Adventures of a University Finalist

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yer Blues

TFF

Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love (Phonogram, 1989)

Tears For Fears - Badman's Song
Tears For Fears - Sowing the Seeds of Love
Tears For Fears - Advice For the Young at Heart

In response to my previous demi-post on Top 100 Singles of All Time, I would have to say that quite a few Tears For Fears song would be in a Spartacus style gladiatorial fight to the death to appear in the Top Ten. However, I do believe that "Sowing the Seeds of Love" would ultimately triumph with a well aimed spear to "Head Over Heels"s left kidney after giving "Closest Thing to Heaven" a good ol' fashioned kick in the crotch. Have you listened to it lately? If not, like myself until a well timed VH1 special on the duo a week or so ago, then you should go back to it. It's a fascinating piece of work that epitomises the Tears For Fears boys as endless innovators nom atter how often people have the tendency to proclaim that awful curse of "Beatles Pastiche Ahoy!" More often than not music criticism descends into a petty game of "Name the Influence" rather than doing any leg work trying to get to the heart of the song on its own merits. To me, that's not only fucking lazy but harms the industry and if they're going to do it then why not trying to pick up the subtle hints to long forgotten classics rather than just writing "Beatles" in big bold letters before swanning off for another fag break with the other sallow faced goons with the coffee coloured fingertips.
So with that edition of "What Really Grinds My Gears" over and done with, I have to say that "Sowing..." is supported by some fabulous tunes on the 'The Seeds of Love' album with "Badman's Song", "Advice For the Young at Heart", and "Year of the Knife" all stone cold classics with "Badman's Song" being remarkably close to being the highlight of the album. It was certainly a troubled production with Smith and Orlazabal firing a string of producers, including Chris Hughes (who worked on 'Songs From the Big Chair') and the legendary tag team of Langer & Winstanley, in a search for a new vibrant and all encompassing big band sound that would include Oleta Adams, a gospel singer that the Tears boys discovered one night on their mammoth tour of the US. As Orlazabal himself says of the inclusion of Adams (and I'm paraphrasing wildly here), "Here she was playing a dingy bar and could reduce the entire audience to tears whilst we were selling out stadiums... and we were crap!" She's the second half of the MOR balladic duet that kicks off the album which I personally have no time for whatsoever, "Woman in Chains", and crops up on the other cuts too with a key contribution to "Badman's Song".
In this pursuit of a psychedelic pop perfection, Tears For Fears were certainly well intentioned as they did not want to become a band stuck in a groove; a self-pitying groove at that that seemed to want to blend nihilism with catchy synth pop melodies. An intoxicating concotion no doubt (the tape of 'Songs in the Big Chair' that I had in my car for my own listening pleasure broke due to sheer overplaying) but if taken to often will begin to leave a bad taste in the mouth. They themselves contend that this turn around was intrinsically a good idea yet the execution was "pretty terrible" but I would disagree with them on that. Admittedly, despite its eight songs, the album clocks in at almost 50 minutes meaning that some songs do overstay their welcome but overall the only one I have any significant problems with is "Woman in Chains" which just seems to have aged terribly. Unlike, "Sowing the Seeds..." which kicks off with that backward sample, churning organ chords and Roland doing his best impersonation of Lowell George belting out "Tripe Face Boogie" as he can before Curt comes in with those harmony vocals in the chorus that make my colon do a quick samba with my upper intestine. It's a British take on David Byrne's getting wasted behind a factory in "And She Was" and thus, is a lot more controlled drifting toward Syd Barrett and The Move rather than Talking Heads' art-funk. Those constant synth washes are slightly off putting and the horn break reminds me a little too much of the Sgt Pepper fiasco at Live 8 but these are overshadowed by the numerous touches of brilliance elsewhere. These include the Was Not Was style production at around 2:10 that sounds like the Frog Prince kissed the princess but reverted into a moog instead of a man; the bridge beginning from 2:30 with Curt's wordless harmonies accompanied by handclaps, violins, an opera singer (a touch of genius bordering on the inclusion of one on the Token's original version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), and that noise that just sounds like entropy; Roland's answer to Oleta's singing of the title where he hollers "Sowing love seeds!" is divine intervention in personam; Curt singing the second bridge (to be honest, this song's arrangement is so lovingly bizarre in its disparity that I don't even know whether its a verse, a bridge, or a breakdown) before Roland starts to overlap him answering with the first verse. Unbelievablely creative work that deserves a swift reappraisal.
"Advice For the Young at Heart" is a good supporting evidence for that with its 60s Havana Club marimba shimmy with green olives on the table, floral shirts on the back and cocktail umbrellas in the hair. Yet, I must urge you that if you only have space for one song on your belt buckling hard drives then I would have to say that you should plump up for "Badman's Song". You'll have heard "Sowing the Seeds..." plenty of times and "Advice..." does suffer a little from a case of the Michael McDonald blue eyed soul-givitis. "Badman's Song" begins with an improvising call and answer session between drums and piano before a shout of "1, 2, 3, 4" and then it all goes Wings with a squall of organ and strong bass line pushing toward a stadium sound. Before long it settle down to bass, drums and Roland before beginning to reascend toward the pre-chorus and the gospel harmonies led by Oleta who then takes the song by the collar swinging it into another direction as the arrangement becomes even more layered. There's Supremes style "ooh oohs", a solid guitar solo, at 5:20 it turns back to what started it off, a tough battle between piano and drums, and then a healthy prime rib cut of slide guitar provided by Robbie McIntosh, he of The Pretenders and McCartney's touring band. It's an exercise in musical multiple personality disorder with its mix of blues, gospel, and soul but that seems to be a fair assessment of albums produced by bands who want to escape their archetypal sound. They'll try anything and, as a result, it may be all over the place but that's what it makes it so fascinating.

