Depeche Mode - Black Celebration - It's Back!!

Whether the band felt it was simply the time to move on from its most explicit industrial-pop fusion days, or whether increased success and concurrently larger venues pushed the music into different avenues, Depeche Mode's fifth studio album, Black Celebration, saw the group embarking on a path that in many ways defined their sound to the present: emotionally extreme lyrics matched with amped-up tunes, as much anthemic rock as they are compelling dance, along with stark, low-key ballads. The slow, sneaky build of the opening title track, with a strange distorted vocal sample providing a curious opening hook, sets the tone as David Gahan sings of making it through "another black day" while powerful drums and echoing metallic pings carry the song. Black Celebration is actually heavier on the ballads throughout, many sung by Martin Gore -- the most per album he has yet taken lead on -- with notable dramatic beauties including "Sometimes," with its surprise gospel choir start and rough piano sonics, and the hyper-nihilistic "World Full of Nothing." The various singles from the album remain definite highlights, such as "A Question of Time," a brawling, aggressive number with a solid Gahan vocal, and the romantic/physical politics of "Stripped," featuring particularly sharp arrangements from Alan Wilder. However, with such comparatively lesser known but equally impressive numbers as the quietly intense romance of "Here Is the House" to boast, Black Celebration is solid through and through.


Skinny Puppy – Bites

There's much to like about Skinny Puppy's first album. Right away, it's clear that Nivek Ogre, cEvin Key, and producer Dave Ogilvie are surfing through a sea of influences, demonic as their own take on these influences might be. Key member R. Dwayne Goettel wouldn't be joining the band until their next album, so his trademark demented keyboards and effects are absent, and in their place is a kind of film score minimalism. Indeed, many of the songs are reminiscent of the more mysterious cinematic moments of Popul Vuh and Jack Nitzsche. Hints of Depeche Mode and the Human League are all over "Assimilate," unmistakable Joy Division/New Order rhythm motifs crop up on "Dead Lines" and "Icebreaker," and fragmented and flanged Cabaret Voltaire experimentation is everywhere. But the band's sinister signature underbelly is already fully intact. Splattering sound effects, gurgling gushing synths, piercing keyboards, and loads of spooky samples from The Legend of Hell House paint the songs in the traditional industrial horror fashion for which the band is known. "The Choke" is perhaps most indicative of the band's later sound, with its creepy samples from Roman Polanski's "The Tenant" (a source the band would return to on VIVISect VI) and Ogre's gruff vocals mingling under an abrasive chug of machine-gun guitar dynamics. "Social Deception," another standout, is an artsy collage that sees the band twiddling with distorted electronics. Wicked, deviant voices and a twitchy electro pulse make for a frightening experience. Most surprising about this early peek into the band's bag of tricks is how delicate and pristine they sound without the more elaborate layers of samples and effects that would become their bread and butter. Bites is a fascinating look at Skinny Puppy in embryonic form, full of beautiful keyboard sounds and brimming with youthful experimentation.


Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses

When New York crossover band Carnivore broke up in 1987, vocalist-bassist Peter Steele joined forces with childhood friend and keyboardist Josh Silver and formed the short-lived Fallout, then with the addition of guitarist Kenny Hickey and drummer Sal Abruscato, Repulsion, which changed their name to Type O Negative. The band's first album, 1991's Slow, Deep and Hard, in many ways picked up where Carnivore had left off — indeed, most of the songs on the record were leftovers from Steele's previous group. Type O followed a year later with the fake live album The Origin of the Feces (Not Live at Brighton Beach), which featured renamed and rearranged cuts from the debut. Many fans were expecting more abrasive punk-based songs when Type O Negative released what would prove to be their breakthrough album in 1993, Bloody Kisses. What they got was practically a different group.

While Bloody Kisses contained vestiges of the band's past in the punky "Kill All the White People" and "We Hate Everyone," most of the album features a strikingly innovative hybrid of Black Sabbath-style doom, early Sisters of Mercy-esque goth, hooky Beatles-inspired pop and experimental psychedelic rock across its bracing, gloomy epics. Steele seductively crooned about sex, heartbreak and death in a deep, baritone voice, Hickey complemented the vocals with slow, chugging riffs, clean, oblong licks, crystalline arpeggios and melodic solos. Silver crafted four instrumental interludes, which gave the album a weird, unhinged vibe. While the songs were catchy, they were also elliptical and multifaceted. Four were over seven minutes long, including the single "Christian Woman," which was originally 8:58 before being edited down to a four-and-a-half–minute radio single.

Striking a chord with fans of various genres, and assisted by the endorsement of strangely influential Nineties and early Naughties cartoon head-bangers Beavis and Butt-Head, Bloody Kisses was the first Roadrunner album to go gold and platinum.


The Cult – Electric/Peace

Now this is long overdue… The story here is that in October 1986, when goth-minded British rockers The Cult began recording their third album, Peace, with Love producer Steve Brown at the helm, the initial sessions were unsatisfying and scrapped in favour of new recordings made with über-beard Rick Rubin, the most transformative producer and A&R ever. In a nutshell, the songs originally sounded like the previous album, 1985’s Love. While that was an excellent record in its own right, the atmospheric new songs meandered all over the place in the Love style and didn’t really represent progress. It’s understandable, then, that Rubin was brought in, saying – and this is verbatim, quoted at the time – that he didn’t want any more “pussy jangly guitars”. The album, retitled Electric, sold in massive quantities and, bingo, everybody was happy.

