Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/19/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #833:

Stiff Little Fingers – Nobody’s Heroes

Possibly the longest-running of the classic punk bands from the 70s, Belfast’s Stiff Little Fingers are still touring, but in over thirty years on the road, frontman Jake Burns hasn’t lost a step. This 1980 album is the classic lineup including Henry Cluney on guitar and Ali McMordie (one of the most brilliant, unsung players from the era) on bass. We picked this because while it’s not as blisteringly assaultive as their 1979 debut Inflammable Material, or as diverse as 1981’s Go For It, it’s probably their most consistent one. Smalltown anomie and the desperate need to escape it pervades this album. The songs snarl with contempt for authority and conformity: Gotta Getaway and At the Edge resonate as potently now as when the album came out. Wait and See is one of their funniest songs, a snide slap back at everyone who’d dismissed them in their early days, “You’re not good enough to be a jazz band.” The album’s high point is the antiwar anthem Tin Soldiers, still a concert favorite. There’s also the defiant title track, the caustic Fly the Flag and an energized cover of the Specials’ Doesn’t Make All Right. The 2003 cd reissue also included a couple of cuts originally released on mid-90s greatest-hits compilations, including the amusing anti-censorship You Can’t Say Crap on the Radio along with the topical Troubles-era Straw Dogs and Bloody Sunday. Everything the band released through the decade of the 80s is worth owning, along with their handful of live albums: they’re still ferociously good in concert. Here’s a random torrent.

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October 19, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 666 Best Songs of Alltime Continues All The Way Through the End of the Zeros

As regular readers remember, for over a year we counted down the 666 best songs of all time, one a day, until the end of this past September when Lucid Culture went halfspeed. As we get into December, we’re still at halfspeed but we’ll be back with new stuff on a daily basis here in just a couple of weeks. Which gives us plenty of time to say good riddance to the decade of the Zeros and welcome in the Teens – til then, here are the songs on the list which will take us up to the first of the new year. Enjoy!

237. Randi Russo – So It Must Be True

Careening, otherworldly, somewhat flamenco-inflected epic from this era’s greatest writer of outsider anthems. The studio version on the classic 2001 Solar Bipolar album is great, but it can’t quite match the out-of-control intensity of the live version from Russo’s 2000 Live at CB’s Gallery cd.

236. Erica Smith – Pine Box

The multistylistic New York rock goddess has been off on a sultry jazz tangent lately, but five years ago she was writing lusciously jangly Americana rock and this is a prime example, ecstatically crescedoing yet dark and brooding as the title would imply. Recorded and leaked on a few bootlegs, but officially unreleased as of now.

235. The Electric Light Orchestra – From the Sun to the World

You can hear echoes of this clattering, frenetic suite in a lot of obscure art-rock and indie rock from the last thirty years. Jeff Lynne’s scary, out-of-focus apocalypse anthem kicks off with a Grieg-like morning theme, followed by a warped boogie and then an unhinged noise-rock outro that falls apart once it’s clear that it’s unsalvageable. From ELO II, 1972; mp3s are everywhere.

234. X – Nausea

The combination of Ray Manzarek’s organ swirling dizzyingly under Billy Zoom’s growling guitar and Exene’s thisclose-to-passing-out vocals is nothing if not evocative. From Los Angeles, 1980; mp3s are everywhere.

233. Stiff Little Fingers – Piccadilly Circus

Big punk rock epic about an Irish guy who gets the stuffing knocked out of him by a bunch of knuckleheads on his first night in London. From Go For It, 1981; there are also a million live versions out there, official releases and bootlegs and most of them are pretty awesome too.

232. The Wallflowers – Sixth Avenue Heartache

Elegiac slide guitar and organ carry this surprise 1996 top 40 hit’s magnificent eight-bar hook, the best song the band ever did and the only standout track on their disappointing sophomore effort Bringing Down the Horse. Mp3s are everywhere.

231. Bruce Springsteen – The Promised Land

This backbeat anthem makes a killer (literally) opening track on the Boss’ 1977 Darkness on the Edge of Town lp, perfectly capturing the anomie and despair of smalltown American life. In the end, the song’s protagonist speeds away into the path of a tornado. A million versions out there, most of them live, but it’s actually the album track that’s the best.

