After a brief break, we're back listening to our albums, in reverse order.
As someone wrote somewhere, Sade has made the same album for 20 years. I can remember the first time I heard Sade, working at some crap summer job for the Lower Colorado River Water Authority litigation, in Austin, a job that started at 11 PM, and ended at 7 AM. Hey, I was 19, and those were my hours anyway. One of the supervisors loved him some Sade, and I can't say I did. But, whatever. Many years later, in my 20s, I found that playing Sade for certain occasions usually got me laid. So, there you are. Doesn't work so much anymore though, hence I've hardly listened to Sade for quite some time.
I don't have much to say about these albums, individually.
Americana Indie Rock, from Toronto, similar to Tarbox Ramblers, perhaps. Neko Case's backing band for a while.
Allmusic review as I haven't had this album that long.
Atmospherica? Country-esque rock. Quite good.
Few bands approach the sheer versatility of the Sadies, live or on disc. On Pure Diamond Gold (the follow-up to their stellar debut, Precious Moments), the band lurches from Johnny Cash-inspired storytelling country (“It's Nothing to Me,” “I Tried Not To”) to Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet influenced-surf instrumentals (“Rat Creek,” “Venison Creek), while veering off into Nuggets-era garage rock (”Talkin' Down,“ ”Walking Boss“) and hillbilly rock and gospel (”16 Mile Creek,“ ”16 Mile Creek Breakdown,“ ”Higher Power“). Pure Diamond Gold consists of songs recorded on two separate occasions -- one a 24-track session with Steve Albini, the second an eight-track session (dubbed the ”seven o'clock chicken“ session) with Don Pyle (of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet) -- however, despite the differences, the songs hang together well as a whole. In addition to the slew of strong tracks already mentioned, the Sadies best moments here come in the form of the haunting ”Eastwinds“ (with vocals provided by Catherine Irwin of Freakwater), the surrealistic plane crash narrative of ”With a Splash,“ and the slow-building instrumental ”Cloud Rider“ (complete with ”howling“ provided by the family dog). For fans of country-tinged, twangy rock, it doesn't get much better than this.
Stories Often Told ask me in a year.
Poet turned singer-songwriter, and proto-rapper. Best known for the spectacular song, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Winter In America the ballads don't stick to my aural canals, but the song, The Bottle, is great. C+
Screaming Trees Uncle Anesthesia meh. If you want my copy, just send me postage. F-
SebadohLo-fi, indie-rock from the mid-late 90's. Has fallen drastically out of my playlists.
I should have more to say about this soundtrack to my life circa 1995, but somehow, I don't. The best of Sebadoh, at least to me. Not so much Lo-Fi as earlier albums - the mix is deeper. Still melancholy tinged, and some good one liners (helpless slob in a dead-end day job, for instance had a lot of resonance in my first years out of college). B+
Bubble and Scrape meh. Doesn't hold up. C-
Harmacy slightly polished indie-rock. B+
Smash Your Head on the Punk Rockmeh. You can have my copy if you send me postage. D+
- D is from Detroit. I suppose I don't mind Seger, but can't really listen to any of it for very long without smirking.
Punk Rock had already finished by the time I noticed it in the 80s - and since I wasn't participating in the scene, I only can review it via historical 'lenses'. Thus the Pistols are not rated as highly in my library compared to, say, the Buzzcocks or the Clash. The Pistols were less about the music and more about the 'mood'. Yes, they were revolutionary, but not because they were innovative musicians. Still pretty good though, just not as essential, to me.
While mostly accurate, dismissing Never Mind the Bollocks as merely a series of loud, ragged mid-tempo rockers with a harsh, grating vocalist and not much melody would be a terrible error. Already anthemic songs are rendered positively transcendent by Johnny Rotten's rabid, foaming delivery. His bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation and the very foundations of British society were all carried out in the most confrontational, impolite manner possible. Most imitators of the Pistols' angry nihilism missed the point: Underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms. The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective. It's easy to see how the band's roaring energy, overwhelmingly snotty attitude, and Rotten's furious ranting sparked a musical revolution, and those qualities haven't diminished one bit over time
Chutes Too Narrow
not bad, though a little thin occasionally. B-.
Oh Inverted World
Mid-level indie-rock. Seems a little gossamer-like, but that could just be me.
