Wednesday, January 18, 2006

We Love You-The Rolling Stones

Under cover of thanking their fans for supporting them after a 1967 drug bust, Mick and Keith basically give the world a kiss off dressed with psychedelic sounding vocals, backed by John and Paul, dressed in mellotron. At it's dark, stinky heart, however, there are some of the best oooooohs-oooooohs, stompy piano and what the druggy stench only superficially cloaks, that is the most punk song possible from a bunch of flower power slumming sleazoid millionaires. Possibly their most unheard and least listened to genius moment this side of "Monkey Man".

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Will Dare-The Replacements

I will dare you to come up with a better song that evokes that feeling that you feel- the feeling of love/lust/possibilities that you only feel when you have a glimmer of hope. And it has to clock in under 3:20. I submit it is not possible. The flip side of this song, for the feeling when it all goes bad down the road would be The Buzzcocks "Ever Fallen in Love". These two together cover both sides of the line.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What A Shame-Kingsbury Manx

Continuing my occasional and inconsistent series of SoftD based on the top CDs of 2005, I offer this week a single from the Kingsbury Manx, a perennial 3 Bulls favourite. What A Shame is just one particularly memorable and mellow track from The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South, a stellar and massively massively massively underrated album. I don't know if it really qualifies generally as the best of 2005, but it is right up there.

The Kingsbury Manx are kind of hard to pigeonhole. They are soft-spoken, yet occasionally rock out. They play folky music, yet sophisticated and modern sounding. Generally, the songs are downtempo, the guitar work is nuanced and picked, the keyboards are frequently set on organ mode, the drumming is delicate, and the singing is lush and sweet. I can't think of any bands that really sound enough like them to give a useful framework, but some of their songs evoke feelings like those stimulated by artists like The Clientele, Iron and Wine, Radar Brothers, Yo La Tengo, Skygreen Leopards, and Mojave 3.

What A Shame begins in a gentle 6/8 tempo with piano and drums. It's slow dance music people. The kind of song that you generally gaze into your lover's eyes and think about when and how long you are going to kiss them once the song is over. I think what draws me to the song more than the sweet lyrical and lulling melody are the lyrics. It sounds like it is a love song but, in typical Kingsbury Manx fashion, is filled with irony and surprise. Between versus is just a lovely trumpet solo. I love trumpet solos in pop songs; it's always drawn me to groups like Beulah. As each verse continues, the intensity of the voice is just a little louder and slightly more hostile. The slow simmering of a break-up, I suppose. The other distinct feature of the lyrics is that it is read like a novel - an effect I like and one that should be copycatted immediately. Lyrics are below:

A bliss so underrated to me
'oh what a shame' said she
'cause this is what lives
are supposed to be'

A kiss so underrated to me
'come closer' said she
'cause this is what close
is supposed to be'

'I feel so sedated' said she
'some illusion' said me
'cause this is what lives
are supposed to be'

'I feel so sedated' said me
'like I told you' said she
'it's not what lives
are supposed to be'

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Remeber Me Well - House of Freaks

This one's a little long, but bear with me. Not too many people have heard of this band, but they formed in Richmond, VA in the mid '80s, and released four full lengths and an EP before they were through. The band consisted of just two guys, Bryan Harvey on guitar and vocals, and Johnny Hott on drums. They were signed by Rhino records after an A&R guy saw them live and couldn't believe the sound created by just two guys. They later formed the blues/rock band Gutterball with Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and Stephen McCarthy of the Long Ryders. Gutterball released two albums. They were friends with fellow Richmond natives Dancing Hoods, which included a young Mark Linkous, who would later create Sparklehorse.

On New Year's Day, Bryan Harvey and his wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 4, were brutally murdered and left in the basement of their home near Richmond. They were discovered by Johnny Hott, who had gone to their home for a New Year's cook-out. The supsects have been taken into custody, and it would appear that this was a random robbery/murder.

[I saw this story and had no idea about the back story, thank goodness they caught the guys- Pinko]

House of Freaks was a band that I first got into because when I was young and impressionable, my brother used to play their debut album, Monkey on a Chain Gang. This was probably 1986 or 1987 when I was in about sixth or seventh grade. As a result, they've always sort of held a special place for me. This was right when I was starting to discover music that wasn't played on mainstream radio for the first time, and to this day, they're still one of my favorite bands.

