Sunday, December 22, 2019

Joe Strummer Day 2019: London Calling 40 Years Later (Show # 807)

Prior to the release of London Calling in December of 1979 (and January of 1980 in the US), The Clash were moving into unknown territory. In 1978, after touring the US and putting out two full-length albums, The Clash parted ways with their manager Bernie Rhoades. They also were going through a spell of writers block. Without their manager, The Clash also no longer had a rehearsal space. Their roadies Johnny Green and The Baker helped them find a new space and an unconventional one at that. The place they found was located in a former factory that was turned into an auto repair shop in Pimlico. This place would be known as Vanilla Studios. It was here that the band, removed from their previous world created the songs for what would wind up on London Calling. Here the band worked on material away from their usual surroundings. Different influences crept in the songs such as reggae, ska, rockabilly, pop and jazz. Demos were made on 4 track tape machines that would become known as The Vanilla Tapes. They were mentioned as early as 1979 in an interview with Joe Strummer, but would not turn up for another 25 years until the 25th anniversary release of London Calling in 2004.

In August 1979, The Clash entered Wessex Studios to start recording London Calling. The producer on the album would be Guy Stevens, known for his strange producing methods. He had produced bands such as Spooky Tooth, Free and Traffic, he was also the manager for Mott The Hoople. Guy would often do things in the studio such as swing a ladder around, yell in people’s faces, and throw chairs to generate enthusiasm while The Clash recorded a take. Bill Price was also on board as engineer to capture all the chaos. London Calling opens with the title track. The track goes beyond the limitations of punk (which is something that was experimented with on London Calling), lyrically, the song generates an apocalyptic rant delving into a variety of political issues as well. Musically, “London Calling” opens the album like a siren call recalling the paranoia around us. With dashes of gallows humour and inspiration coming from reports that the Thames River may flood due to an incident at a Nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, workers strikes, police brutality, and the band’s current situation, the song “London Calling”, like the album, drew a variety of issues and themes.

“Brand New Cadillac” is a cover of a song originally by Vince Taylor. The song was used as a warm up in the studio and the tape recorder was rolling. It became the first song recorded for London Calling. This revved up rockabilly cover about American cars delved into the myth of rock and roll in a cinematic fashion, which would populate the musical depths throughout the London Calling album. While the majority of the songs were worked out during the Vanilla Studios rehearsals, this unplanned track that speeds up in the last verse is also one of the many examples of what can make music so great, spontaneity and indisputable energy. “Jimmy Jazz” utilizes phaser guitar effects, acoustic guitars, horn sections and jazz elements. Lyrically with words such as “Satta Massagana for Jimmy Dread/Cut off his ears and chop off his head/Police come looking for Jimmy Jazz” and “What a relief/I feel like a soldier/Look like a thief/It's for the Jazz”, Strummer and The Clash weave a tale of an unground criminal on the run that can also be seen as an allegory for the punk music scene. “Hateful” brings in Bo Diddley influences with lyrics referencing the complexities of drug addicts and drug dealers with lyrics “It’s hateful/And It’s paid for and I’m so grateful to be nowhere”. “Rudie Can’t Fail” is a reggae, soul and horn driven track sung as a duet by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer. The song itself is inspired the rude boys in 1960s Jamaica who challenged their elders and about a young person that is being criticized for not acting like a responsible adult.

The Clash - Wessex Studios 1979 (Photo by Pennie Smith)
“Spanish Bombs” features many pop elements, the guitar work of jazz/blues guitarist Django Reinhardt also comes to mind, while lyrically it is more on the political side of things about rebellion and its consequences. Strummer’s lyrics juxtapose the Spanish Civil War to the IRA conflict at the time. The song was influenced by George Orwell’s 1938 memoir Homage to Catalonia and could be discussed at length for the themes that it produces, it has also been said to be part love ballad to Palmolive, Joe’s girlfriend at the time and member of The Slits. “The Right Profile” was inspired by a biography on 1950s Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift. The song delves into the tragic tale of the actor who was involved in a car accident and how he could only be filmed from the right side of his face following that incident. With lyrics such as “And everybody say, "Is he all right?"/And everybody say, "What's he like?"/And everybody say, "He sure looks funny"/That's Montgomery Clift, honey”, the song also dealt with Clift’s troubles with drugs and alcohol and drew parallels to producer Guy Stevens who was battling similar at demons at the time. Musically, the song features choppy guitars, Irish horn sections and impassioned vocals from Joe Strummer.

