Friday, February 27, 2009

I get eaten by the wolves...

I guess these videos had been out there for a while, but I never saw them. This band is amazing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

For What It's Worth...

To the extent that Noble Beast was a "grower," it has now fully "grown" on me. Maybe not quite as strong as Armchair or Mysterious Production but still really good. Took longer to sink in, for sure, but there are some really beautiful songs on here-- I'm especially fond of the late in the album song, "Privateers." Rather than post a link, I'll just encourage each of you to separately go to your legally obtained copies of the album and listen to that track. (You're welcome for the plug, W.S.)

Countdown to Sonic Youth

There's a new Sonic Youth record on the way-- although it's still 3 months off. I read about this one on Pitchfork a few weeks ago (I still value their news reporting, which seems to be independent of their reviews). It's not out until June 9, but I'm still very excited.

I've been listening to a lot of the 3 most recent Sonic Youth albums-- defined by when they suddenly decided they care about melody again. Great records, all. The first two, Murray Street and Sonic Nurse, featured Jim O'Rourke as a full-on member and I sort of credited him for their renaissance. But then he left before they made their most recent record, Rather Ripped, and that one was awesome too. (Not to mention that O'Rourke was already a member on the awful NYC Ghosts and Flowers, so his contributions had been overemphasized in my mind.)

Oh and also, Thurston Moore's most recent solo album, Trees Outside the Academy, is dead-on gorgeous at times. (There are a few noise tracks in there as well, but there are 9 true pop songs that form the core of the record.)

And now former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold is in the band. I saw Pavement live once and didn't think much of anyone's instrumental prowess beyond Malkmus himself, but I'm still intrigued by this combo.

If you haven't heard any of the 3 most recent albums, you owe it to yourself. I'm attaching "Stones" from Sonic Nurse. Awesome song, goes into some jammy stuff in the middle and the end, but never into the noise freak-outs that dragged down would-be cool albums like Washing Machine. It also helps that while Thurston and Lee Ranaldo are at the top of their game, Kim Gordon is as palletteable as she's ever been. (Her songs are still the worst on their respective albums, but there's not the same compulsion to press "skip" that there might have been in the past.)

Here's "Stones"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Checking In

I know it's been awhile since I rapped at you guys, so I wanted to say hey, and to explain that for the past month I've been going through this weird phase where I basically haven't had the desire to listen to anything except Mozart and Miles Davis. Given that I don't have the musical vocabulary to coherently speak about either artist, I thus haven't had much to say on this blog. I'll keep you updated as the situation develops.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Steely Dan awakening

Spurred in large part by my gf fixing my record player, I have gone vinyl-purchasing crazy on ebay in the last week. My life has changed.
Mostly due to the purchase of 6 Steely Dan LPs which are blowing my mind. I've liked Pretzel Logic, Countdown and Can't But A Thrill for years, but this purchase has opened my mind to the joys of Aja, Gaucho and The Royal Scam. AND THEY SOUND SO GOOD ON VINYL. My god.
I'm not the only person to be turned off by Steely Dan at the outset, but my experience lately only confirms my suspicion that often time records I hate upon first listen eventually become my favorites.
Not to mention the fact that the cheesy aspects of late period SD sound MUCH less cheesy on vinyl.
Just wanted Drischord to know, really. It hasn't been this good since the days of Eric's speakers and Drischord's record player at 125 Willoughby!
Here are the other records I've purchased and are in transit (just because I like to think about it):
4 Elvis Costello records
3 Neil Young records
Astral Weeks
Exile On Mainstreet
4 Queen records
Fleetwood Mac's Tusk (!!!!!) and Mirage

Besides being in a general February depression, my awakened record player has given me much joy. May you all one day know such pleasure!

In Praise of Elton John

I have nothing highly substantive to say here, but just wanted to share that Elton John is awesome. I took a brief break from the Flaming Lips and listened to Honky Chateau and this guy rules it. I know for some of you (Kittybrains) this is no revelation, and I've always been aware that he has some really great stuff, but I realize now that I really need to invest in sifting through his massive catalogue.

