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…»

Reklamer

The Record Collection: 1988 (51-60)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time. Part 5.

Sonic Youth | Daydream Nation | Blast First 1988 |


Bought in late October 1988, when this was brand new I guess. I knew Sonic Youth a little bit from before, had been scared off by ‘Confusion is Sex’ and fell in love with ‘Sister’ earlier in the same year. But this is still my gateway album into a band I’ve never tired from. Sonic Youth will forever be one of my definitive favorite bands. ‘Daydream Nation’ was a mind blowing experience back then, and it’s just as good today, 30 years later, ranking as one of the true masterpieces of not only 1980s guitar rock, but as a beacon in American underground culture.

R.E.M. | Green | Warner 1988 |


Is ‘Green’, their major label debut, the last great album of R.E.M.? I don’t know, I’m well aware of the enormous success they were about to enjoy later on, but for me, this was actually the final album I bought and enjoyed from start to finish from a band that was tremendously important to me. “World Leader Pretend” will forever remain an eternal favorite, but the whole album is just gorgeous. A soundtrack to the indian summer of 1988.

Divine Horsemen | Devil’s River | New Rose 1986 |


A Lee & Nancy kinda dark cowpunk romance set in the LA gutter, based on equal love for punk rock and honky tonk; Divine Horsemen are one of the true alt.country pioneers – but arrived a bit too early to cash in on the thing. ‘Devil’s River’ is their finest moment, and it has aged well too. Chris D and Julie Christensen was a mighty fine unit back in those days. And hey, it’s engineered by Mr Brett over at Westbeach.

Black Flag | My War | SST 1984 |


How much damage did this album cause for a young innocent kid, unaware of the sludgy nightmare on the b-side? I was already a fan of early Black Flag, “Six Pack”, TV Party” and such stuff, but this was a whole other ballgame. Little did I know that ‘My War’ became the gateway album to my grunge phase, right around the corner. The Pettibon cover is brilliant, too.

Green On Red | Green On Red | Down There/Enigma 1982 |


The musical roots to this EP can be traced back to the 1960s and bands like the Seeds and Electric Prunes, infused with the nervous tension of the early 1980s. ‘Green On Red’ is a dense masterpiece from a band in its very infancy, a night road trip from the Arizona desert to the backstreets of Los Angeles, where our protagonists evolves from youthful naivists to dark-eyed realists. “I made a pact with the devil that night” snarls Dan Stuart, while Chris Cacavas clings on to a steady organ drone. This might be a prediction of greater albums to come, but Green On Red never captured this almost dreamlike state of past and present ever again. I love it.

Thin White Rope | Red Sun EP | Demon 1988 |

“Red Sun” is the one majestic centerpiece in a catalog full of them, and it’s still the perfect song for those sweltering 100 degrees summer evenings on the porch. The grinding cover version of “Some Velvet Morning” is also worth mentioning, those guitars stems from a whole other solar system. Such a great EP, such a great band.

The Long Ryders | 10-5-60 | Zippo 1987 |


Six wonderful tracks of paisley power, where ‘60s folk rock meets ‘80s garage revival. “Born To Believe In You” was my favorite back then, and it still is.

True West | Drifters | Zippo 1984 |


The combination of chiming guitars, rootsy sound and retro-friendly jangle pop sure is irresistible. True West did it better than most of their peers, and ‘Drifters’ is their masterpiece. Especially side 2, including some of their most memorable songs, “And Then the Rain”, “Morning Light” and others, is standout. ‘Drifters’ is a mighty fine album.

Lee Clayton | Naked Child | Capitol 1979/1983 |


Where the heck is Lee Clayton today??

Motörhead | Ace Of Spades | Bronze 1980 |


Everything is cool about this album. I believe I bought it – in the fall of 1988 – mostly because of the cover art – I mean, what’s not to dig about those three mighty grim lookin’ cowboys posing in the desert. But the songs are killer too, of course. Timeless on all levels.

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

Craig Brown Band: Detroit Country Rock City

Detroit is rightfully considered one of America’s great music cities, counting Motown, MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and The White Stripes among its notable exports. Now go ahead and add Craig Brown Band to Motor City’s roster. Their effortless and ragged mix of classic rock’n’roll, honky-skronk and garage rock follows a proud lineage, and Brown and his band have naturally found a home at Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Craig Brown is no newcomer to the scene, having played in various Motor City punk bands through the years, most notably the trashy electro-punk outfit Terrible Twos. But with Craig Brown Band he’s adding some country/folk twang into the blue-collar rock mix, described by the Detroit Metro-Times as “straightforward without being boring; as composed as it is relaxed; a touch of folk and heartland rock, just enough to remind us a little bit of Tom Petty here and a dash of Nashville Skyline-Dylan there…”– and we have to add for the record that Craig Brown Band also shares a similar raucous barroom feel to, say, The Replacements or Danny & Dusty.

Recorded by Warren Defever (Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Iggy & the Stooges) and loaded with classic songwriting and wry and humorous observations on fishing, baseball and drinking, their new album The Lucky Ones Forget is a one helluva debut. We had the opportunity to chat with Craig Brown about his new album.

***

Who is Craig Brown Band – can you please introduce yourself?

My band consists of Jeff Perry on drums. He is one of my oldest friends. We’ve been playing together since 6th grade. Eric Allen on rhythm guitars. He is a great front man and I’ve played guitar in his band throughout the years. He’s a great friend and player to have around. Andrew Hecker is on the bass. He’s the youngest member by a handful of years. Bass is in his blood. His dad is an incredible player as well. Andrew has all the talent in the world and is just as much a total knuckle head… I’ll leave that at that.

