July 2009 Music Log
In A Silent Way, Miles Davis (1969). While I've always appreciated Davis, he has not grabbed me like Coltrane. But this is one of his best albums for sure. This album evokes coffee shops, starry nights, and simply chilling out. The 2 tracks glide by so smoothly and it's the perfect background music for anything. If you like jazz fusion, especially with subtle guitar and keyboard flourishes, this is for you. 8.0.
Camembert Electrique, Gong (1970) Gong, Gong, glorious Gong. What a fun and wonderful listen! There are few bands more creative than this unit. I love how Allen incorporates nursery/children's melodies into his prog-rock. This band is just cool, no other way to put it, the hippest space rock ever (unless we're including Chrome). 7.0
I RECOMMEND WITH ALL MY MIGHT THE INCREDIBLY EXCELLENT Music To Eat by Hampton Grease Band from good old 1971. So far I have only three tunes, but this is everything you'd imagine from a convincing and successful fusion of Trout Mask Replica, Zappa, and jam band stylings. In fact, I could hear more than a little of Junta-era Phish in the lengthier stuff. Trey must have had this album or great minds think alike! "Hendon" begins with the singer, in perfect Beefheartian form, wildly reciting the warning label on a spray paint can. Get this now ... if you can cause it is damn obscure, purportedly the second worst selling album in Columbia's history, right behind a yoga album; well they placed it in the comedy section, what did they expect???). Scaruffi has a nice translated entry on them. Seriously if you love Beefheart and Phish as much as I do, you cannot go wrong with this celestial wonder. I want to also add that the guitarists are prog-rock -- actually make that Canterbury -- worthy, some of the best noodling of all times. This album has blown my mind wide open, a new flipping favorite all right. 8.5
New Day Rising, Husker Du (1985) This album grows on you for sure. Husker Du is one those bands that needs the TLC to blossom into the beautiful flower it is, and if my scrobbling history is any indication, I have given them my attention consistently. This a very good album but it's difficult to rate it more than 7.5-ish. It's one of the most interestingly inconsistent albums in rock history. On the one hand, we have a few of the VERY BEST ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME-- the steamrolling rocker with ferocious energy and a chorus to die for "Girl On Heaven Hill", the one lyric mantra/hardcore oath of the title track that seduces you into hearing loss, and the nearly best example of Du's seamless fusion of hardcore punk and 60's pop/rock in the touching and very human "I Apologize". Also Hart makes some great progress with the rousing and classic songwriting of "Books About UFOs" and the alternative rock precursor "Terms of Psychic Warfare" with its memorable bassline. But the one that hits me like a Mack Truck carrying a load of cemented bricks and anvils is the insanely emotional "Celebrated Summer" with an extended chorus outro that could go on forever, with Mould's torrential distortion and Hart's muscular and precise drumming. Other honorable picks are "Folk Lore" with its truly excellent line (one thing I know for sure/ heroes always die) and "I Don't Know What You're Talking About". But then does anybody listen to the last three songs on this thing (a fillerish drivel of uncanny pointlessness) and the other, more lackluster and sorta dated efforts (it is indeed 59 times the pain to listen to that song more than once or to contemplate the listless feel sorry for yourself folk of "Perfect Example")? To be honest, after this point in their career, Du just kinda got worse and worse. 7.5
Pink Flag, Wire (1977). Wire is one of those critic darlings of recent times that is a bit inexplicable to me. Their first album is filled with 22 experiments that more often than not fail, but at least they tried. To their credit, their punk rock is distinctive, but distinctive punk rock is still not quality music as almost a general rule. As an album, it's generally pleasant -- the flow from one 60-90 second song to the next is nice, a type of start-and-stop that helps mask the lack of depth in the songwriting. (It's not punk just b/c you make a short statement, there needs to be a point). Barely any song stands out. We just have this eager, nearly tongue-in-cheek, poseur idiot savantism. The biggest mark against them is their amateurness. Very few amateurs can succeed in the art of pretension. The highlights are "Ex Lion Tamer" (one helluva pop-punk song), the ending of the title track, the precursor to the group's true sound in the lethargic rhythm and ghostly sound effects of "Strange", and the catchy "Mannequin". 6.0
