Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Birthday Sucks

A lot of folks know that I’ve been battling an age complex since my early 20s, and an extra kick in the stones is that a lot of really bleh music was released on my birthday. No, I couldn't get a couple of classics like Before and After Science or Surfer Rosa or even Zooropa, just a bunch of boo, hiss. Anyway... When is my birthday you ask? Well, I’ll tell you… September 24. Nothing, according to Wiki, came out on the actual day, but below I’ve noted a few that did in subsequent years.

1975 – Roxy Music: Siren – Ok, this here is a good, nay a great, album, and one of Roxy’s best in their early era. I mean Love is the Drug, She Sells, Both Ends Burning, etc are all amazing songs, right? Right! Unfortunately it was the last of Roxy’s early era before a four-year hiatus brought them back with the faux-kitschy, slickly-mature and lounge-elegant Manifesto. And don’t get me wrong, I still listen to that album and Flesh & Blood, and of course Avalon is perfection, but the first five Roxy Music albums are, well, without peer.

1979 – The Eagles: The Long Run – I don’t even have the strength…

1984 – David Bowie: Tonight – In the midst of his creative low/commercial heyday attempt to, well, have a commercial heyday, Bowie came out with a series of clunkers and this one just might be the kingpin. The worst part is the telling, obvious, over the top production, which makes the nostalgic hit Blue Jean tolerable but almost ruins the otherwise worthwhile Loving the Alien. Thank God for Tin Machine, who effectively got him out of this rut.

1991 – Nirvana: Nevermind – Ah, the day I came of age, which explains SO much… I’m not sure where to begin with this one, or where to end once I get started. I’ll concede that it’s not a bad album, even though I pretty much hate all grunge. But what it did to “my music,” I can never forgive. And everyone except my mom knows what I’m saying, that this album effectively exploded alternative music – a moniker I used to love to hang on to the music I listened to, but which now tastes bitter in my mouth (yes, yes, I know, get over it) – into the listening conscious of the general public and thus ruined it forever (ok, not really, but things have never, ever been the same). I’ll also give you that a lot of hard working bands got at least a bit of recompense as a result of this album, but essentially the wave caused by this splash brought on the good, the bad and the pointless in music, the ripple effects of which can still be felt, wincingly, today.

1991 – Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magic – I really only listened to the Peppers because my best friend, Kevin, loved them so much. And I loved him, so there you go. But I couldn’t tolerate this album. I got it as a gift on my 18th birthday, listened to it once, gave it away (sorry, Morgan, I guess you never knew that) and yet still can’t get songs like Suck My Kiss out of my head. Furthermore, Under the Bridge became a blueprint for half a dozen like cash-in hits over the next decade. Bad form, boys. Still, not nearly as bad as One Hot Minute.

1996 – Weezer: Pinkerton – I believe I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I’ll say again that I’ve only heard this album once as well, when JT came over and played it on my 23rd birthday. Once was enough. This is the one that everyone hated ‘cos it wasn’t like the first one, but also liked ‘cos it wasn't like the first one, and then the band disowned it, and then people realized how brilliant it was, so now the band has recently deluxe editioned it and are touring the full album, but who cares, ‘cos I hate Weezer.

2001 – Eels: Souljacker – I’ll admit I’ve never heard this album, but that’s a ridiculous title, so…boo.

2002 – Peter Gabriel: Up – I remember my wife buying this when it came out and I was like “Why…???” We didn’t listen to it much, and it’s not that it’s terrible, it’s just that after Genesis Peter Gabriel has one good album, which came out May 19, 1986 (i.e. not my birthday), and it’s called So. Get that one and be done with it.

2004 – Joni Mitchell: Dreamland – God, I hate Joni Mitchell. Ok, River is a nice song. But other than that…

2007 – PJ Harvey: White Chalk – Finally we have a winner!!! I really, really, really love this album. I think I’ve reviewed it somewhere back there…

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of another musical presence. I would also be a liar if I said I'd given much thought, lo these 20 odd years, to Teena Marie or the main hit of hers I can remember, Lovergirl. But when my wife forwarded the news of her passing, I looked up the video and was instantly taken back to a part of my childhood that is so foggy I needed to pull over to the side of the road, shut my eyes and wait for the feeling to pass. This song is part of my subconscious like cafeteria food, my first trip to Disney World and Mandy, my childhood dog. Listening to this song again I had forgotten that I never had a clue what she was singing in the verses, and of course it didn't matter 'cos it was all about the chorus, throwing up your hands, shaking your hips and getting lost in the rhythm. This is why, despite all the high and low brow posturings I try to put on from time to time, at the end of the day I will always love pop.

