Thursday, June 28, 2007

Viva Forever (Part 2)

WOW. They just look great, don't they? I'm not being facetious, either. There're too many smarmy blogs for that purpose. They truly look great and it's wonderful to see them all standing next to each other, smiling. It gave me a throat lump and a heavy sigh. Click on the picture above for a larger version.

Why do I love the Spice Girls after all those years? Well, I was 27 when they released "Spice" and I wasn't all that impressed, frankly, with their first single, "Wannabe". I thought it was crap, but the video made my jaw drop in disbelief.

It wasn't until the second video, the one for "Say You'll Be There", that I stood to attention (so to speak) and took notice. Hot girls. Check. With cool pseudonyms. Check. In the desert. Check. With super functional weapons. Check. And a tricked out car. Check.

Jesus. When you can basically give me 5 Emma Peels in a "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" setting, well, you've got my undivided attention. The song was great, too. That particular video gave me licence to actually check out the "Spice" album (which I subsequentially bought on VINYL!!!) and I found the album to be very solid. Their first album is as great a dance music / Disco album as anything released in the past 20 preceding it. That would be 1976, by the way, and would include the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. Yes,"Spice" is that good and if their image wouldn't have been so grandiose, their music might have garnered more respect. On the other hand, had their image not been so much larger than life, their cultural footprint would have been much smaller; almost negligible, in my opinion.

So, now they're back and I hope people still care. They deserve it. Don't believe me? Go back and listen to "Spice" (and to a much lesser degree, "Spice World"). It holds up. It does.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Golden Grapefruit!

OK, so I've listened to Love Psychedelico's new album, "Golden Grapefruit" about a half a dozen times in the last 30 hours or so and I'm now ready to uleash my opinion on it.

It's a good, solid offering from the 'Delico, however, it's a little underwhelming for the rabid fan, considering the 3 year wait. I do believe the casual fan and the new listerners will dig it more, though. "Golden Grapefruit" is named after their recording studio and I imagine Singer / Rhythm Guitarist Kumi has an obsession with grapefruits in general. It appeared as the subject and title of the last song on their last studio album, "III" and the fruit made an appearance (among other fruits and vegatables) in their "AHA! (All We Want)" PV. They even named one of their tours "The Grapefruit Tour"! The quirkiness of that obsession could also go a ways to explain the quirkiness of the 'Delico in general. I don't quite know how, but I'd bet the farm it does.

They seem to be the truest of anachronisms, Hippies in the best sense of the word, but they don't have any problem embracing synthesizers and modern recoding techniques. That fusion creates a sonic atmosphere that is off center and edgy, but simultaneously irresistible.

Track by Track:

"Golden Grapefruit" kicks off with "Freedom", their last single and the theme song for the NHK Baseball League. It's a classic rock raver with a jittery synth backing overlayed with bright power chord strikes from Lead Guitarist Naoki. The vocals are free and liberating as the title suggests with Kumi exclaiming "Hello!" and "Good Day!" to the listeners. The song does suffer slightly from it's extended length as it could have been trimmed of it's jamminess towards the end. Overall, though, this a high energy, top-down song to kick off the album.

The second track, "AHA! (All We Want)", was last summer's single from the 'Delico. It's a blatant rip of the classic '70's Rolling Stones sound with all of the bombast that comes with it. It's another raver spouting the virtues of Peace and Love and that's just what Love Psychedelico is all about.

Next, we finally get to a new song, "7 Days". No it's not a cover of the Cracker tune from their "Gentlemen's Blues" album nor does it have any connection to the "Ring" films. It is a hard driving rock song that shows the 'Delico rocking harder than they have since the "Together" b side from the"Aha!" Single. It's nice to hear them getting grotty and lo fi once in a while.

Then we have a beautiful "Out Of Time" era REM / Sheryl Crow -esque song entitled "Carnation". Thankfully dropping the synths for a second, the Slide Guitar and Mandolin driven slice of country is a fantastic breath of fresh air. This song is Love Psychedelico at their most potent and beautiful.

