Tag Archives: garage rock

The Cuckoos Release New Song “Get It On”

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Austin rock outfit The Cuckoos recently released their latest song “Get It On” reminiscent of ’60s garage-rock and psychedelia. The fuzzy, atmospheric track is anchored by a moody organ and lead singer Kenneth Frost’s Jim Morrison-esque growl. “Get It On” isn’t a mere throwback, but rather updates an old sound and reminds you why that particular style was exciting in the first place.

Their self-titled EP will be released on April 14th. For more information on The Cuckoos check out their Facebook and Twitter and take a listen to “Get It On” below.

 

Song of the Day: “Combination of the Two” – Big Brother and the Holding Company

The obvious standout here is Janis Joplin who sounds completely unhinged. Like Dylan, Joplin proved you don’t have to sound pretty for it to mean something or move the listener. There’s more passion in her wild ad-libs and screams here than is in many technically skilled singers. I’d take that over technicality any day.

Though the group is most often identified with the San Francisco psychedelic scene, “Combination of the Two” is more garage rock, than Grateful Dead-style meandering. Just take a listen to the nasty edge of the rhythm guitar and aggressive drumming that drives the song.  There’s also killer noisy guitar solo that blazes through in the middle of the song. The interplay between Joplin and the rest of the band is nothing short of astounding, as they both push and pull each other into blues-rock oblivion.

Like many people, for a long time I was always under the impression that Cheap Thrills was a live album due to the crowd noise. As it turns out, the noise was added in during production and the only true live song is the group’s cover of “Ball and Chain”.

Check out “Combination of the Two” below and crank it up.

New Music: “Meditate” – The Slovaks

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The Slovaks’ latest single “Meditate” is a fiery burst of garage rock. It’s loud, brash and unapologetically so. Basically, a sound that is a direct contrast to the definition of the word meditate. It’s the kind of song you’ll want to blast as loud as you can.  This is the sound of a band who works best when creating a trashy and wonderful noise.

The Manchester’s band’s name is a homage to original Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak who along with the Velvet Underground are a major influence.

Check out “Meditate” and check the band out here.

Song of the Day: “96 Tears” – ? and the Mysterians

For the longest time, I thought that “96 Tears” was actually recorded by The Animals. That famous organ in the song does sound a lot like The Animals, so forgive my ignorance on that one.

“96 Tears” rightfully deserves its place as a certified garage-rock classic. Even 50 years later, the song still sounds just as fresh and cool as I’m sure it did back in 1966. Due to its raw sound, the song had a profound influence on what would later become punk. There’s no doubt that fellow Michigan resident Iggy Pop had this song on his mind when he formed the Stooges a few years later.

New Music: “Femebot” – Sharkmuffin

 

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Sharkmuffin’s “Femebot” has all the making of a great garage-rock single: raucous vocals, dirty guitars and a whole lot of attitude.  Like the best songs of that genre, the band is tight and fierce, but plays like chaos is erupting behind them.  Lead singer Terra Thiessan screams with a wild abandon.  The judges on American Idol and The Voice would clearly never go for her style, but that’s kind of the point.  Mainstream music might be a bit more sanitized, but Shark Muffin are ready to prove that there’s still plenty of groups and people who believe in the power of recklessness in music.

“Femebot” can be found on the group’s EP She Gods of Champagne Valley.  Listen to it  here.

New Music: “Make Some Noise” – Lachi

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Lachi’s newest single “Make Some Noise” is part garage rock, part 80s glam with a contemporary spin. Its full of urgency, and sexy fun.  “I guess I feel like I got something to say,” Lachi repeats as the song draws to a frantic close and the music burns down around her.  What’s she got to say, you ask?  “I’m hear to blow your mind!” Lachi shouts, and judging by the energy of “Make Some Noise” it’s no hyperbole.

Check out “Make Some Noise” here.

Song of the Week: “TB Sheets” – Van Morrison

It’s still baffling that Van Morrison recorded “TB Sheets” in the same session in which he recorded “Brown Eyed Girl”.  The two songs couldn’t be further apart from each other.  “Brown Eyed Girl” is a perfect pop song.  And as much as I sometimes groan over the obligatory inclusion at weddings, there’s no doubt it belongs there with its infectious chorus.  “TB Sheets” on the other hand, is a 10-minute descent into darkness.  Morrison’s vocals never sounded so desperate, and tortured.

As a piece of music, “TB Sheets” is a template for the epic improvisational pieces Morrison would master just a year later on Astral Weeks. But where those songs were influenced by jazz, “TB Sheets” is pure blues.  It’s a slow burn of a song.  A slinky lead guitar slides its way over a constant beat and atmospheric organ. “TB Sheets” brings the listener into the late-night psyche of a man at the end of his rope. The tempo never changes, which also reinforces the drama that takes place in the narrative and gives Morrison ample room to exorcise his demons.

