Tag Archives: The Pretty Things

Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #7

The Sights’ newest release Most of What Follows Is True might be their best yet, and that’s saying a mouthful. Despite their relatively young age, these garage/pop/blues rockers have distilled the essence of primal garage inspirations like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Pretty Things with a modern pop sound (many pull out a Supergrass comparison, and that’s not far off).

Video: “Rock and Roll Circus”

But it’s their versatility that slays me. “Guilty” is raucous, guttural rock’n’roll that intimates more horns that it actually contains. “Maria” is music hall crossed with sixties pop – like The Kinks and Small Faces made careers upon; shit, “Tick Talkies” all but has tap dancing in it. “Take and Take” and “How Do You Sleep” (with traces of “Tin Soldier” DNA in it) mine Freakbeat waters, and “Back To You” and “I Left My Muse“? Americana meets garage.

And can they wail? Oh yeah…”Nose to The Grindstone” closes the album with that 60s/70s FM deep track vibe that is so sorely missed today.

Video: “Nose To The Grindstone“.

The Sights are yet one more underrated American band – and from Detroit, mind you – who deserve much bigger and better things. Now a four piece (Eddie Baranek on guitar and vocals, Dave Lawson on bass and vocals, drummer Skip Denomme and Gordon Smith on guitar, keyboards and vocals), they’ve had a few changes over the years including Bobby Emmett, whose solo album was in my top ten last year.  This effort is their first studio album in five years, and it was worth the wait.

All of what follows is true

  • Their albums groove.
  • They’re Nugget-y.
  • You will play them often and loud. 
  • I highly recommend you check out their entire catalogue.

Listen to clips at Amazon.

Enlist in The Sights Army

The Sights on MySpace.

Four guys, totally fab.

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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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T.G.I.F. – Ten from 1969

"Set the Wayback Machine for 1969, Sherman..."

If the concept of how quickly time passes hadn’t already stunned me three days ago – realizing that it’s been almost thirty years since John Lennon was killed – an email from my friend Siege would have packed a bigger wallop. But looking at his list of albums that were released in 1969 made me think (1) “holy shit, that was forty years ago” and (2) “wow…that was a great year for music”. 

It was another transitional year for me – less AM and more FM, less singles and more albums, Woodstock, etc. Several artists’ debuts made an immediate impact – CSN and The Allman Brothers along with some on my list below. Some 60’s artists were soon to depart but left great statements like Abbey Road and Turtle Soup. Credence released three albums that year, and The Monkees were already up to Instant Replay. Others like Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye and The Kinks were shifting their priorities from singles to more thematic works. Bob Dylan released Nashville Skyline

Some artists who would become lifelong favorites were just getting started – Alice Cooper and Pretties For You, Fleetwood Mac with Then Play On, debuts from Yes and Warren Zevon and Mott the Hoople (which would soon see serious turntable time over the next couple of years from this soon-to-be disc jockey). The Moody Blues released two classics; supergroups were forming…I own or owned seventy-two titles on that list, and there are very few that I wouldn’t pull out and play right now. 

Any year in music is a pretty easy topic to research, and certainly the few years on either side of 1969 would also reveal a robust list of favorites and classics. But I took a trip through Siege’s tally and picked out ten that had particular impact on me then and still resonate now. I could easily shift the list on another day – great music being a subjective decision, after all – and your mileage may vary as well. 

But you’re here, so indulge me. Break one or more of these out and savor them; maybe you will relive some great moments of your own. And if you’re young enough to not have experienced these albums, take a plunge. Hell, I gave Death Cab For Cutie a shot, you owe me

So in no particular order… 

40 Years old and still kicking ass

In The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson) — Still kicking today although they’ve been three or four totally different groups over the years. The album cover was only a mild tipoff compared to the psychedelic prog within; I’ve long argued that Ian McDonald was the MVP of this version of the band. An aural acid trip, an album truly worthy of adjectives like majestic and classic

Blind Faith  (Blind Faith) — Two thirds of Cream adds the bass player from Family and secret weapon Steve Winwood for a one-shot effort. Short and incomplete, its high points are timeless; great songwriting from Winwood and Eric Clapton, especially “Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t Find My Way Home”. 

