Classic Album of the Week

Posted every other Tuesday evening BEFORE the show.

Only Classic Albums from the most recent three months are included on this page.

Older Classic Albums can be found on the original playlist pages, listed in alphabetical order here.

Click on LP covers for more info and reviews.

   

Black Mountain "In The Future"  2008 (Canada)
Review soon. 
Wolf People "Steeple"  2010 (UK)
Wolf People are another of my favorite contemporary British bands and a top heavy psych band of the modern day. Their style is rooted in UK folk-rock (every article or review about them mentions Fairport Convention) but with a dose of heavy rock jammin' reminiscent of your Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull type bands (and perhaps most of all Wishbone Ash - because that band was both folky and heavy/jammy). In other words, they are a VERY British-sounding rock band! Steeple was their first proper album and they've made two more solid follow-ups to date (there's also a fourth album that collects up early pre-Steeple singles and demos).
In Japanese rock news, Haru Nemuri was supposed to be in America this week but of course her tour was "postponed" due to the pandemic panic of 2020. At least we can console ourselves with her next album which comes out this week. 
Dungen "Ta Det Lugnt"  2004 (Sweden)
The Swedish band Dungen (which means something like "Grove" or "Meadow") is a vehicle for songwriter Gustav Ejstes and has been one of the top psychedelic rock bands of the 21st century. Their style combines the classic sounds of flowerpower-era Beatles with Hendrixian guitars and the cosmic vibes of Pink Floyd. Ta Det Lugnt ("Take It Easy") was their fourth album and the first one to gain much attention outside of Sweden (it even got them a gig on Conan O'Brien's show - a notable feat since all their songs are in Swedish). After releasing seven albums during the 2000's decade, they slowed down and only released two albums in the 2010's decade, most recently a vinyl-only instrumental soundtrack LP in 2016.
In Japanese music news, Haru Nemuri released a new single last week: "Riot" is a song she's been performing in concert for over a year, so this one was expected (turn on closed captioning for the English translation - a typical Haru catharsis theme: "we're all going to die and God doesn't care, but I will sing to remind you to enjoy life while you can.") Along with the new song came news of her sophomore album: Lovetheism (2020) will be released on March 20 to coincide with her first North American mini-tour! (Unless that stupid virus prevents her from travelling, ugh!)
I also couldn't help but serve up another offering of Dempagumi.inc this week (their next album comes out in April). Their breakout album World Wide Dempa (2013) featured a pair of Top 10 hit singles which were self-referential pop mini-operas: "W.W.D." (in this clip, Eimi cracks up the rest of the band by imitating their voices doing a solo karaoke version of the song) and "W.W.D. II" (the video depicts a future version of the group in the year 2020(!) where everybody but Pinky! has been replaced, a bittersweet twist on the lyrics which are about how they plan to stick together - ironically, they really have replaced two members since then, thus can't perform this song anymore as it prominently features the names of the departed members in the lyrics). The titular track of their triple-CD(!) greatest hits album "WWD BEST" (2016) was something of a sequel to those two songs. Here's a sampling of the translated lyrics to give you a taste of their NERD POWER: "Exceptional, nonstandard! Our special framework breaks the idol business rules. DEMPA BIG BANG!! We'll light up the world and sing to tell you how it shines. We're an awkward sextet. We broadcast ever-extreme-super-duper DEMPA all over like crazy!! . . . DEMPA Dempagumi has a "." and "inc" - don't fret the details, but keep that in mind OK? Let's go with all our might! We haven't made enough of a ruckus, not yet!"
