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Section 25

—Melt Close

 Always Now    
1981/Factory Records

Factory Records’ decision to create a consistent and dedicated creative team (well, duo) for itself was a risky one. It is not too common for a record label to have just one in-house producer for all of its bands and their releases. With Peter Saville and Martin Hannett handling all of the label’s visual and audio duties, respectively, it was inevitable that similarities were going to emerge amongst Factory’s different releases. Fortunately, the questionable decision resulted in a handful of some of the most distinct and crucial albums of the post-punk scene of Northern England

Section 25’s debut album, “Always Now”, which was regrettably outshone by the more prolific Factory bands, is an eerie, cold, and hypnotic exhibition of Martin Hannett’s singular aesthetic as a music producer. His musical innovation is deserving of boundless recognition. The sounds and ambiences he created on albums by Joy Division, The Durutti Column, and Section 25, to name a few, quickly became his trademark: he’d fabricated a new kind of sonic gloom that until that point had never been explored. In my opinion, this earns him the title of not only an indispensable producer, but also an honourary member of each and every band he was committed to. I mean, who knows where Joy Division would’ve ended up without Hannett’s contributions ?! IN THE TRASH.

As I said before, the downside to having such a distinct producer as Hannett was that there would, inescapably, be similarities between the different bands he worked with. This is why I think Section 25’s presence was so fleeting. By the time they’d released “Always Now”, the world had already heard this sound, thanks to Hannett’s work with Joy Division - thus making Section 25’s impression less fresh and exciting. That said, this album is far from a second-rate “Unknown Pleasures” or “Closer”: It is dreamy, droning, and trancelike, as opposed to aggressive and hostile.

Either way, it exhibits Martin Hannett not only in his prime, but in his niche, at the forefront of one of the most strange and influential eras in the history of not-so-popular music. 

Fucked Up

—Glass Boys

Glass Boys  
2014/Matador

Maybe it’s because I’m from Toronto and/or Canada (but it probably isn’t because who cares really), but the release of a new Fucked Up album is really starting to become an exciting event for me. After their 2011 unrivalled hour-plus-long rock opera David Comes To Life (think Lamb Lies Down on Broadway meets Zen Arcade, if I may be so bold ;-O), I’d foolishly assumed that they’d reached their pinnacle.

David Comes To Life was a relentless and vast experience: it was a rare and basically flawless mixture of endless energy bursting with brutally transparent emotion. The band had shifted musical gears in such a way that it’d almost be hard not to be skeptical about their Toronto hardcore roots. And that’s not an insult to hardcore stuff at all, by the way (it sounds as if I’m saying hardcore music is devoid of the things that made up David Comes To Life), but the band had turned over many new leaves in the terms of musical structure, lyrics, and just overall aesthetic. Thankfully — and I’d like to think, deep down, that I had no doubt — Glass Boys proves, with every listen, that there could be no better follow up to such a sprawling epic.

At roughly half of the length of its predecessor, Glass Boys is chock full of the same sort of cathartic power that made David Comes To Life so unforgettable. More and more with each new album, I’ve noticed that Fucked Up is doing something comparable to what Husker Du did back in the 80s. That being basically taking a genre, the genre in which they began/started to flourish, and working it around, sort of moulding it and crafting new ideas out of the same material. Like building new structures with the same blocks, and more and more, bringing new things into the equation while still retaining the most important aspects of the old genre.

The way Husker Du managed to transform from the times of Land Speed Record, or even Metal Circus, for that matter, to Flip Your Wig or Warehouse: Songs And Stories is almost parallel to how Fucked Up has evolved from the hardcore DIY aesthetic to making double LP concept albums. Fucked Up are, most definitely, still Fucked Up, as Husker Du were still Husker Du, but they took what they liked and ran with it and created something brand new out of it. For example, Fucked Up has created some of the most memorable and addictive melodies, be they guitar solos or vocal phrases — a quality not usually akin to hardcore music. 

Also, I think the one aspect of the band, if there is one, that people remain dubious about (usually without having actually listened to it in action) is Damian’s vocals. When David Comes To Life first came out, even I was curious as to how this shift to “poppier” songs would work with Damian’s gravelly screams. I assumed that with the presence of catchy guitar solos and backup vocal harmonies, Damian would sound unquestionably, and unfortunately out of place. Well, such is not the case. In practice, I really couldn’t imagine a better complement. Their aim is clear and determined, and their execution is immaculate.

