Friday, September 30, 2016

The Icicle Works: The Icicle Works (1984)

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If you know a track from this LP, it's likely Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream), but there are other great tunes, like the aforementioned Love is a Wonderful Colour and Chop the Tree, for example.

There is some great drumming in Birds Fly, and the lyrics are pretty good too:


Love come down upon us till you flow like water
Burning with the hope of insight
Feathered, look they're covered with a bright elation
Stolen in the sight of love

We are, we are, we are but your children
Finding our way around indecision
We are, we are, we are rather helpless
Take us forever, a whisper to a scream

Birds fly in the eyes of the faithless daughter
Broken at the bitter end
Wasted sacrificed for a new nirvana
Nighttime sends us on our way

We are, we are, we are but your children
Finding our way around indecision
We are, we are, we are rather helpless
Take us forever a whisper to a scream

I would rate this as a really good debut record, with some solid tracks. The UK pressing has a different cover from the Canadian pressing, of course.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Icicle Works: Love is a Wonderful Colour (1983)

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This promotional Canadian 12" single contains two versions of Love is a Wonderful Colour, the album version and the long version. The long version is like the album version, only longer :)

The Icicle Works: Love is a Wonderful Colour (1983)

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It's always fabulous to see words spelled in the original British and not in the American: colour has a U in it! In 1983, prior to the release of The Icicle Works' first LP, the band released the single, Love is a Wonderful Colour. This is a fabulous track. Side B of my UK pressing contains Waterline and In the Dance the Shaman Led. Both are fine tunes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Eight Miles High / Makes No Sense At All (1990)

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She said Husker Du got huge, but they started in St. Paul
Do you remember "Makes No Sense At All?"

We Can Get Together, The Hold Steady

Makes No Sense At All was the only single released from Flip Your Wig. In 1990, it was joined with a pre-Zen Arcade single, Eight Mikes High (the cover of the Byrds track) and two other tracks: Masochism World and Love is All Around, the band's improbable cover of the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show. How bizarre is that? I get the Minneapolis connection, but that is just weird, though I think it works. (In other words, this record combines SST 025 and SST 051).

Anyway, this four track compilation or EP was released on CD, cassette, and 10" vinyl. In 1991, it was repressed only on 10" black, green marbled, or purple marbled vinyl. I have a copy of the purple marbled version.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Warehouse: Songs And Stories (1987)

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I will argue that Warehouse is Hüsker Dü's best record. I think the band comes near to the sound of Sugar, which makes sense. Sadly, they broke up right after this, but Bob Mould went on to have a very successful solo career, and then there was his time with Sugar, a band I thought was truly awesome. I saw Bob in a solo acoustic set at Lee Palace in Toronto many years ago. It was a brief show, but he seemed to put everything he had into the performance.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Sorry Somehow (1986)

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The Sorry Somehow EP, pressed in the UK only, contains:

Side One
"Sorry Somehow" (Hart)
"All This I've Done For You" (Mould)

Side Two
"Flexible Flyer" (Hart)
"Celebrated Summer" (Mould)
"Fattie" (Mould/Hart)

The two tracks on side one are from Candy Apple Grey, two tracks in side B are acoustic efforts of earlier tracks recorded live at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood. Fattie is a noisy and intriguing instrumental.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Candy Apple Grey (1986)

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Candy Apple Grey is Hüsker Dü's major label debut, after moving from SST to Warner. The band managed to retain its style, for the most part, and so I would call this record a logical continuation of the sound they had achieved. One thing that changed is the inclusion of two acoustic tracks that would have not seemed possible in the past. Beyond that, the sound seems generally more well-rounded. It's great, of course.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hüsker Dü: New Day Rising (1985)

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There's a "Girl On Heaven Hill"
I come up to her cabin still
She said Hüsker Dü got huge, but they started in St. Paul

- We Can Get Together, The Hold Steady

Amazing. Really, this is fantastic. Just read what the reviewer at Popmatters says:

"I say this with utter, unwavering conviction: Hüsker Dü is the most criminally underappreciated alt-rock band of the pre-Nirvana era. While contemporaries like R.E.M. and Sonic Youth have joined the rock canon, Hüsker Dü (which consisted of vocalist/guitarist Bob Mould, vocalist/drummer Grant Hart, and bassist Greg Norton) remains relatively unknown, and is often forgotten in the modern narrative of the development of the American underground scene in the 1980s. This is especially troubling since Hüsker Dü was the group responsible for pioneering the sonic hallmarks traditionally associated with alternative rock: the potent mix of distortion and pop melodies, the angst-filled lyrics, and even the rhythm of the guitars" [source]

Although this came out in 1985, I have the SST 1990 repressing on black vinyl.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Zen Arcade (1984)

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Just when it seemed like Hüsker Dü couldn't record a release longer than 30 minutes, out comes Zen Arcade, clocking in a 69 minutes. So many good things have been said about this record, it's difficult to add anything meaningful. Wikipedia says this:

