Introducing the Band:
Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Dominic Green. Dom is a historian and columnist, and he used to be a musician. He is a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for the Washington Examiner and Jewish Chronicle. Check him out on Twitter at @DrDominicGreen.
Dominic’s Music Pick: The Jam
In some ways, this is one of the most necessary episodes of Political Beats ever. In other ways, this is one of the most obscure episodes of Political Beats ever. So come on in, Smithers-Jones, take a seat and a weight off your feet, because I've some news to tell you: The Jam is the most important and consequential British rock group that nobody outside of music nerds and record store clerks in America even knew existed.
Paul Weller (guitar, vocals, primary songwriting), Bruce Foxton (bass, vocals, secondary songwriting), and Rick Buckler (drums) formed the late Seventies U.K. punk era's greatest power trio by explicitly patterning themselves off of the "straight lines" musical attack of mid Sixties mod-era Pete Townshend and The Who. They then almost immediately began to develop an approach that, by the time of All Mod Cons (1978), had evolved into a unique musical and lyrical response to the massive societal upheaval and displacement of the early Thatcher era. Even as The Jam sought and achieved universal critical acclaim and commercial success in Great Britain -- Paul Weller would later be dubbed "The Modfather" by '90s U.K. Britpop bands such as Oasis, Blur, and Teenage Fanclub -- their legacy failed to translate nearly anywhere else, and particularly to the United States.
It's no mystery as to why: The Jam's lyrics and themes (driven by Weller) were uniquely British in a way few other top-tier rock artists' had been since the heyday of Ray and Dave Davies with the Kinks in the late Sixties. But these themes are nevertheless emotionally universal and humane, and the music? Oh, the music, my friends. If you are a Brit or a Jam fan of long-standing, then prepare for a delightful stroll through one mind-blowing punk, power-pop, or even string-laden art-rock memory after another. If you are new to The Jam -- and we must assume that many of you are -- prepare to be mowed down by a youth explosion as one pop masterpiece after another is brought to your attention for the first time. Some people might get some pleasure out of hate but you? You've enough already on your plate with this episode. Click play, and soon you'll be going underground.
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Episode 131: Jay Cost / The Kinks [Part 2]
3:22:51Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Jay Cost. Jay is the Gerald R. Ford senior non-resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of, most recently, James Madison: America’s First Politician. Find him on Twitter/X at @Jay__Cost.Jay’s Music Pick: The KinksHaven’t we done these guys already? We sure did! But this is the part of the Kinks' career we didn't do any real justice to back six or seven years ago when Jay first joined us for our comically brief discussion of the Kinks' Seventies career.We remedy that here, for the second part of our grand Kinks retrospective (covering everything from 1969's Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire onwards) sheds light on an era of their career that has been largely forgotten, but which contains much of their greatest music. From the conceptual ambitions of Arthur, Lola, and an entire passel of early-to-mid '70s concept albums that are usually more mocked than listened to (wrongfully so, we argue), the Kinks reclaimed stardom, promptly kicked it right back to the curb in order to do concert/stage production hybrids for a few years, and then with superb 1976 Sleepwalker went right back to climbing the album and singles charts. And all throughout it Ray Davies's lyrical vision -- singular in both its profundity and also its occasional cheerful mundaneness -- guided the group through a series of records that, while no longer discussed as much as their classic Sixties era, were extremely popular in their time and justifiably so. We pretty much wrap up our discussion with Give The People What They Want (1981), so if you have to be a big Think Visual! fan, then this episode may disappoint you. But we doubt it. Because Political Beats is proud to have finally given the latter era of the Kinks their proper due, and in a way that we hope will make several new fans. Click play, sit back in your old rocking chair in your Shangri-La, and enjoy.
