Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tim Buckley Series, #3: Tim Buckley- S/T (1966) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"You've got the untortured mind of a woman who has answered all the questions before."

Tim Buckley's eponymous debut has long been saddled with the title "Buckley's most conventional album," and while this may be true to some extent, it should be remembered that such a statement is usually made in reference to Buckley's uncompromising later work, which has a way of making almost anything compared to it sound conventional. In actuality, Tim Buckley, while clearly bearing the imprint of its time, is redolent with hints of the idiosyncratic brilliance that would make Buckley's later albums so distinctive. The album's back-story is the stuff of legend: Buckley, toiling away in an OC band called The Bohemians, takes a drive with some of his band-mates up the 405 to Hollywood to see The Mothers of Invention play. As it turns out, Buckley's bassist had briefly worked in a guitar store with Zappa's then-drummer, who decides to mention The Bohemians to Zappa's then-manager, Herb Cohen. Of course, Cohen recognizes Buckley's genius immediately but has no interest in the rest of the band; thus, Buckley is reborn as a solo artist. Cohen manages to land his new discovery a deal at Elektra, and the label's figurehead Jack Holzman takes a personal interest in the project, enlisting the legendary Paul Rothchild to man the production booth along with engineer Bruce Botnick (they would also helm The Doors' debut around the same time). Holzman spares no expense, bringing in well-known session players (such as Van Dyke Parks and Lee Underwood) and an arranger for strings (the inimitable Jack Nitzsche) to add further ornamentation to the sound. Reportedly recorded in a mere two days, Tim Buckley can best be described as an overly fussed-over, sometimes over-melodramatic, yet often masterful piece of baroque mid-sixties folk-pop. On the lead single, "Wings," Buckley's wonderfully expressive voice marries nicely with the almost-too-pretty arrangement, which is augmented by some gorgeous guitar chime from Lee Underwood. Buckley turns in a powerful performance; his voice often overpowering the syrupy string arrangement. While Buckley's nascent experimental tendencies are mostly kept at bay by Holzman and co., they do flicker into the foreground on "Song Slowly Song," a free-flowing, almost improvisational song that features one of Buckley's more unconventionally understated vocal performances. This is one of those albums that I've tended to overlook, but going back and listening again has reminded me what an impressive debut this was- and then I recall he was all of nineteen at the time!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Public Image Ltd.- "Rise" Video (1986)

Not off one of the better P.I.L. albums, but what a fucking great song, well, I could be wrong; I could be right

Paisley Underground Series, #11: Green on Red- Gravity Talks (1983) MP3 & FLAC

"I've crawled around caves and books; I've seen the blue parade."

With roots in the Tucson neo-psych scene of the late seventies and early eighties (the same milieu that produced Howie Gelb's Giant Sand), Green on Red left for the more fertile underground musical pastures of L.A., relocating there in 1981, and, so the story goes, playing an instrumental role in solidifying The Paisley Underground scene by holding weekly barbecues at their Hollywood apartment, which were regularly attended by members of bands such as The Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade. As Steve Wynn (of The Dream Syndicate) recalls, "Every Sunday, we’d get together for a barbecue, bring tons of alcohol and whatever drugs—lots of burgers and chicken—and we’d just sit around, play guitar, and talk. That’s how the friendships happened, not in nightclubs or recording studios." Gravity Talks, the band's first long player after releasing two EPs, features the early line-up before the arrival of guitarist Chuck Prophet and with him, a much more overtly country/roots-based sound. This is not to say that Gravity Talks is a straight up neo-psyche record because signs of Green on Red's roots music origins are everywhere, but Chris Cacavas' Manzarek-style contributions on electric organ lend the album its distinctive (and quite memorable) psychedelic character. Admittedly, Dan Stuart's whiney country-tinged vocals can be an acquired taste, but juxtaposed to the album's psychedelic overtones, they give the songs some Garage-Rock authenticity. Many of the songs on Gravity Talks meditate on death and the irretrievable loss of childhood. For example, on "Blue Parade," which features some lovely, haunting organ-work from Cacavas, Stuart, in one of his best vocal performances, sings about loss, ranging from a dead dog's unplanned exhumation to finding a parent dead in a bedroom. The title track, a catchy garage-rocker with an irresistible Doors-style electric organ hook, features Stuart at his snotty, Jagger-esque best. Green on Red's later more roots-oriented albums, such as Gas Food Lodging, are usually cited as their best work, but Gravity Talks, coming as it does midway between the band's overtly psychedelic and roots-rock phases, catches the band at their creative peak, and is a true classic of The Paisley Underground.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

J0y Divisi0n- CLos3r (1980) Collector's Edition (Bonus Disc) / Love Will Tear Us Apart EP (1995) MP3 & FLAC

"This is the crisis I knew had to come, destroying the balance I'd kept."

Given their status as the artistic summit of the Post-Punk era, it's hard to believe Joy Division only released two official studio albums during their existence. Whereas their first album, Unknown Pleasures, was nothing less than a paradigm shift in the sense that it left behind Punk's aggressive agit ethos for a darker, moodier, and more complex sound and, in the process, played a central role in the rise of Post-Punk, the band's follow up, Closer, has had a more complicated history, for while it has been rightly hailed as Joy Division's artistic masterpiece, the album also holds the distinction of having been released soon after Ian Curtis' suicide on the eve of the band's first U.S. tour. As a result, many view the album's lyrical content as something of a suicide note, a position that makes it nearly impossible to judge Closer solely on its own terms. Without a doubt, Closer is an emotionally dark and ravaged album, and Curtis' lyrics are often suggestive of the struggles he was going through, including a crumbling marriage and worsening epileptic seizures; however, Closer is also an artistic triumph for the band as a whole, managing to build on all the innovations of the first album while pushing the gloom and claustrophobia in even more starkly beautiful directions. The non-album single preceding the release of Closer, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," a song that has since been absorbed (though thankfully not yet co-opted) by the cultural mainstream, is a precursor to the pop-oriented direction the band would eventually take after reforming as New Order. Despite its pop-song trappings, lyrically, it is undoubtedly one of the bleakest love songs ever penned, and with Peter Hook's weeping bass-lines and Curtis' vocals, which sound as though they are emanating from the depths of a well, it is more than worthy of its iconic status. The album itself throws off all pop pretense on songs such as "Twenty-Four Hours," a devastatingly brilliant meditation on a soul descending into inconsolable darkness and " Heart and Soul," a slow-burner with a deceptively simple arrangement that finds Curtis stepping back from personal agony to take a wider (though no less dark) look at the human condition. Closer was destined to be Joy Division's swan-song, but listening to it some 30 years later, it is hard to imagine how they could have ever recorded a more perfect distillation of their unparalleled sound.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron- "I'm New Here" Video (2010) -R.I.P.-

Gil Scott-Heron died today. I'm feeling pretty much speechless right now

The Glove- Blue Sunshine (1983) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"The first idea flew thin and uninvited from the sky. I reached out my hands and held the knife of ice."

