Sunday, June 17, 2018

UFO - Only You Can Rock Me

For well over a decade I have been listening to UFO’s greatest hits, and in that time my favorite song of theirs has always been “Only You Can Rock Me.” The version of “Only You Can Rock Me” on the version of my copy of UFO’s greatest hits, is a live version, a very good live version. It was not until some time, very recently when I picked up a copy of “Obsession” (1978) that I finally heard the studio version of “Only You Can Rock Me.” It must have been close to fifteen years I have been listening to that live version, and only after listening to “Obsession” did I fully realize the truth, that I had never heard the studio version before. It was beautiful. As good as that live version is, there is something about the refinement of a well written song being properly recorded in high quality. It was a tranquil moment for me.

UFO was founded by Phil Mogg, who has functioned as the lead singer, primary song writer, and sole consistent member of the band. Like other legacy bands that would not yield to time Mogg has kept the dream alive despite numerous line of changes and two two-year hiatuses. To date UFO has released twenty-two studio albums, that is a serious commitment by Mogg and worthy of respect, I have listened to several, but nowhere near all of them.

My introduction to UFO had a winding path to it, which starts with the Scorpions.

Everyone knows who Rudolf Schenker is; at least everyone should know who Rudolf Schenker is. He is guitarist and founding member of the Scorpions along with lead singer Klaus Meine. Not everyone is as familiar with Rudolf’s younger brother Michael.

Michael Schenker worked with his big brother on the first two Scorpions’ albums “Lonesome Crow” (1972) and “Fly to the Rainbow” (1974), but after that he wished to branch out, concerned he would end up living in his brother’s shadow. Rudolf, being a great guy, at least from what I know of him, was very supportive of Michael going his own way. Michael would return to the Scorpions briefly in 1979 to work on the album “Lovedrive” this is one of the few Scorpion albums I do not know very much about, so I will have to look into that soon, as I am surprised to learn Michael returned at all.

Michael Schenker’s first stop after leaving the Scorpions was to join up with UFO. It is these albums that include Michael that I am most familiar with. It is these albums that UFO is most famous for. In total Micheal Schenker was involved in eight UFO albums over the course of two tenures, the first five, the ones I know, from 1974 to 1978, and three later from 1995 to 2002, I am not familiar with those.

After his first stint with UFO Michael would end up working on his quasi solo band Michael Schenker Group (MSG), however his work with UFO is what he is best known for.

There is something of a cult following for Michael. His popularity has maintained itself over time, but like most people, I really only know him for those early UFO albums, and a little bit because of those early Scorpions albums. I often feel bad typing out something like that, like I should know better, but there is a reason why most of us only know that part of his work, that reason is that it is really good. I feel even worse going on about Michael when Phil Mogg is the true leader of UFO and probably deserves more attention and praise.

“Obsession” would be the last album Michael worked on with UFO, before his temporary later return, and in recent listens it has been the one I have given the most attention. As stated “Only You Can Rock Me” is my favorite UFO song, and it being the first track on this album, makes “Obsession” a good candidate for my favorite UFO album.

There is an interesting game of steps of separation that exists in classic rock that can lead us to somewhat forgotten gems. The Scorpions are huge and likely to be remembered forever, and with that guitarist Rudolf Schenker will be immortalized, but his brother, less successfully but similar to talent, will the advantage of being remembered by association and then for his great work. UFO, a band clearly worthy of compliment gets recalled because of Michael, and Phil Mogg gets noticed as the workforce singer and song writer he is. That is how this discovery happened to me, and it only encourages me to dig deeper.

I am filled with questions, like what was UFO like before and after Michael Schenker? How good is MSG? And hey, Graham Bonnet was the lead singer on the album “Assault Attack” and I just a review explaining how his band Alcatrazz was a primarily forgotten classis. Another degree of separation with a similar story.

Writing reviews like this are challenging, because there is some much I am still discovering, but it is also a major source of enjoyment in my live. UFO, five good albums that I know, “Only You Can Rock Me” is really great, I could have just said that for now, but I cannot because there is so much more to take in, and I look forward to it.

