Album 22 of 500: The Thermals-Personal Life

December 9, 2010

LABEL:  Kill Rock Stars
RELEASE DATE:  September 7th 2010

“I give you all that I have, I tell you everything,” Hutch Harris sternly sings on “Never listen to Me.” He sure does lyrically on the Thermals new album, Personal Life.

Personal Life is the Thermal’s audio diary. Perhaps, Harris and the gang are channeling their Pinkerton side, and this album is depressing.  Someone broke Harris’s heart and he is lyrically letting people know how he feels. The album could be a month to month guide to a failing relationship. From getting to know someone and wanting to be apart of their life, as we hear in the opening track, “I’m Gonna Change Your Life” to the healing and letting go on the last song of the album, “You Changed My Life.”

Since 2002, Portland Oregon’s the Thermals have brought us albums about the norm a semi indie punk band would bring us, politics and religion. The band has tackled the topic of love lost before off the last album with the song, “I let it Go.”  They have not avoided the common band song topic through the years, they just mixed it well over the last eight years.  However, Personal Life, their fifth full length album, is their most personal album to date.

Song after song is as personal as it gets.  The single off the album, “I Don’t Believe You,” is a song about trust and being fed up with the other person. This album lets the listener become the shrink. Each song leads the listener into a deeper and darker downward spiral.

Track three takes a turn for the worse, its haunting and its the realization of a failing relationship.  “Never Listening to Me,” is perhaps a realization that one has rushed way too quickly into a relationship, and its starting to sink,

“Follow my call/follow my voice/like you know me.”

“Never Listening to Me,” is asking, do you even know who I am, or do you even care? Oh, but it gets worse! The most depressing song on the album is, “Alone, A Fool.” Lyrics that can bring a grown man to tears, “When I have you close/I miss you the most/I’m alone.” Almost a reminiscence of an Elliott Smith song, and with that said, the man is suffering.

In “Power Lies,” he asks when he can heal, yet throughout the album he puts himself down. An example of this can be hear in, “Our Love is so Strong,” where he begs to be deceived. Someone set fire to the thermals emotional state, and it can even be heard in the b sides from this record, such as “Separate” and “There’s Nothing You Can Learn to Accept.”

Overall, this is a very powerful album. This is by far not their best.  Yet, the Thermals put a lot of heart and soul into the album, and this is their version of  Pinkerton. Relationships can crash and burn even for our musical heroes. Most bands have proved its easier to write a song about heartbreak than any other topic. As author Nick Hornby wrote and later restated by John Cusack in the film, High Fidelity,

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobodies worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”

Luckily for the Thermals, their fans will always be there to listen. Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass need a hug.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records


the Pinkerton Award

December 9, 2010

So I decided to make a music award of year, why not? I call it the Pinkerton award, and it goes to the band with the most personal and saddest album of the year.

Why Pinkerton? Easy, because Pinkerton, Weezer’s second album was so personal, excellent and sad, Rivers tried to forgot about it until he learned that it had a cult follow. Pinkerton is amazing record, and bands who really put their soul and heart into an album will receive this award, or just a recognition from only me.

Rivers, I just made this up, so don’t get bent out of shape. I am a member of your Pinkerton cult, and please read the first review of my blog.

Good Job Thermals, Personal Life gets the Pinkerton Award of 2010! Now make a happy album.

Top of 2010, soon to come!



Album of 21 of 500: Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest

October 22, 2010

RELEASE DATE:  September 28th 2010

When an indie band takes on a major label, it can mean two things: an overproduced attempt at their sound, or an almost entirely different more corporate sound.  With Deerhunter’s new album Halcyon Digest, which was released on the same label as the Pixies, we don’t see that so much. The listener will hear a more developed attempt at the usual Deerhunter sound.  Deerhunter’s older albums are indeed excellent, yet mainly you have to weed through the noise and one gets a rare glimpse of the gems that their new album, “Halcyon Digest” holds. Here we will look at the band, and what it took to pull together an indie noise masterpiece.

