Five For Friday: Extended Players’ Club

Remember EPs?  Probably not.  EPs are like LPs, but shorter.  FR here discuss the EPs that stuck in their heads, OK?  XOXO.

Travis: AFI, All Hallows EP 

Often, because of the short running time, the EP is a good place to work on a new sound between full-length albums. The All Hallows EP did just that for Northern California punks AFI, solidifying their transition from a fairly generic, good-humored skate-punk band with songs about mohawks and breakfast cereal (AFI = Askin’ For It) to the anthemic, Gothic, Misfits-influenced pop-punk band they would become (AFI = A Fire Inside). They got more polished, and got bigger after All Hallows, but it’s the best example of the band’s hardcore shouts + gothic textures + whoa-oh backing vocals style, and the final track, “Totalimmortal,” sounds great in any context. Liking AFI isn’t cool anymore, and maybe never was, but this EP’s pleasures are anything but guilty.

Tyler: Oasis, All Around The World

Not technically an EP, All Around The World is one of the many, many, many CD “singles” Oasis released in the UK, due to the absolute onslaught of creativity that was Noel Gallagher on top of the world.  “All Around The World” itself is a song that catches much flak, coming as it does from the (ABSOLUTELY UNDERRATED) Be Here Now, clocking in as it does at eighty-five minutes, and accompanied as it is by the most obvious Yellow Submarine homage ever put to tape.  Who cares, as it’s a fucking awesome song.  (“IT’S GONNA BE OKAY!!!”)  Also present is an underwhelming cover of “Street Fighting Man”, as well as the likable, ambling “Flashbax,” but the real gem here is the utterly motherfucking outstanding “The Fame,” one of the best rockers the band ever recorded.  It’s maybe the FAAAAAAAAME it’s callin’ your NAAAA-HAAAY-HAAME

Nathan: Pedro the Lion, Whole

There was a time when David Bazan didn’t come off as an arrogant prick. This EP (and his other earlier recordings) are representative of that time. Bazan always openly wrestled with questions of faith and the flesh, but his most sympathetic expressions (outside of Pedro’s first full album) are here. This is a man who knows that trusting in an invisible God is not easy and that mankind has so much weighing us down. Drab and depressing, but, somehow, in illuminating his struggles, Bazan offers a deeply earned sense of hope.  Choice track: “Lullaby,” but since there isn’t a decent YouTube video for that song, I offer “Nothing.”

Travis: Minor Threat, In My Eyes EP 

Because they were easier and cheaper to produce, seven-inch records were the main initial musical output in the American punk rock underground, meaning that singles and EPs made up the most vital, raw, and sometimes only output from some seminal bands. In My Eyes is the best from Washington, DC’s Minor Threat, an essential document of youthful rage in musical form. The title track and “Out of Step” are both hardcore punk classics, and their cover of the Monkees’ “Steppin’ Stone” puts the Sex Pistols’ version to shame. In My Eyes, along with everything else Minor Threat released, is available on the cleverly named Complete Discography.

Tyler: Ryan Adams, Side 4

Side 4 was released as an appendage to Gold, an album (so goes the story) initially conceived as a double-LP.  Adams’s label Lost Highway were already tearing out their hair at his inability to withhold his insane prolificity (if that’s not a word, it is now), and should FR ever Five our favorite bootlegs, we will discuss 48 Hours.  As for 4, the only bummer of the five tracks is “The Fools We Are As Men,” the title of which tells you all you need to know; the rest are sublime.  “Rosalie Come And Go,” one of five thousand songs (figure approximate) Ryan has written involving some variation of the name “Rose,” “The Bar Is A Beautiful Place” (yes it is, buddy, even if you’re sober now), “Cannonball Days” (more “Roses!”), and, my favorite, my absolute favorite, one of my favorite fuckin’ songs of all time…

“Sweet Black Magic.”  Don’t worry, li’l honey, ’bout the money. You can feel it fine.

Nathan: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Is Is

This is the band that I wish Yeah Yeah Yeahs were all the time. I don’t need some half-baked emotional honesty from Karen O, nor do I need another indie rock band to find disco; give me these five songs with a crunch and fury so strong you’re afraid the CD might explode in your player.

I first heard this EP while browsing through the selection at Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Chicago. I knew then that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were back. Too bad all the songs were from their pre-Fever to Tell days, including “Down Boy.”

Travis: American Nightmare, The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter 

Boston’s American Nightmare are one of the most imitated hardcore bands of the early 2000s. It’s strange, because they’re not that special; all they did was marry poetic lyrics about girls to the kind of NYHC-influenced mosh tunes that were usually about kicking someone’s head in. This EP is AN at their best, though, with the highlights being the opening “There is a Black Hole in the Shadow of the Pru” and “Hearts.” They don’t sound like love songs, but they are.

Tyler: The Beatles, Long Tall Sally

EPs were a big deal in Britain back in the day, and the Fab Four released plenty, almost all of which were compilations of already-released material.  Twice, though, they bucked that trend: later, with the double-EP soundtrack Magical Mystery Tour (which in canon has been replaced by the American LP, a release padded out with some of the band’s most recent singles and B-sides), and earlier, with Long Tall Sally.

You probably know the title track, a Little Richard cover that is one of the most ridiculous vocal performances of Paul McCartney’s career.  (So ridiculous was it that Paul later rewrote “Sally” as the unimpeachable “I’m Down.”)  The other three tracks, though, are essential, exquisite, early-Beatle brilliance.  John chimes in with the chugging “I Call Your Name” (the only Beatle original on the EP), and also knocks out Larry Williams’s “Slow Down,” but the kicker is the closer, Carl Perkins’s “Matchbox,” crushed in hangdog, heartbroken fashion by the man, the heart, the glue, good old Richard Starkey.

