JAKE’S COLUMN: THE WHO- The Who Sings My Generation (1965)

Review by: Jake Myers 

the-who-sings-my-generation-cover

Rating: 8/10

Best Songs: “The Good’s Gone”, “My Generation”, “The Kids Are Alright”
Worst Songs: “I Don’t Mind”, “Please, Please, Please”

One thing that’s always fun to imagine is how your average listener in 1965, having just opened the sleeve and put the needle down on this album for the first time, would have reacted. When those first rumbles of feedback came echoing through the speakers, or when the insistent “You don’t know me, no!” chants first appeared, it must have been an exhilarating signal of a new kind of spirit in rock music.

Something we all could have done without, though, is the two James Brown covers. The band may have been rooted deeply in RnB, but to throw out their rocking spirit completely was a mistake. The two songs stumble along without the melodic force of the source material, each instead preferring a bland kind of drone. No thanks.

To be sure, the title track is the best on here. Right from the opening, with the urgent, slamming riff we all know and love and the mocking, stuttering verses, this song earns its reputation as one of the greatest youth anthems ever. It’s strikingly confrontational in comparison to what other bands were singing at the time, although I can just imagine the reaction to be had in 1965 if Daltrey had subbed in an actual “FUCK OFF” at a live show.

But that mod bitterness isn’t present on all the songs. Stuff like “La-La-La-Lies” is as light and poppy as what The Beatles were doing around that time, even if it does sound a lot more streetwise. It’s a strange contrast, but that’s a large part of the charm of this album for me. The gradient shifts more toward grittiness with “The Good’s Gone”, one of my personal favorites. The repetitive, morose “the good’s goooooone” droning of the chorus, almost a chant, and the sneering verses all sound fantastic alongside those dark, grinding riffs.

“The Kids Are Alright” takes things in a different direction with its warm harmonies and more measured delivery, but rest assured the energy and the Mod cynicism are still there. It’s a smooth, infectious song right from the opening chord, and to this day its young Mod spirit remains almost as immortal as that of “My Generation”. “The Ox” is another gem: Keith may seem to dominate the song with his manic thrashing and crashing, but the interplay between guest star Nicky Hopkins (always a treat) and the growling bass of the Ox himself is an exquisite sort of controlled chaos. Then there are some funny throwaways like “It’s Not True” and “A Legal Matter”, which are entertaining enough despite having less depth than the other tracks.

It’s striking to note, after years of listening to classics like “Behind Blue Eyes”, just how obvious the R ‘n B influence is all over this album. Sure, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones took a lot of cues from the genre themselves, but these guys took in rhythm and blues as the main template for their sound, and nowhere is that more obvious than on the debut. The band would morph away from the raw sound of this album soon enough, but the spirit would only continue to grow, and the roots would remain for a good long time.

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LONGWAVE – The Strangest Things (2003)

Review by: Jeremiah Methven
Album assigned by: Jake Myers

Rating: 4/10
Best Song: “Everywhere You Turn”

Well, I suppose when you review albums outside of what you would normally listen to, you’re not always going to be that fond of what you hear. My initial Google search of Longwave suggested they would be a shoegaze group – I suppose this is true, but it’s a very radio-friendly, polished version of shoegaze, and not really in a good way in my eyes. Admittedly, I don’t have much familiarity with the genre outside of My Bloody Valentine. But where MBV at their best aimed to assault the listener with visceral yet eerily beautiful noise, Longwave’s guitar drones are pushed into the background to emphasize the reedy voice of singer Steve Schiltz, who sounds like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Between the production and singing, it can’t help but sound like fairly generic alt-rock circa 2003 with shoegaze guitars added in.

Honestly, on first listen I thought this album was pretty dire and that I was going to be giving it a rating like a 2. The overall sound is just not one that really appeals to me. But although I still don’t really like this album, multiple listens did bring some out of the positives. The first two tracks strike me as overall solid and memorable – “Wake Me When It’s Over” has a fairly lengthy atmospheric build-up, but generally lives up to it with a catchy chorus, and “Everywhere You Turn” borders on being a cheesy anthem, but it has some energy and genuine sincerity with its falsetto chorus, so I think it’s a keeper. 

