Saturday, March 11, 2017

Germ Free Adolescents & Shows # 647 & # 648


Like many bands that formed and created music in the UK in the late 70s, X-Ray Spex was influenced by the Sex Pistols. Formed by Poly Styrene (vocals) and Lora Logic (saxophone), Jak Airport (guitar), Paul Dean (bass) and B.P. Hurding on drums in 1976, X-Ray Spex shot out of the vortex of the 70s UK punk scene. They ended as a band shortly after the release of their full-length album, Germ Free Adolescents. Musically the band featured a sound influenced by 70s punk, but one that came off with a sound mixing elements of proto punk, glam and mod music. You can hear the influence of Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Mick Jones (The Clash) and Mick Ronson (David Bowie), amongst other influences in the band’s make up. This sound was mixed in with saxophone and erratic high energy levels provided by lead singer and front woman, Poly Styrene. Lyrically, X-Ray Spex delved into many anti-commercial based themes that questioned Britain’s consumer based society at the time.

Germ Free Adolescents opens with the song “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo”. In between the chugging guitars and sleazy saxophones, Styrene sings of a world painted with and dominated by, synthetic products that glows in a haunting disdain. “Obsessed With You” features lyrics such as “You are just a concept/You are just a dream/You’re just a reflection of the new regime”, mixed in with a chorus that features lyrics that portray a love/hate relationship that can show commercial products as being disenchanting and romantic to some. “Identity” attacks with buzz saw guitars and soulful 50s saxophone parts and lyrics that rally for independence and finding yourself. The song can take on many forms, but also relates to the way women perceive themselves based on the “perfect” image that is broadcast by the mainstream media. The message in this song is one that still rings true today. “I Live Off You” features excellent R&B saxophone parts performed by Rudi Thomson. He joined the band after Lora Logic left the group shortly after the recording of the band’s first single Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Cliché. The lyrics have an effective melody that drifts from melodic to high pitched. Lyrically the song portrays a chain of command of exploitation, whether it is by commercialism or by other means.

“Germ Free Adolescent” takes things down a bit as a more mid-tempo number with dominant bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. Styrene sings of toothpaste and a character obsessed with cleanliness, so much so that it appears this character that has a form of OCD that cannot wash off the advertisements that they hear on a daily basis. “Art-I-Ficial” features lyrics such as “I know I’m artificial/But don’t put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances in a consumer society”. In between the proto-punk guitar riffs, drum rolls and bouncy basslines, Styrene sings of a fakeness that is created by consumer society and one that is difficult to separate yourself from. “Warrior In Woolworths” drifts into T.Rex territory, “I Can’t Do Anything” features static sounding guitar, rolling basslines, wheezy saxophone lines and is notable for the lyrics “Freddy tried to strangle me with my plastic popper beads/But I hit him back with my pet rat”. This song, like many on Germ Free Adolescents is layered in multiple meanings. “I Can’t Do Anything” seems to be a cathartic song dealing with oppression.

“Plastic Bag” boasts heavy guitar riffs and speedy saxophone lines that drift in between the slower breakdowns of the song. This song, like many on the album, question the way society is and how people live within it. Poly Styrene could be saying here that her mind is “like a plastic bag”, it can be filled with anything and is often perceived as cheap and disposable. But, within this song and amongst the songs on Germ Free Adolescents, the lyrics cry for a search for satisfaction that is lost due to an alienation that separates us from our true potential. Heavy stuff at times, but it is executed in a way that it is not all bleak and the deeper meanings of Germ Free Adolescents sink below the surface of these songs, only resurface at differing points.

By 1980, X-Ray Spex split up and various members were on to other things. Although they reformed for another album, Conscious Consumer in 1995, the impact of their first album and of their first single and what some view as their finest moment, “Oh Bondage! Up Yours”, overshadows other points in the band’s history. Germ Free Adolescents questions, challenges, and brings up themes of commercialism, identity, oppression and gender roles in a way that is just as relevant today as it was in 1978. With Germ Free Adolescents, we learn that there are some things you just can’t wash off so easily.

(Note: This write-up refers to the 1991/2005 reissue track order of Germ Free Adolescents.)

Show 648 (International Women's Day Special):

1. X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage! Up Yours! (Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Cliche - 1977)
2. The Pebbles - The Pebbles Twist (The First Album - 1997)
3. Dorothy Berry - You Better Watch Out (You Better Watch Out/Ain't That Love - 1964)
4. The Ronettes - You Bet I Would (Silhouettes/You Bet I Would - 1965)
5. Dusty Springfield- Willie & Laura Mae Jones (Dusty In Memphis - 1969)
6. The Velvet Underground - Femme Fatale (Velvet Underground & Nico - 1967)
7. Sonic Youth - Shadow Of A Doubt (Evol - 1986)
8. The Luyas - Self Unemployed Human (Voicing - 2017)
9. Dream Whip - Beach Dreams (Dream Whip - 2017)
10. Mexican Knives - Smother (Mexican Knives - 2015)
11. The Highest Order - Hurry Down (Still Holding - 2016)
11. Sky Wallace - Blood Moon (Something Wicked - 2016)
12. Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out (Live In Paris - 2017)
13. White Lung - Take The Mirror (Sorry - 2012)
14. PJ Harvey Hardly - Wait (4 Track Demos - 1993)
15. X-Ray Spex - Identity (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
16. X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
17. X-Ray Spex - Art-I-ficial (John Peel Session) (Germ Free Adolescents - 2005)
18. Kleenex "1978" (First Songs - 2016)
19. Liliput - Hitch Hike (First Songs - 2016)
20. Teenanger - Mild Survival (EPLP - 2014)
21. The Modernettes - Static (View From The Bottom - 1982)
22. The Zellots - Empty Victories (Demo - 1980)
23. The New Pornographers - All For Swinging You Around (Electric Version - 2003)
24. Lost Patrol - See Me Now The (Lost Patrol - 1988)
25. The Gories - Stranded (I Know You Fine But How You Doin - 1990)
26. Demolition Doll Rods - Doo Walka-Walka (Tasty - 1997)
27. The Jackets - Freak Out (Way Out - 2012)
28. The Beat Happening - Noise (You Turn Me On - 1992)
29. Destroy All Monsters - Nobody Knows (What Do I Get/Nobody Knows - 1979)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 11.


Show 647 (Oblivians, Mummies & More):

1. The Oblivians - Hey Mama, Look At Sis
2. The Oblivians - Blew My Cool
3. The Mummies - Test Drive
4. The Mummies - Stronger Than Dirt
5. Ty Segall - Thank You Mr. K
6. Vagabon - Minneapolis
7. Priests - JJ
8. Dream Whip - Hookser Du
9. Century Palm - New Creation
10. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Stamps
11. The Birthday Party - Swampland Mutiny
12. Pissed Jeans - Have You Ever Been Furniture
13. Culture - I'm Not Ashamed
14. Jack Lee - Come Back And Stay
15. John Wesley Coleman III - Hang Tight
16. The Sadies - Another Season Again
17. The Sadies - The Noise Museum
18. The O-L West - Afterthought No. 3
19. Old 97's - Nobody
20. 9th Wave = Full Throttle
21. No Aloha - Trips
22. All Hands On Jane - Kitty City
23. Film Jacket 35 - Chocked On My Ego
24. Paul Jacobs - Quarter To Eleven
25. Cawama - Planet Of The Sharks
26. The Cheetahs - Magic Dollar
27. The Replacements - Whole Foods Blues (Live Hollywood Paladium April 16 2015)
28. Bash & Pop - Anything Could Happen
29. The I Don't Cares - Whole Lotta Nothin'
30. Tobin Sprout - I Fall You Fall

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 4.

