The new EP by Chicago-based Man Fighting Bear (“Three Songs”) sees them sustaining the moody vein of their terrific 2015 album “Waiting” and they continue to impress. While “Waiting” had the vibe of a post-John Cale Velvet Underground mixed with King Crimson and Nick Cave, “Three Songs” reminds me more of “154”-era Wire, especially on “Sand Turns to Glass” and “Stars Align.” Equally melodic and edgy, there’s a sense of eloquent dread permeating these songs that remarkably never lapses into nihilism. “Three Songs” oftentimes takes you to the edge of despair, but always holds out hope for something better. “Three Songs” is emotional without being maudlin, realistic without being cynical, and hopeful without being naive. It’s tremendously mature and very cool. Dave says “Check it out!”
300 years ago when I was a college student, I had an apartment-mate who had a stellar collection of South American music. I heard a lot of great tunes that year, but the standout record was an album called “Que País É Este” (translation: What Country is This) by a Brazilian band named Legião Urbana (translation: Urban Legion). Many of the songs would be classified as punk, but there were also elements of folk, classic rock, pop, reggae, and country. If I were to say who they sounded like, I would say the Clash, R.E.M., Social Distortion, the Cure, the Replacements, the Smiths, Bob Dylan, etc. However, comparing them to anyone would diminish the fact that Legião Urbana sounds like Legião Urbana. They sound like everyone and no one else.
I meant to tape a copy of that album before the end of that school year, but didn’t get around to it because I always assumed I could take care of it quickly. But … I didn’t.
I searched for this album for years and couldn’t find it. Part of the problem was that I thought Legião Urbana was an Uruguyan band. Spanish is the primary language in Uruguay, but Portuguese is the primary language of Brazil. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t remember the name of the band, only a wrong English translation (“Urban League”). To make a long story short, I finally found the album today on Spotify … and it’s better than I remember. Much better.
The only album I can compare it to is the Clash’s “London Calling,” in that it combines a diverse mix of influences to create brilliant, punchy, unforgettable songs. Much of it (especially the first side) sounds punk, but there are melodies, hooks, and acoustic instruments.
Side two is where it really gets diverse, the centerpiece of which is “Faroeste Caboclo,” a nine-minute epic about a poor man who moves from the country to the big city, gets involved with crime, suffers tremendously for it, temporarily finds redemption, but then gets sucked back in. You can read a synopsis of the song here:
I don’t understand a word of Portuguese, but it’s a beautiful song that starts off as a folk ballad and then rises in intensity with electric guitars slashing away. It’s an epic track that is the equal of other rock epics like The Who’s “A Quick One,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” and Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia.” Actually, lead singer Renato Russo intended this to be his “Hurricane” (Bob Dylan’s classic song about boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter).
“Que País É Este” is an amazing, classic album from start to finish. It’s already legendary in Brazil. It should be legendary worldwide. Dave says “Check it out!”
Believe it or not, this was a Top 20 hit in the US and a Number 2 hit in the UK back in 1970. Two of the key members of Hotlegs (Kevin Godley and Lol Creme) later became pivotal members of the band 10CC (“I’m Not in Love,” “The Things We Do For Love”) and then later went on to greater fame as music video directors in the early MTV era (The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” and Duran Duran’s notorious X-rated “Girls of Film”). Note the “neanderthal” women who appear later in the clip are wearing knee-high leather boots. My only question is why didn’t the notorious SF punk rock band Flipper record a 4-hour version of this song?
Local H are a terrific example of a band that had one hit album (1995’s “As Good as Dead”), never achieved the same commercial success again, but stayed in the picture creating a later body of work that equaled, if not eclipsed, their best-known effort.
“12 Angry Months” from 2008 is a 12-song concept album about a difficult romantic breakup spread out over the course of a year. The central theme is not only the range of emotions that accompany such a breakup, but the fact that the other party thrives and excels after the breakup. It effectively portrays every conceivable emotion and stage that such an event encompasses: anger, sorrow, bitterness, jealousy, overcompensation, pettiness, despair … and … centered, but pointed self-analysis.
I don’t want to give away all the highlights, but here’s a few of my favorites:
The opening song “January: The One With ‘Kid'” starts off melancholy, the narrator sadly asking the now ex how their mutual friends will be divided up and then shifts mid-track into a brutal, angry punk screed cataloging of which albums / CDs belong to which party. Yes, this is petty, but in a breakup, even if you know a split is coming, the eventual break can still be a shock to the system and one does not always act in the best of ways.
“February: Michelle Again” chronicles the pain with having to discuss the breakup with friends … endlessly.
“May: The Summer of Boats” is a relatively calm, but painful track with the narrator dealing with the news that his ex is moving to another city. Key lyrics: “Life was perfectly sad … It’s perfectly sadder now” and “You’re moving on to Salt Lake … and no one will ask why.”
“June: Taxi-Cabs” is the inevitable next scene, with the narrator self-medicating, partying, and engaging in one night stands to block out the pain. Key lyrics: “Welcome back, hijack a stool, your favorite bar with souls you know. And forward fast to 4 a.m., a Nilsson disc covered in blow.”
“August: Jesus Christ! Did You See the Size of that Sperm Whale?” is what happens when one encounters the ex … looking great and doing much better than the narrator is. And of course, the narrator disparages the improvements his ex has made, spitting out ‘And to think I used to f–k you!”
