Thursday, April 15, 2010

We once collided like a broken wheel

Every once in a while a record comes along that strikes a chord in my heart. In the late 90's Cheap Trick had been on a downward spiral since the mid 80's with long gaps between recordings, and those few releases were mediocre mishmashes. In 1997 they released what I consider to be their masterpiece, the ill-fated Cheap Trick also known as Cheap Trick '97.

The front cover photo contained no band members, just a five-necked checkered guitar and a bass drum skin. The moment I picked up the CD I could feel that something was different. Inside was a bonus disc which I listened to first. It contained a killer hard rock number Baby Talk and a spot-on cover of The Move's Brontosaurus. My expectations were high at this point, but I was in no way prepared for what I encountered on the official release.

CT 97 is filled with some of the finest power pop ever made. There are a few angry rockers like the opening Anytime that transforms itself into a grunge screamer. Then there are some stunningly beautiful quieter numbers like the closing It All Comes Back to You. And the remainder - mostly written by the band - shows a maturity beyond what I ever expected from the Tricksters.

I keep coming back to this album again and again. Because of the consistent quality from start to finish I am reluctant to pick a favorite. But at the moment there is a one song that keeps cropping up in my subconscious due to its combination of aching lyrics and one of the finest chorus melodies in the annals of power pop.

Carnival Game begins with a man who is sure that the pain caused by his relationship is so great that he would be better of alone.
Some days are easier said than done
Always expecting something's wrong
I'd rather live alone than drag this on
When the chorus arrives he momentarily relents and gives in to his need for a physical connection. But soon the pain returns and he gives up. That brief respite never returns.
Take your time - please lay your hands on me
Don't wanna be alone, oh no
A mask behind a face then you're gone
Oh yeah - comes a time when you're better off alone
We once collided like a broken wheel
So undecided what was real
Maybe a crash somehow has sex appeal
Whatever turns you on
One down - one to go
Oh no, playin' in a carnival
Your time is gone

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Repulsion Part 2

After a month of soaking up the sonic awesomeness of Quasi's new release American Gong it is time to post my thoughts on it. Joanna Bolme was added as full time bassist a few years ago and finally we have a studio recording available to hear the results. Quasi had mined the two member setup since inception in 1993, and the addition of the bass has thrown them into a new direction. And I for one love the results. The fullness of sound and the anchor provided by Joanna's inventive bass riffs gives their music a deeper dimension.

I previously posted an audio-only preview of the lead off track Repulsion but with the success of the release and the accompanying tour, a plethora of live videos have been posted. A favorite of mine is an video filmed at the Gibson studio in Austin TX by KEXP (Seattle) during the SXSW festival. It gives a real glimpse of the loose yet focused energy the band brings to their live performances.

Sam summons up a combination of Keith Richard's riffage and Summer of Love psychedelic guitar freak out in this little tale of a sad loser with love making performance issues. Meanwhile Janet and Joanna have become my favorite rhythm section of any band currently working. My objectivity is clouded of course - these folks are based here in my little heaven of a city.

I could not stop, I stayed too long
I gave it a shot but I got the gong
I hit the bed and I pull up the sheets
I am stuck in this rotten lump of meat

And "folding" over at You-tube has posted the studio version with a video credited to Mike Donovan that has a zillion jump cuts and odd video effects. Fits the song to a tee.