The process of recording and touring Pornography took a huge toll on The Cure, as bassist Simon Gallup quit the band and Robert Smith decided to step in as guitarist for Siouxsie and The Banshees (a job he had held briefly in 1979) after the brilliant John McGeoch was jettisoned due to severe alcohol abuse. During this time, Smith and fellow-Banshee Steve Severin hatched the idea to write and record a single as a one-off collaboration, but the project soon escalated into a full album. However, things took a surreal turn when it was revealed that Smith's recording contract with The Cure prevented him from singing on other releases, so in a pinch, Jeanette Landray, the girlfriend of Banshee drummer Budgie and a dancer on Top of the Pops with no singing experience, was recruited to provide most of the vocals. By most accounts, the sessions for Blue Sunshine were a hedonistic affair, but Smith and Severin somehow came up with an album's-worth of material. The sound of Blue Sunshine is a volatile cocktail of Goth, Psychedelia, and eccentric pop, and while Smith's distinctive vocals are certainly missed (although he does manage to sing on two tracks), Landray does a respectable job, though it's hard to overlook her similarity in tone to Siouxsie Sioux, a comparison in which Landray comes up considerably short. On "Like an Animal," one of Landray's best performances, Steve Severin's bass takes the lead to great effect, as cheesy keyboard washes and frenetic percussion keep the song from moving too far into darker territory. Where Blue Sunshine gets really interesting is on songs such as "Orgy" with its Middle-Eastern aesthetic and quirky twists and turns. It's all so vaguely Cure, but ultimately unlike anything else in Smith's considerable discography.

A Question for MP3 Downloaders


I plan to continue offering both lossy and lossless (FLAC) downloads on (La) luna, but recently I have been contemplating changing the lossy option from MP3 CBR 320 to MP3 VBR v0. The thinking behind this is that there is really no appreciable difference in sound quality and the v0 files are smaller.

So, I want to hear from those of you who DL the MP3 files I post: which one is your preference? Please state your preference in the comments of this post. I'll keep count and in a few days, whichever option has more votes will decide what type of MP3 files I post from then on. Thank you!


Paisley Underground Series, #10: Pink Floyd- The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) 40th Anniversary Box Set (3 Discs) MP3 & FLAC

"You only have to read the lines; they're scribbley black and everything shines."

While there had already been a burgeoning underground psychedelic music scene underway in the U.K. and elsewhere for at least a year (e.g. the Los Angeles and San Francisco scenes in the U.S.), the summer of 1967 was the point at which this psychotropic-inspired sound crossed into the mainstream with the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. While an endless amount of material has been written about the cultural and artistic impact of this album (I might even try to add to this if I ever decide to post some "Fab Four"), Pink Floyd's debut LP, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is arguably the most innovative, experimental and hallucinogenic masterpiece released that iconic summer. At this point in their development, Pink Floyd was essentially Syd Barrett's band, and while the the lyrics are often replete with images of childhood and fairytales (the album's title is borrowed from The Wind and the Willows), musically, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, while containing more than its share of  whimsy, is often quite dark thanks to Rick Wright's electric organ work, which would prove to be highly influential on later neo-psych movements such as The Paisley Underground. And this is the reason Pink Floyd's debut outshines many of its "summer of love" contemporaries; rather than offering straight forward pop tinged with psychedelic refraction or hippie anthems to acid utopias, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn explores both the intense euphoria and the terrifying chaos comprising a psychedelic experience. A perfect example of this brilliant duality is "Matilda Mother"; while Barrett sings from the perspective of a child oscillating between fantasy and fear, the music progressively grows creepy and unsettling. However, things are even darker on "Astronomy Domine," which contains some great acid guitar work and constitutes the aural equivalent of falling down a rabbit hole. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn manages to sound both time-bound and timeless, and in doing so, it stands as one of the most essential and influential albums of the psychedelic era.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Siouxsie and The Banshees- Juju (1981) MP3 & FLAC -For Ana-

"You hear laughter cracking through the walls, it sends you spinning, you have no choice."

If Kaleidoscope  is the album on which Siouxsie and The Banshees began to fashion their signature sound, then Juju is the album on which they perfected it. More or less abandoning the spare arrangements and use of keyboards that helped their previous album to, in effect, re-invent the band, on Juju, The Banshees return to a darker, guitar-based sound, but instead of the abrasive Punk aesthetic of their early work, Juju exhibits a dense, lush, Goth-based sound that, while eventually becoming their trademark, finds its purest expression on this album. Much of the credit for this goes to Ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch, who by this time had become a full-fledged member of the band, although Budgie deserves mention as well for his brilliant tribal-like drumming that gives the album its eerie undertow. One of the album's most memorable tracks is "Spellbound," which combines Budgie's aforementioned drumming with McGeoch's dark-lit jangle that sounds as though it might have taught Johnny Marr a thing or two; however, the centerpiece of the song is one of Siouxsie Sioux's most commanding vocal performances. Even darker is "Sin in My Heart," an unsettling, frantic song employing razor sharp guitars and featuring Siouxsie at her manic and theatrical best. Juju is a relentlessly dark album, which is why many refrain from calling it Siouxsie and The Banshees' masterpiece; however, one would hard-pressed to find a purer or more lushly beautiful example of this band's distinctive sound.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Low- "Over the Ocean" Video (1996)

 A gorgeous, narcoleptic lullaby from one of the great indie bands of the nineties...

Tim Buckley Series, #2: Tim Buckley- Live at the Folklore Center, NYC, March 6, 1967 (2009) MP3 & FLAC

"The singer cries for people's lies. He will sing for the day to bring him night."

Tim Buckley was one of those musicians whose artistic development from album to album was often dizzying, and while this is what made it possible for him to evolve from the (sometimes) derivative and overly fussed-over sound of his Elektra Debut to the uncompromisingly original Jazz-inflected Avant-Folk of albums such as Blue Afternoon and Starsailor in just four short years, the sheer speed of this trajectory has resulted in his early career being something of an afterthought. In light of the dearth of live recordings from this early period, Live at the Folklore Center, NYC, March 6, 1967 is nothing less than a revelation, as it catches Buckley during his early troubadour phase, gigging in NYC for the first time, and playing a full acoustic solo set. The Folklore Center was ground-zero for the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties, but by 1967, the scene had begun to wane. As a result, proprietor Izzy Young decided to put aside his folk-purist tendencies and invite a west coast act sight-unseen and sound-unheard: enter Tim Buckley. This was Buckley's east coast debut and much to his credit, Young decided to tape the entire show. While not as sonically dazzling as Dream Letter: Live in London, the sound is still excellent, with good detail and very little tape hiss. In terms of Buckley's performance, while he clearly hasn't yet harnessed the power of his amazing voice, which borders on the melodramatic in places, his singular 12-string guitar work and unique vocal phrasings are very much in evidence. While there are many essential moments on this recording, Buckley's faithful cover of Fred Neil's "Dolphins" is a breathtaking preview of the kind of languorous vocal peregrinations that would take center-stage on his late sixties recordings. Also making Live at the Folklore Center, NYC, March 6, 1967 an essential addition to the Buckley discography is the appearance of a number of songs that are exclusive to this recording, including "Cripples Cry," a gorgeous, jangly tale of love lost. This album provides an invaluable counterpoint to Buckley's studio debut, and proves once again that he was at his best in the more improvisational climate of a live setting.

