Tone Soul Evolution (1997) by The Apples in Stereo

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I am not very familiar with Elephant 6 but, to the extent that I am, I am familiar with weird, idiosyncratic indie pop bands, with a big emphasis on the “indie.” I assumed that Apples in Stereo would be along the same lines as the other Elephant 6 bands but, at least based upon this record, they’re very much on the pop side of the indie pop. Read More

Generation Terrorists (1992) by Manic Street Preachers

Categories: 1992 and Music.

What do we do with a record like this? It’s called Generation Terrorists but sounds like it was produced by Mutt Lange or Bob Rock or someone like that. (Well, the production is maybe not that bad.) We have the bizarre amalgam of 80s hard rock (or “cock rock” as some call it) with extremely political lyrics that belong in punk songs. Is the idea to make super accessible and conventional music but to sneak in the lyrics so that young, impressionable youth are converted? I mean, if that’s the goal here, I’m not sure how much it succeeds. How Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 7/10 Read More

Bob Mould aka Hubcap (1996)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a reasonably strong set of songs by Mould, occasionally supported by the kind of attitude towards noise that Husker Du used so well at their peak. But the the diversity that made Husker Du great isn’t really present, nor is the contrast between their two songwriters. It’s like listening to half the band, really. That’s not terrible, but it’s not amazing either. It’s a solid little record, but that’s all. 7/10 Read More

The Gift (1982) by The Jam

Categories: 1982 and Music.

The Jam go from ripping off post punk (particularly PIL and Gang of Four) and David Bowie (and the Beatles!) to ripping off soul. I don’t know Northern Soul, so I don’t know if this is derivative of that, but you can hear echoes of southern (American) soul as well as the usual Jam influences. Because this is the Jam, there are plenty of good songs. But this feels like a new set of clothes after they got tired of the previous set they donned for Sound Affects. I could take this or leave it. 6/10 Read More

Setting Sons (1979) by The Jam

Categories: 1979 and Music.

This is apparently an abandoned concept album. That wasn’t very apparent to me, before I read that somewhere online, but that could just be because I’m not paying attention. The songs are strong again and the sonic palette is ever expanding (compared to their previous albums). This is very well done but remains just not my thing. Also, I detect a Bowie imitation creeping in. 8/0 Read More

All The Mod Cons (1978) by The Jam

Categories: 1978 and Music.

This is, by all accounts, The Jam’s masterpiece. It’s clear the songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds, especially from their second record. The music has also developed: most of the raggedness is gone and the musical ideas are more complicated, and this is quite clearly the missing link between The Kinks (and The Who) and Blur. But this is still not my thing. I like Townshend and Davis (hey, a cover!) better than Weller as songwriters. I think Blur’s take on the tradition was far more original. To me this is revivalism. It’s good revivalism, but it’s still revivalism. Read More

This is the Modern World (1977) by The Jam

Categories: 1977 and Music.

I don’t think you need to know the background story to know this album is a significant step backwards from the debut: the songs are weaker, the attitude is reigned in on a number of songs, the reverence for the past is growing. If this is still punk music (and it is, at least I think it is), it’s punk music that feels almost regressive, rather than generative. There are still some decent songs and it’s still mostly recognizable as first wave punk, but it’s unlikely to convert anyone to this band, that’s for sure. 6/10 Read More

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012, Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a thorough and engaging documentary about the seminal power pop band Big Star. It’s definitely on the fawning side, but it’s idiosyncrasies as a film, and the willingness for the interviewees to discuss the negative aspects of the idols’ personalities, make for a more engaging film than you might suspect. It also works as a bit of a selective history of the Memphis music scene, so it’s of interest even if you’re not necessarily a Big Star fan. 7/10 Read More

Stands for Decibels (1981) by the dBs

Categories: 1981 and Music.

This is kooky power pop record with so many weird detours that it’s borderline new wave. Individual verses and choruses (and, occasionally, whole songs) sound like they belong to a typical power pop group, but then there’s a weird effect, or weird, unpredictable time change or left turn. It’s no wonder it wasn’t a big success at the time, as it’s rather weird. But the idiosyncrasy helps a lot. It’s wacky, in a good way. 8/10 Read More

The 2015 Wolfe Island Music Festival August 7-8, 2015

Categories: 2015 and Music.