Lastly, I have been graced with The Drinkard Sisters. Bonnie and Caitlin Drinkard singing on backup harmonies. Being sisters they’ve been singing together their whole lives and it really shows in their almost effortless work ethic. They’re just great!

I’m Craig and I play all of the bendy guitars and just about everything else you hear on the record: all the acoustics, some harmonica, some organ, some percussion, bells, etc.

Congratulations with a great album. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thank you! Well… about that… You get an album that is basically mixed of some songs I’ve had for over 5 years, and some really new ones. It’s hard for me to label it myself in any sort of category. Some people say country. Some say just rock ‘n’ roll. I’m fine with either.

The record is a lot about relationships, insecurities, and basic wonder about past and future endeavors.

Can you share the story behind the album cover?

[Laughing] Sure, I guess. The album cover was just a shoot with my friend Zak and me in the middle of this field at this old school in Detroit. It was actually a shot for the gatefold in the inside. Which it still is. He wanted to try me hiding under it. So we kept that as the inside and that was supposed to be that.

We had a completely different idea originally for the cover. One day I was showing the fotos to my friend Dan Clark and he had the idea for the cover being just a zoomed in version of the inside. I liked it, Third Man loved it. And there you go.

What inspired you the most when you started writing the songs that ended up on The Lucky Ones Forget?

Girls.

What can you share about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?

We recorded with Warren Defever. He’s just fantastic! He’s brilliant and he has been doing it for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing and he’s also open to suggestions, which is usually a very hard combination to come by these days. We recorded it all as the four guys live. Then I came in and did all the extra little things and lead vocals. Then the Drinkard sisters came in and sang their parts with brief run-throughs before every one of their takes with me on a baby grand piano and us just singing. I wish there was some recordings of that actually.

The final sessions was just Warren and me mixing the record together. The record was mastered for vinyl down in Nashville. We recorded the album at Warren’s studio here in Detroit.

Did you have a clear idea or vision on how the album should be from the get-go, or did it develop along the way?

Yes I did. I did because I recorded over half of the record by myself in a little 4-track studio at my house throughout the years playing all the instruments. I never really dreamed I would land a band as good as mine and these were just songs I’d make and record sort of as a hobby. Basically, I knew what I wanted because I already did what I wanted. Just not with a totally pro sound.

What kind of feelings or sentiment do you wish leaving for the listener after hearing it?

Man… Hopefully a whirlwind of emotions. Or maybe just makes you hungry. I dunno…

Please describe a preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the album?

Driving, or loud as fuck in the other room while taking a shower I guess.

What’s the best debut album ever made and why?

Well, three really come to mind and I feel I can list all of them because they are all from different worlds:

Ready to Die by Biggie
It’s just my favorite rap album. It makes me feel cooler than I am when I listen to it. It really set the bar so much higher for rap and it all stopped being cute at that point forward. He was just so damn smart lyrically. He’s truly inspired me in being funny and dead serious at the same time.

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. by Dwight Yoakam
This album is just perfect sounding and written. Every aspect seems nothing of a debut. This guy and his band really had their shit together from the very start. Pete Anderson (fellow Detroiter) who produced and played lead guitar for Dwight’s band for years has really inspired me in playing country guitar. It’s just so fun to do once you “get it.”

Kill ‘em All by Metallica
It is just incredible from start to finish. It was such a life-changer for me growing up. So powerful! Also, I just can’t believe it’s the same band now. Wow!

Bjørn Hammershaug

Chuck Prophet: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

chuck_prophet_1200Chuck Prophet will forever be closely linked to his less than 10-year stint in the seminal Paisley Underground outfit Green On Red.

But despite his major contributions to the band, particularly on albums like Gas Food Lodging (1985) and The Killer Inside Me (1987), and his potentially career-defining role in shaping the alternative rock sound of the 1980s, Prophet has managed to maintain an eclectic and wholly worthwhile solo career since 1990.

Well established as a prominent singer, songwriter and genuine storyteller, Chuck Prophet draws from the rich well of Country and Folk as well as from Rock & Roll, putting out solo work on esteemed labels like Fire, Cooking Vinyl and Yep Roc, in addition to working with legendary artists like Lucinda Williams, Jonathan Richman, Alejandro Escovedo, Warren Zevon, Aimee Mann and more.

His solo catalog includes the critically-acclaimed Homemade Blood (1997), Age of Miracles (2004), ¡Let Freedom Ring! (2009) – a collection of political songs for non-political people – and his homage to his hometown of San Francisco, Temple Beautiful (2012). Out today, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins is a set in the style of California Noir, complete with songs about doomed love, inconsolable loneliness, rags to riches to rags again, and fast-paced, hard-boiled violence.

To celebrate his new album, we asked Chuck Prophet about 5 albums that changed his life.

