Saturday, February 27, 2010

Music Library: Laurie Anderson

You're The Guy I Want To Share My Money With (with William S. Burroughs and John Giorno, 1981). Contains rough versions of tracks from Laurie Anderson's United States Live show plus a number of tracks of Burroughs telling his wry stories and two unlistenable John Giorno long-form poems.  They might be good, but I can't tell because both use voice modulators that have me reaching for the forward button faster than the opening chords of "Hotel California."
Big Science (1982).  Anderson's proper debut album is disorienting, psychedelic, witty, chilly, wise, even profound.  It should be clear that I love it wholeheartedly. Although it consists entirely of reworked parts of her United States show, it never sounds like the distillation of anything.  Except in the sense that it leaves me intoxicated. The first track is "From The Air," in which Anderson uses her authoritative and calm voice to guide listeners through the weirdest crash landing procedure, culminating in the lines: "put your hands over your eyes/jump out of the plane/there is no pilot/you are not alone." That reversal between crisis and comfort gets right at the heart of Anderson's brilliance: everyday is a crisis, a constant teetering over an unfathomable abyss that all authorities spend their entire careers trying to deny, and yet there is some strength to be reached in the notion that others are in this with you. And then, of course, there's "O Superman," her ode to misuse of authority, so scalding that I'm surprised that Ronald Reagan was ever able to return to his office after this song came out.  Seems like the smart thing to do would have been to retire with some remaining semblance of dignity.

Mister Heartbreak (1984). Her second album borrowed more parts of United States Live and added Bill Laswell (last seen here in yesterday's Last Exit video) as co-producer and bassist, Adrian Belew on guitar, and a bunch of other people, including William Burroughs and Peter Gabriel on vocals.  The songs include "Gravity's Angel," which mentions and seems inspired by Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, although it doesn't borrow imagery quite as directly as Wikipedia suggests, and "Langue d'Amour," a love song like no other.  But it's not quite as great as Big Science.  

United States Live (1984).  This is the motherlode of raw material in context from Anderson's two-night, eight-hour performance piece, minus the purely visual parts.  As the clip below shows, Anderson uses a purely American salesman-type persona (with a voice modulator to gie her more authority) to tell time-bomb jokes (y'know, they land at the time, but they really go off only after you've had time to think about them).  Covering four discs and a little over four hours of music and spoken word pieces, this is not for the casual listener.  But if you're a fan, it's not just necessary but vital.  I bought mine the moment I saw it was available, and I've never regretted it for a second.

Home of the Brave (1986). As some friends and I discovered when quite a bit messed-up in college, the movie of Home of the Brave has a curious and purely unintentional symmetry with Fantasia.  Anderson's website has been promising a DVD release of this movie for some time.  I hope they get on that soon.  But we're here because of the album, which is partially a soundtrack but partially recorded in a studio.  The Home of the Brave performances included much of the tour for Mister Heartbreak, but most of the material here is new, or at least newly lifted from United States Live.  And man, is it great.  Some of Anderson's funniest material is here: "Smoke Rings," which tears apart gender roles with the question of how Romantic languages assign gender to nouns, "Talk Normal," which mocks dreams for their lack of narrative sense, and "Language Is A Virus," which contains some of her best in-jokes about herself. "White Lily" is something I will never shake.  Take a gander:

Strange Angels (1989).  And here Anderson made a pop album.  A lovely pop album with much more singing than before and fewer stories and spoken-word sections.  I remember hearing her explain somewhere that this album was inspired by a friend's death from AIDS, but I haven't found corroboration online.  Anyway, this is an amazing work, different from what came before, but still quite powerful and moving.

Bright Red (1994).  Accompanying her quite personal performance artwork Stories From The Nerve Bible, Bright Red puts Eno in the producer's chair and manages to sound more fully realized than any other Anderson album.  This isn't to say that Bright Red is one of the best, but that the dreamlike sounds merge well with the dreamlike lyrics. It should provide a little context when I say that the worst song on the album is her collaboration with then-boyfriend, now-husband Lou Reed, a guy who usually brightens things up with his guest appearances.  Here's "World Without End," which contains the awe-inspiring eulogy "when my father died, we put him in the ground/when my father died, it was like a whole library burned down."

