ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): SMASHING PUMPKINS – CYR | 2020-11-19

What’s interesting about undergoing a premature album review as it pertains to the creative output of alternative rock legends Smashing Pumpkins is that one year one could be serviced with a complete album spanning eight cuts and clocking in at just over half an hour of runtime, whereas another (zany) year one could be serviced with just as many preview teasers for its follow up—which combined clock in at just over half an hour of runtime—and not even reach half of the pre-announced tracklist length for said very album. Just to make head and tails here, in 2018 Billy Corgan and co. unveiled their tenth official studio album Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., comprising eight songs and recorded alongside producer royalty Rick Rubin at his swanky Shangri La studio in Malibu, California. Fast forward to two years and a global pandemic later and we find the American alt rockers announcing their follow-up LP CYR in form of a gnarly and improbable 20-track double album, slated for release on 27th November by Washington D.C. and Los Angeles-based indie imprint Sumerian Records.

Intended both in music and spirit to act as a successor to their previous aforementioned project, serving as the second instalment for the group’s ongoing Shiny and Oh So Bright series, CYR began to be teased during this past summer through a raft of mysterious SP countdown timers across the Interweb, which eventually led to the unboxing of synth-pop Ava Adore-ing lead single/title track “Cyr” (“Tangents vex the whorl / The void arrives then leaves / Returning, returning a kiss / For lovers built the dream“) as well as its attached garage/indie B-side “The Colour of Love“—the latter incidentally doubling as the grand record opener. Predictably, both numbers came with luscious accompanying music videos, which quickly grew to reveal a larger five-part cyber-psych animated series outing dubbed In Ashes, written and created by Billy Corgan himself and set to coincide with the ambitious album roll out. Speaking of which, at the time of writing this amounts to eight individual singles parsed out across four separate release slots, giving lucky and thirsty fans more than the average conventional taster amount ahead of the CYR’s complete unveiling. This brings us full circle to the notion of the present ‘perhaps-not-so-much’ premature evaluation of the full piece de resistance dropping at the end of the month.

Subsequently to the initial solid and convincing two-track combo unleashed at the end of August, SP saw fit to start dropping another double single at the end of September, this time in the guise of the sticky, kooky, and eccentric art-pop of “Confessions of a Dopamine Addict” on its A-side (“I’m down for bewitching trains / And cursed tower / The masts blackened / As windswept / Horizons ever sour / If it takes more to find you / Than setting out a fading sun“), as well as the nocturnal indie-synth sensibilities of the soft and tender “Wrath” on its back. Not content with the existing load, just a few weeks later throughout the month of October the Grammy Awards-winning goths chose to issue an additional two double-single bundles within the span of a couple weeks. Leading the streak was the raspy and gritty guitar-lead of “Anno Satana“—sporting arguably the most gratifying songwriting amongst the ongoing promotional eight-pack—counter-mirroring the more subdued and dejected yet adorable B-side “Birch Grove“. Lastly, and fittingly just in time for Halloween, the angelic and compositionally gelid flairs of alt-ballad “Ramona” graced the world’s airwaves with necessary respite vis-a-vis flip-side “Wyttch“‘s gruesome, abrasive, and bewildering spookiness (with a frightful official music video out on Friday 13th, no less)—marking the last and easily heaviest cut unveiled by the quartet in anticipation to CYR.

Any partial artistic inference made to the full LP on account of not even half of its total track count can’t forego the crucial monition of how—unlike for Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. where Mr Rubin was given creative control of the production steering wheel—this record sees Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan looking after any and all production duties. Nonetheless, and rightfully so considering the ongoing gelling conceptual album series, tracks such as the aforementioned “The Colour of Love”, “Anno Satana”, and “Wyttch” immediately seal a robust sonic continuum with its 2018 predecessor, both in terms of thematic focus and sound delivery. Whether completely intentional or not, one can only assume that at least a portion of that analogue, guitar-led, and driving percussive predicament entrenched in said cuts goes to distill some degree of the band’s true current musical ethos—not a bad thing in and of itself for it’s sounding rad. However, the crispier, cleaner, and glossier new wave synth processing found in flagship singles here, such as the title track, “Wrath”, and “Birch Grove”, hint at a possible return to more lavish late 90s aesthetics, albeit sans the compositional depth seen on Machina/The Machines of God.