If you’re into both Love and Electric, and even Sonic Temple, but didn’t already get it as part of the Rare Cult boxed set or on the B-sides of the Electric singles and The Manor Sessions EP, Peace will be a revelation. While all of the songs that are also on Electric sound very different, like something from Love but with even more atmosphere, the original versions of such songs as “Peace Dog,” “Aphrodisiac Jacket,” “Bad Fun,” and especially “Electric Ocean” are noticeably improved over the Electric versions, while “Love Removal Machine” and “Wild Flower,” while very different, are just as good. Even cooler, Peace includes a clutch of tracks — “Love Trooper,” “Conquistador,” “Groove Co.,” and the masterful “Zap City” — that didn’t get rerecorded, but should’ve. Only “Outlaw” seems to be improved by Rubin’s raw production, but even in the context of Peace it works well.

Peace is an invaluable addition to The Cult’s catalogue, and a must-have for most fans, especially of their Love album.


Temple Of The Dog - Temple Of The Dog

‘I never wanted to write these words down for you, with the pages of phrases of all the things we’ll never do.’ The words remained unchanged, yet they couldn’t help but feel different as they echoed around the Los Angeles Forum at the I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell concert in January 2019. This had little to do with the fact that it was Miley Cyrus singing them, and rather everything to do with the person who wasn’t. These lyrics from Say Hello 2 Heaven – the first song on Temple Of The Dog​’s only album – were conceived by Chris Cornell to process the death of one specific person, yet that night they seemed to carry the combined emotional weight of two. But more on that later.

Thirty years on from its release, the story of how members of Mother Love Bone / Pearl Jam and Soundgarden united as Temple Of The Dog remains one of the most powerful in rock’s storied history. The LP’s liner notes made it sound like a breeze: ​“Recorded weekends at London Bridge Studios, Seattle, WA, Nov – Dec 1990.” Within that short span of time, however, the group that recorded it would confront the spectre of death and emerge reborn. The Temple Of The Dog narrative will never be rendered more succinctly than bassist Jeff Ament’s handwritten notes in the album’s inlay. Line by line, Jeff’s relays it sparsely, poetically and sometimes even mathematically.

First, he noted in a string of clipped sentences, there was ​“Green River + Soundgarden” – “’80s Seattle bands making huge sounds”. He then described how both shared a friend in the form of “musician/entertainer Freddie prodigy Andrew Wood, who lived with Chris, worked with Jeff + played an occasional acoustic set with Stone [Gossard]”. Later on he noted how,​“Green River broke up + Andrew joined Stone + Jeff… Mother Love Bone.” That new band, led by frontman/charisma-made-flesh Andy Wood, were destined for huge things. And then, less than a month before their debut album was due to hit shelves…“We all lost our beautiful friend, Andrew,” wrote Jeff.

On March 19, 1990, Andy Wood died as a result of a heroin overdose, aged 24. He was kept on life-support long enough for his family and friends to say goodbye. In Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary documentary film PJ20, Jeff relayed the horror of what they had encountered. “Whenever people would start to get into drugs after that, I wished I had a picture to show them of Andy when he was in the hospital, because it was so horrible,” he said. “It’s difficult to articulate it,” added Chris Cornell in the same film. ​“To see him hooked up to a machine… That was the death of the innocence of the scene. It wasn’t later when people surmised that Kurt [Cobain] blowing his head off was the end of the innocence. It was that. It was walking into that room.”

Everyone dealt with the trauma in their own way. For Mother Love Bone’s bereaved alumni, there was the inconceivable loss coupled, eventually, with the very real prospect that that their lives making music were over. Around the same time, however, Chris – as mired in grief as he was – wrote two songs about his flatmate: Say Hello 2 Heaven and Reach Down. In the first he spoke to Andy directly – a beautiful song that fell somewhere between a eulogy and a personal letter to his fallen friend. The latter almost served as a fever dream or apparition of Andy, deftly conveying his legendary ability to treat even the smallest show like he was playing Wembley in order to win crowds over. Chris took those songs to Jeff and Stone. As Jeff’s footnote continued: ​“Life moves on. We jammed.”

