It was a cruel joke played by the calendar. With Labor Day coming so late it was still summer, right? Wrong! Instead of letting the good times roll, the fun-killers at my son’s school decided to ruin a perfectly good three day weekend by starting early. Wasn’t it just a few brief weeks ago that we were cranking Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out?” Next thing I knew I was trying to put on a brave face for the vice principal at morning drop-off. I was so busted up I couldn’t push publish for two weeks.
Maybe that’s why Week 7 of Discover Weekly was such a double bummer. While the music was great and the curation was solid, it was all just a downer. Almost every song reeked of darkness, sadness, madness, depression and death. Coupled with my end-of-summer blues, I was ready to give up music forever.
Opening this week and setting the dark tone is Blind Melon. All I can think of is the Bee Girl and the lead singer dying of a heroin overdose. I never listened much beyond the one hit “No Rain.” This track, “Tones of Home,” rocks harder than expected. It was the first single from their 1992 debut album and has a bit of a Jane’s Addiction vibe.
“Dangerous Type” closes out The Cars’ second album Candy-O. Released in 1979, just a year after their incredible debut, this album is almost as good, but without the novelty that made their first album so satisfying and surprising.
The Replacements jumped from indie Twin-Tone to major label Sire in 1985 and killed it with their second best album, Tim. “Swingin’ Party” closes out the LP and showcases Paul Westerberg’s emerging songcraft and heart on his sleeve vulnerability in this poignant ballad.
The second album from Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Pig Lib, came out in 2003. The mid-tempo “Vanessa From Queens” is a fun little track on an album that showed the doubters he had truly broken free from his previous band, Pavement. Love the great low-key guitar heroics throughout the song.
Jesus Lizard evolved out of the phenomenal Scratch Acid. “Here Comes Dudley” starts their 1991 album, Goat. Recorded by Steve Albini, the track pummels from the get-go with a long musical vamp before David Yow’s vocals add the knockout punch! Boom
Then we travel sideways to Tom Petty’s solo debut, Full Moon Fever, and the fifth single from that 1989 blockbuster, “Yer So Bad.” There’s a reason it was the fifth single. At this point they were milking it and this cut got the nod. Sure, it’s fine, but sounds like every other mediocre Tom Petty song, pleasant but forgettable.
Recorded in 1972 right after the death of founding member Duane Allman, The Allman Brother’s “Eat a Peach” was a half live/half studio recording. “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” opened the studio album and is a heartfelt tribute to the departed Duane from brother Gregg. The album proved that the band could and would go on despite the tragic loss.
Here’s something I didn’t know, “Misirlou” is actually a traditional Mediterranean song dating back to the early 20th century. What I do know is Dick Dale’s twanging surf-rock version crushed it in 1962 and Quentin Tarantino’s placing it in Pulp Fiction guaranteed its immortality.
Born to Run just celebrated its 40th anniversary and countless articles lauded it as Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough. It’s easy to forget that he had already delivered two fine albums. “Kitty’s Back” from 1973’s The WIld, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle is an epic seven minute workout for the entire band. Hot damn!
Ween’s 9th album Quebec was their first release after getting dumped by Elektra. “Transdermal Celebration” traffics in the Ween tradition of making big arena rock sounds that sound like they are thumbing their nose at those same big arena rock sounds.
From Real Estate’s 2011 album Days, “Easy” opens the record with their wide screen jangly pop. Tom Scharpling of WFMU’s Best Show fame directed the video for this track. Wonderful!
Then we leap backward for Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.” Yep, that’s Jimmy Page on guitar and it’s rumored John Paul Jones may have played an uncredited role in the song. This slice of psychedelic folk came out in 1966 on Donovan’s third album, Sunshine Superman.
Don Henley was pissed that the press made a big deal out of a 16 year old naked overdosed girl found at his house so he wrote “Dirty Laundry,” ripping apart tabloid journalism and journalists. It was his first big post-Eagles success from 1982’s I Can’t Stand Still and became a #3 hit.
Jackson C. Frank released one almost forgotten, but incredible album in 1965. Produced by Paul Simon, it was just the man and his guitar playing some of the finest folk music of his time. “Blues Run the Game” is his most celebrated track and it leads off the album. Poignant and beautiful.
