Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orange Juice- "Rip It Up" Video (1982)

just a taster in advance of an avalanche

Paisley Underground Series, #5: The Dream Syndicate- The Days of Wine and Roses (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"It's not fair to put you against all the years behind me."

One of the most enduring and darkly brilliant albums to emanate from the Paisley Underground scene, The Dream Syndicate's The Days of Wine and Roses takes up residence in the fertile and far too infrequently explored intersection between the darker side of late-sixties psych-rock and the brooding atmospherics of Post-Punk. Drawing on diverse influences such as The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Television, Velvet Underground, Joy Division and The Clash, the original incarnation of The Dream Syndicate were very much a band out of time and place in the early-eighties; as such, their debut, full of Karl Precoda's striking feedback-drenched guitar-work coupled with Steve Wynn's deadpan vocals, was quite a contrast to the synth-heavy approach many Post-Punk bands were adopting at the time. The Days of Wine and Roses begins with one of the most memorable songs of the Paisley Underground: "Tell Me When It's Over," an anthemic piece of dark Jangle-Pop featuring some great guitar interplay between Wynn and Precoda and Wynn's vocal approximation of a young Lou Reed. Another standout is the insistently sprawling title track, a White Light / White Heat-style epic, which gives Precoda plenty of room to stretch out and coax some amazing sounds from his notoriously cheap guitar. Neo-Psychedelia doesn't come much finer than this- one of the truly essential Paisley Underground albums.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Portishead- Numb EP (1994) / Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me) EP (1994) MP3 & FLAC

"'Cause nobody loves me, it's true, not like you do."

The Numb and Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me) EPs house the first two singles culled from Portishead's stunningly original debut, Dummy. Comprised of both non-LP tracks and significantly different versions of the title tracks, these EPs provide an interesting and often rewarding addendum to the album proper. On the Numb EP, "Numbed in Moscow" treats the title track to a cooler, more emotionally detached mix, while "A Tribute to Monk & Canatella" takes Portishead in a noir-jazz direction; the results are mixed, but it's never anything less than intriguing. The clear highlight on the Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me) EP is "Theme from 'To Kill a Deadman'," one of the best non-LP tracks Portishead has lingering in the backwaters of its discography.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Portishead- Dummy (1994) MP3 & FLAC

"Love don't always shine through."

Seventeen years and countless imitators after the fact, Portishead's debut, Dummy, still sounds as fresh as the day it was released, which is a testament to the album's originality and stark emotional depth. Something of a unique mash-up of Hip-Hop-inspired beats and samples, singer-songwriter pathos, psychedelic overtones, and electronic-based sonic manipulations, this unapologetically moody classic, while categorized as "Trip-Hop," is actually genre-defeating from start to finish. Dummy also marks the first appearance of one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices of the past thirty years, and it is Beth Gibbons' contributions to Portishead's sonic palette that consistently allows the music to transcend the sum of its parts. Nowhere is this more in evidence than on "Glory Box," a seductive slow-burner, which combines Gibbons at her soulful best with sampled strings and distorted guitar to create an indelible melodic effect. Gibbons oscillates between several vocal styles during the course of this song, while showing the ability to express myriad emotions through the simplest of inflections. Truly, one of the most stunning releases of the nineties (a decade not particularly known for stunning releases).

Ride- Smile (1990) MP3 & FLAC

"And when I see you sliding past, I make my plans, and then my plans slip through my fingers just like sand."

While My Bloody Valentine is often cited as the pinnacle of the Shoegaze movement of the late eighties and early nineties, Ride's first smattering of EPs and their debut full-length, Nowhere, are nearly as good, with the added bonus of pushing the "wall of sound" approach into regions more visceral and less fussed-over than their contemporaries. On Smile, a compilation of the band's first two EPs for Creation, the influence of Psychocandy is palpable, and like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride are careful to wrap their layers of distortion around sugar-sweet garage-pop gems. For example, on one of the album's obvious highlights, "Chelsea Girl," Ride tap into a mid-sixties garage-psych sound but take it somewhere new with heavily distorted guitar squalls and Loz Colbert's manic drumming. While "Silver" heads into darker neo-psychedelic territory, "Furthest Sense" nods in the direction of My Bloody Valentine, but whereas that band buries melody in layers of guitar refraction, Ride pushes the song's pop structure to the foreground. Though Ride's debut album (and masterpiece) is more fully-formed and better recorded, the EPs comprising Smile should by no means be overlooked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #5: Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man- Time Out of Season (2002) / Live Barcelona (2003) MP3 & FLAC

"If only you had told her the words to unfold her long ago."

During Portishead's interminably mysterious ten year hiatus, Beth Gibbons collaborated with ex-Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb (aka Rustin Man) on something approaching a solo project, which musically is quite a departure from her better-known work. In the context of Portishead's sample-heavy musical approach, Gibbons vocals, while serving as emotional catalyst for the music, really only comprise one treated element among many in the mix, which is, of course, one of the things that make their sound so distinctive. In contrast, on Time Out of Season, Gibbons' vocals step out front and center, something which accentuates their trademark pathos but adds a fragile nakedness not heard from her on previous recordings. The mood of the album is one of ethereal desolation, as Webb and Portishead's Adrian Utley provide a mostly acoustic backing that moves back and forth between folk and jazz inflected arrangements. For example, on the haunting lead track, "Mysteries," Gibbon's heartbreaking vocals are accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar arpeggio; however, it is Gibbons' multi-tracked backing vocals that take the song to another level, giving it an eerie nursery rhyme-like feel. "Drake," true to it's title, sounds like a lost track from Nick Drake's Bryter Layter, with Gibbons' laconic delivery and the funereal Jazz arrangement tapping in to Drake's unique brand of despair. It's truly a shame that (so far), Time Out of Season stands as a one-off collaboration because the album is brimming with intriguing possibilities that could have only been pursued to more stunning results on a second go-around. Quietly devastating indeed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gang of Four- Entertainment! (1979) MP3 & FLAC -For reindeer man-

"The past lives on in your front room, the poor still weak, the rich still rule."

