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What's in iJamming! Music
Thu, Feb 14, 2002
From the Jamming! Archives:
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Songs, Concerts, and Books
Strange Currencies:
R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall
In his room:
Brian Wilson at the Festival Hall
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
Latest album reviews
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
The full iJamming! Contents
iJAMMING! featured albums
(One every week or so through 2002 - or at least that's the plan.
Older album reviews are listed here - or use the search engine at left

Four to the floor 'techno-punk.'


Two summers ago, you couldn't step foot in a nightclub anywhere on the globe without hearing Green Velvet's hugely amusing tale of dancefloor debauchery ("Cameras ready, prepare to....") 'Flash.' It looked like the big time was calling Curtis Jones, who had been making music both under the Green Velvet moniker and as the house head Cajmere since the mid nineties. (Indeed, 'Flash,' like almost everything on the accompanying eponymous album, had been previously released - and previously ignored.) But despite further success with 'Answering Machine,' his label F-111 went bust and Green Velvet's ascension was halted.

Jones could easily have taken his image as a black Gary Numan for the 21st Century and talked himself into a new major label deal, but instead he retreated to his indie roots, from which Green Velvet has just emerged as a far less compromising, more militant and ultimately disillusioned figure. Consider him the antidote to Felix da Housecat: both men are Chicago Djs whose alter egos have perfected a simplistic electronic musical style that welcomes listeners to the dancefloor; but while Kitten and thee Glitz is pure hedonism, Whatever is the kind of record to put on after the police bust the party. Labeling itself 'techno punk,' Whatever hearkens back to an archetype of that style, late eighties Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb, with simplistic, repetitive, militaristic beats that Jones updates with contemporary frills and his cantankerous (but still just about humorous) lyrics. The music is full on and in your face, barely relenting for a second. Likewise, at a recent NY show, he performed with his two synth-guitarists at such a volume that I literally ran to the back of the hall, afraid my ears would start bleeding. This man is not about compromise. But he does know how to get you to dance - and occasionally to smile.

When?' confronts racism head on. 'GAT (The Great American Tragedy)' and 'Stranj' find Green Velvet examining himself, and not liking what he sees, and 'Waitin' 4 The Day2End' is a frustrated ode to a miserable world. The single,'La La Land' is the obvious exception to this nihilism: it blends the club camera vision of 'Flash' with a surprisingly moralistic tone ("Something bout those little pills unreal the thrills they yield until they kill a million brain cells") and has been a welcome break out hit on certain American radio stations. 
It's a bold, exuberant, lively and fruity American, it tells it like it is, and it's intended for consumption by the common man. Sounds like Snoqualmie's Syrah.

Good songs well sung. You got a problem with that?


It's been out a few months, but some albums are growers. Aiding this one's cause were the following: a) I was sent three copies from three different sources, b) the British press picked up on Kevin Tihista in a big way and though they suffer from hyperbole they're not entirely brainless, and c) I saw him open for Starsailor in December and was much impressed.

So what's all the fuss? Well, everything and nothing. Tihista played bass in Chicago area bands for a decade, and only after they all broke up did he even think about writing songs, at the has-been old age of 30. But once he started composing, the floodgates opened, and Don't Breathe A Word includes the best of the results. They're mostly semi-acoustic love songs, whose pretty arrangements offer more than a nod to the Beatles, Squeeze and orchestral-era Beach Boys; it doesn't take a rocket scientist to file him alongside Elliott Smith, Lloyd Cole and newcomers like Ed Harcourt. (I also hear comparisons to my similarly restrained friend Hub in the occasional use of drum machines, a voice that withdraws to a whisper, and love struck lyrics.) Tihista can be just a little too romantic: lyrics like "She just happens to be the greatest thing the world has ever seen" or "Ooh I love her, as sure as I'm alive" don't improve with repetition. But perhaps we can excuse his rhapsodical songwriting nature, for Tihista is a self-confessed recluse who apparently needed much prodding from friends and fellow musicians to promote himself. (Though it clearly worked: he signed with the UK's painfully taste-making Rough Trade label before landing a deal with Atlantic in the States). His discomfort in the spotlight was obvious when I saw him in concert, where he barely uttered a word to the audience, preferring simply to lose himself in the songs. But then again, what songs! (And how many! His web site promises a free MP3 every week.)

'I Love Her' gets over its blunt lyrics with a charming west-coast psychedelic feel, and the title track is perfect for George Harrison fans still mourning their icon's departure. But it's 'Lose The Dress' that wins out for its clever metaphors delivered in a Morrissey like drawl: "I'm like a film star who's out of control, I'm like a millionaire getting blown in the limo, oh honey I'm in distress, so what's it going to take to lose that dress?" The sensitive ones always turn out to be the most lascivious, don't they?
Honest-to-goodness American singer-songwriter deserves equally unpretentious wine. Schneider's 'Potato Barn' white fulfils that role.

