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Picking the easy targets since 1993
 

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Joey T. Germ Presents:
CASSETTE REVIEWS

In case you haven't figured it out, these ain't exactly new releases.


From the bottom of a dark scottish lake

THE POLICE
Synchronicity (A&M)

CrO2, bitches!—the highest, best tape quality ever, ever and it’s a good thing too because the fifth studio album from The Police was a monster seller in all formats. Synchronicity, (pretentiously titled after a book which name-checks a term coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung) turned these three blonds from super stars into super duper stars. The syncronicity concept—whereby two seemingly unrelated events occur simultaneously for some purpose—seemed to be a theme connecting the songs on this album, I guess. Maybe not. Ask Sting. The only evidence of this theory seems to be the two pretentiously-titled tracks “Syncronicity I” and “Syncronicity II”. In keeping with the theme as well, I suppose, are the two seemingly unrelated events of Copeland’s “Miss Gradenko” and Summer’s almost-unlistenable “Mother,” both lumped together on side A, along with songs about dinosaurs, God and biscuit-taking and the aforementioned Synchronicitys. The B side delivers the goods though giving us no less than three hit songs as well as a song about desert tea drinking. And there's a bonus song, "Murder by Numbers," the b-side to "Every Breath You Take" that did NOT appear on the vinyl LP. A blatant attempt to sell the record in multiple formats? You bet.

Synchronicity would become The Police's biggest selling album and their last. What do you expect? These guys were on a nonstop, whirlwind touring and recording schedule and the end was bound to come sooner or later. Allegedly, Copeland and Sting came to blows during the recording. Copeland obviously didn’t punch Sting hard enough because he was able to carry on and release such pretentiously-titled future albums like The Dream of the Blue Turtles and become some sort of world music and tantric dork.

A lot of critics (aka nerds) like to get bunched undies when bands featuring mostly white people incorporate different styles of the music of nonwhite people into their own. This of course, ignores the fact that very little music played on this planet in the 80s or today was created in a vacuum and the origin of rock music, should they take the time to remember, was a multicultural hodgepodge of country and blues. While this fact should make them want to give up writing and actually try to enjoy music like most humans, nothing will deter them from trying to kill eveyone's buzz one band at a time. (Vampire Weekend is a recent example of how this pointless argument resurfaces every few years.) They must have been relieved then when Sting opted to forgo the reggae and island rhythms in favor of a more experimental approach, aka, throw horns on everything. But I digress, the question is whether Synchronicity deserves a place on such a high pedestal. Maybe yes, but mainly for the cultural impact it had on us back then. I will say, I was down with the Synchro in 7th grade like I was down with Thriller and Business as Usual. I rolled with the trends back then. Listening to this cassette many decades later, however, and after becoming a fan of earlier Police records like the pretentiously-titled Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc, this record is certainly not as exciting as those first efforts. Sure, it delivered the hits in spades, but it’s a dark record and kind of a bummer to listen to and nobody wants to spend that much time in Sting's head anyway. Not even Sting.


Too Tough To Die RamonesTHE RAMONES
Too Tough to Die (Sire) 1984

Not the greatest Ramones record ever ever, but really, have they ever made a bad one? With the Ramones you have to embrace their faults, idiosyncracies, and quirks and love them warts and all. Considering the personalities and disorders at play in the band, any release seems like a miracle in hindsight. Plus, we got Tommy Ramone back in his spot at the controls, so there's that. While most of the tunes on Too Tough to Die won't have you jumping to your feet, shaking your fist in a beat-on-the-brat kinda way, it does have its moments. Like "Wart Hog," for example—a Dee Dee punk rock gem with a very infectious chorus. This was Dee Dee's answer to the hardcore of the day, but he just couldn't help making it a catchy tune in the bargain. "Endless Vacation" is another Dee Dee attempt to play hardcore which succeeds in the brainless and tunelessness a lot of hardcore aspired to in the mid 80s. In fact, Too Tough to Die is a mostly Dee Dee affair with the bass player contributing nine out of thirteen tracks. Non Dee Dee songs like "Chasing the Night," and "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)" are classic 60s ala Ramones pop songs. There are some throwaways sure, like "Planet Earth 1988" (still four years away at this point), and "Danger Zone," a forgettable if not forgivable bland rock attempt. All in all, Too Tough to Die is a return to form and remains a solid brick in the house that the Ramones built.

