La Zizique, et C'que J'en Pense

These are rambling mini-reviews of albums I've bought, borrowed from the local libraries or friends, or just heard somewhere.

(July 10th, 1997) I officially declare this page stagnant. I haven't added anything to it in months, I no longer live in Champaign Urbana, and I don't feel I have the time to write enough about each band to make your visit worth while. That being said, I'll be leaving it online because it does contains links to the best (my judgment) sites pertaining to each band, which might be of some value until they all go bad. I notice already about 5 of them are. Sigh.

(July 29th, 1997) Surprise, I couldn't leave it alone. But I only filled in some stuff; no new albums.




A Quick Index




The Reviews

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth Daydream Nation.

Sonic Youth Confusion Is Sex. This is the earliest Sonic Youth album I own. The sound is a lot rawer than their later work (though I'm told that their latest album, Washing Machine, is back to this style), and takes some getting used to. Once you're used to it, though, it kicks ass.

Sonic Youth EVOL. This is the first album where Kim Gordon starts singing in a whisper, and the effect is very good. The band also uses more varied sounds than on Confusion Is Sex like the oriental sounding xylophone in Shadow of a Doubt and the car sounds (both recorded and instrumental) in In the Kingdom #19.

Sonic Youth Bad Moon Rising. There must have been something in the water the summer Sonic Youth made this album: every song here embodies the album's foreboding title. The sound is back to the style of Confusion Is Sex, but with much darker lyrics.

Sonic Youth Dirty. Many Sonic Youth fans divide the band's career at the point between the albums Daydream Nation and Goo. This marks the point then the band reached stardom, and the point when their sound changed. Some fans liked the change; some didn't. Dirty comes after the change, and along with the next album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, is the most approachable Sonic Youth music to the uninitiated ear. There are very few dissonant chords or unintelligible screams on these albums.
Myself I like both Sonic Youth sounds. The Goo sound was the first to which I was exposed, and so I learned to like it first (at that time I didn't appreciate the older style songs on Goo like Mildred Pierce). But over time I switched to liking the older sound better. And then I switched back. And so on...

Sonic Youth 100%. A maxi-single of 100% from Dirty.

Sonic Youth Goo. Goo takes one more step forward towards melodic sounds from Dirty.

Sonic Youth Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. Just like Goo or Dirty, only with Bull in the Heather instead of Cool Thing. I find EJSANS to be a tiny bit more refined than the two earlier albums.

Sonic Youth Washingmachine. In an interview dating from last year (1995), when this album was released Thurston Moore was asked what he though of people saying that Sonic Youth wasn't the same as the Sonic Youth of the 80's. He answered that they sounded different because they had become better and better at what they did. One listen to this album and you know this is true. Diamond Sea is 17 minutes of the most soulful music I've heard from any band, and the untitled track (at least on my copy, track 9 has no title) is beautiful too.

Thurston Moore Psychic Hearts.

Bjork and The Sugar Cubes

The Sugarcubes Life's Too Good. Strange pop music. Strange music. Very strange lyrics (it opens with: "My punctuality is well known. When the revolution comes I'll be late, and I'll be shot as a traitor"). And Björk sings and writes some of them. I especially like Deus.

The Sugarcubes Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!. I bought his album because I liked Pump on It's It a lot. There are other good songs on this album, but is is nowhere as satisfying as It's It or Lifes Too Good. One's song's lyrics have, lately, lodged themselves in my mind: "I'm just a maid. Eat, eat, eat the menu." sung by Björk.

The Sugarcubes It's It. This is a collection of remixes of Sugarcube songs. Most of the songs come from Life's Too Good. These remixes are all very good, and some I like better than the original.

Björk Debut. Björk once explained that her music was music to which to do housework. I've tried it and it works wonders. This album is the sort that sneaks up on you from inside: the lyrics don't make sense until you stop listening to them intently. Then suddenly it will all make sense.