While on the subject of studio arrangements and recorded instrumentation inklings, it’s probably worth reiterating that in 2020, aside from the aforementioned singer-honcho Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins is Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, James Iha on lead guitar, and Jeff Schroeder on rhythm guitar—the former two doubling as reverting staples from the legendary original line-up that thrusted the group into international stardom and critical acclaim, back then completed by controversial absentee bassist D’arcy Wretzky. As expected, taping sessions for CYR saw existing members record stems on their respective instruments, whilst aside from synthesizers, additional guitars, vocals, and production duties, Mr Corgan also lied bass guitars to wax for the occasion (additional background vocals, significantly presents on a chunk of the eight promotional singles described above, come courtesy of Sierra Swan and existing Australian touring member Katie Cole). Judging by the hors d’oeuvre SP has served us hitherto, the suite of styles and sounds one is to expect from the full length appears fairly versatile on the ear, ranging from the foreboding distortion of “Wyttch” through to “Birch Grove”‘s culling and sparse caresses, emanating tenderness and endearment from its every musical pore.

With a whole other album’s worth of twelve records off CYR still to be released, and more than half of the projected 72 minutes of runtime left to nothing more than the listeners’ imagination, any definitive appraisal of this album at this point would be reductive at best. Add Mr Corgan’s inherent unpredictability and—for a sincere lack of a better term—creative weirdness on top of the equation, and one soon realises that any judgement bestowed one week away from the album’s street date is as reliable as the next person’s. Truly and honestly though, based off this sample of tracks, CYR does not seem to sport the same oomph, pizazz, compression, and dare I say it even catchiness found throughout Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be stood corrected here once all twenty songs hit the digital streaming shelves and each and every one of these promotional cuts can be savoured within the context of the full conceptual journey, but for as slept-on and underrated the inaugural instalment of the Shiny and Oh So Bright trilogy still is, it’s also proven to have aged robustly well despite—or perhaps precisely because of—being devoid of much promotional bells and whistles fanfare.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

SMASHING PUMPKINS

CYR

2020, Sumerian Records

https://smashingpumpkins.com

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): JIMMY EAT WORLD TIER LIST | 2020-10-24

JEW_Tier List

Support Jimmy Eat World:

http://www.jimmyeatworld.com
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/jimmy-eat-world/3446973
https://www.instagram.com/jimmyeatworld
https://twitter.com/jimmyeatworld

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): BOB MOULD – BLUE HEARTS | 2020-10-03

For an optimal experience, read through this first.

It’s been a little minute since one could stumble upon as a trial-by-fire, all-killer/no-filler, straight-as-an-arrow alternative punk rock LP from a legacy act as Bob Mould’s latest blazing studio full length project, Blue Hearts. The former Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman’s fourteenth as a solo artist, the LP dropped on 25th September and follows in the footsteps of 2019’s rather upbeat and stray light Sunshine Rock in the shape of what his indie label Merge Records dubs as “the raging-but-catchy yin to Sunshine Rock’s yang”, before adding that it was “recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago with Beau Sorenson engineering and Mould producing”, concluding that “Blue Hearts nods to Mould’s past while remaining firmly planted in the issues of the day”. Promo blurbs aside, the record cuts through like a rabid and quaint meat and potatoes uppercut at a packed and austere fourteen songs and 36 minutes of runtime, keeping comfortably on brand for an old underground hardcore scene head such as Mould.

While sporting key tunes on the album in title disguises such as “American Crisis“, “Forecast of Rain“, and “Racing to the End” might make the principal conceptual undercurrent of Mould’s latest exploit all too painfully obvious, there is so much more than meets the eye on the Malone, NY-native newest project. Mind you—all individual chapters sequenced within this thematic crusading journey are ultimately nothing more than blistering and riveting peas in a pod, but for one the semi-acoustic, stripped down, analogue frontiers on the album’s tail ends “Heart on My Sleeve” and “The Ocean” provide an equally awakening and matter-of-factly respite amidst the bulk of this body of work’s asphyxiating searing bonfires. The record’s flip in mood and sentiment compared to its predecessor is impossible to miss already on its unhinged seven-track A-side, with manic and inflammatory numbers such as “Next Generation” and “Fireball” exhuming some of Mould’s most piercing and inspiring mid-80s Hüsker Dü reference pull-ups, not without being set ajar to the kind of trademark sweet-on-the-ear sticky songwriting drowned in amp gain found in the aforementioned “Forecast” as well as “Siberian Butterfly” on that same front-end.

Perhaps even more pronouncedly than on any other body of work found within Mould’s career past the new millennium mark, Blue Hearts frequently sees the 59-year-old punk rocker flirting and fiddling with enveloping backup singing harmonies, courtesy of staple touring member and longtime band bassist Jason Narducy. Cases in point, on the less cohesive but compositionally more articulate and gnarly record’s B-side, are the groovy and infectious “Baby Needs a Cookie” at number ten, as well as album highlight “Password to My Soul” just two skips down the line, displaying revered and classic Mould playbook elements such as oceans of Fender Stratocaster distortion, sticky and tender chords progressions, lavish viscerality, and just wealth and wealth of melody. Such moments not only serve as poignant reminder for both Bob’s creative efficacy and deep influence over his 40-year-long career, but also go offset duller points on the project, found most acutely on the mutual carbon copied-snoozers of formulaic duds “When You Left” and “Little Pieces“.

