Once again, I lived the year with ears wide open, forever scouting far under the socio-musical radar for sounds that may just have passed you by over the past twelve months and counting. So here then is a Top Ten of sorts, respectfully listed, as always, in strictest alphabetical order…
DEBRIS Static Disposal
Like their creatively miscreant Canadian cousins Simply Saucer, Chickasha Oklahoma’s one and only Debris spent those dreaded mid-Seventies recording some of the most totally incongruent, while at the same time brilliantly iconic music this side of your nearest, dearest Dictators demo.
And, thanks to those ultra-visionaries at Anopheles Records, over a full hour of these historic, histrionic sounds — including the band’s entire semi-self-released 1976 vinyl long-player — are herein recycled for all the world to embrace and/or run screaming in the opposite direction from. Veering most wackily from post-Trout Mask repartee to EchoPlex-laden merry lo-frequency modulations, the hard bedrock ‘neath it all somehow always keeps things concrete and coherent in solid Blue Cheer style.
Is it any wonder then that Debris had a standing invitation throughout ’76 to play both Max’s Kansas City and CBGB (…too very, very bad they never made it though: “We were all ready to go, but not at the same time” admits Oliver “O” Powers, aka Rectomo — he of, and again I quote this package’s generous liner notes, Vibraharp, variable multi-stringed electronic exasperator coupled with various electronic special operations devices, B-flat coronet, vericose verbalizations, and gruesome groans).
Suffice to say then that, along with The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment’s Hammer Of The Metal Gods, Static D must certainly be 2007’s most challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, deep sonic experience.
THE DOUGHBOYS Is It Now?
The true teen originators of vintage-66 Jersey Beat (Read All About It in Richard X Heyman’s literally loud Boom Harangue book), Plainfield NJ’s very own Doughboys have just now released their first new recordings in — Wait for it! — four long decades. Yet so far from sounding in any way retro-stalgic, the band’s House Of Vibes-produced debut CD is quite simply, quite pimply, a red-white-and-blues-too, all-American roller-rock wonder that easily puts such pretenders to the Jersey throne as that Boss man, for one, straight to shame and back.
Nothing but cool, crafty meat ‘n’ potatoes rock and soul …and whenever none other than original Nashville Strawb John Hawken adds his Alan-priceless 88’s to the equation, as I recently witnessed him doing on stage, things get even, well, doughier!
Yes, in a fair and just world, the D-Boys’ Too Little Too Late for starters would be tops inside not only Little Steven’s Underground Garage …but that’s hardly any excuse to keep on waiting to get your own copy of this disc, Is It Now?
THE FREDDIE STEADY 5 Tex Pop
Bonafide-and-then-some Texas Hall of Famer Freddie Krc – yes, he of Explosives and even Roky Erickson fame – keeps things more than merely steady throughout this thirteen track, thirty-eight-minute breath of fresh Austin air.
Ably astride alongside Patterson Barrett’s Farfisa-soaked carnival keyboards, Freddie dreams of 2001’s Cavestomp Fest (yes, and ya should’a seen Barry and his Remains at THAT show!!), crosses Jackie DeShannon by way of Gene Clark (She Has A Way indeed), and takes Question Mark and the Raiders Just Down The Road apiece to boot.
And as if all that wasn’t nearly more than enough, What’s So Hard About Love nods most reverently towards Augie Meyers whilst whipping up its very own Texas tornado or three. Meanwhile, in between spinning all this Tex Pop (and waiting for the next Bill Lloyd disc), please also check out Mr. Krc’s other grand 2007 project: None other than SteadyBoy’s Jenny Wolfe and the Pack! Promise?
THE LICKITY-SPLITS Another Taste of the Lickity-Splits
I duly raved rabid all over (Col. Knowledge and) The Lickity-Splits’ 2005 Bomp!/Alive disc …but despite even that, somehow this delicious combo’s latest and greatest has yet to find an actual real-world release!
Nevertheless, said grand new lickity taste continues mining that same rollicking frat-rock crack as ever, conjuring the perfectly greasy pre-Beatle production, um, values of no less than Senator John Kerry’s 1961 Electras elpee whilst sometimes – simultaneously! – shakin’ and quakin’ with all the anti-aplomb of Otis Day and his Knights’ bastard sons.
