Review: Bagboy by Pixies (2013)

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Pixies released their new song today. It’s very different. It’s very Pixies.

It’s not just “here’s wot we would have done in 1992 instead of breaking up”, it’s “we are the Pixies but we have had 21 years of life and musical experience since we last tried to write an album, so let’s just do whatever.”

No, it doesn’t sound like Doolittle, but it does sound like the Pixies.

Black Francis is yelping, Joey Santiago’s guitar squeals and screams like he’s trying to murder it and Dave Lovering plays like he fuckin’ hates drums. Kim Deal is missing, but she has been replaced on this song by a dude called Jeremy Dubs who apparently sings just like her.

Every ingredient is in there, but it’s new and it’s different and it’s very exciting.

Do I love it? Not yet, I’ve only heard it four times. I think I will though. You might too.

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Review: Trousers

Just in case you didn't know what was where...
Just in case you didn’t know what trousers were.

My favourite trousers are not trousers nor are they meant for me – they are ladies’ jeans with a great big flare.

Why do I wear them? For some reason it’s far easier to get long-legged jeans in the lady section of the trouser department than it is in the area I have been assigned due to my sex.

They’re also really cheap.

The best thing about these jeans is the flare. I’ve never felt so fucking snazzy in my whole life. A walk to the corner shop for some milk is suddenly the coolest thing in the world. I have never been sad in these jeans… my whole life is a Bee Gees video.

Naturally, I’d be Lion-O Bee Gee.

My favourite pair of proper trousers belong to an £8 charity shop suit. The waist was a little large for me so I went to another charity shop the next day and bought some braces, ’cause my belt broke. They made me feel pretty authoritative – like I was a detective from the 1930s, keeping the scum off the streets.

It’s a good to keep yourself grounded in a special sort of reality when working in sales. I’d surely have lost the will to live otherwise.

Unfortunately, my trousers didn’t make it. One lunchtime I noticed that they’d split from arse to crotch, leaving me to walk like a penguin for the rest of my shift and all the way home. It was the saddest day of my life.

And only two days left 'till retirement...
And only two days left ’till retirement…

I work in a real job now, by the way, and I’ve yet to have a trouser accident. I believe that this makes me a successful adult.

Review: Crocodiles by Echo and The Bunnymen (1980)

"Okay, everybody look like you're having a really bad day. That's smashing."
“Okay, everybody look like you’re having a really bad day. That’s smashing.”

The most remarkable thing about Crocodiles is that the Bunnymen had their classic sound right from the start. It might be a little way off the perfection of Ocean Rain but it’s just as essential.

If you’re not super familiar with Echo & The Bunnymen, they’re a post-punk band like Joy Division or The Cure but with more Bowie and less hair.

Like most in the genre, Crocodiles is full of chunky basslines, slinky guitars, atmospheric keyboards, vocals with heavy echo and also some drumming. I believe there is also a spot of xylophone or some similar instrument in Pride. How exciting!

The most Gothic of all the instruments.
The most Gothic of all the instruments.

That’s not to say that this is a typical ’80s goth’ album though. The thing is, when you invent your own style of music, you can kind of do whatever you want with it. Crocodiles sounds fresh and exciting to this day because the assorted Bunnymen were innovating rather than assimilating.

There are always exceptions, of course. Producer David Balfe (from The Teardrop Explodes) pops in for a spot of Ray Manzareking on Villiers Terrace. It’s rare that such an obvious tribute can fit well in the middle of an original song but they pull it off here – while the song is not necessarily in the style of The Doors it’s not hard to imagine Jim Morrison hollering about how he’d “been up to Villiers Terrace, saw what was happenin’.”

This expanded edition doubles the length with out-takes, early versions and the entirety of live EP Shine So Hard. For once these are welcome and actually enhance the album experience as a whole. Isn’t that mental? There’s a nice little gap between the album proper and the bonus material so you can pretend you’re flipping a record if you really want to.

Do It Clean and Read It in Books were both on the original US release of the album but not the UK one because some Warner Bros. bigwig thought they had swears in them. Read It in Books is especially notable for being the one song that Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope wrote together before they hated each other to death – Cope’s version with The Teardrop Explodes features on their album Kilimanjaro.