Tell Rick we said hello, babe.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

XXXmas Chear Part 12

Here's #12, kids. I hope you've all enjoyed the wackiness of this series and I'll end things for this year with a little something Sonic Youth just posted on Twitter. Hmmm...that's about all I can say.

Happy XXXmas!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 11

Right back atcha, Christopher.

This is one of my wife's favorite XXXmas songs by one of her favorite sappy bands. At least I think she still likes Coldplay... Ok, she just confirmed she did. Whew...

Personally, this song always makes me super sad, especially the last verse, but that's just the "I listen to sad music because I'm sad" in me. C-Martin does a nice job here...all heartfelt and gushy and stuff.

XXXmas Cheer - Part 10

I had no idea this existed until 10 minutes ago (approx 3:56 CST, Fri Dec 24, 2010). Now you do as well. Awesomeness.

Happy Christmas!!!

XXXmas Cheer - Part 9

Uncle Bob isn't really known for his music videos, though the one for Subterranean Homesick Blues is rather iconic. But after the ruckus that was Must Be Santa from last year's Christmas in My Heart, maybe he should be. Or not.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 8

1985’s I Don’t Want to Grow Up saw the Descendents (ironically or not) maturing a bit, especially on side 2 of the album where all out silliness and hollow angst were toned down for a modest, if sometimes lighthearted, sincerity that brought extra weight and edge to these catchy power tunes. One of the highlights is Christmas Vacation, a frustrated, regretful, post-circumstances ode to a friend or lover who takes “a vacation into oblivion” from the depression in their life with excessive partying, presumably around the Holidays, disillusioning the singer and ending the relationship.

Though certainly not one of the most festive ditties to post for this continued theme, it’s a great song nonetheless and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this two and a half minutes of West Coast pop punk all the same.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 7

From my head to yours... Wham! Last Christmas Why? Here are 12 reasons...

1) 'Cos it was in there and I had to get it out.
2) Guilty pleasure.
3) Andrew Ridgely!
4) George Michael really does look like Simon Le Bon (yeah, he wishes).
5) George Michael also sorta sounds like Freddie Mercury (blasphemy, I know).
6) Andrew Ridgely!!
7) Neat keyboards.
8) 80s hair!
9) 80s clothes!
10) 80s antics including weak love triangle plot.
11) Snowball fight!!!

...and of course...

12) Andrew Ridgely!!!

You're welcome!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ridiculous Bummer

Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart 1941 - 2010

Man, first Blake Edwards and now this...it seems that Don Van Vliet, known to many as the notorious Captain Beefheart, passed away today after a very lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis. A musical genius to his fans and a musical tyrant to those equally blessed and cursed to be in his Magic Band, Captain Beefheart pushed the envelope about as far as it could go even within the realms of experimental and avante-garde music. His albums Safe as Milk, Trout Mask Replica and Doc at the Radar Station, to name only three, are not only genre defining within the outsider subculture, but genre defying because they can't be pegged as blues, rock, psychedelic or any other, and yet fans of all can find something to admire as well as scratch their heads over from his unique and intriguing view of music. Though he stopped putting out albums of new material with 1982's Ice Cream for Crow, his influence and sway over the musical community has quietly built over the past three decades and his slanted light will surely be missed in this world. Undoubtedly he and Frank are cooking up something special in rock n roll heaven even as we speak.

Here's a live take on Big Eyed Beans from Venus off of my favorite, Clear Spot.

Monday, December 13, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 6

One of my favorite artists covering one of my favorite artists, but let Cover Me tell you all about it.

And the original, just for the fun of it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 5

Cocteau Twins released the Snow single in 1990, comprising of two Christmas standards, Frosty the Snowman and Winter Wonderland. Both songs work well with the swirling, ethereal sound the band had achieved by this time, and in turn the upbeat frivolity of both songs help to enhance the playful aspects that at times crop up in Liz Fraser’s vocal delivery. It’s lovely, it’s fun, it’s Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

For I.L.G.

Three in one day (I know!) and I guess it’s gonna be a Belle & Sebastian heavy day at that. As some of my readers know, I’m expecting my second child, a daughter (well, my wife is, but let’s not get technical). Her name will be Isobel, inspired in part by ex B&S alum Isobel Campbell (there’s a whole three part theme with our kids’ names that I’m not getting into here). At any rate, tomorrow is the big day and to celebrate her coming here’s Isobel Campbell with Belle & Sebastian on France Inter’s Black Sessions delivering a lively version of Serge Gainsbourg’s Poupée de cire, poupée de son. This is also my way of saying that if you don’t hear from me in awhile, you’ll know I’m up to my elbows in dirty nappies.

