October 2010

Pärson Sound, (International) Harvester or Träd Gräs Och Stenar: Swedes Do Psych to Death

A single group of players who would wind up constituting something like four (kinda) different ensembles points to the cohorts being driven by its creative forces. The results, given the range in time as well as situations under which albums were recorded, should be assumed shaky. Even with that, though, there’ aren’t too many missteps over the careers spanning Pärson Sound, International Harvester, Harvester and Träd, Gräs Och Stenar (translated to English as Trees, Grass and Stones). Yeah, they’re all different bands, but count mostly the same members and tread on roughly the same musical territories.

Second Hand's Death May Be Your Santa Claus: Bizarro Combinations

First off, this disc is rife with uses for Halloween, if one was to be so inclined to us it in that manner.

That being said, what Second Hand’s Death May Be Your Santa Claus, issued in 1971, is probably most useful for is sussing out what people mean when they apply various genre names to an album (ie. Structuralism). What does it say about a person and his or her cultural when one album gets referred to as anything from prog rock or psychedelic. Moreover, what does it say about me when I figure that album as an overtly electronic effort.

Enjoy Modest Mouse? You'll Love Warpaint

If you enjoy listening to indie or alternative music, even if it inherently sounds messy or disorganized—as was my previous opinion of Modest Mouse. Repeatedly listening to one of the band’s albums (something I often do not do) seems to draw out the presence of solid guitar on top of what I consider warbly and random vocals. Warpaint is similar in that regards. 

Warpaint considers themselves an experimental art rock group. They are an all-girl quartet that was formed in Los Angeles, California on Valentine’s Day in 2004. The band comprises Emily Kokal (vocals/guitar), Theresa Wayman (guitar/vocals), Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass/vocals), and Stella Mozgawa (drums).

Matelo Ferrét: Bal-musette and Other Popular French Musics

For whatever reason, disparate styles of antiquated guitar styles aren’t lauded in today’s culture the same way, let’s say, Mahler is. Certainly, the Teutonic composer isn’t that detached from other composerly traditions. And beyond that, a huge number of early twentieth century composers were engaged in appropriating folk musics – which we might count guitar music as a part of – for use in classical structures.

Blue Phantom:A Fifty Year Old's Psych

At this point, detailing the ephemera of psychedelia becomes nothing more than creating a laundry list of albums. Yeah, Blue Phantom kinda rules, but the reason it matters at all, to anyone, anywhere is pretty much obscured by the distance in time which we now find ourselves from 1971. That was a bloody long time ago. And seemingly no one really cared about his studio creation at the time. Today, it’s probably just bald dudes and forty year olds with jean jackets that are engaged with this sort of thing.

Distortions is still a varied and surprisingly engaging instrumental effort, though. And that’s really surprising considering what the disc constitutes.

The Inner Space: Can Before All the Kraut

Germany’s Can is one of those groups that finds itself name checked at every possible time. It’s gotten to the point that even Kanye’s a fan. And yeah, that’s bloody ridiculous. I like the guy a bit more now, though. So, whatever.

Getting into the almost mythic kraut group, though, has its problems. After obtaining the first several albums – the avowed classics as it were – there wind up being a litany of other, low rent and difficult to track down releases just as worth while. Ever hear “Turtles Have Short Legs?” It’s as good as anything Can ever released on an album, but good luck tracking it down on anything.

Electric Wizard: Stoned Logic

Stoner metal is just another made up pair of words tagging a few assorted bands. The thing is, though, when one think about Metallica or whatever other huge metal act that’s made millions of dollars, weed isn’t usually the next thing to cross one’s mind.

So maybe it’s valid and I’m just a whiny twit.

Either way, there’re a huge number of metal bands which have, over the past twenty years, included weed as a major motif in their visual presentation. Of course, that could be seen as a marketing ploy. But after a while – and a huge number of albums with bong or some derivation of pot in the title – it winds up seeming pretty genuine. There’s still the matter of being stoned remaining detached from satanic stuff. I mean, who wants to contemplate eternal damnation while being high enough to enjoy a Grateful Dead solo? No me.

