Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Songs I'm Constantly Listening to These Days

In alphabetical order:
  1. Bush - "Afterlife"
  2. Bush - "The Sound of Winter"
  3. Editors - "Blood"
  4. Editors - "Munich"
  5. Fatima Mansions - "Belong Nowhere"
  6. Guided by Voices - "Gold Star for Robot Boy"
  7. Les Savy Fav - "Appetites"
  8. Rise Against - "Ready to Fall"
  9. The Weakerthans - "The Reasons"
  10. XTC - "Chain of Command"
- Snilch

Friday, June 22, 2012

Post #100

Are we doing anything special for post #100?  Absolutely not. 

Instead, these albums were supposed to be reviewed in 2010 but somehow I never got around to it. So now I am.  
  • Bad Religion - All Ages (1995).  This is one of those bands I can't get into as a whole, but they have moments of complete, transcendent political punk rawk brilliance.  Matz would hate this review, but I doubt he reads this thing (although Tommy might give him the heads up).  It has been claimed that this is the best of their first six albums; if so, I'm thankful I never bought any of them.  Quite simply, this album pisses me off because I really want it to be great, and it's just not.  Even "The Answer" slogs in comparison to the brilliant live version that came on the bonus disc of Recipe for Hate.  It's not Peaches-level terrible, but there is simply nothing remarkable or memorable about this album in the least, with the exception of "Generator" and "Faith Alone."  
    It angers me further that I can't even get the satisfaction of throwing this coaster into the Pile of Death because of two songs.  The final affront to me:  Sell-back Pile 1.
  • John Cale - Black Acetate (2005).  Most musicians start as aggressive and noisy, and slowly mellow over time.  Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale is one of two notable artists (Richard Thompson being the other) who have gone in the opposite direction.  (One note:  you need to listen to this album loudly, and in order, for this review to make sense.)  This album is quirky:  it starts out as a little experimental and warbling, and rolls along a smart, cool, light guitar/electronic ambient groove. You're getting ready for your warm milk and bunny slippers after seven songs; Cale is in the pocket and it's just thoroughly pleasant.  Song 8 ("Perfect") starts in the same vein... and then Cale launches the album into rock.  It's jarring; in context of the album it is a lawnmower being dropped into a field of bunnies.  And then the second phase of the album begins -- he has your attention front and center now.  "Sold Motel" -- solid rock now, no muss, no fuss.  "Woman" -- he lulls you in with a quirky, soft open, as if returning to the ambient portion of the album, then brings back the jackhammer and starts bellowing again.  It's like a moth that's now been drawn to a flame:  the lilty electronics are still there, but he cannot escape drowning it in electric guitar.  By the time the second last track ("Turn the Lights On") plays, you find yourself out on the sidewalk, yelling Gealic curses at random passers-by.  "Mailman" mercifully ends the onslaught with a slow, jangly dirge to end the album.  And, somehow, the whole damn thing works together.  Out of context, is this the rockiest album ever?  Absolutely not -- it's low to mid tempo -- but in context it's pretty heavy and inexorable.  Wash the dishes on the first listen and see what I mean.  
    Where'd that truck come from?  Car CD Changer.
  • Editors - The Back Room (2006).   Eric Lax got me into these guys in 2009, so I went backwards to this album.  It's great from the very beginning.  Think dreamy pop meets Joy Division, essentially, with guitar delay/echo effects.  Lyrics:  "Lights" -- "If fortune favors the brave/I am as poor as they come"; "Munich" -- "People are fragile things/you should know by now/Be careful what you put them through"; and "Blood" -- "Blood runs through your veins/That's where our similarities end."  This album is worth it for "Munich" and "Blood" alone, but it's so much better than just that. 
    Verdict:  Car CD Changer.

  • King Crimson - Discipline (1981).  A cult legend, Discipline is the album equivalent of a couple of famous song makeovers in the early 80's:  Golden Earring producing "Twilight Zone" in 1982 (eight years after "Radar Love") and Yes creating "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (nine years after "Roundabout").  In King Crimson's case, this album was twelve years after their opus In the Court of the Crimson King.  It also starts the industrial meets prog rock focus for Crimson over the next 15 years (through four albums).  Why it's revered:  it's a complete re-start of the band, plus technically Fripp's guitar playing is simply masterful.  Why it doesn't hold up against 1982's Beat or 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair:  it's not as cohesive a storyline.  So while Discipline may still be more historically relevant to fans who heard it in 1981, when it was completely out of left field (say, like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), I'll still go back an listen to Three of a a Perfect Pair first because it holds up better as an album over time (like The Beatles' Abbey Road or the good half of The White Album).  In other words:  still an excellent album, but they improved as time went along.
    Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
  • Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family - Na Teef Know the Road of Teef (1973).  It's really tough to confuse Boston, MA, with Paris, France, but Amazon managed to do so. I'm sure they straightened this out for the world music fan in France who was supposed to get it, but in the meantime Amazon told me, "Just keep it."  I see why now.  I exaggerate, as it's not terrible; just not my cup of tea.  
    Pile of Death.
  • The Sheila Divine - Where Have My Countrymen Gone (2001). Moira and Kevin turned me on to these guys a few years back, this was their second album.  I'd say "final," except that they released an EP in 2002, and will be releasing a new album this year (the first video from it is here).  This album is a well produced, smart, generally laid-back exercise in indie rock; one great song ("Ostrich"), plenty of very good ones, and overall not a dud in the bunch.  Definitely something I'll be listening to again soon.
    Portable CD Case.
  • Social Distortion - Mainliner:  Wreckage from the Past  (1981, 1995). Social D's answer to All Ages.  It's better than that, but is really for Social Distortion completists only who want to hear the band in its infancy, or what their cover of "Under My Thumb" sounded like 15 years before they put it on a proper album.  It's not as raw as you'd expect, which means the lack of polish is less forgivable.
    CD Rack.
  • Sun Dial - Libertine (1993).  I'm not sure whether I love this band or not, but I certainly own a lot of music from them.  They're mostly psychedelic rock, except when they're not.  They're both prolific and obscure (at least in the U.S.).  And they're the proud owner of one of the all-time great psychedelic albums, Other Way Out.  This is yet another great album by these guys:  a variety of sounds, capturing "their" sound without being completely repetitive.  That being said, this album requires patience -- it does not immediately open up on the first listen.  It's actually the third post I've pushed this review back to, as I kept coming up inconclusive.  It's smart and well-thought out, well-placed sounds throughout.  I think I like it.  Maybe a few more listens....
    Portable CD Case.
- Snilch (now known as "Snilch 100")