From there, it gets a bit more dicey. “I Know It’s Coming Someday” has another memorable chorus, but is a little too anthem-by-the-numbers for my liking. The other slower songs like “Meet Me at the Bottom” and the title track are busts – Longwave is much more listenable to me when they play uptempo. When they go slow, Schiltz’s delivery is cringe-worthy to my ears, with the part in “Meet Me at the Bottom” where he sings “they’ve got you by the balls” being a particular low moment. The rest all follows the same basic formula of generic alt-pop songs with droning guitars added in and varying between pleasant decency to generic mediocrity. 

Overall, there are some things to like here, but this doesn’t just seem like music that has stood the test of time to me. It takes me back to my early adolescent days before I discovered the Beatles and only listened to ‘alternative’ college radio that played lots of bands like Our Lady Peace, and I’d prefer not to be taken back to those days. I suppose if I’m being generous, I could say they were aiming for a poppier take on shoegaze, but the overall result to me is a bland, watered-down version that veers far closer to radio-friendly ‘alternative’ bands of ill repute than to bands like MBV.

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THE PEELS – The Peels (2005)

Review by: Jonathan Hopkins
Album assigned by: Jake Myers

I knew exactly what this album was going to sound like as soon as I saw the album cover. They’re an indie-rock quartet with loud, jagged guitars and a female vocalist who looks and sounds just like Nico.

That’s not quite fair. While the opening song, “Only Son” – where she sounds like some sort of Nico android – made me wary, her vocals throughout are actually very good and varied. It’s just clear who her model is. Other than that, The Peels don’t really offer anything particularly interesting here. All of the songs sound almost exactly the same, with the same post-Pixies “quirk-punk” indie guitar tones and bass lines I’ve heard a million times. It’s not bad, and every song sounds perfectly fine while it’s on, but almost nothing really sticks with me.

The only song I care to name check is “I Don’t Know,” the one song on here with a different, warmer guitar tone and a great power-pop riff. This is going to be my one take away from this album, the only thing I’ll probably come back to. I really fell in love with this song, and it was worth it to listen to the album just to gain that.

There really aren’t any other individual songs to talk about, in my opinion. It’s a very short album – actually just an EP – and the only thing The Peels managed to record. Seek out “I Don’t Know,” and if you’re a huge indie-rock fan, you’ll probably enjoy the rest as well.

In conclusion, it’s basically fine, but Wire did everything this album did but better.

Rating: B-

KOOP – Waltz for Koop (2001)

Review by: Jake Myers
Album assigned by: Jared Walske

Is any of this actually a waltz?  I mean, the rhythms feel pretty jazzy, but that classification just seems like a cop-out when there is so much more going on here.  Suffice it to say that such an intriguing fusion of jazz, world music, and electronic stylings is enough to interest a relative Philistine like me.  I know nothing about any of those genres, though, so pardon the myriad of ignorant comments I am bound to unwittingly make.
There is not a striking amount of variety on this album, but that’s only a problem when you have a hard time making it from the first song to the last without breaks.  No, this one actually benefits from the more subtle variations in its sound.  The consistency allows the album to flow as an unbroken stream of thought and feeling.  And that feeling, I’d say, is the feeling of lying back in a classy bar in some exotic land, maybe indulging in some slow and easy sort of hedonism, while still able to contemplate the deepest metaphysical musings of the guru across the room.
There are some really groovy segments, like the flute breakdowns in “Baby”, that are sure to remind the prog aficionados such as myself of similarly great moments in the Jethro Tull and early King Crimson catalogues.  There are the lazy numbers like “Modal Mile”, which remind me a lot of Soul Coughing—hell, the vocalist even sounds kinda like Mike Doughty.  And check out how in “Relaxing at Club Fusion”, they manage to marry a modern electronic beat with the smooth classic wandering of that saxophone, all with those minimalist verses drifting in and out.  Subtleties, again, but how rewarding those can be.
The prize has to go to “Summer Sun”, though.  That bouncy, carefree, yet knowing melody really is something else, and it’s wonderfully strange how a song (and an album, for that matter) can sound like both the past and the future at the same time.       8/10