Sunday, July 31, 2005

 
I've never been so embarrassed. I'm sure most of you have read the piece that I wrote on Sally Crewe last week, and the subsequent correction. It turns out that I was horribly mistaken with reference to the photos I posted that were supposed to be of Gerard Cosloy.

What finally cleared things up is that Gerard IM'd me (he's "murderjunkyboy133" in case you ever want to chat with him) and we kind of hashed things out. It turns out that at a very critical moment during "Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King" I was in the kitchen making a peanut butter sandwich, and thus I missed a very important plot point that completely altered my understanding of the film. Gerard was really nice about the whole thing, and even added me to his friendster list, so there's a happy ending.

Anyway, this is what he really looks like, and I am so, so sorry for screwing this up so badly.

I plan to take August off, for the most part, to concentrate on some non-musical projects. I should be back in September, though I kind of plan to pull the plug on Mystical Beast on its two year anniversary (in Rocktober, I think). That seems like a decent run.

We finish July with one song from an album called Monarchs by Jad Fair (an early solo album that includes some help from Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It got reissued on CD several years ago, though where to buy it now I could not say) and one bonus track from an Annette Peacock reissue (as per a request). And you know what. I've posted Things I Noticed by Love Child before, but I was just listening to it again the other day and I really do think its greatness is somewhat overlooked. Maybe because it was a Will Baum song (Will = not the sexy one and not the noisy one)? I have this feeling that if it had been released as a one-off single by some unknown band in the late 70's, it would be a complete collector's item, but maybe I'm wrong. It's just so frickin' tightly put together, almost like a twee-geek version of Wire or something.

All Shook Up by Jad Fair
What's It Like In Your Dreams by Annette Peacock
Things I Noticed by Love Child

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 
Three Covers Three: The Moonbabies, Snow & Voices, David Bowie

During the first week after my knee operation I couldn't concentrate well enough to follow anything with a plot, so I spent a lot of time reading The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg, a totally geektastic work that gives details on just about every Bowie song, album, concert and video through 'hours...' Very well-written, open-minded, and ludicrously well-researched, it's one of the best guides to an artist that I've ever seen.

Reading it inspired me to go over some of the Bowie nooks and crannies that I've missed. One big one was his Pin Ups album. I have an occasional bad habit of deciding that certain records aren't worth listening to, and for some reason I decided long ago that I felt that way about Pin Ups. I think I was expecting an album full of things that sounded somewhat thin along the lines of the live Ziggy Stardust record (which I don't hate, but it didn't seem hugely appealing either). Anyway, I was totally wrong, especially with regards to sound/arrangement quality. Among my favorite tracks is the cover of See Emily Play. Actually, most covers of early Floyd that I've heard have been pretty good. The songwriting is so quirky that it's pretty hard to ruin.

The Moonbabies tackle Arnold Layne on a recent EP on Parasol called War On Sound. I have a feeling that they could ultimately be the band that puts Parasol on the map (the *big* map, that is) but time will tell. As it is, they're the closest thing I know of to my beloved Thou: boy, girl, pop melodies, guitars, electronics. Yum.

Finally, a pseudo-band called Snow & Voices have a recent self-titled album (also available from Parasol) that might interest some. It's a little lacking in distinctive features, but does sport smooth female vocals and warm guitar/classy synth backgrounds that would work well at your next brunch. The highlight for me is a lovely cover of Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way, a great song that's a little too familiar in its original version. If I wrote for The Believer I might declare Snow & Voices the Best Album Ever (which it isn't, but it's easy to listen to and generally inoffensive).