Like many other bands, Deerhunter has gone through a lot. Formed in 2001, the indie noise band from Atlanta Georgia has seen a death of their original bassist from a skateboarding accident, to numerous breakups.  Fronted by Bradford Cox, along side with  guitarist Lockett Pundt, Josh Fauver and Moses Archuleta.  Deerhunter has come a long way from their first full length 2007 release on the indie label Kranky. Cryptograms reminds one more of a Providence noise band than the calm dream like state we meet in, Halcyon Digest. Some critics may see Halcyon Digest, as a total sellout album for the Atlanta band.  As noted before, this writer truly disagrees that this is a major label sellout album. We hear this progression in the older albums.  For example, “Spring Hall Convert,” off Cryptograms could easily fit on the Halcyon Digest.  It is rare of a band to pull such a beautiful composition on a fourth album.

Halcyon Digest is eleven songs of beautiful dream lands, and odd lyrics.  Deerhunter lyrics are simple, yet they are also interesting, usually full of self loathing, understanding others’ feelings, rejection, hopelessness, religious undertones and death. Cox’s lyrics seem to perhaps be dealing with his Marfan Syndrome and the lost of his bandmate on Halcyon Digest. By far, the best song on the album is “Desire Lines,”  with the chorus, “Walking Free/Come with Me/Far Away/Everyday”  In “Helicopter,” we are greeted with religious undertones and the subject of death, “Take my hand and pray with me/My final days in company /The devil now has come for me.”  Where he later sings, “I’m tired of my pain oh/No one Cares for Me.” Another example of death is found on the last song, “He Would Have Laughed,” a song about the late indie rocker and friend, Jay Reatard, who died in January of this year. We hear self loathing and understanding for those who feel the same in, “Don’t Cry” “Come on little boy/I am your friend and I understand the pain.”  Cox maybe channeling his younger self. Another example of rejection and Cox’s childhood flashbacks can be found in the song, “Memory Boy”. “Its not a house anymore./Try to recognize your son/in your eyes he’s gone.”

What’s not gone is the beauty and genius of Deerhunter.  Deerhunter took what sound best, cleaned it up and gave us one of the best albums of 2010.


RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records


We’re Back!

October 21, 2010

After a late summer break, whether it was being “so drunk in the August sun” or enjoying, “September in the night”, 500 Rad Records is back! Look forward to new reviews from new albums, like Deerhunter’s recent release, “Halcyon Digest” to old favorites, such as Built to Spill’s “Keep Like a Secret”! If there is a record you like to see reviewed, email us. Also be sure to join the facebook group, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104484922922482&ref=ts for updates.

thanks and rock on!


