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Matthew Berlyant: January 24, 2010

  1. Rank and FileSundown (Slash)

    Please see my full review here.

  2. Rank and FileLong Gone Dead (Slash)

    1984’s Long Gone Dead, Rank and File’s second Lp, is nowhere near as good as Sundown. It’s far from a bad album, though. In fact, it’s a very good (albeit not great) album that on occasion comes close to the brilliance of Sundown. In particular, the title track, “Sound of the Rain” (a beautiful song that was first recorded by The Dils and which also appears on the live compilation Class War as well) and a cover of LEFTY FRIZELL‘s “I’m an Old Old Man” (which was also recorded by MERLE HAGGARD) come the closest.

  3. Rank and FileThe Slash Years (Rhino Handmade)

    Back in 2002, Rhino Handmade released this compilation. It combines Sundown with Long Gone Dead and then tacks on three additional tracks at the end. These are live covers of “Wabash Cannonball” and GEORGE JONES‘ “White Lightning” along with the cassette-only track “Post Office”.

    Unfortunately, only 2,500 copies were made and it’s long sold out and intermittently fetches a pretty penny on Amazon and other sites. However, Collector’s Choice released all 3 Rank and File albums on CD back in 2005 and they remain in-print.

  4. Witch HuntBurning Bridges to Nowhere (Alternative Tentacles)

    One of the best and most inventive hardcore punk bands that I’ve heard in years, Burning Bridges to Nowhere must be heard to be believed. No, it’s not that the music is unusual, but rather they manage to pull off the almost impossible. They make a well-worn albeit great genre (early ’80s hardcore) sound fresh, new, energizing and exciting. How do they do this? Tight playing, male/female screaming dual vocals and strong hints of HUSKER DU (the guitar player channels BOB MOULD‘s flying V circa 1984 brilliantly) and even Let It Be-era REPLACEMENTS abound here, adding much-needed bursts of melody to this tempest of rage against, well, just about everything.

    I’ve been listening to this one on Rhapsody and thus don’t have a physical copy (or a lyric sheet) and can’t discern many of the lyrics, but judging from the song titles they seem to be decrying subjects like the health care industry (“Sick Industry”) and SARAH PALIN (the awesome title track).

  5. Title TracksIt Was Easy (Dischord)

    Title Tracks is the solo project of JOHN DAVIS, the former drummer of defunct Dischord stalwarts Q AND NOT U and one half of the now also defunct but wonderful duo GEORGIE JAMES.

    I’m happy to report that just like on their previously released 7” single (which features “Every Little Bit Hurts”, also on the full-length), It Was Easy picks up right where Georgie James’ Places left off. That is, smack dab in the late ’70s and with enough of a power pop jones that any of these songs could’ve made it onto one of Rhino’s DIY series comps. Think SLOAN channeling their ’70s power pop as opposed to equally crucial ’70’s hard rock influences (so more BIG STAR and THE RASPBERRIES than CHEAP TRICK or KISS) and you’re almost there.

  6. Spectacle (Sundance Channel, Wednesday)

    The second season has, for the most part, been as strong as the first one. Particularly, I really enjoyed the recent episode where host ELVIS COSTELLO was interviewed by actress and fan MARY LOUISE PARKER since Elvis performed such deep catalog tracks as “Motel Matches,” “Town Cryer” and “Brilliant Mistake”. I also really enjoyed the recently aired episodes featuring BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. All fans of the Boss should see it just for his relaxed demeanor and banter with Elvis along his awesome performance of “American Skin (41 Shots)”, the song about the killing of AMADOU DIALLO at the hands of the NYPD that earned him controversy at the time of its first performances over ten years ago.

  7. Pointed SticksThree Lefts Make a Right (Northern Electric)

    The first Pointed Sticks album since 1980’s Perfect Youth (and only their second overall in a more than 30 years career) is an unmitigated triumph. More power-pop than pop-punk but somewhere in between on most of the tracks here, the group is, as ever, North America’s answer to THE UNDERTONES. In addition to ultra-catchy songs like “She’s Not Alone Anymore,” “Too Late,” “Wireless” and “How I Felt”, what’s also notable is the unbridled optimism of many of its lyrics. I can’t imagine too many other bands willing to write songs like the aforementioned “She’s Not Alone Anymore”, which one can interpret as an update on “When She’s Alone”, or the unabashed positive love song “Sentimental Fool”.

    Furthermore, fans who complained about the slicker (in relation to their singles and compilation cuts) production on Perfect Youth should note that this one’s rawer, but sounds great. Long live the Pointed Sticks!

  8. The Secret HistoryThe World That Never Was (Le Grand Magistry)

    While Long Island’s primary new wave revivalists MY FAVORITE broke up in 2005, at least they went out with a bang. The album they released before a few years before their breakup and which brought them the most attention, 2003’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives, is a masterpiece of the genre and one I listened to all the time back when it came out.

    Fast forward half a decade and most of My Favorite (including principal songwriter, guitarist and occasional vocalist MICHAEL GRACE, JR. and DARREN AMADIO) have now reconvened in a new band called The Secret History. Although it has songwriting quirks that easily identifies it as Grace’s handiwork, it’s much less explicitly influenced by NEW ORDER, THE CURE and THE SMITHS than My Favorite was. Instead, one hears a prominent early ’70s glam influence. One song is even called “God Save the Runaways”, though I don’t think they explicitly mention the band. The glam influence could perhaps be in part because one of the band’s vocalists is LISA RONSON, the daughter of DAVID BOWIE guitarist MICK RONSON, but in any case, this isn’t Aladdin Sane or Electric Warrior. The ’80s influences are still there, but they’re just not as prominent.

  9. Naked Raygun – “Mein Iron Maiden” EP (Riot Fest)

    Naked Raygun’s first new studio recordings since 1990’s Raygun…Naked Raygun are thankfully much better than the majority of that album. If not the equal of the incredible ’85-‘89 period between All Rise and Understand? that featured their best lineup (vocalist JEFF PEZZATI, guitarist JOHN HAGGERTY, bassist PIERRE KEZDY and drummer ERIC SPICER), the songs are at least in that style.

  10. Mulatu AstatqueEthiopiques, Volume 4: Ethio Jazz and Musique Instrumentate 1969-1974 (Buda Musique)

    Like many others, I first heard some of the music here when it was used in the JIM JARMUSCH film Broken Flowers. Recorded in 1972 and 1974, this music is unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. It’s not quite psychedelic, not quite a soul/jazz/funk hybird, but kind of all of that and also incredibly beautiful, uplifting and unpredictable. Some reviewers complained about the not quite professional recording quality, but I think this gives the material even more intimacy and power.