Skip to content

New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

[Album 334/1001]NewYorkDollsNewYorkDolls

I’m ill-suited to Twitter.

Only 140 characters?  Who has time to do that kind of editing?!

To appraise the New York Dolls however, I believe I can praise their eponymous debut more by saying less.

I was inspired by a recent 1537 review, where the author somehow managed to boil Sgt. Pepper down to a single, aptly chosen word.

No such brevity here alas, but I’ll attempt to at least stay within ‘tweet’ restrictions in an effort to convey my enthusiasm & hopefully clear up a misconception about the Dolls along the way.

Here goes:

Rolling Stones in drag? The Stones wish. #relevanthashtag

Randy Newman – Sail Away (1972)

[Album 333/1001]Randy_Newman-Sail_Away_(album_cover)

When my darlin’ daughter hears Randy Newman’s voice, she thinks Toy Story.  My wonderful wife immediately jumps to Family Guy.  I now hear the CBC show This is That.

This is That is a radio program (with satire not unlike the Onion), delivering fake news that sounds like trustworthy real news…until you listen to what they’re actually saying.

For instance, a recent episode included a Regina City Councillor being interviewed about the dire need for more Expectant Father parking spaces.

Sounds ridiculous?  Yes, but they do such a good job of making it sound like a CBC show that people don’t realize it’s satire; irate listeners phone in, complaining about what they’ve just heard!

All while I listen smugly, confident in the knowledge I can spot satire a mile away.

Now thankfully I didn’t write any strongly-worded emails to Pixar but the satire of this album sailed a-way over my head on the first couple listens.

Why?  He has such a distinct voice and piano-driven sound that when listening, it’s unmistakably Randy Newman

And Mr. Newman was firmly entrenched in my mind as the guy who wrote countless life-affirming songs for cartoons, trustworthy without a trace of irony, the guy who sings about what he sees!

As a result, for the first spin or two through the record, I was blissfully unaware of the lyrics.

It was only on a repeated listen that I paid a bit more attention to the words & suddenly snapped out of my usual Randy Newman cartoon/observational lyrics happy trance.  At the conclusion of Political Science, I did a double take: what country did he just say should be bombed???

Turns out, despite quite enjoying the musicality on the first few times through Sail Away, I missed the whole layer of social commentary.  I seem to have become conditioned like Pavlov’s dog (minus most of the salivating): I hear Newman’s voice, I instantly smile & begin whistling You’ve Got a Friend in Me.  Regardless of what his voice is saying, it appears!

The good news is that I’m humbled, no longer overconfident in my satire spotting abilities.

My de-conditioning efforts are also underway.  It’s a journey but I’ll get there.

Hopefully I’ll be able to pay more attention to what Good Old Randy is saying by the time I get to his other 1001 record, Good Old Boys.

Top 5 “N” Artists

It appears that “N” is a letter where I enjoy a lot of groups but with the odd exception, I don’t necessarily have a major emotional attachment to any of them.

As a result, artists have been flying in & out of this Top 5.  So as of clicking publish, Nine Inch Nails & Nada Surf are temporarily out, this current batch is in!

.

5. Newman, Randy
You mean the guy who sings about what he sees?

The ever-brilliant Chuck Klosterman had an essay about coolness where he argued artists like Randy were so uncool, they became cool.  Most people my age or younger know him from Pixar soundtracks but he’s been going strong for 40+ years, including a pair of records on the 1001 list.

.

4. N.W.A.
Not quite as durable as ol’ Randy – but certainly burst Straight Outta Compton with one of the angriest debuts I’ve heard.

.

3. New Order
Regret is one of my favourite 90s tunes.
.

2. New York Dolls
I’m relatively late to the NYD party – but to quote the Irish Rovers, Wasn’t That a Party!

.

1. Nirvana
Over-hyped/overrated/overplayed? Sure.

And yes, my early 90s viewing glasses aren’t merely rose-coloured, they’re practically opaque.