Buy - Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love
Visit - Tears For Fears

Fugue State Aphasiacon (No I Don't Know What That Means Either)

SGR

John Allison, Sheffield's finest son (except maybe Jarvis Cocker a couple of steel workers fresh from the smokey ardour of the Working Man's Club) and creator of the finest web comics known to man, Bobbins and Scary Go Round, has compiled his personal list of The Top 100 Singles of All Time. I don't necessarily agree with the man but it's a bloody good effort. I mean he included 'Jordan the Comeback' era Prefab Sprout, Tanya Donnelly's finest hour, the commercial prostitute (well by their usual standards) era Sonic Youth's 'Sugar Kane', and TODD! The man is a legend! So go and check it out and comment him on his completion of this herculean task with both pep and sass. Touche!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Ipod Five No. 1

ipod

1. The Skatalites - James Bond Theme
2.
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

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cancer Stick Smokin', Chin Dimple Sportin' Monster of Pop

Falkner

Jason Falkner - Can You Still Feel? (Elektra, 1999)

Jason Falkner - Holiday
Jason Falkner - Eloquence
Jason Falkner - See You Again
Jason Falkner - My Lucky Day

This writer's block is such a horrid affliction! I've been staring at this screen for about an hour contemplating a strategem with which I can effectively get across how much I love Jason Falkner and especially this, his second solo album. I managed to sneakily obtain an advance mix of his unreleased album, "Eloquence" (don't get it confused with the song off 'Can You...') and it's been on repeat on my iPod for so long that I will willingly fork out muchos doubloons when it finally arrives on import.
Falkner is known for his chimera role in the music business, producing and co-writing the raw and affecting pop found on Brendan Benson's perfect debut album, sessioning on Beck's "breaking up over a qualuude cocktail" album ' Sea Change', and playing a key role in the seminal bands, Jellyfish and The Grays. So as you can guess from that brief analysis what these track sound like: experimental power pop with a polished production and hot tamale guitar playing. He's quite the multi-instrumentalist too which helps him from ever straying anywhere near the horrors of Matthew Sweet blandness with 'See You Again' an excellent example of this. Whereas, Sweet would have settled for a basic power trio production with keyboard embellishments on what is a slow bossa nova shimmy, Falkner goes for a more stripped down arrangement with multitracked acoustic guitars, an intermittent gong, bubbling synths and the always pleasant sound of a man singing with himself.
"My Lucky Day" is a mid tempo rocker which when deconstructed to a base measurement of chord structure could be rather hideous in the wrong hands eg me and my battered acoustic. Instead, it kicks off with a vocal sample, a repetetive keyboard workout that cuts across a fuzzy set of power chords. At this point, I should mention how treated Falkner's vocal often sound. It never detracts from the songs, however, because together they form a package of studio perfection fully evidenced by the song's bridge at around 2.10 minutes (it has handclaps and "la la laaas"!). Taken out of the context of the studio and 32 track mixing desks, Falkner may not contain anywhere near as much punch. But from the evidence proffered by the 4 track demos CD I own, I highly doubt that.
Apparently, Falkner is the critic's darling. It's high time that he became the public's darling as well so that he doesn't have to play the support act to flavour of the months like the Kaiser Chiefs on his home soil. Here's to a Badfinger revival at the start of this strange new century.