Hey Blogger, You're Killing Me!

Dear Readers,

Presently Blogger is refusing to let me log-in via my Google account, which is why I have not posted anything since Monday. I found a way into the blog's posting area using Internet Explorer (which I hate; I'm a Firefox guy), but the set-up is entirely different and it is clearly not fully functional; I can't even answer comments right now. So, I just wanted to let you know that I'll resume with our next Tim Buckley post, some Siouxsie, and another Bark Psychosis double post as soon as Blogger gets it together and fixes this log-in shit. However, my friend the man in black has a special message for the boys and girls at Blogger:

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Birthday Party- Hee-Haw (1988) MP3 & FLAC -For Pieter-

"I put on my coat of trumpets. Will she be there? Is my piccolo on straight?"

Hee-Haw virtually defines the term "transitional," as it pairs the earliest releases by The Birthday Party with some of the final recordings Cave & co. made as The Boys Next Door. Five of these latter songs originally comprised The Boys Next Door's final release: the Hee-Haw EP, which, with its jagged rhythms and strangled melodies, has far more in common with the exceedingly dark aesthetic of The Birthday Party than with the band's earlier work on Door, Door. While The Birthday Party's initial recordings show a new-found abandon both in terms of instrumentation and Nick Cave's vocals, several songs such as "Happy Birthday" and "Waving My Arms" only occasionally wed this new approach to a memorable melody; however, there are some gems to be found on this compilation, such as "The Friend Catcher," which bear a much closer resemblance to the legendary trashcan Goth meets Appalachia sound that the band would perfect over the course of the next few years. In theory, this "odds and sods" collection shouldn't work as well as it does, but it provides an invaluable glance into the band's transformation after leaving Australia for greener commercial and artistic pastures in London.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kate Bush- "Breathing" Video (1980)

The genius that is Kate Bush. This is one of her strangest and one of my favorites.

Talk Talk Series, #8: Bark Psychosis- Hex (1994) / Independency (1994) MP3 & FLAC

 "Incision carved out, no traces of doubt, I can't extract the truth."

While Talk Talk drummer Lee Harris worked with Bark Psychosis on both their 2004 comeback LP, Codename: Dustsucker and their brilliant and innovative debut, Hex, the true nature of the connection between Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis was one of influence, namely the influence of Talk Talk's masterpiece and swan-song Laughing Stock on the conception of and approach to recording Hex. As such, Bark Psychosis was one of the first bands (and perhaps the best) to integrate Talk Talk's later experimental work into their own aesthetic. However, Hex manages to incorporate this influence (among others) by pushing it into new contexts, and in doing so, accomplishes a rare feat among albums: it gives birth to its own genre, what critic Simon Reynolds dubbed "Post-Rock." Perhaps the defining elements of this approach are a move away from traditional pop song structure and an emphasis on texture and space over repetition and resolution. Genres and catch phrases aside, Hex is simply a singular and timeless album that is ultimately indefinable because it never coalesces into something solid or stable. A highlight among highlights is "A Street Scene"; with its seemingly looped bass part, moody guitar, horns and hushed vocals, the song, at first glance, seems to progress according to some kind of recognizable structure, but the melody is always slightly out of focus and the song ultimately refuses the confines of pop song convention. Moving even further outside the pretense of song structure is "Fingerspit," which simultaneously manages to touch on experimental Jazz and Noise-Rock. While it is a difficult track, it is also beautifully lush and intricate. Hex is something of an enigma: too experimental to be considered a pop album, but too melodic and song-oriented to be considered Ambient. Whatever it is, Bark Psychosis' debut is truly one of the essential albums of the nineties.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Menomena- Mines (2010) MP3 & FLAC

"I made myself an open book; I made myself a sitting duck."

There is a deceptive complexity at the heart of Menomena's sound; buried beneath all the intricate layers, random loops and deconstructive tendencies are some really fine pop songs. This conventional side of Menomena, something they expended much effort in obscuring on I Am the Fun Blame Monster! and slightly less so on Friend and Foe, steps a little more boldly into the limelight on Mines. This is not to say that Mines doesn't contain its share of moments when form threatens to overwhelm content, where refraction crosses over into distraction, but overall, this is a wonderfully melodic and sumptuously recorded album; in fact, Mines is one of those albums that your ears feel they can wander about in, such is the level of sonic detail and sense of spaciousness. For example, on "Dirty Cartoons," an off-kilter tale of romantic disaffection, the arrangement slowly builds from isolated acoustic strums to tinkling piano arpeggios to the ominous undertow of the bass, which is pushed to distortion through some kind of fuzz effect. The song has an insistently repetitive structure that lends it both a haunting and world-weary feel. Another standout track is "Queen Black Acid," which establishes a gentle down-tempo groove that is occasionally punctuated by a gorgeous harmonized chorus. While not Menomena's most experimental effort, Mines is arguably their most fully-formed in terms of composition and is positively full of smart, evocative lyrics.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Menomena- "Wet and Rusting" Video (2007)

Great indie band too few have heard:

Paisley Underground Series, #9: Thin White Rope- Sack Full of Silver (1990) MP3 & FLAC

"There comes a time when everyone's plans fall like a dog from a truckbed grandstand."

While The Paisley Underground is most often described as an off-shoot of the burgeoning L.A.-based underground music scene of the 1980s, in reality, it included bands hailing from both coasts and many stops in between who were involved in their own local iterations of Psychedelic revivalism. For example, Thin White Rope emerged out of a thriving neo-psych scene in Davis, California, and quickly became fixtures in the various L.A.-area clubs that catered to the Paisley bands. While their earlier albums such as Exploring the Axis and Moonhead offered a distinctive brand of dark Psychedelia mixed with a bit of intense Post-Punk spike, on Sack Full of Silver, Thin White Rope began to foreground the Americana-based elements that had always been lurking in the back alleys of their sound. For those unfamiliar with the work of this band, the first thing that is likely to stand out is Guy Kyser's distinctive vocals, which sound something like Tom Waits paying tribute to Roger McGuinn. Sack Full of Silver is full of under-appreciated gems, such as "Hidden Lands," one of the most majestic songs Thin White Rope ever recorded; it sounds as if it could be a long lost masterpiece of Gene Clark and features some great guitar-work and percussion. Perhaps the album's highlight is the off-kilter psyche-countrification of Can's "Yoo Doo Right." By reducing the original's twenty minute length to an intense and wild six minutes, Thin White Rope completely reinvents the song, and in doing so, turns in an absolutely brilliant performance. While Sack Full of Silver is often overshadowed by their earlier, more explicitly neo-psyche work, the album is easily one of the best attempts at integrating roots-rock and Psychedelia to emanate from the Paisley scene.

Siouxsie and The Banshees- "Spellbound" Video (1981)

Siouxsie and the boys at their absolute peak. Just fucking brilliant...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alex Chilton- 1970 (1996) MP3 & FLAC

"Travel the brand new highway. Doin' things finally my way."

