Don’t Worry About Me CD
This isn’t the way it was supposed to happen. After the Ramones’ interminably extended breakup, I figured Joey would be the Ramone to bounce back the quickest, being the most recognizable member, the most pop-oriented songwriter, and probably the most widely-liked Ramone. I thought hey, give him a year, he’ll probably cut an album of great tunes along the lines of previous Joey songs like “No Go” & “She Talks To Rainbows” and he may even reach the widespread mainstream success that was always just out of the Ramones’ reach, the way Ozzy solo was more palatable to the masses than pure uncut Sabbath.
Okay, you and I both know it didn’t happen that way, and hence Don’t Worry About Me isn’t quite the album I was waiting for—like the way every note of Nirvana’s music was colored and slightly spoiled for me by Cobain’s final action, the pall of this being “Joey’s last testament from beyond the grave” hangs heavy over this record, which is a heavy burden to put on a Ramones-related disc. It’s hard not to think about it, even when I try to put it out of my mind and just focus on the music, which I can do during certain songs better than others. I won’t lie though, it hurts real bad to hear Joey singing “Sitting in a hospital bed/I want my life/It really sucks”. So no, maybe this isn’t going to be my favorite Ramones album, but it’s not a Ramones album. It’s probably going to be my favorite post-Ramones album though, and it’s a disc I’ll cherish. It’s just difficult to listen to without thinking of how shitty it is that he’s not around any more. (Sanctuary) – Aaron J. Poehler
We're Outta Here--Radioactive Records
I thought this one was gonna be a hard sell for me going into it: I've already got four Ramones live albums, most of which have largely the same songs, plus I saw the band three times, of which their 'farewell tour' show was definitely the weakest, so what do I need this for? Other than Lemmy from Motorhead and estranged original bassist Dee Dee Ramone, I don't care about the minor superstar guests on this release (Eddie Vedder and guys from Soundgarden and Rancid), and overall the protracted display the Ramones made about breaking up left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Well, surprise, surprise, they did it again and We're Outta Here has now spent as much time in my CD player as any of the Ramones' live albums (excepting maybe It's Alive, the album of the original lineup live in England on New Year's Eve '77/78). It's a fairly triumphant exit, clearly-mixed and well-played, with just enough rough edges for that authentic live feel; the 32-track (much better than 1996's too-brief 16-track early-in-the-farewell-tour Greatest Hits Live) set list isn't exactly what you'd call surprising (this is the Ramones we're talking about here) but there are some tunes here that haven't appeared on live albums before. The CD booklet is packed with handwritten farewells from each of the Ramones and a few of their guest stars, including the expected fond memories from Lemmy and the expected mixed reactions of Dee Dee. Considering the likely commercial possibilities for Ramones' members' solo albums and the band's track record, I find it hard to believe that this band won't ever play again--instead, I think it's likelier that they'll end up like the Stones, doing a tour once every four or five years whenever the money's good enough. I can imagine worse fates for this band than that, and besides that I don't really think a comeback tour is any more distasteful than the whole 'last tour' scam. Hey, when punk rock aspires too far towards respectability it loses its charm anyway--there's little more useless than a pious punk. Sooner or later these guys are going to think the words John Lydon thought before reforming the Sex Pistols for their Filthy Lucre tour: "Why. The Hell. Not." I can't say I'd blame them.
Snake Eyes--Tim/Kerr Records (PO Box 42423, Portland, OR 97242)
Dave "Snaker" Ray got his start way back in 1963 as part of Koerner, Ray & Glover, who together and separately recorded the Blues, Rags, and Hollers album in one day early that year. Ray's new solo album Snake Eyes focuses mostly on the Blues part of equation, specifically solo, acoustic, traditional twelve-string blues, songs by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Arthur Crudup, songs like "Junco Partner", "Tomorrow Night", "One-Room Country Shack". If you're in the market for this kind of thing you just can't do much better (or more "authentic", for those who worry about such things) for blues recorded in 1997. Ray has a weathered, appealing voice and his picking hand is sure and true; plus, it's hard to argue with such a trusty, time-tested set of material. This is the kind of record that it doesn't really matter that it comes on CD: it looks like a vinyl album, it has fourteen songs like a vinyl album, after listening to it you feel like you might as well have gotten up and flipped it in the middle. All it's missing is the scratches.