At this point, my head is scratching. Their cover of The Beatles' "Help!" is lovely and different, but should it really be on this album? It seems grotesquely out of place on an album of original and different sounding music. More on this later.

OK, os we go to another recent single, "Rain". This one wholesale steals a page out of the Led Zeppelin playbook without actually sounding like them. Make sense? No? You'll have to listen. It's a good song. Very listenable.

Then Naoki gets the spotlight for just under a minute with a instrumental ditty segue way entitled "N29". It's short sweet and I wish it was longer.

"I Saw You In The Rainbow" follows and is absolutely gorgeous. I love when Love Psychedelico tackles Country Music. There's just something about Kumi's voice matching Naoki's bubbling Guitar on a Country tune that just sends me flying. It's a heavy sigh inducing cut. Wistful and sweet with a slight electric edge. My favorite song on the album.

A hook laden shouter reminiscent of their first album's experimentation ("The Greatest Hits" -- The best debut album title ever), "Good Day, Celebration" is just a fun, funky, feel good song. The good vibes just pour from the speakers as modern speak-singing meets old school psychedelia.

Then, we go back to some hard edged 'Delico while sticking to the hearkening back of the first album. In many ways, "Humanimation" feels like their song, "LOW (v.1.1)" from "The Greatest Hits". It feels familiar in that way, but it works. Good stuff.

For some inexplicable reason, Love Psychedelico felt the need to include "Everyone, Everyone" on this album. This song debuted on their best of collection, "Early Times" back in 2005 and on the "Right Now" CD single. That brings me back to the inclusion of "Help!" on this album. I would much rather have had "Right Now" included on this disc along with "Brown Eyed Joe" (from the "Right Now" CD Single) than "Help!" and this song. Sorry guys, I love you more than anything, but overlooking more recent songs for a Beatles cover and a 2 year old song just doesn't cut it. Please don't get me wrong. "Everyone, Everyone" is a great song. It's a concert favorite and I played it to death back then, but it's grossly out of touch with the rest of the album, sound wise. I do realise, however, a casual fan just wouldn't know the difference.

Finally, "Sad Story" closes out the album. It's a pretty ballad but nothing special. It certainly doesn't close out the album like "California" closed out "Psychedelic Orchestra". That left a lingering impression on me.

So, all in all, I like the album. I like it very much, but it's not the equal of any of the previous three studio albums. Of course, I may look back on this album in a few years and say, "Wow. They just don't make them like that anymore".

I really hope I don't have to say that, though.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

This post has no focus...

I guess They're NOT Coming from all over the world!

Well, the 19th of this month came and went and there was no release of "The T.A.M.I. Show". Bastards. I was all excited, too. Remember when I said I just couldn't believe it was being released? Well, there you go. There was a reason I couldn't believe it. At least one online retailer lists the release as the 17th of next month, but virtually all other websites just have it listed as not available. Solid bummer. Oh, well, there's still my bootlegs and my 8mm print. Damn, though, I wanted to hear that commentary by Steve Binder.

Time is now converging on my 38th 28th birthday as I write this and I suppose it's some milestone. A gateway into middle age. Halftime is about over, they say. Bull**it, I say. Still, some things are nice while I'm not being reminded of my impending mortality.

The nicest thing is something I'm listening to right now. In the last moments before my birthday, I'm listening to the new Love Psychedelico album, "Golden Grapefruit". It's not coming out until the 27th, but I got an advance and it will do nicely until my import comes sailing across the Pacific. I'll hold back on a review for now, since it'll be a few thousand listens before I completely digest it, but I'll say I dig it. It's not quite their best, but it's never not a pleasure to hear Naoki's jangly guitar blending with Kumi's gorgeous vocals. Not a bad song on it so far.

Hey! there're a couple of noteworthy reunions in the works. The Spice Girls and The Brilliant Green are both regrouping for some new music and I couldn't be happier. Ok, you are undoubtedly saying, you love Tommy, so I can see why you're excited about The Brilliant Green reuniting, but the SPICE GIRLS??? Hell, yeah. I can't wait. I'm more excited about this than the Police reunion.

True, it'll be a bit of a wait before the Girls of Spice release any product, but The Brilliant Green already have a song in the pipe (reportedly entitled, "Stand By Me") and it'll be out sometime next month. Excited? You betcha. I'm breathless with anticipation to find if Tomoko can still coexist with her creations, February and Heavenly, if she decides to record another album with her band mates from BuriGuri.

I suppose I'll go to bed now to get an early start on my birthday / vacation, so please be safe out there. May all the good music be on your iPod.

T - out!

Friday, June 8, 2007

EPopMAKING is Hear!!!!!

So, like, the BEAT CRUSADERS are absolute monsters of pop punk. Absolute. They just don't seem to stop, whether it's recording, touring or guesting on other artist's recordings. Since their late 2005 release, "P.O.A. -Pop On Arrival-" (their first release on Defstar Records after leaving Lastrum), they have been involved with no less than 3 split albums with pretty diverse artists ("Booootsy" with the TOWER OF POWER-esque YOUR SONG IS GOOD, "Night On The Planet" withthe alt rock ASPARAGUS and "Cell #9" with the hard punk of TROPICAL GORILLAS), a cover album of US/UK pop nuggets entitled "MusiCrusaders", "Snowdome", a collaboration with KIMURA KAELA on her latest album, "Scratch" (not to mention showing up in her video for "Tree Climbers"; a favor she returned to them in their "Tonight Tonight Tonight" video) and recording the theme song for NickToons' "Kappa Mikey" animated series in the USA.

In more recent months, more like the better part of the past year, they've begun concentrating on proper single releases like "Tonight Tonight Tonight", "Day After Day", "Solitaire" and "Ghost" in preparation for their latest album release. Their Second album for Defstar Records was just released on May 30th, 2007 and is entitled "EPopMaking". As you may or may not know, I was completely enamoured with their last album release, "P.O.A. -Pop On Arrival-" and I sorta cringed at the thought of a new album. Not that it would be a bad album, but I didn't know how they could top it. "P.O.A." was, in my estimation, damn near perfect and it was hard to listen to just one or two songs from it. I had to listen to it ALL or it wouldn't feel right to me.

I got the new disc in the mail this past week and gave it about one, two... thousand spins. At first I was extremely apprehensive and it hurt the initial listen of the disc. By the second listen, however, I could absolutely proclaim that, if they didn't surpass their last album with this one, they at least tied with it. "EPopMaking" is another incredible album, but it's bigger, louder and has a much deeper diversity in song styles.

At 19 tracks and over an hour in length, the new CD more than fulfills the hunger the BECR fans have had since digesting "P.O.A." just over a year and a half ago. All of the singles from both their solo releases as well as their collaborative singles with the above mentioned artists are here with 11 new tracks and the "Kappa Mikey" theme ("HEYx2 LOOKx2") to boot. Were this on vinyl, it would be a solid 2 record set!

Also included in the CD package is a DVD of music videos (PVs) that are featured within a spoof news magazine style TV show that has an interviewer encountering each of the Beat Crusaders on the streets of Tokyo. Even without English subtitles, it's a grandly entertaining hour and it's made even greater that it's included in the CD package, unlike the "Phantoms of the PopEra" DVD that had to purchased separately from the "P.O.A." CD.

All in all, it was completely worth the wait. I do, of course, completely and highly recommend this release. It's an import, of course, but it can be had at an agreeable price from CDJapan (click here to go there). The disc is only approx. $26.00 and shipping isn't too bad from Japan. I have no affiliation with them, that's just where I get all of my stuff from. Oh yeah. The DVD is Region 2 encoded (NTSC). What better reason to get a Region free DVD player???

Gettit. You won't regretit.

P.S. I might add that, even though they've released a new album, they've just released ANOTHER split album with Ryukyudisko called "Nice Day" and it, too, is pretty damn great. Ladies and gentlemen, my new favorite band -- BECR, The BEAT CRUSADERS!