Monday, September 13, 2010

There's Only One Volume 2

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these, so refer to this entry here for the “rules” of There’s Only One…and here are the next five:

Broadcast – The Noise Made by People: Every Broadcast album (and I’m including the catch all releases Work and Non Work and The Future Crayon in the mix) is an intriguing and worthwhile exercise in deconstructed electro-pop. But The Noise Made by People is the only one with the full band, before 3/5 of them left for whatever reasons. The thought here is that this is the sound, rather noise, that instigated all the hype (noise) in the first place, and so it’s not only the logical place to start (or W&NW as I did), but ultimately the most satisfying listen by the end of the spin ‘cos it’s the only one that feels “full” as in “complete,” whereas Haha Sound and Tender Buttons, etc often feel more like sketches or skeletons of songs with their minimalistic charms. But hey, if that’s your bag then by all means jump, and I’m not saying it isn’t mine, I’m only telling you that the way these folks crafted songs back when they were a full unit is something to marvel at.

Tim Buckley – Goodbye and Hello: Tim Buckley’s sophomore effort is a step forward within the same vein of his debut, taking the guise of the drifting minstrel to even greater shimmering heights, his endearing songs of love both conquered and forlorn propelled by a voice that could melt butter and shatter glass within the same breath. Though at heart always a singer/songwriter, he never again delivered another album where this principle was at the core as he wandered liberally into free jazz and white funk, relying more on the work out delivered by both his band and his voice for creating the backdrops of a rhythm and a groove or simply a melancholy atmosphere than composing structured, cohesive material throughout. As mentioned before, this sometimes came through with stellar results but just as often fell flat, leaving the listener wondering and a bit saddened (for all the wrong reasons). With Goodbye and Hello, Buckley was able to harness the ambitions of his genius and coerce them into solid melodic numbers that went far beyond the standard routine of “guy with a guitar” yet remained grounded enough for even the most jaded heart to break away its rock encrusted shell.

John Cale – Paris 1919: Most all of John Cale’s early solo work could be the one to have, though most folks would probably pick his first release, Vintage Violence. I’m sticking with Paris 1919 partly because it’s the first album of his I ever heard, where I first fell in love with his quirky vision of pop music and realized that Lou Reed was (willingly?) suppressing a fantastic songwriter in their tenure together with the Velvet Underground. But even more so, Paris 1919 is able to invoke a powerful atmosphere of desperation, of fear, of anger and even a strand of light whimsy all within the confines of a three minute song. In many ways it sounds like a period piece, an 18th Century Dylan sitting at his piano forte with a string quartet waiting for him to show them the chords and pulling magnificent thoughts and melodies out of the air as if they were simply waiting on his hand. In that respect, these songs are distinctly refined yet carry a certain rustic quality that underline the best aspects of rock n roll, and throughout Cale makes it all seem so simple with his casual delivery, just a guy passing through, happy to share a moment in song but moving on to the next stop as soon as he’s finished. He would certainly parallel these moments in future releases, but never with as much grace or elegance, relying more on musical shock and awe (a chicken died, folks) than the poetry of music in its purest form.

The Chameleons – Script of the Bridge: Being a huge fan of both this album and their third effort, Strange Times, it’s hard for me to choose, especially because they both spring from a like creative source and yet take those roots and sprout into two distinctly different trees. But I think you need to hear the one before the other, that is Script of the Bridge before Strange Times, and so if you can only have one, logic points to the former. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either, but at the end of the day Script of the Bridge manages to inspire to great heights as well as lull you down to pleasantly thoughtful lows, while Strange Times’ majestic wail is more a dirge to the loss of, well, so many things that to penetrate its gorgeously intricate shell can be a bit daunting on days when you want that wild eyed and free Chameleons brilliance without the sobering thoughts of dashed hopes.

The Church – Starfish: The big hit here…the one with “that song” on it. My reasoning here is that while they have albums I like more, this is the one you can start with (as I did) and then jump either forward or backwards and it will all make sense. Arguably this thought is more so with the latter leap because Starfish is the culmination of nearly ten years of pop mastery cultivated into final a play out of perfection, but there’s enough far reaching ambition to tilt the listener two albums into the future with the genre breaking Priest = Aura, and from there the boys rocketed into the stratosphere (quite literally) and nearly 20 years later show no signs of slowing down or turning back. Meanwhile, back in 1988, Starfish provided layer upon layer of fantastic instrumentation, lovely melodies and lyrics that made you think twice about going out into the night alone...and still does today.

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