THE QUEEN IS DEAD: 30 Years Later

The_Smiths_Pic_1311243720
Wait, that doesn’t look like the queen.  Yes, the subtlety was lost on me when I was 18.

Amazingly, THE QUEEN IS DEAD came out thirty years ago today.  For me, it was that magical time between graduating from high school and heading off to the University of Notre Dame.  I spent that summer of 1986 dreaming of college, working as an overnight DJ at a local radio station, and rather madly chasing around a young woman (who is now, thankfully, happily married and living in central Kansas).

 

Strangely, though, THE QUEEN IS DEAD did not inspire or trouble me once that summer.  For whatever reason, I completely missed its release.

It wasn’t until I arrived at Notre Dame that a great friend (and now an extremely famous philosopher) introduced me to THE QUEEN IS DEAD.  From the first listen, I was bowled over.  Being rather partial to prog rock, I didn’t cotton easily to non-progressive music.  Yet, there was something in THE QUEEN IS DEAD that captured my imagination.  There was a wit, a whiny intelligence, a reference to some of my favorite writers, and a strange cynical romanticism that pervades the whole album that tugged at my soul.

With Morrissey, I wanted to walk the cemetery gates, and I knew that there was a “light that never goes out” when it came to that Kansas girl I chased for almost two years.

I felt sorry for the Queen and for Prince Charles, of course, but I chuckled about the vicar, and I thought I knew a Bigmouth, here or there.

Thirty years ago.  Amazing.  It could’ve been yesterday.

Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown – Album Review

Artist: Spiritual Beggars Album Title: Sunrise To Sundown Label: Inside Out Records Date of Release: 18 March 2016 If you’re looking for a musical experience to surprise you and offer something completely different from what has gone before, I wouldn’t recommend Spiritual Beggars to you. Theirs is not a blueprint that seeks to challenge listeners […]

https://manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/spiritual-beggars-sunrise-to-sundown-album-review/

My Top 20 Albums of the Rock Era

jim trainer bbt
Jim Trainer’s cover for Big Big Train’s UNDERFALL YARD

For what it’s worth, I took a quick break from work this evening and forced myself to write down my twenty favorite rock albums.  I gave it almost no thought–I just brain stormed and listed my all-time favorite albums of the rock era.  [I intentionally left off all Rush albums.]

Despite my own restrictions, I discovered something very interesting.  At least to me.

For the last 29 years, I would have listed my favorite album of all time as Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring.  My iTunes numbers tell me something different, and I must agree.

Big Big Train has finally replaced Talk Talk.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  1. Aryeon, Universal Migrator
  2. Big Big Train, English Electric
  3. Big Big Train, Underfall Yar
  4. Cure, Disintegration
  5. Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
  6. Flower Kings, Space Revolver
  7. Gazpacho, Night
  8. Genesis, Selling England by the Pound
  9. Glass Hammer, Lex Rex
  10. Kansas, Leftoverature
  11. Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
  12. Kevin McCormick, Squall
  13. Marillion, Afraid of Sunlight
  14. Neal Morse, Testimony
  15. Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
  16. Talk Talk, Colour of Spring
  17. Tangent, Le Sacre Du Travail
  18. Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair
  19. XTC, Skylarking
  20. Yes, Close to the Edge

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 29

Welcome to day two of my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ countdown. If you missed the opening instalment of what is a series that will either make or break me, you can check it out right here: Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30. Additionally, if you missed my similar countdowns from the past […]

https://manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/album-of-the-year-2015-number-29/

On His Way to the Vatican Gift Shop: Scott Weiland, RIP

tiny-music-songs-from-the-vatican-gift-shop-4ddc6dd2dbb12I must admit, I hate to wake up to this news.  Here’s hoping that SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP was playing in the original–not its MUZAK version–as Scott rode the escalator to heaven.  Rest in Peace, crazy musician man.  Many, many of us loved you.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-me-scott-weiland-dies-20151203-story.html

Day 1 of Seven Musical Memories: Infancy

My great friend, Tobbe Janson​, asked that I offer seven days of music-related memories. Thank you, Tobbe. Let the nostalgia begin.

Even earlier than my actual memory allows, I used to crawl out of my crib in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I was rather dangerous. My mom and two older brothers remember with much horror the one night that I had crawled onto the stovetop, lighting all the burners to full. When they heard me screaming, they ran down to find me standing in the middle of the stovetop. Amazingly, I stood perfectly in the middle, unharmed.

Usually, though, my 3 in the morning explorations were just plain mischievous. As far as I know, there was never a time in our house that we didn’t have music. Classical, jazz, musicals, rock. All was acceptable. Born in late 1960s, I became rather obsessed with two records. Frequently, I crawled out of the crib, descended downstairs, and put one of my two favorite singles on the stereo system. I’d not only figured out how to play records before I could walk, I knew how to blare the records at full volume, waking up my family. Most likely, I awoke several neighbors in my hometown of Great Bend, Kansas, as well. Our stereo went to 11.

