The Record Collection: 1989 – 3

The Cramps | A Date With Elvis | Big Beat 1986 |


The last great The Cramps album, A Date With Elvis arrived five years after Psychedelic Jungle. It has far better production than their previous efforts, contains some of their finest tunes and is as raw, wild and wicked as you want The Cramps to be. They enjoyed a minor hit with «Can Your Pussy Do the Dog», and the album also includes the single «What’s Inside a Girl», the Eastern-tinged gem «Kizmiaz» and my personal favorite «Cornfed Dames».

A Date With Elvis is a entertaining and highly exciting mix of sexual obsession, vintage b-movies, 50s rock ‘n’ roll, equally an homage to their heroes as an immediate classic in its own rights.

Treat Her Right | Tied to the Tracks | RCA 1989 |


I saw Morphine live once. It was in the mid ’90s in my college town, where they were like a super big deal at the time. Deservedly so I must say, the Boston-band sure made some good good good albums with just the right mix of hipster jazz coolness and alternative rock flavor. Until Mark Sandman tragically passed away from a heart attack in 1999, while on stage in Italy. Before Sandman started up Morphine, he was part of Treat Her Right (as was drummer Billy Conway) This is their second album, and they share many of the groovy, sexy elements we came to know from Morphine, but with a bit more focus on the blues rock side of things. I’m not the biggest fan of that part to be honest, but tracks like «Junkyard», «Hank» and «King of Beers» sure got an irresistible swing. Revisiting this made me think that I never actually heard their debut album from 1986.

Greg Sage | Straight Ahead | Enigma 1985 |


Oddly enough I discovered Greg Sage a bit before Wipers. They were soon to become one of my all time favorite bands, but this was the gateway album. Straight Ahead was an astonishing effort in 1985, and it sounds as timeless and brilliant today. Arriving two years after Wipers’ iconic ‘Over the Edge’, this is a far more sparse, somber and acoustic piece of work. J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr) later covered «On the Run» on his first solo album, and he expressed how «Straight Ahead sold me on the concept of acoustic guitar. I didn’t think too much about acoustic guitar before, but Greg Sage somehow made it ok.» The songs itself are not that far from Wipers’ modus operandi, especially present on the upbeat side 1, compared to more gloomy flip side. They’re equally brilliant to me, but I still got a soft spot for the depressive and gothic folk sounds of side 2, including «Astro Cloud,» and «World Without Fear.»

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds | Kicking Against the Pricks | Mute 1986 |


I was partly attracted, partly alienated by Nick Cave and his bad seeds. Unquestionably drawn into the dark world of cigarettes, seduction and sin, but also a bit scared off by the sharp dressed badasses as pictured here on the front and back cover. Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Barry Adamson… I mean these were obviously someone not to mess around with. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds had an aura of the adult world; all I could do was peak inside.

I was already a huge fan back when I bought their third album is a collection of cover songs. It also taught me a thing or two about the American songbook, and I particularly fell for Jimmy Webb’s «By the Time I Get to Phoenix» and «Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart» made famous by Gene Pitney. But the whole album was just a treasure chest in my early days of music discovery.

Pixies | Doolittle | 4AD 1989 |


I bought Doolittle not too long after I’d purchased Surfer Rosa. It was a warm summer’s day in 1989, and it’s fair to say that Pixies made the soundtrack not only to that one but to basically every summer ever since. It’s been 30 of them down the line and counting, and it still fails to disappoint.

This is a perfect album in my book; the pop hits («Here Comes Your Man», «Wave of Mutilation», «Monkey Gone to Heaven»), the noise blasts («Tame», «Crackity Jones»), the irresistible gems («Debaser», «Mr. Grieves», «Gouge Away», «Hey»), the whole album is so jam-packed with classics it even surpassed their debut (how is that even humanly possible). This meant something when you were 16-17 years old. Doolittle sliced my eyeballs wide open and made my heart explode into a thousand pieces. Still looking for ways to put them all back together again.

Government Issue | Crash | Giant 1988 |


I haven’t listened to Crash in ages, but it all comes back to me now. «Better Than T.V» was actually one of my teen anthems back in the days, and yeah, it still sound as sharp after 30 years. The whole album does, really, characterized with crisp production by guitarist Tom Lyle, great songwriting, and really tight playing all over. This album shows how eclectic and melodic GI became towards the end of their career, just check out «Connecticut» or the title track (lead vocal by bassist Jay Robbins, who later formed Jawbox). Government Issue (1981-89) are obviously of historical importance as one of the original hardcore punk bands, for being highly influential in the evolution of post-hardcore, and personally they turned me on to the whole DC scene. Singer and only steady member John ‘Stabb’ Schroeder died of cancer in 2016.

Imitation Life | Scoring Correctly at Home | New Rose 1988 |


I didn’t know much about Imitation Life when I bought this album in 1989, and I don’t know much now 30 years later. They were apparently based in Los Angeles, played pretty hard hitting, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, leaning towards both power pop, jangle rock and pub/garage rock. Almost like a west coast equivalent to The Del Fuegos or The Replacements, they also share some similarities to the Aussie scene at the time (Sunnyboys, The Triffids, Died Pretty et al). On this, their sophomore album I believe, they included some great guests like Peter Case (The Plimsouls), Steven Roback (The Rain Parade) and John Easedale (Dramarama), and it’s fair to assume they were part of the flowering LA circuit at the time. Scoring Correctly at Home is not exactly a ’80s lost masterpiece, but it’s a good time all right, and front man and main songwriter Alan Berman sure had the skills to write a catchy tune or two. «Already Spoken For» and «Sad Man» are among the standout tracks here. Glad I got this one, and wonder what happened to Imitation Life.

Barracudas ‎| Drop Out With The Barracudas | Voxx ,1982 |


It took me awhile before I realized this was not an American ‘60s group, but actually a British band way out of time. Drop Out With The Barracudas look and sound like something from the mid-’60s, but crosses many musical eras and geographical origins on its way.

The album cover presents four smiling young men in summer clothing and with surfboards under their arm, heading towards the eternal waves of the California beaches. The illusion is further substantiated by song titles such as «Summer Fun», «California Lament» and «On the Strip». But The Barracudas didn’t belong in the California sun, but in London’s dark underworld. In short: Front man Jeremy Gluck left home country Canada and Ottawa as 18-year-old, landed in the middle of the punk’s mecca in 1977 and started as a writer in Sounds. During a concert he met on the Swiss Robin Wills. They started a friendship based on a common retro-romantic interest in Beach Boys, Flamin ‘Groovies, Peebles records, surf rock, garage punk and flower-pop. And it was precisely this unforgettable cocktail Gluck and Wills mixed into what was to become The Barracudas. The band was formed in 1979, complete with a short-lived rhythm section consisting of David Buckley (bass) and drummer Nicky Turner. The Barracudas found a niche between the up side and the down side that proved to be strikingly effective, and they handled both with equal ability for razor-sharp songs without ending up as a novelty, retro act.

Great Plains | Colorized! | Diabolo 1989 |


Great Plains existed in the 1980s, formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1989, they released a couple really wonderful albums and EP’s – particularly their 1984 full length debut and near forgotten, near classic Born in a Barn. Great Plains went under the radar for most people, which is a huge shame because they were such a great, lovable band and in many ways indie rock pioneers. They should’ve been underground superstars for sure, but I guess their sound kinda fell between two or more chairs. They were clever and smart, and played some sort of lo-fi, new wave-folkish jangly garage punk. Lead singer Ron House’ (who went on to form Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments) high pitch desperate, joyous vocal style is an acquired taste, but certainly gave Great Plains a distinct flavor. When I listen to their songs today I can hear relations to local stars like Pere Ubu, and also The Soft Boys, Modern Lovers, The Clean, XTC, early Green On Red, The Feelies, Tall Dwarfs (actually, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they hailed from New Zealand instead of Ohio).

I bought this album in 1989 without knowing anything about Great Plains really, but soon enough learned that ‘Colorized!’ was a greatest hits collection from a career without any major hits. Well, they sure became classics in my book, especially the personal favorite and organ fueled «The Way She Runs a Fever», but also «Serpent Mound», «Dick Clark» and of course their ode to president Rutherford B. Hayes. Oh yeah, Great Plains were something else indeed.

