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K. H. Orton RSS Feed (New York, NY USA)

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Bad Vibes
Bad Vibes
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST NEXT TO RATTLESNAKES, September 25, 2015
This review is from: Bad Vibes (Audio CD)
I was a big fan of 1984's Rattlesnakes when it came out. But until recently I really never looked beyond. Always meant to but got into other things. That changed recently when I was inspired to give his long career full investigation. His subsequent work with the Commotions is commendable but never lived up to Rattlesnakes. Having checked it all out, I find Bad Vibes to be his strongest and most consistent solo album. Don't Get Weird On Me and Love Story are strong contenders but both are equally hit and miss.

Bad Vibes should have been Cole's commercial breakthrough in the US. His "Joshua Tree". Perversely, as slick as it is, its also Cole's darkest album. The first cut pleads, "come put me in the ground when morning is broken". Its a Beatlesque kick off to a moody, foul tempered record wrestling with some rather unpleasant emotions. Lust, jealously, bitterness and cynicism. All the symptoms of a broken heart.

So You'd Like To Save The World should have been a hit. A great Pop song. Its protagonist mocking as much as lusting after a cute little global crusader. Funny, sarcastic and with a just a hint of admiration. Holier Than Thou brings it down to a whisper only to burn close. Love You So What is a rousing standout while the sparse groove of Wild Mushrooms proves that even at his most experimental, Cole never loses his wry sense of humor. My Way To You has a very Abbey Road vibe, with lines like"when I couldn't drink myself sober". It might be the album's most cheery track lyrically.

Cole's known for deft, witty character studies and Too Much Of A Good Thing is a chilling portrait of a sleazy, shallow cad who will no doubt die a lonely dirty old man. Great dance tune, I might also add. Some think Can't Get Arrested is too long, clocking in at 8 minutes. It certainly is the album's centerpiece and its subject is, abject rancor. But it's an infectious melody that goes somewhere as opposed to round and round. Pleasure of Your Company and 4 M.B. end things on a haunting, brave note.

Slick, ill tempered and painfully funny, Lloyd Cole has never cut another album like Bad Vibes. It's his Station to Station, his Tonight's The Night or Blood & Chocolate. Here he takes real risks and ambitions pay off. There is not one bad cut on this record. Despite opening up a virtual Pandora's Box of unflattering emotions, he manges to waltz with every one and come out ahead. A dark night of the soul, with a sly sense of humor. A Lloyd Cole masterpiece.

Shadows In The Night
Shadows In The Night
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MOONLIGHT BEYOND THE HORIZON, February 7, 2015
This review is from: Shadows In The Night (Audio CD)
Some people are really enjoying hating this. As with all things Bob you get what you take from it. To be honest, I prefer the Dylan to the Sinatra originals. I appreciate and admire Ol' Blue Eyes and I know this album is sacrilege.And I think that's the point. And frankly, I respect sacrilege. For me, it's Dylan's best singing in years. Inspired, nuanced, iconoclastic and heartfelt. And I'm not some blind, genuflecting Dylan fan. He's always been equal parts gold and merde to me. But unlike Rod Stewart he's not superficially cashing in on the American Song Book here so much as pissing on its grave and paying homage at the same time.And in the meantime, generously giving a bit of himself away. The world weariness on I'm A Fool To Want You sounds genuine and honest. The band's playing is impeccable from first to last cut. The production, lush but spare.There's almost a David Lynchian vibe to it all. I've never been particularly a fan of Some Enchanted Evening but this version grabs me. Full Moon Empty Arms isn't a far cry from Beyond The Horizon ( Modern Times) or Soon After Midnight (Tempest). So really what is all the outrage about? Were fans rolling their eyes over Moonlight (Love & Theft) ? He's been hinting at this for years. So any umbrage strikes me as vapid, shallow and in love with the sound of it's own indignation. Haters are going to hate. But if you want a break from all that, the twilight balladry herein provides some solace from the maddened crowd. A beautiful album.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MORE AVONMORE, December 11, 2014
This review is from: Avonmore (Audio CD)
As one reviewer put it, this might be Ferry's best since Avalon. Being a die hard Roxy Music fan I will always miss Ferry's glib and campy side but those days are long gone. If you ask me, Ferry's pretty much been cutting the same album since Avalon, never quite reaching that zenith. While always suave, smooth and workman-like, much of his work in in the last 32 years has gone in one ear and out the other. But while Avonmore is just as slick as it's predecessors, there's a sincere warmth here missing from a lot of Ferry's solo work in the past 30 years. And I must say the combination of Chic's Nile Rogers and the Smiths' Johnny Marr is a winning one. Giving just the right amount of Funk and grit to the songs.