Visit - Jason Falkner
Buy - Jason Falkner - Can You Still Feel?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Rewrites for the Prodigal Son

Stills

Chris Stills - 100 Year Thing (Atlantic, 1998)


Chris Stills - Lucifer & Jane
Chris Stills - Voyeur
Chris Stills - Razor Blades
Chris Stills - God Won't Make You A Man

This post started like any other. First , I mentioned Chris Stills's dad, Stephen, member of 'Buffalo Springfield' and 'Crosby, Stills and Nash', provoker of the infamous 'Ray Charles is an ignorant, blind nigger' comment from Elvis Costello in THAT bar room brawl, and generally grumpy, cocaine snorting fiend. This proceeded into a comment that another rock legend's son, Ethan Johns, son of Glyn Johns (producer of Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Eric Clapton etc. etc.), who not only produces '100 Year Thing' but also plays 11 different instruments on it with his laying down the drum track on most. By the way, what the hell is an optigan? Apparently, Ethan plays it on "Razor Blades". If you spot the bugger and leave the answer in the comments then I'll give you a nice juicy lollipop or some other incentive. I've not quite decided yet.
Back to the structure, I was just about to begin my usual track by track review/breakdown/psychoanalysis when I realised that I've suddenly become entrenched in a creative rut with each post trying to break free from the cookie cutter structural restraints I place on them. So no more! I'm looking to branch outwards toward the loving arms of the unpredictable and the delights of the "absurdist simile". So I restarted the post and have thus far begun a post-modern breakdown of my own thoughts whilst writing this pantheon of blogdom.
I've started a never ending circle of constantly gazzumping myself in regards to post length with a post that doesn't result in my sitting at the computer for two hours or more is somehow not of sufficient quality. This has resulted in some rather horrific padding (Jim Belushi?) along with some stuff that I think is pretty astute if I dont mind saying so (the Brian Wilson consipracy theory). Hopefully, I'll be able to cut this down when necessary, for example when I have pretty much bugger all insight as to the artist but I really like the artist's work or when their lyrics make absolutely no sense to me and I don't want to just make completely random crap up. The "absurdist simile" is something that I must stop from becoming overexposed to a public that is not quite ready for its full power.
So finally to the Chris Stills' music. I like it a lot. Some of it sounds like Kyuss and most of it is highly accomplished folk rock. Listen to it and then buy the album for two pounds at Amazon. Now, that wasn't too hard was it?

Buy - Chris Stills - 100 Year Thing

Saturday, July 16, 2005

No More Bowling Shoes













Fountains of Wayne - Out of State Plates (Virgin, 2005)

Fountains of Wayne - Maureen
Fountains of Wayne - Kid Gloves
Fountains of Wayne - I'll Do the Driving
Fountains of Wayne - These Days
Fountains of Wayne - Baby I've Changed

Yes! It's finally arrived! Admittedly, the case is a bit knackered but it's here! As you can see I'm very, very, very excited about this b-sides and rarities collection even if most of the print media seem to be rather nonplussed. This is mainly due to my deep love for the Fountains... for several years now leading to my pursuit of these rare tracks either through ludicrous bidding sessions for singles on eBay and my constant failure of will to buy the Troubled Times EP because it was simply too expensive on import (I'm a wuss).
So my opinion? It's scattershot certainly but you have to understand that you're getting thirty songs for your money here. So I'll give you a breakdown: 2 humourous radio spots that are of completely no value, a jokey hidden track off a Christmas single ('Chanukah Under the Stars'), 5 covers (Jackson Browne, ELO, Britney, Aztec Camera, Bacharach/David... all of which are good or better), 2 new songs ('Maureen' and 'The Girl I Can't Forget', both of which are uptempo rockers that surpass most of the material on 'Welcome Interstate Managers' easily), 2 unreleased songs dragged from the vaults ('Half a Woman' is terrible to put no fine a point on it plodding along with this horrible faux circus instrumentation, whereas 'Small Favors' is an acoustic rocker that is definitely worth checking out especially due to its chopping Link Wray instrumental), and 19 b-sides. So, overall, I'd say that you're getting at least 20 power pop gems and I've already made a double CD Fountains... best of compilation for my lovely lady including eleven tracks off it.
As I said before, both 'Maureen' and 'The Girl I Can't Forget' are worth the price alone so that's led me to only uploading one and in doing so hopefully getting you to invest in the collection. This is mainly due to the fact that, as the boys themselves note in the liner notes, 'The Girl...' is a rewrite of an old live standard they did called 'Bowling Shoes' which I used to love and has now apparently been completely scrapped. Thus, it's a little hard to truly love 'The Girl...' so I've opted for the alternative. 'Maureen' is pure 70s power pop which nods it cap to Cheap Trick before throwing in the restraint getting down on its knees and kissing Rick Nielsen's feet. The playful synths, the driving power chords, and "Doug Fieger" vocal stutters accompanied by "uh uh uhs" (like an uptempo 'She's So Selfish' with that song's blatant chauvinism reversed). The lyrics are as wry and as sharp as usual revolving around a girl who is a little too frank about her sexual practices.
'Kid Gloves' and 'I'll Do the Driving' have been huge favourites of mine for years now and having them on celluloid is a dream come true. 'Ill Do the Driving' fully undertakes the overt sexual politics of The Knack this time lamenting a girl who is a little too out of touch for the narrator's liking with the immortal line of "We're out the jukebox plays "Jumpin' Jack Flash"/She says 'I love Johnny Cash, the man in red'. Brilliant writing that always omits a guilty laugh whenever I hear it. Of course, this narrative is accompanied by the usual brilliant arrangements that the band seem to pull out of nowhere for their slow numbers. You could call it 'All Kinds of Time Mach 1' with its propulsive drum beat high in the mix and ringing guitar lines dancing with themselves. Chris Collingwood's wife hates it. I wonder why...
'Baby I've Changed' bounces along merrily with its lolloping bass line, and soft and simple support from the drums as the snare is happily struck in an easy 4/4. This goes in hand in hand with the simplistic sentiment of the lyrics as Chris (I'm pretty sure he does all the singing) tries to win back his girls with promises that he'll listen to Sugar Ray before it descends into the ol' standard phrase repetition in the outro. To put it simply it sounds like an extended sitcom theme tune... the best sitcom theme tune I've ever heard but still. Bloody hell now that I've said that whenever I listen to that song I'll think of Jim Belushi doing slow-mo running in a horrid yellow polo shirt. Why? I don't know. My brain works that way.
On a side note, I haven't uploaded '...Baby One More Time' because I prefer the straight reading of Jackson Browne's 'These Days' which actually has decent lyrics whereas '...Baby One More Time's tune seems to have been stripped down a little too well by the band so that it verges on a rather bland novelty.