Meat Puppets | Mirage | SST 1987 |


The fourth full length from this beloved Arizona trio is a wonderful effort. For each album the Kirkwood brothers – and drummer Bostrom – continued to evolve from their punk roots and embrace a wider musical approach. Mirage is a sprawling album of psychedelic country and funky western, still remarkably coherent sounding and their most well produced album thus far.

Stuck between the landmark ‘II’ album and their commercial 1994 breakthrough ‘Too High Too Die’, it’s easy to ignore the complete Meat Puppets’ catalog from the 1980s. They are all semi-classics in my book, but since Mirage was my first Puppets album, I still have a special soft spot for this here baby. It’s a mirage from desert suburbia all right, an invitation to a different place. Nothing there to see, suddenly from nowhere, things that shouldn’t be. I’m still on the lookout.

Droogs ‎| Kingdom Day | Music Maniac 1987 |


Droogs formed in Los Angeles back in the early 1970s, around the time when ‘A Clockwork Orange’ made a splash in the cinemas all over the world with ‘droogs’ being the dystopian gang of thugs as central figures. Droogs the band dropped several garage rock influenced singles in the 1970s, and made their album debut with Stone Cold World in 1984. By then bassist Dave Provost (The Dream Syndicate) had joined their ranks, and the band added some more dynamics and psychedelic flavor into their sound.

Kingdom Day is a raw, authentic document from a band with just enough layers of variation to stay interesting throughout a full album. Droogs never got the same attention as other contemporary LA acts at the time, but kept going strong for about 20 years after this one. They called it quits in the early 1990s, as yet another sadly under-appreciated band.

Reklamer

Return of the Griveous Angels: Sid Griffin on The Long Ryders

Alt-country progenitors and Paisley pioneers the Long Ryders recently dropped their first new album in 33 years, Psychedelic Country Soul. It’s a triumphant return to form and their finest effort to date.

The Long Ryders (formed in 1981 in Los Angeles) are often cited as the missing link between Gram Parsons and punk rock. They were closely connected with the ’80s Paisley Underground scene (the Bangles, the Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade), and widely considered as one of the forerunners of the alt-country genre. With their full-length albums Native Sons (1984), State of Our Union (1985) and Two Fisted Tales (1987), the Ryders became critical darlings with a dedicated following — especially in Europe. The band decided to call it quits just as U2 asked them to open for them on the U.S. wing of their Joshua Tree tour. But now, more than 30 years later, The Long Ryders are finally back.

I spoke with frontman Sid Griffin about the album they always wanted to make, recording in Dr. Dre’s studio and the Paisley Underground scene. Plus, he graciously shares the story of the fabulous the Long Ryders — album by album.

***

How did you approach the songwriting and the recording process this time around?

Due to the Internet, we were able to demo all our song ideas and send them to each other. This proved crucial, as no one in the Long Ryders lives anywhere near another Long Ryder. Greg lives in Los Angeles, Tom lives east of Chicago, Stephen lives in Virginia on the East Coast and I live in Europe. So the Internet allowed us to learn the songs we decided to record long before we saw each other face to face.

We met in L.A. and had two days of rehearsals. Producer Ed Stasium wanted three rehearsals, but there simply was not time. In fact, Larry Chatman promised us seven free days in Dr. Dre’s studio and on the Wednesday I knew we were not going to finish in time, so I went to Larry’s office behind the band’s back and begged for an eighth free day. Which Larry graciously gave us.

The Long Ryders recorded as live as possible with everyone looking at everyone else in the big room at Dr. Dre’s studio. The Foo Fighters had been in there a few weeks earlier due to a malfunction at the studio at Dave Grohl’s house. It is a great sounding room and Dre’s engineer, Lola, was a big help, too.

There were some percussion overdubs at Ed’s home studio near San Diego by Greg Sowders, and Stephen overdubbed some keyboards in Virginia, but that was it. Ed mixed it at his home studio and BANG! The Long Ryders were back in the game.

Did you feel any kind of pressure making a comeback album like that?

No. Why would we feel pressure? I told the guys before we started recording, ‘If this album sucks, we do not put it out… simple as that.’  And the guys agreed with me. We also figured if we only cut half a good album we would put out an EP and if we only cut two or three good songs we would put out an Internet single or a Record Store Day single on vinyl and that would be that. So by knowing we were not going to release lousy or even mediocre product, we left with no real pressure on us at all.

You’ve said that this is the album ‘you’ve always wanted to make.’ What were you looking for in the first place?

The Long Ryders wanted Psychedelic Country Soul to reflect who we were, who we are now and how we got there. Hence Stephen McCarthy coming up with such a marvelously appropriate album title. What you read on the outside of the package is what you get inside the package with our music, dig?

And somehow this new album represents us, top to bottom, more accurately than any of our previous albums. One might think Native Sons is the definitive Long Ryders album, but this one is. It’s got it all: rough and ready rockers, two bittersweet ballads, some crazy, totally out-there psychedelia, country riffs, bluesy riffs, heartfelt vocals. It even has my dear friend Kerenza Peacock from the Coal Porters on violin sweetly sawing away and our old gal pals Debbi and Vicki Peterson from the Bangles adding the most ice-cool harmonies this side of the Beach Boys.

What more could a Long Ryder want?

Except being just a bit older and wiser, what has changed the most being in the music industry today?

The Long Ryders have seen the music industry change a great deal. We have noticed the consumer always, always, always goes for the ease of musical delivery and not the best sound quality. So Neil Young’s Pono and also WAV files are not that big a deal to the majority of listeners.

And while vinyl is on the rise, it and CDs or indeed any hard copy format will never again see the huge sales of the past. Not when a consumer can tap a few buttons and hear the music in seconds. Therefore most people have long dismissed going to a store to buy physical product, and that is a shame as record shops were such temples of community and bohemianism and fun.

A number of bands from the 1980s L.A. scene, also known as the Paisley Underground scene, have recently reunited and released new material. How did you relate to the term Paisley Underground back in the days?

Michael Quercio [of the Three O’Clock] coined the phrase ‘Paisley Underground’ in an interview with The L.A. Weekly back in the day, no one in the press thought of it. The real Paisley Underground is and always was the Salvation Army who became the Three O’Clock and of course the Rain Parade, the Bangles and the Dream Syndicate. No one else. You will note these are the exact four bands who are included on the recent Yep Roc album of Paisley Underground bands doing other Paisley Underground bands’ material.

Then the Long Ryders and Green on Red were included, which was nice. After all, we were all friends, we all knew each other, we all attended the other band’s gigs, and played music that was at least vaguely related to the other acts’ music. As time went on, True West, way up in Davis, California, were added to the Paisley Underground and Naked Prey out in Arizona were added to the Paisley Underground and then half of the 1960s-oriented guitar bands in southern California were Paisley Underground bands! It was really out of hand.

The camaraderie of the original four P.U. bands was diluted and then diluted further. Bands were called members of the Paisley Underground and none of us in L.A. knew who on earth they were.

So, originally, it was just the four bands I mentioned above and no one else. And yes, it was a real, organic thing and not some baloney created by the media. To this day, to this second, I am fond of all the bands above, very happy to be friends with them, and very aware how lucky I was to not merely be in a popular band but part of a popular, groundbreaking scene. One almost, I say almost, as influential as Memphis in 1954, Liverpool in 1963 or New York City in 1977. It was a wonderful time.

The Long Ryders - Press Photo 2016-2-kopi

How would you describe the 2019 live version of the Long Ryders?

Technically, we are better than ever. I am as serious as a heart attack here when I say this. Stephen McCarthy on guitar is a genius player. I was there when Chris Hillman told Stephen he was the only guitarist he ever heard who played Clarence White’s riffs correctly! Tom Stevens is a brilliant bass player, the best bass player of my age group, the equal of Mike Mills. Greg Sowders on drums and me on whatever are audibly better players today than we were then.

