Tag Archives: R.E.M

Under The Radar: Welsh Rabbit

Welsh Rabbit was another band I stumbled across on those late-night “sounds like” tangents that I have been addicted to for most of my life. Back in 1991 all I was able to get my hands on was West 11th Love Letters. I wrote it up for Cosmik Debris but lost track of them soon afterwards and figured they might have been yet another band who high-fived the brass ring but didn’t grab hold.

As you can see from this CD Baby comment page, I wasn’t the only person being pleasantly surprised. It also appears like I have a fellow Tangent Monkey in the commenter who cites following a recommendation based upon his purchase of The Rosenbergs. You’ll note references to Weezer, Elvis Costello and The Beatles, although I think the Soft Boys and Big Star references more accurately pick up the dissonance they employ.

But we all agree that they’re a band worth checking out. Here are my original thoughts on that first EP…

I must admit when I heard the first few notes of “Where You Are,” I would have bet the farm that the singer would launch into “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” but it was merely a tip of the cap to the Fabs (as is the closing vocal harmony). West 11th Love Letter is a low-frills EP collection of some basic tracks laid down in vocalist/guitarist Nick Levine‘s basement. The sound is good, but more impressive is the charm of the songs; they’re amazingly strong for a first recorded document.

Somehow “Do You Want To Dance” juggles the indie cred of early REM with the hypnotic guitar work of The Edge in his prime. “My Summer Girl” and “Tonight” both have great hooks and show that the band can handle midtempo as well as power pop. Bassist Kyle Chilla, drummer Ian Campbell and keyboard player Rolf Nordhausen form a tight quarter with Levine. Overall the lead vocals are pretty good, although the harmonies are stronger; the guitars go for the jangle over the flash. For the first five tracks, anyway.

Nothing prepared me for the closing song, though. “Rollin'” is a ten-minute track that doesn’t waste a second. Somehow the pop path veers off into Neil Young meets Radiohead territory, and it works. Haunting, pulsating guitar work drives the song as the melody gains steam and the vocals build into a crescendo, tagging a minor chord to reset the mood. I know that most of their songs are now a little shorter and sharper, but this is one that I hope they keep playing at full length – it’s a stirringly emotional piece of music that few bands outside of Built To Spill can pull off well.

Looks like they are now a trio (Nick, Kyle and drummer Jordan Selman) and finally have a full-length album out called Don Quixote vs. Sancho Panza. I’ll have to grab that along with the other EP I missed, Forward Motion.

Welsh Rabbit on MySpace

Welsh Rabbit website

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Radio Records

Happy Radio Day!

Well, that’s if you believe that Popov invented the concept instead of Marconi or Tesla. (And if everyone believed that, would we have had a band named Popov instead of these guys? Would Marconi not have played the mamba?

Celebrate the day anyway – it is Friday, after all – and blast some music out your car window. You might also want to celebrate by seeing films like American Hot Wax and The Boat That Rocked, a/k/a Pirate Radio.

Here are ten radio-related songs to get you started…

Joe Jackson:  “On The Radio”   Not the best song on I’m A Man, but that’s how strong the early Joe Jackson albums were (and how tight the band is).

Bruce Springsteen:  “Radio Nowhere”  I like Bruce’s social conscience, and I can appreciate the whole Woody Guthrie thing and his passion for the roots of music. But sometimes I just like a great Bruce single, and this is one.

Rush:  “Spirit of the Radio”  I was never a big Rush fan, mostly because Geddy Lee’s voice is like chalk on a blackboard to me. But when he shuts up and the band jams…wow.

Warren Zevon:  “Mohammed’s Radio”   Great live version (with Jackson Browne). God, I miss this man.

The Doors:  “WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”  I know a lot of people hate The Doors and think Jim Morrison was an overrated ponce, but I think L.A. Woman was a phenomenal album; an indication of what might have been.

Everclear:  “AM Radio”  One can argue that many of Art’s songs sound like they’re built on the same rhythm and chord progression, but you can’t knock his ability to combine humor and pathos. Great video, too.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch:  “Midnight Radio”   If you have not seen this film, you need to run to the store and get the DVD. John Cameron Mitchell’s performance is amazing, and thanks to Steven Trask, this is arguably the best rock and roll soundtrack ever. That’s right…ever. The original cast recording from the play is as good or better than the film soundtrack, but get both.

