Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jake Burns and the Big Wheel: On Fortune Street

Between the end of Stiff Little Fingers' crucial era in 1982 and their resurgence in 1987 , SLF's leader Jake Burns tried his hand at being a heartfelt Irish version of Bruce Springsteen (akin to Welsh band the Alarm circa Strength).

Jake Burns and the Big Wheel - Race You to the Grave

Such a polished yet gutsy sound was a pretty respectable response to the mid-eighties when soullessness became a fashion statement. In fact the trio of singles plus a BBC session and two live tracks compiled on On Fortune Street continues the melodic and musical progress of the band, demonstrating pretty accurately how a fifth Stiff Little Fingers album would've sounded.As proof, here's the later incarnation of S.L.F. doing the Big Wheel's signature song, "She Grew Up".

Jake's never-ending commitment to the fundamentals of punk rock (loud guitars and louder words) brings to mind a recent Frank Turner interview where he posited that, like Catholicism, punk rock "...gets you when you’re young, you probably hate it at some point, but it never goes away. It still informs the way you see the world." May well be true...

{MRML Readers leave us a comment:
What's your take on Jake Burns solo work?
Do you agree that punk rock can warp your thinking forever?}

Download On Fortune Street CD

P.S. Punk Friction? Oh they've posted some Jake Burns too but different versions.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stiff Little Fingers: Radio 1 Sessions

Hey, I was asked to contribute a guest post to Jemsite, and I happily did so. Please follow this link, read the piece and then leave a comment. Thanks!

I raved about Stiff Little Fingers punk heyday here, now it's time to see where they went next, but in the unfiltered, unproduced form of these 1980-1982 BBC radio sessions - essential for all fans.

Download The Radio 1 Sessions CD

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stiff Little Fingers: Peel Sessions

Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers had one of the best runs of the seventies punk bands. They grew, musically, lyrically and melodically with each release, yet never hit a false note, never undersold themselves, never surrendered. Then, in 1982, they broke up. They re-formed in 1987 and there followed a slew of live albums and uneven studio works that, while never terrible, muddied their record a bit. Over their entire career, however, there is a brilliant through-line of staunchly independent thinking driven home by a raucous hammering guitar sound .

It's undeniable that the first two albums, Inflammable Material and Nobody's Heroes, are S.L.F.'S masterworks. That being said, despite some duff tracks the original band's final albums Go For It and Now Then... do make a strong break for adulthood without watering down the passion of the band, especially that of singer/guitarist Jake Burns. Jake, like Joe Strummer, Mike Peters and maybe even his fellow countrymen Bono, has a broad earnest streak, a heart-on-sleeve-for-daws-to-peck-at-it openness which, while occasionally melodramatic, buoys his material over the ruthless pop climbers that blight any era's pop charts.

Here's some raw Stiff Little Fingers recorded between 1978 and 1979 at the BBC under the auspices of that patron saint of fuck-ups, John Peel (R.I.P.).

Download Peel Sessions CD

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Duran Duran Tribute Album

Tribute albums usually added up to drastically less than the sum of their parts (under-appreciated artist's material + rising stars and old hands covers = uninspired filler with the odd flash of brilliance.). This 1997 tribute to Duran Duran turns out a hell of a lot better than it could have, what with the thin, if pleasurable, songcraft of these preening pop stars being mixed in with a lot of late nineties pop-punk, ska-punk and what passed for alternative (The Deftones? What The Fuck!). And yet another hideous cover painting - sorry about that folks.

A tribute album worthy of its aluminum ('twas an invention of the CD era) should make you look at the artist another way (as the Kiss tribute with Garth Brooks undoubtedly did for people other than me). And this rag-tag collection does show that Duran Duran's songs can be fucked with for entertainment purposes. Witness Goldfinger merging the early eighties together by turning "Rio" into a shrieking tribute to Ronnie James Dio or the ultra-obscure Wise Cracks, successfully skank-up "Come Undone" or the Mr. T. Experience unearthing a sinewy pop song called "Is There Something I Should Know" from the wild boys' back catalog or Wesley Willis doing whatever the hell he did to "Girls on Film". Consider the highlights of this album perfect fodder for a future playlist.