Our playing and singing is better than ever, as is our songwriting, and you hear evidence of this on the new album, Psychedelic Country Soul. The Long Ryders remind me of a prizefighter making a very successful comeback. Oh, sure, the youthful dash and verve are long gone, true, but the technical know-how and cunning thinking that experience has blessed us with are present in great abundance.

I feel like we are only getting started!

And on that promising note, we will let Mr. Griffin guide you through their marvelous recording history, album by album.

10-5-60
(PVC 1983)

This five-song EP came out in late 1983 and brought the Long Ryders immediate notice. Its success at college radio made us a band to watch and one that was considered influential right from the start.

The stark front cover caused heads to turn at The Gavin Report and Billboard, as the Long Ryders looked so unlike the synth-pop acts of the era. And our music was updated 1960s guitar rock & roll, with ‘roll’ as important as ‘rock,’ all due to the sweet production of Brian Wilson’s 1970s engineer Earle Mankey.

The pounding title track, the psychedelically mesmerizing melody of ‘And She Rides,’ and the Lovin’ Spoonful styled whimsy of ‘Born to Believe in You’ set out the parameters for the Long Ryders straight away. Yet it was Stephen McCarthy’s ‘You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong’ that became a signature song and a signpost pointing to Americana and alt-country, two phrases that did not exist in 1983 and that were not yet a musical genre on radio or in print.

Native Sons
(Frontier 1984)

In summer 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. The public was warned frequently about traffic gridlock. The Long Ryders found out A&M Studios was available at a rock-bottom rate, as there was concern no act would want to record during the tourist invasion of the summer Olympics.

Choosing the legendary Henry Lewy as producer (Joni Mitchell, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen), we moved into A&M Studios before Herb Alpert had time to deposit our check and started work. Psychedelia was toned down save the atmospheric ‘Close to the Light’ and country, bluegrass and Sun Records rock & roll was emphasized. ‘I Had a Dream’ made a great, great single in Europe and Elvis Costello signed us to his Demon label in London.

We were becoming an American answer to Rockpile, and soon Native Sons was the #4 album on the College Radio/Indie charts. Back then, this meant radio airplay, record sales and positive reviews in every newspaper in the country.

State of Our Union
(Island 1985)

Our March/April 1985 tour of Europe saw us greeted like Caesars returning to Rome after foreign conquest. We holed up in London’s Columbia Hotel as label after label visited us, each anxious to sign us and put us at the top of the charts. We went with Island Records’ London office as the great Nick Stewart, the man who signed U2, had the best rap.

We recorded in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, with Will Birch at the controls and Neill King engineering, both experienced music industry veterans. A cook was on hand to feed us our culinary requests and a large keg of beer was placed at our disposal. The recording went well, but mixing proved a chore with the first mix having hit technical difficulties. The album was remixed at R.G. Jones in south London by Neill King, Will Birch and I, the band having flown home as scheduled. Yet from this worrisome hassle emerged ‘Looking for Lewis and Clark,’ our pulsating signature song.

Two Fisted Tales
(Island 1987)

Back to A&M Studios in Hollywood, which was Charlie Chaplin’s old studio in the 1930s. Our producer was Ed Stasium (the Ramones, the Smithereens, Jeff Healey Band) and he crafted a radio-friendly record that did not sacrifice our Americana/alt-country principles one iota. Ed drilled us and rehearsed us like the U.S. Marine Corps, even down to deciding kick drum patterns. It was terribly exciting. I thought we were going to be the next R.E.M. by Christmas.

We were now with Island Records USA and those Noo Yawkers were thrilled when they heard what we had cut. NRBQ’s ‘I Want You Bad’ was the lead-off single with ‘Gunslinger Man’ a powerful follow-up release. Two Fisted Tales contains more Long Ryders songs that were covered by other acts than any other record we made. We were indie rock stars and Hollywood heroes in our L.A. neighborhoods. Life was sweet.

Psychedelic Country Soul
(Cherry Red 2019)

After thirty-three and 1/3 years (!) the Long Ryders returned with a brand new studio album, an album most fans are calling our very best one. On our last tour in 1987, we befriended Larry Chatman, a dear pal, and Larry never forgot it. Flash forward 30 years and Larry is now Dr. Dre’s main man. Larry offers us a week’s free studio time at Dre’s in L.A. as repayment for our helping him 30 years earlier. We immediately accept this extraordinarily kind offer.

Exchanging demos via the Internet, we decide which songs to record. Ed Stasium is back in the producer’s chair and the sound, the feel, the vibe of the record is largely down to him. We worked 16-hour days and accepted no visitors to the studio. It was time to live up to whatever legend had grown up around us in three decades, the Founding Fathers Of Alt-Country and so forth.

Vicki and Debbi Peterson from the Bangles sang on several songs. My dear friend Kerenza Peacock played violin like the world class virtuoso she is indeed. Featuring our best songs, each specifically written for this project, everyone brought their ‘A’ game. Psychedelic Country Soul is our best written album, our best sung album, our most thought-out album, and I think our best sounding album in pure sonic terms. It hit #1 in the UK’s Official Alt-Country/Americana chart shortly after its release.

I am very proud of it and very proud of the guys in this band.

The Record Collection: 1989 – 1

My album collection, presented in chronological order from when it was bought from January 1988 – revisited one at the time. This is the first batch from 1989.

Jesus Chrysler | This Year’s Savior | Toxic Shock 1988 |


I knew next to nothing about Jesus Chrysler when I bought this LP, and can’t tell much more about them 30 years later. But now we’ve got Google. Not much is shared about Jesus Chrysler though, but they were from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, toured a bit with fellow Toxic Shock label mates Hickoids (more about them later), John Peel fancied their powerful tunes – and then they apparently disappeared at some point with this sole LP as their only legacy. There are no single hits here, but heck, this is one packed album of infectious songwriting, a good sense of humor and just about the right balance of hardcore punk and power pop. They used to be labeled as ‘hardcore pop’ by Toxic Shock – such a beloved label – and that’s just about right. (PS: Search led me to a Jesus Chrysler from St. Paul, but that’s a completely different band).

Elvis Hitler | Disgraceland | Restless 1988 |


Rockabilly punk from Detroit with lots of redneck humor, kinda like a mix of Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper and Nine Pound Hammer with a dash of The Cramps. ‘Disgraceland’ is one wild and ferocious ride, never too serious, and far less offensive than the band name suggests. Song titles like «Cool Daddy in a Cadillac» and «Hot Rod to Hell» says it all, and make sure not to miss «Green Haze» – a hilarious mash up of the lyrics to «Green Acres» with the melody of «Purple Haze».

The Reivers | End of the Day | Capitol 1989 |


The Reivers made some of the finest southern pop of the 1980s, starting off as Zeitgeist a couple years earlier. ‘End of the Day’ is a warm breeze of an album, gravitating around the gracious interplay between singers and guitarists John Croslin and Kim Longacre. Not quite jangle pop, nor southern gothic, even if their name is taken from a William Faulkner novel. The Austin, Texas band created a lush, gentle and mature pop album here, timeless in style and tone. The album cover sets the mood; this is one for those long, hot summer nights out on the porch.

The Pogues | If I Should Fall From Grace With God | Pogue Mahone 1988 |


He was a drunkard that almost lost it all, but Shane MacGowan is also such a tremendous songwriter and The Pogues were an astonishing band at the height of their career. And never did they sound better than here – under the firm guidance of producer Steve Lillywhite. ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ has it all; the wild fury from their live shows, brilliant lyrics, and some of their most memorable tunes (the Christmas evergreen “Fairytale of New York”, once perfectly nailed by The Guardian “as good an example as any of MacGowan’s unerring ability to locate the romance in ruined lives”). Also including the Middle Eastern tinged “Turkish Song of the Damned”, politically charged «Streets of Sorrow»/»Birmingham Six» and their epic Irish-American emigration anthem “Thousands Are Sailing.” This is a classic album from start to finish, and the finest The Pogues ever made.

