Free Will Juke Box

What I've been listening to the last couple weeks:

12XU - high energy French punk band from Lyons. Don't know if they have any recordings beyond a couple 7"s, but you can find a ton of live stuff on YouTube. (you might also want to check out Daitro, which shares some members with 12XU, but plays in a style that's slower and yellier).

Beck - Sea Change. can't say this has held up as well as I would have liked. The production is brilliant, but the lyrics - Beck had just broken up with his girlfriend, aw - are self indulgent.

Jeff Beck - "A Day In The Life." It's a measure of Beck's guitar virtuosity that he can do a powerful instrumental cover of a Beatles song that most full sized bands would consider uncoverable.

Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With The Arab Strap. speaking of not holding up well...

The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette. One of the great punk albums - filled with humor, and energy, with a dark Gothic touch. Influenced the sound and style of the DC and LA hardcore scenes, which means most of American punk owes a massive debt to these guys.

The Divorced - Separation Anxiety. revved up garage-psyche from Down Under. The Australians have long been masters of this genre.

Garbage - Garbage. gettin' my Nineties nostalgia on.

Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes. The Seventies were a golden age for slide guitar, and Lowell George was one of the craftiest practitioners of that odd art. His early death is one of the sadder "what could have been" stories.

UV Race - Homo. loose charming post-punk with a pop edge. Some of this flirts with atonality even as the songs remain hummable. "Nazicistic" is a great title for a song. Hard to know if they are kidding or not.

Veuve SS - some kind of French noise band with a lot of punk energy and a touch of metal in the guitars. Dark and abrasive dirges that that spring to life with occasional bursts of aggression. Best song title: "Ironique Movstache." (h/t Terminal Escape)

Voivod - Outer Limits. I slept on this album when it came out because (1) its predecessor Angel Rat was awful and (2) it featured one of the worst album covers of all time. But, it's actually pretty good as Piggy's guitars are pushed back to the fore front, and the songs are full of surprises. Still, this is an album by a band that had passed its peak.

M. Ward - Transistor Radio. a subtle masterpiece. Very simple roots-rock tunes (from a distant past that never existed) that stick with you.

M. Ward - Post War. More folk-rocky than folky with a ton of great guitar playing. "Chinese Translation" has a wonderful circular structure and benefited from a brilliant video. (note to neo-cons: the title was apparently meant to be some sort of profound anti-Iraq War statement, but there's nothing on the album that puts you into an anti-Bush frame of mind).

Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti. It's too long, and features too much of Zappa's "famed" scatalogical humor, but there's still a lot here to like. Unlike a lot of his Sixties peers, Z stayed current and this record finds him bringing a lot of punk and new wave into his sound, which energizes and simplifies his compositions, even as they still go through his patented time signature changes. Zappa also trades solos with a then-unknown Adrian Belew on a couple tunes.

ZZ Top - Eliminator. The greatest ever Eighties-era "sell out" by a classic rock band. What's funny is, for all the complaining you hear about the synthesizers, this is probably the album where Billy Gibbons got to really stretch out. Some of his solos seem to go on forever.

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