Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Sunday! The Autumn Defense at the Beachland Tavern

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Photo by Mae Moreno

Every Wilco side project has its own personality. On Fillmore – a project featuring drummer Glenn Kotche and St. Louis musician Darin Gray – is adventurous and dense, full of found sounds and evocative instrumentals. Nels Cline’s side work is also more intricate and ornate; his whirling-dervish, effects-laden guitar style runs wild and experimental when freed from the constraints of Wilco’s aesthetic.

And then there’s the Autumn Defense, the project helmed by Pat Sansone and John Stirratt. Perhaps the most “traditional” of the side projects, it’s a band indebted to the power-pop innovators and folk-leaning rockers of the ‘60s and ‘70s. That’s evident on the fantastic Once Around, the Autumn Defense’s new – and fourth! -- record, which was just released by Yep Roc Records.


Happy 30th Birthday, R.E.M.!

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Dear R.E.M.:

Happy birthday! Today, you turn 30 years young -- a milestone birthday that might make your car insurance a wee bit cheaper and keep you from being carded as often. On April 5, 1980, you played your first show at a church in Athens, Georgia. Back in those days, you were a ragged garage act with surf-rock undertones and jangle-thrash overtones. The gig began what would become a long, successful career full of Grammy wins, arena tours and global superstardom.

The eras of your career are pretty well-defined at this point. 1983's Murmur, 1984's Reckoning and 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction mark your college-rock-darling phase. Thanks to Byrds-like Rickenbacker strums, brisk repetition borrowed from the Feelies and cryptic vocal mumbles -- all poetic, mysterious and dreamy -- you were faves of music nerds and earnest English majors alike. 1986's Life's Rich Pageant through 1988's Green ushered in your ability to fill arenas, on the strength of clearer lyrical messages, staunch political activism and accessible rock singles such as "The One I Love," "Stand" and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." 1991's melancholic orchestral love-song cycle Out of Time sent you into the stratosphere; 1992's ruminative Automatic for the People and 1994's glam-trash Monster kept you in heavy rotation on MTV and in the upper echelon of American rock bands.


Good Listening: R.E.M – Live in Cleveland – 6/11/95

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You always remember your first concert. Mine was R.E.M. and Luscious Jackson at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, on June 11, 1995. The Athens, Georgia, quartet was my favorite band at the time, and had been for several years. I first became aware of them when a local radio station flipped to the modern-rock format by playing “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” for 24 hours straight. I was in sixth grade and just discovering modern music (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” perplexed me – the name, it was so odd!), and so I tried to memorize the tongue-twisting R.E.M. song.


R.I.P. Vic Chesnutt

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I was never a huge Vic Chesnutt fan, but it was more due to ignorance than active dislike. The Athens, Georgia, singer-songwriter released about an album a year and toured quite a bit, so he became one of those artists that was always around, someone I "always meant to check out." Still, because I was a huge R.E.M. fan, I always felt like I knew him: Vocalist Michael Stipe produced a couple of his early albums, and the band covered his tune "Sponge" on 1996's Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation.

At age 18, Chesnutt became a paraplegic after a car accident. He performed sitting in his wheelchair -- most recently on tours with artists such as Jonathan Richman and Elf Power, or with backing from Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra. In recent months, he talked about mounting medical bills -- $70,000 and counting despite having health insurance, he told the LA Times on December 1.

That same article seems eerily prescient as of tonight. On Thursday, it was reported that Chesnutt had slipped into a coma, the alleged result of a suicide attempt, according to Twitter posts on pal Kristin Hersh's account. (The official word from Chesnutt's label didn't specify what happened, but confirmed he was in a coma.) On Christmas, a spokesman for his family confirmed that Chesnutt had died, at the age of 45.


A Very Cleveland Christmas

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In the '80s, a Cleveland Christmas meant several things: Going downtown to Higbee's to see Santa, watching Mr. Jingeling -- the "keeper of the keys" -- on TV and hitting the Twigbee Shop. The latter was a store-within-a-store which paired a helpful elf with young children, so they could shop for their parents' presents by themselves. (Of course, some resourceful children scrimped on family members to buy for themselves. Like I did one year, to purchase a "California Sounds of the '60s" cassette.) The idyllic scenes in A Christmas Story were not an exaggeration: The glamorous downtown department store in the Terminal Tower exploded with decorations, lights and holiday cheer.
higbee's santa


Lloyd Cole: Past, Present and Future

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While perusing the Winchester’s schedule on Sunday night, my jaw dropped at the show announced for January 27, 2010: Lloyd Cole Trio. I immediately flashed back to 2006. In November of that year, I flew to Cleveland for a few days, with the express purpose of catching Placebo at the Agora and Cole at the Winchester. The British singer-songwriter was touring behind his 2006 release Antidepressant, and the C-Town show was his first appearance here in sixteen years. Performing as a duo (well, a trio if you count the occasional drum loops from a laptop), Cole ran through a set heavy on new tunes and light on well-known songs. Seeing him in such an intimate venue, however, was amazing.

