Monday, August 31, 2009

Music Library: Geraldine Fibbers, Germs, Gerry Mulligan, Ghostface Killah, Gil Shaham/Arvo Pärt, Gilberto Gil, Giles Giles & Fripp

This may be the most stylistically diverse grouping in my library!

The Geraldine Fibbers - Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home (1995), Live From The Bottom Of The Hill (1996), What Part Of 'Get Thee Gone' Don't You Understand? (1997), Butch (1997), and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." This is one of my favorite bands of the 90s, a juggernaut of creativity often incorrectly lumped into the "alt-country" genre, but really more of a folk/avant-noise outfit. Led by Carla Bozulich, the songwriter currently working under the name Evangelista, the Fibbers played some songs that were unmistakeably country, but on their studio albums, those were the outliers. Lost Somewhere is a song cycle with lyrics taking a fresh realistic/horror-based view of fairytale stories, not unlike the fiction of Kelly Link. The music, however, is bombastic, noisy, ecstatic, dynamic, flat-out amazing. In the thousands of times that I have listened to this album since it came out, I have yet to get through it without feeling breathless. Original guitarist Daniel Keenen left after the first album, and the live album features their new guitarist, a certain Nels Cline, who most readers may recognize as the most exciting guitarist alive today. True, Wilco's albums have felt rather lackluster since he joined the band, but I'm resting that firmly at the feet of Jeff Tweedy, and I'll talk about this more at length when I hit the Ws in the late 2050s. So, the live album features some of the songs from Lost Somewhere and some of the singles that would soon appear on the collection What Part of 'Get Thee Gone' Don't You Understand?, as well as a couple of elsewhere unavailable tracks, but with Nels Cline shredding his guitar for our pleasure, my interest in it is quite a bit higher than my usual low interest in live albums. I should mention a word of sympathy for Keenen, who plays guitar beautifully on Lost Somewhere, but hell, being replaced by Nels Cline would make anyone feel like a Salieri. The singles collection has quite a bit of country influence, with covers of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy," Willie Nelson's "Hands on the Wheel," and three George Jones covers, "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)" plus two versions of "The Grand Tour." I also have a copy of the Fibbers doing George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," so that's a lot of No-Show Jones in the singles, which is where the alt-country designation comes from. Then there's Butch, the final Fibbers album, which is almost, but not quite, as eye-opening as Lost Somewhere. Butch is not a song cycle like the first album, but it's full of well-written and astonishingly-played originals plus a cover of Can's "Yoo Doo Right." Beautiful stuff. They deserved more attention than they got, by a long shot.

The Germs - (GI) (1979). It's hard to hear this without context of the suicide of Darby Crash, a year hence from the recording. Actually, it's not that much fun, anyway. I like the song "Lexicon Devil," but I'm not crazy about listening to hardcore at this point when I'm more than twice as old as I was when hardcore meant the world to me.

Gerry Mulligan - 1958 - 1974. A compilation of live Mulligan tracks about which I can find little information online. I like Mulligan okay, but he's not that innovative a bop player. I have another album he made with Thelonious Monk that's better than this.

Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele (2000) and Fishscale (2006). I've written in the past about how unqualified I am to write about why I like hip-hop. And that's still true, but I should point out that I understand why these are often considered among the best hip-hop albums of the last decade because the beats are uniformly excellent, the flow is impossibly slippery and yet clear as day, and the rhymes tell stories with the eye of a poet. I've only had Supreme Clientele for about a week and listened to it twice so far, and even I can tell that it's brilliant.

Gil Shaham - Pärt: Tabula Rasa, Fratres, Symphony No. 3 (1999). Israeli violinist playing three of the Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt's best-known compositions. Fratres was part of the score of There Will Be Blood. The music throughout is gorgeous and evocative, yet also ominous and despairing. Quite moving.

Gilberto Gil - Gilbert Gil (1968), Gil e Jorge (with Jorge Ben, 1975), "Touche Pas a Mon Pote," and The Definitive Gilberto Gil: Bossa Samba and Pop (2002). Gilberto Gil was an instrumental figure in tropicalismo, the pychedelic Brazilian youth movement that spawned some brilliant music. The first of these is Gil backed by the merry pranksters Os Mutantes, and is as wonderful as it should be. The second of these is an acoustic affair, with Gil and his fellow tropicalia artist Jorge Ben working out versions of folk and original songs with minimal preparation, and it's actually way more fun than it has any right to be. The single is a live track from an album I don't have, and the singles collection is actually a bit of a letdown after the greatness of the two other albums. Gil's a fascinating guy: go read about him on wikipedia.

Giles, Giles & Fripp - The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp (1968). Here's a weird one. The Giles brothers were a rhythm section who brought in then-unknown guitar god Robert Fripp to round out their psychedelic folk music. These songs range from Beatles-esque pop songs to crazy prog-symphonies (with Fripp making like country-swing wizard Jimmy Bryant!) to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd-ish funny songs to spoken word silliness that wouldn't be out of place in a Monty Python routine. The group soon added jack-of-all-horns player Ian MacDonald, who plays on some of the demos stuck on the end of this release, and former Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble, who came in too late to appear on this album. The bassist Giles brother quit soonafter, and the band brought in Greg Lake to replace him, and then they were King Crimson. This definitely an interesting album by itself, but as a precursor to In The Court Of The Crimson King, it's far more than a curio.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Music Library: George Clinton and George Jones

Have you ever seen these guys in the same place before?