Soon a new band was born: Chris and his fellow Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron united with Jeff and Stone, who were also in the process of forming Mookie Blaylock (who would eventually go by the name of Pearl Jam) with guitarist Mike McCready. Also in the group’s orbit was Mookie Blaylock’s new singer, freshly plucked from a life spent surfing waves off the coast of San Diego: Eddie Vedder. Temple Of The Dog’s first rehearsals took place at Seattle’s magnificently titled Galleria Potatohead Gallery. Initially built around Chris’ two elegiac songs, the band was conceived as both an exercise in rehabilitation through music, and a tribute to their late peer – even lifting their name from the opening words of Andy Wood’s lyrics on Mother Love Bone’s Man Of Golden Words: ​‘I want to show you something like joy inside my heart, seems I been living in the temple of the dog.’ While only the two aforementioned Chris songs were explicit in addressing Andy’s passing, the themes of loss and trauma coloured all of the material in one way or another. Much of what happened in the Temple Of The Dog sessions has passed into rock legend. There’s the story of Eddie Vedder sitting quietly in the corner with his notebook waiting for Mookie Blaylock sessions to resume as Chris Cornell sang Hunger Strike. The two had only just met, yet Eddie – at the time a deeply shy inductee to Seattle’s scene – still possessed the necessary confidence to walk over to Chris uninvited and sing the deeper register sections of the song, freeing Chris up to tackle the high parts. Hunger Strike would go on to become the first song on which Eddie was properly recorded in a studio. In the PJ20 film, Stone reflected on how he felt hearing his fledgling vocalist duet with Chris – by then already an accomplished artist. “And then you hear it and it’s like, ‘Wow, our guy sings really fucking good, too!’” he recalled.

Then there was Mike, who performed an extended solo at Chris’ behest during Reach Down. It’s an eyes-rolled-up-white-in-the-back-of-the-head kind of moment: he played until his headphones fell off and then carried on wailing away anyway. In the PJ20 book, Mike said it was “super sloppy”. The rest of the world, however, heard a guitarist playing out of his mind, body and soul. That Temple Of The Dog was critical to the development of Pearl Jam goes without saying: both bands came to life at the same time, with PJ’s blockbuster debut Ten and TOTD recorded by Rick Parashar at London Bridge Studios. What’s more, one particular Stone Gossard music demo became both Times Of Trouble by TOTD and Footsteps by Pearl Jam – with both Chris and Eddie writing lyrics to the same music separately. Jeff’s summation of the emotional odyssey Temple Of The Dog’s members went through during the making of the record goes as follows: ​“10 songs. Spontaneous creation. Emotion. Very pleasing. Real music. No analyzing. No pressure. No hype. Just music to make music. Friends and a reason. Chemistry. Beauty. Life rules!”

Released on April 16, 1991, Temple Of The Dog received praise in reviews but made scant commercial impact. It would have been an injustice for the ages had it not gone on to become a sleeper hit. With grunge ascendant in the wake of Nevermind, Ten and Badmotorfinger​’s success, in 1992 channels finally cottoned on to the fact that they were sitting on an old music video for Hunger Strike that featured two of the hottest bands in the world playing together. The assorted members of Temple Of The Dog would, of course, go on to record some of the most acclaimed albums of the ​’90s and ​’00s, yet it retains, for its creators, a special meaning. “It’s as good as anything we’ve done since,” Stone reflected to Rolling Stone’s David Fricke in Temple Of The Dog’s 25th anniversary reissue. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. In both its themes and staggering musicality, it should have been an album far beyond the reach of men of such a young age. While it is rightly exalted and revered, it is more accurately an album that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as any of the most hallowed records of any era in rock.

Its enduring quality was only reaffirmed when the band reformed for shows in 2016 for its 25th anniversary. To hear them play Say Hello 2 Heaven, Reach Down, Hunger Strike or the wounded strains of Call Me A Dog and Times Of Trouble was all the proof required that these songs had been enriched by the passage of time and the ability of its creators to perform them. This only makes the loss of Chris Cornell harder to process. ​“I think we’re all still trying to understand the whys and hows,” Jeff Ament told Kerrang! in 2018. ​“We just miss him.” “The shows were so beautiful,” he reflected. ​“I think everybody was playing at such a high level – a level we wouldn’t have been able to play at when we made that record.” There was just something so positive and, not to use the word over and over again, but beautiful [about those shows], it makes it even harder to think that we’ll never do it again.” When the singer joined Pearl Jam onstage at their 20th anniversary show at Alpine Valley in September 2011, they conducted a mini Temple Of The Dog set. That night he spoke of what the album meant to him. ​“It was a turning point in my life, and I think everybody’s lives when we lost him,” he said before the band started Say Hello 2 Heaven. ​“This one is for him, for him always. Andy. This is for you.”

Temple Of The Dog was for Andy. It always will be. Speaking to David Fricke for the 25th anniversary edition, however, Chris did note that over time the song had changed. ​“I get a lot of requests from people, to play the song in tribute to someone else that passed away,” he said. ​“It’s awkward, because it is so specifically about Andy. But that is the greatest thing about being a songwriter. Your song has its own life. It will go through metamorphoses that you cannot control, no matter what. I think that’s amazing.” There is, indeed, a sharp stab of sadness in all of this; the way in which the words that once held Chris aloft during his grief now seem to resonate with the tragedy of his own death. But that’s not the whole story of what it is to listen to the album now in 2021. This particular Temple is not just a site of mourning; it’s a place of worship.

George Garner, Kerrang!


