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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

24. The Smiths: The Queen Is Dead

Quite simply, 1986's The Queen Is Dead is the finest album from one of the most influential British bands of the 80s, The Smiths. It provides us with the best of Morrissey's wry wit, morbid sense of humor, and scathing contempt of popular British culture. Couple Morrissey's lyrical prowess with guitarist Johnny Marr's ability to consistently write perfectly killer pop songs and you have one of the most incredible albums of its time.

Opening with a slight introduction (World War I song "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty") and then BAM! An all-out assault by drummer Mike Joyce. His rolling beat is reminiscent of The Cure's Lol Tolhurst on "The Hanging Garden" from 1982...the relentless pounding without pause similar to The Damned's Rat Scabies (on 1989's "Anything"). Can you imagine an American band attempting to release an aggressive, driving song titled "The President Is Dead"? The Smiths were open in their arrogance and and were not shy with words.

As the title track concludes like a tornado's sudden halt, it gives way to the contrasting, somewhat silly sounds of "Frankly, Mr. Shankly". From there, the album matures...the two songs I liked the least upon its original release in 1986 were "I Know It's Over" and "Never Had No One Ever". I was into upbeat, aggressive alternative pop songs at the time ("Inbetween Days", "She Sells Sanctuary", "World Destruction"...). Musically, I had not matured enough to appreciate these two...brilliant songs that they are. Covered respectively by two of my favorites, Jeff Buckley and Billy Bragg, they are now near the top of my list. 

The catchiness of "Cemetry Gates [sic]" is undeniable and is meant as a message from Morrissey to his detractors who cried foul at his use of texts written by some of his favorite authors. "Bigmouth Strikes Again" showcases the morbid sense of humor of our protagonist..."Sweetness, I was only joking when I said I'd like to smash every tooth in your head/Sweetness, I was only joking when I said, by rights, you should be bludgeoned in your bed." It was the first single from the album and is as aggressive as the title track...a level unmatched by any Smiths song heretofore, making The Queen Is Dead the hardest rocking Smiths album.

Lost in the overall magnificence of the album is "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side", a Johnny Marr creation which Morrissey has stated is his favorite Smiths song. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" is another example of how Morrissey can make you smile while pondering the romanticism of being killed by a double-decker bus together. And "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others"...easily recognizable, heavenly Smiths melody under lyrics that close the album exactly how you might predict...with Morrissey's biting humor. "From the ice age to the dole-age there is but one concern/I have just discovered/Some girls are bigger than others...some girls' mothers are bigger than other girls' mothers". It has an interesting introduction as well. It starts, fades away, then if a door is opened, closed on your face, then opened again with a "just kidding!"

A tremendous album, The Queen Is Dead is for anyone...Smiths aficionado or not (it's a great intro to the best music of the 1980s). The first video shows The Smiths live on the Old Grey Whistle Test in May of 1986 (just a month before the album's release...making June, 2011 the 25th anniversary of The Queen Is Dead) performing "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "Vicar In A Tutu" (apologies for the choppy intro to "Vicar").  The second is a live performance just two months later at Salford University showing just how close to punk The Smiths were in attitude. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

23. Beat Happening: Crashing Through (Box Set)

The secret to the success of Beat Happening comes from the notion, "I could do that...that could be me." You may not think Beat Happening is the best band reviewed on Marc, Turn That Down! On your first listen to their early material, the music is crude and might even be somewhat irritating. There is no bass, and the guitars can't seem to string three chords together. Once in a while, the drums will keep the beat as you would expect, but that moment will be fleeting. And the vocals?...If you're not put off by the utter lack of musicality of Beat Happening, then Calvin Johnson's baritone-from-the-deepest-depths-of-the-earth voice will surely do the trick. So, how, based on the information I've just presented, could they have even lasted long enough for an album...nevermind released a definitive retrospective box set, Crashing Through, that has become the best music-money I've ever spent? This little band from Olympia, Washington has become legendary, and it's simply because it sounds like any of us could do it.

Beat Happening thumbed their noses at the record industry early on. Calvin Johnson started his own label called K Records in order to issue music by lesser-known bands that no major company would have otherwise released. That attitude eventually carried over to the music of Beat Happening. They didn't play for critical success or to expand the boundaries of music. They played because it was fun.

