Monday, August 4, 2008

This feature at Pop Matters is the best:


It's about albums from established or semi-established artists who released totally bizarre (at the time or still) albums that alienated half their fanbase. Funnily enough (wow, funnily is apparently actually a word, thanks spellcheck), a lot of the albums they talk about A) I didn't know about B) are really good.

For instance, Paul McCartney made a solo album called Ram. It's amazing, a really homespun record that sounds like it's just Paul & Linda having fun, but without any of the desperate qualities that sometimes prevail in Paul's work. At the same time that they're having fun, they're also creating some really really wonderful songs.

Ram On
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

So, sometime after finishing Ram, but before it was released, Paul had this wild idea:

"Woah, I should get a big band together and record an instrumental version of Ram more or less note for note with this new big band and make a ridiculous easy listening orchestral near-musak version of it."

And then, because that wasn't enough, he had another wild idea:

"That Ram cover album is pretty sweet, I think I'll release it seven years later under a made up name."

And thus, Percy "Thrills" Thrillington's album Thrillington was born.

Ram On
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

The thing is, I used to Hate (yes capital) Paul McCartney. I just couldn't stand his dumbfaced, thumbs up, love me bullshit. I thought that he was a worthless idiot who was cursed with the gift of pop melody, and nothing else.

What reading this article, and discovering Thrillington, and his Techno album, did for me, was re-evaluate what I thought of Paul.

I like Paul McCartney, he is a pretty sassy guy. I admire his sassiness.

More on other great albums I just discovered, like this:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mondays are alright.

(This blog blows, thus you have to copy the image to your desktop to see the whole thing grr)

A lot of people hate Garfield.

I don't hate Garfield. I learned to read from Garfield!


I have two favorite Garfield strips:

This is one:

And this is my all-time favorite:

Garfield is not always funny. These days, it is certainly rare, because it is easy to spot the trends in storylines. This week, for instance, it is Spider Week. There is Fern Week, Bird Week, TV Week, Kick Odie Week, Jon's date Week (though this is a little different now). There are a few exceptions to this. I can remember only twice that Garfield has had a storyline that lasted more than a week.

One was great, where Garfield gets lost in the nameless city he lives in:

This actually lasted an entire month!

It had some surprisingly emotional moments, as Garfield ends up meeting his Mother:

But in the end, after almost freezing to death, he makes it home:

Wow, a month long storyline on Garfield!

You know, I remember another, where Garfield joins a circus... I think.

Of course, there is also the week where Garfield is dead.

But that's another story!

P.S. Bonus Totally Lame Quote From Jim

"I wanted to create a symbol of what I think of pathetic humans, but my stupid syndicate made sure that I didn't offend anyone. So I had to be extra careful with Odie's post-modern symbolism."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hey! It's real!

Attention: I have gone back to a few old posts and refined the ideas. Mostly, I've added more thoughts to the barebones things I said. The Pumpkins and Bowie posts have the most additions, but feel free to revisit whatever you'd like. Hitched to some Rainbow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back of your head

A quick note, because I know nothing about the album other than it exists, comes after Hard Nose, and is from the seventies.

But what makes me smile a little every time is the fact that I subconsciously know every song on Van Morisson's Veedon Fleece without ever having put the album on. It's one of the albums that I've just heard my entire life, played from my parent's various stereos since I was born.

But really, I don't know the song titles very well, I couldn't hum it to you if you asked, but if it comes on shuffle or what have you, I'll know it instantly. It's a great thing. Another one of those little "ahh, music" moments.

In terms of familiarity, though, there's one exception to the album, and that's the fact that one of my favorite songs of all time is on it.

Linden Arlen Stole the Highlights is one of my favorite all time songs. I am tempted to put the lyrics up here, but that'd ruin the surprise (but honestly, they "get" me every time, still). Needless to say, I'm putting emphasis on the words because of all the genre of "story songs," I think this is the best. And that's not even talking about the delivery!

Van the Man. Oh, my boy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

David Bowie, Part II.

Yes, I've put up a top 5 of Bowie already,
but it was just a first top five, I mean, my Best of Bowie mix is 60 songs long! There are around 560 songs in my actual Bowie playlist, so imagine how difficult it was to cut out the other 500.