Oh, and by the way, “Only You Can Rock Me” is really good. So, good I am willing to ramble on about a band I do not know very much about, just to share with the world how good of a song it is. Phil Mogg sings not only well but at a pace where he nearly overlaps himself, and I do not know if a recording trick is being used or not, because that live version I am so deeply familiar with he creates the same affect. Michael has a great, but short solo, and all in all it is a quick punchy song. A straight forward, high quality rock song, exactly the sort of thing I love.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Friday, June 8, 2018

Alcatrazz - Island In The Sun

Graham Bonnet has had a very interesting music career. I do not very much about Bonnet’s early work, but as I understand it, he was initially an R&B singer, this revelation struck me as odd, because it clashes with I know of the man. Bonnet had a radical turn around in his music career when he was recruited by Ritchie Blackmore to be part of Rainbow; and this is how I know who Bonnet is. However, for reasons unknown to me Blackmore wanted to move on without Bonnet, but once Bonnet had a taste of rock and roll he wanted more. Thus, he created Alcatrazz, his own rock band.

The initial lineup of Alcatrazz included highly talented Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. This is important to note, because Malmsteen is something of a god to some. Many metal elitists consider Malmsteen one of the greatest guitarist of all time, which is likely directly related to the fact that most people have never heard of him. I find Malmsteen to be a bit too much, from what little I have heard of his solo work he has tremendous raw talent but lacks discipline; but to be fair to the man, I should reiterate, that I have only scratched the surface of his music arsenal. The point is Alcatrazz had a young Malmsteen, before his ego made him difficult to work with, perhaps at his rawest, perhaps at his best.

So, it is 1983 and the stage is set for a new powerhouse rock band to hit the scene, and Alcatrazz gives us their best album “No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

“No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll” is one of those forgotten relics. It was a successful album insofar that it was positively received at the time and sold reasonable well, but it was never a big hit and time has dwindled its notoriety. However, a cult following has remained and there are those who remember Alcatrazz fondly, and rightfully so. While Alcatrazz has other albums, it is the common consensus that this first album is their best.

This is a common story that music critics like me like to tell. An album most people have never heard of by a band just as few are familiar with is tragically forgotten and goes on as grossly underappreciated. “No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a very good album and the opening track “Island in the Sun” is a fantastic song, and no one I know knows about it, so by default it is grossly underappreciated.

For their debut single “Island in the Sun” Alcatrazz really leaned in to the whole “Alcatraz” theme. The song “Island in the Sun” is on the surface is a song about wealthy poets exiled to an island prison. The music video is shot at the island prison for which the band is named after, Alcatraz, and depicts the incarceration of the band and their dreams and effort to escape, to an island in the sun. Even the album name relates to the prison them. I suspect something more is going on in Bonnet’s words, but I have not been able to figure it out yet. Maybe it is a critique about the music industry and how it “imprisons” its own creators? That may be a reach.

More importantly, is the combination of Bonnet’s voice and Malmsteen’s guitar. I do not know what notes Bonnet is even hitting or how he is doing it, or how he is capable of holding them so long is beyond my talents or knowledge. For a self trained singer, Bonnet is equal parts talented and unique. Meanwhile Malmsteen shows off all the reasons he has a religious like following. His solo is the highlight of what is an otherwise already fantastic song.

I like “No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll,” it is a good album from start to finish, but if I am to be perfectly honest, only the first track gets replayed repeatedly on my playlist. I have heard the other two albums of Alcatrazz and they are solid, but the only album of theirs I made the effort to track down and purchase is the first, “No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Bonnet would go on to be in many other bands and have a respectable solo career, all of which are rock and roll based, or I think so anyway. He had this long career of hard work and varied success, and the peak of his popularity is forever linked to Alcatrazz and it’s debut album.

Malmsteen would go on to act dysfunctional in a number of other bands but his raw talent would see him through to a successful solo career where he is now worshiped. We have Alcatraz to thank for bringing him to the front of things and certainty to the front of my own attention.

For these reasons alone “No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll” is worthy of remembrance, but the greater reason is the quality music within, espically “Island in the Sun.”

- King of Braves

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Fire Inc. - Nowhere Fast & Tonight is What it Means to be Young

Nowhere Fast:

Tonight is What it Means to be young:

1984’s “Streets of Fire” is not a good movie, but it has proven to have some impressive staying power. The movie is self described as “a rock and roll fable” and I would agree that is an appropriate description. It took me a long time to final get around to watching “Streets of Fire” but it was a movie I knew I needed to see, if for no other reason the involvement of Jim Steinman.

