Week 44 (Just A Band 4 aka Final Just a Band)

sex pistols

Artist: The Sex Pistols
Album: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Release Year: 1977

Overview

*warning* There is a bit of swearing in this album review but I think the Sex Pistols would have wanted me to swear as often as possible.

This week I listened to the Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. Notice that Never Mind is not spelled Nevermind. An entire generation of 90s kids were mislead into using the misspelling thanks to Nirvana. Even though my example is trivial it illustrates the point that the right album coming along at the right time in the right place can influence an entire generation. Never Mind the Bollocks is absolutely one those albums. It’s cultural and musical impact are unlikely to ever be repeated. Some of it is because of timing, but there’s also the fact that some of what happened is straight up batshit flipping crazy.

If you don’t know who the Sex Pistols are, that’s okay. They were formed over 40 years ago. For those who were around when the Sex Pistols were formed, you’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older. And now you’re older still. My condolences. The Sex Pistols are a punk band out of London, England. Excuse me. That’s not right. A more accurate statement would be they are THE punk band out of London, England. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alive in 1975 and I’m not from the UK. I can’t give a firsthand account of the before and after of this album being released. I can tell you that reading about the Sex Pistols has been interesting mind blowing and is worth your time a must read scenario. There is a Mount Everest worth of controversy created for a band that had broken up by 1978 after releasing their debut album in 1977. This combination of influence and controversy is what makes them incredibly fascinating even to this day.

I could spend this entire review talking about the band and their insane fuckery, but that’s not why you’re here. You came here for the music. Well I hope so. Otherwise, I should have written a biography instead of an album review.

The Review

What Works

  • The energy of this album is simply amazing. The Sex Pistols crank it up to 11 the entire time. The beginning track, Holidays in the Sun, starts out with the sound of an army marching. Then the bass drum kicks: Boom. Boom. Boom. Paul Cook, the Sex Pistols’ drummer, is providing a metronome for the military. Then four monster strikes of the guitar by Steve Jones. Within seconds, you know you are in for some serious shit to hit the fan. These guys are not screwing around. You pumped? Oh hell yeah, you fucking are.
  • Some people might not see punk music as having artistic value. My grandmother would probably call this album a bunch of rotten vicious noise. And she would be wrong. Very very wrong. Why? A multitude of reasons. But one that stuck out for me over and over while listening was the vocal phrasing for both the lead vocals and even the backup vocals.  John Lydon is a music god on this album. He knows exactly when to drag a word out and which parts of the word to drag out.  He often uses it to build up tension as the song progresses. Thus making it a perfect compliment to the rest of the instruments. But he can also shoot out vocals at a break neck speed thus ensuring the listener is never bored. I really don’t think this album would be as acclaimed as it is if it wasn’t for Lyndon’s masterful singing.
  • Lyrical content is another strong point of this album. Obviously, the songs questioning authority and society are setting up the future punk ethos.  It gets a bit more interesting when you start looking into all of the songs. One unexpectedly fascinating song is Bodies, which is an extremely graphic depiction of abortion. Many conservative groups have latched onto this song for its anti-abortion stance. Lyndon however contends it is neither pro-life or pro-choice (much like Ben Folds’ song, Brick, but with the word ‘fuck’ used quite a few more times). It’s more about capturing the emotions involved in song form than trying to take any kind of stance or convince somebody what their view should be. (I find that absolutely refreshing in today’s social climate) That’s art as fuck, right? Sex Pistols are far deeper than what your grandmother would have led you to believe.

What Doesn’t

  • The energy of this album, while amazing, is completely overwhelming. I know what you are thinking. I’m just getting old. Well, guess what? I am! But the Sex Pistols felt overwhelming even in my junior year of college when I first gave them a serious listen during my pop punk phase when I was trying to find out where punk came from. This is a great album to listen to a couple tracks every once in a while to get yourself pumped up. The blitz style guitar work alone should do that just fine.  However, even better, this is an album to sit down and listen to the record in one continuous sitting so you can fully appreciate it. What shouldn’t you do with this album? Listen to it on repeat for an entire week. Negan could have easily used this album to break Daryl on the Walking Dead. [ed. how long has this review been delayed?] Daryl might have been jamming to it in the beginning but eventually he would be begging for mercy.