Although clearly they shared similar tastes when it came to colourful instruments.
Julian being normal.

Simple Stuff was the b-side to single Rescue but I’m pretty sure it should have been the other way around. The demo tracks that follow aren’t terribly different from the album versions apart from being a bit more stripped-down. It’s like seeing your school photos again – same songs, a little younger.

The live performances prove that not only could Echo & The Bunnymen do it live, they could do it BETTER too. What’s cool here is that we’ve got early versions of Zimbo (later retitled All My Colours) and Over The Wall from their next album, Heaven Up Here, alongside some absolutely smashing takes on Crocodiles and All That Jazz.

Shine So Hard is one of the few live recordings that truly seems to capture the chaotic feel of a real show, they may not be leaping about like they’re Slayer but the Bunnymen play with such intensity that you’re worried their instruments might fall to bits.

Crocodiles track list:

  1. Going Up
  2. Stars Are Stars
  3. Pride
  4. Monkeys
  5. Crocodiles
  6. Rescue
  7. Villiers Terrace
  8. Pictures on My Wall
  9. All That Jazz
  10. Happy Death Men

Bonus tracks:

  1. Do It Clean
  2. Read It in Books
  3. Simple Stuff
  4. Villiers Terrace (early version)
  5. Pride (early version)
  6. Simple Stuff (early version)
  7. Crocodiles (live)
  8. Zimbo (live)
  9. All That Jazz (live)
  10. Over the Wall (live)

Don’t Leave Me This Way: Pixies – 1986-1991, 2004-2013

We are sad to say that Kim Deal has decided to leave the Pixies. We are very proud to have worked with her on and off over the last 25 years. Despite her decision to move on, we will always consider her a member of the Pixies, and her place will always be here for her. We wish her all the best.

– Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering, 14th June 2013

Stop.

The first cut is the deepest…

When I first heard the Pixies (and was aware that I was hearing the Pixies) I hated them so much. I really hated them. They were awful.

Thankfully, a year later I was smart enough to realise that they were one of the most incredible bands the world has ever seen. I was 13 years old and living twenty years ago in Shetland’s sleepiest of towns, with the North Atlantic on my doorstep and jellyfish to poke at. I spent my most idyllic summer listening to Pixies at the BBC, riding my bike down obscenely steep hills and eating a lot of honey-roast ham sandwiches. I declared that Ana was “a good song to play cards to.”

That Christmas, after moving back to the city, I received Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim. While I did appreciate it, I went down a bit of a wrong turning and discovered the music of Korn.

It’s hardly the worst mistake I made in my teen years but it probably taught me the most valuable lesson of all – don’t worry about what anybody else thinks. Maybe all the stoner metal kids will think you’re weird if you like music that’s not in Kerrang! but you can’t hang around with those losers all your life, you have to be your own loser.

Some folks like to get away…

I had my own computer by the time I was 16 and The Pirate Bay was an unbelievable goldmine for an unemployable slacker lump like myself. One slow day I thought I’d give the rest of the Pixies albums a shot and that’s when I really, really got to liking them.

It’s not Doolittle that turned me, although I am naturally a big fan. No, it was the surfy dream of Bossanova and the space trip that is Trompe le Monde that did it for me. I’ll save the finer details for the inevitable reviews, but it’s safe to say that I was destined to be a loser even within the Pixies’ own fanbase.

Everybody hurts… sometimes…

Pixies got me through some pretty tough times and some pretty fun times too. It was the Pixies that got me through one of the more ridiculous relationship breakdowns I’ve yet experienced – it may sound silly, but their music helped me realise that I’d be okay on my own because as long as I had their records I’d always have something greater than what was gone.

A raft of Pixies b-sides and radio sessions soundtracked the incredible isolation I felt while at college in the middle of a literal nowhere. Did it matter that my classmates hated me, that they thought I was some sort of homosexual elitist posh educated stupid ignorant arrogant hairy boring whimsical serious murder freak?

It didn’t when I could find a quiet spot to take some photos and get me some Pixies, even if it was only for an hour. Sometimes a little respite goes a long way.

