During the ‘80s, it seemed like you had to have a gimmick or make a unique fashion statement in order to attract the attention of Pop Music fans. Videos and TV performances were just as important as radio play and no matter how great your song was, if you didn’t stand out in a sea of Pop wannabes, you were very rarely noticed. However, once you grabbed everyone’s attention, you had to have the songs and talent to keep their attention. Pop quartet King may have had a short shelf life but they actually had more than enough talent to keep it going had they been given the chance to. With Paul King’s soulful voice, colorful outfits and fancy Doc Martens footwear, King (the band) released a pair of albums in a chart career that lasted merely two years, but their talents ensured that they are still remembered today. Not quite Synthpop, Rock or Soul, King combined a few different genres and ended up sounding like… King!
Alt-Rockers Gin Blossoms celebrate their 31st Anniversary this year. While they achieved their commercial breakthrough in 1992, the band originally formed in Tempe, Arizona five years earlier. However, it wasn’t until the following year that the band truly gelled with the addition of guitarist Robin Wilson, who would quickly assume the role of the band’s lead vocalist. The band’s independently-released debut album, DUSTED (1989), brought the band plenty of local attention, which eventually lead to their major label deal with A&M Records. By 1992, the band’s NEW MISERABLE EXPERIENCE album was a smash hit – fueled by the massively successful “Hey Jealousy” single – and their guitarist and main songwriter Doug Hopkins was out of the band (he would eventually take his own life). More successful singles followed – including “Found Out About You” and “Til I Hear It From You” – as well as the critically-acclaimed album CONGRATULATIONS… I’M SORRY (1996). The band ground to a halt in early 1997 but reformed in 2001. They released two additional albums – MAJOR LODGE VICTORY (2006) and NO CHOCOLATE CAKE (2010) – and have toured frequently ever since.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: LOVE LIVES ON is now available. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
DANA FUCHS: I’m really thrilled with the way the album turned out! I was nervous about going in with an 11-day time frame and working with people I hadn’t met yet but it was the easiest and most pleasant studio experience I’ve ever had, and musically surpassed all of my expectations. The fan response seems to be overwhelming positive. Even those who like the tougher side of my Blues Rock edge are liking the whole Memphis and horn vibe!
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: METAPHORA is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
JILL BARBER: I feel wonderful. This record is different for me, it’s a more contemporary sound and addresses a lot of issues of my inner life that I have never brought to my music before. It feels very fresh, punchy and energetic. And that excites me.
Even if you don’t instantly recognize Jesse Dayton’s name, you have probably heard his work over the years. He has created music for some of Rob Zombie’s films (including THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and HALLOWEEN II), played on recordings by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, the Supersuckers, and Willie Nelson, and even filled in for Billy Zoom during one of X’s U.S. tours. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s much more to Jesse Dayton’s career than his work with other artists…
Somebody once told me that I should stop writing about Punk Rock. He said that I don’t ‘understand’ Punk and I should stick to writing about New Wave and other genres of music.
I beg to differ.
While I may not know enough about the politics that inspired the lyrics of various bands I listen to, I certainly understand my connection to the energy, the songwriting and the performances. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I devoured as much British and American Punk as I could. While The Clash, The Jam, 999, Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, The Undertones, Sex Pistols and others had songs that were instantly melodic and catchy, there were certain bands that took a few extra spins to connect with. Angelic Upstarts were one of those bands.
One of the most attractive features of the Trip Hop genre was it’s haunting quality. While closely associated with the Downtempo and Chill movements, the best Trip Hop provided beauty with an unsettling edge. Listening to Trip Hop should be like walking into an ancient mansion – you are wrapped in beauty but you can feel the presence of something else. The Chill is replaced by chills. And THAT is what makes Trip Hop special. And Morcheeba continues to be the genre’s most consistent and beloved bands – they put the ‘trip’ in Trip Hop.
The year 1987 was a transitional year for music. New Wave was no longer ‘new’, Prince had changed the Soul, R&B and Funk landscape and Rock ‘n’ Roll was in the clutches of the big hair brigade (Glam Metal). For some, it was depressing, but if you were the adventurous sort, you could find so many bright lights between all the nooks and crannies. Mark Rogers (AKA Hollywood Beyond) was one of those artists whose musical output shone brighter than most. His blend of Pop and R&B walked the thin line between both genres yet didn’t fall victim to either. Released in 1987, Hollywood Beyond’s only full-length album, IF, was an album that should have appealed to those that adored Terence Trent D’Arby and other like-minded artists that forged their own paths while paying homage to their influences.
While many musicians can wring emotion out of their instrumental weapon of choice, there’s no denying that the most emotional instrument of all is the human voice. The song’s melody and lyrics mean nothing if the voice does not connect with the listener. A notable example would be Gospel Music – the soaring voices of a church choir can melt the heart of the most hardened atheist. However, the best example belongs to The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices, a female choir that has mastered the art of the voice… and I don’t use the word ‘art’ lightly here. The sounds these voices make are soul-stirring and heartbreaking in equal measures.
Although there is a dark side lurking beneath the surface, the music of Electronic duo Sofi Tukker is upbeat, fun and adventurous. While the duo’s music is aimed for the feet, there’s certainly a lot to wrap our head around. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me introduce you to Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern AKA Sofi Tukker. Their name may evoke the spirit of legendary stage/screen/radio icon Sophie Tucker, but this duo’s music is world’s away from the original Sophie’s bawdy burlesque. Sofi Tukker’s two-year journey to their debut album, TREEHOUSE, has included a Grammy nomination, loads of great press and a coveted iPhone 7 commercial spot. Other artists toil away in obscurity for years, anxiously awaiting their time in the spotlight. However, Sofi Tukker’s combination of Pop smarts and luck have put them on the fast track to the front of the line.