Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Music Library: My Morning Jacket, My Teenage Stride, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mystick Crewe of Clearlight

My Morning Jacket - The Tennessee Fire (1999), Does Xmas Fiasco Style (2000), At Dawn (2001), Chocolate And Ice EP (2001), My Morning Jacket/Songs: Ohia Split (2001), It Still Moves (2003), Z (2005), and Okonokos (2006).  Here is an example of a band ruined by their own success.  The first two MMJ albums, Tennessee Fire and At Dawn, are creative and adventurous alt-country.  The EPs from that period are sort of lackluster, though.  It Still Moves, though, heralds an interesting twist: it is as if the band has become bored with their own predictability.  There's a few great songs, but the rest sound as much like filler as the EPs from 2000 and 2001.  On Z, the band tried something interesting by adopting a more Flaming Lips-like psychedelic indie-rock sound, which pretty well worked for them.  Okonokos is a pretty good live album, too, and that's from a guy who often hates live albums.  I picked up the 2008 follow-up Evil Urges when it came out, but it is seriously awful and I got rid of it.  While these guys do alt-countryish indie-rock well, they do not do Prince with anything approaching skill.  I will likely not follow them any longer.

My Teenage Stride - Ears Like Golden Bats (2007) and Lesser Demons EP (2008).  I downloaded Ears Like Golden Bats on a lark and was blown away.  I mean, there's nothing groundbreaking here.  In fact, MTS might as well be a Clean cover band.  But dammit, they are a hell of a Clean cover band, and Ears Like Golden Bats was one of my favorite albums of that year.  Lesser Demons is also pretty good, although not quite up to the heights of its predecessor.   

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - "A Patrick Swayze Christmas." On one of the very few Xmas anthems with a fight sequence (there's one in the little-heard fourth verse of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," too), Joel Hodgson and the robots remind us that Road House can have ye olde yuletide spirit, too. I missed this during the Xmas song round up of 2009 somehow.

The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight - The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight (2000).  Instrumental doom metal meets New Orleans funk.  It shouldn't work as well as it does, but there's something pretty enjoyable about this album.

And this concludes the Ms!  I started them last June and they just dragged on and on, mostly because of I started to feel bogged down by this project.  Moving cross-country is stressful, especially since I've been more or less unemployed since leaving Texas (minus an 8-week stint rich in embarrassments that I will never, ever mention again).  To be fair, I finished the Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight back in early February and have been playing catch-up since then.  Before I launch into the Ns, I will be try to run through some of the untimely acquisitions I've picked up in the nine months that this blog has spent on the Ms, but only briefly.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Music Library: My Bloody Valentine and My Education

My Bloody Valentine - Ecstasy And Wine (1987), You Made Me Realise EP (1988), Feed Me With Your Kiss EP (1988), Isn't Anything (1988), Glider EP (1990), Tremolo EP (1991), Loveless (1991), and Loom: Live In Toronto 1992.  It's hard to believe that all of this music spans only five years.  Ecstasy And Wine is a fine compilation of two EPs from 1987, and it sounds like a pretty good indie rock band playing pretty good music.  Strangely enough, You Made Me Realise is also only pretty good, although the title track would later become one of the major experiential moments of indie rock music.  Feed Me With Your Kiss and Isn't Anything are both incremental leaps forward.  Glider, however, is a enormous leap forward.  MBV went from good indie rock into something that was theirs and theirs alone.  None of the other shoegazer bands had this slippery mix of volume, tremolo, and out-of-phase sounds with layers and layers of guitars.  Tremolo continues this, and Loveless just blows it all out of the water.  The Loom bootleg is, like so many bootlegs, kind of a bust.  "You Made Me Realise," in which MBV unleashes an ungodly loud sound that pushes the edges of human tolerance, must be experienced to be understood. On the bootleg, it's just white noise.

