Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Clash - London Calling

Boy, is that album cover ever decieving.
The way The Clash combine so-called "punk," white reggae, and rockabilly is pretty different and unique, I'll grant you that. But a horseradish and jelly sandwich is different and unique, too. Just don't expect to see me having one for lunch anytime soon.
There are some songs that I really don't mind. "London Calling" actually gets my hopes up every time I play the album because it makes me think the album has grown some balls since the last time I heard it. "Brand New Cadillac" doesn't do much to sway my hopes, either. And "Train in Vain" is a pretty good song, and ends the album on a good note. But in between it's all downhill from here. I absolutely cannot stand "Jimmy Jazz." "Rudie Can't Fail"," "Spanish Bombs," and especially "The Right Profile" all feature the most annoying vocals from one of my most dispised frontmen of all time, Joe Strummer, with his whiny croons and yelps. I mean, what on earth is happening to Joe at the 3:07 mark on "The Right Profile?" Somebody get the man some medical attention. Actually, nah, just let him suffer. Instead, get me a paper bag to puke in.
To top it off, it doesn't help that he has bright and cheery horns backing him up like he's some Las Vegas showman or something.
An album with "Wrong 'Em Boyo" is supposed to be a punk album? Are you kidding me?
To these ears, London Calling is nothing more than a really bad experiment gone awry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Afghan Whigs - Black Love


Although I still consider “Gentlemen” to be the absolute Afghan Whigs classic, “Black Love” is the one album that makes me reconsider at times. A transitional album as the Whigs were starting to grow past their alt-rock roots and further incorporating soul into their blend of rock, it foreshadows where they would go on their follow up, “1965.”

Every song on here has all the marquees of classic Whigs material – angry rants of past relationships gone bad (“Blame, Etc.”); driving guitar rock (“My Enemy”); slow, crooning ballads of remorse and regret (“Crime Scene, Pt. 1,” “Step Into the Light”). Check, check, and check. But they also add different elements not heard before, such as violins, keyboards (they make a really funky, groovy appearance on “Going to Town”), and…an organ! Any alt-rock band that can successfully incorporate an organ (note to the Arcade Fire – “successfully” is the key word) gets an “A” in my book. Not too mention, they make extremely good use of the piano.

Ok, I must confess, I think it’s just a keyboard with an “organ” effect, but still!

I must say I’ve never found Dulli’s lyrics to be a strong point of the Whigs music. He uses over-dramatic metaphors (“come crucify my heart” – uh, ok Greg, it’s not THAT bad), and he uses the word “baby” about as liberally as a teenage girl uses the word “like.” We get it, already. You’re emotional about things.

The thing I’ve always found interesting about the Whigs work is how they often mesh bitter and angry lyrics with optimistic and high spirited music. They do this more than anywhere else on “Black Love.” I hear Greg’s rants and croons and screams, and ultimately come out thinking hey, this world is worth living in, despite all the crap that happens. There is no better example than the incredible closer, “Faded.” If there is a better Afghan Whigs song than this, I am not aware of it.

Ultimately, this is a very close runner up to “Gentleman,” and achieves a very nice blend of rock and soul.

I like it, baby.