Dan Kiss contributed this cassette to Joey T. Germ Presents: Cassette Reviews. Thanks, Dan!


Cargo-Men at WorkMEN AT WORK
Cargo (Columbia) 1983

Business as Usual was a monster hit for these Aussie lads at the beginning of the 1980s. They won a Grammy in 1982 for "Best New Artist" (aka The Kiss of Death) and it was all down hill after that. There was Cargo though. I was a Men at Work fan in '82 and '83. After Queen they were probably my favorite band in junior high school. "Down Under" seemed to fit in with Dungeons & Dragons somehow. That single backed with "Crazy" was one of the first forty-fives I ever bought. Cargo would be followed by Two Hearts in '85. That album was met with the critical and commercial disappointment it almost surely deserved. Cargo saw four singles released. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a decent enough tune. It's not on par with any of the hits of its Business predecessor, but it was good enough to warrant release as a single. "Overkill," "It's a Mistake" and "High Wire" were the other three. Again, not the same caliber of stuff that made Business resonate with the public or make the cash registers ring, but the best of a batch of mediocre stuff nevertheless. The rest of Cargo is pretty forgettable and signaled the end of the Men's career as hit makers. I paid 49¢ for this cassette at the Salvation Army on Montrose. Pretty crappy condition. It's worth about 19¢ tops.


Come on Feel The LemonheadsTHE LEMONHEADS
Come on Feel the Lemonheads (Atlantic) 1993

How you feel about the Lemonheads really comes down to how you feel about Evan Dando I never enjoyed his antics much. He seemed to be a bit of an arrogant pretty boy, but I will concede that he is capable of writing a decent pop song. Going way back to Hate Your Friends, a decent enough punk record, Dando showed a proclivity for pop hooks. Decent, I guess is the word I would use to describe the music of the Lemonheads. It certainly describes Come on Feel the Lemonheads. When this record came out in 1993, Dando and the Lads had already enjoyed some success and celebrity with It's a Shame About Ray, released the previous year. That record was the band's debut for Atlantic Records. There were worse bands being signed by the majors in the early 90s and The Lemonheads should have been capable of shifting more than a few units for their new label. They weren't. Dando's drug issues kinda put the kabosh on any continued success and the L. Heads dissolved, leaving a sour taste on the tongue of corporate rock. "Being Around" and "Big Gay Heart" reveal a love of county. "Into your Arms" is a pop gem (written by Robyn St. Clare) and "Rick James Style" is pretty heavy. The record, as I've said, is decent. Decent enough, in fact, to justify plopping down two quarters at the Salvation Army.


T.S.O.L.
Thoughts of Yesterday 1981-1982 (Posh Boy) 1988

Few 80s bands went through as many stylistic somersaults as the SoCal band T.S.O.L. Melodic hardcore, gothic guitar rock, hard rock and metal where all tackled with a fluctuating line-up and a loyal fan base. By the time this reissue came out in 1988, The True Sounds of Liberty were dressing like the rest of the L.A. glam poseurs who were starting to chart at that time. Admittedly, T.S.O.L. had a much harder sound than your Poisons and your Cinderellas. This cassette features the band's first EP, their first 7" and an alternate take on "Peace thru Power" from 1981's Dance with Me LP. This EP contains the best of the fast punk rock model with "Abolish Government" "No Way Out" and "World War III" being the archetypes of the genre. To paraphrase singer Jack Greggors/Ladoga/Grisham, President Reagan can still shove it.


R.O.T.A.
Kick Happy, Thrill Hungry, Ready and Willing (Noise International) 1991

Rights of the Accused started out as a juvenile hardcore band in Chicago in the early 80s. That's not to say that their subject matter was juvenile (it was) but these snotty punkers were barely out of puberty when they formed in 1982. Their 1984 Innocence 7" is considered a classic of early Chicago hardcore.

