R.E.M.’s Murmur Reissued With Bonus Live Disc

Forget for a minute what you think of what R.E.M. has turned into. When the Athens, Ga., quartet issued its debut album in April 1983, it turned out to be one of those moments that end up defining an era. Murmur pretty much single-handedly started the “college rock” genre, which morphed into “alternative rock” and “indie rock” and “modern rock” and then into whatever people choose to call it these days. It remains one of those albums that sounds nothing like anything that came before or after it, simultaneously retro and ahead of its time. It proved that four regular dudes could work hard and tour their asses off and end up succeeding far beyond their loftiest expectations. Murmur is one of those records that changed not only the music industry, but also people’s lives. (Feel free to add your own cliches here.) So with every average-to-decent record of the rock ‘n’ roll era now being treated to the “deluxe reissue” treatment, it’s nice to see one of the great ones finally getting its due. Murmur is reissued today with remastered sound and a bonus disc of a great live show recorded in Toronto three months after the LP was released. Even if you don’t go out and buy it, maybe go home and put your warped vinyl or cassette copy on the stereo and remember the good old days.

If you’re looking for even more excitement, you can read the interview MAGNET did with guitarist Peter Buck last year; for some reason, he hung up on us when we mentioned his penchant for getting shit-faced while flying commercial.

Port O’Brien: Shore Leave

2008 was a historic year for Van Pierszalowski, singer and songwriter for Port O’Brien. For the first summer in his life, Pierszalowski didn’t join his family on Kodiak Island, Alaska, where he usually works the season on his father’s salmon boat. Cambria Goodwin, also a singer and songwriter for the waterlogged folk-pop band, wasn’t at her mainland cannery gig, either. They’ve got a good excuse, though. Port O’Brien’s “I Woke Up Today,” from the band’s self-released second album All We Could Do Was Sing, is getting a lot of attention.

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Cure Tribute Album To Feature Black Francis, The Wedding Present, Dean & Britta

The recent 4:13 Dream may not be among the Cure’s best albums, but the three-hours-plus shows Robert Smith and Co. performed here over the summer showed the band could still kick some ass when it wants to. (Plus, Smith had the good taste to have 65daysofstatic open the gigs.) So while the band is looking forward, the folks at American Laundromat Records are looking backward, assembling a tribute to Smith and Co. that will feature modern takes on past classics such as “Just Like Heaven,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “In Between Days” and “Let’s Go To Bed.” Just Like Heaven: A Tribute To The Cure will be issued January 27 and will feature appearances by Black Francis, the Wedding Present, Dean & Britta, the Rosebuds and others. The complete track listing is after the break.

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The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’s Score

Sure, the trailer makes The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button seem kinda like a cross between Forrest Gump and the Mork & Mindy episodes with Jonathan Winters, but there’s still hope for it, given it was directed by David Fincher and based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. It comes out Christmas, but until then, you can enjoy the movie’s score, composed by Oscar nominee Alexandre Desplat, by clicking here.

Suicide: Be Careful With That Axe, Alan

“No one believed the story about the axe,” chortles Alan Vega.

With his New York accent and rapid-fire delivery, Vega is a natural raconteur, although given his audience-baiting legacy with electro-punks Suicide, perhaps provocateur terrible is a better title.

“I was on a solo tour, maybe 1985,” he continues. “I’d been telling the band this story, but no one believed me. At the end of this show, the Jesus And Mary Chain guys came in and say, ‘Oh yeah, we were at the show in Edinburgh when the axe came flying by your head.’ All the guys in my band’s jaws dropped.”

Vega laughs again. At a safe distance of three decades, he can afford to, although during Suicide’s ascent, being onstage was no laughing matter; the sheer hostility emanating from the crowd and the projectiles launched at Vega and bandmate Martin Rev ensured that.

Suicide—Rev on minimalist keyboards and drum machine; Vega on Elvis-from-hell vocals; everything draped in thick, claustrophobic sheets of reverb and echo—arguably birthed the modern-day synth-pop movement. The duo formed in 1970, prowling the same grimy-artsy Manhattan scene that spawned the New York Dolls. With its 1977 self-titled debut, Suicide was ready to take on the world.

