Sunday, August 31, 2008

Everything but the Girl: The only way up is down

Everything But the Girl are one of those rare bands that keep coming back to haunt us with their infectious dance club sounds. How much longer do we have to wait for a new album? It's almost been ten years since 1999's "Tempremental".

EBTG originally started off as an acoustic-based duo. When they released their 'Amplified Heart' album in 1994, Todd Terry remixed the track "Missing", and it was this song that propelled them into dance music.

When EBTG released the remix as a single, it became a huge international hit. It hit the top of nearly every chart around the world, and charted in the U.S., a feat that had previously eluded the band. The track reached number two and stayed in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for well over a year.

The success of that track, along with a collaboration Thorn did with the bands Massive Attack and Deep Dish, saw EBTG move into a more electronic sound.

Having completed contractual obligations to WEA, they were free to shop their recordings and had full ownership of their future recorded works. They signed licensing deals with Virgin Records for the United Kingdom and Europe, and Atlantic Records for the United States and Canada.

Their subsequent albums "Walking Wounded" and "Temperamental", showed the band's musical progress as well as established Ben Watt as a cutting edge dance music producer. In 2007 Tracey Thorn released her second solo album "Out Of The Woods".

It's surprising to think it will be ten years since the "Tempremental" album was first released. The opening track, "Five Fathoms" brings back the memories of partying in London's Soho at night.

"Five Fathoms"
by Everything But The Girl (from the 1999 album 'Temperamental')

I walk the city late at night.
Does everyone here do the same?
I want to be the things I see,
Give every face and place my name.
I cross the street, take a right,
Pick up the pace, pass a fight.
Did I grow up just to stay home?
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
I just wanna love more.

I drag the city late at night.
It's in my mouth, it's in my hair.
The people fill the city because
The city fills the people, oh yeah.
I cross the street, avoid the freeze -
A city's warmer by a couple degrees.
The smell of food. The smell of rain.
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.
I just wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.

The only way out is down.
The only way up is down.

The days roll by like thunder
Like a storm that's never breaking,
All my time and space compressed
In the low pressure of the proceedings,
And they beat against the sides of my life,
Like fists against the sides of my life,
And the roads all lead behind me,
So I wrap the wheel around me
and I go out.

There's a river in my head.
I'll take you home and make it easy.
Love more.

Copyright (c) 1999 Everything But The Girl

Katy Perry kisses a girl and the USA goes crazy

Here comes the most hyped song of 2008 in America; "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Currently making it's way to Europe, there's probably no telling how many times this song will get played on radio until the general public gets sick to death of it.

The song's already topped the US singles chart for seven weeks. If you check out the comments on YouTube, people are either love or hate it. For me, Katy looks like some deranged actress from The OC or One Tree Hill. It's way too early to say that I am convinced.

Live, Katy Perry is another thing. Her live performance on US television leave a lot to be desired. Vocally, the song seems to display a lot of studio trickery to make Katy sound better than she actually is.

Hell, singing out of tune never seemed to be a problem for Madonna.

'I Kissed A Girl' could be the only song that Katy Perry will ever be remembered for, and like most one hit wonders, this could have dramatic impact on her future recordings. But something tells me there's more to Perry than this one particular killer teenage anthem.

For the moment, Katy seems to display a certai amount of fun and sexiness in her videos, and I guess us Americans have been missing out on some commerical rauch for some time now. This is like the Brady Bunch and a porn wet dream in one.

What's next, I kissed an German Shepherd?

In the 70s, Cyndi Lauper was singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but now Katy Perry's singing about kissing girls. Some things never change.

Or do they?

This is pop music at it's most risque, even though the music is calculated formula supermarket pop. The perfect comeback single for Britney, but this time the brunettes are taking over - and it's about time!

Even more entertaining is Katy's video for her other song "Ur So Gay" which is a play on Todd Haynes' film about the late Karen Carpenter (the first film to tell the story of the rise and fall of Karen Carpenter re-enacted by Barbie Dolls).

