alternative rock

REVIEW: Faith No More – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 UK 3 track 7″ single)

FAITH NO MORE – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 Slash records 3 track 7″ single)

When I was beginning to seriously collect Faith No More in 1991 onwards, I had no idea what was out there.  I found the UK 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” at a record show in Guelph.  There are different versions of this single out there with “Cowboy Song” on the B-side, but that track can also be found on Live at the Brixton Academy.  The UK single on Slash/London has two live tracks you can’t find anywhere else, recorded by the BBC on March 2 1990.  Shortly after “Epic” was released as a single, but before it went mega.

The problem is, with 10 minutes of music squeezed onto the B-side, this single sounds horribly thin and is ridiculously quiet.  Tons of surface noise too.  The A-side, which spins at 45 rpm, is better.  Have a look at the unaltered waveform in Audacity for comparison.

Faith No More didn’t truly make it big until the end of the (first) vinyl age.  The album version of “From Out of Nowhere” was always an excellent song; one of their most “mainstream” if you can call it that.  The keyboard hook is the main angle, and Patton’s notable for using that clean nasal voice he discontinued not long after.  An excellent song, and a cornerstone of any nutritious Faith No More collection.

The B-side, the exclusive live recordings, rotates at 33 1/3 rpm.  Captured in Norwich, “Woodpecker From Mars” is Faith No More’s instrumental classic led by a keyboard violin voice by Roddy Bottum.  There is a different performance on a home video called You Fat Bastards (which is the complete Brixton set) but nothing else on audio.  “Epic” is disappointingly edited by the BBC.  They obscure the line where Mike Patton naughtily sings “get down on it and fuck it some more.”  The band sound fresh and almost green with enthusiasm for the song, playing it a bit more straight than they would later on.

On the plus side, this single comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a rarity for 7″ release.  Inside Mike Patton is givin’ ‘er live on stage.  Some kids probably taped this to the wall as-is.

In short, the music is great.  The vinyl is not.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Faith No More – We Care a Lot (Deluxe Band Edition)

FAITH NO MORE – We Care a Lot (Originally 1985, 2016 Deluxe Band Edition)

In 1985, roughly when a young band called Mr. Bungle was forming elsewhere in California, the legendary Faith No More released their debut album.  Original pressings and reissues have the band name written as “Faith. No More.”  It was a version of their name that they’d soon drop.  The lineup of Chuck Mosely, Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum, Billy Gould and Mike Bordin put together a low-budget debut that garnered them enough attention for their next album to be distruibuted by Warner.  A viable career as a rock band followed.  As a result of this fruitful career, in 2016 We Care a Lot was officially reissued with a load of bonus tracks and full participation from producer Matt Wallace.  As the liner notes say, “We’re putting this out because we can.”

This reissue includes four demos, and interestingly they reveal that there was an instrumental “Intro” for this album that was apparently dropped.  This sci-fi, keyboard-led intro would have been an interesting way to kick off the album with some atmosphere and foreboding.  (For a custom listening experience, try playing the album with the instrumental first.)  The disc instead commences directly with “We Care A Lot”, the first version mind you, not the hit single you know.  The sound is a tad more primitive and the lyrics were different in several places.  The “NASA Shuttle” hadn’t fallen into the sea yet in 1985, so it is Los Angeles that Chuck cares a lot about it.  Instead of the Transformers, he gives a shout-out to Mr. T.

“Jungle” is a disorienteing series of head-punches with reverse-echo.  A jagged Jim Martin riff and staggering Mike Bordin drum pattern makes it a relentless slam.  Chuck Mosely sounds frantic, unstable and urgent.  The same relentless approach pounds your head on “Mark Bowen”, slower but no less imposing.  Though Chuck is all over the map with his scattershot vocals, the band is solidly ominous behind him.

An absolutely beautiful acoustic interlude called “Jim” reveals a previously unknown part of Martin’s talents.  Though less articulate, this kind of composition sounds like the ones Randy Rhodes would include on an Ozzy record.  And just like with Ozzy, next it’s something heavy to slam.  That something is “Why Do You Bother”, the original side one closer.  Tense and rhythmic, it’s a tornado of fun.

