This segment of my collection makes one thing clear: if your band is named Black something, you had better leave people AWESTRUCK.
Black Flag - Damaged, My War, and Slip It In. I've owned way more Black Flag than this in my life, but these are the only ones I've sought out as an adult. Go figure. I guess I should pick up Family Man and Everything Went Black at some point, but it's not like I often get into a headspace these days where I just have to hear some Black Flag. Anyway, yes. This is hardcore at its best. Listening to it on headphones while doing other, more-grown-up things gives me a sort of cognitive dissonance.
The Black Keys - "Strange Desire." Okay, but the least of the Black ____ group.
Black Mountain - s/t, Druganaut EP, and In The Future. Bringing back the 70s, Black Mountain plays Led Zep-ish, slightly prog-rock-ish (a few parts sound lifted wholly from In The Court of the Crimson King), a bit Brit-folk-ish mountain jams. And I dig it!
Black Sabbath - s/t, Peel Session 4/26/70, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Sabotage. Sabbath came right out of the gate fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, ready for ass-whoopage and name-takeage from their first breath. The first four albums remain extremely listenable, bringing the rock even yea unto 40 years later. The Peel Session is a killer, too, featuring an early version of "War Pigs" with different lyrics called "Walpurgis." Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is where things start to fall apart. The band seems less coherent, the jams a bit rote. Sabotage is a bit of a mess, and I have no ear at all for the albums that came after. Still, the first four albums are so fucking great, a blueprint for all metal to come flavored with psychedelia and pills.
Black Swan Network - Dream Tape and The Late Music. The noise-collage side project of the Olivia Tremor Control, Black Swan Network's music is mostly sound with occasional eruptions of melody. Interesting, at least!
Black Widow - Sacrifice. Evil hippies! Playing prog songs! About raising demons and the devil! Maybe the most overtly evil subject matter in my collection, tied to music that sounds like ELP fronted by Donovan at his most fey. Sample lyrics: "Come! Come! Come to the Sabbat! Come to the Sabbat! Satan's there! [cue mad flute solo]"
Friday, December 19, 2008
This segment of my collection makes one thing clear: if your band is named Black something, you had better leave people AWESTRUCK.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Music Library: Billie Holiday, Billy Bragg w/Wilco, Bing Crosby, Binky Griptite, Bird Nest Roys, Birdsongs/Mesozoic, Bis-Quits, Bix Beiderbecke, Björk
Billie Holiday - "Strange Fruit," Lady in Satin, Billie's Blues, and Billie's Best. What could I possibly say about Billie Holiday that you haven't heard a million times before?
Billy Bragg - Back To Basics. I've heard this a gazillion times in my life without ever actually loving it. I like Bragg okay, but his stridency, his cold and lonely electric guitar, his all-the-same delivery all add up to a great big somewhat-positive shrug for me.
Billy Bragg/Wilco - Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2. Wilco's lush Americana and Woody Guthrie's lyrics warm Bragg right up. These are the albums that resulted when Nora Guthrie found a bunch of her dad's lyrics in an old piece of furniture. With most of these songs, the music is lost (although a few of them were recorded, because I have copies on my Smithsonian/Folkways Woody Guthrie box), and Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco made up their own music for them. Bragg & Tweedy tend towards the simplistic for these songs, but it's not a big deal. The first album is heads above the second, but that's not to say that the second one is a bad album. And "California Stars" is utterly beautiful.
Bing Crosby - Bing Crosby Christmas. Good timing, no?
Binky Griptite and the Dee-Kays - "World of Love" and "Stone Soul Christmas." Again, good timing. The band here is the Dap-Kings, who back Amy Winehouse and have their own killer albums with Sharon Jones.
The Bird Nest Roys - Whack It All Down EP, Jaffa Boy 7", Bird Nest Roys. A find from a blog dedicated to kiwi-pop, these Bird Nest Roys albums rock well and with that sort of buzzy, poppy sound that screams "New Zealand."
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - "The Rite of Spring." From Roger Miller's post-Mission of Burma, pre-Mission of Burma period, this is a version of the Stravinsky composition that caused riots upon its first performance. Later, it was in Disney's Fantasia. And here it's performed by a post-punk legend. Truly, this is a storied history.
The Bis-Quits - "Walking on a Wire." Supergroup of sorts with Nashville cool cats Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack (author of the Cheese Chronicles, which is mandatory reading for kids forming bands), and Mike Grimes (proprietor of Grimey's, the most awesomest record store in the SouthEast and a contender for the title of most awesomest anywhere). I thought I had the whole thing, but this is the only track that popped up, a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson's song from an album called Shoot Out The Lights, of which I assume readers of this blog are aware. I'll have to round this out.
Bix Beiderbecke - "Davenport Blues." The only track I have by the seminal jazz legend.
Björk- Debut, Post, Homogenic, Telegram, Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture Dancer In The Dark, Vespertine, Medulla, "The Boho Dance," and Volta. You would think from this that I love the hell out of Björk. But you'd be wrong. The guy (a great guy, btw) who gave me a disc with a bunch of Björk albums really loves her. I'm more on a "tolerate" vibe, while really liking the occasional song.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The problem with domestic auto production isn't that they've focused on producing tremendous gas-guzzling profit-busting monstrosities for the last few years (which any fool could tell you that people would quit buying when gas prices rise and disposable income falls), but the decent, hard-earned salaries that they pay their workers. Now if the Rs only had enough votes to declare this year to actually be 1928...
Friday, November 21, 2008
Music Library: Bill Evans, Bill Frisell, Bill Hicks, Bill Laswell, Bill Lloyd, Bill Monroe, Arthur Lee, Belle & Sebastian
Arthur Lee - Vindicator and Black Beauty. In which Arthur Lee leaves the Psychedelic Ranger persona behind and attempts to become Arthur Lee, Black Rock God. He even succeeds on some tracks. Black Beauty is a bootleg including sessions for the unreleased album of the same name plus a handful of Lee's pre-Love tracks.
Belle & Sebastian - Push Barman To Open Old Wounds. This is a collection of tracks from B&S's many, many EPs. I already had all the songs on the first disc, so I bought the second disc only from eMusic. I like the songs on this better than some of its contemporary B&S music, at least in the listen or two I've had.
And onward, through the library:
Bill Evans Trio - Everybody Digs Bill Evans. Without investigating Mr. Evans' references, I am convinced that the assertion on this album is true. He's played on so many of my favorite jazz albums that I'm surprised that this is the only album I have that's credited to the man.
Bill Frisell - Nashville. Country music for people who listen to NPR and hate rednecks. NOTE: not actually country. Kinda dull, too.
Bill Hicks - a few random bits plus Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks. Comedy albums are not my forte. I like them more in theory than practice. Take the work of Mr. Hicks: he cracks me up, but a goodly chunk of stand-up humor is surprise, and repetition kills surprise, as you know. The diminishing returns means that I bought this and listened to it a couple of times, and I laugh at it when it's been a while since the last time I listened to it, but that's about it.
Bill Laswell - Dub Meltdown, Sacred System - Nagual Site, Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission, and Asana OHM Shanti. Laswell's an interesting guy. I like his bands, Material and Last Exit. I like his restless experimentalism. This stuff, though, bores me senseless. Take the first album, Dub Meltdown. I really like Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby and other dub pioneers, but Laswell's take on dub sounds like it was fun to record, and there's a bunch of talent in the room (Jah Wobble & Bernie Worrell, among many others), but they can't translate the fun they're having to the listener. Maybe it's just this listener being cranky. I mean, it's not without any merit; I could see maybe working out to this music. But with Perry & Tubby, not to mention most anything on the Trojan Dub boxes, you can feel your senses reeling when you listen as if you had been partaking of their crazy-making drugs of choice. With Laswell, it's all brain, no weed. Sacred System is a similar attempt to explore a different culture, in this case Indian music. Radioaxiom is an attempt to drive me insane with dull, go-nowhere music. Asana etc. actually did drive me insane and I'm currently writing this from the Austin State Mental Hospital. Much of this will be deleted.
Bill Lloyd - "The Lottery Song." Cover of a Harry Nilsson track, I think. I like Bill Lloyd, who has a power-pop heart, although he mostly plays country-oriented music.
