Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
The Feelies,
Some Kinda Love

It’s perfectly fitting that Haledon, New Jersey indie rock legends The Feelies would pay tribute to the Velvet Underground. They were every bit as much children of the VU as Jonathan Richman, Yo La Tengo, and countless others, as anyone who has ever heard the amphetamine jingle jangle of their 1980 debut LP, Crazy Rhythms, can attest. And while it could well be urban legend, Lou Reed is supposed to have once told The Feelies they were the only band that “got” the Velvet Underground.

The Feelies were primarily influenced, as were most of the 500,000 bands that owed their existence to a chance encounter with the albums of the most influential band never to make a commercial dent in their own time, by the less avant garde and poppier side of Lou Reed’s split personality. They sidestepped Lou the denizen of the demimonde and zeroed in instead on the propulsive “What Goes On” (from the Velvets’ third studio album, 1969’s The Velvet Underground) making it a template of their sound. And its not as if they tried to hide the fact, anxiety of influence being what it is. Instead, they went so far as to make clear their debt by covering the song on their 1988 LP Only Life.

The Feelies recorded the brand spanking new double live LP Some Kinda Love: Performing the Music of the Velvet Underground at the White Eagle Hall in Jersey City in 2018 as part of the touring exhibition “The Velvet Underground Experience.” The Feelies took the stage on an October night and proceeded to tear through eighteen Velvets numbers, many of them de rigeur but some quite surprising.

It was to be expected they’d give numbers like “Heroin” and Sister Ray”—none of them being convivial to The Feelies sound—a wide berth, although part of me wishes they’d given “Heroin” the old college try. But they do include a few minor shockers along the lines of ”After Hours,” “I Heard Her Call My Name,” and “Run Run Run.” Only one cut, “I Can’t Stand It,” didn’t appear on the Big Four albums the Velvets released during their all-too-brief existence. The results are often exhilarating, both band and audience sound like they’re having enormous fun, and you’ll wish you’d been there.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Duran Duran,

Celebrating Simon Le Bon on his 65th birthday.Ed.

God, did I detest Duran Duran growing up. Hated them. Loathed them. Wanted to go to England and set them on fire. With a flamethrower. Burn them to a synthpop crisp. They were everything I despised; slick, synthesizer-driven, and catchy, the perfect betrayal of everything punk had set out to do.

Plus they were worked with fashion designers to perfect their look, something I’d only allow David Bowie to do. And they were even too lazy to think of a second word for their band that wasn’t the same as the first word. Come on! Get up off your ass and think of another word! Who do you want to be, Talk Talk? Robert Christgau put the New Wave supergroup in his place when he called them, “The most deplorable pop stars of the postpunk if not post-Presley era.” I’d cast my vote for the Police, but he’s on to something.

But something appalling happened over the years, at least in my case; hatred turned to a grudging neutrality, and I was finally able to appreciate their synthpop charms. Sort of. They’re still too slick by a country mile, but slick is what synthpop was—machines making perfect noises. But I can listen to them now without wanting to die, and I suspect that’s a bad thing. Have I surrendered? Or have I merely succumbed to that insidious undertow of nostalgia that so frequently turns the songs you loathed in your youth into latter-day radio sing-alongs? It’s a mystery, that nostalgia; how is it I suddenly like the hated “Hungry Like the Wolf” but will never, ever, surrender my adamantine loathing for Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock’n’Roll”?

Formed in Birmingham, England in 1978 and early considered part of the New Romantic Movement, they moved on to glory as MTV innovators—they were so innovative, in fact, they made me want to claw my eyes out—and their second LP, 1982’s Rio, went platinum. The band’s “classic” lineup included Simon Le Bon on vocals, Nick Rhodes on keyboards and synthesizers, John Taylor on bass and backing vocals, Roger Taylor on drums and percussion, and Andy Taylor on guitar and backing vocals.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Bruce Springsteen,
Born to Run

Celebrating the E Street Band’s Garry Tallent on his 74th birthday.

Well here it is—the most operatic, overblown, bombastic, and yes wonderful slab of vinyl that has ever caused my ears to cry hallelujah. On 1975’s Born to Run a cocksure Bruce Springsteen went right over the top, blew a fuse, and tried to pack as much of the majestic mystery of the New Jersey night as he could onto one LP. It was a desperate gamble but it paid off in spades, and we’re all the richer for it.