Side two boasts several standout tracks.  Certainly “As the Worm Turns” has earned its place in Faith No More history, since Mike Patton re-recorded it in the studio and performed it live numerous times.  Its cascading keyboard melody contrasts with the heavy riff.  This version is rougher, but no less perfect.  “Greed”, which opens the side, is also notable.  It reads like a rejection letter from record labels.  “They say that when I’m supposed to be singin’, all I’m really doin’ is yelling!”  Though one doesn’t think Chuck would have been sensitive to such criticism, he does seem stung that “they say that I can’t sing, that I don’t say a thing, that I make everything up.”  But he defiantly strikes back with a heartfelt melody delivered at maximum intensity.

For thunder, check out “Pills for Breakfast”, another instrumental anchored by a Jim Martin riff that could move mountains.  Martin’s guitar gives “Arabian Disco” a solid spine, and Mosely shoves in as much melody as he’s got to give.  Only here at the tail end of the album does the quality of the songs dip at all.  “New Beginnings” is too laid back compared to the rest of the disc, bordering on dull.

Faith No More have been blessed with a number of (arguably) 5/5 star albums in a row:  Introduce Yourself (1987), The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1991) and King For a Day (1995).  We Care A Lot isn’t quite at that lofty point yet, but it wouldn’t take long.  Chuck Mosely’s unique approach of “yelling when he’s supposed to be singing” isn’t for everything and wasn’t fully harnessed in the studio until the next album.  But all the ingredients are here, on the first record, ready to explode in every direction.  Fortunately for you, this CD edition goes on for another nine bonus tracks!

Some 2016 remixes by Matt Wallace add more punch to the originals:  “We Care A Lot”, “Pills For Breakfast”, and “As The Worm Turns” are given the remix treatment.  Less echo; louder and punchier guitars.  No structural changes.  Three of the best tracks were selected, and sound great if played on a shuffle with later Faith No More classics.  The next batch of bonus tracks are four demos (including the aforementioned “Intro”).  Dig into early version of “Greed”, “Mark Bowen” and “Arabian Disco”.  The arrangements are all more or less intact, and the recording is so good that they could have been released long before.

Finally there are two live tracks from San Francisco in 1986.  “Jungle” (with a segue into “Shout” by Tears For Fears) and “New Beginnings” are bootleg quality, but look what they have done in terms of track selection.  There are no songs repeated among the bonus tracks.  Between the demos, remixes and live versions, eight of the album’s ten are present in alternate versions.  That’s value for the consumer.

Snag We Care A Lot if you see one in the wild, but absolutely aim for the 2016 Deluxe Band Edition.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl (1998)

GOO GOO DOLLS – Dizzy Up the Girl (1998 Warner)

The Goo Goo Dolls were made for the 90s.  When the big bands dropped off the charts, where were we to get our fix of melodic rock with acoustic ballads?  From Buffalo, NY.  Their sixth Goos album, Dizzy Up the Girl, was the latest in a stream of albums that got progressively less punk and more acoustic.  It was also their first album with critically acclaimed new drummer Mike Malinin, and the first since they had a huge single in “Name”.  It’s no surprise they went further in that direction.

Commercial intents aside, Dizzy Up the Girl is a remarkable album.  Every song helmed by singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik boasts an explosive chorus.  The four tracks with bassist Robby Takac singing are the ones that maintain a punk aesthetic, but with a refined sense of composition.

Lead track “Dizzy” is the first of many great single-worthy choruses.  In fact it was a single, though not the biggest of the bunch.  That would of course be Iris, previously issued on the soundtrack to City of Angels.  The 90s were not that much different from the 80s when it came down to it, and a power ballad is what made the Goos a household name.  Better than Iris though is the single “Slide”.  It charted just as high as “Iris” (#1) in the US and Canada.  Unlike “Iris”, “Slide” has a driving acoustic vibe.  It’s the kind of tune Extreme made their bread and butter with, like “Hole Hearted”.

Two years after “Iris”, the album was still producing singles.  “Broadway” is just as good as “Slide” with more emphasis on the electric guitar.  It has an earthy, down home quality.  “Black Balloon”, another single, takes it back to acoustic with harmonics, and strings added by Canadian David Campbell (father of Beck).  Even without the accompaniment it’s one of their biggest and best choruses.

Takac’s four tunes (“January Friend”, “Amigone”, “Full Forever”, and “Extra Pale”) are great breaks between Rzeznik’s more mainstream crooning.  Robby’s rasp isn’t commercial but it’s the only real link back to their punk rock days.  His songs don’t suck.  “Amigone” (pronounced “Am I Gone”) sticks to the brain like chunky peanut butter.