Alex Chilton's early taste of commercial success during his stint as the voice of late-sixties A.M. radio favorites The Box Tops also exposed him to the more exploitative side of the music business, which, in many ways, was the catalyst for the unconventional career path he would wander down for the remainder of his life. After quitting The Box Tops in 1969 in order to gain more artistic control of his work, Chilton returned home to Memphis where he participated in a few recording sessions at Ardent Studios, ostensibly to put together a solo album. The fruit of these sessions was not deemed worthy of release; as a result, Chilton fled to New York City in an abortive attempt to make a name for himself as a troubadour before returning to Memphis and forming Big Star with Chris Bell. These unreleased Ardent solo sessions are gathered on 1970, and though not nearly as essential as Chilton's work with Big Star, the album does offer an interesting glimpse into his post-Box Tops artistic evolution. Many have suggested that Chilton's particular genius was at its best when working with collaborators who often functioned as a form of quality control for Chilton; thus, his solo ventures are notoriously uneven in terms of quality from song-to-song, and the sessions comprising 1970 are no exception. However, the album is not without a number of gems. Chief among these are the poppier tunes, which anticipate Chilton's work with Big Star. For example, "The EMI Song (Smile for Me)" is a beautifully recorded song with Chilton eschewing the gruff vocal style of his Box Top days for a softer, more introspective vocal performance, while featuring some of the distinctive characteristics that would come to define Big Star's trademark sound. On "The Happy Song," a countrified re-imagining of a Box Tops song, Chilton does his best Roger McGuinn imitation, while the studio band seems to channel The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the results are nothing short of lovely. While 1970 contains its share of unfocused throwaways (what Chilton solo album doesn't?), it also documents the early stages of Chilton's transformation from teen idol to artistic iconoclast.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking for a Few Good Followers

Dear Readers,

Today marks (La) luna's five-month birthday, and I want to thank everyone for your continuing interest and participation in the blog. I also want to take the opportunity at this five-month mark to ask those who visit the blog anonymously (the lurkers) to please click the "follow" button located in the right-hand sidebar near the top of the page. It might seem unimportant, but followers mean a lot to bloggers. They are one of the few indicators of how well we're doing, how well we're connecting with readers. I'd also like to encourage more of you to leave comments on the individual blog posts. I greatly appreciate the comments that are left and because of this, I answer each one. I've written this before but it bears repeating: the readers are a big reason (La) luna has evolved into such a wonderful blog, and I would love to hear from more of you out there in cyberspace, so please hit that "follow" button!. Thank you

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #8: Op@l- H@ppy Nightmare B@by (1987) MP3 & FLAC

"Jigsaw Jenny, motor city, she's a vampire, so am I."

It has never been made entirely clear what led to David Roback's exit from Rain Parade after their brilliant debut LP, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. The "official" story is that he left to work on Rainy Day, a Paisley Underground-related musical collective that included, among others, Michael Quercio from The Three O'Clock, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, and Kendra Smith, bassist for The Dream Syndicate. Rainy Day only produced one album, and Roback and Smith ended up pairing off not only into a new romance, but also into a new band, Clay Allison. After releasing one single, the band changed their name to Opal, and released a pair of EPs, which were later collected together on Early Recordings. In the context of the neo-psych music scene from which it emerged, Opal's lone LP, Happy Nightmare Baby sounds somewhat unique in the sense that it largely dispenses with the Jangle that defined many Paisley bands at the time, instead choosing to explore the darker side of psychedelia while integrating some subtle Glam-Rock undertones as well. A perfect example of this is the extended psych-jam "Magick Power," which features some great Ray Manzarek-style electric organ, Roback's grungy guitar riffs fed through a wah-pedal, and Kendra Smith's beautifully detached vocals sounding, at times, almost corpse-like. On "Rocket Machine," Roback channels his inner Marc Bolan by structuring the song around a sexy, sleazy riff that seems to pull Smith's vocals along on its back. A psych-gem of a different color is "She's a Diamond," which, of all the songs on Happy Nightmare Baby, is the most reminiscent of the more acoustic blues-based sound of the earlier EPs, and as a result, it provides Smith with a little more space to reveal her unique vocal style. Opal's short but brilliant career tends to get overshadowed by what preceded it and what came after its demise, but their music is among the darkest and most enduring to have emanated from the Paisley Underground scene.

Cat's Eyes- S/T (2011) Rough Trade Limited Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"Don't go looking where you shouldn't look, 'cause you won't like what you find."

Who could have predicted that the all-too-brief late-sixties pairing of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood would continue, more than 40 years later, to exert the influence that it does?  Essentially, it's a simple aesthetic built around a contrast of sexual opposites: a world-weary and/or wrecked male vocal married to a coy, girlish, Lolita-esque female vocal, which is more or less a variation on the old "beauty and the beast" theme. The best of the various contemporary (re)incarnations of this sound is the ongoing collaboration between Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. However, while Lanegan and Campbell play this sound pretty much straight up, Cat's Eyes, a collaboration between Faris Badwan of The Horrors and Canadian opera soprano Rachel Zeffira, use it as a point of departure, crafting a sound that is both convincingly retro but absolutely contemporary in its manipulations of texture and space. What is most striking about Cat's Eyes' eponymous debut is its ability to import sixties-era Motown and mainstream pop influences into a darker, gauzy, Goth-tinged context. For example, the opening title track fades in with a thin claustrophobic electronic-based drone before erupting into what sounds like The Birthday Party doing a mid-sixties Nuggets revival, but what really elevates things are Zeffira's vocal contributions, which lend the song some eye-winking humor while remaining creepily distant. "Not a Friend," possibly the album's best track, is a gorgeous fifties pop knockoff that features Zeffira taking the role of chanteuse but the lyrics render the sugar-coated setting both ironic and paranoiac. While not the first indie artists of late to mine these influences, Cat's Eyes manage to recontextualize and occasionally transform their Nancy & Lee fetish, and in the process make it all sound exceedingly dark and new.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Horrors- "Mirror's Image" Video (2009)

From side project (Cat's Eyes) to main gig (The Horrors): Goth is definitely on an upswing

Tim Buckley Series, #1: Tim Buckley- Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 (1990) MP3 & FLAC -For thestarry-

"If you tell me a lie, I'll cry for you, or tell me of sin and I'll laugh."

