1986:THE YEAR IN RECORDS
An Allegorical Romp!
Yep, if there’s one thing I enjoy, year in and year out, it’s reviewing an entire year’s worth of records for kicks! Of course, being a carefree multi-millionaire with little or no regard for my fellow man makes it all the easier for me, but what the heck! What concern is it of yours, anyway?
On with the show, Elmo!
A great year? You bet!
YEARâ€™S WORST RECORDS!
Heck, usually there’s lots of ’em! This year, though, we’ve gone positive!
So who in their right mind could object if I just said GTR‘s album was a piece of expensive junk? That Laurie Anderson is so much pretentious piffle she makes me want to go back in time and prevent all Lauries? That the Clash‘s Cut The Crap might’ve been out for eight years now, for all I know, but it still sounds like my old dog Piggly, sneezing? That Phranc‘s wonderful album, Folksinger, reminds me of some girls I went to college with who ended up having their tubes tied and throwing “No Baby” parties to celebrate their newfound feminism? Hey, they couldn’t sing either!
And a special mention to Zoogz Rift, for his stirring Island Of Living Puke. Lose weight, try est, stop ripping off Beefheart and please stop recording those annoyingly derivative records, won’t you, “Zoogz”? My, you’re no good!
PRETTY GOOD RECORDS!
Late at night, I like to pull out a few Merit Ultra Light Menthol 100 cigarettes and smoke â€™em! Hope I quit soon, though!
Anyway, those wacky Meat Puppets from Arizona put out a fine, fine, superfine EP called Out My Way this year! Reminded me of the Dead, man! And Hunters And Collectors are cool dudes, too, though with that name and all, they don’t sound enough like Can! Isn’t it odd how Touch And Go Records put out that Virgin Prunes album? And it was produced by Soft Cell’s Dave Ball, of all things! Anyway, it was great! And not at all related to the Raunch Hands‘ Learn To Whap-A-Dang, which was great in its own way!
I kind of liked the new records by Fishbone, Love And Rockets (even though they’re ex-Bauhaus, who stink!), and even A Flock Of Seagulls! I ask you, have you ever heard of anybody who still liked them?
Bold! Adventurous! Drunk!
In fact, in the DiMartino household, the newest records by PIL, David Thomas and Peter Gordon were played more than once! An astonishing feat! Please remember, though, there’s no need to play all the records you get, because if you do, there’s no way in the world you’ll ever enjoy any of them the same way you used to enjoy your albums by Love, the Doors, Soft Machine or the Velvet Underground because you used to play them all the time during your formative years when you only had a few dozen records and were actually experiencing life itself at a greater intensity than you currently do! Yeah!
Like I was saying, the new records by Bob Seger, Lou Reed and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were equally moving, if you catch my drift! Yeah, the video jukebox is playin’ Madonna, babe! Charlie Sexton recorded an album I listened to many times prior to interviewing him! A rockin’ dude? Bet a buck! And one of the nicest!
But you know something? Sometimes, in my car, I like to sneak on a few cassettes of current college faves! Know what I mean? So, like, I’m cruising down 1-96, windows up, AC on, tape deck blaring the latest by the Windbreakers, Dumptruck, 28th Day, the Wind or Let’s Active–and all I can think of is, “Gee, though these tunes are mildly pleasant, almost catchy, and I bet if I were to listen to them repeatedly they’d be even more catchy, deep down inside I know in my heart of hearts they simply don’t have the well-crafted depth of the great tunes by Big Star and Moby Grape, two bands they are always trying to emulate, so what’s the point of further listening? Think I’ll pop in Moby Grape ’69 and pretend I’m Bob Mosley!”
But, like you, I’m a sensitive guy! Unless you’re a girl! Then, I’m still sensitive, but not “like you,” ’cause I’m a guy, remember? Sheesh! Anyway, my whole point is, every once in a while I need to hear some women with depth telling me how to run my life! Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ve been grooving on the records that Joni Mitchell and Jane Siberry put out this year. Also, I’m something of an audiophile, and they sound real good on my new speakers! So do the newest records by Frank Zappa, Art Zoyd, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic, Peter Gabriel and Einsturzende Neubauten! And I’ll tell you, it really bugs me that most rock magazines don’t tell you if the music will sound good on real expensive speakers or not! Are you with me?