Beat Happening (1985)
The box set begins in 1985 with their self-titled debut. On Beat Happening we hear the band (Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis, and Bret Lunsford) in its infancy. They rarely had instruments and usually borrowed from bands they were playing with that night. This album is raw, and without the knowledge of what they had accomplished in their career might be a complete turn-off for most. Its child-like innocence is most evident in the lyrics of "Fourteen"..."You see, to me, the best part of sex is walking home, holding hands, after swimming in the lake/To Me, the best part of love is when you say you'll be my friend."

I first heard "Fourteen" when searching for Screaming Trees music (Calvin Johnson is linked with many NW artists). I thought...sure, it wasn't very good, but wondered what the rest of their catalog sounded like. I actually enjoyed Calvin's voice the first time I heard it. I knew it was not meant for the Grammy stage, and took it in stride. Calvin and Heather each contribute vocally, and I tend to gravitate toward CJ's songs. As such, "Our Secret", "I Love You", "Fourteen", and "Bad Seeds" are the strongest tracks from this early release...while Heather's "Foggy Eyes" may be the musical shining moment from this album. Beat Happening, though not their finest album, is seminal twee pop.

Jamboree (1988)
The second album from the set is 1988's Jamboree, which is said to be one of Kurt Cobain's favorites. Despite the upbeat title, Jamboree is decidedly darker than the debut...evident right off the bat on "Bewitched". The songs are stronger, the musicianship tighter, and this album is decidedly more Calvin Johnson than the first group effort. The highlight of Jamboree is the indie rock's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (everyone's covered it) and that's "Indian Summer". Recently done by Death Cab's Benjamin Gibbard for the soundtrack of the Kurt Cobain movie About A Son, "Indian Summer" is probably Beat Happening's best known song. Other highlights are "Hangman", Cat Walk", and "Midnight A Go-Go". Props also go to "The This Many Boyfriends Club" because I'm not sure what to think of that one...making me love it all the more.

Black Candy (1989)
If Jamboree is dark, 1989's Black Candy is a moonless midnight. Seemingly designed for a B-grade teen horror movie, songs like "Pajama Party In A Haunted Hive", "Gravedigger Blues", "Bonfire", and the title track dot the landscape of this third effort. However, it's not without its shiny moments. Like "Indian Summer", "Cast A Shadow" is another well known Beat Happening song (most famously covered by Yo La Tengo). It is a pure pop treat glittering amongst the ominous themes of its album mates. All in all, Black Candy is not the best of the collection. This batch of songs seem less, somehow, than those of Jamboree, but if you're listening to Beat Happening you're past the point of differentiating between good and bad music. You're listening for the fun of it, and Black Candy certainly provides the fun. 

Dreamy (1991)
The good times continue on the fourth album, Dreamy (1991). Dreamy is more of a return to form than a continuation of Black Candy. It is still aggressively dark like its predecessor, but the songs are stronger (similar to Jamboree) and there is more of a balance between maturity and naivete. "Me Untamed" shows right away how far their instrument playing has come and any aspiring musician would want to take a crack at the rollicking "Hot Chocolate Boy". Heather's songs ("Left Behind", "Collide" and "Fortune Cookie Prize") are memorable and lovable. The darkness rears its head as well. In the lament "I've Lost You" Calvin begs for acceptance with the line "Who's gonna love me the way that I am?", only to find acceptance and more in the sexy and underrated "Nancy Sin".  The album closes with two strong tracks...the epic "Revolution Come And Gone" and the often-covered "Red Head Walking" (most recently by R.E.M., as an Accelerate B-side in 2008). Considered by many to be their best work, Dreamy is filled with gems.

You Turn Me On (1992)
Unlike many bands, Beat Happening arguably got better with each release. With that in mind, 1992's You Turn Me On is their tremendous swan song. The band bucked many trends found on previous recordings. The biggest change is that they all but abandoned the three-minute song. A third of these tracks are over six minutes long, and it's obvious there's some heavier production at work here.