What’s more, on the qualified and loaded half hour and change the former Sugar honcho packs in on his fifth consecutive album on the North Carolina indie imprint, there is even room for flavoursome sentimental detours, arguably not amongst Mould’s most recurring topical calling card. These afford listeners gratifying mundane interludes in-between the overtly explicit socio-political framework that so assertively defines the record’s overarching ethos. Take for instance “Everyth!ng to You“, a jolly and carefree tongue-in-cheek romantic declaration checking in halfway through the project, or even the raunchy blues rock of “Leather Dreams“, the latter not only casting somewhat unusual alt-garage sensibilities onto his songwriting, but also housing what might be the highest number of innuendos Bob ever lied to tape at once. With that being said, his voice is still mixed just that ounce or two too quiet to get eaten by cymbals, I mean guitars, to prompt listeners to pay a little bit extra attention.

This time though it’s as important as ever and not one bit less catchy than what we’ve come to expect from the old hardcore punk fox. Look—you don’t need to hear it from me, but in so many ways a project like Blue Hearts could only have come out in a year such as 2020. Existential and impending climate dismays, ostracising and disenfranchising societal uproars by way of ethnic reckonings, an earth-shattering public health emergency, and a menacing and breathtaking forthcoming election for the 46th President of the USA all end up crunched and parsed within the bold, earnest, and stern fourteen acts of Bob Mould’s auditory gesamtkunstwerk. This is stoic, matter-of-fact, and heart-on-sleeve zeitgeist recounting, free of virtue signalling or empty sloganeering, set to an animalistic and savage sonic score that ranks amongst the New York state-native’s most sincere and unfiltered. Don’t spend too much time scouting for soft and delicate acoustic menageries or intimate whispered affairs on this thing—those are to be found in spades across Mould’s rich and prolific back catalogue. This is the official soundtrack to going to hell in a hand basket, carrying chocolate chip cookies to tame a mean and evil orange monster…

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

BOB MOULD

BLUE HEARTS

2020, Merge Records

https://bobmould.com

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): IMPLODING THE FLAMES—THE KILLERS & THE FRONT BOTTOMS | 2020-08-28

Considering the profound influence it has had on mainstream rock music in the new millennium, it’s ashamedly baffling how little real estate this site has dedicated to Las Vegas rock band The Killers over the course of its six-year online existence. Notwithstanding the somewhat lopsided distribution of studio projects released by the Brandon Flowers-fronted outfit during their almost twenty-year-long career—prolifically loaded in its front-end, with four LPs within eight years between 2004 and 2012 (Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town, Day & Age, and Battle Born), only to go on to release just two more in as many years since then (2017’s Wonderful Wonderful and last week’s Imploding the Mirage)—there is no denying that such a recidivistic AWOL state ought to be remedied in spades. What better occasion to right such unjust wrong than the highly anticipated, greatly acclaimed, and bizarrely delayed issuance of the American alt rockers’ sixth official full length album, out on Friday 21st August on Island Records.

American adult alternative rock stalwarts The Killers—nowadays virtually just answering roll calls as frontman Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr—should not need any formal introduction to many a cultural bystanders, owing to their bragging rights awarded a mighty flexing of around a dozen modern-day indie rock classics that brought them top-of-the-charts comfort and festival crowd-pleasers alike. Announced by the group’s camp in early March alongside triumphant and life-affirming lead single “Caution“, and following up their slept-on and critically slashed Wonderful Wonderful two years prior, Imploding the Mirage mirrors its predecessor in track listing and runtime (ten songs clocking in at around 42 minutes). Unlike its forerunner though, it’s tightly packed with big, larger-than-life, loudness-war victorious arena fist throwers, collaboratively dished out with a host of unlikely co-signs, ranging from Canadian pop singer k.d. lang to The War on Drugs‘ Adam Granduciel, although the mightiest headline-inducing cameo comes courtesy of former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham (who lends six-string wizardry to the aforementioned “Caution”).

After a second teaser to the full length following around the end of April in the shape of the hazy world-grooves encapsulated by the outstanding “Fire in Bone“, the group saw fit to unveil two more sonically eclectic and compositionally dense cuts prior to the full exploit between June and August—the ripe and wondrous album opener “My Own Soul’s Warning” and the Springsteenian synthetic horse-galloper “Dying Breed” (the former attached to two official music videos in an unconventional promo stunt). Truth be told, in retrospect such an assembly of ginormous preview tracks functioned as the perfect canary in the coal mine for the tiring full project experience, on the heels of their nearly asphyxiating sonic grandeur and pitiless climactic sound dynamics, pulling one uppercut after another to unaware listeners, found drowning in these records’ blown out mastering and fat stem layering. Don’t get it twisted though, none of these are bad songs in and of themselves—they are just a lot on the eardrum.

