Sunday, December 28, 2014

Weekend Music Rounup

Welcome to the last roundup before I buckle down to choose my favorite sounds of the year. This week I tried to cram in as many of the 2014 releases that I could before I go on a week long process of review. Unlike most years, the last great push produced only a few albums that I will need to rank carefully, but a few on here are definitely under consideration. There's a bit of everything on here so maybe something will jump out at all of you before you put a ribbon around 2014 and call it a year. Enjoy.

Jason Webley & Friends - Margaret: It's been seven years since the Seattle singer songwriter's last solo album, and even this isn't quite a full album with many of the middle tracks being performed by other Seattle area chamber pop artists. But the project was curated by Jason. All the songs were inspired by a scrapbook found in a dumpster containing articles and mementos from the life of Margaret Rucker, one of the founding daughters of Everett, WA. This is exactly the kind of project that Webley does best, reminding me of his Evelyn, Evelyn album from a few years ago. In the end, this tragically sad concept album is moving and soulful. Definitely one of the best surprises of the Fall and high on my list of recent faves.

Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor: Reinventing himself into a demonic version of Bowie's Thin White Duke, The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles returns with his first album in three years. Ever since Twiggy returned to the band in 2008, Manson continues to deliver the most complete music of his career. This is one of his most dynamic albums, reminding me of Mechanical Animals, with softer and heavier elements and super accessible while keeping the edge he's always had. After a few listens, this may be my favorite of his. Both versions of "Fated, Faithful, Fatal," and "Day 3" are fantastic, as are "Slave Only Dreams to Be King," "Killing Strangers" and "The Fall of the House of Death."

Ty Segall - $ingle$ 2: In April, the Cali psychedelic garage rocker followed up last years two outstanding LPs with one of the best of the year with Manipulator. That album has been followed by this compilation last month. As expected with any comp of B-Sides and other fodder, it's rougher and rawer than recent work, but no less fantastic. Perhaps it's because of his mellower side shining through on recent albums that he wanted to get this out there and remind people that he could make psychedelic weirdness with the best of them. I've been thoroughly enjoying this record. "Cherry Red," "It's a Problem," "Spiders" and "Children of Paul" are my personal favorites.

Avenged Sevenfold - Waking the Fallen Resurrected: Back in August the Cali metal band released this resurrected version of their 2003 second album, an album that got them noticed before their breakout third album City of Evil two years later. Packed with demo versions, lost tracks, alternate versions and live versions, this is one those releases that serves as a gift for fans and probably not of much interest to others. I'm one of those people who, at moments, truly loves this band, and at other times couldn't care less. When they are on however, they are really on. Their blistering duel guitar sound and pounding drums is better than any other hard rock sound out there, but the moving back and forth between screamcore and rock vocals has always bothered me, simply because I don't particularly care for screamcore and the singer has a great voice. The live versions on here are the real standouts.

Billy Idol - Kings & Queens of the Underground: Hoping for an Adam Ant style comeback, I was really interested to hear the former pin-up boy of punk's first album in eight years. Perhaps like Adam Ant's comeback record, this suffers from being horribly uneven. There are a few decent tracks where he sings about a fall from grace and the attempt to climb back, but a lot of those sentiments are buried in generic '80s rock chords. A nice curiosity listen, but probably not one I will return to for more.

Wiz Khalifa - 28 Grams: The Pittsburgh rapper put out this mixtap back in May in preparation for his new LP which dropped in August. Over the years, I keeping checking out Wiz's work hoping for the breakthrough that really impresses me. His flow has that kind of potential, but so far it hasn't come through. Like most mixtapes, this is a collection of fragments strung together. And as to be expected from Wiz, every one of them seems to be about smoking weed. Very forgettable, but has some moments. I will still hold out hope that one day he'll come through for me.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - In The Heat of the Moment: I wanted to end this week with a single from last month in anticipation of an album I'm looking forward to in 2015. This is the fist song released off of the former Oasis founder's second record. Even more so that Beady Eye, Noel's post Fab Five work sounds as if it could be leftovers from a recording session with his old band, but I suppose that has more to do with the fact that he was the primary songwriter for Oasis. These two songs are a solid dose of rock 'n roll with more of an ode to Paul Weller than any of Noel's other usual influences. If these are any preview of the album, it should be a good one.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

This time of the year is always slow when it comes to new releases, which thankfully gives me time to catch up on some albums from the year that I hadn't yet had the chance to listen to. As the year winds down, I like to make sure I hear all of the music that I think might end up on my year-end favorites. It's never possible to get them all in before the calendar turns over, but I try my best. This week I have a few 2014 records that I've wanted to check out for a while. There a nice mix of heavy stuff, hip hop and of course, psychedelic tunes. Hopefully you'll find something that will make your year. Enjoy.

