Andrew W.K. - "I Get Wet" CD 12/35:30
AWK continues to crank out anthemic hard rock in the vein of Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister, aided by his state of the art wall of sound production. The mix on this is positively thunderous, with AWK's trademark keyboards in high gear. The hit single here is "Party Hard", which is like the Beastie Boy's "Fight For Your Right To Party" on steroids. The CD single also has an excellent QuickTime movie for "Party Hard". Bigtime talent!
Sex Pistols - "There Is No Future" CD 16/59:00
Available on CD for the first time, here are the Sex Pistols demos. I wish I could tell you which set of demos, but the liner notes and credits are not part of the package. That's quite an omission for recordings of such historical importance. Most of these tunes appeared on the classic "Never Mind the Bollocks" in sonicly upgraded form. These versions seem lethargic and under produced, but they are a fascinating glimpse of what the Pistols sounded like just before they changed the face of rock n' roll. A nice companion piece to Bollocks.
X - "Wild Gift" CD 20/50:10
A couple issues back SP rated the first X album as the 14th best punk album of all time ever. My minority vote went to this one though, the band's follow up. X was a band the late 70's L.A. scene revolved around, and they were musical pioneeers with the male/female vocal combination of Exene and John Doe, and a rootsy sensibility. I think "Wild Gift" was the strongest collection of songs X ever recorded. The 7 bonus tracks here don't add much, but nothing really needed to be added to this seminal effort.
Newtown Neurotics - "Punk Collection" CD 23/79:35
Or the Neurotics as they were later known; an early '80s British punk band with a social conscience. All of their singles were excellent, some were trancendent. If you've never heard "Suzi Is a Heart-Breaker" you can't imagine what you're missing! It's truly one of the greatest songs in the history of rock n' roll! Their update of the Members' "Solitary Confinement", called "Living With Unemployment" is also a stunner. I'm glad that "The Mess", which was a spectacular album track, is included with these mostly singles tracks. That song conveys well what made this band extraordinary. Twenty years hasn't diminished my enthusiasm for the Neurotics one bit.
Strokes - "Is This It" CD 11/35:46
"The Modern Age" has been a favorite of mine, but I can't quite get behind the debut album from this NYC band who play mid-tempo tunes with subtle hooks, influenced by the Velvet Underground. Other than "The Modern Age" there are only a couple other songs good enough to be singles, but I'm more put off by the production than the quality of the songs. Every sound on the disc seems to compete for attention. Simplicity is something Strokes should have learned from the Velvets. There's a compressed effect on the vocals that they might have borrowed from an old Iggy record. It would have been fine for one song, but it's used on every song. After the tenth time I listened to this album I literally couldn't tell which song I was listening to. The album tends to sound like one half hour song. Still, the band has a ton of talent, and if they don't let production become a recurrent problem they should be a Tip for the Top.
V/A - "Give the People What They Want" CD 19/58:14
My first reaction was that this sucks so bad we shouldn't even bother reviewing it. It's supposed to be a tribute to the Kinks?! I'm pretty familiar with the Kinks, and many of these songs are unfamiliar, or songs I always thought of as lesser efforts. One worthwhile tune here is the Fastbacks version of "Waterloo Sunset". It's not great, but if you want great I'd suggest the original. The Briefs' version of "Come Dancing" is good also. I think my initial negative reaction to this was biased because there have been so many of these "tribute" projects resulting in very little worthwhile. What started as a novelty/marketing gimmick has lost its novelty. Other artists here include Mudhoney, Makers, C Average, Heather Duby and Young Fresh Fellows.
Dinosaur Jr. - "The Best Of" CD 19/75:18
Mascis was really on a roll with Dino Jr. What made the band so great; the fuzzed out guitar, infectious melodies, strong lyrics, J's casually understated vox? It was quite a package, and the rock world was put on notice when the band followed the success of "Little Furry Things" with the college radio staple "Freak Scene" in '88. More brilliant fuzzpop anthems followed, including "The Lung", which somehow failed to make the cut here. It must have been tough to pick from the band's numerous treasures, but check out "The Wagon", "Whatever's Cool With Me" and Dino's abridged take of "Just Like Heaven". Songs from a 12 year span where Dino Jr. was one of rock's most important bands.
Isobella - "A 24 Syllable Haiku" CD 10/51:56
Laura Poinsette's vox continue to be some of the most distinctive in the world of dreamy shoegazer music. 24SH is a consistently strong effort with lush production from this Florida based band. Isobella has created some fantastic songs in the past, and though there might not be greatest hits here it is 51 minutes of tunes the Cocteau Twins would be proud of.
V/A - "American Graffiti Revisited" 2XCD
There's enough tuneage here to keep you entertained for a long while. Quality plus quantity, not a bad combination. Throw in a cool concept and it's even more of a winner. These 41 bands tackle oldies from the "American Graffiti" flicks. Much of it is transformed into the realm of surf music, with a number of fine instros. Susan & the Surftones instro-take on Del Shannon's "Runaway" is a fabulous highlight - but wait, there's more - Bully, Wrong Corpses, Moto-litas, Braidpos Four, Cosmonauti, Sit n' Spin, and more.
Misfits - "Cuts From the Crypt" CD 17/47:46
More high quality horror-punk from the long running New Jersey band. The current incarnation of the band always seem to come up with more than their share of catchy tunes and cool horror lyrics. In addition to the strong material the enhanced CD includes an evcellent video that no Misfits fan will want to be without. The production here is stronger and more straightforward than recent albums. This has the "Mars Attacks" demos, the band's first recordings after they reformed, and they sound great.
