Between INXS and Midnight Oil, you couldn’t blame a major label artist and repertoire representative for trying to mine Australia for the next college rock success story.
I’m not sure where I heard about Boom Crash Opera, but I suspect it was probably in Pulse! magazine. Similar to Love and Money, I spotted a single for “Onion Skin” at Tower Records and thought, “This looks interesting enough.”
I was expecting Midnight Oil or Icehouse, but I ended up with something funkier and way more boisterous. I thought about picking up the band’s 1989 album These Here Are Crazy Times, but it lost out to many other releases that year.
Boom Crash Opera fell off my radar completely till I spotted the band’s self-titled debut at the Lifelong Thrift Shop. For $1, it seemed worth the risk, plus Alex Sadkin was listed as one of the producers. Sadkin worked with Duran Duran on Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
True to form, Sadkin’s studio wizardry coats Boom Crash Opera with an appealing sheen, but he doesn’t water down the band’s hard, funky sound. If I had been introduced to Boom Crash Opera with this album rather than “Onion Skin”, I might have become a casual fan. The writing on Boom Crash Opera is solid, and while the album’s production is an artifact of its time, it skews toward the era’s better angels.
Boom Crash Opera is still around and pretty much sticks to Australia these days. None of the band’s international releases are in print, nor available on streaming services.
Is there even anything left after June and July sucked all the air out of the release schedule?
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, Aug. 4
Nonesuch reissued this live album on vinyl in May, and now this remastered pressing arrives on CD.
Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins, Aug. 18
I have an ambivalent relationship with Grizzly Bear. Veckatimest was overrated, but I love Horn of Plenty. Everyone seems to like Yellow House, but I prefer Shields. I also think Department of Eagles does a better job at being Grizzly Bear than Grizzly Bear.
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains, Aug. 25
Not that I particularly liked Nick Oliveri, but I haven’t paid much attention to Queens of the Stone Age since his departure. And yet, I still have a crush on Josh Homme.
Living Colour, Shade, Sept. 8
Nobody noticed, but Living Colour’s 2009 album Chair in the Doorway was a return to form. It seems Living Colour runs on a six- to eight-year release cycle now.
Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs (20th Anniversary Edition), Sept. 15
I wondered why this album hadn’t yet received a vinyl reissue. Do you think maybe the labels would do the same for Fastball’s All the Pain Money Can Buy?
Prophets of Rage, Prophets of Rage, Sept. 15
(Rage Against the Machine – Zach de la Rocha) + People who are not Zach de la Rocha. Yes, yes, I know Chuck D is one of those people who is not Zach de la Rocha.
Trio de Kali and Kronos Quartet, Ladilikan, Sept. 15
Kronos sure has been flooding the store shelves with new recordings. I haven’t gotten around to the albums they released in 2016.
Behind the Shadow Drops, Harmonic, Sept. 22
Another solo project from MONO’s Takaakira Goto. Hey, Temporary Residence, how about a US release for Taka’s solo album Classical Punk & Echoes Under The Beauty while you’re at it?
… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Source Tags and Code, Aug. 11
Conundrum: I found a used copy months ago, but … bonus tracks, etched side.
Midnight Oil, Bird Noises, Aug. 11
Midnight Oil, Species Deceases, Aug. 11
It looks like The Complete Vinyl Box Set is getting split up. I’m keeping my eye out for Redneck Wonderland and Breathe.
Craig Armstrong, The Space Between Us, Aug. 25
A Massive Attack track here, a film score excerpt there, and, oh, Elisabeth Fraser.
Enya, The Very Best of Enya, Aug. 25
I don’t need this compilation on vinyl. I want this compilation on vinyl.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi, AKIRA Original Soundtrack, Sept. 15
Previous vinyl reissues of this soundtrack were bootlegs, so it’s nice to see Milan Records give it an official release. Also available on CD.
I usually publish this entry at the start of July. Unfortunately, all the releases in which I’m most interested came out in June, and I didn’t want to make hasty judgements. So I held off till I had a few weeks to live with these latecomers.
Labels, why did you all wait till the middle of the year? Couldn’t you have spread some of this joy over the previous 6 months?
Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome: This album really recaptures the sound and mood of her debut album.