I have talked about Jim Steinman a few times previously. He is most famous for writing the music of Meat Loaf, but he is also written many songs performed by famous musicians like Bonnie Tyler, Air Supply and Celine Dion. But of all the crazy places Steinmen’s music has shown up, my favorite is probably his insane German vampire rock opera “Tranz de Vampire” which I talked about last year:

Of all the places I have come across and investigated the works of Jim Steinman’s the movie “Streets of Fire” always stood out as highly interesting, however for a variety of reasons it remained on the back burner as a priority to actually sit down and watch. It looked like a bad movie, like a really bad movie, but it had William Dafoe, so it was probably secretly awesome. Somehow it was both.

It is a goofy movie, with a very simple plot, and very contrasted quality in acting, for example the female lead Diane Lane, who was eighteen at the time, is terrible, but, unsurprisingly William Dafoe as the antagonist Raven is great. It is also a movie that has aged in a very strange way, because it is super eighties, but the movie is trying to look like the fifties, so it feels double aged from two vantage points, but creates a sort of fascinating visual experience. The script is also garbage, probably the weakest point is the script. Then there is the music, which is sort of a mix bag of decent and amazing.

I think the soundtrack is decent with the exceptions of the opening and closing songs which are the two songs written by Jim Steinman. Fire Inc., the band, was created specifically to perform and record these two songs for this movie. They might as well have credit Jim Steinman directly, but I guess that was not dramatic enough band name.

The movie opens with an Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) concert and the mood is set by the song she lip-syncs “Nowhere Fast.”

I love “Nowhere Fast.” To me, it is a perfect Jim Steinman song. A rock song with lots of piano that feels like part of a rock opera with strong lead vocals… being lip synced by a younger female… and with lyrical content that is a combination of poetry and sarcasm.

I like to call it the “Steinman Witt.” The man had a way with words where he would always find some way of slipping something incredibly smart ass at the end of a very powerful line. Look at the entirety of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as a perfect example, or the line that immediately follows “You Took the words right out of my mouth,” “It must have been while you were kissing me.” Pure smart ass, and I love it.

In “Nowhere Fast” the chorus is the most Steinman chorus in any Steinman song ever written:

“You and me we're going nowhere slowly,
And we've got to get away from the past.
There's nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby,
But we should be going nowhere fast.

Everybody's going nowhere slowly,
They're only fighting for the chance to be last.
There's nothing wrong with going nowhere, baby,
But we should be going nowhere fast.
It's so much better going nowhere fast.”

Did you catch it? The most Jim Steinman lyric in all of Jim Steinman’s work. Here I will point it out for you:

“Everybody's going nowhere slowly,
They're only fighting for the chance to be last.”

At one point in time I had misheard the lyric and instead of “slowly” I thought they said “someday,” further implying that everyone dies someday, and we are only fighting against this unavoidable eventuality. I still believe that is the intended take away from this lyric, were going literally nowhere slowly/eventually, were only fighting for the chance to be last.

I have actually been listening to “Nowhere Fast” years before I knew of the existence of “Streets of Fire.” Not everyone has bothered to learn this, but Meat Loaf had four albums between “Bat Out of Hell” and “Bat Out of Hell 2.” In 1984, the same year “Streets of Fire” was released, Meat Loaf released “Bad Attitude” which include a cover of “Nowhere Fast.” To say “Nowhere Fast” was my favorite song off of “Bad Attitude” would be an understatement, it was by far the best song on that album. Meat Loaf’s version is excellent:

Meat Loaf - Nowhere Fast:

It is unlikely I will revisit the topic of “Streets of Fire” again anytime in the foreseeable future, so I would be remised if I did not discuss the other song written by Jim Steinman for this movie, “Tonight is What it Means to be Young.”

The original plan for the ending of “Streets of Fire” was to have the character Ellen Aim perform a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Fire.” Makes sense. However, they could not get the rights to Springsteen’s song, so the asked Jim Steinman to write a new song, which he did, in two days.

Jim Steinman is very proud of “Tonight is What it Means to be Young,” and rightfully so, it is a very complete and full sounding song. It is insane to think that Steinman some how crafted such a song in only two days, but I guess that is genius for you.

Apparently, the reshooting of the ending to accommodate the new song costs something unseemly, which contributed to the failed Tom Cody trilogy. Oh right, they planned to make three films about the protagonist Tom Cody, but after the box office failure “Streets of Fire” had, the idea was canned.

Or was it?

