are all pretty amazing anyway. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sweetheart is one of the great post-punk records, and certainly Jawbox’s masterpiece. It’s a record that deserves to be listened to on full blast, so pop it in, crank it up, and savor every second.

Wikipedia article
Pitchfork review
AMG review

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Quick Review (LP): Repeater by Fugazi

fugazi repeater Fugazi
Repeater
Dischord; 1991

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Turnover”, “Merchandise”, “Shut The Door”

After their mighty debut EP, Fugazi struggled through a couple of shorter efforts before nailing it on this, their debut LP. Repeater is the ultimate Fugazi full-length. It’s the record you can imagine them playing to throngs of sweaty teenagers and good-for-nothings in packed all-ages clubs. It’s the record that defines the band, and even sees them hinting at the manic musical directions they would take on future albums (“Sieve-Fisted Find”, “Greed”). The first three tracks run seamlessly into one another, allowing the band to essentially out-do itself after “Waiting Room” and demonstrate the kind of pugilistic fury they were capable of. “Shut The Door” seals the deal, putting the lid on one of the most memorable records of the pre-alternative era, and most everything in between is great too. The thing about Repeater is it opens up, exploding into incredible mixes of melody and fury that are simply unparalleled. Highly recommended, and worthy every second of your time.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
The Daily Guru review

Quick Review (EP): Margin Walker by Fugazi

Fugazi
Margin Walker EP
Dischord; 1989

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Margin Walker”, “Burning Too”, “Promises”

It’s always puzzled me that so many folks cite Margin Walker as one of Fugazi’s best releases. I’ll admit it’s okay, especially the first and last tracks, but it’s an afterthought compared to the first EP. Nothing here is nearly as iconic or tuneful as “Waiting Room”, or even “Bulldog Front.” The tracks all feel a bit rigid, as if it is too obvious they are studio recordings. Furthermore, the band seems increasingly doctrinaire, more obsessed with the message than the music. The result is that this is the only mediocre record the band ever produced. The songs lack the poppy punch of the 7 Songs set, and for that reason it is a less than memorable release.

Wikipedia article
Allmusic review
My review of Fugazi’s 7 Songs EP
Mark Prindle’s review of Margin Walker

Quick Review (EP): 7 Songs by Fugazi

Fugazi
7 Songs EP
Dischord; 1988

My Rating: A+

Best Tracks: “Waiting Room”, “Burning”, “Suggestion”

Yes, it is THAT good, good enough to warrant us forgiving them for inaugurating the punk/funk/hardcore fusion that would be mimicked ad nauseam in the late 90’s by all the Korn Bizkit’s of the world. From every conceivable standpoint, this debut is a masterpiece, with “Waiting Room”/”Bulldog Front”/”Bad Mouth” standing as one of the greatest opening salvos in rock history. Elsewhere, “Burning” is nearly as strong, featuring an incredibly memorable intro, and “Suggestion” achieves the sort of epic arc that was and still is quite unusual for hardcore. There’s really no other record that brims with as much conviction, passion, and ferocious melodicism as this here extended player, and every track is simply iconic. Furthermore, this is a landmark record, because it’s the point that hardcore punk made the case that it could be, like, capable of the Top 40. The fact is, “Waiting Room” is one helluva pop song, and it might be argued that every track that made it into the buzz bin on MTV in the 90’s somehow directly descended from it. You should probably own two copies of this one: one to listen to, and one to salute on your way out the door every morning. So much more than a hardcore or punk record, the 7 Songs EP is without a doubt one of the finest musical moments of the 1980’s.

AMG review of the 13 Songs compilation
AMG review of “Waiting Room”
Wikipedia article
Confessions of a Cultural Whore review

 

Quick Review (EP): The Years by Memoryhouse

Memoryhouse
The Years
Arcade Sound Ltd.; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Track: “Sleep Patterns”

Debut EP’s have a long and storied history. I count among my favorites REM’s Chronic Town, Voxtrot’s Raised By Wolves, and Fugazi’s self-titled debut. I think it’s perhaps the best way for a new band to introduce its sound to the world, because the EP length leaves us well-informed but thirsting for more. Additionally, most bands, in their first year or two, have not really achieved what can be called a fully-formed sound. Arcade Fire is a good example. Their first EP, while decent in its own right, comes nowhere near the epic glory of their debut LP. All of this is to say that I think Memoryhouse has released one of the best EP’s of the year with their debut, The Years. It’s short even for an EP, only 4 songs in all, but we have here a reasonable introduction to what can be expected from the band in the future. “Sleep Patterns” is the obvious standout, a lo-fi pop noir hybrid of Beach House and Joy Division, and “The Waves” is a quick interlude of New Age electronica. The other two tracks are solid as well, and given the fact that the EP is free, I expect the band to gain a significant following from it. I question whether they can pull off a really solid LP though. Bands with this sort of sleepy sound generally approach terminal attention around track 8 (witness: Boards of Canada), so I for one am hoping for a long career of lengthy EP’s. Still, if Tortoise can do LPs, why can’t Memoryhouse? We’ll see what they come up with.