Candyfloss And Medicine CD (Reprise/Blanco Y Negro)
Scottish-born vocalist Eddi Reader got her start singing backup behind acts like Eurythmics, ex-Yaz singer Alison Moyet, and Gang of Four, then co-led the short lived British group Fairground Attraction with Mark Nevin. Fairground released one album in 1988 then split; Nevin went on to co-write and play on Morrissey's Kill Uncle while Eddi launched a solo career. Candyfloss And Medicine is Reader's third album on her own, and was originally released in '96 back in the UK. Her main collaborators here are Boo Hewerdine, former frontman for the Bible (the band, not the religious document), who co-writes nearly everything and plays guitar, plus keyboard-playing co-producer Teddy Borowiecki (ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler also contributes a guitar track). Reader's voice is a clear-sounding, attractive instrument, not too shrill, needlessly breathy, or prima donna showoff-y; her tunes stake out a middle ground somewhere between Joni Mitchell-type personal emotional songwriting and traditional mainstream female-vocalist easy-listening music. The result is something like a more British counterpart to Emmylou Harris (especially the stuff she did with U2/Dylan producer Daniel Lanois), a bit like Marianne Faithfull, and especially comparable to the somewhat less-known Kirsty MacColl (also Scottish, and coincidentally formerly married to U2 producer Steve Lillywhite); it's nice and pretty on the surface, but beneath there's some real grit in the lyrics. Eddi's easily up there with the overhyped & overrated acts shoved onto the Lilith tours, so if you actually take people like Sarah McLachlan, Jane Siberry, and Jewel seriously as artists you owe it to yourself to check Eddi out. Not just 'cause she's a woman--just because she's very very good at what she does. –Aaron J. Poehler
The Reluctant Toby
The Ultimate Hobby CD (New Alliance Records)
Apparently (according to the liner notes, anyway) the Reluctant Toby and their album The Ultimate Hobby are a one-off collaboration between members of El Grupo Sexo and Southern Fried Mystics (neither of which I know anything about), plus a couple friends, taped way back in Fall of 1986. Okay, whatever you say--I've been a bit suspicious of anything released on any SST-related label (New Alliance is ostensibly for SST artists' side projects) ever since Greg Ginn started putting out records he did himself out under a million different names. Now I expect them all to be Greg Ginn in his home studio no matter what the cover or liner notes say. The Ultimate Hobby is pretty wacky stuff; the disc contains four tracks labeled "Green Acres Incidental Music" which may well be actual incidental music from Green Acres as far as I know. It's a Zappaesque, music-school-jazzbos-let-their-hair-down kind of wacky, though, not the kind of stuff that's actually funny or scatological like Ween--the most listenable and/or catchy thing here is a loony-voiced cover of Bo Diddley's classic "Diddy Wah Diddy". It sounds like they had fun, anyway. I never did figure out what the ultimate hobby is, though. The cover pictures a guy swilling booze; is it drinking? Making jazzy archive side projects? Watching Green Acres? –Aaron J. Poehler
All For Nothing/Nothing For All--Reprise
Apparently someone in a position of power at the major labels has decreed: 1.)That it's time to begin anthologizing the music of the eighties, and 2.) That 2-CD sets are the proper medium for 80's reissue packages, so, within a few months of each other, we've been graced with 2-disc sets claiming the music of bands like the Pixies, X, the Psychedelic Furs, and now the Replacements for posterity. Trouble is, the lasting value of much music from this time period remains to be seen; sure, I bought the Pixies albums first time around, paid cold hard cash to see them live, even hunted up B-sides and other rare Pixies ephemera for a time, but do I listen to their music anymore or care about their premature nostalgia package? Hell no. So it is with some serious misgivings that I approach the Replacements' 2-disc collection All For Nothing/Nothing For All. On one hand, the 'Mats' music was always better than any of the other above-mentioned bands' output (it's aged better, too). On the other, this is one of the most haphazardly-assembled, low-dollar value compilation I've ever seen. Its first disc plucks four songs from each of the Replacements' Sire/Warner Bros. albums (completely ignoring their prime Twin/Tone indie work, presumably for corporate-licensing reasons [like Sire/Warner was too cheap to do the job right]), arranges them in strict, unappealing and unimaginative chronological order, and calls it a 'best-of'. Uh, ahem, not hardly. "Kiss Me On The Bus" isn't even one of the better Replacements songs on Tim (its album of origin), let alone one of their best ever, but song selection quibbles aside it's somewhat insulting not even to fill the disc to anywhere near CD capacity (total time around 54 minutes): it either implies the record company wasn't willing to pay publishing on a few more songs or that these were the only sixteen tunes off those four albums they found listenable at all. The second disc is a bit more interesting, assembling B-sides and unreleased tracks from the 'Mats Sire career, and it's this second disc that unfortunately makes this package a must-hear for any 'Mats fan; about a third of the rarities are stellar songs that rank with the best of the Replacements' work and in this context sound better than many of the album tunes on the first disc, notably "We Know The Night", "Portland", and "Wake Up". With a retail price averaging over twenty dollars, though, I'm tempted to suggest that you find a friend with this disc and tape the rarities, though, because this package is not what you might call a good value. If you're gonna ask somebody to shell out for a 2-disc compilation, at least have the courtesy to come close to filling the discs--like within twenty minutes of capacity. Oh, one more thing: these discs apparently have CD-ROM data for four 'Mats videos on them but since they don't work in my computer I can't vouch for that.
Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses--Ryko
If nothing else, you have to give the Residents credit for persistence: they've been pursuing their unique vision of music for over twenty-five years without deviating significantly from their original tenets (including total anonymity, a ban on photos or interviews, and isolation from their audience--though the group has stretched the last to allow limited live performances) despite almost total lack of mainstream acceptance or even acknowledgment. Thus Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses, a 2-disc compilation which attempts the impossible task of summarizing the Residents' dauntingly extensive musical output (their discography contains over 30 albums--and that's not counting EPs, cassette-only releases, or singles) in 150 minutes. The real value in this package is as an acid test for potential Residents fans: the booklet gives more information about the band than has probably ever been gathered in one place, asserting relatively believably that the band (or its founders) originated in Louisiana and migrated to San Francisco in 1972, which has been their base of operations ever since. It also contains a chronology of the group's musical activities and projects which are even commented upon by 'designated Residents spokesman' "Homer Flynn" and features endorsements by such more-or-less well-known fans as Simpsons creator Matt Groening and Rolling Stone editor/writer David Fricke. The discs contain selections from across the Residents' history, including many otherwise unavailable cuts for the rabid collectors, and the major themes of the works some of the cuts are drawn from are summarized so the uninitiated perhaps won't feel totally lost. So the array of elements included with Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses should tell any listeners whether or not the Residents are for him (or her) within a couple of spins; the problem (as I see it, anyway) is that there are probably not too many people out there who really want to hear this sort of thing on a regular basis--it's a real love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but if the whole thing sounds intriguing you might just want to give this collection a listen. You might find out you're one of the few, the proud, the obscure, and start buying up Residents product left and right. Realistically, though, the chances of that happening aren't too high, so give it a listen before you bring it home if possible.
Some Saturday This Has Been--Grafton Records (1447 Broderick, San Francisco, CA 94115)
Admittedly, it's the packaging of Ribbon Fix's Some Saturday This Has Been CD that's the most striking element--a limited edition of a thousand handbound, fabric-covered CD folders, inlaid with a band photo and held shut (true to the band's name) with a maroon ribbon--but the music is nothing to sneeze at either: three-piece indie-rock that goes heavy on the harmonies between guitarist Mark Rodgers and bassist Andi Camp, while flexible drummer Mike Roberts keeps it all moving. Both the sound and the songs of Some Saturday This Has Been explore male/female dynamics, and the seemingly effortless intertwining of Rodgers and Camp (often one seems to pick up where the other left off) bodes well for future works--unless of course, they break up. No, the band's music isn't exactly charting previously unplowed territory, but making the familiar sound somewhat fresh again is one of Ribbon Fix's greatest assets; their enthusiasm helps them surge past the sagging shtick and been-there-done-that demeanor of probable band heroes (current or former) like Versus or Unwound. Plus, the convincing roar produced by the trio makes it a sure bet that they'd be able to turn a club (or more likely in this town, a basement) inside out on a good night--Ribbon Fix is definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Ringo & His New All-Starr Band
(King Biscuit Flower Hour Records/Razor & Tie)
Now that the number of living Beatles is dwindling, a person’s chances to hear Beatle songs sung by the original vocalist are shrinking fast—and if you don’t have access to a small mint of your own, tickets to Sir Paul’s recent tour might well be out of your range. So here’s your other option: Ringo and his New All-Starr Band. On the CD documenting the current tour, Ringo sings all the songs you’d expect of him: “Act Naturally”, “Yellow Submarine”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, and “With A Little Help From My Friends” all appear here, sounding better than you might think. But the supply of Ringo-sung hits runs out fairly quickly, and that’s where the ‘All-Starr’ part of the band comes in: mixed into the setlist are the biggest hits by the current All-Starr Band members, an unpredictably improbable assortment that includes Roger Hodgson of Supertramp (“Logical Song”, “Take The Long Way Home”); 80’s synth-pop icon Howard Jones (“No One Is To Blame”); Sheila E., former sidekick to both Prince and Magic Johnson (“Glamorous Life”, including a jaw-dropping drum solo by Ms. Escovedo—what, did you think her last name is just ‘E.’?); ex-Mott The Hoople vocalist Ian Hunter (“All The Young Dudes”); and bassist Greg Lake, the ‘Lake’ in Emerson, Lake & Palmer (“Lucky Man”).