See Emily Play by David Bowie
Arnold Layne by The Moonbabies
Go Your Own Way by Snow & Voices

Monday, July 25, 2005

 
It's not just about Nono

Dad came in for a visit and continued our education in "20th Century classical with an emphasis on things that would appeal to a rock loving ignoramus." The piece he wanted me to hear this time is kind of the "I Saw Her Standing There" of this sort of thing, apparently, and it's conveniently pop-song length. This is "Iron Foundry" by Soviet composer Alexander Mosolov, in which he anticipates Pussy Galore's sheet metal percussion by a few years. It reminds me a bit (inevitably) of cartoon music, and I wonder if it's ever been used as such. Also seems to predict minimalism in some ways (I got that from Wikipedia, but agree completely). The noisy part near the end is pretty amazing.

Another version of the piece plus info and some interesting semi-related items can be found here. The version I'm posting can be found here.

Iron Foundry by Alexander Mosolov

Thursday, July 21, 2005

 
The music column in some copies of Mystical Beast yesterday carried an incorrect caption for a photograph and an incorrect quotation. It appears that Gerard Cosloy, well known non-founder of Matador Records, did not say, "If I could find a spunky white chick who had the negro sound and the negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. Also, the gentleman in the photo that topped the piece was mis-identified as Gerard Cosloy. A current photo of Gerard Cosloy is appended. Mystical Beast regrets the errors.


Love Me Tender by Annette Peacock

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

 

Above, Sally Crewe and husband Gerard Cosloy contemplate her next move

Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves
"Shortly After Take-Off"
Rating: 3 out of 5 Scruffy Cats

We pretty much hate power pop around here. Like to call Fountains of Wayne "the joke-us from ho-ho-kus" which always gets a laugh before we unload one of their promos on some sucker. Don't listen to any Big Star except for the third one, and that's just 'cause we thought it was some of that fancy European porn when we bought it. We're the wrong people to review a gal described thusly: "If Sally Crewe hadn't happened, Nick Hornby would've invented her." She loves to sing about cars, and since we love not listening to songs about cars, things got off to a bad start.

We do, however, kind of like one mp3 we downloaded by Mrs. Crewe and it was free, which meant we had a buck left to give to the toothless creep over on St. Marks who feeds us all our baseball gossip. This is Good Morning, Aston Martin. We think it's about the guy who married Demi Moore, but we're not sure why Sally changed his last name. Damn lawyers. It reminds us of a Game Theory song, but we're pretty sure Sally's never heard that band as rumor has it her husband won't allow Scott Miller music under his roof.

If we had to choose a favorite group that likes to sing about appliances, our vote would go to the currently in-the-shop Beachbuggy. But while they're up on blocks, Sally Crewe will do as this year's model. If we hadn't written it, Nick Hornby would have had to invent that last sentence. We're still waiting for a decent band that sings songs about nothing but sea kayaks.

Good Morning, Aston Martin by Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves
Quarter Mile Machine by Beachbuggy

ALL BACK ISSUES OF MYSTICAL BEAST ARE SOLD OUT, SO DON'T EVEN ASK. OK?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

 
For all your Mold needs

[continued from yesterday]...but that's not all they could do. Here's another unreleased track that draws some interesting lines between post-Children of God Swans and the post-rock crowd e.g. Sigur Ros, etc. This is Sleepwalker. First half is very close to a Jarboe track, then with three minutes left a pretty wonderful instrumental bit takes over. Some might also call it Pink Floyd for the 90's. I like this muchly.

Pretty much all the info you're going to find on Mold online is located in this post from a few months ago. How sad that I seem to be the only online teller of the tale.

Like I mentioned, I watched every movie ever made during the first week post-surgery back in June. One of the weirder moments came while watching a French film. Middle aged protaginist walks into a bar off the highway to get yet another drink. It's in France, we should be clear, and it's not a rock 'n' roll movie. And I'm thinking that the song in the bar is awfully familiar. It's...it's...it's...The Warlocks!? I might have known of this by reading about it online, but I hadn't and thus didn't miss a really surreal moment of sudden recognition.

They have a new album out (leaked) that I've not heard yet. I went back to some of their older stuff and confirmed that Shake The Dope Out remains a pretty great cross between the Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. (To some of you that's going to sound like I'm saying it's a cross between crap and crap...I am not a party to your twisted hate.) Imagine the Warhols' Boys Better with an actual chorus, and as a bonus it turns (somewhat) into the Modern Lovers' Roadrunner near the end. Hurrah!

