one faint deluded smile

Monday, June 28, 2004

Hey, List Maker

I can't believe that I made some mistakes in my top 100 list below. I've got an excel spreadsheet with all of my collection rated up the razoo and, still, I've included things which I really don't love and left things out that are plainly close to my heart. It just goes to show that I must re-visit my rating system at some stage, if nothing else.

Take, for example, Carla Bley. I truthfully admire Ms Bley for 'Escalator Over The Hill' but it's not something I listen to very much or enjoy very much when I do. Except for various bits and pieces. And having 'Tropic Appetites' in the list at all is a complete mystery.

Especially when I leave out Elliot Smith. My favourite singer songwriter of the 90s and one of my favourites of all time. But, inexplicably, I don't mention him. 'xo' is a definite top 50 and 'Either Or' would be up there too.

And... Sinatra! The best singer of all time. I don't own an actual single release of his but instead have a Capitol records 3cd comp which has all the great tracks. I should include that but, if not, then go for 'The Wee Small Hours' or 'Swinging Lovers'.

This could go on and on.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

My 70s Best Of

Pitchfork has just published it's best albums of the 70's. As with all these lists it's got some interesting selections, some annoying selections and some weird non-selections. I've got 64 of them, don't want to get 21 of the rest and am ambivalent about the others. I haven't had a close look at the write ups for each album but it'll probably have the usual mish-mash of succinct, insightfull critiques (dominique leone for the most part) and some over the top stuff to make you wonder why you bother (just like this blog, really).

In response, my list is below. There's probably some things I've left off and there's probably some things I've included just because they're worthy but the top 50 at least has all the albums I really care about from the era of my youth.

# - Artist - Title
01 - Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
02 - Can - Ege Bamyasi
03 - Pere Ubu - Modern Dance
04 - Faust - Faust
05 - NEU! - NEU!
06 - Slapp Happy - Casablanca Moon
07 - Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure
08 - Henry Cow - Unrest
09 - Drake, Nick - Five Leaves Left
10 - Eno, Brian - Here Come the Warm Jets
11 - Patti Smith - Horses
12 - Joni Mitchell - Blue
13 - Slapp Happy / Henry Cow - Desperate Straights
14 - Faust - Faust Tapes, The
15 - Fripp and Eno - (No Pussyfooting)
16 - Can - Tago Mago
17 - David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World
18 - Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson
19 - NEU! - NEU! 2
20 - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Clear Spot
21 - Nick Drake - Bryter Later
22 - This Heat - This Heat
23 - John Cale and Terry Riley - Church of Anthrax
24 - David Bowie - Hunky Dory
25 - Faust - Faust IV
26 - Glass, Philip - Music With Changing Parts
27 - Henry Cow - Legend
28 - Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady
29 - David Bowie - Low
30 - Joni Mitchell - The Hissing of Summer Lawns
31 - Roxy Music - Roxy Music
32 - Robert Wyatt - Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard
33 - Terry Riley - A Rainbow in Curved Air
34 - Stooges, The - Raw Power
35 - Television - Marquee Moon
36 - Lou Reed - Berlin
37 - Talking Heads - Fear Of Music
38 - The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
39 - The Art Bears - Hopes and Fears
40 - The B-52s - The B-52s
41 - NEU! - NEU! 75
42 - Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
43 - David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
44 - Greaves Blegvad Hermann - Kew. Rhone.
45 - Tony Conrad with Faust - Outside The Dream Syndicate
46 - Rolling Stones, The - Exile on Main Street
47 - Lou Reed - Transformer
48 - Wire - Pink Flag
49 - Family - It's Only A movie
50 - John Cale - Fear
51 - Can - Future Days
52 - Faust - So Far
53 - Captain Beefheart and the Magic band - Lick My Decals Off, Baby
54 - Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything?
55 - Richard and Linda Thompson - I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
56 - Slapp Happy - Sort Of
57 - The Specials - The Specials
58 - Harmonia - Deluxe
59 - David Bowie - Heroes
60 - The Fall - Dragnet
61 - Roxy Music - Stranded
62 - The Stooges - Funhouse
63 - The Slits - Cut
64 - The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers
65 - Stevie Wonder - Talking Book
66 - Steely Dan - Aja
67 - Carla Bley / Hanes - Escalator Over the Hill
68 - Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music from the Penguin Café
69 - Family - Bandstand
70 - King Crimson - Red
71 - X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents
72 - Nico - Desertshore
73 - John Martyn - Solid Air
74 - Can - Soon Over Babaluma
75 - Amon Duul II - Yeti
76 - Eno, Brian - Ambient 1 : Music For Airports
77 - Ramones - Ramones
78 - Cluster - Sowieso
79 - Kraftwerk - The Man Machine
80 - Fripp and Eno - Evening Star
81 - Dr John - In The Right Place
82 - Buzzcocks - Another Music in a Different Kitchen
83 - Cale, John - Paris 1919
84 - Buckley, Tim - Greetings From L.A.
85 - Eno, Brian - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
86 - Costello, Elvis - This Years Model
87 - Cale, John - Vintage Violence
88 - Czukay, Holger - Movies
89 - Can - Soundtracks
90 - Fall, The - Live At The Witch Trials
91 - Family - Fearless
92 - Frith, Fred - Guitar Solos
93 - Eno, Brian - Another Green World
94 - Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
95 - Young, Neil - On The Beach
96 - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)
97 - Henry Cow - In Praise of Learning
98 - Steely Dan - Countdown To Ecstacy
99 - Amon Duul II - Tanz Der Lemminge
100 - Bley, Carla - Tropic Appetites

