The Record Collection: 1988 (20-30)

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

The Dream Syndicate | The Days Of Wine And Roses | Closer 1982 |


I vividly remember buying this LP – the French pressing – on my first ever record fair, early in 1988. I was well aware of The Dream Syndicate at the time, going back to Out of the Grey that I’d bought on cassette a couple years before. I adore all of Syndicate’s albums, but I always find myself returning to this here baby. The Days Of Wine and Roses must’ve been an anomaly in 1982, way ahead and out of tune with the sign of the times it marks the return of GUITARS in American rock. This is a tour de force of loud, noisy, abrasive, distorted, tickling guitars, cool Velvet vibes and an almost free jazzy approach to the songs. They are all awesome, from creepy beasts like “Halloween” (oh, when those guitars kick in) and “When You Smile” to full force freak outs (the kosmisch title track, “Definitely Clean”) and instant college rock anthems (“Tell Me When It’s Over”). In short, this is a cornerstone in 80’s American guitar rock that set a standard hardly anyone has managed to achieve ever after. Stories and words are here and gone, but this album hasn’t faded at all.

Wall of Voodoo | The Ugly Americans In Australia | I.R.S. 1988 |


I’d been drawn to the stoic super-American voice of Stan Ridgeway for some years when the Wall Of Voodoo live album hit the shelves in 1988. I guess it felt like a quite unnecessary purchase back then, I haven’t given it too many spins, and this live LP doesn’t really reveal new magic 30 years down the road. But, there are some great explorations of sci-fi new wave gone country here, horseback space travel style. “Far Side Of Crazy” and “Mexican Radio” are obvious favorites, and the version of “Ring Of Fire” is pretty dope. Never saw them live, but I believe this LP captures the band in prime shape – and the sound quality is not too bad either. However, when I feel like listening to WoV I rather pick up one of their awesome studio albums. Think I’ll do just that right now.

The Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Bollocks | Virgin 1977 |


One of remarkably few albums in my LP collection bought on its historical merits rather than being new and fresh. As a matter of fact Never Mind the Bollocks was only 10 years old then, comparable to buying a 2008 album today, but back in those days this was an old school dinosaur from a whole other time. Never a huge fan of British punk in general, and finding Johnny Rotten’s voice mostly annoying, I have to acknowledge the band’s unquestionable qualities and their nose for efficient songwriting. No fillers here, just pure punk catchy as hell. No need to go in depth on its historical significance, just one of those albums you need to know I guess. Glad I turned on as a kid, even though I rarely listen to it.

Giant Sand | Storm | Demon 1988 |

Storm was my introduction to the wondrous world of Howe Gelb and his Giant Sand, and what has now turned out to be a 30 year long relationship. Giant Sand have always been all over the map, difficult to pigeonhole, unmistakable unpredictable and remarkably recognizable. I’m so thankful for stumbling down their desert rabbit hole, and it all started with Storm. It obviously holds a special place in my heart. The songs range from Neil Young style environmental concern, a cover of The Band’s “The Weight”, straight out honky tonk, ragged country rock (“Town Without Pity”), country gospel (“The Replacement”) and dusty piano ballads (my personal fave “Was Is a Big Word”) – on Storm Howe Gelb started to shape a signature style of songwriting unmatched by anyone.

Hasil Adkins | He Said | Ace/Big Beat 1985|


Wild, wayward and hell-bent, the one man band of Hasil Adkins exploded like a bomb in the ears of this here kid, proving rock n’ roll was something wilder and primitive, more untamed and way out there than your parents Elvis albums. This is the raw sound of a one man rebellion against conformity and boredom. “She Said” being the classic tune here, I also tuned into the even more awkward and freaky “We Got a Date.” They just don’t make em like Hasil anymore.

