You Run for Cover in the Heat, Why Don’t They…

Today is a record day for sure, until it’s a Godzilla day. The more specific elements of my record collection’s sorting are currently on my plate, which means lots of listening (yay!). So far it was hitting up my introductory Whigs album (In the Dark), which I had not yet listened to my copy on vinyl of, which I purchased in Atlanta. Bit of a teensy skip (no dice on cleaning, alas!) but nothing serious. Still a pretty damn rockin’ album, which I sure as hell bought for good reason.

It was while listening to the first one that I naturally began to flip through everything and be reminded of what I have, and so much good and interesting and exciting stuff I haven’t gotten to. But I decided to go slightly familiar after that, with The Fixx’s Reach the Beach, in part thanks to House of the Devil (strongly recommended, and review by me here), in another part thanks to Kyle and his newfound love of 80s synthpop (my “told ya so”s echo into eternity), and of course because he was pointed to them by the same movie, which hinges an excellent scene on that big, big hit, “One Thing Leads to Another”.

I’ll try to sneak in Graham Parker’s The Mona Lisa’s Sister before I head out for dinner and Godzilla, but no gurantees. Ah, well. Still a good time!

I’ll Never Let You Down

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I’ve been organizing my music the past few days, and listening to records (finally!) with a focus on the ones I haven’t listened to yet (of course!), and yesterday I put on Al Kooper’s You Never Really Know Who Your Friends Are, which I bought in Atlanta last year in October (if that sounds bad, don’t even ask about my DVD collection). I’ve heard bits and pieces via a compilation (Rare and Well Done), but even that I didn’t catch much of, except for a track from his lone album with Blood, Sweat and Tears, the track being “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (no surprise, coming from me, I think).

I bought this (as well as New York City (You’re a Woman)) because I decided, somewhat ridiculously (but not without good reason) to begin a collection of “session man solo albums”, after having been treated quite well by them a number of times. I’d already begun amassing Chris Spedding, and my love for known-successful solo acts like Leon Russell or Dr. John (who were both in the Wrecking Crew), and I should probably pick up some of Nicky Hopkins’s excruciatingly rare albums, too (I guess they aren’t that difficult to find, but certainly not easy).

Anyway, this was a pretty awesome record, I suddenly discovered: a strange mix of the peculiarities of the Zombies, Harry Nilsson, and the Band, tinged with soul. “Anna Lee (What Can I Do)” has an absurdly grooving rhythm section behind a vocal that has shadows of Richard Manuel’s performance of “I Shall Be Released”, but that rhythm section and a few turns of Al’s vocal give it a much funkier force.

The title track’s skittering rim taps and wood blocks and honky-tonk intro recall a variety of tracks from earlier in the decade, both well-regarded (as if it could have been found on Odessy & Oracle) or just pop-y (think Herman’s Hermits). It fills out and gets the production feel of something from the decade after its release.

“I’ll Never Let You Down” should complete my attempt to illustrate the sprawling variety here: it’s a string-sweetened ballad that wouldn’t be out of place as a focal track in a movie from the time period, except that the bass is too forceful, and the mix of it fills too much, as does the vocal track, which has the quaver of an imperfect singer, rather than a straight session singer lead vocal, even if it is backed by a whole chorus of voices.

And I’d be remiss if I did not mention the semi-surreal moment of hearing “The Great American Marriage/Nothing”, which was very audibly sampled to open “Reality Check” from Binary Star, which is a great opening track itself, with that taut, tense-to-the-point-of-discomfort string arrangement screeching in–a good choice on their part, and a clever piece on Kooper’s.

Seriously, this record is the kind of reason I developed this idea: this is not an album that’s a neat trick because “Hey it’s that guy who played on all of those records!” it’s because this is a damn fine album all on its own, but it’s that much easier to find because of who made it.

It’s too late to turn back, here we go

I just finished Color Me Impressed: A Film about the Replacements and I don’t know what to think.

A lot of people are angry that it includes absolutely nothing of their music whatsoever (it really doesn’t) and that Paul, Tommy, Chris, Slim (I think this was filmed long enough ago?), even Peter Jesepersen does not appear at all. Not really even in photos or archival footage.

