1997: BS 2000

BS CoverNot many people enjoy BS 2000, which is interesting considering this album has only ever been release on vinyl. To say the music is unconventional would be an understatement. To say the music is unlistenable, distasteful, or simply, not music, would be like judging a book by its opening sentence. BS 2000 is most certainly an acquired taste, and once the walls of ignorance are torn down, the appetite for more becomes primal.

BS RecordWith its 23 tracks, this debut side project from Beastie Boy, Adam Horovitz, and teammate, AWOL Amery Smith, is a brilliant collection of looping Electronic Breakbeats, pitch and time-altered samples, and various other momentary flashes of abstract genius. In Brian Newman’s well written, but point-missing review of this album on allmusic.com (he gave it only 2 out of 5 stars), he explains, “Listening to BS 2000’s self-titled debut album is almost the equivalent of watching a Federico Fellini film or reading a William S. Burrows passage.” This is a fairly accurate assessment of the music, and certainly a proficient crew to roll with.

BS Back

Absolutely unsuitable for the masses, BS 2000’s music cuts and runs at the same moment you’ve finished tuning your ears in order to ingest the wall of head bobbing, groovy noise. The album is only 33 minutes long, so when you take into account the number of songs, you get a pretty good idea of how short these all-but-throwaway beats are.

This is a must listen for any fan of the Beastie Boys, and anyone who enjoys experimental, abstract sounds. There is definitely a clear rhythmic beat to each and every track on this album, so don’t misunderstand me and think this is a boiling pot of erupting noise. Listening to it as I type, and having not given it a spin in a while, I’d almost forgotten how damn good these hodge-podge beats are. If you’re in the market for this album, but can’t find it, email me and I’ll hook you up.

Nobody beats BS 2000.

1996: Spinal Scratch

Spinal ScratchMade famous by the labors of his day job, as exactly ½ of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter’s solo work finds the artist taking a minimalist approach to the Funk-rich Electronic (House music) sound. In no way does that mean Spinal Scratch, and its B-Side, Spinal Beats, are “less than.” These two tracks hit hard, and when combined, offer over 11 minutes of sweaty dance-friendly beats.

Released a year before Daft Punk’s eponymous debut, Homework, Spinal Scratch finds Mr. Bangalter cutting his teeth on a pair of monster beats that almost scream the letters, S-E-X in a rhythmic and soothing loop, but you know, in that classy French way. It’s almost as though because this is French music, there is a certain amount of leniency attached to it. Not that this, or anything Bangalter or Daft Punk do require any sort of leniency, but French House music, with its repetitive yet weighted bass can become something of a nuisance if done improperly. Good thing for all involved that Mr. Bangalter’s work is pure gold. The fact that he is French is just the icing on the delicious French pastry.

LabelSpinal Scratch, or Roulé 302, is the second solo offering by Bangalter, following 1995’s Trax on Da Rocks. (I purchased Trax on Da Rocks from eBay a few years back, but it was lost in transit. I was refunded my money, but have been looking for a copy ever since.) Both DJ 12” records were released on Bangalter’s own Roulé Records. Roulé is French for, “rolled,” so you get the target demographic he was going for with this label.

You can find Spinal Scratch on the Irréversible soundtrack, which is mainly comprised of the back catalogue of Bangalter’s solo work. It’s nice to have everything together, but there is a certain amount of intimacy owning these tracks individually. If you haven’t already, seek out Bangalter’s solo work. Your sex-crazed dance partner will thank you.

1995: The State of Art is On Fire

ArtRock ‘N’ Roll gets kicked in the teeth with this fire-themed gauntlet of raging energy. Led by Speedo’s spitting vocals and Petey X’s stabbing bass work, the glorious Rocket from the Crypt, over just six songs, show everyone within shouting distance why they’re helmed as the best Rock ‘N’ Roll group ever to walk the Earth. The State of Art is On Fire, and Rocket from the Crypt lit the match.

The State of Art is on Fire was the first in a trilogy from RFTC (Rocket from the Crypt) in 1995, followed by August’s Hot Charity and October’s Scream, Dracula, Scream!. This particular release is, well, a bit peculiar since side A plays at 33rpms and side B plays at 45rpms. It should also be noted that this EP was the first to feature JC 2000, the band’s trumpeter, and also included a lyrics sheet, which was rarely included in releases by this band.

