Tag Archives: TransAction Magazine

Blast From The Past: Jason Falkner

Another blind shelf grab found me enjoying the music of one of the under-known pop masters, Jason Falkner. I’ve got his solo work, his Beatles lullabies, the Jellyfish canon…can’t get enough of the guy’s talent. But damned if one out of twenty people I know even recognizes his name. Here’s a look back from the turn of the century and TransAction Magazine

TransAction Magazine

Can You Still Feel?

The knock on ex-Gray, ex-Jellyfish Falkner is that (besides apparently not being able to stay in a band) for all his melodic chops he is incapable of writing a song that’s simple enough to be easily memorable – in other words, the Big Hit Single. So what is he supposed to do, dumb down?

Besides playing and singing and writing and arranging everything, he also took the time to craft a boatload of great music that will nudge you at first listen, yet worm its way deeper with repeated listenings. “Eloquence“, which he had been performing live for a while, is reminiscent of John Lennon and could be radio fodder with a more spry arrangement.  Ditto “Holiday“, where Falkner gets the chance to show off his vocal acrobatics. “Author Unknown” (ironically the title of his previous record) has a great repetitive chorus and the double-time tempo at the end is a great touch.

If a band like Radiohead can conquer the planet with their adventurous, textured sounds and pensive wordplay, why not Falkner?

Listen to clips and buy at Amazon

Video: Author Unknown

Jason Falkner website

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Under The Radar: Crumb

CRUMB: Seconds, Minutes, Hours…

This one dates back about thirteen years, back when TransAction Magazine was landing my brain nuggets in all sorts of cool clubs in London, Paris and Tokyo as well as Manhattan. It gave me a nice forum to write a gattling-gun column of odds and ends, things that wouldn’t fit into the tight print requirements of the glossy magazines that were so prevalent then.

So all the CDs that were too commercial, too obscure or assigned to others were directed there. The Editor was happy to get the volume, the bands and labels were happy for the coverage, and I was happy to have my byline in the Eastern hemisphere. Ah, simpler times

Crumb’s album came out on Red Ant Records, the label that I thought would re-launch Cheap Trick’s career until they imploded and killed whatever momentum either band had. Here’s my 1998 review from TransAction

TransAction Magazine

About half a great record – the first three tracks sound like someone found The Vapors in a time capsule and defrosted them, and they landed mid-riff! Wow! “Tonight“, Overboard” and “Exhibit A” all have great vocals, power-buzz guitars and that Big Drum Sound I love so much.

Then there’s “Do You Remember?”, the acoustic ballad with strings, proving that the Goo Goo Dolls didn’t patent the genre. (Matter of fact, if this was on the radio, it would sell a million just like the Goos do.)

But after literally launching me into orbit, the second half leaves me lost in space, free-floating away from my capsule, air sucked out of my lungs.

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a little overboard, but energy aside it all starts to sound the same (with the exception of “Cressida“, which smokes!). Lets just say that lovers of muscle pop should gobble this up regardless, while others will see Crumb as a band with EP ideas and a CD budget. So if you can accept skipping over the mundane to savor the charms, go for it.

Listen at Amazon (and get it for a penny).

Hey! My label's dead!

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Blast From The Past: Sheryl Crow

Digging through albums while assembling candidates for end-of-the-year’s “Best Of” is always fun;because I invariably come across a forgotten treat. In this case, it was Sheryl Crow’s third album, The Globe Sessions.

WTF, Doc? She’s a mainstream success, a household word!

Yeah? So what? Her first album was launched on the backs of her songwriter circle collaborators – a cardinal sin – and lately she’s been so glammed up she makes Liz Phair look positively indie again. There’s a slew of people who love her regardless of what tripe whe shovels out (her cover of “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was brutal)…but there are also people who slag her simply because she’s successful…or has legs to die for. I prefer to consider the music above the rest.

I’m just saying that sometimes you need to be more open-minded. This was a good album – here’s my original review from TransAction Magazine.

Crow’s third record is a large leap forward, and she may have finally shaken the critical backlash shes been wallowing in ever since her initial success. Maybe its the freedom the label gave her, maybe its a natural maturation of a songwriter, or maybe she just doesnt give a shit about pleasing others anymore, but whatever crawled up her back and forced this out should be bottled and saved.

Amid the nods to Tom Petty, The Band and especially The Rolling Stones, Crow’s confessional songs about sour relationships, painful affairs and surviving the nineties are light years better than her previous work. She wrote most of the songs on bass to force a fresh approach and produced the record herself; songs like “My Favorite Mistake”, There Goes The Neighborhood”, “Anything But Down” and “Am I Getting Through” are much the better for it.

The instrumentation is diverse and well chosen, and her vocals have never been better. Bonus video of “My Favorite Mistake” for those playing the CD on their computer. Give this one a spin before you dismiss her; you might be very surprised at what you think afterwards.

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Blast From The Past: Liquor Giants

I guess writing about the closing of Not Lame sent me to the record racks for consolation. Grabbing a Liquor Giants disc is never a bad thing to do. Meaning to select Every Other Day At A Time, I accidentally grabbed the next disc in the rack, Something Special For The Kids. An audio Freudian slip? The latter disc was originally a series of hidden bonus tracks on some editions of EODAAT and was not released on its own until later that year.