Sleepwalker by Mold
Shake The Dope Out by The Warlocks

Monday, July 18, 2005

 
This Song by a Band With a Forgettable Name Did Not Change Your Life

I woke up at 4:00am this morning, full of dream logic conviction that this was the instant that the Angel of Indierock4eva throws open the door-sans-lambsblood and breaths death upon the day's victim. I thought of getting up and sitting at the computer and clicking refresh over and over, so I could witness the moment. Does it happen at daybreak, or after the family has left the house. Does the Angel make mistakes? Is a victim ever returned bloodied and bruised to its shocked parents, thanks to a misinterpreted double-irony? A more suitable victim?

A Duchamp follower if there ever was, the Angel brought us the dubious gift of criticism as readymade. I fell back asleep and half-dreamt that centuries had passed and all that remained of mankind was an internet replete with a series of signs that said, "Look at that, isn't it?..." with addresses at the bottom for forwarding mail.

Not at all, said my neighbor. The trouble is that they're so quarrelsome. As soon as anyone arrives he settles in some street. Before he's been there twenty-four hours he quarrels with his neighbor. Before the week is out he's quarreled so badly that he decides to move...You see, it's easy here. You've only got to think a house and there it is. That's how the town keeps on growing. -- C.S. Lewis

Time To Go by Mold didn't change anyone's life, largely because nobody outside of the band and friends heard it. Mold was a band from 90's New York that had one "hit" as they say over at WFMU, where hits are based on consensus rather than sales figures. If Time To Go had appeared just post-climax on the soundtrack to a film based on a Rick Moody novel, it's just possible that millions of people might associate it with a sad sense of missed opportunities. Instead, millions of people haven't hard it and never will. Along with this, there's a full album that you'll probably never hear as it was mixed wrong, with the master tapes then thrown out by a now-defunct studio.

Would Time To Go have changed anything? Who knows. It seems sewn from the right cloth: simple guitar beginning, lyrics about departing, band enters on second verse, swell as we hit the chorus, last lyrics over guitar, cut. Worse songs have turned up on any number of break-up mixtapes. It reminds me of Bongwater in one of their more serious moments. It reminds my wife of Mazzy Star. By next year, no one will remember this piece, this blog will be gone, and it'll be forgotten again.

Time To Go by Mold

Friday, July 15, 2005

 
Busy week, this one was. The next will suffer.

Coming up on two years posting and I haven't put up a single song by The Grateful Dead. Today we fix that. Here's the folk/psych duo Fit & Limo with a nice sitar et acoustica take on Dark Star. It's from their CD The Serpent Unrolled.

I'm not quite into post-Incredible String Bandia enough to have followed up on Fit & Limo, aside from The Serpent Unrolled, but my sense is that they're worth checking out. I do know that they're not always gentle and folksy, having once bought another of their albums (That Totally Tore My Head Off) for a friend who discovered that Flying Saucer Attack/J&MC figures into that one. I guess the title was a clue, eh?

Info here. They're not as hippy-drippy as the website's name might imply.

In other news, Dusted has a review up on the Lee Miller album that I've been going on about.

Dark Star by Fit & Limo

Thursday, July 14, 2005

 
Forgive my narcissism, but today marks the 2nd time I've seen myself quoted in an eBay auction. I feel so authoritative (even if they spelled my name wrong).

Incidentally, it's a comment on an old post so some of you might not have seen it, but a member of Rat At Rat R popped by to say hello recently. Send him some encouragement...that first album needs to be on CD badly. I'm working on a piece on their 2nd album as we speak.