At the risk of sounding as if I'm lapsing into hyperbole, I will simply put it out there: Tim Buckley's Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 just might be the greatest live album released during the past 40 years. In addition to comprising a complete concert from one of Buckley's most creatively fertile periods, the album is arguably the best thing ever released with Buckley's name on it, as it catches him in top form in a live improvisatory setting, which always suited his uncontainable voice far better than the confines of the studio. Not only this, but the album was impeccably recorded, giving the listener a great sense of the depth and space of the original venue (Queen Elizabeth Hall in London). Most important is the music itself, which features some great players in support of Buckley and his Guild 12-string, including guitarist Lee Underwood, David Friedman on vibes, and the inimitable Danny Thompson (Pentangle) on double-bass. This was supposedly Buckley's first live performance in England and finds him a few months away from releasing his artistic breakthrough Happy/Sad. While the set-list tends to focus on his upcoming album and even more so on his previous album Goodbye and Hello, another calling card for Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 (as if it needed one) is the fact that it contains no less than five tracks that were never to appear on any of Buckley's studio albums. One of these tracks, "Troubadour," is a gorgeous minor-key Elizabethan ballad, featuring some great counterpoint contributions from Lee Underwood. The album also features Buckley's best rendition of the Fred Neil masterpiece, "Dolphins,"  in which he breathtakingly draws out his vocal phrasings, lending the song a languorous beauty that suits it well. This album, in my humble opinion, is Buckley's finest moment on tape, and 21 years after first hearing it, it still continues to amaze and delight me in ways few other recordings can.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Antlers- Burst Apart (2011) MP3 & FLAC

"Pulled together but about to burst apart."

I'll be honest, after Hospice, an unrelentingly bleak yet achingly gorgeous exploration of the impact of death on the living, I had no idea what to expect from The Antlers on their follow-up, Burst Apart. While the conceptual ambitions of the previous album certainly paid off in the form of a creative breakthrough, they clearly decided to traverse a different path on Burst Apart, which was a wise move as the album has a more expansive, wide-ranging feel than its predecessor. Yes, Pete Silberman still wends his expressive voice through the darkest corners of emotional turmoil and its aftermath, but in doing so this time around, The Antlers let a few momentary flickers of light shine through. Burst Apart, true to its name, is a collection of smaller statements rather than a group of songs all bending to the arc of a single narrative; however, when listening to the album the first time through, it is striking how big these songs sound, and even more impressive is the fact that they pack a similar emotional punch to Hospice without the tether of a single conceptual setting. On the album's opener, "I Don't Want Love," Silberman effortlessly leaps back and forth between a Jeff Buckley croon and a Jonsi-esque falsetto, while the band moves between Post-Rock crescendo and dreamy abstraction. Perhaps the most surprising track is "Putting the Dog to Sleep," which features one of Silberman's least restrained vocal performances married to one of his best lyrics; however, what really makes the song distinctive is its torch-song pathos and unsettling atmospherics. With Burst Apart, The Antlers have managed to retain the emotional impact that made Hospice so memorable and have me highly anticipating what comes next.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Siouxsie and The Banshees- Kaleidoscope (1980) MP3 & FLAC

"Every new problem brings a stranger inside, helplessly forcing one more new disguise."

Siouxsie and The Banshees' debut, Scream, stands as one of the truly essential recordings of the original British Punk scene, but their follow-up, Join Hands, with its unrelenting bleakness, noticeable lack of musical focus, and muddy production, nearly put an end to one of the greatest bands of the Post-Punk era before they had a chance to create their most distinctive work. On the heels of a personnel shake-up that brought a significant influx of talent into the band including a new drummer, Budgie, who had formerly played with The Slits and ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch, Siouxsie & co. returned to the studio and proceeded to record, with the help of some fine production work by Nigel Gray, their first indisputably great album, Kaleidoscope. While undoubtedly a transitional record, Kaleidoscope is arguably the band's finest moment, as it manages to retain the unmitigated darkness of the previous albums while pushing the band's sound in a much more experimental and atmospheric direction. A perfect example of this is "Tenant," which features, among other things, acoustic guitar and electric sitar. Instead of abrasiveness, the song demonstrates a lighter, more subtle touch; however Siouxsie Sioux's much-improved vocals lend the song its strange sense of dread. While "Christine," the single, hearkens back to Scream in certain respects, the enhanced sonic palette and stark beauty of the song allow it to transcend anything the band had previously released. Kaleidoscope was not only a huge creative leap forward for the band, but, true to its name, it is one of the most hypnotically beautiful albums of the original Post-Punk era.

Cat's Eyes- "Face in the Crowd" Video (2011)

One of the more interesting versions of worship hour at the church of Nancy & Lee:

COICA Rears It's Ugly Head Again Under a New Guise

You might remember hearing about COICA, a piece of legislation called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Act that was authored by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) & Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Fortunately, the bill was defeated last fall; however, a new legislative session is upon us and these tenacious corporate sycophants have decided to re-introduce the bill under an ominously misleading (and ironic) new name: the Protect IP Act. This new piece of legislation would effectively institute a broad range of censorship capabilities that makes China's draconian measures look tame. I quote from Demand Progress:

"Senators Leahy and Hatch pretended to weigh free speech concerns as they revised the bill [COICA]. Instead, the new legislation would institute a China-like censorship regime in the United States, whereby the Department of Justice could force search engines, browsers and service providers [meaning IPs] to block users' access to websites, and scrub the American internet of any trace of their existence. Furthermore, it wouldn't just be the Attorney General who could add sites to the blacklist, but the new bill would allow any copyright holder to get sites blacklisted."

I know many of us cling to a belief that if such a bill were to be passed and signed into law, we'd simply find ways to work around or subvert it, but it's time to wake up and realize there is a battle on the horizon between public interests (meaning you & me) and the interests of the corporate elite and their elected lapdogs who do their bidding in Congress over control of what we call the internet. This particular bill relates to the U.S. only, but this is a growing concern worldwide; in fact, many of you might already be experiencing government-sanctioned internet censorship.

If you happen to be in the U.S., I implore you to educate yourself about this issue before it's too late!

Bash the Fash

 Music Sharers: This could possibly be our future (albeit in metaphorical form). Better keep a box of bear-claws handy (or jelly-filled)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties Blogger-Style

Dear Readers,

As you may have heard, blogger is a mess right now. All posts and comments from Wednesday & Thursday have disappeared, and though blogger claims they will be restored soon, I'm not holding my breath. I will resume posting once these "technical difficulties" have subsided, which hopefully is very soon. Next up, some Siouxsie, Cat's Eyes, Alex Chilton and more.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #7: .O.Rang- Fields and Waves (1996) MP3 & FLAC

One of the most unsung aspects of Talk Talk's groundbreaking later work was the band's rhythm section comprised of bassist Paul Webb and drummer Lee Harris. While earlier albums such as It's My Life  and The Colour of Spring  were far more traditional in their use of bass and percussion, on the final two albums, Webb and Harris regularly traversed into Jazz territory with an emphasis on texture and space rather than beat. On the heels of Talk Talk's demise after recording Laughing Stock, Webb and Harris built their own studio and formed .O.Rang. While .O.Rang's sound bears little outward resemblance to Talk Talk, Webb and Harris do retain the experimental ethos of their previous band's best work. For example, before putting together their brilliant debut, Herd of Instinct, .O.Rang brought in a diverse range of musicians to improvise in the studio with acoustic-based instruments, thus providing the raw materials from which they built the tracks comprising the finished album. Fields and Waves, .O.Rang's second album, is a more formally produced affair and introduces a Techno vibe to the the Ethno-Ambient sound forged on the first album. On "Barren," the album's beautiful lead track, Web and Harris create an expansive and multi-layered soundscape that is punctuated by bursts of notes from a santoor, making the song sound reminiscent of Dead Can Dance. Another distinctive track is "Moratorium," which features Webb taking a turn on vocals in amidst a melange of tribal rhythms and distorted guitars, resulting in the closest thing to a traditional pop-song .O. Rang has recorded. While Herd of Instinct was distinctive due to its Jazz-like free-form approach, Field of Waves tightens up the song structures a bit to make the proceedings a bit more danceable, but still manages to retain the eclectic, experimental feel that defines .O.Rang's sound.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Antlers- Hospice (2009) MP3 & FLAC

"You return to me at night just when I think I may have fallen asleep. Your face is up against mine, and I'm too terrified to speak."

