Tag Archives: Pete Townshend

Bob Dylan At 70

Thank God that Pete Townshend was wrong.

Had Bob joined the 27 Club, we’d have missed out four more decades of music and film, on challenging religious and political and social commentary, on a true poet’s worldview brought to us through the enhanced artistic platforms he has decided to embrace.

He could isolate himself and spike the ball on a career, but instead he travels the globe and shares his gift an average of two hundred times a year. Performing without ego and fanfare to an ever-growing fan base who hopefully understand that they are seeing one of the brightest lights in the history of popular culture shine in their presence.

Video: The First Rapper

Even mystifying us as a DJ of unparalleled subtleties, whose depth of knowledge is amazing considering he’s spent the vast majority of his life creating his own art. If he can find the time, why can’t we?

So Happy Birthday, Mr. Dylan. I’ll never finish exploring your work, and that’s not a sad thing – it’s a great testament to its amazing scope.

Where does one even start?

Bob’s website

A Salute to - and from - Bob Dylan.

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Under The Radar: The Sweat

I occasionally refer you to my friends at Power Pop Criminals, Power Pop Overdose and similar sites as they have a knack for putting together some great mix discs (god, I really miss the word mixtape…). There are certainly millions of blogs out there and lord knows I’ll miss many good ones simply for the lack of time. But I do try to pop around every so often and am always astounded when I come across a reference to another solid disc that demands play time right away. So not only was I was glad to see that the Power Pop Lovers blog has decided to reanimate, but thanks to them I came across a little gem from The Sweat, a Belfast band I hadn’t heard about.

The original band (Clive Culbertson: vocals,bass,guitar / Michael Katin: guitar / David Stuart: keyboards /Ricky Bleakley: drums) was called No Sweat, but reportedly was sued by Pete Townshend‘s Eel Pie Records because they alreadyhad a band by the same name. (That’s a pretty common problem, especially for a pretty common band name. Even today when you try to research The Sweat, you might confuse them with these guys…wrong band, although they aren’t too bad either!)

But the pop references that were tossed around were pretty spot on;  if you liked The Jags, The Romantics, Dirty Looks, The Beat and The Records, you’ll find The Sweat right up your alley. Clive Culbertson, Adrian Culbertson, Sean Donaghy, Paul Coates – the current version of The Sweat – continue to kick a little ass today.

Video: “Why Did You Have To Lie?” 

Sure, maybe their sound is a little more polished and reserved than the name check bands, but you can’t deny the great vocals and the hooks in the chorus. I really hear more postNew Wave pop in their sound; bands like The Producers and Great Buildings come to mind. The title song has a whiff of Greg Kihn to it, and tracks like “Please Don’t Say You Love Me” and “I Can’t Hardly Wait” (not the Replacements classic) would slide seamlessly onto any playlist from the time. The production is a little thin and tinny (like many of the commercial pop albums of the early 80s) but the songs are three minute pop nuggets from start to finish.

Check out The Sweat and No More Running for yourself – you probably missed this gem as well.

The Sweat at MySpace

Buy the album from 1977 Records Japan

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Under The Radar: UHF

A Winner!

Before it became easy to plop entire digital albums on your website, long before Facebook and MySpace were staples of every band’s toolbox, there were a few MP3 sites floating around that were less than organized. Few sites beyond CD Baby provided a local band the platform they needed to get their music heard.

As a lifelong tune troller, I thought it would be a good idea to write a column spotlighting five bands I came across on late night tangents. So with a thumbs up from the Editor at the late great Cosmik Debris magazine, The MP3 Files was born. One of the first groups I highlighted was a Portland Oregon band called UHF. Here’s my review of their second album Lottery from 2001…

Wow! Not only a band who obviously find their roots in classic British bands like The Pretty Things, Kinks and The Who, but a concept album to boot! That was a tough enough chore to attempt when they were in fashion, but to slip out a record like this in the days of preening teenybopper wedge dancers and pretentious wank rockers takes big balls.

The Everyman storyline in Lotterygrowing up in innocence and struggling as “money changes everything” – is right out of Ray Davies’ scrapbook. But UHF put in a lot of hard work to create something original in the spirit of the above-mentioned artists. (And if they just wanted to mimic the past, they could have – I’ve heard their cover of a Pretty Things track and it’s massive!)