Yo La Tengo | President Yo La Tengo | Coyote 1989 |


Third album from the band that has yet to release a bad one is a mini LP consisting of both studio and a couple live recordings (from CBGB’s). It’s a short one, 30 minutes long, but packed with their signature sound where hushed down indie gems meets noisy guitar excesses. This can be exemplified by side 2, with the mind-blowing and lengthy version of «The Evil That Men Do» and a sweet take on Bob Dylan’s «I Threw It All Away». ‘President’ was my first encounter with a band that I’ve never tired of, always returns to and that continues to impress to this very day. After 30 years they’re like old friends, and in many ways they are. I still vote for them.

Violent Femmes | 3 | Slash 1989 |


Violent Femmes’ near perfect debut album turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Capturing the essence of youth with immediate and clever folk-pop anthems, the album is a forever classic that any band would have trouble matching. But all of their 1980s albums are actually well worth hearing, including this one, their fourth and awkwardly titled ‘3’. This time around, Violent Femmes returned to their stripped down roots, but with slightly less memorable songs than on their previous efforts. However, «Nightmares», «Fool in the Full Moon» and hauntingly beautiful «See My Ships» and «Nothing Worth Living For» are great additions to their catalog.

Sidewinders | ¡Cuacha! | San Jacinto/Diabolita 1989 |


I’m pretty sure I bought Sidewinders right off the bat based on their Tucson whereabouts and close connections with Giant Sand and the folks down there. Rich Hopkins does excellent guitar work throughout the album, Scott Garber guested on bass and Eric Westfall was involved with the production. I also remember how I just fell for the band name, the cover art and the title. They spoke to me. It’s been awhile since I put this one on, but it still sounds so damn good. Sidewinders operated in a rather characteristic 80’s guitar rock landscape, not too far from the LA-scene and names like The Dream Syndicate, True West and The Long Ryders; a little bit jangle, a little bit dusty country-rock and a little bit blistering pop-punk. Back then bands could juggle around; try out different stuff while finding their way. ‘¡Cuacha!’ is packed with great tracks on both sides, side 2 is even better than the first, including a lengthy version of «What She Said.» Sidewinders later became known as Sand Rubies, and they’ve been involved in varied stuff over the years. Make sure to pick up their first album if you ever stumble upon it. Another lost classic from the 1980s.

Waxing Poetics | Manakin Moon | Emergo 1988 |


Waxing Poetics was (or is, I believe they’re still up & running…) a Virgina four piece leaning towards tight and catchy Southern indie/heartland rock (think House of Freaks, Drivin’ N Cryin’, The Del-Lords). For the sophomore album ‘Manakin Moon’ they cleaned up the sound and let the guitars rock harder and more prominently than on their power pop debut (produced by pals Mitch Easter and R.E.M’s Mike Mills) – a slight stylistic change you’ll notice on the back cover shot where all four are dressed up in black leather jackets. My favorites here are the solid, powerful ballads like «Father, Son & Ghost» and «Downstairs,» where the great voice of lead singer David Middleton really shines. The LP also includes a somewhat surprising (and good) cover version of Brian Eno’s «Needle in the Camel’s Eye».

The Texas Instruments | The Texas Instruments | GWR 1988 |


Punks from Texas are something else, not being afraid to show off their eccentric preferences and cowboy roots. Just like the power trio The Texas Instruments. These guys sure know how to rock while staying true to their heartland hearts. Their first album is a great collection of songs, unpretentious no-nonsense style. If you like Meat Puppets, True Believers and Minutemen this is the missing link. The album includes a couple covers – Woody Guthrie’s «Do-Re-Mi» and Dylan’s «A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall»- that aren’t super necessary but adds some context to their sound. And works as reminder that it must’ve been a whole lotta fun to witness this band in their heyday. Their debut LP was originally released on Rabid Cat in 1986, this is the UK version dropped a year later – same cover and same songs. Produced by SST house producer Spot.

Cowboy Junkies | The Trinity Sessions | RCA 1989 |


Created in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity, this album surely captures a holy spirit. Recorded with the band gathering around one microphone, the album is made up of truly wonderful originals and some equally great cover songs, including Hank Williams’ «I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry» and Velvet’s «Sweet Jane.» Performing in a hushed tone, quiet vocals and gentle instrumentation, this is intimate music made in a big room revealing even the smallest of details. Most albums lose some spark after awhile, this one is not of them. The album sounded timeless already at the time of its release, and still invokes an otherworldly feeling. ‘The Trinity Sessions’ was released in Canada in 1988; this international was released a year later. Cowboy Junkies have continued to make great albums up until this day. Make sure to check up on their full catalog.

The Record Collection: 1988 (61-71)

My album collection, presented in chronological order from when it was bought from January 1988 – revisited one at the time. This is the final round from 1988.

Green On Red | Here Come The Snakes | Red Rhino 1988 |


What comes after the blues? Green on Red went down to Memphis to figure it out, and teamed up with producers Jim Dickinson and Joe Hardy at Ardent. Only a duo at the time, leaving Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet as core members, this album digs deep down in the American soil of country, blues and rock & roll and ends up somewhere between The Rolling Stones and Neil Young, where the three songs at the tail end of the album shines particularly strong. Here Come The Snakes might lack the youthful innocence and camaraderie of their previous efforts, but it sure adds another value. Something more severe.

The band members reconciled some years later, but dark shadows looms over Green on Red at this point in their career.

Various artists | Welcome to Comboland | Making Waves 1986 |


North Carolina must’ve been a joyous place to live in the 1980s, judged by the friendly atmosphere and cheerful indie presented on this compilation. Or perhaps it’s just a reminder of less cynical times, a time of less tension and a more laidback attitude. Or maybe it’s because of Don Dixon, being largely responsible for producing many of the bands presented here. His jangly signature sounds permeate the album of twelve artists from the state. The Connells are probably most remembered of these bands today, however, I urge everyone to grab a copy of this sampler. Just for you to enjoy forty-two minutes of Southern hospitality, including prime acts like Southern Culture on the Skids, Fetchin’ Bones and The Spongetones.

Naked Prey | Naked Prey | Down There 1984 |


The 1984 debut album from Tucson outlaws Naked Prey is a raw and ragged exploration of an acid drenched southwestern mythology at the crossroads of garage rock and country punk. Fronted by the one and only Van Christian, with lovely guitar work by David Seger. Produced by Dan Stuart, Steve Wynn and great cover shot by Scott Garber, this is a supergroup in my book.

Giant Sand | The Love Songs | Demon 1988 |


We are all things at different times. This album made such an impact on me that I convinced my pal to buy a ‘66 Barracuda. I still remember how we cruised down the road under a fingernail moon, while the pine trees transformed into cactuses, counting stars like neon lights from down the mud to way up sky. The car eventually got sold, but the The Love Songs still thrones up there as a one of my dearest favorite albums of all time. ‘Your passion is like world war three/my defense is a crumbling NATO.’ I mean, what’s not to love?

Jane’s Addiction | Nothing’s Shocking | Warner 1988 |


So, this was pretty mind-blowing stuff 30 years ago. It’s not quite as shocking today, but the cover art alone, the conjoined twins with their heads on fire, sets the tone for an ambitious and powerful album. Jane’s Addiction managed to unify punk, funk and metal into something cutting-edge and timeless. Nothing’s Shocking paved way for so much of the grunge craze to come, but this is smarter, more arty and engaging than most of them.

Thin White Rope | In the Spanish Cave | Frontier 1988 |


In the Spanish Cave is a tad brighter and varied than its predecessors. Ranging from almost joyous tunes (“Mr. Limpet”) to bulldozing guitar assaults (“It’s OK”), it features their most beloved song, the epic desert anthem “Red Sun.” In a thorough review celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, The Quietus points out how they created an alien take on the unfathomable vastness of the American landscape and its effects on the nation’s psyche, and how they used this landscape, not as representing a sense of freedom, but as an area of something uncanny and unsettling, summing up the album as a “potent, fantastical window onto a malign new phase of the American Dream.” Needless to say, this is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Creedence Clearwater Revival | Cosmo’s Factory | Fantasy 1970 |


‘They’re selling independence/Actors in the white house/Acid in digestion/Mortgage on my life..’ With all their standards and ballads on daily adult radio rotation, it’s often easy to forget how insanely cool CCR actually was. “Ramble Tamble” sounds like something The Cramps and The Dream Syndicate could’ve cooked up together a decade later, with the breezy mid-section as one of this album’s standout moments. But there’s a lot more gold here; “Run Through The Jungle” and the lengthy “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” are particularly great – and most of the other songs are established as beloved rock classics.

