Flipping through dollar bins is a time-honored tradition, especially at Toronto’s own Sonic Boom. Our friend Eric is sifting through the $1 records one-by-one, and learning lessons along the way. The rules are that he has to listen to the entire record, and not to do any research about artists before listening to avoid any contextual bias.
Jose Jose – Gracias (1981)
COVER: Jose Jose, Jose Jose, Jose, JOSE! A soccer chant comes alive with a smoldering stare. Clutching an incredibly wide ornate staff he whispers “gracias” out of closed lips. What kind of sorcery are we to expect from this chant of a man?
THOUGHTS: Has a voice ever made you wilt? Sucked you dry, left curling and twisted, only to blossom stronger, more vibrant with a depth of colours so stark the other flowers pollinate at the sight of you? Well, if you’re susceptible to this sort of thing (personally I only get emotional over D.H. Lawrence novels hence the gross flower genitalia analogies) then you will be the one saying Gracias to Jose, ok? Assuming his words are sexy. As a terrific human being, I’m not biased against art in foreign tongues, in this case Spanish. I’m just ignorant to them.
WHAT I LEARNED: Bill Withers’ classic “Just the Two of Us” is a surprisingly universal song as I recognized the Jose Jose cover (track 5) within a few bars. Except, and this is wacky, in Spanish, just the two of us is pronounced “Solo Tu Y Yo” which sounds way less forced whispered into someone’s ear when you find it’s just the two of you.
BEST TRACK: “Pero Me Hiciste Tuyo”
This song is crazy fun to try to sing along with if you don’t know Spanish. OHHHHHHHH-Savy-Stano-Buenos-Manteeny. Presumably less so if you know Spanish…
AFTER GOOGLING: There’s an entire Wikipedia in Spanish!
Red Rider – Neruda (1983)
COVER: An abstract scene wherein Pac Man is trying to eat some dudes dong in front of a swirly cloudy skyline and a pencil line mountain range. The back features an artistically rendered picture of the band, which is unimpressive until you realize that this album predates Photoshop.
THOUGHTS: Sure we all know Red Rider from their masterwork “Lunatic Fringe” but how does that spacey Can-rock sound translate to a whole album? Not bad. It’s an often moody but ultimately cool sound. It sounds like a stark autumn sunset with a chilly mist. Its sound evokes feeling of a desert hallucination ending with a real oasis. It’s like a car ride through a mythical San Francisco. The sound could be described as a sunglass-wearing burro saying all the right things. This critic would describe the sound as a machine gun that shoots hot tamale candies. I’d go as far as to liken the sound to John Cusack’s portrayal of Martin Blank in the classic 1997 comedy Grosse Pointe Blank. Ok, I’ll stop now.
WHAT I LEARNED: A Red Rider won’t shoot your eye out nor your ear.
BEST TRACK: “Human Race”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know this is the single but, man, it’s DRIVIN’. And “Human Race” is an awesome song title.
AFTER GOOGLING: Pablo Neruda, the album’s namesake, was hailed by Gabriel García Márquez as "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language." Then Garcia was caught up in a great storm of leaves, brought up to the stratosphere and ascended wiser but with an aching leg that could never be balmed or salved enough. The last sentence was a made up fact that alludes to the work of Marquez because I have the deep need to show you that I read fine books.
Prism – Armageddon (1979)
COVER: A FALLEN DIAMOND smashed into the busy city night street: it’s a GLAMOUROUS ARMAGEDDON! This album had better be excellent as its cover symbolism implies to my heart. The back contains the same diamond (come to think of it, it may be a prism) and the insert contains a handy definition of Armageddon.
THOUGHTS: Side A is fairly forgettable progy-glammy-wishy-washy whatever. Too goofy to be cool, too cool to be goofy, ya know? It also starts with a crowd cheering giving the impression the album is live. Seems a little misleading.
Side B turns the tracks starting with the SIZZLING “Armageddon,” a swelling over-indulgent rock and roll anthem about some brand of Armageddon with the amazing chorus “Armageddon Carry Me Home.” Then you get the cheesy ass “Night to Remember” and finally radass talk-box heavy driving number “Mirror Man.” In short, they find the perfect balance between goofy and cool, which is usually referred to as fun.
WHAT I LEARNED: Sometimes you need the full yet mono-coloured light of a lackluster side 1 for the full rainbow of an excellent side 2 (PRISM metaphor).
BEST TRACK: “Armageddon”
“Mirror Man” is pretty rad but, as I mentioned, the chorus of Armageddon goes “Armageddon Take Me Home” which, like the rest of the song with it’s allusions to U-Boats, Elvis and F-15’s, makes zero sense and thus true rock and roll.
AFTER GOOGLING: The second chorus of “Armageddon” begins with the odd line line “Jerry and Linda in the Whitehouse”. My careful research seems to point to the couple being Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt. Jerry is the current and a past Democratic U.S. governor of California with many presidential aspirations. Linda is the fucking coolest/babest singer ever. The two of them in the Whitehouse would have made a fine alternative reality, especially if timeline 2 Jerry Brown had a Neville brother as a running mate.