Lead Me To The Water
Written and produced by Brooker
You don’t expect much from an aging rocker (almost 40!) backed with lots of English superstars from the previous two decades (Harrison, Collins, Clapton, Albert Lee, Mel Collins, to name a few)–but this ends up an enjoyable set.
Some of the elements are stamped with the 80s–which listeners will likely find either annoying or interesting– but the sound is very much in the Procol Harum tradition, except here the heaviness of that group is replaced with a lighter pop feel. This isn’t as drenched in organ, but since Brooker doesn’t seem to be purposely distancing himself from his previous band, the difference between Procol Harum and this set certainly has something do to with the contributions of the band members on this album. Fortunately these musicians control their egos, and their contributions are part the compositions rather than an excuse to show off. This clearly remains Brooker’s album.
This was Brooker’s second solo album, and apparently this is his best. For fans of this singer/keyboard player or his previous band, this is worth a listen.
The !Alarma! Chronicles Volume II
Produced by Terry Taylor & Jerry Chamberlain
Rating: **** Recommended
This God-rock outfit always changed with the times, and these changes were wise decisions, as this set is one of the most interesting albums in the Christian rock category, all electro new wave, mixing studio trickery such as tape reversal with some basic old-school rock elements. This set is home to several cool and unique cuts.
The Talking Heads, Gary Numan, and Bowie appear to be influences, but the band delivers their own sound. From the influences showing on “Real Girls,” they go into a neo-rockabilly sound for “New Car,” the entire side quite entertaining.
Side two also offers some gems, and plenty of variety, going into 60s garage on “Autographs.” That song, “New Car,” and “I Didn’t Build it for Me” (as well as “Youth With a Machine”) flirt punk rock (relatively speaking considering this was Christian rock outfit), the first three apparently attacks at televangelists–in a time before the scandals involving Swaggart and Jim Baker.
While some of the material approaches the typical boredom of new wave, even those numbers are more interesting than the competition, and this has more than enough to make it a recommended listen for fans of new wave, perhaps even more than fans of God rock. In fact, you’d likely never know this is a Christian-themed album if you’re not familiar with this group.
This outfit is an essential part of the God-rock story, and this is perhaps their most interesting and enjoyable album.
(The band’s name alludes to the Bible. This was the second of four in the Alarma Chronicles.)
Crass Records (5)
Material: 1977 – 1984
Recorded 1977 – 1984, released July 1984 (UK only)
This double LP collects singles and unreleased material, a nice gesture, saving fans from having to collect all the singles, and packaging the material with killer artwork. While this might have been better served up as a more concise two-sider, it certainly provides an overview of their history, moving from fairly straight-forward punk to abrasive avant garde.
For fans, this is essential. It also serves as a good intro.
Lol Coxhill and Fred Frith
Recorded 1981 and 1978
Avant garde improvisation, Coxhill squeaking out sounds on his soprano sax, Frith scratching and beating on the strings of his electric guitars, the pair occasionally offering some space but mostly claustrophobic madness–like a mouse, a bird and an elephant crammed into a small cage.
Side One is filled with one noisy live performance titled “Reims,” recorded in 1981. Three shorter selections from 1978 fill the second side, these slightly more conventional, relatively speaking, some of Coxhill’s contributions clearly coming from the jazz world, and Frith’s contributions sometimes identifiable as he strums his instrument and plays with feedback, sometimes offering hints of rhythm, using the electric guitar as a percussion instrument.
A worthwhile listen for fans of avant garde, the first side mostly for fans of claustrophobic noise, the flipside just as interesting and for most folks likely more enjoyable–the music full of madness and emotion and even possessing moments of beauty.
Down There 1025
Neo-psychedelia, leaving most of the others from this era in the dust.
Released September 1982 (UK only)
While some of this band’s output was clearly lacking, the band sinks their talons into this second set. There’s nothing to really separate it from the flock, but (other than the brief acoustic instrumental “20/21”) this rocks nonstop.
Worthwhile grab for fans of NWOBHM.
Produced by Zero Boys & John Helms
Good Shit *****
These Hoosiers were clearly coming out of mid-70s NYC underground, specifically the Ramones, the Dictators, some NY Dolls snotty pop swagger mixed with 80s hardcore, scrawny punk-boy vocals with a killer muscular driving rhythm, powerpop laced with benzedrine, production tight as a noose, not a weak moment. Essential 80s punk.
