Saturday, December 17, 1977

Elvis Costello gets banned from Saturday Night Live: December 17, 1977

Originally posted December 17, 2011.



Saturday Night Live made its name in the 1970s not just for its live sketch comedy, but for musical performances. For the December 17, 1977 broadcast, the Sex Pistols were scheduled to perform. Their criminal records complicated the process of getting them visas in time so Elvis Costello & the Attractions were invited instead. Ironically, one would have assumed no one was more likely to provide controversy than the Pistols, but Elvis proved them wrong.

Costello wanted to promote his upcoming new single “Radio Radio”. However, the powers-that-be wanted an already established song from his repetoire. Lorne Michaels, the show’s producer, also didn’t want them to perform the song because of its anti-media message ZM which criticized “the commercialization and payola of the airwaves.” RS Costello seemingly obliged, kicking into a performance of “Less Than Zero”. However, he’d barely started the song when he turned to his band yelling “Stop! Stop!” and then informing the audience, “I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, there’s no reason to do this song here.” He then launched into “Radio Radio” instead.

The move got Costello banned from the program for more than a decade. Michaels was not a fan of such spontaneous changes and was reportedly infuriated that it put the show off schedule. ZM Costello has said the move was inspired by a Jimi Hendrix performance on BBC television in which he was supposed to play “Hey Joe” but opted for a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” instead. That broadcast was stopped when it ran “longer and louder than the show’s producers intended.” WK

Costello finally appeared as a musical guest again in 1989 and also in 1991. For SNL’s 25th anniversary in 1999, the Beastie Boys were beginning a performance of their song “Sabotage” when Costello interrupted them and they played “Radio Radio” together.

Click here to see the 1977 performance of “Radio Radio”





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Friday, December 16, 1977

Saturday Night Fever premiered in U.S. theaters: December 16, 1977

Originally posted December 16, 2011.



This 1977 drama told the story of Brooklynite Tony Manero, played by John Travolta. He lived with his unsupportive parents and worked a dead-end hardware store job. However, his weekends were devoted to dancing at the local discotheque.

British writer Nik Cohn provided the inspiration for the movie with his 1976 New York magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”. Cohn was a newcomer to the United States and a stranger to the disco lifestyle. Unable to grasp the subculture which he was expected to write about, he fabricated the article based on a Mod acquaintance. WK

The movie has been largely credited with popularizing disco around the world. It made Travolta a household name and the soundtrack, which prominently featured the Bee Gees, was one of the best-selling albums of all time. In fact, the film was the first example of cross-media marketing with a single being used to promote the film before its release. WK

The film was considered by many critics to be one of the best movies of 1977. It was featured in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made and in 2010 was selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Travolta earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.




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Saturday, November 12, 1977

The Sex Pistols hit #1 in the U.K.: November 12, 1977

Originally posted 11/12/11. Updated 2/22/13.


Release date: 28 October 1977
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Holidays in the Sun / Bodies / No Feelings / Liar / Problems / God Save the Queen / Seventeen / Anarchy in the U.K. / Submission / Pretty Vacant / New York / E.M.I.

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.3 UK, 1.3 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 106 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: “Recognizing that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, manager-Svengali Malcolm McLaren molded the Pistols into the most confrontational, nihilistic band rock & roll had ever seen.” BA “One album was all they made, and probably all anyone could stand.” TL Still, “while mostly accurate, dismissing Never Mind the Bollocks as merely a series of loud, ragged mid-tempo rockers with a harsh, grating vocalist and not much melody would be a terrible error.” SH “Most imitators of the Pistols’ angry nihilism missed the point: Underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms.” SH

“The Pistols’ early singles Anarchy in the U.K. and God Save the Queen defined the raging style of British punk.” BA The latter “dared voice the opinion that the monarch ‘ain’t no human bein.’” TL Meanwhile, “Holidays in the Sun mashed the Holocaust, the British economy and third world tourism into something offensive to hear (‘I don’t wanna holiday in the sun/ I wanna go to new Belsen/ I wanna see some/ History ‘cause now I got a reasonable economy’) and more offensive to ignore.” TL

“Already anthemic songs are rendered positively transcendent by Johnny Rotten’s rabid, foaming delivery.” SH “Rotten, who had never sung before, had a gift for malice that he turned on the complacent England of the 70s.” TL “His bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation and the very foundations of British society were all carried out in the most confrontational, impolite manner possible.” SH

Of course, there was also “Steve Jones’ buzz-saw guitar” BA which made “the songs explosive and catchy” TL “and (most importantly) bass player Glen Matlock’s hook-filled compositional skills.” BA However, “by the time they recorded their lone 1977 album, Matlock had been bounced, replaced by the image-correct but utterly untalented (and ultimately group-dooming) Sid Vicious,” BA “a tragic sideshow.” TL

“The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective. It’s easy to see how the band’s roaring energy, overwhelmingly snotty attitude, and Rotten’s furious ranting sparked a musical revolution, and those qualities haven’t diminished one bit over time. Never Mind the Bollocks is simply one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time.” SH


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Saturday, October 22, 1977

Lynyrd Skynyrd members died in a plane crash: October 20, 1977

Originally posted October 20, 2011.



