Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Housemartins: The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death (1987)

Jesus hates him everyday
'cause Jesus gave and farmer took

A year after the first record, this Christian new wave band returned with it's second and last LP, The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death. That's quite an evocative title and the title track has good pace and I rather enjoy it. Me and the Farmer, Build, and a number of other tracks, are quite good too (I hope someone gets that "quite good" reference). The record sounds like the first, but with new songs, if that makes any sense at all. But, I have to say that I was finished with the band at this point. I did see the Beautiful South in concert a few years later, but I kind of forgot about this band, for the most part.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Housemartins: Caravan Of Love (1986)

I hate the song Caravan of Love with a deep and abiding passion. The Housemartins did not write this song, though they recorded a very popular version of it the year after it was recorded by
Isley Jasper Isley. As I have mentioned in the past, I dislike a cappella music intensely, and this entire EP was recorded that way.

I suppose I ought to give the band credit for disparaging organized religion in the video--if that's really the correct interpretation, and I am not convinced that I agree with that argument--but even that doesn't blunt the religious overtones of the track, not to mention the other tracks on this EP, like Heaven Help Us All (Sermonette) and When I First Met Jesus:

"Talk about Jesus Talk about Jesus I talk about Jesus I talk about Jesus I try to back Jesus I try to back Jesus I try to back Jesus I try to back Jesus I click about Jesus I click about Jesus I click about Jesus I click about Jesus I clap about Jesus I clap about Jesus I clap about Jesus I clap about Jesus I talk about Jesus I talk about Jesus I talk about Jesus I talk about Jesus."

In fact, the five tracks as a whole comprise some sort of bizarre mini gospel effort.

So, here's the strangest story I have about about Caravan of Love. Years ago, I was hanging out with some people, and one couple in the group were planning to buy new speakers. Of course, when one auditions new audio gear, one wants to hear familiar music, but also music that touches on all of the ranges. You want to hear bass response, the higher end, and mid-ranges, and so, you may want more than one song or more than one style. Well, this couple decided that the one and only track they needed to hear was Caravan of Love, which they carted around on CD to the various stereo shops. I heard that song so many time, it almost made me made. I would have chosen Led Zeppelin.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Housemartins: London 0 Hull 4 (1986)

The Housemartins only produced two real records plus a bunch of compilations. Paul Heaton went on to form The Beautiful South, but by that time, I had mostly lost interest. This LP commences with one of the more enduring Housemartins tunes, Happy Hour. Even casual fans will recognize a few other tunes from this LP, like Sheep, Think for Minute, Lean on Me, We're Not Deep, etc.

And now for the weird news. The band used its platform to preach about about Christianity, albeit sometimes in somewhat subtle ways. The back cover of this LP, for example, contains this perplexing statement which is full of cognitive dissonance:

"Take Jesus – Take Marx – Take Hope"

Wow, that's Jesus and Marx together in one package, all thrown in with hope, no less. I can't imagine anything less hopeful than Marxism or Jesus. Moreover, Karl would not have approved. Bizarrely, that statement seems to stand in contrast to the sentiments dispensed in the song, Sheep:

"And when you see a can I see a crook
And when you see a crowd I see a flock
It's sheep we're up against
Sheep we're up against"

Aren't congregations referred to as sheep? Aren't sheep those people who can't think for themselves and follow superstitions blindly? I realize that the band might be saying that people are sheep in reference to a whole host of issues, like voting and politics in general, but how can you exempt religion from that argument? If people are sheepish idiots, people are sheepish idiots, as the song so rightly says:

"They've never questioned anything, they've never disagreed
Sometimes I think they must have wool in their ears"

I would apply the above statements to the huge numbers of people who blindly follow ancient superstitions. Despite that, I would call this a fun and happy record, though one that hasn't aged as well as I might have thought.

Sometimes, a strong indication of how much I like a band is reflected in whether I own any CDs. I have no Housemartins CDs.

Oh, and on a final note, it rankles me when people favourably compare the Housemartins to the Smiths. The Smiths were a top-shelf band; the Housemartins were not.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Koen Holtkamp: Liquid Light Forms (2013)

This release was limited to 400 copies: 300 on black vinyl and 100 on gold vinyl. My copy is on gold vinyl. Both were pressed in the US. I suppose you might label this music as experimental or electronic. Originally, he was the other ha;f of the duo that made up the groups Mountains, a kind of droneish affair.

The record company posted this, about this record:

Three plush, extended synthdrone compositions orbiting in new age and kosmische spheres with a really blissed out feel

 "Liquid Light Forms focuses almost entirely on electronic pieces utilizing predominantly voltage controlled modular synthesizers and sequencers. Liquid Light Forms radiates with pulsating, dense rhythmic patterns that morph and emerge as they compound on themselves. The result is a hypnotic and truly psychedelic listening experience that proves to be one of Koen's most captivating recordings yet."[source]

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Honeydrippers: Volume One (1984)

Sadly, there was never a volume two. That's such a shame because this was a really great experiment. Who would have thought that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (formerly of Led Zeppelin) could team up with Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers, et al., and produce such an unexpected and interesting record? The other sad thing is that this is only an EP, with a mere six tracks.

It's a terrific collection of oldies: I Get A Thrill, Sea Of Love, I Got A Woman, Young Boy Blues, Rockin' At Midnight. The most famous of these tracks was Sea of Love, but the other songs are really great too. Even if you hated Zep, you will like this record.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Jools Holland: Jools Holland Meets Rock 'A' Boogie Billy (1984)

In case you didn't know this already, Jools Holland was once a member of Squeeze and is now a talk show host.

