Themes From Great Cities
It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.
Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.
Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.
This is perhaps better explained by the fact that this album was more or less co-written by David Bowie, practically being a collaborative effort. As such, this is definitely not the most representative of Iggy Pop's vast works (follow up "Lust for Life" is often regarded as far more so), but the quality here is undeniable, as under Bowie's guidance Iggy Pop created a near masterpiece that can sit proudly alongside classics such as Bowie's own "Low", also recorded in Berlin. The song "Baby" starts with a repetitive, simple bass drone that undoubtedly had an influence on post-punk bands such as Joy Division (so much of an influence that Ian Curtis chose this album as the soundtrack to his suicide), with Iggy Pop's deep vocals adding that menacing tone to the song, a theme that pervades over the album as a whole. He actually kinda sounds like Bowie on this track. This is a perfect example of the type of music this album undoubtedly influenced to a great degree.
Album opener "Sister Midnight" also displays Bowie’s style, echoing the highlight of "Low" and "Sound and Vision" in the guitar tones and simple, repetitive, yet effective guitar licks. Iggy is basically talking here, kind of sounds like preaching; again creating a distanced, slightly robotic atmosphere which is only offset by the previously detailed guitar, as the drums and bass also plod away with hypnotic uniformity. Following track "Nightclubbing" follows a similar formula, but adds horns and piano into the mix, really expanding the palette of the album, dragging Iggy Pop from The Stooges accidentally seminal fury into the world of art - the song's middle introducing a confused, wobbly guitar part that quite frankly sounds ahead of its time.
One of the clear highlights, for me at least, is the track "China Girl". Pure pop in the Bowie vein, it ups the tempo of the album and even ups the mood with uplifting chimes and that familiar style of guitar running all the way through. This is probably the most conventional song on the album, but, surrounded by examples of Pop and Bowie trying to push the boundaries, this works even better, the mood drops off slightly towards the end, Pop's vocals becoming slightly strained, before again lulling back into his drowsy demeanour. Simply put, this is a classic song.
Penultimate track, "Tiny Girls", is also a standout, the horns and slow, lounging bassline, along with the fitting drum work laying the ground work, the saxophone solo later on really setting this apart - a chilled, jazz inspired ballad exploring doubt in a relationship. This feeling is echoed in the effortless cool of "Dum Dum Boys", finger clicking and all, pronounced bassline accompanying a vocal performance so deep and preacher-esque he might well have been prophesising the release of "Unknown Pleasures" a mere two years later (a claim given more credence by the final tracks ridiculous resemblance to said album, in the opening three minutes at least).
Overall, although this may not be the most representative work in Iggy Pop's back catalogue, it surely has to rank as one of the best, the dark tones, emphasis on the bass guitar and Iggy Pop's vocal style having an obvious influence that still prevails today. There's a collage of sound to be found here (the last track has some kind of warped Elephant like sound, probably made by a synth, check it out) that really keeps the songs fresher and more interesting than many "classic" albums from the decade.
To lump this cut of early 80’s rock (to be precise, it possesses a release date of circa March, 1981) into a genre, such as glam rock or glam punk, would be unfair. For what I believe this group is aiming at, with this set of songs, is to maintain the flame of that purely simple corner of the global music psyche, rock ‘n’ roll.
Diving in, album opener ‘Tragedy’ sets an effective tone for the remainder of the ten tracks released on the original cutting of the record; the chugging bass of Sami Yaffa and the accurate (if uninspiring) drum work of Gyp Casino showcase the dependable rhythm section upon which the more affluent guitar and vocal parts are built. ‘Tragedy’ works, as Andy McCoy and fellow guitarist Nasty Suicide weave their licks about, which is the first comparison to the Rolling Stones I would like to make: McCoy and Suicide appear to be disciples of the partnership approach to rock ‘n’ roll guitar, as laid down by Keith Richards and Brian Jones (and later Ronnie Wood). Coupled with high pitched, Keith Richards-esque backing vocals (sung by McCoy) to enhance a sense of melody, ‘Tragedy’ exists as probably the strongest tune from the album.
Another memorable moment is the ballad, ‘Don’t Never Leave Me’; though possessing a definite ballad styled vibe, the quirky temperament of the song allows for an ease of enjoyment, while still efficiently emanating the appropriate emotions; an excellent example of such eccentricity is the near-spoken-word interlude by McCoy.
For a balanced perspective of the album, I must admit, the album has to have a low point; but when one must go in desperate search of this aforementioned low point, it’s safe to say, the album is brilliantly done. For me, the least memorable track is the underwhelming album closer, ‘Pretender’ – while certainly not a bad track, and though it shows off a high level of Stones-ish swagger, the hook emphasized sensibilities which are in abundance throughout the rest of the album are in a lesser force here. Indeed, some may also criticize the general similarity in sound among the tracks; most of the tunes found here follow the same general formula: a catchy, sleazy riff (with the filthiest of rock ‘n’ roll guitar tones – a sure compliment), moments of Monroe’s saxophone and harmonica, accompanied by toe-tapping, melodic verses and choruses. I’ll admit, the variety isn’t great (despite a cover of Herman’s Hermits’ ‘Walking With My Angel' thrown in, and cleverly done), however, if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Michael Monroe’s vocal expertise (and impressive showcase of multi-instrumentalism), supported by Andy McCoy’s capacity for song-writing, leave these two as the distinct stars of the band, and the tracks presented here give very, very little reason as to why Hanoi Rocks couldn’t have been the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band of the 1980’s; their unfulfilled potential, caused by ‘Tragedy’, surely is just that, a tragedy.
Not content to merely base their image and stage show on the aforementioned film this album opens with a piece of music lifted straight from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack. 'Harmonica Man' sets the scene admirably with its haunting abrasive guitar and slow crescendo but unfortunately the anticipation engendered by this classic opening falls somewhat flat as the band launch into 'Slow Kill'. The song itself is a decent slice of mid-tempo goth rock which proved to be a real belter in a live setting but the lacklustre production on here renders it murky and soft around the edges. Throughout the album the overdriven guitar sounds are far too indistinct and lost in the mix which sadly pulls the teeth from a lot of the performances. The classic 'Dust', with its memorable bass line and stomping rhythm, is similairly reduced to a leaden imitation of its stage cousin. Front-man Carl McCoy's voice cuts through the gloom on a number of the tracks but even the potential of his deep guttural rumble is largely wasted.
This isn't a bad album at all. The Nephs ear for a good pounding melody and the partly successful application of a suitably dark and atmospheric soundscape go some way to making this a convincing debut. Maybe the neutering of their groundshaking live sound was a conscious attempt to make things more palatable to the masses but in any case this was largely a missed opportunity.