Monday, March 06, 2017

An Interview With Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet & Show # 646


At some point in the mid-90s, I have a memory of watching television. It was later at night and the show, which had a strange and edgy comedy style was on CBC television. This show was The Kids In The Hall. Aside from the KITH comedy stylings, I remember experiencing the music on this show. I later found out that an instrumental rock band did the music for this show from Canada called Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. The theme song of this show was another story. “Having An Average Weekend” has its own effect within the context of the show. It has a nostalgic feeling. It tapped into a sense of boredom and a sense of excitement, despite being recorded in 1985 way before the KITH TV show. Perhaps it was the style of bass playing on the song or the way the guitar weaved in-between the drums and bass. Whatever it was, it worked well.

Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet got their start in Calgary. The band had its originals in punk. Both bassist Reid Diamond and guitarist Brian Connelly were in a band called Buick McKane. They reconnected with future drummer Don Pyle after moving to Toronto and played briefly in his Toronto punk act, Crash Kills Five. This band split in 1981 after releasing the What Do You Do At Night? EP. It’s also interesting to note that Don was the singer in this band and when Pyle, Diamond and Connelly started playing together as a band, Don hadn’t really played drums before. Regardless, the band started playing as an instrumental rock band after their intended singer stopped playing with them. With neither member wanting to take the lead vocal role, the band adapted, continuing as a three-piece and started playing instrumentally. Their sound is often hard to describe since they combined multiple styles at once to keep things interesting. However, in the process the chemistry of the band created something unplanned and totally unique.

The band adopted a DIY aesthetic and released several singles and EPs starting with 1985’s appropriately titled, Love Without Words EP. The band was also featured on numerous compilation albums, which in part helped them connect to a burgeoning underground network of independent music during the mid-80s/early 90s time period. The band toured extensively in North America and were one of the first Canadian bands to record for BBC DJ John Peel’s radio program. Their first album, Savvy Show Stoppers was itself a compilation album. Compiled of early singles from the band, it was originally released in 1988 by Glass Records in the UK. The band’s next album, Dim The Lights Chill The Ham was released in 1991 via Cargo Records. This was the band’s first proper album (since Savvy Show Stoppers was a collection of earlier singles). It was produced by Coyote Silvers and showed the Shadowy Men stepping out from the shadow cast by reviewers claiming that they were just a surf band. This album brought forth, a collection of quirky song titles and a potent mixture of styles.

In 1993, the band released Sport Fishin’: The Lure of the Bait, The Luck of the Bait, an album recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago. This would wind up being the last full-length album from Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet.  This album found the band beefing up their production, with a heavier sound and combining elements of surf, jazz, rock and western-styled music, in addition to their other influences. The band split in 1996 and the various members went on to perform in other groups/projects. Among them were Atomic 7 and Phonocomb (a band that also featured Dallas Good of The Sadies). In 2001, bassist Reid Diamond passed away after a battle with cancer. In 2012, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet reunited to celebrate the reissue of their 1988 album, Savvy Show Stoppers. Dallas Good filled in for Reid Diamond on bass. The band continues to play live sporadically. Yep Roc Records re-issued all three of Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet’s albums in 2016, which followed the 2016 box set, Oh, I Guess We’re A Fucking Surf Band After All…

What Wave magazine featured an early article on the band in 1986: “Their trebly, over reverbed riffs may be borrowed from early 60's surf bands, but the delivery certainly is not. No, the songs are aggressive, just meat on the bones delivery that is influenced by the late 70's punk movement.” Regardless of how you want to describe them, this instrumental rock band is still being talked about more than thirty years after their formation. Their music is still like a great late night TV discovery. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet found clarity among fans in the static waves of the mid 80s/early 90s and today still find themselves drifting through the digital waves of modern music with that same sense of nostalgia, excitement and chemistry that made us love them in the first place.

Check out my interview with Don Pyle here:



An Instrumental Playlist:

1. La Luz - Phantom Feelings
2. The Gories - Nautiloid Reef (Live on CJAM 1989)
3. The Challengers - Red River Rock

SURFPHONY OF DERSTRUCTION 2000 SEGMENT WITH DERK BRIGANTE

4. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Tired Of Waking Up Tired
5. The Ramblin' Ambassadors - Standoff At Calf Robe Bridge
6. Stories From Shamehill - Kahuna Haha
7. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Egypt Texas
8. The Tsunamibots - Robots Improving Robots
9. Toxic Mutants - Surf Machine


10. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Saxophone Lie
11. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Baby

DON PYLE INTERVIEW PT 1

12. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Three Piece Suit
13. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Hunter S. Thompson's Younger Brother

DON PYLE INTERVIEW PT 2

14. Phono-comb - The Crass and The Switchblade
19. The Sadies - Clam Chowder
16. The Pistolrays - Long Way From Silver City
17. Minutemen - Cohesion
18. The 427's - Tijuana Sunset
19. The Cramps - I’m Cramped (Original Mix)
20. The Rumblers - Boss
21. The Bell Peppers - Doin’ The Moon Freak

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 25.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers L.A.M.F. Radio Special & Show # 645


Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers formed in 1975 following the demise of the New York Dolls. Guitarist/vocalist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan started The Heartbreakers. Originally a three-piece band with Richard Hell on bass, the band became a four-piece when they added guitarist Walter Lure to the mix. Although they recorded a ten-track demo with this line-up, Richard Hell did not stay with The Heartbreakers long. Richard Hell’s erratic bass rhythms were replaced by a more soulful bass sound, provided by Billy Rath, who would replace Hell when he left the group. Hell would form The Voidoids. In 1976, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers were asked to join the infamous Anarchy Tour in the UK, alongside bands such as The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols. Shortly after this tour, the band that was stranded in London with little money, decided to stick around London on their manager’s insistence. They were offered a recording contract with Track Records after playing several well attended shows in the UK.

The band set about recording their full-length debut in March of 1977, but once the recording was completed, the band spent six months mixing the record. Recorded in two different studios (although several demos were recorded beforehand), L.A.M.F. was put together with songs recorded at Essex Studios with Speedy Keen and The Who’s Ramport Studios. There were many factors said to be at play during this time period while mixing the album. The band mixed the album several times, in different ways and in different studios during this period. With each band member reportedly doing their own mix of the album, a form of cabin fever set in. As the mixing process continued, the band continued to play live. A single was released of Chinese Rocks in 1977. It received criticisms in the press in regards to the subject matter. Having writing origins with Dee Dee Ramone, the song told the story of drug addiction and real life experiences. As Johnny Thunders once said of the song “They can fuckin' hate heroin and still like “Chinese Rocks”…”. And despite the criticisms, the single sold 20, 000 copies, causing it to rise to the top of the alternative rock charts.

