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Thursday, May 29, 2014
by Mike Noren
Recorded for $60 in an island country near the bottom of the globe, "Tally Ho", the debut single by New Zealand's the Clean, was an unlikely candidate to be an international game-changer and a defining moment for a pop movement.

Recorded for $60 in an island country near the bottom of the globe, the debut single by New Zealand’s the Clean was an unlikely candidate to be an international game-changer. A heap of jagged edges and jittery hooks, pushed along by a screechy Farfisa organ and shouts of “Tally Ho”, the song seems to revel in the joys of music-making with little regard for who’s listening. Still, listeners began to take notice, and the 1981 release of “Tally Ho” would in time be regarded as a milestone—not just as the opening blast of the Clean’s legendary run, but also as a defining early moment for Roger Shepherd’s Flying Nun Records. A fledgling indie label at the time, Flying Nun would soon be the creative hub for one of the world’s most influential underground music scenes.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Jim Carroll's band Unicycle Loves You changes styles every album, and now are smothering joyous pop hooks in fuzzed-out indie grit. This dynamic fuels ULY's sound, but as this 20 Questions reveals, Carroll is fueled by oh-so-much more.

Jim Carroll does not like compromise.


He is, after all, a Chicago boy who makes no qualms about his displeasure not only with pre-packaged pop stars, but also the very music industry he is a part of. Following Unicycle Loves You’s Brian Deck-produced debut album in 2008, Carroll’s once-DIY solo project has morphed into a full-blown band, and with each record, they seem to be changing up their style, moving from power-pop to garage-crunch with surprising ease, and never staying in the same place twice. Actually, that last part is quite literal, because after years of pounding the streets of the Windy City, the group only recently moved to New York City, and now the Big Apple, along with the rest of the world, gets to hear the band’s latest opus, The Dead Age, once and for all.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014
"I'm So Young" may not be a Brian Wilson original, but this elegant cover version is one of the high points of The Beach Boys Today!

When your band has a songwriter as talented and inventive as Brian Wilson, why do you record covers? “I’m So Young”, the second cover song featured on The Beach Boys Today!, serves a very different purpose than “Do You Wanna Dance?” As we saw in our discussion of the latter, that track was used to show off Wilson’s creativity and skill as a producer and arranger. By taking a familiar song as a starting point, Wilson’s extensive changes to the track could stand out as impressive displays of his budding genius. But the arrangement of “I’m So Young”—originally recorded by the Students in 1958 and covered by the Ronettes in 1964—doesn’t change much.


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Friday, May 23, 2014
Put jelly on your shoulder, lie down upon the carpet and dig into the Velvet Underground’s eponymous third album. A 1969 classic is this week’s Counterbalance.

Klinger: So the other day I’m hanging out in my basement. I’m waiting for my laundry to get through the spin cycle so I can put it in the dryer and go to bed. Because the party never ends. Anyway, I happen to catch sight of the 1979 edition of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, and I start flipping through it. I land on the index, and I notice something odd: the Velvet Underground’s name appears on four pages in the book. The Velvet freakin’ Underground. By all accounts today, one of the most influential groups of all time and the presumed architects of just about everything that’s come in its wake. Four pages. Not a four-page chapter. Four individual references — probably about seven sentences altogether.


Needless to say, my mind was blown. Even the critical industrial complex, for which Rolling Stone was the epicenter in the late ‘70s, had yet to fully grasp the Velvet Underground’s legacy. In part, of course, that’s because their legacy was still unfolding as New Wave and ‘80s artists had yet to begin dropping their name as a full-fledged touchstone of cool. Anyway, I was inspired to check back in with the group and their self-titled third album, which checks in on the Great List at No. 170 (if we were still covering the Great List in order, we would have written about this a few weeks ago). I’ve been listening to this album for nearly 30 years now, and I’m still caught up in its huge range of styles, from the sweet sadness of “Candy Says” to the avant gardery of “The Murder Mystery”. But it’s a very different record from The Velvet Underground and Nico and a vast yawning chasm away from the blistering White Light/White Heat. But I’m beginning to think that it’s the group’s almost perverse range of styles that kept just about everyone, from the general public to the critics, from fully wrapping their heads around this group. Am I onto something here, Mendelsohn?


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014
In the two decades since the band's self-titled "Blue Album" was released, Weezer's output has been a grab bag. PopMatters looks into the top 15 songs that prove that there's more to Weezer than being "Blue".

Twenty years ago, Weezer released its unassuming self-titled debut. Like its iconic and eponymous album cover, the “Blue Album” was unforgettable. The record combines growing pains, geek culture, and a girl who looks like Mary Tyler Moore into one life-changing musical experience. All that time the members spent in the garage perfecting their power-pop hooks paid off, as Weezer reminded us again why it was hip to be square. The band went on to be a driving force in the Alt-Nation and nerd-rock movements while influencing countless bands to write their own stupid songs, stupid words, and love every one.


Weezer has undoubtedly divided its fans as its career has progressed. The “Blue Album” and moody masterpiece Pinkerton (1996) are widely regarded as rock milestones, while most of the group’s later work has met with mixed results. In my opinion, Weezer fans everywhere are doing themselves a disservice by writing the quartet off after 1996. With each release, the band has cranked out memorable tunes that stick with you even when the records are uneven.


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