Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Beauty And The Beat"

The Go-Go’s:  “Beauty And The Beat”
Secondhand Vinyl Album (Purchased at Last Stop CD Shop, Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1981 A&M Records Inc.
My Rating:  (4 Stars)

Side 1
Our Lips Are Sealed
How Much More
Lust To Love
This Town

Side 2
We Got The Beat
Fading Fast
You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
Skidmarks On My Heart
Can’t Stop The World

   To begin, I can confidently state that from the first note of The Go-Go’s album, “Beauty And The Beat,” this blogger was certain she had time warped back to the most fun party of 1981.  The key word in that last sentence is, “fun,” because that’s exactly the perfect description of these lawless ladies.  Even before actually hearing this record, I found myself lured by its’ feminine wiles.  Its’ promiscuous cover art combined with an, "Oh, so girly," pink album jacket made only one statement to this blogger.  “I may not be smart, but I’m going to be a good time,” it seemed to be saying.  Who can resist seduction like that?
   Instantly as promised, this album begins with the lighthearted classic, “Our Lips Are Sealed.”  Here lead vocalist, Belinda Carlisle, laments about the burdens of being the center of gossip.  Of course, a song like this merely sparks more interest in the rumors.  A listener finds themselves humming along to lyrics like, “Can you hear them  Talk about us  Telling lies  Well that’s no surprise,” and they start to wonder, "What are the scantily clad women on this album cover up too?"  Admittedly, the only answer this blogger could come up with was, "Obviously a good time." Through pure pop prose these women coolly shrug it all off by singing, “It doesn’t matter what they say  In the jealous games people play  Our lips are sealed.”  To which all I could think was, “Ho-hum, nobody ever talks about me anymore.”
   Later in the album the party vibe continues with another mega hit, “We Got The Beat.”   Here, more than ever, The Go-Go’s start to resemble the ultimate girl gang.  A listener is bombarded by an absolutely irresistible combination of upbeat tempo and repetitive lyrics that leave a person begging to join the club.  During this song, I couldn’t help but feel like the nerdy girl who stays home on Saturday nights.  I found myself listening to these ultra-cool chicks and wanted to assure them, “Hey, I got the beat too.  No really, I do!”
   Admittedly, the second side of, “Beauty And The Beat,” does have some weaker moments.  However, these are quickly overshadowed by the stronger pieces on the album.  Highlights from this record include songs like, “Fading Fast,” and, “Skidmarks On My Heart.”  Here The Go-Go’s seem to channel the girl groups of the past.  Despite an obvious lack of literary lingo, these songs possess the kind of charming metaphorical lyrics that were present in the music of the 1950's.  During, “Skidmarks On My Heart,” the band declares, “Skidmarks on my heart  You’ve got me in fifth  You’re burning rubber like my love.”  This blogger was amazed to realize these ridiculous lyrics actually became seriously likable when combined with a surf type musical arrangement.  Likewise, during, “Fading Fast,” mediocre lyrics are combined with irresistible background vocals that inevitably give this song a retro feel.  As a result, if I were asked to compare The Go-Go’s to any other band I would probably state they’re most like The Ramones.  Not only do these ladies heartily accomplish a pop punk feel, they also give a respectful nod to the music of the past. I'm embarrassed to admit I thought The Ramones were the only punk band giving props to doo wop. 
   Finally, my favorite song on the album, “Beauty And The Beat,” is,“Lust To Love.”  I believe it sums up my feelings towards this record the best.  Carlisle sings, “Lust to love  Was the last thing I was dreaming of  And now all I want is just to love  Lust turned to love.”  During these lyrics all I can think of is how I almost didn’t buy this album when I saw it at the record store.  “The Go-Go’s,” I thought.  “Were they ever really that cool?”  While pondering this, I turned the album over in my hands and noticed, in tiny print, a thank you message written by the band acknowledging the groups Madness and The Specials.  “Wait, they were always super cool!” I instantly thought.  Suddenly, my girly guilty pleasure transformed to true love.  An all-girl pop punk band that writes tunes worthy of The Ramones.  How did these women get so cool?  I guess it’s fairly clear that we’ll never know, because as the Go-Go’s always said, “Our lips are sealed.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Teaser And The Firecat"

Cat Stevens:  “Teaser And The Firecat”
Secondhand Vinyl Album:  (Puchased at Ernie November, Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1971 A&M Records

