Jive Time Turntable

O.M.D. “Architecture & Morality” (Virgin, 1981)

Omd_architectureBoth sides begin with synth pop of the highest order – in fact, one could make a strong argument that the two variations on “Joan of Arc” are the greatest new wave singles of all time, the “Maid Of Orleans” version’s musique concrete intro and waltz time signature making it an astoundingly atypical hit single. “The New Stone Age” is a startling and dirty rocker whose sound may not have much in common with the rest of the album but certainly set the depressed, hurt tone perfectly (and the experimentation with near atonality foreshadows the more ponderous passages of the record). The one-two punch of “She’s Leaving” and “Souvenir” are just gorgeous, however.

What sets this apart from nearly every record of its type and time, though, is the way either side goes out. Tracks like “Sealand” and the title cut wouldn’t feel out of place on a Brian Eno record, while “Georgia” begins with Kraftwerk robotics and ends in an ambient whir. “The Beginning and the End” is a perfect mix of the two sides of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, a lush vocal piece that is nevertheless indebted more to Gregorian chant than any sort of rock or pop fore-bearers. This record is perhaps the ultimate statement of synth pop/new wave as an artform, and a must for anyone even remotely interested in the genre. —Andrew

Wire “154” (Harvest, 1979)

Wire_154This has to be the first truly great Wire LP, certainly the best one in their first incarnation. 154 is filled with all the nihilistic, murky, schizophrenic variety that made it their finest achievement. 154 takes a few steps further from Chairs Missing and makes no apologies for where it takes the listener.In a nutshell, 154 takes one to a dreamy, crazy place with many questions and no answers. A place of musical paranoia and lyrical madness. Right from the start, 154 lures the listener into a wonderous, surrealistic soundscape. Even if there are a few cuts that hark back to Pink Flag (On Returning, Two People In a Room) and Chairs(Mutual Friend), the rest is the next step in Wire’s intriguing evolution. Maybe some would place “The 15th” and Single KO” as also Chairs-influenced, but I would say that those two are murkier, and less accessible than “Outdoor Miner”.

With that said, the rest ventures into unprecedented instrumentation and novel melodies. Frontman, Colin Newman, shines on “Indirect Inquiries” and “Forty Versions” as well as on “The 15th”, my favorite by the way. The meshing of schizophrenic lyrics with twisted guitar licks, bass, and flexible drumming, speaks volumes. Right hand, Graham Lewis, steps forth and takes center on some cuts (Touching Display, Other Window). The album opener, “I Should’ve Known Better”, begins with Lewis singing and not Newman, another indicator that things were really changing.

154 is rather hard to categorize, like the band itself, aside from declaring it post-punk. Basically, it is a surreal blend of Pink Floyd, The Clash, and The Cure. It is an integral piece in the post-punk catalogue. And amazingly, not surprisingly, the LP is still influential and referenced to this day. —Mike

13th Anniversary Sale! Sat., Sept. 20

jivetime13sale
SAVE THE DATE: Join us Saturday, September 20 for our 13th Anniversary Sale! All used vinyl & CD’s 25% off. All new vinyl 10-20% off. Plus: receive a limited-edition, hand-screened octopus poster with any purchase. Receive a special anniversary t-shirt with any $50+ purchase. (While supplies last). See you Saturday!

Primus “Sailing the Seas of Cheese” (Interscope, 1991)

1892069Primus’s albums have always had the feel of an adolescent’s guilty pleasure in a way. Sure you can take it seriously – the musicianship is outstanding and their melodies masterfully twist among pop, funk and grunge. But that’s only part of their style; there’s a silly side that’s part musical humor, part Saturday morning cartoon, and a sense that there could be more quirks around any corner. I imagine that if Phish had a heavy King Crimson influence they’d sound a little like this. There’s incredible bass work, subtle nuances in the guitar playing that you don’t notice right away, and lyrics that suggest a strange mix of Roger Waters and Frank Zappa.