"Zen Arcade and subsequent Hüsker Dü albums were instrumental in the creation of the alternative rock genre; the band would later abandon the hardcore aesthetic entirely in favor of a post-hardcore style of melodic, guitar-driven alternative rock. While not commercially successful, the influence of Zen Arcade has stretched beyond the underground music sphere. It is frequently included on lists of the all-time best rock and roll albums and it continues to have a cult following." [source]

Allmusic says this:

"In many ways, it's impossible to overestimate the impact of Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade on the American rock underground in the '80s. It's the record that exploded the limits of hardcore and what it could achieve." [source]

I'll leave it at that.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Metal Circus (1983)

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Metal Circus is a 10" EP with 7 brief tracks. (There is also a 12" version of this record). This is simply an amazing record.  The sound, the atmosphere, the raging guitars, and the lyrics are exceptional. There is far more melody here than in the band's debut LP. It's hard to reconcile the LP vs EP labels, because this EP is about the same length as Land Speed Record, which I think is generally regarded to be an LP

This is music that is probably more suited to a younger man, yet I am sure none of my kids would ever want to hear it...yet. Here's a track with Grant Hart on lead vocals.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hüsker Dü: Land Speed Record (1982)

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Here we have one of Craig Finn's favourite bands. Hüsker Dü (or Husker Du) is a classic example of a virtually unknown (at least at the time) yet legendary punk trio. I suppose we should refer to them as having a cult following, rather than being completely unknown. They never got the attention that they deserved, until later, it seems to me. But, if you were in college or university back in the day, it's likely you might have heard of them, especially if your campus had a good radio station.

In some ways, the band reminds me of the Velvet Underground, another band that was ignored, but in time, proved to be remarkably influential. I think it can be argued, as Allmusic has done, that Hüsker Dü laid the foundation for the grungy scene that came later with the Pixies, The Replacements, and Nirvana (and I would add The Hold Steady).

Land Speed record contains a whopping seventeen songs recorded live, yet the entire record clocks in at only 26 minutes. That should tell you that the whole record is fast and furious and sadly, verging on the unlistenable. The band went on to do much better things, but this record makes an impressive opening salvo. As Allmusic says:

"A brief live EP, Land Speed Record races through its songs without regard for melody or riffs. As a sonic blitzkrieg, it's quite impressive, yet little of the record makes a lasting impression." [source]

The best thing is to see some live clips, recorded at the 7th Street Entry, which leads to a Hold Steady lyric:

"Summer '88 was all heat and intensity, saw The Youth Of Today at 7th Street Entry."
- Barely Breathing, The Hold Steady

Of course, Bob Mould went on to record some brilliant solo records and some great music with Sugar.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hunters + Collectors: Living Daylight (1987)

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In the usual schizophrenic Discogs way, there is a separate entry for Hunters + Collectors, because it has a + and not an and. I guess this site has never heard of uniform entries or name variants. There should not be a separate entry under a different name. That is dumb. Just look at the Prince entries to see what kind of confusion this brings. Yes, we care if Prince credited the New Power Generation or The Revolution, but they should all appear under one unified heading for Prince.

Anyway, Living Daylight is a 1987 EP with five tracks, and it's pretty good, as noted here:

"This EP, included with the CD version of Human Frailty, picks up where that album left off.
Rocking like a band possessed the group blisters through the first two tracks, singing and playing at top volume and intensity, before settling down for the classic "January Rain" and its blend of pensive lyrics and beautiful horn and vocal interplay." [source]

I can't remember the last time I listened to this record.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hunters & Collectors: Human Frailty (1986)

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I have a US pressing of this record from this Aussie band, described by Wikipedia as rock, art-funk, and pup-rock. I guess those descriptors work. If you don't know this band, there is still a slight chance that you might recognize the track Throw Your Arms Around Me. This record contains the re-recorded version of the earlier single.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ian Hunter: Short Back N' Sides (1981)

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Hey, Mick Jones and Topper Headon from the Clash are on this record, and that should have made it great. It's OK, and that's all I can really say. I do appreciate the sentiments in Gun Control. The record just never grabbed me the way some other music has. Maybe I was not exposed to this music at the right time. This might be another one for the sale/trade pile.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ian Hunter: All-American Alien Boy (1976)

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All-American Alien Boy is the second solo LP from former Mott the Hoople singer and guitarist Ian Hunter. Quite honestly, I never listen to this record. I should probably get rid of it. That's not to say that the LP is bad. It's just that I have other things that I would rather spend time listening to, and this never really clicked for me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Human League: Human (1986)

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I recall reading somewhere that Robert Smith (of the Cure) had included Human in a list of his favourite tracks from the 80s. I've never been quite sure what to make of that. It might be the best track on Crash, but that's the only positive thing I can say about it.

The Human League: Crash (1986)

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This record might be better than Hysteria, but I'm not sure I can argue forcefully either way. The big hit from this record was Human, but there were a couple of other tracks of note, but I won't say that they are good tracks. And, please, contrast this LP's cover with that of Reproduction. What happened?

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Human League: Hysteria (1984)

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By the time this record was released, I had accepted that The Human League were now a fully-fledged pop band. The time and labour that went into this record did not payoff at all. There are some good moments, but, in the end, I have to wonder what the Human League of 1979 would have thought about this record. The answer is clear: they would have hated it, despite the presence of a genuine political tune.