Album 20 of 500: Radiohead – Kid A

July 30, 2010

LABEL: EMI Recordings
RELEASE DATE:  October 3rd 2000

Picture yourself on a hot summer day, in a garden in the middle of the city. Tall sunflowers tower over you, casting a weird alien looking shadow. You feel something isn’t right, and you know you are in a dream state. A perfect example of this can be found in the song, “How to Disappear Completely.”  “That there/That’s not me/I go/Where I please/I walk through walls/I float down the Liffey/I’m not here.” Kid A is the ultimate audio out of body experience, or soundtrack to anyone’s dream state. The follow up to the acclaimed 1997 release, OK Computer, Radiohead needed a power album.  Unsure on what direction their sound was going to go, tension grew and almost split the band. Lead singer Thom Yorke, met fellow band mates, bassist Colin Greenwood and gutarist, Ed O’Brien in 1985 at the Abingdon School, where they attended. Colin grabbed his brother, Jonny to join, and the lads got drummer, Phil Selway. The boys took some time off to go college, got back together to make a demo, which EMI caught wind of in 1991. They were not always called Radiohead. In fact, EMI asked them to change their name. On a Friday, doesn’t really make a good band name.  The lads, influenced by the Talking Heads, borrowed a name of a song off the True Stories album. Two years later, Radiohead release  their debut album, Pablo Honey. Not even one percent of bands in music history could pull off what Radiohead produced next. Radiohead made quite the comeback to OK Computer. Making most best of the decade album lists, including this writer’s. Radiohead albums keep growing and changing and we are certainly greeted with this more of an electronic approach and in similar style to what many believe, their defined sound they stumbled on in OK Computer in this complete evolution in their sound.  Paired with producer Nigel Godrich again for this album, we are greeted with the what Rolling Stone called the best album of the decade. Thom Yorke describes tionhis work best, in the only American interview for the album. “I find it difficult to think of the path we’ve chosen as ‘rock music,'”  “Kid A is like getting a massive eraser out and starting again.” They did trade in the nineties gutarist riffs for more of an electronic sound.  However, they did not kill the guitars entirely. Songs that sound like they go on the reject list for Ok Computer showed up on Kid A. Examples of this are “Optimistic” and “National Anthem.” Yorke’s lyrics are still dark, yet simple.  “Morning Bell,” could tell a tale of a troubled marriage with lyrics stating, “Clothes are on the lawn with the furniture,” “Cut the Kids in Half” and begging, “Release Me.”  “Optimistic” is a song about making the album with a chorus of, “If you try the best you can/The best you can is good enough.” The album ends with, “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” a song which acts more of ends cerdits to a film.  “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” reminds one of waking up after a night of crazy dreams. Kid A is an electronic dream. Radiohead did try the best they could, and they showed the best they could is indeed good enough.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records


Album 19 of 500: The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico

June 24, 2010

BAND: The Velvet Underground & Nico
LABEL: MGM Records
RELEASE DATE:  March 1967

Was indie rock actually born in 1967 in NYC? Velvet Underground and Nico’s self titled record could easily have came out this year. Decades ahead of their time, the Velvet Underground is seen as one of the most influenical bands of all time.   Name one band that calls themselves indie rock not influenced by the Velvets?  The first live performance of the Velvet Underground was for a high school dance in   Summit New Jersey on November 11th 1965.The legend goes as this, Andy Warhol sees them play at a NYC club. He quickly becomes their manager. The Velvets were Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker. They become apart of Warhol’s the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and Warhol insists on the band taking on femme fatal, Nico.  This collerboration isn’t bad at all.

One to four days in the studio and three thousand dollars later, as rumor has it, we are graced with one of the greatest albums of the twentieth century. The album opens with “Sunday Morning,” dreamy, sweet and lo fi, this song takes you on a peaceful musical journey in which Sunday mornings are intended to be. Yet the lyrics on the album are not that dreamy and pleasant. Numerous songs about heroin, lyrics about sexual deviance, more drug use, prostitution is sprinkled throughout this lo fi masterpiece.  “I’m Waiting for the Man,” is a song about a drug deal, “He’s never early, he’s always late/First thing you learn is you always gotta wait/ I’m waiting for my man.” We learn that the drug dealer is a dear dear friend.

“Venus in Furs,” a lyrical tribute to the book with the same title, by Leopold Sacher-Masoch. “Venus in Furs,” is a dark song about sadomasochism. Reed’s voice is haunting, while he sings about shinny boots of leather. It takes you down this dark road with its chorus of surrender, “I am tired, I am weary /I could sleep for a thousand years /A thousand dreams that would awake me /Different colors made of tears.” “Venus in Furs”, may make one squirm and is poignant, yet it is the best song on the album.