 
Bratmobile with There's No Other Way

This is probably the best cover version I've ever heard. I wouldn't throw the original out of bed, but where Bratmobile are tight and focused, Blur are sloppy, repetitive and enervated. Bratmobile cut the song down to its essential one minute and add an inspired opening in which Graham Coxon's noodly guitar work is replaced by a lovely a capella vocal. While Damon sounds sleepy and bored as he drones on, Allison Wolfe's passionate delivery makes it clear that there really is no other way. She sounds like a woman at the end of her rope. Her feelings of helplessness are palpable. Torn by regret, love and disappointment, she has no time to repeat choruses or dabble on a keyboard. The sense of urgency is emphasized by a ragged guitar part that cuts to the bone, especially noteworthy as it crests from :55 through :57 of the song. Bratmobile's There's No Other Way retrieves the lost emotional core of the Blur track, and often after listening to it I find myself curled into the fetal position, crying and hugging my cat.

There's No Other Way by Bratmobile

 

Magic Dirt Video

Hey, there's a video for the first single from the forthcoming Magic Dirt album. View it here.

Ok, some explanation is in order. You know how you keep buying Sonic Youth albums even though they haven't done anything worthwhile since [fill in the blank].

So my situation with Magic Dirt is similar. They put out some incredible stuff before going for the gold in Australia. As best I can tell, they've done well for themselves there. Over their past three releases they've gotten awfully, awfully, awfully mainstream, to the point where their new fans would probably be very surprised to hear their early material. So they're not really the group I used to love, but somehow I still manage to enjoy their albums. There are tiny flashes of their old guitar sound and it's all very nicely put together in a hard rock top 40 way. Adalita and Co. look great in the new video. Like Rockstars. (And they still release the odd b-side from time to time that harks back to the old days.)

So, you know, I'm happy for them. Indulge me. You don't have to watch the video unless you're already invested. I have no doubt that under certain circumstances (probably involving beer or a car) Locket could be the greatest song on earth.

[Fans of US hard rock/power pop may actually quite like this. I'm still not clear on why Magic Dirt get, like, no attention whatsoever in the US.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

 
Keep him far, far away from Marianne Nowottny

First slam on the Bullette album appears. I'm surprised it took so long. For a large number of people (a number at least equal to the size of Arcade Fire's fanbase) this review is completely spot-on, so don't look to me for dissent.

Monika has a new mp3 up at her website (cover of a Cole Porter song). It's really awful, so don't download it.

 
So, just finishing up with Bleach today. You can buy their most recent album here. I've done so, and shipping was fast etc. You still have to go through Paypal, but it's not particularly inconvenient...and it's much cheaper than mail ordering from Japan.

When I first heard Shikai No Haba (posted yesterday) years ago, I'd thought there was no way they'd ever top its spazzy godlike bizarro-ness. But surprisingly there are several tracks on the new album that, while constructed completely differently, deliver the same "what the fuck was that" experience. And the rest of the CD is no slouch. In some ways it might be a good intro to the band, as the first half is a little more subdued (that's a relative term here).

As a sampler of the less-subdued stuff, here's Howling. It's got the usual stops-starts, twists-turns, screaming, etc. but (also as usual) is really tightly put together. Also features an actual catchy chorus that pushes into the red at a point when you thought things were already in the red. You were wrong. I don't really know what the right term is for this stuff. Post-hardcore prog pop? It sure isn't noise.

As a special bonus, here's the video mentioned yesterday. It's a small file/small picture and Windows Media (sorry), but gets the point across. No rollerskates.

They actually play the US fairly frequently, and I've managed to miss every single one of their New York shows, which is one of the great tragedies of my life. Keep an eye out, as I've read (and believe) that they're incredible live.

Howling by Bleach03
Video by Bleachmobile

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

 

Compilations part 6: Japan Nite Sound Sampler 2001

This is a surprisingly strong compilation of a number of diverse-sounding bands from Japan, put together by some sort of foundation dedicated to raising the profile of Japanese artists in America. There's a series of Japan Nite samplers, none of which are for sale. They turn up on eBay reasonably often, and never seem to cost too much.

