Friday, December 18, 2015

Magical Mystery Tour vs. Flowers


Well, this was inevitable, wasn't it? One of the first Great Rock Fanboy/Critic Cliches, nice boy Beatles vs. those nasty greasers Stones, and we might as well indulge in it and get this business out of the way. Both long players are hodgepodge collections of singles and previously unavailable new tracks, released the same year (the summer of flower power), and given the nature of their origins, both consisting of tracks of wildly varying quality. Some consider Magical Mystery Tour to be the Beatles' true Summer of Love masterpiece, not Sgt. Pepper, and it's true that it's not only more adventurous but also a lot more fun than the more carefully planned and constructed Pepper's. The Beatles are throwing it away and taking a lot more risks in the studio, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Likewise, while the Stones LP isn't a self-conscious concept album in the vein of Their Satanic Majesties' Request, as a collection it better captures the snotty spirit of the Stones during their pretending to be hippies and convincing no one mid-60s phase. And as a collection of songs, it's arguably their British Invasion pop masterpiece, when they were fifth only behind the Beatles, Kinks, Who, and Hollies at that sort of thing. OK, so saying they were the fifth-best at British Invasion pop doesn't sound like high praise, but, um - yes, it damn sure is.

1. "Magical Mystery Tour" vs. "Ruby Tuesday" - The Stones track is one of their first baroque-pop ballads (well, baroque by Stones standards), the melody/countermelody a lovely blend of piano and recorder (thank you Mr. Jones; credited as always to Jagger/Richards, though it's actually a Jones/Richards composition).  The McCartney track is baroque-pop as well, but here he pulls out all the stops, layering the track with horns, massed harmony vocals, and assorted studio trickery.  Already on the first track, one key difference between the two bands at this point in their history is underscored: the Stones were still (mostly) tasteful and spare, while the Fabs were fully prepared to go over the top.  I'll give the slight edge to the Stones in this particular case.  Stones 1, Beatles zed.

2. "The Fool On The Hill" vs. "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?" - I'm going to indulge in yet another cliche and mention apples vs. oranges.  Both tracks are more or less equally strong lyrically and musically speaking, but in such totally different emotional and musical genres that picking one over the other completely depends upon one's particular taste or mood, and so I might as well just flip a coin (and indulge in yet another cliche).  Today I'm more in the mood for a punchy rocker that grittily sounds like it was mixed and recorded in the toilet stall on the cover of Beggars Banquet, as opposed to McCartney pop with a circular melody and squeaky recorder solo.  Stones 2, Beatles 0.

3. "Flying" vs. "Let's Spend The Night Together" - This is the most lopsided match up of this contest.  The Beatles jam (the first co-credited to the entire band) is just a pointless, go nowhere instrumental.  It's one of the very few Beatles songs that, even immediately after playing it, I instantly forget how the tune goes.  Mercifully, it's only slightly over two minutes long.  The Stones track is a classic, of course.  Instantly memorable chorus, driving piano riff, catchily blunt lyrics about sex. 3-0

4. "Blue Jay Way" vs. "Lady Jane" - Another no-brainer.  Harrison's psychedelic reverie wanders off into the smog of L.A., bereft much of an actual tune to hold onto.  While I've never been a real fan of the Stones song, feeling that the melody is bit too repetitive and basic (often a problem with the Stones), and Jagger's mannered vocalisms and even more mannered courtly medieval lyrics are smarmily insincere and off-putting (always a problem with him), at least it's memorable, despite being overrated as a "classic". And Brian Jones' experimental instrumentation (this time a dulcimer) once again provides a rather ordinary track with a crucial bit of extra musical spice.  4-0

5. "Your Mother Should Know" vs. "Out of Time" - While the chorus is certainly memorable, and the verses concerning an aging beauty queen an effectively biting bit of character assassination, the orchestral strings seem tacked on and superfluously unnecessary for this Stones track.  The bouncy McCartney tune is what you call a real sleeper - overlooked because of some of the mega-tracks it sits on the same album as, but it's one of the melodic highlights of Paul's career, a composition with multiple but fully integrated verse/chorus sections that's sheer fun.  4-1

To make the 11 track Beatles LP and 12 track Stones LP match up, I'm tossing out the Stones' karaoke "My Girl", which in no conceivable manner improves in any significant way over the Temptations, and you can easily live your life without ever hearing.

6. "I Am The Walrus" vs. "Backstreet Girl" - What an asshole.  The tune itself sounds like a gentle folky ballad and Mick tries to sing in a halfway sincerely romantic manner, but even a cursory listen to the lyrics curdle this pretty tune into whey.  Jagger doesn't want this peasant girl with crude manners to become part of his life, he's upfront about wanting her to know her place and be content to be someone he fucks now and then when he's slumming on the other side of the tracks.

The other tune is a masterpiece of psychedelic jabberwocky.  Goo goo goo joob!


7. "Hello Goodbye" vs. "Please Go Home" - The Paul tune has been unfairly trashed in some quarters, notably out of John's mouth, but c'mon - so the lyrics are silly.  Aren't a great deal of Beatles lyrics kind of silly?  The chorus is ridiculously catchy and it's simply great, fun, featherweight pop fluff - why object so strenuously to that?  I like the Stones track, too - it's their attempt to branch out and ape the Yardbirds with a hard-rock psychedelic freak-out.  Of course it's not as good as prime Yardbirds, but it's a highly enjoyable change of pace from the usual Stones sound.  But there's not a whole lot of actual tune going on there, hmm?  Just some fun riffs.  Gotta go with Paul.  4-3

8. "Strawberry Fields Forever" vs. "Mother's Little Helper" - If the Stones track had been placed in almost any other slot, Jagger's biting satire of middle-class hypocrisy regarding drugs would have a fighting chance.  The Stones are pulling a Kinks and Jagger almost outdoes Ray Davies in the social criticism sweepstakes.  But, but, but - it's up against what is many, many people's favorite Beatles song, a song that conjures visions of childhood bliss and innocence and hanging out in trees and living with eyes closed.  4-4

9. "Penny Lane" vs. "Take It Or Leave It" - Perhaps the only Stones song where I honestly prefer the Strokes song sharing the same name.  This is Goliath stomping all over a pygmy David.  It's not a bad song, considering.  It's not an exceptional or excellent or even better than pretty good song, either, and certainly not a great song.

