Adventures of a University Finalist

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What A Muppet!

Beaker

The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Blinding Light
DB Cooper - Ram On
We Are Scientists - This Means War

3 weeks away! Who would have thought that it such a long period of torpor and blind negation would exist between this post and the epic that came before. Well, I'm sure that you're all used to it by now so I won't dwell.
It's good to be back in the arms of Adventures... again but sadly I cannot stay for this period has suddenly become very busy after a long barren spell of inactivity. However, I will briefly explain the treats that are on offer today. Joel Plaskett, the Canadian singer-songwriter, is a favourite of *sixeyes and I was lucky enough to chance upon his debut album in a Durham record store's bargain bin so I thought that I'd share the rather lovely 'Blinding Light' with you all. DB Cooper is high adrenalin power pop dredged from the Not Lame obsurities promo CD that I received in the mail this very morn. It's admittedly low quality (no doubt due to its origin on old vinyl) but iy's probably the best exponent of the genre that I've heard in some time. You should know who We Are Scientists are and if you don't then you have been taking your daily dose of YANP like you should be! 'This Means War' is the superior b-side on the UK single release of ' The Great Escape'.
DVD, don't fret, I have not forgotten my promise of five essays on your favourite artists. I just have to find an angle of approach to the group and after that it will be smooth sailing. Hopefully, I will return quicker than the last time but sadly my irratic nature is what currently masquerades for guile and charm nowadays. Toodle pip!

Visit - Not Lame Recordings
Visit - Joel Plaskett
Visit - We Are Scientists
Buy - The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Down the Khyber
Buy - We Are Scientists - With Love & Squalor

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Turned Down By Sammy Davis Jr For the Last Time

Webb

Jimmy Webb - Archive + Live (Reprise, 2005)

Jimmy Webb - Galveston
Jimmy Webb - Feet in the Sunshine
Jimmy Webb - If Ships Were Made to Sail
Jimmy Webb - My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama (Live)

How quickly we humans seek change in our soggy milque toast existences. Bored by the throbbing technicality of machines and buoyed by a new found glory in letter writing I have switched to handwriting my essays. Not only will this save my poor eyes from the disease of the cathode (inasmuch transcription takes far less time than the creative process of writing) but will enable me to write in a comfy lounge chair whilst Jimmy Webb's 'PF Sloan' envelops me in magnificent surround sound. The accordion is all that more discordant and the bass sunburnt into a lazy stupour so as to enhance the listening experience.
Well I guess that having unsubtley and unfairly ridiculed the man's 'MacArthur Park' in my last post, I had to put things right in my musical feng shui by praising his songwriting genius. I, along with many other people, was originally introduced to Webb's work through Glen Campbell's glorious treatment of summer heartbreak perennials such as 'Wichita Lineman', 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', 'Galveston' and 'Where's the Playground, Susie?' Without any sense of irony or embarrassment, I must declare that, due in no small part to Webb, Campbell's 'Capitol Years' retrospective would surely be my favourite of all time if didn't fall within that dreaded exclusory group of "Compilations". As a result, Rundgren's 'Something/Anything?' and Costello's 'This Year's Model' tag team it into submission with a few well placed rabbit punches to the kidneys and a flying elbow finisher from the top turnbuckle.
But I digress from the subject yet again. The album of Mr Webb's which is the focus of this post is the recent double CD release of 'Archive + Live', Webb's superb 1993 best-of coupled with a live recording of Webb's first concert in the UK at the Royal Albert Hall in '72. Both CDs are fantastic, not only due to Webb's being able to keep a firm grasp on his own material despite his legendary weak vocals, but also as a showcase for Webb's mainstay guitarist, Fred Tackett, who would eventually go on to become Lowell George's replacement in Little Feat. Webb himself brands Tackett's performance on the studio version of 'Galveston' as one of the finest moments in music; an opinion with which I am inclined to agree. Tackett manages to ride out the wailing storm of Zappa's 'My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama' with Stetson and handlebar moustache fully intact whilst Webb demonstrates his ability to cook up a Fats Domino white ivory jambalaya out on the bayou when he's not pleasantly plucking ballads from the sky.
It's always been a surprise to me that ebb never attempted a ludicrously ambitious concept album - perhaps on his favoured allusion of space travel (present of 'If Ships Were Made to Sail', 'The Moon's A Harsh Mistress', 'Where the Universes Are', 'Highwayman'). Note to Ben Elton: sod Rod Stewart and Queen. I want to see a West End "musical extravaganza" based on Jimmy Webb songs surrounding the adventures in space of Xang, the Alpha Centaurii electrician, before the next year is out! I, for one, would laugh and point when I saw the gaudy posters decorating the walls as I descended the Underground escalators.
At this juncture, I realise that I have yet to make a case for why, along with Diamond, Goffin & King, Newman, and Boyce & Hart, Webb is such a vital songwriter of the 60s and 70s. Well here goes: Webb is a romantic fantasist, the antithesis to solipsism, who is articulate on the subjects of both the unwelcome reality which he inhabits and the fantastic solution for which he strives, be it leaving an ungrateful lover, altering one's perception on child rearing, or departing the untamed earth for the green pastures of the nearest star. This often results in some wonderfully abstract lyrical tangents in regard to the analogous situations he concocts, with the most famous example being 'MacArthur Park's patently irregular equation of the end of an affair being the same as a cake left out in the rain. Even the simply enough named "Love Song" constructs the raw, sentimental image of love's ability to etch a vast indelible image in one's soul and "Highwayman" tracks a 19th century outlaw and his continued reincarnations before delivering the Jungian punchline that the traps of futurism will result in its replacement by the primal.
Webb's work output is contradictory in many senses - perfectly judged 2 minute ballads sit comfortably alongside overambitious 9 minute suites. West coast rock, soul, deep country, and Canuck simplicity all battle for his undivided attention resulting in his musical identity being afflicted by a benign schizophrenia. His lyrics can hinge on a single powerful image - a landscape occupied only by a continuous stretch of powerlines or Freud's prescription of cocaine for mental health problems - or several conflicting ideas such as 'PF Sloan's encompassing of the personal and political; the fictitious and the overbearing truth (something that could also be said of the anti-war 'Galveston' bridging the gap between the Civil War and Vietnam). The man can make you shimmy, sway, sag or swagger.
As an endnote, can anyone think of any other great paeans to feet other than Webb's 'Feet in the Sunshine' (pop par excellence featuring a Ms Joni Mitchell) or The Beach Boys' 'Take Good Care of Your Feet'. Suggestions of Family Guy's cruel Randy Newman pastiche 'Left Foot, Right Foot (The Apple Song)' will result in a good slapping. You've been warned. Actually speaking of warnings, it is my sad duty to state that the only lowpoint on this set is Webb's nervous attempt to reinvent the meter and phrasing of 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix' resulting in a damp squib.