Visit - Fountains of Wayne
Buy - Fountains of Wayne - Out of State Plates

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Better Than Making Pizzas and Waitin' Round to Die

TimRogers

Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - What Rhymes with Cars and Girls? (rooArt, 1999)

Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Happy Anniversary
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Hi, We're the Support Band
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - I Left My Heart All Over the Place
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - Arse Kickin' Lady From the North West

I met Tim Rogers once when I was a lowly peon at Feeling Fruity, an Australian juice bar, and he asked for some horrible juice with celery, carrots and various other crap that noone ever drinks out of choice. Obviously his own hangover cure. At that time, I wasn't all that big a fan of his band You Am I, legends of Australian rock that they be, but I knew that my sister was a HUGE fan. Being a nervous little rabbit of a seventeen year old, I first ascertained that I was serving the legend himself before coming out with a genuine conversational pearl that even the likes of Coward and Wilde would mutter "Wish I'd thought of that one". And it was, drum roll please maestro, "My sister's going to go mad when I tell her about this." In answer to which Tim pushed back his sunglasses and then with a face so straight that it was a vacuum of emotion he simply said "You better not tell her then", picked up his juice and sauntered off. The man is cool as fuck.
And this CD is further evidence to that conclusion. To start, the name of the album clearly riffs off Bruce Springsteen and that ironic tribute to the Boss, "Cars and Girls", by Durham's greatest poet, Paddy McAloon. I mean look at that picture of the man himself. He's wearing tight denim jeans and a scarf that seems to be slowly ending its passage to the stage floor. He's got a silly 1800s bushwhacker beard and his shirt open one button too many so that we can see a veritable enchanted forest of chest hair. And how does he look? Great! And does he have any right to? No! It's severely unfair. But rather apt in the fact that the man can continue to release the same sweaty fireball country rock, Little Feat if Lowell George had fully embraced the enigma of feedback, and it always sounds fresh and invigorating.
'What Rhymes...' is a departure from the You Am I canon as it moves rather far down the country side of the spectrum toward Caitlin Cary strings, madolins, steel guitars and accordions. This is signified by "Arse Kickin' Lady From the North West", a real rip snorter of a title that seems an instant clue that as soon as the track hits your speakers all that's going to come out is noise. Instead, you get handclaps and a banjo solo. Hmmmm. Having said that I can reel off entire song off from memory because the lyrics are just so strong with Rogers still the best lyricist to have ever come out of the country. Yes, I think he's better than Marty Donald, Charles Jenkins and Stevie Wright combined. "She came on down from the north west of town/in a '63 Holden EJ/With potato from Kentucky/and a fresh pack of luckies/and a Bowie compilation tape". He creates such an evocative narrative without ever giving away too much like all the best storytellers.
Rogers on 'Hi, We're the Support Band' details the humourous trials and tribulations of You Am I touring where they were slightly less popular than in Oz with tongue firmly in cheek and guitar firmly in hand. It's quite the skiffle stomp 'cept with better instruments than your mother's old washboard. However, two points should be made at this point: (a) Rogers isn't the best vocalist but cruises through these deficiencies without noticing descending into scat, elongation of vowels, mispronunciation for the hell of it and yelling the hell out of the high notes (hear his pronunication of "retro" and "Rambo" with the Jackie Wilson r's on this song), and (b) on the surface this song, could seem the harmless jape and the filler to pad out the album before the rain hammering against the windscreenwipers of a finale in "The Songs They Played As I Drove Away". However, it slowly descends into this lyrical funk as the backbiting headliners begin to effect our hero, along with the homesickness, shitty dressing rooms, and dickhead soundmen before the final morbid retribution found within its final line.