It works better than Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns (perhaps the worst music documentary I’ve ever seen), but that isn’t saying much. It’s Colin Meloy and Legs McNeil and Robert Christgau waxing poetic on the band, which isn’t unwelcome, but occasionally crosses into the most grating parts of Gigantic-style music film-making: pointless, pretentious pontificating. We’ve got the advantage of random fans in some cases, and the disadvantage of the same in others. Letting someone ramble about how the members of the band were their imaginary friends as a kid is a bit odd and focused more on that person than the band.

We also get the eye-rollingly-expected “Everything after Let It Be is garbage” opinion from a bunch of people (cf. “When Bob left…”), which is baffling to me as a very discerning person recommended to me Tim before any others, and, fuck it, I like all of them (I do probably like Don’t Tell a Soul the least, to be honest, but not to the level of venom that is usually heaped upon it). It’s not useful, really. And I honestly don’t get the issues with production, except on Don’t, which is poured over with reverb unnecessarily (even where appropriate, it’s overdone). We do get the explanation for this, which is nice, but overall…

Talking about how the band was one of the greatest ever and dismissing half of their output¹ seems…disingenuous. Unhelpful. The opinions are balanced out, of course, even a “Fuck the production, that’s not what matters” opinion (whew).

Can’t recommend the movie in good faith, regardless, but I found a copy of Hot Snakes’ Suicide Invoice on vinyl today, so I can’t actually complain much.

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¹Yeah, I suppose if you think Bob leaving the band was the end of the band, it’s dismissing “that other band”, but I’ve discussed my bafflement at disregarding Paul’s solo albums before. It’s horseshit.

Hew Time

Inspired by Max Roach’s M’Boom, Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, The Black Heart Procession, The Shins) leads Dale Crover (Melvins, some pre-Grohl Nirvana, occasionally fill-in for Dave Lombardo for Fantômas) and Coady Willis (also Melvins, Dead Low Tide, The Murder City Devils) in an instrumental and somewhat experimental record. If you know more than one of the names above (people, not bands), your spider-sense may be tingling. If you know the bands and not the people, the combination may cause your confusion-sense to tingle.

It’s true: three indie-punk-alt drummers inspired by perhaps the second or third most famous jazz drummer of all time (compare to Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, with plenty of allowance for “jazz is not my area of expertise”) have put together an inventive and engaging percussion record. It’s cool stuff, and I say that as someone who finds most drum solos obnoxious, wank-y, and boring exercises in groove-less technique.

They avoid leaning on melodious percussion instruments without completely excising them, and make a pretty solid humdinger. Check it out if drums are your thing.

Ah, What Words?

I’m listening to Robert Allen’s Jazz Jackrabbit soundtrack right now (man, that was a killer set of low-rez music!), so I haven’t fun words to fill a title.

I also don’t have the experience of seeing the Whigs up close and frighteningly personal: vehicular troubles meant they had to cancel–but that did mean I walked away with a free copy of the album on CD, a couple sandwiches, a Coke, and a magnet and stuff, so that was cool. I also made the rounds as expected and found some unexpected joys–Forgetters on vinyl, the Small Brown Bike/Casket Lottery split (always good to cross titles off the standing list!), Botch’s An Anthology of Dead Ends on 10″ (!), and a slew of other stuff, god help me.

I also just discovered Les Disques du Crepuscule has re-released The Only Fun in Town and Sorry for Laughing both on vinyl (incoherent sputtering–go!), and some unreleased Josef K demos! WHAAAAAAAAT?!

This is going to be a rough bout of not-having-a-job…and I haven’t even started it.

PS: at one store, I found a copy of a disc that had a bonus disc I was interested in. Turned out the “main” disc was missing (oddly this was actually idea, since I own the album), but was priced to assume it was all present. After confirming a price change was cool, the person who confirmed it pulled out a ball-point pen and scrawled it right into the sleeve on the case. I winced and said “I wish you had not written on it.”

“…Are you serious?”

“…Yes.”

Pull out the Clorox wipes, remove the ink and part of the sleeve’s colouration (sigh) and of course cannot fix the indentations. I’m still a bit miffed at the incredulity of “…Are you serious?”
Of course I’m fucking serious. You just unnecessarily damaged the object I was purchasing from you right in front of me. Why the hell would you ever do that? I mean, there’s a sticker on it. Shouldn’t that be an indicator that, oh, I don’t know, you shouldn’t fucking write directly on the packaging? Yeah, it’s used, it’s missing a disc, but why make those flaws worse? Bizarre. Irritating, too, obviously.