Nowhere is the ethos of Post-Punk better summed up than on Gang of Four's iconic debut, Entertainment! Sonically speaking, Andy Gill's razor sharp staccato guitar attack seems out to destroy every conventional assumption about what a lead guitarist can do in the context of a rock song. His is a trebly untampered sound that eschews both cock-rock excess and Punk-Rock minimalism while exploring a dynamically rhythmic approach that remains influential to this day. Lyrically, Entertainment! is subversive through and through, and I mean this in the best possible sense of the term. Always more interested in informing through ideology critique than in converting, Gang of Four reject the nihilistic anti-political stance that had come to be a Punk-Rock cliché by 1979, instead focusing their lyrics on the ideological constructs of late capitalism. For example in "Not Great Men," the band critiques the "personality theory of history," in which historical events and their causes are interpreted through the actions of those in power rather than taking into account the role of the working class as a force for historical change. In "Guns Before Butter," the target is the ideology of nationalism, a topic perhaps even more relevant today than it was in the late seventies, for what better way to describe the mood of post-911 America than the line, "Just keep quiet, no room to doubt"?  Entertainment! stands as the masterpiece of one of the most innovative and uncompromising bands of the rock era, and if you haven't heard this, better now than never.

Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter- "The Air Is Thin" Video (2007)

An absolutely incomparable voice that too few people have heard. Let's fix that...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #4: Various Artists- Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop: May 24, 1987 (1994) MP3 & FLAC

"It's just the wasted years so close behind."

Although it is rarely mentioned, the thriving underground music scene in Athens, GA. during the late seventies and early eighties was, in many ways, a guiding inspiration for L.A.'s Paisley Underground. The Athens scene, much like the L.A. underground at the time, was comprised of an eclectic and closely-knit mix of groups, many of whom were instrumental in bringing, among other things, Jangle-Pop and Big Star-style Power-Pop back into vogue in America. One of the most influential of these bands was R.E.M., who had released what is arguably the holy grail of American alternative music, the timeless Murmur. Throughout the eighties, it was not unusual for bands from both scenes to find themselves billed together on tours, which is how Steve Wynn of Paisley Underground legends The Dream Syndicate and Peter Buck of R.E.M. struck up a friendship. One of the fruits of this artistic cross-pollination is Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop: May 24, 1987, an informal acoustic concert featuring Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe from R.E.M., Natalie Merchant, and Kendra Smith from Opal. There are many gems to be had here, chief among them are R.E.M.'s contributions, which are early versions of songs that would appear on their soon-to-be released breakthrough album, Document. For example, "The One I Love" is presented as a gloomy acoustic 12-string dirge, while "Disturbance at the Heron House," here in acoustic form, provides Stipe plenty of aural space to work his esoteric magic. Steve Wynn's material seems a little more "off the cuff," but a true highlight is his collaboration with former band-mate Kendra Smith on "Too Little Too Late."  Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop: May 24, 1987 is by no means the place to start with any of these artists, but it does capture an interesting, and occasionally beautiful, moment in time. Wish I had been there (not sure why I wasn't since I was living in the area at the time).

The Fall- Live at the Witch Trials (1979) Expanded Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"He spits in the sky. It falls in his eye, and then he gets to sitting, talking to his kitten."

Misanthropy can be a compelling form of artistic expression when it avoids taking itself too seriously, and nowhere is this more in evidence than on The Fall's sprawling, ironically titled debut, Live at the Witch Trials. Falling somewhere between the aggressive anti-aestheticism of Punk and the dark artiness of Post-Punk (and somehow embodying the best traits of both), while also verging into the experimental excess of Kraut-Rock, The Fall, in their original incarnation, were a shambolic, frightening, convention-flaunting enigma masquerading as a Punk band a year late to the party. All of these elements are clearly on display on one of the album's standout tracks, "Two Steps Back," with its strange, simplistic keyboard part juxtaposed to the ominous atonal guitar tearing through the mix, and then there's Mark E. Smith chant-singing through what sounds like a bored sneer. Also well-worthy of mention is "Music Scene," a funk-based song that anticipates Gang of Four's early eighties material, and features Smith lyrically skewering- you guessed it- the music industry. A deserving target if you ask me. Live at the Witch Trials is not for the faint-of-heart, but if you have even a passing interest in the UK Punk movement of the late seventies, this iconoclastic gem is essential listening.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Church- Untitled #23 (2009) MP3 & FLAC

"On our way to crush the revolution, camp by a lake in the blackened lands, dealing out love and retribution, dealing out the deadman's hand."

While The Church's recent creative resurgence had certainly produced some good albums, most notably Uninvited Like Clouds and Forget Yourself, no one could have suspected that the band had an album like Untitled #23 in them, a psych-rock masterpiece as essential as anything else in their brilliant and expansive discography. Since reforming in the late-nineties, The Church had been slowly moving into more proggy territory and away from the pysch-laced Jangle-Pop of their best known work. While the results were always intriguing, there was a lingering sense of sameness about these albums. With Untitled #23, something of a balance has been struck by returning to the gauzy psychedelia of albums such as Priest=Aura, while integrating the sonic innovations of more recent albums. For example, on "Operetta," Steven Kilbey offers up one of his trademark nuanced vocal performances, treading, as always, the fine line between detached beauty and sublime narcosis, while the band paints a soundscape of restrained yet yearning psychedelic grandeur. This is a song an earlier incarnation of the band wouldn't have been able to pull off quite so evocatively. Conversely, "Dead Man's Hand" sounds like classic Church, catchy, dynamic, and cathartic, though it must be said that the famed guitar interplay between Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper is far more subtle in nature here, going for texture over serpentine exploration. A wonderful surprise from a criminally under-appreciated band.

Paisley Underground Series, #3: The Long Ryders- State of Our Union (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"I was thinking about the late Tim Hardin (looking for Lewis and Clark)."

Integrating country music and psychedelia was nothing new in the early eighties; after all, the late sixties bore witness to the Gram-era Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Country Joe & The Fish to name but a few, and fifteen years later, the Paisley Underground scene followed suit in equally fine fashion. While there were a lot of bands attempting to resurrect the ghost of Gram Parsons, none came closer than The Long Ryders whose mix of cowpunk, country, Jangle-Pop, and Psychedelia set the stage in every conceivable way for the "No Depression" movement of the nineties. State of Our Union was the band's second full-length and first major label release. While there is a palpable production sheen cast over the proceedings, it ultimately lends this brilliant set of songs a certain punchiness that serves the music well. The album kicks off with a stone-cold classic in "Looking for Lewis and Clark," a powerful political anthem that sets out to punch a few holes in Reagan's "morning in America" myth. Another standout is "Here Comes That Train Again," a gorgeously spacious piece of Jangle-Pop that virtually embodies Gram Parson's vision of cosmic American cowboy music. State of Our Union is one of the most beautiful and enduring albums to emerge from the Paisley Underground scene as well as one of the most eloquently progressive albums of the eighties. Not to be missed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Go-Betweens- Before Hollywood (1983) Expanded Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"In the dark when the shadows have their way, a finger's a chimney and the moon's on fire."