As things fell apart, nobody paid much attention…

This band means a lot to me and I feel that the world is a tiny bit a lot better for them having been in it. The news of Kim Deal leaving isn’t really too shocking when you think about it – nine years with only two new recordings is probably a bit frustrating – but I can’t help feeling that this means it’s really over.

No Pixie is replaceable and I don’t see them trying to replace her either. If Kim is going so far as to actually get up and leave the band then there must be a very good reason for it and I can certainly respect her decision, even without knowing the reasons why.

The hardest part is that I never did get a chance to see my favourite band live, to bask in their glory, to be deafened by their heavenly noise. Now I never will. There’ll be no new album, no Bossanova/Trompe le Monde 20th anniversary tour, no MTV Unplugged, no more Pixies.

This is a song for Carol.

Review: Midlife Crisis – The Very Best of Faith No More (2010)

Great effort, you guys.
Please don’t leave your interns in charge of graphic design. Please.

This compilation is at once a cheap cash-in and an incredible bargain. It’s structured without regard for chronological consistency or even who happens to be in the band but it also has no less than 14 B-SIDES AND RARITIES, making this a ‘Best of’ that’s far more valuable to people who already have every album than people new to the band.

Things start off pretty normally, blah blah blah We Care A Lot blah blah blah Epic blah blah blah Midlife Crisis. You’ve heard them all before. The album actually manages to mix up its own track list at this point, with Midlife Crisis and Falling To Pieces swapping places. How the hell do you manage something like that?

Not even Mike Patton can figure it out and he’s fucking weird.

The sexy e-bow vibes of Stripsearch are a welcome addition, although it is bizarrely followed by eight-minute epic The Real Thing. While it is perhaps one of their greatest overall, it also marks where this collection starts to go a bit wrong.

That’s right, here come the b-sides! The World Is Yours is fine enough but the tracks that follow are kind of shite, especially the over-long instrumental, Instrumental. Much better is Sweet Emotion, which was recorded during sessions for The Real Thing and later reworked into The Perfect Crime for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure, earning it a double obscurity bonus. Score!

Arabian Disco and As The Worm Turns from the band’s yet-to-be-reissued debut album are really quite good, with As The Worm Turns in particular being far superior to Mike Patton’s recorded version. Unfortunately we have two from The Real Thing smushed in the middle – War Pigs and The Morning After. These are great and all, but it would be nice for Chuck Mosley to get a little more recognition for having been the singer for two albums rather than being the bread in a Patton sandwich.

Although he is meatier than you’d think.

Disc 2 is much better, mostly because it starts with Everything’s Ruined, one of the best songs from the already stellar Angel Dust. Bee Gees cover I Started a Joke is the first relatively obscure track and features Mike Patton singing with an awful fake English accent. Ick.

Defying all logic, This Guy’s In Love With You and Theme From Midnight Cowboy from the same (incredible!) live performance are separated by no less than four songs, one of them being the very excellent R’n’R from Chuck Mosley’s Introduce Yourself. Why’s it there? No idea.

Maybe best not to bother him. He looks like he needs a sleep.

Light Up and Let Go isn’t very notable at all but certainly quite tolerable. The perfect b-side! I Won’t Forget You and The Big Kahuna show us where all the nu-metal bands got their ideas from – as with all things Faith No More it’s probably a massive piss-take, but in this instance maybe they took the whole ‘irony’ thing a little too far.

Underwater Love is very welcome afterwards, because mermaids.

Little-known fact: Patton is a mermaid.
Patton unfortunately neglected to use underwater protection.

The cover of Spanish Eyes that follows is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard – best synth-horns ever? Absolute Zero is the last b-side and is one of the few originals featured that really should have been on an album, perhaps if it had a little more polish we’d know all the words.

We finish up with totally awesome The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Maybe the people who sequenced this album really did know what they were up to after all?

The Very Best of Faith No More is a worthy purchase as long as it’s a very cheap one, and is ultimately a bit redundant if you already own The Real Thing and Angel Dust. The Chuck Mosley era is a little better represented than usual but 5 out of 39 hardly seems fair, not to mention the lack of anything that’s not a single from both King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime and Album of the Year.

What you ought to do instead is just buy each of the albums. There are only five. Chop chop!

