Monday, April 27, 2009

Music Library: Carla Bozulich, Carla Bruni, Carly Simon, The Carpenters, The Carrie Nations, The Cars, The Carter Family

Metal week! Wait, no. This one goes the other way.

Carla Bozulich - The Red-Headed Stranger and Evangelista. The first is Carla Bozulich - she of the mighty Geraldine Fibbers and partnership with Nels Cline - covering Willie Nelson's classic album, track by track. Cline's distinctive guitar is all over this album, and Willie himself shows up to duet with her. Awesome. The latter is a Bozulich's follow-up (her current band now calls itself Evangelista), an emotional chamber-noise album not unlike Scott Walker's recent work. Cline's all over that one, too, although I understand that he's not been a part of the more recent Evangelista work.

Carla Bruni - Quelqu'un M'a Dit and No Promises. Mrs. First Lady of France's not-terrible folk-rock albums. They don't have much going for them, but they're definitely not offensive. Well, the latter album, which reworks Romantic poetry into Jack Johnson-like acoustic guitar jams, is kinda offensive.

Carly Simon - "You're So Vain". I love this song. So sue me.

The Carpenters - The Singles 1969 - 1973. My wife's album. I like "Superstar," but the rest lay on the fromage.

The Carrie Nations - "Sweet Talkin' Candy Man." A neat-o slice of chick-garage from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls.

The Cars - The Cars. I really like The Cars. I should buy more of their albums. It's bubblegum, but in the best way.

The Carter Family - "Wildwood Flower (1928)," "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," "Wildwood Flower (1935)," "Keep On The Sunny Side," Longing For Old Virginia: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1934, and Country Music Hall of Fame Series. Man, I wish I had more Carter Family recordings. Talk about your country gold.

"Casey Kasem Loses It" - The famous viral recording of Mr. Kasem at his worst.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Music Library: Cannibal Ox, Cannonball Adderley, Captain Beefheart, Captain Kangaroo, Cardinal, Caribou

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein. I've already proven that I can be surprisingly inarticulate about music that I know quite well, so what I have to say about hip-hop is even more discomgargulambulish. So, uh, wow! What a great album!

Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else, Things Are Getting Better, Fiddler On The Roof, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club", and Spontaneous Combustion. First-rate hard bop, all the way through.

Captain Beefheart:

  • Safe As Milk. Beefheart's first effort has quite a few brilliant tracks, but the most damning thing about it is that it sounds like a product of its time. There's indications here and there about where Beefheart was headed, though, most notably "Abba Zaba" and "Electricity." I don't have the next album, the out-of-print Strictly Personal, but a few of the songs are bonus tracks on this release.

  • Trout Mask Replica. I detested this album the first time I heard it. I mean, I knew it was something different and new (to me, at least; the album was at least 21 years old at the time, older than I was when I first heard it), but I had no vocabulary for the cacophonous structure of the songs, no way into the music. It was difficult, proudly and defiantly difficult. There were in-jokes I didn't understand, constant time-shifts, songs that could have been about any number of things. I was a fan of the Minutemen, which was why I was interested in checking Beefheart out, but I couldn't hear how his deconstruction of rock music had led from the blues and garage-rock to the minimalist Minutemen aesthetic. I can hear it now, though. It's still unlike most anything else (Beefheart's followers have mostly found a way to put his radical ideas about disorientation in music into a more pop context), almost impossible to mix into other sounds because many of the songs make no sense out of context, but it's also a brilliant album and a fun listen at long last.

  • Lick My Decals Off, Baby. The follow-up to Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby is fantastic stuff, maybe not quite as wild and experimental, but still different from just about anything else. The addition of the marimbas is quite a lot of fun, too. The album after this is Mirror Man, which includes more reworkings of the Strictly Personal material. But I don't have it.

  • The Spotlight Kid. This is the first of two 1972 releases. Beefheart pulls back on the peripheral weirdness without losing all of the oddity central to his sound. This is more explicitly bluesy than the immediately prior Beefheart albums, but not out of line with the earliest Beefheart.

  • Clear Spot. The second 1972 album, this one is even more commercial, incorporating backing vocalists and horns and groovy, relaxed guitar parts in 4/4 time. The producer is Ted Templeman, mostly known at the time for easygoing semi-bluesy rock in the Doobie Brothers & Van Morrison vein (he later became the go-to guy for Van Halen, too). And this sounds like Beefheart covering Van Morrison. It's mostly great despite that description. In fact, even the tracks that seem the farthest out from the Beefheart aesthetic are pretty terrific.

  • Bluejeans and Moonbeams. I don't have the prior album Unconditionally Guaranteed, but I understand that, like this one, it's an unbridled attempt to fit Beefheart into an even more commercialized sound. Clear Spot was about as commercial as I can take Beefheart. This is over the line. No fun at all.

  • Doc at the Radar Station. Prior to this is Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), a Zappa-produced album that I'll have to pick up sometime. But this album is what I want and expect from a Beefheart album: deconstructed blues-oriented rock with jagged rhythms and overlapping guitars all piled together into music that's more or less sculptural in nature.
  • "Ashtray Heart" and "Hot Head" from Saturday Night Live. Mp3s of the wonderfully messy live versions from Beefheart's appearance on SNL back in 1979.
  • Ice Cream For Crow. This is probably the last Beefheart album ever, since he's basically retired from music in favor of painting now. And it's a great album. Beefheart and his band sound like they are having a blast, and the music is wild and clever and fun like on his classic albums.