“TB Sheets” tells the story of a man who visits his dying girlfriend in a hospital room.  He tells Julie at the beginning of the song.  Throughout the entire song, Morrison feels guilty about the entire situation.  There’s indication that they’ve already broken up prior to this.     He references Frank Sintara’s seminal break-up album In The Wee Small Hours when he first enters the room.  She stills want him (“I see the way you jumped at me, Lord, from behind the door”), which disgusts him even more.

Ironically, as Julie lies in the bed dying, Morrison demands comfort from her. “Open up the window, and let me breathe” He tells her.  For extra emphasis, Morrison begins panting, as it mimicking suffocation.  Feeling guilty, he attempts to comfort her but instead of offering kind words, he mentions that he will John, “around here, later with a bottle of wine for you, babe.”

At this point, he is desperate to leave and constantly tells Julie he has to leave. He wants out, and not just from the room. As the song progresses, Morrison’s vocals become even more strained and it sounds like he is the one about to die.  In one final act before he leaves, Morrison offers to turn on the radio for her telling her she’ll be all right.  He knows she won’t, but he has to leave for his own sanity.

According to legend (there have been varying reports on this) Morrison broke down crying after the song was finished. It certainly seems like it could be plausible, considering Morrison’s performance. Morrison has always been one of rock’s best vocalists, but on “TB Sheets” he completely takes the listener inside the narrator’s mind.  On paper, the lyrics are vile and offer no sense of sympathy for him.  And yet as Morrison sings this twisted tale, the listener not only feels his pain but also feels the suffocation of the room and Morrison himself.

When Morrison played Astral Weeks in its entirety in 2009, he also played songs from his entire career in the first set.  During a two-night stand in New York City, on the first night he actually played “TB Sheets”, which as far as I know he hasn’t played in decades.  Unfortunately, I missed this performance as I had tickets to the second show. Still, it’s great to see that Morrison finally bought this gem out.

 

Song of the Week: “Gloria” – Patti Smith

If I had to pick a list of the greatest opening lines in rock and roll, the opening of Patti Smith’s “Gloria” would be right at the top.  When Smith softly sings “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” you know you’re in from something entirely different than the “Gloria” that recorded in the mid-1960s.  Smith’s version of “Gloria” isn’t so much a cover, but rather a re-imagining of the song where she moves through her own lyrics and the original’s famous chorus back and forth effortlessly.

The original “Gloria” (written by Van Morrison) and performed by Them has become a garage-rock classic over the years. The sexual tension that drives the song isn’t so much mentioned explicitly, but rather felt through Morrison’s frenetic vocals. Morrison has never sounded so desperate and hungry. The performance here (and much of Them’s catalogue) is the exact opposite of Morrison’s solo career, where he takes a more soulful approach to his vocals. On “Gloria”, he is unhinged and crazy. When he shouts out Gloria’s name, it’s not just love-  it’s lust.  You almost get the feeling that he wants her to shout out his name in return.

There’s no doubt that Gloria is an easy name to spell out and sing along to. But the fact that the name itself comes from the Latin term “Gloria in excelsis doe” (translated as “glory to god in the highest”) makes Morrison’s sexualization of it all the more disturbing.  Though many of his contemporaries would explore this idea further, Morrison was taking the sacred and making it profane with “Gloria”.

This fact was not lost on Patti Smith, as she dubbed her own contributions to “Gloria” as “In Excelsis Deo”. Having grown up as a Jehovah’s Witness, she channeled all of her frustrations with organized religion into “Gloria”.  The opening line is a direct assault on the very foundation of Christianity, and the philosophy that Jesus Christ died for all of humanity. Smith suggests it may something for others, but for her it doesn’t mean a thing. She has chosen her own life, and her sins “they belong to me.” If the inevitable apocalypse comes and everybody must repent, Smith isn’t buying it. “The words are just rules and regulations to me,” She growls.

Smith takes Morrison’s sexual turn on the Biblical Gloria even further. If Morrison was just after a woman, Smith sees a girl “humpin’ on the parking meter, leaning on the parking meter” and not only finds it attractive, but decides she wants her as well. Morrison’s sexual urges were outrageous, but Smith is more direct and perhaps even more inflammatory.  At this point, the music has been building and building to the point where the “G-l-o-r-i-a” chorus sounds positively cathartic. Everything has been building to this moment. The original recording may have been wild, but Smith’s band raises the stakes even higher. The guitars are louder and faster, and the band seems ready to implode from under itself as Smith demands them to scream Gloria’s name in unison.

A few moments later, Smith recalls “at the stadium there were twenty thousand girls” who either tried to make love to her or call out her name (note: I found two different versions of the lyrics online and it’s hard to tell what she sings there.)  She then mentions two names specifically – Marie and Ruth. Both names refer to important women in the Bible – Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David and Mary is the mother of Jesus. But this being Smith – she doesn’t hear or listen to them. She’s going to take that deep plunge.

