Tag Archives: The Raspberries

T.G.I.F. – Ten For Matthew Sweet

To follow up on the announcement about Matthew Sweet’s new album Modern Art, I thought today’s TGIF would be a great time to give the under-appreciated popster a tip of the cap. It can’t be easy putting your heart and soul into being a pop craftsman and finding that despite some massive airplay early in your career, there aren’t any groundswell radio formats to celebrate the joyous jangle of a big hook and chorus. I’d like to think that had Matthew been around in the early 70s, he’d have had his singles on the charts alongside The Raspberries. But that didn’t work for Big Star, now did it?

But I’m glad he hasn’t given up the ghost, because we need all the Matthew Sweets we can get, larger than life. So this week’s TGIF is Ten For Matthew Sweet…and by the way, if you’ve never heard “Thunderstorm” from In Reverse, you are in for a real treat…

(01) – “We’re The Same

(02) – “Thunderstorm”

(03) – “You Don’t Love Me”

(04) – “Someone To Pull The Trigger”

(05) – “I’ve Been Waiting”

(06) – “Come To California”

(07) – “Girlfriend”

(08) – “Divine Intervention”

(09) – “Sick Of Myself”

(10) – “Evangeline”

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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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Mixtape: I’ll Be You

 

Back when I had that kind of time, I participated in a monthly tape swap, and for a time I had to dub these puppies in real speed. When we finally got to the CD stage and I could burn a disc at 2x I thought I was in heaven. What used to be a serious committment – the group was usually 35-40 people, so imagine the time and money involved – now can be done dirt cheap and at lightning speed. (I still participate in one of these groups twelve years running, although we’re down to one or two trades a year.) 

I used to make the cassette art by hand; sometimes a drawing and other times a cut-and-paste job, then type and shrink the set list to fit on the inside flap and print them off on colored paper…cut them along the outline…fold and insert into the J-Card slot on every one. Like I said, I had that kind of time. If I find the original art for this one I’ll upload it someday, but I remember it was a variation on a Powerpoint silhouette image of a man holding a mirror. 

I love tribute records, so this mixtape (from March 1997) was a tribute to tributes. It’s a great set and these covers are well worth seeking out. Now I have to find the actual tape, because just reading these names has me jazzed. 

And I still miss Material Issue.

  

you be me for awhile and….I’LL BE YOU

SIDE ONE
Dance Dance Dance Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (Handsome Dick and a couple of Dictators) pay homage to Brian Wilson
Pictures Of Lily The ‘oo, done with great passion by that great sideman Ian McLagan and the Bump Band
She’s Got Everything The Droogs, Aussies yet, service Mr.Davies’ classic well. Can’t believe there aren’t more great Kinks covers.
Time Has Come Today Willy (Mink) DeVille from last years fab “Loup Garou” record. This Chambers Brothers song still rules!
Pictures Of Matchstick Men Status Quo song covered by the pre-Cracker Lowery in the late, great Camper Van Beethoven. Respectful yet cool!
Charlot Choogle Would have picked a better T-Rex cover if I could have but Sky Blue nailed the Bolanisms better than anyone else did.
Sweet Hitchhiker The fabulous DM3 (wow, I’ve already been to Australia twice in seven songs!) absolutely rip this one up! Go Don!
Mr. Spaceman Miracle Legion from another spotty tribute disc. For all you who remember the Byrds as electric Dylan, try this instead.
I Can’t Let Go Still the best tribute disc ever made, eggBert’s “Sing Hollies In Reverse” featured wall to wall greatness like this Continental Drifters cut.
My Minds Eye Ah, the Small Faces. Northern Uproar did yeoman service on last year’s tribute. A must-have for all true pop fans!
S-L-U-T The Woods, America’s Rockpile, nail this Todd tune. I will not rest until the name Jack Cornell is known far and wide.
Handyman True Story: Frank thought they were cutting “Candyman” for a Sammy Davis tribute. Nah…he loves Otis Blackwell too!
Sweets For My Sweet Doc Pomus gets the Brian Wilson post-sandbox/Landry treatment. And Mike Love is an asshole.
Love Is All Around Christine Ohlman is recording again! If you remember Big Sound Records or Dusty Springfield, Trogg out with this!
And Your Bird Can Sing Weller and company grew tired of “The Jam is just aping The Who” rumors. So they aped the Beatles instead.
SIDE TWO
I’m Not In Love Chrissie and the Pretenders snapped out two covers for movies/TV – this 10cc track and “Angel In The Morning”
Town Without Pity Gene Pitney covered by Steppenwolf’s John Kay on heroin. Naah..it’s the wonderful Thin White Rope from “Spoor”
Daydream Believer The Monkees tribute is way cool, including this John Stewart song ably harmonized by Man Size Job? Who? Me neither.
Run To Me If there were any doubts that Material Issue could do it all, this will silence them. Haunting BeeGeeutiful song. RIP Jim.
Hard Luck Woman The Kiss tribute is pretty funny, and I gotta admit that when I realized this was THE Garth Brooks I almost had a seizure.
It’s The Little Things And you thought Sonny Bono couldn’t write hooks. He did work with Spector, y’know, so bow down for The Skeletons.
Listen To Her Heart Tom Petty as seen through the eyes of Truck Stop Love, produced at Ardent by some guy named Jody Stephens.
Don’t Want To Say Goodbye Last year the Raspberries tribute came out, chock full of great versions, few better than this homage by The Flashcubes.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, … Wow that’s a long title! Believe it or not, this is The Records from a free EP that came with the first run of their LP.
Build Me Up Buttercup David Johansen, post-Dolls and pre-Buster P. David always kicked ass live and paid props to great 60’s soul music.
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby Wow – Sam and Dave voiced by the immortal Herman Brood, who truly is a rock and roll junkie. Live track.
Back Of A Car When you hear this song now you wonder how Big Star wasn’t huge then. This is The Loud Family – same comment.
Earn Enough For Us Freedy Johnston does XTC (who appeared on their own tribute record in disguise!). Love the pedal steel!
No Matter What Closing the set with a song by “the next Beatles” (Badfinger) done by “the next Beatles” (The Knack). Oasis my ass.