Talking Heads "Fear Of Music"  1979 (USA)
Most people probably consider Talking Heads to have been a nerdy party band (David Byrne's spastic dancing etc.) but they also had their dark side. For starters, their first hit was a song about wanting to murder people called "Psycho Killer." But their darkest moment is the third album, the one with the menacing album cover and title: Fear Of Music! Which is a very witty, maybe even downright ridiculous name for a pop album! (If you're afraid of music, why are you creating or listening to an album of music?) Lyricist David Byrne always had a knack for funny concepts like that (the song "Memories Can't Wait" from this album is another good example - he's in a hurry to remember the past?) Musically, Heads began as a stark "punk" band who were really more like the bleeding edge of the "new wave" that followed immediately after punk. For one thing, they had a crisp rhythm section (i.e., "funky") and avoided distorted and saturated guitar sounds in favor of "sterile, brittle" guitars. Fear Of Music was the transitional record away from that early style into the more textural (and even funkier) sounds they'd unleash on their Afrobeat-inspired next album.
Stereolab "Dots And Loops"  1997 (UK/France)
We've been doing CAOTWs from the 21st century so far this year, but this week for pledge drive we're going back to the 20th century - specifically, those groovy 1990's! One of my favorite artists of that decade was the band Stereolab, who disbanded in 2009. They were essentially a DIY indie rock band, though their influences were more esoteric than your typical rock group, drawing inspiration primarily from 1970's krautrock (pretty cool) and "easy listening" artists of the 1960's (that's the unexpected part!) I feel that the band was on a steady creative incline from their beginning around 1990 up until the end of that decade, though by the 2000's they were pretty much treading water and regurgitating their early styles (it didn't help that their second vocalist Mary Hanson died in a tragic accident in 2002). Their high water mark is probably Dots And Loops, which was their most streamlined, futuristic recording and also became their biggest seller. The group reunited in 2019 to tour the world (they'll be back in Chicago this May) though there is no news about them recording any new music (yet).
Om "Advaitic Songs"  2012 (USA)
Today is Tony Iommi's 72nd birthday. His band Black Sabbath not only invented heavy metal, their first three albums pretty much perfected heavy metal. Only one band has truly taken the "heavy doom/stoner" style further than Sabbath: a band called SLEEP. However, Sleep has been notoriously unproductive, releasing just four albums over the last 30 years. For about ten of those years (1999 to 2008) Sleep was broken up, and during their inactive decade bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Haikus formed an interesting bass-and-drums duo called Om while guitarist Matt Pike started a more traditional metal band called band High On Fire. Om released five albums (one more than Sleep!) though seems to be on hiatus now that Sleep is an active band again. Their best album was the last one, Advaitic Songs, which adds strings and "ethnic folk music" instrumentation to the standard Om blueprint of superheavy bass lines, plodding drums, and Cisneros' unique approach to singing and lyrics (Om's songs, like Sleep's, mostly seem to be biblical prophecies that involve smoking lots of weed).