Hüsker Dü | Candy Apple Grey | Warner 1986 |


Signing a band like Hüsker Dü on a major label must’ve been a rather bold move back in 1986. But in hindsight this was a prophesy of new times for American alternative guitar rock, and soon bands like R.E.M, Dinosaur Jr. and The Replacements moved from indies to major – without losing their former edge. The Hüskers was constantly developing from underground punks to something far more diverse and mature, and in many ways Candy Apple Grey is the culmination of a journey they’d started on with ‘Zen Arcade’ only two years prior. It’s nothing but amazing to look back at their astonishing intense production and rapid progression, and no wonder they were about to burn out and implode just a year or so later. Candy Apple Grey gives us some of their finest songs, including «Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely», «Sorry Somehow» and acoustic «Hardly Getting Over It.» What a truly great band they were.

True West | Hollywood Holiday | New Rose 1983 |


True West belonged to a group of likeminded 1980s Los Angeles bands dubbed ‘Paisley Underground’, along with The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, The Long Ryders, The Rain Parade and others. It’s a shame that they’re largely ignored today, cause not only were True West the quintessential paisley band, a missing link between ’60s garage rock, trippy psychedelia (they do a mighty fine version of Pink Floyd’s «Lucifer Sam») and Televison (check out «It’s About Time»), this album holds up very well compared to many of their peers efforts and is a lost classic of ’80s guitar rock. A little while ago I named Drifters (1984) their masterpiece, but after another couple of listenings to Hollywood Holiday I must reconsider that statement. Man, I’d completely forgotten what a tremendous album this is, from start to finish. I love the frantic guitar work between Russ Tolman and Richard McGrath on the almost Gun Club-like «I’m Not Here» and songs like «And Then The Rain» and «Throw Away The Key» would’ve been hits in the hands of R.E.M. Hollywood Holiday is produced by Russ Tolman (he later went on and made a great, still ongoing solo career) and The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn. They knew each other very well as members of The Suspects, the short lived band they shared with Kendra Smith, later in the first incarnation of The Dream Syndicate and Gavin Blair, lead singer of True West.

Thin White Rope | Exploring The Axis | Frontier/Zippo 1985 |


Thin White Rope never really fit into the categories used to brand guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. They were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. Just as close to Television, Bauhaus and Joy Division than their more successful contemporary counterparts in ’80s American underground (R.E.M, The Replacements, Pixies), Thin White Rope’s desert psychedelia was a far more vast and difficult creature to cast. Out of time back in the day, they are timeless in hindsight. Thin White Rope immediately introduced their main modus operandi. The first song off their first album, Exploring the Axis, is something of a surreal country-noir story entitled “Down in the Desert,” about a guy called Karl who headed south and came back changed by his experiences in the desert. (“Karl came back and he works and he smiles/But if you look closely there’s still something scared in his eyes…”) Based out in the Northern California university town of Davis, Thin White Rope often returned to the desert as a recurring trope in their songs, both emotionally and musically. “Soundtrack,” from the same album, also laid a sonic foundation for what to come later; their ability to let an austere tune about alienation (“Windshields are like TV screens/I’m not involved at all”) explode into a ferocious assault as a sneering Guy Kyser goes full Mad Max (“She throws firebombs on the highway/Glass splashing and bushes burning”), revealing a band with a constant underlying rage – a beast they sometimes tamed, sometimes let loose.

Oh yes, they held us in a firm grip out on that ledge, but one also softened with beautiful melodies and a sense of melancholia and human kindness; elements that would be more prominent later on in their career.

The Dream Syndicate | Ghost Stories | Enigma 1988 |


Ghost Stories is the fourth and final studio full-length album from The Dream Syndicate, until they finally returned after a 30-year long hiatus in 2017. Fronted by lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn, The Dream Syndicate managed to keep a consistent and recognizable style all through the 1980s, but every album has its own distinct personality: The untamed ferocity of the 1982 debut, an album they’ll always be measured against, the grandiose and ambitious sophomore show, and their underrated third album, when they came out of the grey with upbeat breeziness. Produced by Elliot Mazer, ‘Ghost Stories’ ties together all this greatness into an album that sounds better and rocks harder than ever before. Wynn once described the album to me as «dark, noisy, and bratty but its also quite self-assured and not undone by production – neither too little nor too much.» He forgot to mention that the songwriting is ace throughout, there’s not a weak track here and Ghost Stories is one mighty, classic slice of 1980s guitar rock. Just hear the opening verse and try to turn off: «Every cloud has a silver lining/Every down has an answer, I know/But in my heart there’s no light shining/Just emptiness and faded glow/Raining down on the side I’ll never show…»

The Record Collection: 1988 (41-50)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time. Part 4.

Russ Tolman | Down In Earthquake Town | Demon 1988 |


This is the second solo effort from Russ Tolman, a close associate of the jangle/underground scene in Los Angeles and former frontman of True West. This paisley packed album includes a fine list of guests, such as Steve Wynn (they used to run the label Down There together), Dave Provost and Chris Cacavas, and engineering credits goes to Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion, Epitaph). Tolman is a good, confident songwriter, and he crafted a varied and enjoyable album down in his earthquake town. It has aged rather well too, with its laidback feel and sunny LA vibe, rich instrumentation, including some mighty fine Southern horns it’s just one of those timeless albums that deserves far better than being swallowed in the sea of time.

Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska | CBS 1982 |


I listened a lot to Born in the U.S.A as a young kid, and know his catalog fairly well, but the lo-fi sounds of Nebraska remains my forever favorite. Not sure why I bought it in the fall of 1988, wasn’t a huge fan of Springsteen, but might be the cover art that appealed to me. Nebraska is actually my sole Springsteen LP in the collection and the one I always return to when I need some advice from the Boss.

E*I*E*I*O | Land of Opportunity | Demon 1985 |


This Wisconsin quartet played some mighty fine heartland Americana way before that was a hip term. There was nothing fancy about them, but on the other hand, this is one of those albums that never sounds outdated. Great vocals by frontman Steve Summers, strong songs throughout the whole album, and T-Bone Burnett lends some guitar assistance and co-production by Steve Berlin are just some of the treats on this debut. E*I*E*I*O fits nicely among likeminded peers such as BoDeans and Rave-Ups, but they never really got as recognized as deserved.

Thin White Rope | Moonhead | Frontier/Zippo 1987 |


Just as close to Television, Bauhaus and Joy Division than their contemporary counterparts in ’80s American underground (R.E.M, The Replacements, Pixies), Thin White Rope’s desert psychedelia was a far more vast and difficult creature to cast than most of their peers. Their second album Moonhead is a somber, bleak masterpiece, allowing for more space, tension and dark power than on their debut. Moonhead is one of the lost classics of the decade, once flourishingly described by British psych-guru Julian Cope: “[Guy] Kyser mumbles stripped down considerations about life, sex and death, and he seems a scientist who describes microscopic life forms. Mankind is reduced to puppet-like dimensions: around us, there’s an enigmatic, useless, obscure universe, apparently enemy of any feeling and thought.” For sure! It was a huge favorite 30 years ago, and it has followed me all my adult life without losing an inch of its majestic strength.

Giant Sand | Ballad of a Thin Line Man | Zippo 1986 |


Back in 1988, 30 years ago, I was still fooling around with music, everything was new and of interest, heading in all kinds of directions at the same time even though I was pretty much already set on the American underground train. I had already bought Storm a couple months prior to Ballad of a Thin Line Man, but it was here they turned into my forever favorite band. And just like I was searching for my musical bliss at the time – still am – Howe Gelb and his Giant Sand had just started to stake out their own course – still are, and that it was one of the reasons I love em. They would go on to make better albums later on I guess, but this one still holds a special place in my sandy heart.