While the prospect of hits from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s played by an ad hoc band of people who’d seem to have nothing in common might seem an unlikely proposition at best, when one sits down and listens it sounds amazingly natural. The ‘all hits’ playlist keeps the interest level high throughout, and most of the renditions live up to their original versions, though if you were at the concert and had to pick a time to go to the bathroom you wouldn’t miss a lot if you went during Lake’s “Lucky Man”. Most importantly, the show documented on Ringo & His New All-Starr Band sounds like a whole lot of fun, both for the audience and musicians. Who wouldn’t want to turn around while playing and see Ringo playing the drums back there? And considering there’s a ‘music of the Beatles’ tour going around right now that features exactly zero original Beatles (“A Walk Down Abbey Road” featuring Todd Rundgren, Alan Parsons, Jack Bruce, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, and Christopher Cross), Beatle freaks could certainly do worse than to check out Ringo and friends.
RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS: self-titled: CD
70’s style old-school punk garage rock: NY Dolls, Damned, Dead Boys, you get the idea. Kinda like a decent opening band for the Gaza Strippers (i.e. in the same vein, but not as good). They include a version of the Ramones’ “Slug” in memory of Joey but it doesn’t do the original justice at all, unfortunately—they just succeed in making me wish I was listening to the original instead of this poor copy. Tempos don’t stay as relentless as I prefer, sometimes getting a bit squishy as they go into the chorus, and none of the toons stuck in my head at all. Sounds like I’d have a good time hanging out and getting drunk if the Riverboat Gamblers were playing in a club around me, but lord knows there are ten million records of this kind of music and this one doesn’t leap out as one of the very best, which it’d pretty much have to do to stand out from the crowd. Probably worth checking out if they’re playing around you for under five bucks, though. -Aaron J. Poehler (Beatville)
Storm the Streets--Honest Don's (PO Box 192027, San Francisco, CA 94119-2027)
Riverdales is/was the side project formed by members of Screeching Weasel to pay slavish tribute to their heroes, the Ramones--specifically the music the Ramones released on their first four albums. Storm the Streets is as close to a Ramones album as the guys can make it: fourteen songs, all with names like "Mental Retard", "I Don't Wanna Go to the Party", and "I Am Not A Freak", assembled from recycled bits extracted from Ramones, Leave Home, Road To Ruin, and Rocket To Russia. The main problem is the inevitable feeling that you're listening to nothing but a second-rate imitation, largely because you are listening to a second-rate imitation. The Riverdales don't work up the head of steam that the real thing does, so the tracks on Storm the Streets are sort of limp next to a real Ramones record, and the engineering and co-production by M. Giorgini is his typically muffled Sonic Iguana sound, where everything sounds like you threw a blanket over the speakers. It's nice that these guys love the Ramones' music so much, but this album isn't worth more than a couple of spins, whereas even the weakest Ramones disc stands up to play after play. Think of it this way: Kiss and the Doors have at least as many fans as (and sold a lot more records than) the Ramones, but there's still no market for the Back Doors or Strutter albums.
