Alright, readers. What’s the deal here? Why has no one told me about The Dirtbombs? I had to stumble upon them myself. How is it no one has directed me to check out this crazy good punk/soul/rock band? I was actually making my rounds at the library when I picked up “If You Don’t Already Have a Look.” The cover didn’t particularly draw me. I had never heard of the band, though I like the name. I just picked it up at random.
I got home and spun it and song after song kicked my ass. “If You Don’t…” is a double album with no less than 52 songs on it. And it is tremendous. I was thinking, “Jeez, do these guys stop? Save some for the next album, fellas.” Well, it turns out “If You Don’t…” is a compilation of singles, rarities, and covers from a band out of Detroit, MI with 4 albums to their credit in the last 10 years.
At the core of The Dirbombs is Mick Collins, a founding member of the influential punk band, The Gories. Over the years, though, a slew of Detroit musicians has contributed to the band (including Troy Gregory, who has done quality work with a variety of bands and who is going to get his own write up on this blog soon). The sound is mainly punk, though without the anger. There is a lot of pop sprinkled with some funk. They achieve a raw garage band sound, which wouldn’t normally sound like something one has to “achieve,” but the songs are clever and catchy and the arrangements are thin and perfect. The energy is inescapable and I have checked their website for tour dates because it sounds like their show would be the most fun you could have standing up.
I will have to go back and buy the rest of their catalog, but I have a feeling “If You Don’t Already Have a Look” is the best way I could have discovered this band. Of the 52 songs on the disc, 27 are now shaking up my iPod. Disc 1 is full of original singles and rarities. Sadly, I can’t recommend the songs with the coolest titles, because they weren’t my favorites. That means you’ll have to go find ‘I’m Saving Myself (for Nichelle Nichols),’ ‘Never Licking You Again,’ ‘Candyass,’ ‘She Played Me Like a Booger,’ and ‘They Hate Us in Scandanavia’ on your own. However, I will link you to these great songs.
- Stuck Under My Shoe – This will give you a feel for much of this release. Simple, energetic music and lyrics that aren’t deep, but are clever and fun.
- Here Comes That Sound Again – The song reminds me a lot of ‘Major Tom,’ the 80s hit by Peter Schilling, minus the suck. This chorus is much cooler.
- Cedar Point ’76 – Here is one of the rarities from this release. It’s about being a teen and trying to pick up some chick at the Ohio amusement park.
- Headlights On – Dirty rhythm guitar and wailing lead guitar back a danceable groove that is worthy of Beck.
- Merit – The rhythm isn’t as fast as a lot of punk, but the drummer sounds appropriately pissed about the great guitar riff.
Disc 2 is all covers, which knocks me out.
- Maybe Your Baby – I had never heard this song by the Cheater Slicks, but I’m glad the Dirtbombs decided to play it for me.
- No Expectations – Yes, the Rolling Stones’ classic. The Dirtbombs pep it up and blend it with ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ which it actually follows on the Stones’ ablum “Beggars Banquet,” complete with the ‘Sympathy’ percussion and the backing “Hoo hoos.”
- Kiss Kiss Kiss – The original Yoko Ono version nearly ruined “Double Fantasy” all by itself. I hated this song for 30 years, but hearing the Dirtbombs’ cover makes me realize that the song is weird but interesting. The problem was Yoko.
- Mystified – Here they dig up a gem from The Romantics. This is not a song I had ever heard, but then I could probably only name 1 Romantics song.
- Ha Ha Ha – I barely remembered this song by Flipper, the classic 80s punk band. It’s a great choice. The Dirtbombs clean up the sound a little bit and make it less repellent than the original. You don’t get to hear the laughing chorus on this sample, which would be the only part you would remember if you don’t recognize the title.
The good news is the band seems to still be cranking out music and should be due for another one soon.