L.A. Guns - Cocked & Loaded

Two years following the release of their self-titled, sleazed-out debut album, L.A. Guns visited the gutter one more time with the 1989 release of ‘Cocked & Loaded’. The long hair HollyRock sound is retained, while the trio of Duane Baron, John Purdell and Tom Werman push the production values. In addition, credibility is boosted with the addition of Cheap Trick's dynamic duo, Robin Zander and Rick Neilsen, sitting in on the recording sessions. The one-minute shot of "Letting Go" pulls back the trigger on ‘Cocked and Loaded’, with freight train rocker, "Slap in the Face", setting the stage for the next twelve tracks. The title cut is heavy on cowbell and a cool power chord progression, while front Gun man, Philip Lewis, sings about late night sex action. The grinding "Sleazy Come Easy Go" points due East, as the quintet yank hard on the Aerosmith rockin' reigns. "Never Enough", and the strung-out "Malaria", keep the hair band engine stoked with infectious melodic rock.

The pistol packin' gang lay down their guns on the laid back "The Ballad of Jayne" (incorrectly titled "The Ballad of Jane" on the album sleeve). The light, summer night number allows Lewis to flex his vocals, while Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps accent the breezy, Bic-flickin' dedication to the late, great blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, on acoustic guitars. The stacked and seductive Mansfield was far from anyone's plain Jane. Clocking in at over six-minutes, "Magdalaine" drags on, while the boys get back down to basics with the funky rockin' "Give A Little", which is chased by a quick instrumental shot of "I'm Addicted", and the wild side, down-in-the-gutter pull of "17 Crash", the group's call 'n' response to Suzi Q's "48 Crash". "Showdown (Riot on Sunset)" trips in with raging guitars and a bad ass vibe. ‘Cocked and Loaded’ fires to a close with the big-talkin' "I Wanna Be Your Man".

L.A. Guns did their best to bring the '80s Sunset Strip scene to a fitting close with a dirty dose of scruffed-up SoCal raunch 'n' roll throughout the majority of the trigger-happy ‘Cocked and Loaded’.


Electric Boys - Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride

Some lite lunch sounds now with love from Scandinavia 

Sweden's Electric Boys were one of the first and most celebrated purveyors of the short-lived rock phenomenon of the late '80s and early '90s. In 1988 charismatic singer and guitarist Conny Bloom formed Electric Boys with bassist Andy Christell in Stockholm. After scoring a significant domestic hit with their first single, "All Lips N' Hips," the group completed their line-up with guitarist Franco Santunione and drummer Niklas Sigevall and set to work on their first album, 1989's critically acclaimed Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride. Signed to Atco by former Kerrang! scribe turned A&R man Derek Oliver, the quartet garnered rave reviews and built a large following in Europe and the U.K. with their extremely funky retro hard rock sound and gaudy psychedelic look. Producer du jour Bob Rock was brought in to remix the album and record some new tracks prior to release stateside.

Though the Electric Boys weren't as successful as they deserved to be, the distinctive Swedish rockers enjoyed some moderate MTV exposure with their grinding hits "Psychedelic Eyes" and "All Lips and Hips" -- both of which are among the highlights of this inspired debut album. Despite what its title implies, Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride isn't funk/metal in a Red Hot Chili Peppers-like fashion -- rather, the melodic yet aggressive band had more in common with Aerosmith's intense boogie. Combining an Aerosmith-influenced sense of fun with elements of '60s psychedelic rock (including a sitar), the Electric Boys made Carpet Ride one of 1990's most memorable rock releases. Unfortunately, their moderate success has proved to be short-lived. When alternative rock came to dominate MTV in 1992 and 1993 and Aerosmith-influenced bands significantly decreased in popularity, the Electric Boys became a casualty of changing tastes. The group disbanded in the mid-'90s but re-formed in the 2010s with their original line-up and signature sound -- which also included elements of pop and psychedelia -- intact, issuing their ebullient seventh long-player, Upside Down, in 2021.


The Throbs - The Language Of Thieves And Vagabonds

The Throbs had a brief but well-hyped career as New York's answer to Guns N' Roses…not quite. 1991's The Language of Thieves and Vagabonds which was produced by Bob Ezrin (KISS, Alice Cooper) on Geffen Records should have by all means, made these guys stars.  Were they the next Guns N’ Roses?  Probably not, but this album is displaying a definite glam influence direct from the ultimate source, the New York Dolls. The songs on this disc are nothing short of fantastic.  Big guitars and great piano work saturate.  In fact, the keyboards on this disc are handled by Bob Ezrin, with the exception of a couple of guest stars.  Little Richard plays the piano on the song, “Ecstasy” and Freddy Mandel (Alice Cooper) handles the keyboards on It’s Not the End of the World” and “Rip It Up”.

Singer Ronnie Sweetheart has a gritty vocal that reminds me a lot of David Johansen. His vocals take a little bit of time to get used to; Sweetheart’s vocals are quite a bit different from most of the bands from the early nineties. The music dabbles with some hints of post Appetite Guns N’ Roses with some guitar sounds that bring KISS to mind, but believe me The Throbs might look like an early 90’s hair metal act, they are not a hair metal band.

Finally, even though The Language of Thieves and Vagabonds abuses the most clichéd descending rock riff in existence, Come Down Sister is explosive and ultimately infectious.