Rocket From The Tombs
The Day The Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs CD
Okay, usually I try to be kind of understanding and forgiving of the possible reading public in my reviews. I don’t know who could be reading this, and let’s face it, sometimes people need things spoon-fed to them. However, on this review, I’m drawing a line in the sand: basically, if you don’t know who Rocket From the Tombs were, you don’t know crap about music. If you read the above and said to yourself “Huh, I thought it was Rocket From The CRYPT”, shoot yourself in the head now, because you’re a fucking moron.
Sigh…okay, for those who came late and half-useless to the party, this band was the precursor to Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys and arguably better than either—not as pretentious as Ubu, not as one-note boneheaded as the Dead Boys. This music has been close to fucking IMPOSSIBLE to find, too, but check this list of songs: “Ain’t It Fun”, “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”, “Sonic Reducer”, “Final Solution”…these are the ORIGINALS of these songs. The versions you’ve heard? Just basically covers involving some of the same people later on.
Y’know, there’s a great persistent myth about lots of unknown, underground bands that “they were great” or “they could have been great” or “if they’d been given a chance” and blah, blah, blah. 999 out of a 1000 times, it’s a load of crap—the band stayed unknown for very good reasons. Rocket From the Tombs? Hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Fact is, though, even the two spinoff bands with half the creative forces of this band are legends today, and the bootleg release of some of this material became a highly-priced collectible even though no one’s ever been paid to promote this music (and don’t kid yourself, if you’ve heard about someone’s music it’s usually because someone’s paid and gotten paid to promote it). If RFTT would have lasted, made a real album…well, you’d already have this record and if you didn’t everybody would laugh at your corny ass. Now that this shit’s available to everyone, that could still happen. Just try real hard not to start smacking people when you play it and your dickhead friends start asking “isn’t that a Guns ‘N Roses song?” (Smog Veil Records) – Aaron J. Poehler
Rod/Don't Call Me Brian
split 7" (What Else? Records)
Unlike many split releases, the bands on either side of this 7" are exceptionally well-matched. Both recorded their tracks at Hidden Music in Dayton with Steve Van Etten, so there's none of the usual jarring disparity in the tone of the recordings. Both groups are suburban, Midwestern power trio post-Green Day pop-punk, with lots of lyrics about weak relationships gone bad and lots of 'wo-wo-wo' backing vocals. Rod's side is a little more interesting: two songs, with lyrics that can be read into as deeply as the listener wants to go--they could just be about an unfulfilling relationship with a girl or they could be about an unfulfilling relationship with life. Don't Call Me Brian's three tunes are more by-the-numbers; I've heard too many unironic pop-punk songs with titles like "Girl Of My Dreams" and "Soda Jerk" (come on…) for these to be anything but more on top of the pile. Still, noting the differences between the two is like splitting hairs--in fact, the way the front cover looks one could easily conclude that Rod is the band and Don't Call Me Brian is the title, and listening to the record wouldn't necessarily dispel that notion--plus, when you cut to the bone the unfortunate truth is that both bands are essentially just weak Green Day clones. The relationship of the stolen G.I. Joe comic book graphics that adorn the sleeve to the music inside still remains to be demonstrated. --Aaron J. Poehler
The Roswells - 7" (Microcosm Records)
The insert tells it all in this case: not only do they write, "Hi, this is my first 7" and you aren't on it", they conveniently give brief synopses telling what the songs are about. "Crass Not Christ" is about "MxPx and how religion & punks DUMB", "3-2-1 Contact" is about "Getting fucked by an alien", "Act Your Age" is about "Girls that have no life except for their boyfriend", and "Saturday Night" is about "A date in Saturday Night". It's printed up with the (typical for Punks With Presses) slightly below-par look, and they also include helpful tips about their hometown, Mentor, OH, such as "When in Mentor, converse with the cheap girls on why they are slutty", "When in Mentor, you will get Ebola", and "When in Mentor, turn around and go home." The music is basically no frills, straight ahead suburban punk; it doesn't blow you away, but their hearts are in the right place, and even when the song structures verge on pop they keep the tempo notched high enough to ensure that velocity comes out on top of melody. The Roswells could do with a better band name, but then again--they live in Mentor, Ohio. Roswell, New Mexico probably seems like a far-off, inaccessible place. A spirited debut, if a bit on the wacky side. -Aaron J. Poehler