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Finn.

Guest post by Dave Danglis

Everyone Is Here, the new Finn Brothers release, has been out for nearly a week -- so it's time for a review.

Keep in mind that this reviewer is a heavy-duty Finn fan. His collection contains every Split Enz, Crowded House, Neil and Tim studio release, plus a number of rarities and live projects, and the highly-recommended Crowded House Dreaming: The Videos DVD. So you know this will be an impartial review.

Everyone Is Here will make my year-end "Best of" list. You should buy a copy.

Not much to add to that...

But I guess I should attempt to at least describe the album. Everyone Is Here is pretty much what one would expect from Tim and Neil -- beautiful melodies, perfect harmonizing on the vocals, loads of mood and emotion. There are few surprises -- put Tim's Feeding the Gods and Neil's One All in a blender, add Mitchell Froom on production, puree, and pour. (Mmm, that's good bass!)

The CD does depart somewhat in atmospherics. This album doesn't have the warm and gloomy sound of Neil's Try Whistling This, nor does it exhibit the spit-polish production of Woodface. Being fond of both of those recordings, I was a tad disappointed at first, but decided to accept Everyone Is Here for what it is, rather than reject it for what it is not. And what it is, most obviously, is an exhuberant, upbeat and positive collection of songs.

I've mentioned this before on this blog site, but here goes again: I'm amazed at the great things these two manage to say after being at it for so long. Sure, the Finns are huge, at least in certain parts of the world -- what would they have to complain about? Then again, Tim's star has fallen*, and Neil may have been forgotten by the mainstream after Crowded House was unable to capitalize on the success of their first album. I've read the books about these guys (oh yeah, in addition to all the CDs, I own about four books) and they've risen and fallen on the waves of rock fame. But they still have worthy things to tell us, and that's what they set out to do on Everyone Is Here. You won't find any traces of rock bitterness, sarcasm, or anger -- just what sounds like genuine love, commitment, care, gratitude and hope. Perhaps even virtue. And that's where this album ultimately succeeds. Oh, and it's catchy as hell.

Now if anyone can tell me what "All God's Children" is about, please post it here.

*On this topic, for a good laugh, check out Tim's video for "Death of a Popular Song" on Feeding the Gods.


The Thin Mercury Sound

Something happened to the band Caviar. They put out their debut CD on Island about 4 years ago…with exposure on a soundtrack or two and had a minor hit with the song Tangerine Speedo, then poof…they were gone.

Now they magically reappear with a new album called The Thin Mercury Sound. Only this album sounds like a completely different band. It’s so much better than the first CD, and sounds so different, I’m thinking they probably should have worked out a name change in those 4 years.

Caviar is a Chicago-based band that combines Modern Rock, Power Pop and 80’s synth sounds with sampling and a heavy dose of UK influence. The Euro sound show’s up in the vocal style and the use of keyboards and samples. But their first record relied too much on this and was almost too slick. The songs weren’t there and didn’t always feel natural. On this new release you’ve got a number of really great songs, including the first single, On The DL, which has a killer chorus that sounds like it was lifted right off of a SELF record. In fact, fans of the band Self and the now defunct Spongebath Records label should love this one.

I only have two complaints about this CD. First of all it’s too long, which is a real pet peeve of mine. They needed to cut 5 songs off of this record. Great pop records can go on too long and this one definitely suffers from that. Even though there are only 15 tracks, 5 of them should have stayed off and been used and bonus tracks or as a download perk for fans. I think bands that take so much time between records often suffer from this. You should leave us wanting more, not skipping tracks. Which brings us to my other complaint…the track sequence is horrible. To me, they put all the weakest songs on the first half of the record. The best cuts are tracks 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, and 15.

In light of the whole album, my complaints are actually pretty minor. The songs that are good here are great. This one should easily make my top-ten list for the year. Great quirky pop!


So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star?

How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales…

This is the sub-title of the new book So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter. This book is a must-read for ALL music fans, artists and those who work in the music industry. It may be the best book on the subject ever written, mostly because of its unique perspective. Jake is the drummer from the band Semisonic and his writing style, point of view and honest approach to the subject matter all combine for a very entertaining read. I read through the first half in one sitting.

This is a fascinating tale of one musician’s struggle to make it in the music business and how once he got what he though he wanted, it wasn’t what he thought it would be. This isn’t the typical tale of a band breaking it big then self-destructing on booze, drugs and women. This is closer to the reality of what’s really going on. Who knew that reality would be even more entertaining? This makes all the episodes of Behind the Music look like trite garbage. Here we get to experience first hand what it’s like to be in a band that gets signed to a major label, dropped and resigned to another, all before they’ve recorded their first record. We get to experience that band finally getting a huge hit and selling a couple million records…but most importantly, we get to see how after selling millions, they’re still in debt to the record company.

