MCA has released The Who's BBC Sessions, a 25-track collection of BBC radio performances spanning 1965-1973. The disc includes a number of introductions to the songs by prominent BBC show hosts, making it feel as if you are there in 1965 to hear the group's first radio performances of some of its future classics. Also included are radio jingles the band performed for the BBC using the music (with altered lyrics) from "My Generation"and "Boris The Spider." The disc is being released as a 30th Anniversary celebration, of sorts, of the band's first and seminal live album Live At Leeds, which came out in 1970. BBC Sessions offers rare covers like "Good Lovin'" and "Dancing In The Street" as well as Who classics like "Substitute," "Happy Jack," "Pictures of Lily," "The Seeker," "I'm Free," and "Long Live Rock," all performed live on the BBC.

 

Gas Giants - From Beyond The Back Burner Gas Giants
From Beyond The Back Burner
(Atomic Pop)


Sometimes you just have to scratch your head at the logic of the record industry. The Gas Giants were briefly known as Pharoahs 2000, and were due to release this album in 1998 on A&M, the home of their "mother" group, the Gin Blossoms.

It should have been an easy sell since the Pharoahs included the lead singer and drummer of the hit-proven Gin Blossoms. But in the mega-record company merger that swallowed up A&M Records, the Pharoahs record was spit out, and eventually, after the departure of a guitarist, the band reinvented itself as a three-piece, signed to an Internet label and released From Beyond The Back Burner late last year.

Singer/guitarist Robin Wilson was at least one of the pens behind the Gin Blossoms' hits "Until I Fall Away," "Allison Road," and "Follow You Down," so the songs and voice of Gas Giants are almost indistinguishable from Wilson's previous band. While the arguably stronger writing influence of Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela is missed here, Blossoms producer John Hampton ensures that the guitars are still twiningly crunchy and the harmonies pleasantly layered so that even when the songs aren't top notch, they still sound hummingly happy.

Radio has already proven how poor of a decision it was for A&M to drop this album; "In Between Two Worlds" has become a hit adult contemporary single and there are easily more tracks along the same lines where that came from.

Wilson shows a wry sense of humor in "I Hope My Kids Like Marilyn Manson" and "Stinking Up The Charts" and occasionally steps back from the pounding power-pop to tap into the C&W twang that the Blossoms also mined.

There are no "singles of the year" here or brilliant sonic departures, but let's face it, if you liked the Gin Blossoms, you'll love the Gas Giants.

Lowdown: a Giant by any other name still smells like a Blossom.

 

Magnolia Various Artists
Magnolia - Music From The Motion Picture
(Reprise)


It's a bit of a misnomer to call this a soundtrack of various artists. The first nine tracks are by one-time Til Tuesday singer Aimee Mann, followed by an instrumental offering by her collaborator Jon Brion, a ballad by Gabrielle and two oldies from Supertramp. You could almost call this an Aimee Mann solo album, except that she's already got a solo album due out later this year.

Call it what you will. The fact is, this is a collection of strong songs by an artist with a powerful, singular voice. Nobody reviews Mann better than Magnolia's writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, who says in the soundtrack liner notes that, in writing the movie Magnolia, he "sat down to write an adaptation of Aimee Mann songs ... Aimee is a brilliant writer ... She is the great articulator of the biggest things we think about, 'how can anyone love me?' 'Why the hell would anyone love me?'and the old favorite, 'Why would I love anyone when all it means is torture?' "

Opening with a quiet Mann cover of the Three Dog Night hit "One," Magnolia goes on to the gently urgent and slyly catchy "Momentum," a song about being trapped in routines. Following are "Build That Wall," a silky ballad of emotional distance, and "Deathly," which opens with one of the best lovelorn lyrics ever: "Now that I've met you/would you object to/never seeing each other again."

"You Do" listens like a sweet bit of bait. A low strummed guitar and slow moving keyboards back up a lyrical barb of a story about a girl who gives everything to get...nothing.

Like all of Mann's work, these songs are insidiously catchy, quiet and easy on a first listen, but burrowing deeper into your consciousness with each subsequent playing. It's about time someone made a movie about Aimee Mann's beautifully vulnerable characters.

 

The Muffs - Hamburger The Muffs
Hamburger
(Sympathy For The Record Industry)


There are 30 tracks on this whirlwind punk-pop CD (The Muffs just don't often write songs much more than 2 minutes long), and it still all ends too soon. Hamburger is a collection of early singles, demo tracks, soundtrack work and leftovers from The Muffs' career, which has so far included three studio LPs on Warner/Reprise and an independent LP last year released on Honest Don's. Hopefully there will be many more discs to follow, because Kim Shattuck's Buddy Holly-meets-Joan Jett-at-a-Green-Day-concert style of songwriting is as infectious as a Chicken Pox rash.

Nobody in rock today belts like Shattuck, and this disc captures her purring growls from way back before Warner discovered the band. The disc opens with early '90s live-sounding four-track recordings and independent-label singles. There's an early version of "I Need You" which first came out as a Sub-Pop single and was later re-recorded for their major label debut. A handful of eight-track demos and outtakes from the period that produced the band's first two LPs are included (with early versions of "Everywhere I Go" and "I'm Confused") and their soundtrack "hit" from Clueless, a cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids In America" also appears. There are actually a lot of covers on this disc Shattuck and company bash through Elvis Costello's "No Action," Kim Deal's "Pacer," Paul Collins' "Rock and Roll Girl," The Small Faces' "My Minds Eye" and even an old Pandora's song (the band Shattuck was in before forming The Muffs).

Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles is captured on a demo helping Shattuck out with some great sweet background harmonies on "My Crazy Afternoon," and Poison's C.C. Deville turns up for a doesn't-quite-sound-like-punk guitar solo on "Silly People," a song recorded for a soundtrack to a movie that has yet to appear. There's also an unintentioned guest spot for Courtney Love; the Hole singer left a babbling message on Shattuck's answering machine, and The Muffs didn't waste their brush with celebrity "Love" is track 10.

For anyone who's a fan of crunchy, poppy punk, this is a must-have. Since it's on a tiny label, it'll also disappear fast, so grab it now. If you can't find it in your local record store, it's available on the Internet through www.amazon.com.