Björk Post. This album feels very much like Debut. When I listen to it I get the feeling that the themes are a little less happy than those on Debut, but this just makes it all the more interesting. The songs Isobel is a good example of this. Also there's a big-time unselfassuredness in the narrators which reappears in most of the songs, all the way to the aptly named Possibly Maybe.
Because I like this Björk so much I have my own page about her music.

Björk Hyperballad.

Björk Isobel (1).

Björk Isobel (2).

The Eurythmics, David Stewart, and Annie Lennox

Eurythmics In The Garden. This was the Eurythmics first album, and for a long time it never made it across the ocean to North America. I had to buy it in Paris. It's a different, sparer and higher pitched sound than the later Eurythmics records. Annie Lennox never lets loose with her voice. Instead everything it hinted at through the lyrics and David Stewart's guitar playing. I say this thinking especially of the songs Never Gonna Cry Again where Annie's voice keeps its calm while David's guitar is an approaching storm of tears, and Revenge which is a precursor both in sound and theme of Savage, a song that they recorded six years later.

Eurythmics Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

Eurythmics Touch.

Eurythmics 1984.

Eurythmics Be Yourself Tonight.

Eurythmics Savage. Mmmmmmmm. A sexy sexy album. I'd rate this one as the best Eurythmics album, even over Sweet Dreams. The words to the title track and to I Need You are especially biting.

David Stewart David Stewart & the Spiritual Cowboys.

David Stewart Greetings from the Gutter.

David Stewart Lilly Was Here. This is a movie soundtrack, and is wonderful soaring ambiance music except for two songs. The first is Second Chance. It's sung by a little voiced woman who cannot sing a tune to save her life. I recommend skipping right over this track and to the next one...Annie Lennox singing an acoustic version of Here Comes the Rain Again.
I have never seen the movie this album goes with.

Annie Lennox Diva.

The Pixies, and Frank Black

The Pixies Doolittle.

Pixies Trompe le Monde. Ah, The Pixies. How sad it is that they broke up. Their lyrics were the best:

"We did the clubs what ass I was hoping to have her in the sack /
I was looking handsome She was looking like an erotic vulture /
I was all dressed in black She was all dressed up in black /
Everything was fine down here What you call it here Call it what you will here
Way down down down in this subbacultcha."
and they were set to happy, loud music. Anything by The Pixies is excellent, from Surfer Rosa and Doolittle through Bossanova to this, their last album.
After they broke up the bass player Francis Black went on to make solo albums. One day I'll break down and buy one just to see.

Frank Black Frank Black. OK, I did it, I went out and bought this album. Does it sound like the Pixies? No, not exactly, but I think it sounds better. The guitar is harder, and that goes even better with the great, dark and mysterious lyrics Frank Black puts out. One friend of mine thinks the song Los Angeles is the best thing since sliced bread. I have to admit that I, too, find my favorite Frank Black song on this album: Parry the Wind High, Low. A song about U.F.O.'s and implants is perfect coming from Frank Black (going back to the pixies with Roswell, UFOs seem to be a theme for Frank Black):

And if the ship meets your car / you know you can't go real far.
Well they can treat you real nice / or put a tracking device
Way down inside!

Checking out invention at the UFO convention tonight.
Planes above the Hilton make it sunny brought my honey tonight.
...
I've got my hands on some sights / electric glasses with lights.
They've got me feeling deluxe / for just a couple of bucks
Way down inside!

I'm getting patterns from a trekker and it sounds like soul records to me.
I'm getting patterns from a trekker and it sounds like Desmond Drekker to me.
So many implications... so many conspiracies.

Frank Black Teenager of the Year.

Frank Black The Cult of Ray. Yes! Yes! Yes! And yes again! This is the best Frank Black album yet. Plus there's another UFO song, Men In Black:

I'm watching my back / I'm wait my visitation
From the men in black / Are they grey or is it my own nation?
...
You better believe it / I got their number
Classic camcorder / I saw everything.

P.I.L. (Public Image Ltd.)

