Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 20 Feb 2011

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.

Depeche ModeMusic For the Masses
Reputed to be a lesser effort, but I rather like this one. Peters out a bit towards the end, but the first half is excellent. "Never Let Me Down" really needs a guitar-heavy cover. Smashing Pumpkins did a version years ago for a Mode tribute album that reinvents it as quiet and menacing, but I think you can play this pretty literally, with booming drums and power chords for the main synth riff and it would really rock.

FishboneThe Reality of My Surroundings
Definitely their masterpiece, and a flawed one at that. Fishbone never made a great album, but this one came closest. I just realised I keep writing two-clause sentences with "but" in the middle. The muted power chords, crisp production and super-pro rhythm section sound very dated and very L.A., but the energy and manic ideas shine through.

Buddy HollyThe Crickets 20 Golden Greats
Did I say last week that this one really needs an apostrophe in the title?

The Jesus and Mary ChainPsychocandy
I love that there's a song on side two with the exact same intro as "Just Like Honey". They found a riff that worked, so why not use it twice? These guys did not give a fuck. Shameless and brilliant.

Janelle MonĂ¡eSuites II and III: The Archandroid
All the hits are frontloaded, but it doesn't flag a bit in the second half. Solid.

OutKastSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below
Now that Chico Dusty has met with universal praise, can we all just come out and say what we've been thinking all along but were afraid to say for fear of seeming like we just don't get it? Speakerboxxx slays Love Below.

R.E.M.Up, IX
IX is a lot better than I expected, with a few real standout tracks. The title's still the best part, though. Get it?

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet BandNight Moves
Buckets of hits on here, plus a terrific back cover photo. I don't know who did their wardrobe, but s/he deserves some kind of special citation.

SwirliesThey Spent Their Wild Youthful Days In the Glittering World Of the Salon/Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music
Is it cheating to reissue two old albums as a double-LP in order to claim the prize for longest album title? If not, then I think they passed Marnie Stern, but I'm pretty sure Fiona Apple still has them beat.

Wild Youthful Days, by the way, might be the great forgotten indie rock album of the 90s. That or August Revital. Doesn't even have their best song on it, but it's astounding start to finish. Still in print, too!

Times New VikingDig Yourself
I wonder if Bob Dylan's heard this record. He's on the cover, presumably without permission. I bet he'd like it.

Stevie WonderLooking Back
A triple album of early hits from before he even peaked, and it's still unstoppable.

Neil YoungLe Noise
I feel like this one got kinda overlooked last year, and it's his best in a long time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 13 Feb 2011

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.

Alien Sex FiendToo Much Acid?
"Totally live: no overdubs"

I have no idea if these guys are still around, but I can't imagine what else they might be doing. What else do you do if you're Nik Fiend other than make this music?

The CureKiss me Kiss Me Kiss Me
Robert Smith really is such an underrated guitarist. The solo in "The Kiss" stands alongside anything by the great British rock guitarists of the sixties (Clapton, Page, Green).

The Flaming LipsClouds Taste Metallic

Godspeed You Black Emperor!lift yr skinny fists like antennas to heaven
It should be "antennae", really. They're French.

Guided By VoicesUnder the Bushes, Under the Stars
K— recently defended Mag Earwhig! to me by saying that this album is sonically akin to that one, and that this one really represents the first album in the next phase of GBV. Not sure how I feel about that. Perhaps I'll listen to Mag next week. I've actually been considering putting it on the block.

Buddy HollyThe Crickets 20 Golden Greats
This is the one with the cover photo of a brick wall with the graffito reading "BUDDY HOLLY LIVES". Basically all you need. Totally unstoppable.

Elvis PresleyElvis' Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Vol. 1
I challenge anyone who says Elvis's greatness began and ended in '56 to listen to this and try to resist "Little Sister", "Kissin' Cousins" and "If I Can Dream". And like a dozen others. Elvis rules.

Primal ScreamVanishing Point
One of the weird things about being a fan of both vinyl and experimental electronic music is that sometimes I don't know the correct speed for certain 12" singles. And I have so many that aren't marked either way. I actually own a couple of records which I honestly cannot figure out whether they are supposed to be played at 33 or 45 rpm. This album is clearly labeled as a 33 rpm pressing. It's right there on the record label. And it's a 45. Fuck you guys.

