Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Finishing up with the band Christmas today.

After their debut In Excelsior Dayglo, they released two more albums. Both came out on CD, though the first one Ultraprophets of the Psykick Revolution is a little hard to find. Their final album Vortex came out posthumously on Matador, and then off they went to provide the soundtrack to the coctail revolution of the mid 90's as Combustible Edison.

I have mixed feelings about both of these albums. They're still really melodically inventive but both lack the nervous energy of the debut. Ultraprophets also gets into some lyrical trouble: songs like Richard Nixon ("Richard Nixon sees you, Richard Nixon sees through you,") seem to be trying too hard to be witty/strange and there's a total dud called Human Chain that's basically about AIDS, and comes off like the soundtrack to a PSA for young adults. Finally, the songs get a little too complicated, with extra instrumental bits sapping the momentum. The most straightforward track is Stupid Kids, and I like it ok. Here's Great Wall of China, which shows that the band can do pretty. There's an almost prog-rock instrumental's nice, but I like Christmas for doing complicated songs that sound simple, not complicated songs that sound complicated.

Their final album Vortex is interesting. It looks like another jokey album, and if you half-way pay attention to the lyrics, it sounds like one. But the words are surprisingly dark and surprisingly good. They actually read a little bit like Mekons lyrics circa Rock and Roll. Again, though, the music is missing a spark. I admire the songwriting a lot, but it doesn't work as well in practice as in theory. Here's the most basic song God Bless the Fireman, which sounds simpler than it is. And here's Iron Anniversary, which probably sums up Christmas' (bad) mood when writing this album: "Oh, what a sun. That's just like the one that used to shine on me. Now it bleaches out my fading inspiration."

Poor Christmas. (One little trivia bit that I didn't notice until I read the Trouser Press is that Christmas' Michael Cudahy co-wrote Redd Kross' near-hit Annie's Gone.) One last thought: there's a pretty good non-album song by Christmas called Babyman that appears on a compilation called Big Time Syndrome. Not so hard to find on vinyl...not so easy to find on CD.

I have a link on this page to Paula Carino, who falls somewhere in the grey area between "people you know who are musicians" and "musicians who you happen to know" if you know what I mean. In some ways, her songwriting reminds me of what Christmas were doing and her singing reminds me a bit of Liz Cox's. I'm very fond of the chorus of Waiting For You from her 2001 album Aquacade. I think she's nearly finished recording a new album...if you like this song, write to her and she can probably give you the scoop. In the interest of balance here's one pro and one not-quite-as-pro-but-not-con-either opinion.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?