Bill Monroe - The Essential Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys (1945-1949) and The Essential Bill Monroe and the Monroe Brothers. What can one man say about Bill Monroe? Especially when trying to talk about two near-identically named collections that feature entirely different tracks. Well, they're both essential.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Last night's episode was about the lead character Ned's feelings of abandonment by his father. He has just discovered that his father also abandoned his younger twin half-brothers, which, in typical Pushing Daisies tragic-wackiness, happened during a magic show. Their father enters the magic box, disappears, and refuses to reappear. The magician, played by Fred Willard (beloved of all), semi-adopts them, cantankerous wit hiding his real affection. Like all Pushing Daisies episodes, this is a procedural, so Willard soon turns up dead. Suspects include the geek, played by Mr. Show alumni Paul F. Tompkins, and his bitter assistant, played by The State alumni Kerri Kenney-Silver. The B-plot has Stephen Root (who is, delightfully, growing more and more psycho in each episode where he appears) visiting Ned's lady-love Chuck's aunts (one of whom is actually her mother) searching for a watch that he apparently needs to uncover some treasure that he, Chuck's father, and Ned's father all buried while involved in a UN peacekeeping mission. Still keeping up? The surprisingly emotional conclusion of the episode involved Olive getting Aunt Lilly, who is Chuck's real mom, to open up about how she feels about Chuck, while wearing a wire and earpiece so that Chuck can listen in and ask questions from the car outside. Chuck is supposed to be dead, of course.
In summation: some of the best guest-stars in tv history, the most convoluted-yet-fun stories in tv history, the most eye-popping set and costume design in tv history, and one of the weirdest amalgams of styles - detective procedural, fairy tale, and screwball comedy - going into each incredibly well-written episode. I wish someone at the network would take the time to try to promote the show: show the first season again, maybe, or get the actors onto talk shows. It's weird, yes, but it's delightfully weird. Unique. Beautiful. Touching. Meaningful. Worthwhile.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Everything's BIG in this post!
The Big Beat - Cross Our Hearts and Demos. My Canuck friend John T sent me these. Pretty decent Everly-ish Americana.
Big Black - "Kerosene" and Songs About Fucking. Phil Freeman used to say something like "every time Steve Albini touches a guitar, he should cut Andy Gill of Gang of Four a royalty check." It's true. Also true: I don't love Big Black as much as I used to.
The Big Boys - The Fat Elvis and The Skinny Elvis. The funky lords of Austin hardcore.
Big Mama Thornton - "Little Red Rooster" and "Hound Dog." Man, this lady could sing. Stop the presses!
Big Maybelle - The Complete OKeh Sessions 1952-1955. One of Mrs. Obscurity's favorite albums, Big Maybelle was a blues & soul shouter with a lot of proto-feminist swagger.
- #1 Record: It's amazing, all of the different elements that make this one of the best guitar-pop albums of all time. There's Memphis soul, Gram Parsons-like cosmic american music, healthy doses of the Beatles and Kinks in the hooks, and a love of Brit-folk in the acoustic material. I could do without "The India Song," which is the only one on the album that dates the material. Otherwise, it could have been released last week. Killer, killer, killer stuff.
- Ardent Studio Sessions 1972-73: Rough mixes of tracks from #1 Record and Radio City. Interesting as a bootleg document, but there's nothing on here close to the studio releases.
- Radio City: Perfection. My old friend John Smith (now in the Dexateens!) once pointed out that there's only one song on the album ("Mod Lang") that fades out rather than coming to a complete stop. This album is like the pyramids: there's no mortar, but you couldn't slide a piece of paper between the stones.
- Third/Sister Lovers: A different kind of perfection. Radio City is what happens when you shoot for the stars and reach them. Third/Sister Lovers is what happens when you fall down the stairs and accidentally invent a new art movement. This would be on my short list of music to send into space so that aliens will know what humanity is capable of.
- Big Star Live: Alex Chilton's crazy guitar skills & vocals are on prominent display in this radio broadcast for a Long Island radio station from 1974-ish.
- Columbia: Live at Missouri University: This is a weird one. Organizers for a music festival in Missouri asked Chilton, almost on a dare, if he'd be willing to re-form Big Star in 1993. He surprised everyone by saying yes. He and drummer Jody Stephens recruited a couple of the Posies and have been playing off-and-on ever since. They've even recorded an album, which we'll get to in a minute.
- Nobody Can Dance: This is a little out of order. This album has some rehearsal tapes and a show from the early 70s in Memphis. The title comes from an announcement partway through, where people are told that dancing in this park is illegal. This is indicative of Chilton's luck at the time.
- In Space: An album from 2005 that never should have been released under the Big Star name. It sounds like a lot of Alex Chilton's more recent efforts, which is to say "unengaged." I know Chilton doesn't seem to give a shit about Big Star these days. That's his perogative, but this is the sound of an artist spitting on his best work. Yuck.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I've written about John Leonard in this blog a number of times, almost always negatively. His stints as the head of the book review sections in The Nation and Harper's were marked by opinions that often struck me as infuriatingly wrongheaded. I couldn't believe that this guy - with whom, clearly, I shared a lot of interests - could always see down as up, day as night, black as white, right as wrong.
Yet I always came back for more. Leonard was wrong, but he was fascinatingly wrong. He was brilliantly wrong. He was inspiringly wrong. I loved to disagree with him, and what's more, I think he loved being a guy who wrote criticism that made his opponents bring their A-game.
John Leonard died yesterday at 69, which is too young. I feel for his family, who surely wish they had more time with him. His son, Andrew, is the columnist who writes How The World Works for Salon, one of my favorite reads. I'm sorry for Andrew today, and I'm sorry for everyone who knew and loved him.
Phil Nugent has a typically razor-sharp appreciation of Leonard's life at his blog. I don't have Phil's chops and depth of pop culture knowledge, but I'm also going to miss John Leonard. I'm going to miss disagreeing with him.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Great reading, great experience. Scott Plagenhoef talked about Belle & Sebastian's aesthetic and the changing face of music fandom with the advent of the Internet and the access it provides. I showed Richard & Linda Thompson pictures, some courtesy of Blair Helsing, a new Internet pal who drums in the San Francisco jazz combo Echo Beach Band, and some graphic depictions of Dante's Inferno, while I read from the book. Kim Cooper read parts of her narrative about Neutral Milk Hotel and showed an artist's rendition of the lyrics to "Holland, 1945". We had a pleasant Q&A with the audience and signed some books. I had a number of great friends who showed, plus my brother flew down from the Bay Area. All in all, a wonderful experience. Thanks, Hammer Museum!
Also want to mention that it's 33 1/3 pitch time! Get your pitch together.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I can hardly believe it myself, but I will be reading from my book at the Hammer Museum in LA tomorrow evening at 7.
Incidentally, I learned a lot from this article, and I think you can, too. (Thanks to the RT List!)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I'm proud of this review. It has some clunky writing, yep. But it's not too far from how I pictured it. That means everyone else will most likely hate it.
Plus, I forgot to post it, but here's a column about My Neighbor Totoro from last week.
Remember that these are at Nerve.com, which has some smutty content (although not on this blog). Browse accordingly!
Music Library: Ben Vaughn, Benko, Benny Goodman, Benoit Charest, Bernard Herrmann, Bernie Worrell, Bert Jansch, Bertha Lee and Charley Patton, Bessie Smith, Betsy In The Gene Pool, Betty LaVette, Beulah, Bevis Frond
Ben Vaughn - "Dressed in Black" and "I Dig Your Wig." These are from Halloween mixes by David Smay, I think. Pretty good bluesy-swamp rock.
Benko - An International Affair. This is the debut EP by Benko, a very interesting and fun Austin trio of drums, bass, and vibes. At Obscurity headquarters, we love Benko! But this reminds me that I have as yet failed to pick up their first full-length album, which came out at the end of August. Will do so soon!
Benny Goodman - "Sing Sing Sing." Swingin'!
Benoit Charest - "Belleville rendez-vous." Funny that this should crop up right after Benny Goodman, as there's certainly some familiarity between the two. This is the song from Les Triplettes de Belleville, the delightful, but deeply weird animated film from a few years ago.
Bernard Herrmann - Vertigo Original Motion Picture Score. That's cinematic! I am now filled with a vague sense of foreboding and an overwhelming need to sit down.
Bernie Worrell - Pieces of Woo: The Other Side. Surprisingly un-funky, this is a mostly jazz-oriented affair. It's - unsurprisingly - produced by Bill Laswell and has a lot of his influence in the sound. A few tracks are collaborations with Fred Wesley, who was James Brown's bandleader for a very long time. Some have Buckethead on guitar.
