College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #652 to #649

call woods

652. The Call, Into the Woods (1987)

After enduring some professional tumult, the Call were presumably feeling at least somewhat settled when they got down to recording Into the Woods, their fifth studio album. Its immediate predecessor, the prior year’s Reconciled, was their first with label Elektra Records, where they’d signed after a protracted legal battle left them without a corporate home and entirely uncertain as to whether or not their music would see further release. Reconciled yielded the respectable rock radio hit “I Still Believe (Grand Design)” and the mounting success of U2, flashing like a beacon with the early 1987 release of The Joshua Tree, suggested mainstream commercial taste was turning in a direction nicely conducive to the Call’s anthemic songs.

Into the Woods held one of the big, soaring singles that were the Call’s calling card. Album opener “I Don’t Wanna” is a love song of emotion, employing a litany of rejected romantic gestures on its way to declaring an all-consuming need. That same vast sonic scope is found across the album, whether when the band borrows some of the slow-build bombast of gospel music on “In the River” or mixes in some honky-tonk flavors in the punchy rocker “Walk Walk.” Studio puffery was very much the style of the day, but it could get perilous. “Day or Night” demonstrates how close the Call could come to the hollow pop rock boom of someone like John Parr, and ballad “Memory” slips into off-putting treacle.

Some tracks hint at a version of the band that crafts leaner, sharper songs. The skittering and forceful “It Could Have Been Me” has a fervent energy, and “Too Many Tears” is like an old movie western theme refracted through a new wave lens. The cuts aren’t necessarily better than the arena-ready fullness that was the Call’s clear specialty, but the little sprinklings of variety are welcome tempering of a style that could become numbing in its implied profundity. Not every song need stretch excitedly toward the heavens.

 

blue walk

651. The Blue Nile, A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984)

The high polish of the Blue Nile’s pop music prompted a persistent myth about the band. Supposedly, the group secured the contract to record their debut full-length release because a manufacturer of expensive stereo equipment wanted a records that would properly showcase its technology. The band members have repeatedly denied and debunked that version of their origin story, but listening to A Walk Across the Rooftops, the Blue Nile’s debut album, it’s easy to discern why the story took hold. Elegant and jaw-dropping, the album seems genetically engineered to make someone value precision equipment that could properly reveal its intricacies.

The Glasgow trio opens A Walk Across the Rooftops with a title cut that places a lush, elegant pop sound up against an anxious countermelody of plunking synthesizers. It plays with the mechanics of electronic dance music without any evident hopes of raising a pulse or setting a foot to tapping. The pace is typified by piercing ballad “Easter Parade” and the deeply relaxed “Heatwave,” the latter sounding as though lead singer Paul Buchanan is delivering his vocals from the deepest reaches of a silken hammock. The erudite air can occasionally veer close to stultifying beauty, which is compounded by lyrics that often repeat like fading echoes. “Tinseltown in the Rain” is lovely, but it’s also a metaphor looking for a proper emotion to moor itself to.

A Walk Across the Rooftops is most exciting when the Blue Nile seem to be reinventing the textures of their art on the fly. “From Rags to Riches” is pop music pared back to near-abstractions, the eventual province of Portishead. The persistent classic pop feel to the album means the band isn’t exactly laying the groundwork for trip hop or some other future innovation, but there’s a daring at play that recognizably similar to the startling norm-warping to come.

 

young men

650. The Young Fresh Fellows, The Men Who Loved Music (1987)

‘There’s a fine line between taking yourself too seriously and being a total cutup band that no one will take seriously,” Chuck Carroll, guitarist and singer with the Young Fresh Fellows, told the Chicago Tribune shortly after the release of the band’s third album, The Men Who Loved Music. ”And I think it insults some people to see a band that has some funny elements in its music. Some people only want serious music, something they can sink their teeth into. But you can’t please everybody, and we’re certainly pleasing ourselves at this point.”