“Lost In The Supermarket” is a song that looks at a person lost in consumer culture that is trying to find some kind of connection with other people and only gets false offerings. Musically, the song takes on disco and pop influences and was sung by guitarist Mick Jones, despite being written by Joe Strummer. Another song that takes on consumer culture is the two-minute punk song “Koka Kola”, which appears later on London Calling and also addresses advertising, corporations, drug fuelled executives and the similarities that they have to each other. “Clampdown” is another rock song that starts with descending bass and guitar patterns, up-tempo drums from Topper Headon, organ and Joe Strummer’s opening rant. This song that would become a live favourite, builds on earlier songs like “Career Opportunities”, but delves even further. With lyrics such as “The men in the factory are old and cunning/You don't owe nothing, so boy get running!/It's the best years of your life they want to steal!”, “Clampdown” tackles a state of mind and situation that many people find themselves in when stuck at a dead end job, emphasizing that you can strive to do better for yourself. It also tackles racial stereotypes with an anti-establishment ethos.

“Guns of Brixton” a reggae song sung and written by bassist Paul Simonon reflecting the reggae gang culture in the film The Harder They Come while contrasting it to gangsters in Brixton, South London. This song, which would also become a live staple for The Clash, captures the alienation that was felt by many in Brixton that would eventually become a site of race riots in 1981 and 1985. “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” is a cover of a song by The Rulers that also digs into the American myth of Stagger Lee and contains part of the song “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price in the intro. This ska-influenced track has a skanking beat with horn sections, stop and start drum fills and many lyrical layers. On songs such as “Jimmy Jazz”, “Rudie Can’t Fail”, “The Card Cheat” and “Revolution Rock”, elements of the Stagger Lee story pop up in different ways.

“Death Or Glory” builds with acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a penetrating, soulful bassline. Throughout this composition, Joe Strummer sings of the complications of the responsibilities of adulthood. With words such as “In every dingy basement on every dingy street/Every dragging hand clap over every dragging beat/That's just the beat of time, beat that must go on/If you've been trying for years we already heard your song”, The Clash also draw on themes of the rock and roll lifestyle, selling out and not being complacent. “The Card Cheat” is a piano driven ballad sung by Mick Jones that tells the tale of a lonely, down and out gambler that brings up images and themes of American Western cinema, “Lover’s Rock” tackles safe sex advocacy, “Four Horsemen” brings more humour into the album as The Clash poke fun at themselves, comparing the band to the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, while “I’m Not Down” with its Kinks-like chord progressions deals with a character down on their luck. With lyrics such as “If it's true a rich man leads a sad life/That's what they from day to day/Then what do all the poor do with their lives/On Judgment Day with nothing to say?” and “But I know there'll be some way/When I can swing everything back my way/Like skyscrapers rising up/Floor by floor, I'm not giving up”, this song sung by Jones drifts into themes of depression with a message of bettering yourself by pushing through the hard times and dealing with things more directly, despite your troubles.

“Revolution Rock” is the 18th track on London Calling. The song itself is a cover of an obscure reggae song originally by Danny Ray and the Revolutioneers that sampled “Get Up” by Jackie Edwards. Several lyrics were changed by Strummer, most notably the line referencing "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin (“Careful how you move, Mac, you dig me in me back/An' I'm so pilled up that I rattle/I have got the sharpest knife, so I cut the biggest slice/I got no time to do battle”) and changing the lyrics to “Everybody smash up your seats and rock to this/Brand new beat” to reflect something that occurred at punk shows. While the gangster theme does come up again in this song, along with many other themes, the result is a song that is a celebration of sorts, as opposed to several of the other songs found on London Calling with darker subject matter. Originally London Calling was going to end at this track, the artwork was even completed and ready to go, but one more song was added to the album at the last minute. The song would be “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” written and sung by Mick Jones. Rumoured to be about Jones’ Split with Slits guitarist Viv Albertine, the song was written in one night and recorded the next day at the end of the recording sessions for London Calling. This song was originally supposed to be given away as a Flexi single with NME Magazine, however, it didn’t work out that way and this lovesick R&B pop song drives like a locomotive taking the listener to the end of their journey with London Calling.

On London Calling, The Clash created an album made up of many different musical styles. With drummer Topper Headon supplying the dynamic backbeat, a new versatility in The Clash became apparent as they branched out into the genres of reggae, ska, blues, jazz, rockabilly, punk and R&B to name a few. Throughout the album, the lyrical layers compliment the varying musical styles, pulling in literary influences from George Orwell, American culture, gangster films, that sometimes read like a story, sometimes like a classic film, but never beats you over the head with the obvious. It sounds organic, even today. With London Calling, The Clash smashed all preconceived notions of what punk was, releasing a double album of music that pressed on into a new terrain. London Calling was initially going to be called The Last Testament because it was said to stand as the “last rock n’ roll record”. While that changed, London Calling balanced a sense of unease in culture at the time with a sense of optimism. The music of London Calling is a testament however, to the power of rock and roll and the music of The Clash which continues to echo through to audiences, even decades after its initial release.