After months of mixing, the band had to release L.A.M.F. before the Christmas rush of 1977 or it would not be released at all. L.A.M.F. was released October 1977. However, by the time the album was released, the band had broken up. The album itself was plagued by a muddy sound causing it to not receive the recognition it should have at the time. While some thought that maybe it could be the mixing of the album that caused this, it was later revealed that the mastering process of the album muddied up the sound. As a result drummer Jerry Nolan quit the band and for many years, the greatness of one of the most raw rock albums from this era lay hidden underneath waves of muddy sound.

Musically, the songs were seeped in the influences of 50’s rock n’ roll such as Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, R&B, as well as artists such as The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. The guitar work on this album was a balance of the intense switchblade rock n’ roll sounds of guitarist/vocalists Johnny Thunders and Walter Lure, alongside the raved up soulful bass sounds of Billy Rath and the in the pocket drum sounds of Jerry Nolan. Lyrically, the songs of L.A.M.F. showcase “anthemic slices of urban despair and reckless romance”, as it was described by Johnny Thunders biographer, Nina Antonia in the 2012 linear notes to the Definitive Edition of L.A.M.F. It was no secret that Johnny and members of the band lived a lifestyle that involved drug use. It definitely has a big part in the band's history. And while this subject is brought up when discussing this band, album and its songs, it isn’t all this album is. The songs when separated from the band's history stand up on their own and keep people returning to L.A.M.F.

Songs such as “Born To Lose” with its sleazy guitar intro and lyrics such as “Living in a jungle/It ain’t so hard/But living in the city/it’ll eat out your heart”, starts off the album with reflections of urban despair and a title that can be reflective of the band’s lifestyle. This is another title that can derive several meanings, even though it started out as “Born Too Loose”, which is a little joke that is actually sung in the chorus of this song. “All By Myself” is a song written by Lure and drummer Jerry Nolan and sung by Lure, “It’s Not Enough” a slow 50s influenced ballad, played with a 12-string guitar. It is the only slow song on this album and stands out from the other fast rock n’ roll songs found here. “Pirate Love” delves into more urban dynamics and has its origins as a song performed in The New York Dolls, the part Bowie/part Eddie Cochran, “Get Off The Phone” brings forth a Proustian moment (as stated by Walter Lure in the 2003 linear notes to L.A.M.F. The Lost 77 Mixes) as it relates to a phone obsessed character, “One Track Mind” operates on two levels, one as a song with drug related imagery and allusions, and two as a character obsessed with one subject. In this case what seems to be a love interest. “Goin’ Steady’ reflects Thunders love of sixties girl groups as “Let Go” with it’s electric, countrified guitar licks ends the original L.A.M.F album.

Despite breaking up shortly after this album’s release, The Heartbreakers would occasionally perform live for the next twelve years. In 1984 Jungle Records released a remixed version of L.A.M.F., that was mixed by both Johnny Thunders and Tony James (of Generation X). The mixes were created from the master tapes from the album’s original recording sessions that were acquired by The Heartbreakers manager Leee Black Childers when Track Records went out of business. L.A.M.F. Revisited seemed to feature an 80s production sound and as a result, is often ignored by fans of the band. In 1994, after going through a multitude of mixes created on master reels, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Lost 77 Mixes. This version of the album restored not only the sound of the album’s intent, but also one that matched up to the band’s live status. It is now seen as the definitive version of the album. In 2012, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Definitive Edition, a box set compiling demos, the original mix of L.A.M.F. (with the muddiness removed) and alternate mixes.

In his review for L.A.M.F. Jon Savage stated that “the sound [of the album], doesn’t do the band justice”. It took seventeen years to remove the mud that clouded these songs that were recorded in 1977. And while Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan both passed away by 1992, the sound and intent of the album live on. The mud has been cleared and its sound, which is often described as punk, is an album that strives for rock n roll purity. L.A.M.F. brings forth a vicious, sleazy cleverness that punches you in the stomach when you’re not looking.

L.A.M.F. Playlist:

1. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Born To Lose (Original Muddy Version) (L.A.M.F. - 1977)
2. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Goin' Steady (instrumental Version) (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 2003)
3. New York Dolls - Chatterbox (Too Much Too Soon - 1974)
4. New York Dolls - Trash (New York Dolls - 1973)
5. The Heartbreakers - I Wanna Be Loved (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
6. The Heartbreakers - Love Comes In Spurts (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (Richard Hell - Time - 2002)
7. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Love Comes In Spurts (Blank Generation - 1977)
8. The Heartbreakers - Flight (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
9. The Heartbreakers - You Gotta Lose (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (The Yonkers Demos - 1976)
10. The Heartbreakers - Hurt Me (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (Richard Hell - Time - 2002)
11. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - It's Not Enough (1976 Jay Nap St. Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
12. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Take A Chance (1976 Jay Nap St. Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
13. The Heartbreakers - Blank Generation (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (The Yonkers Demos - 1976)
14. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Born To Lose (L.A.M.F. (UK Cassette Mix) - 1977)
15. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Baby Talk (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
16. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - All By Myself (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
17. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - I Wanna Be Loved (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
18. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - It's Not Enough (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
19. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks (L.A.M.F. (UK Cassette Mix) - 1977)
20. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Get Off The Phone (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
21. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Pirate Love (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
22. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - One Track Mind (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
23. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - I Love You (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
24. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Goin' Steady (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
25. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Let Go (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
26. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Can't Keep my Eyes On You (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
27. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Do You Love Me (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 18.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

John Lee Hooker On Campus & Show # 644


John Lee Hooker has many albums. On Campus is one of many albums that Hooker has released. In fact this album was released under three different titles. There is the 1963 album On Campus, I Shout The Blues and Big Band Blues. All issued on different labels. So what makes this album so different from other Hooker albums? Selected at random for the purposes of this radio show, On Campus shows the record company at the time attempting to smooth out and modernize Hooker’s gritty blues sound. However, the music that is underneath the productions shines through. The album is filled with many soulful blues tracks which are, despite the album’s title, not live.

Born in Mississippi in 1912, John Lee Hooker was an American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. After working a variety of factory jobs during World War II, John Lee Hooker moved to Detroit when he got a job at the Ford Motor Company. He became immersed in the Detroit music scene, playing bars and blues clubs. Hooker would record a large amount of music during his long career, often recording under different names for different labels and reworking his songs. With a song style based on the Delta blues, he incorporated elements of North Mississippi Hill country blues, talking blues and piano driven boogie-woogie music. As a result, Hooker came up with his own rhythmic style. Some of his early gritty blues songs that he’s known for are songs such as “Boogie Chillen”, “Crawling King Snake”, “Boom Boom”, and “It Serves You Right (To Suffer)”.

