Left of the Dial: “Reelin’ and Rockin’ and Rockin’ and Reelin'”
Written by Chris-R on March 4, 2018
Today’s broadcast is a real treat, a broadcast that is truly filled to the brim with exciting new finds. Chris-R hosts Left of the Dial and welcomes you to join on a journey down this radio rabbit hole.
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space -Spiritualized
“Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” serves as a wonderful work of music which acts less as a song, but more of an atmospheric moodsetter that aims to brace the listener for the spacey polyphonic sounds that will surround the listener for the duration of the album, or this Left of the Dial broadcast session!. A real dark horse band of sorts, Spiritualized proved themselves capable of gathering an attentive audience for their wildly psychedelic yet strangely serene album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. The band even managed to top NME’s 1997 yearly album rank-up, muscling out other big contenders such as The Verve’s Urban Hymns and OK Computer by Radiohead.
Despite what you might lead you to believe, 90’s all-female Punk quartet Elastica were anything but sugar, spice, nor anything nice. Elastica was formed from the aftermath of British darlings Suede, a group whose usually credited for exposing the Britpop genre to the masses. Despite many different claims of Elastica’s ties to the Britpop scene, it appears to me that they may have had more success in predicting America’s subsequent Riot Grrl movement. Equipped with a punk DIY attitude and an insatiable bloodlust that could only be satisfied with distorted guitars, it is clear that their fiery intensity was one to be reckoned with and will leave you craving for more. Seeing as how their self-titled album serves as their only proper studio release, perhaps that was their intent.
Off The Ground -The Record Company
Gritty bar-band blues rock may be back afterall, and power trio The Record Company is waving their freak flag high for all to see. Boasting a mighty sound that while reminiscent of years past, finds a life of it’s own due to the insatiable chemistry the band possesses. “Off The Ground” delivers some stank face worthy grooves, as it is absolutely jam packed with brass guitar slides, country tunings and a loose backbeat. What more could you want from a bluesy outfit like this group? You can nearly hear the lumberjack beards pouring through the radio speakers.
Sister Golden Hair -America
This bonafide radio hit is able to highlight two different sides to 70’s radio. Showcased here, is both it’s tendency to favor easy/breezy instrumentals, and the potential to reach number one on the charts despite some distressing lyrical matter. Hippie rockers America had a previous hit with “Horse With No Name” but the hitmaking well seemed to have dried up for them. However, it was this strummy sing-a-long that brought the band back to the national spotlight, perhaps due to a George Harrison tribute guitar slide line or it’s striking resemblance to fellow chart-toppers The Eagles. “Sister Golden Hair” and it’s enduring Billboard success was a self-proclaimed fluke for the band, as their lead singer discusses how an ordinarily radio-deterring opening line still managed to make the air, “Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed” but it may be this earnestness that makes the song so irresistible anyhow.
Ocean Size -Jane’s Addiction
The genius of Jane’s Addiction’s song craftsmanship is frustratingly underrealized by the general public. They had garnered just enough well-known songs to help convince the average listener that those songs were all that the group had to offer. “Well, if they have like four songs in public radio circulation, then that must be it!” If they had a fewer number of hits, then it might be enticing for a music fan to further research them. If they had some more hits, then it would be safe to assume that their back catalog is just as great. Four or so hits is an awkward amount, and when listening to their two studio efforts Ritual de la Habitual and Nothing’s Shocking it should hopefully become apparent just how unique this band is. An important forerunner to the eventual Alternative Rock movement, Nothing’s Shocking was originally heralded as a landmark achievement for the genre as it was able to expertly balance explosively bombastic tendencies but still hold aspirations for their music to be artsy as well. “Ocean Size” in particular, is one of the most engaging listens that I am aware of. Constantly tugging the listener in multiple different directions all being centered by the genuine lunacy of frontman Perry Farrell and his bloody-murder shrieks and the best voice crack in recording history (it’s up for you to determine if this is exaggeration or not.) Tides of time can only tell what this groups lasting legacy is, but their music should do all the speaking for itself.
Don’t Wanna Fight -Alabama Shakes
Another modern-ish cut, this time from the group Alabama Shakes. The Shakes come equipped with a natural talent for playing high-strung sounding songs which still manage to have a warm center to it all. Dangerously close guitar harmonies are what introduce the song, managing to leave plenty of room for the rest of the band to step in and further fill the space. Bandleader Brittany Howard steals the show, as she impassionately cycles between shrieks, wails, whispers, and desperate pleads on this track and all their others. To my knowledge, their last album came out in 2015 and I unfortunately have not heard any news of new recordings which is a shame, as they definitely made a name for themselves with Sound and Color and I think the world could use further exploration of their sound.
Hospital Food -Eels
Sometimes the best way to convey a melancholic subject matter is to focus on the little aspects, ones bordering on mundane. Eels stark and personal Electro-Shock Blues came to be after a tragically catastrophic time in the bandleaders life due to both his sister and mother seeing untimely deaths in quick succession. Through the rubble comes a beautifully intimate collection of songs that vary the range of emotions felt during his grieving process. “Hospital Food” on its own proves to be a more energetic moment on the record, the instrumental has a faux-Jazz affliction to it that sounds joyously put together. Each instrument provides just the right texture to the overall song and helps show an underlying absurdity to the whole matter. It’s almost humorous in a strange way to hear him sing about how hospitals are to be avoided, not because of wanting to steer clear of calamity but because you’ll be left eating the gruel known as hospital food. Clever.