Friday, June 25, 2004

Hooting Yard

Frank Key is the person who did this cover. It contains a flowchart or heirarchical table that relates to the music not one iota (the music is all instrumental). The text in the booklet relates to some arcane personage and his story and has pictures of birds. Once again, the music has nothing to do with this text. But that doesn't matter. His web site is likewise full of arcane or slightly weird blog style meanderings. All of them are lovely, witty and eminently readable. They bear no relation to real life or, at least, real life as I know it. Wonderfull.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Small Reversal

I've listened to the new album by the Kings of Convenience more than my initial impressions (below) would have led me to believe. That just goes to show that sometimes you just have to listen in the right environment. "Riot on an Empty Street" became crystal clear for me this morning as I rode through the 5am darkness on the commuter train, drifting in and out of a vague sleep.

There are at least 2 great songs. The last track is very sombre with a minimalist vocal line where a kind of bluesy note is always reached at the end of the phrase but with slightly different chords beneath it - very lovely. The 2nd track contains all that is wonderfull about early Everything But The Girl albums like "Eden" (Ie the continuation of the Brazilian influence) but without the slightly mawkish, "oh me oh my" attitude. Terrificly simple piano parts too - makes me think I could still make some good music if I tried hard enough.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Some More New Ones

Chuck Berry - Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller : Nice deep bass remastering job makes the listening more pleasant for these simple rock songs. Great easy, loping feel makes these the best of the 50s rock stuff for me.

Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (remastered) : I realy can't tell the difference between this and the original cd issue. It possibly sounds slightly better and, if I attend to the songs very carefully, I can hear some things I couldn't hear before. But the tape hiss is still there! A wasted opportunity.

Kings of Convenience - Riot on an Empty Street : Even quieter than their last one and, unfortunately, the songs aren't quite as strong. All those sub Simon and Garfunkle elements are getting tiresome too.

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense : The film was fantastic but this extended version loses the impact without the visuals. Too many styles all in one event and a weird positioning of tracks near the end. Dissapointing but sometimes still quite wonderfull.

The Who - Live at Leeds (Deluxe Edition) : After reading "Dear Boy" - the bio on Keith Moon I've tried to enjoy The Who more. And his whacky drumming style makes sense now, at least. I still can't stand their material from the late 60s onwards - Baba O'Reilly, Tommy, etc but this live show is eye-openeing if nothing else. The duller songs in their canon are all lifted immensely in this live format and their older RnB material still sounds great.

Belle and Sebastian - Your Cover's Blown (ep track) : One step up and one step back. The usage of a few musical sections and a slowed down bit near the end is far too reminiscent of "Step Into My Office, Baby" for comfort. But it does have some nice disco-ish moments to leaven the lack of a real hook. Still can't wait for the Sydney concert in July, though. I'm actually very excited about seeing them live.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Roxy Music

I had Monday off work and, amazingly, the highlight of my day was doing the ironing. Normally this mundane task is performed on a Sunday afternoon with the TV switched to the Rugby League, perforated by a few "c'mons" and "the ref needs glasses" and a bunch of beers. Being slightly drunk always helps ironing. But Sunday was full of friends and cooking and keeping warm so it had to take up some part of my day off.