Four of the five singles are top-loaded onto the front of the album, normally a death knell for a solid listen.  Not in this case.  The Goos boasted album tracks as good as their singles.  “Acoustic #3” is good enough to be yet another single.   “Bullet Proof”, with its driving guitar, could have been the album opener.  The chorus lifts off to the atmosphere.  It’s the kind of chorus you expected from the 1980s, not the 1990s.  A dramatic “All Eyes On Me” could also have been a solid album opener.  All they need is a closer!  Nope, they got that too:  “Hate This Place” winds things up nicely the way it began.  “Hold on, dream away, you’re my sweet charade.”

Dizzy Up the Girl might not be up your alley, but in the 90s, choice was more limited.  It was hard to find mainstream rock that didn’t suck.  This one stands the test of time, with a collection of excellent guitar-based tunes that fit the mold.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – No One (1993 promo cassette)

“No one leaves the caravan.” – IME

I MOTHER EARTH – No One (1993 EMI promo cassette)

M.E.A.T Magazine was such an awesome resource for Canadians.  Their exclusive metal content really was second to none.  M.E.A.T was on top of virtually every new Canadian band on the scene.  Thanks to them, we knew all about I Mother Earth well before they were signed to EMI.

Then one day in early ’93, M.E.A.T arrived in the mailbox slightly thicker than usual.  Inside the envelope was a free cassette tape, a promo provided by EMI.  Time to see what this I Mother Earth band sounded like.  Would they live up to the hype that M.E.A.T was creating?

The full length album Dig was not released until later that summer.  Even the music video for “Rain Will Fall” hadn’t come out yet.  This EP, titled No One, was all brand new to me.  It received a lot of play.  Out walking with the Walkman, in the car, at home or at the lake:  I Mother Earth swiftly consumed me.  I felt pretty cool hearing all this music before the masses did.  They were gonna love I Mother Earth.

The cassette (repeated both sides) wisely opened with the chiming guitars of “The Mothers”.  Softer and more psychedelic than I expected.

“Listen…to the Mothers…” sings Edwin.  The track meanders on a little bit, not quite a full song but also more than just an intro.  “A surreal sound of eight-legged groove, a serving of today’s psycadellicasy.”  The clever words were written by drummer Christian Tanna, although I certainly couldn’t make them out on my own.

After a long 10 second gap, the uberfunk of “Basketball” crushes the speakers.  It’s almost too fast, but surely demonstrated that these Torontonians could play.  It’s more than just rock music.  The exotic percussion coupled with the tribal-sounding drums really took it all to another level, whether they were playing funky or psychedelic.  There’s always room for exotic percussion.

I called “No One” the centrepiece of the album, and so it is also the highlight of this tape.  Rather than hyperspeed funk, this one is built around guitar riffs.  There are two riffs in particular on this song that just steamroll.  When joined with the full-on groove of I Mother Earth, the riffs dominate your brain.  Then it gets quiet as Edwin chants “No one leaves the caravan…”, and this serves as a reset before the song comes back full strength for the kill.  Listening today, it seems almost impossible for a band to have a song this advanced on their first album.  It’s seven minutes of riff, percussion and melody yet there’s no fat to trim out.  You’d expect something like this on a third album, not a debut.

Interestingly, none of the songs on this EP were singles.  Dig ended up producing four singles.  Consider the strength of this promo tape, and you can extrapolate that Dig is probably a really strong album.  You would be correct.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (2018)

ALICE IN CHAINS – Rainier Fog (2018 BMG)

It’s always disappointing when you give a new album a fair shot, but it refuses to stay in your skull. Such is the case with the latest Alice In Chains, Rainier Fog.

It’s especially disappointing since their last platter, 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, was so crushingly perfect.  It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why Rainier Fog lacks the same impact.  It’s not singer William Duvall — this is his third album with Alice In Chains, and he’s done an admirable job every time out.  It’s also not the fault of the lead track, “The One You Know” which is a terrific starter.  “Rainier Fog” is also slammingly good.  From there on, the songs are less memorable, with the exception of “Never Fade” which has a chorus that goes on for miles.

