Monday, August 18, 2008

Paleontology for Dullards: Special All Creep Edition!

"Paleontology for Dullards" rates records I've found in used LP bins by assigning them a cash value. For further explanation, please see my original post here.

KISS Double Platinum
Let's forget for a moment everything imminently abhorrent about KISS, namely the grandiosely stupid spectacle, the unsurpassed greed and sleaziness of Mr Chaim Witz, and their influence on a generation of misguided cock-rockers. (You didn't think the Poisons and Warrants of the world were really into Sabbath, did you?) The music of KISS in their prime is basically a dumbed down variation of the dumber branch of British glam i.e. Slade, Sweet, et al. This isn't an entirely bad thing as the group could spit out worthy bits of hard rock from time to time. Enough to justify a 30 plus year career? Not really. Enough to justify this double LP sampler of their glory years? Almost. You would think a band with legions of devoted (for reasons that continue to bemuse me) fans could distill their first six(!) albums into an all-killer, no-filler collection. Songs like "Deuce," the Faces-sound-a-like "Hard Luck Woman" and even the "disco" remake of "Strutter" pack genuine wallop but too often KISS grins when they should growl. Case in point, title-track from Hotter Than Hell starts with a nasty riff but moves into a total limp-dick chorus lacking any impact whatsoever. I know the music is only part of the KISS experience but Alice Cooper managed to have the theatrics and the tunes. Double Platinum is probably as much KISS music as I, or anyone else with a degree of taste, will ever need. Wait... no "Plaster Caster?" Dammit!
Price paid: $8 Rating: 37.5%

David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name
1971 debut solo album from the crack-smoking, menage-a-trios-endorsing, Crazy-Horse-hating, gun-toting, Roseanne-guest-starring, liver-stealing, sperm-donating, beautifully-harmonizing former Byrd and CSNY member. Crosby is backed by what seems like the entire state of California circa 1970 including members of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead as well as Nash and Young. (No Stills though.) Man, the drugs at this session must've been good. The ambiance is that of doing enough coke to keep the jams going all night long but smoking enough grass to keep the vibe sufficiently mellow. It almost feels Skip Spence's Oar except played by pros instead of a crackpot. Songs like "Laughing" are engrossing darkly mellow psych and others like "Traction in the Rain" succeed on the strengths of Crosby's vocal and compositional skills. There are times when the vapid hippie sentiment is a bit stomach-turning ("Music Is Love?" Whatever you say, David) but mostly the music and particularly the harmonies and strong enough to power through it. And nothing here is quite as egregious as "Mind Gardens."
Price paid: $8 Rating: 62.5%

Graham Parker and the Rumor Squeezing Out Sparks
Not so much an creep as a crabby jerk, I've always found Graham Parker to have a conservative streak when compared to his pub-rock-gone-new-wave contemporaries. While other members of the new wave pushed boundaries, Parker is happy to offer traditionalist R&B-based rock. There's nothing on Squeezing Out Sparks that would sound particularly out of place on a Springsteen album. While that isn't exactly as formally exciting as say, Desperate Bicycles, it's hard to complain when Parker writes a set of songs as potent as this. Capably backed by pub rock vets the Rumor, Parker rocks out with abandon on the first three cuts, delivering hooks that are catchy and memorable without blunting his sardonic edge. After that is what might be Parker's most controversial song, the abortion ballad "You Can't Be Too Strong." While it deals with the personal rather than political, it's unlikely to be a big favorite with the pro-choice crowd. Still, it's inarguably affecting. Side 1 is capped with the forceful "Passion is No Ordinary Word" and while side 2 doesn't scale the heights of the first half it's still a solid set of tunes. If only he didn't wear those stupid sunglasses. Nothing worse than a square that's trying too hard.
Price paid: $0.70 Rating: 100%

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