At this time, you might listen to their debut once again to appreciate the level of maturity they've hit on You Turn Me On. You'd have no idea they could've reached this point. "Tiger Trap" begins this album with jangly guitars and a calm, charming tone. It's followed by Heather's "Noise" sung with a certain delicate quality we haven't heard before. The beautifully entrancing "Godsend" (also sung by Heather) is, perhaps, my favorite Beat Happening song. The repetitive nature of this ten minute song notwithstanding, I could hear it for ten more minutes and it wouldn't get old. Of course, they let a little dark in as well. "Pinebox Derby" and "You Turn Me On" each deal with death in that fun Calvin Johnson way. "Hey Day" is also a strong song. I believe this song is a glimpse of where the band was headed had they been interested in continuing on. The fact that they quit making records just after Nirvana's Nevermind and the explosion of Pacific Northwest bands when they could've easily hitched themselves onto that wagon reminds you they did it their way...they were not looking for fame or financial success.

Music To Climb The Apple Tree By (2003)
The last album in the box set is a collection of singles and rarities titled Music To Climb The Apple Tree By (there's also a disc of a short 3-song set which includes videos of live performances). This fifteen song compilation includes two later releases, "Angel Gone" and "Zombie Limbo Time" as well as songs from an EP they recorded with Screaming Trees, and original versions of several previously released songs. Overall, like so many other compilation collections, it does lack the cohesion that brings the narrative together. You would be ill-advised to make this your only Beat Happening possession. Use it only as a springboard to get to know a band important enough to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Love 'em or hate 'em (some houses are divided) Beat Happening played music for the fun of it. The child-like innocence of the lyrics and lack of technical prowess with musical instruments should be endearing if you believe that's why music should be played...for fun. The secret to their success may be the notion that any of us could do it, but I guarantee none of us could do it like Beat Happening.

If you've read through this entire post, I salute you. You've invested a lot of your time. I'll leave you with but one video..."Indian Summer".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

22. Viva Voce: Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

I am excited to be writing about a fantastic band...Portland's own Viva Voce. Viva Voce trace their beginnings to Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1998, but relocated to Portland in 2001. Choosing an album to review for you was difficult because I cannot definitively say one is better than another, but their sinister sounding fourth album, 2006's Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (an allusion to the evils of the record industry), is when I first heard them. It's also their debut for Barsuk Records.

Viva Voce, in 2006, consisted of the husband and wife team of Kevin and Anita Robinson (they have since added two members). For this record, they played every instrument save trumpets on one song and an extra piano on another. Yes, we are talking about another guitar/drum combo from the same time period as The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and Deadboy & the Elephantmen, but, to be sure, there are different influences at work here. Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is lush, sultry, and complex, and is miles away from the garage rock sound of their aforementioned contemporaries.

The album begins with "Believer", a tense-chant of a song that sets an eerie tone. Sebastian says it sounds "like monsters marching". Kevin and Anita lay out incantations as a cool, calm two-voice harmony (they've shared vocals throughout their career)..."I'm a believer now/I'm a believer now/And there's nothing that I can do/To keep me safe from you". And as if she absolutely could not wait, Anita begins shredding her first of many guitar solos about forty-five seconds in. On "When Planets Collide" we get a taste of a song structure similar to "Alive With Pleasure" from their third album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. The shifting movements of "When Planets Collide" create the feel of a mini-opus.

Kevin finally takes lead vocals on "From The Devil Himself", the album's main attention grabber (and my favorite track). Once again, Anita's guitar screams at the top of its lungs while Kevin sings in his powder-coated, Victor DeLorenzo voice (of Violent Femmes fame). I guess I also have a thing for hand claps. Other standout tracks include the marathon "So Many Miles", the piano-laden "We Do Not F**k Around", the pretty pop of "Faster Than A Dead Horse", the surprising catchiness in the wispy-soft 60s sound of "Special Thing"(again, love the sweet hand claps), and the weary "Never Be Like Yesterday", where the mood of the song matches its all night fight between two halves of a concrete random couple. I don't know if this song is written from experience, but the Robinsons were certainly on the same page for this album.

This Tuesday (6/21) marks the release of their sixth album The Future Will Destroy You. They'll be performing a free show at 6:00 at Music Millennium on E. Burnside in Portland. I'll be there. Maybe you can get out for the night too.

Here are two videos from Get Yr Blood Sucked Out. The first is the official video for "From The Devil Himself". The second is a performance of "Believer" from Easy Street Records in 2006. Perhaps I'm amazed because I can barely sing and breathe at the same time, but watching Kevin play drums with one hand (notice the stick twirls), play harmonica with the other (including solos), and singing to boot just boggles my mind. You also get to see Anita looking cute in her typical cowgirl-esque outfit while melting your face off with her guitar work. It's not quite what you expect.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Break Time!