Loop De Li isn't a rapid departure from the Ferry formula but a steady start to a solid album from start to finish. Midnight Train is one of the catchiest tunes Ferry's cut in quite a spell. For once things are buoyed, not drowned by the production. Where so much Ferry sounds fashionably under glass, here he leaves an open fracture on the facade. Co-written with Johnny Marr, Soldier of Fortune is Ferry at his most spontaneous in eons. An album highlight. Elsewhere Mark Knopfler puts in appearance on Lost. One Night Stand features both the legendary Maceo Parker and Ronnie Spector. Another stand out is the infectious Driving Me Wild which finds Ferry "wrestling with my demons on every page" and leaves him typing "with one finger, destination unknown."

Both covers are also standouts. Sondheim's Send In The Clowns has been cut by everyone from Judy Collins to Streisand. Something Ferry seems keenly aware of. His take is unlike any you've heard before. Here Ferry sounds like he's overdosed on pain killers bidding the world and lost love fond adieu, knowing there's no escaping clowns of one's folly. A darkly comic take on a song that has been covered to death. In addition, Ferry's take on the late Robert Palmer's Johnny & Mary closes the album on a haunting note leaving you wanting more Avonmore.

True, no new ground is broken. This is the same smooth lothario you've heard for ages. If he's been playing the same game of Solitaire over and over, he's won this round. While Ferry's always been a touch too slick for his own good, here we get a glimpse behind the tinted windows. Here we get a chance to feel the songs as opposed to having them sashay by us on the runway. After being largely indifferent and nonplussed by all of Ferry's work since Avalon, I'm inexplicably drawn in and captivated by his latest. Any professional distance or ultra chic luster has been swept aside in favor of a shy whisper in the ear. It's the same old routine but this time, he lets us in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LITTLE 4 STRING HARP UNDER A CRADLE MOON, November 17, 2014
This review is from: Sylvie (Audio CD)
Sylvie Simmons is a well-respected Music journalist. MOJO. Guardian. Sounds. Rolling Stone. Her interviews with Johnny Cash in his declining years are as revealing as they are moving. She's also written two well received biographies of Leonard Cohen and Serge Gainsbourg. Both of which I've read and won't hesitate to recommend. So while many may be familiar with her work as a journalist and biographer, very few knew she was moonlighting as a chanteuse in her spare time. Not to mention writing some wonderful songs. In secret. While she's only recently been coaxed out to perform in public in recent years, Giant Sands' Howe Gelb (who knows a good thing when he sees it) lured her into his studio in Tucson and the results are magical.

These songs have a great wee small hours quality. All moon, wine and ennui. I have to confess, I simply can't stop listening to this album. She sounds like a lonesome, world weary Bloosom Dearie with nothing but the moon and a ukulele for company. And while there are a lot hipsters and self-consciously "Quirky Indie Girls" strumming ukes and insipidly warbling like a toddlers, have no fear, there's none of that here.

Moon Over Chinatown sets the mood perfectly. A sad San Francisco nocturne of unrequited love. Her vocals have the same warmth, and whispery intimacy that have made the likes of Vashti Bunyan and Hope Sandoval so endearing. An otherworldly, yet very adult gravitas anchors Simmons' shy, elfin slipper of voice in an earthiness that has roots. Vulnerable and anything but mannered. Hard Act To Follow has all the charm and wit of Cole Porter. If Patsy Cline were alive, she would have pounced on Lonely Cowgirl. On Town Called Regret things turn murder ballad dark with lines like "you never stayed to see the exit wound your bullet made". The lonesome, moon and whiskey vibe broken by some ghostly, driving distorted guitar which sends a chill. The Rose You Left Me evokes Tom Waits at his most heartbreaking, but sung by a long, lost ghost in an empty house. But perhaps the centerpiece in this jewel of an album is the haunting, Midnight Cowboy. Stunning.