The Ugly One With The Jewels And Other Stories (1995).  Here's the story side of Stories From The Nerve Bible, which - I feel compelled to say - I saw performed, along with a performance in which she was working on this material and a performance in which she was moving on to her next project.  This is the least song-like of any Anderson album, including United States, consisting mostly of autobiographical (or, at least, supposedly autobiographical) stories.   The attached clip gives an idea of how Anderson remixes her songs into her stories, using phrases from songs to deepen the meaning of her work.  Great story, full of life and humor, ending with some powerful, incisive poetry.

Talk Normal: The Laurie Anderson Anthology (2000).  I'm not sure how well this one works overall.  I snatched up the tracks from United States when it was unavailable some years back.  Now I don't need them, but I haven't erased them because, well, I paid for them, y'know.

Life On A String (2001). This album disappointed me so much.  See, I love Moby-Dick, and I was sad that I'd never gotten to see Anderson's performance work Songs And Stories From Moby Dick.  This album only has three of those songs, and I find that I couldn't give less of a pequod.  "Slip Away," about the death of her father, was better conveyed by "World Without End." I dunno, it just don't move me.

And simply for your pleasure, here's a couple of videos Anderson made of her and her, well, clone:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Music Library: Lambchop, Lancelot Link, Larry Davis, The Last, Last Exit, Latyrx

Lambchop -  The Decline of Country And Western Civilization (1993-1999), Thriller (1997), Nixon (2000), Is A Woman (2002), "Paperback Bible," and OH (ohio) (2008).  Kurt Wagner's big-band-o'-Nashville-session-players Lambchop effortlessly merges shimmering alt-country with pure soul and sweet pop, while Wagner's lyrics are interesting and evocative and often dark while rarely providing a full story.  Most listeners won't hear that much difference from the earliest singles on Decline to the tracks on OH, but there is a subtle progression into more sincere lyrics and weirder pop structures.  Which is alright by me.

Lancelot Link and the Evolution - "Sha-La Love You."  This is a bubblegum track ostensibly by the secret agent/chimp of the 60s tv show.

Larry Davis - "Down Home Funk Pts 1 and 2."  Fantastic psych-soul track I hunted down while researching a possible article for the Oxford Am.  I didn't write the article and I'm too lazy to see if this one ended up on the actual Oxford Am cd, but I'll look later tonight.  It should be there.

The Last - Confession (1988) and Awakening (1989).  This is a power-pop band that was on SST in the late 80s.  I'm sad to say that I don't like their music much.  Although they strive to create Beatles-or-Big Star-esque harmonies and melodies, I think the skill is there, but the craft is missing.  I can't remember any of these songs once they're over, and that's not good for power pop.

Last Exit - Last Exit (1986), Koln (1986), and Cassette Recordings '87 (1987).  If you, like me, enjoy the occasional ear-peel, this band did the job better than just about anyone else out there.  Although this was ostensibly jazz, it is from the noisiest, most metallic wing of jazz and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was merely a particularly bizarre rock outfit.  In fact, you'd be about as right to think of this as rock as you would to think of it as jazz.  And it's brutal, with the legendary sheets-of-scalding-noise guitarist Sonny Sharrock and the brutal howl of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann fronting bassist Bill Laswell and  drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson (who also sang/shouted on some tracks).  These albums were all recorded live, which is typical - I believe I read somewhere - of all of Last Exit's albums. My favorite track is "Catch As Catch Can" from the self-titled album, which borrows the bassline from Can's "Halleluwah" and marries it to an beautifully ugly sound.  Excellent for clearing a room.  Those who are left will be interesting people indeed.

Latyrx - The Album (1997).  With Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker on the mics and DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, and Lyrics Born himself providing the mix, this is a wonderful and loopy album.  The best track is the first, "Latyrx," which pans each mc to a different ear and lets them set down asymmetrical rhymes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Music Library: Kris Kristofferson, Kristen Hersh, Kronos Quartet, KRS-ONE, Kurtis Blow, Kyuss, L. Subramaniam, Ladyhawk, Lair of the Minotaur