The first line in "Ur So Gay" is classic deviant pop at its best. Katy sings, "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf, jacking off while listening to Mozart."

Katy Perry - "I Kissed A Girl"

Katy Perry - "Ur So Gay"

Warren Zevon; the Excitable Boy lives on

Sometimes in this crazy world of rock and roll, certain rock stars need to rob the grave to get a hit single. Case in point is Kid Rock with his infectious song "All Summer Long", taken from his current album "Rock N Roll Jesus".

The songs also samples Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (which has a similar chord progression).

When it comes to the original,you can't top Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". With the line, "Better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out, Jim - I'd like to meet his tailor," you know Zevon was up to something way beyond the confines of conservative American music.

'Werewolves of London' was taken from Zevon's 'Excitable Boy' (1978), an album that's right up there with any early Steely Dan album. Essential.

Similar in many ways to his fellow Southern California outcast counterpart Randy Newman, during his early career Zevon achieved moderate fame, but as time progressed, instead of writing songs on par with the likes of Dan Fogelberg and Jackson Browne, he opted for tunes about getting your lungs ripped out. The general public could relate.

Obsessed with corrupt anti-heroes, Zevon penned songs with the trademark of a down and out pulp fiction writer who created stories about mutilated mercenaries ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"), mereciless city boys who will do anything to get ahead ("Lawyers, Guns and Money"), cowardly deviants ("Excitable Boy"), and, of course, losers with appetites for beef chow mein ("Werewolves of London").

Excitable Boy's 1976 predecessor (Warren Zevon) may be a stronger album, but this is the one that put Zevon on the map, and still holds a pop hook in the world's consciousness. Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is a perfect exmaple.

"Werewolves of London"
by Warren Zevon

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein
Werewolves of London

If you hear him howling around your kitchen door
Better not let him in
Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again
Werewolves of London

He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
Better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
I'd like to meet his tailor
Werewolves of London

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's
His hair was perfect
Werewolves of London
Draw blood

(c) 1978 Warren Zevon, from the album "Excitable Boy"

Patti Smith's original album review of Todd Rundgren's 'A Wizard, A True Star'

In 1973, the then rock journalist and poet, Patti Smith, reviewed albums and interviewed rock stars for the legendary CREEM magazine (aka Boy Howdy).

CREEM was no ordinary monthly music magazine for the uninitiated. It also gave the world the literary prose of Lester Bangs (the No.1 Iggy Pop and Lou Reed rock critic immortalized in Cameron Crowe's movie 'Almost Famous').

CREEM was home to Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Kiss, Roxy Music, The Runaways, Cheap Trick and beyond. If you wanted to find out what was happening in the world of glam rock, CREEM was the bible of corruptable pop salvation.

CREEM effortlessly bridged the gap between 16 magazine and Rolling Stone. It's foray into glam rock was pre-punk. CREEM was 10 years ahead of its time. It made Blender and Spin seem like cheap immitations.

Who could ever forget that pull out poster of a wacked-out, bleached-blonde Iggy Pop burning a pile of vinyl albums with lighter fluid?

The following editorial is a reprint of Patti Smith's original review of Todd Rundgren's ground-breaking 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'.

Six years after Patti reviewed A Wizard, A True Star, Rundgren produced her 1979 album 'Wave' that featured the hit single Frederick, and the song Dancing Barefoot, plus So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star, a rock song originally written by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman, and first recorded by The Byrds for their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday.

by Patti Smith
[from Creem, April 1973]

A Wizard, A True Star
Todd Rundgren

Ya know where Greaser's Palace ends? That solar burst. The zoot suit Jesus returns to light. Physical atomic end. Well that's where Todd's record begins. Side one is pure brain rocket. Rock and roll for the skull. Todd Rundgren's season in hell.

