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PLASTICLAND reissues on Wounded Bird Records!

Milwaukee’s Plasticland – founded by Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic (who has since left the band) – have remained unjustly overlooked for years… yet they have also been absolutely adored by critics off and on since they first formed some 36 years ago. The band has managed to stay on the fringe of the Alternative Rock scene but have never been fully treated like the Psych-Rock/Garage icons that they are. And I’m sure this review isn’t going to inspire a mass pilgrimage to the record store but if it piques the interest of a few of you, then we’re getting somewhere!  Even though they signed to the esteemed Enigma Records in 1984, Plasticland couldn’t be bothered to cater to the mainstream. Their blend of Acid, Garage and Psych Rock wasn’t merely a tribute to the sounds that they loved – it was obvious that this music was part of their DNA. The band was capable of writing catchy songs with a built-in atmosphere that sounded both retro and modern at the same time.  Perhaps that is why their recordings remain timeless today.  Plasticland are to Psyche what The Fleshtones are to Frat/Garage Rock and The Cramps are to sweaty, swampy, primitive Rock ‘n’ Roll. They could have sold out in their early days and become ‘the new R.E.M.’ like a host of their contemporaries. Thankfully, they chose to stick to their guns and remain Plasticland.

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THEATRE OF HATE: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with KIRK BRANDON

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST(WORLD):

As the leader of British outfit The Pack, singer, songwriter and guitarist Kirk Brandon’s unique musical vision was far too adventurous to be constrained by the limits of Punk Rock so he folded that band and moved forward with new ideas. By 1980, he had formed Theatre Of Hate, which included bassist Stan Stammers, saxophonist John Lennard, guitarist Steve Guthrie and drummer Luke Rendle. During their first two years of existence, the band released a few studio singles as well as a live album, HE WHO DARES WINS. By the time the band entered the studio to work on their debut full length, Guthrie had departed and Brandon took over all guitar duties. With The Clash’s Mick Jones in the producer’s chair, TOH began work on what would become a milestone in Post Punk history – WESTWORLD! With a mix of tribal rhythms, Spaghetti Western riffs, Post Punk guitar slashing and Brandon’s passionate wailing, Theatre Of Hate was a band unlike any other. While the band was known for their live performances, they took on a different form in the studio. Pre-dating his Big Audio Dynamite recordings, Mick Jones brought a lot of his experimental ideas to the sessions, which worked extremely well with Brandon’s vision. The end result is still being talked about today…
While TOH folded in 1983 – making way for Kirk’s next project, Spear Of Destiny – their musical legacy lives on. The band has reformed with various line-ups over the years and are now making waves again with both a new album (KINSHI) and a deluxe three CD edition of WESTWORLD. This excellent reissue on Cherry Red includes a remastered version of the album alongside non-album singles, Peel Sessions, alternate mixes and a live concert taped during the WESTWORLD tour. Still sounding fresh and invigorating, this expanded edition is the definitive version of an album that helped pioneer Post Punk in the UK.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee sent off a few questions to Kirk Brandon, who was gracious enough to take the time to respond…

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LATIN QUARTER: The Imagination Of Thieves

 

Back in the ‘glory days’ of Rock music – the ‘60s through the ‘80s – listeners were assaulted on Top 40 radio by ‘protest’ and ‘political’ music wrapped up in a good melody.  From Bob Dylan to The Clash – just to name two of many – artists were inserting thought-provoking messages into those catchy tunes that you hummed throughout the day. Politics has weaved its way into lyrics for decades but when those artists became mainstream, their messages were embraced and understood by some while others remained blissfully unaware. And while politics has remained a hot topic in music ever since, there is very little that makes it into the Top 40 these days. But do people listen to radio anymore? Think about it – radio, the greatest platform for messages from the heart, has become a desolate desert of manufactured, mindless nonsense. Then again, people do like to feel safe and comfortable, so you can’t fault them for that…

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DAVID LINDLEY reissues on Wounded Bird!

For 50 years, David Lindley has been one of the most respected – and commercially overlooked – musicians in Rock music.  Sure, he made a name for himself with the completely original Psych outfit Kaleidoscope back in the ‘60s and he has been one of the most in-demand session musicians since the ‘70s (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Rod Stewart, Graham Nash, The Youngbloods, Bruce Springsteen, Rickie Lee Jones, etc.) yet he has never received his due as a solo artist. However, his output has been so eclectic over the years that some of us are still trying to catch up! Do yourself a favor and read up on his career on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the ‘net. For now, I’m going to focus on a few of his ‘80s solo releases…

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MEAT LOAF: BRAVER THAN WE ARE review!

