Enlighten Me

It’s time for awesome album cover Sunday here at The Fault.

The above covers are to the Echo & The Bunnymen album “Reverberation.”  If you don’t know the history, this is the album the band made after lead singer (and big grump) Ian McCulloch left for solo career waters, and also after drummer Pete DeFreitas died in a motorbike accident.  It’s derided by many as not being ‘Echo’ enough, and it probably was a bad idea to use the Echo & The Bunnymen name.  A better idea would have been to become a new group altogether, but it’s likely the record label probably wouldn’t have let that happen – no name recognition to promote.  Plus, there’s a longstanding history of bands replacing irreplaceable members and carrying on as if nothing would change (if you don’t know Squeeze by the Velvet Underground, well…that’s actually a good thing.  I do like the cover for that album as well, to me it encapsulates the pop art of the early 70’s).

And so in 1990, we got “Reverberation”.  I received my copy as a Christmas gift, which is probably the only way I would have listened to it.  To my surprise, I found that I really, really enjoyed it.  The instrumentation is Echo’s latent psychedelic flourishes taken to their natural conclusions, with lots of Indian instrumentation like Sitars, string sections, and tablas throughout.  There’s also production by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, so it holds its 60’s cards close to its proverbial vest.  New singer Noel Burke is fine, but his voice isn’t McCulloch’s.  His lyrics also become very cliched and thesaurus-thick with multiple listens, but overall, the album holds up in a way that some of the ‘real’ Echo & The Bunnymen albums fail to do.

What about the cover, you ask?  Oh yeah, so…if you observe, on the right, there’s a bunch of appropriately psychedelic swirly things going on, with some silver inlay, yeah?  You tilt the picture in a certain way, and a woman’s face appears in triptych, as seen on the left.  It took me a while to figure it out, and the effect is repeated on the inside, with the band becoming visible upon further inspection.  It’s a cool cover that rewards further inspection, as, I believe, does the music contained within.  When I feel like listening to some Echo, at least a few songs on this album get a spin when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Coincidences Abound

Dream-Wife-Tour-Poster

This weekend there are lots of women’s marches happening around the country – a response to 45’s anti-female actions, and to keep the #metoo movement in the spotlight.  That’s great.  The Fault would go out and march proudly with his female allies, but alas, The Fault is only on day two of the flu, and can barely hold it together.  As is my wont on a Saturday, I turn on local (but streaming worldwide) station KEXP.  KEXP is the best radio station in the world, hands down.  They always mix it up and keep it fresh.  You’ll hear recognizable classics that you won’t hear anywhere else, but you’ll also hear new jams, which you also won’t hear anywhere else.  KEXP is committed to breaking boundaries, defying convention, and bringing the best in music – old and new – directly to your eardrums.  I can’t tell you the number of bands I’ve discovered or rediscovered thanks to KEXP.  And Saturday is my favorite day to listen.  They have Positive Vibes reggae in the morning until noon (and we’re talking deep cuts here), and then from noon until six we get a variety – usually new music with some classics thrown in the mix.  At six we get Audioasis, which is Northwest homegrown artists, and then from 9 to Midnight it’s Sonic Reducer – punk and hardcore.  At Midnight you get metal, so really, there’s no better sonic lineup out there on a Saturday into Sunday.  You’ll never be bored, let me tell you that much.

Is there a point to this, other than free plugging for KEXP (no seriously, go listen to the station.  They’re non-profit, so if you like what you hear, think about making a donation).  There is.  This weekend, all of KEXP’s programming is going to be women artists, in honor of the women’s marches.  The Fault listens to, and buys, mostly retro music.  Oddly enough, the only new music The Fault has been buying has been female-led or all female bands.  A couple weekends ago I picked up the EP, 7″ single, and full-length debut from the band Diet Cig.  Diet Cig is a power-pop-punk band, think White Stripes crossed with Go-Go’s.  They’re a lot of fun and I hope to catch them live.  A newer band I am catching live is Alvvays, who are playing Neumo’s, one of The Fault’s favorite local clubs, in April.  Alvvays is power-pop with a bit of 60’s French pop a la Serge Gainsbourg thrown in.  They’re very reminiscent of Saint Etienne, one of my all-time favorite bands, which may be why I liked them from the first time I heard them.  And finally, I discovered another new band called Dream Wife, whose debut album drops next week.  Click the link to check out their awesome video for “Hey Heartbreaker”, it’s not only a great video, but also a super catchy song.  The Fault is hoping they tour the states, and right soon at that.  Other than being new-ish female fronted bands, I first heard them all on KEXP, bringing this post neatly full circle.  And now I can crawl back into bed.

Losing Track of Word and Meter

Siouxsie

It had to happen at some time.  I’ve got the flu, or at the very least, a nasty cold.  My throat is raw, my teeth hurt, I’m not hungry at all.  I’ve spent most of the day sleeping.  Very few bands write songs about being sick.  Not mentally sick – there ARE tons of those types of songs out there, but there aren’t many “I’ve got muscleaches and I feel dizzy” sickness type songs.  Siouxsie & The Banshees did do one called “Sick Child”, which takes in both mental and physical illness, and I think that’s about as close as I’m gonna get.  I like the Banshees, they were a great band.  They were often lumped into the ‘goth’ contingent, in large part because of the way Siouxsie looked for a number of years, but their music isn’t really goth.  It’s definitely (especially after their 3rd album and onwards) more a blend of psychedelia and post-punk plod.  I think it was easy for a lot of people to label them goth – especially when Robert Smith, the king of gloom (and he was only that for a short time) – was a member of the band for a time.  I don’t know that the Banshees made a bad record, although they did make some records that were better than others, but that holds true for most bands.  I personally enjoy their mid-80’s stuff, from Kaleidoscope through Peepshow, best.  After “Kiss Them For Me”, the Banshees flirted with pop in a way they likely would have eschewed in their younger years.  MTV and Alternative Nation definitely helped their career trajectory, especially in America, where they were the co-headliners on the first Lollapalooza tour, which I was happy to have seen.  The best part of the Banshees was always bassist Steve Severin, but he had this annoying habit of playing in higher-octave registers and mixed really low, ultimately being drowned out by the guitarist (whichever one they had for that particular album) and drummer Budgie.  It’s funny, most bands don’t survive long with a rotating guitar stool, but the Banshees pulled it off.  Siouxsie has a competent voice, and I think overall they have good compositional skills.  I’d love for them to get back together – the time is right, every other 80’s band is doing it.  They would probably be a huge draw, given how many people I meet who never bothered going out to see live music when most of these influential bands were active.  Reunion shows and babysitters – the new suburban pastime.  The Banshees even wrote a song about that, called, appropriately enough, “Suburban Relapse.”  And that’s all the logic The Fault can find today, I’m going back to lay down.