The two songs: the Banana Splits Theme and Snoopy and the Red Barron.

The Charge: Acid in my Veins

The Charge

The Charge - Acid in My Veins

The Charge are taking charge of their destiny and have released the videoclip for their single “Acid in My Veins”. The clip was shot and edited by their producer Reggie Bowman – ensuring consistency and feel across both the aural and visual spectrums.

The single, ‘Acid in My Veins” – was released to a ravenous audience on July 17th and the new videoclip premiered yesterday on themusic.com.au.

The clip was shot on location in the forests and hills surrounding Melbourne and in a warehouse space featuring the band.

Drummer from the band, Ben Cuthbert is enthusiastic about the upcoming album. “This is just a first taste of this record. We wanted to give it all we have in this clip – Order of the Owl is our way of making a statement about the world and we want to connect with people through the clip and the album.”

The belting, rollicking single is all about the concept of Rebirth and will be a part of their forthcoming album, “The Order of the Owl.” The album’s release date is yet to be set and an east coast tour will follow.

“The Order of the Owl” as an album is a narrative created by The Charge and the artwork will centre around “Moloch” – an ancient god-like figure worshipped or feared – Moloch is described as a watcher, with an over-arching view of world events and has been used in literature as a person or thing demanding or requiring a very costly sacrifice.

Formed in 2008 around the talents of guitarist/vocalist Ashley Jones, drummer Ben Cuthbert, bassist Julian Crupi, and guitarist/vocalist Hamish Mills. One of the more notable New Wave of Australian Progressive Rock/Metal acts, a genre spawned in the mid-‘00s by bands like COG, The Butterfly Effect, Karnivool and Dead letter Circus, The Charge’s innovative, lyrically astute blend of 90’s grunge, hard rock, progressive rock and metal has helped position the band as one of the prominent hard rock acts on the Australian scene.

The Charge’s newfound popularity eventually landed them several high profile shows and tours, and saw them share the stage with several long time influences Bugdust, Dead Letter Circus, King Parrot, Floating Me, Over-Reactor and The Nerve, as well as three consecutive years in a row performing at Rock the Bay and Rock N Load as well as Brewtality Festival.

The single is available on iTunes and from thecharge.com.au and The Charge will be playing at The Evelyn in Melbourne on August 21.

THE CHARGE – LIVE DATES

Friday August 21 – Melbourne, VIC
The Evelyn Hotel
with Engine Three Seven, High Side Driver, Entropy and Hammers
$20 ENTRY – Tickets at evelynhotel.oztix.com.au

Rocket 88 Books: Humor and Excellence

Last night, as I was getting ever closer to sleep, I decided to check out the website for Rocket 88 Books.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.03.37 AM (2)

I’ve been reading and throughly enjoying their book on the history of Dream Theater, LIFTING SHADOWS.

Lo and behold, what did I find on the website?  That Rocket 88 will soon be releasing a paperback version of the 2012 coffee-table book, THE SPIRIT OF TALK TALK.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I adore Talk Talk.  But, even with my normal lack of frugality and my love of the band, I just couldn’t bring myself to pay the price that was being asked for that hardback–no matter how beautiful–three years ago.

And yet, here it is.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.08.56 AM (2)

So, of course, I ordered it.  Immediately.  Here’s the response I awoke to from the press:

Hello Bradley,

Congratulations, you were the first person to pre-order the new paperback edition of the Spirit of Talk Talk book! And before we have even told anyone it is avalable, impressive work

The email that was sent to you to confirm the order bounced back though, that address you gave us was bradletbirzer@xxxxxxx.com

We have taken a high level executive decision and reckon it should have been bradleybirzer@xxxxxx.com and have updated it.

We can also confirm we have your order, reference number: xxxx.

We will keep you updated along the way on progress we can tell you that books are planned to be in the UK in October but will take a little longer to get to our warehouse in the US, so you should expect to have your book in November.

Best wishes,

Rocket 88

Books with extra thrust.

rocket88books.com

Here’s my response to their response:

Hello Rocket 88,

It sounds like you’re very, very good at executive decisions.

Yes, bradleybirzer@xxxxxx.com is correct.  I can only blame large, clumsy fingers on my typo.  I don’t want to badmouth my fingers too much, though, as they’ve served me well in handshakes, eating, opening doors, etc.

I just happened to be on the Rocket 88 website and saw the new books.  Great press, by the way.  I’m just finishing up the LIFTING SHADOWS about Dream Theater.

Again, thanks for taking the time to clarify.  No worries on October or November.  Either way, I’ll be happy.

Yours, Brad

And, finally, their response to my response to their response:

Ha! Yep keep those fingers handy.

