Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Loveless “A Tale Of Gin And Salvation” (1995)

After the L.A. power pop band Candy failed to achieve wide success with their only album from 1985, they evolved into the heavy metal band Electric Angels, who also released only one album in 1990, and who also found no commercial success. After a second Electric Angels album failed to materialize, three-quarters of that band’s lineup – bassist/lyricist Jonathan Daniel, drummer John Schubert, and a singer named Shane – formed another band called The Loveless, with guitarist Jon Ceparano replacing Ryan Roxie. The Loveless also recorded only one album, titled A Tale Of Gin And Salvation, released without a record label in 1995.

A Tale Of Gin And Salvation is a more fitting follow-up to Candy’s Whatever Happened To Fun… than the Electric Angels album was. Where Candy’s songs were sung from the point of view of teenagers who were facing adulthood and were not hopeful about the coming transition, the songs of the Loveless sound as though they were sung by the same characters many years later, after they had found adulthood to be as unsatisfying as they had feared. This album thankfully discards the hair-metal sleaziness of the Electric Angels, opting for a gentler variation of Candy’s power pop sound. It’s pleasing to the ear, but an undertone of sadness lies beneath the surface. Ceparano’s guitar is alternately jangly and moody, helping to express the melancholy feelings of the heartbroken adults in the songs.

“Growing Up Has Let Me Down”, “Lies My Father Told Me”, and “Wish I Could Fly” plainly describe the disillusionment of dissatisfied grown-ups, who (as Daniel’s lyrics eloquently state) feel “too old to die young, but too young to die”. Most of the other tracks reflect on the characters’ love lives with hardly a positive emotion to be heard; these songs tell tales of lost love with a feeling of resigned emptiness, in contrast to the Electric Angels’ swagger. Although Shane’s vocals still recall those of Poison’s Bret Michaels, his singing here suggests having outgrown the glam-metal attitude without finding contentment in maturity. The closing track, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll Are Dead”, has the fastest tempo, but its theme is no more upbeat, as it acknowledges that many youthful rock and roll dreams – especially those of the ‘80’s hair bands – have faded away. It’s a devastating finale whose resonance lingers long after the CD stops playing.

A Tale Of Gin And Salvation is a hard album to find, but it deserves to be more widely heard. It is as poignant a musical statement as any that have come from the power pop genre.

The Loveless - A Tale of Gin and Salvation

The Loveless “A Tale Of Gin And Salvation” (no label, LR/001) 1995

Track Listing:

1. If I Only Knew Then
2. I Almost Miss You
3. The Return of the Ex-Girlfriend
4. Out Of Sight (Out Of My Mind)
5. Growing Up Has Let Me Down
6. Bittersweet Dreams
7. Lies My Father Told Me
8. Heaven, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
9. Can’t Stand Loving You
10. Postcards From My Heart
11. Wish I Could Fly
12. Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll Are Dead

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Electric Angels (1990)

After the L.A. power pop band Candy failed to achieve wide success with their only album from 1985, they evolved into the Electric Angels, who also released only one album in 1990. (This band should not be confused with a more recent power pop duo of the same name). On the self-titled Electric Angels, former Candy bassist/lyricist Jonathan Daniel and drummer John Schubert were joined by guitarist Ryan Roxie and a singer named Shane. Their sound had little in common with Candy’s power pop and a lot in common with ‘80’s heavy metal. At its core, the album seemed to be aiming for an Aerosmith-type hard rock sound. As produced by glam-rock veteran Tony Visconti, their music more closely resembled that of some other hair-metal bands of the era – i.e. Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison – and Shane’s vocals had more than a passing resemblance to those of Bret Michaels. However, Daniel’s lyrics were much smarter than most from that genre. Although they tend to cover much of the same ground (the seamy side of city life, love frustrations, boozing), they take on those subjects with a more mature mind and more poetic wit. The packaging tried to play up the lyrics as a selling point, but the album was a commercial failure. It was difficult for Electric Angels to stand out from the legions of hair bands at the time – especially when that whole scene was getting tired – but we can now look back on their sole album as an above-average hard-rock effort from that pre-grunge time period.

The band recorded demos for a second album for Atlantic Records, but the label evidently saw little commercial potential in it, and the album was scrapped. Seventeen songs from those demo sessions later turned up on a bootleg called New York Times. The sound was still very ‘80’s-metal-based, and Shane’s vocals still had much in common with Bret Michaels’. But without Visconti’s heavy production, the pessimistic tone of Daniel’s lyrics became far more noticeable. Roxie’s guitar licks are fun to hear, keeping the songs from sounding unpleasantly negative. Some of these songs (i.e. “Lies My Father Told Me”, “Live Forever”, “Where The Wild Things Are”) have themes similar to the songs Daniel recorded with Candy, about teenagers unhappily facing adulthood, but they paint darker – and sleazier – pictures of the situation. Three ballads – “Wish I Could Fly”, “Spend The Night With A Memory”, and “Can’t Stand Loving You” – convey feelings of dissatisfaction. Other noteworthy tracks: “The War Is Over” and “Postcards From My Heart” lean toward Candy-like power pop, while “Cheap Lipstick”, “Hung Up On A Pin-Up Girl”, and “Ain’t Going Home With You” pursue an Aerosmith vibe. Over-length is a problem when listening to all 17 of these tracks, which total 72 minutes. If the album had been completed, the weaker tracks most suitable for omission would have been “New York City Girl”, “God’s Children”, the muddled “Def Generation”, and “New York Times” (which I’m guessing would not really have been the album’s title track).

Notes: Electric Angels was reissued on CD in 2009 by the Wounded Bird label, but that edition is now also out of print. The CD is available in the U.K. from the Rock Candy label. Some of the songs from the New York Times bootleg were later recorded by The Loveless – the next quartet to feature Daniel, Schubert, and Shane.

Electric Angels - Electric Angels

Electric Angels “Electric Angels” (Atlantic 82064-2) 1990

Track Listing:

Lower East Side

1. I Believe
2. Live In The City
3. Rattlesnake Kisses
4. Head Above Water
5. Dangerous Drug
6. True Love And Other Fairy Tales

Upper West Side

7. Last Girl On Earth
8. Home Sweet Homicide
9. Cars Crash
10. All The Money
11. Whiplash
12. The Drinking Song

Electric Angels “New York Times” (unreleased) 1992

Track List (in no official order):

1. Lies My Father Told Me
2. Wish I Could Fly
3. New York Times
4. The War Is Over
5. Postcards From My Heart
6. Colour Of Hate
7. Woke Up Blind
8. Where The Wild Things Are
9. Spend The Night With A Memory
10. Hung Up On A Pin-Up Girl
11. Ain’t Going Home With You
12. God’s Children
13. Def Generation
14. Can’t Stand Loving You
15. New York City Girl
16. Cheap Lipstick
17. Live Forever