Sunday, March 31, 2013

Song Of The Week: 3/31/13

Song: "Pinhead"

Artist: Ramones

Album: "Leave Home"

Year: 1977

"Pinhead" was inspired by the Ramones watching the 1932 film "Freaks". The song became a big anthem for the band and introduced the rallying cry "Gabba Gabba Hey". The song was a staple of their live shows and a definite crowd favorite. The Ramones formed as a band back in 1974 in New York City. The band featured Joey Ramone on vocals, Johnny Ramone on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on bass and Tommy Ramone on drums. The band is almost synonomous with legendary punk venue CBGB. In August of 1974, the Ramones made their CBGB debut, then played the club a whopping seventy-four more times before the end of that year. In 1975, the band was signed to Sire Records and in 1976, the band's classic debut album, "Ramones", was released. It was around this time that their sound was labeled as "punk" and a new genre was about to assault the music world. The Ramones legendary gigs, one at the Roundhouse in London and the other at The Roxy in Los Angeles helped galvanize the punk rock movement. Soon The Clash, Sex Pistols and Black Flag would be directly influenced to create their own punk anthems, due to seeing the Ramones live. In 1977, the Ramones released "Leave Home" and "Rocket To Russia". The single "Rockaway Beach" reached number 66 on the Billboard charts, the highest any Ramones single would reach in the U.S. '77 also saw the release of a double live album called "It's Alive". In 1978, Tommy Ramone decided he would no longer be the drummer but would stay on to produce Ramones' albums. Marky Ramone would take over on drums and the band would release "Road To Ruin" which featured the classic "I Wanna Be Sedated". In 1979, the Ramones appeared in the movie "Rock'n'Roll High School". In 1980, Phil Spector produced the album "End Of The Century". At number 44, it was the band's highest charting album but guitarist Johnny Ramone felt that the sound was watered down, especially on the more aggressive tracks. Another disappointment was 1981's "Pleasant Dreams", which Joey Ramone claimed was the record company's futile attempt to get on American radio. In 1983, the band released "Subterranean Jungle". This album was the last Ramones album to crack the Billboard Top 100. Marky Ramone was also fired and Richie Ramone took over drumming duties. Joey Ramone felt that Richie breathed new life into the band, both with his drum playing, his vocals and his songwriting capabilities. In 1984, the band released "Too Tough To Die". "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" was released as a single in 1985 but was re-titled "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down" and included on 1986's "Animal Boy". 1987's "Halfway To Sanity" would be the last album to feature Richie Ramone on drums. His replacement, Clem Burke of Blondie (Elvis Ramone), proved to be disastrous as he was fired after just two shows. Marky Ramone returned as the drummer at this time. 1989 saw the release "Brain Drain". Dee Dee Ramone decided to leave the band at this time. He was replaced on bass by C.J. Ramone. In 1992, the Ramones left longtime label Sire and signed with Radioactive Records. Their first release with them was "Mondo Bizarro". In 1993, the Ramones released a cover album entitled "Acid Eaters". In 1995, the Ramones released their very last studio effort called "Adios Amigos". They embarked on a farewell tour and also joined that year's Lollapalooza tour. On August 6, 1996, the Ramones performed their last show at the Palace in Hollywood. The show was packaged as a cd/dvd called "We're Outta Here". In 1999, Dee Dee, Johnny, Joey, Tommy, Marky and C.J. appeared at the Virgin Megastore in New York City. This marked the last time the original four members of the group appeared together. On April 15, 2001, Joey Ramone passed away after his long battle with lymphoma. In 2002, the Ramones were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. On June 5, 2002, Dee Dee Ramone was found dead at his home, the victim of a heroin overdose. 2004 saw the release of the documentary, "End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones". Then, on September 15, 2004, the band lost yet another member as Johnny Ramone died from his battle with prostate cancer. That very same day, the first official Ramones Museum opened it's doors in Berlin, Germany. In 2007, a dvd was released called "It's Alive: 1974-1996". This collection featured 118 songs from 33 performances throughout the band's career. Finally in 2011, the Ramones received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Though the Ramones ceased to be a band after 1996 and despite the tragic deaths of three of their original members, there is no denying the impact that they made on the music world. While it can argued whether or not the Ramones are the first official punk band, there are absolutely no arguments that can be made about how influential they were to punk and garage bands all over the world. 1977 was a prominent time in the musical landscape. Punk rock provided a jolt to what was becoming a stale time in music and the Ramones were at the forefront of that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Song Of The Week: 3/24/13