The Cult – Electric

The roots of Electric lay in another album entirely, Peace (coming soon), which was recorded with Love producer Steve Brown in a series of sessions that the band found increasingly pressure-filled and fraught with tension. A chance meeting with Def Jam supremo Rick Rubin at an American awards ceremony turned out to be the charm, resulting in the saucy chest-baring stomp of Electric. Rubin chucked all the old recordings for a series of new sessions, stripping everything down and essentially transforming Billy Duffy into the logical successor to AC/DC's Angus Young. Thankfully Ian Astbury decided not to become Brian Johnson, and while his macho yells can't help being cartoonish, he's clearly having fun throughout.

Though both band and album caught a lot of flak for their perceived wallowing in dinosaur sounds and styles, the end result is still a fist-punching yelp of energy that demands to be heard at maximum volume in arenas, with a brusque punch in Les Warner's drums to match Duffy's power-chord action. "Love Removal Machine" is still the album's calling card, another in the series of instantly catchy Cult singles. "Li'l Devil" is almost as worthy, while other cuts like "Wild Flower" and "King Contrary Man" would have sounded good in 1973 and sound just as good in a new century. There are a couple of missteps -- "Peace Dog" starts good but ends up being what happens when the Doors are used as a model in the wrong way, while the version of the Steppenwolf classic "Born to Be Wild" should be taken out and shot. Otherwise, Electric is an enjoyable pleasure from start to finish -- even if Astbury sings "plastic fantastic lobster telephone" at one point.

アイアン・メイデン ‎– 鋼鉄の処女

今朝鉄の処女が降ろされることを考えると、今日の東京での2021年のオリンピックの開幕を祝うために、基本的な日本語にふけることは、私の世俗的な聴衆(これはあなたの愛する旅行者です)にとっていくらか役立つだろうと思いました.  アスリートたちが夢を超えて素晴らしいゲームを成功させてくれることを願っています。

さて、アイアン・メイデンのデビューアルバムの1986年のオリジナルの日本リリース(ボーナスディスク付き)を試してみたい場合はをクリックしてください here 


Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden - Take Down Notice Received

There may be no better place to hear how both punk and prog rock informed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than Iron Maiden's self-titled debut. Often overlooked and overshadowed by the glorious Bruce Dickinson years, it's easy to forget that Iron Maiden was itself a game-changer when it appeared on the scene in 1980. That year also saw important albums from Motörhead, Saxon, and Angel Witch, but Iron Maiden vaulted its creators to the head of the NWOBHM pack, reaching the U.K. Top Five and establishing them as an outfit with the talent to build on Judas Priest's late-'70s innovations.

On the one hand, Maiden was clearly drawing from elements of punk rock -- the raw D.I.Y. production, the revved-up velocities, and the vocals of rough-and-ready growler Paul Di'Anno, who looked and sounded not like a metal god, but rather a short-haired street tough. On the other hand, Maiden had all the creative ambition of a prog rock band. Compositionally, even their shortest and most straightforward songs featured abrupt changes in tempo and feel. Their musicianship was already light years beyond punk, with complicated instrumental passages between guitarists Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton and bassist Steve Harris. When Murray and Stratton harmonize their leads, they outdo even Priest's legendary tandem in terms of pure speed. The lyrics have similarly high-flying aspirations, spinning first-person stories and character sketches with a flair for the seedy and the grotesque. Add it all up, and Iron Maiden performs the neat trick of reconciling two genres seemingly antithetical to one another, using post-Priest heavy metal as the meeting ground.

The seven-minute "Phantom of the Opera" is a landmark, the band's earliest progressive epic and still among its best; with its ambitious fusion of musical styles, its multi-sectioned construction, and the literary retelling of the lyrics, it seemed to encapsulate all the promise of both the band and the NWOBHM. Two of the simpler, punkier rockers, "Running Free" and "Sanctuary" (the latter left off the U.K. version but added to subsequent reissues), made the lower reaches of the British singles charts. The flasher tale "Prowler," one of the band's more enduring numbers, is in the same vein, but ups the instrumental complexity, while the title track still remains a concert staple.

Elsewhere, the band offers the first of many instrumentals with "Transylvania," introduces the recurring title character of "Charlotte the Harlot," and reimagines Judas Priest's "Beyond the Realms of Death" with the "ballad" "Remember Tomorrow," which starts out soft but closes with a speed-freak guitar section. Perhaps the only hint of a misstep comes on the more restrained ballad "Strange World," the only song from this album that was never re-recorded in a live or alternate version by the Dickinson lineup. Nonetheless, the whole project explodes with energy and ideas, and while the band would certainly go on to refine much of what's here (including the cover painting of mascot Eddie), Iron Maiden would still rank as a landmark even if the Dickinson years had never happened.


Skid Row - Skid Row

Skid Row's debut album catapulted this New Jersey rock band from relative obscurity to one of the most talked about new acts of 1989. Their combination of cleverly crafted hard rock riffing with infectious pop-metal hooks made them seem like an American update of The Sweet. Their songs were catchy enough to appeal to girls, yet just edgy enough to appeal to a male audience. Undoubtedly, it was their vocalist Sebastian Bach that provided the X-factor this band needed to rise so quickly among such stiff competition in that genre. His brash, powerful vocals are confident, powerful and just a tad over-the-top here, although this would prove to be more of a strength for him at this point in time. His performances got him noticed, but his prima donna antics and belligerence also grew tiresome very quickly for his band and many of its fans. He suffered from the same "lead singer's disease" that also made Axl Rose become so insufferable. Thus, Skid Row's quick rise would also become a very fast descent within just five years.

