Sunday, July 10, 2011
To say this isn't my usual fayre would be something of an understatement. With the exception of R Kelly's unfathomably brilliant 'Trapped in the Closet' and an inexplicable soft spot for Cisco's 'Thong Song' Swing-Beat is not an genre for which I have professed any kind of love.
There are I'm sure millions who still insist on calling the likes of Bobby Brown, Bel Biv Divoe et al R N'B much to the char-grin of an army of 60 somethings keen to point out that this modern 'soul' music has absolutely nothing to do with the 'rhythm' and or 'blues'. Regardless I digress.
I also need to make an amendment to that opening comment. If memory serves there was a brief period during my tenure at college in the woefully dull northern town of Warrington when I acquired and played with some vigor some swing beat compilation tape or other. The reason for this, I have to admit is that I was under the impression that it would somehow make me more desirable to 'the ladies'. Did that clear perspex C90 TDK cassette of magic have it's desired effect? For me no, but I have friends who have a countless bedpost notches no small thanks to having wank taste in music such as the 'swing beat'.
And now following that foggily remembered admission I need to again eat my words and profess a new found love for said genre for after much umming that is squarely where The Weeknd's 'House of Balloons (Official Mix Tape' falls.
To say it is good is an understatement. The only thing stopping this of falling short of album of the year is the fact that it doesn't strictly exist. There is currently no CD, no vinyl album, no cassette (sorry Dan). I don't know the exact reason for this but can only imagine it has to do with copyright clearance. The album uses a few snippets of other peoples work and this could be reason for it's virtual only existence and the albums 'Official Mix Tape' monika. I should check... But I won't.
Instead I shall try and describe how glorious this album is.
I've had a number of conversations about it with friends and fellow music-nazis and as of yet I've not heard a bad thing said about it.
It's like the music they play at the end of a party when everybody is too high and too tired to leave. It's the soundtrack to dawn rising on a room full of fucked up people, broken furniture and blood stains. It's what you might play on your stereo if you were a date-rape magician, tapping a veil of ro-ho into a glass of cheap sparkling wine. It's the songs that might be playing when a gang of gate crashers turn up at the party from the start of this paragraph, force you to perform unnatural sex acts on them that may or may not involve two girls and one cup before stealing the still playing hi-fi, your wallet and your sex tired girlfriend.
'House of Balloons' is Bobby Brown with his hand up Whitney Houston's ass trying to clear the way with his crap caked fingers because she hasn't shit for days. It's Bobby and Whitney sharing a lovers pipe, huffing milky white rocks as a new day rises over tinsel town, kidnapped dolphins trying to escape from the pairs dirty and piss filled swimming pool.
The first track sets the mood suggesting 'You're gonna wanna be high for this'. High for what? Well if it's not rape then I don't know what it is. Catchy as fuck, production so dirty and blissed out that it falls somewhere between Salem and Destiny's Child. Add to that the kind of voice that would, if it weren't so fraught be at home as part of Dru Hill and 'House of Balloons' is cooking with the gas from a mobile home meth-lab bunsen burner.
I could go through track by track lamenting the numerous merits but will instead just say that highlights include 'Wicked Games' and 'The Party and The After Party'. (The one with the Beach House sample)
Not even the wrong-foot' at the start of track four 'The Morning', a Clapton like guitar lick is enough to stop this working completely, it's that fucking good.
Given this is a habit breaking review and that you cant 'buy' 'House of Balloons' I will also utter the words I never thought I would say: Download this album... Now.
The Weeknd are from Toronto, Canada and despite this uncharacteristically glowing write-up I do know and have never met them. By the sounds of this they are having way too much fun scraping silk clad hookers up off the floor and drinking Mandrax power shakes to go out and meet people.
Goddamn I am tired. I'm now two thirds of the way through one of those 'blink and you'll miss em' weekends having done precisely nothing with my down-time. The past 24 hours or so might as well have been spent in an airport waiting room staring off through the soundproof glass at the coming and going of planes, transfixed by the grim monotony of it all.
In fact the only thing I recall about yesterday is a curry and spending far too much time reading of the ins and outs of the 'News of The World' phone hacking scandal and the 'newspapers' consequent closure. Wow is RebeCCa Brooks evil. I don't care what she says, she is either a liar or incompetent, either way she needs to go the fuck down with her ship. For somebody 'of the media' she is handling herself nothing short embarrassingly. Forget her past actions, I am talking about the scowl, the out of control King Charles the First ginger pubic hair explosion on her head and pouty lips. Seriously love, just for once tie your hair back, think about what you are wearing and try not to look like you are trying to make the camera melt with your demented black witch laser eyes.
In fact I hate the woman's hair so much that it got me thinking about other people's hair that I hate: Rob Tyner of MC5, the fat speccy one out of the Turtles and this guy... The one with the center parting from Euphoria. Seriously, fuck your hair. I had to put the CD on to remind myself why I own an album featuring such a hideous folic abomination.
Euphoria's 'A Gift From Euphoria' is another great reason for buying a CD player. When you do see a vinyl copy (there was one on the wall of Minus Zero records in Notting Hill last time I went in) it's always more than you would like it to be. Don't think I've ever seen one go for less than about 120 quid (around $200).
Anyway, tired of searching for a cheap playable copy I settled for buying a CD from Amazon about ten years ago, but not even that was as simple as it might have been. Turns out there's some kind of dance music organization called 'Euphoria' so you have to trawl through page after page of shiny and stupid looking compilation CDs.
Another reason for coming back to this of late is the anniversary of Mercury Rev and their 'Deserter Songs' album, that game changing Disney inspired soundtrack to a comedown. I was a big fan of 'Deserter Songs' and like many others it took me completely by surprise. I had hated everything else the band had done with a passion but I found myself won over by the strained honesty of the vocals and the mind-blowingly lush string arrangements. So where did it come from? Had the band succeeded in inventing a new genre, a musical hybrid the likes of which the tired and weary world of music had not yet heard?
No. As much as I'd be more than happy with that series of events the reality is that 'that sound' began here with the album's opener 'Lisa'. It makes 'Deserter Songs' sound like a facsimile, a glorious copy and paste. Unfortunately the rest of the album is a different matter, it's a cluttered exercise in attempting to sound like various hit (and non hit) makers of the day. The over all impression is of a band trying to find it's sound, dipping it's toes into the realms of everyone from IRA sympathiser Van Morrison to the Moby Grape. Because of this it has a similar feel to the Turtle's 'Battle of the Bands' album.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that they give the world a song like 'Lisa' and never throughout the rest of the album go back to revisit the magic. If only they had realized what they had done we might not have had to wait thirty something years for Mercury Rev to complete the picture.
So basically, get the CD, listen to 'Lisa' then move on to 'Deserter Songs'.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Peter Falk died today.
Part of me finds it hard to imagine a universe without Columbo, at the same time part of me, if he's honest thought that your man with the crooked face and a cigar teetering from his lips passed a few years back. That in mind it's a good news/bad news situation. Good news that Peter Falk wasn't in fact dead. Bad news that sadly he is now.
I was never that into Columbo. I mean, no more than any other student bunking off college with nothing else to do in the early/mid 90's, eager to see who this episodes guest star was and at what point our hero would utter those immortal words 'Just one more thing'. My reason for missing Peter will be the film 1979 'In Laws' in which he plays a CIA agent along side Alan Arkin's anxious and out of his depths in-law to be.
It's a great film and despite the name being tainted by a piss-poor remake a few years ago I urge you to watch it if you get chance.
As seems to have become traditional, this has absolutely nothing to do with the record I am reviewing, it's simply what is on my mind at the end of a long and rainy day. I'd like to think I could come up with some clever way of marrying the two together, perhaps ending this review with the words 'Oh and by the way' or suggesting Peter's mac is dirty because of all of the funk raining down on him but I wont. Instead I will move swiftly along and talk about George Clinton and friends.
When did funk fall so spectacularly out of fashion? It's now at the point when it has almost, almost but not quite come back round again full circle.