Rave-Ups | Town + Country | Fun Stuff/Demon 1985 |


Americana was not a frequently used term in 1985, but plenty of bands played boots ‘n roll before Uncle Tupelo et al pushed the direction further into the mainstream and new directions. Among those pioneering acts in the early to mid 80s we find Hollywood via Pittsburgh quartet Rave-Ups, sparkling with equal parts pleasant college rock fervor and neo-country twang – town and country if you like. Frontman Jimmer Podrasky sang with nasal country sincerity, sometimes with a rockabilly yelp, and Sneaky Pete Kleinow lays down some mighty fine pedal steel here too. “Radio” was the big favorite back then, and this haunting night tune is still the highlight amongst a number of other fine cuts – “Positively Lost Me” being the most famous. The back cover reminds us of a time when urban cowboys actually were pretty in pink.

AC/DC | Back in Black | Atlantic 1980 |


My record collection is scarcely populated with hard rock or metal albums, but the ones I bought are actually not too bad. Back in Black is by all means a classic, the title track, “Hells Bells” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” are eternal anthems in the Aussie rockers – or anyone’s – catalog. Tight production provided by Mutt Lang and Brian Johnson passed the test and immediately proved he could fill the shoes of Bon Scott adds even more power to this album. But I can’t say I ever played this a whole lot in 1988 and I haven’t listened to it too much as the years went by either. My loss, I guess.

Violent Femmes | Violent Femmes | Slash/London 1983 |


A little girl glances through a darkened window, barefoot and with a white summer dress on, resembling a 19th century painting. What’s in there, in the dark, that we don’t see? The innocent child catches a glimpse into the adult world, as confessed by a college kid, a world of deception and debauchery, religious shame and sexual confusion, love, lies and lust. Many have done this before and after, but none as compelling as Gordon Gano and his Violent Femmes on their debut album. The Milwaukee trio played punk rock with folk instruments, or folk songs with a punk attitude perhaps, singing their hearts out from any street corner. One thing is that the songs are super catchy, the lyrics really makes this a standout album. I memorized each and every one, these stories all became the soundtrack to my youth. Every time I listen to this album I’m 16 again, kissing off in the air, chasing that good feeling, trying to wipe away the shades from those windows and get a glimpse of the secrets in there.

Concrete Blonde | Concrete Blonde | I.R.S. 1986 |


“Still in Hollywood” was the big favorite back in the days, and it’s still the standout track from Concrete Blonde’s debut album. Hailing from the same buzzing LA scene that included bands like Wall Of Voodoo, X, Jane’s Addiction and The Gun Club, the blondes certainly had a punk edge to their sound, softened with a rock approach in the vein of The Pretenders and Heart. Johnette Napolitano is unquestionably the star, with her recognizable strong voice and cool attitude. Concrete Blonde made better albums later on in their career, but I still get a kick out of this one. It’s true.

Iron Maiden | Live After Death | EMI 1985 |


Superior technical skills, theatrical gimmicks, and over the top performance are just some of Iron Maiden’s characteristics – and they all come out to play on their 1985 live album. The Churchill intro followed by “Aces High” sets the standard for an album that leaves no room for any fillers. Live After Death captures the band in its prime. Classic cover art too, as always. Can’t wait for the kids to discover this, cause after all, Iron Maiden speaks to the inner child in all of us.

Reklamer

15 Ways to Nirvana: Albums That Shaped the Band

black_flag_warNirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was 27 years old when he ended his life in his Seattle home on April 5, 1994 – leaving this earth perhaps the most iconic cultural figure of his time. As Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross emphasized, ‘He isn’t the last star in rock ’n’ roll, but he is the last true Rock Star that we’ve had to date who earned Icon status. He existed in a period that is now lost to history, when a rock artist could be played on all formats of radio, when rock was the dominant musical form.’

The tragic story of Nirvana’s rise and fall, and grunge’s parallel emergence from underground cult to worldwide phenomenon, have been duly told and retold over the years. This article instead looks closely at the musical building blocks that set the foundation for Nirvana, illuminated by 15 selected albums, in an attempt to grasp the essence of their subsequent sound – and thus get a little closer to explaining their unlikely success.

As Cobain himself said, ‘I think we sound like The Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.’ An assessment not without accuracy or charm.

Nirvana leaned against the obvious persuasions of hardcore and hard rock, but this was interspersed with a broad and more commercially friendly side that appealed far beyond the inner clique. Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman put it this way, ‘Part of what was so captivating about Nirvana’s music was not so much its stunning originality, but its remarkable fusion of so many different strands of influence.’