R.E.M.:  “Radio Free Europe”   The song that started it all for them, and one listen brings back that era in a flash, when these guys sounded so different from everybody else.

John Hiatt:  “Radio Girl”  The video sadly cuts off at the end, but I’m thankful even this much exists. John doesn’t play songs from Slug Line and Two Bit Monsters anymore, and that’s our loss.

Elvis Costello:  “Radio Radio”   Elvis Costello hit the ground with an astounding one-two-three punch of albums, and I wish I had a good rip of his initial SNL appearance when he played this song. But this nod and wink to that event with the Beastie Boys is pretty damned cool.

And your bonus trackJonathan Richman’sRoad Runner“. Priceless!

Got my radio ON!

Tim Russert would have been sixty today. RIP, buddy.

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New Album! The Pantones


Infectious and accessible, the Pantones juggle several influences with sleight of sound.

An impressive blend of great ingredients, The Pantones at various times tap the DNA of The Jayhawks, Ben Folds, The Byrds, R.E.M., Wilco, The Beach Boys and—perhaps most impressively—guitar licks that Ron Wood tossed out like confetti in the ‘70s.

Video: “Circus Freaks

Read my review of Inside the Sun’s Wild Flame at PopMatters.

Hear some clips at Amazon.

Visit The Pantones website.

Warm up to The Pantones.

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Blast From The Past: Don Dixon

Don Dixon

No, no...thank YOU, sir.

Don Dixon has been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. I first discovered him after he stepped out from behind his producer’s chair with R.E.M. and Tommy Keene to cut an album of his own, and every release since has been a gleeful pleasure. I love his sandpaper vocals and knack for melody;  “Praying Mantis”, “Southside Girl” and “Your Sister Told Me” are just some of the tunes that became a staple of my mixtapes during the ’80s. And every release since then has been a treasure.

He continued to engineer and produce a who’s who of jangle-pop songwriters and bands, quickly becoming the go-to guy (along with Mitch Easter) for artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Guadalcanal Diary and Matthew Sweet. And his partnership with wife Marti Jones not only elevated her albums to a greater height but their live collaborations (i.e. Chi-Town Budget Show) were magic. But somewhere along the late ’90s, with grunge and hip-hop and teenybop-pop milking what was left of radio, he drifted out of the limelight.

When he “came back” a few years later on Gadfly Records with Invisible Man, I was thrilled. He’s recorded sporadically snce then (his latest releases are available digitally) and continues to be a favorite. Those of you unfamiliar with him are in for a treat (check out his early band Arrogance as well!). Here’s what I penned about Invisible Man for Consumable Online back in 2002…

Invisible Man

Thankfully you can hear him

 Invisible Man would be a good nickname for someone whose recording career seemed to slam on the brakes in 1995, but Don Dixon’s production and session work for some of music’s brighter lights has kept him very busy. And it’s not like radio is screaming for a literate, funny writer with a knack for hooks and a raspy but soulful voice. The Invisible Man certainly won’t qualify him for stadium tour status, but it’s a solid collection of songs presented through the guise of a song cycle, albeit a scattered one. Usually thematic pieces are presented in order; but Dixon’s life observations are ordered more by musical structure. What do you want from a producer?

The first three songs are presented from the viewpoint of a man in the prime of his life, and the music is appropriately confident and upbeat. “Invisible & Free” (which you will think is called “Kara” until you look at the track list) is an upbeat song that plays with the lyrics effectively, a typical Dixon maneuver. “Do So Well” is probably the closest to his prior solo work — soulful Southern rock and R&B — while the lively “Tax The Churches” could best be described as Memphis surf music, a kissing cousin to “Praying Mantis.” But two songs later, the stark and frail “All I Wanted” is narrated by an 85 year old man recounting a life of wasted opportunity. The vocal is a drop dead Elvis Costello intonation as a single, rhythmic acoustic guitar ticks away what little time remains.