As soon as I hear the word 'funk' paired with anything I give it a swerve. I have always viewed it as the last refuge of a tired genre. The tie-on ingredient that you might use in an attempt to revive any one of a dozen types of music. 'They' tried to fix Hip-Hop with the funk, they tried to fix metal with the funk, they keep trying to fix House with the funk and what do we have to show for it? Fishbone, Armand Van Helden and Warren G.
It reads like the track-listing for the kind of mix-tape you might play to somebody you wanted dead from over-exposure to average wall-paper paste tasting music.
Despite the word 'funk' bringing to mind a whole list of ugly, sickening images: white people dancing badly, bass guitars played way to high in a Mark King style, ill-advised 70's themed student nights, Bootsy Collins, It's important to remember that before all of that, before Yarbrough and Peoples made he worst song in the history of modern music (Don't Stop The Music), before it became the punch-line in an unfunny joke, there was this...
The first Funkadelic album is a well measured and perfectly balanced exercise in finding out exactly what happens when the energy, soul, rhythm and blues synonymous with Black music clashes with the loud electronic instrumentation more readily associated with psychedelic rock. Reading this back it's an over simplistic summary that is not without it's inaccuracies - Brown (James) had already spoken of 'the funk' and Hendrix had of course been sowing the seeds for this particular sound for a good few years prior. Regardless of this it's a summary that I am happy to go with.
I don't need to talk too much about the result because it's history. Needless to say it worked. 'Funkadelic' is playful, stupid, unexpected and ultimately it rocks as hard as anything being made in 1970. It transcends the constraints of it's genre and is so much more timeless than the P-Funk that Funkadelic evolved into.
Despite this I have a hard time listening to it. Why? Perhaps it's because I have a hard time separating it from the insipid genre that it spawned. It's stupid I know but I really can't put into words how much I fucking hate Yarbrough and Peoples.
In other news I just checked the news, Peter Falk is still dead.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Amongst the chatterings related to this I have heard that the master tapes, missing for decades are haunted and somehow made the woman who found them in her flat jump out of the window in a 'Damien the Omen' style.
I have heard that the the reason for the albums swift removal from the shelves only weeks after it's release was down to similarities between the shit cover and a Clark's (or similar) shoe ad that was running in the press at the time.
I have heard that Simon Finn was in fact part shark and breathed through gills hidden in his neck, beneath his wing tipped collar.
Who really know's what to believe? I do know that pretty much everything else on the 'Mushroom' label is not worth investigating, I also know that Simon can get his 'wail on' with the best of them.
I am also in no doubt that 'Pass The Distance' has earned it's place at the top of most people's 'Great Lost Album' list. It really is exceptional singer songwriter fodder despite the sleeve.
So did I 'get my stupid on' and bid upwards of 250quid for an original copy? I did not. Some guy in Germany put out a very good press on Mayfair records. It has a couple of very nice inserts, the sleeve is good card stock and the printing is really crisp. Each one is hand numbered (unless I dreamt that) and as far as I know it is official.
Quite why Tibbles, wait, do we still call him Tibbles or has that changed? Quite why David Tibet of love 'em or hate 'em neo-folk doomsters Current 93 didn't put out a vinyl version when he re-issued the CD I don't know. It seems nothing short of perverse. Either way, here it is.
It was my mate Simon (not Finn) why turned me on to this. He mentioned it a couple of times in passing and before excitedly buying a 90's bootleg of it from On the Floor Records in Camden. (What's the deal with bootlegs now? Is it suddenly okay to sell them?) Anyway. He said something along the lines of:
'This will be my most significant purchase of the year'.
And I remember thinking, wow, that's a pretty grandiose statement for a record by somebody called Simon Finn with such a ridiculously shit sleeve. But it stuck with me and I did some digging. Listened to some clips on the internet and tracked down a copy.
'Pass The Distance' is a fantastic excursion into hopeless urban bed-sit doom-folk. It's as huge as it is whiney. It's very powerful stuff in a massively negative way.
As most people will tell you the show stopper is 'Jerusalem', the subject matter of the song is obvious and on reading the lyrics you would be forgiven for thinking that Simon (Finn) is one of the Xian brigade, he is not. He is an acid casualty from the Syd Barrett school of fucked. By the end of the song our protagonist is wailing so hard that it sounds like he is about to cry. Couple that sob with some genuinely interesting instrumentation (and the help of David Toop) and you have something well worth devoting time to. Not too much time though because like I say, it's fucking miserable.
I don't know what it is about the Cutty Sark but the name alone makes me want to spit blood. I don't give a fuck if it is the last of the tea-clippers. I cheered when it burnt down.
Before you start, no my ranting isn't due to a particularly stale and obvious school trip to see said 'Sark' back in the 80's, I wasn't punched in the back of the head by the school bully as I studied the portals and the poop deck.
It has never sat well with me. The idea of a pointless be-sailed ship in permanent dry-dock suspended animation. It's like a ship in a bottle without the bottle. What was the point? You weren't allowed to play on it, it didn't go anywhere, it had a stupid fucking name.
'Look at that Sark'
'Yes, isn't it Cutty?'
'Oh yes, it's a very Cutty Sark'.
Luckily, not three minutes away is 'Beehive Records'. Have I ever bought anything from here? No. Does that stop it being a solid stand up record shop? No it does not.
Beehive is an ideal shop if you are just getting into 'the game'. If you have no qualms about owning re-issues then the stock is solid and most of your Kraut, Psyche, 60s Pop, Prog needs will be met at little expense and with comparable ease.
It reminds me of Exotica Records (Portobello Road) circa 1995, before all of the good stuff mysteriously vanished but sadly in this case all of that good stuff, like I say is re-issues. There's a few bits and pieces on the walls and the decor suggests that this might be somewhere to find some truly exciting used stock, but no, not so much.
Even so, I will always stop by if I am in the area, just on the off-chance that the owner has decided to purge his private collection or that some local, newly widowed lady has decided to rid herself of that vinyl weight that hung from her husbands neck for the past fifty years.
Here's to cheery hoping.
In the meantime I will sit grinding my teeth as the Cutty Sark is rebuilt and googling words like 'arson' and 'undetected' whilst dreaming of fun with matches.
Well this was always going to happen.
Yet I still feel moved enough to say a few words. When was the last time you came across a genuine second hand record shop on a suburban side-street? Yes I know it wasn't very good and that they had some kind of basement infestation that suggested death behind the walls but it was still a record shop. Still somewhere to go when that clawing urge comes a calling, that nameless day-terror that urges you to sacrifice potentially fruitful day-light hours in favor of the endless and pointless search. Now it is gone.
Hopefully Mr D.O.C's decision to close his doors forever was to do with spiraling rent, internet based competition and downloading rather than a less than the less than luke-warm review I found myself writing after a fruitless visit sometime last year.
Either way, farewell D.O.C Records and god-speed.
....I wonder if they had a closing down sale? Hope I didn't miss anything.
Something of a departure from my usual blog-fodder this. I have been encouraged to revisit the past recently for a couple of reasons, not least after being described as an 'indie dad'. I sat on that name for a while, mulled it over and whilst it was wildly inaccurate given my usual listening habits it was actually a label I really liked and almost aspired to.
It also made me get a little bit retrospective with my listening habits, caused me to have the likes of Dinosaur Jr on repeat on my Ipod whilst I was out in Asia.
When I got home I realized that I had almost completely erased a huge chunk of my musical learning. There was little to no evidence of my years spent as champion of the US Indie scene (very specifically US. The thought of British indie music leaves me cold, there is something very sallow, pale and unsexy about it. A bit like having sex with a Politics major in a Sheffield bedsit). I counted maybe 20 CDs and half as many records. Given that this was such a focus of my life for such a prolonged time it was almost as if I had deliberately tried to eradicate it's existence.
I suppose part of me did. It's a dead scene I thought, like Beat Happening said the revolution has come and gone. There is nothing sexy about finding a Superchunk album amongst a girl you fancy's record collection anymore. If anything it would just seem a bit like she needed to get on with a spot of well needed Spring cleaning, you might even question her personal hygiene.
