A cabbage rolls across the stage and the band played on… or Teenage Fanclub – Thirteen

thirteentf

(True story – an over enthusiastic fan once rolled a cabbage across the stage as Teenage Fanclub played “The Cabbage” during a tour of Japan. Guess they didn’t get the heartbreaking translation of that particular tune.)

On the heels of a very successful Bandwagonesqe and a huge Saturday Night Live appearance Teenage Fanclub released Thirteen. It was rich with harmonies, had awesome songs, and Kurt Cobain was quoted as calling the Fannies the “Best Band in the World.” So with all that is it any surprise that in October 1993 the band that took in the award for Spin’s #1 Record of 1991 faced a backlash from critics. Thirteen wasn’t just disliked by rock writers, it was destroyed.

It didn’t make sense to me then, and in retrospect most critics have turned their opinion around to treat it more like a classic; one that I have always thought wasn’t just a great record, but ultimately stands of one of my favourite all time albums. It has the pop sensibilities of Big Star, the guitar effects of the “shoegaze” era and the driving bass of the 90’s alt rock period. It was a full package record that could be comical (“Commercial Alternative”) one moment and heartbreaking (“The Cabbage”) another.

So what are the vinyl options?

Limited…

The original 1993 pressing was only done for audiences in the UK and Europe on standard black vinyl. Used copies can be found for around $30.00 dollars and up. Actually I saw an autographed copy for about a $100, but once you add shipping… well… it’s a little more than most of us would spend.

On the other hand, Thirteen was remastered and reissued in 2011 for US fans by Org Music. The first batch was 180 gram white vinyl while everything after was 180 gram black wax. So far I have yet to see any complaints about sound while trolling the internet audiophile sights. Prices start around $30 but some resellers are jacking prices up as availability has begun to dwindle.

Really, Teenage Fanclub created a body of work that is power-pop bliss and Thirteen is a perfect example of a genre defining record that really deserves more respect than it received. You really should give it a listen.

Advertisements

Between My Heart & My Brain A Battle Rages or The Eagles Studio Albums 1972 -1979

eagles1

Sitting uncomfortably on a fence is not a pleasant place to be. It isn’t that I’m worried about outside opinions at this point in my life. My friends and relations will still be the same regardless of my commentary on the Eagles. Although, I know that many would be in shock to find me not coming to the defence of my once favorite band and side with critics on many levels… but still…

I spent a decent amount of cash to buy this limited (5000 copies) edition copy of the Eagles Studio Albums all of which have been re-mastered for this 180 gram audiophile vinyl re-release of their six albums proper. Six studio albums that were inspired by the sounds and formula laid out entirely by others and turned from coal into diamonds by the combo of Henley/Frey and associates.

eagles2

The best explanation for why a large group of people hate the Eagles was best represented in the Big Lebowski by “the Dude” himself. On the other hand, the cab driver in that same scene shows exactly how much a ‘real’ Eagles fan wants to hear that… not only can a ‘real’ Eagles fan not comprehend your criticism, but they could resort to violence just to get you to “shut the fuck up.”

So about this fence… well in one previous blog I spoke about my past and reviewed Eagles Live… sort of. It’s just that those thoughts and feelings come from a decade when I had my head stuck up the ass of classic rock. While it wasn’t called “classic rock” in the 80’s, it was a genre type that most people recognize today that encompasses a large amount of bands that rose to prominence in the 60’s, 70’s and a bit into the 80’s and then stopped cold. In the world of ‘Rock Radio’ it was if music stopped being made one day. I’m not sure what day that was. Maybe it was the death of John Lennon or John Bonham; maybe it was when Van Halen became Van Hagar; maybe it was the release of one too many Asia records; whatever the reason… “Rock Radio” became “Classic Rock Radio” and the airwaves became filled with, well – crap. That is when the fence went up.

It isn’t that I hated the music I had once loved. That couldn’t happen. But I did get bored. Seven thousand, nine-hundred and thirty-seven listens to the same songs by the same bands just made me search for something new instead of being fed the same old shit. So, my cassette copies of the Eagles sat in plastic racks by the stereo gaining dust while I listened to Dinosaur Jr. Boston sat quietly in a box while Nirvana (yes I know what you’re going to say) was spinning on a nice carousel CD player. And… Uncle Tupelo had me searching out the influences to the band I once loved (the Eagles), because they offered those similarly influenced groups praise where the Eagles rarely did.

Here’s the thing, I never heard Henley or Frey once refer to Gram Parsons. Sure they dropped the names of the Burritos and the Byrds, but… not the guy who convinced them to go in that country direction. That’s just something that, to quote Homer Simpson, “grinds my gears”. Then there is the soulless nature of the music. Sure Frey can turn a phrase, and Henley can go all epic about the death of the American dream or environmental causes… BUT, it all seems very manufactured. Manufactured in a way that manipulates an emotional response like so many animated Disney films that would rather create your response than allow a story to ‘move you’ by a true emotional connection to the subject matter.

Oh… I hear ya. You want a better example. OK, I can do that.

“The Long Run” is a classic boy meets girl, boy might lose girl cliché driven song. It is harmony gold sung by a great vocalist and given power by an amazing band. You can hum, sing along and even play air guitar to it, but in the end it says shit-all about the truths of being in that relationship. “We can handle some resistance, if our love is a strong one…” is hardly what one would see as depth.

“Thirteen” is a classic boy meets girl, boy might lose girl song. It is driven by the desperation of young person who hasn’t got a clue how the world works and just wants to be with the girl he has fallen for. The first two lines as sung by Alex Chilton blow the crap out of the tired cliché by giving it desperation and emotional resonance. Without the benefit of harmony vocals and big honkin’ guitar solo (which they were quite capable of doing), Big Star stick to an acoustic guitar and a singer who places himself in the part.

In the end, what has me buying Eagles records is nostalgia, what has me buying Big Star records is a connection with the music.

Anyway…

I’m not regretting buying the box. In fact, I was rather blown away by the quality of the recording to vinyl. Using “Witchy Woman” from the debut Eagles record and listening to my old cassette, a CD, Spotify, and the 180 gram vinyl, the wax wins by far. It has a clear and crisp detail that just doesn’t even come close on a digital transfer, and seeing as my tape was 30+ years old, and crossed the country a couple times over, its best days were left behind a few miles back.

If you’re a fan, you will love the box, I do, but at the same time, I love discovering new things even more, and the Eagles didn’t offer that even when they were one of the biggest bands on the planet.