On such Phil Spector-worthy epics as “Thunder Road,” “Backstreets,” and especially “Jungleland” Springsteen risked all trying to say all, and the results are indeed awesome. To a small town kid like me, Born to Run captured the wild and inchoate delirium of coming of age—of wanting to go out and explode like a skyrocket in the warm summer night. Is the whole contraption at the risk of overheating? Sure. But listening to this album never fails to return me to that innocent kid desperate for experience, and for that alone I will always love it.

To more jaded ears Born to Run may have sounded hokey, but therein lies the genius of Bruce Springsteen; on Born to Run he’s as shameless a romantic of the American Night as Jack Kerouac, and he captures the wild and heedless excitement of being young and mad with an unquenchable thirst for everything. On Born to Run Springsteen says yes to the night and to all it represents. “Roll down the window/And let the wind blow back your hair,” he sings in “Thunder Road,” “Well the night’s busting open/These two lanes will take us anywhere.” On Born to Run Springsteen sings of the possibilities, and of risking it all to run the backstreets, and I’m not certain if anyone has ever come even close to doing a finer job of doing so.

Springsteen does nothing by half-measures here; he howls, barks, and emotes like a mother—just listen to his wildcat yowl on “Backstreets” and all of the dead-end passion he pours into the immortal title track. In a gushing overflow of pure street poetry he tells us there’s no place left to hide, calls himself a tramp, and delivers the greatest “Hup dat!” in the history of rock’n’roll. This isn’t music—it’s a fever dream at the end of the night, and as pure a howl of sheer animal hunger as you’re ever likely to hear.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | 1 Comment

Graded on a Curve:
Mott the Hoople,
Mad Shadows

Remembering Dale “Buffin” Griffin, born on this day in 1948.Ed.

To most the backstory of Mott the Hoople goes something like this: nothing much special hard rock led by lead singer with Dylan fixation is on verge of throwing in towel when David Bowie tosses them lifeline in form of “All the Young Dudes.”

There are several problems with this narrative. First, Mott the Hoople were anything but a conventional hard rock band–they were a rock ’n’ roll band fronted by Ian Hunter, a singer/ songwriter with a penchant for ballads. Toss in the oversized presence of eccentric Svengali/ producer/ legendary wrecker of recording studios Guy Stevens, who was more than happy to indulge Hunter’s idiosyncrasies, and what you had was a band that set itself well apart from the hard rock pack.

Seriously, how many hard rock bands could have come up with songs called “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” and “The Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception”? Or recorded a brilliant cover of Sonny Bono’s “Laugh at Me”? Or an equally brilliant cover of Dion’s anti-heroin ode “Your Own Backyard”? Or produced as many anthemic ballads as hard rockers for that matter?

All four of Mott’s pre-All the Young Dudes LPs merit high grades, and their 1970 sophomore outing Mad Shadows is no exception. Like the others it splits the difference between heavy and soft, and showcases the mad skills of Hunter, guitarist Mick Ralphs, organ player Verden Allen, bass player Pete “Overend” Watts, and drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffith.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Big Black,

File under: Music to Hurt Things To. These guys make me think of that line from Fight Club. You know, the one that goes, “I felt like destroying something beautiful.”

I was never much of a Big Black fan for a couple of reasons. For one, they never made me chuckle the way their noise rock brethren in Cows and Killdozer did. For another, I had the hardest time working up any enthusiasm for their drum machine-driven proto-industrial sound.

But time has softened me up to the very unlovable Steve Albini and Company. Sure he’s an awful snot with a jaundiced worldview and a mean word for just about everybody, but you can’t deny he lacks vision. He wanted to make a horrible pummeling caterwaul and accompany it with lots of transgressive lyrics based on stories he read in the newspaper or vomited up from his revolting imagination, and the results can be heard to nauseating effect on Big Black’s 1986 debut LP Atomizer.

The LP credits Albini (guitar, vocals, drum machine programming), Santiago Durango (guitar), Dave Riley (bass) and Roland, who happens to be the drum machine and who I can only presume didn’t get paid. And this despite the fact that on some songs Roland should get top billing.

But on other cuts it’s easy to forget poor Roland because the boys make such an ungodly noise with their guitars, thanks to their use of metal guitar picks notched with sheet metal clips. They achieve a variety of startling and discordant effects via this simple trick; the tinny Chinese din of “Passing Complexion” (think world music as played by guys who never got out of Evanston, Illinois) will give you a good idea of the sonic possibilities. Sonic Youth have nothing on this bunch.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Anthology: Through
the Years

Remembering Tom Petty, born on this day in 1950.Ed.