The first half of the album rocks hard with songs like "Big Guns", "Sweet Little Sister" and "Piece Of Me", along with the mega-hit power ballad "18 & Life". However, it's the second half that really finds the band in high gear. The anthemic "Youth Gone Wild" was the song that opened the door for them. "Here I Am" and "Makin' A Mess" are also great hard rockers with just a touch of Aerosmith's swagger. The power ballad "I Remember You" was also a big hit for them, although it's one power ballad to many for me - possibly due to the overwrought vocal by Sebastian. "Midnight"/"Tornado" is an aggressive closer for this fine record.

Musically, the band always struck me as an edgier take on Aerosmith's style. They had a very groove oriented sound which had guitarists Dave "The Snake" Sabo and Scotti Hill weaving their arrangements in a very similar fashion as Perry & Whitford. The primary songwriters on this album are bassist Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, although Sebastian did earn one co-credit for "Makin' A Mess".


Faster Pussycat - Faster Pussycat

Faster Pussycat was one of those 2nd string bands that seemed to embody both the positive and negative aspects of the the hair metal scene that emerged during the late 80s. Their ragged, groove oriented swagger owes a huge debt to Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones (to a lesser degree), but were also a product of the Hollywood scene that also spawned Guns 'N Roses and L. A. Guns. The promo shots of the band members presented them as sleazy, strung out, effeminate and street hardened Hollywood posers, but also not an unpopular look for that time and place.

Their debut album is a notable, but uneven slice of hair metal glory circa 1987. It's vocalist Taime Downe who seems to stand out most here. Taime spouts out his observations on the seedier aspects of the Hollywood club scene. Mind you, he's not the best singer by any measure, but he's full of the cocky attitude required to front a band of gypsies like these. But he almost seems to be channelling Stephen Tyler as he had sounded live during the late 70's while wacked out on downers.

The first half of the record is pretty good for what it is. The first two tracks - "Don't Change That Song" and "Bathroom Wall" - are probably the best examples of what the band is all about, although my favourite tracks are actually "Cathouse" and "Babylon". It's hard not to remember those days when hearing any of these songs now. The wobbly ballad "No Room For Emotion" seems a bit less steady in its execution though and does cause them to momentarily lose momentum. The second half of the record definitely doesn't measure up to side A, but isn't bad.

Aside from their style over substance approach to hard rock, I was always rather unimpressed with the musicianship of this band. The performances always seemed a bit underwhelming and just barely competent enough to make this record. The guys seemed pale in comparison to their contemporaries (namely Guns 'N Roses and Motley Crue) and just didn't offer up all that inspiring in terms of guitar solos or even commitment to these songs. But for me, it's this punky indifference that's part of the appeal. It's all about looking cool, playing your Les Paul down at knee level, dangling that cigarette carelessly from your lips and chugging a beer at every opportune moment.

I won't begrudge this record at least some praise. It hasn't aged particularly well and seems to have become more of a guilty pleasure. The production is somewhat raw in contrast to their slicker, more improved sound for the following records. Still, I tend to prefer these songs to the minor hits they had later. It's just hard rockin' sleazy fun that was never meant to be taken too seriously.


Hanoi Rocks - Back To Mystery City

Having so obviously worshipped at the altar of Mott the Hoople for much of their career, it's little surprise that for their fourth album Hanoi Rocks went straight to the source, getting both Dale Buffin Griffin and Pete "Overend" Watts to produce Back to Mystery City. Whatever else they brought to the sessions, the duo makes Hanoi Rocks sound like a much more powerful band than before; compared to Self Destruction Blues, the riffs are more explosive, the drumming pounding, and Michael Monroe is in full swing. The aura of '50s rave-up, '70s glam party, and '80s hard rock chaos that the band made their own sounds even better than before, but the production duo also made even more room for intriguing experiments within the songs themselves. Thus, the full-on glam stomp, mock-Burundi drums, and animal noises during the merry romp "Tooting Bec Wreck" (one of many Hanoi Rocks songs paying homage to home-away-from-home London), or the clearly obvious "Mony Mony" steal from the title track, with reverbed vocals working wonders. One thing's for sure: calling the first song "Strange Boys Play Weird Openings," and having it be a mock rustic folk song -- with acoustic guitars, flutes, and chirping birds -- is a great way to have fun. More so, admittedly, when things suddenly kick into the brilliant rocker "Malibu Beach Nightmare." Other songs, like "Beating Gets Faster" and "Ice Cream Summer" (gratuitous misogyny aside), may be more Hanoi Rocks by-the-numbers, but it's a good enough pattern to follow. In their own way, they weren't so much pioneers as followers of a style that not many attempted at the time. They get extra points, as well, for having one of the more entertainingly crude song titles around: "Lick Summer Love."


