Hey, welcome to my "guide" to a few of my favorite rock and pop records. This isn't a definitive list, by any means, just some random comments about a few records that have stood out over the years, or that I've found the time to review.
This page covers the letter "C."
Carey's Problem "Arena Of Shame" (Problemsongs, 1990)
A disturbing (and slightly gimmicky) art-punk concept album about teenage depression, sexual abuse, bulemia and other fun topics. The first track, "Led Zeppelin," is a stone cold classic, with shrill-voiced Lisa Jenio deadpanning way through a teenage girl's laconic praise of Jimmy, Robert and the boys. Oh, and Satan, too. The first few songs are pretty effective, and hardly stay on the same novelty note as the opener -- "Doctor, please help me, my baby's hurt!" screams an abusive parent, who shakes, burns and beats the crying child into silence, while elsewhere she recounts all the things she throws up in a day's time, from the food in her lunch to the various hypocrisies of the adult world. After the first few songs, though, the album loses its edge, and becomes a bit more of a grind. A cult classic, though, and worth looking for, if you can find it. (And check it out: the album can still be found through Carey Burtt at MrRemover@aol.com)
The Chills - see: New Zealand "kiwipop" guide
Allen Clapp "One Hundred Percent Chance Of Rain" (Bus Stop, 1993)
A hometown hero of the San Francisco Bay Area. Not all the songs on here are great, but the ones that stand out are just so gosh-darn cute and captivating that this record set a permanent soft spot in my already-mooshy heart. The real "hit" is "Something Strange Happens", a gloriously imperfect pop song, defined by a gleefully off-rhythm drum machine along with Clapp's near-falsetto, dog-whistle vocals (I was astounded when I met him to find out it wasn't a woman singing on that track...!) Clapp exemplifies all that is right about indiepop DIY: you can have moments of magic without worrying about getting everything right or being cool. It's also the sort of record that, if he'd taken a moment or two longer to think about it, he probably never would have put out, which only enhances it's fragile charm. (Note to Orange Peel fans and miscellaneous audio-phreaks: the mix on the original LP and on all subsequent CD editions is very, very different. "Something Strange Happens" in particular sounds a lot cooler on the first mix...) (Also see: The Orange Peels)
The Clean - see: New Zealand "kiwipop" guide
Elvis Costello "King Of America" (Rykodisc, 1986)
When this record first came out, I really loved it, but now I guess I consider it sort of a guilty pleasure... The music, which tends towards the rootsy and country-billyish end of the spectrum, is right up my alley, yet admittedly a bit cartoonish and poppy, taking the simplest, most satisfying melodic route, the seemingly straightest line between elliptical points. Of course, in Costello's case, such simplicity can be deceptive, and the lyrics are the daggers that he drives in. Again, though, the songs, though I like them, seem more like flashy parlour tricks than spine-shivering classics. He just makes it all seem so easy, that you have to doubt your instincts when he offers something so straightforwardly pleasing. There are some great songs on here, particularly "Our Little Angel," the arch "Brilliant Mistake" (a song about the nature of fame that is sort of the title track...), "Jack Of All Parades" and the rockabilly workout "The Big Light," which, appropriately enough, was covered the next year by ">Johnny Cash, whose original style the song was modeled on. Other songs, however, reveal the cotton-candyish, Stray Cats-y nature of the production, and overall I guess I have to admit that on some deep level this album is a bit bubblegummy and ephemeral. I still like singing along to it, though, and it's still one of my favorites.
The Creation "Volume One: Making Time" (Retroactive, 1999)
The Creation "Volume Two: Biff Bang Pow!" (Retroactive, 1999)
One of the most justifiably beloved of the old '60s British Mod bands, these guys took their cues equally from the Who and Hendrix, as well as the Kinks. A sluggish rhythm section is probably what kept them from being full-on first-stringers, but where they lacked in precision, they made up for in derision -- in addition to Ray Davies-style cultural commentary ("Painter Man", "Life Is Just Beginning"...), Creation also had the distinction of being one of the first bands to take on what would (later) become the trademarked Brit condescension towards the more credulous aspects of the blooming drug culture being imported from the States. On "Can I Join Your Band?" they mock the stoned-out "hippie guys" that all wanted to be rocknroll stars, while "Through My Eyes" both embraces and makes light of the messianic fervor of early psychedelic culture. Their arch, dry humor set the Creation up as forerunners of the present crop of Britpop cynics -- Oasis, Blur, etc -- and make them one of the best bands to revisit from the old days. Both these CDs have plenty of alternate stereo and mono mixes, as well as live material, sure to set fans in a tizzy, updating their collections. Fun stuff!
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