Episode 130: Jay Cost / The Kinks [Part 1]
3:38:28Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Jay Cost. Jay is the Gerald R. Ford senior non-resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of, most recently, James Madison: America's First Politician. Find him on Twitter/X at @Jay__Cost.Jay's Music Pick: The KinksHaven't we done these guys already? We sure did! For the first (and possibly last) time, Political Beats has done something unprecedented and gone back to cover an artist for the second time. Why? Because frankly, our original Kinks take was Episode #7 (we're up to #130 now, seven years later), and we didn't know what we were doing with the format yet, didn't do the discussion justice, and frankly this should have been a two-part episode.So now it is! Jay was great with us back in the day -- except for the part where we had to cut short the discussion because he had to pick up his kids from school -- so we've invited him back to do proper justice to Ray and Dave Davies, eternally warring brothers who fronted a band that started as the most mindlessly brutish of all the British Invasion '60s hitmakers ("You Really Got Me," "All Day And All Of The Night," "Tired Of Waiting For You," "Till The End Of The Day" -- all rockheaded classics) and then rapidly transformed into one of the most curiously intellectual bedsit-room British bands in history, as quintessentially "English" in the late Sixties and Seventies as The Band was effortlessly "American." The music during their early phase (discussed this week -- part two coming soon!) transforms from hitmaking international singles to insular, intensely well-written melodic and lyrical miniatures about English eccentrics and English life -- the sort of music that was destined to fail commercially in its moment but which later became (and remains) the subject of endless musical, emotional, and intellectual fascination. Join us then, as we take a second, far juicier bite at the apple and chronicle these glorious early years of growth for the Kinks, culminating in The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968), an album all about the seductions, perils, and aches of nostalgia. Later on, after this point, the Kinks would reemerge into the world at large, cultivating a massive international (and specifically American) fanbase during the Seventies and Eighties with a very different kind of music. But for now, get ready for stories of session men, insufferably perfect schoolboys, ugly urban tube stations at dusk, and utterly phenomenal cats as we take you back to the mysterious era known as "decline-phase late Sixties Britain" and discuss the last of the good old-fashioned steam-powered bands.
Episode 129: Mike Long / Joe Jackson
3:09:39Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest Mike Long. Mike is a (very) occasional writer for National Review and was one of the originals back in the early 2000s as NRO was launched. He’s the author of the non-fiction bestseller The Molecule of More and its sequel coming in fall of 2024.Mike’s Music Pick: Joe JacksonAfter running through Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe/Rockpile, it was only a matter of time before we got to covering Joe Jackson. As an artist, Jackson frequently is grouped into the "angry young man"/Pub Rock category with the aforementioned artists. However, as we discuss on the show, there's an incredible depth to his songwriting and arrangements that quickly busted him out of whatever box critics might put him in.Jackson came out of the gate hot, with two releases in the magical year of 1979, Look Sharp! and I'm the Man. They could be parts one and two of the same album. These are the ones that lump him into the Costello/Parker/Lowe movement but it's a sound he rarely returns to again. Every single song is a winner. From here would come some of his best known songs – “I’m the Man,” “It’s Different For Girls, and “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” By 1981, he took a massive detour from the rock/pop world with Jumpin' Jive, a collection of covers of 1940s swing and big band songs originally performed by Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. Night and Day was released the same year as Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom and it, too, is a bid to be taken very seriously as a songwriter. Like Elvis's effort, it's a complete success artistically and even moreso commercially. "Steppin' Out" earned Grammy Award nominations and reached number six on the charts. "Breaking Us in Two" reached number 18. It's a cosmopolitan, big-city record. The rest of the 1980s would find Jackson stretching his wings and dabbling in jazz, Latin rhythms, classical – if you name a genre, he probably has a song in it (OK, perhaps not metal). Albums like Body and Soul, Big World, Blaze of Glory, and Laughter and Lust didn’t sell nearly as well as previous efforts but kept fans happy. After 1991, however, he wouldn’trelease another non-classical studio album until 2000's Night and Day II. Why? Take it from the artist himself: "After the Laughter & Lust world tour … I had real bad writer's block. I couldn't even listen to music. I just lost it, totally. It was awful."But it wouldn’t stay that way! Beginning in 2003 with Vol. 4, Jackson would release a string of records that showed he still know how to write a song. By the way, all of us have musical blind spots, and Joe Jackson was one for Jeff. Come along for the ride as he discovers the many layers of this talented performer and writer.
