Music Notes November 2011

November 30, 2011 at 3:20 am (Uncategorized)

It’s the end of the month as we know it and I feel fine…

1. Chris Isaak – Beyond the Sun

I’m a little alarmed that of Chris Isaak’s last five releases, there’s only been one of new songs: the others are a Christmas album, a greatest hits package, a live recording and now this one, Beyond the Sun.  That said, this is a pretty fine record. If you spring for the deluxe edition you get 25 covers of classic Sun recordings by Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and many more. The ballads work better that the rockers, which could do with a little more oomph, but if you’re a fan of Isaak, it’s a great addition.  

2. The Pepperpots – Train to your Lover

And here’s a very pleasant surprise. The Pepperpots, though they may sound like Motown circa mid-60s are in fact a ten-piece band from Spain. Fantastic sound. I’m not sure if they are revivalists (this is their fourth record) or this is an homage, but it’s simply amazing. Become a convert. 

3. Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo – Almanac

The first I heard of Emily Barker was as the voice behind the theme music to the Wallander TV series. Fragile, haunting folk which fit the show perfectly. This album is more of that. Timeless sounds.

4. Lykke Li – “Unchained Melody”

A song she performed in concert at her Toronto show. Not sure if this is being released anytime soon, but I got it as a download from Pitchfork or maybe Soundgum. Look around, it’s all over the net. The cover is spare. But lovely.

5. Sex Pistols – Filthy Lucre

Not sure why I picked this up. When the Pistols reformed, I swore I would never go to see them. It seemed a cash grad. This record, now 15 years old, equally so, but I guess I was curious. Compared to the Winterland final show, the sound is better and the playing toop. But the fire is missing. The spark isn’t there, and while Lydon’s vocals are fine, they ultimately aren’t convincing. What does make this interesting is the set list: “Did you No Wrong,” ” Seventeen,” “No Fun” and even “Stepping Stone.” No simply Bollocks live. Worth a listen, but by no means essential.

6. Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material

And now we go all the way back. This was probably my favourite album of 1979. Tremendous.  I sang along, time after time. Now, thirty years later, I realise it hasn’t aged so well. “Rough Trade” sounds weak. “Closed Groove” rather embarrassing. In many places the lyrics seem trite. But that said, it’s still a fine album. “Suspect Device” and “State of Emergency” still have an amazing claustrophobia about them. I still love the middle section of Barbed Wire love, and “Johnny Was” still inspires me to stop what I’m doing. Top marks too for the bravery to record “White Noise.” Irony is always a risky proposition, but taking the language of racism and throwing it back is a brave thing. The CD re-issues are thin though, so how about a deluxe edition with remastered sounds and demos. C’mon, I’ll buy it!

7. The Specials – The Specials

And speaking of discs crying out for the deluxe treatment, how about the Specials debut? It holds up well and livens up any Saturday night. Rude Boys, Rude Boys!

8. Babyshambles – Down in Albion

Like his friend Peter Perrett, Pete Doherty has serious drug problems which tend to overshadow his serious talent. It would be a tragedy if Doherty followed the path of so many and ended up dead in a hotel room somewhere. Down in Albion isn’t great by the libertines standard, but it’s a passable record. And on songs like “Fuck Forever” and “Pipedown” Doherty does make pop gold. Avoid the plodding reggae cuts though.

9. Big Star – Nobody Can Dance

A collection of demos and odds and ends of Big Star material. If you’re a fan, it’s an essential addition; if you’re not, it’s not the best place to start, but make sure you go there eventually. A Norton release.

10.  The Long Ryders – Native Sons

Ten years earlier or later and the Long Ryders would have been huge. as it was they were lumped in with the neo-psychodelic Paisley underground and never really achieved the status they should have. Country rock with an emphasis on the latter. The spirit of Gram.

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