InsertThe hair-raising back-to-back shots from Rid or Ride and Human Torch are arguably the best one-two punch by any band on any album ever. I know this statement is subjective, but you’re wrong if you think otherwise.  Like a violent flame, this album starts to burn your ears, your neighbor’s dog’s ears, your feet, the pear on your kitchen table, your memories of Senior Prom, and the blood flowing through your veins, and it doesn’t let up until the needle breaks on the final groove.  The State of Art is on Fire is an experience. One that is not quickly, or let’s face it, EVER forgotten.

RecordOnly 300 copies exist of this blue marbled staple of Rock ‘N’ Roll awesomeness. Currently none are for sale of either this or the pink marbled version, but the black version can be had for only $8 at Discogs.

Art has been burning now for 18 years. Sit back and enjoy the flames.

1994: Fourteenth Century Sky E.P. (The Dust Brothers aka The Chemical Brothers)

Dust Bros CoverSo, here’s a fun little nugget of Electronic music history (fans of either band have known this for years)… The Chemical Brothers used to be called the Dust Brothers, and the Dust Brothers used to be called, wait for it… well, they were always just the Dust Brothers, so yeah, gotcha there.

Dust Brothers 101:

First came the Dust Brothers. The ACTUAL Dust Brothers. The LA-based cut-and-paste moguls famous for their early work with Delicious Vinyl. The same guys who happened to produce the groundbreaking, never-before-has-there-been-music-like-this Beastie Boys album, Paul’s Boutique. Then, over in Manchester, a couple of Dust Brothers fans starting making some badass music of their own, (out of homage or straight, blatant, rip-off) and also starting calling themselves the Dust Brothers. So, there was a time when the world saw two sets of dusted siblings. That was, until the ACTUAL Dust Brothers threatened the Manchester Dust Brothers with legal action. Having released two EPs and one single as the Dust Brothers, the Manchester boys decided on a new name. Based off the critically acclaimed track, Chemical Beats (found on this EP), the Manchester duo adopted the moniker, Chemical Brothers, and the rest is Electronic music history.

Dust Bros Label BThere was no bad blood between the two insanely talented groups. The original Dust Brothers supplied a remix to the 1997 hit single Elektrobank, No harm no foul, I suppose.

Fourteenth Century Sky is the Chemical Brothers’ second release (when they were still calling themselves the Dust Brothers. We JUST went over this!). They would release one more EP (My Mercury Mouth) before pulling the Big-Beat-trigger and forever changing their name to the Chemical Brothers.  This concludes the Prudent Groove inspired Cliffs Notes for Dust Brothers 101. Now, get outside. It’s a beautiful day.

1993: Porno For Pyros

PforP CoverBy the time Porno for Pyros hit the streets in 1993, the world was still mourning the loss of Jane’s Addiction. Frontman, Perry Ferrell, assured the masses that his brash-brand of sleazy-slut-rock would continue on unabated, but would henceforth inherit a new title, Porno for Pyros.

Trying to figure out the meaning behind the title, Porno for Pyros, is like trying to tie your shoes with oven mitts on your hands. You can see the end result in your head, but damned if it’s not impossible to get to. People attribute too much meaning to things anyway, so I’m going to skip the meaningless meaning behind PfP, and continue on with my daily ramblings.

The music, not unlike a cloud of sadness, is loud, funky, rhythmically driven, and unmistakably awesome! There is a certain amount of solace that can be found in sadness, and it’s evident that Perry and crew tapped into that power for Porno for Pyros, because quiet frankly, it’s a pretty bleak album. Like a warm pair of socks on a cold, dreary day, or a calming breeze during those hot August nights, Porno for Pyros can abate your less-than-optimal mood, whenever it rears its ugly, yet familiar noggin.

NewA beautiful tie-dyed vinyl version was released just this past Saturday for Record Store Day. Limited to 1000 copies, this gorgeous record is going for up to $100 over at Discogs, so I hope you were able to brave the goofballs in line for a copy, because, it really is quite something.

1992: In Search of Manny

MannyLuscious Jackson’s debut EP, In Search of Manny, launched the semi-mainstream career of this quirk-tastic, all-ladies, don’t-dare-call-them-cutesy band. It also saw the first official release from Grand Royal Records, the short-lived record label helmed by the infamous Beastie Boys, so, yeah, it’s a historical music marker.

