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Albums Out Today: Reissues From Blur, Yaz, At the Drive-In, Plus New Albums and Preorders

Posted by Billy Gil, July 31, 2012 01:11pm | Post a Comment
This week sees a huge set of reissues from Blur, among others ...

at the drive-inAt the Drive-InIn/Casino/Out
 
Though At the Drive-In’s third and final full-length, Relationship of Command, gets more attention for being the post-hardcore band’s breakthrough, At the Drive-In’s second album, In/Casino/Out, is the best representation of the band at the height of its powers. The album was recorded live to capture the band in its native environment, as the band had begun to make their name on explosive live shows that would lead to word-of-mouth expansion of their fanbase, and true to form listening to In/Casino/Out now feels like travelling back in time to when the band was playing basement shows, before Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López’s The Mars Volta would play to massive crowds in the following decade. You see the beginnings of that band in how Bixler-Zavala crams verbiage into “Alpha Centauri” and the band makes the 3:13 song feel like an epic, but the live recording makes it feel manageable, most of the lyrics spat out quickly and its movements more memorable than the Volta’s proggy opuses. It’s also easy to forget how catchy the band could be, and a run of mid-album cuts proves this, including “Pickpocket,” with its instantly memorable, if incomprehensible screamed chorus. The band would also slow down to great effect on “For Now…We Toast,” which clips the distance between the band’s more melodic and aggressive leanings. But the album stands together as a whole, as well, with song after song coming at you with a warm assault of visceral guitar attacks and complex wordplay.
 
blur 21Blur Reissues
 

Blur releases a mass of reissues on LP today, as well as its Blur 21 box set, celebrating 21 years of the Britpop band. To these ears, the incredibly solid Parklife and relentlessly experimental 13 have always been the essential Blur albums, but I also have a newfound appreciation of Leisure, their first album. Before they were kings of Britpop, Blur were a fresh-faced band of whelps wielding shoegaze guitars and madchester beats into a neat package, no better than on the funk-inspired “There’s No Other Way” or throbbing “Bang.” Yes, Leisure is sort of Blur’s Pablo Honey, where the band was still finding its footing, but Leisure also stands on its own, thanks to the fact that Damon Albarn and co. had more personality than most of their countrymen in 1991. You saw the beginnings of Albarn’s experimentalism in the percussive elements underpinning the slow-burning alt-rock of “Repetition” and accordion riff looping under the dream-pop guitar squalls of “Bad Day.” Even at its most derivative, such as the “Only Shallow” aping riff of “Slow Down,” Leisure is still a an early ’90s time capsule of a record with plenty of pleasure to spare, and one that hinted at the heights Blur and Albarn would achieve later on. Maybe I just like it now because every song sounds kind of like My Bloody Valentine's "Soon." Regardless, all of the albums are worth checking out, including Blur, Modern Life is Rubbish, The Great Escape and Think Tank.
 
yaz upstairs at eric'sYaz Upstairs at Eric’s
 
In these days of excellent darkwave revivalists like Light Asylum, Yaz and its best album, Upstairs at Eric’s, seem more prescient than ever. The albums big hits all have a certain desperation that often underpins some of the best pop songs. “Don’t Go,” despite its memorable synth hook, boasts lyrics like “I turned around when I heard the sound of footsteps on the floor/Said, ‘He was a killer,’ now I know it's true/I'm dead when you walk out the door.” Vince Clarke, who penned early Depeche Mode classics like “Just Can’t Get Enough” before splitting for Yaz (and later Erasure), offers spare backdrop that favors tiny, interlocking synth riffs rather than big blankets of chords for Moyet to pour herself over. Moyet’s deep vocals hit hard throughout, especially on “Midnight” and the classic “Only You,” slow, sad new wave ballads that would be nowhere without Moyet offering some much-needed soul to a genre often saddled with wispy male vocals. Upstairs at Eric’s is a lot of fun, too, even with its more emotional tunes — Clarke’s synths mimic ’50s rock tropes and disco shimmer to great effect on “Bad Connection” and “Goodbye Seventies,” respectively, while Moyet’s exuberant kiss-offs and creepy laugh make “Situation” one of the best feel-good breakup songs around.

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Amoeba Bloggers Answer: What Was Your First Album?

Posted by Billy Gil, March 6, 2012 07:09pm | Post a Comment
I recently was at Amoeba Hollywood and overheard a customer telling an employee Davy Jones had died. I hadn’t heard the news yet. She brought it up because she was buying Katy Perry records for her daughter. She said her daughter didn’t even have a record player — she just wanted every bit of Katy Perry merchandise she could get her hands on.
 
The only artist I can ever remember being that obsessive about was The Smashing Pumpkins, but that was in high school. But it got me thinking about those first tapes, records, singles etc. that everyone got as a kid.
 
ace of base the signFor me, the first album I ever bought on my own was Ace of Base’s The Sign on cassette. I had always liked music, but at 11, I had just started to pay attention to what songs were on the radio. A friend made me a tape from the radio and “The Sign” was on it. I loved it. In the coming weeks and months, albums by Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, and my beloved Pumpkins would follow, but really it all started with Ace of Base for me. Though if I’m being technical, I had a cassette single of Paula Abdul’s “Promise of a New Day” that I listened to constantly when I was like 9, but I didn’t buy that — I won it at a cousin’s music-themed birthday party, at which my dad dressed himself and me as Simon & Garfunkel. I had no idea who they were. I think I was Paul Simon.
 