Arguably one of the greatest bands of the Post-Punk era, The Go-Betweens hit full creative stride on their second LP, Before Hollywood, an uncompromising, beautiful and consistently inventive slice of darkly-lit anti-pop. Headed by two gifted songwriters, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, each of whom pulled the band in different thematic directions, one of the most striking things about Before Hollywood is the way it all coheres so seamlessly together, achieving, in the process, a sustained and unconventionally melodic attack on pop music paradigms. While "Cattle and Cane," is certainly deserving of all the attention it gets as one of the best songs of the decade, it makes it easy to overlook just how consistently brilliant the entirety of Before Hollywood actually is. For example, the title track, with its spiky, spidery guitar figure and Forster's "Tom Verlaine but the words make sense" vocal delivery is a reminder of how melancholy this band could be. Conversely, on "That Way," the band unleashes some first-rate Jangle-Pop (complete with a swirling psychedelic organ in the background) that rates with anything The Church were doing at the time. Before Hollywood, as the title ironically suggests, is the sound of a hungry, impossibly talented band about to scale some great artistic heights.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FL33t Foxes- H3lplessness Blu3s (2011) MP3 & FLAC

"I was raised up believing I was somehow unique, like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes."

While a cursory listen to the Fleet Foxes' long-awaited and much-delayed follow-up to their brilliant debut album suggests that not much has changed in terms of the band's sonic approach, those who dig beneath the ornate surface of Helplessness Blues will discover a journey into darker, often existential, territory. With Phil Ek once again manning the production booth, Fleet Foxes inhabit an even more expansive reverb-drenched soundscape than before, lending both a bottomless and timeless feel to their meticulously constructed baroque-folk compositions. Whereas their debut album tended to be a bit abstract lyrically (which put a lot of responsibility on the music itself to convey the album's emotional power), Helplessness Blues finds Robin Pecknold venturing into singer-songwriter territory; for example, in "Blue-Spotted Tail," Pecknold ponders humankind's greatest yet utterly unanswerable question: "Why in the night sky are the lights on?"  On "Helplessness Blues," one of the most powerful songs the Fleet Foxes have yet recorded, a similarly reflective existential theme emerges, as Pecknold peels away the illusions we cling to in order to give a vestige of form to our lives in the face of inconceivable randomness: "If I know only one thing, it's that everything I see of the world outside is so inconceivable, often I barely can speak."  While Helplessness Blues does depart occasionally from the soaring harmonies that have become the band's trademark (there are several tracks with Pecknold playing lone folk troubadour), overall, their sophomore album manages to improve on one of the best debut albums in recent memory. Go out and support this band.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #4: Talk Talk- It's My Life (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"If I could buy my reasoning, I'd pay to lose."

After touring their debut album, The Party's Over, Talk Talk fell silent for more than a year except for the stand-alone single, "My Foolish Friend." During this time, Mark Hollis was busy laying the groundwork for the band's unprecedented journey into artistic iconoclasm, which would yield some of the most progressive music of the rock era and lead the band, ineluctably, toward its commercial demise. Hollis' first step was to dismiss keyboard player Simon Brenner (ostensibly to move away from synth-based pop of the first album) and bring in Tim Friese-Greene, who had an impressive engineering and production pedigree. Friese-Greene and Hollis quickly developed a writing partnership that would produce some of the best songs on It's My Life, including the title track and "Dum Dum Girl." Just as important, however, was Friese-Greene's influence on the band's studio sound; while ample use of synthesizers is made on It's My Life, acoustic instruments begin to play a much larger role, something that would only increase with each successive album. In addition, it is clear that Hollis learned a thing or two from Roxy Music's Avalon in the intervening time between albums, as his vocals have taken on a laconic Bryan Ferry-inspired croon in places. Perhaps Talk Talk's most distinctive sonic innovation during the It's My Life sessions is the subtle use of World Beat elements to give some of the songs a unique hybrid feel that makes them quite memorable. An obvious example of this is the title track, which, on the surface, is about a love affair gone bad, but the various synth-based sound-effects and Hollis' remarkable vocal performance give the song a far more universal connotation. While It's My Life is a transitional album through and through, it represents a significant step away from the thin new-romantic veneer that hampered the debut album and also sets the stage for an even bigger artistic leap forward on their next album, The Colour of Spring.

Talk Talk- "It's My Life" Video (1984) U.K. Version

Talk Talk and their record company, EMI, battled constantly over the music videos, the latter claiming the band's efforts were blatantly noncommercial. They even ordered a complete re-shoot of the "Such a Shame" video.  For the "It's My Life" video, which features wildlife footage interspersed with shots of Mark Hollis wandering around a zoo, the director, Tim Pope, and Hollis decided to blatantly resist the convention of lip-syncing in music videos. In the video, Hollis wears a dour, satirically tight-lipped facial expression. Yet again, EMI was not happy with the results and demanded a more conventional lip-synced version be produced for the U.S. market. Although the band acquiesced, the performance was highly exaggerated and managed to achieve the same satirical effect. Talk Talk: iconoclasts to the bitter end!

The Psychedelic Furs- S/T (1980) MP3 & FLAC

"Broken on a ship of fools, even dreams must fall to rules."

Once upon a time (at the dawn of the eighties to be exact), the ironically named Psychedelic Furs were a hard-boiled, dark as fuck Post-Punk band harboring semi-secret fetishes for Punk-Rock aggression and Kraut-Rock-inspired experimentation as heard through the prism of David Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy." With a lead singer, Richard Butler, who sounded like a cigarette-soaked Bowie idolater, understated yet inventive guitar-work by John Ashton, and Duncan Kilburn's startling saxophone, The Psychedelic Furs forged a sound that was quite unique within the context of the early Post-Punk movement. On their self-titled debut- produced by, of all people, Steve Lillywhite, one of the progenitors of eighties era studio clichés- the band serve up a thick slice of percussive, sneering, and often difficult punk-pop. The obvious standout is "Sister Europe," a dark, slow burner that somehow manages to integrate Kraut-Rock and disco elements to create a sound that would soon be taken up and made more accessible by any number of New Wave bands. Just as brilliant is the opening track, "India," which is clearly inspired by Brian Eno's mid-seventies work. The song opens with a long synth-laden sound-scape punctuated with what sounds like radio static until the percussion kicks in and the song transforms into a pummeling, beautiful tour de force. This album is a hidden treasure for those whose opinions of this band were formed in response to their later, synth-pop efforts. If you proceed, prepare for a bruising revelation.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Smiths- Louder Than Bombs (1987) MP3 & FLAC

"Because the music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life."

