Maquee: Smile

Rating: 85%

Maquee.pngIn 1995, I heard the song “Staring at the Sun” by Smile on the radio. It was refreshing. It wasn’t exactly Grunge, but it was exactly Heavy Metal either. So, I went to the mall and picked up this album. Smile was one of those bands that most people never heard of. It consisted of drummer Scott Reeder , vocalist & guitarist Mike Rosas, and bassist Aaron Sonnennberg.

Musically, this album has a lot to offer from influences of Punk, Grunge, and Noise Rock. It’s got some fuzzy distorted riffs and a few leads, some of which are very sloppy. The vocals are a bit raspy. The bass is simple, loud, and distorted while the drums are a bit complex with a good mixture of tempos.

Sad to say, Smile never really caught on by the popular mainstream music. It’s worth a listen to. There are many highlights to this album from “Staring at the Sun” to “She.” So if you’re into those bands that aren’t really remembered today, then this is one to search and find.

Track listing:

1. “Rock Anthem for the Retarded Teenage Hipster Population” 3:16
2. “Staring at the Sun…” 3:42
3. “Spud Gun” 2:30
4. “Picture Made Past” 4:54
5. “Lemonade” 3:16
6. “Moosh” 2:42
7. “Jack Shrimp” 2:26
8. “Papaya Clearance Sale” 3:05
9. “She” 5:19
10. “Wallflower” 2:41
11. “Until(?)” 5:52

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Daydream Nation: Sonic Youth

Rating: 90%

SonicYouthDaydreamNationalbumcover.jpgI remember when I first heard this album upon it’s release in 1988. When I first heard this, I was like what the hell is this? After listening to it again, I heard very complex song structures that were hard to duplicate on guitar. It’s not wonder why?

Both Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo were great musicians and great guitar players who knew how to make noise into music. Neil Young is another guitarist that has this trait. Listen to his album called “Arc” which Neil Young consulted Thurston Moore about the idea. Then, I heard Kim’s bass lines and I was totally blown away. She is one of the most influential female bassists. Her bass and guitar style is very unique. Her vocals are the same way. Steve Shelly’s drums lines are just as complex as the band. He has some very weird tempos, of beats and rolls.

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Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Getty Images

Musically, there are some great melodies here. They flow from song to song as if you were in a daydream. The music is smooth, not aggressive, but relaxing. At the same time, there is a certain jam style in between verses that is weird, but at the same time it was written to be atmospheric. There is a great deal of improvisations. The harmony of the music itself it wonderful.

The music also features a good combination of female and male lead vocals. Each member of the band contributes equally. The musicianship is very tight. It’s no wonder why Sonic Youth is such a major influence to Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, and Punk.

Track listing:

Teen Age Riot 6:56
Silver Rocket 3:46
The Sprawl 7:39
‘Cross The Breeze 7:00
Eric’s Trip 3:46
Total Trash 7:30
Hey Joni 4:17
Providence 2:39
Candle 4:57
Rain King 4:38
Kissability 3:06
Trilogy: a) The Wonder 4:27
Trilogy: b) Hyperstation 7:04
Trilogy: z) Eliminator Jr. 2:37

4 Days In A Motel Room: The Nuns

Rating: 85%

R-4078913-1354527039-3295.jpeg.jpgThe Nuns, I have had actually forgotten about. I first heard them back in the late 1980’s. This is when I was really getting into Punk and Hardcore Punk. After a while, I was more in tune with Hardcore Punk, Thrash Metal and Death Metal music and the Nuns were pretty much placed in the vault of my memory. So, while cruising Youtube, I found all these songs under the recommendation and that’s when I remembered this forgotten Punk band.

In the late 1970’s, the Nuns were rising above the California Punk scene with their blend of Punk, New Wave, later Goth Rock, and yes, some Pop. Their first record released in the form of an EP or single in 1979, saw some of popularity. By 1980, their debut record was released. The Nuns along with their vocalist Jennifer Anderson forged ahead to become one of the leading and influential Punks bands of the San Francisco Punk scene.

Throughout the history of the Nuns had numerous line up changes and a few reunions but, Jennifer “Miro” Anderson remained the only consistent member of the band. She passed away in 2011 from cancer. Her vocals are haunting, cold, and at the same time, good.

Nuns #12Although, “4 Days In A Motel Room” is more or less their greatest hits with some singles added to it, this album does showcase the band nicely. Many of the songs on this compilation album are for the most part very good. Lot’s of great guitar work and catchy riffs. Lot’s of catchy vocals and chorus.

