Five From the Shelf Friday – 3-17-23

Happy St. Patty’s Day and Sláinte to all you Irish and non, and all those pretending to be. Hail to Clans McDermott and McKnight, who bred with my German-Dutch ancestors and later down the DNA chain got with an Englishman to later put me on this planet. I honor my Irish descendants as much as the rest of my lineage. Earlier in the week I ran a local Celtic Canter 5K with a couple of buddies and we later took down Blacksmith pints (i.e. a Guinness blended with Smithwicks, though make sure you pronounce it correctly as “Smitticks” before you get laughed out of a true Irish pub) at a favorite haunt, O’Lordan’s in Westminster, Maryland, my former hometown. TJ and I will be back there again this weekend with another crew and we look forward to having our bellies warmed and our ears filled with local Celtic music and the camaraderie of longtime friends. Appropriately, I’ll lead off this week’s Five From the Shelf Friday with The Pogues

The Pogues If I Should Fall From Grace With God

Of all the many times I’ve seen Celtic folk-punk band Flogging Molly play (one of the coolest parties onstage anywhere), I wish I’d had a chance to catch their inspiration, The Pogues, play just once. While my favorite Pogues album will always be the rowdy and ribald Red Roses for Me, there’s no arguing these Irish rebels rampaging their London recording studio hit their finest and most impactful stride on If I Should Fall From Grace With God. Far less of a hyperactive pogue mahone (translated from the Gaelic póg mo thóin as “kiss my arse”) by the time slushy-voiced (and back then, slushy everything) Shane McGowan recorded their third platter in 1988 The Pogues had done some soul searching. Thus, at times, If I Should Fall From Grace With God rings of atonement.

I spent two days this week listening to The Pogues, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers, The Dubliners and The Chieftains, the latter two being far less hectic and more sanitized in traditional Irish music. Today, for St. Patty’s Day, expect some Thin Lizzy in my ears. Thin Lizzy, still the pride of Ireland, being the most criminally underrated rock band in history. Getting back to If I Should Fall From Grace With God, the album marks the peak of The Pogues’ success, largely on the back of a runaway hit, “Fairy Tale of New York.” The song speaks of the disenfranchisement and exploitation of 1800’s Irish leaving their famine-stricken homeland for what seemed like a guarantee of better times on American shores. You can watch Gangs of New York or bend an ear to Shane McGowan and later, Dave King in Flogging Molly, to get a better grasp on why we celebrate St. Patty’s Day, even if the modern age is one hypocritical, all-inclusive excuse to get shitfaced off of Irish carbombs, a Guinness with a shot of Jameson and Bailey’s each dropped into the pint. The same as Cinco de Mayo, where even the richest racist can pretend he is Mejicano for a day with a bottle of Clase Azul Blanco.

Broadening on what The Pogues had established an album prior on Rum Sodomy & The Lash, If I Should Fall From Grace With God stays true to their clap-happy, stomping scripts on the title track, “Sit Down By the Fire” and the deliciously profane “Bottle of Smoke,” all songs you should hear in a true Irish pub, no matter if the date be March 17th or not. Where If I Should Fall From Grace With God becomes a work of art is where The Pogues push their tin-whistling, jig-stepping modes on the somber and quixotic “Lullaby of London,” where accordion, banjo and mandolin tell the solemn story of an Irishman coming home from London, only to take his grievances out of on his own child. “Thousands are Sailing” perks of The Chieftains and Bruce Springsteen with a more rock-driven approach, while the blaring cacophony of brass horns and piano give figurative voice to the bustle on “Metropolis,” this while pushing a swinging Celtic melody into it. You see where The Pogues were going with this; the Irish trying to find a voice in a city doing more to engulf and subjugate them instead of embracing their rich heritage. Be it New York or their homebase of London.

