Adventures of a University Finalist

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Ipod Five No. 1


1. The Skatalites - James Bond Theme
G Love and the Special Sauce - Love
3. The Secret Machines - Light's On
4. Joni Mitchell - Black Crow
5. Beck - Black Tambourine

Hello again! Sorry about going AWOL for a couple of days but I think that I needed a bit of time to freshen up as my writing was getting extremely static and frankly a bit too maudlin for my liking despite my best efforts. So to begin this period of revitilisation I thought that I would introduce a new feature that will appear intermittently dependent on whether I have rediscovered a new musical morsel to whet your collective appetites.
This feature as you can probably tell from the oh-so-clever title of this post is related to my new and sparkly 20 gig iPod, Maybellene (yes, I have named my iPod and am not ashamed of the fact). Lifting the exact same idea used in Mark Ellen and David Hepworth's UK music/pop culture periodical, Word, all I have done is put Maybellene on shuffle, jotted down the first five songs to appear and then uploaded them for your listening pleasure. Simple idea but effective despite the fact that I had to redo it two or three times driven by sheer embarassment and disbelief that I haven't had a quick iPod purge starting with the latest Eels' effort. My cheeks are indeed flushed red with shame.
And finally we reach the songs themselves and find that we have the greatest ska band ever, smooth hip hop with jazz inflections, heavy Texan "nouveau-prog", a track off a class songwriters first experimentation with jazz, and finally, Beck. As a result, it's a mix which is clearly musically proficient from the expansion of the James Bond's famous phrasing by the Skatalites into a seven minute lesson in brilliance to Jaco Pastorius's bass playing on 'Black Crow'. Listening to 'James Bond Theme', all I can focus on is underneath the horn and jazz guitar solos are how tight the drums are with the constant work on the high hat and the flat snap of the snare. This is helped a lot by how incredibly high the drums are in the mix as if they are being treated as a creative instrument in its own right rather than a simple tapper out of the rhythm. In the process, it never goes anywhere the gargantuan follies of 'Moby Dick' and 'The Mule' which makes it all the more exhilirating in its ability to get the hips a shakin'.
'Love' reflects that attitude of endeavouring to get the most out of the simplest of arrangements as it sits on a simple beat, a continouous vocal sample of "I'm yours!", a two bar acoustic guitar motif that repeats throughout the song's entireity and a Tom Joad harmonica ghosting in and out of it all. The tempo as a result is slowed down before the sonic onslaught of the Secret Machines. I have to say that although sometime I make comments to the contrary I'm a huge fan of the "power trio" setup as they often involve the wonderful baggage of a drummer pounding his drums, the bass taking on the dirty fuzz usually left to the rhythm guitarists and a front man who not only knows what to do with his guitar, or organ as The Secret Machines sometimes revert to, but can carry a live show. There are some exceptions to this rule with BRMC being notably crap live (yes, I've seen them and the strength of the songs still wasn't enough to carry them along). A couple of weeks ago, I was sat in the college TV room with several beers inside me and another in my hand whilst watching the Glastonbury coverage on her majesty's BBC and when 'The Secret Machines' coverage came on my jaw dropped as beer slowly began to drop from my stubby on to the floor. Long jams, imprenetable fog, a stupid number of effects pedals, lank black hair hanging over the eyes, thunderous toms, fuzzy bass and the requisite pressing of fingers down the fretboard as far as they can go. They had everything! By the way, don't touch their version of 'Astral Weeks' with a barge pole. It's unremmitingly awful.
I, for one, love the interim Joni period between her folk-pop highlight, 'Court and Spark', and the nadir where her inpregnatable pretensions in 'Don Juan's Reckless Daughter' got the better of her. "The Jungle Line", "In France They Kiss on Main Street", "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow", "Coyote" and "Amelia" are all firm favourites and that says a lot when one considers her expansive career. "Black Crow" contains the requisite strums of a bizarrely tuned acoustic and Ms Mitchell's unbelievable voice that not only reaches most of the high notes but often matches this purity with expert phrasing and dirty growls when she wants to. Mitchell can howl to the sky and so can the instrumentation with Pastorius's rumbling bass matched by sparse "Telstar" guitar that becomes denser as the song progresses toward its regrettable fate. It's actually an excellent counterpoint to the previous track as it delves even further into sonic experimentation with its overlaying guitar lines that ache to mirror the black crow taking to the flight in a blue sky.
At last, we come to Beck. Well, you should have heard this song on numerous blogs a couple of months ago and, if not, I'm sure that 'Guero' sits in your CD collection like the alabaster jewel that it is. 'Black Tambourine' is my favourite track off the album funnily enough, even more that the sunshine pop of 'Girl', mainly due to its "Hissing of Summer Lawns" tribal drums placed tangled up with a travelling funk band and a group of mariachis with a love for all things percussive. Scientologist sombreros for all! I've got mine on. Have you?

Buy - The Skatalites - Ball of Fire
Buy - G Love and the Special Sauce - Philadelphonic
Buy - The Secret Machines - Now Here is Nowhere
Buy - Joni Mitchell - Hejira
Buy - Beck - Guero