In Search of Manny, or GR001, its catalog title, sees a mellow mixture of light-hearted groovy-beats bouncing under a quasi-Hip-Hop, MC-style vocal delivery. It’s lazy-day, relax-music perfect for soaking in the warm rays from the summer sun, or turning your living room into post-apocalyptic turmoil because you can’t find your car keys. Calm, or frenzied, In Search of Manny tickles your groove button regardless of your disposition.

LabelI hate that Luscious Jackson is known as “the band with the original drummer from the Beastie Boys.” Yes, this is true. Yes, the Beastie Boys originally had a Beastie Girl (Kate Schellenbach), but labeling LJ as “just that band” downplays their ability to jam! And these luscious ladies jam your pants off!

The first three tracks, Let Yourself Get Down, Life of Leisure and Daughters of the Kaos were all written and recorded in 1991, while the four tracks on side 2 were completed in 1992. This isn’t significant but for the question is raises: why weren’t these first three tracks released as a single prior to In Search of Manny? They certainly could have been. I mean, Daughters of the Kaos sounds like Beck’s Loser, with its slight western-driving catchiness, but you know, written 2 years earlier. Lucky for everyone involved, fate would intervene and marry this collection of feel-good tunes square on Grand Royal’s eponymous debut.

BackIt all had to start somewhere, but unfortunately, it ended way too early. Both Luscious Jackson and Grand Royal are now defunct, but there exists an underground group of groove-hoods that seek out these stunning releases, and in doing so, keep this sensational music alive.

I don’t know who the hell Jackson is, but these ladies are luscious. Check ‘em out.

1991: Cypress Hill

Cypress CoverCypress Hill was my single-handed introduction into the vast, unremitting world of Hip Hop music. I was a fair, Junior High student at a tiny school when introduced to this abstract genre (my graduating class was 63 kids… it sucked). Hip Hop as a whole is certainly not abstract, but when you grow up in a tiny town with tiny ideals and little room for any sort of outside thinking, it really didn’t get more abstract than Hip Hop (that was until I discovered AC, but that’s a post for another time).

Cypress RedCypress Hill boasts of bongs, fat-jammy-blasts and brotherhood (a nice way of saying “gang”), while set to a Funk backbeat and fanatical lyrics. LA’s finest scored a fat sack with these 16 tracks, so much so that it was remastered and released on blood-shot-eye-red vinyl (this version) in 2011 for its 20th anniversary.

You see, cassettes were big in my day, and I’m now spending the bulk of my “adult” life acquiring my trophy albums on vinyl. It was while listening to this album in the school library, via Walkman (and split ear buds hidden inside the sleeve of my shirt), that a buddy and I got busted for listening to music in school. Not busted so much as yelled at, but it scared us from ever doing it again. It was at that moment when I realized that Cypress Hill were a troublemakers, and at the age of 12, that was a welcoming ally.

The music is straightforward, early 90’s, social-class-bending Hip Hop. There emerged a slew of outstanding Hip Hop albums during the few years spanning 1989-1993, and the tongue-in-cheek approach mastered by Cypress Hill on this debut set the high-bong-water mark.

Cypress BackCypress Hill isn’t considered Old School Hip Hop, but for me, and my friends who dove headfirst into this genre, there is no school older than the music produced during the early 90s. Cypress Hill would hit another homerun with their 1993 release, Black Sunday. After that they’d release six more albums, but they never matched the perfect blend of ENORMOUS beats, witty lyrics, and catchy one-liners.

Lala la la lala la laaa!

1990: To the Extreme

Ice CoverThe term “Vanilla Ice” implies that at one point, there existed “Chocolate Ice,” because otherwise, it would just be called “Ice.” My parents taught me that an individual’s ice flavor was nothing to be judged, and that personality weighed more than any ice flavor imaginable. So instinctively, I was immediately drawn to the Chocolate-inspired Ice of the Vanilla persuasion. Yes, I was a fan of Vanilla Ice, and yes, I own and listen to this record.