Reed seems to do the dirty work, while Nico sang lead vocals on three of the eleven songs and they come off as sweet and innocent. “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” a favorite among college radio djs, because its six minute length made it a perfect song for a cigarette break, “Femme Fatal,” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” is truly a simple and lovely song, “When you think the night has seen your mind/That inside you’re twisted and unkind/ Let me stand to show that you are blind/Please put down your hands/’Cause I see you.” This was only album Nico was on with the Velvet Underground and left after to pursue a solo career. The Velvet Underground & Nico is decades ahead of its time.  Many bands have became mirrors to the Velvet Underground.  The Velvet Underground & Nico will forever be our dear dear friend.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records


Album 18 of 500: Tapes ‘n Tapes – Walk It Off

May 30, 2010

RELEASE DATE:  April 8th 2008

Walk It Off was a letdown for most music critics, feeling that the album could not live up to their 2005 first full length, the Loon. This writer disagrees. Walk It Off is a polished extended version of the Loon. Walk It Off was released three years after the Loon.  Songs on the Loon like “Manitoba” and “Omaha” hinted the band’s direction. Comparisons to indie front runners like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Wolf Parade, Pavement, Modest Mouse, and even the Pixies, Tapes ‘n Tapes are expected of such ridiculous great heights. Tapes ‘n Tapes formed in Minneapolis Minnesota in 2003, led by Josh Grier. Walk It Off was produced by Dave Fridmann, who also produced albums by the Flaming Lips and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Walk It Off is low key, sappy and dreamy. While the lyrics differ, ranging from betrayal, frustration, confusion to sweet and romantic.

Walk It Off is like a fairy tale, sounding sweet and innocent, but at times it carries deep underlining frightening meanings, extremely poetic and even self loathing.  The song meanings are somewhat hard to interpret at times as well, for example in “Demon Apple”, “I am the demon of the apple’s eye/Come round when your head’s on fire/We will be in touch with time/When you come into the Apple’s eye.” Assuming ones guess is as good as the next. Walk it Off could also be considered as an audio version of a classic piece of fiction about the sea. Sea worthy lyrics are present in eight of the twelve tracks. The last song on the album, “The Dirty Dirty,” ends with the lyrics,  “Constant eye bends, where did all the money go/You are far from the isle in a sea bond.”  Tapes ‘n Tapes albums present more of a classic story book, than quick lived modern rock short stories.

Poetic lyrics conquers Walk It Off. An example of this can be heard in, “Hang Them All”. “What you might believe before/and you might believe in when the tide runs, runs/All you are the best of friend/and all you offered at all with the sides run, round,” we also see a  running theme of betrayal in this album.

Non happy emotions run rampant through this album.  Betrayal is also present in the sappy and dreamy song, “Conquest.” The first verse opens with, “A million miles/ of common sense/Can’t hide the reader/Can’t fill the trench/And what you hide/ is what I sold/And when you’re next to me/The feeling’s cold.” “Say Back Something,” by far the best song on the album and is chock-full of frustration and confusion. “Say Back Something,” is a love crumbling anthem of a frustrated person who just wants romantic assurance that everything will be okay after a fight, “Say back something/Why can’t you look me in the eyes,” only a few lines later we learn that, “And I- Oh, I’m so scared”.  Walk It Off does have rare moments of happiness.  Grier’s grainy vocals are soothing in the romantic “Headshock,” regardless of the title, “Your needs/I will never never never/ leave out/So still /Your heart/I will never never never never/Stop.” Truly a requested dedication on college radio to that guy or gal you dig in your sculpture class.

No one would let Walk It Off live up to the Loon. “Say Back Something,” and “Headshock,” could easily fit on the first album. Perhaps Walk It Off is more of a lyrically heartache but certainly not musically. In regards to the comparison of Pavement, this writer does not hear it, nor did Pavement member Bob Nastanovich as he stated in an interview.  Tapes ‘n Tapes should not be scared, for they are do have a fantastic sound, and every record has been decent.  Their third LP is being recorded this year and hopefully its a head shock for critics. Walk it Off is truly a wonderful indie rock conquest for your listening pleasure.

RM CRESSER © 2010 500 Rad Records