What’s the issue?  Is it that we’ve heard all this before?  Ever since the passing of Layne Staley, Alice In Chains lost that certain “fucked up” quality to their music.  Staley seemed to bring an unschooled approach, completely unafraid to make unconventional music.  Rainier Fog is terribly conventional by comparison with Dirt.  There are verses, choruses, melodies and all the accoutrements.  And they are all good ones.  Little guitar hooks snake in and out of verses, cool as hell.  Riffs are constructed from the strongest mortar.  These foundations support a collection of well written songs.  But most of them refuse to stick.  It’s baffling.

Perhaps Rainer Fog is one of those albums that doesn’t click until the 100th listen.  They exist and when they do, they often become favourites.  If that happens here, we will line up Rainier Fog for a re-review.

3/5 stars

CONCERT REVIEW: Claypool Lennon Delirium – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019

CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019 

By Uncle Meat

 

Sometimes you go to Rock shows and are blown away by the venue, or the sound of the band, or the band itself, or something extra special happens.  Usually you are lucky to be subjected to one or two of these wonderful things.  It’s rare when all these things happen at once to make truly iconic memories you could never possibly forget.  This happened for me last night.  Music is the gift that keeps on giving.

Found out yesterday morning that I was going to see Claypool Lennon Delerium at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.  Special thanks to friend and fellow Sausagefester Aaron Stepaniuk for inviting me.  I had never been to the venue, nor had I ever seen Les Claypool perform.  I found it interesting as well that it was the very first show of their tour, showcasing their new album South of Reality.

Walking into the venue during the opening band, instantly I loved the Danforth Music Hall.  Very cool place to see a show.  Warming up the proceedings was someone by the name of Jim James.  All I knew was that he used to be the singer for a band I know nothing about called My Morning Jacket.  I was informed on the way to Toronto by Aaron’s girlfriend Rachel that there is an American Dad episode basically dedicated to “the angelic voice of” Jim James.  Gonna have to check out some American Dad.  The few songs we caught I deemed as “whispy”.  It wasn’t bad but didn’t resonate with me.  Jim James’ look reminded me of Daryl Hall dressed as the Joker and I was kinda glad when it ended so we could go out and smoke a huge joint.

As I am hauling off of this Buck-constructed, Buck-approved monster of a spliff, a door opens beside me, (I was too concerned with smoking this massive joint to even realise we were standing right beside an equally massive tour bus) and while I’m taking a healthy drag out walks Geddy Lee.  Yes…THAT Geddy Lee.   I almost exhaled the drag right into his nose, he was that close to me.  Instantly I started wondering if he could be getting on stage, but that stuff never actually happens for real…Right?

The show starts off with Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”.  I knew they might do some covers since they released an EP of covers in 2017 called Lime and Limpid Green.  On that note, the covers played that night were epic songs that most bands wouldn’t dare even try.  “Astronomy Domine”, “Boris the Spider” and “The Court of the Crimson King” are songs that you MUST play well live to even consider such an idea.  Interspersed throughout the covers were songs from their 2016 debut album Monolith of Phobos and their newest album South of Reality.  I enjoyed everything I heard that night.  First of all, Claypool and Sean Lennon can both sing very well and both comfortable in a high vocal range. The keyboard player also sang backup vocals.  No matter if it was Lennon or Claypool taking lead vocals, the background vocals were top-shelf fucking glorious.  This aspect was a definite highlight of the show.  I was there to see Claypool and he didn’t disappoint whatsoever.  However Sean Lennon was a bit of a revelation to me.  He is an amazing singer and a much better guitar player than I would have imagined.

The stage banter between Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (or “Shiner” as Les kept referring to him as) was comfortable and cool.   After some more of their anecdotes, the drummer breaks into a very familiar drum pattern.  I turned to my buddy Bucky and said “They aren’t really gonna play this are they?” The rest of the band started to join in and yeppers , they are playing Tomorrow Never Knows, written by the guitar player’s father.  You may have heard of him.  I can see off stage as a stage hand is standing there with a bass in his hand.  He hands it to an emerging shadow and out walks Mr. Geddy Fucking Lee, possibly still on a contact high from the joint smoking he walked through earlier.  Now I am watching Sean Lennon sing his late father’s song with two of the greatest bass players of all time on stage.  You cant make this shit up.  This kinda stuff never really happens and now it is happening.  As they are jamming out the song hard, Les Claypool does one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  He takes off his bass and starts kinda bowing to Geddy Lee with a huge smile on his face, gives a little “see ya” nod to the audience and walks off stage, leaving now only Geddy finishing “Tomorrow Never Knows” with the band.  For a couple minutes it was actually The Lennon Geddy LEErium.  The respect and tribute that Claypool shone upon Geddy by the nod and walking off stage will be a top 5 (Or higher) concert moment for me.  I had the utmost respect for Claypool before this night.  With one little wave to the crowd and the walk-off, he made my Rock & Roll heart melt.  I so wish Tom Morwood was there.  He would have cried like a big bearded baby.

