Tag Archives: Klaatu

Meet The Beatles, Sorta

Time once again to pay homage to Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals, whose mixtapes (will someone please come up for a less cumbersome word for mix disc?) are always first-rate works of art. And that includes the art, by the way – original work always created with affection, humor and great skill.

Over the past couple of years I’ve tipped you to many of his powerpop anthologies, Beatle album tributes and collections of tribute songs. This weekend I’m recommending you check out two of his more eclectic tributes, starting with Meet The Beatlesque. We’ve all heard bands and songs that make you think of The Fab Four; pretty much any pop band around has some Beatle DNA in their bloodstream.

So where many bands cover Beatle songs outright, here we are talking about bands who are channeling their influence or building off their foundation. Angelo describes the selections as those “who have had a Beatlesque moment, whether consciously or not. Beatlesque means bearing a definite resemblance, often to a specific Beatle song. To be truly Beatlesque,a record must wear that influence openly.”

So who does that? Hmm…how about The Raspberries, Utopia, The Rutles, Marshall Crenshaw, The Smithereens, ELO, 20-20 and The Flamin’ Groovies? That’s only a small sampling…from Disc One! Disc Two features Badfinger, Klaatu, Matthew Sweet, Cheap Trick, Emitt Rhodes, The Gurus, The Jamfifty tracks of fab between the two discs!

So click here to visit PPC and download this great collection. Enjoy!

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Paying Tribute: Men In Plaid

Someone tagged a comment on an old post of mine chastising me for mentioning that Kyle Vincent sang lead forThe Bay City Rollers – insisting that there were only two lead singers and he wasn’t one of them. After correcting my non-fan (and posting a video link to prove my point) I was reminded of how back in their day, fans of The Rollers were constantly scorned but very resilient. Nothing has changed.

I was not a fan of the band at the time; for I (1) was not a teenager anymore, (2) wasn’t female (still not one) and (3) thought Tartan plaid looked bad enough on Rod Stewart, who at least had the songwriting and performance chops to overcome the ridiculous look. (Then again, I didn’t expect his brilliant early 70s run to be followed up by thirty-five years of underwhelming records. But I digress…)

As you might know, I have a weakness for tribute albums. For every gem there are ten clunkers, although there are usually one or two tracks worth excising and preserving. If you want to do it right, you need access to a group of good bands, a smart label, a certain sense of levity and material that is at least recognizable if not worthwhile. One rule of thumb is that great bands can often overcome lackluster material. Case in point – Men In Plaid. Bullseye Records, a Canadian pop label, had previously succeeded with a Klaatu tribute and did another nice job on this Rollers collection. Of course, having first-rate pop artists like The Flashcubes, Anton Barbeau and The Squires of the Subterrain doesn’t hurt, either.

I’m trying to get away from the concept of guilty pleasures, which infers a level of secrecy and/or embarrassment. Either you like something or you don’t, and if you don’t have the courage of your convictions for some things, then your opinion on anything else is worthless. I didn’t like the band much in their heyday and I wouldn’t have worn those asinine plaid clamdiggers at gunpoint. But is “Saturday Night” a great pop song? Hell yes, it is.

My original review ran in Comsumable Online ten years ago. Looks like an extended version of the CD came out a few years later.

Bullseye follows up last year’s excellent Klaatu tribute with another winner, once again featuring a Who’s Who of Contemporary Pop Bands. Rollermaniacs, having seen their heroes suffer the torture of VH-1’s Behind The Music, can now revel in a newly issued Greatest Hits collection and this enthusiastic homage. But even if you hated the Rollers – and I just know many of you did – you’ll be surprised at how many great songs are buried beneath the plaid exterior. Maybe “S-S-S-Saturday Night” doesn’t carry the same cultural weight as “My G-G-G-Generation” to you, but for millions of fans across the world, The Bay City Rollers were their Beatles.

To say that The Flashcubes launch this record like a rocket would be an understatement; Paul Armstrong and Arty Lenin rip into “Wouldn’t You Like It” like Keith Richards and Mick Taylor circa “Brown Sugar”. Although no one else blows the roof off quite like that opening track, there are several other solid contributions. Gary “Pig” Gold sounds like he’s been a closet Grip Weed for years; this “Rock And Roll Love Letter” can stand proudly alongside The Records’ version. There are two versions of “Saturday Night”; Anton Barbeau adds his trademark left-of-the-dial approach while The Dipsomaniacs attack the song with a fever pitch. Tom Davis and Jeremy handle the mellower cuts equally well, while the appropriately named Squires Of The Subterrain dial in from the basement.