Imagining, if you can, the circa- “Music from Big Brown” Band getting all Jah about it alongside Nardwuar’s Goblins/Evaporators, these never more than four- to eight-track home-recorded gems just go to prove, yet again, that it’s the SONG (not to mention the Spirit), stupid, that honestly counts.
Y’know, whenever I toss this little treasure onto the ol’ Pig Player I like to think that somewhere, in Rock ‘n’ Roll Purgatory, Bluto is at last smiling …and licking.
LOLAS Like The Sun
The first three bars may sound terrifyingly (late-period) Zappa, but fear not be you weak of ear! For the remaining fifty-eight-minutes-forty-nine of this latest day-glo treat from Tim Boykin & Co. is one harmony ‘n’ soleil-drenched, slap-happy pickin’ grinnin’ treat throughout. You see, as he makes sure within all his powerfully popping productions (Shame Idols and, why, even the Tim Boykin Blues Band I kid you not!)
Our Man Timmeh never ever fails to keep it infectiously melodic, yet whilst always remembering to layer the snap AND crackle all over his you-know-what. For example, Watch The Movie is enough to make one toss their last three – at least! – McCartney albums, Sticker could revive those Swinging Blue Jeans with one white guitar stuck behind its back, and Going All The Way, for starters, should absolutely score the very next Quentin Tarantino epic.
Meanwhile, Ramon Ghetto Chef 2 is the great Sabbath/Sweet gunfight that, most unfortunately, never was, I’ll always like to think Blue Shadows is the best Bill Cowsill obit imaginable, and if you’d ever like to know the truth about Me And Barbara Stanwyck in a way I betcha even that Roustabout Elvis couldn’t tell (…yep, they DO like to listen to T.Rex) (Together!), herein’s your chance.
P.S., and Praise be as well to Jeremy Morris and his judicious Jam Recordings, for keeping sounds just like the l-o-l-a Lolas’ forever in our ears and so close to the sun.
THE MODD COUPLE Daze Gone By
Brooklyn-born, street (and AM Radio) raised, and today warmly Florida-based, the most moddest couple I’ve ever really known have created another half hour’s of sweetly sublime, wholly two-straw shake-worthy soft pop pleasure for your lazy next Sunday afternoon.
Only ever needing Rich’s guitar, Terry’s percussion, and their twin voices like (as per When We’re In Love) chocolate/vanilla, Dacron silk rainbow snowballs, theirs is the kind of quite quietly understated music which, if you’ll let it, draws you instantly, welcomingly, and entirely in.
And then once you’re “there,” the rewards can be many, and often. F’rinstance, I’m In Trouble may seem to detour down Tobacco Road clear into cleaner, definite Paul and Artie territory, but mere minutes later Ian and Sylvia crash The Beach Boys’ Party by way of a mess-o-helpin’ I’m In A Vest and Singing All Alone.
But then, Baby Don’t You Turn Your Back On Me turns into the finest slice of Belmont Avenue doo wop of the strictest, sweet city Dion caliber I’ve heard in pig’s years! So, to again quote this couple in question, What does it mean? Why do people STILL not get (into) the Monkees??! Sure, Rick digs one-night stands and milk, where Terry may prefer return calls and baloney… But remember: When we’re in love, it’s a modd modd modd modd world!
JACK PEDLER Let’s Get Nervous
Welcome to Wonderful J.A.C.K! (Do not adjust your set). Voted Drummer of the Year at the Hamilton Music Awards — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada being, and remaining, the most musical burg in all of North America at least – the beat beneath most every single great white northward record of note now unleashes his latest Uneasy Listening masterwerk.
And what a nerve-mauling delight it surely is, extremely broad cast throughout in true Firesign Theatre by way of Who Sell Out pirated radio waves. We belt immediately off with that one and lonely Diesel Drivin’ Dyke (who at last gets the solid, straight down I-81 Teenage Head treatment she’s so long deserved) deep into Toxin Town, which by the by should be adopted without delay by the aforementioned Hamilton’s Chamber of Commerce, I hereby declare.
And speaking of the newest world orders, Mapled Red And White just must be the definitive alt. Canuck national anthem some of us have been waiting all along for. So go right ahead, sit all the way back in the nearest Third World Home, and while you’re to it and at it, don’t dare forget to pick up this disc’s handy companion volume, Clown School, too. Coz, though I’ve said it before (so has he!), it seems even more relevant in ’08 and beyond: TRUST IN JACK.