The Oscillation - From Tomorrow: A few months ago, the London psychedelic space rock band released their third record. Like a sonic journey through a future wasteland, this Spacemen 3 sounding record combines the elements of drone and shoegaze with the psychedelic edge of Hawkwind. Being a new band for me, this was the record that really blew me away this week. It's a relentless album that manages to keep up the intensity throughout and never veers into boring or slow. There's an exciting danger that lurks under the surface, something reminds me of early Rapture. Definitely worth checking out. I know I'll be checking out their previous albums. "All You Want To Be," "Corridor," "No Place To Go," and "Chrome Cat" are among my favorites.

Kadavar - Live In Antwerp: For the last two years in a row this Berlin based stoner metal band have released two albums, both of which have ended up on my best of the year list. Without an album of new material, they released this stellar live record over the summer. When a live record sounds as tight as the studio albums, you know a band is in perfect groove. The setlist covers songs from both of their albums and includes a previously unreleased song. A perfect gift for fans of the band or fans of the genre, and a nice way to get the best of both albums in one set if that's your thing.

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2: The second album from the hip hop tag team of El-P and Killer Mike is already showing up on best of the year lists and I figured it was time to pay attention. I've been a fan of El-P's work for years, he's one of the consciousness rappers that also has a great hardcore flow, and his sound pairs well with Killer Mike's style...and both go with the extremely interesting and fresh sounding beats throughout this album. I disagree with some of what I've read because I don't see this as a revolutionary album, but it's still a very exciting return of hardcore hip hop that incorporates a lot of the newer trends of the genre. "Jeopardy," "Lie, Cheat, Steal" "All Due Respect," and "Angel Duster" are my favorites. 

Archie Bronson Outfit - Wild Crush: The fourth album from the UK indie rock band came out this past spring, and what I really like about it is the growth it shows from their previous solid albums. This one evolves their garage rock sound into a psychedelic blues kind of album that feels exciting. I think they benefit from taking time between albums. They've only released four in ten years, which seems to allow them to develop. A lot of late '60s throwback sound on here, but in a positive way. "Cluster Up and Hover," "Love to Pin You Down," and "We Are Floating" are standout tracks.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - +- EP: The San Fran psychedelic band continues their resurgence, following up their brilliant LP from earlier in the year with this brilliant EP. Ever since Matt Hollywood and other original members rejoined the band several years ago, they are once again living up to that potential they showed in the early '90s to become the greatest psychedelic band of their generation. These four songs have a classic BJTM fuzzy bliss sound. "Heat," "Leave It Along," and "Reconstruction" are among their best songs ever in my opinion. Fantastic stuff.

Jean Grae - Gotham Down Deluxe: For the past decade, the Brooklyn rapper has been one of the best MCs around, sadly flying under the radar. The compilation released last year collects a bunch of EPs into one album. Jean's flow is as spectacular as ever on these songs, and the interludes, unlike on many hip hop albums, are actually funny and poignant. She's intelligent and displays deep insights on life that rank right up there with other top conscious hip hop. "Before the Summer Broke," "Kill Screen" and "BITS" are my personal favorites.

The Market of Oddities

There was a time in my life when I dreaded getting editorial feedback because I knew it would mean a lot of rewriting and rethinking of ideas that I'd had completed in a form that felt right. Over time I've learned that thoughts are never really completed and have learned to find enjoyment in returning to worlds of my imagination for further exploration. 

After talking with my agent this week, I'll be returning to the goblin market and the fears that are sold there. It's rare that I'm told to make my work "darker" and "weirder," which are elements that I typically find myself toning down between drafts. Needless to say, I welcome this kind of feedback. Adding unusual scenes and aspects is something I could never tire sure beats adding characters or changing character motivations. 