George Clinton - Atomic Dog EP (1982) and Greatest Funkin Hits (1996). The former includes a couple of different mixes of Clinton's huge dance hit. The latter is just odd, with no original versions of Clinton's solo hits, but remixes of those tracks, along with remixes of different Parliament/Funkadelic tracks. In none of these cases are these remixes better than the originals.

George Jones - Lemme just put this card on the table: George Jones is the greatest singer in country music, and easily one of the top five greatest vocalists of the 20th century. You look around for singers who inhabit their songs so completely, who can push their emotion with as much skill, and, well, you find yourself with a pretty small list. Jones's hero Hank Williams is close, but I think George Jones at his best leaves Hank in the dust. Sinatra could give him a run, maybe. Ella Fitzgerald. The air's getting thin up here, though, so let's not try to finish that list right now.

  • Cup Of Loneliness: The Mercury Years (covering 1954-1964). This is a collection of Jones's earliest country sides. You can hear some echoes of Hank in his delivery, but right from the start there's that particular George Jones-ness that would eventually push all of the Hank right out of his voice. It helps that these songs are all amazingly well-written (and it should be noted that Jones wrote or co-wrote about 75% of the songs herein), with just the right tension between the tightness of the structure and the freedome for Jones to deliver a loose and distinctly personal take on the lyrics. Amazing, amazing, amazing stuff. Incidentally, I should point out that while I generally prefer owning individual albums for artists I like rather than these greatest-hits collections, with a singles artist like Jones who has a career that spans decades, and who often released multiple albums every year, a singles collection is the best way to go. Best songs: "Take The Devil Out Of Me," "Color Of The Blues," "I'm Gonna Burn Your Playhouse Down," and "Talk To Me, Lonesome Heart."

  • The Essential: The Spirit of Country (covering 1955-1989). One of the best career overviews available, this two-disc best-of has minimal overlap with Cup Of Loneliness, a testament to how many fantastic tracks Jones has recorded. The guy switched labels a few times in the 60s and 70s, which made such an overview difficult, but man oh man, is this worth it. I can take or leave his work after roughly 1985, but even when the man is coasting, it's lovely to hear him tear off the brakes and just go for it, as he does sometimes. Just about all the songs on here are great, but of special note are (no surprises here): "A Good Year For The Roses," "The Grand Tour," and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Every one of them packs a whole novel's worth of emotion.

  • Hank, Bob, and Me: Songs Of Hank Williams and Bob Wills (1962). A weird one that combines singles from Jones's Hank tribute album and Wills tribute album without including all the tracks from either. The Possum's in fine form, though.

  • (with Melba Montgomery:) What's In Our Heart (1963), Bluegrass Hootenanny (1964), Close Together As You And Me (1966), and George Jones And Melba Montgomery (1968). Melba Montgomery had the perfect voice to duet with Jones, and everything on here is top-notch. They released some five albums together during the 60s. The first three of these are among those, while the last is a best-of of sorts that draws heavily from their last album, 1967's Party Pickin'. Montgomery went on to duet with Gene Pitney and Charlie Louvin, as well as release her own albums, but her career petered out in the 70s. She's still alive, I think, and there's definitely an interesting story in there. Anyway, these duets are excellent.

  • Singles: "Open Pit Mine," "I Saw Me," "Where Does A Little Tear Come From," "Things Have Gone To Pieces," "The Honky-Tonk Downstairs," "That's All It Took" (with Gene Pitney), "Beneath Still Waters," "Your Angel Steps Out Of Heaven" (with Johnny Paycheck), "Where Grass Won't Grow," "Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong," "Wrong Number," and "Yearning" (with Dolly Parton). Since I don't have an extra couple-hundred bucks lying around to purchase the two Bear Family boxes of Jones's output from the late-60s/early-70s (each with four or five discs), I've made do by cherry-picking tracks off of various compilations and such that have passed through my hands over the years. All of these songs are amazing, but the best ones are the "Things Have Gone To Pieces," a Leon Payne-written tracks that is the bluest song in the world, "That's All It Took," which Gram & Emmylou tore up on one of his solo albums, and "Beneath Still Waters," which is a rare beauty.

  • (with Tammy Wynette:) "Lifetime Left Together," "Let's Build A World Together," and "No Charge." Three okay singles from his 70s album with Tammy Wynette, his wife at the time. I already said that Montgomery had the perfect voice to duet with him, and I still think that. Wynette doesn't sing poorly with the guy, just not, y'know, excellently. Sweet songs, though, if a little too saccharine, especially that last one.

Music Library: Garage a Trois, Gary Higgins, Gary Wilson, Gastr del Sol, Geechie Wiley, Gene Clark, Genesis, Geoffrey Oryema, George Baker Selection

Garage a Trois - Emphasizer (2003). Pretty nice funk-jazz thing with Charlie Hunter and a few other rock-oriented jazzbos.

Gary Higgins - Red Hash (1973). Higgins was a unknown folkie who recorded this with some friends only days before he was due to start a 13-month stint in jail for marijuana distribution. After Higgins got out of jail, he went on with his life, working for New York State, becoming a nurse, having a family. However, unknown to him, this album became a collector's item, and when Six Organs of Admittance (aka Ben Chasny) recorded a cover of "Thicker Than A Smokey," Higgins was eventually located and agreed to re-release his sole album on the label Drag City. And it's a good thing, but this is a lovely folk album of bittersweet oddball songs, filled with the dread that Higgins must have felt about his imminent incarceration.