Do I have to tell you about how or why the McCartney song is his masterpiece?  Do I remotely have anything interesting or original to add to the volumes of rock criticism concerning this song?


Beatles 5, Stones 4

10. "Baby, You're A Rich Man" vs. "Ride On, Baby" - Well, both have baby in their titles, and one is
friendly, the other is a put-down.  And no, I'm not referring to John's taunting Brian Epstein with the barely audible, "baby, you're a rich fag Jew".  I'm not really a fan of the Beatles tune, honestly, but not because of that - the chorus just seems charmless and forced, more of a shout than anything.  The Stones song is an obscure little gem, with a pleasingly cheesy'n'chintzy keyboard sound and terrific lyrics that once again put down some stupid girl.  If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that Mick has some sort of issues with women.  5-5

11. "All You Need Is Love" vs. "Sittin' On A Fence" - OK, so the accusations of misogyny are really making sense.  One song after another bitching about some of the sick things a girl does to a man - it's starting to get on my nerves.  I'm not easily offended, but the final track on this comp is the meanest and nastiest set of lyrical barbs yet.  Still, Mick swearing off marriage because women are all bitches is at least interesting.  The Beatles deliver their most overrated tune, a trite, overly simple and repetitive piece of naive fluff that clumsily attempts to serve as a universal anthem.  Yeah, I know that they weren't naive enough to actually believe the sentiments very deeply, but in its way, the shallow naivety is even more offensive.

So the final score tallies up to a close victory for the Stones, 6-5.  This was quite a tight and interesting race, and for once, I really didn't have the faintest idea which band would pull out ahead.  Perhaps if I pitted the very best Beatles tracks against the very best Stones tracks, the Beatles would pull ahead - because, after all, "Penny Lane", "Strawberry Fields", "I Am The Walrus", trounce "Ruby Tuesday", "Let's Spend The Night Together", "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby..." in any conceivable arrangement of match ups.  But the whims of track order hand this over to the Stones, by a petal.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Past Masters Volume One vs. Singles Going Steady


Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl Boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets boy meets boy meets girl meets boy meets girl meets girl meets boy meets girl, with the early Beatles concerning themselves with the sweet, swoony heterosexual side of the early '60s malt shop and the Buzzcocks with the sweet, wounded, vulnerable homosexual corner of the punk basement. These collections of early Beatles and Buzzcocks singles were recorded a decade apart and a few counties in geographical distance, but in spirit are hand-holding sweethearts.  Teenage love can hurt, early adult love can hurt, and no, it doesn't get better even as you approach middle age, and I bet it still hurts for swinging seniors carrying on clandestine romances in nursing homes.  And it soars the spirit to joyous heights as well, and every other emotion in between - as it should all go without saying.

For this matchup, I've had to do a minor bit of tweaking in order for the tracks to match up.  No worries - all I have done is eliminate the unnecessary "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" and "Sie Liebt Dich", the German versions of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" respectively.  No tears for novelty records aimed at the Hamburg market.  I also originally considered rearranging the track order so that each Buzzcocks A-side would be pitted against a Beatles A-side, and likewise for the B-sides, because Side One of Singles Going Steady consists entirely of A-sides and Side Two entirely of B-sides.  So I figured the match would be unfairly lopsided.  However, I noticed that there are actually only five Beatles A-sides, with another four tracks consisting of the entirety of the Long Tall Sally EP, and the rest all B-sides.  So I'm keeping both in the original track order, minus the German-language versions.  In addition, I'm using the original 1979 edition of the Buzzcocks' collection, ignoring the later reissues that tack on several later-era singles as bonus tracks.

1. "She Loves You" vs. "Orgasm Addict" - OK, so the Buzzcocks' debut single may be bit of a crude novelty joke, but it's a fabulous and hysterically funny joke, and as they say, 90% of us do it, and the other 10% are liars.  The Beatles' debut single, on the other hand, has almost nothing to recommend it.  Eh, maybe the harmonica solo is decent.  But when the best part about a song is a harmonica solo, well....  Pretty easy call here.  Punks 1, Moptops zed.

2. "From Me To You" vs. "What Do I Get?" - Hey, the Beatles have drastically improved!  The harmonies on the "I've got arms that long to hold you..." chorus are particularly tasty.  And it gave them their first taste of American success, albeit via a Del Shannon cover.  It's sweet, it's nice, it's tuneful.  However, Pete Shelly at his best has a way of digging into your soul - haven't most people felt this way from time to time?  OK, maybe not everybody, but sometimes you don't have a best friend or lover and the sleepless nights of loneliness get to you.  Also, it was used in a cat food commercial.  Another easy sweep for the Buzzcocks, who now lead by 2 points.

3. "Thank You Girl" vs. "I Don't Mind" - Usually I have every song the Beatles ever released firmly committed to memory, but I had to look this one up to remember how it goes, which doesn't speak well.  It's OK but nothing beyond lightweight teenage pop.  Nice patented Lennon aluminum vocal on the straining chorus.  Did I mention that the first side of Singles Going Steady is almost a concept album?  Boy starts out discovering his blossoming sexuality via masturbation, then starts to pine for a girl, then gets a girl, then starts having problems with her, then breaks up, but it's OK because in the final track, "Harmony In My Head", he's found solace in music.  (And yeah, I know Shelley was into boys, not girls.  I just used that gender language because I'm a heteronormative conformist.)  At this point in the relationship he's becoming irritated with her, and sometimes even feels that he'd been better off staying at home when they go out.  Does not bode well for the future of this relationship.  It's a hyperkinetic, breathless rush of frustration that doesn't give you a chance to catch your bearings between verses to choruses, and was the first Buzzcocks song I truly developed a schoolboy crush on.  This does not bode well for the Beatles' future in this contest.  3-0

4. "I'll Get You" vs. "Love You More" - Technically the Beatles tune is superior in terms of dynamics, melody, and inventive hooks, with the Buzzcocks single a relatively straightforward and musically basic number that's noticeably inferior to the previous three.  But when has technical superiority had anything to do with love?  You don't necessarily fall in love with the best-looking or most charming person in the room.  And besides, John is being way too cocky.  It's off-putting.  4-0

5. "She Loves You" vs. "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" - OK, maybe you do fall in love with the most beautiful woman in the room.  This is the first truly heartbreaking choice I've had to make in this contest.  Shelley's tortured lament of a gay man falling for a heterosexual friend is - beyond inarguably - the Buzzcocks' finest three minutes.  He's confused and in pain because he doesn't want to mess up their friendship by coming out with his true feelings and making an issue of it.  You don't have to be a gay person falling in love with a heterosexual friend to identify with the protagonist.  Haven't most of us been caught in the situation of falling for a wonderful friend who can't, for whatever reason, reciprocate the feelings?  Maybe she's dating your best friend, or is married, or a colleague that's off-limits, or lives several hundred miles away, or just plain doesn't have feelings for you that way - whatever the specifics, the vast majority of the human race have been there at some point (or will be).