On October 27, 1977, the rock world suffered one of the most tragic losses in music history when a twin-engine, propeller-driven Convair 240 plane crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. The chartered plane out of Texas carried the members of Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd. They were headed from a Greenville, South Carolina, show to another in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The reported cause of the crash was fuel shortage. Of the 26 passengers on board, six were killed. They included Lynyrd Skynyrd’s singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister and backup singer Cassie Gaines. They were all 28 years old. The group’s assistant road manager, Dean Kirkpatrick was also among the dead. Walter Wiley McCreary and William John Gray, the pilot and co-pilot, were also killed. Others were critically injured.

Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in Jacksonville, Florida, when Van Zant played in high school with Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. They named their band after the Robert E. Lee High School’s physical education instructor Leonard Skinner as a means of getting even. He was not a fan of long hair and loud music and he played a hand in getting them suspended from school.




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Friday, October 21, 1977

Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell released October 21, 1977

Originally posted October 21, 2012.

image from vinylrecords.ch


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Bat Out of Hell (2/10/79; #8 UK) / You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) (5/20/78; #39 US, #33 UK) / Heaven Can Wait / All Revved Up with No Place to Go / Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad (3/18/78; #11 US, #32 UK) / Paradise by the Dashboard Light (8/12/78; #39 US) / For Crying Out Loud

Sales (in millions): 14.0 US, 2.84 UK, 43.0 world

Peak: 14 US, 9 UK

Rating:


Review: “There is no other album like Bat Out of Hell, unless you want to count the sequel.” AMG “Nobody else wanted to make mini-epics like this.” AMG This collection of songs makes for “one of rock’s most theatrical, grandiose records” RS and one of the genre’s “least likely hit albums.” AZ It is “overwrought and undeniable;” AZ “epic, gothic, operatic, and silly – and it’s appealing because of all of this.” AMG “It’s rock as soap opera.” PR

Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, had alternated between recording music and appearing on stage through the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He starred in the musical More Than You Deserve, written by the classically-trained pianist Jim Steinman, after which the pair decided to work on a musical album project based on Peter Pan. It evolved into the Bat Out of Hell album. TB

As a composer, Steinman drew on the “pomp and circumstance of Richard Wagner” TB and subscribed to the same principle which “made Andrew Lloyd Webber a multimillionaire knight: if you do kitsch, do it big.” AZ “There never could have been a singer more suited for [Steinman’s] compositions than Meat Loaf, a singer partial to bombast, albeit shaded bombast.” AMG In addition, Todd Rundgren “gives Steinman’s self-styled grandiosity a production that’s staggeringly big but never overwhelming and always alluring.” AMG

The songs on Bat Out of Hell are fused with “sentiments are deliberately adolescent and filled with jokes and exaggerated clichés.” AMG This is “the sound of the American dream slipping into a coma as images of drive-in movies, teenage sexual fantasies and motorbike mythology flash before its eyes.” PR “It may be easy to dismiss this as ridiculous, but there’s real style and craft here and its kitsch is intentional.” AMG “There’s real (albeit silly) wit behind these compositions” AMG and “Meat Loaf finds the emotional core in each song, bringing true heartbreak to Two Out of Three Ain't Bad and sly humor” AMG to “the breathless nookie-quest [of] Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” AZ complete with “baseball announcer [Phil Rizzuto] to narrate the backseat hookup.” CS

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

The album “often gets compared to [Bruce Springsteen’s] Born to Run.” CS Bat has “Springsteen-esque narratives,” AMG “the same small-town themes, epic production, and even personnel [E Street Band members Max Weinberg and Roy Bitten] but where Born to Run provides a nuanced look at the trials and triumphs of kids bursting out of small town America, Meat Loaf throws subtlety out the window. Everything here is bigger. Bat Out of Hell turns ‘Born to Run’ into a 10-minute roar, throwing motorcycle sound effects and ‘Leader of the Pack’ melodrama into the pot.” CS

In addition, this is musically “a savvy blend of oldies pastiche, show tunes, prog rock…and blistering hard rock (thereby sounding a bit like an extension of Rocky Horror Picture Show, which brought Meat Loaf to the national stage).” AMG “It’s hard not to marvel at the skill behind this grandly silly, irresistible” AMG and “brassy, brash and over the top” ZS “megaselling, megabombastic mega-album.” RS “There are only a small number of records that fall into the ‘essential rock album’ category, and this is definitely one of them.” NO

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad


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Saturday, October 8, 1977

Billy Joel charts with The Stranger: October 8, 1977

Originally posted October 8, 2011.