New wave techno-disco house for the noughties


It's already won the Muzik Magazine Album of the Year Award for 2001, so British surfers to this site may need no introduction, but as one of the first releases of the new year in the States, Felix da Housecat's Kittens and Thee Glitz is an ideal reference point for the coming twelve months. Put simply, new wave is everywhere right now, but nowhere more so than on the dancefloor, where its influence is all over the vocals and arrangements on new albums by Morel and Green Velvet, upcoming ones by Timo Maas and Luke Slater - and this superb mid-tempo floor filler by the Chicago-based Felix Stallings Jr. Felix was there as a 15-year old in the early days of house alongside DJ Pierre, he's recorded as Aphrohead, Wonderboy and 2 Black Ninjaz, but he's never had his finger more on the pulse than right now. His most simplistic backings recall early releases on Mute from Fad Gadget, The Normal and Depeche Mode, but by upping the velocity on cuts like 'Control Freaq' and the wonderfully-titled 'Glitz Rock' and 'Analog City' he successfully connects the dots from synth pop to techno and house. Bringing in guests with self celebratory names like Melistar, Elektrikboy and Dave the Hustler ensures a vocal variety, and while the party feeling is deliriously camp, the music is never corny. As Daft Punk have discovered, that's a difficult path to walk, but Felix gets the balance right throughout.
The young discovery Melistar enlivens the opening 'Harlot' and the Numan-like 'Happy Hour' ("808s gives you power"). But it's the French/Swiss ice-maiden Miss Kittin who steals the show with sensually-spoken vocals on the Mode-like 'Hollywood', the pumping single 'Silver Screen Shower Scene' and the B-52's meets-Berlin thriller 'What Does It Feel Like?'
It's an international album, but Miss Kittin's delivery demands a sexy French wine. I've been in love with Mas Carlot's Marsanne recently, which also knows how to keep production simple and let the content shine.

'The #1 band in Estonia' hit elsewhere with their fourth album.

There's a certain cultural imperialism involved in my astonishment that a band from Estonia can sound this good, and those of us who can only place the country as being behind the former Iron Curtain need reminding that it more or less borders Finland, which, as part of Scandinavia, has long been a key market on the global map. Then again, how many great Finnish bands do you know, let alone Estonian?
Totally Blind Drunk Drivers sound like they've been listening to a steady diet of the Buzzcocks, Blur, Fountains of Wayne and Blink 182 since they were born, and it's worth noting that 'The Breast Off' (title lost in the translation, I think) is their fourth album in six years; this is no baby band. Guitars are suitably raw and fuzzy, drums are crisp and simple; the winning ingredient is Urmas Voolpriit's vocals, which recall Pete Shelley at times, and Brett Anderson at others; he wins bonus points for excellent English enunciation throughout. (Apart from 'Voyage Voyage' the lone track in what I assume to be the band's native language: Estonian, or Finnish?) The TTBD, once a trio, has added keys along the way, and this increases the quality of arrangements; some synth gurgle and blurps even give this the occasional retro-Jesus Jones vibe. (In a good way.) All things considered, many an American band would aspire to be this good - and yet there's a certain naivete to TTBD that could only come from not second guessing their intentions the whole way down the line.
'Happylife' and 'Dum Dum' are excellent introductions to a girl-obsessed agenda. 'What The Hell' is retro-1978 power-punk, incorporating Lennon's 'Imagine' as an (uncredited) coda. The techno-pop of 'Radio' contains the great line "I wanna be a hippy and I wanna get stoned." 'Mary Jane' and 'Mary' are two feminine objects of the band's desires, but neither compares to their Suede-like glam power ballad, tongue in cheek (and hand in pants) ode to 1970s soft porn start 'Emmanuelle.'
These simple, refreshing, fruity and a little bit nutty new Europeans deserve wine wine to match. Mionetto's Pionet Grigio will do just fine.
2-B Real

Girl-fronted pop a Go-Go (and Bangles, No Doubt.)

I'm such a sucker for girl pop that a few years back I made up a 90-minute mix tape entitled 'Give Her A Gun.' If I was to record a sequel I'm sure I'd find room for Lava Baby alongside such acts as The Go-Gos, Transvision Vamp, Echobelly, the Pretenders, Blondie and the Shirelles. The New York 3-girls and 2-boys band comes out of the gate blazing with the delightfully ambigous 'Sex Junkie' ("If I brought home a girl for you, would you get excited or try to hide it...if I kissed her and kissed you would you try to stop it or rock it?") and barely lets up across nine tracks and a mere 31 minutes. The group wear their influences so blatantly on their sleeves they may as well be tattoos: this is 1980s new wave girlie rock straight out of a John Hughes movie. Given that they're a good twenty years too late, they make do with covering Split Enz' 'I Got You,' (Survivor, Scorpions and C&C Music Factory are apparently fair game for the live set), and playing Radio Disney tours (do what?) while turning down a VH-1 'On The Road' rockumentary. In fact, they've been compared to Josie & The Pussycats and there is something almost cosmetic about their commerciality. Still, and despite the fact that the inner cover is a mess - designed by the Kinko's overnight dude? - the music is a pure pop pleasure throughout. Pass the hairspray.
'Sex Junkie' for that raw ambiguity, 'I Got You' for cool quota, and 'Now That You're Mine' for straight-up pop classicism. 'Say What I Mean', with the Big Muff foot pedal on overdrive (you think the album was a asex alert?) sounds so like a British girl-fronted band that I'm going insane trying to think who it is.
American through and through, but alternative with it; their inherent femininity in balance with their masculine desires, Lava Baby deserve a wine to match. Château Montelana's 'Saint Vincent' is the one.
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