Thursday, December 20, 2012

More Fun Than A Flaming Planet: My End of The World Blog!

SO listen, since the world is going to end, I don't want to go out on the mostly sour note that was my last Blog entry "More Fun Than A Flaming Yule Log." After reading several of my music geek friends' Year End Top Tens, or 20s, or whatever, I realized that there were, indeed, some records I forgot about that I did buy and did enjoy. There were also a couple bands who released singles or teasers for their new albums this year that I loved but, like a dick, did not include in my year end list. So what follows is my Top Ten best musical releases of 2012.

1) Redd Kross- Researching The Blues LP.
How I forgot about this instant power pop classic is beyond me. Guess I'm going senile. "Stay Away From Downtown" is the song of the goddamn year as far as this lonely cowpoke is concerned. The choppy Riffs, the sweet harmonies, the vague and vaguely familiar's like the innocence of early Lennon and McCartney, covered in '77 era punk rock bile and power pop teeny bop energy. The whole album is a stunner, in fact I'm quite sure it's the bands' best since "Third Eye".

2)Graveyard- "Lights Out" LP
I covered this in my "Yule Log" Blog, so I'm not going to re-iterate. I'll just say if you like the blues, classic hard rock, doom, classic metal or stoner rock...get it.

3)Kurt Baker- "Brand New Beat"
Ditto on this one, covered in the last Blog. I will add that it gets kudos for blatantly ripping off the title of a Gene Vincent song. Because if you're going to rip people off (and you are), then make it blatant and make sure they've been dead since 1972.

4)The Crazy Squeeze- s/t LP
First off, I will state that I do not own this record. I am judging it on the bands' past recordings and the samples I've heard of each song. The fact that this band is a supergroup that features members of the Stitches, Richmond Sluts, and the (godlike) Teenage Frames just seals the deal. Whatever this band does, I like it. It sounds like punk rock and roll with a healthy dose of snotty pop on top, a furious gang bang between the Heartbreakers, the Boys, and Teenage Head. I cannot wait til this bastard sees a U.S. vinyl release, for it shall be mine.

5) Wanda Jackson-"Unfinished Business" LP
I have come to the realization that I don't like Justin Townes earle that much. I really tried, but he just seems like the palest of pale Ryan Adams imitators, with none of his Dad's aching wordplay, slurred swagger, and honesty. He tries too hard, and he's too young yet, and he just ain't doin' it right yet, aside from a couple of good tunes. Why am I talking about him? Well, he had the balls to produce a Wanda Jackson record. It's a real good one. The song choices and feel are spot on, and I needn't mention that Wanda's voice is eternal. Her live performances are sometimes shaky these days, but her last few records have been up there with the best of her ancient 1950s/1960s back catalog. I do her an injustice by whining about her choice of producer. Jack White, producer of last year's "The Party Ain't Over Yet" was a better choice because he had recorded Loretta Lynn and is a massive talent himself. Having said that, "Unfinished Business", I think, is the finer record of the two.

6)Ricky Rat-"Songs In C Major Love" LP
I don't understand the title. I just don't get it. But I never understand anything, so I am not super shocked or anything. Does he love the key of C Major? If so, then why doesn't he marry it? Anyway, you have got to hand it to Ricky Rat. Probably the finest Detroit guitar player (and if you are from Michigan, the land that invented the Gibson Guitar, you are of a special breed to begin with) since Wayne Kramer. As you all should know, he was in thee Trash Brats, a band every hip Michigan kid knew and loved for their cross dressing cross pollination of glam, punk, pop metal and snot back in the 1980s and '90s. Thee Brats were a GREAT band. Ricky's first solo record is also great. While I miss Brian O'Blivion's vocals at times, this disc exhibits the same ramshackle pop punk charm that made Thee Brats such an eternally beloved band. Ricky's voice kinda sounds like Dr. Frank from the Mr. T Experience in spots, which ain't bad. There's also a pretty great cover of Flesh For Lulu's "Time And Space"! All in all, this is a good one in the spirit of Keef and Johnny Thunders' solo stuff. A guitar star stepping out in front of a band with better than fair results.