Conclusion

This is isn’t an album for everyone but it is an album everyone should listen to because of the influence it has had on music and culture. I seriously do consider this a historic document of tremendous value because of the impact it had that still can be felt today. Never Mind the Bollocks is so incredibly well crafted and absolutely deserves any praise it gets. It’s never going to be in my regular rotation though. It’s too much for me.

Reviewer’s Note

This review is about 29 months overdue.  The review before that was 12 months overdue. To those who have been patiently waiting for my next review, you are amazing. And I’m sorry everything fell apart. I will not continue listening to anymore albums on repeat for a week at a time . Whenever I’ve explained to people what I did for this site, I feel like I am explaining the ramblings of a mad man. I still want to write reviews in the future of albums that interest me for this site but not this way.  It’s too much. In the past 29 months I have listened to tons of amazing music so I have no shortage of things to talk about.

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Spotify
Google Play Music
Amazon Music
iTunes

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
Wikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

Advertisements

Week 43 (Just A Band 3)

beach_boys-pet_sounds

Artist: Beach Boys
Album: Pet Sounds
Release Year: 1966

My Perspective

Imma let you finish, but Pet Sounds is one of the greatest music albums of all-time. When I say greatest, I literally mean greatest. In many GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) album lists, Pet Sounds is listed at not #7, not #6, not #5, not #4, not #3, but #2 or #1. That’s right. Top 2. I’m sure there exists lists where it is rated lower, but I haven’t seen it happen in any of the lists that I read. That’s how often it is rated at the top. If Pet Sounds was your classmate, they would destroy the curve every single time. And you would curse them under your breath for being so damn good. On top of that, this year is the 50th anniversary which makes this review even more special to me.

I didn’t grow up during the era of the Beach Boys’ original popularity and my knowledge of their ‘80s resurgence is limited to an episode of Full House and a Tom Cruise movie. So while some grew up with them being America’s Band, I honestly didn’t know much about them until later in life. To me, they were that surfer band with some good songs. Actually, my first real interest of the Beach Boys came in college because of the song, Brian Wilson, by the Barenaked Ladies. Why would they make him the subject of the song? What’s so special about him? A lot, actually. Brian Wilson had an incredible influence on the music industry most notably through his innovation in the recording studio. With his complex and eventful life, he is definitely deserving of further investigation. I’m sure you can find numerous biographical videos on YouTube.

Album’s Star Power

What Do You Have to Say for Yourself? Gold Star
This album is going to make you ashamed that you spent a measly $7.99 on your current pair of ear buds or decided your Apple ear buds were “good enough”. This is one of the most beautifully recorded albums in the history of music. Every time I listen to this album, I am blown away with how good it is. It’s also incredibly hard for me to be tired of it, even after listening to it on repeat for multiple weeks. I still continue to notice new things I hadn’t caught previously. There is so much depth here. The way everything is arranged among the numerous gorgeous layers of traditional and non-traditional instruments makes you wish you had spent more money on your audio setup. Your ear is pleading with you, on every note, to give it the most authentic experience possible. Your ear wants to hear it as Mr. Wilson intended it. Every muddled instrument is an ear tragedy. If this album doesn’t make you into an audiophile, nothing will.

One of my favorite moments regarding Brian’s composition skills is on the second track, You Still Believe in Me, where Wilson creates this absolutely wonderful false ending around the two-minute mark. Everything slows down, gets quiet, fewer instruments are playing as the diminuendo comes to an end. You really think the song is over. Everything is indicating this is it and then he starts it all over again with a new diminuendo but with a bicycle horn added into the mix. This repeats several times as it fades out to the real ending. I’ve never tried to make a list of my favorite false endings, but this song would be in the top 3.

Creepy Pasta Beatles = Gold Star
I want to talk about the Beatles, since they are very much a part of the story of Pet Sounds, since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the other album in that Top 2 I spoke of at the beginning of this review. Now, feel free to disagree with me here, but when I listen to the Beatles discography (mostly the early part), I often feel like I’m listening to a stalker or somebody with a very screwed up view on what is a healthy relationship. The Beatles’ Run for Your Life is a perfect example of creepy Beatles lyrics. I’m going to warn you that once that stalker mindset kicks in, a lot of their songs feel creepy, including even the very innocent sounding I Want to Hold your Hand. I often imagine the woman in this song being stalked by the singer and is completely unaware of his feelings. Songs like Run for Your Life are in stark contrast to the relationship exploration done by Brian Wilson in Pet Sounds.