On Campus starts off with the blues song “I’m Leaving”, featuring sliding blues licks, piano, shuffling drums and scratchy guitars. Lyrically with words such as “I’m cutting out this morning” Hooker seems to be singing not only of a woman that he wants to get away from, but perhaps also his current situation. This record, as mentioned earlier, attempts to clean up Hooker’s early sound. However, while Hooker may be leaving an earlier production style, he is also venturing into another. On Campus added more soul with back up singers and horn sections that sweat with the music. Recorded in Chicago over two sessions, On Campus also featured more rough blues songs such as “I Want To Ramble”, “Half A Stranger”, “My Grinding Mill” and “Bottle Up and Go”. These songs are balanced with the other more soulful ballad-type songs throughout On Campus.

“Don’t Look Back” stands out amongst the other songs on this album. A song that has a slow, heavy groove, “Don’t Look Back” has a nostalgic feeling, while the lyrics convey something different. They dismiss the nostalgia and call for a need to keep moving forward. Ironically, this song was re-recorded again in 1998 with Van Morrison. Morrison also performed this song as a duet with Hooker, in addition to producing it. Prior to this, Van Morrison also covered “Don’t Look Back” with his first band, Them. In 1998, it won a Grammy Award.

John Lee Hooker has released many albums, but with On Campus, Hooker stepped out into the beginnings of a broader world of music. He would walk this path for quite sometime, often collaborating with other musicians. Hooker began to take steps forward with On Campus, not necessarily looking back, but not forgetting where he came from as he moved forward.

The Playlist:

1. Muddy Waters - I Got My Brand On You (Muddy Waters At Newport 1960 - 1960)
2. Chuck Berry - Reelin' And Rockin' (Takes 7 & 8) (Johnny B Goode (His Complete 50's Chess Recordings) - 2007)
3. The Contours - Can You Do It (Dance With The Contours - 2011)
4. Steve Mancha - Need To Be Needed (Detroit Soulman - 2000)
5. Gino Washington - Gino is a Coward (Out of This World - 1999)
6. R.L. Burnside - Jumper On The Line (The Rough Guide To Delta Blues - 2002)
7. The Unique Quartet - Mama's Black Baby Boy (American Pop: An Audio History - 2000)
8. Josh White - Uncle Sam Says (Let Freedom Sing! - 2009)
9. Elmore James - (My) Bleeding Heart (Bleeding Heart - 1965)
10. Ray Charles - Sinner's Prayer (Ray Charles - 1967)
11. John Lee Hooker - I'm Leaving (On Campus - 1963)
12. John Lee Hooker- Don't Look Back (On Campus - 1963)
13. Frankie "Sugar Chile" Robinson - Caldonia (Frankie "Sugar Chile" Robinson 1949-1952 - 2003)
14. Frankie "Sugar Chile" Robinson - I'll Eat My Spinach (Frankie "Sugar Chile" Robinson 1949-1953 - 2003)
15. Shorty Long - Here Comes The Judge (The Essential Collection - 2000)
16. The Contours - Whole Lotta Woman (The Sound of Detroit (Original Gems From The Motown Vaults) - 2012)
17. Nina Simone - Pirate Jenny (Nina Simone in Concert - 1964)
18. Ike & Tina Turner - Mojo Queen (It's Gonna Work Out Fine - 1963)
19. Eddie Bo - Hook & Sling (Hook & Sling - 1969)
20. Roy Ward - Horse With A Freeze (Horse With A Freeze - 1968)
21. Lucky Laws - I'm Not Teasing (Jerk Boom Bam! Vol 8 - 2013)
22. Booker T & The M.G.'s - It's Your Thing (The Booker T Set - 1969)
23. Booker T Jones - Rent Party (The Road From Memphis - 2011)
24. The Contours - He Couldn't Do The Cross Fire (Dance With The Contours - 2011)
25. The Fantastic Four - Don't Risk Your Happines On Foolishness (Alvin Stone (The Birth and Death Of A Gangster) - 1975)
26. John Lee Hooker - Birmingham Blues (On Campus - 1963)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 11.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Skip's Song: The music of Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence & Show # 643


There is a story about Skip Spence that in 1968, following his exit from Bellevue Hospital, where he was committed after some bad acid trips and an incident involving a fire axe. He was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, however following his six months in Bellevue he got on his motorcycle and drove down to Nashville to record his first and only solo album. The story also states that he exited Bellevue in his pajamas and then drove immediately to Nashville. Whether or not this is completely true or just a myth has never been completely confirmed. But, one thing is true Spence did record music in Nashville. It would eventually be released as Oar in 1969.

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born in Windsor, Ontario on April 14th, 1946. In the late 1950s, Spence’s family relocated. In the 60s, Skip Spence became involved in the San Francisco psychedelic music scene. He was an early member of the Quicksilver Messenger Service and despite being a guitarist, was asked to be the drummer in pioneering psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane. Chosen because apparently he looked the part, Spence drummed on the band’s 1966 debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and had a few writing credits with the band. However, he was not in the band long. Shortly after this, he returned to guitar and co-founded Moby Grape. The band would release two full-length albums with Spence and despite the attraction and interest in the three-guitar driven psychedelia that was Moby Grape, the band never really took off in the mainstream. While recording Moby Grape’s second album Wow, Spence showed up at the hotel room of Moby Grape drummer Don Stevenson with a fire axe. He chopped down the door, but Stevenson was at the recording studio. Spence with axe in hand went to the studio and the situation was diffused. But, Spence was never really the same.

Recorded in Nashville in December of 1968, Spence put down the tracks to his songs quickly and played all of the instruments on them. Musically, the album was a mix of folk, country and a bit of psychedelia. The songs were for the most part stories that dealt with many themes of the battle between angels and demons. They were crafted in a way that they serve as folktales, with the characters searching for a deeper meaning. And while it is obvious that the circumstances that preceded this recording were influential on the songs, they aren’t everything that the songs are about. “Cripple Creek” is an almost murder ballad type song. Sung in a lower register, the song tells the story of someone visited by an angel that embarks on a surrealistic journey, “Diana” is a bit haphazard, although it is filled with devotion and anticipation in the lyrics, while “Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" takes on an immediate, mellow country-folk influence. The song is most likely influenced by the isolation that Spence experienced in Bellevue, however, it is woven into a narrative that appears throughout this album.

“War In Peace” has been called a resurrection hymn that dips into psychedelia, with electric guitar and various sound effects, “All Come To Meet Her” is surrounded by a more laidback Moby Grape vibe, as “Books of Moses” reflects on past mistakes telling a tale of battles between angels and demons, complete with thunder, rain and hammering sound effects. “Dixie Peach Promenade” continues the same country-folk vibes as “Weighted Down (The Prison Song)”, but this song shows a sense of hopefulness in the lyrical content, as “Laurence of Euphoria” is a short bouncy track about overcoming troubled times. “Grey/Afro” ends the album, delving into psychedelia complete with off kilter drums and guitars and vocals loaded with effects.

