Every time I think I've had enough, that there is nothing new that will satisfy my lifelong urge to hear music that will tingle that specific spot, that location on the surface of my cerebellum that has made music such a vital part of my existence...something pops up!
And so it is with pride I hereby report that at this very moment, a week or so after watching the Beach Boys' surprisingly strong 50th anniversary concert performance at the Hollywood Bowl, I am typing this while listening to the work of staggering genius entitled Looking Back With Love--the solo album released by Beach Boys vocalist Mike Love in 1981 on Boardwalk Records featuring a fabulous cover portrait and played by me only once since 1981!
And 31 years later? It sounds great!
Clearly everything I ever assumed I knew about music was wrong!
Next thing you know I'll say this week's highlight is the new Rush album!
Rush: Clockwork Angels (Anthem/Roadrunner) I can't say I really ever got Rush, even in their earliest days. I saw them way back when they'd released their first album, when they hadn't brought drummer Neil Peart on board, and back then--and it was some time ago--they seemed so blatantly imitative of Led Zeppelin, and so lovably Canadian, I simply wished them well and thought little else. But they persisted. Fab concept albums. Groovy artwork. Gradual incorporation of synthesizers. Albums that sounded strangely like the work of their hipper contemporaries, the Police. And the voice of bassist Geddy Lee, once almost laughably helium-filled, gradually deepened and became, unexpectedly, palatable. And not difficult to listen to. By the time of their commercial peak--1981's Moving Pictures--they were quite listenable, actually, and dogged only by the stridently obnoxious lyrics penned by drummer Peart, which voiced sociopolitical concerns that I, at least, could not relate to in the slightest. Still, they had evolved, and deserved the accolades they were receiving from their fervent fans. Well, guess what? They've only gotten better. And according to my personal bible, Wikipedia, the band's overall album sales place them third behind the Beatles and Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band! Like...wow! The big story here? Clockwork Angels is the band's first studio album in five years! And the verdict? It's out! I plan on eventually hearing it!
Usher: Looking 4 Myself (RCA) I don't think it will surprise anyone to announce that R&B superstar Usher has apparently sold over 43 millions albums worldwide! Heck, he's popular! Still, I wouldn't be surprised if little Jimmy Irwin, a movie fan since he was 7 years old and his mom dropped him off at the local mini-plex while she went out cavorting with her boyfriend Barabbas, was taken aback by the singer's "other" career in pop music! "Heck," Jimmy notes, "Mr. Usher used to escort me to the front row, buy me Raisinettes, and make sure none of the older boys picked on me while we were watching Free Willy! He'd always shine his flashlight up and down the empty rows, and when I asked him why, he'd say 'I'm looking for myself!'" And now? "Frankly," says Jimmy, his expression clouding, "why the heck did he say '4' when he meant 'for'? Is that supposed to be cool or something?" Jimmy, who now weighs 245 lbs. and is, sadly, pre-diabetic, enjoys music but especially digs his new Xbox!
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: The Lion The Beast The Beat (Hollywood) With four studio albums down and a career that is about to ignite in a big way, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are the right band--themselves--at the right time--now! Potter, sister of the more famous literary figure Harry, and the Nocturnals, whose unreleased solo disc Emissions is the stuff of legends, return with a rocking album that features a bonus disc featuring guests such as Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney (with whom she'll soon be touring) and a star-studded main disc devoted to three rock bands--the obscure but superb A&M act Lion, cult West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band/Sugarloaf-related combo Beast, and Brit band the English Beat--that couldn't be hipper or more relevant to today's fab music scene! And between you and me, Grace is quite the looker! I like to play this record late at night and watch the fifth season of 24! You too?
The dB's: Falling Off The Sky (Bar/None) Though I don't like to share too much about my personal life, I think it's relevant to mention that the dB's--who return here with their first album in many years--released two fabulous albums in the early '80s, Stands For deciBels and Repercussion, that I used to religiously listen to via headphones and a Sony Walkman while mowing my rather large lawn in Michigan during the humid summer months! To fully enjoy them, I would make certain they'd be louder than the actual lawnmower I was pushing--which occasionally ran out of gas, as those machines tend to do, and in the ensuing "silence" drove home the point that I was listening to these same albums at near-deafening levels! That said, this new album is a highly rewarding treat that evokes all the glories of those first two albums, especially in the 1000-3000hz frequency range! I'm betting the lows and highs are even better...but I can't say for sure!