Well, in some cases, it wasn't hard. His cover of God Only Knows certainly isn't going on there, neither would most of Never Let Me Down (but I'm not too opposed to it), and I had a rule of no Tin Machine (but i would have put You Belong In Rock N Roll on there in a heartbeat). But still, he's got, what, 25 albums? Yes, i've said it before, but every time i listen to Bowie, I wish he had finished the inevitable trilogy of the early 00's.

Anyways, here are the next top 5 Bowie songs, to constitute a top 10, I imagine.

1. Red Sails (from Lodger)

The "Berlin" Trilogy (only Heroes was made in Berlin, natch) is noted for it's ground breaking, genre bending oddities. But what is truly the most fun about a lot of the trilogy is just how darn Goofy it can be! Lodger hold the most ridiculousness, and while some of it can be grating (Yassassin, I'm looking at youuuu), Red Sails proves that he can stretch his pleated pants over odd and catchy, and still retain a bit of the ground breakingness that permeated Low and Heroes. Granted, Lodger wasn't as Neumusik night and day, but Lodger has a different motive, that being a certain travel. The idea of travel suits Bowie well, being such a "chameleon" and all, and a lot of the songs have a gait to them. Move On sounds like it's on a train, Look Back In Anger sounds like a hard run, and Yassassin sounds like a jazz-handed sprint. Red Sails is a montage of sleek jets throughout time, and speed of sounds to the hinterland on a hoverboat dressed like Pierrot.

2. Memory of A Free Festival Parts One and Two, a single from Space Oddity.

There was a time when I was obsessed with finding as many songs as I could that had an ending like Hey Jude, with that kind of chord changes, and the whole rave-up quality. There are quite a few of those kind of songs, and they're often at the end of an album. Memory of A Free Festival is probably my favorite of these songs, maybe because of it's unabashed happiness. Young Bowie is painting a picture of a wonderful day, with all his friends, with free love, and at the end, they all gather around and apparently have the best trip ever, because, after all, "the sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party."

Woah-ho-ho, indeed.

3. Space Oddity (1979 New Version)

Bowie did the first look back in his career when Scary Monsters came around. Not only did he resurrect the supposed first song he ever wrote (Tired of my life turned into It's No Game, more or less), he continued the story of his second most famous character, Major Tom (Ashes to Ashes). I can't say what prompted him to more or less cover his own song, but this new version of Space Oddity beats the original to a bloody pulp. This version is sparse and rife with between the lines anguish. Bowie's reading of the song seems like he's forcing himself to stand up at the mic and deliver the song, but the music behind it tells the real story. At the "lift-off" part of the song, usually full of weird noises goofily mimicking real space travel, the new version is completely silent. And not for a short amount of time, it's at least 15 seconds of pure silence, and it seems like it stretches on for hours. When the song kicks back in, the amount of relief you feel is the most masterful manipulation music can give you. At the end of the song, the outro stretches on and on, and it isn't that hard to imagine it going on forever, just like Major Tom, floating endlessly in space.

4. I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, from 1.Outside.

1.Outside is often insulted and placed in the lump of 90's Bowie, which for most people is almost as hard to listen to as 80's Bowie. The problem people give is that Bowie is "trying to hard," which I disagree with, as he'd learned his lesson not to do that with Never Let Me Down. Instead, he's pushing himself, trying new things to keep it interesting, have fun maybe. I feel like all of Bowie's 90's work can be summed up with the Outside song A Small Plot of Land, a free jazzy improv epic, which surely would have felt like a release for the parts of Bowie who don't want to embrace the single format.

Yet while people say that 1.Outside never embraced the pop single format, they're wrong, because right in the middle of the non-linear gothic drama hyper-cycle is I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, a wonderful song with a great hook and no over the top accompaniment. It's simple, and very pretty.

5. This List Is Impossible To Make, I Love David Bowie Too Much, But I Guess If I Really Have To I Will Pick "Lady Grinning Soul," Because I Love This One A Lot, but like others a lot, too.

I have no idea why Bowie has never performed this live. That's pretty much all I have to say about this song, because it's breathtaking beauty stands alone.

Here's what Bowie said about it: "A song will put you tantalisingly close to the past, so close that you can almost reach out and touch it. The sound of ghosts again."