Song: "Beautiful Girls"

Artist: Bayside

Album: "Punk Goes Pop: Volume 2"

Year: 2009

"Beautiful Girls" is a cover song that appears to be about a boy who is suicidal over the failure of his relationship with a "beautiful girl". The song was originally performed by reggae-influenced musician Sean Kingston and was featured on his "Sean Kingston" album in 2007. The Queens, New York based punk band Bayside covered this song for the "Punk Goes Pop: Volume 2" compilation which features punk bands covering songs by artists that are featured on mainstream pop radio. Bayside formed as a band back in 2000. That year, they managed to pass along a demo to the punk band New Found Glory who then helped Bayside get their foot in the door. In 2001, the band released their very first EP titled "Long Stories Short". Then in 2003, Bayside and the band Name Taken released a split EP. After this release, the band caught the attention of Victory Records who would go on to sign Bayside. Their very first full length album would be released in 2004, called "Sirens And Condolences" and would feature the single "Masterpiece". In 2005, the band released "Bayside". On October 31, 2005, tragedy struck the band as they were in a serious van accident in Colorado. Bayside drummer, John "Beatz" Holohan died from his injuries in this accident. The band would honor their friend and bandmate by releasing a live acoustic cd which featured the song "Winter" which was a tribute to Holohan. In 2007, Bayside released "The Walking Wounded" which featured the single "Duality". 2008 saw the release of Bayside's fourth full length album, "Shudder". With singles like "No One Understands" and "I Think I'll Be OK", Bayside's new album definitely featured a more punky edge to their music. The band also released their first live album, "Live At The Bayside Social Club" that year as well. In 2010, Bayside left longtime label Victory Records and signed with Wind Up Records. Their first release with their new label would be 2011's highly anticipated "Killing Time". The band showed continued growth with the singles "Already Gone" (awesome song!!) and "Sick Sick Sick". In 2012, singer Anthony Raneri focused some time on a solo project which would turn out to be the "New Cathedrals" EP and he did a small solo acoustic tour to promote the record. At the end of 2012, Bayside went into the studio and made their "Covers: Vol. 1" EP. This release featured the band covering artists Van Morrison, Del Shannon, The Ronettes, Billy Joel and Elvis Costello. The band also announced that it would be likely that they will release more volumes of their "Covers" project in the future. Currently, their is no news of the band working on a new album at this time, but if their past is any indication, it probably won't be long for some new material to pop up as the band has been very active since their formation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Song Of The Week: 3/17/13

Song: "Method Man"

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

Album: "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)"