Get this: I dig the soft, smooth sounds of Sade, Double and Matt Bianco! That’s right, pretty soon I’ll be making espresso for kicks, too! By cracky, a mid-life crisis 10:30 p.m. on the eve of my 33rd birthday! And you’re reading it!
NO! I’M A MANLY CRITIC! YOUNG AT HEART! Heck, I spent all last year plugged into the Husker Du album, babe! I’d often drive home from work listening to 45 minutes’ worth of the Sound‘s In The Hothouse, which I firmly believe was last year’s best live album! I grooved to the heretofore-unheard BPeople record on Enigma! And just the other day I was listening to the Volcano Suns record, too!
So why did I play “If I Were You” and “I Can’t Wait” off the new Stevie Nicks album 20 times more than any of those albums? Guess I’m a jerk! By the way, I enjoyed the “sonic textures” on that Talk Talk album –didn’t you? And I listened to the latest by Wally Badarou for the same reason! For that matter, I think Ric Ocasek‘s new album is great, too–but I’ve never listened to a single lyric on it! Pretty neat, huh?
Among the better albums of the year this year–but not the best–are those by the Del Lords, Shriekback, Human League, Pete Shelley and Frank Tovey. Also nifty were the latest by Roy Buchanan and Rodney Crowell. Dagmar Krause of Slapp Happy, Henry Cow, the Art Bears and more recorded an album of Brecht tunes called Supply And Demand. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds recorded an album of weird songs by other people called Kicking Against The Pricks.
That reminds me! Madonna recorded an album, too! It was called True Blue, and it was pretty good. R.E.M.’s new album is 10 zillion times better than their last one, so I guess it rates a mention here, too. So do the Descendents‘ Enjoy!, Phil Alvin‘s Un “Sung Stories” and the album by the Hanoi Rocks guys who call themselves the Suicide Twins. You probably don’t believe me, but I really mean it!
Few people know that I’m radioactive!
But it’s true!
Yes, it is true. Just as it’s true that the most recent albums by artists as diverse as Jonathan Richman, Dwight Twilley and Alan Vega were nowhere near their exciting, hard rockin’ potential! Yep, they were boring!
As was that Bangles album! And the Tommy Keene album! And the Steve Winwood album! And the Eurythmics album! And the Big Country album!
And the John Cale album! He’s not even writing his own words now!
The Rolling Stones’ album is rubbish! So is Bob Dylan‘s!
Van Halen‘s record would have been better if it were instrumental–and, ironically, it isn’t!
Toyah And Fripp‘s record consists of Fripp droning away while Toyah recites “The Lady And The Tiger”! You’ll listen again and again!
The Firm may â€œmean business,” but I’d rather listen to Free or Led Zep any day!
Bruce Cockburn used to be good, but then he started writing political songs that are dopey! Not from a political standpoint! Just dopey!
And, of course, there’s the Dream Syndicate!
Did you lose your purse?
Mason Ruffner‘s album was good. So was Steve Earle‘s. That Cowboy Mouth album sure had a wacky cover! And how about Yo La Tengo? That Ira Kaplan guy used to write for CREEM! A rockin’ Ira, that’s for sure! Let’s not forget trendy stuff like Scruffy The Cat, Matt Piucci & Tim Lee, Das Damen, Good Question and Spiral Jetty, who sent me their record and I play it lots!
Incidentally, scads of good stuff coming out of Scandinavia, including the Watermelon Men, the Pushtwangers and the Playmates! Have you ever heard of them?
You like rock? You like hard rock? You like hard rock with a kick? You like my ability to predict that this paragraph will already contain five lines? Then you’ll love the Georgia Satellites! You’ll groove on Phantom Tollbooth, who are real loud but write good lyrics, I swear! You’ll dig the Screaming Blue Messiahs! You’ll admire the instrumental dexterity of Tony McAlpine, or perhaps you won’t–instead getting hit by a Mercury Cougar! You’ll declare yourself a trendy Britrock mofo and openly admire the Woodentops, James and the Jesus & Mary Chain–who may sound like last year’s news, bub, but who weren’t written about in last year’s records analysis by this writer or any other! Timing is everything!
Groove on the hot Rosie Vela!
Enjoy David + David! What band could possibly have a better name?