Kurt Cobain was very open to the music he liked and took inspiration from, and shared passing lists of Nirvana’s favorite bands, albums, and songs. Such was the case in this famous paper in which Kurt scribbled down Nirvana’s Top 50 favorite albums – a list that has led many fans to increase the volume of the album collection.

Top-50-by-Nirvana

These were not necessarily Cobain’s favorites, but rather 15 bands and albums that are co-responsible for laying the musical groundwork for Nirvana – and by extension, for the development of the alternative rock into the ’90s.

* * *

black_sabbath_bsBlack Sabbath:
Black Sabbath (1970)
Black Sabbath were the foundation for what would become heavy metal, and, naturally enough, their debut album is one of rock’s dark mastodons. The rainy intro opens the gates to a post-industrial wasteland in 1970 Birmingham, with a resonance that carried itself to the ears of a couple of boy ears on the west coast 10-15 years later.

Black Sabbath‘s leaden sound spawned many bastard children over the years, not least of which includes Nirvana’s debut album. Bleach plods though the same muddy tracks – which would help define grunge in the late 1980s.

 

 

 

iggy_raw_powerIggy & The Stooges:
Raw Power (1973)
Iggy Pop was one of Cobain’s role models, with similarities in both music and attitude. Iggy was a demon on the stage, writhing on the floor, rolling around in broken glass; he was as an out of control force of ‘raw power’, destructive drug use and uncontainable energy. Cobain absorbed this persona into Nirvana, not least in their early gigs where anarchy and chaos were prevailing forces. Musically, of course, proto-punk machinery from Detroit also had an obvious effect on Nirvana. The Stooges – and Raw Power especially – are punk rock required reading.

 

 

 

kiss_destroyerKiss:
Destroyer (1976)
There’s an obvious superficial distance between the cynical, flannel-clad Seattle rockers’, and pyrotechnically-aided arena rock of four men dressed like superheroes. Yet Kiss was an integral part of growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, and they offered a sense of escapism to the misfit youth of the time. Like it or not, Nirvana has roots elementary school scribbles of Starchild. They recorded a cover of ”Do You Love Me” off of Destroyer, which also includes “Detroit Rock City” – later paraphrased as “Sub Pop Rock City” by Soundgarden. And as fate would have it, on a December’s day in 2013, Kiss and Nirvana were both inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

SEX PISTOLS_NEVERMINDSex Pistols:
Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)
With their first and only album, Sex Pistols sent shock waves into the establishment, catapulting punk into a mass movement that shaped culture and opened up opportunities for a new generation of artists in its wake – a similar effect to what Nirvana would repeat 15 years later. Could it be a coincidence that Nevermind and Never Mind the Bollocks… made their greatest mark not by shaping musical trends but in shaking the music industry and the cultural establishment? Both mark the boiling over point of an underground phenomenon – the beginning of a new era where the boundaries between alternative and mainstream became more porous. A game-changing work of its time and a killer plate of punk rock to boot.

 

 

cheap_trickCheap Trick:
Cheap Trick (1977)
‘I’ll be the first to admit that we’re the ’90s version of Cheap Trick or the Knack’ stated Kurt Cobain in his liner notes for the compilation album Incesticide. Cheap Trick had a penchant for British pop invasion (think The Kinks) which they used as the foundation for their fusion of power pop and hard rock, with a dash of punk. Their eponymous debut is chopped a bit rougher than their later more radio friendly sound. If you’re wondering whether Cobain was referencing the same Knack that produced the one hit wonder, “My Sharona”, you’d be right. In the Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven Kurt meets up with a friend in 1988: ‘There’s this great record that I’ve discovered that you HAVE to hear. Kurt pulled out Get the Knack. Romero thought Kurt was being sarcastic, and inquired, ‘Are you serious?’ ‘You’ve got to listen to this – it’s an awesome pop album,’ was Kurt’s deadpan reply.’