As always, play loud, play often.

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Blast From The Past: The Vandalias

Pulled out this old powerpop chestnut and blasted it.

Unfortunately the band went the way of most of the powerpop bands that stormed the 90’s revival – nowhere. A brief flash, some great songs and a lot of memories for record geeks like me who treasure such things. It didn’t mean they weren’t great – they were – but as usual, without radio airplay or any muscular marketing scheme, it was rain through your fingertips.

Big Deal Records was the shit in those days; a roster to die for and a release every month or two by great artists like Splitsville, Cockeyed Ghost, Michael Shelley and The Wondermints. And the series of great Yellow Pills collections…what a time that was! Unfortunately the label didn’t last, either…and sadly, whomever co-opted the label name is doing something completely different these days.

Buzzbomb. Is there a better word to capture the essence of powerpop? Here’s my original review from TransAction

Man, these cartoon characters can rock! Incredible pop rock that hearkens back to Badfinger, Big Star and every “ooh-aah”band that took the lead from the Beatles and moved on. “Down”, “No OneTold Him” and “the faux live “Funk Monkey Baby” rip it up with Cheap Trick energy and harmonies straight out of…The Mamas & Papas?

You bet! Rock ballads too; “Say I’m Sorry” will melt the crustiest of hard hearts. Eleven great songs in thirty five minutes that will make you wonder why someone so talented shields himself behind the front of the “Vandalia brothers”. I won’t expose him directly, but if you want to pay this pop wizard some props, buy Mach V, the previous CD, and dismantle the packaging.

It’s now a decade later, so I’ll save you the treasure hunt. The Todd Rundgren-esque popster was Dan Sarka.

The Vandalias on MySpace

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R.I.P. Tommy Hoehn

This is turning into a depressing weekend.

I was so startled by the loss of Pete Quaife yesterday that I didn’t even realize it was Friday and therefore time for my weekly TGIF feature. By the time it dawned on me, I didn’t really care to go back and rectify the oversight; I spent a few hours last night reading tributes and thoughts from other Kinks fans who were also saddened by his passing.

Now just a day later, more bad news. Memphis takes another kick in the nuts with the loss of Tommy Hoehn who died late Thursday night. You might not recognize his name right off the bat, but he was an integral part of the powerpop scene in Memphis and a contemporary of Big Star and other Ardent Studios artists who were plowing a different field than corporate radio in the 1970s.

Memphis is still reeling from the loss of Alex Chilton in March; now this. Besides the obvious thoughts and prayers to friends and family, my heart goes out to John Fry, Jody Stephens, Van Duren and other musicians and associates who knew and worked with Tommy for so many years.

Back in the day, it was Creem Magazine that first tipped me to Big Star and I wanted to gobble up as much of that type of music as I could find. During that expedition I discovered Losing You To Sleep, Tommy’s second album. It was on London Records and sure, with his beard and opened white shirt, he looked more like J. D. Souther or Andrew Gold than your typical powerpopper. But “Hey Polarity” and the title song knocked me out, and another track (“She Might Look My Way”) was a Chilton co-write. 

Hoehn had his hand in the jelly jar for Sister Lovers and also did some work with The Scruffs, but he slid to the melodic Paul McCartney and Emitt Rhodes side of the fence more than he did the crunchy sound of The Raspberries or Badfinger. Reportedly his musical hero was Todd Rundgren, but listening to his beautiful melodies and delicate style, you realize that his doppelgänger might have been his friend from Big Star,  Chris Bell.

