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After two live albums, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade was renamed The Les Claypool Frog Brigade, a more definite title for what would be the group's sole studio album, Purple Onion. Released September 24th, 2002, I don't remember playing this much on my radio show at the time. It was on WAIH's playlist though, and somehow a copy made it into my CD collection.

The one song I do remember is track two, "David Makalaster," which follows the eponymous opener. It's catchy as hell, with bouncy lyrics: "I'm David Makalaster, your ten o'clock newscaster, good evening and here's what's new..."

It's been well over a decade since I gave this disc a listen, and as I reacquaint myself with it, I can't help but to think that this sounds like a Primus album. There are fewer nods to the jam band scene and a whole lot of tighter – albeit still experimental – rock songs on the set. The two longest tracks on here are the closers, "David Makalaster II" and "Cosmic Highway," neither of which make it past eight minutes.

A lot of guest musicians pay the Frog Brigade a visit on this set. A couple of members of Fishbone, bassist Norwood Fisher and drummer Fish Fisher show up. The former plays with another bassist, Lonnie Marshall (Weapon of Choice) along with Claypool to form a triple bass attack on "D's Diner." Fish leads his rhythm work to "Whamola," a song named after a one-string upright percussive bass. Warren Haynes (of the Allman Brothers Band) lends guitar work to "Buzzards of Green Hill." And Ben Barns and Sam Bass of Deadweight play on numerous Purple Onion songs.

"David Makalaster II" is the pessimistic mirror to "David Makalaster." While the latter is bouncy, optimistic and a bit naïve, part II slows the tempo and declares that the revolution is about to begin as "vengeance is back in style," whereas before "apathy [was] back in style." If you are up for some mood whiplash, play the songs back to back.

Other songs that stood out for me are "Lights in the Sky," "D's Diner" (about an actual place), "Barrington Hall" (about the counterculture dorm at UC Berkeley) and "Ding Dang," a song about how what goes around comes around.

Purple Onion closes with "Cosmic Highway," the most Phish-y thing on this set. It's a good closer, even if it does look back to the two Live Frogs albums. Of course, it could be said that the rest of the disc looks back even further more often than not, to the days of Primus. Considering that Primus never broke up, but merely went on hiatus, it could be said that this is looking forwards as well. The group began playing together again in 2003, eventually deciding to record another album in 2011.

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Throughout the 1990s Primus was a college radio staple. You couldn't scan the left of the dial without running into "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" or "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver." Primus was a more demented Red Hot Chili Peppers – in other words, perfect for college radio. They lasted from 1986 until 2000. During that time, bassist Les Claypool released one solo album in 1996 entitled Highball With the Devil under the moniker Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel.

During the summer of 2000, Claypool collaborated with Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Stewart Copeland (The Police) to form Oysterhead. The group's sole LP, The Grand Pecking Order was released October 2nd, 2001. There was a brief tour in support of the album and the group subsequently disbanded afterwards, having a one-off reunion five years later.

And with that we come to what, on the cover of the CD case, is Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. On the edge of the jewel case, it is simply Les Claypool's Frog Brigade - Live Frogs: Set 1. The Frog Brigade actually came together during the Oysterhead year(s), as both "sets" (there were a total of two released) were recorded over two days at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in October of 2000.

Live Frogs: Set 2 is Pink Floyd's 1977 LP Animals covered in it's entirety. I don't own a copy since I have Pink Floyd's original and am disinclined to revisit another band performing what I consider to be an already perfect set of songs. The Frogs do get into Pink Floyd on set 1 however, as the disc closes with their rendition of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."

The glut of Pink Floyd reverence should tell you where we are at here. If you are still confused, the opening song, a cover of King Crimson's "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and the extended running times of each track (only one song is less than six minutes long) should lay any doubt to rest. This is jam-band prog-land. As an aside, there is one final cover: in the middle of the Sausage's "Shattering Song," a couple of verses from the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" pop up during an extended jam.

Incidentally, for those who are confused, Sausage was Primus before their line-up solidified. They get three songs on this set: "Riddles Are Abound Tonight," "Shattering Song" and "Girls For Single Men." Filling out the five originals here are two Holy Mackerel pieces: "Hendershot" and "Running The Gauntlet."

When this disc made WAIH's playlist (because I put it there), I chose "Riddles Are Abound Tonight" to play on the morning show – namely because there wasn't enough time to play anything else in that time slot. Extended jam pieces are great for dorm room listening, but not so great on the radio during drive time.

Admittedly, I haven't listened to this disc much since its initial release. In fact, I almost forget I have it until I come across it when I rearrange my music collection. It's not that I dislike what I'm hearing or think it's a bad set of songs – not at all. The musicianship on Live Frogs is excellent. If it weren't for the occasional crowd noises and Les Claypool's stage banter, I'd swear this was a studio album – that's how tight this band is.

If anything, it's constraints on my time which keep me from putting on a set of headphones and zoning out to prog rock and jam band music...and perhaps that I'm not a pot smoker has something to do with it too. If I brought CDs into work, that is probably where I'd put this set on if I felt inclined to. When I don't have music to listen to at work – even something in the background to give me a baseline to "white noise" to hang onto, it makes work less pleasant than it already is. Thankfully the era of having to cart CDs to the job has passed and I can stream music from internet radio stations (I've always avoided commercial broadcast radio if possible, for reasons which should be obvious). records scrobbles by Les Claypool's Frog Brigade simply as Les Claypool. I imagine that this is for simplicity's sake. I can see myself doing the same thing if I was importing Claypool's non-Primus work into a radio automation system, since this type of software makes sure artists are time separated based on the exact name entered into the field.

Live Frogs: Set 1 closes with Les Claypool saying, "we'll be back into twenty minutes with more Pink Floyd than any human being should ever withstand." A cheer goes up in the crowd and then fades out to end the disc. Perhaps if I ever find it cheap in the used bin, I will buy a copy of Live Frogs: Set 2 just to complete my collection and to revisit it since I haven't actually heard it in fifteen years. Les Claypool's Frogs had three LPs in total: the two live sets and one studio disc entitled Purple Onion. Two-thirds of their discography resides on my CD rack.

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With only six proper studio LPs spanning 1977-1985, it's not difficult to complete a basic collection of music by The Clash. This is one of those moments where I look at my music collection and think, "well, I've dropped the ball on this one." I quite enjoy this band's music and really should have all of their albums, but for whatever reason I've yet to take the plunge and just buy the fucking CDs already. So, The Essential Clash is the only set in my collection – a two disc compilation album collecting 40 tracks of previously released material.

It makes sense that Sony Music would include The Clash in their Essential series. For one thing, the band has always been signed to the label or one of their imprints. Furthermore, they never had an album that did go at least gold. The 1985 swan song, Cut The Crap even went silver, 1979's London Calling went platinum and 1982's Combat Rock went double platinum. Not bad for four punks from England.

For me, a good compilation is one which complements and completes the rest of one's music collection. When I am looking to put together everything possible of what a group has released commercially, I try to find a set which fills in the gaps first and foremost. To this end, I prefer singles compilations which include non-LP releases and B-sides. Unfortunately, this care and attention wasn't part of the equation when I bought Essential from a used bin somewhere ten years ago, but apparently I got lucky as this compilation collects all of the singles (albeit lacking in many B-sides) along with significant LP cuts and places them in chronological order. As such, I'm going to keep this in my collection even when I do get around to buying those six proper LPs (along with Black Market Clash and Super Black Market Clash).

