Tag Archives: Green Day

Bad Things in Threes, Again

The Grim Reaper must be into numerology.

But now he has an assistant. Jack Kevorkian, occasionally called “Doctor Death” because of his years of commitment to physician-assisted suicide, died Friday at the age of 83. Ironically, no one helped him; it was a combination of kidney failure and thrombosis (clot-related ailments). An odd pop tangent is that Kevorkian’s lawyer was Geoffrey Feiger, brother of the late Doug Fieger of The Knack. Their courtroom battles – Kevorkian was never convicted when Fieger was his lawyer – are the basis for the movie You Don’t Know Jack. (Don’t confuse that with this).

James Arness, legendary as Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke, finally rode off into the sunset on Friday after 88 years on this dusty trail. Gunsmoke aired for twenty years and 635 episodes and made Arness a household name. The series, and the character, still finish high upon any list of the best in television history. Like his friend John Wayne, Arness was an imposing authority figure, although reserved and artistic in his private life. Many also know that his brother was the late Peter Graves.

And if Friday wasn’t already bad enough, Andrew Gold died after a heart attack at the too-young age of 59. Gold had hits in the 80s with “Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being A Friend“, as well as the theme from Mad About You, “Final Frontier“. But in my haven of liner notes, he was better known for being embedded in the SoCal scene where Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and Jackson Browne were all over each other’s albums. Like J.D. Souther – to whom he bore a slight resemblance – he didn’t often get the front-line credit for his effort, but was an integral and dynamic contributor to a generation of music.

Less is usually said about his later career, when projects like Wax UK and The Fraternal Order Of The All gave him vehicles for his love of Beatles and Beach Boys song structure and melodies. Copy Cat was a covers album featuring ten Beatles tracks, Green Day, Elton John and even covers of his own songs. A great talent who will be missed.

Video: “Lonely Boy

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone would have turned sixty yesterday.

That’s inconceivable. It’s also hard to believe that so many older bands – who easily endured as much drugs and demonic activity as their younger followers – are still out there banging away when three of the founding Ramones are gone.

But time has taught us what only the die-hard fans knew at the time – The Ramones were one of the greatest American rock bands to ever take the stage. Initially classified as punk, they were really more of a hard, loud pop band who got in, banged out a few chords and got out without wasting your time. You not only could sing along with all the songs, you could play them. But there was magic in their direct simplicity, and Johnny Ramone was a very underrated rhythm guitar player.

Hard to believe that last month marked ten years since we lost him. Ten years! I feel like I’ve been in a coma; time shouldn’t move that fast.

But even though The Ramones are gone, their legacy lives on through their recorded work and the many bands who continue to carry the flag. Sure, there are the obvious ones, everyone from The Sex Pistols to Green Day.

But in honor of Joey – a fellow Queens guy – here are Ten For Joey Ramone…ten lesser known bands who took heed when American music was restructured back in 1974. Turn it up – gabba gabba hey!

(01) – Teenage Bottlerocket

(02) – The Huntingtons

(03) – The Methadones

(04) – The Leftovers

(05) – The Lillingtons

(06) – Screeching Weasel

(07) – The Riverdales

(08) – The Vindictives

(09) – The Queers

(10) – Teen Idols

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Under The Radar: Coward

Sometimes you hear a band and think they’ve got something happening that will surely grow in time; you’re witnessing the awkward first steps of a future success. But sometimes, that just doesn’t happen. I could have sworn that Long Island power-pop-punk band Coward was going to make some noise; they were on a major and getting the big push. But…no.

Even when pulling this out today and writing I was certain they made it under another name, but I came up dry.  I did recently track down Joey Sykes, the guitar player and co-writer of many of the songs; he’s got a new album which I’m reviewing for another publication. Producer Jerry Finn (who also handled Blink 182, Sum 41, Green Day and several other pop punk masters) sadly passed away in 2008.

As their MySpace page says, plenty of bands came along later and found success with the same sound. These guys just never made it. Doesn’t mean the album isn’t a good listen! So maybe they’re under your radar, too.