'Happy Anniversary' must be heard if only for the wonderful Dylanesque wordplay of "I heard you thinkin' early morning as you rub your eyes/your pretty poker face as it's staring at my roulette mind." Rogers adds so much to the song's plaintive melancholy with his rock n' roll growl, the toll of the bells, the strum of the acoustic, and finally, the steady kick of the drum as it prowls around at the top of the mix.
Yet, the clear centrepiece of this album, around which everything else merely revolves, is 'I Left My Heart All Over The Place' a song forever engraved across my heart. I mentioned Dylan before in describing Roger's verbal style but that's unfair on Rogers who is neither as infuriatingly verbose nor as wifully abstract as Mr Zimmerman. Every couplet, every nuance is a perfectly chosen emotional punch in the stomach. In doing so, it escapes the idle masochism normally associated with country, the blues and recently "emo". Surely, that must be recognised as a musical gift to be treasured even in this; the era of the singer-songwriter. Rather than continuously spouting the words "love" or "soul", like a broken Barry White doll, he has created an album that investigates the themes that such words connotate but within a framework of suburban malaise, lonely hearts radio and listening to sad songs you normally hate just because you're in full break up tilt. To dub it as simply country rock/roots would be to undermine all its strengths. As Rogers' himself says, "I think real country music tends to have a bit of melodrama and melancholy. You know, suicide, death, bestiality, and I don't hear that [in the album]". Like I said, cool as fuck.

Visit - Tim Rogers at You Am I.net
Buy - Tim Rogers and the Twin Set - What Rhymes With Cars and Girls?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hooray! My First Junior Reporter Assignment!

Foxys

The Foxymorons

The Foxymorons - Hesitation Eyes
The Foxymorons - If I Had a Dartgun
The Foxymorons - The Duke of Gloucester

The Luxury Liners

The Luxury Liners - Restless
The Luxury Liners - It's You
The Luxury Liners - Think She's Coming Around

Dave Dewese, member of two of the bright sparks in the Nashville music scene, The Foxymorons and The Luxury Liners, has sent me the replies to my questions. Yes, I've actually done an interview! I'd like to thank Dave for his lovely and patient demeanour and also his musical partner in crime, Jerry, for reminding him about it. None of our exchange was changed by yours truly. Not even my longwinded questions. Or the typos. Sorry 'bout that.

ME: Did you know that Gloucester is actually pronounced phonetically as GLOSS-TER rather than GLOW-CHES-TER? Or is that all part of the song's charm? It gives it a delightful taste of naiviety that goes superbly with the song's simple drum machine clicks and tambourines. Also is that a xylophone in the song's chorus? I love it whatever it is.

DAVID: I found out the proper pronunciation a year or so later. Actually, I think Jerry's the person who told me after he visited Boston. I saw a street sign in Duncanville, Texas and I decided to write a song all about it. I think the instruments used on the song are all from my sister's Yamaha keyboard or some little hand chimes I "borrowed" from our church choir.

Both in your work for the Foxymorons and The Luxury Liners, you've developed a strange affinity with performing covers tackling Cher's Believe (which I've previously featured on Adventures... hope you don't mind about that), Xtina (though you forgot the chorus as you well know), Sonic Youth and the incomparable Dando. This will more than likely sound trite but which song was the most fun to restructure to suit your sound? My personal favourite is your cover of Centro-matic's 'If I Had a Dartgun'. I've never had a chance to sample the original but I can't think how you could have not done it justice.

Ah, thanks for featuring the Liner's Cher song. I think I do covers because I used to love collecting covers, acoustic songs, and bootlegs. I'm really excited about being in bands now and being able to put stuff out that someone might actually enjoy.