Midlife Crisis track list…

Disc one:

  1. We Care A Lot
  2. From Out Of Nowhere
  3. Epic
  4. Falling To Pieces
  5. Midlife Crisis
  6. Easy (Commodores cover)
  7. Digging The Grave
  8. Stripsearch
  9. The Real Thing
  10. The World Is Yours
  11. Hippie Jam Song
  12. Instrumental
  13. Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)
  14. Sweet Emotion (not an Aerosmith cover)
  15. Arabian Disco
  16. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
  17. The Morning After
  18. As The Worm Turns

Disc two:

  1. Everything’s Ruined
  2. A Small Victory
  3. Evidence
  4. I Started A Joke (Bee Gees cover)
  5. Last Cup Of Sorrow
  6. Ashes To Ashes
  7. Ricochet
  8. This Guy’s In Love With You (Bacharach/David standard)
  9. R ‘N’ R
  10. Kindergarten
  11. Caffeine
  12. Land Of Sunshine
  13. Theme From Midnight Cowboy
  14. Light Up And Let Go
  15. I Won’t Forget You
  16. Underwater Love
  17. Spanish Eyes (Al Martino cover)
  18. The Big Kahuna
  19. Introduce Yourself
  20. Absolute Zero
  21. The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies

Live Review: Mudhoney, Meat Puppets, METZ (June 6th, 2013)

Mudhoney sign

Possibly the best show I’ll ever see, Mudhoney came to the O2 Academy Newcastle and they brought along some special friends for three and a half hours of incredible music – even the music played over the PA was great. Not bad for £16.

METZ being engulfed by the sun.
METZ being engulfed by the sun.

I found myself at the stickiest section of the barrier just in time for the first band. METZ are an exciting group (from Canada!) and noisy as shit.

It would be easy enough to compare them to ye olde grunge music but there’s some other stuff going on in there too, perhaps a smattering of NIN. There’s certainly a shitload of distortion and feedback but it’s used in a special kind of way that’s different to your regular Nirvana-types and very difficult to explain in proper words.

There’s also plenty of screaming, but it’s not your icky fake “I hate my parents” screaming, this is real “I’m so busy being rock ‘n’ roll that I can’t think of any words so I’m just going to yell instead” screaming. Excellent.

METZ put on an incredibly intense show and you should see them wherever you can. I don’t care if they’re opening for a band you hate, you go and see METZ and then you go home, they’re that good. Then go and see them again when they get a chance to headline. Just remember to take your earplugs out – tinnitus is just another type of feedback, after all.

Curt Kirkwood setting up. An unfortunately timed shot if there ever was one.
Curt Kirkwood setting up. An unfortunately timed shot if there ever was one.

Meat Puppets just sort of mosey on stage and are probably the most ridiculously laid-back guys you’ll ever see. Cris is the more animated of the Kirkwood brothers, bounding about the stage like a baby giraffe, while Curt is content to simply rip your face off with his guitar solos.

A personal highlight was Plateau from Meat Puppets II. Bombs could have hit and I’d have been happy just to have seen that song live. They of course played all the other songs they had to, with some beautiful harmonies on Oh, Me in particular and most songs being extended with some cool jamming and insane guitar work.

It's such a bad picture because I was busy having an amazing time.
It’s a bad picture because I was busy having an amazing time.

Meat Puppets are one of those rare bands who are capable of inducing a purely musical high and it was a shame to have to see them leave (support bands can do encores, can’t they?) but my life feels a lot more fulfilled for having seen them at all.

Mudhoney are probably some of the most natural performers I’ve ever seen, they were all laughing and joking on stage and generally seemed very happy to be there – guitarist Steve Turner cupping his hands to his mouth and yelling “WE’RE GOING TO PLAY TOUCH ME I’M SICK NOW” comes to mind.

Mudhoney playing another wholesome hit.
Mudhoney playing another wholesome hit.

At least one song was played from every album they have released (excepting 2006’s Under a Billion Suns) with the focus naturally being on latest album Vanishing Point. Despite picking and mixing songs from throughout their 25 year career it didn’t feel like a “HERE ARE OUR NEW SONGS, HERE ARE SOME OLD SONGS FOR PUTTING UP WITH THE NEW SONGS” show.

