The Listening Post: August 2009

Quickie reviews of what’s been rockin’ the Odd Pod this month…

  • Just Beautiful MusicGas Huffer. A decent album from the obscure Seattle band. There’s not a whole lot of melody to be found, but there’s a good amount of crunching guitar riffs and a strong sense of humor is evident throughout, as on the ode to wallowing in one’s own crapulence, “Is That For Me?” The music is pretty basic garage rock/punk, but there is a very strong element of Cramps-like psychobilly on many of the cuts (notably “Don’t Panic” and “Jungles of Guam”). There are a few songs that rise above the rest (“Rotten Egg,” “Over The Side,” “Hacked,” “Jungles of Guam” and “Cut The Check”) but the difference in quality is based almost entirely on inspired performances, not on inspired songwriting. Grade: B-
  • Present TenseShoes. A power pop gem from long ago. Shoes get bonus points for the very obscure Beatles reference in their name (Interviewer to Lennon: “Where did you get the name ‘Beatles’?” Lennon: “It’s just a word, like shoe.” McCartney: “See? We could have been called ‘Shoes’ for all you know.”) The most amazing thing about this album is that even though the production practically screams 1979-1980, it is the kissin’ cousin to contemporary bands like Rooney and Sloan (“Cruel You” could be an outtake from Rooney’s first album, the similarity is so striking). Indeed, the production makes the entire album sound quite a bit like a collection of demos by Rooney or Sloan. “Too Late” was a mild hit back in 1979, but only provides a small taste of the Beatle-isms and Beach Boy-style harmonies that are evident throughout the disc. Catchy and pretty much irresistible. I have no idea whether this album is still in print, but it’s well worth seeking out if you like melodic, guitar-driven power pop. Grade: B+
  • Get The KnackThe Knack. Thirty years after the release of Get The Knack it is absolutely impossible to figure out what the big deal was. There have been few bands in my lifetime that saw the levels of adulation and hatred that were achieved by this nondescript bunch of power poppers. Listening now, “My Sharona” retains all of the power and joy that it did in 1979, as does the follow up single, “Good Girls Don’t.” There’s also an excellent cover of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” and the album starts off with a terrific little rocker called “Let Me Out.” The rest of the album is as bland and faceless as a Journey cover band. There was an enormous amount of “new Beatles” hype in 1979 over this?? Much of the album is relatively catchy and musically inoffensive. There’s nothing terrible here except the godawful “Siamese Twins (The Monkey And Me)” which is as good as its title suggests. There is an awful streak of misogyny throughout the album. The Knack must have been the most sexually frustrated band in rock history, and they take it out on the women. “(She’s So) Selfish” is either the most piggish song ever written or it’s intended to be ironic as the boys castigate a woman for the crime of not satisfying their sexual urges. The final track is the unsubtle “Frustrated.” No kidding. With attitudes like theirs, it’s hardly surprising the boys in the band ended up spending a lot of lonely nights. Misogyny aside, the music is mostly lightweight and forgettable, the lyrics are pretty dreadful. The idea that these guys inspired an entire “Knuke The Knack” line of stickers is confounding. Grade: C

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