Plus, the album (?) cover kicks fucking ass.

Nathan: R.E.M., Chronic Town

If you think that Murmur sounds primitive and etherial at times, then it’s time to dig back a little further into R.E.M.’s catalogue and check out their first EP. Chronic Town is downright primal at points without as much of the ethereal. Par for the course, you can’t understand about 75% of what Michael Stipe is singing, but that’s the fun of it all! Here is a band that had no idea what they were doing, but they were doing it so well.  See: “Stumble.”

(Listening to Chronic Town as a stand alone 5-song EP is great, but it’s also worth listening to on their b-sides/rarities collection Dead Letter Office. It’s a nice portrait of a band having a grand old time. It includes a cover of Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic” and a mangled version of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Not to be missed.)

Travis: Hüsker Dü, Metal Circus 

This EP was a massive jump for the Dü, who had for the most part been a punishingly loud, fast hardcore punk band before this release, on which dueling singer-songwriters Bob Mould (guitar) and Grant Hart (drums) began to hate one another, and began trying to one-up each other by writing better and more innovative songs, beginning the “buzzsaw pop” sound that would be their trademark and heavily influence the Pixies, Nirvana, and every other band who’d try to blend the Beatles and Black Flag. Hart wins this round, with the sixties-influenced melodies of “It’s Not Funny Anymore” taking the cake.

Tyler: Digital Underground, This Is An EP Release

My sister, an exquisite pianist, got into music well before I did, likely due to the four-and-a-half-year gap between our births.  It didn’t take her long once adolescence dawned to get into the obvious choices, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison (eugh), and she eventually went on a Cobain kick that ended, of course, in tears.

Then she got into hip-hop.  Once she got a car, that beautiful old Volvo, she’d plow me around the streets of Anderson Township blasting 2Pac, shocking my tender and already-neurotic ears.  Long before that, though, on a family trip to Florida, she’d played over and over and over on our shared Walkman This Is An EP Release, which, incidentally, featured a very young 2Pac on “Same Song” (The idea is to back-tab these links while you read, but if you would like to be mesmerized in the worst imaginable way, watch this video), and was a kinda-sorta soundtrack to the gutterally horrendous film Nothing But Trouble, which we also, incidentally, saw with our parents on some trip down south.  God, that movie is AWFUL.  This EP probably is, too.  Ah well.  All around the world, same song.

Nathan: Neko Case, Canadian Amp

When you sit back and really think about the fact that this eight-song EP was recorded in Case’s kitchen in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago around 2001, your mind can’t help but be blown.  It’s comprised mostly of covers that range from the very famous (Neil Young’s “Dreamin’ Man”) to the decidedly obscure (Lisa Marr’s “In California”) to the classical (traditional “Poor Ellen Smith”); but when Case breaks out with her one original composition at the end of the EP, you know that this ain’t no joke.

Travis: Black Flag, Nervous Breakdown EP 

Speaking of Black Flag, here’s a repeat from our post about favorite music release valves; the first recorded output from the legendary Black Flag is a brief blast that’s everything punk music should be: catchy, angry, and funny as hell. Check the title track and “Wasted” for the best of the short-lived partnership between Flag mastermind Greg Ginn and future Circle Jerks and OFF! frontman Keith Morris, since this is the only official recording featuring Morris as the Black Flag vocalist. If you don’t feel like searching for the record (or, like, typing in “black flag nervous breakdown mediafire” into Google, not that I’d ever endorse that) this EP is collected on the First Four Years compilation, which gathers the pre-Damaged, pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag material in one handy collection.

Tyler: 42 Real, Andromeda

My most excellent buddy John was in a band called Solstice when we were being brought up good Catholic high school boys.  Junior year (I believe), Solstice brought down the house at our high school’s annual “Musicfest” (the benefits of an enormous tuition: days off to party) with their bouncified super-’90s 311-lovin’ jams.

Solstice eventually begat 42 Real, comprised of the same five-man set-up (I think), which actually recorded an EP.  Andromeda embarrasses everybody involved in its creation to this day, but the rest of us friends long ago gave into its ridiculous charms.  I could upload the whole thing, but I’m lazy, and I’d probably get a price put on my head.  So, here, a single selection (thank you, iTunes and iMovie) which we were told was named after “a Hawaiian phrase” for something, which of course was total bullshit.  It means nothing, but it means everything.  “Juka Luka.”

P.S. – Johnboy and a collection of equally talented others have since moved on to bigger, better, much more fantastic things.

Nathan: Black Eyed Sceva, 5 Years, 50,000 Miles Davis

Black Eyed Sceva released only two full albums (one under the name Model Engine) and one EP. They were in the Christian music scene, but even in that subculture they failed to achieve any measure of commercial success. That can only mean one of two things:

1) You are truly insufferable and horrible musicians. Christian music is the low point of all pop music, but Christians still listen to it anyway. So maybe if you really suck, no one will buy your record.

2) You created music that was just too damn challenging for anyone to handle.

These guys fell into category 2.

5 Years, 50,000 Miles Davis has five songs. They involve the frustration of being a young believer, senseless divisions in the church, a screed against Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, an attack on easy cliches that plague church theology, and a cover of The Police’s “Invisible Sun”. Quite frankly, I’ve never heard anything like it other than their first full album, Way Before the Flood. In “Ecumenical,” this group made a roaring chorus out of my favorite maxim, credited to a more than a few major players, in all of church history. Black Eyed Sceva sang “Unity in what is essential/Liberty in non-essentials/And in all things charity” with the bravest of conviction. And then they ripped into a blistering guitar part just to prove that they weren’t putting you on.

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