Every song was fuckin’ great and any one that wasn’t already a classic absolutely deserves to be.

Songs wot they played. Thanks to Rob Tolson for the photo.

Mark Arm played guitar most of the night (slide guitar, in fact) but it was when he took it off that he really showed us what a fantastic performer he is as he slunk about the stage like Iggy Pop reborn through a lemur.

Kind of like this.

It felt like a massive betrayal as the band left the stage after only an hour (and 19 songs!) even though I knew they’d be back for an encore, because why wouldn’t they be? What I couldn’t have anticipated was that the encore would be perhaps the best part of the show.

I’m used to bands coming out and doing a couple of songs as if to say “here’s a couple of songs we forgot to play, now fuck off” but Mudhoney came out and played 20-30 minutes of both classic tracks and some cover songs, Fang’s The Money Will Roll Right In being one of the most excellent things I’ve ever seen performed.

Every one of the bands who played would have been worth the ticket price by themselves but this tour has to be the bargain of the fuckin’ century – two classic and inspirational bands who are right now putting out some of their best material yet, and a new group who deserve our undying love and devotion because they’re already incredible after one album.

See them together, see them separately, just see them all before you die. You owe it to yourself.

Mudhoney played…

Slipping Away
I Like It Small
You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)
Suck You Dry
Poisoned Water
In This Rubber Tomb
Where the Flavor Is
Sweet Young Thing (Ain’t Sweet No More)
Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme
No One Has
Good Enough
Douchebags on Parade
Touch Me I’m Sick
What to Do With the Neutral
I’m Now
The Final Course
I Don’t Remember You
Chardonnay
The Only Son of the Widow from Nain

Encore:
Into the Drink
Here Comes Sickness
In ‘N’ Out of Grace
The Money Will Roll Right In (Fang cover)
Hate the Police (Dicks cover)
Fix Me (Black Flag cover)

Here’s some Spotify for those of you playing along at home.

Review: Attila by Attila (1970)

Words fail me.
Words fail me.

Now, I’ve been trying really hard not to review the same artist twice in a row but there’s always room for an exception or two and this record is very exceptional.

Attila features pre-Piano Man Billy Joel and some dude who plays drums. The band broke up when Billy stole Drummer’s Wife (they then broke up about thirteen years later) but not before they had a chance to put out this glorious mess of an album.

Did you think that The Stranger himself was capable of being so downright metal? He totally is!

Billy Joel: far more Metal than you could have believed.
Billy Joel: a little more in common with Slayer than you ever could have believed.

The Billster, with the help of Attila’s road manager, was actually among the first people (if not the first) to hook up a Hammond organ to a Marshall guitar amplifier, creating the world’s first Maximum Rock Organ. He DESTROYS the damn thing too. He shreds and beats at his organ in exactly the way he doesn’t in Just The Way You Are.

Wonder Woman starts off the album with a bunch of stuff you can expect to hear plenty of for the next 40 minutes – shitloads of wah-wah and nonsense lyrics with shouting and loud drums, with the occasional druggy interlude. It’s really about Wonder Woman. Really.

California Flash seems to be about somebody who is really good at boning but isn’t Billy Joel, making this a drastically different song from his solo material. There’s also some good old-fashioned drug references here. Have a listen for yourself – do you think they were on boatloads of drugs?

Nah.
Nah.

Apparently, Revenge is Sweet and Billy Joel’s gonna beat you up! He seems to travel 15 years through time in this song so he can borrow James Hetfield’s vocal chords. He’s going to KICK YOUR FACE IN.

Amplifier Fire Part I – Godzilla is an instrumental piece that doesn’t suck. It brings in some nice classic rock ‘n’ roll stuff, only CRANKED UP TO A MILLION. There’s a really cool bit where the organ starts to sound like a glitched-up Gameboy, which is the coolest thing ever. It descends into Amplifier Fire Part II – March of the Huns with a righteous keyboard wail and some ridiculous tribal drumming, complete with some positively Gregorian vocals. This is the music of Hell.

What should be side 2 keeps up the pace with Rollin’ Home, featuring more frantic drumming and a keyboard style that can only be described as hitting. This song features a Billy Joel who is so horny that he wants to have a wank at the cinema but heroically holds off just in case he gets laid later. I’m thinking this is why he ran off with Drummer’s Wife.

