Categories
Boppin'

KISS

In the mid-’70s, I was a pop-obsessed teenager in love with my AM radio.  I was old enough to remember Beatlemania, and my affection for ’60s rockin’ pop remained undimmed:  The Beatles.  The Dave Clark Five.  The Animals.  The Monkees.  The Hollies.  Paul Revere & the Raiders.  Over time, those stalwarts had been joined (but never replaced) by irresistible ’70s radio fare by Badfinger, Alice Cooper, Slade, The Raspberries, The Sweet.  Somewhere in there, I developed an insatiable taste for The Kinks.  And in December of 1976, I went to my first rock concert.  I went to see KISS.

I was not all that much of a KISS fan at the time.  I knew a few songs from WOLF-AM in Syracuse–“Rock And Roll All Nite,””Beth,” “Shout It Out Loud,” maybe “Detroit Rock City”–and these were all certainly songs that I liked.  But the KISS concert experience made me a fan immediately.  I never quite joined the KISS Army, but I bought the KISS comic books from Marvel, and I received a copy of the Rock And Roll Over album as a high school graduation gift from my sister.  I was particularly taken with “Calling Dr. Love,” and wanted to march in for graduation to that tune rather than “Pomp And Circumstance.”  Man, I NEVER get my way…!

That period of late 1976 through the end of ’77 saw a huge transition in my musical tastes. Or did it?  As I bought more records, as I burrowed through used records stores and flea markets, as I learned about exciting new stuff in Phonograph Record Magazine, as free-form FM radio drew my attention away from the increasingly disco-dominated AM airwaves…as all this was going on, I still loved The Beatles.  And everything else I loved was an extension of that.
And that included KISS.  KISS was a pop band, and a very good pop band at that.  The best KISS records were infectious in a way Led Zeppelin wasn’t, accessible in a way Pink Floyd and ELP could never be, thrilling in a way that The Bee Gees would never even understand.  KISS, though certainly not a punk band, was also my gateway to punk, a whole new world that nonetheless still drew inspiration from the prevailing and pervasive appeal of 45 rpm records played loud and distorted over a tiny transistor radio speaker.  I saw KISS in December of ’76; a year later, I wrote my first-ever piece of rock criticism, an emeritus contribution to my high school newspaper, drawing a line forward from the greatness of The Beatles to the virtues of The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Rubinoos…and KISS.  Punk.  Pop.  Rock ‘n’ roll.  For me, it was all part of the same continuum, and I loved it all.  I still do.

When KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, I read through a lot of complaints that KISS was not deserving of this (or any) honor, and I became increasingly pissed off at such dismissals.  You don’t like KISS?  That is certainly your right.  You think KISS is untalented, insubstantial, too gimmicky?  You think the members of KISS (one member in particular!) are obnoxious jerks?  I guess that’s all fair game, too.  But KISS is important to me, and the band’s impact transcends the mere happenstance of being my first rock concert.  Loud, garish, celebratory, and as infectious as an arena cheer, KISS’s best records make me feel GREAT.  Awright!

The week of KISS’s Rock Hall induction, THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO attempted to put KISS in context, to play a few of the best KISS records alongside a bunch of other terrific pop tracks, and to prove that maybe KISS could be discussed with Badfinger, Big Star, The Raspberries, et al., as among the best rockin’ pop the ’70s had to offer.  “Strutter.”  “Comin’ Home.”  Anything For My Baby.”  “Calling Dr. Love.” “Detroit Rock City.”  “Shout It Out Loud.”  “Rock And Roll All Nite.”  These are pop songs, and they sound…well, awesome on rockin’ pop radio.  As one listener put it, “Stop giving me less reason to hate Gene Simmons!”  Turn it up.  Shout it out loud!  And if they tell you that there’s too much noise, they’re too old to understand….

Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV

Pink Flloyd / Another Brick In The Wall

Released in 1979, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave

Various Artists

Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/big-stir-singles-the-ninth-wave

 
Manned by Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko – of the ace band The ArmoiresBig Stir Records is easily the hardest working label in the biz. For the past few years, the Burbank, California based roster has been releasing a weekly singles series, then compiles the songs onto collections, with Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave counting as the latest chapter in their never-ending sonic sojourn.

It is highly fitting DJ Mike Lidskin of Woody Radio has written the liner notes, because these tunes are so remarkably good that the disc truly  sounds like the greatest radio station imaginable. So not only is Big Stir impressively productive, but the quality of their fare is consistently cut of a top-grade fabric. 

The Brothers Steve’s Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin races steadily along to a chipper punk pop pose, where Pink Floyd meets Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars on Athanor’s cosmic-coated Approximately Eternity. From Nick Frater, there’s the rapturous rush of the Hollies styled Let’s Hear It For Love, as well as a striking cover of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s sad and somber Alone Again Naturally, which is transpired into a dazzling production, driven by glistening piano chords and punctured with a searing guitar solo.