As far as I know, the most successful band from this particular CD in the US thus far is Petty Booka, who perform mostly low-key cover versions. They got a US CD release in 2003 called Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian that compiles a bunch of their stuff. I remember being extremely surprised to see that at J&R Music World. Here's their version of I Wanna Be Your Boy Friend. Discography, video, and more mp3s can be found here.

More than one person I know holds the opinion that it's not real Japanese pop music unless a girl with a cutesy voice, wearing rollerskates and dressed like a cheerleader, is singing about bananas. For others who feel the same, here's Mummy The Peep Show with Kick Off! Not sure about current info, but they have several English sites (which look old) and this one seems like a decent place to start. I'm ever so slightly curious about their cover of This Charming Man. Quote from website: "MTP has a sense to select their cover songs. Their choise for this album was THE SMITH! "This Charming Man"!!"

Ok.

The real reason I hold this compilation so dear is that introduced me to the Japanese band Bleach, subsequently known as Bleachmobile, subsequently known as Bleach03 (damn Christian band Bleach!). I've posted tracks by them before, but I still think they're absolutely incredible and strangely overlooked in the US. The good news is that as Bleach03 they finally have a US label after all these years. More on that in a bit.

By Bleach, here's Shikai No Haba which is one of two songs by them on this Japan Nite CD. [I guess you could say it's my mission to make sure that every man, woman, and child in America hears this song.] One of the only outright stupid comments I've ever gotten since the start of Mystical Beast was from someone who called it just a lot of screaming and yelling and noise. It's a pop song for Christ's sake! (A pop song with a lot of screaming and yelling and noise. It's also got a very beautiful and surprisingly melodic guitar break, so I hope you'll give it a chance.) I was so happy to see that someone else out there in Internet land recognizes Bleach for the popsters that they really are.

That song can also be found on a CD called Three Girls From Okinawa, which came out in England on a subsidiary of the Cherry Red label. That CD also includes a pretty great video of the band, lead singer in kitty-ears-hat and all, making huge amounts of noise in a studio somewhere. For whatever reason, though, the sound on Japan Nite is better. Or maybe it's just louder...it's hard to tell.

The other Bleach track from the Japan Nite compilation isn't quite as mind blowing as Shikai No Haba, partly because its bass part is somewhat more subdued, and partly because it only sounds like two songs being played at the same time (instead of three) but it's pretty great as well. Here's Otoko Ichokusen, which comes from an early single. I sometimes wonder if it might be possible to convert System Of A Down fans to this. (Oh, wait, I am a System Of A Down fan.) As with Shikai No Haba, Otoko Ichokusen unexpectedly breaks into a normal-tempo melody at one point.

I'll have a bit on their new US CD in a day or so. They played at SXSW this year, you know, not that anyone much seemed to care enough to write about it.

I Wanna Be Your Boy Friend by Petty Booka
Kick Off! by Mummy The Peep Show
Shikai No Haba by Bleach
Otoko Ichokusen by Bleach

Monday, July 11, 2005

 

Compilations part 5: Freedom of Choice - Yesterday's New Wave Hits As Performed by Today's Stars

Talk about a mismatch.

This compilation came out on Caroline Records in 1992, with all proceeds to be donated to Planned Parenthood. The list of artists is a bit of a who's who of late 80's/early 90's indie: Sonic Youth, Muffs, Redd Kross, Tiny Lights, Mudhoney,Yo La Tengo, The Connells, Big Dipper, Polvo, Hypnolovewheel, Superchunk, etc. The song selection is fine, with items by the Go Go's, Missing Persons, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Soft Cell, Flock of Seagulls, Blondie, Kate Bush, Split Enz, Pete Shelley, Wall of Voodoo, Adam & The Ants, The Human League, B-52's, Devo, etc. And not one single track on this CD comes remotely close to equaling (bettering is out of the question) the original. Well, maybe one.

Sad, 'cause it was a nice idea.

