All posts by Greg Bueno

My brother’s albums: Rick Springfield, Working Class Dog

[Rick Springfield - Working Class Dog]

This entry in the Sibling Rivalrly Collection Race is so old, it involves my sisters.

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.

 

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My ambivalent relationship with Weezer

[Weezer - Pinkerton]

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.

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Vinyl find: Steve Winwood, Roll With It

[Steve Winwood - Roll With It]

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.

[Steve Winwood - Roll With It (Back cover)]

The album title is in the way, so let’s clear that up a bit.

[Steve Winwood - Roll With It (Back cover without title)]

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.

 

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Looking ahead, June-July 2017

[Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain]

Even after posting a preview of June, more titles were announced as May wore on. Seriously, labels, why are you all putting all this stuff out in one month? You got 12 from which to choose.

Beth Ditto, Fake Sugar, June 16

I was sad to see Gossip split up, but it did feel like the group had gone as far as it could.

Wendy and Lisa, Eroica (Deluxe Edition), June 16

I was wondering when a deluxe edition of this album would appear. Even Fruit at the Bottom got a deluxe treatment.

Onitsuka Chihiro, Tiny Screams, June 21

Onitsuka Chihiro has released a number of live DVDs, but Tiny Screams is her first live album.

Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (Deluxe Edition), June 23

Of course, I’ll be getting this reissue, but the deluxe edition on my wish list is Parade.

Radiohead, OK Computer OKNOTOK, June 23

I picked this album up for $1 at the Seattle Public Library Book Sale back in March 2017 in an attempt to understand its appeal. I’ve encountered OK Computer over the years, but it has never left enough of an impression with me to warrant its unadulterated praise.

TLC, TLC, June 30

How is it I own every TLC album except Ooooh, On the TLC Tip!?

LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, Love Your Love, July 5

It’s been four years since Delico released an album, but the duo has never seen the need to rush.

k.d. lang, Ingenue (25th Anniversary Edition), July 14 (Vinyl, Aug. 18)

File under: The one album you would own of an artist if you bought nothing else from that artist.

Arcade Fire, Everything Now, July 28

I ended up at an Arcade Fire concert because I wanted to see Explosions in the Sky. It was one of the best live shows I’ve seen. But the only album I really own is Funeral.

Anne Dudley, Plays the Art of Noise, TBD (US/UK, out now in Japan)

Art of Noise was always so coy about who did what, but in those early years, I had inkling Anne Dudley brought in the music, while everyone else brought in the noise. Later interviews would confirm that was exactly the case.

Vinyl

The Cranberries, Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, June 16

The soundtrack to romantic comedy movie trailers.

Helmet, Meantime, June 23

I remember reading about the bidding war to sign Helmet to a major label deal. I bought the album out of curiosity and wondered how Interscope was going to recoup its advance.

Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Elite Hotel, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Luxury Liner, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, July 5
Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl, July 5

Did you miss out on the Record Store Day boxed set, Queen of the Silver Dollar? It looks like the box is being broken out into individual releases. Or you can find fairly decent used copies of these albums for a bargain.

Soundtrack, Pride and Prejudice, July 7

The soundtrack to the film with Keira Knightley is actually pretty good, but like everything else about Pride and Prejudice, it’s not as good as the BBC mini-series.

Beyoncé, Lemonade, July 28

Unofficial pressings of this album have been in local record shops for a while now.

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Rewind: At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command

[At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command]

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.

Once again, quantity trumped quality, this time with my review for Relationship of Command by At the Drive-In.

Given its length and lack of opinion, the review did nothing more than meet a quota. By the time I got around to writing about the album, the band had broken up.

(Now that I’m writing about them again, they’ve just released a new album. Of course, I’m writing this entry beforehand, so I haven’t heard it yet.)

I picked up Relationship of Command because I had listened to a few tracks at a Tower Records listening station, and I was struck by how much At the Drive-In reminded me of NUMBER GIRL, which I mention in the review.

To be honest, it couldn’t dislodge all the Japanese indie rock that monopolized my car CD player. NUMBER GIRL, SUPERCAR, Cocco and Shiina Ringo released career-making albums in 2000, and the fact At the Drive-In didn’t sing in Japanese was a strike against them.

