Saturday, January 31, 2009

Have a Rotten birthday

John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten turns 53 today, proving that Punk may not be dead but it is eligible for AARP.

I'm just sayin',

God Save The Queen
Bad Life

Anarchy in The U.K. (So It Goes, BBC 1976)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hot wax please

On this day on 1977, Rose Royce held the No.1 position on Billboard's Hot 100 with Car Wash, the title track to the Joel Schumacher penned, blacksploitation comedy of the same name.

A pinnacle LP for the Los Angeles group, the soundtrack for the film topped the charts and produced a bevy of hits, including the slow jam classics: I'm Going Down, Wishing On A Star and I Wanna Get Next To You.

30+ years later, the band is still gettin' their groove on.

I'm just sayin'.

Car Wash
I Wanna Get Next To You
Wishing On A Star

Car Wash Trailer (1976)

Rose Royse- Wishing on a star (1977)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Giant Steps

Who could miss today's Google home page homage to Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock on what would have been his 97th birthday.

IMHO, Pollock was a innovative painter and revolutionary artist. He took the canvas off the wall, and in turn took modern art to a different stratosphere. The urgency and spontaneity of his work still resonates today.

Drawing a musical parallel, we need look no further than a contemporary, and kindred spirit - John Coltrane.
Coltrane did for Jazz in particular, and music in general what Pollock did for art. It's not surprising their careers overlapped. Whenever I listen to Coltrane, I visualize Pollock. A soundtrack to the splatter.

I'm just sayin'.

Giant Steps
Cousin Mary

Pollock, the home edition:

Jackson Pollock 51 (1951)

John Coltrane- Impressions (1961)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Glad I'm not a Kennedy

Breaking from tradition, Caroline becomes the first Kennedy to shoot herself- in the foot. Glad I'm not a Kennedy. I'm just sayin'.

Shona Laing-(I'm Glad I'm Not A) Kennedy (1986)

Songs in the Key of Stevie

On this day in 1977, Stevie Wonder's funky gem I Wish climbed to the top of the charts. This R&B throwback-cum-throw down was the first of two No. 1's from his 1976 opus, Songs in the Key of Life (Mowtown). With its release, it became the first LP by an American artist to debut at No.1, where it remained for 14 weeks.

To say Wonder hit his stride after wresting full creative control from Motown, is an understatement, and Key of Life the proof. The album was/is the crowning achievement for Wonder, whose unbridled talent and limitless creative ambition helped to rank it as one of the most successful and accomplished albums in American popular music.

The song also happens to be one of my all-time favorites. I remember it vividly from my childhood. It was the first straight-up funk song I ever purchased (on 45). The consociation of his simple, boyhood recollections accompanied by that nasty-ass rhythm track, still blows my mind. The horns–so crisp, they could split a speaker. And the bass line, off the hook, literally off the register. To this day, I still can't listen to the song just once. It mandates repetitive plays.

To me Stevie Wonder at his pinnacle was the adroit magician. I know what I heard, but I could never surmise how he did it, and songs like this still leave me bewildered.

I'm just sayin'.

I Wish

Stevie Wonder- I Wish (YouTube, Date Unknown)

Check this awesome little documentary on how Little Stevie laid down those thick, funky trax. Crazy talented!

The Making of Stevie Wonder's I Wish (YouTube, Date Unknown)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Show & Tell

On this day in 1974, Al Wilson had the No. 1 hit in the land with the soulful ballad Show & Tell. The song, written by legendary songsmith Jerry Fuller and initially recorded by Johnny Mathis in 1972, remained atop the charts for a week. It sold over two million copies and was named the Cashbox Magazine Number One Single of the Year.

Show & Tell

Al Wilson- Show & Tell (Soul Train, 1974)

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Wing and A Prayer

This might come across as hokey, but I have to say today just feels like a great day. There is a palpable buzz throughout the city, following yesterday's astonishing US Airways crash landing on the Hudson.