*   *   *

clash_london_callingThe Clash
London Calling

Punk rock encouraged us all to pick up a guitar and form a band and lay it on the line in an effort to express ourselves. But for me, it was this record that showed us what was possible with punk rock. It’s all in there. The straight-up disco of “Train in Vain.” The Bo Diddley-goes-to-Jamaica of “Rudie Can’t Fail.” The rockabilly of “Brand New Cadillac.” This record, to this day, is a kind of gateway drug for the kind of records I aspire to make. It’s ultra-distilled. London Calling is The Clash’s 200-proof masterwork. The ultimate proof of anything.

kelley_stoltz_antiqueKelley Stoltz
Antique Glow

I love all of Kelley’s records, but Antique Glow was where I came in and it will always hold a soft spot in my heart. Although a Detroit transplant, Kelley is a San Francisco treasure. If you’re ever in San Francisco and you’re a record geek and like to talk shop, or you just want to chat up someone with a PhD in Echo and the Bunnymen and a master’s degree in obscure Brit-folk, visit Grooves Records in SF. You might be lucky enough to show up on a day where Maestro Stoltz is behind the counter.

big_star_thirdBig Star
Third (a.k.a. Sister Lovers)

There are records that I get smitten with and then there are those few records that I return to again and again. This is Alex Chilton’s abstract expressionist masterpiece and a record that’s never let me down. With Jody Stephens behind the kit, John Fry behind the board and Jim Dickinson very much in his corner, Big Star’s Third (aka Sister Lovers) is a triumph. They say that Alex was bitter by the time Sister Lovers came around. Whatever. Hell, I don’t hear it (the bitterness). I hear beauty. The performances are loose. Effortless. Wild and free and off the cuff. But there’s nothing half-assed or anything. It’s a mystery to me how it all comes together. And I love it. I love when Alex sings, “I first saw you, you had on blue jeans . . .” It’s poetry. From the heart, from the soul. Compositionally, this record, it’s actually quite sophisticated. And with Alex’s 3 A.M. first takes and the beautiful Carl Marsh strings, it’s really the perfect marriage of the street and the regal.

jjcale_naturallyJ.J. Cale
Naturally

There are those records that you can just turn people on to, ones you know will give pleasure. J.J. Cale’s Naturally was one record that we could all agree on in the Green on Red van. The songs are short. Very demo-y you might say. It’s a mystery that stays a mystery. It’s the best place to start with J.J. – at the beginning. Sure, he plays one hell of a slinky guitar and all that, and half the songs were covered by people who turned them into bona fide hit records (“Call Me the Breeze,” “After Midnight,” “Magnolia”), and he was a stone-cold cool cat, but what he really did with this record is show me how record making can be elevated to an art form. J.J.’s the OG sonic auteur. I don’t know how he made this. Maybe the trick is that J.J. engineered his own records. More likely, there’s no trick at all. Whatever . . . it’s a masterpiece. Check it out for yourself. The whole record is all of 30 minutes or so, what have you got to lose? His guitar and vocal are low in the mix. Lean in. It’s worth the lean.

lou_reed_new_yorkLou Reed
New York

Ah man, I’ve worn that record out. It’s part of my DNA now. And giving credit where credit is due, it has had a massive influence on my writing. With every new record I make, if I’m lucky, I’ll catch a kind of inspirational virus, and if it keeps me interested, I can follow it through. The virus usually starts with two or three songs that take me someplace I haven’t been. Temple Beautiful was my San Francisco record, one where we tapped into the history, weirdness, energy, and spontaneity that brought me to San Francisco in the first place. I would never put myself next to Lou, but in a way, Temple Beautiful was my New York.

Bjørn Hammershaug

Thin White Rope: The Band That Got Away

twr_1200The first you hear is an impenetrable wall of grinding, chainsaw-like guitars. Then there’s that steady, motoric pounding rhythm that never surrenders. And then this raspy gravel, a spooky baritone voice, like a raging fire and brimstone preacher, with hazy, slurred lyrics that wasp away like smoke.

Thin White Rope – a name taken from William Burroughs’ euphemism for ejaculation in Naked Lunch – formed around singer Guy Kyser and guitarist Roger Kunkel as its sole constants, along with a revolving cast of members to fill out the quartet being active between 1984-1992.

The group never really fit into the categories used to brand 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.

twr_axisTheir widescreen musical scope, borrowing equally from western and eastern influences, is perhaps best described by numerous artists they covered, including Lee Hazlewood (“Some Velvet Morning”), Can (“Yoo Doo Right”), Hawkwind (“Silver Machine”), Suicide (“Rocket U.S.A”) and The Byrds (“Everybody’s Been Burned”). 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. And despite enjoying a steady fanbase, especially in Europe, they sadly vanished from the common memory following their 1992 demise.

Diving into their album catalog once again is a reminder of how preposterously steady, strong and free of flaws their output was, which that has preserved incredibly well, save for some dated production techniques. 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 (Frontier Records, 1985), 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…”)

twr_moonheadBased 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.
With an uneven but promising album under their belt, they turned it all up a few notches on their somber, bleak masterpiece Moonhead (Frontier, 1987), allowing for more space, more tension, more power. Often completely drenched in feedback, but with glimpses of sunlight peeking through, Moonhead is one of the lost classics of the decade, it was 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.”

twr_spanish_caveIn the Spanish Cave (Frontier, 1988), probably their most well known album, is a tad brighter and even more varied than its predecessors. Ranging from almost joyous tunes (“Mr. Limpet”) to bulldozing guitar assaults (“It’s OK”), it features their most known song, the epic “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.”

In 1988, at the height of their powers, Thin White Rope even packed up their unique take on American mythology and toured the Soviet Union, experiencing the earliest days of the empire’s revolution through a 15-date long tour, and returned with an album largely written while on the road. Their criminally underrated album Sack Full of Silver (RCA, 1990) was their first and only major label effort. One of a more subtle approach, showing the band experimenting further with dynamic song structures, fully epitomized on songs like “The Napkin Song” and “On the Floe.”

twr_oneIn a fair world, Thin White Rope would be the real heroes. Instead they called it a day after perhaps the most complete effort in their career. The Ruby Sea turned out to be their swan song, described by AllMusic as ‘slowly shedding their more blatantly psychedelic influences and polishing their sound as a surreal and chilling rock band.’ Going out while being at the top of their game – with majestic songs like “Hunter’s Moon” and “Puppet Dog” – the band still had one ace up their sleeve.