Gary Wilson - You Think You Really Know Me (1977). Speaking of oddball songs, this is the strangest love-funk you'll ever hear. Wilson was a creative young man whose aesthetic sharply veered into the avant-garde when he met John Cage. He recorded this album in his basement, and, like Gary Higgins, faded into obscurity while his album's cachet grew, leading to a namecheck by Beck in "Where It's At." Heck, this excellent High Hat interview seems to be the most illuminating place to learn about Gary Wilson. Go read that. Then find a copy of this album.

Gastr del Sol - The Serpentine Similar (1993), 20 Songs Less EP (1993), Crookt, Crackt, or Fly (1994), The Harp Factory on Lake Street EP (1995), Mirror Repair EP (1995), Upgrade & Afterlife (1996), and Camofleur (1998). David Grubbs went from the punk band Squirrel Bait to the howling post-punk of Bastro (coming soon to a Catch-Up posting) to the post-rock, avant-folk, and chamber pop of Gastr del Sol. The first Gastr del Sol album has Stubbs' Bastro bandmates Bundy Brown and John McIntyre as the rhythm section, but both soon left to form Tortoise. Guitarist/producer/all around go-to avant-wiz kid Jim O'Rourke partnered with Grubbs for all the rest of the albums with a number of other musicians (including John McIntyre) filling in to round out the sound. The sound is wonderfully surprising, occasionally annoyingly repetitious, often startlingly beautiful. My favorite is Camofleur, but just barely.

Geechie Wiley - "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Skinny Legs Blues." From the 30s, I believe. I have Ms. Wiley's two other recorded tracks on compilations elsewhere. In fact, I may have these tracks elsewhere, too. She had a lovely, unearthly voice, and her blues were like no other.

Gene Clark - It is impossible to overrate Gene Clark as a songwriter. His great songs are some of the best in rock music. But I think I have overrated his albums in the past. The problem with just about all of these albums is that when the song you're listening to is not one of the best you've ever heard, it's a little lackluster.

  • Echoes (with Byrds tracks from 1964 and 1965) and American Dreamer (1965 - 1972). Echoes combines Clark's first solo album with the Gosdin Brothers with some of his early tracks with The Byrds. Since I have the solo album, the only ones I kept are the Byrds tracks. But wow, what Byrds tracks: "Here Without You," "Set You Free This Time": two of the greatest songs in rock music. American Dreamer is a best-of with a bunch of songs I have elsewhere, so I only kept the outliers. Again though, wow: "She Don't Care About Time," "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better."

  • Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers (1967). The first solo album (Clark left the Byrds after the 2nd album, although he co-wrote "Eight Miles High" before leaving) with the Gosdin Brothers is an amazing folk-rock album, with chamber-pop strings and choral singing and chiming guitars. Best songs: "Tried So Hard" and "So You Say You Lost Your Baby." I have a Gosdin Brothers album without Gene Clark, too, which should be coming up in a few weeks.

  • Dillard & Clark: The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968) and Through The Morning, Through The Night (1969). Clark then teamed up with banjoist Doug Dillard for the next two albums, attributed to Dillard & Clark, in which he traded in his spacey folk-rock for a bluegrass foundation. It should be noted that the band here was basically the Flying Burrito Brothers sans Gram Parsons with a few Byrds for good measure. The best songs remain as transcendent as ever, with "Something's Wrong" and "Why Not Your Baby" on the first album and the title song on the second being unbelievably great, while some of the other tracks are instantly forgettable.

  • White Light (1971) and Roadmaster (1973). His next solo album White Light (also known as Gene Clark) was pretty strong, with 5 near-perfect tracks and only a few throwaways (keepers are: "The Virgin," "With Tomorrow," "White Light," "One in a Hundred," and "For A Spanish Guitar"). Ditto Roadmaster, which featured several songs recorded with all of the original Byrds, and had 6 out of 11 indispensable songs, although a few of those were older songs re-recorded for the occasion: "She's The Kind of Girl," "One in a Hundred," "Here Tonight," "Full Circle Song," "In A Misty Morning," and "She Don't Care About Time."

  • No Other (1974). And then there's No Other, a full-on masterpiece, with all of the songs sounding simultaneously like Clark's standard folk-rock and like glam rock: guitars buzzing, a swinging R&B-ish rhythm section, phased vocals. Amazing stuff, even more so from the reports that everyone was not out of their minds on cocaine while making it (Clark would eventually seek rehab for a drug addiction, but according to Wikipedia, that came later, following the depression that overtook Clark when this album failed to chart). Every song on the album is a keeper, even the outtakes that popped up on the inevitable re-release.

  • So Rebellious A Lover (with Carla Olson, 1986). There's a handful of albums in the 12-year gap that I've never heard, but all reports indicate that they're pretty disappointing. This one is, too. Olsen's voice is a poor complement to Clark's, and other than a version of the traditional tune "Fair and Tender Ladies," there's not much going for this album. Clark was apparently clean at the time he made this album, but when Tom Petty recorded a cover of "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better," he used the royalty money to drink and drug himself into an early grave in 1991.

Genesis - "The Carpet Crawlers." I have but one Genesis song, and it's one from their Peter Gabriel-led prog-rock days instead of their Phil Collins-led pop days. However, based on this song, I suspect that I might like prog-rock Genesis. Who knew?

Geoffrey Oryema - Exile (1990). This is the Brian Eno-produced debut album of the musician, an Ugandan who was smuggled out of the country in 1977 after Idi Amin's goons assassinated his father. I'm not a huge fan of afropop or much of a fan at all of so-called "world" music, but I think Eno's lush production does a lot for this album.