Buy - Jimmy Webb - Archive + Live

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bed and Breakfast Men

Field

Field Music - If Only the Moon Were Up
Field Music - Breakfast Song
Field Music - Got To Write A Letter
Field Music - You're So Pretty...

I have no idea how to introduce this group so I'll throw facts at you until some of them stick. 1) There are 1, 2, 3 boys in the band, two of whom are siblings; 2) They're Mackems; 3) As a result of this geographical disturbance in the force, they're pretty chummy with Maximo Park and The Futureheads; 4) The group's favourite animal is a guinea pig; 5) Peter's favourite colour is mauve; 6) They enjoy spending their Sundays in E-Z loungers, sipping Special Brew and listening to 'Walk Away Renee' on repeat; 7) Andrew once playfully ruffled Danny Baker's hair and was then promptly knocked out by Danny's unfortunately pungent vindaloo breath; 8) Dave thinks that 'Sailor Moon' is "goddamn sexy"; 9) Their new single "If Only the Moon Were Up" is out on the 21st of this month and I can't wait!; 10) Field Music rock my self-centred universe. Disclaimer: some of these facts are fiction. Ooooooooh, it's paradox time!
So now that the history is out of the way, I'd like to point out that I'm so good to you guys that I've provided a fantastic B-side. 'Breakfast Song' from the band's debut 7" "Shorter Shorter". The rest can be found on the band's debut self-titled LP which should be purchased by all and sundry. It really is nothing short of a revelation. Oh god, how I wish that I had the ability to kick my synapses into gear and fully concentrate on the task in hand but it just doesn't seem to be happening today. The only word that swirls round my head to describe the band's sound is "Wire" but that only exists within my creative mind due to the omnipresent recommendation provided by Uncut in all of the band's advertising. What I do know is that such a comparison is a fallacy at heart existing only through the existence of clean shards of guitar noise functioning together in pursuit of the melody; the ridiculous in search of the sublime if you will. Wire pursued an aesthetic that was more abstract and willingly oblique than Field Music - their agenda was centred around rebirth whereas Field Music prefer to play by the current zeitgeist's rules. For now, anyway.
Of the selection that I have chosen, 'Breakfast Song' is a personal highlight - not due to it's relative obscurity but the distillation of a story of great emotional weight into a minute and a half pop song with no relative loss in its subject's narrative strength. The intro ripples with resrticted arpeggio movements on the acoustic guitar before the narrator pleads his unheard partner to come to bed following a row so that they can exchange their problems for fleeting dreams. The pay-off line of "I'll wait until the morning, get up early and make you breakfast" comes before the gentle wave of violin, piano and snapping snare. Everything pops and crackles like bacon spitting in fat next to wide eyed yolks. If I were to have to boil it down into a one line witticism I'd have to call it "Jimmy Webb's tears falling onto a English Breakfast with all the trimmings". The aforementioned single, 'If Only the Moon Were Up', is all bends through dusty country lanes wrapped up in a Jonathan Donahue ethos. There's even an attempt at Stax brass as played on toy trumpets and percussive horse hooves cracking floorboards. Despite this, it's so catchy and undeniably melodic that if God were Kenny Rogers then it should break the Top Forty. 'Gonna Write a Letter' boasts atypical handclapping rhythms that would cause The Meters to blush, accompanied by minor piano chords (to my limited theoretical knowledge), hammered on acoustic strumming, and falsetto harmonies that leave your throat sore from bellowing along. There's some impressive Here Comes the Warm Eno tape fiddling too that would leave Tiger Mountain lying on its back, legs akimbo, hollering "Take me now!" The album's closer, 'You're So Pretty', bouncing off a similar instrumental framework but with the addition of electric guitar carefully channeling Jeff Beck's jazz fusion years, words that should be in pop songs a lot more often such as "demeanour", and an erant pixie with a triangle who's not afraid to use it. It's so pretty I could listen to it all night... and I will.

Buy - Field Music - Field Music
Visit - Field Music