However, even if Nirvana wasn’t all that and a bag of crisps, Nevermind helped inspire Rivers Cuomo to write two of the finest records of all time (see his lyrics to Heart Songs).

More importantly, their Unplugged in New York epitaph confirmed that Nirvana/Cobain wrote some great songs.  To borrow a title from my #3 “M” artist, at the end of the day, Nothing Else Matters.

 

Early 70s records by the Dolls & Mr. Newman are on tap for this week, enjoy!

Megadeth – Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? (1986)

[Album 332/1001]

Friends, there was a time when I was destined for silver screen stardom.

The year was 1995.

My big break: an extra in a Rainbow Butt Monkeys video for the song Danananana.

.

.

At exactly 4:01, the pizza delivery man passes a short guy in a dark blue t-shirt.  That’s yours truly!

Alas, our paths diverged after that fateful day.

The Burlington band sagely changed their name to Finger Eleven and went on to enjoy continued & even greater musical success.

Unfortunately, that represented the peak of this Burlingtonian’s illustrious acting career.

I’m currently in talks with VH1 about a documentary detailing my story, The Thespian That Might Have Been.

Why relay this anecdote now?  Two reasons:220px-Megadeth_-_Peace_Sells..._But_Who's_Buying-

a) The relentless rhythm guitar that supports a few of the solos here reminded me of the outro to Danananana.

b) If you’re into metal (and many of my fellow bloggers certainly are), you already know and love this record.  I had to at least attempt to say something semi-new!

Though I think there is plenty to appreciate here even if thrash isn’t your bag.

Here are 4 big reasons why this big 4 album works, even for big 4 neophytes!

1) The album art.  I read an interesting article recently about how books are often reprinted with new covers but album covers never vary from their originals.  A given volume of Harry Potter has likely already had dozens of book jackets for instance;  can you imagine a reissue of Peace Sells without Vic Rattlehead?  Who’s buying indeed!

2) The lyrics don’t seem like an afterthought here.  The conversational delivery of the title track’s verses reminds me of The Pursuit of Happiness’s I’m an Adult Now, also from ’86.

3) The musicians can play.  I’m a fan of the clean plucked guitar + soaring lead combo, as featured during the Good Mourning instrumental.  The intricate bass pattern on My Last Words is another highlight.  Incidentally, had The Hangover been released in ’86, My Last Words (starting at 0:50) surely would have been used in lieu of Wolfmother’s Joker & The Thief.

4) Although there is variety among the 8 tracks (including a blues cover unlike any other), the band retains a distinct sound.  With a total running time of 36:12, Peace Sells can hardly be considered bloated.  Instead, the record is perhaps best described by a couple of Sum 41 album titles: (just over a) Half Hour of Power and All Killer, No Filler.

Morrissey – You are the Quarry (2004)

[Album 331/1001]220px-You_Are_The_Quarry

What do people think of when they think of Morrissey?

Let’s see: miserable/sad bastard, says stupid things, can only sing 3 notes, and according to one High Court Judge, he is “devious, truculent, and unreliable.”

So I obviously enjoy when friends say, “I think of you when I think of Morrissey!” :D

Recently, my afternoon was made when my friend Heather sent me the link, “21 charts that only Morrissey fans will find funny.”

It appears I’m part of the target audience as I thought the collection of charts & graphs was the cat’s pyjamas.  It also inspired me to create some of my own diagrams for this review.

I’d love to highlight all 12 You are the Quarry tracks but out of respect for your time &/or due to my inability to create more than 3 graphics, the opening trio will act as a representative sample for the album.  Bonus marks if you can guess the track names based on the hastily assembled Powerpoint slides!

.

Slide1

Though LL Cool J once advised, “Don’t call it a comeback,” it’s hard to view this record through any other lens.

Despite fleeing to the U.S., he chose to open his first studio album in 7 years by telling his new home of America just where they could shove their hamburger!