 

neil_young_rust_never_sleepsNeil Young & Crazy Horse:
Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
‘It’s better to burn out than fade away.’ The stanza, taken from Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”, is the penultimate line of Kurt Cobain’s suicide not. Young would dedicate the entirety of his 1994 album Sleeps With Angels to Cobain. Like Iggy Pop, Young had been trying to contact Cobain shortly before he died. In Young’s autobiography, he writes: “I, coincidentally, had been trying two reach him through our offices to tell him That I thought he was great and he should do exactly what he thought he should do and fuck everybody else…” Neil Young was early to popularize the flannel shirt as the preferred rock uniform. The echo of his thundering guitar rang deep into the forests the northwest, earning him the title, ‘Grandfather Of Grunge.’

 

 

young_marble_giants_youthYoung Marble Giants:
Colossal Youth (1980)
Minimalist and magical: Young Marble Giants’ first album from 1980 is a something of a forgotten masterpiece, and it has its natural place here as a representative of the British post-punk that Cobain felt most at home in. Far from the angry, snot-nosed punk image his stage persona let on, Cobain shared much of their introversion, as well as their self-destructiveness. Together with their Scottish counterparts, The Vaselines, these Welsh were among Cobain’s most relatable artists. In an interview with MTV Brazil in 1993 Kurt Cobain underlines that he was ‘heavily influenced by them’ – less in sound than in terms of ‘their emotions, the feeling, the sincerity and their fantastic songwriting.’

 

 

 

flipper_genrericFlipper:
Album – Generic Flipper (1982)
Kurt Cobain could make a band cool by simply muttering their name in passing – as he did The Vaselines – or by sporting a concert T-shirt in public – as he did with his well-worn Flipper shirt. And glory to him for that – if there’s a band that deserves to be lifted out of obscurity, it’s Flipper. The San Francisco band’s epic debut from 1982 check’s every box in the rock handbook: rule breaking, destructive, infantile and reckless. Flipper slowly cranked their songs through a meat grinder, without fully knowing what would come out the other side. En route, they stumbled upon such punk anthems as “Sex Bomb” while blazing a magnificent trail to madness.

 

 

 

black_flag_my_warBlack Flag:
My War (1984)
As pioneers of American underground rock into the ’80s, and originators of the California hardcore sound, Black Flag is obvious primary school curriculum for Nirvana. On their later album, My War, the band took punk into a slower, heavier and more militant territory. This had a clear effect on bands like Melvins and Nirvana. Black Flag frontman Greg Ginn started the SST label in 1978, which went on to become one of the most important publishers of the ’80s – and a role model for Sub Pop’s rise some years later.

 

 

 

husker_du_new_dayHüsker Dü:
New Day Rising (1985)
New Day Rising marks an important transition for the power trio of Hüsker Dü. Without losing their frenetic power and strength, here they write pop-flavored melodies that shine through the layers of treble fuzz, albeit not overpoweringly. With a little more polishing, New Day Rising could have been the Nevermind of the ’80s. As Krist Novoselic admitted, ‘Nirvana’s blend of pop, punk and metal was nothing new, Hüsker Dü did it before us.’ From the same circuit and time period, it is also worthy to mention the parallel developments by The Replacements, Butthole Surfers, and Meat Puppets – all of whom were significant fertilizers for the ripening of Nirvana.

 

 

beat_happening_jamboreeBeat Happening:
Jamboree (1988)
Sub Pop rapidly grew into a multinational brand in the ’90s, but they initially came from a proud tradition of strong underground labels from the heyday of SST, Touch & Go – and K Records in nearby Olympia, Washington. K was formed in 1982 by Calvin Johnson, the frontman of Beat Happening. Lo-fi aesthetics dominated the label’s releases, casually produced by friends and acquaintances in the region, which helped chart course for the “alternative revolution” and the rise of indie rock as a mainstream phenomenon. Musically, there is a certain distance between the compact guitar rock of Nirvana and the more quirky indie pop of Beat Happenings, but the relationship can be illustrated by this quote from the band: ‘We are Beat Happening, and we do not do Nirvana covers. They do Beat Happening covers, so let’s get that straight.’