Regrettably, the remaining six joints on the record provide little respite from gargantuan sound compression and airwaves-stuffing fatigue. Cases in point are the album’s two synth-overdosed weaker closing moments, “When the Dreams Run Dry” and the vast, elusive, and spacious title track. Again—not the worst tunes the band has ever written, but enveloped in as much testosterone-fuelled overboard sound design that it dilutes and decoys from their redeemable compositional merits. It’s a shame that when Imploding the Mirage does take a breather and attempts to slow down the adagio a notch, such as with the piano-led mid-tempo radio ballad “Lightning Fields“, or the Weyes Blood-assisted cinematic ear worm “My God“, these plateaus actually double as outright lull snoozers of the pack, particularly when considered in the context of the full record’s songwriting valour. Meanwhile, thankfully and conversely, the Big Country-homaging sing-along stunner “Blowback” and the glorious saccharine guitar-work on “Running Towards a Place” easily make for some of The Killers’ most laudable and inspired work in a decade, significantly contributing to elevating the album’s overall lasting creative impact beyond its obese production’s dazzling fog.

In other welcome rock song craft news—that is, you know, pertaining to actual four-minute songs with inherent artistic value recorded with genuine acoustic instrumentation—New Jersey emo/folk natives The Front Bottoms chose the same late August Friday as Flowers and co. to unveil their seventh official studio album to the world, In Sickness & In Flames (out on Warner Music’s Fueled By Ramen). Standing as their most ambitious project yet, the record is a matured (?) concept journey through life’s tragicomic inertia, inevitably moulded by this year’s public health crisis impact and, as one has come to expect from the eclectic and exuberant slacker duo, growing up. In Sickness & In Flames undoubtedly ranks amongst The Front Bottom’s longest, heaviest, and sincerest exploits to date, with as many as twelve slyly-sequenced tracks, where even the snappiest ones run just short of four minutes of heart wrenched content.

Let us be honest, few other acts in the 2010s have been as consistent and accomplished in recounting late stage capitalism stream-of-consciousness cautionary tales for suburban twenty-somethings as the Woodcliff Lake-natives, not without an (un)healthy dose of self-deprecation and inconsolable incorrigibility. Their 2013 masterpiece Talon of the Hawk is pretty much a genre calling card at this point, and by some unconventional artistic twist of fate, their resilient semi-acoustic, heart-on-sleeve, spoken word open mic aesthetic has managed to do without a great deal of innovation—or even evolution—in order to retain their flavoursome and witty merits. Clearly, The Front Bottoms are still amongst the proudest torch bearers for legions of millennial simps, and their latest LP is a powerful if emotionally available and subdued budding everyday life account, casting an approaching new decade wide open as continued beacons of their stoic and earnest DIY underground milieu.

Songs-wise, less than the somewhat stale, phoned-in, and overcooked lead singles “everyone blooms” and “Fairbanks, Alaska“, it’s deeper cuts such as upbeat indie dance slapper “jerk” and the stern and austere lamenting ballad “the hard way” that both sound classic TFB and find them at their abundant best on this new project. It’s however the album’s B-side (or C and D sides, for y’all vinyl-maniac), taking off with the 90s alt rock/post-grunge firestarter “leaf pile” and wrapping up with the shivering and gorgeous piano closer “make way“, that makes for the most focused, captivating, and compelling back-to-back half hour of music that lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Sella and drummer Mat Uychich have put out to date. Accept this early and unsolicited hot Twitter take as receipt legitimising said acknowledgement. Elsewhere on the record’s side B, “new song d” at number eight on the tracklist is a most serious contender for their all time best song, period—whereas “bus beat” is ridiculously packed with hooks (“I do it like that because that’s the way my baby likes it“) and even the aforementioned “Fairbanks, Alaska” sounds righteous and well-placed amidst such songwriting delicacy.

The Killers and The Front Bottoms represent a tale of two rock and roll cities, both with their respective blistering blessing and crushing curses. One is made of a big, loud, and flashy razzmatazz, banking on glamorous superficial appearances and romanticised bella vita. It’s tempting and sensorially appealing, it sucks you in by way of its luring chassis and swaying halo effect, yet upon prolonged exposure it might render it mundanely hard to swallow all at once. The other one the brick and mortar manifestation of struggle, defiance, and acceptance—laminated by rusty copper-looking buildings and never quite succeeding in shaking off those blue-collar last smoke residuals, be it from cigarettes or a flickering pyre. These musical cities are adjacent. They neighbour one another, and go as far as exchanging forms of underbelly trade flows and unhealthy next-door syndrome. The grass might always be greener on the other side, but with Imploding the Mirage and In Sickness & In Flames the real optimum lives in the dialectic interaction of these two vivid exponents of the state of the modern rock and roll art.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