Right now I think my favorite cover interpretation is The Foxymorons version of Sonic Youth's "100%". Not sure why but I just really enjoy that one. We did a Will Johnson cover last year for Misra Records but I'm not sure what they are going to do with it.

Sorry about this but have to ask about your influences. The Lemonheads are an obvious influence on your work (to which you paid a debt with your straight cover of 'Hannah and Gabi') with 'Harvard Hands' sounding like a newly discovered outtake from the 'It's A Shame About Ray' that was undeservedly bumped in favour of 'Frank Mills'. Other people when talking about you tend to mention the Velvets and Big Star seeing you as direct descendents of those bands simpler efforts such as 'Some Kinda Love' and 'I'm in Love with a Girl'.
Sometimes when bands manage to tap into AM Radio power pop so easily that it becomes extremely hard to discover what music drives them. People tend to devolve into throwing would-be influence at the muntil something sticks. Do you even feel that you're influenced by the music that you listen to or do you rather simply enjoy it. By that I mean with bands such as De Novo Dahl, your fellow Nashville Poppers, do you merely respect songs like 'Memphis' or do you feel the urge to use those thumping toms and sparkling organ lines in a song on the next album?

Yeah, I'm pretty open about the fact that Evan Dando is my number one influence. I'm a late bloomer musically so that was the band that made the light go off for me..."Wow, I can do this!" The Lemonheads were the band I used as a blueprint when I was getting into writing and recording.

Actually, an acoustic cover song (Frying Pan) is how I discovered The Lemonheads so that reinforces my feelings about cover songs and acoustic songs.

The Lemonheads lead me to Gram Parsons and I also finally got into the Beatles around that time so that just about sums up my core style influences. It's all crammed into about a two year span. 1993-1995. I'm an early 90's grunge-era kid. Lemonheads, Gram Parsons, Sebadoh, Jayhawks, Nirvana, Beatles, Wilco, and Pavement are my foundation bands.

I'm really not inspired by Big Star even though I own their albums and appreciate them. I like the spooky version of Big Star more than the Power Pop version. I never listen to a new Luxury Liner or Foxymoron song and think, "Oh, that sounds like the bridge of a Big Star song." For whatever reason they are the band that defines the 70's power pop genre so I'm happy to be associated with Power Pop as a whole.

Living in Nashville the supposed heart of country music in America, do you ever feel that your music is influenced by country themes. I mean, Dando covered an old country death ballad 'Knoxville Girl' on ''Car Button Cloth' and sometimes the chiming guitars of the Liners do sound like early Wilco. Do you ever feel the urge to cover Dolly Parton or was the choice of Cher a direct aversion away from the queen of country to the dame of pop. Also, do you ever watch Altman's 'Nashville' for kicks?

I moved here in 1997 to start The Luxury Liners and we wanted to be "Texas Pop." Shortly after moving here we really got psycho about the Beatles though and the country twang left us. Then we got distortion pedals and the mersey beat even left. I'm pretty proud of that though. Constantly evolving an hopefully growing.

The Liners used to cover a lot of the Byrds "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" album so we've always done country stuff. We even did Gram Parson's "Luxury Liner" at several shows in 2004.

You know what, I haven't seen that movie. Shame on me.

What initially made you decide to continue your presence in both bands? I mean from your output with both I would never have said that you ever considered one as a sideproject. Due to the fact that The Foxymorons are only yourself and Jerry rather than the power trio setup of The Liners do you tend a little more toward lo-fi experimentation rather than simple song structures? From what I've heard of both bands, I felt that that was the case with The
Foxys the Olivia Tremor Control/Lennon to the Liners' Apples in Stereo/McCartney. If that makes any sense which I hope it does. I much prefer the Foxys to the Plastic Ono Band.

That's a great comparison and I'm really thankful I can be a part of two bands with those distinct influences. The Foxymorons were my first band but we didn't really do anything so it never felt like a "real" band. So I didn't really sweat it when I moved to Nashville to start The Luxury Liners. Once the Foxymorons start having long distance success it just sorta crept up on me. One day I just realized I was in two bands so I didn't really have to decide which one to pick. It was too late.

Your policy with release of mp3s is outstanding with the main page upon entering the Liners' site being filled with mp3s. I take it that you see mp3s as a positive medium for getting your music out to the public rather than infringing on your rights as an artist. On the same point, what do you think about the work of the music blogging community (be as horrible as you like I can take it)?

I love the mp3 bloggers. I wish we could get mentioned on more! I'm ALL FOR sharing *some* music on the web. We don't post our entire albums for free but we try to give away as much free stuff as possible. I'm constantly buying albums from bands that I've downloaded a song or two from and fell in love with.