XXXmas Cheer - Part 4

The kids in Belle & Sebastian certainly know how to enjoy themselves, especially in a live setting. This take on O Little Town of Bethlehem comes from their John Peel Christmas Special and it sounds like a good time was had by all. And why not in such company? Jazzy. Upbeat. Joyous. Pass the eggnog!

2010 Pick

The Top 5

(in no particular order)

Beach House – Teen Dream: The problem with a release coming out at the beginning of the year is that by the end of the year you’ve probably put it aside and forgotten about it – unless of course that release is Beach House’s third album, Teen Dream. I’m always fascinated by all the different styles that are easily considered dream pop and Beach House has conjured up another facet to that category with a sound that is as equally low key as it is vibrant, joyous as it is somber. I mean it’s a real pleasure to listen to a Beach House record, as either a background soundtrack to whatever you’re doing with your day or as an intimate headphone excursion into all the simple, subtle nuances that make this band, and album, so incredibly great. In many ways it’s a sum of the parts – keyboards supporting the vocals, guitar accenting the keyboards – and while these tricks can make most anything sound interesting, what takes things above and beyond is the songwriting, which is again simple and subtle, but also immediately endearing the way pop music is supposed to be, but with a cryptic sincerity that goes beyond la-la-la poof and leaves these songs in your head not as an incessant buzz of pointless sing-a-long but like the comforting ghost of a nice dream from the night before. This became very obvious to me when Fran Healy covered album opener Zebra with just himself and a piano and I was struck with the absolute power of the song, which he delivered with all the majesty and reverence he seemed to have picked up from the original version. And while these songs do stand well as individuals, the full experience is in the album as a whole, the seamless flow of one melody into the next, an endless and spinning web of sound and ultimately vision, because Teen Dream takes you to another place, or at least another state, if you allow it to, and even though it is somber and is low key and is often quite melancholy (and deliciously so), the end result is not that of depression but intense relaxation, with the idea of, “I’ll have another, please…,” where repeat listens do not produce hangovers.

Fran Healy – Wreckorder: I’ve already given this release a proper once over previously on these pages, but I want to reiterate that Fran Healy’s solo debut is a fresh but familiar view from one of the great songwriters of the past fifteen odd years, and an obvious must have for all Travis fans. Travis is a band well known for a delicately powerful sound and as the principle songwriter Fran is certainly the brain behind such brawny beauty, however, the rest of the boys are integral to capturing, developing and expressing that sound. Fran knows this and uses it to his advantage by approaching these ten songs in his own way, a true solo effort that feels very relaxed, intimate and homey, allowing Wreckorder to stand on its own as something akin and yet apart from the impressive Travis catalog.

Old 97’s – The Grand Theatre, Volume One: The best thing about Texas keeps getting better, and one of the greatest things about The Grand Theatre, Volume One is that there will be a Volume Two. I am consistently amazed at the high quality output from these guys, and I don’t mean that as a doubt to their abilities, but at how they continue to develop a sound that is distinctly Old 97’s and yet remains fresh, engaging and foot stompingly singable (new word). Fifteen years and eight albums into the business they’re just as excited about writing and performing their music as they were when I saw them open for Chris Isaak in 1999 (and subsequently mop the stage with him) or in their 2001 radio daze or a couple of years ago when a more mature band showed a younger opener just how it was done – you plug in and play, no props or gimmicks. As with any good artist it’s about the songwriting first, how a tune stands up with just a bare instrument and a vocal, and then about how the rest of the group interprets where things should go from there and how well they pull that off. With Old 97’s, their standard rock approach of two guitars, bass, drums and vocals has rarely strayed yet always finds the dynamic necessary to make the ballads whisper soft and the rockers blow the roof off the club and take the first ten rows with it. So essentially the band takes this MO and applies it to the 12 fresh cuts on The Grand Theatre, Volume One, which in many cases runs like a greatest hits collection as one infectious tune after another bounces through the speakers. Rhett Miller’s songwriting is as witty and fun as ever, running the lines with break up songs (Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)), confounded relationship songs (The Magician) and pride in your home state songs (A State of Texas). And, per usual, Murry Hammond turns in a couple of numbers that nearly pull the rug out from under his good buddy, with the old school spiritually charged You Were Born to Be in Battle and the raucous (especially for Murry) You Smoke Too Much. Of course the big question with a multi volume set is, “Were the best songs released on the first album?” I’m going to speculate that they likely were not. These were the best songs to represent Volume One, similar in theme and in scope, and my guess is that Volume Two will likely run the same way, equally as strong but with something about them that makes them unique and special within their own collection. But regardless, a subpar Old 97’s song (if you can name one) is better than anything someone like say Whiskeytown ever put out. Oh yes, I did.

