Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: North Carolina band of the moment The Love Language and Columbus veterans Cheater Slicks.
Listed: The Love Language + Cheater Slicks
The Love Language
Transitioning over the course of two albums from lo-fi home recordings to Wall of Sound indie pop, The Love Language has quickly gone from a personal experiment to a lively touring ensemble. At the helm of each incarnation of the project-cum-band has been North Carolinian Stuart McLamb, a singer-songwriter with an impressive command of memorable melodies, nostalgic but fresh arrangements, and the desperation and swagger of pop music romance. Glowingly reviewed here last month, The Love Language’s second album, Libraries, sounds like summer love fading into fall.
Missy and I have been DJing together a lot lately, so I figured we’d both take some of our favorite tracks right now and include them in this list.
1. Sparks - “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”
This song is the quintessential Sparks song. It is written by pop-inspired classically trained rock nerds with wry wit and a great ear for a killer glittery hook. I also love the crazy gun sounds -- it’s totally quirky and rocks like hell. I first heard this song covered by an early 2000’s electro-pop act Tracy + The Plastics at the now defunct Vincent’s Ear in Asheville (R.I.P.). It’s on Kimono My House, which is loaded with pop hooks and quirky awesomeness. (Missy)
2. Happy Birthday - "Girls FM"
In our rehearsal space, we have a five-disc CD player and I’m pretty sure the Happy Birthday CD has been in there since March. The whole album feels like all the elements of pop/glam/garage/post punk/doo-wop that I love the most and they’re all chewed up together and blown out into a big juicy bubble. This song is one of my favs. It reminds me of David Byrne’s melodies. They get stuck in your head so easily, yet you can’t sing along. (Stuart)
3. Thee Oh Sees - “Block of Ice"
Holy Crap! Last night over some beers and music, Stu streamed a video of Thee Oh Sees live at the Cake Shop in NYC and it blew my mind. How does he get that tone on his guitar? Their energy was so sexy, mysterious and heavy. They sound amazing -- I’m not always excited about male/female vocals singing together, but this is definitely an exceptional group. Also digging how Brigid looks just like Sigourney Weaver. Amazing band, can’t wait to see them live. (Side note: After that, we streamed almost every Ariel Pink video we could find -- @#$$%^) (Missy)
4. Here We Go Magic - "Collector"
Luke Temple has a real gift for writing circular chord progressions that you can just get lost in. We’ve played with them a few times and I noticed live that they’re really a jam band. Not to say that they’re songs aren’t great on their own, but the real payoff is the jam on the outro. The chords will just cycle and the music builds slowly until you realize that a climax isn’t coming, but it’s happening and you’re inside of it and holding on as long as you can. I feel like they really captured that spirit of the live show in the outro of "Collector." (Stuart)
5. White Williams - "Fleetwood Crack"
This song is crazy like all of White Williams tripped out sizurrrup music, but I really appreciate it because they used a slowed down sample of a Lindsey Buckingham song off of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk -- which is crafty because Lindsey’s production style for several of his songs on Tusk include the technique of altering tape speeds to create the effects of different voices like vocals and guitar. All that aside, his songs are insanely great pop songs with the true spirit of pop music -- simple, accessible, catchy as well, and lyrics that we can all feel. The entire White Williams’ album Smoke is psych-whack-awesome. (Missy)
6. Smog - "Dress Sexy at My Funeral"
Bill Callahan has a knack for getting girls excited without loud drums and guitars. He goes for more of a cerebral sexiness than physical, and it’s much more powerful in my opinion. His songs have a great laid back quality and they don’t take themselves too seriously. They seem whimsical yet more sincere than most of the other folky stuff out there today. When i listen to early Smog records, I feel removed from this world and transplanted to another where all our imperfections and blemishes are celebrated in the highest, and it’s a much more fun party for that. I think this song is one of the best examples of his talent. (Stuart)
7. Pere Ubu - "The Modern Dance"
One of my favorite avant-garde punk bands -- known for their completely eccentric, almost creepy style. This song makes me think about what it might sound like to listen to Squeeze while huffing ether (has anyone done that before?). Pere Ubu is a band that inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and explore sounds and emotions on a more intellectual level. Cheers. (Missy)
8. Gross Ghost - "Leslie"
Gross Ghost is a Carrboro/Raleigh-based band comprised of Mike Dillon and Tre Acklen. Their music ranges from experimental ambient and noise to perfect summery-vibe pop songs. This song is very much the later. His songs just seem to come from a real immediate inspiration that can only be the result of complete sincerity. The lyrics are really amazing on this song in particular. (Stuart)