So, we begin Essential in 1977. More than the first half of disc one is devoted to songs from The Clash (jumping back and forth between the US and UK versions of the LP). In all, thirteen tracks on Essential come from this LP or singles culled from it, making it the most represented here. Give 'Em Enough Rope gets five songs represented and the remaining two tracks – "Capitol Radio One" and "Groovy Times" were originally compiled on Black Market Clash and Super Black Market Clash, respectively.

Growing up, I'd never heard anything from disc one of Essential. It was songs from disc two that got played on the radio stations I listed to in Northern New York. In Potsdam, New York's college radio community, it seemed to be the same way. One of the more frustrating things I faced as music director was getting newbies to break out of their top 40 induced torpor, which happened more often than not. Regardless, and speaking of top 40, the first song I'd ever heard by The Clash came because I was watching VH1's A to Z music video marathon. They had given lip service to the group by playing "Rock The Casbah."

"London Calling," which opens disc two, has been a Pittsburgh club favourite for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't remember another Clash song being played at a club in the city for as long as I've lived here. There have been times when I thought "Straight To Hell" was being started up only to discover that I was actually hearing M.I.A.'s Clash-sampling "Paper Planes." I found that quite annoying, actually. Sampling, when done right, doesn't fool the listener into thinking they are about to hear the original song.

The London Calling LP, originally released as a two-record set in 1979, gets seven tracks on Essential. 1980's triple LP Sandinista! gets five songs on the set. The Clash's biggest seller, the 1982 LP Combat Rock gets four songs. The compilation ends with only one song from the 1985 epilogue, Cut The Crap:a ride into the sunset entitled "This Is England."

I have to admit that I possess a bit of a morbid fascination with hearing Cut The Crap at least once. I've heard time and time again that it is a terrible album. It probably is. The group was falling apart at the time and Mick Jones, their primary songwriter had been sacked by Joe Strummer. I imagine that it sounds like decay. Hell, "This Is England" sounds like a studio baby more than anything a cohesive band would come up with – good track, well-produced, but probably should have been credited to any other musicians than The Clash.

Would it have been so far-fetched to think of "This Is England" truly being a Clash song though? One of the reasons Strummer sacked Jones was over musical differences, specifically Jones' desire to integrate the dreaded keyboard into The Clash's music. Yes, the keyboard, tool of wussy new wave musicians like Depeche Mode and New Order and Public Image Ltd. The keyboard would have surely destroyed everything The Clash stood for!

Sarcasm aside, I suspect that excuses were simply being made for what was likely an inevitable break up and the keyboard provided a convenient, if weak, scapegoat. Regardless, Mick Jones went on to form Big Audio Dynamite, who released their debut LP the same year as The Clash released their final LP.

So, I've learned something new today. Did you know that "This Is Radio Clash" and "Radio Clash" are technically two different songs? Yep. Somebody put the dirt on Wikipedia:

The B-side recording titled "Radio Clash" was accidentally released on the US version of this album with the incorrect A-side title of "This Is Radio Clash", much like it had been on Super Black Market Clash. Both tracks have the same length and the only notable difference is in the two mixes and the lyrics. (They also feature an un-credited performance by Gary Barnacle on Electric Saxophone). The similarities of the titles and the recordings has led to quite a bit of confusion not only by fans but by record companies as well. The two songs can be identified by the opening lyrics. "This Is Radio Clash" begins with "This is radio clash on pirate satellite, Orbiting your living room, cashing in the bill of rights" and "Radio Clash" begins with "This is radio clash resuming of transmission, beaming from the mountain tops using aural ammunition." Apart from these two compilations, every other compilation (including the European version of "The Essential Clash") where "This Is Radio Clash" is listed on the sleeve includes the original song rather than its similarly titled B-side.

Since I have the US version of Essential, I'm hearing "Radio Clash" mislabelled as "This Is Radio Clash." I can't correct the track listing on the liners of the disc, but you can bet that I've fixed the tag on my MP3 copy of the song.

The Essential Clash was released in the United States on March 11th, 2003. Joe Strummer had died in December of the previous year, an event which is mentioned in the liner notes of the compilation. Between 1985 and his 2002 death, he'd remained active in music as well as adding some film work to his resume. Mick Jones went on to form Big Audio Dynamite, which has had a rotating group of members (as well as variations on the name of the group) since their inception. He remains active in music, albeit not always with Big Audio Dynamite. Bassist Paul Simonon worked with Damon Albarn (along with Mick Jones) for Gorillaz in 2010 and in 2007 for The Good, The Bad & The Queen. However, he has spent most of his post-Clash career painting. Drummer Topper Headon, long battling drug addiction during his time with The Clash continued to do so afterwards. However, he remained active in music and continues to play, having had and recovered from surgery for hyperkyphosis (a forward curvature of the spine) in 2008.

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Creatures, Clan of Xymox's 8th overall album (and first for Metropolis) opens with "Jasmine and Rose," arguably one of the best songs Ronny Moorings ever penned. Yes, it sounds like a long lost track by The Sisters of Mercy (and yes, Andrew Eldritch can suck my left one and fuck a duck while stewing in his impotent rage over my Goth music comparisons), but that's really to be expected if you've been paying attention up to this point.

It was "Jasmine and Rose" that prompted me to go to one of the local record stores in Potsdam, New York way back in 2000 and special order the disc. The place had recently installed a spiffy self-service system for special order CDs in the form of a massive computer kiosk. I walked over, typed in "Clan of Xymox" into the artist field and the results came back with a selection of every release by the Wu-Tang Clan. With the failure of new technology, the person behind the counter put in an order for the proper disc and I got my CD within a week.

So, what happened between 1985 and 1999 with the group? Well, when they started they were a trio: the aforementioned Ronny Moorings along with Anke Wolbert and Pieter Nooten. Fourteen years later, Moorings was the only remaining original member. The band had also split from 4AD after their second album, going through four different labels before getting signed with Metropolis for Creatures. They remain on the label to this day. Oh, yes – and between 1989 and 1994 the group just went by the name Xymox. I think that if I ever get the rest of the group's discography, everything is getting filed under C, much as I'd love to expand section X of my music collection. It's easier that way.

Speaking of name confusion, there is actually a misprint on the liners of my copy of this CD. On each edge of the inlay card, it reads as follows:


I hope somebody at the label got fired for that one. I also wonder if it ever got corrected. I mean, somebody else should have noticed this in the past fifteen years, right?

So, what does this one sound like? Well, it sounds like a Clan of Xymox album. Basically, if you've heard one, you've more or less heard them all. I don't say this to be insulting, but it's the truth: the crossover appeal for this group is, at best, limited. We are living in the dark, absinthe-drenched, clove-scented batcaves of the eternal 1980s.

Subjectively, I find myself enjoying Creatures more than the self-titled debut. The sounds and song writing, while still derivative, just seems stronger overall. It's still best taken as an over mood piece, but the high points are coming more often. Like Clan of Xymox started strong with "A Day," Creatures also tears up the boot-stomped dance floor with "Jasmine and Rose." After a couple of weaker songs (but not much can stand up to that opener), "Undermined" starts playing, slowly burning it's way through six minutes of wailing angst vocals and searing razor blade guitars. I am being strapped to the rack and stretched and I fucking love the misery I am enduring!

