Thursday, July 31, 2008

Music Library: Battles, Bauhaus, Be Bop Deluxe, Be Your Own Pet, Beach Boys

Battles - EP B and Mirrored. See, I like krautrock and glipsy-glitch noises and ambitious proggy stuff when it doesn't take itself too seriously. This music is all goofy space-funk with Euro-alien overtures, which, as you can tell, doesn't lend it to easy descriptions.

Bauhaus - Mask, "Swing The Heartache," "She's In Parties," and Go Away White. A gift from a friend, I haven't listened to these much. I wasn't a big fan of the Bauhaus back in high school, but I very much enjoyed revisiting their older songs here and the 2008 Go Away White reformation-and-resplit album.

Be Bop Deluxe - "Fair Exchange." Over-the-top glammy silliness.

Be Your Own Pet - s/t. Fun teenage retro post-punk thing. A little too relentless all at once, but great in small doses.

Beach Boys - Uh, there's a lot of these. Let's break them out.

  • The Beach Boys' Christmas Album: Yawn.
  • Today!/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!): Two-fer of 1965 albums with the classic Beach Boys sound at its peak. There's some wild variance between the heights and depths. The songs that are great are really, truly, amazingly great, but those that aren't are rather shockingly bad.
  • Pet Sounds: What more can I add to everything that's been said of this album? It's utterly brilliant all-American psychedelia, a truly weird and beautiful experience, and it gives your ears a chance to stretch their muscles.
  • Pet Sounds Sessions: How much do I love Pet Sounds? Enough to buy a 4-disc box of studio sessions, which is like loving sausage so much that buy the parts of the pig that people rarely think of as food.
  • Smile - GEMA Bits and Pieces. I have a lot of versions of SMILE (thanks to Gary Mairs! - when I first became interested, all I had was the Vigatone Smile, but Gary hooked me up with four other versions). I was an obsessive SMILE collector for a while, back before Brian Wilson went back into the studio and re-recorded the tracks to clarify how all these pieces were supposed to go together. This one collects a bunch of studio fragments.
  • Smile - GEMA Version. This sequence in this version throws me. It makes some sense in terms of flow, but it's entirely different from the way I would have constructed it. And the way that Brian Wilson actually constructed it, for that matter, but that didn't happen until later. Many of the selected tracks are still quite unfinished in this version, too. And there's a handful of odd choices that don't really seem to belong. But on the other hand, there's some stunning barnyard sounds in the version of "Heroes and Villians" and some other curlicues of greatness shoved into the margins.
  • Smile - Good Vibrations Box Set. These are the Smile tracks from the Beach Boys box set, the first official glimpse of the mastered tracks. Brilliant, natch, even if unfinished.
  • Smile - Vigatone. Culled from the Vigatone box-o'-copyright-violations, this was my attempt to make a version of Smile that flowed right well before Brian Wilson went back into the studio to set the record straight. It's not too far from the final version, but mine has a lot more of the different Bicycle Rider themes holding everything together. Plus it has "Well, You're Welcome" at the end and a bunch of bits and pieces that aren't on any of these other compilations.
  • Smile - Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 16. This version is somewhere between the Good Vibrations Box and the Vigatone Smiles.
  • Smiley Smile. When the Smile sessions fell apart, the Beach Boys cobbled together finished tracks and parts of other tracks for this album. It's a cracked reflection of a masterpiece, not up to the dizzying heights of Pet Sounds or the promise of Smile, but with much of the Smile sessions' wacky psychedelia on display, it's a great near-miss.
  • Wild Honey. After Smile fell apart, Brian Wilson was unwilling and unable to lead the Beach Boys, so Mike Love took the lead in making this album, which was a few steps back musically and creatively but, on the other hand, was a decent set of songs (with a couple of stone classics) displaying the Beach Boys' other strengths. I have these last two albums collected on a single CD with a few Smile odds and ends added on.
  • Friends. The Beach Boys become more democratic, which is theoretically good, but more odd, in that they've been touched by the avant-garde experiment of Smile and are still trying to craft mainstream pop, circa 1968.
  • 20/20. Same deal, although this one has even more Smile detritus and Dennis Wilson's Charlie Manson-penned song "Never Learn Not To Love."
  • Landlocked. A bootleg of demos pre-dating Sunflower. Many of these songs turned up on later releases. Most are pretty decent.
  • Sunflower. This is what the post-Smile Beach Boys were worked towards: a more democratic album that is unabashed sunny and weird avant-pop. A great, great album.
  • Surf's Up. Named after the best song Brian Wilson ever wrote, this is both the logical progression from Sunflower and the flip-side of the coin. Where Sunflower is sunny and hopeful, Surf's Up is dark and fatalistic. It culminates in Brian Wilson's finest post-Smile work: "A Day In the Life Of A Tree," which is as batshit insane as it is stunningly gorgeous, "'Til I Die," which is the hymn God sings at the Church of Humanism, and "Surf's Up," which is so incredibly wonderful that it breaks the Second Law of Superlative Thermodynamics.
  • Endless Summer. Wow, those early Beach Boys tracks, huh? Those kids could sing the shit out of anything, but Brian Wilson's songs were so intricate and brilliant and unfortunately ubiquitous that it's easy to forget just how brightly they shine.
  • Adult Child. Demos for an unreleased late 70s Beach Boys album. There's some fantastic songs here, but a lot of dreck, too.
  • The Beach Boys Love You. Ah, there's the crackpot Brian Wilson at his crackiestpottery.
  • Creme De La Rest. A mix by my friend Gary of the early BBs with surprisingly little overlap with Endless Summer. Fantastic!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Music Library: Band of Susans, Bang On A Can, Bango, Banyan, Baroness, Barrington Levy, Barry White, Bartlebees, Bash & Pop, Bat For Lashes, Bats