An old girlfriend was a fan of the Kerrville Folk Festival, and had Shocked's first album, Texas Campfire Tapes. It grew on me, and after purchasing Arkansas Traveler, I discovered Uncle Tupelo. So, all's well that ends wells. Or something.
Arkansas Traveler Duets with various blues, rock and folk legends, including Doc Watson, Taj Mahal, Uncle Tupelo, etc. Not all songs are great, but there are plenty of gems here to make this worth owning. Tried to weave the song, Prodigal Daughter into a novel, but only got about 100 pages of material. Should turn it into a short story maybe. Tabulature here
Don't Ask Don't Tell ask me in a year. Just got this. Like it so far - we'll see.
Shonen Knife -
Pretty Little Baka Guy
Japanese pop music. Upbeat, yet fairly slight. B- or C+, depending upon my mood.
Shoukichi Kina- Peppermint Tea House Another David Bryne compilation, this time of Okinawan Pop music. Ry Cooder plays on a few tracks for some reason. Quite catchy, though I couldn't really classify this music. B
I have a fondness for this other-worldly band. Not sure what language they are singing in, perhaps icelandic, but I like it a lot.
Ágætis Byrjun Translates to ”Good Start“. Wow. A-
Takk actually, I like this a lot less than I thought I would. Ask me again in a year though. B-
Silver Apples -
Oft-sampled electronic pop pioneers the Silver Apples released two exceptionally influential, off-kilter records in 1968 and '69, then apparently vanished. The group was formed in New York City in the psychedelic heyday of 1967 by drummer Danny Taylor and protosynth player Simeon, who quaintly named his hand-built instrument the Simeon. Taylor was a powerhouse of polyphony and his looping, loping playing is the engine that drives the Apples' experimental music, characterized by snippets of found sound, weird and warbly high-pitched singing, stray banjos, and--most importantly--the battering, buzzing, bleeping beauty of the Simeon synth. The two albums are a bizarre, sincere mixture of avant-garde sensibilities, pop melodies, folk-psyche song structures, overwrought poetry, and hefty percussion. It is difficult-to-describe, signature music that ranks high alongside the most forward-thinking avant-prog...(the group has been name-checked and more by Spacemen 3, Low, and Stereolab)
Some weird shite, but I like it, I like it a lot. I can hear how this album has percolated through the minds of contemporary artists.
Decades after their brief yet influential career first ground to a sudden and mysterious halt, the Silver Apples remain one of pop music's true enigmas: a surreal, almost unprecedented duo, their music explored interstellar drones and hums, pulsing rhythms and electronically-generated melodies years before similar ideas were adopted in the work of acolytes ranging from Suicide to Spacemen 3 to Laika. The Silver Apples formed in New York in 1967 and comprised percussionist Danny Taylor and lead vocalist Simeon, a bizarre figure who played an instrument also dubbed the Simeon, which (according to notes on the duo's self-titled 1968 debut LP) consisted of ”nine audio oscillators and eighty-six manual manual controls...The lead and rhythm oscillators are played with the hands, elbows and knees and the bass oscillators are played with the feet.“ Although the utterly uncommercial record -- an ingenious cacophony of beeps, buzzes and beats -- sold poorly, the Silver Apples resurfaced a year later with their sophomore effort, Contact, another far-flung outing which fared no better than its predecessor.
Jazz singer, goddess, and general eccentric. Would have loved to meet her.
All the Best 40 songs from Sinatra, released on Capitol Records. Some amazing tunes, but I can't really listen to all 40 in a row without tuning out a bit. Best in smaller doses.
Talvin Singh -
not bad electronica-or whatever.
A band that should have been bigger than they were.
The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette 50 recordings for the Immediate label recorded in 1967-68, remastered, plus a secret instrumental on disc two. Includes 'Itchycoo Park' & 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake'. Nearly a desert island disc, but just misses. A-
I need more Bessie Smith, I only own
The High Priestess of indie rock.
Desert island disc. Mixture of beat poetry and a tight rock and roll band. Certain clunky lines, but on the whole, spectacular.
Land Compilation album. If you are buying just one Patti Smith album, buy Horses first, but this could be a second album if you like Horses.