As mentioned before, their studio offerings didn’t always mirror their audacious live shows. Fortunately they decided to tape their final 1992 gig in Ghent, Belgium, releasing the monumental The One That Got Away a year later. For a sense on how the band really sounded, this is highly recommended listening. (Play loud.)

But by then Thin White Rope had already vanished back into the dust. For almost 10 years they set the plough in the barren desert soil, finding only weeds underneath. No wonder then, that Guy Kyser returned to school and turned out to be a respected botanist. Working as a specialist for the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California, he’s still affected by the desert.

A scientist describing microscopic life forms, searching for weeds to blossom.

***

We talked to guitarist Roger Kunkel about being a part of this history.

Thin White Rope, ca 1988: Roger Kunkel, Guy Kyser, Jozef Becker, John Von Feldt
Thin White Rope, ca 1988: Roger Kunkel, Guy Kyser, Jozef Becker, John Von Feldt

* * *

Who growing up were your favorite musicians?

My father was a fan of popular country music. I remember listening to Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline on his reel-to-reel as a kid. He had a couple of Chet Atkins tapes that I fixated on. Later, my older brother started bringing home the usual suspects of late-’60s, early-’70s rock, including Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Creedence and The Doors. The Beatles made a big impression on me, but especially George Harrison because I was obsessed with guitar in general. By 17, someone gave me the Sex Pistols and first two Clash albums, and I was listening to the Ramones. I discovered the Davis college radio station KDVS, and I saw Iggy Pop. Everything changed.

twr_sackfulWho inspired your guitar sound the most?

Chet Atkins was a big one. I loved the rock players, but I’d also watch “Hee Haw” and other TV shows so I could see the country pickers like Roy Clark, James Burton, Les Paul and Glenn Campbell. I started taking guitar lessons at age 6, following the Mel Bay Method. I wasn’t a very good student, but I knew I’d play guitar for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I convinced my parents I needed an electric. I’d plug it into my dad’s tube reel-to-reel and get a nice fuzzy distortion sound.

I started learning Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi riffs. It took a while to discover the blues and early jazz players I now love because no one I knew was listening to that. Hearing Django Reinhardt for the first time really knocked me out and showed me that you need to dig a little deeper to find the really good stuff. Once I was in college in the early ’80s, I was hearing so much new music it was almost overwhelming. I was also backtracking and discovering all the great music I’d missed. The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, T-Rex, and the Stooges come to mind as influences.

With bands like Game Theory and True West around at the time, I guess Davis was a rather vital musical area. How will you describe the musical environment surrounding the birth of Thin White Rope?

There really was a scene fed by KDVS and the college entertainment council who were bringing in amazing acts to the small, on-campus coffee house venue. Iggy Pop, Gang of Four and the Police came through. Local bands were producing records and getting national attention. Meanwhile, lesser-known touring acts like the Meat Puppets and Camper Van Beethoven were playing at house parties. Sacramento, which is much bigger than Davis, had a thriving underground punk scene, but not much of a college rock, alternative, post punk, art rock, whatever kind of scene.

I was doing my best to learn what I could. I fell in with an interesting crowd of people. We had a great time. The good thing was that there really was no set accepted style of music. Almost anything was embraced as long as it was something original and heartfelt.

twr_ruby_seaDid you have a clear plan or idea from the beginning on what Thin White Rope should be when you first started out playing?

Guy had already been writing and singing with Joe Becker in a previous group called the Lazy Boys. They advertised at a local music shop for a guitar and bass player. That’s how I met them and our original bass player Kevin Staydohar. We worked on Guy’s songs. Guy and I had the general idea that a lead/rhythm guitar construct was kind of boring and that we would take a more orchestrated approach, having lots of intertwining lead lines.

Guy was already playing with a pretty heavy fuzz sound. He gave me an old Maestro Fuzz he wasn’t using. It didn’t produce the Big Muff sound, but I was able to find a big feedback sound with it. Guy went with a Marshall crunch and fuzz and I went with a Fender clean sound but we both had the ability to go into controlled feedback as well. Together this was great combination and the effect really came together on the Moonhead record.

You been called desert rock, linked to the Paisley Underground, compared to early Americana and what not. All in all you were thankfully hard to pigeonhole. How will you best describe the sound of Thin White Rope?

We were once described as a cross between Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath, and I like that. There was a purposeful desert aesthetic in Guy’s lyrics and album art and that’s because Guy did come from a small town in the Mojave called Ridgecrest. Some folks got the idea that the band lived in a desert, which Davis is not, although it gets damn hot in summer. It was impossible to shake the desert rock moniker so we generally ignored it.

I describe the band as noisy guitar rock with a blues and country influence. We had some influences that were common to bands of the day, like the Velvet Underground and ’60s garage bands. We also had some less common influences like Doc Boggs, Slim Harpo and Lee Hazelwood.

I’m interested in your tour in the USSR in 1988. Not many bands did this before you, I would think. How did that tour happen in the first place, and what was it like?