Royal Wood, Ghost Light: This album was released in 2016 but limited to Canada. So I’m calling it a 2017 album because of its worldwide release in January. The Burning Bright is so far Wood’s best album, but Ghost Light isn’t a slump for a follow-up.
Renée Fleming, Distant Light: I’m not sure Fleming’s sound suits Samuel Barber’s Knoxville 1915, but the orchestral arrangements of Björk songs works really well.
RADWIMPS, Kimi no Na wa: I’m pretty much throwing this soundtrack on the list because the movie was amazing, and it’s impossible to hear “Katawaredoki” without tearing up. (You just have to watch the movie to understand.) The English version of the songs came out really well.
Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain: Amidon does some strange things with traditional material, but this time around he writes his own songs and lets his jazz side out a bit more.
Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs: Kronos takes a back seat to the singers — who include Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens and Natalie Merchant — but these arrangements of mostly traditional songs are far from genteel.
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound: Isbell is the kind of songwriter whose music continues to play in your head after it’s finished on the player.
Gaytheist, Let’s Jam Again Soon: Oh, it’s loud!
Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister, Planetarium: I don’t know if this album needs to be 75 minutes long, but it’s a fascinating listen nonetheless.
Compiling a Favorite Edition list for 2016 was tough, and the titles in the last half of the original list didn’t have solid locks on their rank, as the revised list now shows.
Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4
MONO, Requiem for Hell
Solange, A Seat at the Table
A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service
Perfume, COSMIC EXPLORER
Drive By Truckers, American Band
Cocco, Adan Ballet
Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle
Perfume has been around for years, but I’ve been mostly immune to their charms. Then someone set the viral clip of a neo-Nazi getting punched in the face on live TV to the 5/8 middle section of “Polyrhythm”. At first, I thought it was clever audio editing for the video, till I heard the song itself and discovered, no, it really does switch to 5/8.
I’ve been playing catch up ever since.
Utada Hikaru’s comeback was welcome, but Perfume provided some needed ear candy to offset the advent of the current leadership in Washington, D.C.
Ty Herndon’s post-coming out album is still indeed a fun, optimistic listen, but We Got It From Here was hip-hop’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth — both highly ambitious albums with little room for filler.
Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.
My first reaction to reading this old review of Longwave’s The Strangest Things was: Who’s the douchebag who wrote that crap?
Boy is that writing terrible. As much I roll my eyes at some of Pitchfork’s writing, my attempts to sound remotely worldly fell horrendously flat.
Around that time, I was going through a Dave Fridmann phase. He was the producer behind some of my favorite albums: SAPPUKEI by NUMBER GIRL, Dance, Dense and Denso by Molotov and Cuatros Caminos by Café Tacvba. I picked up Hate by the Delgados and The Strangest Things by Longwave because of his involvement.
Interpol ushered an era where labels signed up bands rehashing Joy Division. This era also included the garage rock revival spearheaded by the White Stripes, while other bands borrowed more than generously from Gang of Four. Franz Ferdinand, I’m looking at you.
My exasperation in the Longwave review was a result of this ’80s gold rush. These bands did a great job of sounding like their influences. I just didn’t get the sense they knew how to sound like themselves.
Now that we’re a decade and some change away from that context, I’m impressed by how well The Strangest Things endures. Longwave injected enough of a personality into their sound to differentiate themselves from similar bands.
I tried to listen to Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol but couldn’t get through it. I don’t even remember what the Stills sounded like.
I let the album go in one of my collection purges because my appreciation for Dave Fridmann’s production work wasn’t enough to overcome my ambivalence to American indie rock of that era. In 2003, I was still enamored of Shiina Ringo, ACO and Hatakeyama Miyuki.
I like the album enough now to have picked up a used copy on vinyl, but only after finding the CD for $1 at the Lifelong Thrift Shop.
Every last weekend in June, the main thoroughfare in my neighborhood closes down for a street festival celebrating gay pride. I usually spend about 10 minutes walking up and down the street to watch people, but I seldom stop at a booth.