1 Rio - Goldfinger
2 Hold Back the Rain - Buck-O-Nine
3 Planet Earth - Home Grown
4 The Chauffeur - Deftones
5 Come Undone - Wise Crack
6 Hungry Like the Wolf - Reel Big Fish
7 The Reflex - Less Than Jake
8 Ordinary World - Riverfenix
9 A View to a Kill - Gob
10 Girls on Film - Bjorn Again
11 The Seventh Stranger - The Wrens
12 Save a Prayer - Eve's Plum
13 New Religion - Jimmy Eat World
14 Is There Something I Should Know? - Mr. T Experience
15 Girls on Film - Wesley Willis

"We just wanted to be pop stars really - the music wasn't that important."*

The Duran Duran Tribute Album CD

* the quote (much paraphrased in my mind by now) is from an old interview I saw with the band and those words have stuck more closely to me than any of their songs.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M.

The nineties produces a torrential glut of punk rock compilations and a similar excess of tribute albums. In that spirit, let us consider 1992's Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. It's certainly no generic compilation full of sound-a-like bands or dead-faithful covers. Nope this one walks a jagged line between the more song-oriented punk bands (J Church, Jawbreaker, Mr. T Experience and Jawbox) and the more quirky noisiness of the old Shimmy Disc bands (Gumball, When People Were Shorter.... , King Missile). How often these re-workings succeed, and few directly compete with those ringing originals, is up for debate (hopefully) but R.E.M. would surely approve of Vic Chestnut's deconstruction of "It's the End of the World..." and Jawbox's bass-heavy take on "Low" (which might well best the original).

1. "Radio Free Europe" by Just Say No – 3:10
2. "1,000,000" by Band of Susans – 4:25
3. "Stumble" by Gumball – 6:19
4. "We Walk" by Steelpole Bathtub – 3:40
5. "Talk About the Passion" by Samson & The Philistines – 4:07
6. "Pretty Persuasion" by Jawbreaker – 5:35
7. "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" by J Church – 3:40
8. "Feeling Gravitys Pull" by Phleg Camp – 3:03
9. "Cant Get There from Here" by The Mr. T Experience – 2:50
10. "Good Advices" by Flor de Mal – 3:06
11. "Bandwagon" by The Punch Line – 2:19
12. "I Believe" by When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water – 2:39
13. "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by Vic Chesnutt – 4:04
14. "Get Up" by King Missile – 2:31
15. "Losing My Religion" by Tesco Vee's Hate Police – 3:05
16. "Low" by Jawbox – 4:08
17. "Shiny Happy People" by Mitch Easter – 3:28

Download Surprise Your Pig CD

Sunday, July 19, 2009

G.I. - Six On One Disc

We've discussed the Mod Revival Revival here before. The movement, worthy of a single CD Nuggets-styled compilation, bridged the gap between the mid nineties garage rock revivalists and the pop-punk kids. G.I Productions as label helped this along by comps like the retro-centric Six On A Disc. This disc gathered the mid-nineties indie strains of power-pop (the Decibels, "Radio") , garage rock (the Peeches, "Well Worth Talkin' About"), pop-punk (the Bomb Bassetts,"Take a Trip") and mod (the Gain, "She Said") together. Since it's a sampler (based on the labels' early release), this collection is strong and filler-free.

Six On A Disc Volume One CD

This compilation was orignally posted on the first incanation of the mighty Twilight Zone (the grandaddy of obscure music blogs) and Blogmaster RYP gave his blessing to re-post it here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Gaslight Anthem vs. Kelly Clarkson

The Gaslight Anthem may have copped a bundle of moves from New Jersey's favourite son but when the songs are so well-honed and the performance so fever-pitched all points of comparison become irrelevant. So, as a sideways career move, Fallon and co. have decided to cop a tune from former American Idol Kelly Clarkson (the one who's career is actually kinda intriguing). The song in question is, "I Do Not Hoo*up" as done live for the BBC Radio One.

The remainder of the session consists of a fawning but fun interview and a live version of the ever-incredible, "59 sound".

Click here for the Radio One Session*.

*These non-official tracks are available temporarily for educational and non-commercial purposes only and should be wiped from your computer within 48 hours. End message.

Thanks to bennythejet for providing the material.

P.S. This entire post is temporary.

Friday, July 17, 2009

B.T.P. Folders: Wot's That Mean Then?

(Cover scans courtesy of the inestimably great Punk Rock from the U.K.)