Captain Kangaroo Narrates Peter and The Wolf. I downloaded this from eMusic because my son likes the Peter and the Wolf story and music. I remember this album fondly from my childhood and thought he might enjoy it. So far, nope.

Cardinal - Toy Bell EP, Cardinal, and Cardinal and The Flaming Lips Live in Norman, OK 9/3/95. Cardinal was a brief collaboration between the psychedelic folkster Aussie Richard Davies (previously of The Moles) and Oregan-based chamber-pop experimentalist Eric Matthews. The Toy Bell EP (Bob Fay of Sebadoh was part of the band then) is a great look forward to the lush gorgeousness of Cardinal, one of my all-time favorite albums. As of last year, Davies and Matthews were supposedly working together again, but they split it off over creative differences. Having encountered Eric Matthews on-line, I can say that he's a temperamental sort who de-friended me suddenly on Facebook, apparently for having the temerity to support the current President over the last one. I don't know anything about Davies personally, but I could see where their personalities may clash. The bootleg is basically Davies (sans Matthews) with the Flaming Lips playing backing band as he runs through Cardinals and Moles songs.

Caribou - Andorra. Laptop indie pop, very catchy, but very disposable, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MBV: They Made Me Realise

I saw/felt/was pummeled by My Bloody Valentine last night.

Mike McGonigal was right: watching the audience was the best part. MBV did the sonic assault thing for about 15 minutes during "You Made Me Realise." For the first five, it seemed like people were having trouble just hanging on. Then there was a crest, and the sound was rising, and you could see on people's faces how they were rising with it. Afterwards, we went to a bar and all the concert-goers pouring in looked high, all sleepy-eyed with shit-eating grins stretched across their faces.

The rest of the show was great, too. I imagine that it's roughly the same setlist that they would have played in 1993.

Another Good Show Down The Drain

Kings: too good to last. NBC is going to burn off the rest of the episodes in June. I still don't understand major-network TV economics. Why go to all the expense of producing a show if you're not going to try to promote it to the most likely audience (in the case of Kings, the show would most likely appeal to fans of Deadwood and other intricate cable dramas, but the promos made it look like Dawson's Creek With Butterflies)? Why not distinguish between quality tv and shitty sitcoms? Why not push the quality tv off to the expanded cable networks owned by the same company if the networks can't afford to take risks?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Music Library: Can Comes Alive!

Having Fun With Can On Stage!

As I wrote the other day, Can was willing to indulge whatever it took to make their album work. Generally the band recorded hours upon hours of music and would then edit the mixes down to an appropriate size. Often the band would have to learn the songs again after editing them. There's something to be said for how in-tune the core members of the band were with each other. They could shift on a dime, somehow all of them knowing that this moment was the right moment - 12 minutes into their improvisation - to go to a completely different sound. That sort of psychic connection is a rare thing, and it's even more impressive to hear live. Much of Can's live sound was about improvisation without ever dropping to the endlessly dull jam-band approach of guitar leads over two chords forever. That shit is toxic. Instead, Can would be constantly reinventing the song, constantly searching for transcendence through collective music. No one held down the background: Jaki Liebezeit's drumming was as important a component to the sound as Holger Czukay's superfast pulsating bass, Michael Karoli's wailing guitar, and Irmin Schmidt's increasingly abstract and noisy keyboards. The vocals were the least important part of the bad, although ultimately necessary because the human voice gives listeners an in with the music, even when it's mostly gibberish or sung-snapped in Japanese, and Can's music has a steep learning curve.

So this post is about my Can bootlegs, although it starts with the official release from the Can Box. Some of these bootlegs include unreleased studio work. Fortunately, a kind soul out there has catalogued a bunch of Can concerts and studio releases to help us keep this all straight.

Can concerts, for your cross-referencing thrills.

Can studio work, for those who cannot get enough.

  • Can Box Music. Towards the end of "Jynx," the first track on the Can Box Music disc, Holger Czukay's bassline turns into Sly & The Family Stone's ultra-funky "Thank You Falletime Be Mice Elf Again." "Jynx" is a 16-minute improvisation from October 1975, post-Damo Suzuki, pre-Rosko Gee (the bassist who replaced Czukay, allowing him to start adding random noise from backstage, which somehow managed to be less interesting than it sounds). The second track is a version of "Dizzy Dizzy" from a month later that incorporates elements of the song without ever being recognizeable from the album version. This is followed by a version of "Vernal Equinox" from the same show, propelled by the drumming and bassline. "Fizz" is from the 1977 version of Can, with Czukay on noise and Gee on bass. The noise is interesting, but Gee was not up to Czukay's level of bass. There's a version of "Yoo Doo Right" from 1975 that's pretty great. The shortest track on the album is the less-than-5-minute "Cascade Waltz" from the 1977 Rosko Gee version of Can. The second disc opens with the "Colchester Finale," a 37-minute improvisation from 1972 that includes parts of "Halleluwah" with Damo Suzuki doing his jabbering Damo Suzuki thing. Then there's an 8-minute improvisation called "Kata Kong," followed by a 14-minute version of "Spoon" from 1972, held together only by the insistent 1-2-and-4 rhythm of the keyboard sound. All in all, it's a great introduction to Can's live approach.