Remember Snow?  A licky Boom Boom yeah, I don’t either. Do you know why the Snow and his half-hit wonder, Informer, fell hard (snow… falling…)? It’s because the Ice man here left such a monumental impact upon the release of this album, that the debris had yet to settle by the time Snow’s “single” hit the streets in the fall of 1993. Ice had this covered, man! The Vanilla doesn’t melt so easily it seems.

Ice BackI remember sitting in Mrs. Bleach’s 6th grade class frantically transcribing Ice Ice Baby, in pencil, as if it were a newly discovered missing chapter of the Bible. I believe I spent an entire recess start-stopping this track (on cassette) to assure a precise transcript. What the hell I did with those lyrics upon completion, I’ll never remember, but I did, inadvertently, burn a Vanilla Ice-sized hole in my cranium that, to this day, has yet to fully heal.

IcemanListening to Vanilla Ice now, with his assertive, borderline belligerent delivery, is nothing short of absolutely hysterical. Yo, VIP! I’ve just decided to work that into my daily vocabulary. I’m thinking something like, “Yo, VIP! Pass the milk!” Or, “Yo, VIP! Do you want in on this conference call?!” Something to that effect. I encourage all of you to experiment with this timeless phrase at least once today, if only to gauge the reaction of the ill-prepared VIP.

It’s painful to acknowledge that 1990 is now 23 year ago, but thankfully, the immortal gift that is Vanilla Ice will forever be present to remind us of how groundbreaking this music wasn’t.  “Yo! VIP! Post is done!”

1988: Stand

StandToday’s post was inspired by a fascinating chap with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, while standing in line for Record Store Day. Not unlike said gentleman in line, Stand, by R.E.M., sticks to the inner lining of your skull like Velcro. It’s easily removable (simply pull the Velcro apart… how can you not know how Velcro works?), but seldom ever forgotten. (Once you master the intricate workings of Velcro, you kind of don’t forget the process. I’m sure I’m sorry that Velcro is such a foreign concept to you.)

R.E.M. was huge in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Not so much Elvis Presley or say, a cat on the moon huge, but EVERYBODY knew R.E.M., and EVERYBODY knew this song. Stand isn’t so much of an order as it is a self-reflective suggestion. Stand in the place where you live. Ok, I’m doing that. Now what? Now face north. All right, and… done. Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before. Direction, huh? Well let’s see… is forward a direction? I can’t seem to find it on my compass, here. I think I may need a new compass. Perhaps I’d better sit back down.

Stand CenterR.E.M.’s tenure spanned (“ed” because they no longer exist) from 1980 to 2011. During that time they’ve gone through oodles of changes, the biggest being the loss of Michael Stipe’s hair. R.E.M. saw an abundance of time on the radio and bounced back and forth between the Top 10 hits walls. Stand would be their second to break through the coveted barrier of paint and drywall, and as a result, would permanently set up shop as “one of those songs that everybody has heard.”

I really, really dig R.E.M., but they’re mood music. I can’t just, say, throw on an R.E.M. album and go about my day. I need to be in that subtle, R.E.M. mood. You know the mood, somewhere between hopelessness and melancholia? You know that, but you don’t know Velcro… I give up. Listen to this song. It’ll help you take stock in your decisions in life.

Stand Back!As an aside, Wikipedia claims that Stand was released in January of 1989, and therefore would NOT be eligible for a post on 1988. The back sleeve indicates, twice, the year to be 1988. So, either there are some disgruntled people over at Wikipedia, or my R.E.M. Stand sleeve is a conniving liar. Why don’t YOU stand, Stand? My legs are getting tired and this line is long. Anybody out there know where I can find some VHS tapes?

1983: Return of the Jedi Read-Along

VaderThis is the story, of Return of the Jedi. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Artoo-Detoo beep like this, “Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!”

Let’s begin now:

Throughout the early 80s, Star Wars, with its vast world filled with luscious characters, could be found fighting for galactic power in your cereal bowl, your pencil kit, on the laces your shoes, on your back helping to carry your books, on your waist to help keep your pants up, packaged with bubble gum as little cardboard trading cards, and as a beaming Prudent Groove would like to acknowledge, a 24 page read-along with 33 1/3rpm record containing the story, music and photos from the original motion picture, Return of the Jedi. Me as a 4-year-old, “You mean, I can LISTEN to the story and FOLLOW ALONG with my very own book?!” Mind = blown.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along ColoredStar Wars was such a massive part of my generation’s childhood that, for me, it’s difficult to see the printed year 1983 and NOT think Return of the Jedi. And thanks to this little read-along-reminder-guy, I can relive the great tale of (spoiler alert!) the Rebel Alliance defeating the Galactic Empire in grand, book-turning fashion.

