If, like me, you’ve read historical accounts of the music of the early ’60s–specifically the so-called “British Invasion”–perhaps you’ve scoffed at what now seem hasty, too-pat generalizations. Example: that great American artists such as Neil Sedaka, Del Shannon, and even the Everly Brothers were left in the dust, perceived as old news by trendy DJs anxious to break the latest hit by Freddie & the Dreamers, Swinging Blue Jeans, and the immortal Hedgehoppers Anonymous.
Now, in the safety and comfort of the wonderful mid-’90s–and the marvelously broad perspective we all share–do you ever, late at night, wonder: Was that really the case?
Wonder no more. For I have recently received a copy of Crossroad, a collection of “14 classic grooves” by â€™80s rock sensations Bon Jovi. And I have received the brand new album by British hard-rock band the Cult, cleverly titled The Cult. I have studied the covers of each of these albums. And I have visualized each of these horrendous â€™80s artists being not only left in the dust, but graphically vivisected in the next groundbreaking video by Trent Reznor of the innovative â€™90s combo Nine Inch Nails. Whose head, I might add, would make one hell of a wall trophy for any up-and-coming band looking to make it big in December or so.
Oh well. Just a thought.
THE CRANBERRIES No Need To Argue (Island) Though lead singer Dolores O’Riordan occasionally bleats in a manner much like long-gone ’60s superstar Sinead O’Connor, she’s not nearly as bad, really. And while time and space won’t permit a detailed analysis of the muse which clearly drives her, perhaps these few song titles will help: “Everything I Said,” “Empty,” and the stunning, revealing “Ridiculous Thoughts.” Intriguingly, Dolores remains mum about her rock critic aspirations. 2.5/5
COME Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (Matador) Given that the recently formalized Rules Of Rock have proclaimed that all bands must imitate each other until each sounds like â€™60s soul legend Solomon Burke–an admittedly tough new rule–one must congratulate Thalia Zedek and her charmingly-named band, Come. For on this, their second album, they have crafted an alluring blend of hard, guitar-filled rock and muddy bluesiness that seems one of the year’s very best, original-sounding albums. This is fierce, probing stuff very much–here I go thinking in terms of cover headlines again–in your face. 4/5
TOM PETTY Wildflowers (Warner Bros.) Though I once felt Mr. Petty had peaked very early in the â€™80s–to be honest, after 1979â€™s Damn The Torpedoes–I also (unlike nearly all of my better-dressed friends) felt his recent encounters with producer Jeff Lynne have sharply rehoned his melodic skills. This fine label debut offers further proof that the homogenous sound and rhythmic plodding that marred much Petty’s mid-â€™80s work is long gone. Zesty, tuneful, and jam-packed with pleasing textures, Wildflowers will certainly impress all the former employees of Gainesville, Florida’s Shelley’s–for whom the effervescent Petty once delivered sub sandwiches with the very best of them. 3.5/5
SEEFEEL Polyfusia (Astralwerks) Anyone still unconvinced that musical innovation remains a possibility is hereby directed to this–a compilation of two British EPs recorded immediately prior to this quartet’s Quique, released last year. Combining the noise-fest approach of fellow Brits My Bloody Valentine with the soothing ambience of the Aphex Twin, who mixes two tracks here, Seefeel clearly don’t realize that the term “sheets of sound” was patented by a distinguished jazz writer in the early â€™60s. 4.5/5
MYSTERME & DJ 20/20 Let Me Explain (Gee Street) While I am admittedly not a great fan of rap music–oddly, it often sounds as if artists of the genre are talking, rather than singing–I must say that this delightfully-named duo have created a wonderful track in “Whatever, Whatever.” Boasting a claim that he is “the Peter Pan of Rap,” the vastly charismatic Mysterme–what a moniker!–then proclaims “I could do it wrong, I could do it right” not once, not twice, but four times consecutively! Frankly, I haven’t been so mesmerized since last month’s jarringly candid “Some Shit Dat I Wrote”–performed to perfection by some group whose name, sadly, I have now forgotten altogether. 1/5