Kris Kristofferson - Kristofferson (1970), The Silver Tongued Devil And I (1971), Jesus Was A Capricorn (1972), Breakaway (with Rita Coolidge, 1974), Songs Of Kristofferson (1970-1976), and Singer/Songwriter (1966-1986).  I can't mention Kristofferson without referring to Nathan Rabin's excellent write-up at the AV Club from just last week.  Rabin's dead-on about Kristofferson: he's unique and and has a unique take on country music.  Take "The Pilgrim, Ch. 33," the song that so caught Rabin, in which Kristofferson breaks basic rules of English with the thrill of a Rhodes scholar ("all he ever gets is older and around") while simultaneously glorifying and mocking the archetypical self-destructive Nash Vegas singer-songwriter ("he's a poet/and he's a picker/he's a prophet/and he's a pusher/he's a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he's stoned").  Even though he's a singer with maybe three notes to his range, he somehow makes "Help Me Make It Through The Night" sexier than Willie Nelson's version and "For The Good Times" sweeter than either Al Green's or Isaac Hayes's versions.  Heck, the Singer/Songwriter collection pits one disc of Kristofferson's best songs with one disc of covers, and even though the second disc has such luminaries as Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Bobby Bare, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin on it, the only ones even in the same room as Kristofferson are Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson.  That's some rarified company there.  Kristofferson's been one of my favorite songwriters since I first really heard his music when I was 21 years old or so.  If I'd thought of naming my son "Kristofferson" before hearing it as a proper name in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I would have been all over that action.   Even when listening through these albums for this project, I had to put the song "The Silver Tongued Devil and I" on repeat because I simply can't sing through it only once.  Or twice.  Or thrice.

Kristen Hersh - "Whole Heap Of Little Horses."  Kristen Hersh's take on "All The Pretty Little Horses."

Kronos Quartet, Dawn Upshaw, and Luciana Souza - "Tenebrae: Second Movement."  Lovely free track from eMusic.  I'm ashamed that this is the only Kronos Quartet I have in my collection.

KRS-ONE - "Uh Oh." A beatbox-driven track from KRS-One's first solo album.

Kurtis Blow - Kurtis Blow (1980).  The man kicks it old-school.  I just learned something: Kurtis Blow wrote his own Wikipedia page.  More power to the man.  This album is best when he's rapping.  Worst when he's singing.  But still, it should be said that an old-school rapper taking on soul music and a Bachman-Turner Overdrive cover is brave enough to forgive.

Kyuss - Desert Rock (homemade comp, 1991-1996).  I'm not a big fan of Josh Homme.  This is okay stuff, but not the revelatory stoner rock I was led to expect.

And that's the end of the Ks.  Onward!

L. Subramaniam - Global Fusion (1999).  Album from the noted Indian violinist.  I don't hate this, which makes it several steps above most worldbeat fusion things.  In fact, it's actually pretty good for the most part.

Ladyhawk - Shots (2008).  Canadian indie-rock that sounds a lot like an amped-up version of their Jagjaguwar labelmates Okkervil River.

Lair of the Minotaur - War Metal Battle Master (2008).  Is there a more metal album name than War Metal Battle Master?  In fact, is there a more metal band?  I mean, ignore the infinite subgenres here for a minute.  Lair of the Minotaur seem to touch on many of the core elements of metal without ever really being trapped in a subgenre.  There's thrash-y parts, sludge-y parts, death metal-y parts, grindcore-y parts, and proggy parts.  Perhaps I'm too much a dilettante to know that there's a subgenre (metalcore metal, maybe?) that works like this.  But I don't care.  Because this is awesome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Music Library: KMD, Knife In The Water, Konono No. 1, Korean People's Army, Kraftwerk

KMD - Mr. Hood (1991) and Bl_ck B_st_rds (2001).  This was Daniel "MF Doom" Dumile's first group, with him recording under the name "Zev Love X" and his brother under the name "DJ Sub-Roc."  Mr. Hood is a pretty entertaining debut, although it doesn't have any of the dark geeky anger of Doom's later work.  The story behind the second, long unreleased KMD album (recorded in 1993, released in 2001), goes a long way towards explaining how the sorta sweet Black Nationalist Zev Love X became the supervillain MF Doom.  While finishing work on Bl_ck B_st_rds, DJ Sub-Roc was struck by a car and killed.  Almost immediately afterwards, KMD's label Elektra dropped the band, upset with the cover art (a Sambo image being lynched in a game of hangman) and the tougher (although still humorous) rhetoric in the lyrics.

