Friday, April 7, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: The Waterboys, Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, Elvis Costello, Rock 'N' Roll High School DVD (2001)

The Waterboys A Roc k In the Weary Land

Not many recording artists can lay claim to creating a legitimate classic album, but Mike Scott and the Waterboys have done it twice. Fisherman’s Blues (1988) and This Is the Sea (1985) melded Celtic folk with British rock to create an entirely new sound that many since have tried to imitate, but nobody has equaled. The first proper Waterboys album since 1990, A Rock In the Weary Land (Razor & Tie) reunites creative frontman Mike Scott with original band members Anthony Thistlethwaite and Kevin Wilkinson for a marvelous collection of songs.

Although there is nothing here to match the band’s classic 1980s output, A Rock In The Weary Land is an invigorating and complex album nonetheless. Infusing their unique sound with traditional instrumentation and elements of blues and folk, the songs here are propelled by Scott’s wonderfully expressive and unforgettable voice. A finely crafted tapestry of spiritual and introspective imagery and skilled instrumentation, A Rock In the Weary Land is an impressive return to form for Mike Scott and the Waterboys.

Over the course of six years and three critically acclaimed and sadly ignored albums, Scott Miller led his band the V-Roys through their paces with energy and intelligence. When that band broke up, Miller took a little time to gather his thoughts and write some new songs. The result of this period of introspection is Thus Always To Tyrants (Sugar Hill Records), the first release by Scott Miller & the Commonwealth. Showcasing a whip-smart songwriting style that has aged gracefully, Thus Always To Tyrants throws together traditional Appalachian-inspired country and folk with 1960s-tinged pop and roots rock in the style of the V-Roys. Miller’s literary lyrics range from the Civil War tale “Highland Country Boy” to the gospel-tinged “Is There Room On the Cross For Me.” As shown by songs like “Across the Line” or “I Made A Mess of This Town,” a magnificent artistic tension is created between the conflict of a rural southern upbringing and the lure of the big city. With love and betrayal, hard times and harder promises around every corner, Thus Always To Tyrants is a fully realized artistic statement and a welcome musical reappearance of the talented Scott Miller.     

Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True
When Elvis Costello’s My Aim Was True album was released in 1977, the rock world generally didn’t know what to make of the angry young man behind the Buddy Holly glasses and pop sensibilities. Almost twenty-five years later, the disc is considered by most to be a true work of art, a blending of two decades of pop and rock history forged with punk attitude. The recent reissue of My Aim Is True (Rhino Records) places the album in perspective, the two-CD set pairing the sonically-remastered original album with a bonus disc of outtakes and demos for the price of a single CD. My Aim Is True is filled with street-tough rock ‘n’ roll tunes like “Less Than Zero,” “Miracle Man” and “Waiting For the End of the World” as well as the classic ballad “Alison.” Blistering in its passion and intensity, My Aim Is True sounds as powerful today as it did during the summer of ’77. The bonus disc includes material that originally appeared on the out-of-print Rykodisc reissue, including outtakes of “Radio Sweetheart” and “Stranger In The House” along with four previously unreleased songs.

My Aim Is True also includes a twenty-eight page CD booklet with rare photos, song lyrics and commentary from the artist. Rhino has also revisited Spike (1987), which features several songwriting collaborations with Paul McCartney, including the hit “Veronica,” and All This Useless Beauty (1996), a collection of Costello songs originally recorded by other artists. The next batch of Costello albums to be reissued includes This Year’s Model, Blood & Chocolate , and Brutal Youth, part of an eighteen title series featuring bonus tracks and ultra-cool CD booklets.

Rock 'N' Roll High School
From Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock to Prince’s Purple Rain to the recent Rock Star, there have been a lot of movies made with a rock ‘n’ roll theme. None can hold a candle, however, to the one and only Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (New Concorde), the trash-rock classic recently released on DVD. The movie stars the Ramones, the greatest punk rockers to ever learn three chords, in a tale of youth gone wild. It’s up to Ramones fan Riff Randle (teen queen P.J. Soles) to free the students of Vince Lombardi High School from the anti-rock tyranny imposed by evil principal Miss Togar (former Warhol ingenue Mary Waronov).

The result is hilarious, with plenty of sight gags, high school hijinx and a soundtrack that includes Alice Cooper, Chuck Barry, Brownsville Station and, of course, the Ramones. Produced by Roger Corman (who else?) and directed by Allan Arkush, Rock ‘N’ Roll High School is the best movie ever made about rock music. The new DVD release includes an interview with B-movie legend Corman, commentary by Arkush and audio outtakes from the Ramones concert at The Roxy in LA where the concert footage was filmed. (View From The Hill, September 2001)

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