So anyway, "le blah blah blah can't sing sloppy drummer out of tune can't sing too serious not serious enough lousy production." I think that gets us through to the first halfway decent track, #13 where we find Big Dipper covering Homosapien by ex-Buzzcock Pete Shelley. You know, Big Dipper sound great on every compilation (that I own) that they appear on. I should probably stop ignoring their albums.

Following that, there are a couple of reasonably credible efforts. Polvo don't ruin Mexican Radio (surprising, as the two bands would seem to have little in common) and ditto for Superchunk's Girl U Want which gets by on manic energy.

In between though, we have to suffer through Chia Pet doing something horrible to Don't You Want Me Baby (for the younger readers, Chia Pet was the house band for the legendary Sassy magazine. I have the feeling that some horrible deal with Satan explains their presence here. That's Jane Pratt, of Jane Magazine, on lead violin. Kramer produced this, though I don't think he was ever featured in "Cute Band Alert." Hey, maybe I missed an issue and he was).

In truth, you'd get a much better compilation by simply assembling the original tracks that get covered here, or by just picking up a few of those Sedated in the 80's collections.

It occurs to me that one major omission (among many) is The Vapors. I have a feeling that the organizers of this album could have found somebody who could do something with Trains from the first Vapors album. Here's that, which I've posted before. I don't want to say it's better than Turning Japanese, but let's say it's better than Turning Japanese for someone who heard Turning Japanese several million times while growing up.

To make up for even mentioning Chia Pet, here's Big Dipper with Lou Gehrigs's Disease, which is just about definitely the best track from the None Whatsoever compilation on Vacant Lot records from c.1987. I don't think that came out on CD, but I'm not 100% sure. I'm not familiar with all the ins and outs of Big Dipper's catalog, so I'm not sure if this track ever turned up on CD, though it's good enough that I'd expect (hope) that it did.

Today's post would probably go well with this one from Vinyl Mine (on the Volcano Suns, related to Big Dipper) and this one from A Million Miles Away (which featured one track that I'm featuring, but oh well).

Homosapien by Big Dipper (Pete Shelley cover)
Lou Gehrigs's Disease by Big Dipper
Girl U Want by Superchunk (Devo cover)
Trains by The Vapors

Sunday, July 10, 2005

 
Mais pourquoi est-il si méchant?

The real Monday post will be up soon. I try not to use this blog for non-musical things, but make exceptions occasionally. Do I have any readers in the NYC area who know of any stores that still sell Orangina Rouge? I've been craving it like crazy lately, and it seems to have vanished from Brooklyn. So evil to introduce something so wonderful, then take it away.

Friday, July 08, 2005

 

Mouse Explosion

Someone else will have to do a full piece on Exploding White Mice, but during my recent weeks off I did manage to find a copy of their Blaze of Glory 7" single (referenced in this piece a few weeks ago).

So, the b-side is a cover of John Kongos' He's Gonna Step On You Again. Not amazing, but not bad, and here it is. I like the multi-guitars, which are slightly Band of Susans-esque, but the vocals need more oomph or something. The original is pretty much perfect, so there wasn't much room for improvement. It's certainly a step up from the Happy Mondays' desecration.

Here's the original for anyone who doesn't own it and/or missed it the first time I posted it. If you don't know who any of these people are, John Kongos managed a couple of pretty amazing pseudo-glam-rock tracks on his Kongos album, the rest of which is good-to-great singer/songwriter stuff a la Billy Joel or Elton John. He never really followed up the sound of his glammier tracks. Too bad.

He's Gonna Step On You Again by Exploding White Mice
He's Gonna Step On You Again by John Kongos

Thursday, July 07, 2005

 
Operating via dial up today, and the cable guy isn't due until tomorrow afternoon. Rather than kill myself trying to upload over the telephone line, I refer you to this spot, where you can find some nice Flying Nun related stuff, including the Pop Art Toasters.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

 

Vodka: more Jenny Wade! (Part one in a series on bands who were never sexually harassed by Bob Guccione Jr.)