Jim Basnight signs on with the Rolling Stones flavored snarl and drawl of Best Lover In The World and the ambitiously-crafted Prince Jones Davies Suite, a medley of Prince, David Bowie and Kinks missives. The Viewers fuse stadium rock flash with keen pop sensibilities on the gripping Beautiful, and the bracing chime of Dolph Chaney’s  My Old Fart celebrates the joy of maturing with your sweetheart in a charming narrative revolving around cats, books and  Sunday crossword puzzles.

Irene Pena’s inspired reprise of Fountain of Wayne’s The Summer Place rings with intent to a sharp new-wavish angle, and  The First Song Of Summer by Blake Jones parents a cool art rock feel, pronounced by inventive keyboard moves and loping tempo changes. Blessed with a gorgeously-soulful set of pipes, Rosie Abbott turns in a spine-tingling performance on Hold On,” and Chamberlain from The Persian Leaps shimmers to an infectious clip of jangly licks, a flighty chorus and insistent drum drills. 

David Brookings checks in with the  chugging All I Love Is Rock And Roll, and the frisky acoustic-framed Livin’ Through The Plaque, which offers a cheeky commentary on dealing with virus crisis rules and regulations. Last but by no means least is Mike Daly & The Planets, whose Falling Out Of Love Song recites the drama of an on and off relationship to an inviting array of musical moods. Rich and melodic vocals, accompanied by powered and polished instrumentation, a punishing break and a crown of psychedelic riffs complete the epic track. The band further shines brightly on Star, an energetic burst of soaring hooks and harmonies, splashed with a showing of neat harmonica trills.

And speaking of such, every song here is a star. Trying to pick favorites is indeed a challenge, since each number contains its own divine spark. So switch the dial to Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave, and get ready for some serious ear-pampering! 

 

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Lemon Clocks / Time To Wake Up

The Lemon Clocks

“Time To Wake Up” (Rock Indiana 2020)

Here on their fifth album, “Time To Wake Up,” The Lemon Clocks proceed to explore and embrace varied late sixties and early seventies musical forms with remarkable results. Self-contained and self-assured, the band’s adventurous songs expand on the concepts they are so dearly enamored with. Each new Lemon Clocks album reveals growth and depth, and “Time To Wake Up” is no exception. 

In case you are not familiar with the band, Jeremy Morris handles lead vocals as well as a slew of different instruments. Stefan Johansson and Oscar Granero are also multi-instrumentalists, while Carlos Vigara plays bass, and Dave Dietrich is on drums and percussion.  

Directed by Jeremy’s mega-melodious vocals based in the Beatles-Badfinger range, “Time To Wake Up” takes listeners on an enchanted expedition of magical shapes and sensations. Captivating chord changes, shifting grooves, reverb-soaked trimmings, spinning synthesizer passages, haunting Mellotron motions, ringing glockenspeils and the warm tones of mandolins contribute to the interesting and exciting sounds housed within the album. Inspiring and surrealistic lyrics further illustrate the songs, producing a presentation vibrating with color and wonder.  

Every single track on “Time To Wake Up” possesses memorable qualities, but for starters, there’s “Sleepwalkers” that simultaneously tip-toes and trembles across a bed of spacey squiggles, underlined by an eerie riff that is plucked over and over again. Imagine The Electric Prunes rubbing shoulders with Pink Floyd, and that should give you a good idea where the creepy-crawly confection is coming from. 

Thieving the jaunty lick of Them’s “I Can Only Give Everything” and nailing it to a wall of trippy and hypnotic patterns, “Floating Free” signs on as another stroke of psychedelic genius, along with “You Are The Cosmos” and “Infinity Dream” that shimmer and swell with atmospheric elements. A shot of mind-bending ingredients arrive at the end of “Flowers In My Hair,” where the title cut of the album jingles to a clinging arrangement, and the salty temper of “Buzz Off!” duly buzzes with strange sonic figures and venomous verse aimed at a character suitably called Mister Mosquito. 

Songs featuring hanclaps are always fun, and “Time To Wake Up” offers a couple of such efforts. Bouncing and bopping with optimism, “Brand New Day” reflects the bubblegummy blush of The Archies, and the popping garage rock of “Stop!” is powered by an utterly infectious hook and bright and breezy harmonies. 

Set to a swaying rhythm and delivered in an easygoing manner, “People Come And Go” dispenses sage and spiritual commentary, “How I Miss You” slides in as a gorgeous mid-paced ballad rich with heart-tugging emotion, and the comparably thoughtful and effective “This Is Love!” would make John Lennon beam with paternal pride. 

The closing number on “Time To Wake Up” is a cover of the Tommy James and The Shondells paisley-phased classic, “Crimson And Clover.” Stretching out the song to nearly fifteen minutes in length, The Lemon Clocks turn an already brain-twisting tune into a tapestry of epic proportions. The beginning of the band’s version of “Crimson And Clover” remains true to the original recording. But about halfway through the song, gears are switched and a celestial Moody Blues styled symphony enters the picture. The Lemon Clocks eventually return to “Crimson And Clover,” which proves to be a fitting finale to an album big on daring tricks and kicks.    