George Baker Selection - "Little Green Bag." This decent little garage ditty was apparently a hit in 1970. Wow!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Music Library: Galaxie 500, Game Theory, Gang of Four plus Schubert, Dr. John, & El-P

On with the Gs. I have to say that the sheer amount of music ahead of me is a bit daunting, but the actual listening and writing is fun fun fun. The best thing about this project so far has been revisiting music that I haven't spun in years, although the thrill of discovering greatness in something that I acquired and had yet to explore can't be beat.

People who read all of these (maybe there's one of you?) might notice that I've mentioned Pynchon a number of times recently. I think the comparisons of Pynchon to the Fiery Furnaces and Firesign Theatre are valid, but the man's work has been on my mind recently because I have been reading Against The Day. When that book was published in November 2006, I was stressed with my job, my manuscript, and the distractions of raising a toddler, and I couldn't see myself taking on a book of that length and heft. When I finally bought a copy in early 2008, I had yet another child, was working on revisions to my manuscript, and literally had no mind to spare for Pynchon. I tried reading it, but had to give up about 1/4 of the way in. I wasn't getting the jokes and couldn't keep the characters straight, nor the themes, nor the different plotlines. And that's no way to read Pynchon. But I picked it up again a few weeks back and this time I'm enjoying the hell out of it. I'm a little over halfway through it, but I sorta hope it never ends. Still, when I finish it (as I know I must sometime), there's a new Pynchon to read. And that's a feeling I've never had before: being outpaced by Pynchon. That guy always has a new trick up his sleeve.

Blah blah blah. Gs! Gs! Gs!

Galaxie 500 - Today (1988), On Fire (1989), This Is Our Music (1990), Uncollected (1996), Copenhagen (1997), and Peel Sessions (2005). The kings of dream-pop, Galaxie 500 built their sound around a busy rhythm section and echo-ey guitarwork. It's the perfect soundtrack for a snow day, but we don't get those too often here in Texas. Although the components of the sound don't change much from the first studio album to the last, Dean Wareham's songwriting on This Is Our Music is far more confident than on Today. And On Fire is my favorite of these. Uncollected is a bunch of b-sides and covers that came out with the Galaxie 500 box in 1996. The last two are live albums. Copenhagen is sorta dull, but the Peel Sessions are quite loose and fun, as Peel Sessions tend to be.

Game Theory - Real Nighttime (1985), Big Shot Chronicles (1986), and Lolita Nation (1987). Game Theory was a fascinating jangle-pop band from California. Whereas the early versions of REM were lyrically about Michael Stipe's smearing of communication into near-wordless jumbles, Game Theory's Scott Miller wrote hyper-literate songs that were miniature Modernist works begging for footnoted annotation. For example, Real Nighttime, their first full-length LP, opens with "Here Comes Everybody," the title itself a reference to the repeated HCE motif which stands for the protagonist (to the extent that there is one) in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. All three albums have a slick 80s-alternative sheen provided by producer Mitch Easter. Interestingly, Lolita Nation takes that slickness and deconstructs it with various types of studio trickery, resulting in an album that veers wildly between accessibility and complexity.

Gang of Four - Entertainment! (+ Yellow EP) (1979), The Peel Sessions (1981), Solid Gold (+ Another Day, Another Dollar EP) (1981), and Songs Of The Free (1982). Oh man oh man, Gang of Four: agitprop for your ass. With a running Marxist critique in the lyrics tied to a heavy funk rhythm section and slash-and-burn guitar heroics (my buddy Phil Freeman says that Steve Albini should cut Go4 guitarist Jon King a check every time he looks at a guitar), the Gang of Four was the most intellectually and musically satisfying band of the first wave of British post-punk. Influenced: every subsequent band that tied minimalist funk with scratchy guitars and vocals more yelled than sang. Off the top of my head: The Minutemen, Big Black, Fugazi, The Liars, Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Franz Ferdinand, and countless others ranging from the world-shatteringly great to what-the-hell-were-they-thinking abysmal. Few of these had the smarts of the Gang of Four. All of the above: essential, especially Entertainment!, the motherlode. There should be a charity to deliver copies of Entertainment! into the hands of college freshman considering a degree in philosophy.


Borodin String Quartet - Schubert: String Quartet No. 12, "Quartettsatz." This is from a disc that had another Schubert string quartet piece on it, but my mp3s for the other work were hopelessly corrupted at some point. I had another Schubert rip with the same problem. Lest you think my computer hates Schubert, they were all originally on the same disc, so it was probably a mistake I made when ripping it. Anyway, yes, this is beautiful music.

Dr. John - Babylon (1969). This is a wildly ambitious follow-up to the superb Gris-Gris. Where that album was all about the creepy voodoo atmosphere, this one has a more Mardi Gras-influenced feel. I admit that I don't like it quite as much, but it's certainly interesting. My favorite track is the tuba-driven "Glowin'."

El-P - Fantastic Damage (2002) and I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007). A friend hooked me up with these after I posted about El-P a few weeks back. And I'm very grateful (so thanks!), because each album is awesome in its own way. I haven't parsed all the rhymes yet, but the sound of each album is fantastic, all apocalyptic sci-fi geekery, like DOOM but more serious.