With Glass Boys, Fucked Up has, more than ever, successfully brought certain ideals and principles from their hardcore origins to a much larger audience. Whether that’s entirely for the better, I’m sure some would argue, but for now, they’ve shone light on some dark corners that otherwise may not have been explored by the masses that appreciate them. 

Cardiacs

—Insect Hoofs On Lassie

Sing To God  
1996/The Alphabet Business Concern

I don’t really know where to begin with this band, but the good thing about that is that I don’t have to begin because no one gives a shit. 
lol but srsly I kind of feel as though Cardiacs has this weird quality that until you hear about them, they’re invisible/unheard of/non-existant; however, on that FATEFUL day when your eyes are opened to their presence, they’re, like, the only thing that really matters for a little while. Once you uncover the surface of CARDIACS and finger through its gritty topsoil, you are introduced to some sort of ~*alternate dimension*~ where Lord(e) Tim Smith reigns over all, and legions of followers bow on bruised knee and teary eye, overcome with “H”is love. I’m being stupid because to approach this subject (talking about CARDIACS) in earnest would be nearly impossible for me (and no not because I’m the biggest CARDIACS fan ever and “you wouldn’t understand” or something, but because I don’t know how to express thoughts). 

I don’t think any other band has wormed its way into my life so mercilessly. I first heard of CARDIACS via their penultimate album “SING TO GOD” and took notice of something very singular almost right away. It was all I listened to for days, then weeks, then months. From there I explored most of the nooks and/or crannies comprised of music created by CARDIACS leader Tim Smith and was just so saturated with it that I didn’t care to listen to anything else for maybe an entire uninterrupted year. 

There’s no easy way to describe CARDIACS’ music - although fans have resorted to using the term ‘pronk’ (yeah PROG and PUNK. Yeah JETHRO TULL and CRASS). Smith has dismissed the term probably just because it sounds so stupid. pronk 1!!!!! bonk !!!! ponk 1!!1 But this album in particular is such a blend of contrasting genres that something as ridiculous as “pronk” doesn’t sound so bad. It is manic and frenzied and extremely intricate (but without being complex-just-for-the-sake-of-being-complex, you know?). It’s not the masturbatory and showy work of a music school egotist, rather than the frenetic notebook scribblings of an exiled mastermind (LIKE RUSSELL CROWE IN A BEAUTIFUL MIND AND/OR GLADIATOR/”GET HIM TO THE GREEK”)

This stuff grows on you in an almost parasitic way. Like that zombie praying mantis thing. Have you seen that video? It’s gross! This long black parasite actually lives inside of a praying mantis and takes control of its brain and pilots this now empty shell of a praying mantis and it’s very creepy and spooky! I am basically the praying mantis to CARDIACS’ long black parasite. I think. 

Anyway, too much can be said about this band’s brilliance. Most of their material prior to this album is pretty different from it, both in production and songwriting. But it is all brilliant. Inexorable. Ineffable. Pronk!! ! !! !

The Residents

—Perfect Love

Commercial Album     
1980/Ralph Records

i can b ur hero baby; i can kiss away the ‘pain’

Keene Brothers

—The Naked Wall

Blues & Boogie Shoes    
2006/Recordhead Records

This is one of the thousands of Robert Pollard-penned songs from one of the hundreds of Robert Pollard’s side projects. I have been a Guided by Voices fan for quite a few years and still I am continuously both impressed and enthralled at the staggering amount of quality tunes this guy can write. 
Pollard created this album alongside 1980s power pop diamond-in-the-rough Tommy Keene in 2006 and in doing so, somehow managed to make this sort of post-Keith-Moon ‘Who’ cheesy glammy stuff sound not even palatable but infectious. Better late than never ! ! ! !! !!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Hüsker Dü

—Private Plane

Flip Your Wig    
1985/SST

Hüsker Dü, somehow, managed to musically advance and transform so drastically, and in such a short time, that their nuclear bomb-like impact on the American independent music scene of the 1980s can still very well be felt today, and is probably giving me and everyone I love cancer. 
The evolution of their song-writing skill and approach mirrored that of a decades-long career; In 5 years, they were able to compress not only distinct genres, but entire eras, into a small handful of irreplaceable records. 

The difference between their Guided-By-Voices-meets-Negative-Approach-sounding Land Speed Record (their first LP release, in 1982, albeit a live record) and their slick, R.E.M.ish (but, like, what wasn’t at the time? i mean COME ONWarehouse: Songs and Stories (their final release, only 5 years later) is almost confusing. It’s like a story having an introduction and denouement within three pages, while being both mercilessly captivating and beautifully written. 