From my original Consumable Online review:

How’s this for irony? The band kicks off the record with a tune called “Cliche” that apes every 1970’s rock move right down to the synthesizer fills and the “C’mon C’mon” vocals. Pretty ballsy – are they in on their own joke, or what?

Must admit that when I got this CD I wasn’t enthused. Front cover band name in “neon lights” (Heavy Metal Alert #1) and on the back cover of the CD, a tight shot of that “devil horn salute” fist raised, pinky and index finger extended) that usually means a moron is attached directly below.

Well, glad I continued. “Fell Down”, the second cut, mines that territory that houses pop bands from The Cars to Silver Jet – attention grabbing, hooky numbers that follow the tried and true power chord formula. However, most of the songs like “Boring” and “My Wisdom” even take it a step further, echoing New Wave heroes like The Jags and The Fools more than modern power pop.

Others like “Swallow” and “I’m All Right” kick in with a harder edge (think Green Day). Good harmonies, chunky guitars and tight playing throughout the record make it enjoyable, albeit short, ride. My favorite is probably the snappy “Popularity Kills” – silly, but with an infectious chorus that you can’t get out of your head.

Probably best heard at high volume with the windows rolled down, there’s lots of promise here, whether they’re truly into this style or just aping a la Weezer. But next time I hope they leave that damn synthesizer at home.

Cheap grab at Amazon.

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Mixtape: Vinyl Devotion

I put this mixtape together many many years ago for a tape tree on the Audities mailing list. I look at mixtapes as something to be taken in one sitting, ideally something slapped in for a car trip where the flow of the music is the center of attention, like I’ve got one shot to program an hour on the radio to win you over. So I started going through my vinyl alphabetically; just vinyl albums – no singles, CDs, or cassettes.

Remember mixtapes? Remember vinyl?

As the people I was trading with have pretty deep roots, I avoided the obvious (ie Beatles, Big Star, Cheap Trick, etc) and went for other songs that stir my stewpot. By the time I got through the “D”s, I easily had twice as much as I needed, and that wasn’t even taking into account the 3-400 albums that were in the “to be filed” pile.

But I came up with a beauty filled with great bands and great songs. I’ve included the original track-by-track annotations that I used for Vinyl Devotion’s liner notes, and since this was in the mid 90s, some of the references will be out of date. But the music is timeless – not a tune that doesn’t stand up today.  Mixtapes were a labor of love; even the needle dropping at the start of side A was intentional.

Side A

01 THE BOYS – “First Time Out”
Since you need something to get you out of the driveway, why not something young, loud and snotty? This was quintessential New Wave pop punk. Billy Joe of Green Day probably has a Boys lunchbox. (LINK TO A LIVE VERSION)

02 THE ATLANTICS – “One Last Night”
If INXS were cool and they grew up on 50’s and 60’s American radio, they’d sound like this. But they weren’t, andthey didn’t, and they don’t. Singer’s a bit of a crooner, but it’s a cool song nevertheless.

03 DANCING HOODS – “She May Call You Up Tonight”
Yep, the Left Banke song. I think this version is better. I loved this band but Relativity sank like a stone and these guys with them. The singer, Bob Bortnick, is now in A&R and Mark Linkous is in Sparklehorse. Too bad.

04 THE dBs – “Working For Somebody Else”
So why does everyone hate THE SOUND OF MUSIC? I think the Holsapple era is great. This is almost Chilton-ish rock – the harmonica solo, ringing phone, and the great way Peter pronounces the word “car-REEEP”.

05 THE BEAT FARMERS – “Ridin”
God Bless the late Country Dick Montana,who was Keith Richards in chaps. The BEAT FARMERS were the best bar band ever and always kicked your ass from wall to wall. This Joey Harris tune is a nice taste. R.I.P. fellas! (LINK TO A LIVE VERSION)

06 THE ACCELERATORS – “Two Girls In Love”
Another great band no one knows, what is it about that water in North Carolina? This band rules, but they only put out a record every five years; tho I heard they just re-formed. I love the drum sound on this song.

07 BEAT RODEO – “Just Friends”
Slowing it down, this Don Dixon/Mitch Easter production is anything but twee. Despite the cow name it’s just pure pop after all. Saw these guys live and they were absolutely wonderful. I miss songs like this.