P.I.L. Happy?. Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) didn't do a Sid Vicious after the Sex Pistols broke up. Instead he went on to join PIL and continue his sarcastic lyrics. The music, though, changed utterly. This is not punk, it's a combination of synthesizer pop and frail guitars and drums.
This is the earliest PIL album I can stand to listen to all the way through, but it's certainly not my favorite. The music is, for me, just on this side of bearable.

A WARNING: Do your ears a favor... stay away from earlier PIL material, it sucks. I am thinking of Seven and Second Edition when I say this. I wouldn't go back further (in time) than Happy?, and even then, only if you can stand 80's synthesizer pop.

P.I.L. Number 9. This is the first album where PIL's musical production hits it's stride.

P.I.L. That What Is Not. That What Is Not is their last album and is, in my opinion, their best. The music is fuller than #9, with background soul singers (Good Things) and voices (Emperor). This is the sort of production that PIL needed all along to set off their lyrics.
The lyrics to are good. The themes are more worldly than those on #9, but the same underlying theme (which goes back to the Sex Pistols) is there: humans love to screw over other humans. For example, "Think tank. Winner takes all, looser takes naught."

Motorhead

Motörhead No Sleep At All. The first Motörhead album I ever bought. I picked it up back in 1989 just because I had seen Motörhead patches on the jackets of my older cousins back in the early 80's. They had good taste. Lemmy's voice is like a frog with emphezema, which is perfect for heavy metal. Lemmy lives in a world of petty greed, despair and deluge. "The world will become a soup of human excrement, and we're all going to have our own spoon with which to stir our corner of it."

Motörhead Birthday. Album #2 in my Motörhead collection. Unfortunately this one "disappeared" some time in 1992. Either someone out there is enjoying it or it's bugging the hell out of someone else's girlfriend. It's another live album, on par with No Sleep At All. The cover of Steal Your Face is great, and the sexual rawness of Killed by Death (the title doesn't fit the song) is gripping. "If you touch my lizard/I'll put my snake on you/I'm a romantic adventure/And I'm a reptile too/But it don't make no difference/'Cause I ain't gonna be/Easy! Easy!". All I can say is: Yeah, that's how I feel.

Motörhead The Best of Motörhead II. I bought this album for one song and one song only: the inimitable Cradle to the Grave.

Motörhead Grind Ya Down. A short knock-off compilation album that rocks if you can find it for the right price. The compilers seemed to have liked Motörhead's humor and have put many examples on this album. This isn't "essential Motörhead" but it is a nice addition to a collection that hasn't got much early stuff.

Throwing Muses and Belly

Throwing Muses Hunkpapa. This is the album that sent the Throwing Muses into the public's eye. It's ok, but it lacks the maturity of their following album in the sound and the lyrics.

Throwing Muses The Real Ramona. This is my favorite Throwing Muses album. The sounds is fuller than the preceding and following albums, the voice is cleared, and the lyrics are dreamier.

Throwing Muses Red Heaven. Pearl is the best song on this album. I love that it's 5:36 long. It seems to be (that's all I can say with Throwing Muses songs) about unhappy people looking for love in the wrong people, all the while being deceived by their mind.

Tricky

Tricky Pre-Millennium Tension. Trickly's music is where rap will not go, to its detriment. It is moody and grim (as the title indicates) and introverted. The best songs are the slower ones, where Tricky and his girlfriend Martine alternate lines, and then the lyrics degenerate into in-the-head mutterings like You and me, what does that mean? Forever, what does that mean?. These make up about half the album. The other half is made up of english gutter rap (ie Tricky Kid, Bad Dream) which isn't very distinguishing. Also some of the songs are too long, especially the last two, My Evil Is Strong and Piano.