And let’s not punish the quality of the individual songs by insinuating that they only work within the concept. Although Jeremy and Jordan Leff’s vocals on “Best Friends” sound eerily like Daltrey and Townshend melting together at the microphone during Tommy, it’s a great song regardless. Ditto the majestic “Whatever The Weather,” whose lyrics could fit in anywhere from Village Green Preservation Society to Soap Opera.

What impressed me most was the diverse instrumentation and song structure throughout the record; slap on the headphones and savor the sonic touches that embellish almost every track. With Jeff Nelson (guitars and bass) and drummer Matt Johnson, the Leff brothers have nailed a very ambitious target. I can’t wait to hear what they try next.

***

Well, it looks like I have some catching up to do.

Not only did I miss two later releases, but as fate would have it they have a brand new one coming out called Here Come The Ghosts. The clips sound great! Excerpt from their press release below:

It’s been four years since Portland, Oregon’s psychpop quartet UHF has released an album, but they’ve more than made up for it with Here Come The Ghosts, a genre-bending journey of 21 tracks on both double vinyl and double CD. From driving psychpop mood pieces to intimate and melancholy character sketches, it’s an album full of devious lyrical turns, subtle sonic shifts, and solid psychpop songcraft. Ghosts has UHF stretching themselves like never before.

Straying from the psychedelic soundscapes of their previous (and critically acclaimed) releases, Ghosts is more stark, more relaxed, more live (much of the album was recorded live in the studio) than any of UHF’s previous studio records. Thematically, the album is about relationships: past, present, living, dead… and undead. The journey is at times disturbing, uplifting, humorous, desperate, romantic, angry, confused, and reckless but always infused with an emotional honesty and musicality that evokes bands like Secret Machines, The The and Stone Roses, while venturing side trips into territory reminiscent of early 70’s AM radio.

UHF website  and MySpace site – now go check ’em out!

(Damn, I miss Cosmik Debris.  D.J., if you’re out there, send up a flare!)

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New Album! Len Price 3

 

I direct you again to Bucketfull of Brains, a superior publication I am proud to have been associated with for over a decade. This review, written in January, is available in the current issue which hit the stands in early March… 

There is no “Len Price“, of course; this Medway trio is composed of Glenn Page on guitar and vocals, Steve Huggins on bass, and drummer Neil Fromow. But perhaps a better way to phrase it would be that the band is composed of The Who, The Kinks and The Jam. Because if any of those three bands make the hair on your…well, hairy areas stand up, this is the band for you. If two or more of those bands make you strap on an air guitar, I may have your new favorite record in my hands. 

Fromow counts off the opening track (the title song) by clicking his drumsticks before launching into Keith Moon mania, with Huggins right on his tail like a hyperactive Bruce Foxton. You can almost see Page windmilling his guitar in his best Townsend pose, dripping Medway accent into the microphone with the energy of a teenager. And that’s how it goes on this thirteen-song, thirty-minute workout – one great song after another. Stripped down, short sharp and pop, echoing the greats but not mimicking them. 

The Prisoners heritage is clear

Touchstones abound – “I Don’t Believe You” is the son of “She’s Got Everything”, and “Keep Your Eyes on Me” is cut from the cloth of The Who Sell Out. The infectious “After You’re Gone” will remind one of “So Sad About Us”, and even the title of “Mr. Grey” sounds like a Paul Weller tribute (albeit with a flourish of horns straight out of “Penny Lane”). This album has it all – ringing guitars, great vocals, and catchy songs fueled by power chords and muscular drumming. It reminded me of recent favorites by Muck and the Mires and Graham Day and the Gaolers – and sure enough, Graham Day was one of the producers on this record. 

This is the third album from The Len Price 3, and while the other two were very good, Pictures is flat-out brilliant;  the first great record of the year and a lock for my Best Of 2010 list. Get it now.  

Robin Williams' Emmy via David Mills' words

And another sad loss…writer David Mills died yesterday from a brain aneurysm. Mills wrote for some of my favorite television shows – NYPD Blue, The Wire, Homicide – as well as helming The Corner and collaborating with David Simon on the upcoming Treme for HBO. He was only 48 years old. 

“What I can bring is the sort of simple story stuff, the stuff I would feel like I can contribute to any show I happen to be on at any given time, which is just, ‘How do we get the most out of these characters.” 

