Left of the Dial: “Yahoos and Triangles”
Written by Chris-R on January 18, 2019
Welcome back to Left of the Dial, the only radio show “daring” enough to play Springsteen, Swans, Captain Beefheart, & KISS in the same playlist (more bands are available of course). Enjoy the write-ups below from radio host Chris-R, along with Spotify & YouTube links to stream the entirety of the playlists.
This episode on Spotify:
Every song ever featured on the program below:
If you missed last weeks Left of the Dial, click below!
It’s called “New Year, Same Old Mistakes”
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
“The E Street Shuffle”
The Wild, The Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle (1973)
Springsteen starts his album with an intentionally lousy and discordant horn section, almost like he’s trying to joke to the audience “Ha, could you imagine if we actually sounded like that?” Instead, the E Street Band proves yet again that they are one of the tightest groups in music history: the playing is swift, bold, and has punch behind it, making it all absolutely irresistible.
The Boss is still every karaoke’ers worst nightmare, pinned as “the new Dylan” at the time of this albums release the lyrics on this one have seemingly no rhyme nor reason to be as convolutedly thick as they are (albeit all in the name of constructing a beautifully written narrative). It’s crazy to think that he could memorize the precise phrasing of his folky technobabble that he wrote, but it is delivered so effortlessly that you’d almost entirely overlook the insane tongue-twisters he’s laying down. (If you’re curious enough, you can look at the lyric page right here, or yet another word soup lyric page from Bruce
The song kicks it to 11 during the outro(s) though, ripping into a section that Remain In Light era Talking Heads would be unbelievably proud to have come up with themselves, all done seven years prior! Congas are played with hand-blistering speed and the guitars go full Afrofunk attack mode, some of the most inventive band playing you’ll hear in the entirety of its decade.
Hang out and listen to Bruce reminisce on when “those sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams”.
“Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy” (1996)
The 1990’s Alternative music boom was one of the most fertile grounds for unique songs to reach Rock radio. One of the best gems from this bygone era is the cowboys & robbers routine in “Banditos”. “Banditos” is the breakthrough song from The Refreshments, a Cowpunk leaning band that hails from the modern deserts of Tempe, Arizona. Not unlike their fellow Arizonan brethren from the Gin Blossoms, The Refreshments give a jangley sounding rock performance with attitude. The song’s riff is iconic enough, with its 2+ note melody making it an immediate standout on any 90’s radio station. Lead singer Roger Clyne gives a ridiculous amount of personality to what could otherwise have been a decent filler song for another band, with his witty lyrics taking centerstage on this cut with a particularly humourous chorus.
That the world is full of stupid people
So meet me at the mission at midnight
We’ll divvy up there
That the world is full of stupid people
Well I got the pistol so I get the pesos
Yeah that seems fair”
This also may be the only rock hit of its decade to incorporate a left-field Star Trek: TNG reference completely outta nowhere, giving these bad boys a little bit of nerd-cred while they’re at it, cause why not I guess.
“So give your ID card to the border guard, your alias says you got Jean-Luc Picard
Of the united federation of planets ‘Cause they won’t speak English any ways”
The band has another unique little claim to fame, as they were the ones who play on the opening credits for Adult Animation standard “King of the Hill“, go figure. They still make bank from writing King Of The Hill theme song “Yahoos and Triangles” (hey, that’s the name of the show!), but it is this oft-overlooked smash that cements these 90’s icons.
The band later dissolved and gave way to Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, who are absolute hometown heroes in anywhere close to AZ, just the absolute epitome of a crowdpleasing bar-band to party down to. And of course, there’s no better way to give the audience what they want than to close out all their sets with the song that started it all for them: “Banditos”. Yeah, that seems fair.
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
“Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles”
Clear Spot (1972)
No fear here! Any tortured souls who can’t muster the energy to combat Captain Beefheart’s purposefully broken Trout Mask Replica need not be discouraged for this entry here.
I’d been perpetually curious about the Captain for a good many a-year now, but I’d always made the conscious decision to stick solely to Trout Mask Replica ,(listener beware, you’re in for a scare) it really is the Pandora’s Box of 20th century music with enough information found inside to keep you occupied for plenty long. More-so however, I did not want anything to shatter the illusion of the persona he’d created on this album. I would hate for any further knowledge to remove the one-of-a-kind nature of the album (as if that’s even possible).