I wanted some heart pumping accompaniement to a boring job. And so, ofcourse, I reached for the Glam.

This is truely the music of my youth, the music I remember with most vividness above all others, the music that always makes me more exciteable no matter how I'm feeling. It's the style that initially enticed me to love music and to go on and explore other artists. And it still makes me shiver, every so often.

I've made a very, very good compilation charting the whole scene (see below for the tracklist) that I often use to rev me up when I do the vacuuming (much to Annette's annoyance - only because I've played it so much) but, for some reason, I wanted to listen to something a bit less pop... more arty and experimental. So Roxy Music's 1st 2 albums were the only option, really.

I set up the horrid ironing board, cranked up the volume until I could hardly hear myself sing along and went at it. It was certainly a perfect adjunct to the flattening of creases and made the time fly. Most amazingly, the volume was so loud that I noticed things in the mix which I'd missed all these years: especially the various synth sounds whirling around in the back of the spectrum and at the edges of songs and Paul Thompson's fantastic drumming (at lower volumes the production holds it back a bit).

I know intellectually that these records are of their time. There is a pretentious quality in many of the songs that I know would make younger people cringe and Ferry's voice is still an acquired taste. But I still can't understand (in my heart of hearts) why their songs aren't listened to / talked about more.

I suppose their lack of current relevance has more to do with the filtering of influences more than anything else. There are lots of 50's and early 60's music references thoughout these 1st 2 albums and they are the only places where I feel particularly comfortable listening to them. I can't listen to actual 50's Doo Wop without becoming bored but I can listen to "Bitter's End" again and again. The band obviously love that kind of music (it's the music of their youth after all) but twist it vigorously to make it sound just enough off centre for me to love.

Do people still feel this way about music made just before their generation started? Is this the only way that people can get these influences? I don't know. Just let me listen to "Virginia Plain" just one more time.

A last small point:

Favourable comparisons can be made between Roxy Music and Radiohead. The sonic palette is very similar, they're both fronted by whiny piano playing fools and the guitars are heavily treated (in Roxy's day this had to be done by 2 people - Manzanera and Eno - whilst nowadays Greenwood can do it all himself).

The tracklist for The Best Ever GLAM CD

01. David Bowie - Suffragette City (03:23)
02. Roxy Music - Virginia Plain (02:56)
03. T-Rex - 20TH Century Boy (03:38)
04. Sweet - Blockbuster (03:10)
05. Gary Glitter - Rock 'n' Roll Part 2 (02:58)
06. Suzie Quatro - Devil Gate Drive (03:45)
07. Slade - Gudbuy T'Jane (03:30)
08. Mott The Hoople - All The Way From Memphis (03:18)
09. Lou Reed - Hangin' 'Round (03:28)
10. New York Dolls - Jet Boy (04:38)
11. Brian Eno - Needles in the Camel's Eye (03:04)
12. Cockney Rebel - Mr Soft (03:18)
13. Sparks - Amateur Hour (03:13)
14. 10cc - Rubber Bullets (04:45)
15. David Bowie - Hang Onto Yourself (02:34)
16. Roxy Music - Editions Of You (03:45)
17. Brian Eno - The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch (03:04)
18. Lou Reed - Vicious (02:53)
19. T-Rex - Jeepster (04:10)
20. Gary Glitter - Hello Hello I'm Back Again (03:18)
21. Sweet - Ballroom Blitze (03:59)
22. David Bowie - John, I'm Only Dancing (02:40)
23. Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (03:30)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Pentangle

Over the past 2 years I've heard most of the releases of the minor psych / folk bands and artists like Vashti Bunyan but they all left me feeling a bit dissappointed. The singing has always been lovely, following the traditional English style, but the backing and the songs themselves never piqued my interest at all. In comparison to the best of Fairport Convention they sound limp and fey (even if Fairport's psych elements are tame).

For most of my adult life, I've thought the same about The Pentangle. I think the name put me off for 25 years or so. It still brings to my mind songs about elves interupted with lots of nanny-hos and such. Luckily this has turned out to be a complete fabrication of my diseased and prejudiced teenage mind. A friend asked me to look out for their 1st 6 albums and what I've heard so far is very special indeed.