The band walked off and came back for an encore.  Claypool says something like, “Gotta love when guys like Geddy Van Halen just walk on stage.  That’s what still gets my dick erect”.  The Delerium then went into their lone encore song, Primus’s “Southbound Pachyderm”.  It totally kicked ass with a sensational bass groove.  What a show.

What more could you ask for?  Did that really just happen?  Mind…Blown.

 

REVIEW: The Gandharvas – Sold for a Smile (1997/1998 US and Canadian versions)

THE GANDHARVAS – Sold for a Smile (1997/1998 Universal US and Canadian versions)

What a band were the Gandharvas.  Lead howler Paul Jago could hit those Perry Farrell highs, and they wrote some pretty fucking great songs including their major hit “The First Day of Spring”.  An unappreciated gem would be their third and final album, 1997’s Sold for a Smile.  Led by the anthemic single “Downtime”, this is a hard album to resist no matter which version you get. It even made our list: “88 Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 90s“.

Versions?  Yes, two:  the Canadian and US have different track listings.  In 1997, Canada got the basic 10 track CD.  When it was released Stateside, a number of tracks including “Downtime” were remixed.  The US and Canadian versions of “Downtime” have vastly different guitar solo and outro mixes, for example.  The States also got two bonus tracks:  a new recording of “The First Day of Spring” and a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”.  (The original album was a shorty at just under 40 minutes.)

The Gandharvas turned it up a notch for this album without losing sight of their more delicate tendencies.  “Gonna Be So Loose” is a slamdance of squealing vocals and chords.  (This song is available remixed on the US version.)  But then “Shells” is a low, strummy song perfect for the headphones.  It shows of the layered vocals that are a Gandharvas trademark.  “Waiting for Something to Happen” then goes somewhere between Guns N’ Roses and screamy, psychedelic punk rock — an astounding song, which then defies all logic by going acoustic.  And then all over the place.

Time for a little more pop in the rock, with “Hammer in a Shell”.  Snarly pop, with a sour candy coating.  “Watching the Girl” was another fine single, a more streamlined song for this album.  It too was remixed on the US edition, putting the guitars way louder.  Then strap in for “Sarsasparilla”, a boulder-heavy rocketship blast into space. “Into the Mainstream”, then, is a bit more complex, and perhaps a little bit epic.

“Milk Ocean” leads you to the end, with a healthy dose of acidy psychedelia.  It’s the closer, “Diabaloney” that’s a real head scratcher.  Is it a joke?  I can’t tell.  “I fuck it up, I got the fuck, I got the luck,” goes one set of lines.  Heavy and screamy goodness, but a real headscratcher nonetheless.  What the hell did I just listen to?

On the US version, the new recording of “The First Day of Spring” is placed third in the running order, after the remixes of “Downtime” and “Gonna Be So Loose”.  It’s quite a bit heavier than the original, though a brilliant song it remains.  Could it be actually a polished up live version?  Why does Paul Jago yell out “Colorado!” in the middle?  For fun?  This band is from London, Ontario not Colorado!  And “Time After Time”?  They twist it up, give it bite, and for better or for worse make it their own.  Unless you have a serious attachment to the song, the Gandharvas’ interpretation is quite cool.

As if you can’t tell, this is an album you should own.  Get one or the other, or both!