Knife In The Water - Plays One Sound And Others (1998), Red River (2000), Crosspross Bells EP (2001),  Cut The Cord (2003), and Red Bird/Slavery EP (2006).  Fantastic Austin band that specialized in a dreamy form of alt-country somewhere between Lee Hazlewood and Low.  There's a miniscule progression on their albums from the extremely spare Plays One Sound to the only slightly spare Cut The Cord.  A great band, anyway, that deserved a bigger audience.

Konono No. 1 - Congotronics (2005).  Congolese band with afrobeat rhythms and electrified thumb piano.  Lots of long songs that sound like - and apparently are - electric, rock and funk-influenced versions of traditional tribal music.  The band has been kicking around Kinshasa since the 70s, and the leader of the band is in his 70s.  The music also has a clattering junkyard sound, which is also appropriate since some of the instruments and much of the amplification are homemade devices.  Amazing stuff.

Korean People's Army - "Song of General Kim Il Sung." Apparently this is a very popular song in North Korea.  I keep it as a cultural curiosity.

Kraftwerk - Kraftwerk (1970), K4: Bremen Radio 1971, Kraftwerk 2 (1972), Ralf und Florian (1973), Autobahn (1974), Radio-Aktivität (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), and Computer World (1981).  I'm a Can partisan, but even I will admit that Kraftwerk was the most revolutionary of krautrock bands.  On their first album as Kraftwerk in 1970, they were already using manipulated tape loops to create long and surprisingly funky jams.  The K4 album was recorded while founder Ralf Hutter was out of the band finishing his architecture degree.  Replacing him was guitarist Michael Rother, who would shortly leave Kraftwerk along with the drummer, Klaus Dinger, to create Neu!,  and this K4 bootleg is a pretty awesome oddity that is not quite either band.  Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian are both half-ambient and noodly.  But with Autobahn, Kraftwerk became a truly conceptual band.  Each following album was built around a concept with the members of Kraftwerk adopting the synth technology to realize it.  Autobahn is, of course, about driving.  Radio-Aktivität is split between songs about radioactivity and songs about active radios.  Trans-Europe Express appears to be about a train that crosses European history.  The Man-Machine jumps into a retro-futurist vision of dehumanization seemingly straight out of the early films of Fritz Lang.  And Computer World is about - get this - a world to come in which computers are an omnipresent part of everyone's lives.  What will they think of next?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Music Library: Kirk Kelly, Kiss, Kissinger, Kiwi Animal

Kirk Kelly - Go Man Go (1988).  Anti-folk from SST, which means that it has punk attitude and an acoustic guitar.  Kelly's a good songwriter and this is an unjustly ignored album.

Kiss - Kiss (1974), Hotter Than Hell (1974), Dressed To Kill (1975), Alive! (1975), Destroyer (1976), Rock And Roll Over (1976), Love Gun (1977), Alive II (1977), Ace Frehley (1978), and Dynasty (1979).  I don't want to break all these out and talk about each individual album.  It's hard to imagine a more ridiculous band than Kiss, even though they're sorta modeled on the Beatles (four cheeky young lads, each with his own cult of personality, all of whom write and sing, y'know).  Kiss songs, especially in the early days, are very well composed and have a sort of danceable boogie to them, even though they are matched with some of the most wonderfully silly and stupid lyrics imaginable.  Transcendentally stupid, even.  The same could be said for Paul Stanley's stage patter, which is so delightfully brainless that some of my friends and I can always crack each other up with a well-placed quote.  You know who you are.  All of this makes it sound like I don't take Kiss all that seriously.  I hope that the 10 albums I have prove that I take Kiss just seriously enough.

Kissinger - "Consider Bridgette."  Pretty good pop-punk song from an Austin band.  I think they're not around anymore.

The Kiwi Animal - Music Media (1984).  Lo-fi weirdo folk band from New Zealand.  This album is actually pretty wonderful, somewhat like outsider bands like The Godz and somewhat like the cracked psychedelia of Syd Barrett.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Music Library: King Sunny Ade, King Tubby, Kingsbury Manx, Kinks

King Sunny Adé - Best of the Classic Years (2003). A bunch of tracks recorded at unknown times in the early 1970s.  King Sunny Adé is an extraordinary afrobeat guitarist who plays a form of Nigerian Juju music with considerable appeal for Western audiences. Unlike Fela Kuti, who also had a background in highlife music, Adé's music is more focused on beat than rhythm.  Adé's guitarwork is amazing, too, with a nimbility and offbeat rhythmic sense that doesn't really have a Western counterpart.

