Music Notes: Sam Phillips, Martinis And Bikinis

December 4, 2008

Sam Phillips: Martinis And Bikinis

The third Sam Phillips album is an amazing tour de force with one clear influence: The Beatles – although mostly John and George with Paul focusing on inventive bass lines. However, Sam’s lyrics are better than most Beatles’ songs, with a clearer world view advocating love and honesty with one’s self over the materialist, soul-corroding trappings of modern society.

Notable musicians are percussionist Marc Ribot, Mickey Curry, Jerry Scheff, and Colin Moulding (XTC).

Love & Kisses

5 stars = 5 stars

Harpsichord and vocals, with subtle electric guitar when the song moves into major. Great album opener. The instrumentation is similar to the album opener from The Indescribable Wow.

Signposts

5 stars = 5 stars

Very Revolver drums and choppy guitar. The chorus crashes into existence, and has a brief move to a major seven chord. The “ahs” after the chorus sound piped in fromTomorrow Never Knows. Also stunning is the Colin Moulding counter-melody in the bass. The song is very short, just two verses and choruses, and almost could be taken as a continuation of the first song.

Same Rain

5 stars = 5 stars

Those seductive “ahs” return as an intro. Same instrumentation, but the song structure is more complete. Definite nods to Beatles’ song of the same name, with some guitar lifted from The Inner Light. But the extra sauce that pushes the song over the edge is yet another stunning Moulding bass line that changes with every verse – his groove on the last verse is especially spectacular. Such inventive bass melodies are a trait of the Beatles’ Something or again, Rain.

The lyrics discuss how the same rain falls on everyone, a vision of equality similar to Lennon’s solo work.

Baby I Can’t Please You

4 stars = 4 stars

This tune is the first with an actual bridge. I think the production is a little cluttered, and the eastern metaphor is taken a bit too far. It’s sonically similar to Sam’s earlier song Holding On To The Earth. Still, someone thought it good enough to include on the Melrose Place soundtrack (!).

Circle Of Fire

3 stars = 3 stars

The pulsing guitar recalls Lennon’s solo work, in particular Cold Turkey.

Strawberry Road

4 stars = 4 stars

Lyrical reference to Strawberry Fields Forever, but more a listing of life lessons than nostalgia. The strawberry road seems to be a place of acceptance that we may not achieve our dreams in this lifetime. Appropriately Beatle-y background vocals.

When I Fall

4 stars = 4 stars

The chord progression is reminiscent of the Beatles’ Help! period, more specifically Eight Day’s A Week. The lead guitar mimics the vocal melody, which is symmetrical in its rise and fall. During the chorus, the chords move upward as if to catch the “falling” vocal.

Same Changes

3 stars = 3 stars

Not as much a fan of this one as the stompy sound reminds me of one of XTC’s lesser tracks, War Dance. But the chorus is tops, and the lyrics point out the usual suspects.

Black Sky

4 stars = 4 stars

Another song with a not so great verse, but a great chorus featuring hooky “la la las.” Sam explores some similarly killer “la la las” on future albums. The lyrics depict an apocalypse that humankind brings upon itself. The last verse where the percussion drops out is quite divine.

Fighting With Fire

3 stars = 3 stars

A bit too country and incessant for my taste. My favorite part is tellingly, the last few chords.

I Need Love

5 stars = 5 stars

Perfection, like a Rubber Soul / Revolver outtake, with Help! style background vocals. Actually, the guitar lick sounds like If I Needed Someone.

This gothic, Bergman / Lang video is totally not what I imagined however…

Wheel Of The Broken Voice

3 stars = 3 stars

Some very impressive rockabilly guitar playing near the end.

Gimme Some Truth

2 stars = 2 stars

A thematically approrpriate John Lennon cover, considering the album’s themes and sonic mimicry, but I’m not sure about the heavy reverb and strange, electronic percussion. I find it rather unnecessary.

Intra-Album-Rank-O-Rama: 3.84

Next Album: Omnipop
Previous Album: Cruel Inventions

iTunes Store Link: Martinis and Bikinis – Sam Phillips

Comments

  1. bikinismicro says:

    Nice review, very useful, thanks! :D

  2. free stuff says:

    Wow!! Great video mate, You have rated the videos especially fabulous, I am going to download all these and i'll rate it too.

    I especially liked i need love and black sky. :) Thanks