Split over two discs and featuring 31 tracks and almost two-and-a-half hours of music, Land begins with a survey of Smith's studio albums, relying most heavily on 1978's Easter. All the greats are here--”Dancing Barefoot,“ ”People Have the Power,“ ”Gloria,“ ”Rock 'n' Roll Nigger,“ ”Frederick,“ and of course, ”Because the Night,“ plus a newly recorded version of Prince's ”When Doves Cry,“ one of two songs cut specifically for this collection. The second disc is where fans--who were solicited for track selection input via gigs and the Web--get the goods. Early demos, among them 1974's coveted ”Piss Factory,“ plus two other pre-Horses recordings, ”Redondo Beach“ and ”Distance Fingers,“ kick things off. What follows is a batch of previously unreleased live recordings--”Dead City,“ ”Spell,“ ”Boy Cried Wolf“--most captured during a 2001 tour through the U.S. and Europe, and studio outtakes. Smith herself helped remaster the recordings while stacking the accompanying booklet with fans' photos and the like.
Trampin a new edition to my library. Like it a lot so far.
Ah the Smiths. Countless shifty-eyed, shy boys (and girls) loved the Smiths. I also loved Johnny Marr's guitar.
lo-fi at its best and worst. Bill Callahan is Smog or (Smog) as the 'band' is sometimes called.
His songs are based on simple, repetitive themes, characterized by his low-pitched vocal. His lyrics are often centered around themes of extreme alienation and emotional pessimism, with the use of subtlety and dark irony.
A River Ain't Too Much to Love is a subdued, plaintive collection of songs that accompany silence; they encourage reflection without guile and unveil themselves without a hint of studied artifice.
Four vignettes of concentrated sadness, Burning Kingdom has to be one of the darkest-sounding EPs released in the late 20th century. Particularly effective is the haunting ”Reneé Died,“ which pits Cynthia Dall's frail voice against brittle acoustic guitars.
contains one of my favorite Smog tunes (and maybe one of my top 100 favorite songs too) - Dress Sexy at My Funeral.
Forgotten Foundation a little to frequently harsh for my taste. C
Knock Knock contains my second most favorite Smog tune, namely, Cold Blooded Old Times. Sometimes my favorite song, depends upon 'set' and 'circumstance'. B+
Solid album, in the tradition of X almost (rootsy-punk). B+
Ok, I”ve been slacking, and although iTunes plays several hours a day, I haven't been writing anything down. So daunting of a project.
Anyway, here's a few more bullets
Son Volt, the other half of Uncle Tupelo's fragments, never took as many creative risks as Wilco. Hence, no huge surprises. Good, yet somehow, never transcendent.
Sonhai 2 still haven't replaced my vinyl version of Songhai 1 (which looks like it is out of print and going for $40 bucks), but Songhai 2 is good as well. Kora music from Mali, blended with flamenco-style pop from Ketama. Good, not great.
This more musically ambitious sequel to 1988's Songhai reunites Gypsy new-flamenco stars Ketama (and their former vocalist Jos Soto) with Mali's Toumani Diabate, a virtuoso of the 21-string African harp called the kora. And while British doublebassist Danny Thompson returns for a few tracks, the music is enriched by the addition of Keletigui Diabate's balafon (which resembles a marimba) and a variety of Spanish and Mali guests. The musical coloration drifts pleasantly back and forth between Iberian rhythms, complete with clattering castanets, spitfire guitar lines, and ferocious hand claps--and the Diabates' undulating griot grooves and honeyed female vocal choruses. Since Latin music is well-known in Mali, the contrasts are less marked than you might think, while the lyrical counterpoint between Moorish and African cultures is fascinating
Ahh, the Sonik Tooth. For several years (early-mid 90s), I was a devoted fan, on the Echo Canyon mailing list, made a song in homage (available here), went to solo shows, etc. But, no longer. I still own everything put out by SY, including solo works, but the last several studio albums have done nothing for my ears. The exception are the SYR series: but these are fringe recordings, avant-guard soundscapes, and not for most folks.
Anyway, brief thoughts below (excluding solo work, including Ciccone Youth).
The Whitey Album
Good for a joke, a couple of interesting moments. Can't listen to very often. Recently came to attention when someone noticed that the iTunes store had the John Cage homage “(Silence)”, which runs 1:03 long, for sale. Ha ha, paying for 1 minute of silence.