If there was a tinge of novelty to the band’s songwriting — as with the flurry of classic television references in “TV Dream” (“For some reason you kill Pugsley and Dick Grayson, too/ Perry Mason out and out refuses to help you”) — it was becoming increasingly clear that the musicianship of the Seattle-based band was no joke. The fleet of songs on The Men Who Loved Music, the band’s first to receive a concerted national push to college radio, careen across styles, each played with enviable craft. Mostly, they stuck with a buffed up rock ‘n’ roll sound, occasionally pushed to a higher volume. The punky burst of “Why I Oughta” and squawking hard rock number “I Got My Mojo Working (And I Thought You’d Like to Know)” are fine demonstrations of the Young Fresh Fellows’ muscularity. And “Ant Farm” is musically similar to those instances when Bruce Springsteen borrows lovingly from classic girl group ditties.

For most college programmers, though, it was probably the jokier material that connected. The album’s clearest college radio hit was “Amy Grant,” a catchy cut that posited a mildly salacious secret life enjoyed by the Christian music singer who’d recently made surprising ripples on the mainstream pop charts. Better yet is “When the Girls Get Here,” which gently mocks the hopeful posturing of dudes expecting a contingent of lovely young ladies at their social gathering (“We’ll put out our guitars/ And tell ’em how we’re gonna be stars”). The track is amusing, but it has clear merits beyond the punchlines, including a tang of empathy that carries it beyond the mere brattiness of other college rock bands that largely leaned on laughs. The Young Fresh Fellows were funny. The Young Fresh Fellows were also a dandy rock band.

 

lords method

649. The Lords of the New Church, The Method to Our Madness (1984)

I.R.S. Records felt like the Lords of the New Church were floundering. Boasting a membership that drew from some of the most credibly cool bands of the punk era, the Lords of the New Church had flashed into being with a couple raw, righteous albums, but the third studio effort was proving to be more of a challenge. The label hired Chris Tsangarides to produce the album, hoping his touch with hard rock acts, such as Thin Lizzy, would bring some useful discipline and a professional sheen to the finished product. That’s exactly what resulted, but it sometimes seems the personality of the band gets lost in the effort. The Method to Our Madness often sounds like it could have come from just about anyone.

The album opens with the grinding “Method to My Madness,” all seething and feigned fury. The strutting “Pretty Baby Scream” and the lonely heartbreak ballad “When the Blood Runs Cold” (“My coquette cutie with a chameleon heart/ You tried to change me, to disarrange me”) show further how easily the band could be molded into slick, slightly generic shape. In this form, the practiced darkness can start to seem like mere posturing. The wolf howls on the opening of “Fresh Flesh” are simply the first signal that the cut pushes its menacing horrors so hard it slides into ridiculousness.

The more the band’s long-held, ash black sensibility comes through, the better. The performers got their respective starts in an era of garish, semi-ironic showmanship, and that fine history is infused into “Murder Style,” which is maybe the closest lead singer Stiv Bators comes to the preening glam perfection of the New York Dolls’ David Johansen. And then they finally reach for full goth operatics on album closer “My Kingdom Come.” It still approaches the ludicrous, but in a way that feels like taunting rather than half-hearted indulgence. Only at the very end of The Method to Our Madness does it feel like a creatively engaged version of the Lords of the New Church arrives.

 

To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs

This Week’s Model — Angel Olsen, “Lark”

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(source)

According to the promotional commentary accompanying the release of “Lark,” the new single from Angel Olsen, the song took years to complete. It sounds like it, not because of some evidence strain or a fussed-over meticulousness. Instead, the tracks carries lovely dust from every part of Olsen’s artistic journey, as if accumulated while being carried around. It has the aching spareness of her first couple records, the welling force of certainty found on 2016’s excellent My Woman, and even the questing fulsomeness scattered across the odds and sods collection Phases. And it’s all corseted together with a searing intelligence and emotional openness that confirms the song as progression rather than scrapbook retrospection. It is the sound of an artist staying true to herself while moving forward.