My Education - Sunrise (2010).  I forgot that I reviewed this already.  Quite positively.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Music Library: Mushroom, Musicians of the National Dance Company of Cambodia, Muslimgauze

Mushroom - Analog Hi-Fi Surprise (1999), Foxy Music (2001), Glazed Popems (2004), Joint Happening (with Eddie Gale, 2007), and Naked, Stoned and Stabbed (2010).  Mushroom is a fine, fine band, mixing jazz, krautrock, electronica, post-rock, and Brit-folk into a heady instrumental stew. Analog Hi-Fi Surprise is the most krautrockish of these albums. Foxy Music has some more jazzy and jammy elements. Glazed Popems wavers between Pentangle-ish Brit-folk and lysergic freakouts. Joint Happening with Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor trumpeter Eddie Gale has an unmistakeable Miles-in-the-70s vibe. Naked sounds like Glazed Popems II up until the Byrdsy final track.  The song titles are often some of the best in the business.

Musicians of the National Dance Company of Cambodia - Homrong (1993).  Traditional Cambodian music is something I don't much like. Now I know this.

Muslimgauze - Salaam Alekum, Bastard (1995). Muslimgauze was the project of a British electronic artist named Bryn Jones.  The music itself is exactly what it seems like: mostly Middle Eastern-influenced electronica circa mid-90s.  There's a political element, too, which is mostly reflected in the song titles and outside context.  I know only a little about that and can't really comment on it other than to point out that Jones was very much pro-Palestine.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Music Library: Muddy Waters, Mudhoney, Mumps, Muppets

Muddy Waters - The Complete Plantation Recordings (1941-42), Martin Scorcese Presents The Blues (1941-64), and Muddy Waters At Newport (1960).  Everyone's favorite cuddly bluesguy, Muddy Waters was one of the first to put Delta blues together with electric guitars, and thus epitomizes what most of America thinks about when they think about the blues.  The Plantation Recordings includes his first recordings from the 40s and are acoustic, sounding much like Son House and Robert Johnson. The Scorcese collection leaps from one of these Plantation songs into the electric Chicago blues that made Waters his name.  The Newport album is a barnburning live set.  I don't know that I want or need any more Muddy Waters, though.

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988). Outside of "Touch Me I'm Sick" the rest of this album is only ok.  That single is a killer, though.

The Mumps - Fatal Charm (1995).  The Mumps were a CBGBs band from the late 70s who played some excellent power pop.  This collection puts together everything they did between 1974 and 1980, and it's well worth hunting down.

The Muppets - "C Is For Cookie."  And that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Music Library: Mountain Goats, Move, Mozartean Players, Mr. T

The Mountain Goats - Zopilote Machine (1994), Sweden (1995), The Coroner's Gambit (2000), All Hail West Texas (2002), Tallahassee (2002), We Shall All Be Healed (2004), The Sunset Tree (2005), Get Lonely (2006), Babylon Springs EP (2006), Heretic Pride (2008), and The Life Of The World To Come (2009). I am legally bound to begin by mentioning that John Darnielle, the main - and often, only - Mountain Goat, is one of the best lyricists working today.  He has mastered the art of writing simple songs that rarely overwork their subjects and still manage to pack a gut-punch.  Many of his songs are tied together by exploring common fictional subjects: a dysfunctional couple of alcoholics (shades of The Wild Palms there), a sad and violent upbringing, a misspent youth of meth abuse, an unshakable sense of alienation and loss tied to being between locations.  The early albums are lo-fi to an extreme, sounding exactly like what they are: a guy recording acoustic songs on a cheap boombox.  The production values pick up with All Hail West Texas, which is also Darnielle's first truly great album, and the beginning of a streak that lasted for the next five.  By the time of Heretic Pride, though, I'm kind of tired of the bleakness (note: I feel differently when not listening to the Mountain Goats back-to-back), and I've never really enjoyed The Life Of The World To Come, although I suspect that its a grower whose time has not yet come for me. I feel that I could say a lot more about the Mountain Goats, but I'm not sure that I have the stamina.  The Ms are dragging along (I actually finished listening to them months ago, but I'm still trying to finish the write-ups), and I'd rather move along.