Bert Jansch - Dazzling Stranger and The Black Swan. Jansch is one of the greats of Brit-folk, the John Fahey to John Renbourn's Leo Kottke and Richard Thompson's... uh, Richard Thompson. Dazzling Stranger is a compilation of Jansch solo and tracks with The Pentangle, Jansch's eclectic 60s folk-rock band with Renbourn, Danny Thompson (who tours with Richard Thompson now and fronts the jazz-fusion band Whatever), Terry Cox, and Jacqui McShee. He's dabbled in blues, hippie folk, swirling rock, and lots of gorgeous fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Neil Young once said that Jansch had done for the acoustic guitar what Hendrix did for the electric. There's lots of standout tracks over the course of his career, but the tops are "Needle of Death" (recently a frequent cover of Yo La Tengo's), "Blackwaterslide" (covered by Jimmy Page on Led Zep's first album), "Reynardine" (more familiar from the Fairport Convention version), "When I Get Home," and "Train Song," (both of which I'll discuss more when and if I get to the Pentangle before I die of old age). I should mention how much I like Jansch's voice, too, which is not just world-weary and craggy but also lilting and pleasant. The Black Swan is a Drag City album from 2006 with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart popping up, probably hoping to do for Jansch what Banhart and Animal Collective did for Vashti Bunyan: make this underappreciated 60s icon a touchpoint for younger music lovers. It's a killer album.
Bertha Lee and Charley Patton - "Mind Reader Blues" and "Yellow Bee." I'm not sure why these are under Bertha Lee instead of Charley Patton. Excellent early folk blues.
Bessie Smith - The Collection. More early blues from one of the all-time great blues singers.
Betsy in the Gene Pool - "Slow in the Left Lane." An alt-country band from North Carolina who moved to Texas around the time I did, but then vanished. Decent song, but I don't remember whether they had more that would stick around like this one.
Betty LaVette - "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got." Here's a gaping hole in my music collection. This is the only song I have by Ms. LaVette, who has a wonderful raspy soul voice and uses it to powerful effect on this cover of Sinead O'Connor's a capella tune.
Beulah - John Peel Session 4/20/2000, The Coast Is Never Clear, Live on KCRW 9/25/2001, Netherlands Radio 8/26/2001. So that's one studio album and three live shows? Weird. I got the live shows from that site that used to post Elephant 6 bootlegs. Does that exist anymore? I don't know. Beulah plays horn-heavy, somewhat-psychedelic power pop. You make music that could be described that way, and chances are I'll like it.
The Bevis Frond - He'd Be A Diamond. This is a compilation of the psych-rock band by my friend Jon B. They sound a bit like one very ambitious guy covering every song on the Nuggets box.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Dear Readers, Writers, Friends of the High Hat, and Those Anxiously Awaiting Our Imminent Demise:
Time is the subject of the High Hat Issue 10, and Time has been our enemy this year. We the editors have been so involved in our personal projects this year that we have consistently allowed the next promised issue to take a backseat to our other endeavors. This is a less-than-ideal situation, naturally.
Therefore, it is with all due apologies that we hereby inform you that Issue 10 IS forthcoming. In fact, we want to expand it to the heretofore-unseen DOUBLE ISSUE.
This DOUBLE ISSUE will be published in December 2008. We will feature our current articles on Time, and we proudly expand our special feature idea to include The End Of An Era. Call it Death if you must. In fact, call it Death anyway, but don't be literal.
Time and Death. Has a certain ring to it, yes?
This special topic will and must include articles about politics (apparently there is some sort of political shindig in the USA at the moment), personal loss, doors closing while others open, that sort of thing.
Pitch now! Write soon! Publish in December! Contact us at highhatsubmissionsATgmailDOTcom.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wow, it's nice to see them act like adults, but a little disconcerting, too, to see how easily they (and especially McCain, who's gone for the more cutthroat rhetoric) step away from everything they're saying on the road.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Music Library: The Bee Gees, Bee Vs. Moth, Beechwood Sparks, Beirut, Belinda Gillet, Belle and Sebastian, Belt Buckle
The Bee Gees - Bee Gees' 1st and "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart": The first Bee Gees album is a slice of Aussie wannaBeatles-ishness. Lots of swirling psychedelia, not all of it interesting, a few that sound like they took pieces of Beatles songs and mixed them together differently. The most prominent of these is "In My Own Time," which is built on a bassline and guitar part stolen from "Taxman," but with a phased (maybe backwards) guitar lead stolen from "Tomorrow Never Knows." The best track is the stellar "To Love Somebody," which has rightfully been covered often by other bands. "Broken Heart" is a delicious chunk of drippy 70s pop.
Bee Vs. Moth - "Doom Equity" and "Tjamis;": Two tracks by the primary creative outlet of my bandmate and friend Philip Moody. Bee Vs. Moth is avant-jazzy but unabrasive, sometimes veering closer to the fake jazz of Universal Congress Of and sometimes to an almost Ellingtonian swing. Lots of chops on display in the instruments, but the chops never overrun the swell and swing of the songs. I need to get off my hindquarters and pick up the rest of this album.
Beechwood Sparks - "Ghost Dance 1492". This must be off of a mix I got from someone in the past, but it's lost to history now. Good song that reminds me of the Olivia Tremor Control. The album cover that iTunes selected for this is a Jim Woodring drawing, which is awesome.
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar and "Elephant Gun": I was curious about this because the reviews made it sound like gypsy indie rock. Which is about right. It's Eastern European music (I don't know from Romany) with an indie-rock bent to the lyrics. It's interesting, but a little light on substance. Especially since a major touchstone for this band seems to be Neutral Milk Hotel, who were anything but light on substance. The other major touchstone is, I think, Arcade Fire, who are similarly light. So there's that.
Belinda Gillet - "Someone Hates You." A free track from eMusic. Not really my thing. Sounds like a song intended for a season-ending montage on a teen-heavy show. Or a sing-a-long in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and I think I've already established that I'm not crazy about Aimee Mann. Strangely, at the halfway point, the music stops, and there's 3 minutes of silence following the less-than-3 minute track. I expected a hidden track or something, but no. Probably will delete for that reason.
Belle and Sebastian:
- Tigermilk, Dog On Wheels EP, If You're Feeling Sinister, Lazy Line Painter Jane EP, 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light EP, and The Boy With The Arab Strap: I don't know how wrong it is to review these together. But I'm going to. This whole run of music is utter delight, an admixture of childhood whimsy, late-teen/young-adult pose, and world-weary grown-up reflection, all built around this odd nostalgia for music that never existed before (to steal a line about the completely dissimilar Jonathan Richman). I mean, most of these tracks could have been recorded at any moment between 1966 and the present, and yet they are also so distinctly the product of the 90s, and I don't know how to reconcile this. I need to read Scott Plagenhoef's 33 1/3 book about If You're Feeling Sinister, I think. There's so many wonderful songs that I'm not going to even try to list them all. I will say that my favorite of all of these is The Boy With The Arab Strap, which was the first B&S album I bought, and therefore the first one I wholeheartedly embraced.
- Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant and Storytelling: The earlier of these is such a weird album. B&S went more democratic in songwriting, which led to some songs that sound like Lee Hazlewood and some that sound like, I dunno, Melanie or some other 70s folky-girl. And some that sound like B&S. Just odd. The latter of these is the soundtrack to the miserable Todd Solondz movie (was that redundant?). Apparently, very little of B&S's music appeared in the film, but unfortunately, the album is peppered with dialogue from the movie. The songs range from ultra-light to okay.
- John Peel Christmas Party 12/18/2002: Maybe it's wrong to admit this about a goofy Christmas show, but this is my absolute favorite Peel Session. I like how bands always seemed to let down their hair and have a blast on his show, but B&S throw everything out the window. It sounds like a drunken great time. They start with "O Come, All Ye Faithful," a fairly reverent version driven by organ, bass, and cymbals. Then they just let loose: "Christmas Time Is Here" (from the Charlie Brown Xmas Special), the Sonics' "Santa Claus," a couple of original tunes, James Brown's "Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto," more Christmas songs with a few originals (including a killer version of "The Boy With The Arab Strap"), all leading up to a sublimely ridiculous version of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas."
- Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit: These solidify the slightly-schizo B&S from Fold Your Hands Child into a 70s-AM pop melange. The Life Pursuit is the better of the two because there's a little more T. Rex in there and a little less Starland Vocal Band.
- Mellow Gold: I listened to this constantly when it came out, but it sounds pretty uneven to me now. Still some greatness and some filler.
- Odelay: The weird little Scientologist's magnum opus to my ears.
- Mutations: Os Mutantes is awesome, yes, but I don't hear their influence that strongly on this album, despite the way the majority of the reviews honed in on the song "Tropicalia" and declared the album was Beck doing Brazil. It's good, but a lot more folk-rock-pop (I do hear some Love on a few of the songs), and nowhere near as groundbreaking as Odelay.