Alex Ross' the Rest is Noise

Classical music isn’t a topic that many folks under the age of forty are even remotely engaged with. Even if music history is something of an infatuation, stuff post-1910 is usually where research – that term’s used really broadly here – begins. It’s not that there aren’t worthwhile things to investigate before that period of time, but everyone pretty quickly becomes a human antique, somewhat detached from modern concerns.

Shit Spangled Banner: Better than it Smells

If you’ve spent any time working through whatever counts as New Weird America, Sunburned Hand of Man has probably penetrated your ear holes. For the most part, that doesn’t make too much sense if the ‘movement’ was supposed to focus on rural stylings made urban. That’s a reduction, of course. But the band has always seemed more concerned with the electric (and eclectic) implications of guitar than folksy chord progressions and blues standards.

Prior to the Boston band solidifying and issuing material, though, some of the band’s members were involved with the well named Shit Spangled Banner. For some, the Sunburned relation would be enough to track down efforts, but there’re a bevy of other reasons for such navigations.

Nick Tosches: An Annotated Bibliography (Part Four)

“The Heartbeats Never Did Benefits.” The Nick Tosches Reader. Da Capo Press. New York. 2000. 20-24

Dispelling the nonsensical link between social protest and celebrity – specifically of the sixties’ variety – doesn’t seem the provenance for a rock writer. Here, though, Tosches understands George Harrison’s ‘Concert for Bangledesh’ as a total failure in regards to its political intent, while still serving as entertainment for the general populace.

Paul Cary:Ghost Men on the Rise

The initial combination of R&B, country and folk songs that gave birth to rock and or roll during the fifties is extended in the canon of garage songs the soon followed. The visceral yowling of some troubled man (or women) runs through each of these musics as do topics like love, loss, hate, violence and drunkenness. It’s all basically a distillation of American culture. We can love someone, get drunk, hate ‘em, get into a fight and start all over again a week later with someone new. That’s also the progression of American music: get drunk and try something new. And even if there’s a failure in the works, being blind drunk helps a bit.

The Beakers: The NW Answer to No Wave

Pablo Picasso worked up “Guernica” in response to the political climate he lived in as well as homage to Goya. It’s a painting that’s still shown in history classrooms across the world to illustrate the complete and total breakdown of civility during the first half of the twentieth century. It’s a cultural marker. And important work of Spanish art and phenomenon the world over.

And it’s a good painting.

So, all of that makes it seem a bit odd that the Beakers, upon the re-issue of its recorded works dating back to the earliest moments of Seattle in the eighties, use Picasso’s “Guernica” for its cover.

The Shivvers: Three Minutes of "Teen Line"

Packaging and presentation really do effect underground musics and the folks who buy wares as much as people picking up on some new Bieber, or whatever. A well respected, low key imprint might birth some album universally lauded as a lost classic, but the music, if issued through Universal would be received by the same cohort as commercial nonsense. Regardless of which way the scenario plays itself out, a group of people is either going to be precluded from or not want to hear the music.

Human beings are dumb.

A Minute with Jesse Lortz (the Dutchess and the Duke)

AMT: The topics touched upon in your songs, as well as those of the Vaselines, are frequently about relationships in one way or another. The Scots seem to be kinda negative. And while it seems that most DandD songs that work with interpersonal stuff comes from heartache, is that just you guys coming from a tradition of songwriting? Or are these genuine stories that have been fit into a song?

Jesse Lortz: All the songs are from real situations. Things that have happened to me, or observations of people close to me. I suppose that means it comes from the tradition of songwriting? If you are gonna bother writing songs, write about what you know. I have a baby on the way, so maybe the next record will be children's songs. Who knows?