And it was while I was thinking about how 'Indie', the indie that I used to know and love was dead and less than relevant that I skipped to the opening track of Harmacy on my Ipod. 'On Fire' is one of the most simple yet perfect singles I can recall hearing. From there I left on the entire album to play through.
Harmacy passed me by when it came out. Fickle as I was in my late teens I walked away from Sebadoh after 'Bubble and Scrape' in search of something more exciting, more obscure guilty of falling in to that old 'if other people have heard of them they aren't cool anymore' trap. Fucked up there then didn't I?
The rest of 'Harmacy' follows the well known Sebadoh blue-print, fast songs, quiet songs, quiet songs with fast bits. That said this outing is much more polished, less lo-fi that what came before it. Well worth a revisit, if you are in the mood for a reminder of a time rich with de-tuned and distorted discovery, a journey into 'electric white boy blues' territory in a boat shaped like a Fender Tweed Deluxe amp with a Lumberjack shirt for a sail.
So what did I do about this glaring hole, this gap in my record collection? Well I had two,no three choices. First off I could have got my 'ebay' on and sought out the original pressings of everything I ever rid myself of - A lengthy and particularly costly exercise, one running well into the mid-thousands. Second, I could do exactly that but instead of being format precious I could go the way of the CD, which is what I did. 32 CD's filling a particularly large hole including 'Half Japanese', 'Unrest' and such are currently winging their way to me courtesy of Amazon.
So what of option three: Walk away from it, admit that there is absolutely no point in trying to fill the gaps or relive the glory years. Concede that you have moved on and that people would point at you if you wore a Mudhoney t-shirt. Well you know what, I would have done but I put Dinosaur Jr's 'Bug' on after 'Harmacy' and it blew the fucking doors off the van.
Maybe this is just temporary but right now I am so Indie it hurts.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
It's rare for 'celebrity' records to warrant the amount of hype that can surround them but in the case of Peter Wyngarde's effort I can happily say that most of it is justified.
Putting out an album was hardly an unusual step for an early 70s television or film icon, with this Wyngarde joined the ranks of William Shatner, David McCallum, Richard Harris and many others. What was odd was the subject choice. We knew it was going to be saucy, the man's Jason King character was the blue-print for Mike Myers' Austin Powers persona after all. What the world hadn't prepared itself for was 'Rape' the song that owns the first side of the album.
Many reviews cite this as a social commentary on different types of rape across the world. I have a different take on it: The track comes after 'You Wonder How These Things Happen' (She was asking for it?) and the albums seductive opener in which Peter invites us in to his bachelor bad, asks us to sit down and pours us a drink, it's a first person narrative. I think the second track 'Rape' is also from Wyngarde's POV and it tells of a series of events that follows whatever was dropped in the opener's drink.
Well that's pretty shocking. Yes in 2011 it is, but then what isn't? You have to remember that this came very roughly around the same time that Jones and Moon were cavorting about in SS uniforms. The world was a very different place, one where terrorism was sexy, where children didn't go missing at the hands of paedophiles but rather 'ran off to join the circus'. I doubt very much that it even an eyebrow was raised back in 1970 when it appeared.
Years later though you don't need to wonder why it was never re-issued as is. The album is available in it's complete form as part of the Wyngarde compilation 'When Sex Leeers it's Inquisitive Head' where it is re-contextualized minus the above artwork.
Talking of the artwork, I imagine that just below the shot on the front sleeve our man is holding up a prisoner number and slimy moustache and bouffant comb forward is about to be dressed not in leather pants or a stylish safari number but prison blues marked with a nonce-wing ident.
The problem is that with an absolute juggernaut of a song like 'Rape' on it is that the rest of the album rarely gets a look in. I went through a period of putting the song on whenever anybody (potential girlfriends withstanding) came over. Never once did it receive anything less than a
'What the fuck?'
I first heard about this in the mid 90's and was lucky enough to come across a copy around then. The rest of the album is surprisingly well orchestrated and in places very catchy. 'Hippie And The Skinhead' is a standout as is 'Neville Thumbcatch' and in amongst the songs are a couple of breaks that would sit perfectly on 'Ill Communication' era Beastie Boys tracks.
Anyway, whether this is the worlds first and only 'date rape' concept album or not it's incredibly catchy and well worth a look.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
For those reading from outside the UK a 'Flea market' is not quite as rancid or moldy as it sounds and as a rule insects are not involved. It's basically a communal garage sale.
Anyway I say once legendary because record shopping wise the Chesterfield Thursday Flea Market has suffered from exactly the same blows that the rest of the world has. The internet, Ebay the birth and death of the CD. These factors also seem to have effected the quality level of the rest of the junk on sale. Interesting military collectibles have been replaced by piles of clothes based jumble that would not look out of place stuffed in bin liners left outside the Spastic Society. The 'mucky book' man has cleaned up his act and now appears to focuses soley on yellowing Mills and Boon novels and crossword puzzle books and 'Video Nasty' seems to have vanished.
As for the record guys. There used to be three of four, a couple of whom also had stores on the legitimate Saturday market. The stock was of varying quality but always reasonably priced and you could pick up anything from recent Cure bootleg albums to much of the Vertigo back catalogue. I have a memory of seeing the COB album for about 4quid sometime in the mid 80's. I distinctly remember laughing at the shit album sleeve, which serves me right.
In 2011 there are two intrepid peddlers of plastic left. There are of course others with the obligatory torn and tattered plastic record box crammed with scratched copies of Paul Young's 'Non Parlez', uninteresting Deutsche Grammophon titles and Christmas albums but they would just as soon sell you an antique horse brass or Andrew and Fergie royal wedding mug so they don't get counted.
As you can see above there isn't too much left, a few crates, nothing to get exciting about but in fairness what is there is still relatively well priced. What's most upsetting is that 'Moustache guy' has thrown in the vinyl towel completely, I did try taking a picture of Moustace Guy' but he kept staring right at me, perhaps recalling a younger version of myself, school uniform minus tie excitedly thumbing a copy of Kiss' 'Music From the Elder'. Anyway, Moustache Guy is strictly CDs and DVDs now. Poor Moustache guy, given the recent resurgence of interest in records it looks very much like he backed the same two dud horses that are about to sink HMV.
So is it worth a trip to Chesterfield's once fabled Thursday Flea Market? I would say no, unless you still have a VHS video recorder in which case there appears to still be an unusually high selection of big box Warner and Entertainment Vide titles for you to get lost amongst.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Unfortunately the first pressing also sounds like a pair of slippers. Memphis label Ardent obviously had other things to spend their money on besides quality shellac. Luckily this album has been released and re-released so many times that there is forced to be a half decent pressing out there somewhere.
So what can you possibly about this album that hasn't been said before? Well quite a lot if you don't like an impossibly forced close to nasal vocal style. Luckily it would appear that I do, which is odd because the mere thought of Geddy Lee is enough to turn my stomach.
'Number 1 Record' is basically 'hit' after 'hit'. It's an exercise in perfectly honed and fully focused guitar or power pop. I would stop short of saying that it rocks though because it doesn't. The internationally used 'Scale of Rock' has Cheap Trick representing 'absoulte zero' IE: The very least rockingest sound possible and this, 'Big Star' falls short of that. Now this isn't a bad thing. As a band they are aeons away from the demented and dull twatishness of Cheap Trick but do they rock? No, not really.
Big Star 'roll', and this isn't a weak joke aimed at the bands admitted love for the 'doob' either. They have a rolling sound, a sound that rolls.
So what's on the album? Well there's that song that Cheap Trick borrowed for 'That 70's Show', there's the blue print to Scottish Indie janglers Teenage Fanclub's entire back catalogue. There is also 'The Indian Song' which I flag because it's always stood out for me. Not necessarily as being any better than the rest of this truly solid offering but because it sounds like it doesn't belong. You could very easily drop 'The Indian Song' onto 'Forever Changes' and give it a Brian McLean vocal credit as it would sound perfectly at home there.
So is it all good? No, there almost has to be a weak link and that weak link is 'Don't Lie To Me'. That's what happens when a 'Rolling' band tries to 'Rock'. It just goes horribly wrong.