So as I get ready to dive back in, please send all of your dark thoughts and fears my way. Thank you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

I'm finally back! Last weekend I moved out of my home of ten years. There was a ton of crap to pack, a lot of it music and a lot of it toys, and naturally books. Piles and piles and piles of books! Given that the decision was made quickly, leaving little time for packing, I must say I have not had the chance to listen to new music in the past two weeks. What I have been listening to is my record collection which I carefully unpacked and set up in a more central location of the abode. But rather than bore you with reviews of albums I've probably already reviewed at some point, I've decided to focus on the theme of home and share my favorite songs about the topic. Enjoy. 

o'death - "Home"

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - "Home"

Simon & Garfunkel - "Homeward Bound"

Nirvana - "Sliver"

Guns N' Roses - "Paradise City"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

As Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end and the Christmas season gets into full swing, it's just about time for all of those holiday gift sets to hit the market, which generally means a slow down in new releases that will last into the winter months. This week I listened to quite a few new releases, two of which I'd been eagerly anticipating. I also continued my exploration into the endless wealth of CDs that clutter my home and plucked out a few more interesting pieces to share. All in all, I'm pretty damned thankful for the year in music so far, and the many years that have come before, and all of those that will come after. Enjoy.

The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World: It's been four years since the Portland indie band released an album, which is just about four years too long. While Colin Meloy was finishing his children's literature masterpiece, the band was on a kind of hiatus, but as this record due out in January proves, the time was put to good use. They've moved away from the country folk of their previous record and return to the more quirky aspects of their earlier work, which is nice to hear again on songs like "Philomena." There are also soft and sad moments that fit with their recent work, like on "A Beginning Song." "Make You Better," "The Singer Addresses His Audience," and "Carolina Low" are standout tracks on another fantastic album by one of my favorite bands. 

Wu Tang Clan - A Better Tomorrow: This week we see the return of the Wu when the Shaolin crew releases their long awaited new album. Though they've remained active recently, they haven't released a proper album, with all members working together in over five years. The first thing that makes a Wu Tang album standout is RZA's beats, which are always identifiable, but he's always advancing his art and bringing new stylings to hip hop. This album is helped by the fact that two of the group's superstars, Method Man and the Chef, seem to be back on top of their game. Like most hip-hop albums, I found this one to be a little uneven. More than most genres, it really seems like a singles driven area and even the Wu are not immune. "Ruckus in B Minor," "Ron O'Neal," "Keep Watch," and "Mistaken Identity" are my favorite tracks.

The Dirtbombs - Ultraglide in Black: This amazing soul revival record is the second album from the Detroit band. Released in 2001 among a wealth of other great records coming out of the Motor City at the time, this album is a throwback to to the old Motown sound, but with a garage rock edge to it. I've owned this album since it came out and have always loved it. Whenever I put it on, it never fails to put me in a good moon. I once had tickets to see them play the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, but after a few too many drinks and a turn of circumstances, I ended giving my tickets to the actor Kevin Corrigan on the sidewalk.  "Chains of Love," "If You Can Want," and "Livin' for the City" are highlights.

Toy - Join the Dots: The second album from the London based psychedelic shoegaze band was released at the tail end of last year. I first heard about them a few weeks ago when they were mentioned with a handful of other bands I've been into recently. On this album, the sounds spin into dizzy patterns making it quite hypnotic at times. It's really a nice play on the shoegaze sound, bringing intensity to it, elevating it from the element of boredom that often comes with the genre. Kind of like a fuzzed out version of Tame Impala, this is definitely an enjoyable listen and a band to follow.

Jerusalem - Black Horses: Originally formed in the early '70s, this UK hard prog rock band released their debut in '72 and toured with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep. They broke up that same year over creative differences, only to reform thirty years later to release their second album in 2009. This month they delivered this, their third album, one that is part throwback, with roots firmly in '70s classics, and part contemporary heavier prog. For the most part, the combination works well, creating an interesting and enjoyable listen. There are a few tracks where it falters, but all in all, a solid record with "Puppet King," "The Albatross," "Smokestack Ammunition," and "Surfing from Sydney to Marrakech" being the highlights.