Angel Olsen’s new album, All Mirrors, releases on October 4, 2019.

Radio Days — Speeding Motorcycle

This series of posts covers my long, beloved history interacting with the medium of radio, including the music that flowed through the airwaves.

During my first foray into college broadcasting, one of my favorite tracks to play on the radio was recorded on the air at a different station.

In 1990, Yo La Tengo released an EP to accompany to boost the single “Here Comes My Baby,” culled from their covers album Fakebook. The last cut on the release was a new version of “Speeding Motorcycle,” a song that appeared on Fakebook and was originally written and recorded by Austin-based singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. While Yo La Tengo was making one of their regular appearances the great New Jersey radio station WFMU-FM, Johnston called in and suggested he and the band perform the song together, right then and in their two separate versions of there. A collaboration of musicians clustered before the microphones of a radio studio and a distant singer, his already warble-prone voice made more unpolished by the distortion of the telephone wire, the recording is magic.

Across his life, Johnston had his struggles, and, as is the case with just about any creator whose works can reasonably be characterized as outsider art, there were reasonable questions to be raised about whether he was being embraced or exploited by the entertainment machine. But my impression of him was forever set by the innocent and evident pleasure he clearly found in just singing his song with a band that clearly liked it. There are no airs, no aspirations, no cunning whatsoever. That truth is demonstrated convincingly by slight clumsiness at the beginning of the song, rapidly overcome by the understanding ministrations of Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan. I this is the reason I played the cut so often: because in the shared, impromptu performance sits the pure, clarifying beauty of making music together.

 

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Radio Days” tag.

College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #656 to #653

headboys

656. The Headboys, The Headboys (1979)

“At the time, it was important to construct an image,” guitarist Lou Lewis noted in explaining the origins of his band the Headboys. “I got a pretty severe haircut and went to the schoolwear shop on Commercial Street. I bought a school shirt, tie, and blazer, and wore them with white Kickers and skintight jeans. I was due to meet the guys at a pub in Edinburgh and I turned up like that. The next thing I knew, they were off to do the same.”

After starting operations as a band called Badger, the Scottish quartet adopted the name the Headboys and became the subject of a small bidding war between record companies. They eventually settled on Robert Stigwood’s RSO Records, deciding it was going to be more fun recording for it, and the band set out to make their first album, all before they’d played a live gig together. The Headboys was released, heralded by the modest hit single “The Shape of Things to Come,” which sounds like choice power pop with a prog rock hangover. Musically, it’s one of those songs that encapsulates the end of the nineteen-seventies, as one form was giving way to others.

The Headboys is full of strange little gems that reflect and refract the era. “Stepping Stones” has the crispness and ease of Pete Townshend’s solo work, and “Experiments” could fit nicely onto one of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled efforts. There’s a nifty jitterbug bounce to “The Breakout,” and “The Ripper” comes across as the product of a veddy British version of Kiss. Some other finger-swirls in the zeitgeist haven’t aged as well. “Schoolgirls” is pretty gross, and another sign that lecherous pining after teenaged girls was evidently as obligatory for late-seventies male performers as invective against Margaret Thatcher was for U.K. punks bands was a few years later.

Some European touring followed, including at least one gig at which some Irish upstarts going by the name U2 opened up for them, but the Headboys were mostly interested in getting back into the studio to record their next album, at least initially. As they were finishing up their sophomore album, the group collectively decided they were worn out by the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. They called it quits, and the new material they recorded went unreleased for over thirty years, finally showing up in 2013, on a CD dubbed The Lost Album.

