Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “The Replacements”

Late Summer “Mini” Reviews

Time does have a tendency to fly away. Here are some short takes on some of the best albums of 2013 that have been recently spinning on my music device:

Eric Barao, Eric Barao: Barao’s lushly produced debut album recalls Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom with its swirling melodies, complex arrangements, occasional instrumental flourishes and tales of broken hearts. The lead track, “On Holiday,” with its tension-release structure and Barao’s strong vocals, is a candidate for song of the year:

 

Nick Piunti, 13 In My Head: Piunti’s debut evokes one of my other all-time favorites, The Replacements. He employs a more basic approach. Bass, guitars and drums propel succinct bursts of timeless powerpop that could have been recorded at any time since 1972. Piunti’s Paul Westerberg-meets-Faces-era-Rod-Stewart vocals, and pitch-perfect backing harmonies, should make this a car stereo favorite for years to come. Selecting a “best” song is difficult — there is not a misfire among the ten tracks — but the mid-tempo “On the Way Out” is a good place to start:

 

The Dead Girls, Fade In/Fade Out: Think Big Star, but about a dozen pounds heavier. Fade In/Fade Out has all of the requisite melodic rock elements discussed throughout this site, but amped up with big riffs and occasionally even bigger percussion. “Find Your Way To Me (Oh My Soul)” is the best six-minute plus song Big Star never recorded. For good measure, the band closes the collection with a perfect, harmony-filled cover of Chris Bell’s enduringly beautiful “You And Your Sister”:

 

Scott Brookman, Smellicopter: Brookman has been quietly self-releasing sunny pop gems for quite some time. His 2000 release, For Those Who Like POP, has gotten quite a few spins on iPhone. Smellicopter, though, is his best excursion to date into Beach Boys/Bacharach territory. The second track, “Summer’s Two Weeks Notice” might be the best exemplar of Brookman’s basic style with its decidedly Pet Sounds vibe, but I’m kind of partial to more jaunty “Very Anne”:

 

Lisa Mychols, Above Beyond & In Between: I’ve written previously about Mychols as a member of the Masticators and Nushu. Her third solo album is a perfect distillation of everything that was once great about AM radio, transported to 2013. Its twelve tracks of non-stop hooks and melodies that would sound great on a long, sunny day at the beach. It proudly flashes its influences, but is no mere nostalgia project. A proper, well-produced video for the terrific ballad “Ferris Wheel” can be found here, but Mychols’ own homemade, low-fi clip for the upbeat “Foolin’ The World” is far more endearing:

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So, there’s five of my favorite albums of 2013. Each are worthy of extended play. Tell me what you think.

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Theolonious Monster’s “Sammy Hagar Weekend”: Perfectly Capturing A Certain Place In Time

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Sammy Hagar lives in my local community. He is treated heroically in the local press. He’s an entrepreneur, a performer and a philanthropist extraordinaire. He’s supposedly an overall great guy.

That’s pretty odd. To me, Sammy was always associated with particularly bad singing, even worse taste and a very conservative kind of psuedo-rebellion. You probably knew that late-70s/early-80s scene pretty well: guys walking around in long-sleeve concert t-shirts and girls with feathered roach clips in their hair. Cool, dude.

Theolonious Monster was (and still is) an LA-based band that did a kind of Replacements thing in the 80s. They mixed jangly guitars, punk rock, folk rock with drunken sloppiness, punctuating it all with humor.

A “two-fer” CD collection of their second and third albums (Stormy Weather and Next Saturday Afternoon) is consistently great. “Michael Jordan” is a slacker anthem about sitting home all day doing nothing other than watching reruns of The Odd Couple, and then tuning into to watch Michael Jordan score 47 points. “Lena Horne Still Sings Stormy Weather” is about holding onto all of of the good things in life during times of change.

Their greatest song, though, is “Sammy Hagar Weekend.” It captured perfectly a particular type of “Southern California concert t-shirt scene.” There were, of course, versions of that scene everywhere back in the day. The best lines — and you certainly knew some of these people — remain brilliantly on-point:
We got a Metallica t-shirt/We got a little tiny baby mustache/We got a jacked up Camaro/We’re sitting in the parking lot at Anaheim Stadium/Drinking beer, smoking pot, snorting coke/And then drive, drive over 55/Yeah/Cause it’s a Sammy Hagar weekend/It’s a big man’s day
Here is it, in all of its glory:
So, go check out the two-CD set of the band’s second and third long-players — a great and swirling mix of genres, humor and melody. And stick a finger in Sammy’s eye while you’re at it.

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.”

A Perfect Pop Gem

A mantra of mine lately has been “if it jangles, I’ll listen to it.”  I never thought of myself as a “jangle pop” person back in the 80’s when “jangle pop” became a genre, but I always had a soft spot for the more melodic parts of the left side of the dial. The Replacements’ “I Will Dare” beat their “Dose Of Thunder” hands down. I could listen to Husker Du’s “I Apologize” and “Hate Paper Doll” any day of the week.

The Red Button takes a decidedly mellower approach to the same melodic formula. Their first album, “She’s About To Cross My Mind,” put 1965 and 1966 into an update machine to craft the perfect pop record that stays in your mind for days, weeks and months at a time.  The word “girl” figured prominently. The ninth song on “Rubber Soul” is, of course, “Girl.” I put their “Free” on a playlist right after The Beatles’ “Rain.” Two more perfect companions might never be found.

Their new record, “As Far As Yesterday Goes” might be even better. Its reach certainly is greater.

Redbutton

Flourishes of Burt Bacharach’s sophisticated 60s pop come in an out. The title song could have been on The Zombies’ “Odyssey and Oracle.” “Easier” does Emitt Rhodes better than Emitt Rhodes does Emitt Rhodes. And, keeping with tradition, there is “Girl, Don’t,” a perfect power pop gem. Jangles can be heard throughout. They also can get breezy with “On A Summer Day”:

<p>On A Summer Day – The Red Button from Seth Swirsky on Vimeo.</p>

“As Far As Yesterday Goes” is my favorite collection of 2011. It’s smart and catchy. It wears its influences without being nostalgic or derivative. It’s sophisticated without being bland. It has an edge without being trendy or falling into alternative rock cliches. And, just like in 1966, its less then 40 minutes long. Brevity is a virtue.

Go get it.

 

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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