The Gun Club | Miami | Animal 1982 |


‘Come down to, the willow garden with me’ Jeffrey Lee Pierce invites us to Miami, but we steer off the highway and enter into his dark mind, the willow gardens and deep into the very heart of Gothic American mythology. ‘Miami’ is a swampy blues album built on a punkish attitude, draped in voodoo rituals, deserted honky tonks and desperate fever. It has been a big favorite for 30 years, loved for the cover alone with its emerald-green sky and the palms raising majestic behind the trio in front of the image. Two of them look at something in the horizon; Pierce is dressed in dark, hair-dyed blonde, looking down to the ground. I’ve always linked this album to Jim Jarmusch’ ‘Stranger Than Paradise’, following a shabby trio through the Midwest and down to a run down tourist hub in Miami. There is not much paradise to find here, nor in Jeffrey Lee Pierce’ postcard from the south. But it is one damned journey.

Various artists | Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease | Big Beat 1984 |


I was a huge fan of Tales From the Crypt, Haunt of Fear and all the other early 1950s horror and gore stories from EC Comics (republished in the 80s). This album cover – and they mattered a whole lot back then – is a homage to the wicked and wild era of degenerate fun. And so is the music, a really cool collection of, well, rockabilly psychosis and the garage disease.

Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper | Frenzy | Restless/Enigma 1986 |


This San Diego based twosome was never about being too serious. Titles like “Gonna Put My Face on a Nuclear Bomb”, “I’m Living With a Three-Foot Anti-Christ” and “The Amazing Bigfoot Diet” says it all. They were hilarious and heartfelt, and they rocked big time with their infectious rockabilly blues. Mojo is hollering his lungs out while Skid is jamming on the washboard. There is just loads of party fun here, I’ve always had a soft spot for the satirical highlight and more mellow “Feeling Existential” with Steve Wynn on guest vocal:
‘Your goatee is growin’
In front of your fake French café
You’re readin’ Kirkegaard
Underneath your very black beret
Smokin’ filterless Camels
That stink just like Gitanes
Drinkin’ some espresso
Droppin’ all the names’

Giant Sand | Valley of Rain | Amazing Black Sand/Enigma 1985 |


Bought in October, anywhere 1988, my third Giant Sand LP that year, and one of the albums I’ve listened to the most my entire life. 30 years down the road I’m still amazed by how cool it is. Little did I know that these desert punks would soon blossom into something totally unique and follow me close until this very day. One of those random love stories I guess. A nice landscape, indeed…

The Beat Farmers | Tales Of The New West | Demon 1985 |

Here’s to having a good time, new western style. The Beat Farmers might came just a bit too early for the alt.country craze, but who cares. The San Diego based quartet’s debut album is packed with unpretentious, tight and fun songs. Great originals, cool covers and then there’s Country Dick Montana.
‘I was walkin’ down the street on a sunny day
Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba
A feeling in my bones that I’ll have my way
Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba
Well I’m a happy boy (happy boy)
Well I’m a happy boy (happy boy)’
There’s really nothing do but to raise the glass and sing along.

The Record Collection: 1988 (1-20)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time.

Fetchin Bones | Bad Pumpkin | Capitol 1986 |

Underrated and sadly forgotten North Carolina quintet combining a kind of Southern jangly vibe with restless proto-grunge. They supported R.E.M and the B-52’s, whom they both are sonically related to. This is their second album, marking their move from small db Records to a major label without losing their spark. Rather this LP still holds up thanks to careful production by Don Dixon and tight songs throughout the record. And Hope Nicholls was a great singer back then, and she still is.

Ben Vaughn Combo | The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn | Restless/Making Waves 1986 |

‘I got a 1969 Rambler American/Baby aren’t you impressed/Sure I could have a Datsun 280 Z/But I’m not like all the rest’ Ben Vaughn blends humor and wit with classic American music; rock’n’roll, rockabilly and country twang. He’s been doing his thing since the early 1980’s, and has released albums better than this during his long career. But Vaughn and his Combo had such an irresistible charm on songs like “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)”, “I Dig You Wig” and “Wrong Haircut” that makes his debut album still a treat to listen to.

The Dream Syndicate | This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album… Live! | A&M 1984 |

Recorded live at the Aragon in Chicago one hot July night in 1984, when The Dream Syndicate toured on ‘The Medicine Show’ (released a month prior) with R.E.M. Only five songs long, but these are all classics – from a band in blistering shape. The classic line up of Steve Wynn, Dennis Duck, guitarist Karl Precoda on his last album with the Syndicate, and newcomer Mark Walton. Tommy Zvoncheck guests on keys, but this performance is first and foremost about four guys and great songs; long jams, feedback orgies and the joy of a sweaty club night. That’s rock and roll.

Guadalcanal Diary | 2×4 | Elektra/Asylum 1987 |


Producer Don Dixon is synonymous with some of the finest guitar rock of the 1980s, with a jangly signature sound that mainly captured the spirit of Southern indie and mostly known for his work with early R.E.M. Guadalcanal Diary, also from Georgia, never earned the same levels of commercial success. A new listen to the hands down masterpiece ‘2×4’ serves as a reminder on how that is just unfair. They shared some obvious similarities, but this quartet had a more direct and extrovert approach to their songwriting. This is their finest moment, an energetic and eclectic set of pure excellent songs.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs | Bikini Red | Elektra 1987 |


London based Screaming Blue Messiahs rose from the ashes of Motor Boys Motor (named after a 101’ers tune) exposing a crew owing debt to the likes of Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Captain Beefheart. With some adjustments to the line-up, the smokin’ trio was finally settled as the highly skilled outfit of Bill Carter on guitar and vocals, Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on thundering drums. Soon after they were renamed the Screaming Blue Messiahs. The Vic Maile produced ‘Bikini Red’ saw the band dwelling even deeper into iconic American pop and trash culture. Complete with references to Elvis, cars, booze, TV evangelists and fast living, the music itself proves an amalgam of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, hillbilly and surf fronted by Bill Carter who (with an American accent) declared that “Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge,” “I Can Speak American” and even “I Wanna Be a Flintstone.

Various artists | I Was A Teenage Zombie | Enigma 1987 |


Still haven’t seen the movie, but suspect the soundtrack is superior to the comedy-horror flick. This is a decent selection with some of the finest indie artists of the time picked from the Enigma roster. The db’s, Smithereens, and Los Lobos are all in here, and the Fleshtones got a minor hit with the theme song. The highlights are Violent Femmes’ “Good Feeling” and The Dream Syndicate with the haunting masterpiece “Halloween.”

R.E.M | Chronic Town | I.R.S 1982
R.E.M | Murmur | I.R.S 1983 |
R.E.M | Reckoning | I.R.S 1984 |


I discovered R.E.M with ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ as a 13-14 year old kid, and immediately fell in love, not only with R.E.M but in alternative American guitar rock in general. So when I finally switched over from cassettes to LP’s in 1988, purchasing their back catalog was obviously a high priority. One lucky day I went home with ‘Chronic Town’, ‘Murmur’ and ‘Reckoning’ bought from a friend, meaning days and weeks of deep listening. Humming along to barely recognizable lyrics. R.E.M might went on to release better albums later in their career, but these three albums, they’re all equal to me, really captures all I love about them. And they still sound as adventurous and amazing as they did on that February day in 1988.

Green On Red | Gas Food Lodging | Enigma 1985 |


Green On Red released nothing but excellent albums between 1982-88, and some great moments in the years after. This is the band in its prime; Dan Stuart, Big Dog MacNicol (RIP), Jack Waterson, Chuck Prophet and Chris Cacavas made one helluva great line up, supported with fine production from Paul B. Cutler of the Dream Syndicate. From the blazing opener ‘That’s What Dreams’ to the campfire version of ‘We Shall Ocercome’, this is rootsy ragged rock at it’s finest, but side 2 with ‘Sixteen Ways’, ‘The Drifter’ and ‘Sea Of Cortez’ are particular standouts. Heck, all of them are.