THE KILLERS

IMPLODING THE MIRAGE

2020, Island Records

https://www.thekillersmusic.com

THE FRONT BOTTOMS

IN SICKNESS & IN FLAMES

2020, Fueled By Ramen

https://www.thefrontbottoms.com

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): LINKIN PARK TIER LIST | 2020-08-17

Screenshot 2020-08-16 at 17.16.13

Support Linkin Park:

https://www.linkinpark.com
https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/linkin-park/148662
https://www.instagram.com/linkinpark
https://twitter.com/linkinpark

RIP CB

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

NOW ACCEPTING YOUR MUSIC FOR REVIEW | 2020-06-22

EMS has partnered with the good people over at Share PRO and is now officially accepting music submissions seeking unbiased critical appraisals—send us all your joints good and bad at this page and we will get back to you with a review in 48 hours.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

beverly-hills_shutterstock_dezeen_ss

BLM | 2020-05-31

 

Consider making a financial donation to the following organisations:

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: naacpldf.org

Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019

Black Voters Matter Fund: blackvotersmatterfund.org

Know Your Rights Camp: knowyourrightscamp.com

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

A PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION TO: BRIGITTE LAVERNE | 2020-04-26

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

BRIGITTE LAVERNE

DISCO CHINA

2019, Brigitte Laverne

https://www.instagram.com/brigittelaverne/

Disco China_BL

A PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION TO: BOB MOULD | 2020-03-15

Since every March is APIT season, I figured this is as good a time as any to shine additional ethereal light on Bob Mould. Not that the 59-year-old guitarist and singer/songwriter would ever need it, but recent haphazard revisiting of his immensely prolific catalogue—spanning two major influential rock outfits and thirteen LPs worth of solo work—made it abundantly clear and poignant that the gentleman stands as one of alternative rock’s most paramount, characteristic, and genre-defining frontmen in the last forty years. I understand how filing this piece under the Preliminary Introduction To rubric might sound like an abhorrent affront to many a punk rock brothers and sisters. I hear you all and I agree—Bob needs no delirious preliminary introduction. Yet again, it’s March after all and this the ideal excuse to indulge ourselves one more time in this amply revered author’s relatable melodic distortion of harshness…

Ask any self-respecting ex-scene kid who came up in the punk, underground, hardcore, or alternative artistic milieus in the 80s what Hüsker Dü meant to them and their peers and you’ll be graced with passionate tell-alls aplenty. The Malone, NY-native fronted punk rock outfit—completed by iconic drummer/singer Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton—almost singlehandedly steered the cultural and critique agenda of alternative music’s heavier spectrum during the better part of the legendary decade, together with a few other core projects such as The Replacements, Minutemen, and Sonic Youth. With seminal and trailblazing concept albums such as the off-the-wall Zen Arcade (1984), as well as the quick succession of near-perfect gnarly full-length catchy ankle-biters New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig (both 1985), and Candy Apple Grey (1986), the St Paul, MN-band thunderously rose to the mount Rushmore of indie underground punk within the span of twelve months (despite ending up signing with prestigious major Warner Bros for the latter record).

Their songs had the intelligent melodic tapestry of The Beatles, but were performed with the intensity, sound, and ferocity of The Ramones. The following year’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories turned out to be the trio’s final studio album and de facto fulfilment of their fat major label deal contract, with Hüsker Dü dissolving in the wake of the tour in its support, allegedly due to creative differences between Bob and Grant Hart, exacerbated by the drummer’s drug use at the time. Bob certainly didn’t rest on his laurels though, and within the span of a year from the band’s break-up saw fit to put out his first, highly-anticipated solo album in 1989, coming in the shape of the almost wholly reverb-folk acoustic affair Workbook. His return to slightly heavier soundscapes on his foreboding sophomore solo project Black Sheets of Rain provided another assertive statement of post-Hüsker intent, before foraying into bona fide early 90s alternative rock canon with his cult and critically-acclaimed band Sugar.

Sugar—sculpted by Mould alongside bassist David Barbe (ex-Mercyland) and drummer Malcolm Travis (ex-Human Sexual Response)—turned out to be a relatively short-lived stint for Bob and co, albeit one of tremendous cultural resonance at the time. The band’s calculated turn towards more melodic fringes of punk, and especially its life-defining debut LP Copper Blue (1992), went on to attract both commercial and high-brow success amidst glowing reviews, most notably snapping the number one spot in the same year’s Best Albums list by at the time reputable music publication NME. Two more hollowly stark studio projects in swift timely succession (Beaster and File Under: Easy Listening) sealed Sugar’s brief yet terrific ascension spell, toothlessly completed by a handful of compilations and live recordings thrown out over the years following the trio’s disbandment.