When I wrote the review for TransAction Magazine in 1998, I couldn’t focus on the bonus tracks; it wasn’t a sure thing that they’d see the light of day. But it’s okay now! Hell, I love tributes and cover tunes, and Something Special For The Kids is loaded with them. Jeff Beck, The Move, The Turtles, Connie Francis (!), Dusty Springfield, Jeff Lynne…I’m sure they did it for fun and I’m glad they did.

And Every Other Day At A Time is no slouch either.

It’s almost Christmas! Go grab both of them.

Ward Dotson and company are at it again with perhaps their strongest effort to date.  Calling to mind The Byrds, The Plimsouls, Big Star, The Kinks and several other similar influences, their Replacements-like “sloppy but tight” sound worms its way into your heart very quickly.

Although “What’s The New Mofo” won’t get airplay (thanks to the well-enunciated long version of “mofo“), ringing guitars and heartfelt harmonies songs like “Dearest Darling” “Kentucky Lounge” and “Caroline” deserve serious air time. The promo copy includes eleven covers as bonus tracks (to be released as a separate disc later this year) and is capped by a tremendous cover of Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging”.

Everybody loves a clown

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Blast From The Past: Iggy Tribute

And I do mean blast – play this one loud!

Happened to pull this album off the shelves the other day, and sure enough, way back in 1998 I scribbled some words about it for TransAction Magazine. Funny how things change; although I liked their cut here I swatted Nada Surf with a backhanded compliment. Over the next decade they blossomed into a great band whose albums made my year-end lists more than once.

I still love tribute albums when they’re made from the heart; bands and project coordinator fully on track with the artist being feted. Even a small label trying to promote their artists can sometimes expose a great unknown band. It’s the major label projects that often leave me cold. (Jennifer Lopez fans aren’t going to want to hear her sing Bruce Springsteen, and I’m pretty sure fans of The Boss don’t want to have to scrape their ears clean with a fork, either.)

But enough about that – heeeeere’s Iggy!

Royalty Records has assembled a twenty-track, seventy-three minute tour through Iggy Pop’s career, the third such collection I’ve seen but easily the most high-profile. Reading the artists and track listing on the back cover would be enough inspiration for even a fringe fan to grab the disc, but the contents may surprise you. While some big names turn in respectable takes, a couple of the brightest moments come from the most unlikely artists.

Nada Surf always struck me as a one-hit MTV band, but their great version of “Sick Of You” is reminiscent of Love It To Death era Alice Cooper! Sugar Ray, another band-of-the-moment, torches “Cold Metal” so thoroughly that not even the insipid turntable scratching during the solo can take it down. Pansy Division shows that they have balls after all with a great rip on “Loose”.

The Lunachicks make “Passenger” an aural treat all over again, and Extra Fancy’s shuffle version of “Sell Your Love” is one of the two or three best cuts on the record. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do a credible version of “Search And Destroy”, but it’s licensed from seven years ago, not newly recorded. If they were going to rob the vaults, I would have much preferred the Dictators’ classic flame-thrower interpretation.

Not everyone shines, however. An almost-unrecognizable Superdrag drones their way through “1970” and Blondie (here reformed as a four piece under the pseudonym Adolph’s Dog) schmooze their way through “Ordinary Bummer” (what a waste of a Clem Burke sighting!). With tribute projects you take your chances, and the couple of clinkers aside the percentages are very good on this one.

Listen to clips from this album.

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Blast From The Past: Velvet Goldmine

In a response to one of the posts about bubblegum music, a reader states that glam is like “bubble gum with pubes”. Vile, yes. Disgusting? Absolutely. But not a bad analogy.

Glam is bubblegum’s older brother/sister, more streetwise, more decadent, more overtly sexual, but at its core it’s still pop music with gigantic hooks. Aural glitter, if you will. These songs don’t hope to catch your attention with a wink of an eye; that would be far too subtle. Glam is zippers and bulges and leering innuendo – wham bam thank you ma’am.

Many films tried to accurately portray the scene; few succeeded. Velvet Goldmine not only had a great storyline – think Eddie and the Cruisers but starring Bowie and Iggy – but a killer soundtrack that still holds up today. I heard the soundtrack prior to seeing the film, and it only accelerated my desire to do so. Faith rewarded in both media.

Todd Haynes co-wrote and directed the film, which featured a stellar cast including Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor and Eddie Izzard, among others. But the music…ahh, the music.

My thoughts from 1998, first printed in TransAction Magazine


I confess up front that I havent seen the movie, although that has not been a deterrent to appreciating soundtrack records – they usually have little to do with the plot anyway. But I know good glam punk when I hear it. Shudder To Think does Bowie incarnate with “Hot One”; Placebo gives Bolan a workout with their version of “20th Century Boy”.

Also included are some great turns by Teenage Fanclub (“Personality Crisis”), Thom Yorke and star Ewan McGregor (a ripping version of “TV Eye” backed by Ron Asheton, Mike Watt and Thurston Moore, among others!). Plus how can you go wrong with Eno, Lou Reed, Roxy Music and Pulp?

And for those who forgot Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in Mott’s wake, heres a reason to dig out your vinyl. God, the energy, the passion, the feeling!  So tell me again how the pulse of the music world had its balls shrink into raisins over the past few years?

Velvet Goldmine soundtrack

Velvet Goldmine film

Clip: Placebo rocking “20th Century Boy”

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