Side 1
The Wind
If I Laugh
Changes IV
How Can I Tell You

Side 2
Tuesday’s Dead
Morning Has Broken
Peace Train

   To begin, I feel it’s necessary to confess that I may not be the most impartial person to review a Cat Stevens album.  Basically, I want to fess up to the fact that every time I listen to a record by this artist I get all gooey inside and find myself eventually morphing into one big emotional pile…of love…and hope…and even sadness.  However, Cat’s music has a way of making one feel extremely peaceful toward any emotion he may ignite in a listener.  Actually, this blogger is willing to wager that spreading the feeling of inner harmony was always the end goal for such an introspective artist.  This last statement reminds me that my brother once confessed he had spent an entire afternoon listening to the music of Cat Stevens.  As a result, he stated that he was, “So damn happy he just wanted to find something to punch.”  This statement stuck with me.  I eventually constructed the hypothesis that listening to a Cat Stevens record is like taking anxiety medication.  It immediately forces a listener to calm down despite any present tension.  It just makes sense that certain individuals may experience a feeling similar to panic as a result of just how comfortable they can become.  In other words, happiness does not come easily to all of us.
   This being said, from the sounds emanating from my turntable these last two weeks I can confidently state that the artist, Cat Stevens, makes the topic of joy seem effortless.  I can’t think of better proof of this statement than the opening lyrics of the album’s first song.  During, “The Wind,” our singer proclaims, “I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.”  It’s my opinion that this one lyric sums up the entire feel of the record, “Teaser And The Firecat.”  So, if you happen to be one of those people who hear this type of thing and think, “Nah, I’m not game for that hippie shit,” walk away.  Seriously, just walk away now.  However, if you thrive under the spell of mysterious songwriter types who tackle weighty topics like spirituality through the simplicity of acoustic guitar, then hold on to your undoubtedly patchouli soaked hat because you’re about to meet the king of this genre. 
   Significant highlights during the album, “Teaser And The Firecat,” include the song, “If I Laugh.”  During this piece a listener is reminded that this artist’s enormous talent is not only evident in his guitar playing, but also his singing.  I found myself surprised to realize that the strongest part of this particular song was not while Cat was actually reciting his lyrics.  Instead I favored the spaces in between.  Here, the artist filled lyrical voids with some rather impromptu sounding, “da, da, da, da, da, dasss…” that possessed enough casual grace to actually spotlight this song.    In this blogger’s opinion, not every artist can hum a little tune and make it sound legitimately passionate. 
   Later in the album the song, “Morning Has Broken,” takes the topic of passion to a new level by introducing the theme of spirituality.  The thing I appreciate most about Cat Stevens’ obvious loyalty to his faith is his ability to make it accessible to an individual belonging to any denomination.  During this song it becomes clear that Cat believes God can be found all around a person, especially in aspects of nature.  He sings, “Morning has broken, like the first morning.  Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.”  While listening to Stevens’ joyous prose, accompanied by crystal clear piano, this blogger couldn’t help but acknowledge the beauty all around her.  I too began to contemplate who may be responsible for the wondrous things in the universe.  What did I tell you folks?, “hippie shit.”
   In addition, hints of introspection continue throughout this album’s duration.  Classic songs like, “Moonshadow,” and, “Peace Train,” concentrate on themes similar to spirituality.  These topics often regard the idea of finding beauty in the unexpected.  A solid example of this can be found during, “Moonshadow,” where almost ominous lyrics create a kind of fable that eventually transforms into the simple lesson that there’s a good side to every situation.  Likewise, the song, “Peace Train,” tells a similar story.  Here Stevens’ lyrics concentrate not only on the sadness of, “the world as it is,” but also the joy of, “good things to come.”  No matter what way Cat Stevens tosses it, one can’t help but feel like this coin is going to land face up.
   Lastly, my favorite song on the album, “Teaser And The Firecat,” is, “How Can I Tell You.”  Much like the first song on the album, this song expresses great beauty through total simplicity.  To clarify, a casual listener may interpret the lyrics of this song as nothing special.  However, it’s this blogger’s opinion that these lyrics possess the honesty of someone having a private conversation with another individual.  It’s this honesty that reflects a feeling of true love.  I guess when it comes down to it, I seriously suspect Cat Stevens was in love when he originally sang this song.  In fact, to expand on this statement, I really believe this artist praises the morning.  I believe he listens to the wind of his soul, and he still waits to catch the peace train…and you know what, this hippie can’t quit smiling about all of it.