Bring on the heavily reverbed piano for "Consolation" and it's slow-dance time. A bit of humming and a steady 8/8 drumbeat and I feel that it's time to light a scented candle and lay in bed with my lover, weeping about how our relationship is well and truly doomed to fail in the most miserable and tragic way possible.

Can you tell yet that I wasn't particularly happy in my 20s? Truth be told, I'm not particularly happy in my 30s either. Nor was I particularly happy as a teenager, but at that point I'd yet to discover an appropriate soundtrack to fit my moods.

In some ways, Creatures was released at a good time for Clan of Xymox. For a time in the early 1990s, Nirvana and a million plaid-clad imitators had effectively destroyed everything about the music of the 1980s, alternative and otherwise. Much like punk had killed prog rock in the late 1970s, the high theatre and pretentiousness of goth music couldn't withstand the raw and earthy assault of grunge in the early 1990s.

Even so, goth bands started crawling back out of the shadows in the mid to late 1990s. They were never hugely successful – at least not in the United States – but there was certainly an influence at work. I remember heated (and ultimately stupid) arguments over whether or not Marilyn Manson was a goth musician. I still say no, despite much of his shtick being stolen from Christian Death. If black eyeliner makes one a goth musician, then self-abuse onstage makes one Iggy Pop as well. Marilyn Manson is no Iggy Pop.

Legitimately though, there was London After Midnight, Switchblade Symphony, Rosetta Stone, and so on...and then, Clan of Xymox, surviving the 1980s to continue recording and releasing albums throughout the 1990s. In fact, they continued to release albums through the first decade of the new millennium. There is an indication that the body is showing signs of decay though: the most recent Clan of Xymox album, 2012's Kindred Spirits is a collection of covers. Such a move usually gets the attention of the vultures and obituary writers begin checking to see that the ink in their typewriter ribbons hasn't dried.

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In this, Off the Rack's 100th entry, we move from a band who sounded like they should have been signed to 4AD in the 1980s to a band who actually was signed to 4AD in the 1980s. No, we've yet to get to the Cocteau Twins, but instead their labelmates Clan of Xymox (sometimes just Xymox).

Activate the WABAC machine: the year is 1985. Two years prior, Xymox had independently released a teaser EP entitled Subsequent Pleasures. 500 copies of the record were pressed, and apparently the band, dissatisfied with the result, destroyed as many as they could get their hands on not long afterwards. Of the five songs on the EP, "Moscovite Musquito" (retitled "Muscoviet Musquito") made it onto Clan of Xymox's 1985 self-titled debut (but only the compact disc). A decade later, the original EP would see a number of CD reissues with various additional tracks tacked on.

I don't remember when exactly I bought this disc, but I know I got it used online. My copy is actually a promo disc (you can tell because the UPC code has a hole punched in it – a typical label method of marking discs that aren't for retail). Despite that, it still has all of the liner notes, such as they are. Included in the two page booklet is a track listing and production and performance credits, all in a damn-near illegible font. Thankfully, the track listing is printed on the disc itself in a much more readable all-lowercase Times New Roman.

I see Clan of Xymox as a time capsule. What else came out in 1985? The list includes Low-Life by New Order, The Head on the Door by The Cure and First and Last and Always by The Sisters of Mercy. Siouxsie & the Banshees wouldn't release Tinderbox until 1986 (Hyaena came out in 1984) and the first full-length by Fields of the Nephilim wouldn't arrive for another year either. This self-titled debut by Clan of Xymox sounds like all of these albums!

So, the group can't be called original, but they did what any good pop band does: appropriate the best and most accessible of what has already been done by the innovative and serve it up for consumption by a mass audience. Of course, in this context, it's a bit odd to be using the term "mass audience," because Clan of Xymox is firmly planted in their niche. This is a Goth club record, no cutting it and serving it any other way.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. This is not a disc I can listen to all the way through. When the band fuses their influences with their pop sensibilities as on "A Day," "Cry in the Wind" and "Stranger," the results are nothing short of brilliant, even when you can pick apart the songs and identify what came from where. "7th Time" rightly got John Peel's personal seal of approval. Other tracks – "Stumble and Fall" and "Equal Ways" – sound like ABC if the duo had been abducted and forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to watch films of kittens being drowned.

The original vinyl LP had eight songs on it, with each side starting very strongly ("A Day" opens side A, "Stranger" opens side B). "No Human Can Drown" is a lovely bit of moodiness which originally closed the LP…and as far as I'm concerned, should have been about two minutes longer instead of fading out after only three and a half. However, the CD I have tacks three tracks onto the end: "Moscoviet Musquito" and two remixes. "Stranger" loses two minutes in remix form while "A Day" gains nearly three. The former is good for radio programmers, the latter good for club DJs needing a piss break. Neither remix was all that necessary of an addition.

My first introduction to Clan of Xymox was actually through a compilation I picked up on a whim: Gothic Club Classics, Vol. 1. "Louise," originally from the band's 1986 set Medusa was included on that compilation. While that song didn't inspire me to go out and grab the group's entire discography (or even the album it originally came from), it was enough that when Clan of Xymox released a live album in 2000 (simply entitled Live), I slotted it into WAIH's new music rotation.

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Released four years after Time and the Maiden, but only two years after Claire Voyant was signed to Metropolis Records, Love Is Blind is the group's third studio album. The official release date was September 24th, 2002 and judging by Metropolis' failure to send a copy to WAIH, the label didn't seem to have any interest in promoting it like they did the remix disc Time Again. CMJ Weekly seemed to have lost interest in the group as well, as there was no mention of a new album in their hallowed and influential pages.

I found out from my then long-distance girlfriend that Claire Voyant had released a new album and ended up having to special order it from the local CD store. It's a shame that the label didn't push this harder – if at all, but then again Metropolis tends more towards grinding beats than gossamer beauty. For people like me who mope about that the Cocteau Twins are no longer releasing records, this is manna from heaven.

The album opens with "Pieces," which is probably the most dancefloor-friendly thing Claire Voyant ever recorded before the remixers got their hands on any of their songs. "Twenty-Four Years" brings them back to the mid-tempo grandeur of their previous albums and we stay there through "Mirror," "Abyss" and "Silence" (not a cover of the Delerium/Sarah McLachlan collaboration).

If we are to divide the ten songs of Love Is Blind like a record, "Silence" would close the first half with a bit of high drama. Victoria Lloyd's voice reaches into the heavens while strings and backing "ahhs" pulse and push through the majority of the song. It is what vinyl aficionados would refer to as a "side-turner."

We sway back into more melancholy moods with the second half opener, "He Is Here," but then the band takes an unexpected turn with "Close To Me" (not a cover of The Cure). It's a somewhat unusual song for Claire Voyant, their usual Cocteau Twins vibe sounding like it was invaded by Garbage and then Santigold broke into the studio to mash portions of "L.E.S. Artistes" in there. My DJ brain says that this one would be good to put on at the club when people have gotten a drink or two in and a few early pioneers are starting to wander towards the dance floor.

The title cut, "Love Is Blind," closes the set in an understated manner. Lloyd is almost whispering through most of the song. It sounds like she is writing a letter to a lover who may be there in person, but who emotionally may as well be lost in space. Who hasn't been there?

To date, Claire Voyant has released one more album: 2009's Lustre. Seven years is a long gap between albums and I should probably grab this one before it goes out of print. The band seems to have been on hiatus since 2010, with only sparse Twitter and Facebook posts to indicate any signs of life.