Relationship of Command is also an album that I can’t queue for casual listening. It screams for attention — quite literally — and it’s tough not to get immersed in all that agitation. When it came time for a collection purge, it was a prime candidate.

Oddly enough, I started to miss the album. Despite not internalizing it as thoroughly as, well,  NUMBER GIRL, I felt a bit of regret having let it go.

So when I spotted it at a Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale, I brought it back into the fold.

It’s still not an album I can play casually, but I’m not holding that against it.

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Catching up: The Books, Thought for Food

[The Books - Thought for Food]

I worked at Waterloo Records from 2002 to 2005, and while it wasn’t the most lucrative job, it was one of the most influential.

It also taught me the quickest way to kill enthusiasm about music is to work at a record store.

For the most part, everyone on staff got along. We all shared different aspects of the same sense of humor, fueled by skepticism of the world in general and customers’ tastes in particular.

None of us could fathom why Bob Schneider or Norah Jones sold tons of discs, but we rang up those purchases anyway because, hey, paycheck!

The one point of contention that threatened this egalitarian ideal was the in-store player. We could play six tracks of anything we sold in the store. Some staffers were more aggressive about queueing items up, and a large portion of the staff preferred those items to be garage rock.

I would make some controversial picks myself — Duran Duran being a natural choice. Enya was one that caused a miniature staff meeting.

Thought For Food by the Books was one of those rare instances where I would stop what I was doing and see what was playing. It was a fleeting experience, though — something else would come on the player that would erase my desire to see what was queued up next.

I didn’t actually listen to the album all the way through till I found it at a book sale for the Seattle Public Library. I picked it up knowing I vaguely liked what I heard.

I can now say I concretely liked what I heard. It’s equal parts Slint and Scott Johnson, the sampled voices contributing musically to the laid back post-rock.

As much as I like the album now, I’m not sure I would have liked it as much then. I was still deep into Japanese indie rock, and it would be another five years before I dove deeper into the Temporary Residence catalog.

I may not have meshed with my coworkers taste-wise, but they did help strengthen my opinion on what I liked while also showing me how to expand those tastes.

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The ones that nearly got away: Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs

[Shawn Colvin - A Few Small Repairs]

The success of Shawn Colvin’s A Few Small Repairs was a huge deal in Austin.

Despite its billing as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, the Austin music scene didn’t have much of a national profile beyond music industry insiders. Seattle had its moment with grunge, and Prince was synonymous with Minneapolis.

Austin had a statue to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I had heard about Shawn Colvin before I moved to Austin in May 1997 — 20 years ago this month! — but I hadn’t heard any of her music. My parents still didn’t have cable television when I moved away, so tuning into MTV in the St. Edwards University apartments where the Austin American-Statesman housed its interns was pretty novel.

That’s where I encountered the video for “Sunny Came Home.” The chorus of the song grabbed me, and of course, it was all over local radio. Before there was Kanye vs. Taylor Swift, P. Diddy infamously grabbed the mic from Colvin as she was accepting her Grammy award.

The late ’90s were kind to the Austin music scene. Flush from the dot-com boom, transplants such as myself were eager to spend our cash, and the entertainment districts in Austin gladly took it. Beside the usual country acts, Austin supported singer-songwriters and indie rock bands. Colvin was the first to emerge nationally, followed a year later by Fastball.

I hadn’t been to many concerts before moving to Austin, and it was the live music experience that made me realize gay bars weren’t really that much fun.

A Few Small Repairs and my first summer in Austin are pretty much entwined.

Then the economy tanked four years later, and A Few Small Repairs got traded for cash. My motivation for selling the album was based on the reason I bought it: peer pressure.

I really hadn’t chosen to live in Austin — it was just the place that allowed me to leave Honolulu. By embracing the local music scene, I could embrace the city that was to become my home.

The dot-com bust landed me a job at Waterloo Records, where I was subjected to music I just didn’t like. Up until then, I tried to be a cheerleader for everything new I encountered, but that experience made me realize I didn’t have to like everything.