When the band comes around again for chorus again, Smith once again cries out the song’s beginning line.  This time, it’s no soft or restrained.  She practically screams that that “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”.  There’s a slight pause, and the band fires out the final “Gloria” chorus as if the world is really on fire.

 

Albums Worth Revisiting: “Ultraglide in Black” – The Dirtbombs

I wrote about the Dirtbombs a few months back, placing them among my “Top 20 Concerts List“.   Ultraglide In Black, an album consisting of (mostly)  old soul and funk songs – (“Your Love Belongs Under a Rock” is the only original).The album will turn 10 this week, so now is the perfect to write about this under-rated gem.  Like the songs that The Dirtbombs tackle here, Ultraglide in Black is a full-on party album.

The Dirtbombs attack these song with punk furor, but never taking away what made the originals so great and timeless. It would be easy to suggest that The Dirtbombs were trying to put a contemporary spin on these songs, but the album plays more like musicians playing songs they love, because they want to.  With two drummers and two bassists, The Dirtbombs have turned these covers into tightly controlled jams, that lie somewhere between absolute chaos and sheer enthusiasm.  Singer Mick Collin’s voice in an instrument in itself.  He’s clearly in command here, pushing his bandmates as he shouts his way through J.J. Barnes’ “Chains of Love”.  Elsewhere on, “Kung Fu”, he croons in a soulful voice that is more than homage to the music that has clearly inspired him.  Smokey Robinson’s “If You Can What” is a sing-along fury, that nearly flies out of control.  Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ For The City” is given a slow, fuzzed out treatment, that sounds like a cross between funk and the noisy experiments of the Velvet Underground.

Ultraglide in Black is the sound of a great band deciding for one drunken night that they are the best soul and funk cover band.  And with one listen to the album, you’d be crazy to think otherwise.

The 10 Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 6. The Strokes

(I apologize for the lack of updates, especially in the middle of a list, but I was sick for over a week.  So I promise, I’ll finish the remaining artists in a much quicker pace.)

I can’t remember when I first heard of The Strokes.  It was probably sometime in the summer of 2001 when they just starting to explode, and their debut Is This It was creating a firestorm in the rock world.  Although I like Is This Is It? now, I decided before I even heard The Strokes, I decided that they would be a band that would annoy me.  The hype surrounding them just seemed too much.  I had already experienced that with Nirvana, only to find out once you actually listen to the records and take away the the hype – the band was really just mediocre at best.

It wasn’t until 2003 when I actually first heard a Strokes song.  A friend of mine made me a Mix CD and it contained both “Last Night” and “Someday”.   While I found “Last Night” to be a pretty good song, it was really “Someday” that caught my attention.  Julian Casablancas sang in a way that felt disconnected and insincere, yet somehow still managed to connect with the listener even if his voice was buried in the mix.  Musically, I thought the song was really interesting.  It seemed like a ballad, but the beat was extremely fast and propelling.  One guitar played a single note repeatedly throughout the verses, and while the other almost veered out of control.  Not too long after, I went out and got Is This It? and quickly became hooked.  Two years later, I had discovered what everybody else already knew: The Strokes were the coolest and best rock and roll band in over a decade.

Looking back, it seems odd that this little album could have such a profound effect on the music world.  There are no grand gestures on the album.  Each song is a perfectly little garage-rock gem.  If anything the only criticism you could make about the album is that The Strokes tried a little too hard to be cool and sound like The Velvet Underground.

But The Strokes aren’t important because Is This It? blew up, or because they both looked and acted cool.  With Is This It? The Strokes proved in an era of boy-bands and stream-lined pop, that rock and roll could still exist – and that it was still vital.  There was still some life left it in it.  And ten years later, it still sounds as fresh and vital upon its initial release (even if I didn’t listen to it until years later.)  Modern rock had become stale, and with grunge artists seemed to take their work and themselves too seriously.  The Strokes bought back some of the fun back in rock and roll, by not caring.  Even if the Strokes were known for their partying image, they didn’t seem to care about that either.  “Fuck going to that party,” Casablancas would later declare, in “12:51” the first single off their sophomore effort, Room on Fire.

Though garage-rock had been around for decades, The Strokes were the ones that blew the door open for it to become mainstream just as Nirvana “broke punk” some ten years before.  Lo-fi suddenly became the new standard for young bands starting out.  Bands such as The Hives and Jet would never have gotten the attention that they did without The Strokes.  Even Kings of Leon, who came out a year or two after The Strokes were unofficially billed as “the southern Strokes”.

While Is This It? remains essential, The Strokes have yet to live up to its (and the audiences) expectations since.  I’ve yet to figure out whether they’ve tried too hard or too little since their debut.

On another note, I also think that any self-respecting hipster owes The Strokes a huge debt.  They made skinny jeans, ray-bands and a smug attitude popular outside of New York.