The Replacements Sorry Ma Forgot To Take Out The Trash

Revisiting Creative Noise

During the first decade of the 2000s, this website was a minor, unremarkable part of the “web reviewing community”, where people reviewed albums as a hobby. Here I revisit another of my favourite sites.

Like Wilson & Alroy’s Record Reviews, Brian Burks’ Creative Noise was a very early adopter of the internet for music reviews. By the time I’d discovered Creative Noise, it was already defunct – it was last updated more than 20 years ago. But it eventually became a favourite; Burks is an excellent writer.

Burks’ taste can be stylistically limited – Creative Noise is focused on guitar bands from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. I couldn’t find the citation, but I’ve seen it described as “relentlessly middlebrow”. Burks avoids mainstream pop and progressive rock in favour of guitar bands. At the same time, it’s a treasure-trove of slightly-off-the-beaten-path music. I enjoy Burks’ linking of three of his favourite bands below – it helps that I love all three bands too.

The Kinks
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
(1968)*****

Many regard this as the Kinks’ masterpiece, and it is certainly their most legendary. Which just goes to show’ya, since it was their worst selling – it only sold 17,000 copies in the U.S. when it came out. Nothing on here reaches the spectacular highs of “Waterloo Sunset” or “Victoria”, but this is, song-for-song, their most consistent set. Loosely inspired by Dylan Thomas’ “Under the Milkwood”, it sketches out life in a small English town, capturing its citizens with their small pleasures and mundane realities. It’s a quiet, engrossing album, filled with mostly acoustic pop, but never laid-back or banal. Ray pares down his lyrics and the music to absolute, enchanting simplicity, giving the songs a timeless quality. An unheard of rarity at the time, this was rock not as raise-the-roof teenage dance music, but rather a children’s storybook set to music. Nostalgia for young and innocent days – “Do You Remember Walter”, playing cricket in the rain, is my favorite – coexist with cartoon characters like “Johnny Thunder”, “Wicked Annabella”, “Phenomenal Cat” (straight out of Alice-in-Wonderland), and oh, yes, “The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains”. The band plays at its quietest and most stripped-down; any jolts of noise or baroqueness would only break the spell. No other “rock” album is better for a peaceful picnic in the country. Or just close your eyes, listen to this album, and you’ll already be there.


Big Star Radio City

Big Star
Radio City (1974) *****
Their best album is spottier than the debut, but the high points are higher and the sound is intriguingly weirder in contrast the first album’s ready-for-radio accessiblity. Jagged edges have replaced smooth harmonies, which is attributable to the departure of Chris Bell for a solo career. This cuts down on the consistency of the songwriting, which accounts for the spottiness, but even the weaker songs (“She’s A Mover”, “Oh My Soul”) are interesting. The band often sounds as if it’s about to fall apart, which makes this excitingly unpredictable, and on a sonic level highly influential given the holes and corners in the sound. Jody Stephens holds it all together with his drumming, and often sounds like a man tenously trying to keep a house from collapsing. Bassist Andy Hummel chips in the delightful “Way Out West” which boasts a great chorus – as do, well, most Big Star songs. Chilton’s never played better guitar than here, which often sounds like Dave Davies’ six-string trying to emulate Roger McGuinn’s twelve string, especially on the ringing break that propels “September Gurls”, a pinaccle of jangly pop perfection that anyone who has ever heard can never forget. And the chorus of “Back Of A Car”, which gloriously strains Chilton’s high range to its limit, is also unforgettable. Easily one of the top ten or twenty greatest albums in rock, it actually manages to reach the level Big Star’s beloved forebears the Beatles – this is as sonically intriguing and possesses songs as great as Revolver.

P.S. Both #1 Record and Radio City have been reissued on one CD. The early ’90s reissue undoubtedly sparked the current revival of this band’s reputation, which in turn undoubtedly revived the band in a literal sense when Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens teamed up with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies to put on several concerts as the reunited Big Star. When asked why he reformed the band, Alex Chilton bluntly said, “For the money”, which I don’t mind because it’s a)honest, and b)it’s about damn time he actually made some money from this, instead of some alterna-crap Sassy cute band ripping off his music.