BONUS CUT: Without You, from Let's Dance. The lost fourth-single. It's not lost, it just got ignored after the big punches of Let's Dance, China Girl, and Modern Love. But Without You is the real Bowie song, with David singing sweetly, yet powerfully, of love's near defeat (it ends happily).

Oh, and don't forget this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dexy's Midnight Runners

Note: This post is really drippy, for which I apologize, so try to ignore my terrible "blog-tone," and just listen to the songs. They're still great.

I love Dexy's. Without question.

If anyone knows of them at all, then they would know them for Come On, Eileen. Well, that's fine. Come On, Eileen, despite it's popularity and ubiquitousness on one-hit wonder lists, it's a great song!

The thing is that the rest of Dexy's catalogue are all equally great and catchy and wonderful as Come On, Eileen, if not more so.

Having done my research (as I do with all obsessions), I've dug into their library. And am a better person for doing so.

They've got three albums:

The first, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, is a Northern Soul Dance Energy Explosion. It's horn heavy, which smacks of deadly ska, but rather than being terrible, it's got wild tempo swings, more heartfelt energy, and Kevin Rowland's wailing, soaring, amazing voice. I swear to god he doesn't get enough credit for his singing. Or for anything, really.

Tell Me When My Light Turns Green

The second, Too-Rye-Aye, switches gears a little bit. There's still hecka horns, but joining the fray are fiddles and banjos and other sorts of celtic fun. This is the era that most people associate with Dexy's, as the grungy look of Come On Eileen is from this album. But it's got tons more. You can find Eileen easy, so don't look here.

Celtic Soul Brothers
Plan B
Liars A to E

Then Dexy's threw everyone for a spin, releasing Don't Stand Me Down, a record-memoir of sorts, as it's content for the most part concerns itself with Kevin Rowland telling stories of his life, from day to day to back in the day. It's verse/chorus style is generally Kevin and the band talking followed by a soaring chorus. It's not irritating at all, in fact I think this album is one of the great misunderstood gems, ever. You could also say it's a neat precursor to the talk-rap-british style that's going on these days.

The other thing about Don't Stand Me Down is that behind the talking and reminiscing, there's really great musicianship, totally moving music. It's really great. I promise.

Kevin Rowland's 13th Time
The Waltz

Dexy's broke up (of course), and Kevin Rowland got weird (not in my opinion), put on women's clothing, and released a covers album, My Beauty. Personally, I would love to hear it, but as of now I'm having trouble finding it. The fact that they say it only sold 500 copies isn't helping that. But, today Kevin soldiers on, and apparently is brewing a new album for Dexy's. Too-rye-aye, indeed!!

P.S. The lyrics to come on eileen are really really dirty.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Smith vs. Corgan, Round I

People always say that when you're into a musician or band, you should go backwards and trace their influences. An alternate to that would be trace the web of collaborators, friends, etc.
But as for the former, it's been proven to me, more or less. I would have never heard Neu! if I never read a shit-ton of books about Bowie. So thanks, Bowie.

But really what I'm saying about the former is a revelation I'm having today. I'm listening to the Cure, and I've noticed that literally everything about the Smashing Pumpkins comes from this. You can hear everything Billy Corgan heard and said "Raaah! I'm going to totally steal this later on!" It's incredibly obvious in the Pumpkins' early work (Pre-Gish, I mean), but even after they seemingly assimilated their influences (or hid them under a sheen of Big Muff pedals), you can totally tell that Billy listened to The Cure everyday of his high school life.

Sure, he's said he loves The Cure a ton, but I've just never noticed how obvious it was before today.


Addendum: The real meat of this argument was that there's a Smashing Pumpkins song called She that has the lyrics "She is everything / Monday to Tuesday / Wednesday's another game / praying for Sunday." I always thought (before I got way into The Cure and had a vicious Wikipedia read) that this was an obvious ripoff of Friday I'm In Love, lyrically at least. I mean, the whole "day" thing, and the song was performed at a time when Billy was still trying to ape Robert Smith's voice (and failing).

But here's the wild thing: She was written years before Friday I'm In Love! I had no idea that Friday was an early nineties song. She was written in 1988! That's pretty crazy. It proves that Billy was such a big Cure fan, he went into the future to rip off his favorite band.

No hard feeling on She, though. It comes really close to being a catchy song, it's just held back by being performed by a band who hadn't found their feet yet.