Johnny’s Got a Problem -D.I.
This old-school punk gem makes no secrets about it’s goal to blast some quick adrenaline and escape around the two minute mark. D.I. marches along this tune with glee, and the subject matter is hilariously infectious due to it’s brilliant simplicity. Well, what is “Johnny’s Got a Problem” about? I’m glad you asked, “Johnny’s Got a Problem” is about Johnny, who has a problem. And he’s out of control. That’s about as much cluing in that the band feels comfortable with giving, but you were probably too busy headbanging to properly notice anyway.
All Along The Watchtower -Barbara Keith
Writing a reimagining of an already previously renovated song is a large task to handle but Barbara Keith does so with ease. Whether you prefer Hendrix’s genre-defining interpretation or Bob Dylan’s more minimal and folky original version, it should be easy enough to see the merits of this rendition. Supported by a snappier tempo and an abundance of wah guitar, Barbara glides along the song with ease and provides vocals that neither Dylan nor Hendrix could have graced their song with. So it appears that it could be possible that even new layers to this song have been discovered which provides a wonderfully fresh experience of an already classic song.
Day Tripper -Otis Redding
It seemed like it would be fun to sneak another strange cover of an already iconic song, and who better to deliver, than the monstrous talent of Otis Redding. On surface level alone, writing a Motown-ish R&B version of “Day Tripper” may seem like a bad idea but Otis spends his runtime convincing the listener that their fears can be forgotten, not least likely due to how well the Memphis horn sound works with the main “Day Tripper” riff. Featured on his seminal album The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, it is clear that Otis sees nothing but his immeasurable excellence.
Across 110th Street -Bobby Womack
The Funk genre is no stranger to songs that feature both danceabaility and social awareness on certain issues, and Bobby Womack’s anthem “Across 110th Street” is a particularly high water mark for this style of writing. Inventive instrument pairings and lush strings are what help introduce the listenability of this song, but an angst lies beneath the surface in both lyric and music which culminates in a tense chorus with an even more intense build up. Detailing the inner city struggles of slum life, Womack makes no short change on his worldview while still being absolutely poetic with it all. It is easy to see why so many were able to attach themselves to this song that ranged from fellow musicians and Blacksploitation filmmakers, eventually being featured in the title scene of Quentin Tarantino’s loving sendoff to the genre “Jackie Brown.”
Party at Ground Zero -Fishbone
It isn’t very often that a band has this much fun on a recording. Generated from the mid-eighties revival of Ska music saw Fishbone, a wonderfully bouncy and energetic group custom fit for anyone who enjoys good times with music. Suffice it to say, Fishbone does not slack around on this song as it is filled to the brim with structure changes and a break-neck tempo to play at. Slinky guitars and sputtering trumpets fill the borders of “Party at Ground Zero” in a manner that will be sure to leave you reeling for more Fishbone.
There Was a Time (Live) -The Jackson 5
I’ll admit, I chuckled when I first heard the audience on this song go completely bonkers for The Jackson 5, I had never considered them to be a group people could properly fawn over. The Jackson crew proved me wrong, as they put their musicianship where their mouth is on this blistering cover of James Brown classic “There Was a Time”, the group hams it up and leaves any listener convinced that they should be cheering alongside the crowd as well.
Crystal Japan -David Bowie
Is it too overstated to refer to David Bowie to that of a chameleon? The comparison sticks because it is just too accurate to do away with. Despite his grand musical gestures, I personally found Bowie most compelling on his throwaway songs, whether it be his masterpiece album Station to Station that Bowie has zero recollection of writing or recording, or the song “Crystal Japan” which was written for a TV spot in a Japanese sake commercial. He furthers his previous Ambient experimentations in a neatly wrapped textural marvel to behold, it is the simplest melodies and changes on here that pack the largest punch and have a weight that few other artists can achieve in their songs. “Crystal Japan” also acts as a curious spiritual predecessor to a Trent Reznor penned piece from The Downward Spiral, the NIN frontman was petrified when he realized he subconsciously borrowed elements for his song “A Warm Place”. Water, or sake perhaps, clearly ran under the bridge between the two seeing as how they would later unite for a collaboration album and an iconic joint-headlined tour together.
Modern Kicks -The Exploding Hearts
Portland grown group The Exploding Hearts set their sights on a sound that harkened back to the CBGB’s sounds of yesteryear. “Modern Kicks” serves as a buyount rebuttal to The Undertones‘ classic “Teenage Kicks” that is performed by what appears to be The Exploding Hearts trying to channel the energy of Dead Boys music around their Young, Loud and Snotty era. Good fun is had all around, and the hooks flow aplenty despite some edgier chords that surround.
Baby Please Don’t Go -The Amboy Dukes
A true guitar jam performance for any fan of “Stranglehold” or anything of the sort, The Amboy Dukes electrify an old blues standard and transform it into something newly engaging. The muddy sounds of live recording only add more to the magic which encompasses a song of this style. Guitar soloing takes front and center stage on this one and provides a guitar solo for the ages all while the rest of the group taps into their own special little world of energy. For any fan of classic rock, this song is worth your attention.
Thank you for joining! Join another sonic adventure in music on Wednesday at 7:00 on KPSU.