At the peak of their Madonna frenzy, the band decided to record a tribute single to the Material Girl; on the A-side, Sonic Youth performed a dark, ominous version of “Into the Groove” (dubbed “Into the Groovey”) that sounds slow, until samples from Madonna's original recording confirm it's being played at the same tempo as the upbeat original. The flip-side featured former Minutemen bassist and fellow Madonna enthusiast Mike Watt on a jacked-up rock version of “Burnin' Up,” with former Black Flag leader Greg Ginn contributing a bracingly discordant guitar solo; it was one of Watt's first musical projects following the Minutemen's collapse after the death of D. Boon. Released by Watt's New Alliance label under the name Ciccone Youth (in honor of Madonna's surname), the single became an underground success, and a widespread (but unconfirmed) rumor had it that Madonna herself persuaded Warner Bros. not to take legal action against the record for unauthorized use of her sampled voice.
A Thousand Leaves meh. Not horrible, but not at the top of my playlist. Interesting long tracks, like Hits of Sunshine (for Allan Ginsberg) work best. Kim Gordon's raps sound forced.
Bad Moon Rising Desert Island disc. Second album (or third, depending). Dreamy, dissonant, droning, you get the picture. The CD reissue adds some lesser tracks, I usually skip them.
“Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols” (Sonic Youth) Lo Fidelity as an artform, sometimes. Before the Youth really hit their stride. Completists, and noise-rawk fans only.
Daydream Nation Although many reviewers claim this to be SY's masterpiece, it doesn't quite make Desert Disc status for me. Almost, not quite.
Alternating between tense, hypnotic instrumental passages and furious noise explosions, the music demonstrates a range of emotions and textures, and in many ways, it's hard not to listen to the record as one long piece of shifting dynamics. But the songs themselves are remarkable, from the anti-anthem of “Teen Age Riot” and the punky “Silver Rocket” to the hazy drug dreams of “Providence” and the rolling waves of “Eric's Trip.” Daydream Nation demonstrates the extent to which noise and self-conscious avant art can be incorporated into rock, and the results are nothing short of stunning.
EVOL another Desert Island disc. Love this album. Every song is excellent (except for Bubblegum, tacked on on the reissue). On the vinyl (SST), the last song, Expressway to Yr. Skull, has an endless groove. You have to physically lift the needle, or the drone will last forever. Too bad it couldn't be replicated on the CD.
Its title presumably a takeoff on the Motown hit “Expressway to Your Heart,” this middle-period Sonic Youth side is about as soulful as the band gets, though not in the traditional way the descriptive “ soul music” is used. Foreboding title and lyric aside (“we're gonna kill all the California girls”), “Expressway” could be called a grunge ballad. Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo's guitars begin hypnotic and trance-inducing and transform into frenetic ear-bashing, as is often the case within the Youth's catalog. There is something uniquely charming and gentle about the song, in part owing to Moore's thoughtful vocal and perhaps its sing-song melody. Sometimes a song just has the ability to reach inside and touch one's soul; in that sense, this is sonic soul music. It's no wonder that the song has long remained a highlight of the band's exciting live performances.
Also, first album with Steve Shelley as drummer.
Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star sentimental favorite because it is the album that finally triggered my move away from vinyl (couldn't find this release anywhere except on CD, broke down and bought my first CD player). Good album, not spectacular, not enough raw experimentalism.
Goodbye 20th Century
2 disc experimental work. B+. Good in certain moods, though not for folks stuck in the 4/4 rut.
two discs of noisy interpretations of modern, experimental classical scores. The group has chosen composers whose works leave a great amount of innovation open to the performer. This chance-embracing approach--typified and in some senses originated by John Cage--is one of the crucial turning points of “new” music. What's great about this CD is that it demonstrates the freewheeling, decidedly unserious spirit behind this music, essentially combining the legacies of punk rock and out-sound. In addition to three late works by the chance-loving Cage, there are pieces by current Merce Cunningham collaborator Takehisa Kosugi, minimalist giant Steve Reich, “deep-listening” drone lover Pauline Oliveros, and Fluxus founder George Maciunas. Longtime collaborator Wharton Tiers, the young everything-ist Jim O'Rourke, and even some of the composers themselves join in on these exercises. The result is messy, fun, and anarchic, with occasional revelations (notably James Tenney's “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion”).