The death of Tom Petty was a seismic event. People were in tears; my girlfriend called to break the sad news and she was, and there’s no other way to say it, heartbroken. I was heartbroken. Death is not a competition or a game, but offhand I can only think of a few other rock’n’rollers whose deaths might be more traumatic for all of us, and they answer to the names Dylan, Springsteen, Jagger, and Richards.

From his eponymous 1976 debut until now Tom Petty (both with and without his backing band the Heartbreakers) produced enough great songs to fill a small jukebox, and their genius lies in their simplicity. Petty was a no-frills hit maker with an unerring ability to set a timeless sentiment to a great hook, and this lack of overweening ambition—Petty was never restlessly experimental or conceptual in the way Pete Townshend or Neil Young can be—often led people to underrate his unique skill set. He was dedicated to the production of great rock songs, not cosmic statements, and in this respect he was just as old school as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. And he continued to produce great songs for a longer period of time than any of them and almost anybody period, Bruce Springsteen excepted.

Petty was that rarest of rarities, a truly likeable rock star—and I think this is why we all feel so bereft—because he spoke to us from the heart. There was nothing aloof or coldly intellectual or calculating about his music. He was an incurable romantic—sometimes cynical, sure, and sometimes angry, but often tender—and his subject was universal: Love. He knew the heart is a fragile vessel and on most of the songs on 2000’s Anthology: Through the Years—and I’m not just thinking of such well-known tunes as “American Girl” and “Free Fallin’” but also of less-played songs like “The Best of Everything” and the stoical “It’ll All Work Out”—he wore it on his sleeve. Like Roy Orbison, he was a kind of patron saint of the brokenhearted. And no one but Orbison could so effortlessly evoke the pain of love gone wrong.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Bad Company,
Straight Shooter

Bad Company played meat and potatoes hard rock for the masses—they stripped things down to the fundamentals in a way that few other rock bands ever have, and the kids in the arenas loved them for it.

Austerity was their calling card; they made America’s Lynyrd Skynyrd—whose Ronnie Van Zant cited Rodgers as his biggest influence—sound like progressive rockers. They were a math problem every bit as simple as the Ramones, but without the zip. Bad Company steamrolled their way to the big time. They were every bit as remorseless as Killdozer, who paid them homage with their cover of “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.”

Bad Company were formed in 1973 by former members of Free (vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke), Mott the Hoople (guitarist Mick Ralphs), and King Crimson (bassist Boz Burrell), which made them a supergroup I suppose, albeit a low-rent one. Or perhaps I say that simply because Bad Company never scored very high in the charisma department—they weren’t flamboyant, had zero flash, wit or lyrical ideas, and weren’t the types you’d find at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Los Angeles. They may have called themselves Bad Company—and I could be dead wrong about this—but in my mind’s eye I see them going back to their hotel rooms after a show and brushing their teeth. Vigorously.

Their debut LP, 1974’s Bad Company, was their strongest. It boasted five classic cuts, and only one dead carp. Their next one, 1975’s Straight Shooter, had a killer A Side but a B side that kills the album’s forward momentum stone dead—the steamroller runs out of gas. It’s a primo example of the sophomore album curse, and also, I suspect, of a common guarantor of debut album follow-up failure—rushing into the studio too soon after recording the first one. Rodgers and Ralphs, the band’s primary songwriters, obviously lacked sufficient material to fill out the album, leaving them to serve up a clunker or two. Worse, they handed the ball off to Kirke—nobody’s idea of a songwriter—who contributed two tracks. They’re tepid tap water at best.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Seals & Crofts,
Greatest Hits

Remembering Jim Seals, born on this day in 1941.Ed.

Seals & Crofts have moved into our house! It’s true! And here’s how it happened. Yesterday we got a knock on our door. I had no intention of opening it because most likely it was our crazy neighbor from across the street who’s been accusing our garden gnome of shitting on his lawn. Then I caught a whiff of jasmine and said to myself, “No way is it the legendary soft rock duo whose gossamer thin sound has enriched the lives of so many.”

But it was! Seals & Crofts in the flesh! And they were wondering if they could move in with us for a couple of days because times were tough and they were tired of living in a lean-to by the railroad tracks running past the lake of toxic sludge near the abandoned nuclear reactor.

And of course I said YES! Who wouldn’t? And they couldn’t express how grateful they were because everyone else had slammed their doors in their faces, including our neighbor from across the street who accused them of shitting on his lawn.

