Big Country, “In A Big Country” – 4 stars. Dig It.
Yeah, I know, they were a one-hit wonder, and it really doesn’t hold up all that well. But at the time, I liked it quite a bit. The “Sha!” yell at the front still gets my heart beating, and I just can’t dump it. It’s actually on my running mix, which means I still listen to it now and again.
Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, “Let Me In There, Baby” – 3 stars. Hold it.
I found Big Sandy during one of my forays into Allmusic.com, I think after I heard the Mavericks…or maybe it was a rockabilly / swing thing. In any case, Big Sandy is a nice, obscure little five-piece that’s never done much of consequence. But they have a nice sound, and Big Sandy has a cool voice. I used to have more of their stuff, but this is all that’s left, for some reason.
Big Star, “September Gurls” – 3 stars. Hold it.
Big Star, “On The Street” – 4 stars. Dig it.
Power pop god Alex Chilton (I think he may have actually had his name legally changed to that) started out with the Box Tops (as in “The Letter”), then started Big Star, a late, lamented critical darling. They made some nice records that nobody ever bought…but everyone who heard them started a band, or rather, some of my favorite bands (The Replacements, R.E.M.) count them as references.
And they’re okay records, but as often happens the idea of the record is not quite as good as the actual record itself. They don’t grab me the way they “should.” But “September Gurls” is a good song, and “On The Street” is better. Curiously, though, it’s almost better as the 1-minute theme to “That 70s Show” than as, again, an actual record.
Billy Squier, “Lonely Is The Night” – 3 stars. Hold it.
Billy Squier, “Everybody Wants You” – 4 stars. Dig it.
When I was a senior in high school, the gang of guys I hung out with spent Memorial Day Weekend in a trailer. Drinking beer, going out on a boat, wandering around trying (and in my case failing, as usual) to pick up girls. Someone had a boom box, and someone had one of those gigantic boxes of cassette tapes. Like, the 128-capacity case, with wheels and three separate doors on it that beeped when you pushed it backwards. A ton of music. I think Billy Squier might have been one of them, or it was on a mixtape or some such. So when we did our twenty-year reunion weekend (the very idea of which makes me feel very, very strange), I downloaded a bunch of music from that era, and Billy Squier was one of the artists.
See, I feel like having Billy Squier is one of those things I have to explain, sorta like when a terrorist group calls a radio station to take responsibility for setting off a bomb in a market square. The guy is some serious, serious eighties hair-band cheese…and the video he made for "Rock Me Tonight" is, in all likelihood the worst, most awkward music video I’ve ever a seen.
It’s so bad that it colors my enjoyment of these two songs, which really aren’t all that bad. They’re not in the pantheon (well, obviously), but they’re okay.
Black Joe Lewis, “Boogie” – 5 stars. Dig it.
I have no idea who the guy is, or what he looks like, or if he’s ever done anything similar to this, but man, what a song. A Starbucks freebie, I immediately dropped it into my running mix and it’s stayed there ever since. It’s not much, really, just a fairly repetitive horn / guitar / drum riff with Black Joe (I assume he takes lead vocals, but have no idea) yelling out completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) unintelligible lyrics. It’s a driver, though. Great song.
Blake Babies, “Girl In A Box,” – 2 stars. Bury it.
Blake Babies, “Out There,” – 4 stars. Hold it.
Blake Babies, “Temptation Eyes,” – 5 stars. Dig it.
Blake Babies were a classic 90s power pop trio that I found on yet another Allmusic.com digging session, probably from Marshall Crenshaw to The Raspberries to Blake Babies (and further down the line to Juliana Hatfield ). They’re okay – as usually happens, the albums don’t hold up as well, but the high points are pretty high.
“Girl In A Box” is a pretty crappy song. Nondescript, whiney, too slow, it’s history. But “Out There” is pretty good. It takes a minute to get there, but the chorus (“There’s nothin’ to do / it’s so hard to talk to you / and people always do what they wanna do”) pulls it up from semi-sharp to anthemic. It’s just a good song. And “Temptation Eyes” (a cover of Soft Cell?) is REALLY good.
