Just trying to keep up y'all!
M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion: I think I might kinda be over M Ward. There isn't anything really bad on this album, but there is nothing on it that I stone cold LOVE; which isn't the usual. I don't think all that much of the She & Him stuff, and his last solo record wasn't outstanding either, and that is the last few years of his productivity. Come to think of it, his first few are kinda spotty too. Maybe he just had a prime period I totally love comprised of Hold Time and Post War, with maybe another dozen individual awesome songs spread out elsewheres. I probably will always be willing to give his stuff a try, and I am not unhappy with this album, but there is just nothing I love about it. It could be that I am just an old man at this point, though in my defense, I suspect the same is starting to be a more fair assessment of him. (C+)
Medicine - Shot Forth Self Living: With the shoegaze revival either near over or all the way over, it is about f'ing time someone got around to giving this band another look. They were late to the scene, and fell from the earth pretty quickly too, but in their brief tenure, they had a couple of massive massive songs, including the leadoff track to this album, One More, which is one of the top 2 or 3 shoegaze songs of all-time. Towards the end of Shoegaze Wave One, things started to get quite noisy - especially stuff like MBV's Loveless, Pyschocandy and the Swervedriver stuff. While Only Shallow by My Bloody Valentine has almost literally a roar to it, it is a Loud-Soft-Loud song. One More is almost entirely roar, and the nearly 3 minute noise intro is one of the great vamps of alt.rockdom. Frankly, since I never saw a video of theirs, I have no idea how I came to love that song so much. I usually scan discs that are new to me, and I am not sure why I listened to a single distorted note held this long to figure out where it went for the back six minutes, but I did. Sigh. Such a find. I sit here now a partially deaf middle-aged man who finds his fading senses vexing; yet even so, and even though I know this song and album absolutely contributed to my hearing loss, I find myself having never tired or lost my awe of it. It literally whomps one to simply take it in (I kid ye not, do not crank it up on headphones until you understand what is coming.) Pyschocandy takes some getting used to, but it can become familiar. This, on the other hand, remains alien to this day. The fact that the rest of the album isn't anything to write home about is beside the point - they didn't NEED to do anything else. This first song pretty much was a singular statement of an aesthetic that many did very well with, but no one took THIS far. Almost NO shoegaze albums are great end to end, so it is no knock on them that this one is mostly marginal. They squeezed out a few more good cuts here and there (the one with Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins and The Pink from their second album come to mind - sadly nothing doing on the bonus disc on this new reissue), but they didn't need to. What they did in the first 10 minutes of this album was more than enough. (B-)
PiL - First Edition/Flowers Of Romance/Album: It is kinda not fair for me to sit down to "review" these albums since I think I already have, and since I completely lack an objective ear towards them since they are 3 of the most-listened to albums in my little universe (PiL's second is right in their too.) I was a snot-nose teenage shmuck before these albums entered my life, but after I got hold of them, I became hopeless. Literally, these three albums, more than any book, film, or single idea put me off the beaten path. They were an atom bomb on my social sensibility. I decided that if these were weird, than so was I; so FTW if they can't hang. The Sex Pistols album is an epic event in history (my history too), but it didn't impact me as much as these did. These made John Lydon a hero to me (which he remains.) I have listened to songs like Public Image and Rise so many times, I literally have muscle memory reaction to them. At this point, there isn't a ton more for me to say about them. The original CD's had horrible sound, and I have been waiting forever for remastered versions to come out, and here they are! The whole PiL catalog (save for Paris In The Spring, a sad oversight) is out in cleaned up form for that matter, and it is about f'ing time! I think at least 80% of the people reading this know me personally, and so it is highly likely, you - in reading this - are again having these albums foisted on you by me. If you haven't bit by now, trying again won't do me much good I guess. Perhaps the one thing I might try this time is to convince you to try First Edition or Flowers Of Romance again. Their debut has quite a bit of bratty excess about it, but that was the point. Did Fodderstompf chance the world? Maybe not. Does it get as many repeat spins from me 25 years after I first got it? No. Does it translate to modern times? Not really (albums are 75 minutes long these days, and so a song making a joke about having to fill out another 7 to get the album even to 30 minutes isn't likely to translate.) However - like almost all PiL, and certain the PiL I am covering here - NOTHING sounds like this (and not for lack of imitators.) For that matter, nothing from PiL sounded the same way twice, but the first albums big dub bass holding together punk energy and classical-noise guitar genius still sounds totally relevant and fresh (that they made the new wave synths work on top of it on Metal Box actually makes an almost perfect statement of the aesthetic, but I digress.) On Flowers, that goes 10x. It means nothing anymore for big labels