Gray Matter - Thog: Released in 1992, this is an album I bought when I was 16 and absolutely loved the high energy post hardcore vibe on this Dischord Records release. The band is from D.C. and released only one other album, way back in 1985, which was definitely more of a legitimate hardcore record. This album has a much bigger sound, incorporating the still underground 90's alternative into traditional hardcore, a combination that would later develop into what we know as emo. Having not listened to this in over a decade, I dusted off the disc, put it on, and thoroughly enjoyed. It brought me right back to the carefree angst of my youth. "Second Guess," "The Disinclined," and their cover of "I've Just Seen a Face" are standout tracks.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Oh, To Feeling Thankful...

Last year on this day, I wrote about how I'd grown to find joy in unexpected things and how I was determined to find something positive even when things seemed bleak. A lot has changed over the past twelve months. Life seems to be moving in a positive direction, and I attribute some of that to my positive perspective. I've come to trust in things working out. That's not to say that I've stopped working towards desired outcomes, but I no longer worry about things that are out of my control. And though there are things I'd want to change in the world, I am truly thankful for the things I do have. As my amazing wife and I get ready to begin the next phase of our lives with our expected baby daughter, there is an awful lot for me to feel thankful for, not just on this one day of the year, but on every day going forward.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

This has been an extremely busy week, but one where my activities lent themselves to music listening. Granted, a lot of that listening time was spent on one four disc box set, but even so, I still had time to catch up on a few new releases. I'm also continuing my rediscovery of albums from the past during the great reorganization of my collection. I found a few old favorites as well as a few albums that for whatever reason I never spent enough time with after purchasing. That's one of the aspects that makes going through the work worth it. I always find things I forgot I owned. Hopefully there's something on here for you to eventually forget about and rediscover as well. Enjoy.

Wilco - Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Rare Tracks 1994-2014): This four disc set encompassing the Chicago alt-country band's entire career was released this week, yet another wonderful gift for their fans, something they have always done well. This was a two day listening experience, and quite a fantastic one at that. There's a wealth of live versions, some with great guests, like Andrew Bird on "Jesus Etc.," and Fleet Foxes on a cover of "I Shall Be Released." Hearing this set in its entirety is a great reminder of just how amazing this band has been for the past 20 years, and how important Jeff Tweedy is as a songwriter with the ability to capture the weariness of these times. This is a must for fans, even ones who think they have too much Wilco as it it. It's also a great item for the casual fan who doesn't know where to begin. Way too many individual songs to list.

TV on the Radio - Seeds: The Brooklyn indie band made their return with their first album in over three years with the release of their sixth album this past week. Over the years their sound has come to incorporate more and more electronic elements, and this album certainly continues on that path. Like their last few records, I found this to be very enjoyable, yet sort of forgettable. Nothing particularly stands out or sticks in my mind. It all easily blends in, making it a nice mood album but not necessarily a cherishable one. "Happy Idiot," "Test Pilot," and "Trouble" were the real standout tracks for me. Who knows, this may be album in ten years that I forgot I owned and rediscover.

The Beta Band - Three E.P.'s: This is an album I've owned since it's release in 1998, and one I used to listen to religiously during that year. I listened to it this week for the first time in over a decade and was reminded on the joy these early works of the Edinburgh indie band evoke. Part folk, part neo-psych, part indietronica, there is a beautiful groove to this album. They were part of that late 90's post-Brit Pop wave of bands from the UK who were trying something different, along with Gomez and Belle and Sebastian. This release saw them get some fame, and even appeared in High Fidelity, but the band ended a handful of years later without ever fulfilling the promise shown here. "Dry the Rain," "Inner Meet Me," and "It's Over" are personal favorites of mine.

Soen - Tellurian: Released this month was the second album from the progressive metal group comprised of members from Opeth, Testament, Death, and Willowtree. Given that a good portion of the group are Scandinavian, they definitely resemble the current trend of symphonic metal coming out of that part of the world. It feels sort of like a later day Porcupine Tree record, yet explores different paths. At times it can be very appealing, but I suppose I'd hoped it would be slightly more progressive. Unlike Mars Volta for example, they don't venture into new areas, choosing to follow courses already set out in progressive metal. All in all, a solid okay and worth a listen. "Pluton," "Ennui," and "Void" are my personal favorites.