If the title and cover of this album alone don’t seem cartoonish enough, take a listen to the lumbering bassoon introducing the first track. Les Claypool talks and screams through “Is It Luck?” like a hopped-up WB cartoon. “Tommy the Cat” is crazy funk with Tom Waits, of all people, lending a distorted voice to the narrative. As with any Primus album there are times when they go a little too far off the edge (“Granddad’s Little Ditty” comes to mind), although I probably shouldn’t complain when it’s compared to such later offerings as “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver.” Regardless: for most Primus fans this album still stands as their strongest. For those merely curious it’s the ideal one to start with. If you don’t like Seas of Cheese, chances are you won’t like the others. —Spiral Mind

Ramones “ Pleasant Dreams” (Sire, 1981)

rrraaaThe years 1980-1983 were not kind to the Ramones. Struggling to find their niche in a sudden sea-change of musical direction known as New Wave, they tried to keep up without compromising themselves and the sound they were known for. Riding the high from their appearance in the film “Rock’n’Roll High School,” and the accompanying hit of the same title, they entered into an alliance with legendary producer Phil Spector. Bad move! The resulting album was a dud (though I personally like it well enough), and the next two Ramones efforts struggled to correct their blunder by gaining back the fan base that had eroded.

“Pleasant Dreams” was the first of these efforts (“Subterranean Jungle” is the other). Unfortunately, this is/was the most ignored of all Ramones albums, which is a shame considering just how tasty it really is. Unlike the following “Jungle,” which was dark and fierce, reflecting the Ramones’ growing frustration, “Pleasant Dreams” is mostly light and well-humored. The Ramones vent some frustration here too, on “We Want the Airwaves” and “This Business is Killing Me.” But on the whole, the album features some very mature, bubblegum rock. What I love most about “Pleasant Dreams” is its uniqueness. The album encompasses a style on to its own. —Mark

Rockpile “Seconds of Pleasure” (Columbia, 1980)

rockpileRockpile was formed as a backing band for Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds’ solo records and as an outlet for the two the hit the road and play live. Along with Billy Bremmer on guitar and Terry Williams on drums, the unit played on great albums like Lowe’s Jesus Of Cool & Labour Of Lust and Edmunds’ Tracks On Wax & Repeat When Necessary which were essentially Rockpile records. Seconds Of Pleasure is the only official release under the Rockpile moniker. The album kicks off with a great one-two punch. First is an ode to teenage lust “Teacher Teacher” and then moves into an old Joe Tex rave up “If Sugar Was As Sweet As You”. The third song is “Heart” which is probably more familiar in its later incarnation as a slowed down reggae song on Lowe’s Nick The Knife album. Here it is a fast paced pop tune, which I think is superior to the remake. Other standout cuts include “When I Write The Book”, “Play That Fast Thing”, “Now & Always” and the humorous “A Knife & A Fork”. The original album contained a bonus 45 with 4 Everly Brothers remakes and they are included as the last four tracks on the disk. The best of the four is “Crying In The Rain”. Unfortunately after this album and a supporting tour, Rockpile never recorded as a unit or play live again. They only sporadically worked on Lowe & Edmunds’ solo recording. Too bad we couldn’t have had a few more albums from this fine band. —P Magnum

World Party “Private Revolution” (Chrysalis, 1986)

Karl Wallinger’s quite the mini one-man-Travelling-Wilburys on his solo debut, with traces of Beatles, ELO and especially Dylan abounding. There are shades of Prince too but by and large he doesn’t wear his influences too much on his sleeve, coming up, in the main, with a highly attractive and varied set of songs.

His lyrics especially sound phoned in from Radio Bob but I mean that more as a compliment, while it’s on the musical side that he really shines, furnishing every track with a strong melody and clever production.

Highlights are the purplish pop-funk of the title track, a “Ship Of Fools” better than roughly contemporary songs of the same name by Robert Plant and Erasure and the McCartney-cribbed self-referencing “World Party” where he substitutes just one word in Macca’s “Birthday” for his chorus. The only mis-step is the unnecessary inclusion of a synth-backed over of Dylan’s lyrically dazzling but musically dreary “All I Really Want To Do”.

