Friday, March 14, 2003

I'm working on some album review proposals for an editor friend. Here's what I have thus far.

Tonebenders, s/t
Like Pavement covering Booker T. & the MG’s, the Tonebenders slung a fistful of indie cool at the classic R&B palette and, unlike, say, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, managed to avoid embarrassing themselves.

Sparklehorse, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Let me whisper creepy little non-sequitors into your ear, little girl, for I have a guitar and a Casio. Listen to my howls in the heart of the hurricane. Fuck Greil Marcus. I’m twice as weird and scary as anything that Dylan could dream up in his kaleidoscope nightmares.

The Silos, s/t
With introspective roots-rock that could have come out of any town with a half a music scene (and where only posers and pussies wear shades after dark), the Silos distinguish themselves by their monk-like adherence to simple arrangement and simple belief in the redemptive and delicate craft of songwriting.

Jandek, Blue Corpse
By the third song, Jandek has made it clear that he’s in no mood for women, sunlight, or a second chord. Some cite Blood on the Tracks as the most harrowing break-up album, but even a happy Jandek could redefine the word “harrowing”. This, my friends, is not the work of a happy Jandek.

fIREHOSE, Live Totem Pole EP
Goddammit, but those boys tear up “The Red and the Black”! About twice as good as the best fIREHOSE album, this documents Watt & company at their most exultant and care-free.

Serge Gainsbourg, Histoire de Melody Nelson
I don’t speak a word of French. OK, I know “merde”, which appears at least once on this album. My point is that one doesn’t need to be fluent in French to know that this is the most decadent, smutty, perverted sex-funk album ever released (think about that: it pre-dates the recording career of Isaac Hayes). In fact, like when old horror movies would cut away the second before the violence, it probably helps that I speak no French.

The Feelies, The Good Earth
God, I love this album. I think that a lot of critics tend to downplay the Feelies' later albums in favor of their jittery first, Crazy Rhythms, but this one in particular is a masterpiece. The songs are all simple three-chord folk songs centered around multilayered acoustic guitars with third-album VU-inspired lead guitar. The vocals are low to the point of occasional inaudibility, which is fine because the lyrics are never too intelligent. But what kills me is the sound: carefully arranged without being fussy, complex without losing that off-the-cuff relaxed folky feel, simultaneously urban and earthy. With the structure of a jam band (two drummers!), some reviews have called the Feelies the Grateful Dead of 80's indie pop. These reviewers are missing the focus of each song, as only two break the five-minute mark, and only one of those is stretched out by a guitar solo. "Guitar solo" isn't really the right word for the fifteen-odd lead guitar tracks that overtake that song, "Slipping (into something)", pushing it from a dark pastorale into a maelstrom of noise. None of the other tracks work up such a head of steam, but nevertheless manage to bounce and push, as well. "The Last Roundup" is underpinned by a snare-heavy drum track that never drops into backbeat, sounding like both drummers are simply flailing away at the beat, but the song strangely remains the most country-influenced track on the album. "On the Roof", "Let's Go", and "The Good Earth" have the indie-pop feel of a less futzy Let's Active, whereas "The High Road" and "When Company Comes" are pure folk-punk goofiness. It's a delicate line that the Feelies walk, but they never waver. Would that more artists were capable of their craft.

I went a bit overboard with the last one, but I'm not kidding about loving the hell out of this album.


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