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.
Belt Buckle - Belt Buckle EP. A four-song one-off collaboration between Eric Matthews, Lou Barlow, and Bob Fay. Barlow & Fay, as you may know, were in Sebadoh. Matthews was one of the two artistes behind Cardinal, one of my favorite chamber-pop purveyors, and has gone on to a creatively successful (if not financially so) solo career. Two of the songs are clearly Barlow tracks, and not among his best. The other two are Matthews songs, not quite up to the heights of his later work, but okay. I don't know if it's just my version, but the mix is awful.


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