Thursday, September 17, 2009

Music Library: Grizzly Bear, Growing, Guess Who, Guided By Voices, Guilherme Lamounier, Gun Club, Guns N' Roses, Guru Guru, Gutter Twins, Guv'ner, Guy Mitchell

Generally when I'm covering an artist I want to cover fairly comprehensively, I'd rather give them their own column, but I had some overflow before and aft. So, anyway:

Grizzly Bear - Horn of Plenty (2004), "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Yellow House (2006), and Friend EP (2007).  Beautiful and fragile psych-folk from the Brooklyn band.  Horn of Plenty is only so-so.  The Yes cover is from some outtakes recorded when Grizzly Bear was a one-man band. Yellow House is very pretty, although it rarely sticks with me.  My favorite things they've done are the versions of "Alligator" and "Little Brother" on the Friend EP, which is otherwise so-so at best.

Growing - Live at Floristree 26 January 2008. A three-song live EP available for free from eMusic.  Growing is an electronic band (a duo, I think) that plays krautrock-influenced instrumental music.  'Sokay.

The Guess Who - "When The Band Was Singin' (Shakin' All Over)." "Shakin' All Over" is a great song.  This one, eh.

Guided By Voices:

  • Devil Between My Toes and Sandbox (both 1987). The first two GBV albums have a lot of REM influence on their sleeves, but there's still quite a bit of goodness on display.  Best tracks on Devil: "Cyclops," "A Portrait Destroyed By Fire," and "Hey Hey Spaceman."  Best on Sandbox: "The Drinking Jim Crow" and "Long Distance Man."  I should mention that there's an EP that precedes these albums, but I don't have it.  I got these and some of the albums to follow as part of the Box boxset released in 1995, a gift from my brother and good friend Mike.  Thanks, y'all!

  • Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia (1989) and Same Place The Fly Got Smashed (1990). I've always had a hard time telling these albums apart.  Both sound like the great lo-fi GBV sound.  The latter is a concept album about a drunk who freezes to death or something like that, while the former has no overriding concept, but there's enough similarity on these albums that I can't really pick out the place that one ends and the next begins when I listen to them back-to-back. They were also from the Box box. Best songs on Nostalgia: "The Future Is In Eggs," "The Great Blake St. Canoe Race," and "Radio Show (Trust The Wizard)."  Best on Fly: "Pendulum," "Ambergris" (in which a single guitar string is de-tuned and re-tuned throughout the course of the song), and "How Loft Am I?"

  • Propeller (1992).  This is where the going gets great. Supposed to be the last GBV album as bandleader Robert Pollard put his rock dreams behind him to focus on being a grown-up, Propeller was a surprisingly popular album that brought GBV attention from a number of musicians and critics. Pollard's songcraft is better than ever, the band sounds great (and rocks like hell), and there's really no knocks against this album at all.  The way that it starts is also iconic: over a crowd chanting "G-B-V!," a bandmember asks: "Is anybody ready to rock?," only to have Pollard state, "This song does not rock."  But it does, oh my yes.  That's "Over The Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox," which is one of the best songs on the album.  Other highlights: "Weedking," "Quality of Armor," and "Exit Flagger."

  • Vampire On Titus and The Grand Hour EP (both 1993). With Propeller a surprise success, a barebones trio of GBV members recorded Vampire On Titus on the fly and re-released Propeller on the same disc as VOT (that's the copy I have). It's sloppier than Propeller, but still pretty good.  Best songs: "Expecting Brainchild," "World of Fun," and "Non-Absorbing."  The Grand Hour EP came out the same year, the first of many, many EPs with completely separate music released concurrently with major albums. Best songs are "Shocker in Gloomtown" and the spacey "Alien Lanes."

  • Bee Thousand, Get Out Of My Stations EP, Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP, and I Am A Scientist EP (all 1994). Bee Thousand is utterly brilliant, a collection of sloppy fragments that somehow turn into songs - real songs, catchy and great songs.  I'll mention that Marc Woodworth's 33 1/3 book on this album is a great read.  I don't know if he updates his blog anymore, but here it is.  My favorites: "Tractor Rape Chain," "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory," "Smothered In Hugs," "Gold Star For Robot Boy," "Kicker Of Elves," and "I Am A Scientist."  The three EPs are fairly diverse. None of the songs on Get Out Of My Stations really take me, but the live bonus tracks are fun.  Fast Japanese Spin Cycle has a couple of re-recordings of Vampire On Titus tracks that are far superior to the album versions.  And two of the three new songs on I Am A Scientist are great: "Do The Earth" and "Planet's Own Brand."

  • Alien Lanes and King Shit And The Golden Boys (both 1995).  Alien Lanes is my favorite GBV album.  I know most of the words on Bee Thousand, but I get a little tripped up on some of the acoustic tracks on the second side.  I know all of the words on Alien Lanes.  The album is an excercise in deconstructed songwriting, packing maximum rock & roll into minimalist settings, covering 28 tracks in 41 minutes.  Best tracks: hell, they're all great. Singling a few out seems cruel to the others.  King Shit And The Golden Boys is a collection of unreleased tracks from throughout the GBV career to 1995, released on the Box box. Many of the songs appear in part or whole elsewhere, under completely different names, but it's a pretty fun collection.

  • The Power of Suck, The Official Ironman Rally Song EP, and Under The Bushes Under The Stars (all 1996).  And here's where things started to collapse. The Power of Suck is a bootleg of tracks GBV recorded with Kim Deal and Steve Albini, intended to be a concept album about GBV's rise from obscurity.  But everything fell apart instead.  The recording process took a long time, and Pollard found himself having no fun, perhaps for the first time in his music career.  The band ended up back in a studio - a real, 24-track studio - where they recorded loud, powerful, studio-quality versions of some of the Suck songs and some new songs.  These 24-track songs plus a few cherry-picked from the Suck sessions became Under The Bushes Under The Stars, which is intermittently brilliant.  It was the last album with the classic GBV line-up that mostly included Pollard's friends from Dayton.  The EP is has three only-ok tracks along with one of Under The Bushes' best song.  Speaking of, my favorite tracks from Under The Bushes: "Official Ironman Rally Song," "No Sky," "Big Boring Wedding," and "Redmen And Their Wives."  In fact, the whole six-song run at the end is just breathtaking ("Big Boring Wedding" -> "It's Like Soul Man" -> "Drag Day" -> "Sheet Kickers" -> "Redman and Their Wives" -> "Take To The Sky"), and, from what I understand, Matador originally cut those songs from the album and then relented. Meaning that I am in favor of the the big GBV studio sound, I guess, and I am happy that Matador saw the light of reason on those songs.

  • Mag Earwhig! (1997), Do The Collapse (1999), and Hold On Hope EP (2000).  As much as I liked the big studio GBV sound on Under The Bushes, this is a whole new ball o' wax.   Pollard fired/split with most of the band, his buddies from Dayton who'd made all of those albums in the basement, and then hired Cobra Verde, the glam band, to basically be GBV.  When I first picked up Mag Earwhig!, I hated it so much.  It doesn't sound so bad now, but it's not as awe-inspiring as the earlier GBV.  Do The Collapse is an album with Ric Ocasek produced with a lot of poppy bells and whistles.  Again, I hated it when it came out and sorta like it now.  Hold On Hope is an EP with a bunch of pretty decent outtakes.

  • Isolation Drills (2001), Universal Truths And Cycles (2002), Earthquake Glue (2003) and Half Smiles Of The Decomposed (2004).  I was going to try to break these out, but I really can't.  They mostly sound alike.  Some great, great, great songs on each, but a lot of loud studio-quality guitars married to melodies that utterly fail to distinguish themselves from each other.  The best is Universal Truths and Cycles, mainly because it has a little more personality.  I should state that not a one of these is a bad album by any means, but they're just not that memorable.  And I'm a guy who found something to say about each different Fall albums through the 90s and 00s.

Guilherme Lamounier - Guilherme Lamounier (1973).  A Brazilian garage rocker with a great psychedelic feel.  Not quite as crazed as the tropicalia greats, but pretty decent, anyway.

The Gun Club - Fire of Love (1981).  Ridiculously great punk/blues/swamp/rockabilly album.  Like the Cramps, if the Cramps were more about psychodrama than blowing your mind.  Echoes of Hank Williams and Robert Johnson and, well, any incredibly talented roots musician who wrote songs that cut directly to the horror of breathing the air of this world and who burned through life as if it were a hand-rolled cigarette.  I understand that the second album, Miami, is as good, but I've never heard it.  So I'll be getting that sometime.

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987).  Little-known Stones-y hard rock quintet...  Ah hell, it wasn't funny when Klosterman wrote about the Beatles for the AV Club as if they were obscurities, so I'm going to quit that right here.  Anyway, I listened to this a lot when I was a teenager, but it doesn't hold up that well all these years later.  The stand-out tracks are definitely still major pop events, but the less-great songs are much less great than I remember.

Guru Guru - Känguru (1972).  Second-tier krautrock, but first-rate music.

The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia (2008).  Two bands that lots of friends loved but never moved me: The Afghan Whigs and Screaming Trees.  Put them together and you have an album that doesn't do anything for me.

Guv'ner - Hard For Measy For You (1994) and In The Fishtank 2 (1997).  Skronky, fun indie-rock from NYC.  Bassist Pumpkin Wentzel (!!!) was a long-time friend of Pussy Galore's Julia Cafritz, who gave a demo tape to Thurston Moore.  I think I've mentioned that I'm a big fan of Konkurrent's Fishtank series, where they invite bands to make on-the-fly EPs at their studios.  At the beginning of the series, the EPs would feature only one band, but they later expanded the concept to include two bands that you usually wouldn't consider together (on that note, I see from their website that the first one in 3 years is out just this month, featuring Sparklehorse and Fennesz!).  Guv'ner did one of the early ones, an EP that features some great songs and great screw-around music.  I picked that up first and then went back to get the studio albums.  And Hard To Measy is pretty good, but the Fishtank EP is freakin' excellent.

Guy Mitchell - "Singing The Blues."  Awesome rockabilly track from 1956, anchored by an utterly charming whistled lead and a mandolin where the rhythm guitar would usually be.

Only one more G: The GZA's Liquid Swords.  But I'm not quite ready to review that album.  Tomorrow, definitely.


harrit 10:38 AM, September 18, 2009  
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