Thursday, October 03, 2013

Music Library: Shrinebuilder, Shuggie Otis, Sigur Rós, Silkworm, Silos, Silver Apples, Silver Jews

Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder EP (2009). Supergroups never work because of the enormous egos involved, except this one. This one has Al Cisneros of Om and Sleep on bass and vocals, Wino Weinrich of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Spirit Caravan on guitar and vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar and vocals, and Dale Crover of the Melvins on drums. And it is awesome, which speaks volumes about how great the people involved with this are.

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (1974). Pretty interesting psychedelic soul music from an iconoclastic musician. This is the 2001 reissue with a few tracks from his prior album Freedom Flight on it.

Sigur Rós - Von (1997), Ágætis Byrjun (2000), Angels Of The Universe (2001), ( ) (2002), Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do EP (2004), Takk (2005), and Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust (2008). Von is a bit of a bust, but Ágætis Byrjuni and ( ) are phenomenal albums, somehow spinning the silliness of orchestral post-rock sung in a made-up language with heavy falsetto into something astonishing and majestic. The EPs, Takk, and Med sud are not as good but far from bad, too.

Silkworm - Firewater (1996) and Blueblood (1998). Excellent indie rock band. Hard to talk about them without mentioning that their drummer was murdered by a woman in 2005 who was attempting to commit suicide by ramming her car into traffic stopped at a traffic light, which is one of the most selfish and evil ways that a person can attempt suicide. He died, as did his passengers, and she went to jail for three years.

The Silos - Cuba (1987) and The Silos (1990). Formed by the great Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe, the Silos were/are an rock band with a wide-open Americana/alt-country feel, as if Tom Petty had a little more grit and soul to his music. Salas-Humara has reformed the Silos a few times now without Rupe (who went on to play in Cracker, Sparklehorse, and House of Freaks), and he retains his sharp eye and deft, direct touch with a song. Both of these albums still sound fresh.

Silver Apples - Silver Apples (1968) and Contact (1969). Before there was electronica, there were two guys rocking drums, loops, and an oscillator. The Silver Apples picked up on the loop music of Terry Riley and John Cage and looked forward to, well, everything.

Silver Jews - The Arizona Record (1993), Hot As Hell 7" (1993), Starlite Walker (1994), The Natural Bridge (1996), American Water (1998), Bright Flight (2001), Tennessee single (2001), Tanglewood Numbers (2005), and Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008). If not my favorite band, then pretty damn close, the Silver Jews were David Berman and whoever was around him. They were sloppy-ass country and sloppy-ass indie rock all entangled. The early EPs are too rough and lo-fi, but the band was pretty close to great by the time of Starlite Walker, their first full-length album. That one has half of Pavement and the great producer Doug Easley backing Berman.

The Natural Bridge has a bunch of guys from New Radiant Storm King, and it is almost perfect. Nah, it's perfect. Every damn song is brimming with beauty and wisdom and dying to wrench tears from my eyes.

Then there's American Water, another perfect album. This one's a bit loopier but also the greatest American novel in song form. I mean, check this out and tell me it's not a close neighbor of The Dream Songs:

In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection
Slowly screwing my way across Europe, they had to make a correction
Broken and smoking where the infrared deer plunge in the digital snake
I tell you, they make it so you can't shake hands when they make your hands shake 
I know you like to line dance
Everything so democratic and cool
But baby, there's no guidance when random rules 
I know that a lot of what I say has been lifted off of men's room walls
Maybe I've crossed the wrong rivers and walked down all the wrong halls
But nothing can change the fact that we used to share a bed
And that's why it scared me so when you turned to me and said 
Yeah, you look like someone
Yeah, you like someone who up and left me low
Boy, you look like someone I used to know 
I know you like to line dance
Everything so democratic and cool
But baby, there's no guidance when random rules 
I asked a painter why the roads are colored black
He said, "Steve, it's because people leave and no highway will bring them back"
So if you don't want me, I promise not to linger
But before I go, I gotta ask you, dear, about the tan line on your ring finger

No one should have two lives
Now you know my middle names are wrong and right
Honey, we've got two lives to give tonight

Bright Flight is a bit of a step back, but what wouldn't be? It also has some of Berman's most devastating songs, especially "I Remember Me," which is the epitome of termite art, with all of the little details eating away at anything threatening to hem it in. It could be hokey and overblown, a song about a guy who loses his love when he's hit by a truck, but instead it shows the details of their life and winds up with a verse where he is touching the dent in the bumper of the truck, singing about how he remembers his former life as if it happened to someone else. Man, that's so beautiful and sad that it rips out my heart every time.

Tanglewood Numbers, with its William Eggleston cover, has a joyfulness to it that belies the subject matter of depressions, drugs, and fear. I love it.

Finally, Lookout Mountain has some high notes, but it doesn't really bring the emotion as much as the prior Silver Jews albums. It is ok, but just not consistently brilliant. Maybe I'm damning it too much, but, y'know, Dave Berman at 90% only seems weaker because he gave so much more than 100% on the prior albums.


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