Let It Bleed (Rolling Stones) — As the Stones weaned their way from Brian Jones and their blues based gameplan, as drugs and Jagger’s control-freak antics started to splinter a band into The Glimmer Twins and the other guys, as the music industry tripped headlong from pop singles into stranger days, the Stones might have fired their best shot across the bow. The bookend tracks (“Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) are career-defining moments, and they didn’t even put their hit single (“Honky Tonk Women”) on it. 

Odessa (Bee Gees) — In which a pop band – already firmly established with a few hit singles – decides to experiment and challenge themselves to move on to the next step. Oh, how I wish they would have stayed this course instead of donning those ice cream suits a few years later. I expound in detail here

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (Neil Young) — Consider this a club sandwich, with the opening, closing and middle tracks – three stone cold classics – the bread supporting the tasty filling. Hot on the heels of his debut, this first dalliance with Crazy Horse still resonates, soon to be followed up by After The Gold Rush to form one of the best opening trifectas any artist ever managed. Name another song where a one-note guitar solo (“Cinnamon Girl”) is even half as thrilling. 

Dusty in Memphis (Dusty Springfield) — I’ll admit it, I would have been perfectly satisfied with “Son of a Preacher Man” had I not read a review that piqued my interest and sent me in search of the album. Oozing soul (and yes, sex) this was a great marriage of voice, performers and material. (That English bird? Really? Yep.) 

Hot Rats (Frank Zappa) — Little did I know at the time that my initial Frank Zappa fascination would be even stronger forty years later and sixteen years (!) past his death. Because I was a fan of The Mothers of Invention, I was willing to open my eyes to the jazz and fusion I experienced here, although I can’t imagine anyone not loving “Peaches en Regalia”. Timeless majesty. 

The Stooges (The Stooges) — I’ll credit one of my older friends – as well as Creem Magazine, most likely – for making me give this more than one listen. Stereos were getting more sophisticated and progressive rock bands were flaunting daredevil instrumental virtuosity, but the Stooges were salmon swimming upstream. The Stooges first seemed like demonic sludge; the sound made when someone opened the gates of Hell and gave them a broken megaphone to broadcast with. Of course, after the initial shock, I was converted…and remain so. 

Tommy (The Who) — An opera about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball player. Sure Pete – have another toke. But although others (The Kinks, The Pretty Things) already had done it, The Who get credit for creating the first rock opera. Forget the semantics; this remains an incredible musical statement, from hit singles (“Pinball Wizard”) to underrated killers (“Sensation”); even the instrumental breaks and transitions are glorious. Skip the theatre and film musicals and slap on a pair of headphones for the original “Amazing Journey” 

Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin) — I know now that they ripped off old blues riffs and repurposed them; I know now that the band was really just the last version of The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page taking control, and I know that a few years later they would get so self-indulgent that I would sell the vinyl at a used store out of anger. (Ah, the folly of youth). But this first record was a kick in the nuts – this band really hit the ground running and killed on every track. (Rock perfection:  the percussive instrumental “Black Mountain Side” lulling you into a trance and then “Communication Breakdown” interrupting the haze and ripping your jugular apart. Plant’s scream before Page’s solo still makes the hair stand up on every pore in my body.) 

Rock me baby.

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Fuzztopia!

fuzztopia

I just got an email from Scott Hueston of Wicked Cool Records and Little Steven’s Underground Garage announcing their new project Fuzztopia. Looks like they are trying to create a shared portal where rock fans and musicians can create a directory of cool clubs, record stores, bars and bands – a reference tool created with input from people who actually live in these places. A list like this would be a great help for me just to find great pubs and record stores when travelling; I imagine the club info would be invaluable for bands looking to fill dates.

Of course there are dozens of smaller sites that do this now, and there have been networking mailing lists set up for this purpose for years. But perhaps with Steven’s involvement, a site like this could get a higher profile and truly massive participation. Assuming he keeps it free for registrants, this could be a great service.

I don’t pimp products or sell advertising on this page, but I do believe Steven’s heart is in the right place, having spoken extensively with him about the history of rock’n’roll and the difficulty in keeping the beast alive. He’s a tremendously successful person who could bask in the glory of his recording and acting legacy and just hob-nob with the elite, but he continues to take steps to bring real rock’n’roll to the masses in an era when the industrial machine is doing everything in its power to unplug the patient from the lifeline. Besides having the coolest radio show on the planet, he works tirelessly behind the scenes to help out up and coming bands with his passion, his expertise and his connections.

