Music Notes – December 2009

December 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm (Uncategorized)

The monthly round-up of fine audio things…

1. Penetration – The Best of…

It’s quite common to describe the Adverts as the great lost punk band: The band that should have, but somehow didn’t. I’m certainly willing to make that case for TV Smith and the lads, but it’s worth considering Pauline Murray and Penetration too. Murray had one of those great soaring punk voices, and was often compared to Siouxsue Sioux and Poly Styrene (a lazy comparison in my opinion since their voices aren’t really similar) . On their best song “Don’t Dictate”  it’s clear she was a major talent. This EMI ‘best of” is a bit lumpy,but when they shine, they really shine. Along with the hits, the collection includes a versions of Patti Smith’s ‘Free Money” and Buzzcocks’  ‘Nostalgia.” But in my opinion, it’s worth having for the four demos included. The rough versions are actually better than the polished product. Penetration reformed last year and released a single on Damaged Goods.

2. A Damaged Christmas Gift for You

Just in time for the holidays: A Damaged Goods Christmas record which not only contains great songs, it also mocks Phil Spector. Included on the album are treats like Billy Childish, Thee Headcoatees, TV Smith, Goldblade and Poly Styrene, Wat Tyler, Holly Golightly and more.  One caution, the Emusic version contains a mistake – they substitute ‘Santa Claus’ by Thee Heacoatees for another of their songs, “Come in my mouth.” Uh huh.

3. Nirvana – Live at the Reading Festival

Last month, I fretted about Nirvana product diluting the original greatness of the band. I stand by those remarks, but this release is no cause for concern. This CD/DVD recording is outstanding. It’s worth buying both (they’re handily available in one set). It’s easy to forget how great Nirvana were, and what they achieved (or rather how little). Yes, yes, they inspired a host of lesser bands, but every great band does. The set list is impeccable, the sound marvellous. It’s important.

4. The Avengers

What’s San Francisco 70s punk band The Avengers main claim to fame? They supported the Sex Pistols on their last show. True, they really should be remembered for their musical merits. There are a couple of Avengers CDs knocking around – mostly scattered singles coupled with demos and live songs. I got a copy of their only real album last week, but even that isn’t quite true. The CD features different versions of their singles (produced by Sex Pistol Steve Jones) and only a couple of live cuts. Crisp, powerful punk. available on lead singer Penelope Spieres’ web site.  

5. The Clash – Revolution Rock

I only saw the Clash once; in 1982 at the CNE in Toronto with Black Uhuru opening. Topper was already gone, but they played a great set. REvolution Rock is an odds and sods collection of live performances from the Clash’s career. Some pretty good footage, although putting in the video for Tommy Gun is a bit of a cheat. Not essential, but entertaining. (I prefer to watch the just play songs feature of Rude Boy.) Make sure you switch of the commentary function when you watch. The voice over grates in no time.

6. The Stone Roses – Live at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom

I mentioned this album a few months back, but I didn’t get around to watching the DVD until the past weekend. Along with half a dozen videos, the DVD features a recording of their August 12, 1989 show at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom. The concert dates to a couple of months after the release of The Stone Roses, and shows the band at their peak. Confident without being arrogant, it’s a fascinating moment in any band’s career.  

7. Best Coast – Make you Mine

A crunchy five song EP only available from Emusic. Song people have posted that Bethany Costentino’s sound is too affected, but to my ears it’s loud, exciting 4-track punk. Check out their myspace page for a listen.

8. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name

Not sure what to make of RATM’s “Killing in the Name” being the UK’s much coveted number 1 Christmas single. An internet campaign led to this digital download being the number 1. I saw RATM with Cyprus Hill in 1993. At the climax of this song, Zack de la Rocha led the crowd in the refrain: “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me!” There’s something about a crowd of two thousand plus chanting, I won’t do what you tell me at the behest of a man on stage, that sets off the irony meter.

Me, I prefer Billy Mack’s “Christmas is all Around” from the movie Love Actually. The movie features every working British actor who isn’t part of the Harry Potter franchise (and quite a few who are). Mack is played by the marvellous Bill Nighy, who plays an aging rocker trying to make a comeback by recording a cover of the Trogg’s classic. As Mack explains to an initially bemused, then horrified DJ on air: it’s basically the old song but instead of love, we’ve put the word Christmas every fucking where. Please buy it so I can afford drugs and booze and get groupies again.

9.  Fucked Up – Do they Know it’s Christmas?’

Well, we all hated the song when it came out, but… Anyway, here’s Toronto’s Fucked Up with help from members of Vampire Weekend, and Yo la Tengo , as well as Bob Mould, Tegan and Sara and others. It’s to benefit charities raising awareness about the high rate of disappearances of aboriginal women in Canada. good cover; good cause.

10. Fatman

I know this shouldn’t be for commerical plugs, but in the spirit of the season,  I bought an i-Tube Carbon Edition II a few days ago. The sound is s00o lovely. MP3s often sound tinny with no bass, but the tubes do really boost the sound creating a much warmer noise to enjoy. Got mine at Bay-Bloor Radio in Toronto. Merry Christmas.

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