Her wry version of the Cascade's 1962 hit, Rhythm of the Rain is the perfect send off. However, the credits roll with some rather pointless instrumental noodling on the last track. But it's not enough to mar the album as whole. Despite that misstep, there isn't a single song on this album that does not enchant. Production wise, Gelb keeps things lush but spare. Leonard Cohen's Songs From A Room seems to be the working model here. And like the Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions, a pervasive, slow dancing mood is evoked throughout. Coupled with the same shy appeal that made Syd Barrett's Madcap Laughs so compelling.

A beautiful album. Perfect for a rainy day or the soundtrack of some long lost David Lynch film. A quiet little place to hide while the crazy world goes on being crazy. One of the best albums I've heard all year.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HARMONY THE WAY WE HOLD ON, November 5, 2014
This review is from: Storytone (Audio CD)
I must say, there are an awful lot of snide, petty, bitter over the top "reviews" bashing this thing for no other seeming reason than their lives are miserable. That said, not everything Neil touches is gold. But must say Storytone (both discs)is one of the most charming and beautiful Neil Young records I've heard since 1978's Comes A Time. Or make that Harvest Moon. Let's talk about the solo disc first. It's as sparse as it comes. Sparse as Captain Kennedy off Hawks & Doves. Of course he's done this kind of thing before, but where Silver and Gold mostly went in one ear and out the other, the songs here stick with you. No frills, just Neil intimately singing heartbreaking, not so sweet somethings in your ear accompanied by guitar, piano or ukelele. To be frank, I've been dying for Young to do this for years. Just cut the gimmicks or conceits and sit down an sing the damn song from the heart.

Plastic Flowers is an arresting opener and sets the mood for what's to come perfectly. Tumbleweed with it's line, "harmony, the way we hold on" could sum up the theme here. The haunting imagery of When I Watch You Sleeping is only going to keep me coming back: "now the crows are calling and the blackbirds sing in my car, you got one eye open and I'm smiling through my tears".

As for the orchestrated, big band disc. It's nice to have choices. As Harvest's Words goes to show, this isn't the first time Neil has waltzed with a string section. And yes, for the most part it pays off. Never too ham-fisted or heavy handed. To be frank I'm hard pressed to say which one I prefer. Both versions of Glimmer take your breath away. Same goes for Tumbleweed. Elsewhere, I'd say Chicago and I Want To Drive My Car have a sense of charm and humor missing from their starker counterparts. Hurray for options. While I loved Psychedelic Pill in all its epic rocking vengeance, the quiet introspection here is a welcome eye in the hurricane. An album of rare beauty.
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Days and Nights (Watch While It's In Theaters)
Days and Nights (Watch While It's In Theaters)
Price: $3.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MEMORIAL DAYS, October 3, 2014
Just read Stephen Holden's NY Times review and could not disagree more. He called this a "shipwreck" If it is, it's manned by an expert crew leading everyone on board to uncertain fates but temporary safety. Of course, I remember Holden as a Music critic. When did he suddenly become Roger Ebert?

This is a haunting, funny and heartbreaking film inspired by Anton Chekhov's, The Seagull. If you're expecting a faithful adaption of the play you'll be disappointed and confused. That just misses the point. This is a much more intimate, personal film using the play as a backdrop. This isn't set in Russia but upstate New England in the 1980's at the height of Reagan's ascent to power. This Memorial Day weekend at the "country house" is not only a turning point in the character's lives but unbeknownst to them, also in the country they live in. Casting the late great, Native American activist Russell Means as Big Jim is no accident.

Instead of a seagull, the martyred bird in question is an American eagle. If it sounds heavy handed, it doesn't play off that way in the film. Trust me. The Medvedenko character here (brilliantly played by Mark Rylance) is an ornithologist and conservationist, not a teacher. Surrounded by people who's lives can't seem to take flight or have flown the coop.

