Pleased To Meet Me should never have worked, yet it stands tall as a masterpiece. Lead guitarist Bob Stinson was out because of substance problems and the remaining band members were stumbling at best. Paul Westerberg’s songs were all over the map, and still the album is full of such gems that you can hardly tell that they had begun to disintegrate.
Recording at Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer Jim Dickinson, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that the band sound was less their typical brilliant boozy swagger and more an awesome well practised piece of power-pop. Of course, like his hero Alex Chilton, Paul Westerberg attempts to self sabotage his own career aspirations with tunes designed to be hated. The reaction therefore is that fans and critics alike see it as a ‘sign of genius’ – ‘a change of direction’ and rightfully heap praise.
Jazz and soul undertones (“Nightclub Jitters” & “Skyway”) mixed with punk pathos (“I Don’t Know” & “Red Red Wine”) and the aforementioned power-pop gems (“Alex Chilton” & “Can’t Hardly Wait”) help to create an album that demands devotion.
So it seems strange that since its initial release in 1987, Pleased To Meet Me didn’t see a re-master and reissue until 2008. For vinyl there are only two choices, finding an original used copy, which will cost you $50 and up
the 2008 Rhino reissue on 180 gram vinyl. New and unopened copies of Pleased To Meet Me start around the $40 mark and even get some resellers asking as much as $100. While there is a new Replacements 2015 box out right now, there has been no vinyl release date set as of yet.
Your best bet is to hit your local retailers and see if you can track down the 2008 vinyl reissue while you still can.
Back in the mid 80’s when the crimping iron was king and glam-rock-metal kids wore makeup in the fashion of Poison, a movie came out that was so bad it was absolutely brilliant – Maximum Overdrive. The villain was a big rig truck wearing a Green Goblin mask, the hero was Emilio Estevez, and the director was none other than the master of horror himself, Stephen King. Trucks, lawnmowers and even vending machines turned homicidal in a film King himself would admit to being done as he was “coked out of his mind.” Ultimately it was a film that stretched “suspension of disbelief” beyond any reasonable limit.
Well, I certainly can’t say what or even if The Darkness was ‘on anything’ but it certainly takes a sense of humour to enjoy this record. The Darkness always seemed to have their tongue planted firmly in cheek, but now I have my doubts. You see, I’m not quite sure if this is a band that takes itself seriously or not anymore; and I’m not sure if their intention is rock supremacy or parody; I just know that the guitar “licks” are straight from the era of Whitesnake, White Lion and vocals are over the top cliché. The big hair 80’s had music was catchy, the subjects silly and spandex was thought to be cool.
From track number one “Barbarian” the axe swings a heavy blow against… well… it swings a mighty blow, and the falsetto screams of… well… screams. “Reducing the feeble citadels to ashes and blood stain / enslaving the sweet women folk / while every man is slain” is hilarious in its “epic-ness” as a description of story rather than storytelling itself.
Things get even more… um… colossal (that sounds good) throughout the record as The Darkness take on sounds of Queen doing the soundtrack for Flash Gordon. We are told to “open up your mighty wings and fly” in that high pitch testimonial climax on “Mighty Wings.” Regardless, it has all those metal moments of high drama and sound. You can imagine waves crashing, lightning flashing, broken hearts and quests for the nature of existence.
It isn’t that The Darkness have put out a bad record, it’s just that like Maximum Overdrive it stretches the “suspension of disbelief” beyond my capacity. Do they know they have broken the forth wall down and have in essence become a musical episode of Disney’s Phineas & Ferb? Is Last Of Our Kind a parody, and if so, who is it a parody of?
The Vaccines brand of rock ‘n’ pop has recently been conjuring comparisons to The Strokes but that is both a little obvious and not quite hitting the target. Like most bands that have a quest for timelessness in their music; they are roller coasters that shift left when you think right and ultimately bring excitement to both the peaks and valleys.
In the past they were using a bit of 60’s pop music reminiscent of the early hits of the Kinks, but with English Graffiti they seemed to have filtered it through the 80’s synth pop. “Dream Lover” is a hybrid of Brit-Pop that has more Duran Duran than Oasis in the sound. Then they get you thinking that they will let the good times roll with “20/20” which crosses the Kaiser Chiefs with Motion City Soundtrack.
With energy levels about to go through the roof they abandon it all for a Moody Blues moment in “(All Afternoon) In Love” and later in “I Want You So Bad.”
Lyrically they are pretty quick to turn a phrase and go for the biting one liner, rather than look for a character to drive the story. Album opener “Handsome” provides a pretty good case in point as they drop the line “you think that you look good in whatever they sugarcoat you in.” The song is all sarcasm and snot with a big F.U. to whomever is trying to sell bullshit for image.
The real point The Vaccines make more than any other is that they want to keep rockin’. English Graffiti isn’t life altering or earth shattering it’s just a fun rock ‘n’ roll record that you play on your way to the amusement park… and really, what more can you ask for.