When I was in high school, I lamented the fact I lived and went to school just outside of the broadcast range of the local college radio station.
I didn’t understand the appeal of classic rock stations — why would anyone subject themselves to that overwrought Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin shit when Camper Van Beethoven and Sinéad O’Connor were far more interesting?
During the days of the Musicwhore.org Audiobin, I collected demographic information from registrants, and I discovered the average age of a person seeking out Japanese music was 18.
So I can just imagine readers out there now asking, "Why would Greg subject himself to that underwhelming Talking Heads and Morrissey shit when ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION and the Back Horn are far more interesting?"
The simple answer is because I’m old, and I’m going through my practice run for a mid-life crisis.
So yeah, you’re going to have to put up with more writing about old-people music.
The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine and Roses
I’m not sure what possessed me to think I was in the mood to get this album.
I had listened to it a few times while working at Waterloo Records, and every time it played, I thought I was listening to the Velvet Underground. The Days of Wine and Roses has drawn that comparrison before, much to the chagrin of Dream Syndicate songwriter Steve Wynn.
I’m not into Lou Reed, and while I appreciate The Velvet Underground & Nico, I can’t say it moved me to form a band.
All that to say, I understand the appeal The Days of Wine and Roses — the performances are ragged, the recording lo-fi, the songwriting uncluttered by virtuosity.
It is a good album from the post-punk era. I’m just not into it as I thought I’d be.
Gang of Four, Return the Gift
I’ll be a philistine and profess my love for Entertainment! at the expense of the rest of Gang of Four’s output.
Return the Gift finds the reunited 1982 line-up re-recording songs from its first two albums, Entertainment! and Solid Gold.
I bought a copy of Solid Gold paired with a later album, Hard, and it distressed me to hear the adventurousness of Entertainment! synthesizered out by the time Hard was recorded.
And I can’t say I warmed up to Solid Gold all that much either, even if it did continue the band’s potent mix of politics, punk and rhythm.
That’s my five-paragraph disclaimer saying I didn’t warm up to Return the Gift because I wasn’t wowed by the original Solid Gold tracks.
I’m shallow like that.
The dollar bill wrapped around the CD booklet was cool, though.
And even a re-recorded Gang of Four has more charisma in its little finger than Franz Ferdinand has in its entire body.
Propaganda, Secret Wish
I read this teen music rag called Star Hits back in junior high. It was originally Smash Hits in the UK, and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys was an editor for the magazine.
Star Hits prominently covered a band called Propaganda. None of the radio stations in Hawaiʻi would have touched Propaganda, even though it sounded like something I would dig.
Fast forward 20 years, and I read news of a reissue of Secret Wish, Propaganda’s debut album. Curious, I jumped on those evil sharing networks to find out what I had missed two decades earlier.
Propaganda were ZTT Records contemporaries of the Art of Noise and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Trevor Horn produced.
It’s got all the fingerprints of a Horn production — lush synthesizers, danceable beats, funky rhythms. The rich voice of Claudia Brüken gave the seemingly robotic music a nice warmth.
With the resurgence of New Wave in such bands as the Bravery and the Killers, Secret Wish sounds both dated and relevant. Music technology back then wasn’t terribly sophisticated, but Horn managed to craft a full sound out of what he had at the time.
Did anyone notice that "Jewel" and "Duel" are the same song?
X, Under the Big Black Sun
I previewed Los Angeles and Under the Big Black Sun on a shopping excursion to Waterloo Records on evening. I went home with Under the Big Black Sun because it was obvious the band’s songwriting had matured.
"The Hungry Wolf", "Motel Room in My Bed" and the title track pre-dated the country-punk of Uncle Tupelo by a good decade. A hint of Latin rhythms drive "Blue Spark", while "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" incorporates a bit of calypso.
All the while, the band’s punk drive never relents. Except for the ’50s girl group pastiche of "Come Back to Me".
Under the Big Black Sun is wonderfully performed and beautifully written. Punk rock has never sounded so versatile.