Photo by Jeanne RiceThe former session man to the stars is now solo (His CD,Decaf, is in stores now)
Let me preface this by saying that I equate the current musical period to the time between 1960 and 1963—after Elvis went into the Army but before the Beatles. Music critics used to lament that era ad nauseam, going on about how awful it was and how they were inundated with the likes of Fabian and Frankie Avalon. But they had it good back then—at least they still had the Kingsmen, surf rock, Sinatra, the Rat Pack, the Beach Boys, Motown . . . hmmm . . . Well, maybe it wasn't that great. And it's not so great now, either. However, we do have some hope. Here's what I think:
> Travis, The Man Who. This came out in the spring, but I'm just now catching up to it. Better than Oasis and Radiohead and with less attitude. "Writing to Reach You" could be the best song of the past five years, and "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" is a great single. Gwyneth Paltrow was at their last LA show (guess she has good taste after all). I'm always shocked when I hear them on KROQ. It's as if that station doesn't deserve music this good. Get hip to them before your daughters do.
> Gomez, Liquid Skin. Same story as Travis—I'm late on this one, too. Funny how both of these lead singers sound like David Gates from Bread. "We Haven't Turned Around" is brilliant, as is "Revolutionary Kind."' SoCal lost a lot of great music when 103.1 (the only station playing these guys) went off the air.
> Supreme Beings of Leisure. I was shocked to find out these guys are from LA. They sound British and have a hypnotic sound without being boring and druggy.
> Stew, Guest Host. The Negro Problem's singer's solo CD is growing on me like a bad habit. The boy could be huge if he would just sell out a tiny bit. Maybe he's listening to his handlers too much.
> Bourbon Jones, "Glory Train." This song gives me chills when I hear it—it's the best track on the latest OC Weekly compilation CD, but I still don't know much about 'em.
> Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. Not a bad track on the CD. Still listening to this six months on, no doubt helped by the astonishingly good live show at the Sun Theatre. And Joe is so friggin' cool.
> Honeycut. The local debut CD from Charlie's Angels director McG's brother Nick. Will be bigger than Matchbox 20 (hopefully).
> Thick (formerly F8). Scary local boys who'll be bigger than Tool. The name says it all. And they're tasty, too. A CD is on the way, I'm informed.
> Free Spin (ne Oscar). Their new demo should have A&R guys scurrying to get in line. Check out their "Cereal Song." Easily the hardest-working band in OC.
> Sinead O'Connor, "No Man's Woman." Those who know me are probably laughing hysterically at this entry, but this is a fantastic single—catchy and danceable.
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> AC/DC, Stiff Upper Lip. A fantastic return to form. Made me feel 14 again. After seeing the pedestrian Who (check out Entwistle's solo band next time he comes around instead), I need some arena rock to believe in.
> Squeeze, East Side Story. Eighteen years later, I'm still discovering new things on this record (yes, I have the vinyl version). "Woman's World" and "Mumbo Jumbo" are lost classics. What the hell happened to these guys? They were so great, and then they tried to get "serious"—always a mistake.
> Nick Drake, Pink Moon. Yes, I was into him before the VW commercial—which did drive me to get Pink Moon, though, which is an album that puts you in another world. Another bloody limey who killed himself; what a stupid waste.
> The Smiths. Pretty much everything. I'd forgotten how grand they were. Morrissey is so incredibly droll—he slays me (plus he shares my birthday). The brilliant Johnny Marr is the most underrated axe man ever, not in a Jimi Hendrix way but in a Henry Mancini sort of way. Check out the critically dismissed Hatful of Hollow and Strangeways, Here We Come, and you'll discover heaven. They were like the Doors, in the way they said their piece and got the hell out. Six great albums, with hardly any filler. Enough to forgive Morrissey for his crummy 59-minute live shows in the 1990s.