Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Monday, March 19, 2012

But I Don't Really Need It If I'm a Big Star

Most of the bands I write about, they have not only got followings, they have presence, be it hits or a reputation. Once in a great while, I stumble into an artist purely by chance, whether the name just sounds interesting, I like the cover art, or the extremely rare instances of compilation and split appearances. Most of the time, though, I hear the opinion of someone I find interesting, hear a band name over and over in awed tones, via label or artist association, or any number of entangled methods that are thoroughly indirect and require existing experience.

To be honest, most of the ones I find on my own, for all that I love them, are not bands I will zealously advocate to others. I had a subscription to eMusic once upon a time--back when they were a "fee per month, unlimited downloads" service, and I started going through their artists alphabetically as they seemed interesting. This is actually how I know the band !!!, and have done since their self-titled first album¹ but some of the others are a lot more obscure and remain as such, like Atomic Bitchwax, Aspera Ad Astra (who later changed their name to Aspera, and were obscure enough that I added their bassist to my AIM buddy list and spoke to him on there, and he was appreciative, not creeped out), and 2 Lone Swordsmen--though they have appeared in a few independent electronic discussions and such.

To find some great band, some secret, hidden one that people just don't talk about, at least around me, would be something of an achievement. It's not impossible, but having had my father's collection of 8,000 records growing up, as well as his love of music and tendency to pull a "Now, who's this?" on the whole family when a song came on the radio, I had a lot of things covered. Still do--he was just visiting for a Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt concert, and pointed me repeatedly toward mostly classic country artists, as well as attempting to expand my existing awareness of people like John Mayall (from whom I'd only heard the Bluesbreakers/With Eric Clapton album).

If that weren't enough, my best friend in high school and college was into punk when I met him, taught me a lot about it and grunge to an extent, plowed on into post punk later, and then got exposed to some classic stuff he'd never heard via being around me, but far more indirectly. And he tended to absorb and expand at a ridiculous rate. I still remember being around when he was first hearing early Kinks ("All Day and All of the Night" and "You Really Got Me" in particular), who I'd started to find boring and repetitive as compared to their later work.

Stumbling into my friend and ex-manager Gerald and various other people I've known has only made it that much more impossible to stumble on the truly hidden gems. Sometimes, too, I ignore a thrown off reference. Or the name sits and simmers, and then clicks much later.

So, it was pure chance that, one day, I was rooting through a box of newly-arrived CDs at my store--back when I worked for Borders--and saw this:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

No Matter What People Say, I Never Loved Eva Braun -- The Boomtown Rats

While I was not old enough to be thoroughly aware for the entirety of the 80s (indeed, I wasn't even alive for about half of them), I have a pretty distinct affection for bands from the 80s, and a predilection for many of those scorned and discarded as one-hit wonders, known only for one hit (if that) or otherwise "lame" and catchy, thus becoming "pop" which is now often a bad word.¹ This isn't to say that it's a consistent opinion, nor that I do this with all bands thought of as such. I mean, it isn't as if I've got even Reach for the Beach, let alone the entire Fixx discography, for all that I indeed love "One Thing Leads to Another"--though I did recall the album, artist and song title without a pause, so there's still something there.

In any case, my love for INXS, Oingo Boingo, XTC and Robert Palmer are uncomfortably well-known amongst people who like me, though it often becomes known rapidly that these artists have a lot more to them--true of most bands or performers given a large enough oeuvre, though. Still, it gets more complicated with the band I want to talk about right now: The Boomtown Rats. That name isn't one people hear too terribly often, and if they do, it's likely in the context of "I Don't Like Mondays," and is immediately followed by a reference to loud-mouthed frontman Bob Geldof and, more specifically, his involvement in Band-Aid and Live-Aid.

Me? I had no idea there was a connection, except somewhere in the back of my mind. Like many artists I started listening to in high school and college, an interesting song or three led me to obsessively tracking down everything I could find. As it happens, "I Don't Like Mondays" is both indicative and not representative of the band, though it comes three albums in in 1979, on The Fine Art of Surfacing. But alongside it are similarly acerbic descriptions of morbid topics like "Diamond Smiles."

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