I also have recently received from a friend (and thanks!) all of the Firesign Theatre's Dear Friends radio shows from 1969 and 1970. That's some 12 hours of densely layered comedy there, so it'll take me a while to work through.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Music Library: The Fugs, Fujiya & Miyagi, Fumio Hayasaka, Fun With Matches, Funkadelic, Fuse, Fushitshusha, Future Bible Heroes

The Fugs - First Album (1965) [aka The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Points of Views, and General Dissatisfaction]. Dirty-minded poets playing garage-folk! What's not to love? Led by poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg and rounded out by the Holy Modal Rounders, the Fugs were hilariously profane and delightfully profound. Although the lyrics are pretty well unforgettable, I had forgotten that Kupferberg is actually a fairly good songwriter, too, capable of great sing-along choruses and hooky verses. Sanders wasn't quite as strong a songwriter, but he sure was fun.

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things (2006) and Uh Promo Single (2007). If I didn't know for a fact that this was the work of a contemporary British band, I would swear that it was krautrock of somewhere between vintage 1973 and 1978 (when krautrock went disco). Upon close listening, there is something about the electronics that it distinctly modern, but it is not immediately obvious. I like the silly disco "Uh" single, which came out in late 2007, but I never picked up the 2008 album Lightbulbs.

Fumio Hayasaka - The Seven Samurai: Original Soundtrack (1954). Japanese drums, chanting, horns that would not be out of place in Touch of Evil or a John Ford film, sounds that remind you of your favorite scenes, the annoyance of the same melody repeated ad nauseum.

Fun With Matches - "May Not Tomorrow." My buddy Jeff's band in 2000 playing a song I wrote with the Dexateens' John Smith in 1995, when Jeff, John, and I were all in the same band (with Mike!). And Jeff has a much better voice than me.

Funkadelic - Free Your Mind... (1970), Funkadelic (1970), "The Rat Kissed The Cat," Maggot Brain (1971), America Eats Its Young (1972), Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974), One Nation Under A Groove (1978), and Music For Your Mother: Funkadelic 45s (1993). Q:Who says a funk band can't play rock? A: If you don't like the effects, don't produce the cause. Q: What is soul? A: Fish, chips, and sweat. Q: Can you get to that? A: Standing on the verge of getting it on. Q: I wanna know if it's good to you? A: You hit the nail on the head. Q: Mommy, what's a Funkadelic? A: Free your mind and your ass will follow.

The Fuse - Kid's Can't Go Home 7" and Writing on the Wall 7" (1979). Everly Brothers-ish rock from a Canadian band. I don't know much of anything about them, but my pal in Winnipeg, a certain John T., sent them to me on a disc with a bunch of Canuck rockers.

Fushitsusha - Allegorical Misunderstanding (1993). Led by Japanese avant-noise guitarist Keiji Haino, this is an album of hypnotic repetition and squalling guitars.

Future Bible Heroes - I'm Lonely (And I Love It) EP (2000), Eternal Youth (2002), and "The Lonely Robot." This is Stephin Merritt's disco band with Magnetic Fields drummer Claudia Gonson. It has the signature lyrical cleverness of Merritt's other bands The Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, and the Gothic Archies, although this music is far more dance-oriented than any of those projects.

And that's the end of the Fs! I have a few discs in my catch-up queue, but when I get through those, I will have reviewed 16,692 songs from 1,512 albums or partial albums. If I had listened to them continuously, they would have taken 46 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes and 13 seconds. They take up 98.05 GB of disc space. Remaining in the next 20 letters (and numbers and compilations): 36,917 songs from 3,125 albums or partial albums, which would take 100 days, 19 hours, 43 minutes, and 25 seconds, were I to listen to them continuously. They take up another 217.33 GB of disc space. Which means that I'm a little under a third of the way done. Can you believe it? These statistics are brought to you by the Number Nothing and The Letter [Redacted], The 3rd Letter From An Unspeakable Chthulic Alphabet That Drives Mere Mortals Stark Raving Mad At The Barest Glimpse At Its Eldritch Forms.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Music Library: Frightened Rabbit, Fripp & Eno, Fritz Reiner, Frog Eyes, (avert your eyes here!) Fuck Buttons, Fucked Up, Fugazi

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight (2008). U2 du jour. I'm not really a fan of the superemotive vocal style, especially when combined with major-chord anthemic music. I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, and it can even be quite moving in small doses. But in large chunks, as I experienced listening to this album or, say, The Arcade Fire, I begin to feel beaten up.

Fripp & Eno - (No Pussyfooting) (1973) and Evening Star (1975). These are pretty amazing, given when they were created and released. Robert Fripp does his maximal distorto-guitar thing, and Brian Eno creates loops from his sound. The result: semi-ambient music before there was such a thing, as crossed with the insistency of minimalist composition. Beautiful works. I love that the artwork to (No Pussyfooting) has Fripp & Eno in a room of mirrors. It's not just a very evocative image, but wholly representative of the music within.

Fritz Reiner & Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra (1955). Lovely dissonance! Apparently, the title work was one of the last that Bartók composed. Reiner, who conducted this recording, was one of Bartók's pupils, and the work is quite moving. Also on this disc is Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, which was, I believe, partially used as the score for Kubrick's The Shining. The final work is called Hungarian Sketches, built, like many of Bartók's works, around Hungarian folk music.

Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian (2007). I have no idea what these songs are about, but Frog Eyes delivers them with breathless urgency and dynamic intensity, and their power cannot be denied.

Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing (2008). This is near-ambient electronica, but it is anything but soothing. It drones, yes, but it also has driving percussion, wordless screams and hyper-distorted sound clips, lots of fuzz and skronk and static, and a general feel of apocalyptic bad vibes. It is, in short, awesome.