The Smithereens have a hit record! Meanwhile, when was the last time you called your mom? The BoDeans are fantastic! What a great debut record! Buy it 20 times! Live at home and become a locksmith! Make cookies for everyone you work with every week for years–and then, one day, flip out! Enjoy the very catchy World Party album! Aren’t Timbuk 3 unique, in their way? And That Petrol Emotion are rather appealing! Wouldn’t you rather learn to like them than drop that dish in the sink and hold your hands to your temples, feeling a gnawing pain that causes you to lose your breath and shake in terror?
RECORDS THAT SHOULD BE PUNISHED!
No more Mister Nice Guy!
That’s right! This’ll be a no-holds-barred, gloves-off, butt kickin’ battle like you won’t believe!
The problem? Records that not only shouldn’t have been released–records that will ultimately cause the downfall of civilization itself when the Space Beasts arrive on that Final Day Of Reckoning ‘n’ Atonement with copies of CREEM in hand and that ol’ familiar scowl telling us it’s no use, the jig’s up, it’s time to meet the Big Bobo, etcetera!
In short–records that are completely useless!
Many of them were made this year. Among the people who recorded them, in no particular order:
Michael Des Barres, Bricklin, Southside Johnny & The Jukes, Phantom, Rocker & Slick, Missing Persons, Alphaville, Chicago, It Bites, Venetians, Loverboy, Julian Lennon, Roger Daltrey, Joe Jackson, Boys Don’t Cry, Beat Farmers, Limahl, Isle Of Man, Krokus, UB40, Stray Cats, Cheap Trick, Daryl Hall, Rod Stewart, Genesis, Ten Ten, Bananarama, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Queen, Mummy Calls, Sparks, Chris Thompson (whose High Cost Of Living LP contained an OK cover of the Motors’ great “Love & Loneliness,” I’m compelled to point out), Kids In The Kitchen, Glass Tiger, Device, Arcadia, Debora Iyall, Elton John, Mike & The Mechanics, Frankie Miller, Starship, King, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Style Council, Peter Frampton and over 9,500 other rock artists as of October 13, 1986!
But, as always, this year held surprises!
Frankly, I was a nostalgia-laden rocker this year, what with all those new releases by Roky Erickson, John Martyn, Taj Mahal and Ginger Baker! Heck, I was so happy to get an advance cassette of the new LP by Quicksilver, I forgot that sometimes very sad, random occurrences can happen for no discernible reason that may alter the way you perceive your environment! Nonetheless, any album that starts off telling some babe she’s hot because of her teeth ranks right up there!
Robin Trower, now on the same label that brought us the Seeds, has returned with a hard-rockin’ album that takes no chances, goes out and dances, never prances or romances, and is every country’s favorite but France‘s! Just one of many reasons why I should mention that the B-52’s Bouncing Off The Satellites is considerably better than I thought it would be! Not to mention that John Mayall-produced Albert King session that Fantasy just unearthed in their Stax vaults! And the Box Of Frogs album is the sort of thing that makes me forget that no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise, we are all, each and every one of us, so utterly and miserably alone, what’s the point of even caring anymore?
Yo! Let’s party!
And what better way to party than to get a hold of Dick Destiny & The Highway Kings‘ Arrogance, a hard-rockin’ metal extravaganza that takes up where the Dictators left off with even less class! Yep, you may have a hard time finding this record–and if I had any sense of moral responsibility I’d go downstairs and get it, but I don’t–so find it anyway!
It may just be my imagination, but lots of the stuff on the Homestead label is all really interesting but flawed or something. I mean, take this record by the Reactions called Cracked Marbles. Somewhere in the hype sheet it says these Cleveland bozos sound like the Byrds, but hey–the bottom line is, not a one of ’em can actually sing! And it the songs are only passable, like, what’s the point of making a record, right? Because it’s hipper than Spandau Ballet? Urp!
Records that were played during these metal months include the latest by Megadeth, Impaler, Cro-Mags, the Brood, Proletariat, Agnostic Front, and Die Kreuzen! You can just bet it’s a METAL/HARDCORE/SPEEDCORE world waiting for us! Yeah! You bet! I thought the records by Sonic Youth and Swans were symptomatic of the ills of the contemporary rock “avant garde,” in both bands’ aversions to song structure, technical ability and ultimate listenability, all of which renders them more interesting to read about than actually hear–and because of their ties to the “art scene,” more interesting to look at. They suck!
A lot of the SST stuff sounded too much like the Intergalactic Space Force, my old band–who I probably shouldn’t be writing about!