King Tubby - Roots Of Dub (1975) and King Tubby's Prophesy of Dub (with Yabby You, 1976).  Although eclipsed somewhat by the incredibly prolific Lee "Scratch" Perry, King Tubby was one of the most important dub producers of the 70s.  My buddy Leonard recently wrote a typically brilliant introduction to dub that covers the differences between King Tubby and Perry at length.  I can't improve on that, so read it.  Both of these are phenomenal albums.

The Kingsbury Manx - Let You Down (2001).  Chapel Hill folk-rock band with an easygoing feel, pretty melodies, and many layers of gently psychedelic guitars.

The Kinks:

The Singles Collection (1964 - 1970). I regard the Kinks as one of my favorite bands and yet I only have eight of their 23 studio albums.  This collection helps make things a little better by including a number of early singles I didn't otherwise have.  And while this compilation covers only their Pye Records period, the quick growth of Ray Davies's songwriting is nothing short of astonishing.  I mean, in 1964 alone there's only six months between their slopshod cover of "Long Tall Sally" and "You Really Got Me."  Just over a year later, there's "A Well Respected Man," Davies's first foray into social satire.  A few months later is "Dedicated Follower of Fashion."  And just over three years into their career, they dropped "Waterloo Sunset."  MAN.

Kinda Kinks (1965).  The second Kinks full-length album, featuring the killer "Tired Of Waiting For You."

The Kink Kontroversy (1965).  The last bluesy Kinks album with the more Davies-esque tracks "Till The End Of The Day" and "Where Have All The Good Times Gone?"

Face To Face  (1966).  Davies turns his eye to the lives of suburban Britons.  The album tracks include the brilliant "Dandy" and "Sunny Afternoon," but the bonus tracks include "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" and "This Is Where I Belong," two of my favorite Kinks songs.

Something Else By The Kinks (1967).  I'd say it doesn't get any better than this, but it's about to.  Still, this would be a career high for any lesser songwriter (or songwriters, as Dave Davies really comes into his own on this album): "David Watts," "Death Of A Clown," "Situation Vacant," "Love Me Till The Sun Shines," and "Waterloo Sunset," which is, of course, sublime.  And I still feel like I'm shorting the other songs, which are also excellent throughout.  But then there's...

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968).  This is a concept album about memory and the loss of innocence, and is one of the two finest concept albums of the 60s, equaled only by Pet Sounds. The flow of the music is nothing short of extraordinary, as Ray Davies runs through a gamut of emotions - veering wildly from sarcastic wit to whistful nostalgia, often within the same song - while the band tempers the twee sweetness with some surprising muscle. Each song is wonderful in its own way.  I started to write a list of my favorites, but I realized that they're all contenders.  Maybe "Sitting By The Riverside" and "Monica" are a tad less compelling than the others, but even they have a lot going for them. I have the three-disc "Special Deluxe Edition," which has both stereo and mono mixes of the album (the mono is by far the better one) plus a bunch of outtakes and singles. If you're not expecting guitar heroics or anything loud and grabby, I think you'll find that with this album the Kinks have made rock songwriting to be a triumph of real life in all of its understated, weird, messy glory.

Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) (1969). This was my first favorite Kinks album, before that role was usurped by the Village Green Preservation Society.  Like the previous album, it's a concept album, this one loosely telling the story of a working-class Briton scarred by WWII and unable to get ahead in the post-war depression before finally emigrating to Australia.  The peaks are incredibly high: "Victoria," which is almost so spiteful towards the UK that you might miss how deeply Davies cares about it - and which may also be my favorite song, "Shangri-La," a devastating look at the crippling repression of middle-class life, and "Australia," which has Dave Davies's best guitarwork.  Fantastic album.

Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One (1970).  This isn't a bad album, but the singles (hello, "Lola") are much stronger than the album tracks, and the muscle that the Kinks flex on "Apeman" and "Powerman," while great here, aren't worth the loss of subtlety in the arena-rock that would soon overwhelm the Kinks' sound.