Yes, the rumors are true: Meat Loaf’s voice is not what it used to be. Ravaged by health issues, age and time, the mighty bellower can bellow no more. On BRAVER THAN WE ARE, his distinctive and powerful voice is now a raspy rumble – more ‘Steve Forbert impersonating Leonard Cohen’ than the Meat Loaf of old. Many people are likely going to ask why Mr. Loaf decided to make this album in the first place. The answer, my friends, is passion and determination – you can’t keep an old Meat Loaf down. Remember, this is an artist that sold millions of copies of BAT OUT OF HELL (1977) a year or two after almost every label turned the project down. And then he did it again in 1993 with BAT OUT OF HELL II, an album that defied all the odds and became a huge success in the midst of the abysmal grunge invasion. In short, Meat Loaf doesn’t necessarily play it safe – he does what he does and we definitely pay attention.

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THE TURTLES: Spaz reviews the reissues on Manifesto Records

The Turtles scored a handful of hits in the ‘60s – songs that are still played on oldies stations nearly fifty years later – yet they seldom receive the credit they deserve. As I prepared to write this review, I just could not figure out why they aren’t held in higher esteem by the public at large. Sure, us music guys love them to death but why do they get overlooked when people talk about the great bands from the ‘60s? I mean, come on, folks! “Happy Together” is an absolute classic and now that you’ve read that two word song title, that song’s chorus is bouncing around inside your head, isn’t it? If not, you need to stop what you’re doing and allow that song to careen down your cranial caverns and make you feel good all over before you continue reading…

To be fair, The Turtles do get some recognition but just not as much as they deserve. There seems to be two different tiers when people think about the most influential ‘60s Rock bands – the first is the Beatles/Beach Boys/Rolling Stones/Kinks/Who tier while the second tier consists of ‘everybody else’. And as you know, that second tier is definitely crowded: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and many others are up on top of that level, enjoying constant reappraisal and critical attention. However, buried amongst those fighting for a chance to breathe are The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, The Four Seasons and especially The Turtles.

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THE ARCHIES: Spaz reviews SUGAR SUGAR: THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION box!

Gather ‘round, my friends and let me introduce you to the absolute best cure for your blues: sugar. Well, “Sugar Sugar” to be more precise.

Yes, one spin of The Archies’ mega-hit “Sugar Sugar” can wipe away any negative vibe that is inhabiting your universe. Even if you aren’t a fan of ‘60s Bubblegum, you’ve probably heard this gloriously happy tune many times since it was released in 1969. Figuratively (and perhaps literally) the missing link between The Monkees and The Partridge Family, this slice of Pop love has been played millions of times all around the world, used in advertising and has been both praised and ridiculed by music fans everywhere. The fact that you still remember it today – regardless of your personal feelings – is testament to the power that “Sugar Sugar” has had on the listener.

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THE MONKEES’ Good Times: The SPAZ Review

It is 2016 and The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary the very same year I celebrate my 50th Anniversary as a Monkees fan. Way back in 1966 when the TV show first aired and the band had their first hit single (‘Last Train To Clarksville’), I was coming up on my third birthday and my brother was nearing his fourth. My parents sat us down in front of the television and introduced us to a quartet that instantly became our second favorite band (after The Beatles, of course). Mom and Dad often said that the thirty minutes The Monkees were on was the ONLY time during the week when they didn’t have to worry about us getting into any trouble – we were glued to the tube and thoroughly enjoying their zany antics and great songs.

Flash forward five decades, and if my folks were still around they’d be happy to know that I predictably spent 30+ minutes glued to my CD player as I threw on Good Times, The Monkees’ first studio album in twenty years. And then I went back and listened again. And again. You see, I wanted to give this an honest review and not base my opinion on one listen. So, I listened to it a fourth time, a seventh time, etc. And so, here goes…

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PET SHOP BOYS: Spaz reviews the album SUPER!

   Super, the 13th studio album by British duo Pet Shop Boys, is a prime example of why the Electronic/Dance act will never be part of a nostalgic ‘80s package tour – they are too busy moving into the future to live in the past. When they scored their first big hit 31 years ago with “West End Girls,” PSB were a delicious mixture of smarmy Pop and then-modern Electronica. Vocalist Neil Tennant’s deadpan (and slightly campy) vocals and Chris Lowe’s melodic, percolating Euro/Electropop backdrop made for some exciting records back in the day, earning them worldwide success and hits in every corner of the world.  By the ‘90s, their star had faded a bit in the U.S. although they still released innovative and exciting albums that were snapped up by audiences In vastly different time zones than the States. Thankfully, PSB have continued to make fresh, forward-thinking records over the years. They’ve kept on top of Dance and Electronic music trends and have embraced them wholeheartedly.  You’ll still find elements of their ‘80s and ‘90s sound on Super but you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re looking for “West End Girls 2016” because Neil and Chris have moved on.

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