Lloyd Cole

Intrigued that Cole was coming back so soon, I looked at his website and realized that this new show was only one of four on the whole tour. Four shows, mind you, circling the Great Lakes region. In January. Without a stop in New York City. Who does that?

Well, Cole does, that’s who. Always inventive – and never content to rest on his laurels – he described his new trio like this:


The Monday Morning Mix – I’m Gonna DJ – 8/31/09

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Graphic by Rachael Novak

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We've got some great mixes in hand and on the way - where is yours?

About Today's Mix:

Today, we welcome our good pal Annie Zaleski with a stellar mix. We're going to let the mix -- and Annie's mix notes -- do the talking on this one.  I will allow that this is one of my favorite mixes to date.  I keep saying this, and once again challenge you to top today's mix with your own.  Here are Annie's notes, with track listing and Amazon purchase links as well!

Mix Notes:

I have been a huge R.E.M. fan since about 1993 or so. (I have a license plate indebted to "Driver 8." True story.) Naturally, I’m predisposed to like stuff that’s jangly/mysterious/poppy – although my pop music collection ranges from Ace of Base to Yaz. That sort of explains the theme of this mix, although that’s merely a jumping-off point for the songs included here. Accidentally, however, the following collection contains an insane amount of bands that have played with R.E.M. – and has many tunes produced by Canton resident Don Dixon.

Download complete mix (link is good for one week)

1.  The Connells - Scotty's Lament - from Boylan Heights
2.  Guadalcanal Diary - Get Over It - from 2x4
3.  Material Issue - Renee Remains The Same - from International Pop Overthrow
4.  Beat Rodeo - Just Friends - from Staying Out Late....With Beat Rodeo
5.  Wilco - A Shot In The Arm - from Summerteeth
6.  The Jam - Smithers-Jones - from Setting Sons
7.  The dBs - Never Before and Never Again - from The Sound of Music
8.  Bruce Springsteen - Human Touch - from Human Touch
9.  Let's Active - Talking To Myself - from Big Plans for Everybody
10.  The Pretenders - Night In My Veins - from Last of The Independents
11.  Orbit - Medicine (Baby Come Back) - from Libido Speedway
12.  Suzanne Vega - Luka - from Solitude Standing
13.  World Party - All Come True - from Private Revolution
14.  Sloan - Waterfalls (McCartney cover) - from Listen to What the Man Said: Popular Artists Tribute to Paul McCartney
15.  Orbital - Illuminate (featuring David Gray) - from The Altogether
16.  The Go-Betweens - Streets of Your Town - from 16 Lovers Lane
17.  Grant Lee Buffalo - Arousing Thunder - Storm Hymnal : Gems From The Vault Of Grant Lee Buffalo
18.  Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me Ohio - Ghosts of the Great Highway

The Connells, “Scotty’s Lament.” Formed by a pair of brothers, the Connells were one of many great jangle-rock bands that sprouted in the South during the ‘80s. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, the band became global superstars with the 1993 single “’74-‘75,” but their ‘80s stuff is quite a bit darker. Wikipedia compares this song to the Smiths, and so it now makes sense why I like it. This song is from 1987’s Boylan Heights, a Don Dixon/Mitch Easter production. The band is still together and does the occasional show.

Guadalcanal Diary, “Get Over It.” A jangle-pop group from Marietta, Georgia, that formed in 1981. (Guess what they sound like.) “Get Over It” is found on 1987’s 2X4, an album produced by Don Dixon. (Guess who else he produced.) All snark aside, GD’s four ‘80s albums have brilliant moments of pop craftsmanship which transcend geography and association – like this song, which in a weird way conjures the heartfelt stuff of the Barenaked Ladies. (That’s not a diss.)

Material Issue, “Renee Remains the Same.” “Kim the Waitress” – a cover of a tune by the Green Pajamas – might have been Material Issue’s hugest hit in Cleveland. But power pop doesn’t get much better than the Chicago trio’s 1991 LP, International Pop Overthrow. (I even named my radio show after it.) Although tackling the time-honored theme of “songs about girls,” IPO remains a near-perfect debut LP, one that contains just the right touches of heartache, euphoria and longing. “Renee Remains the Same” wasn’t a single, but it could have been – which sums up exactly how solid the album is. Sadly, Material Issue vocalist/songwriter Jim Ellison committed suicide in 1996.

Beat Rodeo, “Just Friends.” The Suicide Commandos were Minneapolis punk-pop legends long before Husker Du and the Replacements. But after splitting in 1979, bassist Steve Almaas formed  Beat Rodeo. Like stylistic peers (and I.R.S. labelmates) Jason & the Scorchers, the band specialized in twang-punk before it was de rigeur. From 1984’s Staying Out Late With…Beat Rodeo, an album produced by Dixon (sans two tracks which were produced by Richard Gottehrer).

Wilco, “A Shot in the Arm.” A piano-sprinkled tune from Summerteeth. Contains my favorite Wilco lyric: “We fell in love/In the key of C.”