The Move - "Down On The Bay."  Loosie track from the band that would soon become Electric Light Orchestra.  I'm mostly indifferent, though.

Mozartean Players - Schubert: Piano Trio No. 1, Opp. 99 (1992).  Lovely compositional music.  As with so much classical music, I feel completely unable to verbalize what I like about it and why.

Mr. T - "Mr. T's Commandment."  Believe it!  Apparently the youth of 1984 needed a stern-talking, no-fool-suffering tough guy with bad hair to arhythmically inform them that failing to stay in school, follow the Bible, or stay away from drugs would lead to a threatening visit from Mr. T himself.  Interesting fact: Ice-T worked on this EP, although not on the song I have.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Music Library: Morphine, Morton Feldman, Moto-Litas, Motörhead, Motorpsycho + Jaga Jazzist Horns, Mott the Hoople

(picture borrowed from Aquarium Drunkard)

Morphine - Cure For Pain (1993) and Yes (1995).  I had the good fortune to see Morphine back in the early 90s, and they were like no one I had ever seen before.  You probably remember them: drums, sax (often two-at-once, a la Rahsaan Roland Kirk), and two-string slide bass played by singer Mark Sandman.  Their music seemed created for film noir, with lyrics that told ugly stories of drug use, cheating, and depression, while the music growled and moaned.  Great stuff, and it has held up surprisingly well, especially the hits.  There's some slack on both albums, but it's forgivable.

Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel (1977).  I'm not sure who the musicians are here.  The other copies of Rothko Chapel in my collection are currently filed under the musician's name with the album artist listed as the composer, but sorted by last name.  This is a different version than the other two copies in my collection, and that's all I can tell you about this album.  The composition, as I may have mentioned before, is the perfect soundtrack for Rothko and the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

The Moto-Litas - For The Greater Good (2001).  Fun punky band from Atlanta.  My old friend Erin plays bass.  The song "Cheated" should have been an anthem for the Sleater-Kinney crowd.

Motörhead - Ace Of Spades (1981).  Not a bad song in the bunch.  Great band, great album, great batch of smart-dumb songs, and I know I should pick up more of their work.  I had a few other Motorhead albums when I was a teenager, and sometimes I want to revisit them.  Not enough to make the leap yet, though.

Motorpsycho + Jaga Jazzist Horns - In The Fishtank 10 (2003).  I love the Fishtank series.  I know that Motorpsycho is generally a throwback hard rock band and Jaga Jazzist plays post-rock.  Together, they've made an arty, jazzy album that sounds nothing like either band's usual output.  Very cool stuff.

Mott the Hoople - All The Young Dudes (1972) and Mott (1973).  Interesting to hear how Ian Hunter came to dominate the band between these two albums.  They don't sound all that different, but whereas All The Young Dudes has some tracks written by Mick Ralphs and Pete Watts, Mott is almost completely written by Hunter.  Mott The Hoople is one of those bands that exemplifies what genre-free rock music in the 70s was about.  They were associated with the glam rock movement - mostly because Bowie, who wrote "All The Young Dudes" was a fan - but they don't really fit into glam's hyper proto-punk style, nor were they country rock or hard rock or art rock or whatever.  They were simply classic rock, beholden to many and with many beholden to them.  Both of these albums are excellent.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Music Library: Moondog, Moonlight Towers, Mops, Morells

