Left of the Dial “Manufacturing A Beast, Out Of Necessity”
Written by Chris-R on November 30, 2018
Welcome back to Left of the Dial where we yada yada about the (Fill in the Blank), y’all already know the drill
FULL STREAMING PLAYLIST
The Modern Lovers
“Walk Up The Street”
Live at the longbranch and more –1973
Original Art-Punk outfit The Modern Lovers start off our set by showing the captivating power of economic songwriting in “Walk Down The Street”. The band emphasises how much can be drawn from such little material choosing to showcase Rock n’ Roll’s inherent minimalist tendencies.
“Turn You Inside-Out”
We then cycle over to a self-confident ditty from beloved group R.E.M. from their wonderful Green album, signifying a sort of sea change in the groups songwriting methods and general effectiveness.
Playing With A Different Sex -1981
British two-album wonders Au Pairs leave a walloping Post-Punk attack that is equal measures bouncy bright as it is snarling and bonecutting. Frontwoman Lesley Woods provides a well appreciated non-genteel sort of veneer that gives the outfit an immediate uniqueness to stand out from the crowd. A great bridgeway to the works of a Baushaus type.
The less said about this one the better, Sir Paul McCartney‘s intimate guitar offering here has an aching beauty to it that only further reveals its true qualities on repeated listenings. Originally written during the Beatles Rishikesh sessions in India, “Junk” was eventually left on the cutting room floor, only seeing the light of day on Macca’s first solo album. The blending of instrumentation is spot-on, the melody is very fulfilling, and it’s short n’ sweet runtime gives the piece a certain definiteness about it.
What a strange song to make heads or tails of. There’s no denying that the band name and the band attached is gonna get right in the way of this song’s discussion, seeing that “Kohoutek” seems to defy everything everyone would think about their music. At its core, “Kohoutek” from Journey’s debut album, is a true Prog-Rock full band instrumental and an astounding starting point for the eventual “Don’t Stop Believin”ers.
But lo and behold, this strange piece of music history actually exists; no matter how much one might try to wish otherwise just to keep ones’ music snob sanity in tact. The musicality of “Kohoutek” comes across as very calculated while still natural, but is always leaning on a button that that allows them to swap to musical indulgance. And it does lean into that territory often enough, but the players have the competency and taste to back these musical statements up. The guitar shredding is very entertaining, the drumming is focused in an effort of creating extravagant timekeeping, and the overall band performance somehow sounds more like a forgotten Mahavishnu Orchestra song than anything else one would expect
Maybe I’m coming across as too cynical, who really knows. I’d always had a hunch that there was a little something deeper beneath the surface of these guys despite my unmistakable loathing of their heyday, their actual multi-platinum crowdpleaser stuff. Like take a track like “Stone In Love”(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_zfDAOCT84) from 1981’s globe-busting Escape, guitarist Neal Schon comes through with encapsulating guitar lines of a virtuosic nature that most of their contemporaries would be desperately reaching for.
“Got The Time”
Look Sharp! -1979
Equipped with a mile-a-second BPM, “Got The Time” doesn’t slow down long enough to make any new friends. No, it is a Pub Rock barnburner if there ever was one. Famously reinterpreted by 80’s Thrash Metal heroes Anthrax,
their rendition only drove home what makes the song work even at its most basic form. It’s a thundermouthed, bass slippin’ song full of forward momentum.
Nothing’s Shocking -1988
I’m not really sure I’d ever met anyone who’s respects Jane’s Addiction without getting the wrong impression at first. They’ve had an awkward amount of hit songs that still act as secondary cornerstones to any Classic Rock station. Just the right amount of hit songs where it feels safe to assume that they have nothing more to offer besides these, really. You know how it is, if a band has one or two songs that stick around then that’s incentive that there’s more that the band may have to offer and for you to discover on your own. Or vice versa, for those bands with double digit bonafide classics, there is little excuse to not check out the entire body of work. But Jane’s Addiction’s claims to fame don’t shade in their true artistic identity as early purveyors of their Alternative Rock sound and as boundary pushing experimentalists, selling instead a new ethos on Rock music that bands would steal for decades to come.
It becomes apparent very quickly that Perry Farrell isn’t just your average rocker, screaming nothings to an amp’d up band behind him but he instead makes it very apparent (for those paying any attention) that it is all an Art-Rock gig to him. And that’s just what brings Jane’s to another platform, as the music truly works on several levels. “Summertime Rolls” in particular is such an intimate cool-down in an otherwise boisterous and daring record, propelled forward by a gorgeous bassline full of weird interval skipping and Farrell’s relatively dadaist assortment of lyrical imagery, mostly pulling from childhood experience. A nice little anomaly in the bands catalog, it is hard to resist the charm this song has, it is very compelling.
James Chance and the Contortions
I’d been wanting to play this song for nearly as long as I’d had access to my own radio show. A legitimately groundbreaking lesson in confusion from James Chance and the Contortions that acts to really muddy the grounds between Punk’s confrontational insanity and Free-Jazz’s most dissaccotive properties. Stemming from New York’s self-destructive No Wave scene, James Chance successfully uses prepared instruments and primal screaming to create some of the most interesting sounds that Noise Rock has to offer.