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Sometime in the Spring of 2001, I was sitting in the office at WAIH, thumbing through CMJ Weekly when I spotted a review for Claire Voyant's Time and the Maiden. The Cocteau Twins and 4AD Records in general were name-dropped and I gave the Metropolis Records college radio promotions department a call to ask for a copy to be sent.

As it turned out, Time and the Maiden was actually a reissue, having originally been released on the band's own Nocturne Records in 1998. The Metropolis version tacks on two remixes and a previously unreleased song. It was also not the record they were promoting at the time, that actually being the remix CD Time Again. Regardless, the label sent both Time and the Maiden and Time Again to WAIH with the expectation that the latter disc would be charted. Diligent as a music director, Time Again was put on the RPM playlist and did get a good amount of play. Personally though, I've never been terribly fond of most remixes, so an album full of them didn't do much for me. But Time and the Maiden damn near immediately because one of my favourite albums.

The group consists of three members: Benjamin Fargen (guitars), Chris Ross (keyboards, programming) and lead vocalist Victoria Lloyd. It's pretty simple really, if you like the Cocteau Twins, Lush or The Sundays, you should like this group. Here we find ourselves comfortably located in the land of lush, beautiful, haunting dreampop. When I first purchased this CD, I remember many nights where I'd put it on repeat play in my CD player and just let it wash over me.

When I had an RPM playlist slot to fill during my radio show, I'd give something off of Time Again a spin, but otherwise, I was playing songs from Time and the Maiden. "Iolite," in particular, got heavily played on my show.

In all honesty, I think the remixes on Time Again destroyed most of these songs. The staff at must be smoking some crazy crack to think Time Again warrants 4½ stars while Time and the Maiden only gets 3 stars. A grave injustice, I say!

Time and the Maiden is Claire Voyant's second album. The group's self-titled debut was released in 1995 on Nocturne, reissued in 1998 on Hyperium and reissued once more in 2000 on Accession. Each reissue changed the cover art – collect all three? Good luck if you can get your hands on one copy though. I've never been able to get my hands on a copy of the disc and it currently seems to be out of print (again). is offering the album as a digital download, which to me is like only owning half an album. I refuse to purchase MP3s, which as far as I am concerned are what you get when you rip a CD to your computer, not something that one should acquire divorced from the physical media they are derived from. Frustratingly, as of this writing, if you want that physical CD, expect to pay at least $26.39 or as much as $55.99 to get a used copy. While I want a copy of the album, that is just not in my price range. A CD should never cost more than $10 (and a used CD should cost less than that).

As originally produced, "Blinking Tears" closed the album. However, my copy is the Metropolis reissue. As such, there are three additional tracks to listen to. I like having "Instinct," as it would otherwise be unavailable but I question the need for remixes. Unlike most of the grafted beats which plagued Time Again, these two mixes don't bother me as much. The "low mix" of "Love The Giver" makes Claire Voyant sound like Switchblade Symphony, though between Victoria Lloyd and Tina Root, there should be no question as to whom is the better singer. Meanwhile, the "bitter mix" of "Bittersweet" gives the original song a similar understated treatment.

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Released in 2003, seven years after Magician Among The Spirits, Forget Yourself is the last album by The Church currently residing in my music collection. Obviously I have some major gaps in my collection when it comes to The Church's studio output. Forget Yourself is the band's thirteenth studio album, and there are three LPs between it and Magician. Since then, the band released seven more albums, for a grand total of 20 studio records overall – a daunting prospect for anyone new to the group trying to penetrate their catalogue.

I don't remember exactly when or where I got this album. It wasn't long after I'd moved to Pittsburgh and I think I was at some big box store where I saw the disc sitting on the shelf. Every other detail is blurry, but I do recall thinking, " CD by The Church. I've already got Starfish and Gold Afternoon Fix...guess I'll check this one out." That's the last time I can recall purchasing a CD as an impulse buy. It was probably the last time I bought a CD at any sort of chain store too.

I have no particular fond recollections of chain store CD purchases. Even then I knew I was being ripped off. As far as I'm concerned, a CD should never cost more than $10. If some of the prices I've seen at merch tables lately are any indication, I'm a musician with a minority opinion in that regard. Perhaps I'm a sucker who should just be charging more for merch when I play a show.

Forget Yourself took three months to record, and is an album of few overdubs. By the time of its release, The Church had become accustomed to "jamming out" new releases for nearly a decade. The result is something a little less polished, a little more immediate, a little more raw. "Song In Space" was the single from this one, but album opener "Sealine" could have easily taken its place. The two songs go well together – and, indeed, they do as track one and two.

It has been a while since I've given this a listen and playing it again for the first time, "Lay Low" sticks out from the rest of the tracks. The song is like a harder rocking "Terra Nova Cain" without alien abduction subplot. It fits surprisingly well with the more downbeat, shimmery "Maya."

In case you've ever been curious, there are times when I'll stop writing these pieces and just listen to the record as it plays for a while before I resume typing. I generally try to write whatever I'm going to write within the duration of the album it relates to. On occasion (The Jim Carroll Band's Catholic Boy, for example), I've played an album through more than once as I write about it. At 63 minutes, Forget Yourself is pretty generous with the listening/writing time.

That said, I've made it up to "Don't You Fall" (track 10). I like the song, but I can't shake the feeling that I've heard it somewhere else before. Obviously I heard it when I've listened to the album in the past, but I feel like I heard it in a place divorced from that listening experience. The question is...where? It's actually irritating me a bit that I can't remember where else I've heard the song. Was it a TV show? Was it playing at some restaurant or coffee shop that I visited? Did I hear it in the car on a long trip skipping around on the left side of the FM dial? I bet I'll remember five minutes after I close this entry – or perhaps never at all.

In any case, someone looking for The Church to sound as close to "Under The Milky Way" as they will ever come again will find it in "Don't You Fall."

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Here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is primary election day. If you are registered with a political party, go forth and choose your standard bearer for the November general election. If you aren't registered with a political party, see if you've a special election or ballot question in your district needing your vote. is where I recommend you get your election overview. Polls open at 7:00AM and don't close until 8:00PM - a full thirteen hours to participate in the democratic process! Here are my Democratic Party picks for my corner of the Keystone State:

Governor of Pennsylvania

Tom Wolf for Governor

State House Representative: District 36

Erin Molchany for PA 36

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At the center of the cover art is a framed photo negative of Harry Houdini. The title is a reference to Houdini's experiences with the supernatural. The year was 1996 and Magician Among The Spirits was the first album The Church recorded and released after their contract with Arista was fulfilled (and not renewed). If things had gone bad when Gold Afternoon Fix was being recorded and released, apparently things were worse with Magician - to the point where, apparently, some members of the band disown the release.

Although not to the point that it didn't get the reissue treatment. Retitled Magician Among The Spirits And Some (or Plus Some, depending on where you lived), the reissue removes The Church's cover of Cockney Rebel's "Ritz" and tacks on four originals. My copy of Magician is the original issue, so I haven't heard the four songs that replaced "Ritz," but judging by the intensity of their performance of the song, I really think they should have kept it in the sequence.

This reminds me that I should probably get my hands on a copy of The Psychomodo, the 1974 LP by Cockney Rebel from which "Ritz" originates (it closed side A of the record). Further piquing my interest in the disc is my discovery that, apparently, this was one of two LPs Alan Parsons produced after Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Magician opens, appropriately enough, with a song entitled "Welcome." I find the song hypnotically seductive, something I'd expect to hear late at night on the left of the dial. It's lyrically obtuse, with a list of names – famous and obscure, real and imagined – and a refrain of "we welcome you." Is this some sort of vision of the afterlife? Following track, "Comedown," is a more conventional pop song – quite nice, actually, even if it isn't quite as memorable.