230. The Moody Blues – Driftwood

Towering powerpop anthem from the band’s 1977 “comeback” lp Octave, opening with a big whooosh of cymbals and lush layers of acoustic guitar. And Justin Hayward’s long electric guitar solo out, over the atmospheric wash of the strings, is a delicious study in contrasts. Many different versions out there, some of them live, and they’re all good (the link above is the studio track).

229. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

Surreal, Stonesy apocalyptic anthem from the Thin White Duke’s vastly underrated 1974 lp. Did you know that’s Bowie on all the guitars – and the saxes too?

228. Mary Lee’s Corvette – 1000 Promises Later

Centerpiece of the NYC Americana rockers’ classic True Lovers of Adventure album, 1999-ish, this was a live showstopper for frontwoman Mary Lee Kortes and her steely, soaring, multiple-octave voice for several years afterward. It’s a rueful breakup anthem sung with typical counterintuitive verve from the villain’s point of view.

227. New Model Army – Luhrstaap

Written right as the Berlin Wall came down, this ominous, bass-driven, Middle Eastern-inflected art-rock anthem accurately foretold what would happen once East Germany tasted western capitalism: “You can buy a crown, it doesn’t make you king/Beware the trinkets that we bring.” From Impurity, 1989; the live version on 1992’s double live Raw Melody Men cd is even better (the link above is the studio version).

226. David Bowie – Life on Mars

Soaring epic grandeur for anyone who’s ever felt like an alien, from Hunky Dory, 1971. Ward  White’s live Losers Lounge version (click on the link and scroll down) is equally intense.

225. Telephone – Ce Soir Est Ce Soir

Absolutely creepy, methodical epic nocturne that wraps up the legendary French rockers’ 1982 Dure Limite lp on a particularly angst-ridden note. “Ce soir est ce soir/J’ai besoin d’espoir [Tonight’s the night/I need some hope].”

224. Al Stewart – Bedsitter Images

The live acoustic track in the link above only hints at the lush, orchestrated original, a big radio hit for the British songwriter in 1969, Rick Wakeman doing his best Scarlatti impression on piano. It’s a masterpiece of angsted existentialist songwriting, the song’s narrator slowly and surreally losing it, all by himself in his little flat.

223. LJ Murphy – Pretty for the Parlor

Our precedessor e-zine’s pick for best song of 2005, this blithely jangly yet absolutely sinister murder anthem perfectly captures the twistedness lurking beneath suburban complacency. Unreleased, but still a staple of the New York noir rock legend’s live show.

222. Wall of Voodoo – Lost Weekend

Creepy, hauntingly ambient new wave string synthesizer ballad from the band’s best album, 1982’s Call of the West, a couple gone completely off the wheels yet still on the road to somewhere. In the years afterward, frontman Stan Ridgway has soldiered on as an occasionally compelling if sometimes annoyingly dorky LA noir songwriter.

221. Randi Russo – House on the Hill

One of the New York noir rocker’s most hauntingly opaque lyrics – is she alive or dead? In the house or homeless? – set to an absolutely gorgeous, uncharacteristically bright janglerock melody. Frequently bootlegged, but the version on her 2005 Live at Sin-e cd remains the best out there.

220. The Wirebirds – This Green Hell

Our predecessor e-zine’s pick for best song of 2003 is this towering janglerock anthem, sort of a global warming nightmare epic as the Church might have done it but with amazing harmonies by songwriter Will Dial and the band’s frontwoman, Amanda Thorpe.

219. The Psychedelic Furs – House

“This day is not my life,” Richard Butler insists on this pounding, insistent, anguished anthem from the band’s best album, 2000’s Book of Days, the only post Joy Division album to effectively replicate that band’s unleashed, horrified existentialist angst. Mp3s are out there, as are copies of the vinyl album; check the bargain bins for a cheap treat.

218. X – See How We Are

The link above is the mediocre original album version; the best version of this offhandedly savage anti-yuppie, anti-complacency diatribe is the semi-acoustic take on the live Unclogged cd from 1995.

217. The Sex Pistols – EMI

Gleefully defiant anti-record label diatribe from back in the day when all the majors lined up at Malcolm McLaren’s knee. How times have changed. “Unlimited supply,” ha!