  • Rare & Unreleased Vol. I. and Canaxis 5: Studio Demo Tapes. Both of these include a bunch of studio stuff from roughly the same time as Delay 1968 and a couple from the Ege Bamyasi sessions. They are both virtually the same, although the tracks are in reverse order on each. The versions are slightly different, though, and while I'm not sure I need both, I also don't know that I can decide which to get rid of. The former has several b-sides unavailable on the latter, but the former is also mastered faster, so that all of the tracks are about a whole step higher than they are on the latter, usually leading to about a 30-second difference in running time.

  • Mother Sky (06-1971 Berlin). If the Can live page is right, this is actually from May 22, 1972, so I'll adjust the date accordingly. The first track is a 19-minute improvisation called "Standing So High." The second track is 21 minutes and incorporates parts of "Vitamin C" and "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea." The third track is called "I Don't Care" (9+ minutes) and appears to be "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea" again. The fourth track is listed as "Mother Sky" (12 minutes), which does have parts of that song amongst the sonic craziness. The last track (10+ minutes) is listed as "Spoon," and it starts with "Peking O" before turning into the familiar sound of "Spoon."

  • 22 Oct 1971 Volkshalle Walzerborn, Steinberg DE. My version differs from the Can live page version, so it may be a completely different show. Sound quality is bad. It starts with a 5-minute untitled improvisation that seems to pull from parts of "Aumgn" before cutting out abruptly. My second track is an 8.5 minute "Peking O" that has nothing from "Peking O" and parts of "Halleluwah" and "Paperhouse." Another abrupt stop. Third track is listed as "Paperhouse," but it's "Full Moon On The Highway." Fourth track is a 4-minute improvisation incorrectly listed as "Full Moon." Fifth track is an untitled 3.5 minute ambient piece. Sixth is a 6-minute untitled piece that is unidentifiable. Seventh is 4.5 minutes of "Halleluwah." Last is 6 minutes of "Turtles Have Short Legs."

  • 1972 05-08 Colchester/University of Essex. This is a kick-ass bootleg, the source of the monster "Colchester Finale" from the Can Box Music album. Starts off with a 16+ minute improv, following by 19+ minutes of "Halleluwah." Then a 12-minute "Paperhouse," split into two tracks for some reason. Then nearly 20 minutes of "Spoon" with an audible tape splice about 15 minutes in. There's 6 minutes of an untitled improv, then 13 minutes of "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea." Then the 37 minute "Colchester Finale," which touches on a number of tracks form Tago Mago before finishing up with a reprise of "Halleluwah." HEAVY.

  • Horrortrip in the Paperhouse and Free Concert: Live 1973-03-02 Koln. This is the famous free concert from June 24, 1972 included in its entirety on the Can Box movie. I have two versions, both listed with the wrong date. And they both sound pretty good, so I'm not sure whether to keep them both or delete one. For some reason, both add a 27-minute improvisation at the end from a show on Feb 19, 1973 which is wrongly attributed as "Pinch" on both.
  • Paris Olympia 1973. The Can live page lists this as May 12, 1973. Four tracks: "Improvisation" (35 minutes), "One More Night" (9 minutes), "Spoon" (32 minutes), and "Vitamin C" (14 minutes). The Can live page names the opening improv "Whole People Queueing Down," which I'll do, too. "Spoon" should include an improv they call "Stars and Lines."
  • The Emdias Theatre, Edinburgh. The Can live page lists this as August 25, 1973. Two tracks, the first 14 minutes and the second over 30, both listed as improvs. The first one should be titled "Soup" and the second one "Bel Air." Surprisingly good sound quality.
  • 1973 August 25 Edinburgh. Same show! Same tracks! Worse sound quality, so it's gone.
  • The Peel Sessions. The first track, "Up The Bakerloo Line With Anne," is from February 1973. The next three tracks are from 1974 and the final two were from 1975. None are studio releases. They're all pretty experimental, too. I like to think John Peel liked it that way. Top notch stuff.

  • Radio Waves. This is a grab-bag of live Can from TV and concerts plus two b-sides that have appeared elsewhere. First is the complete 35-minute "Up The Bakerloo" from the Peel Sessions. There's a version of "Paperhouse" from 1971 for the German Beat Club TV show. There's a 15-minute improv called "Entropy" from the actual show in June 1971 (rather than the wrongly attributed one on the Mother Sky bootleg). There's another Malcolm Mooney studio outtake from 1969. And there's "Turtles Have Short Legs" and "Shikaku Maru Ten" again.

  • Spoon Over Babaluna. Bad sound quality! All three are live tracks recorded for the BBC. Starts with a 24-minute improv from Feb 19, 1974 called "Tadjidid Janid." Then there's two tracks from Nov 18, 1975. The first is an improv called "Senoussi" and the second is a stunning version of "Vernal Equinox." There's a clip of the band playing this version on the documentary in the Can Box.