THE SPRAGUE BROTHERS Best of the EssBee CD’s Vol. 2
Here they both come again! For the third – count ‘em – year-end in a row, in the long, tall Texan tradition of Sid King, Sir Doug, clear on through to steady Freddie et al, Frank Lee and Chris Sprague made my 2007 too with this Spanish (!) assemblage of tracks originally released on a series of albums for their legion Japanese (!!) fans.
Yep, the Brothers’ indisputably international way with a tune run rampant from, speaking of Lone Stars, the Bobby Fuller-y All Night Long and even a couple of ravin’ on pre-Cricket Buddy Holly hoppers (Down The Line and my long-time fave Gotta Get You Near Me Blues) clear on cross-pond towards several hunks of Frank Lee’s be-luv-ed Merseybeat (She Won’t Stay For Long most especially).
And while they’re at it, where would’ve John and Paul ever been without Don and Phil (e.g.: the Spragues’ startlingly mature reading of the Everlys’ So How Come and a similar take on the Searchers’ Goodbye My Love). Mix ‘em all together (Never Knew manages to blend both B. Fuller AND Beatles!) and top with some hot country and surf instrumentals – Goldfinger even!! – and you have here twenty choice cuts that, as Frank Lee himself insists, are “influenced by none, inspired by many.”
And? “Sprague Brothers RULE,” I insist.
This brazenly self-confessed “mostly mono split CD hootenanny” between the most legendary Big Boy Pete Miller (got any Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers vinyl in your collection, speaking of whom?) and that equally staturesque Squire Christopher Earl is one half-hour’s-plus of rockin’ and THEN rollin’ bopabilly, guaranteed to send stockings to the closest dancefloor within a half dozen shakes of Tom T. Hall’s opening Make Like a Snake.
Yes, the source material is, not surprisingly at all, impeccable throughout (Charlie Rich, Larry Williams, Buddy (Holly) ‘n’ Bobby (Fuller) (again!) and the performances never less than reverent …but WITHOUT putting anything, or anyone, in any museum whatsoever, musical or otherwise. Just take the Big Boy’s fractured ‘n’ frenzied take on Queen Of The Hop: why, I haven’t heard such a joyous jumble since those Cramps hijacked the first Mungo Jerry album.
Oh! And the Squire’s original compositions herein are nothing to be sneezed upon either, in particular the two-by-four to the floor’d 86 Lumber and that completely hungover I Quit Quit Drinking Today. Now, these may all be supposedly lowly four-track recordings slung together in C. and B.B.P.’s respective basement dens, but that never stopped Elvis, Scotty OR Bill back in the daze, now did it?
To what’s left of my ears, there’s just never enough racket left in anybody’s “rock” anymore, but these two guys — trust me on this one at least — have got it EXACTLY right.
ROBIN STANLEY Chronic Empire
My good long-time Vancouver pal Robin, who I spent many an evening playing bass for within the Fun With Numbers band a decade or three ago, at last returns with another thought-provoking yet ultimately uplifting collection of ruminations upon home, heart, and matters even further and deeper reaching.
Now, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, here is a man, and a songwriter, with a keen eye for detail and an ear set to make some sort of sonic logic from all around him, and me, and you. In other words, this is one disc that proudly wears its lyrics right there on its inner sleeve. Then musically too, each track sports a gaunt sophistication in both arrangement and performance (Born Under A Bad Sign in particular).
A Heart Without A Home effortlessly drags Blood On The Tracks Dylan clean into chronic REM fields, Love’s Made A Fool Of Me similarly declouds the often foggy Daniel Lanois approach, and you’ll find Robin’s Suburban Lawns spread happily beneath their fondest Waterloo sunset.
Elsewhere, Lyndon Toftager’s accordion adds a perfectly sorrowful world-weariness to Angel Of Mercy, and also bringing much to the mix is lead guitarist Ian Crew, whose Best Mistake solo cuts just like a Mick Taylor of old. But always atop it all, Robin’s vocals are extremely assured and biting in their sincerity, necessary indeed when singing of Waiting For The World To End in frightful John Fogerty fashion, for one.
Indeed, this is a collection of songs that may require repeated close listens before fully revealing their close-knit weave of lyrical and musical sophistication, but Robin always was a novel as opposed to comic book sorta guy. And we could certainly use a few thousand more just like him right about now, right? Just tell ‘em Gary Pig Gold said so.