Called “one of psychedelia’s brightest lights”, Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence has drawn comparisons to artists such as Syd Barrett and Roky Erikson, and although there are some similarities, Spence was different from them. Oar stands as an album that is rough around the edges and not over produced. It was apparently supposed to be a collection of demos initially with a full band arrangement to follow, but Columbia Records released Oar as is in May of 1969. It was not promoted by Columbia Records at the time of its release and within a year was deleted from their catalogue. It has since taken on a story of its own. It has its own myth that is surrounded in mystery that draws in listeners. Whether or not it was intended to be demos, Oar has taken on its own life as a result of the journey it took Spence to arrive to these songs. The songs, while some may say are not all that perfect, show that it is the journey and stories found within these songs that brings listeners to Oar.


Skip Spence Playlist:

1. Moby Grape - Indifference (Live) (Live (Historic Live Moby Grape Performances 1966-1969 - 2009)
2. Jefferson Airplane - Blues From An Airplane (Jefferson Airplane Takes Off - 1966)
3. Skip Spence - Books Of Moses (Oar - 1969)
4. Skip Spence - After Gene Autry (Demo For Columbia Records) (After Gene Autry/Motorcycle Irene - 2009)
5. Moby Grape - Skip's Song (Demo) (The Place and The Time - 2009)
6. Moby Grape - Omaha (Moby Grape - 1967)
7. Mudnoney - War In Peace (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
8. Outrageous Cherry - Keep Everything Under Your Hat (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
9. Moby Grape - Motorcycle Irene (Wow - 1968)
10. Skip Spence - Doodle (Oar Outtake) (Oar - 1969)
11. Skip Spence - Lawrence of Euphoria (Oar - 1969)
12. Skip Spence - Cripple Creek (Oar - 1969)
13. Skip Spence - All Come To Meet Her (Oar - 1969)
14. Skip Spence - Little Hands (Oar - 1969)
15. Skip Spence - Margaret - Tiger Rug (Oar - 1969)
16. Tom Waits - Books Of Moses (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
17. Beck - Halo of Gold (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
18. Greg Dulli - Dixie Peach Promenade (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
19. Mark Lanegan - Cripple Creek (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
20. Jefferson Airplane - It's No Secret (Jefferson Airplane Takes Off - 1966)
21. Moby Grape - The Lake (Grape Jam - 1968)
22. Moby Grape - Funky-Tunk (Wow - 1968)
23. Skip Spence - Land of the Sun (More Oar: A Tribute - 1999)
24. Skip Spence - War In Peace (Oar - 1969)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 4.

Coming Up On Revolution Rock in 2017!

It’s February which means that throughout this month Revolution Rock will devote each episode that airs in February to theme based programming. Dave and co-host Adam have special programming lined up ranging from folk to blues, soul, punk and surf. This year’s themed month programming starts off on February 4th with a program focusing on Windsor born artist, Skip Spence. Revolution Rock airs every Saturday from 7-9 PM on CJAM 99.1 FM in Windsor/Detroit. It can be streamed via cjam.ca and be downloaded via the very same website afterwards.

Here is the scheduled line up:

Skip’s Song: The Music of Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence
February 4th, 2016
7-9 PM
CJAM 99.1 FM (www.cjam.ca)

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born in Windsor, Ontario on April 14th, 1946. In the late 1950s, Spence’s family relocated to San Jose, California. In the 60s, Skip Spence became involved in the San Francisco psychedelic music scene. He was an early member of the Quicksilver Messenger Service and despite being a guitarist, was asked to be the drummer in pioneering psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane. Although he played on the band’s 1966 debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and had a few writing credits with the band, he was not in the band long. Shortly after he returned to guitar and co-founded Moby Grape. Despite the attraction and interest in the three-guitar driven psychedelia that was Moby Grape, the band never really took off in the mainstream. Following a mix of drugs, bad trips and an incident with a fire ax, Skip Spence was committed to Bellevue. He was diagnosed as a Schizophrenic and six months later he drove to Nashville on his motorcycle to record what was to become his only solo album, Oar. On Oar he wrote and performed all of the music. This episode will focus on the music of Oar, which is primarily folk and country driven, along with outtakes, covers and selections from Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane.

On Campus with John Lee Hooker: Revolution Rock Celebrates Black History Month
February 11th, 2016
7-9 PM
CJAM 99.1 FM (www.cjam.ca)

Born in Mississippi in 1912, John Lee Hooker was an American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. After working a variety of factory jobs during World War II, John Lee Hooker moved to Detroit when he got a job at the Ford Motor Company. He became immersed in the Detroit music scene, playing bars and blues clubs. Hooker would record a large amount of music during his long career, often recording under different names for different labels and reworking his songs. With a song style based on the Delta blues, he incorporated elements of North Mississippi Hill country blues, talking blues and piano driven boogie-woogie music. As a result, Hooker came up with his own rhythmic style. In 1963, he released On Campus. Recorded in Chicago over two sessions, the album was comprised of originals that were made to sound like a live recording. Also released under two other titles (I Want To Shout The Blues and Big Band Blues) on different labels, On Campus is an example of one of the perhaps lesser known recordings that John Lee Hooker produced. Revolution Rock will feature selections from this 1963 release along with selections from other artists to celebrate Black History Month. Also featured on the program will be guest host Graeme Sylvio of CJAM FM’s Sylvio & Soul program.

L.A.M.F.: Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers Radio Special
February 18th, 2016
7-9 PM
CJAM 99.1 FM (www.cjam.ca)

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers were formed following the demise of the New York Dolls by Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. Originally a three-piece band with Richard Hell, the band became a four-piece when Hell left the band and they added guitarist Walter Lure and bassist Billy Rath. They released L.A.M.F. in October of 1977 on Track Records after taking part in the infamous Anarchy Tour in 1976. However, by the time the album was released, the band had broken up. The album itself was plagued by a muddy sound causing it to not receive the recognition it should have at the time. While some thought that maybe it could be the mixing of the album that caused this, it was later revealed that the mastering process of the album muddied up the sound. As a result drummer Jerry Nolan quit the band and for many years, the greatness of one of the most raw rock albums from this era lay hidden underneath waves of muddy sound. In 1994, after going through multiple mixes created on master reels, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Lost 77 Mixes, a version of the album that restored not only the sound of the album’s intent, but also one that matched up to the band’s live status. In 2012, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Definitive Edition, a box set compiling demos, the original mix of L.A.M.F. (with the muddiness removed) and alternate mixes. This episode will feature demos dating back to the Heartbreakers days when Richard Hell was still in the band, differing versions of the album, alternate mixes and other rarities focusing on the album that would be known as L.A.M.F.