I consider myself a fairly spiritual person, and I am a practicing Christian, and I tell you this, what happened on the Hudson River, not ten blocks away from my office was nothing short of a miracle. For the 155 aboard it must have been harrowing and certainly life-affirming. For New York City and beyond, it was a big fat chunk of good news. It was refreshing to open this morning's Post to eight pages of positive news, detailing every aspect of this amazing event. Like I said, it might sound corny, but it sure feels good.

There is no spin that needs to be attached to this miraculous tale. But I did think of a song to reflect the mood.

I Just Want To Celebrate-Rare Earth

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everlong in the tooth: Grohl at 40

Let me premise this post by saying that Dave Grohl has done an amazing job emerging from the ashes of one of Rock's biggest acts to define himself. Thinking back to 1995, I know everyone was surprised by how good the Foo Fighters (RCA) debut was. It was less than a year after Kurt fired the shot heard around the Rock world, and there was good money against Grohl making any impact on the charts, much less the fans.

Their sophomore release The Colour and the Shape (RCA) is still my favorite. Less acerbic than 'Foo Fighters', Grohl seems to have worked out most of the demons associated with Kurt's abrupt departure from this mortal coil and trancends it to create his own sound.

1999's There is Nothing left to Lose (RCA) continues his development as a solid songwriter, and his ability to generate the radio-friendly hit song. I would say at this point though, the tank was half empty. By the time the Fighters of Foo arrived at 2002's One by One (RCA), they were running on fumes.

I do think Rock is a young man's sport and the Dave Grohl of late has become comfortable playing the role of defacto establishment rocker. Accruing multiple Grammy nominations as well as always being featured performer on award shows, tribute concerts and the like, the Foo Fighters have ascertained status as industry darlings. Subsequently, their music has suffered, what was once powerful and melodic has mutated into an awful quasi Emo/Metal noise.

Nonetheless, Actual Monkey celebrates Dave Grohl on this, his 40th birthday.

P.S. After such a lambasting, it's only fair to end on a positive note, no pun intended. One good thing about Dave Grohl is his appreciation of all things Rock. I don't know of another current band that has covered so many great songs, and done such a good job with their renditions.

I'm just sayin'.

Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty Cover)
Down In The Park (Gary Numan Cover)
Everlong (Acoustic, Howard Stern Show '97)

Foo Fighters- Everlong (1997)

Foo Fighters- Learn to Fly (1999)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Johnny goes inside

On this day in 1968, Johnny Cash successfully enlisted the aid of 2000+ inmates interred at California's Folsom State Prison to help market his comeback. The resulting LP, 'At Folsom Prison' (Columbia), was released in May 1968 and climbed to the top of the country charts.

Singing to felons turned out to be a such a profitable endeavor for The Man in Black, he followed up 'Folsom' with 'At San Quentin' (Columbia) the very next year. Who says crime doesn't pay?

No doubt 'At Folsom Prison' was groundbreaking and historic, it ranks as one of the best country albums of all time. Though I wonder if Cash hadn't employed the gimmick of staging a live performance inside a federal prison during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, would this album be quite so 'important?'

I'm just sayin'.

Folsom Prison Blues
25 Minutes To Go
Jackson (w/ June Carter)

Johnny Cash- Folsom Prison Blues (San Quentin Prison, 1969)

Trailer for the legacy edition of Johnny Cash At Folsom (2008)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Charity Case

Rounding out Actual Monkey's top eight best releases of 2008 is The Walkmen's 'You & Me' (Gigantic Records). This sonorous assemblage continues the band along the path they started down at the beginning of the decade. Their songs–still harrowing and intimate, return Hamilton Leithauser & Co. to the more familiar sounds of 'Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone' and Bows & Arrows.