So, Jenny Wade came up in a recent piece on the early 90's band Timber. Jenny is known to many as the lead singer of Rude Buddha (not the current Rude Buddha...an older band). A friend of mine had a crush on her, and thusly I heard their records long, long ago but I'll be damned if I can remember thing one about them. Anyone want to do a Rude Buddha piece someday?

Anyway, after that and after Timber, Jenny was in a band called Vodka who are, shall we say, underrepresented on the internet these days. Neither fantastic nor terrible, they have a handful of songs worth preserving and their full-length CD is well worth plucking from the dollar bin. Also, the family tree is interesting.

The group was made up of Jenny on bass and vocals, Greg Talenfeld on guitar, Bob Bannister on guitar and keyboards, and Celia Farber on drums.

Jenny is apparently essentially retired from the music biz. Greg Talenfeld would go on to be a producer of note. Bob Bannister is a well respected guitar player around town. Celia Farber is a journalist, like her dad.

Vodka strike me as the sort of band who might easily have ended up working with Kramer. I'd locate them in the same general wing of the Museum of 90's Rock that holds Mold, Lida Husik and Bongwater (musically, not lyrically), among others. Whisps of psychedelia flutter around the edges of 60's-inspired but 90's-sounding well-produced guitar pop/rock. When they try to get less melodic and more jagged the going gets tough, but a handful of tracks with repetitive verses building to a semi-anthemic chorus work really well.

A song called Christmas from their King Jesus EP was either rerecorded or remastered (I'm not sure which) for their full length She's My Dream as XMAS, and it's probably the best thing they did.

I didn't like it initially, but the title track from She's My Dream ended up growing on me a lot. Here's that. I should probably insert a note here that Jenny Wade's voice is kinda unusual and quavery. I suspect it's a like-it or hate-it proposition. I like it.

Another favorite is Martin Luther (Green & Pink & Blue) on which Celia Farber sings. Again with the anthemic chorus. I keep thinking that Celia would have been well-suited to sing Reflex as well. Just a hunch.

For more of the Farber singing voice, you might want to check out her sister Bibi Farber's website. My favorite thing from that is this wonderful picture:

That's Bibi smiling radiantly in the center as Celia looks on from the margin. Photo taken by Ulla Farber. Some might say it explains a lot, though I personally don't subscribe to crackpot conspiracy theories.

XMAS by Vodka
She's My Dream by Vodka
Martin Luther (Green & Pink & Blue) by Vodka
Reflex by Vodka

Saturday, July 02, 2005

 
More reasons to envy Sweden

Good god! 18th Dye have a reunion concert planned in August? In Sweden? Website. This is kind of huge news, not that it really does me much good. I wonder how one gets ahold of the Peel Sessions.

Can U Wink (Demo) by 18th Dye

 
Weekend Update

I guess weekends are when I tidy up various loose ends.

There's a nice article in the LA Times on mp3 blogs, written by Douglas Wolk who (unlike a number of the early newspaper writers on mp3 blogs) knows what he's talking about such that the article actually has something to say beyond, "There's these mp3 blogs, y'all." And I'm not just saying that because he was nice enough to link to me.

In his honor, here's God Is My Co-Pilot with I Fuck Who I Want To (Slut). It's not all about Frank Sinatra 'round here, newcomers.

[Just so this isn't misinterpreted, Douglas is very fond of God Is My Co-Pilot and that track happened to pop up in iPod shuffle mode recently.]

Moving on, the Lee Miller album that I enthusiastically reviewed back in April has happily become available for sale from Aquarius which, despite the fact that I've never set foot inside, is probably my favorite brick & mortar record store at the moment. They blurbed it in their New Arrivals section last week. I've restored one of the Lee Miller mp3s (Tarn) so check out the post if you missed it the first time around. Fans of Circle, you've been alerted.

Monika Bullette got played on Morning Becomes Eclectic. Congratulations!

