Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hits, Cult Classics & Obscurities: 1980

Part two of our new, monthly series of posts where we pick a year from the '80s or '90s and present three favorite songs that fall into one of these three categories: Hit, Cult Classic or Obscurity.

Of course, it's not always easy to decide to which category a song fits in - surely, a hit cannot also be categorized as an obscurity, but it is possible that a song that had huge commercial success in one part of the world remained, at best, a cult classic in other territories.

This is exactly the case for the single I've chosen as my favorite hit of 1980: on March 10 of that year, The Jam released the double A-side 7'' single "Going Underground / Dreams of Children" which went straight to the top of the UK chart and remained there for three consecutive weeks. It was The Jam's first number one in their country (three more would follow before Paul Weller's shock decision to break up the band at the top of its popularity in 1982), but success for them never came on the other side of the pond, so, as far as North America is concerned, this one rather belongs to the Cult Classic category. No matter how you choose to categorize it, though, there is no doubt that "Going Underground" is one of the finest rock tracks of the '80s:

Choosing just one Cult Classic from 1980 is certainly a tough task. Just about any entry in our Top 50 Singles list of that year (apart from the few other obvious hits, of course) can be classified as a cult classic, so I could really just pick a random number and go with that one. Instead I'll break the tie with an obvious choice from one of the countless classics that The Fall have recorded throughout the '80s (and '70s, and '90s, and '00s, and so on) - here's "Totally Wired" from September 1980, released on Rough Trade as a 7'' single with "Putta Block" on the B-side:

Our final selection from 1980 was chosen as "Single of the Week" in all major British music newspapers in the spring of that year but failed to break into the charts. "Seven Minutes to Midnight" by Pete Wylie's Wah! Heat (one of his many Wah!-related incarnations) is undoubtedly a classic, but given that it is perhaps the least well-known track in my 1980's Top 10, I will pick it as the year's obscurity. On a positive note, its critical approval led to a contract with a major label where Wylie released the following year "Nah = Poo -The Art of Bluff", his debut album as Wah! (no more Heat, but not yet Mighty, if you know what I mean) which included this excellent song about the cold war and the era's nuclear paranoia:

On another positive note, Pete Wylie is preparing his first album in this century, titled "Pete Sounds" and you can help by pledging your support here.

Check out here the first part of Hits, Cult Classics & Obscurities with our selections from 1985.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Live: The Vacant Lots @ Six D.O.G.S (Athens, March 21, 2015)

If you take a look to the list of musicians who have collaborated with Burlington, Vermont psych rock duo The Vacant Lots, you'll get a pretty accurate idea of what they sound like: Alan Vega of Suicide has done remix work for them as well as Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3, while Galaxy 500's Dean Wareham has played guitar on a song off their debut album "Departure". Add a bit of The Jesus And Mary Chain's barbed wire guitar noise to the whole psych-garage-punk sonic collision and the picture is complete.

Guitarist Jared Artaud and electronic manipulator/cymbal crasher Brian MacFadyen don't bother with niceties between songs. They concentrate on their instruments, frequently going from one song to the next by adding droning sounds in-between, to make sure there are no gaps to their noise attack.

Repetition has served well many bands before them and The Vacant Lots subscribe to this sonic approach which adds to the intensity of their wall of noise. To break the monotony, the danger of too much repetition, they share the vocal duties between the two of them, while the noise is put on hold on a few occasions in favor of a more melodic, psychedelic approach - the moments where their Suicide-Mary Chain attack gives way to the specter of Spacemen 3.

After witnessing their live set and comparing it to the way they sound on their record, it seems clear that The Vacant Lots are progressing as they gather experience. It is still early days, but judging on the company they keep and their very satisfying performance on Six D.O.G.S's stage, this is definitely a band we should be keeping an eye and ear on.

The show opened by Closer, a much more experienced local guitar pop band which formed in the early '90s. Their tight, hour-long set combined past hits with new material from their as yet unreleased new work and proved that they remain a force to be reckoned with in the local rock scene.

Closer, live @ Six D.O.G.S
Here's a sample of The Vacant Lot's set at the Six D.O.G.S club:

The Vacant Lots, live @ Six D.O.G.S (March 21st, 2015)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Live: Mark Lanegan Band @ Gagarin 205 Club (Athens, March 19, 2015)

Mark Lanegan rarely leaves Athens out of his touring schedule and personally I've never missed an opportunity to enjoy live one of the greatest rock voices of our generation. His latest visit along with his band was this Thursday at Gagarin 205, the club he has played the most times in Athens, and this return to familiar surroundings, in the presence of a loyal fan base that packed the place, must have played a role in making this show one of his best performances here.

The 90-minute set opened in relatively low tones, with Mark accompanied only by his guitarist for a few songs, opening with "When Your Number Isn't Up", "Judgement Time" and "Low", but as soon as the full band came on and started kicking out jams like "The Gravedigger's Song", "Harvest Home", "Gray Goes Black" or "Hit the City" the electricity soon reached critical point.

