Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Saints • (I’m) Stranded (LP, CD)

saints-imstranded-LP_400x400Forty years ago this month a scruffy Australian foursome called The Saints recorded their debut single, “(I’m) Stranded” b/w “No Time” and unknowingly gave birth to the prototype for a movement that would eventually discard them for not fitting in.

That record – which gave title to the band’s debut album, (I’m) Stranded – was likely the first punk single recorded, before the Sex Pistols, The Damned or the Ramones*, yet that fact is constantly disregarded by those who believe (get this!) there’s a certain order to accepted punk rock history and it shouldn’t be messed with.

A quick recap of The Saints’ history shows that Chris Bailey (vocals), Ed Kuepper (guitar), Kym Bradshaw (bass) and Ivor Hay (drums) formed a band in Brisbane, Australia in 1974. There were no clubs featuring bands playing original music (much like today) so The Saints booked halls and created their own gigs. stranded_fatalEventually word got out that there was a hot young band playing gritty, loud, fast songs of their own that spoke to working class youth and with a growing following the band decided to put out a record. That 7″ appeared on their own Fatal Records in Australia and led to an independent UK release that eventually reached the English arm of global EMI Records, who promptly signed them to a deal. By this time The Damned and Sex Pistols had already been signed and released their own debut singles. The Saints relocated to London after recording the album (which the band thought was actually a demo), gigged and got written about, recorded a second album with a horn section (the amazing Eternally Yours), took a cursory shot at playing the game but found it wasn’t for them, and by early 1979 called it quits.

(I’m) Stranded lives on as one of the most brutal, confident records ever released – whether you call it punk, rock or whatever. The snotty, snarly vocals of Bailey were a perfect fit for Kuepper’s totally raw guitar tone and the two’s ability to write songs with attitude – unmatched then and now. Released in February 1imstranded-EMI_400px977, the album thundered out of the speakers like nothing before it. It bears a bit of a resemblance to The Stooges’ Raw Power, if that record was cranked up to twice the speed. It’s hard to understand the lyrics, but it’s easy to feel the vibe. In fact, if ever you needed a record to epitomize what lo-fi sounds like, this is it. (I’m) Stranded is raw power, alright. It’s a punch in the face, not from some cartoon kid with a mohawk, piercings and de rigeur ripped leather jacket, but from a real guy in a ratty t-shirt with long hair and a chip on his shoulder from years of being fucked with by mom, dad, school, the cops, etc., just for not fitting in.

Sure, the Sex Pistols came from a similar situation, but they were caricatures created by a media-playing egotist. Their attitude was forced on them and their songs were written around their manager’s ideas of what would speak to their chosen audience. The Saints wrote about what they wanted to, unconcerned with adapting any particular stance except their own. They didn’t wear a pre-conceived uniform, they wore what they had. They were true punks. And since they didn’t fit into the media-dictated mold, The Saints were cast off and left behind. Fine by them.

Even against quintessential punk album contenders like Damned, Damned, Damned and The Clash, (I’m) Stranded is the clear champion. Forty years of being overlooked makes it that much more of an outsider’s bible than if it had been consistently hailed as a classic. As Chris Bailey himself says today, “The world needs scumbags like The Saints to exist somewhat outside the pale.”

* It has been pointed out to me that Ramones’ first LP came out in April of 1976, so it is possible that The Saints may have heard it prior to recording “(I’m) Stranded” in June ’76. However, with the speed that underground information got arounnd the world 40 years ago, it’s a safe bet that word (or audio sample) didn’t get down to Oz in time for the already-established Saints to adapt their sound. Way more likely, as Damian Lovelock of the Celibate Rifles points out in the video below – definitely worth watching – the Ramones, Saints and Pistols all came up with their similar approaches simultaneously, independently of each other.

5/5 (Harvest/EMI; now Parlophone)

To learn more about what makes this album so great, check out this documentary.

saints_videoscreen

 

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The Kinks • Everybody’s in Show-Biz (2CD)

kinks_everybodysinshowbiz_400pxI’ll admit it. I avoided Everybody’s in Show-Biz for years for the simple reason that I thought the cover looked real cheesy. The cartoon illustration surrounding a colorized pic of Ray Davies crooning just looked so un-rock ‘n’ roll that I figured the songs on it must also be that way. Now, I’ve been a fan of The Kinks for quite awhile so it was only a matter of time before I gave the album a chance. That chance has come now, with the release of a Legacy Edition of this 1972 double album.

The original issue of Show-Biz was a 2LP affair with one record devoted to new studio tracks and the other to recent live recordings. My guess is that the record label (RCA here in the States) felt the need to bolster the new tunes with live renditions of songs already familiar to Kinks fans, as the band’s following in the US wasn’t at an all-time high. On the live record you got the addition of songs performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in March ’72, including tunes from Muswell Hillbillies (their previous release) as well as “Lola,” which was their biggest/most recent hit. Well, if that was the idea – to add familiarity to help sell the product – it wasn’t enough to katapult the record into the upper reaches of the charts. They should’ve added more familiar live cuts to achieve that end. That, by the way, has been sorted out on this new edition, which features a further 13 live tracks including “Sunny Afternoon” and “’Till the End of the Day.” Yet, even without these great live tracks, Everybody’s in Show-Biz is a stone-cold Kinks klassic.

kinks_showbiz-adRay Davies’ new tunes on Show-Biz are all of his top-shelf variety, even if you take away “Celluloid Heroes,” which is acknowledged by most to be one of the man’s best tunes. It comes last on the studio record, so you gotta listen to the other nine songs first. No problem. Drop the needle (oh, I mean, pop in the disc and hit play) on “Here Comes Yet Another Day” and enjoy the ride through “Hot Potatoes,” “Sitting in My Hotel,” and brother Dave’s “You Don’ Know My Name” and you’ll understand why I say this is as good as The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else or Arthur. Man! I love this record. The band is indeed making a transition from the garage/hard rockin’ ’60s version to a more mature one, but that doesn’t mean the songs suffer – at all. What you get here is an almost middle-aged Ray Davies sorting out the current condition of his life and career, out loud in front of you, me and everyone, with stupendous results.

Kolor me embarrassed that it took a value-priced deluxe edition for me to embrace Everybody’s in Show-Biz. For less than twenty bucks you, too, can be in show biz. Just like the ad there says.

5/5 (Legacy/RCA)

Here’s a live rendition of “Celluloid Heroes” from 1979 with some superb lead guitar from Dave Davies.

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Paul McCartney • Pure McCartney (4CD, 2CD, 4LP)

puremccartneyIt’s amazing that Paul McCartney hadn’t gotten around to a compilation of his solo/Wings material of this magnitude until now. Pure McCartney follows in the footsteps of his previous best-ofs in that it completely overlooks chapters of his output as if he’s embarrassed by them… Or warning the marketplace that a certain album is about to be given the Archive Series treatment and thus including none of its tracks. Could he be that canny? That crass? I hate to say it: Yes.

As is the custom these days, this compilation comes in multiple form factors: you have the budget 2CD version, the 4LP version and the mega 4CD version. With 67 tracks on this behemoth, you’d think Macca could cover all of the ground he’s trodden since his first solo album in 1970 and yet he completely avoids Driving Rain (not the greatest album), Run Devil Run (a ’90s album of covers) and 1989’s brilliant Flowers in the Dirt. I’d expect a 4CD collection of a 45 year solo career to favor some albums more than others – Band on the Run and Ram are heavily represented – but I’d also figure at least one song from each album would be manageable. And since Flowers is such a classic, you’d think a big hit like “My Brave Face” would make the cut. Nope. (Don’t get me started on the fact that there’s only two songs from Venus and Mars here.) There’s no reason to not represent Flowers except that he’s trying to avoid cannibalising an Archive Series release later in the year. And that smacks of pure commercialism.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 5.32.25 PMMy grumbling aside, Pure McCartney still has no trouble showing what a brilliant songwriter, bass player and singer the man is. What he does include here sees to that handily, even on the 2CD version. No need for me to go over the individual tracks except to say I’m sure no one could match this man’s output in terms of quality. Still, it’s not like each CD is 80-minutes-full, so there was certainly room for reps from Flowers, Driving Rain and Run Devil Run. Oh well. It’s his best-of and he can do what he wants with it. In fact, it IS pure McCartney to purposefully skip over bits ‘n’ bobs of his catalog. Wings Greatest (a one LP comp from 1978) skipped “Listen to What the Man Said” (a #1 hit!) and 1987’s All The Best! and 2001’s Wingspan similarly missed key tracks depending on what country’s version you bought. (All the Best! in the UK featured his then current single, “Once Upon a Long Ago,” which wasn’t even released in the US and thus didn’t make the American version of the compilation. Yet here on Pure McCartney there are five songs from his latest, New. Maybe his memory’s going and so the most recent stuff is at the forefront of his genius brain.)

Take a look at the tracklist of the various versions to decide whether you need this release. For me, I have everything on the 4CD version so I expect to be skipping over this one, at least for now. And that, my friends, is Pure Gooch.

3/5 for contents, 5/5 for quality! (Hear Music)

 

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Art Brut • Bang Bang Rock & Roll (CD, LP)

artbrut-bangbangFrom our “Oldies” But Goodies Folder: Eleven years ago England’s Art Brut put out their debut album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll. The first tune I heard from them had the refrain “I’m considering a move to L.A.,” and detailed how singer Eddie Argos was going to ride a Harley down the Sunset Strip, shirtless, as soon as he got there. And that was pretty funny considering the guy’s voice is clearly English and so his likely pale torso cruising Hollywood on a chopper would certainly get a few gawkers checking him out. I soon found a few of their singles, like “Emily Kane” and “Good Weekend,” and eventually this long player complete with “Moving to L.A.”

What stood out about Art Brut, then and now, is Argos’ humorous lyrics matched with the band’s indie-punk delivery. Instead of a frontman telling us  (like umpteen lead singers before him) of his virility and of all his female conquests, we got a guy lamenting his inability to perform (and I don’t mean on stage) with the girl of his dreams. At the same time, this anti-Romeo was going to – along with his bandmates – write the one song that would “make Israel and Palestine get along.” Well, that didn’t happen, but they did artbrut_cropgain a healthy following for awhile. I got to see them a few times back then and they were as exciting and fun on stage as their records promised. Sadly, their first album was their best and Art Brut seemed to lose more steam with each new release. Their last outing, the 2013 2CD compilation Art Brut Top of the Pops, put together a disc of “best of” material with a disc of rarities and B-sides. Though the band appears to still be together (their website indicates new tunes are in the works), it seems unlikely that they’ll manage to cadge the energy and vitality of their hilarious ’n’ catchy debut. Still, I’d be willing to have a listen. Their refreshing, self-deprecating approach is one that’s in short supply these days. I mean, as far as I can tell, none of the band listen to the Velvet Underground, don hipster beards or do any variety of ho-hum, generic activities that would indicate they have motives other than just to create catchy punk rock. You can do it, Art Brut! Give us another Bang Bang Rock & Roll!

4/5 (Fierce Panda/Banana/Downtown)

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