I recently bit the bullet and ventured further into his discography to find a best case scenario: Captain Beefheart was able to make music that was way more palatable aesthetically while still remaining entirely Beefheart. This may have all culminated in Beefhearts’ 1972 release Clear Spot, produced by Tad Templeton who’d constructed 70’s megasmashes by The Doobie Brothers, Montrose (featuring a mostly then-unknown Sammy Hagar), Carly Simon, and future signee Van Halen. Point is, that some tinkering must be made in order to get the Captain and this Rock-Pop minded producer to agree, and it works in a very natural way.
So let’s take the albums best highlight: “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles”, a Blues-lite affair that calls out to the void. The acoustic guitars disobey their most natural properties and give unique timbre to the piece, both guitars performing in harmony that’s characteristic to even The Magic Band’s most wild works. But here they work together instead of in spite of one another. And what’s that? The entire song is in 4/4 common time! This may give some more credence that Captain Beefheart might have had an inkling of what he was doing in the songwriting department, as that is a very specific assertion to make when trying to make a song more listenable.
Beefheart performs with his usual gruff bluesman motif, occupying a particularly lovesick feeling this time as he waxes poetic about how he can’t believe what his woman could see in a man such as himself, perhaps motivated by Blues music’s seemingly innate fear of woman. It’s tough to tell how well this change of pace panned out for him, but this song did see a resurgence to a new audience due to being featured in The Coen Brothers “The Big Lebowski”. Still, it appears that no matter what you throw in his way, this Captain will keep on rowing.
“Alarm Clock Blues”
Edison’s Elephant (2016)
I assume that my Left of the Dial listeners tune in to my program to find the real Cream of the Crop, if you will. I promise deep cuts and I mostly deliver em to ya. And here’s a real unknown one, as of writing this article, this song “Alarm Clock Blues” has a total of 19 views on YouTube and not a single song by them has over 1000 Spotify streams (yet!).
The band is Black Water, not to be confused with the fictional band of the same name from Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous“, and they’re set and ready to rock your socks off. This bluesy electric number is ultra grooving and body moving, calling back to the kind of stuff found on Electric Mud. The guitars squawk around in a minor key, laying down the law for the band to navigate around. The drummer is an especially interesting component to the band as he’s acting as the loose cannon to give extra life to the song. The song is catchy beyond belief too, the vocalist sounds right at home on this kind of song, further supported by the energetically strained sounding backing vocal dude.
This band appears to be a real diamond in the rough, and I’d recommend you do your part as a music listener and give them your support.
*Note: I do not have any affiliation with this band, I just genuinely wanna help them since they sound really good. If I’m supporting a band that I personally know, I’ll tell you so.
“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”
One solitary album was all Jeff Buckley could grant us before he was taken from our world. I often wonder about what he would have done if he’d had more time in this life, his potential was unbelievable and it was so obvious that he had so much more to say. His unknown destined music potential puts him in the same field as the loss of Buddy Holly on the day the music died, in this writer’s opinion. While his personality always shines through, it is still his music that’s at the forefront of his conversation.
He’d found a great balance, always bridging the gap between the respected music of our past and what could be considered genuinely progressive. Versatile as his music may be, the mood he best captures is “hauntingly beautiful”, as so, the strength of “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” may just make this his master statement.
Jeff is a one-man-band in many respects, his song crafting reminds me much of what Bruce Springsteen sought to accomplish on Born To Run. “I want to make music with singing like Roy Orbison, lyrics like Bob Dylan, and music like Phil Spector“. Buckley is a triple threat in that sense, every fibre of his being is thoroughly represented in his music. The touching lyrics of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” easily separates itself from standard breakup fare, turning into something that comes across as more enlightened and profound.
“Lonely is the room the bed is made
The open window lets the rain in
Burning in the corner is the only one
Who dreams he had you with him
My body turns and yearns for a sleep
That won’t ever come
She is the tear that hangs inside my soul forever
But maybe I’m just too young,
To keep good love from going wrong
Lover, you should’ve come over
‘Cause it’s not too late”
The song builds and moans with passion in its playing until it’s godly climax, Buckley’s angelic voice reaching its fullest effect here. His voice soars towards the heavens before plummeting him back down onto his own two feet. I hate harping on his untimely passing so much, as his music is just as engaging without his backstory, but it is this knowledge that leaves much of his sole studio album with some uncanny premonitions of his demise by drowning. It is chill inducing when he whines
“I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners […] As their shoes fill up with water”, completely unaware that he predicted his own fate, a theme that pops up too often on Grace.