Hold that Tiger excellent live album, circa 1987 in Chicago. Introduced by Steve Albini. Lots of Sister tunes. Not exactly pristine sound, but still damn good for a bootleg. I missed this tour, and still regret it 15 years later. And allegedly, “the japanese typing on the cover means ”my mother went shopping“.” Album contains the classic line (as intro to Expressway to Yr Skull), “I have no desire to fuck Jessica Hahn, but I would like to kill Jim Bakker”! Yowsa!
Made in the USA more atmospheric, song fragments than an album of discrete songs. I tend to use quite a lot of these pieces when I made mix tapes - good way to switch musical moods, or fill the last few moments at the end of a tape. Secret Girl was originally on EVOL. An atypical SY record, but I like it nonetheless.
Murray Street doesn't move me. Not sure why. Nothing I don't like, specifically, just doesn't speak to me.
Perspectives Musicales aka SYR 1
Silver Session for Jason Knuth concept album - remixed feedback to drown out a heavy metal band recording next door. Jason Knuth was apparently a teenage suicide, and a Sonic Youth fan. No Salvia involved either.
Sister ah, the mighty Sister. My first Sonic Youth record (SST vinyl, used, at The Record Exchange on the Drag). I recall breaking up a party by putting this on, and repositioning my speakers so they pointed outside. Too much dissonance perhaps, but I was tired, and ready for everyone to leave.
Desert Island disc - especially like the songs, Schizophrenia, Pipeline Kill-Time, Catholic Block, Tuff Gnarl, and Cotton Crown. Which is 5 out of 9. Some great drones. Still my favorite SY record, always liked it better than Daydream Nation. The reissue adds White Cross and Master-Dik, which don't really fit, and I usually skip over.
Oh, and the original cover collage had a Richard Avedon photo, but was removed due to copywhiner complaints
The black spot on the cover was originally a photograph of a young girl taken by Richard Avedon, but was removed after the threat of a lawsuit. At first the picture was merely covered up with a black sticker, but on later pressings, it was not printed.
Sonic Nurse B-
Sonic Youth first album, EP length. B+.
“SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century” (John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Takehisa Kosugi, George Maciunas, Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, Steve Reich, Nicolas Slonimsky, James Tenney, Christian Wolff, Coco Hayley Gordon Moore) All fuss, no trust.
“SYR 3: Invito Al Cielo” (Sonic Youth & Jim O'Rourke) After watching the documentary re Richard Thompson's soundtrack to Grizzly Man, I really want to hang out with Jim O'Rourke.
“Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui” (Sonic Youth) Brakhage was new to me.
Washing Machine actually not bad, with the exception of some Kim Gordon squawks. B+
drugs help to appreciate this drone-music from the late 80s-early 90s.
Playing with Fire
Of what I've heard, my favorite album. Minimalism being Maximalism, or something. A-. Though, one of my all time favorite titles remains Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, which I only own on vinyl.
The Singles quite a lot to listen too, would be a good intro to the band. A-.
Chocolate Supa Highway smooth beats, and lyrics sharp, without being nasty instruments. Like this a lot. A-.
Home Another excellent mix of deep lyrics and soulful beats. A. Standouts include Hole in the Bucket, and Red Beans and Rice, possibly because these are the first songs I heard, via the internets, before I sprung for the whole album. Positive is also excellent. A
Stay HumanHmmm, undecided still. Not sure if the radio-call in portions distract or add to the mise-en-scene. Ask me next year. Love the songs Oh My God and Rock the Nation. A-
AllMusic sez, in part:
An album of two levels: The level that makes the first impression is the radio phone-in show that Michael Franti chose to use as a conceptual framework in which these 13 new songs are embedded. The drama that unfolds during that radio show (supported by liner notes at the front of the CD booklet) centers on a death penalty case. The events documented in those segments sound all too familiar in their gruesomeness, so it becomes compelling to check the booklet to see if these are indeed authentic recordings of a broadcast or staged ones as part of the album's two-level concept (and only a short remark near the end of the booklet gives the answer to that). The impressive impact of that scenario is rounded off by quotes in the booklet from various activists and musicians who oppose the death penalty (with name