The well thought out set list held a good balance between ballads and the heavier material, the new songs from "Phantom Radio" and older favorites mainly from "Blues Funeral" and "Bubblegum", and reached its climax little before midnight with main set closer "Death Trip to Tulsa" and a three-song encore that included an electrifying "Methamphetamine Blues", "I Am the Wolf" and "The Killing Season". Already looking forward to Mark's next visit!

Meanwhile, check out below "The Gravedigger's Song" and the complete set list of the Mark Lanegan Band's performance at Gagarin 205:

Mark Lanegan Band - The Gravedigger's Song (live @ Gagarin 205)

Set list: When Your Number Isn't Up, Judgement Time, Low, No Bells on Sunday, The Gravedigger's Song, Harvest Home, One Way Street, Gray Goes Black, The Deepest Shade, Hit the City, Ode To Sad Disco, Riot in My House, Harborview Hospital, Floor of the Ocean, Torn Red Heart, Black Rose Way, Sleep With Me, Death Trip to Tulsa. Encore: Methamphetamine Blues, I Am the Wolf, The Killing Season.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Live: Ex Hex @ Six D.O.G.S (Athens, March 11, 2015)

Ex Hex closed their European tour last Wednesday with their first ever show in Athens, at the small but inviting Six D.O.G.S club. Despite her long history before Ex Hex, with some great bands like Wild Flag, Helium or Autoclave and as a solo artist, this was also Mary Timony's debut live performance here, a fact that shows the exceptional success that Timony is currently enjoying with her new band.

This success has a lot to do with the melodic power and joyful energy that runs through all the songs that make up "Rips", the wonderful Ex Hex debut which found a place in many of 2014's end-of-the-year album lists (and at the No. 10 of ours).

Mary Timony always had a unique talent for melody, writing tunes that even at their most twisted and otherworldly found a way to worm into your ears and stick to your head for days. Her work with Helium is the best example of this, with 1997's "The Magic City" being essential listening for anyone who appreciates idiosyncratic pop that thinks outside the box.

Her teaming up in Ex Hex with the killer rhythm section of Betsy Wright and Laura Harris and the desire to write simple, energetic songs that conjure the spirits of glam rock, punk and power pop by combining melody and power gave us "Rips", perhaps her most immediate and catchy album to date.

Every song on this album was included in their small but perfectly formed 45-minute live set, a testament to the power of the record's material, and as bonus we also got to hear a new one (that may or may not be called "Greasy Wheel"). 

It's certainly not easy to single out highlights in such a tight, expertly executed set, but the way they stretched "Beast" from a three-minute power pop gem to a six-minute monster guitar jam, reveals that Ex Hex certainly have a lot more tricks up their sleeve than what they may have led you to believe! I think we can expect some very interesting twists and turns in their next steps!

Check out "Beast" below, as well as "Waterfall" which they kept for the encore of their set:

Ex Hex - Beast, live in Athens

Ex Hex - Waterfall, live in Athens

Mary Timony / Ex Hex
The show opened with the noisy, garage rock tunes of The Dark Rags, who earlier this year released their second album "Paranoia Blues". Find out more about them here.

The Dark Rags

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Live: Blonde Redhead @ Kyttaro Club (Athens, March 5, 2015)

It's been nearly a decade since Blonde Redhead's first visit to Athens, but last Thursday the wait was finally over for their fans. 

The New York trio presented its ninth album, "Barragán", to a packed, smoke filled, Kyttaro Club, but did not neglect its illustrious past either. Tracks like "Violent Life" and "Bipolar" took us back to the second half of the '90s, when Blonde Redhead were following the noisy path of Sonic Youth, while "Falling Man", "Spring and by Summer Fall" or the anthemic "23", which closed their 90-minute set, reminded us of their more melodic, dream pop days of the '00s, certainly the band's most accomplished period.

The highlights from their new material, which looks more to electronic music for inspiration, included "Dripping" and "No More Honey", However, the clips we have for you from the show come from their older work; check out below "Bipolar", one of the top moments of Blonde Redhead's performance, as well as "Falling Man":

Blonde Redhead - Bipolar (live in Athens)

Blonde Redhead - Falling Man (live in Athens)

The show opened by local psych rock act My Drunken Haze

Blonde Redhead played:

Blonde Redhead Setlist Kyttaro, Athens, Greece 2015, Barragán

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Listening Habits 2015 01-02

It’s still early days of course, but based on what we’ve listened to so far in the first couple of months of 2015, Sleater-Kinney are without opponent not only in the category of "Best Comeback" of the year, but also "Best Album" and "Best" everything else I can think of.

It’s no surprise, really; Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss had already joined forces recently in Wild Flag giving us one of the best records of 2011, while Corin Tucker’s return to action with The Corin Tucker Band in 2010 resulted in two fine records and the easy conclusion that putting these three women in a room together again could not fail to recreate the punk rock magic of their past (see here the conclusion of our November 2010 post about the punk rock genius of Sleater-Kinney).