Man, it's been a while since I did one of these!

Band of Susans - Peel Sessions, "1,000,000," Here Comes Success, "Drill," and "Ahead." The Peel Sessions album has three BoS songs and three covers - Gang of Four's "I Found That Essence Rare," the Stones' "Child of the Moon," and Wire's "Too Late," all fantastic songs that lend themselves to BoS's wall of sound. "1,000,000" is a cover of the REM song. Success (an Iggy reference in the title) is a phenomenal wall of almost-ambient skronk with jittery post-punk rhythms, like Sonic Youth covering Brian Eno covering the Feelies. Fantastic. "Drill" is an interesting cover of the Wire track from a whole album of covers of that same song called Dugga Dugga Dugga. "Ahead" is yet another Wire cover, from yet another Wire tribute album.

Bang On A Can - In C, Philip Glass: Music In 5ths, and Brian Eno: Music For Airports (Live). Interesting experiments in new compositional music. The first is Terry Riley's sublime composition, and although one friend -- the composer Steve Hicken, to drop a name -- calls it the worst recorded version of Riley's masterpiece, I like it. Either of the two tracks on the Philip Glass album are okay by themselves but overwhelming in tandem (that's one after another, McNulty). And the Eno album is bizarre, a mostly note-for-note live version of Eno's ambient album that seems only to exist to prove that it can be done. I'd rather listen to the real thing.

Bango - s/t. A fat slab of Brazilian garage-psychedelia. My Portugeuse is poor, so I have no idea what most of the songs are about, even when they're in English. It's okay, but it brings the utter timeless brilliance of Os Mutantes into sharp relief.

Banyan - "Mad As A Hornet," "Israelite," "El Sexxo," "King of Longbeach." These are some tracks from Mike Watt's free-jazz collective that I got from a blog some time back. Great stuff. At least one of the basslines is identical to a song on Watt's first solo album.

Baroness - First, Second, and Red Album. Killer metal band with an Allman Brothers jones and the chops to make it work.

Barrington Levy - Haul & Pull Up Selecta. The album appears to be a compilation, but the only tracks I have are the ones by Levy, an early dancehall singer and producer.