Thanks for your kind words and great to hear you’re also enjoying Lifting Shadows. We have a couple more titles coming in that area too which may interest you as we are presently working feverishly to finish books from Devin Townsend and from Opeth.

Best wishes,

Rocket 88

Books with extra thrust.

rocket88books.com

Ok, so I know that I wasted some poor person’s time.  But, you know what?  They now have my total loyalty.  If every one in the world brought this kind of excellence and humor to what ever it is they do, we’d have a pretty great world.

Thanks, Rocket 88!

Imagination Head–the Latest Sensation from Atlanta

Imagination Head from Atlanta.  Featuring, it seems, men who look like David Byrne and Midge Ure.
Imagination Head from Atlanta. Featuring, it seems, men who look like David Byrne and Midge Ure.

“Talented and musically adventurous” –Latest Disgrace

“Any fan of Built to Spill, The Shins, or Cake will want to hear Imagination Head. Their indie palette is at once accessible and unique […] weaving a dreamy undertone to peppy melodies” –The Moon and Pluto

“A smart, ambitious band with the ability to flesh out their themes both formally and lyrically” –Little advances

“Imagination Head takes traditional aesthetics and breathes new life into them” -Ohmpark

***

September 16, 2014

Imagination Head’s indie psych-pop induces a mellow, creeping euphoria. They’re experts at fusing ’80s British post-punk with subtle space-rock flourishes, creating a mysterious sonic shroud over their impressive songs and masterfully crafted pop arrangements. Lyrically, the band’s songs grasp at untethered freedom while lamenting the doldrums of modern life. Imagination Head’s music is the rabbit hole to Wonderland—a drug to awaken the uninitiated. And their adventurous, infectious sound has landed them on bills with indie-rock contemporaries The Octopus Project & The Orwells.

The Atlanta-based band’s new album, Chromataverse (out Nov 1), is a departure from Imagination Head’s psych-folk roots, exploring an edgier, more guitar-driven sound in which the studio is a lab for experimentation, a place for songs to evolve as the recording process unfolds. With the help of producer Damon Moon (Iron Jayne, Rrest), they’ve utilized space echo, tape hiss and a slew of other analog toys to build their neo-New Wave soundscapes. The journey presented here by J.R. Wicker (guitar, lead vocals), Erin Wicker (keys, vocals), Jason Bogart (bass), Puma Navarro (drums) and Vince Gray (lead guitar) is a bold call for revolution filtered through Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  “This album is a warning,” J.R. says. “The American Dream is constantly dangled in front of your face as you work overtime for nothing in particular, waiting a lifetime in line for your turn. But it’s your fate to avoid the trap—to rise above it.”

Imagination Head recorded Chromataverse at East Atlanta studio The Cottage, which—while within the city limits—provided a secluded, escapist environment, the band’s breaks often spent trekking through the adjacent woods along the ridge of an abandoned rock quarry, soaking up the hushed, primal vibe. The sessions for the new album were fast-paced, spontaneous and mostly live, capturing the feel of the band’s electrifying live sets, before carefully adding layered sonic texture to each track. The album would have been ready sooner, but with Erin nine months pregnant, they had to take a break.

“The Cottage was like a clubhouse,” Erin says. “We were able to concentrate and play in a stress-free environment, but the baby was crushing my lungs the whole time, so I had to come back later, after he was born, to finish my vocals. After the album was mixed, when he was just a few months old, he was crying and J.R. played him one of the new songs and he actually stopped crying. I guess he’s as much a part of this record as anyone.”

Imagination Head is rooted in the relationship of J.R. and Erin Wicker. They met in Memphis, and before long were musically—and romantically—entangled. In the early days, Imagination Head was a collaboration between just them, working as a psych-folk duo. They recorded their first album, The Stale and the Sparkly Air, with a few Memphis friends rounding out the sound. The couple eventually relocated to Atlanta, and made the transition to five-piece band with the album ON/OFF. The current lineup solidified in 2012 with the release of LP Plastic Heart.

J.R. and lead guitarist Gray most often are the ones who bring song ideas to the band, who then collectively fleshes them out, building bridges between disparate parts. “Our workshop is based around modern technology,” Gray says. “When I have an idea, I just record it on my phone and send it to everyone in the band. Sometimes, the ideas comes fast and have to be acted on. ‘Disconnect,’ from the new album, seemed to just explode into existence just days before we began recording.”

This immediacy also drives songs like “Rat Trap” and “Break the Chain,” their message that of a constrained society opening up to the freedom of space. “Mars” practically cries out for listeners to join the expansive exploration of dreams and the cosmos, while “Moon Sings Dance” beckons them to take this epic journey with the band, leaving behind the tired pop convention of verse-chorus-verse.

Chromataverse is the sum total of Imagination Head’s underground evolution—atop their folk-duo foundation, building a vibrant, danceable, electro indie-rock opus.

-Baby Robot Media

For further info: wickerjr@yahoo.com