Saturday, December 23, 2023

Joe Strummer Day 2023: The Music of Shane MacGowan & The Pogues (Show # 1018)

On November 30th, 2023, Irish singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan passed. Known as the lead vocalist and primary songwriter in The Pogues, the music they made drew on traditional Irish Celtic music that when combined with the energy and attitude of punk became its own thing. Some call it Celtic punk, but if anything it was a fresh take that took from the influences of Irish music of the past and when combined with MacGowan’s lyrical prowess created something new.

Born on Christmas Day 1957 in Kent, England to Irish parents, MacGowan began reading literature at a young age. He spent the early days of his childhood in Tipperary, Ireland being surrounded by family and Irish culture. By age eleven he was devouring works by authors such as James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, to name a few. He won the Daily Mirror children’s literary award at age 13. He was also deeply fascinated by music. Music and literature would be forever linked for MacGowan. He arrived back in London just as the punk scene was starting as a teen, becoming a regular of shows by bands such as Sex Pistols and The Clash. He also started his own fanzine called Bondage published in 1976. Shortly after this he was in his own punk band that went by the name The Nipple Erectors and later The Nips with Shanne Bradley. He went under the alias Shane O’Hooligan. Despite being in this band and having some good songs, he quickly developed an interest in a band drawing on traditional Irish music upon seeing an early group that featured future Pogues members Spider Stacy and Jem Finer.

As the band’s popularity grew in London, it was apparent that MacGowan had a gift for lyrics, which are often called poetic. The way that some songs evoke feeling and meaning whether it’s the anti-war song that is also tied in with themes of regret and lost love “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” to songs such as “Dark Streets of London,” “A Rainy Night in Soho,” “Sally MacLennane” “Turkish Song of the Damned,” “Summer in Siam” or covers such as the vivid, yet dusty and grimy vignettes in “Dirty Old Town,” to name a few, showcase a range of depth that is not present in a lot of music. After the release of Red Roses For Me in 1984, Rum, Sodomy & The Lash followed in 1985. Produced by Elvis Costello, this is often viewed as an album where MacGowan’s songs really came into their own.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God from 1988 was their third full-length that featured their best-known song “Fairytale of New York.” The song itself took two years to complete, but was written by MacGowan and Jem Finer. This gritty, festive Christmas classic is unconventional and melancholic, but honest. Written as a duet, the song didn’t really click until Kristy MacColl was added as the guest vocalist on the track. The song reached number two on the UK Singles Charts in 1987 and number one in Ireland, but has climbed the charts every year since 2005 around the holidays. Many view this song as a masterpiece and it is hard to argue with its uncompromising, yet heart-warming spirit. MacGowan and The Pogues parted ways after the Joe Strummer produced album Hell’s Ditch in 1990. Shane would go on to play with Shane MacGowan & The Popes, releasing two albums (The Snake (1994) and Crock of Gold (1997)). MacGowan and The Pogues did reunite for live shows at different times between 2001-2014.

The music MacGowan created with The Pogues and afterwards, spoke to outsiders, marginalized people and those that felt left behind. It has a complexity and depth that yearned for something simpler, despite the complications of the present. The songs still do this and will many years from now when people will still sing songs of times long gone.

JSD 2023 Playlist: The Music of Shane MacGowan & The Pogues (Originally Aired December 22nd, 2023):