Episode 128: Hannah Rowan / Blondie
2:38:14Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Hannah Rowan. Hannah is the managing editor of Modern Age. You can find her on X at @Hannah_Cristine and read her review of Debbie Harry's memoir here.Hannah’s Music Pick: BlondieHere's another artist we get to cross off the list of long-awaited episodes. Both Jeff and Scot have been hot to do Blondie for years and it has nothing (okay, relatively little) to do with the attractive woman fronting the band. It’s the music that means so much, even after all these years.Blondie, as Jeff argues, is perhaps the quintessential new wave band, but they started by paying tribute to girl-group sounds and garage rock of the '60s on the band’s first record. From there, singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, the two leaders of the group, led Blondie through a wide variety of styles and genres. The band was as comfortable playing power pop and new wave as they later would be incorporating disco, reggae, and even rap into their sound. Blondie recorded four number one songs -- "Heart of Glass," "Call Me," "The Tide Is High," and "Rapture" -- and you couldn’t quite stick any of them inside the same box.And we can’t escape the visual aspect. It’s impossible to separate what you see from what you hear. Debbie Harry was a striking figure to lead the group. And Blondie was a band that was deliberate in how it presented itself -- from album covers to stage apparel to making videos for every song on a record, which predated the MTV-era by a good half-decade or so.The timeframe for the band's brilliance is relatively short and we spend very little time on the post-reunion work (apologies to fans of Pollinator). But what was created at the end of the 1970s truly stands the test of time. The music, in many ways, pointed forward toward what we would hear throughout the decade of the 1980s.
Episode 127: Eric Kohn / Huey Lewis & the News
3:07:36Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Eric Kohn. Eric is the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Acton Institute. Check him out on Twitter at @iEricKohn.Eric’s Music Pick: Huey Lewis & the NewsDo you believe in miracles? Yes! After years of lobbying, Jeff has proven that anyone will fold, given enough time and pressure. Here is the Huey Lewis & the News episode of Political Beats.Those of you with us for a while will know that the band is a favorite of Scot's while Jeff previously has taken any opportunity to vow never to cover Huey and the boys on the show. Well, recently he had a change of heart (Track One, Picture This) and we wasted no time in finding a guest. Did we end up talking for three hours about Huey Lewis & the News? Of course we did. Did we change Jeff's mind? Listen and find out.Scot’s love of the band started at a young age, and much of his knowledge of the early story of the band’s history comes from a mass-market paperback that he still has to this day. Huey Lewis & the News: A Biography is a 142-page chronicle of the rise of the band and its origins on the San Francisco music scene. It’s out of print, obviously, but check your local used bookstore for a copy.Huey Lewis & the News essentially was the merger of two big local Bay area bands -- Clover and Soundhole. Huey and keyboardist Sean Hopper played in the former, while drummer Bill Gibson, saxophonist/guitarist Johnny Colla, and bassist Mario Cipollina in the latter. Clover (sans Huey) were perhaps best known for being Elvis Costello's back-up band on My Aim Is True. The band then picked up a 21-year-old kid in 1979, Chris Hayes, to play lead guitar and were off. The next year, 1980, brought the little-noticed self-titled debut. Here's the thing: It's quite good! This album, and the early sound of the band, is the commercial follow-through on the wonderful music made by the pub rock artists of the U.K. This record is heavier on Mario's bass than later entries, but those trademark backing vocals are there from the start. It didn't sell. At all. The next album would be make or break. Huey's face alone is on the cover. Harmonies are tighter. Little did they know they had an ace in the hole: a song written by Mutt Lange. "Do You Believe in Love" would explode to #7 on the charts. The band had a hit. A follow-up would be tougher. Three other singles from Picture This failed to break #36, though one, “Workin’ for a Livin’,” has endured as a blue-collar anthem.The band went back to work with a taste of success and a thirst for more. The mission for the next album was simple: every song a hit. Easy, right? With Sports, they pretty much pulled it off. You know virtually every song on this album, including “I Want a New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “If This Is It,” and more. There was no thematic goal other than producing hits. Synths, drum machines, massive hooks -- whatever it took. Outside writers? Sure! A strength of the band was taking other's material and making it sound like their own, as they did on “Heart and Soul” and “Walking On a Thin Line.”Sports was a monster. Massive headlining tours followed. Two major projects before the next album would drop. First, Huey would take a lead vocal spot in "We Are the World,” filling in for Prince. Second, some work on a little film called Back to the Future and the band’s first #1 hit in “The Power of Love.”Huey Lewis & the News is on top of the world. But 1986 is approaching and a new album is due soon. One problem: No