7)Ghost- "Secular Haze" Leaked Track
Pretty sure this will be the title track of Ghosts' next LP, and it's a creepy, swirly, carnival calliope sounding beast of a thing, with super, super heavy bass and the by now familiar creepily sweet vocals. While this is an official "leak",another new track has leaked via a live version of Abba's "Marionette" (I shitteth you not, people)on You Tube which is frigging awesome. Hope it's on the record. Very much looking forward to it's release in 2013!

8)JD McPherson-"Twinkle Little Christmas Lights" holiday single
This guy just never quits. His album "Signs And Signifiers" was on everyone's year end lists last year, and he's been all over the place since, playing every dive in every town six times on a never ending tour. He's also appeared on every late night talk show from Leno to Conan to Letterman, and blown away mass audiences each time. this cat is gonna be big. This is his first new music since "Signs", and it's a great little sweetly adorable holiday song. Sort of like a drunken Little Richard having his way with "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", but better. If you can imagine.

9)Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds- "We No Who UR" Leaked Track
I'm including this mostly because I have super high hopes for the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album "Push The Sky Away". This song itself is weak milk. Kind of reminds me of U2, or some Irish band doing a song for a charity album or something. Lyrics very good, music very bland. Maybe it'll grow on me, but I'm still holding out massive hope for the album!

10)OFF!-"OFF!" LP
Following two years after 2010's "The First Four EPs" collection, this sophomore album finds the punk/alt rock supergroup that is OFF sounding no less pissed off and frantic. 16 songs in just under 16 minutes. Now that is hardcore punk rock. And this is a great album.

Alright, just so you don't call me a grumpy old so and so, that's my year end top ten. Go ahead and cast yer stones that I didn't include whatever 20 something hipster band you're into this week, but I hate the kids. The kids are terrible. It will take amazing things to make me enjoy the kids' music. Even if it's something I should like, like a 10th generation power pop rip off or doom metal band or whatever. I need more than "something I should like". I need something I DO like. Meh. Bah humbug, my blood shit runneth over.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Fun Than A Flaming Yule Log; My End Of Year Blog

I'm going to be 42 years old in two days. That makes me older than almost everyone who reads this Blog. How do I know? Google stats, bitches. They see you when you're sleeping, they know when you're awake, they know when you've been looking at my blog and touching yourself so stop that. Uh, for goodness sake.

So I was going to write my usual "Ten best records of the year" shit sandwich, but I care not for such ass-clownery at this point. I couldn't find ten new records I liked, really, so I decided to just prattle on about stuff that I did like this year.

Now, forgive me, because it's been a rough year and I could possibly be a bit grumpy. My Mom died this year, I embarked on yet another life changing move to yet another new city (Chicago, land of subway crappers and drive by shootings, not sure if I like that yet), I got a new job that I absolutely hate, have had no time to write or record any new music at, whatever. You've probably had it rough, too. Nobody's had it rougher than Justin Bieber, who has grown people plotting to kidnap and rape and kill him, all on account of the fact that his music is the equivalent of warm, stuck together gummy bears.

"So what DID you like this year, Chuck Matthews?" I hear you saying out there in the night like a bunch of rude grasshoppers rubbing their hairless leg-stalks together.

As the great Gene Vincent once sang, "Weeellllllllllll....."

NATIONAL TREASURE #1: The GREAT EL VEZ. You may have noticed the photo at the head of this blog post of one very pretty girl, one El Rey De Rock And Roll, and one very drunk guy in a stripey shirt. That's my wife Faith, El Vez "The Mexican Elvis", and me, your humble procrastinating genius. This was taken the other night in Chicago after yet another life affirming X-Mas extravaganza performance by El Vez, his band the Memphis Mariachis and his lovely backup singers, The El Vettes. This man has improved my outlook on life every single time I've seen him play (this was maybe the fifth or sixth time, can't remember). How does he do it? He uses a complex gumbo of political satire, Mexican pride, a mental library of every great song, move, joke, look and sound in rock'n'roll, and of course, the legendary coat tails of Elvis Presley. It's not Xmas until this guy pulls his bag of spangled jumpsuits into town. His show has not changed much in several years (he could probably benefit from including some more recent references musically), but it is the most fun holiday rock and roll show ever. One that doesn't skimp on the jokes, the theatre, or the actual rock and roll.