Put the record on. Internal voyage is not burnt out. Thank the stars for that. Now you got your system of brain travel, Todd got the plane. You're gonna zoom but beware. What he does is very tricky. Mildly sinister. But I give you the satisfaction that all pain on his ticket is well spent. It beings glowing enough. Like a sacred drug. "International Feel." Very Baudelaire. Very godhead. And when he moves to "I Know I Know" you know. For one ecstatic moment you've gone beyond the point of pain into the realm of pure intellect.

I know, here is where I got caught. Not prepared for a transition like "Neverland." Brutally nostalgic. I got that era under my belt. All about toyland. Once you leave no turning back. Well, why did Todd pull us back? The terror of beauty makes one momentarily bitter. First star to the right and straight on till morning. "Neverland" permanently poisons and sweetens. Gives a subconscious aftertaste. Tinges the whole record with Walt Disney. Also torments and slides you into journey a little weak above the belt. As side one progresses you age. There's hair on your fingers.

Tic tic. Like the crocodile alarm that pleasantly ticked away Captain Hook's lifeline, goodie good is wearing off. The move is maniac. Screeching monotone which eliminates mouth, limb and crotch but exalts in brain power. MIT science fiction. The next religion.

Even more ear-itating is "Rock'n'Roll Pussy." Autobiographic as a brainiac. "I'm in the Clique" comes back as "Shove it up your ass, I'm the clique myself." Sexual power is moving up the spine into the skull. It's manic it's magnificent.

Am I getting abstract? It doesn't matter. Music is pure mathematics. And what is more abstract than trigonometry? Todd is further mystery than Greek. You can't plot out his journey so easy. Marco Polo was a natural. Electric exploitation is never predictable.

But beauty is just that. The flamingos that wave you into "Zen Archer" leave you breathless. Happy death. And "Zen Archer" is full of wonder. Beautiful. I'm almost embarrassed to get so worked up over its brilliance. An elegy. Very German. Who did kill Cock Robin? An expression of his guilt? It makes one dizzy. Uncomfortable. He exhibits certain powers, certain confusions. Naked emotion is very frightening. It's extended by Dave Sanborn's saxophone. Elegant and moving as a high and spiraling tombstone.

His language is getting more sophisticated as is his humor and anger. Moving in a very valiant poetry.

The blessings of the turtles/ the eggs lay on the lawn.

Obscure images in "Da Da Dali." Very painterly. Also very Rodgers and Hart. Oh Jesus where are we on this journey; All adolescence out the window. Fags, fag hags, weaklings, minor visionaries and paranoids caught in the cyclone. For the chosen ones there is one last splash in drug soup and up the yellow brick road to Utopia.

That's how it hit me. Sound you can't describe, only experience. Side one is double dose. It takes the bull by the brain. Another point to be examined. He's always been eclectic. Why didn't he care? The evidence is here. Something very magical is happening. The man is magi chef. His influences are homogenizings. Like a coat of many colors. May be someone else's paintbox but the coat is all his. A Gershwin tone some Mr. Kite solid Motown early Rundgren. Several other colors. Telescoping sounds. All manipulated by a higher force. Production itself a form to be reckoned with. The conductor is often more blessed than the orchestra.

There are two sides to every record. Excluding Second Winter. So turn over. This is de soul side. White boys got it you know. Especially ones from Philadelphia. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" is eighty per cent spade. It touches. I hope Motown grabs it and pumps it Top 40. "I Don't Want to Tie You Down" touches too. "The balance of our minds together/ The perfect give and take." Girl and boy move to man and woman.

Todd does a soul medley. The way he does "Ooo Baby Baby." I know he's no Smokey but I'm addicted to his throat. Cracks and all. I find Todd's voice very sexy; it makes me feel teen-age. Less than perfect but a bit boozier than last shots. The way he does "Cool Jerk" is genius. Real cartoon. Goofy and Daffy Duck are there. Roller skates, Coney Island laughter, the mad bomber. Jesus, sometimes I think he's crazy. Certainly not an earthling. The way he transforms mundane to miracle.