This was a surreal trip. We were working with an Italian booking agency that had a connection to the Ministry of Arts in Rome. They had some kind of sister city arts exchange program worked out and had had some Russian musicians come and perform in Italy. The reciprocal was to be Italian musicians visiting the USSR. We were inserted into the equation and flew to Moscow with two Italian bands.

It was December and incredibly cold. We played in Moscow at a fancy theater. It was shown on Soviet national television. We then travelled by train to Tbilisi, Georgia for four sold-out nights at the famous opera house. No one had a clue who we were, but we were an American rock band, so it didn’t matter. The 1988 Armenian earthquake hit. We drank green vodka and ruined a beautiful traditional dinner thrown for us by a local family with projectile vomiting – there is a long version of this story.

We flew to Lithuania and played two cities in basketball arenas and almost froze to death, arrived back in Rome later than expected and had no flights home. We found room on Pan Am 103 and made reservations but couldn’t find a connection from New York to San Francisco and cancelled our reservations last minute. Heard about the bombing at the airport the next day. Made it home alive, dazed and confused.

Thin White Rope have a remarkably strong album catalog. You established a rather unique sound from the beginning, but also pushed yourself into new sonic terrain all along. How will you describe the evolution of the band?

Naturally, we matured as musicians and became smoother, more capable guitar players. Guy’s voice developed into a bigger, more resonant instrument. Guy’s songwriting got more ambitious, more poetic. It was unfortunate that we had a revolving cast of bass and drum players. This affected the sound of the band in somewhat unpredictable ways, but ultimately our live performances got strikingly better. We went from a shaky and uneven live band to being known for our powerful shows.

You had a short stint with RCA. How was your experience working with a major label back then?

Not so good. The only RCA record was Sack Full of Silver. It sold less than our others as far as I know. It’s a common case when an indie band gets a major deal and the major doesn’t do any promotion. They’re just hoping the band’s fan base is growing so it’s time to snatch them up. In the ’80s –and maybe today, I don’t know – being on a major was bit of a scarlet letter. The indie distribution networks like Rough Trade wouldn’t touch it because it was the evil corporate BMI. So it didn’t last.

Looking back after all these years, where do you consider Thin White Rope’s place in music history? What are you most proud of during your existence?

I believe we’ve achieved the title of most famously un-famous band or something like that. ‘Criminally ignored’ was one we heard that had us laughing. I do think we were an influence on a lot of bands. I’m very proud of the live CD and I’m so glad it got made because it almost didn’t. I had to talk Guy into doing the final tour. The recording captures the band at its peak in its most intense and raw state, ploughing through most of our catalog. I can listen to it and remember exactly how that felt.

twr_bottomWhat’s your favorite Thin White Rope album?

Moonhead has to be the quintessential TWR record. The first album Exploring the Axis was very frustrating. Even though it turned into something interesting, it didn’t feel natural. With Moonhead we had found our sound. Next to that, I think our covers which are mostly on the Red Sun and Bottom Feeders EPs are my favorite recordings.

Why did you call it a day?

The band had been together for 10 years. There were some personal frictions; not too bad, but not helpful. There was the belief that the music business is a corrupt and unfair place to be. It seemed that you could be the best band in the world and still not make a living. We were getting more popular in Europe, but not in the States. It was time to enter a new phase of life. And the biggest reason was that Guy quit.

Are you guys currently in touch?

Guy and I actually played together for a couple years in a bluegrass band. He’d gotten into banjo and I was playing mandolin. Unfortunately, this fell apart when the guitar player moved back east. Matt Abouresk lives in Connecticut, so we just say hello on Facebook. Stoo has moved back to New Orleans. Joe Becker lives in San Francisco and I’d love to see more of him. Steve Tesluk is a veterinarian in Ashland, OR.

Any chances to see the band ever come back again?

Seems that Guy does not feel he wants to do this. I don’t want to put words in his mouth about it, but I think he simply feels he is a different person now.

Thin White Rope, ca. 1990: Roger Kunkel, John Von Feldt, Matthew Abourezk, Guy Kyser
Thin White Rope, ca. 1990: Roger Kunkel, John Von Feldt, Matthew Abourezk, Guy Kyser

Bjørn Hammershaug
September 21, 2016

1980-tallet: 200 Favorittalbum

80s_albums_final_1200
Denne lista over de 200 beste albumene fra 1980-tallet er ikke satt sammen av et panel med eksperter som har kåret en objektiv og endelig avgjørelse (som om det skulle være mulig). Dette er en liste over mine favoritter. De fleste ble oppdaget på 80-tallet, spesielt etter 1986, og står dermed selvsagt ekstra sterkt i internminnet. Andre har blitt ervervet og verdsatt i ettertid, og bidrar (heldigvis) til at sjangerbredden er noe variert og at tilsiget er konstant økende.

Et kjapt blikk på de 200 avslører at amerikansk gitarrock stod – og står – høyere i kurs enn, la oss si britisk synthpop. Ei heller er sjangre som hardrock og hip hop overrepresentert for å si det forsiktig – og mange av tiårets storselgere innen pop og rock gikk under denne radaren da, og har blitt liggende senere. Men noe skal man også ha til gode. Dette er min liste pr nå, og den er på langt nær hugget i stein. Tvert i mot, jeg gleder meg til å flikke på den, og bytte ut med nye favoritter ettersom de kommer min vei. Dette er uansett alle vinnere.