It's a phenomenal cast. I've never been a William Hurt fan but he goes well beyond his comfort zone and gives the performance of his career. Allison Janney assumes the role of a great actress on her way out with elan. Ben Whishaw gives a complex and moving performance as her troubled son. Julia Rylance convincingly plays Eva, the local girl just past her prime looking for a way out. Katie Holmes is also given a meaty role for once, as the pushy, frustrated Masha character. A woman who married a shy man twice her age and is dealing with the repercussions of failed idealism. The filmmaker, Christian Camargo (Hurt Locker, Dexter) takes on the Trigorin role, playing the "kept man" part with equal regret and resignation.

If Chekhov skillfully wrote a Comedy mixing in Tragic elements to give it substance, Camargo gets it. There's a dry sense of wit and humor at work here that isn't going to smack you on the head, so much as shrug and walk out the door with nary a word.

If you like quirky, small films that don't call too much attention to themselves, this is an overlooked gem. And there are some images I will never get out of my head. I found a lot to personally relate to even if the circumstances and characters are far from my experience. And I think that speaks for itself. It's like one of those cult bands you love but never hit the big time. You're okay with them so long as they stay a well kept secret, but still can't help spreading the word.

World Peace Is None Of Your Business
World Peace Is None Of Your Business
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PROTEST SINGER, July 23, 2014
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I admit it I just couldn't get into it at first, but kept it on in the background and before long I couldn't take it off. Give it a chance to spread it's wings before taking flight, setting it's sights and sinking it's claws in you.

A certain line from The Smiths' Shakespeare Sister can't help but come to mind: " I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar then that meant that you were a protest singer". And has Morrissey been anything else? Granted one full of more bile, anger, disgust and outrage than Phil Ochs or Pete Seeger. And instead of screaming at you like Rage Against the Machine, he uses Irony, Sarcasm, Wit and Humor. Much like Woody Guthrie albeit in a defiantly veddy, veddy British way.

The first track begins with war drums and ends with the sound of boots marching. In between lies a song that melodically touches on a 50's teen sock hop balladry despite some driving guitar breaks. Lyrically, he not only mocks those who sit apathetically by on the sidelines but those naïve idealists all too eager to rush to the frontlines. Perversely and secretly cheering them on from the sidelines, of course.

Neal Cassidy Drops Dead begs the question: "Victim or Life's Adventurer, which of the two are you"? And I suppose that's whole thesis behind this essay of an album. Underscored by some unanticipated flamenco guitar I might add. I'm Not A Man is the album's most epic track and gleefully mocks and taunts the clichéd demands of manhood before erupting in a series of shrill, bloodcurdling screams. Musically, Earth Is The Loneliest Planet tours Brazil, another unexpected turn on a vital album full of taking the piss and passing the vinegar.

Staircase at the University is the closest this album gets to a vintage Smiths song. A winning combination of tragedy, humor and pathos. Not to mention one helluva fiery acoustic guitar solo in the middle. My vote for best song on the album. As the song says, "If it breaks your legs well then don't come running to me".

If Istanbul, Bullfighter Dies and the infectious Kiss Me A Lot seem like they're killing time for something bigger and better to come along, it does.The haunting, sparse Smiler With A Knife is another album standout and classic Morrissey. Kick the Bride Down the Aisle is as scathing as it gets, an epistle to feminism that is guaranteed to bring accusations of misogyny from the reactionary and dull witted. Mountjoy can only refer to the infamous Irish prison with it's references to Brendan Behan and the "many executed here by the awfully lawfully Good". "Rich or Poor we all lose". A protest song if I ever heard one and one of the most powerful statements on the album. Oboe Concerto ends things on a playful note with " there's a song I can't stand and it's stuck in my head".

And let's not forget the band. Credit is due to them for reaching outside the box making World Peace the most musically diverse yet hardest driving Morrissey album in ages. And yes, he will continue to bemoan and protest and sing the same song over and over ad nauseam because The World Won't Listen. And if you're in on the joke, he's all too keenly aware and poking fun of that very fact. As the cover goes to show you can't teach an old dog new tricks let alone how to write it's name with a fountain pen.