Marc, Turn That Down! will be taking a short break so the teacher side of me can wrap up the school year. Be back with another post on Sunday!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

21. The Cure: The Head On The Door

The Cure have taken their fans on a thirty year roller coaster ride. They've been at it since the mid-70s and have gone through numerous transitions...both lineup changes and musical output. Robert Smith and company have delivered a host of labeled music over the years: post-punk...gothic wave. I've had a lot of favorite bands in my time, but, for me, the 80s begins and ends with The Cure. This post highlights their 1985 album The Head On The Door.

In 1985, I began helping my brother, Jeff, at his nightclub called The Ferry Club in Staten Island, New York and everything fell into place for me musically. I'm not sure how much work Jeff got out of me in bewteen my runs to the DJ booth. I would literally drop what I was doing to go ask my musical guru, DJ Mark the Spark, what that song was and who this band is. Two important songs from that year helped alter my musical tastes forever...The Cure's "Inbetween Days" and "Close To Me".  

The Head On The Door is the sixth Cure album. It marked the return of bassist Simon Gallup to the band and was the first for drummer Boris Williams. Guitarist/keyboardist Porl Thompson also joined Robert Smith and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst as an official member of the band at this time as well. The Head On The Door follows a goth-gloomy group of releases from The Cure that are all absolutely wonderful: Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981), Pornography (1982), and The Top (1984). For THOTD, The Cure learned how to mesh the gloom and doom of the previous albums with a more radio friendly sound which increased their commercial success and fan base tremendously. 

The album opens with a quick drum-intro by Boris Williams, then barrels into the familiar, cheery guitar to create the perfect pop melody that is "Inbetween Days". It is a smile-inducing song through and any company, at any time of day. It is also the perfect example of this gloom and doom meets "C'mon, Get Happy!" juxtaposition. Consider the lyrics to "Inbetween Days"..."Yesterday I got so old I felt like I could die/Yesterday I got so old it made me want to cry"...not quite happy times for Robert Smith. However, in spite of the melancholy, it remains one of the catchiest, most danceable Cure songs to this day.

"Inbetween Days" is followed by a few experiments. "Kyoto Song" has a far east quality to it, while "The Blood" employs a Spanish-flamenco sound. One of my favorite Cure songs, "Six Different Ways", has many layers of instrumentation giving it a light, airy, childlike sound. Side one closes with the epic "Push". It's "Push" that is the gateway to the continuing sounds of the band. With about two minutes of classic Cure sounding guitars before Robert Smith chimes in, you might recognize this as a track on any album hereafter.

The highlight of side two is "Close To Me". Prominently featuring xylophone-like keyboards and some garish hand clapping, "Close To Me" seems an unlikely club hit, but its quirkiness had people on the dance floor every night. "A Night Like This" is another strong track, although the saxophone solo seems a bit dated now. And harkening back to the days of black leather and ghost white faces, the album closes with the gloriously dark and dreary "Sinking".

The Head On The Door is a perfect album from the perfect time. The Cure had become the godfathers of goth and had taken it as far as they could. They were looking for a new direction and found it with The Head On The Door...a wonderful meld of old and new...of dirge and dance.

The video I've provided for you is from an old BBC2 rock music show called The Old Grey Whistle Test (catchy title, huh?).  The video contains two Cure performances. "Inbetween Days" begins about one minute in and is immediately followed by "Close To Me". The quality isn't wonderful, but I felt it was more important to show the band as it was in 1985. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

20. The Doors: The Doors

Marc, Turn That Down! is going way back for this next post...over 40 years the 1967, self-titled debut album from The Doors. In fact, to emphasize how far back we're going, here's a short list of long-gone people who might have grooved to Jim Morrison and company at least once in their lifetime: the father of the atomic bomb--J. Robert Oppenheimer; saxophonist/composer--John Coltrane; baseball Hall of Famer--Jimmy Foxx (who made his major league debut in 1925); singer-songwriter--Woody Guthrie; 1928 gold medal figure skater--Sonje Henie; leader of the American civil rights movement--MLK; Argentine guerilla leader--Che Guevara (though he was probably busy that year, and I don't think Bolivia had any good radio stations at the time anyway); and deafblind author and political activist--Helen Keller (well...she could've felt the vibrations and grooved just the same).