Fucked Up - Hidden World (2006), Year of the Pig EP (2008), and The Chemistry of Common Life (2008). This band is the most exciting new band of the last few years. They combine the rage of hardcore with adventurous musicianship (usually absent from hardcore, natch, although in their hands, hardcore is only a step away from metal on one side and Sonic Youth-style indie rock on the other) and lyrics that wrestle with inequity, religion, and the overall meaning of things. They are, quite literally, a unique experience. I highly recommend this band to anyone who isn't going to be offended by the Cookie Monster-ish delivery of the vocals.

Fugazi - 13 Songs (1989) and Repeater + 3 Songs (1990). Fugazi's a band that I've always admired more than liked. I had these albums when I was a late teenager, but I didn't feel bad about letting them go, outside of "Waiting Room," a perennial favorite. But I'm glad to have them again. Listening to these albums was fun, and I remember a surprisingly large number of the lyrics. Plus, of course, Ian MacKaye is a hell of a great guy and I'm always happy to support him.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Music Library: Franz Ferdinand, Freakwater, Freddie & The Hitch-hikers, Freddie Hubbard, Freddy Cannon, French-Frith-Kaiser-Thompson

Frank Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand (2004). Actually only about half the album. It sounds like Belle & Sebastian playing disco to these ears, which may be why I've never pursued the rest of this album.

Freakwater - Dancing Underwater (1991), Feels Like The Third Time (1994), Old Paint (1995), and Springtime (1998). Built around the harmonies of Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean (who also drums for Eleventh Dream Day), Freakwater is deliberately reminiscent of old-timey folk music, but the lyrics are witty, wry, and sharply modern. Just a great band, all around, and I was happy to learn while looking up how to spell Janet Bean's name that they are recording together again after a long hiatus.

Freddie and the Hitch-hikers - "Sinners." I don't know where I got this, but it's a roaring slab of rockabilly nightmare from 1958. I haven't checked, but I bet that I have another copy on one of those Lux & Ivy comps.

Freddie Hubbard - Straight Life (1970). This was the real surprise of today's listening tour. I know Hubbard mostly as a sidemen (Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch, Coltrane's Ole Coltrane, Africa/Brass, and Ascension, Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, among others), but I just picked this up recently, and this was the first time I'd listened to him leading his own band. Holy Afrobeat! I mean, without knowing better, I could have sworn at times that I was listening to Miles's Bitches Brew band (and, in a way, I sorta was, on the square) or Fela's Africa 70 band. Just a stunning album. Hubbard's a trumpeter, and the sidemen are Joe Henderson on sax, Herbie Hancock on Rhodes, Ron Carter on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and George Benson on guitar.

Freddy Cannon - "Tallahassee Lassie." Another great slice of rockabilly, this one from 1959.

French-Frith-Kaiser-Thompson - Live Love Larf & Loaf (1987) and Invisible Means (1990). As in John "Drumbo" French of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, Fred Frith of Henry Cow, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson. So yes, that's three guys firmed entrenched in the avant-garde and Richard Thompson, presumably to lend a little gloss. The first album gels quite a bit, with everyone sounding like they're having a blast and still pushing each other in new directions. The second album, inexplicably a Windham Hill release, sounds a lot more disjointed. John French, strangely enough, contributes both the best ("Now That I Am Dead," a staple of RT concerts) and worst ("To The Rain") songs. They still sound like they're having fun, but there's a lot more straight-up messing around.

Music Library: For Carnation, Foster & Lloyd, Fountains of Wayne, Four Tet, Frames, Frank Black, Frank Sinatra

The For Carnation - Promised Works (1997) and The For Carnation (2000). From the ashes of Slint and Squirrel Bait, sharing a number of members with Tortoise, The For Carnation is the only post-punk, slowcore, post-rock band worth mentioning. Or at all. Some reviews compare The For Carnation with Gastr del Sol, although this is a lazy comparison. See, The For Carnation is led by Brian McMahan, who played guitar in Squirrel Bait alongside David Grubbs, who was one-half of Gastr del Sol. But GdS is a different animal, far more experimental in nature than The For Carnation, which is fundamentally about songs, textural though they might be. Both are quite excellent bands and both of these albums are also excellent. The former collects two EPs and the latter is a full album.

Foster & Lloyd - Foster & Lloyd (1987). As in Nashville stalwarts Radney Foster & Bill Lloyd, who toed a line between power-pop and country. Good, well-crafted songs.

Fountains of Wayne - "Little Red Light." Poppy!

Four Tet - Rounds (2003). Lovely electronica.

The Frames - "Star Star." This is not a cover of the Stones song (which is really named "Starfucker," natch), but a completely different - and lesser - song. This is a live version, from whence I know not, but I don't like it much.

Frank Black - "Bad, Wicked World" and "If Your Poison Gets You." Decent songs from Mr. Black. I've owned copies of his albums in the past, but have no whole albums of his at present. The latter song has him singing in a lower register, and I wouldn't know it was him just by hearing it.

Frank Sinatra - Songs For Young Lovers/Swing Easy! (1954), In The Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin' Lovers (1956), "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," Come Fly With Me (1958), Sings For Only The Lonely (1958), "Dancing In The Dark," "That Old Black Magic," "Blue Moon," The September Of My Years (1965), The Capital Collectors Series (1989), and My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra (1997). That's a lot of Chairman of the Board! I wish I had something remotely intelligent to say about him! But I don't, swingin' babies. Perhaps you're wondering which Sinatra to pick up: I say In The Wee Small Hours and Sings For Only The Lonely, melancholy babies. But the rest is pretty goshdarn fun stuff, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spanky Twangler, Rest In Peace

Brian Rogers was a good guy and he fought a good fight against the damned cancer that took his life yesterday. He was far too young. Heck, his wife is far too young, and his kids are far too young, and even his parents are far too young. My heart bleeds for his family and many friends today.

