Tag Archives: Ziggy Stardust

New Album! Smash Fashion

Glam punk powerpop alert!

I’ll admit it – I love everything about glam powerpop. The fat guitar chords, the thrashing drums, the foot-stomping beat and the huge hooks are the antithesis of subtle, but there’s a time and place for everything. I love Loudon Wainwright III but I don’t bounce down the street blasting “Your Mother And I” out of the car stereo, windows down, rear-view mirror shaking from the pulse of the woofers. Nope, that’s what glam and powerpop is for.

I missed Smash Fashion’s 2003 release (and have since made up for it) and almost did the same thing with 2010’s Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things. (Thank god for late night “sounds like” tangents on Amazon and CD Baby!) I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group photo that had one guy thrusting a Flying V guitar neck at me while sporting an eyepatch, but at the risk of hearing an album full of Dr. Hook covers I dove in.

Video: “She Goes Down

Like most powerpop bands, you can play spot the influence. For example:

  • Baby Dancer” and “Blonde Raccoon” are so reminiscent of Dwight Twilley I had to check the credits
  • Hard On Love” is as KISS-like as its title
  • Confessions of a Opium Eater” is the bastard child of “Auf Weidersehen
  • Proper Way To Eat A Muffin” is T.Rex incarnate
  • Sad Sweet Sick and Beautiful” has Mick Ronson’s fingerprints all over it 
  • All Systems Go” is like a mashup of Matthew Sweet and “If I Needed Someone
  • Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Cheap Trick…and so on.

The title track is as close as you’ll get to a glitter ballad. There are also a couple of covers – the muscle pop rendition of Abba’sDoes Your Mother Know” is really good but “Benny And The Jets” was probably better left alone. Still, this impressive collection of glammy chestnuts is well worth getting and playing loud. These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and they sound like they’re having a blast in the process.

Life is short, stop taking it so seriously. Blast this mofo out a window.

Smash Fashion’s website and MySpace page

Listen/buy at CD BABY.

Smash Fashiion - worth the trip.

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Blast From The Past: Mick Ronson

God damn, he was great.

Always been a Ronno fan; loved his tone on all the Bowie albums and thought his collaboration with Ian Hunter was the perfect dynamic for both men. And while his first two solo albums (Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Play Don’t Worry) didn’t hit those heights, they were enjoyable nevertheless. In later years I marvelled at how his magic touch would lend a spark to artists as diverse as Ellen Foley, John Mellencamp and Morrissey. I have plenty of great Ronson memories but thought of this one the other day when I came across an old review.

When I moved in June of 1981 I didn’t know a soul in my new town, but found out that Ronno’s band The New York Yanquis was playing a beach club about an hour from my apartment. I swear I was the only one in that club who was aware of the magician on stage, despite his more conventional appearance. Everyone else seemed to be getting hammered and ignoring the legend on stage, who simply went about his business blowing my mind.

It was the first gig of that tour, and the band had just gotten a cease and desist order from the Yankees baseball team, but even that introductory story didn’t make a ripple in this crowd of Budweiser swilling drunks. So he just played a myriad of rock and reggae and soul, backed by Shane Fontayne (guitar), Frank Cambell (bass), Tommy Gun (keyboards), and Wells Kelly (drums), with Ann Langte and Dede Washburn on vocals. I even got to talk to him for a while that night; he was exhausted and probably a little depressed but seemed relieved to know that at least someone recognized him and was excited about the band. It was the last time I’d see him.

His death hit me hard in 1993, and I assumed that there would never be another album since the others never sold that well and glam was the furthest thing from the current grunge on the radio. How delighted I was to come across Showtime in 2000, let alone the wonderful collections that followed.

Here is my review from Amplifier Magazine in 2000…

The first officially released live collection dedicated to Mick Ronson’s solo work is yet another stunning testament to the late guitarist’s versatility and passion. Showtime culls tracks from a 1976 performance of The Mick Ronson Band alongside excerpts from the 1990 Hunter/Ronson band tour. Lesser known tracks like “Takin’ A Train” and “I’d Give Anything To See You” shine while the cover of “White Light, White Heat” explodes with energetic fretwork. Extended versions of the instrumentals “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” and “FBI” are highlights, but “Sweet Dreamer”, as always, is the emotional showstopping performance that will leave you with heart in mouth.

Limited editions of this release include a bonus disc featuring four tracks recorded in Sweden in 1991, later versions of which appeared n the posthumous release Heaven and Hull. The label is reportedly assembling more Ronson releases including a CD spotlighting his instrumental work. Keep it coming folks, this is magic!

Listen to clips here.

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Under The Radar: Mercury Boy

Revisiting a great glam EP that I reviewed in 2003 for Yeah Yeah Yeah

Mascarad, blue-haired, gun-toting Mercury Boy looks like he escaped from a screening of Blade Runner meets Velvet Goldmine, but if you shelve the goofy image for a moment you’ll find he’s laughing all the way to the program director’s office. Get It Goin’ is a tight, four-song EP of punchy glam pop that can’t help but whet your appetite for more.

With a crack trio (guitarist Andee Hinds, drummer John Clancy and bassist Hannah Head – love that name), Mercury Boy taps the ample vein of Ziggy Stardust, 70s rock and Lenny Kravitz (ironically, the killer track here is called “Bus Driver”). And whatever the motivation is behind the cartoonish persona, you’ve got to tip your hat to anyone who can hose out the shoegazers with a record of energetic, fun rock and roll. Give me more!