She dreams of nineteen sixty-nine
Before the soldiers came
The life was cheap on bread and wine
And sharing meant no shame
She is awakened by the screams
Of rockets flying from nearby
And scared she clings onto her dreams
To beat the fear that she might die

And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone
From the Lebanon
The Lebanon

Before he leaves the camp he stops
He scans the world outside
And where there used to be some shops
Is where the snipers sometimes hide
He left his home the week before
He thought he'd be like the police
But now he finds he is at war
Weren't we supposed to keep the peace

And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone
From the Lebanon
The Lebanon
The Lebanon
From the Lebanon

I must be dreaming
It can't be true
I must be dreaming
It can't be true

And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone?
From the Lebanon
The Lebanon
The Lebanon
From the Lebanon

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Human League: Fascination! (1983)

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It might seem like a strange thing to say, but the track (Keep Feeling) Fascination (represented here is extended and dub versions) always makes me think of My Bloody Valentine. I do not know enough about music theory to state conclusively that Fascination uses pitch bending, or if there is something else going on, but it certainly sounds like it to my ears. It's a truly bizarre element to find in a pop song, and for that reason, I really admire this track, even if it is a pop song.

Other tracks on the EP are the aforementioned Mirror Man, the aforementioned Hard Times, the aforementioned Your Remind Me of Gold, and one new track - I Love you Too Much. In other words, this EP, which clocks in at just under half an hour, has very little to offer and looks like a stopgap. But, I do love the title track, so I was sold.

Also, the black and grey video works well.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Human League: Mirror Man (1982)

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The flip side of Mirror Man contains two versions of You Remind Me Of Gold (one version is an instrumental). Mirror Man was released only as a single; however, the track later showed up on the Fascination EP. It confirmed for me the direction the band was going in. It's an enjoyable tune, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Human League: Love Action (I Believe In Love) (1981)

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This is a Canadian 4-track 12" single featuring two versions of Love Action (one is an instrumental), and two versions of Hard Times (one is an instrumental). That's all you need to know.

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Human League: Dare (1981)

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Right from the opening, this record sounds far more accessible than the first two, even if they adhered to the use of this equipment: Roland MC8, System 700, JP4, Korg 770, Delta, Casio VLT 1, M10, Linn LM1, Yamaha CS15 and Roland microcomputer and Linn drum computer.

Allmusic, in its usual schizophrenic way, gave 3 stars to the first record, 2.5 stars to the second, and 5 stars to this record. Say what? Of course, the reviewer refers to Don't You Want me as "utter genius." I do like that track, but it is far short of genius. I guess one could argue that this record commences The Human League's tenure as a new romantic band. Overall, this is a pop record, complete with female backup singers, and genuine hit singles. The band retains some unique characteristics, but I find this record less appealing that Reproduction and Travelogue.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Human League: Travelogue (1980)

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Travelogue, again featuring only vocals and synthesizers, is more cold wave from the Human League. As usual, the record company pulled the usual bullshit, first by renaming Being Boiled to The Voice Of Buddha on the Canadian pressing. Also, Toyota City was removed and replaced by Rock 'N' Roll/Nightclubbing, a melding of Gary Glitter, Bowie, and Iggy Pop. Why? Why can't they stop messing around with the tracks on the records? Why not leave it as is? Sometimes, the only recourse is to find an import copy.

I find this record to be slightly less interesting than the first, but I think it's a really good LP. It's well known that Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh left to form Heaven 17 after the release of this record. Oddly, The Human League moved into more commercial territory, just as Heaven 17 did. Maybe musical differences were not the only reasons for the split.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Human League: Reproduction (1979)

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The first record from the Human League--heavily influenced by Kraftwerk--is a sort of synth masterpiece that sounds little like their later commercial concessions. This is a cold, dark, austere, detached, and robotic piece of work, featuring only vocals and synthesizers. The whole record sounds synthetic, maybe even like what one might have anticipated future space age music to sound like. At this point, there were not yet any female singers in the band, and they seemed entirely disinterested in writing a commercial hit, like Don't You Want Me?

There was a time when I wondered if the guitar was dead and that all future music would be synth and keyboard-based. Who needed drums, I wondered? I've revised that opinion, but this record is all about that direction. It would serve as a great soundtrack to a documentary of failed futurist visions of the world.

There are weird hooks, only limited  concern with melody, and it offers very little for the average pop listener to grasp onto. But, this chilling record (and their second effort) is a kind of genius and it is far better than the later stuff. Just two years later, the band moved into more accessible territory, but, by then, the band had an almost completely new lineup, so they were really something entirely new. You might say that they sold out, but I guess they proved something on the first two records (and most of the third) and they felt the need to reinvent themselves.

The most bizarre track on the record has to be the their cover version of You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, a track first recorded by the Righteous Brothers, and written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. This is the most melodic and accessible tune on the record.

There is also something very unsettling about the cover, which features naked babies, exposed genitals included. I really wonder how that would fly today. I'm sure it would be censored.

My copy is an original UK pressing. This record was never released in Canada in any format.