Any Elton highlights out there from you all?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

From the Vaults: The Autumn Defense

God knows I love Wilco, but is there a song on Sky Blue Sky that matches the unadulterated beauty of "The Answer" by the Autumn Defense?

This band got a publicity head start by featuring two guys from Wilco, but they also don't get their fair due since they're permanently a "side project" in most people's minds. Do yourself a favor and listen to this record again. Great stuff.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Freak Out vol. 7: The Mainstream

First things first, as promised:

“Hey is that the Flaming Lips?”
“Well it’s not Michael Bolton.”

For a band that has released Zaireeka, made a movie in their backyard featuring an army of marching vaginas, and done more acid than most of us could ever dream of, this remains one of the weirdest moments in their career. You really, really should watch it.


This is the point that a lot of people, myself included, check into the Lips chronology. I remember hearing “She Don’t Use Jelly,” being intrigued by its odd qualities, and stumbling across the disc in a used record bin for $7 in Ohio. I bought and, and, well, it hooked me. I’m listening to that very copy right now.

To get the bio stuff out of the way – at this point we’ve lost Donahue and Roberts. They were replaced (respectively) by guitarist Ronald Jones and, of course, drummer Steven Drozd. This is the line-up that in many ways I still think of when I consider the Lips as a unit. Drozd in particular is a massively important addition to the band, as his drumming is just head and shoulders above anything they’ve had previously. When he really cuts lose (like at the end of “Slow Nerve Action”) you can see that he adds that one final missing element to the band – the kind of thing you didn’t even notice was missing, but once it’s there it’s so obvious. I mean, come on, listen to this thing:


Overall, it’s taken my awhile to hear this album as something other than “the album with ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ on it.” But, that song removed, it’s another really strong album that continues the direction they’ve been going in. They really push that crazy, frenetic joy sound here that they started on Hit to Death – take a listen to something like “Turn It On” for that endless joy that made these guys a nice change of pace from your Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden world. Of course, at the same time, they are able to maintain their freaky weirdness. Again, “Turn It On” has a great simple pop structure, but then really runs off the rails (in the best possible way) at the end, and lets their early drug years seep in.

Sometimes those freaky elements do get in the way though. “Oh My Pregnant Head (Labia in the Sunlight…)” is a pretty drab spacey number and, on retrospect, shows the kind of slow, spacey pace that characterizes much of their current sound. But that’s an exception. More often, they find a great balance. Fridmann in particular really shines here, as he has mastered that full on wall of sound. There’s just so much going on in each song, but he still keeps it all under control – the way the main guitar lick in “Pilot Can at The Queer of God” becomes more and more prominent each time is just a great example.

Of course, then there’s “She Don’s Use Jelly.” I’m not really sure what to say about this one. It’s the kind of song that I can’t even listen to it as just a regular song on the album – when it comes on it’s like everything just stops for a moment, we hear this single, then we’re back to the album. That’s not a condemnation of it or how it fits in, it just has such a life of its own that it’s hard to evaluate. I will say this – it’s a mighty fun song still to this day, and it is the first time they really nail that quiet verse/loud chorus structure they’ve always toyed with. It’s not completely different from everything else, but remains a bit of an anomaly in their catalog – more of a novelty song than normal. The fact that they never really tried to recapture that novelty hit says a lot about them. I don’t know though – what’s your take on this song?

I leave you with one bit of miscellany – the totally fantastic “Turn It On (Bluegrass Version)” from the “She Don’t Use Jelly” single. Listen to it – love it.

"Turn It On (Bluegrass Version)"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Freak Out vol. 6: The Warner Years Begin

So, after the glories of In a Priest Driven Ambulance, our lovable heroes were improbably signed to Warner Bros. and set to make their major label debut. But first, they popped out a quick EP with the awesome title Yeah, I Know It’s a Drag… But Wastin’ Pigs Is Still Radical. Alas, this is now out of print and one of the few Lips items I do not own. Boo. If by some freak chance any of you own this, let me know. On we go…


I mentioned earlier that there were a few Lips albums I knew less than others, and this is one of them. It fills a weird spot for them as it continues the sound of Ambulance, but is unquestionably a part of their happyacidhippie middle period.