1.  The Nipple Erectors - King of the Bop (Bops, Babes, Booze & Bovver - Big Beat Records/Soho Records - 1987)
2.  The Pogues - Streams of Whiskey (Red Roses for Me - Stiff Records - 1984)
3.  The Pogues - A Pair of Brown Eyes (Rum, Sodomy & The Lash - Stiff Records - 1985)
4.  The Pogues - Body of an American (Poguetry in Motion EP - Stiff Records - 1986)
5.  The Pogues - Turkish Song of the Damned (If I Should Fall From Grace with God - Pogue Mahone Records/Island Records - 1988)
6.  The Pogues - White City (Peace and Love - Island Records - 1989)
7.  The Pogues - Lorca's Novena (Hell's Ditch - Island Records - 1990)
8.  Shane MacGowan & The Popes-  Come to Bower (Crock of Gold - ZTT - 1997)
9.  The Pogues - Dirty Old Town (Rum, Sodomy & The Lash - Stiff Records - 1985)
10. The Pogues - Boys from the County Hell (BBC Session) (The BBC Sessions 1984-1986
11. The Pogues - Rake at the Gates of Hell (Straight to Hell Soundtrack
12. The Pogues - Fairy Tale of New York (2nd Demo) (Just Look Them Straight in the Eye and Say... Poguemahone! - Rhino Records - 2008)
13. The Pogues - Waxie's Dargle (Red Roses for Me - Stiff Records - 1984)
14. The Pogues - If I Should Fall Grace with God (If I Should Fall From Grace with God - Pogue Mahone Records/Island Records - 1988)
15. The Pogues (With Joe Strummer) - Rain Street (Live) (The Pogues with Joe Strummer - Live in London - Rhino Records - 2014)
16. Shane MacGowan & the Popes - Haunted (featuring Sinead O'Connor) (The Snake - ZTT - 1994)
17. The Dubliners (with The Pogues) - The Irish Rover (25 Years Celebration - Harmac - 1987)
18. Ronnie Drew - The Dunes The Humour is On Me Now
19. The Pogues - The Auld Triangle (Red Roses for Me - Stiff Records - 1984)
20. The Pogues - A Rainy Night in Soho (Poguetry in Motion EP - Stiff Records - 1986)
21. The Pogues - Sally MacLennane (Rum, Sodomy & The Lash - Stiff Records - 1985)

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the December 23 file to download/stream the episode. 

Please note an encore edition of this episode aired on December 23rd, 2023.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

2023 Album Highlights & Shows 1017, 1016, 1014

For our annual albums of the year episodes, Revolution Rock once again did not rank any of the albums with any specific number. The following selections for the two episodes posted here feature a mix of albums from 2023 in no specific order, but all of them were albums that we enjoyed. Below you will also find four write-ups from albums that were released in 2023. Following these words are playlists and download/listening links to two episodes featuring music released in 2023.

Psychic Void – Cemetery Eyes

Described as psych punk, mixing in elements of 80s hardcore, punk and psychedelia, Cemetery Eyes is the third full-length album from Windsor, Ontario’s Psychic Void. Picking up where 2019’s Skeleton Paradise left off, guitarist Josh Kaiser, bassist Matt Menard and drummer Sean Carpenter add more grit to their sound as Jesse Knight’s vocals bring another element to the music tapping into themes of paranoia, the surreal, authority, brat boys and existential emptiness. Recorded and produced by guitarist Josh Kaiser, Cemetery Eyes is just eight tracks long and was self-released on cassette/digitally. 

“In My Head” starts Cemetery Eyes off with fuzzy guitar and bass that sound both like hardcore punk and the burnt out sounds of Goggs. Driving drums and bass propel this track as vocalist Jesse Knight howls throughout adding even more atmosphere to this opening scuzzy track before “Wash It Down” begins. Psych driven garage riffs drift overtop of floating drums and deep cutting baselines as lyrics “This very strange world’s got you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut/Rock in your head/ They keep coming for you, man” taps into a world of paranoia and lack of thought. “Something Sweet” features lyrics such as “I’m dancing every night while I laugh in the dark/be better to yourself/ That’s a good place to start” and the chorus of “So let the poison hit my tongue/It’s what I need to have some fun” that conjures euphoric existential themes in between an overall grimy psych punk groove, “Back 2 Reality” is a faster track featuring intense guitar and bass riffs, punk drums that brings scuzzy hardcore punk influences, “Brat Boy” ignites punk and fiery psych vibes with character driven lyrics about a bratty kid that can’t seem to break bad habits, “The Man” features venomous socially critical lyrics and punk saturated tempos, while synth wave and horror punk dominate “Hear Me Out” and the haunting title track. Cemetery Eyes delivers grittier psych punk sounds and an introspective look that reveals the cracks in our modern world of malaise that is hard to escape.

Mononegatives – Crossing Visual Field

Crossing Visual Field is the second full-length album by London, Ontario’s Mononegatives. Their sound has been described as “raw punk meets new wave” and with 2021’s fast selling and critically acclaimed Apparatus Division, Mononegatives set themselves apart as a band experimenting with the punk meets new wave genre. Featuring Rob Brake on guitar/synth/vocals, Aaron Wallis bass and David Cereghini on drums, Crossing Visual Field was recorded once again with producer Preston Lobzun, but this time at a home studio in Scarborough. The band spent two years writing, recording and preparing for this record. With extra sonic details this time around, Crossing Visual Field brings a new atmosphere and broader scope to Mononegatives previous anxious nervous energy dynamic.