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

The narrator does a good job of keeping the story going with his smooth, yet demonstrative voice. Sound effects are lifted directly from the film, as is the classic John Williams’ score. The movie stills were great to analyze as a kid (this was back when it was difficult to pause a VHS tape at the exact moment you wanted), but the REAL fun of this little 7” lies in the voice actors hired to portray the story’s main characters: Luke, Han & Leia. It became apparent early on in this read-along that the Luke Skywalker standing up to Jabba the Hut (original voice), was NOT the Luke you knew and loved. This was immediately jarring, but, like a child’s mind works, was quickly forgotten when Artoo-Detoo prompted:

Boop, beep-beep, boop. BOO-BEW!

Read-Along BackI’m ecstatic that I kept this little gem from my wonder years, but then again I keep EVERYTHING (much to the dismay of my GF and my parents). This book and record set is worth seeking out if only to chuckle at the stand-in voice acting cast.

Leia hugged him. “Come join us, my brave Jedi.” She led him back to their circle of friends – heroes together to the end.

1982: Nebraska

NebraskaThis is the Bruce Springsteen you WISH your father had listened to… except, then your father probably would have been too damned depressed and self-indulged to gather enough strength to nurture you as a child so, maybe Born in the U.S.A. WAS better “father” material.

Man turns his back on his family

Well he just ain’t no good

Some urban legends are created to help sell a less than interesting story. I don’t feel this is the case with Bruce Springsteen and his approach to Nebraska. Furthermore, I’ll refuse to feed any notion to this legend’s contrary. Legend has it that Mr. ‘Steen locked himself inside a hotel room and recorded this album to 4-track tape. The story continues with “The Boss” presenting the results to his mates, the E Street Band, which resulting in them all recording the songs, all studio-like. The legend concludes that the versions recorded with the band were too polished, and too produced, so Bruce mixed his demo hotel session and, well, that’s what we’re hearing. Nebraska is, without esteemed hesitation, the best work Bruce Springsteen ever produced… and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise (only to buy them a drink after the inevitable scuffle while listening to, well, this album).

BloodWhen shifted 45 degrees clockwise, the lyric sheet, with its red text cascading down a black canvas, somewhat resembles trickling blood catered by the destitute victims offered by the deviant characters residing throughout Nebraska (Nebraska, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman). Everything, eventually, returns to the Earth. Blood, epithelial tissue, and sorrow are no exception.

My friend, who introduced me to this album, presented it with a caveat: Don’t listen to this album while drinking alone. Sound advice; that which I would repeat to new listeners as well as to the frequent Springsteen flyer.

Maybe you got a kid

Maybe you got a pretty wife

The only that I got’s

Been botherin’ me my whole life

Nebraska BackNebraska is the answer to the question you’ve yet to realize the need to ask. It exists so that you may see the light of tomorrow, it offers a chance for you to accept your weathered self, and it strengthens the muscles in your neck that help to lift your head from your pillow each morning. It exists, so that you can too. Thanks, Boss.

1981: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

DK Cover OrangeThe Reagan Era produced arguably the best collection of anti-American, pro-working class Hardcore Punk this country has ever seen. Leading the pack of such inspiring bands as, Black Flag, Descendents, Minutemen, Bad Brains, Youth Brigade, Minor Threat, and Misfits, the uncompromising Dead Kennedys allowed for their front man, the eccentrically morbid-genius Jello Biafra, to satirically rave and rant about his dismal outlook on society… but you know, with wizard-like fervor.

Not unlike Frank Zappa’s sarcastic approach to lyric writing, Jello Biafra taunted the press, California Governor Jerry Brown, and the military draft (to name only a few), often to hilarious effect. Biafra could have easily been a strikingly successful stand-up comedian. He’s like that idiosyncratic great uncle that won’t shut up about ANYTHING that’s on his mind (“let’s lynch the landlord,” “drug me with your crossword puzzles,” “the economy is looking bad, let’s start another war,” stuff like that), but who isn’t at all incorrect in his genial ramblings. The music is fast and sometimes ventures into such conflicting genres as Rockabilly, Spaghetti Western and Surf.

BackFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was originally released on September 2, 1980 in the UK with the familiar black cover. I.R.S. (the label, not the hording institution) issued an unauthorized orange cover for the album’s US debut. The band was animate in protest over this decision, and the now rare orange cover was withdrawn and re-released with the original black cover. I forgot that this version of the album drops in Police Truck on the first side between Let’s Lynch the Landlord and Drug Me. Police Truck isn’t released on the original UK version, but was instead offered as a b-side to the Holiday in Cambodia single.

Dead Kennedys landed a knockout blow with their debut, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. They would go on to produce only three more albums, but their immortal impact has proved to be timeless and infinitely unforgettable. If you can stomach fast, morbid Hardcore, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables comes deeply recommended.

1980: London Calling

London CoverFive days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.

Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!

Calling BackBridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.

Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!

Rudie LyricsReally quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).

Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.Offensive Boyo

1979: Cool for Cats

CatsSqueeze snuck up on me. Hold on, let me start over. It’s imperative to mention how apropos that 1979’s post, the post representing the year in which I came into this world, contains the word, “Cats.” If you know me, you saw this one coming. If you don’t know me… I like cats.

Squeeze are like a sieve, an attention grabbing ear-whore in the best sense of the term. Not unlike The Kinks, Squeeze’s music is so damned good, so damned catchy, and so damned clever, that once you start listening to their music… THAT’S ALL YOU LISTEN TO! When I got into Squeeze, shamefully only a few years ago, I didn’t listen to anything else for nearly 3 months, and I’m not exaggerating. They’re that damned good!

With a hint of Punk’s aggression, and all the electronic qualities that make up good New Wave, Squeeze tickles your fancy in that slightly awkward, slightly dirty way, but leaves you begging for more… and more… you get the point.

The astute penning of Squeeze songs are attributed to Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine over at allmusic.com, “Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne during their heyday in the early ‘80’s.” Are you starting to get an idea of how good this band is?

Cool for BacksCool for Cats houses three of the best tracks in Squeeze’s varied palette: Slap & Tickle, Up the Junction and Goodbye Girl.

Slap & Tickle is a fun little romp referencing the British euphemism for sexy times.

Then while she turned to kiss him
And very nearly missed him
She put her hand on his leg
He felt her tongue in his head

Up the Junction is a very sad tale about the rise and inevitable fall of a doomed relationship. A child is involved and the once adored couple no longer speaks.

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business

I can’t tell if Goodbye Girl is about a woman drugging our protagonist and robbing him, or if it’s a story about the beginnings of a failed marriage. Either way, Goodbye Girl is a catchy little ditty, and in my opinion, Squeeze’s best.

Sunlight on the lino
Woke me with a shake
I looked around to find her but she’d gone
Goodbye girl

Cool for Cats showcases Squeeze at the height of their innovative career. It’s a crowning representation of the stunning song-writing talents of Difford and Tillbrook. If you’re serious about music, and you don’t already own Cool for Cats, drop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and find this album. You won’t be disappointed.Cool Cat

1978: Dire Straits

Dire Straits CoverA mystical wizard of the electric 6-strings, Mark Knopfler and his merry pub-band, Dire Straits, present a “southern-fried-inspired” British album full of sexy swing and swooning rhythm on their 1978 debut appropriately titled, Dire Straits.

Brit bands performing their versions of Southern Rock can be a phenomenal experience if executed properly. The Kinks did it in 1971 with Muswell Hillbillies, and Dire Straits do it here. I’ve never considered Southern Rock an inspiring genre, but thankfully Dire Straits did. With tracks like Six Blade Knife, Down to the Waterline, Southbound Again and Wild West End, one would think Dire Straits shared a ridgeline with the groovy gents in ZZ Top.

I feel as though I’m doing Dire Straits a disservice by writing about them immediately after writing about the striking social impact of the Sex Pistols. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s my own fault… but you can send letters of encouragement to theprudentgroove@gmail.com to help calm my writing woes.