Listen at Amazon

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Blast From The Past – Jack Green!

Life is like a bowl of tangents.

No, Forrest Gump didn’t say that. But it’s true! After writing about the Pretty Things I saw that they were now playing dates with other musicians filling in around Taylor and May. That started me thinking about bands who eventually have other players come through their ranks  in later years, from Bad Company to Foghat to Steppenwolf, so I decided to look up everyone who had been a Pretty Thing. And although I knew that Jack Green was in the band for a bit, I had totally forgotten it.

I didn’t discover Green from his tenure in the Pretties (even though I played Silk Torpedo and Savage Eye a lot) or as a member of T.Rex, either. My first conscious exposure to him came on an album that came out thirty years ago called Humanesque. Released at the cusp of the post-punk, corporate rock days, this fell into a group of refreshing albums with catchy songs, great guitar and a bit of a New Wave edge that this new channel called MTV would soon try to jump all over. But Jack Green wasn’t about posing and synthesisers and bullshit – he had crafted an album equal parts powerpop and Ziggy Stardust.

At the time I was both managing a small club and writing for an arts weekly called The National Rag, so I was fortunate enough to get pitched on bands from both angles, but his label never mentioned Jack Green. I was struck by the album cover – any veteran bin-browser has discovered many a favorite this way – and I think I remember reading a small clip comparing his voice to Bowie’s. I saw, I bought, and was conquered.

Green was a great guitar player but didn’t flash out just to show off; his solos (“Babe” is a great example) were tasty without wanking. He sounded as comfortable with pop-reggae (“Life on The Line”, “So Much”) as with more raspy rocking (the Bryan Adams-ish “I Call, No Answer”, featuring some Ritchie Blackmore axe work). “Thought It Was Easy” is a very pretty slow-tempo rocker that showcases his knack for a hook and his very appealing voice; ditto “Valentina” which features some nice tempo changes. And  “Murder” should have been as big a hit as Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”.

Video: “Babe

“Factory Girl” starts out is a pretty straightforward pop rocker – fat chords, short sharp chorus – but morphs into a nice guitar workout. And the hypnotic closer, “This is Japan”, cleverly integrated Oriental arpeggios with a churning rock beat. (When I moved to Rochester a local band making good named Duke Jupiter covered it on their album; I’m pretty sure someone else had a minor hit with it as well). Frankly, there’s really not a duff track to be found here.

My favorite was the three-minute killer “Bout That Girl”, which did indeed sound like a Ziggy outtake. Great vocal, punchy guitar and a chorus that I found myself humming immediately. I played that song over and over; I thought it might be the greatest hook I had heard in years. The cassette player in my old Pontiac got quite a workout in those days, and anytime I had anyone in the car I would play it for them and blast the chorus…and to a person I’d get that nod of agreement: indeed, this is a hit record!

That was until the day I was giving Ed Hamell (yep, Hamell on Trial) a ride home. The first time through he stared intently at the tape deck (why do people stare at radios and tape players?) before breaking into a wicked grin. When the chorus came around the second time he sang loudly, and in perfect rhythm…the first line of the chorus from The Byrds‘ “Chestnut Mare”. 

Damn. “Somebody should have told me about that girl“…”I’m gonna catch that horse if I can“…that was a perfect fit.

Reeling, I let buzzkill Ed out of the car, probably as amazed that he nailed the reference so easily as I was that I missed it in a hundred listens. No wonder that one line struck me so immediately – it had been in my brain for years! But lest you think I’m accusing Mr. Green of deliberately swiping a hook, I’m not. The rest of the chorus, let alone the rest of the entire songs, are as different as night and day. The Byrds never said anything, and I never heard anyone else but Ed make the connection. Just another happy accident in rock and roll.

But that anecdote is as fresh in my head as if it happened yesterday, and whenever I think of that song I think of Ed and that Pontiac and that time of my life. It’s just one more occasion where a song and a time and an experience are linked together and burned in my memory. And those are the things that will continue to put a smile on my face as long as I live.

Video: “This Is Japan

Copies of this album are going for ridiculous prices on Amazon; I have no idea what the situation is regarding ownership of the masters or whether anyone even cares enough to try to re-release them again. Lord knows there can’t be a ton of money in that. But I’ve got a rack full of albums from that 3-4 year period surrounding 1980, and it’s a gold mine of greatness. Gary Myrick, The Sinceros, Phil Seymour, The Photos, The Fabulous Poodles, Pearl Harbor and The Explosions…trust me, it’s a long list of people who mostly had two albums before having the plug pulled.

I own both Humanesque and Reverse Logic; I never saw the other two or I would have snapped them up in a heartbeat. His later efforts provided a hit for Roger Daltrey and an association with John Mellencamp, and he’s enjoyed a successful artistic career in and out of music.

Some of the CBS artists have been lucky enough to have their work re-issued as 2-fers, giving a new generation an opportunity to discover albums that didn’t get their due. It would be really great if whatever conglomerate owns these RCA albums would do the same for him to remind the world how special these Jack Green albums are.

The Jack Green Appreciation Society

Don’t confuse him with this guy.

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