Bands that Time Forgot

My sister, the doctor, is visiting from London.

Which means, right now, I’ve got XFM radio hooked up through my laptop, and playing over the stereo. So I’m in a very London mood all of a sudden. I may have to get back real soon.

XFM is a soft “alternative” station, which makes for comforting listening while I’m drawing muskrats. Of course, every other band out of Britain seems to sounds like Coldplay or Keen at the moment. Except for that band that sounds like Franz Ferdinand but isn’t Franz Ferdinand, although they’re touted to be this year’s Franz Ferdinand.

(Don’t get me wrong: I like Franz Ferdinand, I really do. But I think I preferred them when they were called the Strokes.)

I’m hearing good things about the Kings of Leon’s second album, though. I noted their debut, but it sounded a bit too retro for my tastes. It could just be a first impression, but their prog-rock pretensions seemed a bit forced to me. Now, it appears, I have to reevaluate them.

Of course, some of my most cherished albums did nothing at all for me on the first, second or even third listens: “Kid A” by Radiohead; “A Ghost is Born” by Wilco; “Everyone is Here” by the Finn Brothers; to an extent, even Aimee Mann’s stunning “Lost In Space.” I completely missed the point of “London Calling” when I initially heard it. And Elvis Costello’s “Get Happy” was, to my 17 year-old “Armed forces” mind, utterly confusing.

And yet, it’s the Let’s Active and Bluebell discs, among many others, that sit, unlistened-to, in my collection. The easy pop stuff that appeared addictive upon first bite. Albums that seemed instant classics, but turned out to have the staying power of instant Jell-O.

Still, this isn’t to imply that an album for the ages can’t hit you immediately.

Driving back from Little Wars last week, I took the long way around, and swung north past Milwaukee. It was a day that promised Spring was indeed around just the corner, groundhog be damned: temperatures were in the 60s, and the sky was as clear and uncluttered as a Neo-con’s mind.

My trusty iPod plugged in by my side, I hit the “Shuffle” button.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners came on: specifically “There, There My Dear.”

And it blew me away. Again.

Many of my American friends laugh off Dexy’s Midnight Runners. But then, most of them have never heard of Stiff Little Fingers, either.

Even the Simpsons made a joke at Dexy’s expense (Homer: “You haven’t heard the last of them!”).

Americans know Dexy’s from the over-played “Come on Eileen,” and easily dismiss them as a one-hit wonder. Which is half right. Dexy’s Midnight Runners were a wonder.

Here on the left side of the Atlantic, the majority of the record-buying public never knew the glory that was “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels,” a blistering affirmation of life lived with a furious sense of passion.

“Burn It Down” opens the album with a searing blast of horns, and from that moment, you realize this is a Take-No-Prisoners attack. Kevin Rowland didn’t sing as much as wail, bleat and occasionally whine, and fully half the lyrics never seemed to match up with the liner notes, but it worked brilliantly, nonetheless. It was music that had to be played at the utmost volume, and it nearly brought tears to your eyes.

“Geno,” “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green,” “There, There My Dear”…”Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” appeared to point a fiery new direction for the fractious British music scene of 1980. Yet the core band splintered, while Rowland’s pop schizophrenia and sudden affinity for overalls meant that 1982’s “Too-Rye-Ay” was less a follow-up and more a bizarre Celtic folk rebirth.

Now, “Too-Rye-Ay” has several brilliant moments, though: specifically the almost dizzying “(Let’s Make This) Precious,” “Plan B” and the much-maligned “Come On Eileen” itself. Yet it was a less focused album than “Rebels,” and despite the huge commercial success, tensions in the band once more bubbled to the surface.

Another Dexy’s disintegration followed, and 1985’s “Don’t Stand Me Down,” while a critical hit, was a commercial failure – in part from Rowland’s initial refusal to issue any singles from it. A shame, since “This Is What She’s Like” was a stunning, complex number that was too little, too late when eventually released as a single.

But for the better part of an hour, on a soulless stretch of I-94, it was 1980 all over, and Kevin Rowland’s pigheaded passion, power chords and righteous Stax-style horns cried just as pure and true as they ever had.

The crowd they all hailed you, and chanted your name
But they never knew like we knew
Me and you were the same
And now you’re all over, your song is so tame,
You fed me, you bred me, I’ll remember your name

It was a good drive home.

Buy this album.



Tons of correspondence over today’s Dork Tower.

The most interesting is a letter from Israel. It throws an interesting new light on the IDF/D&D story:

Dear John

First of all, let me say I Just ADORE your comic. Its uber-awesome.

I just want to make a comment about your comic from the 3.11. I live in Israel, and I will get drafted
next year to a very special intelligence unit in the intelligence service.

Many of my gamer friends serve in this unit, and in various other units that are considered to be the
cream of the crop of the IDF.

I’d say, that about 50% of those serving in the units that require security clearance, play D&D and various other RP games.

Suffice to say, I think that someone in Ynet is exaggerating… Actually I think that the D&D, and
miniature wargaming, gave me “bonus points” while I took the qualification tests for that unit.

Thought you might be interested to know that 🙂

Yours truly,



I thought Wil’s bit on CSI last night was great.

I’m not sure which Baldwin Brother was also on the show – I believe it was Zeppo – but, yeah. Wil was far better.

I doubt I’ll watch CSI much after this. I found the plots a bit linear.

But I am tremendously jealous of Wil.

Not because of CSI. Nor because the New York Times wrote him up.

No…you have no idea of how I long to honestly say, “I beat a Baldwin brother.”


Dubious at best, but I’ll take it:

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