TWOFR: Tarkio x The Sinister Quarter

Tarkio

Omnibus

(Kill Rock Stars, 2005)

The vocalist, guitar player and chief song writer of this band defunct band, Tarkio, is Colin Meloy.  Currently, you can find him appreciating his recent and ongoing success to a group he now heads called The Decemberists.  He is now a rock star.  And because of this I need to point out the inherent irony in a label called “Kill Rock Stars” releasing a band who hosts a current rock star as leader.  This double album, which encompasses all the bands life span, was recorded in the late nineties, when Meloy was not a rock star, but a college student in Missoula.  So is a label that prides themselves on releasing interesting, unheard music and in a way making new underground rock stars guilty of cashing in?  Kinda.  Surely, a great deal of people do want to hear the band that birthed Meloy.  However, in the liner notes there is a picture of a rejection letter from Arista Records.  So, in fact this band, Tarkio, sought a deal and could not find one.  Is this the fault of KRS?  Nope.  But it is the fault of the label for releasing two hours of country rock that rarely varies in tempo while sustaining a measure of interest due to the entertaining vocals and well crafted song.  Should Meloy be a rock star?  I guess so.  Should Tarkio have gotten a record deal in the nineties?  Probably not.

TWOFR: Extra Blue Kind x Eupone

Extra Blue Kind

The Tide and The Undertow

(Opulent Records, 2005)

Rock and Roll music is an amazing animal because a man can sing anything and as long his group sounds urgent enough, I’ll be into it.  You can sing about cling peaches, it’s ok; sound desperate and it’ll sound like quality.  Extra Blue Kinda have almost figured this out.  Not quite though.  The opener from this rock triumvirate actually utilizes poignant drum rolls and droney keys to make me think that this slab has promise.  The next track removed that hope and pretty much assured me that this would be an up and down affair.  I was right.  “Out of My Hands” punishes with a lame chorus but pleases with an incredibly beautiful lead guitar melody.  It’s a trade off.  The rest of the album shifts back and forth between bad rockers and Wilco sounding acoustic guitar rock.  Really, this would have been a strong EP but, it’s an album and the extraneous filler is readily apparent.  “Our Only Appeal”, probably the worst track track on here, has electronic sounding drums and an annoyingly jerky guitar line.  Closing out the average affair is “Sugar”, which seems to have an eerily similar melody to the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, except not as fast.  Initially, I heard hints of the good rockin’ Beach Boy’s (not “Pet Sounds”, as that album is for people who want to be hip), and it’s there, but the Stones over ride it.  Don’t buy this.  You can go see ‘em play a show and it’d be more entertaining, but save your money for something that’s pleasurable the whole way through - like a beer.

TWOFR: Kevin Kinsella x Tim Kinsella

Kevin Kinsella

Firestick

(I-Town, 2003)

Before playing this I didn’t know whether to expect some fine reggae rhythms from the leader of John Brown’s Body or simply a superfluous amount of talent. The slab draws a bit from two disparate roots musics: reggae and bluegrass/country. An odd spattering (i.e. Almost Acoustic). What we’ve got here is Ti Ti Chickapea (a jarringly atypical acoustic band) accompanying Kevin Kinsella. First, there’re alotta covers, but there’s a reason. Kinsella’s previous endeavors repeatedly reference the past and interpret it. This project is no different. He references two styles that are not considered complimentary. A talent can accomplish the melding of these two musics though. There are pitfalls, but there are also rather impressive high points. We got the traditional American folk instruments on each track. One may not expect the mandolin to mesh with the down beat style of reggae. Two similar rhythmic techniques are utilized in each music: ostensibly creating the same music with drastically different cultural backgrounds. The track “Roots Mansion” delivers, in an overly sensitive manner. Covers and more love songs follow. It appears that the lyrical content varies from John Brown’s Body. The last song, “God is in Control” is pretty interesting. Perhaps the vocals and the instrumentation end up unintentionally sounding like Elvis Costello, but Kinsella sounds urgent. He pulls it off, aiming in another direction.

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