Revolution Surf: The 11th Edition: An Interview with Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet
February 25th, 2016
7-9 PM
CJAM 99.1 FM (www.cjam.ca)

This year marks the 11th edition of Revolution Surf, a program made up entirely of surf and instrumental music. This year’s episode will feature an exclusive interview with Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. Beginning in 1984, this band released several DIY singles, were on several compilation albums, soundtracks and would provide their song “Having An Average Weekend” as the theme song to the Canadian sketch comedy show The Kids In The Hall. The band also provided music for each episode of the show and released three full-length albums before their split in 1996. Tune in for this very special episode of Revolution Rock, as we talk with Don Pyle and play a selection of surf and instrumental music from the past and present. Also, featured on this episode will be another guest segment from Derk of The Surfphony of Derstruction 2000, which airs on surfrockradio.com!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers, Contours & Show # 642


After a 16-year gap in releases, Memphis, Tennessee band The Oblivians released Desperation. Known for mixing garage, punk and solo in a wild and chaotic fashion, The Oblivians featured two guitars, vocals and drums. No bass. Also, all of the band members were writers would switch instruments. The band is made up of Greg Cartwright, Jack Yarber and Eric Friedl. They have since 1997 all gone on to other bands. Greg plays with Reigning Sound, Jack with Jack-O & The Tennessee Tearjerkers and Eric has played with Dutch Masters, The Sons of Thunder in addition to forming/running Goner Records.

In between Desperation and the other projects that the members of The Oblivians have worked with, Greg and Jack reformed an early band they had been a part of, The Compulsive Gamblers. Originally forming in 1993, the band had quite a few changing lineups. They reformed as a three-piece band with Greg and Jack being the only constant members. They released Bluff City in 1999 and what is perhaps their best release, 2000’s Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing. The Compulsive Gamblers disbanded shortly after the release of Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing.

This week’s program featured two parallels. One track from Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing, the garage-blues track rendition of the 1961 Motown single by The Contours “Whole Lotta Woman” and two tracks (“You Better Behave” and “Pinstripe Willie”) from The Oblivians raucous 1996 release Popular Favorites.







Saturday Night Playlist:

1. The Feelies - Fa Ce La (Ork Records Single Version)
2. Eraser - I Won't Give Up
3. Cherry Glazerr - Instantgratification
4. Flipper - Ever
5. Subverts - TV Personality
6. Can - Tango Whiskeyman
7. Ty Segall - Papers
8. Skye Wallace - Not Ready For This To Start
9. The Evaporators - Candy
10. Japandroids - No Known Drink Or Drug
11. Could Nothings - Sight Unseen
12. Priests - Appropriate
13. Husker Du - Love Is All Around (Mary Tyler Moore Theme)
14. Ritual Howls - Bound By Light
15. Cellos - Swan Song (Pinball Sessions)
16. Nirvana - Seasons In The Sun (Alt. Mix)
17. Heat - Rose De Lima
18. Litterbug - I Spy
19. The Sadies (Featuring Kurt Vile) - It's Easy (Like Walking)
20. Link Wray - Mustang
21. The Fallouts - Some Fun
22. Young Canadians - Hullabaloo Girls
23. Monomyth - Drinking In Bed In E
24. La Conversion Des Sauvages - Vieil Ivoire
25. Compulsive Gamblers - Whole Lotta Woman
26. The Oblivians - You Better Behave
27. The Oblivians - Pinstripe Willie

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for January 28.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

2016 Highlights & Shows # 638 & # 640

For my best of 2016, things were done a little differently this year. Both me and my co-host picked 20 albums that we liked from 2016 and played our selections across two episodes. You can download these episodes under the playlists below. I’ve included each of our top 20 lists in this post, followed by a little write-up from each of our top five albums that we liked from 2016.

Dave’s Top 20 of 2016:

1. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
2. David Bowie – Black Star
3. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
4. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits/An Odd Entrances
5. Preoccupations – Preoccupations
6. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
8. Shotgun Jimmie – Field Of Trampolines
9. Danny & The Darleans – Bug Out
10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
11. Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds – La Arana Es La Vida
12. Paul Jacobs – Movies, Pictures & Apartments/I’m Into What You’re Into
13. Young Rival – Strange Light EP
14. Duotang – New Occupation
15. Monomyth – Happy Pop People
16. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
17. Daniel Romano – King Of Mosey
18. Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale
19. Kim Gray – Perfume
20. Snake River – Sun Will Rise

Adam’s Top 20 of 2016:

1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
2. David Bowie – Blackstar
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
4. Angel Olsen – My Woman
5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
6. Car Seat Headrest – Destroyed by Hippie Powers
7. White Lung – Paradise
8. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
9. Swans – The Glowing Man
10. Jeff Rosenstock – WORRY.
11. Preoccupations - Preoccupations
12. Case/Lang/Veirs - Atomic Number
13. Mitski – Puberty 2
14. Cass McCombs – Mangy Love
15. G.L.O.S.S. - Trans Day of Revenge
16. Kevin Morby – Destoyer
17. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
18. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
19. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
20. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

A few write-ups on a selection of or top 20’s of 2016:

Dave’s Top Five:

1. Parquet Courts – Human Performance


Throughout Human Performance, Parquet Courts draw their lyrical inspirations from urban decay, human emotion and critical thoughts of self-doubt. It is here where the band achieves what people love about them the most. Their highly critical and intellectual lyrics are on par with bands such as Wire, Swells Maps, Pere Ubu, The Modern Lovers, and The Fall, among others. The music found on Human Performance also makes connections to the songs and sounds found on 2013’s Light Up Gold. It is also the complete opposite of 2015’s Monastic Living. This noisy/experimental release featured only one song with lyrics. As Parquet Courts gaze away from their thoughts that reflect a look out in New York City, they make broader strokes, finding a larger scope within their lyrical and musical grasp. With Human Performance, Parquet Courts achieve their most realized effort to date.

2. David Bowie – Blackstar

On January 8th, 2016, Blackstar, Bowie’s 25th full-length album was released. For this album he experimented with elements of jazz and hip hop, among other influences. Blackstar was produced by long time producer Tony Visconti in secret, as was his previous album The Next Day. Many of the themes on Blackstar deal with a man battling his own mortality and fittingly the two music videos released for this album, “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” also reflect these themes. Two days following the release of Blackstar David Bowie passed away after a battle with cancer. Lyrics from “Blackstar”, “Lazarus” and different parts of the album took on different meanings. However, as stated more eloquently in Adam’s post below, “Blackstar is a powerful record and stands, regardless of its connection with the artist’s passing”. Musically, the album is just as fresh and innovative as any of his peak creative periods. With Blackstar, Bowie delivers a compelling album that sucks the listener into the black hole of the musical universe that Bowie has created throughout the 25 albums that he has created. It leaves just as much mystery to his recorded output as anything he has ever released.


3. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

Iggy Pop has recently stated that this may very well be his last album. And at 17 albums in and being now 68 years old that is understandable. As the music of the album’s last song “Paraguay” picks up pace with its ending rant, Post Pop-Depression ends with a middle finger, similarly to the way he started with The Stooges. Post-Pop Depression weaves in and out with lyrical content loaded with metaphors, double meanings and musical landscapes that drift between 1877’s The Idiot, Lust For Life and his early solo output. Post-Pop Depression was recorded in the desert in Joshua Tree, California. Perhaps Pop has entered the very same “burning sands” once described in The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or maybe it’s just a mirage. With Post-Pop Depression, Iggy Pop engages the listener and redefines what it means to be a musician and an artist on his own terms.

4. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits

A Weird Exits arrives as a double LP with longer songs that showcase a new range in dynamics for the band. This is the first album to capture Thee Oh Sees new line-up which features two drummers, Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, along with bassist Tim Hellman, who joined Thee Oh Sees in 2014, A Weird Exits produces a new type of groove. Still led by the ever prolific and frontman John Dwyer, Thee Oh Sees vicious and manic live sound is captured here in top form. If 2015’s Mutilator Defeated At Last explored more medieval and folk-like imagery in the songs, A Weird Exits blasts off into outer space, lyrically and musically taking on a cosmic context. While many may say that the sound hasn’t changed that much, Thee Oh Sees music is both undeniably Thee Oh Sees and fresh sounding. With A Weird Exits, Thee Oh Sees focus on a new entry and exit point musically in a way that only they can.

5. Preoccupations – Preoccupations

Preoccupations is the first proper release by the band that previously went by the name Viet Cong. This Canadian band originally from Calgary, Alberta changed their name due to the criticism they received. Following a festival concert that was cancelled in Australia in 2015 and a cancelled date/protest in Oberlin due to their name, it began to affect their ability to play music as a band. The name they chose was a fitting one, Preoccupations. Described as labyrinthine post-punk, Preoccupations was made differently than its predecessor, Viet Cong. This album was made while the band was in a state of transition, changing their name, each of the band members moving to different cities. The songs were put together with no central theme in mind, but several themes did emerge. While the song titles are simple such as “Anxiety”, “Degraded”, “Stimulation” and “Memory”, the music on Preoccupations is an encompassing, complex layer of musical textures that is both unnerving and visceral. Lyrically, the album, as stated on their website, “bears the visceral, personal sound of holding onto some steadiness in the midst of changing everything.” The album art of Preoccupations is simple and basic, made up of lines, repetitive fonts and a simple colour scheme. However, between the lines of this simplicity lies a focused complexity.


Adam’s Top Five:

1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead’s ninth studio record could have ended up a simple clearinghouse for the band’s backlog of unrecorded songs, a slapped together collection of unrealized ideas dating back to their Kid A days. Instead, A Moon Shaped Pool proved itself to be one of the band’s best releases and an album all too reflective of the anxiety, heartbreak, and political uncertainty so many of us faced in 2016. The album evokes a mood of dread and skepticism, tackling issues of state surveillance, environment damage, and the dangers of political apathy. It is perhaps Radiohead’s darkest statement yet, the mournful feel of the record emphasized by its simple piano lines and Johnny Greenwood’s dominant string and choral arrangements. Listening to the percussive string motif on “Burn the Witch” or the moody somnambulist sounds of “Daydreaming,” it’s clear that this is the most baroque Radiohead has ever sounded. Beyond its sociopolitical concerns, the album’s other most recurring themes are love and heartbreak. While not new subjects to the diaspora of pop music, Thom Yorke lends a legitimacy and weight to these songs, no doubt inspired by the separation from his partner of 25 years, Rachel Owen. The sense of loss expressed in “Glass Eyes” and “True Love Waits” is beyond heartbreaking: its tectonic. Yet for all the album's heartbreak and skepticism, the album also offers a degree of hope. In the track “The Numbers,” a song inspired by Rachel Carson’s classic environmental book Silent Spring, Yorke sings that “the future is inside us/Its not somewhere else.” In a year racked with tragedy and the uncertainly for what the next few years will bring our world, Yorke offers a sobering reminder that it is us, individual people, who our the instigators of change. Rather than the labyrinthine rabbit holes and technocratic paranoia the band's efforts were heading towards (into particularly discomforting territory on 2011’s The King of Limbs) A Moon Shaped Pool is the sound of a band waking up and opening to the world around them. More so than being the best record of 2016, this is perhaps the most representative album of the year, and shows why Radiohead are still one of the most important bands out there today.

2. David Bowie – Blackstar

Blackstar is a difficult record in many ways. Its mutant fusion of avant-jazz, experimental rock, and arty electronic music is a clear challenge to fans who still associate Bowie as the guitar wielding androgynous “Ziggy Stardust.” Record producer Tony Viconti confirmed that he and Bowie attempted to avoid rock music’s influence while composing the album, citing a diverse range of electronic and hip-hop artists as principle influences, including Death Grips, Boards of Canada, and Kendrick Lamar. However, the hardest element to reconcile was Blackstar acting as the artist’s swan song, a rumination on his own impending death. It’s been widely publicized that Bowie wrote and recorded Blackstar after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, lending the songs on this record the certain gravity of a man grappling with his own mortality. The shadow of Bowie’s death looms over the entire record, with its seven songs containing imagery of sickbeds, hospital visits, and public executions, while the record’s centrepiece acts as a post-modern retelling of the Lazarus story. This is not to say the album is a complete gloom-and-doom affair: in the face of death, Bowie managed to craft an album that feels utterly alive. Bowie’s voice is strong and confident, the sound of an artist reaffirming their place as an art-rock legend. Donny McCaslin’s saxophone doesn’t bounce so much as ricochet throughout the record, creating alien abstract textures on tracks like “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)”. The record is vibrant and hypnotic, the songs resounding with an urgency that hasn’t been heard from Bowie in years. While it’s impossible to listen to Blackstar while forgetting the singer’s death, Bowie’s passing shouldn’t dominate the listener’s thoughts. Rather than a resigned acceptance, this album is the sound of an artist fighting to create and live his life to the very last, proof that the man indeed did not “go gentle into that good night.” Blackstar is a powerful record and stands, regardless of its connection with the artist’s passing, as one of the greatest album’s of Bowie’s career.

3. Nick Cave & The Badseeds – Skeleton Tree

One of the misconceptions about Skeleton Tree is that it was written after the tragic death of Cave's teenage son, Arthur, in 2015. However, despite the album's recurring themes of loss and death, the majority of the record was written before the young man's passing. Certainly this loss did play an important role in the production of the Skeleton Tree, with the Bad Seed's tendency for sleazy alt rock and feral blues completely eschewed for a cascade of sound loops, minimalist electronics, and sparse piano. The album is imbued with the sound of mourning, a musical tone poem of loss. With that said, the melancholy permeating this record wouldn't be enough to make it as resounding as it was if not for truly great songwriting, and the eight songs of Skeleton Tree are among the best of Cave's career. Describing Cave's words as lyrics hardly do them justice; they are poetry. “Girl in Amber” explores memory and anxiety over its fleeting nature. The reference to W.G. Sebald on “Rings of Saturn” is justified with the song's evocation of the author's picturesque style and descriptive prose. “Anthrocene,” with Joycean wit, rebukes the theory of mankind's evolution, faced with the ecological destruction humans have caused to the planet. And then there is “I Need You,” arguably the album's crowning achievement, a prayer to discovering meaning in a world where “nothing really matters.” It would be hard to define Skeleton Tree as a rock record (it is far too sombre and pensive for that), but it instead transcends the idea of a simple collection of rock n roll songs. Skeleton Tree belongs among the likes of the Velvet Underground, Astral Weeks, and Horses, not as a great collection of rock songs, but as one of the most profound works of art committed to disc.