In 2008, Michael Pare agreed to reprise the role of Cody, in the unofficial, ultra violent, sequel “Road to Hell.” I have not seen this movie. I cannot find any means to see this, interesting film, but I want to just for novelty of it.

The new versions of Jim Steinman's songs look, I do not know uninspired, and once again lip-synced.

Road to Hell - Nowhere Fast:

Road to Hell - Tonight is What it Means to be Young:

Judging from all metrics “Streets of Fire” should have been forgotten, poor reception, universally agreed as a bad film, and made no money, that should have been the end of it. It should have had a fate of obscurity. Yet it has lived on, and its cult following is strong enough to encourage an eccentric director like Albert Pyun to make an unofficial sequel. From my perspective the only really great thing about “Streets of Fire” was Jim Steinman’s involvement, he wrote two excellent songs, two of the best songs Steinman ever wrote were for this train wreck of a film, and I believe that is the primary reason this movie is still so fondly remembered. It is the only reason I watched it, and by far the biggest reason I was able to enjoy it.

It just goes to show what a great original soundtrack can do for film.

- King of Braves

Saturday, May 12, 2018

World Order - World Order

I can think of few things someone could find more enjoyable then synchronized Japanese business men, and that is what World Order delivers.

I cannot remember what website it was where I first discovered World Order, but I believe it was a comedy-based site and I suppose they thought the visual of seven Japanese men in suites performing their unique stop motion dances in public was humorous. That was not the take away I had, I was charmed immediately. They were very talented dancers and the song was excellent, and them performing their art in live in public opened them up to interesting reactions. I liked everything about it. Truly a perfect music video.

When first viewing World Order’s self titled song’s music video, I could not help but notice how much the front man looked familiar to me. After about five minutes I remembered where I had seen him before. He is Genki Sudo, professional mixed martial artist and UFC veteran.

Genki Sudo went two and one in the UFC with his only loss coming by way of a controversial decision to legendary kick boxer Duane Ludwig. If I remember correctly there was a non-sensical stand up due to Ludwig being cut which allowed him to recover and steal the third round. Most fight critics and fans are confident that Sudo’s grappling prowess was so great that there is little debate that Sudo would have surely become the lightweight champion if that weight division had existed in the UFC at that time.

Sudo’s talent as a grappler alone is not what made Sudo so likable, it was his rich personality that endeared him to the whole world. He would break into dance moves during fights, and take extremely high risks with very unorthodox approaches, making him extremely exciting to watch compete. At no point was Sudo just a fighter, obviously he is a very talented musician, singer and dancer, as that is the crux of this whole review, and that really fleshes out Sudo, but there is even more. He has written several books and is arguably something of a philosopher. A simple but important message Sudo shared with the world is “we are all one.” He would carry a flag which contained every flag one earth and in the centre a caption reading “We Are All One.” It is a positive message, a good reminder that each other is all we got.

I believe I have watched every video World Order has ever made and every single one is wonderful. They are all similar insofar, they all involve the World Order group performing their synchronized stop motion like dance in public, typically themed by being set in different major cities around the world. Another common element is Sudo’s message of peace, love and understanding. Naturally World Order’s song arsenal cover many topics, and I only figure it out after looking up the translated lyrics online, but the encouraging mantra of Sudo’s philosophy is persistent through out many of his artistic creations.

As often is the case, there is no love like a first love, and World Order’s first video I saw for their self titled flagship song, “World Order,” has remained my favorite this entire time. It is possibly their catchiest song and they have recorded multiple different versions of it.

The first version I ever heard/saw was this one, where they film in New York city:

World Order in New York:

I think this New York version is my favorite, it is very hard to decide.

I was a little surprised to discovery this version of “World Order” absent Genki Sudo... Unfortunately I cannot find this video anymore, so I guess you will have to use your imagination, but I assure it is real.

Apparently Sudo left World Order as an active member of the group in late 2015, though he continued to operate as the group’s producer and manager. I do not know if this was done to free up some of Sudo’s time to focus on other projects, like writing books or his solo music career. I guess I was not paying very good attention because Genki is now back in World Order, just in time for a song about Donald Trump.

Let's Start WW3:

People like it when you’re topical.

When we recall Genki Sudo’s mantra of “we are all one,” it makes sense that the men of World Order would find concern with Trump’s statements about always putting America first. Then again Trump seems like the easiest target in the whole world right, so I am not entirely sure of the meaningful depth of this new song. But hey, Genki Sudo is back, that is worth getting excited about.

