Friday, January 30, 2004

 
...not that I had anything earth-shattering to say about Ride. I just want to add my voice to those who have realized that the hype is not to be believed, and that Carnival of Light is, in a way, a great lost Brit-pop album.

My guesses as to the reasons for its bad reputation are 1. Ride's shoegazing audience didn't want to hear a jangly 60's sounding album regardless of how good it was and 2. since the band were busy fighting, they decided that the cause of their unhappiness was their current album and 3. just as the English like to suddenly declare unknown bands to be the most important historical development since the Moldy Peaches, they also like to arbitrarily decide that perfectly decent records are "utter rubbish." I think they may just like to say the phrase "utter rubbish" from time to time...it is kind of fun.

I was never a huge Ride fan...I've never really been able to get very enthusiastic about any of the shoegazers. I was indifferent to their first album, and enjoyed Going Blank Again without getting too excited. But a year or so ago I happened to pick up a compilation of videos that included Ride's I Don't Know Where It Comes From (I bought the comp because it had my old housemate's band, Soul Coughing, on it and I wanted to see what he was like as a rock star) and decided to investigate further -- if you haven't seen the video, lets just say that in it Ride look an awful lot like a Byrds tribute band (despite the fact that they're ripping off a Rolling Stones song). The video leaves out the children's chorus, btw. Some people seem to find that part cheesy...I see what they're saying, but I like the way that it makes the You Can't Always Get What You Want reference more overt.

All of the Ride albums were reissued a few years back with bonus tracks, which is nice. Even nicer, they have a box set that comes with a worthwhile rarities disc, and last year their BBC Sessions came out. Here's Crown of Creation, also a Carnival of Light track, from that.

Mark Gardener, one of Ride's two main writers, toured a bit last year and a few of those concerts can be found on the net. I'm not going to post anything, because it's just solo acoustic which is nice but not essential. It's worth hearing just to see how happy he sounds to be playing again, which is very sweet. He also released a few solo tracks with Goldrush last year. All in all, there's a lot of product floating around, and it seems like the band *might* be ripe for some sort of re-evaluation. I'm not the first person to suggest this, and hopefully I won't be the last.

One more track from Carnival: when I saw that they were covering How Does It Feel I wasn't expecting much (Allmusic strangely, calls this "hackneyed," but they seem to be subscribing to the original "stylistic mistake" view of the record). Actually, Ride do a pretty fantastic job, especially where the guitar noises are concerned, and since the Creation were pretty low-profile in the US (at least prior to the Rushmore soundtrack) I don't see a problem.

Summary: UK fans have probably already had a chance to make up their own minds about all of this, but Ride weren't as well known over here, and I think it's very possible that Carnival of Light has flown under the radar of a lot of people who might like it. There's one song on it, Only Now, that I can especially see appealing to fans of Blur's big melodic epics from the days before they discovered Pavement and William Orbit.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

 
I was planning on doing Ride yesterday, but postponed that so I could romp in the snow. So I was going to do them today, but I'm going to postpone it yet again. Yesterday my blog got a little asterisk next to its name in the Fluxblog links section (an asterisk indicating a blog that posts mp3s) and my hits (such as they are) doubled. Sadly on the one day that I didn't post any songs.

So, today I'm going for something a little more special than Ride. The Bites are from Australia, and the only reason that I know about them is that they got mentioned on the Magic Dirt discussion board (the same place I found out about Tumbleweed). Magic Dirt fans have erratic taste (you have to separate the Korn/Linkin Park contingent from the Stooges/Sonic Youth one) but once you figure out who's who, they can be a great source of info on rockin' Aussie bands.

So, here's the only info page I could find for the Bites, though it doesn't really tell you much. To me, they sound like Australians who spent a lot of time listening to Flying Nun bands, and I see that they've supported The Bats on tour, which sort of furthers my theory. Their first album is called White Lines And Runways, and I'm afraid that you'll probably have to order it from Australia if you want to hear it. I like it a whole lot. Here's the first song (probably the catchiest on first listen) My Heart, Your Heart.