“How could anyone think that?” asked a perplexed Jim Seals. “In the bushes by the railroad tracks, sure. But that’s out of sheer necessity.”

“Where’s your stuff,” I asked. All they had with them were their acoustic guitars.

“We had to hock everything,” said Dash Crofts, “including our gold record for ‘Summer Breeze.’ I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the railroad hobo economy is in the tank.”

“Would you like to take a shower?” asked my wife. “You’re caked with coal dust and radioactive slime. And I’m catching the distinct aroma of urine.”

“That would be me,” said Seals. “And that shower would be much appreciated.”

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Chelsea Girl

Celebrating Nico, born on this day in 1938.Ed.

Everybody, or so it seems, loves Teutonic chanteuse Nico’s absolutely enchanting 1967 debut solo album Chelsea Girl–except Nico. In 1981 she said, “I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! They added strings and–I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flutes! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.”

“They” were Velvet Underground producer Tom Wilson and arranger Larry Fallon, and as should be obvious from the above quote they sugar-frosted Chelsea Girl without so much as asking for Nico’s by your live.

Nico may have been crestfallen about Chelsea Girl, but generations of listeners have been bewitched by her hauntingly droning approach to songs by the likes of the young Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, and (of course) her former Velvet Underground bandmates Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison. These songs are as coldly tender as a Baltic Sea wind blowing through the pines of Spreewald Forest where Nico spent her childhood war years, watching the flickering lights of Allied bombers devastating Berlin on the horizon.

The veddy veddy German Nico (aka Christa Päffgen) is certainly one of the most distinctive vocalists you’ll ever run across; my East German ex-Frau lost her accent within a year or so of leaving the Deutschland, but the ex-model, Warhol actress, and member of his Exploding Plastic Inevitable’s accent remained every bit as thick as the walls of Hitler’s bunker, making her without a doubt the frostiest Ice Queen in the history of modern pop music.

But Nico’s frigid vocals are warmed up by this collection of winsome songs; with the exception of the eerily beautiful (and vaguely Middle Eastern sounding) “It Was a Pleasure Then” (on which Reed and Cale bring to bear the all of the dissonant powers they displayed on “European Son”) “Chelsea Girls,” and Hardin’s “Eulogy to Lenny Bruce” the tunes are fetching, and the Wilson-Fallon strings and flute overlay gives the LP an accessible, chamber pop sheen. Which, of course, Nico despised.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Think Pink

Let’s raise a drink to Twink—he’s a goddamn psychedelic rock hero. Twink (given name John Charles Edward Alder, adopted name as of 2006 Mohammed Abdullah) has pristine acid rock bona fides—he was the drummer for the Pretty Things when they released their seminal 1968 concept LP S.F. Sorrow, before moving on to loveable anarchists the Pink Fairies.

And during the interim between bands he released his first solo LP, 1970’s Think Pink, with a cast of lysergic loons that included defrocked Deviants frontman Mich Farren (who produced) and ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took, both of whom would go on with Twink to form the prototype of the Pink Fairies. Also on board was Canadian sessions musician Paul Rudolph, who before he returned to his true love of cycling was perhaps the most unhinged (and unheralded) guitarist on the English psychedelic underground scene.

Think Pink is very much a creature of its times, but it’s stood up over the years. Whimsical and eccentric in the Grand English Manner, albeit quite dark in some places, its songs vary from sound-effects heavy freakscapes to off-the-cuff goofs to a few of the best—if seldom heard—acid rock songs of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. In short it’s a dog’s breakfast of an album that keeps its ambitions low—this is art for art’s sake stuff, making few concessions to commercial accessibility, which isn’t to say that one or two of these songs wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on the old wireless.

The LP opens with the inadvertently hilarious “The Coming of the One,” a madcap collection of discordant sounds that include sitar, pixie horn, and lots of deranged voices over which Twink turns Nostradamus and gives us the lowdown on life in the year 1999—and exactly seven months.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Needle Drop:
The Darkness,
Permission to Land…Again

Glam never dies. It predated David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and the New York Dolls, and its tradition has been carried on by the likes of Destroyer and, most importantly, Lady Gaga. But during the eighties Glam became associated with metal bands whose only claim to genre lay in the fact they wore make-up. The likes of Poison, Ratt, and Skid Row all have their attraction, but Glam they most definitely they ain’t.