Utvalget er begrenset til to album pr. artist, så her er det mange darlings som er killed. Albumene er satt opp i rekkefølge, men etter de 20-30 første må det sies at den eksakte plasseringen er noe lemfeldig organisert. Uansett, skal du først ha med deg 200 80-tallsskiver på en øde øy ville jeg startet omtrent her.

doolittle1-10:
Pixies: Doolittle (1989)
Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988)
Dinosaur Jr.: You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
Nirvana: Bleach (1989)
The Replacements: Let It Be (1984)
R.E.M: Murmur (1983)
Violent Femmes: s/t (1983)
Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988)
Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Giant Sand: Valley of Rain (1985)

miami11-20:
Gun Club: Miami (1982)
The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (1980)
The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses (1982)
Hüsker Dü: Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)
Wipers: Youth of America (1981)
Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician (1987)
Thin White Rope: Moonhead (1987)
Green on Red: Gravity Talks (1983)
Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

reckoning21-30:
R.E.M: Reckoning (1984)
Mudhoney: Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)
deLillos: Suser avgårde (1986)
Meat Puppets: II (1983)
Sonic Youth: Sister (1987)
Dinosaur Jr.: Bug (1988)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Tender Prey (1988)
The Smiths: The Queen is Dead (1986)
Nomeansno: Wrong (1989)
Hüsker Dü: New Day Rising (1985)

freshfruit31-40:
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)
Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois: Apollo – Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983)
Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
Black Flag: Damaged (1981)
Giant Sand: The Love Songs (1988)
Slayer: Reign in Blood (1986)
David Bowie: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
Jokke & Valentinerne: Et hundeliv (1987)
Joy Division: Closer (1980)
Julee Cruise: Floating Into the Night (1989)

fugazi41-50:
Fugazi: s/t EP (1988)
The Replacements: Tim (1985)
The Stone Roses: s/t (1989)
Raga Rockers: Maskiner i Nirvana (1984)
The Rain Parade: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1984)
Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (1985)
Jane’s Addiction: Nothing’s Shocking (1988)
Green on Red: Gas Food Lodging (1985)
N.W.A: Straight Outta Compton (1988)
Killdozer: Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite (1984)

songsabout51-60:
deLillos: Hjernen er alene (1989)
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (1988)
Godflesh: Streetcleaner (1989)
Arthur Russell: World of Echo (1986)
Naked City: Torture Garden (1989)
Descendents: Milo Goes to College (1982)
Cosmic Psychos: Go the Hack (1989)
Tad: God’s Balls (1988)
Big Black: Songs About Fucking (1987)
Swans: Children of God (1987)

brownreason61-70:
Butthole Surfers: A Brown Reason to Live (1983)
The Dream Syndicate: Live at Raji’s (1989)
Thin White Rope: In the Spanish Cave (1988)
The Cramps: Psychedelic Jungle (1981)
The Pogues: If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)
Barracudas: Drop Out With the Barracudas (1982)
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers: It’s Time For… (1986)
Bad Brains: s/t (1982)
The Fall: This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)
Sunnyboys: s/t (1981)

suffer71-80:
Bad Religion: Suffer (1988)
The Soft Boys: Underwater Moonlight (1980)
Faith No More: The Real Thing (1989)
Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (1982)
American Music Club: California (1988)
Metallica: Master of Puppets (1986)
Napalm Death: Scum (1987)
The Waterboys: This is the Sea (1985)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Kicking Against the Pricks (1986)
Hasil Adkins: He Said (1985)

ultramega81-90:
Soundgarden: Ultramega OK (1988)
Lounge Lizards: s/t (1981)
Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Sessions (1987)
Rapeman: Two Nuns and a Pack Mule (1989)
Orchestra Baobab: Pirates Choice – the 1982 Sessions (1989)
Massacre: Killing Time (1981)
Michael Jackson: Thriller (1982)
Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
King Sunny Ade: Juju Music (1982)
Knutsen & Ludvigsen: Juba Juba (1983)

junkyard91-100:
The Birthday Party: Junkyard (1982)
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy (1985)
XTC: English Settlement (1982)
Prince: Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)
Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones (1983)
The The: Infected (1986)
Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden (1988)
dePress: Block to Block (1981)
Brian Eno & David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)
Motörhead: Ace of Spades (1980)

***

graceland101-110:
My Bloody Valentine: Isn’t Anything (1988)
The Pogues: Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (1985)
This Heat: Deceit (1981)
Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)
Richard & Linda Thompson: Shoot Out the Lights (1982)
Dire Straits: Making Movies (1980)
The Go-Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth (1980)
Echo & The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain (1984)
Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (1985)

nightfly111-120:
The Cure: Pornography (1982)
The Wipers: Over the Edge (1983)
Neil Young: Freedom (1989)
Dumptruck: for the Country (1987)
The Jesus Lizard: Pure (1989)
The Gun Club: Fire of Love (1981)
Donald Fagen: The Nightfly (1982)
Elvis Costello/The Costello Show: King of America (1986)
Lou Reed: New York (1989)
Dexy’s Midnight Runners: Searching For the Young Soul Rebels (1980)

lost_weekend121-130:
Scratch Acid: Berserker EP (1987)
Pylon: Chomp (1983)
David Sylvian: Secrets of the Beehive (1987)
Anthrax: Among the Living (1987)
Scientists: Weird Love (1986)
AC/DC: Back in Black (1980)
Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (1984)
Orange Juice: You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (1982)
Flipper: Album – Generic Flipper (1982)
Danny & Dusty: The Lost Weekend (1985)

