Tears For Fears Play “The Working Hour”

Listen to this track by emotive pop song chart bothering duo from Bath England, Tears For Fears. It’s “The Working Hour”, a deep cut off of the otherwise hit single-laden 1985 album Songs From The Big Chair. That album was the much-awaited follow-up to their modestly successful debut record The Hurting from two years previous, with this new record being their breakthrough into the mainstream and outside of their alternative fanbase.

The songs on the album showed some of the same lyrical and musical DNA from their début. But, with this follow-up their sound seemed to be on a larger scale. If The Hurting was a precisely realized and eloquent little indie film, then Songs From The Big Chair had the sheen of a major studio, still dealing in similar themes of inner turmoil and alienation, but doing so with a bit more gloss. Hit singles “Shout”, “Head Over Heels”, and particularly “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” were ready for the red carpet, contrasted to their previous singles that were too emotionally insular to fit that kind of overt mainstream fanfare.

This had more to do with the tone of each release than it did with quality. As a major fan of The Hurting, even I noticed that, and was OK with it. Maybe that’s in part because of this song, “The Working Hour” that is one of the songs on the record that best bridges the gap between the moody and contemplative pop outfit they’d been, and the anthemic stadia-ready band they were seeking to become. Continue reading

Graham Parker & The Rumour Play “Local Girls”

Squeezing_out_sparks_coverListen to this track by London-born, Deepcut Surrey raised singer-songwriter and original angry young man Graham Parker, along with his crack team of pub rock compatriots, The Rumour. It’s a hot should-have-been-huge single “Local Girls”, featured on Rolling Stone’s retroactively appreciative top 500 albums of all time record Squeezing Out Sparks, produced by none other than Jack Nitzsche, arranger and one-time co-orchestrator to Phil Spectre in the 1960s.

Before his career as a musician with an unbeatable backing band on the pub rock scene in London, Graham Parker was a wanderer, travelling to various places, and working different jobs while his ambitions as a full-time songwriter and touring musician were percolating.

That’s why I think “Local Girls” is less about a disdain for women at bus stops, and more about finding a personal sense of location for a songwriter from a small town.

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June Tunes Digest 2015

Fairy_Rings_and_Toadstools_by_R_Doyle

Summertime. And the livin’ is easy.

Well, I hope it is for you. If it isn’t right now, maybe all you need until things pick up are some new tunes. Well, if that sounds about right, then you’ve come to the right place. And if the livin’ really is easy for you, then – tunes. Same deal, folks!

So, as is our custom here at the ‘Bin, here are a selection of tunes from across the pop music spectrum and from around the world; something here for everyone. Dig in!

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Paul McCartney Plays “Jenny Wren”

Paul McCartney Jenny WrenListen to this track by Liverpudlian songwriting titan and one of four Beatles Paul McCartney. It’s “Jenny Wren” a top forty UK  single as taken from his 2005 album Chaos And Creation In The Backyard. The album was co-produced with Beck and Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich, and scored a top 10 showing on the Billboard 200.

The record was looked upon as something of a return to a certain sound and approach for McCartney, only touched on as recently as 1998’s Flaming Pie. For one, he played most of the parts himself, just as he’d done with his first solo album all the way back in 1970. He also returned to a signature sound for which he became known while still officially in The Beatles, that being a spare and acoustic sound that he’d developed while at Transcendental Meditation summer camp with the Maharishi in 1968.

This song in particular hooks into a signature McCartney play that certainly goes back to the sixties; the 1860s! Continue reading

The Black Keys Play “Tighten Up”

The Black Keys Tighten UpListen to this track by Akron Ohio blues-rock twosome The Black Keys. It’s “Tighten Up”, a single as taken from their 2010 album Brothers.

The single was twinned with another hit in “Howlin’ For You”, hearkening back to the days of the double A-side. Both songs evoke the spirit of one of the band’s greatest influences, that being Howlin’ Wolf. Even the album design mirrored Wolf’s 1969 album The Howlin’ Wolf Album on which the self-referential words “This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either”. Even if that statement about his view of his own record was true, it showed that the blues was changing by the latter years of Wolf’s career, mixing with rock music and psychedelia.

Even if this song hearkens back to what Wolf helped to establish –  echoey and subterranean blues that is coloured with an edge of desperation and menace – it also demonstrates that the form is not stagnant by the 21st century, either. It still had plenty of space to grow, with The Black Keys certainly playing their part to get the music back on mainstream radio and on video screens too. With this, another aspect comes to the fore; that this is not mere musical curation of sounds from days gone by. It’s a part of a living tradition that also has a place in the pop charts. Continue reading

The Barr Brothers Play “Beggar In The Morning”

Barr Brothers self titledListen to this track by Montreal-based, Providence Rhode Island originated folk-rock fraternal outfit The Barr Brothers. It’s “Beggar In The Morning”, a single as taken from their 2011 self-titled record The Barr Brothers. The titular brothers Brad (guitar, voice) and Andrew (drums and percussion) had been a part of experimental rock band The Slip from the mid-nineties, but had been playing music in one form or another since 1983 when they were still children growing up in Rhode Island, with Chuck Berry and Miles Davis getting equal time on the record player as they learned their craft on their instruments.

The results of vocalist and guitarist Brad Barr’s songwriting output reflects a sense of emotional gravity and textural variety. His brother Andrew keeps the beat and add percussive accents and melodic accessory on drums and percussion. Classically-trained harpist Sara Page was added to their line-up after Brad heard her playing harp through the drywall, since she was his neighbour. with her addition to the brothers’s sound, the band was officially born. Multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial rounds out the membership, adding further nuance to the whole, which is a meditative and subtle approach to modern roots music that escapes easy comparison.

How did the brothers cover the distance between Boston, where they were based for a decade, and Montreal? It was a question of an odd and unexpected welcome they received in a city that was gaining in stature as a key cultural destination for innovative music.

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Patti Smith Group Play “Gloria”

PattiSmithHorsesListen to this track by proto-punk poet and her merry band of garage rock enthusiasts The Patti Smith Group. It’s “Gloria”, the opening track to their 1975 record Horses. That album would be a reflection of their work that melded fifties beat generation poetry with sixties garage rock music.

This song is the embodiment of that mix, taking a poem that Smith had performed for years called “Oath”, and fusing it to the 1965 garage rock classic by Them, which makes this a quasi cover version of sorts. It’s almost as though, in a time before sampling was formalized in the way we know it today, this piece was manually sampled. It was an effort at trying to tie the deeper questions of life to something that was just as common; a love of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It was also a way to tie it directly to the experiences of her generation.

Where is all of this pointing toward? Something that looks at lot like a search outside of that which had always been accepted as fact by the generation that came before. That’s what makes this so punk rock. Continue reading