“Do You Want Me On My Knees?” has a cool kick ass riff along with some very sexual lyrics. The music is very dark and the vocals are just as dark and sinful. The lead guitar solo which last for a few seconds is awesome.

There are several highlights on this album that justify’s why this band was one of the leading Punks bands in the San Fran scene. “Just Do It” has more of that New Wave sound to it and the vocals are more based on harmony. “Underground” is more of a Punk style with male and female vocals. “Savage” is really Punk from the drumming to the vocals. All around a good tune.  Not to mention this song has a kick ass guitar lead

Track listing:

Elvis Said
Rodney’s English Disco
Do You Want Me On My Knees?
4 Days In A Motel Room
Suicide Child
The Underground
Just Do It!
The More I Want You
Platform Princess
My Religion
In The Shadows
You Are The Enemy!
To Your Soul
Savage
Media Control
World War III
You Think You’re The Best?
Walkin’ The Beat
Wild
Getting Straight
Confused
Child Molester
Lazy

White Music: Crack The Sky

Rating: 85%

White_Music_(Crack_the_Sky_album_-_cover_art).jpg“White Music” by Crack the Sky was released in 1980. I had this album on record, tape, and even CD. Over the years, I seemed to loose all copies of this record. Then, my wife looking through a small box of records at the antique store found this treasure on vinyl for $3.50. What a steal!!! Although, many didn’t seem to like the Maryland’s own Prog Rock group, or this record, I did find it refreshing or better yet, something to listen to while recovering from a hangover. Following their disbanding, John Palumbo, Rick Witkowski, and Vince DePaul reformed the group and recorded this record.

I have always admired the weirdness of Crack The Sky’s musical style and the whiny and higher pitched vocal work. “White Music” delivers that in a big way. With the 1980’s music was turned all around. It was the end of the Disco era and becoming more of a Techno era with all kinds of newer styles of music coming on. Rock n’ Roll and Country seemed to embrace some this new era of music as well. Crack The Sky too embraced these new styles. Therefore, this record may not have pleased many of their earlier fans.

“White Music” and the song structures are very impressive. They managed to keep most of the Prog Rock influences while mixing other elements into their musical style. Side one begins with a decent guitar groove on “PopTown.” The vocal style is based around Pop music. Think Talking Heads. “Living With the Lights On” has a great groove and some weird sound effects that SCREAMS Art Rock. This song has plenty of experimentation with the keyboards that produces that weirdness. “Skin Deep” is a very funky tune and the added horn section gives it a very jazzy feel. Side one ends with “White Music” that has a very eerie guitar riff that has some Punk influence to it.

Side two begins the weird vocal and instrumentation song “All American Boy.” “Hot Razors in My Heart” is structured after a normal Rock song from the vocal arrangement to the instrumentation. That song is still played on the Baltimore airwaves to this day and is one of the band’s most popular songs. While, “Techni Generation” employs a more modern sound that was beginning during the late 70’s and 1980. “Flying” has a vocal style that is more fitted to the 1960’s and 1970’s Folk where all members of the group harmonize their vocals, like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.”Songs of Soviet Sons” has a good groove that is surrounded by a String arrangements.

The song structures are well written. It’s got Prog, it’s got Rock, it’s got Pop, and it’s got lot’s of experimentation. The melodies are fantastic with regards to the music. It’s got some excellent guitar solos. The instrumentation is very good. I love Heavy Metal music, but the guitar on this record is brilliant. It’s not heavy or distorted. It’s got a great sound. The bass is very funky. This album also has some great drumming on it as well. This record sets up Crack The Sky as they move into a new decade. My favorite songs on this record are “White Music” and “Hot Razors in My Heart.”

Track listing:

1. “Poptown” 3:47
2. “Living With the Lights On” 2:56
3. “The Radio Cries (It’s Singles Time)” 3:11
4. “Skin Deep” 4:08
5. “White Music” 4:12
6. “All American Boy” 3:18
7. “Hot Razors in My Heart” 4:38
8. “Suspicion” 4:50
9. “Techni Generation” 4:05
10. “Flying” 1:21
11. “Songs of Soviet Sons” 5:05

Pork Soda: Primus

Rating: 95%

Porksodacover.jpgIn 1993, Primus released “Pork Soda.” This was the album that introduced me to the band when I heard 98 Rock play “Mr. Krinkle.” I remember hearing that song and thinking what the hell was that. I never heard any band sound or sing like that before.

This album does push the sounds and styles to the limit. It’s funky, progressive, bluegrassy in some spots and it’s weird. But, it works and sounds awesome. The musicianship is killer and the song structures, although weird, are written great.