- Midnite Vultures: Ah, Prince is awesome, yes, but again with the yada yada his influence not that strong despite the reviews yada, okay. I mean, there's always going to be something cold and alien about Beck, right? That's one of his strengths, really, that intellectual approach to sound. So his take on sex music sounds like puppets fucking.
- Sea Change: Some Beck fans consider this one of the all-time great breakup albums. I know from great breakup albums. While this isn't a bad mopey album, it's not up there with the major league hitters like Shoot Out The Lights and Blood On The Tracks. The touchstone here is Serge Gainsbourg, with at least one track ripping off the guitar and strings from Gainsbourg's amazing Histoire de Melody Nelson album.
- The Information: I've listened to this quite a few times and still have no opinion on it. I can barely recall any of the songs, although none annoyed me, either. One track steals the drums from another Serge Gainsbourg song, but only for a little while. Just a lot of blah, which is disappointing from the guy.
- What Fun Life Was: So much of the Bedhead sound is there right at the beginning. There's cymbal-heavy drums, layers and layers of clean guitars, melancholy melodies, sleepy vocals. Great stuff
- 4-SongEP1910: Recorded in one take live in a church, this one is similar to the debut album, although with maybe a little bit more Sterling Morrison than in the later works.
- Beheaded: Sounds like a statement of purpose from the opening notes. I don't know how Bedhead does it. They make music that sounds like it should be an overwhelming squall of noise and yet it somehow sleepy and restful and almost ambient in places (and although I never saw them live, I have seen the Bedhead outgrowth The New Year, which performs the same trick while actually squalling like a damn noise factory). My favorite track is "The Rest Of The Day," which has an amazing cumulative effect after n repetitions of the same coda over and over again.
- Dark Ages EP: Three songs with increased use of feedback and dynamics. The cumulative effect is especially on display in "Inhume," one of my favorite Bedhead tracks.
- Transaction de Novo: Utterly brilliant. Transcendentally beautiful. Indie rock at its finest. My favorites are "More Than Ever," "Half-thought," and "Lepidoptera."
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
My comments about the Beatles proved to be controversial to one visitor. It all started because I mentioned feeling a little embarrassed when I listen to some of the Beatles' songs on my iPod. Here's the exchange with a couple of comments at the end:
Joe Victor said...
Embarrassed why? Why embarrassed?
9:47 AM, October 03, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I don't know. With their truly great songs, I don't get that shudder of embarrassment, but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes. It's easy to be a Beatles fanatic and sop up everything they've done, but y'know - anyone can do it. Being a Beatles fan doesn't require a whole lot of work or attention. Their great songs are so accessible that they belie the intricacy and complication that makes them great. Their mediocre songs are just sort of there. And no one really makes an argument against their greatness, but their ubiquity makes it easy not to hear the greatness, and then the Beatles fanatic is just celebrating their ubiquity instead of their cleverness, and I feel a part of that when some of the dreck from the Anthology series pops up. I dunno, I'm having horrible allergies today, so I don't know if I'm explaining myself well.
2:20 PM, October 03, 2008
"but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes."
The end of that quote made me throw up a little. You obviously think you are a smart person by the way you talk but yet your stupidity shines through.
10:03 AM, October 07, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Aw, there's nothing better in Internet culture than anonymous jerks calling you stupid because they lack confidence in themselves. Be sure to drop back by when you grow up a little, sport!
10:41 AM, October 07, 2008
I have complete confidence in myself. You are talking shit about people's music tastes in the past, back when there weren't 500 billion bands out and the technology that we have today.It's funny too because we happen to be in the same city so I would think that your mind would be a little more open like the rest of us.
10:23 AM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Hey, that's my confident guy! So confident that you anonymously call me stupid for the terrible crime of having a different opinion than you. And then, to top it all off, you accuse me of not being open-minded. Maybe that plays like confidence in your mind, but to me, it looks like you're being defensive. And, sorry to say, sort of a dick.
But, you know, I actually am interested in the free exchange of ideas, and I'm willing to talk more about why it bothers me when I'm listening to Beatles songs. I don't think I explained it very well, and I have a better idea about it now. And, I mean, this is my blog. I can write whatever the hell I want. But I'm not all that interested in going more into this unless you're willing to have an actual conversation about it. So what'll it be, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous: are you trolling or are you trying to engage me?
11:00 AM, October 08, 2008
It's cool, I don't have a google account or whatever, and this is really going nowhere anyway because you refuse to even try to see what I'm trying to say. Yes it's your blog and good luck with everything.
11:09 AM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I refuse to see what you're trying to say? Have you said anything? You call me stupid in the first post and tell me I'm talking shit about people's music tastes in the past in the second, which I admit: I don't know what that means, but I think you're saying that people in the pre-Internet era were huge Beatles fans because it was easy. To which I say: yes, of course. Didn't you see how many Beatles albums I have?
Since you're interested in being an open-minded person, I think you might want to rethink your strategy here. You can be anonymous, fellow, but you're engaging in classic troll behavior: you show up, throw a few bombs, say something enigmatic, and then huff off because you feel your genius is unrecognized. I'm not saying you have to try with me, but as you go to different sites, you might want to consider whether this is the way you want to be on the Internet. There's a lot of people who act this way, but I don't think they're getting much out of their experience.
11:30 AM, October 08, 2008
I never post anything, so don't think I "troll around" doing this on sites/blogs. Keep thinking that you yourself have sophisticated tastes and you will stay happy for the rest of your life (apparently).
12:33 PM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Hey, thanks for your concern! I am, in fact, a pretty happy guy.
I honestly hope you enjoy collecting however many Beatles albums you need, and I'm sorry I stung you with that comment about those with less sophisticated tastes. I'm sure your tastes are ultra-sophisticated, and that you get way more out of "Across The Universe" and "Besame Mucho" than I do. I also hope that maybe you find a Beatles appreciation site where everyone can reassure you about your super-sophisticated tastes in music, because we've pretty much hit the end of my compassion for a guy who starts with "I disagree, therefore you're stupid" and doesn't seem to have much more to say than that.
Just for the record, all I was trying to say was that when the Beatles are great, they're unimpeachably great, but when they're just okay, I find it pretty boring. Why I find it boring is personal: I was a Beatles fanatic when I was around 13, way back before there was an Internet. I hunted down everything I could find - which, given my limited resources, meant a lot of interlibrary loan time. I listened to them obsessively for a time, and then I moved on. It's hard for me to hear "Love Me Do" or "Twist and Shout" or even the late, more ambitious (and, less successful, I think) Beatles music without remembering the time I spent trying to figure out how to pick those songs out on a guitar and parse those twisted harmonies, and it all seems vaguely embarrassing to me now. I feel like if you're going to be a fanatic, you should find something that challenges you and expands your horizons, and Beatles fanaticism is so ingrained in American culture that it's as challenging as being a Yankees fan. For the record, I feel exactly the same about Led Zeppelin fanaticism, so if you live in a Led Zep echo chamber and can't stand to hear criticism of their awesomeness, here's your early warning.
1:03 PM, October 08, 2008
I don't need my tastes reassured. I didn't call you stupid because I didn't agree with you, I said that it was stupid for someone to basically call other people stupid for liking certain Beatles songs while you yourself like others. It wasn't/isn't necessary for you to look down on others just because they like certain Beatles songs that you don't.
3:57 PM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I haven't called anyone stupid, fellow. You're the only one here doing that.
I said that I don't think Beatles fanaticism is a sign of very sophisticated tastes. If you're suggesting - as I think you are - that I'm an elitist, a snob, a connoisseur, or what-have-you, then yes, you're right. That's what I am. All those words signify the time and effort I've spent trying to increase my knowledge and appreciation - the root of my authority, my expertise - of rock and many other kinds of music. I have a certain set of tastes that I think of as somewhat developed - or sophisticated, even - and you, of course, are free to disagree about my judgment, but you're probably not going to change my mind without giving me some credentials and a great, sea-change kind of argument.
But you also seem to be bristling at the idea that I think your tastes aren't sophisticated, because you feel that they are. I can't speak to that. I don't know you. You may have the tastes that impress me most of anyone in the world for all I know. But I think that's the crux of the disconnect between the two ideas: you give me a certain authority by thinking of me as an elitist whose opinion has meaning and, at the same time, you want to take that authority away because I said that a population that you identify with is "not very sophisticated."
Your real problem with me is that you saw my comment as a dig at you. You think I'm looking down on you for loving everything in the Beatles back-catalog. And man, I don't even know you. I don't think you or anyone like you is stupid, and I don't judge anyone's intrinsic worth by the music they listen to. Do you think less of people who prefer to dine in different restaurants?