England’s The Darkness are the real thing. They have musical similarities to eighties Glam metal, but they understand that Glam is an attitude, a pose, a way of looking at life. Fey, androgynous, witty, artificial, decidedly un-macho and essentially frivolous, glitter rockers adhere to that most famous of dandies Oscar Wilde’s famous credo, “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.” And on their 2003 debut Permission to Land—which has been reissued for its 20th anniversary in various configurations—The Darkness stand up for that greatest of human endeavors—going pink flamingo flamboyant and having an ostrich feather lark while doing it. The Darkness’s name may well be an inside joke, because there’s absolutely nothing dark about them.

The Darkness stand apart from the pack on the quality of their music alone, but what really makes them one of Glam’s shinier gifts to the glamkind is lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Hawkins’ voice, which is so campy and outrageous he makes Freddy Mercury sound like Hoyt Axton. I invite you to listen to the way he goes for the high notes, stutters and positively warbles his way through the band’s big one, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Hawkins goes for baroque every time he opens his mouth.

There isn’t a single weak track on Permission to Land, and some of the band’s influences may surprise you. Opening track “Black Shuck” is AC/DC in five-inch stacked heels. On “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” The Darkness plays a primal riff while Hawkins does a bit of yodeling.”Growing on Me” is a mid-tempo number with an eighties glam metal feel and a chorus that could be by Warrant.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Angel,
Helluva Band

Celebrating Frank Dimino in advance of his 72nd birthday on Sunday.Ed.

My favorite story about Angel, Washington, DC’s glammed-out, all-white spandex retort to Kiss, which seemed poised for superstardom in the mid-seventies (giant billboards on the Sunset Strip, selection by the readers of Circus magazine as the Best New Group of 1976, and tours of the great American arena circuit with the likes of Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Journey, and Rush) is pure Spinal Tap.

The band, with some major financial backing from Casablanca Records mogul Neil Bogart, had developed one of the most elaborate stage shows in rock, a fantasia of smoke, magic, and mirrors that led one wag to suggest that the band might be better off staying home and sending its props on the road. One gimmick involved the band appearing magically on stage one by one in puffs of smoke, to be introduced by the face on the giant Angel logo—which none other than Ian MacKaye pointed out to me is ambigrammatic, meaning it reads the same when turned upside down as when viewed normally—that served as the band’s backdrop.

One night, as Punky Meadows, Angel’s guitarist and the most androgynous pretty boy in a band full of androgynous pretty boys, told me: “Of course, all we were doing was coming up through trapdoors from beneath the stage. Well, one night, the big talking head introduces [drummer] Mickie Jones, and Mickie isn’t there. We’re looking at each like, ‘Where the fuck’s Mickie?’ Turns out his trapdoor got stuck. And all those stoned kids in the audience are going [Meadows sucks on an imaginary joint], ‘That’s really weird, man…'”

Angel was ahead of its time as a hair metal band, but while publicity photos featuring Meadows sporting hair the females of the era would have died for and a pout that put Scarlett Johansson’s to shame helped increase Angel’s popularity amongst certain sectors—predominantly teenage girls—it didn’t win them any points with critics.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Les Rallizes Dénudés,
The OZ Tapes

Decades before bands like the Boredoms and Melt Banana put the Land of the Rising Sun on the noise rock map, another Japanese band was making discordant sounds—Les Rallizes Dénudés.

The racket-inclined psych-rock/folk band’s story—which began in 1967 at Kyoto’s Doshisha University—reads like a good novel. You get clamorous feedback of epic proportions. Radical politics and a connection to a prominent terrorist group. A spotty recording history—they never released a proper album despite the fact they were around for years, but left behind only a series of shoddily recorded live and abortive studio recordings. A reclusive and possibly paranoid lead singer. Oh, and to top it all off, an airplane hijacking by a former member turned revolutionary. Plane crashes are a staple of rock mythology, but a plane hijacking? Why not throw in demonic possession and a few zombies into the mix?

Les Rallizes Dénudés has been on the public radar recently due to the 2023 release of CITTA’ ’93, a polished-up and carefully remastered recording of the band’s final show—after a very long hiatus—at Tokyo’s Club Citta in 1993. Some of their other official releases—there are bootlegs galore circulating out there—have been remastered as well. One is 2022’s The OZ Tapes, which was remastered from the original tapes, discovered after the 2019 death of frontman Takashi Mizutani. You get howling guitar, more howling guitar, a song or two reminiscent of the Velvet Underground at their most melodic mellow and, surprisingly, some laid-back psych-folk that would do the Grateful Dead proud.