The Bites are subscribers to this somewhat ill-advised "No Bass" thing that's been sweeping the nation lately. I would have thought that Steve McDonald's "Redd Blood Cells" project would have been the nail in that movement's coffin (seeing as it's better than the original -- I'm afraid you'll probably have to hit the file sharing sites to get it at this point). I honestly think that the Bites would do well to switch one of their three guitar players to bass. Take Desert Island: when you have several lead guitar lines it's nice to have a bass anchoring things, and one of the guitars is basically playing a bass line anyway. Between the mid-fi recording quality and the sludge that one-too-many guitars can occasionally create, it took me a few extra listens to pick up on how great the album really is. The fact that the Bites have a pretty inventive, non-show-offy drummer helps offset these rhythm section problems a little bit.

Finally, here's the band's most Sonic Youth sounding moment called Summer Gnats. This really reminds me of SY circa the less melodic moments of Sister, though the Bites may be getting the influence via a local SY influenced band...the 3ds seem like a distinct possibility.

Other attractions include a chance to hear what Australians sound like singing in German (on one song), plus an interesting bonus piano demo for Desert Island. I'm thinking that this album is a solid and very interesting B+ and that they're a band to watch in a big way.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

 
Snow Day today.

As an alternative, may I suggest reading about this movie by Guy Maddin, which is going to make playing celebrity six degrees of separation a whole lot easier: Isabella Rossallini and Mark McKinney (Kids In The Hall) starring in a movie with Atom Egoyan as executive producer, based on a Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day) story, with a soundtrack by Christopher Dedrick (The Free Design). Good lord!! I saw Maddin's Careful recently, loved it, and am really looking forward to this one if it ever turns up.

I'll get to Ride tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

 
The Divine Comedy have a new album coming out soon, to be called Absent Friends. I remember reading, after their last release, that the band had broken up. I didn't really know what this meant, as I'd always thought of the band as Neil Hannon plus whomever. Apparently it means that he's going back to the sound of Promenade and Liberation -- pretty much all traces of the "Radiohead" production on Regeneration are gone.

I haven't had a chance to get very comfortable with Absent Friends yet, though I'll be honest and say that it's not thrilling me at this point. Possibly the problem is that I've been in an uptempo mood lately and Absent Friends is, for the most part, slowly paced. The one obvious exception (and the obvious choice for a single) is Come Home Billy Bird.

Most of the rest of the album sounds like it would be best enjoyed in front of a fire while sipping sherry. And unfortunately, I've been more in a "running around the park" mood, so I'm going to hold off on making a judgment until the record and I are more in sync. The other song that's struck me thus far is the sort-of-Country-Western Freedom Road, which seems to me to be a continuation of the Magnetic Fields' Charm of the Highway Strip concept (Neil is a big fan of Stephin Merritt, so the similarity isn't very surprising).

Finally, leading into tomorrow, here's the Divine Comedy covering Ride's Vapour Trail.

Monday, January 26, 2004

 
Continuing Friday's World of Skin feature

(I've checked the Swans discography a bunch of times, but if I got this wrong please let me know.)

So, as far as I can tell, the World of Skin album Ten Songs For Another World, which I love dearly, is only available in bits and pieces. Last Friday I posted a few songs that do appear (more-or-less) on the Various Failures collection which is still in print. Today are two songs that are only available on the original. First is I'll Go There, Take Me Home, which features hints of the old Swans sound peeking out around the edges of the acoustic guitar and Gira's tuneful singing. The other song is the album ending Mystery of Faith. Just as the first song on Ten Songs sounds like an intro, this one really strikes me as a "final song" as it repeats over and over during a long fade, with a vocal track persisting after the music has ended, followed by dogs barking. I used to have the vinyl of this, but I can't remember if the barking dogs was an infinite loop or not. If it wasn't, it really should have been. It also nicely echoes the album's cover photo.

Anyway, the point of all this was, sadly, to send people running for an out-of-print and (most likely) fairly expensive CD. Sorry about that. I know it's especially irritating given the existence of the Various Failures comp, but unfortunately I think Gira got it wrong by not reissuing the full album.