This may be unprecedented: Largehearted Boy's list of new bittorrent downloads for today includes shows by neither Wilco nor Radiohead. Hop on over to download live Barbara Manning and Liz Phair, then compare and contrast. (I give you permission to skip the Liz Phair one if you're so inclined.) The Manning show has pretty great sound. I, um, skipped the Liz Phair one.

Friday, July 01, 2005

 

Jake Holmes week concludes: Watertown

Having scared off most of the younger crowd with yesterday's post about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I'll finish the job today. The other 1969 collaboration between Jake Holmes and Bob Gaudio was Frank Sinatra's Watertown. Run for the hills!

Everyone else, have a seat. May I offer you a cucumber sandwich? Tea? Kids these days!

If I were being dramatic, I probably would have posted about Watertown on Wednesday and then finished up with Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. GILG is effusive and catchy and clever and fun, fun, fun (even when the lyrics don't follow the general mood). Watertown is subdued (like its cover art) and "adult" and takes time to grow. It's also really wonderful, and probably a good example of an album that failed because it was inappropriate to its creator's fanbase. Which still surprises me, as it's not that far out by any means. There's only one very short song that pushes the envelope in a way that's apparent 30-something years later: She Says, which is more of an interlude than a real song.

In most other respects Watertown is a subdued slice-of-life record that was meant to accompany a television special (which never happened) centered around the story of a man whose wife leaves him, hints that she might come back, then doesn't. The most detailed discussion of the record I can find is here. As that writer notes, it's slightly difficult to write much about Watertown because it's been almost completely ignored by Sinatra fans and biographers. Apparently it was his worst-selling album and his last to appear on CD. Regarding that: one of the CD versions comes with a good bonus track and isn't expensive, so that's probably what you should look for. Amazon seems to have a decent sized stock of used copies.

Incidentally, the liner notes to that CD are informative, but what especially struck me is that they drop a few tantalizing hints about recordings that someone much better-connected than me might want to try to track down. One would be the demo acetates of the album with Jake Holmes singing, and the other is a version of a song called Elizabeth that Frank Sinatra supposedly recorded as a demo to send to Elizabeth Taylor for her birthday.

Since I didn't grow up with Frank Sinatra, listening to Watertown initially took some mental recalibration. With the exception of people who are specifically "doing Sinatra" (e.g. Neil Hannon) his style of singing is a relic and it takes a few attempts to hear it as a voice rather than a tribute to a voice. Listeners older than me may not have the same problem.

That aside, there's no reason this record shouldn't be more popular, and I'll especially point Divine Comedy fans in its direction. The orchestral parts are never schmaltzy, and continue with GILG's practice of keeping the arrangements spacious. I've read criticism of Sinatra's voice here and there, but I'd guess that unless you're a connoisseur you'll never know what that's about, given the level of technical quality that we accept from singers these days.

There are only ten songs on the album (plus the one bonus track) so I'm only going to post one other. Here's the soaring What's Now Is Now which would probably have been my pick for a single.

Longtime readers know that I'm somewhat prone to conspiracy theories based on flimsy evidence. I don't have a full-blown one, but I've wondered from time to time if Lou Reed might have heard Watertown before composing Berlin. Or if there was some zeitgeist thing going on.

I have no smoking gun, just little things here and there. Both albums have a track called Lady Day (Lady Day was cut from the original Watertown, then restored on the CD reissue). The beginning of Michael & Peter from Watertown sounds ever so slightly like Caroline Says, and both albums have an "x Says" song (or two). Obviously there's the sense that both albums take place in a specific geographic location, and both start with a song about that spot. Both have a song about children who aren't being raised by their mother. Both tell the story of a relationship that's ended before the record begins. I could probably get ingenious and come up with more, but that seems like a good place to stop. Someone with time on their hands might want to do an article comparing and contrasting the two.

She Says by Frank Sinatra
What's Now Is Now by Frank Sinatra

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