Straits BackDire Straits is a smooth sailing debut that showcases the unmarked talents of four, part-time musicians (music was the band’s “other” job before and while making this album). Years before free chicks and the lovable MTV, Dire Straits gave us arguably their most treasured gift, Sultans of Swing. With its expansive hook and its crooning delivery, Mark Knopfler and gang create a timeless song perfect for driving down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, aka California State Route 1), enjoying a pint at the pub with a silent stranger, or riding off into the sunset with your loved one resting on your arm.

Without a doubt, Mark Knopfler knew his way around a 6-string, and Dire Straits is a fantastic first step into his lucrative and talented career.Guit

1977: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

BollocksPunk freaks a lot of people out. It should. That’s its job. Well, not its job so much as its point.

When the physical force from the hand-shakers, the whistle-stoppers, the marketing executives and the self-proclaimed pretty faces (telling you what toothpaste “real” men prefer) strong-arms the poor, the isolated, the abhorred, the shunned and the ugly (a term invented by pushers of beauty products as a counter for what constitutes “beauty”), the thin line separating the “ordinary” from the “irregular” breaks. Wars are started over such actions. Lives are lost and serenity is disfigured.

“Anger can be power.” – Joe Strummer of The Clash

From the charred rubble of society rockets a familiar phrase longing to reach the ears of the desperate that question if such a powerful phrase could exist. A phrase silenced and eradicated by the powerful, yet so innate to our most basic of human instincts. The phrase: It doesn’t have to be this way. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols gave a voice to that phrase; a voice that, because of legal battles with the Magistrates’ Court, record label arrests, and outcries from the feeble masses, almost wasn’t heard.

I’m a believer in giving credit where credit is due. The Ramones are often credited as the first “official” Punk band, so, yay Ramones, but they don’t come close to matching the social impact unleashed by the Sex Pistols… and the Sex Pistols only released one studio album! Surprisingly tame by today’s standards, the music on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is secondary to its message. The tracks are catchy, the lyrics are in-your-face and often intentionally hilarious. Well produced and professionally executed, this album isn’t near as abrasive as one would think given all the trouble surrounding its release.

Sub MissionPunk is present to force the masses to question their decisions. The hoi polloi hate Punk because it makes them look at themselves and recognize their abundant shortcomings and their sheepish declarations. They know they’re feeding a corrupt and biased system but they don’t want to be bothered to remember. I know. I’m one of them. But the idea behind Punk, albeit a nightmare for some, is the saving grace for those whose voices are subdued.

Greed is a learned trait. The desire for power and wealth by means of silencing those who oppose you is the backbone of a Capitalist society. The Sex Pistols recognized this. They stood atop a mountain of vehement listeners and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is Shakespeare to authors, columnists and poets alike. It stands as one of the most monumental moments in music, and was a turning point in 20th Century history. It is, by all means, a necessity.

1976: Open Sesame

Open SesameCuts so deep, they hit the bone! Robert “Kool” Bell and his groove-Gang deliver brass-happy, (b)ass-slappin’, tummy-rubbin’, good-time-Saturday-night, Funk & Blues (F&B) music. There must have been a sizable influx of babies born 9-months after the release of this album.

Kool and the Gang effortlessly transition from dance floor front-runners to dusty, sun-filled, carefree, early evening comfort music. Because, you know, you need to get-down-on-it just as often as you need that lazy stroll through the park with your hands in your pockets. Kool was hip to this, and it’s apparent throughout Open Sesame.

A very, very upbeat album, Open Sesame’s main focus is, without a doubt, the single most popular theme throughout all pop music: Love. With titles like, Gift of Love, L-O-V-E, and the 3-minute lyrical chant of “Whisper you love me” on the Side 2 opener, Whisper Softly, Kool and the Gang make no effort to hide the untimely power that drives their feel-good approach to making excellent groove music.

Fan Club InfoThe highlight to this album would have to be Super Band. With lyrics like, “Super-cali-FUNK-a-listic-expi-ali-docious, the Super Band,” how could you not fall in love with this band? I mean, they’re super! They say so themselves!

1976 must have been a 365-day party. It’s no wonder the masses were hung-over for 1977 and the early beginnings of arguably the most important genre in the history of music: Punk.

1975: Pictures at an Exhibition

TomitaCapitalizing on the early 70’s popularity of reinvented “Electronic” adaptations of Classical classics, Isao Tomita focuses on the 1874 suite by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky, titled, Pictures at an Exhibition. Isao Tamita creates a very dark and dreary wall of impending, electronic-doom-music… AND IT’S AWESOME!