The B.T.P. Folders mystery deepens. I posted this mod-power-pop-punk single years ago, saying, its "English, it's from 1980, it's their only release, it sells for 80 pounds in the UK, was briefly re-issued in 2001 on vinyl by 1977 records in Japan and I have no clue what their name means" and, incrementally, it has built up a fascinating set of comments. To whit:

RE; BTP Folders. BTP stands for Blue Transparent Polyurethane. I Know this because I am the lead singer with that band. Neil Shaw.
(November 17, 2007 12:06 PM)

Hi Neil, I thought the T in BTP stood for Tinted, anyway hope you are well, Cheers, Pat (Grogan) I think I wrote and played gtr on the single.
(March 20, 2009 7:37 AM)

Wrong Grogan it definitely stands for Transparent.It means nothing but a Blue Transparent Polyurethane Folder! Pat Grogan always a bighead! Bass player Mick was fantastic and still is!

(July 15, 2009 8:43 AM)

Pat Grogan was not a "big head" he had talent. He wrote most if not all the originals in The Folders. I'd give him ideas like....go home and write a song about Star day......"Star Trek universal boot boys, Star Trek androids with laser toys..." The boy had talent. "Wet Dream" was another Folders classic. Unfortunately none of these were recorded.
I have a few pictures and even reviews from national magazines about the single "All of a Sudden" which was written in the van, on the way to the studio.
The odd sounds you can hear on "Radio" were created with a WASP. A cheesy black and yellow synth, god knows why we had that, we hated synth bands.
John White, who joined The Folders after we recorded the single went on to moderate success with U.V.POP and is still recording.
The Folders single was played by the BBC on the John Peel show. John said it was his favorite track on Logical Steps and that "it was bright, bouncy, powerful, power pop".

NEIL SHAW (Homosassa Springs Fl. USA., 03/01/10)

So before we get to the music, if any B.T.P. Folders members (or associates) want to share reminisces, photos, music etc. (even stalwarts like Punk 77, Bored Teenagers and the ModPunk Archives come up mostly blank) MRML would love to post a follow-up. (Hell, if someone can give me a rough timeline, I'll write a damn Wikipedia entry.)

(Image courtesy of Artist Reunited)

What we do know is this single is a masterpiece. The two hyper-melodic songs war for dominance, each sharpening each other, with no clear victor.

The explosive a-side is an infectious glam-rockabilly-punk track with a nifty little bridge called, "Radio".

The on the b-side boasts the catchy power-pop-punk rocker, "All of a Sudden".

{Finally, MRML readers please leave a gracious comment for the band on their work - methinks they'll read it, sooner or later.}

Download B.T.P Folders 7"

(Image courtesy of the ever-knowledgeable Bored Teenagers.)

"Fads", the only other B.T.P. Folders song I'm aware of is on a compilation called Logical Steps posted on truly original, greatly-missed blog, Feelin' Kinda Froggy". FKF said of the album, "Some obscure New Wave / Rock / Punk bands from the Hull and Huddersfield region (Yorkshire, UK). The "Logical Steps" sampler first came out in 1980 on Future Earth Records."

(Image courtesy of my Feelin' Kinda Froggy cache)

Download Various Artists Logical Steps L.P.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Schleprock: (America's) Dirty Little Secret

The wonder of music retail (that much-derided field I will be re-joining today) is being surprised by joy. It's the joy of hearing a crisp, new noise pounding out over the speakers and asking, “What is this?” It happens just often enough to maintain your faith. I remember striding across the floor of the rock/pop room (on my way to fill out some Bob Seeger-dominated insurance claim) and being stopped dumb by the music. The album cover showed four dorks and a blue screen, the song mentioned Buddy Holly and Mary Tyler Moore and…well, you know the rest (plus Weezer need no further praise from us). Instead, I’d like to offer you another, albeit much smaller, “What is this?" moment. That time a punk-reggae anthem with nagging sense of menace, named "Suburbia" was the culprit.

That song made me zip to the front of the store and grab that CD with the garish cover from the Now Playing stand. "Schleprock? Schleprock!?" I muttered to myself.