This is a really snappy record. It's lively and a real barn-burner from start to finish. That's all I have to say.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Hold Steady: RAGS (2014)

Rags, I really love ya
I can't forget about ya
You'll be a hard luck woman
Baby, 'till you find your man
- Hard Luck Woman, KISS

This limited edition 10" EP contains five cover tunes, released via Pledge Music. It might be difficult to get a copy of this one. This record was released as a fundraiser for the family of 'Jersey' Mike Van Jura, who passed away unexpectedly. Each band member choose one track, leading to a rather odd collection. But, as a big fan of the band, I like this record.

I once saw a copy in a local shop for $30, but that was soon after it was released. I haven't seen any since then. The tracks are:

1) All Through The City, the Dr. Feelgood track, written by Wilko Johnson
2) Closer To The Stars, the Soul Asylum track, written by David Pirner
3) Hard Luck Woman, the KISS tune, written by Paul Stanley
4) I Gotta Get Drunk, composed by Willie Nelson
5) The Last Thing I Ever Wanted Was To Show Up And Blow Your Mind, from Those Bastard Souls,  written by David Shouse.

My favourite track from this EP is All Through The City, but I love the original too, so that makes sense. Also, I have to say that the band's version of Hard Luck Women is great, even if it a KISS song.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams (2014)

I absolutely hate the album cover. I simply cannot believe that the best rock band in America allowed this as the cover for its new record. Such a great band; such a horrifying cover.

Someone is trying to sell a copy of this LP on Amazon for $161.71. Copies of this record a readily available in many places for a fraction of the cost (I have even seen copies for $9.99 a few months back). I guess if you pay inflated prices, you have only yourself to blame. In any case, this is a great record. I read one bad review from some internet loser, but don't believe that guy. This is great. The whole record is great, and I would say it's a bit better than Heaven is Whenever.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Hold Steady: Heaven Is Whenever (2010)

There are two pressings of this LP: 2010 and 2015. I have a copy from 2010. There were also a couple of limited edition releases for Record Store Day in 2015, one of which was on orange vinyl.

The first time I heard this record, I was a little disappointed, but what I was really feeling was the absence of Franz Nicolay, the band's keyboardist. I have adjusted to the change, and am happy to say that I can recommend this record without reservation. I saw this tour in Toronto when the band passed through. The Hold Steady is the best band in America, and currently my favourite band.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Hold Steady: Stay Positive (2008)

Me and my friends are like the drums on "Lust for Life"
We pound it out on floor toms
Our psalms are sing-along songs
- Constructive Summer

At the time, I felt that The Hold Steady's fourth record was something of a disappointment. Happily,  the intervening years have changed my opinion. After all, it contains one of my favourite Hold Steady tunes, Slapped Actress, which is in my top five tunes from this band. Stay Positive was released after the wonderful Boys and Girls in America and the truly amazing Separation Sunday, which just might be my favourite record of all time. As such, I may have been hoping for too much.

This record has a bunch of great tunes: Stay Positive, Sequestered in Memphis (wait, I might list them all if I do that). There are simply no bad tracks on this double LP.

This record was released in 2008 in the US and Europe. I have the American pressing. My understanding is that this LP will be repressed soon. In the meantime, finding a copy of this record will probably be challenging. Right now, there are two copies for sale on Discogs, one for $50.84 and the other for $231.28 (The UK pressing is about $55.00). If you think that is expensive, just have a look at! At the time of writing, there were three vinyl copies for sale for $5284.00, $5782.78, and $7005.29! These re-sellers must think we are all idiots.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Roger Hodgson: In The Eye Of The Storm (1984)

After Supertamp's Famous Last Words, which turned out to be neither famous nor last, Hodgson recorded his first solo record. The casual listener might be convinced that this is a Supertramp record. It has a familiar voice and sounds like later Supertramp. It's just lacking the counterpoint provided by Rick Davies. Still, for a Supertramp fan (and that was me, for a while), this record is a must have. It's certainly a progressive record, and it's as good as anything Supertramp did in its later career.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rupert Hine: The Wildest Wish To Fly (1983)

"The lush production, intelligent lyrics, and precise songcrafting qualities of Hine still make it an enjoyable record, but the weird sounds, bleak atmospheres, and daring artistic choices found on the 1981 Immunity are now history." [Allmusic]

The above is probably an accurate description, especially if you are listening to the original pressing and not the bastardized pressing that was released in Canada. The Canadian pressing (and others) was mangled, with a different track listing, and it includes I Hang On To My Vertigo from Immunity. I hate it when the record company people mess around with records. Someday, I shall have to locate an original first pressing as it was intended. On this topic, Allmusic, again, notes:

"The album's release history is confusing and deserves to be straightened out. It first appeared worldwide, excluding North America, in May 1983. A different version, with one extra song ("Blue Flame") and two missing ("Victim of Wanderlust" and "The Saturation of the Video Rat") replaced by tracks from Immunity, was released in the U.S. and Canada in March 1984. A third version was released in the U.K. in February 1985 with "Blue Flame" taking the place of "Living in Sin." Other tracks had also been remixed, re-edited, and even partly re-recorded."

This is insane. In any case, I like this record, but I wish the record company had adhered to the original track listing.