It’s not until 1996 that Bob decides to reprise his solo project stick—notwithstanding the erratic vanity exercise of releasing bundled halves of his first two solo records as part of a Virgin-issued compilation titled Poison Years banking on Sugar’s acclaim in 1994—as he returned to the scene with his third eponymous outing, effectively re-launching his musical trajectory as a one-man show. A number of dime a dozen and partially uninspired studio LPs followed between then and 2008’s regal District Line, a robust 10-track exercise in his unique trademark sombre and sticky punk rock authorship. Distortion-drenched, capo-steered, gain-optimised Fender Stratocaster-generated sound waves had long been his superior discerned unique selling point as a popular punk rock songwriter, but nowhere are these better distilled than in his output during the 2010s. While I don’t mean to go over his 2009 preciously delicate and fragile Life and Times too thanklessly—one that incidentally provided the contextual building blocks for his heart-on-sleeve 2011 memoir See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melodythe work of art released over the past ten years might be his best.

By his own admission, the 2010s saw Bob go through a whirlwind of private and public emotions, ranging from the perishing of both his parents to the socio-cultural shock of relocating his whole entire life away from utterly hip and radical chic San Francisco to the even more utterly hip and radical chic Berlin, Germany. His first record under his new deal with imperial indie label Merge Records, the outstanding Silver Age in 2012, signalled a fortified return to raw honesty and compositional poignancy, unsurprisingly so, considering the motions the New York state native was going through at the time. Truly and honestly, pick any Bob Mould record past this point and you’ll be furnished with exceptional performances, impeccable delivery, quality ideas, and watertight no-frills punk rock truth. Guaranteed. 2014’s Beauty and Ruin might just be his best—it’s hard to describe what kind of music it conduits, collectively surrendering to the fact that one can’t quite understand what happens in those songs transporting to transcendental states—although both Patch the Sky (2016) and last year’s Sunshine Rock surely give it a run for its money.

All in all, in all his artistic forms and expressions, Bob Mould stands to represent a trustworthy, prolific, and timeless underground rock minstrel who approaches his craft with scientific-like devotion and method. It will come to no surprise to most that the infamous and sublime north star that keeps on guiding him like a lighthouse when led astray is the goal to perfect the quintessential pop song. Case in point, he always sequences his stickiest track, his calling card, the one with the most powerful hook and airplay rotation potential, at number three on his tracklists. This is true for Hüsker, Sugar, and his solo material. Go back to his discog and check that for yourselves. After all though, Bob Mould remains a relatable, fallible, pedestrian, and regular gay man. By happenstance, he somehow ended up being a very important one, too.

Below listed are Bob Mould’s selected works from 1982 to 2019:

Hüsker Dü

Studio albums
Everything Falls Apart (1983)
Zen Arcade (1984)
New Day Rising (1985)
Flip Your Wig (1985)
Candy Apple Grey (1986)
Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)

Live Recordings
Land Speed Record (1982)
The Living End (1994)

Studio EPs
Metal Circus (1983)
Extra Circus (2017)


Sugar

Studio albums
Copper Blue (1992)
Beaster (EP) (1993)
File Under: Easy Listening (1994)


Bob Mould

Studio albums
Workbook (1989)
Black Sheets of Rain (1990)
Bob Mould (sometimes referred to as Hubcap) (1996)
The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998)
Modulate (2002)
Body of Songs (2005)
District Line (2008)
Life and Times (2009)
Silver Age (2012)
Beauty & Ruin (2014)
Patch the Sky (2016)
Sunshine Rock (2019)

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

Bob Mould_Portrait

A PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION TO: YESTERDAYS NEW QUINTET | 2019-03-10

In times of slim pickings and underwhelming new music Fridays, one can often find warming inspirational comfort in looking back and digging through some blasts from the past, with no particular rhyme or reason. Such a contextual predisposition is what sparked a fairly recent nostalgic drive in yours truly that fuelled an eclectic and colourful journey into projects, gems, and scenes that had pretty inexcusably slipped through the cracks hitherto. Admittedly, it would have been a little bit of a shame not to unify these new found trips down memory lane into a solid chronicle of selected delicious picks, so we figured why not put this out in some way, shape, or form, kind of like a pamphlet-resembling primer for those who might perhaps also not be in the know of a particular cultural phenomenon. So this is what happened when we began perusing the crates of Los Angeles-based independent record label Stones Throw by way of several ancillary and adjacent jazz releases a while ago. To spare y’all the details, what we mostly ended up on was a rather mysterious and elusive US jazz collective with a surprisingly prolific catalogue that went by the name of Yesterdays New Quintet. Little did we know that behind such moniker lied Oxnard, CA-native DJ, music producer, multi-instrumentalist, and rapper Madlib, who had apparently created a parallel sonic outlet in form of a virtual band – à la Gorillaz, for those wondering – that acted as a placeholder vehicle for him to explore the multiple universes of jazz-meets-electronic music over the span of almost a decade.