“Digging A Grave” and “Then I Woke Up” are sung as the ruminations of a man in late middle age, and despite the characters’ mortality questions, are also strong musically. The oddest piece, “High Night For The Tide,” juxtaposes island rhythms and a sound not unlike Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells. The somber island percussion reappears on the closing song “Why Do Children Have To Die?,” whose placement on the record is as odd as its title. I know Dixon is not going for a hit record here, but I’m not sure that’s the taste he wanted to leave in my ear as I depart, either.

Dixon fans may dive into this redemptive opera wholeheartedly, or they may opt to dip in only for the songs that tickle their fancy. If anyone on Americana or (gasp!) pop radio ever hears these tunes, they’ll be one at a time, so buying into the concept won’t be as critical. And that’s vintage Dixon — putting his wares out on that table and letting you find the gems for yourself. Welcome back!

The Gadfly Records website

Don Dixon’s wonderful catalogue here

Visit Don Dixon online here.

(And don’t forget Marti Jones!)

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Rock’n’Roll Hall of Shame (Again)

The Mistake By The Lake

The Mistake By The Lake

I don’t know why I even bother getting agitated anymore. 

I don’t take it seriously, and it’s been a long time since I have gone out of my way to look for the list of nominees, let alone actually root for someone to make it in. It’s a sham, a political clusterfuck of a process, and certainly bears no resemblance to a recognition of the truly worthy. But the other day an email hit my mailbox listing some of the nominees, and well…here we go again.

Some of the finalists this year include The Stooges (again), and KISS (finally), two bands that have obviously made an impact on rock’n’roll, albeit in very different ways. Even The Hollies surfaced after being eligible for over two decades.

But Donna Summer? Disco-thumping, heavy-breathing Donna Summer? Are you kidding me? Sure, she sold a lot of records in the 70s, but so did Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. She might get in before them? They haven’t even hit the finalists list yet! Hall and Oates were way bigger than Donna Summer could ever dream of, with a long string of hit singles that dominated the charts, but I don’t see their name.

And L.L.Cool J? Why- because he stars in a new CSI spin-off show? I like the guy, but not only does his music have nothing to do with rock, there are tons of deserving artists with longer careers who sold more records – what’s the criteria here? And how are rap artists more rock than progressive rock veterans like Yes and King Crimson? Where are The Moody Blues and  Procol Harum?

And before you start tossing the race card at me, I’m not rushing to send Laura Nyro in there, either. At least she has been an influence on a number of rock artists, but until the day Carole King walks through that door, don’t talk to me about great female songwriter/performers. (I wouldn’t have voted Bonnie Raitt in that quickly – yes, she’s had a lengthy and brilliant career, but she’s far from a household name. John Hiatt is a far better songwriter and he’s not in; and if you want to talk underappreciated musical geniuses, where’s Rory Gallagher’s name on that wall?)

And I’m still appalled that bands like R.E.M. – worthy eventually – are in while earlier artists aren’t.  No J. Geils Band, Humble Pie or Johnny and Edgar Winter? All those record sales and The Guess Who, The Turtles and Tommy James are waiting? No Small Faces? Where the hell is Lou Reed?

Some of the elections are artists who also have success as producers, but Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer have done both – where are their names on the ballot? And if the anything-but-rock Madonna is in because of cultural impact and huge record sales, why not The Monkees?

No idea who the final five will be, but since it’s the 25th Anniversary you can be sure that fanfare will trump honest voting (just ask The Dave Clark Five about that one) because they gotta sell those dinner tickets. Predictability? You’ll see a female artist or female fronted band, a disco or rap artist, a blast-from-the-early-days, a hugely famous artist/band, and one crapshoot. That’s how they roll in Cleveland…well, actually New York, where Jann Wenner and his cronies run the floating crap game. They need to uproot the damned thing and move it to Detroit where it belongs.

The absurdity can be summed up in five words: Alice Cooper isn’t in it.

Here’s a list of the current inductees. For a list of the truly worthy artists and a real Hall of Fame, do what I do – look at your record collection.

If not, enjoy your Eminem and Beyonce inductions. Maybe you can hang on until 2034 when Chickenfoot is eligible.

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

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