As a lot of the music I write about here is whatever I am interested in at any given time, I have decided to write a bunch about of posts about albums in my music library that are worth taking note of. These will be short descriptions, that if interest you, will hopefully inspire you to check out the artists or albums on your own. This time I have albums by AC/DC, Bash and Pop, Concrete Blonde, Roxy Music, and The The.
Stiff Upper Lip – AC/DC – AC/DC are hardly a band that need any attention, but this album is one that I believe doesn’t get enough credit. Unlike any album since Powerage, this album was produced by Young brother George Young. Young, along with Harry Vanda, produced all of the early AC/DC records, and much of their best work. He produces AC/DC exactly like you want them to be, dry and warm sounding, with one guitar in each speaker, minus the solos, and as few overdubs as necessary. Unlike the two recent albums in which producer Brendan O’Brien seems to be pushing them to come up with at least a couple pop songs for the radio, Young seems to be pushing them towards their slightly more blues oriented original period, especially Powerage. Although this doesn’t reach the heights of that classic album, few guitar albums by any band do, I do believe this is as close to that album that modern day DC can get. The guitar interplay between Angus and Malcolm Young on this album is absolutely fantastic. Even with their large catalog, they seem to come up with a lot of great riff ideas that sound truly inspired. With drummer Phil Rudd the pocket, as always, is a mile deep. Although on one hand it is another typical AC/DC record, the the playing, performances, and recording methods make this album rise above the pack of latter period AC/DC records. The guitars cut like knives.
Friday Night is Killing Me – Bash and Pop – This was Tommy Stinson’s first band after the Replacements. It’s one of my favorite guitar records of all time. Like the best AC/DC recordings the guitars are mostly hard panned to the left and right speakers, so you get a sense of the band and the interplay going on. (There are more overdubs than on an AC/DC record, with members of the Tom Petty’s band making appearances among others. But the album always feels like a band no matter who is joining them.) However, unlike that band or the Stones, who along with the Faces and other classic rock bands seem a large inspiration on this record, the guitars are almost consistently melodic. They have a blues rock feel and swagger, but the chord voicings and writing is more melodic like Stinson’s former band The Replacements. Stinson has a high gritty voice that has the phrasing, feel, and authenticity of great rock n roll singing. It definitely sounds like he has known his way around a couple cigarettes and whiskey, but in a way that doesn’t seem forced. The arrangements are taut and energetic. The whole album swings, floats, and stings like a bee. And the few ballads will have you crying in your drink.
Bloodletting – Concrete Blonde – It’s hard to pick out which Concrete Blonde album to mention, as their albums, even their best, are slightly spotty, but this one comes closest to working front to back, though none are bad either. They are a band that seems the perfect bridge between the 80’s and 90’s, a great example of alternative rock. Though never reaching the heights of the Cure, they are about as close as America gets to them, as Concrete Blonde’s albums have a variation of styles connected by a reverb drenched sound, where even at their poppiest and most major key songs still create some kind of strange gothic atmosphere. Their albums are grittier, bluesier, and more American sounding than that band. Even though this band is from L.A., there is something about them that sounds like it derived from a mausoleum in New Orleans. They create their own unique world. Guitar player James Mankey drops solos that, while leaning towards traditional, have their own unique liquid energy. His playing is tasteful yet always passionate. And the band, in singer Johnette Nopalitano, have one of the most powerful and unique singers around. Her voice can take the paint off the barn and be vulnerable in equal measures, sometimes in the same song.
For Your Pleasure – Roxy Music – A great many people I know love the Roxy Music album Avalon. And while Avalon is truly great, this album is great in a completely different way. Avalon, despite being quite popular, is stranger than it appears on first listen. However, this album is deeply truly weird, as the band still featured Brian Eno at this point. They often get lumped into the early glam scene along with David Bowie, but Bowie, as great as he is, never came close to anything as weird as this during that period. In the same way that dub turns reggae upside down, taking a populist art form and making it bizarre, it seems like Roxy Music did the same for rock n roll here. There are elements that are traditional, but they are pushed to the back, while the weirder sonic elements are pushed to the forefront. Eno creates unique sonic architecture around the songs. (Listen to In Every Dream Home a Heartache.) Bryan Ferry croons like he is in the bell tower of Dracula’s castle. A dark invigorating record that still sounds unlike anything out there.
Mind Bomb – The The – This is a ridiculously brilliant album featuring intelligent lyrics, complex arrangements, exceptional guitar playing by The Smith’s Johnny Marr, and enough pop hooks to make the whole thing work. Singer and principle songwriter Matt Johnson tackles the decay in society, both inside an out. Songs tackle everything from the insanity of religion to the struggle of the human spirit. Gospel keyboards twist into beautiful arpeggios into dread inducing background vocals. The album covers a wide range of sonic emotions yet all sounds interconnected. It’s not a concept record in any traditional sense, but the whole record plays front to back like a movie. If you have a sense of adventure, check this record out.