Meanwhile in Japanese pop news, otaku idols Dempagumi.inc delivered a big ol' valentine to their fans last week: they released a brand new song and music video "Moshi Moshi Internet" - if it seems pretty strange, maybe it's because this song was written by a 16-year-old computer geek, and the video was directed by another 17-year-old computer geek! (The bleeding edge of the future: it's probably the first song heard on the Kosmik Radiation show that was written by someone born in the 21st century.) They also announced the release date and title of their forthcoming sixth album (translated into English, something like): Love Is The Cure That Will Save The Earth! Because Dempagumi.inc Is A Family (are they hippies or what?) Also, the two newest girls to join the band, Nemo and Perorin, have started a side project called NemoPero and will soon release their debut single (UPDATE A WEEK LATER: the NemoPero single has arrived and it kind of sucks, plus the video is a cheesecake cringefest - yet it got more views in a day than the latest Dempagumi video got in a week; that's the power of cute girls in bikinis I guess.) Perorin also recently made a guest appearance (on a much better song) with new hipster idol group Meme Tokyo (she's the one in the yellow egg dress).
Lee Ranaldo & The Dust "Last Night On Earth"  2013 (USA)
Lee Ranaldo turned 64 last week. As the "less famous" lead guitarist in Sonic Youth, he was sometimes called the George Harrison of the band, but maybe he was really more like their Jerry Garcia(?) Since Sonic Youth broke up nearly a decade ago, Lee has not been as prolific as the attention-seeking workaholic Thurston Moore, but Ranaldo's three solo albums to date have shown a lot more musical growth. Thurston is making exactly the kind of records you'd expect him to: heavy on the long droney-clangy guitar jams. Kim Gordon the bassist only got around to releasing her first solo record in 2019. Steve Shelley the drummer has played on some of Lee's & Thurston's records (including this week's CAOTW) and in their touring bands. It has been pretty interesting to hear how these musicians' contributions to Sonic Youth are more easily defined by their solo work - in particular it was always difficult to tell who was doing what in Thurston and Lee's oceanic guitar jams (sometimes also including Kim or "fifth Beatle" Jim O'Rourke on a third guitar). Freed from his collaborators, it becomes pretty clear that Lee is a Deadhead and Neil fan who favors classic rock guitar jams more than the "avant garde" styles of Kim and Thurston - which also means he writes catchier songs than they do. Last Night On Earth is his best batch in terms of good old brain-frying psychedelic guitar rock, though his 2017 follow-up Electric Trim was also a very interesting "less rock, more experimental pop singer-songwriter" album.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu "Pika Pika Fantajin"  2014 (Japan)
Yasutaka Nakata will be 40 years old on February 6. He might be the most important figure on the 21st century Japanese music scene. Though he doesn't exclusively work with female artists, his greatest success has been writing and producing records for ladies. He began his musical career at age 17 by founding the duo Capsule with singer Toshiko Koshijima; Capsule's music was created electronically (the DJ + vocalist format) but was rooted in the neo-sixties pop sounds of the 90's "Shibuya-kei" scene led by Les Pizzicato Five, which is still a distinct influence on his style - his tunes and arrangements are "groovy baby"! Capsule has continued to record albums sporadically, but in 2003 he also began to produce and write for an idol trio from Hiroshima called Perfume. By 2008 he had turned them into an electronic pop group to rival the mighty Kraftwerk, and they have been the most popular group in the country for over a decade, with every album going to #1 on the charts. Things got even groovier still in 2011 when he met a weird teen "charisma model" who called herself Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Kyary became his greatest muse and has unleashed the best tunes and productions of his career (so far). This week's CAOTW is the third of Kyary's four albums released to date, all of which are classics in my book! As Kyary became Japan's "it-girl" of the 2010's decade, Nakata has become the most in-demand producer and songwriter in Japan as well as one of that country's most internationally famous musicians.
 