216. Amy Allison – No Frills Friend

As chilling as this casually swaying midtempo country ballad might seem, it’s actually not about a woman who’s so alienated that she’s willing to put up with someone who won’t even talk to her. It just seems that way – Allison is actually being optimistic here. Which is just part of the beauty of her songwriting – you never know exactly where she’s coming from. Title track from the excellent 2002 cd.

215. X – Johny Hit & Run Paulene

One of the greatest punkabilly songs ever, nightmare sex criminal out on a drug-fueled, Burroughs-esque bender that won’t stop. From Los Angeles, 1980; mp3s, both live and studio, are out there.

214. The Sex Pistols – Belsen Was a Gas

Arguably the most tasteless song ever written – it’s absolutely fearless. The lp version from the 1978 Great Rock N Roll Swindle soundtrack lp features its writer, Sid Vicious along with British train robber Ronnie Biggs. There are also numerous live versions out there and most of them are choice. Here’s one from Texas and one from San Francisco.

213. Randi Russo – Battle on the Periphery

Russo is the absolute master of the outsider anthem, and this might be her best, defiant and ominous over a slinky minor-key funk melody anchored by Lenny Molotov’s macabre, Middle Eastern guitar. From Shout Like a Lady, 2006.  

212. The Dead Kennedys – Holiday in Cambodia

True story: Pepsi wanted to license this song for a commercial despite its savage anti-imperialist message. Jello Biafra said no way – which might have planted the seed that spawned his bandmates’ ultimately successful if dubiously lawful suit against him. So sad – when these guys were on top of their game they were the best American band ever. From Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, 1980.

211. X – Los Angeles

One of the great punk rock hooks of all time, title track to the 1980 album, a perfect backdrop for Exene’s snide anti-El Lay diatribe. Ice-T and Body Count would sneak it into their notorious Cop Killer twelve years later.

210. The Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK

Yeah, you know this one, but our list wouldn’t be complete without it. As lame as the rhyme in the song’s first two lines is (Johnny Rotten has pretty much disowned them), this might be the most influential song of all time. If not, it definitely had the most beneficial effect. Go download Never Mind the Bollocks if you haven’t already: the band isn’t getting any royalties.

December 2, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ten Best Christmas Songs of Alltime

…heh heh heh…

 

10. Linda Draper – Merry Christmas

The New York acoustic rock siren is typically pensive and hardly festive here: play this one early Xmas morning, hungover. Merry Xmas, not.

 

9.  The Pretenders – 2000 Miles

A reader suggestion, thanks for this! The link is a nice live version on youtube.  

 

8. The Reducers – Nothing for Christmas

Bet these Connecticut mod punks never realized how prescient this snide holiday tune would turn out to be when they originally released it as a vinyl single in 1988. Still available on the excellent Reducers Redux compilation from 1991.

 

7. Stiff Little Fingers – White Christmas

The alltime best version – maybe the only good version – of the bestselling song of alltime, classic funny irreverent punk rock, 1978 style.

 

6. Ninth House – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Back when they were an artsy, Joy Divisionesque band, the New York rockers used to have a great time with this one no matter what the time of year. Never officially released, although there are several excellent bootleg versions kicking around, particularly from Arlene Grocery circa 2000.

 

5.  Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Spot-on. Words cannot describe. The youtube link above is a priceless live version.

 

4.  The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl play dysfunctional drunken couple, trading insults and invective in perfect holiday style. This link’s a live version too.

 

3. Amy Allison – Drinking Thru Xmas

If this song isn’t universal, you find one that is. “Twelve shots of liquor lined up on the bar/You’ve got all my money and the keys to the car.” It’s vintage Amy. Nice to see the song up on her myspace again.

 

2. Florence Dore – Christmas

Although first recorded by the Posies in the mid-90s, Dore wrote it, and it’s her version from her lone 2002 cd Perfect City that really provides the chills. Xmas may not be suicide season, but this one makes it seem like it is.