JSD 2019 Playlist (Originally Aired On September 22nd, 2019)(The 40th Anniversary of London Calling):

1. London Calling (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
2. Brand New Cadillac (London Calling - 1979)
3. Jimmy Jazz (London Calling - 1979)
4. Hateful (London Calling - 1979)
5. Rudie Can’t Fail (London Calling - 1979)
6. Spanish Bombs (London Calling - 1979)
7. The Right Profile (London Calling - 1979)
8. Lost in the Supermarket (London Calling - 1979)
9. Clampdown (Live)(Live At Shea Stadium - 20018)
10. Paul’s Tune (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
11. The Guns of Brixton (London Calling - 1979)
12. Lonesome Me (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
13. Up-Toon (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
14. Walking The Slidewalk (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
15. The Man In Me (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
16. Roadrunner (Live Palladium Soundcheck - 1979)
18. Wrong ‘Em Boyo (Live Palladium NYC 9.21.1979)
19. Death Or Glory (London Calling - 1979)
20. Koka Kola (London Calling - 1979)
21. The Card Cheat (London Calling - 1979)
22. Lover’s Rock (London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition - 2004)
23. Four Horsemen (London Calling - 1979)
24. I’m Not Down (London Calling - 1979)
25. Revolution Rock (London Calling - 1979)
26. Train In Vain (Live at The Capitol Theater - Passaic, NJ 3.8.80)
27. Armagideon Time (London Calling/Armagideon Time single - 1979)

Download this episode here!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019 Album Highlights & Shows # 805 & 806

Instead of doing a top twenty or top ten album list year on Revolution Rock, Dave and Adam decided to just play a collection of albums over two episodes and not list any specific number ranking for them. What you will find here are six write-ups from some albums that were released in 2019, three written by Dave and three written by Adam. Following these words are playlists and download links to two episodes featuring music released in 2019.

2019 Album Highlights:
Written by Dave Konstantino

Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel

Dogrel is the debut full-length album by Fontaines D.C. from Dublin, Ireland. The band features Grian Chatten (vocals), Conor Curley (guitar), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Deegan (bass) and Tom Coll on drums. The band members met while at school in Dublin and bonded over their love of poetry. They collectively released two collections of poetry Vroom inspired by Beat poetry (such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) and Winding, which was inspired by Irish poets Patrick Kavanagh, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. The music that they create is labeled as post punk, however, it pulls in influences from other areas such as fellow Irish band Girl Band, The Fall, Brit pop, a bit of garage and lyrically, Fontaines D.C. utilize their love of poetry.

“Big” starts off Dogrel with a bass and drum intro before garage and post punk guitars intermingle with Chatten’s vocals. This short opening song builds a picturesque image despite its length. With potent words “Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a catholic mind” and a chorus of “My childhood was small/But I’m going to be big” that is weighed down by a history, which also blends with a duality of greed and ambitious overtones. There is a working class outlook throughout this album and it is tied in with Irish class economics and an overlooking worldview.

“Too Real” starts off with an intense guitar part before the bass, drums and vocals swoop in with a wave of emotion. Guitar slides bounce back and forth in the your speakers (apparently played with a beer bottle) as drums and bass add depth to the centre. Chatten’s vocals evoke a disdain and urgency at the same time as lyrics such as “None can revolution lead with selfish needs aside/As I cried, I'm about to make a lot of money” that brings forth images of working class Dublin, amongst the chaos of every day life. The Yeats and Joyce influence characterizes this song with little details as the chorus “Is it to real for ya?” is repeated over and over demanding an openness and honesty that also projects a cutting worldview. “Hurricane Laughter” rumbles and attacks in an ebb and flow. Clocking in at around four minutes and fifty seconds, the stream of consciousness lyrics combine a joycean/Lou Reed aesthetic that twists and bends with intensity, as lyrics such as “Hurricane laughter/Tearing down the plaster”, and “There is no connection available”, show a disconnect in the world of complexities that we get sucked into.

“The Boys In The Better Land” is an anthem of sorts that has been described as a British Invasion styled rave up. Inspired by an encounter with an Anglophobic cab driver in Dublin, “The Boys In The Better Land” draws on political themes, but also celebrates independent thought. “Dublin City Sky” ends Dogrel. This poignant album closer evokes a Shane MacGowan/Pogues aesthetic as lyrically this song reads like a love song, but it is a love song to a city that builds on something bigger. Throughout this album, Fontaines D.C. draw on poetry, embracing their Irish identities, but at the same time build on something from what has come before them. James Joyce once said that if Dublin disappeared his book Ulysses could be used to rebuild the city. While Dogrel isn’t a complex mind bending narrative, it does build on something. It uses the complexities and details of our modern times to search for identity and build meaning. There can also be comparison made to Dogrel with this quote that was once said: “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

Fruit Tones - Natural Selection

Natural Selection
 is the debut album by Manchester band Fruit Tones. The music that Fruit Tones play is no nonsense. There are no gimmicks here. It is just raw, primal and rough around the edges garage rock with pop sensibilities. This album follows a series of releases from Fruit Tones. The trio consists of Tom Walmsley (guitar/vocals), Tom Harrison (drums) and Chris Wood on bass. Dominic Oliver played on bass on the record. Recorded over three freezing cold days in December 2018 with Samuel Stacpool (Holiday Ghosts/The Black Tambourines), Natural Selection was released via Greenway Records in January 2019.