Louder Than Bombs, originally a U.S.-only hodgepodge of stray singles, b-sides, Peel sessions, and tracks culled from both The Smiths' debut and the UK-only compilation, Hatful of Hollow, is an unwieldy, unfocused, and still somehow mostly brilliant reminder of how peerless The Smiths were in their mid-eighties heyday. The album's true riches are the singles (and their b-sides) that were not included on The Smiths' four studio albums. Chief among these is "Shoplifters of the World Unite," a bludgeoning, lo-fi paean to stepping out of the closet, which features a seductively glum vocal from Morrissey and some nice multi-layered guitar work from Johnny Marr. The b-side of this single, the brilliant "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby," while being one of the most traditionally structured rock songs The Smiths ever recorded, is a wonderfully acerbic send-up of a record exec's dismissive attitude toward promoting the band. Louder Than Bombs' finest moment is arguably "Panic," a sarcastic yet sincere indictment of the banality of commercial radio, complete with a children's chorus chanting "Hang the DJ!"  If not the finest moment in The Smith's justly legendary discography, Louder Than Bombs is no less essential for it.

(La) luna Turns Four Months Old Today

Hello dear readers,

Today, April 17th, marks the four month anniversary of the day I started (La) luna (back then it went by the title, The Killing Moon). Believe it or not, my original idea for the blog was a mix of MP3 posts and a few film reviews. Things changed quickly however, and for the better. It is incredible how quickly the blog has evolved both in terms of content and appearance, and it will be interesting to see how (La) luna continues to develop over the course of the remainder of the year. The ongoing (and potentially endless) Paisley Underground Series should bring in many new readers and give the blog a new identity, which, up to this point, has been connected with 4AD-style dream-pop. While I will still post regularly from the dream-pop genre, I am hoping to broaden the range of (La) luna a bit, and the new series should help accomplish this. I also have a few blog-related announcements:

I have created a feature in the side-bar beneath the Google search box called "(La) luna Artist Archives." These are links to static pages on which you will find artwork and links to the individual posts in each series as well as posts related to the series. In addition, I will be creating similar static pages for artists whom I have posted four or more times. This is another way to make the blog more convenient and searchable. It also keeps the series posts from becoming hopelessly buried in the back pages.

I also want to request that more of you hit the 'follow' button. My favorite part of blogging is knowing that you like what I'm posting and that you enjoy the blog in general. While I love interacting with you in the post comments, only a few of you actually leave such comments, which means the only way I get feedback on the blog is through gaining followers. So, if you enjoy the blog and have a Goggle account (or can sign up for one), please do so and become an official follower of the blog. Thank you :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Colour Field- Virgins and Philistines (1985) / Deception (1987) MP3 & FLAC -For Stefano-

"Let's conjure up a day of beauty, fulfill our tender duties."

After the demise of Fun Boy Three, a strange and occasionally brilliant hybrid of Ska and New Wave pop, Terry Hall formed The Colour Field in Manchester. Whereas Fun Boy Three, despite a strong impulse toward experimentation, always kept its finger on the pulse of current UK pop trends, on their debut, The Colour Field sounded like a band completely out of time and place in the mid-eighties, all but ensuring their commercial failure. Drawing on various influences from the sixties such as baroque Chamber Pop, Jangle-Pop, and Psychedelia, Virgins and Philistines has held up rather well over the years, whereas much of what was "contemporary" in 1985 now sounds badly dated. Such are the ironic whims of pop culture. Terry Hall's approach as a vocalist in The Colour Field isn't much different from his work with The Specials and Fun Boy Three: cool, laconic, and minimalist but thoroughly charming. For example, on "Castles in the Air," Hall's coy vocals provide a perfect counterpoint to the song's baroque melodrama that comes complete with weeping cellos and Spanish guitar. On their second album and swan-song, Deception, The Colour Field largely abandoned the sixties pop fetish for a more recognizably eighties sound; nevertheless, Hall's acerbic wit is still fully on display, and the album contains some genuinely fine moments such as "Miss Texas 1967," a gorgeous acoustic ballad that sounds like it would have been more at home on Virgins and Philistines.

The Triffids- "Wide Open Road" Video (1986)

An absolute gem from a sublime and (at least here in the States) ridiculously under-appreciated Australian band. More on the way...

Paisley Underground Series, #2: Rain Parade- Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1983) / Explosions in the Glass Palace EP (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"Look at Merri, she goes round and round."

One of the definitive albums of The Paisley Underground -a music scene that was anything but clearly defined- Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip is an enduring and unassuming gem of post-sixties (neo) psychedelia. While taking inspiration from sixties Jangle-Pop purveyors such as The Byrds as well as the darker psychedelic textures of bands such as The Doors and early Pink Floyd, Rain Parade's debut is more than simply an homage to these psych-rock forefathers; rather, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip bristles with a spirit of inspired re-invention. Led by the Roback brothers and Matt Piucci, Rain Parade successfully integrate the blissed out Rickenbacker jangle of songs such as their first single, "What She's Done to Your Mind" with the dark haze of songs like "Look at Merri," which sounds like a blueprint for Jason Pierce's work with Spiritualized ten years later. On the Explosions in the Glass Palace EP, released the following year after David Roback had left to form Opal with Kendra Smith of The Dream Syndicate, the band takes a slightly more minimalist approach, even moving into Power-Pop territory on "Blue," which seems to conjure the ghost of Chris Bell for the lead guitar part. Despite this, the band also manages to come up with one of its best extended psych-jams, "Prisoners," which is a great mash-up of early and late Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, Rain Parade would never hit these artistic heights again, but their debut more than guarantees their status as a pillar of the neo-psychedelic movement.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Echo & The Bunnymen- Porcupine (1983) MP3 & FLAC -For Ol' Foggy-

"Will I still be soiled when the dirt is off?"