The motherfucker is "Is It My Name?" All the animal energy is in this one. A song that self-destructs. Dirty joke...flaming guitar...the cunt...the man to kick in your brains. It's all there. I love it. Never has he seemed more like a son of a bitch. In fact that's another move on this album. Not only is the quality of his intellect heightened but his emotions. This is the least predictable. The one closest to sainthood and hatchet murder.

My voice goes so high
You would think I was gay
But I play my guitar in such
a mancock way
You only love me for my machine...
"Is It My Name"

Moving into "Just One Victory." A Rundgren classic. Very much a single. Though I would die to hear "International Feel" on the radio. To cruise at suicidal speed down the great highway with "I.F." at full blast:

International feel
And there's more
Interstellar appeal
Still there's more
Universal ideal...

Each album he vomits like a diary. Each page closer to the stars. Process is the point. A kaleidoscoping view. Blasphemy even the gods smile on. Rock and roll for the skull. A very noble concept. Past present and tomorrow in one glance. Understanding through musical sensation. Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation.

Copyright © Patti Smith 1973 / CREEM magazine

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Todd Rundgren says "I've got a gun."

With the new Arena album along the way at the end of September, don't be surprised if Todd Rundgren's latest platter sparks a little gun control controversy.

On the surface, one of the songs on the new album, 'Gun', communicates social commentary about American gang gun culture; a plea for disaffected youths to put a stop pulling out guns and randomly shooting people.

In America, illegal gun ownership has now become a lifestyle enhancer, something to add credibility and importance in society. In the song 'Gun', Rundgren sings: "This is for fighting and this is for fun."

But if you go back 28 years, the issue of guns took on a larger than life meaning for Rundgren enthusiasts.

On December 8 1980, Mark Chapman (the guy who went on to shoot John Lennon), was a big fan of Rundgren's music.

He woke up in the Sheraton hotel in New York City. After getting dressed, he placed a copy of Rundgren's second solo album, 'The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren', on the dressing table. Next to it he left a photo of himself from when he worked at a Vietnamese refugee camp. He finished this tableau with the hotel Bible, which he had opened to John's Gospel and written the word 'Lennon'.

Chapman was a devoted follower of Todd Rundgren's music. He learned the lyrics and studied the album sleeves for clues and was obsessed with Rundgren's 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'. He was convinced that Rundgren was sending signals to him.

It was then that an interview with Rundgren that was published in Melody Maker by journalist Allan Jones that really struck a chord. During the interview, Rundgren referred to John Lennon as an "asshole"; a comment that Todd made abut John Lennon's behaviour when Lennon was drunk and verbally abusing a waitress at the now legendary Max's Kansas City nightclub in New York City.

The Melody Maker interview also touched on Rundgren's song 'Rock And Roll Pussy', which was thought to have been a critique of Lennon's revolutionary stance. When John Lennon read Rundgren's interview in Melody Maker, he wrote an open letter to the music paper, where he commented:

"I guess we're all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don't know how to get it, without "revolution"?"

History has it that Lennon's letter to Rundgren had some kind of emotional impact on Mark Chapman. Just after 10:40pm, on the evening of the 8th, Chapman confronted John Lennon outside the Dakota hotel in New York City and shot him four times.

At the time of Lennon's shooting, Mark Chapman was wearing a Todd Rundgren 'Hermit of Mink Hollow' t-shirt.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oasis strike back with the Shock of the Lightning

The new single from Oasis, The Shock of the Lightning, is quite possibly the best single they've released in 14 years. The band have recaptured their original sound evident on their first two albums, 1994's Definitely Maybe and 1995's (What's The Story) Morning Glory?

The song is loud, powerful and drenched a rock and roll wall of sound, that's not only dangerous, but it's heavy, psychedelic and relentless. This is totally unexpected and surprising news from a band who were almost close to becoming a paradoy of themselves. If this song is anything to go by, the band's forthcoming album is sure dominate planet earth (but not as we know it).