Let's say my favorite place to dine is Aquarelle (assuming I had that kind of budget) and yours is Hoboken Pies (to extend this analogy, because everyone loves pizza but not everyone loves French cuisine). I can say that I really, really like several of the specialties at Hoboken Pies. If I'm going to eat pizza, that's what I want. But there's some pizzas they make that are completely unexciting to me now. Maybe I ate too many when I was young. Maybe all those years I spent toiling in kitchens has robbed those flavors of their mystery. I come to the conclusion that people who love those pies - especially if they love them as much as they love Hoboken's more complex pizzas - don't have a very discriminating palate. I think that on the flip side of this analogy, this is where you get offended. And hey, I even apologized for offending you, but man, I'm not going to apologize for thinking that some things are better than others.
Which gets back to that authority crux I was talking about before: my tastes are just my tastes. My judgment has no bearing whatsoever on yours, unless you choose to make it so. I think of my sophisticated/unsophisticated heirarchy as perpendicular to judgments about good and bad. My personal axis is built on challenge and surprise and passion. A lot of Beatles songs, despite thousands of repeat listens, still challenge and surprise me, but there's a whole bunch of Beatles songs that just sound bland and Music 101 to my ears. You hear it differently.
If anything, people with tastes like mine are willfully cutting ourselves off from a lot of music that brings joy to the masses of music listeners. Where I hear saccharine, many - if not most - people hear the voice of god. Or whatever it is that people seek out of music.
So, what are you looking for? Do you need to hear that I'm not judging your tastes? 'Cause I am. But so what? You're judging my tastes, too. Do you need to hear that I don't think your Beatles fantaticism is unsophisticated? Well, I do. I still think it's the musical equivalent of supporting the Yankees. Or choosing pizza over other foods. Or some other analogy involving picking the dominant overdog. I don't think it's very interesting to affirm the greatness of something that conventional wisdom already believes to be great. I don't think it makes you stupid to do so. It just means I'm not very likely to ask you for a CD mix because I don't think I will like it.
Since I spent so much time on this response, I'm going to copy a lot of this stuff onto the main page as a blog post of its own. One last thought: you should read Carl Wilson's 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion. Seriously. I think you'll find his discussion of music taste and the assumptions that go into it to be enlightening.
5:42 PM, October 08, 2008
A few thoughts: I assumed Anonymous was a mindless troll after his first comment and was more of an ass than I should have been with him at first. I no longer think of Anonymous that way, but I do wonder what he's looking for out of me, if not affirmation that his all-inclusive love for the Beatles trumps my less-inclusive love for the Beatles. He ain't getting that. So, a hug, perhaps?
In comments, our Anonymous friend says that he's not the Beatles fan I assumed he was (because if he wasn't personally offended and he wasn't trolling, then his reason for dropping by and calling me names is...? I have no idea) and then goes on to ask why I wouldn't want a mix tape from him (here's a hint: I only want mix CDs from people who are interesting). So I was arguing with a straw man, which I sort of suspected, anyway. I think this the towel thrown in, fork stuck in ass, and fat lady singing moment. On my iPod at this moment: Kris Kristofferson singing, "It's over; nobody wins." Truer words.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My first Screengrab post is up! It ain't much, but it's a starting point. I'll put up another post or two tomorrow.
Monday, October 06, 2008
I've joined the crack team that writes about film at the Screengrab, which is Nerve.com's movie blog. I meant to get my first post up today, but it will have to wait until this evening now. Can't you feel the excitement?
Friday, October 03, 2008
Ah, the Beatles. I don't think I can actually say anything interesting about them, so I'm just listing the albums.
Hard Day's Night.
Help! (both UK and two tracks from the US version)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Dry Tapes For The White Album (mostly acoustic bootleg demos)
Let It Be
The Beatles Anthology
Past Masters, Vol. 1
Past Masters, Vol. 2 (only 3 tracks)
Live At The BBC
You would think that I really, really love them. I like them, sure, but I'm faintly embarrassed by them, too.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Music Library Post: Beat Happening Plus Catch-Up: Able Tasmans, Air, Alec Bathgate, Archers of Loaf, Ariel Pink, Avengers, Band, Bats, Battles
Some more delving into my music library for your mildest pleasure.
Beat Happening (Crashing Through box set):
- Beat Happening: Pretty rough going at times, but there's some great stand-out songs. Reminds me a bit of Daniel Johnston albums.
- Jamboree: Where Beat Happening hit their stride. "Indian Summer" in particular is so great that this album could be forgiven for anything.
- Black Candy: Beat Happening tries to be the Cramps with mixed results. "Cast A Shadow" is sublime.
- Dreamy: This one has a bunch of fantastic songs and blends the innocence of Jamboree with the darkness of Black Candy to an amazing result.
- You Turn Me On: The perfect Beat Happening album. They would have been a great band without it, but with it, they are one of the all-time best-ever bands.
- Music To Climb The Apple Tree By: B-sides and EPs. Fun for fans, but not essential by any stretch of the imagination.
- Crashing Through 7: Audio + Video: Four live tracks and the videos. The videos are fun, but the audio is only okay.
Able Tasmans - A Cuppa Tea And A Lie Down, Somebody Ate My Planet, and Store In A Cool Place. If the NZ guitar-pop universe is one in which the Feelies were like unto the Rolling Stones' influence on UK and US post-punk, the Able Tasmans are the Speed The Plough of the universe. By which I mean that they're lighter and more willing to engage in woodwind-heavy twee-ness. That's okay by me, but might need to be culled down for a non-fan.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Music Library: Beach House, Beastie Boys, Beasts of Bourbon, Ayler, Aereogramme, Always August, Angst, April March, Au
Plus some supersexy Catch-Up at the end!
Beach House - s/t. Breezy and slight. No dynamics at all. These songs make a nice, whispery interlude when they crop up in the shuffle, but as an album, they're dull as hell.
- Licensed To Ill. I haven't owned copy of this in a long, long time. A friend gave me a burn of it, but it's been edited for Wal-Mart or something. There's lots of odd gaps where the Beastie Boys are saying dirty words. Thanks, Wal-Mart, for protecting my virgin ears! Unfortunately, it's unlistenable now. Small price to pay to avoid hearing adult language.
- Paul's Boutique. Now that's more like it.
- Check Your Head. Always a great time. Sounds like the early 90s to these ears.
- The In Sound From Way Out! All-instrumental Beasties. S'alright. Not great. Best if mixed in a shuffle rather than listening to it all at once. In fact, I started getting bored with the very first song.
- Jimmy James single. A few b-sides ranging from merely-ok to godawful.
- So What'cha Want single. Much the same as above. The different versions of the title song are okay, I guess.
- Ill Communication. I was 22 when this came out. Is it possible that someone my age doesn't love it? I think not. Maybe it's a little long, maybe a notch too self-indulgent. I don't care.
- Root Down EP. Ugh. That's it. All of these singles suck. They're gone tonight.
- Hello Nasty. Not up to the high-highs of the best stuff nor the low-lows of the singles, but, y'know, it's the Beastie Boys. It's pretty good.
- The Mix-Up. More funk instrumentals. More interesting the The In Sound, but a little wearying all at once.
Plus catch-up albums! Some SST and other acquisitions. I have a few new catch-up albums to cover, mostly from two music blogs: one dedicated to never-released stateside indie rock albums from New Zealand, and one dedicated to out-of-print albums from SST. Others are from eMusic or friends. I haven't quit gotten to the kiwi-pop contingency yet, but I'll get to them before the next post.
Albert Ayler - Live In Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings. After reading that I didn't have the whole album, a friend was kind enough to hook me up with it. Thanks! Ayler kicks all kinds of ass.
Aereogramme - Sleep and Release. I searched out a copy of this because I like the In The Fishtank album they made with Isis. It's strongly influenced by the Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins, the former a favorite and the latter very much not. There's also a distinct post-rock feel that's somewhere between Sigur Ros and Mogwai, which again: the former is a favorite and the latter very much not. Anyway, I haven't given it as much time as I should because it sometimes sounds brilliant and messy and sometimes it sounds contrived and annoying, and I don't know which way I lean on it.
Always August - Largeness With (W)holes. An SST band that also has its ups and downs. Sometimes they sound like indie rockers emulating Rahsaan Roland Kirk (an obvious inspiration) and sometimes they sound like Widespread Panic working a couple of chords into an early grave. My friend and former housemate Mike bought this - as he bought many things on the SST label back in the day - and I remember thinking how out of character this album seemed at the time. Now, they remind me a bit of contemporary fake-jazzers like Mushroom and Cul De Sac, but I definitely prefer those over this.
