JOHN CALE – a bunch of live stuff…
Here’s three different live shows spanning almost fifteen years by the great Welshman. I have no idea what year the first set with Nico comes from, cure since I was provided with hardly any info on it when I first got it. My guess is earlier-rather-than-later ’70s, since the material heavily leans on Nico’s post-”Chelsea Girl”/pre-”The End” period, when Cale produced “The Marble Index” and “Desertshore”.
The second is from Stockholm, Sweden, in ’75, with guest lead guitar by Chris Spedding.) It opens with the really strong track “Autobiography”, which (I think) doesn’t appear on any Cale studio album. It’s one of his strangest, since it really is a song all about just him (I dig the lines “My name is Cale/you can call me John” and “Don’t come from near/don’t come from west/I come from Wales”). I also found it interesting that “Mercenaries”, which appears on the live album “Sabotage” from ‘79, was in his repertoire as early as four years prior. This set also features a truly wretched cover of The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times”, but we’ll forgive him –
The third and final set is from German TV’s “Rockpalast” from ’84 — and my download of it here is unfortunately incomplete. Again, Cale starts it all off with “Autobiography”, and the funny thing is there’s ten years in-between this set and the previous one above — and yet, the two different performances of the song sound EXACTLY the same. Righteous! The one-two punch of this lead-off next to the song “Oh La La” make this set the best out of all three I’ve included here.
NOMEANSNO – live in Rome, Italy, 06.30.88
A truly great and unusual thing about this set is that their cover of Joy Division’s “Transmission” is virtually indistinguishable from any live recording of Joy Division doing it! Magic, on top of the already-awesome Nomeansno-ness to it.
LITTLE RIVER BAND – live in Melbourne, Australia, 1983
It’s unusual for me to post something from a band like this, but with Little River Band, there’s a nostalgic appeal for me. LRB were an Australian band who managed to crack the tough outer shell of the American market in the ’70s with their particular brand of smooth blather; my father was a modest fan of theirs. The audio from this was taken from a bootleg DVD of a concert recorded for broadcast on HBO in ‘83, back when singer John Farnham (who at the time enjoyed a successful Aussie solo career) was recruited to front the band. When it first aired, my father taped it, and would drag it out often to rewatch it. I grew attached to this recording when I found the tape a few years ago lurking in a closet, and rewatched it myself. Their studio albums are mostly awful, but some of these live renditions are fun. Of note is the funky track simply called “D”.
When I originally posted this on Post-Punk Junk, a reader accused me in a comment post of having gone “yacht rock.” I guess now I’m double yacht.
KLAUS SCHULZE – “BLACKDANCE” (1974)
I normally consider all of Schulze’s catalog quite wonky, cost
but this one got to me. Perhaps it was the cover — it usually was, arthritis
back when I was an LP collector. I didn’t have the patience back then, more about
however, to sit through three really, really long minimalist electronic instrumentals, so whenever I put this record on, I’d hop straight to Side A, Track 2: “Some Velvet Phasing”.
It’s eight minutes of gurgling, stewy circuitry. I used to mute the sound on pornos and put this track on instead while watching boys do things to each other. One listen to it will give you all need to know (or try your hardest to forget) about my inner workings.
ABILENE – “BLACKLEG” (2000)
“Presumably named for the central Texas town, Abilene is a Chicago trio with a rich, deep sound. Their songs focus on the fluid, dynamic interplay between guitar and bass. The bass provides a comfortable, sidling groove for the guitar(s) to dance around; sometimes it’s a slow waltz, sometimes an amphetamine-fueled breakdance, but regardless of the mood, that assured bass groove keeps things smooth. Busy, syncopated percussion makes these songs intensely rhythmic. Occasionally singer (and guitarist) Alex Dunham adds bleak, muttering vocals, but the words are spread sparsely throughout Abilene’s songs, as the band members are more interested in their instruments’ quiet synergy. Every so often, Abilene builds to a rough, angular crescendo that seems to release a bit of the boxed-up electricity of their moody pieces, but for the most part their songs are all about low-tempo restraint that places equal focus on each instrument…(t)he members of this trio are all accomplished musicians, as a look at their respective resumes will indicate: Dunham formerly served in little-known post-punk greats Regulatorwatts and Hoover. Bassist Craig Ackerman was in Lustre King and drummer Scott Anderson was in Chisel Drill Hammer.”
- Jesse Ashlock, Epitonic
The above description might make the band sound like a ton of other post-rock combos from the same era, such as the incredible The For Carnation, but a strange devotion to the emo leanings of its own yesteryear, coupled with dense and focused composition, sets Abilene apart. I always love to highlight songs that make for great bike ride listening, since I do spend an hour each day as I ride back and forth from work, and the Abilene song “October” is a killer. A reviewer named Jim Steed at fakejazz.com put it best:
“…the guitar and bass parts are much more interesting, following a swirling pattern for a very hypnotic effect. The payoff here soars, the guitar changing sound, turning into an approaching pack of jet planes poised for attack.
FAITH NO MORE â€“ â€œWE CARE A LOT (1985)
A few years before Mike Patton assumed the role of frontman for Faith No More, the band had Chuck Mosley, a guy who couldnâ€™t really â€œsingâ€, but who could â€œfrontâ€ just fine. The two albums he recorded with the band before being sacked, â€œWe Care A Lotâ€ and their major-label debut â€œIntroduce Yourselfâ€, are great gems of the â€˜80s college radio/â€120 Minutesâ€ explosion.
The â€œWe Care A Lotâ€ LP has great twinges of goth and funk styles on the edges â€“ and that might sound absolutely terrible (I know it would to me), but here, it works. I used to listen to my cassette of this album in junior high until it was too warped to be listenable anymore â€“- so thatâ€™s why I got a chuckle out of seeing this particular listener review on Amazon of the album, posted back in â€™99:
â€œThis album (being the first of the band) is an excellent title and a rare one. You cannot find more originality in a band and We Care A Lot from Faith No More is just a kick-ass album. If you are a Faith No More fan like myself, you know what I’m talking about. But if you are not a fan, I highly recommend it to anyone who had a real good time in the 80’s. Once again, great album!!! Ben Gonzalez-Age 14â€
THE PLUGZ – “BETTER LUCK” (1981)
The Plugz started out as a punk trio from East L.A. in the late ’70s, and by the early ’80s had carved out rock territory also to be mined by the likeminded Los Lobos. Their second of two LPs, “Better Luck”, featured a more expanded lineup (including a guest spot from Gus Santoalalla, an Argentinian ex-pat who also was the frontman for the short-lived L.A. band Wet Picnic), and a very laid-back sound. For me, a lot of the album suffers from a dull sameness, but the first two that open and the one that closes the record are pretty mighty…