Sunday, November 03, 2013

Music Library: Sparks, Spatula, Specials, Spectrum, Speed The Plough, Speedking, Speedy West, Spider Bags, Spike Jones

Sparks - Kimono My House (1974), Propaganda (1974), and Indiscreet (1975). Led by the brothers Mael, Sparks are an oddball band. At this phase they were a glam-ish pop vehicle with lots of Beefheartian weirdness and a seriously twisted sense of humor. Later they went electropop, but at this point they were still a proggy rock band. Sort of. And I just missed seeing them live this past weekend, so damn the organizers of the Mountain Oasis Festival for putting them on more-or-less opposite Neutral Milk Hotel.

Spatula - Despina By Land (1997). Post-rock from an instrumental Chapel Hill band with guitar, cello, and drums. Pretty good album, too. I picked it up after hearing them on the college radio station in 1997, and I still like it.

The Specials - The Specials (1979), Too Much Too Young (collection, 1979-1980), The Singles Collection (collection, 1979-84). The Specials are so fantastically great. They are, of course, the flagship band of the two-tone British ska revival. Only the first of these is a proper album, and neither of the two collections offers that much beyond it.

Spectrum - Geração Bendita (1971). Psychedelic tropicalia band with lotsa fuzz and lots of fun.

Speed The Plough - Speed The Plough (1989). And for a different type of psychedelia, Speed The Plough, a Feelies offshoot, plays quiet folk-rock with psych flourishes. Good stuff. There are some new compilations of STP out there that I intend to investigate.

Speedking - The Fist And The Laurels (collection, recorded 1995-97). Before LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy had a punk/electronica band. This is everything they recorded, including an album that was shelved until Murphy became famous. Pretty good stuff, although rarely great. Very interesting to hear what Murphy does in a different context, though.

Speedy West - Stratosphere Boogie: The Flaming Guitars of Speedy West And Jimmy Bryant (compilation with Jimmy Bryant, 1952-56), Swingin' On The Strings: The Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant Collection, Vol. 2 (compilation with Jimmy Bryant, 1951-56), Speedy (compilation, 1950-56), West Of Hawaii (1958), Steel Guitar (1960), Guitar Spectacular (1962), and For The Last Time (with Jimmy Bryant, 1975). I covered Jimmy Bryant's solo work some years back and now I've gotten around to his partner in crime, under whose name these compilations are filed by dint of first billing. West and Bryant are utterly delightful, virtuosos both, and their take on these songs will bend your ear into unnatural shapes. Stratosphere Boogie and Swingin' belong in everyone's homes. Speedy is a collection that doesn't add much to the prior albums. West, Steel, and Spectacular are all post-Bryant, and Speedy is mining a vein more Hawaiian slack guitar than Western Swing, which is a little mellow for me. Last Time brings together an aging West and Bryant, both of whom have unfortunately slowed down quite a bit. Here they are at their peak, obviously enjoying each other's company and competition:

And one more, just because Bryant's guitar, which is, if I recall correctly, a 12-string tuned in thirds, sounds AWESOME:

Spider Bags - Shake My Head (2012) and Teenage Eyes single (2012). Kickin' garage-rock trio from Chapel Hill.

Spike Jones - The Very Worst Of Spike Jones (1944-49). Woo, this is humor for a different generation. I hate this. I mean, yes, thank you for bringing anarchic and sarcastic humor to the masses, but so much of this is weighed down by racial humor or, as in the clip below, the fact that it is utterly hilarious that a little person would try to lead a band and do impressions. Blah. Stay in the past, man.


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