 

princ 99

655. Prince, 1999 (1982)

1999 was Prince’s fourth full-length studio effort, but, in practically every respect, the double album was where his artistic revolution began. To dispense with the pun quickly, 1999 was the first album to feature his most famed backing band, though the Revolution doesn’t receive the same prominent official billing they’d enjoy on subsequent releases. The album also provided a major commercial breakthrough for Prince. Three years after his sole Top 40 single to that point, 1999 delivered three different songs into the glory land of the Billboard chart, and the album itself was Prince’s first to reach the Top 10 and log multi-platinum sales. Those formidable achievements aside, 1999 is significant because it was arguable the first instance of the Prince asserted the full force of his unique musical genius.

The astonishing side one is enough to settle any debate about the album’s greatness. “1999,” “Delirious,” and “Little Red Corvette” arrive in succession, an opening so potent that even the most aggressively stacked greatest hits collections can’t touch it. No other stretch of the album truly approaches that early, dizzying peak, but there are mind-spinning concoctions of sound all over. The jittery “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)” and the sweet soul groove of “International Lover” attest to the Prince’s easy mastery of whatever style he adopts, and other tracks offer equally convincing evidence of his ease in drawing boundaries only to stroll past them. Sometimes only fanciful metaphor will do, as with “D.S.M.R.,” with its floaty, buzzing quality that suggests the funk song an especially cool bumblebee might cook up.

As the album wears on, Prince sometimes lets songs meander, drawing dangerously close to mere noodling. “Lady Cab Driver” extends the blithe straying to the lyrics (“Help me girl I’m drownin’, mass confusion in my head/ Will you accept my tears to pay the fare?”), but any problems are minor, counterbalanced completely by the churning nebulae of pure invention. It’s almost undeniable that a major artist in emerging in the album’s grooves. “Automatic” might be the clearest forecast of the relentless innovation and unchecked mastery that Prince would deploy on his next album, the mega-selling Purple Rain.

 

game real

654. Game Theory, Real Nighttime (1985)

On the sophomore release from the California-based band Game Theory, the primacy of frontman and chief songwriter Scott Miller was affirmed. Following a tour meant to showcase the new music they’d created, Game Theory essentially fell apart, with every member except Miller leaving the band for various reasons. The album’s original group shot front cover was hastily replaced with a photo of only Miller, and the band personnel were officially billed as simply contributing musicians, with no higher status that the studio players recruited to help fill out certain tracks. Real Nighttime was still a Game Theory album, but it represented the establishment of Game Theory as Miller and whoever he brought along with him.

Working with producer Mitch Easter, who was sought out by Miller because he was impressed by R.E.M.’s Chronic Town, Game Theory delivers an album of limber, expressive pop-rock, bearing the Americana-touched sound and eager earnestness of mid-nineteen-eighties college rock. Cascading “24,” anxious, forceful “Friend of the Family,” and echoing mid-tempo number “She’ll Be a Verb” sound as though they were produced in a lab to appeal to serenely sincere student broadcasters hovering around the age of twenty. Growing into young adulthood was a theme Miller explored on the album, and the music has the quality of shifting between enthusiasm and hesitancy familiar to anyone whose struggled to find their way in their post-collegiate years.

Game Theory comes across like a gentler Joe Jackson on “I Mean It This Time,” and unleashes a nice college rock nugget spiced with squalling synth work in “Curse of the Frontierland.” Completing the portrait of a band settling comfortably into their time and place, there’s an appropriately aching, spectral cover of Big Star’s “You Can’t Have Me,” which is a calling card of impeccable taste for obscure, inspired ancestral artists. Real Nighttime is steady and lovely, ideally crafted to enrapture music fans glued to the left end of the radio dial. It’s also so specifically attuned to those fans that it’s almost impossible to imagine it gaining much traction anywhere else. Some bands of the era shimmered with the possibility of crossover. Game Theory sounded like they were destined to stay put.