Here's a video of Brian with his excellent surf-rock band The Penetrators, led by Brian and his older brother Scott, who passed away in a car wreck some 6 years ago.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Music Library: Flying Lizards, Flying Luttenbachers, Follow For Now, Foo Fighters

The Flying Lizards - "Money (That's What I Want)." A Kraftwerkish cover by a British art-rock band.

The Flying Luttenbachers - Destroy All Music (1995), The Void (2004), and Cataclysm (2006). Skronky, hard-to-classify music (is it jazz? metal? no wave? minimalism?). As beautiful as it is aggressive, this music is the brainchild of a single man, one Weasel Walter, who recruits sidemen to flavor his albums. Wikipedia claims that the latter two are part of an apocalyptic narrative sweep with a sci-fi bent. That's not hard to believe, but completely unnecessary to my appreciation of the albums. Destroy All Music features avant-jazz saxophonist Ken Vandermark, and shreds in a more jazz-like way. The latter two have Walter in a trio with the same guitarist and bassist (although Cataclysm adds another guitarist) and they have a more spaz-metal feel. Except when they're droning or playing a Messiaen piece. Rewarding music, but it's not for the faint of heart.

Follow For Now - Follow For Now (1991). Atlanta's answer to Fishbone and Living Colour. I saw these guys play 2 or 3 times in 1990 and 1991, and they were show-stoppingly awesome every time. This album is pretty good, too, in the same way that Fishbone's Truth and Soul is pretty good. But I hear that the lead guy has gone on to play in such keepin'-it-real style punk-funk bands as The Dave Matthews Band and as a sideman for John Mayer. So there's that.

Foo Fighters - "In Your Honor." Poppy! But I don't get (and have never gotten) the hype.

Music Library: The Flying Burrito Brothers

The Flying Burrito Brothers were one of those bands like Fairport Convention that limped along far past their sell-by date with minimal involvement from original members. What the iconoclastic folk-rock pioneer Richard Thompson was to Fairport, the iconoclastic country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons was to the FBB. After he left, the remaining members put out another halfway decent album and then launched a career of mediocrity. Here's the good and ugly. Assume everything else is bad.

The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969). Here's where alt-country started. When Gram Parsons left The Byrds (after pushing McGuinn & co into country music for Sweetheart of the Rodeo), he formed a partnership with Byrds bassist Chris Hillman. The two of them, both playing guitar, hooked up with Sneaky Pete Kleinow, a pedal steel player who used distortion and flanging effects to psychedelicize his sound, and bassist Chris Ethridge, for the FBB. The songs herein, all originals save two, fall accurately within the genres of country music and psychedelic rock. The two covers are "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," a Dan Penn/Chips Moman track that was a hit for Aretha Franklin, and "The Dark End of the Street," also by Penn/Moman, which was a hit for the R&B singer James Carr. Parsons called these songs, which were country and rock and R&B and even a bit Tex-Mex, "Cosmic American Music." And hell if he wasn't right. Every track on here, other than the dated "My Uncle" and "Hippie Boy," are among the best in popular songwriting since the age of rock music began. My favorites are "Sin City," which warns of the apocalyptic visions of unfettered money-lust and Dominionist Christianity, and "Hot Burrito #1," a heartbreak song of extraordinary sophistication and beauty that Parsons co-wrote with Chris Ethridge.

Burrito Deluxe (1970). Ethridge left before recording this album, so Hillman moved back to bass and the band recruited Bernie Leadon on guitar and another ex-Byrd, Michael Clarke, on drums. The covers on this one are a classic country track by Harlan Howard, a Dylan cover ("If You Gotta Go") that Fairport Convention also covered the prior year, the delightful gospel song "Farther Along," and the first recorded version of a song by Parson's buddy Keith Richards called "Wild Horses." The originals aren't as strong on this one, but "Cody Cody" and "God's Own Singer" are good enough.

The Flying Burrito Brothers (1971). Then Gram Parsons left. It's a bad sign when the guy who wrote most of the songs leaves, right? Yes, that it is. Chris Hillman recruited a guy named Rick Roberts to replace Parsons. They try hard, but there's no magic here. Best tracks: Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever" and Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard." Lame: everything else.

Hot Burritos! The Flying Burrito Brothers Anthology 1969-1972 (2000). This best-of has all of the studio material from the above albums plus a bunch of outtakes and a couple of live tracks. Most of this material is from the period when Parsons was still in the band, but there's a nice cover of Gene Clark's "Here Tonight" from the Rick Roberts period. The outtakes include covers of "Six Days on the Road," "Close Up The Honky Tonks," "Break My Mind," "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)," two of Merle Haggard's best ("Sing Me Back Home" and "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down"), and, sublimely, the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." Awesome.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Music Library: Flat Duo Jets, Flatlanders, Fleet Foxes, Fletcher Henderson, Flight of the Conchords, Flin Flon, Flipper, Flower Travellin' Band

The Flat Duo Jets - In Stereo EP (1985), "The Man With The Golden Arm," Go Go Harlem Baby (1991), and "Ooh My Head." Could there be White Stripes without the Flat Duo Jets? I think not. Dex and Crow played amped-up versions of classic rockabilly and folk songs, along with originals that sounds like they could easily have been written in the 50s. I saw them play a bunch of times and loved the hell out of every show. Wish I had more of their albums.