5/5 stars

 

GUEST REVIEW: Jane’s Addiction – Jane’s Addiction (1987)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

JANE’S ADDICTION – Jane’s Addiction (1987 Triple X)

In 1987, the stage was set for a new exciting sound to challenge the successful glam metal scene. Some thought that metal had become gluttonous and bloated, filled with commercial aspirations that betrayed the genre’s roots. The alternative revolution started not with Nirvana’s Nevermind, but four years earlier when Jane’s Addiction chose to begin their recording career in an unorthodox way. They decided to make their debut LP a live album. Several of the songs on this live album would never be re-recorded for a studio LP, leaving these the only official versions of the songs. At the height of the glam metal craze, Jane’s Addiction was a much needed breath of fresh air in the rock world. Many different styles of rock were being played on the Sunset Strip, but up to this point only the more pop-oriented groups were receiving mainstream attention. This self-titled album at points is a heavier, more aggressive album than a lot of the stuff that was being passed off as “metal” at the time, without actually being metal. At other points, it displays an emphasis on songwriting depth over quick catchy gang chorus melodies. The ballads on this album are of an organic nature, and acoustic guitars play a dominant role in the proceedings.

Jane’s Addiction is an emotionally honest offering. It is a very passionate and energetic recording that shows the full dynamic of the band better than any of their later releases. While their first two studio albums are superior efforts overall, they don’t display the many different influences of the group’s sound as clearly as they do on this record. While they would distill those influences into something truly unique and original on Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, this eponymous album shows the influences spread out further into different songs, offering a unique glimpse into what makes the band’s later material tick. Compare the brash speedy opener “Trip Away” with the earnest bass driven ballad “I Would for You”. Or the dirty distorted Zeppelin style struts of “Pigs in Zen” with the acoustic roots rock of “My Time”. It’s a unique experience that doesn’t at all feel like a band trying to find their footing, but one that is about to achieve their full potential.

This concert at The Roxy Theatre captures them as raw as the band would ever be. The recording isn’t stellar, but the production fits the music quite well. The music is emotionally raw and open, so the recording should and does match. Some studio overdubs were utilized during post-production, but these don’t bother you in a way that they would on another live album. Despite being recorded live, Jane’s Addiction doesn’t feel like a conventional live record in the way it progresses. This recording was meant to be an introduction to the band, and it seems as though they thought that the best way to capture the pure power of their sound would be to record the basics in a live setting, while enhancing the recordings with additional guitars, drum parts, and things of that nature to create a hybrid. You get the power of a live recording, with the addition of multiple guitars to hold down the rhythm when Dave Navarro takes a solo. These overdubs aren’t deceitful, because the band doesn’t make any effort to conceal them. They are simply meant to augment to original recording, to give the songs the best possible presentation on the band’s first outing.

The songs themselves are superb. Jane’s Addiction had a well of talent from all four members. In the inspired tribal beats of Stephen Perkins, who is better described as a percussionist than as a drummer. In the urgent bass lines of Eric Avery, whose playing propels the songs along and keeps them from plodding. In the great feeling of Dave Navarro, who isn’t the flashiest player, but knows how to fill space and throws in some of his tastiest soloing to the aggressive punkish “Whores”, one of the heaviest tunes on here that blends the aforementioned punk influences with a metallic sheen and a good portion of spirited melodic vocal chants from Perry Farrell that call to mind a world music influence. Perry Farrell’s voice is more aggressive and gravelly on this recording compared to his screechy sound on later albums. He’s not a great singer, but he possesses a unique voice that sells the material with conviction. His lyrical abilities are also superlative, with many of them being very personal.

Nowhere is this more evident than on “Jane Says”, an early version of the song that would later become their biggest hit on Nothing’s Shocking. The song is just two chords, yet the words tell a tale that is so entrancing that it maintains attention throughout its entire run time. It’s a song about a real life woman that Perry Farrell knew named Jane, and her struggle with drugs and abusive relationships. The re-recorded version is superior, but it’s interesting to hear how the song got its start. It conveys a message that many living in modern society can relate with. The feelings of being so overwhelmed and disenfranchised with your current way of life that simple change is not enough to satisfy you. You feel as though you need to completely overhaul your life, and leave what you have behind to start a new beginning in a foreign land “…Jane Says I’m going away to Spain…”, but practical reasons keep you from fulfilling that daydream “…when I get my money saved…”. It’s truly an alt-rock classic, proving that you don’t need hundreds of layers of backing vocals to write a song that connects with people.