On the other hand, "She Loves You" is, again inarguably, one of the finest stumbles of pure joyous rush in rock history, with a chorus that punches into the ears and guts, and the Fabs' first truly great lyric. Between the lines, John is telling his friend, "If you don't come to your senses and go for that girl, man, I will."  Sorry Shelley, but once again someone has to break your sweet, sensitive heart.  4-1

Oops.  I just looked it up and realized that I screwed up the track order - "She Loves You" is #4 and "I'll Get You" should be at #5.  So I should rewrite it all.  However, I like those little mini-essays I just wrote.  And besides, with "She Loves You" trouncing "Love You More" by a vast, vast margin, and "Ever Fallen In Love" likewise to "I'll Get You", the score remains the same.

6. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" vs. "Promises" -  A peerless Buzzcocks A-side as the singles roll on steadily.  At this point in the relationship, Shelley is feeling bitter and betrayed and has decided to break up with his partner.  Against almost any other band, this punchy steamroll would easily win.  Against the song that literally changed the face of modern pop music overnight,  And the switches between the chorus and the "and when I kiss you..." verses are simply magical.  And Bob Dylan misinterpreting "I can't hide!" as "I get high!" led him to turning the Beatles onto pot, which led to Rubber Soul.  4-2

7. "This Boy" vs. "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" - It's nice but it's never been one of my favorite Pete Shelley songs, and is clearly one of the weaker tunes on Singles despite the fine falsetto chorus and chiming little guitar hook on the verses.  I've always had a fondness for the Beatles tune, a melancholy '50s style ballad with a typically aching, soulful vocal from Lennon on the ascending chorus.  Pretty easy call all concerned.  4-3

Skipping right over the songs for the frauleins...

8. "Long Tall Sally" vs. "Harmony In My Head" - Look, I like Little Richard as much as anyone, and this is a good cover.  But it doesn't compete with the original.  The first Steve Diggle song to make its appearance is easily the peak achievement of Shelley's second-in-command.  It's another smitten love song, of course, but not directed at another person - it's one in a long line of great rock songs about rock'n'roll and how the power of music can save your life, and its title gave the Buzzcocks an anthem that sums up their aesthetic.  Musically, as well - the contrast between the raging punk guitars and shouted vocals in the verses with the wistful melody on the chorus exemplifies the term "power pop".  It's got punk power, but it's pure pop that you can hum along with.  5-3

9. "I Call Your Name" vs. "Whatever Happened To?" - And on Side 2, we delve into the Buzzcocks' trove of B-sides.  The flip of their debut single is a speedy toss-off litany of nostalgiac name-droppings, driven by a hooky bassline and Shelley's affectedly rushed vocals.  The Beatles number is likewise a bit of an overlooked obscurity, originally tossed as a bone to Billy Kramer & the Dakotas, where it languished as the B-side to a flop single.  So Lennon insisted on doing it justice and seeing the light of day by having the Beatles record their own version.  Never having heard the Dakotas version, I can say that the odd tempo shifts make it one of the Beatles' more distinctive early rockers.  It's got a weirdly black-leather jacket clad urgency that reminds you that these former Quarrymen started out playing gigs for drunken sailors and strippers in a Hamburg night club.  Plus - more cowbell!  5-4

10. "Slow Down" vs. "Oh Shit!" - The Larry Williams cover is kind of perfunctory and the 'Cocks raveup doesn't get much beyond the obscene chorus and the guitar hook.  I'll take a generic punk raveup over generic rockabilly on this particular day.  Besides, the guitar hook is pretty fun.  Dum dum dum Dum dum da dum dum.  Dancing about architecture - I can't hum to you across the page.  6-4

11. "Matchbox" vs. "Autonomy" - Ringo's Carl Perkins cover is OK, but it's no "Honey Don't".  I have very little to say about it one way or the other.  Steve Diggle's first recorded Buzzcocks song is an excellent first effort, a bit weak on the verses but the chorus section, "I want you-oo / Autonomy" is extremely memorable.  The tension of wanting to get involved with someone but also needing your personal space, because inevitably as part of a couple you do tend to lose at least a bit of your individual identity.  7-4

12. "I Feel Fine" vs. "Noise Annoys" - One annoying thing about the Beatles is that sometimes their vaunted innovation can be so tepid.  The slight bit of feedback at the beginning has to be the weakest and mildest use of it by a major band in rock history, as if they were excessively afraid of offending radio programmers - it's nothing compared to the early Who's use of it, from whom they borrowed the idea.  Nevertheless, a fun, joyous, lightweight little ditty - as infectious as a bad case of puppy love.  Aww.  The Buzzcocks B-side is a decent novelty tune, but rather silly, isn't it?  The noise parts are better than the sing-songy "pretty girls, pretty boys" verse parts.  7-5  This race is getting tighter!