to release decidedly uncommercial albums, but for Warner Brothers to put out an album this far out was an achievement. WB didn't do it because they knew they had a New Wave Masterpiece on their hands - they did it because they didn't know what to do with it, and wanted to get PiL's contract over and done. Here again is an album that retains the ability to sound totally alien, but which reveals itself to be much more than just some left field experiment you had to be there for. I listen to this all the time and I find new stuff in it all the time too. For something that well would have been considered "Artsy", and lacking a real single (the title track was a single, but come on!), there are a surprising number of sing-a-long moments (few albums leave the singing out so nakedly I suppose...) And I will go to my grave saying that U2 stole Bullet The Blue Sky by just doing a little Led Zep turn on Flower's Banging The Door (check even the first 20 seconds of the U2 first, then the PiL...come on!) Again, Album is one of the easiest PiL albums to "get", and it has what is likely their heaviest hitter single wise in Rise. The other two take some work, and I suppose it is easier when you are 16 than 36 or 46, so I will forgive if you just take my word for it. We all have some movie, book, or album that we bond to at a molecular level which others may just like, or even really like, but never love like we do. For me, these three discs are about as molecularly bonded as any music is. I am not sure if they are actually great or if I just love them so much I can't hear their faults. In my ears they are, by default, pretty much the same thing. (A-, A, A+)
Fall - Ersatz GB: The best case one can make for Spotify is a new Fall album. It is cliche at this point to remark about their unruly catalog, journeyman bands, grouchy-old-man-charm, and hit or miss quality; yet, those things are all that come to mind each time I hear a new Fall album. There are 2 or 3 good enough songs on it, tons of meandering and middling generic late-period Mark E Smith output, and a few embarrassingly bad cuts. A few cuts here rock out pretty hard (no Nissan commercials likely on this one though - they don't rock quite THAT hard), a few simmer to a hard groove, and a few impenetrable lyrics jump out as genius. That's nice enough. A few more cuts for the endless Fall playlist. That's not a diss either. That is all I expect. That is usually all one gets. (C)
John Coltrane - Jupiter Variation: I am the weirdo who likes the free jazz Coltrane at least as much, if not more, than his classic stuff - including the stuff with Miles Davis. I can't explain it, and I expect absolutely no one reading this to be persuaded to even nibble at the late Coltrane. For one, this disc is a Japanese import, and has always cost WAY more money than I ever would have paid; I just happened to go to Japan, where it wasn't quite as expensive (though it wasn't cheap.) This isn't an album that John Coltrane ever heard of either. It is a last pastiche of vault material released long after his death, and even then, it is the worst kind of pastiche since it is a pastiche of pastiches - 2 of these had been released before this collection came out. This is really just a late Coltrane completist thing. That said - I love it. I love the late stuff. That this shares a cut with Interstellar Space all but guarantees that I would love it, but on its own, I love it. It isn't all the best late stuff, but it works like the good stuff of this vintage does. John Coltrane is the greatest to ever pick up a saxophone. This also has Rashied Ali on drums, and he was one of the all-time top drummers ever. Can't fail, and doesn't - no matter how crass of record company product this is, the master's hand is on it, and is worthy of reverence. How or why he went into the outer realms AFTER getting clean and middle aged isn't something I know, but I do know we should all be so lucky. I have always thought the classic and the out stuff of his has a continuity to it: he is simply atomizing very simple phrases and working his way around every note and sequence until it he exhausts his interest in it. In the old day, it was sheets of sound and all the nice notes in-between. In the end, it was - to borrow a phrase - "all the notes", plus the harmonics, the breaks, and everything else in-between. That isn't really as big a leap as it seems; at least to my ears. Yes, I could use this stuff to punish a nasty neighbor, or clear a room, but that has nothing to do with me. We aren't taught jack shit about music in this culture. We are taught even less about self-awareness. Faced with something that speaks at a high level about both is going to sound like dental drilling to 99.9% of society. Their loss I guess. They have no idea what they are missing. Unlike stuff like The Smiths, a band completely overlooked by mainstream America (particularly in their time), there is no knowing look to share between fans of a best-kept secret. The few people I know who like this music are people I don't relate to really, and there is no real glue to bind per se. The music is too personal I think. For it to generate meaning is done on a very abstract level, and that isn't the basis for human cohesion. The bond is to John Coltrane. I don't know how you can say you like him without liking the late stuff too, but that is the way it usually goes. I am ok with that. One has to go far to find most of it, and the life experiences one needs to relate to it are probably a bit too far out for most. Many very good things are. If you dare, go for Interstellar Space first. If you dig that, you'll find your way to this in time. In that, it will satisfy. (B+)Posted by rudayday at April 21, 2012 09:44 PM