08 DON DIXON – “Your Sister Told Me”
I’m convinced that if Motown were in North Carolina, Dixon would be Holland, Dozier and Holland. One of the many on my “how can this guy/band not be friggin’ HUGE?” list. And my hat tip to The Woods, his roots. (LINK TO A STUDIO VERSION)

09 BILLY BREMNER – “When These Shoes Were New”
The true M.V.P. of Rockpile. From the lp BASH which only his parents and I bought. Will Birch co-wrote and produced most of the songs, and it’s wall-to-wall great. I want to play piano like the guy on this track.

10 ANY TROUBLE – “The Trouble With Love”
Clive Gregson just didn’t fit in that New Wave movement, but his band put out five killer records with great songs like this. You may know his records and gigs with Christine Collister and their gigs with Richard Thompson

11 THE A’s – “Heart Of America”
From Philly, natch – is this one of the ten best rock and roll songs ever made? Mott The Hoople meets Elvis Costello and drop the gloves. Killer guitars, horn section, and the one of the most unusual solos in rock history.

12 THE CRETONES – “Real Love”
When Linda Ronstadt “went punk” that year she butchered “Alison” and two of this band’s songs; “Mad Love” is the other. This is pretty mainstream, but fun when you realize there isn’t a female voice on the record.

13 THE DUROCS – “Saving It All Up For Larry”
Try this: Brian Wilson goes sandbox, but instead of Stamos and Johnston the Beach Boys sign up Flo, Eddie, Zappa and Todd. Actually it’s Nagle and Matthews, right around the time they produced John Hiatt. Great, great record! (LINK TO VIDEO VERSION)

Side B

01 JOHN CALE – “Guts”
From the album that even Cale-haters like. Uses the words “parrot shit” and “hyperbole” in the same verse. Top that, Lou Reed! This record is known for a suicide-inducing drone version of “Heartbreak Hotel”

02 THE CRUZADOS – “Motorcycle Girl”
Tito and the boys cooking up East L.A. spunk in the days before they hooked up for gigs as Bob Dylan’s band. Bassist Tony Marsico is now with Matthew Sweet.

03 HERMAN BROOD – “Sleepin’ Bird”
My favorite Dutch ex-junkie porn star rock god, and the best rock and roll band in the world. He’s a famous painter now. Had an American hit with “Saturday Night” in 1978 but put out several searing records in Holland. Yowza! (LINK TO A LIVE VERSION)

04 THE DRONGOS – “Overnight Bag”
Life before Crowded House in New Zealand. What a great guitar player! I wouldn’t try to make love to this song; it’s better suited for popping popcorn! Went to see them one night only to find out they broke up that afternoon.

05 THE DIRTY ANGELS – “Call My Name”
Remember in 1979/80 when everybody got signed and dressed in pastels on album covers? Well, DA had nude mannequins with missing appendages. Ah, so what. But I know the name David Hull from elsewhere.

06 THE DICTATORS – “Heartache”
Scott “Top Ten” Kempner and Andy Shernoff both could write big hooks, but the underwater production buried them. Too bad. When you got past Ross The Boss’ guitar god act, these guys had some great songs!

07 CITY BOY – “I’ve Been Spun”
Jellyfish, eat your heart out. These guys could really rock, too, but were known for the unbelievable vocal harmonies. The guitar player, Mike Slamer, makes me grab the air guitar frequently over six records.

08 BLUEBELLS – “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”
No, not the Dean Martin song. You may remember “Cath” or “Syracuse University”, but I always liked this the best. One of those “why isn’t this on CD” records, but frankly most people can’t even find the vinyl!

09 THE DAVE CLARK FIVE – “Because”
Because after 33 years it’s still great. Because Gary Frenay and Artie Lenin played it at my wedding and people were breaking out in tears. Because it’s my tape. Because.

10 ARTFUL DODGER – “She’s Just My Baby”
Even Artful Dodger fans gave up by this record. While earlier records were like a poppier Rod Stewart; I hear a perfect blend of Dwight Twilley and The Records. Why was this band not a major, major hit? (LINK TO THE PROMO VIDEO)

11 MARSHALL CRENSHAW – “Rave On”
Live cut done at the drop of a hat in a Chicago station. Unbelievable how great he and the guitar sound just by themselves! So far he’s played Lennon in Beatlemania, Holly on film, and made one of the best debut records ever.