If you loved their early songs including Rock N' Roll Star, Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alocohol, then you'll feel right at home with The Shock of the Lightning. Sometimes simplicity works, but the groove in this track is undeniable, catchy and highly addictive.

In a recent interview Liam Gallagher said that Oasis had no competition. If this song is anything to go by, he may be right on the money.

The Shock of the Lightning is a masterclass in rock and roll adrenalin. This is pure, class Oasis. The drum break towards the end of the song is a nod to the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Accept no substitute.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Too Many Creeps... Yeah!!

There was a time in the early 80s when punk rock and funk collided and gave us some seminal bands that played it for real.

First there was James Chance and the Contortions, and then Topper Headon from the Clash produced some original studio recordings for a NYC band called the Bush Tetras.

At the time PiL were all the rage in New York City, but one band stood out from the rest of the crowd, and they were untouchable. With Pat Place on guitar and Cynthia Sley on vocals, the band were unstoppable.

It was the post new wave funk/punk early '80s stars of the New York club scene, and the Bush Tetras were one of the most popular and exciting groups of the era.

Who could ever forget the original line-up?

Cynthia Sley - Vocals
Pat Place - Guitar
Dee Pop - Drums
Laura Kennedy - Bass

Their collection of songs recorded from 1980-83, produced by Topper Headon and Joe Blaney, hasn't dated. Flash forward to San Paulo's CSS and hear where they got their riffs from.

Twenty-five years later and the Bush Tetras are still the bomb.

Unforgettable songs like "You Can't Be Funky (If You Haven't Got A Soul", "Cowboys In Africa" and the band's signature track "Too Many Creeps", the sound and the fury is relentless but still independently funky.

Todd Rundgren signs to Cooking Vinyl and gets interstellar appeal

The Wizard, A True star (Todd Rundgren) has licensed his new studio album "Arena" to the British indepdendent record label Cooking Vinyl. The UK edition of the album (rumoured to come with a free pair of edible rasberry flavored paper thongs) will be released in the UK on Monday 29th September.

"We are delighted to be releasing Todd's new guitar rock album in the UK," says Cooking Vinyl MD, Martin Goldschmidt.

Former Utopia bass guitarist, Kasim Sulton, is confirmed to play guitar, keyboards and sing vocals on Rundgren's forthcoming American and European "Arena" tours.

Sulton, who recently was the musical director for Meatloaf's North American and European tours, will join Rachel Haden (bass), Jesse Gress (guitar), former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and Todd Rundgren (vocals, guitar).

Rundgren is currently getting rave reviews for the new guitar led album, with the rocker "Strike" getting considerable airplay on various radio stations in the UK, most notably, Planet Rock Radio, who recently interviewed Rundgren from New Orleans last week. Planet Rock played the songs "Strike" and "Gun" from the new album.

A spokesperson from Planet Rock Radio said, "We've received tons of calls and emails from listeners who thought we'd just played the new single from AC/DC. They were amazed to discover that it was "Strike"; a new song from Rundgren's new album."

"Arena" will be followed by a UK tour in November, with Rundgren playing dates at Manchester Academy 2 (November 6), Edinburgh Picture House (November 7), Norwich Waterfront (November 22) and London Kentish Town Forum (November 23).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Same Old Fucking Story, and it's a new album from Cyndi Lauper

"Bring Ya To The Brink" is the name of Cyndi Lauper's 11th album, and shows the American singer in a powerful light. What I like about the new album is, lyrically, Cyndi still in a thought provoking mode.

There's been cheap candy talk about Madonna and Lauper being rivals in the eighties, but I've never seen the musical connection between both artists. The only thing I see is bad journalism.

Before you shy away from the new Lauper album, thinking that it's just another comeback album from a fifty something Diva, looking at the Gay market to re-estabish her place in the pop palace of Gwen Stefani gimmick grabbers, hold up for a minute.

There's enough eletronica, soul, disco and plenty of big bouncy tunes here to fill up your girlfriend's swimming pool, however, although the album does has the odd predictable dancefloor filler, there's just too many great songs on this album to put a damper on anything.