 

robbie

653. Robbie Robertson, Robbie Robertson (1987)

In late November of 1976, in the early morning hours, Robbie Robertson stood on stage with the band and played the final notes of “Don’t Do It.” He stepped to the microphone and waved at the crowd as he said, “Thank you. Good night. Goodbye.” The Last Waltz concert was complete and the members of the Band were off to pursue other endeavors. As the chief songwriter of the group, it was widely assumed that Robertson would soon embark on a solo career. Instead, Robertson meandered in his entertainment career, starring alongside Jodie Foster and Gary Busey in the gloomy 1980 drama Carny and serving as music supervisor for several pictures directed by Martin Scorsese, who’d also turned the Last Waltz into a concert film. Even when the time came for Robertson to finally craft a solo album, his pace was slow. He first announced the intention to record in 1983, made preliminary agreements in 1984, hired producer Daniel Lanois in 1985, and started recording in 1986.

Led by the breathless cheerleading of Rolling Stone, by then solidly committing to worshipping any new album dropped by a rocker who qualified as an old hand, Robbie Robertson was met with an enthusiastic reception. Robertson was the beneficiary of MTV airplay and got booked as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. His long history was invoked to highlight the album’s pedigree and the presence of comparative newcomers — including members of U2, BoDeans, and Lone Justice — as guest performers on the record provided the endorsement of cool new kids. Robbie Robertson felt like an event.

If all that attention were puffing up a weak album, it would seem desperate and misguided. Instead, Robbie Robertson is a sterling effort, rich in evocative feeling and graced with remarkably sharp songwriting. Robertson is an iffy frontman, stating songs as much as singing, but the withdrawn emotions suit the material in the same way Tom Waits’s froggy gargle brings the correct personality to his tales of barroom woe. Robertson is more than capable of conveying the quiet pain in ballad “Broken Arrow” and the crushing desire in “Sweet Fire of Love.” His plainspokenness accentuates the humid storytelling of “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” and the resigned recounting of hardscrabble lives on “Sonny Got Caught in the Moonlight.” As a tribute to doomed celebrities James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Marilyn Monroe, “American Roulette” probably skews too literal in its lyrics (“Lord, please save his soul/ He was the King of Rock and Roll”), but I’ve never been able to resist its hard rock conviction.

Robbie Robertson didn’t usher in an era of prolific music-making for the performer. Though the follow-up, Storyville, arrived a reasonable four years later, the span between each new album from Robertson grew ever longer. In the thirty years following his debut, Robertson released only three true solo albums.

 

To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs

This Week’s Model — Mikal Cronin, “Shelter”

cronin

There are songs and styles that will grab me immediately, tapping into the portion of my inner being that never truly exited my old college radio studio. That sliver of me flips through the heavy rotation shelf for all eternity, eager to find the next artist, track, album, anything that holds the echoing sound of all the college rock I favored to that point and yet takes a little step forward, shifting the dynamics with a revised outlook, an instrumental innovation, or a unique layering of studio sounds. It is classic and new all at once, urgently asserting itself as the next entrant on a long playlist that stretches back to the very first urgent jangles of R.E.M. or maybe the jabbing provocations of the Clash. It doesn’t have to sound like those ancestors — or any predecessors really — but some elusive, unmistakable spirit should linger like a morning mist.

The nostalgic helplessness often comes over me when I hear the finest offerings of Mikal Cronin, and that’s the case with his latest single. A herald of Seeker, Cronin’s fourth solo album, “Shelter” eschews any sort of slow build, opening with a clamorous, but obviously intricately arranged, intermingling of sounds. It is fully formed, lightly psychedelic and restlessly explorative, meant to fill a night. The song is like something the Flaming Lips might have come up with if their drugs were less potent. I want to get lost in it, letting its mysteries sink in rather than be solved. For me, “Shelter” is practically irresistible.