Coincidentally, another album I picked up at that time was Are You Serious by Van Duren; Van would later record with Tommy as the Hoehn-Duren Band during the powerpop rebirth of the 90s,  releasing Hailstone Holiday and Blue OrangeNothing disappears on the Internet, so I can give you this link from an eleven year old blog post that sums up how they got back together after years apart. (Van has a new album out, but more about that very soon.)

The anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death is sucking all the oxygen out of the atmosphere this weekend and no doubt both Quaife and Hoehn are getting lost in the shuffle. Maybe that’s par for the course, since both were underrated and undervalued in the commercial scheme of things. But for those of us who get it, these are sad and painful goodbyes to people who have contributed far more to the music of our lives than Jacko ever could.

R.I.P., Tommy. Ironically, we’re losing you to sleep.

Scott Homewood’s 2007 essay on Tommy from Lost In The Grooves

Amy Nyman’s 2007 blog post about that Memphis scene.

Ardent Studios

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Another John and Paul

 

Not that John and Paul. 

John Wicks and Paul Collins fronted two of the best power pop bands of their era in The Records and The Beat. Now, thirty years later, they’ve been hitting the stage together from clubs to theatres to living rooms bringing the gospel of pop to the masses. 

Wicks and Collins have continued to record since their heyday and between them they represent a traveling encyclopedia of classic hits. “All Over The World”, “Hearts in Her Eyes”, “Rock and Roll Girl”, “Walking Out On Love”, “Starry Eyes”, “Don’t Wait Up For Me”, “Teenarama”, “Different Kind of Girl”…the list goes on and on. Both men had success with prior bands (Wicks with a short tenure in Kursaal Flyers and Collins with The Nerves) but in the late 70s they both found greater success by creating music that echoed The Beatles, The Raspberries, Badfinger and The Byrds

Now for a special treat – a recent live performance is available through two of their biggest proponents on the Internet. Power Pop Overdose and Power Pop Criminals (or as I prefer to call them, PPO and PPC) are sharing the hosting duties for this great recording, Live At McCabe’s from August 23rd, 2009. It’s a free download authorized by the artists, people! 

And if that’s not enough to get your skinny tie out of the closet, did I mention that Peter Case joins in? 

Hopefully many of you got the chance to see them live during their Living Room Tour last year. If not, this is one hell of a consolation prize. Kudos to Curty and Angelo  for providing the links and artwork and to John and Paul for generously making this recording available through them. 

Part One: Power Pop Criminals 

Part Two: Power Pop Overdose 

Even better news – there’s a 2010 House Concert Tour being planned. Check out their website for details. 

Here’s a quick audio overview

The Kids Are The Same

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Under The Radar: The Fags

I pull albums off the shelf on a whim, don’t you? And when the platter you slap upon your player of choice is a favorite from a band who seems to have just…evaporated…well, it’s time to turn the lights on and sound the alarm.

I first came upon The Fags while trolling some “if you like A, you’ll like B” tangents on a popular shopping website. (No names, please – let’s call it Bamazon.) My first thought was “how can a band be so crass in this day and age to name themselves that?  Really, even if they were English chain smokers, they must have realized the implications. But since they hailed from Detroit, I realized they most likely didn’t give a shit.

(The real story of the name is pretty funny – apparently they booked a one off gig under a goof name “Smokin Fags”, but after blowing th rroof off the club, too many people were buzzing about “that Fags band”… )

That first five-song EP just exploded out of the speakers; a swirling mass of power chords and yearning vocals and all that pent up angst and enthusiasm that drives most great powerpop bands. Obvious older references, sure – Cheap Trick, Raspberries, The Sweet, Enuff Z’nuff, The Who and so on, but so what? Rock was alive in their hands. And then, finally, the full length album with the perfect title. But that was 2006…was I really that prescient when I predicted another four year wait?

Unfortunately, it might be worse than that. Read this story in the Metro Times that predated the record’s release; for anyone who knows a struggling band it’s at once fatalistic and familiar. The future of The Fags doesn’t look good.

But three years later, I’m holding out hope. This is one kickass band, and they deserve to be heard. Go listen!

 

What's in a name, anyway?

What's in a name, anyway?

THE FAGS

Light ‘Em Up (Idol)

Is there a better titled album in the racks? Finally putting a stake in the ground (some of these tracks eked out over the last couple of years), The Fags follow up their solid debut EP with big leap forward; a melting pot of power pop and glam with a sprinkling of hair metal for edge. The Detroit trio recalls a laundry list of greats, from The Sweet and Cheap Trick to Redd Kross and (gulp) Def Leppard…at least the bombastic hit single side of Sheffield crew.

John Liccardello’s emotive and sandpaper voice is the perfect foil for the stomping hooks the trio effortlessly weaves into every song, making infectious songs like “Truly” and “Mistake” into anthems. Butch Walker is making a fortune trying to teach lesser bands how to strive for songs like “Rockstar”, a song more muscular than The Raspberries ever cut but right out of their playbook. I don’t know why it takes them four years to make a record, but if I have to wait until 2010 at least I know it will be worth it. Light Em Up!

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