The Flatlanders - More A Legend Than A Band (recorded 1972, released 1990). Cosmic cowboy music with one foot in the old-timey music of the 20s and one foot in the future. They've all gone on to later success, but at the time Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely were unknown musicians from Lubbock, TX who played deeply unpopular retro music with a guy playing the saw, for chrissake. No one would release the album, and the group broke up. Now, of course, people can hear them for the visionaries they were. It's beautiful, timeless music.

Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP and Fleet Foxes (2008). I don't mean to reduce this band to a formula when I say that they remind me simultaneously of the early My Morning Jacket albums and the British folk-rock band Pentangle. I love those early MMJ albums. And The Pentangle. Which is to say that I like this band and am looking forward to future releases.

Fletcher Henderson - "Radio Rhythm" (1931). Swing, baby, swing.

Flight of the Conchords - The Distant Future EP (2007) and Flight of the Conchords (2008). I love how their songs work both as comedy and as fun music. I suppose that's why everyone likes them. But it's a rare talent; comedy bands are usually no fun once you've heard all the jokes a few times. Most of the FotC tracks still amuse me.

Flin Flon - "Kamloops" (1998). I don't know anything about this band or where I got this track, but it's a killer song.

Flipper - Album: Generic Flipper (1982) and Sex Bomb Baby (1986). Man, I love Flipper. I hear a direct line from Black Sabbath to their bass-heavy punk skronk to the Melvins to modern stoner metal. Throw in Flipper's wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor and strangely life-affirming lyrics and you have one of the best bands of the hardcore(-ish) genre. Listening to these reminds me that I've been meaning to buy a copy of Flipper's 2nd album, the excellent Gone Fishin', since my music went digital. And I'm definitely curious about the current incarnation of Flipper that's touring the whole damn world, apparently. Anyway, these are Flipper's first album and a collection of early singles and b-sides, and both are phenomenal.

Flower Travellin' Band - Satori (1971). Q: What would it sound like if the members of Black Sabbath were Japanese mecha-rockers on post-nuclear acid? A: SATORI.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music Library: The Flaming Lips

Hear It Is (1986), Oh My Gawd!!! (1987), and Telepathic Surgery (1989). These first three albums aren't anywhere close to as whacked-out as the Flaming Lips would become, but some of these tracks are iced with lovely psychedelia. But there's a lot of standard-issue post-punk/indie rock, too. And only hints of the gentleness that would later merge with the grander Flaming Lips vision. I guess I'm trying to say that it isn't terrible, but things would get better before too long

In A Priest Driven Ambulance (1990) and Hit To Death In The Future Head (1992). And here's where things get better. The psychedelic undercurrents of the prior albums suddenly flourished into a full-on heady experience that was only amplified by the Lips' post-punk snarl and power-pop tendency to couch the bad vibes inside utterly transcendent melodies. Both of these albums are flat-out fantastic.

She Don't Use Jelly EP and Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (1993). And then the going gets weird. With a genuine MTV hit in the form of "She Don't Use Jelly," the Lips were invited to perform on Beverly Hills 90210, an event that seems to be as much of a reason for their longevity as anything. But it should be stated that the greatness of Ambulance and Future Head were coming to fruition. I actually like the prior two a bit more than Satellite Heart, but that may be just because I'm overfamiliar with this album.

Due to High Expectations... The Flaming Lips are Providing Needles for Your Balloons EP(1994) and Clouds Taste Metallic (1995). The former is an EP with a couple of demos, a Suicide cover, and some live tracks, including "Little Drummer Boy." The latter is my absolute favorite Flaming Lips album, the moment when all the weirdness, pop sensibility, and unhinged post-punk experimentation came together into a perfect expression of the Flaming Lips as a guitar-based band. Favorite songs: "This Here Giraffe" and "Evil Will Prevail."

Zaireeka (1997). A tribute to inspiration out of chaos, this is the legendary four-disc set that is intended to all be played at once. I've orchestrated a couple of different listenings to this the way it was intended to be heard, but eventually I just slapped all four tracks into some digital mixing software (this was before I had a copy of ProTools, but I don't remember what software it was), and mixed them all together with a little tweaking here and there (I think I've panned different discs on each version all the way left and right for stereo sound, sometimes bringing one to the middle or reversing them, sometimes cutting the volume of certain tracks that didn't please me at the time). The music on this album is the least song-oriented of the Flaming Lips' career, most of the tracks being more or less a single idea with a lot of studio trickery to sustain interest. There's a 33 1/3 book in the works, and I'm pretty interested to see what the author will say.

The Soft Bulletin and The Soft Bulletin Companion (1999). And here the Flaming Lips introduced their new sound, the one they still employ. It's a big, synth-driven sound with booming drums that intentially echo those on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. There's a general arc to the lyrics and the album is definitely meant to be played all at once. I love this album, but I'll admit that I get diminishing pleasures from the current Flaming Lips direction. The Companion was a apocryphal disc floating around in the blogosphere a few years back, which features some rough versions of Zaireeka tracks and a bunch of live sessions of the Lips playing Soft Bulletin tracks.

The Shambolic Birth And Early Life Of The Flaming Lips and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002). The former is a best-of with some of the bonus tracks from the rereleases of the early Lips discs, which are called Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid and The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg. I think they cover all the albums through In A Priest Driven Ambulance with discs upon discs of bonus material. I don't have those, but I picked this up for a song, and it has 6 or 7 non-album tracks on it. The latter is the semi-concept album following up on the new Soft Bulletin sound. It is a much beloved album, and I like it well enough. But I've never picked up the next one, At War With The Mystics.

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