This educational rite of passage of sorts came as a blessing, not least for esteemed readers of this web property might have already noticed the scarcity revolving the reporting and critique of jazz projects, that have thus far only permeated and found their way to the surface by indirect means ferried inside of hiphop containers. In the hope of redeeming said thin editorial substance appraisal, we are humbled and delighted to introduce to you in this article a precious and reputable wealth of new nu jazz repertoire composed and performed by gnarly cats (just so you know, most of the historical information presented in here relies heavily on Stones Throw and has been adapted for brevity). So the story goes that Otis Jackson Jr, aka Madlib, first conceived Yesterdays New Quintet in the summer of 2000, after he had already made a name for himself in the indie hip-hop pantheon as creator and producer of Lootpack and Quasimoto. Right around the turn of the new century, he took an extended break from hip-hop production and, we quote, “decided to replace the SP1200 with the Fender Rhodes”. The initial Yesterdays New Quintet fictitious line-up comprised of Joe McDuphrey on keyboards, Malik Flavors on percussion, Ahmad Miller on guitar and vibraphone, Monk Hughes on bass, and Otis Jackson Jr. on drums, with each session player drafted under Madlib’s guidance and supervision as producer, arranger and engineer (personnel metadata fetched from Discogs and Wikipedia).

Having initially released a series of singles and EPs during the year following its gestation, such as the gorgeously tight and dry Elle’s Theme as well as the defining genesis statement Uno Esta, the instrumental collective went on and played various secretive and experimental shows, cutting their live performance’s teeth and starting to make a name for themselves in the West Coast alt jazz scene. Their 19-track debut LP Angles Without Edges – which borrowed multiple rough drafts from its preceding EP Uno Esta – was released on the untimely and unfortunate date of Sept. 11, 2001 and was as result “ignored by virtually everyone, except those who listened, and loved it”. The formative and consolidating year that followed saw the up-and-coming ensemble record and release a full album of Stevie Wonder covers, including but not limited to “Superstition”, “You’ve Got It Bad Girl”, and “Golden Lady”; another project that dropped without much fanfare in 2003 on Stones Throw Records. As the collective evolved and progressed, a vision began to take form in Madlib’s head, where each of the founding band members would have gone on and branched off from the core group releasing standalone records one at the time, all the while introducing entirely new – fictional – members and groups into what he would subsequently dub Yesterdays Universe. As of today, the transitional timeline describing the original formation’s evolution from Yesterdays New Quintet into solo offspring outfits and eventually the miscellaneous multi-dimensional supergroup cluster Yesterdays Universe could be described as follow:

Phase 1: Yesterdays New Quintet – 2000
Phase 2: Joe McDuphrey Experience – 2002
Phase 3: Ahmad Miller – 2003
Phase 4: Monk Hughes & the Outer Realm – 2004
Phase 5: Malik Flavors – 2005
Phase 6: Otis Jackson Jr. Trio – 2007
Phase 7: Yesterdays Universe – 2007

Soon after the twofold sound recording manifestation outed under the standard Yesterdays New Quintet alias (Angles Without Edges and Stevie), it became evident that Madlib had envisioned something reminiscent to New York hip-hop heavyweight Wu-Tang Clan’s orbit for the project, with each of the subsequent records following Stevie announced as different phases of the group under each member’s individual name. However, quickly after finding this new spin-off purpose shining well-earned light onto individual musicians, a wealth of even more jazz and funky performers joined the wider ranks of the collective, many of whom, it turned out, were invited to feature on Madlib’s Blue Note Records remix joint Shades of Blue (2003). As previously hinted at, this growing circle of more or less staple collaborators became known under the free and loose band Yesterdays Universe. It was very much in this spirit that the self-titled all-star 2007 compilation showcase LP was released (see official compilation jacket below), announcing both old and new side-projects, such as Young Jazz Rebels, The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble, Sound Directions, Jahari Masamba Unit, and Jackson Conti. By then, almost inevitably, what was manifested and recognised as the original Yesterdays New Quintet line-up had officially disbanded and indefinitely split up in 2007. Relatedly, home label Stones Throw had this public announcement to make when addressing various rumours coming through the grapevine at the time:

“At this point we should address the frequent claims that the five members of Yesterdays New Quintet and the entire Yesterdays Universe collective are fictional aliases, mere figment of Madlib’s hazy imagination. Unfortunately, our agreement with Yesterdays New Quintet/Yesterdays Universe prohibits us from divulging any biographical data about the group members or commenting on their physical status in space and time. We can, however, point out that there are documented live performances, and Yesterdays Universe artists who are known for their work outside of the Madlib circle – Karriem Riggins, Ivan “Mamao” Conti, Todd Simon, and Dan Ubick among them. But due to the private nature of Madlib and the members of Yesterdays Universe, we can say no more.”

