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The Shazam’s Rev9: Far Better Than 2 And 1/2 Stars

The Shazam -- Rev9

I really like The AllMusic Guide. Its pretty comprehensive. Its usually accurate. The reviews are often informative. I find myself consulting the site frequently to get more information about something, or someone, I’ve heard for the first time.

Here is one, however, they got wrong — massively, ridiculously wrong: 2 and 1/2 stars (out of 5) for Rev9 by The Shazam from 2000.

O.K., I know. Rev9 is just an EP. It clocks in at less than twenty-eight minutes. Six of those minutes are consumed by the title track which is, shall we say, a creative “re-imagination” of perhaps the single worst song in the entire Beatles catalog (“Revolution 9”). Rev9 is far from perfect.

But before we delve into what is actually quite good about Rev9, check out some of the works of great artistic merit that also received 2 and 1/2 stars from the AllMusic Guide:

  • Jessica Simpson, In This Skin: “[I]ts heart is in the mature middle of the road but its sound is still pitched too young, making this a record that satisfies neither audience.”
  • Kiss, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV: “The full orchestra shows up, in Kiss makeup of course, for the whole of the second disc. It sounds more bloated than bombastic as the mix ping-pongs between crunchy guitars and disco-style string and horn flourishes.”
  • Rod Stewart, It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook: “[T]he whole project has an artificial undercurrent that’s hard to shake, especially since the song selection, the arrangements, and the performances play it so safe they’re largely undistinguished.”

“Unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial undercurrent,” “undistinguished” — is that what Rev9 is? AllMusic isn’t exactly fond of its experimentation: “[D]o we really want to hear experimental collages and progressive rock from one of America’s leading power pop bands?”

Well, Rev9 starts off with “On The Airwaves.” Sure, it has some weird noises and affected radio sounds, but it was nevertheless sufficiently rocking to be “The Coolest Song In The World” for a week on Little Steven’s Underground Garage:

“Wood And Silver” is also about radio, or to be more precise, an old trusted transistor from days gone by: “It ain’t worth nothin’ but it works just fine/After all this time, you’d think I would have thrown it away.” As AllMusic notes, “Wood And Silver” certainly has a trippy feel to it and is washed occasionally in mellotron. Sometimes, though, you just have to say “more mellotron.” “Wood And Silver” still flashes some pretty tasty, chiming guitar and a catchy chorus. You know, like in Power Pop.

The next track, “Okay,” sounds like something off of Big Star’s Radio City. I guess that would be some more Power Pop.

“Periscope” is a mid-tempo rocker punctuated with banjo.

“Month Of Moons” would have felt at home on one of David Bowie’s early-70s long-players.

“Take Me,” the second-to-last song, is a dreamy, simply gorgeous track with mandolins, strings, mellotron and nearly perfect vocals. It alone is worth the price of admission.

I like The Shazam’s rocking, head bopping exercises in pure Power Pop — think “New Thing Baby” from 2002’s Tomorrow The World — as much as anyone else. But Rev9, replete with “experimental collages,” beats the living daylights out of the “unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial” and “undistinguished” product of Jessica Simpson, Kiss and Rod Stewart. Its not a 5 star record. 4 would be good.

The Replacements’ “I Will Dare”: Punk Rock Grows Up

Replacements -- Let It Be

The passage of time can give clarity on whether a particular song, or a particular album, that in “real time” influenced your taste in music years or even decades later. For me, that song is “I Will Dare” by The Replacements, the lead track on the classic 1984 release they rather audaciously titled Let It Be.

Before they released Let It Be, The Replacements mostly produced sloppy, loud, fast rag tag stuff. That all changed in the first few minutes of Let It Be, when “I Will Dare” came chiming out of the speakers with its shuffling beat, its mandolin and its twelve-string guitar. The band took the British Invasion and The Byrds, stuck them both in the middle of the punk scene of the mid-80’s, and pointed the way to the future. Its leader, Paul Westerberg, also proved arguably to be the best songwriter of the decade, penning perfect lines like this one that punctuated “I Will Dare”: “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings/Around my eyes.”

But it was the chorus that made “I Will Dare” unforgettable, with its almost tongue-twisting rhythm: “Meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime/Now, I don’t care/Meet me tonight/If you will dare, I will dare”:

Let It Be ultimately stood between two worlds for The Replacements. Westerberg sensitively tackled confused sexual identity in “Sixteen Blue” and “Androgynous” alongside old-school punk silliness for which the band was known previously in “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got A Boner.”

But “I Will Dare” is the standout of the set. Its Big Star-influenced power pop would define the band’s next long-player, Tim, and make it one of the single best records of the 1980s. “I Will Dare” is where punk rock grew up and realized it could write and play beautifully. Almost everything I listen to today, and which is discussed in these pages, reaches back to that time in 1984 when I first heard “I Will Dare.”

Big Star’s “Breathtakingly Beautiful Music”

Today I am reblogging a piece from last month on Big Star. As Brian Westbye notes, they indeed put out “breathtakingly beautiful music.” My earlier post on the band, and “September Gurls” in particular, can be found here: https://popthatgoescrunch.com/2011/12/19/the-greatest-song-you-probably-never-heard/

brian westbye

This is the third installment of a series. Due to the subjective nature of what quantifies a One Hit Wonder, how much of the band must be dead to be a One Hit Wonder With Dead Guys, etc., etc., etc., there will be some shifting of the goal posts across these essays. Such is life and rock ‘n roll.

Goal Post Shift 1: Big Star never got anywhere near a hit. Big Star’s singer/guitarist Alex Chilton did have a #1 – “The Letter” – with his previous band, The Box Tops, for four weeks in the summer of 1967, when he was sixteen (with a much older voice). But the closest Big Star got to the charts during their existence from 1971 – 1974 was nowhere, and the closest they got to public acclaim was in 1998, when the song “In the Street” was appropriated as the theme song of…

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The Greatest Song You Probably Never Heard

big-starSometimes a song seems in retrospect to be “ahead of its times.” That usually means that the song or band proved to be influential. The song thus sounds contemporary, even though its old.

Rolling Stone picked “September Gurls” as the 180th greatest song of all time. “A nonhit from [Big Star’s] second LP . . . ‘September Gurls’ is now revered as a power-pop classic.”

“September Gurls” was destined to be a non-hit, coming out in 1974 as rock became bloated and self-important. Instead, Big Star looked back to the British Invasion with concise, elegant guitar pop. In turn, they influenced everyone that followed — REM, The Replacements, Matthew Sweet, Wilco, The Posies and Teenage Fanclub, just to name a few. What sounded old gave birth to the new.

“September Gurls” sounds as fresh and as beautiful as it did 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, etc. That is one of the makings of a great song.

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