“The intermediate stage between socialism and capitalism is alcoholism.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Simpsons - Fo' Real

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Take a Vacation

Just popped an advance copy of "The Vacation"s self-titled US release into the player and WOW, this band has some serious hooks! Coupled with buzzsaw guitars and high-energy vocals this is an album that doesn't mess around. Just a note, this is basically a re-release of their UK debut album "Band from World War Zero" with a couple of additional songs.

Twins Ben and Steve Tegel front the group, and both profess a deep affection for that canon of 60s and 70s UK rock 'n' roll bands whose names start with the much-emulated The prefix. So think The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Sex Pistols for a sense of the swaggering showmanship on offer here.

Despite the fact that lead singer Ben Tegel sounds just like Dead Kennedys front man Jello Biafra, The Vacation sound is closer to the thrusting exuberance of The Stooges and T Rex, both cited influences. Feisty opener "White Noise" is a case in point. It's full of cool hooks and yelling, and just screams 'look at me in my tight trousers!' And that's the best thing about The Vacation.

They have the kind of well-oiled animal magnetism that just doesn't exist in the glut of anaemic love-pap currently dominating mainstream UK music. Ironically the twins describe "White Noise" as a song about the impossibility of silence in today's media-saturated society.

It's this touching sincerity that makes their songs so adorable. Take "Destitute Prostitutes", the first single for release, which sounds like some violent cross breed of AC/DC and The Vines. It howls self confidence and is sure to recommend the Hollywood exports as stadium-size entertainers. According to guitarist Ben, the song is a well-meaning ballad about embracing outsider status.

Producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Supergrass, The Thrills) stayed on board with the band after his influence on their initial EP, 'They Were The Sons', helped win the hearts of UK festival goers. It means The Vacation have retained a gritty and urgent sound, check out the aural onslaught of "Make Up Your Mind". And it means they've adhered to the structural consistency that guarantees a good pop song, as in "Cherry Cola" and stand out track "Trash".

Having already garnered the admiration of fellow rockers Jet, The Vacation are proceeded by a reputation for libidinous live acts and technical accomplishment. Band From World War Zero will delight their fans, and hopefully win some new ones. Best played loud.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Support Single Moms!

Blackest Feets Around

Blackfoot were contemporaries of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and tried for years to make it as a Southern rock band, although they finally succeeded as a hard rock outfit, in the manner of AC/DC and the Scorpions. They racked up a hit album (Strikes) and a pair of successful singles ("Train, Train," "Highway Song") in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before they became lost in the post-MTV era of visually oriented bands.

The group started out as a quartet: singer/guitarist Rickey Medlocke, the grandson of bluegrass musician Shorty Medlocke, who wrote "Train, Train"; drummer/singer Jakson Spires, bassist/singer Greg T. Walker, and lead guitarist Charlie Hargrett. They were signed to Island Records in 1975, evidently as that label's resident Southern rockers, but moved to Epic Records the following year. Neither relationship was successful, but in 1979, after moving to Atco, their first album for the new label, Strikes, hit a responsive chord -- the group spent the next few years on Atco, racking up impressive sales with the follow-ups Tomcattin' and Marauder.

In the mid-'80s, the group added ex-Uriah Heep keyboardman Ken Hensley in order to bring a new side to their sound. The group's fortunes declined amid the advent of MTV and the growth in importance of rock video promotional clips, as well as the influence of sounds from Europe and Australia, and they never recovered, despite efforts to adapt their sound and image. Hensley was replaced near the end of their history, but Blackfoot (who took their name from the Native American tribe, part of Medlocke's heritage) had broken up by 1984, before the new lineup recorded. Medlocke revived the name in 1990 with a new backing group.