donut_comes_alive131-140:
Mission of Burma: vs (1982)
Iron Maiden: Number of the Beast (1982)
Slint: Tweez (1989)
Roky Erickson: The Evil One (1980)
Alice Donut: Donut Comes Alive (1988)
Died Pretty: Free Dirt (1986)
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy: Rock-It to Stardom (1984)
U2: War (1983)
Killing Joke: s/t (1980)
Circle Jerks: Group Sex (1980)

houndsoflove141-150:
Saccharine Trust: Paganicons (1981)
Squeeze: Argybargy (1980)
Radka Toneff: Fairytales (1982)
Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985)
Fang: Landshark (1982)
Steve Earle: Guitar Town (1986)
Moving Targets: Burning in Water (1986)
The Long Ryders: Native Sons (1984)
Swell Maps: Jane From Occupied Europe (1980)
Tears For Fears: Songs From the Big Chair (1985)

oceanrain151-160:
The Triffids: Born Sandy Devotional (1986)
Motor Boys Motor: s/t (1982)
Living Colour: Vivid (1988)
P.I.L: Metal Box (1980)
X: Los Angeles (1980)
The db’s: Stands For Decibels (1987)
Hoodoo Gurus: Stoneage Romeos (1984)
Agent Orange: Living in Darkness (1981)
The Psychedelic Furs: s/t (1980)
Eyeless in Gaza: Red Rust September (1983)

repareres_jokke161-170:
ESG: Come Away With ESG (1983)
RUN DMC: Raising Hell (1986)
Galaxie 500: On Fire (1989)
True West: Drifters (1984)
Minutemen: What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1982)
Jokke & Valentinerne: Alt kan repareres (1986)
Black Flag: My War (1984)
Minor Threat: Out of Step (1983)
Divine Horsemen: Devil’s River (1986)
Naked Prey: 40 Miles From Nowhere (1987)

rotorvator171-180:
The Feelies: Only Life (1988)
Stan Ridgeway: The Big Heat (1985)
Green River: Rehab Doll (1988)
Coil: Horse Rotorvator (1986)
D.O.A: War on 45 (1982)
Dead Kennedys: Frankenchrist (1985)
David Lynch: Eraserhead (1982)
The Cramps: Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)
Wall of Voodoo: Call of the West (1982)
The Beasts of Bourbon: Sour Mash (1988)

paganplace181-190:
The Waterboys: A Pagan Place (1984)
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill (1986)
Dead Moon: In the Graveyard (1988)
The Pretenders: s/t (1980)
Los Lobos: How Will the Wolf Survive (1984)
Suicidal Tendencies: s/t (1983)
Camper Van Beethoven: Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985)
Violent Femmes: Hallowed Ground (1984)
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions: Rattlesnakes (1984)
The Rainmakers: s/t (1986)

deadcops191-200:
Rockpile: Seconds of Pleasure (1980)
The Crucifucks: s/t (1984)
Glenn Branca: The Ascension (1981)
M.D.C: Millions of Dead Cops (1982)
Dumptruck: for the Country (1987)
The New Christs: Distemper (1989)
Bitch Magnet: Umber (1989)
Oxbow: Fuck Fest (1989)
Lard: The Power of Lard (1989)
Alphaville: Forever Young (1984)

Bjørn Hammershaug

Green On Red: L.A Noir

Da jeg ble oppmerksom på den nye amerikanske rocken på midten av 80-tallet var det som å bli slengt inn i et parallellunivers som det viste seg å være vanskelig å komme ut av. Etiketter som Zippo, Enigma og Frontier, og artister som Giant Sand, The Dream Syndicate og Thin White Rope ble dyrket. Noen av de mange artistene som åpenbarte seg ble senere berømte (REM), noen lever fremdeles i beste velgående (Giant Sand), enkelte var kortvarige gleder (Naked Prey, The Long Ryders), mens atter andre raskt vendte tilbake til glemselens daler (Rave-Ups, Dump Truck, Rank And File).

Green On Red startet opp som punkbandet The Serfers hjemme i Tucson på slutten av 1970-tallet, men endret navn og flyttet tidlig i karrieren til Los Angeles. De fant sin plass i Paisley Underground-scenen, sammen med blant andre The Bangles, True West, The Rain Parade og The Dream Syndicate. Det betyr countryrock, psykedelia, ringende gitarer, storby og ørken i skjønn forening, der hele dere katalog fram til 1987 står som hjørnesteiner i en rik periode av amerikansk gitarrock. Deres beste album, Gravity Talks, får behandles ved en senere anledning.

Les mer:
The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles’s 1980s psychedelic explosion (The Guardian)

Green On Red: s/t (Down There, 1982)
Green On Reds første utgivelse på Steve Wynns Down There Records føyer seg inn blant etikettens stilige EP-debutanter. Dere med god husk minnes sikkert Naked Preys oransje, Dream Syndicates grønne og Green On Reds røde. Den er merkbart spinklere i lyden enn deres senere produksjoner, men forsterket av de samme psykedeliske overtonene og den angstfulle nevrosen som dels kjennetegnet bandet fram til 1987.

Gitarene ligger gjemt bak Chris Cacavas’ alltid tilstedeværende tangenter, og man hører deres new wave/punk innflytelser plassert langt fram i lydbildet. Uferdige og vinglete øyeblikk til tross, fyrverkeriene ”Aspirin”, ”Apartment 6” og ”Black Night” bidrar til at Green On Reds debut står som et av deres mest markante utgivelser, med preg av både skranglepop og surfrock som de egentlig aldri spant skikkelig videre på. Jeg synes bloggen Detailed Twang beskriver stemningen best: ’A cool trip through a flickering, late-night Los Angeles where speed is plentiful and troubles come in bunches.’ Slik blir det bra musikk av.