The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt: This kid can do no wrong – two albums, two EPs and some stray tracks totaling thirty odd songs of barebones, guitar-driven folk and not one tune among them that I don’t absolutely love. It’s all about the delivery, which in a word is impassioned. Kristian Matsson reminds me not only why I love to listen to music, but why I love to play it and write it as well. The Wild Hunt repeatedly jumps from giddy to heartbreaking, revealing personal and yet cryptic tales of love, of despair, of out and out daydreaming. From the ramble of the title track and the rollick of King of Spain, to the daring of You’re Going Back and menace of Love is All, there’s not a sentiment that isn’t touched upon and wrung dry of all use and flavor. And yet despite this gamut of emotions, The Wild Hunt is a pleasant, fulfilling and even a joyous listen, the celebration of life experience and the expression of that experience through art. Like the Dylan blueprint of nearly 50 years ago that he pulls so obviously and proudly from, Matsson should make anyone want to pick up a guitar and write a song. And as if this album weren’t enough, and it isn’t, an EP entitled Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird came out in September - and if Like the Wheel doesn’t break your heart into a billion little pieces, you never had one.

Belle & Sebastian – Belle & Sebastian Write About Love: After a four-year hiatus B&S return with their seventh studio album (eighth if you count the Storytelling soundtrack, which I guess I do), the tellingly titled Belle & Sebastian Write About Love. Musically things pick up pretty much where they left off with The Life Pursuit, that is a revisit and further reworking of 60s bubblegum pop and sensitive ballads, heart in chest to heart on sleeve tales of love and life that are as everyday believable as they are born of fantasy. Essentially it’s everything you want or should expect from a B&S release. They’re no longer interested in pushing envelopes and certainly not falling back to recreating sounds of the last decade. And while they’ve settled into a comfortable pattern that may be a touch formulaic, these 11 songs are no less exciting. This is a band that is all about the craft of songwriting, as immediate standouts I Didn’t See It Coming, I Want the World to Stop and the title track prove with the first spin. The melodies are fresh, the playing crisp and the overall delivery as believably genuine today as it was in 199-whatever…and I’m going to say probably even more so. What was a whimsical lark then is now a voice of sincerity, one many of the quiet heart have come to rely on to speak the things they cannot, and Belle & Sebastian Write About Love will not let them down.

Honorable Mention

Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: To be completely honest I’m a casual Springsteen fan at best and I’m intrigued more by his myth and the legendary adulation of his fans than the man himself or even his music. But there are moments when he truly brings it and the brightest, or rather darkest, of these moments is 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. So when I heard about a double album’s worth of previously unreleased material from that era my curiosity was piqued to be certain. In short, The Promise delivers in spades and is proof that he took the cream of the cream for the album that eventually became Darkness on the Edge of Town but still had heaps leftover to have released two exceptional, if lesser, follow ups. Of course the question remained as to why he sat on these songs for over thirty years? The man himself delivered an answer that I thought was pretty solid…he thought these songs showed their influences too much on their sleeve and he wanted to put out something that was unique and original. Kudos for sure (not to mention he did). And he’s also right, The Promise is definitely peppered with everything from doo-wop to 60 balladry to a downright Buddy Holly clone, but it’s delivered with a style and attitude that is Springsteen through and through, so for any hardcore (or casual fan) it’s everything you’d want and expect.

5 Shout Outs

Kristin Hersh – I’m a nostalgic Throwing Muses fan and hadn’t heard any of Kristin’s solo stuff until I started following her by whim on Twitter. She’s easily my favorite celeb to follow and her humility, gentleness and skewed humor have won me over to her more recent music as well. Crooked is a collection of weighty, angular pop showcasing her unique vision of the world, her wonder with a hook and her ease to pull an entrancing melody out of dark music. My friend Ryan laments that she’s lost her demons, but in point of fact I think she’s simply tempered them, allowing them to stay as long as they work for her – and they work very, very well.