Literally, as Live 1977-1978 (Blast First Petite) attests. Thirteen Suicide shows spread across six CDs are featured in this limited-to-3,000-copies box, and though the recordings are crude, the negative energy that cycled between band and audience is startling, particularly during the gigs in the summer of ’78 that found Suicide opening for Elvis Costello and the Clash. Punks, it seems, didn’t take kindly to a guitar-less duo whose singer taunted them and beat the stage with chains.

“I would get so wired and adrenalized,” says Vega. “You hear about those crazy dances Indians would do, how they’d go into these trancelike states? I used to cut myself, too; a little blood would get into your sweat, then it would look like a lot of blood. In a way, it quelled the riot that was about to happen: ‘Wait a minute, this guy’s fucking nuts!’”

At the moment, Suicide is in a period of dormancy; Vega is currently working on a solo record he describes as “insane gospel.” But in July, Blast First launched an elaborate Suicide tribute project: Each month for two years, a limited-edition 10-inch EP will be released featuring artists (such as Bruce Springsteen, Peaches, Spiritualized and Grinderman) covering Suicide, plus a previously unreleased Suicide/Vega rarity. The 60-year-old singer is pleased but circumspect. “I get called an icon a lot,” says Vega. “I want to go, ‘Wait a minute, don’t they do that with guys who are dead? Did I fucking die and everybody forgot to tell me?’”

—Fred Mills

Jenny Lewis: Fact Sheet

Sex, divorce, feeling inadequate—when it comes to her lyrics, Jenny Lewis has never held back. But somehow, between Rilo Kiley, her rootsy solo work and frequent guest spots (Postal Service, Bright Eyes, Elvis Costello), the demure, 32-year-old former actress continues to keep intrigue high. Her latest solo album, Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.), is no exception. Buffered by snaky guitars, pumping bass and harmonica, she sings about taking LSD, regretting lies she’s told and even matricide in a quivering soprano. Despite being open about vices in her lyrics (whether they’re real or not), when MAGNET reached her in Los Angeles, Lewis shyly asked only one question: “Can it be a fiction sheet?”

Lewis Tracked Down Her Estranged Father, Eddie Gorgan, To Play Harmonica On Acid Tongue.
I’ve always written songs about my parents. They are such fascinating, odd people. On (2006 solo album) Rabbit Fur Coat, I really wrote a lot about my mom. I started unconsciously writing a little bit about my father, and that led me to asking him to come down and play on the record, which was a really lovely experience for me. I’m still kind of getting to know him. And what better way than to play music with your dad?

Lewis Made Her Stage Debut In Las Vegas.
I heard a couple great stories [about my parents’ ’70s-era lounge act, Love’s Way]. One involved a wardrobe malfunction while my mother was pregnant with me. Apparently, there was some sort of button problem, and her dress fell to the floor while she was onstage at the Sands Hotel.

As A Teenager, Lewis Collected Hats, But Now Has Just One Favorite.
I donated [my hat collection] to Goodwill, then slowly bought back the hats over the years. Not the exact same hats. I have one hat that I wear all the time, a Borsalino. I bought it in a pawnshop in Cologne. It’s just a great old hat. You can hide under a hat. From the rain.

Lewis Occasionally Plays Impromptu Music With Other Musicians In L.A.’s Laurel Canyon.
Every couple of months, we go to a house that my friend Jonathan Wilson has, and we just sing cover tunes all night. We sing J.J. Cale tunes. Grateful Dead songs. The Watson Twins came up a couple times. Some of the guys from Wilco. Different older guys who have been playing in L.A. for a long time. It’s really fun. And there’s a bunch of pretty girls sitting around, watching. That always helps.

Lewis Recorded Acid Tongue In A Studio Known For Legendary Recordings As Well As Legendary Debauchery.
There are only two rooms at Sound City [Studios], one of which is the big room where Nevermind was recorded and part of Rumours and a bunch of Tom Petty records. The console is the same for all the records that were made there. I think a couple lines of coke were probably snorted off that. [Laughs] I thought you were gonna ask me if I did a line of coke off the console. I didn’t, just so you know.

