“Classic Alternative” Oh for F!%k sakes,…. ! An Opinion Piece…

Running errands with my kids in tow, I was listening to a local radio station when their identification said they play “classic alternative.” Now I’m not meaning to make something out of nothing (yes I am), but – WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN!

“Alternative” as a genre was so broadly based it needed to create a plethora of sub-categories otherwise you wouldn’t know what the hell anyone was talking about. You got shoegazing, grunge, jangle-pop, indie-rock, Britpop, Madchester, industrial, gothic rock, alt-country, adult alternative, and so many more I can’t even remember on the fly because the mere thought hurts my brain.

Sure, I know what the station was getting at… I’m fucking old, and so is that genre tag! Yesterdays ‘alternative,’ was the day before yesterdays ‘classic rock.’ They want me to feel welcomed and nostalgic when I hear Nirvana and say to my kids, “I saw them back in the day.”

“Really, they’re pretty cool, in an old guy kinda way!”

“Oh yeah! This old guy might not pay for your education, if you keep up with that ‘old guy’ crap.”

“Are you sure you should talk that way to an eleven year old dad?”

“When you’re old enough to attempt sarcasm, you’re old enough to hear me say crap brainiac! Now show some respect for your elders you young whippersnapper.”

“What is a whippersnapper?”

“I don’t know! I heard Bugs Bunny say it.”

Shit… where was I… memory is getting foggy with… never you mind… Frickin’ classic alternative”

So I listen to a station that wants to attract a younger demographic. A station that sees the 90’s as a place of flannel, woolly mammoths, sabre tooth tigers and some “classic tunes.”

Oh damn I am old.

Time to sell the electric guitars and get a walker I guess.

At least, I can keep my vinyl, “kids still think that stuff is cool… right?”

Youth Anthem Gets Reissue or Supergrass – I Should Coco Twentieth Anniversary Edition (coming soon)

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Give three teenagers a bit of cash to make a record and what do they do? If they’re Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn and Danny Goffey they record Parlophone’s biggest selling debut record since the frickin’ Beatles released Please Please Me. Now, twenty years after that monumental moment, Parlophone and Rhino records are releasing an anniversary edition of the Supergrass debut I Should Coco.

Supergrass originally appeared in 1994, as a part of the Brit-Pop scene, with a sound that differentiated them from other acts by following a collection of influences. While Oasis and Blur were mining a vein of Beatles inspired melodies, Coombes & co. threw a concoction of ingredients into a blender that included the Buzzcocks, The Jam and Kinks. The result was a band that rocked louder and looser than their peers.

Their collective ages played a large part in the success of I Should Coco. Without even trying, the band created a great collection of songs that spoke to the teenage experience. “Caught By The Fuzz” was about Coombes’ bust for pot possession at age 15 and “Alright” with its opening “We are young, we run green” has continued to be a youth anthem long since the band were youths themselves. The album itself is a touchstone of the 90’s alt-rock movement and this reissue is definitely overdue.

With that in mind, both the CD and vinyl twentieth anniversary editions include some great things for fans.

The 12” re-master will be pressed on 180 gram black vinyl with cover art that has been re-photographed in high resolution from the original artwork created by The Moody Painters. It will also include a bonus 7” of the bands’ cover of Jimi Hendrix’s classic “Stone Free” which had initially been released only with the first 40,000 copies of I Should Coco. The 7” will be printed on red vinyl with a vintage reworking of the classic Parlophone red/yellow 45 label.

Alternatively, the 3 CD set will be jam packed with extras. The first disc will have the re-mastered I Should Coco. The second will contain all the b-sides that were released with their debut singles; while the third CD will include live material. Also included will be a 20 page booklet featuring one very enthusiastic live review from a 1995 Glasgow show, unpublished photos of the band and all the cover art from the singles.

To summarize, it is going to be one very cool set that fans will be eagerly waiting to get their hands on.

The 20th Anniversary Edition of I Should Coco will be released on Sept 4.

A Roller Coaster Ride! or The Vaccines – English Graffiti

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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.

The Emotional Depth of Flanging and Reverb or Ride –OX4

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There was a time before the 90’s wave of Grunge and Brit-Pop when a generation of music geeks had their collective consciousness turned towards the sounds of a UK movement dubbed “shoegaze.” Known for “wall of sound” like buzz and a variety of guitar effects it was the best possible escape for people tired of pop and hair metal but still loved loud electric guitar as the driver behind the tunes.