I was going to write about the song "White Folks Blood" which appears on their second album, Tantilla. It's probably my favorite HOF song. It's a song, like many of their songs, about the south and its connection to pre-Civil War Southern traditions, including slavery:

~Dusting off their fathers' guns
Words like worms crawl through their brains
Sermons fly from a preacher's mouth
But the auction block still remains
Gagged and tied to a tree trunk
After a fox hunt chase with dogs and chains
In a field of white in the broad daylight
The earth was black, black with blood~

But ultimately I chose "Remember Me Well". It's the last track off of their third full length Cakewalk, which is probably their most professional sounding album, and least commercial of their first three. It's more or less a spiritual that begins with Harvey strumming his acoustic and singing the first two verses more or less alone. After a brief interlude, the drums and some backing wind instruments kick in quietly. A clarinet solo separates the fourth verse from the fifth, which kicks up the volume as the full backing complement joins in. It's the type of song you'd expect to hear somwhere in old New Orleans. But mostly, it encourages us to do what Harvey asked, and remember him well.
~In a hundred years hence
With the worms I will dwell

When I'm gone from this world
Please remember me well

You can dance on my grave
You can ring out the bells
After all's said and done
Just remember me well~
House of Freaks are more than just a band that I listened to. They're a link to my youth and to my family and friends of that period. The senseless murder of Harvey and his family has taken a small part of that away. We'll always have his music, though I suppose that's small comfort to his family and friends. May Harvey, his wife, and their daughters rest in peace.

A little more over at my place.

Interruptions-Rogue Wave

Reservations regarding the fact that the name impresario behind Rogue Wave is named Zach Rogue or something like that notwithstanding- hello Slaughter, hello Winger, hello Accept? This little gemmo is a B-side to the first single, 10:1 from these San Fran? lush indie popsters. His voice can have at times a distant, soft edge, hard to explain, but Steven Mason (Beta Band) can do the same thing. The song comes off like a pillowy stomp, and is 90% excellent, hits some run-of-the-mill moments into and through the chorus. Of course the outro is just stunning. Has some perfectly shimmery bits. The A-side is pretty good too, and completely different. I heard Interruptions first, so I was forced to get the single instead of the album. I believe Fulsome bought this album at porkfest. Hopefully he'll clue us in in comments.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Losing Haringey-The Clientele

The Clientele's latest opus, Strange Geometry, is possibly the best CD of 2005, or at least amongst the top 5. PP and I have already gushed endlessly over its crowning jewel, Since K Got Over Me, but there are plenty of other gems in this album.

Losing Haringey grabs you instantly as you realize that this is hardly a song, but a story. The narrative is told in speaking voice over a beautiful Clientele soundscape, punctuated periodically with a wordless la-la chorus. The background music alone is phenomenal, but the star of this song is the story. I can't think of many other bands that have done the combination of speaking and music quite so well, and when I do think of them, they're usually terrific tracks. The Clientele might be onto a great trend - I would love to listen to more songs arranged like this. The freedom from a lyrical chorus and the greater volume of words makes this a very appealing forum for new prose.

