Monday, August 23, 2010
One of England's more subtly original goth rock groups, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry were initially branded as worshipful Joy Division acolytes, but came up with enough distinct variations to break free of their main influence. Their foundation always remained icy, droning post-punk, replete with sludgy, murky guitars and mumbled Ian Curtis-style vocals. However, as the Lorries evolved, they gradually sprinkled in elements of industrial dance, early rave music, and spaghetti Western soundtracks, as well as liberal doses of inventive, acid-tinged guitar work. Taking their name from a British tongue twister, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry was formed in Leeds in late 1981 by guitarist/songwriter Chris Reed and vocalist Mark Sweeney. Reed and Sweeney had previously performed in the local bands Radio Id and Knife Edge, respectively, and added a rhythm section of bassist Steve Smith and drummer Mick Brown. Sweeney left within a year, however, and Reed took over lead vocal duties, with Martin Fagan coming onboard as a second guitarist. Later in 1982, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry signed with the independent Red Rhino label and issued their debut single, "Beating My Head." Although it was a hit on the British indie charts, Fagan subsequently left the band and was replaced by Dave "Wolfie" Wolfenden, who became Reed's frequent songwriting partner; bassist Smith also departed in favor of Paul Southern. The band's second single, "Take It All," appeared in 1983, as did the third, "He's Read"; both helped solidify the Lorries' popularity on the indie listings. After another single, 1984's "Monkeys on Juice," the band finally got around to recording its debut album; Talk About the Weather was released in early 1985, and was a hit on the indie charts thanks to the single "Hollow Eyes." It was followed by two non-LP singles, "Chance" and "Spinning Round." In 1986, Reed and Wolfenden regrouped with a new rhythm section of bassist Leon Phillips and drummer Chris Oldroyd. They were in place for the Lorries' second LP, Paint Your Wagon, which drew on imagery of the old American West and featured another indie hit in "Walking on Your Hands." Following one more non-LP single that year, "Cut Down," the band temporarily adopted its longtime nickname of the Lorries, and issued one single, 1987's "Crawling Mantra," under that moniker before reverting back to the original form. Later in 1987, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry signed a major-label deal with Situation Two, a subsidiary of RCA affiliate Beggars Banquet. They debuted in 1988 with the LP Nothing Wrong, which spun off the single "Only Dreaming (Wide Awake)." On their second major-label album, 1989's Blow, the Lorries flirted with the sound and visual style of England's emerging rave culture, resulting in their clearest, most spacious production to date. There was more turnover in the rhythm section; drummer Oldroyd was replaced by Mark Chillington prior to the recording of the album, and bassist Phillips departed before the supporting tour, with his spot permanently filled by Gary Weight. Chillington, in turn, left during the tour, and George Schulz came onboard in his stead. The Lorries subsequently parted ways with Beggars Banquet and released their fifth LP, Blasting Off -- with several songwriting contributions from Weight -- in 1991, on the small Sparkhead label. The album didn't appear in the U.S. for another three years, until Relapse finally picked it up. By that time, faced with diminishing returns, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry had disbanded. Several CD retrospectives of the group's work have since been released.
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Blasting Off - Gothic CD on Release Records
The three gentlemen in the band called Angst had definitely done their rock & roll homework when they made this album, and they knew the elements that mix to make a great three-minute song. This mix of up-tempo pop with elements of country twang and punk energy has an innocence and enthusiasm that makes the album timeless. The bluesy organ work on the slow-burning cover of "Motherless Child" could have come from any Steppenwolf album, and there's a hint of Mersey in the harmonies of "Time to Understand." There are some clinkers among the stellar tracks, but even those are rather endearing; "My Dinner With Debbie" is a love song to a woman who is a good cook, and it sounds like it was written and recorded by a band who had missed several meals. Overall, Cry for Happy is a marvelous work of pop craftsmanship that has three or four pieces that should've been at least minor hits. Listen to the hook-laden perfection of "I Could Never Change Your Mind" or "Long Road" and listeners will find themselves wondering what the radio programmers were listening to that was half this good.
Angst - Cry For Happy - CD on SST Records
Monday, August 16, 2010
Like Barenaked Ladies, the Hot Rod Honeys are an all-male band with a female-minded name - none of the Hot Rod Honeys are women, and their name is meant to be cute, funny and ironic. But the Honeys' music doesn't sound anything like Barenaked Ladies' alternative pop-rock. The Honeys' specialty is old school punk, and even though the band wasn't formed until 1996, their short, fast, raw songs (most of which are under three minutes) recall the classic punk of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although the Honeys are from Belgium all of their lyrics are in English. And in fact, the Honeys sound like they could be from England. British pub rock and early British punk are strong influences, although the Honeys are hardly oblivious to American punk. One of their primary inspirations is the New York-based Ramones, whose influence they proudly acknowledge on a tune called "Love and the Ramones". But whether the Honeys are drawing on British or American influences, it is clear that they identify with punk's power pop side--and those punk-pop instincts are something they get from the Ramones as well as influential British combos like the Buzzcocks and the Damned. The Honeys have also been influenced by the garage rock and British Invasion rock of the 1960s; if you listen closely, you can sometimes hear hints of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks in the Belgians' infectious, energetic work.
Hot Rod Honeys - Horny And Hungry - CD on Mans Ruin Records
This EP contains four new remixes of the title track, which originally appeared on Beelzebubba, but if you can wade through those, the second side is prime snotty, juvenile Milkmen. "The Puking Song" is probably the grossest song they ever recorded, so if you like their sense of humor, this one is worth it for that track alone.
Dead Milkmen - Smokin Banana Peels - Cassette tape on Restless Records
The Undead is a horror punk band formed in 1980 in New Milford, New Jersey by Bobby Steele (vocals and guitar), Chris "Jack" Natz (bass; he went on to play with Cop Shoot Cop), and Patrick Blanck (drums). Bobby had just been fired from his previous band, The Misfits, when forming The Undead.
The Undead - Live Slayer - Cassette tape on Skreamin Skull Records