“North Carolina Atomic Bomb” was the lead off single for this album. Described as an atmospheric dark synth-wave track, this song features what sounds like a malfunctioning synthesizer, buzzing bass and crunchy guitar sounds tuning into an almost post punk electronic frequency as Brake sings lines such as “Splitting an atom/Flicking a switch,” “Frequencies shifting frequently” and “A clock moving backwards/The world spins in reverse/Never a moment/You can afford to waste” describing a wasteland of the future and technological ruin. The way the song is executed here is tense, restless and sounds like it is about to implode at any minute. Living in the Future” is a bass and midi-sounding synthesizer driving track with lyrics that convey a post-apocalyptic world, while “Deficit” ends Crossing Visual Field. The post punk/garage track with a thought provoking chorus of “Tomorrow is hand to mouth” leaves open a bleak, yet fragmented outcome between the apocalyptic worlds described throughout this album and our modern day dystopia. With Crossing Visual Field, Mononegatives combine elements of post punk, synth rock, punk, garage and the lo-fi genre into its own thing. With a deeper sense of complexity and experimentation, themes of distant and not so distant dystopias, nuclear paranoia and the apocalypse, all wrap around a new sense of atmosphere and musical structure. The songs found here are not just one thing, but many things at once. They are a bit cryptic and can elicit different meanings on repeat listens. Crossing Visual Field brings Mononegatives into a new focus as they travel across different sonic landscapes.

Ghost Woman – Anne, If

Ghost Woman’s Anne, If was released in January 2023 on the Full Time Hobby label. Following 2022’s critically acclaimed self-titled debut, Anne, If picks up where that album left off. The music was written/recorded/performed by multi-instrumentalist Evan Uschenko on a Tascam 388 tape recorder in a large, expansive house. The press release states that when recording the album there was not much to do “except record music, watch old VHS movies, and cook meals over an open fire in the backyard.” Recording songs at different times of day also influenced the sounds and nuances present on Anne, If. Influences such as songs from 60s garage Nuggets compilation, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Love, Safe As Milk-era Captain Beefheart, Can, Neu!, and 60s Kinks/The Creation all float around in the musical atmosphere of these songs, however, these all add to the chemistry of the songs to expand Ghost Woman’s sound.

“3 Weeks Straight” features 60s sounding guitars, heavy drums and deep bass grooves hold down the beat, while lyrically the song searches for meaning in the complex glow of the light and darkness of a relationship. The chorus of “I can feel you under my skin” creeps and crawls with an eeriness emphasizing a presence that is omnipresent. “Anne, If” pulls from the large pool of garage psych sounds of the Nuggets compilation with a touch of The Yardbirds as lyrically, “Anne, if you're lonely/Listen to your words/There's nothing I can say/Living yesterday” deals with nostalgic complications that are hard to break free of, while the chorus juxtaposes this with the words “I am yours/I am yours too.” “Tripped” features vocals by Nick Hay (the bassist from the Ghost Woman live band) that evoke a Mark Lanegan howl as the bass, guitar, drums and background harmonies (all supplied by Evan Uschenko) offer a hypnotic psychedelia groove. The lyrics conjure up themes of haunting isolation and contemplation. On Anne, If we are presented with music that was described as being created during a “strange new chapter” in Uschenko’s life. The songs that we gravitate towards on this album feature lyrics that are sometimes cryptic and open ended. It is something that travels with you after and during each listen. If this was a strange new chapter for Uschenko, then we are also a part of it by extension of this album. With Anne, If the music is saturated with an analog warmth and feel that provides nuanced musical moments that pull you into the world that it creates.

Ghost Woman - Hindsight is 50/50

At the end of November 2023, Ghost Woman released their 3rd full-length album and second release in 2023. Hindsight is 50/50 changes up the dynamics of the first two Ghost Woman albums, which were recorded on 4 tracks by Evan Uschenko, who also performed all the instrumentation with the exception of a few tracks. This album as Uschenko stated in press releases “is meant to be played live.” Ghost Woman seems to have had a relentless touring schedule, but that seems to have benefited this album greatly. Adding drummer and co-songwriter Ille van Dessel into the mix, the songs take on a more live spontaneous direction. There are heavy guitar tones and drums throughout the record with bass looming in the background and lyrics that are a bit cryptic once again, but the mood and atmosphere of these tracks cut deep with reverb and heavier psychedelic grooves. 