To offer their fans an even greater connection to the music, they use familiarity in two spirited covers. Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll”, and Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, known here as simply “Sympathy”. These cover versions are done in the band’s style, and actually expand upon the originals thanks to Dave Navarro’s perfectly melodic playing in “Rock & Roll” and the unmistakable percussive backbone from Stephen Perkins in “Sympathy”. All the band’s strengths come together on“My Time”, one of the finest selections on the entire album. It’s a folksy rock song with acoustic guitar and harmonica parts, complimented by the perfect amount of percussive flair. This song is more melodic than many of the others on the album, and gives the listener a transcendent feeling. It’s one of those songs that is so beautiful and so moving that it makes the listener feel as though they’ve broken through some new musical barrier, and are floating in a state of emotional and sonic bliss. “My Time” is even more potent when listened to on headphones, and under the dark cover of the night.

As the night wears on, the record bookends “Trip Away” with “Chip Away”, containing some tribal beats and appropriate African influenced chanting from Perry Farrell. While Jane’s Addiction would garner endless acclaim for their first two studio efforts for Warner Brothers, this independent live debut on Triple X would go sadly overlooked. The band can be considered the alternative spiritual successor of Led Zeppelin. However, their music and style is clearly their own. They capture the transcendental sprawl, intensity, and intimacy of listening to a Led Zeppelin album in a way that copycats like Kingdom Come or Greta Van Fleet cannot.* Those two bands and others like them can ape Zeppelin riffs, vocal styles, and stage moves, but they don’t capture that unique and adventurous feeling that listening to one of their records always brings. Jane’s Addiction manages to capture that feeling three times over, with the first of those three times being on this absolutely enchanting live outing.

4.9/5 stars (only because the next two are even better)

1. “Trip Away”
2. “Whores”
3. “Pigs in Zen”
4. “1%”
5. “I Would for You”
6. “My Time”
7. “Jane Says”
8. “Rock n Roll” (Velvet Underground cover)
9. “Sympathy” (Rolling Stones cover)
10. “Chip Away”

* LeBrain agrees

REVIEW: Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (2018 expanded edition)

SULTANS OF PING F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (Originally 1993, 2018 Cherry Red expanded edition)

What an odd situation, when an extremely obscure album you spent years and years hunting for is reissued in a 2 CD deluxe expanded edition, and is sitting there in stock on the Canadian Amazon store.  17 bonus tracks (16 of which I’ve never heard before in my life) now sit alongside the core 12 album classics in my collection.  The world is a better place for it.

We reviewed Casual Sex in the Cineplex by the Sultans of Ping F.C. back in 2013, but it deserves another look now that it’s been expanded.

Casual Sex boasts a fun but snearing punky side, accompanied by hilarious shrieky lead vocals and lyrics to match.  Top this confection with an Irish accent and loud guitars!  Opener “Back in the Tracksuit” is a perfect example of this recipe: a blast of punk guitars & drums with the bizarrely catchy lead vocals of  Niall O’Flaherty.  Half the time, we couldn’t figure out what he was singing.  “Indeed You Are” sounds like he’s singing “Konichiwa!”  So that’s the way we sing it.

The relaxed poppier songs are just as good.  “Veronica” is a cute serenade with strings and harmonica.  Perhaps it’s inspired by early period Beatles, filtered through the Sultans’ own bedraggled lenses.  “2 Pints of Rasa” is in a similar spirit: a stroll through the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon “drinking with the guys”…and with strings!  In the lyrics, O’Flaherty proclaims to his girl of interest, “but I still like you, you are my ice cream.”  Write that one down for the next time you’re with your significant others.

A broadside shot of breakneck guitars kick off “Stupid Kid”.  The infectious chorus goes on for days.  “You’re stupid, S-T-U-P-I-D kid!”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more entertaining combination of snark and melody.  “Stupid Kid” is among the best tunes on the album.  “You Talk Too Much” is its twin brother, shrieks and surf-rock drums notwithstanding.

A rollicky bass intro kicks off “Give Him a Ball (And a Yard of Grass)”, and the body surfing begins!  You can’t hear what O’Flaherty is singing for most of it, but it hardly matters.  You can sing along as if you do, and nobody will notice.  The party has only one lull:  “Karaoke Queen” is OK, a little slack, but it is quickly followed by “Let’s Go Shopping”.   It’s another one of those sentimental Sultans numbers about, well, going shopping.  We always found the jubilant lyrics quite mirthful:

Put on your flip-flops and we’ll go shopping, dear
Put on your flip-flops, we’ll go flip-flopping, dear
You can buy crisps and I can buy jam,
You push the trolley, I’ll push the pram.