Friday, January 23, 2004

 
Michael Gira has said that he had to face up to financial constraints when he went about his Swans and Swans-related reissues. I can understand this, and I'm glad that a lot of these items are back in print, but some nice aspects of the albums did get lost.

My favorite record from the "Swans discover melody" era of the late 80's and early 90's is The World Of Skin's Ten Songs For Another World. A couple of tracks from this didn't make the compilation that reissues this period, but what actually bothers me the most is the fact that the original album was incredibly well-sequenced.

The first three songs from Ten Songs are available on the Various Failures reissue, but they pop up separately. On the original album, they really make a lot more sense. Song #1, Please Remember Me, and song #3, The Child's Right, sound pretty similar, which makes song #2, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, seem more like an interlude. And since that song teeters on the edge between beautiful and pretentiously silly (if you're going to enjoy M. Gira's music, you're going to have to learn to deal with this...it's worth the effort) I think it works much better as a transition. To my ears Please Remember Me just plain sounds like an album opener, what with the counting intro and the flock-of-birds outro. And I love the moment where the birds go silent and then there's one piano note before Jarboe starts singing. Finally, you can tell by the background noise, which overlaps the tracks, that song #2 and #3 go together.

Anyway, I'm hoping that you'll download all three songs and set your player to go straight from one track to the next without a pause. (Note: I haven't had time to compare, but I'm just about certain that the versions on Various Failures are different than the ones I'm posting here.)

On Monday I'll do more from this album, as it's one of my favorite records.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

 
Songs from 1984

To celebrate Chinese New Year, I have some songs that came out about twenty years ago. Wow, that makes me feel old.

Christmas (the band) are probably best known as 1. the group that Yo La Tengo's current bass player James McNew used to be in and 2. the group that turned into Combustible Edison. I wonder if anyone remembers the blurb in Spin about their first album In Excelsior Dayglo, which called it among the best debuts ever. That record still isn't out officially on CD (someone ought to do something about this...a re-release with a few bonus tracks would be nice). In the meantime, though, the nice folks at Hyped2Death have a couple of early Christmas singles on their Homework #9 compilation. The Homework series compiles hard-to-find indie-type releases that came out from 1979-1985 (Game Theory fans might want to know that #9 also includes one Alternate Learning song from the Painted Windows album). Here's Christmas doing a Boys Town Work Song that's somewhat different from the album version.

The Jazz Butcher's second album, A Scandal In Bohemia, also came out in 1984. If anyone wants to explain what Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present is about, I still want to know. Nothing else by the Jazz Butcher sounds remotely like this, to the best of my knowledge.

Finally, get funky with Sex Machine from the Flying Lizards' 1984 album Top Ten. I like this description (taken from a website that doesn't seem to work today):

'Top Ten' takes takes catchy and memorable songs and removes everything catchy and memorable from them whatsoever...David [Cunningham] seemed to listen carefully to each song he covered, decided what it was exactly that made it "special", then mathematically inverted that quality (he appropriately dedicated all the songs on 'Top Ten' to Johann Maelzel, inventor of the metronome).

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

 
Even though I was never a particularly avid fan of The Smiths (aside from The Queen Is Dead) today is hereby declared to be Morrissey day.

We start with the fact that I'm not going to buy Iams until he says it's ok to do so. Like Morrissey, I'm a somewhat pragmatic vegetarian (meaning I'm murdering an awful lot of meat on behalf of my cats) but there are a lot of pet food companies out there that don't test on animals, so bye bye Iams for now.

Also, it looks like a tribute to The Smiths is coming out next week (I kind of liked some of the sound clips).

Thirdly, a short (true) story:

Last year I was in a small bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn with my wife and a friend. Our friend met a friend of hers and they started chatting, which went on for a very long time. I got bored and started reading music biographies. So, I'm reading a bio of Morrissey (I can't remember which one, but I do know that it was published in the UK -- it had a price tag in pounds -- so I'm not sure how it wound up in Brooklyn) and this falls out of it:

My heart skipped a beat when I first read it, and it goes without saying that I stole the note (I probably should have bought the book as well, but I didn't have any money with me). Real? Fake? If you know, please tell me. I'm leaning strongly towards "fake" but hoping for "real." (The stains on the note are there because in my house, when we find something interesting, we make it a point to spill food on it as soon as possible.)

