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  • Guest Collector: Paramount Styles

    Mon, 14 Jul 2008 13:34:41

    Guest Collector: Paramount Styles - Music is paramount above all else

    With their dual bassists and love of warped grooves, Girls Against Boys issued a string of solid releases throughout the '90s. Never officially calling it quits, the band has been largely silent since their last album in 2002. Luckily, singer/guitarist Scott McCloud decided it was time to break his silence, albeit it as a solo act this time around. Going by the name Paramount Styles, McCloud recently released the album Failure American Style, the first solo project of his career.

    With songs built largely around his husky vocals, his voice rarely raises in volume but can tighten into an effective growl as the music swells around his sardonic lyrics. Intrigued by his atypical style, we had the singer enlighten us about albums he's found influential over the years. Read on, as he offers up just the kind of iconoclastic list you'd expect.

    Morphine - Cure For Pain
    A sort of dark wave breath of fresh air in the early 90s. The follow-up to their debut Good, this album had swagger, some sort of danger, and great atmosphere, and a sound no one else was doing anywhere near as well. The use of the saxophone, like a secret weapon, was clever. It could add melodic elements while the bass and drums handled the lower end droning riffs. Smart, adult. Thematically right up the alley of what was trying to do with noise rock at the time.

    PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love
    Everything came together on this PJ Harvey album. While I liked everything before, together with Flood's production, To Bring You My Love seemed a major artistic statement. The album took sonic risks, little fish big fish swimming in the water whispery voices, near minimalist approaches on some tracks and wild abandon on others. The stripped down nature of some of the production made clear that sticking to a good simple idea could be sufficient without piling on too much noise and unnecessary arrangement changes. A perfect album.

    Nirvana - MTV Unplugged
    As great as Nevermind was, this album sealed the deal with Nirvana for me. And it's my preferred listen to this day if I want to hear Nirvana songs. Stripped of the bombast of alt-rock, the songs came through with even more power on this release, when played in this semi-acoustic form. And the sound of Kurt Cobain's voice, straining in parts to stay on key, made the whole even more immediate and visceral.

    The Fall - This Nations Saving Grace
    I¹m just one more person influenced by this band. Out of something like 30 Fall albums now, no matter what, there are always one or two gems on every release. This Nations Saving Grace was the first very consistent Fall release, in my opinion. The caustic lyrics and vocal delivery are so fresh, a true post-punk milestone. Cruisers Creek top song.

    Cat Power - You Are Free
    This record is just a great example of something incredibly intimate and simple that avoids the trap of sounding at all precious or overwrought. The mix of acoustic guitar riffs, some basic electronic sounds, and cut & paste sounding beats, are held together perfectly by Chan Marshall's amazing voice. Stunning.

    Big Black - Atomizer
    A masterpiece of the post-punk variety: Epitomizes the US post-punk thing of the late 80s early 90s. Yes, NIN was great, and everybody was influenced by Wire, Joy Division, et all but this album was a sort of slap in the face wake up call to what could be done with these elements (industrial/ post-punk) to create something truly unheard previously. Totally compelling.

    Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
    The song "Clocks" is a hit-and-a-half, and whatever else is on this album, that song is worth the price of admission alone. Sometimes the mainstream just gets it right and this is a case in point. Life is just too short to ignore a great song like that, not to mention some the other standouts on this album. The haunting descending piano part, the arrangement, and delivery: everything clicks.

    dEUS - Worst Case Scenario
    OK, these are friends of mine, a band from Belgium that¹s gotten little notice in the USA but are well known in Europe. Just check out this album, their debut, from the mid-90s. "Suds & Soda" and "Hotel Lounge" are standouts, but the record serves as a reminder, to those adventurous enough, that there is great music from European countries aside from the UK.

    Fugazi - Repeater + 3 Songs
    Fugazi, perhaps more than ever, demonstrates what can be achieved outside the standard conception of the music business. Always reminds me what the spirit of independent rock was all about, which was not only a style of sound but also a mode of alternative means of distribution, promotion, awareness. I am from Washington, DC, originally, and Fugazi, together with others, were what made doing music on one¹s own terms seem possible.

    Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Oz
    I was thirteen. This was my first concert. Randy Rhodes was playing guitar. Ozzy didn't bite the head off a fake bat (or maybe he did). In the mind of an adolescent this was a revelation. Yes its sort of funny, absurd even. But if top ten lists are meant to be about inspiration, or what have you. Life was funny, absurd, even sort of tragic, at thirteen, and this was a first escape in what would become long series of attempted escapes. Encapsulates the myth of rock and roll in general: It's sort of heavy, not really all that dangerous or revolutionary, and then, in the middle of it all, there's a cheesy ballad or two.

    —The ARTISTdirect Staff

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