Now according to Google this album actually exploded when it was released which is news to me, I was under the impression that it was one of those under-peforming slow-boilers, something that wasn't given it's due credit until years later. But apparently not. So why didn't smash the charts? Turns out Stax (Ardent owners) had problems distributing the record so nobody could actually buy it.
To be honest it took me a good few years to 'get' Big Star. I'd owned it more than once (It's a pre-requisit for working in a record store) due to the fact that it came up in conversation on an almost weekly basis. The first time I gave it a spin I remember it just washing over me in the same way The Replacements and the Soft Boys still do. It was dull, wishy washy nothing special, I didn't get it. I do now.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Mental note to self. Don't say the words 'Animal' and or 'Collective' in succession again unless you want a million angry post-folk rave fans descending on you like one of the saucier plagues of Egypt.
Anyway, moving swiftly along.
Last night saw me back on the ravioli (walnut and gorgonzola if you are interested), as I chewed away I channel surfed until I found something that wasn't reality TV or a talent show. I came in about half way through what I think was the first Tomb Raider film. It's pretty fucking terrible.
So why didn't I while away the evening listening to something wonderful? Thin walls, baby downstairs, a stereo that despite my best efforts refuses to perform at low volumes. That and Angelina Jolie's cod 'English' accent hypnotized me into wondering just how bad it and indeed the rest of the film could get. Answer: Very.
I did manage to give this a spin this morning though and decided that in the absence of anything more interesting passing my fair ears I should share my thoughts.
So Beach House. I was turned onto the first album a few years back by a friend in Portland OR. when they had more of an overt Goth/Folk thing going on. That mood seemed to continue through to their second effort 'Devotion': Bleak, late night, Diazepam music. On 'Teen Dream' that slow and steady temperament is still there, Victoria Legrand sings like she is on the verge of falling asleep and it's a delivery that wears well, adding to the dreaminess (dare I say 'Dreampopiness') of it all. 'Teen Dream' is lazy sex music with the added bonus of improved song writing and tunes.
The backing for the most part hides behind a synth-wash of some sort or another that and cymbal heavy percussion. It's a good if not at times fulffy sound. That said it's obviously very deliberate and anything more clinical might drain away some of the band's magic.
Despite being quite partial to the sound of Beach House they don't get off that easily, even if one half of the band is the granddaughter of score composer legend Michel Legrand ('Umbrellas of Cherbourg' may well be the creative pinnacle of mankind). I've already touched on her at times questionable delivery. She sounds like she is from Hartlepool or one of the less glamorous areas of the North of England. Why such an odd affectation? Then it struck me, is it a misfired attempt at trying to channel some of Siouxie Sioux's dark energy? After all her's has become a popular voice to imitate/emulate of late.
Gripe number two with a bullet would be the album sleeve. It's bollocks. The albums predecessor saw the duo huddled around a candle-lit table, it was a good visual clue to the sound within. What is your man on the street going to think if he picks this up? Tapioca? Semolina? Rice Pudding? Bread Sauce?
Anyway, I would suggest that you listen to this but given the amount of mad propz it received toward the end of last year landing in pretty much every year end list I read, my guess is that you already have... Which in retrospect makes the above exercise, with the exception of the Tomb Raider opening a bit pointless.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
It is just not me. Now we've established that, I need to try and find out why it's anyone at all (except for the original listeners) in the year of our lord 2011. 'No Roses' doesn't have the curious instrumentation or acid tinged lyrics that make the Incredible String Band so appealing. Despite the inclusion of a couple of murder ballads, it's not dark enough to be 'death folk' and it isn't catchy enough to compete with Fairport Convention at their best. It's just a less than curious artifact from a time when other people were creating a lot more exciting or proficient music.
Add to this the fact that it was recorded in that sprawling metropolis of London and any visions of wooden caravans, camp fires and burning of wickermen should vanish in a puff of pipe smoke because the geography of it's recording betrays the sentiment sold on the sleeve and in the sound.
The front sleeve proudly lists the names of twenty seven players. You would expect a pretty huge sound from twenty seven people playing all at once but the reality is there's a lot of guesting through out, some of it very inappropriate like the saxophone on the opener 'Cloudy Banks'. Much of it sounds plodding, pedestrian, colour by numbers.
So does anything even come close to rescuing this from the 'File under: 'Maypole Dancing Shit' section?
Three things. The back of the sleeve (as pictured above) - Don't know who he is but that has to be contender for 'Neck Beard of the decade'.
There's a Jew's Harp on one of the tracks and let's be honest, who doesn't love a bit of the old Jew's Harp. It's an instrument so moronic that it comes full circle to being even more awesome than the triangle.
Finally there is the last track. 'Poor Murdered Woman'. Despite my playa hating I have to flag this as being a hell of a song. It's the only track where Shirley lets her 'hey nonny no' vocal stylings slip into something heart-felt and listenable and whilst the instrumentation is in no danger of setting the world on fire it does work, succeeding in painting a very dark picture of rape and murder from days gone by.
I'm assuming there's a rape in there anyway. As a rule of thumb I always assume that when they mention 'flowers' in folk songs they are actually talking about vaginas, and they mention flowers a couple of times.
Anyway. I'm glad I got rid of my vinyl copy of this. It had a weird clouding on one side when you held it up to the light and whilst it didn't smell of cat-piss it gave that impression.
This review was done from the Castle Recordings 2004 Release - Props as always to Castle for always dropping a couple of staples worth of insight, sleeve notes and pictures onto the CD as should I ever want a true insight into this patchy outing I am well armed.
So, 'No Roses'. Buy another copy of 'What We Did In Our Holidays' instead.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The down-side to living in a world of convenience that when the wheels fall off every minutes delay or unnecessary wait in line feels like a punch in the face.
My train home to see the folks was delayed by 90 minutes. Not only was it delayed by 90 minutes but it failed to get to it's destination being cancelled about thirty miles outside of my home-town.
It would have been a minor pain in the face if I was traveling alone, I'd have got lost in my ipod and read some ridiculous graphic novel. As it was I was traveling with family: Small child and wife, dead-body heavy suitcase and 'collapsible' stroller.
So what can you do? Well there's nobody to complain to, the staff (what there are left of them in 2011) know well enough to lock themselves in the guard car. That only really leaves one path of recourse.
There is something quite satisfying about punching the living shit out of a train. Yes my knuckles hurt and it was juvenile but that coupled with every swearword I knew and a couple I made up for the occasion seemed to do the trick. I waited until the carriage was empty after the impromptu alighting and steam was vented.
So what have I learned? Next time I need to get a train in the UK, it is more sensible to hijack a helicopter.
What does this have to do with records? Well I thought that I'd take time out to visit Sheffield's ever lovely 'Record Collector' shop in Broom Hill.
Was it worth it? Was a good time had by all? Did I come home sacks a bulging with all sorts of vinyl based wonders.
Record Collector has gone a bit shit and here's why:
It's not necessarily the inclusion of a handful of new vinyl (presumably to get them bumped up to 'Record Store Day' status, meaning access to loads of guaranteed to sell and be seen on ebay within days stock) but this does not help. The lines are now blurred, where is the NEW section?
It is that they haven't done a decent used record buy in what feels like a year. The walls are plastered with over-priced or over familiar stock. The racks? More of the same with the same few records that I take up to the counter on every visit in the hope that they are either somehow in better condition than last time I saw them or that my standards have slipped.
Despite the gripe I'm not bitter. It's still a shining beacon in an otherwise barren city. I got my hands dirty (literally) and bought a Father Yod album so I shouldn't moan too much, it's just that the shop has now well and truly fallen from my list of 'Record Shops You absolutely have to visit if you are in a 30 mile Radius', which is a shame as by now I can pretty much fit them all onto the back of a postage stamp.
So the source for the review is from one of the 'remastered' definitive CD's released by Virgin. They did a horrible job, flimsy sleeve, no notes and according to a mis-print on the spine this is a live album. That gripe aside the CD works and it sounds a lot better than a vinyl copy might.
Oh come on. Do you really want the slightest crackle or pop to pepper the musics more quiet passages? I have much of the groups catalogue and can't think of an instance where I have preferred hearing it on vinyl. It's a case of the practicality of a situation outweighing the romance that might be involved in listening to this in it's original form.