The Blasters, “American Music,” – 4 stars. Dig it.
I always like the CONCEPT of the Blasters more than their actual, you know, music. They have better songs, but this is the only one I have. I don’t listen to it very much, but I usually don’t skip it when it comes up.
Blondie, “The Tide Is High,” – 5 stars. Dig it.
Blondie, “One Way Or Another,” – 4 stars. Hold it.
I was never a huge Blondie fan. Not sure why – I think that I was still in “New Wave is Stupid” phase when they hit, and they were kinda already gone when I got there. Whatever the reason, they still don’t grab me…but these are two pretty good songs.
The Blow Monkeys, “Digging Your Scene” – 5 stars. Dig it.
Ah, yes, the Blow Monkeys. The summer that I lived in California, I spent a BUNCH of time on the bus to and from my job at Disneyland. What a summer…
Whoa, sorry. Took a little vacation, there. Anyway, that whole summer I listened to some crappy Los Angeles new wave station that played lots of Peter Gabriel, and Lone Justice (by the way…Maria McKee…mmm), and were the main source for every record that I bought for about two years. At one point, I missed my Michigan friends and put together a cassette for my dear, dear friend (and lone commenter) Paula, who my other dear, dear friend Jim had met and was getting ready to marry. I called it (the tape, not their relationship) “Exposed,” and it’s probably the high point of my musical life. I’m not even kidding. Paula and I had become friends through Jim, but I remember that cassette as being the cement that made us into Best Friends. I remember her telling me how much she loved that cassette, particularly that song, and to this day that memory makes me very, very happy.
So. Blow Monkeys. They just weren’t that great…I’m guessing that their lead singer went back to slicing meat or whatever he was doing before they made this record, but “Digging Your Scene” is always, always, ALWAYS going to be a 5-star song for me.
The Boomtown Rats, “Looking After No. 1” – 5 stars. Dig it.
The Boomtown Rats, “She’s So Modern” – 5 stars. Dig it.
Classic, wonderful, snotty punk music. I gotta be in the mood, of course, but it’s fab.
The Boxer Rebellion, “Flashing Red Light Means Go” – 2 stars. Bury it.
A Starbucks download, I think. When it came on my iPod I honestly had no idea what it was, but assumed it was some obscure U2 or Coldplay track and wondered why my alphabetical playlist had jumped to those guys. Then I realized it wasn’t as good as those guys. Then I realized that I don’t like those guys all that much. Then I hit “skip.” Then I hit “delete.”
Bill Lloyd, “Set To Pop” – 4 stars. Hold it.
I think Bill Lloyd is a “similar artist” to Marshall Crenshaw on Allmusic.com. And he is, on some level. “Set To Pop” is a pretty good power pop record. Sharp, quick songs, some nice hooks, and the high points are pretty good. “I Went Electric” is a terrific opener and would fit on any Marshall Crenshaw record. That’s really true of the entire record, actually – there are a couple of duds, and it’s way too long, at 14 songs, but on the whole it’s okay. Not as great as some of Marshall’s best records, but it’s alright.
One thing that doesn’t really make much of a difference to the record but is really annoying – in “Trampoline,” Lloyd opens with a snippet of some twangey, purposely tuneless guitar, kinda like if someone who didn’t know how to play guitar was starting the song…it’s too cute by half, but it’s only a couple of seconds. But they he does it again later in the album. Then he does it AGAIN. So weird. And annoying.
Billy Joel, “The Stranger” – 4 stars. Hold it / dump it.
Hoo, boy, I have no idea what to do with this one. I mean, Billy Joel eventually became a caricature, and some of the record really (REALLY) doesn’t hold up, at all, but as a late-70s singer-songwriter album it’s about as good as it gets. “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” is a perfect example. Too long, overblown, melodramatic, but…well, it’s a great song. I’d like to dump the whole thing just on general principle, but there are still a couple of songs that have to stay: “Italian restaurant,” “Movin’ Out,” and “Only The Good Die Young” stay, the rest are gone.