"Ladyboy," which closes the first half of the record flows nicely into "It Could Be Anyone," opening the second. Overall – and especially with these two songs - Magician sounds like the ideas used on "Pharoah" and "Grind" (from Gold Afternoon Fix) were expanded upon and stretched across an entire album. A good direction, I'd say from my personal aesthetic perspective. Not quite ideal though, if a band were asking me how to get a hit on the radio. Stupid commercial hit radio.

Listening through "It Could Be Anyone," I am reminded of Peter Murphy's 2002 album Dust. It's got that same expansive Middle-Eastern vibe. Also, much like that album, it's better listened to all the way through as an atmospheric piece, rather than a collection of potential singles. I suspect at this point, The Church (who had been reduced to two members) were well aware that the days of Starfish were long gone.

If what is written on Wikipedia is true, then the state of The Church at the time of Magician rivalled if not exceeded the frustrations and challenges the group faced during Gold Afternoon Fix. From the free online encyclopedia:

The album was released on the band's own Deep Karma label as Magician Among the Spirits (inspired by the 15-minute, epic title track). Due to financial constraints, the band had to arrange outside distribution for markets in North America and Europe. This limitation almost doomed the album from the beginning, but worse events were to come. Within a short time, the U.S. distributor went bankrupt, leaving the band stripped of its earnings from North American sales. Although exact figures remain unknown due to disputes, up to $250,000 worth of merchandise (some 25,000 discs) was lost. For a band already on shaky foundations, this was nearly the death knell. Comments by Kilbey in May of that year summed up the situation: "There's no immediate future for The Church.....Our management, the whole thing is broken down.....We don't really have a label. We're owed lots and lots of money and we're broke. We're trying to pursue lawyers to get our money back. Marty and I aren't having any communication. There's no one really managing us so.....that could have been the last record."

So...I'm now listening to the title cut. At 14 minutes and 8 seconds, I think it is the longest studio track The Church has ever recorded. The song was originally written as a loose jam session and that feeling was not lost in putting it to tape. I almost feel like I should be taking some mind-altering substance other than coffee as I listen to this. I also wonder why the band didn't just end the album here. If the band wanted the disc to run an even 66 minutes, they could have still accomplished that by placing "After Image" as the second to last track. Then again, that title kind of demands that it end an LP. It's a nice (comparatively) short piano-driven instrumental which doesn't deserve to be excluded.

Incidentally, I've added "Magician Among The Spirits" to my Ten Minutes or More "mix tape" on 8tracks.

While at the time many thought that it may have been the end of the road for the band, The Church continued to release albums into the new millennium. Of those, I own only one.

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Affixed to the front of the jewel case to my copy of Gold Afternoon Fix is a sticker. Upon it is printed the following: "Strawberry Fields $7.79." Strawberry Fields was a music store and coffee house that existed at the corner of Market and Main Street in Potsdam, New York from 1998 until they moved in 2010. A Google search brings up listings for the place at its "new" address, but otherwise no indication that they are actually still open. In any case, I grabbed my copy of the disc from the store's "used bin" sometime in 2004 (I can't remember exactly when). I do know that I'd travelled up to Northern New York for my friends' wedding, a marriage which, upon reflection, lasted as long as The Church's commercial success after Starfish.

Released February 22nd, 1990, Gold Afternoon Fix was The Church's second album for Arista Records and sixth LP overall. Apparently it had a troubled birth – mostly due to executive meddling. It also might not have helped that the group was suffering from internal friction as well – drummer Richard Ploog was out of the band once the album was recorded. Add to that Marty Wilson-Piper having one of his guitars stolen (a 12-string Rickenbacker) and it's enough to irritate and frustrate any band.

Irritation and frustration can make for great music – but one has to get their stupid record label out of the way for anyone to hear it. Arista vetoed the band's decision to hire John Paul Jones to produce the LP, opting to use Waddy Wachtel again. The production isn't poor by any stretch of the imagination, but I wonder what it would have sounded like if the band had been allowed to pursue their vision.

As it stands, Gold Afternoon Fix is a pretty good album but not one that dug it's hooks into me like Starfish did. "Pharoah" opens the set on a grinding, menacing note that is just incredible. Yes! More like this! I think to myself before being plunged into "Metropolis," the first single from the album. Unfortunately, what is actually a good song makes for a poor follow-up to such a strong opener. At the very least, I'd have it swap places in the sequence with the absolutely stunning post-apocalyptic extra-terrestrial fantasy that is "Terra Nova Cain."

Available only on the compact disc version of the album, "Monday Morning" is a lovely little waltz that flows nicely into second single "Russian Autumn Heart." Third single "You're Still Beautiful" sounds like The Church at their cockiest and most sarcastic. It's an interesting song because it stands out as not sounding like anything else the band has ever done, yet still fitting in somehow.

The next song, "Disappointment" sounds like The Church listened to a bunch of records by The Beatles before recording it. In it I hear echoes of "Because," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and a distant call of "Strawberry Fields Forever." At the same time it also seems like the cousin to The Church's own "Destination." It's a bit of a shame that this song doesn't seem to have one…it meanders over six minutes. It could have been a great closer (for side A or side B), but at the tail end of the second third of the album it doesn't quite work.

By the same token, the next song, "Transient" would have been a really good opener for side B, but as the start of the final third of the album I find the transition just jarring.

Gold Afternoon Fix runs for less than a hour, but it feels much longer. Starfish is a tight ten tracks that one breezes right through – the kind of album where you look up and say, "oh? It's over already?" The album's closer, "Grind" is an appropriate finale to the set (mirroring opener "Pharoah") but it takes a bit of determination to get there.

I wonder if Arista had been more hands-off and just let the band do their thing I'd be listening to a tighter, more cohesive album right now. The band themselves have claimed that the rough demos are better than the studio set, so I'd be curious to get my hands on those to give them a listen.

After this, The Church would release two more LPs for Arista, fulfilling their contract with the label. Priest=Aura and Sometime Anywhere didn't get much in the way of label push though. On the upside, there seemed to be less executive meddling after Gold Afternoon Fix however. The Church returned to an indie label for Magician Among the Spirits.

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Singles drive the charts and sales of albums – or at one time they did. In the era of the digital download, every song is a single and I wonder about the relevance of the album anymore. As a musician who has been and remains heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, I don't see a good album as a collection of potential singles so much as I see it as the musician taking the listener on a particular journey. But, let's face it: modern listeners don't like to relinquish the driver's seat. Was shuffle play the beginning of the end?

I don't remember when I bought my copy of Starfish, The Church's 1988 splash into the American top 40 via "Under The Milky Way." I do remember that I first heard the band's sole domestic hit during a music video marathon on VH1. The station was playing some sort of "Videos A to Z" special and the one video by The Church that was in their library snuck in there.

"Under The Milky Way" is the second song on Starfish; between it, opener "Destination," and follower, "Blood Money," they are giving off a very Joshua Tree-era (an LP which was released just a year prior) U2 vibe. But the band is more shoegazy than U2 ever was, leaning a bit more towards the Psychedelic Furs or The House of Love.