Boris - Amplifier Worship: This is the second album from the Tokyo kings of sludge metal. Released in 1998, just when the genre was beginning to blossom, and long before their 2005 breakout "Pink," these five tracks of epic length are a blueprint for the coming drone metal wave that followed a decade later. The great thing about this album is the amount of metal in each song. Sometimes Boris can emphasize the 'drone' too much and forget the 'metal', but not here. It's really one of their stronger albums, right up there with "Akuma no Uta." The nearly fifteen minute "Kuruimizu" is my favorite track on here.

Detroit Cobras - Seven Easy Pieces: One of the less widely known bands of the early '00s garage rock revival, the Cobras were unique in their incorporation of rockabilly into the sound of the times. Another CD that I've had for nearly a decade, this E.P. dates from 2004, when the band is probably at its tightest. Rachel Nagy's sultry old school voice is as seductive as ever on these seven tracks that are a throwback to swinging '60s garage style. One of my favorites of theirs, definitely worth checking out. "My Baby Loves The Secret Agent," and "Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby)" are two really excellent tracks. 

The Explosion - The Explosion: This Boston punk band emerged in 2000 with two E.P.s and a full length. This is the second of the two E.P.s and one I bought on a whim about 13 years ago. Listening to it again this week, I've had the same positive reaction that I had back then. It's rare to hear an authentic sounding punk record that wasn't recorded 30 years ago, and these kids manage to do that. Despite the trend of the time to move towards power punk, this record stays true to the original aggressive sound of punk and for that, it's definitely worthwhile for fans of the genre.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fan Mail Friday

As I've said many times in the past, one of the best things about being a children's book author is getting letters from children who loved the books. They are always fun, and always make me smile. Most have a character that is all their own. The reason I love this letter so much is that she loves the pony book, not because it has ponies, but because it has kitties. Brilliant!

This letter is in response to a Hello Kitty book that I wrote about ten years ago. For those who didn't know, I've written three Hello Kitty books. Of all the media related tie-ins I've done, these are my favorite, probably because I'm also a huge fan of Hello Kitty (she was my first cartoon crush back in first grade).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

As I promised last week, this list is chock full of new sounds that span many genres. In addition there are a few unearthed albums thrown in. I'm in the process of reorganizing my music collection, a labor intensive task, but one I thoroughly enjoy because it forces me to sort through shelves of music that typically I only skim over. So as part of the process, I've been pulling out things that strike me for their long absence from my ears, coupled with a past attachment. I decided to upload a bunch of those onto my computer, putting them at my fingertips for easy listening. As I go through those, some of them will make their way onto the Roundup in the coming weeks. There's a few here, and more to come, sprinkled in with some noteworthy new releases. Enjoy.

Pink Floyd - The Endless River: It's been 20 years since their last release, and now comes what will most likely be their swan song, these 18 tracks comprised mostly of pre-Division Bell outtakes. This is an ambient type album, sort of long goodbye to a career that produced some of the greatest records of all time. This is little more than an mood piece, but it's quite a good one. It was never going to be the Atom Heart Mother, but as a instrumental album, which this is with the exception of "Louder Than Words," I can't say that I didn't enjoy it. It's very calm and peaceful, as the cover art would suggest. This is a grande closure to their career, and feels like a fitting way to wind things down. Probably only for dedicated fans, but certainly worthwhile. It's also a noble homage to the late Richard Wright and his many influences on the The Pink Floyd sound.

Goat - Commune: The Swedish heavy psych band followed up their impressive 2012 debut with this release back in September. The interesting thing about Goat is the abundance of influences that finds a way into their music. There's a lot of World Music and Far East elements that are deftly mixed with rock to create something entirely new. In some ways it's the perfection of what Cornershop tried and failed to do in the 90's. I really enjoyed the debut, having recently just rediscovered it, but I think this album is actually better. "The Light Within," "Goatchild," and "Gathering of Ancient Tribes" are my favorites. Definitely worth checking out.