The years following alleged diatribes and chaos surrounding Madlib and his joint venture with virtual jazz cats nurtured further full length releases from additional spin-offs The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble, Jackson Conti, and R.M.C., amongst others, while master conductor-conspirator himself Madlib saw fit to release yet another bold statement around the psych-electro-jazz experiment by dropping Madlib Medicine Show #7: High Jazz in 2010. As the title suggests, this was the seventh instalment in the Oxnard producer’s 13-album series of the same name, where a strikingly fiery number of even more outfits floating within his jazz universe got a platform to showcase their commercial works. These previously unannounced and latent names include Generation Match, The Kenny Cook Octet, The Big Black Foot Band, Russell Jenkins Jazz Express, and Poyser, Riggins & Jackson. Not that it would somehow help shed more clarity on the blurred fuzziness frame entailing the true arc and trajectory of Madlib’s electro-jazz-swing pet project, but here is a fairly comprehensive and updated discography of Yesterdays New Quintet and what became of it after its break up in 2007 (excluding unofficial releases, remixes, bootlegs, and live performances):

Yesterdays New Quintet – Elle’s Theme, 12-inch EP (2001) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – The Bomb Shelter, 7-inch EP (2001) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Uno Esta, 12-inch EP (2001) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Rocket Love, 7-inch (2001) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Angles Without Edges, Album (2001) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Heaven Must Be Like This, from Rewind, 12-inch, Album (2002) UBIQUITY
Joe McDuphrey Experience – Experience, 12-inch EP (2002) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Deja Vu, from Rewind 2, Album (2002) UBIQUITY
Yesterdays New Quintet – The Meaning of Love, 7-inch (2002) STONES THROW
Ahmad Miller – Say Ah!, 12-inch EP (2003) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Suite for Weldon, EP (2003) STONES THROW
Yesterdays New Quintet – Nuclear War, from Dedication: The Myth Lives On, Album, 7-inch (2003) KINDRED SPIRITS
Sound Directions – Skyscrapers, 7-inch
Yesterdays New Quintet – Stevie, Album (2004) STONES THROW
Malik Flavors – Ugly Beauty, 12-inch EP (2004) STONES THROW
Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm – Tribute To Brother Weldon, (2004) STONES THROW
Joe McDuphrey Experience – Entrando pela Janela, from Keepintime, 12-inch #2 12-inch EP (2004) MOCHILLA
Sound Directions – The Horse, 12-inch (2005) STONES THROW
Sound Directions – The Funky Side of Life, Album (2005) STONES THROW
Young Jazz Rebels – Miss K, from The Sound of L.A. Vol. 2, 12-inch EP (2006) PLUG RESEARCH
Sound Directions – Wildflower, from From L.A. With Love, CD (2007) ART DONT SLEEP
Otis Jackson Jr. Trio – Jewelz, 12-inch EP (2007) STONES THROW
Various Artists – Yesterdays Universe, Album (2007) STONES THROW
The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble – Summer Suite, CD (2007) STONES THROW
Jackson Conti – Sujinho, Album (2008) KINDRED SPIRITS
Jackson Conti –
 Upa Neguinho, 7-inch (2008) KINDRED SPIRITS
Sound Directions – Wanda Vidal, EP digital (2008) STONES THROW
The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble – Fall Suite, (2009) STONES THROW
The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble – Miles Away, Album (2010) STONES THROW
Young Jazz Rebels – Slave Riot, Album (2010) STONES THROW
R.M.C. – Space & Time, Album (2010) OROCHON
Madlib – Madlib Medicine Show #7: High Jazz, Album (2010) MADLIB INVAZION

To this day, it is not clear whether we will ever see another collection of tracks associated with Yesterdays Universe, and to be frank the quickly approaching 10-year hiatus doesn’t sound too reassuring for those in hope. One should not despair though, as during their fruitful decade of busy and dense manufacturing activity, both Yesterdays New Quintet and Yesterdays Universe including all its offspring collectives did not sit idle and delivered over thirty different exquisite, intricate, and sophisticated music products that ought to be able to whet the listeners’ appetite for quite some time. Whether that is through the more canonical jazz cuts flirting with rap production of the early Yesterdays New Quintet days, or the left field and off the beaten path latin jazz, samba/funk of duo Jackson Conti, there is certainly no shortage of auditory entertainment in this collective’s catalogue, displaying almost no artistic or genre boundaries, thus opening up a myriad of sonic ventures and new opportunities ahead, much in the spirit of Yesterdays Universe itself, really.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time. And no, I still haven’t completely figured out whether Yesterdays has the apostrophe or not. Pretty on brand, at least.

AV

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