— winch (author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s and the two-part novel Junk Like That: Motor City Jailbait & Junk Like That: Motor City Junior High)
Park Avenue 82802
Rating:***** (Good Shit)
This starts off like it might be just another forgettable 80s pop-rock album but it soon takes off like a super-sonic jet, flying over those grimy NW territories, places behind garages down along the railroad tracks, the sound bringing the Tacoma past into the present tense, marking the smoggy sky with something the NW would look back at when they’d introduce the world to the NW sound a decade later.
While something so drenched in the Northwest climate could have come across as dreary, this band cranks the amps and motors through the fog. By the time they get to the extended title track, they’re charging through the rain-soaked streets like an old Mopar, the wipers keeping time and splashing away the rain to give us a clear view of the situation, a kid on a side street stomping through the puddles, shaking the rain from his hair, fists held out in the fog like the wings of an airplane, closing his eyes and imagining he had the money to buy the ticket to fly away from this rainy madness, pretending he’s a sonic jet himself, lifting off with images of the NW flashing through the clouds as he soars into the source of all that rain.
(The lyrics might provide other images, but that’s the image the title track provides for this listener.)
Like all the best from the Northwest in the 1980s, this owes something to the hardcore pioneers, but Greg Sage was one of the pioneers himself, and even more than the NW albums of the late 80s, this set reveals a sound all its own. It houses some of the best rock ‘n roll to come out of Portland town, capturing the rain-soaked climate perhaps better than any band. Just cut the lights and crank that title track and you’ll see why that cut is considered such a classic.
— winch (author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s and the two-part novel Junk Like That)
Shake and Push
Borrowed Records 3302
good shit *****
Classic set from Springfield, Missouri, very much in the NRBQ style (which of course goes back to the beginning of time, or at least back to the early 1950s). These folks get a bit more silly than NRBQ, opening the set with three originals, starting with “Gettin’ in Shape” (“Here comes Betty / She’s so sweaty / I wish we were goin’ steady”). To make sure this ain’t some stale neo-rockabilly museum music, they go into the Village People at the end of the song, enough to send some roots-rock purists to their graves where they belong. After that, the band launches into a song about food (the subject of some of the best songs ever recorded), this one about Red’s, the cafe that graces the sleeve. (“The only thing that’s French on the menu is fried.”) After that flavorful cliché, they go into some obscure covers, a song about the beautiful thing about “Ugly & Slouchy” women, and another about “Growin’ a Beard,” concluding with the instrumental “Bumble Boogie.”
The fun continues on side two, starting with Roy Montrell’s 1956 “That Mellow Saxophone,” (this version referring to “watching Columbo” as well as Davie Crockett) and continuing with the obscure covers till the end. Lots of folks did this sort of thing but few did it as good. Most groups usually picked hit songs that should have been left alone, tried too hard to sound retro and pretended to be from the South. In contrast, these folks weren’t pretending. They poke fun at their hometown, the “recording capital of Greene County,” but if you’ve been to this area, you know it’s the South. And in the South, you had standards. If you’re going to make a record, you better have a tight band and some good songs. This set fits that bill.
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)
New York Thrash
Rating: **** (Recommended)
While NYC played a huge part in creating the punk of the 70s, here the influence comes back home, from NYC to the UK, to the West Coast and back to NYC. Of course, many NYC outfits would likely argue against such simplifications, and many would say that they were all part of the NYC underground of an era. We tend to separate things by decades but 1982 was only five years after 1977, and especially when it comes to NYC, ’75 to ’85 was more of a decade than the 70s or 80s.
- “I Hate Music” – The Mad (1978)
- “Getaway” – Kraut
- “Shotgun” – Heart Attack
- “Social Reason” – The Undead
- “New Year’s Eve” – Adrenalin OD
- “Illusion Won Again – Even Worse
- “Cry Now” – Fiends
- “Here and Now” – Nihilistics
- “Nightmare – The Undead
- “Taxidermist”- False Prophets
- “Regulator (Version)” – Bad Brains
- “Riot Fight” – Beastie Boys
- “Love and Kisses” – Nihilistics
- “Asian White” – Fiends
- “Last Chance” – Kraut
- “Emptying the Madhouse” – Even Worse
- “Paul’s Not Home” – Adrenalin O.D.
- “Scorched Earth” – False Prophets
- “God is Dead” – Heart Attack
- “The Hell” – The Mad (1980)
- “Big Take Over (Version)” – Bad Brains
- “Beastie” – Beastie Boys
Other than the Mad cuts, all these songs were recorded from 1981 – 1982. Classic 1982 NYC underground comp, originally on cassette only.
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)