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Listed: Gem Club + Rocket From the Tombs

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: the promising Boston duo Gem Club and underground rock legends Dave Thomas and Cheetah Chrome.

Listed: Gem Club + Rocket From the Tombs

Gem Club

Gem Club is Christopher Barnes and Kristen Drymala, two classically trained musicians out of Boston, who make a hushed, evocative music out of cello, drums, piano, orchestral instruments and Barnes’ eerie androgynous voice. Echoing the quietest, most intense forebears – Low, the XX, Young Marble Giants – Gem Club conjures memory, contemplation and existential drift in songs that are sparse in instrumentation but lush in surpressed emotion. In her upcoming Dusted review, Jennifer Kelly called their debut, Breakers “a gorgeous oddity, one of the year’s most arresting albums of any kind, and hinting… at the potential for even better material ahead.”

1. Kate Bush - Aerial
When I think about Kate Bush, Hounds of Love is the first thing that comes to mind. That record really means a lot to me. Its brilliant and I find myself coming back to it frequently over the years. I’ve been listening to Aerial a lot since it came out. Its so full, like a giant beautiful painting, but at the same time it somehow sounds isolated. The thing I most admire about Kate Bush is that she has such a unique vision for her work. She continuously puts out these fully realized albums that are innovative and timeless.

2. Low - Secret Name
Low is one of my favorite bands. This was their first outing on Kranky. It is so warm and beautifully produced. In the writing and in the arrangements it feels as if every note was carefully chosen and there’s a beautiful use of space and silence. The vocal harmonies are stunning and the melodies are simple and moving. This is one of my favorite records.

3. Bjork - Homogenic
I remember the week when this record came out I got a really bad haircut at the barbershop in New Hampshire. Besides that, Mark Bell is a genius. I read that Bjork wanted this record to sound like "rough volcanoes with soft moss growing all over it.” That’s such a fantastic image and does justice in describing the songs on the record. And the Alexander McQueen cover? Yes.

4. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
I remember playing this record in my first apartment here in Boston. I had just moved from Maine and was hanging out with a lot of djs and electronic musicians at the time. I used to lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling with this record on. I think there was a lot of that going on at that time.

5. This Mortal Coil - It’ll End in Tears
Only 4AD and Ivo Watts Russell could pull something like This Mortal Coil off. All of the albums are so expressive in their own right. I settled on It’ll End in Tears in large part because of Elizabeth Fraser’s covers of Another Day and her incomparable take on Song to the Siren. It was an incredible time for many of the artists featured on this record. I also think a lot of what is happening now is an echo of records like this.

6. Cocteau Twins - Garlands
So this goes hand in hand with This Mortal Coil. I think Cocteau Twins are one of the most ingenious bands, and Elizabeth Fraser one of the most gifted vocalists, of our generation. A lot of people don’t like this record. People find it too repetitive. I listened to this a lot in high school, a friend of mine hated this so much she threw the tape out of my car while we were driving down the highway. I think its an amazing and aggressive record and is really set apart from a lot of their other work. Its stark and cold, but the music is so image heavy. It’s brilliant.

7. Cat Power - What Would the Community Think
This is a record I listen to a lot when I’m driving. The title track and "In this Hole" are two of the most simple, poignant, beautiful songs she’s written.

8. Songs: Ohia - Black Album
Jason Molina is such a powerful songwriter and this was a courageous debut record. Much like Low, I feel like there’s a ton of restraint in the performance. I found out about this record from Scout Niblett, who I met at a bar here in Boston when she was playing in support of her I Am record. She and Songs: Ohia had recently done that split Lioness / Miss My Lion, and she had recommended them highly.

9. Scout Niblett - Sweet Heart Fever
Though I prefer the version on the 7” “Miss My Lion” is what got me listening to Scout Niblett. I also enjoy the track "Wide Shoulders.” This is a record full of longing and loneliness. It’s minimal and revealing. There’s also a lot of great songwriting going on here.

10. Jeff Buckley - Live a l’Olympia
This record is overwhelming. I refused to put Grace on this list because there’s nothing I could say about how incredible it is that would have any meaning to anyone. There is something about Jeff Buckley’s voice that makes it seem like time has stopped. His performances are flawless and passionate.

