Friday, December 19, 2008

Music Library: Black ______ (Flag, Keys, Mountain, Sabbath, Swan Network, Widow)

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]"

Vindication: Better Than Silver Rings

My friend Tom Block was the origin of the idea, but I think I was the first on the Internet to make the argument that The Wire was incorporating many overt direct references to The Wild Bunch, especially in Season 2.

Here's the earliest mention of the two that I can find on the Internet. That's me in the comments. My friends and I had been kicking the point around for a few years by this time, but I can't find an earlier mention of it on the google.

Note that Alan Sepinwall catches my snap in the comments. In early 2008, he made a similar argument in his column, but he lessens the impact by mentioning that the writers were influenced by Westerns "like The Wild Bunch." In this case, he was wrong. It wasn't Westerns "like" the Wild Bunch, it was The freakin' Wild Bunch that they were paying homage to.

Later, on the House Next Door, I called most of the particulars of Omar's death a few weeks prior to the episode because of parallels between Omar and Pike. I was wrong about one of the specifics: I thought it would be Dookie instead of Kenard. Matt Zoller Seitz still sent me a snow globe for being so damn right. It's right next to me now.

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

Review at Blurt + Audio of Hammer Museum Reading

New post with both over at Shoot Out The Lights blog, where I write about my book and other related points of interest.

Republican logic

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...

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