Nick Cave and Wim Wenders Film Soundtracks

Jürgen Knieper, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Laurie Anderson Wings Of Desire soundtrack. This was my first exposure to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and I loved it. One side of the album is excellent classical music by Jürgen Knieper; the other is assorted songs from the movie by Nick Cave and by Laurie Anderson.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Your Funeral My Trial. I checked out this CD based on what Nick Cave did on the Wings of Desire soundtrack. This album is a little less happy than I expected. It seems Mr. Cave has a penchant for the grizzly and he likes to throw it in your face. However musically this album is very nice, especially She Fell Away and the blues song Long Time Man. The exceptions to this are Hard on for Love and Scum. These two songs should have been worked on some more before including them in the album. (Actually I'm not even sure if I'd ever like Scum no matter what it sounded like. Hard on for Love has ok lyrics and a good concept but the music is all wrong.)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Murder Ballads. I also bought this navel gazing wonder. I've tried three Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds recording in my lifetime and they've gotten progressively worse. This one I can't even listen to all the way through.
This album was the last straw for me; no more Nick Cave.

Southern Culture on the Skids

Southern Culture on the Skids Pecking Party. This is a short CD of S.C.O.T.S. live in a Chicago bar. It's good if you like S.C.O.T.S. and want to see if they sound as good live as they do in the studio (they do).

Southern Culture on the Skids Dirt Track Date. I hereby thank my workmate Marcus Irven for having turned me on to this band. Thank you Marcus.
That used to be all. Now I have seen this band live and I can add one more thing: Soul City is about a bar in their hometown.



Local Bands

I live in Champaign-Urbana Illinois, U.S.A., where there are more bands than clubs in which for them to play. Here are a few of those bands who's album(s) I've heard.

Menthol

Mother Gold Record LP. This is the band that moved to Chicago and renamed itself Menthol. They kick ass now and they kicked ass then. These are the guys that taught Hum how to play it loud and solid, only they do it better than Hum. On top of that Balthazar's lyrics are always interesting. And lastly I went to school with Joel Spencer the bass player, and I can remember him and some friends playing in the Junior High School's gym at some school assembly.

Menthol Menthol. I've seen them at the Blind Pig several times with Tripl3 Fast Action and they are great. Balthazar does an even better job with his lyrics on this album than on the already good Gold Record LP. I like the out-of-tune singing in Reverent, Eyes Heavenward as the airplane looses power, and the amusing "Get your fanny back in battle" in Francis Scott Key.
The song Perfect Spirals is, says the horse's mouth, about Joe Montana:

He was steadfast and bold, he told us of his travels in the Holy Land, we walked out on the field, and he raised his hands and all the uglies in the stands became so silent, and all the starlight in heaven, it focused tight and there he was, the starting lineup lined up in a ring, and we commenced to sing...
And U.S.A. Capable is about Joel's life.
Because I like this band so much I have my own pages about their music.

The Suede Chain

The Suede Chain Ripplemark.

The Suede Chain Piloted by Ghosts. This album is as pretentious as their previous work, Ripplemark. If you can stand that then the music and lyrics are unique.

The Moon 7 Times

The Moon 7 Times The Moon 7 Times.

The Moon Seven Times 7 = 49. This band has been a local favorite for several years now. I heard many good things about them before I actually got my ass out to a cold spring Bandjam and heard them for free. They were everything and more. The album is great too, and doesn't make your teeth chatter. This is not a power band. The guitarist sits down and leans over his instrument. I don't think he looked up once during a song. The many extra ambiance tracks at the end of the CD are very reminiscent of certain late night/early morning shows on WEFT. Many be there's a connection; I don't know.

The Moon 7 Times Sunburnt. On their third album Moon 7 Times begins to move closer to rock. Several songs feature a

Didjits

Didjits Sirhan Sirhan.

Hum

Hum You'd Prefer An Astronaut. Local boys make good, somewhat. Due to a certain radio station overplaying a certain song I'm inclined to listen to this album with one finger on the next-track button. However the main problem with Hum is that all their songs go nowhere, musically and narratively speaking. Each one is a poetic description of an often interesting situation, but that it. The situation remains frozen for all time. Each song is an introduction to a novel, without the novel.

Honcho Overload

Honcho Overload Smiles Everyone. This album has its high points and its low points. Oh hum.

Honcho Overload Pour Another Drink. Honcho Overload's second album is better than their first, but still isn't anywhere near a 10. The lyrics to the first song are very slick: "Cat's got my tongue/My tongue is tied/Tied down with stones/The stones you threw". Unfortunately they can't keep up this pace the whole album through. Lastly the album cover needs to be changed.