While I do consume huge amount of Japanese content, I do not follow J-Pop, and I cannot say I have a good working knowledge of Japanese music. With that in mind, I am unaware of anything, anywhere in the world that is quite like World Order. I love Genki Sudo, he is a just an amazing guy who had led an incredible life. I love World Order, they are unlike anything else I have ever experienced.

- King of Braves

P.S. We are all one:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Evanescence - My Immortal

The year was 2003 and one of the few popular new band that I liked was Evanescence. They had just released their debut album “Fallen” and their first single “Bring Me to Life” was a pretty big hit at the time. I liked front woman Amy Lee, she had an strong voice for rock and roll and she presented herself really well in interviews where she came across as intelligent and creative. I would have probably have barely noticed Evanescence or remembered “Fallen” as so well as I do now, if it had not been for the strength of their second hit song “My Immortal.”

I would have to go and check to make sure, but “My Immortal” was most likely my favorite song for the entirety of that year. While “Bring Me to Life” brought the rock and roll energy we all crave and need, “My Immortal” was deeply emotional and invoked very powerful images and ideas of fantastic story telling about literal immortals. “My Immortal” is a song I go back and listen to all the time, I must have listened to the album “Fallen” a half dozen times, but “My Immortal” thousands of times I have taken the audio from that track into my waiting ears.

As a side note, I do really like the song “Imaginary,” also on the album “Fallen.”

A few years later, in 2006, Evanescence released their second album “The Open Door,” and the big hit from that album was “Call Me When You’re Sober.” I vaguely remember enjoying the second Evanescene album, but I do not own a copy of it, and it did not connect to me anywhere nearly as much as the first album, and I remember not being very taken with “Call Me When You’re Sober.” This song was inspired by Amy Lee’s ex-boyfriend who was contributed to the end of their relationship with his alcoholism. The ex-boyfriend in question was Shaun Morgan, the lead guitarist of Seether, they were pretty popular back then. I can certainly appreciate an artist’s desire to write about what they know, and in turn, what they are experiencing in their personal life, and I additionally respect that such an event in an artists life can be a powerful source of inspiration, however “Call Me When You’re Sober” felt a little like dirty laundry, not a big deal really, but not exactly my cup of tea. Maybe it was because of this that I never fell in love with the second Evanescence album; I know I have listened to it a few times, but I do not remember it all that well.

After that I kind of forgot about Evanescence. I did not even know they released a third album in 2011, this time it was their self title album. I should probably give it a listen sometime. The only thing that remained a strong presence in my playlists and memory was “My Immortal.”

Let it be known that I am rather fond of violinist Lindsey Stirling:

Lindsey Stirling has done many covers on her youtube channel, and my favorite among them is surely “My Immortal.”

Lindsey Stirling Cover:

This cover stood out to me as unique. Most of Lindsey’s covers are classical or pop music, this is a rock ballad, not entirely a dramatic departure from habit, but notable to me due to my fondness of the original.

I am not sure if I am the target audience for Evanescence or not, surely my individual listening ranks rather low in overall importance, but Evanescence has done something that reminded me of them in a big way, they teamed up with Lindsey Stirling, and recorded a new studio version of “My Immortal.”

Synthesis Version:

Instant love.

Before I even clicked on the video to watch it, I knew I was going to enjoy it. It is sort of meta in a way, someone covers your song, so you team up with them to cover the song together. I can only think of one other time that has happened, Helloween and Hellsongs, I will write a blog post about that eventually.

This new album by Evanescence “Synthesis” is almost entirely remastered songs from their three previous albums. The aim for the album of “Synthesis” is to incorporate an orchestral arrangement and electronica styles into Evanescence’s rock and roll songs. To this end it seems logical to bring in a popular violinist, who is familiar and supportive of Evanescence’s body of work, hence the recruitment of Linsey Stirling.

There are a handful of original songs on “Synthesis” and among them is “Hi-Lo” which also features Lindsey Stirling and not just a guest musician, she cocreator on this track.


Given the relationship that must have grown from their collaborative effort, it is not to surprising Evanescence and Lindsey Stirling are now our tour together. There are no dates for Western Canada, but the tour’s end happens in Washington state in September so if additional shows are booked it could make sense to add Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton in October. One can hope, because I think it would be very interesting to see this show live. I would very much like to hear the songs from “Fallen” that I remember and enjoy so well rearranged in new ways, and also, take in the music I had forgotten from “The Open Door” and the songs I never noticed from the self titled album. Plus, Lindsey Stirling, that would be fun.