While I’m embarrassing myself, I thought I’d extend the question to the other Amoeba bloggers: What was your first album? Not kids’ music, but not just the cool stuff, either — the tapes we once listened to repeatedly and then put away in a drawer somewhere once we realized how lame they were, though I’m still on the hunt for The Sign on vinyl. Here are their answers:
 
Eric Brightwell
the cure kiss me kiss me kiss meMy first record was Luciano Pavarotti's My Own Story, a compilation of “musical highlights of his spectacular career.” They used to heavily advertise it on TV when I got home from school, and I was hooked. My first cassette was Peter Gabriel's So. I'd liked the singles from it, but when “Big Time” came out, I was obsessed. My first CD was The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. I was introduced to it by a German exchange student named Ina. Before she left I rode my bike into town to a Wal-Mart to get a blank cassette to dub it. I loved it so much, I thought it warranted being purchased on CD. 
 


The '80s List: Part 8

Posted by Amoebite, August 29, 2011 02:32pm | Post a Comment
OnJoan Jette day at Amoeba Hollywood I proclaimed that Aztec Camera's 1983 release High Land, Hard Rain was one of the best records of the '80s. This single statement eventually led to over 200 Amoebites ranking their top 10 favorite albums from the ‘80s.

From the beginning we realized that it was impossible for most of us to condense our favorites from all genres into a tiny top ten list. So, we limited our lists to Rock/Pop and its sub-genres like punk, metal, goth, and new wave. Even so, it was a difficult selection process because not only are there hundreds of amazing records to consider, there is also the added dynamic of time.

The '80s were a long time ago and the music has had many years to gestate. We have a deep sense of nostalgia and sentiment with these albums as our fondest memories are associated with them. These are albums we LOVE.

- Henry Polk

P.S. We'll be posting new additions to the '80s list project from Amoeba staff members on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See all entries in our '80s list series.

P.P.S. The '80s List Book is available for sale at Amoeba Hollywood.


Kristen Frederick
The Dream SyndicateThe Days Of Wine & Roses (1982)
The Clash London Calling (1980)
The SmithsThe Smiths (1983)
Roxy Music Avalon (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)
The WaterboysA Pagan Place (1984)
Echo & BunnymenPorcupine (1983)
The Psychedelic FursTalk Talk Talk (1981)
New OrderPower, Corruption & Lies (1983)
OMD – Architecture & Morality (1981)

The '80s List: Part 5

Posted by Amoebite, August 22, 2011 03:54pm | Post a Comment
Psychic TvOne day at Amoeba Hollywood I proclaimed that Aztec Camera's 1983 release High Land, Hard Rain was one of the best records of the '80s. This single statement eventually led to over 200 Amoebites ranking their top 10 favorite albums from the ‘80s.

From the beginning we realized that it was impossible for most of us to condense our favorites from all genres into a tiny top ten list. So, we limited our lists to Rock/Pop and its sub-genres like punk, metal, goth, and new wave. Even so, it was a difficult selection process because not only are there hundreds of amazing records to consider, there is also the added dynamic of time.

The '80s were a long time ago and the music has had many years to gestate. We have a deep sense of nostalgia and sentiment with these albums as our fondest memories are associated with them. These are albums we LOVE.

- Henry Polk

P.S. We'll be posting new additions to the '80s list project from Amoeba staff members on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See all entries in our '80s list series.

P.P.S. The '80s List Book is available for sale at Amoeba Hollywood.


Aaron Aldorisio
Spacemen 3The Perfect Prescription (1987)
Sonic YouthSister (1987)
The Go-BetweensLiberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express (1986)
Felt – Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986)
The FrogsIt’s Only Right & Natural (1989)
The Stone RosesThe Stone Roses (1989)
The FallHex Induction Hour (1982)
Galaxie 500On Fire (1989)
Psychic TVDreams Less Sweet (1983)
The BatsDaddy’s Highway (1987)

(Wherein Spring Fever takes over the jukebox.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 28, 2011 04:25pm | Post a Comment
80's keyboard

Well my little dreamlets, we’re ten days into Spring, and it’s already clear to me what music is going to carry me through into Summer – it’s all about synthetics. Synthpop, that is, of the late 70’s and early 80’s variety.

This amuses me, because for much of my life I detested a lot of the music I’m going to celebrate here. A lot of the hatred stemmed from being so unhappy in the 1980’s; by association, the music “sounded” like unhappiness. Think of it this way: When was the last time you were taking a shower and felt like listening to the soundtrack to Psycho? Exactly.

Some say that synthpop began when Giorgio Moroder teamed up with Donna Summer and created the hit single "I Feel Love." Calling this the “start” of synthpop is convenient, but an over-simplification, because so much came before that informed it. What can be said is that the song was influential, both in terms of inspiring artists who would go on to develop the synthpop genre, and give mainstream audiences a taste for it.

What follows are some synthpop songs that bring me joy. Many can be claimed by other sub-genres of music, but they're all related. Some are guilty pleasures – the sonic equivalent to a Snickers bar, in that they are bad for me, but make me feel great for the duration I’m imbibing – and others I stand by as solid accomplishments. I’m also putting a spell on them: listening to these songs will make you feel a little ticklish in the deepest part of your brain, which will result in your not hating your fellow man as much (even though they totally deserve your hate). Enjoy!

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