13. "She's a Woman" vs. "Just Lust" - I know that it's Paul's attempt penning a Little Richard number, but doesn't it come out as more Ray Charles, at least to my ears?  It's simple in style, with an unusually basic melody by McCartney-pop standards, and that's fine - she rolls, baby, she rolls.  Too many rock bands forget the roll.  The Shelley tune carries itself mostly on the strength of its bitter lyrical insightfulness - "There's love in your eyes but not a bit of trust / Just lust" - but musically doesn't offer a lot.  It's still a decent song, but this time, the Beatles do basic and simple better.  7-6

14. "Bad Boy" vs. "Lipstick" - Another Larry Williams cover, but I actually this one a lot better, mainly because the lyrics are actually kind of fun, and John puts some real energy into his vocal performance.  But it's still just a rockabilly novelty tune.  The Shelley/Devoto tune was amicably split between their two bands, with Magazine taking the riff for "Shot By Both Sides" and the Buzzcocks employing it here.  While I prefer the Magazine song somewhat, the Buzzcocks' song easily could've been an A-side.  "In your dreams does your lover have my face?" Good question.  8-6

15. "Yes It Is" vs. "Why Can't I Touch It?" - A very easy call.  John's achingly heartfelt vocal have long made it a sentimental favorite, and easily in my top 10 or 20 Beatles songs - which, of course, is saying a lot.  It's also one of the rare examples of the Beatles tackling slow, barbershop quartet '50s balladry, and the harmonies are peerless.  The Buzzcocks track - it's slow as well, and for these Mancunian speedsters, that's not a particularly good thing (at least in this case).  It's got a nice rhythmic bass hook, but really, this is by no means a contest.  8-7

16. "I'm Down" vs. "Something's Gone Wrong Again" - The McCartney track is allegedly a parody of Lennon's "Help!", and it's a frantic, raucous rocker, with Paul doing a mean Little Richard vocal, yelling at the top of his lungs while the band tries to keep up.  It's fun, but it's trying a bit too hard, you know?  Paul is trying to impress us with how hard he can rock out, and he comes across as slightly less than convincing.  Slightly, but that fraction matters.  The Shelley tune is a Ray Davies-esque critique of the frustrations of modern society, with a repetitive krautrock motorik beat urgency.  It's not A-side level Buzzcocks, just strong album track level Buzzcocks.  So it's got the slight edge and the final score tallies to 9 for Manchester, 7 for Liverpool.

That the Buzzcocks won should not be that much of an upset.  After all, these A/B-sides are Shelley & Diggle caught at their peak, and is unquestionably one of the greatest singles collections in rock history.  Past Masters sometimes catches the Beatles at their best - you know which 3 or 4 tracks I'm talking about - but a great deal of it is clearly B-level Fabs.  So in conclusion, you should shut off the computer, head down to the sock hop or all-ages punk show, and meet some girls.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs

Louder Than Bombs (1986) ****

This 72 minute double LP (single CD, single long Youtube video or whatever streaming venue of your choice) tosses an assortment of A & B sides not available on regular issue albums.  It was released specifically for the U.S. market, where none of these songs had previously been available; there's a shorter U.K.-market comp entitled The World Won't Listen, consisting of non-LP A/B-sides.  Discographical confusions aside, what we have here is simple:  the Smiths at their best and worst, because it is as a singles, not album, band that their legacy shall rest upon.  Sides 1 & 2 (on vinyl; it's the A-side of my old cassette copy) is an easy five-star classic, one brilliant, breathless rush of gem after gem (except for "London", more of a riff than fully fleshed song).  Alas, flipping my cassette over, I find that after the unusually bouncy & upbeat piece of fluffy jangle (hiya, Kirsty Maccoll!  Maybe I'll review that lass' work someday), the B-sides on Sides 3 & 4 offer little new or compelling or memorable.  Well, that is -- half of the tracks on the second side of the cassette were already available in superior form on Hatful of Hollow, and of the previously unheard B-sides, "Rubber Ring", the instrumental "Oscillate Wildly", and the cover of Twinkle's "Golden Lights" rank as three of the worst-ever Smithstunes.  "Unloveable" is a keeper, but that's about it.  But oh!, those first dozen tracks!  I have two great loves and flipping a slab of vinyl like a coin would be the only way to settle the issue of which one is the true one:  the dreary mope-ballad "Half a Person" which speaks to my adolescent morbidity and alienation, or the anthemic "Panic" which speaks to my alienation from my peers and their shitty taste in music.

Anyhow, expository section of review thus ended.  With 24 songs, a track by track review is ridiculous, and it's the Smiths - they jingle, they jangle, Morrissey pouts and you never know how seriously he's taking the joke or if it is indeed all a put-on.  Let me guide my psyche through some of Moz's lyrical bon mots for a glimpse into his (and my) soul.

"I was bored before I even began" - Sometimes I do get bored when I start writing some of these reviews, not so much that I don't enjoy doing it, but more like: is it worth the bother?  Why am I churning out this drivel for an obscure blog that barely a handful of people ever actually read?  Why do I waste valuable time on people who don't care whether I live or I die?

"I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside" - Actually, I don't care for my fashion sense.  I'm an aging punk that takes his fashion cues from another aging punk, Mark E. Smith, in that I just toss on whatever I feel like and don't give a toss what other people think.  And what could be more punk than that?  P.S. I actually used that line recently on a girl dressed in black (hey, I'm enough of a geek that when I saw the opportunity, I couldn't resist).  Naturally, she had no clue what I was talking about.

"Shoplifters of the world unite and take over!" - I haven't shoplifted since I was a teenager.  It's like vandalism and drunkenly peeing in public, one of those petty crimes that everybody does as a kid that seem would look really, really silly on you as an adult past a certain age in your life (like, say, after college when you've got an adult job in the real world).  Or alternately, a desperate hobo living on food stamps, which I should never rule out the possibility at some point in my future.

"Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you'd like to" - People who knew me in high school and college generally express shock when they find out what kind of person I've become these days.  I've actually developed halfway decent social skills; I'm social, period.  Sometimes I even date girls.  It's been a long, slow, painful process pushing myself into a relatively normal, socially well-adjusted person.  My biggest regret is having spent so many years as a shy, confused, emotionally tormented, angry and alienated loner - and what should've been the best years of my life, my youth.  Now I'm bored and old.

"16, clumsy and shy, that's the story of my life" - See above.  Have I really adjusted that well?  Because there are times when that still sums up exactly how I feel.  In my average, everyday life when I engage with friends and encounter strangers & aquaintances, I generally have no problems, at least no more than any ordinary person.  Romantic situations - I'm a complete trainwreck.  It's an area of my life that in my younger days I had little experience with (see above, again) and learning how to navigate these tricky waters at such a late stage -- it confuses and (to be honest) terrifies me to an extent.  Well, I suppose these are normal feelings for almost anyone.