As money got tight, I couldn’t justify devoting shelf space to an album if I liked only one song on it, so A Few Small Repairs got purged.

I was wrong, of course. A Few Small Repairs had more than one great song on it, as evidenced by “Get Out of This House”, the track following “Sunny Came Home”. “Wichita Skyline” and “Nothin’ On Me” provide further evidence.

I did have the presence of mind to rip the album before I sold it, suspecting I was making a foolish decision, which I confirmed years later when I found that rip and listened to it.

I wouldn’t welcome the album back into my collection till I found it at a book sale for the Friends of the Seattle Public Library.

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Looking ahead: May-June 2017

[U2 - The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Edition)]

It seems all the bands in which I’m interested all decided to release their albums in May and June. To date, I have a total of four 2017 releases since the start of the year. Putting together the Favorite Edition Half Year is going to be tricky.

At the Drive-In, in*ter al*li*a, May 5

I can’t figure out why I’m looking forward this late-coming follow-up to Relationship of Command, an album I like but can’t listen to very often. And I wasn’t enough of a fan to follow either Mars Volta or Sparta.

Café Tacvba, Jei Beibi, May 5

I find it interesting that Café Tacvba is releasing this album through CD Baby. That means they’ve gone completely independent.

Midnight Oil, Full Tank, May 7
Midnight Oil, Overflow Tank, May 7

Tempting as these complete boxed sets may be, my current Midnight Oil collection occupies quite a bit of shelf space. Also, the import markup makes these sets fiscally untenable. Hey Sony, fans outside of Australia might be interested in some of these releases.

Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte, May 12

It’s a visual album about a man going into outer space to find the woman of his dreams. I would be interested to see how Café Tacvba would tackle the same plot.

PWR BTTM, Pageant, May 12

Anyone who has Grindr or Scruff installed on his phone would probably check out a band called PWR BTTM.

Art of Noise, In Visible Silence (Deluxe Edition), May 19

The weirdest album I acquired in 1986. The b-sides are terrific.

Kishida Shigeru, Symphony No. 1, May 24

If the orchestral work Kishida released last year as a digital single is any indication, don’t expect a musical metamorphosis on the level of C. Kip Winger.

Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain, May 26

His first album of original music.

Cody Chesnutt, My Love Divine Degree, June 2

It’s been a while. I had wondered if another 10 years would pass before another Cody Chesnutt album would arrive.

U2, The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), June 2

I already have the 20th Anniversary edition, so really, I just want the white cover with the color photo.

Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs, June 9

For a while there, I thought Kronos had moved on from Nonesuch, given the number of albums the ensemble has released on other labels. This collaborative album with Sam Amidon, Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens and Olivia Chaney is the first Kronos has released on Nonesuch since 2012, not counting various anthologies.

Dan Messe, Amelie: A New Musical, June 9

I’m not sure what draws me to this cast recording — the fact it’s based on Amelie or the fact it was written by a member of Hem.

Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister, Planetarium, June 9

Well, somebody had to update Gustav Mahler’s The Planets

The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts, June 16

Jonny Pierce goes full Roland Orzabal ca. 1993, becoming the sole member of his band The Drums.

Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, June 16

I would be OK with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson releasing albums on alternating years.

Vinyl

Midnight Oil, The Vinyl Collection, May 7

I would like to get Redneck Wonderland, Breathe and Head Injuries on vinyl. I could do without Capricornia, Earth and Sun and Moon and Place Without a Postcard. Maybe separate releases down the line? Outside Australia, even??

Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, May 12

Harris’ shows at the Ryman gave the venue new life, and she returns for the venue’s 125th anniversary. So of course a reissue (on vinyl!) is in order.

En Vogue, Funky Divas, June 9

I’m disappointed rock bands haven’t turned “Free Your Mind” into a crossover classic.

Enya, A Day Without Rain, June 16
Enya, Amaratine, July 14

A Day Without Rain is Enya’s weakest album, and Amaratine went a long way to rectify it. That won’t stop me from getting both of them.

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1970s)

[New York Dolls - New York Dolls]

The album that started my collection was Extensions by Manhattan Transfer. The hit single from the album, “Twilight Tone”, took the iconic hook of The Twilight Zone theme song and turned it into a post-disco hit. My 7-year-old ear loved it to death, and I wouldn’t stop pestering my parents till I had the album in my possession.