I will have to get a copy of “Synthesis” soon, if for no other reason then just for “My Immortal,” also I am curious if Stirling appears on any of the other tracks.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Friday, April 13, 2018

We Are All Astronauts - Doves

I listen to a lot of music at work, and I let myself go down a lot of rabbit holes, and among the most interesting is elaborate guitar music and other heavily ambient music. Furthermore, I listen to a lot of God is An Astronaut, that Irish guitar band I talked about back in August of 2013:

God is an Astronaut – All is Violent, All is Bright:

So, it makes sense that youtube, which I am pretty much addicted to now, would sooner or later recommend music by We Are All Astronauts, given the similar band name and further similarities in mood and atmosphere. The song “Ether” comes up on the auto-play, and the name of the band intrigues me, I think it must be an offshoot of God is An Astronaut, so I let it ride and I listen. Whilst listening, I have the reaction of “what is this?” It is a good song, seven and a half minutes in length, and very absorbing and relaxing. Good stuff. I add to a playlist, so I remember it.

The next day a few more songs come up in the auto-play, they are fine, nothing stands out until “Doves” comes up. Early on in the song a voice speaks:

“In all our searching, the only thing we found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”

So naturally, my response is “what is this?”

“Doves” is a beautiful ambient song rich with layered sound and calming noise. Maybe I am a stickler for words, because almost all of my charism comes from my command of the English language, maybe as a moderate singer it is the only thing I can replicate from my favorite songs with any sort of success, but I like words, I often gravitate towards rich lyrics. The point is, a reason I got hung up on “Doves” more so than other We Are All Astronaut’s songs is the passing presence of the afore mentioned line and then later this fuller follow up:

“You're an interesting species. An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone. In all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”

I had my suspicions this was from a movie, and I quickly confirmed that I was correct, this is from “Contact.”

“Contact” was written by the great Carl Sagan, and I have read a few of his books, but I never read “Contact” which I believe is his only work of fiction, nor have I ever seen the movie starting Jodi Foster, hence why I failed to identify it right away.

Long time readers of this blog may remember I fondness of yet another guitar band, this time out of England, called Maybeshewill, and one of my most popular posts ever was me explaining all the movie references (quotes) from their music, back in March of 2013:

I found it very charming how Maybeshewill incorporated movie quotes into their music in the place of lyrics, and We Are All Astronauts has accomplished the same sort of appeal in their song “Doves.”

An important discovery for learning more about We Are All Astronauts is their soundcloud page:

They have a lot of music on soundcloud, a lot that is absent from youtube, I think. I have been going through the playlists and I have only begun to scratch the surface, I am kind of stuck on the “Blue Dot Series” which are over an hour long each. Given the earlier connection to Carl Sagan I was quick to identify the “Blue Dot Series” as a tribute to Mr. Sagan and his book “The Pale Blue Dot,” which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

I noticed a lot of music from artist I enjoyed mixed in the “Blue Dot Series,” like M83, Gotye and Bon Iver and I also discovered some new stuff I like, but mostly I enjoyed the inclusion of quotes by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sam Harris and of course, Carl Sagan.

The logical next move was to look up this band called We Are All Astronauts. No Wikipedia page, that’s unfortunate, because that is usually a good source of general information like, who are these people and where are they from, Wikipedia may not be perfect, but it is very reliable for that. They are very active on their facebook page, but all the about section says is: “We Are All Astronauts are an ambient, chillwave and progressive duo. Music makes the world go round.” So, there is two of them, I have no idea who they are, but I like what they are doing.

One thing I was unable to confirm was whether of not We Are All Astronauts have any connection to God is an Astronaut. I suspect the answer is no, and the similar names are just a coincidence, but it was a coincidence that doubtlessly helped me discover them, and so far that is working out pretty good.

“Doves” is the commanding favorite track of mine in their playlist so far, so I would recommend starting there, and check out the “Blue Dot Series” if you want six hours of chill background music to listen to.

- King of Braves

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Clash - London Calling

Deserted island. Ten albums. What do you do?

When asked this old question, which is becoming rapidly outdated, the two albums I always fall back on are, Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Gaffiti,” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” That way I covered my two favorite bands, and my two favorite albums. But also, being pragmatic, the double albums always felt the best way to maximize the amount of music to enjoy on that deserted island that I have been thinking about for years.