"I Know Where Love Comes From” opens Natural Selection. The song is a rush of grittiness ala the New York Dolls and The Stooges with dashes of 60s pop. As the song reaches the halfway point it attacks with its menacing guitar solo and stop and start build up. Released as the first single for Natural Selection with a video by Chris Wood featuring animations from Dominic Oliver, it isn’t hard to see how this fizzy garage punk track wins over listeners. “Invisible Ink” is a slow surf inflected number that also recalls an early Beatles/beat music influence. It tells the conflicted story a lovesick character that exits a relationship by leaving behind a note written in invisible ink. The song carries with it a certain mysteriousness with the lack of answers it provides. After hearing the song, we are left with a juxtaposition of invisible answers and complicated feelings. “Drunk At The Zoo” builds up with a loose, off kilter groove that gnaws and claws its way throughout the track. The song features rambunctious characters behaving badly while being drunk at various locations at the zoo.

On Natural Selection, Fruit Tones deliver an album that is ripe with multiple meanings about adjusting and surviving in the environments of our modern times despite the negative outliers that are all around us. With “the sass of The Dolls, the fizz of Four Loco, the Stones-esque looseness, juiced into 14 tracks”, on Natural Selection, Fruit Tones evoke a garage punk aesthetic with surf and 60s pop influences that evolves with the uncontrollable urge to have a good time.

Bloodshot Bill - Come Get Your Love Right Now

Released in February 2019, Come Get Your Love Right Now is the latest album by Montreal musician Bloodshot Bill. Although he has had over 35 releases on a variety of labels such as Norton Records, this album marks the first from Bloodshot Bill to be released via Goner Records. Last year saw the release of This Is It! an album featuring Bloodshot Bill and The Hick-Ups. Also in 2019, Bloodshot Bill put out a seven inch entitled My Little Muck Muck with legendary Japanese trio The’s, a new single Temple of Boom by The Tandoori Knights (with King Khan), and a surf EP called Hang Ten with Bloodshot BillCome Get Your Love Right Now follows the 2017 release Guitar Boy.

The album’s opening and title track, “Come Get Your Love Right Now” channels an early Sun Records aesthetic. With its acoustic guitar, reverb filled vocals, and guitar slides, this song sets the mood for the rest of the songs to come. “Take Me For A Ride” is a song that is part Trashmen vocals and propelling rockabilly rhythms. The catchy rockabilly riff of “Know Myself” hits the listener on another level. While not all of Bloodshot Bill’s vocals are clearly heard due to his use of reverb, this song, like many of Bloodshot Bill’s songs puts the listener into a certain state to feel the music rather than overthink it. “Hook Me" shuffles with an old fashioned R&B groove, while “Do What You Do” jumps and moves with an unmistakable early rock n’ roll feeling. “Just Because” slows the pace down a bit as it blends early blues, country and rockabilly.

Come Get Your Love Right Now ends with three songs. “I Don’t Mind At All” is a song that showcases 50’s rock and roll with its staccato guitar stabs, and more guitar riffs inspired by a rebellious rock n roll spirit, “One At A Time”, is a mid-tempo track that floats with surf inspired guitar riffs while “Honey Dolling” ends the album. With its early R&B rhythms and trademark Bloodshot Bill vocals, it ends the album after 35 minutes with sixteen songs, leaving the listener with a desire for more. With a multitude of releases under his belt, this album may be one of the strongest collections of material released by Bloodshot Bill. With Come Get Your Love Right Now, Bloodshot Bill strikes a chord with a certain immediacy as it mixes a selection of ballads and up-tempo rockabilly inspired tracks. Bloodshot Bill evokes a renegade spirit with a side of sophistication as he once again taps into a primitive rock and roll feeling.

More 2019 Album Highlights:
Written by Adam Peltier

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

It's odd featuring an album that is so antithetical to the tropes of rock music on a show called Revolution Rock, but there is no denying the pull of the enveloping world Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have crafted with Ghosteen. First, there is a certain audacity about the album that is truly amazing. One can look at the Jehovah's Witness brochure like painting for the album's (misleadingly) utopic cover art, the ambitious length of the album, but the most audacious element is the bareness of the record itself. After the stripped back recordings of Nick Cave's last release, the melancholic Skeleton Tree, it seemed like the Bad Seeds would not be able to reduce their sound to anything more fundamental, with only flowing synths, Warren Ellis's barely present loops and piano keeping the mournful affair afloat. With Ghosteen, the band proved just how much more there was to extract from their sound. The whole affair is an impressionist swath of synths and viola, without hardly any noticeable beats and no guitar (!) throughout the record's near 70 minute run time. Like I said, not much of a rock record at all.