 

 

killdozer_twelveKilldozer:
Twelve Point Buck (1989)
Madison, Wisconsin band Killdozer ruled the 1980s underground, along with acts like Butthole Surfers, Laughing Hyenas, and Scratch Acid (pre-Jesus Lizard). Their slow, sludgy punk-on-downers sound distinguished them as early predecessors to grunge, especially for the periphery scene outside of Seattle. The band became known for its original and unexpected cover songs – such as a throaty rendition Don McLean’s “American Pie” – a talent Cobain and Co. also became known for after the live recording, MTV Unplugged in New York. They worked repeatedly with technician Butch Vig in Madison’s Smart Studios. As a result of hearing Killdozer’s 1989 LP Twelve Point Buck, Nirvana hired Vig to work on In Utero. After Cobain’s death, Killdozer also record 1995’s God Hears Pleas of the Innocent with Steve Albini.

 

dead_moon_graveyardDead Moon:
In The Graveyard (1988)
Barbarous garage rock has a long history in the Pacific Northwest, with bands such as The Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) and The Sonics as key originators. Portland-band Dead Moon push forward this rich legacy and remind us that neither Nirvana, nor grunge as a whole, appeared from nowhere. Unlike Nirvana and the landslide that followed in their wake, the Dead Moon remained in the garage while the other left the scene in limousines. And there they still had it pretty good until dissolving in 2006.

 

 

 

pixies_surferPixies:
Surfer Rosa (1988)
Telling the story behind “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Kurt Cobain confessed, ‘I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying two rip off the Pixies.’ And indeed, Nevermind shares countless similarities with Pixies, in song structure and, notably, in the powerful soft-loud dynamics that Nirvana would further perfect. Sound engineer and producer Steve Albini was commissioned to produce In Utero as a result of his signature work on Surfer Rosa.

 

 

 

melvins_ozmaMelvins:
Ozma (1989)
Seattle rock’s anomalous emergence came out nowhere, and in a matter of years the city’s musical profile transitioned from a loser-like sense of coolness to streamlined factory for mass culture. But one band never changed. Melvins were heavier, stickier and gloomier than all the others – and they were among Cobain’s biggest musical influences, especially noticeable on Bleach. Melvins would later serve as role models for an even heavier, slower and more somber drone rock formulated by bands like Earth and Sunn O))). Melvins have definitely left a heavy imprint in the rock history books, and their first two albums are authentic sludge rock at its best.

 

 

 

Bjørn Hammershaug
Originally published on read.tidal.com October 12, 2014.

Zero Boys: Livin’ In The 80’s

Av de utallige punkbandene som sprang ut fra den amerikanske undergrunnen på sent 70-/tidlig 80-tall, står Zero Boys og deres debut Vicious Circle (1982) fremdeles igjen som et landemerke av en skive. I 2009 samlet Secretly Canadian hele bandets tidlige katalog over to nyoppussede utgivelser: Den klassiske debuten og deres aldri fullførte andreplate + EP’en Livin In The 80’s.

Zero Boys ga et frampek mot det som ble kjent som ‘american hardcore’; raskere, hardere og tyngre enn den britiske punken. Parallelt – om ikke forut for – mer kjente navn som Bad Religion, Hüsker Dü, Descendents og T.S.O.L., og i det umiddelbare kjølvannet av pionerband som Black Flag, Minor Threat og Bad Brains oppstod Zero Boys, midt i Amerika. De fleste andre amerikanske band hadde (og har) gjerne utspring fra kulturelle metropoler som San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Boston eller New York. Zero Boys kom fra Indianapolis, et sted uten særlig dype tradisjoner for motkulturelle uttrykk. Men den amerikanske punken hadde stor innflytelse og utbredelse på grasrotnivå, og bidro til å skape grobunn for nye scener fordelt over et større geografisk område (Necros kom fra Maumee, Ohio, Meatmen fra Lansing, Michigan, 7 Seconds fra Reno etc.). I et intervju med Maximum Rock’n’Roll fra 1982 sier vokalist Paul-Z (Paul Mahern):

I stay here because it feels real. The kids around here appreciate the few shows they do get to see. Also, to be a punk from Indiana means that you went looking for punk rock – not because all the kids at school are punks. It’s real rebellion.

