Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nick Drake

Preamble: No, this is not Powerpop. It's just brilliant music.

A critic once wrote Nick Drake can change your life. This may not be right for everyone, but he may have a point there.

Nick Drake was an English singer-songwriter and musician.
When he was 20 years old he signed to Island Records and released three records there: Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972).

Nick Drake suffered from depression (you'll recognize by his lyrics), especially the last years of his short life.
Nick didn't like to perform live or be interviewed. There is even no known picture of the adult Drake. All that wasn't very helpful for his commercial success. None of its records had more than 5000 buyers at first release.

After finishing his third record (Pink Moon), he stopped all musical work and  moved to his parents in Warwickshire.
Nick Drake died from an overdose of a antidepressant on 25 November 1974 - he was only 26 years old (it's still not sure if it was accident or suicide).

One may find his music depressing, others spiritual or relaxing.
Interesting fact: it's really hard to guess that its music is from the late 1960s / early 1970s. It's kind of timeless.

A good start to listen would be Way to Blue - An Introduction to Nick Drake or just one of his three records.

Discography (studio records):
  • Five Leaves Left (1969)     
  • Bryter Layter (1970)     
  • Pink Moon (1972)
Discography (compilations): 
  • Fruit Tree (1979)
  • Time of No Reply (1986)
  • Way to Blue - An Introduction to Nick Drake (1994)
  • Made to Love Magic (2004)
  • A Treasury (2004)
  • Family Tree (2007)
  • Tuckbox (2013)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Cry! - Dangerous Game + Interview with the band (update)

The second studio album by The Cry! is called Dangerous Game and will be released on March 1, 2014 (CD/Vinyl/Digital).

The Cry! are Brian Crace (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Ray Nelsen (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Dave Berkham (Bass Guitar, Vocals) and  Evan "Maus" Mersky (Drums).
The band's debut LP "The CRY!" received rave reviews from Rolling Stone, Maximum Ronk'n'Roll, and dozens of industry sources.

With upbeat songs full of pure energy, catchy guitar riffs and harmonies The Cry! are a reminiscence to the 50s, 60s and 70s. But they are surely more than that!
You'll instantly recognize their influences like The Beach Boys, Exploding Hearts and The Sweet. The band brings back Rock'n'Roll, Power Pop, Glam and Punk, which makes them timeless.

Dangeous Game are 10 tracks - and 28 minutes of pure musical fun and Rock'n'Roll.

There will also be a 10 track live record ("The CRY! Live at The Banana Stand") released January 21, 2014.

The band was so kind to have a Q&A with PowerPopSquare:

PPS: How did "The Cry!" come about?

The Cry!: Well, I (Ray) wanted to start a Rock ‘n’ Roll band so I wrote some songs. I tried to get Brian Crace, a guitar player I’d heard about, to join but he thought we (drummer Johnny Martinez and I) were kind of losers. I got him to come over to the house one night and we got drunk, egged some houses and bonded. Honestly, that was the beginning of The CRY!
We went out around Portland (OR) looking for a strong bass player that could sing and eventually found Dave (Berkham) playing guitar and fronting his band “Midnight Callers.” We were so impressed that we immediately asked him if he played bass and would help us record a few songs.
At first Dave thought we were losers too but we convinced him to track a few songs with us. In January 2011 we went into Fetish Pop studios in Portland and laid down seven tunes: Waiting Around, I Think I’m In Love, Be True, Such a Bore, Sleeping Alone, I Wanna Know and a cover of Herman’s Hermits Henry IIIV.
Recording went pretty well but when we first sat down heard the playback of our vocals, with backgrounds and all, we knew we had something special. Since that day it’s been CRY! Or DIE!

PPS: Was it difficult to record album #2?

The Cry!: Writing the songs was (and is) the easy part. Dave, Brian and I write a lot of songs so materials were pretty easy to come by. But still this was a much harder record to make. This record took almost two years to complete for a few reasons.
Our first record got a lot of great press and sold a gang of copies well. We knew we had to at least match that effort and really wanted to outdo it. I guess we had a bit of “sophomore blues.”
Next, we were spending all our money on touring (130 shows in 2012), and had no money for recording (Dave is the only one with a “real” job). Probably the biggest thing was that we when got together to record we just started partying too hard and fucking around like mates do.
Finally, we got focused in the summer of 2013. Our drummer, Evan “Maus” Mersky, was starting up a recording outfit called “Red Lantern Studios” He offered to record/engineer at all hours of day and night when the studio didn’t have paying customers. So we did a day here and a week there until the tracking was done. We finished mixing in October of 2013.

PPS: Why do you think vinyl has this huge comeback particularly these days?

The Cry!: Don’t know about other kids but I’m sick and tired of this digital shit. Digital is convenient and great sound quality but is kind of an empty experience. I want something to touch and look at. A vinyl record is more like a keepsake and playing a record is like a ritual event. For me, putting vinyl on the player, hearing the scratches, looking at the pictures and liner notes is kind of a religious thing.

PPS: Who was the last artist or band that took you by surprise?