  • Stuttgart Halloween 1975. Opens with an improvisation that the Can live page says should be called "Morning Glory." Then it goes into "Bel Air" followed by "Dizzy Dizzy" and winds up with a final track of "Pinch" into a jam called (unfortunately) "The Gypsy." The track fades out after roughly 28 minutes of this, but the Can live page suggests that there was at least another 6 minutes to the track.

  • 1975 May 17 Colchester: Future Days & Past Nights. Apparently the real Future Days etc. bootleg opens with 45 minutes of "Chain Reaction" into "Bel Air." Neither are on this bootleg, which picks up with "Dizzy Dizzy" from the same show and runs through the end. This includes "Pinch" into "Mother Sky." "One More Night," then "Half Past One," then "Vitamin C." Then there's the long, frequently-played, never-recorded-in-the-studio, and not-so-great jam "Meadowsweet," then "The Gypsy" into a raucous "Full Moon On The Highway." It all winds out with the short mess-around piece "Up The Floyd."

  • London + Grenoble. Weird bootleg. Starts with a show recorded in Grenoble on January 16, 1976 with the core members of the band. Track listing: "Pinch," "Dizzy Dizzy," "Chain Reaction/Half Past One," "Vernal Equinox" (with long improvisations at the end, split into three tracks on my boot), then a track I don't know called "Ibis." The second disc is a show recorded in London on December 4, 1976 with Holger Czukay on noise and Rosko Gee on bass. Track listing: "Moonshake/Don't Say No," "Vitamin C," "Pinch." The Grenoble show: great. The London show: so-so.

  • Paris to Langelsheim. Another weird one. These were taken from a tour with guest vocalist Michael Cousins. The first track appears to be a recording of "Vertigo" from March 19, 1976 in Paris. The next three recordings are from April 10, 1976 in Langelsheim: "Goosie Goosie," "Spoon," and "Made In Japan." Only "Spoon" is a song that appeared on a Can album.
  • Germany 1976 Vol. 1. This is the first set of a show recorded April 11, 1976 in Hannover. The tracks are "Vitamin C," "One More Night," "Bel Air," and "Dizzy Dizzy." Proof that the core members of Can could produce some scalding experimental soup even while making tepid disco albums.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Music Library: Can in the Studio

Can is Stockhausen and funk and VU-style garage-art and psychedelia and jazz and god knows what else. Easily one of the all-time greatest bands in rock music, Can is about the sound of inner space, which is the original name of the band and the name of their homebuilt studio.

Studio Can:

  • Monster Movie. Hear the band struggle against the prevailing sound of garage-psych, seeking to create the motorik-based krautrock we have all come to know and love! The only official studio album from the band's run with Malcolm Mooney on vocals, Monster Movie features three great attempts to create an entirely new approach to rock and "Yoo Doo Right," the first example of the Can aesthetic: monster riffage built around throbbing bass and driving drums, running on for nearly 20 minutes.
  • Soundtracks. This one is a collection of tracks recorded for films between 1968 and 1970. A couple of these tracks feature Mooney on vocals, but most feature their new vocalist, the electrifying Damo Suzuki. The standout tracks are the last two: "Mother Sky," one of the rockingest tracks in Can's ouevre, and "She Brings The Rain," a more meditative and jazzy track.
  • Tago Mago. Oh my, yes yes. This album starts in a paper house on fire and then the world goes up in a huge mushroom cloud. And that's only the first 10 or so minutes. Then there's the cheerful/wistful "Oh Yeah" and the most monsterous of monstrous bass riffs "Halleluwah." And that's just the first disc. Disc two has "Aumgn," which never fails to give me the creeps, "Peking O," which is extradimensionally bizarre, like funk for centipedes or something, and "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea," which provides a lovely little coda to the album. I've found that this album is particularly well-suited to provide the soundtrack to Murnau's Nosferatu.
  • Ege Bamyasi. The title means "Aegean Okra" in Turkish. This is Can's most accessible album from their high period, featuring a higher ratio of short, catchy songs to noisy, experimental sonic soundscapes. If you don't know if Can is for you, this album should be your litmus test. What's good on this album? Everything. "Vitamin C" and "Spoon" are probably my favorite individual Can tracks, but the way they work with the album as a whole is a revelation.
  • Spoon 7". "Spoon" is the single, but the b-side is "Shikako Maru Ten," which sounds like what it is: an outtake from Ege Bamyasi.
  • Future Days. This is Damo Suzuki's final album with Can, and a beautiful example of how the Can aesthetic could incorporate the appeal of their catchy, hook-laden singles with the more experimental noise-and-funk and meld it all into a four-song, 41-minutes magnum opus that seems to be about the sound and texture of water, wrapped in an allegory about time. Some of the music on this is so utterly gorgeous that it's hard to believe it was made by mere humans. The water analogy is particularly apt, as much of the music has a surface tranquility that is belied by the constant churn of Jaki Liebzeit's motorik drumming and Holger Czukay's pulsating bass.
  • Soon Over Babaluma. With Damo Suzuki gone, guitarist (and violinist, at least on this album) Michael Karoli and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt took over the vocals. This is the last great Can album, sadly. After this, the band's pop impulses took them to some ugly places. Their commitment to inner space begat a commitment to superficial dance music with radio transmissions. But this album sees The Can working their magic all the way through, and god bless 'em for that.
  • Landed. This is the last Can album I can bring myself to pick up. "Vernal Equinox" and "Unfinished" are the standouts, but after listening to the greatness of their prior albums, Landed sounds even more insubstantial than usual. It's not terrible, though. Just half-assed. I generally enjoy the tracks when they pop up on the ipod, so I think they sound better out of the context of the greatness of prior Can. But MAN, "Vernal Equinox" is one of those tracks like Elvis Costello's "Last of the Lipstick Vogue," where you can hardly believe that a rhythm section could play that fast and accurately and still rock like crazy.
  • Delay 1968. Some leftover tracks with Mooney intended to be their first album Prepared To Meet Thy PNOOM. Apparently this was rejected by a few record companies, which led the band to work on the tracks that would become Monster Movie. This is definitely on the more psych-garage side of things, so hooray for the record companies for pushing Can to do better. That said, it's an interesting document of where Can was coming from.
  • Can Box Music. This is an album from the Can Box with examples of Can's fascinating live improvisational style. You know what? I'm going to be discussing Live Can in the next Music Library post. I'm going to hold off on this until then.