Angst - Lite Life, Mending Wall, and Mystery Spot. It's hard to believe that this SST band has been so overlooked. They're quite the little gem of post-punk creativity, reminiscent of the Meat Puppets but with a guitar player a bit less of a genius than Curt Kirkwood. Still, they have solid songwriting chops, a healthy mix of silliness and profundity, and a great sense of pop melodicism filtered through post-punk skronk.
April March - "Cet Air-La". Apparently a cover of a classic French pop song. I like it okay, but I like the cheesecake photo of Ms. March on the cover of her album quite a bit more.
Au - Verbs. The most half-lidded hypnogogic psychedelia outside of Animal Collective.
Monday, September 15, 2008
So, I've been meaning to recap my trip to LA for a while. I put up a post about the reading at the Shoot Out The Lights blog.
So, the Tom Waits bus tour was great fun. That's the way to see LA: riding on a tour bus while knowledgable people tell you about the city and take you to some of its landmarks, especially those landmarks related to Tom Waits. My hosts-Gary, Kathy, and Penelope-were both delightful and game for far too many late-night scotch-driven conversations. I got to meet in person a number of wonderful people I knew only through the Internet: Dana K, Paul & Heather H, Shauna M, David Smay, Kim Cooper, Sean K, Robin F. I also had the pleasure of meeting a number of likewise wonderful people for the first time. I spent too much scratch at Amoeba. I gawked at some of the large houses, which I assume were full of swimming pools and movie stars. I ate some expensive-and-delicious food. In short: hooray for LA.
I dreamt last night that a friend of mine (Tom Block, if you're curious) was explaining to a group of us how Blazing Saddles was the most relevant movie to the American political landscape of 2008. I woke thinking: hey, maybe he's right. The townfolk were terrified of the competent sheriff because of his race. He converted the washup gunshooter into a formidable sidekick. The other side is more problematic. Is McCain the equivalent to the governor and Palin the Snidely Whiplash character? Or is McCain the Whiplash and Palin the guy played by Slim Pickens? And who's Lili Von Schtupp in all of this? Or Mongo? I should have questioned dream-Tom about this better. And real-Tom is, I'm sure, mortified that I attributed this dreck to him. Sorry, man!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Have I reminded you lately that I'm reading in LA this weekend? Because I am. At Metropolis Books on Saturday, August 30 at 6 pm with Kim Cooper and David Smay. Both Kim and David are 33 1/3 authors ("In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" and "Swordfishtrombones," respectively), virtual friends, and awesome people, so I'm very very very excited about this.
Plus! I'll be returning to LA on October 29 to read again at the Hammer Museum at UCLA with Kim Cooper and Scott Plagenhoef ("If You're Feeling Sinister"). This one will include multimedia craziness! I owe a word of thanks to the 33 1/3 series' kick-ass publicist Claire Heitlinger for setting that up, because it is one of the most mindblowing opportunities anyone has ever offered me as an author.
Finally, my friend Joe Gross mentioned the "pick an album for every year you're alive" meme that was going around while I was on vacation from the Internet. He said 1979 was his toughest year. I got stuck on 1988 and 1989 and finally just quit trying to decide.
- 1972 Can - Ege Bamyasi
- 1973 Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
- 1974 Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets
- 1975 Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
- 1976 Modern Lovers
- 1977 Television - Marquee Moon
- 1978 Big Star - 3rd/Sister Lovers
- 1979 Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Rust Never Sleeps
- 1980 Talking Heads - Remain In Light
- 1981 Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls & Marches
- 1982 Tie between The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour & Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights
- 1983 Meat Puppets II
- 1984 Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime
- 1985 Mekons - Fear & Whiskey
- 1986 Feelies - The Good Earth
- 1987 Dinosaur Jr - You're Living All Over Me
- 1988 (3-way tie) Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane, Pixies - Surfer Rosa, and Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
- 1989 (3-way tie) Camper Van Beethoven - Key Lime Pie, Mekons Rock N' Roll, and Pixies - Doolittle
- 1990 Galaxie 500 - This Is Our Music
- 1991 My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
- 1992 Tom Waits - Bone Machine
- 1993 Pavement - Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
- 1994 Cardinal
- 1995 Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
- 1996 Neil Young - Dead Man Soundtrack
- 1997 Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
- 1998 Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
- 1999 The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
- 2000 Bedhead - What Fun Life Was
- 2001 Spoon - Girls Can Tell
- 2002 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
- 2003 New Pornographers - Electric Version
- 2004 Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat
- 2005 Animal Collective - Feels
- 2006 Joanna Newsom - Ys
- 2007 Akron/Family - Love Is Simple
- 2008 Boris - Smile
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Back from our trip to the Southeast. We rented a cabin at Cheaha State Park in Alabama for a week. Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama, basically the bottom peak of the Appalachian Mountains, and the park is utterly gorgeous, a little slice of the Smokeys surrounded by hundreds of miles of the Talledega National Forest. I'll post a few pics when I get a chance. All the kids' grandparents rented cabins, as well, plus my sister and some delightful friends from North Carolina who we hadn't seen in far, far, far too long.
I took a side-trip to Nashville last Thursday, too, to read from Shoot Out The Lights at Grimey's Records. Let me first say that Grimey's is an incredibly fantastic place, with a killer selection of music and a supercool, super-knowledgeable staff. Let me also say that Will Kimbrough, who is a great guy, tore the shit out of some Richard Thompson songs. And I stammered my way through a reading somehow. I have a recording that I'm thinking I'll post when I get the chance! Let me also say that John Dougan, the scribe behind the awesome 33 1/3 book on The Who Sell Out, also showed up, and he is also a super-cool guy, and I very much enjoyed comparing notes about the writing of our respective books.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I'm not going to be online often over the next week to 10 days, so I just wanted to mention that I'll be reading from Shoot Out The Lights in Nashville a week from Thursday, 8/14, at Grimey's New & Preloved Music at 6 pm with the incredibly awesome Will Kimbrough joining me to play some Richard Thompson songs. If you're in Nashville or thereabouts, come on down!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Battles - EP B and Mirrored. See, I like krautrock and glipsy-glitch noises and ambitious proggy stuff when it doesn't take itself too seriously. This music is all goofy space-funk with Euro-alien overtures, which, as you can tell, doesn't lend it to easy descriptions.
Bauhaus - Mask, "Swing The Heartache," "She's In Parties," and Go Away White. A gift from a friend, I haven't listened to these much. I wasn't a big fan of the Bauhaus back in high school, but I very much enjoyed revisiting their older songs here and the 2008 Go Away White reformation-and-resplit album.
Be Bop Deluxe - "Fair Exchange." Over-the-top glammy silliness.
Be Your Own Pet - s/t. Fun teenage retro post-punk thing. A little too relentless all at once, but great in small doses.
Beach Boys - Uh, there's a lot of these. Let's break them out.
- The Beach Boys' Christmas Album: Yawn.
- Today!/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!): Two-fer of 1965 albums with the classic Beach Boys sound at its peak. There's some wild variance between the heights and depths. The songs that are great are really, truly, amazingly great, but those that aren't are rather shockingly bad.
- Pet Sounds: What more can I add to everything that's been said of this album? It's utterly brilliant all-American psychedelia, a truly weird and beautiful experience, and it gives your ears a chance to stretch their muscles.
- Pet Sounds Sessions: How much do I love Pet Sounds? Enough to buy a 4-disc box of studio sessions, which is like loving sausage so much that buy the parts of the pig that people rarely think of as food.
- Smile - GEMA Bits and Pieces. I have a lot of versions of SMILE (thanks to Gary Mairs! - when I first became interested, all I had was the Vigatone Smile, but Gary hooked me up with four other versions). I was an obsessive SMILE collector for a while, back before Brian Wilson went back into the studio and re-recorded the tracks to clarify how all these pieces were supposed to go together. This one collects a bunch of studio fragments.
- Smile - GEMA Version. This sequence in this version throws me. It makes some sense in terms of flow, but it's entirely different from the way I would have constructed it. And the way that Brian Wilson actually constructed it, for that matter, but that didn't happen until later. Many of the selected tracks are still quite unfinished in this version, too. And there's a handful of odd choices that don't really seem to belong. But on the other hand, there's some stunning barnyard sounds in the version of "Heroes and Villians" and some other curlicues of greatness shoved into the margins.
- Smile - Good Vibrations Box Set. These are the Smile tracks from the Beach Boys box set, the first official glimpse of the mastered tracks. Brilliant, natch, even if unfinished.