The album The Doors is universally hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time. As far as debut albums go, The Doors is often rated anywhere from #1 to #5 all time on any reputable list. It is the place to start if you are interested in exploring classic rock music, and, overall, is the band's best album.

Just like the leadoff hitter in baseball sets the table for the rest of the lineup, the first song sets the tone for the album. If we single out the very first song from a band's very first album, we see some greats throughout time..."I Will Follow" by U2 (Boy), "Gloria" by Patti Smith (Horses), "Foxy Lady" by Hendrix (Are You Experienced?), even "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns and Roses (Appetite for Destruction). However, I envy the young fans who, in 1967, put The Doors on the turntable and heard "Break On Through (To The Other Side)". Without knowing what the future held for The Doors, they must have been awestruck, for "Break On Through" is the greatest debut-leadoff song of all time.

What follows "Break On Through" is a cast of characters that range from German Opera ("Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)") to Chicago blues ("Back Door Man"). The entrancing song "The Crystal Ship" was my first exposure to The Doors. As a youngster, I would listen to my brothers' 45s and I remember playing this song, the B-side to one of the most well-known songs in history, "Light My Fire", over and over, believing it to be the better of the two. "Twentieth Century Fox" and "Soul Kitchen" are outstanding songs that stir up similar feelings in me, and singing one often leads me to sing the other in a sort of Glee-style mash-up (minus the choreography).

The Doors closes with the 12 minute musical drama "The End". Building to a series of crescendoes like Ravel's Bolero three times over, this Oedipal opus hypnotizes the listener with Robbie Krieger's haunting guitar, John Densmore's rolling drums, and Jim Morrison's poetic visual imagery. It does so for all of about nine minutes before arriving at the final, explosive, psychedelic climax...and the denouement, "...The end of laughter and soft lies/The end of nights we tried to die/This is the end". All in all, the song is a perfect ending to this timeless Doors album.

Ah, videos! For you I have provided the video for the restored, uncensored version of "Break On Through" (which includes the lyric "...She gets high!"). The video is the same as the original, so it's a bit choppy when the word "high" is returned to its proper place. The second video is the 3 minute speed version of "Light My Fire" from The Ed Sullivan Show. Once again, the word "high" was the cause of controversy as Morrison was supposed to compromise his lyrics by singing "Girl we couldn't get much better" instead of "...higher" during the national TV performance. He did not. After the show The Doors were told that their six future appearances on the show were now canceled, to which Morrison replied, "Hey man...we just did the Sullivan show." The final video of the day is "The End" live from the Hollywood Bowl. It's fifteen minutes long, but, after viewing these three videos, one is reminded that any young boy from the day who aspired to be a rock star had Jim Morrison to thank for those aspirations. He was one of the most iconic rock stars of all time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

19. Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

Their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, became the U.K.'s fastest selling debut album...moving 360,000 copies in its first week. To put that in perspective, it sold more on its very first day than the rest of the Top 20 albums combined. But what's amazing about Arctic Monkeys and their debut is that there was no huge record label promoting the release. The band signed with indie label, Domino, just six months prior to releasing their first album. It was the fans and the internet fan-based sites that had been spreading the word for the previous two years. How good does the music have to be to virtually change the way new bands are promoted and marketed?

Arctic Monkeys began playing gigs in 2003. The band then recorded 17 demos and burned them onto CDs that were given away at their shows. From there, word spread and files were shared via fan-based internet sites. Arctic Monkeys didn't mind that because they were giving the songs away for free as it was and admitted to having no idea how to get their songs online themselves. This DIY method of marketing brought hoards of hungry fans to their shows who already knew the songs. There were crowd-wide sing-alongs, and they hadn't even released an album.