Lastly, in keeping with today's theme, here's a somewhat unnecessary cover of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, by the Divine Comedy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

 
I was watching Igby Goes Down again last night, and was happy to find that it holds up very well. The preppies/Long Island theme reminded me that I've been meaning to rerun my Laptop feature. I posted tracks from their wonderful Don't Try This At Home last year, but it was during the time when I foolishly thought that everyone could play AAC files. So, today is a repeat in a way.

My favorite songs from that album haven't changed, so again here's Want In and here's Back In The Picture. This album deserves way more attention than it's gotten thus far...I'm hoping that Jesse Hartman will manage to get one of the songs into a commercial or movie, which seems to be his best hope at this point (it worked for the Dandy Warhols). I was sort of shocked recently, while watching an absolutely terrible film called The New Guy, to hear Laptop's The New You playing during one scene, but I'd like to see them in something a little more appropriate. Hey Whit Stillman/Wes Anderson/Burr Steers...I've got the guy for you!

Unrelated Link: the site for BB Gun (the music zine put out by Bob Bert) has some neat stuff, inluding phone messages from various rock folk and some rarities by Mr. Bert's old bands (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, etc.). The 2004 issue #7 of BB Gun is interesting, though it often feels like a time warp back to the 80's.

Friday, January 16, 2004

 
I was in the midst of posting tracks from my 2003 top 10 when I got interrupted by computer problems. Two artists left.

Dizzee Rascal was just huge in England (articles all over the web about him) but I'm wondering if he'll have the same success in the US. When I first heard him, via the track I Luv U early in the year, I thought it was some sort of joke. It struck me as a collection of unpleasant noises, slathered in metallic reverb, and topped with an irritating vocal sample. Listened to it twice and forgot about it.

Then I kept reading about how England was going apeshit over him, so I got the album Boy In Da Corner to see what the fuss was about. Again, it sounded terrible to me. So terrible, in fact, that I decided there had to be something to it. I dealt with this the way I deal with most difficult albums: put it on my iPod and forced myself to listen to it over and over and over. And after about a week, I finally adjusted to the sound of the thing (which is pretty vastly different from just about anything else I've ever heard -- obviously I like guitar music primarily, but I have heard one or two hip-hop albums in my life) and decided that the Brits were right. Every time I put it on, it makes everything else (even recent things: Outkast, MF Doom, etc.) sound incredibly dated. Not sure that something so far ahead of the curve will catch on in the States, but we'll find out soon as the album comes out domestically this month (via Matador, who have videos etc. posted on their site).

The first song that really clicked for me was the single Fix Up, Look Sharp. Ok, and the embarrasing thing is that I think I initially took to it because it reminded me, on some level, of the Butthole Surfers' version of American Woman. I have this feeling that I may be the only person making that connection :)

Anyway, I especially love Dizzee's goofy voice, which is incredibly fun to imitate when no-one is around to hear. My cats could probably tell you a thing or two...more than once I've told them "It's probable I'll feed you, probably nevah!" But enough about that.

(Oh, also love the Dizzee line where he rhymes Tropicahna with banahna.)

Thursday, January 15, 2004

 
The day before yesterday I mentioned Enon, assuming that everyone knows what they sound like, but it doesn't seem overly cautious to post a couple songs of theirs. I wasn't a huge fan of their first album Believo, I've wasted some money on their vinyl singles, and last year's Hocus Pocus, while decent, broke no new ground, but their 2002 album High Society is wonderful. I'd also expect that any fan of Thou would be likely to enjoy Enon, and vice versa.

Here are some songs from High Society, showing the two sides (or at least the two main categories) of the Enon sound. First herky-jerky boy-rock with Pleasure and Privilege. Then girlectronica with Disposable Parts. And, finally, the two come together in Salty. I especially like the fact that they keep their songs short and to the point...you'd think that a band with so many influences going on might be tempted to stretch things out, so I'm glad they resisted that impulse.