Ride was one of the best of the era with their own brand of songs crossed between My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths and even American avant-garde noise rockers Sonic Youth. At the beginning what attracted people to the band was the menagerie of influence pooled together under a banner of rock attitude and loud experimentation.

Unlike classic rock bands that would build a song around a guitar riff using it for the more climatic moments, Ride would use a riff like a wave over the song and change its very dynamic. If you listen to “Like A Daydream” even when the songs driving force is held back during the lyrical sequence, the guitar riff is still present as the basis for the rhythm. What changes is the tone and power with which it is played. The song itself gains more emotional resonance by the riff coasting for the duration rather than any one specific moment. At their best, this is exactly how Ride operated, a lyric of longing surrounded by shimmering guitar lines that buzz meaning with flanging and reverb.

Unfortunately, their existence was a brief eight years and it ended with internal disagreements and some half hearted attempt to go in a more ‘commercial’ direction. Some critics have claimed they fell flat looking for a more Brit-Pop sound, but honestly, after reading some of their more recent interviews, it sounds more like they just lost the motivation to be a band.

Still Record Store Day 2015 was a reminder of what brilliant music they did put out back in the day, with the vinyl re-issue of OX4: The Best Of. Three editions were released on April 18th in three major markets. The UK and Europe saw 500 copies each printed in red translucent vinyl while the North American market printed an additional 5000 copies of the same. As of last week when I was visiting record stores in Toronto I still saw copies around at the regular RSD prices.

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On a cooler note, Ride have worked out all their differences, are back together and currently touring. They’ll be hitting the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on June 2nd and are being presented by 102.1 The Edge/Spirit Of Radio.

The Nature of Withdrawal or April 26/15 Playlist

“Beneath The City Of Dreams” – Calexico

I missed out on their advance release when I wasn’t paying attention. Still, a great record I’ll probably talk about soon. Maybe even in the next few hours. They just create such great imagery.

“Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes

Reviewed this on Tuesday and it’s just so damn hard to listen to anything else. It is such an awesome piece of work I’m going to need copies for all my relevant locations.

“Bobby Jean” – Bruce Springsteen

Looked back at this earlier in the week, than I got word that a childhood friend had died; suddenly this song started making me cry. Just the idea that we never really say goodbye before people leave us, and we never have a clue what they meant until that door is forever closed.

“Just Like Anyone” – Aimee Mann

Another song about loss, except this one… well it speaks for itself.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis

Not sure what it is about this song, how it works as both depressing and up lifting at the same time. It pulled me out of a darker mood.

“The Rescue Blues (Live)” – Ryan Adams

Officially the most freakin’ expensive vinyl I own after shipping and duty charges. I wish someone would tell me how much duty I’d have to pay before I finish my order, as good as this record is I had to pay an extra frickin’ charge when UPS showed up at my door!

“I Don’t Want Control Of You” – The New Mendicants

Joe Pernice and Norman Blake were playing in town yesterday, unfortunately I wasn’t able to go, so I drowned my sorrows in their music.

“It Don’t Come Easy” – Ringo Starr

Back in university a friend and I wrote a movie script that featured this song in a very prominent position. It would have been hilarious…

“I Don’t Mind” – Sebadoh

Sebadoh just announced a show and the release of a new single… a cover of a famous Canadian single just because they love us. You can order here.

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“Real Wild Child” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

The first song off her RSD 15 offering Flashback… which rocks in case you were wondering.

“The Witch” – The Sonics

I’ll cover this song and album soon, but wow, I wish I had known about them when I was a teen.

“Ong Ong” – Blur

Off the new Blur album, I’ll have a review for ya by Tuesday.

“Blue Orchid” – The White Stripes

Posted about this album… holy cash grab, and I’m not talking about the record company or artist. Just look for Get Behind Me Satan on e-bay and you’ll understand.

“Limelight” – Rush

The original song before the Sebadoh cover arrives in May.

“Gold” – John Stewart

Sad storytelling at its AM radio best! Took me a while to find as all I had remembered was a couple lines and that Stevie Nicks was doing background vocals.

“Raspberry Beret” – Hindu Love Gods

You’ll understand why they’re included when I put the Blur review out. Besides, it’s a great cover of a great song.

“Spectacular” – Graham Coxon

Graham Coxon takes a most rockin’ riff and turns it into a sing along anthem.

“Black Nite Crash” – Ride

Think I’ll write about this album next week, so it gave me an excuse to add this song.