Released in America in early 2006, Whatever People Say I Am... is a concept album of sorts. Each first person narrative deals with nightclubbing in Northern England...the fights, the girls, and the romance. Lead Monkey, Alex Turner, though just a baby (as you'll see in the videos below) demonstrates incredible songwriting skills. "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (the album's first single) contains funky grooves tied to a machine gun clip set by drummer Matt Helders. Turner is keen to rhyme whatever and whenever he can, but his cadence and content flow smoothly through the narration without sounding forced ("I bet that you look good on the dancefloor/I don't know if you're looking for romance, or.../I don't know what you're looking for"). Most of the album continues the pace of "...Dancefloor" but two of the slower songs, "Mardy Bum" and "Riot Van", already show the lyrical and musical maturity exhibited on later albums Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007) and Humbug (2009).

Other strong tracks include the second single "When The Sun Goes Down", the meanderingly titled "You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me" and "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure", and the song NME placed at number 10 on it's list of 100 greatest tracks of the decade, "A Certain Romance".

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is one of my favorite albums of all time. Alex Turner is a master of observation and tells his stories like someone way beyond his experience. The sounds are infectious and the album contains not one skippable moment.  Here is a great video of "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (which came in at number 28 on the same NME list). The second video is my favorite track from the album, "From The Ritz To The Rubble", as performed on the BBC show Later with Jools Holland. Finally, a live performance of "A Certain Romance" at Pinkpop 2007.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

18. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Orange

If you've been keeping track of Marc, Turn That Down!, you might have noticed a lack of 90s music being reviewed. They were mostly dark days, the 90s. So many favorite bands seemed to forego their successful pasts and pull new sounds from a grab bag like contestants on a reality TV show (R.E.M., U2, and The Cure). Others were strong only a short time ago and the negative forcefield of the 90s hit and tore them apart (Pixies, Stone Roses, and Echo & the Bunnymen). For some, Father Time was shaking his glass, and it was last call (Big Audio Dynamite, PIL, Violent Femmes, and Fishbone). The decade was not without it's share of classics, and there will be plenty of posts highlighting those, but, overall, 1990-1999 were not the strongest ten years of music.

New on the scene in the early 90s were bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins as the grunge genre reared its ugly flannel-wrapped head. The music was mind-blowing, but certainly couldn't be labeled as fun. Enter The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and their 1994 album Orange (stocked with rhythm and blues, rockabilly, punk, name it)! Jon Spencer is a demonic-Elvis of a frontman, but singing is not quite high on his priority list. This is 45 minutes of "music first"...followed by attitude, virility, and...somewhere down the line come songwriting and singing. And the lyrics, to be sure, aren't much more than shouting out the names of the cities where The Blues Explosion is "number one". He also channels early east coast hip hop by glorifying the band with shout-outs constantly throughout the course of Orange...You can hear the words "Blues Explosion" over 25 times. The rest of the lyrics focus on Spencer's sex drive or are virtually incomprehensible. However, this is a product of JSBX enjoying themselves...imbibing and having fun...and that's the target audience. It's not dinner music.

Orange grabs you right away and immediately lets you know what's in store. "Bellbottoms" opens the album with the trio (Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer, and drummer Russell Simins) pounding out the intro over Spencer's growling mumble, while Bauer and Simins cheer him on as if curbside at the start of a fight. Then kicks in the 70s disco strings and the party is on! However, JSBX is at its best on Orange when the band tones it down a bit and maintains control (for example, "Dang" is powerful but painful). After "Bellbottoms", the list of great tracks include "Sweat", "Orange", Blues x Man", "Full Grown" (At this point, Jon would like you to know that young girls..."16, 17, 18...just don't know what's happening" and that he needs a full grown woman.), and "Flavor". "Flavor" features a phone-call cameo by a young Beck, and this provides us with one of the great moments from Orange. With smooth, mellow verses from the up and comer finished, Beck asks Spencer if he'd like him to do one more take. He is taken aback as Spencer ignores him in favor of shouting, "You got the flavor!" until Beck sings it with him.

This is JSBX's best album. Every album that came after it made an attempt to match Orange, but none could. Sheer power, fun, adrenaline...Orange was a blast!

I was disappointed with the videos I was able to provide for you. The first is a version of "Flavor" from an album of remixes...nowhere near as good as the original Orange version. The second is a promotional video for "Bellbottoms" that begins about two minutes in...skipping the entire introduction, which includes the mood-setting 70s style strings arrangement by Kurt Hoffman.

Summer's almost here. There's lots of great music coming your way soon. Don't let radio dictate your choices. Go out and get what you want!