- Smile - Vigatone. Culled from the Vigatone box-o'-copyright-violations, this was my attempt to make a version of Smile that flowed right well before Brian Wilson went back into the studio to set the record straight. It's not too far from the final version, but mine has a lot more of the different Bicycle Rider themes holding everything together. Plus it has "Well, You're Welcome" at the end and a bunch of bits and pieces that aren't on any of these other compilations.
- Smile - Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 16. This version is somewhere between the Good Vibrations Box and the Vigatone Smiles.
- Smiley Smile. When the Smile sessions fell apart, the Beach Boys cobbled together finished tracks and parts of other tracks for this album. It's a cracked reflection of a masterpiece, not up to the dizzying heights of Pet Sounds or the promise of Smile, but with much of the Smile sessions' wacky psychedelia on display, it's a great near-miss.
- Wild Honey. After Smile fell apart, Brian Wilson was unwilling and unable to lead the Beach Boys, so Mike Love took the lead in making this album, which was a few steps back musically and creatively but, on the other hand, was a decent set of songs (with a couple of stone classics) displaying the Beach Boys' other strengths. I have these last two albums collected on a single CD with a few Smile odds and ends added on.
- Friends. The Beach Boys become more democratic, which is theoretically good, but more odd, in that they've been touched by the avant-garde experiment of Smile and are still trying to craft mainstream pop, circa 1968.
- 20/20. Same deal, although this one has even more Smile detritus and Dennis Wilson's Charlie Manson-penned song "Never Learn Not To Love."
- Landlocked. A bootleg of demos pre-dating Sunflower. Many of these songs turned up on later releases. Most are pretty decent.
- Sunflower. This is what the post-Smile Beach Boys were worked towards: a more democratic album that is unabashed sunny and weird avant-pop. A great, great album.
- Surf's Up. Named after the best song Brian Wilson ever wrote, this is both the logical progression from Sunflower and the flip-side of the coin. Where Sunflower is sunny and hopeful, Surf's Up is dark and fatalistic. It culminates in Brian Wilson's finest post-Smile work: "A Day In the Life Of A Tree," which is as batshit insane as it is stunningly gorgeous, "'Til I Die," which is the hymn God sings at the Church of Humanism, and "Surf's Up," which is so incredibly wonderful that it breaks the Second Law of Superlative Thermodynamics.
- Endless Summer. Wow, those early Beach Boys tracks, huh? Those kids could sing the shit out of anything, but Brian Wilson's songs were so intricate and brilliant and unfortunately ubiquitous that it's easy to forget just how brightly they shine.
- Adult Child. Demos for an unreleased late 70s Beach Boys album. There's some fantastic songs here, but a lot of dreck, too.
- The Beach Boys Love You. Ah, there's the crackpot Brian Wilson at his crackiestpottery.
- Creme De La Rest. A mix by my friend Gary of the early BBs with surprisingly little overlap with Endless Summer. Fantastic!
Monday, July 21, 2008
Music Library: Band of Susans, Bang On A Can, Bango, Banyan, Baroness, Barrington Levy, Barry White, Bartlebees, Bash & Pop, Bat For Lashes, Bats
Man, it's been a while since I did one of these!
Band of Susans - Peel Sessions, "1,000,000," Here Comes Success, "Drill," and "Ahead." The Peel Sessions album has three BoS songs and three covers - Gang of Four's "I Found That Essence Rare," the Stones' "Child of the Moon," and Wire's "Too Late," all fantastic songs that lend themselves to BoS's wall of sound. "1,000,000" is a cover of the REM song. Success (an Iggy reference in the title) is a phenomenal wall of almost-ambient skronk with jittery post-punk rhythms, like Sonic Youth covering Brian Eno covering the Feelies. Fantastic. "Drill" is an interesting cover of the Wire track from a whole album of covers of that same song called Dugga Dugga Dugga. "Ahead" is yet another Wire cover, from yet another Wire tribute album.
Bang On A Can - In C, Philip Glass: Music In 5ths, and Brian Eno: Music For Airports (Live). Interesting experiments in new compositional music. The first is Terry Riley's sublime composition, and although one friend -- the composer Steve Hicken, to drop a name -- calls it the worst recorded version of Riley's masterpiece, I like it. Either of the two tracks on the Philip Glass album are okay by themselves but overwhelming in tandem (that's one after another, McNulty). And the Eno album is bizarre, a mostly note-for-note live version of Eno's ambient album that seems only to exist to prove that it can be done. I'd rather listen to the real thing.
Bango - s/t. A fat slab of Brazilian garage-psychedelia. My Portugeuse is poor, so I have no idea what most of the songs are about, even when they're in English. It's okay, but it brings the utter timeless brilliance of Os Mutantes into sharp relief.
Banyan - "Mad As A Hornet," "Israelite," "El Sexxo," "King of Longbeach." These are some tracks from Mike Watt's free-jazz collective that I got from a blog some time back. Great stuff. At least one of the basslines is identical to a song on Watt's first solo album.
Baroness - First, Second, and Red Album. Killer metal band with an Allman Brothers jones and the chops to make it work.
Barrington Levy - Haul & Pull Up Selecta. The album appears to be a compilation, but the only tracks I have are the ones by Levy, an early dancehall singer and producer.
Barry White - All-Time Greatest Hits. I bought this while going through a 70s soul phase sometime back in the mid-90s. There's a few amazing tracks on it, but more cheese per square measure than most doctors would allow. Some of the songs are completely unlistenable. Maybe I just need more love in my cold, shivering heart.
The Bartlebees - "She Loves Monsters." Garage rock from a David Smay Halloween mix.
Bash & Pop - Friday Night Is Killing Me. This is Tommy Stinson's first post-Replacements band. It's interesting, because you can clearly hear how Stinson learned songcraft from Paul Westerberg as all of the songs are organized 'Mats-style, but the lyrics completely lack Westerberg's punch. Heck, I guess you could say the same of pretty much all of Westerberg's post-Replacements work, too. A couple of the songs are passable enough that they could be minor tracks from the 'Mats last two albums. I don't say that out of love.
Bat For Lashes - Fur and Gold. Somewhere between the Shangri-Las and Björk, this album is a fantastic taste of ethereal pop dread.
The Bats - By Night, Daddy's Highway, Fear of God, and At The National Grid. Is this the first kiwi-rock band we've hit? The Bats are led by Robert Scott, who was the bassist for The Clean, one of my all-time favorite bands. And the Bats are utterly delightful. By Night and Fear of God are decent albums by most standards, but Daddy's Highway and At The National Grid are so far out on the fuzz-folk-jangle axis exemplified by the beloved Feelies that they feel written on my DNA. I should mention that there was almost 20 years between the release of Daddy's Highway and National Grid, and ten years between the Bat's previous album and National Grid. And yet it sounds vibrant and timeless and wonderful, and I recommend it to all.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
In which I talk about the Shoot Out The Lights reading & Richard Thompson Hoot Night at the Carousel Lounge in Austin last Saturday, July 12, 2008. You can find it, along with a picture of me sweating my ass off, over at Shoot Out The Lights Blog.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Inventive and slightly mad! I have to put that on my business cards. Awesome.
“Shoot Out The Lights” by Hayden Childs is a masterful 116-page obsessive’s factual and fictional paean to the 1982 eight-song album, as well as to Richard Thompson, and to a lesser degree to Linda Thompson. Ten pages into the book, I realized that I had little inkling of the musical specifics that Childs was putting under his microscope. After four successive and attentive listenings of the entire CD, I was ready to go back to my reading. As Childs pursued his inventive and slightly mad takes on the significance of each track, of the context, emotional and musical of every bar, I would go back to my iPod and listen again to the song under discussion. I finished the book and stood back, realizing that “Shoot Out the Lights” is now a burned-in part of my interior landscape, of my internal sound track, and is there in ways that as yet I do not fully and probably will never fully comprehend.
Monday, July 07, 2008
This Saturday, July 12, 2008: Richard Thompson Book Release Party and Hoot Night in Austin!
The venue is The Carousel at 1110 E. 52nd Street. Starts around 9 pm.
Not only will I be reading from the 33 1/3 book Shoot Out The Lights, but musical guests will be playing Richard Thompson songs all night: Lee Barber, DD Dagger, Elizabeth Jackson of the Darling New Neighbors, The Distant Seconds, and Parks & Wildlife. Come on down!
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Today's Powell's Blog post: Cormac McCarthy does Scott Walker.