I was never a big Pixies fan, though I knew a lot of people who were. I like ‘This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven’ and have it on my iPod, but I was never a big Black Francis fan. The Deal twins, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter. After Francis broke up the band in 1993, Kim Deal got together with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and re-formed The Breeders, who had released an album in 1991. The result was the brilliant “Last Splash.” The album went to #33 on the Billboard Charts. One of the album’s 3 singles, ‘Cannonball,’ went to #2 on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart (#44 on the Hot 100) and if you’ve heard one song from the album that is probably it. MTV liked ‘Saints’ for a minute. I remember seeing that video a few times.
The rest of the album is worth listening to. The songs are edgy and sometimes weird, but the guitar work is always cool and the vocals are always appealing. The longest song on the disc is 4:11, but most of them are short and sweet, coming in at under 3 minutes. I ripped 9 songs from that album and still love to hear them whenever the come on.
- Cannonball – This is the coolest track on the album. The weird intro, the irresistible bass line, the feedback – it’s all perfectly placed. Also, watch the video. I want to travel back in time to 1993 and ask Kim Deal if I can have her baby.
- Invisible Man – Power chords and lilting vocals make this track.
- Roi – This is some of the weirdness I was talking about. The guitar is towering and noisy and the vocals are odd. There are several passages of quiet and buzzing guitars. The creativity is impressive but somehow the whole package rocks.
- Do You Love Me Now? – I honestly don’t know which is cooler, the vocal performance of the oddball love song lyrics or the meat grinder guitar work. I love this song.
- Flipside – Two minutes of driving instrumental surfer rock.
- I Just Wanna Get Along – “If you’re so special, why aren’t you dead?” The melody and instrumental parts are relatively simple, and the song is short, but it rocks really hard and the lyrics are funny.
- S.O.S. – It’s only a minute and a half long, but they play the crap out of this one. I love Mando Lopez’ bass work on this track.
- Hag – The lyrical concept and vocal delivery are strange, but the sunny and appealing chord progression overpowers the weirdness and just make it a great pop song.
- Saints – This is clearly The Breeders’ own video, but this is a slightly different version of the song from the one on the album. Both are great, though, so it’s OK. This song has a punk feel to it, but it’s about enjoying going to the fair. “Summer is ready when you are.”
Fans may be surprised I didn’t rip ‘Divine Hammer.’ What can I say? It was never my thing and I heard it too many times. As I went back and listened to this album, though, I realized I may need to dig the CD out of the box in my basement and rip the rest of this album back onto my computer. ‘Drivin’ on 9‘ is a great song that I eventually deleted because I put this song on a bunch of mix CDs (back when I listened to things like that) and heard it hundreds of times. ‘New Year‘ has some fantastic guitar work on it. This is really a strong album from beginning to end with a quirky sound that is hard to imitate. If you missed this in ’93 (or were too young to get into it at the time) go back and check it out. It has aged well and you will be pleasantly surprised at how good the work is throughout.
My freshman year in college, a lot of people played Hüsker Dü for me. In fact, it seems every dorm room I wandered into had “Zen Arcade” or “New Day Rising” playing. Now, “Zen Arcade” has some fine songs on it. It also has some stuff that is really hard to listen to (‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Pride,’ for example) and that would prevent me from ever putting the disc in. For years, that kept me from picking this album up. I was listening to a song by guitarist Bob Mould with his other band, Sugar, the other day and I realized that in the age of iPods, I can cherry pick “Zen Arcade” and just keep the really good stuff. That’s what I have done today.
Early in their career, Hüsker Dü was a full on hardcore punk band. By the time they got around to their last 2 albums, “Candy Apple Grey” and “Warehouse,” they were really a pop band with Punk influences. “Zen Arcade” was their 3rd album of 7, and though punk is still the heart of this album, you can start to hear hints of the heavy melodic pop that was to come.
This is a rare occasion when I won’t encourage you to get the album I’m writing up today. I kept only 10 of 23 tracks on “Zen Arcade” and the stuff I got rid of is pretty raucous. I definitely recommend you listen to and perhaps purchase these, however.