Anyway, why am I reviewing this? Well somebody in the office just started playing M.I.A and it offended me to the point of having to drown out her racist hate-mongering ramblings with the closest thing to hand. Lucky for me it was this rather than a copy of the first Opeth album.
'Exit' starts off easy enough, the opener, imaginatively also called 'Exit' wrong-foots a little and ends up sounding like a reeled off list of holiday destinations bringing to mind mid-80's travel shows and that orange faced camera slut/reader's grandmother Judith Chalmers. Despite that it's not a bad way to kick off the album, suitably enigmatic and futuristic.
Much of the 'Exit' comes across as either Horror soundtrack or Porno music, maybe both, Horror/Porno. The type of sound that thanks to the like of Steve Moore and friends is well and truly en vogue. Basically it's like seedy new-age music.
Onto the album's other stand out 'Pilots of the Purple Twighlight', why? Because of the awesome name? No, because if you listen to the keyboard in the background this is where James Earl Jones voiced wunderkind Tay Zonday got the loop for 'Chocolate Rain' from.
Despite my best efforts of turning this up to eleven M.I.A still seeps through the more silent parts and my teeth grind in time. Can't she be arrested for something? Inciting violence or just making criminally bad records comprised of half-arsed samples and utter gibberish and mono-tonal lyrics.
'Network 23' comes on and as I am transported back to the 'Blade Runner' inspired audio future/past of 'Exit' all thoughts of a juvenile public school girl glamorizing terrorism fall away in favor of a wide and empty soundscape inhabited by nothing other than electronic pan-pipes and a machine that generates keyboard riffs especially for midnight chase scenes.
Great album. Any better than the three before it or the four or five after it, who can really say for sure? Edgar?
No, thought not.
With a name like 'Pride' you expect something massively gay. What 'Pride' deliver is twee, jangly, Dan Fogelberg tinged blancmange... But it isn't particularly homosexual.
The reason for my listening to this album is mainly that it appeared on a 'beat head' acquaintance's 'want's' list and I decided to investigate. You know the type, flat-rimmed baseball cap, a vocabulary awash with Americanisms and an unhealthy knowledge of which track was sampled for which Hip Hop track and when. This in mind I shouldn't really be that surprised when it turned out to be not massively impressive.
Albums usually fall onto such lists because of a couple of drum fills or breaks, at best they are held up by a couple of half-decent tracks, one of which nearly always features that all important sound or instrument of the moment be it Fender Rhodes, fuzz guitar, Moog or the accordion.
Anyway, my point is that people become obsessed with these records for portions that they can dissect, play over, possibly loop and re-invent. The original body of the album cast aside, forgotten about and left un-played.
This however may not be the case with 'Pride'. Despite many of the tracks having some oh so tired 'break beat' or other rumbling along in the background there isn't really a stand out. Many of the songs are quite pleasant and the breezy and so laid-back it's horizontal sound that 'Pride' create is very listenable, if not over-inspiring.
It was produced by David Axelrod, the man behind The Electric Prunes always interesting soundtrack to a Christian Cult period ('Mass in F Minor' and 'Release of an Oath'). Sadly none of the stylings that made both of those records so catchy despite of their Xian content appear to have been employed here. It lacks quirk, it's mono-tonal, over sunshiny. I mean I can listen to it, I am listening to it now but it might as well be the soundtrack to a retirement home picnic.
Pride sound a bit like somebody has sucked all of the drugs, excitement and danger out of The Byrds with some kind of purpose-built soul vacuum-cleaner and instead replaced it with sand, sand and maybe a couple of shiny marbles. In fact I would go as far as to say that if ever there was an archetypal 5/10 record, this is it.
...5 1/2 if they said the word 'cunt' once in a while.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Before you get too jealous, this is a review of the CD remaster rather than an original Deram press of 'Time of the Last Persecution.'
I bought it from Amazon after an entire year of it sitting on my 'Records that people tell me I HAVE TO listen to' list.
So, I've listened to it.
Am I going to add it to my own personal 'Oh my shit! You absolutely have to listen to this record because it will make your tits explode with joy' list?
It's alright, I mean he looks fucking awesome on the front cover and what a name for an album. So why doesn't it get a high-five or even a pat on the back? Two reasons really.
First off Bill voice sounds way to close to that of my musical nemesis Ronnie Lane. That's right, the guy who made every Faces record he sang on sound pompous to the point of being fucking ridiculous. Anyway, it doesn't do well to speak ill of the dead so I won't expand on that other than to say that I still have nightmares about that man's singing 'ability' years after hearing anything he sang on.
If you need persuading give 'You're So Rude' a spin and listen to the way he pronounces 'They've all gone to see AUntie Renee'.
Where was I? Right, point 2. The saxophone. It doesn't feature throughout but whenever it does rear its ugly head it does nothing to benefit the over-all sound of the record.
When I was first told I had to give this a go I was told it was like Skip Spence's 'Oar'. It is a bit, but instead of the psychedelic undertones of that album 'Time of The Last Persecution' seems to be lumbered with Ray Russell's blues based guitar wankery. It also sounds far too English, too polite, too far away from the action.
Oh and whilst I'm at it the drums sound very 'session'.
What does work is the piano (as does the fuzz guitar). If Bill could some how have seen his way to relying more heavily on this tool we'd have something closer to the whacked out Elton John I'd been expecting.
Without wanting to list tracks there are some corkers on here and I am sure I sound like a heathen when I say it would make great source material for other bands to run with and improve. In fact in reading that back reminds me of the time I upset pretty much everybody I knew by saying that I preferred Girls Against Boys version of 'She's Lost Control' to the original Joy Division one.
Another reason to give this album the time of day is the lyrics. If that's your cup of tea and you take into consideration that this album comes from a very different world, one where the Vietnam war was present tense, one where that Haight and Ashbury dream of love and peace had just tuned out to be 'right drugs, right music, right time' rather than the beginning of the glorious global revolution and it makes a lot of sense. There is bitterness, apathy and disappointment in this music and it sounds pretty good 40 years on.
Dear Xeno and Oaklander, are you French? I notice your album 'Sentinelle' is recorded in New York but you either sing in Gallic or a type of English that suggests that the language is not your first. It's just that you don't look particularly French, not to say I am looking for a beret and a string of onions, but I've seen pictures and I wouldn't say you look any more French that I do and I'm not French.
It doesn't really matter it's just that I was going to compare you to Mathematiques Modernes but just incase you aren't French I won't. Just to be safe what I will say is:
Xeno and Oaklander, architects of a newly re-discovered bed-sit lo-fi electronic world originally given birth to by the likes of Soft Cell have taken the concept mysterious and miserable down-beat electronica and smashed it out of the proverbial park. I think the cool kids call it chill or dark wave nowadays. Back then it was just plain old electronic pop.
Not to say for a second that 'Sentinelle' is a classic or necessarily even a keeper but they have certainly done their best to stay true to the original battle plan.
The electronics which come courtesy of both parties are pretty competent and as you might expect for a minimal excursion into the world of analogue electronics. Nothing fancy, couple of nice hooks a distinct 80's feel and what I would describe as a methodical Germanic tinge.
My issue with the group is the vocals, not so much the French language pieces but the robotic English that fills at least half of the album. When such delivery was part of Kraftwerk's schtick they were let off the hook because they were pretending to be robots. When the same vocal sound was of the Belgian New Beat scene (Front 242 etc) it was annoying but somehow the punchy and plain Fascistic sounds made up for that. Now in 2011 it falls South of quaint or kitsch and just sounds a bit silly really.
Part of me would rather have the entire album sung in French, if they are French.
Anyway, to give you an idea of what to expect from the sound I asked a friend what he would recommend off the back of the fact that I was blown away by Sally Shapiro's 'Disco Romance' album and he wrote the name of this band on the back of a receipt and passed it to me. It was all very exciting and covert. Unfortunately I couldn't really read his handwriting so it took a while to track down.
Was it worth it?