Hopefully by the end of 2016, this song will need yet another lyric revision to the line, “But where the President is never black, female, or gay.”

A bold, if unspectacular, opener.

On the second song however, he’s back to his spectacular self.

.

Slide2

Song 2 is comparable in feel and is probably his best song since The Boy Racer.  It’s actually not dissimilar to Blur’s Song 2 for that matter, though without the chorus screams (can you really picture Morrissey screaming?).

Even if there will never be another partnership quite like Morrissey/Marr, Alain Whyte was an underrated songwriting partner.  It’s a shame he isn’t writing with Morrissey any more.  From my gateway Moz song, We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful, to their last epic, Life is a Pigsty, they put together a pretty impressive body of work.

Speaking of super song titles:

Slide3

I’m glad to hear he’s capable of forgiveness; I’d imagine many Canadian fans are still struggling to be as accepting of his decision/publicity stunt to boycott Canada because of the Seal Hunt!

Like its title, the song is memorable, as are several of the others (notably First of the Gang to Die) on this 2004 return-to-form release.

I often change my mind as to whether I prefer its follow-up, Ringleader of the Tormentors; either way, it was good to have him back saying questionable things and making some unquestionably great music.

Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)

[Album 330/1001]220px-MercuryRev-DesertersSongs

There was a funny/sadly accurate post on CBC this week, proclaiming 1999 as the worst year in music history.

Based on the list, it’s convincing!

As I previously ranted in a Fatboy Slim review, 1998 wasn’t much better.

There was the odd standout of course (Mermaid Avenue, Lauryn Hill), old favourites were still putting out great stuff (Phantom Power, Navy Blues) but few would call the ’98 calendar year one of the all-time greats.

Not an awful year per se, just a bizarre transitional time for music.

However, when there is no one dominant sound that record labels are eagerly replicating, sometimes more interesting music breaks through.

Take Mercury Rev.

Deserter’s Songs has the vocal frailty of Elliott Smith and the musical far-out fantastic-ness of The Flaming Lips.

It even has a moment early on reminiscent of “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” from Silent Night.

So, not your typical rock record!

As a whole, the record is a grower.  The record also grows best as a whole, it’s not one for the shuffle feature.

I’m surprised Goddess on a Hiway wasn’t a bigger hit in Canada; fortunately, as I’ve since learned, it wasn’t so overlooked across the pond.

It may not be the most inherently exciting record but at the nadir of popular music in the late 90s, Deserter’s Songs likely provided an exciting promise of better music days ahead.

Especially when compared with some of those unwelcome late 90s earworms in the CBC post above!

Top 5 “M” Artists

Do you hear that?

The sound of Jon Bon Jovi singing Whoa we’re halfway there?

Lucky Letter #13/26, the Top 5 Ms!

.

5. Mika
Believe it or not, in the first draft, Motörhead was my #5.  But until my daughter starts belting out Ace of Spades, her car sing-alongs with Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion bump him into the Top 5.

Like The Darkness, Mika brought some fun back into music in the mid-00s.  Grace Kelly, Lollipop and Big Girl are practically perfect pop ditties.

.

4. McCartney, Paul
Speaking of songwriting, few have been better at the craft than Paul McCartney.  Much like Lennon with the “L” artists, this ranking is based solely on his post-Beatles output.  He hasn’t always been consistent but when he’s on (as with Ram), he’s on.

.

3. Metallica
Four albums made the 1001 (Master of Puppets, …And Justice, Metallica, and S&M); many would argue that merely scratches the surface!
.

2. Modest Mouse
Yes there’s the inevitable Johnny Marr bias but a lot of their stuff without him is equally strong.

.

1. Morrissey
Hard to believe he’s been a solo artist, singing his patented 3-note range, for 26 years!  Viva Hate set the bar, later raised by Your Arsenal & Vauxhall, hopefully his 2014 album will be a return to form.

And there will hopefully be a couple “M” reviews before too long, enjoy!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers