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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Romantics: 'National Breakout' Breaks One Mold For Another

I've yet to read anything interesting about the odd nature of what appears to be The Romantics second record.  Whether the cover image is prefabricated or honest, it still implies the contents to be a first record. I think even the title of the record begs the same. Then there's the sound ... thin, scratchy, indie !  Not the posh and cheesy imagery of the first and third albums.  It's as if they're a different band with a different management team. National Breakout is an album worthy of the same respect as other up 'n' coming Power-Pop bands of the time.  It's themes are a bit weightier than the typical soft boy/girl approach ... love gone jaded instead of expectant. Not a favorite theme of mine, but a better approach for fans of edgy early-60's singles from Stones type bands.  Also, there's more variety in the construction of the tunes.  The album is actually edgier than The Beat, Get the Knack, 20/20, Shoes, and probably any more I can think of.

Particularly meaty for me are "New Cover Story" and "Poor Little Rich Girl".  If these tunes were played today from any new band, they'd get a respectful write-up.

Now, I'm not gonna lie.  I love the hits from this band for all the reasons that those hits are great, but understand, this record is what people who wouldn't touch their hits with a ten-foot-pole would relish as if they had found a cool band, but instead this record will be doomed to languish in the tepid catalog of a sometimes good, sometimes lame retro early-60's Pop-Rock band.  And so, like the bands mentioned above, their time couldn't come, 'cause it had already been. There's nothing wrong with that.  Looking back now, it's refreshing to have a retro Merseybeat band or two out there who knows EXACTLY how it should be done when one is in the mood to lend an ear. Least we forget ... this was the generation just after the trailblazers of the '60's that learned from the best with the love for the craft that could never be anything other than genuine love for the history of Rock 'n' Roll and they'll "send it along, with love from me to you" ... "da da dum, da da, dum dum dum".

'Modern Life Is Rubbish' Makes The Memory Of Their First Album A Blur

This album will take me some more time to expand on, as I'm still shocked at how good and out-of-nowhere it is. Never talked about in America, and never truly respected as a great band, this is one of the greatest records never played.  This is the kind of record I imagined Ogden's Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces to be was until I went back to listen to it.  But, to be honest, I chucked Ogden.. out as soon as I completed re-buying all The Kinks albums again in the late-'80's.

It's not enough to say this or that song kicks or covers the same ground as The Kinks or Madness at their English best. One has to listen and feel the storybook weave in the ears, so if you like the above mentioned bands, climb into the band at this point, but get out before their '97 self-titled album blows the dream-state up.  '90's bands felt the pressure to compete with Grunge the same way Acid Rock destroyed storybook bands of the mid-'60s. Blur is a good record, but by a band with a different mindset. Like Catherine Wheel doing the same on their American-sounding Happy Days, the opposite of the English sounding Ferment and Chrome. It's enough that Blur can live up to any hype.  They have chops, they have variety, and they have smarts.  If that's not what should qualify a band to any Rock music lover's collection, then go be a sucker for the next pile of dung someone's coming to sell ya ... Bon Appetite !

Eric Clapton: "Another Ticket" Isn't Just Another Song

I can't put my finger on the truth of the matter (since I've never read anything on Clapton or by him), but I want to praise this creation.

Never before had I actually felt the desire to buy an album with his name on it, regardless of my upbringing on the band Cream. But 1981 was a sad time, of course, so close after John Lennon's death that a young boy could read into any song that it meant more than it probably did.  So, seeing billboards on the Sunset Strip for this album after hearing the cool-groove of "I Can't Stand It", I was looking forward to one day having a listen.  Back to reality, I was too young to have money, so I wasn't gonna ask my father or my foster parents for money for a Clapton album. It just wasn't worth my time, so I wouldn't have a copy of this album until the '90's.

The first thing that impressed me about the record was that it was subtle. A beautiful, rich, burgundy color with a little pink ticket.  Secondly, no picture of him on it. Third, it's named after the best song from the album ... best musically, best lyrically.

Clapton seems to be one of those artists so focused on guitar that anything else impressive on his albums is a bonus.  I'd like to think he meant this song as more than just about a woman's love.  I'd like to think he was taking stock on life after the loss of Lennon. Funny that he was so close to George Harrison who was the absolute opposite lyrically.  [Harrison is in my top three of writers with John Lennon and Ray Davies. Clapton, of course, is not even on the list.]

A nice little guitar motif and carefully delivered vocal culminating into the passionate chorus makes this the equivalent of Paul McCartney's "Little Lamb Dragonfly" to me. I only wish there were more heavyweight tunes on the record of that ilk.  Instead , it's back to Bluesman basics, but because I love the sound of the band, I very much enjoy all the songs if only to hear the production, players techniques, and lament of the era.  As such, when I look at this record, I think of the only thing that matters when listening to a favorite record ... I'm inside the room of some great players having fun in a studio jamming-out their favorite type of tunes in a non-party-hardy way from them to all of us.  And as long as that could please somebody, "there's nothing to get hung about".