A once in a lifetime talent, it is clear to understand why his solo album is held in such high regard among music critics and fans alike.
Demolition Day (2004)
Hey, this one might sound pretty familiar. That is, if you’re reasonably antiquated with the source material enough. The source I’m talking about here is the lengthy branch that connects Mondo Generator to Queens of the Stone Age, all the way back to Kyuss. That is, this song was initially featured on Queens of the Stone Age’s sophomore album Rated R, appearing on the first leg of the record in a more amplified format. QotSA ringleader Josh Homme worked with bassist Nick Oliveri on these songs, given the two had a past rapport playing in Desert Metal band Kyuss in the decade prior. Things went disastrously south in a remarkably bad fashion and Oliveri was thus booted from the band. Picking up the pieces, he created a band to call his own: Mondo Generator; named after the Kyuss song of the same name.
On their first album he chose a to use a more laid back and acoustic approach, a shocking left turn for anybody familiar with his style. The crown jewel on the album is his reworked version of “Auto Pilot”, which greatly benefits from this up close and personal approach taken. “Auto Pilot” was one of the handful of songs he’d already done lead vocals for in the prior group, so it was only natural for the song to make the transition into his new work. The acoustics are wonderfully interwoven under Nick’s cloying voice on the song. Classic keyboards and light percussion adds extra pizazz as well.
“A Little God In My Hands”
To Be Kind (2014)
How is it possible for a band to be so minimalist yet produce music so gargantuan? This is the effortlessly executed modus operandi of Swans ever since the group’s inception in New York’s No Wave scene, always creating dismal sounding music that bludgeons you like a hemorrhage to the head.
The name “Swans” should strike at least a little fear into the heart of any music listener familiar with the group. Their musical mantra is set out specifically to punish their listeners and reward those who can persevere. The group had been around since their ultra-hardcore debut album Filth was released in 1982, and the group had ridden through many peaks and valleys since. Most importantly, Swans has seen a stunning revitalization since the project was resurrected by Swans mastermind Michael Gira in 2010, producing a new trilogy of albums to add to the Swans oeuvre and reinventing the wheel several times over.
The most immediate aspect of these new albums is the absolutely insane runtimes of these albums, each album runs over two hours each! They’ve really set themselves up as jukebox antiheroes; hilariously evidenced by any unsuspecting bar jukebox that allows patrons to choose music from their catalog, such as the 32 minute long song “The Seer”, or perhaps the even lengthier “Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’ouverture”. These song lengths are done so well that each song may have more material than most bands entire albums.
Luckily (for you radio listeners), an ever so slightly different angle is taken on “A Little God In My Hands” from To Be Kind. The song is driven by a main groove that is not incredibly daunting, but instead a small, almost Alternative sounding riff. The riff clunks in a really unique spot for guitar to go to and each bandmate adds just a couple notes to add to the ever growing symphony this song brings on. The tune also borrows from some Blues archetypes, most specifically in the vocal delivery from the space cowboy himself, Michael Gira. He drawls his way through the song in a fully hypnotizing fashion.
Of course, many other extraneous instruments join the fray, some highlights being a clinking polyrhythmic keyboard, and disembodied voices of chant. This leads to the most disgustingly massive wall of sound I’d heard this side of Merzbow, just absolutely unrelenting. It’s the audio equivalent of astronaut Bowman traveling through the technicolor monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “A Little God In My Hands” makes for an interesting bump along the way of its multihour runtime, but still makes for a great moment to extract and enjoy entirely by itself.
“She’s Not There”
And now we proceed to a Latin celebration of The Zombies. No, this isnt Día de Muerta we’re talking about, but instead Carlos Santana and his band’s evocative cover of 60’s Jazz-Rock classic “She’s Not There’. The band Santana approaches the song with a looser, at times jammier perspective. The openness of the verses gives much room for the musicians to breathe and flex their muscles a bit.
Covers seem to fit the band well, helping steer them away from more “Variations On The Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression” and helped them rake in some of their finest works (Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va). Yes, it is this “outside looking in” tactic that allows for Santana to shine most, further evidenced by their multiplatinum Supernatural album, turning 20 years old this week.