Although Uschenko has stated “Vocals are not important. We prefer to not be understood. If you’re looking for meaning in these lyrics, might I suggest buying a Lenny Bruce record instead?” the lyrics and songs evoke a meaning and arrive on edge with the music found here. “Alright, Alright” features psych guitar lines loaded with reverb as drums and tambourine add to the groove and twang while hazy lyrics such as “Take a little walk with me/Just a look inside/It might even set you free/I won't lie” that seem to either be searching for something in the dark sonic tones here, or just emphasizing a feeling, “Highly Unlikely” is intense and arrives with some blues textures as lyrics tangle in another layer of subtle complexity, “Otessa” is a faster track featuring heavy drums and abstract vocals from van Dessel and Uschenko’s tense, psychedelic guitar work, “Yoko” swaggers as it builds up to an erupting moment of blistering guitars and drums, “Juan” with its atmospheric guitar parts, solid yet characterized drumbeats and cryptic catchy choruses captures the essence of the band, while the title track simmers in the darker noisier textures. On Hindsight is 50/50, Ghost Woman develop a sound that is complex, yet simple that is layered in different psychedelic and garage inspired tones with no need for evaluation of past efforts. In this new band dynamic, Ghost Woman find themselves. 
Show 1017 Playlist (Originally Aired On December 16th, 2023) (Albums of 2023 Part Two):

1.  Spiderbite - Human Body Human Brain (The Rainbow and The Dove - You've Changed Records - 2023)
2.  Golden Shitters - I Don’t Wanna Go to the Mall (Golden Shitters - Memorable But Not Honorable Records - 2023)
3.  The Hives - Countdown to Shutdown (The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons - Disques Hives - 2023)
4.  Dion Lunadon - I Don’t Mind (Systems Edge - In the Red Records - 2023)
5.  Protomartyr - Make Way (Formal Growth in the Desert - Domino Records - 2023)
6.  Joanna Sternberg - People Are Toys to You (I've Got Me - Fat Possum Records - 2023)
7.  Shana Cleveland - Bonanza Freeze (Manzanita - Hardly Art - 2023)
8.  PJ Harvey - Autumn Term (I Inside the Old Year Dying - Partisan Records - 2023)
9.  Mitski - The Frost (The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We - Dead Oceans - 2023)
10. The Clientele - Lady Grey (I Am Not There Anymore - Merge Records - 2023)
11. Autogramm - Plastic Punks (Music That Humans Can Play - Stomp Records - 2023)
12. La Securite - Hot Topic (Stay Safe! - Mothland - 2023)
13. Priors - Daffodil (Daffodil - Mothland - 2023)
14. Mononegatives - North Carolina Atomic Bomb (Crossing Visual Field - Dowd Records - 2023)
15. Osees - Blank Chems (Intercepted Message - In the Red Records - 2023)
16. Teke::Teke - Gotoku Lemon (Hagata - Kill Rock Stars - 2023)
17. Water From Your Eyes - True Life (Everyone's Crushed - Matador Records - 2023)
18. feeble little horse - Steamroller (Girl With Fish - Saddle Creek - 2023)
19. Horse Chops - Comely Girl, Machine Operator (Horse Chops EP - 2023)
20. Sonny & The Sunsets - Waiting (Self Awareness Through Macrame - Rocks In Your Head Records - 2023)
21. Wilco - Cousin (Cousin - dBpm - 2023)
22. Cat Clyde - Mystic Light (Down Rounder - SecondPrize Records - 2023)
23. Colter Wall - Little Songs (Little Songs - La Honda/RCA - 2023)
24. A.Savage - Out of Focus (Several Songs About Fire - Rough Trade - 2023)
25. Galen & Paul - Lonely Town (Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day? - Sony Music - 2023)
26. Ghost Woman - 3 Weeks Straight (Anne, If - Full Time Hobby - 2023)
27. Ghost Woman - Juan (Hindsight is 50/50 - Full Time Hobby - 2023)
28. Galen & Paul - Room at the Top (Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day? - Sony Music - 2023)

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the December 16 file to download/stream the episode. 

