Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SPAZ's ROCKING STOCKING STUFFERS #1





"During the Punk, Power Pop and New Wave heyday of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Los Angeles gave birth to some of the finest bands of all three genres. From X, The Germs, The Dickies and Social Distortion to The Knack, The Plimsouls, 20/20, The Go-Go’s and The Last, there were so many exciting bands treading the boards in Southern California. But of all the acts that emerged during this time, there were two unique outfits that used the energy of the scene but took the music in a different direction: Jules & The Polar Bears and Gary Myrick & The Figures. Both Jules Shear and Gary Myrick were immensely talented songwriters, but neither of them chose to stick to the “simple, short and sweet” formula that their contemporaries had been so successful with. Of the two, Myrick seemed the most likely to achieve commercial success.

The Texas-born guitarist formed The Figures in the midst of the Power Pop/New Wave explosion, inking a record deal and releasing their debut album in 1980. Their self-titled debut album was an amazing slice of audio energy and excitement that still sounds fresh and invigorating nearly 30 years later. With Myrick’s skillful guitar playing (he NEVER overplays), top notch songwriting skills and the band’s tight dynamic, this was one heck of musical statement.

While the album was one of the most impressive debut albums of the ‘80s, Myrick and co-horts crafted a slice of wax that was unique and, ultimately, hard to categorize. Was it Power Pop? Well, it certainly IS melodic but not sweet and sugary. Is it New Wave? Well, it certainly IS unique but not quirky or bathed in neon colors. Gary Myrick & The Figures was an album that stood virtually alone in a sea of records that were released during this era. There were shades of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Post-Punk, Power Pop, Punk and New Wave but not enough of each genre to easily classify the album.

“She Talks In Stereo” was a big radio hit and should have been the track that pushed the band to the top of the charts, but it wasn’t meant to be, I suppose. Other highlights off the album include the lead track “Living Disaster”, “Ever Since The World Began”, “Meaningless” and the epic “She’s So Teenage”. Not a bad song in the bunch. The only real disappointment is the fact that the album didn’t do better than it should have!

The excellent Wounded Bird CD reissue adds nine live tracks that prove that the band’s sound was not manufactured in the studio. Normally, I avoid live recordings at all costs, but even I’ll admit these are essential cuts from an exciting era in music history."-Stephen SPAZ Schnee




From All Music Guide:

"Their 1981 sophomore album, Living In A Movie, is a different ball of wax. Where their debut was drenched in adrenalin and sweat, Living In A Movie sounds like it’s bathed in darkness and paranoia. It’s not so much a case of the ‘sophomore jinx’ as it is the sound of a band whose bubble has been burst and they’ve been left alone to make sense of everything. While not the equal of the debut, this second album has plenty going for it. .

From the lead track, “I’m Not A Number” (another radio hit for Myrick), Living In A Movie twists and turns in directions previously only hinted at on their debut album. While still unclassifiable, the album veers closer to a jagged Post-Punk edge as it moves away from the hooky tunes of the previous year. The energy is still evident, but the album is bathed in more shadows than light.

Highlights include “Romance”, “Penetrate My Heart’ and “No Crisis”, which is about the only track that comes close to sounding like the first record, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing? If Myrick and the boys had made a carbon copy of the debut, then the results would have probably sounded forced and fake.

On it’s own, Living In A Movie is a fantastic off-center musical trip that never gets dull. Compared to the debut, it’s a less frantic ride but still reaches the same destination. The Wounded Bird reissue adds four bonus live tracks previously only available on a promo 12” single. Of those four tracks, “Fame Is Dangerous” is unavailable elsewhere."-Stephen SPAZ Schnee


BOTH TITLES AVAILABLE NOW!

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