While I'm more of a frustrated Smiths fan than Morrissey fan, I've stuck with him for better or worse. His albums always boast a memorable single or two but can also be pretty hit or miss. Based off years of eavesdropping, I think World Peace ranks as one of his strongest solo albums. So 5 stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 24, 2014 5:11 AM PDT

Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues
Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues
by James Fearnley
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Drugs, Shamrock & Roll, July 17, 2014
James Fearnley is the last member of the Pogues I'd expect a memoir from. Onstage, he's hardly the scholarly type. A formidable yet a boundlessly effusive performer wielding his accordion as if it were a thing possessed. I'd expect this more from the laid back likes of Jem Finer or the late, Philip Chevron. While he wrote nor sang no songs, Fearnley is a versatile musician who's contributions extend well beyond that of the accordion. That's his piano playing at the top of "Fairytale of New York". But who knew the man has such serious chops as a writer? He seriously does and he tells this mad tale with the right mix of aplomb, wit, honesty and introspection.

Apparently writing the great English novel was his plan before The Pogues so rudely interrupted. Along the way, Fearnley copiously and faithfully kept journals which explains the vividness and immediacy herein. Something missing from so many Rock bios or ghost written memoirs. You really feel like you are there in the moment with the band. And Fearnley is your guide. And most self-deprecatingly, your imperfect protagonist.

It's definitely warts and all from Fearnley's foibles and insecurities to Shane's kaolin & morphine halitosis to Philip Chevron's persistently unwanted, yet sympathetically portrayed sexual advances. Despite any member's short coming's there is a respect and love that is undeniable. As Fearnley points out this is not only a band but a family. In fact, I was brought to tears 50 pages in. But won't give away why.

The cast of characters are as priceless as they're human. Cait is as vulnerable as she's hell on wheels. Jem gets his hands dirty as much as he's distant. Truly an anchor or at the rudder whenever the stormy seas required it. Without Finer one wonders if there ever would be a band in the first place. And no slouch in the songwriting department. Clearly Fearnley holds him in high esteem.

Despite his encyclopedic mind, Spider is at times irreverent wit, fool and downright gent in between serious hangovers and binges. Philip struggles with alcoholism and poor health yet holds his own in addition to writing some of their most beloved songs. Andrew Rankin, bass of voice, formidable of hand and kind of heart longs to sit down like other drummers. Terry Woods lends more than cred, talent and integrity to the proceedings. And Darryl Hunt who unassumingly went from driver to roadie to bass player kept the group afloat on one too many occasions to mention. Truly an unsung hero.

And of course, there's Shane. Read and ye shall be rewarded. It seems Fearnley knew him the longest and his feelings run the gambit from bemusement to friendship to love to devotion and awe before eclipsing into disappointment, anger, fear and loathing. At one point he confesses, "a stable perception was never reachable as to whether Shane was a genius or a f***g idiot".Or perhaps Icarus can only fly so close to the sun. And if you want to know what it was like Shedding a Tear for Lord Nelson on the side of the road with a drunken Shane, Fearnely can intimately enlighten you on the perils. Regardless, his love and respect of the man is palpable.

Some reviewers will give Fearnley some flack for his Thesaurus use but let's face it, this is one of the most well written Rock bios on the market. Something tells me Fearnley has a novel up his sleeve and at times his prose touches on that territory.

Like their music, The Pogues were a roller coaster ride with no one minding the breaks. And for all the Drugs, Sex, Shamrock & Roll, this memoir gives all those clichés a sock in the eye in perfect Pogues style before succumbing to them. Along the way there are artistic epiphanies, petty feuds, Love and a mind boggling amount of booze. And if you've ever done any touring, Fearnley perfectly captures the monotony and exhaustion of being on the road in unflinching, intimate detail. If you are a Pogues fan this is the best record on their rise & fall. If not a fan, it's still a damn good compelling read.

Thank you Mr. Fearnley.