Zero Boys: Vicious Circle (Nimrod, 1982)
Historien om Zero Boys tør være kjent for mange fra småsteder som føler misnøye med forholdene og søker ut. Paul Mahern trålet byen rundt på jakt etter plater på slutten av 70-tallet, en fan av Kiss, Sabbath og Aerosmith. Han rasker med seg en utgave av Creem med Sex Pistols på omslaget, og dermed var det gjort. Han startet band umiddelbart, og i 1979 var Zero Boys en realitet.

Etter EP’en Livin’ In The 80’s intensiverte de øvingen og satte seg fôre og lage en plate i stilen til Germs, Dead Kennedys og Circle Jerks. Vicious Circle er huggende riff, bjeffende vokal og frenetiske gitarsoloer, men også med en viss pop-sensibilitet som gir seg utslag i fengende melodier Ramones-style. Bandets sosiopolitiske profil gir seg utslag i tekster både om skyting mot maktpersoner i samtiden og retter en langfinger mot gamle dinosaurer (’Don’t wanna hear no more ’bout Mick Jagger’s old bones…’). Legg merke til den hvasse lyden, det ekstremt tighte uttrykket og den fandenivoldske viljen som lyser gjennom hele albumet. Vicious Circle frigjør enorme mengder energi og en låttittel som ”Amphetamine Addiction” virker ikke være tilfeldig. Dette er motsatsen av hippienes fredsæle tåkemantra.

Den profilerte skribenten Jack Rabid (fra The Big Takeover) har sørget for innsiktsfulle liner notes, og jeg lar hans ord virke støttende til mine egne vurderinger:

The young Midwest quartet was surprisingly tight, with a precision rarely associated with the new American hardcore: leaner, faster, meaner, more riotous, and eight times more explosive than on their previous, respected Livin’ in the ’80s 7″ EP. And the recording quality was impeccable, zooming past like an amplified dragster.

Etter Vicious Circle spilte Zero Boys en del konserter i midt-vesten, sammen med Beastie Boys i New York, men kom ikke noe særlig videre og brøt raskt sammen av alle de opplagte årsakene. Et par skiver midt på 90-tallet er mest for komplettister. Vicious Circle er stedet å starte, og det er egentlig sjokkerende hvor fet denne platen låter over 25 år etter at den ble spilt inn – og det i løpet av to kjappe dager!

Denne reutgivelsen, remastret fra de opprinnelige tapene, inkluderer også de to sporene som ikke ble med på originalplaten: ”She Said Goodbye” og ”Slam And Worm”.

Zero Boys: Histoy Of (Secretly Canadian, 2009)
Zero Boys’ første utgivelse var singlen ”Livin’ In The 80’s”, med det smått fantastiske tittelkuttet og ditto ”I’m Bored”. To år med intens jobbing resulterte i debuten Vicious Circle, og etter ytterligere turnévirksomhet begynte de på sitt andre album. Før de rakk å gjøre dette ferdig, ramlet bandet sammen. En kassettutgave av History Of ble skrapet sammen i cirka 100 eksemplarer.

History Of har ikke debutens stramme fokus, men viser et band som kanskje kunne utviklet seg i andre og vel så spennende retninger som det hardcore-rammene kunne by på, både i form av et mer metallisk sound og noe seigere rock-orientert uttrykk. Det er ikke riktig å si at de rakk å finpusse veien videre, og opptakene viser i like stor grad et band som ’kunne blitt’ enn et band som ’ble’. Gitarist Terry Howe lar for øvrig sitt mørke livssyn prege deler av låtmaterialet, hans tekster omhandler stort sett enten å dope seg eller å forsøke å streite seg opp. I følge den noe rotete coverteksten til Eric Weddle dreier en låt som ”Splish Splash” om å ikke ende opp som Germs’ Darby Crash. Crash tok livet sitt med en overdose heroin i 1980 (dagen før John Lennon ble skutt). Howe holdt seg helt til 2001 før han gikk samme vei.

Zero Boys vil nok, tross et par 90-tallsskiver og jevnlige reunions, for alltid bli husket for Vicious Circle. Og det er da ikke alle forunt å etterlate seg såpass!

Bjørn Hammershaug
Foto: Secretly Canadian/presse