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.
I had the week of National Women’s Equality Day, and now I have the week of International Women’s Day. Back in August I had said “…we don’t need a day on the calendar for equality. We just need equality.”
With a shifting tide, I’m just going to go ahead and take the day. Screw it – let’s take the week. Let’s take the time and appreciate the likes of Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, and Mavis Staples (Seriously – did you hear her new track with Arcade Fire?) Let’s worship at altars dedicated to Etta James, Karen Carpenter, and Poly Styrene. Take your pick! Find an amazing woman who has contributed to your musical upbringing, turn the volume up, and spend some time with them!
Howlin’ Wind by Graham Parker and The Rumor is an album of abundant substance. The story behind the band and the production of the record have a lot of sub-plots behind them so I will try to focus more on the record and its songs rather than try to form a family tree behind it. This will be hard because Howlin’ Wind was produced by Nick Lowe, features Dave Edmunds as a guest guitarist and was recorded at Eden Studios in London, a studio that had quite an impressive guest list from 1972 to 2007. You very well might have quite a few records that were recorded there: Elvis Costello, John Cale, Joe Jackson, The Happy Mondays, The Smiths, The Undertones, The Sex Pistols, Primal Scream and Oasis are just a few bands that have recorded at Eden Studios. That said, I will try to pin down the Album “Howlin’ Wind” and a give brief history of Graham Parker and the Rumor.
So this is going to be new, because we’re going to get to know this one together. I became a fan – and I mean a rabid, rabid fan of The National via a burned copy of High Violet that a former co-worker slipped me back around the time it came out in May of 2010. I sat on the record for a few years because at the time I was inundated with new music and what I can now admit was a completely erroneous idea that The National’s music was what I call “beard and wine music” (think Bon Iver – who knows, I may one day find I’m wrong about him too). So around 2014 Bret Easton Ellis had the band’s lead singer Matt Berninger one his podcast. I was unfamiliar with the guest by name, and as the cast began with the opening of High Violet’s Conversation 16 my eyes went wide – it sounded exactly like Ellis’s prose – which I am an enormous fan of – reads: haunted. I listened to the conversation Ellis and Berninger shared, which dwelled largely on Mistaken For Strangers, and afterward sought out the song on youtube. When I did I realized it was from the album I had on file and immediately dug it out of one of the stacks of burned discs that live in a cupboard in my dining room.
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.
I found this record in a Record Town in 1991. I was a Freshman or Sophomore in High School and I was looking for bands beside the big ones I was already devouring – metallica, megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. C.O.C. or Corrosion of Conformity looked interesting. And I’m not gonna lie – they seemed dangerous in a way. Shortly after buying the record I returned to the same store and purchased a C.O.C. t-shirt that had the statue of liberty on the front and FREE DOPE AND FUCKING IN THE STREETS in big old letters on the back. It was my middle fingers to ‘the establishment’.