70’s Electro was made famous in large part by Walter/Wendy Carlos’ invigorating take on the works of Ludwig van Beethoven in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Although the back sleeve accurately indicates that (up to that time) electronic instruments had only been around for nearly 50 years (with the ethereal launch of Leon Theremin’s well, Theremin in 1927), there were only a small handful of “Electronic” albums obtainable by the social conscious. Four that I can think of are 1) the groundbreaking Soundtrack to Forbidden Planet in 1956, 2) George Harrison’s first studio album (yes, THAT George Harrison), 1969’s Electronic Sound, 3) Walter Carlos’ 1968 debut, Switched-On Bach, and 4) the 1966 release of The In Sound from Way Out! by Perrey and Kingsley.

Tomita BackCreating electrified modernizations of decades-old classics must have been difficult for some to digest in the mid 1970’s… boy were those narrow-minded purists in for a treat when Disco hit just a few short years later.

The late 60’s/early 70’s electronic movement is definitely something to explore. To say it is little more than a Classical suite or symphony with an electronic filter would completely sell this infant-like genre depressingly short. The guitar, invented in the 13th Century, didn’t get electrified until the 1930’s. Electronic music has yet to hit its centennial mark… imagine its overwhelming future. Isao Tomita did, and it’s evident by his work on Pictures at an Exhibition.

1973: Tres Hombres

Tres HombresI’d mistakenly written-off ZZ Top by the time I saw them at Alpine Valley in 2003. It took less than a minute into their first song for me to realize how strikingly wrong I had been about this Texas Blues-Rock band.

I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know about these guys. Yes, they formed in 1969. Yes, they’ve been around for over 40 years, yes they are still touring and yes, the three members have ALWAYS been Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (listed on the back of this album as Rube Beard). What I will impart on you is the desperate suggestion of not doing what I did. Don’t write-off this band without giving them a proper listen. This is 1973, and this is American Blues-Rock at its finest.

Tres Hombres (translates to “Three Men,” courtesy of The Prudent Groove) is ZZ Top’s first Top Ten record, and the band’s third release overall. Although ZZ Top’s First Album (1971) and Rio Grande Mud (1972) offered a glimpse of the unquestionable talents of these “Three Men,” it wasn’t until Tres Hombres and its soul-crushing hit, La Grange, that the music world saw just how incredible this Texas band was.

TracksLa Grange is a nonstop, blood-boiling staple of Blues inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s chock-full of hard-rocking fire with a groove so catchy, you’ll swear you’re hearing it blasting from a dead-silent room. If you ask me, ZZ Top never reached the creative watermark set by La Grange, but looking back at their extensive catalog throughout their 44-year existence, they’ve come pretty damn close a number of times.

Do yourself a favor and pay attention to those rumors spreading around about that brothel outside La Grange, Texas. Word has it they have a lot of nice girls-ah! Oh, and don’t forget a ten-spot for the door.

1972: You Don’t Mess Around with Jim

Croce CoverAs far as solo songwriters go, there are three that loom atop all others. Presented in no particular order, because honestly, how could you logically rank these three? First is Van Morrison, who is probably the most obvious of the three. Second is Paul Simon, who is perhaps the most critically acclaimed of the bunch due to his hugely successful duo before branching out and going solo, and last but certainly not least, is Jim Croce.

Croce kind of flies under the radar when grouped with the great Morrison and Simon. His gentle, free-spirited storytelling, his whimsical acoustic guitar work, his clever, heartfelt and often hilarious lyrics, and the fact that he accomplished his timeless arsenal of music by the time of his untimely death at the age of 30 sets him apart from the aforementioned pair. The fact that the bulk of his success happened, unfortunately, after he passed, doesn’t take away from the emotional weight of his music.

LyricsYou Don’t Mess Around with Jim was Croce’s third and most successful album, spending 93 weeks on the charts. Due to the extraordinary single, Time in a Bottle, which peaked a year after his unfortunate plane crash, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim was the best selling album for five weeks in 1974. It’s sad ol’ Jim wasn’t around to see how many people admired his great work.

R.I.P. Mr. Croce. 1972 belongs to you.