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Overlooked Alternatives: the Afghan Whigs, the Jesus Lizard, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, the Police, Shellac, Tesla

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Holy… fartness, what a week. Luckily I'm not buying everything here, or have some of it already, because this is one of those weeks to seriously break the budget if you were so inclined.

The Afghan Whigs – Unbreakable: A Retrospective 1990-2006: As the title suggests, it's a best-of for this critically adored soul-punk act, and probably a good place for all of us to start. Myself, I have 1966 and like it a lot, but I've really fallen for lead Greg Dulli's new band, The Twilight Singers, who sound a lot like the Whigs but seem to stretch the boundaries just a bit more than his original band did. If you're easily offended, it should be noted, this is not the band for you. Dulli's got a pretty twisted lyrical bent in his music, but the music is oh so good.

The Jesus Lizard – Live (DVD): I know next to nothing about this – it just appeared on the release list and I hit "buy" because I love me some Jesus Lizard. What I do know is this: 1994, Venus De Milo in Boston, bonus of 5 songs from CBGB's 08/29/92. The rest is up to your imagination until this is in our hands, but I would guess that singer David Yow gets pretty freaky, and that should be pretty entertaining.

Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full: I had almost no hopes for this album upon hearing first single "Ever Present Past." It sounded like a very retro throwaway from Paul's 80s period, an era of his that I don't particularly feel like revisiting. But then I (ahem) stumbled upon a generous offering of a "preview" (of sorts (ahem)) of the album and gave the whole thing a chance. Surprise, surprise – I really enjoyed it. And, being a good sport, I didn't listen again so I could listen to the album with fresh ears when I finally get my hands on the real deal – the deluxe edition with three extra songs, of course.

Tom Petty – Highway Companion Deluxe Edition: Speaking of "deluxe editions" … Oh, Tom, there was a time when you threw a fit at the record label wanting to make 1981's Hard Promises the first record to be priced at a new, higher price point (of $9.98 – can you imagine?) and so you threatened to re-title your album "The $8.98 Album." And now, here we are in 2007, less than a year after Highway Companion was first issued and there's a "deluxe edition" being sent to stores with four extra songs and some "special" packaging . . . for about double the price of the original version. Couldn't we just have gotten an EP instead? This trend sucks and I think it sucks that Petty gave in to it.

The Police (2 CD Anthology): It's about time something like this came out. Not one of those half-assed best-ofs that doesn't make full use of the full-length of the CD, nor that stupid collection that mixes both Sting's solo material and the Police material, but a true anthology of the band that actually makes some damned sense. Just click over to Amazon and take a look at the track list – that's a seriously great set of songs. If I didn't own the Message In A Box set I'd own this. If you don't own either, you should.

Shellac – Excellent Italian Greyhound: Steve Albini's band is back after a long absence to abuse us once again with their heavy-as-hell music and warped humor. I doubt they can top "Squirrel Song," but I'm willing to let them give it a shot.

Tesla – Real to Reel: Oh, now, give me a break. I can too listen to Shellac and Tesla. Tesla came first for me, probably obviously, but we drifted apart over the years since high school, but this album of covers has piqued my curiosity. A quick listen to clips on Amazon reveals that this is another one of those surprises – like Def Leppard's covers-album from 2006, Yeah!, it digs a bit deeper than most artists do and in doing so gives listeners more meat to chew on while allowing the band to play around a little more. Among the artists getting the Tesla treatment are Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Traffic, the Rolling Stones, and, well, a bunch more.

Just like a couple of the above with those deluxe editions, however, there is a catch if you want everything. Nothing is ever simple anymore, is it? Tesla recorded two discs worth of covers, only one of which is available in stores right now. To get the second disc, you have to go to one of their concerts. That's right – buy a ticket and get the second disc included with the price of admission. That's pretty clever. That's all fine if you're going to a concert, but if you're not, you're kind of screwed, aren't you? I think we can make the assumption that once the short tour is over, the second disc will be sold on their website.

But wait! There's more – there's always more because, of course, Best Buy is involved! Pick up the disc at Best Buy and you get a four-song bonus disc with some material that previews their upcoming boxset. Personally, I think all of this is a little too complicated, but it seems to be getting them some notice, at least – they played on our local morning news show (and sounded great, too) and that's more than I can say I've seen of them in a long time. So here's to your second-wind of success, guys.

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About Tom Johnson

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Nice write-up, Tom. You’re not kidding when you say it’s one of those weeks that could break the bank account. You certainly have me looking over my music allowance in the budget and wondering where I can borrow a little extra cash from.

  • zingzing

    the afghan whigs album you have is “1965.” i think there is a song on it called “66,” though, so don’t feel bad. while a best of may be great, i don’t think it can replace owning “1965” and especially “gentlemen,” which is just one of the best albums of the 1990s. still, if you have your doubts about the whigs, then this is a good place to start.

    i’ve seen a clip from that jesus lizard dvd. the sound wasn’t great (but that will be improved on the actual dvd), but the most troubling spot was the camera work, which was just bad. still… seeing mr. yow lumbering about like a drunk who just got hit by a car is always amazing. where does he put that microphone?

    i’ve only read a couple of reviews of the new shellac, but i’m going to get it. everything that band does together is worth it…

  • Jane Ripley

    The Jesus Lizard are great. Best show I ever saw. Thanks for the information.