Thin White Rope | Bottom Feeders | Zippo/Frontier 1988|

Not too many bands can boast a recorded history without any major flaws. But Northern California’s Thin White Rope are one of those. They made great studio albums throughout, well known for their even more ferocious live shows of massive wall of guitars and bulldozer sound. The group never really fit into the categories used for branding guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. Thin White Rope were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. ‘Bottom Feeders’ is an EP of four originals and two covers (Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and highlighted with a blistering live version of Suicide’s “Rocket USA”) and tucked between the bleak masterpieces ‘Moonhead’ and astonishing ‘In The Spanish Cave’. But there’s no reason to ignore this little beast of chainsaw guitars, raspy vocal and spooky vibes. Great cover art by Steve Blickenstaff.

The Dead Kennedys | Frankenchrist | Alternative Tentacles 1985 |


In an ideal world, songs about corrupt government, robots replacing the working class, suburban decay and structural racism would be of out of date some 30 years down the line. Alas, as we all know, the topics raised on ‘Frankenchrist’ are more relevant than ever. “No wonder others hate us/And the Hitlers we handpick/To bleed their people dry/For our evil empire”, Biafra sings on the album standout ‘Stars and Stripes of Corruption’ like an omen for the presidency and leadership in 2018. ‘Frankenchrist’ might lack the immediate punk anthems of its predecessors, but musically this is also Kennedy’s best and most diverse album, where they expanded their punk roots and embraced a far more eclectic sound to include surf, Latin, psychedelic and synth elements. The album is mostly remembered for the massive controversy that followed, when the band was brought to court – and to their knees – due to the inlay poster ‘Penis Landscape’ by H.R Giger. Such fools, when the real concern should’ve been on solving the real problems outlined here. ‘Frankenchrist’ is an underrated gem in the band’s catalog.

The Replacements | Let it Be | Twin/Tone / Zippo 1984 |


This is just the ultimate album when you’re 16 and life to go. The Replacements’ combination of restless energy and slacker attitude, teen angst and drunken confidence hit like a bomb when I bought ‘Let It Be’ in 1988, and it became the soundtrack into adolescence. “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings around my eyes” is just an ace opening statement into an album packed with classic coming of age tunes miles ahead from their previous more punk based efforts, sometimes like a mix of the Stones’ swagger and ‘Born to Run’ era Springsteen. The album cover is perfect too, remember how I just wanted to climb that roof and squeeze in between these four hoodlums from Minneapolis.

Green On Red | Gravity Talks | Slash 1983 |


I first heard Green On Red on the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation, where “Five Easy Pieces” was a standout. Driven by Chris Cacavas’ psychedelic keyboard swirls and Dan Stuart’s snarling vocals, the band found their own place in their infancy combining 60’s garage/psychedelia and Dylanesque folk-rock. Gravity Talks is a very fine document of this epoch, provided by a bunch of clever outlaw kids from Arizona still not sure about where to go. I love the nervous desperation that hangs over the whole album, a youthful energy impossible to replicate later in a career. ‘We don’t pretend to know everything or speak out loud like our parents did’, Stuart sings on the anthemic “Brave Generation”, name checking Fitzgerald and Faulkner on a coming of age story of growing up between the Vietnam war and Cold War anxiety: ‘We’re not beat, we’re not hip, we’re the Brave Generation, what a trip.’

The Del Fuegos | Boston Mass | Slash 1985 |


Yet another album bought off the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation I guess. There was nothing hip or super fancy about the Del Fuegos in 1988, still aren’t. But their basic and credible urban heartland rock ‘n’ roll has some strong timeless qualities – and time has fared rather well with this one, their second album. Fronted by the Zanes’ brothers and produced by Mitchell Froom, Del Fuegos’ hammered out a couple of easy to like bar room and streetwise backroad tunes – equally perfect for both purposes (not at the same time though). This is the ‘sound of our town’, that’s the sound of Boston, Mass all right.

The Dream Syndicate | Medicine Show | A&M 1984 |

Following their raucous debut full length, The Dream Syndicate signed with a major label, teamed up with renowned producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Öyster Cult, The Dictators, The Clash) and spent five months in the studio to finish their Medicine Show. It was met with various receptions at the time, but has gained favorable to classical status over the years. Pearlman and Syndicate shaped a far different sound for this album, more related to Television, The Cars and Neil Young than Velvet Underground. This is American gothic stories filled with some of Steve Wynn’s most memorable characters on songs like “Burn”, “Armed With An Empty Gun” and “Bullet With My Name On It.” But the panoramic widescreen vision reveals in its full on side 2: The title track, the blistering jam “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” and “Merritville” are all epic and has deservedly so become standards in the band’s catalogue. Medicine Show was obtained at a time when learning the lyrics was part of buying an album. I memorized all of these songs by heart, and they’re still holding on to me.

Hüsker Dü | Warehouse: Songs And Stories | Warner 1987 |

Could have been the one to boast Zen Arcade or New Day Rising as my entry points to Hüsker Dü, but as it happened their swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories became my gateway album. I discovered them without any anticipation or deep knowledge about their astonishing back catalogue. I was just thrown into this sprawling sonic assault of thin fuzz, frenetic pace and way to clever poetry for a kid my age. It was almost too much. I guess the sheer intensity and emotional depth did resonate very well at the time. And the songs are catchy as hell. I didn’t care to much about the front cover though, but adored the back cover; those three weird and average looking guys laying on the grass surrounded by psychedelic blasts. 30 years down the road it still sounds like an amalgam of 60’s pop anthems filtered through a punk psychedelic odyssey, I particularly recall “Ice Cold Ice”, “Could You Be the One” and especially “She Floated Away” being played nonstop. Warehouse: Songs And Stories is a breathtaking kaleidoscopic soundtrack of youth, the sound of a band that had finally grown up – but also a band that were falling apart. In the end, I guess everything does.

The Del-Lords | Johnny Comes Marching Home | EMI America 1986 |

Of all the albums bought in my pioneer days, this is the one I probably know the least. I don’t recall the actual purchase, nor the songs in detail. So with a bit of excitement I drop the needle and press play. Just like the first time. The archetypal 80s sound aside, time has fared rather well with Johnny. The cover doesn’t lie. These four tough, denim and leather dressed New York guys could’ve been lifted straight outta ‘American Graffiti’, cruising down the main drag and looking for trouble at the soda shop while hanging round the jukebox. And it’s pretty much that kind of music they make; no nonsense rock rooted directly back to the 1950s with a modernized and radio friendly sound – and some nice parts of chiming Byrds-like guitars. Not bad at all, formerly Dictators’ and front man Scott Kempner is a great songwriter and assembled a more than decent cast of characters, including Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, for The Del-Lords. Sometimes all we need is to rock out, have a good time and don’t worry too much. The sound of carefree times has no expiration date.

Danny & Dusty | The Lost Weekend | A&M 1985 |

When you’re 15-16, life’s at the crossroads. Your path is not yet set, there are choices to be made; sports, school, or well, smoking and drinking. Now, I’ll never blame Danny & Dusty for leading me down the wrong road, but those two fellas on the cover sure seems to have a good time! Who doesn’t wanna join in on their drunken choir? And Danny & Dusty sounds just like a couple friends having the time of their lives. It certainly helps when they happened to be Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn, joined by a fine group of likeminded ramblers from The Long Ryders and Green On Red/The Dream Syndicate. They dropped most of their gloomy credibility and pretensions outside and entered the bar with nothing but good intentions: to sing, drink, shoot stories, long on talk and short on cash, and drink some more. ‘One’s too many, and a hundred’s not enough’ as they say in the legendary movie The Lost Weekend (I watched it immediately after buying the album.) The result is loose and spontaneous, but not too sloppy, rather it’s rowdy, confident and has actually aged very well. The songs are great, from when the word is out until we knock on heavens door begging for hangover relief on Sunday. Chris Cacavas is perfect as the barroom pianist, Dan and Steve know how to tell stories about winners and losers in the shadow of the Hollywood neon glimmer. Lebowski might be the dude, but these guys, they were the real dudes.