BTW, prior to Hocus Pocus, Enon released a CD EP called In This City, and you might be tempted to pass on it as it doesn't contain anything earth-shatteringly important songs. I'd suggest, though, that it's really, really worth getting for the videos that it includes. The one for the song In This City, in particular, is amazing...it looks like a very high budget Japanese ad for cell phones or video games.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

 
I was planning on featuring Enon today, but several events have led me to postpone that for a day. One, I'm in kind of a bad mood after reading this incredibly annoying NY Times article "Shocker: NJ Teens Sighted In NYC." Especially annoying because Adam Fucking Schlesinger, the condescending prick from the Fountains of Wayne, is now being quoted as some sort of expert on the yearnings of New Jerseyites. This on top of the fact that, coincidentally, I had watched That Thing You Do this weekend so as to discover why it's necessary for every single article on FoW to mention at some point that Adam wrote the title [typically crappy pastiche] track, thereby wasting several hours of my weekend. Just to put this in perspective, the other movie I watched this weekend was Shock Treatment, which had somehow escaped my notice for the last twenty-something years, and That Thing You Do made Shock Treatment seem like a brilliant masterpiece with a sing-along soundtrack. (By the way, that Shock Treatment website is kind of touching in a sad way. I wish its author luck in turning the tide against the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he's got his work cut out for him.)

Anyway, three good things happened to make me forget all of that. One, my new turntable arrived in the mail without getting damaged. Two, I discovered yet another fabulous guitar-rawk band from Australia: Tumbleweed (who've been around for a while). And finally, a copy of Ghost's new album Hypnotic Underworld arrived in the mail.

Allmusic.com has a good write-up on Ghost, so I won't do a band history. Basically, Ghost do a variety of things: Pink Floyd, Krautrock, folk, folk-psych, ancient Japanese cave chants, etc. That sort of combination is hard to get a handle on in one day, but I've tried to listen to Hypnotic Underworld a bunch, and it this point I'm thinking that this is their best release yet. I'd quibble a bit with the track order: it starts with a couple of very space-jazzy instrumental tracks, before hitting Aramaic Barbarous Dawn, which you can hear on Drag City's site here.

There's nothing at all wrong with those first two songs, but I probably would have scheduled them later in the album. That aside, this is sounding like a classic to me. It's not, however, the kind of CD that really lends itself to a quick listen while you're sitting in the office. With that in mind, I'm posting only one track that I've ripped at a higher than usual resolution. I'm hoping you'll either listen to it on a good stereo or on headphones. But that's up to you. Here's my current favorite song Kiseichukan Nite. To me it sounds a little bit like a more organic version of Can's One More Night. I don't know what "Kiseichukan" means, but I wonder if there's any connection. [As I think about it, I'm guessing that "Kiseichukan" does not mean anything like "One More" and I probably shouldn't take wild guesses about the meaning of Japanese words just because a German band once employed a Japanese singer.]

Monday, January 12, 2004

 
Oh Brother! Where Art Thou?

Belgian band Thou popped onto the radar in 2001 on the now-defunct, Belgian financed but US based See Thru Broadcasting label, probably best known as the home of Enon's first full length Believo. Here's an article that will tell you all about why See Thru Broadcasting was going to succeed. Sigh. I picked Thou's US debut, Put Us In Tune, as my favorite album of 2001, and I continue to stand by that choice. Anticipating Enon's High Society album, Put Us In Tune split between electronica-influenced guitar rock and trip-hoppy pop, with the former generally sung by the boy (Bart Vincent) and the latter by the girl (Does De Wolf). There's no way to prove it, but I've always wondered if Enon got the idea for their High Society rock/electronica boy/girl split from Thou.

Here are two songs from Put Us In Tune. First, my favorite song, Amuse. And here's Calling Me, to show off the band's other side. I was surprised that the album didn't make a bigger splash, especially given that it was constructed atop leftover Portishead backing tracks (Thou are friends with the Portishead gang)...I thought that would be enough of a public relations hook to get it more notice.

