Saturday, August 20, 2011

Music Library: Nirvana, No Age, No Man/No Man's Band, NoMeansNo, NOMO, Norman Blake, Notwist, Nouvelle Vague, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nirvana - Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991), In Utero (1993), MTV Unplugged In New York (1994). Is there a point to writing about these guys at this stage?  I think everything that I could possibly say has been said ad nauseam.  I will say that my favorite of these is the Unplugged album, not least because it has the Meat Puppets on it.

No Age - Weirdo Rippers (2007) and Nouns (2008).  Great indie rock band. I always love these guys when I listen to them and completely forget about them later. And then I'm surprised when they come up again.

No Man/No Man's Band - Damage The Enemy (1989). Art-rock from Mission of Burma's Roger Miller in the between years.  It's alright, but it ain't no Mission of Burma.

NoMeansNo - 0 + 2 = 1 (1991) and In The Fishtank 1 (1999). Solid SST-style punk rock.  The Fishtank EP is one of the early ones, before they hit on the idea of bringing in two different bands to try to merge their styles.

NOMO - New Tones (2006), Ghost Rock (2008), and Invisible Cities (2009). An instrumental band with a healthy dose of afrobeat melding with jazz, tropicalia, post-rock, and avant-rock, NOMO is fascinating. Their cover choices are extraordinary, too. New Tones features, besides - it should be said - the killer originals, the most unlikely cover of Joanna Newsom's "Book Of Right-On." Invisible Cities, which does add quite a bit of tropicalia madness, includes a cover of Tom Zé's monster track, "Mã." All in all, all three of these are fantastic.

Norman Blake - Live At McCabe's (1976), Whiskey Before Breakfast (1976), Norman Blake and Tony Rice 2 (with Tony Rice, 1990).  Blake, who is not the guy from Teenage Fanclub, is one of the major bluegrass guitarists alive today. He's played with pretty much everyone, including Dylan, Cash, and Steve Earle. His solo work features astonishing virtuosity presented with utter relaxation. That tension is amazing to hear. His collaboration with Tony Rice has the two greased-axle players trading licks with more notes than every other album released in 1990 combined. And it's only 30-something minutes long.  If these guys didn't have such feel for their material, this would be Yngwie-style wanking, but they play with not just speed but nuance, and that means everything.

The Notwist - Neon Golden (2002).  The formula of indie-rock-plus-electronica-percussion has been copied by a gazillion bands by now, but The Notwist were early adopters. These songs are excellent, and the unusual sounds they add are quite pleasing to my ears. I think Pitchfork stuck the song "One With The Freaks" on their best-of-the-00s list.

Nouvelle Vague - "Too Drunk To Fuck." French cabaret-style cover of the Dead Kennedys song.  Yawn.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Mustt Mustt (1990) and Bandit Queen Soundtrack (1996). Khan was one of the major practitioners of the traditional devotional music of the Sufis, Qawwali.  He's an amazing singer, but even in these albums, which are somewhat Western-oriented in their production, I find that I am sadly indifferent to his charms. I can hear his talent, but it doesn't speak to me.


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