At The Screengrab: The Hemingway Night

Forgot to mention a review I wrote about a great short movie at the Screengrab last week. The Hemingway Night! Check it out should the opportunity arise.

Breaking Bad

Dear creators of Breaking Bad,

You amaze me. Just wanted to mention that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Music Library: Califone + Camper Van Beethoven

Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes. Lovely album of indie-aesthetic Americana with random noise bursts. Reminds me a bit of the Centro-Matic spinoff South San Gabriel and a bit of Sparklehorse, which is one of my favorite bands. It's never grabbed me as much as either of those bands, though. I should give it more time.

Camper Van Beethoven:

  • Telephone Free Landslide Victory. An enormously great debut album with CVB's blend of Americana, Eastern European fiddle tunes, Beefheartian jaggery, post-punk DIY smartassery, and the aching sincerity underlying silly-on-the-surface songs like "The Ambiguity Song" (refrain: "Everything seems to be up in the air at this time.") This title includes my original copy of the album, plus mp3s of the bonus tracks from the re-release in 2004. The bonus tracks are from EPs around the time and are mostly utterly dispensable. But the album itself is near-perfect, like most of CVB's catalog.
  • Live at the I-Beam June 2, 1986 (bootleg). I'm not sure why I keep this around, outside of my immense affection for CVB. The name of the later official live album Greatest Hits Played Faster says it all.
  • II & III. My least favorite of the original CVB releases, this one plays up the instrumentals and smartassery and feels like the one with the least depth. This rip is from the 2004 re-release which, like the other re-releases, messes up the flow by inserting the bonus tracks into the heart of the album itself. I could re-arrange it, but I've never bothered to.
  • Third Album/Vampire Can Mating Oven. There's three different albums captured here. The original s/t Camper Van Beethoven, usually called The Third Album, is here in its entirety. There's also the bonus tracks from the 2004 re-release. And there's the EP Vampire Can Mating Oven, which was appended onto my CD copy of the Third Album. All of those tracks appear again on Camper Vantiquities. And the music is CVB at their most experimental and awe-inspiring. I'd go through the highlights, but there's not a wasted moment on this album, even including the backwards fiddle tune "Stairway To Heavan (sic)." My favorite may be "The History of Utah," which tells a mythologized story about Joseph Smith and mixes it with sudden personal observations, all set to a casually psychedelic musical progression from blues through several different parts. Their cover of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" is a revelation, too.
  • "Guitar Hero." From a flexidisc for Bob magazine, this instrumental pops up again on Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead as "Closing Theme."
  • Greatest Hits Played Faster. A live album that delivers on the promise of its name.
  • Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. A more pop-oriented effort (that's relative, mind you) that retains the CVB psychedelia and lyrical trickiness that leaps from surreal to heartfelt without pausing for breath. Particularly great are the first four tracks: the first two "Eye of Fatima" songs, the reworking of the traditional bluegrass track "Oh Death," and the heavily psychedelic "She Divines Water," although this album is brilliant, start to finish.
  • Key Lime Pie. Sometimes this is my favorite album. It's CVB's most naked appeal for a larger audience, but it's still far too weird to even approach the possibility, at least for 1989. The lyrics seem to be based on the conceit of "The History of Utah," floating around American history with a definitely mythological bent. "When I Win The Lottery," about a down-and-out guy dreaming of what he would do with his winnings, should be the national anthem. Great, great stuff, and newly available on iTunes. Here's a jokey blogpost I wrote about the album for Powell's Books on the 4th of July last year.
  • Camper Vantiquities. A rarities compilation. I don't have the tracks from the re-release. Should do something about that.
  • Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead: Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. Another rarities album, this one from years later. Includes some remixes and new tracks from the classic CVB lineup.
  • Live at the Great American Music Hall 2002 (bootleg). From the time when the band began playing again. This bootleg features nearly 3 hours of music. I think CVB were happy to be a going concern again.
  • Tusk. A track-for-track remake of the Fleetwood Mac album undertaken by the CVB members in the early 00s to see if they could work together again. Not the best thing they've done, but surprisingly touching in parts.
  • New Roman Times. A 2004 concept album from the reformed CVB about a civil war in the US between Texas and California. Weird and sometimes wonderful stuff, but not up to the greatness of their original run of albums.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Music Library: C.W. McCall, Caetano Veloso, Caitlin Cary, Cake, Calexico

Onwards into the Cs!

