Signed, Sealed, Delivered (redux)

The combination of widespread illegal downloading dealing a significant blow to the retail market, and the rise of the internet as a means of indiscriminate populist distribution, has been constantly bandied about by pundits and self-appointed wonks alike as the death knell of the traditional music industry. And, of course, the examples that support this and similar statements are everywhere.

But, curiously, an interesting phenomenon has been developing of late. Artists who established themselves via the 20th century model of "the Machine" and who count with the necessary name recognition, fanbase, and quite often, the infrastructure that would make it possible for them to take their careers into their own hands, are quietly signing with record companies, major labels in particular, when they are in a position to cut out the middleman.

In the last decade or so, Jane's Addiction moved from Warner Bros. to Capitol Records; Alice in Chains left Columbia for Virgin Records; and Dave Grohl has kept his Foo Fighters on the major label train, from RCA to Capitol Records, throughout the band's existence. These are a few but by no means lone examples of artists with means to control their recorded output on their own, opting to stay within the confines of the old-time industry womb, regardless of their options and opportunities. Surely there are favorable deals available to these veteran outfits that are not within the periphery of lesser acts. Granted. But when a tech-friendly artist like Trent Reznor, who made such an impassioned argument for his freedom to create and release his music without the interference of the allegedly cigar-chompin' guardians of "the Machine", non-chalantly announces the release of the upcoming Nine Inch Nails via Columbia Records, something is up.

Hmm...what gives?


Where's the Title Track? (15 Misnomers)

1. AC/DC "If You Want Blood, You've Got It"  
Let us refer you to side 2 of Highway to Hell.    

2. BEE GEES "Cucumber Castle"  
So, let's see if we got this right: "Cucumber Castle" appeared on Bee Gees 1st, which is actually their third, and not on the Cucumber Castle album from 1970?    

3. BLUE OYSTER CULT "Blue Oyster Cult"  
This is one has a doozy of a story. Suffice to say, it's on the Imaginos album from 1988.    

4. JULIAN COPE "World Shut Your Mouth"  
If you bought the album of the same name looking for this '80s college radio classic, you were probably righteously bummed to find out it's on the Saint Julian album instead.    

5. DEF LEPPARD "On Through the Night"  
It's on High 'n' Dry but not on the debut album named after it.    

6. DIRE STRAITS "Making Movies"  
The title track of the album from when this band will still considered a college radio-type outfit (!) has only appeared on bootlegs.    

7. THE DOORS "Waiting for the Sun"  
Nope. But two albums later it showed up on Morrison Hotel.    

8. FLEETWOOD MAC "Fleetwood Mac"  
According to lore, the song was an instrumental written by Peter Green before the band even existed. And despite the band having 2 self-titled albums (!) the song appears on neither (!!) but is included in some of the various compilations out there.    

9. FOO FIGHTERS "The Colour and the Shape"  
Appeared as a European and Australian b-side.    

10. ROBYN HITCHCOCK & the EGYPTIANS "Queen Elvis"  
Showed up on the next album, Eye.    

11. LED ZEPPELIN "Houses of the Holy"  
Try Physical Graffiti instead.    

12. QUEEN "Sheer Heart Attack"  
Guess again. Yeah, News of the World.    

13. SMASHING PUMPKINS "Siamese Dream"  
Like the Foo Fighters example above this one was recorded for its namesake album but was relegated to b-side status.    

14. THE SMITHEREENS "Especially for You"  
The band's full-length debut had its title track show up on their sophomore album Green Thoughts.    

15. FRANK ZAPPA and the MOTHERS OF INVENTION "Absolutely Free"  
Dunno if Zappa thought the title track of his sophomore album would work best as a track on his third, We're Only in it For the Money, but that's where it resides.


Silver Star for Robot Boys

English Little League
[GBV Records - 2013]

Has there ever been a more prolific songwriter in the history of popular music than Robert Pollard? Forget about the GBV catalog, the solo output under his name and the numerous collaborations and other projects—if the three full length albums released in 2012 by the recently reunited ‘93-‘96 lineup of GBV are any indication, Uncle Bob ain’t letting moss gather on his badass senior citizen self. (As Matt Wild of the A.V. Club remarked in his review of the album, “Pollard recently installed a recording studio in his house [which would] suggest that it will now be even easier for Uncle Bob to wake up, shuffle out of bed, and record four new albums before lunch.” Ha!)

Nothing wrong with Pollard keeping up his decidedly superhuman pace since much this recent output is pretty cool; nothing stellar but certainly not disappointing. And definitely bearing some outstanding moments. English Little League is certainly not the exception. Unfortunately, Pollard’s old collaborator Tobin Sprout is back on board and his contributions not only seem out of place but occasionally bring the flow of the album to a halt.

For those who may have come late to the GBV party—circa 1997’s Mag Earwhig! [Matador]—or simply did not care much for Sprout, it might be jarring to hear him on a new GBV album at his point. Oh, well. With this newest chapter of the GBV saga we get an album that's a bit too long, with its share of duds, occasional filler and recordings of varying degrees of fidelity sharing space together. But few songwriters in indie rock, past or present, have the for knack for busting out choice tunes like Pollard so effortlessly seems to do time and again. So, it’s business as usual, then? We’ll take it.

Highlights: “Xeno Pariah”, “Trash Can Full of Nails”, “Send to Celeste (and the Cosmic Athletes)”, “Biographer Seahorse”, “Flunky Minnows”.