Angus and Julia Stone – Down the Way: This Aussie brother-sister songwriting team are perfect foils for one another, conjuring depth out of simplicity, joy out of nostalgia, taking the everyday humdrum of life and giving it meaning, beauty and longevity. A lost love, a sunny afternoon with friends, there’s a bittersweet undercurrent in these mostly low to mid tempo narrations that hold to the past while steadfastly rolling into the future, and the future has never been so pleasantly bright.

Gaslight Anthem – American Slang: Despite my early on panning of this album I’ve since grown quite fond of it. The trick was listening to it at home as loudly as the missus would allow, and I recommend the same to all regardless of first impressions. As always the standout ingredient of the Gaslight Anthem is the driving passion and there are moments when the spirit of rock n roll rains down from heaven in all of its fiery glory. I still prefer The ’59 Sound, but this one won’t get dusty either.

Tokyo Police Club – Champ: I hate that I’m not more into this album. As JT said, it’s a thinker. The initial 1-2 Let’s Go! of earlier efforts isn’t necessarily gone, but it’s been refined, pulled back a bit. The result is a more mature, introspective effort, which is saying something because even at their dashing best these Canadian kids gave the mind a bit to chew on. But what Champ lacks in immediacy it makes up for in consistency and likely in five years this will be the one I reach for - consistently.

Magnetic Fields – Realism: Themes seem to be the game with Magnetic Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt in recent years (e.g. Distortion, ‘i’). This outing is a dabble into folk pop, which is honestly not far removed from where he’s been in the past, though perhaps more stripped down. As always it’s a chuckle and a groan as Merritt takes us through love and its downfalls, with bittersweet melodies to help it all go down. The difference here is he’s wearing a checkered shirt and has a bit of straw in his mouth.

Still Need to Get

Brian Eno – I love everything I’ve heard, but I’ve been lazy and broke.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 3

Today's festive entry is a contemporary favorite, the infamous Pogues along with Kirsty MacColl delivering a live rendition of Fairytale of New York. A debauched and irreverent back and forth between a strung out couple who've had enough of each other, it's a bitter ode to smashed dreams and harsh realities where anyone else is to blame. This song screams out for the voiceless has beens and never weres wallowing in the muck of a squandered life, but reminds us that there is still love and warmth to be found, as through it all "the bells were ringing out on Christmas Day."

Monday, December 6, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 2

More Holiday love for ya… This time it comes from long time personal faves Old 97’s. I didn’t even know this song existed until today when Rhett Miller posted the following on Twitter:

I asked Murry if we should play "Here It Is Christmastime" and he said, "What's that?" It's our song! Hello?

This made me laugh and so I looked the song up and found it on Youtube. I’ve not explored enough to see exactly what it’s from, but it’s a nice little western waltz that follows one of Rhett’s familiar themes of strained love with a little “but it’s Christmas” undertone (complete with sleigh bells).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

XXXmas Cheer - Part 1

It's been awhile, blame work 'cos I do..., but I've decided to do a bit of a Christmas (or as I like to say XXXmas...yes, that's how I say it out loud) theme, searching out cool or interesting or maybe favorite versions of holiday songs. Traditionally I'm not much of a XXXmas fan, but with a young child beginning to take interest (in the lights anyway) I've decided to de-Scrooge a bit.

With that in mind, the first offering I have for you literally blows my socks off. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is a traditional song that I've loved since childhood, very expressive and hits a lot of soft spots on the inside. And normally it's presented in a low key, reverent sort of way, which never fails to miss. Or you can hand it over to the late and eternally great Mr. Dio and, well...enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Stuff - Neil Young

Much like Uncle Bob, Neil Young is one of those rock icons who shows no signs of slowing down or letting up any time in the near future. Between his eight albums of new material in the past decade and the much lauded archives series (much akin to Dylan’s bootleg series), there’s plenty to keep the NY fan base satisfied with apparently no end in sight. And really, that’s a good, even a great thing.

From the mid 60s and throughout the 70s everything Young touched was pure gold (and sometimes went platinum) with the possible exception of CSNY (I’m not here to argue, folks, just to point out facts). From there on it’s been pretty hit and miss from his “experimental” stint in the 80s (call it what you want, there’s just some bad stuff in those years) to his resurgence in the 90s (Harvest Moon, ya’ll, can I get an amen?) and so on into the 21st century. Young definitely has a formula these days that he’s quite comfortable with, and though he has stepped away from this at times (Are You Passionate?...er, no thanks), the results usually range from fine to quite good. Things seem to work best when he’s working on a specific theme or rant to keep the material inspired and cohesive, and so albums like Greendale and Living with War are very nice outings (though the latter becomes more dated as the years pass) and the retro nod of Chrome Dreams II is likely to be hailed as a rock classic in another decade or so.

