Listening Log: February 24th 2010

Epic 1971


Album of the Day: Sly & the Family Stone There’s A Riot Goin’ On

What a dark, sweaty and amazing way to start the coldest day of the New Year. This record is such a spontaneous and unpredictable statement about the general mood of the world in the early seventies, at times it feels like nothing more than an afternoon jam session that went on into the wee hours of the morning and produced several albums worth of material. In actuality, there is an elusive meticulousness at work here. Stone recorded most of the instrumentation himself, enlisting a few members of The Family Stone, as well as several guest performers. Everything from the songwriting to the performances, and especially the production, is drenched in a deep fog of disillusionment and repressed rage. Actually, I think it might be one of the most darkly hypnotic albums ever created, right up there with “The Madcap Laughs”, “Third/Sister Lovers” and “Tonight’s the Night”. What’s different about “Riot” is its success—despite its pervasively heavy mood, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and produced three hit singles. Man, I really wish I could go back and at least EXPERIENCE this time period, for like a few days. The fact that this album not only was at the top of the charts but DEBUTED there must mean they were doing something right back then. Have you seen who’s been topping our charts lately?

Giant 1994

The Jesus Lizard Show

This very underrated live album represents one of the greatest American bands of all time doing what they do best—berating the audience, plowing through an enormous set of their best material, and blurting their one-of-a-kind brand of riff rock in a completely badass and unapologetic fashion. If you have seen them live, it’s fairly easy to imagine the sort of antics frontman David Yow is getting himself into when listening to “Show”. If you haven’t seen the Lizard live, just listen to all the sounds of the mic hitting various things and try to imagine what’s going on. Hint: There’s a shitton of stage diving. Also, Yow has some of the greatest rock talk of all time on this record. Recorded at CBGB’s, Yow hilariously calls out celebrities he spots in the audience. “Hey, Debbie Harry…and look, it’s David Byrne, ladies and gentlemen. David Byrne.” After commenting on how his monitor has “entered the realm of the non-existent”, the band closes with the twelve-ton “Monkey Trick” and Yow’s comment, “Thanks everyone, some band from England is up next.” Brilliant!

Sonic Bubblegum 1997

Albums to Revisit: Panel Donor Surprise Bath

I LOOOOVE Panel Donor. “Lobedom and Global” was one of the first local albums I ever bought, back when it came out in 1996 or whenever it was. That album still makes me rock the fuck out whenever it comes on. “Surprise Bath” shows the band getting way more experimental and abstract, but the backbone of unimaginably awesome guitars still remains, and that’s what makes this album a great listen for me. Brandon Aikin will always be one of the top three local guitarists in my mind, if only for his work on these two albums (the first Panel Donor record is great also, and Aikin’s work in bands like Volara and Carrier is also nothing short of stunning). I need to listen to “Surprise Bath” more, though, because a lot of it has not really sunk in yet, and sometimes I just feel like I’m hearing a jumble of random ideas. But, the random ideas in question that are being jumbled together are pretty much genius.

SST 1987


I’m a huge Minutemen fan—“Double Nickels on the Dime” is easily in my top 5 records of all time. So, maybe it’s unfair that I have pre-conceived expectations when I sit and listen to a fIREHOSE record, but the reality is there is not one of their records that really gets me. The closest would have to be “Ragin’, Full-On”, which everyone talks about as being “the one”. But, “If’n” is pretty damn swell. All of their albums are too long, in my opinion, but this one was fairly easy to get through, boasting some classic tunes with some sweet, frenetic guitar like “Spiralling” and “Soon”. It seems, too, that ed fROMOHIO really comes into his own on this record, boasting a confidence in his voice and his own material that would help to further the band for years. D. Boon would be proud.

Sly & The Family Stone “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” *****
Panel Donor “Surprise Bath” ***1/2
fIREHOSE “If’n” ***1/2
Emerson Lake & Palmer “Pictures at an Exhibition” **
Future of the Left “Travels with Myself and Another” ****
Big Black “Racer-X” EP **1/2
The Beach Boys “Sunflower” ****1/2
The Jesus Lizard “Show” *****

Total Albums Heard=8

***** Classic
**** Amazing
*** Good
** So-So
* Nope

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