That’s the earliest, cognizant memory I have of music. Before that, I just hummed along with whatever was playing on the radio, my vocabulary not developed enough to understand any of the lyrics, let alone remember song titles or artist names.

The majority of albums on this list were discovered many years after their original release. I didn’t want to exclude music from the first decade of my life just because I hadn’t yet developed listening habits.

Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, Xanadu

My brother owned this album.

Gang of Four, Entertainment!

I checked this record out of the library back in high school, but I didn’t understand it at the time. I had to go through a schooling in punk and post-punk before I could seek this album again. I became so enamored of it, I snatched up tickets to the original line-up’s tour in 2005.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

I didn’t take the plunge with this album till it was available on eMusic, but I’ve known about it since high school.

Yvonne Elliman, Love Me

I heard Elliman’s singles all over radio, but I never learned who she was because DJs had that awful habit of never mentioning who was playing. It would take a few decades before I would seek out the album with her most memorable music.

Clannad, Clannad 2

No Clannad collection should exclude the six folk albums, but if I had to choose one, Clannad 2 would be it.

Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky

No Emmylou Harris collection should exclude her first six albums, but if I had to choose one, Pieces of the Sky would be it.

New York Dolls, New York Dolls

My introduction to David Johannsen was not through the New York Dolls but through Buster Poindexter. Given the Dolls’ Velvet Underground-like influence, I’m sure I would have found my way to this album through some other means.

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1980s)

[The Art of Noise - In Visible Silence]

In 1987, I turned 15 years old, an age when music discovery exerted its strongest pull. The same Spotify analysis that charted music tastes over time claims most teen-agers highly identify with popular titles. Had the same study been done when I was a teen, I probably would have been an outlier point.

Kronos Quartet, Black Angels

The first Kronos Quartet album I purchased was Winter Was Hard, and it was something of a Reader’s Digest for modern classical music. Then Black Angels followed, and it exploded my perception of what music could be.

John Zorn, Naked City

I was a pissed-off teen for a lot of reasons, most of them mundane. But it gave me drive to find music that would alienate everyone around me, and the howls of Yamantaka Eye and John Zorn fit the bill nicely.

In Tua Nua, The Long Acre

This album introduced me to the idea that popularity is not the same thing as merit. I couldn’t find a filler track anywhere on this album, and the confrontational “The Innocent and the Honest Ones” mirrored my own dissatisfaction with being raised in a monotheistic culture. It should have been a hit, but mostly, you’ll find it in the 99 cent bins.

U2, The Joshua Tree

U2 had to score a number one album in order for radio stations in Hawaii to pay attention. I knew about the band beforehand but hadn’t taken the plunge till I saw the video for “With or Without You.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of flack for his signature hit tunes, but for a young burgeoning composer, his scores are incredibly instructional. I’ve yet to encounter another pop writer who can make a hook out of an atonal melody.

The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence

Before I learned about Kronos Quartet, John Zorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber, I encountered the Art of Noise. I would later learn (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! had some bonafide songcraft, but its follow-up, In Visible Silence, essentially jettisoned all that.

Arcadia, So Red the Rose

Of the two Duran Duran splinter projects from 1985, Arcadia hews closest to the parent band and engenders the most sentiment from long-time fans.

Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George arrived at time in my life when I was just starting to learn about modern classical music. I looked to Lloyd Webber to bridge my interests in classical and pop musics, and I turned to Sondheim to go further into modernism.

Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

I loved Eurythmics singles, but their albums tended to have quite a bit of filler. Sweet Dreams is the deserved obvious choice, but Savage and In the Garden deserve some props.

Duran Duran, Rio

This tops my Desert Island Disc list, so of course, it’s going to be here.

Wendy Carlos, TRON Original Soundtrack

I listened to this soundtrack to death because I loved the computer graphics of the movie. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered how rich Carlos’ harmonic language was. This soundtrack pretty much planted the seed that would be nourished by the Art of Nosie, Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and classical music after 1900.

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