Posts Tagged ‘Beach Boys’

Finding New Artists via Cover Songs

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Image Courtesy of

Perhaps this is obvious, but artists who cover songs you like have a good chance of writing songs that you’d also like. With the huge, searchable, hyperlinked, on-demand catalogs of Rdio, MOG, Spotify and Rhapsody at your fingertips, this pivot has never been easier to execute. Search for a favorite song, say the Beach Boys‘ “Girl Don’t Tell Me,” see who’s covered it, and then take a stroll through their original album. In this case you’ll find that Heartworms‘ album Space Escapade leads you to an album of indie pop by Velocity Girl’s Archie Moore, you’ll find a period cover by ’60s UK singer Tony Rivers nestled among 58 singles released by Immediate, and a Dutch band called The Hik whose four tracks are featured on the compilation Kruup 6×4 alongside the surf sounds of Los Tiki Boys and the Herb Alpert pastiche of The Herb Spectacles. There’s also tuneful indie/punk rock from Amy Miles and Joe Jitsu, and a few faceless studio bands covering the Beach Boys and other surf bands. This still leaves out great versions by the Smithereens, Vivian Girls, The Shins, and many others. Next time we’ll try the Shangri-La’s “Train From Kansas City.”

Hacienda: Big Red & Barbacoa

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Invigorating mix of rock ‘n’ roll, production pop, Tex-Mex and more

Among the most intriguing aspects of this San Antonio quartet’s second album is that you’re never quite sure what you’re listening to. Is it taking cues from early rock? California production pop? Stax soul? Tex-Mex? Neo-psychedelic grunge? The answer is ‘yes’ to all. At times, like the Beach Boys ‘65-inspired “Younger Days,” the influence is pure honorific. Other antecedents are amalgamated, such as the suggestions of Little Richard and Thee Midniters in the early rock ‘n’ soul of “Mama’s Cookin.” Others are honored and tweaked at the same time, such as a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “You’re My Girl,” on which the sound is a bit harder than the original, but the lust in the vocal gets at what Phil and Don could only allude to in 1965.

You can hear Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles in the guitars, the somber mood of Johnny Cash in the vocals, and the teenage energy of mid-60s go-go rock in the rhythms. But as quickly as one thing strikes you familiar another emerges from the mix to create doubts. “Got to Get Back Home” features the roller-rink organ of Dave “Baby” Cortez,” a Norteno polka-rhythm and accordion, and a vocal that swings like a drunken folk-revival whaling song. The closing title track is an instrumental session that sounds like ? and the Mysterians jamming a B-side in Memphis. As an added treat, several of the tracks are produced in punchy AM-ready mono and the album is available on vinyl! [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | I Keep Waiting
Hacienda’s Home Page
Hacienda’s MySpace Page

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound: Late Music

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DenisDiken_LateMusicBritish Invasion, ‘60s California pop and more from Smithereens drummer

As the drummer for the Smithereens, Dennis Diken’s taken both a figurative and literal backseat to the songwriting and singing of Pat DiNizio. But Diken’s a drummer with a lot of melody in him, as his first solo album so amply shows. Paired with multi-instrumentalist Pete DiBella, Diken not only keeps time but sings most of the leads and backgrounds and co-wrote all thirteen of these throwback pop tunes. Diken draws from the same mid-60s millieu as DiNizio’s Beatle-esque songs for the Smithereens, but he leans more heavily on the mod sounds of the Creation and the Who, the pre-orchestral Moody Blues, the California beach sounds of Gary Usher, the harmonies of the Beach Boys, Raspberries, and Association, and the studio production of Brian Wilson.

The Brian Wilson motifs are particularly striking on the questioning “Standing in Line” which could pass for a long-lost Pet Sounds outtake were it not an original composition. The pleading “Fall Into Your Arms” and alluring “Temptation Cake” further echo the Beach Boys, but also the jazz harmonies from which Brian Wilson drew inspiration. Diken takes inspiration from the Who’s “Bucket T” with the full-kit drumming and power harmonies of “Long Lonely Ride,” and the insistent bass and slashing guitar chords of “The Sun’s Gonna Shine in the Morning” are pure UK freakbeat. Diken and DiBella offer up the good time vibe of the Lovin’ Spoonful, by way of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” on “Let Your Loved One Sleep” and they dabble in breezy Brazilian easy listening on “Lost Bird.”

The ballads seem more modern on the surface, but are laced with vintage totems of mellotron, electric sitar, French horn, harpsichord, and a variety of electric pianos and organs, suggesting long-lost album tracks by the Electric Prunes. Guest appearances by Andy Paley, Jason Falkner, members of Brian Wilson’s backing band, the Wondermints, and Wilson’s one time side project, the Honeys, are complemented by lesser-known (but no less talented) figures of the retro pop scene, including one-time Optic Nerve keyboardist Dave Amels, producer/musician Andrew Sandoval, and Los Angeles drummer Nelson Bragg. That Diken can sing is no shock to Smithereens fans, but the completeness of his vision as a singer, songwriter and bandleader is a welcome surprise. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Let Your Loved One Sleep
Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s MySpace Page
The Smithereens’ Home Page

Adam Marsland: Daylight Kissing Night – Adam Marsland’s Greatest Hits

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

adammarsland_daylightkissingnightSophisticated pop-rock from former Cockeyed Ghost leader

Adam Marsland and his former band Cockeyed Ghost were serious road warriors throughout the latter half of the 1990s, performing hundreds of shows a year and recording four albums between 1996 and 2000. When the band came to an end, Marsland carried on as a solo act, touring with his guitar and releasing a pair of albums under his own name. But even with a strong back catalog and a Rolodex full of contacts, Marsland finally surrendered to the grind of the itinerant indie musician in 2004. He stopped writing but kept playing and arranging, recorded the tribute album Long Promised Road: Songs of Dennis & Carl Wilson, and subsequently served as the musical director for the Beach Boys’ October 2008 tribute to Carl Wilson at the Roxy in Los Angeles.