“Fiesta” is an out-of-nowhere whiz-bang trip through a durango-popping cantina where two oppressed cultures meet in communal happiness. Flogging Molly replicated “Fiesta’s” brave tinkering on their far faster “Sentimental Johnny.” Yet the song which should take all Irish and even those far-flung mutts with ancient lineage back on home to river-cutting greener banks is “The Broad Majestic Shannon.” Try not to sigh over your Tullamore Dew…

PrinceSmall Club 1988


It’s common knowledge Prince Rogers Nielsen swung a mighty mean axe and was the definition of multi-instrumentalist. Everyone knows he was a funk, soul, rock and pop brother who hit the pinnacle of his popularity during the 1980s and early Nineties before letting the spirit of independent creativity get the best of him, sales-wise. For the triumph of Purple Rain as a soundtrack and movie, there were the colossal thuds of Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, though each film at least has killer music to brag about. That, and the understated comic larceny committed by Jerome Benton from The Time in those awkward films.

All that being said, I followed Prince all the way to his tragic death, first latching onto him with 1980’s Dirty Mind. I was a mad chump sucker upon first greeting of that humming synth line, a bigger metronome than the actual beat laid down by Dr. Fink. I won’t bore you all trying to cram all the Prince love I can inside this post. His work will pop up on future posts, that’s all but a guarantee. My favorite Prince album is Sign o’ The Times, even more so after getting the 8 CD box set reissue, and props to The Revolution, New Power Generation, 3rd Eye Girl and all the vast personnel serving as his backing band. I will always attest the Sign o’ The Times crew was Prince’s most potent, Sheila E especially as his best drum wrecker. The synchronicity of this Prince band, whew…to coin the man’s song title, still would stand all time.

I had the privilege of seeing Prince twice, for the Musicology and Emancipation tours. The latter with Chaka Khan and Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone as his openers. Graham and Khan joined Prince for an encore rendition of “I Feel For You,” Khan’s greatest hit written by Prince. In deference, they performed it in the key slide of the way Prince originally conceived it. Graham would later join the NPG. Anyone who’s seen Prince play live will tell you there’s no experience comparable to it. As an uber Prince fan, I have quite a few bootlegs and radio broadcasts of his concerts and they’re spectacular enough. Yet my fellow uber Prince devotees will agree, it was the man’s after-party shows where his true greatness was set free.

Of the many live recordings I have, a few being these legendary after-party gigs, Small Club 1988 remains my favorite. Likewise a radio broadcast performance on the Lovesexy tour captured at Paard van Troje, The Hague, Netherlands, Prince and the gang (still with Sheila E on the kit) freestyle the hell out of their instruments through long marathons of funk, soul and rock. After a 12 minute instrumental session that tees off the set with all due credit hype, they tag a few Prince classics like “D.M.S.R.” and three Sign o’ the Times gems, “Forever In My Life,” “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” and “Housequake.” “Housequake” being a trusty main show player, yet they planted it this time as one of the band’s sweatiest renditions. With it being an after-party show, no rules apply, so there are covers everywhere, such as The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination Running Away” with a monster long guitar solo from Prince even The Temps themselves wouldn’t be able to stand up to. “Down Home Blues” and “Cold Sweat” are other playgrounds for Prince to peel the paint to, while the 15:58 slide through The Staple Singers’ charge of positivity, “I’ll Take You There” was one of countless times he covered it live. Mavis Staples being a background fixture of his career.

Deep cut Prince fans will delight in early-on workings of “Still Would Stand All Time” and “Rave Un 2 the Joy Fantastic,” neither tune sounding like their final delivery on album, yet they were mad crazy crowd pleasers well beforehand. Small Club 1988 wraps on a relentless throttle of funk with “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night,” nearly as frenetic as what’s performed in Sign o’ The Times, the concert movie. Also of note is getting to hear an early-on appearance from Prince’s mainstay vocal sidepiece, Rosie Gaines. As much a dynamo in voice as Prince himself, and she’d be around for quite a while through his “symbol” phase. What you think you know about Prince is one thing. To submit to his late night show is to forget the dawn isn’t far away. Prince rocked and socked his VIPs, and luckily, we’re all VIP.