one hears a single. One of the engineers calls up Chris Hayes at home and says, "Chris, we need a hit.""Stuck With You" was what he came up with, and it was the lead single for Fore!, which would also hit #1 & sell 3 million+ copies. That said, Fore! is a bit of an odd duck. Fully half the songs were from outside writers, including the album's other #1 single, “Jacob’s Ladder” (written by the Hornsby brothers)Next? Well, whatever the band wanted. And what they wanted was not necessarily commercial in nature. A socially conscious effort full of eclectic musical themes, Small World. As far as I've read, the band loves this album. They got to stretch their legs as musicians. They had earned the right to make a project of their choosing. The record-buying public was not impressed. Small World barely scraped 1 million units in sales. The band did have one last bullet to fire at the charts. “Perfect World,” a song written by Alex Call, a former Clover bandmate of Huey and Sean, hit #3 and clearly sits aside their best.Afterward, the band had some well-earned time off. In the time span, though, the rock world was changing quickly. Huey & company dropped the weirdness of the last album and returned to the blueprint -- rock, R&B, a love song, and a tune by Mutt Lange. All on Hard At Play. There would not be another album of new material for ten years. Four Chords and Several Years Ago, an album of 50s-era covers, came in 1994.Plan B, an album of new material, arrived in 2001, followed by Soulsville, a Stax covers album, and finally 2020’s Weather. The last record was released following Huey’s diagnosis of Ménière's disease, an inner-ear disorder, which means he can no longer hear music frequencies or hold vocal pitches. The result is no touring and no more new music from the band. It's sometimes hard to hear Huey Lewis & the News on the radio. Living on that weird line between rock and pop in the 1980s means there's not a great format for those songs now. It's a catalog well worth further inspection, though. You won't regret spending three hours with us and the band.
Episode 126: Rory Cooper / Simon & Garfunkel
3:11:25Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Rory Cooper. He’s a partner at Purple Strategies, a corporate reputation and advocacy agency in Alexandria, Va., a former George W. Bush and Eric Cantor aide, and a longtime Republican strategist. He’s on Twitter at @rorycooper.Rory’s Music Pick: Simon & GarfunkelIf you enjoyed Political Beats’ episode on the solo career of Paul Simon with Rory Cooper from a year and half ago, then kick right back after the Labor Day weekend and start feelin’ groovy while listening the epic George Lucas/Peter Jackson prequel extravaganza that is our discussion of Simon & Garfunkel! Yes, Rory has returned to discuss a pop duo formerly known as “Tom & Jerry,” whose music dominated both American and U.K. airwaves in the late Sixties. With three #1 hits, nine more top 20 singles, two #1 albums, and their names attached to one of the decade’s most beloved films, we think it likely that you’re already somewhat familiar with Simon & Garfunkel. But this, like our Paul Simon episode, is the rare episode in which neither of your two esteemed hosts were actually deeply familiar with the albums (as opposed to the radio hits). How could this have happened? All is explained while we are rejoined by Rory Cooper, a guy who knows all the stories and loves Paul Simon’s music so much he named his kid after one of these songs. In this episode, we explore the origins of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel as schooldays choirboy friends in Queens, their brief “teen idol” phase as Tom & Jerry, and their -- rather awkward -- rebirth in the early Sixties as folkies on a Greenwich Village scene that resolutely disdained them for purported inauthenticity. Simon & Garfunkel’s 1964 debut album flopped so badly that Simon went to England and Garfunkel simply went back to school, until a Columbia producer desperate for a hit overdubbed electric backing onto a forgotten song from that debut called “The Sound of Silence.”And the rest is history. Simon & Garfunkel’s career resumed in a haste as “Sound of Silence” hit the top of the charts in January 1966, and what followed was a series of increasingly assured acoustic folk/pop/rock hits that culminated by the late Sixties in immortal and gnomic songs like “Mrs. Robinson,” “America,” and “The Boxer.” From being a pale imitator of Bob Dylan’s “intelligent folk” music, Simon & Garfunkel had evolved into a different, singular sound, anchored around Garfunkel’s peerlessly pitch-perfect high tenor voice and Simon’s insistently rhythmic sense of guitar-work and arrangement.Although the pairing did not -- and could not, for many reasons -- last long, it ended in a supreme achievement: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), a record whose commercial dominance and omnipresence in its day has been exceeded only by its subsequent critical reputation. And that was it; Garfunkel left for an acting career, and Simon for a solo one. (A brief reunion in the early Eighties went nowhere.) And that was for the best: They will forever be remembered for going out on the highest possible note. What happened next has already been discussed, but for now, enjoy the groovy Sixties and Paul Simon’s orthogonal, acutely self-conscious place within them as we count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, all gone to look for America.