This was Joel’s fifth album and “is generally regarded by critics as his magnum opus.” WK It is also his best-selling studio album to date. WK His “breakout LP came years after he first hit the charts with the novelty-ish ‘Piano Man’” DH and after four moderately successful albums. However, his previous albums “blunted interesting songs with a sound that was neither Elton mellow nor Elton attitude.” DH For The Stranger, “Billy Joel teamed with Phil Ramone, a famed engineer who had just scored his first producing hits with Art Garfunkel's Breakaway and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years.” STE

“Joel still favored big, sweeping melodies, but Ramone convinced him to streamline his arrangements and clean up the production. The results aren’t necessarily revelatory, since he covered so much ground on Turnstiles, but the commercialism of The Stranger is a bit of a surprise” STE for “those who had written Joel off as a one-hit wonder.” DH “None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as Just the Way You Are,” STE which won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. In addition, Joel “he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as Only the Good Die Young; and the glossy production of She's Always a Woman disguises its latent misogynist streak.” STE

“Joel balanced such radio-ready material with a series of New York vignettes, seemingly inspired by Springsteen’s working-class fables and clearly intended to be the artistic centerpieces of the album. They do provide The Stranger with the feel of a concept album, yet there is no true thematic connection between the pieces, and his lyrics are often vague or mean-spirited.” STE

The title song is marked by a “signature whistle line” WK which Joel initially intended just as a fill-in until, as he told Ramone, he found the right instrument to play in its place. Ramone’s response: “No, you don’t. That’s ‘The Stanger,’ the whistling.” WK

“His lyrical shortcomings are overshadowed by his musical strengths. Even if his melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles – the epic suite Scenes from an Italian Restaurant feels like a show-stopping closer – there’s no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album.” STE

“Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.” STE The Stranger “remains a solid introduction to Joel's restless muse at a crucial point in his career.” DH The album invites some “comparisons to Bruce Springsteen” DH but in “a lower middle-class (Eastern Urban) setting, but Joel’s chameleonic, formalist approach to pop wasn't to be so easily pigeonholed.” DH




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Saturday, July 30, 1977

Styx Charts with Breakthrough Album, The Grand Illusion: July 30, 1977

Originally posted July 30, 2011.



Styx


Since revamping this blog to focus on musical history, I have transitioned from the lengthier subjective essays (pre-June 2011 entries) to shorter, more objective pieces. One notable exception was my post “Marillion Misplaced Childhood Hits #1 in UK: June 29, 1985”.

Like that album, Styx’s The Grand Illusion works its way into the DMDB blog more because of my personal love of the album than its historical impact. The album certainly shows up on some best-of lists – it makes the Dave’s Music Database lists for the top 1000 albums of all time and the top 100 classic rock albums. However, on a personal level, it was my favorite album of 1977 and one of my top ten albums of all time.


Click photo for more about the album.


I refer to The Grand Illusion as Styx’s breakthrough album, but it was neither their debut nor first hit. The group had released four albums with indie label Wooden Nickel. However, they went largely unnoticed until “Lady”, a song from 1973’s Styx II, was belatedly picked up by radio and became a top ten hit in 1975. The group then signed with major label A&M. The next two albums, 1975’s Equinox and 1976’s Crystal Ball both landed top 40 hits with “Lorelei” (#27) and “Mademoiselle” (#36) respectively, but the albums didn’t even crack the top 50.

Styx’s seventh album changed everything. Fueled by second top ten hit “Come Sail Away”, The Grand Illusion was a triple-platinum, top ten success which “led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock” MD and introduced them “to the gates of commercial stardom.” MD



Follow-up single, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”, gave Styx its fifth top 40 hit and established them as one of rock’s rare bands with more than one singer/songwriter. Dennis DeYoung wrote and sang “Lady” and “Come Sail Away” and later took “Babe” (the group’s sole #1 hit), “The Best of Times”, “Mr. Roboto”, “Don’t Let It End”, and “Show Me the Way” to the top ten. With “Fooling Yourself”, Tommy Shaw became a force as well. His pop success wasn’t as pronounced as DeYoung’s – his only top ten was “Too Much Time on My Hands” – but he helmed album-rock-friendly gems with “Fooling Yourself”, “Crystal Ball”, “Blue Collar Man”, and “Renegade”.