Year: 1993

"Method Man" is kind of like the introduction to the world of one of the best MC's in the rap game, Method Man. Complete with pop culture metaphors and odes to sparking up the "broccoli", Method Man delivers the grimey rhyme flow that would make him, as well as the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan, legendary in the world of hip hop. The Wu-Tang Clan formed as a group back in 1992, comprising of nine emcee's hailing from New York's Staten Island as well as Brooklyn. The group consists of RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Cappadonna was also a frequent performer with the Clan. In 1993, they dropped their debut album, "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)". This album is regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. The Wu-Tang style is a product of the RZA, whose beats were gritty, street anthems and each of the rapper's lyrics matched that gritty production to a tee. Unlike many other groups, Wu-Tang Clan had a unique partnership with their record label, Loud/RCA, in that they would come together as a group under that label, but be allowed to seek out their own labels for solo projects. Between 1994 and 1996, the first wave of these solo projects came out, featuring albums from Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface Killah. In 1997, the Clan released their second studio album, "Wu-Tang Forever". This multi-platinum double album went on to receive a Grammy nomination. The single "Triumph" would feature every Clan member, including Cappadonna, though O.D.B. just spit the intro, not dropping a full verse. At this time, Wu-Tang Clan began focusing on several affiliated projects, most notably were albums from Cappadonna, Killah Priest, Sunz Of Man, Popa Wu and more. From 1998 to 2000, a second round of solo albums hit the shelves, including debuts from RZA, U-God, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa as well as follow ups from Meth, GZA, O.D.B., Raekwon and Ghostface. In 2000, "The Wu" was released. Though the album achieved double platinum status, the style changed somewhat. Some of the material seemed to be crossing over and getting away from those dirty street anthems that the group had been known for. This style was impacted even more with the release of their fourth album, "Iron Flag", in 2001. This album featured several outside producers instead of leaving the music in the RZA's hands and this hurt the product I believe. While I think it's ok for using different productions on their solo projects, the Wu-Tang style and the RZA is synonomous and the group efforts should be led by him on the production end. 2004 began with a rift between RZA and U-God. U-God felt that RZA wasn't really pushing him as a solo artist and that hurt his career. This rift was shortly laid to bed however and the Clan embarked on a European tour, one that featured each member of the group for the first time in years. 2004 also saw the release of the live album, "Disciples Of The 36 Chambers: Chapter 1" as well as the music video album, "Legends Of The Wu-Tang Clan". Tragedy struck the group late November of 2004 as Ol' Dirty Bastard collapsed in the studio and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. In 2006 the group's career was celebrated by VH1 on their annual "Hip Hop Honors" program. 2006 to 2010 saw yet another wave of solo albums, though the group did manage to squeeze in "8 Diagrams" in 2007. This album caused a small beef between RZA and Ghostface because RZA decided to release the album around the same time as Ghost's solo effort. Ghostface was not happy about that and wanted to release a full Wu-Tang album called "Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang" without any production from RZA. This album did come out but it was not a Wu album just a collaboration mostly of Ghostface, Raekwon and Method Man. In 2011, there was talk amongst the Wu-Tang camp that they would get together to drop another album. They did, however, run into some problems getting each member on the same page. Currently, as of January 2013, it has been said that the Wu-Tang Clan have in fact entered the studio to work on what will be their sixth album. RZA has stated that they'd like the album to be out by November of 2013 which will mark the 20 year anniversary of "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Song Of The Week: 3/10/13

Song: "Wicked"

Artist: Ice Cube

Album: "The Predator"