If creating yet another amazing album wasn't enough, the back story that goes along with the LP is just as cool. Two weeks prior to it's release, the band made 'You and Me' available online for only $5, donating all proceeds to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

And although they ditched their Harlem practice space for the more bucholic environs of New Paltz, it's nice to see that a New York band can still kick some ass.

I'm just sayin'.

Donde Está la Playa
In the New Year
The Walkmen Live @ The 9:30 Club, Washington D.C. (NPR, ASC)

The Walkmen- In the New Year (Juan's Basement, Pitchfork Media, 2008)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

King for a Day

With only one entry left in Actual Monkey's Top 8 of '08, we take a timeout to pay tribute to The King on what would have been his 74th B-day.

I like Elvis the Brand, but not Elvis the singer. Actually, he was more than just a brand, he was pop music's first Megabrand, and that status eclipsed Elvis the man long before he was inhaling barbiturates by the fistful and shitting his jumpsuit.

His train wreck of a life was one of the first on full public display, for all to gawk at and some to mimic. Hell, the only things that separate Britney Spears from Elvis are 50 pounds of belly fat and six feet of dirt.

But I digress. Eventually, as with all successful brands, they become parodied and are reduced to a commodity.

That said, here are some discounted cuts of the King (a little gamey, but still delicious):
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
Funny How Time Slips Away

Elvis Presley-You Don't Have To Say You Love Me (1970)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Geek Chic

Electropop wizards Hot Chip scored big in 2008 with their third release 'Made in the Dark' (Astralwerks /Caroline). Mining their dweeb aplomb to yield a fine new gem, 'Made in the Dark' coalesces Moby with Ben Folds. This expansion beyond Electronica, albeit modest, results in a record that displays more mood swings than a night on the town with Andy Dick. The result: cultivated and resplendent. It also has a good beat, you can dance to it. I'd give it a seven.

I'm just sayin'.

Made in the Dark- Hot Chip

Hot Chip- Over and Over (2008)

Hot Chip- Ready for the Floor (2008)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Modern Guilt

I'm not sure if it's prophetic or pure coincidence, but Beck's 'Modern Guilt' (Interscope) has to be the most aptly titled release of 2008.

On this, his 12th release, the uber-artist teams with zeitgeist producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse to explore the existential. Beck's dark side Shindig mashup. Like groovy, man.

I'm just sayin'.


Beck- Gamma Ray (Late Show w/ David Letterman 10.09.08)

Monday, January 5, 2009


We interrupt the regularly scheduled top 8 of '08 to deliver the following bad news. I learned today from a friend (via Brooklyn Vegan) that one of my favorite young bands, Dirty on Purpose played their farewell show on New Year's Eve at The Mercury Lounge.

After their amazing (read: critically acclaimed) EP 'Sleep Late for a Better Tomorrow' (North Street Records, 2005) and debut LP 'Hallelujah Sirens' (North Street Records, 2006), it seemed as though they were poised to carry the torch for the Neo-Shoegazer movement with their dreamy, hypnotic melodies. Fixtures at SXSW, CMj and the Siren Music Festival, the band flourished, a product of the emerging and maturing Brooklyn Indie scene. In 2007 they released the free download only EP 'Dead Volcanoes'on and continued to tour with some of the biggest Indie acts (Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Serena Maneesh, Blue Ribbon, The Decemberists).

But as I stated here way back in February, while reviewing their show at Brooklyn Masonic Temple (02.14.08), it seemed like the writing was on the wall. I think the beginning of the end was Erika Forster's au revoir to the band, coupled with a lackluster sophomore effort 'Like Bees' (North Street Records, 2008) and the fact that all the members had ongoing side projects. Long story short, when the band reconvened last November to begin recording new music, they decided they were done. They released a statement in early December and played their last show on New Years Eve supporting A Place To Bury Strangers. Sadly prophetic.

I'm certain there will be some solace listening to the side projects: Purse Snatchers (Doug Marvin) Joe and the Flying Spoons (Joseph Jurewicz), along with the rest of the incestuous cache of musicians that wind up playing in each others bands and on each others albums.

