Archive for March, 2010

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Album 10 of 500: Social Distortion-Social Distortion

March 31, 2010

BAND: SOCIAL DISTORTION
ALBUM: SOCIAL DISTORTION
LABEL: SONY
RELEASE DATE: March 27th 1990

Punk rock, the late 1970s?  No, this is punk rock 1990.  Social Distortion’s most successful album, Social Distortion reminded suburban businessmen what punk rock was all about.  Social Distortion, fronted by bad boy Mike Ness, formed in 1979. Mike was only seventeen years old, and the band released its first in EP in 1981. Social Distortions 1990 self title record was so popular, it went Gold. Well known tracks off the record are the following: the great life lesson, “Story of My Life” and “Ball and Chain”. Plus, the greatest Johnny Cash cover of all time, “Ring of Fire”.  So what made this album any different from their previous albums?  Social Distortion’s self title album was debuted on a major label.  The follow up to the 1988, Prison Bound, Social Distortion presents a cleaner, composed punk sound. By far, “Story of My Life,” is Social Distortion’s most successful song. Every Social Distortion album is a tale of struggles of life.  A perfect example of this, “Ball and Chain.” Lyrics that cry of alcoholism and loss, “Well it’s been ten years and a thousand tears/And look at the mess I’m in/A broken nose and a broken heart/An empty bottle of gin.” Also,”Well I’m lonely and I’m tired/And I can’t take any more pain”. This album is also full of songs about heartache, “A Place in My Heart” for example. “I saw her today/Oh God I miss her smile/A pleasant memory/of things in life worthwhile.”   This album drops the attempt of a raw punk sound, notable in Mommies Little Monsters, and defines Social Distortion’s true sound. Mike Ness may have that bad boy exterior, but deep down he’s soft like the rest of us.

RM CRESSER ©2010 500 Rad Records

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Album 9 of 500: Mika Miko – We Be Xuxa

March 30, 2010

BAND: MIKA MIKO
ALBUM: WE BE XUXA
LABEL: PPM Records
RELEASE DATE:  May 5th 2009

A stunning and self-assured statement of purpose that will remind you of why you ever loved punk rock, We Be Xuxa recalls the idyllic period of punk rock in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s after “Forming” and before Black Flag and Circle Jerks turning the scene macho and violent.  In light of the unfortunate but inevitable co-option of punk rock, Mika Miko wisely ditch the hoky, dark imagery that hampered C.Y.S.L.A.B.F. in realization that punk rock is no longer an effective as a delivery device for anything that could be considered threatening.  Instead their aim seems to be to stage a coup for the dance floor against the purveyors of mash-up, bit pop and other fellow travelers, (charlatans, all).

The skeleton key to a proper understanding of We Be Xuxa is Mika Miko’s brilliant cover of Urinals’ “Sex.”  Out of all the LA punk rock groups, the closest antecedent for Mika Miko and has to be Urinals, with their joyful and unabashed amateurism coupled with lyrics characterized by nonsense words and anthropomorphization (“Totion” and “Turkey Sandwich” sound like they could be long lost Urinals songs). Their tribute to their underappreciated comrades in arms is a sign of their newfound aesthetic maturity, and much more appropriate from a regional standpoint than their disastrous cover of The Misfits’ played-out, “Attitude,” an unwelcome additional to the otherwise mostly stellar compilation 666.

Like any other classic album, it’s difficult to pick a standout track.  That honor, however, must belong to “Turkey Sandwich.”  If you’re anything like me (and I hope for your sake that you aren’t), the first time you hear it you will think it’s a fatuous throwaway track.  The second time you hear it you will think it’s kind of funny.  The third time you hear it you will think it’s the best punk rock song you’ve heard in years.  A song about a popcorn machine in a movie theater that comes to life and asserts its free will by requesting the titular turkey sandwich.  The chorus is sung in a call and response fashion that upon first listen seems entirely unnecessary, but like the song’s inexplicable lyrics, upon repeated listens  creates an irresistable logic of its own.

One aspect of We Be Xuxa that sets it apart from similar releases is the prominent space in the mix given to Jessica Clavin nimble and tasteful bass playing (see especially “On the Rise” and “I Got a Lot (New New New)”.)  That the bass is so prominent featured and deftly executed adds to the fun atmosphere and danceability of an album, something so sorely lacking in so much modern guitar-based music.