12 GARY CHARLSON BAND – “Hey Deanie” & “Go Back”
Another live in the studio gig from an incredible pop guy, these are two of my faves. Bought this based on Bruce Brodeen‘s adjectives (it’s an OLD record). So where is he now? And who the hell was this incredible drummer? (LINK TO A GARY CHARLSON MEDLEY)

13 SHAUN CASSIDY – “So Sad About Us”
Yeah, go ahead and snicker. The backup band is Todd and Utopia, and the whole album could have been called Faithful – Part Two! Messed up Shaun so badly he didn’t resurface for years, and then showed up with “American Gothic”!

 

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Under The Radar: Squad 5-0

Squad Five-O really split the faithful down the middle on this one; half the fans thought it was a logical progression towards a more commercial pop punk sound, and the other half hated it…for the very same reason. (Ah well, at least everyone was on the same page in some way.)

I loved the record – I thought it combined all the elements of classic punk and glam with modern production and an infectious energy that never seemed forced or phony. This was no preening, choreographed Fall Out Boy posturing – this band wanted to rock for all the right reasons and was able to capture that on a studio disc.

Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. Poof! Adam and Dave moved along to become Marah’s guitarist and drummer, respectively, in what was probably that band’s best lineup to date. Of course Marah being Marah, the Bielankos cleared the personnel decks on the eve of the tour for their latest album, and…that was that. Adam and Dave (along with another ex-Marahite, Kirk Henderson) now have Bloodline (I’ll be linking to my review as soon as it’s published) so the odds on Squad 6-O are probably slim to none.

None of that affects just how good this record is, so whether you hold out hope for a reunion or light a candle to the past, give it a shot. Here’s my original take five years ago when I rated it my #2 album of 2004, just behind Green Day‘s American Idiot

They only gave themselves three stars

They only gave themselves three stars

LATE NEWS BREAKING (Capitol)

Matt Wallace producing your band means you get the big rawk sound made for radio and – better yet – your record will probably get a spin on the airwaves to see if it can survive. After years of grassroots punk touring, the Squad takes their shot with a major label to see if they can outrun the Rancid/Clash tag they’re been stuck with. Truth is they’re all over the map on this new release, from the Urge Overkill nod in “Always Talkin’, Never On The Run” to the country-via-Del Lords “Train Of Shame”.

Naturally there’s the requisite ska-punk dalliances and the throaty vocals of yelper Jeff Fortsun, but it’s drummer Dave Petersen who really sells every song (and what do you expect from a guy who played in a Ramones tribute band – lethargy?). Overall, some great stuff – dashes of glam and Izzy Stradlin, driving bass lines hammering my favorite track “Left Alone” – even their overlong closer “Everything” could be forgiven as being anthemic. So let’s hope the jocks see the Matt Wallace imprint, pop it in and let it ride. Regardless, you can go to the store and cast your vote monetarily. 

Buy a copy at Amazon.

Squad 5-O discography.

Visit their MySpace site for a listen.

Savor the moments.

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2008 Countdown: 6, 5, 4

The countdown of the Best Albums of 2008 continues…more of the top ten!

 

6. The Quireboys:  Homewreckers and Heartbreakers

Thankfully someone is waving The Faces flag and keeping the spirit alive, because God knows Rod Stewart isn’t going to do it. Spike and Guy Griffin have developed a strong songwriting partnership that evokes comparisons to Stewart/Wood; two men who think with one mind, play to each other’s strengths and create something as a unit superior to what they do on their own. The confidence they have developed over the past few years is manifested in a wider bandwidth of material than the sleaze/blues/rock formula that earner The (London) Quireboys their initial fame. That said, they can still bring it. “I Love This Dirty Town” is a gutbucket, fist-pumping rocker, and “Josephine” sounds like “Borstal Boys” after a syringe of Red Bull was jacked into its veins. “Louder”, as you’d anticipate from the title, is no slouch either.