Marsland reignited his recording career with the release of this bargain-priced set that distills his catalog to twenty songs spanning both Cockeyed Ghost and his solo releases. He’s touched up a few tracks and re-recorded a few more to even out a dozen years of instruments, studios, musicians and producers. Mastering engineer Earle Mankey gave the collection a final polish, and the results sound remarkably holistic. Long time fans will hear the songs as cherry-picked from various phases of Marsland’s career, but those new to the catalog will be impressed with how smoothly these tracks knit together. Marsland’s a clever writer, in the vein of Ben Folds and Ben Vaughn, and his music spans pop and rock with underpinnings of soul. This isn’t exactly power pop (not nearly enough broken hearts), but there’s plenty of chime in the guitars and hooks in the melodies.

The opening “My Kickass Life” could easily succumb to jokey sarcasm, but Marsland sings instead of the satisfaction found in the mistakes that have shaped him. The flipside of that contentment include the low point of solo touring, “I Can’t Do This Anymore,” and the fictional musician abandoning his adopted California in “Ludlow 6:18.” The latter may also be the tail end of the fleeing protagonist of “Disappear.” Marsland often throws listeners a curveball by matching lyrics of depression and ennui to chipper melodies that suggest things aren’t as bad as the words claim. Not so with “Ginna Ling,” whose dark twist cuts through the frothy sing-songy pop, and whose chorus changes meaning mid-song. The existential angst of “The Foghorn,” a song based on contemplations of a parent’s mortality, is even more straightforward.

Marsland’s affection for the Wilson brothers is evident throughout, but particularly in “The Fates Cry Foul,” which sounds like a modern-day Brian Wilson tune, and the Beach Boys-styled vocal harmonies of “Portland.” The high harmonies of “Big Big Yeah” borrow a page from Jan & Dean and add a spark to this wonderfully sarcastic song about disposable buzz bands. All in all, this is a good introduction to an artist whose acclaim should be wider, and a great way to catch up before Marsland unleashes a new album currently projected for March 2009. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Ginna Ling
Adam Marsland’s Home Page
Adam Marsland’s MySpace Page

Dennis Wilson: Pacific Ocean Blue (Legacy Edition)

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

denniswilson_pacificoceanblueRoyal reissue of first Beach Boys solo release

As a drummer, harmony vocalist and occasional songwriter, Dennis Wilson wasn’t the obvious member of the Beach Boys to be first to market with a solo album. But with this 1977 release he stepped outside the shadow of his brother Brian and showed off surprising. These rock productions, thick with guitars, drums, keyboards and orchestration, combine his legacy as a part of Brian Wilson’s troupe, along with influences of West Coast collaborators like Gary Usher and visionaries like Curt Boettcher. Interestingly, by the time Wilson completed the album in 1976, the sounds upon which he was weaned were giving way to rootsier singer-songwriter introspection and more bombastic arena rock. Both of those flavors can also be heard here, the former in Wilson’s introspective lyrics, and the latter in the grandiosity of the productions.

There’s a sophistication to this solo effort that sets it apart from contemporaneous work by the Beach Boys, who in 1977 were still lyrically in thrall of Brian Wilson’s childlike wonder. By this point Dennis Wilson’s ragged voice was no match for his brothers’, but he made canny choices: what to sing, how to sing it and how to surround himself with instrumentation. As other reviewers have noted, Dennis Wilson’s rasp is an acquired taste, and can be wearying at album length, but there’s no denying the feeling in his vocals or his commitment to the lyrics. Emotionally and sonically this is an album both of its time and of the times in which Wilson grew up as an artist, and the palpable air of depletion is heart-wrenching in contrast to the lyrical optimism. The album can be a wearying spin beginning to end, but the individual tracks make for very great surprises in a mix.

Legacy’s deluxe reissue is one of the best they’ve ever put together in this series. In addition to superbly remastered versions of the album’s original dozen tracks, disc one is filled out with four previously unreleased items, and disc two contains sixteen tracks from Wilson’s unfinished second album, Bambu. Wilson’s voice was spent and at times tuneless as he recorded the follow-on tracks, making Bambu even more of an acquired taste than POB. Much of the bonus material has circulated on bootlegs, but this is its first official release in full master tape fidelity. The quad-fold cardboard slipcase includes a 40-page booklet stuffed with photos, an essay by Ben Edmonds, a Dennis Wilson artistic chronology, song and musician credits, and lyrics. Disc one also features a PDF that includes a 16-page essay by noted Beach Boys biographer David Leaf and a slightly extended version of the booklet’s chronology. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]