Also, if you're in Austin and have Time Warner Cable, you can see me tonight on ME TV (that's Music Entertainment), channel 15, on a show called Tex-Mix airing around 6 - 6:30. Excitement!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
I'm guest-blogging at Powell's Books this week, and the first post is up, should you find yourself wanting to kill a couple of minutes.
Monday, June 23, 2008
A quick note to mention that I've added two reviews over at Shoot Out The Lights.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Just a quick mention about the Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale (or whatever they're calling it): YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!
Music Library B: B-52s, BF Shelton, Babes In Toyland, Bad Brains, Badgerlore, Bags, Balancing Act, Banana Splits, Band, Band of Horses, Band of Susans
The B-52s - Time Capsule. This is a best-of compilation, which is about all the B-52s I need. Most of it is great! I like to do the shimmy.
B.F. Shelton - "Pretty Polly." Hillbilly folk music from the 1920s, but the song is much older. Shelton's version is ominous.
Matt Baab & Hayden Childs - Lots of Demos. Well, more like 7. These are some home recordings I made with my friend and former bandmate Matt (now of the excellent band The Distant Seconds) back in 2003 or 2004. We were getting things together for an album and a new band, although not necessarily in that order. They sound pretty decent, actually. I'd like them even if I wasn't playing on them.
Babes In Toyland - "More, More, More (Pt. 1)". This is a cover for a pro-choice album, I think. And man, does it not sound like Babes In Toyland. At all. It sounds exactly like the disco track it's covering. Babes In Toyland could be great, but this isn't. Deleted.
Bad Brains - Bad Brains, I Against I, and Banned In DC. Awesome. I didn't even realize how much I wanted to hear these or how long it had been until "Sailin' On" started. The first album is the best thing that hardcore ever gave us, one of the few albums in the genre that positions hardcore as a inclusive movement with room for reggae and weirdness rather than the ridiculously exclusive and conservative hardcore music that almost everyone else made. I Against I is something else entirely, defying genre expectations at every turn. Banned In DC is a best-of compilation that puts forth a definitive argument for the band's greatness. Even though I'd just listened to some of my favorite songs on the compilation in their original context on the albums, I was just as happy to hear them again as I had been the first time around.
Badgerlore - Stories For Owls. A collaboration between Ben Chasny, the man behind Six Organs Of Admittance and a member of Comets On Fire, and Rob Fisk, formerly of Deerhoof, sounds like a recipe for awesome. It is instead a recipe for okay free-music guitar duets with electronics. There's not much to love, but it falls on the like side of the equation.
The Bags - "Frilly Underwear." Part of a compilation by David Smay, I think. Fun garage rock.
Balancing Act - New Campfire Songs and Three Squares and a Roof. I found these guys by mistake when I downloaded the first song of their first album from a music blog thinking it was "Balancing Act" by the Volcano Suns. But they're a wonderful band, with all the weirdness of Camper Van Beethoven covering Captain Beefheart on acoustic guitars. So I searched out as much of their output as was available about five years back.
The Banana Splits - "I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love With You)". A thick slice of bubblegum I sought out after reading the delightful collection Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. I used to have a few more Banana Splits tracks, but I didn't like any of them as much as this song.
The Band - Music From Big Pink, The Band, and Stage Fright. I may be missing a few great Band tracks from later, but if they had quit after Stage Fright, they would have had the perfect career. The Band, in particular, is an utterly perfect album, one of my all-time favorites. Getting through this section has taken a while, because I keep restarting this album. I've listened to it all the way through four times just while writing this post.
Band of Horses - Everything All The Time and Tour EP. I like Everything All The Time, but I don't love it. The guitar interplay is pretty, and it overall reminds me of how much I like Built to Spill and Bedhead. I don't get the comparisons to the Flaming Lips or Neil Young at all. The dude's voice is a high falsetto, but that's not enough to make the comparison work. This is straight-ahead indie rock. The Tour EP is just live versions of some of their songs from Everything. It's okay, I guess.
Band of Susans - Hope Against Hope and The Word and the Flesh. Wonderful walls of sound! Band of Susans was all about the melody in the maelstrom, and I love their work. I have a few more, I think, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow.
Friday, June 13, 2008
My book is in stock at Amazon and Powell's now. Buy it!
I have some upcoming promo things!
1. I'll be guest blogging at Powell's the week of June 30 - July 4. What a great way to celebrate the birth of this country!
2. My Austin book release party is July 12 at the Carousel Lounge. There will be bands playing Richard Thompson songs and I'll read a few excerpts of the book. Yeah!
3. I'll be in Nashville on August 14 reading at Grimey's. Woo, Grimey's!
4. I'll be in Los Angeles on August 30 at Metropolis Books with Kim "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" Cooper and David "Swordfishtrombones" Smay. Those guys are awesome, and I'm excited about sharing the stage with them. They're organizing a Tom Waits tour bus for the same afternoon, which should be oodles of fun. This will also be my first trip to LA, so hooray!
Also, my friend David Schwartz's book was published the week. Buy it!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Music Library: Catch Up Brought To You By The Letter A! with AC/DC, Akron/Family, Sam Amidon, and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
A few more A artists I found with careful scrutiny of the section of my iTunes where the artists' names begin with the letter A!
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Man, to be sixteen years old and own a stupid muscle car.
Akron/Family and Angels of Light - Angels of Light and Akron/Family. A split EP with the two bands. Which are both comprised of the pretty much same people but led by different ones. The Akron/Family stuff is ok, but only ok. There's some great moments and a few baffling ones. The Angels of Light covering "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" is fun, but only because I love the original so much.
Sam Amidon - All Is Well. Actually I don't know why this is in the As. Most solo artists go under the first letter of their given name, and a search of Allmusic indicates that this isn't "Sam Amidon" but "Samamidon," a collaboration between young Sam and another guy. Anyway, these are all traditional folk tunes with lots and lots of ornamentation. I like it. It draws that Azure Ray album into stark contrast. Both albums have lots of gauzy, pretty sounds, but the Azure Ray chose not to anchor those sounds to much of anything, whereas this one has real songs and melodies.
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - Liberation Afro Beat, Vol. 1 and Talkatif. Aw, yeah! I love Fela-style afrobeat, even when its made by New York-based musicians. These albums murder me dead with the funk-jazz rhythms and counterrhythms.
Monday, June 09, 2008
This is the end of the As! Almost! At this rate, I will be finished by sometime in the next three years.
Au Pairs - Playing With A Different Sex. As I wrote in another post, if they weren't lumped in with utterly brilliants bands like The Mekons, the Gang of Four, the Raincoats, and the Delta 5, the Au Pairs would shine a little brighter. As is, there's some real gems on this.
Augustus Pablo - The Definitive Augustus Pablo. Somewhere between dub and reggae and based around the humble melodica, Pablo's music is a wonderful example of the creative boom in Jamaica during the 60s and 70s.
The Auteurs - New Wave and After Murder Park. Tip of the hat to David Smay, who convinced me to pursue the work of Luke Haines and the Auteurs. Both of these albums are phenomenal, although I'm surprised that writers describe them with the word "glam." They don't sound glam to me. They sound like the Go-Betweens with louder guitars.
Avey Tare - Splinter Series Split #16. There's supposed to be some tracks on this by David Grubbs, too. Maybe I'll hit them in the Ds. Somewhere between annoying and brilliant, like a lot of early Animal Collective.
Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye and Pullhair Rubeye (Forward). This is actually just one album. Pullhair Rubeye consists of some lovely songs that Tare and Brekkan, for whatever reason, mastered backwards. The review on Pitchfork mentions how much the author loves this effect when used well, but also how depressing he finds it when abused, such as here. I agree completely. The backwards version is an unpleasant listening experience, without much to recommend it other than proving you can tune out the tediousness of constant redshifted sound. The forward version can be found in any number of places online, and surprise, surprise, it is an enjoyable album. Tare & Brekkan didn't just flip some songs around, but sped them up, too. So: groovy, I suppose, in the same sense that a lava lamp is groovy. Which is also to say not at all.
Axiom Funk - "Sax Machine". A Bill Laswell project with real live funksters like Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell (among, apparently, a cast of thousands) for authenticity. This song carries some pretty heavy funk.
Azeem - "Don't Do It". Decent enough hip-hop. I'm interested in hearing more.
Azure Ray - Hold On Love. This is piano-dominated indie-rock that has something to do with Bright Eyes. The two young ladies who compose this band sing well together and Eric Bachmann provides some fairly interesting (or, at least, not-uninteresting) soundscapes, but, well, I think it's dullsville overall. The songs rarely have anything for me to latch onto. I remember describing a band a few years back as having nothing but atmosphere in search of something solid to anchor it. These songs fit that description. Deleted tonight.