We Be Xuxa is a classic album in a genre that I didn’t think had any classics left in it.  This is punk rock that speaks to modern times.  Green Day has a show on Broadway.  Punk rock isn’t about rebellion anymore.  What should it be about?  I say, “a turkey sandwich.”

PAT AGUIAR © 2010 500 Rad Records

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NEW WRITERS!

March 28, 2010

I am proud to announce two new writers. 500 rad records is a lot! Both writers are WRIU alumni, so stay tuned!  Once we ran the airwaves, now we review records for fun!

Writers:

RM Cresser: From the former WRIU show, The Indie 500 Sessions, also a former music writer for URI’s the Good 5 Cent Cigar

Pat Aguiar: From the former WRIU show, the Mike and Pat Show. Also a former  music writer for the Good 5 Cent Cigar

Johnny Shen: From the former WRIU show, Redrum Radio

Reviews will come soon!

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Album 8 of 500: Small Factory – For If You Cannot Fly

March 11, 2010

BAND: SMALL FACTORY
ALBUM:  FOR IF YOU CANNOT FLY
LABEL: Vernon Yard
DATE RELEASED: 1994

Small Factory was formed in Providence RI in 1991 by Alex Kemp, Dave Auchenbach and Phoebe Summersquash.  Their second LP, For If You Cannot Fly, is a simple lo fi indie rock gem. The album was released on Vernon Yard, a subsidy of the monster label, Virgin in 1994. “The Last Time We Talked,” the first song on the album was a small success, and the video was shown on MTV’s cult classic, 120 Minutes.  For If You Cannot Fly is a candy coated heartache. Providence is not the happiest place on earth, it rains often and can be depressing, much like this album.  Each song tells a story about a sad heartbroken soul trying to find his or her way.  The hit song, “The Last Time We Talked,” is an anthem of acrimony. Lyrics such as, “the last time that we talked, it was one of those talks that doesn’t make you feel good but I felt better,” and “the last time you said it was fixed, I was still getting fucked.”  “Three Months Later”  displays dating dismay with lyrics like, “A little while later/I find out I hate her.”  Sadly, For If you Cannot Fly was Small Factory last album.  All three members contributed vocals to the album, and after Small Factory, Alex Kemp and Phoebe Summersquash formed the Godrays. The Godrays’ album, Songs For T.V Stars will be reviewed.  Truly underrated, Small Factory was an indie rock gem from a small state.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records



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Album 7 of 500: Hole – Live Through This

March 10, 2010

BAND: Hole
ALBUM: Live Through This
LABEL: DGC
RELEASE DATE: April 1994

Courtney Love.  A hack, a has been, the Yoko Ono of Nirvana and a murderer…? Not only Kurt died of a “suicide” but so did Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff two months after Cobain. Regardless of her personal mess, Courtney Love will always have a fantastic album. Hole’s follow up to the ear bleeding, Pretty on the Inside, Live Through This was an angry riot grrl album. Cleaner than Bikini Kill and not as sassy as Liz Phair, Courtney was a crazy mess and wanted to let the world know.  She dressed like that one doll the tom boy had, abused and dirty.  Her lyrics spoke of a woman’s confusion with sex, fitting in to society, physical abuse, drug abuse and parenthood.  One can argue, if it wasn’t for Kurt Cobain, Courtney would be a no name.  However, here is the DGC connection, Sonic Youth was on DGC.  Kim Gordon really liked Courtney Love. Let’s take the Rolling Stone magazine approach, forgot Courtney’s personal life and focus on the music.  Live Through This is an extremely dark record.  A song that can be used as an example is “Jennifer’s Body.” “I’m pure and he hits me again/with a bullet, number one, kill the family, save the son.”  Not only is that disturbing but the chorus as well, “found pieces of Jennifer’s body.”  Like Weezer, Hole’s second album was a powerhouse of dark songs, intriguing and personal lyrics.  Four years later, they follow up with the pop like garbage, Celebrity Skin. Kim Gordon had faith in Courtney Love’s music, and maybe if Courtney’s personal life wasn’t as bad as it is, Hole may have been as popular as Weezer today.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records