Here's are the videos for the recent Nakata hits played on the show this week (most have English translation of the lyrics available through closed captioning - he doesn't just write great melodies, his lyrics also memorably capture the current technology-dominated zeitgeist):
OOIOO "Gamel"  2014 (Japan)
This band with an unpronounceable name is the primary vehicle for the musician who calls herself "Yoshimi P-We", or just simply Yoshimi. For almost a decade she was the primary drummer of Boredoms (a group that often had multiple drummers), who were arguably Japan's greatesst heavy underground psychedelic rock band of all time (at least after their early years when they were more of a punk/noise band). Yoshimi is also well known in the Western underground for her collaborations, including the "indie rock supergroup" Free Kitten with Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Julia Cafritz (Pussy Galore). OOIOO's music is pretty much unclassifiable, based on improvised layers of percussion and chanted vocals (the group is all-female); there's also bass and guitars in the mix (Yoshimi is the guitarist and lead singer in this group rather than the drummer), but it's not what you'd call "rock" music. OOIOO has released eight interesting albums since 1997, with the most recent being released earlier this month. Gamel is arguably their best to date, being a double album of epic free-flowing jams.
Ty Segall "Emotional Mugger"  2016 (USA) 
Continuing our series of classic albums from the last 20 years, this week I nominate Ty Segall's weirdest album to date as his first induction into the hall. Segall is an "indie famous" guitarist, singer and songwriter who's appeared on a few "hip" late night talk shows but has only made the US Top 50 album charts once so far. Emotional Mugger is within his usual style - heavy garage rock with sneery vocals (which remind me of a snottier Marc Bolan from T. Rex) - but this album also has a creepy surrealist undertone which makes it stand out in his discography. The cover's grainy black and white photo of a plastic baby doll somehow seems perfect: people get emotional about babies, but that's a fake baby, so it's "mugging your emotions?" For the tour and video, Ty liked to mess around with a creepy plastic mask that made him look like a big creepy baby. The tunes also feature some pretty weird riffs and lyrics. I'm really not sure what it all "means" but sometimes the music you can't figure out makes more of an impression than that which is immediately understood.
Earthling Society "Tears Of Andromeda - Black Sails Against The Sky"  2007 (UK) 
This month we'll be featuring all classic albums of the 21st century. Earthling Society, from the city of Fleetwood on the northwestern coast of England, released their debut album in 2005 and were one of the very first records "from the Kosmik Radiation mailbag" to be played on the show (in fact I am pretty sure the title of "The Kosmik Suite" from their second album was inspired by this show!) They released another ten or so albums over the years and broke up in 2018, though the two constant members - singer/guitarist Fred Laird and drummer John Blacow - debuted a fine new psychedelic music project in 2019 called Taras Bulba. Generally classified as a "space rock" band, ES definitely has shades of classic British space rockers like Pink Floyd and especially Hawkwind (with the occasional foray into cosmic British folk music), but they are not copyists and do not sound quite like any other band. My favorite of their albums is their third Tears Of Andromeda, a proper kosmik trip of a double album where half the songs are more than 10 minutes long.
Also on the show this week: the first new tune from Haru Nemuri since 2018. She will be doing a short North American tour in the spring, including a Midwestern stop in Chicago! And Poppy released her third album this week (also dying her hair back to its natural brown, thus completing her transformation from creepy barbie space child to creepy heavy metal witch).
Finally, we must also pay tribute on the passing of one of rock's most iconic drummers.
Oh Sees "Face Stabber"  2019 (USA) 
The Kosmik Radiation top album from my best of the year list gains automatic entry into the classic album hall of fame. The selection for 2019 is a fitting conclusion to the decade just passed, seeing as John Dwyer's various musical outfits - Oh Sees, formerly Thee Oh Sees, sometimes OCS, and also his "solo project" Damaged Bug - have been consistently making my best of the year lists for most of the history of this show. Face Stabber is his 16th album to make one of my lists (easily topping any other artist), but the first time he's had my #1 album. I think it's the best (Thee) Oh Sees album yet: a couple years ago Dwyer revamped the band in a jammier, proggier direction, which included the addition of a second drummer. The evolution from their punkier garage band roots has reached full flower on this album's central jams like the 21-minute "Henchlock" - it's still a little punk/garage and they've always had a touch of krautrock in their grooves, but now they're jazzy and frankly have turned into the 21st century's leading San Francisco jam band.
More highlights of the year: my favorite new bands I discovered in 2019 are Australia's pastel surf-rock hippies The Babe Rainbow, whose album Today created one of the most consistent and pleasant aural soundscapes of the year, and (yes here we go again) the fabulous Japanese nerd girl prog-pop band Dempagumi.inc - here's the baffling music video that introduced me to them (Mirin is wearing a stuffed pig in a bikini as a hat!)
As far as 20th century geezers, Meat Puppets nearly claimed the top spot this year with Dusty Notes, their best album in a quarter century and my favorite record of 2019 in terms of classic songwriting, while Kim Gordon finally released her debut solo album No Home Record eight years after Sonic Youth broke up - it sounds 100% like you'd expect a Kim Gordon album to sound (I mean that as a compliment!)
     
Click here for classic albums from more than three months ago.
          

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