But in “Mona Lisa Smiled”, the Quireboys have absolutely hit the bulls-eye, a mid-tempo classic that recalls the warmth and soul of the early Rod Stewart albums. Spike’s reading is pitch-perfect, and (as with “One For The Road” as well), the background of fiddles and keys bouncing off Griffin’s acoustic and Paul Guerin’s tasty slide is pure magic. Coupled with Spike’s raspy road tales, these more restrained efforts are a worthy descendant of the classic Pugh/Quittenton/Wood sound; studio sharp yet front porch casual. Kudos to Nick Mailing’s engineering and co-production (with Griffin), which allows equal attention to the band’s finesse as well as their power. “Late Night Saturday Call” is an introspective folksy blues, while the subtle shuffle “Take A Look At Yourself” should be in Van Morrison’s setlist at the very next opportunity.

But as much as I’m spotlighting the more mature Quireboys (did I actually use those two words in the same sentence?) they are still a kick-ass rock band; they’ve just gotten better and more versatile without giving an inch. I always hoped they were capable of raising the bar, but I wasn’t sure they were. With this, their finest effort, all my doubts are laid to rest.

 

5. Foxboro Hot Tubs:  Stop, Drop and Roll

Leave it to Billie Joe Armstrong to teach everyone else how to put aside the posturing and just make a fun rock’n’roll record. By now everyone knows that behind the faux album art and name, it’s just Green Day having a blast bashing out stripped down garage rock and pop rock. It’s as if they pilfered my box of 60s singles, then reanimated and reinvented new songs from the DNA. And any of these tracks, made with the same effervescent spirit as their forefathers, could be sandwiched alongside those Seeds and Raiders and Monkees singles without missing a beat. Drummer Tre Cool must have loved this project, as his closet Keith Moon side surfaces often, especially “27th Avenue Shuffle” (nicking The Who’s “Legal Matter”) and the title track. “Mother Mary” actually charted before people caught on, and why not? It’s “Lust For Life” filtered through “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (complete with James Honeyman-Scott guitar solo) sung by a sweeter sounding Morrissey. Sure, no chance of liking that, right?

Have fun playing “spot-the-influence” as you go careening through a dozen great singles. “Red Tide” is a Kinks song with Davy Jones on vocals; “She’s A Saint” sounds like the Sex Pistols’ take on “Summertime Blues”, but then adds handclaps and choruses of “ooohs” to morph into a classic powerpop track. “Alligator” owes its debt to “You Really Got Me” and fans of the The Yardbirds will do a double-take at “Dark Side Of The Night”. I can’t believe anyone put this record down as if Green Day was making some massive career mistake after American Idiot. To borrow the question from powerpop cult heroes Candy, “Whatever Happened To Fun”?

 

4. The Whigs:  Mission Control

This is the sound of a band finding its identity and going for broke, all the time knowing that there are no guarantees anyone will ever witness the trip. Not many albums start out with the urgency of “Like A Vibration”, a snarling, charging call-to-arms that sounds like equal parts Who and Replacements. Singer and guitarist Parker Gispert’s versatile voice is matched only by the wide variety of songs on the band’s sophomore album, and Tim Deaux’s very fluid bass lines make this trio sound a lot bigger than they really are. But with all due respect to them, it’s Julian Dorio who is the secret weapon on Mission Control. He plays drums like he has eight limbs and kicks even the moderate tempos in the ass.

“I Never Want To Go Home” echoes Snow Patrol at their peak, but “Sleep Sunshine” could be Radiohead with Frank Black at the controls, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought of The Police when hearing “Production City”. Sure, their Athens roots will bleed through on occasion – “Hot Bed” is a dB’s/REM cross-fade and “Already Young” would fit on Monster (and probably be the best song on that record). But I’m willing to absorb that caveat when every song has a great melody or hook, sometimes both, and the textures are so varied and hypnotic that my attention never wavers. Maybe Rolling Stone got one right when they picked them as the best (then) unsigned band in America. If The Whigs can pull off the mania of “Need You Need You” and the hypnotic pulse of the title track live on stage, I’m there…especially to watch that guy behind the drum kit.

Tomorrow, the countdown of the Best Albums of 2008 continues…just three left to go!

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