9. The Poppy Family - "Which Way You Goin’ Billy?"
I really love great AM pop, and this is one of the best. The groove is so perfect. It’s sad and sexy and dreamy all at once. The core of the band was husband and wife Terry and Susan Jacks and the story is that they had a huge fight over this track. They stayed up all night fighting and Terry was pushing Susan to give a really great vocal performance to no avail. The next morning, she was totally exhausted and finally ready to do it. What a horrible way to motivate a singer, but I have to admit the vocal is very convincing. Cheers to Terry for being a total dick. (Stuart)
10. Charles Manson - "Look at Your Game Girl"
For the record, I loved this song for three minutes while I still didn’t know who was singing it. Aside from the singer’s obvious infamy, at its core, it’s really just a really good song. I love the way the the guitar is strummed with so much emotion and even frustration. You feel like the strings are going to break at any moment. and the chorus feels less like a written part and more like a spontaneous plea. Gorgeous.
Started in Boston in 1987, the Cheater Slicks have amassed an impressive catalog of trash-garage-noise-melancholy pop-psychedelic dementia-rock n’ roll that has gone largely unrecognized by the music press and has made many garage rock purists run for the door. Their music is sometimes abstract and always intrusive and confrontational. The brothers Shannon (Tom and David) recorded for a series of independent labels, including In the Red, which had been their home since 1992’s Whiskey. In 1995, they recorded Don’t Like You for the label with long time fan / friend Jon Spencer as producer. In 1996 the band relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where they remain to this day. They have become more reclusive and misanthropic as the years role on, yet remain a strangely inspiring entity in a world gone to shit. In 2009, they delivered their most challenging record yet with the Stooges-inspired instrumental improv freak-out Bats in the Dead Trees.
1. The Ventures - Ventures In Space
I’ve always been a big guitar instrumental fan, whether it’s raunchy grind-like stuff or surf. Anything reverb filled, where minor chords prevail, will get me every time. I see a direct link between the instrumental rock of the late 1950s and early ‘60s (Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Space Guitar” or Link Wray) to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to 13th Floor Elevators to Spacemen 3 in terms of guitar sounds and general swing of the music. Ventures in Space stands as one of the most amazing instrumental rock records of the early ‘60s. It has so many mysterious sounds which envelope the listener in a space age, yet somewhat menacing haze. It taps into horror, sci-fi, surf music and exotica. Tantalizing female voices fade in and out. Songs appear to lull the listener into an exotic reverie, only to blast them out of it with titles such as “The Bat” or “One Step Beyond."
2. Index - Index
This record is a mystery and an anomaly. It was purportedly made in the late ‘60s, but somehow does not have the feel of that time period. Awash in reverb’d guitars and bombastic drum beats; it sounds as if it were recorded with one microphone with a nod toward the Velvet Underground -- and even later period fringe noise addicts. A true antecedent to lo-fi. Beyond the production are the songs. Strange, rambling psych-influenced (but not really) dirges that are unique sounding. It’s rare when you listen to a record and think “I’ve never heard anything quite like this before." This is one of those records.
3. Chuck Berry / Bo Diddley - Two Great Guitars
This LP was an unlikely pairing by Chess producers of two of their biggest stars. It’s hard to see how it would work stylistically, and yet it does, brilliantly. The interplay between two guitarists when done with inspiration and abandon is one of the most glorious aspects of rock n roll. That’s where the chances are taken and the risks of going off the ledge (hopefully!) are most real. These two men take on the challenge with gusto and produce something which at times reminds me of Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison live when they are sticking closest to their rock n roll roots and going for it. There’s “Bo’s Beat” with the infamous Diddley whomp and there’s “Chuck’s Beat” with his trademark 4-4. And the partner of each puts his lead improvisations on top. Wild. If you can find the 45 of those two songs in wonderful mono, you’ve reached true RnR nirvana.
4. Batman - Dan and Dale
For years after I first found this gem in a local thrift store I thought the guitarist on it might be Lou Reed. Something about the frenetic speed driven leads with their biting notes reminded me of his style. As it turns out, I was wrong. The record is actually Sun Ra backed by the Blues Project. This was one of those “Pickwick” type projects that were done to cash in on one trend or another - in this case, the Batman TV show, which places it around 1966. This LP has a little of everything: great raunchy organ workouts by Sun Ra, strange African American female “soul singing” back ups (“Robin yeah, Robin yeah”) and scorching guitar leads throughout by Danny Kalb. WFMU has MP3s of it in their archive if you want to check it out.
