Monday, September 28, 2009

Blur - Midlife: A Beginner's Guide To Blur (EMI)

To celebrate the return of Britpop's favorite sons (no, not Oasis, who only just finally broke up) EMI has issued a generous two-disc compilation of just some of Blur's finer moments. The band reunited to play a few shows in London's Hyde Park this past July, which was, by all accounts a rousing success. The band are even set to record a brand-new studio album Into The Silence sometime later this year.

Although 2000's The Best Of was meant as a stop-gap to round up the 1990's (which is did nicely enough), Midlife acts as a thoughtful sampler for the uninitiated. However The Best Of collection omitted a few key singles. Namely "Popscene", "Sunday Sunday", "Chemical World", "Bang", and "M.O.R.". Midlife goes and rights some of these errors "Chemical World" and "Popscene" make welcome appearances this time around (woefully "Sunday Sunday" gets snubbed once again while "Bugman" remains). The beautiful "Blue Jeans" from 1993's Modern Life Is Rubbish gets well-deserved notice here as well. Midlife also picks up where The Best Of left off and collects two fine tracks from 2003's Think Tank - "Out Of Time" and Coxon's swan song with Blur "Battery In Your Leg".

If for some reason you've had the misfortune of non being familiar with Blur's fine body of work - pick up Midlife without remorse. It's a very nice set and a great introduction - as the title suggests - for a "beginner".

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? - The Best of the Replacements

An almost pretty-okay starting point.

The Replacements are one of those bands where their legend almost over shades their actual recorded output. Some of what made the band what it was were their live performances (great, good, bad & ugly). And their singles seem to only scratch the surface. So a 'best of' for The Replacements hardly makes for a by-the-numbers textbook greatest hits collection. So it can't really accurately and fully represent the band that they were on one single disc. Having said this, this collection is pretty okay at doing this - all things considered. But for a start - the track selection seems is a tad off. "Shiftless When Idle" and "Takin' A Ride" could have been left off. Additions of "If Only You Were The Lonely", "Raised In The City", and "Little Mascara" and the great singles "I'm In Trouble", "When It Began", and "The Ledge" would have absolutely made this a definitive greatest hits collection.

For fans of the band there are two good, newly recorded (!) songs ("Message To The Boys" & "Pool And Dive"). And considering they haven't actively done anything as a band in fifteen years - they're great. Paul Westerberg sings and plays guitar, Tommy Stinson plays bass, Chris Mars sings prominent backing-vocals (esp. on "Pool And Dive") and seeing as Chris hasn't played drums in a few years and his own preference of just wanting to sing and not play they used Josh Freese of The Vandals on drums (who backed Paul on his 14 Songs Tour). The songs themselves sound like superior Westerberg solo material although they are definitely 'Mats songs.

For the uninitiated this, again, is a pretty okay compilation but only begins to scratch the surface. I'd personally recommend Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash, Tim, Let It Be and Pleased To Meet Me and that's just for for starters.

They Might Be Giants peak with the amazing Apollo 18 before our very ears!

Ahh, 1992. (Sigh..indulge me if you will). The year in which They Might Be Giants were "Musical Ambassadors for International Space Year". You've gotta love it. It was with this album that I became a full-on TMBG fan. I'd first (really) heard them when they hosted Post Modern MTV for one week during the Summer of 1989 to promote the then-released Lincoln. They performed songs and advertised their Dial-A-Song service. I called it late one of the nights (it was only but a local call) and heard "How Much Cake Can You Eat?" & "Swing Is A Word". Although those songs made me a fan, it "Purple Toupee" was the song/video that really won me over.

"The Statue Got Me High" is a fun psychedelic single (and a fine lead-off single) "Mammal" is one of my all-time fave TMBG songs. "I Palindrome I" is a great, great single. "Which Describes How You're Feeling", "My Evil Twin", "Dinner Bell" and "Space Suit" are all TMBG sleepers and wonderfully psychedelic. "See the Constellation" - which samples Dee Dee Ramone for the intro count - could be considered the title track (okay, that and "Space Suit") and is, again, another one of my favorite TMBG songs. "Spider", "Turn Around" and "Dig My Grave" are funny and show TMBG still in full command of their use of insane lyrics and humor. The brilliant "Fingertips" for me, is just the icing on the cake. A wonderful psychedelic Summer afternoon cake.

I've personally, always found the final single from the album "The Guitar" to be a tad empty, crass and misguided. I'm guessing this was intended to be a hit single. Needless to say, this is the song from the album they continue performing live to this day.

Although the band still had a lot left in the tank, I'm of the thinking that they peaked around the time of getting a rhythm section? This is the last album that contains what was singularly unique and very special about TMBG.

Employ the shuffle button for this one!