Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Dogs • “Ain’t Going Nowhere” (7″ EP)

dogs-aintgoingnowhereWhat makes a punk record today? Über clean ‘n’ whiny vocals amidst perfectly tuned guitars bought for the band by mom and dad? Major label distribution during a tour that the band paid to get on? Or is it a 4-song EP on white vinyl, limited to just 200 copies, put out by a tiny label that’s not in business to make money, by a band of three friends who’ve been playing together off and on for decades just for the sake of playing together? I’d say that’s more likely to be it.

In this case, The Dogs‘ new 7″ “Ain’t Going Nowhere” has a quartet of original punk tunes that rock harder than most of what’s being put out today, by a band that’s got experience in both playing the music AND living the life. The title track, which is the better of the four songs – though the other three are awfully good, too – is about “living the dream” that’s become a nightmare and is likely going nowhere. Fed up? Yeah! Giving up? Hell, no!

Unlike lots of releases that are “limited editions” (say something put out for Record Store Day), this release is highly unlikely to come out again. That’s part of the punk rock ethos – let’s put this out now because this is what we’re feeling NOW. It ain’t gonna last forever, either, so if you want one you’ll have to get off yer ass and find it in your local punk rock record shop NOW. Or, better yet: go see The Dogs when they play your town. If neither of those is an option for ya, then follow the link below and order yourself one, now.

4/5 (Smelvis Records; more info at: http://www.smelvisrecords.com/the-dogs.html)

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George Martin • All You Need Is Ears (Book)

martin_ears-1RIP Sir George Martin (1926-2016)

This 1979 autobiography was written by George Martin with Jeremy Hornsby. It’s the tale of Martin’s life, growing up in post-WWI England, joining the Royal Navy, attending music school (to learn piano and oboe), going to work for the BBC and then EMI, a British company that had a number of record labels, including Columbia and Parlophone. Martin worked his way up at the latter label and eventually started producing records, including comedy records by The Goons (featuring Peter Sellers). In 1962 he stuck his neck out to check out Liverpool’s finest, finally signed them to the label, and you know the rest.

All You Need Is Ears is interesting for the stories in it, though they’re not told with the most exciting of prose. Still, I enjoyed hearing the anecdotes from Martin’s own mouth. At this point in my life I’ve read more books on The Beatles than probably everything else in the world combined, so Martin’s own opinions about some of the happenings are appreciated. Granted, though, that at the time he wrote this all four Beatles were still alive so there was likely a good helping of diplomacy added to the narration. Either way, if you can find this book online or in your local library it’s a good, quick read.

We will probably never know a phenomenon like The Beatles again, and we wouldn’t have gotten the chance to in the first place if it wasn’t for a small number of people like George Martin who had the ears to hear it.

3/5 (St. Martin’s Press, USA, 1979)

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Supergrass • I Should Coco (20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 3CD)

ishouldcoco-350pxIf they left anything off of this exhaustive 3CD reissue of British band Supergrass‘s debut album, I Should Coco, I can’t imagine what. The band entered the Britpop sweepstakes a little on the late side with this 1995 album but they had more balls than Blur, Oasis or any of the other groups lumped into that genre that have now been forgotten by all but the most hardcore Britpop fans.

What you get here is the original 13 song album on disc one, followed by the superlative disc two that collects “demos/B-sides/out-takes/curios” including their first two (pre-Parlophone) singles, numerous B-sides and demos and a real solid idea of how this trio put together their initial repertoire. I love the kickass studio demo of “Lose It,” the cover of “Stone Free” (appeared on the 7″ single that came with initial vinyl copies of the ’95 issue and is also included in the current vinyl reissue), and the original Backbeat Records versions of “Strange Ones” and “Sitting Up Straight.” But they’re all quite good! Then there’s disc three, which is dedicated to live versions of their tunes recorded at Bath Moles in October 1994 and in France at La Route Du Rock in August 1995. You get to hear the progression from punk nutters to (slightly less punk) nutters in under a year, just before they recorded their utterly brilliant sophomore release, In It for the Money.

Supergrass_bandSupergrass toned down the punk rock energy after I Should Coco, and they got better despite that. Their ability to write and arrange unforgettable pop melodies was hardly bettered during the ’90s, as demonstrated by the singles “Mary,” “Seen the Light,” “Pumping on Your Stereo” and “Rush Hour Soul.”  Though they didn’t score the number of hits that their Britpop elders did, they certainly couldn’t be accused of not putting ’em out there. The public didn’t buy them and that was the public’s loss. Here in early 2016, listening to “Alright,” “Lenny” and their killer cover of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” I long for the times when bands wrote energetic power pop songs with king-sized hooks and I gobbled them up. Right now it seems like those days are gone, so here’s to hoping either Supergrass gets back together or somebody takes up the torch real soon!

4/5 (Parlophone 1995/2015)

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