The Cry!: The new Justin Bieber 7” really got me off…NOT! Seriously, I got to give a shout-out to Wyldlife. There new record is killer. Their songs remind me of how The CRY! lives and that’s what great music does. Tuck (Biters) produced their last record “Time Has Come To Rock & Roll” and it’s a smasher. They are one of our favorite bands these days and we’d love to work with all those guys soon.

PPS: Do you think the internet is good or bad for musicians/bands?

The Cry!: It’s both good and bad. It’s good because it levels the creative playing field and allows more players create solid tracks and get their shit out there to be heard. The CRY! would never have been able to make records or videos without digital tools and the internet.
We do a lot of Facebook, ReverbNation, YouTube etc… On the other hand, it’s bad cause it make it crazy hard for new artists to make money. We are broker than shit… but we look good and have great fans.

PPS: Which genre do you mostly relate to with?

The Cry!: We don’t like being lumped into one or the other. We are obviously influenced a lot by power pop with heavy punk and do wop trimmings.
Honestly, in the end, its only Rock & Roll and we like it!

Official website:

Baby Scream - Greatest Failures

Baby Scream is a project from Argentina led by Juan Pablo Mazzola - and to say it with his own words: 

"Baby Scream…what is all about? A band from Argentina, weird chords, pop songs, Beatles, greatest friends, worst friends, a lot of comedy, a lot of drama, Fender gear, Marshall gear, a lot of cigarettes, red wine, Santa Monica beach, cheap recordings, fancy recordings, solo acoustic gigs, Hare Krishna musicians, a solo act from London, Power Pop, Cheap Trick, the winter, the spring, the summer, the fall, Identity Theft, really nice people, really fucked up people, late hours, life in general..."

Juan Pablo Mazzola
Baby Scream released Greatest Failures, their best-of collection in November 2013 (nice title for a best-of, is it?).
Greatest Failures may be a great start for those who don't know Baby Scream (you can listen to the record below).
If you even sligthly care for David Bowie, Bob Dylan, The Beatles or E.L.O. you really may like this record.

Great songs to start: Aching Eyes, Exile, Mars, Jekyll & Hyde

Listen or buy it at Bandcamp or

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Queen - A Biography

When you ask about the origins of the power pop genre, several bands have to be mentioned. One of the most important of them is Queen.

Queen Logo

Queen: John Deacon, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury (from left to right)

The 70s

In 1970 Queen was formed, with its four members Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals).

May and Taylor had a band named Smile with Tim Staffell. In 1970 Staffell left Smile, Freddie Mercury (which was born as Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar) joined the band and they renamed it to Queen. Before their first record John Deacon was recruited.

After the release of their first two records Queen and Queen II the band gained international success by Sheer Heart Attack in 1974 and especially A Night at the Opera in 1975.

Bohemian Rhapsody (from A Night at the Opera) stayed at number one in the UK Singles chart for nine weeks and is the third-best-selling single of all time in the UK. The song re-entered the UK Charts at number one in 1991 and the US charts in 1992 by the release of Wayne’s World and reached number two for five weeks.
The video for Bohemian Rhapsody is generally considered to have been the first "true" music video ever produced.

Queen II artwork

Bohemian Rhapsody

In 1977 Queen released with their 6th record News of the World two of the most important anthems of modern music: We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions.

The 80s

In 1980 The Game featured Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust, both reached number one in the US.

By the early 1980s, Queen were one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world (in 1981 Queen’s concert in Argentine / Buenos Aires had the largest single concert crowd history of the country with an audience of 300,000 people)

Queen’s appearance at 1985's Live Aid (with the biggest-ever TV audience of 1.9 billion) is widely regarded as one of the greatest performances in rock history.

Bob Geldof: "Queen were absolutely the best band of the day... they just went and smashed one hit after another... it was the perfect stage for Freddie: the whole world"

Brian May about the Radio Ga Ga performance at Live Aid: "I'd never seen anything like that in my life and it wasn't calculated either. We understood our audience and played to them but that was one of those weird accidents because of the (music) video. I remember thinking 'oh great, they've picked it up' and then I thought 'this is not a Queen audience'. This is a general audience who've bought tickets before they even knew we were on the bill. And they all did it. How did they know? Nobody told them to do it."

Live Aid performance (1985)

After A Kind Of Magic (1986) the band released The Miracle in 1989.
The Miracle began a change in direction of Queen's songwriting philosophy. Since the band's beginning, nearly all songs had been written by and credited to a single member, with other members adding minimally. With The Miracle, the band's songwriting became more collaborative, and they vowed to credit the final product only to Queen as a group.

Breakthru (from "The Miracle", 1989)

I Want It All (from "The Miracle", 1989)

The 90s

In the late 80s rumors began to spread that Freddie Mercury was suffering from AIDS.
In early 1991 Innuendo - the final Queen album with Freddie Mercury - was released. The videos stated undoubtedly that Mercury was seriously ill.
For the last two albums made while Mercury was still alive, the band credited all songs to Queen, rather than specific members of the group, freeing them of internal conflict and differences.

