Finding these overlooked musical gems is like reaching underneath the sofa cushions and finding wrinkled candy wrappers. They're there just waiting to be discovered. And once you extricate them from their neglect, you're amazed all over again at their resiliency, their ability to mean as much to you now as they once did when you first heard them. If the following albums are unfamiliar to you and your friends and family, I suggest you have a "Get Acquainted" party and see what you've been missing. Then again, you might not think like I do. You might not like what I like. You might be better adjusted to reality and an all around better person. The questions remain: Do you have a place in your heart for these fine albums? Are you strong enough to handle what they have to say? While we're at it, what breaks a butterfly on a wheel anyway?
The Smiths--The Smiths: OK, so Morrissey's become an icon and a handful of their tunes have made it onto television where "This Charming Man" has made the rounds, but critics are a fickle lot and assigning strong ratings to anything other than old, long dead musicians and people who sell millions just isn't in the genetics of the powers that control the arbitrary ratings that guide us all. I even read somewhere that an esteemed critic laid claim that in twenty years time Lionel Richie would hold up better than the forgotten Smiths. Don't take that guy to the track!
Junkyard--The Birthday Party: I once attended a "Rock n' Bowl" night where people brought their favorite "rock n' roll" to bowl to. All night I mauled pins and pulled my oblique muscle to the strains of Meat Loaf, Billy Squier, the Cars, Motley Crue and Guns n' Roses. Then came my turn. I handed over a cassette (oh, those were the days, folks) with "Big Jesus Trash Can" cued up and within minutes the bowling alley was alive with the cries of "What is this crap?" Well, the language was actually saltier, but you get the idea. Bowling scores took a nosedive as the Aussie's arrhythmic rumble disturbed the steadfast composure of my fellow bowlers. Me? I couldn't stop laughing. I was used to bowling about 132. I wasn't about to improve.
Isle of View--Jimmie Spheeris: Talk about one that fell behind the couch. I had this "Jimmie Spheeris" sampler CD for nearly eight years before I finally broke open the plastic this January. The real key to any record collection is to have access to it. You can have 10,000 CDs, 50,000 LPs, but if they're all in storage or require moving other things to get at them, or the use of a ladder, well, you can be pretty sure you won't be listening to them anytime soon. Whatever is at arm's length will be played over and over. So, upon hearing the greatness that is Jimmie Spheeris, I immediately called up his 1972 debut album Isle of View. The album came out just in time to sound like, you guessed it, Nick Drake, with a helping of Jackson Browne and other mellow wizards emerging at that time. Instead of becoming wildly successful, Spheeris was killed in a car accident in 1984. Someone call a car company and get this guy's career back on track.
L'Question--Francoise Hardy: I don't know French. But I know the universal language of "Man, this album is going to make me look sensitive." Talking about sounding like Nick Drake--and who isn't talking about that--the string arrangements throughout this album sound like they could've been borrowed from Bryter Layter and while there were rumors that Drake was going to write for Hardy, nothing ever became of it. But listening to this lovely piece of Morgue-like Dream Pop," you can hear how perfect they would've been for each other. One thing's for certain: French people sure like rain more than we do.
Broken By Whispers--Trembling Blue Stars: Bob Wratten had his heart broken, smashed into pieces. But some guys will do anything for a song, so he keeps the woman that did this in the band. And continues to write song after song after song about his miserable plight. He's like one of those people who keeps cutting himself to prove he's alive. Probably eats fire for breakfast with a side order of nails. Every one of his albums with the Field Mice, the Northern Picture Library and Trembling Blue Stars is worth hearing--and if I wasn't such a bone head I would've included NPL's Alaska among my picks for that state's wonderful tributes...Just don't listen to them without the proper medication.