Yet it works. The entirety of the album meshes together in a captivating way, coming across more as a series of musical landscapes and sonic poems than anything else. Indeed, Ghosteen's greatest comparison points are to Eno's ambient recordings, the celestial gothic orchestras of “This Mortal Coil”, and the brooding atmospheres of “Current 93”. Yet even these references are hardly representative of the overall mood and feeling evoked by Ghosteen. The ethereal nature of this sonic world has few concrete predecessors, and the entire affair is elevated by Nick Cave's soaring baritone vocals. It should be stated Cave has never sounded better as a singer than on this record: the ranges his voice crosses, the highs he reaches (just listen to the plaintive “Spinning Song” as an example) is unaccounted for in his preceding discography. Long gone is the vocalist many called a demonic Elvis, screeching and caterwauling post-punk laments of sex and violence. Instead, Cave here is mature and reflective, closer to vocalists like Scott Walker, Stuart Staples, or even Tim Buckley.

While the general misconception of Skeleton Tree was that the album was a response to the death of Cave's 15-year-old son Arthur, the majority of that record was written and recorded prior to this tragic event. Ghosteen is truly the first record fully written and completed after Arthur's passing, and this event seems to haunt every lyric, passage, and note of these compositions. The lyrics deal with death, loss, and the sobering acceptance of the world's indifference to our personal grief. On “Bright Horses,” the titular equines are initially presented as mythic animals, their manes “full of fire” which burn down the cities they run through. By the song's end the “horses are just horses” and the dynamic and dangerous beauty they once imbued to the city is replaced by the harsh realty in which “everyone is hidden, and everyone is cruel.”

Ghosteen is also, surprisingly, the Bad Seeds album most imbued with hope and empathy. Rather than the nihilism of Cave's earlier work, this album posits meaning in connection with other humans, such as a spiralling cascade of spirits in the title track, a torrent of lost souls Cave seeks to commune with. The album's most striking moment is saved for the end, the epic 14 minute closer “Hollywood.” During the final coda of the song, Cave recounts the Buddhist parable of Kisa Gotami who despaired after the illness and death of her child. Evoking the words of Buddha, Cave instructs Kisa to "Go to each house and collect a mustard seed/But only from a house where no one's died." When Kisa is unable to locate any household unaffected by the loss of someone, Cave reflects sagely, “Everybody's losing someone/It's a long way to find peace of mind, peace of mind.” This is an obvious reflection of a man who experienced his own loss of a young child, and may be the most exposed and honest we have heard the singer yet. As the song ends with Cave intoning, “I'm just waiting now for peace to come,” one can only hope he finds the solace and closure he seeks after such a tragic and personal loss.

Ghosteen may not exactly be a rock record, but it doesn't need to be. It is an arresting, powerful, and emotional journey through one man's (and in essence, everybody's) search for peace after facing life's cascade of losses and grief. It is the most potent and important reflection on grief that 21st century music has yet produced, and one of the Bad Seed's greatest records to date.

Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains

It seems we are enmeshed in an ever increasing age of cynicism. Detachment and disillusion are presented as social norms, the only available mechanisms to operate within the political and cultural tumult of daily life. Notions of empathy, vulnerability, and honesty are scoffed at in favour of ironic distance. Despite the apparent coldness of the world we inhabit, people still seek connection and understanding. Its our species' greatest paradox: the drive to be unaffected by the world around us, while also wanting human contact, to connect and compassion. Perhaps that is why audiences find themselves in awe when an artist refuses to play into the cold critical paradigm of ironic-detachment, and create work that (for lack of better words) allows us to “feel.”

Throughout his career David Berman has maintained an emotional immediateness in his art, whether it be his poetry or his work with longtime band the Silver Jews. After an extended period away from songwriting, Berman returned in 2019 with a new band, Purple Mountains, and his first collection of songs in over a decade. Prompted by the death of his mother and the separation from his wife of twenty years, it’s easy to see why the resulting album is so emotionally vulnerable.

There are no filters on Purple Mountains. Backed by members of the Ohio folk band Woods, Berman plunged headfirst into subject matter most people actively try to avoid dealing with: battles with depression, suicidal ideation, insecurity, and the pain of a parent's death. The album lays out its tone on the very first track, “That's Just the Way that I Feel.” The misleadingly jaunty instrumentation juxtaposes Berman's musing over the impermanence of security and love, finally intoning: “The end of all wanting is all I've been wanting.” This mood is echoed in the self-explanatory “All My Happiness is Gone” and “Darkness and Cold.” Hearing Berman croon on the latter track that “The light of my life is going out tonight and she don't look too depressed,” becomes a spine-tingling confession of the indifference of others to his (and really, every individual's) personal pain.