There are a lot of annoyingly straight interpretations of old folk tunes which make my back tighten up as I reach for a shotgun. (notice that I am still prejudiced - hippies, yuk!) But most of the time other elements are added that make the songs come alive in ways I've never heard before.

Take "Sally Go Round The Roses" from their 3rd album Basket of Light. It's driven beautifully by the bass playing of Danny Thompson. Is there one musician who has made a bigger impact on English folk music than this guy? His input to many albums has elevated them substantially (think of the best of Nick Drake for instance). On this song it's propulsively jazzy and bluesy and the others file right into the same line. It's nothing more than a 12 bar blues, really, but it sounds like so much more.

As long as there's more interesting stuff like this to hear 35 years after it was made then I can safely say my cd collection will spill into the millions by the time I die...

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Peter Corris continues to write spare, convoluted crime stories with Cliff Hardy as the main protagonist. He's possibly no better than a thousand other writers who utilise long standing characters but the particularly Australian feel of his novels always drags me in. And his writing is so concise and easy to read that the other Aussie latecomers to this genre rarely stand a chance in the comparisons.

This one is even more close to home as it deals with my immediate geographic area - the northern Illawarra coastline from Thirroul to Stanwell Park. I used to see Corris or his partner Jean Bedford walking around the local shops ages ago but then they dissappeared and I heard that they'd moved up to sunnier climes in Queensland. The bio in the new book says he's back down this way again but I've yet to see his lanky frame in the main street.

And this tale of the dark underbelly of Wollongong isn't likely to endear him to many of the locals anyway, I suppose. Luckily he's going to Norfolk Island in July for a writers festival (to keep out of the way of angered residents, maybe?). "The Coast Road" is filled with a mixture corrupt cops, bikie gangs, murders, prostitution, paedophilia, drug operations, a large pool of murky secrets and a laconic investigator at the heart of the matters. IE - it's standard P.I. fare but done with great economic style.

I'm unsure if it's one of his great books (how could I work out a complete opinion on something that flew by in a few hours reading) but it probably sits amongst his many, many good but flawed works. Maybe I'll see him on Lawrence Hargrave Drive and he'll let me know what he thinks...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

a raft of recent things

You think you're going to get something interesting and mostly it turns out otherwise...

Extradition - Hush A lost Australian psych-folk band from the early 70s or so the hype describes them. A few interestiong chord changes and crystal clear singing wrapping up lots of flute (still can't handle that sound) and mediocre tunes. Appropo of nothing... switching title for band name, Hush were an Oz pub rock version of glam whose guitarist used ot go to my high school. I saw them once at Rockdale Town Hall on a triple bill with The La De Das and someone else. Nope, that wasn't any better than this album.

Cocorosie - La Maison de Mon Reve 2 sisters singing in a lo-fi bluesy stylee. Not many tunes. Too much blues. The naivety seems forced.

Faust vs Dalek - Derbe Respect, Alder There was a time when any speck of Faust's output would make me salivate. They're still good in their own way but they don't have a single element of the old Faust style that I used to love and adore. This one is better than Ravvivando of a few years ago but still uncompelling for me.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose The harsher alt-c&w backing really suits her voice (still fantastic after all these years). Not one I'll play a lot of but there's still more than enough for me to chew on occassionaly.

The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow I knew I'd dislike this one. The tracks I'd heard from their 1st album did nothing for me and this one is just about the same. They remind me of a less melodic, less pop interested The Las which could be a good thing but really doesn't turn out that way at all.

Polly Paulusma - Scissors In my Pocket Very pleasant, if rather innocuous, singer songwriter material. Not one I'll turn off but it will bore me to tears after a while - like Shawn Colvin and her ilk have done in the past.

Arm - Open Reminder Glitchy electronics mixed with some live instruments. Similar in many ways to Supersilent. Must be something in the Scandinavian air. Needs more time to sink in but so far it holds medium interest only.

Basil Kirchin - Charcoal Sketches and States of Mind More weird mixing of orchestral works, electronics and free improv. Some sort of genius or so they'd have us believe. I've stuck with them all so far but it's only tangentially intruiging.

Nick Drake - Made To Love Magic Oh, read about it somewhere else. Still a lovely voice, etc.

Radiohead - Com Lag / I Might Be Wrong More detritus from an almost favourite band. When WILL I ever listen to this stuff.

Or any of this stuff for that matter. If I listen to it on the train I fall asleep. If I listen to it at home I turn it off. Gotta get some sort of grip...