Album Reviews 22/10/20

Peel Dream Magazine, Pad (Slumberland Records)
With its Postal Service-vs.-the very worst parts of Spoon-sounding tunes, this dude’s first album, 2020’s Agitprop Alterna, should have sunk straight to the bottom of the ocean, never to be heard again, but lest we forget, people have absolutely dreadful taste these days, so here he is again — and by “he,” I’m referring to Joseph Stevens, the driving force behind this project, which, as of this album, has turned toward a more cleanly engineered pop direction. Anything’s better than the stuff on Agitprop, up to and including the Belle & Sebastian stylings of the tune “Pictionary,” which is what you’d hear if Donovan were still around and big into twee. But it’s not all that, ahem, good: The title track is pointless and awkwardly confident, dragging a really horrible-sounding keyboard and a flute into the mix, but that’s this guy’s jam. Boy, he loves him some Stereolab, you can tell, but the funniest part is that he fancies this thing as a concept album in the vein of Nilsson’s The Point. Pfft, he wishes. He’ll be at Lilypad in Boston on Nov. 1. D

Ben Harper, Bloodline Maintenance (Chrysalis Records)
Yeah, I missed the first waltz with this LP, Harper’s 15th overall, when it streeted in July, but the 140-gram vinyl pressing just came out as of this writing, so, you know, sue me. The three-time Grammy Award winner’s forte is an oddball mixture of blues, folk, soul, reggae and rock, if this is all news to you, although his attendance at a Bob Marley show when Harper was 9 years old was his real “OK, this is what I need to do with my life” moment. Can’t tell that right off the bat from this one, though; it launches with a nicely done 2-minute Bone Thugs-begging vocal harmony routine in opening song “Below Sea Level,” and then it’s on to some Jamie Liddell-ish asphalt-soul in “We Need To Talk About It.” “Where Did We Go Wrong” is pure Fifth Dimension ’70s-pop straight out of Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special TV show; “More Than Love” works an Otis Redding vibe. Still no reggae by that point, but the Leadbelly/Led Zeppelin mud-folk of “Knew The Day Was Comin’” makes up for that. Solid, lots of knuckleballs. A


• Well, will you look at that, the next Friday for new album releases is this coming one, Oct. 21, and guess what day that is. No, seriously, you’ll die: It’s my birthday, guys, which will be celebrated by welcoming the newly crowned King Charles of England and Wales and Wolveringhampshire or whatever to our home, for tea and crumpets and a masked ball! Either that or a Netflix monster movie and takeout from Panda Express, I haven’t decided, but either way I won’t have to do anything on my wife’s “honey do” list that day; in fact, maybe if the King gets here on time for once I’ll borrow one of his jingle-hatted knave-clowns to fix the stairway banister and have him stop every once in a while to juggle some flaming aerosol cans or whatever those guys do for their royal paychecks. But whatever, it’s my birthday, so hopefully there will be a good album or two out of this week’s dump, and we will talk about it here. OK, let’s look at the list — yikes, I suppose I should mention Midnights, the upcoming new album from glorified Kellie Pickler wannabe Taylor Swift, in case there are any 11-year-old girls reading this week’s column, even though it’s written by an “icky boy.” So the title track from this new Tay-Tay album is a sleepy ballad that sounds a little like Kellie Pickler doing a cover of the old Kiss song “Beth.” It’s an OK song, which leads me to believe she didn’t actually write it, and the video shows her dancing and doing other stuff when she was like 16 it looks like, before she started dating Jake Gyllenhal and whoever. OK, I’m feeling a little queasy, may I be excused now?
• Boy, I can’t wait to open my next birthday present, an advance preview of Direction Of The Heart, the new LP from ’80s synthpop pioneers Simple Minds, who are still led by singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill, just like when they started in 1977, formaldehyde does have its uses, doesn’t it gang? I’m sure you’ve heard their biggest (and I believe only) hit single, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” if you were ever trapped at your aunt’s house and there were a John Hughes movie marathon, because that was the closing song from The Breakfast Club, the movie where rich high school girl Molly Ringwald had her Pikachu backpack stolen by a thug (played by some actor, Judd something, who cares) and in return she gave him a cubic zirconia ear-stud if he promised never to talk to her in the school halls ever again. But I digress, we’ve got Simple Minds here, folks, or at least I do, and I can’t wait to hear this band’s version of “Vision Thing,” because — wait, this isn’t a cover version of the old Sisters Of Mercy tune, it’s a new song, and it sounds totally ’80s, believe it or not. It’s not very interesting but your aunt won’t care, let’s move on to my next “present.”
• You know what’s the best birthday song is that Stevie Wonder tune, “Happy Birthday to Ya!” I love that one, but you know what’s probably not going to be a great song to commemorate my birthday is “Yellow,” from Tegan and Sara’s upcoming new album, Crybaby! Why do I assume that? Because I’ve never really liked any song I’ve ever heard by Tegan and Sara, but for argument’s sake, let’s say I go listen to it now and I like it. OK, that’s what I’m doing right now, and it’s cutely annoying, awkwardly ’90s-chick-poppy, sort of pretty but nothing I’d ever want to hear again. OK, one left to go and I’m going to spend the rest of my birthday chugging Jagermeister.
• Lastly, it’s North Carolina-based indie rockers Archers of Loaf, with their latest full-length, Reason In Decline! The single, “In the Surface Noise,” is kind of early U2-ish but the singer sounds like he has adenoids, he should probably consult a physician about that. — Eric W. Saeger

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Quality of Life 22/10/20

100 years of diner eats
The Red Arrow Diner celebrated 100 years of serving eats in the Queen City with a party on Lowell Street on Oct. 15 with well-wishers including local politicians and other notables (a Fisher Cats mascot was spotted). The diner started in its 61 Lowell St. location in Manchester as a lunch cart in 1922, according to the history recounted in the Sept. 29 issue of the Hippo (find it at
QOL score: +1
Comments: Here’s to the next 100 years of Moe’s Specialty Omelettes and Dinah Fingers.

Cough, cough, blah
New Hampshire public health officials are expecting a surge in Covid cases this winter, partially due to low public awareness of and interest in the updated booster vaccine, NHPR reported. Approximately half of New Hampshire residents who are eligible for the first booster have gotten it, and about 35 percent of those eligible for the second booster, which has been available in New Hampshire for a month, have gotten it, according to data released by the CDC.
QOL score: -2
Comment: Find a vaccination site near you at, which also lists dates for upcoming mobile clinics and maps with vaccination sites for kids ages 5 to 11 and kids ages 5 and under.

Sports for all
Special Olympics athletes and volunteers participated in the first-ever Disability Justice Parade and Celebration, which was held at Arms Park in Manchester on Oct. 13. According to a press release, the event was designed to “celebrate and elevate the values of inclusion, equity and justice for people with disabilities.”
QOL score: +1
Comment: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig proclaimed the day “Disability Justice Day” in the city.

QOL score: 83
Net change: 0
QOL this week: 83
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