I still have the mighty task of doing a year end list - in fact, I won't likely do so until the new year. THe big reason it won't come easy is that I am still listening to new-to-me stuff now, and imagine I will need to til year's end to get through all I am yet to cover.
To that end, another batch of discs that have been in the queue and simply can go no further in the collective mind without my dissent or ascent. Tension Tension Tension...Release.
Girls - Father Son & Holy Ghost: I really liked the first album, less so the EP, but this really is quite good. What is interesting is that this comes out at a time where so much backward looking music is exaggerated cheezy synthesizer workouts even though the old top 40 radio was probably never even close to being HALF such music until much later than the synth effects being used would indicate. Truth is, most music on top 40 radio in the 80s - particularly the first half - was some variant of either working class bar band 1-2-3-4 sing-about-a-girl, or some variant of urban dance music (which was often at least part synth, but it didn't all sound like the Human League, which is what modern retro seems to be fixated on.) In an odd way, this album is more faithful in looking back than any of the albums working hard to do so. This is, and as the band name suggests, like the other releases, largely about boys concern with girls. It is largely analog, it uses pretty familiar rock song archetypes (without the 1-2-3-4 countdown being a staple, perhaps), and at any other time in the arc of popular music, would have been a candidate for AOR or Adult Alternative more than being an Indie Alpha. It is true, punk was largely reactionary, back-to-basics rock and roll, but very few "Freebird" types heard it that way. That the Ramones are now played in the great Frathlete shrines of our society so often is one of those cases of remembering things as they WEREN'T. The % of that crowd that can name 5 Ramone's songs is only marginally higher than it would have been in 1980, yet that stuff is often labeled as "classic" or "real rock-n-roll". Girls ain't the Ramones, but Girls actually is just regular rock-n-roll with a bit of snottiness in the vocals to warp it a little, and with some gay dick in their videos. I have plenty of friends who love power pop and Angry Young Man stuff who would totally love this if their FM station of choice played it, but were they introduced to it by the internerd and the cock videos, they'd be repelled. At some point, as much as I love the drama and story arc around how music gets to market and gets consumed, at some point, it is the consumption itself that has to be the most important thing. When you get to that point with this band, you can't help but love it. It uses mostly familiar language, and without doubt, the band sings what they know (their feelings - and given the backstory of the guy behind it, I think the innocent attention to the ladies is genuine wonder and largely unfiltered emoting.) While it is true that comparisons to Elvis Costello are more fair than ones to Huey Lewis would be, I am not so sure that this isn't earnest in the way Huey is, and not so smirking as Elvis is. I can't know for sure, but I would be surprised if the people on this record can't easily be seen in the people who recorded it. I think that makes for excellent music, and in this case, a pretty darn good album. (B)
Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn In The Dream Songs: It would make me happy if I could get all y'all to like the stuff I like. I could try giving Jeff Lewis stuff an A over and over again as my way of insisting that you try your hardest to like him, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't work. I have to acknowledge that his voice is affected, as are some of the ways he expresses himself, but this is one of those artists I can always listen to, and each new album I get my hands on adds at least 2 or 3 songs to my canon of hardcore heavy-rotation classics. I am just not convinced this would prove true for others. This album isn't as good as the album of Crass covers, but it is about as good as the last one, and I got quite a bit of mileage out of that, so I am going to assume that my first few passes through will net out where his work always does for me: excellent playlist fodder of the type I really like, but too ramshackle and affected for the unsympathetic ear. (B-)
Rustie - Glass Swords: I had very high hopes for this, and perhaps unrealistic expectations. The songs of his I have heard before are among the most interesting and fun-to-untangle songs I have in regular rotation (he's no John Gilmore/John Coltrane/Cecil Taylor, however.) Dog Mask in particular is endlessly fascinating (several others with hilariously obscene titles I won't name could be included here - check him on Spotify for more - particularly Inside Pikachu's... and Soapy....) I thought for sure his debut album would be defined by the same schizo density I look to him for, but in truth, it much of that controlled chaos is back-burnered to make room for endless use of the synthesized slap bass. Perhaps he is obsessed with the Seinfeld musical theme and bumps, but my hope would be that time proves it is more than that. Either way, it is hard not to think of that shitty fucking show when listening to it, so it is hard for me to bond with this album. There is plenty I like well enough, but I think I am gonna wait for the next stuff to see if this was just a bold mis-step, or if he shot his bolt on the handful of masterworks he already has in the can. (C)
Rolling Stones - Some Girls (Deluxe 2 CD reissue): The endless reissues of Rolling Stones shit which preceded these "super deluxe" editions were shameful. I can't imagine how big an asshole you have to be to want to keep buying the same albums over and over again with nothing but new mastering applied, but there has to be many of them because they kept doing it. Now that they are loading up the discs with period extras, I decided to give Exile a shot, and that reissue was excellent. Based on that, I took a chance here, and while I can't say the extras are of no value, they lack the unquestionable awesomeness of some of the Exile extras. Their's no Plundered My Soul here at minimum, and the stuff they did work to complete was mostly correctly originally judged to not even be good enough to be on the original batch of Some Girls extras, Tattoo You I don't really care about how crystalline the sound of the reissues are because I am repulsed by people who confuse the mechanical reproduction of music with the enjoyment of it (vinylphiles can eat a dick!) I love the album as it stands - it is their last truly great work - and the extras are good enough to have not produced buyer's remorse for me. Good enough. (B+)
Liquid Liquid - Liquid Liquid: I finally heard Caravan, and because I love Grandmaster Flash's White Lines (a straight lift of Caravan) I decided to pick up this collection. Mostly it is as loose and one-off sounding as Caravan without any of it being quite as good. Usually with collections like this of old music by bands that never got love for their work in their time (other than by imitation in this case) are filled with every scrap of sound generated, and thereby, mostly crud. This is filled with what feels like every scrap, but it is impossible not to hear the germ of greatness in nearly all of it. I am biased in favor of the sound that old Post-Punk/New Wave/No Wave albums have, so I probably like this more than I could defend, but when one compares this to all the New Wave dreck being reissued in quantities much greater than it was ever originally issued, this is actually a nice little find. (C+)
Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself: The fact that this is slathered in AM radio cheese can't be a shock to me. Not sure what I expected. Dude can write, but as a Swede, I am concerned that I come from a long line of reactionary nerds. When I listen to this stuff I feel like I owe it to the world to be a free-jazz listening flaming liberal. I love lots of Swedish music (First Aid Kit, TeddyBears, El Perro Del Mar, even stuff like Lykke Li and Robyn), yet almost all of it is a throwback of one sort or another. That doesn't make it bad, but as talented as Jens Lekman is, he seems to be most heartfelt when surrounded by aural mayonnaise. Perhaps I just need to get more comfortable with the part of me that also finds comfort in listening to shit like Copacabana or You Make Me Feel Like Dancing or (perhaps most revealingly) Dancing Queen. I think it is that me that likes this. That part would give this an A for authenticity, whereas the rest wants to give it an F for same. Oh the duality! His arguments with himself are indecisive whereas mine must be. I give it a C+ so the mayo can get - just a little - love.Posted by rudayday at December 15, 2011 11:40 AM