Prince and the RevolutionAround the World In a Day
A lot of people don't realise that there's actually a Prince song called "Paisley Park". It's not just his label/studio name. These people also, for obvious reasons, don't realise that it's a seriously awesome song. Their loss.

Linda RonstadtGreatest Hits
Her vocal performance on "Different Drum" is so sexy it hurts. Have you seen photos of her in the 70s? So hott. Think about this: at one point Jerry Brown was the governer of California and he was banging Linda Ronstadt. Simultaneously. What have you achieved in your life?

Spacemen 3The Perfect Prescription

SpiritualizedLazer Guided Melodies
Off topic, but I just scored a copy of Pure Phase and I'm thrilled. Actually, I got an email alert saying somebody had posted a copy on GEMM and I ordered it right away, but a few more have come up since, so I think it may have just been reissued. About time.

Van Halen II
Not a great album overall, but it has "Dance the Night Away" on it, so the whole thing's worth it.

The WhoLive At Leeds

Neil YoungOn the Beach


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 6 Feb 2011

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.

Dinosaur Jr.Beyond

Dirty ThreeShe Has No Strings Apollo
I remembered this one being not so great, but I had never listened to it much, so I pulled it out. Yeah, not that great. The songs don't really go anywhere, and a lot of the performances just feel really uninspired.

Explosions In the SkyThe Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
The new one comes out in April, and I've got high hopes even though the last one was kinda weak. This one remains their masterpiece, the only one on which they found their own sound and mined it for all it was worth.

Guided By VoicesCrying Your Knife Away
Where the fuck is Mike Hummel?

Jimi HendrixThe Cry Of Love
The frustrating thing about Hendrix is that his best work was the stuff he really worked over in the studio, adding layer after layer of psychedelic effects. The outtakes just don't cut it because, after you've listened to Ladyland enough times (properly altered), everything else just sounds unfinished.

Iron MaidenPowerslave, Somewhere In Time
So the other night after the Super Bowl party B— and his new girlfriend Br— stuck around late after the game to rip a few more beers before hitting the road. At one point someone asked the time and I looked at my watch and it said 23:58 so I said, "Almost midnight. Two minutes to midnight, actually." Then I realised what I'd just said and was like, "Yo, do we need to listen to "Two Minutes To Midnight" by Maiden right now?" and Br— was like "Hell yeah." So I ran down and grabbed Somewhere, ran back up and realised it was the wrong record, then ran back down and grabbed Powerslave and we rocked out. The next day, since I'd already brought it up anyway, I listened to Somewhere while tidying the house.

Maiden rules.

Kool KeithMatthew
Keith must have been going through some really bad shit with his label when he made this one, because all the lyrics are really pissed-off rants about the music industry. But whereas the similar stuff on First Come is much funnier, here he just sounds angry. Decent record, but the attitude kinda wears you out as a listener.

KyussWelcome To Sky Valley
P— and I were talking about this record at work the other day, and we agreed that it transcends love of the band or even genre: every household really needs to have a copy of Sky Valley. It's just necessary.

Lightning BoltHypermagic Mountain
Probably the weakest Bolt record (although I've never heard the first one with the vocalist from Black Dice), and it's still pretty strong. Are these guys even capable of making a bad record?

Led Zeppelin[runes], aka IV
I went to see Green Hornet in 3D the other day. Yeah, yeah, I know. Is being a Gondry completist a valid excuse? Anyway, after the regular trailers the screen told me to put on my glasses and then they showed the 3D trailers. The first one was for some weird teenage-chicks-kicking-fantasy-monster-ass movie called Sucker Punch, and the trailer opened with "When the Levee Breaks". Then the next two were for Thor and something else I can't remember, and they both had an "original" score that was clearly written to sound like "Kashmir" without having to pay rights. Don't know what this means, really.

Some great songs on this album, but too much filler for it to really be their best.

Meat Puppets"Huevos", Monsters
I know the first couple Pups records are supposed to be the keepers, but I think these two are awesome. Monsters in particular is wildly underrated; so many great tracks on here.

Do you think the quotation marks in the title of "Huevos" are an intentional reference to Bowie's "Heroes"?

Charles MingusNew Tijuana Moods

Still haven't picked up the Big Boi record yet. Yet.