Metric: Synthetica (MMI/Mom + Pop) I've always liked Metric, the Canadian "indie rock and new wave band founded in Toronto in 1998," according to reputable internet sources, and I'm not alone! Featuring vocalist Emily Haines and some other dudes--oh, come on, I could list them, but that would just be showing off--the band feature clever, well-played and sung material, and--perhaps most notable here--album covers that have accidentally been printed upside-down but hey, you know what, we're arty, and everyone will just assume we intended to do this! It's great! The new album, coyly named after the Helvetica font, features 11 songs that, in Metric's inimitable manner, continue the tradition of listing the height of world landmarks in centimeters--and between "Statue Of Liberty," "Taj Mahal," and "That Giant Tire We Saw While Driving Through Detroit A Few Years Ago," Synthetica displays a band that continues to grow in leaps, bounds, and--I'm sure they'd agree--imperial gallons! I am completely into all things avoirdupois!
Dean Martin: Collected Cool (Universal Music) You may have noticed over the years that some things don't translate well as time passes: Teen idols, for one, like Bobby Sherman, the New Kids On The Block, etc., now just seem unbearably corny and, except for the raw nostalgia factor, are generally an embarrassment to former fans. Explain, then, if you will, why heroes of an earlier generation--such as vocalist Dean Martin, one-time Ratpack member and cultural icon extraordinaire for half a century--have not lost one iota of the coolness they carried with them in their prime. This new Martin collection--3 CDs and one DVD--features a wealth of his hits, including those recorded for both the Capitol and Reprise labels--a great 1962 set recorded in Tahoe, babe, and a fabulous DVD featuring the singer in London circa 1983. A perfect Father's Day gift? You bet! It's almost like...labels think of stuff like that! Buy it today!
Durocs: Durocs (Real Gone Music) Another staggeringly hep reissue by the very smart music lovers at Real Gone Music, the Durocs album came out via Capitol Records in 1979 to considerable critical acclaim but, sadly, sold next to nothing. The work of former Mystery Trend dude Ron Nagle (whose 1970 set Bad Rice remains another object of critical adulation) and multi-instrumentalist partner Scott Matthews, the album veered mid-way between power pop, new wave, and finely attuned pop recordings that really had nothing whatsoever to do with those other two descriptions, but let's give marketing people a break, shall we? The set sounds wholly wonderful here and is bolstered by eight bonus tracks and marvelous liner notes by Gene Sculatti, who clearly knows the whole scoop and more. Thirty-three years later, this record sounds great--contemporary, informed, smart, and the sort of thing you really don't get a chance to hear too much anymore. I hope this label reissues everything that was ever any good!
BoDeans: American Made (Free& Alive) Speaking of bands who made records long ago that were quite good and for better or worse are still doing so, despite inevitable personnel changes, the BoDeans carry on. The new set features a wealth of new material, a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," and a direction that is now arbitrarily labeled "Americana" but is really no different from what was displayed on their 1986 debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, missing only the presence of founding member Sam Llanas. It's all good stuff: Classy, well-played, and well-intentioned. It's what I play when I'm not listening to Gallagher & Lyle!
Motion City Soundtrack: Go (Epitath) According to their bio, Motion City Soundtrack "built their fanbase one fan at a time"--and as fans go, I'm pleased to report they've now acquired nearly 140! "Finding them is one thing," reports a band member who asked for anonymity, "but capturing them, placing them in a cement mixer, and listening to those horrid screams as it turns is quite another! Oh, wait, does using 'quite' make me sound prissy? Don't use that!" The fanbase, now situated on Los Angeles' 405 Freeway, near the Sepulveda Pass, continues to be constructed daily, often causing traffic jams that not only frustrate regular commuters but give them lots of time to think about idiotic record reviews they could be writing when they get home! At least theoretically!
Far East Movement: Dirty Bass (Cherrytree) While there is admittedly an audience for nearly everyone, Far East Movement's peculiar fixation on sea life remains puzzling! Between 2009's How's Your Snapper? and last year's I Want To Be In A Grouper, the band takes "scaling new heights" to a whole new level! Still, I dig 'em!