The former Virgin Prunes member, Gavin Friday, recorded his first solo album in 1989, "Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves". After leaving the Prunes in 1986, he abandoned the music business to paint for a year and a half, returning to the fray after teaming up with pianist Maurice Roycroft (whom Friday renamed the Man Seezer). This debut album, "Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves", found him making unexpected moves into a sort of modern-day cabaret style, albeit with all the Bowie-isms of his vocal delivery intact. And this song, "Tell Tale Heart", is near to country sounds and also could come right from Nick Cave "Your Funeral My Trial".
from Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves (Island 422-842586-2), available on CD
The exquisite standout of the Virus Meadow album and easily And Also the Trees's best song from its early years, "Gone�Like the Swallows" steers away from the sometimes frenetic vocal intensity found elsewhere on the record it comes from for a more reflective but still passionate approach. Simon Jones delivers his lyric with all the deep-voiced intensity of a student of Wordsworth and Shelley reciting on the hillside to nature (which in some respects is pretty much the point of the song). But Jones isn't explicitly anti-modern � consider the mention of the aeroplane in the sky at various points � while the music is equally ancient and up-to-date in feel. Digital delay on the guitars turns them into rolling, darkly chiming flows and waves of sound, dramatically crashing behind the steady rhythm section and Jones' increasingly intense words. Bass and drums alone wrap everything up on a brief, spare note.
The B-52's were one of several late-'70s bands for which there was no real category. With their modified surf guitar sound, their thrift-shop fashion sense, and their jokey demeanor, they certainly weren't in the rock & roll mainstream, but they exhibited none of punk's sneering rebelliousness or musical aggression, either � the only anarchy that seemed to interest the B-52's was of the sartorial variety. "Rock Lobster" was the first B-52's song to catch popular attention, and it's easy to see why. The minimalist guitar lick is like a beach-bum's rendition of the James Bond theme, the one-note organ ostinato complements it perfectly, and Fred Scheider's campy sprechgesang jumps out at you immediately. Yet despite the song's self-consciously weird texture and silly lyrics about earlobes falling off and communal towel coordination, there's a thread of darkness weaving through it. Make no mistake � this is not a song with hidden meaning lurking below the surface. But its surface is a little more complicated than it seems to be at first. For one thing, it's almost seven minutes long, and it does start to drag toward the end. Right when it does, you notice the mood getting darker � Schneider delivers lines about "having fun" and "baking in the sun" in a hoarse croak, and the guitar starts sounding repetitive in a slightly creepy way. Suddenly you realize that the whole song has been in a minor key, and as Schneider shouts and the guitar barks out its angular riff over and over, you start to wonder if maybe there's some kind of commentary going on here. But then Kate Pierson's angelic voice comes in with a surprisingly pretty falling harmony part that can only be described as a descant, which repeats several times, gradually paring itself down to a single phrase, and abruptly the song is over. The whole song ends up being a goofy party confection with a slightly crunchy center � a pretty satisfying overall flavor combination.
"Just Lust" was the B-side to the Buzzcocks' highest-charting single, the Pete Shelley punk-pop classic "Ever Fallen in Love?," eventually reaching number 12 on the U.K. singles chart in September of 1978. The mysterious co-author " Dial" is, in fact, a pseudonym for the band's early manager, Richard Boon, who also shared songwriting credits on "What Ever Happened?," the B-side to the Buzzcocks' infamously banned first single "Orgasm Addict." However, the effect of his involvement in not apparent here, as the music is classic Buzzcocks � masters of the punk-fueled power pop nugget. The rhythm is springy, the track's nervous tension as wired as the melody is infectious. Punchy verses with quick-hit vocals are alternated with short dreamy sections of woozy flanged guitar and chopped up-tempo shifts, the band expertly maneuvering in tight spaces. Shelley follows the twists and turns with clipped phrases followed by drawn-out melodies in sync with the compact arrangement: "Your dream to possess/It hurts/It's so unjust/Just lust, just lust/If nothing mattered less/Then I wouldn't make a fuss/Just lust, just lust/I was slow to catch on and that just makes it worse/If passion is a fashion then emotion is just a curse." Though the track was also included on the Buzzcocks' second album, Love Bites, the group had yet to make an impact in the United States. Thankfully, this little gem was not left to languish in obscurity as it was included in the influential collected singles package Singles Going Steady, compiled as the band's introduction to American audiences and released in the states in 1979.
Who could forget the rousing "woo-hooa-a-hooas" that helped define the Pretenders' 1984 smash hit "Middle of the Road"? In a decade that saw synthesizer-oriented pop music arriving on U.S. soil from England, singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde and bandmates tear it up on this classic example of pure, unadulterated rock music. The Pretenders' offering successfully maintains a formulaic rock pattern, with drums that beat on at a driving frenetic 4/4 pace and guitar riffs that induce foot stomping by the most conservative crowd. By the time the harmonica solo kicks in toward the track's end, "Middle of the Road" has worked itself up into such a musical romp that it challenges anyone to remain sitting down. There is no technical or instrumental trickery to be found here, no "secret sauce"; the song is very much in your face. Its rollicking music and lyrics that paint a picture of a journey make anyone want to hop into the car and take off for the open road. "Middle of the road, is trying to find me/ I'm standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me." You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn't identify with that sentiment. The Pretenders zeroed in on one of humankind's most basic, secret desire � to get up and go � and backed it with an equally driven musical arrangement. And that's what makes this recording a timeless classic.
from Learning To Crawl (Sire 2-23980), available on CD