The Jam, “Smithers-Jones.” The Jam are known for its compact mod-rock tunes, but this string-laden one (which comes from 1979’s Setting Sons) shows off its sensitive side. Penned by Bruce Foxton, not Paul Weller.

The dB’s, “Never Before and Never Again.” I listened to this tune compulsively after a break-up a bunch of years back. One of the gentler jangle-pop tunes in the band’s career, it details the sometimes-brutal process of re-finding your individual self after being part of an “us” or a “we” – what you learned, what you’ll, er, never tolerate again. dB’s principles Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey have a new collaborative record, Here and Now, out on Yep Roc.

Bruce Springsteen, “Human Touch.” I will vouch for solo Springsteen. Including this tune – and its simple sentiment: “I just want someone to talk to/And a little of that human touch.” Isn’t that what we all want?

Let’s Active, “Talking to Myself.” Quite possibly the quintessential Let’s Active tune. Beautiful lyrics from the Mitch Easter.

The Pretenders, “Night In My Veins.” Chrissie Hynde’s status as a rock icon goes without saying. This tune makes me feel like I can fly – or take on a gang of thugs all by myself.

Orbit, “Medicine (Baby Come Back).” A late-‘90s one-hit wonder from a Boston band that should have been much, much bigger. From the awesomely named album Libido Speedway. Incidentally, Orbit has reformed for the occasional show in recent years.

Suzanne Vega, “Luka.” Tied with ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” and Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” as the best song addressing familial/domestic violence.

World Party, “All Come True.” One of the band’s lesser-known early singles, “All Come True” comes from 1984’s Private Revolution (which was super out of print until being reissued a few years back on CD). Moody and brooding.

Orbital, “Illuminate.” Best known for being electro-trance innovators, this tune features David Gray on vocals. (Apparently, he’s the brother-in-law of Orbital dudes Phil and Paul Hartnoll?) Why was this song not huge?

The Go-Betweens, “Streets of Your Town.” I could go on for hours about the merits of Australian act the Go-Betweens. But I’ll just point folks to 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane, which contains this song (along with “Love Goes On!” and “Was There Anything I Could Do?”). Buy the 2-CD reissue if you can find it. Ivy did a fantastic version of this tune on its covers album, Guestroom.

Grant Lee Buffalo, “Arousing Thunder.” That Grant Lee Buffalo even saw the mainstream light of day in the ‘90s was a testament to how bizarre the musical landscape was back then. (The band also toured with Pearl Jam and R.E.M., which probably didn’t hurt.) Quirky Americana characters and sepia-toned folk-rock with rushes of noise – akin to American Music Club, in an abstract way – made GLB one of my hidden treasures as a kid. This one’s from the underrated follow-up to 1993’s Mighty Joe Moon, 1996’s Copperopolis, which you can probably find for about a dollar at your nearest Exchange. Grant-Lee Phillips has since released a slew of solo albums, including a covers disc which features an amazing version of Robyn Hitchcock’s “I Often Dream of Trains.”

Sun Kil Moon, “Carry Me Ohio.” The finest moment of Mark Kozelek’s post-Red House Painters band (and that’s including SKM Modest Mouse covers LP and several Neil Young-inspired LPs since). He’s a Massillon, Ohio native – and I believe was pals with another one-time Clevelander, Jason Molina of Magnolia Electric Co. -- which you can tell because he pronounces “Tuscarawas” correctly in this tune. A good one for the impending autumn and the changing of leaves.


Cage Match: Berlin vs. Gary Numan

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First things first, an introduction: I’m the new kid on the block here at Addicted to Vinyl, but not new to Cleveland. Although I’m now based in St. Louis and run the A to Z music blog at the Riverfront Times, I wrote for the Plain Dealer, Free Times and Scene for years. (You probably did not see my work in the Rocky River High School publication The Pirate Press. That’s likely okay.) Thanks to Matt for ceding his digital platform to me so I can torture Addicted to Vinyl readers with my prose.

But enough about me; let’s talk about transportation. More specifically: how the ‘80s were obsessed with transportation and movement. Part of this stems from the decade’s futuristic music – which dovetailed nicely with our long-standing obsession with space-age ways to travel (cf. the Jetsons’ hover cars, space walks and Star Trek’s teleportation pixilation).

More than likely, though, the transportation fascination stemmed from the decade’s love affair with dance music, sequencers and the drum machine – components perfect for any limb-loosening tune or Jazzercise soundtrack. You can’t help but move to new-wave, whether you’re doing the Molly Ringwald or pretending like you’re Belinda Carlisle.

Even the artists liked to move. Missing Persons went walking in L.A. Lionel Richie magically danced on the ceiling. Michael Jackson moonwalked. Billy Ocean asked -- nay, commanded – that we get out of his dreams and get into his car. Even REO Speedwagon threw away its oars. Forever.

This wordy, rambling introduction, of course, sets up the mother of all new-wave transportation battles:

Berlin “The Metro” vs. Gary Numan, “Cars.”