Schleprock were one of the many early nineties not-quite-ready-for-prime-time pop-punks of the Dr. Strange label (great name, great sense of history, spotty talent roster). After some catchy singles and a few solid, if workmanlike, albums (and in the thick of the Great Green Day Panic) they got sucked up by Warner Brothers. Unexpectedly in 1996 they delivered, (America’s) Dirty Little Secret not a pat pop-punk record but an SLF-Ruts-Clash ‘79 punk rock shout-along album. The slicked-up production cannot obscure the rough and tumbleness of these songs; the steel-drums n' ska-fueled "TV Dinner", the optimistically defiant rocker “You Can’t Hold Me Down”and of course the double-fist-pumping anthemic chorus of “(Ain’t Got) No Heroes”.

Schleprock - No Heroes

MRML Readers: please don't forget to leave us a comment: give us your review of the Schelprock or tell us your own "What is this moment?"}

*You can, regrettably, buy this album for one cent on Amazon. Alternatively, you can pick-up a Schleprock compilation album called Learning to Fail or you can just support the band members some of whom have re-configured as The Generators.

P.S. Anyone who's been following me lo these many years may realize this is a re-up. By the time I was done revising the write-up, adding the video, the song sample and the new images - it had morphed into a new post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Leftovers Are Still Good

The Leftovers have gone from re-heating Screeching Weasel's scraps to raiding Elvis Costello's hospitality rider. And the results are hella tasty.

Cheap puns aside, Portland, Maine's the Leftovers' entire new album, Eager to Please, is a knock-out. The songs burst with joyous hooks and non-stop energy; this is no longer music for the insular pop-punk scene, it's pitch-perfect power-pop even a fool could love. The album features a handful of songs that would be perfect summer singles if there was any justice in the world, or it was still 1979.

We here at MRML spend most of our time raving about old songs ("After all there are more old songs than new songs", says Bob Dylan) this is mostly due to out Prime Directive: Do no harm to the band's sales (hence only offering out-of-print items). However since the ultra-cool label Art of the Underground only printed 250 copies of this fun little record, with it's two zippy power-pop-punk tracks, it shouldn't harm anyone to make it available here.
That said, if you like what you hear, please buy some tasty, tasty Leftovers.

Download The Leftovers
Art of the Underground V. 21 7"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Joe Jackson: Mad At You

Joe Jackson's third album, Beat Crazy, is one of those commercially unsuccessful, artistically problematic follow-up albums; the type that we relish here at MRML. Since the album is sort of in-print (i.e. an unremastered, bonus-track free import is available for $22.00 U.S. on Amazon), we'll look at the singles.

The first single, the wonderful "Beat Crazy", was backed with a live version of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" an early indication that that bloody song would haunt all his days. The second single, the jagged reggae-rocker "Mad at You", was no more successful on the charts than "Beat Crazy" but it had a non-L.P. track, the pounding yet poppy "Enough is Not Enough", to recommended it.


And for both pop-punk skeptics and devotees here, straight outta New Jersey, are The Ergs (who's selection of covers is impeccable) with their roughed-up version of "Enough is Not Enough".

Friday, July 10, 2009

Joe Jackson: The Harder They Come

Joe Jackson (not the Shoeless one nor the father of the departed one-gloved one) defined new wave, back when I was nine. Jackson got through to our suburban battery-powered a.m. radios (the seventies precursor to the Walkmans, iPods and the digital implants to come). Jackson may have only been another pub rocker posing as the face of disaffected youth, railing against the media, consumerism and the opposite sex but by creating killer pop songs out of such material, he beat the punks at their own game.

in 1980, in-between his stunning first two album and his more problematic third one (his career only grows more thorny as it goes on), Jackson released a three song single that remains almost unknown. It's a perfect distillation of his career up till then,with an up-tempo reggae song (Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come") a sneering rocker ("Outta Style") and a taut ballad ("Tilt"). Don't miss out on this thirty-year old secret.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fuck the Silence

Sometimes the silence cracks.

I used to make tapes, hundreds of them, for all sorts of people and not just attractive women either (though their's were always free). Of course every recipient got quizzed on their reaction to the songs - love or hate them, I needed to know why.

So I've given up on the old CrO2 (the last one was made for my wife in 2001) and taken my musical soapboxing here. I can't quit. Not yet, anyway. This remains the surest way of spreading obscure music and that is one of my most fatal compulsions.

As soon as I decided to post that Billy Bragg single in early June, I knew it would fall near MRML's anniversary and bring up the memory of the hundreds of people who have downloaded that Billy Bragg Peel Sessions without so much as a character of comment. I knew whatever I wrote, it would sound like a quitting post but I paid that no mind. The words just flowed and I published immediately rather than revise until the morning.