"The music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life" - One thing that I hate about dance music is that it's dance music.  There are all kinds of music that you can dance to, yet if you go a club all they will play is electronic dance music, which is a very narrow and narrow-minded genre that is OK in small doses but it's not the only kind of music out there.  Check out clips from the '60s, mods were disco dancing to "Autumn Almanac" of all things!  Tired of the tango?  Bored with the beguine?  Had your fill of quadrilles?  I always hated the hair metal and grunge crap that kids my age were listening to back in the '90s.  Kids and teenagers in general have shitty taste in music because they don't know any better, but unfortunately they drive the market by being the top consumers of manufactured Top 40 and dance pop and whatever testosterone-poisoned variant of metal is thumping its chest, so mainstream crap is what we shall eternally get in the mainstream.  So change the damn station.

"When all I ever wanted in life was to be famous" - Can't identify with this line at all.  Never had much of a craving for the spotlight.  That's one reason why I never seriously tried to become a musician, despite my obvious appreciation for music (that, and I have no talent for any instrument whatsoever).  Putting myself on stage just seems, not frightening, not at all, but just silly.  It makes me feel goofy and self-conscious.  Especially if I were trying to soulfully pour my heart out on fruity love songs - no, just no, not me at all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let It Be vs. Let It Be


Usually the eventual outcome of these battles can be as much of a mystery to me as you, dear reader - I don't know exactly how the votes are going to tally up, and I've surprised myself on occasion (notably the Byrds' debut trouncing Please Please Me - shocker!). However, in this particular case, I've got a feeling (pun intended) that it's a foregone conclusion. This is one of more logically fitting matchups (same title, you see?) from two bands that, in their radically different ways, both represented their respective generations.  There are stylistic similarities as well: it's as close as the Fabs ever came to off-the-cuff, garage rock territory, and well, the 'Mats - they defined sloppy, ragged-but-right, off-the-cuff garage rock.  Rough edges have their charms, yet while in the Beatles' case Let It Be sometimes comes across as a rough set of demos needing more polish (contrasting uncomfortably with the Phil Spector produced tracks that suffer from way too much polish), when it comes to the Replacements, rough, sloppy edges are an intrinsic part of the charm.  But don't feel too sorry for the Fabs - what we have here is arguably the Beatles' second-weakest album (after the 1963 debut) up against Westerberg & the Stinson Bros.' finest (barely over) half hour. (Arguably)  One more note:  to shoe-horn this in, I'm not counting "Dig It", since it's not a real song, and really only works in context as a jokey, deflationary intro to the pompous "Let It Be".

1.  "Two of Us" vs. "I Will Dare" - Bromance vs. Romance.  Paul bidding John a tender farewell to their working friendship, or Paul self-deprecatingly taunting a girl onto a date.  (There's a Paul leading each band, but trust me, you ain't a getting them confused.)  A tough one, as Sir Paul's folk-pop ode to the warm ties of close, long-term friendship has long been my sentimental favorite on this particular record.  On the other hand, self-deprecating fumbles at romance is just what Paul W. does (heck, it's what I do as well), and there's a Peter Buck mandolin solo.  Plus, "cigarettes and fingernails, that's a lousy dinner."  Replacements 1, Beatles 0

2.  "Dig a Pony" vs. "Favorite Thing" - Once again, a very good Beatles song.  However, unlike "Two of Us", not top tier and certainly not a classic.  Even when John was throwing it away, he could be great.  And then there's the finest, fastest, hardest, sloppiest slice of garage rock on this particular Replacements disc, which in other words means it's one of the finest, fastest, hardest, sloppiest slices of garage rock essayed by any garage band from Nuggets to the White Stripes.  Not a fair contest.  The moment when Paul moans "you're my favorite thing" over and over and then screams "but I'm NOTHING!" and Bob Stinson soars into his wailing, barely in control 10 second solo - that may be the most thrilling 20 second stretch those Minneapolis misfits ever achieved while half-drunk and in the throes of a full-on crush.  Replacements 2, Beatles 0

3.  "Across the Universe" vs. "We're Coming Out" - John's melodic highlight of Let It Be, if you can ignore the flaky Eastern mysticism (it was written on the sojourn to India), and the only Lennon tune on this album that wasn't a throwaway.  The Replacements track is a hardcore punk raveup that segues jarringly into Tom Waits-style bar room piano swing at close to the halfway mark.  I'm handing this one to the Beatles, since the hardcore punk half is ugly and half-assed, much as I enjoy the angrily bitter, self-pitying swing section.  Replacements 2, Beatles 1

4. "I Me Mine" vs. "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" - Self-important, furrow-browed seriousness vs. a goofball throwaway.  The Harrison song may be technically stronger from a melodic and hooky POV, but it sure as hell ain't half as fun.  Besides, "Hey nurse, what are you doing?  Later. after the operation?"  Replacements wipe snot on the roof with Beatles, 3-1.  (And hey, just noticed - both of these are concept albums about hanging out on the roof!)

5. "Dig It/Let It Be" vs. "Androgynous" - There's no doubt that both lyrics are sincere and heartfelt, and Harrison's buzzy solo in the midst of this sepulchral edifice to Catholic reverie almost tips the scales in favor of McCartney.  But something meets boy meets something girl just cuts deeper.  Usually with most songwriters it doesn't, but Westerberg is the heart-on-his-flannel poet of ragingly insecure romantic angst (more on that later - much, much more on that later), and identify is too weak of a word.  Replacements 4, Beatles 1

6. "Maggie May" vs. "Black Diamond" - A brief snippet of a traditional Liverpool folk ballad about a thieving prostitute, and a fully-fleshed out traditional NYC rocker about hanging out on the streets as a homeless teen, or whatever.  Look, let's get this straight - KISS weren't a real band, they were a marketing ploy that gussied up in the costumery of a rock band in order to swipe $$$ and screw 4,000 groupies (with photographic evidence), not necessarily in that order.  That the Replacements somehow make a stupid KISS kover actually enjoyable is to their credit, even if it is the weakest cut on side one.  Replacements 5, Beatles 1.

And now let's flip the vinyl over to side two.