Yeah, course it was. It's alright. Not going to set the world on fire or anything like that but there are worse things to listen to on a Sunday night. Although after the events of last night I feel like I should probably be listening to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' happily ignoring the true meaning of the song and instead seeing it as a perfect meathead anthem to celebrate the fact that they 'aced' that modern day Fu Manchu Osama Bin Ladin yesterday.
Mixed emotions about that, either way, Ding-Dong the witch is well and truly dead...
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I just caught the end of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds'. Jesus Christ Marilyn Monroe was a simpering idiot. Sure, she was an iconoclast and admittedly not unattractive but fuck me is she painful to watch 'act'. I would say 'I wonder how she got her big break' but I don't need to, I'd imagine those sculpted legs and sit up and beg chest defined the casting couch pre-req for an entire decade. What I will say is 'I wonder if those morgue slab rumors are true'.
It's interesting to see how certain ice-berg sized chunks of our cultural heritage seem alien in their uselessness here in 2011.
'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds' is perfect Saturday matinee fodder, brain-dead vintage pulp from a bygone era, a time of stuffy suits, airs and graces and plot-lines so contrived that they appear a parody.
Luckily for those of us stuck in the present, much of that popular culture flotsam of yesteryear does translate. We have the Rolling Stones, to a lesser extent The Beatles and other heavy hitters such as The Beach Boys. A funny group of chaps The Beach Boys. They didn't surf and they were grown men. What they did do was leave a hell of a cannon of work, one often hidden behind a deluge of very average tracks about cars, girls and surfing.
Amongst their more interesting work are the aft lorded 'Pet Sounds' (It's alright) and 'Smile' (we should get the final version at some point over the next couple of months). What they have two albums after 'Smile' (more accurately 'Smiley Smile' the unfinished 'Smile') is an unbroken run of three absolutely stellar albums: '20/20', 'Sunflower' and 'Surf's Up'.
Lets talk about 'Sunflower' because that's the album that I put on to drown out Marilyn's idiot voice. The title of the album and ever cheery sleeve are misleading. This isn't the seemingly sunny proposition that it presents itself as, the darkness that reverberates throughout the follow-up (Surf's Up) is also evident here. In fact the albums closing shot 'Cool Cool Water' dove-tails perfectly into the foreboding opener of 'Surf's Up'.
I inherited my copy of 'Sunflower' from my dad. Out of interest he bought it from 'Brierley's' (I would imagine of Brierley Hill near Birmingham England) for 62 1/2p in 1970. I don't remember him ever playing it but do recall it sitting tucked down the side of a silver Philips all in one surrounded by white shag-pile carpet.
That's not all that makes it special. The cover looks like an ill- rehearsed family portrait or team-shot and despite the great rainbow of colours and logo that frame it, this has to be contender for one of the most average album sleeves ever.
What saves it is the pictures on the gatefold. The group appear to have taken it upon themselves to don fancy-dress. Most interestingly of which are Alan Jardine's choice of dressing like a street peddling monkey grinder and more sinisterly Mike Love's decision to dress like some kind of bearded and potentially sinister deity surrounded by children. Anyway, rather than over analyzing this I will talk about the music.
'Slip on Through', 'This Whole World', 'Add Some Music to Your Day', 'Tears in the Morning' and 'Forever' are the standouts. What do they sound like? You know the drill: Vocal harmonies, considered slightly grandiose instrumentation and catchy as fuck. But 'Sunflower' has the added bonus of a slight twinkling of the darkness that reflected the often turbulent and fragile inner workings of the group at this time, one that would be fully realized on 1971's 'Surf's Up'.
They do not make them like they used to.
Friday, April 15, 2011
If I said this was Earth's best album would you hold it against me?
I can almost sense a hoard of 'Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version' fans battering down my door and demanding some kind of redaction.
Truth is, as painfully unhip as it is to say. 'Earth 2' is a fucking tough listen. Yes it's instrumental in the state of modern metal. Sunn(o))) would not be without it. In retrospect it could be that had Dylan Carson not made us all sit through a 73 minute double album of tiresomely slow guitar chuggery that our metal brothers might have gone the way of Yngwie Malmsteen or other Dragonforce like widdly-diddly idiots. And I suppose that 'slowest band in the world' would make a nice addition to anyone's resume.
So on to the album at hand. The opener lay's out the bands game-play from the outset. It's faster than anything they have done before - Which is to say it is still very slow, but at least within the realms of listenability. I'm being harsh, it's better than that. It's solid, down-tempo Sabbath type riffage. Hypnotic and ever so slightly bluesy.
'High Command' treats us to more of the same but with the added treat of lyrics, actual words!
The third track 'Crooked Axis For String Quartet' is something else entirely. When I first heard this back in 1997 I thought it was just one chord. I put this down to my shitty stereo. Listening to it today it's as if some of Steve Reich's 'Phases' era work has bled through from the other side of the tape. It's actually very pretty, not a word you often associate these son's of Seattle with.
'Tallahassee' is pretty much the blue-print for where the band would see themselves just under a decade later. The twang of Americana bathed in the kind of fuzzy distortion with which they are synonymous. It kills and is the only track they did that ever made it onto a mix tape for a girl. (NB despite my best efforts the relationship did not go very far)
There is something of a far Eastern feel to 'Charioteer (Temple Song)' and were it not for the inescapable metallic sheen that Earth produce it could almost find a home on something by Popol Vuh.
The last 1/3rd of the album's a bit of a miss, it smarts of the group desperately trying to stretch the proceedings from EP to LP territory, there's a pretty 'by numbers' Hendrix cover, an instantly forgettable piano excursion and a reprise of the opening track to end with. Were it not for the fact that the last song on the album takes the theme somewhere else completely you might feel a bit short changed but as it is it's a solid pillar to end on.
I got this from Relay records in Bristol during my final year at college, sold it about ten years back, re-bought the CD from Everyday Music in Portland OR and then got a new copy of the LP from Music and Video Exchange in Camden about three months back.
Which reminds me. Tomorrow is 'Record Shop Day', so go out, join the lines, buy a load of limited shit by bands you don't really like and put it on Ebay... Then with the money you make, buy three copies of this and play then simultaneously and at slightly different speeds because that would be fucking awesome.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I am reviewing this because it's been on my work desk and staring at me for the best part of 5 months. Also because I am not entirely sure that the fawning and in-depth write up I want to give Deftones 'White Pony' would be appreciated by anybody apart from me (Just to say it's in my top 50 albums and if you don't own a copy get over that Nu-metal labeling and treat yourself).
I've had this in and out of the CD player (also on my desk) since around Christmas and it's really grown on me. To be honest I hadn't been sure what to expect. The personnel listing wasn't exactly inspiring: One person (Nika Rosa Danilova) with a keyboard. It could quite easily have fallen flat like a Jamie Lidell gig with a broken sequencer. But it doesn't. Given the lack of other instrumentation it's a surprisingly dense piece. It's brooding, dark, haunting, it's all of those other words that appeared in reviews of the record when it came out in the middle of last year.
The whole album is like an elongated study of This Mortal Coil's version of 'Song to a Siren', and if you ever saw that track used in the trailer for the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre then those visuals add even more credence to that line of thinking. It comes from a very black and pained place, somewhere close to death.
Another thing that undoubtedly every review of this so far will have pointed out is how close her Nika's vocal range is to that of Siouxsie Sioux. At first her delivery was massively grating but like the music that accompanies it, in time you find yourself immersed.
Despite all of this and my repeat listening at work, I am trying to think of circumstances where I might choose this as a soundtrack and I am coming up short. You can't really have sex to it unless that sex involves ropes and potentially knives. I wouldn't want to drive to it, unless my driving culminated with a high-speed and slow motion chase resulting in my untimely and messy crash based death. It's not ironing music unless I am contemplating ironing my hand and or face. You get the picture - It's very emotional, borderline wallowing music or like I said, maybe something you play when you are having knife sex.
So given I don't intend for copious amounts of blood to feature in any love making in which I might partake I will leave this on my desk, safe in the knowledge that it's a suitable accompaniment to putting together elongated and over-styled Power Point presentations.
Monday, April 11, 2011
This guy is German. (At least I think he is German)
He's a piano player.