There followed an avalanche of well-expressed thoughts, shattering the cursed silence.

Thanks to you all.

Next: Joe Jackson

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blogging Against the Silence

I started this blog two years ago, and I've often asked myself, "Is it worth it?"

There's much good to be said for blogging; introducing people to bands they've never heard of or letting them re-listen to bands (or albums) they'd already passed judgment on plus forging connections with others in this clumsily-named Blogosphere. Blogging lets us communicate in our own fucked-up style and reach the world (or at least tiny pockets within it).

Of course, there is the silence.

Some bloggers don't give a rat's ass about the response but I want to know, good or bad, how others react to the music and the words. It is discouraging when, following a good post (and Lord know there's been some dogs here), you get one or two comments (some of which are complaining about the rip, the link or the spelling of the violinist's name etc.). Perhaps my disappointment springs from the damnable fact that I just like to talk about music too much.

I shan't whine too much about it, if you set up a blog offering music downloads (even of out-of-print music) most people will take or leave what you offer with nary a thought. And ~140,000 visitors from all over the globe (many of whom are not fluent in English) is no great shame.

Thanks to the many incisive people who have offered their comments (you excellent people know who you are), you've kept this enterprise afloat when it might've gone down long ago.

I started with Billy Bragg's Peel Sessions twenty-four months ago, so now I'll come full circle with this single from Bragg's 1998 collaboration with Wilco (and Natalie Merchant). The single contains the awe-inspiring title track (later pilfered by the Gaslight Anthem) plus two pure Bragg songs with no Wilco, Cara Tivey or Ian McLagen to get in the way.


Walker: Actually Being Lonely...

This is a request from the Fall Of Mr. Fifths. Walker were a pop-punk band from La Fayette, Indiana who existed between 1993-1997 and sounded like a cross between prime J Church (they even cover an old Lance Hahn song) and Weston.

Walker BWF 96

This post is a result of a discussion on the Pop-Punk Message Board* about who were the Great Lost Pop-Punk Band and the name of Walker got thrown around quite a bit. So, I'll have to count on the denizens of the PPMB to add colourful comments about the band and their history.

Download Actually Being Lonely... CD

* While this album is out-of-print and Harmless Records has been moth-balled, label boss Scott still has Walker stuff, so go his MySpace site if you'd like to buy any anything.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

D.O.A. - Talk - Action = Zero!

D.O.A. lived to play and it was on the stage that they thrived. Just read Joey Keithley's autobiography, I, Shithead there's no lengthy discussion of song-writing or even recording - it's essentially one long tour diary (and a must-read for fans). So, just before their only real break-up D.O.A. recorded the inevitable live album.
(It was the original incarnation's final days, especially their gig as Drunks On Acoustics, that inspired punk rock's most significant contribution to literature, Micheal Turner's novel, Hardcore Logo. The book, in turn, was the basis for a very good (if not truly great) film by Bruce McDonald. Joey was pretty testy about the book in an interview during filming, he had a right to be; the book is to D.O.A. what This is Spinal Tap was to Status Quo but more specific and more bleak than funny.

The performances on this 1990 live album, Talk - Action = Zero, are solid, though it's not the monster that the battle-hardened, Dave Gregg-powered version of the band would have cut a few years earlier. Fortunately, we still get to hear the band breaking free of the production excesses that marred some of their later work. Here you get a tight, speedy run-through of their catalog with an emphasis on The Early Stuff ("The Prisoner", "Liar for Hire "2 + 2" etc.) . To keep things interesting there's a blues version of "Fuck You" (or at least it starts that way), some roughed-up versions of Let's Wreck the Party material (the title track loses much of its sluggishness here) plus two unreleased songs (the none-too-inspiring "Do or Die" and "Fuck That Shit").

Download D.O.A. - Talk - Action = Zero CD

(Image borrowed from the slightly-inactive but still wonderful blog, Shpadoinkle)

Suuport the band!
Sudden Death
Alternative Tentacles

P.S. As our run celebrating the Canadian-as-fuck D.O.A winds down, I'd just like to wish you all a happy Canada Day (yup our national day is three days before the Americans.) To see 7inchpunk's selection of great Canadian punk singles (including yet more D.O.A.) click HERE.