Although the band was short-lived, one gets the notion that they did everything they’d come to do. It’s not one of those things where you’re like, “damn, they could’ve done so much more!”, like when a key band-member dies, or something. They did what they were supposed to and got out of there, wherever they were, wasting no time. Some bands can spread out their arsenal (lol) of material over decades, and that can work: a forgettable album wedged between the memorable stuff every now and then, one-too-many ‘greatest hits’ compilations, whatever. But Hüsker Dü was ALL KILLER NO FILLER (like the Sum 41 album, which the Hüskers were a HUGE fan of. See: Bob Mould’s “Fat Lip” cover) 

It took me a while, a couple years after really becoming obsessed with ‘Zen Arcade’ and ‘New Day Rising’, the fan favourites, to finally listen to Flip Your Wig. To me, it is Hüsker Dü’s (I’m actively including these fucking umlauts every time, by the way) most representative album. It’s a flawless hybrid of hardcore and power-pop — their beginning and their end — and it blends aggravation, frustration, sadness, and resolution, all in just over half an hour. It is (and they were) an absolute staple of the 1980s underground and plus, without them, we wouldn’t have GREEN DAY/AMERICAN IDIOT!!!

Tobin Sprout

—Carnival Boy

Carnival Boy      
1996/Matador

I have a mad affinity for Toby Sprout. 
Is this not the best song you’ve ever heard?
George Harrison was the Tobin Sprout of the Beatles.

Swans

—Oxygen

To Be Kind    
2014/Young God Records

I’m trying to think if another band has experienced such a resurrection and renaissance as Swans has. I’m not thinking very hard because I haven’t eaten in months, but either way, I’m kind of baffled by Swans’ glorious and seemingly flawless (to critics — which is ALL THAT MATTERS) kumback. 

Is the FANFARE warranted???

I’ve been a fan of their past certified-platinum hits, such as PHILTH, cup, and Child and God, but have yet to really let the hot waves of their new fangled new-neu-no-wave-meets-chopped-and-screwed-krautrock stuff reign o’er me. 

Gira (pronounced EURO) has always taken his time with his songs. Each album is like a rich and sweet and sometimes too sweet chocolate cake or something; each requires legitimate aural and mental dedication, often yielding a pretty rewarding or just confusing and ‘what just happened’ kind of experience. His latest stuff is no exception. It would take over four hours to listen to his two latest works (The Seer and To Be Kind), and who the hell has that kind of time to throw around on ART? Not me. Never. 

Whatever. I listened to this and had a pretty good time and I was in a car the whole time and it made me get car sick but I didn’t throw up.

Glenn Branca’s “Lesson No. 2” anyone???
EAT UR HART OUT, GLENN!!!

World of Pooh

—Squirm Test

A Trip To Your Tonsils [EP]     
1991/Nuf Sed

Wait, hold on, you should actually listen to this song. It’s only like 2 minutes long and it’s lots of fun* ! 

World of Pooh is a band from the Bay Area indie “revolution”, if you will, of the late 1980s. Although, I guess, just a quirky side project comprised of a pinch of Thinking Fellers (Jay Paget), a DASH of Caroliner (Brandan Kearney), and a LUMP of Barbara Manning (Barbara Manning), these guys put out some seriously infectious music during their unfortunately brief existence. 

World of Pooh really didn’t leave much of a legacy — releasing only one LP followed by two weee lil EPs — but they were a pretty important piece of the vibrant and strange puzzle that was the San Fran ‘DIY’ C86-ish-but-not-so-self-obsessed indie movement.
If you wanna check them out, I have good news and BAD NEWS. The BAD NEWS is that they were considered SO unimportant, that their stuff was released on vinyl only once (never released digitally or on laser/compact disc!).
The GOOD NEWS is that they were SO SO unimportant that no one gave a shit and all of their stuff is available on Discogs for dirt shit cheap. 