He does not have a Wikipedia entry.
If I could stretch to more than a dozen words in German there would be some clues as to the man's history and background on the rear of the sleeve. Sadly the comprehensive notes, probably outlining the making of the record and the chief protagonist's history are a series of 'k's, 'z's and umlauts.
Given this I shall take my customary tact and make something up...
Jan Fryderyk discovered the world of Jazz after being admitted to Ansbach Military Hospital as a child. He had complained of a chronic stomach pain and on examination doctors removed approximately 4oz of human hair from his stomach and intestinal tract.
Jan Fryderyk had a hair eating problem, unlike most people with this affliction the hair was not in fact his. At weekend Jan would roam from barber shop to barber shop with an eye to scoring a snack and had been doing so since an incident involving a wig on his seventh birthday.
It was whilst he was recovering from the operation that Jan heard some G.Is stationed there playing John Coltrane's 'Blue Trane' and he was hooked.
To this day nobody knows how or why the hair eating problem started. What they do know is that despite a relapse in the early 80s his passion for the jazz piano has all but cured him.
Sound wise, this is obviously piano led, but don't let that put you off. It's not a painful Cecil Taylor excursion into the land of the solo plinkity-plonk. The other players here do a fantastic job of filling in, covering for and adding to Fryderyk's key-happy ways.
I need to single out Alan Skidmore formerly of Kieth Tippet's 'Centipede' here for a special mention. He's an exceptional saxophone player and he has a tidy beard. He does soft, distant and gentle AND 'I'm having a shit-fit' both surprisingly well. I say surprisingly as he's a Brit and despite evidence to the contrary I still firmly believe that 'Jazz' is the realm of the dead (with a few exceptions) American.
Quite who to thank for rest of it I do not know as Peter Giger(Pictured above), Doug Hammond and a guy called Trilok Gurtu all contribute percussion of some type or other. The sheer amount of skin beating gives you some idea of how good this could and does get.
It isn't indispensable by any means but when the repetitive percussion gels with the piano 'Faun' comes alive in a wholly entertaining and mostly enjoyable way.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
After a failed evening of trying to get people to witness the power of my fully operational Hi-Fi system courtesy of an array of old favorites, I thought I'd try putting it through the paces with something new.
I can't help feeling a little disappointed that after months of research, waiting, saving and spending the reaction to my new stereo was mixed at best.
'There's not much bass'.
I took this to bed but said nothing until my wife mentioned it again on a trip to the supermarket.
'There's not much bass on that new stereo of yours is there?'
This came in the middle of an unrelated conversation about grass strimmers so maybe it had been playing on her mind as well.
Sound is a very personal thing, some people like it rich, others analytical, others still tainted or tweaked with an extra helping of bass or a cranked up high-end. What do I like? Jesus, I don't know, I just want my stereo to sound half decent. GIven the amount of money and time I spend on finding the software it's common sense to invest a proportional amount of money in the thing that makes the sound come out.
I hadn't had an issue with the lack of low end until it was pointed out by a room full of people. What to do? Well I could ignore it, get on with my life and dedicate the man hours to something less dull... Or I could start looking for a couple of concrete slabs to place under the stands with a hope of somehow capturing some of the vibrations that may or may not be dissipating through the heavy pile carpet.
I am not educated enough in the ways of classical music to try and work in any similarities here, but it reminds me of the 'Music For Egon Schiele' album by Rachels although I'm pretty sure that's a cod reference to make.
The first time I heard it, the music accompanied the film and it worked in the context of the particularly dreary and miserable as a motherfucker images. Without them much of the mood is the same. This is not 'get up and go!' music. It's the sound track to a particularly long and painful day. It's music for heavy reflection. Lets not forget, it's also music for the end of the world, for cannibalism, fields of fire and pushing a supermarket trolley into the mouth of oblivion.
The slow, meandering string led sound aside for a second, let's look at the protagonists.
Warren Ellis, is not the man who wrote some of the finest comic books of all time but rather the multi-instrumental guy with the colossal beard who played with the Dirty Three. His talent and ear for musical drama is obvious.
Nick Cave needs no introduction and I won't say any more about him than these recent forays into the world of movie music have done him nothing but favors. They have rounded off his CV in the way that most maturing musicians can only dream of. If only Madonna had taken a leaf out of his book rather than attempting to remake and reclaim that same faded glory album after album (they are only months apart in age). If only she had thought to trade just one leotard for a shred of the dignity that surrounds Cave's work but no, Ciccone will die on that treadmill, gaunt, unloved and living in the past.
So where was I? The soundtrack to The Road. If it weren't for the occasional metallic screeches, obviously there to underline certain points of the films sheer horror this could be an every day listen. As it is these very occasional hideous early period Einstruzende Neubautenesque shrieks take the edge off a bit challenging me when all i want is to sit back and go,
'Mmmmm, nice strings, lovely arrangement....shame about the bass'.
Well worth a listen this.
Monday, April 4, 2011
We had already watched most of the WW2 submarine film classic 'Up Periscope' in which a young James Garner (of 'Rockford Files' fame) attempts to single-handedly sabotage a radio station based on a Japanese island whilst the crew of his sub anxiously await his return. At least I think that's what it's about as the sound was mostly down in favor of that last Bruce Springsteen album.
Either way it looks like films about submarines are a hit with my son. I suppose at 4 months old what's not to like right?
He started to get a bit antsy towards the end so we moved to his brightly coloured and ridiculous play mat. It's one of those things with two ajoining arcs crossing over it. The idea is you hang all sorts of different toys from it for him to chew and or play with... mostly chew.
What might make an interesting soundtrack to these proceedings I thought? After a brief rummage in the CD cupboard I pulled out an unopened CD copy of this album. It made the cut not because of the band's association with Animal Collective but because of the sleeve. The colours matched the play mat perfectly so it seemed silly not to see if I could exploit that marriage further.
The little guy on the mat seemed to greet the sound pretty well. I placed him at equal distance between the speakers to make sure he could appreciated the full stereophonic picture. 8 songs came and went and I have to say it was not the worst soundtrack to an afternoon spent shaking rattly toys in the general direction of my son.
Prince Rama used to be part of a Hare Krishna commune. I know this because I looked on google. Without this insight I had already decided that I was going to describe this as 'Death Yoga' music. I have in the past dabbled in the ways of the Yogi and was familiar with many of the lyrical chants. I hadn't however ever expected to hear them married with a dense and dark multi-layered soundtrack that at times brought to mind Goblin and other such synth-pounders. For some reason and I cannot for the life of me put my finger on this, It also brings to mind 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'.
The plus point of their sound is that it conjures a sense of ceremony, of a worshipping, a large group of people concentration on a common cause. direction.
The downside is that as I listened crouched on the floor in my son's general direction, soft-toy scale model of Spongebob Squarepants in my hand I kept getting this over whelming urge to go into Downward Facing Dog or Cobra Pose.
Yeah, why the fuck not?
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Originally this review started with some contrived link to Simon and Garfunkel but on reading it back it didn't really make any sense so I scrapped it.
The other week saw me on vacation in Whitby, great I thought, a chance for me to go to the town's 'Fruitshop Records', sadly 'Fruitshop Records' is now a children's wear boutique and the children's wear boutique did not sell any records. Luckily I had a plan B in the shape of a drive about 20 miles further south to Scarborough, home of the most awesome monument to Victoriana, The Grand Hotel. Seriously, why isn't this in every guide book of the UK? We are talking about what was at one time the world's largest hotel, a 300plus room bohemoth built like the Titanic.
This was my second visit to Scarborough's 'Dysc World'. You will be relieved to know that it is not in fact a Terry Pratchet themed fantasy record shop but rather a normal every day used record store that has taken on board tour shirts, DVDs and that kind of fayre to stay afloat in these uncertain times. They also sell Poppers (Amyl Nitrate) just in case you were wondering where you might score yourself a heart rush followed by a throbbing headache featuring a floating green dot to blur your vision.