Moondog - Moondog On The Streets Of New York EP (1953), Moondog And His Honking Geese Playing Moondog's Music EP (1955), Moondog (1956),  More Moondog (1956), Moondog (1969), Moondog 2 (1970), A New Sound Of An Old Instrument (1979).  Moondog was your standard blind, self-taught composer primarily known for creating his own instruments and playing them on the streets of New York while dressed in Viking garb.  You know the type.  Everyone has a story about a guy like this, the type of guy who sues the most significant disc jockey of the day for stealing his moniker and wins.  The street musician who is a cited source by some of the most significant composers of the late 20th century.  All kidding aside, Moondog's music is incredibly powerful, an obvious influence on guys like Harry Partch, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass, while being covered in the rock world by Brit-folkers Pentangle and blues-rockers Big Brother And Holding Company.  His work is gorgeous and sometimes sad, heavy on percussion and still dreamy in its own way.  Most pieces are quite short and unwilling to wear their welcome.  Which may be why Moondog's music is always welcome in my house.  I've even included "Pastoral" from the 1970 album Moondog 2 on most every children's bedtime mix I've ever made, and that's quite a few at this point.  Of these albums, I prefer the two from 1956 over the others, but that's only a slight edge, as they are all extraordinary.

Moonlight Towers - Moonlight Towers (2002) plus a handful of loose mp3s.  Pretty good Austin rock band.

Mops - "Get, Got, Gotten." P-sychedelic Japanese rock from 1970.  Can't tell you more than that.

Morells - Shake And Push (1982).  This is a Missouri-based bar band that is more or less the same band as the Skeletons.  I know that bassist Lou Whitney has produced a ton of alt-country bands.  Guitarist D. Clinton Thompson has worked with near everyone who ever appeared in No Depression magazine, too, but I was first aware of him for working with Jonathan Richman on Jonathan Goes Country.  This is alright stuff here, but the earlier description as bar band music is about right.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Music Library: Monkees, Monks, Monks of Doom, Monty Python

The Monkees - I'm A Believer: The Best of the Monkees (1966-1969) and Head (1968).  While I'm happy to admit that I love the Monkees, I think the 2-disc best-of might have been a little much for me.  When they're great, though, they are completely worth it.  Head is a little too much on the Zappa/prankster side of art-rock for me.  The Monkees deserve credit for trying something unusual, but they didn't really have the chops to pull it off.

The Monks - Five Upstart Americans (1965) and Black Monk Time (1966).  It's HOP time!  It's MONK time!  From bassist Eddie Shaw's autobiography of the band, I learned that the anti-Beatles (as they fashioned themselves) were actually a bunch of lovable goofballs.  The music is crazy-intense and utterly destructive, a precursor of punk even in the nascent days of High Rock.  Five Upstart Americans contains demo versions of the songs that would appear on Black Monk Time.  Black Monk Time is a motherlode of early art-garage, with highlights being "Monk Time," "Shut Up," "I Hate You," and "Complication."  I think that the Fall has covered every single one of these songs.  Basically influenced anyone who played loud, angry music afterwards, which includes, well, everybody.  If you want to learn about the secret history of rock music, start here.

Monks Of Doom - The Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company (1989) and The Insect God (1995).  This Camper Van Beethoven side-project let the non-David Lowery parts of the band get their not-so-inner freak on.  Pretty good mixture of indie-type pop and psychedelic weirdness, if not up to the heights of the CVB albums.

Monty Python - The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film Of Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975), Contractual Obligation Album (1980), and Monty Python Sings (1989).  Funny funny ha-ha stuff for the laughing and such.  Only the Holy Grail album is not a compilation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Music Library: The Moles and Molly Berg + Stephen Vitiello