Episode 125: Matt Murray / Nick Lowe
3:31:11Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are with guest Matt Murray. Matt is the recently departed editor of the Wall Street Journal, now on assignment for its parent company, News Corp. Check him out on Twitter at @murraymatt.Matt’s Music Pick: Nick LoweOkay, it says “Nick Lowe” right there above this line, but we need to be straight with you -- there’s a lot of other stuff happening in this show. Nick Lowe-adjacent acts are featured prominently, too. That means talk about Brinsley Schwarz, Rockpile, Dave Edmunds, and many, many more (even Huey Lewis!). There's a really simple way to summarize this episode: Here's a 3.5-hour love letter to Nick Lowe. That's pretty much the plot, people. Three hosts with a deep, abiding adoration for the music and production contributions of one of the biggest missing names from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.Now, I imagine there are some people who are saying, "Nick who?" After all, Lowe's career is the definition of a technical one-hit wonder -- a single top-40 song (“Cruel To Be Kind”) and that's it in terms of true chart success. First of all, everyone is in for a treat, from longtime fans to newbies. Albums such as Jesus of Cool and Labour of Lust are among the very best released in the 1970s. Second, Nick Lowe's musical influence and work as a producer certainly will be familiar to you.The term “Pub Rock” describes an entire wave of U.K. acts, and Nick was at the center of most of them. This means Brinsley Schwarz and Dave Edmunds for sure, but also acts such as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, and The Damned. This was a back-to-basics movement and a reaction to the bloat of progressive rock and the flash of glam. These artists instead looked to the rock and R&B of the '50s and '60s as guideposts.This is such a fun story to tell because the music is undeniable. The melodies are unimpeachable. And Nick Lowe's "second act" in his career has been so creatively satisfying. Starting with The Impossible Bird, he builds an entirely new sound and feel that is just as rewarding as the early work.He’s Nick Lowe and Political Beats is here to make the case that, although he’s not a household name, he certainly should be.
Episode 124: Dave Weigel / Pet Shop Boys
2:50:01Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Dave Weigel. Dave is a founding reporter at Semafor, where he covers the 2024 campaign and writes the Americana newsletter. Check his work out here and find him on Twitter at @daveweigel.Dave’s Music Pick: Pet Shop BoysOpportunities are knocking: I've got the brains, and you've got the looks, so let's make lots of money as we use the post–July 4 week to celebrate the United Kingdom's most famous '80s/'90s synthpop dance-music duo! Of course, Pet Shop Boys -- a two-man collaboration that began in 1981 when rock critic Neil Tennant ran into bedsit-room synths-and-sequencers muso Chris Lowe at a record shop -- are much more than that besides. They managed the trick of being one of the United Kingdom's most commercially dominant chart acts while also being one of its cleverest and most tasteful, the result being that their classic run of albums beginning with Please (1986) have not dated even as they helped create and define the sound of '80s and '90s pop, club, and dance music. Neil Tennant's knack for melody and endlessly clever lyrics relating stories of heartbreak, ennui, and urban adventure from a then still-hidden subculture (gay London of the '80s and '90s) matched perfectly with Lowe's preternatural ability to layer keyboards hooks and sequenced percussion into compulsive radio fodder: The Pet Shop Boys scored 22 top-ten singles in the U.K. and ten over here in the United States, and you'll be surprised how many of them you knew without realizing you did. So press play, get ready to dance, enjoy a real treat. By the end you may be asking yourself: "What have I done to deserve this?"