Any set idea when the overdubs on the new Luxury Liners CD will be done? I need my fix of 'Fallen Star'!

Working on them again this month. Hope to have 'em done in a couple weeks. Then we'll hand them off to the mixing guy. He's already mixed six songs so we just need to turn in six more.

Do you really like doing interviews with amateurs?

I love interviews. Great job.

Buy - The Foxymorons - Hesitation Eyes
Visit - The Foxymorons
Visit - The Luxury Liners

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Misunderstood

Dennis

The Beach Boys - Carl and the Passions "So Tough" (Capitol, 2000)


The Beach Boys - He Come Down
The Beach Boys - Marcella
The Beach Boys - Cuddle Up
The Beach Boys - Here She Comes

I have returned. Hallelujah, praise the Lord known on this feeble planet as Simon, the Spoilt Victorian Brat himself who has been a huge help in getting me back on track despite the frequent setbacks of the week. The Last Night An Mp3... boys deserve a mention too for just being righteous sons of bitches. Thanks for all the feedback and altruism, it is greatly appreciated.
So how have I chosen to rise from my horrific hibernation? Why with one of the most maligned albums ejected from the bloated magnificence that are those aryan surfer chiles ('cept Mike Love, bald bastard that he be), the Beach Boys. Did you expect anything less? And remember I've had a week's worth of muse juices built up so this one will probably be long and messy like my best works.
In 1972, post-Van Dyke Parks and "Student Demonstration Time", the Beach Boys cut an 8 track album taking its name from a previous incarnation of the group (Carl Wilson, geddit?) and adding two new members in the South African pairing of bassist Blondie Chaplin (now camping it up with the Stones' live act) and drummer Ricky Fataar (now session musician who I will love forever not only for his Beach Boys work but also his work on Boz Scaggs' 'Some Change', a permanent not-so-guilty pleasure of mine), both members of the Brother Records group, The Flame. Now let's get this straight. I own a dozen Beach Boys albums - I've listened to about half of 'Pet Sounds' once whilst 'So Tough' has probably been rotating happily on various mediums well over a hundred times. I love it with all my heart as Dr Frankenstein loved his hideous creation. It may be flawed but it has such strong character raised from its collective parts of soft rhythms, nonsenical preachings of the Maharishi, a song based on the endless repetition of a single phrase, a song about a massuese, and Daryl "The Captain and Tennille" Dragon's orchestral arrangements that are so overwrought that they almost reach Wagnerian bombast and ecstasy. To call it a mixed bag is a gross understatement but, like 'Todd' which I covered a few weeks ago, you just have to give it a try.
If I could every single song would be put up for your download but that would defeat the point so before I go on I must plead that if you find anything at all meritous in any of the songs that I offer to you then go and buy the 'So Tough/Holland' twofer. It's a fiver at HMV and relatively cheap at any internet seller mainly because most people are morons and don't value the Fataar/Chaplin years preferring to fellate Brian. Carl was a superior vocalist to Brian and, along with Dennis, a better lyricist. They deserve their dues something which is duelly provided by all of the Beach Boys' superb post-'Pet Sounds' to 'Beach Boys in Concert' output. Brian coming back for '15 Big Ones' and '... Love You' destroyed the band but no one seems to realise this and will infuriate with their blinkered fan boy antics. As that king of provoker of the pub argument, Martin Strong and his "Great" Rock Discography puts it, "After [Brian's rejoining as a full member of the band], the Beach Boys abandoned even the slightest attempt to push their own musical boundaries. Instead relying upon tired retreads of their earlier sound". The Beach Boys were like that enigma Peter Sellers, they were a chameleon; an empty shell that eventually filled beyond its capacity that like a blocked toilet resulted in the everything and everyone getting covered in old shit.
That eventual collapse isn't present here though even in a minor form. It's contained sprawl is fascinating with the selected tracks showing the diversity of musical approaches involved; there's a Traffic/Doobie Brothers rocker penned by the new members Chaplin and Fataar, "Here She Comes", my favourite, at the moment); a heavily orchestrated Dennis song that is the cornerstone in his persona as the damaged romantic poet, "Cuddle Up"; the only Brian track that is the most blatantly commercial reverting back to the harmonies of old albeit far less pristine, "Marcella"; and the opening salvo that is so good that St Etienne even named an album after it despite its completely nonsensical title, "You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone". The rest is equally marvellous including the Mike Love mystical clap trap of "He Come Down" with its white frat boy gospel chorus fronted by the ever wonderful Carl and the unbelievable bridge with Carl's emotive wordless sighs leading into handclaps that die off only to be slowly resurrected through the cure of accapella. Actually, I've decided that "He Come Down" is truely brilliant so "Mess fo Help..." has been demoted. Sarah Cracknell will be crying into her Earl Grey tea tonight that's for sure (No I won't change the previous paragraph, it interrupts my stream of consciousness style).