Categories
Pop Sunday

Anton Barbeau / Kenny Vs. Thrust

Anton Barbeau Presente

Kenny Vs. Thrust (Big Stir Records 2020) 

https://bigstirrecords.com/anton-barbeau

For the past couple of decades, Anton Barbeau has been churning out one prized project after another. Originally based in Sacramento, California – and currently residing in Berlin, Germany – the prolific singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has recently returned to the fore with Kenny Vs. Thrust, an album featuring tunes with his American band Kenny – along with material from his European group Thrust

Occupying a realm reeling with psychedelic perspectives, Anton creates wiggy and wondrous dialogues that collect comparisions to the likes of early Pink Floyd, The Idle Race, XTC, Plasticland and Robyn Hitchcock. Delivering his musings in an affected British accent, Anton certainly has a knack for bringing his surrealistic insights to life and luring listeners into the scenarios.

Equipped with spacey patterns and unconventional melodies, “Beautiful Bacon Dream” and “Haunted In Fenland” are all but a couple of choice cuts heard on Kenny Vs. Thrust, as well as the aptly titled “Jingle Jangle,” which snaps, crackles and sparkles with Byrds-buttered guitars in a garage band styled manner. 

Steeled with skittish rhythms and a cracked edge, “Clean Clothes In A Dirty Bag” nails hooky new wave expressions to a lysergic-lubricated vision, and “Land Of Economy” is underlined by thumping percussion and nagging time shifts. A choppy reggae beat, trailed by a touch of tie-dyed electronica, is applied to “Tidy Up Yourself” and “Back To Balmain” bristles and buzzes with trippy synthesizer swirls. 

Playful yet progressive, Kenny Vs. Thrust efficiently combines acid-damaged whimsy with freewheeling performances designed to keep audiences stimulated and alert. Those claiming appreciation for eccentric – and eclectic – sounds and stories are sure to dig this album. 

Categories
Quick Spins

Dw Dunphy / Test Test Test

Dw Dunphy

Test Test Test 

dwdunphy.bandcamp.com

While I’m not a huge collector of music, I have accumulated what amounts to several small collections. One one shelf, sits the vinyl records that I’ve managed to hang on to since I was a kid. On another shelf sits second-hand records that I picked up for a buck or two. Most of these are records that I wanted when I was much younger, but didn’t have the cash to make the purchase. These records have dog-eared jackets, scratches and imperfections aplenty. I referent to these as “rescues.”

My favorite of these micro collections, however, is the shelf that is home to music projects that I have a personal connection to. There is an original pressing of ShoesPresent Tense the recent Hey! It’s The Pandoras, and Dw Dunphy’s latest, a cassette rerelease on his 2015 album, Test, Test, Test. These folks that I call friends are a talented bunch, and their creations not only entertain me, they inspire me.

So, in all honesty, I have to be upfront and begin with a caveat that isn’t really a caveat. Dw Dunphy is a friend of mine, and someone who I definitely consider to be in an exclusive club that I refer to as “The Good Guys Of Pop.” Dw is the kind of guy who spends more of his time and energy promoting the music of others, rather than his own. He is the creator of the Co-op Communique compilations, my Lost Hits Of The 80’s co-conspirator, a brilliant graphic artist, and an underdog-backer of the highest order.

Now, for the music

Dunphy’s Test, Test, Test is an instrumental work, which often reminds me of the most atmospheric works of Pink Floyd, but more visual in nature. Even though I often listen to it while I’m doing other things, pictures and movies always begin to form in my head. It’s almost as if the music is trying to get me to see, or to understand, something that I’m too busy to notice. I’m really intrigued by that.

The opener, That Never Works, is a buoyant shoe-gazer, and what amounts to a musical oxymoron. It flits between Pachelbel and U2, and back again. Nifty. Track two, Shootout At The Spaghetti Factory (or, Do Breadsticks Come With That, Hombre?) wins “The Best Song Title Ever” Award.

Tsuburaya, with its hypnotic drum groove and droning keys, feels as if it’s straight out of a monster movie score, while Polymorph, which might also be Tsuburaya II, creeps along with various ’80’s inflections. Dunphy plays chorused Andy Summers guitar arpeggios throughout, giving this bookend with an optimistic feeling.

Two Empty Rooms is a nine-minute string opus, worthy of any Hollywood soundtrack. What seemingly begins as atmosphere, turns into an English symphony at the six-minute mark, bringing to mind sweeping Jane Austen countryside vistas.

This cassette version of Test Test Test adds one bonus track, Built On The Bones, from the 2013 release, The Radial Night. It almost serves as an acoustic-guitar laden intermission, before side two begins with the brief Hacienda, a folky piece accentuated with Dunphy’s superb harmony vocals, stacked-up high.

I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but Mr. Burning Suit reminds me of a couple of Tears For Fears singles, Elemental and Raoul and the Kings of Spain. Merging progressive and pop elements, it’s probably my favorite track of the lot. 

Blue Wire Green Wire removes the listen to the Far East, or is it Ireland? With its soft keys and barely-there percussion, it really is ripe for dreamy interpretation. I suspect every minds’ eye will produce something completely unique.

Closing the cassette is The Radial Night, which serves as the perfect musical bed for contemplating the entire journey the listener has just been on.

By Dan Pavelich

https://dwdunphy.bandcamp.com/album/test-test-test