Other tracks point to more specific instances of heartbreak and ennui. There is the poignant “I Miss Being My Mother's Son,” Berman's heartbreaking declaration of sorrow over the loss of his mother. “She's Making Friends, I'm Turning Stranger” reflects on the separation from his wife, the singer lamenting his insecurities and seeming inability to connect with others, stating: “I want to be a warm and friendly person, but I don't know how to do it.” Then there is “Margaritas at the Mall,” the closest the album concedes to offering a pop song, but one which explores society's obsession with commerce. By the song's end people are seen as no more than reflections of the products they purchase, their individuality sapped by their obsession with material goods.

Purple Mountains is not a light listen. Its honest exploration of pain and anxiety, made all the more heartrending by Berman's suicide weeks after the album's release. Lyrics like “The dead know what they're doing when they leave this world behind,” offer few comforts to those seeking solace from this record. Purple Mountains is one of the most profound and heartbreaking albums of the artist's career, and a clear indication that the greatest of art is not that which is suffused by irony and detachment, but that which engages with honesty and emotion.

Big Thief - UFOF and Two Hands

Like winter and summer, day and night, earth and sky, this pair of albums provides a mirrored offering of Big Thief's sound, both complimentary and distinct from one another. The ethereal UFOF contrasts to the grounded earthiness of Two Hands. The summery plucked strings of “Cattails” and late-afternoon haze of “Jenni” contrasts to the electric feedback of “Not” and the rocky buildup of “Shoulders.” It's fitting that both albums were released this year, as the records offer a surprising unity despite their opposing sounds, like opposite sides of the same coin.

Propelled by Adrianne Lenker's distinct high register croon and Buck Meek's shimmering guitar work, what both albums offer is a sense of longing, like the drive to recapture a barely recalled memory. In fact, the most recurring lyrical theme between UFOF and Two Hands is the recollection of long ago love. The confessional “Orange” ends with the recounting of a long passed partner: “Crying little rivers in her forearm/Fragile is that I mourn her death/As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom.” On “Forgotten Eyes” Lenker recalls being “Hollow-eyed on Eddie Street, no sirens to hear/Just trash and soiled needles clawing the veneer,” ending the song with the mantra that the “forgotten tongue is the language of love.” Both albums are beautiful, boldly elliptical, and eerily moving. Rooted in grandstanding powerful folk rock, much in the vein of Bill Callahan or Wilco, Big Thief offer a twin-set of incredible records that not so much stay with the listener, but carry them away into another world.

Show 806 (Originally Aired ON December 21st, 2019)(Albums of 2019 Part Two):

1. Shotgun Jimmie - Ablutions (Transistor Sister 2 - You've Changed Records - 2019)
2. Shotgun Jimmie - Fountain (Transistor Sister 2 - You've Changed Records - 2019)
3. Orville Peck - Dead of Night (Pony - Sub Pop - 2019)
4. Bloodshot Bill - Only Girl (Come Get Your Love Right Now - Goner Records - 2019)
5. (Sandy) Alex G – In My Arms (House of Sugar - Domino Recording Co Ltd. - 2019)
6. Big Thief – UFOF (UFOF - 4AD - 2019)
7. Big Thief – Forgotten Eyes (Two Hands - 4AD - 2019)
8. Feet – Outer Rim (What's Inside is More than Just Ham - Clapped Records - 2019)
9. Dumb - Club Nites (Club Nites - Mint Records - 2019)
10. Julia Jacklin – Pressure to Party (Crushing - Polyvinyl Record Co - 2019)
11. Angel Olsen – What It Is (All Mirrors - Jagjaguwar - 2019)
12. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen (Remind Me Tomorrow - Jagjaguwar - 2019)
13. Brittany Howard – He Loves Me (Jaime - ATO Records - 2019)
14. Fontaines DC - Hurricane Laughter (Dogrel - Partisan Records - 2019)
15. Fruit Tones - Igloo (Natural Selection - Greenway Records - 2019)
16. Pottery - Spell (No.1 - Partisan Records - 2019)
17. Psychic Void - Alley Dweller (Skeleton Paradise - Vanilla Box Records - 2019)
18. Otaboki Beaver – Datsu.Hikage no onna (Itekoma Hits - Damnably - 2019)
19. Shana Cleveland - Night of the Worm Moon (Night of the Worm Moon - Hardly Art - 2019)
20. Bill Callahan – Angela (Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest - Drag City - 2019)
21. Leonard Cohen – Torn (Thanks for the Dance - Columbia Legacy - 2019)
22. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Fireflies (Ghosteen - Bad Seed Ltd - 2019)
23. Mount Eerie & Julie Dorian – Real Lost Wisdom (Lost Wisdom Pt. 2 - P.W. Elverum & Sun - 2019)
24. Priests - Control Freak (The Seduction of Kansas - Sister Polygon - 2019)
25. Light Bulb Alley - Problems (Lights And Shades - Self Released - 2019)
26. Necking - Spare Me (Cut Your Teeth - Mint Records - 2019)
27. Mannequin Pussy – Cream (Patience - Epitaph Records - 2019)
28. LTD - Spicy Chicken (Stop Und Fick Dich - In The Red Recordings - 2019)
29. Cellos - Head to Stone (Cellos/Not of Split EP - No List Records/Harbour House - 2019)
30. Purple Mountains – Margaritas At The Mall (Purple Mountains - Drag City - 2019)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 21.