The first time I visited 'Dysc World' a couple of years back the stock was much the same, some unusual sections, 'Rainbow' for instance got their very own divider. In case you are wondering this also doubled as an Ian Gillan section and yes, there was a copy of the 'Future Shocks' album. Anyway, I picked up a few bits and pieces but nothing much to really speak of. On this trip however I came away with a few things including first presses of both 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' and 'The 5000 Spirits' by Incredible String Band both very reasonably priced.
I was in the middle of wondering how a shop like this might stay open in a northern seaside town with high unemployment and the now obligatory influx of Eastern European immigrants (No issues with anybody from the former Eastern Bloc at all, it's just that in my experience they are not know for their love of used records) when a couple of people came in doing what looked like a weekly DVD box set exchange.
'How much for the complete series of Firefly?' etc.
It's a pretty tiny shop and much of the given space is used to display CDs, DVDs etc. That said, if you are in the area it's well worth a visit, especially if you are an early 80s metal completist.
Friday, March 25, 2011
I suppose if I were to stay true to what I has actually listened to today this would be a review of the majesty of Irene Cara's 'Flashdance'. Luckily it is not because it's a terrible song that I can't defend but also one that I am more than happy to listen through as and when it appears at 'random' on my MP3 player. (Kind of like the whole of Erasure's glorious 'POP' album)
This had been on a fair bit at home though so I thought it was worth talking to.
The images that the name 'Riechmann' conjures up do not necessarily tally with the picture used for the front sleeve. Was I the only one expecting our man to be dressed like he was in the Waffen SS? Anyway, 'white face' with blue lipstick and dusted hair is also good. Kind of Klaus Nomi style utter cod but also good.
Luckily the similarities with the previously mentioned late castrato pop-opera idiot end there. This is high-quality late 70's electronic music fresh from the Fatherland. 'Wunderbar' is not a concept album about a late night drinking establishment, what it is is a strangely fluid and metallic sounding collection of almost timeless songs. It's chock-full of gliding synth work and washes the kind of sound that has become very en-vogue of late (this might go some way to explaining this album's recent re-issue.)
This said it's not without it's faults. The opener and title track desperately needs the 'Doctor Whoisms' sucking out of it. It plods, sounds derivative. it has a sleeve that screams 'second rate Kraftwerk, These moans aside it's a very solid entry into the genre and the remaining tracks bring to mind the highlights from Vangelis' 'Blade Runner' score at times confidently out-doing it.
Riechmann was from the same Dusseldorf school as Klause Schulze which goes some way to explaining away the sound. I have to come clean and admit that whilst I understand the sound of 'Dusseldorf school' music I am still unsure as to whether this is an actual school (all blazers and ties) or if it's a conceptual school as in 'school of thought'. Either way.
Sadly our man Riechmann was stabbed to death weeks before this was released (leading me to believe it was an actual school as this is a pretty standard occurrence around such places London) meaning that aside of the hooky looking 'Riechmann/Streetmark' album this is his only recorded solo output. So to conclude, it's good. It's well worth buying. It's also worth going the extra few quid and getting an original copy as they go for around the 20 mark. In theory it should sound better and if it doesn't you at least have an original that smells of that electronic time of wonderment.
And there was me thinking my day wasn't going to get any better after a nice and crispy copy of Richard Pinhas' 'Ice Land' finally landed on my desk.
Awesome blog alert!
Not something I have given space to before but in a search for images for my current 'wants list/bingo card' I discovered this site. It is utterly amazing in every respect. Yes it's written in French. No I don't speak the language beyond being able to ask for directions to the library but holy shit if the international language of music doesn't speak for itself.
I came away educated, titillated and with an overwhelming desire to get on a plane to France to get my 'hunt' on.
I suppose it's also something of a reality check. I am never going to own all of the records. Just when I think I'm in a place my desire or addiction has subsided, where I can sit happy and thumb through those that I own at my leisure, maybe even playing the occasional record something like this comes along: A deep and un-mined vein rich with suggestions of how I might spunk eighty quid on something black round and wonderful.
Take the above for instance: I don't even buy 7"s but this left me questioning my own parameters, maybe it's time to break my own rules so that I can give a home to what might be the greatest picture sleeve the world has ever seen.
Not that I have some strange 'hoard-all' desire like the man from the 'Vinyl' documentary to own a copy of every song ever recorded. (I wonder if he finally caved and went the way of itunes). I do however have an at times unquenchable thirst for new, exciting music and beyond that beautifully printed heavy stock laminated gate-fold sleeves that smell of days gone by.
Anyway, merci bien Monsieur Francemusik, tres bon!
Go there now, join up, learn French, but don't download the music because downloading music is very bad... But maybe not as bad as spending all of your time and money in used record shops.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Yeah it's totally passable if you like the Pastels. If you don't it's way too wishy washy and forgettable.
Jingly-jangly guitar, a very slow-tempo and production that favors the Bowie circa 'Raw Power' 'recorded from behind the sofa' method. It's unsubstantial, instantly forgettable and too dreamy. I mean I like dreamy, Mazzy Star did it to perfection, this is just kind of annoying though. It's the soundtrack to a frail lactose-intolerant teenage boy falling down a thick-pile carpeted staircase in slow motion.
The reason for my revisitation is that in print they would often get mentioned in the same sentence as Rugby's world changing and ever (almost ever) awesome Spacemen 3. Maybe it's because of vocal similarities or maybe it's because both bands have numbers in their names. (I could easily have ended up with Maroon 5 playing on my walk home).
The reason for me specifically choosing 'This is Our Music' was the Ornette Coleman album of the same name, i wondered if there might be some head-nod or similarity. Unsurprisingly there is not.
What to say other than if I was a female college student doing a degree in 'Social Studies' circa 1990 I might really like this. I could eat fried Tofu to it while I brush my hair into my face to hide myself from the world. At best I could have bad and instantly regrettable sex to it with some guy with shoulder-length hair that I met at a party whose name might be Ian to it.
...And Ian would not call me back.
So this place has something of a reputation. It's supposed to be one of THE places to go to 'dig the crates'. Maybe it is. I'm not a crate digger and the chances of finding something mis-priced, misplaced or forgotten in 2011 are slim at best. The Japanese guy who has apparently extended his stay due to the tragic nuclear/water based situation on the home-front is a crate digger. He is loving the 7" boxes.
There is also a woman with what can only be described as a homeless air about her sifting through a box of what looks like electronic jumble.
'Jack! I'm going to buy the DVD player. We don't have a DVD player, it's five bucks.'
Another guy comes in minutes behind me asking where the 'dollar bin' is. Despite this I soldier on and check and double check both the 'World' and 'Jazz' sections stopping only to take in the overweight black dude mesmerized by an entire wall of cassettes. He is skipping through them on his Walkman muttering as he does so.
I find nothing.
The 'A to Z Rock' section looks more like hell on earth than anything else but I persevere, skipping the less attractive sections. Sections like 'Bee-Bop Deluxe', 'Alex Harvey Band', 'Sad Cafe'. Okay so there wasn't a 'Sad Cafe' section but their album did crop up in the 'S' section. Anyway, you get the picture and it's at about this point that I start to loose the will to live and instantly regret not only paying the $26 cab fare to get here but also the 3 hour window I have given myself to spend 'leisurely perusing' said racks.
There is a 'Psych' section with jolly and hand drawn graphics for certain bands and sub-genres. Unfortunately it's currently the home of the dull, the obvious and the reissued.
It's a shame as the guy in the hat with the grey hair who appears to own or at least run this place seems very friendly, not that i attempt to engage him in any way, I am far to absorbed at the task in hand - Attempting to salvage something from a place that has it would seem been systematically picked over by everybody on the planet with a turntable apart from me.
I do manage to cobble together a small pile of potential purchases including a first press of Big Black's 'Racer X' from the confusingly titled 'Imports' section. Apparently in this part of Boston 'Alternative and Indie' music is called 'Imports'. But it's no good. The mood has left me. There is nothing in here that I am prepared to pay excess baggage on my flight home for. (NB: Fuck Virgin atlantic for its recent and paltry 1 case 28kg limit)
I leave the shop starved of air and empty handed.
The homeless lady does not buy the DVD player and Jack puts back the copy of Turner and Hooch that he had been considering.