The Growlers - Chinese Fountain: The Long Beach psychedelic garage band released their sixth album back in September and it's become a hit on the college charts. I first started listening to this band several weeks before this album came out, and after my initial encounter, I'm not at all surprised that this album is taking off. They have an effortlessly feel to their music, yet it never sounds dull or lazy. There's definitely laid back Cali vibe that works great, completely unpretentious, much like a West Coast version of Kurt Vile. "Magnificent Sadness," "Big Toe," "Rare Hearts," and "Love Test," are standouts on an album without any bad songs.
Temples - Sun Structures: After two EPs, the psychedelic UK band released a full length debut of interstellar sonics earlier this year. Their sound is expansive, creating huge spaces within the music. There's also a good deal of prog rock influence that adds to the mood, especially in songs like "Shelter Song." In a way it reminds me of Tame Impala but with less focus on melodic hooks, choosing to explore the wide breadth of the soundscape instead. It's funny pairing this with the new Pink Floyd album, because in some ways this feels more like old Floyd than Floyd has sounded since before "Dark Side of the Moon." It has the experimental flair that Pink Floyd's "The Man and The Journey" incorporates. I really enjoyed this record. Quite an impressive debut and a band I look forward to following.

Jenny Lewis - Voyager: It had been six years since the former Rilo Kiley singer released a new album before this one came out back in the summer. It's the follow up to 2008's "Acid Tongue" which had been a comeback of sorts following the horrible last Rilo Kiley record the year before. This time around, she's tuned into the current wave of indie pop, bringing her own blend of California sunshine to an updated Stevie Nicks' Fleetwood Mac vibe. There's an AM radio feel to many of the songs that I find enjoyable, though at times it tends to be a little too poppy for my tastes. "Just One of the Guys," "The New You," and "Late Bloomer" are standout tracks on an album which should please fans and win over new ones.

Bauhaus - The Singles 1981-1983: The short lived Goth post punk band didn't leave a wealth of music from their prime, but they still managed to make a huge impact. This is a CD that I've owned for years but hadn't listened to in probably ten of them. These tracks fall into the band's transition away from the heavy goth sound of their earliest days and into a more glam rock style that echos Bowie, a fantastic cover of "Ziggy Stardust" cements their love of the Thin White Duke. I've always loved this collection, so glad that I found it again. "Lagartija Nick" and "She's in Parties" are outstanding tracks, along with the aforementioned cover.

The Birthday Massacre - Hide and Seek: This is the Toronto based rock band's fifth album which came out back in 2012. It's one of those records that has been sitting around for a long time waiting for me to give it a listen. I was initially attracted to it because of the cover art, something that in the past has steered me to many wonderful albums. This is one of those difficult to define rock albums because the mild industrial music elements are balanced with pop ballad vocals. It's a very 2000's kind of sound. It reminds a bit of Gossip though it's certainly setting out with different intentions. While there is nothing to really dislike about this album, there also isn't anything to love about it. I found it simply existing in the background, and sort of forgettable. My favorite tracks are "The Long Way Home," "Need," and "In This Moment."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Watch and Wait

Sometimes being too busy to write is the best thing that can happen during the process of writing a manuscript. Over the past few days, I'd only had sparse moments to sit down and write, but I've had lots of time for contemplation. Having reached a crucial scene, one where I didn't exactly know what I wanted to happen, the lack of time became a blessing. 

If I sat in front of my computer, chances are I would've felt pressured to come up with something ...anything. I would've plowed ahead simply to get words on the page. And if I couldn't figure out what should happen in the scene, I may have decided to defer the scene to a later spot in the story, even though I knew this is where it belonged. But with time to mull over the situation, I finally figured out the perfect way to choreograph the scene the way I wanted it.

Patience is an important trait that every writer must learn...and one that must continually be learned because it is rarely mastered.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to a Throwback Week here at the Roundup. While next week promises reviews of plenty of new albums, this time around is the complete opposite. As I started to compile the albums that I'd been listening to during the week, a theme started to emerge and I went with. This is a collection of Hard Rock and Punk recordings from the past, many of which had been on my wishlist for quite a long time. It features some solo records from rock legends after leaving their bands, a few records by bands in their prime, and a spattering of UK punk bands that who never seem to get enough attention. It was a fun week of discovery, visiting places familiar yet new. Hopefully it will spark a similar urge within all of you. There's lots of old music out there, I suggest listening to it. Enjoy.