The full lyric is included below. It tells of a poor young man wandering the streets until he find himself sitting on a bench where he realizes that he is sitting in a family photograph from 1982. The details recalled and the feelings that are evoked are quite powerful. The way the narrative is told and the background music synergize to create a very thick feeling of sadness and nostalgia - typical of stories of innocence lost. It's impossible not to remember that same feeling of 1982-ness along with the song and the same sadness of those days being gone. [ED- lyrics more accurate now]
Those days there was a kind of feeling of pushing out of the front door, into the pale exhaust fume park by broad water pond where the grubby road eventually leads to ENfield. Turkish supermarkets after chicken restaurants after spare part shop, everything in my life felt like it was coming to a mysterious close.
I could hardly walk to the end of the street without feeling there was no way to go except back. The dates I had that summer HAD COME to nothing, my job was a dead end and the rENT check was killing me a little more each month. It seemed unlikely that anything could hold much longer. The only question left to ask was what would happen after everything familiar collapsed, but for now the sun was stretched between me and that moment. It was ferociously hot and the equality air quality became so bad that by the evening the noise of nearby trains stuttered in and fix and storksin fits and starts, distorted through the shifting end. As I lay in my room I can hear my neighbors discussing the World kempCup and opening beers in their gardens on the other side someone was singing an Arabic prayer through the thin wall I had no money for the pub so I decided to go for a walk. I found myself wandering aimlessly to the west past the terrace of chicken and bombkebab shops and long dreadslaundrettes near the tube station. I crossed the street and headed into virgin territory, I had never been this way before grabble Dutch houses alternative with square 60s offices and the white pavements UNDulated with cracks and litter. I walked in wall because there was nothing else for me to do and by the breeze the light began to fade. The mouth of an avenue led me to the verge of a long greasy A road that rose up in the far distance with symmetrical terraces falling steeply down and up again from a distant railway station. There were 4 benches to my right intersperced with those strange bushes that grow in the area. These blossoms are so pale yellow they seem translucent almost spectral and suddenly tired, I sat down. I held my head in my hands, feeling like shit but a sudden breeze escaped from the terraces and for a moment I lost my thoughts and its unexpected glooms. I looked up and I realized I was sitting in a photograph. I remember clearly this photograph was taken by my mother in 1982 outside our front garden in Hampshire, it was slightly underexposed I was still sitting in the bench but the colors and the plains of the road and the horizon had become the photo but I looked hard and I could see the lines of the window ledge in the original photograph were now composed by a tree branch and the silhouetted edge of a grass birge??, the sheens the flash on the window was replicated by gunfire smoke drifting infinitessimally slowly from behind the fence my sisters face had been dimly visible behind the window and yes there were pale stars far off to the west that traced out the lines of a toddlers eyes and mouth. When I look back at this there's nothing to grasp, no starting point, I was inside an underexposed photo from 1982 but I was also sitting on a bench in Haringey, strangest of all was the feeling of 1982, dizzy illogical as if none of the intervening disasters and wrong turns had happened yet. I felt guilty and inconsolably sad. I felt the instinctive tug back, to school; the memory of shopping malls, cooking, driving in my mothers car, all gone, gone forever. I just sat there for awhile, I was so tired that I didn't bother trying to work out what was going on. I was happy just to sit in the photo while it was lasted which wasn't long anyway. The light faded, the wind caught the smoke, the stars dimmed under the glare of the streetlamps. I got up and walked away from the squat little benches and an oncoming gang of kids. A bus was rumbling to my rescue down that hill with a great big fire Alexandra palace on its front and I realized I did want a drink after all

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Heard Somebody Say-Devendra Banhart

I don't know if we are still doing dedication 'week', but I suppose that if this song were to be appropriately dedicated to anybody, it would be to John Lennon, whose anniversary of his death was widely thought of last month. Devendra Banhart has the kind of voice that tends to annoy people that concern themselves with the qualities and affectations of singing. He has a very prominent and high-frequency vibrato that creates both distinctiveness and a kind of aged quality to his folky poppy music.

Cripple Crow is really a Beatles tribute album at its heart. This is obvious from the Sergeant Pepper-esque cover art and the assorted psychedelia associated with the art and music. It is fitting then that many of the songs have a certain Beatles quality associated with them, somewhat of a departure from the more minimalist and quiet but very excellent Rejoicing In The Hands.

Heard Somebody Say is probably not the centrepiece of this broad and vast CD, but it is my favourite track, simply because of its exceptional mimicry of John Lennon's best song, Across The Universe. The track begins with a simple series of piano chords before being joined by the standard Beatles set of instruments. The lyrics kind of line up like the following:

Across the Universe
Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

Heard Somebody Say
I heard somebody say
that the war ended today
but everybody knows its goin' still
om mother lands and mother seas
here's what we believe
its simple
we don't wanna kill

The chorus isn't too different either. Instead of Jai Guru Deva Om there is simply a beautiful hymnal
series of ooohhhs and ummms and Nothing's Gonna Change My World is simply replaced by We don't
wanna kill. Kind of an appropriate sentiment.

There is one more additonal Beatle-y surprise near the end of the song, which is an approximately one
minute instrumental that sounds like it was lifted out of parts of Magical Mystery Tour. I'm always going
to be a sucker for music that sounds like the Beatles, and this is one of the finest I've heard in a very long
time. Not all the songs on Cripple Crow are quite this good, but it easily places among my top 20 CDs for
last year.