Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

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This past Sunday (10/23) the weird world of entertainment lost Pete Burns. Just 57 years old, the androgynous pioneer suffered from a massive cardiac arrest as confirmed by his manager Monday morning. 2016 hasn’t exactly been a banner year as far as deaths go (and hell, a large number of other things too, let’s face it).

A perpetual diva and an entity all unto himself Burns rose to commercial stardom in 1985 when his group Dead Or Alive released the album Youthquake dead-or-alive-%22youthquake%22-covercontaining the mega hit “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, which, up until his dying day would continue to remain a meal ticket for the singer as well as a nail in a coffin of a very tumultuous career. When I first discovered Dead Or Alive I was much too young to really understand the endless concept and art that went behind Pete and DOA. As I got older and of course began to really understand Music and Art and obsess over it more and more, Dead Or Alive really did stick out to me. It wasn’t even so much the kitschy music as it was so obviously Pete Burns at the helm of this often bizarre and confusing outfit which I wound up loving. His outlandish behavior and looks over the vast many years made people love or hate him. Not knowing him personally I’d imagine there really was absolutely no in-between. I even missed a chance to see Dead Or Alive play at a beach club once because I was too young to get in. I did indeed try to sneak in after being turned away but got caught. I didn’t want to risk catching any heat from the large security men, me being a young boy with weird hair, eye make-up and a bright polkadot shirt on.

Clearly addicted to plastic surgery, even after his very first botched nose job. Burns continued to have extensive work done, “Getting a new face is like buying a sofa”. His lips were destroyed and rebuilt, he had several rhinoplasties and beyond…way beyond. Apparently no part of his body except the soles of his feet went untouched by needle or knife and his entire earnings were spent on destroying and rebuilding his looks, even selling off the rights of his songs to do so. pete-burnsSelf esteem issues were obviously present in a man who was indeed once beautiful and possessed a voice so powerful it would rumble your floorboards. What can really be said about Pete Burns that he already hadn’t said or done anyway? Not much. There were few as blunt and daring and fucking Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know as one Pete Burns. He showed us all what it meant to truly let your freak flag fly. His outlandish behavior, outfits and commentary on the UK’s version of reality television show Big Brother brought him back into the mainstream. Train wreck or not, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. Bending genre and gender to the point of utter shatter he was truly a force of nature. Whether he was burning American flags in Texas or bridges with record labels, he did it with such a grandiose flair that was uncompromised and next to few if not none.

Icon? Yes. Lunatic? Probably. One of a kind? Absolutely. It’s a shame that another colorful character had to be taken away from us in this very confusing year. Pete may have been impossible but he shared with us the fact that you can do YOU no matter what…but again, at what cost? Money, relationships…your face? I’d dare say that few will ever be as brazen. So, thank you Pete, whether is was brave or just plain crazy I’m hoping you’re shit kicking the afterlife on glitter platforms…”I just keep a hearing, you runnin’ on up my stairs but you’re not there”…R.I.P.

“People always want to know – am I gay, bi, trans or what? I say, forget all that. There’s got to be a completely different terminology and I’m not aware if it’s been invented yet. I’m just Pete.”

Staring at this blank slate, trying to figure out where and how to start to describe the record that is Modes Of Transportation Vol. 1…It won’t be an easy task and I have certainly been procrastinating…

Just a few weeks ago the 20th Anniversary of this wacky masterpiece landed in my mailbox. I was certainly ready, willing and able to consume. Spookey and his music have been a major part of my life for a very long time. I’ll never forget first hearing his sounds. I was sprawled out on the floor doing homework watching Much Music for the short time America had the Canadian music network, which at that point was far superior to MTV and brought a vast many bands into my life. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what the hell I was hearing. It sounded like a cartoon about a boy going through puberty at first. But, it was a genius at work, yodeling like a crazy cat over an almost mechanical sounding bubblegum indie pop apocalypse. The song and video I am referencing is, “These Days Are Old”. This was the lead single off the record. Some years had passed since the release of the album when I first caught wind of it, and I was very lucky to have done so. Shortly after that I had it in hand and played it for everyone, equally perplexed, but who also went on to claim it as one of their favorite recordings. Anyway, enough whimsy, let’s tackle this Anniversary Release!

Spookey, Modes Vol. 1 20th Anniversary Cover

It’s beautiful, dense and very well crafted. This reissue is not some mediocre thing thrown out there to capitalize on an artist’s most successful venture. It’s calculated and lovingly delivered. What you get here is a Remastered “Modes” with 4 bonus tracks and lots of expanded artwork including a very touching and inspirational forward by Canadian songstress, Esthero. After reading her words I found that her story was kind of similar to mine. Accidentally discovering Spookey and being, well, somewhat confused at first. But then…obsessed. Seems textbook.

“We all have records we like – love, even…lots of them…but there are only so many you can KNOW.”

And well, she’s right. There has not been a single thing this guy has put out that I haven’t loved. Not like, but love. That’s pretty rare with a big catalogue and rare still with artists you really dig. To me, Spookey is very consistent.

The nicely remastered “Modes” follows the same track order from the standard release opening up with the few foreboding seconds in “Terra Magnifica” which sounds like your going to get something horrifying but then immediately turns into something beautiful with a cavalcade of instruments and a children’s choir only minutes in. It sets the bar pretty high and the theme only continues throughout. Next up is lead single “These Days Are Old” which I already waxed poetic about earlier and probably includes one of the best and most eloquent nylon string guitar solos you may ever hear. “Crystal Cradle”, colorful, fun, cute…”Running Away”, one of the most straight forward Alt Rock songs on the record. In whole it’s truly an adventure, and presented with more clarity than ever. I’d love to do a track by track, but I gotta leave you with some mystery. Just remember this when you get up to the conceptual “Life Insurance” delivered in 3 parts.

 

It came out on TVT in 1995 and was hailed as Pet Sounds for a new generation. It’s back and STILL from the future.

I didn’t even get to the bonus tracks! The first of four is “Knife In The Water”. It’s classic Spookey Ruben; it’s the bonus level, the 1-Up…the heart container! An absolutely brilliant contribution and you wonder why it was initially left off of the original record. My only guess is that the lyrical content is somewhat dark; a murder mystery of sorts. That’s followed by “Machine Language” which at first could be likened to a lost Nine Inch Nails tune. Before Spookey went solo he was in a thrashy, experimental math rock kinda band called Transilience. This track leans more to that era of his work. Next up is “This Truth” which has a more cool jazzy on the beach kinda vibe. Finally putting the period on this edition is a live cover version of the Pilot classic, “Magic” which lends itself greatly to Spookey’s diverse vocal range.

Spookey!

SPOOKEY!

I personally cannot say enough about this artist’s installment of aural pleasure other than the fact that it’s thankfully getting another breath of fresh air. If I could complain about one thing, and I use the word complain lightly, is the fact that “The Lonesome Mule” was left off this version, which appeared on the Japanese release from ’96. The fact that it also appears on Ruben’s Rarities collection Welsh Rarebits from a few years back makes it forgivable.

Anyways, art like Spookey Ruben’s is one of a kind. Much like Prince, Spook is that special, and his return has just begun. Look forward to a monster year from this very special songwriter.

(Also sink your teeth into Modes Of Transportation Vol. 2/What’s A Boy To Do? And Modes III, coming soon)

https://spookeyruben.bandcamp.com