Show 1016 Playlist (Originally Aired On December 9th, 2023) (Albums of 2023 Part One):

1.  Tough Age - Scattered (Waiting Here - We Are Time - 2023)
2.  Sweeping Promises - Shadow Me (Good Living is Coming For You - Feel It Records - 2023)
3.  Hotline TNT - Stump (Cartwheel - Third Man Records - 2023)
4.  Yo La Tengo - Until It Happens (This Stupid World - Matador Records - 2023)
5.  Private Lives - Anything For Love (Hit Record - Feel It Records - 2023)
6.  The Routes - Lipstick (Reverberation Addict - Topsy Turvy Records - 2023
7.  Bloodshot Bill - Guess What (Psyche-O-Billy - Goner Records - 2023)
8.  Mudhoney - Little Dogs (Plastic Eternity - Sub Pop Records - 2023)
9.  King Khan - Sliver of Silver (The Nature of Things - Khannibalism/Ernest Jenning Record Co. - 2023)
10. Uh Uh - Citrus Song (Uh Huh - Telephone Explosion - 2023)
11. Marnie Stern - Plain Speak (The Comeback Kid - Joyful Noise - 2023)
12. Boygenius - $20 (The Record - Interscope - 2023)
13. Wednesday - Quarry (Rat Saw God - Dead Oceans - 2023)
14. Packs - Abalone (Crispy Crunchy Nothing - Fire Talk - 2023)
15. Moonwalks - Cherry Shade (Western Mystery Tradition - Fuzz Club Records - 2023)
16. The CIA - Inhale Exhale (Surgery Channel - In the Red Records - 2023)
17. Model/Actriz - Mosquito (Dogsbody - True Panther Sounds - 2023)
18. Ron Gallo - At Least I’m Dancing (Foreground Music - Kill Rock Stars - 2023)
19. Sparklehorse - It Will Never Stop (Bird Machine - Anti- - 2023)
20. Jeff Rosenstock - 3 Summers (Hellmode - Polyvinyl Record Co. - 2023)
21. Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire - Dream (Tommy Stinson's Cowboys in the Campfire - Done To Death Music, Inc. - 2023)
22. Tea Leaves - Fare Thee Well (Whistlin' Past the Graveyard - 2023)
23. Bry Webb - I Can’t See You (Run With Me - Indee Fix - 2023)
24. Tunic - Sounds Repeat (Wrong Dream - Artofact Records - 2023)
25. Psychic Void - The Man  (Cemetery Eyes - 2023)

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the December 9 file to download/stream the episode. 

Show 1014 Playlist (Originally Aired On November 25th, 2023) (The Minutemen, The Falls, The Chills, The Beatles, Bog Moss, The Bug Club, James Brown):

1.  The Minutemen - Little Man with a Gun in His Hand 
2.  The Fall - I Feel Voxish 
3.  Ghost Woman - Ottessa 
4.  U.S. Girls - 28 Days (Live) 
5.  The Routes - What Do I Get 
6.  The Bug Club - Marriage 
7.  Susans - Hands 
8.  Bog Moss - Candle Magick 
9.  Dion Lunadon - Rocks On 
10.  The Beatles - Not A Second Time 
11. The Beatles - All I’ve Got to Do 
12. Bentwood Rock - It Won’t Be Long 
13. Jaime Vernon - I Saw Her Standing There 
14. Guided By Voices - The Race is On, The King Is Dead 
15. Paige Drobot - Alright 
16. Hippie Hourrah - Les Murs 
17. The Chills - Wet Blanket 
18. The Chills - I Think I’d Thought I’d Nothing Else To Think About 
19. Dear Vandal - A Ripple in the Pond 
20. Brainrust - Schizoid Embolism 
21. Autogramm - Born Losers 
22. Native Cats - My Risks is My Art 
23. The Fruit Tones - MSG 
24. Bloodshot Bill - Tell Me To Go 
25. James Brown - Stone to the Bone 

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the November 25 file to download/stream the episode. 

For those keeping track, Show 1015, which aired on December 2nd was a rerun of episode 1014 from the week before. You can find that playlist and download/stream link to the episode in this post.