Show 805 (Originally Aired On December 14th, 2019)(Albums of 2019 Part One):

1. Iggy Pop - Loves Missing (Free - Caroline International/Loma Vista Recordings - 2019)
2. BA Johnston - Discount Bacon (The Skid is Hot Tonight - Transistor 66 - 2019)
3. Foggy Tapes - Fly In My Head (Cogito Ergo Fog - Howlin' Banana Records - 2019)
4. The Jackets - Be Myself (Queen of the Pill - Voodoo Rhythm Records - 2019)
5. Electric Cows – Stampede! (Wheatfield Fuzz - Dub Ditch Panic - 2019)
6. Vivian Girls – Something to Do (Memory - Polyvinyl Record Co. - 2019)
7. Jose Contreras - At 45 (At The Slaughterhouse - Headless Owl Records - 2019)
8. Bonnie Prince Billy – Squid Eye (I Made a Place - Domino Recording Company - 2019)
9. Cass McCombs – Estrella (Tip of the Sphere - ANTI- 2019)
10. Smokey & The Feeelings - Fields of Bored (Smokey & The Feeelings - Mangled Tapes - 2019)
11. Middle Sister - Ballad For A Broken Engine (The Hot And Hungry Reaches of the Sun - Self Released - 2019)
12. Sprinters - Missing (Struck Gold - Meritorio Records - 2019)
13. Deerhunter – What Happens to People? (Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? - 4AD - 2019)
14. Cate le Bon – Mother's Mother's Magazines (Reward - Mexican Summer - 2019)
15. Black Midi – Reggae (Schagenheim - Rough Trade - 2019)
16. Old Time Relijun – I Know I'm Alive (See Now and Know - K Records - 2019)
17. 3ft – Evening Song (21st Century Drone - Naive Sound - 2019)
18. White Fence - Neighbourhood Light (I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk  - Drag City - 2019)
19. Ty Segall - Taste (First Taste - Drag City - 2019)
20. Mike Krol - Nothing To Yell About (Power Chords - Merge Records - 2019)
21. Wolfmanhattan Project - Smells Like You (Blue Gene Stew - In The Red Recordings - 2019)
22. Feels – Car (Post Earth - Wichita Recordings - 2019)
23. Skye Wallace – Coal in Your Window (Skye Wallace - Kingfisher Bluez - 2019)
24. Kiwi Jr – Salary Man (Football Money - Mint Records - 2019)
25. Guided by Voices – Street Party (Sweating The Plague - GBV Inc. - 2019)
26. Pixies – St. Nazaire (Beneath the Eyrie - BMG/Infectious - 2019)
27. Les Robots - The Remote Control Stomp (The Fascinating World of - Spazz Records - 2019)
28. Kim Gray - Handful Of Problems (Plastic Memory - Buzz Records - 2019)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 14.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Sprinters Struck Gold: An Interview with Neil Jarvis & Show # 804

Sprinters are an indie rock band from Manchester. Fronted by songwriter Neil Jarvis, the band features Neil Jarvis (guitar/vocals), Jason Hughes (guitar), Jon Hodson (bass) and Sam Almond on drums/vocals. The band put out their debut full-length Sprinters in 2017 on Icecapades Records and a mini album prior to that called Float Along in 2015 released through On The Grind Records. Prior to performing as Sprinters, Jarvis simply released music as Neil Jarvis. Two lo-fi and sometimes experimental releases emerged from this time period, Weekends in 2012 and Halloween Summer in 2014. They were both recorded to 4-track tape. Sprinters doesn’t lose any of the nostalgic melodies that Jarvis has been known for, they only enhance them. Struck Gold is second full-length album from Sprinters and was recorded by Sam Almond at Abbey Mill Studios in Chorley, Lancashire. It was released in November 2019 via Meritorio Records. On Struck Gold, the band pulls in the same elements of surf, dream pop and indie guitar pop while also adding a new rock edge and layers of shoegaze to the mix.

