Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Brian Wilson – "Our Prayer"

I spent quite a bit of time in Chicago this past month, so I made sure to stop in at Reckless, where I found almost nothing I really wanted. I think this means I'm getting better at resisting blowing money on records I don't really care about. Or maybe I'm just not as eager a listener as I once was.

I did buy one record, though, and not because I really wanted it, more because I would have kicked myself later if I had passed on it. It's a one-sided clear-vinyl 10-inch containing one song. That one song is a dance remix by Freeform Five (of whom I had never heard) of "Our Prayer", the opening track on SMiLE. The record was $11, which is way too much money, but...

If you're not a record hound then you won't understand this, but if you are you'll know exactly what I mean: it was just too weird to not buy. I mean come on, man! Re-read that description! Whose idea was this? Why was it made? Has Wilson ever even heard it?

If you've never heard the original "Our Prayer", it's just one minute of wordless a capella harmonies, five (?) voices singing aah-aah-aah through a complex series of chord changes. It's both beautiful and eerie.

The remix sounds exactly like I thought it would sound. It's not bad, it's not great, it's basically wordless a capella harmonies over beats. Am I blown away? No. Am I disappointed? Not really. I'm too old and jaded to expect anything earth-shattering. I just wanted to hear it. No, that's not it. I just didn't want to not hear it.

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Brian Wilson – "Our Prayer (Freeform Reform)"

NOTE: By the way, if this track exists on any CD it's not one I know about. If anyone else knows, post a comment and I'll put up a retail link for it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Swirlies – "Pancake"

Return of the Shelf!

I took an extended break for the holidays after completing the fall semester's Neil Young course and it wound up lasting a lot longer than originally planned. But the Shelf's back now and I hope to return to the old rate of three posts a week. My work schedule has changed, which might make this a little complicated, but that's the plan for now.

In other news, I've upgraded my Box account so that I can post direct links to the files rather than links to Box pages. This means the blog is now costing me money (in addition to the untold dollars I've spent the past twenty-odd years pissing away on records), so hopefully the added incentive will keep me on schedule. Here goes nothin'.

I wasn't sure what to post for the first day back until I listened to A—'s show on KDU last week and heard him play this old favourite. Decision made.

Boston's Swirlies were often categorised as part of the city's alleged "chimp rock" scene in the 90s, but I certainly couldn't tell you what that means. Swirlies themselves could be vaguely described as sounding like Pavement trying to cover My Bloody Valentine and not getting it quite right, but that doesn't quite nail them.

1993's BlonderTongueAudioBaton remains the band's best known album and was for many years the only one I owned. It's a pleasing little gem that holds up quite well to this day, a fine exemplar of the angular noise-pop that was a common indie rock sound at the time. Highly recommended.

Side one closes with the majestic "Pancake", which became the band's biggest "hit" (for lack of a better term). The song starts with a wall of amps suffering through pretty chord changes, topped by ethereal female vocals. After the second verse, the band drops the volume momentarily before tearing back in at a noticeably jacked-up tempo, propelled by a terrific beat (listen closely to and marvel at the kick-drum pattern).

The band obviously realised they had written their best song and proceeded to milk it. The following year's Brokedick Car EP contains five songs, two of which are versions of "Pancake". "Pancake Cleaner" is just the same recording with the distorted guitar tracks mixed lower; I'm pretty sure that's the one A— played. "House of Pancake", on the other hand, is a full-on remix anchored by a decent triphop beat. It predates the remix craze that would later sweep through indie rock by a couple of years, so it's got that going for it, but the original really can't be improved upon. Some songs are just too perfect. Besides, the drumming in the coda is clearly the song's best feature, and the remix doesn't incorporate it. Cute effort, though.

Buy it... on vinyl (CD and vinyl for both are all in the same link; check out those prices!).

From my deck to you: Swirlies – "Pancake", "Pancake Cleaner" and "House of Pancake"