Muswell Hillbillies (1971). Before the Kinks dropped into arena-rock and badly conceived art-rock, they made a country album.  Like Village Green, the songwriting here captures the messiness of real life, but the musical context is generally a British spin on Americana rather than the odd art-folk of Village Green. All in all, a wonderful album.

The Great Lost Kinks Album (1973). This has a bunch of non-album singles and outtakes from the late 60s, most of which I have elsewhere.

"Father Christmas" and "Young Conservatives." I wrote about "Father Christmas" back in December.  "Young Conservatives" is from the 1983 album State of Confusion, and it sounds quite a bit like Queen (with Ray Davies instead of Freddie Mercury, natch).

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Music Library: Kepler, Ketty Lester, Ayers-Cale-Eno-Nico, Kid Koala, King Crimson, King Geedorah

Kepler - various tracks (1999 - 2003).  My buddy Mike Sheridan was Kepler's drummer, and this is a comp he sent me in 2003 of various album tracks from their first two full-lengths as well as a few non-album tracks. Some excellent slowcore/alt-country stuff here, pitched somewhere between Low, the Red House Painters, and Mojave Three.

Ketty Lester - Love Letters (1962) and "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid."  You may know Ms. Lester's version of "Love Letters" from Blue Velvet.  It's a perfect soundtrack for that movie: lovely, creepy, stunning, majestic.  Just Ms. Lester and a piano/organ/bass/drums quartet.  But oh my, does this song rule.  Here:

Listen to how the key changes to a minor chord, starting in the first verse right when she goes to "I'm not alone/in the night."  Then it's back to the major key for the end of the verse.  The second verse introduces a different minor key change at the "And, darling, then/I read again/right from the start."  Third verse, same as the second, but more intense.  And that song is forever lodged in my brain.  The rest of the album is great, too, although not quite up to the standards of "Love Letters."  She's a first-rate talent.

Kevin Ayers-John Cale-Eno-Nico - June 1, 1974 (1974).  Attributed in my collection to Keven Ayers, which is more or less fitting since the whole second side is taken up with his godawful jamband contributions.  Eno and Cale are in fine form, but Nico's version of "The End" makes one long for the relative refrain and taste of The Doors.  Wikipedia helpfully explains that the bemused stare between Ayers and Cale in the cover photograph is due to Cale having caught Ayers in bed with his wife the night before the concert.  If this is so, I'm more than a little surprised that they could be as civil as this photo suggests, or that the publicity people would have waited until the day of the show to take a photo of the participants.  After all, Cale wrote "Guts," with the opening line "the bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife," about the incident.  Anyway, Eno has only two songs and Cale one.  Nico's contribution makes me want to tear off my ears and Ayers's songs sound like the Grateful Dead on a particularly lazy kick.  Not recommended.

Kid Koala - "Fender Bender."  From a comp that a friend made.  Koala's a remarkable turntablist.

King Crimson - In The Court of the Crimson King (1969), Lizard (1970), Larks' Tongues In Aspic (1972), Starless and Bible Black (1974), Red (1974), and Discipline (1981). As the Venture Brothers graciously reminded us in the season just past, there is no band more nerdlinger than King Crimson. With their psychedelic wash of Mellotrons, the OCD style of guitar (dubbed, in super-nerdlinger style, "Frippertronics" for guitarist Robert Fripp), the frenetic avant-jazz horn attacks, the blasts of pure noise, the extreme LOUDquietLOUD dynamics of their song structure, the way that Fripp has of acting more like a Zen guru than a controlling bandleader, and the aggressively crappy pop songs that occasionally interrupt their albums, you may be forgiven for believing King Crimson to be more of a D&D support group than a band.  But what a band they are/were!  Although I have only six of their albums, they represent four different periods for the band.  The first, In The Court Of The Crimson King, posits the band as psychedelic warriors, with the blazing "21st Century Schizoid Man" devolving into the flute-driven (and most painful to these ears) "I Talk To The Wind" and finally working its way back to the majestic scifi-meets-medieval cathedral of sound "In The Court Of The Crimson King."  Lizard, featuring an almost completely different band than Crimson King, is practically free jazz throughout.  Larks' Tongues, Starless, and Red, all of which constantly rework the band lineup, share a complexity and aggressiveness that is weird and sometimes offputting, and yet so compelling and influential.  Discipline, with yet again another version of the band, pulls off the trick of subsuming the sound of some of the band's followers (specifically the downtown NY art-punk scene) into something that it utterly new and yet of a piece with the earlier albums.  The current permutations of the band, as described on the Wikipedia page (which Wikipedia deems so important that the page is almost as long as their article on WWII, another sign of sure-fire poindexterity), is more complex than any non-fictional entity has any right to be. I guess I'm trying to say that although the band is undeniably a prog-rock monster, the music is heads and tails above the sound of most other prog bands.

