So I am very behind on the music tip. In order to make a dent in the backlog, I am gonna do some easy reviews, mostly of reissues or records I long have had in some form but now have on CD. Scintillating it will not be, but when has anything here ever been so?
Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself: I am at the stage where I buy whatever Andrew Bird puts out, and in saying that, I am not complaining or anything. I can honestly say he, unlike many, is always good for at least a few excellent songs per album; and even with the rest of it, he is mostly a known quantity. I am usually predisposed to his one or two "rockin'" cuts per album, but even the slower, longer, moodier songs (usually with extended whistling) are good too. Like clockwork, this new album delivers like they all usually do. I have 2 or 3 cuts I love, 2 or 3 that I like, and the rest are quite good enough to just have on. No real breakthroughs or anything here - it is an Andrew Bird record. I happen to love the part of Illinois where he records, and so I will admit to being partial on that basis (he records in far NW Illinois, which really is God's Country, save for the degenerate shitbag sheriff of Jo Davies County who runs a predatory speed trap for "city boys" who happen to drive through his dominion - but I digress.) If you like Andrew Bird records, you will like this Andrew Bird record. If you have no idea what he's about, I put a little sampler together for ya here. (B)
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs [Deluxe Edition]: Kind of cheating here by re-reviewing an album that just came out a year ago, but the bands and record companies often cheat too by reissuing albums quickly with a little extra bonus content - in this case, two "new" songs. As it turns out, I like the bonus songs quite a bit, and they totally fit what the album is. Whether or not this was album of the year or not, I can't say, but I like it. Very very very few bands come with three strong albums in a row - especially when it is their first three. That is pretty amazing actually. The appearance of David Byrne on the bonus cut (named Speaking In Tongues - clever bunch no?) is a nice nod to the fact that Arcade Fire's stuff is quite derivative, but lots of good stuff is. Yes, I would like to see them come back on the next album with something less true to form and a little more adventurous, but if they don't, the world won't end. I could easily see them putting stuff out that would be tomorrow's classic rock, which would sadden me, but again, I already got 3 albums of goodness out of them. It's more than I can say of most, and not a small achievement. As for this edition of this album, I would love to say fans of them could just skip it, but I actually think the new cuts are just good enough to mandate you finding a way to get them to your ears. (B+)
Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks: I will be the first to admit that the last few albums and EPs by Of Monty haven't been up to the caliber of their best. All I can say about that is that almost nothing is as good as them at their best, so it isn't very realistic to expect them to keep up a prolific release schedule of genius after genius product. Yes, I would like a "return to form" from them as much as anyone, but at some point, you have to clarify whether you just like a few of a band's albums or if you actually like the band. I happen to like this band. I am interested in following their narrative and progression because they are interesting. If I can pick up a few new cuts here and there to love, awesome. If not, better luck next time. From what I have read, people are pretty down on this album. It is no Panic or Fauna> to be sure. It isn't even up to the extras and remixes of those periods, but I don't think any attempt to be like those would have been all that good either. This is a little bit harder, more out, and self-indulgent than their best stuff, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. Yeah, it is musically a little bit of difficult listening in places, but this really is a fully formed idea expressed in many ways over all the songs and snippets from which it is made. Whereas he can be a lyrical downer over poppy music, and thereby make the songs very easy to digest, when the music too is a downer, no doubt it becomes something you have to prep for and create the right mood for in order to take it in and enjoy it. That might not happen organically for me with this as often as it does for the other stuff, but when it does, this totally works. It takes some doing, but if you like Of Montreal, give it time, and it will come. (B-)
Kirsty MacColl - Electric Landlady: I love Kirsty MaColl's voice. I am not always down for huge doses of it, but it is one of a kind, and it scratches a certain itch nothing else can. I originally cared about her, and this album in particular, because she was in the inner orbit of The Smiths, and made some excellent contributions to them. On this album, Johnny Marr returns the favor by giving her the two songs which make up the highlights of the album - Children Of The Revolution and Walking Down Madison. When this came out, the once-prolific Marr's work was very low in quantity, and not easy to track down at that. Here is a dood who used to write a song a day when in the Smiths who went down to having very few songs surface over almost 10 years. I religiously sought out each one, and while I never loved any of them as much as I loved his work with Big Mo, I usually found a few gems among them which justified the effort. This album is now out of print and not as plentiful in the used bins as it used to be, but in giving it a re-listen, it is better than I recall, and certainly doesn't deserve to be forgotten as it has been. Poor Kirsty's life has been reduced down to her appearance on The Pogues Fairytale Of New York, Tracy Ullman's They Don't Know, and maybe The Smith's Ask. If that indeed was all she ever did, she could be very proud of herself, but it isn't. Again, her voice is hard to take in huge doses for me, but I find if I parse it out, or put in mixes here and there, it has huge impact. Not everything on this album works, but from what I have heard of her solo stuff, it works harder than most. Perhaps one day a real best-of for her will come out, and in that form, her skills will get their proper moment in the sun. She deserves it. When she was good, she was great as very few are. Some of that is easy to find on this album, but that should just be an intro to her. There isn't enough here to make it definitive. (B-)
Jah Wobble - Psychic Life: I talk myself into trying new Jah Wobble releases about once a year. In this case, I went for it because it was said to be close to his old PiL stuff in style. I got fooled once again in the sense that it really isn't very PiL-like to my ears, but like every Wobble release I buy, there are a few good-enough songs that keep me open to giving him another shot down the line. Most of this is actually kinda generic dance music that happens to have the massive rubbery bass line goodness of my favorite bass player all over it. The bass is good and I enjoy having it vibrate my skull and rattle my teeth, which is nice and all, but the song craft just ain't here. Since I don't groove on his world music very much, I am sorta limited to sampling these occasional, more straight-forward releases to git that feeling. I guess some generic dance schmaltz is just the price one pays to be able to get any channeling from the master. It is a price I will continue to risk paying because I love Jah Wobble's style and best work so much. (C)
Bees - Every Step's A Yes: Call it First Mover Disadvantage...another album I buy only to have it reissued a few weeks later with extra stuff I like. Sigh. I admit, I have a soft spot for Band Of Bees even though I know time will prove it to be largely forgettable and derivative. I am not sure why I like their little synthesis of 60's UK pop and 70's AM Gold, but I do. This album happens to have some of their best stuff (Silver Line is an EXCELLENT song.) They are usually good for at least a few great songs per album, and this is at least as good in that category as any of them. The extras are some excellent covers and servicable remixes. It angers me to buy it twice, but there was enough payoff that I won't harsh on them too bad. Frankly, if they put out new albums like this every year or two in perpetuity, I likely will buy them without hesitation. Whether or not any of them are masterpieces aren't really in question, but I can say, what they do, they do very well and I dig it. (B-)Posted by rudayday at April 06, 2012 08:47 AM