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear This Castle Down! This track features lyrics about being SHIPWRECKED and then there’s a castle or something and he needs to TEEEEAAAARRRR THISSSS CAAASSSTLLLEEEE DOOOOWWWWWNNNN! Then it gets a bit druggy, it’s probably about taking loads of acid or something. The Man wanted Billy Joel to cut off all his hair! That’s just not his bag, man.

Oh, wait. Never mind.
Oh, wait. Never mind.

The organ in Holy Moses really does sound like guitars. It’s very impressive. This is probably Billy Joel at his most Ozzy Osbourne yet. Ozzy Osbourne as we know him didn’t exist yet when Attila formed so I think it’s safe to conclude that Billy Joel invented Black Sabbath.

Brain Invasion is another instrumental but we can forgive them for that because this one rocks extra hard. Mr. Joel shows off his half-complete classical training with some ridiculous organ work while Drummer thrashes out some cool jazz rhythms. Groovy.

For those of you who are too cool to like Billy Joel, give this a spin and it might just blow your minds. If you like psychedelic rock, if you like Mike Patton, if you like anything even vaguely out there then you absolutely owe it to yourself to give this a go.

Also, thanks to the album never being officially released on CD, it’s totally okay for me to post the entire album here!

Attila track list:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. California Flash
  3. Revenge is Sweet
  4. Amplifier Fire Part I – Godzilla
  5. Amplifier Fire Part II – March of the Huns
  6. Rollin’ Home
  7. Tear This Castle Down
  8. Holy Moses
  9. Brain Invasion

Review: Streetlife Serenade by Billy Joel (1974)

Even the cover is boring.
Even the cover is boring.

It’s hard to find much to say about Streetlife Serenade, it’s kind of boring. Boring as in “I was told I had to do another album and I didn’t really want to but I did anyway.” There’s not a lot of passion in these recordings from either Billy Joel or the session players but there are enough decent tracks here to make it worth getting if you can get it cheap enough.

Streetlife Serenader and Los Angelenos are two of the best songs on the album and would later feature on Billy’s first live album, Songs in the Attic. Being recorded by a proper band in a live setting brought them to life a bit and these versions are vastly superior. Get Songs in the Attic, is what I’m saying.

I was thinking of you the whole time, baby.
I was thinkin’ of you the whole time, baby.

The Great Suburban Showdown features some cringe-worthy old-timey synthesizer and lyrics about being rich and how that sort of makes you a cowboy or something. Of course, at this point Billy Joel was busy being a commercial failure and so I don’t think he was getting all that free champagne on his plane. Also features some riveting lyrics about his daddy mowing the lawn.

Root Beer Rag is an instrumental ragtime piece which doesn’t really belong on the album at all. I’m pretty sure he’d gone to see The Sting and thought it was really neat or something and that’s why this song exists. A good b-side but pretty jarring when it’s stuck between two slower songs.

Roberta is Billy Joel pleading with a prostitute to sleep with him even though he’s got no money – “I’m in a bad way and I wanna make love to you.”

Nope.
Nope.

The Entertainer crosses Moog synthesizer with more cowboy stuff and appears to exist in a universe where music and beans are kept in the same area in the shop. It’s kind of a cool song regardless and the only track from the album to appear on his many Greatest Hits collections.

Last of the Big Time Spenders is about having lots of money again. It starts off very nicely with Billy accompanying himself on piano in good ol’ bluesy style but goes off the rails a bit when the rest of the band comes in. It would have been nice to have had this one left alone.

Weekend Song is the last proper full-band song on the album and I’m very pleased for that. It’s really lame. Paul McCartney as a solo artist lame.

Souvenir is good because they left Billy alone to play it by himself. He used it to close concerts for years afterwards and similarly it should close the album, but unfortunately The Mexican Connection had to come in and spoil it. It sounds like music you’d hear either in an elevator or The Sims.

In short, Streetlife Serenade could have been a great album but then the session players had to spooge all over it.

Streetlife Serenade track list:

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag
  5. Roberta
  6. The Entertainer
  7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  8. Weekend Song
  9. Souvenir
  10. The Mexican Connection