The FixxUltimate Collection

English new wave band The Fixx is one of those groups endeared to me on multiple levels, first and foremost, inspiring a novel that may have failed, but I will find a way to use the title in a story, especially after receiving frontman Cy Curnin’s direct blessing for usage. I’m talking about “Saved by Zero,” one of my all-time favorite songs. It hit me in 1983 at the exact time a 13-year-old in transition from bullied to recovered and confident needed to hear something in song ringing of empathy. Every time “Saved by Zero” and “Red Skies Tonight” from a year prior came on the radio, I stopped whatever I was doing to give them my full attention. In particular, the former with its empowering lyrics, “Holding onto words that teach me, I’ll conquer space around me,” and of course, the enigmatic chorus, “so maybe I’ll win…saved by zero…” After sharing this anecodte with Cy by email chat, I was thrilled to pieces he backed my request to use the song title. I have the story out again and pared down of what turned it into a turd. The revisions seem to be gelling more. So maybe I’ll win that one…someday…

This Ultimate Collection for The Fixx’s set of funky electro pop is pretty stellar, minus a few throwaway tracks toward the end, but that seems to be the case with many band career retrospectives. What it does have is the megahits “Saved by Zero,” “One Thing Leads to Another,” “Red Skies Tonight” and “Stand or Fall,” all anthems to my generation and especially the latter two, which were sung all over my school, me included. If there’s one song The Fixx did to challenge my pole position spot of “Saved By Zero,” it’s the slap-happy, funk-bombed “Are We Ourselves?” as perfect a song dropped by anyone, especially with a mere two-plus minute running time. It gets in, it makes you shake your ass, then it slips away into the fadeout in such quick fashion you’re begging for another minute longer. Genius writing. Not so much radio darlings before or after the early-to-mid-Eighties, The Fixx still turned out great Euro-theatre cuts housed on Ultimate Collection like “Lost Planes,” “Some People,” “Sunshine in the Shade,” “Less Cities, More Moving People,” “A Letter to Both Sides” and “Secret Separation.” “The Sign of Fire” is the other track grabbed from Reach the Beach, a cassette, along with Shattered Room, I played mercilessly until Beach split apart. I should’ve told Cy about that too.

Another dynamic to The Fixx’s music is their bass. I always considered (and I’m sure I’m not the only one, including the players themselves) Dan K. Brown The Fixx’s answer to Duran Duran’s John Taylor. At least once every few spins, I’ll focus on just Brown plucking and thwapping away, even if he took a sabbatical from the band between 1994 and 2008 and it’s not him but Alfie Algus, who served 1983 plunking for The Fixx all over Reach the Beach.

State your peace tonight and every night.

Zach Robinson and Leo BirenbergCobra Kai original score

There is zero explanation why Cobra Kai has become the pop culture phenomenon it is. Well, maybe because it’s just the right antidote of mindless fun television used to be before everything got so damned serious. Cobra Kai is brainless, it’s improbable, it’s off-the-chain nuts, but it’s all done with such reverence for its source material, The Karate Kid films, and let’s just give William Zabka and Ralph Macchio all the credit they deserve. They’ve kept in enough shape to pull off much of what they’re doing onscreen outside of the intercut stunt work. Would either one (or a teamed-up duo) be enough to take down a dojo empire for realz, even with former nemeses-turned-bros bolstering their ranks? Hell no, but Jesus, Cobra Kai has been stupid fun from frame one. I love this show and I’m not ashamed of it, especially getting to see nearly all of the returning ensemble who have shown up, and the attention to detail in bridging the 1980s Miyagi-verse to the new blood of the 2020s. And what a fantastic job the youngbloods have done. Without them, Cobra Kai would be a silly retro grudge match over at 90 minutes instead of five going on its final sixth season as the addictive karate soap opera it is.

As crazy good as the show may be, it’s the music casing all that action and random moments of introspection and tenderness elevating its relevance. Yeah, there’s a ton of Eighties rock classics spewing about the series. It brings an old fart like myself right on home. However, are you paying attention to the brilliance of the scoring in these seasons? We’re talking about an outrageous stew of Japanese taiko and koto, metal, punk, hard rock, EDM, orchestral, new wave and bubblegum pop. What Zach Robinson and Leo Birenberg have done, more an extension of instead of a direct homage to Bill Conti’s Karate Kid scores, is to create as hectic and balls-out a chop-sockey microcosm befitting of the martial arts-addicted California Valley. “Awake the Snake” which opens the Season 1 soundtrack states the show’s entire prospectus with its Survivor-esque march and stomp rhythm with guitars, synths, whumping taiko drums and ki-yaaa! shouts in the background. Sounds corny and it certainly is, but you’d also have to be half-dead not to get all charged up by it!