Let’s compare it to Here Today by the Beach Boys, which was released within a year of Run for Your Life. Both of them are post-break up songs from the point of view of a man who just came out of a relationship.

The Beatles start their song off with:

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won’t know where I am

That’s um…that’s seriously messed up. But let’s compare that with Here Today which focuses on the frailty of relationships:

Right now you think that she’s perfection
This time is really an exception

Well you know I hate to be a downer
But I’m the guy she left before you found her

Lennon is hyper focused on punishing the woman for leaving him while Wilson is even apologetic that he is being a little rain cloud in regards to the new relationship, but he feels the need to warn this guy about the potential heartache that might await him.  Similar situations. Two very different songs.

Connecting on a Fundamentally Universal Level Gold Star
First, I want to explain something about music that I despise so you can appreciate what Wilson has done on Pet Sounds. When musicians do this, I hate it to the point that I wish they would walk away from music forever. I call it “pandering by generalization” although there might be a better term for it. And it basically comes down to taking one of two approaches: write a song about some general feeling/event, but never give any specifics about what you are writing about (the “nuke it from orbit” approach). The second way (the “shotgun” approach) is to take the opposite extreme by including every possible freaking combination out there so that one of them is bound to match up with the listener. Everything is designed to appeal to as many people as possible to sell more music. The artistic value of the songs clearly takes a backseat to moving units. See if you notice it in other music you listen to after reading this review.

What’s the opposite of this? The writer having the intelligence to recognize a universally shared experience and being able to share it through a personal perspective. Wilson’s dealing of relationships and coming of age stories never feel like pandering. They feel like a man sharing his specific experiences with the rest of the world and you just happen to be able to relate to it. Going back to Wilson’s You Still Believe in Me, the song is talking about a very specific aspect of a relationship that many people can relate to, even if the song doesn’t fit perfectly with their own experience. And that aspect is being appreciative of the fact that your partner still has confidence in you, despite your numerous relationship failures. I know I’ve been there.

In Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulders), it’s not even an aspect of the relationship, but a single event of two people embraced in silence. We are getting a very specific moment, but it’s a relatable moment of physical contact trumping verbal communication. Outside of relationships, That’s Not Me covers that time in a young person’s life after going out on their own for the first time. They need to discover who they really are or aren’t. You never feel like he is describing anything, but his own life. However, you also connect with that universally shared moment that everyone goes through as they decide what it means to be an adult after leaving their parent’s house. I have so much respect for Brian Wilson as a songwriter.

Instrumentals Gold Star
Let’s Go Away for Awhile and Pet Sounds are two short instrumental tracks on the album. With the lack of lyrics and vocals, it’s up to the instruments to communicate all of the emotion to the listener. For classical music, this is expected. For a pop album, this is daring. This plays with your expectations and, if it fails to be anything short of amazing, you are going to notice it. You’re also going to wonder why they wasted your time with a sub-par track. Fortunately, neither song does this. Instead, both are beautiful arrangements. In Let’s Go Away for Awhile, the play between woodwind, percussion and strings leave me in awe of the sense of anticipation and optimism that is created. Nothing feels out of place and the acoustic fingerprint of each instrument is complimented perfectly, be it the striking drums, the deep bellow of the woodwinds or the waterfalls that flow out of the strings section. It’s wonderful how the different instruments take turns on who is leading the songs and all without creating a traditional melody. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Game of Words = Gold Star
One reoccurring theme I noticed in Wilson’s lyrics is his playful use of words. One example is the word: dream. There are two distinct meanings of dream. One relates to dreaming during sleep such as “You would not believe the dream I had last night. You had wooden teeth.” The other relates to hope for the future such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  In Wouldn’t It Be Nice, the singer spends the entire song discussing the hope of his future together with his significant other as a married coupled and all the great things that await them. This is their dream of the future, and the song ends with the lyrics of “Good night ba-baby, sleep tight, ba-baby” until the songs fades to nothingness, relating back to the dreaming you do when you sleep.

Wilson so articulately conveys the importance of dreams with the verse “You know the more it seems we talk about it, it only makes it worst to live without it, but let’s talk about it” It does not matter how much it hurts to want to fulfill our dreams because keeping our dreams alive is the only way we will fulfill them. This astute commentary goes in contrast with the song’s title, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, which implies a simple nicety, like a comfortable chair rather than this ache of young people wanting to grow up and spend the rest of their lives with each other. This only further illustrates Wilson’s playfulness with the English language.