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe: For the last half dozen years or so, I've been a pretty ardent fan of the Hollywood Devil Man's work, and finally got around to seeking out his 1998 solo debut. Released basically at the same time White Zombie disbanded, this album ushers Rob's transition into horror movie music. One of the things I love about his albums is the way each song is like a sketch of some horror film character. This album is a perfect example of that, usually casting himself as the monster in each song. As always, it's pure metal and straight up rocks. "Meet the Creeper," "Demoniod Phenomenon," "Superbeast," and "Dragula" are standout tracks.

The Damned - Damned Damned Damned: Among the first wave of punk bands out of London, this was one of the most explosive. Their 1977 debut opens with a burst of energy found in the punk classic "Neat Neat Neat." What sets them apart from the Sex Pistols for example is their adherence to blues rock guitar elements that come through at moments when the music isn't sped up to a blistering speed. To be honest, I can't believe it's taken this long for me to get on board with this album. Though I've known of the band, and many of these songs for years, it was yet another of those seminal albums of the era that had eluded me. This is a punk classic and one that ages very well. "I Feel Alright," "1 of the 2," and "Fan Club" are other tracks worthy of mention.

Mötley Crüe - Wild in the Night: Out this past month is this never before released live broadcast from 1982, during the L.A. glam band's tour for their amazing debut album. This recording captures the energy of a band that was just beginning to enter their peak. The Sunset Strip scene was built on live shows, and it's nice to hear them perform their early material when it was fresh, and to hear the emergence of "Shout At the Devil," performed here for the first time and already it's fantastic. Also included is the early club favorite "Running Wild in the Night," which never managed to make it onto an album. The set closing rendition of "Live Wire" is pretty spectacular. All around a solid record, even with some recording quality issues.
KISS - Love Gun: Released in 1977 at the height of their popularity, the glam rock band's sixth album is one of their classics. A deluxe edition has recently been released, which prompted me to finally acquire the original in all it's glory. This is really the last great KISS record. Their demise begins shortly after, but for this album, the band is as its peak. Everything is clicking on here and Ace Frehley shines brighter than he had on any previous releases. There are some misses, of course. The band frequently took the lazy road in their songwriting. "Shock Me" is a perfect example of this. But when they were good, they were really good. "I Stole Your Love," "Got Love For Sale," Hooligan," and the title track are all wonderful rock songs.

Generation X - Generation X: Before he was an '80s icon, Billy Idol was the face of pop punk in the late '70s as the front man for this UK band. Their self-titled debut from 1978 is very influential in bringing punk to the mainstream. That's not to say that it's any less punk, but Generation X understood how to bring a catchy element to the angst. The Clash would later follow along, bringing a more mainstream style to their music. Interestingly enough, Billy Idol doesn't feel like the featured element on this, which is surprising considering that throughout his solo career he was so magnetic. But the bass and guitar really stand out on this record. It's a solid record all the way through, but "One Hundred Punks," "Listen," and "Ready Steady Go" are real standouts.

Penetration - Moving Targets: The last UK punk band on this week's Roundup is the Durham band led by Pauline Murray. Legend has it that at the age of 18 she attended a Sex Pistols show and immediately formed this band with friends. One of the interesting things about this record is that you can hear the coming New Wave sound emerging in songs like "Life's a Gamble." There's definitely the possibility that while they were inspired by the Pistols, the Pistols mastermind Malcolm MacLaren was watching them when he decided to form Bow Wow Wow. Definitely an under appreciated album and one that still sounds quite interesting today. "Nostalgia," "Lovers of Outrage," "Silent Community," and the fantastic cover of "Free Money" are my favorites.

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman: After being expelled from Black Sabbath at the end of the '70s, the Oz Man began on his coke fueled solo career in the '80s. After a successful debut in the Fall of 1980, he released this, his second album, the following year. Despite the silliness of the album art, this rock album falls somewhere between hard rock and metal. My problem with this, and most of Ozzy's solo records, is that they feel somewhat watered down and far too heavy on the treble over bass, even in the newly issued remastering. Also like his other albums, this contains a few dynamite songs that are surrounded by much weaker ones. "Believer," "Over the Mountain," and "S.A.T.O." are the real shining moments, along with the title track.