Sleeper – Smart

Britpop spawned a number of guitar bands with female vocalists and anonymous musicians – Echobelly, Salad, Elastica – and Sleeper were amongst the forerunners. And I guess that has a satisfying sense of irony about it because the band chose the name Sleeper to acknowledge the fact that the blokes in the band would receive little recognition or credit, and I’m not about to challenge that here. If you have not guessed Louise Wener was just about the sexiest thing in the world in my early to mid-thirty’s...Fuckin’ Gorgeous, and whilst I scoff at having this as a reason to enjoy this album / band it is not completely irrelevant in this context as it is Weners' voice and overall sex appeal in her delivery that saves many of the albums mediocre offerings from being throwaway...Just listen to “Hunch” and tell me if I am wrong?

Louise did not have the greatest voice in the world, I caught them live in Edinburgh and it was even more evident then. What she did have was the cute indie chick vibe in abundance and penchant for writing awesome 3 minute catchy guitar pop with her bandmates. "Inbetweener" is an intoxicating single. Fuzz guitars, light harmonies, singsong melodies and hooks keep piling up until the whole thing collapses in a heap after three minutes. There's a Blur-like quality to the observational lyrics but an Oasis-esque ear for melody and fantastic choruses. Of course, none of it is terribly original, but which Britpop band was? The genre's best bands lived and died by the quality of their songs, and Smart features 12 catchy, tightly written rock songs and 2 outright forgotten classics in "Swallow" and "Inbetweener".

An underrated entry into the 90s Britpop canon, this album stands alongside Parkllife and Definitely Maybe as a high watermark of the genre. Eschewing the punky, riot grrrl aesthetic of an Elastica or Breeders, Sleeper opts for a more melodic power pop sound with sweet, but punchy, female vocals from Louise Wener. It's not the most interesting of Britpop albums, but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable. It comes highly recommended for rock music fans.

Salad - Drink Me

A Sunday roast special for you...

Clearly more interesting, more varied, more wild, less formulaic, and just plain wagon-loads better than the OK Echobelly and Sleeper, and far more original and less nostalgic than Elastica, Salad get a little notice but far less than their six singles and album suggest they are due. Best of all and most importantly, while all those other bands lose something with repeated playings, Salad's impact just grows stronger and stronger. Perhaps their first three singles -- compiled in 1994 on the LP Singles Bar -- are a little on the crude side, but since the release of "Your Ma" this Brighton quartet has really come on. Theirs is a mildly dark and twisted take on post-punk guitar rock; the occasional noise elements never interfere with their strong songs, but always add an unpredictable and screwy air that draws the ear. Even better, they are blatantly unafraid to plumb the quieter tones and inject large dollops of warmth and prettiness to the soul-searching words singer Marijne writes. The best example of this, "Motorbike to Heaven," is one the singles of 1995, perfectly recorded by the talented Mark Freegard, mixing his usual post-shoegaze glimmer shimmer with the group's freewheeling guitars and Marijne's arousing reaction to a parting. Sweet, strong, and only slightly sorrowful, this bubbling brook is so nice and yet really hits. Likewise, the bubbling cauldron of "Drink the Elixir," which might be a less nutso Pixies if they were more in control all the time, is powerfully catchy, and their untamed singer sounds hot and smooth at the same time. The rest of the LP seesaws between a gaggle of styles approximated by the four singles, with equally pleasing results. Anyway you look at it, this is an inspired, special group, one that will still be worth playing when writers have long forgotten any of these other more-hyped groups ever existed.


Republica – Republica

Republica released their eponymously titled debut album to a great reception in July of 1996. Their singer, Saffron, had a great, innovative look for an increasingly materialistic world, and with a powerhouse voice that could knock Mohammed Ali out with a single verse. The band crashed onto a 1994 post-Brit-pop scene with their debut single ‘Out Of This World‘ a record that failed to achieve all that it could. It wasn’t until the following year the follow-up ‘Bloke‘ managed to scratch the top 100. That should have been it had the band not persevered, releasing a third single that would lead out their debut album. Saffron preached her message to a baying audience and was about to start a rise that would see Republica with ‘Ready To Go’ achieving the status of No.1 Gay Anthem Club Record Worldwide! And with the album things just started to get better, ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ an anthem for every mid to late 90s club chick, was a second huge hit.

‘Ready To Go’ is still the best song ever to listen to while getting dressed for a night on the town. Yet the album also seems to nicely capture the futility of the mid 90’s British club scene. "Poor cow sits alone, pubs close go home - Trapped in your world" sings Saffron in "Out Of The Darkness". "Wrapp" is deliciously sexy, while "Bitch" is perfectly bitchy. Yeah, it's not exactly ground-breaking stuff, yeah, it's cheesy pop, and yeah it involves some bad puns ("In the Hollywood Bowl of cereal killers") wow, two in one line... but it doesn't pretend to be ground-breaking. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than cheesy pop, and Republica do cheesy pop damned well. It's an indisputably fun album with tunes that just flowed, be it in the indie disco, or some of the biggest club-nights. Listen to it if you wanna shake your thing while putting on lip-gloss to get in the mood for a night in the clubs - but only if you do the clubs with a nice big dose of irony.