Episode 123: Dominic Green / The Jam
3:10:19Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Dominic Green. Dom is a historian and columnist, and he used to be a musician. He is a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for the Washington Examiner and Jewish Chronicle. Check him out on Twitter at @DrDominicGreen.Dominic’s Music Pick: The JamIn some ways, this is one of the most necessary episodes of Political Beats ever. In other ways, this is one of the most obscure episodes of Political Beats ever. So come on in, Smithers-Jones, take a seat and a weight off your feet, because I've some news to tell you: The Jam is the most important and consequential British rock group that nobody outside of music nerds and record store clerks in America even knew existed. Paul Weller (guitar, vocals, primary songwriting), Bruce Foxton (bass, vocals, secondary songwriting), and Rick Buckler (drums) formed the late Seventies U.K. punk era's greatest power trio by explicitly patterning themselves off of the "straight lines" musical attack of mid Sixties mod-era Pete Townshend and The Who. They then almost immediately began to develop an approach that, by the time of All Mod Cons (1978), had evolved into a unique musical and lyrical response to the massive societal upheaval and displacement of the early Thatcher era. Even as The Jam sought and achieved universal critical acclaim and commercial success in Great Britain -- Paul Weller would later be dubbed "The Modfather" by '90s U.K. Britpop bands such as Oasis, Blur, and Teenage Fanclub -- their legacy failed to translate nearly anywhere else, and particularly to the United States. It's no mystery as to why: The Jam's lyrics and themes (driven by Weller) were uniquely British in a way few other top-tier rock artists' had been since the heyday of Ray and Dave Davies with the Kinks in the late Sixties. But these themes are nevertheless emotionally universal and humane, and the music? Oh, the music, my friends. If you are a Brit or a Jam fan of long-standing, then prepare for a delightful stroll through one mind-blowing punk, power-pop, or even string-laden art-rock memory after another. If you are new to The Jam -- and we must assume that many of you are -- prepare to be mowed down by a youth explosion as one pop masterpiece after another is brought to your attention for the first time. Some people might get some pleasure out of hate but you? You've enough already on your plate with this episode. Click play, and soon you'll be going underground.
Episode 122: Eric Garcia / Black Sabbath
3:02:18Introducing the Band:Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Eric Garcia. Eric is senior Washington writer for the Independent and a columnist at MSNBC. Check him out on Twitter at @EricMGarcia.Eric’s Music Pick: Black SabbathThe storm is upon you; can you hear the peals of thunder in the background, and the bleak clang of the church bell in the sleeping village? Well then break out the most appropriate tritone you can think of as the gang discusses Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill (and yes, Ronnie James as well) and the groundbreaking music of Black Sabbath. Sabbath are famed as the inventors -- with their self-titled 1970 debut album -- of what would come to be known as "heavy metal." As such, they've long been worshipped by surly teenagers and metalheads alike, and derided by parents and critics in equal proportion. What we will take great pleasure in explaining to you during this episode is that the kids and metalheads got this one right. The critics and your parents whiffed. Sabbath was an incredibly intelligent band that may have begun as a demonstratively sludgy blues-rock (hence the birth of "heavy metal") but almost instantly evolved into a progressive group afterwards under guidance of guitarist Tony Iommi's compulsive riff-writing abilities and the secret jazz predilections of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. And then there's good ol' Ozzy Osbourne -- the bloke from down at the pub made good, singing his head off as best he can and finding surprising depths in his everyman voice.Sabbath's posthumous reputation is dictated largely by the ubiquitous popularity of their first two albums -- if you have heard them on the radio, it's probably a song like "Iron Man" or "War Pigs" -- but as far as the gang is concerned, that's actually where it gets really interesting for a band whose ability to combine piledriving riffage with shockingly unexpected moments of beauty and soulfulness marked them out during the next seven years as not just the most important heavy-metal bands to exist, but (secretly, don't tell your mom) also one of the finest art-rock groups of its era. Click play and join us this week as we boldly head Into the Void.