V/A - "The Royal Tennenbaums" CD 20/58:51
I haven't checked out the flick. I've only gone out to see a movie once in the last 20 years, but I did catch Wes Anderson's first film, "Bottle Rocket", on TV, and it was truly great if you like films. Apparently he knows something about music too because in addition to the soundtrack music from Mark Mothersbaugh he's got some real gems here including Nico, Nick Drake, the Clash, Dylan, Emitt Rhodes and more.
@ Hollywood Records
Violet Indiana - "Casino" CD 12/41:30
When the first note played I thought "Cocteau Twins". I swear it took less than 1 second. It turns out this is a new project from Robin Guthrie, working with Siobhan De Mare from Mono whose vocals are considerably less distinctive than Liz Frasier's were. "Jailbird" is a great song, but the rest of the material here, some of which has been previously released, doesn't do it for me. I think this might appeal to fans of Bjork.
V/A - "Life's a Gas" CD 31/70:13
31 bands pay tribute to the late Joey Ramone by writing original songs inspired by the Ramones. The result is a surprisingly strong pop-punk collection. Bands include Gabba, Phoenix Thunderstone, Mach Pelican, Dirtshakes, Anna & the Psychomen, Strap-ons, McRackins, Kitty Kowalski & the Manges, etc. This is an international effort with bands from more than a dozen nations represented.
Morrissey - "The Best Of" CD 21/78:11
Maybe I could come up with an explanation of why "Georgie Girl" didn't make it on to the Seeker's greatest hits. Those things happen. I'm sure there must be an explanation as to why Procol Harum's greatest hits album doesn't include "Whiter Shade of Pale". Maybe someone has a memory disorder, it could be as simple as that. But this Morrissey thing is ridiculous. One of the greatest artists of all time, and they leave off his seminal "My Love Life"! Are they nuts? Then I noticed they also left off "You're the One For Me Fattie"!! Holy crap. Then it hit me - they left off "Our Frank"!!! Don't worry Rhino, it's only one of the greatest songs ever recorded. No reason you should find a spot for it on the guy's greatest hits collection. Three of the best songs ever, all singles, all missing. Maybe I could understand why they omitted "East West" or "Such a Little Thing". (I really don't!) I'm afraid to think of any more of my favorite Morrissey tunes for fear I'll totally lose it if I find they're not here. Still, there's a dozen songs here I couldn't do without.
V/A - "Chaan! Ban! Thank You Ben" CD 12/36:52
The more I hear this, the more I like it. It's 12 songs from 9 very cool Japanese bands playing various forms of cute, catchy underground pop. Some of it reminds me of the great Japanese band Sunnychar from about 5 years back. Cartoon Characters two songs include a cover of Kirsty Maccoll's "They Don't Know". Turns out the Characters are a solo effort from Hirokazu who used to be in Dizzy Joghurt. Maple Drive play great C-86 inflenced girl-pop, Overcoat from Kobe play high energy pop Shonen Knife would be proud of. Soda-pop are a girl-pop duo from Nagoya, and there one song here is a keeper. The Beauties is yet another fine slice of girl-pop. There's more, Jenny On the Planet, Brown, Cry Baby and Soft Parade. Only 500 pressed!?
@ Monarch Records, Japan
Cinerama - "Health and Efficiency" CD 5/21:47
David Gedge handles vocals on the three songs here. There are three versions of the title track; one in French. (Remind you of the Wedding Present?) There's a cover of a James Bond song, "Diamonds Are Forever". (Remind anyone of the "Hit Parade" era Wedding Present?) "Swim" is my favorite song of the three, really good. @ www.cinerama.co.uk
Anti-Nowhere League - "We Are the League" CD 19/53:54
They were the League, an early '80s band who put the PUNK back in British punk rock. Like the Pistols five years earlier, they rocked the British charts with a blasphemous and banned hit, "So What" which was the B-side of "Streets of London" until the police pulled it out of shops. The band kept cranking out great punk tunes like "For You" and "Let's Break the Law" for another year, but in '83 the second wave of punk ran out of steam. The League's most essential tracks are captured here.
V/A - "A Tribute To Big Star" CD 23/73:42
Bands include The Cogs, Banjo Spiders, Red Telephone, Longwave, Nada Surf, Marty Wilson-Piper, Scout, as well as a number of lesser known bands. This isn't the first album of various artists tackling Big Star songs, and I suspect it's because Big Star wrote excellent songs even though they really put out a great record. In fact, Big Star were never big at all, but they'll always be a big influence on pop songwriters. (Whoever came up with the idea for using "In the Street" as the theme for "That 70's Show" is a genius.) Anyway this has really strong versions of the songs. I hate the "tribute" comps where bands run perfectly good songs into the ground, and this isn't one of those.
Sights - "Are You Green?" CD 13/40:06
It's a good thing this has been reissued because it's likely to attain classic status among fans of 60s psych and powerpop. On "Not One To Beg" you can hear the kind of soulful influence that made the Revelers one of America's best bands. On "Talk To You" they are Cream one minute and Cryan' Shames the next. This is an album full of surprises. You never know what's coming and it's not always easy to categorize when it gets there. Tons of 60s influences, and their Small Faces cover is a corker! Are you green?
Beltones - "Cheap Trinkets" CD 13/31:54
I'm a sucker for these street punkers. Their debut single is probably my fave Ameripunk single of the last 10 years. If you can't handle gruff vox this may not be your thing, but Bill McFadden's singing blows me away, and this time around the songs are even more consistently catchy and rockin' than usual. They've had some personnel changes, but when you hear Bill's voice you'll know it's the Beltones.