There are some great prizes that will be drawn at random for those logging in and completing a profile. As for content, I’m probably most excited about Fuzz TV. When I interviewed him in 2007, Steven told me that the footage from the first Underground Garage Festival on Randall’s Island was eventually going to be released on Internet television.  Here’s an excerpt from that feature in Pop Culture Press:

Unfortunately, the likelihood of a DVD release is slim. Chris Columbus (Harry Potter, Home Alone) was set to direct the multi-camera event, but a freak accident involving his daughter caused him to head back to Chicago. “She ended up okay, but he wasn’t there to physically direct the movie, and the funding went away. We never really recovered.” A few screenings were set to try and raise a couple of million dollars to continue the original plan to craft something really unique instead of a formula concert film. “First of all, it would have been the first 3-D concert ever done. I’m telling you, when Iggy Pop jumps up on one of the 3-D cameras, it’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen in your life. It’s like Iggy is jumping into your mind!” Not getting the film out was a disappointment (“it’s probably one of the top twenty tragedies of my life”) but just another in a series of setbacks that he will overcome. “We probably will start using pieces of it our Internet TV show in a couple of months”.

Well, it’s been a couple of years, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. All I know is that if we’re talking about The Dictators, Iggy, Boss Martians, The Pretty Things, Chesterfield Kings and all those other garage greats, there’s some incredible footage in the hopper!

So here’s the gist of the email from Scott – check it out for yourself.

 LSUG logo

Friends of The Underground Garage,

Stevie Van Zandt is excited to announce the Beta release of Fuzztopia – “all things Rock and Roll.” We need your help adding content, and we’ll be rewarding a few of the best profiles.

As a “one-stop” for FANS and bands, Fuzztopia will ultimately include:

–a place for you to purchase songs and albums from bands, including content exclusively available on Fuzztopia.
–advice and tools, from “city secrets” and “cool stuff” to “techville,” “video games,” and “da biz,” among other things. We’ll be gathering content from our favorite sites, but we’ll also have recommendations and feedback from musicians, bands, and people like Little Steven that just haven’t been available anywhere else. Think of “city secrets” as all the places in your hometown (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.) that you would recommend to visiting friends. Likewise, if you have “city secrets” from other parts of the world you’ve visited, Fuzztopia is a fantastic place for that insight.
–tons of streaming video content. At “The Drive-In,” fans of B-movies will soon be able to watch and chat in real time. Meanwhile “Fuzz TV” will have live concert footage, original programming, and music videos.

Here’s where we need your SUPPORT & EXPERTISE:

–sign up as a fan, and create a profile
–add TWO of your favorite videos
–provide 5-10 “City Secrets,” plus ANY PHOTOS.
–ADD comments about “secrets” AREADY posted by others. Remember, people will be looking for your input! We know you have the inside scoop, and we want you to share it.
–create a playlist from the bands that have already uploaded their music.
–the beta version of Fuzztopia isn’t just about building – we want your feedback. Are there things you don’t like? Areas that need improving? A feature missing? Is anything confusing? Should we add something else? What do you like best? This is the time to tell us.

We will REWARD the best profiles with a couple of great prizes:

GRAND PRIZE (one winner)
* A pair of tickets to ANY one of the remaining Summer/Fall tour dates with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band! PLUS you and your guest will receive exclusive laminates to meet Stevie Van Zandt backstage before the show!
1st PRIZE (one winner)
* Fender Stratocaster Squire Classic 50’s guitar signed by Stevie Van Zandt!
2nd PRIZE
*FIFTEEN 2nd prize WINNERS will be selected RANDOMLY among the COMPLETED PROFILES, so everyone creating a thorough profile has a chance to win:
*A script for an Underground Garage radio show PERSONALLY signed by Stevie Van Zandt. PLUS a double CD copy of the applicable show. The scripts are always written by hand, and include a bunch of commentary. This is a highly collectible, immensely cool look at the creative process for the show

CLICK HERE for the sign-up page:

Thanks for your help making Fuzztopia the best place for “all things rock and roll.”  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at my personal email address: scott@wickedcoolrecords.com If you do not receive your confirmation E-Mail within 5 minutes of registering please check your Spam/Junk box – if you still have not received it please contact us.

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