Download it for FREE here
Pitchfork review
Band Myspace page
WeAreBandits.com

Tracks of the Decade (so far)

1563_Pieter_Bruegel_the_elder_The_Tower_of_Babel-wl400There’s still more to come, but here’s a list of the Sweet Georgia Breezes’ Tracks of the Decade so far (in no particular order). What do you think of the list? What are your top 5 or 10 tracks of the decade?

Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Wilco – I am trying to break your heart
The New Pornographers  – Myriad Harbour
M. Ward – Poison Cup
Kathleen Edwards – In State
Vampire Weekend – M79
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around
Built to Spill – The Weather
Neko Case – Star Witness
Belle and Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
Interpol – NYC
Wilco – Impossible Germany
Coldplay – Lost!
Ryan Adams – To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
Fugazi – Cashout
Flaming Lips – Fight Test
Nathan – The Wind
Radiohead – Everything In Its Right Place
Rachel’s – Water from the Same Source
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
Bruce Springsteen – My City of Ruins
The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin

Tracks of the Decade: “Cashout” by Fugazi

654816_356x237“Cashout”
by Fugazi
from THE ARGUMENT (2001)

Fugazi were mostly quiet this decade, releasing only 2001’s THE ARGUMENT before going on indefinite hiatus in 2002. Whether or not we’ll ever see more from the post-punk Fab Four is anybody’s guess, but in particular the album highlight “Cashout” has left that hunger in my belly. “Cashout” reigns supreme, even above the band’s output in the 90’s, harkening back to the 13 SONGS/REPEATER golden days. They sound like archetypal Fugazi and then some here, with the Lally/Canty rhythm attack pummelling out a groove worthy of “Waiting Room” and the guitar section as post-punk scathing as ever. Still, the band proves it has grown since 1989, throwing enough range and subtlety into the song’s dynamic to incorporate, of all things, a cello. The band sounds as tight as a straight-jacket here, the tempo moderate enough to make it all seem sickeningly easy, but the high pressure atmosphere is inevitably explosive here as Ian MacKaye narrates a story of gross injustice. That being said, the song’s rallying cry – “Everybody Wants Somewhere!” – strikes me as less than customary. “Cashout” may be a sign that Fugazi was ready to leave behind the punk pulpit for greener pastures, their heroic days as soldiers of the counter-culture well past. As the song explodes into freakout mode during the coda, I can visualize the men of Fugazi bidding the world farewell. If that’s the case, what a way to go out.

Fugazi were mostly quiet this decade, releasing only 2001’s THE
ARGUMENT before going on indefinite hiatus in 2002. Whether or not
we’ll ever see more from the post-punk Fab Four is anybody’s guess,
but in particular the album highlight “Cashout” has left that
hunger in my belly. “Cashout” reigns supreme, even above the band’s
output in the 90’s, harkening back to the 13 SONGS/REPEATER golden
days. They sound like archetypal Fugazi and then some here, with
the Lally/Canty rhythm attack pummelling out a groove worthy of
“Waiting Room” and the guitar section as post-punk scathing as
ever. Still, the band proves it has grown since 1989, throwing
enough range and subtlety into the song’s dynamic to incorporate,
of all things, a cello. The band sounds as tight as a straight-
jacket here, the tempo moderate enough to make it all seem
sickeningly easy, but the high pressure atmosphere is inevitably
explosive here as Ian MacKaye narrates a story of gross injustice.
That being said, the song’s rallying cry – “Everybody Wants
Somewhere!” – strikes me as less than customary. “Cashout” may be a
sign that Fugazi was ready to leave behind the punk pulpit for
greener pastures, their heroic days as soldiers of the counter-
culture well past. As the song explodes into freakout mode during
the coda, I can visualize the men of Fugazi bidding the world
farewell. If that’s the case, what a way to go