The River in Reverse
The River in Reverse
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4.0 out of 5 stars LOOKING BACK IN REVERSE, June 30, 2014
This review is from: The River in Reverse (Audio CD)
Every Costello fanatic will tell you it's genius and those who love his 1st 3 albums will tell you it's crap. I definitely fall into the long time fan category, perhaps too much of a scholar for my own good. So am well aware his aim can be just as haphazard as true since ditching The Attractions. This came out in 2006 and at the time I blew it off. I saw him play the title track on Letterman and figured I'd pass. While I've appreciated Toussaint for years, had the sense this would be "For The Birds" like his collaborations with Sophie Von Otter and Burt Bacharach. Well, looking back and giving this a second glace, it's not perfect but, but has more than a few deep cuts to commend it.

As Get Happy and 2013's Wise Up Ghost go to show, R & B has always suited Costello far better than his attempts at Country and Music Hall pastiche. And Reverse is no exception, while admittedly not as strong as either Happy or Ghost.

Despite being a ballad, "The Sharpest Thorn" has a distinct Costello bite while shedding a tear at the same time. In addition to keeping an eye on the big picture socially speaking. In other words, pure Costello. But his covers of Toussaint's, " For The Stallion" and "All These Things" are the true stand outs. He not only tips his hat to Toussaint's mastery but also pays him the compliment of being restlessly signature and original. Both are stunning. The catchy "International Echo" is pure collaboration. A song that could be about the professional pitfalls both artist's have shared. Or any artist. The more socially conscious, "Broken Promised Land" is another album highlight in the same vein.

Without a doubt the shadow of Hurricane Katrina is all over this album and this is not only a tribute to Toussaint's formidable but nationally underappreciated talents but also to the Crescent City where Toussaint made his name. As for Costello, in terms of output, he could never be accused of being miserly but over generous. While this isn't a mind blowing classic, it does has the wit and passion one expects from both names above the title. In terms of Costello's 21st Century output I would rank 2002's When I Was Cruel and the aforementioned, Wise Up Ghost as his strongest. But owing to their deep cuts, 2nd place goes to the flawed likes of this and 2010's National Ransom.

Bruce Joyner and The Unknowns
Bruce Joyner and The Unknowns
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREAT UNKNOWN, June 18, 2014
Along with The Gun Club, Blasters and X, The Unknowns were a fixture of the now fabled LA Punk Scene. Like all those bands, they knew "Punk" was just good old fashioned Rock & Roll with a "tude" and a different dress code.

Singer- Songwriter Bruce Joyner could howl with feral intensity yet had David Byrne's mix of quirky humor and insightful satire. He could also croon like the big O when he wanted to . Guitarist Mark Neil played like it was 1957. The Beatles and Hendrix never happened. It was more Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, James Burton,Dick Dale and Link Wray. Combining, Rockabilly & Surf and even Reggae the Unknowns had a sense of menace that fell on same dark side of the street The Cramps haunted.

"Pull My Train" is a raging onslaught of pure adolescent lust and angst. "Crime Wave", "The Streets", and "City of Angels" are Noir cityscapes seething with psycho sexual paranoia. "Rat Race" mixes Surf and Ska and takes a vacation in the sun from the all the mania and hullaballoo. For an encore, they end it all by inventing their own furiously demented dance craze, "The Bounce". As for the generous assortment of demos, lost tracks like "Suzzanne", "Dream Sequence" and the rabid "Teenage Crush" hint at what could have been if Joyner and the Unknowns managed to stay together beyond their scant 2 year existence. But what a 2 years it was.

While they lived up to their moniker in the USA, The Unknowns made much more of a splash in France and Europe. Joyner has since gone on to a prolific, if far too underrated solo career . While bands like White Stripes managed to break through using the same formula, a whole host never did but still retained an underground cult following. Among them Flat Duo Jets, The Gories and yes, The Unknowns.

And as one kind reviewer mentioned you can find this at a far more reasonable price ($10) on the Bomp records website. And they ship fast. The sellers here are just out to rip you off, knowing damn well you can't get this on iTunes or anywhere else. If you're a fan of any of the bands I mentioned do not hesitate.

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