Final Rating

Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star

Closing Thoughts

Before I leave you, I highly recommend the stereo version of the album because it helps separate the instruments. I listened to both the mono and stereo while listening to the album on repeat. Stereo felt vastly superior. And I would like to stress that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t sit down and listen to this album with your full attention. There is so much more going on here in terms of sound, composition and lyrics. Pet Sounds was a high mark for the music industry, both in 1966 and for all-time, and it deserves your attention.

Work, Life, Relationships, Reviews, etc

I know. I know. I know.

I know.

Where’s the reviews? Where’s the Beach Boys review? It’s the 50th anniversary! How can you not do the review this year? What’s wrong with you? It’s been a year since you said you were taking a break. That’s a long enough break already.

Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to write all of those reviews and still do everything else in my life. Each review took a large amount of time and effort every week. On top of that, I sacrificed the possibility of listening to so much new (or at least new to me) music because I listened to a single album for over 40 hours any given week. I’m honestly liking the fact that if I want to listen to a new album every day of the week, I can. Or I can go to the other extreme of listening to the Hamilton soundtrack over and over again for 4 weeks straight. It’s so wonderful to have that kind of freedom.

I want to go back to writing reviews. I really do. But I don’t want it to be that huge time investment. Whenever I do come back, it’s probably going to be an even more streamlined format that focuses more on what I think about the music and less on providing additional information about an artist or album. We all know how to search Wikipedia. And seriously, you try summarizing the Beach Boys’ incredibly complex career that spanned decades and was filled with numerous ups and downs in a paragraph or two. Not that easy. I’d much rather tell you how freaking amazing Pet Sounds is and why you absolutely need to listen to the album before you die.

So how does that sound to you?

 

What’s Up with Project Lt. Morning?

For anybody worried, I have no plans of stopping. I renewed the website domain last week for an additional 2 years. I am fully committed to keep writing. But other things in my life are requiring a huge amount of my time at the moment. The absolute earliest I can start up again on ‘Just A Band’ is August. It may be as late as October though depending on how things go. I’d rather be writing reviews right now, but such is life.

Anyways, thanks for reading. I guarantee my next review, whenever that ends up being, will be epic.

Announcing a New Logo!

I decided that since I’ve been writing reviews for over an year, the site needed a new logo. I put out a request on Facebook for a new one. I really didn’t expect anyone to actually respond. But not only was Mike Duff so gracious as to make a new logo for me, he made really freaking sweet logo. I absolutely love the minimalist design with a typographic focus. It was like the guy read my mind for exactly what I wanted in a new logo. Thank again, Mike! I love it!

New Project Lt. Morning Logo

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who read my blog. The last time I covered Mother’s Day was in my 9th Review. It was a quick shout out to my mom at the end of the review. In retrospect, it was kind of lame because my mom deserves more than that. She deserves her own post because of her profound impact on my life long obsession with music. My most vivid childhood memories usually involve music, thanks to my mom. She exposed me to a wide range of music as I was growing up thanks to her equal love of classical music (she’s a Beethoven kind of woman), rock and everything in-between. She also played the piano and even went to college for it after she graduated high school. Speaking of high school, she dazzled me with her tales of creating music, which included playing an awesome medley for a talent show in high school of the latest radio hits, which included Queen, Aerosmith and many others. Each song beautifully transitioned into the next. She even wrote her own music. Obviously, my mom was way cooler than I ever was in high school.

So many of her music traits later became mine. Her excitement for music transferred over to me. My mom would overflow with joy just by hearing Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of Blue Skies. I get the same way with some of my favorite tracks; I just can’t help but smile. Also, like her, I want to share that joy with others. I also don’t think I would be so open minded about new music if it wasn’t for her. When your music role model is jamming to Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People on the radio when she’s giving you a ride to school, you can’t help but grow up with an open mind to everything that comes out.  Even now my mom is asking me about bands like Daft Punk. I firmly believe I will spend the rest of my life hunting down and enjoying new music. With my mom still doing it, I have no reason to doubt my prediction. So thank you, Mutti. If anybody is truly responsible for this blog coming into existence, it’s you. I always tell people that my momma raised me right when they’re surprised of my extensive knowledge of music released well before I was born.