Anyway, See Thru Boadcasting is no longer with us, Enon made a big splash on a different label with the great High Society album, and Thou disappeared. Except they're still going strong in Belgium. In 2002 they put out Elvis or Betty Boop, and lord was it hard to get a copy of that, though I think the band have since gotten their act together slightly as far as filling foreign orders. I'll post tracks from it another day, but it's very nice. I'd rank Put Us In Tune slightly higher due to (hate to say this) the fantastic rhythm tracks. Too bad Portishead can't make a career of feeding their extras to Thou.

Prior to Put Us In Tune, Thou had an EP and a full-length that are really, really hard to find if you don't live in Belgium. I have the full-length, Hello In This Sun, and it's promising but fails to gell. Again, I'll do a Thou day at some point and put up some of the better tracks from this one. I still haven't managed to get ahold of the EP, Une Poupee Pour M'Amuser, but I suspect that it's not fully formed either.

Just the other day, I noticed that Thou have yet another album coming out without any international fanfare. Their website is currently under construction, but features a link to a new single, I Won't Go To Nashville from a forthcoming album to be called I Like Girls In Russia (Um, Thou, you might want to take google searching into account when you name your albums). I like the single well enough, but it doesn't amaze me. It does sound good enough that I'm hoping the new album won't be too difficult to find. [After a few days, this song is really growning on me. I was initially put off a bit by the Raveonettes aspect of the main surf-guitar riff, but the song does so much more than that that I'm getting over it. - MB 1/15]

 
Hmmm, the little blinking light that indicates that my broadband isn't working is temporarily not blinking, and I've managed to upload two songs. Hooray!

So, the Undertones. Presumably you know all about them, and if you don't you can read their history elsewhere. The band (minus their original lead singer Feargal Sharkey) reunited in 2003 and released an album called Get What You Need. You'd expect that such an after-the-fact effort would be a big mistake, but in fact it's pretty much on par with their first three albums. I'm not sure I know of another act that's taken such a long break and then managed to put out such a good reunion album. The fact that they reunited without their original lead singer, who had an extremely distinctive voice, makes this even more amazing.

Also unusual: the CD ends stronger than it begins, with the last four songs being especially great. Here's track number ten, Oh Please, and here's the final song Shut Down.

Anyway, what a nice surprise. The CD comes with a handful of bonus demos (none of which are life altering), a video, and assorted other doo-dads.

The cable company is due tomorrow to fix my broadband, so things are looking up for this week.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

 
So it turns out it wasn't AOL causing trouble, it was the damn cable company. And it's still causing trouble. I only have an intermittant connection, so updates to this site are doubtful until January 13th.

I'm currently listening a lot to Ride's Peel Sessions album (don't believe everything the reviewer says...Carnival of Light is ridiculously underrated), as well as last year's new Undertones album. I swear to you that the latter, despite the absence of original (very distinctive) singer Feargal Sharkey, is pretty fab. It helps that Feargal wasn't the songwriter.

Unless things improve on their own, see you next week.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

 
I'm posting my top ten of 2003 today, though I'm still catching up with a huge number of worthwhile albums that didn't get much play on the internet (I think that for 2004 I'm going to go back to getting my music info from printed publications...sorry but the internet seemed strangely homogenized last year. White Stripes/Outkast indeed.) As of today, the list is:

1. Magic Dirt - Tough Love
2. The 88 - Kind of Light
3. Clear Horizon - Clear Horizon
4. KaitO UK - Band Red
5. Tegan & Sara - If It Was You*
6. MF Doom - Viktor Vaughn Vaudeville Villain
7. Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
8. Laptop - Don't Try This At Home
9. Lilys - Precollection
10.Joy Zipper - American Whip**

*This originally came out in 2002, but was reissued in the US in 2003 and that's when I heard it for the first time.

**It's confirmed that the 2004 release of this album will differ somewhat from the promo (due to remixing...also the song Alzheimers will lose most of the dialog in the background) so I'm counting the promo as a 2003 release.