The Grand Illusion also gave guitarist James Young a vehicle to showcase his chops with the hard-charging “Miss America”. That song and the title cut have since become staples at album-rock stations.

Granted, Styx has never been a critics’ favorite. I am a firm believer, though, that personal taste should always be about what one likes just because one likes it. I argued this point in more depth in my June 27, 2010 blog entry/essay called, appropriately, “The Styx Defense”. So go ahead and pull out the album again and listen to it without shame. I’m certainly playing it again for the umpteenth time.


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Saturday, May 7, 1977

The Eagles’ “Hotel California” hit #1: May 7, 1977

Originally posted May 7, 2012.

image from combe-do-iommi.blogspot.com

In the early ’70s, the Eagles took wing, rising up from being Linda Ronstadt’s backup band to becoming the premiere country rock group. Through four albums, they crafted a sound that de-emphasized the twang just enough to give them widespread appeal. In the process, they landed two #1 songs and three more top ten hits.

By their fifth album, personnel changes meant the Eagles had more muscle with the dual guitars of Don Felder and Joe Walsh. This new direction in sound didn’t dampen pop audiences’ enthusiasm – the Hotel California gave the Eagles two more #1 songs – “New Kid in Town” and the title track. While the first still treated listeners to a slice of country rock, “Hotel California” established the Eagles as a dominant force in the classic rock arena.

The song’s tale of a luxury resort where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” has prompted multiple interpretations. Theories abound as to song’s inspiration although all such rumors have been denied by the band. WK Themes range from heroin addiction to Satan worship, RS500 from being about a cannibal-run hotel, a state mental hospital, or a metaphor for cancer. WK

Singer Don Henley said it was about “‘the decadence and escapism of the ‘70s.’” LW The song is considered an allegory about the music industry and the destructive influence it had on the Eagles. As Henley has also said, “‘We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest…‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.’” RS500

Bandmate Glenn Frey asserts that California was just “‘a microcosm for the rest of the world,’” LW a sentiment echoed by Henley’s comments that the song explores “‘the dark underbelly of the American dream and...excess in America.’” WK

Hotel California


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Friday, April 8, 1977

The Clash released their debut album: April 8, 1977

Originally posted April 8, 2012.

image from musicko.com


Release date: 8 April 1977 (UK), July 1979 (US)
Tracks (UK version): (Click for codes to singles charts.) Janie Jones / Remote Control (5/27/77, --) / I’m So Bored with the U.S.A. / White Riot (3/18/77, #38 UK) / Hate & War / What’s My Name / Deny * / London’s Burning / Career Opportunities / Cheat * / Protex Blues * / Police and Thieves / 48 Hours * / Garageland
Tracks (US version): Clash City Rockers ** (2/17/78, #35 UK) / I’m So Bored with the U.S.A. / Remote Control (5/27/77, --) / Complete Control ** (9/16/77, #28 UK) / White Riot (3/18/77, #38 UK) / White Man in Hammersmith Palais ** (6/16/78, #32 UK) / London’s Burning / I Fought the Law ** (5/11/79, #22 UK) / Janie Jones / Career Opportunities / What’s My Name / Hate & War / Police and Thieves / Jail Guitar Doors ** / Garageland

* only on UK version
** only on US version

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 world

Peak: 126 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: The Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks may have appeared revolutionary, but the Clash’s eponymous debut album was pure, unadulterated rage and fury, fueled by passion for both rock & roll and revolution.” AMG2 While The Clash “sees the band in its most primal, punk form” AMG1 and while “the cliché about punk rock was that the bands couldn’t play.” AMG2 However, “although they gave that illusion,” AMG “unlike its punk rivals the Sex Pistols, The Clash could play, and they played hard.” RV

“The charging, relentless rhythms, primitive three-chord rockers, and the poor sound quality give the album a nervy, vital energy. Joe Strummer’s slurred wails perfectly compliment the edgy rock, while Mick Jones’ clearer singing and charged guitar breaks make his numbers righteously anthemic.” AMG2 “Despite Mickey Foote’s low-key, lo-fi production, [the band] mesh and unite with a snarling ferocity and energy. Raw, bouncy edginess pours out of each song, with new hooks popping out at odd angles by the second.” AMG1