Moving Pictures, Rush (1981). I will always have a soft side for Rush, who were in my top 3 favorite bands for two years in high school. Their combination of hard rock and progressive rock was just what I needed: never as emotionally absent/overly cerebral as Yes or as goofy/cheesy/sissy as Genesis. Just what the name suggested ... a RUSH! And Neil Peart is clearly one of rock's treasures: his Ayn Rand-suckling/misguided (though undoubtedly self-serving) libertarian philosophies aside, his drumming is among the best of all time, as demonstrated by "YYZ" on this album. He is a disciplined version of Keith Moon (sacrificing spontaneousness but retaining dazzle and color). I still like listening to "Tom Sawyer" LOUD, and I still love that adrenaline story telling of "Red Barchetta". And "Limelight" will always be one of my favorite anthems with its inspirational lyrics. And "Vital Signs" beats the Police at their game (though, if anyone's interested, I would say Pere Ubu's "Humor Me" encompasses and surpasses EVERYTHING the Police did in their overrated career). Anyone catch that movie I Love You Man? If you're a Rush fan, you're in for a treat with that one, that's all I have to say. 7.0
Fire of Love, Gun Club (1981). I really really love this album. I surprised myself when Last.fm autoscrobbled how many times I've listened to this thing since picking it up a week ago. Jeffrey Lee Pierce has undeniable charisma and daemonic energies flowing through him. This is a seamless and symbiotic and even fertile fusion of punk rock and the good old days of rockabilly, country, and blues. What make it so good is its authenticity--there's not the slightest reason to suspect it was just a brainstorm, a cleverness, an inspired punk moment. No, Pierce seems to love the roots of rock n roll and expertly found a way of revisiting, reinventing, and reinvigorating those sources to fit the ethos of the 80's. Not only the 80's, mind you. This has an alternative rock feeling and energy that has remained timeless. The first five songs on this album are just brimming with the excitement and expectation of rock, a belief in its cathartic possibilities, its recurring gifts. "Sex Beat" is a formally perfect rock song with just the right elements, the suspenseful and unsettled guitar, the hair-raising impact of its succinct chorus, its captivating and dramatic and even philosphical lyrics. Pierce's vocal performance is sublime, in the vein of Jim Morrison's actor persona. The primal cries into the microphone convey both giddy joy and unrequitted sorrow, cascading down a cliff of self-destruction and false enlightenment. "For the Love of Ivy" is maybe my favorite, an emotional outpouring on par with the best music has to offer. This is a wonderful album. The remaining 6 songs have not hit me quite as hard yet, but I will give that time. If they do, I don't doubt this will reach masterpiece status. 8.75
The Only Fun in Town, Josef K (1979). I really like this group. It's just your everyday pop-oriented post-punk, but these guys do what they do really nicely. You can see how much groups like Franz Ferdinand owe groups like this a hearty handshake or bearhug. 6.0
San Francisco's Still Doomed, Crime (compilation, 2004). Meh. Average punk rock that may or may not be ahead of its time. One thing's for sure: Rocket from the Tombs were doing this and better before them. And I never really cared for "Hot Wire My Heart" anyway, so this one's a sorta pass. 5.0
Ptoof!, The Deviants (1967). Imagine if Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground had gotten along, listened to their Fugs albums, and cut a record together. Okay, and imagine they were British. It would sound a bit like this. "I'm Coming Home" is a story about going home to get with your girl. That's all. It kicks ass. The guitars explode with anticipation, a noisy and fuzzy racket that will immediately remind you of the anarchy of "Sister Ray" while the mock-ironic lyrics and delivery will have you thinking of the Mothers. Scaruffi correctly points out this guitar savagery predicts the Stooges. A complete change of pace with "Child of the Sky", an evocative 60's ballad (that makes you nostalgic and sad for that entire decade), it's really better than Simon & Garfunkel and I don't know why. Other juicy cuts are the biting satire of "Nothing Man", the unlikely anthem "Garbage" which parodies I Want Candy among its other targets, and the 9 minute epic "Deviation Street". Also really special is the almost Jefferson Airplane guitar reflection "Bun" with its spritely and mystical folk guitar. This album takes a while to really appreciate. My initial listen left me unimpressed, but as is the case with so many Scaruffi picks, I felt an insatiable desire to listen to it again. That I did a few times, and I'd say it's at least a 7.5.