Rocket From the Tombs

The story is the stuff of myth and legend: It was 1974 and up from the industrial wasteland of Cleveland’s Flats emerged a raw rock-&-roll beast that brought Beefheartain weirdness in line with Detroit’s unholy rama lama. The band was Rocket from the Tombs, and though the original classic line-up--built around Craig Bell, Cheetah Chrome, David "Crocus Behemoth" Thomas, and the late great Peter Laughner--was around for less than a year, it would spawn two of punk rock’s most influential bands, in the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu, and create a template for visceral rock thump still revered to this day. Since 2003, the Rockets have been performing in a revamped form (with Television’s Richard Lloyd replacing Laughner and longtime Pere Ubu drummer Steve Mehlman on drums). The band released its first studio album of new material in nearly forty years this month with Barfly. For this week’s listed, Cheetah Chrome and David Thomas graciously take us back to the beginning and tell us what records made the Rocket take off.

David Thomas

1. MC5 - Kick Out The Jams
Everything you need to know about rock music is contained, demonstrated or illustrated in this record. Technically it’s (musically) a mess. Just proves that an audience (me, in this case) doesn’t know and doesn’t care about "playing well."

2. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Mirror Man
I know and admit that Trout Mask Replica is the work of genius but I never LIKED it as much as Mirror Man. "Tarotplane" is the song I could never get out of my head. "Mice in the radiators, razors in the clay" - one of the two most influential lyric lines. Can’t tell you why. And why should I be able to?

3. Iggy & the Stooges - Funhouse
For learning what rock music is all about, this is a close-run second to Kick Out The Jams.

4. Iggy & The Stooges - The Stooges
The album that contains the other most influential lyric line I’d ever heard: "It’s 1969, okay, all across the USA." And, yes, I mean it. Rock lyrics are not naive poetry bolted onto primitive folk rhythms. Rock lyrics were something new and different. This line showed it to me. As a writer I learned all I needed form Hemingway. As a lyric writer it was "1969."

5. Ken Nordine - Word Jazz
How to construct short stories with sound and music. "Flibberty-Jib Man" condensed the essence of what the rock narrative is about, or the abstract of what a lead singer is about.

6. Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention - Uncle Meat
A deeply flawed album in many ways but I didn’t know it at the time, or couldn’t tell. Demonstrated that ambition should be the ambition.

7. V/A - Nuggets
This album came out long past my youth but it contains all the stuff I really liked at the time. "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine endlessly fascinated me.

8. The Beach Boys - Smiley Smile
I would listen to this all the time in the White Panthers commune I lived in for a little while. Demonstrated that ambition should be the ambition but also delivered the goods in the long run.

9. Curtis Mayfield - Superfly
This was the other album I listened to all the time in my brief stay in the commune. Production and sound are deep and entrancing. Great voice.

10. Roy Orbision - Best Of Roy Orbision
This is the singer I most wanted to be like. Which is absurd, of course. Maybe I can do it now but then it was way beyond my grasp.

Cheetah Chrome

1. The Beatles - Meet the Beatles
The first album I ever owned, and one I still blast regularly. Anyone who thinks the Beatles weren’t punk doesn’t know punk. I get the same rush from “ I Saw Her Standing There” as from anything by the Ramones.

2. The Rolling Stones - Got Live If You Want It
For some reason I just really loved this record, and would play along with it for hours when I was first learning how to play guitar. "I’ve Been Loving You Too Long" in particular has always been a favorite.

3. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
I guess I love this record for the same reason everyone else I know does!

4. The Stooges - Funhouse/ Raw Power
These albums were universes unto themselves for me, a place that I could hide from the world; each listen was a visit to another planet, where the natives and I spoke the same language. A joint, a couple of ‘ludes, a pair of headphones and the new issue of Creem were the perfect complement to a listen.

5. New York DollsNew York Dolls
A primer in rock and roll attitude, perfect for an 18 year old dropout like myself! I learned this one inside out.

6. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Framed
They don’t make ‘em like Alex anymore, and the world is not as cool because of it. Zal Cleminson became a huge influence on me , and you can add all other SAHB discs to this list if you’d like. Still in steady rotation on the Chrome iPod.

7. Mott the Hoople - Mott
One of my favorite live bands. Ian Hunter wrote a great bunch of songs here, and Mick Ralphs plays his ass off.

8. Cockney Rebel - The Psychomodo
A record I was very into when in the original version of Rocket from the Tombs. Another one, like Funhouse, with its own distinct vibe. No other album sounds like it.

9. Alice Cooper - Love it To Death
What a great fucking band, what a great fucking record!

10. The MC5 High Time
It’s hard to pick a favorite MC5 record, but over the years this one has stuck with me the most. The songs, the band, It’s all there. But add the other two to the list as well, they belong here!

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