Despite being titled after the name of an aquatic creature, Starfish for me, evokes driving through a desert in the middle of the night – or perhaps just before daybreak. Side A, in particular, has a very dreamy atmosphere. "Lost" coupled with "Destination" probably perfectly encapsulate that mood.

I suspect a lot of people my age were introduced to this band via the use of "Under The Milky Way" in the 2001 film Donnie Darko (the soundtrack to which is pretty much a treasure trove of 1980s alternative). I also suspect that people bought the film soundtrack rather than the original albums each song came from.

After "North, South, East and West" dreamily closes side A, side B opens with a bit more rock in "Spark." Then a mandolin can be heard on "Antenna," which despite myself, still makes me think of R.EM. even though the song sounds nothing like "Losing My Religion."

The best "rocker" of side B though is "Reptile," one of the four singles culled from the set and the only other song from Starfish to receive the music video treatment. For a while this one was getting heavy rotation at Ceremony, Pittsburgh's longest-running (but now dead and buried) goth/industrial/dark alternative night. The DJ who used to play it quit, and was followed not long after by all of the other DJs who played music I actually wanted to hear. While I was there for the final night, I can't say I shed a tear for its demise. A pity, because they'd brought some people in who might have been able to turn things around and the night had moved to an excellent new venue – maybe it was too little too late? Who knows?

The shortest and weakest song on this set is "A New Season," which is probably because it follows "Reptile." Maybe if it followed "Lost," it wouldn’t sound out of place, but here it does. It doesn't wholly destroy the flow of the album, but it does hiccup ever so slightly. For me it does anyhow.

"Hotel Womb" closes the proceedings by getting things back on track. Nearly as long as opener "Destination," it feels like a mirror to that opener. Is the drive over? Have we reached our destination? Yes, we're finally at our hotel womb.

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Readymades was the last Chumbawamba CD I put on WAIH's playlist. It's follow-up, Un, was released June 8th, 2004; around a year and a half after I moved away from the town I'd grown up in to ultimately settle in Pittsburgh.

Un is a far more subtle effort than WYSIWYG, but no less searing in social commentary, for those willing to listen. Or, of course, you could just be lazy and look up what each song is about on Wikipedia. Someone there has helpfully broken it all down for anyone too lazy to read the booklet included with the CD.

Of course, if you're going to the booklet for accurate lyrics to "Everything You Know Is Wrong," you're going to be sorely disappointed.

Un opens with "The Wizard of Menlo Park," a song which begins with a sample of the Wizard himself, Thomas Edison, reciting "Mary had a little lamb." Personally, I find it interesting that the band chose to celebrate Edison's contribution to recorded media and ingenuity in general while passing over the darker aspects of his life. Edison, while clever, was the consummate capitalist. He was interested in getting things accomplished and pushing the technological envelope, but not when it wouldn't make him money. The vulgar extreme of such a personality was his war on alternating current by way of George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. In this conflict, Edison forever overshadowed his accomplishments of bringing light to the darkness with the unenviable distinction of being directly involved in the first execution by electric chair.

I think the band is perfectly back on track though with standout song (and single) "On eBay." Much has been said on the second Iraq War, but Chumbawamba tracked against the grain, as is their habit, and instead of giving us the obvious "Bush sucks," notes that with all of the lives being lost, so is the culture of Iraq. Indeed, as museums and archives were looted, one could actually purchase the stolen items on eBay. The music video is excellent too:

After Un Chumbawamba released three more studio albums before calling it quits in 2012. I'm not sure any other musician or group has as effectively picked up their mantle. If such a creature does exist, I'd be interested in hearing what it has to say.

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"Tubthumping" is really a great song if you come at it as being a brilliant piece of social satire. "Weird Al" Yankovic would often do what he called "genre parodies," where he would write an original song in an attempt to imitate another group's sound. Of "Dare To Be Stupid," a send-up of Devo's sonic palette, Mark Mothersbaugh said, "this is what Devo had been trying to do for years – and 'Weird Al' beat us to it!" So, I can only imagine what Chumbawamba thought when their pub anthem send-up proved to be huge with the very people it was taking the piss out of.

Meanwhile, the suits at Universal were surely thinking, "do it again!" And with What You See Is What You Get (hereafter referred to as WYSIWYG), the band said, "yes and no."

WYSIWYG was released April 4th, 2000. I was at the tail-end of my second year at SUNY Potsdam. After an ill-advised semester as WAIH's chief engineer, I had been elected to become the station's music director starting in the Fall of 2000. The station's current music director had been driving me insane for the past semester because he believed that a college radio station should sound like a modern rock station. Of the albums he passed over during his waning tenure, Chumbawamba's new set was among the rejects.

The summer of 2000 was the first time since I had joined up that WAIH stayed on the air between the Spring and Fall semesters. As such, I began my term as music director earlier than expected and gleefully tore apart my predecessor's playlist and refreshed it with the glorious sound of diversity. Songs from WYSIWYG went into high rotation on my air slot.

While "She's Got All The Friends" was the only single from the album, I opted instead to introduce people to it via "Pass It Along." It was with some amusement when I heard the song used in a GM commercial. It was with further amusement when I found out that Chumbawamba had used the vast majority of the fee they were paid for the song in donations to organisations critical of GM. Of course, there's nothing particularly amusing about General Motors as an organisation. When the question is "where do you want to go today?" the answer usually isn't, "out of control into a ravine with no brakes or steering because the key fell out of the ignition." The current situation with GM is particularly sickening when you consider that their suits did a "cost-benefit analysis" and determined that paying the legal fees for lawsuits stemming from the defective ignition switches would cost less than issuing a recall and fixing the problem before people started getting killed.

My friends and I thought WYSIWYG was a great album. Fourteen years later, I still think it's a great album. Twenty-two tracks making up a total of 48 minutes of music make for a fast listen – and more like one musical piece than a collection of separate songs. It goes by very quickly, especially when you note that only five tracks exceed three minutes in length and three don't even make it to the one-minute mark. It's the perfect satirical set-up for the state of the Western World at the end of the century: shallow, glossy, interested only in instant gratification...but beneath the surface lies the rot of paranoia, corruption and oppression. "Pass It Along" perfectly encapsulates this: a soaring chorus with Microsoft's "where do you want to go today" ad campaign stands in contrast to a verse where the line, "shut out the world – it’s getting worse; save yourself, don't leave the house."

"Pass It Along" could almost be a sequel to "The Good Ship Lifestyle," but on WYSIWYG that theme of self-imposed isolation via fear of "the other" is most stridently revisited on "Celebration, Florida." Against a breezy country backdrop are sung the lines, "there's a bake sale at the school house and they're selling innocence. They're keeping out the deviants to protect the residents of Celebration, Florida." Yes, Celebration is the ultimate gated community – a municipality constructed and (at one point) wholly owned by the Disney Corporation. Up until 2010, they could even brag that the experiment was a roaring success – no murders in Celebration ever! It took until 2013 for the number of killings to go up to two. I am reminded of Edgar Allen Poe's "Mask of the Red Death" – try as you might to keep the horror of the "real world" out, it will find a way to get in. Maybe it's a better idea to try and solve real world problems then merely fortifying oneself against them?

I want to say that a lot has changed in the past fourteen years, but I really can't honestly do so. Whenever I compare then to now, all I get back to is a cynical assessment that all changes have been, at best, superficial. In fact, I'd dare entertain the notion that things are really worse. If Bill Clinton's eight years were marked by missed opportunities, then what is to be said of Barack Obama's nearly eight years? Bush II certainly accelerated the downward slide, but at least he was a lightening rod for activism. Put a so-called "democrat" into office and suddenly people fall asleep as if nothing could possibly be going wrong. What you see is what you get but a lot of people simply aren't opening their eyes and taking a good look around.

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Pictures of starving children may not sell records, but a quirky, catchy single will. For what, at the time, was an eight-member band of anarcho-punks, “Tubthumping” was that single. Inescapable in 1997, the song was Chumbawamba’s sole taste of chart success in the United States. Nearly two years ago, at the tail end of 2012, the band quietly called it quits after thirty years of culture jamming.

Being sixteen at the time of it’s release, and not yet fully aware of the greater musical world beyond what was being aired on the radio stations in my rural residence, Tubthumper was the first Chumbawamba CD I acquired. I honestly can’t remember if I purchased it or won it in a contest at a local record store. In either case, it went into regular rotation on my personal playlist.

The first thing that stood out to me when I thumbed through the CD booklet was, nestled among the song lyrics, the following paragraph:

Due to the complexities of USA copyright law, we are not able to print the information intended for this space. At your written request we will supply you with a leaflet containing the information (while supplies last) or you can read it on our website:

In hindsight, I should have written in for the physical pamphlet. However, I opted to visit their website instead. My high school internet was via a T3 connection, the fast lane of the “information superhighway” in the late 1990’s. At home my family was still on a 56k dial-up modem, which, even for the time, was soul-crushingly slow. So, it was during a study hall in the school computer lab that I loaded up Chumbawamba’s website to view for myself the “tubtexts” that United States copyright law would not allow to be printed in the physical booklet.

Chumbawamba’s website in 1997, thanks to By today’s standards it is quaint and almost laughably amateurish. However, when you consider that this site actually had content besides a label hawking the group’s latest release, you come to realise that the band’s ideals had put them ahead of their time. The tubtexts, which nearly seventeen years ago I printed out and stapled together, have been archived with the home page: Part 1 and Part 2.

This was eye-opening stuff for me. While I ended up a socialist, not an anarchist, to see these songs put into this type of context made them better for me – and I was already enjoying them just for being a great set of pop songs. But they weren’t just a great set of pop songs; they were ...punk songs?

My mushy, embryonic teenage mind couldn’t quite fathom it. Subversive, yes. Rebellious, yes. But...punk? Wasn’t that Green Day? No, that’s what MTV told us was punk. So...what was punk, really?

I still can’t effectively answer that one. Nor do I really want to. It’s like the question: what is pornography? It’s more fun (and truthful) to answer that it can’t be defined, but one knows it when one sees it.

These days, this text which was supposed to accompany the lyrics to “Amnesia” stick out for me: “A change of Government is no guarantee of getting policies which put people before profit... as proved by the British Labour Party's past record. Short-term solution, long-term procrastination.” Allow me a moment to tip my figurative hat to President Barack Obama and the new, improved neo-liberal Democratic Party of the United States of America. Hope! Change! Bullshit!

I never got a chance to see Chumbawamba live...likely never will now. And while I’ve heard several of their songs and a few of their albums all of the way through, I should dig deeper into their discography. They are a band which I think deserves to have their whole story on my CD rack, from Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records all the way through ABCDEFG. Of course, those studio albums aren’t truly the full story as the band has numerous one-offs, fan-only discs, downloads and early (very rare) cassette-only releases. Don’t hold your breath for a consumer-friendly Chumbawamba rarities boxed set though...and that’s as it should be.

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In a way, I don't particularly want to tackle this album. Christian Death is one of those bands who have amassed so much bullshit over the years – both internally and externally – that getting involved in the fray is not high on my list of priorities. And when I say "bullshit," perhaps I should use the more polite phrase "strong opinions and reactions" save for the fact that I think "bullshit" more appropriate.

Because of the history and mythology surrounding Christian Death, they just aren't easy to write about fairly. Good for me then that Off the Rack isn't so much about in-depth analysis as it is my own word wankery to my record collection.

So, here we are: Only Theatre of Pain, the 1982 debut by Christian Death, hailed by many as the birth of gothic and/or death rock in the United States by way of Los Angeles. The CD version of this LP tacks six additional songs onto the end, which were originally released separately as an EP entitled Deathwish. That makes for thirteen unique songs, as the EP contained versions of "Romeo's Distress," "Spiritual Cramp" and "Cavity" which appeared in different forms on the album.

In June of 2008 (Friday the 13th, to be specific) Illusion of Joy along with The Burning Path opened for Christian Death at the 31st Street Pub. They were touring in support of their most recent release, American Inquisition. I can't compare them live in 2008 to this recording though. What I saw that night is pretty far-removed from Only Theatre of Pain. So far, in fact, that the current incarnation of the group doesn't play any early material.

Fronted by Valor Kand since 1985, some say that I didn't share a stage with the "real" Christian Death. I find arguments like that laughable, given that there are so many bands which have had rotating line-ups. If the argument is legitimacy then Kand being a part of the group since 1983 strengthens his position. Rozz Williams may have founded the group, but he only dedicated himself to it for six years before leaving to pursue other projects. Then there was a lawsuit and a suicide – and with that ultimate expression of "I give up" on Williams' part in 1998, there became only one "legitimate" Christian Death.

Like I said at the onset: bullshit. So much bullshit. I think this kind of stuff, more than anything, is why Illusion of Joy only has one member.

That 2008 show was pretty fucking awesome though. A shame it wasn't better attended.

But here I am going off on tangents when I should be focusing on Only Theatre of Pain. What do I think of this album? Honestly...not much. I don't hate it, but I don't particularly like it. Maybe when it debuted in 1982 it was mind-blowing, but I've heard gothic and deathrock albums which I've enjoyed far more and in my opinion are far better. Listening to this, it all kind of blends together. Only "Romeo's Distress" really stands out and would probably have been a great radio single if the first line of the song weren't, "burning crosses on a nigger's lawn." Yikes! Guess we all know where Marilyn Manson stole his shock shtick from. In fact, I'd dare to say that Antichrist Superstar is Only Theatre of Pain re-recorded with louder guitars. We all know that they've all been stealing from Alice Cooper though...

So, take away whatever goth points I have remaining (if any), but this is the only Christian Death album I own and I'm not into it. A couple of friends have told me to give Catastrophe Ballot a listen, telling me that I might enjoy it more. I probably should, but I don't feel any personal push to do so anytime soon. If anything, based on the strength of that live show I went to in 2008, I should grab a copy of American Inquisition. "Narcissus Metamorphosis Of" alone is likely worth the price of admission.

As I listen to the closing song on this CD – the Deathwish version of "Cavity" – I recall where I first actually heard Christian Death. It was either 1998 or 1999 and I had taken over WAIH's morning show. I decided that I wanted to do a Halloween special, which I cheesily dubbed "The Mourning Show." A friend loaned me some goth and deathrock CDs (WAIH's archives at the time being woefully inadequate since I'd yet to become the music director). Among these was Christian Death's 1996 album, Prophecies. I don't remember which track I played off of it – I'm tempted to say "Without" – but I do remember that it got a spin that Halloween morning. I also remember the then music director telling me that my Halloween special wasn't much fun to listen to because, "you can't have fun when you're dead."

I didn't know how to respond to that at the time. My anti-Valentines show several months later received more positive feedback.