The Replacements
Pleased To Meet Me (1987) *****
My story: I discovered the ‘Mats in early ’88 after being turned on a few months earlier by this great new band I heard on the radio called R.E.M. I also read that great “America’s Best Band” cover article on R.E.M. in Rolling Stone (back when it was a halfway-decent read), and….to cut to the chase, I discovered this entire universe of alternative rock that I had been unaware of most of my 14 years. So I dove in with my paper-route money and checked out the Clash and Husker Du and Camper Van Beethoven and some other bands. Dearest to my heart were the Replacements, and for about six years or so the first album I bought by them I believed to be the greatest album of all time, period. The instant I heard this all the way through I knew this was the band for me, that I would follow them to the ends of the earth and buy their entire back catalog. I only found out years later who “Alex Chilton” and Big Star were – I thought he was some old Memphis bluesman! And it still took me 934 listens to figure out that Paul was talking about trading rare Kinks albums – “Exchanging Good Lucks, Face To Face”. So you’ve got the holy trinity, the greatest band of the ’80s singing about the greatest band of the ’70s with a link to the greatest band of the ’60s! Or, if not the greatest, the most certainly underrated! Producer Jim Dickinson gives the ‘Mats a powerful rock sound in contrast to the previous album’s thinness, making “I.O.U.”, “Red Red Wine”, and “Shooting Dirty Pool” positively scorching, you’ll jump and down and bang your head and holler and just make a damn fool of yerself. Kurt Cobain lifted a turn of phrase and downcast desperate melancholy from “Nevermind”, if not the first-person suicide study “The Ledge”. “I Don’t Know” possesses nagging horns punctuating Paul’s sarcastic sneer, indecisively answering “Whatcha you gonna do with your life?” with “Nuthin'”. Everything you need is here, including a couple of great ballads, the after-hours “Nightclub Jitters” and the acoustic “Skyway”, about downtown Minneapolis’ most unusual feature.

Burks has a preference for power-pop, as this page demonstrates: Dwight Twilley, Tommy Tutone,The Vapors.

Burks stopped writing Creative Noise in 2001, but the archives are preserved here: https://starling.rinet.ru/music/temp/music-1.html. Burks continued with a Blogspot account, but it hasn’t been updated for a few years: http://c–noise.blogspot.com/

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Critiquing the Critics

19 Comments

  1. Great sites. As it is yours! I love them all. But your site is the greatest as the interaction among music lovers is fluid and you give us the chance to give our opinion. So, thank you for your outstanding job and for your contribution to the music history. There was another excellent site, Scott Floman. But he has closed it and published a book with all his reviews.

    • Burks and Floman are my two favourite sites – I have Floman’s book on my phone, and he does have a newer blog which he doesn’t update much.

      My site benefits from being Web 2.0 – instant comments, easier to make it look nice and add pictures.

  2. I do like the sites Graham…I like Burkes writing style and taste.
    “Stylistically limited” that is me also! I don’t mind though. I do appreciate a good melody no matter what it’s played on but I will admit…although I don’t have to…I prefer it on a guitar or organ.

    I read the site when you sent me the ” And it still took me 934 listens…” which is great…. BTW what is your favorite Replacement album? I lean more toward Tim…but it depends on the day. I got a whole new appreciation for Don’t Tell A Soul and All Shook Down while going over them.

    • I used to favour Pleased To Meet Me for a long time, but now I’m more of a Let It Be fan. There’s a clear top three though – I used to enjoy just putting those three albums in a playlist on random.

      • I do enjoy the three on a playlist. If you look at their albums…you can trace where they going…more than some other bands. You can see in Hootenanny when the change was happening.

          • It’s like the first hint of the emotional vulnerability that’s right there in most of Westerberg’s other stuff.

          • It really is…Their manager Peter Jesperson said he would give him acoustics songs close to the beginning but Bob would refuse do them.

    • I like Burks and Scott Floman best, plus Rich Bunnell on Nick Karn’s site.

      Prindle’s hilarious but his taste is a fair way from mine – he doesn’t really get things that I enjoy like Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. And I find the Starostin/McFerrin artist/album rating systems annoying – I don’t want to preclude the possibility that a terrible artist could make a great album, or vice versa.

      • I agree with you about the Starostin/McFerrin rating systems, especially since Starostin seemed to used his Beatles bias as his yardstick to measure all the other bands in the universe. Plus, nowadays he’s a big cranky “all new music sucks” kind of guy.

        I do miss Prindle. His tastes did overlap quite a bit with mine but he didn’t have an open mind about jazz or classical. He could be thoughtful when he wanted to be. He often didn’t want to be!

        • I feel like Starostin painted himself into a corner having a 1-5 artist scale, and only giving four (I think?) artists a 5. It wound up with Neil Young getting a 2, and means you can’t really justify giving a one-great album artist like The Zombies a high score.

          Prindle’s definitely a smart guy, as are the others – he had some good insights at times, but not that strong on Miles Davis.

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