Barry White - All-Time Greatest Hits. I bought this while going through a 70s soul phase sometime back in the mid-90s. There's a few amazing tracks on it, but more cheese per square measure than most doctors would allow. Some of the songs are completely unlistenable. Maybe I just need more love in my cold, shivering heart.

The Bartlebees - "She Loves Monsters." Garage rock from a David Smay Halloween mix.

Bash & Pop - Friday Night Is Killing Me. This is Tommy Stinson's first post-Replacements band. It's interesting, because you can clearly hear how Stinson learned songcraft from Paul Westerberg as all of the songs are organized 'Mats-style, but the lyrics completely lack Westerberg's punch. Heck, I guess you could say the same of pretty much all of Westerberg's post-Replacements work, too. A couple of the songs are passable enough that they could be minor tracks from the 'Mats last two albums. I don't say that out of love.

Bat For Lashes - Fur and Gold. Somewhere between the Shangri-Las and Björk, this album is a fantastic taste of ethereal pop dread.

The Bats - By Night, Daddy's Highway, Fear of God, and At The National Grid. Is this the first kiwi-rock band we've hit? The Bats are led by Robert Scott, who was the bassist for The Clean, one of my all-time favorite bands. And the Bats are utterly delightful. By Night and Fear of God are decent albums by most standards, but Daddy's Highway and At The National Grid are so far out on the fuzz-folk-jangle axis exemplified by the beloved Feelies that they feel written on my DNA. I should mention that there was almost 20 years between the release of Daddy's Highway and National Grid, and ten years between the Bat's previous album and National Grid. And yet it sounds vibrant and timeless and wonderful, and I recommend it to all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recap of Reading in Austin, 7/12

In which I talk about the Shoot Out The Lights reading & Richard Thompson Hoot Night at the Carousel Lounge in Austin last Saturday, July 12, 2008. You can find it, along with a picture of me sweating my ass off, over at Shoot Out The Lights Blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another SOTL Review (but it's my favorite ever)

This review is my favorite ever:

“Shoot Out The Lights” by Hayden Childs is a masterful 116-page obsessive’s factual and fictional paean to the 1982 eight-song album, as well as to Richard Thompson, and to a lesser degree to Linda Thompson. Ten pages into the book, I realized that I had little inkling of the musical specifics that Childs was putting under his microscope. After four successive and attentive listenings of the entire CD, I was ready to go back to my reading. As Childs pursued his inventive and slightly mad takes on the significance of each track, of the context, emotional and musical of every bar, I would go back to my iPod and listen again to the song under discussion. I finished the book and stood back, realizing that “Shoot Out the Lights” is now a burned-in part of my interior landscape, of my internal sound track, and is there in ways that as yet I do not fully and probably will never fully comprehend.

Inventive and slightly mad! I have to put that on my business cards. Awesome.

Monday, July 07, 2008

This Saturday, July 12, 2008: Richard Thompson Book Release Party and Hoot Night in Austin!

The venue is The Carousel at 1110 E. 52nd Street. Starts around 9 pm.

Not only will I be reading from the 33 1/3 book Shoot Out The Lights, but musical guests will be playing Richard Thompson songs all night: Lee Barber, DD Dagger, Elizabeth Jackson of the Darling New Neighbors, The Distant Seconds, and Parks & Wildlife. Come on down!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Powell's post no. 5: All Full Of Tears And Flapdoodle. Plus the accompanying muxtape.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Powell's Post #4: Humbert Humbert meets Serge Gainsbourg.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Today's Powell's Blog post: Cormac McCarthy does Scott Walker.

Also, if you're in Austin and have Time Warner Cable, you can see me tonight on ME TV (that's Music Entertainment), channel 15, on a show called Tex-Mix airing around 6 - 6:30. Excitement!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Post No. 2 for Powell's! Today it's Pynchon and the Fiery Furnaces. Yesterday was Flannery O'Connor and The Fall. I'll be there all week! Try the veal.

Oh, and FEELIES.

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Cary, NC, United States
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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.

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