Thrice Removed from Today

Throughout his long and winding solo career, guitarist Robin Trower has had to endure countless comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, due to his uncanny ability to channel Hendrix's bluesy/psychedelic, Fender Strat-fueled playing style. Born on March 9, 1945, in Catford, England, Trower spent the early '60s playing guitar in various London based outfits; the most successful one being the R&B group the Paramounts, who specialized mostly in covers, but managed to issue several singles between 1963 and 1965. It wasn't until 1967 that Trower received his big break however, when he joined Procol Harum. The group had just scored a worldwide smash hit with "A Whiter Shade of Pale," but the only problem was that the band's leader, singer/pianist Gary Brooker, didn't have a proper band to back him. Brooker was previously a bandmate of Trower's in the Paramounts, and offered the guitar slot in his new fast-rising project to his old friend. As a result, Trower appeared on such Procol Harum classics as 1967's Procol Harum, 1968's Shine on Brightly, 1969's A Salty Dog, 1970's Home (which spawned the popular Trower tune "Whiskey Train"), and 1971's Broken Barricades.

While Procol Harum helped launch Trower's career, the guitarist realized there was limited space for his guitar work, and eventually left for a solo career. He enlisted singer/bassist James Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore (who was soon replaced by Bill Lordan) as a backing band. Trower issued his solo debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, in 1973. The album barely left a dent in the U.S. charts, but that would change soon enough with his next release, 1974's Bridge of Sighs. With rock fans still reeling from Hendrix's death a few years earlier, the album sounded eerily similar to the late guitarist's work with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (especially his 1968 release, Electric Ladyland), and as a result, the album sky rocketed into the U.S. Top Ten, peaking at number seven. Although Bridge of Sighs was to be his most popular solo release, Trower's stock continued to rise throughout the mid-'70s, as he became an arena headliner on the strength of such hit albums as 1975's For Earth Below, 1976's Robin Trower Live!, and Long Misty Days, plus 1977's In City Dreams.

Essential is a strong single-disc collection that features 16 highlights from Robin Trower's long career at Chrysalis, including such staples as "Too Rolling Stoned," plus several key album tracks. While such albums as Bridge of Sighs work as individual albums, this does a nice job of rounding up highlights from uneven records, making it a nice sampler both for casual fans and the curious.

Robin Trower - Essential Robin Trower
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The Sounds of Dying

Hailing from Sweden, the Sounds build upon safe tried-and-tested pop rock formulas while retaining a certain honesty and sense of fun. In a nutshell, they sound like the Killers with a female singer -- and they have a good one in the delightful Maja Ivarsson. This album is produced by Jeff Saltzman, who also produced the Killers’ Hot Fuss, so the similarities are evident in flashes of melodies and the constant keyboard accompaniment.

People complain that too many bands sound the same these days, but there are still those who avoid criticism by doing the normal exceedingly well. Lead off track "Song with a Mission" is catchy in every sense of the word, with a sing-a-long chorus bound to dominate live shows. On standout tracks "24 Hours" and "Tony the Beat" in particular, their hooks and melodies possess a tinge of 70s pop and disco influence. The band also pulls of slower numbers decently, as shown on "Night After Night."

The Sounds are an incredibly tight band, even if they aren't too musically adventurous. The upbeat rhythm section provides a solid backdrop for the catchy guitar hooks that dictate the course of the songs. However, the star of the band (and what sets them apart) is their unabashed use of keyboards. Jesper Anderberg adds delicious synthesizer lines that are occasionally corny, but therein lays its charm. While the rest of the instruments give off the impression of normal people bobbing their heads to music at a party, the keyboard is the lovable guest who's not afraid to be laughed at while dancing in the middle of the room.

With their pop anthems and extremely danceable tunes, the Sounds belong on the radio airwaves. There's no debate that this type of music isn't the most creative nor the most important. But if there must be power pop in the world, it should at least be this good. At their worst, they sound a little like the Faders (the awful British girl-group). At their best, even the most cynical listener will undoubtedly be tapping his feet.

The Sounds - Dying To Say This To You
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