“While the Pistols’ music focuses on its own brand of nihilism, The Clash examines the struggles of England's streets with…wit and edge” RV and what was even considered by some to be a “proto-fascist call-to-arms.” WR “This is a band not so much rebelling against a society, but trying to incite a riot in a world where ‘All the power is in the hands / Of people rich enough to buy it / While we walk the street / Too chicken to even try it,’ as Strummer proclaims in White Riot.” RV

White Riot

“Few punk songs expressed anger quite as bracingly as ‘White Riot,’ I’m So Bored with the U.S.A., Career Opportunities, and London’s Burning, and their power is all the more incredible today.” AMG2 The first two “reflect the somewhat youthful, early quasi-political leanings of the band. Though they would come across as slightly amateurish years later, it’s hard to deny their punchy charm.” AMG1

The Clash, however, is about more than just punk rock. “The Clash were eager to confront the degenerating music scene as fiercely as they attacked the bourgeoisie.” RV “The band isn’t satisfied lingering in any one genre.” AMG1White Man in Hammersmith Palais is the ultimate anti-punk song, which also manages to convert rock lovers into punks.” RV

White Man in Hammersmith Palais

“Even at this early stage, the Clash were experimenting with reggae, most notably on…Police & Thieves, “a massively catchy take on the Junior Murvin/Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry song and an early signpost for the future dub/rock fusions to come on Sandinista!.” AMG1

Remote Control mixes Kinks-style fractured pop with pace changes lifted straight from Chuck Berry. Cheat sounds like the Ramones’ ‘Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment’ given a rockabilly makeover.” AMG1 Also here is “the funky singalong Protex Blue, the dark and revealing paranoia of Deny, and the short but utterly delightful 48 Hours.” AMG1

Remote Control

It would be more than two years later that the U.S. version of The Clash was released. Four cuts were omitted (see track listings) in favor of post-U.K. Clash singles/B-sides, “all of which were stronger than the items they replaced.” AMG2 “In a way, the U.S. edition served as an extremely early best-of,” AMG1 but because these songs were “more polished and thus somewhat jarring,” AMG1 “purists…most likely swear on the sonic cohesion of this U.K. edition.” AMG1 No matter which way you go, though, “rock & roll is rarely as edgy, invigorating, and sonically revolutionary as The Clash.” AMG2 It “didn’t just help invigorate the punk scene – it was a desperate call to arms.” RV

Complete Control

Clash City Rockers


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Tuesday, February 8, 1977

Television released Marquee Moon: February 8, 1977

Originally posted 2/8/2012. Updated 3/9/2013.


Released: 8 February 1977
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. See No Evil 2. Venus 3. Friction 4. Marquee Moon 5. Elevation 6. Guiding Light 7. Prove It 8. Torn Curtain

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Peak: -- US, 28 UK

Rating:


Review: Television’s Marquee Moon didn’t even chart in the U.S., but this “classic bit of punk rock from 1977” PK is “a trailblazing album,” AMG “a sinuous, entrancing and gorgeous debut.” ZG “It’s impossible to imagine post-punk soundscapes without it.” AMG It “is a revolutionary album, but it’s a subtle, understated revolution” AMG built on “an incongruous, soaring amalgam of genres.” RS “Where their predecessors in the New York punk scene, most notably the Velvet Underground, had fused blues structures with avant-garde flourishes” AMG and their “peers turned up the distortion, revved up the tempo, and stripped their songs down to tight three-chord anthems, Television did something startlingly different.” PK
Marquee Moon is comprised entirely of tense garage rockers that spiral into heady intellectual territory.” AMG Television “completely strip away any sense of swing or groove, even when they are playing standard three-chord changes.” AMG They smartly “avoid the cursory punk snarl” TM by employing “a radical rethinking of rock guitar” TM which is as “exhilarating in its ambitions as the Ramones’ debut was in its simplicity.” RS Singer/songwriter Tom Verlaine and lead guitarist Richard Lloyd didn’t “bludgeon listeners” TM with their guitar interplay, but used the two guitars to, as Lloyd himself said, to “play rhythm and melody back and forth” TM with “the precise alignment of several contrasting motifs: Verlaine would establish a rhythmic phrase, against which Lloyd would splatter defiant, often deliriously dissonant, melodies.” TM

Verlaine supplied “an excellent set of songs that conveyed a fractured urban mythology unlike any of his contemporaries.” AMG The songs “were thought-provoking, memorable, danceable” PK and “sounded as if they might have come from a Mike Hammer pulp detective novel.” RS

The rest of the group “flesh out Verlaine’s poetry into sweeping sonic epics.” AMG via “long, interweaving instrumental sections.” AMG “There is simply not a bad song on the entire record.” AMG


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