Over the course of the decade ROTA evolved into a hard rock party band or (depending on how much credit you want to give to the intelligence of it's members) a parody of a hard rock party band. Kick Happy, Thrill Hungry, Ready and Willing is a pretty weak party, however. It's full of generic riffs, forced ideas, bland vocals and pretty much encapsulates everything I don't like about this hybrid of punk and metal—it's all the cheese with none of the tongue-in-cheek.

In 1988, Herb Rosen (bass), Wes Kidd (guitar) and Brian St. Clair (drums) along with original singer Mike O'Connell, constituted the new Rights who seemed to open every decent rock show I found myself at that year. I was not a fan. It seemed to me at the time that ROTA just wanted to break out, Beastie Boy-style, and party rock to a major label deal and national fame. Nothing wrong with that, it was just hard to sit through while waiting for touring band like White Zombie (featuring original guitarist Jay Yuenger no less) to play. Kidd's subsequent band, Triple Fast Action, would score a record deal with Capitol in the signing frenzy of 1995. Brian St. Clair would go on to drum for local duo Local H and Rosen and O'Connell may or may not still play in the local Chicago bar band, The Beer Nuts.


GUNS AND ROSES
GNR Lies (Geffen) 1988

In the late 80s and early 90s, Guns and Roses were the biggest band in the world. And they weren't whinny little twits like Billy Corgan either. They were nasty, dirty, drunken, drugged out, impolite rock stars. They could also be clownish buffoons and in Axle's case, a gigantic, megalomaniac a-hole. In 1988 however, they were still getting a pass.

When G 'N' R Lies came out in 1988, it sold 10 million copies. That's pretty good for a bad record. Perhaps bad is a bit strong, but it certainly was no Appetite for Destruction. And it shouldn't be treated as a legitimate full-length release either, seeing how it was a cobbled-together place holder to placate fans and make some dough while GNR toured the world placating fans and making dough.

The G Side (presumably the Guns side) of GNR Lies features the four tracks that comprised the 1986 EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide. The sad truth about Live Like a Suicide (we'll dispense with the ?!*@ from here on out because it's silly and makes no sense) is that it was NOT recorded live like a suicide. It is in fact a studio recording with crowd noise dubbed in. This hardly mattered to fans in 1988 and is awesome now as a testament to how ridiculous GNR could be. "Reckless Life" and "Nice Boys" are similar hard-driving odes to the degenerate lifestyle espoused by these hard-edged glam rockers. "Move to the City" features a horn section and hits on a theme young Axle would return to countless times: a hick from the sticks moves to the big city a.k.a. The Jungle. "This is a song about your fucking mother" announces Axle at the start of the Steven Tyler penned tune, "Mama Kin" which closes out the side G. The fictitious crowd especially enjoys this number. They must be Aerosmith fans—hell maybe this crowd noise was taken from an Aerosmith show. Wouldn't that be ironical?

Then there's the R side (for Roses). This shows that the band can lay it down acoustically (hard rockers with a tender side) as is evidenced on the drippy "Patience"— Axle at his cartoonish best. Things turn ugly (or hilarious depending on your perspective on murder) with "Used to Love Her"—not the first murder ballad ever written but certainly guaranteed to cause controversy. The second track is a pointless, acoustic version of "You're Crazy" from the Appetite record and then the coup de grace: "One in a Million." Axle lets his redneck shine brightly on a return to the hick-in-the-city theme. In this piece, Axle calls out "immigrants and faggots" for not making sense to him, what with the different languages and all. "It's all Greek to me," Axle observes with a bit of ironic wit not seen in a GNR song since "Turn around bitch I got a use for you" on "It's So Easy" in '87. Axle also advises "police and niggers" to get away from him as he will not be needing any gold chains at this point in time. For complete lyrics to this tune, maybe you could ask John Rocker. I'm sure he has them burned into his frontal lobe if not tattooed on his ass.

Rolling Stone gave GNR Lies four out of five stars in their 1989 review, citing the release as proof of GNR's sustainability and calling 'One In a Million' a "beautiful ballad" with Axle's homophobic and anti-immigrant spiel "tempered with something that sounds oddly like compassion." Yes, Axle Rose may be a complete tool, but Rolling Stone built the tool box.

Take Me Back, Please!


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