4. Angel Olsen – My Woman

My Woman is more than just a breakthrough record, it is the sound of an artist defining their self. Angel Olsen's fourth release defied critics wishing to pigeon-hole her as a tormented acoustic folk singer, instead showing her chops as a powerful indie rocker. The first half of the record sees Olsen unleashing her venom: after the atmospheric synths of the opener “Intern,” Olsen proceeds to take command with a series of vicious rockers. “Shut Up Kiss Me,” “Give It Up,” and “Never Be Mine” don't ask for, but demand the listener's attention, resounding with the fierceness of early PJ Harvey and the confidence of Courtney Barnett. The second half of the record returns to Olsen's more familiar folk style (a format that nods towards Bob Dylan's own snub at the music press with Bringing It All Back Home), but with newfound confidence and ambition. A pair of seven minute tracks are definitely the highlights of this side, with “Sister” and the haunting “Woman” among the best songs yet penned by the young artist. A powerful statement and an even more powerful record, with My Woman, Olsen proves she is one of the most promising and versatile talents in indie rock today.

5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

For a band whose breakthrough album riffed through a track about being “Stoned and Starving,” its hard to believe Parquet Courts were able to make an record as focused as Human Performance. While the crackling guitars and hazy lo-fi sounds of the band's previous records remain, Human Performance sees the band reaching the peak of their abilities. The sound is powerful; the clashing guitars cut through with newfound energy and intensity. The performances are tight and the arrangements catchier than ever. As for the lyrics, they are the best yet to come from the group. While never coming across as dullards, the songs on this record demonstrate how critical and intelligent a band Parquet Courts are: “Berlin Got Blurry” examines self-realization and isolation, “I Was Just Here” uses the search for a Chinese Restaurant as a metaphor for the inevitability of change and aging, while “Dust” offers one of the jauntiest slices of existential dread I've ever heard. Then there is the title track, a sombre rumination about an individual dealing with depression and the affects it has on their ability to connect with others. This song is easily the most powerful, personal, and greatest track produced by the band. Human Performance is more than a great album, its a display of a band at their creative peak.


Playlist for Show # 640 (Best of 2016 Part Two):

1. Radiohead - Burn The Witch (A Moon Shaped Pool - XL Recordings - 2016)
2. Jeff Rosenstock - Perfect Sound Whatever (Worry. - SideOneDummy Records - 2016)
3. Danny & The Darleans - Girl (Bug Out - In The Red Records - 2016)
4. Swans - When Will I Return (The Glowing Man - Young God Records - 2016)
5. Art Bergmann - A Town Called Mean (The Apostate - Weewerk Records - 2016)
6. Shotgun Jimmie - Walkman Battery Bleed (Field of Trampolines - You've Changed Records - 2016)
7. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - The Morning Stars (I Had A Dream That You Were Mine - Glassnote Records - 2016)
8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Rings Of Saturn (Skeleton Tree - Bad Seed Ltd. - 2016)
9. White Lung - Demented (Paradise - Domino - 2016)
10. Ty Segall - Mandy Cream (Manipulator - Drag City - 2016)
11. Car Seat Head Rest - Teens of Denial (Destroyed By Hippie Powers - Matador - 2016)
12. Preoccupations - Anxiety (Preoccupations - Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar - 2016)
13. Parquet Courts - Human Performance (Human Performance - Rough Trade - 2016)
14. Thee Oh Sees - Gelatinous Cube (A Weird Exits - Castle Face Records - 2016)
15. Angel Olsen - Give It Up (My Woman - Jagjaguwar - 2016)
16. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Anthrocene (Skeleton Tree - Bad Seed Ltd. 2016)
17. Iggy Pop - Gardenia (Post Pop Depression - Loma Vista Recordings - 2016)
18. David Bowie -Lazarus (Blackstar - Columbia Records - 2016)
19. Radiohead - Identikit (A Moon Shaped Pool - XL Recordings - 2016)
20. Parquet Courts - Berlin Got Blurry (Human Performance - Rough Trade - 2016)

Download this episode here.

Playlist for Show # 638 (Best of 2016 Part One):

1. Lesbo Vrouven - LL (Griff Piff - P572 - 2016)
2. James O-L - Trouble At Nightmare Alley (Cancer In Treble City - Famous Last Records - 2016)
3. Trout - Burning Fire, The House (Lesser EP - Psychic Readings - 2016)
4. Tim Presley - Solitude Cola (The Wink - Drag City Records - 2016)
5. Snake River - I Was Very Drunk Jeanie (Sun Will Rise - Pigeon Row - 2016)
6. Kim Gray - Tropical Low Life (Perfume - Resurrection Records - 2016)
7. Nap Eyes - Trust (Thought Rock Fish Scale - You've Changed Records - 2016)
8. Daniel Romano - Toulouse (Mosey - New West Records - 2016)
9. Leonard Cohen - Steer Your Way (You Want It Darker - Columbia Records - 2016)
10. Iggy Pop - German Days (Post Pop Depression - Loma Vista Recordings - 2016)
11. Frankie Cosmos - What If (Next Thing - Bayonet Records - 2016)
12. PJ Harvey - A Line In The Sand (The Hope Six Demolition Project - Vagrant Records - 2016)
13. Leonard Cohen - It Seemed A Better Way (You Want It Darker - Columbia Records - 2016)
14. Kevin Morby - I Have Been To The Mountain (Singing Saw - Dead Oceans - 2016)
15. G.L.O.S.S - Trans Day Of Revenge (Trans Day of Revenge - Sabotage Records - 2016)
16. Monomyth - Go Somewhere (Happy Pop Family - Mint Records - 2016)
17. Cass McCombs - Bum Bum Bum (Mangy Love - Anti- Records - 2016)
18. Duotang - Karma Needs To Come Around (New Occupation - Stomp Records - 2016)
19. Mitski - Fireworks (Puberty 2 - Dead Oceans - 2016)
20. Young Rival - Heard It All Before (Strange Light EP - Paper Bag Records - 2016)
21. Case/Lang/Veirs - Atomic Number (Case/Lang/Veirs - Anti- Records - 2016)
22. Paul Jacobs Stages For You (I'm Into What You're Into - Danger Collective Records - 2016)
23. Paul Jacobs - Pics, Movs & Apts (Pictures, Movies & Apartments - 2016)
24. Preoccupations - Stimulation (Preoccupations - Jagjaguwar - 2016)
25. Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds - Coyote Conundrum (La Arana Es La Vida - In The Red Records - 2016)

Download this episode here.


And for those keeping track of the episode numbers on this site. Here is all you need to know:

To find out why episode # 639 is in the middle of the best of 2016 episodes, all is explained here.

Episode # 637 was a repeat of a previous episode (my Leonard Cohen radio special) that originally aired in October 2016. You can download that episode here and view the playlist here.

Episode # 636 was a repeat of a previous episode that aired in October 2016. You can download that episode here and view the playlist here.