Other highlights include Ed James’ one-man-band take on “You Make Me Believe In Magic”; this performance will have people running to the store for his record. And both Reptopia and Fudge chose to take some liberties with the bubblegum pop songs, and their arrangements result in two of the standout cuts. Of course, not every cut bears repeated listening – for me, The Bobbies‘ version of “Let’s Go” was devoid of energy – but beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Men In Plaid features a solid collection of bands who treat the songs with some reverence, but also have a lot of fun with them. That’s the way music used to be in the Rollers days. Some of these bands are old enough to remember, but the others probably had to be told. And the little girls still understand.

The Original Wardrobe Malfunction

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Blast From The Past: Walter Clevenger

Revered in powerpop and roots rock circles but unfortunately not a household name, Walter Clevenger and his band play an appealing blend of those musical styles and are as strong as a live act as they are tight on record. I had the pleasure of seeing them play a couple of times many years ago, and each time they grabbed the crowd from the opening song and never let go.

And much in the same way, Clevenger’s albuns have held up very well – I still play them loud and often. Frankly, in a world where Tom Petty has achieved rock royalty status, I’m stunned when artists who are as good as Clevenger don’t find mass appeal from the same audience. If you’re one of them, I implore you to click the links at the bottom of this essay and listen to some song clips.

Could that commercial apathy be part of the reason that it has been seven years since Walter Clevenger and The Dairy Kings last blessed us with an album? I do know that it’s been thirteen years since my review of The Man With The X-Ray Eyes ran in Consumable Online

“Love can make you happy/or it can spit right in your face…”

Therein lie the two moods of one Walter Clevenger, whose yang and yin theories of love and relationships pack an impressive debut record. And if the “yang” is the “my life is so blissful with you” half of that couplet, this album is chock full of yin. Thank God for that!

The first thing the listener will zero in on is that Clevenger sounds uncannily like Nick Lowe. In fact, I’ll wager that I could play “Love You Like A King” , “Love (A Misunderstood Thing)” and “Angels” to friends who are fans of Nick Lowe and they’d swear it was their boy. Although Nick is one of Walter’s heroes, I don’t consider this record a rip-off or even a homage to Jesus Of Cool; rather it’s a case of someone who grew up loving a certain type of music naturally emanating it in his own. That said, however, the converse is certainly true – if you do like Nick Lowe, you’ll love Walter Clevenger.

His lyrics are witty and biting, as anyone who has been on the wrong end of a romantic crash can attest. Sometimes it’s utter dejection (“I used to make the hit parade/Now I only line the cage“) and sometimes bitterness (“You say you’re sorry/I don’t believe you/’Cause sorry couldn’t cover/half of what you’re doing“). Even when he is singing about a happy relationship, it turns out that it’s one that slipped through his fingers. If you’re despondent about love, this is the soundtrack for your life, and it will either pick up your spirits or hit you deep. Either way, it leaves a mark.

Musically, Clevenger nails the pop bulls eye by wrapping up pathos in three-minute nuggets. There are a few different sounds to the record, which may be a result of it having been recorded over a longer period of time. Most are 70s/90s classic pop (“Yesterday’s News Now” could be a Rockpile outtake) and some, like “Cries Of Desperation”, suggest folk and country-pop influences like the Everly Brothers. Only the closer, “I Don’t Like Your Face (Just Git)”, sounds out-of-place. But hey, rednecks gotta cry at the jukebox too, so why not to this one?

Clevenger recorded most of the record at his home and issued it under the title PoPgOeStHeMuSiC in 1995. (The cassette-only release quickly sold out through word of mouth and is now a collector’s item.) I was delighted to see that Walter’s recording was picked up by a label for distribution, and not just any label, either. Permanent Press Recordings is headed by Ray Paul (Klimek), a popster himself, who has also released records by deserving artists like Bob Segarini and Klaatu.

The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is proof positive that sometimes the best music around is being made in someone’s bedroom or garage.

After The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, he went on to record more albums that were as good or better (Love Songs To Myself in 1999 and Full Tilt And Swing in 2003) as well as contributing tracks to tribute albums like the Bobby Fuller song (below) and his own homage project, Lowe Profile.