I have all five seasons of Robinson and Birenberg’s Cobra Kai scores, the fifth one autographed, being the utter tool I am. You already know the show’s pumping theme song, “Strike First,” and it’s much better hearing the whole thing here, but where the Cobra Kai world finds it soul in theme comes when orchestrating Daniel Larusso’s wistful remembrance of his old sensei with “Miyagi Memories” as you do getting a sense of Johnny Lawrence’s downtrodden (self-induced, of course) plight of being a has-been middle ager with the sullen rock twang of “Ace Degenerate.” I could pluck a gazillion tracks and there are a gazillion on each season’s scoring, but to believe the hype of the show is to invest in its music. You won’t know what hit you by all the genre swap blindsiding on these scores, the pinnacle of Robinson and Birenberg’s considerable knowledge of music coming to head on the pulsating electronic rawk bash behind “Hallway Hellscape” on the Season 2 score. If you’ve seen the show, you know full well the song implies, and you won’t help yourself but grin with glee at the surf measures thrown into the bruising mix. “Miyagi Metal” on Season 3? As Johnny Lawrence himself would say in an Eagle Fang Shirt, not his former digs, it’s just kickass.


Yep, it’s back to deamau5 this week. If there was anything that could dethrone Depeche Mode from my multiple players last week, it’s this gem, an album Joel Thomas Zimmerman himself has no real love for. A damn shame, because after all his noodling and Nine Inch Nails idolatry on while(1<2), he got back to basics on W:/2016ALBUM/. Even more, he one-upped his game. Most of his fans agree that deadmau5 dropped an entertaining and focused set of bass-bombed dance and trip hop numbers on W:/2016ALBUM/. It got six full plays from me this week, just sayin’.

The dance thumpers on this album are “4ware,” “2448,” “Deus Ex Machina,” “No Problem,” “Strobe” and “Let Go.” The trancy, throbbing numbers are “Whelk Then,” “Snowcone,” “Three Pound Chicken Wing” and “Imaginary Friends.” In between full-plays of the album, I backed the latter four up a number of times, considering the extensive lengths of each. I even dropped “Snowcone” atop a TikTok I made during the week. The shit just swings, man.

If I have any general complaint of deadmau5, it’s the predictability of his arrangements, i.e. a soothing, syncopated intro opening into the song’s primary rhythm which is almost always audile glue, only to repeat and embellish the intro as a breakdown before resuming what we’re invested in. He does this scheme so repeatedly it can be annoying, but in the case of W:/2016ALBUM/, there’s so much joy to it, bounced to close with the spritely “Strobe,” the repetition in craft is more than forgivable.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

8 thoughts on “Five From the Shelf Friday – 3-17-23

    • My man. Brutally overlooked except from people with actual taste. Pisses me off that FM radio plays THAT ONE song, “Jailbreak” if it’s a special deep cut weekend. Such a stellar band. I crusade for Thin Lizzy anytime I can. Sláinte!


  1. The Fixx was such a talented band; so many great tracks by them, many of those you mentioned. The whole Reach The Beach album is platinum. Also, as you stated, Prince Sign ‘o The Times was my favorite of his as well. The man was an utter genius. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see either The Fixx or Prince in concert, having grown up in a small town. Thanks for reminding me to re-listen to a few of these classic albums…


    • Never got to see The Fixx yet, but they put out a new album last year and are still on the road, so there’s time. I remember screaming “Noooooooo!” when my Reach the Beach tape split, but granted it served a useful life. Remedied by getting it on CD. Man, Sign o’ the Times, just wowzers…if anyone made the case for a double album aside from The Beatles, it was Prince dropping that one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll check out the new Fixx music. That’s like fuckin Christmas to me. Good point that I can still see them, didn’t realize they were still touring. Too cool that you actually got to talk to them. Never was much into funk, but Prince was the exception, except for my many bookmobile requests for Stevie Wonder’s albums when I was a kid…

        Liked by 1 person

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