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.
Bear with me here…
Music can so often dictate my emotions. It can literally transport me from one mood to another in the blink of a chord change. And this brings me to something that I call ‘3 A.M. Music’. How would I describe this style of music? Well, imagine that melancholy feeling you get when you are floating halfway between consciousness and sleep very late at night/early in the morning. Then, as you lie there and prepare to drift off into la-la land, you hear a magical song on the radio that gives you chills. It is so emotionally powerful that you want to leap out of bed and express love and thankfulness… yet you are paralyzed and lost in the music so you give in to it’s charm. Does that sound familiar to you? Are you picking up what I’m laying down? Well, this phenomenon that I refer to as ‘3 A.M. Music’ sends those melancholy feelings through my body at any given moment of the day when I hear certain chord changes. ‘3 A.M. Music’ connects every emotion in my body and while the overall outcome is melancholic, it is a truly powerful experience.
So, what the hell does this have to do with BLUE MOTEL, the brand-new album from Bart & The Bedazzled (Bart Davenport, Jessica Espeleta, Wayne Faler, and Andres Renteria)? Well, it seems that main man Bart Davenport has a patent on those kinds of chord changes that I love and he allows them to flow freely on this fine platter. This is sophisticated Pop music that combines elements of Soul, Power Pop, and Indie Rock. Imagine, if you will, hearing something off of the first album by The Ocean Blue mixed with early ‘70s Todd Rundgren, early ‘80s Scottish Pop (Aztec Camera/The Bluebells) and some tasty Yacht Rock for good measure. You can even throw in some Prefab Sprout for some extra zest. Not to mention a little John Barry (the guitar lick on “Halloween By The Sea” is reminiscent of the Midnight Cowboy theme). The album is a wonderful blend of sounds, styles and influences that span 50 years of Pop Music history. And thankfully, Bart & Co. manage to make it all sound cohesive inspiring and most certainly unique.
BLUE MOTEL is an album filled with moody and melodic Pop that will appeal to anyone with an ear for a great melody and a heart for honest music-making. The Glen Campbell-like guitar riffs on “The House That Built Itself” are a treat. “Life Under Water” is haunting and lovely. “The Amateurs” is a new Yacht Rock classic that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Player album. “Grown Ups” is beefy Twee Pop with some Rundgren soulfulness. The album’s closer, “Vampire,” is stunning in it’s simplicity and emotional depth. Davenport’s vocals drip with emotion on this track – and throughout the album for that matter.
Simply put, BLUE MOTEL is one of the best albums of the year.
Keep on truckin’,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee
Fatoumata Diawara is a highly acclaimed singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress from Mali. Her journey began when she was born in the Ivory Coast and has included stints in her father’s dance troupe, as an actress on stage and screen, as a singer in Paris night clubs and as a show-stealing performer at a star-studded tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. All of these experiences inform her sophomore effort FENFO, an album born from tradition yet entirely modern and unique. The long-awaited follow-up to her 2011 debut full-length, FATOU, FENFO lives up to the promise of that debut… and then some.