New Music: Friday Roll Out! Forgotten Albums Of 2018

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The year is coming to a close quickly and that means less email requests, end of year financials, and with Christmas upon us, everyone wants to get paid extra so they can buy their kid that G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. Some of you will get the reference but most will unfortunately, not pick it up. But “irreguardless,”there’s a lot that we’ve missed throughout the past year and I wanted to take a quick tour through a few things that may not have shown up on your radar. Or anyone else’s for that matter.

Oh stop, just stop. Before you pass judgment on the ex-Blake Babies vocalist who’s been regarded as a creative force during and after the band’s demise, I can say that I probably snickered a little at the thought of Juliana Hatfield here as she Sings Olivia Newton-John (American Laundromat).  Unlike my aunt, I’m not well versed in the complete works of Olivia Newton-John, but I am familiar with a number of her songs. I mean come on, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen her alongsideJohn Travolta in Grease. But I digress.

Hatfield obviously grew up hearing these songs and allowed them to filter themselves into the inner reaches of her mind, allowing her own interpretation here. And you know what? It ain’t half bad. She opens with Newton’s bigger hits in “I Honestly Love You,” giving the song an indie feel that’s carried by slightly distorted guitar, recorder, and washes of keyboards. Once the rhythm section joins in, it’s perfect. She’s not trying to change the world with the revamped version but it’s a sweet reminder of why she was once an indie darling as her vocal delivery is infectious.  Newton’s“Have You Never Been Mellow” sounds like a number of 70’s pop songs of the era, with harmonies dancing throughout and for a moment I forgot this was Hatfield singing. Yeah, just as addictive.

I wasn’t sure how Hatfield was going to pull it off, but she changes up “Physical” a bit, as there’s seemingly a change in a few notes but it remains the same song, albeit, heavier and much more in-your-face. She does a great rendition of“Please Mr. Please” but falls a little short on that Grease hit, “HopelesslyDevoted To You.” Did I mention I’ve watched that movie over and over again? I thought so. Here, Hatfield takes the song in a heavier rock direction, which it shouldn’t go in because she seems to lose the same effect Newton first had on record. And on screen. I’ll give her a couple of points utilizing her guitar tosing along the chorus but that’s about it. She does hit the mark on “Xanadu”& “Make A Move On Me” but I’m a bit confused with “I Honestly Love You(Reprise).” It’s much more guitar oriented but the opening version fits better. Hatfield did something interesting on SingsOlivia Newton-John and wouldn’t mind seeing or hearing about new music of her own.

In the same year Daniel Ash & Kevin Haskins revived songs from previous outfits with Poptone, former co-hort David J re-releases his second solo effort from 1985, Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh (Glass Modern). Coincidence? Not really, considering Bauhaus, the band that originally garnered them the notoriety they’ve maintained throughout the years was born in 1978, that’s 40 years ago. So yeah, let’s hear what they all have going on.

Crocodile Tears…is an acoustic affair, and we get a sense that David J’s contribution to both Bauhaus and Love & Rockets was a major factor in the sound both groups created although one would never associate that instrumentation in Bauhaus. This album is pretty sharp though, with tightly wound musicians assisting him along. The mellow and sometimes folky songwriting are precise in delivery. Coincidently, Crocodile Tears… was released the same year as Love & Rockets, Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven, an amazing debut. David J provides a little history as to who he is here.

Earlier this year Capital Punishment re-released decades-old material for whatever reason. Absolutely no fucks were given about it here because there wasn’t much there to grasp onto and any pit bull would simply let go of it. Why? Because there wasn’t any meat to hold onto. Now they give us an E.P., This Is Capital Punishment (Captured Tracks) which shows a more clarity and structure. Did I mention this was Ben Stiller’s old band? Yeah, it is. While members are scattered all over the globe, they’ve been able to provide something cohesive these four former punks are able to establish. They remake their “Confusion,” which is much better than the original but the additional four tracks are pretty edgy with “Hot Love” being one of my favorites off the recordings. The more subdued “Grey And Illuminate” shows the band’s capability to move in other directions, more quietly but still capable of imbuing songs with clear and concise songwriting. But the band’s penchant for distortion and changing their dynamics of the loud variation is obvious with “Shannon Rose,” where they do shift dynamics on the track itself. I find myself a willing participant hereto give Capital Punishment another chance.

While I was ready to throw this in a pile of just another local Chicago emcee, I had to take a second look. What this, produced by Rashid Hadee? It’s an easily recognizable name, for me at least. Hadee is a staple of underground Hip-Hop in Chicago; in fact, he produced Thaione Davis’ Still Here, which is an album that has withstood the test of time. Not just for Davis’amazing flow but for Hadee’s production work on the 15-track joint that was poppin’ from beginning to end.

Philmore Greene offers up something different here on his proper solo debut full-length. Chicago: A Third World City (One Of One Music Group) tells a story from beginning to end, a conceptual album focusing on Chicago, the inner-city that would go completely unnoticed if not for the growth of the city’s homicide rate (note: The Chicago Sun Times has even gone as far as to include a listingof victims throughout 2018. As of this writing, there have been  534). Again though, I digress.

Greene runs the gamut of including the detriments of government finance (“Reaganomics”) showing how a trickle down theory never worked, and how those of lower-incomes suffer for it. But he also paints clear images of a culture of hustling, gentrification and death (“Fly’n on LSD”) but still moving forward. He moves through struggling, working, studying, partying, and living within the culture (“The Grind”). Throughout Chicago… there’s a story within: girl does what she needs to do to finance her education. There’s so much to take in on this album but it’s the slick beats under Greene’s rhymes that keep it all moving. There isn’t any filler on the 13 tracks compiled here, and anyone with any sense can appreciate Philmore Greene’s intelligent lyricism.