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Jürgen Müller

—Beyond The Tide

Science Of The Sea    
2011/Digitalis Recordings

I don’t know if it’s bad form to out someone’s pseudonym, but it’s pretty widely known (widely being a relative term) that the obscure German marine biologist/electronic music pioneer Jürgen Müller (b. 1948) is actually Norm Chambers, a.k.a. Panabrite. 
Still, you can read a pretty fun little ‘history’ on Müller and the creation of this collection of pelagic soundscapes here.

Müller (or Chambers) has created a sprawling set of aquatic lullabies that conjure the same feelings of mystery and uncertainty that drift miles below the surface of our dark waters.
The way Eno set his focus on the silent nets of stars and the black of space when creating Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, Müller has managed to invoke the same eerie comfort all without leaving our planet, which can be easy to forget once you let Science Of The Sea wash over you and inevitably pull you under.

Change of Heart

—Winter's Over

1989/Cargo Records

This is Toronto’s contribution to the “Children of Nuggets” compilation that never existed.


—Fire By The River

1968/Verve Forecast

There seems to be an unending reserve of fantastic music from the late 1960s. The only catch, really, is that it’s rarely in plain sight. The enigmatic Japanese singer Harumi created an album, with the help of iconic jazz/psychedelic producer Tom Wilson, that embodies every perfect aspect of the forever-mysterious American psychedelic movement. 

Psychedelic folk/rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s is almost like the Mariana’s Trench of popular music. The ability to record an album was much more economically and practically feasible than it had been just 10 years before. Because of this, there was no shortage of releases by artists from everywhere around the world. Conversely, due to the limiting factors of physical storage combined with the fragility of analog tape, possibly hundreds, even thousands, of recordings were lost, destroyed, overwritten, and will never see the light of day.

This album echoes the infectious melodies of Motown, experimentation of psychedelia, and Harumi’s band plays with the flawless skill heard on albums like Forever Changes or Odessey And Oracle. But actually it doesn’t really do it justice to compare this album to Love, The Zombies, or any other leaders of the scene — this album is its own piece of work and sits independently not only as a forgotten masterpiece, but an extremely important vestige of a largely lost era. 

Alison's Halo


Eyedazzler: 1992-1996  
1998/Burnt Hair

Hey look everyone! Check this out, this is something fresh! Spacey soft female vocals meets washed out over-overdriven guitar! Together at last!!! I hope that didn’t sound sarcastic because I would really HATE that. No but srsly..there’s absolutely no shortage of twee shoegaze bands from the 1990s but if, say, there was room for another one, then why not ALISON’S HALO?!
This album is actually quite catchy and listenable and not as dreadfully boring as it certainly could be. 
Hey how about that Slowdive tour, huh????

The Soft Boys

—The Queen Of Eyes

Underwater Moonlight    
1980/Attic Records

Hey, you can’t harmonize like that here! This is 1980! And turn down the treble on that amplifier. Fuckin’ kids.

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  

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 I’ve heard in some time, 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. 


—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    

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      

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.



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???

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

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