Pink FloydA Nice Pair
Cheapo repackaging of their first two records, complete with naughty cover art to complete the titular pun. I just got a copy of Clinton Heylin's book about Sgt. Pepper's in which he apparently argues that Piper is more historically important that Pepper's. Looking forward to reading it. I really like the contrarian revisionist streak Heylin's been mining recently. Check out Babylon's Burning to see what aspects of accepted punk history he thinks are bullshit. Long, but a good read.

SparksNo. 1 In Heaven
I went through a phase a few years ago where I was listening to this record obsessively, several times a day, back to back to back. Completely addictive record. I love that these guys didn't just a make a token disco record, they went through a several-album-long disco phase.

The Stone Roses

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stuff I Listened To Last Week – 30 Jan 2011

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.

The BeatlesEarly Years (1), Please Please Me, Hey Jude
Just started reading the Bob Spitz bio from a few years back, so I'll be going through a lot of these in the next few weeks. I had the weirdest revelation looking through my Beatles records the other day: I don't have a copy of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on any album. I don't even know what it's on, other than probably the red album. WTF?

Catching Up With Depeche Mode

The Flaming LipsYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Just had occasion to listen to "Do You Realize?" a bunch of times in a row the other day. Brilliant single, but I think the rest of the album's a little overrated. Some interesting arrangements by Drozd, but Coyne kinda phoned a lot of this one in.

Fleetwoof MacTusk
Has a strong cult following that considers it some sort of misunderstood masterpiece (including, but not limited to, members of Camper Van Beethoven), but I'm not buying it. This is just a self-indulgent mess.

GhostLama Rabi Rabi

The HousemartinsLondon o Hull 4
I love that a jangle pop band with overtly communist lyrics and a gay lead singer titled their debut record with a reference to a soccer rivalry. Ah, England.

LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening
Gave this one another shot since it made just about everybody's year-end top ten list, but I'm still not convinced. This is just not a great album, and this is coming from a thirty-something ex-New Yorker aging-hipster-type, clearly Murphy's primary demographic. Weak year overall for critic-oriented records, sure, but still. The first two are better.

MastodonCrack the Skye
Please, please, please let this actual-singing by metal bands catch on and become a new trend. I just don't know how many more four-band bills I can sit through with one doom-growler after another. This could be the album that helps metal reinvent itself for the new decade, and I really hope it is. Oh, also, sick riffs, sick drumming. Just a fantastic album all around, one of my favourites of the past several years in any genre.

Bonnie 'Prince' BillyI See a Darkness
Why the fuck is my copy of this record so worn out? Did I really listen to it that much? Do I need to just break down and find another copy? The title track is so crucial, and it's really quiet and thus highly susceptible to vinyl wear. Best lyrics about platonic friendship-love between two men ever written.

Pink FloydMeddle

I bought this because the wife really liked the single, but I put it on the other day and she didn't comment. Wonder if she recognised it, or if its appeal has faded already. Whatever, I think it's holding up quite nicely.

SavioursInto Abbadon

Public Image Ltd.Second Edition
Every time I've ever gone into the studio with a band in which I'm playing bass, I always tell the recording engineer I want my bass to sound like the second PiL record, even when it's completely inappropriate to the music. Most of the time they have no idea what I'm talking about. What a damn shame. Look, if you're an engineer and you're reading this, go listen to this album right now. Now. Now. Pay attention to the bass.

Silver JewsAmerican Water
I've been listening to a lot of Stones records lately, and I think Jagger's a terrific, underappreciated and really under-examined lyricist. Keef thinks so too, based on what I read in his new book. His lyrics seem simple and obvious, and I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean like they seem to have just been born with the song, like they're perfect and nothing else would fit there, so natural. When I listen to them, I think, "Man, I wish I could write like that."

On the other hand, when I listen to the Jews, I don't think that at all, because I could never, ever write like that. Instead, I think, "Man, I wish my brain worked that way."

SmogWild Love
Oh Prince, you are so alone...

TV On the RadioDesperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
I really hope these guys don't stay on haitus too long. Indie rock needs them. Needs more of them and fewer Arcade Fire knockoffs.

Terrific title, by the way.

The Velvet UndergroundThe Quine Tapes
Sundazed Records really deserve a special Congressional commendation for releasing this set on vinyl. I know it's $100, and that's a pretty penny, but this is truly a valuable public service.

You can talk all you want about how much more avant garde they were with Cale in the band, but this phase is where they peaked as a live act. Even the 17 minutes of "Follow the Leader", which is barely even a song, are awesome.

The Yes Album