The hardest part of dealing with death is its incomprehensibility, the way it lifts the curtain on our quotidian lives and forces us to stare, if only momentarily, into an abyss of ineradicable absence. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows this disorienting feeling intimately, a stark sense of finality that no amount of preparation and emotional adjustment can soften. In a certain sense, The Antlers' debut Hospice is about how we engage with, and sometimes hopelessly struggle against, this incomprehensibility. Hospice, with its concept album ambitions, stands as something of an anomaly in this age of micro-genres and iTunes, but it wears its narrative well and is bolstered by Peter Silberman's dynamic but never flashy vocals. Lyrically, the story is ostensibly about a cancer patient, Sylvia, bitterly struggling through her last days and a hospice nurse who, despite the hopelessness of the situation, falls in love with her. Some have compared this album to Lou Reed's harrowing masterpiece Berlin (although Magic and Loss also comes to mind), and the comparison is apt; both albums are unblinking in their examinations of trauma, and both albums manage to integrate story and music masterfully, making them well-worth returning to despite the uncomfortable subject-matter. And this is something to remember about Hospice, concept album aside, it contains some wonderfully lush (and sometimes creepy) Chamber-Pop whose expansiveness can verge on Post-Rock at times. Coupled with Silberman's memorable voice, it all makes for a very distinctive and emotional listening experience.

The Antlers- "Kettering" (2009) Live, Spinner Interface

Brooklyn prodigies with some serious mood music:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orange Juice- Coals to Newcastle (2010) Box Set (6 Discs) MP3 & FLAC -For pixiesfan-

"The difference between you and me is that the world owes you a living, and you always tow the party line in your loving and your giving."

It is hard to overestimate the influence of the Scottish Post-Punk band Orange Juice on what we refer to now, thirty years, later as "indie music." Progenitors of a sound firmly grounded in the Punk and Post-Punk movements of the late seventies, Orange Juice also turned many of the conventions of these genres on their heads with their off-kilter melodic tendencies and Edwyn Collins' twee vocal style (which laid the groundwork for everything from Haircut 100 to Belle and Sebastian). This was a band equally inspired by The Velvet Underground, Al Green, The Buzzcocks, and Lee "Scratch" Perry, which should give some indication of just how singular they sounded. In general, Orange Juice's early Postcard singles are held in highest esteem in terms of the band's legacy, and one listen to a song such as "Blue Boy" on the first disc, The Glasgow School, should leave no doubt as to why. With the runaway train percussion, chiming guitars, and Collins' fractured vocals all wedded to a great melodic hook, the song, in one way or another, anticipates every major trope of today's indie music scene. Orange Juice didn't issue a proper LP until 1982's You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, and by this time, many of the rough edges of their sound had been polished away, allowing Collins' love for Soul and Reggae to weigh in more insistently. Despite this, flashes of the same dark, shambolic brilliance of the earlier sides can be found in the later work; for example, one of the album's singles, Al Green's "L.O.V.E. Love," sounds like a Soul song that has wandered its way onto The Velvet Underground's Loaded. Perhaps Orange Juice's most commercial moment is found on their second LP, Rip It Up, with its infectious title track (Orange Juice's sole hit) that stands as a nearly perfect example of early-eighties Brit-Pop; however, digging a little further into the album reveals a pronounced Reggae and Afro-Beat influence, which ranges from awkward ("Hokoyo") to thoroughly compelling ("Breakfast Time"). Simply put, there just isn't another band that sounds remotely like Orange Juice; nevertheless, as is the case with one of their guiding influences, The Velvet Underground, one can hear their influence everywhere. Soulful, quirky and privilegers of randomness over polish, Orange Juice's relative obscurity betrays their uncompromising brilliance.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #7: The Salvation Army- Happen Happened (1992) MP3 & FLAC

"Memories and as time goes by, memories will age your mind."

Michael Quercio was one of the pivotal figures of The Paisley Underground, not only because he gave the scene its moniker (which most, including himself, eventually came to hate because of its emphasis on image over musical substance), but also as the leader of The Salvation Army, a punky garage-pysch band who would later become the more overtly psychedelic and equally important The Three O'Clock. If you're only familiar with the latter, then Happen Happened will come as something of a surprise because The Salvation Army had a much darker, grittier sound than the later, renamed version of the band, and the album itself, which collects all of The Salvation Army's recordings, happens to be one of the most vivid documents of the early days of the paisley scene in L.A. The album begins with one of Quercio's earliest recording sessions (for The Minutemen's New Alliance label), which yielded the excellent 1981 "Happen Happens / Mind Gardens" single. This early version of "Mind Gardens" is built around a simple Punk-inspired chord progression and Quercio's snarling vocals, and represents quite a contrast to the album version recorded the following year, which loses much of its directness beneath all the reverb and jangle. Despite this, The Salvation Army's sole original album is full of great Nuggets-inspired tracks such as the blues-psych cover of The Great Society's "Going Home," a song featuring a swaggering guitar-based hook and one of Quercio's better early vocal performances. Happen Happened is one of the most essential releases related to The Paisley Underground, as it both a great album and a rare snapshot of the scene's early roots in the L.A. Hardcore/Punk movement.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Three O'Clock- "With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend" (1983) Live on MV3, KHJ, Los Angeles

MV3 was a late afternoon video show broadcast on an independent Southern California television channel (KHJ) from late 1982 to 1984. It featured a good helping of alternative and independent artists and some interesting in-studio guests. The only drawbacks were the hosts including local KROQ DJ Richard Blade (you'll see what I mean), and the American Bandstand-style dance sequences. This is an early in-studio appearance by Paisley Underground legends The Three O'Clock:

Rumor has it that Blade was boinking the devotchka who speaks at the end of the clip

The Easybeats- "Sorry" (1966) Live on TV

A great clip from an extremely underrated Australian Mod-Beat Garage-Rock band: The Easybeats

Fotheringay- S/T (1970) / 2 (2008) MP3 & FLAC

"What about me, me and my kind? If we're unknown, are we left behind?"