First things first – this is a really REALLY good album. I have given it the shaft over the years, and I regret that. I can’t get behind Eric’s claim that it is better than Ambulance – in reality it doesn’t even compare. Despite being the same line-up, the sound is completely different. Something like “Hit Me Like You Did the First Time” sounds exactly like the upcoming Transmission sound. Donahue’s sound is far less obvious here, which makes sense considering he (and drummer Nathan Roberts) left after this was released.

What this album ends up being is a surprisingly unique sound in their catalogue. A song like “Gingerale Afternoon (The Astrology of a Saturday)” sounds just so unlike them in nearly every way. It’s the kind of thing that would fit in perfectly on a dozen Pitchfork-pimped albums to come out in the last year or two. But it is a great song in its unique un-Lips-y way. It captures this great sense of just limitless joy that the band has always had, but takes on a whole new meaning on their major label debut. This song more than any other on here seems to mark that the 9 minute heady, murky sound is (for now at least) over, replaced by a happy, smiling worldview that just makes you thrilled to be on the journey. Truly you feel that the sky’s the limit here, and that’s a great thought to have.

Of course, no discussion of this album would be complete without mentioning the *ahem* bonus track. 29 minutes of a 40 second discordant loop repeated again and again and again. I listened to it in its entirety when I first bought the album, and actually tried to do so again for this review, but gave up after 5 minutes. I hope you do not question my dedication. Lack of musical quality aside, this is a pretty amusing little way to toy with the CD format that was developing at the time, and I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that same mentality would eventually lead them to Zaireeka.

Next time: Beverly Hills 90210? Really?!

Flaming Lips sidebar

A quick aside on the Lips project to report that they are doing the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary on Mushrooms. Odd. Now, they're last soundtrack (for someone else, not Christmas on Mars) was Okei Noodling, which wasn't so hot. But they have a song from this now on their MySpace and, well, it's mighty good. It is absolutely worth a listen, as it definitely opens the door to a possible and much needed change of pace in their music. Check it out here - it's the first song "Anything You Say Now I Believe You."

Monday, February 02, 2009

It's Boss Time!

The people at Best Week Ever put together this highlights reel of the awesomest/corniest moments of Springsteen's transcendent/cheeseball halftime show.

I thought it was kind of perfect-- I like Bruce much better as the consummate showman rock and roller, rather than the ultra-earnest savior of the working man (or in the case of The Rising, savior of the entire country) persona he busts out every few years. And the mini-set brought out everything I love (and used to hate) about the E Street Band.

On one hand, you had Bruce's almost Cosby-esque intro ("Put DOWN the chicken fingers!") and the gimmick where he and multiple E Streeters grimace while shout-singing into the same mic (which culminated in the exclamation by Lil' Silvio Dante Van Zandt that gives this post its title). It was crap like that which prevented me from listening to or enjoying Bruce Springsteen for most of my life. But now that I'm into the Boss, I love that shit.

But more importantly, you had
1) Them creating the iconic silhouette image of Bruce leaning against the Big Man to open the set (Awesome).
2) The power slide into the cameraman (Awesome, hilarious).
3) The spinning his guitar around his neck part (Awesome).

And most importantly, that bit at the beginning of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out where he falls to his knees as the song kicks in. I saw Bruce for the first time on the last tour and he opened with that song (after a warmup with Summertime Blues). He stretched that intro out (with the capacity Giants Stadium crowd chanting along with that horn line from the beginning) for what seemed like forever. And then finally, FINALLY, the song kicks in with a loud smack of Max's drums, the whole band explodes and Bruce falls to his knees making love to the mic stand. One of the better rock and roll moments out there.

It was interesting -- and telling -- that they chose to open with that song. It set the tone for what he did with the set. He could have easily played "Born in the USA" (thereby embracing the collective misunderstanding of the song) and "The Rising," with pictures of Barack Obama behind him-- y'know, went for the universal sentiments, like U2 did post-9/11. But instead he played what is actually a really insular song that is all about the mythology of the E Street Band (with the key moment being Clarence's brief sax solo after the line "A change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band..."). With that song as the context, I didn't mind the cheesy Steve Van Zandt stuff, and actually kind of loved it.

The referee gag was a bit much though.