Arguably Echo & The Bunnymen's most under-appreciated album, Porcupine is both more melodic and less accessible than its predecessors Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here, but still manages to retain the distinctive neo-psychedelic take on Post-Punk that characterizes these earlier albums. Porcupine is also distinguished by the Middle-Eastern and Indian influences woven throughout the album; this is noticeable from the first track, the brilliant single, "The Cutter," which is built around a sitar-like synth-line that gives the song its unique, slightly skewed feel. Porcupine also finds the band exploring sonic textures unprecedented in their earlier work such as the Spanish guitar on "Heads Will Roll," a song also featuring the rhythmic use of a string section, something that would largely define the sound of their next album, Ocean Rain. Some mention should be made of Ian McCulloch's vocals, which verge on operatic at times but never fail to hit their mark in terms of lending the songs a sense of grandeur and drama. A truly fine album that tends to get overshadowed by the masterpiece that followed it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #3: Heligoland- S/T (2000) MP3 & FLAC

"The more you try to live by different rules, the more you stay the same."

During the recording sessions for The Party's Over, Talk Talk, unhappy with Colin Thurston's Duran Duran-clone production agenda, assumed control of the production booth, and though it didn't bear fruit on their debut, it did offer an early glimpse into Mark Hollis' idiosyncratic and uncompromising tendencies. For the It's My Life sessions, Hollis recruited producer Tim Friese-Greene, whose most notable work had been with Thomas Dolby. Over the course of the next seven years, Hollis and Friese-Greene went on to forge an artistic partnership that fueled Talk Talk's unprecedented artistic transformation, though Friese-Greene never became an official member of the band. After the release of Laughing Stock, Talk Talk's swan-song, Friese-Greene went on to produce and play on Catherine Wheel's Ferment. Heligoland, Friese-Greene's more recent ongoing solo-project, bears little resemblance to his work on the later Talk Talk albums; instead of using silence as a musical element to give form to aural spaces (later Talk Talk's trademark), on Heligoland, Friese-Greene explores thinner, scruffier distorted guitar-based textures recalling Radiohead's mid-nineties work. Although Friese-Greene's vocals can sound a bit thin at times, they do manage to serve the overall paranoia of the album well. Not essential but an interesting and often engaging footnote to the Talk Talk saga.

Lambchop- Live at XX Merge (2010) MP3

"The link between profound and pain covers you like Sherwin Williams."

It's hard to believe that when they first appeared on the scene in the early nineties, Lambchop were considered a country band; of course, it didn't take long for this highly idiosyncratic, artistically brilliant, and ever-evolving collective to alienate the schlock-masters who have turned Nashville into a vapid quagmire of commercialism over the course of the past 30 years. While country is certainly a recognizable element in Lambchop's sonic pastiche, it is often twisted, reshaped, and interwoven with Jazz, Soul, and a nice helping of Indie guitar pop;  there simply isn't another band that sounds quite like these guys. And then there's the singular sound of Kurt Wagner's witty, droll, and seemingly elastic vocals, which can stretch from croaking baritone to soulful falsetto in the matter of a few seconds. Live at XX Merge crisply documents this perennially under-appreciated band taking the stage at Merge Record's 20th Anniversary bash, and by all accounts, they brought the house down. Running through a nice cross-section of songs from a discography ten albums deep, what is most striking in this set is how beautifully and seamlessly Lambchop integrate all the disparate parts into a sublime whole. Modern American music doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jacobites- Robespierre's Velvet Basement: Update

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that I have updated my post for Robespierre's Velvet Basement by the Jacobites. Originally I posted links for the 1993 Regency Sound re-issue. These links have been replaced with the 2002 Secretly Canadian remastered edition, which has substantially improved sound and a few extra bonus tracks on each disc. To download, go to the original post page:

Remastered Edition

Echo & The Bunnymen- Heaven Up Here (1981) MP3 & FLAC -For Rose-

"There's something to be said for you and your hopes of higher ruling, but the slug on my neck won't stop chewing."

Easily the darkest and most difficult of Echo & The Bunnymen's initial run of albums (which is really saying something given this band's penchant for gloom), Heaven Up Here stands with  Ocean Rain as their most fully-formed and ceaselessly inventive artistic statements. While not as strikingly melodic as their debut, Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here offers a wider sonic palette, even including some traces of funk. Ian McCulloch has said that the band was trying to come up with a "soul album," and though there isn't anything recognizably soul about this album in the traditional sense, Heaven Up Here does have a unique sound that sets it apart from any other Post-Punk album of its era. From the work of vastly underrated rhythm section Pete De Frietas and Les Pattinson to Will Sergeant's increasingly nuanced guitar work to McCulloch's powerful croon, Echo & The Bunnymen sound like a band steeped in intimations of their own brilliance. For example, "It Was a Pleasure" sounds like a Talking Heads' song dragged, kicking and screaming, into much darker territory, with Sergeant's staccato funk punctuating one of McCulloch's more Bowie-esque vocals. Chronologically situated as it is between their debut and the more accessible albums that followed on its heels, Heaven Up Here offers a glimpse of Echo & The Bunnymen in their most uncompromising phase.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The House of Love- S/T "Butterfly Album" (1990) MP3 & FLAC

"In a garden in the house of love, sitting lonely on a plastic chair, sun is cruel when he hides away. I need a sister, I'll just stay."

A lush, stunning, overwrought masterpiece of an album, The House of Love's second consecutive self-titled LP (the first long-player born of their ill-fated relationship with Fontana Records) stands as one of the great indie releases of the nineties, even though its status as the missing link between Post-Punk and Brit-Pop has all but assured it of a slow descent into relative obscurity. Legend has it that the recording sessions for the album were a nightmare, as the band was not only quickly fragmenting, but was also saddled with an artistically unsympathetic producer. Despite all this, House of Love is both cohesive and dynamic. The album opens with "Hannah," a song built around some lovely echoing guitar parts, which are cut through by Guy Chadwick's measured vocals until the chorus, where things are kicked up a sonic notch- overall, an outstandingly constructed song. The next track, a re-recording of the pre-album single "Shine On," is just as good; though the lyrics are obscure, melodically, this is one of The House of Love's most memorable songs. The final part of the opening trilogy, "Beatles and the Stones," is a shimmering, gorgeous ballad, whose theme is more about isolation than sixties nostalgia. Criminally out of print, this is, nevertheless, an album not to be missed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #1: Various Artists- Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (1998) Box Set (4 Discs) MP3 & FLAC

"I can't get your love; I can't get a fraction. Uh-oh, little girl, psychotic reaction."