All it takes is one comparative listen between Fairport Convention's eponymous debut album and What We Did on Our Holidays, their first album with Sandy Denny, to grasp the effect Denny's presence had on the band. Previously, Fairport Convention had shown more of an inclination to incorporate American "west-coast" Folk-Rock into their sound than the Folk traditions of their homeland, but Denny's arrival changed this and proved a catalyst for Fairport's "invention" of British Folk-Rock. However, Denny's tenure with Fairport Convention was short-lived, as she jumped ship after three brilliant albums to pursue a more singer-songwriter-oriented career path. What's ironic about this is that her first post-Fairport venture, Fotheringay, mined very similar territory to her previous band but without the same level of free-wheeling talent on hand. Whereas Fairport was prone to experimentation and eclecticism, Fotheringay was slightly more rock-oriented, which, on their debut, results in a more fussed-over, less sprawling sound. Nevertheless, Denny contributes several gorgeous songs to Fotheringay, making the album close to essential for anyone partial to her work with Fairport Convention. One of the album's obvious highlights is the epic "The Sea," which features a breathtaking vocal performance by Denny backed by sumptuous acoustic guitars. While the song easily equals many of her finest moments in Fairport, the overly-tasteful production threatens to siphon off a bit of the song's emotional impact. Although it is true that Fotheringay suffers a bit when Denny steps out of the limelight leaving Trevor Lucas with vocal duties, his folksy performance on "The Ballad of Ned Kelly" is another of the album's highlights. Fotheringay broke up while recording their follow-up LP, leaving master tapes of the unfinished songs languishing in the vaults for nearly 40 years until the surviving members of the band released them as Fotheringay 2. While obviously not as fully conceived as the previous album, it is an interesting and occasionally brilliant addendum to one of the forgotten gems of British Folk-Rock.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gang of Four- Solid Gold (1981) / Another Day, Another Dollar EP (1982) MP3 & FLAC -For sradams777-

"Why work for love if it shows no profit? You'll only earn emotional losses."

On Gang of Four's brilliant debut, Entertainment!, arguably the best record of the original British Post-Punk movement, Andy Gill, John King & co. virtually wrote the book on fusing Punk-inspired iconoclasm with fractured, abrasive and passionate Agit-Pop. However, what made their debut even more distinctive was the subtle undercurrent of Funk percolating beneath all the atonal anarchy and politically-charged lyrics. In other words, Entertainment! somehow managed to be both didactic and danceable. While Gang of Four's follow-up, Solid Gold, continues along the same aesthetic lines, it does so by bringing the Funk influence a little more to the surface, and, in the process, emerges as slightly more polished and even more danceable than its predecessor. But don't let this fool you into thinking the socio-political commentary has been turned down a notch because it hasn't. For example, on "Cheeseburger," a scathing satire of America's emphasis on consumerism over class consciousness, Gill's hiccuping guitar takes a secondary role to the outwardly Funk -inspired rhythm section of Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham, creating a unique sound that would be emulated by countless bands a decade later. On the follow-up Another Day, Another Dollar EP, Gang of Four refines this sound even further with tracks such as "To Hell With Poverty" with its relentless dance groove and viciously humorous lyrics.  While Entertainment! is clearly Gang of Four's masterpiece, Solid Gold is, at times, a more confident and musically varied album, making it nearly as essential.

Talk Talk Series, #6: Talk Talk- The Colour of Spring (1986) MP3 & FLAC

"Yesterday's faded, nothing can change it."

The Colour of Spring is often described as Talk Talk's "transitional" album; however, such a description is meaningless in the context of a discography comprised of nothing but transitional albums. More so than virtually any other band I can think of, Talk Talk traveled along a creative arc that never paused long enough to solidify into something to be transitioned from; rather, their sound and approach was in constant flux, seemingly evolving in a certain direction, but one quite unprecedented in pop music and one whose inevitable conclusion, for a host of reasons, was silence. After the relative commercial success of their previous album It's My Life, Talk Talk was awarded with a bigger budget and extended time to record The Colour of Spring, resources that they would take full advantage of in crafting more of a song-cycle than a mere collection of songs with a few singles mixed in. Mark Hollis has described the approach to recording the album as "arranged free-form," in which contributions from a number of musicians, including Steve Winwood (Hammond organ) and Danny Thompson (stand-up bass), were recorded and either integrated into the final arrangement or discarded depending on the synergy or lack thereof between the various elements within the song. In addition to this approach, which is more common to Jazz recordings, Talk Talk also began an exploration of more organic forms of instrumentation and the manipulation of aural space that would characterize their ground-breaking work later on. A perfect example of this new sonic approach is "Living in Another World." Gone are the synth-based textures that characterized previous albums; instead, the song opens with a crashing piano chord giving way to acoustic guitar, strings, and eventually Hammond organ. What's instantly recognizable as the song progresses is the care taken not only in integrating the various musical elements but also in sculpting the silences and sense of space surrounding the notes. The Colour of Spring marks the juncture in Talk Talk's artistic development where they began to move into what retrospectively would be termed "Post-Rock," meaning a move away from traditional song structure and towards a more organic, open-ended, perhaps even improvisational approach to song arrangement. Talk Talk would take this approach even further and to brilliant effect on their final two albums.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talk Talk- "Living in Another World" Video (1986)

One of the things I like best about Talk Talk's videos is the subversive humor that often permeates them. It seems as though they are, on some level, always poking fun at the process of making promotional videos in the first place.

Talk Talk- "Life's What You Make It" Video (1986)

More greatness from Hollis & co.

Ride- Nowhere (1990) 20th Anniversary Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For iggy1-

"And the train rushes past like a day gone too fast."

While My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is considered, in most quarters, as the holy grail of the original UK Shoegaze movement, a strong case can be made that Ride's debut long-player, Nowhere, is just as good if not better (though vastly different). Previous to Nowhere, Ride had released several EPs that positioned them as a band on the cusp of brilliance; these early releases all revealed a sound forged out of antecedents such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine, but in addition, Ride sounded like a band who had spent some time listening to Nuggets -era psychedelia. While the foundation for Nowhere is clearly discernible in these EPs, the album itself sees the band transform these influences into something abrasively vibrant and recognizably their own, and if this isn't enough, beneath all the jangle, distortion, and reverb are some pretty fine pop songs for those with ears to hear. On the superb opening track "Seagull," Ride is at its psychedelic best, complete with backward-masked guitars, duo vocals by Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, and a killer hook buried beneath the guitar squall. Another standout is "Vapour Trail," a track featuring some lovely guitar jangle and a more solemn tone while still retaining the power of the more intense songs. While Nowhere is rightly labeled a Shoegaze album, throughout the proceedings, Ride seem intent on playing with some of the conventions of the genre, which might be the reason the album hasn't aged a day in 20 years.  Guitar-based pop simply doesn't get any better than this.

