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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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.
Michael Gira was not making a mere semantic distinction when, following the announcements in 2010 that Swans would be coming out with a new album, he insisted that the group convened to make My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky would be a reconstitution, not a reunion. To those diehard fans of the innovative rock outfit that waited 14 years following 1996’s Soundtracks for the Blind, Gira’s words were—and still are—appropriately sage. While there are characteristics of what might be called “Swans 1.0” that remain in “Swans 2.0”—namely punishing walls of sound, expansive track lengths, and grim subject matter—the music Gira and his band of volume torturers have been making since Rope to the Sky is of a class all its own.
Nowadays, two of 1994’s main music-related events are symbolically inextricably linked: the death of Kurt Cobain and the rise of Britpop. Never mind that Pearl Jam and the other grunge bands continued to make records and sell millions for years following Cobain’s suicide—the myth that has arisen around the Britpop era is that its laddish optimism and nostalgic tunefulness were a much-needed respite from the gloom and sludge emanating from Seattle in the early ‘90s. Surely, 1994 was the year that Britpop really started to pick up steam: Suede was trying to consolidate the success that accompanied its debut album, Oasis and Elastica received a rapturous reception when they issued their insta-classic freshman LPs, and Blur positioned itself as the standard-bearer of British rock when it put out its career-resurrecting Parklife, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.
Way before gangsta rap became the dominant and domineering style in the region, California’s hip-hop flavor of choice was electro. In stark contrast to ‘90s gangsta rap’s recycled P-Funk grooves and obsession with street authenticity, the more style-conscious West Coast electro of the 1980s looked to European synth innovators like Kraftwerk and, with keyboards and drum machines in tow, melded post-disco innovations with rap bravado to create a slick and sleek brand of futurist dance music. Unfortunately, this pivotal era of West Coast hip-hop is often ignored, both by broader musical histories and even some of the artists themselves who have a certain image they’d like to maintain (if you really want to listen to some of Dr. Dre’s best work, I’d recommend seeking out the tracks he cut in the ‘80s with the decidedly un-gangsta World Class Wreckin’ Cru).
// Sound Affects
"Get a drink, have a good time now. Welcome to paradise, and read all about the 305th most acclaimed album of all time. An Australian plunderphonics pioneer is this week’s Counterbalance.READ the article