In truth though this is a richly varied set of catchy tunes, like watching a kaleidoscope open up through a pin-hole and great listening for any fan of good 60′s and 70′s music, which Wallinger’s himself undoubtedly is. –Jim

Stereolab “Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements” (Elektra, 1993)

From the Day-Glo blaze of those churning guitars and organ that open the album, Transient Random-Noise Bursts radiates energy and sunshine, expanding the Krautrock-meets-ye-ye sound Stereolab had established on their first two albums and early singles. The whole of the album isn’t as sensual as those opening chords of “Tone Burst;” in fact, that opening track turns downright noisy in its latter half, guitarist Tim Gane stretching his instrument to its absolute limits. No, what is so striking about this album is how visceral the whole experience is – Stereolab has amplified every aspect of their music and blast it right in your face at every turn, creating an experience that’s more emotive and affecting than any art rock has the right to be.

A big reason for all of this is the bigger budget, of course – now signed to Elektra, the band no longer has to rely solely on feedback and distortion to create memorable soundscapes. There’s nothing in their early work that even attempts to be as dreamy as “Pack Yr Romantic Mind,” a very French, swinging pop number struggling to hold back the epic shoegaze boiling beneath its surface. There’s hints of lingering primitivism to be found – such as the Raymond Scott/Perrey-Kingsley-referencing outro of “I’m Going Out of My Way,” or the primal, Velvet Underground-esque intro to the gloriously plodding “Golden Ball” – but mostly this album is about creating a work that positively shimmers with ecstatic brilliance, a band using every single tool at their disposal to explore heretofore unheard sonic territory.

Of course, it’s impossible to properly review this album and not mention “Jenny Ondioline,” the 18-minute magnum opus that became the defining track of Stereolab’s existence, for better or worse. While it sometimes receives the same criticisms that plague other drone pieces – that is, it’s “too monotonous” or “too repetitive” – I’d say that anyone making those specific arguments is basically admitting to not listening to the song very closely. What’s especially confounding about this with regards to “Jenny Ondioline,” however, is that you don’t have to listen to it very closely to catch that there are at least four very different, very distinct movements to the piece. While they’re all built around simple but insistent rhythm guitar and motorik-influenced basslines and drumbeats, each works in separate ways: the first is something of a pop song, finding beauty in chaos; the second movement is the most repetitive but functions as a mantra, building meaning by continually repeating; the third is a momentary descent back into chaos, organs and electronics wailing away over a noisy, foreboding tempest caused by the rest of the band; and the final movement is the calm, or aftermath – the main theme returning in a gentler state. It’s a glorious, heady piece for anyone with the patience to get through it, a full-on sonic assault that never lets up for 18 solid minutes. They may have made more fully realized epics after it, but none that captured the scope of the group’s sound so completely – and hey, that’s a nice summary of the album as a whole, too. —Andrew

The Who “My Generation” (Decca, 1965)

If you put it down to a time, a band, an album… The Who’s MY GENERATION is the first punk album ever recorded: With heavy pounding on what had to be the most tortured drum kit at the time (on stage the group would shock audiences by smashing their instruments and demolishing amps and speakers), angry lyrics are screamed and stuttered over guitar feedback and power chords. Even the album’s cover, with the band’s four grim faces set in front of Big Ben rising into an overcast sky, leaves you with the impression that these guys are a cocky group of foul-mouthed wiseasses–especially the stiff-jawed blond one, who looks like he’d rather be shaking down a store owner for protection money, or simply just kicking someone’s teeth out (and, according to more than a few of the band’s biographers, Roger Daltrey often would use his fists to end differences, with Pete Townshend as well as others).