The album really gets cooking with track 3, the brilliant electro ragga, Japanese friendly dance ditty "Rocking Chair". This is Lauper doing Gwen Stefani doing Cyndi Lauper.

This is the song that proves that Stefani's always been a Cyndi Lauper impersonator. In so many words, Cydni sings "Romeo boys they'll be dancing with the Cha Cha girls," while Gwen is treading water in her annoying Hekiru girls bubble.

But Lauper isn't really striving for postal natal depression Studio 54 drivel. Even the most minimal of electronic beats, evident on the track 'Echo', can't take away from Lauper's wonderful vocal stylings.

Cyndi's swansong has to be the disco belter, "Same Old Fucking Story". It's like a hip now generation of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", but it's more direct and it's got a million times more attitude. Deep down inside Cyndi's always has been and will remain a punk at heart, and this song is no diffrent.

"It's the same old fucking story
With your two differnet sets of rules
It's the same old fucking story
One for me, two for you"

The next six tracks are a masterclass in pop perfection. "Raging Storm" talks about the world's obsession of celebrity. "There's a raging storm in a troubled sea, but you're clouding my mind with celebrity. You can fight for the right to be, but you better not do a bad show on MTV."

One of my favorites, "Lay Me Down" could possibly be the best electronic chill out dancefloor classic of 2008. Lauper has perfected organic dance music with feeling and meaning. This is a far cry from her last magnificent album "The Body Acoustic", but then again, there are also a lot of smilarities. In a strange way, these songs could be played with acoustic guitars. Drop the big beats and Cyndi's vocals could still make the songs shine.

As with "The Same Old Fucking Story", the track "Set Your Heart" is another big beat dancefloor belter that's positioned as an optimistic dance monster track. Lauper's vocals soar high like a raging eagle. This is a skydiving kick drum delight, the perfect showcase to the woman with the biggest lungs in showbiz. This is Cyndi Lauper, larger than life, taking flight and conquering the world.

Cyndi makes a confession on the second last track, "Grab A Hold", and backs it with her trademark emotional Cyndi vocal delivery. This is undeniable Lauper, and features all the ingredients that has always made her so important in the current hollow pop landscape. Sings Cyndi, "If you want grab a hold, let it go."

Lauper ends the album with the ballad "Rain On Me". It's an electronica nod to "Time After Time", the kind of song that gets played at a disco when everyone's packing up to leave at 6am, or perfect for when you're driving home in your car when it's raining. It's Lauper at her most spiritual.

Check out Cyndi performing "Into The Nightlife", the second track from the new album, "Bring Ya To The Brink" on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.

The Mail on Sunday Hails Martha and the Muffins' 25th Anniversary Edition of Danseparc

An insightful review of Martha and the Muffins' recently reissued 25th anniversary edition of 'Danseparc' was written by rock critic David Bennun in today's edition of the UK's Mail on Sunday Newspaper. Bennun comes up with some interesting observations about Toronto's best loved rock band.

Says Bennun - "The under-appreciated Toronto New Wave outfit Martha and the Muffins are nowadays known mainly for their jaunty yet curiously haunting 1980 hit single Echo Beach. Perhaps the reissue of Danseparc will help rectify that."

"By the time of its 1983 UK release, prime movers Martha Johnson and Mark Gane (aka M+M) were making the best Talking Heads records not actually created by Talking Heads themselves."

"But M+M were not simple copyists. While their sound was deeply indebted to the New York trailblazers, Danseparc has a character of its own; lyrically less abstruse - indeed, often precisely observational, with the unforgiving focus oif a documentary camera lense."

"Walking Into Walls, Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow), Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing, and Boys in the Bushes all merit a place among the treasures of their time, and still burst with life and energy."

"Now, if only whoever owns the rights to what may be the band's best album of all, 'This Is The Ice Age' (1981), would do us the favour of making it available again."

David Bennun,
The Mail on Sunday
10th August 2008