Friday, July 29, 2005

The Embarrassment

The Embarrassment were a Wichita, Kansas post-punk band in the late 1970's-early 1980's. According to, the band is known to fans as "the best band you never heard of." To wit, I'd never heard of them before Steve Malloy introduced me to a few of their songs several years ago. More recently, I downloaded their singles compilation Heyday 1979-1983 from and have been enjoying it a lot. compares their sound to The Feelies and Mission of Burma, which is fair, but I also hear a similarity to the Go Betweens. And you've just gotta love a band that writes a song called Elizabeth Montgomery's Face (star of Bewitched), who was certainly one of MY childhood crushes.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Some Assembly Required

In general, I'm not a huge fan of sound collages or sample-based music. By which, I don't mean rap songs that incorporate samples, but rather artists who make music composed almost exclusively out of samples. However, I've been hearing a fair amount of the stuff on Radio K and two songs have piqued my interest lately. First is Favorite Things, a track by those master appropriators, Negativland. The song consists of samples of Julie Andrews singing My Favorite Things (from The Sound of Musicc) reassembled into a rather amusing ode to "girls with blue whiskers tied up with noodles" and the like. It will be interesting to see if Julie Andrews is thicker-skinned than U2, who sued Negativland many years ago. The second song is a mash-up, which is when you combine elements of two or more songs to form a new song. It's by an artist called Freelance Hellraiser and is called Stroke of Genius. The "stroke" of genius in this case is that it consists of the backing track of Hard to Explain by The Strokes paired with the vocal track of some awful song by that skankstress Christina Aguilera. Surprisingly, it works very well. While I wouldn't say that it's better than the original Strokes song, it would almost have to be better than Christina Aguilera's song, wouldn't it?

Beyond the novelty of these songs, I have to admit I really don't understand the appeal of this kind of music. Sure, it's an interesting artistic experiment and is usually entertaining on the first few listens, but I can't imagine listening to it repeatedly. But obviously, there's a niche for this sort of thing: Radio K has a show devoted to it called Some Assembly Required, which appears to be nationally syndicated as well. I'm glad it exists and that I get to hear it occasionally, but I probably won't be buying any albums...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Soviettes

One of my favorite bands from the last few years, The Soviettes, have a new album out titled -- in the minimalist tradition of previous releases LP and LP II -- LP III. The band consist of 3 women playing guitars and a guy playing drums. They all sing, although the drummer comes from the Fred Schneider (B-52s) school of delivery. The band specializes in a high-energy, pop-punk sound that has been described as the Go Go's meet the Ramones. Fairly accurate, although I've noticed a certain amount of new wave poutiness in their last two albums. Annie, who seems to sing all of the songs that get released as singles, has this great tough girl rock-n-roll voice that reminds me (for better, not worse) of Pat Benatar.

You can get two of the songs from the new album from their website:
- Multiply And Divide
- Paranoia! Cha-Cha-Cha
Note that Paranoia!Cha-Cha-Cha previously appeared on last year's Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1 compilation. Please don't hold the fact that the album failed to prevent Bush from being re-elected against the band. You can also check out some of their videos, including one for Multiply and Divide.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Posies

The Posies, who along with Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet DEFINED power pop during the 90's, just released a new album called Every Kind of Light. This is their first studio album since they "broke up" in the late 1990s. It features some great songs that are in the vein of Frosting on the Beater, their hallmark 1993 album that remains one of my all-time favorite albums. Standouts include: Conversations, All In A Day's Work, I Guess You're Right, and Second Time Around. The rest of the album disappoints a bit, except the track I Finally Found A Jungle I Like, which I'm on the fence about. It's not the Posies sound I love - too much organ and horns - and the jungle metaphors are a bit annoying, but it's catchy. Is it just me or does the outro appropriate the horn riff from the outro of The Who's My Wife? Anyway, if you like power pop (and I know you do), check out the latest from the guys (i.e., the core of the Posies, Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow) who have so much power pop cred that they JOINED Big Star (in 1993)! And if you don't own Frosting on the Beater, please pick it up or get thee to a nunnery!