Lewis Owns Five Koi Fish.
I got two a couple months ago. Their names are Oreo and Peaches And Cream. And I actually got three more last night. Two are unnamed, but one is called Golden Man. He’s really small. I also have two bullfrogs and one nameless catfish. They’re in a pond, which is, like, 500 gallons.

—Kory Grow

THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN: The Power Of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities [Rhino]

Although it might be difficult to comprehend now, the Jesus And Mary Chain was a total revelation when it appeared amid the ocean of dull-yet-worthy indie pop that made up so much of the mid-’80s British music scene. Initially greeted with hate and bile, 1985 debut Psychocandy wasn’t so much a breath of fresh air as it was a speed- and booze-addled belch of intent.

Looking back, brothers Jim and William Reid had it all: great name, great look, a truckload of attitude and, most important, a sound that’s been ripped off and assimilated by a thousand other less-talented bands. But what a sound: the Velvet Underground, Suicide, the Stooges, ’60s girl groups, Phil Spector and the Beach Boys, all mixed up and seemingly recorded in a tin can on a budget of $3.50 by a studio engineer under the influence of wine and animal tranquilizers, then swamped by white noise and migraine-inducing shards of feedback. It wasn’t especially clever, it certainly wasn’t pretty, but by God, it was effective.

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Ladies And Gentlemen, Punk-Rock Diane Lane

Originally released to scant attention in 1982, Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains has finally been issued on DVD via Rhino. Apparently, the Paramount executives overseeing the project at the time didn’t care for the final product’s sour, punkish outlook and dumped the movie after a poor test screening. Regardless, Stains, a satirical send-up of punk rock and music-industry trendmongering, has become a pre-riot-grrl cult favorite.

The film concerns the angst-ridden Corinne (played by a 15-year-old Diane Lane), who hastily forms all-girl trio the Stains as a way out of her depressed Pennsylvania mill town. Never mind that none of the girls has ever picked up an instrument or written any songs. Soon enough, the Stains find themselves on a national tour with over-the-hill arena-rockers the Metal Corpses and out-of-place U.K. punk band the Looters. Thanks to coverage by a local TV news program, the Stains become sensations, in part because of their provocative clothing (Lane wears a see-through top!), skunk-striped hair and empowering lyrics.

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Ringo Deathstarr: Hot Fuzz

With a blustery, lysergic guitar squall that evokes both the circular scuzz of Spacemen 3 and the primal noise of early Jesus And Mary Chain, the sound of Ringo Deathstarr is often pegged as some part of a sonic revivalism. The thing is, most listeners can’t seem to figure out exactly what these Austin musicians are reviving. Are they shoegaze? Are they psychedelic? Some regressive mixture of the two?

None of the above, according to guitarist and songwriter Elliott Frazier. “People are lumping us in with the neo-psychedelic bands [like the Black Angels], because there’s a wave of that in Austin right now,” he says. “We play with some of those bands, but aesthetically we’re not really doing that. We don’t have a message in our songs about any sort of social thing going on. I like fast tempos and more punk-rock kind of stuff. I think there’s a good amount of punk aesthetic on [2007’s self-titled EP], short and fast songs. I’m more into that than just geeking out on a delay pedal for five minutes.”

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The Flaming Lips (Finally) Complete Christmas On Mars

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. The Flaming Lips have completed Christmas On Mars, the sci-fi film that, since 2001, has spawned endless music-blog updates and disturbing photos of Wayne Coyne in alien-green face paint. More endearing as a concept than a DVD—don’t rule out the possibility of a Lips live event to enhance the film’s surround-sound appeal—Christmas On Mars aspires to be 2001: A Space Odyssey with a Plan 9 From Outer Space budget. The biggest problem with Christmas On Mars isn’t the production (Coyne’s home-built sets are impressive in grainy black-and-white), the plot (which concerns a failing space station, a Christmas baby and a Martian Santa Claus) or the torturously slow pacing. It’s that the film is neither silly enough to be a cult classic nor weird enough to warrant a bong-hit rating. When it comes to the Flaming Lips, creative detours, distractions and folly are all part of the band’s creative process. But in terms of artistic merit, Christmas On Mars weighs a spoonful, not a ton.