- Something I Learned Today – Classic punk with almost screamed vocals. There is anger in the delivery, but joy in the chord progression.
- Never Talking to You Again – I understand Mould was occasionally booed by the harder core fans when he stepped out on stage with an acoustic guitar in his hand. It’s a pity, because they probably couldn’t hear him playing this great and honest song.
- Chartered Trips – Mould and drummer Grant Hart both wrote songs for Hüsker Dü but I am more of a Mould man, I think. I love the energetic guitar work on this track.
- Hare Krsna – I like some of the weirder songs on this album and this is one. The percussion is dominated by a constant jangling noise like sleigh bells, the vocals are moaned, and the guitar rips and scratches all over but the overall effect is somehow infectious.
- The Biggest Lie – This is a heavy and slightly depressing song about almost making it and failing. “Back to your day job. Back to your girlfriend.” The power chord intro makes my teeth ache.
- Pink Turns to Blue – The album was produced in 45 hours on cheap equipment for $3200. The roughness of the session is apparent on this track but, of course, that is a lot of the appeal of tracks like this one.
- Newest Industry – The banging piano gives way to hard hit chords on the chorus while Mould wails about the fall of the industrialized world.
- Whatever – “Zen Arcade” is a concept album about a kid who runs away from home. This song is about his realization that the outside world is worse and he actually had it pretty good at home. He promises to do whatever they want if they’ll take him back.
- The Tooth Fairy and the Princess – This weird and evocative track is one of my favorites on this album. I don’t know how people come up with concepts like this or how they explain it to their band mates.
- Reoccurring Dreams – The album ends with this impressive 14-minute jam. The chord progression is unusual and creative and the solos are blistering but I have to be honest, this becomes too much for me. Fortunately, through the magic of technology, I was able to pare this track down and fade it out after about 6 minutes. This sample is 7 minutes long, so you can hear what I kept.
As I was writing up this album, I thought about how “Zen Arcade” reminds me of “Quadrophenia” by The Who. Turns out I am not the first guy to make that comparison. As I researched this album, I saw that comment in several places. I think the themes and energy make such comparisons inescapable.
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. I couldn’t quite get the Friday mix posted yesterday, so here it is a day late.
I am grateful for the work done and sacrifices made by our armed forces. While I don’t always agree with the way and places they are deployed, I recognize that the life I live would not be possible without the work they do. In honor of Memorial Day, I have compiled a mix of songs about soldiers, war, and peace.
Of course, the world would be a better place if no one needed armed forces and many of these songs are of a protest nature. I appreciate what they do, but I think we can all agree that it would be better not to have to send soldiers into harm’s way in the first place.
- Both Sides of the Gun – Ben Harper
This song is a protest specifically against the Iraq War. He talks about an archaic doctrine that no longer serves us and brings a war that can’t be won.
- Goodnight Saigon – Billy Joel
A powerful song that follows marines from training to deployment in the Viet Nam War.
- War Pigs – Cake
The Black Sabbath classic covered in Cake’s droll indie-funk style.
- Spanish Bombs – The Clash
I have no doubt that this is the catchiest, happiest sounding song about the Spanish Civil War (‘36 – ’39) ever written.
- Running Gun Blues – David Bowie
Some seriously old school Bowie from “The Man Who Sold the World.” It’s about a soldier who has completely lost it and sneaks out at night to kill more civilians after peace has been declared. No disrespect intended to our honorable veterans. The song is cool.
- Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret – The English Beat
OK, so the first half of this song is just a ska song about a girl, but the second half is a protest song asking Margaret Thatcher not to start World War III.
- It’s a Mistake – Men at Work
Colin Hay tells a tale of accidental war a la Dr. Strangelove, and points out that the casualties are just as dead, regardless of why a conflict starts.