5. Mystic Tide - It Comes Now
The Mystic Tide were a band from Long Island in the mid to late ‘60s featuring the guitar playing and song writing of Joe Docko. This LP, which came out in the early ‘90s, compiles all of their 45s from that period. From the angst ridden full on punk attack of “Frustration” to the meanderingly spiritual feel of “Mystery Ship," the band covers a broad range of pre-psych guitar mastery. We have been playing “Mystery Ship” for 20 years now and I never get tired of it. It has everything a great punk/psych song should have: emotion, improvisation and incredible dynamics. It puts me in a strange, peaceful zone. I think that could be said about almost any song on this LP. Their music always sounds fresh and timeless.
6. Butch Willis and The Rocks - Of
Dana Hatch first brought this record to my attention. He found it on the warehouse shelves of Rounder Records when we all worked there in the late ‘80s. Again, this record seemed to have no place in time or be a part of any movement. It is one of the prime examples of loner/loser outsider rock. Butch sings in a heartfelt somewhat demented manner of his trials and tribulations in suburban Washington D.C. Getting a date and surviving to the next day are of equal importance. On top of this, he feels the weight of his rock ‘n’ roll existence where he places himself on a level with Bruce Springsteen. (Of course he knows he has outdone Springsteen.) This band has the enviable distinction of having a member who “plays” his throat, much like the Elevators’ Tommy Hall plays his jug. The guitar playing is superb as well with lots of reverb-drenched, sinewy solos. Check out his YouTube videos for demented performances -- and his awesome mullet.
7. 13th Floor Elebators - Live San Francisco 1966
It was always my impression that the Elevators started the whole San Francisco psychedelic movement, or at least kick started it into a “higher” gear. I’m not a fan of most SF bands of that period, as they always come off sounding limp to me (with the exception of Great Society’s live recordings, which at least have otherworldly guitar leads). Listening to this live show makes me feel that the Elevators transformed rock music in their time. They changed the dimensions of the traditional forms of rock n roll and pop into something new and more introspective. Plus the band, musically, kicked ass and rocked hard. The fantastic book Eye Mind is an illuminating read and really sheds light on just how these legendary San Francisco shows went down. And how all the fledgling psychedelic SF bands looked and listened in amazement while the Elevators schooled them to “look inside their minds."
8. Jerry Lee Lewis - Live at the Star Club 1964
One of the most insane live recordings ever. This show is from one of Jerry Lee’s early European tours when he was battling back from the PR misadventures that destroyed his career in the late ‘50s. In the U.S., Jerry Lee had been toiling in dive bars playing brilliant versions of country songs. But here in Germany, the young audience was still fired up over primitive pounding rock n roll -- and Jerry Lee was more than willing to take the plunge into complete abandon as he furiously pummels his piano. He’ll show them the real thing (fuck those Beatles!). The set builds and builds until it is an orgy of unrestrained passion and adulation. The crowd chants “Jerry! Jerry!" until he is restored to his rightful place as the most powerful rock ‘n’ roller to ever hit the planet (what planet he came from, no one is sure). And the pain and pride he has felt since his fall from stardom comes out in every note. Essential reading : Nick Tosches’ Hellfire.
9. Gun Club - Fire of Love
Probably the most influential years on my listening were from ‘81-’86. This is when I discovered the music that I loved. I had grown up in a house dominated by jazz and older forms of American music. My brother and I got addicted to early rock ‘n’ roll when we were young kids. But then I drifted for a while, losing track of what it was in music that made me burn hot. When I first heard the Cramps it suddenly came back to me in an all consuming rush. I “understood." What I loved about these new traditionalists (Cramps, Gun Club, Tav Falco, Alex Chilton, Scientists, Beasts Of Bourbon) was they took the roots and blasted a layer of noise and distortion over everything. Fire of Love was, and is, an amazing record because it is like a flash of speed-induced inspiration. Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s vocals have a truly deep, painful presence that always bring them above imitation. They are unique. The music incorporates blues, punk and rockabilly in a way that does not ever feel dated or gimmicky. It’s the real deal. Never saw them live…never had the chance. It seemed they were gone in a flash.
10. Andre Williams - Jailbait: Fortune Recordings
What can be said about this man that has not already been said? Everything he touched in his prime recording years is filled with a power and a sleaze that exist in a category and firmament that is his alone. Somehow Andre’s presence is felt even when he is producing an instrumental. How that can be, I’m not sure, since he doesn’t, to my knowledge, play an instrument. It must be his personality. Having spent a week and a half with him touring the west coast in 2000, he was as fascinating off stage as on. A true gentleman of a quiet (and sometimes not quiet) intelligence – and the supreme partier. His shows, at their best, were improvisational masterpieces. Almost everything out of the Fortune studios is brilliant, but Andre is my favorite. I love that man.
By Dusted Magazine