I'm not sure exactly why DoP grabbed my attention more than any of the other gazer bands. I think maybe it was the innocence and truth you could hear through the layered wash of sound. What many would perceive as mopey and isolating was actually something delicate, optimistic and wonderful.

So the year ends with one of my favorite bands calling it quits. Just another reason why 2008 sucked.

I'm just sayin'.

link: Dirty on Purpose -Rooftop Concert Series, NYC 06.06.08 (

Dirty on Purpose- Mind Blindness (2006)

Dirty on Purpose- Summer Dress (Live, Chapel Hill, NC 2007)

Dirty on Purpose- No Radio (2006)

Dirty on Purpose- Light Pollution (2006)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Athens best band

No, this is not a post about the dismal 'Accelerate'. What was touted as REM's comeback sounded more like a death knell. No, this is about Athen's current darlings, Drive-By Truckers.

After several lineup changes and six studio LPs, this five piece outfit released 'Brighter Than Creation's Dark' (New West Records) back in January of '08. Their Alt. Country sound marries perfectly to the likes of Wilco and Neil Young, with a bit more twang and a lot more lap guitar.

It should be noted that this record almost didn't make the list, namely because Robert Christgau has it on his Top 10 list. I fear big bloated Rock critics grabbing hold of an indie band. No good can come of it.

I'm just sayin'.

The Righteous Path-Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers- Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife (Toronto, March 2008)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Top 8 of '08: We Call Upon The Author To Explain

For their 14th studio release Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, went back to the Garage, the New Testament and America's mythical frontier to find inspiration for 'Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!' (Mute).

At 50 years old, Cave rocks harder than an Emo band on the second stage at the Warped Tour, with one of the best backing bands in the business behind him. 'DLD' is their second release since the exit of longtime Seed Blixa Bargeld, and Cave and Co. don't miss a beat, literally, as this album really delivers. Cave's rantings, while increasingly intense and arcane have become more mature and sophisticated.

"Now hang on, my friend Doug is tapping on the window (Hey Doug, how you been?)".

Doing just fine, thanks.

We Call Upon The Author-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Dig, Lazerus, Dig!!! (2008)

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- We Call Upon The Author (Live, Plug Awards. NYC 03.06.08)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Still Pretty in Pink

Neo-Shoegazer, New Wave Revivalist or Nue Rave, call it what you will, but M83's Saturday's = Youth (Mute) was a great listen for me in 2008. Considering the fact that I turned the big 40 in November, I found the lush synth-pop a warm sentimental place in which to hide, if only temporarily. If it sounds like the soundtrack to a John Hughes film, its because its supposed too. Anthony Gonzalez, M83 sole member pays homage to all things 80's, going so far as to include a song about Molly Ringwald on the LP (Graveyard Girl), as well as a lookalike in the video and on the album cover.

Ironically, the actual Ms. Ringwald is currently fulfilling the role of the mom on 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager'.

I'm just sayin'.

Kim & Jessie-M83

M83- Graveyard Girl (2008)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top 8 of '08: Time to Pretend

180 degrees from Fleet Foxes are media darlings MGMT. 2008 was the breakout year for this Brooklyn duo.

Their big label debut 'Oracular Spectacular' (Columbia) boasted a title as over inflated as the bubble of hype that has swirled around them all year long. Thing is, they deliver. OC is a brash, loud, psychedelic, funky, glam, melodic electropop cacophony. When I first heard 'Time to Pretend', I though it sounded a lot like the Flaming Lips, turns out the album was produced by the Lips producer Dave Friedmann.

The result: Vintage 80's, updated with a rich bouquet of Ultravox, flavor notes of Human League, and a nutty Prince finish. All without an aftertaste of pretense.

I'm just sayin'.

We Care-MGMT

Electric Feel-MGMT

MGMT- Time to Pretend (2008)

MGMT- Electric Feel (2008)