- World Wide Suicide – Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder said of this song, “It’s about [Pat Tillman] and a bunch of the guys who didn’t get as much coverage—the guys who barely got a paragraph instead of ten pages.”
- Goodbye Blue Sky – Pink Floyd
This song about the aftermath of war is beautiful and chilling.
- Us and Them – The Easy Star Allstars
This is from the brilliant reggae cover of the Pink Floyd classic. It isn’t so much a protest song as much as a discussion of the causes and senselessness of war. The Allstars do a fantastic job with it.
- People Get Ready – Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Phoebe Snow
The classic peace ballad by The Impressions given a gentle and soulful treatment with the incomparable vocals of Ladysmith.
- What the Fuck Are We Saying? – Lenny Kravitz
Another plea for peace and sanity, this time from my favorite of Kravitz’s album, “Mama Said.”
- Melt the Guns – XTC
This is a weird as anything XTC has done, and that’s saying something.
- Don’t Kill – Hammel on Trial
Hammel is from Syracuse, NY and he plays a lot of smart, funny songs. Here’s a heartfelt protest song that absolutely rocks.
- One World (Not Three) – The Police
Sure Sting can get preachy, but this one has a sunny melody, a great positive message, and horns.
- Peace – Los Lobos
Los Lobos are in my top 5 favorite bands, largely because David Hidalgo is an incredible songwriter. I love the heavy acoustic groove and the lyrics are inspiring.
Enjoy with a glass of iced lemonade to kick off your summer. Have a great long weekend.
This week I’m putting out my 7th installment of music by my favorite female artists. I’m posting this one late because my very favorite female artist didn’t have school today and we were out having fun so I didn’t get started until after bedtime. I hope you enjoy them.
- Patti Page – Old Cape Cod
Honestly, if she never did anything but this, she would already be one of my favorites. I love the harmonies in this song. Nice footage on this particular video, too. I’ve never been to Cape Cod.
- Patti Smith – Redondo Beach
Patti Smith has always been kind of hit or miss with me. She does some stuff that doesn’t reach me at all, but then some songs like this one are great. I like the reggae feel.
- Paula Cole – Feelin’ Love
Paula has such a pretty voice and she often writes pretty songs, like ‘I Don’t Want to Wait.’ This one is my favorite, though. The heavy percussion and her sugary high voice make this one feel dirty even if you don’t listen to the lyrics.
- PJ Harvey – Good Fortune
PJ Harvey is so cool. I know I have recommended this song before, but it was a while ago and it is my favorite from her off of “Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea.”
- The Pointer Sisters – Pinball Number Count
So I remember hearing ‘He’s So Shy,’ ‘Jump (For My Love),’ ‘Neutron Dance,’ and ‘I’m So Excited’ on the radio and I never liked them. When I grew up, though, I discovered that the fantastic song that accompanied the pinball video on Sesame Street was by The Pointer Sisters and I totally fell out. Who knew they could get this funky?
- The Pretenders – Boots of Chinese Plastic
Chrissy Hynde might possibly be the coolest woman who ever lived. Perhaps I’m biased because she comes from my hometown of Cuyahoga Falls, OH. I wore the grooves off my copy of “Learning to Crawl” and their earlier album sparkle with great rock songs. The best part is she hasn’t lost a step. Check out this cool rocker from The Pretenders’ 2008 release, “Break Up the Concrete.”
- The Puppini Sisters – Walk Like an Egyptian
They’re not sisters, but they sound like they’ve been singing together since childhood. They’re the second coming of the Andrews Sisters but they have a cooler song selection. If you haven’t heard this, you will love it, even if you didn’t like the original. They also do a great ‘Old Cape Cod,’ actually.
- The Raveonettes – Love in a Trashcan
Sharin Foo is half of Danish alt rock duo The Raveonettes (along with Sune Rose Wagner). Their throwback sound is Everly Brothers meets Jesus and Mary Chain. This is my favorite song of theirs and always goes over in a crowded room.