The talents of Les Claypool on bass and vocals, combined with the guitar work of Larry LaLonde, and the drummer Tim Alexander is what makes Primus such a great band. If you’re into weird offbeats, scales and such, this album is a good one. The bass is the main instrumentation you’ll notice and Claypool’s style blends many influences together when he plays. The guitar work of LaLonde is just as balanced when it comes to style. These two instruments seem to go off in many different directions, but yet, it sounds really good. Alexander’s drumming is what holds everything in place.

With that being said, this is a very dark album. Themes deal with murder, suicide, and alienation. But, yet, with all of the darkness and strange song structures, this album was the one that brought Primus into the mainstream.

Track listing:

1. “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty” 0:21
2. “My Name Is Mud” 4:48
3. “Welcome to This World” 3:40
4. “Bob” 4:40
5. “DMV” 4:58
6. “The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part 3)” 4:39
7. “Nature Boy” 5:35
8. “Wounded Knee” 2:25
9. “Pork Soda” 2:20
10. “The Pressman” 5:11
11. “Mr. Krinkle” 5:27
12. “The Air Is Getting Slippery” 2:31
13. “Hamburger Train” 8:11
14. “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty” 1:03
15. “Hail Santa” 1:51

Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People: Primus

Rating: 90%

cd-animals-lgIn 2003, Primus returned after a few year layover with the EP, “Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People.” This also included the classic Primus line up. You have the one and only Les Claypool on vocals and various bass guitars, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander. This EP contains those quirky lyrics, silly vocals, amazing musicianship, and great song structures that only Primus can write and perform.

The musicianship is what gives Primus that big beefy sound. Les Claypool, vocals aside, is am amazing bass player. His weird scales makes the bass more of an extension of his personality. His style of funk that mixes slapping, tapping, and strumming on the bass is a classic trademark and all of that bass goodness is clearly heard on this EP.  All the members of Primus are such great song writers.

Then you have guitarist Larry LaLonde who play right along side with the bass talent. His style of noises, riffs, leads and fills makes Primus’s sound even better. Only Primus can create this weirdness of sounds and song structures and make it work. Not to many bands out there can accomplish what Primus has done.

Keeping up with the bass an guitars is drummer Tim Alexander. His style of weird tempos, time signatures and off beats brings Primus’s sound together. Tim is one hell of a good drummer in order to keep pace with Les Claypool.

I love every track on this EP. The opening bass lines to “The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride.” It’s weird and then you have the guitar that comes fading in. It’s very psychedelic.  “Mary the Ice Cube” the highlight on this album. I love the bass lines of this song. It’s mellow and complex. I love the lyrics as to how the relationship with an ice cube is similar to that of a woman. I love the weird song structure “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion.”

Track listing:

1. “The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride” 6:35
2. “Pilcher’s Squad” 1:54
3. “Mary the Ice Cube” 4:37
4. “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion” 7:16
5. “My Friend Fats” 7:55

Jar of Flies: Alice In Chains

Rating: 85%

alice_in_chains_jar_of_fliesReleased in 1994, “Jar of Flies” was another EP by Alice In Chains. This EP boarders the same style as the 1992 EP release “Sap.” It’s a collection of mid tempo songs that are acoustically based with some electric guitar. It features more musical influences besides the genre of Grunge. One will hear more Blues as well as a touch of Country music that is clearly heard on “Don’t Follow” and “Swing On This.” The instrumentation of electric and acoustic never takes away from each other.

This EP is very soulful with regards to the melody of the music. The slower and mid paced tempo is such a great touch. Overall, this EP is good. The flow of the tracks to the production of the entire album really showcases the talent each musician. Musically and lyrically, this album is very dark, but at times, the music tempo that is more upbeat such as “Swing on This” is a welcomed change in pace.

Vocally, Layne Staley is so good. He has a decent range with his vocal style. You will notice that on the song, “Don’t Follow.” Jerry Cantrell again, just nails the nail on the head. He proves that acoustical is just as good as electric. His leads are beautiful on this EP. Again, I love the harmony of the vocals between Jerry and Layne. Mike Inez’s bass lines and Sean Kinney drums are also spectacular.

Track Listing:

  1. “Rotten Apple” 6:58
  2. “Nutshell”   4:19
  3. “I Stay Away” 4:14
  4. “No Excuses” 4:15
  5. “Whale & Wasp” [instrumental]   2:37
  6. “Don’t Follow” 4:22
  7. “Swing on This” 4:04