King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader (2003).  From back in the day when MF Doom was a prolific guy, this album features yet another Doom-related identity, King Geedorah, the three-headed monster from outer space.  Doom is the DJ with a number of guest rappers (including himself), and his production is a dense dose of headphone-filling goodness. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Music Library: Kanye West, Karate, Kate Bush, K. McCarty, Kehoe Nation, Keiji Haino, Kelly Hogan, Kelly Willis

Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004), "Gold Digger," and Graduation (2007). Oh, you've heard of this guy?  Although the President of the United States thinks he's a jackass, he's a remarkably talented producer and songwriter and a fairly mediocre rapper and singer.  But he uses his skills for all he's got, and man, is he entertaining.

Karate - In The Fishtank 12 (2005).  I've not heard any other Karate albums, but this Fishtank recording, which includes "Strange Fruit," several Minutemen songs, "Tears of Rage," and a couple of others, has first-rate material, good performances, and yet cannot match the greatness of the originals of these songs.

Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love (1985). Beloved by a lot of people who aren't me.  I don't hate it.  But I certainly don't love it.

K. McCarty - Dead Dog's Eyeball: The Songs Of Daniel Johnston (1992).  This album I do love.  Kathy McCarty is the former lead singer of Glass Eye, and this album, produced by Brian Beattie (also of Glass Eye), takes Daniel Johnston's songs and gives them the rich production and powerful vocals that they deserve.  This is one of the rare situations where the cover version is much more pleasing than the original, because Johnston is the rare performer who writes material that's more sophisticated than he can play.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant stuff here.

The Kehoe Nation - Music For Livers (2004). This is an odd album by an odd band.  The Kehoe Nation plays music that veers from alt-country to guitar heroics to Eastern European polka music, all with a leering, jokey singer.  I'd say offhand that they're big Zappa fans.

Keiji Haino - Vol. 2 (with Loren Mazzacane Connors, 1996) and Black: Implication Flooding (with Boris, 1998).  The first of these has Haino and Connors circling gently around each other in two 15-minutes improv pieces.  The second has Haino and Boris creating a harsh howling drone, which is more typical of Haino's work.

Kelly Hogan - Beneath The Country Underdog (with the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, 2000) and Because It Feels Good (2001). Mark Deming at Allmusic says of the later of these, "If you're looking for updated honky tonk, this might not be your cup of tea, but if you want to hear a gifted and imaginative singer make the most of a diverse collection of fine tunes, then Kelly Hogan's Because It Feel Good deserves a place in your CD player."  I couldn't have said it better myself.  Hogan recorded these albums for Bloodshot, the former with Jon Langford's big-band Pine Valley Cosmonauts and the latter with Andrew Bird, among others.  But her take on alt-country is as traditional as Charlie Rich's take on country music.  Which is to say that these are - more or less - classic R&B takes being cast as country music.  Both albums invoke the hallowed name of Stax with their country guitar-meets-R&B horns styles.  And Hogan is a amazingly gifted singer able to wreak these songs for what they're worth without ever tipping over into histrionics.  Wonderful stuff.  Nine years is too long a time without a new album, though.

Kelly Willis - What I Deserve (1999).  Willis sings beautifully, but her Americana production leans towards the easiest of approaches.  I mean, she wrote most of these songs with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, covers both Nick Drake and Dan Penn, and yet there's not much here to catch my ear.  Lovely voice, though.

My photo
Cary, NC, United States
reachable at firstname lastname (all run together) at gmail dot com

About This Blog

From Here To Obscurity, founded ca. 2003, population 1. The management wishes to emphasize that no promises vis-a-vis your entertainment have been guaranteed and for all intents and purposes, intimations of enlightenment fall under the legal definition of entertainment. No refunds shall be given nor will requests be honored. Although some may ask, we have no intention of beginning again.

  © Blogger templates Brooklyn by 2008

Back to TOP