The annual pilgrimage to WIMF got off to a bit of an uneven start but ended up being one of the better festivals I have attended over the last half decade or so. On Friday night, we arrived to catch the end of Daniel Romano’s rather sedate country set. Romano had been to WIMF a few years earlier, but I missed him. This time he was on the Main Stage. It was pleasant music but nothing that made me want to go out and by a record. Romano was followed by Elliott Brood, a band I saw 3(?) years ago, Read More

Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who (2007, Paul Crowder, Murray Lerner, Parris Patton)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a fawning, awkward fluff piece of one of the greatest bands to come out of the British Invasion. I love the Who – there was probably a time in my life when they were my favourite band – but this film feels like the Official Version, something vetted by Daltrey and Townshend so that we are okay with the fact that they have continued on after the deaths of half the band. I know it’s cool to reunite now, but I am firmly on the side of Zeppelin here. The film is awkwardly episodic – we’re meant to Read More

Live at Leeds (1970) by the Who

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Is this the greatest live album of all time? I never used to care about live albums. I never used to care about live music. Music used to live in my bedroom and I had no idea that there was some other side to it. Frankly I didn’t understand why people went to concerts. The idea that a band could be better on stage than in the studio seemed totally insane to me. Totally unfathomable. I was forced to confront that idea when I went away to university and seeing (not very famous) bands became a standard thing: a couple Read More

The Sound of the Life of the Mind (2012) by Ben Folds Five

Categories: 2012 and Music.

It’s kind of absurd to come at such an established performer for the first time through his latest record, but then it wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t try to do this. It’s just how it happened. Folds has a strong knack of melody and his lyrics are well above-average. But I got to say that the idiosyncratic nature of the title track mostly disappears from the rest of the album. Most of this is just straight ahead power pop. It’s great that someone is trying to keep “piano rock” alive but whether or not you like Folds depends on whether Read More

Pinkerton by Weezer (1996 DGM)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

One of the myths of my generation is that this is some kind of lost treasure. Because it wasn’t played on the radio upon its release like the debut was, and it didn’t sell as many copies as their very catchy debut, that it is somehow a ‘forgotten classic.’ Of course that’s not true, because most Weezer fans (at least most Weezer fans I know) and plenty of other people will tell you how great this is. And given that at least two of these songs are regularly played on the radio, I have a really hard time buying that Read More

Weezer (1994 Geffen)

Categories: 1994 and Music.

It’s pretty much impossible to judge this in any kind of “objective” light nearly 20 years later. If you’re of my generation (i.e. born between ’75 and ’85) chances are you have heard 60%-70% of the songs on Weezer’s debut a million times, courtesy of your friends and the radio. This album is basically ubiquitous. So these songs are in my brain regardless of what I may think of them. And so it’s a lot harder for me to get mad about the things I don’t like about it than if I had never heard this album. (See my review Read More

And I Thank You (2012, I don’t give a shit what label its out on) by the Elwins

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Sometimes I encounter a band where I can’t even bring myself to give them their deserved three listens. Such a band is the Elwins (supposedly very highly buzzed about, but I wouldn’t know, it’s not like I googled them or anything). It must make other musicians crazy to see a band like this get buzz.  They are catchy. They are competent.  And that is it. There are thousands of these bands on the planet right now and probably have been tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands throughout rock history. What exactly makes these guys special? When did we Read More

Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & the Attractions (Columbia 1979)

Categories: 1979 and Music.

It’s slightly overproduced but this actually sort of makes it fit in with what was going on in the world. Costello is more biting here (and more cohesive) which appeals to me. It lets me forgive some of the more bizarre flourishes. Like the past one, it feels like a step forward and a step back at the same time, which is okay I guess. It’s solid again but I still can’t see any of these as masterpieces. 8/10 Read More

My Aim is True by Elvis Costello (Columbia 1977)

Categories: 1977 and Music.

It’s unfortunate I guess that early Costello is constantly connected with punk, if only because of his lyrics (which are rather more biting than most ’70s pop rock lyrics). The music is decidedly not punk: it’s pure pub rock; one of the most overrated underground movements in rock music history I say. But that’s not really to slight Costello; he was probably the best thing to happen to pub rock. He moved on and so I guess the world forgets. I don’t know. Anyway, I generally like his songs but the aesthetic is not great: it’s a little herky jerky Read More