And, finally, the new Motorhead album, Orgasmatron.
1986’s BEST RECORDS
Bossie was a contented cow, for she had been at the farm for many years now. She was a pleasant, good-natured creature, and she still gave milk–more milk, in fact, than she’d ever given before. Yet Farmer Jones, who’d bought the farm recently in a government surplus auction, insisted she provide more.
It upset her, for she’d always felt she’d given the very best milk she possibly could. It seemed Farmer Jones didn’t realize just how long it took for her to create good milk! It unnerved her, for she was a very pleasant-spirited cow, and didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings–least of all, Farmer Jones’s! And goodness gracious, if her milk started going bad, his farm wouldn’t be worth one iota! It upset her. But she was a brave cow, aware of her responsibility to Farmer Jones and, most importantly, to herself.
It was Friday when Farmer Jones entered the barn and told her she would have to be milked three times a day. “My word,” she thought to herself, quite alarmed, “why, that’s three times more than what a cow of my species can normally provide! I’m stunned!” Farmer Jones, who spoke no cow, sat on the stool and began milking.
Looking down at the meager drops of milk in the cheap aluminum bucket, Farmer Jones saw something very curious. “Sacre bleu,” said he, “I can actually see words appearing!”
And indeed he could!
The words were these:
“The best albums of the year? Funny you should be staring in this bucket! Nonetheless, here they are!
“For starters? Well, there was a really exceptional Nick Drake reissue called Fruit Tree. It was a boxed set of all his work, and well worth buying! Furthermore, the great Richard Thompson recorded Daring Adventures, which, I feel, shows more growth on his part than either of his two previous albums.
“As far as trendy British stuff goes–well, as always, I’m going to give the nod to New Order, particularly for their Brotherhood album. And I firmly believe Gene Loves Jezebel have it within ‘them to become super stars in America! Give a listen to Discover, won’t you?
“Incidentally, the new albums by Peter Case and Paul Simon have a depth most American rock records sorely lack! Please listen to them! And I’m still fascinated with Neil Young‘s Landing On Water! My own feeling about the record? It’s as if Neil and company recorded the entire affair on 24-track board and have randomly played it back to us 10 tracks at a time! Can’t you just feel the missing music?
“Like experimental stuff? Well, it’s a pretentious term, true. But I’d recommend you hear Scott Johnson‘s John Somebody before we continue talking about such things! It’s groovy, and psychedelic! Feel nostalgic? Dig the Left Banke reunion album, an import called Voices Calling. It may have been recorded a few years ago, but it contains significantly good pop music! And let’s not forget the first Feelies album in many years, The Good Earth! Talk about an album that grows on you!
“Have you heard the June Brides? They released an album some time ago called There Are Eight Million Stories–which I believe might not qualify them for consideration here. But they certainly deserve a plug! As do Microdisney, for the fine The Clock Comes Down The Stairs. And though it’s taken a while to sink in, Martin Stephenson & The Daintees indeed seem to evoke John Sebastian during his glory years. Please listen, and tell me what you think!
“A special note as well for the recent albums by Robert Wyatt, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello. It would appear that Old Rottenhat, along with No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and King Of America are those artists’ finest albums in several years!
“And between you and me, the Smiths‘ The Queen Is Dead is a near perfect album! But ah, you ask, is it as good as the Apartments‘ The Evening Visits … And Stays For Years? Only time will tell!
“Secretly, and in conclusion, once again the best music in the whole wide world is coming from Australia and New Zealand!
“Don’t believe me? Have you heard that compilation by the Chills, called Kaleidoscope World? Sure, it’s ‘old,’ but I ask you–had you ever heard them before? And how about those two albums by the Go-Betweens? Their latest, Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express, is the second-best album of the year! And that Metal And Shells compilation on JEM is essential in any rockin’ hipster’s album library!
“The best album of the year? Hard to say. Seems like I’m always repeating myself.
“But, one more time: it’s by the Church. It’s called Heyday. And it’s the best album you’ll hear all year.”
Farmer Jones knew nothing of the Church or any of those other bands. In fact, Farmer Jones was stunned that he’d actually seen words appear in the milk!
“Sacre bleu,” he said, “what an unusual situation!”
Absently, Farmer Jones picked his nose in silence.
“Think I’ll go get a hamburger,” he said.
(CREEM PRESENTS ROCK â€™87, VOL. 1 No. 4)