French Music

Before I start listing the few albums that are from french artists I must explain something to those visitors who aren't familiar with french rock. In one sentence: "It sucks". It's taken years for this collection to grow to its tiny size, not due to lack of effort on my part but due to lacklusterness on the part of the french. That said, let's visit the few high points of their musical culture.

MC Solaar

MC Solaar Prose Combat. I first heard MC Solaar one summer in Paris on my tiny FM radio walkman. The station was playing his hit Caroline ("Je suis l'ace de trefle qui pique ton coeur") and I was blown away. Here was a guy who could cleverly rhyme literate lyrics with ease over a interesting music. I listened many times to that same station until they played the song again and said the name of the artist, and then I packed it down to Les Halles and got my little hands on the album as fast as I could. That was M.C. Solaar's first album, Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo. Prose Combat was the followup album and it's just as good as the first.

MC Solaar Paradisiac. Un superbe album! Celui ci fait les grandes rotations dans mon lecture de CD portable. La chanson avec les meilleurs paroles: Le Zoom. «...Sur le mont Olympique on ma cannonizé»

Les Rita Mitsouko

Les Rita Mitsouko Les Rita Mitsouko.

Les Rita Mitsouko Marc & Robert.



Other Albums I Didn't Want to Leave Out

Deee-Lite World Clique. This is one of the few "dance" records I can stand for any length of time, therefore it must be good.

Deee-Lite Infinity Within. I've listen to Deee-Lite's second album several times but it never had the same impact as their first. It could also be that I was in different situations in my life at that time and they weren't conducive to appreciating this album to its fullest. Can you tell I'm trying to like this one? I don't want to give up on Dee-Lite yet. I'll have to find their third album, Dewdrops in the Garden and give it a listen.

(Many) Mud Puddle Playoffs. This is a good mix of local bands from 1990/1/2. Hot Glue Gun: GOOD. Lonely Trailer: GOOD. Honcho Overload: OK. Hardvark: OK. Mother: GOOD. 16 Tons: OK/GOOD. Corndolly: GOOD. Hum: BLAH. Judge Nothing: OK. Suede Chain: GOOD. Ward: OK. Dick Justice: GOOD. The sound quality of this album isn't great (ironically enough the word that comes to mind is "muddy"), which detracts from some of the bands.

No Doubt Tragic Kingdom. I checked out this album based only on the song Just a Girl which I had caught on one of the music television channels back in Dec 1995. That song is good. The rest of the album is a little different from Just a Girl: the music contains annoying "stings" in the most predictable places, and the lyrics are more clichéd. Musically I like Hey You's swaying singsong the best, followed by the ballad Don't Speak. The title song and the punkish Just a Girl are the other two highlights of this album.
I'm listening to it another time after having let it rest for a few weeks and I like it a little more now.

Tripl3 Fast Action Broadcaster. Tripl3 Fast Action has been touring with Menthol this year, and that's how I was introduced to them. Musically they are similar to Menthol, although I'd say they are a little harder on the guitars. Lyrically they are quite different (that doesn't say much, nothing is like Menthol). The few lyrics I am pretty sure I understand are about relationships and such. I can't be sure because these clever lads had the lyrics of each song translated into a different language. I can make out French, Spanish, Japanese, some other asian language, Russian (I think), German, and some others I can't even identify. Ironically the only song who's lyrics I can read doesn't sound like its lyrics. Bird Again's chorus is supposed to be "I am a bird again", but every time I hear it I hear "I am a puddy cat".

Tom Waits Rain Dogs. Mr. Waits is a genius and this is one of his best. 'Nuf said.

Roger Waters The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Many people hate this album. I think that those people probably don't enjoy the quiet moments in Pink Floyd's The Wall either. P & C is a reembroidering of themes of loneliness and love that appear in The Wall between Pink and the girl from the registry office. I like it much better than Roger Waters' next album Radio Kaos, which to me was too contrived and gimmicky.



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