Sunday, April 25, 2010

Record Review Time Machine!
Thin Lizzy - JailBreak

It's been established: I love old records. I know track numbers, album chronologies, and who played what solo where and the circumstances under which they played it. I will now focus that love into writing recommendations and reviews about albums that came out when "pitchfork" was still primarily known as a tool of satan and when, in most cases, I was yet to begin taking poops and breathing air. Yes, I'm one off those dudes who still goes to the record store and, wait for it, makes physical purchases.

Thin Lizzy is still fairly new to my worldsphere. Apart from knowing the basic beats of their massive radio hit 'The Boys Are Back in Town," they were near completely unknown to me before about a year ago. This didn't prevent me from stubbornly holding an opinion about them based almost solely on their band name which I now find quite incongruent with their actual sound...but perhaps it's just a trick of my own memory acting up here. Justin slammed me with some Liz a way's back and shortly after I purchased both a CD and vinyl copy of "Jailbreak" which it turns out is typhoid sick with the heavy rock stylings of 70s Dublin.
Thin Lizzy stuck out, soundwise, immediately. They've got Phil Lynott in the front, swaggering through the tracks and doling out the lines like they were some thick glugs of Canadian maple syrup. Then there's that other sure fire way to hook me in...the sweet twang of harmonized electric guitar, which Thin Lizzy has in spades.

The first track (also the title track) on this record really nailed me to the nuel post, and I was in love thenceforth. They come out of the box on 70s rock fire. I liked it immediately.


You could overlook the fact that it's a concept album about a futuristic criminal element (the band members) running amok in the buzzing techtropolis, except for that cover art. Oh, and the liner notes with paragraph after paragraph of backstory.

I'm not much for the theme angle, which is loose at best. That said, the record doesn't really have any clunkers. I mean there are singles which stand out but nothing I feel the need to skip. Plus it's concise enough that I've listened to it all the way through a whole mess of times. Another highlight is "Cowboy Song" which starts quiet and gets loud like a rock song should.

"Cowboy Song"

"The Boys are Back in Town" is also on this record, situated as the Side 2 opener, and though I've always liked the tune anyway, I feel like it sounds much better in album context, after the Thin Lizzy sound and style have been established. Give it another listen as it follows "Warriors", which could easily be a Pegataur groove plus lyrics. This one is really solid and recommended for just about anybody with a heartbeat (see my official rating below)

In summary, Thin Lizzy fill that crucial gap between Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix that you didn't even know you needed filled (like a micro-cavity!). But you did, kid. You most certainly did.


I quite like all the records I'm going to talk about here, so instead of rating these on a standard linear system, I'll instead be likening them to the career trajectories of actors who appeared in the 1986 film 'Stand By Me,' all of whom are pretty awesome in their own regard.

By that scale, I gotta rate this record a solid "Kiefer Sutherland". It was badass from the get go, and it remains ever-badass. Whether Kiefer is playing a spiky haired young ruffian like Ace or doing the old Jack Bauer, the man takes no slack. No slack! The sound and feel of Phil Lynott and the Liz say it's my way or the stinking gutters of Galway, brother. A heavy right out of the box who keeps swinging despite the inevitable not-quite-hits and/or DUI arrests.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Hottest Chip

John complained that I should write more, and since I always listen to John, here's some thoughts on the Hot Chip show I went to last Friday.

As I was dancing along to Hot Chip at the Fox Theater in Oakland last Friday night, having myself a grand old time, I found myself thinking a somewhat startling thought: "If I could be in any band working right now, it'd be this one". Now, I'm not really given to hyperbole over bands (particularly modern ones) and although in the sober light of day I've been rethinking this impulsive opinion a bit, I still find it interesting that this happened to occur to me. Allow me to examine it a little.

Despite Justin Martin's ridiculous opinion that music and dancing are somehow mutually exclusive, non-related entities, I continue to believe that dancing (in its many forms which I will delve into shortly) is both one of the finest ways to compliment as well as to appreciate music. That said, I'm no conneissour of dance music and don't really even like it that much. My complaints tend to be in the drum machines, which by their nature would appear to remove the human element (the part I like!) from music and rhythm. But there are exceptions of course and Hot Chip is one of them.

First off, Hot Chip plays with a full band (including real drummer, even though they use lots of drum samples on their recordings). They are a sort of dance song band who are both making fun of other dance song producers but also being deadly serious about producing linoleum thumpers with enough kick to throttle a giraffe. Totally danceable, but also kinda goofy. (check). However, with a real drummer and full band setup (albeit with three keyboards) they can really rock it hard (check). Above all, the guys on stage and on the records look and sound like they're having fun. This is an element I feel I'm always looking for. Having fun (check). All this (to me, anyway) totals an awesome band. Way to go, lads.

I wrote about how I was introduced to them at the 2008 Treasure Island Music festival, and how they sort of did the unthinkable which was rock a mid-afternoon festival crowd and get me to like songs I didn't know beforehand, in a genre I don't tend to be into. After that, I snatched up their records and got pretty into it, waiting patiently for them to come back to the Bay Area (it took a solid year and a half). Realistically, there existed a moment at the very apex of my interest in Hot Chip's records, somewhere around December of 2008, when I could have had even more fun at this show...but with touring bands, having them show up in your far away town right at this moment is rare for sure. That said, the show was awesome. They played all the songs I wanted to hear from new and past records and the crowd (although packed like sardines) was pretty into it and there were plenty dancing along like myself.

In recorded form, Hot Chip is a perfect example of music best enjoyed on headphones, not just for the standard nuance and better bass response reasons that make pretty much all music better on headphones (read: not earbuds), but because it makes you want to walk along in step with the songs and walking with your headphones on and a nice beat backing you is most assuredly a form of dancing (I told you I'd get to it!). (Think on it. Apart from working out to music (specifically running, wherein you can lock in to certain song rhythms and get that "70s carwash-size endorphin sponge is being squeezed over my head" feeling*), it's one of the best methods of music ingestion. It's also the easiest, most socially acceptable form of dancing, and you should probably go try it. Right now).

So yeah, it's fully confirmed. Hot Chip rounds out the full package by being a high energy, fun-loving, hard-rocking live band. Maybe my impulse was correct. High energy plus headphones plus dancing plus rock plus lots of harmonies plus melody plus fun plus Batman references. (by the way, Astralwerks (and others) won't let you embed videos anymore, because I guess this is one way musicians are continuing to earn labels money? It's complicated but (I think) generally supportive to the arts to click that and watch the video(s) on youtube.)

Also Pitchfork has their brand new video for "I Feel Better"...which is pretty bizarre (and cool), and features a Mr. Burns-as-drugged-up-glowing-alien-like figure.