C.W. McCall - "There Won't Be No Country." Classic country that doesn't really stand out.

Caetano Veloso - Caetano Veloso [1967], Caetano Veloso [1971], Prenda Minha, and "Haiti." Veloso's career spans many tumultuous decades. He's been called the Bob Dylan Of Brazil, but that sort of diminishes him, makes him seem like a shadow of a different guy. And Veloso's definitely his own man. I was fortunate enough to read his autobiography Tropical Truth a few years ago, which discusses his role in the tropicalia movement, being exiled from Brazil in the early 70s, and his comeback. The first two albums I have are from the tropicalia period. They are also the first and third of his five self-titled albums. That's right; he out-self-titled Peter Gabriel, and he started a decade prior. The second of these is mostly in English, recorded while in exile in London. It's also a lot more, well, in turns sultry and bizarre, especially with all the odd effects-laden vocal noises. Prenda Minha is a live album from the late 90s, and it covers a lot of different styles from Veloso's career, including tropicalia, weepy bossa nova, reggae-influenced funk, and other sounds I don't really have a name for. "Haiti" is also live, but the song itself was Veloso's contribution to a 1993 25th-anniversary compilation of tropicalia artists.

Caitlin Cary & Ryan Adams - "The Battle." S'okay. No Depression stuff.

Cake - "Nugget." Not a fan.

  • Spoke. Most of that kitchen sink desert-rat sound is right here from the start.

  • The Black Light. This one pulls the drawstring tight. Americana-mariachi-Morricone-jazz-noir.

  • 98-99 Road Map. Live concert-only album.

  • Descamino EP. Heavy on the fake jazz, light on the fun stuff.

  • Hot Rail. This is my favorite of the classic Calexico albums.

  • Travelall. Another tour-only album, heavy on the instrumental Morricone-ish fake jazz, but much better than Descamino.

  • Aerocalexico. Live tour-only album.

  • Crystal Frontier EP. More a single than an EP.

  • Even My Sure Things Fall Through EP. Now that's an EP. Pretty good!

  • A Feast of Wire. The last of the great classic Calexico albums.

  • Scraping. Live tour-only album.

  • Alone Again Or EP. Four song EP built around the Love cover it's named for.

  • Quattro EP. Yet another four song EP.

  • Garden Ruin. Ugh. Calexico made the worst Whiskeytown album.

  • Carried To Dust. An attempted return to form. Not bad, but not great, either.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Music Library: Butthole Surfers, Buzzcocks, Byrds

Last three B bands! And they all kick ass!

The Butthole Surfers:

  • Brown Reason To Live/Live PCPPEP. The first two BS releases. You can hear them working towards the classic Butthole Surfers sound.
  • Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac. I sure love this album. I know it's not quite up to the insanity that the Surfers were about to unleash over the next three albums, but this one hit me at just the right age.

  • Cream Corn From The Socket Of Davis EP. An early taste of the mature (that can't be the appropriate word, can it? Let's say fully-formed) Butthole Surfers sound.

  • Rembrandt Pussyhorse. The sound of taking too many hallucinogenic drugs among a bunch of terrifying people you don't really know. This is the sound of being far outside of anyone's safety zone and having no idea where the brakes are. This is the crazy punk-ass homegrown psychedelia your mother warned you about.

  • Locust Abortion Technician. Or this is. (And this is the best one, for the record.)
  • Hairway to Steven. Or this.

  • Piouhgd + Widowermaker!. This is not. There's moments of pure Butthole Surfer awesomeness here and there, but for the most part, Pioughd is D.O.A. Even in a song like "Revolution Part II, " which is at least 47% awesome, there's a kind of overdetermined weariness that stands in sharp contrast with the unhinged craziness of prior albums.
The Buzzcocks - Time's Up, Another Music In A Different Kitchen, Love Bites, A Different Kind of Tension/Parts 1, 2, 3, Singles Going Steady. I thought about splitting these out to talk about each album on its own, but I'm not sure how specific I can get about each album's greatness. Time's Up is, of course, the Spiral Scratch EP with Howard DeVoto on lead vocals, plus a few extra demos, including a cover of Beefheart's "I Love You, You Big Dummy." If you just know the Buzzcocks from the perfect pop-punk progenitor Singles Going Steady, you might be surprised by the Can and Neu! influences on their studio albums.

The Byrds - The kings of American folk-rock that turns into psych-rock that turns into sweet country-rock. Here's how their albums (at least the ones I have, and I should really pick up the rest) play out:

  • Mr. Tambourine Man. Folk-rock in its purest form.

  • Fifth Dimension. Leaping into psychedelia with "5D" and "Eight Miles High," but retaining their folk-rock fundamentals. Beautiful stuff.

  • Younger Than Yesterday. The Byrds leap antennae-first into acid-drenched psych rock without abandoning their commitment to gorgeous multi-part harmonies.

  • The Notorious Byrd Brothers. A more insubstantial effort, somewhere between confident psych-rock and unsure floundering.

  • Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Ground Zero for country-rock. Gram Parsons joined the Byrds and pushed them forewards by going backwards to the country records of his youth. This release has bonus tracks of the songs with Parsons on lead vocals. On the actual release, Parsons had to be erased due to legal troubles with chamber-popster Lee Hazlewood, and McGuinn gamely did his best Gram Parsons impression for the final released tracks. Great, great, great album.

At The Screengrab: DVR-worthy movies this week

The Grand Illusion, Living In Oblivion, The Maltese Falcon, Paranoid Park, and the Hidden Fortress. Click the link to find out when!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Music Library: The Bunch, Burial, Butch Hancock

The Bunch - Rock On. This is the sound of a young Richard and Linda Thompson doing a bunch of rockabilly and country covers with a number of other Brit-folk luminaries, including Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas. Best track: Linda Thompson (as yet unmarried to Richard, so listed as Linda Peters) duetting with Sandy Denny on the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved?"

Burial - Untrue. Not really my thing, but I don't hate it, either. This is an electronica album (dubstep, they call it) filled with moody synthesizers, heavily reverbed and digitally manipulated vocals, and skittery rhythms. If I had heard it before I got it from eMusic, I wouldn't have downloaded it. I was really just curious about the near-universal accolades. And it sounds to me like the kind of music that would be blaring at an expensive haircut shop or hip thrift store, which doesn't really feel all that necessary.

Butch Hancock - Own and Own. This is a best-of by the folkiest (Woody-est?) of the Lubbock crew. Hancock is a West Texas songwriter (and a member of the Flatlanders, along with Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore) with a penchant for a clever turn of phrase and a powerful emotional undercurrent running through his songs.

At The Screengrab: Beat The Clock!

The Screengrab list this week is on races against time, our little homage to tax day. I went existential on the idea of the race against time, choosing to focus on movies about how slippery time is, and how even the most languid conversation and ambitious undertaking is always fighting the clock.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V - I wrote Before Sunset and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
Part VI - I wrote Synecdoche, New York and Dead Man

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Music Library: Buddy and Julie Miller, Buddy Holly, the Budos Band, Buena Vista Social Club, Buffalo Springfield, Built To Spill

Buddy and Julie Miller - Buddy and Julie Miller. Buddy Miller is a popular Americana guitarist and his wife Julie is a popular Americana and contemporary Christian singer. They'd been married for a number of years before recording their first album together, but it sounds as natural and lived-in as a home jam session. They clearly spend a lot of time singing and playing music together. This album is good-to-great. Julie Miller wrote most of the songs on it, and they include a mix of standouts and standbys. The Richard Thompson cover that opens the album is the best track, though.

Buddy Holly - Original Master Tapes. Most of Buddy Holly's singles are collected on this album. Hey, did y'all know that Buddy Holly was extraordinarily talented? I have to express an overwhelming fondness for the silly backing vocals of the Crickets, too. A wop bop, oh boy.

The Budos Band - "Chicago Falcon." Why, yes I do like Fela Kuti and early 70s-style funk. Thanks!

Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club. I know people love the hell out of this Cuban music. And I think it's okay Latin jazz, but it certainly fails to blow my little Grinchy mind.

Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again, and Last Time Around. I sure love me some Neil Young, who contributed my favorite Buffalo Springfield songs and performances. But like with The Byrds, who I'll get to in another day or two, I really don't love everything. Or even like everything. Some of these songs sound so particular to the moment of its release that it's hard to me to hear them the way they were meant to be experienced. Try to picture "For What It's Worth," for instance, without seeing images of Woodstock and Civil Rights-era Birmingham. Impossible! Pop culture has laid its claim. The third album, which is essentially a bunch of singles by the different songwriters, is especially sucky.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Once More With Feeling soundtrack. The songs of the Buffy musical. As brilliant as that episode was (and it really was lovely, a resonant and pure experiment, manna for us Buffy fans), I don't enjoy these showtunes out of context.

Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret, Ancient Melodies Of The Future, You In Reverse. Oh, hell yes. BTS is indie-rock heaven. For my money, Keep It Like A Secret is almost untouchably great, especially for those first three songs, which may the pinnacle of guitar-based 90s indie-rock. The next two albums are also fantastic, although not up to the peak of Keep It Like A Secret. I should probably make an effort to hear the prior BTS albums. I don't even know if I've ever even heard Perfect From Now On, which I think a number of people list as their favorite.

Built To Spill & Caustic Resin - Built To Spill Caustic Resin EP. This is Doug Martsch screwing around with one of his favorite hometown bands. Four songs and a whole lot of guitar histrionics. Not the most essential thing of his career, but a pretty pleasant way to spend a half-hour, anyway.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Music Library: Buck 65, Buckshot LeFonque, Bud Powell

Buck 65 - "Bachelor of Science" and "463." Very G. Love, which is Not My Thing. Deleted.

Buckshot LeFonque - Buckshot LeFonque. Branford Marsalis's fusion band of hip-hop-lite meets Sting sounds. One of the tracks is titled "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." I'm fairly certain the caged bird was trying to drown out this music. Again, not my thing. Deleted.