Further listening: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, 28th Day, Archipelago Brewing Co., Glorious Din


*not actually lots of fun

The Lemonheads

—Mallo Cup

Lick    
1989/Taang! Records

I don’t really like The Lemonheads. So check out this Lemonheads song!!!
But, really, I always thought It’s a Shame About Ray was pretty cheesy, and not in the cool early 90s way, but in a totally wimpy, vain, substance-less way (and don’t get me wrong, wimpy isn’t inherently bad; see: my Feelies post). Their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” almost made me cringe because it seemed like they were totally devoid of creativity and musical merit (it was a pretty boring cover) and they just totally lacked a lot of what made that whole ‘scene’ cool. Well I still do think all of these things about that album, but years after forming this opinion, I decided to check out their earlier stuff. 
Turns out, it’s pretty good. Like most bands of the time, their debut sounds like a carbon copy of The Replacements (could be worse), and I can’t really stop myself from thinking that a lot of what they did was very blatant imitation of their peers. Again, I don’t really care and I’m not a musician and whatever I don’t think this is necessarily a terrible thing. 
A friend of mine explained his theory that Evan Dando is actually an extremely talented songwriter, but is boyish good-looks forsook him and out shined any potential for being recognized as a real artist. I think that’s my problem too. 
That being said, this is a great song. It doesn’t stray far from the likes of Dinosaur Jr. or R.E.M. but who says it has to.

edit: upon my review, this seems like too much of a polemic. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be mad if Evan Dando actually touched my dick during a game of tag 

Paul McCartney

—Temporary Secretary

McCartney II    
1980/Parlphone

Wowow the ’80s have begun and PAUL (McCartney) is back and he’s shaping this New “New Wave” Wave the way he shaped the old “Blues Rock” wave! I wonder if David Byrne shit his pants when he heard this. 
Brian Eno produced this, right? with Robert Fripp on guest lead guitar, right???  Peter Hammill back-up vocals, RIGHT???!!

wrong ! !! !!!

This is what Paul McCartney does when he decides to disappear to his lush Scottish farm, in hopes to spend some much needed Paul-time and give his Wings© a rest. Paul was actually the only musician and performer involved with this record, a fact that would be a bit more impressive had he not been involved with that whole “Beatles” thing.
Still, this album is a fine little quirky mess of New Wave tunes. It’s nice to hear an established artist of his (or somewhere remotely close to his) stature take a stab at something, like a whole new genre, ‘just because’. 
Perhaps this is the only post-Beatles album by a post-Beatle that actually stands musically on its own merits. That meaning it doesn’t rely, musically, on what we ALL know and love about the Beatles; I mean, when I first heard this, I was pretty shocked to find out that it was “The Walrus” himself.

(R.I.P.)

paul mcarney 1933-2014

The Smiths

—These Things Take Time

Louder Than Bombs    
1987/Rough Trade

A+ pop hook in this song. That is all. 
I am assuming the title of this song is referring to getting used to Morrissey’s falsetto.

Wire

—Surgeon's Girl

Pink Flag  
1977/Harvest

Imagine this in place of “Lust For Life” during the intro of Trainspotting. Eh? Eh? No? Come on. Maybe? Why not? fuck 

The Feelies

—The Final Word

Only LIfe  
1988/A&M Records

It’s a beautiful day where I am right now (in hell) so I figured I’d share a song from the most modestly feel-good band I know. In four albums, spanned out over 11 years (disregarding their recent come-back album, which was enjoyable), The Feelies mastered a particular sound (now regrettably labeled as something stupid like ‘jangle pop’ or some shit) without ever really deviating from their frequented path. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess. I almost want to say they sounded ‘samey’ or something, or allude to the fact that their songs all sounded pretty similar, but those things usually carry a negative connotation and I refuse to bad mouth The Feelies. Their songs all sounded similar and all of their songs were amazing. There’s really no Feelies song I don’t like. You can’t really find anything to outwardly dislike about them unless you’re some kind of fool. 

Their third album, Only Life, though not nearly as praised or even recognized as their debut, Crazy Rhythms, is a simple masterpiece. It’s “simple” in the way that there are no subversive surprises or weird diversions from what you get used to upon hearing the first song. That being said — each song is humble, unassuming, and undeniably charming as fuck. The Feelies were, maybe, the least pretentious band in the world, maybe next to Yo La Tengo. 

One thing, in particular, that I admire about this album is its unabashed positivity. A sense of joviality and acceptance-of-whatever-happens is extremely present without sounding cheesy or sickly sweet. I have had many moments where I’m feeling, like, just okay, and a Feelies song comes on and my mood is substantially heightened and the sun seems to shine a lil brighter and everything is nicer without being annoying! It’s great.

I love them. hope u do 2. 

Moonshake

—City Poison

Eva Luna    
1992/Too Pure

Sorry INTERPOL/FRANZ FERDINAND (the guy, not the band) but MOONSHAKE is the REAL post-punk redux. This album is also full of United States of America (the country, not the band) samples, for what it’s worth. It’s better when I don’t say anything, right?

If you don’t like this song, I’ll send you five dollars in the currency of your choice.