Here’s a nice tribute from friend and TV critic Alan Sepinwall

And another from NOLA.

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New Album! The Who Sell Out

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

Well, not new, really – but finally my favorite Who album gets the full remaster/reissue/rebirth process. I always felt that The Who Sell Out was the perfect intersection of their early powerpop singles and their later epic thematic recordings. “I Can See For Miles” got airplay and rightfully so, but wasn’t the monster it should have been. But even more amazing is the deep well of other great songs that never got their due. “Tattoo” remains one of my favorite Who sings of all time, and I still love the twist in “Odorono”, as silly as the subject matter is. But “Our Love Was”, “I Can’t Reach You”, “Relax”, “Sunrise”…these are brilliant tracks.

Who fans will relish the new edition, but casual or new fans who never explored this album will be blown away. With stereo and mono versions, boatloads of alternate mixes and bonus tracks and an informative booklet, it’s well worth grabbing. Some fans might complain that there could be more (all mixes of the singles, live cuts, etc.) but I think this is one of the better reissues I’ve seen come down the pike.

A few years back there was an tribute album slated for Futureman Records  called The New Sell Out that boasted an A-list of current powerpop bands (Splitsville, Myracle Brah, The Shazam, Young Fresh Fellows, etc.). The cuts I heard were fantastic, but ultimately the project was aborted. Some of the songs have shown up as bonus tracks on the individual band’s releases, while most sadly remain on the shelf. Hopefully someday this sees the light of day. (You’d think now would be the appropriate time, hmmm?)

And for a wildly original take on this classic, you must check out Petra Haden‘s acapella tribute. Unbelievably amazing… she recreates all the songs – and commercials – with just her voice.

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NEW ALBUM! Smithereens: Tommy

More than Only A Memory

More than Only A Memory

I must preface the comments about the latest Smithereens homage by telling you that no, they haven’t abandoned the concept of original music. Matter of fact, there’s a new studio album due out later this year and reportedly the band is rehearsing the twelve tracks as I type this. (Really – call them and ask!).

But it’s a fair question to ask about a group whose most recent recorded output is the pure musical homage of Meet The Smithereens and B-Sides The Beatles (a very clever title…come on, say it out loud…). If you discount the Christmas album, the last true Smithereens album was released ten years ago – and that was after a five year hiatus.

Count me among those who are thrilled to hear The Smithereens record anything, so the fact that there is both a Tommy album now and a new original album later is twice the good news.

Forty years afterwards, it still sounds great

Forty years afterwards, it still sounds great

Because The Smithereens are a bonafide powerpop band that grew from the seeds of The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who, tackling Tommy is as symbiotic a pairing as their takes on the Fab Four.  While Pat DiNizio can’t replicate the sheer brute force of Roger Daltrey, who can? The lead vocals are solid, as expected, and most of the selected tracks here feature great harmonies, where the trio of Pat, guitarist Jim Babjak and drummer Dennis Diken pull off the Daltrey and Townshend parts exceptionally well.

There are no musical interpretations here – the thirteen tracks are performed in a straightforward manner but with an obvious familiarity and respect. I’m not certain why a tribute to the classic rock opera isn’t a complete libretto, but then again “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” and “Cousin Kevin” don’t lend themselves to powerpop as much as the fat chords of “Amazing Journey”, “I’m Free” and “Sensation”. They did pick a solid set of tracks, although I miss “1921”.

No press release comes without a dose of hyperbole, and this one claims that after a few listens you might never listen to any of The Who’s versions of Tommy the same way again. Well…that might be stretching it a bit. Forty years later, I still get goosebumps when the coda of “See Me Feel Me” kicks in. But I can promise you that this is no watery attempt to swing a few familiar songs your way for the ease of being recognisable. One listen to Diken’s muscular workout during the second half of “Amazing Journey” should be proof enough of that – I guarantee you, Keith Moon is tipping his top hat from God’s bar. (Or from a car submerged in God’s pool…)

Kudos to fellow Jersey boy Kurt Reil (The Grip Weeds) for tasty engineering and production, along with his work on keyboards; bass chores are handled by Severo Jornacion (Cockeyed Ghost, among others). And although I don’t have the full booklet yet, I must also give a shout-out to William Stout for the excellent cover art.

The Smithereens Play Tommy will be available May 5th from E1 Entertainment (formerly Koch Records).

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