Now let’s get back to the core song, “She’s Not There”. I’d heard a couple people point to this song on The Zombies debut album as certifiable proof that they were not a one album wonder, as it’s their follow-up masterpiece Odesee and Oracle that deservedly gets all the shine. Well, no… I’m afraid to inform that “She’s Not There” is the only bright spot on an otherwise entirely ignorable album. Actually, the song “Woman” is fine enough as well, but that’s really it unfortunately. Since “She’s Not There” chalks up to being a wonderful fluke that doesn’t really indicate anything for the rest of the album or it’s bands namesake, it makes it way more enjoyable to hear a band knock it out of the park on what is effectively a one-off single.
Santana owns up to this song entirely and has a field day in doing so.
Trevor Rabin jumps in with a quickie guitar melter on “Spider Boogie”. Country twang leads the way, but steers fast into decidedly non-Western territory for the rest of the group. The pluck guitar is played fast and in a spindly style, long slides down the guitar help give a large personality to a fun-size cut. The guitar work here is no doubtedly played with super stretchy spider fingers, each strum getting further and further up the fretboard. The jam is full of life and sure to bring a smile to any guitarists face.
Iron Butterfly is a fun one hit wonder, ain’t they? Their “fifteen minutes of fame” was less time than it took to play their hit song itself; the monolithic 18 minute leviathan that is “In A Gadda-Da-Vida”, really the legendary stuff that the rock canon is made of. Their one tune that placed them inside the limelight had more than enough material for triple as many bands, leaving average consumers with the question “what else did the world really need to hear by them”? Well not much, apparently, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a couple neat enough tracks worth keep around.
Enter the Hippie headcrusher that is “Unconscious Power”, led by another schweet proto-metal riff and some epic keyboard rocking from Doug Ingle, the bands only consistent member. “Unconscious Power” amounts to some very very fine “schlock-rock” if you will. You’d be easily forgiven if you’d thought this was an early Mothers Of Invention song, as it sounds like it’d easily fit in alongside any track from Absolutely Free (but it is sorely missing a detour into “Louie Louie”).
Iron Butterfly had a revolving door lineup if there ever was one, and it may be apparent when comparing this track to “In A Gadda-Da-Vida”, the songwriting may be similar but the musicianship is leagues apart from their signature song. The band does a fine job tapping into the brainmelting vein of psychedelia, providing just enough contrast from their peers to make their back catalog a curious enough listen. Get this: the group even considers themselves the first to brandish the “Heavy Metal” label, what with this album named Heavy and all. The public consciousness usually agrees that Steppenwolf are the rightful owners of the “heavy metal” title, or even the other band named after a metallic flying machine: Led Zeppelin. But hey, if they want to claim they’re the first then who are we to try and stop them. Maybe it’d give them more of a lasting legacy than writing the most famously overindulgent song ever and an essential bit from Classic Simpsons (“Now please rise for our opening hymn: ‘In The Garden Of Eden’ by I. Ron Butterfly.”) Dream on, Iron Butterfly, dream on.
I guess I’d also recommend “Iron Butterfly Theme” and “Most Anything You Want” for a rounded Iron Butterfly experience, but even those are kind of on thin ice. It’s hard to argue that “Unconscious Power” isn’t fun to keep around though, it’s a powerful slice from an era long passed.
“No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”
Ah, Pop music made for such a fun antiquity in the early 60’s. I can’t imagine much of another time that a track like this would shoot its way up the charts. This light weight instrumental rock track sounds like music made for a commercial that never was; which is precisely what it is! The song “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” was apparently written to channel the feeling of an Alka Seltzer commercial, the organizer behind “The T-Bones” (I’ll get back to that in a second) chose instead to send it to radio stations as a last ditch effort for possible radio circulation. Lo and behold, the American public gulped it up and made a ruckus about this new T-Bones shindig. T-Bone mania, they called it. Why not.
So here’s the thing, The T-Bones are just a Trojan Horse for what is actually The Wrecking Crew playing on the song. Any music historian would know the long reaching influence of The Wrecking Crew, the most famous session musician group of all time, playing on everything from “Good Vibrations”, “River Deep, Mountain High”, to “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”. The fact that this was an entirely manufactured act meant trouble for the man who promoted this under the T-Bones name, people were wanting to see this song live and there wasn’t a real band to play it!