That ended in 2016 when the newly-relocated Lifelong AIDS Alliance Thrift Shop set out a bunch of used CDs and vinyl for sale at $0.10 each. Of course, I had to stop and browse. I ended up with Juice Newton, Kim Carnes and Glenn Gould on vinyl, and Ryuichi Sakamoto, k.d. lang and This Mortal Coil on CD.
I had to go into the store to pay with a card, and that’s when I discovered the store’s basement. From street level, all I saw were vintage clothes. I didn’t know about the home furnishings and media down below.
Since that encounter, roughly 130 new titles in my collection come from the Lifelong Thrift Store. I visit the store twice a week, and it’s rare when I don’t leave with a disc or two. It’s tough to beat the $1 price point, but discount days netted me some real bargains. New York Dolls for $0.10? Pink Floyd’s The Wall for $0.75? Sure, OK.
I’ve also started visiting the Goodwill in my neighborhood, but that store’s stock isn’t as extensive as Lifelong’s. The Friends of the Seattle Public Library Annual Big Book Sale is another source of discounted discs.
Of course, many of the bargains I’m plundering could be heard through my Google Play Music subscription. How have visits to the thrift store introduced me to more new artists than automated suggestions based on my listening habits?
Simply put, recommendation engines can’t account for the research I’ve already done on my own. Yes, I know that fans of Perfume may also like Utada Hikaru and ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION. I probably fed the engine with the data to make that conclusion.
The engines also don’t seem to encourage much serendipity. I listen to Ty Herndon and Jason Isbell. The autogenerated recommendations would probably suggest something along the lines of either artist, but rarely anything that would intersect both. And if I listen to both Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, does it really need to bother offering Patty Griffin?
The shelves of thrift store are organized by alphabet and little else. The new arrival cart isn’t organized at all. You have to put in the work to scan each shelf for something interesting, and an encounter with one name can send me on a hunt for something else.
On one visit, I ran across the first two albums by the Streets. I’ve always been curious about Mike Skinner, and for a $1 each, it was a low-risk investment. Not a few weeks later, I found Boy in Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal, which I wouldn’t have thought to pick up had it not been for the Streets.
Thrift shops are usually dumping grounds for stock unwanted by record stores, as previously placed price tags on the discs can attest. And yes, it’s a lot of work sifting through piles of unwanted Ani DiFranco albums to find a copy of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew with few surface scratches.
But it’s the random encounter with something interesting — for example, a stage work by Harry Partch — that makes the effort worthwhile. It’s also nice to know that the $1 spent on a new favorite album goes to a charity that I support.
Back in 1986, you probably would have heard me bad-mouthing Don Johnson’s hit single, “Heartbeat.”
Johnson was the star of Miami Vice, a show created after a television executive jotted down the phrase “MTV cops”. It was a great show, critically-acclaimed at the time, but who could take its lead actor seriously as an actual MTV star?
I was a rock snob in training, but even I could recognize the folly of it.
Johnson was ubiquitous back then. Guys dressed like his character, Sonny Crockett, because evidently girls dug guys in pastels. I wasn’t immune to the craze either, except I also dug guys dressed in pastels.
Johnson’s second single, “Heartache Away”, featured the actor in a promotional video singing plaintively with flashbacks to a hot sex scene. It really exploited his sex symbol currency, and I didn’t mind a bit.
I really wanted to buy the album, but I had already declared out loud how ridiculous I found it. Three years later, the show was canceled.
I didn’t think about it again till I spotted a vinyl copy at the Lifelong Thrift Store. I hesitated at first because of that residual skepticism, but $0.25 was a price point low enough to take a risk.
Modern country radio has a more direct lineage to hard rock and hair metal from the ’80s than actual country music from the ’60s. Heartbeat could very well be subtitled The Shape of Country to Come. Tim McGraw could totally work the chorus of “Last Sound Love Makes”, and the only thing missing from “Lost In Your Eyes” and “Star Tonight” is slide guitar.
In that sense, Heartbeat is prophetic. Johnson wouldn’t give Blake Shelton any sleepless nights where vocals are concerned, but there’s a twang in his delivery that wouldn’t sound out of place on a country hitmaker.
Back in 1986, Heartbeat could be a considered a sad conclusion to Rick Springfield’s promise of pop-friendly hard rock. Instead, it’s a fascinating artifact on how ’80s rock would pivot into modern country.