Bud Powell - "Un Poco Loco," "Un Poco Loco [Alternate Take #1]," Ultimate Bud Powell, Blue Garden Blues, Bud's Bubble, I'll Keep On Loving You, and So Sorry Please. That's more like it. Powell's one of the great bop pianists (dirty!), a guy who opened doors for some of my later favorites like McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. "Un Poco Loco" is a track that Harold Bloom put on his list of greatest works of art of the 20th century. The Ultimate disc is an overview curated by Chick Corea, and a little research finds that the next four are individual discs that should properly be titled Tempus Fugue-It, a box set of Powell's recordings both as bandleader and sideman from 1944-1950 on the Proper label. Powell tears the shit out these songs, adding his own personal touch even while playing with such luminaries as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, and Buddy Rich. This IS my thing, or at least one of them. Not deleted, nossir.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Music Library: Britt Daniel, Broken Social Scene, The Brokerdealer, Bruce Springsteen, and brute.

Britt Daniel and Connor Oberst - "You Get Yours." After the tepid soup of Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake It's Morning last week, I wasn't expecting much of this song, but Britt Daniel brings his Spoon-ish rock and it works.

Broken Social Scene - Feel Good Lost, You Forgot It In People, "Lover's Spit," and Broken Social Scene. Broken Social Scene is a band that I was very excited about when I first heard them, but they have diminishing returns several years later. Feel Good Lost is mostly instrumental and kinda forgettable, like decent-enough soundtrack music for a movie you've never seen. You Forgot It In People is pretty good for what it is, with actual songs instead of the same old atmospheric soundscapes, but I don't love it like I used to. "Lover's Spit" is a download from eMusic promising one of Leslie Feist's best performances with the band, but it's only-ok mopey chanteuse stuff. Broken Social Scene is more pop psychedelia, and I actually like it better than You Forgot It In People, because I think BSS is best when playing real songs with real hooks, which the self-titled album has in spades.

The Brokerdealer - "Sophomore Slump." From Hold Steady/Lifter Puller lead guy Craig Finn's electronica project. Pretty decent stuff, actually.

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run, The River, and Nebraska. I'm not a big fan of The Boss. These records have more or less been forced on me over time, and I don't dislike them, but I don't see what's so great about them, either. I realize it's funny to say something like this just after talking about how I like Craig Finn, but there's something about Bruce's street poetry that just leaves me cold. Born To Run is my favorite of these, but they are all equal parts appealing and overblown to my ears. I guess I have yet to get over having the guy shoved down my throat when I was busy rejecting radio music for punk as a teenager. Not fair to him or me.

brute. - Nine High A Pallet. Vic Chesnutt's side-project with the jam-band Widespread Panic. Best when the Chesnutt aesthetic dominates the Widespread Panic aesthetic. A little regrettable when it tips the other way. Not too many of these songs are among Chesnutt's best (in the year 2073, when I get to the Vs, you'll see how much I like Vic Chesnutt), but most are solid B songs for the man.

Monday, April 06, 2009

At The Screengrab: Review of Around

In which I discuss a first-time film (Around, they call it) with faults aplenty, but some skill and vision, too.

Friday, April 03, 2009

At The Screengrab: April Fools!

Our favorite comic characters at the Screengrab this week.

Part 1
Part 2 - I wrote The Jerk and Mon Oncle
Part 3
Part 4 - I wrote Unfaithfully Yours and Boudu Saved From Drowning
Part 5
Part 6 - I wrote Raising Arizona
Part 7
Part 8

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Music Library: Brian Wilson, Bright Eyes, Brightblack Morning Light, the Brilliant Corners, and British Sea Power + Akron/Family and Belle & Sebastian

Brian Wilson - SMiLE and SMiLE Live 2/20/2004. The great unreleased album of the Beach Boys finally saw the light of day in 2004. And it was pretty great, although nowhere near as great as it would have been with the actual Beach Boys playing on it or Brian's younger voice at the fore. The live album is a bootleg of Brian and the Wondermints playing all of SMiLE in London before the record actually dropped in the U.S. It's fairly close to the actual release, and I'm not sure if I'm going to keep it.

Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. Inoffensive folk-rock, but I can't seem to get into it. It's well-executed, but I can't manage to care. Not sure whether to keep or delete.

Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning Light and Motion To Rejoin. Alabama-bred hippies play Rhodes-heavy blue-eyed stoner-funk. Much better than it has any right to be.

The Brilliant Corners - Somebody Up There Likes Me + 11 and Joy Ride. British indie-rock band from the early 80s. I thought they were from New Zealand, although they seemed on the bright and poppy side of kiwi-rock, but nope. Definitely entertaining.

British Sea Power - The Decline of British Sea Power, Krankenhaus? EP, and Do You Like Rock Music?. I admit that I have different reactions to this indie-rock band depending on other circumstances. Sometimes their anthemic U2-meets-Joy Division rock is a-ok by me, and other times it strikes me as overblown and unearned.


Akron/Family - Everyone Is Guilty EP. A couple of early releases from the Akron/Family's upcoming album. "Everyone Is Guilty" is the song I heard them play at SXSW that had me worried that they might be turning into Phish. It's definitely not my favorite thing they've done, although it does feature a barnburner of a guitar solo. The second track, "Total Destruction," is pretty decent, however.

Belle & Sebastian - Books EP and I'm A Cuckoo EP. Two EPs from the time of Dear Catastrophe Waitress, which is a so-so period for B&S. The tracks here are ok, but nothing to write home about, either.

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