This was 1965 and very few then would’ve had the courage or the foresight to put this kind of sound to wax. Sure, the Kinks also got together with producer Shel Talmy a year before to pioneer a heavier “rock” sound with “You Really Got Me,” but they weren’t taking it any further; it was easy confusing that song with its followup, “All Day and All of the Night,” because they were basically the same thing with different lyrics. And as is always the case, it’s the total package of talent with promotion, image with attitude.

It also took real guts for a rising pop group in 1965 to make an album–let alone a debut album!–where 3/4 of the tracks are original compositions. Except for Dylan and the Beatles, nobody at the time was able to get away with doing this. The original UK album version contains three covers, James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind,” and “Please, Please, Please,” as well as Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man;” the US version dropped “I’m a Man” for the proto-psychedelic “Instant Party (Circles)”–yet another original! Pete Townshend was taking a big gamble with this record.

In addition to the awesome title track, MY GENERATION also includes “The Kids Are Alright.” Somewhat defining the group’s early sound, “The Kids Are Alright” bacame a staple number on the Who’s numerous compilations, and would provide the title to Jeff Stein’s 1979 documentary on the band.

Of the other numbers here, things start off with “Out In the Streets,” a weird hybrid of R&B styles with droning guitar feedback. Meanwhile, both “The Good’s Gone” and “Much Too Much” sound as if Keith Moon is barely able to control himself with the drumsticks as Townshend displays his prowess with power chords. Daltrey, naturally, just seems pissed off.

Two other notable tracks are “La La La Lies” and “The Ox.” The former obviously owing much to Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ “Heatwave” (a song the Who covered on their next album, A QUICK ONE), while the latter is a sort of group effort instrumental composition, written by Townshend, Moon and Entwistle with famous session man Nicky Hopkins.

A brilliant and exceptionally aggressive album that layed the foundations for most things coming to rock music. —Caeser

Fripp & Eno “No Pussyfooting” (Island, 1973)

To say this album is the birth of ambient music is misleading. (No Pussyfooting) came out 5 years before Eno coined the term, and several years after the sonic experiments of LaMonte Young and John Cage (amongst others) that had influenced Eno in his “ambient” experimentations. This here album and Eno’s great Discreet Music are his early attempts in making music that was “as ignorable as it is interesting.”

In this respect, (No Pussyfooting) is ambient music. It exists in two spheres of appreciation: active listening and passive listening. The quality of ambient music is measured in it’s appeal in both modes, not just one or the other. In an active listening mode, this album is incredibly rich, textural and hyperactive. It is ironic to me that Robert Fripp’s most frenetic, wild and virtuosic playing of his career can be found on his first attempt at playing “ambient music.” To the attentive listener, both of these long gorgeous tracks are endlessly rewarding.

Eno takes care of the rest, making it “ambient” and loopy and other-worldly, making it a good passive listening experience. This music, as ideally all good ambient must be, can function as decor or as architecture as much as a the colour of a wall or the shape of a room. This music can be lived in, without paying any attention to it. How many times in a day do you notice the walls are off-white? This album can play as oxygen for your ears. It is, however, contrary to the off-white wall, stunningly beautiful and hypnotic.

Historically, (No Pussyfooting) is a true landmark, not only for its contribution to the genre, but as cornerstones in the careers or both Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Fripp made use of the technology invented by Eno for this album (ie two Revox reel-to-reel recorders sharing the same magnetic tape, one recording with its erasing head removed, one playing) to create his own system of ambient guitar music he called Frippertronics. From Frippertronics, he moved on to more modern Soundscapes, but the point is Fripp never stopped being an ambient artist, creating his own singular vision of guitar loop music, strange and beautiful and totally Fripp. Eno, of course, went on the become the godfather of ambient music, with his own Ambient series of records, on to perfecting more studio skills to become one of the greatest producers of his time.

The bottom line. This record is fascinating, beautiful, weird, and totally unique, even when compared to other records in the genre. Fripp and Eno’s followup, Evening Star, was stellar as well, but sounds nothing like this. Nothing does. —Terence