The opening track, “Struck Gold” sets the tone. A short instrumental that drifts like clouds that break at dawn, it contains the same melancholic feeling that is omnipresent in Jarvis’ songs, but one that is more upbeat and promising. “3’s & 4’s” comes in seamlessly as the second track on Struck Gold. With its unraveling guitar leads and percussive rhythm that has a biting jangle, this song floats in between surf and dream pop. When the chorus hits Jarvis sings “It is what it is/There’s no escaping it” and the listener gets hooked within this beautiful, yet sad tale about trying to understand and accept an awful situation that is juxtaposed with more upbeat pop musical elements. “Missing” is more brash. The song is raw sounding, featuring distorted, jangly guitar leads that fester with a blistering intensity in between the unconventional, driving drumbeats that lock in with the deep bass grooves. When the reverb layered vocals combine with these musical elements, it also ventures into shoegaze territory. Lyrically, the song addresses an absence, a void of feeling that can exist even if you seem present. “The Light” is a ballad that revels in melancholy and glitters with its pop wonders.

“Ending” is another of the gems on Struck Gold. Clocking in at about four and a half minutes, the song flickers and drones with an edge not present in previous Sprinters recordings. Elements of shoegaze can be found here, but also guitar pop and primal drums that combine with the melodic bass and vocals. As the song drones in the chorus, the listener descends with the melody that lingers poignantly with the words “Far out/We’re going way down”. Around the 2:20 mark the band brings in a coda that builds with guitar distortion, psychedelic guitar lead lines that drone sharply and an unwavering bass and drum groove before fading out. “Demolition” has a more upbeat, lax groove. As the drums and bass float, guitar intertwines as hazy vocals hover over it all. The atmosphere here completely surrounds the listener as the words “We can’t go back to how it was”, “In the haze of a dream/We couldn't see the night through the blinds” and the repetitive chorus “It’s happening/It’s happening again” grabs hold. “It’s Gone” is raucous guitar pop. Surf guitar finds its way throughout the steady, calming drum grooves and mellow bass lines as lyrically Jarvis weaves a tale of innocence and desire. “Scream 2” is a reworking of an instrumental track from Neil Jarvis’ Halloween Summer. Here more noise is brought to the fore as the band really plays in the pocket.

“Virtue” brings down the pace a bit as it questions certain morals that people are supposed to have as the words in the chorus “You’re just virtue signalling/They said it” creates a haunting effect. “Undone” is a song with a shoegaze haze and has guitar pop that blends with acoustic guitar. Lyrically, it seems to entwine itself around a situation that involves a missed connection that was never fully realized the way that it could have been. A shorter, more experimental version of the album’s opening track ends Struck Gold that sounds as if it were recorded on a 4-track tape machine and slowed down. Throughout Struck Gold, Sprinters combine a certain melancholy that is often juxtaposed with more upbeat poppy and indie rock oriented music. This creates an album that is contemplative and one that also lingers with hidden lyrical and musical layers. On Struck Gold, Sprinters avoid a dull sophomore slump. They dig deeper on this record with a cohesiveness that creates an incandescent, lasting effect.

Listen to Revolution Rock's interview with Neil Jarvis (of Sprinters) here:

Show 804 (Originally Aired On December 7th, 2019)(Neil Jarvis of Sprinters Interview, Tom Waits 70th Birthday, Marshmallow Overcoat, John Lennon):

1. Marshmallow Overcoat - Groovy Little Trip
2. John Lennon - I Found Out
3. The Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing
4. Psychic Void - Denim Daddy
5. Trophy Knife - Headspace Saver
6. The Constant Supervision - Wiggly Jiggly
7. Sprinters - It's Gone


8. Sprinters - Ending
9. Neil Jarvis - Shred Met
10. Shotgun Jimmie - Ablutions
11. Bill Callahan - Shepherd's Welcome
12. Tom Waits - Intro
13. Tom Waits - Whistlin's Past the Graveyard
14. Tom Waits - Chicago
15. Tom Waits - Big in Japan
16. Tom Waits - Goin' Out West
17. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
18. Meltones - Surfing Natasha
19. Run Coyote - The Chase
20. Bobby Tenderloin Universe - I Need a Lickin'
21. Bloodshot Bill - Stumble
22. Leonard Cohen - Puppets
23. U.S. Girls - 28 Days
24. Nov3l - Natural
25. Pop Group - Words Disobey Me
26. Motorists - Instant Replay
27. Tom Waits - Underground

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 7.

Show 803 was a repeat of an episode of the program that originally aired last November. It featured an alternate version of Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks compiled by selections from More Blood More Tracks Bootleg Series box set. You can download/stream this episode here and find the playlist here.