No Dreams Please
Big Legal Mess
The first two minutes of "Devil's Punchbowl" — a hectic tangle of jangle, fuzz and country-Beatle gait, with nasally harmony vocals that improbably sound like the '66 Byrds with Axl Rose in the blend — on the store stereo at Rockit Scientist in New York was all it took for me to fork over for this 2009 six-song EP by the Memphis band Lover! The exclamation point is not empty boasting: Singer-songwriter-guitarist Rich Crook, who did time in Memphis garage institutions the Reatards and Viva L'American Death Ray, packs solid pop inside the brisk rough edges of "No Dreams Please" and "Goodbye." There are two albums and a bunch of singles that came before this, which is good. Because I want more.
The HMV/Parlophone Singles '88-'95
Do not be discouraged by the bare-bones packaging. These three CDs are the flamboyant agony and pop-art ecstasy of the singer in his first post-Smiths era in complete A- and B-side detail. The live version of his old band's "Sweet and Tender Hooligan," on the flip of "Interesting Drug," is telling — Morrissey couldn't let go of his past any easier than his disciples — while "Journalists Who Lie," on the back of "Our Frank," is the perpetually-wounded idol spitting back with a peculiar rockabilly-disco flair. What's missing here: the original charge of turning the record over.
Spaceball Ricochet: The American Radio Sessions
This two-disc set features the group's boss elf, singer-guitarist Marc Bolan, in full promo mode, talking and performing live on FM rock stations in 1971 and '72. The conversation is spacey, but Bolan's determination to bring T. Rextasy to America and his growing impatience with Yankee resistance are plain. At New York's WBAI, in April, 1971, he goes from Martian Dylan mode, in an acoustic "Cosmic Dancer," to full electric assault in "Jewel". By the last stop here, on Boston's WBCN in September '72, Bolan sounds chatty but worn, and the DJ reminds listeners that tickets are still available for T.Rex's gig the next night. "Boston's the only city on this whole tour that has not sold well — I don't know why that is," Bolan says sourly at one point. "And I must accept that." Then he plays a new song, "Left Hand Luke and the Beggar Boys," which includes the word "myxomatosis" — three decades before Radiohead. Rock radio, the way it used to be.