Top 40 Smash Near Misses — “Workin’ for a Livin”

These posts are about the songs that just barely failed to cross the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.

huey lewis news

According to Huey Lewis, he started writing the song “Workin’ for a Livin” when he was doing exactly that. A musician who toiled through the nineteen-seventies with modest success — most notably as a member of the San Francisco band Clover — Lewis relied on a series of other jobs to help him make ends meet over the years, including a stint as a truck driver. It was in the cab of the vehicle, Lewis said, that he started formulating the tune that would become the fourth and final single off of Picture This, the sophomore album from Huey Lewis and the News.

Coming across as a modest bar band with slicker-than-average capabilities, Huey Lewis and the News had already registered a pair of Top 40 hits from Picture This, including “Do You Believe in Love,” which peaked at #7. “Workin’ for a Livin” was an attempt to wring one more one more chart success out of the album, cementing the band as an act with real staying power. Instead, the song stalled out just before crossing the most important Billboard barrier, finishing its ascent at #41.

If there was disappointment over the slight slump of “Workin’ for a Livin,” it didn’t last long. The following year, Huey Lewis and the News released their third full-length, Sports. One of the biggest albums of the early nineteen-eighties, Sports yielded five Top 40 singles (four of which made it into the Top 40) and went multiplatinum.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.

College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #660 to #657

hunters human

660. Hunters & Collectors, Human Frailty (1987)

In just about every way, Human Frailty was a breakthrough for the Australian band Hunters & Collectors. The band’s fourth studio album represented their first significant hit in their homeland, slipping into the Top 10. It also served as the most significant introduction to Hunters & Collectors in the North American market, thanks to a freshly signed distribution deal with I.R.S. Records. A few months after Human Frailty hit in the Australia, I.R.S. rejiggered the track list and placed it in the mailboxes of college radio stations across the U.S. Finally, both the band and music journalists agreed that Human Frailty was the most effective realization of the Hunters & Collectors musical aesthetic to that point: big, booming rock that lyrically details the many, minor wounds of just existing. Human Frailty was both the album’s title and its central preoccupation.

Human Frailty opens with the grindingly intense of breakup song “Say Goodbye,” establishing the album’s mindset. The grind of life on the road is set alongside striving for happy balance in a relationship and there’s a dawning realization that the two might be magnets pushing against the other. In this respect, and many others, the album can serve as a solid primer of college rock at the very moment it was configuring itself into alternative music in all its edgy gloss. Hunters & Collectors deliver admirably on the tender ballad “Throw Your Arms Around Me,” the jabbing, anthemic “Relief,” and the pop epic of yearning “This Morning.” There are also tracks on which they effectively noodle around with different genres — like twang and funk concoction “Is There Anybody in There?” and transposed rockabilly number “99th Home Position” — but mostly Human Frailty is defined by the way it seems engineered to flow nicely in or out of a U2 hit on the radio.

Bolstered by the success of Human Frailty, Hunters & Collectors continued concentrated writing and recording efforts, issuing a new album in each of the next two years. They also balanced regional success with I.R.S. Records’ attempts to make them break globally, usually with more persnickety tinkering with album titles, packaging, and track lists.

 

joe jumpin

659. Joe Jackson, Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive (1981)

By the early-nineteen-eighties, Joe Jackson was enjoying enthusiastic critical support and enduring only modest record sales. Although his first three albums — Look Sharp, I’m the Man, and Beat Crazy — are filled with pop-rock gems that sound like hits, his singles barely registered on the U.S. charts. Only “Is She Really Going with Him?” founds its way into the Top 40, and it took two tries to get it there with A&M Records reissuing the single one year after its initial release. Everything else to that point fizzled, so Jackson took the most logical approach to appeal to the kids: He put on album comprised entirely of faithful cover versions of forty year old swing music songs.