I've decided to initiate this massive series with what is arguably the closest approximation to a point of origin for The Paisley Underground. Originally released as a double album in 1972, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 was the first substantial attempt to re-appraise the incredibly fertile American garage-rock movement of the mid to late sixties. This movement, much like The Paisley Underground, was quite diverse, including garage, psychedelic, country and chamber-pop bands (and everything in between), some of which virtually invented the category "one hit wonder." Overall, Nuggets builds a spectacular and exhaustive counter-narrative to the sixties rock mainstream. For every derivative gem, for example The Knickerbockers "Lies," which sounds a bit like a Beatles tribute band, there are songs such as "Dirty Water" by The Standells" and "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five, both of which clearly anticipate the unique marriage of garage, country and psychedelia that would blossom (again) in the early eighties. The original 1972 double album comprises the first disc, but don't stop there because the remaining discs harbor many obscure gems ripe for rediscovery. One of the best (and strangest) is "The Little Black Egg" by The Nightcrawlers, an ingenious mash-up of Jangle-Pop, Southern Gothic, and psychedelia. Nuggets is an essential point of departure for anyone interested in psych and neo-psych music.

The Doors- "Texas Radio and the Big Beat / Love Me Two Times" (1968) Live in Europe

Here's some sublime psych-blues from a major influence on The Paisley Underground:

Various Artists- Sarah Records: Glass Arcade (1991) MP3 & FLAC -For Ranxerox-

"It's not the way I want to be, but don't give in 'cause that's just me."

Sarah Records was one of the most distinctive and homogeneous labels to emerge out of the ashes of the original Post-Punk movement. Dealing primarily in a wispy brand of Jangle-Pop later referred to as Twee-Pop, on a cursory listen, the Sarah stable of artists can sound a bit samey, but for those with ears fine-tuned for subtleties, the label offers a diverse array of what might be best described as shoegazer-folk. While Sarah bands such as The Field Mice and Heavenly issued some fine LPs, many feel the true legacy of this now-defunct label are the compilations due to the fact that many of the bands associated with Sarah were primarily, if not exclusively, singles bands. One of the best of these compilations is Glass Arcade, which features a number of tracks from some short-lived, but no less aesthetically pleasing, bands. For example, "Sleep" and "Breathe" by Eternal, a band whose lifespan appears to have lasted the duration of a lone single, offer a darker, grittier take on the Sarah sound, which begs the question, why no more? Of course, Glass Arcade is also stocked with standout tracks from more prolific bands such as The Field Mice, but the album's finest moment is Another Sunny Day's "Rio," a shimmering jewel of a song that likely taught Belle and Sebastian a thing or two.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paisley Requests

Hello everyone,

After some delay (which I apologize for), I am about to launch The Paisley Underground Series, which will be ongoing for the next 4-6 months and perhaps longer. It is quite surprising how little of this music is readily available in lossless or quality lossy formats on the internet; in fact, much of it is simply out of print. This series will be a small step toward rectifying this situation, as I intend it to be as comprehensive as possible. While the series will feature multiple posts from all of the bands you're expecting, I also plan to make the series expansive, in the sense of including some of the music that influenced The Paisley Underground as well as some of the music that was in turn influenced by it.

I have amassed quite a few recordings to post, which will include, I hope many surprises. I do, however, want to ask for Paisley Underground-related requests. I think I've got quite a bit of it covered, but inevitably, many of you will have suggestions that I either don't know about or have carelessly overlooked. This will also allow you, dear readers, to have a hand in shaping how the series unfolds. Let me once again express my gratitude to all of the readers of this blog. You are the reason this blog is so special. Thank you!

p.s. I also want to take this opportunity to ask those who haven't done so already to hit the 'follow' button :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

FL33t Foxes- S/T EP (2006) MP3 & FLAC

"Beneath the icicle tusk, you and me among the flattering dusk."

Two years before the release of their debut LP for Sub-Pop, Fleet Foxes issued an eponymous self-released EP, which was only distributed in the Seattle area. Produced by Seattle music scene veteran Phil Ek, the sound of Fleet Foxes will come as a surprise to those who have only heard their more recent work. While Robin Pecknold's vocals only occasionally flash with the brilliance that marks the later Sub-Pop recordings, the overall sound seems a little more rough-hewn and Jazz inflected. One of the obvious highlights is "Icicle Tusk," which is the only song that attempts the kind of vocal harmonizing that would soon become their trademark. However, the true gem here is "Anyone Who's Anyone" with its spaghetti-western guitar lick and charging energy; it is a worthy precursor to what came next.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

FL33t Foxes- Sun Gi@nt EP (2008) / S/T (2008) MP3 & FLAC

"Penniless and tired with your hair grown long, I was looking at you there, and your face looked wrong."

Art is often, if not always, some form of bricolage, a tapestry woven using various and sundry materials that are collectively transformed into something new. I mention this because Fleet Foxes epitomize the artistic alchemy that can occur when familiar things are taken up and re-contextualized. An obvious contemporary touchstone for this band's sound would be My Morning Jacket, and while vocally, Robin Pecknold and Jim James wander through similar ornately desolate canyons of reverb (though James has been known to take these excursions to extremes), these bands pursue very different muses. What sets Fleet Foxes apart from the Indie pack is the timelessness of their sound and the often stunning vocal harmonies that can't help but recall, in a slightly refracted way, the early albums of Crosby, Stills & Nash. A perfect example of this is "Mykonos" from the Sun Giant EP; with its vaguely Hellenic feel coupled with Pecknold's backwoods vocal delivery and a seemingly looped acoustic guitar arpeggio, the song is already quite memorable in a quirky way, but once the bridge comes around with its transcendent vocal harmonies and classic rock flourishes, it simply sounds universal. Likewise, on "White Winter Hymnal" from the debut LP, Fleet Foxes seamlessly sew together elements of the Appalachian and British folk traditions, which, when punctuated with their wide-eyed vocal harmonies, creates something that sounds as if it could have been written any time within the past 150 years. Forget the hype and its inevitable backlash; this is simply gorgeous music created by some extremely gifted young musicians who have tapped into something both bittersweetly familiar and darkly beautiful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #2: Talk Talk- The Party's Over (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"And I hope that I've kept you amused, to wipe that spit right off my shoes."

While The Party's Over is easily the most conventional of Talk Talk's five studio albums, it is, nevertheless, far more than a mere footnote to the band's small but legendary discography. In actuality, Talk Talk's debut bears many subtle signs of the greatness that was soon to follow on its heels. Primary among these is Mark Hollis' distinctive vocal-style; his uniquely emotional (and somewhat nasal) phrasings were heads and tails beyond what other vocalists in the New Wave/New Romantic genre were doing both in terms of originality and musicality. This allows a song such as the single "Talk Talk," which, on the surface, sounds a bit like a rehash of Duran Duran's "Planet Earth," to transcend its derivative origins. In addition, The Party's Over occasionally shows flashes of the band's unconventional melodic sense that would blossom to great affect on later albums. For example, on "Today," straightforward synth-pop elements are combined with Japan-esque bass and percussion to create a sonic landscape for Hollis to work his melancholy magic, but the haunting chorus, with its chants of "Today" takes the song in an unexpected and striking melodic direction.  Talk Talk's debut, while certainly not as groundbreaking as future albums, it well worth a listen, as it both prefigures the band's greater works and contains some pleasures all its own.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jacobites- Robespierre's Velvet Basement (1985) Remastered Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"I'm looking for something I'll never find. I feel so alone, but I don't mind."

One glance at the beautifully wrecked pair on the cover of Robespierre's Velvet Basement and you know right away The Glimmer Twins are an inspiration. It seems that after disbanding the inimitable Swell Maps, brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks were looking to trade in the Kraut-Rock-Punk hybrid of  A Trip to Marineville  and Jane from Occupied Europe  for a sound best described as a mixture of acoustic folk & blues and glam, which, come to think of it, is also a pretty adequate description of Exile on Mainstreet. This time, Sudden teamed up with Rough Trade journeyman Dave Kusworth (formerly of The Subterranean Hawks) and hit on a sound that presages everything from Brian Jonestown Massacre to Dan Bejar's Destroyer. Most of the songs on Robespierre's Velvet Basement make generous use of shambolic acoustic strums backed with ramshackle percussion, all of which only add to the garage-like greatness of some of the songs. For example, on "Ambulance Station" and "She Never Believes," Sudden's joyfully downtrodden cigarette-soaked vocals exude the same kind of elegant, "who gives a fuck" decadence that made the UK glam scene of the early seventies so engaging. Robespierre's Velvet Basement is an uncompromising classic that couldn't have been more out of time & place when it was released back in 1985, which is why it hasn't aged a day. Listen to this.

COICA Is Back!

Proving the old adage that old corporate whores never go away, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) & Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are currently trying to revive the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). If this Orwellian piece of shite legislation is ever passed (and it is a real possibility), the U.S. Government will obtain wide-ranging powers to censor online content. Of course, this is all about the entertainment industry and their well-paid lobbyists finding a couple of corporate lackeys in the Senate (not a hard thing to find there) to do their bidding. I suggest you familiarize yourself with this issue and make your voice of resistance heard:

COICA Fact Sheet

Read the Bill Itself

Also, familiarize yourself with the pasty face of this "so-called" public servant who is perfectly happy to usher the U.S. into an era of Chinese government-style internet censorship:

 "Drop those drawers boys and wait for me in the woodshed!"

 Oh what a dream I had...

Talk Talk- "Such a Shame" Video (1984)

Talk Talk doing the pop thing and doing it exceedingly well...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions- Suzanne EP (2002) MP3 & FLAC

"I don't think I'll come around, letting my hair hang down, making my way through your door, I ain't gonna do that no more. "

Released a year after Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions' debut, Bavarian Fruit Bread, had hit the stores, the Suzanne EP seemed something like an afterthought at the time, but in addition to recycling one of the album tracks as a single, it offers three b-sides, which, given the dearth of material from Sandoval, makes it well worth having. Though not as strong as the earlier EP, At the Doorway Again, it does feature the sultry "These Things," which finds Hope very much in Mazzy Star mode. Beautiful stuff.

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions- At the Doorway Again EP (2000) MP3 & FLAC

"She's got a smile like a flower. She looks so fine by the hour."

Following the release of Among My Swan, Mazzy Star went on permanent hiatus in terms of recording new material, and it wasn't until 2000 that Hope Sandoval finally surfaced again with a new band, The Warm Inventions.  Essentially a collaboration with ex-My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O'Ciosoig, At the Doorway Again retains the narcotic atmosphere of Hope's work in Mazzy Star, but, perhaps owing to David Roback's absence, the EP seem lighter in mood with less psychedelic overtones. The obvious highlight is "Around My Smile" which replaces Mazzy's psych gloom with a moody 50s-style guitar vamp, but the deliciously thick reverb is still in full force. The real gem, however, might be "Down the Steps," a gorgeous piano ballad featuring one of Sandoval's prettiest vocals (which is really saying something).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rowland S. Howard- Teenage Snuff Film (1999) MP3 & FLAC -R.I.P.-

"Crown prince of the crying jag, stuffs a towel in his mouth to gag."

After the demise of These Immortal Souls in 1992, Rowland S. Howard and his uncompromising brand of lush, skeletal Post-Punk gloom fell silent until his surprising re-emergence in 1999 with the stunningly dark Teenage Snuff Film. Easily one of the most distinctive guitarists to emerge from the early Post-Punk movement, Howard weaves his tortured, razor-sharp vamps into a starkly intense aural fabric on his solo debut. Songs such as "Dead Radio" and "Breakdown (And Then...)" immerse the listener into near-perfect distillations of Howard's unique musical vision: desolate, dusty ambiance cut through with a slightly refracted spaghetti-western twang and Howard's lovely wreck of a croon. Teenage Snuff Film even features a cover of Billy Idol's "White Wedding," but in Howard's hands, the song is transformed from bubble-gum goth into an ominously twisted waltz. And then there's "Autoluminescent," an absolutely gorgeous song of redemption, which exudes the kind of sincere, crumbling pathos that is rare to find in this age of commercially-packaged art. Highly recommended.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Your Funeral...My Trial (1986) MP3 & FLAC

"We go down to the river where the willows weep, take a naked root for a lovers seat. "

After demonstrating their cabaret-blues acumen on the excellent covers album Kicking Against the Pricks, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds delivered their first masterpiece, Your Funeral...My Trial, a sultry, heroin-soaked nightmare of an album that clearly indicated Cave's growing talents as a songwriter. Everything that Cave would go on to explore on future albums is here in fine originary form, including murder ballads, weeping bloody-mouthed love songs, carnivalesque phantasms, and brooding spaghetti-western goth burners. The album's obvious centerpiece is "The Carny" (also featured in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire), with its swirling xylophones, bludgeoning pianos and Cave channeling both his inner backwoods preacher and arch storyteller. Some of the most stunning moments on Your Funeral...My Trial are the slower numbers, such as the exceedingly dark love song "Sad Waters" and the title track, with its stop/start rhythm and deliciously forsaken vocals. While its successor, Tender Prey, is often cited as the best Bad Seeds album of the eighties, Your Funeral...My Trial represents a gigantic leap forward artistically for the band and is perhaps Cave's most cohesive album.

Monday, April 4, 2011

XTC- English Settlement (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"Trying to taste the Difference 'tween a lemon and a lime, pain and pleasure, and the church bells softly chime."

While Black Sea signaled a move away from the acerbic Post-Punk of XTC's first three albums by adopting a more polished studio-based sound, on English Settlement, the band underwent something of an aesthetic transformation. Due, in part, to XTC's decision to no longer exist as a touring band as a result of Andy Partridge's nervous breakdown and increasingly debilitating bouts of stage fright, the unique sound of English Settlement can also be explained by the band's quickly growing musical maturity. Whatever the reason, from the first few seconds of the album's first song, Colin Moulding's "Runaways," it is clear that XTC is treading into new sonic territory. However, this isn't the (sometimes overly) polished power-pop that would largely dominate the rest of their eighties output; rather, there is a noticeable expansiveness to the songs on English Settlement, which is the result of a far more prevalent use of acoustic instruments (especially Andy Partridge's 12 String guitar) than on previous albums, as well as the incorporation of a number of "world" music elements (lending an interesting connotation to the album's title).  As on the previous two albums, Drums and Wires and the aforementioned Black Sea, percussion plays a leading role here; from the bright drum bombast of songs such as "Senses Working Overtime" and "Ball and Chain" to the complex poly-rhythms of "It's Nearly Africa," Terry Chambers, in his XTC swan-song, gives an absolutely masterful performance. Unfortunately, the band would never again sound this unified or this timeless. Truly an essential recording in every sense of the word.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fleet Foxes- "Blue Ridge Mountains" (2008) Live, Grand Palais, Paris

You know a band is talented when a singer like J. Tillman can be relegated to drums:

Talk Talk Series, #1: Talk Talk- London 1986 (1999) / Live at Montreux 1986 (2008) MP3 & FLAC

"Better parted, I see people hiding. Speech gets harder, there's no sense in writing."

While the number of bands who have succumbed to the rock cliché of trading artistic integrity for a glimpse of commercial success is countless, only a few have traveled down the opposite path, and fewer still have attempted the kind of dramatic career reversal achieved by Talk Talk. Originally considered little more than derivative purveyors of New-Romantic dance-pop, with each succeeding album, Mark Hollis and co. moved further and further away from both the expectations of the marketplace and from the trappings of traditional pop-oriented song-craft. There were, of course, hints of this impending transformation on their early records, most notably, Mark Hollis' singularly expressive vocals, but it wasn't until Talk Talk's third album, The Colour of Spring, that their artistic restlessness began to explicitly assert itself. London 1986 and Live at Montreux 1986 document the resulting tour, which was to be the last the band would undertake. While The Colour of Spring is a transitional masterpiece, Talk Talk's flawless live performances during this period were simply sublime. Gone were the painfully exaggerated efforts to appear relaxed yet animated that were evident on earlier tours; now they carried themselves like a band who knew they were special. For those who have only heard Talk Talk's studio recordings, or those who may feel inclined to ignore the band's pre-1986 output, these live performances will be nothing less than a revelation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Flesh Eaters- A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die (1981) MP3 & FLAC

"Fever turns to ice in a river as cold as life."

The L.A. hardcore scene of the late seventies and early eighties was so much more than the "three chord thrash" stereotype that Punk is often reduced to. Due to bands such as X, The Blasters, and The Flesh Eaters, a perhaps unlikely, but quite combustible mixture of stripped-down Punk aggression, Rockabilly, Blues, Country, and even Jazz was concocted, which pushed far beyond the boundaries of what it was assumed hardcore Punk could do musically. The Flesh Eaters were formed in the late seventies by poet (and, at the time, English teacher) Chris Desjardins (better known as Chris D.) after having met John Doe and Exene Cervenka at a poetry reading. Over the years, the band would feature a revolving cast of characters due to Chris D.'s notoriously "difficult" tendencies, but the music itself, especially the band's early eighties output, is consistently brilliant. A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die was The Flesh Eaters' second album and stands as a noirish, campy, Blues-Punk classic- the kind of thing that could have only emanated from L.A. at the time. Featuring a lineup of no less than Dave Alvin, John Doe, D.J. Bonebreak, Bill Bateman  and Steve Berlin, songs such as "Digging My Grave," "River of Fever," and "Divine Horseman" consistently play with listener expectations to great affect. Where else are you going to hear a tenor sax on a Punk album?  While admittedly, Chris D.'s vocals are an acquired taste, it's hard to deny that he was one of the most powerful vocalists on the L.A. hardcore scene. This is dark, trashy, and thoroughly essential stuff.

Big Star- 3rd (1975) MP3 & FLAC -For Reindeer Man-

"Your eyes are almost dead, can't get out of bed, and you can't sleep."

As the legend goes: after the promotional fiascoes that somehow reduced two of the best rock records of the seventies, #1 Record and Radio City, to cutout bin status, Alex Chilton, by this point completely disillusioned with pursuing any form of commercial success, carried the Big Star sound into the studio one last time with self-sabotage on his increasingly drug-addled mind. In addition, Stax, Big Star's label, was quickly heading toward bankruptcy, creating an environment in Ardent studios conducive to accommodating Chilton's artistic death-drive. With only Jody Stephens left from the band's original lineup, the sessions included producer Jim Dickinson and a revolving cast of Memphis musicians. As such, 3rd  is essentially a Chilton solo record, and oh what a record it is- a shambolic, self-indulgent mess that somehow matches, and occasionally surpasses, the greatness of the earlier records. For example, on "Big Black Car," Chilton takes the pristine acoustic hush of #1 Record and entirely warps it into something laconic, loungy and brilliantly desolate, with vocals that are simultaneously tender and mocking. And then there's "Holocaust," a song built around a simple piano chord progression and a groaning cello with Chilton sounding like he's singing in a coffin. An absolutely chilling performance. Many find 3rd a frustratingly perplexing album, so full of promise, but collapsing under the weight of Chilton's deteriorating emotional state. To my ears, the album is one of the most stark and nakedly direct narratives of personal and professional dissolution ever recorded. I can't imagine life without it.