They thought Rick Springfield was dreamy. My brother and I dug the catchiness of “Jesse’s Girl.”
Mom intervened in this fight, letting me take possession of the 7-inch singles, while my brother took the full album. He wasn’t about to share, of course. My sisters just wanted to look at the covers.
I was 9 years old when Working Class Dog turned Springfield into star, but looking back, I had to admit I wanted to look at the covers too.
Springfield was indeed dreamy, and I recognized it even if I was a few years away from translating that to actual desire.
By the time that inkling turned into a confusing suspicion, Springfield’s star had waned. It was all about Duran Duran, Huey Lewis and Sting then.
As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, the only Rick Springfield album you needed was a greatest hits collection, just for “Jesse’s Girl.”
That does Working Class Dog a disservice.
From start to finish, the album doesn’t let up its frenetic pace. Springfield does some hard swinging on “Red Hot and Blue Love” before stepping off the accelerator for the concluding track, “Sylvia”. In an interview with the AV Club, Springfield says he would lean more toward a heavier sound than his producer preferred.
For good or no, Working Class Dog became a template from which the Outfield and Bryan Adams would eventually draw. It’s tough to picture the ’80s without it.
My first encounter with Weezer was at a concert. A friend of mine had an extra ticket, and I was curious about the band, having heard about them for years.
It was not a pleasant introduction.
First, I had a beer in my hand and was about to take a sip when a frat boy bumped into me, spilling my drink. The motherfucker turned to me and said, “Watch where you’re going.” That did not put me in a receptive mood.
Weezer got on stage, and the only thing I heard was a bunch of songs ripping off the Pixies.
I said as much to my friend who asked me what I thought. He hadn’t yet discovered the Pixies.
I wrote off Weezer from that moment on.
There was just one problem. Rivers Cuomo is so totally my type.
Whenever I flipped through rock magazines, I would do a double-take whenever I spotted Cuomo, then feel let down when I discovered the cute guy in the pic was in that band I totally hated.
By 2002, I surrendered to my hormones and gave Weezer a chance. So I picked up Maladroit. I still wasn’t impressed, mostly because I was deep into Japanese indie rock. Among my friends who were Weezer fans, the post-Pinkerton albums were varying degrees of disappointment.
So Rivers Cuomo joined that cadre of musicians who I found attractive but could not support. I was not the target market.
I do make one exception: Pinkerton.
I found a copy of the album at the Lifelong Thrift Store and bought it on reputation alone. Whatever traces of the Pixies at which I scoffed in the concert aren’t found here. I might buy another Weezer album if it sounded like Pinkerton.
Similar to Billy Joel’s Storm Front, Pinkerton is the album to own if you don’t really like Weezer all that much.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes, the cover is incentive enough.
The Sibling Rivalry Collection Race precluded me from getting Steve Winwood’s Roll With It when it was released in 1988. My brother had already called dibs on Back in the High Life, which made Winwood his exclusive.
I feigned a lack of interest anyway because Winwood was at the peak of his solo career, and I had started my exploration of college rock by then. Winwood, by virtue of topping the charts, was immediately deemed square.
Except, he was kind of hot.
Not hot in the George Michael/Duran Duran sense of hot. More like a Robert Palmer/Huey Lewis kind of hot.
The cover of Roll With It dolled him up to look dangerous, but the back cover of the album drew my attention.
The album title is in the way, so let’s clear that up a bit.
Yup. I would have bought this album for a crotch shot. (An arse shot, too, now that we look closer.)
Would I have cared one whit about the music? Perhaps. At least, I would have pretended to.
In terms of hits singles, Roll With It didn’t have quite the same staying power as Back in the High Life, and I don’t think the cross promotion with a beer company did any favors to “Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do?” Reviews of the album weren’t enthusiastic, but sales-wise, it managed to ride the coattails of its predecessor.
I left the album on the store shelf safe in the knowledge that I just wasn’t the target audience, despite how much I wanted to stare at that crotch.
I have no such reluctance 29 years later, especially when a nice 12×12 LP cover can be had for $1 at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance Thrift Store. I could probably find a store clerk who would understand.