An obvious third choice for the island, The Clash “London Calling.” It is a great album, and it is a double album, it only makes sense to include it on the island.

One time, I was sitting down trying to write a review for the album “London Calling,” and as I do, I am trying to pinpoint the conversation to a single song. So, I puzzled over this difficult question “what is my favorite song from The Clash’s ‘London Calling.’” That was five years ago.

I have been thinking about this for a long time.

There is a very good reason why “London Calling” is considered one of the greatest albums of all time, actually there are several reasons, but a primary key to this, is the consistent quality through out the album. There are nineteen songs in total:
  • London Calling 
  • Brand New Cadillac 
  • Jimmy Jazz 
  • Hateful 
  • Rudie Can’t Fail 
  • Spanish Bombs 
  • The Right Profile 
  • Lost in the Supermarket 
  • Clampdown 
  • The Guns of Brixton 
  • Wrong ‘Em Boyo 
  • Death or Glory 
  • Kola Kola 
  • The Card Cheat 
  • Lover’s Rock 
  • Four Horsemen 
  • I’m Not Down 
  • Revolution Rock 
  • Train in Vain 
Every single song on the album is an eight or nine out of ten. I am probably being too hard by not awarding a single ten out of ten, but that is just how I feel. Regardless, every single song, nineteen of them, all lean on the great side of the spectrum of quality. What a total success of song writing.

Early work on the album was leading it towards a concept album about crime in London, with characters like the card cheat, and Jimmy Jazz is a crime boss, “Clampdown” tying in nicely to that theme as well. As I understand it, the plan was to focus on songs about London, and as they explored ideas they ended up covering a lot of topics, just as London is a large metropolis with a lot going on, “London Calling” rapidly became an album about a great many things.

One thing leads to another, and one song about the thing or event affecting London can lead to tangents about something else, and “London Calling,” the album, has a number of songs which are not connected to the city but are connected to The Clash and the sort of things they were thinking about. I felt the need to add this paragraph, just in case someone points out a song like “Spanish Bombs,” which is clearly about the Spanish Civil War and nothing to do with London, like I am not an idiot, I know that, but it is connected tangentially as it is a politically charged song that is probably linked to another song of similar theme on the album like “London Calling,” well kind of anyway.

The point is, a lot is tackled in “London Calling” and the ideas there in expand beyond the largest city in the United Kingdom.

The titular song “London Calling” is a perfect blend of the various themes within the album’s whole. Obviously, this song is about London, the city, but it plays to multiple purposes. I have often read that “London Calling” is an Armageddon song, about not only about a disaster ending the metropolis of London but also the world. I never really believed that, or the theories suggesting that it was about a natural disaster whipping out London. I knew there was something else there, something political, something personal.

One way to look at “London Calling,” the song, is to assess it as a war devastating London, however it is highly doubtful that a literal war is what Joe Strummer is singing about, more likely it is a symbolic one, like a clash between the rich and poor. 1979 was a very different time and a common attitude from the youth of that era, was that there was no future and the world, at least England, was on a slippery slope edging nearer and nearer to disaster. Furthermore, the punks of that time had no faith in the previous generation whatsoever to fix these problems, and even less confidence in the government, whom they saw as a major source of their distress. There were literally no jobs, and debt was out of control. The near disasters like the Three Mile Island was a nuclear scar that strongly resonated with Joe Strummer, and this calls in the earlier mentioned fan theory about a calamity destroying a city.

There is this idea that punk music is shallow, and I think a lot of it is. A lot of punk music is raw emotions from confused youths trying to express their dissatisfaction with a world they clearly do not understand. I should not think this way, because I know better, but I sometimes find myself thinking like that, and I remind myself of The Clash. I always tell others that The Clash are the greatest example of deep complexion punk rock, and it would be foolish of me to forget them when discussing the genre.

Looking at the album and song “London Calling” and there is a lot of highly intellectual talking points being addressed all at once. Economic tribulations, political turmoil, fear of technological devastation, poverty, crime, and culture all wrapped up at once. It is a complete masterpiece of music and art, and as far as I am concerned the brightest gem in the whole of punk rock. The greatest example of unbridled rebellion being beautiful and brutal.

Lastly, after five years of thinking about it, my favorite song from “London Calling” is “Lost in a Supermarket.” Maybe I’ll do a review on that song in another five years.

- King of Braves