Innuendo artworks
Innuendo sessions

Innuendo (from "Innuendo", 1991)

I'm Going Slightly Mad (from "Innuendo", 1991)

On 23 November 1991 Freddie Mercury confirmed that he had AIDS.
One day later - on 24 November 1991 he died.

The video for These Are the Days of Our Lives show Freddie Mercury's final scenes in front of a camera.

These Are The Days Of Our Lives (from "Innuendo", 1991)

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert took place at London's Wembley Stadium in 1992. 
Def Leppard, Robert Plant, Guns N' Roses, Elton John, David Bowie, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Seal, Extreme, and Metallica performed Queen songs with the remaining Queen members. The concert was televised to over 1.2 billion viewers worldwide. It raised over £20,000,000 for AIDS charities.

George Michael & Queen - Somebody To Love (1992)

In 1995, four years after the death of Freddie Mercury Queen’s last record titled Made in Heaven was released.

The songs were built from Mercury’s last recordings and other reworked material from the three remaining members of Queen.

Mercury’s last song Mother Love wasn’t finished by him. Brian May sang the last verse.

Recording Mercury’s last songs before his death and the finalizing of the record in 1994/1995 was done at the band's studio in Montreux, Switzerland.

May says: "By the time we were recording these other tracks after Innuendo, we had had the discussions and we knew that we were totally on borrowed time because Freddie had been told that he would not make it to that point. I think our plan was to go in there whenever Freddie felt well enough, just to make as much use of him as much as possible, we basically lived in the studio for a while and when he would call and say, 'I can come in for a few hours', our plan was to just make as much use of him as we could, you know he told us, 'Get me to sing anything, write me anything and I will sing it and I will leave you as much as I possibly can.' "

Statue of Mercury in Montreux at the Lake Geneva & Made In Heaven cover artwork

The last track ("Track 13", lasting 22 minutes) is kind of a mystery. Brian May and the long time Queen producer David Richards (who sadly died on 20 December 2013) mainly worked on this.
In 2013 May explained they lit up joss sticks and candles in the control room, powered up every machine in the building, and played with synthesizers and samplers for the whole night. Roger was also there and played a solo They thought they could hear Freddie laughing (he's still not sure where that particular sample came from) - and left it in ... 

The Legacy

Till this day Queen had 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs.

Their album sales are estimated from 150 million to 300 million albums.

Queen’s Greatest Hits I (released in 1981) is the best-selling album in UK Chart history (it spent 450 weeks in the UK Album Chart, it’s certified eight times platinum in the US, and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide).

Queen inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Every member wrote several of Queen’s hit records:
  • Brian May (The Show Must Go On, We Will Rock You, Tie Your Mother Down, Hammer To Fall, Who Wants to Live Forever, I Want It All),
  • Roger Taylor (Radio GaGa, Innuendo, Heaven For Everyone, A Kind Of Magic, ),
  • Freddie Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody To Love, We Are The Champions, Don’t Stop Me Now) and
  • John  Deacon (Another One Bites The Dust, I Want To Break Free, You’re My Best Friend)
Brian May and Roger Taylor perform together now and then, highlight was a collaboration with Paul Rodgers under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers, resulting in a full record (The Cosmos Rocks) and two worldwide tours.

The Cosmos Rocks cover artwork

Queen + Paul Rogers Tour, Berlin 2008

In 2011 it was announced that Queen will be recording a new album featuring lost demos of Mercury on vocals and duets of Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.

Main discography
  • Queen (1973)
  • Queen II (1974)
  • Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
  • A Night at the Opera (1975)
  • A Day at the Races (1976)
  • News of the World (1977)
  • Jazz (1978)
  • Live Killers (1979)
  • The Game (1980)
  • Flash Gordon (1980)
  • Greatest Hits (1981)
  • Hot Space (1982)
  • The Works (1984)
  • A Kind of Magic (1986)
  • Live Magic (1986)
  • The Miracle (1989)
  • At the Beeb (1989)
  • Innuendo (1991)
  • Greatest Hits II (1991)
  • Live at Wembley '86 (1992)
  • Made in Heaven (1995)
  • Queen Rocks (1997)
  • Greatest Hits III (1999)
  • Queen on Fire – Live at the Bowl (2004)
  • Queen Rock Montreal (2007)
  • Absolute Greatest (2009)
  • Deep Cuts, Volume 1 – 3 (2011)
  • Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live in Budapest ’86 (2012)

Queen album covers

Attic Lights - Super De Luxe

By the end of every year there are traditionally the end-of-the-year-best-of lists of all these great music blogs around in the World Wide Web. These are the best way to see what I missed through the year. And every year I am surprised to find a gem in these lists.

In 2013 one particular record surprised me a lot: Attic Lights - Super De Luxe.

Attic Lights are from Glasgow, Scotland. Five years after their debut Friday Night Lights (2008) they released Super De Luxe in 2013.

From the fulminant first track (Say You Love Me) to the final one (Gabrielle) Super De Luxe is a very coherent record. After several listens there is no bad or mediocre song on it.
It's power pop in perfection.
If you like Fountains of Wayne, Farrah or Nada Surf, you should give it a listen.

Highlights: Future Bound, Say You Love Me, Gabrielle