- Regina Spektor – Better
What can I say? Most of her music isn’t deep. It isn’t challenging. But it’s just such damned appealing pop I really like it. She has a nice voice and writes some good melodies. Check out this one if you aren’t familiar.
- Rickie Lee Jones – A Second Chance
Rickie Lee was cool as hell back in the day. She fell off the charts a long time ago, but she has continued making great music. This one is from her 2003 release “The Evening of My Best Day” and it has the same appealing simplicity and great instrumentation you always liked from her.
- Rosey – The Time
To be honest, I don’t know a thing about her except that (in this song at least) her grandma gives her good advice. I’ve got a handful of her songs, though, and wanted to share this one.
- Sam Phillips – One Day Late
I have recommended this one before, too, but it is a great song. Feel free to peruse the other linked songs on YouTube if you follow it out. You won’t be disappointed.
- Sarah Harmer – Almost
People rave about Harmer’s shows. Apparently, she is riveting to watch. I like the songs she writes, too. When she first came on the scene, I thought she was going to be huge. In fairness, she’s got two gold records and one platinum so I guess that is pretty damn big. I thought she was going to be Sheryl Crow big, though, because she’s hot and smart-looking and writes great music.
- Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I’m Not Gonna Cry
God, I love Sharon Jones. She sings some fantastic soul / funk and the Kings are out of sight. Go listen to this one. I’m honestly not sure which I enjoy more, Jones’ soulful vocal performance or the band’s funky throwdown. Great stuff.
I think I’m just arbitrarily going to stop here in the middle of the S’s and save a few for one more installment. Enjoy with a mimosa, but use vodka instead of champagne and hold the orange juice. Have a good weekend.
They could sound prettier if they wanted to, but they want to jar you with the vocals while they wow you with their instruments. Parts of it are really good stuff. Read the review I wrote for AltSounds: http://hangout.altsounds.com/reviews/112982-glocca-morra-the-working-bones-a-health-decline-album.html
Like Blink 182? Have I got a band for you. Read my review on AltSounds: http://hangout.altsounds.com/reviews/111343-sparks-the-rescue-eyes-to-the-sun-album.html.
Hate Blink 182? See you tomorrow.
Another random find at the library. I picked up ‘A Mad & Faithful Telling’ by DeVotchKa. I had heard their name before but didn’t know anything about them. Took me a minute to find out they played Bonnaroo in 2006, one year I didn’t happen to go, sadly. I would love to have seen Radiohead and a bunch of other acts and reportedly, DeVotchKa’s set was a breakout event for them.
I bet these guys would put on a fun show. Their music has elements of European gypsy music (Greek, Romani), Mariachi, and American Punk and Pop. It is a unique, high-energy sound that makes great use of a variety of instruments, including guitar (and mandolin, I think), piano, accordion, bass, strings, and horns. When you mix Pop with such cosmopolitan influences, it really takes the songs to some interesting places.
DeVotchKa got their start in Denver and has released 6 albums since their debut in 2000. ‘A Mad & Faithful Telling,’ released in 2008, sounds like the work of a confident, veteran band, with well-produced songs that explore a variety of grooves. Of course, it’s rare that I like every single song on an album and I didn’t like all of this one. These three, however, were particularly good:
- Along the Way – This is the most Mariachi sounding track on the album. It’s a beautiful melody and the string arrangements and trumpet flourishes are fantastic. This is actually a link to a live performance at South by Southwest last year. They do such a nice job with it live that it sounds just like the studio version.
- Transliterator – A great Pop tune, with more wonderful string arrangements between the hard-hitting choruses. I like the noddling little keyboard line that sets up the verses.
- A New World – The dreamy melody is anchored by hard-strummed guitar and serious cello. Lead singer Nick Urata’s warbling alto sounds almost like Roy Orbison on this pretty track.
So now I have yet another band to go back and check out their earlier work. So many bands, so little time.