Year: 1992

"Wicked" is a gangsta rap song by legendary hip hop artist Ice Cube. The song's roots are fueled by the Los Angeles riots which took place that year after several police officers were found not guilty of using excessive force while detaining Rodney King, even though video footage showed them severely beating him. As a performer, Ice Cube first appeared with the hip hop group C.I.A., which is where Cube first worked with Dr. Dre, then of the World Class Wreckin' Cru. By 1987, the two decided to form the group N.W.A. along with Eazy E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. In 1988, the group changed the rap game forever with the release of "Straight Outta Compton". They managed to take "gangsta" rap to the next level with this release, while also gaining the attention of the F.B.I. because of the song "Fuck Tha Police". By 1989, inner turmoil began to break up the group. Ice Cube found out that he was grossly underpaid, especially considering that he wrote not only his lyrics, but at least half of Eazy E's and Dr. Dre's for "Straight Outta Compton" as well as Eazy E's solo album "Eazy Duz It". In 1990, his first year as a solo artist, Cube took the world by storm, releasing "Amerikkka'z Most Wanted", starring in his first movie, "Boyz N The Hood", as well as releasing "Kill At Will", the first hip hop EP to go platinum. 1991 saw Cube release "Death Certificate". This album featured the scathing diss rap "No Vaseline", in which he totally tore up the remaining members of N.W.A., basically putting that fued to bed. In 1992 Ice Cube came out with "The Predator", his most successful album to date, selling three million records in the U.S. alone. With singles like "It Was A Good Day", "Wicked" and "Check Yo Self", Cube won a spot on the alternative Lollapalooza tour of that year. 1993 saw Cube get into the "G-Funk" era with the release of "Lethal Injection". By 1994, the N.W.A. fued was a thing of the past as Cube would collaborate with Dr. Dre for the song "Natural Born Killaz". Cube also squashed any beef with Eazy E and MC Ren at this time and even hoped that possibly N.W.A. could work together again at some point. This came crashing down with the untimely death of Eazy E in 1995, who succumbed to the AIDS virus. Between 1998 and 2000, Ice Cube would release "War & Peace Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. These albums featured guest spots by Westside Connection, a group made up of Cube, Mack 10 and WC, as well as a reunion of N.W.A. for the song "Hello". 2001 would see Cube join fellow N.W.A. members Dr. Dre and MC Ren as well as Snoop Dogg and Eminem on the "Up In Smoke" tour. In 2006, Cube dropped "Laugh Now, Cry Later". This album featured the single "Why We Thugs", a song that showed Cube get back in that gangsta/political vibe and made no mistake that he is still the real deal when it comes to lyrics and flow. In 2008, Cube released "Raw Footage", his eight solo studio album. The 2010 release "I Am The West" debuted at #22 on the Billboard 200 charts, proving that Ice Cube is still very much relevant in the world of hip hop. Along with his stellar rap career, Cube is also known for his work in films, both acting and directing. As I said earlier, he starred in the epic film "Boyz N The Hood" and he wrote and starred in the "Friday" comedies as well as the "Barbershop" films. It could be argued that his acting has made him an even bigger star than his music career but he has not turned his back on hip hop yet. Currently, in fact, Ice Cube has said to have at least seven tracks done for what will be his tenth studio album. In 2012, the first single was released for that future album, called "Everythang's Corrupt". Good to see someone in hip hop still talking about something meaningful and shining a light on injustices instead of just spewing bullshit!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Song Of The Week: 3/3/13

Song: "Reptilia"

Artist: Lostprophets

Album: "Last Summer" EP

Year: 2004

"Reptilia" is a b-side to the single "Last Summer" by Lostprophets. It is a cover song, originally performed by The Strokes and released on that band's second album, "Room On Fire". The song's foundation is based on the "Reptilian Complex", which is basically the central part of one's brain that handles basic emotions such as love and hate. Lostprophets is an English band that formed back in 1997. The first three years of the band consisted mostly of trying to get some demos out and get their name out on the music scene going on in the U.K. at that time. In 2000, the band released their first full length album, titled "Thefakesoundofprogress". In 2001, Lostprophets signed with major label Columbia records, who in turn remastered and re-released "Thefakesoundofprogress". Though early on, Lostprophets found themselves supporting acts such as Linkin Park and Deftones, the band also found themselves on some "weird" tours as well. They joined the Deconstruction Tour, which was mainly ska and punk bands and also went on the Ozzfest tour, which featured mainly metal acts. Safe to say, they weren't treated as well on those tours as they were with more complimentary acts such as Linkin Park. In 2004, Lostprophets hit the big time with the release of "Start Something". This record was the band's biggest success thanks in part to hit singles such as "Burn Burn", "Last Train Home", "Wake Up (Make A Move)", and "Last Summer". In 2006, Lostprophets dropped "Liberation Transmission", which continued the level of success the band achieved on their previous effort. "Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)" and "A Town Called Hypocrisy" were just two of the major tracks from that album. For their next album, Lostprophets wanted to write a darker and grittier album. 2010's "The Betrayed" was the bands most honest effort in their eyes. The album peaked at number three on the U.K. album charts as well. In 2012, Lostprophets new album "Weapons" was released in the U.K. through Epic Records while in the U.S.A., it was released by Fearless Records. Plans of touring to support the album came to an abrupt halt however. In December of 2012, Lostprophets vocalist Ian Watkins was charged with multiple sexual offences against children. He has denied all charges against him but, obviously, the band, as well as his life, is at a stand still. Currently, the future of Lostprophets remains very much in doubt due to these serious charges against Watkins. The rest of the band are devastated and in total shock by these allegations against their lead singer. Not looking very good for Lostprophets at this time!!