1. "I've Got a Feeling" vs. "Unsatisfied" -  Paul W. sounds like he's ripping his lungs out in anguish; this isn't a song that was written, it was carved out of stone, or more accurately, sliced out of Westerberg's very flesh.  John and Paul are throwing it away again.  Everybody had a hard year, everybody knows who wins this round. 6-1

2. "One After 909" vs. "Seen Your Video" - Neither composition is particularly strong, the Replacements throwing it away uninterestingly on this half-instrumental, while the Beatles tune is just some soggy rockabilly readymade leftover from the Quarrymen days.  Move over once, move twice, it's the Replacements because at least the quasi-surf twanging shows some mild originality as an actual piece of music.  7-1

3. "The Long and Winding Road" vs. "Gary's Got a Boner" - Eh, this is one of the most lopsided matches in this contest, and for once in the Fabs' favor.  You know it's the worst piece of dreck on Let It Be (either album) glancing at the credits - Ted Nugent rip-off?  As much as I find Spector's overproduction gruesome, if you dig beneath the lush syrup you'll find one of McCartney's more affecting and melodic tunes.  Replacements 7, Beatles 2

4. "For You Blue" vs. "Sixteen Blue" - Coincidental titles!  Now it's Harrison's turn to throw it away as he tosses his band a ragbone of a generic blues exercise, ridiculously underperforming in the originality department, and with his weak, nasal white English boy tenor, one of the least convincing essays on Elmore James committed by any British rock group of his era.  To be fair to George, he did have lots of much better songs in him - he was just saving them all up for All Things Must Pass.

Oh, and for "Sixteen Blue" - ever been a teenage virgin?  Ever cried yourself to sleep because you were lonely and had no clue how to get a girlfriend or even talk to girls you liked without shaking inside, and pretending to your parents that you actually have friends and a social life but when they drop you off downtown you just wander the streets feeling sorry for yourself and hating your face, looks, clothes, body because you look awkward and funny but you're not laughing, you're filled to the brim with self-doubt and loathing and angst and misery.

No?  Then fuck you.


5. "Get Back" vs. "Answering Machine" - Even if McCartney had kept the original lyrics spoofing racist paranoia about Pakistani immigrants, the Beatles still couldn't have won.  It's a nice little tune but nothing special.  "Answering Machine" on the other hand - sometimes I hate modern technology.  People communicate by email and Facebook and Twitter and voicemail and texting and whatever the latest social media apps/networks are, rather than talk to each other face to face, and while these modern technologies are convenient, you'd be a fool to deny that some vital human element is lost.  It's alienating.  The modern world alienates human relationships.  Westerberg is trying to tell some person that he cares deeply about that he's lonely and misses her but he's OK, but even though his courage is at his peak, he can't bring himself to leave that message on her goddamn answering machine.  All he needs at that vulnerable moment is to hear another person's voice, to make some sort of real human connection, but he gets the toneless robocall of the operator.  You finally have the nerve to call up somebody and she doesn't pick up - maybe she's busy or out at the moment - and you really should leave a message to say that you called, but it's awkward, and if you do that there's no guarantee she'll call back, so you resolve to call back later, but not too soon because you might come across as desperate (which you are) and anyway.....  Maybe Westerberg is overthinking it all and is feeling neurotically insecure when there's actually no good reason to be.  Maybe he should just let it be.

Final score 9-2.  Poor Beatles.  But like I said, it was one of their weakest albums, with John and George both saving all their best songs for their solo albums, leaving only Paul to put out his best efforts while he was still at the top of his game.  And Westerberg was at the top of his A-game in the mid-'80s, so the results could hardly be unexpected.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy

Excitable Boy (1978) ***1/2

I stumbled across a dusty Tibetan ouija board in a Chinese knick-knack shop in the alley behind my apartment and to break it in, I have contacted the spirit of Warren Zevon himself for this review.

Creative Noise:  Hiya, Mr. Zevon.  Do you mind if I call you Warren?

Warren Zevon:  Call me Mr. Bad Example.

CN:  Fine.  How's the air up there?

WZ:  Up there?  Why would you assume I went up there?  No, where I am it's hot, damn hot, dusty, and I can't even find a decent bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin.  The only liquor on tap is this 3.2% crap.  Piss water that has the audacity to label itself beer.  I've knocked back a dozen in two hours tonight and all I feel is the urge to piss all over the walls.  Boring as hell burg, too.  My only consolation is that I'm told that Merle Haggard and Lemmy might be arriving here anytime soon, so at least I might have a couple of drinking buddies.

CN:  You tell me you've been sent to an eternity in Oklahoma for your sins?  I am so sorry, man.  It ain't Denver, but there are things to do in Tulsa when you're dead.

WZ:  Tulsa?  I could only wish.  No, they sent me straight to Muskogee.  I transform into a headless werewolf at dusk and howl my one big hit to put the scare into Okies.

CN: I've observed that quite a few followups to great debut albums suffer from slightly inferior copycat syndrome - the Byrds, the Pretenders, et. al.  Your debut and Excitable Boy seem to have certain twins in common - "Johnny Strikes Up the Band" takes up the place of "Mohammed's Radio" as the lyrically slight, upbeat most danceable tune, while "Accidentally Like a Martyr" is a somewhat superior take on "Hasten Down the Wind".  And it still sucks.  This England Dan & John Ford Coley soft-rock tripe is beneath you.

WZ:  I agree.  That is only one of the many, many sins for which I am paying penance.

CN: "Nighttime in the Switching Yard" is even worse.  What is a near-sighted Jewish kid from the Midwest doing fooling around with funk?  "Join Me in L.A." was such a bad idea you had to do it twice?

WZ: I'm not entirely responsible.  If you look at the credits, it was co-written by the entire studio band.  It seemed like a groovy jam at the time.  And it was.  It just didn't make the transition to record very well.

CN:  Let me focus on the positives before I start pissing you off too much.  I've heard you can have problems with your temper when you've been drinking-

WZ:  3.2% beers!  You think I'm a lightweight?

CN:  I would never imply that.  Your feats of alcoholism were legendary.  My favorite line in "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" is "he found him in Mombasa in a bar room drinking gin".  I like songs that tell interesting stories, beyond the usual boy-meets-girl stuff.  "Veracruz", for the same reasons - it's the only song about Woodrow Wilson's invasion during the Mexican Revolution that I'm aware of.

WZ:  I'm proud of that one.  I should've brushed up on my Spanish for some of those lines, but I was rusty so I had Jorge sing'em.  "Roland" is one of my signature tunes, but like "Werewolves" it became something of an albatross over the years.  You know how people demand that one song of yours over and over and ignore all your other stuff....