The Moles - Untune The Sky (1990), On The Street/Rare And Weird (recorded ~1990), and Instinct (1994).  Richard Davies and The Moles stand as one of the greatest underappreciated artists of the 1990s.  The Moles were influenced by some of the greatest touchstones of rock music: lush psychedelic soundscapes reminiscent of the Beatles and Beach Boys, dramatic art-rock from Bowie and Love, clean jangle-rock from the Byrds, the Feelies, and REM, minimalism and economy from the Minutemen, the Fall, and the Kinks.  It's not for nothing that their bandleader Richard Davies toured with the Flaming Lips circa 1996.  The Moles are quite sympatico with the Lips, although I admit I like The Moles more, which is really saying something.  Untune The Sky is their debut album, opening with the irresistible jangle of "Bury Me Happy" and proceeding to get weirder and more delightful with each track.  The version I have includes some material that I believe was originally on an EP, including the utterly amazing "What's The New Mary Jane?," a title stolen from a then-lost Beatles track that has subsequently surfaced.  The first half of On The Street/Rare And Weird remixes and resequences Untune The Sky, and the second half includes outtakes and B-sides.  It is freaking excellent. But best of all is the EP-length Instinct, which was, I believe, actually a Richard Davies solo album with the Moles moniker thrust upon it by the label.  Instinct is the most Bowiesque of the Moles' work, but I find it incredibly rewarding for all of its weirdness.  The heart of the album is the 1-2-3 punch of "Already In Black"-"Instinct"-"Cars For King's Cross," three virtually perfect songs.  Five stars and two thumbs up.

Molly Berg and Stephen Vitiello - The Gorilla Variations (2009). I don't remember where I picked up this lovely album, but it consists of multiple gorgeous ambient soundscapes.  I believe it was intended as a soundtrack to a movie, but I don't know any more about this (or even if it is indeed true).  Excellent wallpaper music, though, in the Satie meaning of the term.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Music Library: Modern Lovers, Modest Mouse, Mojave 3, Moldy Peaches

Modern Lovers - The Original Modern Lovers (1972), Live At The Longbranch And More (1972), Precise Modern Lovers Order (1972), and The Modern Lovers (1976).  HEY MODERN LOVERS!  Jonathan Richman's first band took the greatness of the Velvet Underground and applied Richman's uniquely positive outlook to create some truly kick-ass great songs.  Everything here was recorded in 1972, I think.  The Original MLs bootleg contains the aborted tracks recorded with Kim Fowley before the John Cale sessions that would later be released as The Modern Lovers.  Live At The Longbranch and Precise Modern Lovers Order contain some of the same tracks, and a number of different ones, all taken from two of the same 1972 shows. The Modern Lovers, the one recorded with John Cale and released in 1976, belongs in every music collection.  I have copies on vinyl, cassette, CD, and mp3.  Just in case, you know.

Modest Mouse - This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (1996) and Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004).  Interesting situation here.  I wasn't too taken with Modest Mouse from my previous exposure to them, but I like the song on Rock Band 2.  I mentioned this to a friend, and voila! I have two of their albums.  The former is pretty great, with 90s-style Pixies-fueled indie rock anthems galore.  The latter, though - which is the one with the song I like from Rock Band 2 - is overheated stadium rock, and I hate overheated stadium rock.

Mojave 3 - Ask Me Tomorrow (1996) and Excuses For Travellers (2000).  Dreamy Brit-rock takes on alt-country by some of the members of the shoegaze band Slowdive.  I like these albums pretty well, but they don't really stick with me.

Moldy Peaches - The Moldy Peaches (2001).  Sometimes fun garage-y juvenilia, sometimes just a stupid dirty joke.  Sometimes in the same song.

At The AV Club: Chuck Vs. The A-Team

Today at the AV Club I fill in for Steve Heisler on Chuck.

Monday, March 14, 2011

At the AV Club today: Celebrity Apprentice and The Amazing Race

In which I fill in for my estimable friend Scott Von Doviak on The Amazing Race.

And then I get down with the crazy on Celebrity Apprentice.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice at the AV Club

I have a new gig with the AV Club!  This week I review Celebrity Apprentice, which is crazier than a busload of Gary Buseys this season.  Actually, that's a little hyperbolic.  It is exactly as crazy as a busload of Gary Buseys.

Go check it out!  Share it with your friends!  I'm hoping that this will get to be a regular feature.


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