But first, a quick glance at the band’s tumultuous early days. They started the band as students, and took some tenuous steps towards recording in a proper studio before deciding to focus exclusively on playing live. While they played at protests—including a show at a student-occupied (as in they took the fucker over) auditorium—only one of the group, founding member and bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi, took the leap into violent revolutionary activity, joining the Yodogō Group of the radical New Left Japan Communist League’s “Red Army Faction.”

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Chicago,
Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits

Celebrating Robert Lamm in advance of his birthday tomorrow.

Every night I dream the same horrid dream. I am being chased, butt naked, through the night forest by a howling mob bearing torches and pitchforks. My crime? My pursuers have somehow unearthed my deepest, darkest secret—that I kinda like the 1975 greatest hits LP of Chicago, the horn-based “rock band” that gave us “Colour My World,” the slow dance anthem of my benighted adolescence.

I cannot tell you how my affection for Chicago IX shames me. But the recent release of Chicago MCXXXIV impels me to attempt to vindicate myself. First: don’t get me wrong; I’m not insane. I have never listened to another Chicago LP, nor have I ever felt the slightest desire to do so. What’s more, I despise horn-based rock as a rule—the mere thought of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” makes me dizzy to the point of nausea—so Chicago IX’s appeal remains a dark mystery.

I’m fatally drawn in by the good melodies, I suppose, and tight horn arrangements, to say nothing of the guitar of Terry Kath, who would later die from an accidental self-inflicted gun shot wound. Plus Chicago had three dudes who could handle lead vocal chores, which added some variety to their sound. And they boasted some top-notch percussion in the personages of Laudir De Oliveira and David Seraphine. But I’m not making excuses. I know I’m guilty, and if that mob finds me, I’ll just be getting my just desserts.

I try to console myself by thinking that I don’t like all 11 tunes on the band’s greatest hits. “Colour My World,” for example, is an offense to all right-thinking people everywhere, and should be behind glass in a defendant’s booth like the one they put Adolf Eichmann in during his trial in Israel. I don’t like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” either, because despite its chipper horn arrangement fronted by trumpet player Lee Loughnane and catchy melody, the song’s hippy dippy lyrics strike me as total bullshit. Vocalist Robert Lamm may claim he doesn’t care what time it is, but I’ll lay even money that despite his affected contempt for the clock he always manages to show up to collect his royalties check precisely on the dot. As for “Call on Me,” which is sung by the band’s most prominent vocalist Peter Cetera, it’s just plain boring.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Van Halen, Van Halen

Celebrating David Lee Roth, born on this day in 1954.Ed.

So I was listening to the masterful and spiritually uplifting guitar artistry of John McLaughlin and thought, “You know what? I’d rather listen to Van Halen.” That’s the kind of spiritually evolved being I am. There is the cosmos, with its songs of devotion and birds of fire, and then there is the shirtless David Lee Roth. The fact that I prefer the latter is proof that I exist upon a lower class astral plane, in a double-wide trailer whose front yard is littered with empty beer cans.

Let me say this just to start: When it comes to Van Halen, I’m a 1984 guy. Hardcore fans call 1984 a sell-out. I deny they sold out. I would argue they sold up. But the fact is I’ve already written about 1984, so I’m writing about Van Halen’s kick-ass 1978 self-titled debut. It’s not 1/10th as funny as 1984–the biggest laugh riot of a metal LP this side of Kix’s first–but it rocks much harder and is a lot meaner to boot. Van Halen was the opening salvo of a band that was clearly hungry and just as clearly had something to prove.

It’s evident in every note Eddie Van Halen plays; you can hear it in David Lee Roth’s straight-from-the-crotch vocal swagger. Not all of its songs are winners–I might even go far as to say its B side sags–but the winners win big. Why, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” is so wonderful The Minutemen saw fit to cover it on Double Nickels on the Dime. When you’re the kind of band punk rockers love to hate but punk rockers still love your songs, you must be doing something right.

Van Halen was not universally beloved upon its release. The critics in particular were mean. Rolling Stone’s Charles M. Young opined, “In three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting … follow[ing] Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal.” Meanwhile, the Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, commenting about Van Halen’s status as a bar band, wrote, “The term becomes honorific when the music belongs in a bar. This music belongs on an aircraft carrier.” And you know what? He’s right. This music does belong on an aircraft carrier, provided everybody on said aircraft carrier is drunk, said aircraft carrier is driving erratically and well over the posted speed limit, and there’s a wet t-shirt contest being held on the flag bridge.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text