Polyrhythmic and hanging on by a thread, the experience turns overwhelming very soon and transforms into some of the closest that Rock has ever come to embodying Jazz in it’s most ethereal sense. I mean, as fascinating as Jazz-Rock is (Steely Dan, Blood Sweat & Tears), it was very telling that it would eventually morph into the snoozefest that is Yacht Rock. Whereas on the other side of the coin is first-and-foremost JAZZ musicians would meet halfway to rock music instead of the other way around, and this is where I believe Jazz Fusion becomes much more interesting as we get more transformative leaps into the ether with Davis’ Bitches Brew, Soft Machine, Head Hunters, the stuff that truly melts out your speakers.
So… Rock band + Jazz = Jazz Rock, while Jazz group+ Rock = Jazz Fusion (Of course, give and take for a few bands. Genre labels aren’t always built to be perfect.)
Chance captures that same energy here and treats the listeners with atonal horns, metallic scrape guitarwork and a manic vocal performance that encompasses a feeling of music anarchy. Maybe this sound has finally caught back up with them, seeing as how bands like The Mars Volta can occupy a very similar state now, who knows.
“Free Your Mind”
Funky Divas -1992
“Prejudice. Wrote a song about it. Like hear it? Here it go!”
and then the song starts. Groovy and unruly is such a fun combination, and this retro-ish blast from the 90’s does a great job of capturing the spirit of 70’s Funk radical nature. The title pays a nice little nod to Funkadelic’s sophomore album “Free Your Mind . . . and Your Ass Will Follow”. En Vogue interpolates it a bit to play up a nicer angle, instead choosing for the chorus’s message to be “Free your mind and the rest will follow/Be color blind, don’t be so shallow”. A very nice self-empowerment anthem for women of color or just anyone who feels marginalization pressed onto them. Free Your Mind also works as the kind of empowerment anthem that builds each other up without tearing others down (Looking at you, Meghan Trainor).
But empowering lyrics are only as effective as the music underneath it which luckily is a rip roarin’ exercise in live-band funk instrumentation. The guitar plays a thick chromatic line and there are cowbells to be played for days, especially in the percussion laden middle-eight of the song.
“Play With Me”
There are countless different directions one can take in their guitar playing. Despite being a wildly different kind of playing, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt never fails to make me want to slam my guitar to the ground and toss it in the trash because the guy makes it all sound TOO good and TOO effortless. Even in a decade slampacked with guitar virtuostics (Steve Vai, Jason Becker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert), Nuno can still stand head and shoulders above his competition.
Original touters of the “Funk-Metal” banner, Extreme also infused their music with many Classical works, giving the music an air of complexion and tried-and-true music theory standpoints. A perfectly natural thing to do seeing as how their guitarist was classically trained and this was now an acceptably common practice thanks to Randy Rhodes.
It’s almost overkill to describe the actual guitar solo as “blistering” seeing as the rest of the song is also a finger-breaking catastrophe waiting to happen but the solo stands out even more as a complex masterpiece. The guitar playing and composition of “Play With Me” is excitedly attention grabbing. Everything about this song seems so giddy for you to notice it, from the very get-go it is filled with moments that intend to dazzle you, and it mostly does.
“The Gunner’s Dream”
The Final Cut -1983
Roger Waters’ swansong record for Pink Floyd comes across as an awkward one, more of a bunt than the homerun he may have envisioned. Following up The Wall was his quasi-sequel, maybe more a spiritual successor, named The Final Cut. If you listen to this thing it’s not farfetched to hear why the band was falling apart and how the formula was starting to run dry. Still though, when Floyd gets it right they really drive it home like no one else can, something “The Gunner’s Dream” does in spades. As far as Waters’ balladry goes, “The Gunners Dream” really stands up there with the best of them. Roger isn’t necessarily treading new ground but instead writes in a field he knows much about, the ugliness of war and how the troops took his daddy away from him. Chronicling the last thoughts of a dying man amidst a war he did not choose to partake, the song is rife with strong imagery from Rock’s greatest poet barring Dylan, “But in the space between the Heavens/and the corner of some foreign field/I had a dream.”
The music provides the perfect amount of sentimentality to this piece, it all works together fantastically. When the song explodes it really does so with equal amounts gusto and vitriol, blood-curdling screams dissolving to a greater power of Dick Parry’s saxophone work. Perhaps the most chilling part of the song; and I don’t even know intentional this was on the bands part, is that the closest thing to a major key resolution we hear on this song is over Roger singing “And no-one kills the children anymore” like it’s a great victory. When spending an entire lyric writing career staring at the desolate ground beneath him, the notion of nobody killing the children anymore comes across as a triumph. I mean that’s a good thing at the end of the day isn’t it? It’s a strange moment to feel a sense of happiness about, and is sung with an unflinching voice not a drop of irony to it at all.
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Chris-R recently did an extensive write-up on one of America’s largest psychedelic-rock festivals Desert Daze, read it below!