Of those ten, I've posted tracks here for all but three of the groups, so I'll take care of those three this week. Clear Horizon is a collaboration between Flying Saucer Attack's David Pearce and solo artist Jessica Bailiff (who was basically carrying the FSA torch already). It's possibly the best thing either has done to date. It has more consistent songwriting than most FSA albums, and has better atmospherics than Jessica's solo stuff. Here's Watching The Sea, sung by Jessica. And here's A Child's Eyes, sung by David (it begins very quietly, so be patient). The two apparently intend to keep working together, and I'm extremely happy with this turn of events.

I've never hung out in a bar with David Pearce, but here's his list of favorite albums.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

 
I've decided to keep today's post short and to the point, as everytime I try to explain about the Daughters of Albion I get carried away. Here's the deal: it's never been released on CD, it's from 1968, and it's brilliant. The cover probably scares people away:


(Oooh, scary hippies)

Actually it sounds something like an attempt to create an American Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. My two favorite songs are Well Wired (someone had fun mixing this) and the fairly bizarre year-in-review track 1968 John Flip Lockup. The rest of the album is great, though these two are the songs with the most dramatic production.

Best of all, if you have a turntable you can probably score a good copy of this for no more than $15.00. I'm not sure why it's so cheap, nor do I know why it's not on CD when it seems obvious that a fair number of people would love it.

Someone seems to be constructing a website for band members Greg Dempsey and Kathy Yesse here.

Monday, January 05, 2004

 
[Sorry to be so late today...having a lot of trouble getting the mp3s to work...AOL behaving very strangely...they're working now, so I hope it stays that way.]

I feature another problematic band today, Poem Rocket. To the best of my knowledge, the number of groups who 1. use dissonant guitars 2. in reasonably catchy songs 3. with decent production 4. and aren't goth/industrial/too arty is very small. Poem Rocket often fall slightly afoul of #2 (underwritten songs), #3 (some lo-fi items) and #4 (too arty, especially with the vocals), but I'm willing to overlook these lapses for several reasons. One, there aren't many people doing what they do, so I'm grateful for what's available. And two, when everything goes right they can be fantastic.

Supposedly they have a double album coming out this year, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to cherry-pick a handful of good songs from it. Their last release was on Atavistic and it's called Psychogeography. It's an uneven album with high points and low points. None of it is actually bad, but there are several songs (especially a dubious Fall homage called Hip Pharmacy) that may have you reaching for the skip button.

Smack dab in the middle of the record, though, there's a great one-two punch. First song is Crappy Payphone Song, which is funnier and more interesting than Sonic Youth's payphone song (Providence from Daydream Nation). And it leads right into Karel Appel which has a wonderfully simple guitar hook and one of the stranger choruses I've found myself singing in the shower ("COBRA, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amesterdam!").

I spent so much time fighting with AOL today that that's it for now. There's an unreleased Poem Rocket track that's pretty good here, if you want to hear more.

Friday, January 02, 2004

 
Eh, I felt the urge to restart today. I'm not going to post songs, but here's a link to a free ep by the Silly Pillows, a problematic band with a connection to Linda Smith (she's sung for them on occasion). Problematic because they feature some sporadically good 60's-derived songwriting, but they're so twee and nerdy and amateurish (all of which have gone more-or-less out of style since their heyday) that they can be kind of hard to deal with. Nonetheless, lead Pillow Jonathan Caws-Elwitt occasionally comes up with a chord progression that can't be argued with, and the ep contains at least one: the jangly I Remember Everything. For anyone interested in investigating further, I can recommend the songs When She Gets Home and Strangest of the Strange, but you might have to wade through some dross to get to them.

In related news, I wonder if people are aware that several issues of the great Caught In Flux and the related Writers Block are posted on the net now. I spent an awful lot of time listening to their author, Mike Appelstein, when he was a dj at a local college station. The zines make for a neat snapshot of indie-rock during the 90's. If anyone reading this knows Mike, please give him my heartfelt gratitude for introducing me to any number of great bands, and please beg him to get the rest of his CIF/WB issues up on the net.

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