Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 10 Oct 2010

Every time I listen to a record, I leave it next to the stereo. On Monday, before I go back to work, I re-file them all. Below are the contents of this week's pile.

Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star
Had a house guest who was raving about a Talib Kweli show she saw recently. I was psyched to pull this one out. She was psyched I had it. Ah ,the Shelf.


David BowieAladdin Sane

BroadcastWork and Non Work
This was the one I bought based upon their initial media hype. Better than I remember. The rock crit shorthand on them at the time was Stereolab melodies with Portishead beats, which still doesn't jibe. The beats just aren't there, at least on this record. As for the Stereolab part...

My initial assessment was that this was a band that was doomed to be labeled Stereolab knockoffs simply because not enough people had heard Pram to realise that they're actually Pram knockoffs. I understand now that this is kind of unfair, as they don't display the same Theremin fetishism that marks Pram's signature sound. Still, this stuff doesn't knock me out.

Tim BuckleyBlue Afternoon
Even on his lesser efforts this guy can slay angels with that voice.

John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

The Flaming LipsIn a Priest Driven Ambulance

Land Of the LoopsBundle Of Joy
So I'm changing my daughter the other day and I notice she's wearing a onesie that says "bundle of joy" on it. And I think, "Y'know, I've got a record called that." So I listened to it. Fun little album. More Stereolab influence, if you're into that. With the beats to match this time.

Led Zeppelin II

The Nitty Gritty Dirt BandWill the Circle Be Unbroken
Interesting to note that this album had, at the time, an analagous cultural effect to that of the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. It briefly brought bluegrass music into the mainstream by highlighting some of its brightest lights, who promptly receded back into the shadows as soon as the hype died away.

Still, the band were respectful enough that they downplayed their own name on the album packaging, simply listing themselves alongside the Nashville luminaries they had invited as guest performers. This was a big deal at the time, as plenty of California country-rock acts were getting back to their alleged "roots" in the wake of the success of the Byrds Sweetheart Of the Rodeo album. These guys went and found the originators and dragged them into the harsh light of the mainstream. They waved politely, played a few numbers, and retreated.

PrinceControversy, Around the World In a Day, Lovesexy
I threw on Around the other day when we had company over for dinner. D–, it turns out is a big Prince fan, and when I asked if anyone had any requests for the stereo as the Wife served up dessert, he asked whether I had a few other items from the deep catalogue. Naturally, I was more than happy to oblige.

R.E.M.Out Of Time
This one came up primarily because "Losing My Religion" was featured on Glee last week. Not one of R.E.M.'s better records, in my opinion, but I don't want to get to into that now because I'd like to do a full review of their career á la my Neil Young series on of these days.

Meet the Residents, Duck Stab/Buster & Glen
Yes, I read a Residents biography this week. The Ian Shirley one, which is the only one of which I'm aware of the existence. A bit thin, primarily because he doesn't speak to any of the actual notoriously anonymous Residents themselves, but I think he unwittingly unmasks them anyways. I mean, come on, their sound engineer? That has to be one one of them right?

The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers
Still my favourite Stones LP, primarily because of Jagger's vocal melodies. "Sway" and "Dead Flowers" are particularly unstoppable. Seriously, this guy could have been in Big Star.

Sigur RosMeđ suđ i eyrum viđ spilum endalaust, JónsiGo
I just got the Jónsi album last week, and it made me want to reëvaluate the last Sigur Ros LP. Both are excellent. I think I dismissed the Sigur Ros one based on the single, which is different from their previous stuff, and I respect that blahblahblah, but not as good. Upon further review, most of the tracks hew to the signature sound. I hate to sound like one of those I-like-their-old-stuff-better blowhards, but that's really what they do best.

The Jónsi record, on the other hand, is where he does a terrific job of taking the band's signature sound and pushing it in interesting new directions. Is his solo work the better bet for the future here? I hope not. I like bands.

MorrisseyVauxhall and I
The argument over best lyricist of all time is one of the few closed debates: it's Dylan, like it or not. The argument over second best is wide open. Stephin Merritt and I would like to nominate Morrissey.

You are well within your rights to hate Morrissey. I used to dislike his solo work, but excused my love of the Smiths based on the terrific guitar work of Johnny Marr. No sense kidding myself anymore: Morrissey is a genius. And I really think that, Dylan excepted, he's the greatest rock lyricist of all time.

I hadn't really considered him that way until Merritt referred to him as such in a New York Times piece around the time that Mozza's comeback album came out a few years ago. Merritt called him out for setting his undeniable lyrics against a backdrop of hackneyed, unimaginative music.

Here, Merritt and I disagree. I think that Morrissey has always been conscious of avoiding trends in popular music in the service of making his music sound timeless. Think about it: of all their contemporaries, the Smiths sound the least like an 80s band.

But the praise holds up: Morrissey is an absolutely brilliant lyricist. The key, which I didn't understand for so many years, is this: it's supposed to be funny.

I could go on, and on of these days I will.

Spacemen 3Sound Of Confusion, The Perfect Perscription
I've been waiting so long for these to get reissued. Taang! was supposed to put them out last March but it never happened. So apparently Fire stepped up and filled a massive void on the Shelf.

StereolabTransient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements
A hard-fought eBay find inspired by Doug Wolk's essay in this book.

Iggy and the StoogesRaw Power
I pulled this one out because the Spacemen cover "Little Doll" on their first one, which the Wife recognised while I was playing it. Of course, she recognised it as a Sisters of Mercy song, but that happens a lot, or used to before I began setting her straight. That song's not even on here, by the way, but it's the only Stooges record I have, so I figured I'd play it anyway.

Swell MapsSweep the Desert
Inarguably the greatest shitty band of all time. I mean, all of their music is mildly crappy, but it's all joyous enough that it ranges from acceptable to awesome. As a result, they have a ton of cheapo outtake comps, and they're all pretty good. This is one of them.

Neil Young & the BluenotesThis Note's For You
Holds up remarkably well. I mean, this album has no business being even halfway good, and it's excellent.

I came to a sad realisation when I saw these guys a few weeks ago at the Knit in Brooklyn: I'm over doom. I'm just over it. I've heard enough slow power chords and growled vocals for now. I said this to P— when we were hanging out outside between bands. To get me going nowadays, a metal band needs to either really sing (which is why Crack the Skye is my favourite metal record of the last five years at least) or boogie, like the west coast stoner rock bands of about ten years ago. Nebula, where art thou? Then these guys came on and played doom with a funky drummer. That's all it takes. I bought their record, and I like it.

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