CN:.....yeah, yeah, that's why I've danced around mentioning that one.  Scoring Fleetwood Mac's rhythm section probably had a lot to do with it being such a big hit, don't you think?  The track swings.

WZ:  I spent the rest of my life being known for one goddamn novelty song.  Everywhere I went people would howl "a-woo!" at me.  Drove me to drink.

CN: I didn't think you needed any help.  And it's a great novelty tune!  I bet you got sick of "Lawyers, Guns, and Money", too.

WZ:  That one I could tolerate.  It has "shit" in the chorus, so it wasn't so overplayed.

CN:  I'm looking at the credits right now.  Jackson Browne co-wrote "Tenderness on the Block"?  No wonder it's so boring and forgettable.

WZ:  Hey now, Jackson's a nice guy.

CN:  A boring and forgettable nice guy, if his music is anything to go by.  And I hear he's not so nice to his wives.

WZ:  Neither was I.  Another reason I'm stuck haunting Dust Bowl, OK instead of swapping brandies with Stravinsky up there.

CN:  Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, he taught you piano when you were a kid, didn't he?

WZ:  Yup.

CN: What do you think he'd make of this bright, gifted kid he'd taught classical piano pieces to, growing up to write murder-rape fantasies set to basic bar room boogie?  I'm sure there are tears in heaven.

WZ:  First of all, I'm not even sure if Stravinsky is in heaven, and second of all, where do you get off mocking one of my most clever, wittiest songs?  I named the record after it!

CN:  Look, Warren, like a lot of people, you're not nearly as clever or witty as you think you are.  Plus, while it's catchy, it is pretty basic, and overall it comes across as a little....uh....sorry, man, but just kind of stupid, you know?

WZ:  If I didn't have to start stalking the town in the next hour or so, I'd come all the way over there to wherever the hell you are and slit your throat, you condescending rock critic piece of shit.  I work hard for months writing songs and putting together my best effort at an album, and people like you who haven't ever created anything themselves, you people come and shit all over my art.

CN:  Calm down, excitable boy.  Where did that come from?!

WZ:  I snuck an emergency stash of whiskey in my boots, just for desperate situations.

CN:  Maybe let's wrap this up then.  In conclusion, like all of your albums, Excitable Boy is an uneven mix of some very good songs and some not so very good songs-

WZ: Listen you son of bitch, a knife to the throat is too quick.  I'm going to tie you to a tree in the woods and rape your girlfriend while all the while making you watch, and then I'm going to slice you with a couple dozen cuts so you can die a slow, painful death from bleeding from your wounds.  Maybe some wild animals will smell your blood and devour your flesh - if you're lucky.

CN:  Jeezus.  You stole that from Rashomon.  Even your murder-rape fantasies are derivative.

WZ: Derivative?  Derivative?  DERIVATIVE?  Once you've had a major international hit and a thirty year career in music-

Connection disrupted

I tried calling Warren back a few days later, when I figured he'd sobered up, but somehow the lines got crossed, and the ouija board hooked me into GG Allin's answering machine instead.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Warren Zevon - s/t

And when California slides into the ocean/Like the mystics and statistics say it will/I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill

Warren Zevon (1976) ****

Musically speaking, an album that sounds like Jackson Browne turned to the Dark Side was nothing either revolutionary or of any special note to emerge from Southern Cali in 1976; the lyrics are obviously the main attraction here - it's, well, a singer-songwriter album, and therefore the difference between lacerating memorability and forgettable accomplished mediocrity comes down, as it so often does in pop music, to attitude.  Weaving self-consciously cynical tales of the sleazier side of '70s L.A., Zevon comes across as the simpatico West Coast stepbrother of Steely Dan, minus the jazz pretensions.  Backed up by a slickly professional set of top-notch L.A. session men and a decade's experience in the biz (this is actually his second album, but for all intents and purposes his debut - the less said about his extremely premature 1969 LP, Wanted Dead or Alive, the better), the musical backing may situate his songs snugly between Bob Seger and the Eagles, but the songs themselves are a considerable notch above those MOR classic rockers in terms of brains, soul, wit, and elan.  In other words, this review is going to focus mostly on the lyrics rather than bother much with the adequate musical qualities, as it should.

Besides, the songs - when they're on - are simply so damn good.  Which is a slight problem - if the entire LP lived up to the likes of the down and out heroin ballad "Carmelita" (allegedly a Springsteen parody) I might rate this as highly as, say, John Prine's debut.  As is, unfortunately, Zevon seems to have resided in Laurel Canyon a mite too long, and some bad habits of his Asylum record labelmates seem to have rubbed off on him.  I'm speaking chiefly of the album's first single and (thankfully unsuccessful) attempt at a soft rock hit, the Linda Rondstadt-covered "Hasten Down the Wind".  I'm not even going to try to resist the juvenile pun obviously, painfully sitting there.  Take ten seconds to figure it out if you haven't sniggered already.  In fact, most of the rest of side one troddles on ground almost as shaky as Zevon's brown baritone itself.  While the album gets off to a fine, if deceptively normal, non-perverse start with a simple piano boogie about the cowboy outlaws "Frank and Jesse James" - which could almost fool the unsuspecting listener that they're in for an Eagles album - the next two songs are bog-ordinary country-rock songs of no particular memorability or merit in either lyrics, performance, or presentation.  Hey, maybe this is an Eagles album after all!  And then we get to "Hasten Down the Wind".  Oh brother, this guy looks like he's starting to suck.  But then in a drastic turnabout we get the LP's first genuine rocker, the headpounding "Poor Pitiful Me" which openly mocks and derides the self-pitying tendencies of the singer-songwriter genre, narrated by a completely unsympathetic, sleazeball womanizer who boasts of how rough it is having all these So Cal women throwing themselves at his feet to be abused by him.  That same character seems to turn up in the next song as well, "The French Inhaler" (a pun on....oh, if you don't get the sexual reference, nevermind), though through a somewhat more sympathetic lens (if not exactly trustworthy, likeable, or non-scuzzy).  Musically it could be demented Billy Joel, as the narrator sits at a Hollywood bar full of phonies that he pretends to be friends with because - well, hell, I guess a guy has to have some friends - with money that he may or may not have acquired pimping out a failed aspiring Hollywood actress.  Or maybe he's just talking about the type of beautiful, lonesome, messed-up gal that every seasoned bar veteran knows so well.  Either way, the genuine Warren Zevon finally emerges for the first time on those two songs, and thankfully now that he's got his sea legs, that guy hangs around for the rest of this little long-player.