If it’s reasonable to question the commercial instincts around Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, the real problem with the album is its artistic execution. Jackson’s earnest fandom doesn’t necessarily lead to skillful interpretations of the songs chosen, and a remarkable amount of the album is drab and flat. “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” is so thin it almost becomes ghostly, and Jackson’s affected rasp can’t disguise overly languid playing on “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” The vocal tomfoolery gets more problematic elsewhere on the album, as tracks such as “San Francisco Fan” skew perilously close to minstrelsy. The album is better when it feels like everyone loosens up a little. “Five Guys Named Moe” is the right sort of playful, though Jackson’s scat singing is notably subpar. Finding palatable moments on the album becomes an aural scavenger hunt. I like the little doses of ivory-tickling on “Tuxedo Junction,” but it’s hard to identify much else that truly works.

Eventually, Jackson himself seemed to sour on the Jumpin’ Jive experiment. When he was asked about the album’s title cut in an AV Club interview, he offered a fairly dim appraisal of the whole project.

“I’ve done quite a few things, especially early on in my career, that I cringe at a bit now, that I’m not necessarily proud of, but at the time, I just said ‘It’s a case of “I want to do this. Fuck you,”‘ Jackson reflected. “I made too many records, and I don’t think the quality is as good as it would have been if I made less. But it’s too late to do anything about that now.”

 

get lucky

658. Loverboy, Get Lucky (1981)

After the collapse of disco’s popularity the pendulum swing of pop music went back in the direction of big, dumb rock music, and Loverboy was all too happy to capitalize on the resulting opportunity. Formed in Calgary, Alberta in 1979, the band was was opening for Kiss within the year and signed to Columbia Records shortly thereafter. Their self-titled debut yielded the major hit “Turn Me Loose” and went multiplatinum. Wasting no time, Loverboy went back into the studio, bashed out several new songs, and released their sophomore album, Get Lucky, less than one year later.

Opening with the party anthem “Working for the Weekend,” Get Lucky immediately positions itself as a go-to record for cheerful knuckleheads prone to mistaking general inconveniences for real angst. Don’t think too hard, the album urges, just slip on your best headband and go. The gruesome power ballad “When It’s Over” and grinding roots rocker “Emotional” (“Use your head/ Give your heart a rest’) tread the well-worn path of love in confusion. Album closer “Take Me to the Top” deploys snaking synths and stretches to an inhuman six minutes. Loverboy wrote most of the songs themselves, but they also got some help from fresh-faced performer Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance on “Jump,” a lean rock song which, being fair, would probably sound pretty good rasped out by Adams.

Get Lucky is a pretty lousy album. Across the U.S. and Canada, it’s sold over seven million copies to date.

 

lyres fire.jpg

657. Lyres, On Fyre (1984)

Following the dissolution of his band DMZ, one of a slew of acts signed to Sire records in the latter half of the nineteen-seventies in a gamble that punk would be the next big thing commercially, singer Jeff Conolly needed a new outlet for the thrashing, clashing garage rock music he favored. He went to his home base of Boston and formed the Lyres. The group’s debut album, On Fyre, was issued by dinky independent label Ace of Hearts Records, a suitably modest outlet for the rough-and-ready music.

At times, the Lyres seem to aspire to nothing more than providing an echo of the revered Nuggets compilation of low-budget, high-attitude rock ‘n’ roll of the late nineteen-sixties. “Don’t Give It Up Now” is a perfect slab of garage rock, and “I Confess” follows the same architectural plan with some a few girders of sunshiny sixties pop mixed in. The playing sounds rough, but that’s clearly by design, as evidenced by the Lyres’ ability to effectively crank out both the spectacular clatter of “I’m Tellin’ You Girl” or the steady, clean chug of “Soapy.” They pay dutiful tribute to their predecessors with an appealingly slack cover of the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You” (using the truncated title “Tired of Waiting”) and also the expert mimicry of “Not Like the Other One,” which could have been excavated from the older band’s formidable catalog.

The Lyres only made a few more studio albums after On Fyre, but the band endured impressively. Except for occasional layoffs, they’ve remained a going concern since their founding.

 

To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs