Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Music Library: International Submarine Band, Irascibles, Iris DeMent, Iron & Wine, Iron Maiden

The International Submarine Band - Safe At Home (1968). Gram Parson's first real band, the ISB played country music with a little bit of rock swagger. There's a real progression from this album, recorded in mid-1967, to the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, recorded in early 1968, to the Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin, recorded in late 1968. Listen to them in a row and you'll hear Gram Parsons learn how to be Gram Parsons. Anyway, Safe At Home is mostly covers of classic country songs with 4 Parsons originals thrown in. It's the least of the albums with his mark on them, but that's not to say it's not good.

The Irascibles - Live At The Chukker. The Irascibles was a Tuscaloosa garage supergroup of sorts with Robert Huffman (of Club Wig, among many other bands), Jay LaBresh (Victor Dog), Greg Staggs (too many Tuscaloosa bands to mention), Dan Hall (currently of the Woggles), and led by the writer Tim Parrish, whose stage show including fighting his way out of a plastic bag. These songs, recorded in 1995 or 1996, sound freakin' great, especially for songs recorded on the fly. I only have three of them, popped onto the end of the tape by a friend who recorded my band American Cosmic.

Iris DeMent - "No Time To Cry." Good song.

Iron & Wine - Call Your Boys 7" (2002), The Creek Drank The Cradle (2002), Tour EP (2002), The Sea & The Rhythm EP (2003), Such Great Heights 7" (Postal Service single, 2003), Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), In The Reins (with Calexico, 2005), "Waitin' For A Superman," and The Shepherd's Dog (2007). Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, is surely well-known enough by readers that I don't have to explain how sweet his music is. I prefer the early songs, fingerpicked and whispered with harmony vocals by Beam's sister, to the later big productions. The first six entries here definitely meet that standard. "Such Great Heights" is a cover of the Postal Service song from the that band's single, but I only have this one track, so I have listed it here with the rest of Iron & Wine's output. The collaboration with Calexico is actually quite a bit of fun, as is the whispery cover of the Flaming Lips' "Waitin' For A Superman," which is from a KCRW compilation. The Shepherd's Dog is several subtle steps beyond the Calexico collaboration into overproduction, and I really don't care much for it.

Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast (1982) and Piece of Mind (1983). See, unlike what you get with Iron & Wine's later album, I prefer subtlety in music, and subtlety is what you get in spades with this band. OH, I AM A SUCH A JOKER. As much as I love Iron Maiden, there's no getting around how adolescent all of this sounds: operatic vocals, the cascading wheedla-wheedla-wheedla triplets of the guitar solos (and, yes, it's adolescent to value virtuosity over integration of musician and song), subject matter that seems geared towards precocious adolescent boys (and an understanding of the material that is equally lacking in adult perspective), and the over-the-top comic-book theatrics that aren't just the cover art but the goofy watch-us-rock-now way that the band chooses to express itself. These aren't caveats; I enjoy Iron Maiden because of the arrested development, not despite it.


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