Lush – Spooky

With Lush's first proper full-length, 1992's Spooky, it becomes quite clear that this band possessed the substance to match its style. As part of the wave of British acts that were first slapped with the shoegaze tag—Ride, Slowdive, and Pale Saints among them—Lush's music was naturally defined by its seemingly endless ripples of delay, reverb, flange, and chorus. But the almost-supernatural power of frontwoman/guitarist Miki Berenyi and lead guitarist/vocalist Emma Anderson's vocal harmonies and intertwining guitar work set Lush apart from the shoegaze pack on a number of levels.

After a brief intro, Spooky launches straight into the stratosphere with "Nothing Natural," a pinnacle moment not only for Lush but for shoegaze/alternative across the board. Although Guthrie brings his soft-focus production once again, no amount of sonic soft-pedaling can contain the band's assuredness as it aspires to—and mostly reaches—a beauty so sublime that it pumps you up as much as it takes your breath away. Sure, Lush made melancholy, ethereal music, but such was the band's range during this period that none of the songs on Spooky conform strictly to one mood.

By turns dour, impatient, hopeful, and resigned, the album never runs out of shades. Uptempo numbers like "Laura" and "Superblast!" counterbalance the more reflective moments, which hit hardest on album closer "Monochrome," a song with a swaying underwater groove. In the chorus, Berenyi sings, "And sometimes I think if I stand by the phone it may ring/ And sometimes I worry and fear what tomorrow may bring," her voice drenched in reverb so she sounds less like a human than an apparition. It is one of several moments on Spooky where Lush's music verges on mind-altering.


Sister Vanilla - Little Pop Rock

Sister Vanilla's Little Pop Rock is a Reid family reunion, with William and Jim providing guitars and production along with the occasional lead and backing vocals, and sister Linda (who sang Moe Tucker on the last Jesus and Mary Chain record to date, Munki) on lead vocals. It's a Jesus and Mary Chain reunion too because long-time JAMC member Ben Lurie is on board as well. Unsurprisingly, Little Pop Rock sounds a whole lot like a Jesus and Mary Chain record. One with a low-budget, lo-fi approach, but still very much of a piece with their late-period output. Tracks like the surging "Jamcolas" and "Delicat" have the same machine-driven, rock & roll swagger that tracks like "I Hate Rock & Roll" had, "Slacker"'s a country ballad that would have fit right in on Stoned & Dethroned, "Can't Stop the Rock" is a wonderfully knuckleheaded rock anthem the group specialized in. ("Jamcolas" and "Delicat" also feature lead vocals by William and Jim, with Linda in a supporting role.) While it's nice to have another Mary Chain record, what makes the record even better is the presence of Linda Reid. Her charmingly innocent vocals shine some sweetness and light on the proceedings and make songs like "Pastel Blue," "The Two of Us" (a duet with Stephan Pastel), and "Angel" almost tender, which is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of the Reids. She also has a good rock & roll voice as demonstrated on "Can't Stop the Rock" and "Down" and even manages to do a credible job singing classic Reid lyrics like "I've been running from A to B/No more hookers or LSD" (on "What Goes Around"); indeed, she has just enough of the Reid sneer to pull nonsense like that off. Along with her vocal presence, it would seem that having her around kept things less serious as there's a general looseness of sound that one wouldn't associate with the Reid brothers. Little Pop Rock is filled with off-kilter guitar solos, plinky keyboards, and ragged vocals that suggest the album may have been more of a healing experience than an actual attempt to get back in the rock & roll game. So does the fact that it took two years for the record to be released anywhere but Japan. Whatever the reason behind the record, it's a welcome return for the Reids and a fine debut for little sis. Hopefully while her brothers go on to reunite the Mary Chain, she keeps Sister Vanilla going as well.


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Firstborn Is Dead

The blues had long been a potent undercurrent in the Birthday Party's music, so it wasn't all that surprising that Nick Cave embraced the sound and feeling of rural blues on his second album with the Bad Seeds, The Firstborn Is Dead. What was startling was how well Cave and his bandmates -- Barry Adamson, Mick Harvey, and Blixa Bargeld -- were able to absorb and honour the influences of artists like Skip James and Charley Patton while creating a sound that was unmistakably their own. The moody obsessions of rural blues -- trains, floods, imprisonment, sin, fear, and death -- seemed made to order for Cave, and he was able to tap into the doomy iconography of this music with potent emotional force; on "Tupelo," he makes a sweeping and disturbing epic of the rain-swept night when Elvis Presley was born, and "Knocking on Joe" is a tale of life on the work gang that communicates the pain of the spirit as clearly as the ache of the body. Also, the blues helped transform Cave's music as well as his lyrics; the brutal sonic pummel of the Birthday Party here gave way to a more subtle and dynamic approach that still made effective use of dissonance and bare-wired electric guitar noise while proving the balance of loud and soft only made each side deeper and more resonant. (The stark, barely there guitar and drums of "Blind Lemon Jefferson" are as startling and malignantly fascinating as anything in the Birthday Party's catalogue.) The Firstborn Is Dead proved Nick Cave's musical palate was significantly broader than his debut album suggested and pointed to a path (channelling the sounds and emotions of American roots music) he would return to on many of his albums that followed.