If you don’t already know it, you’ll find out exactly how radio promotions, photo shoots, recording sessions and videos are REALLY handled by major labels, and even if you feel you’re in the know, it’s a real trip to see it played out in such detail. I’ve read many books about bands and about the music industry, and I’ve never read one that so accurately captures what it’s really like. With vivid and often humorous detail Jake takes us on a wild ride, a fascinating new thing that takes us right up to closing time and beyond.

For more info on the book go here: www.semisonic.com


I must be getting old

Guest Post by Dave Danglis

It's been a good year for revisiting my musical past, with two excellent compilations enjoying high rotation in these parts: 10cc, The Complete UK Recordings and Deaf School, What a Way to End it All. Both of these bands were major faves during my high school years of 1976-1978, and both are duly celebrated herein.

And today we are being favored with a CD combining Godley & Creme's Music from Consequences and L.

10cc should need no introduction here, but just in case you're thinking to yourself, "Ain't that the band that did 'I'm Not in Love?'" well, you're right, but if that's all you know, then you need more of an education. The only thing that song has in common with the rest of 10cc's output is its uniqueness. These guys were pop masters, with albums (and even individual songs) careening wildly from style to style. It's a shame their glory years were so brief, resulting in only four full-length studio releases. After the split, we learned that the sum was greater -- neither the Stewart/Gouldman version of 10cc nor the Godley & Creme off-shoot managed to produce anything exhibiting the creative (and fun) vibrancy of the original lineup.

Admittedly, the two halfs did have their moments. You can explore that thought for yourself with the G&C Consequences/L CD. Consequences nearly destroyed G&C's career. Kevin Godley in particular has some rather interesting things to say about the whole experience; see www.othermachines.org/blint/. Music from Consequences was original label Mercury Records' attempt at making the 3-disc behemoth somewhat more accessible. L was G&C's reaction to their own overblown efforts on Consequences.

And then there's Deaf School. If you're a fan of Langer/Winstanley production work, then you probably already know that Deaf School was Clive Langer's first major label gig. And what a blast this band was -- manic pop brilliance. Their entire studio output has been compiled on a 2-disc set from Castle Records; the comp was actually released last year but I didn't find out about it until recently. Joy!

Listening to this stuff reminds me of what an interesting time the mid- to late-1970s were, musically speaking. Sure, if you only consider what radio was playing in those days, you might be excused for dismissing the era. But not far off the beaten path you'll find excellent curiosities like these. Consider the year 1976: 10cc, How Dare You. The first Deaf School album, 2nd Honeymoon. Split Enz, Second Thoughts (called Mental Notes in the U.S.). ELO, A New World Record. Sparks...um...well, okay, Sparks was having an off year with Big Beat, but we still had the previous year's Indiscreet to keep us happy.

It all makes me wonder what music might have been like had Punk not come to the forefront that year. Of course, without Punk, we might have missed New Wave, at least the way it turned out; and after a little bit of hesitancy, I personally embraced New Wave whole-heartedly.

If nothing else, it just goes to show that music was going nuts in the 1970s. We could use another era like that today.

That, and a decent Gruppo Sportivo comp. (Oh, I know there are GS comps out there. I mean a comp with the right song selection; that is, the songs I like. That, and priced to move.)


Who Killed The Zutons?

It’s especially bold for a band named The Zutons to use this question for the title of their debut album. This could come across as a taunt or a dare to many critics and potential fans, but those sinister thoughts will melt away after the first listen.

The second question that will be asked is “Who are The Zutons?” The quick answer is a five-piece band from Liverpool, but there’s so much more going on here. The songs and the sound are the story.

Lead singer and guitarist David Mc Cabe says the band influences range from the Talking Heads to Devo to Sly and The Family Stone. While they actually don’t sound a lot like any of these, you can hear the influences here and there. I’ll also mention some similarities to early Oingo Boingo, and as the King of Music Jim Worthen pointed out, the sax on a few of the tracks makes them sound like the Wallets, a Minneapolis band from the early 80’s. Whatever the influence, this band is the definition of unique. So many bands these days wear the influence on their sleeves and can be wholly defined using the term retro. Somehow The Zutons manage to sound completely fresh and original while melding some very cool retro sounds into their music.

The opening track is called “Zuton Fever” and it let’s you know what this band is all about. You’ll want to go back and listen to it again before getting to the rest of the album. It’s so refreshing and different. The next track, which is probably the most single friendly, continues with more high-energy madness. If you watch the wild zombie video for this track you’ll think you’re listening to a new wave power pop version of The Cramps or Oingo Boingo.

As the album progresses it eventually settles down a bit, but never loses it’s otherworld feel. From the band name to the album cover to the music this band is comic book cool.

Who Killed The Zutons? is out now in the U.K. and will be out on Epic Records in the U.S. this fall. This would be my pick for the next big thing to hit these shores.

Find out more here: www.thezutonsusa.com


Future Soundtrack for America

What if there was a CD that featured new songs by your favorite bands and it was being sold at a low price with proceeds going to benefit a great cause? Wonder no more, because the Future Soundtrack for Americais here. This is a 22 track compilation CD with new and exclusive previously unreleased tracks from They Might Be Giants, Fountains of Wayne, Death Cab for Cutie, OK Go, David Byrne, Mike Doughty (of Soul Coughing), R.E.M., Ben Kweller, The Flaming Lips and many more! I’ve listened to a few of the samples online and heard a couple of the songs on XM radio and they’re excellent. They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh conceived the project as a fundraising tool for the excellent MoveOnPac.org. The disc is being released by Barsuk Records. There’s also a book from McSweeney’s with a similar political theme and title that comes with a copy of the CD.

The official release date for the Future Soundtrack for America is next week, Tuesday, August 17. If you’re interested you can click on the album cover in the upper left-hand corner of this site and you can follow the links to the Amazon page where there are sound clips and a review. This is REALLY good stuff people. I mean, the line-up alone is hard to believe, and the songs I’ve heard are very good. Highlights include an OK Go cover of the Zombies This Will Be Our Year, Ben Kweller’s hilarious Jerry Falwell Destroyed the Earth and a great new song from one of my favorite singers, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing fame.


Coming Up (was Download Now...)

It looks like many of the years best CD’s haven’t even come out yet. This month we can look forward to the new Finn Brothers and Butch Walker, and in September a new full-length CD from The Features along with the US release of the incredible new band from Scotland called Dogs Die In Hot Cars and the "Reset" EP from a brilliant new band called Mute Math. There’s a plethora of great music on the way…but it’s not here yet…so what to do in the meantime?

Since the past few weeks have been so bleak as far as good new music, I turned to the Internet where I found a few new gems. Here’s a rundown of some of the songs I downloaded for a mix CD and what I think of them:

Year of the Rat Badly Drawn Boy
This one’s a keeper. I’m definitely going to have to buy the full CD. I loved his music from the About A Boy soundtrack and liked a couple songs off of Have You Fed the Fish, but was wary of going right out and picking the new one. I do have to say, this song is one of his best, and has a beautiful and hooky melody. It’s a must for a comp and it makes me want to hear the full CD.

Everything is EverythingPhoenix
This band is starting to get more and more of a buzz, and after listing to this track I get it. It’s hard to describe, they use sampling and that sort of thing and have a bit of a euro-pop vibe.

Pass The Flame Trevor Horn
Any Trevor Horn fans out there? Whether you’re a fan of his production or him as an artist, this is a real treat. It’s his first real performance or solo song in a long time. His work with the Buggles, Art of Noise and Yes has been monumental. This track is so good and so well produced it will amaze and impress even the toughest critic. It’s basically euro pop with a heavy influence of world music, with the best production you’ve ever heard. This track can be found on the various artist release Unity: Official Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Judging from the samples of the other tracks the rest of it is not good, but not to worry, you can download a high quality version of this track from iTunes for just .99. That’s one dollar to hear the best production and sound quality recorded music has to offer…not bad.

Classic I Am The World Trade Center
I’ll be honest; I just listened to the clip on iTunes and then downloaded it. I don’t know anything about the band or why in world they have the weird name, but this song is really, really amazing. It’s a quirky, new-wavish kind of a thing, almost an instrumental. You have to hear it to believe it. I haven’t had time to research the band or look them up on AllMusic.com (the all music guide has been sucking since the new site went up anyway), so if anyone knows anything about this band or why they have that name, please enlighten us!

Laura Scissor Sisters
If ever there was a band that was designed for me to loathe, this is the band. From the name, to the concept, to the contrived sound that seems more of a marketing and sales gimmick than an actual artistic direction. They are being compared to early Elton John…and boy oh boy, if the vocals on a number of their songs don’t sound EXCACTLY like a young Elton. But it seems a bit over the top and gimmicky, and I can’t get around some of the cheese and lowbrow lyrics. That said, I LOVE this particular song. This one is not a blatant Elton sound-alike. It sounds more like the band Eleven, a band that no one other than me seems to know or care about (except you JW). I enjoy this song, and may even consider getting the full CD based on some of the power pop hook elements, but I think a little of this band will go a long way. The full album may be too much. Anyone else heard them? Opinions?

That’s all for now. I’ve recently discovered a band from the UK called The Zuton’s. Well, my nephew Colin Casey who just moved to South Korea saw their video and emailed me because he said it had that “Beatles sound” that I like. He’s 9 years old, living with his family in South Korea and he discovers a hot new band on a video channel…welcome to 2004...where have I been?? The CD should arrive any day. I’ll post a review as soon as I can.