“September: Simple Pleas” is the inevitable come down from such anger. A rare moment of self-awareness and acknowledgment of despair. Key line: “I always said you were too good, I always said you were too good, I always said you were too good … and now you believe … I think I always knew that you were gonna leave.”
“December: Hand to Mouth” is the epilogue where the narrator fully comes to terms with what has happened over the last year. The narrator may not be happy, but you sense there’s been growth and that he might handle things differently the next time he’s in a relationship. Key lyrics: “You’ll learn what really matters … you’ll know what really counts … you’ll hear the chitter-chatter they say … when you’re living hand-to-mouth.”
I may have painted “12 Angry Months” as a painful album. In many ways it is, but it’s also hysterically, blackly amusing. This is the musical equivalent of Woody Allen’s brilliant 1992 film “Husbands and Wives” … caustic, brutal, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and very funny at times.
I’ve loved the Eagles of Death Metal since I first heard them on Sirius Underground Garage back in 2005. They’ve always been a band that’s deserved more recognition than they’ve gotten over the years and I’m sad to see that the most attention they’ve ever received was due to their inadvertent role in the Paris terrorist attacks (they were the band playing at Bataclan when terrorists attacked and multiple people were killed). I hope these unfortunate events don’t sour people on one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of the last 20 years.
Yes, the Golden Earrings are the same band that later became Golden Earring who had huge hits with “Radar Love” in 1974 and “Twilight Zone” in 1982. However, the band has been around since 1961, and are one of the few bands from that era that’s still around and still basically intact. Formed in Holland, Golden Earring is one of that country’s most popular bands, with a consistent stream of huge hits / albums for nearly 50 years.
“Just a Little Bit of Peace in My Heart” is from 1968 and it’s a stunner. A terrific slice of baroque pop, a genre that the Bee Gees (of the late 1960s) had the most success with, “Heart” is a magnificent 5-minute pop epic about a difficult break-up. Yes, much of this may seem overdone, but I love it. This was a huge hit in Holland and almost no where else. But it should’ve been a huge hit and a staple on Oldies stations worldwide.
I’m not sure what’s going on with this video with female go-go dancers jumping up and down on a trampoline. Let’s just say it’s in line with the other odd European pop music shows of the era, but the frolicking is in direct contradiction to the sad lyrics and baroque instrumentation. Anyway, try to appreciate this first with your eyes closed … and then drink in the clueless visuals, which are funny in a retro way, but unfortunately diminish the power of “Heart” slightly.
Sorry to disagree with my lovely wife, but Aerosmith never moved mountains for me. Don’t get me wrong. I liked them, but never loved them. Except … there are 4 songs that make me doubt my position: “Sweet Emotion,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Cryin’,” … and “Chip Away the Stone.” I actually didn’t hear “Stone” until a month or so ago and I WAS COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY! Seriously, “Stone” needs to be the song in constant rotation on radio, instead of “Rag Doll,” “Angel,” or any of the other 12 songs that need to be buried like a dead horse that’s too worn for the glue factory. This is, in my opinion, their best song. Why this never raised a bigger ruckus, I’ll never know. If you think you’re tired of Aerosmith (and I seriously bitched about their omnipresence on at least 10 Sirius Satellite radio stations months ago), check this sucker out! I’m not quite ready to join the Aeroforce, but I’m considering …
Man Fighting Bear is a hard band to categorize. In many of the songs on their 2015 album “Waiting,” you hear the influence of artists as diverse as Joy Division, Deep Purple, Brian Eno, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, King Crimson, the Rotary Connection and Leonard Cohen, sometimes within the same song. But the one band that comes to mind the most when I hear “Waiting” is the Velvet Underground, especially the legendary post-John Cale concerts they recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco that eventually were released as the classic “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album in 1974.
“Waiting” is one of those wonderfully cool albums where you can never tell where the band is going to go next. For example, the song “Into the Light” starts off as a beautiful Leonard Cohen-inspired hymn and then, approximately 2-minutes in, a wonderfully dirty-sounding organ kicks the church door open like a drunken interloper, though its inclusion is actually more seamless and organic than the opening shock would indicate. And this is why the Velvets come to mind: Man Fighting Bear blend the sacred with the profane brilliantly to produce a complex sound full of sonic surprises.
Another standout track is “Jupiter” which starts out sounding like a loose, funky Booker T. and the MG homage and then segues into a wonderfully transcendent organ driven-jam that sounds like, yes you guessed it, the climax of the Velvet’s amazing “What Goes On” and “Ocean” from the “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album.
“Breathe” sounds like Brian Eno producing a Nick Cave cover of a Joy Division song, which is musical heaven by any stretch of my imagination:
If you want to hear the rest of the album, please check it out at the link below and more importantly, if you dig what you hear, you are strongly encouraged to purchase this from iTunes or Amazon.
This is a stand-out album that is eccentric in the best sense of the word. It’s music like this that inspired me to start not only my blog, but Dave’s Strange Radio. Many kudos to Bill Beach, Chris Beach, and Erik Fagrelius for one of my favorite albums of this year.
All suburban white boy skateboarders from the 1980s remember the infamous Suicidal Tendencies’ song “Institutionalized,” the one about the teenager who just wanted a Pepsi, but whose parents just wouldn’t listen and wanted to stick him in a mental institution. Well, Ice-T and his band Body Count have brought the song up to date to 2015 adulthood. And damn, if this update doesn’t resonate. This may not be safe for work, but nothing has made me laugh harder in the last several days. Except … apologies to Ice-T and his anger issues in this video, I would choose having sex with the wife featured in this video than playing X Box.