Creedence Clearwater Revival released three albums in 1969 and instead of getting tired, they just got better and better. “Midnight Special” off Willy and the Poor Boys is a raucous version of a traditional prison work song celebrating escape on the late night train.
“Slip Inside This House” was originally done on album number two, Easter Everywhere, in 1967 by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. 24 years later Primal Scream covered it for their groundbreaking Screamadelica. They copped Sly Stone’s laugh from the Stand! LP and threw in a little Amen Break to transform it into a crazy indie rock acid house masterpiece.
What more can be said about Big Star? The best band you never heard brings it with “The Ballad of El Goodo,” an Alex Chilton classic from their perfect 1972 debut album, #1 Record. Just listen. Then watch the documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. Then listen some more.
Let’s travel all the way back to Checker Records and 1956 for Bo Diddley’s absolutely essential “Who Do You Love?” It’s been covered by everyone (Quicksilver, Blues Magoos, UFO, The Doors, George Thorogood) but the original is still the knockout champion.
From Mac Demarco’s 2012 album 2, “Cooking Up Something Good” juxtaposes a lazy soft rock tune against dark lyrics. What seems like an ode to childhood boredom reveals ugly family secrets beneath the shiny pop surface. .
The big surprise this week is “I Love You All” by fake movie band Soronprfbs with actor Michael Fassbender on lead vocals. It’s from the 2014 movie Frank and the tune has a new wave, art pop, Magnetic Fields vibe. I love the tune and want to see the film.
We heard a 13th Floor Elevators’ cover just a few songs back. Now, we’ve got Elevators’ lead singer Roky Erickson with his band The Aliens in 1981 with the insane psychedelic rock of “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” the opening song from The Evil One.
Black Mountain debuted in 2005 with their dark, loud, psychedelic self-titled album. “Druganaut” is a killer song and best played at 11. If you didn’t know the vintage you’d swear you were trapped in a heavy, dark album from 1970. Rock on!
On his 4th album, Elliott Smith jumped to a major label and released one of his finest records, 1998’s XO. “Independence Day” is a gorgeous track, revealing his songwriting prowess, emotional fragility and lyrical depth.
Jane’s Addiction manage to mangle a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” for the 1991 tribute album, Deadicated. It’s mostly a case of two bands that don’t go well together. The song plays against their strengths and it’s basically a waste of time.
Much of Blondie’s catalogue isn’t on Spotify so many of their best songs are only available on the 2014 half greatest hits re-recorded/half new studio album, Blondie 4(0) Ever. Yeah, their original cover of the essential Nerves’ song “Hangin’ On The Telephone” is one of their finest efforts. This version just doesn’t do it justice. Not terrible, just not very good.
When it was released in 1970, Paul McCartney’s solo debut was largely hammered by critics. Decades later the scrappy, loose album has been reappraised and given its critical due. “Momma Miss America” is a rough and raw instrumental that fits right into the homemade magic of the whole record.
Most heartland roots rock has just never been my thing. I just can’t relate. “Memphis in the Meantime” which leads off John Hiatt’s 1987 album, Bring the Family, is a perfect example. I can see all kinds of dad rockers loving this, but it sounds forced and phony. The critics love this guy, but nope.
The incredibly prolific Ty Segall seems to release an endless amount of music. One of his many projects is Fuzz. They deliver a stomping version of King Crimson’s signature anthem, “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Hardly essential, but for the fact that King Crimson just ain’t on Spotify. So go Ty!
Erika M. Anderson did time in Amps for Christ and Drones before going solo as EMA. On her 2011 debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, she destroys it with second single, “California.” It’s a little shoegaze, a little Kim Gordon and a whole lot of awesome.
Closing out this week, we get Junior Murvin’s amazing falsetto on “Police and Thieves” from his 1977 debut album of the same name. Produced by the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry and backed by The Upsetters, this is a happy ending to a weird, dark week of Spotify Discover Weekly.
Summer is over. It’s getting darker every day and winter is coming. Let’s hope the weeks to come bring brighter, sunnier sounds. See you next week. Let me know if you;ve been checking out your Discover Weekly playlists and what you think.