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10:42 a.m. - November 06, 2005
Ten Albums You Need...Yesterday
I think it’s time that I devoted some more of this space to writing about music. It may be ‘music week’ (except for Wednesday or Thursday because that will be a special day, as loyal readers may know) or it may be a couple of random essays about music.

Why a potential music week?

A. Smed loves his tuneage.
B. Smed’s out of ideas.
C. Smed’s getting lazy.

Yeah, probably.

As I was putting together playlists for another dear friend I was thinking about albums that people may have forgotten about, or not really known about, but have given me great joy through the years. Some of these records I may have ignored a bit, in the past, and some may not necessarily be the best album by these artists. But they’re definitely worth a listen or 10. So without further ado, here they be.

(Disclaimer: I do not know the in-print or online status of these records, so read with that in mind, mmmmkay!)

Cure for Pain - Morphine. Morphine had a great sound: a two string bass, a baritone sax and, of course, a drummer. The leader and vocalist (and bassist), Mark Sandman had a dusky baritone that fit in well with the world-weary music.

Many people may know them from the song “Honey White” that was on the soundtrack to the movie “Beautiful Girls” back in the 90’s. However, “Cure for Pain” is their most consistent album.

Songs like “Mary, Won’t You Call My Name”, “Candy”, “All Wrong” and “A Head With Wings” are classic semi-jazzy excursions into the seamier side of life. But “Cure for Pain” really shines on three tracks. “Buena” kicks off the record in style, with a great bass line that sets a mood of a smoky club at about 2:00 AM; “Thursday” tells the sad-sack tale of a man who was having an illicit affair, and now has to pay the consequences, and “I’m Free Now” (my personal favorite) tells the sad tale of some loser who screwed up a relationship big time.

The music fits each of these songs perfectly, and while the instrumentation is minimal, the sound is not. See this one out!

Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy. Many of Thin Lizzy’s albums are inconsistent, with some good cuts amongst the mediocrities. Phil Lynott, though, made “Jailbreak” his tour de force.

Most everyone knows “The Boys Are Back In Town” and possibly the title track. However, each track of this record stands on its own AND is all part of a song cycle. The twin guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham mesh well together, and everyone will be singing “Cowboy Song” at the end while playing air-guitar. Songs like “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”, “Running Back” and “Angel from the Coast” showcase the tender side, while “Warriors” and “Emerald” are the tough counterparts. Crank it up LOUD!

Camper Van Beethoven - Camper Van Beethoven. It fits this wacky bunch of Californians that their self-titled album is their third one. While their first two records had major highlights, it’s this one that all of their eclecticism and snarkiness coalesce into one delicious stew. It’s hard to describe songs like “The History Of Utah”, “We Love You”, or “We Saw Jerry’s Daughter” without actually just listening to it. “Still Wishing to Course” and “Peace and Love” are intricate slices of madness, and the college radio hit was “Good Guys and Bad Guys”.

However, the best line ever is from “Joe Stalin’s Cadillac”: “You can’t turn left in General Pinochet’s Cadillac”. So true, so true.

All Over the Place - The Bangles. Smed, are you out of your mind? No, I am not.

Few people know this record, since it didn’t have any big hits and the best known song was written by someone from the Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves. However, classic cuts like “Hero Takes a Fall”, “Restless”, “James”, and “All About You” showcase the writing and performing ability from the entire band. They also have a great taste in a cover, with a almost-perfect version of “Live” (which was a great psych-pop hit by the Merry Go Round back in the day). This is a pop-rock masterpiece that shows the band in its best light.

Knowing this record, you weep tears of sadness everytime you hear “Eternal Flame”.

Double Nickles on the Dime - The Minutemen. Two records and 44 songs. It’s a lot to plow through, but it’s worth it.

They were ‘hardcore’ but not ‘hardcore’. It’s hard to describe them. They wrote short, direct songs that were like news bulletins instead of poems. They played in a wide range of styles, but basically only used a cheap guitar (played well), a brilliant bassist and a hard-hitting drummer.

Many people know the song “Corona” from a TV show, but there’s so much more to them than that little snippet. “This Ain’t No Picnic”, “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing”, “Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth”, “It’s Expected I’m Gone”, “Jesus and Tequila”, and the list goes on and on and on.

This was a snapshot of the mid-80’s from people who were forgotten during the Reagan Revolution, and it’s still vital today.

Duty Now for the Future - Devo. Clearly, this is not their best album. However, many of these songs have a greater staying power than some of their other works.

This is a transitional album, between the madcap total avant-garde early recordings and the cool, avant-garde synth-pop of their later works. Some of the material falls quite flat, and meanders a bit. However, when this album hits it hits hard.

“Clockout”, “Wiggly World”, “Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA”, “Strange Pursuit”, and “The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize” are all worthy new-wave tracks worth tracking down and enjoying.

Entertainment! - The Gang of Four. So, you’re a young lad living in England in the mid-70’s. The economy stinks, there’s no work for you and you get hassled all the time. So what do you do?

Become neo-Marxists and form one of the best band to come out of the new wave / punk rock era in England.

The sound is sparse, with a danceable, rolling bass and a guitar so sharp it’s like diamond on a glass. The beat is martial for the most part, and the lyrics are biting, stabbing shards of discourse on relationships, the economy and the world.

“Damaged Goods”, “I Found That Essence Rare”, “At Home He’s a Tourist”, and “Return the Gift” all make you think while you move to the beat, while “Anthrax” is their version of a ‘love’ song. So many bands were influenced by them it would be hard to list all of them.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Pink Floyd. Everyone knows Pink Floyd. But many who think they know Pink Floyd don’t know THIS Pink Floyd. This was the Sid Barrett album, before he took way too much acid and became just totally, completely deranged. Here, he’s just mildly deranged.

To compare this to “The Wall” or “Dark Side of the Moon” is laughable, because the bands are so, so different. This record is all about psychedelic experimentation in music, lyrics and subject matter. Cuts like “Interstellar Overdrive”, a hypnotic, shambling instrumental, and “Astronomy Domine”, a treatise on space, are brilliant side-starters. However, Barrett and the boys shine on the simple pop-esque cuts like “The Gnome”, “Flaming”, “Matilda Mother” and especially “Lucifer Sam”. You’ll be singing those songs in the shower, for sure, and your significant other will wonder what kind of sugar cubes you’ve been eating.

So the next time your stoner friend wants to play “Dark Side” for the 45,123rd time, put this on instead.

Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet. Sometimes there are records where you just fall in love with it the first time you play it. This is one of them. When I first put on this record, I was just amazed by it’s majesty. It’s a perfect 90’s power pop album.

With great guitar work from Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd, steely vets of the 70’s New York City scene (from the Voidoids and Television), Sweet pens 15 songs about relationships and love. Some are sweet, some are sour, but all are delicious. And you will be wanting to play songs like “I’ve Been Waiting” about 23 times in a row.

Amazing Disgrace - The Posies. The Posies should have been big stars, but they fell through the cracks. This is one of their records that has incessantly catchy songs that probably would not have passed muster with the censors on the radio, but tracks like “Ontario” and “Everybody Is a F****** Liar” are just too, too delicious. Grab this now, and all of the songs will be in your head, permanently, a day later.

So, there you go. Ten recommendations of albums that you may not have, may not have heard, may not know much about, but are all well worthy of your time and attention. Now, you know what to do!


 

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