The Cramps | Psychedelic Jungle | I.R.S. 1981 |

‘Primitive, that’s how I live.’ Lux Interior holler and howls all the way through ‘Psychedelic Jungle.’ The Cramps’ second album is onehelluva slow burning garbage crate digging bonanza of 1950s sleaze and dark shades, a wild, weird and wicked entry to a world of voodoo rockabilly, haunted garage rock and deranged punk. I discovered the band, as far as I remember, with a live version of “Sunglasses After Dark” played on radio, and was immediately hooked. I don’t play this too often though, must’ve been years since I was reminded to not eat stuff from the sidewalk

Toppalbum 1955-2000

Hvis man nå absolutt måtte tilbringe resten av livet på en øde øy, med strøm og platespiller vel og merke, og fikk mulighet til å ta med seg kun ÉN plate fra hvert år, hvilke skulle man tatt med seg? Denne høyst reelle utfordringen avstedkom etter noe tankevirksomhet følgende liste. Den gir, om ikke en perfekt avspeiling over favorittskivene, en ganske representativ oversikt med vei som ikke overraskende går fra jazz via syrerock og punk til undergrunnsrock og post-rock. En riktig så fin reise ble det faktisk, så da er det bare å pakke kofferten.

Utvalget er  for øvrig avgrenset til kun én plate pr. artist.

1955 Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
1956 Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
1957 Art Pepper – Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
1958 Cannonball Adderly – Somethin’ Else
1959 John Fahey – Blind Joe Death

1960 Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz
1961 Thelonious Monk – Thelonius Monk With John Coltrane
1962 Bill Evans – Waltz For Debby
1963 Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
1964 Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
1965 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
1966 The Beatles – Revolver
1967 The Velvet Undergroud & Nico – s/t
1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
1969 Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

1970 Soft Machine – Third
1971 Black Sabbath – Masters of Reality
1972 Nick Drake – Pink Moon
1973 Can – Future Days
1974 Neil Young – On the Beach
1975 Brian Eno – Another Green World
1976 Warren Zevon – s/t
1977 Television – Marquee Moon
1978 Blondie – Parallel Lines
1979 The Clash – London Calling

1980 The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms
1981 Wipers – Youth of America
1982 The Dream Syndicate – Days of Wine and Roses
1983 R.E.M – Murmur
1984 Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
1985 Giant Sand – Valley of Rain
1986 Slayer – Reign in Blood
1987 Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
1988 Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
1989 Pixies – Doolittle

1990 Fugazi – Repeater
1991 Slint – Spiderland
1992 Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
1993 Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
1994 Motorpsycho – Timothy’s Monster
1995 The God Machine – One Last Laugh in the Place of Dying
1996 Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die
1997 Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On
1998 Karate – The Bed Is in the Ocean
1999 Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness
2000 Songs: Ohia – Ghost Tropic

Nicole Atkins: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

It has been said that Nicole Atkins is untethered to decade or movement, or even the whim of the hipster elite. Drawing inspiration from soul and R&B, 1950s crooners and girl groups and the Brill Building School of Classic Songwriting, Atkins is closer to being the heir to the legacy of Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Carole King.

The highly esteemed Asbury Park, New Jersey singer and songwriter entered the scene with her debut full-length, Neptune City, in 2007 and has steadily launched critically acclaimed albums since.

Atkins’ latest album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, came this July on Single Lock, the Florence, Alabama-based label founded by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Will Trapp. Single Lock was primarily an outlet for music from the Shoals, including Dylan LeBlanc and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, but now the Nashville-residing Atkins fits more than perfectly into the fold of Southern greatness.

Goodnight Rhonda Lee was yet again met with deservedly rave reviews, but the album came to fruition in a difficult transitional time for Atkins, involving struggles with sobriety and her father’s lung cancer diagnosis. The album title refers to her alias for bad behavior and how it was time for her to put that person to bed. She also reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak, who encouraged her to write songs that emphasized her vocal strengths (the pair co-wrote the opening track, stunningly beautiful and tellingly entitled “A Little Crazy”).

In order to pursue a timeless sound, she enlisted Niles City Sound music studio in Forth Worth, Texas, including two members of four-piece rock band White Denim, who rose to fame a couple years back for their pivotal role in shaping the sound of Leon Bridges. “We spoke the same language,” says Atkins. “We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul.” Five days of intense live to tape recording made the modern classic Goodnight Rhonda Lee, another giant leap forward for an artist seemingly without the ability to misstep — at least when it comes to creating art.

To dig deeper into her musical roots, we asked Nicol Atkins to share five life-changing albums with you all.

***

The Who: Tommy
This is the first record I can remember hearing as a kid. It put me in another world, and I was already new to this one! I used to answer the door at four years old for the mailman and tell him I was the Acid Queen like Tina Turner. I was obsessed.

Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die
When I was 12, I was trying to fit in at my school and asked my Uncle Chuck to take me to the record shop so I could buy a New Kids on the Block tape. Like I said, I was just tryin’ to fit in. We got to the shop and he made me buy Traffic instead. As soon as I heard the playfulness, soul and downright epic-ness of “Staring at Empty Pages,” I forgot all about my need for middle school acceptance.

James Brown: Live at the Apollo
Many, many hours spent in my room to this record pretending I was there at the show dancing and throwing hands at my imaginary band. This record also made me seek out Maceo Parker records, which led to the Funky Meters, which led to Allen Toussaint and so on. James Brown was my gateway drug.

Erykah Badu: Baduizm
When I first heard this record, I thought it was so refreshing. Still do. It was a modern take on jazz and R&B, and it was so personal. She was a poet and so authentic, and I really felt like I knew her listening to this record. She wasn’t dialing in a style. It inspired me to start writing poetry and my own songs.

Denise James: It’s Not Enough To Love
Denise is a singer-songwriter from Detroit. I was working for her record label in 2004. I must’ve listened to this record on repeat that entire summer. It was classic songwriting in the style of Dan Penn and the production took a nod from 1950s’ girl groups. It inspired me to want to give the music my parents grew up with a place in my own time too.

Bjørn Hammershaug

5 Videoer: R.E.M

5. Can’t Get There From Here
Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

When the world is a monster bad to swallow you whole
Kick the clay that holds the teeth in throw your trolls out the door

4. Driver 8
Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

And the train conductor says
‘Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break
We can reach our destination, but we’re still a ways away’

3. Fall On Me
Album: Lifes Rich Pageant

There’s a problem, feathers, iron
Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground
Before the weight can leave the air

2. So. Central Rain
Album: Reckoning (1984)

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

1. Radio Free Europe
Album: Murmur (1983)

Calling on in transit…

5 Videoer: The Replacements

Topp 5 musikkvideoer av salige The Replacements, hvis 1987-skive Pleased to Meet Me just har rundet 30 år.

Les mer her: The Replacements: Getting Nowhere Fast

5.Merry Go Round
Album: All Shook Down (Sire, 1990)

You wake to another day and find
The wind’s blowing out of key with your sky
Only you can see
And the rain dancing in the night
Everybody stands around in delight

Merry go round in dreams
Writes ’em down, it seems
When she sleeps, she’s free
Merry go round in dreams

4. When It Began
Album: All Shook Down (1990)

Long ago, or yesterday
The queen sits quietly, the jester plays
She plays off with their heads and on with my pants
Oh and it was something, when it began

3. I’ll Be You
Album: Don’t Tell a Soul (1989)

Lonely, I guess that’s where I’m from
If I was from Canada
Then I’d best be called lonesome
And if it’s just a game
Then I’ll break down just in case
Oh yeah, we’re runnin’ in our last race

Well, I laughed half the way to Tokyo
I dreamt I was Surfer Joe
And what that means, I don’t know

2. Alex Chilton
Album: Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

I never travel far
Without a little Big Star

1. Bastards of Young
Album: Tim (1985)

Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom
Elvis in the ground, there’ll ain’t no beer tonight
Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function
It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgotten

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
Now the daughters and the sons

Unwillingness to claim us, ya got no war to name us

The ones, love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones, love us least are the ones we’ll die to please
If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them

Bjørn Hammershaug