“Sophisticated Gentleman” – Gabby Glaser

My son used to ‘rock out’ in the backseat as we drove around and this song was playing. I actually sent a quick message to her about it and she wrote back thanking me. Seems odd getting thanks from the person who provided my son and I with the soundtrack to happy memories! Oh yeah Luscious Jackson got back together and have a kids record out, you should check it out here.

“Happy Kid” – Nada Surf

Just a damn good song by a damn good band! After the past week I needed something that would make me smile?

Insanity Blooms Eternal – April 19/15 Playlist

“Just One Of The Guys” – Jenny Lewis

This was a 7” I had a friend pick up for me on Black Friday/RSD 2014, but I only got it yesterday. It was nice to spin.

“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Was having a bit of a difficult beginning to my week after visiting a cemetery to pay a visit to… well, anyway, it got me very reflective. This song and the next popped into my head.

“It Makes No Difference” – My Morning Jacket

Out of context but the sentiment and conclusions loan themselves to mourning, so I just wrapped myself in a cocoon of sad music for a couple days and rode the whole thing out.

“Like A Daydream” – Ride

RSD 2015 find. It was a glorious day and now I’m spinning it… it’s going to be another great day!

“Dumb” – Nirvana

Was reading the interview with Francis Bean last week when this song came up and was popped right into my head.

“Bohemian Like You” – The Dandy Warhols

Another RSD 2015 find, although this song wasn’t on it… just wanted to hear it after playing the earlier album.

“Stratford-On-Guy” – Liz Phair

Another interview I found myself reading, it was interesting to hear her perspective… on so many different things.

“The Denial Twist” – White Stripes

Yes! Get Behind Me Satan was released on vinyl – finally! It will be spinning later today.

“Milk Cow Blues” – The Kinks

The b-side to “You Really Got Me” which was another of yesterdays finds.

“Ride On Josephine” – George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Currently spinning on the turntable, I’ll have a full story on this later in the week.

“State Trooper” – Bruce Springsteen

What can you say about the Boss and Nebraska? Dark and desolate it leaves little room for hope…

“Brass Buttons” – Gram Parsons

Such a beautiful frickin’ tune from a soul that left us way to soon.

“Singer Not The Song” – Alex Chilton

B-side to “Jesus Christ” on this RSD release, it just smacks of sarcasm.

“No Cities To Love” – Sleater-Kinney

The only thing I bought yesterday that had nothing to do with RSD. It sounds a 1000 times better on vinyl.

“Funplex” – The B-52’s

Another fun and sarcastic bit from the band that always makes me smile.

“The Meaning Of Soul” – Oasis

I just had to slip this in for no other reason than I felt like it.

“Superstar” – Sonic Youth

You don’t realize just how creepy this Carpenters classic is until you hear the Sonic Youth version. Spine tingling!

“The Cabbage” – Teenage Fanclub

I so badly want this record on vinyl. One of my favourites!

“When My Baby’s Beside Me” – Kelly Willis

Say what you want, it’s a great song that holds its own even when it gets a little ‘countrified’.

“You and Your Sister” – Chris Bell

Because it is a great song that I just had to put in… no other reason.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

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One doesn’t order a record off the Noel Gallagher menu and expect to be served a pretentious fine dining experience that includes things you can barely pronounce. Instead, Gallagher is a well seasoned steak served with a bed of rice and veggies you can get at your local supermarket; and in this age of ‘pop’ bullshit where the radio plays only songs that are written by committee, a good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll record is welcome.

Gallagher’s greatest gift has always been a recognizable hook backed with hummable lyrics and melody that could have been lifted from the Fab Four in ’65. Since Oasis bid adieu, NGHFB’s sound has been a little beefier than the previous band and comes without the let down of huge expectations. You get the feeling that Gallagher is enjoying himself again without the baggage that came with his former band and the sibling tension that rode with it. If he isn’t, he certainly is exorcizing the past. Like the Beatles post break-up, there seems to be messages littered throughout Chasing Dreams to the glorious past. Along with the obvious album title, songs “The Dying Of The Light”, “While The Song Remains The Same” and “You Know We Can’t Go Back” all play to the theme of times gone by, while other songs go back to Gallagher’s bread winning formula of songs for life affirmation.

As formula as one might accuse him of being, no one quite does it as well as Noel Gallagher. When he rocks out on “In The Heat Of The Moment”, “The Mexican” and “The Ballad Of The Mighty I” you can’t help but smile. Sure, like the song said, “you can’t go back”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what you have in the here and now.

If you pick this up on vinyl it also comes with a CD. Enjoy!