Monday, November 26, 2012

At the AV Club: Penn Jillette's new booklike object, reviewed

I haven't written for them in a while, so here's my first piece for the AV Club since April or so.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Music Library Catch-Up!: Blakey with Monk, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Boredoms, Boris, Bowie, Briggs, Broadcast, Brokaw, Built To Spill, and Butthole Surfers

Art Blakey – Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (1958). The game-for-anything Blakey and the speed demon Johnny Griffin (soon to join Monk’s quartet full-time) with the sublime Monk himself on piano playing five tunes by Monk and one by Griffin: how could this be anything but utterly brilliant? Previous Blakey here.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Blue Lotus Feet (1998). Does anyone call Will Oldham “Prince?” This is a 14-minute EP full of Oldham’s usual lovely songs. More Bonnie “Prince” here, here, here, here, and here. Not linking to any Palace albums, though. What, were you planning on reading this stuff all day?

Boredoms – Chocolate Synthesizer (1994). Like all Boredoms albums, this one sounds like a headlong attack of schizophrenia. Rocks like crazy. More Boredoms.

Boris – Golden Dance Classics (split single with 9DW, 2009), BXI (EP with Ian Astbury, 2010), Live At The Republik, Calgary AB, August 19, 2010 (bootleg), Variations (2010), Klatter (EP with Merzbow, 2011), Attention Please (2011), Heavy Rocks (different album than previous album of the same name, 2011), New Album (2011). Boris continues to confound expectations at every turn. The split single is an electronica/shoegaze thing not unlike My Bloody Valentine. The EP with Ian Astbury sounds like, as you may guess, The Cult with a heavier vibe. I like it, but it lacks the insanity of Boris’s best music. The live bootleg lacks the great sound quality of Rock Dream, but it has unofficial fourth member Michio Kurihara on guitar in place of Rock Dream’s Merzbow, and Kurihara is a far more conventional (and palatable) psychedelic guitarist. Variations is a greatest hits collection, Boris-style, meaning that it intentionally fucks with its audience. The first track is an edited version of Akuma no Uta’s “Introduction.” Tracks 2, 6, 7, 11, and 12 are all re-recordings of earlier tracks with Kurihara. There are a few tracks from Pink, one of which has a longer edit, a track from Rainbow, two tracks from the Japanese version of SMILE, and a B-side. Crazy, but not as much as what comes next. First, there’s the Klatter EP with Merzbow, released in February 2011, which has re-re-recordings of three tracks from Akuma no Uta, a cover of a song named “Jane” by a German prog-rock band named Jane, and a Merzbow noise-boogie jam. Then in May, Boris released in the US the electronica/dance album Attention Please with the lovely guitarist Wata on vocals on the same day as the heavier, but still electronic-dominated, Heavy Rocks, which is a completely different album than the 2002 album Heavy Rocks, even though both share covers that are extremely similar. Confusing, right? Well, it could be even more baffling. About two months before the US albums dropped, the Japanese market got New Album, which combines tracks from both Attention Please and Heavy Rocks with an alternate mix that blends the dance and the metal. And the thing about Boris is that they are so incredibly talented that they can pull this crazy shit off. All three 2011 albums are fantastic. More Boris here, here, and here. I was trying to find a video to capture the dichotomy of sound on display in 2011, but Boris did it for me. Thanks, Boris! You are the best.

David Bowie – Young Americans (1975), Let’s Dance (1983), and Tonight (1984). These arrived at different stages in Bowie’s career, but these albums seem more of a piece than not. In all three, Bowie is trying to hit pop marks with a nod toward R&B. More Bowie.

Amy Briggs – Tangos For Piano (2010). I am so not the person to judge a pianist playing tangos. It ain’t my favorite, but for all I know, Briggs is the best damn tango pianist out there.

Broadcast – Work And Non-Work (1997), The Noise Made By People (2000), Haha Sound (2003), and Tender Buttons (2005). Somewhere between Stereolab and the Monks, Broadcast plays organ- and vintage-keyboard-dominated indie rock. They are excellent.

Chris Brokaw – My Confidante Plus 3 (2004). An EP by the dude who has played with everybody: G.G. Allin, Liz Phair, Come, Consonant, Codeine, Rhys Chatham, Steve Wynn, you name it. Great songs! More Brokaw.

Built To Spill – There’s Nothing Wrong With Love (1994), Center of the Universe EP (1999), and Live (2000). Built To Spill is one of the greatest indie-rock guitar bands. On the first of these, they are still working towards their signature sound. The EP has a track from Keep It Like A Secret, a B-side, and some interesting acoustic versions of two of their songs of the period. The Live album showcases the band’s Crazy Horse-esque guitar ecstasy, with the two guitars constantly circling around each other and the influence made explicit with a 20-minute version of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.” More Built To Spill here and here.

Butthole Surfers – Humpty Dumpty LSD (2002). A collection of outtake, demos, and compilation tracks, this album, like many of its type, has gems scattered among the junk. More Butthole Surfers.

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