So, in an entirely 1960’s move, a new band was formed and billed as The T-Bones despite not a single member of this band appearing on the original recording (liner notes were different back in the day.) This was not an uncommon practice at the time, a neat piece of music trivia also surrounds UK act The Zombies who broke up immediately before Odesee and Oracle track “Time Of The Season” tore up the charts. There was no way for Americans to know about their dissolution, so a litany of “fake Zombies” bands sprung up to take credit for the song. Hilariously enough, one of these Zombies imposter groups would later change their name and write original music as… ZZ Top.
Anywho, despite the strangeness surrounding this song it still stands as an entertaining listen and a good indicator for what the general public was wanting from Rock music in 1965.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
“Cortez The Killer”
Much like Neil Young’s source material on this song Hernán Cortés, the guitar playing on “Cortez The Killer” has become undeniable legend, a revered holy ground from music fans and rock guitarists alike. There is a stupefying energy that flows underneath the songs minuscule three chords. Put simply, it just works. Building a reputation as the most infinitely imitable song of all time, there is no shortage of bands that cover this song to death, including but not limited to The Grateful Dead, Slint, Screaming Females, Prong, Dave Matthews, Grace Potter w/ Joe Satriani… the list goes on.
Neil’s playing is incredibly restrained, still letting loose bursts of energy to grab anybody within earshot. His guitar work comes from a more cerebral standpoint than most guitarists would be comfortable with accessing.
I’m always taken aback once the vocals enter the song, everything flows so effortlessly up to that point that any singing would not have been missed too sorely. Yet the singing only adds more magic to the track, sung contemplatively and plain; helping describe the aftermath of an atrocity committed from Cortez, his long reach looming over the entire song entirely in a foreboding manner. A self-destructive fear is pulsing through the band, describing a story through their music that words can simply do no justice.
The unit plays with such a power that permeates through the entire recording studio; so much so, that rumor is that the entire recording console shut down amidst recording of Cortez, thus the quick fadeout. When questioned about it, the colourful Neil simply said about the final “lost verse”, “I never really liked that verse anyway”, surely with a coy smile that assures that what we’ve been given is plenty enough for many years to come.
“Do You Love Me”
Ehhh, if you came here to talk trash about KISS then you can just leave it at the door. I’m not a dummy (mostly). I get everything that’s terrible about the band and heard all the arguments about em. And I mostly agree, I’m a KISS sympathizer at best. But a good song can still register as a good song despite it all, and as a specifically good rock album, Destroyer reigns as a high watermark of rock n’ roll charisma and pin-pointed party anthem songwriting done in a well organized and non-bloated way. The band still feels they have something to prove on this album despite breaking through with their previous Alive! album just a year prior, the band decided to double down and cement them as not only a tour de force live band, but as capable musicians in the studio as well. This pursuit is further encouraged by producer Bob Ezrin’s new ideas over the band. Ezrin of course, is the legendary producer whose fingerprints can be found all over some of Art Rock’s most accomplished albums, such as Berlin by Lou Reed, Welcome To My Nightmare from Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Ezrin gives KISS the same treatment on Destroyer, incorporating orchestras, full choirs, experimental walkie-talkie work and more, such as the soundscapes that begin “Detroit Rock City”. This is also the reasoning behind the fluke hit ballad “Beth”, the newest territory the band had seen yet.
Still though, the album is rock music through and through, and KISS was finally able to channel their rock showmanship into a studio environment. The songs still leap forward with precisely placed energy, due in part to the shouted vocals, sticky hooks and endless guitarmonies found inside. Album closer “Do You Love Me” is just as catchy, opening with Paul Stanley singing over a straight Peter Criss beat, already a nice change of pace from everything heard prior. Maybe it’s due to the strength of the instrumental, but Stanley sounds more legitimately longing on here than he does on most vocal performances, even if some of the ego-stroking braggadocio lyrics aged badly in this modern age and look even worse with 40 years more knowledge of the band getting in the way. It’s hard not to groan a little bit with lines like
“You like the credit cards and private planes
Money can really take you far
You like the hotels and fancy clothes
And the sound of electric guitars”
Enjoy the episode? Listen to Chris-R’s other hosted show “Thoroughly Modern Mondays”, where the grab bag grabs back! Newest episode can be streamed below
I also wrote a biiiig article on THE TOP 100 SONGS OF 2018: meticulously ranked and no stone was left unturned. All streaming in a Spotify playlist and written about/reviewed in a KPSU article, both are linked.
And if you’d like to read about Chris-R and his trip to Desert Daze 2018: America’s best Psych-Rock festival, click below.
One more time, here’s the playlist that has every song ever featured on the program.