One down, three to go. We come to 'Marcella', the supposed standout track which I in fact feel is one of the weaker efforts only due to the strength of its opposition. Interestingly, I recently read in a magazine letters page, possibly the Word with the Boss on the cover, that the particular reader believed that Robbie Robertson must have produced the album due to the Beach Boys' abandonment of their exceptional integrated harmonies toward a more segmented dirty form of doo wop that The Band found so compelling. It's an interesting point and illustrates how much of an ugly duckling this album represents to those who worship the perfect pop vision of Phil Spector and Brian. As I've said before on this blog, I like it a little more human than that with pop perfection a commodity that I grow easily tired of if acheived by conventional means. For example, Burt Bacarach doesn't make me go gooey at the knees normally but when he made that maverick and carrier of the torch of musical chameleon, Elvis Costello, his deputy for 'Painted of Memory' I lapped it up. It's like taking the Mona Lisa and spraying a big "Fuck You" on it. Exhilirating with its deep, filthy "bom boms" and the shaking of bells at the end that sound perversely like they should be on a Chirstmas single.
"Her She Comes" is very similar to the groove of later 60s R&B outfits like Traffic and the 70s AOR boogie of Little Feat and the Doobies. At once, highly listenable but also complex and inventive. The opening salvo almost mirrors 'John Barleycorn is Dead's "Glad" before calming down toward a simple rhythm embellished by Fataar's excellent playing with its clean jazz influences. For the first two minutes or so, it could be described as quite bland but then we get to the chatning of "Rolling down the road" and it just takes off like a bird to flight. The harmonies are crisp and deliciously to the point before a return to the intro motif and the unleashing of Carl's superb guitar work. Toto, I don't think we're in the territory of "Sweet Little Sixteen" knockoffs any more. The only thing that I find frustrating about it (excepting the admittedly aged lyrics) is that it seems to be really getting into a fantastic groove and just as it fades out you can here the rhythm section absolutely tearing the crap out the surrounding landscape but then it finishes. I mean this album is famous for being so short on material that it had to steal two songs from Dennis' touted solo effort with Daryl Dragon. Why not turn "Here She Comes" into the musical beast that it so clearly aches to be? Am I the only one who thinks this? Probably.
The Dennis tune "Cuddle Up", and it's companion piece "Make It Good", are rightly highlighted by Scott McCaughney in this release's superb liner notes (their assessment of 'Holland's "Only With You' as not lighting up enough weddings is so apt that it always enters my head whenever that song comes on) as severely overlooked. For a start, "Cuddle Up" is so frank and cutting in its measured choice of words that it borders on the perverse. "To wake to find/that we're still one", I mean think about it. Dennis doesn't have the pipes that the song deserves but rather gives it a performance from the Jimmy Webb school of vocals. Just put everything you have into it despite the flaws and give some evidence for these words of love; something that will never ever happen with many perfect vocalists like Michael Buble and which shows exactly why they sound so hollow in sentiment and subesequently so grating. One utterance of "Honey/Honey/I'm in love" by the man on this record is so powerful to me that I'm actually tearful and have to take a tissue break. It is the definitive album closer and although the improvisation outro to "Here She Comes" may have suffered for this song's inclusion I wouldn't swap it for all the tea, clothes, and Game Boys in China. Nor would I swap this album. I guess I'm just crazy like that.

PS The brilliant potrait of Dennis Wilson is by Paul Willoughby and can be found along with other thrilling work at the Soma Gallery website. Paul, if you somehow find this site, my apologies for not asking you but I just had to have it.

Buy - So Tough/Holland

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I've Been Wumbled!

FusionXhost are officially buggers. They've sent me an e-mail telling me that it is against their policy to store mp3s on their servers and booted me out. Would have been nice if they'd said so earlier but never mind. So I offer a plea from the top of the tallest mountain in the tallest province of the tallest country. Do any of you have advice as to a good server (I don't care if I have to pay for the wretched thing)? If not, then I'll have to go on enforced hiatus.
On another note, I've taken this sudden misfortune as a sign that my new name is unlucky as well as bloody stupid so am reverting to the nice Billy Joel MOR style alternative 'The Graduate' to coincide with the fact hat I graduated two days ago and got to meet the University's chancellor; Bill Bryson. Mwahahaha. Photographic evidence of this amazing event forthcoming as soon as I sort out the server. So let's see some suggestions.