"No Cities To Love" picks up exactly where "The Woods" left off in 2005, adding another great chapter to Sleater-Kinney's fascinating story. Ten fierce tracks (12 if you find the limited edition), no filler, no gaps to the intensity of the delivery, 30-something minutes of punk rock greatness that very few bands can deliver. Make no mistake; Sleater-Kinney’s eighth record is not only one of their best efforts so far, it is the next link in an unbreakable chain that if you follow it back, it will lead you to the finest works of rock’s greats, from PJ Harvey and Nirvana, to The Jam, the Ramones, Patti Smith and even further back to the windmills of Pete Townshend.

Check out below our favorite albums and tracks of the first couple of months of 2015, which also include several 2014 releases plus a few must-listen re-releases and compilations, and click here to see what we were listening to exactly seven years ago in the very first post of this blog (yes, CMC just turned 7!):

Top 20 Albums

1.  No Cities To Love - SLEATER-KINNEY
2.  What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - THE DECEMBERISTS
3.  Viet Cong - VIET CONG
4.  Phantom Radio - MARK LANEGAN BAND
5.  Seeds - TV ON THE RADIO
6.  Run The Jewels 2 - RUN THE JEWELS
7.  Pom Pom - ARIEL PINK
8.  We Come From The Same Place - ALLO DARLIN'
9.  The Other I - 2:54
10. Alvvays - ALVVAYS
11. Lateness Of Dancers - HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER
12. V For Vaselines - THE VASELINES
13. Underneath The Rainbow - BLACK LIPS
14. Shriek - WYE OAK
15. Our Love - CARIBOU
16. Royal Blood - ROYAL BLOOD
17. Setting Sons (Deluxe Edition) - THE JAM
18. Extra Painful - YO LA TENGO
19. Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 14 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
20. Punk 45: Extermination Nights in the Sixth City - Cleveland, Ohio: Punk and The Decline of the Mid-West 1975-82 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Top 20 Tracks

1.  Pedestrian At Best - COURTNEY BARNETT
3.  Begin Again - PURITY RING
4.  Continental Shelf - VIET CONG
5.  Cavalry Captain - THE DECEMBERISTS
6.  Harvest Home - MARK LANEGAN BAND
7.  Southern Grammar - HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER
8.  Pay Attention - COLLEEN GREEN (mp3)
9.  Romance And Adventure - ALLO DARLIN'
10. Next of Kin - ALVVAYS
11. High Tide Low Tide - THE VASELINES
12. Blindfold - 2:54
13. Glory - WYE OAK
14. Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) - RUN THE JEWELS
15. Happy Idiot - TV ON THE RADIO
16. Mars - CARIBOU
17. Spectral Source - MILLIE & ANDREA
18. Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade - ARIEL PINK
19. Do The Vibrate - BLACK LIPS
20. Out Of The Black - ROYAL BLOOD

Sleater-Kinney - A New Wave

You can listen to our Top 20 Tracks on the Spotify playlist below (it's missing one but it includes a few bonus "blasts from the past") or you can check out our latest mixtape on tapely here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

New Releases: February 2015

Round-up of the most interesting albums, singles and EPs released in February 2015:


COLLEEN GREEN - I Want to Grow Up
RICKED WICKY - I Sell the Circus
FATHER JOHN MISTY - I Love You, Honeybear
THE DISTRICTS - A Flourish and A Spoil
NITE FIELDS - Depersonalisation
FUTURE BROWN - Future Brown
THE WAVE PICTURES - Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon
THE POP GROUP - Citizen Zombie
TIGERCATS - Mysteries
IDLEWILD - Everything Ever Written
DAN DEACON - Gliss Riffer
KRILL - A Distant Fist Unclenching
H. HAWKLINE - In the Pink of Condition
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH - Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth
TWO GALLANTS - We Are Undone
DARREN HAYMAN - Chants for Socialists
PEACE - Happy People
PASCAL COMELADE AND LES LIMINANAS - Traite de Guitarras Triolectiques
LAWRENCE LINDELL - Magic Megaphone
THE NOTWIST - Messier Objects
IRON & WINE - Archive Series Volume No. 1

Singles & EPs

COURTNEY BARNETT - Pedestrian At Best
LONELADY - Bunkerpop
COLLEEN GREEN - Pay Attention
NADINE SHAH - Fool / Stealing Cars
CALEXICO - Cumbia De Donde / Worn Right Thru
THE CRIBS - Burning For No One
KAREN O - Rapt
THE WAVE PICTURES - I Could Hear the Telephone (3 Floors Above Me) / Walking on the Water
SEVERED LIMB - If You Ain't Livin / Tidy of a Vulture
CASUAL SEX - A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon
H. HAWKLINE - Moons in my Mirror
YAK - Hungry Heart
EX-CULT - Cigarette Machine EP
COMET GAIN - Fingerprint Ritual EP
YOU BLEW IT! - Pioneer of Nothing EP
POSTCODE - Year Of The Zebra - Part Two EP

It seems that every month we are having at least one impressive comeback from a '90s act. After Sleater-Kinney's return in January with the excellent "No Cities To Love", February marks the reunion of Julianna Hatfield with bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Philips to release their sophomore album as The Juliana Hatfield Three, 22 years since their 1993 classic "Become What You Are". Check out below "If Only We Were Dogs" from "Whatever, My Love":