The sentiment stops there, since the next song is entitled “Kick Me With Your Leather Boots”!  That means you can count on brisk, boisterous shenanigans.  As a bonus, the lyrics planted the seed for me to seek out Schaffner’s bizarre conspiracy movie The Boys From Brazil.  “Clitus Clarke” approaches being skip-worthy, but who cares since the final song is our favourite, “Where’s Me Jumper?”

My brother knows Karl Marx
He met him eating mushrooms in the public park
He said ‘What do you think of my manifesto?’
I like your manifesto, put it to the testo.

This album would be worth buying just for the one song.  “Dancing at the Disco, bumper to bumper,” but then disaster!  “Wait a minute — where’s me jumper?!”  Niall goes on to complain that “It’s alright to say things can only get better.  You haven’t lost your brand new sweater.”  True, true.  “My mother will be so, so angry.”  But it’s impossible not to grin ear to ear like a gleeful hooligan by the end of it.

For years the original 12 tracks were all we had.  Later Sultans albums could be found in the wild, but T-Rev always said the fun wasn’t there.  He even found the single for “You Talk Too Much” which had “Japanese Girls” on the B-side.  Nothing to him was as essential as the first album, which is easy to listen to end-to-end and then do all over again.  Which is usually the way we listened to it.

How does adding 17 rarities change the listening experience?

Not badly, as it turns out.  The bonus CD is only a punky 42 minutes long so it never becomes an exercise in testing patience.  Seeing that information about this band is scarce already, it’s impossible to know how “complete” the bonus CD is with rarities.  It seems to compile Sultans EP and single B-sides from 1991 to 1993.  Other Sultans deluxe editions are out there comprising the later albums.

None of the bonus tracks are as indispensable as disc one, but that’s not the point.  A blast of a time will still be had, with more of the same sound that endeared us to the band in the first place.  There’s an early version of “Stupid Kid” from a 1991 EP, and a live recording of “Indeed You Are” from a 1993 EP called Teenage Punks.  “Miracles” (from 1991) adds a hint of the Ramones to the stew.  B-side “I Said I Am I Said” is fun like the album and makes a fine addition.  Check out “Robo Cop”, and the live track “Football Hooligan” for a couple more songs that are hard to resist.  Some, like “Turnip Fish” are just weird and more like early Alice Cooper.

Great to have more early Sultans, all in one place.  Get yours.

 

4.8/5 stars

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)

I MOTHER EARTH – Scenery and Fish (1996 EMI)

Some albums that mean everything to some, can mean nothing to others.  Take a look at Scenery and Fish.

I Mother Earth’s second album gets a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings on the Canadian Amazon.  Yet I don’t get it and never have.  I was on the I Mother Earth train very early, before their first album came out.  I loved the modern heaviness of the band.  With the tribal and funk influences seeping through, I Mother Earth put out a seriously impressive debut album:  a Canadian classic.  As any band should, they mixed it up a bit on the second album.

In early 1996 I received a promo CD for the first single from the second album, “One More Astronaut”, with the album version and a 4:35 edit.  It didn’t seem too different, maybe just a bit more concise than some of the first album’s longer jams.  This isn’t indicative of the album in general, which is a wild ride of different styles.

The exotic percussion (by Luis Conte and Daniel Mansilla) is still intact, melded with the funk bass, but the overall sound is very different.  Paul Northfield’s production is cleaner and slicker than Mike Clink’s on the first LP.  He still enables to band to exercise their instruments unfettered, but perhaps with a more radio friendly backing.

Although I’ve tried over and over again through the past two decades to let Scenery and Fish “click”, it just won’t.  Other fans certainly have their favourite tracks:  “Like a Girl”, “Raspberry”, “Used to be Alright”, “Another Sunday”.  These are indeed some of the best tracks on the album, yet I struggled to remember how they go.  “Another Sunday”, for example has an incredible blast of hooks for a chorus, but no memorable verses.  Maybe this album is too thick with musical ideas and passages for the average mortal.

But that’s just me.  You might think I’m nuts.  There are those who think I Mother Earth can do no wrong, but fans in general love Scenery and Fish, while I simply don’t get it.  I’ll always enjoy “One More Astronaut” and “Like a Girl”, which by the way features a friend of theirs named Alex from some band called Rush.

2/5 stars