 

 

1. Olivier Messiaen – The Birth of Our Lord

As we’ve noted here before, this piece isn’t titled The Birth of Christ. The great composer always put his Catholicism front and center…but maybe he was working for the other team? Nothing but brooding and hellfire in this macabre multi-part suite. The link above is a youtube clip from one of its quieter sections.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Music, snark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CD Review: The Actual Facts – Pain/Pleasure

Let’s see…weren’t these guys on one of those Live from the Roxy compilations, 1977-ish? Loud punk/pop band with a lot of catchy tunes? Well, sort of. The Actual Facts are actually from Brooklyn, and the guys in the band probably weren’t even born yet when all those British bands they resemble were getting their fifteen minutes on the Top of the Pops. On their new cd, these British expats crank up the guitars and crank out the tunes with an energy that harks back to a decade when songs like this could actually score a record deal and get some airplay (that’s a compliment). The album opens with the sarcastic, propulsive Chaise Lounge, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the cd, frontman Tim Simmonds cutting loose with a yelp equal parts Morrissey at his most boisterous and eerie John Lydon, circa PiL’s Metal Box, 1978.The album’s second track, the title cut, works around a ridiculously catchy, four-note guitar hook, somewhat evocative of another first-class expatriate British band from Brooklyn, the Larch.

The best song on the cd is Cookie, a blazing, somewhat Stiff Little Fingers-inflected rocker, building to a fiery outro with ba-ba-ba vocals, adding layers and layers of guitar until the maelstrom is too saturated to add any more. And then the song ends with a few chords slammed out on an acoustic. After that, the brief Don’t Shave Down There is pretty much what you would expect, a tribute to the nether regions: “Do it for you, do it for humanity.” The sexual tension builds further on the next track, Come on Over: “Come on over, drunk or sober.” A Hand to Hold, the cd’s final cut, builds slowly over a fast upstroke/downstroke rhythm, the drums only coming in on the second verse, ending on the sardonic note on which it began: “Taking a seat in the back/Covering up my tracks/Always seemed the right way to go.”

These songs grow on you; the album gets better with repeated listening. If they can duplicate the energy on the cd, they should be excellent live. The Actual Facts play the cd release for the album at the Delancey on April 25 at 11, on a great bill with Paula Carino and Basement opening at around 8.

April 16, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Band Will Kick Your Ass

What a great discovery. On their absolutely scorching new ep Cooler Than Your Boyfriend, Chicago power popsters the Romeros blast in with a BIG anthemic sound, an absolutely relentless twin guitar attack. They love Big Catchy Hooks. Cheap Trick is the obvious comparison, but without that band’s frequently cloying, dweeby vibe. They also evoke Stiff Little Fingers at their cheeriest and catchiest. Thirty years ago, they would have had a slew of AM radio hits – and that’s a compliment. The Romeros understand that hit songs are simple and catchy: after all, you don’t walk around all day with a Joe Lovano solo running through your head. The album kicks off with Tonight, almost like a slower oi-punk song with a pop feel, like something you would have heard at CBs circa 1980. It’s simple and catchy, maybe echoing what you’d hear on the Saints’ first album, with a simple but effective guitar solo then back into the crunchy chorus with tasteful lead licks on the way out. Wow!

Big in Japan isn’t a cover of the Alphaville hit: it’s another anthem with a sardonic lyric about a band not being able to make it big where their obvious audience is. It sounds like it’s a big crowd-pleaser. Love Notes is fast over a bed of acoustic and electric guitars: it sounds live, maybe better that what they’d be able to do with it in the studio since they completely cut loose with the vocals. I Could Never Take, another live recording, is a blistering rocker. The band sounds completely drunk, and better off for it. The lead player does a goosebump-inducing slide down his low E string with his guitar pick as the first couple of verses crescendo into the chorus. The guitar solo is straight out of the Ron Asheton songbook, a lot of over-the-edge bluesy licks that go absolutely nowhere, but it completely fits the song: absolute pandemonium.

Can’t Hardly Wait is another live track, very mid 80s, like the DBs with balls. Nice completely over the top heavy metal ending. Somebody to Shove is yet more live stuff, nicking its intro from some 80s song (somebody tell us what!!!) with a furious, pounding chorus, the closest thing to SLF they do. Some of their lyrics sound like an afterthought, but that’s not a big deal: this band is all about the hooks. Yet further proof that the best things in rock are happening outside of New York right now. Chicago has long been known for killer party bands and these guys are as good as they get. These guys offer a really cool deal: not only can you get the ep, you also get the “gift pack” which includes a Romeros t-shirt PLUS another bonus disc of live tracks, bootlegs, acoustic demos, basement tapes and rarites along with pins, stickers and a poster for your bedroom door for the obscenely low price of $7! If that’s not fan-friendly, nothing is. What a great way to get to know a totally kick-ass band. CDs are available online and at shows.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment