Billy Bragg – Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (Yep Roc)
It’s a good time for Yep Roc’s reissues of Bragg’s first three LPs and covers mini-LP, the most overtly political records of his career. Though this second one was kind of formative compared to the three absolutely great LPs that followed (the last two of them positively stunning, Worker’s Playtime and career pinnacle Don’t Try This at Home), I remember being pretty excited about it at the time, and it still sounds stripped down, raw, simple, and great to me. See the superb “It Says Here,” which reminds me of the odious Fox News (I call them Faux News), New York Post and other such outlets aligned with a particular Australian media Goliath these days who makes old WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST look evenhanded: “And when you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory/Just remember, there’s two sides to every story.” Too true. See also #5 and #7 in this list for more political records. I must be in that mood. It’s happened a lot to me these last five misbegotten years of blatant misrule.
The Rifles – “Local Boy” EP (Right Hook U.K.)
Man I can’t wait for this band’s album!!!! While the Brit press and public go crazy over the OK ARCTIC MONKEYS, if we’re going to go crazy over a band that doesn’t do anything new, why not go crazy over one that’s truly extraordinary in terms of sharp songwriting? These guys are everything you liked about The CLASH, JAM, AVENGERS, GENERATION X, BUZZCOCKS, SAINTS, and NEW YORK DOLLS, although they’ll have to prove it over more than three great singles—of which this, the last one, is by far the best. Bring on that LP!!!
Louis Armstrong – The Best of the Hot 5 & 7 Recordings (Columbia/Legacy)
Classic early Louis. Can miss with “St. James Infirmary,” “Heebie Jeebies,” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”—man, blow that horn, blow! Dixieland jazz rarely got better than this.
Whysall Lane – Whysall Lane (Blackball)
Since New York ‘90s indie-rock favorites Versus stopped recording some years ago, a chance meeting with RICHARD BALUYUTin a Mission District San Francisco video store revealed that his former solo project Whysall Lane was now a Bay Area band, including ex-JAWBREAKER and J CHURCH drummer ADAM PFAHLER. They’d recorded an LP, and is it ever good! Combining Versus’s hard pop-attack with the dark atmospheric passages of his criminally overlooked ‘80s band FLOWER, Baluyut’s music is familiar yet wholly different than his past.
John Lennon – Some Time in New York City (Capitol)
The backing tracks aren’t always great, but the songwriting, and especially the lyrics are just fabulous. This gets my vote for the most punk rock LP—lyrically—by any mega star in rock history. It was so in your face politically, bitterly condemning England’s Irish policies on two songs, taking feminist stances, and calling for the release of MC5 manager JOHN SINCLAIR (busted for 10 years on a mere pot charge, when everyone knew he was being jailed for who he was), that it got Lennon in immigration trouble with the U.S.!!!! Sure, he was a rich guy, but he spoke the truth more than anyone at the time in his position, exposing himself to personal problems, controversy, and criticism without apology this time (unlike his earlier “bigger than Jesus” controversy), the most radical thing in rock this side of KURT COBAIN’s stances post Nevermind’s dizzying success. I miss them both for this alone.
Ray Davies – Other People’s Lives (V2)
Half of this is just plain brilliant, a ‘60s favorite totally getting back to his former genius, and the rest isn’t bad, either. Don’t miss this when it comes out, especially “Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After)” and “Next Door Neighbor.” Also see #10 in this list.
Bad Religion –
Live at the Palladium DVD (Epitaph)
You just have to look at the track listing on this new live DVD from Hollywood. It’s a quarter century of brilliant songs that actually say something profound, too, from “We’re Only Gonna Die” in 1982 to “Let Them Eat War” last year. When the oceans rise and swallow Miami’s South Beach some day, I hope we all think of “Kyoto Now” and wish more bands had spoken out about man’s incessant folly in thinking it can control Mother Nature. Just ask New Orleans. And these guys could always play live…
Black Market Baby – Coulda… Shoulda… Woulda; The Black Market Baby Collection (Dr. Strange)
Third week in a row? You bet. I think if it is possible I’m listening to this now more than I even did 20 years ago. This is just everything that was good about U.S. punk rock in the early ‘80s with all its rock ‘n’ roll edge and chops. This week I’m obsessing on “Senseless Offerings” and “This Year’s Prophet,” just great, great songs.
NICK GARRIE – The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas (Rev-ola U.K.)
The consistent British “soft-psych” reissue label does it again, with this superb LP of baroque pop of the finest ‘60s BEE GEES majesty. BELLE & SEBASTIAN fans should be all over this!!!
various artists – The Modern Genius of Ray Davies (free giveaway with Mojo magazine)
This is by my count the fourth tribute collection devoted to Davies and THE KINKS, which has to be something of a record and says plenty! I hadn’t bought Mojo in some years (it’s so expensive to just relive the past!!!), but I wanted to read the interview with Davies and hear these songs. Best are old favorites ED KUEPPER of early SAINTS renown and FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, but nice job also by MUDHONEY and PETER BRUNTNELL.