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Released January 25th, 2005 Push The Button is The Chemical Brothers' fifth album. While not their last release, it is the final stop of the Chem train in my music collection. I remember that I bought it new – having not heard anything off it yet – from Borders. This was back when money was more plentiful for me and Borders hadn't gone out of business. Even back then I was probably overcharged for the CD, but hey – I had more money to spend. I was also living in an "efficiency" apartment for $400 per month with all utilities included.

These were the good old days?

I love the cover art on this disc and I find it to be a bit of a shame that I'm not holding a 12-inch vinyl sleeve right now. The cover drawing is blue and black against a plain white background – very stark. Pictured is a stone tower with a fist atop it, surrounded by the outline of a human head. Inside of the outline are the three words which make up the LP title in all caps: PUSH THE BUTTON. The visual impact is immediate, much like the prism on Dark Side of the Moon. Illustration Kam Tang must have taken some inspiration from Storm Thorgerson.

So, what have we got here as I put this disc on for a spin? Well, pretty much the same thing we have as with all of the previous Chemical Brothers albums: great dance music with a fair number of collaborations. Opening track and lead single "Galvanize" featuring Q-Tip (from A Tribe Called Quest) on vocals. Rumour has it that Q-Tip recorded his contribution on a golden microphone. I'm not sure what effect, if any, this would have on the sound. I'm certain it looked good though.

"The Boxer" goes Madchester with vocals by Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans UK). Then there's Bloc Party's Kele Okereke singing on "Believe," one of my personal favourites off of this disc. This song segues perfectly into "Hold Tight London," and my DJ instinct generally has me playing these two back-to-back as if they were one song despite the fact that only "Believe" was released as a single.

Staying either diverse of schizophrenic, depending on your opinion, the next collabs are the Anwar Superstar joint, "Left Right" which marches from hip hop into the indie folk-rock of The Magic Numbers on "Close Your Eyes."

Regarding "Left Right," it's a nice protest stomp but it's lyrics are obviously dated now. References to Bush and Saddam, the former now showing he's as bad of a painter as he was a president and the latter being dead, are a surefire way to lock your song into a specific era. This is a bad thing from a long-term marketing perspective, but from an artistic and historical perspective, there's something commendable about it.

And on a personal note, I can't help but think that I'm guilty of the same "time-locking" via songwriting. I recently announced that I intend to reissue Division, Illusion of Joy's second album later this year. That set of songs is now ten years old and three of those songs directly refer to the second Iraq war and the second Bush presidency. Worse yet, I never used Bush's name in any of the lyrics; in the song "Is There Some Way Out Of Here?" I begin with the line, "They put a monkey in the White House..." I now have the – hopefully unfounded – fear that someone will hear that line in that song, not realise what year the song was written and released, think I'm talking about Obama instead of Bush and then accuse me of racism.

Perhaps I wouldn't find the scenario so far-fetched if I hadn't already been accused of racism because I didn't vote for the first (and worst) black President the United States has ever had. So, we shall see...

At exactly 60 minutes, Push The Button is a satisfying album with a perfect running time. Eventually, I'll have to complete my Chem collection and get their debut along with the two studio releases which followed this one. But right now I look at my house and car and can only see money going towards repairs and maintenance.

I think I listen to music to escape from life. Good thing I have Spotify installed.

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Hello and welcome back to yet another installment of "Off the Rack," the weblog series where one can wait well over a year for a new entry to be written. Consistent in scheduled postings OTR is not. In truth, I'm not so consistent in posting at all no matter what the subject may be. However, with both of my little girls blissfully asleep and their mother out with a friend, I decided now would be a good time to occupy myself with something that didn’t involve drooling while pointed more or less towards the television. That Netflix is a gateway drug, kiddies...

I last left off in the middle of The Chemical Brothers' discography, so how the hell are we back in A again? Well, I keep buying CDs, that's why. I'm trying to listen to and write about everything, so some jumping around is to be expected. Truth be told, I haven't jumped as far back as I should have, but I feel at liberty to bend my own rules a bit once I make the initial pass through. This is why I'm listening to Arcade Fire right now instead of one of the other discs filed under A. Reflektor is an awesome album and – damn it – I wanted to hear it all the way through again!

Incidentally, I've decided to post mixes on 8tracks as a companion to the OTR weblog entries. As to be expected, you can start with A.

So, Reflektor - let's say some things about it, eh? Honestly, given my aesthetic preferences, I should probably own all of Arcade Fire's albums, yet somehow this is the first one and, so far, only one I've come to own. The remaining three remain on my Amazon wish list just waiting for me (or someone generous enough, as was the case with my younger brother and this album) to make the purchase. Someday I will have the disposable income to BUY ALL THE CDS...and then OTR will most certainly never be completed as a series.

I first heard the lead single and title cut from Reflektor while driving to and back from Potsdam, New York. I was taking Illusion of Joy up to Hurley's and every time I drive that route, I have a set of college radio stations I usually listen to. I must have heard the song at least half a dozen times. "Reflektor" has got a nice groove to it and when you get to the coda is that...David Bowie? Why yes...yes it is.

At 75 minutes in duration, Reflektor is spread out over two discs. I'm not sure why, as there are CDs manufactured to hold 80 minutes of music. Instead either the band or the label opted to stick with the 74 minute CDs and split the difference. This is kind of annoying because every song runs into the rest and "Joan of Arc" sounds like it was recorded to flow right into "Here Comes the Night Time II," but doesn't (even when listening to MP3s) because of the split. Minor squabbles though...

I've got a lot of favourites on here as this is a really solid album. There are a few misfires – "Flashbulb Eyes" seems subpar surrounded by "We Exist" and "Here Comes the Night Time" and disc two opener "Here Comes the Night Time II" doesn't seem to have much purpose other than to take up disc space (probably should have just been the coda to "Joan of Arc").

After said opener, disc two is where the hits flow uninterrupted – as a record should be. "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" right into "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)" right into "Porno" right into "Afterlife" right into "Supersymmetry," which closes the set. I read one review which stated the closing track was "too long" seeing as the second half is mostly ambient noise. I'm not so sure. On the radio, yes, I would find such a thing irritating, however I also have a massive collection of Pink Floyd albums. Ambient noise is a musician's way of saying, "put on the headphones and sit for a spell."

Arcade Fire played a concert not long ago in Pittsburgh. I really should have gone and I regret a bit that I didn't. By most accounts the show was were the costumes people came up with for the band's request that people "dress up."

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Anyone following my 140 character rants on Twitter should know that I oppose the Affordable Care Act because it is not liberal enough. If the for-profit health insurance industry was going to be allowed to continue to exist, it should be kept on a short leash. In this aspect, the ACA is somewhat successful. No longer can those with pre-existing conditions be turned away, children may stay on their parent’s health insurance plans for much longer and a much larger percentage of monthly premiums paid must be used on healthcare rather than administrative expenses. All of these are good things, but not nearly enough in a nation which has not only some of the finest healthcare in the world, but some of the most unaffordable. The lion’s share of the blame for that lands on the for-profit health insurance industry.

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I find myself sitting on the sofa, tapping at the keyboard of my laptop PC. My daughters are in the play area. The younger one, Amélie, is contemplating the intricacies of a child-size foam chair. Her older sister, Madeline, is running around the room in tiny circles. Their mother, who may or may not have deeper insight into these behaviours, is at work today. She wouldn’t usually be working on a Wednesday, but we are attempting to shore up our household finances.

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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