NATIONAL TREASURE #2: THE GREAT JD McPHERSON. I've been championing this cat since I first heard his record a few years back. Those of you who actually read and pay attention to my rantings here (and Google stats tells me that there's several thousand of you drooling internet weirdos) know that his disc "Signs And Signifiers" was my fave record of the year 2011. His combo of Little Richard/Larry Williams style vocals, jumpin' blues and rockabilly and "aw, shucks ma'am" nice guy-ness has been blowing people away all over the country while he and his band tour their many asses off playing every dive in the nation six times a year. This has all worked out very well for him, as he is now getting rave reviews from national big wigs like Rolling Stone Magazine, and appearing on every talk show in TV land (Leno, Conan, Letterman). JD and his amazing Chicago based band (who don't have a name, and probably should...) are an inspiration. His record, "Signs And Signifiers" is a couple years old now, but it never gets old for me.

GRAVEYARD: "Lights Out"
Everybody knows I'm a big fan of everything from the golden age (you'd call it "retro"), but most of you may not know that for me that includes not only the 50s and 60s, but the 70s as well. Graveyard are a Swedish rock and roll band that combines the best of obscure 1970s occult rock with howlin' blues riffs, a very bleak lyrical outlook and a singer that can shriek and howl like a wide eyed, straining, male Janis Joplin. alot of people say he sounds like Soundgarden's Chris Cornell but I don't give a crap about that. "Lights Out" is their new record and it's amazing. It rocks, it rolls, it's a bit of a downer, but in a great way. It's kind of like listening to Black Sabbath in Jimmy Page's recently renovated 1,000 year old castle in the bleakest of Swedish winter time forests while high on the pot drugs. You like that, don't you?


I first saw advertising for this stuff on the walls of a bathroom in Austin, Texas at the Continental Club while I was taking a hurried pee-break in the middle of an awesome honky tonk set from Junior Brown. There were stickers that said "Cock Grease" on the walls and mirrors, and being the modest sort of old fashioned fella that I am, my cheeks sort of reddened in slight embarrassment. Then I laughed, then I peed. Then I went on with my life. Later I realized that Cock Grease was indeed a brand of pomade, and having spotted some in Chicago's "BROKEN CHERRY" shop, I bought a tin of it. My verdict? It's the stiffest pomade I've ever tried, in fact a little too stiff if you use the amount you'd normally use of another brand. If firm hold is your thing, look no further. And also, it smells AMAZING. Like honey and sugar cookies and candle wax. Mmmmm. Screw putting it in my hair, I'm going to put it on toast and eat it.

"Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements"
This is a long awaited fan made doc about one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. Minneapolis power pop/rock/punk/alternative band the Replacements have influenced pretty much everyone who picked up a guitar since their reign as indie rock kings in the late 80s and very early 90s. This documentary features 1)No Replacements music 2) No Replacements live footage and 3)No interviews with actual band members. Despite that, it does have a lot of famous faces and many hilarious and awe inspiring stories. After watching it, you'll want to listen to their music, though, or better yet, just play one of their records while the DVD is playing. Essential.

DIG THE BRAND NEW BREED: Kurt Baker's new record "Brand New Beat" on Jolly Ronnie Records is a modern day revisionist history of power pop that favors the populist (Rick Springfield, Butch Walker, The Knack) as well as the cult (Big Star, Paul Collins, The Jags) sides of the genre. A new classic and you heard that here first.

That's my year end wrap up. I can't think of anything else right now that I actually liked this year. There are a few things I could mention like LAURIES PLANET OF SOUND RECORD STORE in Lincoln Square, Chicago. They're my new fave record store in my new fave neighborhood in Chi-town.

Let's kiss this year goodbye as it shimmies it's rotten stinking way out the door, and hope the next year is better, shall we? Toodles, kids.