Gang of Four- "To Hell With Poverty" (1981) Live on Old Grey Whistle Test

Andy Gill has to be one of my favorite guitarists. To hell with poverty indeed!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Readers Have Spoken (Yet Another Series)

Hello dear readers,

Yesterday, I posted a video of one of my favorite musicians, Tim Buckley. The rapid, passionate and voluminous response to the post convinced me to plan a few Buckley posts in the coming days/weeks; however, Michael suggested a Buckley series. Although there are already two series underway (Talk Talk & Paisley Underground), I feel very motivated to begin work on a third, a Tim Buckley and related series. Buckley died at 28, so his studio recordings are limited, but there are several interesting archival releases and a number of nice live recordings to post. Also, there are some great albums such as Blue Afternoon and Starsailor, which are hard to come by in lossless (I have these), so Buckley has the makings for a potentially great series. And yes, I will also mix in some of Jeff's work. At this point, I am undecided about the length of the series, but it will probably be 10 to 15 posts. I'll get it started in a week or so. I hope this is good news for everyone :)

p.s. I have several Buckley live bootlegs, which might also be a nice addition to this series

Paisley Underground Series, #6: R.E.M.- Murmur (1983) Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"Not everyone can carry the weight of the world."

Yes, I realize R.E.M. was not part of the Paisley Underground scene,  but it's impossible to ignore the major role they played in reviving the kind of Garage/Jangle/Power pop mix that became the staple of many American underground music scenes throughout the eighties and into the nineties, L.A. being no exception. With a sound comprised of Peter Buck's McGuinn-inspired jangle, Mike Mills' wonderfully melodic bass-work, Bill Berry's utilitarian drumming, and Michael Stipe's strange gravelly (and often indiscernible) backwoods preacher's vocal delivery, they transformed their myriad influences into a sound that would come to define alternative music throughout much of the eighties and beyond. On Murmur, their now-iconic debut, this sound is less polished and the production more murky than it would be on later recordings, which results in the album feeling quite untethered to its early-eighties context. While much has deservedly been written about brilliant tracks such as "Radio Free Europe" and "Talk About the Passion," the strength of Murmur lies in its lesser-known tracks, which are consistently first-rate because they rarely if ever conform to expectation. For example, "Laughing" starts out with Mills and Berry invoking some Dub-style rhythmic effects until Stipe's vocals come in backed by an acoustic guitar. While this song can certainly be labeled Jangle-Pop, it also boasts a dark minimalist feel that indicates a Post-Punk pedigree. This is even more the case on "9-9," which suggests Gang of Four as the main influence rather than The Byrds; this more abrasive, angular approach is an often overlooked component of R.E.M. 's early albums. Truly, Murmur's influence is incalculable, and taken on its own terms, the album itself continues to be revelatory nearly thirty years down the line.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tim Buckley- "Song to the Siren" (1968) Live on The Monkees

This is one of Tim Buckley's finest moments- an early acoustic rendition of "Song to the Siren," which many of you will know from This Mortal Coil. And he performs it on, of all places, The Monkees!

The Triffids- Treeless Plain (1983) MP3 & FLAC -For common01-

"Even people in love get hit by bullets."

During the late seventies and early eighties, there were few places as fertile as Australia when it came to innovative alternative music. While bands such as The Church and The Go-Betweens managed to experience brief flirtations with commercial success outside of their homeland, many other fine bands went virtually unnoticed, especially in the U.S. The Triffids more or less exemplified this unfortunate situation, despite having been one of the more interesting and singular bands to emerge from Australia during the eighties. Combining the darker inclinations of bands like The Velvet Underground and Television with the same American country-blues influences serving The Birthday Party as main muse, The Triffids were peerless at conveying a sense of stark desolation through the melodic structure of a pop song. Their debut LP, Treeless Plain, finds David McComb and co. still feeling their way toward their finest work, but there are, nevertheless, flashes of the brilliance to come peeking around every corner. For example, the album kicks things off with a stunner, "Red Pony"; with strings vaguely evoking the Middle-East and McComb's off-kilter croon, the song sounds something like Nick Cave fronting The Church. On "Hanging Shed," the band moves into darker territory in a way reminiscent of The Birthday Party, but then the song takes a surprising turn with a hooky chorus that manages to make the gloom all their own. While not The Triffids' best album, Treeless Plain is, nevertheless, an under-appreciated chapter in the discography of a vastly under-appreciated band.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Psychedelic Furs- Talk Talk Talk (1981) MP3 & FLAC -For AndieJames-

"She lives in the place in the side of our lives where nothing is ever put straight."

On their brilliant debut, The Psychedelic Furs offered up a relentlessly dark collection of songs occupying the intersection between Punk aggression and Post-Punk angst; however, peeking through the gloom on occasion was the band's clear talent for writing memorable, off-kilter pop songs, "Sister Europe" being the most obvious example of this. On their second LP, Talk Talk Talk, The Psychedelic Furs made the fateful decision to pursue this approach more consistently, though the band's sound still retains its rough edges pretty much intact. In addition, Richard Butler's detached Bowie-esque vocals sound more confident than on the debut, which aids in making the songs a little more accessible. On "Dumb Waiters," a strangely compelling mash-up of Punk and Kraut-Rock elements, Butler's sneering vocals, which here sound something like a more tuneful Johnny Rotten, and Duncan Kilburn's fractured sax give the song both its memorable hook and its attitude. While the original version of "Pretty in Pink" is indeed a classic on all levels, Talk Talk Talk contains many lesser-known gems, not the least of which is the stunning "All of This and Nothing," one of the best tracks The Psychedelic Furs ever recorded. Opening with a beautiful though completely unexpected acoustic guitar arpeggio intertwining with Kilburn's sax, the song quickly morphs into an epic rocker knocking around the empty corners of a dissolving relationship. This album is, without a doubt, The Psychedelic Furs' finest moment.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Big Star- Keep an Eye on the Sky (2009) Box Set (4 Discs) MP3 & FLAC

"Caught a glance in your eyes and fell through the skies."

It is very difficult to suss out fact from legend when it comes to a band like Big Star; as a result, it is understandable that many wonder if the few records Alex Chilton & co. managed to produce during the brief life-span of the band could ever actually measure up to the level of critical devotion directed their way for the past twenty-five years or so since being "re-discovered." Often, these Big Star skeptics claim that the band lacked originality, that they were, more or less, simply derivative of mid to late sixties Brit-Rock. While it is true that bands such as The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who are prominent touchstones, particularly on Big Star's debut, #1 Record, such critiques tend to ignore the fact that Big Star not only transformed these influences into something entirely their own, but at the time they were doing so- the early-seventies- Jangle-Pop could not have been more out of step with the music mainstream. Rather than looking backward, a better reference point for the artistic credibility of the band is the enduring influence their three albums continue to have nearly four decades later. Keep an Eye on the Sky, which contains 55 previously unreleased tracks, constitutes a worthy addendum to Big Star's original releases, and delivers on decades-old rumors that this consummate studio band left behind some forgotten treasures. Chief among these are "Motel Blues," Chilton's cover of the Loudon Wainwright III song and several demos from the ramshackle recording sessions for 3rd, many of which feature Chilton alone on acoustic 12-string; these are simply stunning. Perhaps the highlight of the set is a live show, presented in its entirety, that was recorded in Memphis in 1973. In contrast to the pristine studio recordings, Big Star as a live band was a more informal (sometimes shambolic) affair, but no less brilliant for it. Despite its considerable focus on rarities and alternate mixes, Keep an Eye on the Sky also functions as an effective career retrospective, which makes this an essential listen for the curious and the converted alike.