Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 12/29/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty (1977) on black, Discount’s Ataxia’s Alright Tonight (1996) on white, and Naked Eyes’ Naked Eyes’ (1983) on black.

Place of Purchase: Empty came from the defunct comic/collector shop Legends at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. Naked Eyes came from the defunct used record shop Disc World in Conshohocken. Ataxia came from the Internet, and that shit ain’t ever gonna die.

Thoughts: Jackson Browne had both a specific niche and mass crossover appeal in the ’70s. He was too pretty and poetic for the rockers, but darker and heavier than those softies churning out yacht-rock as well. But he rolled with E Street crowd, so he’s alright with me. Running on Empty is a tour record, with live tracks and rushed studio takes capturing Browne and his band at their peak. The title track is the best cut, with its traveling imagery and huge chorus. It’s like the Doobie Brothers with brains. A close second is a cover of “Cocaine,” which, let’s be honest, has always been a great anti-drug song simply by talking about what cocaine does without politicizing it. Straight edge!

I can’t go more than like 200 words without bringing up pop-punk. It’s the best genre in the word. Suck it, jazz. Discount was one of the best pop-punk acts of the ’90s, and they started their reign off brilliantly with their full-length debut, Ataxia’s Alright Tonight. While things got even better on Half Fiction, Ataxia shows a band already in charge of its sounds. Frontwoman Alison Mosshart dishes personal observations and awkward situations while the rest of the band chugs and burns. Tunes like “Half the Time” and “Malarie’s Mission” get me stoked on life. And that cover of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” tacked on at the end is pretty great too. Forget Paramore and Fifth Hour Hero, this the penultimate female-front pop-punk group. Oddly enough, though, my favorite song on this album is “No Surprise,” which has guitarist Ryan Seagrist on lead vox.

I love Naked Eyes’ cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Always Something There to Remind Me.” It’s one of my favorite ’80s songs. Oh sure, I’m all about tunes from Nebraska and Candy Apple Grey, but the longing and the freaking percussion ensemble that power that song are undeniable. Why don’t marching bands play this song at every sporting event ever? Anyway, the rest of the album holds up, barely. It’s atypical ’80s synth-pop, but sometimes I have to indulge in that kind of stuff too.

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