Maybe my ears are glossing over some key verses, but lyrically I find nothing noteworthy about the tune that kicks off side two, "Mohammed's Radio" - and for once that doesn't matter, as it's a fine slice of anthemic neo-Van Morrison-ism.  "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" gives the finger to those who would rather keep it cool and Zen, providing this gin-soaked, unrepentantly hell-raising asshole (Zevon, not me) a lifelong personal anthem.  It's "Carmelita", the Mexi-Cali flavored heroin ballad that may be the album's strongest highlight, however, as Zevon sings of methadone clinics, welfare checks that get cut off, selling typewriters to pawn shops, and living on the outskirts of town with a Mexican squeeze, all with a discernible twinkle in his eye - as if it's all actually a parody of the sad-sack, beautiful-loser style of singer-songwriter balladry.  Or he could be singing heartfelt sentiments with a bemused attempt at grim levity - who knows?  I will pause to regretfully note the lone bummer on side two, "Join Me in L.A.", slimy moron-funk that's as disgusting and gross as '80s Don Henley (and sounds suspiciously like it), before arriving at the final track, "Desperados Under the Eaves".  Now I know this is outright parody, from the title alone, and it's terrific parody - he nails with unerring, mocking accuracy the macho cliches of cocaine outlaw-blues of '70s rock, yet manages to keep the tune oddly emotionally moving, as the narrator holes up in a shoddy L.A. hotel awaiting the eventual California earthquake.  A fitting end to an album that both exemplifies and undercuts the singer-songwriter movement of the Me Decade.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead (1986) ***1/2

Call me old-fashioned (and if you listen to the Smiths, you definitely have at least a few neo-Edwardian Luddite tendencies, will it or nay) but I still like to think of albums in terms of sides.  This makes it simpler to categorize the tracks on this release, as on my 1990s era cassette the four truly great tracks are bookended at the start/end of Sides One and Two, respectively.  In between are sandwiched pleasing trifles of throwaways and unpleasing plodders of ponderousity.  OK, track 2 side 2, "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" amounts to more than a throwaway - it's excellent, but ineffably falls just a bit a short of classic.  Perhaps it's Stephen Street's soupy psuedo-string backdrop behind the perfectly adequate-by-itself guitar jangle.  A sparer arrangement would've made more sense than the superfluous overproduction, but - this was the '80s.  There's a reason why I've always preferred the live-in-the-studio with minimal overdubs sound of their BBC sessions to any of their proper studio recordings.

Actually, now that I re-listen, it's most side one that actively annoys me.  The second half of the disc turns out to be fairly consistent on closer inspection -- "Vicar in a Tutu" is a goofball throwaway, but it least it skips fruitily along its merry way in barely over two minutes, so it doesn't drag (pun intended groan).  "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" - again - suffers from the psuedo-orchestrations of Street overproduction (gosh darn it, if I wanted to hear Morrissey warbling over lush strings, I'd buy one of his solo albums.  I listen to Smiths albums to hear the band, man.), but hey, it's not a bad tune melodically speaking and has a few choice lyrical moments.

At this moment a prose psychoanalyst would note that I overuse the conjunction "but" and have the tendency to hedge my bets with ambiguous modifiers.  One can see that Burks often falls into the habit of pointing out flaws for every good point, and vice versa, rarely fully expressing complete approval or disdain.  This indicates either a waffling, indecisive personality type, or perhaps simply a dedicatedly observant type who can analyze objects from different points of view, namely either the half-full or half-empty perspective.  This is a good quality in a reviewer, particularly when the object of art under scrutiny is neither a triumph nor a failure, but somewhere in the middle realm of flawed goodness, as are most albums.  (Actually, that isn't true at all - 95% of everything is unadulterated crap.)  Does the mind rule the body or the body rule the mind?  I dunno.

Back to the old house, dear old blighty.  The title track rushes along mid-tempo in an intimate epic (oh you clever contradictory adjectives), the mood a modern-day update on "That's Entertainment" (only six years after the Jam, an eternity in UK Pop), bemoaning the dreary state of rainy-grey Blighty while not-so-secretly getting a perverse kick out of miserable English weather and miserable English people.  'Tis the great British tradition to whine about the Motherland.  The bookend that closes side one, "Cemetery Gates" does that trad clever-pop trick to even better effect, marrying a sunny shimmer of Marr-guitars with melancholy Morrissey-isms concerning Wilde, Keats, Yeats, and graveyard gates.  Do I dare eat a peach?  Do I dare disturb the universe?  Do I dare listen to the rest of side one again?  Yes, "Frankly Mr. Shankly" bounces along quite jauntily with some of the Kinks-iest moves these boys have ever homaged at us (I said Kinksy, not kinky, silly toff), both musically and character-assassination-of -the-bourgeois wise, but - it amounts to a non-earth-shattering throwaway.  And then there are the LP's twin nadirs, back to back smack in the middle of side one, two gruesomely slow and morbid Morrissey-ballads that perilously threaten to drag the entire record down with them.  I know that fanboys eat virginity blues "Never Had No One Never" and funeral porn "I Know It's Over" up like lithium tablets because they, like, speak to my sensitive goth wallflower existence sob.  Me?  I want to skip to the good stuff, not wallow in adolescent angst.  I get enough of that in my daily life as a grown man pushing middle age, thank you.

Well, let's flip this vinyl over and get to some of those goodies, chiefly the album's fiercest rocker, the tightly crackling "Bigmouth Strikes Again" - hey, now here's an anthem that truly speaks to me, sob.  And skipping along to the lone song I have not yet mentioned, the album closes on a high point, "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" which dreamily floats along as if it's constantly on the verge of fading in and out.  And then it does fade out, leaving Antony and Cleopatra and perhaps the Smiths' finest long-player behind.  There is this is misguided notion that:

a) great bands must leave behind great albums
b) the Smiths were a great band
c) therefore, The Queen Is Dead is a great album

Spot the flaw in the logic.