For this review, I desperately wanted to find something new that I would love, rather than taking another walk down memory lane to revisit an old favorite, or finding something new that I was only lukewarm about. Unfortunately, given the cyclical nature of popular music, most of the things I like are deeply out of fashion at the moment. So I put a request out to my facebook friends (many of whom have more free time to discover new music than I do) for something that would land in my wheelhouse, a fairly narrow corridor that runs from melodic garage and punk, edges into shoegaze and psychedelia but only the more sprightly regions, and finishes up on the edgier fringes of power pop.
For many people, Christmas With the Chipmunks represents fond holiday memories of fun gatherings and familial warmth. But for one artist, this album represents a career filled with emotional abuse by an ill-tempered Svengali, and cries for help that went unheeded. That artist is Alvin, and this album serves as evidence of his systematic abuse and suffering at the hands of David Seville.
Monday night, I chose to start working on this review rather than watching the Presidential debate. Why? For the same reason Plague Vendor appeals to me – the world is full of depressing shit with a few glimmers of happiness scattered here and there. When there are so many unavoidable things that suck all around us every day, why choose to intentionally subject yourself to something you know will make you mad or sad when instead you can enjoy something that fills you with joy and energy?
My musical taste was molded as much by my music-loving elder siblings as it was by Chicago radio station WXRT. The first time I heard most of the bands I love, it was on WXRT. That was especially true in the late 80s and early 90s when WXRT was at its best, wholeheartedly embracing the British alternative music that became my reason for being.
In the meantime, WXRT has stagnated a bit, aging with their listeners and moving away from anything too challenging to focus on inoffensive AOR, you know, like OAR. WXRT never played Pulp. They never played the Libertines. They didn’t even start playing Muse until 2012 or so, once they put out a single mellow enough to fit in.
After my last review of Primal Scream’s Chaosmosis with its handful of songs that reminded me of New Order, it’s only fitting that I take this opportunity to discuss New Order’s place in the Holy Trinity. You may recall I referred to the Holy Trinity in my review of the Cure’s The Head on the Door. These three albums, given as a gift when I was thirteen years old, went on to define my musical taste for the rest of my life.
As I believe I have stated in an earlier review, I seem to have gradually fallen out of love with music over the past twenty years or so. That’s why almost all of my previous reviews have been for very old albums, released back when listening to music was my reason for living. This time, I decided to try something new, literally, by reviewing an album that just came out recently and that I haven’t listened to before. Admittedly, it is a band that’s been around for about 30 years and a band I loved back when I loved music more than anything.
I’ve always had an affinity for debut albums, with the idea that one’s debut album is every good idea an artist has had their entire life up to that point, while their second album is only the best ideas they’ve had since the last one. But there is something to be said from learning from the mistakes of a debut album, maturing a bit, and coming out with a strong sophomore effort. The Charlatans’ Between 10th and 11th is one of my favorite second albums precisely because it builds on Some Friendly’s strengths and avoids its pitfalls.