Gas Food Lodging (Enigma, 1985)
Fra bakgater til landeveien: Det er en stund siden jeg har hørt Gas Food Lodging i sin helhet, men den har holdt seg overraskende bra. Selve låtene er jo av tidløs karakter, og lydbildet er fortsatt slitesterkt. Dream Syndicate-gitarist Paul B. Cutler var hentet inn som produsent, og med ham på laget framstod Green On Red med mindre psykedelisk garasjepreg, og som noe røffere i kantene enn på sine foregående utgivelser. De skjærende gitarene som også preget tidlig Syndicate ble mer markante, og den æren må nok tilfalle nytilsatte Chuck Prophet IV. Chis Cacavas’ el.piano ble erstattet med en fyldigere orgellyd, Dan Stuart skrev noen av sine beste låter og hele kvintetten virket rett og slett i solid form. Bare et par år senere falt jo bandet fra hverandre i en salig blanding av pills & booze & rock’n’roll.

’It seems that no one has any faith anymore, but isn’t that what we invented heroes for…’ Slik åpner platen med ”That’s What Dreams” som en leksjon i realistisk booze’n’roll: ’Guess I’ll just be poor the rest of my life, but that’s better than giving up the fight…’ Sammen med den rufsete dagen-derpå slageren ”Hair Of The Dog” og honky-tonken ”Black River” understreker Green On Red et bemerkelsesverdig sterk debutalbum.

Det er likevel side 2 på Gas Food Lodging som er bandets magnum opus. ”Easy Way Out”, ”Sixteen Ways”, ”The Drifter” og ”Sea Of Cortez” er alle sentrale låter innen skitten amerikansk hverdagsrealisme. De fortjener å bli spilt sammenhengende, helt til versjonen av protestklassikeren ”We Shall Overcome” bringer oss tilbake rundt leirbålet, etter en tunge ferd fra Seattle til Mexicogulfen. Her viser Green On Red sin tilhørighet, og de bør med rette plasseres et sted mellom Velvet og Creedence, Neil Young og Johnny Thunders, Hank og Stones. Dan Stuarts predikerende klagesang bærer fortellerstemmen om drapsmenn, sosial urettferdighet, fyll og elendighet. Sinte, troverdige og mørke historier fra USAs bakgater rulles frem med en fandenivoldsk energi og en seig knurring med jordnære røtter. Det er fra slike frø det vokser klassisk rock.

The Killer Inside Me (Mercury, 1987)
USA, 1987: Reagan-perioden drar seg mot slutten, økonomien er relativt svak, kriminaliteten og arbeidsledigheten høy, klasseskillet økende. Dette er den politiske og sosiale virkeligheten som vibrerer bak Green On Reds mørke odysse The Killer Inside Me.

Stemningen illustreres på omslaget. Bilkøen som slurer avgårde mot kveldsmørket, mens solen sukker langsomt farvel over neonglorien langs motorveien. Tittelen er hentet fra Jim Thompsons kritikerroste krimklassiker ved samme navn, om den paranoide og schizofrene politimannen Lou Ford. Han er en tilsynelatende sympatisk fyr som beskyttet av sitt presentable ytre begår en rekke ugjerninger. Boken er skrevet i første person, slik at leseren kommer tett under huden på drapsmannen. The Killer Inside Me anno 1987 er også en under-huden historie om drapsmenn, helter og andre skikkelser fra den amerikanske hverdagen.

Green On Red er rufsete og rå i formen, med Dan Stuarts piskende stemme i rollen som samfunnets anklager og småkårsfolkets forsvarer. Chris Cacavas, Chuck Prophet og Jack Waterson har blitt en tight gjeng, og rocker langt hardere enn det Green On Red tidligere hadde vist på plate. Her kommer det fra, både røttene til Neil Young & Crazy Horse på midten av 70-tallet iblandet en dose Exile On Maine Street. med rølperocken til The Replacements. Produsent Jim Dickinson sjonglerer lyden av rock, country og gospel og unngikk stort sett å skru den flate 80-tallssoundet som har ødelagt så mange fine utgivelser fra denne tiden.

Vi beveger oss inn i Clarkesville ’where the rich get richer and the poor get less’ og småbyen som symbol på vrangsiden av den amerikanske drømmen. Sosial kritikk er et tema som er gjennomgående for hele albumet. Her handler det om ’cheap labour’, om å bli hengt ’for the color of your skin or for the church you go in’. Det handler om å være ’a pilgrim in a no man’s land’ og om mannen som ’painted flagpoles for a living’. Det handler om rotløshet, der Mexico er eneste utvei. Det tyktflytende tittelsporet er en mektig avslutter. Etter en tung rundreise på det amerikanske kontinentet er vi tilbake i Clarkesville. Bare håpløsheten og oppgittheten er tilbake, og illusjonene er fraværende. ’There’s a light in your eyes that always finds the darkness in my soul.’

’I haven’t been sober lately’ tilstår Dan Stuart på et sted her, og ble sørgelig nok heller ikke edru på noen år etter sitt katarsis. Bandet ble spådd en lysende karriere etter Gas Food Lodging (1985), men The Killer Inside Me floppet for et større publikum. Medlemmene gikk også hvert til sitt, selv om navnet fortsatt bestod i en noen år. Dette er for meg deres virkelige svanesang. Solen stod aldri helt opp igjen for Green On Red.

Bjørn Hammershaug