For this year’s Le Noise Young brought in veteran producer Daniel Lanois, best known for his stints with Brian Eno, U2 and for giving Dylan the shake up needed in the late 80s and mid 90s to reignite his career. This was a good move for Young because Le Noise is another batch of enjoyable but formulaic thinkers that cover a lot of familiar topics, from the spiritual and personal (Walk With Me), to love and war (Love and War), to the overall state of affairs (Angry World), to the plight and progress of the white man (Peaceful Valley Boulevard) and, of course, drugs (Hitchhiker). The latter is an especially moving number as it basically runs like an autobiographical what, when and why of everything he’s imbibed over the years from hash to coke yet ends, unlike many previous efforts within this theme, on a positive and thankful note.

Musically, with Lanois, it’s all about sonics. Le Noise (there’s a pun in that title) starts off with a big chord and Young, being the “godfather of grunge,” is no stranger to a big sound. The fact that this is an album featuring Young without a backing band or accompanists of any kind means that Lanois gets to fatten things up with wild distortion, bouncing echoes and layered loops of found sounds – sometimes Young’s voice, a guitar lick or a squeak of feedback. This is most effective in the aforementioned ode to drug intake, Hitchhiker, which bubbles and boils like a ship running a steady course through choppy waters, hitting deep lows and suggestive highs, creating a listening experience that’s almost visual and what one would imagine partaking in some of these drugs is like. Other songs enhanced by the Lanois touch include the outer space churn of Sign of Love, the low growl of Someone’s Gonna Rescue You and the underwater swell of album closer and Earth lament, Rumblin’. But Lanois also knows when a song needs to stand on its own, and he takes a step back on Love and War and Peaceful Valley Boulevard in particular to let Young tell his story the way he does best, with heart and guitar and voice.

Essentially Young is a survivor, he’s seen it all and participated in a lot of it, and Le Noise showcases this fact with an overall mood that’s contemplative but observant, retrospective but future minded, wise but not preachy. And while there’s a lot to be concerned about, and a lot to regret, there’s a bit of hope as well. Oftentimes Young seems to be holding back (where as in Living with War he did not – at all), which is possibly the reserve of an older, wiser man, but Lanois expresses the subdued angst and bravado by harnessing these emotions and allowing the music to release some of the bitterness and anxiety that the lyrics only suggest.

Le Noise is not a latter day masterpiece by Young’s standards, as he’s simply taking known thoughts and remarks out of his pocket and putting them to music, but it is an exceptional collection of both song and sound, a collaboration of two great artists, and the end result is interesting at the very least and thoughtfully inspiring in its stronger moments.

Check out Walk with Me and Hitchhiker.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Follow Up Observation

It dawned on me a day or so ago that of the five albums from my latest There’s Only One post, three of my picks were debut albums, two of JT’s were (one admittedly by default) and one of his others a toss up between the debut and the follow up. It reminded me of a time in my life when I pretty much believed that the debut album was the best thing a band had to offer. The biggest reasoning behind this was that the songs comprising said album were the ones they’d been playing to a honed perfection for years, were the reason for the hype that got them the record deal in the first place and everything after was either attempting to capture that moment again or moving as far away as possible so as not to become pegged down by the weakened and watered down sound of past glories. There is certainly some merit to that reasoning, but it’s faulty all the same. And while I could (but won't) riff off some examples, I could also argue that debut albums are often the embryo of greater things to come; and sometimes they’re just aimless rambling around, mimicking idols or the current trends while searching for a “true” sound. In the end (or rather at the beginning), each artist’s story is different, and what it all boils down to is that with the debut, the sophomore or the swan song, an album is an album and is, or should be, the best that any artist has to offer to the best of their abilities at that point in their career. I mean I don’t know of anyone who would say that Please, Please Me is the best thing the Beatles ever made, but there are folks who will fight tooth and nail proclaiming Are You Experienced?, Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Led Zeppelin I to be the purest, truest and hands down greatest thing those respective artists ever put out. As always, it’s all in the ear of beholder, and while I may disagree with any of those opinions (and I may not), I’ll fight tooth and nail for said listener to hold that belief. At some point I’ll do a proper debut album post, but that’s not gonna happen right now.

Ok, I’m done.

Oh wait, on a completely unrelated note – Ben Folds is a tool. (Though his debut solo album is his best.)