Video: “Only When I Dream

And while he has been preoccupied with production and his own label (Brewery Records), the band does still perform. I noticed a couple of slots at the upcoming IPO Festival in Los Angeles next month. But I sure could use a new Walter Clevenger album, and I know I’m not alone in that thought.

How about it, Walter?

Walter Clevenger website and MySpace site.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Bands/Artists I Miss

Well, reunited without all that cheesy drama, anyway

Seems like everyone is getting back together these days, whether for money or a shot at career closure; some are actually reinvigorated and creating viable new music. So if you are pining the loss or lethargy of a favorite band or artist, there’s hope.

(Of course, nothing would be better than the three guys in the forefront of this picture sharing a stage again. Maybe if I leave that tooth under my pillow…)

Doesn’t have to be someone on a Van Halen level. For example, Fastball thought they had taken a long enough hiatus and decided to regroup – the result was a great new record. So why not our favorites?

So here’s ten acts right off the top of my head that are dormant; I wish they were making records right now. At least I have the fruits of their labor to date to savor over and over again. If any of these are new to you, please check them out. Maybe it will make you revive a few of your own favorites.

Because that’s the beauty of legacy. It’s right there.

Redd Kross:  Congrats on the new baby and all, but come on – make an album!

Cotton Mather:  Living on in other bands, but Kon Tiki is godhead.

The Pursuit of Happiness:  Too good to be satisfied with reunions.

The Tories:  So promising. So good. What happened?

Liquor Giants:  How about Something Special for the Adults?

World Party:  This generation’s Klaatu, the homage must go on.

Jen Trynin:  Disillusioned the first time, suck it up and get back out there.

Love NutAndy Bopp, put Myracle Brah aside and rock me again.

Tonio K:  I know you’re sitting on pure gold. Share it, brother.

The Montgomery CliffsJoey Salvia is solo but a reunion would be magic.

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NEW ALBUM! Slingsby Hornets: Whatever Happened To…

Pollen Pop?

Pollen Pop?

Slingsby Aviation built some of the world’s greatest gliders, and although used by the British during WWII, they were mostly tactical observation planes; drone bombers at best. The Hornet, on the other hand, was a piston-engine fighter plane used by the RAF, built by the de Havilland company. What this has to do with glam rock and powerpop takes on classic 60’s music is beyond me, but I can tell you that John Paul Allen’s angry insect logo is the antithesis of the pure joy coming out of the speakers when The Slingsby Hornets are playing.

Whatever Happened To is the follow-up to 2007’s Introducing The Fantastic Sounds of; like its predecessor it’s a one-man studio effort from Allen. Boasting a dense layer of guitars, stacked vocals and a simple but uncluttered rhythm section, Allen blends five original pop songs inbetween covers of classic garage and glam singles like “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” and “Rock’n’Roll Love Letter”. His solo vocals are more breathy than powerful, but the layered harmonies are skillful, even within production that’s smaller in scale that some of the bands you’ll be reminded of (Jellyfish, XTC and especially Queen – Brian May is obviously an influence). But there’s no denying the pure love of the music, but anyone that can cover The Osmonds and ABBA with the same respect as The Move and T. Rex is okay in my book. I really like the originals, especially “The Long Way Home” and “Black & White Movie”, but the covers are obviously the draw. My favorites are Klaatu‘s “Calling Occupants” and Marc Bolan‘s “Children of the Revolution” in which Allen also incorporates the related “Buick Mackane”.

My copy of the new album included the Knee Deep In Glitter EP which features five covers, including Cliff Richard‘s “Devil Woman” and “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” by Slade. The guitars are much louder and overall the music rocks harder, even the chugging version of “Does Your Mother Know”. As with all Slingsby Hornets covers, they’re anything but straightforward copies of the original.

Introducing also has five originals, the best of which is the synth/guitar duel of “The Man From Yesterday” and the more delicate “Stop The Rain”. I’m no fan of Captain and Tenille so I’m not crazy about a cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together”, but at least it adds some muscle to the melody. I much prefer his take on “Fire Brigade” and  a cover of “My Sharona” that sounds like Brian May (yes, again) jamming with Todd Rundgren. Again, Allen wisely alternates his originals with the diverse covers, as if to show that any radio station (or pair of ears) that would appreciate one would also find the other appealing. Use the CD Baby links above or check their MySpace page for more details and sound clips.

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